Category Archives: Social Issues

Hunger in India

mera_bharath2

The Indian map showing "Hunger Index" values in different states. Excerpted from the IFPRI Report at: http://www.ifpri.org/pubs/cp/ishi08.pdf

Here is an analysis of the problem of hunger in India:

http://www.ifpri.org/PUBS/cp/ishi08.asp

I quote the key findings of the report:

  • India’s Global Hunger Index (GHI) 2008 score is 23.7, which gives it a rank of 66th out of 88 countries. This score indicates continued poor performance at reducing hunger in India.
  • The India State Hunger Index (ISHI) 2008 was constructed in a similar fashion as the GHI 2008 to allow for comparisons of states within India and for comparisons of Indian states to GHI 2008 scores and ranks for other countries.
  • The ISHI 2008 score was estimated for 17 major states in India, covering more than 95 percent of the population of India.
  • ISHI 2008 scores for Indian states range from 13.6 for Punjab to 30.9 for Madhya Pradesh, indicating substantial variability among states in India. Punjab is ranked 34th when compared with the GHI 2008 country rankings, and Madhya Pradesh is ranked 82nd.
  • All 17 states have ISHI scores that are significantly worse than the “low” and “moderate” hunger categories. Twelve of the 17 states fall into the “alarming” category, and one—Madhya Pradesh—falls into the “extremely alarming” category.
  • ISHI scores are closely aligned with poverty, but there is little association with state-level economic growth. High levels of hunger are seen even in states that are performing well from an economic perspective.
  • Inclusive economic growth and targeted strategies to ensure food sufficiency, reduce child mortality, and improve child nutrition are urgent priorities for all states in India

I hope these statistics opens the eyes of the average urban Indian to the real problems facing our country. I wonder if it surprises the many chic city-dwelling nouve riche that there are far more serious problems in India than threats to people’s liberty to indulge in public displays of affection. From my experience, I believe that urban middle class India is largely ignorant (whether incidentally or deliberately) of the real problems of the people.  I’ll try my best not to sound like a communist or whateverist-

But the reality is that the average 8 am-to-8 pm-working, upwardly mobile middle class citizen is like Prince Siddhartha in the legend of The Buddha. Remember how Prince Siddhartha was allegedly blissfully ignorant of suffering, before a now famous outing in his chariot opened his eyes to the real world? What the average-middle-class-upwardly-mobile person needs is a similar opening of his/her sun-shade hidden eyes. The poor little rich kids deserve more reality than just beggar children sticking noses at car windows in traffic junctions.

So, a few propositions… Have you seen these days- in the main plaza of the gawdy new malls, there is often a DJ/VJ/RJ doing a road show of sorts, peddling chances to win bikes, cars, ipods, and whatnots to the nouve-riche mall hoppers. The purpose of the road show would be to promote the latest movies, music channels, watches, etc. etc. – Playthings to keep those upwardly mobiles happy.

How about having road shows in malls with VJs/RJs/DJs with sophisticated drawls talking about such issues as the prevalence of hunger and malnutrition? I wonder how the mall-goers will digest such serious topics with their big fat McChickens. At least by having such a thing inside a hip mall, you will be forcing important issues down the throat of the average 21st century urban Indian. How about splicing images of hunger into reality shows and fairness cream ads? And inserting fliers about hunger, malnutrition and illiteracy into the monthly issues of Vogue India, next to neat Gucci and Louis Vuitton ads?

Photograph courtesy: New York Times

Photograph courtesy: Ruth Fremson/New York Times

Photograph courtesy: Ruth Fremson/New York Times

Photograph courtesy: Ruth Fremson/New York Times

Oh and, if you prefer watching videos to reading:

  1. http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2009/03/13/world/asia/20090313-malnutrition-audioss/index.html

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Also, someone said: “Shut up and vote!” . I echo.

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Moral Policing, Socialistalgia and Millikan’s Special Drops, Fussing About Speed Math and Thanks to Gowtham

Firstly, a thanks:

Many thanks to S. Gowtham for his encouragement and tagging me on his blog. 🙂 I am honored to be tagged by such a photography/net/computers/physics/ football-fan whiz as Gowtham!

Secondly, an addendum to my last blog:

constitutionofindia

The Government should realize its responsibility to safeguard the individual rights of its citizens, as guaranteed by the Constitution. The opinions of Yeddyurappa, Ghelot, Thackerey, etc. are little more than frustrated attempts seeking to subvert the Constitutional rights of the people. Such concerns for the “Indian culture”, may or may not be legitimate, according to your point of view, but they are most certainly illegal and/or un-Constitutional. Moral policing is an intrusion into the fundamental rights that the Republic of India stood for, when it was created by the visionaries of the Constituent Assembly.

Thirdly, a criticism:

Of late, I’ve seen a lot of people talking about this: http://ibnlive.in.com/blogs/sagarikaghose/223/53147/panties-and-perverts.html . Much like today’s TV media, Sagarika Ghose presents only those facts which support her point of view. Let’s first ignore the fact that it is a personal blog, which is anyway considered as veda vakya, given Sagarika Ghose’s reputation as a journalist. If there was a rigorous framework for journalistic ethics (like there is for academic ethics) this would consitute gross malpractice, in the spirit of Robert A. Millikan’s special oil drops.

collage_nehru_etc2

Choose your heroes.

It is an utter insult to the collective intelligence of Indians that this blog is popular. Now, like Mrs. Ghose, I would like to clarify at the outset that I don’t support the actions of Sri Rama Sene, or any other self-styled Sene (except the Indian Military 🙂 ).  But this article is too much! It is ridiculously socialistalgic (new word alert: socialist + nostalgic) about the Nehruvian utopia that India was.  After a tough decision to ignore the following…

  1. A silly Historical example about the “foreign hand” of the Portuguese in the preparation of mithai
  2. The gross generalization of the “Sex and the City” lifestyle of today’s urban youth (as opposed to the pathos of the “then” youth, whose lives were inspired by, Maxim Gorky’s works, I suppose)
  3. Authoritative descriptions of Iran’s recent socio-political history. a loud WTF for her proposition that what happened in an autocratic Iran ruled by a puppet presidency in 1970s is what is happening to India today. Sigh, media watchdogs where are you?
  4. Curious use of “rootless cosmopolitanism” – a word with a very curious, soviet, anti-semitic history, with reference to Karnataka’s “migrant workers”.  In effect, she is dismissing the “roots” of 45 million non-(Indiranagar, Koramangala, Electronic City) Karnatakians
  5. An alarmist, sensationalist, so-CNN-IBN-NDTV-TV9-AajTak’ish cry about how “Every aspect of public life that is characterized by freedom and affluence is under threat and a potential target of violence.

…I will cut to the chase and say “WTF?” about this (I quote):

Which is why the battle for freedom and the battle for progress must be a sensible and a rational one; it can’t be a trivial battle where we fling coloured underwear at maniacs. We must learn from the Nehruvians of the 40s and 50s who were incredibly westernised, but deeply rooted; many of whom were rich but lived modest tasteful lives. They drank, they smoked and they romanced, yet they were discreet and embodied a tradition of Indian elitism that was rooted in both excellence as well as tradition. C. Rajagopalachari was considered a scholar in three languages-Sanskrit, Tamil and English. Rukmini Devi Arundale may have been deeply influenced by the Theosophical Movement but dedicated her life to reviving Indian dance and music by founding the Kalakshetra academy. Sarojini Naidu’s favourite poet was Shelley but she took pride in the fact that she could speak Urdu, Telegu and Bengali. However westernized their minds, India’s nationalist elite could not be accused of living in a cocoon of extravagant privilege or having their pleasure spots guarded by armed commandos

It looks like Mrs. Ghose completely missed the point about why people are flinging pink underwear! Not surprising coming from the kind of “insight” we get from her programs on cnn-IBN. Nothing hurts a bigot more than the fact that others don’t take them seriously (eg. Freakonomics description of how KKK was brought down). It is only when people start taking bigoted idiots seriously that you feed their egos and give them legitimacy. Besides, the much derided “today’s youth” are not flinging their underwear to achieve development. They are smartly doing it only to trivialize the role of Sri Rama Sene in the society.

And what better time to get socialistalgic than when capitalists are faltering.  (let’s forget that Public Sector Companies, those pillars of socialism, never made any money; with their only significant contribution to the society being housing colonies in Bangalore, which are now generating big income for lucky old employees)

Seriously,  the upper middle class elite of the 1940s , represented by Nehru (!) and co.were in-tell-ehhhk-chual.

They read Shelley. We like P. Diddy.

They knew Telugu, Urdu and English. We live in India without knowing our own mother tongues.

They lived tasteful lives, drank tea on teak tables in their back yards, and sipped from the finest transluscent Chinaware, attended by the most sofishtikated butlerrgaLu’s and Badmashes. We? Jusht drink coffee at work places from Made in China polysterene cups. How tasteless.

Isn’t it silly to compare aam admi like you and I to Mr. J. Nehru, Rukmini Arundale, Rajaji, Sarojini Naidu and co, and make nostalgic references to the supposed elite of socialist India?  If this isn’t socialistalgia, what is? All right, we will try to emulate them… only because Mrs. Ghose has read about their lives and feels socialistalgic.

And now, you can get back to watching ibnlive… err, not quite, there is some more:

Fourthly, fussing about speed math:

Can you consider the ability to do “speed math”, a serious, extraordinary feat of mathematics? (Ref.: Discussion with my friend)

The contexts were these: [here], [here] and [funnily, here]

The person in question claims that he can mentally calculate “Factorial value of a 10 digit number”. The factorial of a ten digit number would have 10^9-10^10, i.e billions of digits. Let’s say he does calculate it. Then to write it down, it would take years. And who will have the patience to verify it? He is probably using Stirling’s approximation, which would still be a tall claim that you did (7,655,167,881^(7,655,167,881)) in your mind… Yet, we get back to the question – so what? Of what use are you to the mathematical sciences and all the other sciences and engineerings which rest on this, if you can multiply 7,655,167,881 7,655,167,881 times in your head? Try proving the Reimann conjecture instead.

XKCD.com

Cartoon credits and courtesy: XKCD.com

(No offense intended. I do respect speed mathematicians for their extraordinary talent.)

Individual Liberties in India

The chief minister of Rajasthan, Ashok Ghelot, of the Congress Party doesn’t want you holding hands with your girlfriend (or boyfriend), wife (or husband), sister (or brother) in the mall. It is anti-Indian.

The chief minister of Karnataka, Yeddiyurappa of the BJP doesn’t want you to go to pubs, especially if you are a woman. Be moral, loyal woman citizen of India, do not go to a pub.

The talented director Anurag Kashyap has probably given up on the Central Board for Film Certification, which bans and cuts his art into pieces, in the name of morality.

The central Government gets into a three way fight with (huh) its own health minister, and the Supreme Court over homosexual rights in India. The immorality!

Morality! How wrong our politicians are about morality. Contrary to their definition of morality, consider these questions: Is there anything more immoral than curbing an artists freedom of expression? More immoral than preventing couples from holding hands in public? More immoral than disallowing two people in love from marrying just because they belong to the same sex?

BJP and Congress may be Left-of-center and Right-of-center. They may disagree (hypocritically) on the nuclear deal. They may squabble about economic policies. They may call each other names like “communal” and “pseudo-secular”. They will also make sure there is no uniform civil code in India. Certainly, all efforts are directed towards ensuring that the parliament has only 32 sittings in a crucial, eventful year like 2008. Yet, in total unaninimity, the opposite poles of our great democracy agree on curbing individual liberties. It looks like controlling individual choices and freedoms has become a national pastime at the Lower and Upper houses of the Country and the states.

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