Eating is an agricultural act - Wendell Berry

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

poverty in india - hot off the press

the WB releases a press note on the latest poverty research.
the indian press go ballistic with this data, some saying "poverty reduction" and some saying "poverty escalation".
TOI has a chart

certainly doesn't look good. and from experience of being here and having a ear to the ground, poverty prevalence is real and omnipresent. and the data just reinforces real experiences.
whats keeping india depressed in the charts?
in my analysis, there are 2 key factors:
1. rising health costs - CV Madhukar takes this head on and i agree.
2. corruption - i had earlier blogged on it.

point 1 is closely linked to poverty and nutrition.
point 2 is closely linked to poverty and greed.

we will need to do 'forcible liposuction' on the leeches. there are now just too many of them to be able to just use salt.

bihar flood devastation - again and again

bihar is again in the midst of series flood damage. last year was ultra-devastating. and it happens unfailingly on an annual basis.

and once again it is not due to rain, but due to river overflow due to upstream rains.
the Kosi has breached all the banks.

i put up this picture just over a year ago while reporting the 2007 floods.
check out the latest photo from the TOI report on this year's floods.
the photo is a good match.
the report on the shift in course is quite damning evidence of too much damming.
too much trifling with nature.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

the next gen Amtes

we learnt that prakash and mandakini amte won the magsaysay.

as expected, news hounds made a beeline to their abode in hemalkasa.

tehelka runs a great story on them. only the middle part tangents out to covering baba amte (which i guess is ok for new comers).
it is quite incredible, the entire family has voluntarily taken over old/taken on new projects initiated by baba.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

walking through gold mohur

after a fun filled movie - jaane tu ya jaane na (dont miss the "pappu cant dance" song), my wife and i decide to treat ourselves to a kailash lassi - near dadar station, eastside.

walking down the lane from hindmata junction towards dadar station, we come across 2 textile mills.
on a whim, my wife walks into one (the Gold Mohur Textile Mill) and asks for a tour.
and surprise, surprise, the person there lets us a free unaccompanied walk through the premises.
it took some topping the JTyjn experience, but the 'mill walk-through' was amazing.
we saw the carding room. here is a carding machine. imagine standing in front of a football ground sized room filled with such machines. mind boggling. like this one.
and the classical iconic chimney. see the one at phoenix mills and a 3-in-1.
what an outstanding sight from right under it.
there is a lovely tank with tons of ujala-white swans.

gold mohur and 3 other mills were originally supposed to be sold to 'developers', but now there is a revival buzz. the guy there was certain that some mall is coming up there.

the story of the mumbai mills is pretty sad and depressing. these properties are at the center of the most severe pitched battles between the private developers, the government and the activists. here is a NDTV feature on the changing face of girangaon.
here are some vignettes from the net on this story, darryl d'monte's interview, the legendary datta samant, datta samant's interview
am waiting to read this book - One Hundred Years, One Hundred Voices: The Millworkers of Girangaon, An Oral History By Meena Menon and Neera Adarkar.

Friday, August 08, 2008

lets spin yarn

gandhi advocated several radical ideas.
one of them is using khadi spinning in schools - as a means to educate children and finance the school.
Education to be universal must therefore be free. I fancy that even under an ideal system of government, we shall not be able to devote two thousand million rupees which we should require for finding education for all the children of school-going age. It follows, therefore, that our children must be made to pay in labour partly or wholly for all the education they receive. Such universal labour to be profitable can only be (to my thinking) hand-spinning and hand-weaving. But for the purposes of my proposition, it is immaterial whether we have spinning or any other form of labour, so long as it can be turned to account. Only, it will be found upon examination, that on a practical, profitable and extensive scale, there is no occupation other than the processes connected with cloth-production which can be introduced in our schools throughout India.
prima facie, it does appear as nonsense.
i recall that he also takes a moralistic stand on the fact that the money earned from taxing alcohol and tobacco is used to finance education and such monies are 'tainted'.

well.... my opinions have wavered significantly on this.
finally i am now at a place, where i entirely agree with his proposition.

and i found a school that does have spinning as part of the curriculum.
Shishuvan in Mumbai. superb name.
Check their FAQ site - which says why khadi?

i dont think current economics allow a financing arrangement in urban settings.
but gandhi did center most of his ideas on rural settings - where it is still possible/probable.

Monday, August 04, 2008

philanthrophy advice

sudhir venkatesh shot to fame with his famous chicago gangster research in the wildly famous freakanomics and his subsequent book 'gang leader for a day'

sudhir also writes in in the very avidly read freakonomics blog.

here is his series on "what to do with your $70 million?".
part 1, part 2 and part 3.
part 3 is the real thing!

some interesting parts:
1. classic traits of aspiring donors:

First, they confused charity with commerce: that is, they uncritically applied the language of outcome-oriented investment to efforts to change human behavior in social settings. Humans, alas, don’t operate neatly according to market logic, though incentives can shift behavior.

Second, donors seem reluctant to talk about their own self interest. Instead of admitting their personal desires, they speak of selfless charity. Of course, donors can do whatever they want with their money, but this attitude doesn’t help them grow.

2. here is a nice 'catch':
....whether they liked the results or not, they had to provide a second grant disbursement to the organizations (contingent on the fiscal responsibility of the recipient grantees). I felt this freed them up from the expectation of evaluating anything other than their own personal transformation. The three donors agreed on a “loss figure” of $500,000, meaning they would each give $1,000,000.
3. simple but powerful learning:

...they learned that poor families who have access to small amounts of cash — as little as $20 — can stave off problems that might otherwise spiral out of control. (Previously they dismissed the utility of using such small sums for change.) Of course, credit unions have long understood this — and one of the donors is now helping to fund organizations that replicate this strategy in New York.

They also learned that, in some cases, process is as important as outcome. For example, service providers who keep families together — despite dramatic improvements — are playing a valuable function in communities where things always fall apart. And even if a child’s grades don’t improve, sometimes staying in school is a huge mark of success for the family.

it is not over yet. we wait to see how this progresses.

hat tip: charityfocus

Friday, August 01, 2008

जैसा बाप वैसा बेटा/बेटी

the son has lived up to his towering father's name and achivements.
dr mandakini and prakash amte are the recipients of the magsaysay award for community service.

what they have done and are doing is simply outstanding.

more power to them.