Vantage point

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Higher Education Subsidies

The World Bank proposal to tax IITians leaving the country is a convoluted round-about idea which unnecessarily complicates things.

The "bright" idea elaborated here (Link Via Amit Varma) says that since the government subsidizes the education of IITians, and these IITians leave the country, it is effectively subsidizing the foreign countries to which they migrate. So what the government should do, according to the World Bank, is take this subsidy back when the student leaves the country.

I have an easier idea.

Stop subsidising higher education!!!!

As i have written on my blog before, and also over here, when literally millions are starving, don't have potable water, don't have access to primary education and living in inhuman conditions, if at all any taxpayer money is to be spent on subsidies, it should be to solve these problems.

Stop funding higher education. Make the students pay for it. If they don't have the money, let them take loans. With a boom in the banking sector, getting loans is easy for IIT and IIM students. And believe me, repaying these loans is NOT difficult. The salaries we get are enough to pay for it.

But under the present scenario, we get subsidized engineering and management education, and we have good incomes. So what we are doing with that money is, spending it in swanky restaurants, on great clothes, cars, ipods. That extra income can be used to pay the educational loan.

Effectively, a poor girl in rural Bihar was denied a decent primary education so that me, or any other yuppie like me could buy a wide screen TV.

You call this pro-poor?

So instead of paying out a billion dollars in subsidy and getting it back, just go ahead and de-subsidize higher education, at least until every Indian has access to basic needs.

Supporters of subsidizing higher education often use examples to make emotional appeals. They will tell us about people like Manoj Rawal, who was denied an education in Stephen's because his father is too poor to pay the fees.

Tugs at your heart right? makes you want to support the subsidy?

Just remember that for every Manoj denied higher education, there are thousands, even millions denied food, water and primary education. If you had a limited amount of money, whom would you rather help?

Who tugs your heart harder?

P.S. - Of course, I am not supporting just taking money from IIT-IIM and blindly giving it to the government schools, water boards the PDS. The delivery mechanisms need an overhaul. For example, to ensure primary education for all, we need the coupon system which will make sure the government just pays for the education, and does not waste money running schools inefficiently. Similar such mechanisms can be devised to provide citizens with the basic necessities, with the government just paying for it, instead of actually being the agency that provides them.

Clinching Proof of ISI's Trouble Formenting

Growing up, I would always read in the papers about how ISI, the Pakistani Intelligence Agency was formenting trouble in India. Bomb blasts, kidnappings, terror attacks, fake currency, you name it. In fact they were blamed for everything that went wrong.... except for maybe illicit liquor tragedies.... because in that case they would be accused of "fermenting" trouble. Ok, bad one, but now that we've gotten it out of the way, let's come to the point.

I was always skeptical about these allegations. Why would the ISI spend time making our life hell, I wondered. Then one rainy day, I got the clinching evidence that ISI was indeed messing with out lives.

It was a rainy day sometime in the 90s.... or was it the 80s? Anyway, it was a rainy day in the last 20% of the 20th century. As was my propensity then, and still is, I immediately caught cold. Copious amounts of phlegm had dedicated itself to the task of making it tough for oxygen to reach my lungs. There was also a lot of sneezing and sniffing. Western medicine had given up any hopes of curing my cold, and life used to be hell.

Then one day, my mother told me that eastern medicine had something that would make me feel better, maybe even cure the cold. I leapt at the prospect with the enthusiasm of a BJP leader at the prospect of conducting a press conference. Gimme, I yelled, and my mom went to concoct the concoction.

A few minutes later she handed me a glass with this supposed wonder-drug. I peered inside the glass and was confronted with something that did not look pretty. I know drinks aren't supposed to look pretty, but this particular drink looked downright sinister. It was yellow, and not just any yellow, but sinister yellow.

"What is it?" I suspiciously asked.

"It's called doodh haLad" said my Mom. "It is warm milk(doodh) with turmeric(haLad) powder in it. Turmeric has great medicinal properties. Combined with hot milk it will soothe your throat and kill the viruses(viri....virii?) frolicking within."

It did not look that powerful to me, but then I reasoned that if I am so scared of drinking it, maybe the viruses(it's NOT viri or virii, I checked) would be scared to death too.

Now even if we assume that the miraculous liquid does amazing things on reaching the throat, the main problem is getting to to the throat, because to do so, it has to come in touch with the tongue. And my tongue did not take kindly to it.


My mother tried to cajole me into drinking it, using the "it's good for you" argument. I responded with the effective "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!" argument. In all its years of existence, my tongue had not tasted anything as horrible as doodh haLad, and it hasn't tasted anything more horrible since (to understand how horrible it tasted, keep in mind, my tongue has also come in contact with Domino's pizzas).

That night, sniffing and sneezing, I agonised over why my own mother would put me through such an experience. Why would the Indian medicinal world consider that liquid as something everyone with common colds should drink? That is when it hit me.


Only the handiwork of the evil ISI could be behind this. I could visualise the accurate execution of their elaborate evil plans. A sustained propaganda, combined with bribing leading ayurveda experts made it possible. They spread false stories about how people were cured of colds (or at least experienced mild relief) after drinking doodh haLad. And the Indian public fell for it hook, line and sinker.

Every year, millions of children.. and adults.. are forced to go through the ordeal of drinking the vile yellow liquid. I don't know what sadistic pleasure the ISI derives from it, but I must admit that it is their most successful project till date.

Join me in foiling the ISI designs.

Say NO to doodh haLad!

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Wanted - Great Tennis Rivalry

For years now, the tennis world has been starved of any great rivalry. There has been either a pool of half a dozen players doing well or one player dominating the game for a period, but no rivalry that would fuel imaginations and polarise crowds.

How do I define a great rivalry? A great rivalry is between two people. Both these players should be among the top 4 ranks, preferrably the top 2, exchanging the top rank between them. They should be top two contendors in grandslams, with by and large equal success. And this scheme of things should last for a good half decade or so, with the rivalry beign played out.

Now using this definition, which is the last great rivalry in tennis - men's and women's? Don't say Sampras-Agassi, because though both players were great and both of them played some pretty exciting matches, there never really was a proper period when the two were at their peak at the same time and trading blows. Sampras dominated the second half of the nineties, a period during which Agassi might as well have retired from tennis. can't blame him really....he was with Brooke Shields then...ahhh...Brooke Yes, so coming back to the point, they werenever trading blows at the same period. Agassi rediscovered himself 2000 onwards, by which time Sampras was on the wane.

The last three years or so have been a mess in terms of rivalries in men's tennis. The 10 Grand Slams since 2003 have been won by 7 different men!

Women's tennis has fared little better,with each Slam won by a different woman in 2004, and the trend sure to continue this year.

To recall the game's last great rivalry, we must throw our minds back to the early 90s, when the grunting fiery Yugoslav Monica Seles was challenging the reign of Queen Steffi. In the years 91, 92 and 93, no one except for these two women won a grandslam tournament! The rivalry would surely have continued had the homicidal Graf fan Gunther Parche not stabbed the life out of it.

Tennis craves, begs and pleads for another rivalry like Graf-Seles. Or Lendl-Becker. Or Navratilova-Evert. Or Borg-McEnroe.

Or else, an entire generation will grow up thinking that what Sampras-Agassi had, was a great rivalry.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Bored of Boards

You know what is wrong with cricket today?

Well, lots of things, but at the top of the list is the top itself, i.e the people in charge of running cricket. As a cricket fan, I am sick and tired of the nonsense most cricket boards around the world are up to. As an Indian I tend to think that it is the BCCI which is the most screwed up body in world cricket, but a look around the world for the past few years has shown that almost each and every cricket board has nincompoops running the game. No wonder then that the game's popularity is still restricted to the same places as half a century back. And if you are going to say that cricket has too many rules, or is too slow to be universally popular, even if the administration shapes up, measure the adrenaline rush golf watchers get and tell me.

The BCCI has not been able to come up with a procedure to sell lucrative TV rights for over a year now. Surely, it can't be as difficult as it is being made out to be.

The $ 20 bn Ambani empire has been divided, but the puny Sri Lanka Cricket is still tangled in management issues.

Pakistan Cricket Board is still being run by army lackeys and yes men.

The Zimbabweans want affirmative action in team selection. How nice! The South Africans are resisting the idea so far, but their government is pressuring hard.

The West Indian Cricket Board feels that the players are its slaves, and feels that it can name any 11 guys and they will magically develop the skills to be a class team.

The ECB, Cricket Australia and the New Zealand board, as if almost ashamed by any lack of such problems keep digging up issues like player safety in Kenya, Mugabe in Zimbabwe, and Alice in Wonderland.

Lording(pardon the pun) over them is the ICC, which is as toothless as a ninety year old with a calcium deficiency, which gets its jollies by coming up with more and more medieval rules to punish players.

Adieu Solkar

Paying homage to the first and arguably the only specialist forward short leg fielder in test cricket history - Eknath Solkar.

His life is what great movies are made of - the son of a poor groundsman living in a hut, rising to be a test cricketer, and carving a name for himself in the then-unglamorous discipline of fielding. That too in days when there were no helmets to protect you.

The famed Indian spin quartet has admitted more than once that they owed a lot of their wickets to him, because he conjured catches from out of thin air.

The demise of Solkar, close on the heels of the great Mushtaq Ali, has robbed Indian cricket of two of its most unconventional "heroes".


Finally watched Hazaaron Khwaishen Aisi. Was delighted to come across a movie that is set in turbulent times and against a backdrop of ideological upheavals, and yet does not push any ideology. HKA is just a story about those days, told very well, and essayed by brilliant performances.

Everyone else must have written a lot about this film, so I will just mention a couple of subtle jibes at the methodology adopted by politicians or activists in our country -

Jibe #1

Scene- A rally where some speakers are giving a speach about "true" socialism, and a crowd, made up mainly of poor peasants is in attendance.

Speaker: Sirf 'samaajwaad' shabd jodney se hi koi sachcha samaajwaadi nahi bantaa. Yaad rakhiye, Hitler ki party ke naam mein bhi samaajwaad tha.
Peasant A to Peasant B: Ye Hitler kaun hovey?
Peasant B to Peasant A: Pata nahi, mhaarey gaon se to naa hai!

An excellent illustration of how many well-meaning activists fail because they just don;t speak the same language as their audience

Jibe #2

Another rally, where a speaker at the end of a rally gives a cry - "JAAAAAAAGO!!!", and the camera pans to a peasant, who had peacefully dozed off, waking up because of it.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Cabinet Mission Plan 1946 - An Opportunity Missed

The past few weeks of Jinnah-bashing and Jinnah-praise have suddenly made people nostalgic. Was Jinnah black, white or grey? Did he alone cause the partition? Or was the Congress to blame as well?

I have always believed that the greatest opportunity missed in keeping the then-India united, and also putting in place a perfect political system, was badly screwed up by the Congress in 1946. I am referring to the Cabinet Mission Plan, which Jinnah and the Muslim League accepted but Nehru and the Congress rejected. While Jinnah's life from 1937 onwards is a long series of blunders, the decision to accept the Plan stands out as a wise one which could have saved the day had the Congress kept an open mind.

I don't know how many readers will remember the Plan from among the dozens of plans and commissions that our history books are filled with. Folks who have written our history books obviously have a statist policies in mind, so the Cabinet Mission Plan is rubbished and the Congress' decision is rejected.

Let us re-visit the plan and evaluate it, benefitting from the experience of independent India. As I have written before, I am of the opinion that the Central Government in India is too powerful and this Delhi-centric polity is harmful for the country. States and even local governments need to have more power than they currently do. In an ideal scenario, the Central Government should be in charge only of National Defence and Foreign Policy, as all other issues are implemented and have an impact only at a local level.

So while we currently espouse the cause of small government, we also need to espouse the cause of a smaller Central Government.

Now let us look at the Cabinet Mission Plan -

- India would be a Federation consisting of British provinces and the Indian Princely States.
- The Federal government would deal with defence, foreign affairs and communications. All other subjects will be looked after by the units of the federation.
- There would be three groups of the provinces. Group 'A' was to include Madras, Bombay, U.P., Bihar, Central Province and Orissa; Group 'B' was to comprise of Punjab, Sind, North West Frontier Province and the British Baluchistan (this Group was to constitute Muslim Majority areas), and Group 'C' was to include Bengal and Assam. These groups would draft their own constitutions in consultation with different provinces included in each group. A province could opt out of the group by a majority decision of its legislature.
- A constituent Assembly consisting of 389 members - 292 from provinces, 4 from the territories governed by chief Commissioners and 93 from Indian Princely States - would draft the Constitution of India.
- An Interim Government at the Centre consisting of representatives of all communities would be installed on the basis of parity between the representatives of the Hindus and Muslims.

Imagine a subcontinent like this. Would it not make more sense? The groupings are quite spot on as they segregate India into the three broad sub-cultures that exist. Even in the current Indian set-up, it is the Peninsula+Plains (Group A) part that is getting the most focus as it constitutes the maximum voters. The interests of the North East and Bengal (Group C) are not pursued as vigorously as they should be.

An India under the Cabinet Mission Plan would be an India with stronger state governments, and segregated realistically, yet it would have been more united, because Unity would not have cost any province its freedom.

One Migrant We Won't Mind

Hey, Bangladesh. I keep hearing about how thousands, even lakhs of you keep crossing over into India every day in search for a better life, employment etc. I don't know about the rest of you, but one guy whom we Indians would welcome with open arms is Mohammad Ashraful. After his historic century trounced the Aussies, he followed it up with one of the fastest half centuries in the game against England, eventually getting dismissed short of what would have been the fastest ODI century scored outside Asia. He got 94 off 52 balls.

His mom though is probably still not convinced if he can face bowlers taller than him. Maybe Steve Harmison, Jason Gillespie and Glenn Mcgrath should have a chat with the lady and put her mind at rest.

And anyway, luck is on his side. How else do you explain the ball hitting the stumps off the first delivery he faced yesterday, but not dislodging the bails? Or maybe it was Chris Temlett's bad luck.

Liberal Farming

I have often written about how the key to eradicating poverty from India is not less, but more liberalisation. A lot of sectors which employ the poor are still under the inefficient, corrupt, unproductive and stifling grip of state control and monopoly. Look at an ailing sector and you will find that the problem is the state.

Take agriculture for instance. The stifling controls allow very little flexibility for the farmers. They don;t have the freedom to sell their produce to whoever they want, since procurement of produce is (until now) a government monopoly. So while many other businessmen can negotiate and then decide whom to sell their wares too, farmers have to depend on the state.

There is a welcome news on its way though.

The Maharashtra Government has announced that it will allow private parties to enter the market and the state monopoly will be broken.

The 285 agriculture produce market committees (APMC) in the state will have to pull up their socks soon as competition from private markets is just round the corner. The entry of contract farming and direct selling is also expected to keep the APMCs on their toes.

To understand how this will make life easier for the farmers, compare the attitude and service levels of BSNL prior to telecom privatisation, and after it.

"We are exploring the possibility of permitting private markets at Tathawade near Pune and Igatpuri near Nasik as the existing APMCs there can not accommodate the increasing business vol-ume", Patil revealed. He remarked that facilities like pre-cooling, grading, packing and ripening chambers will be provided at the private markets and the APMCs will have to upgrade their facilities if they wanted to maintain their business. "Else farmers will have the choice to sell their produce to markets that give better prices and offer required facilities", he pointed out.

Farmers will now also have the option of going in for contract farming.

On the decision to allow contract farming, Patil said that a group of farmers will be allowed to enter into contract with private buyers by signing an agreement about issues like price and quality of pro-duce. "This does not mean that farmers will lose ownership of their land, the agreement will be only about supplying the desired pro-duce at the pre-fixed rates which will not be impacted by market fluctuations", he clarified. He said that this has been successfully tried at Punjab and Haryana.

Direct marketing will also be allowed, cutting the middlemen and optimising the value chain.

The success of this act will be a great tool while selling reforms to the masses.

Bhelwaala in the Merit List

Another story from the Pune TOI. The incredible and inspiring story of Vaibhav Chidrewar, a bhelpuri vendor who stood 13th in the HSC Merit List -

Bhelwala by evening, merit holder by day
By Sujit Tambade & Suneet Bhave/TNN

Pune: His story could match that of a Bollywood flick. A poor boy who sells bhel to support his family and still secures a place in the higher secondary certificate (HSC) exam merit list, his life is the stuff films are made of.

But this is no fiction. It is the real life story of Vaibhav Chidrewar, who had also found a place in the SSC (std. X) merit list despite severe odds.

Vaibhav’s father, Avinash, left home a few years ago after suffering a setback in business, forcing his mother to sell bhel on a handcart. Vaibhav, a student of Abasaheb Garware college, used to help her in the evening hours and despite the hardships, secured 13th rank in the HSC merit list (93 per cent marks) this year. However, the future still looks uncertain as he has no money for higher education.

Living in a small flat at Dhankawdi with his mother and younger brother, securing a place in the HSC merit list did not come as a surprise to him. He had secured 19th rank in the SSC merit list two years ago.

“Now I don’t know what career option to choose. I don’t know whether to go for chemical engineering or electrical engineering. Raising money for higher education is my major concern,” he told TOI.

While talking about his future plans, Vaibhav explains, “I am not happy with my marks in the CET. If I don’t get admission in the College of engineering, Pune (COEP), I will have to consider private engineering colleges.”

His mother, Chhaya, is optimistic about her son’s future. “After his achievements in the SSC exam, we were not expecting him to secure a place in the merit list. But he has achieved it again through sheer hard work.” She said that if he went away from home for better opportunities, she would have no regrets.

Shubhada Mali, who runs a charitable institution called ‘Ishvastha’ with Parimal Chanchani and Pravin Kulkarni to help needy students, has been helping Vaibhav right from class nine. “We have conducted an aptitude test for him and the result shows that he is inclined towards electrical engineering. But, while studying, he also has to share the responsibility of his home, so we’ll help him choose the correct option,” she added.

There are more hurdles to cross. Vaibhav and his mother have to repay loans taken by his father for his business. During the all-important HSC year, the family was facing the danger of getting evicted from their home for failing to clear their liabilities. The danger still lurks.

Vaibhav had previously also figured in the SSC Merit List.

After this story appeared in Sakal, Pune's highest selling Marathi daily, and also on paper's website ESakal, readers from all over the city have offered financial help to foot his fees, and other expenses like books and conveyance. In fact Marathi readers abroad email-ed Sakal enquiring where they should send cheques.

CSWs also Offended!

A few days back K S Sudarshan, the RSS Supremo kicked up a lot of dust by comparing politicians with prostitutes. All the politicians were very offended at being compared with prostitutes.

It turns out that prostitutes were even more offended at being compared with politicians!! An article in the 17th June edition (could not find the article online) of the Pune TOI says -

CSWs pen their angry reaction to RSS chief

Pune: It’s now the turn of Pune’s prostitutes to settle a few issues with Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief K.S. Sudarshan, who recently raised eyebrows by likening prostitutes to politicians.

Following Bharatiya Janata Party president L.K. Advani’s return to his post after the furore over his remarks on Pakistan founder M.A. Jinnah, Sudarshan had translated a Sanskrit verse into Hindi which said that politicians change their stand just as veshyas (prostitutes) change their clothes and appearance.

About 37 commercial sex workers (CSWs) from Pune’s red-light area have objected to this comparison with politicians in an open protest letter to Sudarshan.

They expressed “regret at the quality of thought in prominent leaders and so-called protectors of culture and morals”. “We have told you of our compulsion; now tell us what are the compulsions of politicians,” the letter, released on Thursday, stated.
Penned by CSWs affiliated to ‘Saheli’, the letter said that “by comparing politicians to us, you have not only insulted us but also womanhood. We sell our bodies to earn a livelihood as we are helpless and have no option.”

It pointed out that the condition and fate of CSWs has not changed in the past 100 years. “Our plight, our viewpoint and principles remain the same. Many of our generations have been ruined because of injustice, violation of human rights and exploitation by society,” it added.

The CSWs have urged Sudarshan to remember their circumstances before making any comparisons in the future, and said that the RSS chief should try and understand their plight.

Tejaswi Sevekari, project co-ordinator of Saheli, told TNN that though a majority of the CSWs were illiterate, they have a library of newspapers where important news items are read out to them by social workers everyday.

The CSWs were so upset with Sudarshan that they decided to register their protest through a letter. Stating that a copy is being sent to Sudarshan shortly, Sevekari said, “We will get his address from the local RSS office.”

Well, what do you have to say now, Mr. Chaalak?

Monday, June 20, 2005

Bombay Blogger's Meet - June

Time - 3 p.m.
Date - 26th June 2005 (Sunday)
Venue - Barista, next to Regal Cinema, behind the Taj

Be there if you are a blogger from Mumbai.

Sunday, June 19, 2005


Probably not the best way to popularise Formula 1 in the United States, eh?

Well, at least an Indian driver got points, that too five of them.

The FIA better change this ridiculous one-set-of-tyres-only rule immediately. There's still half a season left.

Speaking of ridiculous, I wonder what the Aussies now feel about saying that they have spotted a weakness in Pietersen.

Ashrafull Marks to Bangladesh

A sleep backlog stretching over the entire week caught up with me last night as I started feeling sleepy at 10 p.m. Within minutes, I was deep in slumberland. A while later though, my mobile started ringing. I think I let it ring for a few minutes before picking up to see which deathwish-ridden #$#%$#$% was rousing me from my sleep. The display informed me it was Rajk, noted Coincidentist and Cricket Fanatic, who was trying to call me. I hoped for his own physical well being that it wasn't the Coincidentist (what's that? that's the topic for another blog) in him calling me. It wasn't. It was the Cricket Fanatic who informed me that Bangladesh needed 32 runs to win from 4 overs with 6 wickets in hand. Oh yes, the opposition was Australia.

Understandably, my first reaction was to dismiss the call as a part of my dream. But a painful self-pinch later, I realised that he was serious. Bangladesh was on the verge of beating Australia in a one day international! I switched on the TV, searched for ESPN, and sure enough, they needed 23 off 17 balls, though the man who got them this far, Mohammad Ashraful, had been dismissed caught on the boundary. Fromn there on two guys named Aftab Ahmed and Mohammad Rafique cool-headedly guided their team to a victory with four balls to spare. And the guys who bowled the 3.2 overs conceding 32 runs were not some rookies. They were Mcgrath and Gillespie.

Yes, Bangladesh had beaten Australia!!

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Hurriyat's Pak Visit

The Hurriyat went to PoK, crossed over into Pakistan, and came back. Exactly whom did the visit benefit and whom did it harm? I am confused, because both the Pakistani hardliners, like that hypocrite terror-monger Syed Ali Shah Geelani, and the Indian hard-liners, like the VHP, are upset at the visit. The common man on the street is not sure what to make of it.

There is no denying the fact the Hurriyat guys took a lot of liberties with rules, regulations and protocol. They said they would cross over on the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus, but actually travelled in private vehicles. Secondly, they crossed over into Pakistan without a visa, even though the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad route has been opened only on the conditions that visitors restrict themselves to J&K and POK.

Now to look at what the Hurriyat leaders said while in Pakistan. It was all surprisingly devoid of any hatred towards India. They urged, albeit unsuccessfully, the terrorists in Pakistan to give up the gun and join the peace process. They spoke about how terrorism was disrupting life in the valley. And they made optimistic noises about the whole process.

Of course, Yaseen Malik, whose mental sanity is on par with V.P.Singh, Arjun Singh and Murli Manohar Joshi, made us all laugh extremely hard at the expense of Sheikh Rasheed, the Pakistani Information Minister. . At a function, compelled to praise his hosts, with a sentiment that Advani would understand only too well, Malik got nostalgic about the good ole days when Rasheed was a part of training them for terrorism at the camps in PoK. The ground suddenly slipped from beneath the feet of Sheikh Rasheed, a part of the government of Musharraf's "modern Islamic state".

The Pakistanis went blue in the face denying it, side-stepped several uncomfortable questions about their Info-Min being a former terrorist trainer, and looked towards the sky. Yaseen Malik, inspite of the fact that every word was captured by TV cameras, denied ever saying it, and said he had been misquoted. This standard defence even in the face of TV evidence, proves that Malik is at heart an Indian politician.

So what did the visit achieve? For one, it sidelined Geelani's hardline faction which still believes that terrorism is the answer in Kashmir. It sent positive messages as no venom was spewed anywhere. The Hurriyat fellows also ended up supproting Musharraf's "Kashmir Formula of the Week", which this week happens to suggest autonomy sans independence, soemthing India would willingly love to talk about. So we also saw the Hurriyat, for the first time, even if tacitly, letting go of the 'Azaadi' concept.

Rains, Please!!!

I have had it up to here with this sweltering heat. Every taxi ride I take for every sales call I make seems like hell. Please, please, please, send some rains this way, And by that I mean full bodied black clouds lashing Mumbai, clogging drains, flooding subways, delaying trains, etc.... and more importantly cooling things off.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

He Predicted Hitler

Was chatting with Sumeet, and he told me about how Germans tend to be conformists. It reminded me of this book I read a couple of years back, Three Men on the Bummel by Jerome K Jerome. It is a sequel to the more famous Three Men in a Boat, and describes a bicycle trip through Germany.

The book is not as funny as its prequel of course, mainly because large portions of the book are devoted to critiquing the German nation, people, and culture. What makes it fascinating is that the book, which was released in the year 1900, gives a serendipitous warning about how there will be trouble if the orderly, obedient Germans are led by a Government which is not quite good. It also gives a fair explanation about how the German soldiers could execute the holocaust without feeling too much guilt.

Produced below is the quasi-clairvoyant excerpt -

The Germans are a good people. On the whole, the best people perhaps in the world; an amiable, unselfish, kindly people. I am positive that the vast majority of them go to Heaven. Indeed, comparing them with the other Christian nations of the earth, one is forced to the conclusion that Heaven will be chiefly of German manufacture. But I cannot understand how they get there. That the soul of any single individual German has sufficient initiative to fly up by itself and knock at St. Peter's door, I cannot believe.
My own opinion is that they are taken there in small companies, and passed in under the charge of a dead policeman.

Carlyle said of the Prussians, and it is true of the whole German nation, that one of their chief virtues was their power of being drilled. Of the Germans you might say they are a people who will go anywhere, and do anything, they are told. Drill him for the
work and send him out to Africa or Asia under charge of somebody in uniform, and he is bound to make an excellent colonist, facing difficulties as he would face the devil himself, if ordered. But it is not easy to conceive of him as a pioneer. Left to run
himself, one feels he would soon fade away and die, not from any lack of intelligence, but from sheer want of presumption.

The German has so long been the soldier of Europe, that the military instinct has entered into his blood. The military virtues he possesses in abundance; but he also suffers from the drawbacks of the military training. It was told me of a German servant, lately released from the barracks, that he was instructed by his master to deliver a letter to a certain house, and to wait there for the answer. The hours passed by, and the man did not return. His master, anxious and surprised, followed. He found the man where he had been sent, the answer in his hand. He was waiting for further orders. The story sounds exaggerated, but personally I can credit it.

The curious thing is that the same man, who as an individual is as helpless as a child, becomes, the moment he puts on the uniform, an intelligent being, capable of responsibility and initiative. The German can rule others, and be ruled by others, but he cannot rule himself. The cure would appear to be to train every German for an
officer, and then put him under himself. It is certain he would order himself about with discretion and judgment, and see to it that he himself obeyed himself with smartness and precision.

For the direction of German character into these channels, the schools, of course, are chiefly responsible. Their everlasting teaching is duty. It is a fine ideal for any people; but before buckling to it, one would wish to have a clear understanding as to
what this "duty" is. The German idea of it would appear to be: "blind obedience to everything in buttons."
It is the antithesis of the Anglo-Saxon scheme; but as both the Anglo-Saxon and the Teuton are prospering, there must be good in both methods.
Hitherto, the German has had the blessed fortune to be exceptionally well governed; if this continue, it will go well with him. When his troubles will begin will be when by any chance something goes wrong with the governing machine. But maybe his method has the advantage of producing a continuous supply of good governors.

Sumeet tells me that the German of 2005 is very similar to the German of 1900.

You can read the whole book here at Project Gutenberg in case you're interested.

Anantashram vs Mahesh Lunch Home

A few weeks back I wrote about Anantashram, the old seafood speciality place in Khotachiwadi deserved to go out of business, because they had taken their customers for granted, and remained stuck in a time warp.

In a city like Mumbai, or indeed any big city in India, running a restaurant successfully is not very difficult. Don't get me wrong. I don't mean people like Madhu have it easy. Running a restaurant is hard work. But it is a business which rewards those who work hard, innovate, prepare good food and have good service. If a restaurant is failing in an Indian city, it is doing something horribly wrong.

So if Anantashram shut down, they did something wrong. There are others who did things right and succeeded.

I visited one such restaurant this week, Mahesh Lunch Home. I visited the Juhu branch, but started off in fort as a lunch home, i.e a simple place where people come just for having a fixed lunch menu. Today it has grown to be a fairly swanky establishment. A good meal will cost you about 400-500 per head. Yet, the restaurant is doing riproaringly well. Getting a table there is difficult even on weekdays.

I am sure they are doing this well because they changed with time. They adapted well with the customer demands. For instance I went there with some colleagues at 3 p.m. We were told that the last lunch orders are taken at 3:30 pm. Yet, they did take orders way after the deadline. They knew that turning down orders means refusing business. Not only do you lose revenue, you also lose goodwill.

Mahesh Lunch Home thus succeeded. While Anantashram which prided itself on "not taking any order after 9 p.m., eve if the PM comes to eat", failed.

Friday, June 10, 2005

BJP Bow(l)ing Badly

The Advani sopa opera ended in a whimper with the resignation being withdrawn. He pulled the whole gimmick to grow in stature as a national leader. To show that he could say what he wanted, even if it didn't toe the Sangh line. And that if others didn't like it, he would just resign.

By withdrawing the resignation, he has eating one of the biggest humble pies ever. Four days is all it took for him to come running back after no one in the party except for Vajpayee and that Sahib Singh dude, came to his defence very strongly. After resigning in a huff, and making statements like he would not reconsider his decision, it seemed like he was burning his bridges, taking a bold step, breaking a path. Now, he has eaten up his own words, and by doing so, has in fact lost face.

His credibility, never really a strong point, has nose-dived even further, giving his opponents more ammo for their already over-flowing arsenal. I am sure the BJP's rivals are having a hard time figuring out how to deal with all these gifts. It's like bowling several consecutive overs of full tosses and the slog overs......after bringing all the fielders in the ring.......and bowling no-balls....

With every passing week, the BJP just adds to this euphemistic list.

Cooperation, Socialism, Capitalism, etc

Michael Higgins says something in this post.
Kunal agrees here.
Sarika disagrees here.

Thursday, June 09, 2005


Arundhati Roy, in her latest salvo, targets, of all possible business entities, mobile phone companies!!!! She lashes out at poverty and environmental issues while training guns on the mobile boom.

This line of thought (and I use the word very loosely) is an excellent example of Roy's bafflingly bizarre logic. It is also an excellent example of how left-liberals, especially in India, earn a lot of sympathy admiration by just raising issues that tug at your heart, rather than say anything positive or concrete.

Prima facie, what Roy says may make sense to a lot of people. They will feel guilty thinking, crores of Indians are starving and here I am celebrating the fact that I can make a mobile phone call at just 40 paise. How can we, the vilified "middle class" be so evil and rob the poor just for our mobile phones?

But think logically and you will see that her argument (again i use the word rather loosely) has excellent potential to be used as manure.

Roy says - "Are you going to starve to death dreaming of a mobile phone or you going to have control of the resources that are available to you and have been for generations, but have been taken away so that someone else can have a mobile phone?"


How on earth can someone say that the mobile phones have come at the expense of poor people?

The mobile phone revolution in India is funded entirely by private investment. The government has not "wasted", if you will, our tax money, on setting up mobile phone networks. It ir private money, most of it invested by the foreigners.

In fact if anything, private mobile operators have contributed to public money in the form of the huge licensing fees that they were made to pay, and the several other charges they have to pay.

Not even the stupidest person would say that resources were taken away from feeding the poor to invest in mobile telephony. But Roy would.

It infuriates me to see that something so positive, i.e the mobile revolution, which has in fact empowered a lot of people across the country, which is an excellent case study of how privatisation can uplift sectors destroyed by government monopoly, and which has provided jobs to so many people, is actually being painted as evil and by some warped sadistic logic, responsible for the millions of starving Indians.

She is fittingly called the verbal terrorist. Just like terrorists, she has a warped logic. Just like terrorists, she ambushes innocent people using wrong means.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Another Tiny Story - The Triumph

He stood there, trying hard to hide his nervousness. It was do or die now. He had to succeed.

"You can do it!", he psyched himself up as the crucial moment approached, "You have scored 4 goals in a football match, run 100 metres in under 11 seconds, and benchpressed a 100 kgs. You can do this."

He looked around again to evaluate his opponents, his rivals, his competitors. An old pro once advised him that the key to success is in thinking of them as collaborators rather than competitiors. Use their expertise to your advantage, he had been advised.

The moment approached even closer. He reminded himself of his father who had won medals at the national level, his grandfather who represented India in football, and his ancestors who fought the britishers, the Mughals, and no doubt, even Alexander's armies.

The moment was here. He had to succeed and cover himself with glory. He took in a deep breath and rushed ahead..........

.... A few moments later, his face glowed with the pride of triumph. He had done it. He had succeeded. This was a famous victory for him. He tried to pump his fist in the air, but he couldn't, as there were bodies pressing into him from all sides.

He had managed to get into the 8:40 fast local at the first attempt on his very first day in Mumbai. The scent of victory smelt sweet, mixed with sweat and different brands of deodorants.

Tags Better Than Betelnuts

It turns out Book Tags are much more effective than betelnuts if you want to get a talented writer to restart blogging. Satyen's blog sees some action after almost two years as he posts a response to the book tag.

Jinnah Jaisa Koi Nahi

The BJP in the past year has been churning out one superhit soap opera after another. First we had "Kyunki Sanyaasin Bhi Kabhi CM Thi", which was a smashing success. It was followed by "Press Mein Nikla Hoga off-the-record Quote". Then recently there was "Kaun Banega Next BJP-pati".

The latest hit is "Jinnah Jaisa Koi Nahin".

That's right. Of all the possible catalysts that could have precipitated a public crisis in the BJP and its sangh Parivar, it turned out to be M.A. Jinnah, the Father of Pakistan. Advani, on a trip to Pakistan, found himself compelled to make some charitable remarks about the man India textbooks paint as one of the biggest villains in modern history. Now Advani was wodnering what he should say that wouldn't get him into trouble with the masters in RSS and the disapproving cousins in the VHP. He suddenly remembered one word that is uttered as an expletive by all the Saffronites - "Secular"! Why yes, whenever anyone is to be vilified, M/s Sudarshan, Madhav, Singhal and Togadia spit the word "secular" in his direction. Wouldn't they lvoe it whent he ultimate insult is hurled at the Father of Pakistan. Maybe Sudarshanji would send him some orange barfi and Togadiaji would present him a gilded trishul. So he went ahead and called Jinnah secular.

So one can sympathise with Advani as he scratched his head about why everyone got so upset. The RSS called it disgraceful, the VHP alled him a traitor, and of coruse, his old friends, the Congress, washed their hands in the proverbial flowing Ganges, and expressed disgust.

The Congress reaction, he could stomach. After all they consider "secular" as being a good word, something that makes even the most hardened criminals kosher. But why were the RSS and VHP angry with him? And apparently, some BJP leaders were also at it, doing what they do best, shower off-the-record quotes.

Advani sulked for a couple of days, and then resigned. Here he had hurled the biggest insult at Jinnah and his Saffron pals were yelling at him?


It is fun as the soap opera now unfolds. Everyone and his uncle who is from the saffron sangh is making very diplomatic statements, not willing to displease the Advani supporting faction, nor the extremist faction. People from other parties are making full use of this "free-for-all" and each leader is lashing out at Advani in an original way, of course, starting it by saying "This is the BJP's internal matter....".

Lalu says Advani should stop this drama and quit the RSS. Pawar wonders why Advani needed to go to Pakistan to get a secular image. Pranab says this shows the BJP's intolerance. Arjun Singh (of all people) says that Advani is losing his mental balance.

The media meanwhile is having a field day, as soundbytes are flowing in from all directions. And Ekta Kapoor is cribbing because the TRPs of her shows are plunging because of the BJP.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Bacchan aur Bacchan

Saw Bunty Aur Babli yesterday.

It is admirable that the Yashraj-Dharma gang, after a syrupy decade of family-weddings-romance-kitsch, has started diversifying a bit. Dhoom was a beginning, and Kaal was another step in the same direction. In Bunty Aur Babli, we see another movie which does not spend reels upon reels in showing weddings. The story theme is a combination of 70s masala flicks and Catch Me If You Can.

So how is the movie? Despite having all the potential ingredients to come up with a winner, the movie disappoints. The fact that it is good in fact excellent in patches, further underlines the failure of the writer-director team to deliver.

The glaring Achilles heel of the film for me is it's booooooring songs. Except for the catcy 'Dhadak Dhadak', all the other songs are below-mediocre, and their frequent interruptions and length totally spoil the mood.

I liked the first hour of the movie or so, simply because the whole Kanpur-Lucknow part is depicted so realistically. It is actually shot in the two cities, and the mannerisms of the people, their habits, clothes etc are captured perfectly. Kinda made me nostalgic for the two years I spent in Lucknow.

Some of the con jobs B&B pull are well written and hilarious, like the Q.Q.Qureshi one and especially the one in which they sell the Taj Mahal. The scene where there is a mob protesting outside the Minister's house has to be one of the most hilarious scenes in recent years.

B&B need the Minister (a direct jab at Mayawati) to leave her office so they pay a mob of people to go and demonstrate in front of her house for no reason. She has to rush home to talk to the mob. The mob is really making no particular point, and is just yelling the standard cliches.

Mob Leader - Taanashahi nahi chalegi!
Minister - Kya hua? Kya chahiye?
Mob leader - Humaari maange poori karo!
Minister - Kya hai tumhari maange????
Mob Leader - Angrez Bharat Chodo!!!
Minister - Angrez???????

The whole sequence was rip-roaringly funny.

Sadly, after the scene, the movie plummets downhill. The standard Yashraj effect shows with a lot of sentimotionality thrown in. And as the movie draws to the close, the director has no clue how to end it and makes quite a hash of the "climax".

Abhishek does a good job, and Rani too does fine (though her crying is extrrrrremely irritating). Amitabh is largely wasted, and his characterisation is very obfuscated.

My advice - give it a pass, and only watch the funny scenes when the movie is released on TV some months later.

Tag, I'm IT!

Finally, I get off my bum and do something about this book tag that Yazad has chipkao-ed on me last week.

Total Number of Books I Own: Must be between two hundred and three hundred. That is still not even 1/10th of the number of books I actually want to own.

Last book I bought: Ulysses by James Joyce. Didn't own a copy of it so far.

Last Book I Read: The Marathi book "Yuganta", by Iravati Karve. It's a compilation of Karve's essays about the Mahabharat which appeared in newspapers through the 1960s. Karve, a historian, writes the essays in an endeavour to view the Mahabharat as an event in history, cutting out the mythological fantasy frills that it may have collected along the way. It also "humanises" many characters, and offers a really unqiue perspective on the epic and its central players. The book has also been translated into English, and is available in most bookstores.

Five Books That Mean a Lot to Me: Most bloggers will agree that this list is a function of the time at which the post is written. If I had written it yesterday, I might have listed 5 totally different books. So this is the list I have come up with today, 5th of June 2005. While this list may change tomorrow, the names will almost surely be from a list of 20-odd books which mean a lot to me -

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand - Most people say Rand's books change their lives and they way they think about the world. I was never one of them, because my thinking was always by and large Objectivist. This book gave me a goood reference and an excellent articulation of a philosophy closest to my personal convictions.

Macbeth by William Shakespeare - Of all the Bard's creations, this one is my favourite. It is mysterious, unpredictable, dark, poignant, and rich. No wonder then that Maqbool is also one of my favourite movies of all time.

"Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!": Adventures of a Curious Character by Richard P. Feynman - This "autobiography" is a very unique one. It consists mainly of anecdotes, but still manages to convey the joi de vivre that Feynman exemplified. In addition to it, the underlying theme is how to lead a truly "intelligent" life, understanding things you do by experimenting, rather than learning stuff from textbooks. The books makes you want to be a "curious character" too, and shatters the stereotype that physicists are just unidimensional geeks. Why this book means a lot to me is, that it is an inspiration for me to live my life like Feynman, doing something new, exploring mysteries, living 'intelligently', and having a lot of fun in the process.

The H2G2 Trilogy in Five Parts by Douglas Adams - Do I even need to explain why this book means a lot to me?

Vyakti AaNi Valli by P.L. "PuLa" Deshpande - This book, which won the 1965 Sahitya Akadami Award, is my favourite from the many that the Marathi legend PuLa has written. It is a collection of character sketches, most of them fictional, but drawn heavily from real life. Each character sketch is priceless, and they all make you laugh, cry, nod in agreement or shake your head in amazement.

Tag five people and have them do this on their blogs: I am taking the liberty of tagging a few more than 5.

Sarika Chuni
Sunil Joshi
Satyen Kale
Pushkar Paradkar
Tony Xavier
B.V. Harish Kumar
George Thomas

Happy Tagging!

P.S. - Check this post by Amit Varma to read all the other tags in the Indian blogdom so far. Nice way to learn about great books.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Freedom vs Sovereignty

Freedom can mean different things in different places. One country where "freedom" is perceived the closest to what it should be, in my opinion, is America (of course, there are some SCandinavian countries too). Freedom in such countries is personal freedom, the ability of an individual to do as he pleases, as long as it does not harm anyone else, or infringe on someone else's freedom. The state in such countries does try its best to protect this freedom, by putting in place the framework, in form of laws and punishments for those who infringe on freedom. Of course, such frameworks are not perfect yet, as seen from the legislation against gay marriages in most American states, but the intent is there.

In addition to this framework, what these countries also have is a population which seems to understand and internalise this concept of freedom. This understanding is evident from both the ferocity with which they protect their own freedom, as well as the respect they give to others' freedom. Of course, again, there are exceptions, as seen from the gay marriage issue, but by and large, people in such countries show a true understanding of the word freedom.

Now let's come to India.

What does "freedom" mean in India? I am afraid most people think of freedom as "sovereignty". For most Indians, we became free on 15th August 1947, because the state apparatus was run by our own people from that day onwards, as opposed to some foreigners. However, we have never really had a "freedom movement". For us, freedom meant the freedom to sing Vande Mataram, instead of God Save the King. Freedom meant being able to fly a tricolour instead of a union jack.

All these things are expressions of sovereignty and NOT freedom. In India, we take our sovereignty very very seriously, because it is something we struggled for, and like anything hard-earned, we value it. But we never really fought hard for our freedom. There has been no satyagraha in front of the Sena Chief's house demanding that he not infringe on our right to celebrate Valentine's Day. There has been no protest rally against banning of books, though there have been several rallies demanding bans. There hasn't been widespread protest against some Draconian laws, like the ones which make holding hands on marine drive an offence. When the government bans depiction of smoking in movies, there are just token protests.

Whatever little freedom we have, is thanks to the guys who wrote our constitution, because they were influenced by some of the truly "free" countries. We never really demanded too much freedom.

There was a long struggle for Indian sovereignty, and we won it, and attained sovereignty.

Our freedom struggle is yet to start. We Indians, as a people, are neither possessive about our freedom, nor do we respect others' freedom.


Jatin adds via email -

Honestly we can't compare ourselves with Americans, especially when thir history and their thoughts about freedom and liberty etc. are so different from ours. Even though we are a "free" country but how many Indians are truely free. Till 1/4 of us remain below poverty, till we remain poor, till we accept stuff such as castes etc we cannot really call ourselves free. We have so much baggage tied to us. We fought for our freedome just like the Americans did, the only difference being they did it more than 200 years ago and we did it a lil over 60 years ago with too many of us still struggling to really grasp what it means.

The post is right about the constitution, that document is going to keep developing and helping us attain the freedom we fought for, as we grow and hopefully prosper, we will truely come to treasure and understand what it means to be free.


Sarika makes some very good points in this post


Rajagopal responds on his blog here - Individual freedom - India vs America


Aayush's post in response.


Aman writes in -

You have some very interesting ideas in your article titled “Freedom vs Sovereignty”. I can’t help agreeing with most of your views, but with some patriotic reluctance.
Your views on us misinterpreting our ‘Sovereignty’ as ‘Freedom’ after the British left from India, seems like a bit of an exaggeration. After the initial years of independence, the government did whatever it could to make laws that would not take away individual freedom. There has been gross failures in implementing those laws over the last 58 years. The unwanted practices in the administrative machinery have led to the choking of legal implementation which may have led to the curbing of individual freedom.
However I feel that it is unfair for people like you and me to conclude that individual freedom has indeed been taken away.
We’re part of the urban set up – a minority. The real India resides in the villages. The real India is not bothered whether they are allowed to hold hands on Marine Drive or elsewhere nor are they bothered whether they can celebrate Valentine’s day. All they’re looking for is the basic means of livelihood. The real question is – has the Government ensured their freedom? Probably not. But then who are we (urbanites) to say anything. Compared to the real India seems like our freedom has been ensured.
I hope you can successfully rebut me on this and give us urbanites something concrete to crib about.


Thursday, June 02, 2005

The Tiniest Story I have Written

I am spent, I am over, I am done. My little affair with greatness ended before it could even begin. I slept through my own epiphany. I missed the very boat I was the captain of. And I never set foot in the plane I piloted.

Chasing an achievable reality seemed preferrable to me than chasing an out-of-reach dream.

No hordes will be crying to be let into my funeral. No street seller will make money selling my photographs. They will never name a street after me. There won't be a statue of me for pigeons to poop on. I will only serve as an agent to convert oxygen to carbon dioxide. An insignificant link in the food chain. A faceless face in the teeming crowd. A shapeless drop in the vast ocean.

I didn't flirt with Greatness because I feared rejection.

I slept through my own epiphany.

Dear Aamir, this is wrong, Yours, Gaurav

Dear Aamir

As I started reading this open letter you wrote to the Health Minister opposing the ban on showing smoking in films, I was in full agreement with you. However, as I finished reading, i was aghast at what you suggested.

The plea you made is right, i.e the ban is unfair, but the logic you used, i.e it would have no effect, is utterly wrong. Such a ban, even if it was effective in reducing smoking, is just plain wrong because it infringes on our freedom of expression.

You however are making some very dangerous suggestions when you say -

If the government is really serious then they can use celebs like us to endorse non-smoking. Or better still, it can ban smoking per se. I think that’s a better way to stop smoking. Cigarette selling and manufacturing should be stopped so should smoking anywhere in India.

So smoking should be banned per se? Whatever happened to an individual's right to choose, Aamir? If someone wants to smoke and risk his health a little, it is his choice, and the government has no right to take away this choice.

So please don't go around putting such absurd and dangerous ideas in the Minister's head, and write a follow up letter saying that you respect a smoker's right to smoke, just like you expect others to respect your right to express your creativity on screen.

United India - Good or Bad?

There's a great debate going on at Ravi's blog about whether the British Raj was good for India. One of the points being raised is, that the Britishers deserve credit for unifying India into a single political entity. As I have mentioned in my comment there, I wouldn't give them even this credit.

But it brings me to a very interesting question that I asked Amit a few days back. Neither he nor me had any concrete thoughts on it, so i'll think aloud in this post.

The question is, has the unification of all the provinces and kingdoms into a single nation - India actually been good or bad?

i.e, is it a good thing that we are a nation of 1 billion, and not 10 nations of a hundred million each (give and take)? Is the whole greater than the sum of the parts?

One of the main reasons behind asking this question is the general consensus amongst Libertarians that power is too centralized in India. A lot of things which should be left to the states, are actually decided in the national capital, and a lot of things which should be left to local governance units are actually decided in state capitals, and so on. The basic assumption underlying our political system is 'Delhi knows best'.

Contrast this with a big country like the United States where power is distributed much more evenly, and things under federal control are limited. Each state has a lot more say in what laws its people should abide, how its tax money should be spent, etc. In turn, counties within a state too have a lot more freedom than, say, districts in India.

What if India had not been a single country, but a collection of 10 different countries? Would we be better off or worse off?

To start off the terms "we", "better off" and "worse off" need to be defined properly.

A Mumbaikar would obviously see where Hong Kong and Singapore have reached, and say that he would be much better off if Mumbai had not been a part of the Indian nation. After all, even now a bulk of the country's reveue collection comes from Mumbai.

But someone from a remote part of the country may not agree. The roads built by the NHAI in places like the North East, are probably bankrolled by Mumbai's taxes.

So the question is, as a whole, are we better off or worse off?

One aspect where we seem to be better off, ironically, is the social nature of our set-up. We are a secular country, with a reasonably fair set of laws, because we are so big, and have such a varied mix of peoples.

It is possible that if Himachal was a separate country, then gvien its almost total Hindu population, it would declare Hinduism as a state religion. It is also possible that Rajasthan may have made child marriages legal, given that a vast majority there sees nothing wrong with the practice.

When I see the number of regressive "judgements" given by some panchayats in the country, I feel glad that our social set-up was defined centrally.

And economically?

Economically, concentrating power centrally is wrong, as any libertarian would say. A large country encourages cross-subsidisation, which actually keeps certain poor sections poor forever. Lalu Yadav and Mulayam Singh as Chief Ministers can afford to ignore larger issues because they know that even if there is no development in the state, the centre will always bail them out. Now imagine if Bihar and UP were two countries, whom no one owed any assistance. Their leaders would have to scratch their heads and ensure growth, because they couldn't necessarily depend on anyone else to bail them out.

I would also like to think that if we were different countries, we would not be letting grains rot away just because there is no way to distribute food properly. Right now the food is rotting and people are starving because of bureaucratic tangles. If we were different countries, the food-producing ones would want to trade the food with those countries that wanted food. It would not sit in central stocks with everyone shrugging their shoulders and passing the buck.

An interesting exercise would be to compare the countries surrounding us, with the parts of our country neighbouring them.
- How is Bangladesh doing vis-a-vis West Bengal?
- How is Nepal doing vis-a-vis U.P?
- How is Sri Lanka doing vis-a-vis Tamilnadu?
- How is Pakistan doing vis-a-vis Punjab-Haryana-Rajasthan-Gujarat combined?

In what ways did our neighbours benefit by not being a part of the Indian nation state and in what ways did they lose out?

This is a fascinating topic to research and discuss, and sadly I do not have time to go into every aspect of it in detail. But I would invite fellow-bloggers to pick up one or more of the following topics and discuss them in detail -

1. Pros and cons of being a part of India on a social level.
2. Pros and cons of being a part of India on an economic level.
3. Pros and cons of being a part of India on a law&order and defence level
4. BD vs WB or Nepal vs UP....etc

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

2 slices of SomeAchaar

Karat Chosen Leader of Opposition

Prakash Karat, the Genereal Secretary of the CPI(M) was today unanimously chosen as the leader of opposition today. The former Leader of Opposition, L.K.Advani, proposed Karat's name for the post.

"I think Mr. Karat would be better at this job than me, because of his natural flair for opposing anything and everything positive and constructive. Anyway, he and his party have been opposing the party more than the opposition itself. In light of this, I cede my post in honour of Mr. Karat."

Apparently, another reason for this decision is the other post that Advani holds, that of the President of the BJP. Since every member of the party is shooting his mouth off in a different direction, and there is a lot of infighting, Advani has his hands full as the President setting things right.

This offer has been communicated to Karat, but there is still no response from him. Sources say that Karat's initial reaction was to oppose the offer, and then threaten the UPA government. However his aides told him that there was no valid reason to threaten the UPA government in this case, since the offer came from the NDA.

Karat and the CPI(M) Politburo are currently in a metting in an unnamed five start hotel to discuss the proposal.

Re-release of Saibaba movie stalled by Censor Board

The re-release of films like Sholay and Mughal-e-azam were very successful. Taking cue from this, the makers of the 70s surprise hit 'Shirdi ke Saibaba' decided to re-release the movie, confident of success, since the number of devotees has only swelled in the last 3 decades. However, they ran up against an unexpected firewall - the Censor Board.

The censor Board has refused to renew the certificate of the film, since many of its scenes show Saibaba (Sudhir Dalvi) smoking. According to new government regulations, films which show people smoking can not be released as they encourage smoking amongst minors.

The Board has demanded that the film-makers cut out all the scenes which depict smoking if the movie has to be re-released.

"Showing a widely respected and reverred figure like Saibaba smoking would only multiply the influence that movies have in encouraging the deadly habit. In light of that and the recent government orders, we can not permit the release of the movie unless they delete the contentious scenes.