Sunday, August 15, 2010

63 Years After Independence, India Remains Home to World's Largest Population of Poor, Hungry and Illiterates

In today's Times of India piece titled "Our freedom was born with hunger, we're still not free", one of India's Green Revolution leaders Monkombu Sambasivan Swaminathan says, "Our freedom was born with hunger. It was born in the backdrop of the Bengal famine. If you read the newspapers dated August 15, 1947, one part was about freedom, the other was food shortage".

As India celebrates its 63rd independence anniversary today, it is very unfortunate that economically resurgent India still remains home to the world's largest population of poor, hungry and illiterate people. Tragically, hunger remains India's biggest problem, with an estimated 7000 Indians dying of hunger every single day. Over 200 million Indians will go to bed hungry tonight, as they do every night, according to Along with chronic hunger, deep poverty and high illiteracy also continue to blight the lives of hundreds of millions of Indians on a daily basis.

Source:  Where Are the Poor and Where Are the Poorest?

India ranks 66th on the 2008 Global Hunger Index of 88 countries while Pakistan is slightly better at 61 and Bangladesh slightly worse at 70. Though the problems of poverty and hunger in Pakistan are a bit less serious than in India, Pakistan also suffers from high illiteracy and low levels of human development that pose a serious threat to its future.

India has the dubious distinction of being among the top ten on two very different lists: It ranks at the top of the nations of the world with its 270 million illiterate adults, the largest in the world, as detailed by a just released UNESCO report on education; India also shows up at number four in military spending in terms of purchasing power parity, behind United States, China and Russia.

Not only is India the lowest among BRIC nations in terms of human development, India is also the only country among the top ten military spenders which, at 134 on a list of 182 nations, ranks near the bottom of the UNDP's human development rankings. Pakistan, at 141, ranks even lower than India.

India also fares badly on the 2009 World Hunger Index, ranking at 65 along with several sub-Saharan nations. Pakistan ranks at 58 on the same index.

Agriculture Value Added Per Capita (Source: World Bank)

A recent Oxford study on multi-dimensional poverty confirmed that Indians are far more deprived than Pakistanis and the poorest of the poor Africans. The study reveals that there are more "MPI poor" people in eight Indian states (421 million in Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh , Orissa, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal) than in the 26 poorest African countries combined (410 million).

Developed at Oxford University, the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) goes beyond income poverty based on $1.25 or $2 a day income levels. It measures a range of "deprivations" at household levels, such as schooling, nutrition, and access to health, clean water, electricity and sanitation. According to Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI) country briefings 2010, 55% of Indians and 51% of Pakistanis are poor.

Access to healhcare in South Asia, particularly due to the wide gender gap, presents a huge challenge, and it requires greater focus to ensure improvement in human resources. Though the life expectancy has increased to 66.2 years in Pakistan and 63.4 years in India, it is still low relative to the rest of the world. The infant mortality rate remains stubbornly high, particular in Pakistan, though it has come down down from 76 per 1000 live births in 2003 to 65 in 2009. With 320 mothers dying per 100,000 live births in Pakistan and 450 in India, the maternal mortality rate in South Asia is very high, according to UNICEF.

The health problems in India are compounded by serious lack of sanitation. According to a joint study conducted by the World Health Organization and UNICEF, 665 million Indians, or nearly two-thirds of them defecate in the open. While a mere 14 percent of people in rural areas of the country - that account for 65 percent of its 1.1 billion population - had access to toilets in 1990, the number had gone up to 28 percent in 2006. In comparison, 33 percent rural Pakistanis had access to toilets in 1990 and it went up to an impressive 58 percent in 2006, according to UNICEF officials.

In its issue earlier this year, the harsh reality of hunger and malnutrition in India was described by the Economist magazine as follows:

"India-wide, more than 43% of Indian children under five are malnourished, a third of the world’s total. Over 35% of Indians are illiterate and over 20m children out of school. For all its successes, including six decades of elections and a constitution that introduced the notion of equal rights to an inequitable society, India’s abiding failure is its inability to provide aid and economic opportunity to millions of its impoverished citizens."

The reality of grinding poverty in resurgent India was recently summed up well by a BBC commentator Soutik Biswas as follows:

A sobering thought to keep in mind though. Impressive growth figures are unlikely to stun the poor into mindless optimism about their future. India has long been used to illustrate how extensive poverty coexists with growth. It has a shabby record in pulling people out of poverty - in the last two decades the number of absolutely poor in India has declined by 17 percentage points compared to China, which brought down its absolutely poor by some 45 percentage points. The number of Indian billionaires rose from nine in 2004 to 40 in 2007, says Forbes magazine. That's higher than Japan which had 24, while France and Italy had 14 billionaires each. When one of the world's highest number of billionaires coexist with what one economist calls the world's "largest number of homeless, ill-fed illiterates", something is gravely wrong. This is what rankles many in this happy season of positive thinking.

As India and Pakistan celebrate their 63rd independence day, it is time for both major South Asian nations to reflect and act on the urgent need for careful balancing of their genuine defense requirements against the need to spend more to solve the very serious problems of food, education, health care and human resource development for securing a better future of their peoples.

Here's a video clip showing grinding poverty in resurgent India:

Here's a video clip of Indian environment minister Jairam Ramesh saying "if there was a Nobel Prize for dirt and filth, India would win it hands down":

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Disaster Dampens Spirits on Pakistan's 63rd Independence Day
UNESCO Education For All Report 2010

India's Arms Build-up: Guns Versus Bread

South Asia Slipping in Human Development

World Hunger Index 2009

Challenges of 2010-2020 in South Asia

India and Pakistan Contrasted 2010

Food, Clothing and Shelter in India and Pakistan

Introduction to Defense Economics


aamsvad said...

Absence of effective Population control measures is ONE of the major reasons for the increase in poverty.
If a poor family has 5 kids then the number of poor increases by 5. If a million poor families have 5 kids each , then the number of poor increases by 5 million over a span of 5 years. supposing that they are still in poverty for 5 years.
On the other hand middle class and educated hardly have more than 2 the number of above poverty level or middle class might not show a higher increase.

For Boom time India between 1998-2009 everyone utterly neglected Population control, so essential and important for any developing country.
Also many poor parents, saw more children as a means of increasing earning.
Further some irrational and stupid religious sentiments added to the population poverty growth.

Anonymous said...

yup that's cause of our population,#2 on the list is China..

Anyway your thinly disguised jealousy is quite entertaining.

Unknown said...

hello riaz.

for a while i actually thought u had gotten rid of ur india envy. but people rarely change right?

Rahul said...

Mr. Riaz..
I hope you write something which will help in generating support for your country because of the flood disaster. No gain will be there writing these...I again say...write some sense.

Anonymous said...

You have some chutzpah to call Indians as hate mongers when you yourself do the same.
India is also home to one of the largest highly educated work force which can compete, if not better, the best of the west in high paying jobs. On that count, Pakistan is zero.

Anonymous said...


"India is also home to one of the largest highly educated work force which can compete, if not better, the best of the west in high paying jobs. On that count, Pakistan is zero."

Go to Dubai, most of toilet cleaners (bhangis) are Indian, Pakistan on that count also is zero.

Mayraj said...

The Indian Green Revolution leader says: India has plentiful water when water table is plunging? He fails to see need for poor water management? Even the New York Times has covered it. There has been international conferences about this. maybe he was not invited. And Green Revolution led to this abuse of water. He is myopic!

The top soil problem is huge and even UK is raising alarms about it. The floods in Pakistan and elsewhere will add to further top soil loss also.

By the way, Green Revolution reduced nutritients.
'Our freedom was born with hunger, we're still not free'
The lowdown on topsoil: It's disappearing
Disappearing dirt rivals global warming as an environmental threat
When more grain equals fewer nutrients


24/07/2009 3:51:00 PM

SINCE the Green Revolution of the 1960s, the world has produced a lot more grain—but there may be a lot less in it, a unique experiment in the United Kingdom has revealed.
India depleting key water source, study finds
Researcher: Farming collapse and severe drinking water shortages possible
Green Revolution in India Wilts as Subsidies Backfire
See also:
How Green Revolution Played Havoc With Mexican Agriculture
The Ploy to Promote Genetically Engineered Seeds and Pesticides to Poor Mexican Farmers Is Impoverishing Their Communities
The author takes a trip to Mexico to see the 'green revolution' firsthand -- and what she finds is shocking.
India's 'Green Revolution' Heading For Collapse
USDA's India Estimates Are Bogus
India Will Be Importing Millions Of Tons Of Wheat In 2009
*****Catastrophic Fall in 2009 Global Food Production*****
Cities Are Running Out Of Water

Riaz Haq said...

DC: "India is also home to one of the largest highly educated work force which can compete, if not better, the best of the west in high paying jobs. On that count, Pakistan is zero."

Indian cyber coolies make up about 2% or less of India's population...most of the rest are poorer than than poorest of Africans defecating in the open. 78% of them live on less than $2 a day versus 60% of Pakistanis.

And these Indian coolies of various kinds were much better off under the Mughal rule before the Brits turned them into coolies and impoverished all of India and taught the natives "democracy" under their imperial thumb.

When the Brits arrived, India contributed about a quarter of the world's GDP under Mughal rule. And now "independent" India contributes less than 2% of the world GDP.

Anonymous said...

'And these Indian coolies of various kinds were much better off under the Mughal rule before the Brits turned them into coolies and impoverished all of India and taught the natives "democracy" under their imperial thumb.'

Well these coolies can build cars,nuclear subs,super computers,high end software and some of the world's largest corporations.

Ironically UK's largest employer is TATA(through its many subsidiaries like Corus,JLR,Tetley,Burner Mond etc) an Indian company whose annual revenues are nearly 3 times Pakistan's ENTIRE INDUSTRIAL OUTPUT.

What may I ask have Pakistanis achieved??

Riaz Haq said...

anon: "Well these coolies can build cars,nuclear subs,super computers,high end software and some of the world's largest corporations."

With all the skills their white masters and their brown-skin MacCauley's children taught them, their total output is less than 2% of the world GDP, far far less than the 25% India contributed to the world GDP under Mughal rule before the Brits arrived.

Anonymous said...

"With all the skills their white masters and their brown-skin MacCauley's children taught them, their total output is less than 2% of the world GDP, far far less than the 25% India contributed to the world GDP under Mughal rule before the Brits arrived."

Perhaps in your hatred for India and Hindus you forgot one important point. When brits arrived, Hindus were still 80% of the population. So whom are you giving credit to? The rulers or the people of India.

Saurav said...

Mr. Riaz, Your blog is repetetive now. I came after 3 months and i see the same stuff... india this, india that, it sucks..blah blah and so since india is worst and pakistan is worse, pakistan is better !!!!!!
Grow up Mr. Riaz !!!!!!!!!!

Riaz Haq said...

DC: "So whom are you giving credit to? The rulers or the people of India."

Have you heard about good governance?

Only the rulers are different now, so guess who should get the credit or blame for the difference between 25% and 2% of world GDP?

With all your education and accomplishments as a data cruncher, I'm sure you're smart enough to figure this one out.

Anonymous said...

"Have you heard about good governance?"

Why is that "good goverance" in an islamic state also known as Pakistan. Why is that Pak is even worse than India in economy, GDP, exports.

Your point would have been valid if today Pakistan is ahead of India in economy.

While we are it, in many indicators relating to education, India is ahead of all islamic countries. If you want I can quote them. So are we to conclude that all 57 islamic countries are poor in governance.
And yet it is not islam's problem.

May be I require some islamic education and wisdom to comprehend all this. Pls share that with me.

Anonymous said...

The correct stats about India's past GDP is this. When Brits arrived, India and China together generated 25% of World GDP. You conveniently made it to India alone to give credit to Mughal rule.
Secondly why did China also decline. Not too long ago they too were around 2%.

The fact is, both India and China missed industrial revolution of the west due to various factors.

Why can't Pakistan emulate the great mughal era in terms of affluence. Instead we are seeing them asking for zakaat regularly.

Anonymous said...

'With all the skills their white masters and their brown-skin MacCauley's children taught them, their total output is less than 2% of the world GDP, far far less than the 25% India contributed to the world GDP under Mughal rule before the Brits arrived'

Did it occur to you that the decline was mostly relative?The west industrialized and the east didn't(except Japan).Not just India even Ming China had something like 25% of world GDP and today its around 5%...So according to you the Chinese are a failure too??

Also don't forget North America with around 30% of world GDP today and South America and Australasia another 10% didn't exist on the world economic map so....

Riaz Haq said...

DC: "Why is that Pak is even worse than India in economy, GDP, exports."

Pakistan today is no better than India in terms of good governance. They both stink. And yet, average Pakistanis are better clothed and better fed than average Indians based on various international indices and measures, including the latest Oxford MPI.

OPHI 2010 country briefings on India and Pakistan contain the following comparisons of multi-dimensional (MPI) and income poverty figures:

MPI= 55%,Under$1.25=42%,Under$2=76%,India_BPL=29%


Lesotho MPI=48%,Under$1.25=43%,Under$2=62%,Lesotho_BPL=68%


Among other South Asian nations, MPI index measures poverty in Bangladesh at 58 per cent and 65 per cent in Nepal.

DC: "While we are it, in many indicators relating to education, India is ahead of all islamic countries."

This is nonsense! Whether you look at the UNDP HDI or Education Index, vast majority of Muslim nations are way ahead of India.

UNDP publishes the Education Index which is measured by the adult literacy rate (with two-thirds weighting) and the combined primary, secondary, and tertiary gross enrollment ratio (with one-third weighting). The adult literacy rate gives an indication of the ability to read and write, while the GER gives an indication of the level of education from kindergarten to postgraduate education.

On this UNDP education index, Pakistan scores low at 0.665 and ranks 137, but it is still ahead of India's score of 0.638 and ranking of 142nd on a list of 176 nations.

Zen, Munich, Germany said...


While Riaz's anti Indain rhetoric is well known, he has the right to point out some unpleasant truth about India(even if he is acting on bad faith). Given that he presents numbers to match his arguments, he is much better than many Hindus who just engage in noisy anti Muslim rantings. Where he fails miserably is when judging his own country - there he is driven by "hope" even on a day when suicide bombers may have killed 150 people :-)

Riaz is also right to point that Mughal India contributed 25% of global GDP - it was in a report came from Goldman Sachs. Also what is the problem if he points about the failings of India when many Hindutwa bigmouths accuse in a blissfully ignorant way that Muslims live in dire poverty? The report shows that most of the Muslim nations which are disparaged by many Indians are way ahead of India in terms of HDI.(again Riaz will not mention that Pakistan is an exception among Islamic countries with a rank even behind that of India). Muslims' emphasis on charity and egalitarian principles of Islam have played a role in it(refer "Arab world report" from The Economist).But they happen to be cultural enemies of West since a few centuries - so there is an interest to paint them as utter losers whereas India as an enormous success. But this will not change the dire realities on ground. Many of the malaises of Islamic world are well known and we normally read it in newspapers. Here also, Taliban honour killing gets international press coverage whereas recent caste based honour killings get barely mentioned in international media. Ever wondered why??

aamsvad said...

Riaz is this your way of congratulating someone on their independence day?

Unknown said...

indians are coolies? wow.

stop living in the dream world man. we are at the top of every jobs

Riaz Haq said...

aamsvad: "Riaz is this your way of congratulating someone on their independence day?"

It's much more sincere than the BS you see and hear every 15th of Aug.

bikramshergill said...

Hey Mr.Haq, How u doin? I have been told by my friends about your blog for quite sometime now but i had never visited it. Today when I visited ur blog I was amazed at the hatred displayed by you towards India through your blog posts. I am just astonished at the way you have turned a blind eye to the development happening in Indian cities. I know that India has a huge bpl population but the rate at which poverty is being alleviated is much higher than in Pakistan. And one thing more what is this Hindu, Muslim and Sikh thing. I was born in Punjab which has significant populations of all three religions. From the day I was born no one, neither my parents nor my teachers told me to anyone differently. My best friend at school was a muslim and he can tell u about the "Discrimination" he suffered lol!!
Now lets talk about the Infra. Can you please go and check the amazing developments in Indian infrastrucure sector at . Please do check the Aviaton and airports section and compare it with Airports in Pakistan. You will get your answer yourself. Also check out the Skyline of Mumbai and compare it to Karachi lmao! THe highest building in Pakistan is MCB tower which is 116m high and is more than two times shorter than Mumbai's Imperial towers which are 250m high.
Back to Airports- The combined traffic for all the Airports in Pakistan was a mere 19 million which is surpassed by 23 million of The New Delhi airport alone. And please check out the new terminal three which is third largest in the world.
Now, lets talk about the power sector which is the single largest driver for economic growth. The total power sector in Pakistan accounted for a meagre 19505 MW as compared to India's 162366 Mw which is 8 times Pakistan number. 82% people in India have access to electricity as compared to Pakistan's 69%. India is adding a 83000 MW to its capacity every year and is on pace to achieve the goal of Power For All in 2012.

Mr. Haq please be honest with yourself if you cannot be honest with others. Just for a second leave your blind patriotism aside and think. Do you think Pakistan will have a realistic chance of challenging India economically in the next few decades. A person with even the worst intellect will tell you the right answer. India and Pakistan stood at the crossroads of future in this decade and Pakistan had an advantage coming into it. But a series of bad decisions by its dumb military leaders which you support have squandered this advantage and the harsh reality is that its not right even to compare India with Pakistan. India's one and only competitor is China who has a similar advantage over India. China has reached new heights only because of its Communist regime and doesnt take long for harsh regime's to break up eg. The soviets. And I dont think China's monoplistic economy will be able to survive this jolt. Thanks for posting this on your Blog and Goodbye.

Phoenix said...

it would be better if you spend some time highlighting the worst flood in the history of Pakistan..put your effort to raise money for Pakistan.. Because this per capita figure which you always use would soon going to change after this more Q..where is your dear friend China?

Riaz Haq said...

bikram: "Today when I visited ur blog I was amazed at the hatred displayed by you towards India through your blog posts."

Please don't shoot the messenger!

I think you are shocked by reading my absolutely honest assessment of the reality of India today for the first time in your life.

There is absolutely no hatred in what I's all based on facts and driven by my concern for the massive and growing population of have-nots and have-nothings in India....and my concern extends to all South Asians, including Bangladeshis and Pakistanis, who share greater deprivation than even the poorest of the poor in sub-Saharan Africa.

Instead of criticizing what I write, you should be focusing your attention on the problems in your native India that I bring out. That will be far more constructive than falsely accusing me of hatred.

I wish you luck!

Anonymous said...
west is getting sick of paying zakaat to Pakistan. maza aa gaya.

Riaz Haq said...

The Aug 23 & 30 issue of Newsweek has a cover story titled "The Best Country in he World is...". It ranks top 100 nations of he world based on education, health, quality of life, economy and politics.

As expected, the top nations are the industrialized OECD member nations, followed by the nations of Eastern Europe, Middle East, Latin America, North Africa and South East Asia. Bottom of the list includes South Asian and sub-Saharan African nations.

The top nation in South Asia is Sri Lanka at #66. Afghanistan and Nepal are not included in the list.

Here are the rankings for India and Pakistan:




87........85.......Quality of Life

38........62.....Economic Dynamism

48........99.......Political Env.


Pakistan is ahead of India in education and quality of life, as judged by Newsweek.

Obviously, Newsweek rankers have a bias for democracy, no mater how flawed, that puts India significantly ahead of Pakistan in political environment and helps its overall ranking. And the fact that Pakistan has been hugely demonized by the western media has also hurt its standing.

But the killers for Pakistan rankings are its corrupt and incompetent politicians and the economic ruin they have wrought over the last two years.

Anonymous said...

Well riaz it seems even according to your stats Pakistan is only very very marginally ahead of India 2 ranks out of 100 in education and quality of life.

While India is an order of magnitude ahead of Pakistan in economic dynamism..

Given the lag(~1-2years) between data collection and analysis and then finally publication in a mainstream magazine.Don't you think India would be ahead of Pakistan in even these 2 parameters by now given that the Indian economy has expanded by something like 15-20% over the past 2 years in per capita terms and Pakistan has remained more or less stagnant?

I am not even factoring in the cost of this latest flood...

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt from an OpEd on newly release Amir Khan film Peepli Live in the Hindu that seems to agree in principle with this post:

Perhaps thanks to the Peepli effect, this August 15 saw a subdued Kareena Kapoor go on TV to speak of the unfulfilled dreams of the teeming millions. Amitabh Bachchan agonised that India was still being called a developing, third world country. The sombre mood seemed to have infected the programming too. A television actor interrupted a boisterous song-and dance azadi (independence) extravaganza organised by an entertainment channel to announce pessimistically that he saw no reason to celebrate: “Our women get assaulted, crime, poverty and corruption are growing. Is there anything to celebrate?”

Of course, there was a reality check, lest it should seem that the entire jet-set had been hit by an attack of conscience. This was courtesy the anchor of the show who decided to show footage from interviews he had done with young people from Mumbai. The poll was on the meaning of azadi, but barring one, none could name the country's incumbent Prime Minister and not even one could tell the year of India's independence. One young man thought “Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan” was a slogan coined by yesteryear actor Manoj Kumar.

As India welcomed its 64th year of freedom, the country seemed to be straddling two diametrically opposite spaces. One, depressingly poor, bereft — and very angry. The other unhealthily prosperous yet frighteningly detached from the country's history, heritage and constitutional vision. But the tragi-comedy of this August 15 was far from over. The tricolour was still being unfurled and the singing of the national anthem was under way at many venues when the poor, shut-out space hit back. Peepli Live truly went live. News came in that farmers in western Uttar Pradesh were on the rampage over a police firing that had killed some of their brethren. The farmers had been protesting pitifully inadequate compensation for land acquired for the construction of the glitzy Yamuna expressway that would connect Delhi and Agra. Reports suggested that land bought for a song from the farmers had been resold at exorbitant prices.

The dark comedy turned darker in Srinagar where a suspended policeman cut Chief Minister Omar Abdullah in the middle of flag hoisting to aim a shoe at him. The harried Mr. Abdullah thanked the policeman saying at least this was a break from the trend of Kashmiris pelting stones. And, finally, in Chhattisgarh naxal power struck again — this time in the form of the beheaded body of a Central Reserve Police Force policeman. Three different incidents, each in its own way symbolising the widening gulf between the state and the vast majority of its people. The so-called stakeholders in India's growth and prosperity could not have chosen a worse day to show their disenchantment with the way project India was shaping up.

So it was with dulled senses that one saw Prime Minister Manmohan Singh take his place behind the bullet-proof enclosure at Red Fort for the seventh time in a row. This was a landmark occasion. Dr. Singh is only the third Prime Minister to have reached the seventh year in office. More significantly, he is the first non-Gandhi-Nehru Congress Prime Minister to have achieved this distinction. Yet it was difficult to share his enthusiasm as he rejoiced in the return of the high growth trajectory after the recession of the past year: “Today India stands among the fastest growing economies of the world. As the world's largest democracy, we have become an example for many other countries to emulate … Our country is viewed with respect all over the world. Our views command attention in international fora …” Further, “We are building a new India in which every citizen would have a stake, an India which would be prosperous and in which all citizens would be able to live a life of honour and dignity ...”

Riaz Haq said...

anon: "Well riaz it seems even according to your stats Pakistan is only very very marginally ahead of India 2 ranks out of 100 in education and quality of life.While India is an order of magnitude ahead of Pakistan in economic dynamism.."

These stats and rankings from Newsweek do not reflect the reality of life without food, shelter, clothing and sanitation for the vast majority of Indians. To understand the nasty realities of daily life of 78% of Indians (vs 60% of Pakistanis) living on less than $2 a day, you have to see more serious research studies by scholars at Oxford who recently published their MPI index.

OPHI 2010 country briefings on India and Pakistan contain the following comparisons of multi-dimensional (MPI) and income poverty figures:

MPI= 55%,Under$1.25=42%,Under$2=76%,India_BPL=29%


Lesotho MPI=48%,Under$1.25=43%,Under$2=62%,Lesotho_BPL=68%


Among other South Asian nations, MPI index measures poverty in Bangladesh at 58 per cent and 65 per cent in Nepal.

Anonymous said...

anyone who think std of education in any islam countries is same as India should read this

100,000 employees of IBM in India. I think it can be safely said that in entire islamic world they won't be employing that much.

Anonymous said...

you mention latest bollywood movie Pepli Live gathering lot of attention in the cinema world.
Director: Ms Rizvi
Producer: Aamir Khan

Two muslims making movies on Indian poverty and the movie is already going to be a hit.

Can anyone think of nonmuslims making any movie deriding Pakistan.

Omar said...

After reading all the comments from Indians on this post I fail to understand how Indians are proud of their economic success when most of Indian women are renting their Wombs to survive! Yeah I’m talking of “Outsourcing Pregnancy “ … if this is how india plans to become a economic super power… then I guess no country can ever beat them at this game ;) wish you all the best guys!

Riaz Haq said...

DC: "Can anyone think of nonmuslims making any movie deriding Pakistan. "

It's done all the time.

Riaz Haq said...

DC: "100,000 employees of IBM in India. I think it can be safely said that in entire islamic world they won't be employing that much."

Code coolies are dime a dozen in India, not in Islamic fact many Indian code coolies flock to Islamic countries to try and make a living because even the code coolie opportunities are very low paying limited in India.

Anonymous said...

"Code coolies are dime a dozen in India, not in Islamic world.."

And why is that? Lack of brains.
Given that it is one of the best paying jobs in west, why would muslims stay away from it.

BTW code coolies were paid 100K+ in USA before their job got outsourced to India. Puts a different spin to your derisive remark "coolie". Corp USA must be idiots to pay them 100K when all they were doing was coolie job.

ps: I am also a code coolie earning well in USA (and was before in UK).

Anonymous said...

Dear Omar,

I understand you are a pakistani and English is not your strong point. When you say "when most of Indian women are renting their Wombs to survive!"
what % of indian women are renting their wombs to qualify as "most of indian women".
Do you have stats to show that more than 50% of Indian women rent their womb.
How would you like when someone claims most of the Pakistani men sell their organs for money.

As for being proud of, don't worry, when Pakistan has something to show for in terms of exports or achievement, you too will earn the right to be proud of.

Riaz Haq said...

DC: "And why is that? Lack of brains."

Speak for yourself.

Even in a very pro-India Newsweek, the latest education rankings in its last issue put Muslim nations well ahead of India...even Pakistan ranks higher than India.

The number of Indian code coolies are no more than 1 or 2% of the Indian population, the rest being paupers making up the largest population of poor, hungry and illiterates in the world.

Anonymous said...

As a former employee of Intel, do you consider this as a code coolie achievement

Grudging or not, I have admiration for indians to have the capability to design intel chips when in whole world less than 10 countries have that.

Anonymous said...

"Speak for yourself."

You don't get it. The proof is in achievement, not in useless ratings. Why is that Indians far outnumber muslims (all of them, not Pakistanis alone) in IT, medicine, or for that matter any knowledge.
If Pak education is that good, why aren't they represented.

Year ago I was working in Habib Bank, Dubai for a short period, before i went to UK. Entire development was in the hands of Indians (mostly south indians). Pakistanis were doing low end support work. tells a lot, right?

And I see that you are a master in avoiding questions you can not answer. Majority of muslims I see in NY are falafal stand holders, or taxi drivers from pak. are you saying these guys intentionally chose those careers.

Riaz Haq said...

DC: "As a former employee of Intel, do you consider this as a code coolie achievement"

Not when it's been done a million times before by lots of people, using tools and training given to them on a platter ready to eat. And it still takes them many tries to get it right.

As they say, yesterday's excellence is today's routine and tomorrow's mediocrity.

Riaz Haq said...

DC: "The proof is in achievement, not in useless ratings. "

As a coder yourself, you think the world's greatest achievement is being an IT coolie.

The proof should be not whether you are a code coolie or not, but how you are doing as a people....and by that measure, India is just another poor, backward, third-world country.


Respected Mr.Riyaz as u wish 2 say
dat Indians were henpecked and under the thumbs of brits i would also like 2 repeat your statement that i ndians produced 25% of world GDP under the mughals
my view is quite a lot diffrent
1 fact is that pak was also a part of india before freedom
2nd fact is that india has more muslims dan pak
3 another point is that u narrow minded pakis wanted a diffrent country
u still wanna fight over kashmir
but i wanna tell u dat we indian coolies work hard nd are not afraid of any work or any kind

BHARAT MATA KI JAI...............................

Anonymous said...

"The proof should be not whether you are a code coolie or not, but how you are doing as a people..."

It seems you want to bring down individual achievements based on community achievement.
So you , who once claimed that you are reasonably successful in your life, should take it back since Pakistan as a whole is in a mess and worse, unlike Indians, Pakistan have a terrible reputation too.
And even there Indians as a comunity have achieved more than Pakistanis in the west, but far superior reputation.

"Not when it's been done a million times before by lots of people, using tools and training given to them on a platter ready to eat. And it still takes them many tries to get it right. "

So... what stops other countries from doing it. Shouldn't something as simple as this, be a piece of cake for other countries to emulate.

"As a coder yourself, you think the world's greatest achievement is being an IT coolie. "

Well I guess, there are different ways of showing sour grapes.
Back in 1997 Pak govt made it an official policy to catch up and beat India in IT. Duh.

And I have to remind you that india is one of the 5 countries to send a mission to moon and have their flag, something I have full confidence oil rich arab countries can never do.

Do you know that majority of doctors in Saudi are from outside, india included. Nice high class education they have.

Anonymous said...

"As a coder yourself, you think the world's greatest achievement is being an IT coolie. "

neither do I consider repeatedly quoting past glory "we invented algebra" or "we once ruled the world" as any achievement for today's muslims.

I have seen in my experience that indians in west are fiercely proud of their country (to the point of annoying others) and Pakistanis extremely quiet about their country, and I know they are not quiet due to humility, more out of stigma.

Riaz Haq said...

DC: "It seems you want to bring down individual achievements based on community achievement."

Yes, there are exceptional individuals in every nation, but this post is about a country, not a few individuals in it.

But if you insist on talking about exceptional individuals, it's not India, with world's largest population of poor, hungry and illiterates, that produced Mohammad Younus. That honor goes to poor Islamic Bangladesh.

Why? Because the best and the brightest Indians are quite happy serving as cyber coolies to the west, rather than using their abilities to solve the immense problems of poverty, illiteracy and deprivation in India.

Anonymous said...

"Yes, there are exceptional individuals in every nation, but this post is about a country, not a few individuals in it. "

Unless you want some brownie points for being politically correct, you should know achievements of all nations is not same. Otherwise we will not have Israel producing so much and muslims so less.

Do you know in one year alone India produced more patents for US companies in India than Arab countries did from 1980-2005 (mentioned in World is Flat). Pls join me in shouting loudly that all muslim countries incl india are better in education than india.

Riaz Haq said...

DC: "Unless you want some brownie points for being politically correct, you should know achievements of all nations is not same."

Yes, I agree with that statement.

But what is achievement? Is it simply copying others whether it is relevant to your nation's needs or problems? Or solving real problems that affect your people everyday.

By this measure, Bangladesh's Mohammad Younus is far ahead in his achievement that all of India's code coolies combined.

DC: "Do you know in one year alone India produced more patents for US companies in India than Arab countries did from 1980-2005 (mentioned in World is Flat)."

I don't expect any better from Friedman. He is a cheerleader for India and applauds India's service to the West rather than its own people.

As an American traveler-blogger Sean-Paul Kelly points out in one of his posts, "There is a lot of myth-making about India here in the West, especially by people like Tom Friedman."

Anonymous said...

There you go again. Why is that others are suppose to dislike people you don't like. Last I checked, TFriedman is a Pulitzer winner. Sean-Paul Kelly , who the F he is?

You can not disown stark data about pathetic output of muslim countries in scientific things by hiding behind some ratings that they are better than india in education. Accepting it is the first thing before we take action to improve.

Riaz Haq said...

DC: "Last I checked, TFriedman is a Pulitzer winner. Sean-Paul Kelly , who the F he is?"

Unlike Kelley, Friedman is a well-known partisan who loves to routinely praise India and Israel and bash all Muslim states...particularly Arabs. Pulitzer or no Pulitzer, his credibility went through the floor after he cheered Bush's invasion of Iraq.

DC: "You can not disown stark data about pathetic output of muslim countries in scientific things by hiding behind some ratings that they are better than india in education."

Patents are also dime a dozen...more of a legal maneuver by tech firms to sue others, and less about real technology. In fact, top tech companies avoid filing patents when they have real breakthroughs because of disclosure requirements by patent office.

Besides, patents filed by Indians for US firms are irrelevant as far as the needs of Indians themselves are concerned.

Anonymous said...

"Pulitzer or no Pulitzer, his credibility went through the floor after he cheered Bush's invasion of Iraq. "

All make mistakes.
Churchill is considered one of the greatest leaders for his war time work. Donno how many muslims would agree with his anti islam and muslim views. Clinton was a good
president but goofed up in dealing with Osama due to Monicka affair.

The World is flat was one of the biggest best sellers in NYT. And even today he is far better known and respected than this Kelly Shully you are talking about.

"Besides, patents filed by Indians for US firms are irrelevant as far as the needs of Indians themselves are concerned."

True, but it shows what they are capable of. Unlike muslims who have nothing to show for in science and tech. Heck, muslims even need outsiders to suck oil out of their ground because those dumbasses can't even do that.

A friend of mine from IIT, Mumbai told me that in IIT they have quotas for some arabs and those guys do TERRIBLE in IIT. Take 6/7 yrs to pass a 4 yr course. They do not get in IIT via its grueling entrance test, but have different channels. If I tell him that muslim countries are rated higher than India he will laugh at your face.
He told me that while a IITian or other indians in US do Phd easily, most of the Pakistanis end up doing only upto MS as they are not geared towards Phd courses. Once Humayun Gauhar mentioned in nation that since 1947 Delhi IIT alone produced more Phds than all of Pakistan.

Anonymous said...

sometime back WSJ mentioned how india is now gearing up to take the pharma industry much like IT a decade back. It has all the necessary ingredients. Lot of talented people. I was surprised to read that india already exports $2b worth of generic drugs to US. Most of US pharma companies are shit scared of them and want to block their entry in US so that they can continue to loot americans. Indians simple reverse engineer their drugs and find out a cheaper and effective way. No wonder Indonesia and african countries have india as their preferred supplier throwing out looters like Merck, Pfizer.

Almost all generic drugs sold by Walmart is from India.

Khan said...

I have worked as an IT consultant in various middle-eastern countries and I agree that India has a large number of cyber coolies in this region but here are some of the reasons why :

1. They are DAM cheap! Because they maintain a very low living standard here.. As compared to Arab and Pakistani resources.

2. They are very submissive … never argue even if they are saying something right or they if get insulted by their Arab bosses … that is why some Arabs prefer them as IT slaves! On the contrary Pakistani /Arab resources are more confident and bold comparatively …

3. There are more than 1.8 Million Indians in Saudi.. in the IT industry huge majority is of non-Muslims Indians … in a place where there are no temples…and Hindus are not allowed to practice their religion .. Clearly show how desperate Indians are! As a Pakistani would never work in country they cannot practice their religion!

4. The poverty these cyber coolies see in India makes them work day and night + week ends like IT Slaves without demanding rightful compensation in the middle-east …. With no family life at all… I guess that why that also preferred in mostly small companies in the middle – east …

Anonymous said...

"DC: "Unless you want some brownie points for being politically correct, you should know achievements of all nations is not same."

Yes, I agree with that statement. "

Good that we agree something. Now can you tell why they are not same. Why some nations and society is historically been a laggard in intellectual achievement. Do you think culture or environment plays a part in it. Or are you like Chinese who think they are superior in IQ (they frequently quote some US study showing their IQ to be of 105 while that of Indians/Pakistanis be of 87). Interestingly you don't seem to agree with that, even though you regularly taunt other numbers to show india badly.

I will be the last person to say that Indians are smarter than Pakistanis, but I will readily admit that they have achieved more even with their poverty and there is cultural reasons for it.

anoop said...

@Data Crucher,

This is from the link that you put up.

""Whitefield" will be 100 percent designed in India with its name coming from an industrial township on the edge of Bangalore."

I am from Bangalore, and I travel on the road that leads to Whitefield everyday. How cool is that! Kinda proud.

Got to tell you it is impressive. There are many 'business parks',as we call it, here in Bangalore. The road that connects these Tech Parks is chocking with Techies of all kind. Its irritating when there is a jam, which is always, but worth it.


I dont think you pay much attention to India news which is not about poverty,illiteracy,etc.

Here, is the part which explains how exactly the workforce is divided.

"IBM Global Services --- which straddles hardware (telecom, retail billing, mainframe, servers, etc) and software sales, services and support business, consulting business --- and IBM Labs are together seen to employ another 70,000 to 80,000 people.

"IBM Global Services --- which straddles hardware (telecom, retail billing, mainframe, servers, etc) and software sales, services and support business, consulting business --- and IBM Labs are together seen to employ another 70,000 to 80,000 people."

I dont think you know what goes into the working of a Tech Firm. I worked in one of those Labs in IBM. IBM has moved most of the R&D work done in the US to India(India Research Labs(IRL) and India Software Labs(ISL)). And, trust me it pays shitloads of money.

Too bad Pakistanis are too proud to do coolie jobs even though they pay. But, I recently read in the newspapers they are asking for money from all over the world. Selectively being proud,eh?

Unknown said...


If programmers who do routine software development are code coolies, why cant Pakistanis become code coolies instead of begging for aid? I'd prefer Indian code coolies number to grow inorder to get rid of the poverty there -- or do you want to say that Pakistan is only interested in very top notch innovation and as the world cannot capture so many ideas from Pakistan, Pakistanis have chosen their current path of blowing themselves? Meanwhile ignorance may be a bliss for you - I know many top notch R&D centers in India belonging to MS, Google, Texas Instr etc. They are not entrepreneurial, but they are innovative and are above "coolie" thing. Those who do very routine jobs in companies like TCS may be called code coolies if you wish to use that term - but not every Pakistani can do that.


100000 IBM employees are less that one in 1000 of Indians. It is an absolutely false indicator for measuring a country's progress. A good way to measure is primary education and basic nutrition of children. There, as Riaz points out, much of the Muslim countries have done relatively better(though there are Sudan, Pakistan etc. who are at the bottom like India). If those middle income non oil producing countries like Egypt or Morocco or Indonesia have done much better job of providing basic dignity for their citizens, then it is worth mentioning. In fact, caste system is also a form of slavery, this has played a role in keeping people poor and stigmatised. Tom Friedman - forget it. He was the moron who said that world will be peaceful if there are McDonalds in every country. These kind of pseudo intellectuals got too much attention in Bush era.

Riaz Haq said...

anoop: "I dont think you know what goes into the working of a Tech Firm."

I think that's an extraordinary statement.

Having been deeply involved in designing original microprocessors at Intel and later setting up Intel's design centers outside Santa Clara, including overseas center in Japan and Israel, I think I know a little bit about what goes on in tech firms.

I can tell you from experience that tech firms protect their crown jewels by keeping them in the US, doling out work only when they see a lower cost opportunity without jeopardizing the loss of their core know-how to overseas employees.

Anonymous said...

"Having been deeply involved in designing original microprocessors at Intel and later setting up Intel's design centers outside Santa Clara, including overseas center in Japan and Israel, I think I know a little bit about what goes on in tech firms.

I can tell you from experience that tech firms protect their crown jewels by keeping them in the US, doling out work only when they see a lower cost opportunity without jeopardizing the loss of their core know-how to overseas employees."

While I agree with your statement that core work does not get transferred outside USA, you also should understand that modern software is too complex and there are different components developed differently. To club all of them as coolie is a joke. IBM Bangalore develops the web interface for monitoring database software. Those who use it find that tool indispensable. It is an integeral part of their product suite. This is just one example.

"As a Pakistani would never work in country they cannot practice their religion!"

But Pakistani has longest lines outside embassies and consulates in Islamabad of countries like UK/USA
to get visa which treat them like terrorist. Seems like self respect is thrown out when it comes to running out of Pak.

- DataCruncher (can't post via AIM)

Riaz Haq said...

DC: "But Pakistani has longest lines outside embassies and consulates in Islamabad of countries like UK/USA "

No nation is escaping in larger numbers from their home country than Indians. Over a million Indians are escaping from India each year, according an Indian blogger Cybergandhi at

According to Historica-Dominion Institute, which commissioned a poll in partnership with the Munk School of Global Affairs, 68% of Indians want to settle in Canada if they get an opportunity.

Khan said...

DC: "But Pakistani has longest lines outside embassies and consulates in Islamabad of countries like UK/USA "

Yes I agree with you many Pakistanis do go abroad to UK/US for work.. although their numbers are many timer less than the Indians… anyways this cannot be compared to the fact that Indians due to poverty are ready to even work in a country like Saudi where they are not allowed to practice their religion at ALL!! No Temples!! NO Idols in Homes also!! … This cannot be compared with UK/US as Pakistanis enjoy full religious freedom there… they have many Masjids there don’t they….

Anonymous said...

Khan Sahib

"This cannot be compared with UK/US as Pakistanis enjoy full religious freedom there… they have many Masjids there don’t they…."

May be Indians don't care about so called religious freedom. Saudi allows them to practice religion inside their home and they may be fine by it.

You still don't get it. Indians are not hypocrites like Pakistanis to whine about the country they form long lines in embassy.

For the past many years Pakistanis whine about anti pak and anti islam bias in UK/USA, yet they want to come there as much as their govt can allow them legally, and if they can't they try illegally. Now that is hypocrisy. These jerks have the nerve to talk about teaching Brits a lesson for their war on terror without even thinking once that if they do something stupid and get kicked out, they will go back to the same shithole they escaped from.

Your point would have been valid if and only if Indians are not also earmarked for special treatment like Pakistanis by the hosts. Just to remind you, Pak is one of the seven countries to get special treatment in USA. Even UK citizens of Pak origin are looked upon supciously whereas indians are just asked polite Qs.

Deepak said...

hello Riaz, who says only Tom Friedman is a paid agent of India. larry ellison of oracle and Bill gates of Microsoft have praised Indians, IIT in TV programs for their contribution to their company. I am sure if they said the same about pak, you too would have been proud of it.

Riaz Haq said...

Deepak: "larry ellison of oracle and Bill gates of Microsoft have praised Indians"

What else do you expect from them? They do business there. They have a stake in it. So it's self-serving.

aamsvad said...

Khans:-" No Temples!! NO Idols in Homes also.!.. "
Firstly it shows how mean, hypocritical and low thinking the Arabs are, when they are not SECULAR.

Secondly a reason why we Indians with proper education (Indian Muslims included) are far more successful, than most non-Indian-Muslims from comparable socio background , is that we are not obsessed with religion and are secular.

Thirdly we do not HATE the whole WEST or USA or UK or the GULF, so we are not being hypocritical when we go to other nations.
Where as Pakis Hate USA and the WEST while even crowding outside western embassies for visa’s. That’s Hypocritical.

To sum it up as M J Akbar had said
"Indian Muslims must thank that they are not in Pakistan ".
Pakistan can never ever produce a Rosool Pookutty, (2009 Oscar winner; came from a very poor family) AR rahman (Oscar winner, was broke at the age of 10, was convert form Hinduism), APJ Abdul KALAM (Indian Prez, Nulear space pioneer, son of a poor fisherman from a remote island of India) or an Azim Premzi (one of the worlds richest).
The above list of people represents Indians first and Muslims next.

Riaz Haq said...

aamsvad: " To sum it up as M J Akbar had said "Indian Muslims must thank that they are not in Pakistan ".

What nonsense! MJ Akbar full well that Indian Muslims are the new untouchables in India. He's just being dishonest. Hindus like Justice Rajendar Sachar and Kapil Komireddy are far more honest about the plight of their fellow Muslim citizens.

According to a report produced by a committee led by a former Indian chief justice, Rajender Sachar, Muslims are now worse off than the Dalit caste, or those called untouchables. Some 52% of Muslim men are unemployed, compared with 47% of Dalit men. Among Muslim women, 91% are unemployed, compared with 77% of Dalit women. over half of the adult Muslims can not read or write. While making up 11% of the population, Muslims account for 40% of India’s prison population. Meanwhile, they hold less than 5% of government jobs.

Here's how Kapil Komireddy described it the Guardian last year:

Indian Muslims in particular have rarely known a life uninterrupted by communal conflict or unimpaired by poverty and prejudice. Their grievances are legion, and the list of atrocities committed against them by the Indian state is long. In 2002 at least 1,000 Muslims were slaughtered by Hindu mobs in the western state of Gujarat in what was the second state-sponsored pogrom in India (Sikhs were the object of the first, in 1984).

Gujarat's chief minister, Narendra Modi, explained away the riots by quoting Newton's third law. "Every action," he said on television, "has an equal opposite reaction." The "action" that invited the reaction of the mobs was the torching of a Gujarat-bound train in which 59 Hindus pilgrims, most of them saffron-clad bigots who were returning home from a trip to the site of the Babri Mosque that they had helped demolish a decade earlier, perished. The "equal and opposite reaction" was the slaughter of 1,000 innocent Muslims for the alleged crime of their coreligionists.

Anonymous said...

'What nonsense! MJ Akbar full well that Indian Muslims are the new untouchables in India. He's just being dishonest.'

REally??Why then if Muslims have it so bad here do you not find too many Indian muslims berating India either internally or in the west?

If anything Indian muslims are even more patriotic when they are abroad.Fareed Zakaria etc.

I would like to know your views on this interesting anamolay?

Also if Indian muslims are so despised ,dicriminatred blah blah

Why is it that a disproportionally large number of bollywood heros are openly muslim?It is after all popular cinema isn't it?And film financiers wouldn't finance movies with muslim heros if normal rank and file Indians hated muslims now would they?

Anonymous said...

Low in education, high in prison is common among European muslims too. in UK Kashmiri and Pakistani/Bangladesi muslims far significantly lower than Indian in education. May be Europe also needs a Sachar report.

While few would dispute the numbers provided by Sachar, the implied causes of it is subject to interpretation. My indian wife coming from a very educated background believes these uneducated unskilled muslims are themselves to blame by opting to stay out of education and other similar stuff. the fact that muslim children of bihar are #1 in being school drop out, even worse than dalits, show who got their priorities right.

A little known fact is that when Sir Syed started Aligarh Muslim Univ, almost all muslim maulvis issues a fatwa to muslims to not study at AMU as the scientific education was not deemed islamic.
There you go.

Unknown said...


"A friend of mine from IIT, Mumbai told me that in IIT they have quotas for some arabs and those guys do TERRIBLE in IIT. Take 6/7 yrs to pass a 4 yr course. They do not get in IIT via its grueling entrance test, but have different channels. If I tell him that muslim countries are rated higher than India he will laugh at your face."

You are mixing up primary education and higher education. India has these higher end tech institutions like IITs and NITs. Though these institutes do not produce any Nobel laureates or any new breathtaking innovations, but they are far better than technical institutions in many Muslim countries, where they had severely rejected the value of science and tech. in the past.
But Riaz was addressing the basic condition of people in India. In India, those people who are well off(Hindu or Muslim) are told to ignore or overlook these problems. Here India has done worst than most other countries on Earth and that is probably the reason why Indians are the only people that I have seen who get offended when someone speaks about these issues. I have come across Brazilians or East Europeans in Germany who are eager to discuss the poverty or criminality in their home country without feeling any offense. But Indians have already gained some notoriety in Europe as bigmouths who overestimate their technical skills and their English accent.

PS: Riaz, I have no idea why you haven't published my reply to you about "Cyber coolie".

Khan said...

Pakistani is not a monolithic society.. we do have a small very vocal society who do not like the west UK/USA … but a huge majority does admire their success…. Civil liberties etc. and does like to get the experience to working there ……
As for Indian Muslims condition India here are a few points :
1. Azim Premzi (one of the world’s richest) is not a Rag-to-riches story like the infosys owner… his family was already one of the worlds richest pre-partition …. On the contrary pre-partition many Indian Muslims were the richest in the work e.g. Nizam Of Hyderabad was the richest man in the world plus other Nawabs were also one of the richest in the world but now you don’t see this in the Hindu dominated India!
2. As for the other names you have mentioned …I agree the Indian Muslims are very talented … as are the Pakistani Muslims … that’s why they ruled India for 1000 years! But the point is that they are still treated like second class citizens after all these achievements e.g. Shabana Azmi/Imran Hashmi / Saif Ali Khan etc. after all their achievements find it hard to get flats in posh areas of Bombay/Juhu beach etc just because they are MUSLIMS! … now these are examples of very modern and popular Muslims… I just pity the state of the Muslim masses in India!

Khan said...

FYI , idol worship is not allowed in Homes also… deities are totally banned in Saudi… anyway this does not seem good.. but I just wanted to make a point for the show off Indians who think they are some super power … citizens of a super power county and that to 1.8 Million plus of them… do not desperately work in such countries !
Pakistani is not a monolithic society.. we do have a small very vocal society who do not like the west UK/USA … but a huge majority does admire their success…. Civil liberties etc. and does like to get the experience to working there ……
The treatment (racial profiling ) you mentioned for Pakistani in UK/US is not only for Pakistanis but also for india’s/Arabs and most asian countries … e.g. a Indian Sikh was shot dead in USA because he like Bin-Laden! You must have also heard of the racial attacks on many Indian ( Hindu ) students in Australia …. Similarly Arabs and Indian Muslims also went t hrough a tough time in Uk/US posy 9/11

Riaz Haq said...

anon: "Why is it that a disproportionally large number of bollywood heros are openly muslim?"

A few tokens may be good for India's PR, but they can not hide widespread discrimination against Muslims in education, housing, employment, criminal justice, etc. etc.

Even the BJP leader and former minister Jaswant Singh recently acknowledged that India treats its Muslims as "aliens".

Jaswant added, "Look into the eyes of the Muslims who live in India and if you truly see the pain with which they live, to which land do they belong? We treat them as aliens...without doubt Muslims have paid the price of Partition. They could have been significantly stronger in a united India...of course Pakistan and Bangladesh won't like what I am saying."

Riaz Haq said...

DC: "My indian wife coming from a very educated background believes these uneducated unskilled muslims are themselves to blame by opting to stay out of education and other similar stuff."

Many Indian Muslims are essentially resigned to their third class status in India, and they accept various explanations offered by Hindtva types which essentially blame the victims.

This is a sad situation. BUt it's not a new phenomenon. We saw it in Jim Crow South in the US, in the Apartheid state of South Africa, and in Palestine.

A sign of Indian Muslims' resignation was explained by Kapil Komireddy in the Guradian as follows:

"..The novelist Shashi Tharoor tried to burnish this certifiably sectarian phenomenon with a facile analogy: Indian Muslims, he wrote, accept Hindu rituals at state ceremonies in the same spirit as teetotallers accept champagne in western celebrations. This self-affirming explanation is characteristic of someone who belongs to the majority community. Muslims I interviewed took a different view, but understandably, they were unwilling to protest for the fear of being labelled as "angry Muslims" in a country famous for its tolerant Hindus."

Riaz Haq said...

Zen: "why cant Pakistanis become code coolies instead of begging for aid? I'd prefer Indian code coolies number to grow inorder to get rid of the poverty there"

I think you are confused. You are juxtaposing two very different issues to argue your point.

Pakistan has its share of code coolies, but code coolies are not the answer to reducing poverty or cutting he need for aid.

With all its code coolies, India remains among the poorest countries in the world, and still gets significant but unadvertised poverty aid from the world bank and OECD nations.

What is needed is the focus by the best and the brightest in the developing nations of India and Pakistan to solve problems of poverty, illiteracy, hunger etc...rather than write more routine code as coolies for the western companies.

Rather than more code coolies, India and Pakistan need a service corps like peace corps consisting of their young, well-educated and energetic people inspired o help their less fortunate fellow citizens to become contributing and productive members of society.

Riaz Haq said...

While the world's attention is focused on the construction of a mosque near the World Trade Center in New York, a violent effort has been underway by Hindutva groups to prevent mosque construction at Rohini in New Delhi, the capital of secular India.

Here's the full story as reported in the Hindu newspaper today:

New Delhi: It's a mosque, but only in name. The corner plot measuring 361.86 sq. m. in Sector 16, Block ‘D' in Rohini is bare except for a half-raised compound wall and a temporary roof.

Construction here came to a halt on Friday, June 26, 2009 — after slogan-shouting Hindutva mobs set upon the namazis, critically injuring 40-year-old labourer Mohammad Moin, and assaulting dozens of others. Some policemen also sustained injuries in the attack.

The fact that such an incident could take place in the national capital and remain unreported and unresolved a year later raises disturbing questions —about the response of the administration, and about a minority's right to enjoy the freedom of religion in the face of majoritarian pressure.

Only 10 days prior to the violence, the Delhi Development Authority had handed over the plot to the Darsgah-e-Islamia Intezamia Committee (DIIC) specifying that it was for the “construction of a mosque.” However, in the aftermath of the violence, the DDA cancelled the allotment: “The competent authority has ordered that considering the objections of the local residents and Resident Welfare Associations (RWAs) it will not be desirable to continue with allotment of land for a mosque at its present location.”

It took several heated hearings at the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) for the DDA finally to restore the land to the DIIC a whole year later, on July 12, 2010. But it extracted a written undertaking that the mosque would be out of bounds for “outsiders,” including friends and relatives of local Muslims.

For Rohini's Muslims, forced to commute long distances for prayers, a mosque in the neighbourhood was a wish fulfilled. June 26, 2009 was to be a special Friday. But trouble had already started over the imminent construction. Overnight, inflammatory posters appeared urging Hindu residents to gather at the district park on June 26 to stop the mosque from coming up. “Jago Hindu Jago, (wake up Hindus)” said the text, warning Rohini's Hindu residents to awaken before it was “too late.”....

Anonymous said...

Very interesting article on WSJ:

Also, ADO has released a report on Asian middle class, interesting to know that 40% of Pakistani population is considered middle class vs. India's 25%

Yet our Indian friends will not accept the reality, it hurts their ego.

Anonymous said...

Riaz your concern for Indians is appreciated, but is not necessary. May I suggest you gather all the snorkeling gear you can get which your compatriots need so desperately.

Riaz Haq said...

anon: "May I suggest you gather all the snorkeling gear you can get which your compatriots need so desperately. "

I can, and I am doing gmore for them from here.

On the ground, there are about 60,000 Pakistani soldiers backed by all kinds of gear ranging from helicopters, boats, hovercraft and trucks rescuing people and delivering relief.

What is needed is more financial help to cope with the overwhelming disaster.

Anonymous said...



Calls for Restoration of Rule of Law

The Hon’ble Mr. V.S. Acharya,
Home Minister of Karnataka,

On 26th January 2010, I undertook the painful duty of recording that during the short tenure of under two years of the BJP Government in this State, that 500 attacks on the Christian community had taken place. The State Government is acting in total violation of the Constitutional Mandate which guarantees freedom to practice and propagate one’s religion and this hate campaign has official sanction. There are organizations and institutions in this country which are maintaining a careful record of the increase in the number of these attacks in the State of Karnataka, as also of the fact that those involved in them are rarely arrested and even if arrested, the cases are clandestinely withdrawn. The victims are always wrongly arrested and your Government refuses to withdraw those cases and to crown it all, you have officially gone on record stating that all the attackers involved in such serious offences under the IPC are political activists according to you. This is a total aberration.

Anonymous said...


August 15, 2010 brought the number of such attacks to exactly 1000, an increase of 500 in the last six months. The most sensational one came from your Party MLA – Prahlad Remani who is supposed to be the BJP MLA from Khanapur in Belgaum District. The attack was made by him in the course of his official address at the flag hoisting on Independence Day. I was in Pune attending a Conference on that day and the TV channels have shown his speech live. Among other statements, he has attacked the Christian community by stating that the British had sown the seeds of Christianity in this country (the man requires to be re-educated because this is factually false) and that Christianity and Christians have to be weeded out and thrown out of this country. This is a serious offence of inciting communal disharmony along with several other allied offences because it immediately provoked violence and tension in the whole District. The State, in such situations is required to register an offence and immediately proceed according to Law. This was not done.

Anonymous said...


What is most atrocious is that when several complaints were lodged with the Police Authorities and an FIR was registered that instead of upholding the Law, the State Government immediately transferred the SP who had very rightly taken action. This was done by the Chief Minister and the Home Minister. This shows that the Statements made by the MLA are officially supported by the State Government and that the subversion of the Law and the legal process has also come from the Vidhana Soudha. The citizens of this State are protected by the Constitution of this country and therefore, demand from the State Government that action according to Law must follow.

In the course of the last two years, there have been a whole series of cases where the State Government has incited, supported and shielded such communal attacks. The record also shows that the Law has been misused not only against the victims but against the Media whenever such cases have been highlighted and the International Human Rights Commission and the Press Council of India have taken serious note of this. The Central Government and the International Organizations have taken careful note of the fact that the State Govt. spends an average of Rs.50 Crores a day on self publicity in order to ensure that grave incidents of the present type are not reported. All these incidents are representative of a total breakdown of the Rule of Law in this State, it is a matter of deep regret that they have taken place even on a sacred day like August 15th and we demand that the Rule of Law be restored.


Anonymous said...

A few misconceptions :

1.World Bank doesn't give aid it gives Loans which explains the 'Bank' part of the name.

India gets the lions share of WB loans because in the 63 years of independence it has NEVER defaulted on its loans.Its not charity some of the conditions attached to the loans explicitly favour net creditor countries to the World bank the trick lies in finding the win-win compromise.Even China gets loans from world bank.

2.The Indian state recieves Zero direct financial assistance from foreign countries infact it is a net creditor to the world by virtue of holding some 300 billion USD of treasury bills and other debt instruments of mostly developed countries.

The development 'aid' is euphemism for subsidizing domestic industry and is done on a project to project basis with city/state governments for mutual benefits.For instance Japan in the late 1990s financed 40% of the Delhi Metro project(Phase 1 only),the condition was that atlest 60% of the capital expenditure be spent on procuring goods from Japanese companies and their foreign subsidaries so for every $ in 'aid' given to the city of delhi Mitsubishi and Toshiba got $0.8 worth of orders upfront as well as a continuous revenue stream in terms of annual maintenance contracts etc.

This is very different from humanitarian and bailout money that countries like Pakistan get on a state to state basis...

anoop said...

Pakistan will not meet its growth target says a major news organization. For the past 2 years, one or the other reason is being given for Pakistan to not meet even minimum growth figures. Things are likely to continue. This time its the floods, next year it could be Afghanistan situation, the very next it could be something else.

bikramshergill said...

Hey Mr. Haq plz watch this vid.

satwa gunam said...

i think, it is the middle class which is the saviour of the indian values rather than the rich business people of the country.

I have been volunteer for the collection of donation for social organization and that is the reality. Invariably they are the silent hero of the country. in fact every business who gives money on charity tries to derive more publicity out of the money given.

In the same note, i also want to mention about the new breed of millionaries in the software industry who has been liberally donating for the cause of education and medicine.

I know many organization and banks in india contribute to the voluntary organization equal to the contribution of its staff.

However these are not enough to handle the large poor population of india.

bikramshergill said...

Anonymous said...


31 August,2010

Nuclear Power Fairy Tales
India’s experience with nuclear power plants should tell us that we’re being ripped off, says ANTHONY J SIMOES
In April 1984, the Government of India (GoI) gave the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) clearance for a grandiose scheme to produce 10,000 MW of power by the year 2000, at a cost of Rs14,000 crore. Twenty-six years later, in 2010, after spending Rs84,000 crore, India’s atomic power plants are producing only 4,200 MW. So the DAE has taken 60 per cent more time to achieve just 42 per cent of its target, at six times the cost!
In the last dozen years, 6,000 MW of wind power capacity has been installed in India, as compared to 4,200 MW of nuclear power in half a century, even though the DAE has grabbed the lion’s share of government finances. In 2002-03, for example, the DAE was given Rs3,300 crore, while the Department of Non-Conventional Energy Sources was allocated a meagre Rs475 crore.
Nuclear power plants account for barely 2 per cent of the installed electrical generating capacity in the country, even as they consume huge amounts of finance, as shown in the beginning of this article. Apologists for this massive fraud point to the fact that our nuclear power plants have been ‘de-rated’ to operate at about 45 per cent of their capacity. The excuse trotted out is that fuel is not available. This begs the question; why were these plants built in the first place?
After all, India expectedly attracted sanctions after Pokhran I and II. In any event, our intransigence about signing the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) was always going to leave us vulnerable when it came to fuel supplies.
Nuclear fuel supplies are tightly controlled by a strong, well-cartelised group of 45 nations. Any one of these nations can veto a decision to supply nuclear fuel to India. Yet, in the face of all these potential sanctions and vetoes, we are about to go out on a limb and install 40,000 to 60,000 MW of nuclear power generation capacity over the next dozen years…! Does it make any sense at all? Why is India’s leadership so hell-bent on nuclear power generation?
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s behaviour vis-à-vis nuclear power gives me a feeling of Deja Vu. In 1960, when I was in college, the head of our Physics Department also did research at the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) in Mumbai. He taught me nuclear physics and was enthusiastic about nuclear power, like his boss Dr Homi Bhabha.
I remember Jawaharlal Nehru and Dr Homi Bhabha telling the nation that nuclear power would be so cheap and plentiful that there would be no need to meter it. Everyone would pay a small flat rate and the nation would save the cost of metering equipment and reading/billing costs.
Many years later, I realised both these ‘gentlemen’ were parroting the favourite lines of the then Chairman of the US Atomic Energy Commission Dr Lewis Strauss. By then, I had already witnessed the funeral of Nehru and the sad, premature end of Dr Homi Bhabha in an air-crash on the snow-bound slopes of Mount Blanc in Europe.
The great disillusionment vis-à-vis nuclear power came when Bechtel / General Electric / Honeywell / Blue Star (Italy) commissioned India’s first Atomic Power Plant at Tarapur in the late 60s. I had seen things at very close quarters, and learnt my

Anonymous said...


first major lesson of life: ‘The devil is in the details.’
In his ‘Letter from America’, Vijay Prashad, writing in ‘World Affairs’ of 29 August 2008, talks about the post-Three Mile Island nuclear accident scenario in the USA. During the last two decades, there has been growing talk of a ‘nuclear renaissance’ in the US. He says most of this is buzz is from the nuclear industry itself, notably firms that build reactors (such as Westinghouse) and those that run power plants (such as Entergy and Duke Electric).
One reason for this jubilation is a new reactor designed by Westinghouse, the AP1000, and comparable technology from General Electric. New technology, it is argued, avoids the dangers associated with Three Mile Island-type plants. On the strength of its designs, Westinghouse has sold reactors to Japan and China, and hopes to enter the Indian market as well.
Head of GE India Tejpreet Chopra told ‘BusinessWeek’: “At this point, we’re just waiting to see how much capacity the government is willing to add and where.” The US-India Business Council’s Ron Somers invoked the phrase ‘nuclear renaissance’ in light of the vast profits to be gained from India’s potential nuclear expansion (the cost is estimated at $150 billion).
This is post-Lehman Brothers and the economic meltdown in the US. The nuclear industry worldwide needs the Indian market badly. Tejpreet Chopra is the Indian face of GE. He has learnt his lessons well from his predecessor Scott Bayman, who massaged a few Indian egos on the golf courses of New Delhi, and got GE / Bechtel into the Enron scam. Now Tejpreet Chopra has been handed the baton in this rip-off relay.
Ron Somers was hounded out of India about a decade ago by Maneka Gandhi, when she got rid of Cogentrix, which was going to build a 1000-MW coal-fuelled power-plant in Mangalore, using coal imported from Australia, Africa and Indonesia. Ron Somers was CEO of Cogentrix.
The estimated cost of $150 billion adds up to a gargantuan Rs7.5 lakh crores. Just the interest on it is enough to buy every politician, bureaucrat and technocrat in our establishment.
When the Enron fraud was perpetrated, PM Manmohan Singh was Finance Minister. Home Minister P Chidambaram was standing counsel for Enron. Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar was Maharashtra CM (he brought Enron to Guhagar, near Dabhol), and Planning Commission Vice Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia was Secretary of the Department of Economic Affairs in the Finance Ministry. All of them ‘facilitated’ the fraudulent Enron. Now, like the Phoenix, they are all rising from Enron’s ashes.
Today, all these ‘gentlemen’ have climbed much higher in the Government of India’s pecking order. And now, they are busy ‘facilitating’ an even more massive fraud, of imported nuclear power plants. Enron was estimated to cost Rs9,056 crore in 1992. In 1998, it was ‘commissioned’ after spending Rs19,500 crore. It has never worked since. Now try to imagine Rs7.5 lakh crore as the estimated cost…!
They will be aided and abetted by the captains of Indian industry. Reliance, Tatas, L&T, Essar, BHEL, Siemens, et al, are licking their chops thinking of the lucrative contracts for fabrication, machining, erection, commissioning, engineering, procurement and construction.
Fairy tales generally have a happy ending (‘and they lived happily ever after’). But this fairy tale can only lead us to a Hell on Earth. We don’t even need to contemplate a ‘China Syndrome’ type of catastrophic failure. Nuclear power, with its ever-present threat of radiation leaks, leaves no room for trivialisation or facetiousness.
As far as I can tell, we have only two options. We can all stand-up for our rights and become PRO-ACTIVE. Or we can sit back and watch our grandchildren become RADIO-ACTIVE.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt from an OpEd piece by Shoma Chaudhry in

FAKERY HAS always been a key instrument of power. But last week, as the President and Pr ime Minister of India made their Independence Day speeches, cocooned symbolically in towers of glass, the scale of that fakery shot skyward. Both leaders augustly urged the Maoists, yet again, to “abjure violence” and come for talks. Few among the millions of Indians who heard them would have caught the cynicism.

Swami Agnivesh certainly would have. It’s just over a month since the State shot down a man called Azad. There’s been some fitful noise over it. Civil society has protested valiantly; Mamta Banerjee has asked for a judicial inquiry. But for the most part, Indians have gone about their business, registering little and understanding even less. (I tried sharing some of its indignant shock with a public icon from Mumbai. He replied: “So what if they shot one guy?” The chasm was so wide, I subsided into silence.)

But the hard truth is the killing of Azad is a desperate new low in Indian public life. Azad was not just a key leader of the CPI(Maoist) — a mans whose death would be a face-saving notch on the carbines of competitive violence, one big fish to even the score for 76 jawans. He was a man mid-stream in a peace process initiated by the government itself. How could the State just ignore his death, then stand coldly on the ramparts of the Red Fort urging a new round of talks? Where are the certitudes that make the foundation of a civilised society?

Much of the events leading up to Azad’s death has been reported earlier in TEHELKA (The Maoist and the Undelivered Missive, 17 July, 2010), but it bears a quick retelling. Some months ago, as pressure mounted on him to defuse the civil war in the heartland, Home Minister P Chidambaram called Swami Agnivesh and asked him to bear a letter for the Maoists, urging them to come for talks. Agnivesh acted in good faith and sent the word out. It was a hopeful time. Significantly, Chidambaram’s letter did not merely make flamboyant demands asking the Maoists to give him “72 hours” to set the world right.

Instead, it asked them to announce a date for talks so the government could plan its response. It also promised that if the Maoists would lay down arms, “it goes without saying” the security forces would also suspend operations for the duration of the talks. The Maoists — mandating Azad to be their point person — responded positively. A mutual cessation of hostilities suddenly seemed possible. Apparently, a fixed date was imminent.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt from a post by Soutik Biswas of about the current situation next door:

Ms Gandhi's re-election comes at a time when the government led by her party - now in it's second term - appears to be worryingly adrift. Kashmir is again spinning out of control with an indigenous popular uprising against India, Maoist violence is on the rise in vast swathes of the country, and the movement for a separate Telangana state is still boiling. The government earned the rebuke of the Supreme Court recently for allowing food grains to rot in storage. (Why does it keep purchasing more food from farmers than it can store and distribute to the poor?) Delhi's Commonwealth Games fiasco has done little good to the government's image. Runaway and brazen corruption is threatening to stymie India's progress, but Ms Gandhi's party and government do not appear to be bothered too much.

There is also a growing impression that the government and the party are not on the same page. Ministers and Congress party leaders openly differ on policies and snipe at each other - there is a sharp divergence of views on how to tackle Maoism, separatism and even building key infrastructure.

Riaz Haq said...

Can Indian govt data be trusted? Here's a Seekingalpha post raising doubts about India's GDP figures:

Yesterday, we had written about the controversy over GDP numbers. What has happened since is even more bizarre. Now the government has issue new numbers. All within some 24 hours. The government has revised consumption numbers quite dramatically, claiming the earlier low numbers were simply a result of a calculation error.

The size of revision is dramatic. The consumption size GDP growth estimate is now 10%, compared to 3.7% earlier. Pvt consumption growth is now 3.7% compared to 0.3%, while the government expenditure growth is now 14.2% compared to -0.6% earlier.

Contrary to making us feel better about government data, this makes us feel even more uncomfortable. Yesterday, we had believed the explanation behind the low consumption numbers were systemically less efficient calculation methods. We understand quarterly data on GDP has started coming out only in the last 1-2 years, so we thought, the government still has to get its act right on the number collection mechanism.

So our point was: just ignore these consumption numbers, focus on the supply side numbers, where the data is being collected for several years, so more reliable.

Do we feel better now, given that the government claims it was an error and not systemic issues? No. Our point is this: how do we know the current numbers are not simply something pulled out of a hat?

That is what it seems to us. Reacting to the front page story in The Economic Times, it appears to us, that the finance ministry may have simply directed someone at the CSO to come out with palatable numbers forthwith.

We have for long said Indian WPI numbers are incorrect. The Wisdomsmith guage for WPI shows far different numbers (and much higher) to official numbers.

Indian government needs to get some more method into its statistics. Since the last 12 months, official data is becoming increasingly suspect.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt from a recent report by Jawed Naqvi, Dawn's New Delhi correspondent:

A particularly disturbing slogan heard in the Kashmir Valley, where its young school-goers and old patriarchs, angry women and restive youth are courageously defying Indian rule, is enough to put off any sensitive sympathiser. “Bhooka nanga Hindustan; Jaan se pyaara Pakistan.” (Starving and tattered India we reject; Pakistan - land of our dreams - we embrace.)

This slogan conveys acute political bankruptcy in a region which has lived with naked military repression for more than 20 years. I’m sure any Pakistani with a sense of justice would also be uncomfortable with the warped mindset the slogan betrays.

That Kashmir is reeling under Indian occupation is not a secret. That Pakistan has played a questionable role there is also well known. Yet, for Kashmiris to see their struggle as part of the many battles being waged by the poorest of the poor against the Indian state’s multi-pronged injustices against its own people, would not compromise or be a contradiction in Kashmir’s struggle for self-determination. The simple question for Kashmiris to ask themselves is, isn’t the same state that has killed 60 young Kashmiris in three months, also responsible for tens of thousands of suicides by indebted farmers in India? Does Sharmila Irom, who is fighting to repeal the law that gives unbridled powers to security forces in her Manipur state have no relevance for the same struggle in Kashmir?

The tribespeople of Chhatisgarh, Orissa, Jharkhand and West Bengal are fighting for their fundamental rights. One of their demands is that they not be evicted from their homes to accommodate corporate land grab. Is this not what Kashmiri Pandits suffered at the hands of the Indian state as well as non-state actors in their homeland without any redress from successive Indian governments that claim to represent them?

Riaz Haq said...

Here is an Asia Times report about PM Manmohan Singh rejecting Indian Supreme Court Order to give food free to starving Indians:

MUMBAI - Should unused food be allowed to go to waste or used to feed the hungry? An unprecedented "order" by India's Supreme Court to Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar to distribute food grain free to the poor, instead of letting millions of tonnes of it rot, has blown up into a core issue, raising questions about about the balance of judiciary and government, and how should a government deal with abject poverty.
"I respectfully submit that the Supreme Court should not go into the realm of policy formulation," Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said on September 6, politely telling the court to keep away from what he perceived as exclusive governmental turf. "It is not possible in this country to give free food to all the poor people."
Manmohan, disappointingly, missed the point, or pointedly avoided it, during a 80-minute meeting with senior journalists atnhis residence in New Delhi on Monday. The Supreme Court order of August 12 had directed the central government to ensure free distribution of only grain that would have otherwise rotted in godowns. The government was not asked to feed for free all the poor across the country, all year. Distribute the grain free as a "short-term measure", the court had said.

For decades, food wastage has been a serious problem in the country (see India outsources food-waste woes, Asia Times Online, July 21, 2010), with US$12.2 billion worth of agricultural produce allowed to rot due to inadequate government-owned facilities. It was time the referee stepped in.
"Give to the hungry poor instead of it [grains] going down the drain," a Supreme Court bench of Justices Dalveer Bhandari and Deepak Verma instructed, responding to public interest litigation on the issue filed by a New Delhi-based civil rights group, People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL).
PUCL filed the original petition nearly 10 years ago, and the latest Supreme Court order was its 58th ruling on the issue - in a shameful indictment to government disinterest in tackling both agricultural wastage and the crisis of hunger.
India is home to about 25% of the planet's hungry poor, according to the Rome-based United Nations World Food Program, the world's largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger.
The hunger crisis and food wastage could find a meeting point. About 55 million tonnes of grain rot to waste annually in India, according to Colin Gonsalves, the country's leading civil rights lawyer who is fighting the PUCL case in the Supreme Court. "And the government refuses to give away for free even a few crumbs of it to the poorest people. Have we as a nation become so insensitive and cruel?"
Gonsalves, who in 2004 received the International Human Rights Award from the Chicago-based American Bar Association, is due on September 24 to file his response to Prime Minister Manmohan's government rejecting the Supreme Court order.
Perhaps Manmohan has to be reminded daily that over half the children in India are malnourished, and about one-quarter are so badly nourished that they have shrunken brains and stunted bodies.
India's controversial Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar too bluntly dismissed the free food grain order, offering only to supply to the poor an additional 2.5 million tonnes at subsidized prices through the existing Public Distribution System.

Riaz Haq said...

Here is an excerpt from "The Trickledown Revolution" by Arundhati Roy on India's 63rd independence day:

“All of you have contributed to India’s success,” he (Manmohan Singh) said, “the hard work of our workers, our artisans, our farmers has brought our country to where it stands today… We are building a new India in which every citizen would have a stake, an India which would be prosperous and in which all citizens would be able to live a life of honour and dignity in an environment of peace and goodwill. An India in which all problems could be solved through democratic means. An India in which the basic rights of every citizen would be protected.” Some would call this graveyard humour. He might as well have been speaking to people in Finland, or Sweden.

If our prime minister’s reputation for ‘personal integrity’ extended to the text of his speeches, this is what he should have said: “Brothers and sisters, greetings to you on this day on which we remember our glorious past. Things are getting a little expensive I know, and you keep moaning about food prices. But look at it this way— more than 650 million of you are engaged in and are living off agriculture as farmers and farm labour, but your combined efforts contribute less than 18 per cent of our GDP. So what’s the use of you? Look at our IT sector. It employs 0.2 per cent of the population and earns us 5 per cent of our national income. Can you match that? It is true that in our country employment hasn’t kept pace with growth, but fortunately 60 per cent of our workforce is self-employed. Ninety per cent of our labour force is employed by the unorganised sector. True, they manage to get work only for a few months in the year, but since we don’t have a category called ‘underemployed’, we just keep that part a little vague. It would not be right to enter them in our books as unemployed. Coming to the statistics that say we have the highest infant and maternal mortality in the world—we should unite as a nation and ignore bad news for the time being. We can address these problems later, after our Trickledown Revolution, when the health sector has been completely privatised. Meanwhile, I hope you are all buying medical insurance. As for the fact that the per capita foodgrain availability has actually decreased over the last 20 years—which happens to be the period of our most rapid economic growth— believe me, that’s just a coincidence.

My fellow citizens, we are building a new India in which our 100 richest people hold assets worth a full 25 per cent of our GDP. Wealth concentrated in fewer and fewer hands is always more efficient. You have all heard the saying that too many cooks spoil the broth. We want our beloved billionaires, our a few hundred millionaires, their near- and dear-ones and their political and business associates, to be prosperous and to live a life of honour and dignity in an environment of peace and goodwill in which their basic rights are protected.

Iqbal Singh said...

Again your India comparisons regarding Maternal Mortality ratio (# per 100000 live births, UNICEF).

India 450 (2001)
Pakistan 320 (2005)

First, you mis-stated Pakistan at 300. Second, you left out the year of last survey indicated by me above. Furthermore, the same report also states MMR is coming down by 10% yearly in India.

bikramshergill said...

sup mr. haq,how u doin?
Here are the stadiums for the Commonwealth games which are going to be held in Delhi next month. Can Pakistan even think of hosting such an event? lmao

bikramshergill said...

Hey Mr. Haq have a look at this.!

Riaz Haq said...

FAO released its report on hunger today. According to the report highlights as published in The Guardian, there are 847.5 million undernourished people in the world. India tops the list with 237.7 million, followed by China with 130.4 million, Pakistan 43.4 million, Democratic Republic of Congo 41.9 million, Bangladesh 41.7 million, Ethiopia 31.6 million and Indonesia 29.9 million.

Riaz Haq said...

Here are key points of WHO report on maternal mortality report (MMR) with India accounting for most of the mothers' deaths:

Puncturing tall government claims, a World Health Organisation (WHO) report claimed on Wednesday India accounted for most maternal deaths in the world, with at least 63,000 such deaths taking place in 2008 alone.

In fact, India fared worse than even Nigeria (50,000 maternal deaths in 2008), Congo (19,000), Afghanistan (18,000), Ethiopia (14,000), Pakistan (14,000), Tanzania (14,000), Bangladesh (12,000), Indonesia (10,000), Sudan (9,700) and Kenya (7,900).
An estimated 65% of maternal deaths globally occurred in these 11 countries in 2008, with India contributing the most.

Though India’s maternal mortality ratio (MMR) came down from 570 deaths per 1,00,000 live births to 230 in 2008, the change in percentage was negative-59.

Health ministry officials, however, put on a brave face, saying the figures were stale and fresh data would surely present a better picture.

The WHO report, ‘Trends in maternal mortality’, contradicts a nationwide survey commissioned by Unicef in 2009 which recently claimed that important parameters of maternal health, such as institutional delivery, safe delivery by skilled birth attendants and three or more ante-natal check-ups by mothers, had increased impressively since 2005-06.

It says the number of women dying due to complications during pregnancy and childbirth decreased by 34%, from an estimated 5,46,000 in 1990 to 3,58,000, in 2008 worldwide. But the annual rate of decline was less than half the target to achieve the millennium development goal of reducing MMR by 75% between 1990 and 2015. Developing countries continued to account for 99% (3,55,000) of such deaths, while sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia accounted for 87% (3,13,000).

It is estimated that overall, there were 42, 000 deaths due to HIV/AIDS among pregnant women.

Riaz Haq said...

To get a peek into the Indian psyche, read the following advice offered by Financial Times to David Cameron prior to his recent India trip:

The first is 'Kashmir', he says. Recalling controversial utterances by previous British foreign secretaries like Robin Cook and David Miliband, Barker tells Cameron: "The quickest way to turn a charm offensive into a diplomatic fiasco. The basic rule: British ministers should say nothing. Don't dare criticise, offer to help, or link bringing peace to tackling terrorism. Stray words have consequences."

The second is 'Poverty'. "More poor people than anywhere on earth. But not worth mentioning too loudly. Talk about the New India instead. Mention the aid review. A patronising tone is fatal."

The third, 'Coming over too fresh'. Barker says: "The young, dynamic, no-nonsense version of Cameron should probably be left behind. It's time to learn some manners. Indian politicians are, as a rule, double his age and four times as grand. If the meetings are stuffy, formal, overbearingly polite, that's a good thing."

The fourth is the 'Immigration cap'. The columnist writes: "A big issue for the Indian elite. Anand Sharma, the commerce minister, raised his 'concerns' earlier this month with Cameron himself. A heavily bureaucratic and stingy visa regime will not encourage Indians to work or study in Britain."

Read more: Don't mention Kashmir, poverty in India, UK PM advised - The Times of India

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt from a commentary by Jawed Naqvi of Dawn on corruption in Indian democracy:

The rot in the legislature was again on display recently when opposition MPs offloaded bundles of currency notes in the Lok Sabha, alleging that the money had come from Dr Singh’s party to enable him to win a vote on his nuclear tie-ups with the United States. His Left Front allies tried to block the vote and so they were eased out in the second UPA government.If the lure of lucre could corrupt ordinary MPs we can only imagine the devastating consequences it would have for the executive. There was a time when Indian ministers were cited as examples of probity. With committed activist-politicians like Feroze Gandhi keeping vigil, scams were unearthed promptly and punishments meted out instantly. Nehru’s cabinet minister Rao Shiv Bahadur Singh was jailed as early as in 1949 for accepting a mere 25,000 rupees for forging a mining document.

In 1958, Finance Minister T. T. Krishnamachari resigned for helping place state-owned insurance funds with a private banker. The businessman, Haridas Mundra, was jailed. Other tycoons were punished with regularity those days. In 1959, Ramakrishna Dalmia, head of Bharat Insurance Company, was jailed for two years for misappropriating 22 million rupees from the company. Businessman Dharam Teja siphoned 220 million rupees for a spurious shipping company. He was arrested in Europe and jailed for six years. The father of the current chief minister of Orissa was forced to resign for favouring his own company in awarding a government contract. That was the system which today is denounced variously as populist, socialist and inefficient.

Today the honest Dr Singh can’t get rid of a telecommunications minister who is widely accused of large-scale corruption, because if he did his government would fall. From Harshad Mehta to Satyam, the journey of Indian financial sandals has dotted the reforms agenda. The defence deals scandal of the Vajpayee government is not entirely unconnected to the lure of lucre. A former socialist, the then defence minister had to resign though all too briefly. He signalled a new brazenness in blunting public outcry by shooting the messenger. was shut down for exposing the defence deals and its journalists hounded by various agencies.

However, the free-market genie was to get even with the prying eyes of the media. It simply co-opted the main players. Thus we recently saw the income tax department naming two of India’s most popular TV anchors — a man and a woman — for involvement as lobbyists for a tainted minister. That rules governing conflict of interest were bent to allow newly set up as well as older media houses to perform their sleight of hand is by now axiomatic. One day the hub of India’s free-market architecture — the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) — realised that its business was getting mired by spurious reporting.

Riaz Haq said...

"Everyone has different standards about cleanliness. The Westerners have different standards, we have different standards," said the Delhi Commonwealth Games Chief Lalit Bhanot in response to criticism that "the facilities are filthy and unhygienic", according to the BBC.

"This is a world-class village, probably one of the best ever," Bhanot added.

Delegates who visited the tower blocks where athletes will live during the games have described them as filthy, with rubble lying in doorways, dogs inside the buildings, toilets not working and excrement "in places it shouldn't be".

Speaking at a news conference in Delhi, Lalit Bhanot, secretary general of the Delhi organizing committee, said the authorities understood the concerns shown by some member countries and the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF).

But he suggested that the complaints could be due to "cultural differences".

New Zealand chef de mission Dave Currie has suggested the Games might even have to be canceled.

He told New Zealand commercial radio on Tuesday: "If the village is not ready and athletes can't come, obviously the implications of that are that it's not going to happen.

"It's pretty grim really and certainly disappointing when you consider the amount of time they had to prepare."

New Zealand, Scotland, Canada and Northern Ireland have demanded their teams be put up in hotels if their accommodation is not ready.

Commonwealth Games England has called for "urgent" work on the facilities, raising concerns about "plumbing, electrical and other operational details".

I think the world is expecting too much of a nation where two-thirds of the people still def ecate in the open.

The BBC's Mark Dummett in Delhi says the Indian government had hoped that hosting the Commonwealth Games would highlight the country's strengths.

But many Indians now worry that the opposite has happened, and that the country's weaknesses have been very publicly exposed by the many problems, delays and allegations of mismanagement in the build up to the Games.

Riaz Haq said...

The bumper sticker of the century reads as follows:

"Be nice to America Or we'll bring democracy to your country!"

After seeing failure of democracy in delivering basic services, security and human development in India, Pakistan, Iraq and Afghanistan, there is a growing suspicion among the poor that America's push to get democracy installed in third world countries ( knowing full well that it will fail) is a ploy to keep them in chaos and from making any kind of progress.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Incompetence Worse Than Corruption in Pakistan

Pakistan's Decade of 1999-2009 in Review

ASEAN Architect Suharto Passes On

NRO and Corrupt Democracies in South Asia

Malaysia National Front Suffers Setback

Musharaf's Economic Legacy

Pakistan's Corruption Indexes

Return to Bad Old Days in Pakistan

Shaukat Aziz's Economic Legacy

Daily Carnage in Pakistan

Riaz Haq said...

India is buying 250-300 advanced Russian stealth fighter jets worth $30 billion, according to the BBC:

India will buy 250 to 300 advanced fifth-generation stealth fighter jets from Russia over the next 10 years, Defence Minister AK Antony has said.

Fifth-generation aircraft are invisible to radar, have advanced flight and weapons control systems and can cruise at supersonic speeds, officials say.

Mr Antony told a news conference in the Indian capital, Delhi, that Russia would also supply 45 transport planes.

India is a top buyer of Russian weapons and the two countries have strong ties.

"We have a 10-year programme and it is quite challenging (but) we have very good experience in military co-operation," news agency AFP quoted Russian Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov as saying at the conference.

The deal, which could be worth up to $30bn, is believed to be the richest in India's military history.

The agreement is expected to be signed when Russian President Dmitry Medvedev visits India in December, officials say.

This is potentially a huge deal, which could dramatically increase India's military capabilities, the BBC's defence and security correspondent Nick Childs says.

The two sides have been in talks for some time.

The fifth-generation stealth fighter is currently being developed in Russia and the prototype flew for the first time earlier this year.

At the moment the United States is the only country that has a fifth-generation stealth fighter actually in service.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt from a Businessweek article titled "Why India's Singh Can't Reform?"

Just as they did after the terrorist siege in Mumbai in 2008, Indians have seen the government's failure to handle the Games efficiently and effectively as a metaphor for how it handles the country. What Indians want to know is very simple: When confronted with a challenge, can their government get it right?

Under Singh, the answer often has been no. His second term as Prime Minister and head of a coalition built around the Congress Party, which runs until 2014, started with great expectations. In the 2009 election Congress had managed to assemble a strong enough majority in Parliament that it no longer needed its Communist allies, who had been an obstructive force during Singh's first term.
Instead, Singh's promises to reform rigid labor markets and ease the difficulties that manufacturers encounter in acquiring land have gone nowhere. Efforts to introduce banking reform have failed, as have halfhearted attempts to tamp down double-digit food inflation, leaving India's poor buffeted by global commodity markets.

A long-running guerrilla war in India's mineral-rich central states has gotten worse, claiming more lives in 2010 than at any other point in the 33-year struggle. More than 100 people have been killed in recent street protests in Kashmir. "What we've seen since the [2009] elections are minuscule reforms—dropping petroleum subsidies, higher education reform at the margin," says Razeen Sally, director of the Brussels-based European Center for International Political Economy. "The bigger things that are needed are things he hasn't even tried for." A spokesman for the Congress Party did not return calls.

Many critics wonder how such an able man could achieve so little. As Finance Minister in 1991, Singh cut import tariffs, allowed foreign companies such as Ford Motor (F) to set up factories, and removed regulations requiring government authorizations for new plants. The result was a burst of growth that ended the acute fiscal crisis threatening India.

One reason Singh has not repeated this performance may be his tendency to bore in on details—a useful trait when you're fixing a single ministry, less so when you're running an entire country. Singh showed this side of himself when he jumped into the Games mess, personally inspecting sites and ordering investigations. "It should not be the Prime Minister's problem to see if the loos are clean or the ceilings of a stadium are solid," says Lord Meghnad Desai, a professor emeritus of the London School of Economics and a member of the British House of Lords who knows and admires Singh.

Structural issues are hobbling Singh, too. India's raucous politics have never been amenable to the kind of discipline China's one-party state is capable of displaying, especially in economic development. Finally, the dynamics of the Congress Party may have affected the Prime Minister's performance. Rahul Gandhi, the 40-year-old son of the assassinated Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, is being groomed by his mother, Sonia, to take over as Prime Minister in a Congress government someday soon. (Rahul is grandson of Indira Gandhi, who was also Prime Minister, and also assassinated.) Both mother and son have shown a tendency for well-meaning yet expensive social programs, including food subsidies, rural work programs, and farm loan waivers. "The most significant change has come about in the social sphere, and one wonders how much that has to do with Singh," says Prior-Wandesforde, the HSBC economist. "The 2009 election was a vote in favor of social reform rather than a vote for massive economic reform."

Riaz Haq said...

India ranks 67, far worse than Pakistan's ranking of 52 on the world hunger index 2010 report published recently, according to a Times of India report.

China is ranked well ahead of India and Pakistan at the ninth place, while Pakistan is at the 52nd place on the 2010 Global Hunger Index, released by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) in association with a German group Concern Worldwide and Welthungerhilfe.

In India, the high Index scores are driven by high levels of child underweight resulting from the low nutritional and social status of women in the country, the report pointed out, adding that India alone accounts for a large share of the world's undernourished children, the IFPRI report said.

India is home to 42% of the world's underweight children, while Pakistan has just 5%, it added.

Among other neighbouring countries, Sri Lanka was at the 39th position and Nepal ranked 56 by index. Bangladesh listed at the 68th position.

"The economic performance and hunger levels are inversely correlated. In South and Southeast Asia, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Timor-Leste are among countries with hunger levels considerably higher than their gross national income (GNI) per capita," the IFPRI report said.

"Undernutrition in the first two years of life threatens a child's life and can jeopardise physical, motor and cognitive development. It is therefore of particular importance that we take concerted action to combat hunger, especially among young children," the report stressed.

It further said that the global food security is under stress. Although the world's leaders, through the first Millennium Development Goal, adopted a goal of halving the proportion of hungry people between 1990 and 2015, "we are nowhere near meeting that target."

"The 2010 world Global Hunger Index (GHI) shows some improvement over the 1990 world GHI, falling from 19.8 points to 15.1 or by almost one-quarter. The index for hunger in the world, however, remains serious," it noted.

In recent years, however, the number of hungry people has actually been increasing. In 2009, on the heels of a global food price crisis and in the midst of worldwide recession, the number of undernourished peopled surpassed one billion, although recent estimates by the UN body Food and Agriculture Organisation suggest that the number will have dropped to 925 million in 2010, it added.

Read more: India ranks below China, Pak in global hunger index - The Times of India

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an LA Times story on "Chalta Hai" attitude that was at the root of the mess in lead up to the CWG 2010:

The international embarrassment that India suffered in the run-up to the Commonwealth Games — marred by massive cost overruns, a collapsed bridge and widespread corruption allegations — has focused attention on a stubborn cultural condition that if not checked, analysts here say, could undercut India's superpower ambitions.

An attitude referred to in Hindi as "chalta hai," which translates to "it goes" but can mean "don't be bothered," "whatever," "it'll do," or "don't fret (such problems as corruption, delays, shoddy quality)."

Or in the words of one commentator: "It's OK dude, who cares?"

As the Games' closing ceremony wrapped up Thursday, the attitude appeared to be borne out. Chaos reigned until opening day of the international sports competition, but India ultimately pulled it off. There were no major terrorist attacks, India won 38 gold medals and dancing and marching bands wowed the closing crowd.

As the hangover sets in, however, some wonder why it took prime ministerial intercession to get toilets cleaned in the athletes village, why Indian planning compared so poorly with neighboring China's hosting of the 2008 Summer Olympics and whether a wing-it attitude befits a nation with such talent, potential and prospects.

"It doesn't matter if we're a growing superpower or the stock market's at record levels," said Vinod Mehta, editor in chief of the Outlook media group. "What these Games showed is that we've hit the limit on chalta hai."

Some see the attitude growing out of Hindu fatalism and rigid social hierarchies.

"It's a sense of 'que sera, sera,' pre-destination, you're born upper or lower caste," said Ravinder Kaur, a sociologist at the Indian Institute of Technology.

Others cite India's huge population and limited resources, which can leave individuals feeling powerless. "It's a coping device," said Amita Baviskar, a sociology professor at Delhi's Institute of Economic Growth.

For Santosh Desai, president of McCann-Erickson India, chalta hai is epitomized by a story his father recounted of a classmate who stole test answers, then only bothered to memorize the bare minimum required to pass.

Most cultures have something similar of sorts, including the Latin American "manana" and the Middle Eastern "bukrah, insha Allah" ("tomorrow, God willing") attitudes.

India's slack Games preparations epitomized chalta hai thinking, analysts said, but examples are widespread in India.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an India blogger Abhinav talking about "India's growth story" on hunger and starvation:

Today’s news on the death of fifty people from hunger at Balangir in Orissa is a grim reminder of the little growth story that India has had. It clearly indicates many negative facets of our system, bureaucracy and the public at large. As per the World Food Program, almost half of the world’s population who are deprived of food live in India. Another website of a well known NGO ( offers a grim picture of this particular issue especially when the same is getting the least attention by the policy makers across the world. If 50% of the starving residents belong to India, we do not need to look beyond our borders to nail the culprits.

More than six decades post independence and being counted as one of the key growth engines to the world economy, why are hunger deaths still happening in India? Is it because there is a scarcity of food to offer the ones hungry? Clearly that is not the case.

Those leading a life above the poverty line pay taxes to the Central and the State Governments so that it is used for public facilities, amenities and for the benefit of those living the poverty line. Obviously, those in power have to let go of their hunger for corruption or we have to watch the country going down the drains. Otherwise, it would constantly fail to administer the proper distribution of food and nutrition to people who matter.

We all talk about “3 idiots” and how a college principal is called a murderer who is responsible for the suicide of the students in his college. In the same way, aren’t the following responsible for the demise of people from hunger in our country?

1. Politicians responsible for making food security and food distribution laws.
2. Governmental agencies responsible for proper storage of food grains.
3. Bureaucrats responsible for administration and distribution amongst the right people.
4. Local security agencies which must maintain law and order to ensure proper distribution.

And why is it that they are not punished for these deaths. We have poor being imprisoned for thefts but those in power prosper, while the poor suffer. Is there any accountability for what is being and can be done to break this nexus? Would those in urban cities who are fortunate enough to be writing and reading this blog do something about it? Would they start taking candle light walks in memory of those unfortunate who die in India of hunger every day? Will they go beyond the regular candle marches or force those in power to take responsibility and amend their ways?

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an IANS report on "The dark side of India's economic growth" leading to growing hunger and malnutrition in India:

New Delhi: A more inclusive growth policy targeted at marginalised communities and protection of their basic rights is required to combat hunger in India, international NGO ActionAid said.

"The dark side of India's economic growth is the fact that the poor have been dispossessed further, leading to malnutrition, hunger and starvation deaths," Sandeep Chachra, executive director of ActionAid India said here.

The International Food Policy Research Institute has ranked India 67th on the global hunger index, way below its neighbours China and Pakistan.

In a hunger score card released before the Millennium Development Goals Summit at the United Nations headquarters at New York in September, ActionAid said that while India's per capita income had tripled between 1990 and 2005, the number of chronically hungry had not reduced, standing at a staggering 270 million.

At this rate, India cannot halve its number of those starving until 2083, the report said.

"Implementation remains a massive challenge. Food and other entitlements have to be delivered on the ground, which requires greater political will," Amar Joyti Nayak, thematic head for food rights for ActionAid India, said.

Riaz Haq said...

There is great concern that hunger and poverty will increase in rural India as the subsidies are reduced in 2010 budget, according to a piece in Outlook India:

It is also shocking that food subsidy has been reduced by over Rs. 400 crore despite the commitment to enact a food security legislation. Fertiliser subsidy has also been cut by a whopping Rs. 3000 crore from what was spent last year. These moves to reduce subsidies in the name of targetting comes at a time when inflation is galloping and agricultural output growth has become negative. The anti-people approach of the Government in reducing subsidies was laid bare in the Economic survey, which has prescribed the dismantling of the PDS and initiating a “coupon system” for food and fertilisers.

Riaz Haq said...

A US NIH funded study published in Lancet says over 200,000 Indians die of Malaria among 1.3 million infectious disease deaths reported in the country, according to a report by the BBC:

he number of people dying from malaria in India has been hugely underestimated, according to new research.

The data, published in the Lancet, suggests there are 13 times more malaria deaths in India than the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates.

The authors conclude that more than 200,000 deaths per year are caused by malaria.

The WHO said the estimate produced by this study appears too high.

The research was funded by the US National Institutes of Health, the Canadian Institute of Health Research and the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute.

The new figures raise doubts over the total number of malaria deaths worldwide.
Difficult diagnosis

Calculating how many people die from malaria is extremely difficult. Most cases that are diagnosed and treated do not result in fatalities.

People who die of extremely high fevers in the community can be misdiagnosed and the cause of death can be attributed to other diseases and vice versa.

As most deaths in India occur at home, without medical intervention, cause of death is seldom medically certified.

There are about 1.3 million deaths from infectious diseases, where acute fever is the main symptom in rural areas in India.

In this study, trained field workers interviewed families, asking them to describe how their relative died. Two doctors then reviewed each description and decided if the death was caused by malaria. This method is called verbal autopsy.

Some 122,000 premature deaths between 2001 and 2003 were investigated.

The data suggests that 205,000 deaths before the age of 70, mainly in rural areas, are caused by malaria each year.

Riaz Haq said...

Two-thirds of India's population lacks basic sanitation facilities. They are exposed to a variety of infectious disease resulting in 1.3 million deaths a year accounting for the largest number of victims of infections in the world. Studies indicate the prevalence of infections may be contributing to lower IQ of Indians.

In addition to malaria, dengue fever, and cysticercosis, India also has a huge disease burden of rabies, caused by dog bites. In India, 20,000 rabies deaths (that is about 2/100,000 population) are estimated to occur annually, according to Times of India.

India might be an emerging economic power, but it is way behind Pakistan, Bangladesh and even Afghanistan in providing basic sanitation facilities, a key reason behind the death of 2.1 million children under five in the country.

Lizette Burgers, chief of water and environment sanitation of the Unicef, recently said India is making progress in providing sanitation but it lags behind most of the other countries in South Asia. A former Indian minister Mr Raghuvansh Prasad Singh told the BBC that more than 65% of India's rural population defecated in the open, along roadsides, railway tracks and fields, generating huge amounts of excrement every day.

A US NIH funded study published in Lancet says over 200,000 Indians die of Malaria among 1.3 million infectious disease deaths reported in the country, according to a report by the BBC:

Riaz Haq said...

Here are some comparisons of disease burdens in India and Pakistan as published by the World Health Organization in 2009:


DALYs/1000 cap.......65........58
(disability-adjusted life years)


Percent Total Burden...24%.....22%


Riaz Haq said...

Here's BBC's Soutik Biswas's review of a book "Churchill's Secret War" by journalist Madhusree Mukherjee offering evidence that Churchill "starved India" in 1940s:

It is 1943, the peak of the Second World War. The place is London. The British War Cabinet is holding meetings on a famine sweeping its troubled colony, India. Millions of natives mainly in eastern Bengal, are starving. Leopold Amery, secretary of state for India, and Field Marshal Sir Archibald Wavell, soon to be appointed the new viceroy of India, are deliberating how to ship more food to the colony. But the irascible Prime Minister Winston Churchill is coming in their way.

"Apparently it is more important to save the Greeks and liberated countries than the Indians and there is reluctance either to provide shipping or to reduce stocks in this country," writes Sir Wavell in his account of the meetings. Mr Amery is more direct. "Winston may be right in saying that the starvation of anyhow under-fed Bengalis is less serious than sturdy Greeks, but he makes no sufficient allowance for the sense of Empire responsibility in this country," he writes.

Some three million Indians died in the famine of 1943. The majority of the deaths were in Bengal. In a shocking new book, Churchill's Secret War, journalist Madhusree Mukherjee blames Mr Churchill's policies for being largely responsible for one of the worst famines in India's history. It is a gripping and scholarly investigation into what must count as one of the most shameful chapters in the history of the Empire.

The scarcity, Mukherjee writes, was caused by large-scale exports of food from India for use in the war theatres and consumption in Britain - India exported more than 70,000 tonnes of rice between January and July 1943, even as the famine set in. This would have kept nearly 400,000 people alive for a full year. Mr Churchill turned down fervent pleas to export food to India citing a shortage of ships - this when shiploads of Australian wheat, for example, would pass by India to be stored for future consumption in Europe. As imports dropped, prices shot up and hoarders made a killing. Mr Churchill also pushed a scorched earth policy - which went by the sinister name of Denial Policy - in coastal Bengal where the colonisers feared the Japanese would land. So authorities removed boats (the lifeline of the region) and the police destroyed and seized rice stocks.

Mukherjee tracks down some of the survivors of the famine and paints a chilling tale of the effects of hunger and deprivation. Parents dumped their starving children into rivers and wells. Many took their lives by throwing themselves in front of trains. Starving people begged for the starchy water in which rice had been boiled. Children ate leaves and vines, yam stems and grass. People were too weak even to cremate their loved ones. "No one had the strength to perform rites," a survivor tells Mukherjee. Dogs and jackals feasted on piles of dead bodies in Bengal's villages. The ones who got away were men who migrated to Calcutta for jobs and women who turned to prostitution to feed their families. "Mothers had turned into murderers, village belles into whores, fathers into traffickers of daughters," writes Mukherjee.

Riaz Haq said...

Shining India is made up of a few fabulously rich individuals like Mukesh Ambani whose new billion dollar 27-story home soars into the Mumbai skies. It's a brand new symbol of the vast rich-poor gap that continues to grow in India.

Here's what NY Times says:

Now Mukesh is moving into a tower that makes Sea Wind seem like a guest house.

“It’s kind of returning with a vengeance to where they made it into the middle class and trumping everybody,” said Hamish McDonald, who chronicled the family’s history in his new book, “Mahabharata in Polyester: The Making of the World’s Richest Brothers and Their Feud.”

“He’s sort of saying, ‘I’m rich and I don’t care what you think,’ ” Mr. McDonald said.

Mumbai, once known as Bombay, is India’s most cosmopolitan city, with a metropolitan area of roughly 20 million people. Migrants have poured into the city during the past decade, drawn by Mumbai’s reputation as India’s “city of dreams,” where anyone can become rich. But it is also a city infamous for its poor: a recent study found that roughly 62 percent of the population lived in slums, including one of Asia’s biggest, Dharavi, which houses more than one million people.


Along Altamount Road, which is also home to other industrialists, the reaction to the new neighbor is mixed. Some senior citizens along the street worry about the noise from the comings and goings of helicopters. But Utsav Unadkat and Harsh Daga, college students who grew up in the neighborhood, stared up at the tower on a recent afternoon as if it were a dream realized.

“I heard he has a BMW service station inside,” said Mr. Unadkat, dragging on a cigarette (unconfirmed). “There’s also a room where you can create artificial weather,” Mr. Daga added (apparently true).

Standing nearby, Laxmi Kant Pujari, 26, a decorator’s assistant, waited to carry glass samples into the building. If his samples are selected, Mr. Pujari, a migrant, would handle the installation — a task he considered an honor. “Whether it is a beggar or an Ambani, the desire to be rich is in everyone’s heart,” he said.

Farther down the street, Sushala Pawar admitted struggling to comprehend the difference in Mr. Ambani’s life and her own. She cooks for a family in a nearby apartment, earning 4,000 rupees a month, or about $90. She sleeps on the floor of the hallway after the family has gone to bed.

“I’m a human being,” she said. “And Mukesh Ambani is a human being. Sometimes I feel bad that I live on 4,000 rupees and Mukesh Ambani lives there.”

But then, nodding toward the building, she perked up.

“Maybe,” she said, “I could get a job there.”

Riaz Haq said...

About 60% of India's workforce is engaged in agriculture, contributing about 16% of GDP, according to published data. Textile manufacturing claims the second largest employment and comprises 26% of manufacturing output. It accounts for a fifth of India’s exports, and employs almost 10 percent of India’s workforce, or some 35 million people, and has the potential to add another 12 million new jobs --dwarfing the 1-2 million jobs created by the much-heralded IT and BPO sector, according to a World Bank report. Even the most optimistic estimates by NASSCOM put the total direct and indirect employment in IT and ITES sectors at 10 million jobs.

Agriculture in Pakistan accounts for 19.4% of GDP and 42% of labor force, followed by services providing 53.4% of GDP and 38% employment, with the remainder 27.2% of GDP and 20% workers in manufacturing sector. Over half of Pakistan's manufacturing jobs are in the textile sector, making it the second biggest employer after agriculture.

Here is a quick comparison of different sectors of the economy in India and Pakistan in terms of employment and GDP contribution:

Country....Agri(emp/GDP)..Textiles..Other Mfg..Service(incl IT)

India........60%/16% ...........10%/4%.....7%/25%...........23%/55%


Riaz Haq said...

Here's part 1 of a recent report titled "India: Economic Power House or Poor House?" by reporter The Star's Mary Albino that talks about how deceptive "India's Miracle" is:

India’s economic miracle is a perfect example of how appearances can be deceiving.

The dominant narrative on the country goes like this: as the fourth largest economy in the world, with a steady annual growth rate of close to 9 per cent, India is a rising economic superstar. Bangalore is the new Silicon Valley. Magazines such as Forbes and Vogue have launched Indian editions. The Mumbai skyline is decorated with posh hotels and international banks.

There are numbers to back up this narrative. The average Indian takes home $1,017 (U.S.) a year. Not much, but that’s nearly double the average five years ago and triple the annual income at independence, in 1947. The business and technology sector has grown tenfold in the past decade. Manufacturing and agriculture are expanding, and trade levels are way up.

India is also on the up and up in terms of human well-being. Life expectancy and literacy are steadily rising, while child mortality continues to decline. The poverty rate is down to 42 per cent from 60 per cent in 1981. While 42 per cent still leaves a long way to go, India’s situation seems rosy compared with that of, say, Malawi and Tanzania, which have poverty rates of 74 per cent and 88 per cent, respectively.

If we examine these statistics in real numbers, however, a different narrative emerges, one the Indian government likes less.

With a population as big as India’s, 42 per cent means there are some 475 million Indians living on less than $1.25 per day. That’s 10 times as many facing dire poverty as Malawi and Tanzania combined.

It means India is home to more poor people than any other country in the world.

To put it another way, one of every three people in the world living without basic necessities is an Indian national.

The real number is probably even larger. The recently launched Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI), a more comprehensive measure of deprivation than the current “poverty line” of $1.25 per day, uses 10 markers of well-being, including education, health and standard of living. The MPI, developed by the Poverty & Human Development Initiative at Oxford University, puts the Indian poverty rate at 55 per cent. That’s 645 million people — double the population of the United States and nearly 20 times the population of Canada.

By this measure, India’s eight poorest states have more people living in poverty than Africa’s 26 poorest nations.

A 10-year-old living in the slums of Calcutta, raising her 5-year-old brother on garbage and scraps, and dealing with tapeworms and the threat of cholera, suffers neither more nor less than a 10-year-old living in the same conditions in the slums of Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi. But because the Indian girl lives in an “emerging economy,” slated to battle it out with China for the position of global economic superpower, and her counterpart in Lilongwe lives in a country with few resources and a bleak future, the Indian child's predicament is perceived with relatively less urgency.

One is “poor” while the other represents a “declining poverty rate.”

What’s more, in India there are huge discrepancies in poverty from one state to the next. Madhya Pradesh, for example, is comparable in population and incidence of poverty to the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo. But the misery of the DRC is much better known than the misery of Madhya Pradesh, because sub-national regions do not appear on “poorest country” lists. If Madhya Pradesh were to seek independence from India, its dire situation would become more visible immediately.

As India demonstrates, having the largest number of poor people is not the same as being the poorest country. That’s unfortunate, because being the poorest country has advantages.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's part 2 of a recent report titled "India: Economic Power House or Poor House?" by reporter The Star's Mary Albino that talks about how deceptive "India's Miracle" is:

By this measure, India’s eight poorest states have more people living in poverty than Africa’s 26 poorest nations.

A 10-year-old living in the slums of Calcutta, raising her 5-year-old brother on garbage and scraps, and dealing with tapeworms and the threat of cholera, suffers neither more nor less than a 10-year-old living in the same conditions in the slums of Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi. But because the Indian girl lives in an “emerging economy,” slated to battle it out with China for the position of global economic superpower, and her counterpart in Lilongwe lives in a country with few resources and a bleak future, the Indian child's predicament is perceived with relatively less urgency.

One is “poor” while the other represents a “declining poverty rate.”

What’s more, in India there are huge discrepancies in poverty from one state to the next. Madhya Pradesh, for example, is comparable in population and incidence of poverty to the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo. But the misery of the DRC is much better known than the misery of Madhya Pradesh, because sub-national regions do not appear on “poorest country” lists. If Madhya Pradesh were to seek independence from India, its dire situation would become more visible immediately.

As India demonstrates, having the largest number of poor people is not the same as being the poorest country. That’s unfortunate, because being the poorest country has advantages. In the same way a tsunami or earthquake garners an intense outpouring of aid and support, being labelled “worst off” or “most poor” tends to draw a bigger share of international attention — and dollars.

When Bangladesh became independent from Pakistan in 1971, it was the poorest country in the world, so poor most economists were skeptical it would ever succeed on its own. But being labelled “dead last” worked in its favour: billions of dollars in aid money flooded in, and NGO and charity groups arrived in droves. The dominant narrative of Bangladesh at the time was of a war-ravaged, cyclone-battered and fledgling country on the brink of famine. That seemed to help rally the troops.

No doubt India’s government wants the world to perceive the nation in terms of its potential and not its shortcomings. But because it’s home to 1.1 billion people, India is more able than most to conceal the bad news behind the good, making its impressive growth rates the lead story rather than the fact that it is home to more of the world’s poor than any other country.

Still, at least part of the blame should be placed on the way poverty is presented on the international stage. If the unit of deprivation is a human being, then the prevalence of poverty should be presented in numbers of lives. If we know precisely how many billionaires India has — 49 in 2010, double last year’s number — than we should also know precisely how many people live without basic necessities.

Riaz Haq said...

Here are some exerpts of a review by Ashok Mitra of Amit Bhaduri's "The Face You Were Afraid to See" as published in Calcutta's Telegraph:

Surely Amit Bhaduri is dead wrong. His recent book bears the title, The Face You Were Afraid to See. The “face” he has in mind is the stark reality of destitution, malnutrition, illiteracy and joblessness which is still the fate of a huge lot of citizens in independent India. The “you” Bhaduri addresses his epistle to are the roughly 10 — at most 15 — per cent of the nation at the top of the social ladder who, thanks to economic liberalization, had never had it so good: industrial tycoons, financial conglomerates, ruling politicians and assorted hangers-on of each of these species, including the media and the so-called intelligentsia. These latter categories, Bhaduri seems to assume, are scared to come face to face with the other India, the India of progressive immiserization and ruthless exploitation. Quite the contrary. For the first time since the British left, the richer layer of society has come to acquire an extraordinary self-confidence. The lurid contrast between how, on the one hand, its members are indulging themselves at spas, shopping malls, five star hotels and golf links and, on the other, the fact that at least 300 million of their countrymen exist at subhuman levels and, perhaps another 300 million or thereabouts, while not exactly starving, are bereft of a minimum of housing, education and healthcare, does not disturb them. The bizarre combination of happenings like India slipping down every year in the human development index constructed by the United Nations even as it attains the dubious distinction of having the largest number of billionaires after the United States of America is taken in its stride. More than half of Mumbai’s population lives in ramshackle jhoparpattys; awareness of this grim fact does not deter a tycoon from building in the city the obscenity of a mansion costing more than Rs 5,000 crore as his residential abode. Consider yet another instance. The loss to the national exchequer because of the 2G spectrum shenanigan, the comptroller and auditor general has estimated, is around Rs 1,80,000 crore. A public distribution programme covering the entire national population, which could reach food to each and every starving citizen of this country, would cost only one-half of that sum. But the powers that be are unwilling to endorse the programme; they even have the effrontery to suggest that public distribution reeks of corruption...
Bhaduri unravels these complex themes with an equal measure of acuity and elegance in The Face You Were Afraid to See. As one who identifies himself with the bottom 90 per cent of the community, he is, however, not satisfied with mere analysis; he is, so to say, stripped for action. And he has his own ideas regarding what activism should consist of. The established political parties, Bhaduri is convinced, are in cohorts with the ruling hegemony. He has equal contempt for the organized trade unions; these are, in his view, interested only in their own narrow interests and ignore such issues as the plight of villagers dispossessed of their cultivable land. He apparently forgets that the trade union movement, too, is itself a victim of the Machiavellian growth model fathered by economic liberalization. Any way, salvation, Bhaduri suggests, lies only in initiatives on the part of civil society groups in different spheres; these will then come together and accomplish the heroic task of smashing to smithereens the conspiracy hatched by corporate bosses and their crony politicians.

Riaz Haq said...

Thousands of Indian illegal immigrants are slipping into Texas from Mexico, according to LA Times:

Reporting from Harlingen, Texas — Thousands of immigrants from India have crossed into the United States illegally at the southern tip of Texas in the last year, part of a mysterious and rapidly growing human-smuggling pipeline that is backing up court dockets, filling detention centers and triggering investigations.

The immigrants, mostly young men from poor villages, say they are fleeing religious and political persecution. More than 1,600 Indians have been caught since the influx began here early last year, while an undetermined number, perhaps thousands, are believed to have sneaked through undetected, according to U.S. border authorities.

Hundreds have been released on their own recognizance or after posting bond. They catch buses or go to local Indian-run motels before flying north for the final leg of their months-long journeys.

"It was long … dangerous, very dangerous," said one young man wearing a turban outside the bus station in the Rio Grande Valley town of Harlingen.

The Indian migration in some ways mirrors the journeys of previous waves of immigrants from far-flung places, such as China and Brazil, who have illegally crossed the U.S. border here. But the suddenness and still-undetermined cause of the Indian migration baffles many border authorities and judges.

The trend has caught the attention of anti-terrorism officials because of the pipeline's efficiency in delivering to America's doorstep large numbers of people from a troubled region. Authorities interview the immigrants, most of whom arrive with no documents, to ensure that people from neighboring Pakistan or Middle Eastern countries are not slipping through.

There is no evidence that terrorists are using the smuggling pipeline, FBI and Department of Homeland Security officials said.

The influx shows signs of accelerating: About 650 Indians were arrested in southern Texas in the last three months of 2010 alone. Indians are now the largest group of immigrants other than Latin Americans being caught at the Southwest border.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a piece published in the Guardian on the need to help the poor in "middle income countries" like India and Pakistan:

One little noticed story of 2010 was that five more developing countries officially lost their "poor" status.

When the World Bank carried out its annual reclassification in July, Senegal, Tuvalu, Uzbekistan, Vietnam and Yemen all graduated to middle-income status – countries that have reached the $1,000 (£644) or so GDP threshold.

Taken by themselves, not big news perhaps, but add to that 22 other countries which, since 2000, are no longer considered officially poor, then a quite profound global change is under way: in short, most of the world's poor no longer live in "poor" countries.

China was upgraded in 2001 (based on 1999 data) and India, Pakistan, Nigeria and Indonesia are among the other states that have become middle-income countries (MICs). Only 39 states are still considered to be low-income countries (LICs).

As we enter 2011, it is likely that more will follow. Ghana, for example, looks set to graduate in 2011, particularly in light of its new GDP figures unveiled last month. The country will join Senegal, Cameroon, Angola and Sudan, which are among the growing number of African MICs.

On the other hand, given the lingering reverberations of the global economic crisis, there is also a risk that some countries might drop back under the threshold, slipping once again into low-income status. Pakistan or the Ivory Coast might have cause for concern in 2011, for example.

On the whole, this is a good news story, but with an underside. Yes, there are fewer poor countries but poverty remains high in terms of absolute numbers in the MICs.

The news raises some pressing and difficult questions for aid and development policy. As developing countries get wealthier and are reclassified, many are still characterised by persistently high levels of poverty. Indeed, roughly three-quarters of the world's poor now live in MICs – 960 million, or a new "bottom billion". And this isn't just about China and India. Even if they are removed from the equation, the share of the world's poor living in MICs has still tripled since 1990.

In light of the above, how should global poverty reduction be done differently in 2011?

First, the LIC/MIC binary: If the focus is poor people not poor countries then the LIC/MIC way of looking at the world needs a rethink. The new UN multidimensional poverty measure might be one alternative tool. But there are many others.

Second, the end of aid and the equity elephant: overseas development assistance (ODA) is becoming less important and equity more important. More equitable countries reduce poverty faster, and stubborn asset, gender or identity inequality (ie caste systems) might begin to explain persistent poverty amid wealth in the new MICs. This entails some thinking on what ODA is for. Any attempt to discuss inequality will be viewed as an infringement on political sovereignty but is domestic inequality solely a domestic issue if it hinders the effectiveness of aid?

And could there be a case for a new multilateralism based on putting resources from donors and new MICs together? Keep an eye out in 2011: the fact that the world's poor are increasingly found in MICs has the power to shake up the entire aid and development industry.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an opinion piece by Amartya Sen published in The Hindu:

... I managed to resurrect the memory of having said in passing, in a meeting of TIE (The Indus Entrepreneurs) in Delhi in December, that it is silly to be obsessed about overtaking China in the rate of growth of Gross National Product (GNP), while not comparing ourselves with China in other respects, like education, basic health, or life expectancy. Since that one-sentence remark seems to have been interpreted in many different ways (my attention to that fact was drawn by friends who are more web-oriented than I am), I guess I should try to explain what that remark was about.
Let me look at some numbers, drawing from various sources — national as well as international, in particular World Development Reports of the World Bank and Human Development Reports of the United Nations. Life expectancy at birth in China is 73.5 years; in India it is still 64.4 years. Infant mortality rate is 50 per thousand in India, compared with just 17 in China, and the under-5 mortality rate is 66 for Indians and 19 for the Chinese. China's adult literacy rate is 94 per cent, compared with India's 65 per cent, and mean years of schooling in India is 4.4 years, compared with 7.5 years in China. In our effort to reverse the lack of schooling of girls, India's literacy rate for women between the ages of 15 and 24 has certainly risen, but it is still below 80 per cent, whereas in China it is 99 per cent. Almost half of our children are undernourished compared with a very tiny proportion in China. Only 66 per cent of Indian children are immunised with triple vaccine (DPT), as opposed to 97 per cent in China. Comparing ourselves with China in these really important matters would be a very good perspective, and they can both inspire us and give us illumination about what to do — and what not to do, particularly the glib art of doing nothing.
Life expectancy in Bangladesh is 66.9 years compared with India's 64.4. The proportion of underweight children in Bangladesh (41.3 per cent) is a little lower than in India (43.5), and its fertility rate (2.3) is also lower than India's (2.7). Mean years of schooling amount to 4.8 years in Bangladesh compared with India's 4.4 years. While India is ahead of Bangladesh in male literacy rate in the youthful age-group of 15-24, the female rate in Bangladesh is higher than in India. Interestingly, the female literacy rate among young Bangladeshis is actually higher than the male rate, whereas young females still do much worse than young males in India. There is much evidence to suggest that Bangladesh's current progress has much to do with the role that liberated Bangladeshi women are beginning to play in the country.

What about health, which interests every human being as much as anything else? Under-5 mortality rate is 66 in India compared with 52 in Bangladesh. In infant mortality, Bangladesh has a similar advantage, since the rate is 50 in India and 41 in Bangladesh. Whereas 94 per cent of Bangladeshi children are immunised with DPT vaccine, only 66 per cent of Indian children are. In each of these respects, Bangladesh does better than India, despite having less than half of India's per-capita income.
And perhaps more worryingly, this group of relatively privileged and increasingly prosperous Indians can easily fall for the temptation to treat economic growth as an end in itself........

Riaz Haq said...

Here is an excerpt from a Time magazine opinion piece by Hannah Beach on the status of Asian democracies:

Asia gave birth to people power in 1986, when a sea of yellow-clad demonstrators peacefully overthrew a dictator in the Philippines. Other popular uprisings against authoritarianism followed, from Thailand, South Korea and Taiwan to Mongolia and Indonesia. Watching the events unfold in the Arab world, Asia's fledgling democracies can be forgiven for indulging in a moment of nostalgia. While revolutionary zeal may have toppled the region's strongmen, however, too few of their successors have bothered to build the institutions needed to sustain democracy beyond its first flush. Democracy through revolution is heady stuff, but it's not always a template for building lasting freedom and justice.

The withered potential of people power is best examined on its home turf. This month, the Philippines will celebrate the 25th anniversary of the start of its historic uprising. Those following the events in Egypt will find many parallels. Ferdinand Marcos, a corrupt, aging, U.S.-backed dictator, was ousted by a populace that rallied, in part, thanks to technology. (Then it was radio, not Facebook or Twitter.) But a quarter-century later, with the son of people-power heroine Corazon Aquino now serving as President, the Philippines is still beset by the poverty, cronyism and nepotism that provoked the 1986 protests. (See a brief history of people power.)

These failings are not the Philippines' alone. Across Asia, elections are held, but vote buying taints the results. Politics is dominated by the same old families. Economic growth often rewards the few rather than the many. And from Malaysia and East Timor to Taiwan and Thailand, I have met local journalists who passed information on to me because they felt it was too dangerous to write about the issues themselves. Without the crucial check of a free press — or independent legislatures and courts, for that matter — democracy exists in name only.

Still, Asia also offers heartening lessons for the Arab world. There's South Korea, for instance, which overthrew a U.S.-backed military dictatorship, then carefully constructed a prosperous democracy. And then there's Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim-majority nation. In 1998, after 32 years in power, strongman Suharto was forced out by massive street protests. Since then, change in Indonesia has occurred not in one cataclysmic jolt but instead through years of brick-by-brick nation building. That may not sound sexy, but it works. Indonesia has now peacefully cycled through several secular-minded leaders, and its civil society is flourishing. The country's problems are still immense: graft and poverty persist, as does sectarian conflict. But Egypt could do a lot worse than to follow the model of this moderate, Muslim-majority democracy

Riaz Haq said...

India's high levels of poverty is no secret to the various international agencies and groups. Now Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has imposed a gag on India’s poverty data, saying no information must go out until it is vetted by the Planning Commission, according to

The gag order applies to all central ministries and departments and is apparently triggered by the embarrassment over multiple data on Indians falling under the socially damning Below Poverty Line (BPL).

The official line is that the government wants to have uniformity on all data and thus the need to centralise information flow.

Issued by Cabinet Secretary KM Chandrasekhar on 3 February, the circular says: “It has been observed that some ministries/departments are undertaking surveys on certain sectors relating to their charge and also generating/disseminating data on the same.

“Such data sometimes differ from the data/estimates available in surveys undertaken by the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) and Central Statistical Organisation (CSO) under the M/o (Ministry of) Statistics and Programme Implementation. You would agree that creating multiple official estimates of the same underlying variables is not advisable.”

MS Gill is currently the Cabinet Minister of Statistics and Programme Implementation.

Chandrasekhar’s circular says the ministries must ‘ensure strict compliance’ of the instructions.

The circular adds, “With a view to avoiding duplication of efforts and ensuring consistency between different sets of data and also to ensure reliability of data, it has been decided with the approval of the Prime Minister, that all steps should be taken to avoid duplication of effort and multiplicity of official data/estimates of the same underlying variables.”

The worst recent case of data causing embarrassment to the government was on the poverty estimates. The Arjun Sengupta committee, the National Commission for Enterprises in Unorganised Sector, said 77 percent Indians were living on Rs 20 a day.

The NC Saxena committee said 50 percent of India is poor. The World Bank said 41.6 percent. And then, the Suresh Tendulkar committee, which gave its report to the Planning Commission, said 25.7 percent Indians were poor. This is the Planning Commission estimate as well.

This has not been reconciled as yet, and such confusion affects government delivery systems.

Therefore, says Chandrasekar’s circular, “Where the ministries/departments still wish to collect data pertaining to aspects for which there are already official estimates prepared by the M/o Statistics and Programme Implementation, the reasons for collecting such data need to be stated clearly and the two efforts should be coordinated.

‘Further, any such data should be produced only with appropriate technical oversight, preferably by the National Statistical Commission. Also, the ministries/departments should invariably consult the Planning Commission before publishing any statistical data relating to the economic status of the population, section of the population or any other sector.

“As and when such data is published, there should be sufficient explanation for differences, if any, with the already available official data.”

In essence, the Prime Minister wants to sanitise data. This could trigger another controversy because poverty figures in India are the core of all government social programmes. Poverty alleviation is considered the default core duty of any elected government in India, given the widespread social deprivation among its citizens.

Riaz Haq said...

“Democracy in India is only top-dressing on an Indian soil which is essentially undemocratic.”

—B.R. Ambedkar, in 1949, framer of Indian constitution, in "Thus Spoke Ambedkar, Vol. 1: A Stake in the Nation"

Talking about minority rights, here's an excerpt from a piece by Satya Sagar about cow rights trumping human rights in India:

Human Rights vs. Cow Rights

What we are dealing with in this country is a situation where historically the concept of the fundamental rights of a universal, standard ‘human being’ has never existed. In fact I would argue that traditionally in India there has never been the concept of a creature called the ‘human being’.

The only two categories that have prevailed for centuries in this land- and continue to do so in many parts of the country even today- are that of the ‘devas’ and ‘asuras’. ‘Human being’ is a somewhat fancy Western category in between the ‘gods’ and the ‘demons’ that small groups of enlightened activists have been bravely propagating for many years but one which is understood by very few even in the highest echelons of power- in the Indian parliament or the Indian judiciary.

To those sections of society who rule India the Dalit, Adivasi, Muslim or the poor in general, who constitute over 75 percent of the Indian population, are not human beings at all. That is why a vast section of this oppressed population is subject to the most horrific forms of violence in the form of not just direct physical attacks from time to time but also abject poverty, forced displacement and disease. For example, there are 2.5 million children under the age of 5 who die every year due to malnutrition related diseases in this country- all avoidable with social or state intervention. A vast majority of these children are from the communities I mentioned above. If this is not a genocide I would like someone to explain what is?

Even today in many parts of the country while there is a ban on ‘cow slaughter’ that is effectively implemented there is no such privilege for people from the Dalit, Adivasi or Muslim communities. In that sense these hapless people do not even have ‘cow rights’ leave alone the more esoteric ‘human rights’.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Times of India report on illiteracy in Indian Punjab, particularly among Dalits:

CHANDIGARH: As SAD-BJP alliance in Punjab cries itself hoarse over mega development in the state and improving quality of life, there are a staggering number, nearly 31,000 children below 14 years of age, who have never been to a school, owned books or known what it is like to read or write.

A household survey, conducted by the state government in December 2010 has brought out that the worst sufferers are those belonging to the scheduled caste category. Out of 31,000 children below 14 years of age, who are not studying in any school, about 17,000 are SCs.

Ludhiana has the maximum number of such children, 4610, followed by Amritsar , 3313 and Tarn Taran, 3103. The report was tabled in the Punjab assembly on Saturday by the education minister S S Sekhwan , in reply to a question posed by Congress MLA A I S Mofar. Though meauation, the comptroller auditor general's report clearly blamed the state government for failing to provide even basic facilities like a safe building, chairs and desks to the students.

Besides, the schools are riddled with problems of absenteeism among teachers which is having a direct impact on the results of the schools. The pass percentage of Class XII, said the CAG report, is practically stagnant around 72% during the past five years. sures being taken to bring these children to schools were enumerated but the government has not been able to come up with a justification regarding the staggering high dropout rate in schools.

The Economic Survey, 2010-2011, indicates that in 2008, nearly 50% boys in classes I to X and nearly 50% girls dropped-out from government schools. Though Economic Survey and the government's own report has been silent on the factors that had led to such a situation.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Wall Street Journal story titled "India Graduates Millions, But Too Few Are Fit to Hire":

BANGALORE, India—Call-center company 24/7 Customer Pvt. Ltd. is desperate to find new recruits who can answer questions by phone and email. It wants to hire 3,000 people this year. Yet in this country of 1.2 billion people, that is beginning to look like an impossible goal.

So few of the high school and college graduates who come through the door can communicate effectively in English, and so many lack a grasp of educational basics such as reading comprehension, that the company can hire just three out of every 100 applicants.

India projects an image of a nation churning out hundreds of thousands of students every year who are well educated, a looming threat to the better-paid middle-class workers of the West. Their abilities in math have been cited by President Barack Obama as a reason why the U.S. is facing competitive challenges.

Yet 24/7 Customer's experience tells a very different story. Its increasing difficulty finding competent employees in India has forced the company to expand its search to the Philippines and Nicaragua. Most of its 8,000 employees are now based outside of India.

In the nation that made offshoring a household word, 24/7 finds itself so short of talent that it is having to offshore.

"With India's population size, it should be so much easier to find employees," says S. Nagarajan, founder of the company. "Instead, we're scouring every nook and cranny."

India's economic expansion was supposed to create opportunities for millions to rise out of poverty, get an education and land good jobs. But as India liberalized its economy starting in 1991 after decades of socialism, it failed to reform its heavily regulated education system.

Business executives say schools are hampered by overbearing bureaucracy and a focus on rote learning rather than critical thinking and comprehension. Government keeps tuition low, which makes schools accessible to more students, but also keeps teacher salaries and budgets low. What's more, say educators and business leaders, the curriculum in most places is outdated and disconnected from the real world.

"If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys," says Vijay Thadani, chief executive of New Delhi-based NIIT Ltd. India, a recruitment firm that also runs job-training programs for college graduates lacking the skills to land good jobs.

Muddying the picture is that on the surface, India appears to have met the demand for more educated workers with a quantum leap in graduates. Engineering colleges in India now have seats for 1.5 million students, nearly four times the 390,000 available in 2000, according to the National Association of Software and Services Companies, a trade group.

But 75% of technical graduates and more than 85% of general graduates are unemployable by India's high-growth global industries, including information technology and call centers, according to results from assessment tests administered by the group.

Another survey, conducted annually by Pratham, a nongovernmental organization that aims to improve education for the poor, looked at grade-school performance at 13,000 schools across India. It found that about half of the country's fifth graders can't read at a second-grade level.

Riaz Haq said...

Is India too wealthy for British aid? asks the BBC:

Bihar children being fed under a government scheme More than a million children in Bihar suffer from severe malnutrition
Continue reading the main story
Related Stories

* How UK overseas aid will be spent
* 'More poor' in India than Africa
* Ignoring India's 'republic of hunger'

Britain's decision to give £280m ($457m) in annual aid to India for the next four years has prompted questions in the UK about whether India needs the aid these days. The BBC's Geeta Pandey travels to the northern state of Bihar to see where a sizeable chunk of the British money will be spent.

About two dozen children squat in a narrow lane separating mud and brick homes in Madhaopur village.

It's a hot sunny afternoon and the children sit facing each other, hugging the wall where a thin sliver of shade keeps them out of direct sunshine.

A woman puts steel plates in front of each child, another ladles out khichdi - a rice and lentil dish - onto each plate.

Within minutes, the chattering ceases and the children begin to eat hungrily, scooping out khichdi with their hands and putting it in their mouths.

Ideally, the children should be served inside the Anganwadi (government sponsored child development) centre, but the pokey, window-less room that passes for the centre is too small to accommodate them all.

The building provides pre-school education to children between three and six years and gives them one cooked meal a day to supplement their nutritional needs.

"Nearly 50% children here are malnourished," says Geeta Verma, who is part of the technical assistance team of DfiD (Department for International Development).
A baby being vaccinated in Bihar DfiD supports vaccination programmes in the villages of Bihar

"They are given a daily meal by the Anganwadi workers. It's a naturally fortified meal - for proteins we use lentils, for micronutrients, we use leafy vegetables," she explains.

Research has shown that the diet in Bihar leaves children with a 300-calorie deficit and this meal aims to bridge that gap.

"This meal provides each child with 300 calories and 10 grams of protein," Ms Verma says.

The team has helped prepare the menu and has been coaching the women in the important role nutrition plays in the physical and mental growth of their children.

In Madhaopur, DfiD is also supervising and assisting with immunisation of babies and has helped with a project to teach illiterate women.
'Too wealthy?'

Since being opened up in 1991, the Indian economy has grown rapidly. And at a time when most economies around the world are in recession, India's continues to grow at an enviable 9%. This has helped lift millions out of poverty.
Continue reading the main story
“Start Quote
Sangeeta Kumari

Bluntly speaking we are struggling for existence, we are trying to perform our best in the midst of a crisis. We have very poor infrastructure.”

End Quote Sangeeta Kumari Bihar government official

This has led to some in the UK wondering if India is too wealthy to qualify for receiving aid. They say the £280m could be put to better use in Britain where the economy is ailing and many services are being cut back.

Critics also point out that India has 69 dollar billionaires; it has its own space programme; plans to send a man to the Moon; spends billions of dollars annually on defence; and even has its own overseas aid programme.

But India has its areas of darkness too - according to World Bank estimates, 456 million live on less than $1.25 a day; tens of millions of children suffer from acute malnutrition; millions of Indians are illiterate; hundreds of thousands continue to die of totally preventable causes; and eight million children remain out of school.....

Riaz Haq said...

Here are a few excerpts from a Sydney Morning Herald piece on India:

..India's euphoric victory in this month's cricket world cup final fits with a mood that its time has come. "The World at Our Feet," screamed a headline in The Times of India the morning after triumph.

And yet the numbers show India is a very poor world power. Its per capita income is $US1265 ($1207) according the International Monetary Fund's latest estimate. That's less than one third of China's and just 2.7 per cent of America's. The 2010 United Nations Human Development Index, a measure that combines income, education and life expectancy, ranked India at 119th out of 169 countries. That's only one place above East Timor. China was 30 places higher than India and Russia was 54 places up the list.

In India, more than 700 million people survive on less than $US2 a day and about 42 per cent of children aged five or less are under-weight. A UN report found there are 421 million Indians living in ''multi-dimensional'' poverty, a greater number than in Africa's 26 poorest countries combined.

Rapid economic change in India has created confronting anomalies. High-tech wizardry and medieval squalor live side by side. It is possible to access fast wireless broadband in villages where children are dying of starvation and thanks to the explosive growth of mobiles, more Indians probably have access to phone calls than toilets.

There is mounting evidence that the spoils of economic growth have become disproportionately concentrated among a small group of super-rich industrialists. Research by the former World Bank economist Michael Walton shows the combined worth of India's US dollar billionaires rose from the equivalent of 1.7 per cent of India's gross domestic product in 1999 to a peak of 23 per cent in 2008.

India's economic miracle, so often lauded abroad, is contested at home. Three of India's 28 states have communist governments. Leftist political parties, critical of India's economic trajectory, are an influential force in politics. India's dynamic volunteer sector, which includes tens of thousands of non-government organisations, has produced an army of activists who decry the social and environmental damage being done amid India's rapid development.

The sense of alienation and anger among India's poor has helped stoke a bloody Maoist rebellion in its most destitute regions. These insurgents - called Naxals after the eastern Indian village of Naxalbari where the movement began - are active in more than one-third of India's 626 districts. The Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, has branded them ''the single biggest internal security challenge ever faced by our country''.


The World Bank estimates the proportion of Indians living on less than $US1 per day (in 2005 purchasing power parity) fell from 42 per cent in 1981 to 24 per cent in 2005 but population growth meant the actual number of people living below that poverty benchmark was only reduced from 296 million to 266 million in that period.

In a new book, the British writer and historian Patrick French criticises journalists who "make a living by reporting ceaseless tales of woe" from the subcontinent. He is right to challenge the outdated stereotype of India as a poverty-stricken basket case but the media obsession with India's growth rate, urban middle-class and super-rich entrepreneurs can also be misleading.
Some analysts have attributed an apparent middle-class disengagement from mainstream politics to the power exerted by poorer ''vote blocks''. Very low voter turnouts in wealthy neighbourhoods of Mumbai and Delhi are cited as evidence of this apathy. But if the middle class cannot hold sway at the ballot box, it exerts influence in other ways.--------

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Wall St Journal report on World Well-being Gallup survey that puts Pakistanis ahead of Indians:

The results of the 2010 global wellbeing survey of 124 nations conducted by Gallup reveals that only about 21% of people consider themselves “thriving,” the highest level of wellbeing.

Around 1000 people over the age of 15 were asked whether in their lives they felt they were “thriving,” “struggling,” or “suffering,” measured on a scale from zero to 10. Anything seven or above was considered as thriving, according to the methodology used in the study.

India fared worse than average. Based on the findings, it ranked 71st in the list, with only 17% of respondents reported as thriving. (This was in line with the broader Asian average).

India’s neighbor Pakistan, despite its more volatile political and economic situation, ranked 40th, with 32% of the people describing themselves as thriving.

This category means more than just general wellbeing, and includes better overall health, measured in terms of fewer sick days, less stress or sadness, and more happiness and respect.

Alarmingly, in India 64% of people saw themselves as struggling. The survey describes people who fall into this category as being more stressed, more concerned about their economic wellbeing and less healthy, in terms of their lifestyle and eating habits.

The Danish lead the wellbeing list with 72% falling into the thriving category, while Chad ranked lowest, with only 1% describing themselves as such. Americans ranked average, with 59% of them thriving and only 3% suffering.

China, despite its impressive GDP figures, didn’t do that well, with only 12% of people describing themselves as thriving.

While there were gaps between developed and developing countries, a lot also depended on a country’s political situation and natural disasters, the survey shows. For instance, Haiti, where the 2010 earthquake claimed the lives of up to 250,000 people, those in the thriving range are only 2%.

Overall, the survey findings reveal how GDP figures alone are not sufficient to measure a country’s wellbeing. (This comes close to Gross National Happiness, which the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan famously adopted in the 1970s.)

“As the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt showed earlier this year, leaders should not rely on GDP alone as an indicator of how well their countries and their citizens are doing. Monitoring and improving behavioral economic measures of wellbeing are important to helping leaders better the lives of all their residents,” the survey reveals.

Consultant of psychiatry at New Delhi’s Moolchand Medcity, Dr. Jitendra Nagpal held a similar view. In an emailed response to India Real Time, Dr. Nagpal also agreed that nations whose people claim to be happy may or may not be economically sound. Dr. Nagpal added that happiness is more about the ability to do what you want to do, rather than fulfilling life’s basic needs.

Riaz Haq said...

Here are a few excerpts from Wall Street Journal story titled "India's Boom Bypasses Rural Poor":

The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGA), as the $9 billion program is known, is riddled with corruption, according to senior government officials. Less than half of the projects begun since 2006—including new roads and irrigation systems—have been completed. Workers say they're frequently not paid in full or forced to pay bribes to get jobs, and aren't learning any new skills that could improve their long-term prospects and break the cycle of poverty.

In Nakrasar, a collection of villages in the dusty western state of Rajasthan, 19 unfinished projects for catching rain and raising the water table are all there is to show for a year's worth of work and $77,000 in program funds. No major roads have been built, no new homes, schools or hospitals or any infrastructure to speak of.

At one site on a recent afternoon, around 200 workers sat idly around a bone-dry pit. "What's the big benefit?" said Gopal Ram Jat, a 40-year-old farmer in a white cotton head scarf. He says he has earned enough money through the program—about $200 in a year—to buy some extra food for his family, but not much else. "No public assets were made of any significance."

Scenes like this stand in stark contrast to India's image of a global capitalist powerhouse with surging growth and a liberalized economy. When it comes to combating rural poverty, the country looks more like a throwback to the India of old: a socialist-inspired state founded on Gandhian ideals of noble peasantry, self-sufficiency and a distaste for free enterprise.

Workers in the rural employment program aren't allowed to use machines, for example, and have to dig instead with pick axes and shovels. The idea is to create as many jobs as possible for unskilled workers. But in practice, say critics, it means no one learns new skills, only basic projects get completed and the poor stay poor—dependent on government checks.
Others said the ban on mechanization limits the scope of projects to gravel roads and pits to capture water. Such programs last for only a couple of years and do little to improve village life. Balveer Singh Meena, a 31-year old farmer in the village of Mohanpura in northern Karauli, ekes out a living growing wheat and chickpeas. He eats a single Indian flat-bread known as roti and vegetables for every meal. By selling what little excess food they produce, Mr. Meena and his three brothers are able to make just over $400 per year, which must stretch to pay for an extended family of eight people.
But shortly after the program started in February 2006, workers complained that local leaders were docking pay and asking for money in return for job cards. The central government responded in 2008 by sending money directly to workers' bank accounts. But according to workers and auditors, the money takes so long to reach those accounts—up to 45 days—that workers are often forced to accept lesser cash payments from local leaders on the condition that they repay the money at the full amount.

Audits of the program in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh found that about $125 million, or about 5% of the $2.5 billion spent since 2006, has been misappropriated. Some 38,000 local officials were implicated, and almost 10,000 staff lost their jobs.

In one study of eastern Orissa state, only 60% of households said a member had done any of the work reported on their behalf. Earlier this month, the central government gave the green-light for the Central Bureau of Investigation, India's top federal criminal investigation body, to launch a probe into alleged misuse of program funds in Orissa....

Riaz Haq said...

It's ludicrous to talk about human freedom in India, a country at the center of slave trade in the 21st century, according to NY Times.

Unfortunately, brains and personality aren’t always enough, and India is the center of the 21st-century slave trade. This country almost certainly has the largest number of human-trafficking victims in the world today.

If M. is sold to a brothel, she will have no defense against H.I.V. and other sexually transmitted diseases. Decisions about using a condom are made by the customer or the brothel owner, not by the girl. In one brothel I slipped into to conduct some interviews, there was not a single condom available.

Riaz Haq said...

Here are some excerpts from an Op Ed in The Hindu on growing disconnect between mass media and mass reality:

•The mass reality in India (which has over 70 per cent of its people living in the rural areas), is that rural India is in the midst of the worst agrarian crisis in four decades. Millions of livelihoods in the rural areas have been damaged or destroyed in the last 15 years as a result of this crisis, because of the predatory commercialisation of the countryside and the reduction of all human values to exchange value. As a result, lakhs of farmers have committed suicide and millions of people have migrated, and are migrating, from the rural areas to the cities and towns in search of jobs that are not there. They have moved towards a status that is neither that of a ‘worker' nor that of a ‘farmer.' Many of them end up as domestic labourers, or even criminals. We have been pushed towards corporate farming, a process in which farming is taken out of the hands of the farmers and put in the hands of corporates. This process is not being achieved with guns, tanks, bulldozers or lathis. It is done by making farming unviable for the millions of small family farm-holders, due to the high cost of inputs such as seed, fertilizer and power, and uneconomical prices.
•India was ranked fourth in the list of countries with the most number of dollar billionaires, but 126th in human development. This means it is better to be a poor person in Bolivia (the poorest nation in South America) or Guatemala or Gabon rather than in India. Here, some 83.6 crore people (of a total of 110-120 crore) in India survive on less than Rs.20 a day.
•Eight Indian States in India are economically poorer than African states, said a recent Oxford University study. Life expectancy in India is lower than in Bolivia, Kazakhstan and Mongolia.
•According to the National Sample Survey Organisation, the average monthly per capita expenditure of the Indian farm household is Rs.503. Of that, some 55 per cent is spent on food, 18 per cent on fuel, clothing and footwear, leaving precious little to be spent on education or health.
•A report of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations shows that between 1995-97 and 1999-2001, India added more newly hungry millions than the rest of the world taken together. The average rural family is consuming 100 kg less of food than it was consuming earlier. Indebtedness has doubled in the past decade. Cultivation costs have increased exorbitantly and farming incomes have collapsed, leading to wide-scale suicides by farmers.
•While there were 512 accredited journalists covering the Lakme India Fashion Week event, there were only six journalists to cover farmer suicides in Vidharbha. In that Fashion Week programme, the models were displaying cotton garments, while the men and women who grew that cotton were killing themselves at a distance of an hour's flight from Nagpur in the Vidharbha region. Nobody told that story except one or two journalists, locally.
Is this a responsible way for the Indian media to function? Should the media turn a Nelson's eye to the harsh economic realities facing over 75 per cent of our people, and concentrate on some ‘Potemkin villages' where all is glamour and show business? Are not the Indian media behaving much like Queen Marie Antoinette, who famously said that if people had no bread, they should eat cake.
No doubt, sometimes the media mention farmers' suicides, the rise in the price of essential commodities and so on, but such coverage is at most 5 to 10 per cent of the total. The bulk of the coverage goes to showing cricket, the life of film stars, pop music, fashion parades, astrology…

Riaz Haq said...

India's dirty big mess exposed to the public, reports The Australian:

...India is where human waste, discharged along the vast, 65,000km rail network, corrodes the tracks to such an extent the rails have to be replaced every 24 months instead of having a normal 30-year lifespan. This is the human waste left by the 20 million passengers carried each day by Indian Railways.

India is where staggering numbers tell a story of squalor that lies behind so much of the controversy and apprehension surrounding next month's Commonwealth Games.

More than six decades after India won its freedom from British colonial rule, 55 per cent of its people - by one count 638 million - do not have access to a toilet of any kind and defecate in the open.

Paradoxically, more people have access to mobile phones in India than to basic sanitation. A recent estimate suggested about 366 million people have access to sanitation while there are about 600 million mobile phones in service in the emerging economy.

"It is a tragic irony to think that in India, a country now wealthy enough that roughly half of the people own phones, about half cannot afford the basic necessity and dignity of a toilet," a UN report has stated.

It is hardly surprising that India's Environment and Forests Minister Jairam Ramesh has said: "If there is a Nobel prize for dirt and filth, India will win it, no doubt." He is right.

Outside of the glitz of the sumptuous hotels where many tourists stay, the reality is that despite the great strides India has achieved in some areas, hygiene standards in India remain abysmal. The notorious malady known as "Delhi belly" is rampant.

Indians have been let down severely by successive governments since independence. The sort of mindset that has allowed filth to spoil Commonwealth Games preparations is testament to that failure.

N. R. Narayana Murthy, an eminent Indian and founder of Infosys Technologies, has summed up that failure thus: "The enigma of India is that our progress in higher education and science and technology has not been sufficient to take 350 million Indians out of illiteracy. It is difficult to imagine that 318 million people in the country do not have access to safe drinking water and 250 million people do not have access to basic medical care. Why should 630 million people not have access to acceptable sanitation facilities?"

"It is common to find sumptuous luxury apartments in buildings that are filthy, rotting and stained, whose common areas, walls and staircases have not been cleaned in generations. Each apartment owner is proud of his own immediate habitat but is unwilling to incur responsibility or expense for the areas shared with others, even in the same building.

"This attitude is also visible in the lack of a civic culture in both rural and urban India, which leaves public spaces dirty and garbage-strewn, streets potholed and neglected, civic amenities vandalised or not functioning. The Indian wades through dirt and filth, past open sewers and fly-specked waste, to an immaculate home where he proudly bathes twice a day."

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a piece by Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen on economic growth and quality of life in India and China:

It could, however, be asked why this distinction should make much difference, since economic growth does enhance our ability to improve living standards. The central point to appreciate here is that while economic growth is important for enhancing living conditions, its reach and impact depend greatly on what we do with the increased income. The relation between economic growth and the advancement of living standards depends on many factors, including economic and social inequality and, no less importantly, on what the government does with the public revenue that is generated by economic growth.

Some statistics about China and India, drawn mainly from the World Bank and the United Nations, are relevant here. Life expectancy at birth in China is 73.5 years; in India it is 64.4 years. The infant mortality rate is fifty per thousand in India, compared with just seventeen in China; the mortality rate for children under five is sixty-six per thousand for Indians and nineteen for the Chinese; and the maternal mortality rate is 230 per 100,000 live births in India and thirty-eight in China. The mean years of schooling in India were estimated to be 4.4 years, compared with 7.5 years in China. China’s adult literacy rate is 94 percent, compared with India’s 74 percent according to the preliminary tables of the 2011 census.

As a result of India’s effort to improve the schooling of girls, its literacy rate for women between the ages of fifteen and twenty-four has clearly risen; but that rate is still not much above 80 percent, whereas in China it is 99 percent. One of the serious failures of India is that a very substantial proportion of Indian children are, to varying degrees, undernourished (depending on the criteria used, the proportion can come close to half of all children), compared with a very small proportion in China. Only 66 percent of Indian children are immunized with triple vaccine (diphtheria/pertussis/tetanus), as opposed to 97 percent in China.

Comparing India with China according to such standards can be more useful for policy discussions in India than confining the comparison to GNP growth rates only. Those who are fearful that India’s growth performance would suffer if it paid more attention to “social objectives” such as education and health care should seriously consider that notwithstanding these “social” activities and achievements, China’s rate of GNP growth is still clearly higher than India’s.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt from a Time magazine story on NGO spending in India:

With 3.3 million registered NGOs, India's nonprofit sector raises between $8 billion and $16 billion in funding every year. According to Home Ministry statistics, foreign funding to Indian NGOs saw a 56% increase in the 2005-06 and 2006-07 fiscal years. In 2008, the latest available data, the total official foreign aid to India was $2.15 billion.

Read more:,8599,2036307,00.html#ixzz1SfGSmZ8T

Riaz Haq said...

In spite of recent poverty declines with its rapid economic expansion, India still has higher poverty rates than Pakistan, according to a 2011 World Bank report titled "Perspectives on poverty in India : stylized facts from survey data" released in 2011.

Overall, the latest World Bank data shows that India's poverty rate of 27.5%, based on India's current poverty line of $1.03 per person per day, is more than 10 percentage points higher than Pakistan's 17.2%. Assam (urban), Punjab and Himachal Pradesh are the only three Indian states with lower poverty rates than Pakistan's.

Riaz Haq said...

Here are some excerpts from an opinion piece by Rakesh Mani published in the Wall Street Journal:

Much has been spoken and written of India’s “demographic dividend.” With almost 40% of the population – around 500 million people – under the age of 15, it is estimated that around 25% of the global workforce will be Indian by 2030. What this means is that the quality of education that young Indian children are receiving today is going to impact us all in the near future.
1. Commit to spending more on education. Way back in 1968, the Kothari Commission recommended that India spend 6% of its Gross Domestic Product on education. However, in the 43 years since, India’s total educational outlays have never exceeded 4.3% of its GDP in any given year. Setting aside more funds for education is a critical first step that will demonstrate the government’s commitment to educational reform.

2. Fix primary education first. There are two major tasks here: raising enrollment to 100% in urban as well as rural areas; and then minimizing drop-outs. Both need to work in tandem to be meaningful. In Mumbai, for instance, enrollment rates are very high – above 95% — but only a fraction of these students actually finish school due to absurdly high drop-out rates. In addition, eliminating gender gaps at this early stage must be a priority. Shockingly, in some rural areas, thousands of young girls do not attend school because there are no separate toilets for them. Other girls do not attend because the walk to school – often in a neighboring village – is unsafe.

3. Yes, the answer is building more schools with better infrastructure. But even as the government and private institutions are building more schools, the quality of instruction is falling sharply. Teacher training needs a great deal of work and effort. Here, it is heartening to see the number of NGOs that are rushing to fill this gap but most of these efforts are still confined to urban areas, and especially large metropolitan cities. We need high-quality instruction to produce high-quality students capable of playing active roles in a rapidly growing country.

4. Prioritize schooling over higher education. In the early 50s, Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first prime minister, decided to build out India’s higher education platform to compete technologically in the Cold War era. Under his direction, institutions such as the Indian Institutes of Technology were expanded and the country focused on producing more engineers and scientists. But the expansion of higher education was accompanied by a neglect of school education. This continues today, with new engineering colleges mushrooming every day. Schools are often viewed as little more than a means to gain access to a solid engineering program. This remarkable trend has had far-reaching effects.
Make no mistake: we are in the midst of a severe education crisis. And it is for this reason that we need to be talking about the subject more and encouraging debate. Because let us be sure that, without a significant change in mindset, education reform is a non-starter and the “demographic dividend” will just remain a fancy term confined to political journals.

Riaz Haq said...

Lack of water and toilets are a major problem for Anna Hazare supporters in New Delhi, according to media reports:

As droves of people flocked to Ramlila Maidan to voice their support for Anna Hazare, lack of water and sanitation facilities at the venue tested the resolve of quite a few supporters.

With the protests probably stretching over more than two weeks, protesters hope that arrangements will be made soon for clean drinking water and medicines to alleviate the suffering of the people flocking to support the movement.

According to the agreement reached between Team Anna and police, the organisers have to arrange for drinking water, medical aid and mobile toilets.

A protester at the venue said, "There is no water and toilets are in a deplorable condition. People, especially women, who have come from outside Delhi are suffering terribly here."

Scarcity of water and sanitation facilities at the venue have created trouble for the Gandhian's supporters, with one fainting and being rushed to a hospital.

One Vishnu Dutt Sharma from Uttar Pradesh who is fasting in the city collapsed in the morning and was rushed to LNJP hospital where he is being treated. "He did not have food or water for three days. He fell unconscious," an agitator said.

A doctor at the venue said the basic problem was scarcity and the quality of water the protesters were drinking.

"There is no proper arrangement for water supply and people are not carrying bottled water. So they are facing problems," he said.

To provide relief, a group of doctors from Indian Medical Association have set up camp at the venue to ensure round-the-clock emergency medical care free of cost to the supporters.

Dr AP Singh of IMA said, "We have volunteered to provide free medical services because we support the cause of Hazare and his team. Corruption affects everybody, including us and we feel that if we can contribute in some way to this movement, we would have done our part."

Dr Sachin Bhargav, another doctor, said, "we are providing medicines free of cost, and paying for them from our own pockets, because we believe in Anna's cause, and sympathise with the poor people who have come here from villages all over India."

Armed with medicines for common ailments like dehydration, gastro-enteritis and fever, the doctors have treated over 400 patients since the protest began at Ramlila Maidan, and referred around 10 patients to nearby hospitals.

The doctors have put their own practise at stake to volunteer at the Maidan.

"The government is not providing proper facilities because it wants the people to leave as soon as possible. Despite this, people won't leave, and we won't rest till the government agrees to Hazare's demands," Amina Khan, a nurse, alleged.

The doctors are also playing a part in ensuring that the crowd doesn't go out of control. Singh said, "If any supporter becomes too aggressive or starts hyperventilating, volunteers bring him to us, and we give them medicines to calm them down, thus preventing any untoward incident."

Riaz Haq said...

Report in Hindustan Times says that "more new born babies die in India annually than in any other country, even though the number of neonatal deaths around the world has seen a slow decline, a new study by the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said".

New born deaths decreased from 4.6 million in 1990 to 3.3 million in 2009,
and fell slightly faster in the years since 2000, according to the study led by researchers from WHO, Save the Children and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

The study, which covers a 20-year-period and all the 193 WHO member states, found that new born deaths - characterised as deaths in the first four weeks of life (neonatal period) – account for 41 % of all child deaths before the age of five.

Almost 99 % of the newborn deaths occur in the developing world, with more than half taking place in the five large countries of India, Nigeria, Pakistan, China and Congo.

"India alone has more than 900,000 newborn deaths per year, nearly 28 % of the global total," WHO said, adding that India had the largest number of neonatal deaths throughout the study.

Nigeria, the world's seventh most populous country, ranked second in new born deaths – up from fifth in 1990. Three quarters of neonatal deaths around the world are caused by pre-term delivery, asphyxia and severe infections, such as sepsis and pneumonia.

WHO pointed out that two thirds or more of these deaths can be prevented with existing interventions.

Riaz Haq said...

India's main planning body has said half a dollar a day is "adequate" for a villager to spend on food, education and health, according to the BBC:

Critics say that the amount fixed by the Planning Commission is extremely low and aimed at "artificially" reducing the number of poor who are entitled to state benefits.

There are various estimates on the exact number of poor in India.

Officially, 37% of India's 1.21bn people live below the poverty line.

But one estimate suggests the true figure could be as high as 77%.

The Planning Commission has told India's Supreme Court that an individual income of 25 rupees (52 cents) a day would help provide for adequate "private expenditure on food, education and health" in the villages.

In the cities, it said, individual earnings of 32 rupees a day (66 cents) were adequate.

The Planning Commission was responding to a direction from the court to update its poverty line figures to reflect rising prices.

India has been struggling to contain inflation which is at a 13-month high of 9.78%.

Many experts have said the income limit to define the poor was too low.

"This extremely low estimated expenditure is aimed at artificially reducing the number of persons below the poverty line and thus reduce government expenditure on the poor," well-known social activist Aruna Roy told The Hindu newspaper.

The Planning Commission also told the court that 360 million Indians are now being supplied with subsidised food and cooking fuel through the network of state-owned shops.

A World Bank report in May said attempts by the Indian government to combat poverty were not working.

It said aid programmes were beset by corruption, bad administration and under-payments.

Riaz Haq said...

Here are some excerpts from an opinion piece about India's talk of setting up a sovereign wealth fund (SWF):

Unlike China and other East Asian countries, which have established such funds on sustained current account surpluses, India has been running persistent current account deficits. Its current account deficit touched $ 29.8 billion in fiscal 2009 as against $ 15.7 billion in fiscal 2007. Unlike West Asia, India does not have any dominant exportable commodity (such as oil or gas) so as to generate significant surpluses. It continues to be a huge net importer of oil and gas. The country’s current account deficit is widening despite steady growth in software services exports and a rise in workers’ remittances from overseas Indians.

Its persistent current account deficits have been financed by large capital inflows in the form of portfolio investments and other volatile capital flows that are subject to capital flight. Given the overriding presence of volatile capital flows in India’s forex reserves, coupled with vulnerability to external shocks, it would be erroneous to consider its foreign exchange reserves ($ 280 billion) as a position of strength.

India’s external debt has been rising steadily for the past few years on account of higher borrowings by the Indian companies and short-term credit. Besides, India also runs a perennial fiscal deficit which means that raising substantial money for sovereign fund from budgetary allocation would be extremely difficult.

Santiago Principles

AS far as the proposed fund’s objectives to invest directly in strategic cross-border assets are concerned, the Indian policy-makers need to recognise that the overwhelming majority of sovereign funds are passive investors. In the rare cases where SWFs have made direct investments, they have not sought controlling interests or active roles in the management of invested companies, as private investors do. Even the large-scale direct investments made by SWFs in US and European banks during 2007-08 were minor in terms of bank ownership and did not come with any special rights or board representation.

Any direct investment in strategic assets by a sovereign fund will invite severe criticism for its alleged political and non-commercial objectives. Not long ago, the Western world had characterised SWFs as "villains" and introduced new policy measures, popularly known as the Santiago Principles, to regulate the investments of SWFs globally. Thus, acquisition of strategic cross-border assets (including natural resources) will not be a cakewalk. Also $ 10 billion is not enough to acquire strategic assets abroad-unless they become very cheap.

Furthermore, there is no guarantee that investments made by the Indian fund will be profitable. As witnessed during the global financial crisis, SWFs from West Asia, China, Singapore and Norway suffered huge losses for their investments in Western banks and private equity funds.

Paradoxical as it may sound, extreme poverty and hunger still pervades India. For New Delhi, the first priority should be to free the nation from hunger, malnutrition and illiteracy rather than financing the acquisition of strategic assets or rivals abroad.

In this regard, a portion of the country’s forex reserves could be prudently used in the improvement of physical infrastructure, education, health and financial services, particularly in rural India.

Riaz Haq said...

Indian activists have dared the head of the country's planning body to live on half a dollar a day to test his claim that it is an adequate sum to survive, according to the BBC:

Last week the Planning Commission said the amount is "adequate" for a villager to spend on food, education and health.

But prominent campaigners Aruna Roy and Harsh Mander asked the panel chief, Montek Singh Ahluwalia, and members to either withdraw the figure or resign.

Officially, 37% of India's 1.21bn people live below the poverty line.

But there are various estimates of the exact number of poor in India and one suggests the true figure could be as high as 77%.

But the Planning Commission recently told India's Supreme Court that an individual income of 25 rupees (52 cents) a day would help provide for adequate "private expenditure on food, education and health" in the villages. In the cities, it said, individual earnings of 32 rupees a day (65 cents) were adequate.

Critics say this amount is extremely low and aimed at "artificially" reducing the number of poor. They argue that this will deprive millions of state benefits they would otherwise be entitled to.
Estimate ridiculed

"The right to food campaign challenges you and all the members of the Planning Commission to live on 25 rupees or 32 rupees a day till such time that you are able to explain to the public in simple words the basis of the statement that this amount is 'normatively adequate'," an open letter to the commission signed by Ms Roy, Mr Mander and various other activists said.

"If it cannot be explained then the affidavit [filed by the commission stating the figures] should be withdrawn or else you should resign."

The Planning Commission submitted the figures after the Supreme Court asked the government to update its poverty line figures to reflect rising prices.

The low figures, at a time when India has been struggling to contain inflation which is at a 13-month high of 9.78%, have been ridiculed not just by activists but also by many citizens.

Many experts have said the income limit to define the poor was too low.

And a World Bank report in May said attempts by the Indian government to combat poverty were not working.

It said aid programmes were beset by corruption, bad administration and under-payments.

Riaz Haq said...

ere's an excerpt from Britain's DFID report on open defecation around the world:

58% of the open defecation in the world takes place in India. It is an absolutely astonishing phenomenon. Even just rural India is more than double the open defecation in the whole of
sub-Saharan Africa. The WSP, the Water and Sanitation Programme at the Bank, have recently done an assessment of the costs of this to India, and every
year they estimate $54 billion, which is $48 per head, which is far higher than any other countries in the

Sense of public hygiene is worst in India among its neighbours – a recent study revealed that India hosts 58% people of the world of open defecation compare to 5% for china, Indonesia and 4.8% for Pakistan. Economic growth is not reflecting improvement in public hygiene.

Riaz Haq said...

UNICEF says India tops the world in open defecation, according to the Times of India:

NEW DELHI: With India facing the slur of topping the global list in open defecation, the Centre is keen to put the sanitation programme back on the centrestage by sensitizing the population about public hygiene.

The Union rural development ministry along with states will organize a month-long campaign from October 2, the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, to create awareness for its flagship scheme of Total Sanitation Campaign.

According to a UNICEF survey, 58% of the world's population practicing open defecation lives in India while China and Indonesia come a distant second by accounting for just 5% of the world numbers. Pakistan is down to third with 4.5%, tied with Ethiopia.

The numbers are astounding as the prosperity of liberalized India does not seem to translate into better sanitation.

RD minister Jairam Ramesh said, "I consider these numbers a matter of great anguish and shame. We must make sanitation a political campaign like Gandhiji did. Kerala, Sikkim, Maharashtra, Haryana and Himachal are doing well but other states have to pick up significantly."

There is little denying the anguish given that the numbers do not tie up with the sanitation standards expected of improving financial economy as well as urbanizing India.

As per national population figures, 54% of India's population practices open defecation against China's 4%.

The national figures do push up numbers in smaller and poor countries. Like Indonesia has 26% of its population practicing open defecation as against its contribution of only 5% to the world population. The national figure stands at 60% for Ethiopia, 28% for Pakistan and 50% for Nepal.

Neighbouring Sri Lanka, in contrast, has only 1% of its citizens going to toilet in the open.

Ramesh said, "We are going to focus now on `nirmal gram abhiyan' -- today 25,000 nirmal grams are a tiny fraction of 6 lakh villages. These nirmal grams are in Maharashtra and Haryana. Maharashtra is a success of social movements while Haryana an example of determined state government action."

As part of the awareness drive, the states have been asked to take active interest with chief secretaries issuing directions for the awareness drive up to the panchayat level. It may include household contact programme and gram sabha meetings to highlight the benefits of an environment free of open defecation. The panchayats would also train masons to construct toilets.

Riaz Haq said...

Minister says India’s rank as No. 1 country for open defecation a source of national shame, according to Washington Post and AP:

NEW DELHI — India’s rural development minister is pushing a campaign on public hygiene, after a recent survey revealed that India accounts for 58 percent of the world’s population practicing open defecation.

Jairam Ramesh says the revelation is a source of national shame and a “sad commentary” on society’s failure to address the issue through education and better sanitation.

The government says it spends $350 million a year to build rural toilets, but some 638 million still rely on fields or quiet corners.

The UNICEF report puts China and Indonesia in second place, with each representing 5 percent of the world’s 1.1 billion open defecators.

Ramesh said Sunday that filth was polluting the environment as well as public spaces, and Indian rivers had become sewers.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's the story of two Indias by World Bank's managing director Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala:

India’s global profile is rising—from a slow-growing poor country to a burgeoning economic power:

· India grew fast before the crisis--9% per year--and has resumed fast growth--8.6% in the fiscal year that ended in March.

· India is globally recognized as a key player in the IT revolution, and in sectors as diverse as pharmaceutical, cement, steel and space
But there is also another India:

· India’s GNI per capita ($1170) is lower than that of 161 other countries. World Bank’s poverty numbers show 456 million people in India are poor—about one-third of the world’s poor, and more than in all of Sub-Saharan Africa.

· India lags significantly on health and nutrition targets: It is home to half of world’s underweight children, and it accounts for 1 in 5 maternal and child deaths worldwide.

· Social exclusion remains a stark reality—Scheduled Tribes lag twenty years behind the general population, Scheduled Castes ten years; gender norms can be quite restrictive and gender gap persists in realms such as child mortality and labor force participation.
The 9% growth hides an infrastructure crisis. Innovation in the private sector has often got around this—60% of firms and a large percentage of homes rely on back-up generation, and on an industry of logistical firms. But this has costs, and sooner or later infrastructure constraints will bite, and growth will slow, absent major change. This is especially true in urban areas.
PPPs are often hailed as a solution. Private participation in infrastructure took off in the early 1990s in telecoms and power supply. Highway, port, and airport concessions began to emerge in the late 1990s, with water supply and solid waste management following. We have been here before. In the 1990s Latin America had major infrastructural gaps, and PPPs were thought to be the solution (including by the World Bank). But gaps were effectively closed only in telecoms (which was not an issue for India) and in Chile (a small country with by far the best governance to manage private sector involvement). Elsewhere, there was insufficient private involvement, or private involvement that was high cost, often corrupt, and with frequent renegotiation to extract better deals from the state and society.

The lesson is that improving governance, and solving institutional problems, is unavoidable to improve infrastructure provision, and is necessary for effective private involvement.

The challenge here is so well-known that I do not need to dwell on it much. India has enormous untapped potential—productivity in Eastern states, for instance, is well below what it is in Punjab, and sustainability is an issue in states like Punjab.
V. Education: Focus on results, not inputs

The two Indias are very visible in education: Graduates of India's famed Institutes of Technology literally drive growth. But basic and secondary education are dismal. In fact, even in tertiary education quality is in islands of excellence, not widespread. The demographic dividend can turn into a demographic curse if the millions of young people entering the labor market every year are not equipped to take up the jobs that a fast-growing economy can create...

Riaz Haq said...

Here are some excerpts from an NPR interview of Siddhartha Deb, the author of "The Beautiful and The Damned":

DEB: Well, I was interested in the changes that were happening there. Obviously, it's a lot of people experiencing change in new ways, in some sense, and I had gotten the impression that there was a very triumphalist version of this change, which is that the country is doing very well.

There was even a slogan that was coined by one of the political parties. It was called India Shining. And I was going back. I was writing feature articles. I was a freelance writer. And I was somewhat skeptical of this. It was pretty obvious that at the upper levels people were much better off materially than they had been in the past.

But certainly large numbers or swaths of people seem to be untouched or mired in the same poverty, or sometimes even worse because they could now see this incredible contrast. So I wanted to examine that. I wanted to do that by checking, by looking at the new rich. I wanted to look at people who were in the middle, people who were middle class.

DONVAN: Well, and the style in which the book is written still reads like a novel. It is full of color and texture and even sights and sounds and smells.

DEB: Thank you. That was very much the intention, to write something like a nonfiction novel, if that's possible. So the facts aren't made up, they're very scrupulously researched. I've tried to be as accurate as possible, but I wanted the texture, the flavor of a novel, of people in motion in some sense.

DONVAN: Can I say that the story that you've written reads to me as a very sad story?

DEB: That would be - that's a fairly, I think, reasonable, actually, interpretation. I think it's a sad story to me too, in many ways.

DONVAN: Even among those who feel that you describe - you describe an engineer named Chuck who is building a house. He had lived in the United States, and he's now building a house in the American model. He gives you a tour. He even uses American language. This is the open-plan kitchen, this is the master bedroom.

And yet you portray him as - his desires as being somewhat hollow, as though he's not a happy man himself.

DEB: Well, I mean, I think Chuck would see himself as a happy man, and I think that's reasonable. I've tried to allow people that space. But yes, I as a narrator come in, and I do sometimes question what some of my characters are saying.

So when someone like Chuck says, you know, he did say this, that there are these incredible contrasts in India, but that's okay, we're kind of one big happy family, and I question whether that's really the case, when, you know, you have at the very top end of the country, say you have, say, something like 66 billionaires.

And these numbers might be slightly old, but there are probably a few more billionaires since I last checked. But 66 billionaires who seem to have something like 30 percent of the country's wealth.

On the other end, you have like 800 million people, over 800 million people living on less than $2 a day. When you have a country where 40 percent of the children under the age of five suffer from malnutrition, it seems to me that these contrasts aren't really healthy. They're not just differences. They are really like living different worlds within the same country.

So yes, I actually come in as a narrator, and I question when, say, Chuck is a character, he sees his life as striving and successful. And I think that's reasonable, again, but I also question the fact that this house, this special zone in which the house is constructed, is being built on what is a demolished village, and I have very hard questions......

Riaz Haq said...

Occasional and isolated but nonetheless tragic suicide cases like Raja Khan's in Pakistan get a lot of media coverage as they should. Meanwhile, over 200,000 farmer suicides in India have passed with little media attention in India.

Here's a Washington Post report on rising suicides in India:

NEW DELHI — Ram Babu’s last days were typical in India’s growing rash of suicides.

The poor farmer’s crop failed and he defaulted on the $6,000 loan he had taken to buy a tractor. The bank’s collectors hounded him, even hiring drummers to go round the village drawing attention to his shame.

“My father found it unbearable. He was an honorable man and he couldn’t take the humiliation. The next day he hanged himself from a tree on his farm,” his son Ram Gulam said Friday.

Babu’s suicide went unreported in local newspapers, just another statistic in a country where more than 15 people kill themselves every hour, according to a new government report.

The report released late Thursday said nearly 135,000 people killed themselves in the country of 1.2 billion last year, a 5.9 percent jump in the number of suicides over the past year.

The suicide rate increased to 11.4 per 100,000 people in 2010 from 10.9 the year before, according to the statistics from the National Crime Records Bureau.

Financial difficulties and debts led to most of the male suicides while women were driven to take their lives because of domestic pressures, including physical and mental abuse and demands for dowry.

A 2008 World Health Organization report ranked India 41st for its suicide rate, but because of its huge population it accounted for 20 percent of global suicides.

The largest numbers of suicides were reported from the southern Indian states of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, where tens of thousands of impoverished farmers have killed themselves after suffering under insurmountable debts.

The loans — from banks and loan sharks — were often used to buy seeds and farm equipment, or to pay large dowries to get their daughters married. But a bad harvest could plunge the farmer over the edge.

Sociologists say the rapid rise in incomes in India’s booming economy has resulted in a surge in aspirations as well among the lower and middle classes, and the failure to attain material success can trigger young people to suicide.

“The support that traditionally large Indian families and village communities offered no longer exists in urban situations. Young men and women move to the cities and find they have no one to turn to for succor in times of distress,” said Abhilasha Kumari, a sociology professor in New Delhi.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a critical analysis of Tom Friedman's "Flat World" on India:

In the first chapter of his bestseller on globalization, The World Is Flat, three-time Pulitzer Prize–winning foreign affairs columnist for The New York Times Thomas Friedman suggests that his repertoire of achievements also includes being heir to Christopher Columbus. According to Friedman, he has followed in the footsteps of the fifteenth-century icon by making an unexpected discovery regarding the shape of the world during an encounter with “people called Indians.”

Friedman’s Indians reside in India proper, of course, not in the Caribbean, and include among their ranks CEO Nandan Nilekani of Infosys Technologies Limited in Bangalore, where Friedman has come in the early twenty-first century to investigate phenomena such as outsourcing and to exult over the globalization-era instructions he receives at the KGA Golf Club downtown: “Aim at either Microsoft or IBM.” Nilekani unwittingly plants the flat-world seed in Friedman’s mind by commenting, in reference to technological advancements enabling other countries to challenge presumed American hegemony in certain business sectors: “Tom, the playing field is being leveled.”

The Columbus-like discovery process culminates with Friedman’s conversion of one of the components of Nilekani’s idiomatic expression into a more convenient synonym: “What Nandan is saying, I thought to myself, is that the playing field is being flattened… Flattened? Flattened? I rolled that word around in my head for a while and then, in the chemical way that these things happen, it just popped out: My God, he’s telling me the world is flat!”

No compelling justification is ever provided for how a war against deterrables will solve the problem of undeterrables who by definition cannot be deterred.

The viability of the new metaphor has already been called into question by Friedman’s assessment two pages prior to the flat-world discovery that the Infosys campus is in fact “a different world,” given that the rest of India is not characterized by things like a “massive resort-size swimming pool” and a “fabulous health club.” No attention is meanwhile paid to the possibility that a normal, round earth—on which all circumferential points are equidistant from the center—might more effectively convey the notion of the global network Friedman maintains is increasingly equalizing human opportunity.

An array of disclaimers and metaphorical qualifications begins to surface around page 536, such that it ultimately appears that the book might have been more appropriately titled The World Is Sometimes Indefinitely Maybe Partially Flat—But Don’t Worry, I Know It’s Not, or perhaps The World Is Flat, Except for the Part That Is Un-Flat and the Twilight Zone Where Half-Flat People Live. As for his announcement that “unlike Columbus, I didn’t stop with India,” Friedman intends this as an affirmation of his continued exploration of various parts of the globe and not as an admission of his continuing tendency to err—which he does first and foremost by incorrectly attributing the discovery that the earth is round to the geographically misguided Italian voyager.

Leaving aside for the moment the blunders that plague Friedman’s writing, the comparison with Columbus is actually quite apt in other ways, as well. For instance, both characters might be accused of transmitting a similar brand of hubris, nurtured by their respective societies, according to which “the Other” is permitted existence only via the discoverer-hero himself. While Columbus is credited with enabling preexisting populations on the American continent to enter the realm of true existence by reporting them to European civilization, Friedman assumes responsibility for the earth’s inhabitants in general without literally having to encounter them.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's Times of India on philanthropist Dominique Lapierre citicism of India's rich:

KOLKATA: Celebrated author Dominique Lapierre is upset and frustrated by affluent Indians' "reluctance to help the underprivileged in this country". He has been funding projects for the needy in West Bengal for nearly three decades, emphasizing on deprived and inaccessible areas in the Sunderbans.

The City of Joy Aid, Lapierre's non-profit organization, has funded and operated a network of health clinics, hospitals, rehab centres, boat hospital and schools for the poor since 1981. He has contributed extensively through royalties generated from his international bestsellers, lecture fees and donations from readers.

In the city to celebrate his 80th birthday, he said it's quite sad that neither Indians nor their government have done enough for the poor and downtrodden. "India is shining but a part of it is still lying in darkness. I request every Indian to come forward and do something for their very own people so that they, too, enjoy a better life," he said.

The Padma Bhushan recipient and his wife visited Goramari Island in Bengal's South 24-Parganas district with 40 international donors and friends who contribute to his charities and other humanitarian work in India. Lapierre was concerned by the plight of poor children who, he said, are yet to get a proper livelihood despite money flowing in for nearly three decades. "I am surprised that India's rich and famous have been ignoring the reality of this country," he said.

Lapierre has been a major benefactor of Southern Health Improvement Samity (SHIS) for over 30 years. "It is an absolute delight to have Dominique Lapierre among us. We are extremely grateful to him and his eminent compatriots from Western Europe who come and visit us every year, without fail," said SHIS president Sabitri Pal.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's Sashi Tharoor in on failure of parliamentary democracy in India:

THE RECENT political shenanigans in New Delhi, notably the repeated paralysis of Parliament by slogan-shouting members violating (with impunity) every canon of legislative propriety, have confirmed once again what some of us have been arguing for years: that the parliamentary system we borrowed from the British has, in Indian conditions, outlived its utility. Has the time not come to raise anew the case — long consigned to the back burner — for a presidential system in India?

The basic outlines of the argument have been clear for some time: our parliamentary system has created a unique breed of legislator, largely unqualified to legislate, who has sought election only in order to wield (or influence) executive power. It has produced governments obliged to focus more on politics than on policy or performance. It has distorted the voting preferences of an electorate that knows which individuals it wants but not necessarily which policies. It has spawned parties that are shifting alliances of individual interests rather than vehicles of coherent sets of ideas. It has forced governments to concentrate less on governing than on staying in office, and obliged them to cater to the lowest common denominator of their coalitions. It is time for a change.
The parliamentary system devised in Britain — a small island nation with electorates initially of a few thousand voters per MP, and even today less than a lakh per constituency — assumes a number of conditions that simply do not exist in India. It requires the existence of clearly- defined political parties, each with a coherent set of policies and preferences that distinguish it from the next, whereas in India, a party is all too often a label of convenience a politician adopts and discards as frequently as a film star changes costumes. The principal parties, whether “national” or otherwise, are fuzzily vague about their beliefs: every party’s “ideology” is one variant or another of centrist populism, derived to a greater or lesser degree from the Nehruvian socialism of the Congress. We have 44 registered political parties recognised by the Election Commission, and a staggering 903 registered but unrecognised, from the Adarsh Lok Dal to the Womanist Party of India. But with the sole exceptions of the BJP and the communists, the existence of the serious political parties, as entities separate from the “big tent” of the Congress, is a result of electoral arithmetic or regional identities, not political conviction. (And even there, what on earth is the continuing case, after the demise of the Soviet Union and the reinvention of China, for two separate recognised communist parties and a dozen unrecognised ones?)

Riaz Haq said...

India fares worst in terms of low birth weight and underweight children, and under-five infant mortality compared to Brazil, Russia and all South Asian neighbors, says BBC's Soutik Biswas:

Will the proposed law to provide cheap food to more than half of India's people eliminate hunger, the most shameful scourge of an aspiring superpower?

The jury is still out on how the $19bn (£12bn) scheme will work, as is the case with similar big-ticket welfare schemes launched by what many believe is an endemically weak and corrupt state.

But there is little doubt that India needs to fight malnutrition on a war footing, and the food security scheme may well be its last chance to redeem itself.

Many believe that it does not behove a country which never tires of gloating about its red hot economic growth to have millions of malnourished and starving people.

The facts on the ground are startling. India has the largest number of malnourished children in the world, a rate worse than the average in Africa.

Nearly half of India's children under three are malnourished. More than half of the tribes' children are underweight and stunted.

India fares worst in terms of low birth weight and underweight children, and under-five infant mortality compared to Brazil, Russia and all South Asian neighbours.

India also has the highest number of Vitamin A deficient children in the world: nearly 6% of the children suffer from eye problems related to the deficiency. Of the 37m people in the world who are blind, about 15m are from India. More than 320,000 children suffer from avoidable blindness.
Then there are India's notoriously fickle public distribution system shops aimed at providing food security to people. Over 500m people are supposed to benefit through a gigantic distribution network of half a million fair-price shops supplying cheap food grains.

Here too, the results are mixed and contested. In many states, it has failed to make cheap food grains available to the poor. Theft of supplies, fraudulent beneficiaries and hoarding by the shop-owners is not uncommon.
Cart before horse?

So will the latest food security scheme aimed at providing subsidised food grains to 75% of the rural population and half of the urban households work?

There are many economists who wonder how India will cough up the funds to finance the scheme which will see the country's food subsidy bill climb to $19bn from $13bn. The government insists money will not be a problem.

There are also questions about how beneficiaries will be identified and targeted in a transparent manner in a country where there are different official estimates of the poorest of the poor - from 37% to 77% of the people, depending on whom you believe.

India's state-run cold storage system is shambolic, so where is the guarantee that some 65m tonnes of food grains procured from farmers for distribution for the scheme - up from 55m tonnes presently - will not rot before reaching the beneficiary? How can the food grains be distributed through the leaky public distribution system shops without reforming them?

So is India again putting the cart before the horse? Without reforming its laws and public institutions, welfare schemes with the best intentions run the risk of floundering.

For the scheme to work, the government will need to target beneficiaries properly and revamp the distribution system. The public distribution system, for example, could be made accountable by issuing smart cards to beneficiaries to eliminate bogus cards and fraudulent withdrawal.

If the food security scheme does not work, economists believe, India is doomed to remain a hungry republic. It is already one of the fast-growing economies with the hungriest people in the world. And it can get worse.

Riaz Haq said...

Results of PISA international test released by OECD in Dec, 2011, show that Indian students came in at the bottom of the list along with students from Kyrgyzstan:

Students in Tamil Nadu-India attained an average score on the PISA reading literacy scale that is significantly higher than those for Himachal Pradesh-India and Kyrgyzstan, but lower than all other participants in PISA 2009 and PISA 2009+.
In Tamil Nadu-India, 17% of students are estimated to have a proficiency in reading literacy that is at or above the baseline needed to participate effectively and productively in life. This means that 83% of students in Tamil Nadu-India are estimated to be below this baseline level. This compares to 81% of student performing at or above the baseline level in reading in the OECD countries, on average.
Students in the Tamil Nadu-India attained a mean score on the PISA mathematical literacy scale as the same observed in Himachal Pradesh-India, Panama and Peru. This was significantly higher than the mean observed in Kyrgyzstan but lower than those of other participants in PISA 2009 and PISA 2009+.
In Tamil Nadu-India, 15% of students are proficient in mathematics at least to the baseline level at which they begin to demonstrate the kind of skills that enable them to use mathematics in ways that are considered fundamental for their future development. This compares to 75% in the OECD countries, on average. In Tamil Nadu-India, there was no statistically significant difference in the performance of boys and girls in mathematical literacy.
Students in Tamil Nadu-India were estimated to have a mean score on the scientific literacy scale, which is below the means of all OECD countries, but significantly above the mean observed in the other Indian state, Himachal Pradesh. In Tamil Nadu-India, 16% of students are proficient in science at least to the baseline level at which they begin to demonstrate the science competencies that will enable them to participate actively in life situations related to science and technology. This compares to 82% in the OECD countries, on average. In Tamil Nadu-India, there was a statistically significant gender difference in scientific literacy, favouring girls.

Riaz Haq said...

Here are some excerpts from a piece by Lan Pritchett of Harvard University on India's poor performance on PISA:

Compared to the economic superstars India is almost unfathomably far behind. The TN/HP average 15 year old is over 200 points behind. If a typical grade gain is 40 points a year Indian eighth graders are at the level of Korea third graders in their mathematics mastery. In fact the average TN/HP child is 40 to 50 points behind the worst students in the economic superstars. Equally worrisome is that the best performers in TN/HP - the top 5 percent who India will need in science and technology to complete globally - were almost 100 points behind the average child in Singapore and 83 points behind the average Korean - and a staggering 250 points behind the best in the best.

As the current superpowers are behind the East Asian economic superstars in learning performance the distance to India is not quite as far, but still the average TN/HP child is right at the level of the worst OECD or American students (only 1.5 or 7.5 points ahead). Indians often deride America's schools but the average child placed in an American school would be among the weakest students. Indians might have believed, with President Obama, that American schools were under threat from India but the best TN/HP students are 24 points behind the average American 15 year old.

Even among other "developing" nations that make up the BRICs India lags - from Russia by almost as much as the USA and only for Brazil, which like the rest of Latin America is infamous for lagging education performance does India even come close - and then not even that close.

To put these results in perspective, in the USA there has been huge and continuous concern that has caused seismic shifts in the discourse about education driven, in part, by the fact that the USA is lagging the economic superstars like Korea. But the average US 15 year old is 59 points behind Koreans. TN/HP students are 41.5 points behind Brazil, and twice as far behind Russia (123.5 points) as the US is Korea, and almost four times further behind Singapore (217.5 vs 59) that the US is behind Korea. Yet so far this disastrous performance has yet to occasion a ripple in the education establishment.
These PISA 2009+ results are the end of the beginning. The debate is over. No one can still deny there is a deep crisis in the ability of the existing education system to produce child learning. India's education system is undermining India's legitimate aspirations to be at the global forefront as a prosperous economy, as a global great power, as an emulated polity, and as a fair and just society. As the beginning ends, the question now is: what is to be done?

Riaz Haq said...

If the past is any guide, it's quite safe to assume that Pakistan will continue to effectively respond to all military threats to its security and assert its power it nukes, missiles, satellites, fighter jets, drones, nuke subs, etc. Talking about India's nuke sub, it's just a matter of time before Pakistan launches its own nuclear subs to complete the nuclear triad. Let there be no doubt on this point.

When it comes to eating grass to build nukes, all of the available data from international sources shows that many Indians can't even find grass to eat, as hundreds of millions of Indians go to bed hungry every night.

Here's a quote from Times of India poking fun at the superpower claim:

With 21% of its population undernourished, nearly 44% of under-5 children underweight and 7% of them dying before they reach five years, India is firmly established among the world's most hunger-ridden countries. The situation is better than only Congo, Chad, Ethiopia or Burundi, but it is worse than Sudan, North Korea, Pakistan or Nepal.

Today India has 213 million hungry and malnourished people by GHI estimates although the UN agency Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) puts the figure at around 230 million. The difference is because FAO uses only the standard calorie intake formula for measuring sufficiency of food while the Hunger Index is based on broader criteria.

Riaz Haq said...

Here are some excerpts of BBC's Soutik Biswas's review of Pulitzer-winning New Yorker reporter Katherine Boo's "Beautiful Forevers":

"We try so many things," a girl in Annawadi, a slum in Mumbai tells Katherine Boo, "but the world doesn't move in our favour".

Annawadi is a "sumpy plug of slum" in the biggest city - "a place of festering grievance and ambient envy" - of a country which holds a third of the world's poor. It is where the Pulitzer prize winning New Yorker journalist Boo's first book Behind the Beautiful Forevers is located.

Annawadi is where more than 3,000 people have squatted on land belonging to the local airport and live "packed into, or on top of" 335 huts. It is a place "magnificently positioned for a trafficker in rich's people's garbage", where the New India collides with the Old.

Nobody in Annawadi is considered poor by India's official benchmarks. The residents are among the 100 million Indians freed from poverty since 1991, when India embarked on liberalising its economy.
She used more than 3,000 public records, many obtained using India's right to information law, to validate her narrative, written in assured reported speech. The account of the hours leading to the self-immolation of Fatima Sheikh derives from repeated interviews of 168 people as well as police, hospital, morgue and court records. Mindful of the risk of over interpretation, the books wears its enormous research lightly.
The local councillor runs fake schools, doctors at free government hospitals and policemen extort the poor with faint promise of life and justice, and self-help groups operate as loan sharks for the poorest. The young in Annawadi drop dead like flies - run over by traffic, knifed by rival gangs, laid low by disease; while the elders - not much older - die anyway. Girls prefer a certain brand of rat poison to end their lives.
Boo has an interesting take on corruption, rife in societies like India's. Corruption is seen as blocking India's global ambitions. But, she writes, for the "poor of a country where corruption thieved a great deal of opportunity, corruption was one of the genuine opportunities that remained".

On the other hand, Boo believes, corruption stymies our moral universe more than economic possibility. Suffering, she writes, "can sabotage innate capacities for moral action". In a capricious world of corrupt governments and ruthless markets the idea of a mutually supportive community is a myth: it is "blisteringly hard", she writes, to be good in such conditions. "If the house is crooked and crumbling", Boo writes, "and the land on which it sits uneven, is it possible to make anything lie straight?

Riaz Haq said...

Here's Russian analyst Anatol Karlin on India's prospects and its comparison with China:

It is not a secret to longtime readers of this blog that I rate India’s prospects far more pessimistically than I do China’s. My main reason is I do not share the delusion that democracy is a panacea and that whatever advantage in this sphere India has is more than outweighed by China’s lead in any number of other areas ranging from infrastructure and fiscal sustainability to child malnutrition and corruption. However, one of the biggest and certainly most critical gaps is in educational attainment, which is the most important component of human capital – the key factor underlying all productivity increases and longterm economic growth. China’s literacy rate is 96%, whereas Indian literacy is still far from universal at just 74%.
The big problem, until recently, was that there was no internationalized student testing data for either China or India. (There was data for cities like Hong Kong and Shanghai, but it was not very useful because they are hardly representative of China). An alternative approach was to compare national IQ’s, in which China usually scored 100-105 and India scored in the low 80′s. But this method has methodological flaws because the IQ tests aren’t consistent across countries. (This, incidentally, also makes this approach a punching bag for PC enforcers who can’t bear to entertain the possibility of differing IQ’s across national and ethnic groups).
Many Indians like to see themselves as equal competitors to China, and are encouraged in their endeavour by gushing Western editorials and Tom Friedman drones who praise their few islands of programming prowess – in reality, much of which is actually pretty low-level stuff – and widespread knowledge of the English language (which makes India a good destination for call centers but not much else), while ignoring the various aspects of Indian life – the caste system, malnutrition, stupendously bad schools – that are holding them back. The low quality of Indians human capital reveals the “demographic dividend” that India is supposed to enjoy in the coming decades as the wild fantasies of what Sailer rightly calls ”Davos Man craziness at its craziest.” A large cohort of young people is worse than useless when most of them are functionally illiterate and innumerate; instead of fostering well-compensated jobs that drive productivity forwards, they will form reservoirs of poverty and potential instability.

Instead of buying into their own rhetoric of a “India shining”, Indians would be better served by focusing on the nitty gritty of bringing childhood malnutrition DOWN to Sub-Saharan African levels, achieving the life expectancy of late Maoist China, and moving up at least to the level of a Mexico or Moldova in numeracy and science skills. Because as long as India’s human capital remains at the bottom of the global league tables so will the prosperity of its citizens....

Riaz Haq said...

Top adviser says 70% of Indians are poor, according to IANS:

Debunking the government's claim that the number of poor in India has come down, a top adviser has claimed that around 70 percent of the country's 1.2 billion population is poor, and stressed the need for a multi-dimensional assessment of poverty.

"The government claim that poverty has come down is not valid... there is a need for a multi-dimensional assessment of poverty as around 70 percent of the population is poor," National Advisory Council member N.C. Saxena told IANS in an interview.

According to Saxena, the various poverty estimates the government relies on to assess the impact of developmental schemes are faulty as they fail to factor in the lack of nutritional diet, sanitation, drinking water, healthcare and educational facilities available to the people.

The former bureaucrat, who now is part of the NAC that reports to Congress president Sonia Gandhi, claimed that not only the National Sample Survey Organisation data is faulty, the ongoing Socio-Economic and Caste Census, which is expected to throw up the latest poverty estimates, is highly flawed.

"The NSSO data is unreliable and the SECC is highly flawed," said Saxena.

The National Advisory Council (NAC) was set up as an interface with civil society. The NAC provides policy and legislative inputs to the government with special focus on social policy and the rights of disadvantaged groups.

After the government faced flak over its latest poverty estimates, according to which anyone earning over Rs.28 per day in urban areas and Rs.26 per day in rural areas is not poor, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said a multi-layered approach is required to assess poverty as the widely accepted Tendulkar committee report "is not all inclusive".

The government now plans to set up another expert panel to devise a new methodology to assess poverty levels in the country, said the prime minister.

The government recently revised its poverty estimates from earlier Rs.32 per day in urban areas and Rs.26 per day in rural areas based on 2011 prices, to the current estimate which is based on 2009 prices.

Using the Tendulkar panel report, the Planning Commission pegged poverty at 37.5 percent of the population.

Saxena said in reality out of about 200 centrally sponsored schemes, only 5 or 6 are linked to the poverty estimates, pegged at 37.5 percent by the Planning Commission.

Having a realistic assessment of poverty in not only crucial for the government to ensure that around Rs.80,000 crore that it spends on various welfare schemes annually reaches only the genuinely poor, it is also important for the United Progressive Alliance which hopes to roll out the ambitious National Food Security Bill, which aims to provide subsidised rations to around 65 percent of the 1.2 billion population some time next year.

Riaz Haq said...

Is India losing its mojo because of bad politics? asks BBC's Soutik Biswas. Here's an excerpt:

It's an obvious question to ask at a time when powerful - and populist - regional parties are again flexing their muscles at a fickle federal government, key economic reforms are seemingly stuck in the bog of messy coalition politics, and the government is struggling under an avalanche of corruption charges. Economic growth and investment have cooled and inflation remains high.

So is it surprising that The Economist magazine, in its latest issue, says the politics is "preventing India from fulfilling its vast economic potential"?

Or when Fareed Zakaria, editor-at-large with Time magazine, tells an audience in Delhi this week that India's politicians are "out of touch… they try to portray India as a victim, not the victor".

With uncharacteristic exaggeration, The Economist even invokes a return to the stifling days of the controlled economy.

"Lately, like a Bollywood villain who just refuses to die, the old India has made a terrifying reappearance," says the magazine. It blames a "nastily divisive political climate" for the crisis and believes that India requires "energetic, active leaders, plus politicians who are ready to compromise".
'Corrupt and corroded'

Both the magazine and the pundit are right and wrong.
“Start Quote

Reformers need to be patient; there are no shortcuts in India”

The quality of India's politicians, many argue, has declined drastically, as in many parts of the world. Most of them seem to be out of sync with modern day realities - expectations have fallen so ridiculously low that an iPad carrying politician is described by the media as a modern one!

Most are also seen as greedy, corrupt and disinterested in serious reform. The increasing number of politicians with criminal records and the brazen use of money to buy party tickets and bribe voters erodes India's ailing democratic process.

It is not a happy picture. "Today the Centre is corrupt and corroded," historian Ramachandra Guha wrote recently. "There are allegedly 'democratic' politicians who abuse their oath of office and work only to enrich themselves; as well as self-described 'revolutionaries' who seek to settle arguments by the point of the gun." Only serious electoral reform can ensure a better breed of politician.
Public consensus is harder to come by in an awfully unequal society where the middle class and the rich root for further opening up of the economy, while the poor want the state to invest in health and education and check corruption. The elitist biases in public policy is made easier by a poorly-informed and often unlettered electorate with low expectations.

Many would argue that India never got any magic going, so there is no question of losing it.

Consensus is painfully slow in such a society, and sometimes only a crisis can provoke the government - and the people - to bite the bullet. Reformers need to be patient; there are no shortcuts in India.

Riaz Haq said...

These days, Indian policymakers are debating how to create a vast new food entitlement program. There is talk of poor households struggling to cope with high food prices and malnourishment among their children.

What you don’t hear much about, however, is the most tragic and outrageous consequence of India’s failure to feed its people adequately: starvation deaths.

India is a nation that prides itself on having been self-sufficient in food production for decades and having leaped forward economically over the past 20 years. So it isn’t surprising that public officials and even many in the media are reluctant to face up to the painful reality that hunger persists in 2012. Starvation doesn’t fit neatly into the story of a “shining” India.

But India is also a nation with about 360 million people living under the official poverty line – more than any other country – and starvation is all too real.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Wall Street Journal India Realtime piece:

Justice Markandey Katju, a former Supreme Court Justice turned chairman of the Press Council of India, has done it again. Already known for his recent views of the journalists he oversees – they “are of a very poor intellectual level” – he has widened the focus of his condemnation to include approximately 1.08 billion anonymous Indians.

That’s our calculation based on India’s estimated total population, but we made it after Mr. Katju stated in an Indian Express op-ed Monday that he was presenting us with an “unpleasant truth: 90 per cent of Indians are fools.” He was humble enough to attribute a “great defect” to himself, too, though it was one couched in virtue: “ I cannot remain silent when I see my country going downhill. Even if others are deaf and dumb, I am not. So I will speak out.”

And speak out he did.

His first example for reaching his controversial conclusion: “When our people go to vote in elections, 90 per cent vote on the basis of caste or community, not the merits of the candidate. That is why Phoolan Devi, a known dacoit-cum-murderer, was elected to Parliament — because she belonged to a backward caste that had a large number of voters in that constituency.”

Example no. 2: “90 per cent Indians believe in astrology, which is pure superstition and humbug. Even a little common sense tells us that the movements of stars and planets have nothing to do with our lives. Yet, TV channels showing astrology have high TRP ratings.”

Example no. 3: “Cricket has been turned into a religion by our corporatised media, and most people lap it up like opium. The real problems facing 80 per cent of the people are socio-economic — poverty, unemployment, malnourishment, price rise, lack of healthcare, education, housing etc.”

Example no. 4: “I had criticised the media hype around Dev Anand’s death at a time when 47 farmers in India were committing suicide on an average every day for the last 15 years… In my opinion, Dev Anand’s films transported the minds of poor people to a world of make-believe, like a hill station where Dev Anand was romancing some girl.”

Example no. 5: “During the recent Anna Hazare agitation in Delhi, the media hyped the event as a solution to the problem of corruption. In reality it was, as Shakespeare said in Macbeth, “…a tale/ Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,/ Signifying nothing.”

Mr. Katju says his intention behind his harsh critique is very noble. “When I called 90 per cent of them fools my intention was not to harm them, rather it was just the contrary. I want to see Indians prosper, I want poverty and unemployment abolished, I want the standard of living of the 80 per cent poor Indians to rise so that they get decent lives,” he writes....

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt of an article from India's Open Magazine on India's delusions:

There is a thin line between the audacity of hope and grasp of reality. India’s middle-class, with its fond dream of India as a Superpower, is like a trapeze artist walking that very thin line. Despair too much, and your case is hopeless. Daydream too much, and you topple into a delusionary void.

Over the past decade or so, it’s the latter which has been the bigger danger. India the Infotech Iron-pumper. India the Nuclear Non-aggressor. India the Space Scorcher. India the Cricket Conqueror. India the Massive Market. India the Enormous Economy. India the Growth Giant… you get the drift. With a flying cape and coloured briefs, it’s an India ready to make the world spin the other way round on its axis. At the top level, the dream was articulated by an optimist-in-residence at the Rashtrapati Bhavan itself, former President APJ Abdul Kalam. With his technocratic training straight from the rah-rah realm of rocket science, he went forth and set a deadline: 2020. And then got little children all across the land waving little tricolours to pledge their support.

The Millennium Goal to beat all millennium goals! The future that was promised! The glory that was destined! Each success has brought another bout of delirium, India’s lunar mission being a fine example. There’s ice on the moon, Jai Hind!
So why does this fancy persist? Says Shiv Vishwanathan, a sociologist, “There is a fantastic urge within the middle-class for upward mobility. For status. This is fuelled equally by the expatriate Indian cousins when they visit or hold ‘India’ days. It is a dangerous fantasy because it is taken as manifest destiny. Bear in mind that a lot can still go wrong in the India story. If the middle-class insulates itself in the superpower ivory tower, it will invite reactions.”

There are sniggers in the dark, scowls in the aisles. Read The White Tiger. Or watch Slumdog Millionaire. Though aimed at Western audiences, they are reminders of the mockery that comes the way of India’s middle-class consensus on Superpowerhood. And indeed, there is much that should make the country squirm. There is nothing ‘super’ in having to declare a quarter of the country’s districts tormented by Naxal violence. There are people out in the jungles who are taking up guns to overthrow the State, an entity they see as increasingly hostage to the mollycoddled middle-class and its fancies.


So, can no good come of hallucination? It could depend on how the energies are channelled. In Meiji Japan, or Imperial Britain, the State took national ambition to new heights. “Some good does come out of the fantasy,” says Gurcharan Das, “It gives a sense of self-belief. But it is critical to direct this positive energy, for otherwise it can lead to a dangerous disconnect of the elite from the concerns of a transforming country.” India must wake up.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Wall Street Journal article by Aatish Taseer on Aamir Khan's new TV show:

On Indian TV, there has never been anything quite like "Truth Alone Prevails." Since its debut in May, the weekly show has reached more than 470 million viewers with its inquiries into issues like pesticides in food, domestic violence and the abortion of female fetuses. Within moments of airing, each episode trends at No. 1 on Twitter in India. Ten million people have sent text messages, emails and comments to the show's website to share their questions, opinions and fears.

In two Indian states, the show has prompted governments to bolster the enforcement of existing laws, and a few weeks ago the show's host was called to testify before a parliamentary committee after an episode on medical malpractice. The scale of the response has made "Satyamev Jayate" (as the show is called in Hindi) more like a people's movement than a television show.

More astonishing is the fact that this social and political phenomenon is the work of Aamir Khan, a superstar of India's giant film industry. At 47, Mr. Khan combines something of the glamour and social concern of George Clooney and Brad Pitt. Like many Bollywood actors, he made his name dancing around trees and singing in the rain, but over the years he has turned to more serious things. Three years ago he had a great success with "3 Idiots," a comedy about the mind-numbing state of Indian education. Now, having turned down offers to do the game shows that many actors of his standing have taken up, he has created something startling and altogether new in India.
What emerges from their stories is a creeping horror, a vision of modern India that is stark and deeply unsettling: the family whose mother's life is snatched away, they say, in a botched and unauthorized organ transplant; the 12-year-old girl who accuses a 55-year-old family friend of sexual abuse; the call-center worker who tells of the forced abortion of her female fetuses—six times in eight years—at the hands of her husband's family. Mr. Khan's style is wry and laid back, but occasionally the stories are too much for him, and his eyes well with tears...
What gives "Truth Alone Prevails" its optimism is the voice of India's new middle class, which is increasingly politically and socially aware, though still unsure of itself and its newfound wealth and security. If the old India of my childhood—which was a far bleaker place—is to be superseded, it will depend on this new class's ability to understand and defend the freedoms that have enriched it. Mr. Khan's achievement has been to use his celebrity to show Indians, with rare clarity and grittiness, how far the country has come, and how far it has yet to go.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt from London Review of Books of "After Nehru" by Perry Anderson:

Why then has the sheer pressure of the famished masses, who apparently hold an electoral whip-hand, not exploded in demands for social reparation incompatible with the capitalist framework of this – as of every other – liberal democracy? Certainly not because Congress ever made much effort to meet even quite modest requirements of social equality or justice. The record of Nehru’s regime, whose priorities were industrial development and military spending, was barren of any such impulse. No land reform worthy of mention was attempted. No income tax was introduced until 1961. Primary education was grossly neglected. As a party, Congress was controlled by a coalition of rich farmers, traders and urban professionals, in which the weight of the agrarian bosses was greatest, and its policies reflected the interests of these groups, unconcerned with the fate of the poor. But they suffered no electoral retribution for this. Why not?
Congress had failed to avert partition because it could never bring itself honestly to confront its composition as an overwhelmingly Hindu party, dropping the fiction that it represented the entire nation, and accept the need for generous arrangements with the Muslim party that had emerged opposite it. After independence, it presided over a state which could not but bear the marks of that denial. Compared with the fate of Pakistan after the death of Jinnah, India was fortunate. If the state was not truly secular – within a couple of years it was rebuilding with much pomp the famous Hindu temple in Somnath, ravaged by Muslim invaders, and authorising the installation of Hindu idols in the mosque at Ayodhya – it wasn’t overtly confessional either. Muslims or Christians could practise their religion with greater freedom, and live with greater safety, than Muslims could in Pakistan, if they were not Sunni. Structurally, the secularism of Congress had been a matter not of hypocrisy, but of bad faith, which is not the same: in its way a lesser vice, paying somewhat more tribute to virtue.
A leading test of these professions is the condition of the community that Congress always claimed also to represent, and the Indian state to acquit of any shadow of confessionalism. How have Muslims fared under such secularism, equidistant or group-sensitive? In 2006, the government-appointed Sachar Commission found that of the 138 million Muslims in India, numbering some 13.4 per cent of the population, fewer than three out of five were literate, and a third were to be found in the most destitute layers of Indian society. A quarter of their children between the ages of six and 14 were not in school. In the top fifty colleges of the land, two out of a hundred postgraduates were Muslim; in the elite institutes of technology, four out of a hundred. In the cities, Muslims had fewer chances of any regular job than Dalits or Adivasis, and higher rates of unemployment. The Indian state itself, presiding over this scene? In central government, the report confessed, ‘Muslims’ share in employment in various departments is abysmally low at all levels’ – not more than 5 per cent at even the humblest rung. In state governments, the situation was still worse, nowhere more so than in communist-run West Bengal, which with a Muslim population of 25 per cent, nearly double the official average for the nation, many confined in ghettos of appalling misery, posted a figure of just 3.25 per cent of Muslims in its service. It is possible, moreover, that the official number of Muslims in India is an underestimate. In a confidential cable to Washington released by WikiLeaks, the US Embassy reported that the real figure was somewhere between 160 and 180 million. Were that so, Sachar’s percentages would need to be reduced....

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Reuters' piece on absence of hygiene in India:

My Indian friends and I joke around a lot about me as the typical white American guy visiting India. Cows! Con men! Colors! Most people I’ve met in India have restricted their reactions to my westerner-in-the-east experiences to gentle teasing. When I stuck a picture of a man urinating in public on my Facebook page, calling it one more picture of what you see everywhere you go in India, people weren’t as patient. What was I doing? Insulting the nation? Focusing on the ugly because it’s what all the westerners do when they visit India? Why does India provoke such visceral reactions in visitors?

Public urination, public defecation, dirt, garbage, filth, the poor living on the street — talking about these things, even acknowledging that they’re in front of your face, risks making your hosts unhappy, and possibly angry. It’s the third rail of India, and the voltage can be lethal. That’s why I was surprised when B.S. Raghavan decided to touch it with all 10 fingers.

Raghavan’s column in The Hindu Business Line newspaper begins with this headline: Are Indians by nature unhygienic?

Consider these excerpts:

From time to time, in their unguarded moments, highly placed persons in advanced industrial countries have burst out against Indians for being filthy and dirty in their ways of life. A majority of visitors to India from those countries complain of “Delhi belly” within a few hours of arrival, and some fall seriously ill.

There is no point in getting infuriated or defensive about this. The general lack of cleanliness and hygiene hits the eye wherever one goes in India — hotels, hospitals, households, work places, railway trains, airplanes and, yes, temples. Indians think nothing of spitting whenever they like and wherever they choose, and living in surroundings which they themselves make unliveable by their dirty habits. …

Open defecation has become so rooted in India that even when toilet facilities are provided, the spaces round temple complexes, temple tanks, beaches, parks, pavements, and indeed, any open area are covered with faecal matter. …

Even as Indians, we are forced to recoil with horror at the infinite tolerance of fellow Indians to pile-ups of garbage, overflowing sewage, open drains and generally foul-smelling environs.

There’s plenty more that you can read in that story, but I’ll direct you to the article. I’ll also ask you some questions:

Some people say you shouldn’t point out these problems, and that every country has problems. Do you agree with this statement? Why?
Does anyone disagree with Raghavan’s descriptions of these sights and smells?
Is this even a problem? Or should people get used to it?
Should visitors, especially ones from countries where people are generally wealthier, say nothing, and pretend that they don’t see unpleasant things?

As for me, I can say this: I got used to it, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t notice it. Indians notice it too. Otherwise, people wouldn’t suggest public shaming campaigns against people urinating in public, they wouldn’t threaten fines for doing it, and they wouldn’t respond with relief to plans to finally make sure that toilets on India’s trains don’t open directly onto the tracks. Of course, these are people in India. It’s a family, taking care of business the family way.

As for me, the message usually seems to be: “If you don’t love it, leave it.” It would be nice if there were some other answer. Acknowledging problems, even ones that are almost impossible to solve, makes them easier to confront.

Riaz Haq said...

Here are some excerpts of a piece titled "How's India Doing (2012)?" as published in The Hindu:

One, the decline in poverty has not been uniform across regions and communities. If in 1982 your parents lived on the banks of the Cooum in Madras or in Dharavi in Bombay, it is likely that today your economic status is better than theirs. But if you are from a Dalit or adivasi family in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Bihar, or Uttar Pradesh, chances are that you are no better off now than your parents were in 1982. Two, the benefits of growth have indeed trickled down, but that is exactly what has happened: it has been just a trickle. The incidence of poverty has declined, but a quarter of the population or around 300-350 million people are still desperately poor. Three, if other basic necessities like shelter, access to clean drinking water and sanitation are included, the picture is much more dismal. Research by R. Jayraj and S. Subramanian shows that severe “multidimensional poverty” afflicted 470 million in 2005-06, not much lower than the estimate of 520 million in 1992-93. Four, in certain critical areas — for instance, malnourishment and maternal mortality — conditions remain terrible. Close to half our children suffer from malnutrition, much the same as 30 years ago.

So if we paint a broader picture, the old sliver of the beneficiaries of India’s growth has only thickened a bit. For the large mass of India’s poor, daily life remains a struggle. There is no doubt India lost a major opportunity in the past three decades.


The sex ratio has at last begun to see some improvement, though only in the past decade. And the life expectancy of women is now, as it should be, longer than of men. But we are in a far worse situation than in 1982 with respect to the status of the girl child. The sex ratio at birth — the number of girls born for every 1,000 boys born — has declined in recent decades. And the sex ratio of children under six has also worsened. Whether the result of sex-selection at birth, female infanticide, or neglect of the girl child, India has become an awful place for girls.


The outcome, however, has not been any major improvement in the economic status of the deprived castes. It may be too early to express any definite opinion on the achievements of these parties, but the early optimism that they would position the demand for lower-caste rights as part of a larger movement for justice and equality has faded. These parties have at times turned into movements solely for the advancement of sectional interests, and, worse, have become vehicles of personal aggrandisement.

If these are the changes in four areas that Sen examined in 1982, one also has to recognise that major changes have taken place in other areas.
For a country that became independent amid gruesome violence on religious lines, communalism has been no stranger. Soon after Sen’s essay, we had the anti-Sikh riots of November 1984. Mass murder was conducted over three days in the capital under the benign gaze of a new Prime Minister. The message was: if you mobilise yourself with force, you can get away with anything. The message was heard, and put into practice in Bhagalpur 1989, Bombay 1993, and Gujarat 2002.

Beyond such open violence, it is the routinisation of communalism in daily life that is new. Mobilisation on communal lines took new forms after the Vishwa Hindu Parishad/Bharatiya Janata Party decided to raise the issue of the Babri Masjid. The rath yatra of 1990, the Congress’s cynical attempt at soft Hindutva, and the destruction of the Babri Masjid completed the post-Independence transformation of India on communal lines. All this has contributed in no small measure to the growth of domestic terrorism. India is tragically now a less tolerant society than what it was in the early 1980s.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's India West on the lack of quality of human capital in India:

Three years after India launched the “Right to Education” act, more than half of the nation’s primary school students cannot read a second grade book, revealed Pratham, India’s largest non-profit education organization, in its annual ASER survey.

About 96 percent of India’s children are enrolled in schools, but educational standards have been declining since 2010 — when the RTE was implemented — noted the 2012 ASER report, which surveyed almost 600,000 children in 28 states in India. The ASER survey revealed that only a quarter of Indian students in third grade can do a simple two-digit subtraction problem, down from more than one-third in 2010.

In the country that produced the renowned mathematician Srinivas Ramanujan, less than one-quarter of 5th grade students surveyed could do a simple three-digit by one-digit division problem, down from more than one-third in 2010.

The Right to Education act guarantees an education to all of India’s children, from ages six to 14. Private schools must reserve a quarter of their seats for low-income children and schools must be built in rural areas, according to the mandates of the act, which also state that adequate toilet facilities and clean drinking water must be made available for every student.

“We have got a lot of children into schools, but we must now take a re-look of how we teach and what we teach,” Madhav Chavan, founder of Pratham, told India-West before an Apr. 22 Pratham “Meet and Greet” event in New York, where supporters of the organization, including many Indian Americans, were invited to share their views on Indian education.


Riaz Haq said...

Here's The Economist on ending poverty:

IN HIS inaugural address in 1949 Harry Truman said that “more than half the people in the world are living in conditions approaching misery. For the first time in history, humanity possesses the knowledge and skill to relieve the suffering of those people.” It has taken much longer than Truman hoped, but the world has lately been making extraordinary progress in lifting people out of extreme poverty. Between 1990 and 2010, their number fell by half as a share of the total population in developing countries, from 43% to 21%—a reduction of almost 1 billion people.
Starting this week and continuing over the next year or so, the UN’s usual Who’s Who of politicians and officials from governments and international agencies will meet to draw up a new list of targets to replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which were set in September 2000 and expire in 2015. Governments should adopt as their main new goal the aim of reducing by another billion the number of people in extreme poverty by 2030.

Nobody in the developed world comes remotely close to the poverty level that $1.25 a day represents. America’s poverty line is $63 a day for a family of four. In the richer parts of the emerging world $4 a day is the poverty barrier. But poverty’s scourge is fiercest below $1.25 (the average of the 15 poorest countries’ own poverty lines, measured in 2005 dollars and adjusted for differences in purchasing power): people below that level live lives that are poor, nasty, brutish and short. They lack not just education, health care, proper clothing and shelter—which most people in most of the world take for granted—but even enough food for physical and mental health. Raising people above that level of wretchedness is not a sufficient ambition for a prosperous planet, but it is a necessary one.

The world’s achievement in the field of poverty reduction is, by almost any measure, impressive. Although many of the original MDGs—such as cutting maternal mortality by three-quarters and child mortality by two-thirds—will not be met, the aim of halving global poverty between 1990 and 2015 was achieved five years early.

The MDGs may have helped marginally, by creating a yardstick for measuring progress, and by focusing minds on the evil of poverty. Most of the credit, however, must go to capitalism and free trade, for they enable economies to grow—and it was growth, principally, that has eased destitution.

Poverty rates started to collapse towards the end of the 20th century largely because developing-country growth accelerated, from an average annual rate of 4.3% in 1960-2000 to 6% in 2000-10. Around two-thirds of poverty reduction within a country comes from growth. Greater equality also helps, contributing the other third. A 1% increase in incomes in the most unequal countries produces a mere 0.6% reduction in poverty; in the most equal countries, it yields a 4.3% cut.

China (which has never shown any interest in MDGs) is responsible for three-quarters of the achievement. Its economy has been growing so fast that, even though inequality is rising fast, extreme poverty is disappearing. China pulled 680m people out of misery in 1981-2010, and reduced its extreme-poverty rate from 84% in 1980 to 10% now.

That is one reason why (as the briefing explains) it will be harder to take a billion more people out of extreme poverty in the next 20 years than it was to take almost a billion out in the past 20. Poorer governance in India and Africa, the next two targets, means that China’s experience is unlikely to be swiftly replicated there......

Riaz Haq said...

A billion people were lifted from abject poverty between 1980 and 2010. China accounts for nearly three quarters of these, or 680 million people brought out of misery, by reducing its extreme-poverty rate from 84% in 1980 to 10% now, according to a report in The Economist. The report adds that with "poorer governance in India and Africa, the next two targets, means that China’s experience is unlikely to be swiftly replicated there".

As China's share of the world's extreme poor (living below $1.25 per day per person level) has dramatically declined, India's share has significantly increased. India now contributes 33% (up from 22 % in 1981). While the extreme poor in Sub-Saharan Africa represented only 11 percent of the world’s total in 1981, they now account for 34% of the world’s extreme poor, and China comes next contributing 13 percent (down from 43 percent in 1981), according to the World Bank report titled State of the Poor.

The share of poverty in South Asia region excluding India has slightly increased from 7% in 1981 to 9% now, according to the report.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Reuters' blog post on lack of hygiene in India:

My Indian friends and I joke around a lot about me as the typical white American guy visiting India. Cows! Con men! Colors! Most people I’ve met in India have restricted their reactions to my westerner-in-the-east experiences to gentle teasing. When I stuck a picture of a man urinating in public on my Facebook page, calling it one more picture of what you see everywhere you go in India, people weren’t as patient. What was I doing? Insulting the nation? Focusing on the ugly because it’s what all the westerners do when they visit India? Why does India provoke such visceral reactions in visitors?

Public urination, public defecation, dirt, garbage, filth, the poor living on the street — talking about these things, even acknowledging that they’re in front of your face, risks making your hosts unhappy, and possibly angry. It’s the third rail of India, and the voltage can be lethal. That’s why I was surprised when B.S. Raghavan decided to touch it with all 10 fingers.

Raghavan’s column in The Hindu Business Line newspaper begins with this headline: Are Indians by nature unhygienic?

Consider these excerpts:

From time to time, in their unguarded moments, highly placed persons in advanced industrial countries have burst out against Indians for being filthy and dirty in their ways of life. A majority of visitors to India from those countries complain of “Delhi belly” within a few hours of arrival, and some fall seriously ill.

There is no point in getting infuriated or defensive about this. The general lack of cleanliness and hygiene hits the eye wherever one goes in India — hotels, hospitals, households, work places, railway trains, airplanes and, yes, temples. Indians think nothing of spitting whenever they like and wherever they choose, and living in surroundings which they themselves make unliveable by their dirty habits. …

Open defecation has become so rooted in India that even when toilet facilities are provided, the spaces round temple complexes, temple tanks, beaches, parks, pavements, and indeed, any open area are covered with faecal matter. …

Even as Indians, we are forced to recoil with horror at the infinite tolerance of fellow Indians to pile-ups of garbage, overflowing sewage, open drains and generally foul-smelling environs.

There’s plenty more that you can read in that story, but I’ll direct you to the article. I’ll also ask you some questions:

Some people say you shouldn’t point out these problems, and that every country has problems. Do you agree with this statement? Why?
Does anyone disagree with Raghavan’s descriptions of these sights and smells?
Is this even a problem? Or should people get used to it?
Should visitors, especially ones from countries where people are generally wealthier, say nothing, and pretend that they don’t see unpleasant things?
As for me, I can say this: I got used to it, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t notice it. Indians notice it too. Otherwise, people wouldn’t suggest public shaming campaigns against people urinating in public, they wouldn’t threaten fines for doing it, and they wouldn’t respond with relief to plans to finally make sure that toilets on India’s trains don’t open directly onto the tracks. Of course, these are people in India. It’s a family, taking care of business the family way.

As for me, the message usually seems to be: “If you don’t love it, leave it.” It would be nice if there were some other answer. Acknowledging problems, even ones that are almost impossible to solve, makes them easier to confront.

Riaz Haq said...

Agriculture Productivity Per Capita in Pakistan is almost double of agriculture productivity in India and Bangladesh, according to World Bank data. Most Indians (60%), Pakistanis (45%) and Bangladeshis (70%) work in agriculture. There are lower levels of poverty in Pakistan than India and Bangladesh because Pakistani farmers are more productive.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's Wall Street Journal on onion crisis in India:

NEW DELHI—India is struggling with a plunging currency, decrepit infrastructure and government corruption. But at the top of the pre-election agenda now: the price of onions and wheat.

On Tuesday, a day after India's lower house of Parliament passed a sweeping food-aid bill that would guarantee subsidized grain for nearly 70% of the country's citizens, the upper house was busy debating the cost of onions.

The Food Security Act and its provision of cheap rice, wheat and millet is at the heart of the ruling Congress party's policy agenda. Onions, on the other hand, have become a rallying point for the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party or BJP.

Prices for onions, ubiquitous in Indian cooking, have jumped this month, jumping 90% to around 55 rupees (85 U.S. cents) a kilogram (25 rupees a pound) from 29 rupees a kilogram in a matter of weeks.

Every day now, Bharatiya Janata campaigners sell thousands of kilograms of deeply discounted onions at sites across New Delhi to locals grumbling about the government's inability to keep prices in check.

"Food affects every election, sometimes less, sometimes more," said B.G. Verghese, a visiting professor at the Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi. "Millions of Indians go to bed hungry every day."

India, with its 1.2 billion people, is home to 25% of the world's hungry, according to the United Nations, and a third of its poor, according to the World Bank.

On a recent afternoon, BJP activists were doing a brisk trade in onions outside a party office in Shalimar Bagh, a residential neighborhood in the northwest of the city.

The men, all dressed in the starched white clothes that are the uniform of India's political class, stood behind a table equipped with scales and laden with gunny sacks full of onion. "Thirty-five rupees! Thirty-five-rupees!" they called.

The price, more than 33% off the market price, drew quite a crowd. They gathered in front of party placards that decried the rising cost of foodstuffs and said: "If you want to change Delhi, change the government."

Asha Rani, a 57-year-old house maid, feeds an extended family of 16 by cleaning up to 10 houses a day. She bought two kilograms (four pounds) of onions.

"My grandchildren immediately spot if they are served food without onions. They find it tasteless. They won't eat food without onions," she said. "What does the government want the poor to do? Should we stop eating?"
For onions, prices fluctuate based on supplies from the summer and winter onion-growing seasons. Winter yields longer-lasting onions. If the winter harvest is poor, the onion supply goes down and prices spike.

To soften the blow—on households and politicians—India's central government is looking for ways to prevent hoarding. It is even looking to archrival Pakistan for extra supplies.

"This cycle happens every three or four years," said N.K. Krishna Kumar of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research.

Riaz Haq said...

The number of hungry people has dropped in India with its score on the Global Hunger Index improving to 63rd position in 2013, but the country still lags behind China, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's hedge fund manager Jim Rigers on India as reported by LiveMint:

Singapore: Hedge fund manager Jim Rogers has always been an India bear and a critic of the policies of the Indian government. The chairman of Rogers Holding who moved to Singapore in 2007 because he believes the centre of the world is moving to Asia, lashes out in an interview at both national political parties and dismisses Goldman Sachs’ recent report on how it was turning bullish on India because of the possibility that the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP’s) Narendra Modi could be the country’s next prime minister. “I won’t invest in India” till the country opens up more, said Rogers. Edited extracts:
What do you think of the whole controversy regarding the Goldman Sachs report titled “Modi-fying our view: raise India to Marketweight”. Do you agree with what the brokerage firm said on change?
Firstly, India has been badly managed for the past 60 years. I am not talking about just the two main parties in India—get rid of all the politicians. Who knows as to who is the worse between the ruling party and the opposition. Both Congress and BJP have not been and will not be good for India, until they completely open its economy and catch on to how the world really works. India will continue to suffer—I am not saying that the opposition will be better. Everybody who has had anything to do with running India in the past so many years have failed India.
Now, it is a different issue if Goldman Sachs be allowed to comment. If they can’t comment, then can newspapers from outside (India) be allowed to comment? What Indian politicians are saying if you criticize is that you can’t comment if you are an outsider. That is one of the problems for India, and this is why India has been a disaster for so long. It keeps fouling up—telling anybody they cannot criticize or comment is a terrible, terrible mistake for India. Does that mean only Indian media can comment on what is happening there? Are politicians trying to say you can’t comment unless you agree with what they say? I find India’s reaction to the Goldman Sachs report ludicrous. I’m no fan of Goldman Sachs, but India’s reaction to the report is embarrassing. Indians should be embarrassed to have politicians who react like that to a report.
Has the BJP said or done anything revolutionary, or said anything different? They say we like business people better than Congress, but can they do anything other than making some cosmetic changes? Yes, if they (BJP) win, Goldman Sachs will be happy; they can buy stocks and markets will go up. But a year later everyone will look around and say that nothing has changed. It will still be impossible to do business in India unless you are in bed with politicians and bureaucrats. It will still be impossible for people to buy and sell currencies the way they want to…. I can buy gold nearly anywhere in the world, but not in India because I am foreigner. What kind of garbage is that?...

Riaz Haq said...

Here are a few excerpts from a recent book "Street Smarts" by Hedge Fund Manager Jim Rogers:

"Many Asians say that the Asian Way is first to open your economy, to bring prosperity to your country, and then, only after that, to open up your political system. They say thar the reason the Russians failed is that did it the other way around. Russia opened up its political system in the absence of a sound economy, everybody bitched and complained, and chaos inevitably ensued. As an example of the Asian path to political openness, they point to South Korea and Taiwan, both of which were once vicious dictatorships supported by the United States. Japan was at one time a one-party state supported by the US military. Singapore achieved its current status under one-party, authoritarian rule. All these countries have since become more prosperous and more open.

Palto,in The Republic, says that the way societies evolve is by going from dictatorship to oligarchy to democracy to chaos and back to dictatorship. It has a certain logic, and Plato was a very smart guy. I do not know if the Asians ever read The Republic, but the Asian way seems to suggest that Plato knew whereof he spoke."

Not only is the Asian model different from that of the Soviets, it stands China in marked contrast to those thirty-year dictatorships previously mentioned. Chinese leaders have put a high premium upon changing the country's economy, presumably to seek prosperity for the 1.3 people who live there."
"And yet,in 1947, when it achieved independence, India was one of the more successful countries in the world, a democratic country. But despite democracy, or maybe because of it, India has never lived up to its potential. China was a shambles as recently as 1980. India was far ahead of it. Bt since then China has left India, literally in the dust....As China rises, India continues to decline relatively. Its dent-to-GDP ratio is now 90 percent, making a strong growth rate virtually impossible."

Riaz Haq said...

By:Prem Sagar, Meerut
Date: Friday, 11 January 2013, 2:20 pm
Open your eyes about great India:

900 million people earn only 20 rupees per day in India. Out of which 500 million people earns only 10 rupees per day. Out of which 250 million makes only 5 rupees per day. Out of which 50 million people makes nothing. We have created the most heinous society in the history of human race. We 1 million Indians carry the toilet of other Indians every day. This is the greatest economical terrorism in the history of human race. We have 5 lakh villages without water. 34 families control 50% India – the greatest feudal system ever. Our mataas and mothers in the villages do their toilet on the road side. We are topping in AIDS, Blood Pressure, Stress Level and many other ills and deceases. We have the largest ghetto in Bombay. And yet, we have all the time to attack Muslims. We have killed and massacred over 10 million Hindu female babies in the last decade alone by forced abortions. Every day, hundreds of Hindu women are being raped by other Hindus. Every day! When Muslims lost power in India, the literacy rate was 96%. When British lost India, the literacy rate was reduced to 12% and they left 160 million Indian poor and destitute. Today, that poor and destitute climbed to 900 million. Today, Hindus have created the greatest feudal System in the history of mankind. 34 Hindu families control 50% India. Out of 1200 million people, only 35 million Indians are full time employees. The rest is hopping one place to another. Out of which 1.5 million are employed in military, few lakhs in Banking, Railway and government.

If anybody wanted to substantiate the above, please watch RAJIVE DIXIT SPEECH IN HYDERABAD 2010. Just cut and paste the capital letters on YouTube and enjoy the speech by this Pakka Hindu. Hindus are incapable to function as a society. When Muslims entered India, the country was divided into 200 mini kingdoms. They always use to fight with each other. They demolish each other Bhagwans and deities statutes. It was a regular practice. Muslims provided stability. Bollywood today is the hub and powerhouse of prostitution. The producers and directors regularly rape the upcoming start up heroines. The branded heroines regularly sell their bodies for lakhs per night to rich people inside and outside India. India is becoming a superpower is nothing but hoax and false.

Today, every city of India is filthy, dirty - they live like haiwaans and animals.

Riaz Haq said...

In the first 25 days of 2014 (in Delhi), 197 thumbnail images have gone up in the gallery of nameless dead.

Everyday, an average of seven people are dying unidentified and unclaimed in Delhi's winter. But what may be even more heart-rending is that such deaths are not limited to this season. As police data shows, they are an all-weather phenomenon. Around 2,900 died unidentified in Delhi last year. 241 perished in January; 225 in April; 279 in July; and, 238 in October.

The highest deaths, 323, took place in May. Data for last three years shows that unidentified deaths peaked in summer and monsoon. A majority of such deaths were of able-bodied men.

M M said...

mr riyaz please compare per capita production of steel cement automobile vehicle and other industrial production also compare railway of india and pakistan. and when compare india and pakistan take care of this thing that many pakistani comes india to take medical treatment and surgery
no indian gone to pakistan.


Riaz Haq said...

TOI on UNESCO EFA report:

India has by far the largest population of illiterate adults — 287 million or 37 per cent of the global total, said a report released on Wednesday.

The "EFA Global Monitoring Report, 2013-14: Teaching and Learning: Achieving quality for All", commissioned by the Unesco, said 10 countries (including India) account for 557 million or 72 per cent of the global population of illiterate adults.

"India's literacy rate rose from 48 per cent in 1991 to 63 per cent in 2006, (the latest year for which data was available), but population growth cancelled the gains. So there was no change in the number of illiterate adults," the report said.

Stressing the importance of "quality education", Unesco's New Delhi director Shigeru Aoyagi said India was facing a challenge of quality education.

"Though we have more than 99 per cent children in schools because of the Right to Education Act, the quality of education being imparted is a big challenge that should be addressed," he said.

"The most crucial agents of quality education and learning are teachers and students. Teachers are the most important element that can improve the quality of education," he said.

The report said that without attracting and adequately training enough teachers, the learning crisis will "last for several generations and hit the disadvantaged the hardest".

The report also said that a global learning crisis was costing governments $129 billion a year, and that 10 per cent of global spending on primary education was being lost on poor quality education that was failing to ensure that children learn.

"It leaves one in four young people in poor countries unable to read a single sentence, affecting one-third of young women in South and West Asia," it said.

The countries include Bhutan, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan.

At the report launch, Delhi education minister Manish Sisodia said it was essential to change the content in our textbooks, so that the "future generation is more aware" about the various issues prevalent in society.

"The country will not change with IIMs (Indian Institutes of Management) and IAS. It will only change from the classrooms," Sisodia said.

"There is no other option but to spend quality money on education, and make it a priority," he added.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Mint story on British economist Angus Maddison estimates of India's historic per cap GDP:

Was India a wealthy country before the British came? The numbers that have garnered the most attention have been his GDP estimates, because they fit in with the narrative of a strong India and China getting back their clout in the world economy. But what is that to the average Indian or Chinese citizen? What if the only reason these countries had such a high GDP in earlier times was because they had a larger population?
That is what is brought out by Maddison’s estimates of GDP per capita, again in PPP terms in 1990 dollars. In 1 AD, India’s GDP per capita was $450, as was China’s. But Italy under the Roman Empire had a per capita income of $809. In 1000 AD, India’s per capita income was $450 and China’s $466. But the average of the West Asian countries, such as Turkey and Iraq, was much higher at $621. In terms of general prosperity, therefore, it was the Arab world that was doing well a millennium ago. The Caliphate in Baghdad was a centre of power at the time and both science and culture flourished.
By 1500, though, new centres of prosperity had emerged. India’s per capita income was $550 and China’s $600 in 1500. The Arab world had declined. But standards of living in Western Europe at that time had already gone far ahead. Italy topped the table, with a per capita income of $1,100, the Netherlands following with a per capita income of $761. This was the Italy of the Renaissance, the Italy of Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, of Raphael and Titian. The UK was not far behind, with a per capita income of $714.
By 1600, the centre of Europe had shifted northwards and the golden age of Holland had begun. Dutch per capita income was $1,381 in 1600, while Britain in Shakespeare’s time had a per capita income of $974.
Recall that 1600 was the year the East India Company was founded. In contrast, India’s per capita income continued to be $550, while China’s was $600. Note that even Ireland, one of the poorest of Western Europe’s countries, had a per capita income of $615, higher than India’s and China’s. In short, the per capita GDP numbers mirror the changes in power, prosperity and cultural and scientific achievement.
It wasn’t till 1981 that India had a per capita income of $977, beating that of Britain in 1600. And it wasn’t until 1993 that India’s per capita income of $1,399 surpassed what the Dutch had achieved in 1600. Maddison’s calculations show that in 2008, India’s per capita GDP ( in 1990 dollars, PPP terms) was $2,975, slightly more than one-third of the world average of $7,614. We have a long way to go.

Riaz Haq said...

One can probably get a good historic overview of India's economic and social indicators data by reading British economist Angus Maddison and Swedish statistician Hans Rosling.

Maddison estimates that in PPP terms in 1990 dollars. In 1 AD, India’s GDP per capita was $450, as was China’s. But Italy under the Roman Empire had a per capita income of $809. In 1000 AD, India’s per capita income was $450 and China’s $466. But the average of the West Asian countries, such as Turkey and Iraq, was much higher at $621. In terms of general prosperity, therefore, it was the Arab world that was doing well a millennium ago. The Caliphate in Baghdad was a centre of power at the time and both science and culture flourished.

Rosling ( has estimated India's life expectancy in 1800 at about 23 years, lower than its peers at the time.

Riaz Haq said...

With nearly a fourth of its 1.1 billion popu-lation hungry, India indeed is the world’s hunger capital.

As more and more reports of the global financial meltdown are pouring in, digest this. It made the world scurry to a grim one billion hungry people, a fact perceived as a grave threat to global peace and security. The UN estimates that hunger now affects one in six people, compounded by factors such as war, drought or floods, high food prices and poverty. Most of the hunger in a world of plenty results from grinding, deep-rooted poverty.

According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), there are 100 million more hungry people this year, meaning they consume fewer than 1,800 calories a day. A spokesman of the World Food Programme said hungry people rioted in at least 30 countries last year, leading to, most notably, deadly riots in Haiti sparked off by soaring food prices to spiral into the overthrow of the prime minister.

“A hungry world is a dangerous world,” he said, “without food, people have only three options: They riot, they emigrate or they die. None of these are acceptable options.” Are not the Kalahandi district of Orissa and Lalgarh of West Bengal illustrative examples of the observation?

Absent State
Commentators note that in the 1990s, when India began to move towards a free market, the Naxalite movement revived in some of the poorest and most populous Indian states. Part of the reason for this is that some livelihood and living-related issues like agriculture, public health, education and poverty-eradication have been given a short shrift, exposing large sections of the population to disease, debt, hunger and starvation. The Indian state is conspicuously absent in most backward areas of the country.

Notwithstanding plaudits such as Thomas Friedman celebrating India as a success story of globalisation, it must be put on record that India has a terrible record in tackling hunger and malnutrition. Amartya Sen has repeatedly pointed out how the ‘very poor’ in India get a small share of the cake that information technology and related developments generate.

India ranked 66th on the 2008 Global Hunger Index of 88 countries, as per a report released by the Washington-based International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
India has the highest number of undernourished people in the world — 230 million — added to which 1.5 million children are at risk of becoming malnourished because of rising global food prices.

The report of the UN World Food Programme is quite unflattering. More than 27 per cent of the world’s undernourished population lives in India, of whom 43 per cent children (under five years) are underweight. The figure is higher than the global average of 25 per cent and even beats sub-Saharan Africa’s figure of 28 per cent. Nearly 50 per cent of child deaths in India occur due to malnutrition.

Left out
“In no case should we allow citizens to go hungry,” Prime Minister Manmohan Singh admirably said in a meeting of state chief secretaries to take stock of the drought-like conditions in parts of the country. He seemed to be aware that non-utilisation of funds by a few states under Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojna and National Food Security Mission, the two major schemes for the agriculture sector launched by the Centre, is another factor why, despite the element of goodwill, the target beneficiaries remain outside the loop of development.

The National Food Security Act of the UPA government is a step in the right direction as it envisages food-security-for-all. But the task of expanding our public distribution system must also take into account weeding out bogus cardholders and hoarders, while a stricter vigil has to be kept on both the quantity and quality of the available foodstock under PDS. Incorrect information, inaccurate measurement of household characteristics, corruption and inefficiency must be plugged.

Riaz Haq said...

The 2013 GHI says that in India the proportion of undernourished declined from about 21% of the population to 17.5%, the proportion of underweight children declined from 43.5% to about 40% and under-five mortality declined from 7.5% to about 6%. All this put together means that the hunger index for India declined from 24 to 21 between 2003-07 and 2008-12. The proportion of underweight children is an estimate done by IFPRI as the last survey was done in 2004-05.

In other words, the proportions and the index for India are at best an approximation. Other surveys done more recently have shown trends that indicate that the nutritive value of food consumed per person is dipping. A recent survey of consumer expenditure said that nutritional intake measured in terms of calories declined from 2,153 kilocalories (Kcal) per person per day in 1993-94 to 2,020 in 2009-10 in rural areas and from 2,071 to 1,946 Kcal in urban areas. These shocking results are according to a report of the 66th round of survey done by the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO). Even between 2004-05 and 2009-10, the calorie intake per person per day dipped from 2,047 to 2,020 in rural areas and from 2,020 to 1,946 in urban areas.

Despite these caveats regarding the GHI data, India still continues in the "Alarming" category of countries classified by severity of hunger. That puts it in the category where the hunger index is between 20 and 29.9. Others in this category are Ethiopia, Sudan, Congo, Chad, Niger, and other African countries. These are places ravaged by resource wars and extreme poverty, and they make up the bottom most bunch in the Human Development Index rankings. Meanwhile, an October report on food prospects issued by FAO forecast a record cereal harvest for 2013 powered by a 7% increase in production over 2012. Wheat output is estimated at 705 million metric tons (MMT), a record. Coarse grains output is put at 1,288 MMT, another record. And rice output is estimated at 496 MMT, yet another record. Wheat prices have declined in international markets by 16% over last year, rice prices are down 23% and maize prices by 35%, according to FAO's price monitor in October quoting prices for September 2013. With huge production and declining prices worldwide, why the world's hungry are not getting enough food is a conundrum that policy makers and experts are groping to answer.

Riaz Haq said...

Your (Thomas Piketty's) data says that the top 1% in India owns about 8-9 % of national income. That's not much compared to the West, yet inequalities here appear starker. Is it that inequality being a relative measure, the absolute nature of poverty gets sidelined?

Let me make it clear that there are major problems with the measurement of income inequality in India. Of course, there are data problems in every country. But among all democracies, India is probably the country for which we have met the largest difficulties in getting reliable data. In particular, India's income tax administration has almost given up compiling detailed income tax statistics, although detailed yearly reports called "All-India Income Tax Statistics" are available from 1922 to 2000. This lack of transparency is problematic, because self-reported survey data on consumption and income is not satisfactory for the top part of the distribution, and income tax data is a key additional source of information in every country. The consequence is that we know very little about the actual decomposition of GDP growth by income and social groups in India over the past few decades.

You propose a 'utopian' global wealth tax to redistribute wealth. If it is so impracticable, what's the use of proposing it?

A global wealth tax together with a global government is certainly a utopia. But there is a lot that can be achieved at the national level and through intergovernmental agreements. In particular, countries like US, China or India are sufficiently large to make their tax system more progressive. For instance, the US — about one quarter of world GDP — could transform their property tax into a progressive tax on net wealth. They are sufficiently large to impose credible sanctions on countries and banks (like Swiss banks) that do not transmit the information they need to enforce their tax law.

You criticize economists for their 'childish passion' for mathematics in your book. How should they deal with their subject?

I am trying to put the distributional question and the study of long-run trends back at the heart of economic analysis. In that sense, I am pursuing a tradition which was pioneered by the economists of the 19th century, including David Ricardo and Karl Marx. One key difference is that I have a lot more historical data. With the help of many scholars, we have been able to collect a unique set of data covering three centuries and over 20 countries. This is by far the most extensive database available in regard to the historical evolution of income and wealth. This book proposes an interpretative synthesis based upon this data. I also use simple theoretical models in order to account for the facts.

Hopewins said...

^^RH: "India has the dubious distinction of being among the top ten on two very different lists:"

1) India to announce massive increases in defense spending

2) Global companies coming to India to boost manufacturing to claim a share of the increasing defense expenditure

3) India to become top-3 in defense spending in a generation.

Well? What should we do? Should we also massively increase our defense spending? Or should we just ignore India's patterns of spending and concentrate on education, health, electricity et cetera?

Riaz Haq said...

Pankaj Mishra in Nw York Times:

"Mr. Modi doesn’t seem to know that India’s reputation as a “golden bird” flourished during the long centuries when it was allegedly enslaved by Muslims. A range of esteemed scholars — from Sheldon Pollock to Jonardon Ganeri — have demonstrated beyond doubt that this period before British rule witnessed some of the greatest achievements in Indian philosophy, literature, music, painting and architecture. The psychic wounds Mr. Naipaul noticed among semi-Westernized upper-caste Hindus actually date to the Indian elite’s humiliating encounter with the geopolitical and cultural dominance first of Europe and then of America."

Riaz Haq said...

"India is home to over 340 million destitute people and is the second poorest country in South Asia after war-torn Afghanistan...In South Asia, Afghanistan has the highest level of destitution at 38%. This is followed by India at 28.5%. Bangladesh (17.2%) and Pakistan (20.7%) have much lower levels" Colin Hunter, Center for Research on Globalization

Riaz Haq said...

#India's Wrong Priorities: As Children Go Hungry PM #Modi Buys Expensive Fighters #France #RafaleDeal via Forbes​


The implications for India, however, are depressing: one more vivid illustration of misguided policies at the expense of the poor. 960 million Indians live on less than $2 a day. Reading the data is one thing; seeing the consequences, as I did recently driving through the slums on the outskirts of Jaipur, is heart-wrenching. Their plight could not be worse. Rafale jet fighters are about the last thing they need!


The greatest means to enhance security in South Asia is not more weapons. Member states of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) have one of the world’s lowest rates of intra-regional trade. This is especially the case of trade between Pakistan and India. As the early 19th century French political economist Frédéric Bastiat is alleged to have said: “if goods don’t cross borders, armies (or indeed Rafale fighter jets) will”. Both Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif should have his portrait and quote hung in their respective offices.

Think of the hungry children of India, give back the Rafale fighter jets to France (we’ll survive).

Riaz Haq said...

Why witches are still being beheaded in "Shining" #India. Over 2097 killed since 2000. via @usatoday

NEW DELHI, India — Three hundred years after the hysteria in Salem, in some places witch hunts are still terrifyingly real.

Last week, a mob of 200 people in the Indian state of Assam dragged a 65-year-old woman out of her house, stripped her and beheaded her with a machete. They did so because a self-proclaimed “goddess,” who asked them to gather at a local temple, proclaimed that the woman was a witch and would bring bad luck and illness to the village.

In a country teeming with IT graduates and higher-education institutes, such attacks are sadly and strangely common. Ninety people in Assam, a majority of them of them women, lost their lives in the last six years because they were branded as witches. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, 2,097 murders between 2000 and 2012 were committed when the victims were accused of practicing witchcraft.

With a more active regional media, horrific instances have come to light. Earlier this year, a woman in the state of Odisha was force-fed human excrement for practicing witchcraft. Last October in Assam, hundreds tied up an athlete in a fishing net and tortured her for being a witch. She had represented Assam in several national meets, and won a gold medal for javelin. In 2011, a mother and daughter in Assam were accused of witchcraft, and raped as punishment.

Superstitions like the wearing of gemstones and rings to bring good luck, or marrying on an auspicious day are common across India, and many are not violently harmful. Even in Assam, “good” witches were once socially accepted because of their purported ability to heal maladies. “Even today in many villages, because of the lack of medical facilities, people would go to a witch or a village doctor who can perform some magic to cure you,” said Chandan Kumar Sharma, a sociology professor at Tezpur University, which is located in the district where last week’s beheading took place.

“Modern society is not a monolith. Although we are modern, many segments of our society are still very backward, where education and a scientific temperament have still not reached,” said Sharma, who studies the social and ethnic practices of the Indian northeast. “Everybody knows law enforcement is very weak, and they also play on the ignorance and superstitions of the villagers,” he said of the “goddesses.” Some who practice “white magic” are believed to have the ability not only to cure people, but also to detect witches who practice black magic.

According to Sharma, witch-hunting is most common in the economically and socially marginal tea tribal communities, called so because their ancestors were brought to Assam by the British in the 19th century to cultivate the plantations. At least four other communities in Assam also believe in witchcraft, and their isolation in remote, mountainous areas has allowed these superstitions to persist even after mainstream society has abandoned them.

Because of the uneven terrain and heavy rainfall in the region, many villages are entirely cut off from more developed parts of the state. Healthcare and law enforcement are hours away, and education even more remote. “Until we make these areas accessible, literate and conscious, these kinds of things will keep happening,” says Sharma.

Non-governmental and social organizations, some founded by victims of witch-hunting themselves, have been working on raising awareness against these beliefs. Brothers, an organization that promotes development in Assam, has worked on in areas where such superstitions are rampant, and has assisted in rescuing and providing medical services to victims. Over the last few years, the organization has also initiated its own awareness campaigns against beliefs in witchcraft.

Riaz Haq said...

A black cat passing by the crossroad can stop hundreds of people what a RED LIGHT on traffic signal has failed to do for long time!!

India is a country where, on the streets, everyone seems to be in a hurry, but no one is ever on time.

India is the only country where people fight to be termed 'backward.'

Being one in a million in India means that there are 1241 Indians just like you.

In India , you don't cast your vote, you vote your caste.

The ABC of what sells in India - Astrology, Bollywood and Cricket - in that order.

In India , it's okay to piss in public, but not kiss.

In the West people have sex and hope for a marriage In India people marry and hope for sex.

India doesn't have roads with potholes, but potholes with a bit of road around them.

In India to become rich you have to become a politician, to become a politician you have to be rich.

The most crucial part of a traffic signal in India without which it doesn't work at all, is a policeman.

The four most crucial pillars of Indian Society are – Religion, Caste, Corruption and Hypocrisy.

The only country where the reserved enjoy more benefits than the deserved ones

India is a place where the only rights people get are the last rites.

India is the only country where it takes 15 minutes to reach a place by walking, whereas it takes an
hour by car to reach the same place.

In India , there are two types of roads: Under Construction and Under Repair.

In India , the Capitalists are greedy and the Socialists are envious.

Where people worship Goddess Durga, but kill a girl even after a healthy delivery.

Where an Olympic shooter gets 3,000,000 (crore) rupees for a gold medal, but a soldier who dies getting shot while fighting with another nation gets a mere 100,000 (lakh).

India is a place where rules are made to be broken and roads are built to be dug.

Is your land in danger of being acquired by the government?

Don't worry, keep calm and build a temple there.
India is the only country in the world where more fighter pilots are killed and more fighter jets destroyed during peace than in a war.

In India , any time is a tea time. India is always on a list of developing countries.

In India , you don't drive on the left of the road, you drive on what is left of on the road.

Riaz Haq said...

#India is second most ignorant nation of the world after #Mexico: Survey … via @ibnlive

London: India has the "dubious honour" of being the second most ignorant nation in the world after Mexico, according to a survey which posed questions on issues like inequality, non-religious population, female employment and internet access. The survey conducted by Ipsos MORI, a London-based market research firm, polled 25,000 people from 33 countries and found that while people "over-estimate what we worry about", a lot of major issues are underestimated.
"Mexico and India receive the dubious honour of being the most inaccurate in their perceptions on these issues, while South Koreans are the most accurate, followed by the Irish," the survey said. The rankings of the nations were based on the "Index of Ignorance" which was determined by questions about wealth that the top one per cent own, obesity, non-religious population, immigration, living with parents, female employment, rural living and internet access.

Most Indians "underestimate" how much of their country's wealth is concentrated in the hands of the top 1 per cent, the survey said, adding that the top 1 per cent actually own an "incredible" 70 per cent of all wealth. The survey also found that most Indians "hugely overestimate" the proportions of non-religious people in the country to be 33 per cent when the true figure is under 1 per cent.
While Israel significantly underestimates the proportion of female employment (by 29 percentage points), people in countries like India, Mexico, South Africa and Chile all think of more women in work than really are, it said. India fell in the list of nations which overestimate representation by women in politics. Countries like Columbia, Russia, India and Brazil all think there is better female representation than there really is, the survey said.

However, the Indian population seriously underestimates the rural population of the country and thinks more people have internet access than in reality. In India the average guess among online respondents for internet access is 60 per cent - an overestimation of the true picture of 41 percentage points, the survey added.

Riaz Haq said...

World's 10 most illiterate #BurkinaFaso #SouthSudan #Afghanistan #Niger #Mali #Chad #Somalia #Ethopia #Guinea #Benin …

Barely anyone — one to two percent of the population — could read in ancient Rome and nobody thought more people should. Now we recognize that literacy is a human right; that being able to read and write is personally empowering and, in a world that relies more and more on technology, simply necessary.

Nonetheless, millions of children, the majority of whom are girls, still never learn to read and write today (pdf). This Sunday, September 8, is International Literacy Day, an event that Unesco has been observing for more than 40 years to highlight how essential literacy is to learning and also “for eradicating poverty, reducing child mortality, curbing population growth, achieving gender equality and ensuring sustainable development, peace and democracy.”

774 million people aged 15 and older are illiterate, an infographic (pdf) from Unesco details. 52 percent (pdf) live in south and west Asia and 22 percent in sub-Saharan Africa. The latter region is where most of the countries with the lowest literacy rates in the world are located, according to data from the C.I.A.:

1. Burkina Faso: 21.8 percent of the adults in this West African country are literate.

2. South Sudan: This country in east Africa, which became an independent state in 2011, has a literary rate of 27 percent.

3 Afghanistan: 28.1 percent of this country’s population are literate with a far higher percentage of men (43.1 percent) than women (12.6 percent) able to read.

4. Niger: The ratio of men to women in this landlocked western African country is also lopsided: the literacy rate is 42.9 percent for men, 15.1 percent for women and 28.7 percent overall.

5. Mali: Niger’s neighbor on the west, the literacy rate in Mali is 33.4 percent. 43.1 percent of the adult male population can read and 24.6 percent of the country’s women.

6. Chad: This west African country is Niger’s neighbor on its eastern border; 34.5 percent of its population is literate.

7. Somalia: Long beset by civil war and famine, 37.8 of Somalia’s population is literate. 49.7 percent of the adult male population is literate but only 25.8 percent of adult females.

8. Ethiopia: Somalia’s neighbor to the north, the literacy rate in Ethiopia is 39 percent.

9. Guinea: 41 percent of this west African country’s population is literate. More than half (52 percent) of adult males are literature and only 30 percent of women.

10. Benin: 42.4 percent of Benin in West Africa are literate.

Around the world, two-thirds of adults who are illiterate are female, meaning that there are 493 women unable to read and write.

54 of the 76 million illiterate young women come from nine countries, most in south and west Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa and not necessarily those with high rates of adult illiteracy: India (where almost 30 million young women are illiterate), Pakistan, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Bangladesh, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the United Republic of Tanzania, Egypt and Burkina Faso.

Riaz Haq said...

Poor #Delhi Homeless Must Pay a ‘Sleep Mafia’ in #Modi's #India #BJP

When midnight approaches in Old Delhi and a thick, freezing fog settles over the city, the quilt-wallah Farukh Khan sits on his corner, watching the market for his services come to life.

They shuffle up one by one, men desperate for sleep. The bicycle rickshaw pullers, peeling one of his 20-rupee, or 30-cent, quilts off a pile, fold their bodies into strange angles on the four-foot seats of their vehicles. The day laborers curl their bodies on the frigid sidewalk, sometimes spooned against other men for warmth.

Those who cannot afford to pay Mr. Khan build fires, out of plastic if necessary, and crouch over them, waiting for the night to be over.
Does any city have a more stratified sleep economy than wintertime Delhi? The filmmaker Shaunak Sen, who spent two years researching the city’s sleep vendors for a documentary, “Cities of Sleep,” discovered a sprawling gray market that has taken shape around the city’s vast unmet need for shelter. In some places, it breeds what he calls a “sleep mafia, who controls who sleeps where, for how long, and what quality of sleep.”

The story of privatized sleep follows a familiar pattern in this city: After decades of uncontrolled growth, the city government’s inability to provide services like health care, water, transportation and security has given rise to thriving private industries, efficient enough to fulfill the needs of those who can pay.

But shelter, given Delhi’s extremes of heat and cold, is often a matter of survival. The police report collecting more than 3,000 unidentifiable bodies from the streets every year, typically men whose health broke down after years living outdoors. Winter presents especially brutal choices to homeless laborers, who have no place to protect blankets from thieves in the daytime hours. Some try to hide them in the tops of trees.

The moral quandary of making this into a business is at the center of Mr. Sen’s film, which had its premiere at a Mumbai film festival in November. One of his subjects, Ranjit, takes a protective attitude toward his regular “sleepers,” as he calls them, allowing them to drift off to sleep watching Bollywood films for 10 rupees a night. Another, a hard-nosed businessman called Jamaal, increases his price to 50 rupees, from 30, when the temperature drops.

In one scene, when a man pleads, “Sir, I am a poor man; I’ll die,” Jamaal chuckles and replies: “You’re not allowed to die. Even that will cost 1,250 rupees.”

“Look, sleep is the most demanding master there is; no one can stop it when it has chosen to arrive,” Jamaal says in the film. “We were the first to recognize the sheer economic might of sleep.”

Like many of this city’s businesses, sleep vendors are both highly organized and officially nonexistent. In Mr. Khan’s neighborhood, four quilt vendors have divided the sidewalks and public spaces into quadrants, and when night falls, their customers arrange themselves into colonies of lumpy forms. Some have returned to the same spot every night for years.


Continue reading the main story

Continue reading the main story

A drunken man, his hair matted, stumbled up to Mr. Khan and begged. “Brother, please,” he pleaded, and Mr. Khan uttered a curse under his breath, then grabbed a quilt and thrust it at him.

“If I don’t give him the blanket, he will freeze to death,” he said.

Earlier in the week, this had happened, just a block away from Mr. Khan’s spot. The morning street sweeper had tried to rouse a sleeping man from the sidewalk, but he pulled back the blanket and saw that the man’s feet were stiff.

The man, who was around 35, had been stumbling around drunkenly the night before. No one knew who he was; a police officer asked some other men to go through his pockets, in hopes of finding identification, but they were empty. He covered the body with a sheet, and it lay on the sidewalk until the mortuary workers came, at sunset.

Riaz Haq said...

$59 billion in unpaid bank #debt by rich borrowers in #India sparks outcry. Non Performing #Loans jump 450% #Mallya

Bad Loans Of State Banks = Defence + Education + Roads + Health Spends. #Mallya just 1 of few thousand defaulters. …

If the unpaid loans made by India’s public-sector banks were recovered, they would be enough to pay for India’s 2015 spending on defence, education, highways, and health, according to an IndiaSpend analysis.

These bad loans, or gross non-performing assets (NPAs) as they are called in banking parlance, of public-sector banks crossed Rs 4.04 lakh crore ($59 billion), a rise of 450% since March 2011.

Private-sector banks also have an NPA problem, but their bad loans are less than half the level of public-sector banks, which account for 73% of all lending.

The crisis in Indian banking, which IndiaSpend has repeatedly flagged (here, here and here), has now reached a point where the NPAs of many public-sector banks are higher than their net worth.

This affects their ability to make fresh loans to business, and these bad loans are ultimately paid for by India’s taxpayers, the final guarantors of government-owned public-sector banks, as editor and columnist T N Ninan recently wrote in Business Standard.

“So what is to be done?” he wrote of the banking crisis. “The easy option is to take more of your tax money and give it to the same banks, on a platter. The government has talked of giving them another Rs 2.4 lakh crore—which works out to Rs 10,000 from every family, rich and poor.”

“Indeed, 19 of 24 listed government banks’ stocks now quote at less than half of book value, some at a discount of 75 per cent. Clearly, investors still think these banks’ books are akin to fiction.”

Riaz Haq said...

The Global Multidimensional Poverty Index: Rising Poverty and Social Inequality in India

In South Asia, Afghanistan has the highest level of destitution at 38%. This is followed by India at 28.5%. Bangladesh and Pakistan have much lower levels. The study placed Afghanistan as the poorest country in South Asia, followed by India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Nepal.

India had the second-best social indicators among the six South Asian countries (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bhutan) 20 years ago. Now it has the second worst position, ahead only of Pakistan. Bangladesh has less than half of India’s per-capita GDP but has infant and child mortality rates lower than that of India.

Writing this week in India’s Deccan Herald, Prasenjit Chowdhury notes that according to two comparable surveys conducted in Bangladesh and India in 2006, in Bangladesh, 82% of children are fully immunised, 88% get vitamin A supplements and 89% are breastfed within an hour of birth. The corresponding figures for Indian children are below 50 per cent in all case and as low as 25%t for vitamin A supplementation.

Moreover, over half of the population in India practices open defecation, a major health hazard, compared with less than 10% in Bangladesh. Bangladesh has overtaken India in terms of a wide range of basic social indicators, including life expectancy, child survival, enhanced immunisation rates, reduced fertility rates and particular schooling indicators.

What has gone wrong?

In recent times, India has experienced much publicised high levels of GDP growth. So what is going wrong? Amartya Sen and the World Bank’s chief economist Kaushik Basu have argued that the bulk of India’s aggregate growth is occurring through a disproportionate rise in the incomes at the upper end of the income ladder. To use Arundhati Roy’s term, the poor in India are the ‘ghosts of capitalism’: the ‘invisible’ and shoved-aside victims of a now rampant neoliberalism.

The ratio between the top and bottom 10% of wage distribution has doubled since the early 1990s, when India opened up it economy. According to the 2011 Organisation for Cooperation and Economic Development report ‘Divided we stand’, this has made India one of the worst performers in the category of emerging economies. The poverty alleviation rate is no higher than it was 25 years ago. Up to 300,000 farmers have committed suicide since 1997 due to economic distress and many more have quit farming.

Assets such as airports, seeds, ports and other infrastructure built up with public money or toil have been sold off into private hands.

Secretive Memorandums of Understanding have been signed between the government and resource extraction-related industries, which has led to 300,000 of the nation’s poorest people being driven from their lands in tribal areas and around 50,000 placed into ‘camps’. As a result, naxalites and insurgents are in violent conflict with the state across many of these areas.

Where have the benefits been accrued from the 8-9% year on year GDP growth in recent times?

Sit down and read the statistics. Then step outside and see the islands of wealth and privilege surrounded by the types of poverty and social deprivations catalogued by the MPI.

Global Finance Integrity has shown that the outflow of illicit funds into foreign bank accounts has accelerated since opening up the economy to neoliberalism in the early nineties. ‘High net worth individuals’ (ie the very rich) are the biggest culprits here. Crony capitalism and massive scams have become the norm. It is not too hard to see what is going wrong.

India’s social development has been sacrificed on the altar of greed and corruption for bulging Swiss accounts, and it has been stolen and put in the pockets of the country’s ruling class ‘wealth creators’ and the multinational vultures who long ago stopped circling and are now swooping.

Riaz Haq said...

Myth of #India as an Upcoming Asian #Economic Powerhouse. Rising #Poverty and Social Inequality. #Modi via @grtvnews

India is no doubt one of the biggest democracy in the world; because it has the highest population, Simple! (China highly populist, and officially “communist”). India is the second biggest nation in the world in terms of population and seventh largest in terms of area. According to the IMF as of 2015, the Indian economically nominally worth US$ 2.182 trillion, it, it’s the eleventh largest economy in terms of market exchange rates at US$ 8.027 trillion, third largest by PPP, with an annual GDP growth of last decade’s 5.8%.[1]

These numbers in retrospect are nonsense which feed the illusion to the general public so they can keep on living like they are in a hope that their life will get better.

These numbers do not represent the true picture of the country, not only India`s but any country. Like GDP can be a good indicator, but the real measure is GDP per capita. Which measures how a single person achieves the share of income among its citizens. When it comes to India the GDP is $2.182 trillion, but per capita income is only $1581 which is not much higher than Bangladesh`s $1086 and Pakistan’s $1316 per capita, but less among many African countries, like Nigeria $3203, South Africa $6,482, Zambia $1721, Sudan $1875, Namibia $5408, Ghana $1441, Djibouti $1813, Botswana $7123 and many more to mention here.[2] In fact, India is like “ticking time bomb” by 2026 the world population will be 1.5 billion largest in the world and the economy is not growing enough to meet the demands to create 20 million jobs per year.[3]

Yes, I know India is part of BRICS and they have announced in creating their own kind of bank but then what? India still owes money to the IMF; their public debt to GDP is nearly 70%,[4] Likewise, India is worst in terms of BRIC countries when it comes to GDP per capita, human development, education, poverty and so forth. India is lagging behind in BRIC countries. And Yes, then there is IT, the huge investments in India by the foreign companies just because those corporation can have cheap labor rather than paying their people in home countries with high wages. The beauty of globalization which no body mentions and no one talks all they care to show people the random numbers and apathy of people to consent without barely eliciting a yawn.

One of the main hurdles in the progress of India is poverty, poverty which should have been brought under control, but in India it is more or less same ratios of poverty post-independence.

The figure shows the total population every decade with poverty in percentage and how much the poverty has declined in India, the percentage may have decreased, but the total number of people living under the poverty line has been more or less same.

Riaz Haq said...

#India tops the world slavery chart with 18.4 million #Indians (1.4% of population) held in #slavery . …

India tops the world slavery charts with 18.4 million slaves followed by China's 3.4 million and Pakistan's 2.1 million.

In terms of percentages, North Korea tops with 4.37% of population in slavery followed by Uzbekistan's 3.97% and India's 1.4%.

The number of modern slaves (45.8 million according to the 2016 Global Slavery Index) is 28 percent higher than the number that was reported in the 2014 edition. However, this difference is mainly caused by a different methodology and data compiling process applied during research. The 2016 index is based on 42,000 interviews in 25 nations
Cambodia is the country with the highest amount of modern slaves in the Southeast Asian region. According to the 2016 Global Slavery Index 1.6 percent of the Cambodian population is victim of slavery. However, in absolute terms, Indonesia leads the ranking in Southeast Asia
Combined, there are 26.6 million victims of slavery living in India, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Uzbekistan. Together, these five countries account for 58 percent of total global slavery
The Walk Free Foundation is an Australia-based human rights group
Most modern slaves - nearly two-thirds - can be found in Asian countries. This is attributed to the huge number of people living in Asia, while this continent is also well integrated into the global supply chains

Riaz Haq said...

#India has been a post-truth society for years. #Modi #Trump #alternativefacts … via @_TCGlobal

India: home of post-truth politics

That was the global context of post-truth politics and its advent in the West. But as the US and UK wake up to this new era, it’s worth noting that the world’s largest democracy has been living in a post-truth world for years.

From education to health care and the economy, particularly its slavish obsession with GDP, India can be considered a world leader in post-truth politics.

India’s post-truth era cannot be traced to a single year – its complexities go back generations. But the election of Narendra Modi in 2014 can be marked as a significant inflection point. Ever since, the country has existed under majoritarian rule with widely reported discrimination against minorities.

India’s version of post-truth is different to its Western counterparts due to the country’s socioeconomic status; its per capita nominal income is less than 3% of that of the US (or 4% of that of the UK). Still, post-truth is everywhere in India.

It can be seen in our booming Wall Street but failing main streets, our teacher-less schools and our infrastructure-less villages. We have the ability to influence the world without enjoying good governance or a basic living conditions for so many at home.

Modi’s government has shown how key decisions can be completely divorced from the everyday lives of Indian citizens, but spun to seem like they have been made for their benefit. Nowhere is this more evident than with India’s latest demonetisation drive, which plunged the country into crisis, against the advice of its central bank, and hit poorest people the hardest.

Despite the levels of extreme poverty in India, when it comes to social development, the cult of growth dominates over the development agenda, a trend that Modi has exacerbated, but that started with past governments.

The dichotomy of India’s current post-truth experience was nicely summed up by Arun Shourie, an influential former minister from Modi’s own party. He disagrees with the prime minister, just as many Republicans share sharp differences of opinion with President Trump.

Shourie said the policies of the current administration were equal to his predecessors’ policies, plus a cow.

...there is an argument to be made that the US and the UK have been living in denial of facts and evidence for years. In 2003, after all, both the countries went to war in Iraq over the false notion that Saddam Hussein was harbouring weapons of mass destruction.
Major social change does not happen within the space of a year. Yet, to a large number of observers around the world, the “post-truth” phenomenon seemed to emerge from nowhere in 2016.

Two key events of 2016 shaped our understanding of the post-truth world: one was in June, when Britain voted in favour of leaving the European Union. The other was in November, when political maverick Donald Trump was elected the 45th President of the United States of America. Trump’s administration spent the third day of his presidency speaking of “alternative facts”, and making false claims about the size of the crowds that had attended his inauguration.

For the rest of the world, the importance of both Trump and Brexit can best be gauged by understanding that they happened in the USA and in the UK. The UK was the key driving force of the world from the 19th century until the second world war, the US has been ever since. The US and the UK often have shared a similar point of view on many global geopolitical developments, as strategic allies or by virtue of their “special relationship”.

Riaz Haq said...

#NBA’s #KevinDurant on #India"Cows, Stray Dogs" "Bunch of Underprivileged People" "20 years behind" #Poverty #Filth

NBA champion Kevin Durant of the Golden State Warriors had visited India in July to help the NBA make inroads into the nation of 1.3 billion.
Durant took part in a camp in New Delhi, where he helped set a Guinness World Record for the largest basketball lesson – 3,459 people participated in it across multiple venues.
The NBA finals MVP met young players at the NBA Academy, with many more joining via satellite from four other cities across the country.
However, after returning to the United States, he said in an interview to The Athletic that India is 20 years behind in terms of knowledge and experience.

I went with no expectation, no view on what it’s supposed to be like. I usually go to places where I at least have a view in my head. India, I’m thinking I’m going to be around palaces and royalty and gold — basically thought I was going to Dubai. Then when I landed there, I saw the culture and how they live and it was rough. It’s a country that’s 20 years behind in terms of knowledge and experience.
Kevin Durant
Durant added that there are “just a bunch of underprivileged people living in India”.
You see cows on the street, monkeys running around everywhere, hundreds of people on the side of the road, a million cars and no traffic violations. Just a bunch of underprivileged people there and they want to learn how to play basketball. That was really, really dope to me.

Riaz Haq said...

Trashing #India sells better for #Western audiences. #Slumdog #Ray #Roy #Gidla #Dalit #Boo #Economist … via @dailyo_

More contemporaneously, Slumdog Millionaire by British director Danny Boyle was a rage abroad. The one stomach-churning scene in the movie starring Frieda Pinto, Anil Kapoor and Dev Patel where a child falls into an excreta-filled sewer was played and replayed on foreign television networks with feigned horror. (The excreta was, in fact, a mixture of peanut butter and chocolate sauce.)

Books receive the same treatment. Katherine Boo’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity which retells her experiences living in a Mumbai slum for three years, sparing no gory detail, was published to international acclaim in 2012.

Arundhati Roy’s The Ministry of Utmost Happiness received an equally rapturous welcome abroad as it wended its laborious way through India’s graveyard of troubles: Kashmir, Maoism, poverty, communalism, violence. Roy’s sense of bitter hopelessness about India enthrals foreign publishers.

Now a book by Sujatha Gidla, Ants Among Elephants: An Untouchable Family and the Making of Modern India, is the latest toast of the West. A Dalit Christian, Gidla tells the story of her uncle Satyamurthy, a Maoist leader who fought the Indian state from the jungles of central India.

In a gushing review, The Economist (July 29, 2017) described Gidla as heralding the “arrival of a formidable new writer.” The magazine added: “Ants among Elephants is an interesting, affecting and ultimately enlightening memoir. It is quite possibly the most striking work of non-fiction set in India since Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo.”

The names trip of the tongue nicely: Ray, Roy, Boo, Gidla. Of course The Economist wouldn’t dare review Shashi Tharoor’s excellent book An Era of Darkness: The British Empire in India which exposes Britain’s horrific crimes during its colonial occupation of India.

Even the British edition of Tharoor’s book was re-titled to make it less offensive to the British. An Era of Darkness became the anodyne An Inglorious Empire: What the British Did To India. In an interview with the BBC for the book’s British launch earlier this year, one of the panelists was dismissive of Tharoor’s evocative and detailed description of the brutalities of the British Empire and the financial ruination it brought upon India.

In contrast, Arundhati Roy’s dark vision of India has been lapped up by newspapers like The New York Times and television channels in Europe and America. Should all of this matter? Emphatically not. India has many flaws – violence, poverty, rape, corruption, casteism. It is right for journalists and authors, Indian and foreign, to write about them.

It is equally right for filmmakers to show the underbelly of India – from the coal mines of Dhanbad to the slums of Mumbai. Sunlight is a disinfectant. Shine it mercilessly on our imperfections. Only then will change take place. The problem though is balance.


In its review of Gidla’s book, The Economist gives its Western readers a detailed tutorial on India’s caste system: “One in six Indians is a Dalit, which means 'oppressed' in Sanskrit. That is to say, 200 million Indians belong to a community deemed so impure by the scriptures that they are placed outside the hierarchical Hindu caste system and are commonly called ‘untouchable’. Upper-caste Hindus traditionally treated untouchables as agents of pollution. To come into contact with them was to be defiled, they believed. Indian villages depended on untouchables to provide field labour and clear away human waste. Yet untouchables were excluded from village life.