Browncast: Sri Thiruvadanthai on the Indian Economy etc

Another BP Podcast is up. You can listen on LibsynAppleSpotify, and Stitcher (and a variety of other platforms). Probably the easiest way to keep up the podcast since we don’t have a regular schedule is to subscribe to one of the links above!

In this episode Srikant, Akshar and I talk to Sri Thiruvadanthai, who goes by @teasri on Twitter and is a very erudite finance and economics guy with much to say about the Indian economy, reforms, China, etc.. Well worth listening.

Multiple hearths of agriculture in ancient South Asia

Patrick Wyman’s Tides of History podcast is tackling South Asia and prehistory. He wrote up a Substack for it too, Ancient South Asia – Farming and People in India and Pakistan. I agree with Patrick here, though my confidence is low:

…It seems unlikely that a group living 1400 miles to the east would have chosen precisely the same suite of domesticated plants and animals as their related brethren in the Fertile Crescent. It’s intriguing that a fourth distinct group, as yet unsampled by geneticists, might have been living in the Fertile Crescent alongside their relatives 10,000 years ago or more. But the most likely, in my opinion, is that the group ancestral to later South Asians was living somewhere between the Indus Valley and the Zagros, perhaps on the Iranian Plateau: close enough to adopt some pieces of the Fertile Crescent farming package, close enough to head a short distance east, through the Bolan Pass, and into South Asia.

My confidence in this part is higher:

Yet they were not alone in South Asia, nor were they the only ones engaged in farming. Further to the east, along the Ganges River, the indigenous foragers were also experimenting with plant cultivation. In fact, there were no fewer than five places in South Asia where we see evidence of independent plant domestication. Mung bean, urd bean, horsegram, several varieties of millet, and rice were all cultivated extensively. These crops had the benefit of being able to grow during the summer monsoon season. South Asia was actually home to multiple Neolithics of its own.

In Southeast Asia and Europe, the hunter-gatherer populations contributed 20% or less to the ancestry of modern groups, who descend mostly from farmers and pastoralists. In South Asia the “Ancient Ancestral South Indian” (AASI) ancestry is ~50%. What’s the difference? I think the likelihood is that AASI populations were moving toward agriculture is a likely reason why they were much more demographically robust and impactful.

Browncast: Gaurav Returns to Give An Update on Indian Covid & Marathi Politics

Another BP Podcast is up. You can listen on LibsynAppleSpotify, and Stitcher (and a variety of other platforms). Probably the easiest way to keep up the podcast since we don’t have a regular schedule is to subscribe to one of the links above!

Akshar chats with Gaurav on the coronavirus’ impact in India, societal permutations, and a special tour of the Marathi political landscape. Gaurav writes on the Brown Pundits blog and features an eclectic array of positions across the Indian political spectrum.

when one fails, one might listen to the critics

When one fails, one might listen to what critics say.

The worst aspect of Modi/shah politics is that their politicking is meant to incite and polarise , to the detriment of forgetting other serious issues . Caa politics were allowed till it led to riots and later  continued right into the pandemic. The farmers protest was allowed to block roads, the tractor protests were allowed on jan 26,Lot of  mindspace was captured by these events , followed by bengal elections. All of this politicking meant that most people did not focus on covid. While I did consider the possibility of covid returning in summer again, having read about the correlation of covid and humidity
https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/08/200818094028.htm
, I had clearly forgotten about it with all the politicking around.

We all missed the ball due to the political atmosphere that was cooked up , however, we are not paid for the job so are not equally responsible, I suspect many would have done better if paid to do so, the rising numbers should have alerted the experts. Modi ran a quasi presidential system without checks. Had he succeeded , he would deserve the credit, but now that he has failed and we stand naked in front of the world, we might listen to the critics who warned us.


There are many things the best of scientists still do not know about this virus. But some we know. The virus doesn’t vote. Nor does it care about who wins or loses. It can’t be polarised. It spreads sickness, misery and death, irrespective of politics or faith. It feeds on political hubris.”

As Modi govt faces up to Covid disaster, BJP learns a tough truth — the virus doesn’t vote


There is as clear a declaration and celebration of victory against the virus as you could imagine. When the pandemic began, the world was so concerned about India, that a tsunami of infections was going to hit us, Modi said. There were people predicting 700-800 million Indians getting infected and more than two million dying. But India didn’t let this happen and saved humanity from a big disaster, he said.

He talked about how India had built capacities in no time, the world’s biggest vaccination programme has been launched on the back of two ‘Made in India’ vaccines with many more to come, and how India is now out to save the world by exporting these.”


Next exhibit, see here, the resolution passed by the BJP National Executive in February. It was a stirring declaration of victory against the virus. “It can be said with pride,” it read, that “India not only defeated Covid under the able, sensible, committed and visionary leadership of Prime Minister Modi, but also infused in all its citizens the confidence to build an Atma Nirbhar Bharat”. The resolution was so effusive, it’s a surprise it stopped short of asking that a victory arch be built. We quote again: “The party unequivocally hails its leadership for introducing India to the world as a proud and victorious nation in the fight against Covid.”

It said “the world has applauded” India’s achievement, and then also praises the “appeal for activities like clapping and clanging of thalis, lighting of diyas, showering of flowers over hospitals”. India, it said, stands tall, especially with its “vaccine victory” and moving in the “direction of complete triumph over Covid”.”

Ram Guha, the historian shared this.

https://www.telegraphindia.com/opinion/politics-and-play-self-before-nation-the-arrogance-of-power-and-the-humility-of-patriotism/cid/1813467

” “In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic,” I wrote, “the country faces probably its greatest challenge since Partition… This pandemic and its fallout have already led to enormous human suffering, and this will multiply. In this scenario, to restore social trust and to rebuild the economy may be beyond the abilities of one man and his small circle of trusted advisers.””

 

On 24th February this year, Modi joined stalin, hitler, gaddafi, mussolini, saddam hussain in having a stadium be named after him.

While President Biden on Feb 27 informed in a speech , ” In five weeks, America has administered the most shots of any country in the world, with among the highest percentage of population fully vaccinated. That’s progress we promised. It’s also true while covid 19 vaccinations are up, covid cases and hospitalisations are coming down. But I need to be honest with you,cases and hospitalisations could go back up,with new variants as they emerge.So, I want to make something very clear: THIS IS NOT THE TIME TO RELAX. we must keep washing our hands, stay socially distanced,and for God’s sake, wear a mask.”

This degree of screw up would not be possible without failure of bureaucracy. But that only reflects his choice of bureaucrats .

Further information revealed tells us that the covid task force did not meet in february and march inspite of surge.

““It became abundantly clear in mid February that India was heading towards a devastating second wave,” one member of the national taskforce said. All three scientists spoke on the condition of anonymity. “When things in Maharashtra started going out of hand, some of us tried to flag this issue,” the first member added. The taskforce, however, did not meet during this crucial time. A second member of the taskforce told me that a meeting of the body was “not convened” unless the government “wanted us to rubber stamp some decision already taken by politicians.””

https://caravanmagazine.in/health/india-covid-19-taskforce-did-not-meet-february-march-despite-surge-say-members

“Another significant lapse, the members told me, the Indian Council of Medical Research’s failure to update the treatment protocol for COVID-19 in the past nine months, since July 2020.”

” The ICMR’s failure to update the treatment guidelines in line with global standards have also resulted in a thriving black market for remdesivir that continues to prey on vulnerable families.”

When one runs the govt on a quasi presidential style manner, without checks and balances, without meeting scientists directly and consults very narrowly, it becomes a system ripe for missing out on crucial information. The failures of various chief ministers of various states also needs to be called into question, however, the final solution to this pandemic was always going to be vaccinations at the earliest. And India has emerged as the biggest affordable pharma in the world. And the data for efficacy of astrazenca was already available by december end.https://www.businesstoday.in/current/corporate/oxford-university-astrazeneca-coronavirus-vaccine-70-effective-lancet-journal/story/424291.html

And government did not give vaccine manufacturers the necessary credit to increase their capacity or secure doses while other countries like US did at the earliest.

One wonders by which date were they hoping to cover the vaccination of the population by?. It seems, they never considered the possibility of second wave. Or they would have chosen to vaccinate atleast the vulnerable population at the earliest.

Indian economy was on downturn before 2020 covid hit India.  After 7 years, it is time to start asking questions on competence of government on all other issues and in particular on economic growth and the timeline by which it expects it to deliver.
One must admit that for the degree of power he held without checks , this failure is almost entirely due to his personality as ram guha informs us.

https://www.ndtv.com/opinion/3-traits-of-modi-that-have-cost-india-dearly-by-ramachandra-guha-2242669

“My own analysis is very different. Narendra Modi has been a disappointment as a Prime Minister not because he has bad advisers or because some good advisers died relatively young, but because of his own faults and failings”

“The first trait is the suspicion of experts and expertise. As a self-made man, who has risen to the top on the basis of his own intelligence, his own drive, and his own will-power, Modi is suspicious of those with formal qualifications from elite institutions. His statement that he preferred “hard work to Harvard” was a striking manifestation of this belief”

The second trait, which is related to the first, is the cult of personality that the Prime Minister has built around himself. As a technocrat who has worked with the PM once told me, the rule that all advisers have to observe is “total obsequiousness, no credit”. The line with which the Prime Minister fought and won the 2019 elections, ‘Modi Hai toh Mumkin Hai’, says it all. Only Modi will defeat terrorism, Modi and Modi alone will humiliate Pakistan (and now China), Modi by himself will eliminate corruption, Modi will surely make India the Vishwa Guru – this is the sort of thinking that is ubiquitous within the ruling party and the central government. But a large and complex country like India cannot be governed effectively and well through the force of one person’s will – however farsighted and hardworking that individual might be.

For all the confidence and strength he exudes, the behaviour of the Prime Minister suggests that he is, within himself, a somewhat insecure man. This is evident not just in his reluctance to publicly praise his ministers or advisers when they do a good job, but also in the sort of people he relies on for advice. The preponderance of Gujarat cadre officers around him and in positions of influence in the central government is one sign. A second is his tendency to shun some outstanding IAS officers, merely because they once held important positions in Congress governments. Even within the top ranks of the IAS, loyalty to the Leader, and not the quality of one’s intellect, is what the Modi Government prizes most.”

“If the Acche Din promised by Narendra Modi in May 2014 still remain elusive a full six years after he became Prime Minister, then the buck must stop with Narendra Modi himself. Not the death of a trusted colleague, not the incompetence of a few officers in his inner circle, but his own megalomania, his own suspicion of experts, his own reluctance to share credit, and his own inability to transcend the sectarian ideology that he embraced as a young man – it is these traits of Narendra Modi himself that explain why history will judge him far more harshly than his naïve and trusting supporters believe or hope.”

http://https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AFVmsRmFE4Q

 

And the govt declaring vaccines to be open for all above age 18 also seems another jumla.  we clearly do not have enough vaccines for everyone.

https://www.timesnownews.com/videos/et-now/news/does-india-have-enough-vaccines-for-all/95579

According to the agency, serum institute can produce 70 million vaccines this month, 100 million vaccines next month, covaxin can produce 10 million vaccine this month and maybe 20 million vaccine next month.  While in total of about only 100 million people have received first dose. The population of those about age 60 and above is about 100 million( approximately). While according to the news agency, the population between 18 to 45 is about 600 million, requiring 1.2 billion doses.

Perhaps, the voluntary arm of rss would be better to have own in house experts, shadow cabinet to check on PM from here forth. In anycase, the absolute trust Mr Modi had held so far is now broken. People have seen him fail as clearly as ever.

Many people had seen their friends, family, neighbors  hospitalized, have lost their loved ones and suffered the dread that it could be them next. They clearly will not forget this failure. For many of us, this is the biggest failure of government we have seen in our lives.

While the situation continues to evolve, let us keep hope , work together and succeed in overcoming this difficult phase.

Zulfi Bhutto of Pakistan; the dark side chronicles

An old post written by Dr Asif Javed (who has also included this in his book, an interesting collection of articles published as “The Doctor from the East”

Bhutto Legend: Myth and Reality
By Dr Asif Javed
Williamsport, PA

“I feel that your services to Pakistan are indispensable. When the history of our country is written by objective historians, your name will be placed even before that of Mr. Jinnah.” The writer of this infamous piece of consummate flattery was a young Z.A. Bhutto, and the recipient, Sikander Mirza, who should be in the political hall of shame, if one were ever to be erected in Pakistan.

Balawal Zardari has recently made a lot of noise about Z.A. Bhutto’s trial and demanded apology for the unjust verdict handed out to his grandfather. It has become very fashionable lately to call it a “judicial murder”. This writer is not a lawyer nor am I a politician; I do, however, belong to the unfortunate generation that witnessed the events of his grandfather’s time in power, and fall from it. It is said that legends ossify over time; in Bhutto’s case, certainly that appears to be so. Bhutto worship has become a relentless train that shows no signs of slowing down; instead, it keeps gathering speed. In the process, the established historical facts are being denied or distorted, and myths are being created. KK Aziz may easily write another volume of Murder of history based upon what we have seen recently.
Z.A. Bhutto was widely admired for his genius. Henry Kissinger may not have been way off the mark when he remarked, “Elegant, eloquent, subtle. . . .I found him brilliant, charming, of global stature in his perceptions. . . .He did not suffer fools gladly.”It is however, the other side of ZAB—the dark one—that needs to be revisited. In the process, perhaps we, as a nation, may learn some lessons and see things in the right perspective. Khalid Hasan, a life long admirer, who knew ZAB first hand, and worked as his press secretary, may have written the most balanced and insightful short biography of ZAB. He has summed it up eloquently: “ZAB had all the makings of a classical hero, carrying the seeds of self destruction in him—he was a flawed genius, a god who turned out to have feet of clay. . . .ZAB had many personal failings, including an inability to trust others, a congenital suspicion of friends and high sensitivity to personal criticism.”

With rare insight and objectivity, KH writes: “There is no evidence that US government or any of his agencies played a role in the overthrow of Bhutto—the time has come for us to accept that much of what has happened to our country and our leaders has been the result of our own mistakes. . . .ZAB believed that a country should have only one central figure as leader and all power should flow from him. It is a tragedy that a man of Bhutto’s intelligence, education and sense of history did not appreciate that Pakistan could only survive as a federal state with the provinces enjoying the maximum autonomy. Bhutto could not abide rival claimants to power even if they were elected to their office. He could not work with the opposition run provincial governments in Quetta and Peshawar and squeezed them out; that was his undoing. Bhutto forgot that power in order to be kept, must be dispersed.” KH also notes that it was Bhutto who revised ISI’s charter to include domestic political intelligence.

It is widely believed that Bhutto was hanged for a crime that he did not commit. It is rarely, if ever, asked, who then was the real perpetrator? Continue reading “Zulfi Bhutto of Pakistan; the dark side chronicles”

Browncast: Frank: a well informed Indian talks about India

Another BP Podcast is up. You can listen on LibsynAppleSpotify, and Stitcher (and a variety of other platforms). Probably the easiest way to keep up the podcast since we don’t have a regular schedule is to subscribe to one of the links above!

Image

This episode is somewhat unique in that the guest is anonymous. “Frank” tweets on twitter as @Frankisalegend1 and has a background in business and finance. He is well informed and well read and we had an interesting chat about Indian politics, recent history and his fascination with Steve McQueen.

 

 

How the BJP Became the Bahujan Janata Party

Much of the ire of Indian elites and those left of the Indian political center simply boils down to one thing – the poor and lower-castes aren’t voting the way they want them to. Over decades, an assorted motley crew of political parties has taken the votes of India’s subalterns for granted. Through sops and social engineering, a steady support was built over the years. If you are of X caste, you must vote for Y party. And don’t ask why.

Yet, a party that venerates the idols of old has now become an iconoclast breaking the idea of voting one’s caste rather than casting one’s vote. The BJP, for years known as a “Brahmin-Baniya” party reserved for the privileged and so-called upper-castes, has shattered traditional caste calculus and come up with a new formula making established Indian political equations void. Today’s BJP is one that has been given a brute mandate by India’s Bahujans (the so-called lower-castes of India) along with its old upper-caste base. A united Hindu vote is beginning to coalesce, something that is sending shivers along the spines of the BJP’s political opponents.

But to truly understand the magnitude of these ramifications, we must peer into the past and understand the tradition of caste to grasp the revolution we are witnessing today.

Continue reading “How the BJP Became the Bahujan Janata Party”

Browncast: Dr Seema Anand, author of “The arts of seduction”

Another BP Podcast is up. You can listen on LibsynAppleSpotify, and Stitcher (and a variety of other platforms). Probably the easiest way to keep up the podcast since we don’t have a regular schedule is to subscribe to one of the links above!

 

Details

In this episode Mukunda and guest-host Shahada talk to Dr Seema Anand. Dr Anand according to her Times of India intro is “a London-based mythologist and a practising storyteller. She lectures on the Kama Sutra and Eastern erotology”.

Check it out.

Clarifications on my views about the Burqa

Given the responses I received from my previous post, I feel a detailed clarification explaining my stance and reasoning behind it is due.

First of all, as I do not advocate any ban due to my instinctive gut feelings. I like most humans, feel strong instinctive visceral reactions for a range of things from ugly tattoos to plastic surgeries to the latest Hollywood fashions. But no one in their right mind would advocate any regulations on clothing, lifestyle, or anything else for mere aesthetics or reactions, no matter how strong the reaction is.

By Burqa here I mean the combination of the Burqa + Niqab and not just the Burqa in isolation

History of Indian law and the Greater Good:

Currently, in India, there exist a number of laws (and their application) aimed at social justice where the burden of proof at times lays on the accused not the accuser. Examples of these being the SC/ST atrocity act, Dowry law, Domestic violence laws, etc. Not getting into the legalities of these laws, it is fair to note that the system is rigged against the accused to prove his/her innocence, unlike most other cases. But weighing the pros and cons, considering the state Indian society finds itself in, these laws are generally accepted across the board.

Till now (2021) it is fair to assume that significantly more cases under these laws have been Unreported than the cases where these laws are abused (though it may not always remain so).

Why should the benefit of the doubt be given to the women in case of Dowry/Domestic abuse cases & Scheduled castes/tribes in case of Atrocity-related conflicts? We all know why. I am extending the same argument here.

UCC and Burqa:

Generally in the world, we have accepted that legal polygamy is not an acceptable practice. In India with Muslim personal law, there continues to be legal polygamy for Muslims. But looking at the numbers, the practice is not even followed by a very small fraction of the Muslim population (as opposed to the practice of Burqa which is ubiquitous). Yet most nativists (Hindutvavadis) in India & *true liberals acknowledge the need for a Uniform Civil code. There are multiple valid reasons for the UCC, but one of them certainly is that Muslim personal law creates a feeling of separation among the Muslim community which is bad for a cohesive society. The same argument along with a few others can be made much more convincing against the Burqa than for UCC in my view.

Arguments against the Burqa:

  1. Burqa – as a black overall creates a distinct separation between the Muslim women and society on whole. Here is a fine piece by Jaggi on it. Jaggi in this piece has relied heavily on BR Ambedkar’s scathing remarks about women in Islam in Pakistan and Partition. Some of Ambedkar’s quotes                          “These burka women walking in the streets is one of the most hideous sights one can witness in India. Such seclusion cannot but have its deteriorating effects upon the physical constitution of Muslim women….”.“Purdah deprives Muslim women of mental and moral nourishment. Being deprived of healthy social life, the process of moral degeneration must and does set in. Being completely secluded from the outer world, they engage their minds in petty family quarrels, with the result that they become narrow and restricted in their outlook.”                                                                                                                                                   It is important to note that BR Ambedkar had similarly scathing criticisms of Hindu practices and the Hindu code bill was directly aimed at addressing those ills. Even though the single Hindu code bill failed to pass in the Indian parliament the content eventually got passed under various laws.
  2. One might argue that wearing a Burqa is a personal choice of an adult woman and denying so is an infringement of her fundamental rights – and that point is certainly not without merit. Once a practice like Burqa is accepted in a society it is automatically imposed on girls as young as five years old. One cannot even begin to imagine the effect that would have on the psyche of a child. A discussion on this topic on BBC Radio: link. I am not supporting something as extreme as Dawkin’s stance that children be raised devoid of indoctrination, but just that we curtail to the extent to which we indoctrinate under the guise of religion.
  3. As in the case of the Atrocity Act or other pro-women laws, it is fair to start with the assumption that women don’t have faculty (especially compared to men) in these societies (Indian in general, Muslim in particular). Therein the question of assumption of personal choice of the woman becomes difficult to justify.
  4. Another issue that is often missed in these discussions is the impact this might have on the Men’s psyche. Jaggi has made the point with reference to the Love Jihad issue so I won’t go into that in detail (read his piece). An example of what some MAN in UP said about it – here
  5. The lack of a visible face, especially in public places hinders equality in interactions. We communicate a lot non verbally (most of it facially). Burqa not only restricts expression for the wearer (it may be down to choice) but also restricts the communicator from gauging the non-verbal communication.
  6. The public security issues which arise from  garments thought often exaggerated in right-wing circles are non-trivial.

The Other side:

Some of the defenses of Burqa  which find some purchase in my mind are:

  1. In the hyper-sexualized and judgemental world with immense peer pressure to Go out – Look good – be sexy, a Burqa might appear as a welcome respite for a certain type of personality.
  2. If the person wearing the Burqa feels closer to Allah due to the act of wearing it, how can the state or society come in between her spiritual fulfillment?

Out of these two, I empathize to an extent with argument 1, yet it doesn’t tip the scale in my mind.

Closing thoughts:

I see the point made by many that such a law is counter-effective to the aim of reform. While I concede this point to a degree, I don’t think it needs to be counter-effective in all cases. The same can be argued for most reforms.

The views I hold here may appear extreme in some respects, but it’s anything but a mere reflexive extension of my gut feeling, it’s an internally reasoned and argued position. I don’t advocate bans, especially in the current state of Indian affairs, but I do rejoice when I hear this happening in Sri Lanka, Denmark, or France.

Post Script: 

My views on the Sabrimala controversy and menstruation taboos are also in concurrence with the Supreme court judgment. Not stating it to engage in monkey balancing, but merely stating it for context. You can find my piece which covers some of these topics here – What is “Brahmanical” in Indian Patriarchy?