Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Garib Hatao

the sep. 12 issue of India Today has a long article on the new rural employment scheme.
some well known economists have argued against the scheme; oneof the primary accusations is that the earlier record on poverty alleviation is woeful and that the best scheme can only reach 25 per cent.
it would be extremely interesting to know what is the record on schemes to aid the industrial lobbies, big and small, their record of completion of projects, employment generation and income generation, of excise and other tax evasions which are depriving the national kitty of funds and what our premier economists feel should be done by the government towards ' garibi hatao'.
or is it merely 'garib hatao'?

Hands up for Homeopathy

A few weeks ago, I read a piece in a newspaper in which a vague research organization in the USA claimed that the entire homeopathic system of medications was nothing but an elaborate hoax on patients, as the medicines had no healing value whatsoever.
Now this is real news.

For one, most people are painfully aware of the creditability of research institutions in the United States. For those who came in late, research in the US is done to prove a proposition propounded by pharmaceutical interests. It is the pharmaceutical interests which fund research which is aimed at proving their products’ efficacy and enhancing their marketability.

For those who are really interested, it would be very educative to read up the history of homeopathy in the United States, where at the turn of the previous century, allopathic pharmaceutical interests ran a virulent campaign to hound out homeopaths whose formulations for individual patients were not allowing their cheap manufacture and expensively markets to move off the shelves fast enough. Finally with a leg up from friendly legislators, the pharmaceutical lobby was able to demolish homeopathy in the United States.

The actual placebo effect, which homeopathy is accused off, is an open question. On the contrary many medications actually have damaging effects. There is wide spread reportage of experiences of patients who get no relief from many allopathic medications. Instead they find themselves left with numerous side effects, some of them quite painful and prolonged. In fact it is a common experience these days for patients to find themselves cured of one disease and landed with more than one more after every ‘successful’ medication.

I can state from personal, first hand experience that the research indicating that homeopathy is a hoax is nothing but bull shit. After it was the allopaths who had wrecked my system with all their so-called medications, it was a homeopath who set me back on my feet. And since then not only the entire family, but an ever widening circle of friends and family rely on homeopathy.
p.s. the first aid kit in my home consists of homeopathic products, including an obscure branch of bio chemic medicine called Father Mueller’s specifics.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

a Bharat Mahan ?

A friend who has just returned from South China made some interesting revelations about how China manages to outprice everyone else in the market.

“It could put Hitler’s labour camps to shame. The girls live on the premises, two-three dozen to a room in rows of four tiered beds. Up before dawn, they are at work by 5.30 and work through to midnight, or until they finish their daily quota, with three short breaks for breakfast, lunch and dinner, provided by the factory owner. It is worse than slave labour as the payment is minimal.”

“What,” I asked, “about the U.S. Human and Labour rights concerns?
It is very simple. There are a number of showcase units which are shown off whenever the Americans come, while work carries on apace elsewhere in the vast hinterlands of China. The show cases can be those of factories, tourist spots, administrative excellence, cooperative farms or whatever.

Now, I find, we in India are following the China example. To attract foreign investment, we show off our tolerant culture and IT excellence. Tucked away in Gujarat, we continue with ethnic cleansing, which is denied by the state and central governments until both are blue in the face. With the boom lowered on the media, they may just get away with it, unless the NDA allies find their conscience. Is that possible?

Meanwhile the Goebbels phenomenon is in display. Tell a lie well enough and often enough to make it the truth. While Advani holds his counsel, and Fernandes struts the stage, Vajpayee and Modi insist that nothing is wrong in Gujarat. Normalcy is imposed at the point of bayonets and curfews.

And exam papers for the tenth and twelfth standards remind the students: “there are two solutions. One is the Nazi solution. If you don’t like people, kill them, segregate them. Then strut up and down. Proclaim that you are the salt of the earth.” Doesn’t that sound very much like Gujarat’s Narendra Modi?

It is a quote picked out from a lesson titled “Tolerance in the Advanced English course for Std.XII students. Coming in the context of the ongoing violence in the state which is now six weeks old and have been variously described as ‘massacres’, ‘genocide’ and ‘ethnic cleansing”, such a dramatic reminder of what can be done can only be a big question mark on impressionable minds already full of questions of what is going on around them. Why not select a more positive passage, given what is going on around the very exam centers where these students are writing their papers? Is it asking too much?

The government of India reacted very strongly to the statements of the European Union against what is going on in Gujarat, and to the reports that Muslims in UK are exploring the possibility of filing a case for extradition of Modi in the killing of UK Muslims in Gujarat, with possible reference to the International court of justice for the genocide that is taking place.

There can be no doubt that any such development would mean terrible grief and shame for India which has always prided itself for its cultural plurality and its tolerance, especially on the world stage.

But what comes to the mind is the fact that it is our NRI cousins, so lionized by the BJP and its Sangh Parivar cousins, who are responsible for many a recent shame for India and its peace loving citizens. While they have chosen to go and settle and earn abroad, they wish to keep the fires burning back home so no home grown cousin can compete? Plain and simple sibling rivalry? Is that the aim of this exercise? Or is it a more sinister conspiracy of outside influences working on the NRI attempt to control events in India?

The organization of the so-called “Friends of BJP” in various parts of the world seems to have kick started secessionist and violent movements in various parts of India, as erstwhile migrants wish to recast the India of today as the India of their nostalgic memories glazed by rose tinted glasses which do not allow for development in India.

So we have the Sikhs who migrated decades earlier funding the Khalistan movement most enthusiastically, for whatever reasons. After over a decade of terrorist activity which cancerised the innards of Punjab, which has yet to recover fully even today, it was the turn of the JKLF.

Once again liberal foreign funding from NRI lobbies joined hands with local rabble rousers to tear apart Kashmir’s fledging economy stepping out of the tourist syndrome to much more. Many cooks spoiling the broth later, Kashmir has yielded the center stage to Gujarat thanks to whom, for the first time, the terms “genocide” and “ethnic cleansing” have been applied to events in the country which has prided itself in the role of Global Peacemaker since Independence.

Each of these divisive movements has, at some time or the other, been taken over by elements other than those who started it and gone off in varied directions. But the net loser has always been India and her people.

This time, for millions of Hindus of the “Hindu” mold, this about turn of their religion, by a fringe lobby campaigning for a macabre, extreme Hindutva, shamelessly modeled on the more violent percepts of Islam, cannot but be a stomach churning and shamefully heart rending experience.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

A Rabid Nun in an Abu Girls' School

It was instantly obvious that her thirty years in education had not taught the lady how to guide young minds. She was the unworthy principal of the leading girls' school at mt. Abu in Rajasthan India, run by a Catholic order.

Born into an Indian family which lived in Indonesia, I had done my early educaton in a Catholic school and higher education in a Methodist institution, both of which built up a healthy respect for the Christian religion and the nuns who ran schools with so much love, dignity and erudition.

All those healthy feelings were shattered in a single instant when Sister X, virtually jumped up and down in her chair to convince my husband and me that she could not admit my adopted daughter, into her school, because children are cruel !!

My child is blessed with the sunniest of dispositions. but at that stage, approaching age 12 and Std. 7, she was tall for her age and fat and dark wheatish in complexion... a combination which was only lit up by her bright smiles and cheeery replies.

We were seeking admission in std. 7, whichis waybeyond the Std. 1 and 2 stage, when children are cruel to each other and have not yetbeen taught social niceties, at home and outside. All the other nuns had agreed that hers was a fit case for admission into the school.

But Madame would have none of it. she practically jumpedoff her chair crying " how can i have that child in my school? she is so dark, so fat, so tall, so big. She will spoil the atmosphere in my school. other children will poke her about it. and what will i do ?"

I was totally aghast. All my memories of the loving nuns of my childhood stood shattered as i listened to the raving of a school principal who insisted that she could only admit fair and pretty girls into her school... or else she could not handle the situation that would arise ?

I wanted to ask her whether Sophias' was aspiring to produce only Miss Indias ? or whether she want to turn out a uniform bandbox of Indian Barbie dolls of similar height, weight and other characteristics; almost like a later day Huxley's " Brave New World". obviously she was not aiming for any sushmita Sen, given her almost visibly pathological hatred for height in female of the species.

It was painfully apparent that the principal of Mt.Abu's leading residential school had abdicated her responsibility towards molding young minds, when she insisted that she would not be able to do anything when other children poked my daughter about her height or her color or her weight.

Had she never heard of "Puppy Fat" ? and obviously she was not to know that the Bronzed look was going to become the in thing two years down the line .

Sometimes I wonder how much of the Nun's reaction was on account of our revelation that she was our adopted child? Had she herself taken recourse to the nunnery on account of some such incident? memories of which had been revived by the sight of my child ?

I fervently hope that someone who reads this is able to trace the lady and tell her that my daughter is well settled in another baording school, where she has been helped to shed those excess pounds with proper guidance, where her height makes her eligible for the basketball games and where color is not an issue.

Given the attitude of Sophias, Mt. Abu, I should perhaps say thank you for not admitting my child into your school which has so many prejudices. But please god, do not let that nun head any other educational institution where she may do damage to so many young minds.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Sitaram and Radheshyam


Have you ever heard of a woman called SITARAM ? or RADHAKRISHNA or RADHESHYAM ? WHY ?
The names sound feminine enough.
Then why does one only hear of men carrying those double-barreled names ? Legend has it that these double barreled names are the outcome of a " vardaan" from the Gods to two women, Sita and Radha: that their names would always precede the man's. this was because their steadfast loyalty and pure love had raised them head and shoulders above their communities, even their men, Ram and Krishna, respectively.
For Krishna had dallied with dozens and married two, but Radha, a married woman defied home, family and society, to abide by her steadfast love for her Lord.
Sita too proved her mettle, in banwas, in imprisonment , in the agnipariksha and ever after, to place herself a cut above the Maryada Purushottam, against whose later days and apparent lust for power, question marks still stand.
So it is Men who are called Radhakrishnan, Radheshyam, Sitaram or Shivaramakrishna.
The issue here is the usurpation, by the male of the species, of the double-barreled name, which was the vardan of the Gods for the females of the species.
Why are Men so afraid of being outdone or exposed by their Women ? so much so that they must perforce even snatch away laudatory names, bestowed on them by the Gods. No girls are ever christened Sitaram, Radheshyam or Radhekrishna; only plain Sita or Rama, Radha or Krishna. It is the boys who get the double appellation.
In the old days, women were not even tolerated acting out male roles on stage. But it was alright for a man to done a sari and makeup to essay a female role.
From the beginnings of Time, or as the saying goes, " Jab Insaan ne dharti par hosh sambhala….", the female of the species was found to be the Lifegiver, the Nurturer. Hence the personification of earth, nature and the rivers etc. as female deities and the matrilineal communities. At some juncture, when a crisis erupted when the woman was going through her reproductive cycle, the Man used his brute physical force to meet the crisis and to take over.
What proof is there that the Cave Woman did not accompany the Cave Man on his hunting expeditions ? or that Cave Man actually slung Cave Woman over his shoulder to cut short the wooing process ? except the buffoonery of some Western writers ? where brute force takes the day. In the Orient, female deities held sway longer - in fact, almost until the precursors of the Occident arrived, after the Occident had outgrown its own female deities with the advent of Christianity..
No matter how much they may wish to disown it, modern Hindutva men cannot escape the acknowledgement that their predecessors copied Islam's purdah system in shutting India's women into ghunghats. Along with the ghunghat, which is alien to the carvings of Mohenjadaro and Khajuraho both, Hindutva has also opted for aping Christianity and Islam in imposing uniformity in organized religion, where rather than reap souls, religious leaders prefer reap real estate riches from their devotees.
Hindutva is dead set on maintaining parity with Islamic regimes in not allowing women their say in Parliament. The Women's Reservation Bill continues to hang fire more than fifty years after equal rights for women were enshrined in the Constitution. given the mood of the present day politics the bill could well nigh remain "hanging fire" for decades more.

Kusum Choppra
Is there actually a water shortage ? How Ancient India Coped

Kusum Choppra

The wisdom of our hoary traditions indicates that as a monsoon dependent country, India needs to conserve its sheet flows of rain water in any and every way possible.
In fact, by the end of the sixteenth century, we had cultivated such expertise in water conservation, that in some parts of the country, as much as 60 % of the precipitation was being harnessed. Major R H Sankey, a chief engineer in Mysore in 1866, (quoted in Water Management Systems in India) records :
" Of the 27,269 sq.miles covered by Mysore, nearly 60% has, by the patient industry of its inhabitants been brought under the tank system. Unless under exceptional circumstances, none of the draining of these 16,287 sq.miles is allowed to escape. To such an extent has the principle of storage been followed that it would now require some ingenuity to discover a site within this great area suitable for a new tank ...."
In our times, annual precipitation, an estimated 400 million hectare meters ( MHM ), against the 2000 annual requirement of 100 MHM translates into 300 MHM excess !
The 400 MHM come in major bursts. During the monsoon, intensity of rainfall per day veers around 20 mm per day, an average of 300 hours or 12 1/2 days throughout the year. Of the 300 hours, half the rains falls in less than 30 hours. In places like Jaisalmer, Bangalore or Bombay, 100 cms of rain come within 30 hours, spread over a rainy season of 100 days.
These sheet falls flow away as floods into the seas; some evaporates, some build up soil moisture, a little percolates into the deep aquifers; now, this last is diminishing rapidly.
And conservation has been hit hard by a shift from people based community efforts to officialdom which is unable to cope with the monsoon’s flash floods and sheet flows.
The only areas where the water table is not falling dramatically is where deficiences in canal construction or the over-use of water is leading to water-logging, obviously a man-made disaster.
Since Independence, governments’ obsession with short term measures such as tanker supplies, hand pumps etc., offer lucrative spin-offs under the table on a recurring basis.
The term “ safe drinking water “ itself is an anamoly. Officialdom would have it that households with piped water have safe drinking water, never mind of those pipes are routinely and periodically corroded and carriers of disease; ironic, in a country with a history of an amazing variety of water conservation techniques.
Villages with deep sweet water wells, but no piped supply pop up in the ‘ no water ‘ list, although the citizens have healthy and duly hydrated. This amazing feat surfaces thus:
In 1981 a survey of rural households with safe drinking water put the all India average at 26.50 % with Punjab topping the chart at 81.80% households and West Bengal coming next at 65.78.5 households with piped water supply. Kerala with its astounding development in other social sectors came at the bottom of the table with 6.26%.
Investigation revealed that Kerala has an astonishing number of well-maintained wells which are the chief source of drinking water. If the surveyors had taken these into account, the percentage of Kerala’s rural households with access to safe drinking water would be well beyond 88 %, much higher than Punjab or West Bengal.


What did our ancestors do, before the import of dubious Occidental genius which spelt doom to the legendary prosperity of Ancient India and to her systems ?
The genius of Ancient India dictated that water be stored wherever it rained,‚ i.e. in hundreds of thousands of reservoirs, all over the countryside, known by different names in different parts of the country.
The sheer variety of names given to the water storage units reveals how widespread the practice was throughout the different parts of the country :
the eri, the kulam, the jheel, the sagar, the johard, the talab, the sar, the nadi, the khadin, the kund, the kunta, the katta, the pukur,the bandh, the ahar, even irrigated fields such as paddy, surrounded by bunds, which allowed percolation, built up soil moisture, reduced soil/land erosion and maintained atmospheric humidity.
Besides, there were also sub-surface tankas, deep stepwells in the urban areas and roof water harvesting, in which rain water was piped down to basement reservoirs or sub-surface tanks, to provide drinking water throughout the year ... the modern day version of which may just be the new found interest in percolation wells in commercial complexes and public places like gardens.

In ancient India, it was not kings alone who built the intricate and amazing variety of reservoirs and tanks. They could be funded by any charity-minded persons, even a penance-minded one, as the inscriptions on an ancient tank which reveal that it was funded by the community prostitute.
The creation of these tanks provided employment in times of need, besides binding the community with a common asset which enforced an element of cooperation; the annual clean-up operations had many social and economic spin-offs.
The philosophy of dam building in Ancient India was considerably different from ours : dams of longer bunds and smaller heights were built by local communities, in valleys and plains where irrigation was both feasible and in fact necessary. Thus both canal expenses and transmission losses were reduced to a minimum.
In our times, dams are built in hilly tracts, far from the irrigable areas. Modern dams uproot the already underprivileged to provide irrigation and other water facilities down lengthy canal systems to areas far downstream, which draw the economic benefit of the facility created with public funds.
Unlike modern day dams which trap at best 10-20 percent of the precipitation, allowing the rest to flow away to save the massive dam structures, all the above mentioned reservoirs were designed to capture the flow from a designated catchment area. When full, the overflow was routed to similar reservoirs further downstream, all the way down until it reached the river or the sea, with enough stoppages of water on the way to allow sufficient percolation into the underground water table.
The virtually unending series of tanks and ponds dotting the countryside served not only for storage of water, but also reduced the damage from flash floods and from soil erosion, improved percolation and soil moisture, but also encouraged more greenery ( and therefore more rains) and maintained the atmospheric humidity regime.
At one time, of the 43477 tanks in Karnataka, nearly 50% irrigated less than ten acres. The emphasis was 'small is beautiful' and self help. Large tanks were funded by philantrophy or kings.

Another specific example is the complex system of "overflow irrigation" which gave ancient Bengal its legendary prosperity; the destruction of which has bred nothing but malaria and poverty. Described in detail by Sir William Willcock, the system appears to have been constructed in the Ganga and Damodar valleys during the Chola regime 2000 years ago, inspired by Egyptian irrigation systems on the Nile.
Long, continuous, fairly parallel broad and shallow canals covered the region. At the head, they carried river water and at the tail rainwater drained from the fields. Irrigation was performed by breach in the banks of canals which were closed when the floods were over.
After heavy rainfall when the rivers received floodwater, the banks embanked with mud were breached at appropriate times and the flood waters were taken into the canals. If not diverted at the appropriate time, this could wreck havoc with inundation.
The heads of the canals were so located that the upper layer of muddy water from the floods, rich in fine clay and free from coarse sand would enter the canal.
While the rains were sufficient to feed rice cultivation, the light silt soil was easily eroded and needed irrigation of clayey waters. The muddy and clayey early flood waters served the purpose of fertilization of the fields. Excess was then drained off by the field drains.
This engineering marvel served a distinct ecological purpose as well. While the overflow irrigation did its work, the damp bred mosquito larvae in millions. The muddy river waters brought in thousands of fish eggs, which traveled through the canals into the fields full of mosquito larvae, clearing the area of any threat of malaria. And the protein-rich fish ushered in general health throughout the region.
The destruction of the system in the late nineteenth century converted the canals into stagnant pools breeding malaria and poverty.

Imagine the genius of Madhya Pradesh's tribals, who create intricate water systems over terrains, in channels with abysmal rises, ‚to take water UPSTREAM,‚ tens of kilometers around hills to water their fields on the plateaux. The work is extremely painstaking, in the channels, the land rise barely visible to the eye, except when one surveys the end result, actually seeing water travel upstream to heights of even over 100 ft.
Such communities bear great grudges against the modern espousal of tubewells and individual wells, as opposed to the earlier trends of communal assets. They claim that tubewells may bring prosperity to the person who puts down the well, but pumping out the water from deep underground acquifiers drains the wells of the surrounding fields, affecting the harvests of the neighbouring farmers.

The Arthashastra recommends that the king shall construct reservoirs (setu ) filled with water either perennial or drawn from some other source. Alternatively he might provide sites, roads, timber and other necessary things to those who constructed reservoirs of their own accord or on a communal basis.
Since the creation and upkeep of reservoirs was a communal effort, rather than an official governmental one, the reservoirs must, of needs, be of a manageable size.
Annual maintenance and repairs of the water systems was a communal voluntary effort, almost like a village festival; according to the Arthashastra, even compulsory for all, either in person, or by the sending of deputies.
Punishments are laid down for " defaulters ":
“whoever stays away from any kind of cooperative construction ( sambhuya setubandat ) should send his servants and bullocks to carry on his work, should have a share in the expenditure but should have no claim on the return. The natural overflow of water from higher tanks to tanks lower downstream shall not be stopped unless the lower tank has ceased to be useful for three consecutive years."
Severe punishment is prescribed for offenses, including emptying a tank of its water. Persons found letting water out of the tank or stopping the water from the fields of others during their time are to be fined.

After the arrival of the British and their known penchant for " divide and rule ", the tensions generated between landowners and tenants and lower castes first undermined and finally totally removed the voluntary system.
Appalled by the quantum of effort involved, the British tried to bring in laws and legislation to enforce the maintenance; but its caste chickens came home to roost and all efforts at enforcing communal maintenance failed so miserably that there was no alternative but to take over maintenance which did not happen. Finally most of the systems fell into woeful disrepair, as no funds were budgeted for canal maintenance.
The dependence of modern Indians on the government of the Sovereign Republic of India is appalling and to a large extent, responsible for dreadful condition of the canal and other networks of modern dams. e.g. Panam and Ukai dams in South Gujarat are less than 50 years old ;
their canals are either non-existent or in such an appalling state of dire disrepair that the potential created by the dam has not been achieved .
State and central governments routinely allocate funds for the construction of dams, sometimes for the canals also. Even in the case of the Narmada Main Canal, touted as the largest canal system in the world, ultimately, the Narmada Nigam has had to virtually steal the dam funds, possible only on account of the stay on the construction of the dam. Once the Supreme Court gave permission for the raising of the height of the dam, work on the canals has stalled and flash floods are the order of the monsoon day.
British India, with its rural vested interests such as zamindars, ryots and transferable village officials spelt the death of communal responsibilities and communal control over communal assets. This lasted for centuries until the creation of the modern panchayat system with its electoral conundrums.
It took the imposition of foreign systems in all administrative and other walks of life during the British era to subvert them, spelling doom to village democracies, and the systems dependent on them. This covered all facets of village life, from revenue and assessment to water courses and distribution, down to even a social structure like caste.

Social Commentor Ram Swarup holds that“ " Old India had castes, not casteism."
The original connotation of caste was perhaps a social grouping with a common factor. Yet every caste was woven into the life of the community as a whole, with no outcastes, as known today. Caste in ancient India was a cooperative, cultural principle, offering a vocation as soon as one was born ... a dream for those threatened with chronic unemployment.
Rigidity in caste was a convenient myth, for there was no dearth of social mobility. Nor was there, in ancient India, the plethora of castes, legacy of the British fervor for documentation.
Megathenes relates a 7 fold division of society; Hsuan Tsang, the Chinese pilgrim of 650 A.D. mentions four castes. Alberuni too mentions four main castes, with some other groups which did not strictly belong to the caste system. Manu mentioned not more than 40 mixed castes, related by blood. Even Chandals were Brahmins on their father's side. But under the British, Risley enumerated 2,378 main castes, 43 races and endless lists of sub-castes. The 1891 census recorded as many as 1156 subcastes of chamars alone !!
Coming to the water scene, it was the low caste landless caste, variously known as Nirkuttis, Nirganti, Nir Paychi, Patkaris, Havaldars, Kohlis etc. who had the responsibility of irrigating every field in the system, according to its requirement or the norms laid down by the farmers' association.
The Nirkattis were selected as a traditionally landless community; it was reckoned that they would have no personal stakes or caste patriotism to interfere with the dispassionate distribution of water. They took pride in their impartiality and would not suffer any farmer to touch the water works,sluices or vents in the fields. Once the norm of distributions as laid down, the nirkatti followed them regardless of their effect on individual farmers and their possible attempts to tamper with sluices or water courses, which were reported.
While labour was generally communal, the design and engineering of the water systems required specialized skills. Certain families, such as the Yellamma Reddys of Andhra Pradesh, specialized in the construction of reservoirs; other caste communities, wadders, boyis etc., specialized in earth and stone work, for tanks, wells, roads etc.. To this day, the scions of such families form the main source of labour for the irrigation and R & B departments.
With government created water resources ruling the roost, virtually free of charge, unencumbered by any duties or responsibilities towards regular maintenance, community water resources, ancient tanks, anicuts etc. have fallen out of favor.
Tanks are filled up for valuable real estate in semi-urban and urban areas, or used as garbage dumps, bus stands etc. Stepwells are now historic ruins; supply channels and catchment areas lost to sight with weeds etc. As village communities hand over their own control of water resources to the government, they end up losers. The alternatives provided by the government, both in irrigation and drinking water are sub-standard.