21 December 2006
The matter came to a head when the general secretary of the State Government Employees’ Federation, Mr Partha Chatterjee, sought some information regarding the terms and conditions of the deal between the government and Tata Motors for the latter’s proposed small car factory at Singur from the commerce and industry department under the Right to Information Act, 2004.
Mr Panchanan Banerjee, public information officer of the commerce and industry department, in his reply said there were certain information which could not be passed on to Mr Chatterjee.
He said information regarding stamp duty exemption given by the state government to the Tatas could not be divulged. Also, nothing could be mentioned on the exemption of water tax, vat and other duties imposed on the Tatas.
No information was provided on the MoU signed between the state government and the Tatas. Also, the state government declined to say anything on the steps it is going to take against the Tatas if the proposed project gets delayed.
Mr Banerjee stated that the government was unable to say the exact amount of money which the Tatas had paid to the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation (WBIDC) for the land at Singur.
However, the total amount of money the state government was paying to farmers for acquiring the land at Singur was readily made available to Mr Chatterjee.
20 December 2006
If they ever have the balls to say that on the eve of a CITU bandh, their office next day will come close to looking like the Hampi ruins, in terms of diaster level, not magnificence, that is.
On most Trinamul Bandhs, people are not scared to go out. People who want to work are not stopped. This is taken to be a sign of the Trinamul's ineffectiveness or lack of popularity(!).
A couple of days ago, the body of a young girl of 18, Tapasi Malik, was found in a ditch in the fenced-off area for the car factory. When Medha Patkar finally reached the village yesterday, she found none of the fiery angst amongst the villagers. They were now clearly scared.
Just five minutes ago, my colleagues were busy deriding Mamata and her fast. In fact, they have done so for quite some days now. What surprises and shocks me is that they didnt have a word to say about what is happening to the farmers in Singur or about Tapasi's murder.
Forget what Mamata says, or any other politician says. Cant they see for themselves on TV? When I went home on Nov 28 and watched the 40-minute footage on Tara Bangla or ETV Bangla (cant remember which one), I felt so terribly helpless and small. Still feel that.
Police went after people and beat them up. They went into houses, climbed on to the terraces and hit a protestor shouting slogans, they hit women too. Mind you, the TV anchor kept telling us that the footage was not clips being repeated again and again. They recorded and broadcasted the entire 40 minutes, lathi blow by lathi blow.
I have to friggin work for a living, but how I wish I didnt have dependents, so I could take to the streets myself. A rage builds up inside me, and I look like a fool when all these people around me seem to have taken it in their stride. Everything I do, then, seems like it's no point.
And I wonder like I have wondered many a time before: is there something wrong with me or is it okay to feel this rage? Does every experience have to be personal for you to take a stand, for you to feel anything at all? Also, if something's a 'political' issue, do you shut off that part of the brain that handles emotions? I know, it's unfashionable to be 'political' or 'emotional' nowadays. Corporate slick is in.
When we complain about a work day lost because of a bandh (which is a fair enough complaint), do we even think once about those people who have lost their livelihood forever? What about their lost work days?
Even if I were a die-hard Leftist, when Singur happened I would stop for a moment and re-think my allegiances. Like my friend Finny did. She read and saw for herself what I had explained over chat, and she went with me to Esplanade where Mamata is fasting for two days, and showed her support.
Because, she was moved.
I think that's what gets lost in all this government propaganda about development. Your capacity to feel.
Of course, the other question is: I do feel for the farmers. But what can I do? Not everyone of us can go on fasts, or take to the streets. But there is one thing you can do: remember. Till the next elections.
15 December 2006
I paste below an article from The Statesman (link here). I wonder if the ABP group would ever carry anything close to this:
Jabberwocky: Singur thoughts
IF Singur does not bother you, you can safely avoid reading this piece. What is happening there right now is a matter of considerable concern for substantial numbers of people and I do not intend to add to the debates raging around the acquisition of land, the lies and obfuscations, state repression, police brutality, the claims of the one-lakh-car versus the people’s right to their land, the fairness or otherwise of the compensation paid (or not), and so forth and so on.
But it might be possible to consider Singur in the light of some larger changes that have been taking place in India (much of it outside public scrutiny and off the pages of newspapers), which seem to spell a sea change in the way our elected leaders (irrespective of where they are located in the political spectrum) are looking at the single largest occupational group in our country — the unsung and ignored farmers who comprise (by conservative estimates) some 65 per cent of all Indians.
First, our netas appear to have come to the conclusion that the only way to ensure the future of our farmers and, by extension, of our production of and security regarding food, is by gradually withdrawing the state and its support from the farm sector. (In witness whereof one can cite the proposed Seeds Act, 2004, and the Draft National Policy for Farmers of April 2006, both of which speak favourably of a reduced role of the state in farming.)
Second, the vacuum created by the withdrawal of the state is sought to be filled by the private sector (which includes transnational corporations). The two documents alluded to above both speak of a much increased role of the private sector and “public-private partnership” in increasing the quality and quantity of farm inputs, outputs and incomes derived from agriculture.
Third, industrialisation is seen as an unmitigated good to be pursued, even at the cost of food and (perhaps more importantly) water security.
Fourth, only lip service is paid to issues of ecologically safe and sustainable practices, especially when it comes to agriculture.
Fifth, in all of this, little or no effort is being made to seek the views of those likely to be most directly, and drastically, affected by these proposed changes, namely, the farmers themselves.
If all of these changes come into being, as seems very likely to be the case, their net result will be a severe compromising of our national food and water security, an increased dependence on (patented, hence costly) technology, a further impoverishment of farmers and a severe deepening of the rural vs urban, agriculture vs industry, rich vs poor divisions.
What is happening in Singur is not only about repressive state machinery swaying to industrial capital’s siren song, nor is it about the future of a “resurgent”, industrialised West Bengal. It is really about the name and nature and future of “development” itself.
Singur is not an isolated incident and if, by some quirk (such as the Tatas’ withdrawing their offer), the status quo (prior to land acquisition) were to be restored, things would not revert to “normal”. It is a symptom of a much larger malaise — one which, if left unaddressed, not just by political parties, but by civil society, by ordinary citizens like you and me (who might not have a direct stake in what is happening there), could well spell the end of a way of life we take for granted. The question each one of us needs to ask herself or himself, at this critical juncture of our country’s history, is — which side am I on?
(Samantak Das knows just which side he is on, but isn’t sure it’ll do anyone any good.)
Oh and yes, how can we not talk about yesterday's bandh. Total and successful. The CPI-M was beaming inside, of course, but dared not say as much. The transport minister very generously said that people who wished to go to work could walk it. You know, reclaim the street and all.
Was watching Aajtak with Finny in the evening and man, was I bowled over by the choicest words the anchor had for the CITU and their political fathers.
Around my street corner near the bidi shop, about 50 crows held a meeting in a circle for over an hour. So earnestly, that perhaps the shop guy got a lil anxious and said, "Meetinger pore micchil hote pare (There'll probably be a procession after the meeting)." Oh, in case you were wondering, the bidi shop was open just for an hour.
But anyways, Babus, I think all of us got the message loud and clear: You are all-powerful, and we shudder in fear. Who else could bring this great chaotic city to clam up like you did? Truly, impressed.
10 December 2006
I don’t blame the news editors of the Kannada paper my mom read. It wasn’t their fault that the national media and the English-language newspapers in Kolkata did a good job of mellowing down the Singur protest. They were only rivalled by a very impotent Congress in their phenomenal ignoring of the issue. Delhi, after all, is the bigger picture/pocket.
By last Monday, most of the media here were quite sure that the gift was ready to be delivered, wrapped with shiny barbed wire and all.
Never mind that fear-stricken farmers were fleeing their home and their land. Never mind that even as I key this in, Section 144 still remains clamped on ‘normal’ Singur. Also, never mind that Medha Patkar was prevented from entering Presidency College to address a gathering of students day before yesterday, forget Singur and the farmers yaar.
Oh, and by the way there was no mention at all in the TOI/The Telegraph/The Statesman of the huge rally that Patkar addressed in Haldia. Don’t know about the rest.
All for cars. Cars for all? I wonder if the Rs 1 lakh cars made this way will be distributed via the PDS. Because, I hear, on each car Tata will make a loss of Rs 16,000.
And yes, please pick up a copy of this week’s Business World if you can. I excerpt the last two paragraphs from a column a guy writes under a pseudo name Emcee. He’s usually good, but this week, he’s even better:
OK, for those of you who are really dull and have no regard for Marxist theory, here’s a simple reason why we want to locate the Tata plant in Singur: the local MLA is from the Opposition, so it doesn’t really matter if we lose votes there.
And of course, we want industries to come and set up shop in the state. Why would you want a communist party for that? You have a point there, so let me tell you a secret — we will soon change our party’s name to the Capitalist Party of India (Miltonfriedmanist). But don’t worry — it will still be the CPI(M).
Lal salaam to Comrade Tata
03 December 2006
Media was forced to shut their mouths about the Trinamul 'hooliganism' in the Assembly and talk, for once, about broken bones, and not broken furniture.
We shall do whatever is required for industrialisation, said Buddha.
A couple of days ago, I was talkin to a very close friend about Singur. The guy's high up in the news business in Delhi. I was tryin to convince him about the importance of the protest, about how this was not a 'routine' event even by WB standards. He began by telling me that such land grabs have happened all over the country, and that how the Assembly event was shameful, etc. I gritted my teeth and listened. Then told him that in none of the other states, attempts have been made to seal off the entire village, not even allowing the Leader of the Opposition, or the media (does it matter if such a thing has already happened? Must we get shocked only at a new act of cruelty?.) This conversation was before yesterday's police brutality, else it would have strengthened my argument.
Finally, he was out with it: news is no longer a profession: it's a business. South India, and the metros form our viewership base. (His is an English-language news channel.) West Bengal is not a market.
I was just hoping... there'd be a chance.
30 November 2006
A few days ago, The Babus gave themselves away, big time. They said they wanted to allow selling of barga land (belonging to sharecroppers) for some sops and also make land acquisition easier. Clearer picture here.
Land brought them power. Land gave them the right to look down upon others and say, 'We get elected each time, coz we are the saviours of the poor.'
It's the same land that they now want to sell asap. Cant give enough to 'em capitalists. Other states in the country made selling of land for commercial purpose legal a long time ago. The Mannina Maga did it in my state. But the point is, the ruling parties in those states did it with a cruel straightness. They werent trained much in hypocritical snobbish bastardism with a straight face.
Two questions: 1. Will The Babus now call themselves the Capitalist Party of India-Money?
2. Now, that they have proven themselves beyond doubt to be JUST ANOTHER PARTY, can we move them over, people?
29 November 2006
The deepest sorrows are those that stay with you, always, all the way.
Does growing up mean you understand you’ll never be the same again… and you sport a cynical line here and there?
How we think we will or we have forgotten, and move… only to remember it first thing in the morning, or after a long long day at office, when the only things you should be thinking about are food and sleep or a quickie, you know …
My cousin V keeps coming back to me, so does a lost love. Unshakeable in their absence, both. But V vaccums out something in the centre of me. I have cried before too, but these tears aren’t drying up. Each time, it’s vigorous. What could you lose at 18? when you haven’t even got much…
I grow more reckless by the day… live it now-types… and want to tell a client that ‘zilch’ is not slang because that’s her middle name. Will, will… soon.
Have strange nightmares nowadays… of daughters dying… daughters whom I know. Makes me guilty, but it came to me… not the other way round. When I wake up, it’s even worse though: I try to imagine the father’s face…
Don’t make babies: the future will hold them hostage.
25 November 2006
Dil jalta hai, to jalne de
Aasoo na baha, fariyad na kar
Dil jalta hai, to jalne de
Tu parada nasheen ka aashiq hai
Yoon naam-e-wafa barabaad na kar
Dil jalata hai to jalane de ….
This was Mukesh’s first song and our favourite. It’s also a very niche song,
I realize as I have never, in all these years, heard this played anywhere.
Big time nostalgia today, coz I found this suddenly in my Yahoo briefcase.
I'd written a most amateurish piece on a ballet in a village. JS replied:
Vijaya: You pushed me into a corner. Do I tell you of defects before I explain them to you, or do I pat your back now (only to thump it later)?
I limit my comments to a few striking flaws that I shall be talking about. I’ve inked red what I don’t like in your piece, and you’ll find my comments in blue.
But don’t let my comments discourage you. The defects that I’ve marked aren’t peculiar to you. Nor are you to blame. You’ve unconsciously absorbed all these and more from the Indlish-language papers and magazines you’ve been reading.
That’s what you’ll have to purge out of your system. And I’ll help you to purge them. I’ll give you lots of notes. They’ll give you short-cuts how to replace Indlish with English. I hope you’ll read them.
Only, there’s no short-cut to writing. Except maybe one: write, then re-write, then re-write what you’ve re-written.
We’ll have many interesting sessions on writing. Till then and after, keep writing. JS
The sessions continue... never seem to learn enough.
Nostalgia fuelled also by a photo of myself that I found. The pic's at least 4 years old. Cant recognise myself!
11 November 2006
Six rupees for three meals for five people.
If it weren't so tragic, it would have made for a brain-racking puzzle.
(Part of ongoing work for a local NGO here. With luck, should be able to post all the stories here in the coming weeks.)
29 October 2006
My cousin died yesterday night. She jumped in front of a rushing train. I heard of it today morning at 7.
She was 18. I first saw her when she was about a week old, very roly-poly healthy baby. I still remember how big a baby she was. She loved to eat fruits, raw vegetables, anything that came her way actually. And she slept very well.
Somehow, as I keep thinking of her now, it’s her baby face that comes to my mind, not her as a teenager. Particularly one day, when I was waiting for her to wake up so I could cuddle her. She took her time, and I almost forced her awake. She turned her little black eyes on me, and gave me the sweetest smile. I even remember the colour of the little T-shirt she wore: light chocolate.
One other image is her Madhuri Dixit smile. She was a charming teenager, shy, and quiet with strangers, bubbly and talkative with her friends and family. Sometimes, she would flash this dazzling smile, unconscious of how beautiful she looked.
She grew up in Shrsi, my hometown, and in Bhattaguttige, my mother’s village. She loved the outdoors, and could always be found perched on guava trees. She knew exactly which part of a hill had a particular wild berry.
It’s more than 12 hours now since I heard. There’s just one image in my eyes: that of a train rushing towards me in the dark. What would it take for me to stand there, rooted? What did it take for her?
She was cremated half an hour ago.
27 October 2006
....In 1982, a fly-on-the-wall documentary, Police: A Complaint of Rape, showed a rape complainant being interviewed by police. The police officers were shown bullying a woman into discontinuing her complaint against three men.
...Despite improvements, there remains a culture within the police that assumes that women who report rape are lying. One study found that a third of police assumed that at least a quarter of all reports were false. Research actually suggests, though, that numbers of false allegations of rape are no higher than for any other crime. Assumptions of false allegations are plainly dangerous. One case discontinued by police as a "false allegation" involved a man who turned out to be a serial sex attacker."
Guess which country's police system are we talkin about?
20 October 2006
Got this on the National Highway.
Discovered Durrel pretty late in life, but he's marked now. Here's one of my favourite passages from My family...
"… The wedding night – or rather day – of a tortoise is not exactly inspiring…
…The incredibly heavy-handed and inexpert way the male [tortoise] would attempt to hoist himself on to the female’s shell, slipping and slithering, clawing desperately for a foothold on the shiny shields, overbalancing and almost overturning, was extremely painful to watch; the urge to go and assist the poor creature was almost overwhelming, and I had the greatest difficulty in restraining myself from interference.
Once a male was infinitely more bungling than usual, and fell down three times during the mounting, and generally behaved in such an imbecile manner I was beginning to wonder if he were going to take all summer about it… At last, more by luck than skill, he hoisted himself up… when the female obviously bored by the male’s inadequacy, moved a few steps towards a dandelion leaf. Her husband clawed wildly at her moving shell, but could get no foothold; he slipped off, teetered for a minute, and then rolled ignominiously over on to his back. This final blow seemed to be too much for him, because, instead of trying to right himself, he simple folded up in his shell and lay there mournfully. The female, meanwhile, ate the dandelion leaf."
14 October 2006
11 October 2006
27 September 2006
23 September 2006
Just tell me one thing: if the cola giants are so virgin-white, what's stoppin them from taking CSE to the court? There's something called the defamation suit, you know.
One guess: perhaps they learnt something from the McLibel trial.
The McLibel Trial is the infamous British court case between McDonald's and a former postman & a gardener from London (Helen Steel and Dave Morris). It ran for two and a half years and became the longest ever English trial. The defendants were denied legal aid and their right to a jury, so the whole trial was heard by a single Judge, Mr Justice Bell. He delivered his devastating verdict in June 1997.
But, whatever happened to the citizen Aamir?
19 September 2006
Coca Cola on Saturday told the Supreme Court something that the court was used to hearing only from the exectuive and legislature of the country: don't interfere.
"Coca-Cola, fighting allegations that its products contain high levels of pesticide, argued that it lay beyond the apex court’s powers to regulate soft drink contents or prescribe safety standards.
“In these circumstances, it is respectfully submitted that the interference of this hon’ble court would be entirely unwarranted and contrary to the constitutional scheme."
18 September 2006
There is nothing consistent within. Is that perhaps why we seek it outside?
This post is a think-aloud one. It perhaps makes as much or as little sense to you as it does to me. After writing this, I am filled with even more questions than what I began with. So, if you still wanna read, am delighted.
To come back to what I was saying, this comment (from a well-meaning fellow blogger) set me thinking about the search for consistency. Why do we seek a pattern, a code perhaps to decipher each other, or a situation? I have dealt with something similar before in my blog. The search for routine, a sameness, despite all the outerward clamour for change and 'something different'.
I think this search for consistency is mostly powered by our sense of well-being. We need to know, understand, and assess the situation we are in or the person we are dealing with to give the 'right' responses, to give us a sense of being in control, to not be 'surprised'.
Once we know, understand, and assess the situation/person, we dig in to our chest of past experiences for ready responses and if there isn't any, perhaps fashion a new one.
It's almost a need to 'orientalise', I guess. It's a basic, primal need. And I can't say I havent felt it ever. I used to need categories to put people/situations in and de-alienate them. I wanted coherence, perhaps I still do unconsciously. But consciously, at least, (I know, I know, I am making huge assumptions when I say 'consciously' and unconsciously') I have been trying to un-learn this need for quite some time now. Or, let's say, I'd like to believe that I'm un-learning it. The little life I have seen tells me that it's quite beautiful to not be in control, to leave some dimensions unknown, and also that there's much within to know, understand, and analyse, much inside that I need to familiarise myself with. Immense possibilities within...
Here's why I started this blog. It still holds true. I see variety in life and I love to be 'surprised' (or rather I realise you dont have a choice but to be surprised). I am many persons, so is my blog.
This definitely is not the end of this post. But I must thank him for some much-needed honesty :)
09 September 2006
me: this is what non-kannadigas dont understnad. bangalore can never stand for karnataka
me: there r at least 3-4 distinct regions in karnataka.
finny: okay. yes its pretty big
finny: but i have to say, i like the chillness of the kannadiga
finny: and theyre more often than not, elegant
finny: noble in some sense theyre not aware of
me: whats with the chill?
me: noble, yes :)
finny: i'm talking of the farmers also who walk down the city
finny: man, theyre so distinctly good looking and cool.
finny: ok. i'll stop there.
me: when i first came to Cal, I couldnt take my eyes off these bihari men bathing by the street tap
me: what ripplin bodies
me: all mostly hamals or rickshaw-pullers
finny: i prefer the spare economy of the kannadiga body
me: happily flauntin their wares
me: hmm, bihari is raunchy
finny: lean muscle and all
me: yeah, ok ok
finny: i hate raunchy
me: i love raunchy
finny: i hate raunchy
finny: i mean. whats the point?
me: i mean.. that's the whole point
me: and why not?
finny: lean muscle is spiritual and acheived
me: raunchy is the here and now
finny: it transcends
me: dust and earth
finny: the eternal
me: this brings u down, most probaly with him on top
finny: it levitates and becomes time
finny: what brings one down? the muscle
me: yes, a diff kind of mcuscle
finny: see if the spirit then he wont be wrangling with bodies anymore
finny: its like air
me: sprit be damned
finny: its is found. it is there.
me: cant survive on air
finny: the beauty of it
finny: the timelesness of it
finny: the belgaum boy
finny: (ok i dont know what that last thing is supposed to mean)
me: belgaum boys r as raunchy as bihari
finny: sorry the hubli boy
me: that too
finny: wherever the farmers ive seen are from
finny: now dont tell me they migrated from bihar
me: the shirsi boy, or bangalore boy may come close to what u say
finny: ok the sirsi boy
Will leave you there. Dare not publish the more explosive stuff...
31 August 2006
'The pleasure of satisfying a savage instinct undomesticated by the ego is incomparably much more intense then the one of satisfying a tamed instinct. The reason is becoming the enemy that prevents us from a lot of possibilities of pleasure.'
-- Source unknown
I used to work for a search engine not so long ago, and am quite familiar with the in's and out's of what is talked about in this article. But I still cant fathom how AOL ever dared to put out such data... Even if it is a mistake, it's pretty scary, coz such 'mistakes' must never happen at all.
23 August 2006
Go get a copy guys. Very interesting read and not your run-of-the-mill 'improve-your-english' type books.
Especially, journos would profit a lot.
More about the book here.
Read excerpts here.
Can't find the book? Tell the publishers here.
You can also mail the author at email@example.com
21 August 2006
"... the backyard (was) the most magical space for me. Had I not frequented it and eavesdropped on the gossips there, I would never have become a writer.
"... The two worlds of the front and the back have ever since been meeting creatively in our literary works. The back-yard is inexhaustible. As literacy spreads and more and more people emerge into the frontyard of our civilization they bring their own richness, as memories, and desire to integrate with the mainstream of world literature.
"... When the royal path becomes pompous and loud and artificially rhetorical and, therefore, a voice of public emotion only it loses the flexibility and truthfulness and earthiness of the common speech. It is at such moments of cultural crisis that the traditions in the backyard make a come-back and revitalize the language. This is what Wordsworth, Blake and Hopkins have done to the English language in their own country, and in our country the saint poets like Tukaram, Basava, Nanak and Kabir have done it with much greater consequence for our culture. The Shudras and women were empowered by the great saint poets of India. No one can talk about literature in the Indian bhashas without recognizing its intimate relationship with larger political and cultural questions."
(Immensely homesick, his description of his house makes me.)
20 August 2006
Yesterday, I attended a talk by my boss and teacher Jyoti Sanyal on writing. The audience consisted of school teachers who taught English. Sanyal, essentially, was trying to drive home the point that children, when left alone, uninterrupted by adults, can be creative. It’s we adults who spoil the fun.
Of course, quite a few teachers were up in arms at the idea that teachers in
I wanted to ask her, “What then is the main idea, ma’m?” I didn’t have the opportunity to, because she was being already being ragged by quite a few.
What is this obsession with the main idea? Is there a main idea at all? Does there have to be a main idea? And how does the teacher assume that becoming a tree and bearing fruits is not a main idea for the kid? Why, oh why, do we have to assume that there is one main idea, and it is, was, and always shall be for the rest of mankind?
If the same story was written by some damned pseudo-academic and then included in the curriculum, I am sure the same teacher would be cramming the story down her students’ gullets. But, it was just a kid who’d written this non-sense. It was her bounden duty to correct him. The child would then be forever doomed to searching for the main idea. Remember, he’s been told it’s out there.
And then, morals. Oh, I must tell you this one. Sanyal asked the teachers why they couldn’t tell children stories without morals, like that of Ashwatthama. Again, a very disturbed teacher asked him, “What do you mean? We don’t need to teach our children morals? Should there be no morality at all?”
And it suddenly struck me that this is the root of all fundamentalism. The need to see things in just two colours, the denial of a million other hues that do exist, the urgency to defend ‘yourselves’ against ‘them’ - all spring from the thought that there is a moral to a story and that there is a main idea.
This world sucks way too much man.
11 August 2006
09 August 2006
08 August 2006
29 July 2006
20 July 2006
17 July 2006
Yesterday was another of our lazy rambling Sundays with Riddhi. When I mentioned my last post, his immediate reacton was, "So what are the swear words in a matriarchal family?"
My guess was that even then perhaps, the father of the person you want to insult would'nt be touched.
13 July 2006
Why is it that the worst insults you can think of are all about your mother?
I hadn’t thought of it this way:
Why aren't fathers the butt of insults so much as mothers? "The underlying idea is you're attacking what your rival came out of. That's why it's mothers rather than fathers who feature in the more potent insult. Everybody comes from their mother".
27 May 2006
And then Mr Basu was upset at the absurd behaviour of the villagers. I mean, why would they want to stop industrial development?
Not to worry, Mr Buddha has said, "Nothing has happened."
Now, arent they quite Right?
The following is from my mail to a friend who had written to me about the ongoing medical students' protest against reservation:
Reservation is probably the easiest way to gain political mileage. Each time a fresh quota is announced, there's so much protest by the people and posturing by the government that it pretty much stays in public memory. And the government, the Congress in this instance, can beat its drums in the next election saying how they championed the rights of the downtrodden.
You have touched upon the merit factor. So, I won’t repeat it. Some other issues:
Quite a lot of jobs reserved in the government either remain empty or are taken up by the creamy layer. Does the government have any way of ensuring that the creamy layer doesn’t get creamier? Second, why do these seats remain empty? Does the poorest of the person for which this reservation is made, have two meals to eat, and clean water to drink? If he/she doesn’t, why not?
Most of the rural poor today are in a much worse condition than ever before. Migrating to the city is the only hope. But it is not a solution, of course, because once in the city, theey join the ranks of the urban poor.
So, why are the rural poor so poor? My answer would be: inequities in land ownership. That is
You might be wondering why I went from reservation to land reforms and rural poverty. Take some poorest districts in
Kalahandi is the rice bowl of Orissa, yet the farmers there survive on things like mango kernels. Reason: debt. Reason for debt: inequitable land distribution which will never be set right.
But land reform is not a fashionable political issue. Industrial development is. Infrastructure is. Reservation, definitely is.
Oh, do I hear some people to the left, saying 'We're different. We're the only people who've brought about land reforms.' Then how come people in their state (
Anyways, you know all of that. To cap what I've gone on and on about: reservation is just one of the ways to address poverty. But politicians would have us believe it's the only way. Now why get into messy things like improving primary education, health access, etc?
05 May 2006
I remember teasing my mom often that after dad went to office and we went to school, she would probably have a long nap. Coz, what would she do all day? Surely, there couldnt be so much work?!
Mom would smile and say, "Wait, you'll know."
I know now. Though I am not the type of women that Greer talks about who try to clean an already-clean house or who cook a three-course meal, just doing the bare basics around the house and managing office work seems to take up all of my time during weekdays.
That's why Sunday is my dont-even-lift-a-finger day (provided the maid too doesnt think alike, of course).
But havent most of us forgotten the art of leisure? Or is it just women?
25 April 2006
The whole game is about cheap labour and covering it up with feel-good advertising to the extent that you become numb to the sweatshop stories. It's all there in the book, No Logo. I would say it is a consumer's must-read. If for nothing else, to just know how much extra he or she is shelling out for something that cost so little to make.
An extract from a Guardian article:
McDonald's Happy Meal toys are manufactured in countries where the prices are low. On the bottom of these toys you often find the phrase "Made in China". Too often the lives of the workers who make Happy Meal toys are anything but happy. In 2000, a reporter for the South China Morning Post visited a factory near Hong Kong. The factory made Snoopy, Winnie the Pooh and Hello Kitty toys for McDonald's Happy Meals. Some of the workers at the factory said they were 14 years old and often worked 16 hours a day. Their wages were less than 20 cents (11p) an hour - almost 30 times less than the lowest amount you can pay an American worker. They slept in small rooms crammed with eight bunk beds without mattresses.
At first, McDonald's said it had seen no evidence that such poor conditions existed at the factory, but later it admitted that some things were wrong there. A few months later, a reporter found that another factory in China that made Happy Meal toys was mistreating its workers. They were working 17 hours a day - and being paid less than 10 cents an hour. McDonald's now tries to ensure that children aren't employed to make its toys. But the company hasn't done much to increase the wages of the workers at Chinese toy factories. Low wages are one of the things that keep Happy Meal toys so cheap.
In fact, low wages are at the heart of the whole enterprise. Danielle Brent is a 17-year-old schoolgirl at Martinsburg High School in West Virginia. On Saturday mornings the alarm in her mobile phone goes off at 5.30am. It's still dark outside as she stumbles into the bathroom, takes a shower, puts on her makeup and gets into her McDonald's uniform. Her father stays in bed, but her mother always comes downstairs to the kitchen and says goodbye before Danielle leaves for work. Sometimes, it's really cold in the morning and it takes a while for the engine of the family's old car to start cranking out heat. There are a lot of other things she would rather be doing early on a Saturday morning - such as sleeping. But like thousands of other American kids of her age, Danielle gets up and goes to work at a fast food restaurant.
When Danielle was a little girl, she loved to eat at McDonald's. Sometimes she would even go there for breakfast, lunch and dinner. When she was 16, a friend suggested that she apply for a job at the McDonald's near Interstate 81. The friend already worked there, classmates of theirs always ate there and working behind the counter sounded like fun.
Danielle soon realised that the job was different from what she had expected. Some of the customers were rude. Workers in the kitchen didn't always wash their hands and didn't care if the food got dirty as a result. Her friend soon quit the job, but Danielle can't afford to do that. She needs the money. A number of kids at school tease her for working so hard at a job that pays so little. Kids who break the law and sell drugs at her high school earn more money in a couple of hours than Danielle earns at McDonald's in a couple of weeks.
You can read the full article here.
20 April 2006
"Campaigning in Kerala, Manmohan Singh called the Congress’s rival there, the Left, a “valued” ally. In the middle of elections in Bengal, where too the Congress is ranged against the Left, Pranab Mukherjee talked about Pakistan and Iran."
Read the full article here.
So, now, yippee, we can get to Mysore in 90 minutes instead of the earlier gruelling-inspite-of-the-AC four hours. Never mind the cows and the farmers.
13 April 2006
This time, the Maharashtra government has gone one step ahead. Really.
10 March 2006
Middle-aged woman stops abruptly in front of me and warmly shakes the hand of a middle-aged guy. Could they be long-lost college mates? Unlikely. There'd have been a pause, and an exclamation. This is most like Saturday club types.
How we like to classify people as this or that type! It is our way of dealing with the unknown. Examine, classify, and file. And then keep coming back to the library. Much as it helps, this tendency of ours has been responsible for some of the worst human tragedies. Orientalism by Edward Said is a study into such tendencies.
Notes on the way to office.
20 February 2006
conversation verbatim, and no comments whatsoever. Not apolitical though. Strong
stands on the Rent Act, Bal Thackeray, and the daily torture of living in Bombay.
As a friend said, Suketu is one of the few Indian (or non-resident Indian) writers in
English who have successfully translated Indian colloquial into English. No mean task
that. It's something most Indian journalists fail at. Try translating what you hear on the
bus while holding on to the flavour.
Most of what Suketu writes about Bombay is, of course, true of the larger picture -- India.
But then, that's natural. How else do we know India, if not through our streets and cities?
How else do we know the world for that matter? K V Subbanna, in his essay 'My
Kannada World', says that the world for each of us is just what we encounter in our
personal lives. Most of often, when we refer to the 'whole world', we do not refer to all
the people and all the countries in the world. It's just the persons and places you know,
have heard of, have read about, or seen on TV that form 'your' world.
Hitch a ride to the Maximum City. It's a rare journey.
06 February 2006
I couldnt finish the book then: my friend was half-way through and wouldnt let go. But it has me now.