Saturday, December 19, 2009

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

loha garam hai

(via Indiatogether, link is here)

Loha Garam Hai
tells the story of how people struggle with India's most polluting industry - the sponge iron industry. The 43-minute film presents a picture of an industry allowed to grow unfettered and unhindered by various laws, often with administrative connivance. Through graphics, title cards, data and interviews with people - both ordinary men and women, and rebel leaders - of Sundargarh, Rajgangpur, Siltara, etc., the film makes a scathing comment on the lop-sided concept of industrialisation gained at the cost of human lives, environment, agriculture and livestock.


In other parts of the world, sponge iron is produced in gas-based plants. So these plants are smokeless and less polluting. In India, 80 per cent of the sponge iron factories are coal-based, which emit heavy smoke and dust and are notorious for polluting the environment, posing a constant threat to the fertility of the soil, to animals, cattle and livestock and to people's physical health and well-being. A 100-tonne plant needs 160 tonnes of iron-ore, 125 tonnes of coal, 3.5 tonnes of dolomite and 150 tonnes of water everyday. This means that an input of 350 tonnes of raw material will produce 100 tonnes of sponge iron, while generating 250 tons of waste material daily.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

use *this* A/C, electrify villages!

An air-conditioning manufacturer has an advertisement showing an TV these days which goes something like this ...

जो इतनी बिजली बचाए की
गाँव गाँव को बिजली पहुंचाए

The A/C saves so much energy that it helps electrify villages.

What a sham!

What about not using A/Cs in the first place? What about equal access
to electricity and then the question of giving A/C usage priority?
What about people who are suffering because of no access to electricity?

Never mind. The corporates are happy raking the mulah, dumbing down
the audiences with the in-vogue CSR type advertisements.

Monday, March 30, 2009

HDI Oscars

P. Sainath writes on the recession, GDP and HDI. Assets of the billionaires and their global ranking may be going down, but what is the status on the other-side of the tip of the pyramid?

HDI Oscars: Slumdogs versus millionaires

What does it mean to rank much better on GDP per capita than in the HDI, as we do? It means we have been less successful in converting income into human development.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

energy energy energy@techfest

tap water





Thursday, September 11, 2008

Turning the Pot, Tilling the Land

Turning the Pot, Tilling the Land: Dignity of Labour in Our Times
By Kancha Ilaiah.
Illustrations: Durgabai Vyam.

Navayana catalog entry is here.

work, pay, an older entry somewhat related to the topic of the book.

the book foreword ...

Teaching Dignity of Labour in Our Times
In March 2006, when the Union government announced 27 percent reservation in central education institutions for communities designated as Other Backward Classes, the privileged castes and the media reacted as if the OBCs are essentially a stupid people who were trying to become doctors, engineers and managers along with 'their own youth'. A particular aspect of the anti-reservation stir shocked me most. It ought to have shocked the entire nation.

Students belonging to privileged castes who were studying medicine in central institutions, engineering in Indian Institutes of Technology and management courses in Indian Institutes of Management staged rallies and sat on dharnas. This in itself was not a problem. What was strange and distributing was that they began sweeping roads, polishing shoes and selling vegetables as a form of protest. They did in these globalised times. Of course, they did not make shoes, they do not make pots on the roads, or put together brooms. They are incapable of making shoes, pots or brooms. Neither did they remove the carcasses if the cattle that might have died in Delhi during the period. Since Delhi has many cows,buffaloes, goats and pigs, certainly some of them must have died during the time of the anti-reservation agitation. The protesting students could have removed these carcasses as well. But they did not do so. The symbolic protests also did not take the shape of tilling the land on the outskirts of Delhi---in Haryana or Uttar Pradesh. Had they indeed attempted such an act, the agitating students would have failed. Not one of them could have handled a plough. They have never interacted with such a mode of science.

By resorting to the tokenist work of appearing to sweep roads, appearing to polish shoes and appearing to sell vegetables, the students were demonstrating the fact they did not associate dignity with labour. They seemed to be driven merely by the fear that a day would dawn when they would be required to sweep roads, hone shoes, turn pots and graze cattle. They would be forced to perform labours that they deeply resented.

A mode of protest, where the basic productive occupations are despised and humiliated, would not be witnessed in a truly democratic society. This happens in India because our children have never been taught to regard labour with dignity. There are no textbooks in the curriculum, or books outside it, that deal with the issue of dignity of labour.

Our society suffers from lack of dignity because in the framework of the caste system any process that involves labour is projects as undignified. This is reflected in the India education system as well. As Dr. B.R. Ambedkar had said, the caste system is not just a division of labour, but a division of labourers. The caste hierarchy draws a clear line between physical and mental labour. Unfortunately, this thinking continues to shape the curriculum of modern school education as well.

The more India children move into higher education, the more they develop an antipathy towards basic, productive labour processes. Every school-going child's attitude towards everyday domestic work (sweeping and swabbing the house, cleaning the dishes, disposing garbage and washing clothes) is negative. Such tasks are either seen as a mother's job; or, if the family can afford it, as the job of a domestic help who invariably is a woman of a subordinated caste. Any woman who does domestic labour is also assigned the status of a 'lower caste' labourer (of a potter, barber, leatherworker or farmer) in our society. Such work bestows neither dignity nor a respectable wage. Thus, indignity of labour is both caste based and gender based. These ideas get indoctrinated at home, at school and through our cultural and social value systems inherited over centuries.

If we have to rectify the situation, the question of dignity of labour needs to be addressed in the school curriculum and within the home. A first step is to develop the basic textual material that can be used by young students (classes 7 to 10), teachers and parents. This books is such an attempt. It discusses the relationship between dignity of labour and the historical development of basic science by the productive communities of the India. These communities were slotted into castes and their labours were treated as lowly and undignified.

Of the eleven lessons in this book, eight deal with the science, art and skills of adivasis, cattles-rearers, leatherworkers, potters, farmers, weavers, dhobis and barbers. The development of each science is traced historically and placed in a universal context. Three lessons outline a general theory of dignity of labour in relation to life, gender and religion. I hope this book contributes towards inculcating dignity of labour and in building a rational, scientific, democratic India.

Kancha Illaiah

the development sector

(a friend mailed this ...)

The Development Sector
- Ross Coggins

Excuse me, friends, I must catch my jet
I`m off to join the Development Set;
My bags are packed, and I`ve had all my shots
I have traveller`s checks and pills for the trots!

The Development Set is bright and noble
Our thoughts are deep and our vision global;
Although we move with the better classes
Our thoughts are always with the masses.

In Sheraton Hotels in scattered nations
We damn multi-national corporations;
injustice seems easy to protest
In such seething hotbeds of social rest.

We discuss malnutrition over steaks
And plan hunger talks during coffee breaks.
Whether Asian floods or African drought,
We face each issue with open mouth.

We bring in consultants whose circumlocution
Raises difficulties for every solution --
Thus guaranteeing continued good eating
By showing the need for another meeting.

The language of the Development Set
Stretches the English alphabet;
We use swell words like epigenetic
Micro, macro, and logarithmetic

It pleasures us to be esoteric --
It`s so intellectually atmospheric!
And although establishments may be unmoved,
Our vocabularies are much improved.

When the talk gets deep and you`re feeling numb,
You can keep your shame to a minimum:
To show that you, too, are intelligent
Smugly ask, Is it really development?

Or say, That`s fine in practice, but don`t you see:
It doesn`t work out in theory!
A few may find this incomprehensible,
But most will admire you as deep and sensible.

Development set homes are extremely chic,
Full of carvings, curios, and draped with batik.
Eye-level photographs subtly assure
That your host is at home with the great and the poor.

Enough of these verses - on with the mission!
Our task is as broad as the human condition!
Just pray god the biblical promise is true:
The poor ye shall always have with you

Monday, June 30, 2008

make your child money savvy!

am thankful my parents did not read this.

yeah, my reaction as well.

this is child abuse.

Monday, June 23, 2008

sion aaya

Sion railway station has been computerised. Was waiting in line
for about 20 minutes today morning to get a ticket.
Was reminded of this, that I had written earlier.

* * * *
also, a Sion-related Marathi song, typed in English ...

sion aaya sion aaya
dadar matunga sion aaya
kurla ghatkopar mulund ke baad
thana mumbra kalwa diva kalyan aaya ||1|| sion aaya

aagin gaadi aagin gaadi dhag dhagate
mumbaichi hawa garam gaani sangate
kotisanke beech mein aadun thambata gaadi
dharavichi gaccha vasti daavi vakulya ||2|| sion aaya

kay sangu mumbaichya localchi katha
roj yethe packit jaate uthata basata
accident hota kadhi koni marawa
mhanti sarre khali-peeli time waste kiya ||2|| sion aaya

pathi maage ladies dabba video pari
laage-reepa chale tithe vasugiri
lotterywale channewale bhajan mandali
ticket master tapaseet T.C. aaya ||3|| sion aaya

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

ladies special

On this link, of the HCL Computers web-site ...

Best Suited for: Top Executive, Ladies, Business Power User, Mangers, Lawyers, Doctors, Senior Citizens, Home , Students, Teachers, Field Executive.

Is this being sensitive or insensitive or ?

Thursday, February 28, 2008

chingari 2008

The Chingari Trust has a call for nominations for the 2008 Chingari Award.

The site mentions the following criteria for nominations:
•a woman campaigning against corporate crimes
•struggling with her community in a remote part of rural India
•waging a sustained democratic struggle of at least 5 years' duration
•non-sectarian and secular, unaffiliated with a political party
•helping to change a company's behaviour
•well-respected and supported by her community
•working at great personal risk and hardship, despite disadvantages
•whose current work would be significantly impacted by receiving the Award
•who would give inspiration to others around the country.

Last date: 15th March 2008
BHOPAL 462018.
PHONE: 0755-2747500
chingaritrust [aat] gmail [dhot] com

A community health educational poster used by Chingari Trust in their work with contamination affected children in Bhopal.

A previous post on Chingari is here.

Thursday, February 21, 2008


a friend forwarded this to me ...

This poem was nominated by UN as the best poem of 2006, Written by an
African kid.

When I born, I black
When I grow up, I black
When I go in Sun, I black
When I scared, I black
When I sick, I black
And when I die, I still black

And you white fellow
When you born, you pink
When you grow up, you white
When you go in sun, you red
When you cold, you blue
When you scared, you yellow
When you sick, you green
And when you die, you gray
And you calling me colored??

Sunday, February 17, 2008

urban thinking and the farmer

read this: The idiocy of urban thinking

wrote this---

Read Sagarika Ghose's article in HT dated 15-02-08 titled "The idiocy
of urban thinking".
Her point that several schemes (like the NREGA) are just saving the farmer
from the brink and not an inch more was spot on. Further, her question about
why should the farmer not migrate to urban centers was also very valid.
But her analysis based on these points is totally baffling.

She mentions 60% population accounts for 20% GDP and we should mimic
the Chinese model and move to manufacturing/producing goods.
While this might be rosy in theory, it is not clear how it will be practical.
First of all, what will we be producing and for which markets?
How will this ensure solving the poverty problem? There are studies which show
that income disparity in China has grown over the last couple of decades and
is increasing.

Even if we consider that employing large number of people in the
manufacturing sector is possible, what do we about the energy scarcity?
The rate at which urban centers are growing and the lack of basic energy needs
in rural areas, our energy needs are only set to increase. Coupled with our
rapidly shifting to a westernised/energy-intensive lifestyle and depleting
cheap energy sources, can we afford to add to this mix an additional

The next question is about our food security and that of liberalizing
the farm sector. If farmers are encouraged to migrate, who will
produce food? The in-vogue answer is of course, the corporates. Why are we so keen on
supporting a handful of rich companies and totally ignore 60% of our population?
Instead, Why can't we make sweeping policy changes that transform the
anachronistic, rustic farmer such that he becomes proud and self-sufficient in
his profession and the rest of us become proud of him rather than hold
on to some naive romantic notions of the Indian farmer? Is it not anachronistic
that agriculture as a profession should have a secondary status as compared to any other?
Yes, education and health must be provided to all, but why does that have to be connected to a choice to leave the land?

Why can't the choice of holding on to the land and working it be made
as attractive, by introducing incentives, schemes and innovations that will help the
farmer produce more and control his own destiny? This will not only help us with our
food security, but will ensure employment to a large section of the community and in
the near future, may be our only bet to slow-down our unrealistic energy demands.

-- Anjali Kanitkar, Puru Kulkarni

Thursday, January 31, 2008


17,060 is the number of farm suicides in 2006, according to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) in its report Accidental Deaths and Suicides in India.

P. Sainath writes about this here.
NCRB data record 1,66,304 farmers’ suicides in a decade since 1997.

Of these, 78,737 occurred between 1997 and 2001. The next five years — from 2002 to 2006 — proved worse, seeing 87,567 farmers take their own lives.

This means that on average, there has been one farmer’s suicide every 30 minutes since 2002.

Friday, December 21, 2007


Ham Bhopal ke naari hain, ham phool nahin, chingaari hain. is the rallying call of the Chingari Trust.

from their website ...
The all-woman Chingari Trust represents the spirit of resilience and persistence of the Bhopal survivors and notably the women who for years have refused to be daunted or defeated. Ham Bhopal ke naari hain, ham phool nahin, chingaari hain. ‘We are women of Bhopal, we are flames not flowers.’ This rallying-call of the Bhopali women survivors inspired the Trust’s name and symbol.

The Chingari Trust seeks to provide proper medical care for children being born in Bhopal with malformations and brain damage, and to provide income-earning opportunities for families that have been impoverished by the disaster and the subsequent water contamination. Many families have lost their main earners to death or illness and are left struggling for survival. By funding and encouraging the creation of new jobs and offering a positive and nurturing support structure, the Trust intends to set an example to government and others.

The Trust will recognise and support struggles led by women in various parts of the country, especially in remote rural India by each year making a “Chingari Award for Women Against Corporate Crimes”, with a trophy and a fellowship of fifty thousand Indian rupees.

Mukta Jhodia, a tribal woman leader fighting against the Hindalco-led Utkal Alumina’s bauxite mining and processing project in Kashipur, Orissa, won the first Chingari Award.

Unrecognised heroines, Kalpana Sharma writes about Mukta Jhodia and the cause of struggles.

A Google news search for "Chingari award" gave 5 results.

Monday, December 17, 2007

batti bandh

MumbaiUnplug called for a Batti Bandh on 15th December, from 7.30 p.m. to 8.30 p.m.
Here is what "Batti Bandh" is (from the MumbaiUnplug website) ...
Batti Bandh is an entirely voluntary event taking place on the 15th of December between 7:30 & 8:30 p.m. This event is aimed at requesting all of Mumbai to stand up for a cause that is greater than all of us. All you need to do is switch off lights and appliances in your home, shop, office, school, college or anywhere you are for 1 hour to take a stand against global warming. Just 1 hour.

What will this 1 hour do? This 1 hour for just 1 day is not our only aim. This 1 hour is to set an example to the world, to every person who witnesses it, to show that together we can make a difference. This 1 hour will save a lot of electricity as well as pollution and if done regularly can go a long way in reducing pollution that is released by electricity plants as well.

We were inspired by a similar event recently held in Sydney, Australia, called Earth Hour. In Sydney, 2.2 million people participated. Their one hour of lights out meant that 24.86 tons of carbon dioxide were not released into the air - the equivalent of taking 48,613 cars off the road. We are a city of more than 20 million people. Let this number be motivation enough to show that we can make a difference. Unplug Mumbai. Do this for every child who otherwise will never have the opportunity to witness snow capped Himalayas or the glorious tigers and lions or the sun kissed beaches of Goa. Because if we dont unplug from our ways now, nothing will remain the same. Batti Bandh.

While newspapers are reporting that the event got a lukewarm/mixed response, hopefully it will act as starting point for larger initiatives, particularly when Mumbai is spared from scheduled/unscheduled power-cuts at the expense of other cities/villages.

On a related note, R K Pachauri, the chairman of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, on the 1-lakh car,
More private vehicles, ... , is not the right way forward. On the contrary, it would take the world farther from solutions to climate change.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Saturday, October 20, 2007

small car, big trouble?

Tata Motors has announced that it will roll out it's Rs. 1 lakh car (around USD 2500) in 2008. Other car makers may step in that price segment as well.

Do we need a car in this price segment?

... taking in to account, congestion, pollution, dependence on oil, travel needs, alternate public transport mechanisms, safety standards etc.

A related article from Down to Earth is here.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

al gore and the nobel peace prize

two takes on this ...

It’s Insanity, Stupid! - Al Gore And That Nobel Peace Prize
The Nobel Peace Prize to Al Gore opened a heated debate: was it right to award a mass murderer and war criminal? ...
On CounterPunch, Alexander Cockburn wrote, “When Gore goes to get the prize [… he] should be forced to march through a gauntlet of widows and orphans, Serbs, Iraqis, Palestinians, Colombians, and other victims of the Clinton era.”

Nobel Prize For Al Gore:“Old Europe” Fires Back At The Bush Administration
The awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to former Vice President Al Gore is a political statement by the European bourgeoisie about the policies of the Bush administration and the politics of the United States. Rarely has there been such an open intervention by the European ruling elite in the internal politics of America

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Burma burning

Global Hypocrisy On Burma
by Satya Sagar
Of all the countries around the world the most shameful position is held by India, once the land of the likes of Mahatma Gandhi but now run by politicians with morals that would make a snake-oil salesman squirm. India likes to claim at every opportunity that it is ‘the world’s largest democracy’ but what it tells no one, but everyone can see, is that its understanding of democracy is also of the ‘lowest quality’.

Why else would the Indian government for instance send its Minister for Petroleum Murali Deora to sign a gas exploration deal with the military junta in late September just as it was plotting the wanton murder of its own citizens. In recent years India, among other sweet deals, has also been helping the Burmese military with arms and training- as if their bullets were not hitting their people accurately enough.

Explaining India's silence over Burma
by Subir Bhaumik
"We cannot have democracy at home and support military tyrants in the neighbourhood. India must do all it can for the restoration of democracy in Burma," said the country's top human rights lawyer, Nandita Haksar.
But two months ago, Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee defended the country's Burma policy at a meeting in the north-eastern town of Shillong.

"We have strategic and economic interests to protect in Burma. It is up to the Burmese people to struggle for democracy, it is their issue," he said.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

women suicides in Vidarbha

When the one who dies is a woman, Aparna Pallavi writes on the issue of women suicides in Vidarbha.
Are the pressures which make male farmers commit suicide the same for women farmers as well? Socially, legally, with respect to property rights, and given their family positions, in the farming communities of Vidarbha women are placed in situations strikingly different from those of men. How does this impact women's position as managers of land?
The suicides by women farmers have received hardly any official attention till date. No separate statistics on women's suicides are available with any official agency in the region. No official study on the suicide phenomenon has till date paid attention to the specific problems being faced by women cultivators. The numerous farm packages, full of holes as they are, also do not have any special provisions for women-specific problems, the major ones being the issues of land registration and access to credit.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

how many more will it take?

Opinion Research Business, a polling firm in the UK, is reporting 1.2 million violent deaths in Iraq since the U.S. invasion and occupation.


Two reports about this are: here and here.
So we are speaking of some 1.2 million people who have been killed in this way, and that does not count the numbers that were killed during the invasion itself for the crime of having attempted to oppose invading foreign troops, or the 500,000 children and old people killed by the US-UN anti-civilian sanctions in the 10 previous years.

Is the media near-you reporting this? How?

* * * * * * *

Two more related links are here and here.
What does it take us to shock us into action these days? An Opinion Business Research (ORB) survey of Iraqi families indicates as many as 1.2 million Iraqi civilians may have died as a result of the war. That's five times more than the death toll wrought by Fat Man and Little Boy in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

It's also the equivalent of killing every Arab-American as per the 2000 census or every man, woman and child in, say, Amsterdam. And just why were those people's lives sacrificed again?

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

live simply, that others might simply live

P.Sainath's Ramon Magsaysay Award acceptance speech--- (from here).

This is the 60th year of Indian independence. A freedom fought for and won on a vision that placed our humblest citizens at the centre of action and of the future. A struggle that brought the world’s then mightiest empire to its knees. A struggle which saw the birth of a new nation, with a populace overwhelmingly illiterate, yet aiming at and committed to building a democracy the world could be proud of. A people who, one freedom fighter predicted, would make the deaf hear and the blind see. They did.

Today, the generation of Indians who took part in that great struggle have mostly died out, though their achievements have not. The few who remain are in their late 80s or 90s. As one of them told me recently: “We fought to expel the colonial ruler, but not only for that. We fought for a just and honourable nation, for a good society.”

I am now recording the lives of these last stalwarts of a generation I was not part of, but which I so deeply admire. A struggle that preceded my birth, but in which my own values are rooted. In their names, with those principles, and for their selflessness, I accept this great award.

In that great battle for freedom, a tiny press played a mighty role. So vital did it become, that every national leader worth his or her salt, across the political spectrum, also doubled up as a journalist. Small and vulnerable as they were, the journalists of that time also sought to give voice to the voiceless and speak for those who could not. Their rewards were banning, imprisonment, exile and worse. But they bequeathed to Indian journalism a legacy I am proud of and on behalf of which tradition, I accept this award today.

For the vision that generation stood for, the values it embodied, are no longer so secure as they once were. A nation founded on principles of egalitarianism embedded in its Constitution, now witnesses the growth of inequality on a scale not seen since the days of the Colonial Raj. A nation that ranks fourth in the world’s list of dollar billionaires, ranks 126th in human development. A crisis in the countryside has seen agriculture — on which close to 60 per cent of the population, or over 600 million people, depend — descend into the doldrums. It has seen rural employment crash. It has driven hundreds of thousands from villages towards towns and cities in search of jobs that are not there. It has pushed millions deeper into debt and has seen, according to the government itself, over 112,000 farmers take their own lives in distress in a decade.

This time around, though, the response of a media politically free but chained by profit, has not been anywhere as inspiring. Front pages and prime time are the turf of film stars, fashion shows and the entrenched privilege of the elite. Rural India, where the greatest battles of our freedom were fought, is pretty low down in the media’s priority list. There are, as always, exceptions. The paper I work for, The Hindu, has consistently given space to the chronicling of o ur greatest agrarian crisis since the eve of the Green Revolution. And across the country are countless journalists who, despite active discouragement from their managements, seek to place people above profit in their reporting. Who try desperately to warn their audiences of what is going on at the bottom end of the spectrum and the dangers to democracy that this involves. On behalf of all of them, all these colleagues of mine, I accept this award.

In nearly 14 years of reporting India’s villages full time, I have felt honoured and humbled by the generosity of some of the poorest people in the world. People who constantly bring home to you the Mahatma’s great line: ‘Live simply, that others might simply live.’ But a people we today sideline and marginalise in the path of development we now pursue. A people in distress, even despair, who still manage to awe me with their human and humane values. On their behalf too, I accept the Ramon Magsaysay award.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

internships for graduates

Medical students have to undergo a one-year internship (presumably rotating within several wards/specializations) before they are given a degree. Am not sure about this, but students may also be placed in rural areas as part of the rotation.

The question then is, why don't engineering/science/... students have such/similar requirement?

Surely, the logistics of having a full-time one year internship might be difficult, due to the numbers etc. But can't we have a requirement which is similar in spirit---to get a "real" look at how science and technology is applied and the effects it produces. An alternative could be, students go on short-interval field-trips to nearby places---factories, local artisans, brick kilns, communities etc., to get an idea of what are the real issues, the solutions being used, what can/should be used etc. A holistic view of science and technology would certainly help in its applicability.

This came up during a discussion in the "Appropriate Technology" class ... if students travel, do field-work and get a "real" look at problems, solutions, local resources, they can better understand the role of technology to maximize use of local resources, involve local labor and use local knowledge to develop appropriate solutions for local problems.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

what's wrong with journalism today?

From the series of interviews conducted by David Barsamian, which appear as a collection in the book Louder than Bombs ...

[November 2002]
DB: What's wrong with journalism today?

John Pilger: Many journalists now are no more than channelers and echoers of what Orwell called the official truth. They simply cipher and transmit lies. It really grieves me that so many fellow journalists can be so manipulated that they become really what the French describe as 'functionaries', not journalists.

Many journalists become very defensive when you suggest to them that they are anything but impartial and objective. The problem with those words "impartiality" and "objectivity" is that they have lost their dictionary meaning. They've been taken over. "Impartially" and "objectivity" now mean the establishment point of view. Whenever a journalists says to me, "Oh, you don't understand, I'm impartial, I'm objective," I know what he's saying. I can decode it immediately. It means he channels the official truth. Almost always. That protestation means he speaks for a consensual view of the establishment. This is internalized. Journalists don't sit down and think, 'I'm now going to speak for the establishment." Of course not. But they internalize a whole set of assumptions, and one of the most potent assumptions is that the world should be seen in terms of its usefulness to the West, no humanity. This leads journalists to make a distinction between people who matter and people who don't matter. The people who died in the Twin Towers in the terrible crime mattered. The people who were bombed to death in dusty villages in Afghanistan didn't matter, even though it now seems their numbers were greater. The people who will die in Iraq don't matter. Iraq has been successfully demonized as if everybody who lives there is Saddam Hussein. In the buildup to this attack on Iraq, journalists have universally excluded the prospect of civilian deaths, the numbers of people who would die, because those people don't matter.

It's only when journalists understand the role they play in this propaganda, it's only when they realize they can't be both independent, honest journalists and agents of power, that things will begin to change.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Rural India and 60 years of Independence

P. Sainath writes on the topic ... "The decade of our discontent".

some of the numbers he mentions are staggering ...
The average monthly per capita expenditure (MPCE) of the Indian farm
household is a long way from Rs.15 lakh. And further from $115,000. It
is, in fact, Rs.503.
About 60 per cent of that Rs.503 is spent on food. Another 18 per cent
on fuel, clothing, and footwear. Of the pathetic sum left over, the
household spends on health twice what it does on education. That is
Rs.34 and Rs.17. It seems unlikely that buying unique cellphone numbers
is set to emerge a major hobby amongst rural Indians. There are
countless households for whom that figure is not Rs.503, but Rs.225.

There are whole States whose average falls below the poverty line. As
for the landless, their hardships are appalling.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

work, pay

What would be the sorted ordering of the following professions based on monthly earnings---

a) Software Engineer
b) Janitor
c) Teacher
d) Cobbler
e) Office Clerk
f) Hand cart puller
g) Construction worker

and what are the reasons for such an ordering?

Monday, August 06, 2007

little boy, fat man

Sixty two years ago today, was the first of two instances of use of nuclear weapons in warfare.

On August 6, 1945, the nuclear weapon "Little Boy" was dropped on the city of Hiroshima, followed on August 9, 1945 by the detonation of the "Fat Man" nuclear bomb over Nagasaki.

Wikipedia link here.

Estimated worldwide nuclear stockpiles (also from Wikipedia).

* * * * * *

Ambu sends this link: White Light, Black Rain: The Destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, a HBO documentary film.

UNFORGETTABLE FIRE: Pictures Drawn by Atomic Bomb Survivors.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Magsaysay award for P. Sainath

P. Sainath has been awarded the 2007 Ramon Magsaysay award for Journalism, Literature, and Creative Communication Arts.

Invisible India is the elephant in your bedroom, an interview with him on India Together.

A report in The Hindu is here.

The complete list of awardees (from

Mr. Jovito R. Salonga, from the Philippines, for Government Service. He is being recognized for "the exemplary integrity and substance of his long public career in service to democracy and good government in the Philippines."

Rev. Kim Sun-tae, from Korea, for Public Service. He is being honored for "his inspiring ministry of hope and practical assistance to his fellow blind and visually impaired citizens in South Korea. "

Mr. Mahabir Pun, from Nepal, for Community Leadership. He is being recognized for "his innovative application of wireless computer technology in Nepal, bringing progress to remote mountain areas by connecting his village to the global village ."

Mr. Tang Xiyang, from China, for Peace and International Understanding. He is being honored for "his guiding China to meet its mounting environmental crisis by heeding the lessons of its global neighbors and the timeless wisdom of nature itself."

Mr. Palagummi Sainath, from India, for Journalism, Literature, and Creative Communication Arts. He is being recognized for "his passionate commitment as a journalist to restore the rural poor to India's national consciousness."

Mr. Chen Guangcheng, from China, for Emergent Leadership. He is being honored for "his irrepressible passion for justice in leading ordinary Chinese citizens to assert their legitimate rights under the law."

Mr. Chung To, from China, for Emergent Leadership. He is being recognized for "his proactive and compassionate response to AIDS in China and to the needs of its most vulnerable victims."

Saturday, July 28, 2007


Yesterday evening went to Vikalp's preview screening of the film Jashn-e-Azadi. According to the filmmaker Sanjay Kak the film "... raises questions about freedom in Kashmir, and about the degrees of freedom in India."

Reached the venue in pouring rain and found a group of policemen at the entrance, found it unusual but did not take much notice. The screening was to start at 6.30 p.m. sharp and had reached just in time. The screening had not started even at 7 p.m. and just as the discontent was increasing, an announcement was made that the police wanted to stop the screening. "What? Why? On what grounds?" ... the questions flew from the audience. The organizers did not know as well, only that the police were asking them not to screen the movie. A written document was asked from the police for the same. While the police went off to get it Sanjay spoke a little about the topic of the film and its making.

Mu understanding of the few things he mentioned ...
  • The "hartals" on August 14th and August 15th (on eve of Pakistan's and India's independence days). These he said were not called and imposed by any group, but it seemed as a general rule hardly anybody ventured outside and he wanted to look the complex reality behind this eerie silence.
  • The lopsided and propangandish reporting of mainstream media about Kashmir. A question that stays in my mind, "What would the Kashmiris think about India when they see the media doll out news that has very little to do with reality? What would they thing about the Indian government, whose army and media in some sense are operating with some kind of pseudo national consensus".
  • The irony of the situation that mainstream media is allowed by the government to send news clippings and short-sighted reports from Kashmir, but a movie that tries to explore the situation and start an dialogue and discussion is being treated as a problem. It is as if Kashmir is a black box and people can only get information which the government and mainstream media wants to deliver and deciphering the black box is too complex.

    Finally, a DCP and group of other policemen came with a search/seizure warrant. They confiscated the movie and the DCP explained their action by saying something on the lines of ...
    "We have information that this movie can potentially create law and order problems, can leak sensitive information to terrorists and can be a threat to the nation."
    Ah! the all-purpose no-questions asked reasons ... terrorism and threat to the nation. The irony being the movie was meant to be a preview screening organized by Vikalp, not a general screening and above all it has been screened in several cities ... Pune, Nashik, Bangalore, Shillong, Guwahati, Delhi, Patna. In Pune, it was screened at the National Film Archive of India Auditorium, a government institute, so this move the police seemed all the more ridiculous. The police had made up their mind based on their unidentified source and further mentioned that they would watch the movie and if they are convinced that it is not objectionable, will allow it to be screened. Looks like the Censor board is going to face some stiff competition.

    It was first of a kind experience for many in the audience, and almost all sat till the police made a verdict that no screening would happen and gave it in writing. I am sure it was a first for many where for something very ridiculous and plain wrong the government (under an unsubstantiated claim) dictates what can/cannot be done and you are left helpless about it. The audience could not watch what India's freedom and India meant for Kashmiris, but got a taste of the declining freedom in non-Kashmir India ... certainly no reason to Jashn about.

    p.s.: A movie screening is also scheduled on July 30, 2007 (Mon) / 7 pm by
    Vikalp: Films for Freedom @ Prithvi House, Juhu.

    p.p.s.: A related article in Mumbai Mirror is here.
    Two more related articles are here and here.
  • Wednesday, July 11, 2007

    kitna time le raha hai

    While waiting in line to get a railway ticket at Kanjurmarg's new ticketing counter, heard a man in front of me say, "Kitna time le raha hai!". He had an exasperated look on his face and was referring to the unusually slow pace at which the queue was moving. I have also noticed this slow-queue-movement a few times and have attributed it to normal service time variation. Turns out that this new ticket counter is computerized and every ticket that is sold requires a few keystrokes to input the destination, the printer to print your ticket and the person to tear it off from the printer. Comparing it with the non-computerized centres, you tell the attendant your destination (same for either case), she mentally calculates the price, picks the appropriate ticket, puts it in the punching machine and hands it to the customer. At best the time difference between the two procedures maybe in the order of tens of seconds. But it apparently does have a noticeable effect, particularly at long slow moving queues.

    Computerization of ticketing centres for reservations and season tickets is great, as among other reasons it simplifies accountancy and can be integrated with on-line interfaces for anywhere booking. But by using computers to vend daily one-time tickets has the queue slowed down? Is this an apt application for computerization?

    Oh! mera time aa gaya, i better hurry, "ek Sion return".