Eating is an agricultural act - Wendell Berry

Thursday, January 29, 2009

story of the month

the meaning of "Obama" and the history of friendship is my pick for the most fantastic story on the web this month.
the connection from the controversial 1968 olympics' black salute to the current day optimism with Obama becoming POTUS is just spectacular.

What the election of Obama signifies, the energies it can generate, the solidarities it can create, the transformations that can be effected under its sign, cannot be understood simply in terms of a charismatic man of mixed race becoming President of the most powerful nation today. It is only those who cannot see beyond these mere “facts” who are cynical and mocking, for whatever Obama’s actual record in office will prove to be, we must mark this moment.

It is a moment that every struggle against power and authority anywhere in the world has claimed for itself. Centuries of racism and two decades of Empire later, every edifice of power in every part of the globe has, in one sudden ray of light, revealed its vulnerability. Anything seems possible, not least of all, a Dalit woman Prime Minister of India.

“Obama” is bigger than the man.

i fully agree.

ILO says aaiyyo

just when we went into a depressing news reporting phase yesterday with the unemployment scenario, the international labour organisation (ILO) report scares the yolk out of shells.
Scenario 1 aka "Optimistic": Based on current labour market trends, the first scenario would mean that the global unemployment rate may rise to 6.1 per cent in 2009, and 198 million people will be unemployed (see Table S1 and S2 in Annex 2). This is an increase of 18 million over the estimated number of unemployed in 2007.
Scenario 2 aka "Realistic": ....the global unemployment rate would rise to 6.5 per cent, an increase of 0.8 percentage points over 2007. This would correspond to an increase of the global number of unemployed by 30 million people in comparison with 2007.
Scenario 3 aka "Worst Case": ...the global unemployment rate would rise to 7.1 per cent, an increase by 1.4 percentage points over 2007. In the Developed Economies and the European Union, the unemployment would rise to 7.9 per cent. This would correspond to an increase in the global number of unemployed of 51 million people in comparison with 2007.
brace yourself. turbulence ahead.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

alarming water situation

2 recent articles highlight the extent of degradation of our water sources.
1. the excessive use of chemical in agriculture in punjab.
2. the result of pharma industry's callous and casual waste treatment in Hyderabad.

the story of stuff has data that 40% of US waterways are unswimmable; leave alone drinking the stuff.
we must be close to that in india.

earlier post - flushing disgrace - on drugs going down the toilet.

mounting job losses

over 70000 job cuts announced in a single day.

in the US, it is reported that number of unemployed has grown by 3.6 million people from dec 07 to dec 08.

export oriented indian cities like surat (diamonds), tirupur (textiles), bhadohi (carpets) are getting hammered.
same same in china, singapore and taiwan.

how will these guys cope through these tough times?
am afraid that many will collapse...

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

WTF is in a name?

names are in the news again.
check the overflowing irony in this headline:
Name your children in Tamil: Stalin

mainstream tamilnadu govt/politics/governance is in the throes of extreme degeneration.
more later.

Monday, January 19, 2009

education performance - india

the annual survey of education report is an annual report on how 'india is learning'.
in its 4th report - ASER 2008 - released in Jan 2009, there are some interesting results.


they are among the few tests to check student learning.
they check rural kids from Std 1 to Std 5 (i.e., the primary cycle of schooling). they test reading ability (alphabet, words, sentences, paragrpahs) and mathematical ability (numbers, subtraction and division).

1. ASER 2008 estimates that 44% children in Std 5 cannot read a Std 2 text

2. the worst performing state (in educational attainment) is tamilnadu. this has been the case since the first report. this is inspite of TN having great numbers in the general parameters of enrollment, infrastructure, etc.

3. enrollment in private schools has increased from 16.4% in 2005 to 22.5% in 2008. this is just rural india. comparing the educational attainment, students in private schools are doing 5-15% better than their peers in schools

4. In Bihar, children (6 – 14 year old) not on school have dropped steadily over the last four years from 13.1% in 2005 to 5.7% in 2008. Over the same period, the proportion of girls 11-14 not in school has dropped from 20.1% to 8.8%.

5. 56.6% of all 5 year-olds are enrolled in schools rather than in pre-schools.

6. in Chattisgarh, the proportion of children in Std III who could read a Std I level text has increased from 31% in 2007 to 70% in 2008. MP has also shown similar improvement.

7. STD booths are present in 58.5% villages while 48.3% village households have a cell phone or a land line connection.

the full report can be downloaded here.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

what is in a name?

shakepeare may not mind being called by any other name and write just as well, but check out this school's name.
now can you tell me how they carry their books to school?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

housing slump, eh?

MHADA is maharastra govt's housing development organisation.
they create low, middle and high income group (LIG, MIG and HIG) flats.

they are currently running a scheme to sell 3863 flats at diverse locations in mumbai.
in 2 days they sold around 2 lakh application forms.
and there are reports that app forms sales are likely to triple in the coming weeks.

earlier in june 2008, we reported a similar rush to affordable housing through MHADA.

and these are not that cheap really.
at their versova cluster, they are selling 900 sq ft apartments at around Rs 55 lakhs, which works out to Rs 6000/sq ft.
this is around half of free market rates.

time to exit bombay....again!!

26/11 investigations

as expected, tehalka carries a cover story on the investigations into 26/11 terror attacks on mumbai.
i feel that the majority of the reasons we succumb to such attacks lie in our poor and weak defenses. unless we prioritise our efforts to shore them up, no amount of targetting terror camps, surgical strikes, etc., will work.

the story (if fully true) lays out the callousness of our intelligence (how can we still use this term!?) agencies.
this particular part is highly unnerving:
On 18 September, for example, the Research and Analysis Wing had intercepted a satellite phone conversation which clearly indicated that a hotel at the Gateway of India in Mumbai would be targeted. Crucially, the intercept also revealed that the sea route would be used to launch this operation.
if this really happened, it is a stinkeroo of the highest order.
considering that the agency is RAW, it is a little much to expect intelligence from such greenhorns.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

india goes hungry

says the latest report from the international food policy research institute.
key summary points:
1. India’s GHI 2008 score is 23.7, which ranks it 66th out of 88 countries. This indicates continued poor performance at reducing hunger in India.
2. ISHI scores are closely aligned with poverty, but there is little association with statelevel economic growth. High levels of hunger are seen even in states that are performing well from an economic perspective
for the first time, the individual states are ranked on several parameters.
infochangeindia has a complete analysis.
the effect, as we see in Table 1 in the infochangeindia analysis, is a decrease in per capita availability of food grain in most states.
as one could simply formulate, there is a decrease in the land under cropping and a simultaneous upsurge in the population. this is offset to some extent by increasing productivity.

while improving productivity is certainly possible, it is highly unlikely that it is sufficient to beat the crisis. michael pollan even berates the argument of improving productivity through GMO seeds.
he articulates the need to change our eating habits. he says "It's the outsourcing of our food preparation I think that has gotten us in a lot of trouble, and the corporations we allow to cook for us don't cook very well."

Monday, January 12, 2009

another crisis!

was talking to this just-out-of-college guy (say around 22) and he tells me that he has the quarter life crisis.
i went huh, duh.
apparently, it does exist.

that's a new one.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

tigers - brink of extinction

the story of the indian tiger is a sad one.
left to the mercy of fierce poachers, inept indian govt and shrinking habitat.
slowly but surely, the tigers of sri lanka also face a similar fate.

fighting for a separate tamizh eezham over 2 decades has been bloody and gruesome.
led by the LTTE - the liberation tigers of tamizh eezham (tigers henceforth) - this struggle has been classified illegal, terrorism (check no. 23), freedom movement, etc.

in 2008, the sri lankan army has upped their offensive against the LTTE and with never before seen success. the latest news is that Killinochchi, a tiger stronghold, has fallen.

india has been dealing with this neighbourhood since 20 years. rajiv gandhi sent the IPKF to usher in peace in the emerald isle. with disastrous consequences for him.
the tamizh eezham movement has a very strong support base in tamilnadu and is a very emotive issue in the local politcal milieu.
even to the extent that there is an increasing support towards separatism in tamilandu.

this is not surprising, since at the time of independance, the dravidian movement was a vociferous proponent of a separate tamil state.

either during my youth or in my current 'aware state', i have hardly felt an iota of sympathy or support for the eezham cause or the LTTE.
it is quite contrarian to my regular stand on other similar issues.
could be my tam-bram upbringing, could be LTTE's almost patented assasination strategy or ....
need to figure this one out.