when you want to write a story

What happened?

The story has stopped.


How can a story be written

About that ambulance

Carrying dead bodies,

Or the flower

Plucked before its time.

a part of a poem that i found here - it's by azra abbas and has been translated by asif farrukhi. and yes, there wasn't/weren't any ambulance/s to carry away the bodies on saturday...most of them were piled into any ordinary bus or auto-rickshaw that passed by.


revisiting the present

Therefore, the fact that the government is the biggest capitalist, the main banker, the greatest employer, and the ultimate refuge or ineffable solace of the bootlicking intelligentsia makes for only a formal, superficial, difference. The main question to ask is: what special class-interest does this government serve?
that was written in 1954. i wrote this two years ago:
government is the landlord with the largest surplus landholding. goverment is the tycoon who owns ships, planes, buses, trains, trucks and cars. government is the businessman who runs factories, mills, mines, quarries and souvenir stores. government is the investor with interests in healthcare, hospitality, travel & leisure, financial services, energy, food processing, warehousing, insurance, armaments, telecom, construction and housing, infrastructure and information technology.
would you like to do business with him ? (who wouldn't, right ?)
do the two statements, broadly, seem to describe similar situations? the problem is this (from the same article as the first one):
The solution for India, of course, would, be socialism, which alone can create a demand rising with the supply, a solution which can be utilised not only by advanced countries but by backward countries ( as China is demonstrating) , and without which planning is futile.
now after 1954, the government seemed to have heeded his advice to a significant extent and tried a vast number of measures to socialise india: efforts to control landholdings, nationalizing private banks and companies, restricting foreign capital (much, much more than earlier), restricting local capital, investing in 'food, agrarian production, re-division of land, employment, education,' etc., so what provoked me to write the second para, which resembles the first one so much, fifty years later?

the problem is also this: the first author, if he were alive, would repeat what he'd said in 1954. we haven't socialised enough:
In fact, the Five Year Plans mentioned above are self-contradictory in that they are obviously inspired by the great successes of Soviet planning without, however, taking any account of the necessity of socialism to the achievement of these successes: effective planning cannot leave the private investor free to invest when and where he likes, as is done in India, nor can its main purpose be to assure him of profitable opportunities for the investment of his capital.
and so on. and add : i told you so. except he didn't tell us so - what he'd predicted was this:
All these factors together, however, will not prevent rapid disillusionment at promises unfulfilled, nor the inevitable mass protest against hunger, the ultimate Indian reality. There may come a time when the Indian army, officered by Indian bourgeois and aided by a transport system designed for an army of occupation, may not suffice.

headless chickens

'------- has already taken a decision to re-organise the Lottery Department. Intensive legal steps are going on to ban illegal lotteries. At the same time, steps have been taken to considerably increase in the lottery market of -------, the sale of ------- Lottery. The re-organisation package will include specific purpose super bumper lotteries, attractive prize structure, intensive publicity campaigns and more facilities to agents and sellers. In order to get registration in the welfare fund, the lottery sellers will have to sell ticket of ------- Lottery worth at least Rs.10,000 per month.'
doesn't that sound like a corporate honcho speaking? the signs are all there: power words like re-organisation, marketing mantras, promotional schemes, advertising campaigns, sales incentives, targets and carrots for the distributors/dealers. and who else would so shamelessly push a product like lotteries?

well, the speaker is not from the corporate world and the missing words are: Government, Kerala, State and Kerala. read the full speech here (the para quoted is from page 50).


largely private

Here's a quick summary: in spite of the 'burden' of reservation, (a) our public sector companies -- particularly banks -- are flourishing in the face of de-licensing and unfettered competition, and (b) the southern states -- and in particular Tamil Nadu, the state with the highest level of quotas -- have also done quite well -- if not better than the rest of the country.

that's abi reacting to a post on indian economy blog by an ill-informed blogger who attributes the inefficiency of the public sector in india to reservations. it's unfortunate that abi doesn't question the underlying presumption of the other blogger's stand: that the infusion of the 'merit-less' (read lower castes) into the public sector through reservations has been as significant ( in terms of numbers) as to significantly alter its performance

here, check the numbers of the dalits in the central public sector enterprises. you'll notice that around 85% of the dalits and adivasis are in the lowest three echelons and in the top two rungs, their combined number doesn't exceed 14%. and we would never know how many of the truly significant positions in those two rungs are occupied by the dalits. and we would also never know the position of the dalits and adivasis in the rest of the public sector which accounts for 75-80% of the total manpower employed in the public sector.

let me explain: central public sector undertakings do not include departmental undertakings, banking institutions and enterprises where govt equity holding is less than 50%. this broad, nebulous expanse of entities comprises of the railways (which is clubbed with the central government), banks, other enterprises producing and distributing goods and services (like utilities) and several other kinds of organisations, institutions etc., and we do not have reliable figures for any of them. the total employee strength of the public sector (excluding the central & state governments and the railways and the armed forces) is around 6 million, according to estimates thrown up by recent economic surveys. of these, as i said earlier, we have reliable figures for only the central public sector undertakings. and even these are hotly disputed by many dalit groups. the banks, according to them, are the worst offenders and the number of dalits/ adivasis in banks and pses/institutions other than cpsus couldn't be more than 3-6% (of the total employee strength) according to these dalit groups. and most of the non-compliance in the public sector enterprises isn't as rigorously scrutinised and questioned as it is in, say, the government itself. and i don't even have to talk about the obcs in the public sector, i think. i'd touched upon that subject earlier, but let me repeat my earlier stand: the representation of the obcs hasn't improved significantly (perhaps i should say 'improved even marginally'?) since the disinterment of the mandal commission report. and the sachar report has told us about the invisible muslim in the public sector. no, the public sector doesn't shoulder any significant social burden- and it is more than adequately compensated for doing whatever little it grudgingly does.

i've always felt that the public sector in india is a largely private affair, and the left in the country had always maintained that the organized private sector in the country is a largely public affair (because of the various sops, in the form of cheap land, subsidized power or water and other public resources, grants, loans, tax breaks and other incentives that it receives from the government- why doesn't the left ever enumerate/calculate the sops the public sector in the country received/s from the government?). considering all those facts, does a public debate on such private issues as the performance of the public sector or the private sector in the country have any real public significance? aren't 'debates' on the doings of popular film stars more entertaining? 'public sector' trains run late often, 'private sector' cellphones go out of coverage areas often. the only things you can truly depend on in this country, are street corner panwallahs and suchlike sundry institutions who/which deliver most of the time you need them. now, where should you start a truly public debate on excellence?


'left nukes deal'

that's a headline on a television channel. why was the deal 'nuked'? national sovereignty, security, blah blah are the reasons cited. i read somewhere that enrollment in primary schools in the country in '96-97 was 77%. 60% of those 'students' dropped out by class 10. so the nation worked for roughly 30% of them. what's the point in protecting a nation that works for only 30% of its people 60 years after becoming a nation, mr.karat?



scarf off the head
eyes off the ground
lines off the line.

shorn off
peeled off
told off

lay off
stay away
move on
be gone!


your kinsmen, your banks, your revolution

So in the social banking philosophy that India adopted when it nationalized the banking industry in the late 1960s, banks did significant amount of lending to farmers, recognizing that these are the people who place the food on your table, on the nation’s table. Once we went into the brave new world of economic reforms, the banks progressively stopped lending money to farmers, so much so that something like 3,800 to 4,000 bank branches in rural India closed during the reform years.

a revolution is a tea party. you can organize it on your own, think up sweet little fictions like the first line in the above paragraph, garnish them with half-truths, like in the second line. and like the rishis of old, go on yatras around the countryside, 300 days a year (nothing establishes one's authenticity more than such severe penances- it's an old trick in this country)....and come back chanting those two lines to a still-in-university-at-dad's-expense-and-mother-india's and never-really-left-university-or-gave-up-on-che-or-charu crowd waiting for your musa-esque arrival in the city. to clutch you to their progressive breast and hand you over to other progressive breasts across the world. that's how you do a revolution.

or you could learn from your kinsmen in the non-fiction world, those progressive workers in the nationalized banks who never lent a paisa more than ten (of each rupee) to the peasants you discovered, on how to plan an indefinite strike that would cripple the banks whose original and only purpose, perhaps, was to provide them with employment.


this news has died

you know, of course, the man waving in the first picture is dr.y.s.rajashekhar reddy, chief minister of andhra pradesh. he's also in the second picture, shaking hands with a top oracle executive. but who's the man with the grey, tousled mop of hair who appears in both the pictures? doesn't he seem a little out of place? he seems too old to be a security guard, too small-built, non-athletic. he seems too much like r.k.laxman's common man, right? and in such august company, what's he doing there?

until a few months ago, most news-consuming people in andhra pradesh didn't know who he was - he seemed to accompany the chief minister everywhere, you saw him on television and in pictures, a little behind the chief minister, never more than a few feet, five feet or so to be precise, from him. and then he emerged from the shadows and became a news story himself.

he's been identified as a key figure in a scam involving the siphoning away of government funds to the tune of rs.150 crores. a major portion of the funds were meant for the sarva shiksha abhiyan/dpep programme. no, he's not been arrested - some associates 'voluntarily' gave themselves up. an investigation is on - which will no doubt try to establish that those who gave themselves up are guilty- and no one else is.

yes, scams bore me too - but this one still manages to disgust me. money meant to provide basic literacy skills to children, who already are victims several times over, has been stolen.

it tells me: the poor count for nothing in this country (which is not news) and therefore, their children count for less than nothing. which, sadly, isn't news either. so what is it about this piece of non-news that has me all churned up inside? well, it's not those kind souls in yojana bhavan or wherever who knew, beforehand, when they were drawing up this programme, that this'd happen. or the experts from academia or the think tanks who helped in both the conception and the development of the idea. or the activists who drummed it into the slow heads of politicians over the years. or the politicians who bided their time, sexied it up and introduced it at the right poll opportunity with a bang.

it is this: that rajashekhar reddy should submit to his inherited obligation to distribute largesse among his inherited constituency. to consider that, as a pedda ( the equivalent term in hindi is bada) reddy (as reddies of certain sub-castes or those owning large landholdings are considered in rayalaseema) it is his duty to look after the well-being of those who serve him. and condone their mideeds and actively try to protect them and deflect any criticism directed against them. this inherited duty superseded the duty to serve those who elected him. as it does so often in india.

it is this: that the chief actor in this drama should also submit to to his inherited obligation as a lower ranking clansman to follow and serve his inherited betters- that is how you get to fulfill your own needs. you could see he was following the historic script faithfully when you occasionally saw him on television actually serving food, to the leader as he is talking to the '24-hours-with-so-and-so' interviewer. you saw his role in the relationship, and that of his master- the chief minister had appointed him his 'personal assistant' after assuming office, but that didn't mean his role had changed. or his master. he still remained someone who held the leader's bags, his files and looked after his personal needs..a man friday, saturday, sunday...everyday. everywhere.

it is also this: that the media should also look at this from their inherited positions - as mouthpieces of dominant competing communities or of aiming-to-regain-or-gain-a-vantage-position communities. that the political parties, also representing competing, communal interests, should seek to not look beyond, or let you look beyond, the bare, titillating details of who and how much - at how easy it is to steal from poor children... and how unimportant that is to everyone.

note: i'd started this post on may 22nd, a few months after the news of the scam actually made it to the media. i'd expected, and i guess most of the players involved did too, that it'd die in a few months and it has.


why bring up caste?

randomly picked, these two articles refer to the 'yadavisation' process in u.p., and bihar. what's yadavisation? the reporters, you'll notice, offer the barest explanation. the underlying message is that - it's such a well known phenomenon, don't you know about it? where were you? you'd be too naive to ask- well, so is the loch ness monster, tell me what does yadavisation look like? somebody tell me- what does yadavisation look like? does it look anything like this:

A quick head-count reveals that right from the present cabinet secretary to other key positions like secretary, RAW, defence research and development, agriculture and cooperation, economic affairs, revenue and legal affairs, Brahmins hold key jobs. As many as 37 top officials in the list of secretaries and officers of equivalent rank in the present administrative set-up are Brahmins. Going by figures quoted by the Backward Classes Commission, Brahmins account for 37.17 per cent of the bureaucracy. Other forward castes too constitute a substantial chunk.

that's the face of the central government- do i hear anyone whispering, forget shouting across the national media, brahminisation? notice that the magazine calls the article, oh so indulgently (as if the writer was describing interesting peculiarities of some species of fauna and not outlining the contours of an ugly man-made monstrosity called the indian government), 'the durbar hall pundits'. and don't miss the note of hope at the end:

But the winds of change are blowing. This year 144 candidates who cleared the civil services examinations are from other backward classes. Even the candidate who topped was an OBC. As a senior official remarked, perhaps 2010 may throw up an altogether different bureaucracy—one that is more inclusive and representative. Till then, it’s Brahmins who will dominate.

if anyone seriously believes that 'an altogether different bureaucracy' (the magazine has done another story, pushing forth the same happy idea, recently called the 'backwoods babus' - do you see the pattern?) would emerge even by the year 2110 leave alone 2010, i'd definitely advise him/her to get his/her head examined. some minor changes in some rungs are possible, but the truth is: the size of the indian public sector, which means the central and state governments and the psus, has remained the same since 1990, more or less. and given the size of the current wage and pension bill of these employees, and also imminent hikes and further hikes in the future, any massive new recruitment that would substantially change the composition of the entities listed...wouldn't be possible until the year 2030 or 2035 or so. and given also the history of determined and successful opposition to the entry of the lower castes into the bureaucracy (unless if it's in the lowest echelons) in the last sixty years, i don't think any restructuring would happen even in 2030. or for sixty more years or so.

this is my response to readers who didn't agree with the tone of my last post (was the media trying to point out an 'against all odds' success or was it trying to convey the subliminal message that the lower caste aspirants who want reservations are no-good-idlers?)- when the media and the articulate classes in india can call dirt dirt, even if most possibly it isn't, why can't they call a spade a spade? why don't they see, (possibly irreversible, in my view) the brahminisation/rajputisation etc., of india?

brahmin journalist bags magsaysay award

a brahmin journalist is one of the seven winners, announced yesterday, of the magsaysay award this year. read also: obc candidate tops ias exam.
Add to Technorati Favorites