Let's skim the upper caste creamy layer

(This is the second part of the article 'The compulsive need to oppose reservations', continued from here)

What does Pratap Bhanu Mehta really want? He wants 'alternative paradigms' other than caste based reservations to be considered. Why? To build a sense of 'common citizenship'. His worry is 'we are also about to do that to the state', by which he means we're infusing caste into the state.

Perhaps he did write, talk about these ideas before 2006, but one gets the idea that it was the second phase of Mandal reservations introduced during that period which provoked him to think more on the issue. Was the state clean until then?

If there were no reservations, he would perhaps have not thought so hard on caste and citizenship. Reservations have forced him to compulsorily think about caste. Doesn't that make reservation itself an effective alternative paradigm?

Alternative paradigms, but same location

But how does he plan to create alternative paradigms? That's not always clear from what he says in this article or from his earlier writing, despite his obvious interest in the subject of reservations. But one key point can be deduced: even though he says he doesn't share the grounds on which many of the arguments against caste based reservations are made-- 'unthinking usage of an abstract idea of merit'-- he makes all his arguments from the vantage point of merit. He's not thinking of any 'alternative paradigms' away from that location.

This perpective binds him to a very hypocritical stance: while he talks about de-casteing our 'modern secular institutions', he doesn't talk about lessening the tendency of those institutions to embrace and favour upper caste elites. He isn't talking about puncturing the disproportionate sense of entitlement that the instrument of merit infuses into the privileged communities, only about how the Dalit-Bahujans shouldn't make any claims on the basis of their disprivileged, 'compulsory' caste identities.

Commenting on the Supreme Court judgement which finally okayed the second phase of Mandal reservations a few years ago, Mehta said:
The court has, in deference to the legislature but in line with its own precedent, upheld reservations. It has upheld the constitutionality of the 93rd Amendment and 27 per cent quota for OBCs. But it is in modest ways forcing the government to rationalise the system in at least two ways: the exclusion of the creamy layer from the OBC quota and an injunction that the inclusion of specific groups be reviewed every five years. The rationalisation imposed is modest. 
That's probably one issue that probably bothers Mehta a lot: the creamy layer. One can assume Mehta prefers rationalisation too, that he approves of the skimming of the creamy layer. But why should any student who wishes to study further be denied the chance to do so? The popular logic runs thus: only the truly needy and deserving should avail of reservations. The well off should be excluded.

Mehta obviously believes, like many others, that a lot of rich aspirants from the reserved categories corner all the reservation benefits. He also believes, while writing on the quota for minorities, 'particular castes in the categories of SC and OBC have disproportionately benefited from reservation'.

Creamy layer individuals and creamy layer castes. His 'alternative paradigms' should resolve those two issues, perhaps? All alternative paradigms suggested in the past, including the 'deprivation index' method promoted by Yogendra Yadav, have neccessarily focussed on assuaging those two major anxieties of upper caste opponents of reservations and so-called defenders, upper caste again, of 'affirmative action'. Alternative paradigms?

But there isn't any substantive evidence that only rich aspirants, and a few castes across categories are grabbing all benefits of reservations. Those are at best assumptions, especially the first, and not even very intelligent ones at that. Can we build any alternative paradigm on the basis of such assumptions? You definitely cannot build any alternative paradigm based on the prejudice on which those assumptions are predicated.

Let's skim the upper caste creamy layer 

Let's look at the first assumption first: it's impossible to convince the upper castes of India that only rich, lazy, incompetent and untalented people among the reserved categories, the so called 'creamy layer' in other words, are not eating away all the seats and jobs offered through quotas. Are only rich, lazy, incompetent and untalented people among the upper castes grabbing all the 'general category' seats and jobs offered? 

That question would seem absurd to most upper caste opponents of reservations. Why? Because they obviously believe no one can succeed without hard work and merit. But why do they think the success of the reserved category students or applicants is not because of hard work and merit? Because they know they're rich, lazy, incompetent and untalented.

That kind of reasoning would be universally recognized as racism; but no, not in India. Therefore, the Dronacharyas in Delhi University, for instance, think nothing of stealing thousands of reserved seats every year, and admitting many more thousands of upper caste students than sanctioned by the government. And you can be quite sure they are quite proud of doing that, as proud as Oskar Schindler must have been adding more and more condemned people (to be rescued) to his list, except the people being 'rescued' here are from the classes which do the condemning, mostly.

Let's ignore 'lazy, incompetent and untalented' for the moment: but are none of the people in the general category lists rich?

Their parents and grandparents and their parents and grandparents etc have been 'meritorious' through generations without making any money? That couldn't be true. Why would they continue to strive so hard to prove their merit, generation after generation, to grab the best educational opportunities and jobs if they were not going to make some money from it? Why go through all that hard work for nothing?

It is reasonable to assume at least some of them must be rich, even if not all of them like the successful quota grabbers from the reserved categories. Let's skim that creamy layer.

But many among the upper castes might object to that. How can meritorious students from the 'general category' be skimmed? Well, how can meritorious students from reserved categories be skimmed? If the rule is that only rich students corner all reserved seats, then it is very reasonable to assume that only rich students corner all the general category seats too.

Let only poor candidates from all categories get all the opportunities. If it makes good sense to skim rich aspirants from the reserved categories in order to benefit the truly poor and marginalized, then it makes much better sense to skim them from the general category because there are quite possibly more rich aspirants there. Why? Because more marks mean richer candidates, right? And as all of the candidates in the general category score more marks than the creamy layer of rich aspirants in the reserved categories, they must all very obviously be richer than the first creamy layer.

If this proposition militates against the fine sensibilities of people who worship merit they should think about all the poor, needy, very deserving upper caste aspirants who are deprived of opportunities because of those rich, meritorious freeloaders.

The second assumption-- particular castes in the categories of SC and OBC have disproportionately benefited from reservation-- is quite ironic really. Because reservations came about because a few, particular castes were hogging all the opportunities; and those few, particular castes still continue to hog most of the general category seats, on an average, and also steal seats from the reserved categories in huge numbers, wherever possible.

But Mehta isn't going to talk about that. In his view, only the reserved category is tainted by the impurity of caste. When he talks of cleansing our 'modern, secular institutions' of caste, he means only those parts of those institutions which have been unwisely thrown open to accommodate the lower castes to whatever extent.

In other words, he has no issues with how the 'general category' is constructed, how it has been monopolized by a few castes for the last couple of centuries, ever since the British first admitted them into their institutions by reserving some seats for them, because they were too unmeritorious to get in otherwise. When the 'general category' has such a long history of caste, Mehta doesn't spare even a brief glance at it. How modern and secular is his conception of our modern, secular institutions?

Caste has been stifling the egalitarian potential of our modern secular instititutions even since they came into existence, and the introduction of reservation itself, as pointed out in the beginning, should be considered as the exploring of an alternative paradigm. How can tinkering exclusively with reservations, while ignoring the flawed nature of the 'general category' or merit, be considered as a solution to rid our institutions of caste?

If anything frees these institutions of the stagnant miasma of caste to some extent, breathes some refreshing air of modern ideas like egalitarianism and diversity into them, it is the system of reservations. The general category is the seat of caste, not the reserved categories.

 To be continued.
Cartoon by Unnamati Syama Sundar.

Also published on Round Table India.


The compulsive need to oppose reservations

Pratap Bhanu Mehta wants to break down the 'tyranny of compulsory identities'. Shouldn't reservations be the last place to begin then? Reservations happen when the state finally decides to pay attention to what caste has done to a lower caste individual. A whole life precedes it: a life spent facing and struggling against, in varying degrees, many structural efforts to incapacitate that individual. Shouldn't we begin at the beginning, then? From the 'scandalous failure to prepare the preconditions for advancement'?

What are these preconditions? Mehta mentions: 'Access to primary education to access to public goods, financial support, and a robustly growing economy that provides opportunities for mobility'.

Ignoring the superciliousness in Mehta's tone which seems to indicate the implicit belief that Dalits or other backward sections of Indian society have never seriously considered or agitated for the resolution of those issues, you will probably admit: how can there be any disagreement on all those issues? But how do we get there from here? It's quite clear it is very difficult to get there from here, because we haven't got there in the last 65 years. But the ruling classes, as represented by people like Mehta, should understand that a major reason why we are still stuck here, still discussing reservations, the symptoms, is probably because they have never paid as much serious attention to, or expended as much passion in, discussing causes as they have deprecating reservations. We're still here, because the ruling classes most probably like it here.

Reservations are still here because the conditions which create the compulsory identities are still here. And what sustains those conditions? Following Mehta's train of thought, we could say the answer is: the lack of opportunities. And what causes that shortage of opportunities? One reason could be the inability to create them. Another less obvious reason could be the unwillingness to create them.

Let's explore the less obvious reason first. The ruling classes have from the very beginning stood by the ideology of merit. Remember, Nehru wanted to build a 'first class country in everything'. You can't create opportunities for all when you swear by the exclusivity inherent in the ideal of merit, can you? This is a contradiction that champions of merit like Mehta can never see.

So when he talks about 'access to primary education' does he really understand, how the ideology of merit subverts that idea? That a caste system of varyingly 'meritorious' schools doesn't ensure equal, or equitable, access to primary education to all? Shouldn't Mehta have written this 'Dear Dalits' article when the RTE Bill was being debated rather than now, when the quota in promotions is being mooted? Why are you so in love with the symptoms, Mr. Mehta? But such has been the sincerity of reservation baiters for a long, long time. If they had been truly committed to the causes they boisterously espouse they would have started looking at the design of the education system in India first. A comment by a popular blogger turned novelist, on the social media, seems to illustrate clearly the narrowness of the thinking of these reservation baiters:
The demand for reservations in promotions after 60 years of reservations in educational institutions and jobs is a proof that reservations have failed.  
He seems, like Mehta, to be another symptom lover again, disguised again as a lover of causes. All kinds of media, right from those driven by satellites to those catalysed by water coolers, are full of such profound anti-reservations wisdom. But he is right in recognizing that something has failed, and thankfully, is also much less sanctimonious than Mehta in expressing his views. What has failed? Reservations?

If the education system, even after 60 years, can accommodate students from reserved categories only under compulsion it clearly means the education system has failed. A system which seems to produce only largely 'unmeritorious' lower castes against largely 'meritorious' upper castes: isn't something wrong with that system? Any objective outsider would consider such a system deeply flawed at best, or intentionally racist at worst. To reiterate, reservations are not a failure, the education system is.

Our deeply flawed education system didn't grow out of nowhere, it grew out of a deeply flawed society. Why don't you look at our society as a whole, Mr. Mehta, instead of harping on what happens in the sphere of public employment which concerns less than one per cent of India's population? Or in higher education in central universities, the exclusive club within a club, which concerns much less than even 0.1 per cent of people in India?

The question that naturally crops up, considering the tendency, among the upper caste dominated middle classes and their shallow intellectual leaders, to rile against reservations every time a yawning gap in representation is sought to be even partially filled by an ever dilatory state: are the ruling classes truly prepared, and willing, to create more opportunities for all? Even in areas where shortages have been eliminated-- like in undergraduate medical, business and engineering colleges where many seats are going a-begging-- you'll find deep resentment against reservations and students from the reserved categories. Why? 

Around 3 lakh engineering seats remained unfilled in the country, last year. For the last few years, tens of thousands of engineering seats are going unfilled in just the three southern states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, and now this year, the figure would be more than a couple of lakhs. Seats remain unfilled in Maharashtra, and in Uttar Pradesh, and across India. There are many medical seats that remain unfilled too. A similar situation exists in institutions offering other popular courses in law, business etc.

So the first reason, inability to create more opportunities, can't be a cause of 'lack of opportunities', at least in the field of higher education. There are enough opportunities for everyone and more; but why do we still hear such virulent and very loud complaints against reservations in our public sphere? It's not just a few 'public' intellectuals like Pratap Bhanu Mehta who seemed to have made successful careers out of reservation baiting, there seem to a whole range of social, voluntary organizations that seem to thrive entirely on agendas which, directly or indirectly, oppose reservations. The Hazare-Kejriwal movement is a prime example.

This is the reality: in higher education, India has moved beyond the era of shortages, but the Pratap Bhanu Mehtas of the 'merit-excellence' business still seem to be stuck in it. They don't want students from the reserved categories in higher education even when there are more than enough, much more than enough, seats in higher education. This paradox can't be explained through logic, because this antipathy seems to be founded on purely emotional grounds. This opposition is founded on hatred, it'd seem.

 To be continued. 
 Cartoon by Unnamati Syama Sundar.

Also published on Round Table India.


అనర్థ శాస్త్రం

పదిలో ఐదుగురికి
వాళ్ళిళ్ళళ్ళో పస్తులు
పొలాల్లో ఆత్మహత్యలే

యేడురోజులూ తింటే
మిగతా ముగ్గురికి
వారానికి మూడు రోజులు
రెండు పూటలూ

ఇంత భారతముంటే
యిద్దరి సుఖం కోసం
పరిచిన పరుపే
పంచాయితీ పెట్టండి!


అవతార పురుషుడు

బాబు భజ్రంగి
కులం దాటిన ప్రేమికుల్ని

కడుపు దాటని పాపల్ని
పరమ కంసుడో
పొట్టన పెట్టుకున్నాడు

యీ పదేళ్ళూ
పెద్దరికాలు నెరిపాడు
దాక్కుని అణగదొక్కుకొని
నక్కి నక్కి
కలుగుళ్ళో క్యాంపుళ్ళో
కారాగార కర్మనుభవించింది
వాడి కల్కవతారానికందని మనమే

గోవుకీ గోధ్రాకీ
పుట్టినోడు కాదు
మతంలోనే మందిలోనే
గోవర్ధనగిరికి ముందు
కులానికి గోత్రానికి
పొట్ట చీల్చి పుట్టి
భూమిపై పగబట్టి
కాంతిని విడగొట్టి
నిచ్చెన మెట్లకి వురేసి
వివర్ణం నిండిన తలల్ని
పటేలని వణికిపోయే మనల్ని
సరైన పాతాళంలోకే


Caste isn't efficient or capable

Aakar Patel explains why Brahmins and Vaishyas dominate India's corporate boardrooms:
My view has long been that these are our only two capable castes. It is largely from merit that they dominate. 
Pitted against such sheer unabashed racism, the arguments of the Sangh Parivar ideologue Gurumurthy, who has long been an advocate of caste as a 'development vehicle', seem like refreshing, unbiased wisdom. In fact, Gurumurthy's oft repeated paeans to caste based enterprises offer the most efficient refutation of Patel's Two Supercastes theory.

Gurumurthy has been studying industrial clusters in India for over a decade and one conclusion that can definitely be drawn from his observations is that individuals from castes across the varna divides are capable of becoming 'capable' entrepreneurs, not just those from an elite group or two. He says, in this article from The Hindu:
An empirical study was conducted in some 25 caste-based industrial clusters in different places in India by a team of academics and professionals trained in modern business under the aegis of the Tamil Nadu Swadeshi Academic Council. It showed that whether it is the Jatavs of Agra and Kanpur, or the Nadars, Naidus, or Goundars of Tamil Nadu, or the Patels of Gujarat, or the artisan Ramgadiyas of Punjab, they have risen as competent entrepreneurs – many at the global level – mostly by leveraging on their kinship-based social capital. Most of them have had very little education. It is the community that has acted as the knowledge provider thorough kinship and social network.
Jatavs, Nadars, Naidus, Gounders, Ramgadiyas, Patels: Dalits, backward and intermediate shudra castes. Who isn't capable? 

Patel should read Gurumurthy a little. And Gurumurthy should also read a little about research that doesn't agree with his views. For instance, Abhijeet Banerjee and Kaivan Munshi, in their paper 'How Efficiently is Capital Allocated? Evidence from the Knitted Garment Industry in Tirupur', presenting some of the evidence (page 20) from a study of Gounder and non-Gounder (or 'Outsiders', as the study calls them) garment manufacturers in Tirupur, say:
 (1) The average Gounder firm that was set up during our sample period (1991–1994) started with almost three times as much fixed capital as a comparable Outsider firm.
 (2) At all levels of experience (by which we mean the number of years since the firm went into business as an exporter), the average Gounder firm owns more fixed capital than the average Outsider firm that was started in the same year, though the difference is small for firms that have been exporting for more than 6 years.
 (3) At all levels of experience, the capital intensity of production in an average Gounder firm (measured both by the ratio of fixed capital to exports and the ratio of fixed capital to total production) is between 1·5 and 2·5 times that of an average Outsider firm that was started in the same year.
 (4) Output (measured both by exports and by total production) is initially lower in firms owned by Outsiders compared with firms owned by Gounders that were started in the same year, but grows faster with experience and crosses that of the Gounders after about 5 years.
 (5) In contrast with the cross-community comparison, within each community, firms that invest more maintain higher levels of output at every level of experience. 
To sum up, roughly, the Gounders employ more capital than the Outsiders but dont get better results than them. Caste isn't efficient.

But the Gounders can start garment units more easily, get easier access to capital and labour, rely on better co-operation from local authorities, and can stick around longer (even if they are not as efficient as the Outsiders) because of what the researchers call the 'community effect' (or plain old caste loyalty, in other words). But despite all those advantages:
 In our data the Outsiders seem to outperform the Gounders. This is easiest to see by comparing the Gounders and Outsiders who have more than 5 years of experience. The Outsiders in this category own less capital stock than the corresponding Gounders. Yet they produce significantly more. Moreover, the growth rate of output is higher for the Outsiders with more than 5 years of experience compared with the corresponding Gounders, which rules out the possibility that the Gounders are trading off current productivity for future growth. Finally, these Gounders use more capital per unit of output and own more capital stock at every level of experience: everything else being the same, this should give them a higher growth rate. The slower growth of the Gounders is therefore in spite of this additional advantage. 
And so on. How truly capable is the corporate Brahmin or Bania? India's share in world trade now hovers at less than 2%. Despite all their advantages, built over a two millennia old foundation of education, land, wealth and power, the very 'capable' Brahmins and Baniyas leading all the organized capital of India don't seem to be so very capable, after all.

The Gounders ('80 per cent of whom are not even matriculates', as Gurumurthy says, but 'compete at the global level, exporting knitwear garments valued at over $2 billion'), representing less organized capital, seem more efficient than the Brahmins; and the Outsiders in Tirupur seem more productive than the Gounders. India's economy definitely needs more and more doses of Outsiders, in boardrooms and classrooms, to make it truly efficient or capable.

 Cartoon by Unnamati Syama Sundar.

Also published on Round Table India.


It's caste policing, not plain 'moral' policing

An article in The Times of India a couple of days ago, titled 'Missing the point on policing the moral police' expresses anger over the fact that instead of commiserating with the victims of the recent attack by Hindutva goons on a private party in a resort in Mangalore 'a section of society is delivering homilies on women and culture'. The writer adds:
 All this was evident at a seminar in Bangalore on Monday when some prominent women writers and activists articulated concerns on the need for modest dressing and preserving traditional values. Karnataka's State Women's commission chairperson C Manjula added fuel to fire saying: "We shouldn't ignore the other side of the attack on girls in Mangalore which is about immodest dressing, illegal and immoral activities." Advocate and former women's commission chairperson Pramila Nesargi made it too obvious: "The perpetrators of the attack were only trying to prevent young people going astray." Scholar M Chidananda Murthy said: "There were reasons to look beyond the attack, as there is a serious threat to the culture" 
 In other words, there were too many prominent voices in 'civil' society who were as eager, perhaps, to blame the victims as the attackers. If the attackers had adopted less violent means to express their displeasure then it seems very likely that most of civil society would have backed their actions. The 'moral' values the attackers seem to believe in so passionately seem to be shared by too many sections of our society, not just one or two. Why is it so? Why is it that the victims in Mangalore, and elsewhere, are more widely seen as 'disrupters' of order than are the attackers?

please read the rest of the article at round table india.


The caste-neutral whip and other jokes

He draws a mob as big as India, adds a panch-enforcer with a whip, points to the accused, and renders mob justice.

Indian children understand mob justice quite well. They see it on the street, on television, in newspapers; its appearance now in text books, thanks to this cartoon, will take the process of normalizing it a little further. Think of thieves being beaten up. Thieves being tied and beaten up. Many of them minors. 'Bad' women being beaten up. Women practising 'witchcraft' being beaten up. Dalit women being beaten up. The children also see, hear and read about khaps.

[Interspersed through this article are pictures of actual public scenes involving mobs inflicting violence on individuals. Hope they arouse some critical thinking] 

 Why did a substantial section of the brahminzed classes not see it that way? They didn't/don't see even Hazare, another whip wielder, that way. The Indian public sphere is still very unproblematic.

Some say Nehru was whipping the snail, not Dr Ambedkar. So what was Dr Ambedkar doing in the picture? Like the Indian mob usually does, Shankar wanted an identifiable two legged villain.

The joke is that the cartoon renders the whole purpose of the constitution making process meaningless: wasn't the constitution meant to do away with mob justice and other such undemocratic practices? What is the lesson the kids get out of it? Democracy? That is the joke.

please read the rest of my article on the ambedkar cartoon issue on round table india here. please also read the other, very interesting articles on the issue, while you're there:  

'The cartoon controversy: Inside the mind of one 'fanatic' Dalit - I' by Anoop Kumar,

'Whipping up 'critical pedagogy': Uncritical defense of NCERT's violence' by Savari,

'The Cartoon, the Classroom and the Idea of India' by N. Sukumar


caste satta

came across this news story
HYDERABAD, JAN. 20: Everonn, has launched its ‘Everonn World' at Kukatpally in Hyderabad. It will provide a one-stop solution for the educational and training needs of students and institutions. It is part of the company's national rollout and will promote the Edupreneur Programme. The company wants to identify entrepreneurs willing to contribute to the growth of Indian education in their chosen geographies. Everonn World intends to provide products and services catering to pre-school, vocational education, training, institutional tie-ups (schools and colleges), university and management education, admission counselling, coaching, certification and testing. The education centre at Kukatpally was inaugurated by Dr Jayaprakash Narayan, President, Lok Satta and local legislator.
dr.jayaprakash narayan launches the 'education centre' of a company that shall make money through selling products and services to 'edupreneurs' i.e., people who run private educational institutions. what does he think of private 'edupreneurs' in school education, i wonder. because he can't really guarantee 'equal opportunities for growth to all, irrespective of caste, religion, gender, and financial status' (check his party's website) and promote private school education at the same time. that infuses hierarchy into school education, building an education system that mimics the caste system in structure and spirit. no one can 'guarantee equal opportunities for growth to all' through such a system.

but dr.narayan goes a step ahead and says:
Lok Satta government will work tirelessly to abolish caste within one generation.
abolish caste in one generation? how? this is how:
* School, College and University educational records will not refer to the caste of the individual, except in the case of beneficiaries from schemes pertaining to SC, ST and BC. 
* Lok Satta Government will ensure that students from all castes live together in hostels. All government constructions will ensure that people belonging to different castes stay together.
what will he do with all the unwritten records in all the savarna homes? will he go sit in their living rooms, bedrooms, kitchens, backyards etc and hold dharnas, every day, and tell them to 'say no to caste'?

dr. jayaprakash narayan is one of those wise brahminical nationalists who instinctively know that it is the lower castes who thought up the caste system, originally. obviously, they wanted separate hostels some two thousand years later.

he was a part of babudom until recently but doesn't seem to remember that separate hostels for scs, sts and bcs are a fairly recent idea. they were established, perhaps around the same time that he was appointed an ias officer, because students from those communities did not get enough attention, or protection, in hostels where 'students from all castes lived together'. the second backward classes commission, or the mandal commission, and the national commission for sc/sts were are also instituted around the same time. again, for the same reasons, broadly: regular institutions (which catered to 'all castes') were failing to deliver justice and attention to the bcs, scs and sts. this happened around 30-32 years ago. or some 30-32 years after independence.

but he does remember that the first caste census, held more than a century ago, was a 'scheme of using caste and religion to accentuate differences among people and thereby contain the fervour of nationalism'.

so, the british also thought it up.

these are the kind of revolutionary minds in savarna 'civil society' that went to work on the rte. there's no way sc, st or obc kids are going to find their way into private schools through the promised quota of 25% for the 'poor'. that quota is going to knock some sense into the caste-ridden indian education system and make all indian schools 'pure' educational institutions, run by pure 'edupreneurs'. that would definitely ensure that no one one from any caste would go to separate hostels. it's time jayaprakash narayan and his pals like aruna roy etc thought up a right to work programme for all the sc, st, bc children who can't find any functioning government schools in the not so distant future.


benami angst

this has been in news for the last few days in andhra pradesh: white ration card holders owning liquor shop licenses. only below poverty line (bpl) families are given white ration cards in the state. this news report says:103 liquor shops owned by white ration card holders.that's more than one third of all liquor shops in that district.

how can any 'below poverty line' household manage to buy a liquor license (to run a liquor store) worth crores?

bpl families owning one third of all liquor stores in one district. and it's not just one district, news coming in from across the state indicate that nearly 30-40% of liquor stores in all districts are owned by 'bpl' families. it's obvious that many of those crorepati poor families don't actually own those stores. in fact, many of those 'owners' are not even aware that they own those stores. and many others actually work as wage earners in those stores which they are supposed to 'own'. who actually owns those stores? other people, real crorepatis and power-wielders.

so i had to dig up this old post i'd first started working on ages ago:  

and some more sputtering of prejudices provoked by uid:
Educated Indians will not accept being told that that they have “no identity” as it questions their parentage and legitimacy of birth. Aadhaar is tantamount to bastardisation of the poor and branding the poor for life, institutionalising poverty.  
read that iitian mind: educated indians are not stupid, they will not accept this gaali. but the poor might. the poor are stupid enough to accept all gaalis. people without honour....

the writer's benami indignation on behalf of the poor hides so many prejudices. the distinction he makes, between educated and poor indians (and not educated and uneducated indians), seems premised on the belief that poverty and stupidity go together. the poor are stupid. the ba^%$#ds are poor because they're stupid. the poor are poor because they're people without honour. illegitimate #$$%&^5.....

but that's the way of the meritocratic iits: we're here because we're meritorious, not because of caste or wealth. they can't get in here because they're poor, not because of caste. and if some of them do get in here, it is because of wealth and caste, not because of merit.   

you might think stupid is a better antonym of meritorious. but no, here too, 'poor' is used as a stand-in for the politically incorrect 'stupid'. you could call it a whole way of life: this endless pursuit of benamidars to bear the burden of all the greed, ambitions, fears, passions and anxieties of the brahminized classes. look at the iits themselves, a prime example of nehru's 'temples of modern india', and also the best examples of benami institutions. in name, all indians owned them, but in reality, only the brahminized classes enjoyed the privilege of studying there.

the brahminized indian always speaks through benami identities. he was a 'nationalist' when he wanted to grab power from the colonial rulers, a 'socialist' when he wanted to move from the agrarian economy to industrial jobs (and a maoist when he couldn't), a 'hindu nationalist' when he wanted to divert the focus of the mandalized bahujans away from his excessive privileges (and a 'secularist' when he couldn't). he flaunts an 'indian' identity to challenge a caste census and becomes a 'moving republic' when he wants global recognition...

one main reason why he doesn't like the uid is that it could shake the material foundations of his benami world a little. this news report says:
Industry experts say the real-estate markets in Delhi, Mumbai and Ahmedabad see the most benami deals. Typically, in land, about 50% deals are benami, while in constructed premises, 20% are benami.
the experts are being coy. with so much land being cornered by a few, who would be wealthy enough to buy the rest (of land) at prices so artificially high? more rich indians using more clever benami identities.or another benami class of indians: indians who don't even live in india. or yet another benami class of indians: indians who live in india but don't work in india, in a way. like quite a few in the it/ites sector.. and so on. how much of india is left to indians who don't fall in any of those benami categories? very little, you could say.

you could also say the practice is more widespread, and not just geographically. all spectacular stock market scams/frauds since harshad mehta have involved hundreds if not thousands of benami identities and entities.. the number of pan cards in india is many times the number of individuals filing income tax returns: how are those excess cards being used?

the use of benami cards in the stock market is a worry. two years ago, when the 'educated' indians hadn't fully woken upto how the uid could affect their 'parentage and legitimacy of birth', lawmakers in india were contemplating how they could use uid to curb fraud in the stock market:
Large-scale fraudulent deals mostly involve entities that are financially sound and often enjoy political patronage. These entities include promoters and stakeholders of large-cap companies who do hold PAN and, hence, such deals are often consummated using accounts held in fictitious names, or benami accounts. 
“UID will help in tracking benami account holders and the transaction done through such accounts,” said an income-tax official, who did not want to be named as he is not authorized to interact with the media. 
 “For instance, even if an individual does not provide a PAN, a bank account or any transaction account can be created today just by submitting Form 16 of income tax.

Besides, many have multiple PAN cards, which can be misused. 
If UID is assigned to every individual and if it is mandatory to quote for every transaction, the account can be easily traced to the owner,” the tax official added.
that would have helped, a little, any stray lawman, if he were so inclined, to attempt to get a little closer to pulling down many benami facades hiding ill-gotten wealth. if he were so inclined. and so were his bosses.

so when the brahminized indian talks of opposing the uid because it invades his 'privacy' and questions his 'parentage' and honour, understand that he uses those terms as benami identities to hide his real concerns about 'property' and 'privilege'.


caste is passe

you bloom where you're planted.

the god of all angsts, blooming in print and in person across global cities, says: 'Poverty too, like feminism, is often framed as an identity problem.' she should write another 5,000 or 30,000 word essay castigating this short film maker for wrongly framing the problem of poverty.. the maid's not poor because her mother is a maid and her mother was also a maid and her mother was also a maid and her mother..

poverty is what happens to the maid when her livelihood is destroyed because of the neo-liberal excesses of the state directed by the dark forces, the foundations. poverty is what happens when she's displaced and is forced to move to another neighbourhood and work as a maid. now she's blooming where she was planted. right, god?


Mind over Savanur

If India were a country of 18 crores, instead of 118 crores or so, all the excitement in the media would make more sense. A panelist on a TV debate on the Union Budget, for instance, expresses warm approval of a particular proposal, saying: 'infrastructure would help the poor more than subsidies in the long run'.

There are several presumptions impelling that little outburst: one, the poor don't want infrastructure, or don't understand its value or are shortsighted or hold all of those attitudes, opinions. Two, the poor want sops and handouts, and therefore are lazy and suffer from a weak work ethic. Three, infrastructure is meant for everyone, even if it is a games village worth 60,000 crore rupees in Delhi which starts crumbling down even as it is being built. Four, subsidies are for exclusively the poor, and most of them don't go to the non-poor.

 As caste is a state of mind, as Dr Ambedkar said, we've come to accept that kind of biased discourse as normal in savarna media: how can it be different when their minds and consciousness work in that fashion, dividing the world into normal 'us' and the errant 'others'?

 Infrastructure is important for poor, mostly Dalitbahujan, Indians too. 70% of rural homes don't have toilets, and those which do have toilets are not connected to any sewerage systems. Who would understand the need for infrastructure better than them? Yes, they understand the need for roads, the need for toilets, and the need for freedoms that infrastructure could represent more intensely than anyone else. But in India, we need to understand, there is infrastructure and there is pure infrastructure.

please read the rest of the article here, at round table india. 


the burden of authenticity

[another draft from two years ago]

from an article, apparently written by aruna roy, i'd originally found on the mkss website (but doesn't seem to be available there now, but can now be read here) on how the struggle for right to information started:
To understand the reason why the demand for minimum wages and the subsequent demand for access to records came about, it is important to try and understand the geographical as well as the socio-political setup of the area where the MKSS works. Rajasthan being a desert area, the people are faced more often than not with a drought. During the time that the rains fail, the only choices that people have to earn a living is to either migrate or work at the famine relief work sites. A famine relief site is basically the work sites that are opened up by the government to provide employment for the people. This could be building a road, digging a well, or desilting ponds/lakes etc.
when the people face drought, frequently, what is the state supposed to do? build irrigation infrastructure for storing and distributing water? no. also set up schools and training centres so that they can learn other ways of earning a livelihood? no. when drought occurs frequently, the state shouldn't tell itself that drought shall occur frequently, it shouldn't gear itself up to deal with it on a long term basis and not wake up every year to drought and draw up plans every year. the article describes how the struggle took root:
A famine relief site is basically the work sites that are opened up by the government to provide employment for the people. This could be building a road, digging a well, or desilting ponds/lakes etc. In most of these work sites it is seen that women are there in larger numbers than men. Men tend to migrate in search of livelihoods and the women are left behind to tend the family. 
It was seen initially that the laborers at the famine relief sites were not paid their full minimum wage. When they demanded to be paid minimum wages on public works, they were refused on the grounds that "they did not work."
a state that doesn't care how frequently drought occurs and definitely doesn't bother to take any tangible efforts to find permanent solutions to the problem- should one expect that its ad hoc solutions would spell sincerity? but our problem is not merely a state that doesn't bother how frequently drought occurs, but also a civil society that seems to tell people not to think beyond droughts, or worse, drought relief. the article goes on:
When the laborers questioned the authorities, they were told that the proof for the fact that they did not work lay in the records. The records in question were "measurement books" which were filled by the Junior Engineer. The laborers then demanded to see the records. At this point of time they were told very clearly and in no uncertain terms by the administrators that they could not see the records, because according to the Official Secrets Act (1923), a colonial legacy, all these records were state secrets and could not be opened up to the public. This infuriated the laborers who then said "till we get access to those records, we will always be told that we don't work and the administration can never be challenged on that account. If we are to prove that what they say is not true we need to get those records!" 
It was at this point of time that the movement for the "right to information" began.
the struggle had died, actually, by that point of time. you accept drought (and the government's indifference to it), frequently. you accept continued neglect of education and training. you've been reduced to the state of an underpaid coolie of someone who owes his very existence to you (i mean the so-called government servant, of course). you've already given up most of your rights over your life: now you want information on how the state is running your life? reminds me of satyajit ray's sadgati which was based on a short story by munshi premchand. a summary of the story from here:
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, then 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?

Late in the evening, when no one looking, Brahmin ties a noose around its ankle, slides it out of the city limits and sprinkles holy water on the spot on the road to cleanse it of the untouchable’s touch.
you accept the brahmin's right to decide how your life should be run. you let him exploit you, in return, for stealing from you the right to decide how your life should be run. what's your complaint?

if there was any hope expressed anywhere on the mkss site that leakage or corruption would one day be totally stopped, or even substantially reduced, i didn't notice it. if there were some insights offered on more substantial issues, on how structural inequalities like unequal access to natural resources like land, water (determined by birth, or caste) or to public services like education, health etc (determined again by caste, and class), or how inequalities in power and wealth which result from other inequalities, could be overcome, i didn't notice them.

the message that you get is: the struggle would be permanent, but not the solutions. the struggle would run for  generations, but never look for relief beyond this season. also, never look beyond the same problems and the same solutions.

gopal guru saysAuthenticity in some sense could be defined in terms of the affirmation of the ordinary (life).

in that sense, the low caste individual is always expected to be more authentic. the burden of authenticity, of never looking beyond the same (ordinary) problems and the same (ordinary) solutions, requires him to never look beyond manual labour, never expect anything beyond the karma of drought and deprivation, never rise above patronage. in other words, never live beyond caste.

caste, aruna roy, seems to say in more than one article, is an issue..but, you know, it isn't such a big issue. she is also being authentic, but in the gandhian sense which values simplicity, moral consistency and intellectual embodiment in Indian tradition. the key term being 'indian tradition' 


let them eat dignity

one dalit, one adivasi, now deceased, one muslim and no obcs in the 14 member national advisory council. ten member working group on 'food security' has one dalit and one muslim. upper caste india must be starving. five member working group on 'communal and targeted violence bill' has one muslim and one dalit. no obcs. the working group on 'tribal development' (9 members) has one dalit, and one adivasi, again the late ram dayal munda. and again, it seems like upper caste india needs development more than anyone else. what does the nac do? save the lives and, more importantly, livelihoods of those least represented in the nac. livelihoods are more important because saving them involves more money and power. lives, as everyone who lives in india knows, are cheaper.


interesting word: livelihood. you could be making wicker mats, earning enough to keep your family hungry for only half the year, and suddenly you could lose your livelihood, be displaced, because an sez grabbed the forest where you got your raw material. sad.

but there are more chances, 99 times more perhaps, that you could be displaced, gradually or faster, even as you continue to do what you've always been doing: making mats.

life is what mukesh ambani does or arundhati roy does: never going hungry. what you do is die slowly, or faster.

the problem is: the state and society recognize ambani and roy. even if their jobs were interchanged, and roy ran a petrochemicals company and ambani was a writer, they would still be recognized and rewarded. even if roy lived in antilla and ambani only visited it. but you'd not be recognized, except as a livelihood.

the word 'livelihood' is a package of insults. you're lazy, you're ignorant, you're without merit: that's what they imply when they say they want to save your livelihood. why don't they talk about saving you? you're dirty, you're useless, you're a burden. you're low caste.

most of the lower castes are livelihoods, hardly human. you're a livelihood, a noun in neuter gender. they're ashamed to refer to you by name.

you will continue dying even if your livelihood is 'saved'. you were dying since your father's time, your grandfather's time, when there were no ambanis around. you'll die even if there were no ambanis around, now. you were dying when people like roy, or her father or her grandfather were doing life, quite well.

your livelihood will die if the private sector expands, as it did when the public sector expanded. and if roy or ambani tell you that's wrong, they're wrong. the evidence of the last sixty years, of the last two centuries quite clearly doesn't support their arguments.

livelihoods will only bring you certain death, but saving them is big business for others, as i said earlier.


the idea of livelihoods for some and modern jobs, careers and professions for others fits in nicely with the varna scheme of things. the best experts on the new varna order in the country work in the nac. like in the old days when learned rishis played counselors to kings. listen to aruna roy explain what's dharma..er..dignity
Naurti is a great speaker; she understands issues and speaks concisely. We will always remember her for the set down she gave Surjit Bhalla the right wing economist in a TV talk show. He suggested that India’s rural employment guarantee act was money down the drain – a dole to every family would do better. She contemptuously suggested to him that if that was the case he should stay at home and twiddle his thumbs – she would pay him a daily wage (even if what she earned in a month would probably be less than what he earned in a day)! He blustered indignantly, as she asked him if he knew anything about the dignity of work.
naurti's dharma or dignity lies in digging trenches and filling them up. aruna roy's lies in working in the nac. surjit bhalla, the adharmi, seems to have forgotten that dignity is one's birthright. that it isn't about how much you earn but about how you earn it. how does it matter if some birthrights mean more money and others involve more sweat? that doesn't mean some are more equal, or treated with more dignity, than others. it only means some births were right, others weren't.


who's the con man?

the uid attracts the worst kind of casteist prejudices:
For a moment let us imagine the state pays 5,000 rupees as subsidy to an under privileged farmer to buy fertilizer. What is the guarantee that when he has that money he is going to spend it on buying fertilizers? Can he not use that money to buy something else, like a mobile phone maybe watch a film or have a bottle of nice whiskey for a change?
why does the government subsidize the purchase of fertilizer by the farmer?

if the writer had asked himself that question first he wouldn't be raising the kind of doubts that a jailer presented with a convict reform project probably would.

the government wants to support the farmer because agriculture isn't very profitable (except, it doesn't use those exact honest words) and it doesn't want the farmer to get even lower returns (or suffer losses, which is more likely) on account of increased costs. that's the honourable part of the government's intentions.

but even then, if there is a con man, or a party with less honorable intentions, among the two-- the government and the farmer-- it is the government and not the farmer. why? because the government's goal is to keep production going, to get grain from the farms. it manages to squeeze some production out of the farmer even when he suffers losses individually. heads, the government wins and tails, the farmer loses.

so it's the farmer who should be asking all those questions: do these kind of policy makers (in the government) and consumers (like the writer) who question my integrity deserve my respect, leave alone the labour and resources i've invested in my farm?

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