i don't find arundhati roy disgusting

far from it. i like the impassioned plea she makes for justice at the end of her latest article on the mumbai terror attacks (i'd talked about justice too in this post). but i'm not really sure she understands injustice any better than arnab goswami. about the taj, she says:
It's an icon of the easy, obscene injustice that ordinary Indians endure every day.
there are a few problems with her perspective. for instance, i don't think she'd find the taj an icon of the easy, obscene injustice that ordinary Indians endure every day if the government of india owned it. this is what ms. roy had to say about the public sector company bhel, in an earlier article:
For many years, India has been more or less self sufficient in power equipment. The Indian public sector company, Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd (bhel), manufactured and even exported world-class power equipment. All that’s changed now. Over the years, our own government has starved it of orders, cut off funds for research and development and more or less edged it out of a dignified existence. Today bhel is no more than a sweatshop. It is being forced into ‘joint ventures’ (one with GE and one with Siemens) where its only role is to provide cheap, unskilled labor while they provide the equipment and the technology. Why? Why does more expensive, imported foreign equipment suit our bureaucrats and politicians better? We all know why. Because graft is factored into the deal. Buying equipment from your local store is just not the same thing. It’s not surprising that almost half the officials named in the Jain Hawala scandal were officials from the power sector involved with the selection and purchase of power equipment.
replace bhel with taj and make minor changes ('world-class service' for 'world-class equipment' and so on), and discover what roy would have said if the taj were a public sector company, like the centaur which was privatized a few years ago. it's privately owned, so it's obscene? one wonders whether ms. roy's problem is with organized capital or with those who organize it? bhel is okay, even if it makes turbines that are largely used in big dams (which ms. roy opposes, of course), as long as it is in the public sector.

i'd pointed out in this post why i consider the organized public sector in this country a largely private affair and the organized private sector a largely public affair: because a great majority of employees in both are upper caste hindus, and both of them are owned by upper caste hindus- upper caste business families or the upper caste dominated bureaucracy or financial institutions. in my view, in india, the public sector-private sector debate is a spurious one, for many other reasons- that requires another post, i guess.

coming back to her latest article, the second problem:
If you were watching television you may not have heard that ordinary people too died in Mumbai.
if ms. roy's problem with establishments such as the taj is the class of people they serve, shouldn't she remember that ordinary people, work at the taj too? that ordinary people were working at the taj when the terrorists attacked?

her kind of ordinary people don't work at the taj? they don't travel in the local trains to cst to work at the taj? and the diamond merchants who travel in trains, an earlier terrorist target, and most probably visit the taj, sometimes, are ordinary people? are all the business executives who travel in trains, because they're convenient for many reasons, to work in the offices at nariman point ordinary people?

any classification, and there has been one other such attempt recently apart from roy's (i refer to gnani sankaran's analysis), that seeks to browbeat you into accepting that the cst stands for ordinary people and the taj for the rich is disingenuous. because all the street vendors, peons, drivers and other manual workers who travel to south mumbai in trains do not belong to the same class as those who trade in diamonds or work in nariman point or lunch at the taj. or to the same castes.

if there is any divide, it isn't between those who travel in trains and those who visit the taj- it is between those the government seeks to protect, on a consistent basis, and those who have to fight with all their puny lives to even catch the government's attention. if the taj were to go bankrupt tomorrow, most of india's indignant classes including the media and people like ms. roy, would stand up for the rights of those who work there and would not rest until the government nationalizes that icon of easy, obscene injustice. not that the government would require any excessive pressure to nationalize it.

on the other hand, if some thelawallahs (or say, the bargirls of mumbai) were stopped from doing business in some corner of south mumbai, they'd have to work up a truly big and spectacular protest to catch the consistent attention of the media or of people like ms. roy. i'm sure ms. roy would be moved by their plight but...if their plot doesn't have an easily identifiable rumpelstiltskin, a villain the whole world could also throw rotten tomatoes at, i'm not sure they'd be able to hold her attention for long.

companies in the organized public and private sector seem to take decades, after they've gone insolvent, to fall. and while they're falling, oh so slowly, like the textile mills nationalized by the goi (i wonder if anyone among the ruling and indignant classes were thinking of the handloom workers across the country when they were embarking on this magnanimous project), a new generation of small unorganized businesses, like the powerlooms in bhivandi, rise and fall, more than a couple of times. and while this is happening, the children of the textile mill workers have moved over to new professions and new age industries. like the children, as this website points out (the internet is such a great forum for celebrating camaraderie of the obscurest kinds!) of those who joined the bhel workforce a few decades ago:
Children of most BHEL employees are currently living overseas, many of them have moved to US and Australia.
that's a random page that i found while googling for information on bhel, hyderabad. this township, a few kilometres outside hyderabad is a meticulously planned gated community, with beautiful tree lined roads, parks, playgrounds (basketball, hockey grounds etc.,) and conveniences of all kinds (auditorium, supermarket, schools, bus station etc.,). in the eighties, i remember, a friend from the township telling me why a lot of officers etc., in the company bought cars (a very rare luxury in those pre-maruti days) even when they did not need them- because they got easy, cheap loans and could pay for them by hiring out the cars as taxis. outside the township, a few kilometres from it, you'll find that life, for men and animals, has gone from bad to worse.

ms. roy's concerns for bhel (our own government has starved it of orders, cut off funds for research and development and more or less edged it out of a dignified existence) are consistent with the concerns of those who successfully protected, a couple of decades earlier, the textile mills taken over by ntc. but i wonder: did those concerns have a purity-pollution angle to them, as gopal guru points out, in another context?
In fact the checkered history of industrial capital shows that this class has followed this ‘veil of ignorance’ principle rather selectively. For example, the textile mills owners in Bombay in the 1930s did not bother to follow the modern criterion of recruiting mill workers and even managers. Relatively more unskilled upper caste mill workers barred more skilled workers from the dalit castes from working in the weaving sections of Bombay based textile mills. The upper caste workers opposed the entry of dalits, not on grounds of merit but on the line of purity-pollution.
mr. goswami and ms. roy have very different visions of what's right for india, but they're in the same room.


meaningless icons

from a paper on the very informative judicial reforms website:
When one is talking about access to justice than one has to keep in mind the level of justice. By and large people do not come in touch with the judiciary in order to enforce their right to justice. But what are the basic problems, which the people face when they do approach the court? They come to the court and then wait for justice for years on end. On August 2006, the figures of pending cases were 39 lakhs at the level of High Courts and 235 crore in subordinate courts, while 35000 cases are pending in the Supreme Court. Figures of cases filed per thousand population comes around 1.2 per 1000 population, which is far less than 17 cases per 1000 in Malaysia and 14 per 1000 in Korea. This shows that in India we do not have many people approaching the courts for getting justice.

Every Law Commission is dealing with disparity in the number of judges per population. According to the standards of the world, the country should have at least 50 judges per million population. But in India in 2004, we had 12 judges per million population. Apart from the fact there are 2000 vacant positions in subordinate judiciary.

Who do these delays and backlogs impact the most? How do they impact access to justice? In case of the criminal cases, the poor people are the most affected. More than 70% of persons inside jails who are held on suspicion of having committed a crime are not able to pay the bail amount, which is very high. They are inside the jails for months and years, as they cannot afford a lawyer.
among other figures and facts mentioned in those few paras, i think this line best illustrates how inaccessible justice is to the great majority of the people in this country:
Figures of cases filed per thousand population comes around 1.2 per 1000 population, which is far less than 17 cases per 1000 in Malaysia and 14 per 1000 in Korea [italics mine].
place that figure alongside these two random facts: number of indians who do not have bank accounts (ans: around 85% of the total population), proportion of people in the country employed in the unorganized sector (ans: 93% of total workforce). those figures tell me: most people in india have a right to be angry. but why aren't they going to the courts?

it'd seem, for the great majority of people in india, not just the taj mahal hotel in mumbai, most of india's courts too are meaningless icons.


distant justice

BANGALORE: People power is all set to take on a new avatar in Bangalore, and police officials will feel its impact. Mahithi Hakku Jagruthi Vedike, a group of RTI activists, will launch a service to assist citizens in their dealings with police.
This voluntary organization will help you register your police complaint and hold your hand through follow-up action. The Vedike was inspired by the success of Mumbai-based PLEAD (People for Legal and Emotional Assistance to the Deserving).
The Vedike team has about 21 retired persons from all walks of life in each police station limit. Of these, five will be in constant touch with the police station. They will take up a complainant's cause and the idea is to ensure that people get justice. Volunteers will keep an eye on corruption too.
Indur Chhugani formed PLEAD, which has over 160 volunteers. Chhugani told TOI: "We prefer retired officials as volunteers as they have time to spare, and experience too. Our success in Mumbai motivated us to open similar organizations in Bangalore and Kolkata. Many volunteers in Bangalore have come forward. In Mumbai, we were able to get a court order to demolish 137 police chowkis constructed illegally on the pavements. That was a landmark achievement," he explained.
a voluntary organization to help you register your complaint with the police and hold your hand through follow-up action!

urban, educated, empowered citizens need volunteers to help them deal with the police? that's how far the justice system in india has distanced itself from the people. consider these two scenarios: what are your chances of getting your complaint registered at the local police station, if 1) you are a dalit, let's say, living in, not mumbai or bangalore or kolkata, but a village far away from educated, knowledgeable people with time on their hands? or 2) a muslim peon living in a city like mumbai (a city, supposedly, so cosmopolitan that it is many cities), that calls, reverentially, an a#%^&le like bal thackeray 'balasaheb'?


security without justice?

The large number of undertrials — that is, persons yet to be convicted — lodged in Indian prisons has always made it difficult to look straight at the constitutional promises of justice. The latest official figures put that number at 2.23 lakh. Out of a total number of 3.22 prison inmates, that make seven out of every 10 an undertrial. First, then, there is the absurdity — an absurdity underlined with such tragic consequences — of persons charged with petty crime, but in the absence of trial or surety having to remain behind bars for years on end. Second, there is the comment this yields on the carriage of justice in India.
from a news report in the indian express. there are undertrials who have stayed in jails, across the country, longer than convicts sentenced to life imprisonment. does india have a sense of justice? the news report says:
In 1929, Jatin Das’s fatal 63-day fast in a Lahore jail to demand better living conditions for undertrials became an abiding indictment of the colonial justice system. The continued presence of men and women in jails for want of a conclusive trial is, similarly, a blot that discredits democratic India in more ways than one.
in reality, democratic india has been more unjust than india under the british- the undertrials to convicts ratio was 1:2 during british rule, now it's 2:1. can you have security without justice?


the marketplace of security

A brave man lost his fame
and is a pray to injustice today
the truth is buried in the sand of time
and the flag of lies is fluttering high.

Our country India the great
But the jealosy and injustice in here
Is sinking her brave son day by day.

Save this hero DAYA NAYAK
who lived his life for the people of mumbai,
and has carried on his duty to the highest order.
was awake all nights
so that u people there could sleep.
an excerpt from a poem posted in honour of daya nayak by a commenter here. one doesn't know whether daya nayak made a 100 crores but i personally know of a policeman who used to meet his clients mostly in five star hotels. he used to complain that he was sick of five star hotels. he was only a sub-inspector. another acquaintance, also a sub-inspector some fifteen years ago, used to tell me about the two packets of pay he'd get every month- one from the government and one from local businessmen and others. like clockwork. the second packet, like the first, depended on his rank. it didn't represent all the extra money he could make in a month- that'd actually depend on how well he protected the well-heeled clients who visited the police station. on what kind of security he provided them. and i've heard similar stories from other policemen i know of, in hyderabad. but mumbai is much bigger- how many inspectors in mumbai are crorepatis? i think the right question should be: how many aren't crorepatis?

those who wish to buy security are making a bad situation worse.

q'ing up

from film stars to screenwriters to reporters to techies: everyone wants to buy better bulletproof vests and other protective gear for our policemen. do they really believe that the mumbai cops wouldn't be able to afford such fancy stuff on their own (without taxing the treasury or those kindhearted citizens)?

not to speak of the guns they want to buy for the policemen. sad.


one image from mumbai (c.1989)

for me, many times and especially at times like these, the thought of mumbai/bombay chucks up this image: a young man jerking off in the men's room of churchgate station. people waiting behind him. sudden sniggers. i startled, look up, over the partition at this heaving shoulders. the man, unmindful of the mild laughter, and of, say, three hundred odd people around him, finishes what he was doing, fast. he steps out. somebody else steps in.

i couldn't laugh (it was my second visit to bombay), i was as old as he was, and it was the most terrible thing i'd ever seen. can you get lonelier than that?


v.p.singh, fakir

Shri Somnath Chatterjee: : One clarification. Now the Leader of the Opposition points out serious infirmities, according to him, and deficiencies in the report. Why did not his Government reject this report? (Interruptions)


An Hon. Member: Yes, yes.

Shri Rajiv Gandhi: You were also a Minister, now you are saying Yes-yes.

Shri Syed Masudal Hossain: Everyday you used to change the Ministers, that is why you do not remembers. The faces of memory?



Shri Rajiv Gandhi: Sir, we are taking a lot of time, with all these disturbances. This Committee never met again, and was never consulted again. What I am trying to point out is not that this report is worthless, and should be thrown away. Like I said, there is a lot of substance in the report, but to say that you will just accept it like that, without discussing it or without debating it, is not adequate. It needs more looking into. (Interruptions)

Shri Nirmal Kanti Chatterjee: What did you do for ten years?

Shri Rajiv Gandhi: Forget ten years We made a mistake. At least you should have read this report before making this announcement.

Shri Nirmal Kanti Chatterjee: Now, are you sure about it?
so, rajiv gandhi brought in the muslims, christians, sikhs, dalits and, of course, the only quality that objectively measures misery, economic class, to rip apart mandal, in his 'greatest speech ever', as many educated, middle class indians would like to remember it. the same indians who would again bring in ' muslims, christians, sikhs, dalits and, of course, obcs and..class' to pin the responsibility for mumbai (and india) elsewhere in a few days, i guess.

rajiv gandhi, who could open the gates to a centuries old mandir that never existed, wasn't able to see justice even if it stabbed him in the back like jai chand or v.p.singh. and brahminized india still can't forgive v.p.singh, the treacherous fakir, for opening another kind of gates.

india needs to look at justice, urgently. for everyone's sake. for the sake of those who were killed in mumbai, unjustly.


a dole in pakistan

a slightly old article in cobra post says:
Soon after forming his government, Punjab Chief Shahbaz Sharif announced the Punjab Food Support Scheme to help the "poorest of the poor". This, some insiders believe, was done to preempt the PPP's Benazir Ration Card scheme.

The 'hurriedly shaped' programme is worth 21.60 billion with the aim to pay to each of 1.8 million families, a money order worth Rs 1000. The scheme was formally launched on Aug 14, 2008 and will continue throughout the fiscal year 2008-09. [emphasis mine].
the details in the article are not very clear but i'd admit that this news makes me happy. shows that the pakistani politicians are wiser than many politicians from some so-called progressive states in india. from promising free television sets to free rice to free lpg- political parties increasingly speak like large retail stores in these states.

why doesn't anybody talk about a dole like the pakistanis? because a dole is most likely to be leakage-proof?

[please click on the label dole for my other posts on the subject].


on violence

i see this as violence: banks promoted by the government cornering most of the capital in the country to lend only to an exclusive few sections of indian society. how's that violence? because that leaves very little surplus capital outside the banks. and naturally, informal lenders who control this capital demand high rates of interest from the rest of the borrowers.

any solution that ignores the fact that most of the credit in the country is cornered by those banks to be lent exclusively to very few sections of indian society, ignores the whole picture- there is very little left for a very large number of people.

anu: that illustrates violence in its entirety, in my view.



i said welcome to the guest
he said-- i am a refugee
from a certain hunting party
the dove that's escaped!
i regarded him as only a mehmaan
i didn't understand- what do i serve him
i didn't understand- what do i serve him
i asked him what he liked
'eating with my family' he said.
like a dried well
what did he hide inside
is this food?
with frightened eyes that had lost trust
the smoke's still coming out from somewhere he said!
pecking at a few fistfuls
remembering his family with every morsel..
it didn't seem like he was eating- drawing
sorrow from the seas inside
he seemed he's here
but wandering elsewhere..
the brother lost..the sister taken away...
the families destroyed
the estranged watan...remembering in delirium
his lane razed
friends killed
villages disfigured
nation scattered
because two eyes weren't enough
he seemed to grieve with his whole body!
finally without making a sound
departing like he came, he said-
'bloodthirst is a dangerous disease'.

- my translation of the telugu poem mehmaan by shahjahana (first published in andhra jyoti in december 2007).


fund blogging, not reason

1. We need government-run schools because private schools aren’t up to the task
2. But government schools aren’t doing a great job either, the reason is that competition from the private tuitions are taking resources away from them.
3. Hence we should ban private tuitions.
i used to think almost like that, being an indian. but i'm learning:
1. we should fund schooling, not schools because this will build competition.
2. if the competition fails to appear in villages without bridges, the reason is that public transport is taking resources away from them.
3. hence we should fund transport not transporters.
you might ask: what public transport in a village without a bridge? well, if you can make competition appear in a village without a bridge... what do you suggest? the poor want education desperately and viscerally, so they'll cross the bridge when they come to it. meanwhile:
1. we should fund travel, not bridges.
2. if people still fail to travel, the reason is that books are taking resources away from them.
3. hence we should fund reading not books.
readers? in a village without a school? well, nautch girls then. or the local moonshine. to work around that:
1. we should fund drinking, not bars.
2. if people still fail to drink, the reason is that sex is taking time away from drinking.
3. hence we should fund sex not pornography.
what does funding pornography have to do with competition not showing up at the village without the bridge? who said anything about competition in the village? competition would spring up across the ravine. how would that improve access to schooling? that's again indian kind of thinking. my suggestion is:
1. we should fund thinking, not indians.
2. if indians still don't stop thinking, the reason is that they are not blogging much.
3. hence we should fund blogging, not reason.


skirting the question of land

whether it's the government trying to acquire his land or some large businessman, why do you think an indian farmer would always be cheated? because he isn't as smart as you are?

because he's of an inferior variety of the human race?

that's one way of articulating the brown man's burden. here's another kind: one that rests on the principle that the indian farmer shall always cheat. so, you've to save the honest indian businessman or government from the wily indian farmer.
The land market in India is so primitive that very often both buyers and sellers depend on the Almighty and transact business. Around half the operational holdings in States is plagued by legal disputes, most of which are on account of ownership. Sub-division and fragmentation of land holdings is a common phenomenon arising out of excessive emphasis on heritage rights. There are also state-owned land which, either because of misuse or abuse of power by revenue authorities, have been encroached upon. The encroachers, in several cases, have been given titles by default. Though reforms were initiated, defective implementation of land records again led to conferment of titles to those who used them for their own purposes. Such land also got titles conferred over a period of time.
a fair transaction could happen when both - the buyer and the seller- have ready access to reliable information. when both of them have to depend on the almighty as the only source of reliable information- because there are no reliable records on land- how do you judge, later, who was cheated? or arrive at any conclusions, beforehand, who'd be cheated?

the whole debate on singur etc., provides so much fun. no one looks at the questions- where's the land? if there's land, where are the records? if there are no land records, how can there be a land market?

if you believe in the market, reliable land records would be the first step in ensuring that any given transaction would have a fair chance of being fair. you don't believe in the market? good. if you have reliable land records, you could redistribute the land on the basis of the records.

so, why is everyone, from the left and the right, who's talking about land (in singur or other such places), not talking about land, actually? because they all emerged from somewhere above brahma's ankles? because if you have reliable land records, you would have to redistribute the land on the basis of the records?


will obama be good for india?

here are the results of a snap poll held across the country:
hyderabad: both of us had grown up in hyderabad so we had lots to talk about.

hoshiarpur: i got several good proposals.. finally i chose him.

chennai: we met for the first time at my uncle's house in chennai.

lucknow: my parents spoke to his parents and we're planning to get married.. next month.

kolkata: when he..first emailed, i knew that we'd get along well.
all of them seem to agree: india, if you want a better match than obama, please go here.


chandala age

shambhuka, smile on his lips,

is killing rama.

ekalavya with an axe

is chopping down drona's thumb

bali with his little feet

is stamping vamana down to patala

manu, piercing needles in his eyes

cutting his tongue

pouring lead in his ears

is rolling in the graveyard

standing on the butcher's knife of time

the chandala roars

setting four hounds

on adi sankara


this current age

is an extremely chandala age

my translation of sivasagar's naDustunna caritra (1994).


civil society and political society

a very interesting paper(pdf), by partha chatterjee- a key formulation in the paper 'is a split in the field of the political between a domain of properly constituted civil society and a more ill-defined and contingently activated domain of political society'. an excerpt:
Let me summarise my main argument. With the continuing rapid growth of the Indian economy, the hegemonic hold of corporate capital over the domain of civil society is likely to continue. This will inevitably mean continued primitive accumulation. That is to say, there will be more and more primary producers, i e, peasants, artisans and petty manufacturers, who will lose their means of production. But most of these victims of primitive accumulation are unlikely to be absorbed in the new growth sectors of the economy. They will be marginalised and rendered useless as far as the sectors dominated by corporate capital are concerned. But the passive revolution under conditions of electoral democracy makes it unacceptable and illegitimate for the government to leave these marginalised populations without the means of labour to simply fend for themselves. That carries the risk of turning them into the “dangerous classes”. Hence, a whole series of governmental policies are being, and will be, devised to reverse the effects of primitive accumulation. This is the field in which peasant societies are having to redefine their relations with both the state and with capital. Thus far, it appears that whereas many new practices have been developed by peasants, using the mechanisms of democratic politics, to claim and negotiate benefits from the state, their ability to deal with the world of capital is still unsure and inadequate. This is where the further development of peasant activities as non-corporate capital, seeking to ensure the livelihood needs of peasants while operating within the circuits of capital, will define the future of peasant society in India. As far as I can see, peasant society will certainly survive in India in the 21st century, but only by accommodating a substantial non-agricultural component within the village. Further, I think there will be major overlaps and continuities in emerging cultural practices between rural villages and small towns and urban areas, with the urban elements gaining predominance.
should read it again. [thanks, rama].


son! yesoba!

what can i say sir!

my son yesobu

died in the war

my son who could conquer neerukonda*

lies sacrificed on a slab of ice

he left with a smile

and has returned as a corpse

smiling, he calls 'nAnna'*

he went on foot and has returned a bridegroom

a flowering plant has returned as a fallen banyan

he has returned

what can i say? and how?

people turn up here as at a fair

in throngs and throngs

addressing them, speaking of

my son's 'sacrifices, patriotism'

you, sarpanch babu! sir!

when he stopped

people washing their animals

in the tank*

didn't you, with a whip

lash my son's chest

mark him with stains

in the cinema outside our village

for buying a big ticket*

and sitting alongside you

didn't you scheme

to cut his hands legs

was it your daughter who looked at him

or he who looked at her

i do not know but-

to kill lionlike yesobu

you wove the noose

how can we forget this history!

we know all this

does the rain wash away the wounds, sir!

on the untouchable's eyelids

these truths stand erect

like crowbars driven into our hearts

mothers! sirs!

my son's death

this isn't the first

many times in our village

he died and lived

to live he joined the army

as a corpse, he has returned alive


my mind's not in my mind

my mind's not in my mind

sir! in my eyes

the pyre dances

son! yesoba! yesoba!

yesoba! my father*!

for you

i'll weep like karamchedu*

for you

i'll weep like chunduru*

for you

i'll weep like vempenta*

i'll weep like yesterday's gosayipalem*!

father! as a tear big as the sky

i'll pour like a storm for you!

elders! lords!


i wish to curse you

a basketful of curses

i wish to drive a basketful of wild ants

to bite you all over

to see my son's corpse, arriving

like armies of ants

and disappearing like swarms of locusts,

you patriots!

wait a second

if you're made of pus* and blood, shame and honour

if your liver hasn't melted yet

answer this untouchable's questions

not my son

you've come to visit his corpse

do you agree!

my son dead is a veera jawan

alive he's a mala* jawan

what do you say?

answer me!

swear on your manu

as a pigeon and a snake

can't be linked

your upper caste pride

can't go with patriotism

elders! lords!

listen! listen to the untouchable word

between the village and the wada

there's a kargil

from grandfathers' forefathers' age

burning between us

this kargil war

hasn't stopped, it goes on

son! yesoba!

on the third day

if you can't return

find the time

to return some day

and wipe my tears! father!

-my translation of sivasagar's kodukA! yEsobA!, written in 1999.
note: will explain the asterisks and my inadequacies as a translator later.


telugu, of song and rebellion

the bow and arrows hidden in the mahua trees' tresses
i give you my brother! i give you my brother!

the spears hidden by the path to lohar jwala
i give you my brother! i give you my brother!

the glistening swords dipped in the landlord's blood
i give you my brother! i give you my brother!

the guns hidden in the tulasikonda ravine
i give you my brother! i give you my brother!

the rifle snatched from the garla train
i give you my brother! i give you my brother!

the sepoy's throat slit in rupaayi konda
i give you my brother! i give you my brother!

the martyrs' blood flowing in misty mountains valleys
i give you my brother! i give you my brother!

the moonlight caught in the eyes of dark hills
i give you my brother! i give you my brother!

the flowers that grew wild on the budarisingi peaks
i give you my brother! i give you my brother!

the heroism of boddapadu- the lightning courage of garuda bhadra
i give you my brother! i give you my brother!

the twinkle of kailasam's eyes- the intensity of venkatapu's stare
i give you my brother! i give you my brother!

panigrahi's swordsong- mallik's childlike smile
i give you my brother! i give you my brother!

the hopes of the poor- the battle of srikakulam
i give you my brother! i give you my brother!

put down the traitors- grab the rifles
build a red army- form a red zone

join hands with your brothers- free mother earth
come along brother- don't tarry brother!

- my translation of the poem nEla talli ceranu viDipinchaga ('to free mother earth'), written by 'sivasagar' (k.g.satyamurthy). it was written in october 1973 when the poet, a leader of the earliest naxalite movement in andhra pradesh, was organizing little rebellions (notice the reference to various battlefields) across the state, from srikakulam to adilabad.

honourable judges!
sunrise is not a conspiracy
the sun is not a conspirator
are a mother's labour pains a conspiracy?
what would you call the progress of the chariot of history?

honourable judges!
demoniac feudalism that's tucked up earth,
like a rolled mat, inside its armpit is a conspiracy
the selling of my country to outsiders
is a conspiracy
brokered at kosygin's leprous feet
the peace treaty is a conspiracy
the food that nixon's ships
bring is a conspiracy
indian independence is a conspiracy
the ballot box is a conspiracy
'garibi hatao' is a conspiracy
indira's smile is a conspiracy
waiting to hang the sun
the arrogance of your unjust laws is a conspiracy
honourable judges!
the srikakulam sunrise is not a conspiracy
the guerilla sun is not a conspirator
isn't driving away darkness sunrise
isn't spreading light warmth among people sunrise

honourable judges!
you, you..are all very righteous
in adharma's destruction, as just as yama.

- my translation of the poem kutradarudu vAj~nmoolamu ('the conspirator's admission') by 'sivasagar' (k.g.satyamurthy). this poem was his statement before the court trying him for participating in the parvathipuram conspiracy.

telugu doesn't need this or any other government's endorsement. it has battled sanskrit (for five centuries?), prakrit (for another five?), persian (for yet another five?)..and repression in one telugu region or another for more than two thousand years.

in thanjavur, or golkonda, and in srikakulam or jagityala, it's been the language of song and rebellion. now, it's gaddar's language, and sivasagar's. and of all dalits, sudras ..and, as sri sri would have said, of all pathithulu, bhrashtulu, badha sarpa dashtulu.

s*&&% the pundits in delhi. i'd rather remember:

endarO mahAnubhAvulu..


click to save..what?

india's population has nearly doubled since 1970. so has its foodgrain production. actually, india's food production could've quadrupled, considering the average yield per acre, across the world (including china and even countries such as vietnam and laos, sometimes) of any major cereal (rice, wheat corn) is more than twice the indian average. but yes, india does produce a little more than it requires and has been doing so for nearly four decades.

so why do you still see charities across the western world (and everywhere on the internet) asking you to save indian children from hunger etc.,? india doesn't require any foodgrain imports from the west (except to bridge any very temporary shortfall, just as any other food surplus nation in the world)- so how can any westerner save indian children from hunger? by donating money so that the child/his parents/charity looking after him can buy food. by giving the child/his parents etc purchasing power.

but what most western donors probably do not know is that their money would buy food produced in india and not in the west. for all they know, they're sending food to india.

now, there's another way in which any kindhearted citizen of the west can save indian children from hunger: ask his/her government to stop subsidizing its agriculture. or at least stop spending ridiculous amounts on crops that people of those countries rarely consume- like for instance, the subsidies that america spends on rice production. it throws away more money on the subsidies than the actual output is worth, in dollar terms! if those subsidies are lowered, indian farmers would produce more and earn more from selling a part of their produce overseas. which in turn would mean more purchasing power for indian parents.

p.sainath and many like him do not like that idea because they inherently do not believe indian farmers are capable of the kind of productivity any western or chinese or vietnamese or laotian farmer is capable of. and that is exactly what many knowledgeable people in the west also think, even when they see that their real agricultural productivity is going from bad to worse. so, the indian farmer should continue to live on the indian government's charity, according to people like sainath (he would of course make it sound like he's talking about farmers' rights). and indian children should continue to receive food from kindhearted westerners. (that's what i call brahminized angst).

but is it possible for indian farmers to increase productivity and their incomes by selling their produce only in india?

look at how growth in indian agricultural output has managed to hover around, on an average, 2% a year, over the last forty years. why? because that's more than adequate to meet the annual growth in population? it's like indian farmers instinctively seem to know just exactly how much india needs. or, think of it in this way: if indian farmers had quadrupled their production in the last forty years- where would they have sold half their produce? definitely not in india. which means they've been producing just as much as india is willing to pay for. and india has been paying less and less over the years- from around 50% of gdp in 1970 to around 18% now, which of course, meant more and more distress in the countryside. and now, more and more suicides.

so, why do indian farmers need to significantly improve their productivity if they need to sell only in india? and given the record of the past forty years, how will they manage to increase their incomes by selling only in india? especially, when the indian government/s would continue to control all trade in agriculture commodities even within the country?

why this half-rant now? because i get massively annoyed by invitations to 'click to save an indian child from hunger' and so on, sometimes.


financial crisis could fuel hunger?

felix salmon (via gadde swarup) quoting from a bloomberg post:
The number of hungry around the world is at risk of increasing as the financial crisis cuts investment in agriculture and crops, said Abdolreza Abbassian, secretary of the Intergovernmental Group on Grains at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome. The total increased by 75 million last year to 923 million, the UN estimates.
a squeeze on worldwide institutional credit could affect corn output this year? not in india where 90% of credit that farmers access is non-institutional. perhaps, this is the time for americans to go easy on their subsidies so that indian farmers can invest more in productivity. if you want to save the world's hungry don't send money to india or africa- and don't subsidise the fortunate in america either.


hierarchy prioritized

will the bank ever lend any money to these three businessmen? so that they can move out of the slum? they've been working there, for the last twenty years, honestly and hard for more hours, every day, than any one in the bank itself. for twenty long years. does the bank trust them?
i'd said indians do not qualify. not even when they're prioritized. those who have already invested 5 lakhs to 2 crores in their businesses are also prioritized, so what kind of a chance does a thelawallah stand against them?

lending to the really small guy does not make any business sense? listen to swaminathan aiyar:
This is extraordinary. Big financiers lend against collateral, a back-up if their borrower defaults. But MFIs lend with no collateral at all. Big financiers lend to the most creditworthy corporations. MFIs lend to poor women whom nobody in history considered creditworthy before. Yet, the secured loans to big corporations are bombing, while unsecured loans to poor women are being repaid in full.

How so? What lessons does micro-finance have for Wall Street?
america and most other western nations have programmes like the sba. india has the priority sector to ensure that loans go only to people who have already exhibited their easy access to self-owned resources and credit. people who would have gained access to further credit anyway, even without their needs being prioritized by the government. seen against the history of small borrowers being more trustworthy than bigger businessmen how does one understand the indian banks' reluctance to lend to them? it means those who'd historically never owned much property do not stand a chance with indian banks. that clearly means lower caste borrowers. i ask again: if all these banks were to disappear, why would any truly marginalized individual in the country miss them?


from sircilla to wherever mr.guha's next article is going to be published

a slogan in telugu, scrawled over a wall bordering the security printing press in hyderabad says:
workers of the world unite! oppose globalization, privatization!
workers who produce a quintessentially national product calling for a global effort to oppose globalization? now here's a quintessentially global product ( schooled in la martiniere school, calcutta, st. stephen's college, delhi and the delhi school of economics- each institution started, run or inspired by global institutions/ideas) telling you:
..the views and analyses of the political economist, philosopher and sociologist Karl Heinrich Marx remain as relevant as ever in understanding why the world is what it is at present.
now if rapelli mallaiah had gone to la martiniere school and st.stephens college and the delhi school of economics he'd have realized much before that fateful day that karl marx is as relevant as ever. i'd say, globalize mallaiah's and paranjoy guha thakurta's world.


the physics of disappearing land

going back to this post:
could it have been stolen? 44% and more of all cultivable land in india?
there must be some law of physics that says land can't disappear or be stolen. but look at how tough it is to find the land that's disappeared from most of our cities:
In 2001, office space near the center of town sold for $1 a square foot. Now it can go for $400 a square foot. Janwani bought his 6-acre plot in 1992 for $13,000. Today, even undeveloped, it's worth $3 million.

But high prices are only part of the problem for businesses looking for space in the city. It's nearly impossible to determine who actually owns any given piece of Bangalorean real estate. Some 85 percent of citizens occupy land illegally, according to Solomon Benjamin, a University of Toronto urban studies professor who specializes in Bangalore's real estate market. Most land in the city, as in the rest of India, is bound by ancestral ties that go back hundreds of years. Little undisputed documentation exists. Moreover, as families mingle and fracture over generations, ownership becomes diluted along with the bloodline. A buyer who wants to acquire a large parcel may have to negotiate with dozens of owners. Disputes are inevitable.

scott carney's great investigative work on the land mafia in bangalore could be easily read as a great investigative work on the land mafia in bangalore. please read the italicized portions again- the lessons we need to draw from it are not about the land mafia.
Some 40 percent of land transactions occur on the black market, according to Arun Kumar, an economist at Jawaharlal Nehru University. Often the local authorities facilitate these deals. A World Bank report rated the Bangalore Development Authority, which oversees urban planning, as one of the most corrupt and inefficient institutions in India.
and, from another page:
"When a foreign company wants to set up a business, they don't know who to trust," he says. "They need clear titles, and if they go to a local person, they're going to get screwed with legal cases. But if Rai gives you a title, it comes with a 100 percent guarantee of no litigation. No cheating. It's perfectly straightforward." [...]
According to a lawyer who deals with land issues, the system works like this: Asked to intercede by a prospective buyer, Rai checks out the parcel for competing owners. If two parties assert ownership, he hears both sides plead their case and decides which has the more legitimate claim (what he calls "80 percent legal"). He offers that person 50 percent of the land's current value in cash. To the other, he offers 25 percent to abandon their claim—still a fortune to most Indians, given the inflated price of Bangalorean real estate. Then he sells the land to his client for the market price and pockets the remaining 25 percent. Anyone who wants to dispute the judgment can take it up with him directly. [...]
Collusion between enforcers and mobsters raises troubling questions about the future of this city. "Since Bangalore went global, things have gotten worse," says Santosh Hegde , his graying hair dyed jet-black and a chain of prayer beads around his neck. He's the state official responsible for prosecuting corruption cases. "Businesspeople want to get things done quickly, and they have no option but to bribe officials to shortcut the bureaucracy," he says.Hegde, 68, served six years on India's Supreme Court before taking the anticorruption beat. He oversees a team of accountants who burrow through documents and field operatives trained in covert recordings and sting operations. Since assuming office, Hegde has charged more than 300 officials with receiving cash bribes totaling over $250,000 and illegal assets and land holdings worth $40 million. That's just 5 percent of total bribery in Karnataka, he says, which he estimates at more than $800 million.
no, it isn't about the land mafia, or about corruption or about fast paced development. and it isn't about bangalore or any other big city in india either.


slowing down reforms saved us?

if growth after reforms did not trickle down how would recession trickle down now? if shining india isn't connected to other parts of india, why should the samosawallah outside jnu fear the wall street crash? why should anyone who's never had a bank account feel safe now that our banks, because they're still in the public sector, are safe?

you're funny.


the case of the stolen land

a few days ago, i'd wandered into a discussion on singur (thanks to abi) at rahul siddharthan's blog. rahul had a few questions, and among them i found this one interesting:
Why didn't the Tatas (and others who extol the virtues of the free market) acquire their land on the open market?
yes, why didn't they go to the open market? that question represents insouciance of a degree, let's say, that's disturbing. if land was so freely available in the open market (or wherever), what the f&&* are the naxalites doing in the jungles? oh yes, of course, they don't have the money to buy the land. so why don't the more fortunate citizens of this country donate whatever little they can to a fund, say, the prime minister's relief fund, and ask the indian government to finance the naxalites?

that'd require a huge pile of money. how much? let's say there are 20 crore families in india and around 13 crore of them live in the villages. by most accounts, more than 40% of them are landless- say 5.2 crore families. even if the government paid only rs.1 lakh per acre it'd require 5,20,000 crores to buy up enough land to distribute at least one acre each to those 5.2 crore families. considering not even 13 lakh per acre was considered a fair rate in singur, you could say the government would need much more money to pay fair rates to the sellers. seems like a bad idea?

why doesn't the government just go ahead and mop up the excess land, instead? without paying any fair compensation? as of 1995-96, around 20% of land owners in rural india owned around 64% of all available agricultural land. and the landless represented around 43% of the rural population. you could say the top 20% of land owners had cornered all the landless poor's share of farmland (and more).

so, why didn't the government just mop up that excess land and distribute it among the landless? that is exactly what all progressive governments in india have been trying to do for the last sixty years- scouring the land for the land, which you and i know is easily available in the open market. but why can't the government find it?

could it have been stolen? 44% and more of all cultivable land in india?


stick to hindus and muslims

But we live in a time when even multitudes are forced to lay claim to a singular label.
from this moving piece of writing at space bar's blog. and the comment i couldn't bring myself to post:
i wish i could overlook the presumption here that i can lay claim to the label 'hindu'. a great many people with hindu names can't be hindus even if they wanted to, not even if india today or bajrang dal wanted them to. i wish i didn't have to post this comment, but i've noticed many 'liberal secular hindus and muslims' share this presumption.
why didn't i post it? because the key tenets of the liberal secular ethos in india were defined by nehru, who took great pains to describe his descent in the very first chapter of his autobiography, and later interpreted by his biographers like m.j.akbar who take great pains to engage only with upper caste hindus in all their writing. because even when one has been labelled one doesn't feel invited to these debates.

because my folks come from a village where the muharram procession still starts from lower caste homes. because some of my mother's cousins were named after a holy man called yaqub. because my grandmother always believed the festival of peers was our festival. one could go on, but for any debate to be truly liberal secular, one should stick to hindus and muslims, i guess.


does the priority sector include the marginalized?

the priority sector is a kind of a holy cow- even if a government thinks of rephrasing a line or two in the guidelines, it'd have a war on its hands. from p.sainath to muppala lakshman rao, a vast army of rishis and munis would be up in arms and pens. why? because these weaker sections need to be protected:
2.1.1 Units engaged in the manufacture, processing or preservation of goods and whose investment in plant and machinery (original cost) excluding land and building does not exceed Rs. 5 crore.
2.1.2 Small scale units whose investment in plant and machinery (original cost) excluding land and building is up to Rs. 25 lakh, irrespective of the location of the unit, are treated as Micro Enterprises.
2.2.4 Loans granted by banks to NBFCs for on lending to SSI sector.
3.1 Loans granted to small business and service enterprises such as, Small Road and Water Transport Operators, Small Business, Professional & Self Employed Persons, etc. engaged in providing/rendering of services (which are industry or non-industry related), and whose investment in equipment (original cost and excluding land and building) does not exceed Rs. 2 crore.
3.2 (ii) Advances granted to private retail traders with credit limits not exceeding Rs. 20 lakh.
6.Educational loans should include only loans and advances granted to individuals for educational purposes up to Rs. 10 lakh for studies in India and Rs. 20 lakh for studies abroad, and not those granted to institutions.
6.1Loans up to Rs. 15 lakh, irrespective of location, for construction of houses by individuals, excluding loans granted by banks to their own employees.
1.1 Domestic scheduled commercial banks having shortfall in lending to priority sector target (40 per cent of ANBC or credit equivalent amount of Off-Balance Sheet Exposure, whichever is higher) and / or agriculture target (18 per cent of ANBC or credit equivalent amount of Off-Balance Sheet Exposure, whichever is higher) shall be allocated amounts for contribution to the Rural Infrastructure Development Fund (RIDF) established with NABARD. The concerned banks will be called upon by NABARD, on receiving demands from various State Governments, to contribute to RIDF.
among those prioritized borrowers, do you recognize anyone who makes rs. 20 or less a day? in the rbi guidelines, bunched together with those weaker sections are these weaker sections:
(a) Small and marginal farmers with land holding of 5 acres and less, and landless labourers, tenant farmers and share croppers.
(b) Artisans, village and cottage industries where individual credit limits do not exceed Rs. 50,000.
(c) Beneficiaries of Swarnjayanti Gram Swarozgar Yojana (SGSY).
(d) Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
(e) Beneficiaries of Differential Rate of Interest (DRI) scheme.
(f) Beneficiaries under Swarna Jayanti Shahari Rozgar Yojana (SJSRY).
(g) Beneficiaries under the Scheme for Liberation and Rehabilitation of Scavangers (SLRS).
(h) Advances to Self Help Groups.
(i) Loans to distressed urban/rural poor to prepay their debt to non-institutional lenders, against appropriate collateral or group security.
who do you think gets better attention from the banks? most of the second category of borrowers do not even have bank accounts, as i pointed out in this post. only 13% of the most vocal section of the second category (small and marginal farmers) have managed to secure occasional credit from the banks (read the opening paragraph of the 'report of the working group on the competitive micro credit market in india', prepared by the development policy division of the planning commission) until now. how would you rate the chances of anyone from the other sections in the second, real, category of obtaining, say, an occasional loan of rs. 20 or so from a public sector bank?


5 million more reasons why caste survives

to the few bloggers who'd commented on my last 2-3 posts: my apologies. for various reasons, i wasn't able to respond earlier.

i'd like to respond now to one comment by kiran here. he says:
So are you trying to suggest that Banks would have been all inclusive if they remained private ? Unlikely. Even those 10% would not have been there.
by 1980, employees in nationalized banks numbered around one million. more than 9 lakhs of those were from the upper castes. you could say around 9 lakh upper caste families (more than 5 million individuals) benefitted directly from the nationalization project.

those were national resources that were deployed to nationalize and run those banks- but they employed, almost exclusively, upper caste individuals and lent money, almost exclusively, to upper caste individuals. did nationalization reduce caste inequalities? it aggravated them. upper caste individuals, long used to privileges, were rewarded with new positions of privilege just as naturally as in the past. and the lower castes paid for those privileges just as naturally as in the past. but the key difference was: if you were a landlord in the pre-modern era, feudal honour required that you make sure those who worked for you didn't starve. the new privileges carried no such price.

how many million lower caste individuals paid for the privileges of those 5 million upper caste individuals? how many of those 5 million would actually admit that caste is a problem? most of them would probably say: it had no role to play in their lives.

what would private banks have done? by 1980, they definitely wouldn't have been able to reward 5 million upper caste individuals with privileges and made several million more lower caste individuals pay for those privileges.


shove some moral outrage in this direction

i've always contended that indian banks were nationalized to provide jobs to upper caste indians. that's the real priority sector. among all public sector employers, indian banks have the poorest record of compliance with reservation norms. the dalits and adivasis constitute less than 5% of all bank employees. the obcs, of course, would be much lower than that because the banks started shedding weight when mandal was brought in. tomorrow, if all these banks were to disappear, not one single truly marginalized individual in the country will really miss them.

why should they? those banks have never lent more than 10% of their total credit advances to the farmers, and most of those farmers were from the same social strata as the bankers, naturally. and when people from those same social strata tried to move into new, non-agricultural vocations, indian banks played a pivotal role in financing this transition. most of the other recipients of priority or directed credit, like entrepreneurs running small scale industrial units etc., were also from the same social strata.

85% of indians still do not have bank accounts: get that into your heads, progressive india.


3,000 drops in an ocean

i'd written to a friend (a year ago, while discussing a news report that said less than 3,000 inter-caste marriages were reported from across india in 2005-06- here's the link but it doesn't seem to work now):
just look at the numbers- on a single 'good muhurat' day more than 30,000 couples could get married in any of the top 10 cities in india. and inter-caste marriages don't number more than 3000 in the whole country in a whole year.
those are marriages reported to certain government agencies which provide incentives to couples who go in for inter-caste marriages- yes, the actual number could be higher, but how much higher? twice that figure? ten times that figure? would a number ten times that figure indicate a significant trend? i don't think so.

but across the media, you notice one significant trend: a growing tendency to paint the lower castes as the only people steeped in caste. for the media, the term upper caste seems to indicate a higher value system. does the above example reveal any significant change in people's attitudes, especially of those belonging to the upper castes, towards caste? does it show how the upper castes have progressed from caste to class and the lower castes have clung to caste as many sociologists, journalists etc., have argued in the recent past? have the surnames shastri, sharma, iyer, reddy, deshpande etc., disappeared significantly or fused together to form new secular identities such as sharma-reddy, deshpande-chaudhury etc., in significant numbers?

one piece of pseudo-knowledge that the media believes in strongly (as do the experts from other knowledge producing fields who write for it): the position of women becomes weaker as you go down the caste ladder. does it?
In a recently completed study in Mehsana district in Gujarat and Kurukshetra district in Haryana, undertaken with the support of HealthWatch Trust, it was observed that the last births had a stronger preponderance of boys than all other births. Although more than twice as many boys as girls were reported among the last births by most groups of women, among those women who belonged to upper castes, whose families were landed and who were literate, there were more than 240 males for every 100 girls in the last births (Visaria 2003) [...]
However, we observed some differences between women belonging to higher social groups and those who belonged to scheduled caste and other backward communities with regard to the influence of the in-laws in these matters. The high caste women had to inform and consult their in-laws but the low caste women had to obtain the consent of only their husbands for abortion. The influence of the extended joint family was not so strong on the decision of the women from lower caste groups. (italics mine).


indians do not qualify

picture this: a bank, in any indian town. outside the bank, a paanwallah, a sabziwallah and a small shopkeeper have been conducting business for over twenty years, ever since the bank was opened. it's a nice residential neighbourhood, and therefore neither the paanwallah nor the other two small businessmen live there. they live in a slum nearby.

will the bank ever lend any money to these three businessmen? so that they can move out of the slum? they've been working there, for the last twenty years, honestly and hard for more hours, every day, than any one in the bank itself. for twenty long years. does the bank trust them?

we can safely assume many of the employees in the bank know these three businessmen- some of them buy cigarettes, paan, others vegetables etc., some of them might even know that these three businessmen borrow money from moneylenders at very high interest, much higher than what borrowers from the bank pay. and also that they almost, always repay their loans on time. with interest. so, why doesn't the bank lend them money? they could definitely use it, reduce their costs, expand their profits and their businesses.

that's my question for all those sneering at american greed, gloating over the death of their banks, at their subprime crisis: why don't indian banks lend money to honest indians? the wikipedia says:
subprime lending is the practice of making loans to borrowers who do not qualify for market interest rates owing to various risk factors, such as income level, size of the down payment made, credit history, and employment status.
you see american capitalist greed, i see loans for people who do not qualify. in my view, the americans are human, you're definitely not. forget houses- 70% of indians do not have access to proper toilets. will indian banks ever lend money to those people? to groups who wish to build, say, community toilets?

no, you can't trust the indian poor. they will probably run away with the toilets.


kick the invidious telugus home

Raj launched a vitriolic attack on Mumbai Joint Police Commissioner (Law and Order) K L Prasad for his alleged remarks that "Mumbai does not belong to any individual".

"Prasad should remove his police uniform, badge and chair and come onto the street and then he will realise to whom Mumbai belongs," he said.

The MNS chief said Prasad's comments were unwarranted and that he would ask the Congress-NCP government in the state to deal sternly with such officers.
i hope prasad learns from that warning, and so do other telugus living in mumbai, bangalore chennai, new jersey, canada, chicago, st.louis, dallas, san fransisco, atlanta, detroit, washington d.c and elsewhere in the world. especially those living in bangalore and in north america.


nano ki amma

I guess, there may be other incentives/subsidies/dole-outs to make the "cheapest" car of the world - but I am not aware of those...
i'm over forty and i've a dirty memory:

back in the good old days, when you wanted to build a factory that made cars you had to stick to the strictest regulations. for instance, check regulation 00.00.01: the promoter should be the prime minister's son. and if you wanted to find land for the factory, no rules were bent for you. the chief minister of state x would himself look into the whole issue and personally deliver all papers and land to amma's office (i.e., your back office) within 7 working days (or six of your fun filled nights). back in the good old days, babus (and amma's chamchas) really worked.

compensation and rehabilitation used to be such clean, transparent arrangements: all points of contention so thoroughly discussed, deliberated and resolved by all parties concerned (you, your amma and amma's best chamcha, the chief minister) that the media could walk right past the process and see nothing. and neither could the people being compensated and rehabilitated (nor could you, actually, because nothing came out of your pocket). it used to be such a pleasure developing people in those days.

and finances weren't so easily available as they are now: the government was much more vigilant, the capital market more tightly regulated and the banks much more cautious. so you had to wait a long 24 or 48 hours after you'd identified your plot of land for the bankers to turn up, pitch their tents right inside your plot and gingerly fish out the millions you will one day not have to account for. your friendly, neighbourhood rbi governor did all the adding up later.

just because you were the only person in the country who could build a people's car didn't mean you'd get some special treatment from the government as the only person in the country who could build a people's car. you were treated just as normally as any other only person in the country who could build a people's car. but still people weren't prepared to wait (for a mere half a decade after they'd lent you money) for you to build the car. did the banias who'd lent shah jehan money to build the people's tomb for his wife pester him to return their deposits? no. they waited twenty two years for it to materialize and turn into the biggest tourist moneyspinner in the country (a couple of hundred years later). but some people couldn't wait for a mere half a decade ( and a decade)- could you honestly accuse amma of trying her best to help her son build the biggest, small people's tomb...er.. car? but some people did (good that amma retained some of the good governance practices from shah jehan's age to deal with such disgruntled people).

everything was done according to the letter of the law and nothing was disclosed even to the top brass (who knows? they might've wanted to play favourites considering you were the only person in the country who could build a people's car) in the government- that's how you build the people's confidence in industry, government and the whole process of development: by keeping everything confidential.

but the media still sniffed up foul play. what can you expect of some folks who do not understand the difference between business and government? business exploits, government takes care to see that no one is exploited. you'd exploit, even if you were the only person in the country who could build a people's car, so the government takes every care to see that your amma herself heads the government. if the government can't do business, it's best that its family and friends do it. that way, you can stand up straight if anyone ever accuses you of foul play and send them to jail. that's socialism folks, where no one's exploited and everyone shares the fruits of development equally- whether you're the only person in the country who can build a people's car or his amma or her best chamchas. and you don't even have to wait for any people's cars to be built for that to happen.


who benefits from food security?

definitely not the farmers in the country.

look at this scenario: the goi buys a quintal of milled rice at rs.1270 (assuming an m.s.p. of rs. 850 for paddy) in punjab. and sells it to food deficit states in the north east (say, mizoram) at rs. 565 a quintal. the mizo government sells it at fair price shops, adding (or deducting, actually) its own subsidy at rs. 5 per kg (or rs. 500 per quintal) to the poor. a subsidy of (rs. 1270 minus rs. 500) rs. 770 per quintal (or rs. 7.70 per kg)- the poor in mizoram should be happy, right? the poor in mizoram should be happier than that: because the subsidy isn't just rs. 770 per quintal (or rs. 7.70 per kg). it's much more than that.

according to an estimate, the goi (through fci) spends around rs. 760 on carrying and handling every quintal of rice. that's on an average. now, the distance between punjab and the northeast is much more than what could be considered average- wouldn't the costs be much higher? say, rs. 1200? wouldn't that mean that the total subsidy actually comes to, something like, rs. 1970 (or, rounding off, rs. 2000) per every quintal of rice?

now, what should actually cost the wholesale trader, not even the consumer, in mizoram rs. 2500 or more (per quintal, or, rs 25. per kg) is sold at rs. 500 (or one fifth the actual cost, not the price) to the poor in mizoram.

let's leave the poor alone (for this post) and consider the poor mizo farmer. would he be happy with this situation? if there weren't any pds (or msp mechanism operating) in mizoram, rice would probably be selling at rs. 40 a kg at retail stores in the state. and taking into account all other costs, the mizo farmer would probably be making rs. 20 a kg (or, rs. 2000 a quintal of paddy, at worst) instead of the rs. 850 (at best) a quintal he makes now.

why should he be happy?


another economist supports direct transfers to the poor

Chennai: A system of conditional direct cash transfers to the poor is the “first best option” to address poverty in India, and would also lead to a “more efficient and rational pricing policy,” economist Arvind Subramanian said here on Saturday.

Attributing India’s “abysmal” record in poverty eradication programmes to “minimal state capacity,” Dr. Subramanian said the country’s well-placed equity concerns could be addressed better by direct cash transfer schemes, as they would “attain the [equity] objectives by minimising the demands made on state capacity.” Citing examples from Mexico and Brazil, he suggested linking cash transfer schemes to conditions such as children going to school, or receiving basic immunisation shots. A start could be made by introducing “experimental projects” in some States.

read the news report in the hindu. my earlier posts advocating a dole [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7].


food security causes stagnation

punjab is the lone exception among food surplus states: all the others, like uttar pradesh, bihar, west bengal, haryana, andhra pradesh etc., have higher undernourishment rates than kerala. and the article i'd referred to in this post points out:
What then explains the high levels of child malnutrition in India? Answers lie in looking beyond income levels, economic expansion, conventional poverty, and food availability.
so, why discuss issues like food availability etc., again? because any discussion on undernourishment among children is inevitably guided, by the brahminized left, towards a debate on hunger (which is okay) and then towards food security (things start becoming unstoppably hazier, at this point) and then onto a discussion on the pds, minimum support prices, subsidies, evil neoliberal policies, globalization and so on. so, i wanted to re-emphasize the irrelevance of the issue of food availability in any discussion on undernourishment among children. food availability, i repeat, is irrelevant to undernourishment. at least, not directly relevant.

so, it doesn't matter whether you have an efficient pds (as in kerala) or a barely patronized pds (as in punjab) : it isn't directly relevant to the issue, in my view. in other words, what governments do to increase food production and availability (which is what food security is about) might have nothing to do with how undernourished the children in a state, or the country, are.

but central government policy on food security affects the people of different states in different ways. kerala produces half as much rice as it did in 1961, because most of its farmers, steadily over the years, are actually leaving agriculture instead of trying to increase production. and in the states which have increased production, by two-three times etc., over the last fifty years, a majority of the farmers are still stuck in agriculture.

in kerala, the children are better fed because people have grown more aware, while in the food surplus states, the farmers have been producing more to consume less and remain ignorant.

food security causes stagnation.


do you really need a 'progressive' goverment to ensure less undernourishment?

anoop saha, in response to my last post says:
Of course, Kerala is not an ideal. But the only explanation of low malnutrition in Kerala compared to AP and WB is that the poorest classes (who are most vulnerable to malnutrition) had a far larger stake in the power here than the other states. (italics mine).
please read the rest of his response too here. and let me add that i agree with most of what he has to say on the communists' social base in kerala.
the poorest classes (who are most vulnerable to malnutrition) had a far larger stake in the power here than the other states.
is that the reason why punjab too has a lower proportion of undernourished children? only 27%, less than even the proportion of undernourished children in kerala! do the dalits and other lower castes in punjab (anoop would prefer to call them poorest classes, i guess) have a large stake in power in punjab just as they do in kerala? dalits constitute nearly 30% of the population in punjab- a large presence. does that translate into a large stake in power? and have the governments in punjab been as progressive as the left front governments in kerala?

no, i don't think so.


more food equals more undernourishment

andhra pradesh grows more than 11 million tonnes of rice every year, kerala grows around 0.6-0.8 million tonnes a year- which state has a higher proportion of undernourished children?

andhra pradesh.

which state is food secure?

andhra pradesh, again. the state grows around 5 million more tonnes of rice than it needs while kerala's yearly output satisfies around one-fifth of its needs.

so much for food security.

kerala's governments, especially the left front led coalitions, have long focussed on redistributive justice- is that a reason why there is less undernourishment among children in kerala? then west bengal, where the communists have had an unhindered control of reins, should have a better record, yes?

no. undernourishment among children, between 0-2 years, is 43.5% in west bengal, much worse than in kerala (28.8). and worse than even in andhra pradesh (36.5).

and to think that west bengal is more food secure than andhra pradesh as it produces more rice. so, what's undernourishment all about? and why should any state aim for food security?


the niti and nyaya of undernourishment

in my previous post, i'd talked about prof. amartya sen's lecture in the indian parliament. 'Much of his lecture was devoted to probing the idea of social justice and drawing a distinction between 'niti' and 'nyaya'' according to the news report. undernourishment in india, according to this slightly old, but definitely enlightening article in the hindu, draws its sustenance from exactly that inherited code of niti and nyaya, from ancient laws which decide the place of each man and woman in our society:
What then explains the high levels of child malnutrition in India? Answers lie in looking beyond income levels, economic expansion, conventional poverty, and food availability. The first clue is found in the proportion of low birthweight babies. Estimates for India reveal that 20 to 30 per cent of babies weigh less than 2,500 grams at birth. This suggests the onset of malnutrition in the womb itself and reflects an inter-generational transfer of malnutrition from the mother to the child. Adversely affecting the birth of well-nourished babies is also the poor health and nutritional status of women. According to NFHS-3, close to one-third of Indian women suffer from Chronic Energy Deficiency and have a Body Mass Index (BMI) of less than 18.5 kg/m2. (italics mine).
the article goes on to list other causes, all of which stem from gender and social inequalities. it isn't just economics, stupid.

it is mostly sociology and politics. or caste and politics. now, wasn't sen aware that our politicians, most of our media, academia and the indignant classes (especially the brahminized left variety) would draw only lessons in economics from his lecture? does sen himself perceive undernourishment as merely an economic problem?


nobel deception

Nobel laureate Amartya Sen on Monday criticised the political class of the country for quietly accepting consistent deprivations such as the “appalling levels” of under-nourishment among children, comprehensive absence of opportunity for basic schooling and continuing lack of entitlement to medical attention.
from the hindu, yesterday (italics mine). and the building in the picture is an anganwadi in my neighbourhood. yes, the shack.

you provide free or subsidized basic schooling through schools and teachers, and free or subsidized medical attention through clinics, doctors and nurses etc- how does one deal with appalling levels of under-nourishment among children? through anganwadis and pds and other clever efforts to ensure food security (and limit incomes in the countryside)?

when prof. sen refers to schooling, medical attention and undernourishment in the same sentence, is he referring to similar problems?


driving ms.roy

the andhra pradesh government has issued 138 government orders until now to make the employment guarantee act, which guarantees 100 days of work to every rural household, work better. a commenter on a telugu channel asks: how many times was the constitution amended?

one report says only 4 lakh people have been provided some work until now. of the 88 lakh applicants who'd been issued job cards in the state. less than 5% performance is okay with p.sainath. i guess it's okay with praful bidwai, who wrote in journals published across the globe and spoke in conferences held in as disparate international venues as the gulf and japan before the act was brought in, too. curiously, he seems to have lost interest in the subject now. like so many others engaged in shouldering the brahminical burden of educating the dumb lower castes about their rights (why not just educate them by making the schools work is a dumber question).

well, 5% seems to be the universal, but unwritten, performance norm expected of most of the 1000 odd schemes in operation right now (yes, there are a 1000 odd schemes according to dr. jayaprakash narayan of lok satta and i'm not sure the number includes schemes fathered exclusively by state governments). including the pds. and silence, or the occasional outburst in defense of failing schemes, also seems to be the universal performance norm expected of radical proponents of all such schemes...after the bills have been passed.

[thanks apurva, hope you're reading this, for leading me to the title].


ravi and ravi

Naval Bhave

The name of this scoundrel is Ravi.
As soon as the day breaks on him to wake
He creates an illusion.
On a span of hand as small and short as the palm
He means to settle all the beings, all of them as if on a platter.
Awaking them all from their slumber.

In his view, there are only two classes-
The haves, the have-nots.

All my properties are only my two bags.
Even then he won't let off, keep quiet
Until he mixes
Divides them, among all.

Dragging them, mixing, admixing
He fixes each one’s shares and parts
Giving mine too as a part.

I couldn't understand so far
Whether we should call him the Naxalite or the Sarvodite.
Maybe both, maybe they are the same
Though not called by the name, the very same.

from kritya. a poem by ismail, translated by dr.v.kondal rao.

as man, river
i know him


lifeless state*

i know him as a life, a current

call him mattem ravi kumar**

call him manjeera

in the city among students in thousands

in warangal among peasants coolies in lakhs

in the jungle, plains for long

he flowed as the spirit of battle

poetry prose

the homeopathy of sweetened pills

the surgical intervention of guerilla strategy

whatever he wrote

it became thesis anti-thesis

as debated by a democrat

in the south telangana plains

where the river flows

in leaf-green attire

he dreamt of taking part in the drill

in the dandakaranya nallamala

to the leaf-green jungle

to the leaf-less jungle

that rivers flow and run dry

but do not die he taught

what's changed even now

our walking running river

might be the stream of our tears

or as another ancient poet said

tomorrow the roar that shall strike your heart dumb

it's become that immortal river.

a poem by varavara rao from here. i tried the translation, taking some liberties (especially with the last two lines).

update: since last night, i realized the translated poem needs some punctuation (the poet didn't use any). and also that these two references needed to be clarified-

* state: as in nation-state, and not as in a state in a federation.
** mattem or mattam ravi kumar: read more about him here and strangely, here.
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