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Thursday, May 02, 2019

17 crores without safe water..

A woman collecting the UN-recommended amount of 50 litres per person for her family of four from a water source 30 minutes away would spend two and a half months a year on this task.

17 crore people in India do not have access to clean water close to home (defined as more than 30 min of round trip to fetch water). This is the largest population of any country in the world without nearby access to safe water.

The country after India with most number of people without access to safe water is Ethiopia, with 6 crore people in this category.  But China has 6 crore people too without access of clean water close to home, and Pakistan, 2 crores. All the rest of the countries in the top ten list are from Africa, apart from Indonesia.

Although both China and India provided access to clean water to humongous numbers of their people since the year 2000 : 33 crores in China, and 30 crores in India. Even Pakistan and Bangladesh provided access to large numbers of people with clean water near their homes, since the year 2000 : 4 and 3 crores respectively. 

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

The difference betwen BJP and AAP

Unlike the BJP at the centre, whenever I read up on any measure taken by the AAP Government, I find it well planned, and well executed. Many of the good works they are doing are not well known either. Here are some you may not have heard about :

In Dec 2017, Delhi government approved of a scheme to bear all the bills incurred on the treatment of victims of road accidents, burns or acid attacks in private or government hospitals. Irrespective of domicile, the victims will get free treatment if the mishaps take place within the geographical jurisdiction of Delhi. The treatment is already free in government hospitals, but any other bills incurred during treatment will also be paid by the government. There is no upper cap on the expenses borne by the government.  


A majority (45 % or more) of urban indian households connect their toilets to pits or septic tanks which have to be cleared out periodically. But this process is not regulated – 12 people died in Delhi in 2017 cleaning out septic tanks and this is repeated across india. The tankers carrying the sludge from the septic tank / pit offload it untreated, on any vacant plot / field / drain or river. This is a major cause of the river waters and ground waters getting polluted across India. 

In Aug 2015, Delhi Jal Board (under the Delhi Government) enacted Septic Tank Waste Management Regulations. Implementation of the regulations is ongoing : The DJB said it will issue licenses to the vendors who will collect septage and dispose of it at various treatment plants and pumping stations demarcated by the board. Only individuals and agencies with leak-, odour- and spill-proof vehicle and proper vacuum and discharging equipment will be given a licence. They must also have gas detectors, gas masks, protective gear, a first-aid box and an oxygen mask and cylinder. Emptying fees will also be prescribed by the DJB. 

A 2016 Centre for Science and Environment study found that Delhi was only among three cities (out of 11 studied across India) to have taken steps to regulate operators involved in emptying septic tanks.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Quality School Education does not matter for India's leading political parties

WHEN the Bharatiya Janata Party rolled out its manifesto for the 2014 general election, revitalising India’s education sector was one of its core commitments. It promised to make India a “knowledge superpower” and announced the redrafting of the National Education Policy (NEP) with emphasis on quality, innovation, outcome and industry linkage. However, there has been no forward movement in terms of delivering on these promises. The committee entrusted with drafting the new NEP missed its fourth deadline, and overhauling the education sector, battered by a shortage of trained staff and missing infrastructure, remains a distant dream.

India’s rank in education dipped from 92 in 2015 to 104 in 2018 amongst 140 plus countries.

Experts see this deterioration in India’s performance as an inevitable consequence of reduced spending. In its first year, 2014-15, the Modi government reduced the allocation for education, from 4.77 per cent to 4.61 per cent of the Budget. This downward trend continued in the next three years, when the spending on education was further squeezed to 3.89 per cent, 3.66 per cent and 3.17 per cent, respectively (incidentally, Modi did the same in Gujarat as CM,  resulting in a state where enrolment of students, especially those from SC or ST backgrounds, dropped over the years).

Minister of State for Human Resource Development Satya Pal Singh said in a statement in the Lok Sabha on January 1, 2019, that 92,275 government schools were run with only one teacher for all the subjects. Over 10 lakh teachers’ posts in schools are lying vacant. One in every four schools in rural India did not have an electricity connection.

The proportion of Class 8 students who could not even read a Class 2 level text was 25.3 per cent in 2014. This increased to 27 per cent in 2018.

Notwithstanding all this, the Centre has continued to reduce budgetary allocation for education; it fell from 0.64 per cent of the gross domestic product in 2014-15 to 0.45 per cent in 2019-20.

The Centre’s focus has remained on promoting itself rather than on delivering tangible results. This was evident from the fact that 56 per cent of the funds allotted for the flagship Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao programme were spent in advertisement of the scheme.

When the AAP ascended to power in Delhi in 2015 and presented its first Budget, it allocated 10,000 crores for education, double that of the previous government’s Budget. Even in the 2018-’19 fiscal year, 26 per cent of Delhi’s Budget was allocated for education.

The changes were visible. The Delhi government was not only successful in constructing over 8,000 classrooms in government schools and kick-starting construction of 12,000 more, but also in upgrading existing classrooms with modern amenities such as projectors, besides setting up laboratories and conference halls for extracurricular activities.

Building so many new classrooms as additions to existing schools was the equivalent of 300-350 new schools, Kejriwal said recently. For perspective, the Congress government constructed only 800 classrooms in 15 years.

A total of 25 new schools were set up; 31 more are under construction. In contrast, the Congress government built 33 schools in 15 years.

Atishi, advisor on Education to Delhi Govt. for 3 years, said recently : ‘Earlier, the quality of government schools was poor and the schools were dirty and badly maintained. Every school has an estate manager who is responsible for ensuring cleanliness.

Improved infrastructure also creates a greater sense of dignity and pride – for students as well as teachers. For the first time, they felt that someone cared about their schools. And so the effort and self-belief of both students and teachers has shot up.’

Atishi went on to add : ‘Next, we improved accountability. Earlier, there was virtually none. No one ever asked whether teachers were coming to class or not, taking up lessons or not. For the first time, we improved accountability by making parents part of the governance. School management committees, which exist under the Right to Education Act, are virtually defunct in all parts of the country. Those have been improved. We have been having regular parent-teacher meetings so that there is greater local accountability.

The third factor has been the improvement in the quality of teacher training. We have invested heavily in this area. Earlier, the budget for teacher training was Rs 10 crore. We have increased it by ten times to Rs 100 crore. Our principals and teachers have been sent to some of the best organisations in the country and the world. They have been to IIM (Ahmedabad), Harvard University, Cambridge University, National Institute of Education.

So far, at least 500 to 600 principals and teachers have been sent abroad on training programmes. We have also got a cadre of 200 mentor-teachers’ who were trained at the National Institute of Education in Singapore. The objective was to leverage their newly gained expertise and upgrade the pedagogic abilities of Delhi’s 45,000 plus community of government schoolteachers. Each mentor-teacher takes on the responsibility for five schools, in terms of improving classroom practices. Every school has someone called a teacher development coordinator, who plays a key role in improving process and practice.

The AAP Government’s array of innovative programmes in government schools, more notably Chunauti 2018 that supports the last child in the class to learn, Kala Utsav to promote artistic talent, online capacity building programmes for teachers, and a happiness curriculum to stimulate good mental health and resilience, have delivered results. 

The testimony to that came last year, when the results of the Central Board of Secondary Education examination for Class 12 were declared. The pass percentage of Delhi government schools increased from 88.36 per cent in the previous year to 90.68 per cent. The overall performance of Delhi government schools was the second best in the country, after Thiruvananthapuram (Kerala). Delhi class XII Govt. school performance was 7.6 percent higher than the national CBSE average, showing the best results in 20 years. 

The Delhi government asserts that it is working towards making government schools on a par with private and public schools so that more and more students are willing to enrol in government schools and secure quality education that is also affordable. According to media reports, in 2017, Sarvodaya Co-Ed Secondary School in Delhi’s Rohini locality saw some 900 students from private schools joining it.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

A Tale of Two MPs

MP Ramesh Bidhuri has been re-nominated for a BJP ticket from South Delhi while MP Dr. Udit Raj was denied re-nomination from North-West Delhi. I heard several speeches by both to gauge what sorts of issues each had focused on.

While Bidhuri raised the issue of water for Delhi, irregular colonies etc. I found his speeches full of repetitive thanks to Modi and various ministers. The substantive points he raised on those issues were usually old hat. He also spent a lot of time showing the opposition down.

Udit Raj, though, is an intellectual - his breadth of interests is far wider and the points he raised were novel. They ranged from SC/ST atrocities to LIC debentures, and malpractices in the BIS. I would say he is a man to watch.

What interests me is BJP's criteria for re-nomination. This is not a party that rewards talent and the entrepreneurial spirit, which Raj shows in plenty. BJP rewards yes-men & the usual goonda-political mix that Bidhuri displays in plenty. So much for Modi's leadership !

This great website lets you track MPs and MLAs – what Qs did they ask in the Lok Sabha / State Assembly. What debates did they participate in ? 

Once some topic of the debate interests me I look up the net on what that MP had to say. For example, Bidhuri spoke on making laws to permit those with 100 sq yards plots in Delhi, to keep milch cattle ! He may think he knows his constituency but his sense of what Delhi needs, belongs to the middle ages !

Is bajra bad for birds ?

A neighbour sent me this message : 

श्री पक्षीयो का अस्पताल गुरुग्राम से यह वाट्सअप सभी को भेजने के लिए भेजा है:-

🔹अधिकांश कबूतर की दोनों आँखे खराब हो जाने के कारण ये अब देख नहीं सकते

🔹इसके अंधे होने का कारण है इसे डाला गया #बाजरा,

🔹जी हाँ, गर्मियों में पक्षियों के लिए खासकर कबूतरों के लिए बाजरा अत्यंत घातक है।

🔹बाजरा बहुत ही ज्यादा गर्म होता है जिसे खाने से कबूतरों के चेहरे पर मस्से निकलने शुरू हो जातें है, चेहरा गल जाता है और आँखें भी गल जाती है

🔹अँधा होने के साथ-साथ कबूतर की चोंच मुड़ जाती है

🔹मुंह अंदर से पक जाता है

🔹खाना पीना बन्द करने के बाद कबूतर तड़प-तड़प कर मर जाता है। कई बार हम कबूतरों को #सतनाजा भी डालते है

मतलब सात तरह का मिक्स अनाज।

🔹जिसमे बाजरा भी होता है, लेकिन ध्यान रहे कि बाजरे के चन्द दाने गर्मी में कबूतर की दर्दनाक मौत का कारण बनतें है, जिसके लिए दाना डालने वाला भी अनजाने में इस पाप का भागीदार बन जाता है।

🔹सभी दोस्त इस पोस्ट को ज्यादासे ज्यादा शेयर करें और जो भी आपके आस पास पक्षियों को दाना चोगा डालते हैं उनको इसके बारे में जरूर समझाएं

Wheat is the best for birds.
I wrote back to the neighbour : 

I trust you checked this information a bit before forwarding it ? I for one can find nothing on the net in its support. 

The Gurgaon hospital you mentioned has a page on bird disease and mentions nothing of the kind you sent :

In all the studies and advice from wildbird organizations that I looked up (all unfortunately abroad, information from none of the Indian ones showed up regarding millet / wheat), millet is mentioned as a favourite food for songbirds. Wheat is not mentioned at all. Most of the advice on the net showed up from the USA which is otherwise a big wheat producing country. 

One advice site for pet pigeons mentioned wheat and said it was not suitable for them. 

In our own garden, we saw pigeons for the first time in late Feb when a neighbour closed her balcony with netting. 2-3 pigeons showed up at our garden then and even now visit occasionally. Susan said they used to spend the day at her balcony and must have started coming to us because access to the balcony was closed off due to netting. 

We get large no. of sparrows in our gardens. Also doves, munias, bulbuls, satbhais, tailor birds, robins, water hens, partridges, and some others whose name I don’t recall. We serve bajra, and also in a separate container cleaned three times a week, leftover food. Watermelon or other left over fresh fruit is also served. 

I think the main attraction for birds in our garden are lots of thick vines – bougainvillea, madhumalti, juhi and clerodendron which offer shelter, flowers, insects. 

No pesticides are used in our garden so birds find earthworms in the soil which are critical to raise their young. Pesticide use should be discouraged in all gardens and then birds abound. If there is a problem with pests, neem leaves are very useful and I can be asked how to use them. 

Water provision, cleaning and changing the water atleast twice a week (and during summer topping to full daily if possible) is even more important than food I think. We provide many different water bowls as so many birds like to drink and bathe in them.

Please share the above with those you shared that bajra post with, if you did share it.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Surprising health benefits of eating Mango

Debiji sent a great presentation on the health benefits of ingesting Mango. But I like to check these statements in published studies as many forwards sometimes have dubious claims which the sender may not have researched for himself. Here is what I found :

Mango is the national fruit of India and the Philippines, and the national tree of Bangladesh. Over one thousand mango fruit varieties are available worldwide.

It is native to India and Southeast Asia where it has been cultivated for over 4000 years. Currently, mango is also grown in Central America, Africa, Australia, and for a few years in Europe (Sicily, among other places).

Although Mango was first introduced in Sicily in the 1980s, it was only in-depth research that allowed it to be reintroduced in the 2000s. It is now enthusiastically used in Sicily to cover abandoned soils, previously dedicated to citrus groves and no longer profitable for the Sicilian rural market. 

Mango pulp has relatively high content in calories (60 Kcal/100 g fresh weight) and is an important source of potassium, fibre, and vitamins. Mango pulp is also a particularly rich source of polyphenols and carotenoids, a group of micronutrients found in plants which exert specific health benefit.

Mango skin and seed are usually discarded. However, several studies report that these mango by-products also contain high levels of health-enhancing compounds.

Mango skin has been found to be a good source of polyphenols, carotenoids, dietary fibre, and vitamin E. Many healthful compounds in fruit peel are present only in small amounts in the pulp.

A polyphenol called Mangiferin is one of the most potent antioxidants known. It has been found in mango bark, leaves and pulp, but the richest part of the plant in mangiferin is the fruit peel.

However, peel consumption can also promote an allergic reaction in some people because of either the presence of allergen urushiol in the fruit peel, or the presence of pesticides.

Mango seed kernels are equally rich in polyphenols with potent antioxidant activity. 

Finally, polyphenols are also present in mango leaves, flowers, and stem bark.

A certain number of Reactive Oxygen S3pecies (ROS) are produced in the human body and can damage cells. The ability of the body to fight off ROS goes down during stressful conditions. If ROS are not removed, their accumulation overcomes the cellular reparative abilities, causing the collapse of cellular functions and can result in the generation of pathological states related to aging, cancer, atherosclerosis, heart attack, stroke, and diabetes. 

The large variety of antioxidants, pigments, and vitamins that are present in any part of the mango plant are responsible for the antioxidant and free radical scavenging activities (destruction of ROS).

Several varieties of Mango from Bangladesh were tested, and Langra was found to have the highest phenol content as well as antioxidant properties.

Several studies showed that phytochemicals contained in mango play an anti-inflammatory role in several chronic pathological disorders associated with inflammatory responses.

Bioactive compounds of mango, particularly in its pulp and leaf extracts, have been also reported to exert anti-diabetic effects. Doses of Mango pulp to diabetic rats resulted in a significant decline in blood glucose levels.

Bioactive components contained in the different parts of mango (bark, pulp and kernels) have also shown anticancer activity in different tumour cell lines. The data collected is very encouraging and suggests a targeted action on tumour cells.

Monday, April 22, 2019

A draft post of Nov 2018 is still valid.. on the Ujwala scheme

Many studies have shown that sustainable use of bio-mass for domestic energy purposes (cooking, heating and light) is a very important part of finding energy solutions for our country's rural inhabitants, most of whom use biomass today but over earthern chulhas. Many urban poor use bio-mass as well. So such chulhas (apart from biogas generators) can play a big role in improving the health of the rural poor, vastly improving efficiency in use of the bio-mass (so much less is needed for the same cooking needs) and reduce the soot effect on monsoons and melting of glaciers.

These chulhas emit much less CO2 by increasing the efficiency of the burning of the biomass, thus helping with mitigating global warming. The BJP Govt. has distributed 4 million LPG cylinders and regulators at a cost of Rs. 1600 each but there are as many suspended connections in the country (LPG customers who do not order refill even once in 90 days), indicating that a majority of those who got these free connections are too poor to pay for refills. In contrast, only about 35000 improved chulhas have been distributed in the last 4 years !

LPG was always part of the rural energy solution, never the full solution, but the Govt. was not really focused on helping the rural poor in this context. It ignored a large study that the Govt. itself funded that had warned that the rural population by and large did not exhibit affordability for LPG refills, and that the oil companies did not have a robust distribution system in rural areas.

Right from the beginning the purpose of the scheme seemed to be free publicity for Modi at the expense of the oil companies who were forced to give the cook stoves and LPG filling also on interest free loans as the beneficiaries were too poor to pay for them.

A recent tender for billboards at petrol pumps and in front of airports (!) in just three states of india has been put out by indian oil for nearly 300 crores. Might not the expense on the publicity of modi having done good to the rural women in all states of india, then reach even a 1000 crores ?! In any case, in what way does advertising on petrol pumps and in front of airports help the rural poor access the LPG scheme ??! In contrast to the hundreds of crores spent on the personal publicity of one politician, the total cost of this programme all over the country is Rs. 8000 crores in all !

Thursday, April 11, 2019

The Seeta Ashok, a native tree of India

Prasannaji sent me this picture and wrote : 'Seeta Ashok in full bloom. At a public park in Jhansi. I was there last week and came across it during my morning walk.'

He told me this is supposed to be the Ashok in Ashok Vatika in Lanka where Sita was forced to stay by Ravana. The tall, columnar Ashok we see more frequently is the false Ashok !


कहते हैं लुंबिनी में बुद्ध का जन्म भी सीता-अशोक के वृक्ष के नीचे ही हुआ था। इसलिए बौद्ध धर्म में यह एक पूज्य वृक्ष माना गया है। कहते तो यह भी हैं कि महावीर ने अपना प्रथम उपदेश सीता-अशोक के वृक्ष के नीचे ही बैठ कर दिया था। रामायण में वर्णित अशोक वाटिका को भी सीता-अशोक के कुंजों की वाटिका माना गया है। कालीदास ने अपने काव्य ‘ऋतु संहार’ और नाटकों में अशोक के वृक्ष का मनोहारी वर्णन किया है।

One of the recurring elements in Indian art, often found at gates of Buddhist and Hindu temples, is The sculpture of a yakshini with her foot on the trunk and her hands holding the branch of a flowering ashoka tree. 

Yakshinis are mythical beings of Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain mythology. They are attendees of Kubera, the Hindu god of wealth. 

This figure is from Madhya Pradesh, 2nd century BC, and this picture was taken in 1875 by the Archeological survey of india.


As a wild tree, the ashoka is a 
vulnerable species. It is becoming rarer in its natural habitat in India.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Should India have participated in OBOR ?

I had read quite a bit on the One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative of China where 130 countries are participating in building connecting infrastructure - roads, highways, ports and bridges, to increase trade among themselves.

It seemed a win-win for all, but India has refused to participate, primarily citing the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor which passes through Pak-occupied-Kashmir (PoK).

The Karakoram highway was also built by China and Pakistan in the 1960s through PoK. The concerns that India has had against misuse of the economic investment for strategic and military purposes have thus existed for decades, with no redressal. Therefore citing the same concerns for the new corridor wont bring India benefits. 

In my view, India should have participated, and used its interventions to hem in terrorist activity emanating from the region.

Is India OK with an old age pension of Rs. 200 for its elderly poor ?

The Central Govt. has paid the elderly poor below poverty line, a pension of just 200 rs. a month since 2006 ! This amount is not inflation indexed either.

Only 3.5 crores of the estimated 10 crore elderly below poverty line are paid this pension.

But Government employees get paid 12 % over their basic pay / pension to compensate for increasing inflation.

If India cannot afford a basic pension for its poor elderly it should not be paying large sums in salaries and pensions to government employees either. Why are salaries of government employees de-linked from the rest of the economy ?

The Pension Parishad has been asking the Government for years to increase the pension amount to atleast cover basic nutrition which at today's prices would be Rs. 3000 a month. Economists have suggested ways for a small wealth tax, or increasing the tax on stock market transactions or cash transactions to finance old age pension to proper levels.

But the Government ofcourse has no time for this : It is preoccupied instead with colossal statues and bullet trains. It is a government of industrialists and big traders which sells plastic patriotism to the average indian to get itself more power.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Treating Women as Objects..

A neighbour sent me this video. I wrote back : This embarrassing video may pass in macho Indian films but is completely out of place in political messaging. I guess some infantile admirer of the BJP has made it as his paen of praise.

The song itself is rather innocently worded and sung. It is the video which conveys troubling messages :

1. In a long song (in video terms 3 min is very long) the featured woman has no identity except in terms of her immediately married family relationships - there is no reference even to her parents or siblings. One of the oaths I remember in my family's sanatani marriage practices was to not step out without permission of inlaws and husband. Another oath was that you will henceforth have no contact with the home you grew up in !

It seems that these regressive practices fit in well with BJP's world view - rather than help take society in a more just direction, BJP would rather exploit the fault-lines for its passing advantage.

2. The featured lady exhibits no aspect of her life apart from her marital home relationships - she is not even shown managing her home, purchasing anything outside, interacting with neighbours, or heaven forbid - going to work. Seeking to put women in isolation, occupied only in serving their needs, seems to serve these exploitative right wing men well.

3. The lady is featured in nice traditional clothes and is seen singing and dancing throughout - it is a bit much for a 3 min video with no other activities/aspects. She is fixated on the man (presumably her husband), seeking his approval and affection.

But the man treats her THROUGHOUT the video as a sex object only - many of his looks and gestures are lewd almost for a video targetted at families presumably. Perhaps the video maker did not mean it - it looks like he is too culturally devoid to imagine what affection between genuine partners - a husband and wife can be like.

4. The husband is shown as higher in status while the wife simpers and prances around him.

The point of analyzing this objectionable video is that it shows inadvertantly what 'culture' might mean to the BJP and some of its core followers. There is nothing implicitly Indian about the machismo and coyness on display. Everyone I know who saw this video, thought it was vulgar. Vulgarity does not come from exposing body parts alone. It also comes from showing women as objects for men to consume.

Wednesday, March 06, 2019

The Impact of Disasters on Odisha’s Economy

In 2013, Odisha estimated the losses caused by Cyclone Phailin and subsequent floods at Rs 22,000 crores. This was more than the state's annual plan outlay of Rs 21,000 crore for that year.

Even a month after the cyclone, all across the deluge and gale-affected districts there was clear evidence that the state administration was unable to provide relief to the 4 million people rendered homeless by Phailin.

It took Odisha's economy some seve
n years to recover from its last super cyclone in 1999.

During the Ninth Plan period (1997-2002), Odisha was ravaged by a series of disasters. On the eve of the Tenth Plan (2002-03), the entire state was facing severe drought. The total loss of livelihood and damage to capital stock because of calamities between during the Ninth Plan stands at Rs 13,000 crore. This is close to 60 per cent of the state's total plan outlay of Rs 19,000 crore for the Tenth Five-Year Plan.

Natural calamities have seriously affected livelihoods in the state and the income level of households. These also led to serious setback for capital formation process in the economy.

The impact of disasters on Odisha’s economy is evident. The state's per capita income declined rapidly in the second half of the 1990s, disaster-wise the worst phase. It is now half the national average. An average of 900,000 ha of agricultural production is lost every year because of disasters.

Tuesday, March 05, 2019

A primer on Fascism..

My neighbour wrote to me when I pointed out to him the parallels between Nazi thought and RSS : 'What Fascism are the secularists talking about?'

I wrote back to him : Since you asked, here is a primer on what Fascism is : 

1. Fascism seeks to unify a nation under the banner of racial or CULTURAL PURITY as a method of weeding out an imagined WEAKNESS. This is its FIRST characteristic. There are often references to a glorious past – whether it is real, exaggerated or mythical. See here too.

This should remind you of the Hindu Right exhorting Hindus to weed out their weaknesses by going back to the Hindu Right’s singular (false) version of Hinduism.

2.     A SECOND feature of Fascism is that it makes EXTRAVAGANT PROMISES TO GET BACK the lost pride of a nation, or lost lands.

Like the drum beating by the Hindu right that making a Ram Temple at Ayodhya is the top most challenge for India that they will address - above any other of rising hunger, lack of jobs or returns to farmers from farming, etc. 

3. Fascism needs to EXCLUDE SOME PARTS OF SOCIETY as undesirable. This is its THIRD characteristic. The majority of a region is then asked to unite to defend themselves against these others. See here and here too. 

Hitler presented Jews as not being Aryan, and the Hindu Right presents Muslims and Christians as not belonging to the soil of India. Dalits and Tribals are not accepted on equal terms either. False stories are spread about all the groups that the Hindu Right wants to exclude from the mainstream of Indian society. 

4. Fascism involves a FOURTH characteristic - it requires its core support base to be FEARFUL OF THE ‘OTHER’, based on lies. See here too.The 'other' is then forced into ghettos, and finally, into Camps. 

Think of the endless lies told to you about Muslims, and other stories on how reservations for Dalits and Tribals will destroy our society. See how the Hindu neighbourhoods frown upon Muslims amidst them, and they end up in ghettos

5. The FIFTH feature of Fascism is that Nationalism – that is, pride for one’s country, is distorted and manipulated to show to the population that THE ACTIONS OF THE RULERS ARE ALWAYS CORRECT. See here and here too. 

Modi shows himself always above all reproach. But he has done lots to damage our country however - things that were widely criticized. Has he apologized for them - the mass killings his Gujarat Government presided over, or demonetization or beating up Dalits in the name of cow protection ?

6. The SIXTH characteristic of Fascism is to characterize democratic decision making as ‘weak’ and ‘slow’, calling instead for one CHARISMATIC LEADER TO TAKE ALL THE DECISIONS FOR THE COUNTRY. See here and here too. 

Remind you of someone ? 

7. The SEVENTH feature of Fascism is Totalitarianism – THE TOTAL CONTROL OF A SOCIETY and its people. Education, the arts, civil society organizations are all made to fall in line with the vision of the ruling party. Citizens are expected to have faith in a SINGLE ruling party, often personified by one person. 

Remind you of someone and something

8. The EIGHTH feature of Fascism is intense SUPPORT FOR VIOLENCE TO ACHIEVE POLITICAL OBJECTIVES (see here and here too). Censorship and propaganda are routinely deployed to re-fashion society in line with the vision of a single political party. Severe mass inequality is often a result of Fascism

Horrific stories flood our press about the violence deployed by the Hindu Right frequently against minorities. Here is just one of them. Here is another and another

9. The NINTH feature of Fascism is the RAISING OF PRIVATE MILITIAS (civilians trained to use arms and combat techniques) which are then deployed for political ends of the entity to whom they owe allegiance, often using force and violence.

Hitler had his Brownshirts, Mussolini the Blackshirts, and RSS has its Shakhas. 

10. The TENTH feature of Fascism is PARTICIPATION IN ELECTIONS TO BEGIN WITH, until using intimidation and violence in part, the Fascists are able to gain absolute majorities. After some years of so-called legitimate rule, THE SUPREME LEADER THEN DECLARES HIMSELF DICTATOR (Hitler lasted in this position for 12 years, and Mussolini for 18 years). 

The BJP won small electoral victories to begin with, but has kept up an atmosphere of violence in the country when not in power. BJP’s trolls are now calling for Modi to be a Dictator ! 

11. The ELEVENTH characteristic of Fascist Governments is that they are FAR-RIGHT IN THEIR ORIENTATION but back some socialist policies such as spending on large-scale infrastructure, like roads. 

12. The TWELFTH feature of Fascism is that they FEEL NO NEED TO BE CONSISTENT IN THEIR POLICIES. They will espouse whatever they need to, to obtain and consolidate power. They also espouse opposite things to different constituencies. 

Like the BJP and their Right Wing friends have been shown to say something else to Muslims and something else to Hindus. 

13. The THIRTEENTH feature of Fascim is REWARDING OF SUCCESSFUL BUSINESSES – but only those it considers as SERVING THE ‘NATIONAL’ INTERESTIn fact, Mussolini is quoted as saying, “Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power."

So enterprises of Muslims and Dalits connected to meat and the leather industry can be seriously hurt, while those funding BJP like the Adanis and Ambanis can be rewarded continuously by tweaking the rules.

Sunday, March 03, 2019

India will reach replacement levels of population by 2020 - that might imply Indian muslims will reach replacement levels before 2040

We have all heard the constant lies and bogus fears spread by the Hindu right about the population of Muslims in India. Here is an exchange with my neighbour today on this topic :

[6:44 PM, 3/3/2019] Neighbour : Fact is the Muslim population has actually increased in India and faster in percentage terms than of Hindus.

[7:05 PM, 3/3/2019] Me : Fertility Rate - that is, how many children does a woman have in total in all her reproductive years is higher - worldwide and among all religious denominations, for poorer people.

That is because poorer people cannot be that confident their children will grow to adulthood and be around for their parents when the parents are older. As health indicators of a population improve, especially among children, the fertility rate falls. This is science, and has been so for centuries all over the world.

[7:15 PM, 3/3/2019] Me : The latest family health survey of india showed that the total fertility rate for hindus fell from 2.6 ten years ago to 2.1 now.

That of muslims fell from 3.4 to 2.6 in the same period - that is, their fertility rate is falling faster than that of hindus. Muslims are on average having as many children now as hindus were having just 10 years ago - 2.6 per woman.

Scheduled Tribes whose poverty matches that of muslims in india, had a total fertility rate of 2.5 now.

Overall, the poorest indians had on average 3.2 children.

[7:41 PM, 3/3/2019] Me : Fertility is falling faster than expected in India, and the country is on track to reach replacement levels of fertility as soon as 2020. Fertility is declining rapidly, including among the poor and illiterate.

A study projects Muslim woman will require an additional 16 years than Hindu women to reach replacement level fertility of 2.1 children per women.

So if the hindu population reached a total fertility rate of 2.1 in india in say 2022, Muslims might reach the replacement level of 2.1 a few years before 2040.

So should you not think about the toxic messages that the hindu right has been feeding you for decades which are entirely false ?

[7:56 PM, 3/3/2019] Me : Having more children per woman is nothing to do with religion, and everything to do with poverty and health indicators. Hindu India had a higher fertility rate in 2014 (2.4) than Muslim Bangaldesh (2.2).

In fact, Bangladesh reached replacement levels of 2.1 in 2016, a few years ahead of india as a whole.

[8:03 PM, 3/3/2019] Me : As you can see from census data, the fertility rate of Bihar is higher than that of Indian Muslims on average.

Source of the image.

See for yourself the close parallels between India's leadership now, and Germany's leadership before WW2..

An instructive exchange with a neighbour :

[12:34 PM, 3/3/2019] Neighbour : If Modi has not done anything the public must be fools to have elected him as CM repeatedly followed by PM.

[12:37 PM, 3/3/2019] Me : Good lord - surely history has told you that being popular for a time is no proof of the right intent ? Hitler was the most popular leader in germany for more than a decade. he also justified what he did in the name of the national interest and the german people believed him.

[12:39 PM, 3/3/2019] Me : as you would have surely read, goondas are very good at winning elections repeatedly - career criminals. that is why there are so many of them in most political parties. their winning constitutes proof for you on how good they are for our country ?

[12:40 PM, 3/3/2019] Neighbour : Wrong analogy - the favourite one of Congress supporters. Was Hitler democratically elected the first time?

[12:41 PM, 3/3/2019] Me : yes. in elections. he had most of the socialists then in power, murdered on the quiet by private militia.

[12:42 PM, 3/3/2019] Me : no, it isnt a cheap analogy. i have studied some aspects of nazi thought and find modi - and RSS are devout followers. the hindu right wing supported nazi germany and appealed to hitler to attack india to dislodge the british !

[12:44 PM, 3/3/2019] Neighbour: So did another nationaL icon Bose. Nothing wrong if served national interest .

[12:46 PM, 3/3/2019] Me : you cannot speak of Bose and the Hindu right in the same breath ! The Hindu rights' interest was in a final solution of muslims in india. Bose wanted independence, impatient with Gandhi's slow methods. you can speak of Bhagat Singh and Bose together.

[12:47 PM, 3/3/2019] Me : The hindu right NEVER PARTICIPATED - NOT ONE BIT, IN INDIA'S FREEDOM STRUGGLE. Instead they fomented riots in the decades preceeding partition alongside muslim league. 

[1:02 PM, 3/3/2019] Me : Congress opposed partition till the very last. the only elected goernnment to officially endorse the creation of Pakistan was Savarkar's some years before partition. Please read.

 [6:14 PM, 3/3/2019] Me : Since you asked a Q on how he came to rule over the German people, here is a brief cartoon video on the career of Hitler. I think it is a must see for those influenced by the Hindu Right – you can see for yourself the close analogies between Modi and Hitler, and RSS and Nazi thought here. It is not for nothing that scholars have drawn parallels between them for the past many decades. 

Part 2, 8 min long, is a must see.

If you have the time, see part 1 too. It is 6 min long.

It was the BJP Govt. that had released Masood Azhar, the perpetrator of many attacks against India

A good step forward - India was invited by the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC) recently as a guest of honour. The foreign minister Swaraj said there that the fight  against terrorism is not a confrontation against any religion. This was the first time that India had participated in this meet. OIC projects itself as the voice of Muslim countries in the world. Bangladesh had proposed in 2018 that India be invited as an observer but Pakistan had opposed it. In fact Pakistan did not participate in the meet this year as India had been invited. 

However since the hindu right appear to read nothing except their own toxic slogans, here is a primer on the genesis of the last few major terrorist attacks on India : 

1. Most of the high profile terrorist attacks on india in the last few decades including the latest one at Pulwama, can be traced to Masood Azhar who was quickly released along with other jailed militants by the BJP govt. in 1999 when an Indian plane was hijacked. 

2. The BJP govt. did not mount any operation to free the passengers on indian soil, reportedly under the influence of NK Singh (now a BJP politician and appointed chairman of the finance commission by the present Modi govt.). Singh was principal secretary to then PM Vajpayee when the hijack had taken place. 

Singh's brother-in-law (b-in-law) was on board the plane (one among nearly 200 passengers) and many reports say NK Singh and another brother-in-law Nikhil Kumar, head of the National Security Guards (NSG) then, both of whom were in the crisis management group handing the hijack, focused  on protecting their b-in-law on the plane from possible harm if the govt. took any action. In fact, no mock exercises had been held by NSG under the Vajpayee Govt. for two years, and as a result the crisis management group process was just on files. 

3. The b-in-law on the plane - Tomar, a RAW officer had earlier received credible reports of a hijack attempt by terrorists from his junior but had dismissed them. There are no reports of him having provided any leadership on the plane in the midst of the crisis. Yet he was rewarded after the hijack with plum postings. The other b-in-law, NSG chief Nikhil Kumar, graduated to being a Congress politician and was governor of several states. 

4. Having not taken any credible action on indian soil when the hijacked plane sat on the tarmac in Amritsar, the Indian govt. looked plain silly when it sought permission from the Pakistan government and then UAE govt., to mount an operation by indian commandos in Lahore and Dubai when the plane landed there. The permissions were refused by those countries. In contrast, a similar hijacking had been handled competently by the Narsimha Rao Govt. in 1993, again at the Amritsar airport.

5. The present national security advisor to india, Doval, was then the intelligence bureau chief and party to the crisis management - or lack of it. The shrill voices of the hijacked plane's passengers' families were not addressed with firmness to calm down, and the Government appeared to have quickly caved in to their demands to give in to the terrorists. 

6. The Congress party had the
n said that the BJP’s soft approach laid the ‘foundation of terrorism’ not only in India but the world. The UK and the US have refused to negotiate with terrorists when their nationals have been kidnapped - some of those nationals were subsequently murdered by the terrorists. Experts had in fact warned during negotiations that 'giving in to release of militants in response to hijackers' demands will prove to be highly damaging to our national security and will endanger many more lives in future.'

7. Farooque Abdullah had strongly opposed India releasing terrorists held in indian jails on account of several kidnappings and murders, but was over-ruled by the Vajpayee Govt. Panun Kashmir, an association of Kashmiri Pandits had also strongly counselled the Government against releasing the jailed militants. In fact, Rupin Katyal's wife (the lone passenger who was stabbed to death by the terrorists) said a year after his death : 'What hurts is the fact that those responsible for my husband's death have managed to get what they wanted, the release of the militants, and they have all escaped unscathed.'

8. Three of the worst intelligence failures in recent decades happened under the Vajpayee government : Kargil, hijacking of IC-814, and the Parliament attack. There was even a complete failure on the diplomatic front during the hijacking as the developed nations refused to assist as needed, and did not buy the Indian assertion of Pakistan's ISI's involvement. Now, the Modi government is busy spreading disinformation on every front, focused only on increasing its vote bank. 

Ceasefire violations increased by 1000 % under the Modi Government as compared to the UPA II tenure before it. Including the Pulwama attack, there have been 18 major terror attack under the Modi government, where huge intelligence failures have been implicated.

Behind all this present chest beating by the Hindu right in the name of national security is an immature team in the BJP government, focused on short term ends. It is not fit to lead India by any stretch of imagination.

Friday, February 01, 2019

We are not doing well on tackling climate change..

We are not doing well on tackling climate change : the Davos meeting in Jan 2019 said that global risks are intensifying, but the collective will to tackle them appears to be lacking. Instead, divisions are hardening.

David Attenborough said at the meeting : “We have to recognize that every breath of air we take, every mouthful of food we take, comes from the natural world. If we damage the natural world, we damage ourselves because we are one coherent ecosystem."

Jane Goodall said : "If you are living in a rural part of Africa and you are near the environment, you are going to cut down the last trees on a steep slope, even though you now it is going to cause erosion, because you have to grow food to feed your family or make charcoal. Unless we do something to alleviate poverty, there is no way we can save chimpanzees or the forests.”

Greta Thunberg, a 16-year old Swedish activist said at the meeting : “I want you to feel the fear I feel every day, and then I want you to act. I want you to act as if the house was on fire, because it is.”

An alliance of 50 global CEOs leading companies with a combined revenue of USD 1.3 trillion was a highlight of the Forum. Having cut their collective emissions by nine percent since 2016, the alliance has developed so-called climate governance principles to translate climate risks into business processes.

Parts of America are currently colder than the Antarctic ! But did you know this was caused by global warming ?

Large parts of the US are suffering from extreme cold with temperatures as low as -40 to -50. Some parts were colder recently than even Antarctica !

The polar vortex is an area of low pressure and extremely cold air that swirls over the Arctic. Scientists point to a complex sequence of events involving sea ice, which is rapidly diminishing in the Arctic. As the ice retreats, summertime heat is absorbed by the dark ocean that lies underneath. This heat is released into the atmosphere during winter, spurring winds that can disrupt the polar vortex.

Studies have pointed to a recent increase in instances where the polar vortex has bulged down into heavily populated areas. Scientists are gaining a better understanding of why this is happening, with many identifying climate change as an influence.

A localized, albeit large, cold snap isn’t representative of the rest of the planet, as Australians currently sweltering in searing record heat of more than 46C will be well aware of. 

In the US, record-breaking high temperatures are outnumbering record lows by a ratio of two to one.

I decided to re-visit the Capetown water story as it has made people think..

But many of us know only that Capetown city faced a day when there would be no more water in its taps. But not much of the story before and after.. Here is that story, with many lessons for the rest of the cities across the world.. 

In 2007, South Africa's Department of Water Affairs and Forestry predicted that the growing demand on the Western Cape Water Supply System would exceed supply if water conservation and demand management measures were not implemented. Before the crisis, Capetown, a city of 4 million (around one-fourth that of Delhi) consumed 1200 million litres a day. Per capita per day consumption was 135 litres.

An El Nino-triggered drought in 2015 hit agricultural production and economic growth throughout South Africa. Cape Town was particularly hard hit, and lack of good subsequent rains around the city made its water shortage worse. The burden of making sure Day Zero did not happen rested largely on household's ability to cut down on water usage. 

Restrictions were imposed on 1 June 2017, limiting the usage of water to 100 litres per person per day. By early October 2017, following a low rainfall winter, Cape Town had an estimated five months of storage available before water levels would be depleted. "Water rationing through extreme pressure reduction" was implemented immediately. 

In early 2018, when the dam levels were predicted to decline to critically low levels by April because of lack of rain, the City announced plans for "Day Zero", when the municipal water supply would largely be shut off if a particular lower limit of water storage was reached, potentially making Cape Town the first major city in the world to run out of water.

Through water saving measures, the City reduced its daily water usage by more than half to around 500 million litres per day in March 2018. Residents lived with stringent consumption restrictions through most of 2018, at 50 litres per person per day.

Urban residents were requested not to flush the toilet after urinating, to flush using rainwater or greywater after defecating, and to reduce the length and frequency of showers. In order to conserve water, hand sanitizer was provided in offices and public buildings for use instead of conventional hand-washing. Some cafes began using plastic and paper cups and plates, to reduce dish-washing.

50 litres a day per person is just enough for a 90-second shower, 4 litres of drinking water / tea / coffee, neembu drink, etc., a sink-ful to hand-wash dishes or laundry, one cooked meal, two hand washings, two teeth brushings and one toilet flush. 

In September 2018, with rains having at last arrived and dam levels close to 70%, the city began easing water restrictions to 70 litres per person per dayDam levels peaked at 76% and in November 2018, restrictions were reduced to 105 litres per person per day, aiming for a 30% saving on normal usage.  

In contrast, average water consumption in Delhi is estimated at 240 liters per capita per dayIt is to be remembered that South Africa's per capita GDP is three times that of India as is its per capita water storage capacity

The 60% restriction in 2018 of water usage for irrigation by agriculture around Cape Town resulted in the loss of 37,000 jobs in the Western Cape Province and an estimated 50,000 people being pushed below the poverty line due to job losses, inflation and increases in the price of food.