fix the clock ( a naive idea- 3 )

i remember reading somewhere, the number of handlooms in india, in early nineteenth century was around 20 lakhs. now, it's 38 lakhs. the number of handlooms in the u.k., in early nineteenth century was around 2 lakhs. now it's just a couple of hundreds or so.

india is a living museum, thanks to the large presence, despite their small number, of committed aesthetes in the population:
"I know that the ultimate weapon in my kitty is the sari... This Sunday I have taken down my Ikat, Chanderi, Puneri, Laheriya, Bandhej, Bomkai, Gadwal, Narayanpet , Maheshwari, Kantha and Kanjeevaram saris and stroked them in the reflecting sunlight." (I guarantee no man would ever think of doing anything similar with his dhoti collection.) And Sindhu Sheth wrote that she would heed my appeal: "I have decided to wear a sari (instead of my regular churidar-kurta) — once a week, to begin with." In that "to begin with" lies the hope that my column will not have been entirely in vain....
would you be able to digest the sight of 8 out of every 10 indians living on less than a dollar a day if more than half of them weren't wrapped in saris, mr.tharoor seems to say. how many of the women who work on turning out Ikat, Chanderi, Puneri, Laheriya, Bandhej, Bomkai, Gadwal, Narayanpet , Maheshwari, Kantha and Kanjeevaram and other fine material can actually afford those saris? the average life expectancy of some weavers in some of those towns those products come from has gone down to around 50 years in recent times, according to some news reports.

the sari is the ultimate weapon in the kitty of a lot of people: it helps wrap up a lot of freedoms, drive everything unseemly into purdah. wrap women in ikat, chanderi, puneri etc., and tie up the lower castes in the production of ikat, chanderi, puneri etc., for the parivar the sari has totemic significance, refined sensibilties are congressi liberal tharoor's excuse. mr.tharoor and the rss top brass might prescribe the sari as essential hindu-fashionwear for women, but would they suggest weaving as a career for their children? or fishing? scavenging? tanning? toddy tapping?

seventy percent of indians have little or no basic reading/writing skills. and almost all of them belong to the lower castes, but no one involved in policy-making ever acknowledges the fact that almost all of them belong to the lower castes- euphemisms such as the poor, people below the poverty line etc., serve as effective purdahs. researchers go to great lengths to take the sectarian sting out of the truth, to purify bad statistics with good taste. 80% of india lives on less than a dollar a day. what does that tell you? nothing.

does it tell you that we've double the number of handlooms as we did 200 years ago? that we've many times more fishermen (as a proportion of the population), using almost the same equipment, than we did 200 years ago? that we probably have more rat catchers and tanners and scavengers than 200 years ago?

most of india stands where it was 200 years ago. while a small section of indians turn to the newest professions: from international diplomats to fashion designers, programmers to pilots, astronauts to brewers. that the number of handlooms in india has actually doubled in the last 200 years is a more damning statistic for me than the bald figure that 80% of indians live on less than a dollar a day. the former seems to suggest almost a huge break in social evolution, while the latter wants you to look away. shouldn't someone talk about this during this elections? shouldn't indian politics be about restarting the process of evolution for those stranded in a different age?


daughter of south mumbai

“Do you know Mumbai contributes 33 per cent of income tax collections, 60 per cent of customs duty collections, 20 per cent of central excise tax collections, 40 per cent of India’s foreign trade and a significant quantum to corporate taxes? For such a prosperous city, how can we be content with a withering transport system and lagging public amenities?” she questions. Like any good banker, she obviously keeps her numbers handy.
meera sanyal isn't contesting the mumbai municipal elections. what can she do about mumbai's withering transport system and lagging public amenities, that she talks about, in the lok sabha? there'd be very few occasions on which she could raise those issues at a forum where primarily national or international issues are discussed.

Like a million other Mumbaikars, Meera Sanyal too watched the horror of 26/11 unfold on her television screen — all within the confines of her safe haven at Malabar Hill. But unlike a million other Mumbaikars who went back to work after those horrifying few days, Sanyal could not shake off the feeling of being cheated.

The 47-year-old, who heads ABN-Amro Bank in India, was up against difficult choices: “Either I could sit back and blame the politicians and move on or I could pull up my sleeves and get on the ground to do something about it,” she says.
security. she can get on the ground to do something about it. how?

she can raise questions: the first hour of each day in the lok sabha is devoted to questions.
It is during the Question Hour that the members can ask questions on every aspect of administration and Governmental activity. Government policies in national as well as international spheres come into sharp focus as the members try to elicit pertinent information during the Question Hour.
all the other 540 odd members too have the same right to raise questions. so one has to queue up. but the lok sabha worked for just 46 days last year. it usually works a little more, but the number has been falling since the first parliament. so ms.sanyal would have to share those 50 odd question hours with 540 odd other members, many of who, as we have seen in the last two-three lok sabhas would rather raise slogans and placards during the question hour than questions. so many question hours might pass before ms.sanyal actually gets to ask any questions.

by which time, the taj mahal in mumbai might be attacked again. if such an unfortunate event does happen again, and when a lok sabha is in session, ms.sanyal might get lucky and be able to call attention of the home minister of that matter of urgent public importance and request him to make a statement by giving a notice to the Secretary General, Lok Sabha, first. would that help prevent the next attack on mumbai?

perhaps she could raise the issue of mumbai's security through an adjournment motion by giving notice to the speaker and the minister concerned, to get answers faster because they are taken up for discussion on the same day. but a lot of adjournment motions are brought in every day, and only one member gets to be lucky, if at all, provided he manages to convince the speaker that the purpose of the motion is to initiate discussion on a definite matter of urgent public importance. and security in mumbai, or anywhere for that matter, is a definite matter of urgent public importance, but something bal thackeray said, a day earlier, or m.f.hussain painted, decades earlier might crowd the urgency out of that matter of public importance. other members who had issued notices too might sit in the well of the house and create pandemonium forcing the speaker to adjourn the house.

i hope ms.sanyal has an actionable business plan.


my wise grandfather owes thanks to anand giridhardas (a naive idea- 2)

India did not export brains; it invested them. It sent millions away. In the freedom of new soil, they flowered. They seeded a new generation that, having blossomed, did what humans have always done: chase the frontier of the future.
(because i'd to chase the frontier of the future and needed your grandfather's sweat and blood and his faith, above all, to lay the road he'd never use. good that your grandfather was wise enough to invest in me and not spend on his silly needs. this helped us build, together, a nation that valued my freedom to find new soil to flower and return two or three generations later, having blossomed, to build a great future for your grandfather.)


a naive idea- 1

i think, many times, what's the point of elections anyway?

i like this dream: all children of all castes, creeds going to the same school. of schools that have not just blackboards but computers and stuff. that have fans and lights and playgrounds and teachers. libraries and internet. that have girls' cricket teams and budding filmmakers. and toilets and clean water. schools that look and feel great to children- excite them as much as new games or movies or books or insects and grass and a great number of other things that we know nothing about do. schools that communities can take pride in.

some might tell you that this is not a practical idea. we don't have the money, villages (and cities) don't have the roads or electricity, teachers hate going to villages to teach, poor parents can't afford to send working children to school.

if that's not a practical idea, what's india? and what's the point of this elections anyway?

in the next three years, india is going to spend around rs. 5,00,000- 6,00,000 crores on defense- much more than what's needed to build those schools. what's foolish about spending a crore each on a school in every one of the 6,00,000 villages in the country? it'd actually cost much less because most of the existing schools only need to be refurbished or expanded.

but defense is a practical idea. holding onto kashmir is a practical idea. and war with pakistan is always a practical idea.

villages don't have the roads or electricity? bunker roy of barefoot college tells you what can be done for $400,000 a year:
For the same amount of money, one could electrify 15 whole villages of 800 houses annually with solar power; collect 20 million liters of rainwater in 40 remote rural schools; or run more than 300 night schools for a year for over 4,000 dropped-out children anywhere in the world. For the same amount 100,000 families living below the starvation line of 50 cents a day could receive two square meals a day in 50 villages. When that sort of money is available, it is foolish and absurd to spend it on one village.
equipping a school with solar electricity wouldn't need more than $ 5,000 (assuming each school needs as much electricity as ten homes) or $50,000 (assuming each school needs as much electricity as a hundred homes). that'd be less than 2-20 lakh rupees? that'd also solve the problem of water. what i'm trying to say is- all these problems can be solved. i mean in three years (even without cutting into the holy defense budget).

what's more difficult to solve? problems like teachers who won't go to villages, parents who don't/can't send their children to school, a bureaucracy that doesn't care about schools etc., are those the real problems, those issues much bandied about by experts? the iits and the schools with air-conditioning and french tell you india is a stupid dream, a mere slogan. that's the real problem.

[this post by space bar made me think]

'in the name of the poor' scams or a dole?

a two year old article in the indian express:

Poverty alleviation is but a small aspect of social justice. A just society provides equal opportunity to all members of society—all religions, all castes, and both sexes. India’s record of ill-treatment starts before birth—we kill the girl child before she is born. After birth, there is at best benign neglect and later on, especially among poor families, the girl child is needed to work at home. As she grows up, she becomes an increas-ing burden, and parents worry about raising a dowry for her marriage. And the cycle continues.

There’s a need for accountability in our poverty schemes; the government is not being held responsi-ble for its failures. Can this centuries old discrimination practice be broken? Yes. Here is how. There are approximately 120 million girl children in the school-going age of five to 14. About 80 million live in rural areas. Each girl child in the rural areas is entitled to Rs 300 a month if she attends school. Total expen-diture? Less than Rs 30,000 crore, and less than the just introduced employ-ment guarantee programme.

What kind of ‘leakages’ can occur here? There will be a market for fake education certificates. True, but we also observe that the poor are spending a fair amount of their hard-earned money to send their kids, even girls, to school. For just Rs 300 a month, they are not going to jeopardise the future of their children. But let us assume they do; so let us modify the scheme thus: every girl child in the age group five to 14 receives Rs 3,600 a year. Period. No ifs, ands and buts. Now where is the leakage? Other than an increase in sex-change operations, I cannot foresee any. This plan might encourage movement from urban to rural areas. Good. The parents will find that the girl child is ‘profitable’, so more girl children will be born. Good. More girls will be educated, more girls will become pro-ductive, and the dowry system will begin a slow death. Good. So why has such a plan not been thought of, let alone implemented? Because it is more profitable for the government to spend about 10 times the money, Rs 200,000 crore annually, on various ‘in the name of the poor’ schemes than to imple-ment policies that will actually help the rural poor. (italics mine).

i do not agree with surjit bhalla most times but this is an exception. isn't he talking about a variant of the dole?


the 'national' media's two glass system

if one were to trust the indian media, the ipl and varun gandhi are the only important issues these elections have thrown up until now.

if he wasn't varun gandhi, and the indian police weren't the indian police, he would've been arrested while he was making those speeches and would have earned a mere mention in one of the inner pages of local dailies. and the ipl? if the indian media weren't the indian media, it'd still have been big news, but definitely not on all front pages. or on the best slots on television.

why aren't the careers of politicians like varun gandhi nipped in the bud (because there are enough provisions in the law to do so)? the answer lies in another question: why weren't several others like him stopped earlier? it isn't just indian politics that makes the indian police the indian police but a whole host of other institutions like the indian media etc., and it isn't just indian politics that makes the indian media indian media, but indian media too helps in making indan politics indian politics. all of that is confusing, yes, but this final attempt to explain all might help: indians are behind all this. certain classes of indians.

check what the bbc had to say a few hours ago: indians saddened by ipl decision. and who were the indians bbc's prachi pinglay spoke to? the ipl, i guess, is popular in the villages too- but the question is: would any issues that occupy the minds of the marginalized in india ever really make such a big splash in the so-called national media? definitely not. not as long as even the newsmen who generate reports for the international media too come from certain classes of indians.

madigas, and over fifty other dalit castes in andhra pradesh have been agitating over the last fifteen years for dividing the scheduled castes into categories (as it is done in the case of obcs) to ensure that, according to their view, not all the fruits of reservations are cornered by a couple of castes. there have also been barely covered reports of similar movements across the country. now this demand needs to be debated seriously across a wide range of fora because it involves not just madigas and other castes in andhra pradesh, but dalits, primarily, and all other classes of people across the country. from 300 million to one billion people.

ipl's lalit modi gets almost unhindered access to top elected and other officials in the central government and the states, and at any given moment you'll find him on a couple of television channels. how many newsmen working for the national media have heard of manda krishna madiga? has rajdeep sardesai heard of him? or barkha dutt? or m.j.akbar? or vinod mehta? or pick any other big name. have they ever interviewed him?

but the dalits in andhra pradesh are seriously agitated over the issue, and their demand requires a constitutional solution that could only be found through the parliament. and that'd involve the whole country. yes, it is regional or local news, but only because the national media ignore it.

if indian media started listening to the marginalized, why would the marginalized sit around listening to empty-headed bigots like varun gandhi? wouldn't they be talking instead? and making a citizen's arrest? they face people like varun gandhi every day, in villages across the country- people who demand a two glass system at tea shops, for instance. if those minor bigots go untouched, it isn't because the people like them or think they're right. it is because the people who work in institutions, like the media and the justice system etc., which are supposed to work for all citizens believe in the two-glass system themselves.


the indianness of gangu teli

the saying goes: kahaan raja bhoj, kahaan gangu teli. some smart researchers from jnu might dig up some half-history of a teli having ruled a minor province somewhere for half a blink of history and flaunt it in your face as evidence of the flexibility of the caste system, while sundry marxists who'd never yield to the probability of upward mobility in a market economy nod approvingly- but does it disprove the logic of the saying? people know: kahaan raja bhoj, kahaan gangu teli.

you can't visualize gangu teli as a raja. there are narratives in many cultures that talk of commoners becoming rajas (or saving rajas)- tales, legends, myths that slowly condense into empirical wisdom. commoners don't become rajas. perigadu rajanta ('perigadu is the king!'), goes a telugu idiom. it refers to another folk tale which talks about a dhobi who is installed as ruler in the place of raja pratapa rudra (of the kakatiyas) for a short while to save the king from traitors in his court.

both expressions, while referring to mythical events that foisted rajahood on commoners also poke fun at the very idea. the exclamation mark was made for just such an idea. there is not an inch of space between germany and austria to accommodate ruritania.

if democracy can't accommodate gangu teli or perigadu, it means their critics need to develop a national outlook, not the other way round. i think this very interesting article by nisha susan captures with great accuracy how narrow the national outlook of some indians is. i also think this paper- “ Nation State” or “State Nation”? Comparative Reflections on Indian Democracy by Juan J. Linz (Yale University), Alfred Stepan (Columbia University) andYogendra Yadav (Center for the Study of Developing Societies, Delhi) is a great read.


more support for a dole

chandrabhan prasad, in a very insightful article, explores new ways in which dalits could be integrated into a post-reforms economy- i found this section very interesting:
Do such schemes actually reach their intended beneficiaries? Rajiv Gandhi, then prime minister, shocked the nation in 1987 when he admitted that only 15% of welfare money reaches its target. Two decades later, on 17 January 2008, his son, Congress general secretary and member of Parliament Rahul Gandhi, claimed that only 5% of welfare money reaches its intended beneficiaries. In other words, in two decades, we have more than doubled the inefficiencies of the welfare system. When we all know that billions of rupees don’t reach their intended beneficiaries, why do we continue to waste money and corrupt an entire society?

The next government should create a database of all families in distress, declare them pensioners, and deposit money directly into their bank accounts. It can be done. If the Election Commission of India can reach out to all the families in India and make photo ID cards for them, surely the Union government can identify some 15-20% of families in real distress and fund them directly. (italics mine).
he is, as you can plainly see, talking about a dole. such as the one proposed by the tdp in andhra pradesh and discussed in these posts.


mayawati lacks merit?

It is a joke that even Mayawati and Jayalalithaa want to become PM. It is matter to laugh about. A lot of people in Indian politics want to become PM, but if you look at the trend then Manmohan Singh is well placed to become the PM again.
mani shankar aiyar, who started working for rajiv gandhi's congress even before he left the civil services, thinks mayawati is a joke. what does he take seriously, really? apart from serious sycophancy and slavish devotion to the leaders he chooses to follow? i mean seriously.

aiyar is the second person to call mayawati a joke. cho ramaswamy was the first.
Is this upper caste Hindu bias speaking? Chari refused it was. "I do not deny I am a Hindu and by circumstances, I was born into an upper caste family, but that does not make me biased. A person like P A Sangma could become a Speaker of this country's Parliament though he was from backward classes but that was purely due to merit," Chari said.
the parivar likes merit. and that's what the other major national political formation, the congress, is also trying to say: that mayawati lacks merit. this common belief might be articulated differently, but what one shouldn't forget is that this is a commonly held belief.

louis dumont formulated the theory that the guiding principle of caste is purity. over time, it'd seem, this has transformed into merit. how does one define merit? merit, just as purity, is defined by the meritorious.

if mayawati is accused of lacking intellectual merit, one shouldn't argue that both indira and rajiv gandhi didn't even hold undergraduate degrees while mayawati holds multiple degrees including a b.a., a degree in education and another in law.

what's her agenda beyond caste? the two national parties have consistently brought into legislatures at both the national and regional levels, representatives who've consistently belonged to a select band of castes from each state. castes which don't make up more than 15-20% of india's population. arms of the state- the bureaucracy, the public sector, the judiciary and also the media- are all run by members of this select band of castes. what was nehru's/indira's/ rajiv gandhi's/vajpayee's/sonia's agenda- it wasn't/isn't caste?

she doesn't have a national outlook? isn't mayawati's entire career about expanding the narrow idea of the indian nation?


wanted: an alert and smartly dressed pm

"I think Advani has come out of Vajpayee's shadow and has coined a place for himself. He's alert, smartly dressed and all. The young people see him as the Winston Churchill of India. He is a tough, decisive and lovable person."
he's alert, smartly dressed and all. like winston churchill. wasn't churchill sozzled all the time? are all guests on indian television sozzled all the time?

tough, decisive and lovable. like idi amin before he started cooking his guests?

third, because there are only two places in your india?

watch the indian national media, and assorted foreign media (you'll notice most of the writers are indian), report and debate on the third front. patronizing, disgusted, confused, frustrated- these are the expressions that come to my mind. in the last thirty years, the national media had played a not insignificant role in building a bipolar world for the brahminized classes. bipolarity is an idea that gives them a lot of comfort: it tells them that their democracy has matured- one of the most important elements of a democracy, in their view, is a two party system. look at the americans and the british. no point in arguing that both the british and the americans have more than two parties.

bipolarity is also comforting in this sense: it's a low stakes game. and the winner is always someone from the family, so it doesn't really matter who wins or loses.

these are some reactions:

third front to oppose coalitions -because you can't expect anything constructive from them?
'third front'- because the big electoral battle will be between the congress and the bjp.
third front forces congress, bjp to rework strategy- how would you describe this astonishing sense of complacency?
third front will only help communal forces: congress- because they harp on caste issues?

i like ideas that have no place in the normal order of things.


a non-issue for this and other elections

one of those two houses (in the last two pictures) isn't located in an american suburb. it's in hyderabad, spread over a plot of 1,000 sq.yards. its neighbours on the right, left, across the street are also as big (or bigger).

why would anyone want to build an american style home in an indian city? because he/she can. it doesn't matter that the design chosen isn't suitable for all kinds of geographies. or for all kinds of infrastructural environments. a middle class american home in the middle of india- if you can't throw that kind of a tantrum, would you be considered upper class in india?

let's look at the scale of this architectural nakhra: the united states is three times as big as india, in terms of territorial size. in terms of population, india is three times, roughly, as big as the united states. an average indian home, given those constraints, shouldn't be bigger than 1/9th an american home. googling, i find that the average home size in the united states is 2330 sq.ft (2004). the hyderabad home in the picture is nearly 9 times the average american home!

that home is in a neighbourhood where mps and mlas were given cheap grants of land by the government. it's expensive- 6-7 acres in the neighbourhood could foot satyam's wage bill for a month.

i am not going to ask- how do people manage to build such big, expensive homes in india? i am more interested in this question- what are those kids (in the first two pictures) doing in this neighbourhood, where mps, mlas and other lawmakers live, if the nregs is such a big success in rural india?

they work in those big homes in the neigbourhood. sparsely inhabited, big homes- because a lot of the owners' kids live, study or work abroad. so why do the owners still live in such big homes? taking care of such large places- isn't that a big problem? cleaning them, keeping every kind of fixture, wiring, plumbing etc., in working order. they can afford to live there because the kids are cheap. you build such big homes in india because you know you can depend on those kids to keep them in running order. because you know you can depend on programmes like the nregs etc., to keep the supply going.


mps who don't care a d#%^ about their constituents

sonia gandhi and l.k.advani. and many more who never asked any questions or voiced their constituents' concerns in the lok sabha.

and many of those mps would be re-elected this summer. why?


"Why should you feel uncomfortable riding in a taxi driven by a taxi driver who belongs to another state?"

why doesn't the government do something about all these dangerous migrants from other states? why don't they go back to their home states? why doesn't the government send them back to their home states?

no, that's not any sena/sene making those demands, inciting those passions. it was the congress cautioning the electorate about sikhs during the 1984 elections. i had pointed out in this post how the congress' narrow interpretation of secularism suits the parivar perfectly, and the parivar's even narrower interpretation makes the congress look very liberal. both these parties together, with consistent help from the communists, have turned all discourse on secularism in india into a purely hindu-muslim divide, ignoring all divisions within those divisions and exceptions that can never fit into that divide. 60 years from 1947, those parties are still almost entirely led by upper caste individuals representing their own narrow interests: i've given up all hopes of those parties ever being afflicted by a sense of shame.

chidambaram says tdp's cash dole promise makes no economic sense

chidambaram would like the poor to use the service entrance, always, and to never barge in through the front door, i suppose. the nregs shows them their place? what does the nregs (and chidambaram) expect the poor to do? sidle in through the gate of this huge mansion where the mai-baap sarkar lives, and if you get past that and receive a job card, tread softly and unobtrusively, always clinging to the walls of the compound, negotiating assorted other project/programme/panchayat personnel and if you manage to slip past them to the back of the mansion...you wait. till you're called and shown the dirty dishes which you're supposed to clean. without using scrub or soap. and weeks later, when you go back for your wages, follow the same sidling, treading, clinging, waiting process. you might get lucky the first time. and if you don't, follow the same waiting, sidling, treading, clinging, waiting process again.

if he wasn't in power, and he wasn't sitting beside y.s.rajashekhar reddy, who has converted the pre-2004 outrage over farmers' suicides into a mandate for making unimaginable amounts of money (the cpm's top leader in the state had accused the chief minister of making over rs.10,000 crores, significantly, when they were still a part of the u.p.a.,) for his family, his contractor-mlas, and his partymen from large badly planned irrigation projects (canals without reservoirs, reservoirs without water, lift irrigation projects without power), mr.chidambaram, who has lamented on several occasions the purposelessness of 'outlays without outcomes' would see a lot of sense, and not just economic, in naidu's dole.

health and education should've first claim on the revenues of the state, mr.chidambaram? and how did your government at the centre (and in congress ruled andhra pradesh and other states) recognize those claims? expenditure on both areas hasn't reached half the targets you set yourself in the common minimum programme.

you'll talk better sense after losing the elections, i'm sure.


finally, a political party that promises a dole

An untouchable Dukhi (an out-caste, played by Om Puri) approaches the village Brahmin to request him to set an auspicious date for his daughter's upcoming wedding according to the Hindu astrology. The Brahmin promises to perform the task in exchange of Dukhi slaving over household chores in return.

Already ailing and weak due to a recent fever, Dukhi agrees and begins with cleaning the Brahman's house and stable. When he is asked to chop a huge block of wood, Dukhi’s anger increases with each blow. Working in scorching sun, hungry and malnourished, the he dies. The corpse lies close to the road used by the Brahmins to go to the village well. The untouchables shun it for fear of police investigation. What can be done with the corpse of an untouchable that no one will touch?
that's the storyline of sadgati, a film directed by satyajit ray. around us, every day, we see enough evidence that poverty in india is indeed as devastating, if not more, as that found in sub-saharan africa or in any of the most wretched places on earth as many pundits say it is. how do we fight it? mainly through the central and state governments' poverty alleviation schemes- shouldn't the word schemes instead of just scheme tell us how successful we've been in fighting poverty until now? why do we need more than one scheme if the first one worked? or the next one? or the one after that? experts say there are thousands of them now, exhibiting various stages of morbidity. almost but never dying. and then coming back in new avatars and names, with the same old resilience and....frailty.

the latest poverty alleviation scheme, the nregs, much touted as one of the most radical, always reminds me of the movie sadgati. the weak need to perform to deserve a break? like the villain in a typical masala film makes the heroine dance to buy the hero's freedom? in my view, that attitude is disgustingly cynical, because at its core lies the brahminical conviction that the poor and the wretched of indian society feign wretchedness. because poverty in india is not like poverty elsewhere. it's sub-human, as the experts keep telling us. so why don't the proponents of poverty alleviation schemes like the nregs postpone their enthusiasm and their experimentation until it reaches human levels?

today, one political party in india has come up with an idea that promises to bring poverty to human levels. i congratulate the telugu desam pary for seeing sense, at last, in the idea of a dole for the poor. for even bringing that idea into public debate, even if the tdp wins this elections or not, the party deserves a generous round of applause. finally, the death of the poverty alleviation scams may have arrived.

i'd like to say more, but later perhaps. my earlier posts on the dole are here.


"Will the country's border finally be moved to your doorstep?"

terrorists have committed mass murder at the taj, the vt (okay, the cst) and almost got away with it. before that, they planted bombs in every major city in india- at places of worship, bazaars, trains, restaurants. is there any place in the country that is safe? will the country's border finally be moved to your doorstep?

that could be the bjp's slogan for the next elections. you can also picture the visuals that'd accompany the advertisements- dramatic snapshots of mayhem. and simplistic efforts at pinning all the blame on one community, the muslims.

no that isn't the bjp's slogan for the next elections (i am not ruling out the posibility that it could be something similar). it was a slogan the congress had used 25 years ago, for the 1984 elections. and the sikhs were the community that were targeted then.

it worked, electorally, and the bjp (or its parivar), which had been floundering for decades desperately searching for a winning formula, managed to lose all but two seats that it had contested. but it did finally find the formula, thanks to the congress.

karnataka- caste composition of legislative assembly

The Lingayats and the Vokkaligas continue to be the dominating castes, with as many as 110 seats in the 224-member Karnataka Legislative Assembly. The rest of the 114 seats in the Karnataka Legislative Assembly are shared by the SC/STs (50), Brahmins (11), Muslims (8), Christians (1) and Other Backward Classes (15).
from this news report.

the report goes on to say that the vokkaligas and lingayats together constitute around 26% of the population of the state. from elsewhere, i find that around 4% of the state's residents are brahmins; dalits and adivasis together make up 21% of the state's population. muslims constitute another 12%. one can safely assume, i think, even after excluding all the vokkaliga and lingayat sub-castes who have found their way into the obc list, that the other obcs (185 communities in all) in karnataka make up more than 35% of the state's population. and only 7% of the members of the legislative assembly in the state are from this large section of the state's population.

summing up, in the current karnataka assembly, the brahmins, lingayats and vokkaligas are overrepresented and the other obcs and muslims, as in uttar pradesh, are grossly underrepresented.


uttar pradesh- caste composition of legislative assembly

some interesting facts from the book The State Of India's Democracy by Sumit Ganguly, Larry Jay Diamond and Marc F. Plattner (page 78, table 3): since 1980, the upper caste control over the uttar pradesh legislative assembly has weakened a little: from holding 42.40% of the elected seats, it has gone down to 35.38% in 2002. a loss of 7% of seats. the upper castes (brahmin, rajput, vaishya etc.,) in uttar pradesh constitute around 20% of the total population. you can clearly see, despite all the melodramatic talk, in the media and elsewhere, about the upper castes being driven into political penury of sorts, they continue to be overrepresented, and by a wide margin, in the state assembly.

and the obcs and muslims, who constitute around 40% and 17% (of the u.p. population) respectively, are again very clearly underrepresented, by a wide margin.

another interesting fact is the 7% loss in seats held by the upper castes since 1980- these were primarily a loss suffered by the brahmin community in the state. but don't bother calling the dirge singers just yet- the number of brahmin mlas in the state assembly roughly equals their proportion in the total population.

but please don't jump to the conclusion that the brahmins' loss has been the obcs' gain: the share of obc mlas has gone up from 16.91% in 1980 to 27.52% in 2002. but if you look carefully, you'll realize that if you exclude the yadavs and the kurmis from the obcs, the others have gained nothing from the so-called mandal revolution. only two large castes, the yadavs and kurmis, have garnered all the extra positions the obcs have earned in the u.p. assembly since 1980!

the other obcs' position has remained almost static. the brahmins' loss has been the yadavs' and kurmis' gain. how about the 73 other obc communities in uttar pradesh? (pdf)
note: if anyone has access to facts relating to the caste composition of the current uttar pradesh assembly, please tell me about it.


elections 2009: the tamasha is on

centre for media studies estimates that around rs.10,000 crores would be spent in the next general elections, to be held in april-may 2009. that works out to roughly rs.18 cores per constituency. the central and state governments would be spending around 20% of that, according to cms. the contending aspirants would be spending rs.8,000 crores, roughly, (or rs. 15 crores in each constituency).

on an average, it is safe to assume i think, whoever wins ultimately would've spent at least rs.5-6 crore, say, (in each constituency) in reaching that goal? that assumption is built on the reasonable premise that most of the total expenditure in any constituency would be shared by not more than 2-3 major aspirants (from major, locally, parties). of the rs. 8,000 crores to be spent by the contestants, only around 2,000 crores, at best, would come from big party coffers. the rest, rs. 6,000 crores, would be spent by individual candidates. factoring in the party contributions, one would arrive at this final guesstimate: any candidate who's serious about winning in the next elections would've to invest rs. 4-6 crores, of his own or borrowed resources.

what would be the primary concern of a member of parliament who has invested, say, rs. 4-6 crores in his election?

his pay and allowances wouldn't help him pay back even a fraction of that investment. how significant an obligation would your vote be, in his mind, weighed against such a large investment that has to be recovered, with profit?

lok satta, which has been tracking elections in india for over a decade, and a few other pundits, say rs. 10,000 crores is a conservative estimate- a more realistic figure would range between 15,000-20,000 crores. and i agree with lok satta. in the light of this new estimate, one needs to revise the average expenditure of individual winners again:

what would be the primary concern of a member of parliament who has invested, say, rs. 6-12 crores in his election?

i have a feeling it wouldn't probably be you, dear voter.
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