Sunday, April 30, 2006

Uttara Karnataka - a new state?

I am an ardent supporter of creating more states in India [I also ask for a separate Telangana]. My argument is simple (only to make it simple for readers, otherwise it is exhaustive and most often it doesn't get read) - if in a state there are two regions, one prosperous and another backward, and if no corrective measures (which need to be huge) are taken, it will result in a spiraling effect wherein, more and more investment, schemes and industry are drawn to the prosperous regions while the backward regions get more and more relegated, to an extent that you see stark difference in these two regions which cannot be corrected anymore if it remains a single state.

Here's an article from THE HINDU - Imbalance in industrial investment in Karnataka

May be, its time for creating another state!

Saturday, April 29, 2006

On Arundhati Roy

I am no fan of Arundhati Roy (but I think she is beautiful, though). If she had stuck to fiction, it would have saved me this trouble. I don’t read fiction and our worlds would not have crossed each other. She unnecessarily reads up modern age western thought books and tries to preach it to India.

Wars are made with “Blood, Toil, Tears and Sweat” (#) and Nations are built with ‘concrete, steel, iron, and will power’. She believes in borderless nations, dam-less rivers, and nuclear free countries. I like those concepts as well. I like a war-less world, caste-less society, race-less civilizations, malice-less neighbors, selfless taxpayers, and so on. That does not mean, I close my eyes, and start believing that’s how the world is.

Without dams, there wouldn’t have been a Silicon Valley or a Hollywood. Without Bhakra Nangal Dam Punjab would never have become ‘bread basket of India’. Without Nagarjuna sagar Dam in South, farmers would have been grappling only with flooding rivers during monsoon, and arid season during spring and summer. And one look at the poverty-ridden Bangladesh will tell you why taming Ganges and Brahmaputra is extremely critical for their farmers. Every year, floods sweep across the plain taking away crops, wealth and people into the Bay of Bengal.

Here’s one of here interviews at The Hindu. Snippets are given below, followed by my comments.

1. “For example, is it right to divert rivers and grow water-intensive crops like sugar cane and wheat in a desert ecology?”

Tell that to Israelis! Their survival depends on it. A country like Israel cannot tell its people- ‘We don’t want to disturb the rivers and natural ecosystem and hence your grandchildren will have no bread and we will have no country’. They have converted a brown desert into a green landscape and survived. That is the story of man. It is the story of man throughout the history- its how we made civilizations, wrote epics and dramas, composed music, created statutes, and discussed philosophies- surviving the nature, the environment, the climate, the wildlife, and surviving other men.

Many people shout- ‘Save Earth!’ They don’t realize that Earth will save itself, no matter what! It has done again and again in the last four billion years. It has induced Ice Ages and long summers many a times in its history to adjust climates, and in the process, losing dinosaurs and 99% of species that ever appeared on this planet, and it will keep on surviving long after mankind vanishes from its face. They should in fact shout- ‘Save Mankind!’ because we may not be able to adjust to the changing climate and have to go bust.

Some of civilizations were wiped out because they didn’t control the floods and droughts and not because they built dams.

2. “It touches a raw nerve, so you have people who know very little about it, people who admit that they know very little and don’t care to find out, coming out with passionate opinions.”

The problem with opinions is that- they are like assholes; everyone has one (its the same quote I use at the top of by blog). I think the same way about her- that she knows too little about it, and that her opinions are borrowed and misplaced in time and place. The luxury of not having a dam is something India cannot afford. It needs dams, it needs roads, it needs canals and it needs nuclear power to generate electricity. Those who oppose should go and live in villages which get two hours of electricity per day, instead of talking and writing from cozy a/c houses (that includes me- just that I don’t have a/c).

3. “…the really vital questions that have not been answered are the ones that question the benefits of dams.”

‘Now, my dear madam, read history! And if you don’t have much time, just read, Jared Diamond’s Collapse!' – was my initial reaction. But she actually she did! She says-“I recommend Jared Diamond’s wonderful book Collapse to all those who wish to take a slightly longer, and less panicked, view of ‘development’”. And she conveniently uses it as an argument for her case. That’s the problem with some fundamental ideas. They can be used by both the opposing parties to further their argument (like me doing here for ‘development’).

Many civilizations got swept away because they could not adjust to the changing climate and natural conditions- including flooding and droughts of many rivers. The civilization became stable only when those civilizations could tame these rivers by building dams. This point is mooted by Jared Diamond in a different context and that is conveniently NOT taken up by Arundhati Roy. In another instance, he talks about how tribals or jungle folks living in so-called ‘harmony’ with nature can actually create situations innocuously by which they get extinct. For example, gathering sticks from the forest for firewood which starts off quite harmlessly can have dangerous consequences when the rate at which the sticks fall from the tree is lower than the consumption rate of that tribals because it may trigger massive denudation of the forests leading to extinction of that tribe. Sometimes, ‘development’ can save that civilization by fencing off forests, and providing alternate method for those tribals to lit fire. Dams have been vital part of our civilization- many rivers in monsoon climates, swell, shrink, meander and take a different route, and this can lead to death of a civilization (as it happened to Indus Civilization when Indus started meandering away from the inhabited towns and cities).

May be, what she is referring to is the ‘big dams’ instead of just dams. Yes, big dams are very disruptive and cause changes to nature. But we can’t stop making dams. The US and others have built their huge dams and now the liberals in that country go about preaching to others not to build one. And UBIs (‘Unfortunately Born in India’) like Arundhati Roy, who aspires to be in that club, borrow their ideas and make a mega-fight out of it.

China is currently building one of the biggest construction sites on the planet- the Three Gorges Dam, once completed will improve the lives of tens of million Chinese. China sees itself ahead of India in all respects- in roads, better hospitals, in electricity, in steel, etc, because they don’t have Medha Patkars and Arundhati Roys.

Narmada river will have a series of dams, not just one massive dam, and of this series Sardar Sarovar happens to be a big one, but definitely not as massive as Three Gorges of China and Hoover Dam of US.

4. “Even vast parts of the command area of our favourite dam – the Bhakra is water-logged and in deep trouble.”

There are some negative effects to everything we build. One should weigh the positives against negatives. Is there ‘deep trouble’ in Punjab because of Bhakra Nangal Dam? Really? I see people happily buying cars and sending kids to US and Canada, thanks to Bhakra Dam, not worrying over death of Punjab civilization because of water logging.

If Medha Patkar and Arundhati Roy were alive during those days of this dam’s construction, we would not have that dam, and we wouldn’t have the food to eat as well- which is of course irrelevant to these women.

5. “The tragedy is that if they would only use more local, effective, rainwater harvesting schemes, for less than 10 per cent of the cost of the Sardar Sarovar, every single village in Kutch and Saurashtra could have drinking water.”

Lot of people make lot of stupid arguments- just like the above. ‘If only more wind turbines are put across the whole of Karnataka, then we wouldn’t need to burn coal or nuclear fuel’, ‘if only we could collect all the cow dung on the planet, then we can run electricity to the whole city of Patna’, and so on. All the alternate sources of energy, from wind, from sea waves, from solar energy, etc, are important contributors but they do not generate enough energy to keep a nation going. Oil, coal and nuclear fuel for all its ills are still the reliable sources of energy at present. Our nation cannot run on windmills (and when the wind stops, the whole population, including Arundhati Roy, can then pray to God Vayu, the Wind God). Even if it runs on wind energy, the whole landscape will be filled with windmills, and imagine the deforestation and other ill effects. Any source of energy when utilized on mega scale will have some negative effects.

Rain harvesting should be encouraged, but it will never give the reliable source of water supply to millions of people for drinking and irrigation. These are all small contributors but not the main sources. When there is no rain, there is no harvesting, and millions may die because some inane author championed the obstruction of a dam which could have provided the lifeline.

All in all, her argument is farcical (as such any argument can be proved to be farcical, including mine in here). She cites silly reasons, like money for rehabilitation being given to men who blow it away in drinking, and that IT parks are created by throwing poor people out at gun point, etc. Such trivialities cannot stop a nation from launching space rockets, building mega roads, building software parks, and building dams. Just because certain people are not getting compensated or rehabilitated properly does not meant that work should be stopped. If such was the case, no project will ever get done in India. No matter who it is, people in India (or any where in the world) are not happy when moved from their abode, and no matter what compensation they get, they will always be dissatisfied and seek more. Citing reasons that the rehabilitation was inadequate is a good reason to strengthen the fight, but not stop the work. If that was the case, my hometown of Warangal would never have got wide roads, and city of Hyderabad would never have got good infrastructure.

Making sure the environment doesn’t get affected badly is our duty, and we have to take extra precautions to do that, not stop development. People benefit from infrastructure on the long run, though some people may suffer briefly- and that is true for any project anywhere on the planet. And that, for some reason, Arundhati Roy fails to understand- because she opposes ‘development’ in all forms. May be, she would like us all to go back to caves- which is not a bad idea, because then, all we could do is hunt, make war, eat meat, drink beer, and have sex!

(#) Quote from Winston Churchill.

Arundhati Roy's Interview in THE HINDU

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Kaavya and Plagiarism

Read the following two paragraphs:

# “Sabrina was the brainy Angel. Yet another example of how every girl had to be one or the other: Pretty or smart….”

% “Moneypenny was the brainy female character. Yet another example of how every girl had to be one or the other: smart or pretty….”

Do you find any similarity between the two? The first one is from McCafferty’s novel called “Sloppy Firsts” a novel she wrote in 2001. The second one is from Kaavya Viswanathan’s “How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life”. A pure coincidence? May be!

Check the following two sentences, the first one is from McCafferty and the second one from Kaavya.

# “Finally, four major department stores and 170 specialty shops later, we were done.”

% “Five department stores, and 170 specialty shops later, I was sick of listening to her hum along to Alicia Keys....”

The plots of the stories are similar and so are the sentences and phrases. Such similarities run into 40 or more. They are available at this site.

Now, for most Indians these similarities seem very normal. It anyway happens all the time in Indian mainstream media, entertainment and literary sections. Movies are copied- scene to scene, dialog to dialog, without giving any acknowledgement and the Indian audience laps it up cheeringly without an iota of concern that it was “plagiarized”. Songs are blatantly copied- music notes are ‘borrowed’ without any change and most of the articles and books written by many authors ‘reuse’ pages of text verbatim without even changing a comma.

Actually, ‘plagiarism’ is an alien word to most Indians. They do not seem to be affected by it at all. This runs in corporate world as well. A former team member working in my company once wrote a brochure on our company’s offerings and to my astonishment I found out that it was ‘cut and paste’ from a close competitor. It was the same font, same words and same structure. And when I told him we cannot do that, he adamantly retorted- “Why not?” and though I tried to convince him otherwise, he maintained his stand that it was quite OK to do it. He even reasoned that ‘we shouldn’t be reinventing the wheel’.

Most of the students in India participate in essay writing competitions having mugged up a whole length of text from a newspaper item, a journal or from the web. They write verbatim having memorized the whole text- and the one who copies the best wins the first prize. It is not a contest of how you express your ideas; it is more of a contest who remembers the text better.

The words ‘plagiarism’ or ‘intellectual property’ do not seem relevant to most Indians. It is very natural to copy a text, copy a lyric or a tune without acknowledging the originator. And the roots for this are laid during our primary education enforced by the teachers. Most of these teachers who undergo B.Ed. or M.Ed. are actually instructed that they should encourage students to write in their words and to discourage them from writing the exact text. Such instructions, the teachers brush them off the way most Indians brush off other such instructions like- ‘Stand in Q (line)’, ‘Stop at Red light’, ‘Don’t give or take bribe’, etc. These teachers foster an extreme form of plagiarism amongst growing children by insisting that they should write the way it is written in the text book. All of us who have gone to school in India are familiar with words like ‘mugging’, ‘mug up’, ‘by rote’, ‘by heart’, ‘ratta’, ‘pidi’, etc. They all mean the same- to write the answer as it appears in the text book- verbatim, not missing a comma or apostrophe. To illustrate from my own experiences from school education in India- for a ‘Geogrpahy’ subject in Class IX, I wrote an answer to a question for which I got very less marks though I covered all the salient aspects. In fact, I was extremely good at Geography and every one in the class knew that. When I asked my teacher, he explained away my low score citing the reasons that I did not write the exact text (as it is in the text book) and that I used bullet points while the text books does not contain any. Also, I changed the order of salient points and that was not acceptable to him.

By the time students get into engineering and degree colleges, they become experts at ‘mugging’ and reprinting the text. My favorite word to describe this phenomenon is ‘creating excellent Xerox machines’. So, when the whole of India is diligently engaged in creating these copy machines, how can one find fault with poor Kaavya for her “accidental and unintentional” similarities and coincidences which amount to mere 40 of them?

I for one strongly support for a strong action against her ‘borrowed’ works. Because we need some good examples- which can be viewed and watched by many parents and teachers across this country- so that they realize that this ‘copying’ business will have negative consequences. If Kaavya is let go free, it will be unfortunate because India will now go back to its usual business with renewed energy and confidence to continue its plagiarism activities and will continue breeding another generation of ‘copy making’ students.


Kaavya admits borrowing
Publisher Not Happy
Kaavya In trouble
40 such similarities
Why Plagiarists do it?

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Bangalore and Corporate Responsibility

Bangalore has one of the biggest divides between the haves and have-nots and this divide is widening rapidly. The effects of this are seen once in a while, in a spurt of frustration and a violent riot, like what we saw during the turbulence that took place after Raj Kumar’s death. [I have another post on this topic]

As Corporate and Industry, we have a responsibility towards the region, the city and the people of the land where we work from. Promoting the local population is our duty (I am speaking as a co-founder and CEO of a small telecom company based in Bangalore). We should pursue a voluntary promotion of locals in our industry and publish what percentages of locals are recruited in our organizations. There is nothing wrong in promoting local population. How else would you pay back to Karnataka and Bangalore governments which have promoted this industry by introducing sops, land allocations, and many other facilities?

The common man- an auto rickshaw driver, a store owner, a laborer, a worker in a hotel, etc, look at these extremely rich non-Kannada engineers and executives throwing money at swanky pubs, nice restaurants, and lavish shopping complexes and feels frustrated- out of xenophobia and out of jealousy. Those feelings get accumulated and burst into open during such incidents like death of Raj Kumar.

No country, no region, no place, can live in peace and sustained economic growth if the divide between have and have-nots keeps increasing (as it is happening in India). There is a need to ensure that our poor and lower classes can benefit from this economic growth, and that may mean we will have to shed some of our fat in the present times so that we don’t live in a hostile environment of the future. Do I want to be driving in a swanky Mercedes Benz through streets filled with filth, surrounded by slums, and hawked by begging children, or am I OK going around a Hyundai Santro through cleaner streets, surrounded by cheerful people, while looking at a stream of children going to schools?

By contributing more than what is already done, we are paying off to buy more security, better society and more harmony. Its worth paying for! I would like to work and contribute towards making an India where my kids and my maid’s kids enjoy similar and comparable opportunities. If there is a difference in those opportunities, I would want those differences to be tolerable- not insurmountable. Otherwise, we will have one of the widest class divides on the planet and my kid may be involved in one of the biggest civil wars of our history!

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Telangana - A New State

[A newer and better article is now available at Case for Telangana on this site. However, you may still go through this article because most of commenters have expressed their opinion here.]

I am a very strong proponent of separate Telangana state (to be formed out of north-west region of Andhra Pradesh). When I talk to people around me about this, I get a lot of questions. I shall answer some of them here.

# Why do you want a separate state?

Why not? I believe that there should be many more states in India than what we have now. A country like US which has 1/3 population of India has 50 states, why should we have 28 states only. Our population has more than tripled since we got independence, but we have not increased states even two-fold. Recently, India created three new states- Uttaranchal (from Uttar Pradesh), Chattisgarh (from Madhya Pradesh), and Jharkand (from Bihar). Why can’t we have Telangana (from Andhra Pradesh) now? Moreover, the proposal to carve Telangana was put along with the above three states. Only due to certain political compunctions Telangana was deleted from that list. There was another state in that proposal- Vidharba (from Maharashtra). India has the capacity and requirement to take on few more states, that would improve administration, reduce the influence of certain big states, allow interior and backward regions get attention and care from the center.

# Aren’t you paving the way for breaking up of the nation?

Fighting for a new taluk, or a new district or a new state is not same as asking for a new country. Or is it? If that is case, no new taluks or panchayats should be carved, no new districts should be created. Can’t we look at newer regions taking care of changes in demographics, new cultural issues, and new aspirations, needs and wishes? Creating new states is constitutional and within the nationals interests.

# Why a separate Telangana? Aren’t you happy being part of Andhra Pradesh?

History: In 1947, India got Independence. In 1948, Indian Army ousted Nizam of Hyderabad to include Hyderabad and its regions into India. In 1953, Andhra was formed (from Madras State) as a state under Reorganization of States based on linguistic lines. In 1956, Telangana was merged with Andhra though there was a demand for a separate state of Telangana. In 1956, there were protests in Hyderabad for Telangana which was quelled by police killing some of the protestors. Ther reasons for separate Telangana are plenty. I outline some of them here:

~ Telangana is less developed compared to Andhra.
~ Rivers like Krishna and Godavari flow through Telangana, but the water from the dams are sent to Andhra.
~ Because of less literacy and backwardness of Telangana people, most of the new jobs, postings in government and education are given to people from Andhra.
~ Except for common language, the people of Andhra and Telangana have different dialects, histories, cultural systems, different food habits

In 1969, there was a major revolt in Telangana region by students, professors, government employees, politicians and many others demanding a separate state. The movement was quashed- many were jailed. Some of the politicians got reassurances and politicians from central leaders to some of their demands and everything was hushed up. Over the last thirty years, none of those reassurances and promises was kept. Some of those assurances were turned down by the court as well. The region is still reeling under strong Andhra influence in all phases of social, educational, economic and cultural life. There is a renewed struggle for a separate state now. TRS is a political party which is exploiting this sentiment.

# Aren’t Naxalites fighting for Telangana using guns?

No. Naxalites have a different agenda. They fight for achieving equal social and economic status through redistribution of wealth and land, and offering justice and opportunity to the backward classes. Their fight is seen wherever there is poverty and inequality in wealth- like Orissa, Chattisgarh, Karnataka, etc (most of these regions happen to be under Nizam before Independence) and is not confined to Telangana alone.

# How will a new state benefit people of Telangana?

~ Right now the coal is mined and electricity is produced in Telangana but most of it is supplied to Andhra region, while districts of Medak and Adilabad have four hours of electricity during the day during summer. In the new state, these districts will be fed with electricity.
~ The rivers of Krishna and Godavari flow through Telangana, and the dams are in Telangana, but the canals carrying the water go to Andhra. In the new state, there would be new canals bringing water to the arid regions of Telangana bringing in prosperity to the farmers and local population.
~ Most of the jobs, in government and education, are filled up by people from Andhra. In the new state, these jobs will go the local population.

# Did the other new states benefit?

Yes. Uttaranchal has introduced many sops for new industries because of which many industries are being set up in that state. Chattisgarh has opened up its university to many people from India and is now for the first time introducing electricity to the interior regions. Jharkand which supplied Bihar with most of the raw materials now has its own industry and income.

# What is the rationale for new states?

When one state has two economically and culturally different regions, one being prosperous and the other backward, if corrective measures are not taken to uplift that backward region, there is a great danger that only the prosperous region gets all the attention, funding, new industries, canals, and opportunities, while the people of backward region keep losing out, even in their own region. When such a condition prevails far too long, strong corrective measures are to be taken, and if that does not work, a new state is one of the best solutions.

Update: The later parts of this blog are at Telangana II, Telangana III, Telangana IV, Telangana V: Political angle, Telangana VI: Hyderabad State?, Telangana VII: Political Drama, Telangana VIII: You need to make a case

If you are keen on knowing more about this topic, read through the following posts:

Telangana II: The detractors to the formation of Telangana give the following reasons: 1. Andhra people will take away all their investments from Telangana, 2. Muslims will dominate if Telangana becomes a State, 3. Hyderabad will become a Union Territory; away from both Andhra and Telangana, 4. Andhra people are hardworking, enterprising and well-educated, 5. Andhra Telugu is superior – everyone should become like them, 6. We will lose our identity as Telugu people. All these are mere excuses. In reality, a separate Telangana makes sense for one reason alone- that its people want it.

Telangana III: There is no animosity towards anyone while creating Telangana, not even Andhra people. Fight for Telangana is not new. It has been there since the inception of Andhra Pradesh. TRS is just a political party that came into cash in on the prevailing mood of Telangana people to have a separate state. TRS is not Telangana. And one cannot rubbish a movement based on the quality of its leaders.

Telangana IV: Some of the questions from commenters are answered here: Why should Hyderabad be given to Telangana? Do land-locked states fail economically? Do new states take long time to form? Will the new state has to grapple new problems like crime?

Telangana V: Political Angle: Though we should have got Telangana during NDA regime, it did not happen. So, why did we not get Telangana along with Chattisgarh, Uttarkhand and Jharkhand? So, when will we get our Telangana? What are the political angles that are delaying creation of Telangana?

Telangana VI: Hyderabad State?: Many detractors would want to create a Hyderabad state out of Telangana. Is there any merit to such a demand? Hyderabad has always been a part of Telangana. Can the immigrants of a land ask for a separate status by flooding a city or a piece of land? Imagine the immigrants of Mumbai cutting the city away from Maharashtra or Bangladeshi immigrants cutting away Kolkata from West Bengal.

Telangana VII: Political Drama: TRS, the most vocal of all parties to demand a separate Telangana lost many seats to TDP and Congress in the recently held by-elections. What does it mean? Did Telangana Movement lost its wind? Why did TRS bring upon us these by-elections? Is TRS same as Telangana Movement? What is Telangana ‘sentiment’? Why did TRS lose? Why are other political parties embracing Telangana ‘sentiment’? Is political outcome same as referendum?

Telangana VIII: You need to make a case: All those who seek a Hyderabad state carved out of Telangana, you need to make a case. First, you were not willing to give us a separate state. Now, you ask for a separate Hyderabad state. Your case is quite flimsy and is fraught with greed, selfishness and extreme self-centeredness. The case for Telangana, which includes Hyderabad as its center, was always valid from the time of inception of the state. There is no case of creating Hyderabad into a new state cutting it away from Telangana.

History of Telangana I Sardar Vallabhai Patel under Nehru Government decided to intervene. The police action, called Operation Polo, was launched on 13th September, 1948. Within four days, Osman Ali Khan, the Nizam, surrendered. So, the people of living in Hyderabad State obtained Independence after one year, on 17th September, 1948.

Telangana X: Congratulations! : Why does it always come to this in India? Why should people get onto streets, protest, pillage, vandalize, beat up, destroy, before the government concedes to their demands? Why should the people hold government at ransom before the government starts making sense? Why can’t it be proactive and take necessary measures to alleviate concerns of various groups and identities?

Vision for Telangana I: What shall we do when we get our Telangana? What is our vision and what are our objectives? How shall we correct the mistakes of the past? How shall we better the lives of our people? How shall we make Telangana a great place to live?

Telangana XI: Why so much opposition?: The Telangana region, with Hyderabad deeply embedded inside it geographically, being part of its culture and historical heritage, being its capital city, joined Andhra Pradesh reluctantly and now it wants to opt out after the 50 year marriage failed. It’s not like Telangana sprung a surprise of separation. Starting from the formation of the state itself it has made many protests through various forums.

History of Telangana II: One of the misconceptions that are flouted nowadays is that Potti Sriramulu fought for a greater and unified Vishalandhra comprising all Telugu people under one state. There is no truth to this. He had in fact fought for extremely local demands for his own people, and not Telangana people.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Reservations and India Inc.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh hinted at ‘quotas’ or ‘reservations’ or ‘affirmative action’ in his speech last night to industrialists at CII Annual Session. How did the media react to it? NDTV called it a ‘political’ issue and cautioned against the menace of ‘reservations’ entering Indian industry. NDTV also showcased two industrialists who opposed these ‘reservations’.

This is how Rahul Bajaj. Chairman, Bajaj Auto, responded: "I don't know if reservations are the ultimate goal or not but I can tell you that I am completely opposed to mandatory reservation.”

Now, what did Manmohan exactly say? Read the text below:

“I urge industry to seriously consider enhancing education and employment opportunities for weaker section and investing in their skill enhancement and promoting their employment in an affirmative manner.” "I urge you to assess at a firm level that diversity in your employee profile and commit yourself voluntarily to making it more broad-based and representative."

Did Manmohan talk about ‘mandatory reservation’? He urged the industry to promote lower classes voluntarily. Is this something wrong? Why do we elite Indians abhor the concept of ‘reservations’, ‘quotas’, or ‘affirmative action’ in all forms, and discard it right away?

I will tell you why.

When we got Independence, India was ripe with favoritism, nepotism, partiality, in the form of casteism, communalism, regionalism, and various other forms very unique to India. Most often, this treatment was in favor of the elite classes. As a government, India started its fight against all these discriminatory and preferential treatment. To achieve this- they brought objectivism as a weapon – by shunning privy purses to maharajas, enforcing land reforms to dispossess landlords of their ridiculously vast land assets, and for all other selections and admission, they resorted to conducting tests. For a while, this resulted in combating off the preferential treatment, but there were too many loopholes, and soon it was clear that rich remained rich through ‘alternate’ methods, elite classes could continue filling the colleges, institutes, universities, jobs, positions, despite the tax laws, land reforms, and reservations.

B.P. Mandal created a report in late 1970s to illustrate how lower classes of India remained low in spite of all the measures taken up by Indian Government. That is now known as a controversial ‘Mandal Commission’. Indian elite fought tooth-and-nail but had to accept it. But the elite and rich still held their sway resorting to many other methods.

One of the interesting aspects to this is the much touted and over hyped word called ‘meritocracy’. The objectivism that tests & entrances introduced was now pushed to an extreme form to be called as ‘meritocracy’, a convenient word coined especially to defend India’s elite in promoting their own kin. This concept is simple. The poor go to poor schools where teachers never show up. They have no text books and can’t go to the ‘cramming-and-mugging tutorials like rich and elite classes do. They said: ‘Conduct tests as you wish, and we will get in there anyway because we will definitely fare better than those lower classes, and the in the interviews it will our guys selecting our guys again.’ This was the new approach to continue the preferential treatment using the system- now you know why nepotism, favoritism, and partiality continued to be part of us for thousands of years- we always knew how to beat the system.

The new concept also gave certain legitimacy to promote one’s own creed- now, ‘fighting for merit’ appeared very noble, unlike old times. ‘Merit’ is considered one of the virtuous values. Even Indian Industry seems to take on this mantra. The elite classes in India now responded: ‘Look, we wrote the test as you asked, and we got better marks, so take us in.’ Reservations became anathema to ‘merit’, and in the same vein they equated this ‘merit’ with ‘progress’, and ‘competitiveness’. Now you have a completely different look at ‘reservations’. It is as archaic and barbaric as ‘sati’, an abhorrent concept that should be shunned right away to pave way for the newer and better concepts called ‘meritocracy’ and ‘competitiveness’. There are people out there who believe that students who are selected through reservations become poor doctors (though they have to pass through the same stringent exams as any other student). There are some professors at IIM & IIT who believe that ‘reservation’ students will decrease the quality of its institutions, though they would have to go through same tests, interviews and discussions as other students.

Why is it that US institutes promote diversity by taking up students with lower GMAT scores if they come from challenged backgrounds? Why are so many US companies proud that their employees have different ethnic and minority groups? Are they not promoting diversity through voluntary affirmative action and still be competitive with the world companies on every level? And for some reason you will never hear the word ‘merit’ or ‘meritocracy’ in that country. I wonder why!

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Medha Patkar and the Dam

Who has the luxury to fight against big dams, nuclear weapons, thermal plants, chemical industries, and other ‘development’ activities?

Filthy rich and highly developed countries like US, Norway, France, Japan, etc.

They made their dams when they had to- by bulldozing forests, creating a new landscape, in the process killing some species, and moving people far far away from their homes, all in the name of 'progress and development'. That’s why they now have the luxury to relax, smoke a pipe and discuss the ills of such projects.

Arundhati Roy is a fake. She thinks all this ‘drama’ of supporting NBA (Narmada Bachao Andolan) will sell more of her books. And our poster boy Amir Khan, who thinks that this is real-life ‘Rang De Basanti’ pitched in to say his ‘two-cent’ worth opinion on the topic. He thinks he needs to emulate Richard Gere and U2 Bono. You know what’s wrong with all these celebrities and pseudo-intellectuals? They are also filthy rich, and are now smoking a pipe, and pondering over the purpose of their life. They suddenly realize they need to be part of a movement or a revolution otherwise their wasted life would have no meaning.

Do you know why so many ‘women organizations’ support NBA? It’s because they are all filled with these bored middle class women who are also looking for a meaning to their life- other than working at a monotonous job and serving their husband & children with food everyday. Most of them are always rebelling- first against dad and mom, then against the school and college, and then against the husband and society, and so on. They need to vent out their frustration, and they seek that avenue in these movements by sympathizing with such activists. I bet these organizations would not support NBA if it was not led by a woman. All these people- rich celebrities, attention-seeking authors, and bored wives, need to choose the right kind of struggle to attach themselves to.
If you choose Kashmir issue, its too political, if you choose Babri Masjid issue, its too religious, if you try rehabilitating begging children, its too tough- can’t see results in one’s life time. Therefore, you choose a movement which can get its rewards within one’s life time, shorter the better, and if it is a noble cause led by a woman, like rehabilitation of tribals, then its even better.

NBA (Narmada Bachao Andolan) fits the bill. It is led by a strong woman, dressed as clumsily and shabbily as possible, who reminds many of the leaders from Independence Movement. They see in her something they do not have in them. And they all extend their support with gusto to a cause they have no clue or idea about.

Most of them have no idea what is going on.

Medha Patkar, with all due respects to her will and determination, has directly contributed to poverty, famine, drought and hunger in a population bigger than that of France for the last 20 years with her obstinate obstruction of building Sardar Sarovar Dam on Narmada River. First, she was completely opposed to the dam citing movement of the tribal people. She didn’t want them to be displaced in the first place, reasoning that their lifestyle would be impacted. Here is one rattlebrained lady who thinks that India should not provide water and electricity to its millions so that few thousand tribals can continue to live in wretched poverty practicing their stone-age life style. In all other parts of India, we are doing exactly the opposite- moving such people to civilized world, giving them potty training, stopping child marriages, prohibiting sati (suttee), etc.

Only recently did she change her stance from ‘no-dam’ to ‘dam-OK-if-rehab-OK’. For all these previous years, she was just opposed to all kinds of concessions.

When India goes for nuclear tests at Pokhran, they move villages away from it, and when it goes mining for aluminum, they move towns away from it, and when it tests missiles, it asks all the villagers nearby to move. When Kashmiri Pandits move, they move forever, losing their land and lifestyle, to live in refugee camps. How come I don’t see Arundhati Roy and Amir Khan there?

[I know I am gonna get really rammed for this article]

Rajkumar’s death and Rioting Bangalore

I discover that we Indians have an unique way of mourning a death.

This is how an average Bangalorean (who also happens to be a rioter) must have thought:

“Oh! God! Rajkumar died. I am angry! He died a natural death, so what? When Indira Gandhi was assassinated, they had their revenge - they burnt up 4000 Sikhs. Even I am entitled to such a revenge! There has to be someone responsible for our beloved Rajkumar. Whom can I blame? Let me roam the streets of Bangalore and find out!

Ah! There is this small hotel serving food to workers. I do know that these workers and bachelor engineers do not have kitchens and eat out daily. So what? Do I care? This storekeeper has no respect for our great Rajkumar, our Kannada leader. He has to close down his shop, otherwise we will break the chairs, tables and break glasses. Ah! he has agreed to close, but that is too easy. I will bring down his shop anyway.

Ah! I am satisfied, having broken so many chairs, and beaten up the waiters and the owner, I am just getting started. I am still angry though- angry at this world; Angry for being miserable and poor; Of course, I know that I don’t stick to one job for more than a month- I am lazy, and spend most of the time at local store smoking cigarette, spitting paan, teasing girls, and watching cricket game at nearby electronic store.

Rajkumar died. I will miss him. In fact, everyone should miss him. If they do not miss him, I will make sure they miss him. I will teach them by torching their cars and stores. I know that he hasn’t acted in a very long time. But who cares? He was a great actor, and he died, and I want my revenge.

Let me go see his body. Man! What a big crowd! And this police is trying to stop me from seeing my beloved leader? Let’s beat the shit out of them. Oooh! They started to fire at us. I am furious now. Let’s vent our anger somewhere else. Let’s get into this five star hotel and burn it up. Yeah! Maul up these foreign tourists! How dare they enjoy staying at a nice hotel while we are mourning? Burn these nice vehicles as well. Good! I like it. I can go home now, and break few things up on my way. Who knows, when I would get this freedom again?”.

I saw a news item that says Rajkumar’s eyes were donated to two different people. There is a good chance that they might stand for elections and one of them could become a chief minister. After all, they have the same ‘vision’ and ‘foresight’ that Rajkumar had for Kannada cause.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Slow Starters have Higher IQ?

There’s an article at Science Daily which discusses the above news item. What is interesting to me is something else. I have a hypothesis based on some of my understandings on evolution of human being. I am quite fascinated by the evolution of animals (Human being in particular) and I have been pursuing this interesting for some time now. My learning is:

1. Universe has been in existence for over 12 billion years (could be 15 according to some estimates). Earth has been in existence for over 4 billion years. Life formed around 3 billions years ago. Life was primarily simple (and single cellular) for over a billion years and then it started to become complex. Dinosaurs started around 250 million years ago (and lived for 150 million years). Our ancestor species diverged from apes around 7 million years ago, and human began to act more like human around 250,000 years ago, and modern man came about 80,000 years ago. He has started to settle down (agriculture) around 10,000 years ago, and the major civilizations started around 5000 years ago. [Most of these numbers are from top of my head. Some of the definitions, like when did we actually become human, are ambiguous].

2. Humans became more intelligent because of the following reasons

a. Depleting forests and increasing grasslands forced some of our ancestors to come down to ground from the trees

b. Sudden change in our locomotion behavior (standing on two legs instead of four) allowed us to use hands for various purposes (tool making) and increased our brain size. (a big portion of our brain is devoted to using our hands)

c. Our maternal behavior, of keeping the kid close to mother, nurturing, protecting over a prolonged duration has allowed our brains to grow the fastest and the biggest from the time of birth to the age of five.

d. Size of the brain (in ratio with size of body) is extremely important measure for intelligence of a species (don’t take this on an individual level)

3. My readings on this are simple- the humans are intelligent because they have their mom to protect them against nature. They don’t have to develop the necessary (locomotion or tactile) skills to ward of enemy or find food. During this time alone, the kid’s brain grows the fastest because there is no other pressure. Compare this to another mammal (Say, a calf). It can stand the next minute it is born and can run within an hour. It starts finding its own food very soon. In these animals, the brain does not grow when it has to- that is, in the first few months and years. While it develops locomotory and survival skills the fastest, its brain does not grow enough to allow it to become intelligent.

4. Therefore, to create a smarter kid, the human child has to be protected and nurtured longer in the first few years. And that means, the kid should be growing slowly in other aspects- like talking, walking, holding, etc, so as to allow his/her brain to grow to its maximum potential (cortex thickens, etc).

5. My conclusion- Don’t push your kids to grab and hold things, walk, use his body to crawl, eat, talk, etc. Instead, just pamper it to the most and nurture it. Anyway, the kid will start doing all the above things once his brain size has grown enough.

I see many parents (here in India) who want to see their kid walking, talking, crawling, etc, before the kids of same age to prove their kid is smarter. Most of the parents get quite concerned when their kids don’t talk by a certain age, or walk by certain age, or crawl by certain age. They almost get into panic mode and push the kids to perform or they take the kid to a doctor to consult.

My hypothesis: If you want smarter kids, don’t let them do anything other than observe, feed and sleep, and meanwhil, keep telling yourself that you are allowing your kid to grow smarter.