Hierarchies

There is a hierarchy of needs. A hierarchy might not imply one is more important than the other, but it often implies one is more urgent than the other.Roti, kapda, makaan, (survival) always gets more attention than freedom and equality.

For a society to reach a place where a “higher” goal becomes important, the “lower” goals need to be met. This is why, even amongst widespread agitation against corruption among politicians, corruption in the common man goes un-challenged. It is assumed that the common man needs corruption for survival. More accurate would be how, as people rally against corruption, that theie leader is a homophobe is not important. To them it is more urgent  to have a nation that is not corrupt, than a nation that treats everyone, even the queer, equally.

Around 60% of this country does not have its basic needs met. of the remaining, only about 10% have enough to sustain themselves and some more. only around 2%of the country can be considered “upper middle class”. Clean streets, therefore, have a lower priority than clean water.

The common indian understands this. We prioritize.

This is why all voices are important. Even that of the homophobe who fights corruption. As important as the enlightened, non-homophobic, non-corrupt, highly ethical leader. (Except that the latter does not exist. Yet) Because it takes many small voices crying out about their priority to transform a small thing into a massive movement.

This is why activists take a lifetime to get awards.

What is your priority?

 

 

Shrek Comments and I reply. On Religon/Secularism

A reader “Shrek” posted a fantastic comment in response to my last post. It also brings up some things I should elaborate on, so I have quoted parts the comment and added my replies/explanations to it.

In response to  “They know nothing about Muslims”

It is seen (empirical observation- can’t vouch, don’t have data) that most polarized parts are those with significant population from multiple faiths e.g Old city- Hyderabad, parts of Gujarat etc . Part of the reason I reckon, is that, when faced with people from other faiths, each one clings more strongly to his own and then it becomes an “us vs them” situation.

The only way to break this shackle would be to educate- not on faith, but on philosophy of each religion. Unfortunately, all of our schools stay away from such contentious issues. So, there is only imitation and social learning of attitudes- which let’s face it, have been highly bigoted (around the world) in the past.

E.g. When I was ~7 years old, there was only one other family with a kid my age. I got along fairly well with that kid and attended his birthday sermon (they called a pastor/preacher to their house for that). But, the day after that – his mother turned me away from their gate saying “you are hindus, we are christians, don’t try to be friends with my son, we don’t fit.” I was naturally disappointed, but most kids would imitate such behaviour thinking that is the right way.

Hotspots of communal violence in India are indeed places where the  conflicting communities form significant portions of the population. This however, does not automatically mean that the respective cultures know about each other, In fact, distrust, isolation and misinformation is also highly prevalent in these areas. Violence needs ignorance else education (as you suggest) will do nothing, right? look at other places in india where Muslims and Hindus live in peace in spite of large numbers – Kerala, Tamil nadu, Delhi etc.

I am not asserting that all bigotry comes out of ignorance of the other faith, but that ignorance plays a significant role, and that hate-mongering leaders (of all religious bents) would like to perpetuate ignorance.

About the linking of nationalism with anti-secularism.

Linking nationalism to anti-secularism and Hinduism is a much more recent phenomenon caused in part due to the association of those claiming to be secular with demonstrably anti-national voices such as Syed Geelani and in part because anything the conservatives say – irrespective of the merit of the idea by itself, is denounced.

The specific instance of anti-secularism as demonstrated by the derision to the word secular might be a new thing, but anti-secularism is most definitely not. The RSS was formed in 1925, various regional parties, all claiming to be nationalist – Punjabi, Tamil, Assamese- have been around for a long time. It also serves to remember that while Gandhi and his teaching had a strong element of Nationalism, Nehruvian Congress and the party after that has been less and less nationalist. This in some ways created the secular vs nationalist divide. BJP, as long as it takes orders from the RSS and projects itself as nationalistic, will continue to be considered anti-secular. Hinduism teaches pluralism, but secularism as envisioned in the west or as many of us understand it is not something the Sangh stands for.

One also needs to differentiate between understanding and realizing that secularism as perpetuated by the Congress is a joke and the new, systematic effort to malign the very idea of secularism.

Pay close attention to this

That brings us nicely to the final point I’d like to make- I don’t know whether you would endorse adopting the patronizing tone with conservatives if it was effective (and if the ‘problem’ really did go away). But, condescension is an almost certain way to evoke resentment and anger. If you really believe in liberal values and in their superiority over the points conservatives try to make – treat them with respect (the people, not necessarily the ideas). Civility is sometimes overrated, but is necessary most other times. Instead of addressing valid concerns, the reaction to most conservatives has been to reach out for crutches like “bigot, troll, Indian Taliban,” and treating them with general apathy (hoping the problem goes away) etc.

Missing is a sense of perspective and proportion and such crutches point to an intellectual drought. And just because someone otherwise bad supports a morally right act doesn’t make it morally wrong. It still becomes our moral duty to act irrespective of who else supports such an issue.

A counterpoint- is in order perhaps – The Uniform civil code, which implies equal treatment of all people irrespective of faith has been made into a conservative issue whereas it really is a liberal/secular one.

I could not agree more.  The typical reaction to conservatives, whether of the cow protection variety or of high intellectual caliber, has almost always been a one of condescension. As if not conforming to western ideas of liberty, democracy, secularism were a result of brain damage. (not that people with brain damage should be treated that way, but they are)

However, one needs to ask not just why liberals dont want a uniform civil code, but also why the conservatives want it.

He makes some more important points about the role of history in name calling in his post on CRI: Ideological Lables

If words like “liberal” and “secular” have become curse words for many, it is because, hypocrisy, duality and bias (bigotry in many cases), too obvious to ignore, have become rampant amongst those claiming to be secular or liberal. Intellectual consistency dictates that just as the burden of disowning bigotry was put on Hindutva movement, the same burden also lies with those identifying with liberal movements (or for that matter any such movements).

Or we could just ignore this and go back to calling each other names, using labels as curses, obviating the need for any intellectual effort and critical thought on either side.

Note: When I use the term “Liberal” about political parties, am talking about the left leaning, socialist ideology. I am not a liberal in this sense – as a casual reading of my blog will reveal. However, conservativism in India and abroad is usually associated with religious sentiments and social/moral protectionist beliefs.

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.

——————————————————————————————————————————————————————-

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



Official Statement of the Medico Friends Circle on the Binayak Sen Judgement

We, the Medico Friend Circle, a national organization of health professionals, express our outrage at the verdict of the Raipur district and sessions court, on 24th December 2010, declaring Dr Binayak Sen, General Secretary of the Chhattisgarh People’s Union for Civil Liberties and Vice-President of the National PUCL, guilty of sedition and treason, and sentencing him to life imprisonment.

Dr Sen has an illustrious record of over 25 years of selfless public service in areas of health and human rights. He has been an active member and former convenor of the Medico Friend Circle. He has been closely associated with the Jan Swasthya Abhiyan, the Indian chapter of the People’s Health Movement. He is a pediatrician and is associated with a
number of hospitals and health programs that focus on reaching the most marginalized. In recognition of his work, the
Christian Medical College, Vellore conferred on him the Paul Harrison Award in 2004, which is the highest award given to an alumnus for distinguished service in rural areas. He continues to be an inspiration to successive generations of students and faculty. Many of his articles based on his work have been internationally appreciated.

His indictment under the draconian and undemocratic Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act, 2006, and the Unlawful Activities(Prevention) Act, 1967 is utterly condemnable. Not only has the farcical nature of the trial been reported in themedia, the charges against Dr Sen, of engaging in anti-national activities, have been widely held as baseless. This judgment is an unacceptable attempt to intimidate and vilify those who advocate for the rights of the poor and the marginalized, and reveals the indiscriminate use of state machinery to stifle democratic dissent.

MFC believes that a great injustice has been done, not only to Dr Sen but also to the democratic fabric of this country. MFC salutes Dr Sen’s work, and demands that justice be delivered in his case.

Be very very afraid

Mom has been calling me up everyday just to remind me that I should not go to work on 30th. Karnataka has declared a school holiday or a good 2 days “to keep the children safe”. My bank tells me that while it officially is working tomorrow, “we will have to look at the conditions” for me to pick up my ATM card. My pinter is working an extra shift tonight to finish work he is supposed to do tomorrow “kal ka kuch bol nahi sakte sir”.

While the home minister has boldly declared that he does not “foresee any problems” the CM’s of many sates have declared their inability to protect their law abiding citizens by declaring holidays. Tomorrow some hope for justice, some for retribution, and some just want it all over.

Violence lovers on both sides of the religious divide are looking for an excuse. Some will try to justify it as setting right the historical wrongs, one dead body in 2010 at at time.

Irrespective of your religion and political leanings, today is a day that any nation loving Indian needs to be ashamed. Ashamed that for 60 years we have voted into power people who played us on our fears and cultivated sectist fears. Ashamed that we have cultivated media that specialize in glorifying violence and shamed that we refuse to see that justice cannot be achieved by unlawful means

Religious goondagardi (extremism) ; green, saffron, pink or blue is not a just a political problem for it to be solved by parties, it is problem that needs to faced and tackled at the family level. The solution must be come at at the tea shop in the corner and the temple, mosque and church in the community. I hope we are not given anymore proof of this tomorrow than we already have.

We are a nation held captive by fear fulled by opportunist politicians and inept administration of justice. Fear is so common, that we forget how shameful it is. Our fears are that green and saffron will clash with swords and guns. We forget what the real fear should be, that it is the law abiding citizen that is afraid, not the thug, the rioter or the hatemonger. On either side of the religious divide, the criminal is eagerly and fearlessly waiting. No holiday for them tomorrow.

Satyameva Jayate- The Truth about truth in India

“Satyameva Jayate” (satyam-eva jayate सत्यमेव जयते) (Sanskrit: “Truth Alone Triumphs”) is the national motto of India. It is inscribed in Devanagari script at the base of the national emblem. The origin of the motto is a well-known mantra 3.1.6 from the Mundaka Upanishad. Full mantra as follows.

satyameva jayate nānṛtaṁ
satyena panthā vitato devayānaḥ |
yenā kramantyṛṣayo hyāptakāmā
yatra tat satyasya paramaṁ nidhānam ||

In devanāgarī :

सत्यमेव जयते नानृतम् सत्येन पन्था विततो देवयानः ।
येनाऽऽक्रमन्त्यृषयो ह्याप्तकामा यत्र तत् सत्यस्य परं निधानं ॥

Meaning:

Truth alone triumphs; not falsehood.
Through truth the divine path is spread out by which
the sages whose desires have been completely fulfilled,
reach where that supreme treasure of Truth resides.

From: Wikipedia

In the last week or so, I am sure you have bemoaned the corruption and general mess that prevails in India at least once. Corruption is so ubiquitous so pervasive that many times, we hardly notice it.  And while speaking about corruption is easy, doing something about it is very hard. It requires courage, integrity and an immense store of patience. If you speak out against it, you will be admired in private, ridiculed in public and harassed throughout your life.  In spite of this, it is reassuring to see that there are individuals and groups all across India engaged in fighting corruption using various tools and mediums.

I hope to introduce, as I get involved, Various such groups. I would like to begin with

1. Sanjay Uchav- @Nobribe who writes on the No Bribe Website and runs the Corruption free India Facebook group. Follow the site for regular articles about fighting corruption and practical ideas about how to do it yourself. He also regularly points out to both corruption and anti-corruption news from across the country. Mr. Uchav fights corruption from Bihar. You can even  see and contribute to a bribery rate card to see what the prevalent “rates” in your area are.

2. Sanjeev sabhlok author of the fabulous book “breaking free of nehru”  and founder of The Freedom Team of India, a political party in its inception that dreams to bring clean governance to India. he has started a group called “Boycott  Corrupt Politicians” on facebook, and you can join for updates on how to join the good fight. More about him

Now for an Explanation of the Post title.

Over at No Bribe, a great new post is up, about what truth really means in india for example

  • Law will take its own course actually means that it would go round and round forever without ever converging on the issue.
  • We will look into the incident actually means that everyone will soon forget it.
  • We will not leave the matter alone actually means that the matter will be given a silent burial.

Head over there for the full article – The art of Double speak.

From the Archives: The New East India Company

Published on The Blog Of Dysfunction on September 18 2008

Indians of any background should have reason enough to celebrate their historical or cultural association with Nagarjuna’s penetrating philosophical arguments…Maitreya’s searching questions, Carvaka’s reasoned skeptisism, Aryabhattas astronomical and mathematical departures, Kalidasa’s dazzling poetry, Sudraka’s subversive drama, Abdul fazal’s astounding scholarship.. or Ravi Shankar’s and Ali Akbar Khan’s music, without first having to check the religious background of each

Sen, Amartya,The Argumentative Indian (Penguin Books 2005), p75

Among the many good habit I am nurturing in me of late is reading books about India. This stemmed from the realization that for someone who claims to be a patriot I know pathetically little about my nation.I began with “In Spite of the Gods by Edward Luce” and now am reading this delightful book.

Dr.Sen is a genius and a scholar sans comparison, yet his language is engaging and easy arguments to understand. One of the essays, from which the above quote comes from, examines the Hindutva movement very closely, and in the wake of the renewed violence against minorities in the country, this passage is particularly relevant.

The unfortunate truth is that in the name of “true Indianness” the proponents of the militant Hindutva movement (and those of other religions) are just peddling fascism, and are using the tactic the British East India company is famed to have used to rule India; “divide and rule”. Our colonial overlords were driven out amidst united slogans of “quit India”, I think it is time the same happens to intolerant and militant religious fundamentalism, be it of any religious conviction.

mażhab nahīñ sikhātā āpas meñ bair rakhnā
hindī haiñ ham, vat̤an hai hindostāñ hamārā

Religion does not teach us to bear ill-will among ourselves
We are of Hind, our homeland is Hindustan.

Quit India Hate mongerers!!

Jai Hind

Schizo