Poverty

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Bengal Famine 1940s : The Famine Commission : A Cover Up?

Published February 18, 2016 by vishalvkale

Reference Material : Churchill’s Secret War by Madhushree Mukherjee
The years 1942 and 1943 will remain etched in Indian History as one of the most horrifying in recent memory, with the onset of the Bengal Famine, a famine in which nearly 5.4 estimated Indians perished. This famine has been researched by Ms Madhushree Mukherjee in her book Churchill’s Secret War, and reveals a stunning story of official apathy and brutality.

Scorched Earth policy was implemented by the “gentle” “civilized” “human” British in Bengal, Assam and much of East India. The horrifying impact of this has to be read to be understood! Fact 2: food was continuously sent to Europe to feed the newly-liberated European lands, to build a stockpile for the Invasion, and to buttress British food stocks. This was done even when there was no need for such heavy stockpiling. This was done even as Indians were dying by the millions… if anyone stock-piled food during the famine, it was the British.

Food was deliberately not sent to India, or retained in India  just so the British could be well-fed. In the same Bengal, the British were eating 5-course meals! The book proves that the British were holding stocks of food that were far in excess of what they required. Thus, they not only caused the problem, they also exacerbated it. Aid from other nations was denied by the authorities. Shipping issues, as well as offers for aid were not implemented, while exports of food took place, despite the severity of the situation

The resulting mess and mass death forced the British to constitute a Famine Commission, whose terms and whose approach remains unchallenged to this day, at least till the advent of this superb research by Ms Mukherjee spanning a wide spectrum of original documents from both India as well as the United Kingdom and elsewhere, and is a treatise of the highest order.



The Famine Commission did not do a fair analysis, of that their can be no doubt whatsoever, as a study of the records shows. As per the data, in late 1943, the then Vicerow Wavell recieved pressure from Bengal for an enquiry. The Secretary of State for India had advised against any definitive commitment {quote from book, pg 267}.



Later on, they had to succumb to an enquiry; but things got very interesting from that point on. Specific conditions were imposed on the topics which the enquiry was permitted to consider. These would include an avoidance of strategical and other circumstances as may have contributed to internal transportation difficulties or affected H.M.G’s decisions in regard to shipping of imports. Nor was th commission permitted to summon testimonies from anyone who has since left India (Such as Linlithgow) – page 267. Endnote reference given is 2, which tallies with Mansberg, the transfer of power, Vol IV, 461, 468, 725



Thus, the commission looked only at local factors, and ignored any leads that indicted London. Is that fair? I dont think so.



For Instance, although the commission deplored the policy of food and boat denial, it heard nothing about the Scorched Earth orders issed by the War Cabinet. The Commission also left the impression that that only imports of rice, not wheat, would have broken the famine, which was far from having been the case. Nor did it discuss any of the international offers of aid that were rejected” Pg 267



Note that : Scorched Earth was employed NOT by the Nazis – but by the people who claim to have saved the world – and in our India. Also note the term Strategic : I am at a total loss of words at this…



Continuing on the same page, 267 – I quote :
Hints of a cover-up abound. Amery’s diary do not contain any  mention of Scorched Earth, and his papers are missing the pertinent correspondence with India. The testimonies submitted to the famine commission were reportedly to have been destroyed [except for one copy that survived as the Nanavati Papers]. Civil Servant Leonard G Pinnell stated in his unpublished memoir that he had restrained his own set of testimonies, but its location is unknown. The unpublished memoir of civil servant Olaf Martin, written some time after the war, is missing pages that appear to have dealt with his refusal to serve as chief secretary of Bengal. ‘At time time, I had to be careful what I said’ Martin recalled of 1943, ‘just as at present, I have to be careful what I write” Endnote reference is 4, which is doubly damning : CSAC, Olaf C Martin Papers, Memoir,  247 {Pages 312-331 are missing}; Mitra, Tin Kuri Dash, 167



At least one India Office File on rice exports to Ceylon has been destroyed, and another on Canada’s offer for wheat is missing. No figures could be found for Rice exports from India in 1943-1944.



 In the Minutes of a meeting of the Chiefs of Staff, available on microfilm at th National Archives of The United Kingdom, a section dealing with shipping to India is blacked out”– pg 267. Cabinet Secretaries notes on War cabinet discussions stop abruptly in mid-1943 – Just before Cherwell, Leathers and Grigg made their August Decision to deny relief to Bengal. The papers of Laurence Burgis make no mention of India in Aug 4, 1944 when Amery compared Churchill with Hitler.



It appears that the famine commission also suppressed the results of a government sponsored survey on famine mortality, and presented its own instead.



The above facts are saying only one thing – the commission looks like a sham to cover up one of the most heinous crimes committed by any human or set of humans on this planet. The book goes on to prove that the famine toll was around 5.4 Million. And few people in even India, let alone the West, are aware of this dastardly act that I call a Holocaust was forced on our hapless people.

Germany was made to pay reparations, war crimes were punished, nations have apologized for its ill-deeds – but to this day their has been no justice for the victims of this unknown holocaust; let alone justice – there hasnt even been an apology… that is the truth. The perpetrators of this crime are no more, most of them… and there the matter ends. Now, it is only a question of a apology, let us not forget that the current generation have done nothing to harm us! A genuine apology would suffice! 
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Participative Growth – The Need For A 3-Pronged Approach

Published February 14, 2016 by vishalvkale

It has been stated that Industry level growth is the key, the answer to India’s many woes, that industrialisation and its attendant advantages will ensure growth eventually percolates to all levels of society. The caveat in that line of thought is “Eventually” : just how long is eventually supposed to mean? How many lives and generations will have to suffer the pangs of poverty till that eventuality transpires? And, what do we do in the interim?
These people are equal to us, the privileged class – the ones with education and great {or good or even average} well paying jobs. They are our equals in every single way; they have the same rights as us, they have the same dreams and desires as us. The luck of birth, and the chance of education that has been provided us has ensured we live well, by the grace of God. Granted that some among the poorer classes do manage to break the shackles and grow out of poverty; but does that mean we forget the rest of them?
There is a tendency, a rather unfortunate tendency, among the educated classes to equate GDP growth and Industrialisation with the concept of solutions to poverty. That is unfortunate; granted that it is one of the factors that lead to resolution – but this path does not take the full picture into consideration. That Industrialisation is needed is a given; again, a correct observation. I dont differentiate between manufacturing or service here – the creation of options that can be filled by educated people is a needed reality, one which is not upto to speed in the current economy. But who will benefit from this Industrialisation?
The educated people – that is who. The ones with a professional college degree will get the best jobs; the ones with some basic college degree will land jobs and careers that ensures a stable decent life for them and their families; the high-schoolers will get the next level of vacancies; the rest will make do with poorly paid menial jobs and temporary jobs. Some will take advantage of become entrepreneurs, unlocking further jobs and careers for people – but entrepreneurship also generally requires education and a defined skill-set, although service sector entrepreneurship is a different ball-game altogether.
The problem is that the current generation of the poorest segments just cannot afford education for their children; so the question of them benefiting immensely {beyond labour jobs, often poorly paid} does not arise. It only increases the gap; this does not mean we dont industrialise; this does create jobs – even though they are poorly paid ones at the bottom of the pyramid. The key is get out of this vicious circle of poverty. That can only happen throughthe enabler of education, nothing else.
Industrialisation in such an atmosphere does create jobs at all skill levels, but the better jobs that can ensure a proper life are reserved for the educated, as these require certain skills. So how do the poorest and the poor break the barrier? It is manifestly infeasible. There have been jobs created – Engineers, Entrepreneurs, Doctors, Professionals, even Clerical Jobs, Service jobs – a whole new paradigm of change has happened with economic growth. That is beyond debate.  Poverty has also reduced; people have gotten better off, No one can argue with that; the evidence is there for all to see. But we cannot rest on our laurels; not when you see the remaining poor all around you.
Menial jobs for the uneducated and low clerical jobs for the less educated {upto 5-10 years schooling} have been created; these just dont pay enough to ensure a full education to the children often enough. The pace of creation of jobs has also not kept up with the demand, So how to get out of this? Change is happening; but the pace of change is slow; almost too slow. That is the main point of concern for us as a people. We need to increase the pace of change, the pace of growth – as well as ensure that it percolates to the most hapless people in our midst. Like us, they are equal citizens, and we should do far more to ensure they grow.
How do you ensure that jobs lead to development at all levels, without education? How do you ensure that education without jobs will lead to happiness? Both are recipes for trouble; that said, it is true that the latter – education without jobs – can be more harmful as it has the potential to unleash frustration among the educated unemployed. But does that mean we forget the benefits education brings, and place education on a back burner, and not on centre-stage, as the cynosure of all our efforts to modernise our nation and our economy?
What is needed is a balanced approach  – one that caters to Industrialisation, as well as a full scale war-like approach towards education. While the former is happening, the latter is not yet in the public imagination, or Government policy, judging from media space as well as action on Start-ups, Economy, FDI, GDP, Industrialisation etc. Even this two-pronged approach has its disadvantage – it leaves out all of the Agricultural sector from its ambit, where the farmers and the labourers just aren’t earning enough to ensure anything other than a basic life.
And the Rural community, where the farmers and the landless labourers are concentrated, form the bulk of India. We, the Urban Indians, are the exceptions; they are representative – as they are in a majority. High time that we Urban Indians faced upto that hard reality!
And that is yet another reason why Agriculture and its problems need to be defined properly, and solved at the earliest; that can unlock earning potential faster than any other avenue or venture available to us as a people. That will also tend to reverse the trendline we saw in my previous article – with rising imports increasingly becoming a reality

We need to enable the government to allocate more attention to the development of Agriculture than it currently does; that can only happen if the voice of the people reaches the government in a democratic fashion, in Media articles, through people’s letters, small {tiny} forums like this blog and its readers and so on and so forth. Urban India needs to realise and understand that improving Agriculture will lead to improvement of the Urban scenario as well, that it is far more important to elevate our villages than it is to build Urban Infrastructure, given the paucity of resources we have! What these initiatives can be forms the next part of this series on participative growth…

Rural India : How Can We Ensure Participative Growth?

Published February 7, 2016 by vishalvkale

Continuing the series of thoughts on farming, let us  look at some real examples of human tragedy – not suicide, but examples of poverty in farming and rural India to put things in perspective, and look at the scale of the problems facing us as a nation. We in Urban India wax eloquent on industry, technology developments; the question is how to give amelioration in the rural tracts of the country? How can we ensure participative growth? I am not looking at the economic argument of trickle down versus inclusive growth; I am looking at the human side of things – which, in my opinion, is the only way to look at things.

That is a question that requires an understanding of the scale and nature of the problem confronting us. In a previous article, I had listed the problems facing agriculture; and had also analysed profitability from farming Wheat and Paddy for a period of seven years. Those articles list a series of research reports that provide hard data on the abysmal status of the farming community as a general statement;  specifically the Small and Marginal Farmers {and the landless}

To quote from that article : “Now take a look at the absolute numbers of profit that are coming out. It is ranging from a loss of 1400 Rs per crop, to a profit of 9700 approximately per crop. What can a family do in that meagre amount? “ That is one aspect of the problem; the second aspect is the number of Small and Marginal Farmers in India, with holdings of less than 2Ha {avg holding size is 1.41Ha approximately, from memory} – these number more than 70% of total farm holdings, which are in the region of 116 Million, and might even be 80%+ of holdings. We are looking at a huge number:  90 Million Families. Add to that landless agricultural labour, and the reality stares at you in its stark and naked truth : We are talking of 100s of Millions of people.

You might state – with some degree of accuracy – that industrial development will create opportunities and jobs, that slow change will trickle down to all levels. There are two major objections to this from a human perspective. The first challenge is how will uneducated people, people with limited skills outside farming take true advantage of industrial growth? And are the opportunity creations in the rural areas – or are they in the cities? Are we capable of dealing with increasing inward migration and pressure on the cities, or are we creating urban slums? Will the displaced labour get an improved life?

Second level of the problem in this approach is, trickle down takes place over a period of time; that it is effective in eradicating poverty over time is not in debate, under the proper set of conditions. What happens to the people in the meantime? That is why a large level of intervention and help is required by these people from the State as well as the Haves of society. This is so that they can live a decent life, and enable to them to provide health and education to their children. These are the “proper set of circumstances” I am referring to – are we, as a people, truly and really focussing on education and on health?

How can people move from Farming to jobs without a decent education and a functioning and delivering health scenario? Without access to affordable health services of a standard, and access to affordable schooling of a proper education standard that helps in developing the demographic dividend we are so fond of extolling? Thus, if you have focus on Urban India, on Infrastructure {which also benefits rural India}, without an adequate focus on education and health – where is the guarantee that development will percolate faster than what is the current rate?

Given the vagaries of farming in India as a profession and its attendant challenges {my post}, it is a requirement that a helping hand be extended to the farming community for us as a people; Urban Indians would do well to understand that rural India and farmers in particular are facing a series of challenges that have led to serious problems and losses for them as a community, especially in the immediately preceding few years, as covered in my previous article.

The challenge is misunderstood to be one of creating jobs and opportunities – it is also one of creating the right conditions that will enable the rural community to actively partake in developmental opportunities cutting across income lines. That means education & a decent livelihood for their current status that can enable them to attend school. With the terrifyingly low income levels that we have seen, how can a father ensure a decent education and health to his children  and his family?

Are we, as a nation, giving adequate attention to education and to health? Ask that question of yourselves…

To understand,  read this hard hitting article with live examples of the reality of Rural India : http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-news-india/bundelkhand-this-year-nothing-has-been-sown/

AKASH, 12
Akash says he stayed back because he did not want to miss school. “I don’t want to be a labourer. I want to get a government job,” he smiles. But for the Class VI student, life has changed. His grandfather is 65, and the 12-year-old must sweep the floor, prepare the hearth in the kitchen with cowdung cakes, and often make chapatis before he leaves for school at 8 am. “I know how to knead atta,” he says. “Today there were no vegetables, so we made chutney.” Chaudhary Sundar Singh Inter-College where he studies is about 10 km away, and he cycles there. When he returns at 4 pm, the chapatis from the morning serve as meal. “This year nothing has been sown, increasing the migration to other states,” says pradhan Raju Dixit, adding that many in Mahoba have also disowned their cattle…

JAVITRI, 18
Just before Diwali last year, trucks queued up outside Chichara village on NH 86, just like the past few years. Among the villagers who left on it for brick kilns of Rajasthan were parents of 18-year-old Javitri. Last year the crops on their one-bigha land were damaged by rains, and this time, the fields were not sown because of lack of water. Village pradhan Narendra says nearly 30 per cent of the residents of Chichara, that has a population of about 3,500, have left in search of work. Villagers say earlier only the poor migrated, now even landowning communities do. “Even Thakurs and Brahmins have left,” says Dinesh Dwivedi.  Javitri, who dropped out of school in 2014 after Class XI as her family couldn’t afford her studies, lives alone in the family’s two-room home now. Her aunt and uncle live next door…
DHALCHAND PATEL, 46
Dhalchand Patel’s father Chaturbhuj had taken a loan of Rs 2 lakh using his Kisan credit card four years ago. The Patels own 10 acres in Ghutai village of Mahoba. Chaturbhuj died in summer last year, leaving behind a family of six and the unpaid loan. On December 21, Dhalchand, 46, was found dead on a railway track nearby. His family members say he had got a notice to attend a Lok Adalat in connection with the loan. “The night before his death, he spoke to me about the loan. He was worried,” says Pratap Singh, Dhalchand’s uncle and the village pradhan

RAM BABU UPADHYAY, 40
In Kalipahadi village near Mahoba town, Ram Babu Upadhyay, 40, had been struggling to irrigate his eight bigha land, on which he had sown wheat. On January 21, while discussing his problem, Upadhyay fainted, and died before reaching hospital. “The wheat crop is our only hope,” says his widow Pinki, holding their two-year-old son Manav. Most of the tubewells have dried up here, with handpumps only providing enough water for drinking. Most of the seven rivers in Mahoba are also dry. The biggest irrigation project, Arjun Sahayak Pariyojana, inaugurated in 2009, is still not complete. The budget was recently doubled to around Rs 1,600 crore. The Rs 7,266-crore Bundelkhand Package, also announced in 2009, kept aside Rs 3,506 crore for the UP districts. It has proved ineffectual in this round of droughts

RAMESHWAR PRASAD RAJPUT , 59
Wearing a torn shirt and trousers, Rajput says his condition has only worsened since. “Both my sons work as labourers. I work as a security guard in Surat. My daughter-in-law’s two deliveries cost me Rs 80,000, and I had to pawn my four bighas..

Each case a testament of the status of Rural India, although these cases are from Bundelkhand, They, each of them, give an indication of the apathy in our society, of societal ills, of lack of access to education, and of distress. The cases tell of societal pressure, of failure of crops, of migration, of deep distress… how can these people or their wards partake in development that we are so fond of extolling? That is why, these people need a helping hand, and that is why Governments regardless of party lines give that helping hand. They need it, they need our help…


Not everything in life can be a simple profit-and-loss statement. Some things are beyond that, the call of humanity. Rather than question the aid given to them without suggesting alternative solutions, let us introspect as to how can we turn around the situation? How can we ensure participative growth? It is easy to state that curtail this and that; rather than do that,  the question should be, is and remains : how can we ensure skills, education, a decent life to our fellow citizens? 

Famers, and The Urban Indian

Published February 2, 2016 by vishalvkale

The past few months {and more} have seen a whirlwind of news regarding great moves by the NaMo Government; highlighting a series of developments and laudable initiatives by this Government by the Media as well as the Bhakt Brigade on Social Media. That is indeed good; a positive environment engenders a powerful impetus towards growth, and is a significant factor. Positivity engenders growth and development, problem resolution in a manner negativity can never do.
In all this euphoria and positivity, one factor lies ignored; the status of the Agriculture Sector. This article isn’t about The NaMo Government, but about our {Urban India’s} response – or lack of it – regarding the Agriculture Sector, about how it has taken the back seat, and about how we just don’t respond, or are not even aware of, the status of this sector, its issues and the problems that plague it. While news regarding Farmer Suicides reaches us due to the sensationality factor, the real issues and problems this sector faces never reach us. And for that, we the people are to blame.
Rising Farmer Distress in some parts of India, for example in Maharashtra is but one aspect of this; the aspect of drought that has hit large tracts of India is another and potentially more troublesome and serious a factor to hit us. Add to this the lack of serious attention to the myriad problems that inflict the agricultural scenario, like Seeds for example, or unbalanced fertilization to take another pertinent and current example.
And yet, despite the scale of these problems, neither the mainstream Media or the larger Social Media is focussed on these factors; the large number of news articles, updates etc are built around digitisation moves of the current Government, Smart Cities, Bullet Trains, Railway Modernisation, Make In India, Digital India, FDI and Economic Growth, Basic Office Hygeine steps by the NaMo Government, Aggression {long-needed} towards the needs of the Armed Forces etc.
Not one of the points listed above is unimportant; not one is without value. Each step truly laudable in its own right, and very welcome. Credit where credit is due; fact is fact. But critically and interestingly, Crop Insurance apart, no news in relation to the Agriculture Sector has made it to Social Media, or to the News that I am aware of – not to the tune of the others, those I mentioned above. That means either the Government has done nothing; which is highly debatable – given that there is a ministry devoted to this; or that we aren’t aware of it- which is far more likely.
The state of affairs in Indian Agriculture is there for all to see, and requires no data to prove it. The shocking evidence of your eyes should shake anyone from stem to stern, with rampant poverty, and abject conditions the moment you move into the Rural parts of India. And yet, we Urban Indians continue to bask in the glory of moves and steps that largely benefit Urban India; I refer to Smart Cities, Make In India and Bullet Trains etc. Even the praise of Digitisation in Social Media hovers around facilities for Urban Indians! Why doesn’t the status of the Farming Community in India reach the consciousness of us Urban Indians?
The news that is coming out is disturbing, to say the least; The Maharashtra government has declared a “drought-like condition” in 14,708 of the state’s 43,000 villages. This means the drought covers 34% of the state, as per a Times of India Report. Another Hindustan Times report states As of Nov-end, nine of India’s 29 states had officially declared a drought, and 302 of the 640 districts are living in drought-like conditions.  That is approximately 50% of India. Another report from October categorically mentions : For India to grow at 8%, agriculture must grow at least 4%. Yet, the farm sector has barely crawled at 1.9% in the first quarter (April-June) this year. It could get worse when the effects of a widespread drought become visible in the next few months.
The same report goes on : Between April 2014 and February 2015, the value of India’s farm exports dropped nearly 3%, as prices in global commodity markets fell. In August this year, tractor sales were down 23%. Rural wages rose at a slower 4.6% pace in a 12-month period ending in June, compared to a 12% rise in the same period a year ago.; earlier, the same report made this point : Alarmingly, a rural distress — marked by slowing wages, poor incomes and lower profits from farming — now looks getting entrenched.

{Image Credit : Hindustan Times, article linked in references}



Another Hindustan Times article strips the Urban Indian naked in this blunt statement, which I fully endorse : Obsessed with the latest, hyper-emotional social media trend, India’s people and mass media are all but oblivious to Bharat’s emergency situation. The only national newspaper that has consistently followed collapsing farms and failing rains is Mint. As of last week, nine of India’s 29 states had officially declared a drought, and 302 of the 640 districts are living in drought-like conditions. If you ask why none of this is on India’s primetime television shows or splashed on front pages, I will only say that the media, in general, are not interested and neither, dear reader, are we.Sad, but a completely factual indictment of the status of Social Media.
The same report had made this point : The data indicate the essentially dead-end nature of Bharat’s jobs and realities and a worsening farm economy, which grew only 0.2% last year. If it grows that much this year, we should be lucky. The under-reported and largely ignored farm crisis has been made greatly worse and more urgent by two years of scanty rain. Fact upon relentless fact can be piled up to build the case of neglect by we the people in our consciousness…
Going further, a Reuters report goes even further, with facts : Last month, India made its first purchases of corn in 16 years. It has also been increasing purchases of other products, such as lentils and oilmeals, as production falls short. Wheat and sugar stocks, while sufficient in warehouses now, are depleting fast, leading some traders to predict the need for imports next year. The same report also has this stunning statement from an analyst : “There’s a complete collapse of Indian agriculture, and that’s because of the callous neglect by the government,” said Devinder Sharma, an independent food and trade policy analyst.
In our Euphoria about the various Urban developments, somewhere along the line, the hands that feed us, the hands we owe everything to – the farming community in India, lie forgotten. This does not reach the awareness of Social Media, which is busy extolling the virtues of Urban Development and the various and admittedly excellent steps undertaken by this Government in its tenure so far. The reality of the farming scene is  not even on the radar of Urban India.
Furthermore, the other side of the story lies forgotten. I had noted categorically in my budget analysis last year, and I quote : And then, you expect the states to implement what is in essence a centrally thought plan. While the plan to devolve to states is laudable, there is a dire need to pull up recalcitrant state governments.{ http://reflectionsvvk.blogspot.in/2015/03/is-this-government-on-wrong-path.html}
Note this article from The Indian Express, which corroborates and confirms my reading of the state of affairs:  “During the UPA regime, the Centre contributed 90% for the initiative while the state pitched in with another 10%. But following the Narendra Modi government’s decision to slash central assistance for most centrally sponsored schemes from April 1, 2015, the Centre’s share has gone down to 60%. A condition that this reduced share will be released only after states release the matching grant was also imposed. Given the fund squeeze in the state, officials admitted that funds earmarked for the scheme in 2015-16 have not been released to districts so far. The scheme is applicable in 33 out of the 36 districts in the state. With funding support drying up, it has now come to light that the societies have tapped into the unutilised development funds marked in 2014-15 for the farmer training initiative for meeting salaries of the staff. {Jan 7, 2016}
Farmers produce the food we eat; this is a fact. Their troubles should be on the forefront of the nations’ priorities; alongwith the needs of the Armed Forces. The proofs and reality given above bear mute testimony to two realities : one is the lack of awareness and churlish attitude of Urban India towards the farmers and rural India; and the other reality being the gap highlighted by the Indian Express article on the change in the method of operation of UPA vis-a-vis NDA, which is exactly what I had foretold long back. I am sure the Government will learn and take corrective measures {Note article from reuters}; question is – will we, the people, wake up and understand that it is the Rural India that requires our helping hand? That extolling Urban Developments alone does not suffice? Will the Urban Indian wake up? 

References : 

Insaaniyat Kahaan Hai?

Published December 15, 2015 by vishalvkale

The title says “Insaaniyat Kahaan Hai?” That is my question to all of my readers. Insaaniyat kahaan gum ho gayi hai? Where is our feeling of humanity, of oneness, of compassion, and of love-  all those lovely feelings humans are supposed to have – heavy emphasis on the word supposed? For, even a cursory glance at contemporary society would prove beyond any shade of doubt that not one of these is in common prevalence…
This is a society that can watch a Nirbhay {May God Bless Her Soul and Grant Her Moksha}  lie naked and bleeding on a road in a cold winter morning; this is a society that can watch a wounded man writhe in agony on the road, or can watch a man bleed to death – and yet do nothing.These are just examples;  does no remorse ever touch such people? Doesn’t their conscience prick them, and say anything? How is it that we as a society have become so insensitive?
This is a society which can rise and raise a hue and cry when a question is raised on a political leader – any leader with a following, to be frank; the level of the noise rises with an increase in popularity. This is a society that can cry themselves hoarse, throw insults and worse on the slightest criticism of a political leader, or party, or perceived national image {intolerance, anyone?} – and yet remain totally silent on such callous and insensitive displays of so-called “human” behaviour as we have seen in the above examples!
Where is our indignation when such things happen?  Where is the high-decibel shock, condemnation and disgust that was in evidence earlier – when such {and many other} displays of apathy and insensitivity occur? Where is our collective conscience? Why the profound silence, and why the noise when someone – whether famous or not – criticizes the Government, any party {note – ANY party}, our culture, our nation, our heritage? Or is it the contention that such finer feelings are reserved only for such idea, notions and feelings rather than clear human tragedies?
A couple of days ago, a similar such {similar, not comparable – please!} incident occurred in New Delhi, which might also have resulted in the sad death of a baby {matter sub-judice, we don’t know}. A clearly legally correct action on people occupying Railway Land; they had no right to that land. I don’t think that is in question here. But the manner this was done – destroying settlements in mid-winter – has shocked me to the core of my being. What is going on?
This was done without any alternative arrangement – and that is the true horrifying shocker in this entire sad tragedy. Other questions – like was it too hurried {the death of the Baby – why it happened etc} are there; but they are more to do with administrative and legal matters; and we cannot comment without more information. The Honourable High Court is now looking into this matter; and its initial scathing observation and questions on The Government is telling, but we cannot and should not comment till more information is available.
The reason was : A Passenger Terminal, among other things. A passenger terminal is more important than providing for those poor people who have nowhere to go? Couldn’t someone have found a way to do both? Where was the need for such horrifying and mind-numbingly shocking action on a hand-to-mouth people, who have no hopes and nowhere to turn to? Is this the excellent implementation culture we have been hearing about? I am stunned at this action, and could not sleep all night, as I recalled that incident, my mind was numb with disbelief, A Passenger Terminal!!!!! Couldnt it wait? Couldnt someone have first made alternate arrangement – this is mid-winter, man! Shocking!
And now where all those indignant noises that we heard against Aamir, or against those who were saying we are intolerant? If we believe that raising a voice against a perceived or real event can be effective – then why the silence now? Where are all those people who were raising a voice that India is Tolerant? Where are those people who were saying India is Intolerant? Where are all those people who talk of GDP growth, amenities and facilities? Where are all those people who chat about inclusive growth? No, Nothing, Nada, Zilch, Cipher, Zero, Silence. Absolute, Complete and Total Silence.  
Or are such niceties reserved only for important things, like Culture, Tolerance, GDP Growth, Amenities, Facilities? What happens when you see such sad examples as above? Every odd day, we hear a news of bystanders doing nothing as accident victims bleed – everyday examples of apathy. Why the silence  – the total silence – on every social media of note on such issues? Why we ignore such mind-numbing cruelty? For this is cruelty – letting someone die, and doing nothing.
This is also poor implementation – not making arrangements. But  I forget – good implementation is only for your swank malls, large factories, lovely roads, big ports, isn’t it? You put pressure on the Government for these; high time you also put pressure on the Government for the other aspect – good implementation in terms of displaced people in projects, good and hassle free implementation of accident victims treatment, and lessening the fear of the people.
But no, that isn’t important, is it? Your GDP, Factories etc are far more important, right? I am not talking of the Government – I am talking to you, the people of India. Frankly, this pusillanimous display of lack of plain humanity in the people is only convincing some among us that this Government is A Suit-Boot-Ki-Sarkar. I would like to remind everyone here that this Indian behaviour has been in evidence, this apathy has been present regardless of the which political party is in power!

I can only ask : Insaaniyat Kahaan Hai? Where is our feeling of being Human? Aapas me gam baante, Jo ham phir na rahe aise  sitam… Kahane ko insaan hai… Insaaniyat kahaan hai??????? 

Caste, And Reservations : An Examination

Published October 18, 2015 by vishalvkale

We need reservations because of the history of inequality and injustice that has preceded our current generations, for at least the past 200 years, if not more. That requires some rebalancing. Further, there are some areas in India where discrimination was practiced; if some reports are to be believed, pockets still exist. Until our society grows out of this scourge, we have little choice.
The question is : why compromise on quality? Why cant we stress both reservation and quality, impractical though it may sound?

Note :
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The earlier casteism was softer, and did not acquire its present shape then. It was entrenched in a system of hereditary vocations, with relevant skills for each vocation being passed from generation to generation. This built deep intra-caste relationships and inter-caste dependencies, based not on oppression but on a workable and eminently but brutally efficient methodology, that rivals and beats any and every modern system with a modicum of ease.
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This is what ensured India’s dominance for close on 9000 years – it built a system that was extraordinarily hard for anyone to break into. The proof of this is the presence of guilds that existed for centuries {Thapar, 2004/05 – will need to check precise year of her book}. Another proof comes in the writings of Sujan Rai from 1689 or 1696, who has described a flawless system of cash transfers that puts our modern IT hot-shots and western / eastern management geniuses to shame. {Habib, 2012}
* From my Blog : Casteism – A Fresh And Objective Analysis : Casteism – A Fresh And Objective Analysis

The above is another factor : the hardlined and clearly demarcated lines of no-crossing {which developed during colonial rule, but were based on increasing and steady hardening immediately preceding colonialsim}. This created a deep division, entrenched into stone. This also cultivated selective competencies in selective classes

{Prof. Vaidyanathan in India, Uninc has brought to the fore the relevance of these selective competencies even in modern Business in India : India, Uninc}

Thus, my contention is in support of reservation on demographic, historical, cultural, economic, Skill-sets, and competencies parameters. In order to create an equal society, we really do have no choice. That is what sets us apart as a nation : unlike others, we are at least trying to say sorry, to set things right.

On annihilation of caste – that is frankly, impossible. The term caste has a multitude of cultural connotations, and is a reality of the social landscape in India, It is not going anywhere anytime soon – and that is the truth.

The differences between cultural practices in castes, {even sub-castes} is unassailable, and unbridgeable – and range from practices related to religion, to even standard things like outlook towards life, and other traits. This is due to centuries of inbreeding. I myself can trace my family tree all the way to approximately the 1400s, in one single unbroken line of authentic succession. In my own caste, there are but 57 family trees, with exceedingly well documented histories and practices.

The cultural and other practical differences between castes are rock-solid, and hued into stone; centuries of deep inbreeding within castes has set in stone the practices, so much so that some traits are now almost genetic; and easily identifiable. Case in point being my own caste : Kokanasth, which is a very small caste of Chitpavan Brahman tree. You dont need to know the name to pick out one of us, most times. Those who live around us can tell us a mile away; and most Maharashtrians can tell even more easily! These have now been coded into Genetics, almost – and is not going away; not for centuries.

Caste isnt going anywhere! More to the point, it is the outlook of how we look to castes that needs to change.


Caste wont go away; the differences in various castes ensure that this is a concept that will stand the test of time in at least the next couple of centuries, The differences between even related castes are huge; boys and girls, even today, are known to prefer same-caste spouses by choice rather than parental force. The exception proves the rule.

Technology and modernity arent just equalising castes – they are also solidifying them. Case in point : I am a member of my Family Tree Whatsapp Group, constituting far-flung members of the extended Kale family tree. The same development that is breaking barriers is also fuelling easy connectivity between constituents of the same caste. I know several means of reaching my own caste members through technology. This is fueling a deeper connectivity within castes, which might just solidify rather than equalise. The same forces of change that are breaking barriers are also acting on the other side of the coin.

The same technology, for example, will enable a member of the Kale Family to check relationships with another Kokanasth and check back to how many generations ago a Kale had married,say, which Patwardhan and which Branch of which Patwardhan. Relations are till the 5th Generation; marriage is feasible thereafter. There exists documented and extensive family histories, well chronicled on the internet. I myself have accessed it!

A corollary can be found in the rapid rise of the vernacular film industry; far from Hindi becoming the lingua franca, there is actually a reverse trend of rapid technology driven rise of local languages everywhere across India. Remember : Technology and Development operate equally on all sides of a socio-cultural equation. That is why I state : Castes are here to stay.

Change your outlook towards castes. I see no issues in a Kokanasth marrying a Kokanasth; just as I see no issue in a Kokanasth marrying a Kshatriya or an OBC, or any other caste. I see no difference between a Brahman and a Vaishya or any other SC, ST or OBC. In fact, we should stop calling them SC, ST etc; the constituents have their own culture in their own castes, like we Kokanasth. Can’t we accept all castes as equals?

Change your outlook towards caste, and how you view it. But Caste will not go away. We can undo the damage to the caste system due to colonialism {Refer Maria Misra’s monumental research on this topic} – but you cannot take way caste. Modern forces ensure that.

The root is the caste issue; that is the origin. Problem is we arent even trying to change our outlook towards caste, and are, as a people, beating around the bush, swinging like pendulum from one extreme to the other. At one extreme you have the dreams of remove caste from society brigade, and at the other you have the vociferous defenders of reservations and of the status quo. Given the ground realities, it is impossible to remove reservations, and neither is this recommended.

What is required is a sea-change in administrative delivery and capabilities, and a lot less chalta hai, which is harming India no end. That is the only real solution – good governance and deliverance of the results of governance to the people. That will help percolate good ideas and people development; and that is precisely what none among is even willing to contemplate. We need to remove the concept of discrimination from our society, and that requires education.

Even our sacred texts make the reality specific : I quote from The Shrimad Bhagwad Geeta, Shri Bhagwaan Uvaach :
CHAATURVARNYAM MAYAA SRUSHTUM GUNKARMVIBHAAGASHAH |
TASYA KARTAARAMAPI MAAM VIDDHYAKARTAARAMAVYAYAM ||
The Shrimad Bhagwad Geeta, Shlok 13, Adhyaay Chaturth,
This shlok explicitly tells that the caste system was based on “Guna” and “Karma”; these are Shri Bhagwaan Uvaach, the words of the Lord and Creator himself. Why cant all of us understand and accept this as a cornerstone of our thought process? That your status is a straight function of your own individual abilities? That would allow us to focus on and create a system wherein the intrinsic qualities of each individual come to the fore? Isnt this doable?
How far have we come from this shlok in our lives? The need of the hour is the education of the people, and enlghtenment; which isnt happening. Caste as a cultural concept is now irreplaceable, given the cultural practices and norms that are now almost genetically coded. But we need to stop viewing caste as anything other than a cultural realm and reality, and not as a status symbol, or as an achievement, or indeed a means to an end.

Crafting this is not going to be easy, and at this juncture sounds highly idealistic; that said, we as a people do not have any other option. Rather than question reservations, we would do well to look at the discrimination which does have a historical basis to it; we would do well to look at the demographics; we would do well to look at ground realities; we would do well to look at the full picture and modulate our response accordingly.

The current system isn’t perfect – that is beyond question. That the emphasis should be on quality is pretty much a given; that we should move to ensuring quality intake is also simple logic. But is this so simple to do? The question that we should, as a people, be asking is : how can we ensure that the discriminated castes {I dislike the terminology SC, ST, OBC} can get up to speed, and produce the same level of results like the others? What is stopping them?

I appreciate and accept the need for some sort of reservations, given the history of discrimination; but shouldn’t we be trying to develop their long-term capabilities by investing in proper education not at college level, but at Primary, Secondary school levels, so as to ensure capability development? Shouldnt we be focusing on channelling our energies at that question? Shouldnt we be asking what needs to be done that everyone, regatrdless of caste status, can meet the same bar, rather than lowering the bar, thus defining a new paradigm in the reservation system? Shouldn’t we be examining if this is possible, as it would solve most problems, and trying to craft a course towards that ideal?

Being Indian – 4 : The Ultimate Triumph Of The West

Published July 23, 2015 by vishalvkale

This is the 4th article in the Being Indian Series : carrying on from the previous one – Being Indian – 3 : The 1000 Year Slavery, where I examined our so-called slavery of a 1000 years.
The impact of Colonialism on the psyche of a people and a society is a tale that needs to be told, highlighted so that firstly, healing can start; and secondly, harmful and at times divisive ideas and ideologies can be nipped in the bud. The rising feeling of a so-called ‘Hindu’ resurgence /  freedom for 1000 years of slavery / rising sectarianism / other factors, has its roots in the colonial experience, the true extent of which is not known to Indians even in the modern day; if they do know, the realization of its import is sadly absent, as shown by current events.

The assumption, gaining popular ground increasingly in a currently niche segment of our population, that we have been slaves for a 1000 years, is sadly not based on facts; this is a telling failure of our education system, which has done an admittedly laudable job of not feeding hatred against anyone; the unfortunate result of this has been an incomplete understanding of our history, particularly the history of the British rule. Further, the education system has also not been able to keep track of the socio-political changes that are being wrought  by the rise of various forces. But that is another story, to be taken up in another series. Let us leave this thought here for the time being.

Before we move into Colonialism, let us ask ourselves one question: was so-called Muslim rule, or were the Muslim dynasties really as harmful as the British? Second, why did the Muslim rulers gain a footage in this land? What did they cart away, and what did they give back to society? And what is the comparison with the British period? The hard reality is that for most of our history, it has always been the internal traitor – who was like as not a “Hindu”, who was also responsible somewhere along the line! Remember Jaichand? Hasn’t it always been our penchant to call the outsider? Furthermore, we were always divided as a people – can we run away from that? Why did we not wake up and build defences – it took 17 attacks by one particular Gentleman from the Middle East to awaken us – ­­several hundred years later? Even after innumerable attacks – Greeks, Huns, etc : we were still asleep and mindless of our own vulnerability? What were we doing all these years? Sleeping?

Not only that, Muslim rule was built upon alliances and relationships with Non-Muslim rulers as well; and large tracts of India were consistently out of Muslim yoke. I am not denying the excesses that took place; I am only saying while acknowledging the excesses, also acknowledge that good that happened; that will put the entire matter in the proper perspective. In the case of The British period, we are quick to point out the good  – democracy, unity, railways, administration etc, without conceding the bad, or analyzing the extent of the good and the bad, and the intent behind the good. By contrast, nothing good apparently happened in Muslim ruled areas, if you believe some people. Is that a fair assessment?

It is a known historical fact that in the lead-up to British rule, our international trade relationships were strong; be it spices, or be it textiles. In fact, Shivaji Maharaj actually started building a strong navy for the express purpose of defending traders from British and European piracy on the high seas. Keep in mind that the British came to India for trade, or to put it more accurately, under the guise of trade. We were known exporters with a large share of world trade and GDP; these profits from this trade stayed within India, and were not drained out to alien lands.

There was no attempt to play with the socio-cultural fabric of the society; which, given the collusion of Islamic rules with local chieftains, kings and nobility, was a given. Politically there were issues, true; there were instances of persecution, and sad happenings like Jizyaa tax, and the sporadic odd ruler who was a fanatic, like Aurangzeb. Granted. But the people were, by and large, much better off under the previous political setup than in the later British period. And that is the key to the matter! Local industries thrived; agriculture was productive, and taxation which varied from mild to slightly excessive, was not even a patch on that exploitation under British rule. There was no attempt to divide the people, or to create religious and caste tensions.

But what happened in British rule? The Bengal experience and example shows in vivid detail the pillage that occurred in economic terms, leading to a massive famine, and the ruin of a once-rich land to a condition of penury. A land where famine was sporadic, now was jolted by famine after famine every few years, as documented history tells. An estimated 40-60 Million Indians are supposed to have died due to famines alone.  These weren’t just Hindus – they were Indians of all castes, religions. Taxation increased to  50-80% of the produce; farmers were not free to grow what they wanted- cropping changes were forced; these are just 2 examples of the interference that happened. This did not happen during Muslim rule, and that is a fact.

Local Industries were destroyed; business profits plunged to a fraction of the old within a few years of the onset of British rule; weavers – for example – reduced to beggars, creating the begging problem in a land where no beggars were known on so wide a scale; landless labour class expanded dramatically as profits from agriculture dipped, creating a massive nationwide class of landless labour; Zamindari strengthened through direct intervention; industry after industry collapsed, as the inverted duty structures made imports cheaper than home-grown products for the first time in our history; new technology inflow reduced to zero; education losing steam and focus…

Next came the interventions in Religion, and the targeted conversions that started to happen on a scale not seen before – targeting all religions; and on top of all this, was the denigration and destruction of the local arts and culture scene, with Indian habits, cultural occasions and arts being targeted and derided; the advent of cultural imperialism, and the way it interrupted the development of our arts and culture; the way an ugly combination of livelihood dependency on knowledge of the English Language, and constant debasement of everything Indian by the British became associated in the minds of the people with western superiority, giving rise to a  plethora of modern issues…

But worst of all was the destruction of the socio-political fabric of this lovely nation, a fabric that had ensured its continued dominance and survival for millennia, despite its many faults and flaws. This is to be taken up in the concluding 5th part of the Being Indian Series, so let us leave this thought here. Point to be noted here is that in Trade, Industry, Arts, Culture, Economics, Religion – in just about each and every sphere of societal and political mileu in India, it is the British Rule which stands out as being the most harmful and divisive in our long history.

No period of our history has had as many tragic stories happening simultaneously on so large a scale, as under British Rule. The period prior to British rule, while not without its issues and problems, was a period of relative prosperity and growth, the many problems notwithstanding. Merchant guilds, industries, factories, agriculture scenario, trade routes and nationwide trade networks were all vital and strong just prior to the British, that is  a fact. By contrast, under British rule, wealth- which previously stayed within India, not started going out of India…



This was both through sanctioned as well as unofficial loot. Unbelievably high taxation, paying for the enite edifice of colonialism alongwith its massive perks and high expenses through internal money, the repatriation of around a full 50% of the annual budget to England; the taxation outflows, with Indian goods taxed at 80% and imports at 20%, unpaid war debts, which were as high as 40% approximately of total British war debts {as per some estimates}; complete destruction of both agriculture as well as industry as viable professions for Indians; destructions of trade routes and networks are all of British origin, and none from so-called Muslim rule.

Add to this the slaughter : the genocide of 1857, the innumerable famines, the brutal suppression of uprisings and freedom movements across India – and you have a tale of disaster that is unparalleled anywhere. The British denuded us of our wealth, and built their own developed World on our money; not only that, they also got us to believe in our own inferiority in military, economic as well as cultural terms; this was not present earlier. This is the true victory of the British Empire : getting the strongest, most resilient and innovative people on the planet to believe they are backward, decadent, weak and defenseless, and that Western culture is superior. This continuing belief in the superiority of Western Culture is the ultimate and lasting triumph of The British Raj, alongside the absolute, complete and total success of the policy of divide and rule, getting brother to question brother, getting us to question our selves, rather than our rapists…