Sunday, August 31, 2014

Social Justice

This is a very good article appearing in today's The Hindu which discusses the failure or ineffectiveness of Govt. policies in uplifting the conditions of dalits.


  • In a new book, Defying the Odds: The Rise of Dalit Entrepreneurs , we [the authors] have attempted to map the trajectories of 21 Dalit entrepreneurs — their humble origins and the grit they displayed in building successful businesses. Although they are minuscule in number among the 200 million-plus Dalits, their experiences reveal that they largely succeeded despite and not because of public policy. It also shows what can now be done to pave the way for more Dalits to become job givers rather than remain job seekers, a slogan adopted by their trade body, the Dalit Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DICCI)
  • Our initial findings indicate that almost all of the respondents are first generation entrepreneurs. Most are not well-educated (in terms of fancy degrees); indeed, many have even limited schooling. The collective turnover of these 1,000 Dalit entrepreneurs is nearly Rs.10,000 crore. Almost none of them has received support or preferential treatment from the government. They did not even consider approaching institutions like the National Scheduled Castes Finance and Development Corporation (NSFDC) which is mandated to promote entrepreneurship among Dalits. The transaction costs are simply too high when compared to the very modest amounts of funds handed out by people who have little knowledge of the issues.
  • The policy discourse has so far focussed on the preferential model over and above what is practicable. Job quotas without jobs are meaningless. Dalits will find very limited economic opportunities in government jobs for the simple reason that these barely exist relative to the numbers of Dalit youth joining the workforce. The emphasis should be to ensure universal access to quality education and health care and other basic public goods for all people and ensure that all those left out due to a variety of reasons are covered.
  • Second, manufacturing offers more scope for would-be Dalit entrepreneurs for the simple reason that the children of the elite simply cannot take the heat and dust and the distant locations that are inevitable in setting up a manufacturing unit in India today. They prefer service-related occupations in metros in air-conditioned offices.
  • Third, social hierarchies are much more rigid in rural India, and an urbanising India offers better opportunities for aspiring Dalit entrepreneurs.
The challenge for policymakers is to create what de Tocqueville termed “equality of conditions” wherein anyone can chart his/her own course with initiative, tenacity and an enabling policy regime. 

Reflections on Caste: U R Ananthmurthy

Recently Mr. U. R. Ananthamurthy, noted Kannada literateur died. He was a vehement opposer of caste system. Excerpts from today's The Hindu article:

Reflections on caste
Ananthamurthy reflected on caste on many occasions, and his novel, Samskara (1965), evokes the decadent world of a brahman agrahara (settlement), much of it drawing on his own experience of growing up in one. He belonged to the Madhva tradition, a Vaishnava sect that followed the 13th century philosopher, Madhvacharya. His name, Udupi Rajagopalacharya Ananthamurthy, as professor Arindam Chakrabarti reminded me, bears the signature of Udupi Sri Krishna — the presiding deity of Madhva Dvaita Vedanta.
Yet, his novel mocks norms of purity and pollution. Naranappa, the anti-brahmin Brahmin dies, and the question is who will perform his last rites as he has no son. Till this is done there can be “no worship, no bathing, no prayers, no food, nothing.” Naranappa had not only mocked at brahmin orthodoxy, but drank liquor, ate meat, caught sacred fish with his Muslim friends and rejected his wife, living instead with a sudra woman called Chandri. Answers are sought from Praneshacharya, the head of the village, who is the crown jewel of Vedic learning. He in turn seeks answers regarding pollution from the book of dharma and then pleads with Maruti, the chaste monkey-god, but gets no answer. He comes across Chandri in the forest and both discover each other erotically in their traumatised states, giving Praneshacharya an opportunity for self-transformation.
He decides to perform the last rites, but by then the plague is manifest on Naranappa’s body and Chandri has already asked a Muslim to cremate the body. The screenplay of the film “Samskara” (1970) was written by Girish Karnad who played Naranappa.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Social Fabric and the role of modern police

Background: Recently an 18 year old black African-American was shot dead by a white police man in Ferguson (Missouri), US. This led to a tension between the black and the white community in the city. Curfew had to be imposed to maintain law and order.

Sociological perspective:
1. Communal/racial differences exist not only in '3rd world' but the '1st world' nations as well.
2. Police personnels' sensitivity towards community-sentiments is very vital for maintaining the social fabric of a multi-community/caste/religion based society.

Excerpts from the article written by Mr. R K Raghavan, former Director, CBI

"The Ferguson incident highlights the intricacies of policing in the present times, especially in a democracy that has a fractured society. It has lessons for the Indian police as well. Mindless policing divorced from the realities of social inequality can be dangerous. It can tear apart the basic fabric of unity and civilised conduct of citizens in any community. A blending of toughness with the civilised treatment of individuals is the recipe. But then this is just theory, one more easily advocated and expounded than actually possible to practise in a stressful situation that a policemen is often placed in the present day environment."

Women Issues

Unequal status tells on women’s nutrition - The Hindu

A new working paper by economists Diane Coffey, a PhD candidate at the Office of Population Research at Princeton University; Reetika Khera of the Indian Institute of Technology-Delhi; and Mr. Spears has shown that the younger daughters-in-law in a rural joint family have shorter children on average. While this is no longer the typical Indian family, it provides a rare econometric measure of “social status.” Sure enough, the younger daughters-in-law “report having less say in a range of household decisions; they spend less time outside the home on a normal day than [the older] daughters-in-law; and, they have lower body mass index [BMI] scores than their [older] counterparts,” the researchers find, using official National Family Health Survey data.