Category Archives: Featured

How to get your book banned in India: a step by step guide

If you are an astute observer of the world like I, whatever your religious or ideological affiliation, one thing is obvious: getting your book banned is great for sales.

Lets face it, book-writers are an impoverished lot. Few of them (us?) manage to get any royalties and fewer still can live off them. In the pursuit of making a living doing what you love and in the process entertaining and illuminating people, all means must be considered fair.

Satanic verses by Salman Rushdie List of books banned in India

I’ve been a prolific reader from my childhood and like any other kid who loved costumed super heroes I’ve created a few of my own. I have also  dreamed of becoming rich and famous by writing many a marvelous novel (am working on the ‘writing’ bit) . But my novel has no guarantee of being a hit. Genius is not often recognized in its time. And so like any self-respecting indian parent ( the novel being my child, of course) I firmly believe that one must go to any lengths possible to promote ones child. yes, I am talking about getting my book banned.

After having examined lists of books banned in india like the one at centeright.in and reading pages and pages of articles written about banned books, I have discovered the perfect way to get my book banned.

Being of big heart, here is the formula in its entirety and explained.

  1. Write a book.
  2. Be very unlucky

or

  1. Be famous
  2. Write an unlucky book

Sounds simple doesn’t it? It isn’t.

Thousands of books are published in India every year. Other than the english press, we have a much larger press in Indian languages. The interesting thing is, many of these books that are published can be considered obscene, inflammatory, anti-religion, anti-indian etc but very few ever get banned. This is why I say you must be unlucky.
Here is how you go about being unlucky. Important!  You must do all the steps, don’t be lazy, book publishing is not for the lazy.

Step 1

Option 1

Write something that parodies one of the following or
introduces a less than honorable side of them or
portrays in a less than saintly manner

  1. Mahatma Gandhi or a Gujarati historical figure
  2. The prophet Mohammad or the koran
  3. Shivaji or other local historical heroes
  4. Sita and Ramayana
  5. Indira Gandhi or other scions of the Nehru family
  6. Official versions of the wars India fought.
  7. The indian independence struggle.
  8. Narendra modi (Speculative, but I predict a rapid growth in this market)
  9. Sachin Tendulkar (Speculative)
  10. Barkha Dutt /Sagarika Ghose (Speculative, I think the signs are there)

Option 2

Write something nice about

  1. Jinnah
  2. Pakistan
  3. Arundhati Roy or Maoists (Speculative)
  4. Sachin Tendulkar (speculative: if he doesn’t hit 100)
  5. Barkha Dutt /Sagarika Ghose (Speculative)

Step 2

Ensure unluckiness by mailing copies of the book to one or more of the relevant organizations.

  1. RAW/IB/CBI
  2. Shiv Sena or similar nationalist outfits
  3. Darul Uloom or relevant fundamentalist islamic organization.
  4. Govt. Of Gujarat
  5. Ruling political party or opposition ( no.1 will do, but just to be sure)
  6. BD/SG fan club pvt limited (speculative, soon to be formed organization)

TIP:  Prepare before hand. Start right now and write/speak/tweet about any/all the above, portraying them in a bad light. This will create the right atmosphere for when the book comes along.

Step 3

Be white.

Get your book banned in India

This is an important step, you must be white. Yes, white as in Firangi. If that is not possible, be an Indian who lives abroad. Or get major funding from abroad. At least try travel abroad and speak like “foreign-returned” people. Sure, indian authors have had their work banned, but the overwhelming majority of works that have been banned have had a foreign hand. We in India do not like the foreign hand except when it is giving us grants or jobs.

Interesting historical side-note: If you were writing in the near and pre independence india, your book would have a high likely hood of being banned if it was obscene. Because Indian people must not read dirty stories written by white people. Our own desi erotica industry does quiet a good job, thank you.

Someone has said about Bollywood that it is most important who discovers you, not what they discover in you. The same can be said about getting your books banned.

Laugh at me, but when my alt. history dystopian space opera that is actually a liberal critique of the essential paradigm of partially situated Indian identities which are canonical forms of Indo-Aryan contact, using dialectics of metaphorical thoughts becomes a runaway best seller and gets banned in India, I will have the last laugh. [hint: it will feature Mohammed, Sita, Ayesha, Modi and Gandhi in abstract roles during the Kargil war]

PS: Nilanjana Roy has done a time line of books banned and brought out common threads in the book banning reasons. Banned in India Part 1 and Part 2

The Cathartist replies to Pervocracy on Consent culture

Molly, the author of Pervocracy a fantastic blog about sex, BDSM, and feminism, featured Consent Culture recently. She talks about how consent is the standard/default behavior we need to work towards. The post is thought provoking. While we know that consent is a great way to equalize the sex equation, we still havent found ways on how to get consent into daily lives. She suggests some ways this can be done.

The Cathartist, a friend and editor of Gaysi: the Gay Desi responds to some of the suggestions and ideas put forward in the post.

 

A consent culture is one in which the prevailing narrative of sex–in fact, of human interaction–is centered around mutual consent. It is a culture with an abhorrence of forcing anyone into anything, a respect for the absolute necessity of bodily autonomy, a culture that believes that a person is always the best judge of their own wants and needs.

I am totally down with the necessity of absolute consent when speaking in context of sex. However, when the blogger (from now on, P) talks about asking my partner, “Is it okay to hug you?”, I am not so sure about such absolutes. In a separate context, I also don’t believe that every person is always the best judge of their own wants and needs. I’ll illustrate why, further down the article.

I don’t want to limit it to sex. A consent culture is one in which mutual consent is part of social life as well. Don’t want to talk to someone? You don’t have to. Don’t want a hug? That’s okay, no hug then. Don’t want to try the fish? That’s fine. (As someone with weird food aversions, I have a special hatred for “just taste a little!”) Don’t want to be tickled or noogied? Then it’s not funny to chase you down and do it anyway.

I can think of plenty of situations when a close friend or parent saw I needed a hug and gave me one. I felt comforted in the knowledge that they knew when I was down and out even without me having to express it in so many words. A few years ago, I got into a fight with a friend because I refused to eat the carrots that our host had prepared so lovingly. He thought I was being rude. Look, I have food aversions, but I see why people say, ‘try just a little’. It  actually feels irrational to dislike food that you’ve never eaten before. Especially when the person offering is so convinced of its deliciousness or perhaps have cooked it themselves. I am not saying you should ABSOLUTELY try it. I am just saying, it’s okay for them to be a little persuasive and it’s okay for you to say, “no”. No one says, “Yes, please. I’d like a tickle now.” It’s one of those weird human sensations that makes you giggle and laugh hysterically but you want to resist every time someone tries.
I wouldn’t want a stranger tickling me. But if my sister did, I’d be okay with it. Much of my disagreement with this article is that EVERYONE (strangers, lovers, friends, colleagues, parents, children, neighbours) is considered “the other” who must grant or request consent. We share different levels of intimacy with different people. And in the specific relationship between parents and children, I do wish my parents had forced me to train for a few sports. And I am grateful that they forced me to learn music and dance. As a 5 or 6 year old, a child may have no idea if he or she wants to grow up to be a pianist or if they would enjoy tennis. They might share a classmate’s chocolate milk and decide that they want to have it every day, all the time. That is the child’s wish. Should my parents concede to it? Should parents negotiate with the children? Maybe.

Consent has its place, no doubt. Establishing personal boundaries and space is important. But there are no absolutes as P’s description of consent culture outlines.

5. Ask before touching people. Say “do you want a hug?” and if they say no then don’t hug them–and also don’t give them any shit about not being friendly or affectionate. Don’t make a big deal out of it, just make it part of your touching-people procedure. If they say “you don’t need to ask!” nod and smile and keep on asking.

See, this is a fine example of the need to make distinctions between the different circles of people in your life. Different cultures world over have different boundaries in the context of physical intimacy. Just today, I was asked by yet another American about Indian men who hold hands. She found it strange, she said, that heterosexual men share that level of physical intimacy.

I am sure, my very young cousins would look at me quizzically if I asked, if I could hug them. I would also not expect that they ask me, before they slathered my face with a lot of kisses. I think P touches on this slightly, when she talks about renegotiating sex in the context of long-term relationships. But even among friends, sometimes, the best part of knowing someone for a long time, is the unspoken communication. Knowing when to keep quiet and knowing when to give advice. Knowing when to hug and knowing when not to. It is okay to take that for granted.

I would find it very caring and considerate if a new partner would ask me “Is it okay to do this?” or “Does it hurt when we do this?”. But I would find it annoying if s/he asked me that EVERYTIME. There are situations, where such consent is unnecessary.

11. Bring consent out of the bedroom.  I think part of the reason we have trouble drawing the line “it’s not okay to force someone into sexual activity” is that in many ways, forcing people to do things is part of our culture in general. Cut that shit out of your life. If someone doesn’t want to go to a party, try a new food, get up and dance, make small talk at the lunchtable–that’s their right. Stop the “aww c’mon” and “just this once” and the games where you playfully force someone to play along. Accept that no means no–all the time.

I am sure, I would’nt have tried half the things in my life, if I hadn’t been persuaded by a parent or friend or sibling. Like that time I went on a roller coaster. Or that time I went to a live concert on New Years’ Eve. I am not saying I have liked all my experiences. But I know for sure, that I dislike it for a certain reason. For example, Sushi. I don’t understand its wide spread appeal and I’ll never eat it again. But I tried, only because I was coaxed.

Beyond what’s necessary for their health and education (and even that touches iffy territory), I don’t believe in doing this to kids, either. The size and social-authority advantages an adult has over kids shouldn’t be used to force them to play games or accept hugs or go down the big slide. That sets a bad, scary precedent about the sort of thing it’s okay to use your advantages over someone for.

As a parent, it is a lot more easier to use one blanket rule because there is no grey; just black and white. “You ALWAYS ask for permission.” “You ALWAYS say no to a stranger”. This consent rule is exactly the same. It is okay to ask children to try new things. As children they are vulnerable and they look to parents to tell them what’s best for them. Of course, this depends on the situation. It is NOT okay to force children to accept hugs or wear clothes that they are not comfortable in. But it is okay to force kids to try their hand at Ludo or read a page of a story book. Sometimes, this “forcing” should be done through negotiations. My parents negotiated hair cuts (which I absolutely hated) by buying me a book for every time I had to do it.

My sister does not take enough care of herself when she’s in staying away from home. As a result, her health had suffered some consequences. When she visits, I push her to go visit a doc, spend some time on personal grooming. She’s about 23 and she has never done her brows. That’s her personal wish and I respect that. But I do insist on some hard-core heel sloughing and scrubbing and a real pedicure. And I know she wouldn’t have done it if I hadn’t insisted (out of sheer laziness). Am I taking personal liberties? Yes. But I come from a good place and I don’t believe I am doing her any harm.

 

For more of  The Cathartist, try  The guide to understanding lesbians Part 1, and part 2, a hilarious exchange she Broom, the co-founder of Gaysi, had with a prominent men’s magazine.

What if Tebow were Muslim: Indian Edition

[quote style="1"] what if Tim Tebow were Muslim? He’s not. So maybe it doesn’t matter. There is no way to separate the man and the religion. Some people praise him for it, others recoil. When this happens, avid defenders of Tebow invoke freedom of religion. But as Tebowmania makes its way into politics, sports, religion and the everyday life of the mainstream United States, it is important to think about how we approach religion in this country. How we approach religious freedom in this country. Do we accept freedom of religion, any religion? Or do we accept freedom of Christianity? Salon [/quote]

Tim Tebow is an American football player who made news because he knelt and prayed before a game. He was made fun of by night show hosts and other liberal media outlets tried to point out the Christianizing of sports. Christian preachers across the US spoke in glowing terms about Tebow’s faith, and fundamentalists like Pat Robertson used the incident to blast the anti-christian bias in the liberal media.

Everyone agrees, though, that if it were a muslim player who knelt to pray in the US, it would be the conservatives who would speak derisively and liberals would just wait for a conservative to say something racist and then harp on about the anti-minority Bias.

The most important take away for me, however, was that for Americans, the right to make fun of people’s convictions was as important as having those convictions. And that the media believed that derisive/satirical humor was a great way to deal with public displays of religion..

Free speech, religion and secularism have been in the public debate in India of late. What began as a reaction to the stringent and draconian IT Bill later spilled into the realm of politics and religion with Kapil Sibal’s recent posturing over content that “hurts sentiments”.

We have a very different set of values than the US. We believe in live and let live. If an Indian player makes a public display of his faith, very likely it would be talked about in a respectful way. The commentators would say something like “and here is Tim praying before he begins, and lets hope his prayers are heard because his team needs all the help it can”.  Sure,there would be religious extremists of every kind to condemn it, but for the common Indian, used to seeing religious icons in government offices, public transport and even schools, it would just be something to respect about the person.

But the audibility of extremists is increasing.

One measure by which I make this assertion is observing the successful vilification of the word “secularism”.  This, was achieved/is being achieved by a propaganda techniques called  Name Calling. Repeatedly using a word in a negative context or with a negative connotation leads to devaluation of the word or the idea, makes people wary of it, and can lead to complete destruction of its meaning. Since no propaganda technique is used in isolation, combined with cherry picking data (related to card stacking) about how the congress has mis-used secularism in India ( it has) to garner muslim votes, the very desire for secularism is being challenged and subverted. Which (coincidence? ) is what the Hindu supremacists desire, a return to the “Indian” way of dealing with minorities (of which Subramanian Swamy gave a great explanation of).

If an Indian muslim player were to kneel in prayer, to most of this country it would mean nothing special, it definitely wont get him called names by mainstream media, nor would there be any one of significance speaking of it. There would, however, be muslim preachers who will use this as a message of  fervor,  and many more who would make comments about ” that secular player” doing “secular things”.

Here is the interesting thing,  Not everyone understands or even sees the damage that is intended or the religious prejudice behind the usage. What is most saddening is that many of them have deeply secular values and latch on to this bandwagon because :

  • The power of Assertion (another propaganda technique) keep saying something over and over, it will seem like the truth.
  • They know nothing about Muslims, other than the cherry picked data about violence, oppression etc. Most Indians grow up in areas where people of other faiths are not common. In spite of my having grown up and lived in 4 states in India, i have all of One Muslim friend. the rest are Christians and Hindus. My knowledge of the Muslim world comes from stories handed down in the family (mostly how we are better than “them”), the news papers and now, the internet. A casual glimpse through various sites that talk about Indian muslims will tell you that the majority of information out there is written either by conservative/fundamentalist muslims, or Hindus. The voice of the progressive, secularism loving Muslim is buried under a lot of noise.
  • Desire to be part of the “cool kids” ie. the  bandwagon effect . I‘ve been hearing about a Hindu resurgence for the last 10 years. I have no facts to show if it really is happening, or what it means, but in spite of that, i believe it. In fact, most people do, and once a critical mass of people believe in something, it becomes easier to accept more without evidence and easier to recruit minds.
  • Disgust for Congress’ behavior.  This is the straw that broke the camel’s back. It does not take too much digging to realize that right from the beginning, secularism was used first as a protectionist strategy and later as a vote banking technique by the Congress at the center (individual states show a different picture). With the exposing of how deep and wide corruption runs in India, and with the growing discontent with it, everyone who hates the “rule” of Congress is left with little choice.
  • The linking of nationalism with anti-secularism. Religion touting political parties have always also linked nationalism with Hinduism, and so with the expected rise in patriotism (money coming in, lack of progress, increasing corruption etc.), there is an inadvertant clubbing of the secularism-bashing with nationalism.

One thing that contributes to the bowdlerization of Secularism is the way the liberal voices in India handle the conservative ones- with a patronizing, disdainful tone. We think that these “fringe” elements will never have any effect on “intelligent” Indians and that “most Indians” would not believe such crap. perhaps its time we wake up and smell the rotting roses.

The end effect is that instead of developing a moral sense to look for real secularism and promoting it, we are moving into times when a religious alternative to secularism (which, clearly is an evil thing, right?) is being introduced.

So today, if Tim Tebow were a Muslim in India, the majority would cheer him, a small group would beatify him, but here would be more people and louder voices that call him a  sikular Indian   than ever before. These voices continue to rise aided by the concurrent  increase in volume of the muslim fundamentalist, and hastened by government policies that care only about gaming the system for maximum profit.

Is that in itself a bad thing? How did we become a secular nation? Do we have alternatives to western ideas of secularism? What is this secularism anyway and is it any good?

These questions will be part 2. thank you for reading.

Top Criminals in Indian Hospitals

Criminals in hospitals Image by murplejane

Ten years inside hospitals gives you a great instinct to pick out criminals. Oh yes, there are a lot of them in the hospitals. Here are the greatest offenders and how to deal with them.

The Poor:

They can’t afford the services, yet they come. They never do what we ask them to, want multivitamins and “saline” and never come when we ask them to. They are dirty, and don’t pay even if they can afford it. Definitely deserve the long waiting times and getting sidelined for “paying” patients.

The old:

Slow, stubborn and forgetful, they can never come to the point. If they have bellyache, they start with the time they stubbed their toe back in 67 and the time they met a white doctor who gave them a red liquid for the belly ache. Definitely deserve the patronizing behaviour that we have perfected; don’t pay attention, just nod, agree and give them something for symptomatic relief. Talk loudly, most of them are deaf.

The very rich:

Scum of the earth, just the worst people in India. They walk around like they own the hospital and treat us like we are beggars. Clearly they deserve to be robbed. Such sense of entitlement, such low respect for the profession. Keep changing doctors, want results yesterday, stingy. Definitely deserve the over charging and the excessive tests, they ask for it.

Women:

90% of their problems are psycho somatic and they create such a fuss about the rest 10%. If you are a guy, they wont let you touch them, if you don’t, and get the diagnosis wrong, they curse you. In the labor room they wont push when they need to and scream like a banshee, as if it’s an elephant coming out. Never open their mouths if their husbands hit them, so we can’t do anything. Definitely deserve being given antidepressants for the vague symptoms and the slaps on the labor table.

Villager:

You can smell them from a mile away. Sure they work in the fields and have animals, but can’t they buy soap? or at least some chap perfume? many of them are rich but pretend to be poor, they don’t change their clothes and treat the women so bad. if you are a girl then you’ve had it, your old man wont spend a penny on you. Depending on the case, definitely educate them about taking bath and sending their girls to school.

Prostitutes and homosexuals:

Why can’t they just say it? how many times will I have to “guess” their tendencies and do the right test?  I mean I am a professional, trained to deal with them in a professional way, then why can’t they just open up? They hem and haw and beat around the bush and never tell you what’s really going on. As if they can fool anyone. Anyway, poor women, forced to live like this, sometimes I feel sad, but I have to do my job and I can’t care for emotions. For them always do STD panel, even if they complain of head ache, they actually mean something else, so no point in asking if you should do it, they will just say no.

Criminals in hospital Woody allen being chased by a gorilla

Image by JohnMcNab

 

Surely, I am joking. Right? How can an educated, cultured professional hold such beliefs. These show the beliefs of a micro minority, right? No lessons to be learned here, just how some people can’t be cured by education. Correct?

P Sainath delivering The Inaugural Maharaj Kaul Memorial Lecture at UC Berkeley

P Sainath delivers The Inaugural Maharaj Kaul Memorial Lecture at UC Berkeley

Pay-to-print”: How Media Corruption Undermines Indian Democracy

 

Was the title of P Sainath’s illuminating speech about the dangerous undermining of the 4th estate of india by corrupt practices.

Maharaj Kaul (1940 – 2009), a UC Berkeley alum, was a tireless campaigner against injustice and for peace, founder of groups such as India Relief and Education Fund, and Coalition Against Communalism, and long-time supporter of Center for South Asia Studies (CSAS) at the University of California, Berkeley, mission and activities. CSAS, together with the family of Maharaj Kaul, has established the annual Maharaj Kaul Lecture series at UC, Berkeley.

 

The popular take on the issue of “paid news” in India is that politicians manipulate the media by buying them out, and therefore politicians are the primary villains. Sainath traces the origins and circumstances of this phenomenon, and comes to a different conclusion, one that i am convinced is the more informed view.

He opened and closed the lecture with

Indian media is politically free but is imprisoned by profit

According to Sainath, the “beginning” was when media companies started being acquired by or being funded by big corporates. Some of the top news agencies in India, and in Maharashtra in particular, where the paid news phenomenon first came to light, are owned by business houses or have significant investments in various markets.

Outfits like the Times of India have “private treaties” with dozens of companies. These are agreements that they will promote the company for a fees, and often in exchage of shares in the company. TOI returns the favor by increasing “news coverage” and passing off puff pieces as news. Not only is this done in public, it is done in the face of several laws and regulations passed by the SEBI that make such treaties illegal.

Media houses in india not only have such agreements, but are also invested deeply in many industries, from sugar to real estate. In fact there is so much marketization, it is “it is difficult to differentiate between the fourth estate and real estate”

This infiltration of media houses in the Indian market was doing well, but, “its always the wall street that buggers everything”.the wall street crashed and media houses were facing severe financial strains. At this juncture, they did two things, one fell into their lap and the other was contrived. Media agencies across India instructed its reporters that the world “recession” was not to be used with respect to the indian market. “Recession happens in the US, we have a slowdown”. This deceptive tactic allowed them to boost the confidence of the readers in the market, without which, they would be on the streets.

As luck would have it, the elections in Maharashtra came upon at this time. For the media this was an excellent way of making unaccounted for money that could be used to buffer the market losses.

The gory details of how much money was made is easily available in Sainath’s stories that ran in The Hindu, however it is interesting to note one incident in which some students of his who were helping him go through hundreds of news papers, pointed out that on one occasion, a news item about Mr. Ashok chavan was published as an “exclusive” in 6 different papers, simultaneously, and under the by lines of the heavy weights of that paper. 3 of them were the same word to word.

In summary, the media in india is heavily invested in all sorts of markets, and this has led to their dependence on the markets at the cost of perverting the truth to ensure that their investments stay viable. In many cases the media can be considered to be nothing more than the PR wing of the multi billion dollar corporates that own them. It is now the ideological arm of the corporate establishment.

Sainath did not offer any prescriptions on how this malaise, which continues, can be cured.

The full video of the lecture can be found at Sarajahan.org

Here are some quotes from the lecture.

On why there were so many commissions on the same issue

The GOI can put up as many as 12 commissions and enquiries on the same issue till someone comes up with a report that they want.

On the sate of journalism in the US

the only thing that has not reduced about american journalism is its arrogance, otherwise, they are shrinking rapidly.

The company that times of India is owed by is Bennet Coleman and Co.

“Bandits conmen and co- as some of old journalists call them”

“The media is too heavily invested in the market to tell us the truth about it”

“There is a structural compulsion to lie”

On rural reporting- In spite of the fact that the majority of india is still rural, and poverty in India is a serious issue, there is not a single news agency in india that has a full time reporter on poverty or agriculture.

“gross and growing disconnect between mass media and mass reality

a structural shut out of the poor

the media in india today is the most exclusionary institution of the indian democracy – regarding caste/gender etc

On how he came across all the facts and figures

one of the most wonderful things about the indian governmental establishment is its anarchy
what is labeled as top-secret as one department will be published by the neighbouring department in its annual report, so sooner or later, everything comes out, we leak like a factory of sieves

On the Lokpal bill

Lokpal – don’t set yourself up for a fall
is it a good idea? yes,
do we need a jan lokpal, yes
should the bill be passed in its present shape? forget about it.

The sheer arrogance of the bill is amazing.

The bill is saying you are not smart because you got bad people elected, now let us do the right thing.

It is good to note that Sainath is a magasasay award winner and would qualify for being on the lokpal comittee.

According to Sainath the three main reasons for corruption in india

1. structured inequality of the society, demonstrated by the caste system, gender violence etc
2. economic policies that generate and sustain this inequality
3. culture of arbitrariness

The bill is basically a manifestation of this arbitrariness

Msl. Comments

Russia sends its billionaire’s to prison, we send ours to the parliament.

TOI is the first newspaper i read every morning, it makes my day everyday

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The Parable of dead bodies: Looking at the Food Security Bill

The Parable

Anand Philip on the parable of dead bodies and the food security act

By Great Beyond

When the villagers of Utopia woke up that morning, they found that the current had washed up a dozen or so dead bodies on their river bank. The people quickly got to action, as was normal for Utopians. Frogmen helped by the fire department dragged the bodies ashore, the mayor decided they would be cremated outside the city, the Doctor examined them and concluded that they died of nothing contagious and the priest performed their last rites.

Unfortunately, it was not to be a one time event. The next morning, and then the morning after that and in the mornings after that morning, the barrage of bodies continued. While the frogmen and priests and other workers pitched to get the bodies out and disposed, the city council gathered to ponder upon the matters.

After much philosophizing about what the dead bodies stood for, who they were, whose fault it was and which department should handle them, it was unanimously agreed that the poor souls deserved dignity. The council wrote to the king, known for his big heart, consulted his circle of elders and granted them a nearby wasteland to create a crematorium for the dead, and a fat purse for funding.

Soon it was noticed that picking up bodies in the morning was creating traffic jams and so the mayor decided to launch a technologically advanced boat patrol that would scour the river as it entered their territory and pick up the bodies as they arrived.

The boat workers then started settling near the river, as it was easier for them to go home that way, and with the increased traffic of the boats, the river port could no longer be used for fishing and other usual purposes. The mayor therefore sanctioned that building of a new port, a bit upstream from where the bodies were being found.

As time went by, new problems would arise but Utopians fixed them all as they had done so far. For his astute handling of the situation, and creation of hundreds of new jobs as boats men, crematorium workers, traffic wardens, and what not, the mayor was re elected. For the hard work, solidarity and greatness of heart of the people of Utopia, their King granted them the status of a City and they lived happily ever after.

Problem: Hunger and Malnutrition

India, hunger, free food, malnutrition

by juicyrai

Depending on which source fits you best, anywhere from 28%1 to 80%2 of Indians live in poverty. The real figures are vigorously debated, and the National Advisory Council [NAC] has taken a value of 836 million- 77% of the Indian population as living with food insecurity- a figure they use interchangeably with the number of poor. These numbers fly in the face of common sense and other reliable studies but it clear that a large segment of the population- between 373 and 50% suffers from chronic malnutrition4. And a smaller – around 5% suffers from day-to-day hunger.

Deaths from acute malnutrition are declining rapidly as are the cases of acutely malnourished children. It is possible today for a medical student in a government hospital to pass out without ever seeing a single case of acute severe malnutrition. But chronic malnutrition remains a serious issue and the contributing factors are recurrent disease, chronic poverty5, lack of nutrients in food, lack of access to protein/vitamin rich sources, and peri-natal conditions like maternal nutrition, birth weight and breastfeeding and weaning practices.

Root causes:

  • Poverty
  • Lack of sanitation, access to clean water,
  • Bad farming practices and lack of agricultural reforms,
  • Corruption,
  • Persistence of historic marginalization.
  • Unemployment and wage exploitation in the unorganized labor sector.
  • Unexplained nutritional factors

What has been done:

  • – Integrated Child Development Service (ICDS).
  • — Kishori Shakti Yojna
  • — Nutrition Programme for Adoloscent Girls.
  • — Rajiv Gandhi Scheme for Empowerment of Adolescent Girls
  • — Mid-day Meal programme for schools
  • — Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan
  • — National Rural Health Mission
  • — National Urban Health Mission
  • — Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojna
  • — National Food Security Mission
  • — National Horticultural Mission
  • — Rajiv Gandhi Drinking Water Mission
  • — Total Sanitation Campaign
  • — Swarna Jayanthi Gram Rozgar Yojna
  • — Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Programme
  • — Targeted Public Distribution System
  • — Antyodaya Anna Yojna
  • — Annapoorna 6

[Note: This impressive list of interventions is a partial list only, there are other state specific and lapsed programs that are not included.]

Of these programs, the ones that have had the most money and effort put into them are those that have some form of subsidized distribution of food, medicines, or un-sustainable job creation.

Study after study has shown that at best the areas that need these the most, have a success rate of under 50% and at worst, almost no benefit has reached the intended targets7. Not just that, there is pilfering and hoarding, reselling to commercial markets and BPL cards and lists miss 50% of deserving an often include those APL.

What does this bill do?

  • Increase spending on food grain
  • increase allocation of Grain per family
  • Adds on bureaucratic processes with no accountability in the form of redress forums
  • Tries to make PDS leak proof, but retains structure and form almost entirely and allocates little for infrastructure.

The key fact being is none of this actually increases food security- only feeds those in hunger, if the food reaches them. These are inherently stop-gap measures, but with the lack of permanent solutions, this leaky PDS pot has persisted 60 years into independence.

Moreover,

  1. There are no bills in the parliament at present‭ ‬ address to resolve the root issues,‭ neither is the NAC doing anything at infrastructure or system level to address the root issues.
  2. The bill Ignores studies that show that the caloric intake of the poorest in India has reduced in-spite of increase in income. It 8equates hunger with poverty and malnutrition, though nowhere does it actually mention malnutrition. ‬The problem might not lie in access to food at all,‭ ‬but in quality of food,‭ ‬work levels,‭ ‬and other factors. which are not addressed at all.9
  3. Disregards the further strain it is going to place on farmers, who are already getting poor returns for their investments. 10

Surprisingly, some of the people who have shown these problems with the bill are on the NAC and are considered very influential.

The NAC, which is pushing the bill, seems to believe that if you pour water into a bucket with no bottom, as long as you keep pouring, you are doing the right thing.

Pouring money into a bucket with a hole

by Coltera

Back to the Parable.

‎Something struck you as odd didn’t it? Why did no one try find out where the dead bodies were coming from? Why did they not try stop the flow of the cadavers altogether? What use is it mopping up the blood if you do nothing to stop the bleeding?

This obvious logic has surprisingly eluded much of our policy makers and politicians, who continue to fish bodies out from the river, and make enemies of those who can help stop the killing.

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Foot Notes

1Planning commission press release for poverty estimates 2005
5Chronic Poverty in India: Incidence, Causes and Policies AASHA KAPUR MEHTA World Development Vol. 31, No. 3, pp. 491–511, 2003
8Food and Nutrition in India: Facts and Interpretations” (EPW, 14. February 2009), Angus Deaton and Jean Dreze



Accidental Eveteasing

Accidental Eveteasing and Other Mythical Beasts

This post is in reply to the letter “Locutus83″ Sent to Blank Noise [Click here to Read it] asking some very honest and fundamental questions. I loved his honesty, openness and willingness to be wrong. This is also, partially, in response to the general riff raff and chit chat I have come across on various sites related to eve-teasing and street sexual harassment. And as Locust asks, have included a “guide to being a gentleman” as I cant think of anyone better suited than I to write such a guide.

Defining Eveteasing: Eveteasing is not a set of pre-defined actions. It is whatever makes women feel unsafe, powerless, predated upon and unwelcome. How you look, where you look, how long you look, what you do etc can serve as guidelines, but are not what marks eveteaing. However, terms are useful and necessary for awareness and education etc because discreet actions can be measured and evaluated.So also sexual thoughts are not eveteasing, nor are they wrong. Sexual thoughts are not disrespectful, they are natural, normal and in my opinion respectful. However, any sexual gratification that happens at the expense of another persons dignity, space and well being is inherently wrong, be it a thought or action.

How do women know? Women know because from childhood they have been preyed upon, its not sixth sense, its conditioning. From very young, girls are instructed by their parents, relatives and teachers to behave modestly, dress sensibly and mind their own business, and in the process hammering into their minds that being eveteased is their fault and it’s their responsibility to evade eveteasing. Men, on the other hand, have a free run, on the rare chance some girl stares back, snaps, or threatens to hit you with a chappal, it is laughed off and considered a small thing. So also, from childhood they are used to stares, looks, comments, whistles and so conditioned to detect and evade such behaviour.

Do they enjoy it? No woman, ever, under any circumstance whatsoever, enjoys being eveteased. This is not a matter of semantics, but a serious and fundamental issue. Eveteasing makes a woman feel helpless, powerless and dehumanized, NO ONE enjoys this. No sane person would expect women to enjoy rape (many insane people think they do), same way, no action, behavior or words that prey upon women can make them feel good.

Do women want us to stop looking? Blank noise and women in general do not want to stop men from looking, or staring, or making compliments, they want to stop harassment. This is not moral policing, not “neutering” of men, but of making them aware that preying on women is disgusting, illegal and will get their bottoms kicked.

Is it person dependant? Refer para. 3 What makes a statement/action eveteasing is essentially the attitude. So it doesn’t matter if a compliment comes from a poor man or rich, if respectful, appropriate, will be taken well. Guys who stand around the corner in groups and say “tamatar kya bhaav hai?” to passing women are not complimenting their breasts, they are being assholes.

Accidental Eveteasing. This seems to be the underlying question Locust and many others seem to have. In case the title of the article was not clear enough, and the first few points didn’t clear this misunderstanding, let me be very clear. You can no more eve tease someone by accident than you can mistakenly end up with your penis inside a cadaver. Comments do-not tumble out of your mouth and eyes dont automatically get glued to breasts.

But, occasionally, very rarely your look might be mistaken for lechery, this is not the norm but the exception. In such a situation, be honest, apologize, and look elsewhere. Women dont consider all men to be sexually deviant predators, they dont walk around looking for an excuse to use their pepper sprays. Mistakes happen, owe up and move on.

Guide for men.

There is no Guidebook
There is no “do this, dont do this” list that you can mug up and follow. Actions matter, but attitude is what causes action. The basic quality is respect for women, not the fake, filmy, “but you are my sister” kind, but respect as will be demonstrated by you not talking to womens breasts, or whistling at them.

Respect is not conditional. Expecting women to fit into the stereotypes that history has handed down before respecting them is fake, futile and will result in your acting like a dick.

Be socially appropriate.
As I said, there is nothing wrong in appreciating beauty, male, female, tree or car. However, it is important to be wise in the way one appreciates. I dont believe in lists, but there are some things that you can outright cross off you list. What works in the movies, like stalking, songs, and displays of macho-ness do not work. Also the street is not really the best way to find someone to start a relationship with. In most circumstances, a smile, nod, quick look-over will have you safe. But you have to learn what is appropriate.
Learn from the best
Just because you respect women does not mean you can do no wrong. You can still do something stupid, tacky and clumsy. This has more to do with social skills than attitude. The cure for that is to have female friends, no one knows what women want better than women. (Not only will women friends help you learn how to behave around women, they will also help you inyour pursuit of becoming a better boyfriend with ample advice and first hand experience in shopping and suchlike.)

Dont be scared, women are not looking for an excuse to call you a pervert.

Above all;

No means No

She is not asking for it. In fact, she never asks for it

To you, Locust, clearly you have no lack of respect for women, so i’d say you need to stop worrying about “accidentally” eveteasing someone, and go have fun.