Thursday, March 16, 2006

India A and India B

Everytime you go for a press conference by some foreigner, be it a businessman or a politician, you hear the same old thing – “India’s massive middle class is a great market we want to target” or something similar. Even Dubya made the same point when he spoke at the Old Fort. The problem is that while these 300 million people are an undoubtedly huge market, and they include avowed consumerists like myself, it is easy to forget that there are 750 million ‘other’ Indians. Indians who very often live in startlingly tragic poverty, and despite the massive taxes that I pay on virtually everything, in the last 60 years it is unlikely that their lot has improved.
This is not an epiphany for a corporate journalist like myself, but that said, some of the stuff I saw and heard when I visited Vidarbha’s villages last weekend was heartbreaking. And trust me, I am no bleeding heart liberal – and it is possibly because I’m no bleeding heart liberal that I can elucidate the situation a bit better than most. I have no agendas to push here – I don’t want to become a noted ‘social activist’ who will pander to Western European Greens and make repeated visits to the West to talk lengthily about the tragic conditions in India but never bother to visit those regions ever again – nor drink a glass of water that those villagers offer them – choosing instead to drink Aquafina or Kinley (while railing against Pepsi and Coke, mind you!)
Income disparity between urban and rural areas is a fact of life, it happens and it has always been there. The problem is that India’s rural poor have rarely had it so bad. Mass consumerism in cities is broadcast into their villages and frankly, these guys get tempted, after all who wouldn’t. A new motorcycle, why shouldn’t one of them get one, because believe me, the motorcycle, or much rather the Japanese 4-stroke motorcycle has done far more for these people that successive governments in the states or the centre. It has given these people mobility, a sense of freedom.
The problem is that they count on getting a good crop to pay off their loan from the bank, but the rains fail (or something else happens) and they can’t pay back the bank. The bank doesn’t give a shit about the poor crop (mind you, the local moneylender is far more flexible) the bank will snatch the motorcycle. And by the way, whenever the Communist parties keep on insisiting that Petrol prices should be raised to cross-subsidise Kerosene, someone forgot to tell them that the greatest users on Petrol in India are motorcycle owners – the closest you come to the ‘common man’ ideal in India I guess.
At the same time, in the evenings, some villagers who are lucky enough to have cable TV watch the party people of Bombay and Delhi yak to presenters about the tragedies in their lives. The tragedies of loosing ten grams of cocaine in a bust maybe, ten grams of cocaine the price of which would have ensured that one person might have kept his life.
Imagine the dichotomy of an urbane, well-educated person standing with money, goods and clothes worth Rs 50,000 in front of a widow whose husband killed himself for Rs 20,000 and the lakh of rupees that his family will get after he dies. It happened with me. Can you look that widow in the eye and can you forgive your own wild consumerism? Can you forgive yourself for the regular five-star lunches you have when these people eat plain jowar rotis.
At a level, you can. After all, throughout your life you have seen utter poverty right beside you and not given a shit at traffic crossings across India have become dehumanised like soldiers in World War II. So none of us has really given a damn for the vagrant in the street. Its normal for a Mercedes S-Class to drive past slums or a man with three Mont-Blanc pens to jostle with a daily wage labourer in a Bombay local. We're used to it.
But you also know that you can’t do anything much. You know that maybe, just maybe your taxes might go to the right people. But you also hope that people in places like Maker Chamber –IV pay all their taxes instead of making elaborate schemes to avoid them. Because, unless the problems of two India’s is addressed, the rubber band that between the two that is getting stretched further and further will snap. But the national media really doesn’t care (well, one publication sent me, so well, them aside) because these people won’t buy airtime or space.
True, I understand the logic that the only way to improve the lot of the really destitute is through economic development. Fair enough, but that needs to be prodded along much faster than it is happening right now. But, somehow I believe that there are two India’s and never the ‘twain shall meet. Usually. When they do, like when I did, the experience will leave one much the worse. Gutted and Guilty. And realizing that I am such a fucking hypocrite. No not just me. Each and every one of us.
Maybe, those Miss India contestants should be taken to see this other India, and what about the I-Banker I met in the morning who made tens of crores appear out of thin air, maybe so should everybody among the much vaunted '300 million'. The ‘twain should meet, because only when you see what is happening, one might realize that the optimism on the surface with rollickling stock indices is matched by a level of despondency at the bottom. Some might argue, that I’m painting a particularly bad picture, that it really isn’t that bad in the villages. Maybe so, maybe I’m basing this post on the observation of only four-five villages in Vidarbha, villages in Haryana, Punjab and some southern states are rich. Maybe so, but even then, my main argument is that we are actively creating two India’s right now, and when that rubber band snaps, there just might be hell to pay.
EDIT : There are some pictures on my Flickr photoset, not too many, but a few that you guys might find interesting. And I'm adding some Technorati tags to this post as well.
Technorati Tags :

27 comments:

shyam said...

Hmm.. interesting.. quite a significant shift away from the pro-capitalism position you normally assume. One thing I have against libertarians is that they assume that what is good for them will work out quite well for others, or they just don't give a damn about it as they assume further that everyone will find their own level. Never heard crazier or more selfish shit than that.

Part of the problem is that it is either too fashionable (glamour social work, fabindia jholawala types) to think about the other half or it is too unfashionable because of the implicit assumption that if you even mention the phrase "equal opportunity" you are a commie and a direct descendant of Stalin. The other part is that the fortunate half just does not want to hear or know about the other half.

Every place I've worked, the refrain, if you end up chasing hard stories, is that they are tired of the "depressing news" and they need happy, cheerful news. A former COO for a place where you and I have worked for in the past once famously told me that "we want to make people happy about the world and the lives the live, we don't want to make them feel sad". And mind you, it works quite well too. People would rather read about how low Mallika's neckline has plunged in the latest movie than how much the indicators show that we are headed for a meltdown.

I'm no fan of communism or socialism, but if it takes giving away money for free to let at least 10% of the people who get it a fair chance to make their lives better I do not see what's the problem in that. If we can keep paying the politicians to get their on Embraer jets, I don't see why this is wasteful expenditure. Two things whose impact you can't ever measure in terms of effect in money terms are education and healthcare. At least these are two things we can spend on, with no caste or religion involved. If you are too poor to pay, you get to study for free.

About the rotis, once, during the IIMC days, we'd gone out to cover the elections to the slums in Naraina. We'd run into this bunch of people who were living on the pavements there, asked them our questions and told them we were students, so nothing would come out of our asking, but they were just grateful that someone was willing to listen to them other than the lot who comes around with sarees and booze for their votes. They did not have enough dough to feed the entire family but were happily offering us a share of it and we were like blown away because we could see that someone would have to starve because of that, but at the same time we did not want to look like we did not want to have it because it was street stuff. One of my friends, who used to then live in a nice DDA flat in Munirka and used to complain about it calling it a "pigeon hole", broke into tears after we'd gotten out of there and swore never to complain about it ever again.

It is sad, but the worst punishment in life is to feel helpless.

K said...

Codey, you know what the really really weird thing is with jholawallahs - is that they hardly get to grasps with the problem. They would rather fight for the 'desaffronisation' of Indian history (ie : pretend India didn't exist between Alexander's coming and the time the Muslims invaded) than for the poor. A cotton FabIndia kurta, a long one costs Rs 400, is made using around 4 meters of cloth which translates into 500grams of raw cotton, which means the friendly farmer in Vidarbha who grew the cotton got paid around Rs 10 for it. Fair? I don't think so.
Am I saying that I'll change, no. I spent Rs 350 on dinner at Thai-Ban last night, but yes, I will try to be less indifferent about what I see.
Only and only when these people start voting for progress and development will they see any change. Maybe, like in Bihar, they just might start.

Shivam Vij said...

K: Did you really write that post?

Codey: I believe it should not be imossible to write good news about the other india: there's a lot of good stuff that many are doing out there, whether or not they carry jholas.

And the long fab india kurta, K, costs a little over 400 bucks now.

shyam said...

K, I kind of detest people who make everything into a statement, the jholawallahs are just one component in it. I know my fair share of the Stepehens crowd (pipe down Shivam, I ain't talking about you ;-)) to stay away from most of their stuff. Not that they don't do any good, there is a bit of it here and there, but other than that there is just a whole lot of posturing and making statements. Basic humanity needs no isms and it is criminal to make it part of one.

I've grown tired of trying to convince people who want to take lives and start revolutions to set things right, to just vote differently and see how it works. I get the same answer that the new candidates too will be bought and so on. But that is the whole point, to make the politician fear the voter and that just does not happen. Even after all our whining most of us (me included) never bother to vote or end up voting for same creeps who got us into the same position and we keep saying the system is fucked up, while we fuck the system up.

Shivam: Well, nothing's impossible, it is just pretty hard. Try pitching a BPO in medicine rocks now to a self-sufficient village to most publications, 9/10 times the BPO will win. It is a matter of what people want to hear/know about.

Hehe.. on an related snarky note.. I can almost see the tears in Shivam's eyes with the expression "welcome home prodigal son" writ wide on his face and an open invitation to theotherindia.org.. I am soooo evil ;-)

Anonymous said...

One would think that a resource rich region like Vidarbha would be reasonably well off. But no, it isn't. For 50 years, Vidarbha was leeched of its resources but seems to have gotten little in return. The region generates 40% of Maharashtra's electricity but bears the brunt of the region's highest load shedding. Since Maharashtra is ruled by western maharashtra politicians, thousands of crores are poured into sugarcane co operatives owned by the very same politicians every year. And yet, Vidarbha gets less than 250 crores - originally 70 crores (funds for this year) for irrigation. 4% of farm land (obviously in western maharashtra) enjoys a stunning 60% of the state's irrigation water.

Thousands of crores of minerals are moved out of Vidarbha's mines but very little of it actually comes back to the region. After all, the finances have to be whored out to western maharashtra first. Farmers dying by the hundreds in Vidarbha are just a minor irritant. Definitely not something to worry about when Kolhapur can have the highest number of mercedes benz per capita in the country. Many of those are owned by farmers!

All this seems far away in Vidarbha - farmers are selling organs to repay loans and feed their families.

rums said...

that was a good post, would love to hear more about the trip though. are you writing anything?

K said...

Rumi, it is because I am writing something I haven't gotten into the 'kapas' front as yet.
Anon, well, your sentiments are very similar to those espoused by some large farmers in the region, and I've even begun to sppreciate the arguments - but creating another state with its inherent bureaucracy - would it really change the lives of the people in Bhadumri or Dorli or thousands of other such villages in Wardha, Yavatmal, Amravati or Akola. I don't know, really. Uttaranchal, Jharkhand and Chhatisgarh seem better off than before, so maybe the Rs 2500 crore cost of creating a state might be worthwhile, it might help peoples lives. But as long as Sharad Pawar is alive I don't think we'll see a separate Vidarbha (or Sourav Ganguly back in the Indian team for that matter).
Codey : Hey, watch it - mein bhi Stephanian hoon. OK, so I was perpetually stoned to be too activist about anything. And that is better than being too self-absorbed in your own 'prettiness' too be too activist - ask one of your top anchors about that! ;-)

thalassa_mikra said...

Great reflexive post K. And anon, your comment is excellent and spot on, because it identifies the crux of the matter here.

I attended a conference last night where politicians, labour unions and industry came together to say that since the federal government is indifferent to the transportation and environmental crisis of Southern California, local solutions need to be generated, with greater power to local agencies. The industry advocates clearly said that they were most willing to pay additional taxes for infrastructure, as long as they are assured that the money is spent locally for the specific aims for which it is raised.

For far too long we've managed to brush regional inequalities under the carpet in the name of strong central government and fears of secessionism. We've allowed certain parts of the country to enrich themselves at the expense of others. We need to have greater public awareness of revenue-outlay parity for different regions. And certainly there has to be more regional level advocacy (speaking of Vidarbha's interests, not Maharashtra as a whole).

Poverty and misery are but the outcome of faulty policies, corruption and mismanagement which is what needs to be highlighted.

Anonymous said...

Ahh.. you had a Gandhi moment.. Remember that story when he looked at a naked woman, washing the only piece of cloth she had - and vowed to wear only a dhoti for life ?

Sudeep

Bonatellis said...

k: what's your take on the Aveo?

Grazer said...

I have been running from pillar to post to graze a reasonable and readable post. I tried and failed. I was bored and suddenly your green post has all the greenery that I had been looking for.

This post shows that blogging is not only expressing but pleading people through expression to read and understand and keep the souls green and fresh. So when there comes a time to do something we just don't sit and blog but go out in the sun and graze.

Anonymous said...

K,

This is an observation about your blog....request you to take it in the right sense....
Although your content is interesting, your presentation leaves much to be desired.
Can you work a little bit on the formatting / composing part so that the posts are easy on the eye.
This will help improve the reader satisfaction.
Otherwise people might stay away inspite of the good content that u churn out.
Thanks for your understanding.

Gaurav said...

Codey

Why do I see a with-us-or-against-us kind of attitude in your comments. K's post itself was quite appropriate because he is just narrating it. And if your comment was directed at those in their ivory towers it was still OK.

But why this libertarian-bashing where there is no need? If these are some friends of yours who just care about the stock market and ejaculate every time it crosses another 1000 points while being completely unaware as well as indifferent about the lives and problems of these 70% then fine, no issues. Read no further.

But if you made that comment directed at a lot of Indian bloggers such as myself who call themselves libertarian then I would like you to point out that craziness or selfishness.

To accuse libertarians of selfishness or indifference is just churlish. One major reason for the poor remaining poor as well as being stuck in this self-perpetuating cycle of over-dependence on argiculture is the lack of education, more so primary education. The malaise which has spread in the primary education system is due to a complete lack of accountability and due to parents having no say in the system at all.

Now several libertarian bloggers such as myself often talk of the Education Choice Campaign and the school voucher scheme which would empower poor parents and could revolutionise the primary education system, at the same time ensuring that taxpayer's money is spent more efficiently. Tell me, in what way is the campaign "selfish"? People who blog already have the resources to educate their own kids in plush air conditioned schools. Why the heck would we care about the school voucher scheme if we were selfish?

Yet each and every attempt of mine, and of other "libertarian" bloggers to introduce the education choice campaign as a topic of discussion on a broader level is just ignored. Yes, the other india is suffering. We know. For me it is amusing as well as exasperating to note that just because some other upper middle class person was ignorant or indifferent of the harsh realities, disparities and the hardships faced by the poor in India before he had his epiphany, he assumes that I too am as ignorant and indifferent as he was. And so I need to be shaken out of my i&i.

What if I am already aware and am trying to think of realistic and practical ways to reduce this misery?
What if I have examined the issues a bit further and noticed that the poverty is being perpetuated mainly by the vast leakages in the system.
What if I realise from by back-of-envelope calculations that though just 2% of this country pays income tax, the remaining 98% also pay a shitload of money to the government through indirect taxes?
So increase in government outlays into leaky schemes doesn't just mean that money is being stolen from Gaurav or Codey or K or Thalassa....all of us who can afford to have our money stolen...to put into the pockets of the corrupt. But money is also being stolen from those very farmers in Vidarbha.

K and I can afford to say to ourselves....yes 90% of my tax money is stolen by the corrupt as Rajiv Gandhi said, but at least 10% is helping the poor. What should the poor think? Yes, 90% of my money is being stolen, but at least 10% is helping me?????

Libertarian bloggers in India want to take the next step, that of naming the culprit, i.e a kleptocratic state setup, and building a consensus on ushering in events which will put in place measures for better accountability.

I have also been encouraging people to read a fine book called "Law, Liberty & Livelihood" co-authored by a blogger Naveen Mandva which talks, not about yuppies like us, but common street entrepreneurs, panwallahs, rickshawwallahs, water-sellers, wadapavwallahs.... folks who show the grit, the gumption and the determination to take control of their own lives and make a living. The book talks about how at every stage of their life, and every few days, the state loots from them.

But has a single supposedly non-libertarian blogger read the book, and tried to understand the problems those people face? And why they face the problem?

I myself wrote about the highway robbery of the government of Maharashtra, in the very same region of Vidarbha, grabbing land from farmers under the eminent domain rights. I wrote about how there need to be stronger property rights for everyone, rights which can not be snatched by anyone under any pretense. It is a consensus on revamping our constitution's definition of property rights, which will help in preventing such brzaen land grabbing, be it in Vidarbha, the Narmada Valley or anywhere.

But no, a practical analysis which talks about property rights is suddenly crazy and selfish? It is more compassionate to just mention how folks have been made homeless due to coal mines and the Sardar Sarovar Project. How was it possible? How could the government get away with it? That's not important. Shedding a tearis important!

One of the biggest factors holding back rural India is the complete lack of reliable power. Wherever in rural India people have gotten access to electricity, lives have improved and poverty has reduced. So why is power still a government monopoly?

What motivation could a person like me have asking for a reform in the Electricity Act, and asking for greater private investment in the power sector? After all I live in the island city of Mumbai and have not experienced a single power cut since the July05 flood. The evil word "privatisation" can actually solve problems here. No, but I mention privatisation and I am suddenly indulging in polemic?

Inspite of siphoning off thousands of crores under the garb of improving rural telephony, the state of BSNL in India is as archaic as ever. Rural connectivity is abysmal. I suggest that rural India is being robbed of the money earmarked for its development due to the warped structure of BSNL and a separate company should be created dedicated to rural telephony, so that BSNL in the cities doesnt soak up the ADC collections. But no, this seems to be crazy and selfish too, right?

Go ahead, keep crying over the poverty, the misery, express anger at the vacuous yuppies, bash a few libertarians, and move on with life. What matters is a massage for the conscience right? And what better massage than to tell yourself that you are better than a bunch of heartless selfish and crazy libertarians?

And yes, ignore their suggestions for improving primary education for the poor. They are evil libertarians. Whatever they say, has to be evil and wrong!!!

K said...

Wow, some comments. Now, I have never wanted to enter this liberatarian vs 'the others' debate, but Gaurav, I don't think Codey wants to tar each and every one of person regarding himself as a 'liberatarian' with the same brush. Some people use that tag to say some very strange things, which tend to piss regular middle-class joe's off.
Anyway - there are a lot of problems here. Gaurav, you mention power, India has no power to spare to keep running its current infrastructure, let alone the future, and before choice, get education down to the villages first. One thing I did notice in Bhadumri, a village of around 270 hutments - there was a school there - fair enough, it only taught till the 7th standard, but it had a school. And people were sending all their children there - some education is better than none. Maybe the next generation of farmers may not be taken in by the irresponsible promises of marketing companies. Maybe they'll become as cynical as us and thank god for that.
BSNL, for whatever its worth has a far superior mobile network in rural areas than its competitors, though its competitors fund them to do that. That said, Airtel's ramp up in rural Vidarbha, with no funds like ADC is amazing, they weren't there in Bhadumri but throughout NH7 from Nagpur to Pandhakawada Airtel reception was always full-strength or near it. Impressive since they can't do that in Mumbai or Delhi. I've always believed that private firms will lead the way in getting rural India out of its morass, and after seeing tribals in the Dangs district around 20 days ago, I believe that without Hero Honda they would still be stuck in the 15th century. ICICI Bank's tepid steps into microfinance is helping farmers and other rural enterprenuers, it has a long way to go, but its a start.
The problem is that the government, and not capitalist firms keeps on failing these people. Why do I think the rural employment gurantee scheme is full of shit, because the money will all get into the pockets of bureaucrats who'll use it to buy Honda's and Skoda's. Which is why I still agree with Swami Aiyar's comments on the scheme - drop the money from helicopters, it'll do those people far more good.
Anyway, comment on, I'm enjoying this a lot. So much so, that I'll skip a post I planned on a God, a Pimp, A Businessman and a tennis starlet's legs.

shyam said...

Gaurav,

Libertarian-bashing is good fun, especially since there is the assumption by most libs that everything with the way things are right now is wrong. And it is not just libs really, I am quite critical of everything and everyone (including myself, since I believe that we can do a lot better with what we have, than to go for an outright overhaul).

Why do I call libs selfish? Simple. It is because there is the assumption that you gotta have the freedom to do whatever you please, provided you assume others have the same freedom, but the bottom line is that you need to be able to do what you please. The society and abilities does not quite work out that way. We are a mass of imperfections.

There are times when you need to get rid of that selfishness (yes, I mean selfishness) because not everyone is empowered or blessed with the same abilities as you have. So, the theory that, the 'common good' will be eventually found is unrealistic. And quite a few of the times the lib arguments I've seen (I'm writing this on GPRS while on roaming, so can't dig out the links) fall in the line of "I want to drink myself to death, that is my prerogative" or that "I want to be an atheist or an agonistic, while the state forces religion down my throat". Agreed, there is a rank generalisation, but libs themselves do the same when they point fingers at others.

About the ECC, it is once again a case of general assumptions and trying to be the contrarian just for the heck of it. Why does it cost Rs 2000 per child on education? Because a whole lot of the schools are in areas where there are probably no roads even. It is a cost extensive thing to educate the poor. I've said before too that you can't put an equation like it costs x amount to educate every child and that how much better it would be to put the same dough in the hands of the parents. What if the parent is in a remote village. A fat lot of good that Rs 2000 do then, if he has no school to send them to. And that should just show you how unfair an assumption that is. You are assuming that there are choices in a lot of places where they are none for most people. Which is why the selfish bit comes in again. Just because it makes sense for you, does not mean that it makes sense or that it works for anyone else. Selfish, anyone?

My simple question is, will the ECC or the other things you've mentioned eradicate poverty in the first place?

Mind you, I've not said you are ignorant or indifferent, only thing I've said it is that you assume a lot for others, which kind of contradicts your philosophy of the free will finding its own level. You guys like it only to the point where it will serve your purpose. Since I have not said you guys are ignorant, it would be nice of you to not accuse me of things I have not said.

I like the accountability pitch, but where exactly do you enforce it? Through the state? Through the society? Then there goes your love for personal freedom since you are just reinventing the wheel, only to call it a flying saucer, but it is a wheel all the same. But then again, this is a debate that has been held before and it has just gone nowhere other than satiate the intellectual itch. Poverty? Perish the thought.

BTW, I'm not crying over the poverty. Fortunately or unfortunately my heart does not bleed for the poor or for the rich. It means zlich to me to either pontificate or theorise on all these lofty things instead of doing something about it. For all practical purposes I don't have a conscience, a handful of years in media have more or less taken away whatever little that was left in me of that. Jeez, I am the types who'll gladly milk your angst and monetize it without batting an eyelid, so don't accuse me of nobler things like feeling bad for anyone. Do spare me that jazz.

But yeah, it amuses me to death to think that just a handful of bloggers crawling intellectually charged arguments across the blog world will usher in a revolution that will eradicate poverty too at the same time. Do keep blogging thus, I'll be the first one to see you at the end of the blograinbow revolution and I'll also gladly concede that I was wrong and be happy about it too. So do me a favour, do something about it than just write about it and make it happen. I'll gladly concede if you are doing something about it than just write.

But if your take on the issue is that you blog about things that matter but nobody listens to you, all I can ask is, massages, anyone?

K said...

Oh yeah, and....
Anon, as for the better presentation bit, I'll change the blog format sometime next week. No offense taken by your comments.

Towefinger said...

I agree with Codey. Bloggers seem to take themselves too seriously. They need to shut down the comp once in a while.

Arindam Chaudhuri said...

Now how did Education Choice Campaign come into a post on Vidarbha? Must be libertarian/cartellian/whatever logic.

Gaurav said...

Hi Codey. Fast response! :)

Just because it makes sense for you, does not mean that it makes sense or that it works for anyone else. Selfish, anyone?

Ah, but no one is calling for an armed libertarian revolution. I put forth what makes sense to me. I hope that enough people will feel that way one day(not as a causal result of my blog), causing a change.

My simple question is, will the ECC or the other things you've mentioned eradicate poverty in the first place?

Eradicate? No! That would be a state that starts with U, ends with A and has "topi" in between. Any promise of a utopia will have the element of a "topi" being lagao-ed to people in it.

I think that it will improve the scenario a great deal. And as long as the scenario will be improved a great deal, it is worth at least discussing, if not considering.

And I am glad you raised the point about "why 2000 rupees?". Or what happens in remote areas where there is no school or choice. It is through such questioning and examination that such a scheme will be refined further. In asking these 2 questions, you have done something a lot more "value adding" than a hundred blog posts saying over and over "reforms done but people are poor reforms done but people are poor...". Asking specific questions like you did is not only more honest, but also smarter.

I like the accountability pitch, but where exactly do you enforce it? Through the state? Through the society?

I assume we are still talking about schools here? How to enforce accountability? At least in places where parents will have a choice, the competition will enforce accountability....the way BSNL employees who were slack and corrupt 10 years back are a lot more efficient and honest now. In places where there is no choice.....I have no answer, but I join you in asking a question which is at least a bit more enlightening (for our own sake, in case we want to just develop, as an exercise, a plan to revamp India's primary education. I have no grandiose dreams of changing the world through blogs) than just shallow rhetorical questions again and again. I would give the issue more though. What sort of an incentive-disincentive structure can be put in place to make teachers directly accountable to the parents and students, in places where there is no competition?

But yeah, it amuses me to death to think that just a handful of bloggers crawling intellectually charged arguments across the blog world will usher in a revolution that will eradicate poverty too at the same time.

Haha, I have no such illusions. And you know it. :)

Just a desire to have some interesting discussions and read something where people take at least the efforts to tax their brains a bit rather than go around calling everyone apathetic and indifferent.

But if your take on the issue is that you blog about things that matter but nobody listens to you

No actually. People do read it and many do agree. But you know me Codey...you've seen my blog since its earliest days. I am as imperfect as the next guy. I have not yet become "zen" enough to just disregard stupidity and dishonesty.

You actually didn't say a lot of things I spoke about. Your comment was like the proverbial straw which broke the camel's back. It was zilch on the dishonesty scale and miniscule on the stupidity scale(by that i mean just the generalization) but was enough to cause precipitation in my head. Hence the tad defensive tone of my comment.

Shankari said...

O, K! this post inspired you to eat out at Thai-Ban or Ban-Thai? Ah, had you but been in blogger paradiso, it would have been Shiok, na? :p

Dilip D'Souza said...

has a single supposedly non-libertarian blogger read the book ... [Naveen Mandwa]

I have. Last June.

s said...

Anyway, comment on, I'm enjoying this a lot. So much so, that I'll skip a post I planned on a God, a Pimp, A Businessman and a tennis starlet's legs

Now such tantalising tactics are not fair. We demand this post to be mad asap!

thalassa_mikra said...

Wait a minute, let me get this straight, someone is trying to promote school vouchers in India? Ok, there's been a huge debate over school vouchers in the US, back in the 90s, and it has its pros and cons.

But seriously, the thing can potentially work in the US (not that it works in every case) because the choice of schooling can be translated into an actual choice. That is, if you do indeed want to put your child in a school of your choice, you can vote with your feet by living in the right school district or drive your child to your school of choice.

For most of rural India, that choice simply does not exist. There's one high school for 20 villages for heaven's sake! And kids walk miles to the nearest school anyway.

There are a lot of empirical studies on the school voucher system in the US, and anyone who wishes to learn more should look at some of them, because the verdict is very mixed indeed.

jammy said...

well...can't debate enough on this can we?

Anonymous said...

Hmmmm so a sad tale about farmers in Vidarbha magically turns into a fight about libertarianism. How nice.

Anyway, I think most news channels have done small stories about the farmers in Vidarbha by now. But it doesn't hit home as hard as say a few people dead in a Delhi bomb blast. Journos can't really be bothered with people killing themselves in some remote town but they are scared shitless when a bomb does the same thing to some people a few km away. Jessica Lal is important. But hell will freeze over before these farmers get the same amount of airtime. And even then it is likely they will be more interested in the low temperatures in Hell. The perfunctory manner in which stories were done made me feel as if channels just wanted to get on with it. Haven't seen a single follow up on any channel yet.

The same thing carries over to other reporting. Maharashtra has been reeling under power cuts since October. But the Mumbai based media didn't give a damn. But they all started running scared when only the prospect of turning off billboard lighting and theatres was looming. Some of those journos would do good spending some time in Nagpur city and living 4 hours a day without electricity in 46 degree temperatures.

Alok (I posted comment no.3 on the topic - forgot to add name then)

mommy! said...

why is gaurav sabnis crying like a baby?

vikash said...
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