Monday, 6 July 2009

Nandan Nilekani now has an Identity for Identity Starved Indians

Dear All,
It seems Nandan Nilekani and Kapil Sibal are emerging as the Mascots for a new Congress government and a new Congress party which is youth friendly.
While this maybe a temporary phase or cooling off period while Shri Rahul Gandhi devotes himself to learning about the heart rending woes of rural India's Kalawati, there is no doubt that the Congress government is on the cusp of a major realignment with the country, egged on by corporate India and global forces.
Nandan Nilekani has expressed himself and pronounced his vision of the so called Unique Identity Project. What does this unique identity project mean in a non English speaking idiom, lets say, how does The Unique Identity Project of ManMohan Singh and Nandan Nilekani, who was elevated to the rank of Cabinet Minister and blessed with the 120 crore signing off largesse by our Dear Pranab Babu, translate itself into Tamil, into Oriya, into Punjabi, into Gujarati, into Kannada, into Hindi ?
Will the Grand Vision of Nandan Nilekani about foisting a unique identity on each and every India reverberate only in English amongst soft spoken outsourcing brat pack of Chennai, Gurgaon and Bangalooru ?
Come join us for a LokVidya discussion. - Let us test the patriotism of the Grand Vision of Nandan Nilekani in the villages of rural India rather than in the electricity gulping Air conditioned corridors of Bangalooru, Gurgaon or Special Economic Zones that ASSOCHAM and FICCI wants tax lollipops for.
LokVidya Bahas on Nandan Nilekani, Identity Project and Identity of Bharat.
Attached is the brief paper in which the visionary Nandan Nilekani spells out his GRAND VISION for finding a technology fix for the Identity Starved Indian - as Marie Antoinette of France would say - " Let them eat cakes ".
And Nandan Nilekani would seem to say - " Let them get an ID-ENTITY ".
While it is no secret that Indian IT sector is in dire straits due to global recession and emerging protectionism, it seems the Indian IT sector is looking to spread its wings and have a new look at the domestic Indian services markets.
So what are the preconditions for this ?
It would be premature of us to see this merely as an issue of the Indian IT sector. It surely has deeper implications than just some Indian corporate interests, muscle flexing with the Indian government, for an economic agenda of their choice.
Come, let us explore these radical politics questions at a LokVidya Bahas which seeks to look at the knowledge and vidya question from the standpoint of Bharat.

Today Indians can have a multitude of numbers with which to identify ourselves, depending on when and where we interact with the State. When we get a passport we get a passport ID, a ration card gets us another number, when we pay taxes we need a Permanent Account Number (PAN), when we register our vote we get a voter ID card, and on to bar code infinitum. “Our databases are in these disconnected silos,” Chief Election Commissioner N. Gopalaswami says. This makes zeroing in on a definite identity for each citizen particularly difficult, since each government department works on a different turf and with different groups of people. The lack of a unique number has given space to plenty of phantoms in voter lists and in Below Poverty Line (BPL) schemes and in holding bank accounts with multiple PANs. One academic tells me, “The number of BPL ration cards circulating in Karnataka is more than the state’s entire population, let alone the number of BPL families.”

India’s ministries and departments are also quite isolated, with separate fund flows and intricate, over-hyphenated authority levels. As a result, these systems require paperwork-choked processes each time citizens approach the state. A common technology and process platform for government schemes and departments — especially now that they have such large budgets — would be a huge improvement in coordinating information between departments, and getting rid of redundancy and triplicate forms. Identity systems linked up with an IT-enabled process that interlinks our various departments would, besides making citizen information and identity more verifiable, make the relationship between the State and the citizen infinitely less traumatising. Such a ‘national grid’ would require, as a first and critical step, a unique and universal ID for each citizen. Creating a national register of citizens, assigning them a unique ID and linking them across a set of national databases, like the PAN and passport, can have far-reaching effects in delivering public services better and targeting services more accurately. Unique identification for each citizen also ensures a basic right — the right to ‘an acknowledged existence’ in the country, without which much of a nation’s poor can be nameless and ignored, and governments can draw a veil over large-scale poverty and destitution.

The use of IT and the rise of such unique number systems are closely correlated. In the United States, for instance, the Social Security Administration (SSA) was the first federal bureaucracy to require the use of computers because of the overwhelming complexity of processing the social security numbers and data of its 200 million-plus citizens. The bureaucracy was a massive complex of wall-to-wall file cabinets managed by hundreds of clerks. It was the early IBM 705 computer that helped transform and streamline it. This mainframe approach quickly spread to European bureaucracies in the 60s and the 70s. The transparency and flexibility of such computerisation also enabled other reforms — such as laws that introduced individual citizen accounts for benefits and welfare payouts, a step which both opposition parties and citizens in Europe and the US would have been deeply suspicious of under the earlier, less transparent and bureaucracy-run system. In China as well, IT has helped the government transform its social security systems from a local network to a national, increasingly interlinked process.

In India, the government has made some attempts towards such a single citizen ID number.... A stop-gap arrangement that the government has put in place requires the PAN as ‘the sole identification number’ during bank transactions. But of course, with just 60 million people with a PAN, this does not come close to a broad-based citizen ID....

Too often though, we see issuing smart cards as the main challenge of implementing such a system. But building these intelligent little stripes is the easy part. It is in making the back-end infrastructure secure and scalable, providing a single record-keeper for the whole country and integrating the agents who issue these numbers that gets tough. To do this, we need a sustained and multi-pronged effort that cuts across governments as well as companies. For example, issuing this number to each citizen, say, during a census would be extremely onerous, as it is a painful task prone to errors as census officials spend long days walking through neighbourhoods and knocking on doors. It would be a lot more effective to issue these numbers when citizens come to the government.

This would mean issuing citizen IDs when individuals come to a public office for an identification document — a passport, birth certificate, caste certificate, driver’s licence — when they come to collect a benefit such as a BPL card or when they have to make a financial transaction, such as pay taxes, open a bank account or buy into a mutual fund. The government can also easily recruit private companies such as telecommunication and financial services firms to become intermediary issuers to their large numbers of customers.

Each of these paths to identifying the citizen and bringing him into the database would cover different pools of people. The PAN covers all tax payers, voter IDs all registered citizens over 18, birth certificates all newborns and BPL cards the poor. Using the databases to issue IDs to different groups of people means that the initiative would ramp up to near-universal, accurate levels very quickly. And if necessary, such efforts can be complemented with a census. A national smart ID done at this level could, I think, be transformational. Acknowledging the existence of every single citizen, for instance, automatically compels the State to improve the quality of services, and immediately gives the citizen better access....

A key piece of infrastructure that must sit on top of an interconnected grid is the electronic flow of funds. This will require that each uniquely identified citizen or organisation has a financial account into which money can be transferred from the State. This could be an account in a bank, a post office or with a self-help group. And within this system, the ID smart card can function as a mobile, non-transferable electronic passbook.

My guess is that the impact on inclusive growth and India’s savings rate from implementing this would be massive, considering that an estimated 80 per cent of Indians today do not have a bank account, and therefore lie outside any sort of banking system besides, perhaps, the one represented by the exploitative moneylender and his steel box of cash. “The weakest aspect of India’s economic reach is in financial access,” Dr C. Rangarajan agrees, “and its impact on inclusive growth has been severe.” For instance, people need savings to invest in education, spend on health care, or to feel secure enough to move to a city, leaving their home and land to take up jobs in a place where they have no real assets.

Linking smart cards to such accounts can open up the banking system to hundreds of millions more people. It also introduces the possibility of offering direct services, from pension and benefit payments to trading accounts to an unprecedented number of people.
This is an edited extract from Nandan Nilekani’s Imagining India: Ideas for the New Century (Penguin India).

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Want American citizenship ? Fight American coalition Wars - Wars of White Old Men

Who are the people dying for the adventurous wars fought by old American men on Foreign Soils - while safely growing old, sittiing in Washington. Do they send their own children for dying for American glory, american brass trinkets, medals, and America's Fear and Awe Strategy ? The truth is far more sordid as the Cheneys and Bush's and the old white gentlemen fighting and scheming for American wars and defence sales equipments across the globe - would rather not tell us.
The Wars of White Old Men of Washington : from AP
A young, ambitious immigrant from Guatemala who dreamed of becoming an architect. A Nigerian medic. A soldier from China who boasted he would one day become an American general. An Indian native whose headstone displays the first Khanda, emblem of the Sikh faith, to appear in Arlington National Cemetery.

These were among more than 100 foreign-born members of the U.S. military who earned American citizenship by dying in Iraq.

Jose Gutierrez was one of the first to fall, killed by friendly fire in the dust of Umm Qasr in the opening hours of the invasion.

In death, the young Marine was showered with honors his family could only have dreamed of in life. His sister was flown in from Guatemala for his memorial service, where a Roman Catholic cardinal presided and top military officials saluted his flag-draped coffin.

And yet, his foster mother agonized as she accompanied his body back for burial in Guatemala City: Why did Jose have to die for America in order to truly belong?

Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles, who oversaw Gutierrez's service, put it differently.

"There is something terribly wrong with our immigration policies if it takes death on the battlefield in order to earn citizenship," Mahony wrote to President Bush in April 2003. He urged the president to grant immediate citizenship to all immigrants who sign up for military service in wartime.

"They should not have to wait until they are brought home in a casket," Mahony said.

But as the war continues, more and more immigrants are becoming citizens in death — and more and more families are grappling with deeply conflicting feelings about exactly what the honor means.

Gutierrez's citizenship certificate — dated to his death on March 21, 2003, — was presented during a memorial service in Lomita, Calif., to Nora Mosquera, who took in the orphaned teen after he had trekked through Central America, hopping freight trains through Mexico before illegally sneaking into the U.S.

"On the one hand I felt that citizenship was too late for him," Mosquera said. "But I also felt grateful and very proud of him. I knew it would open doors for us as a family."

"What use is a piece of paper?" cried Fredelinda Pena after another emotional naturalization ceremony, this one in New York City where her brother's framed citizenship certificate was handed to his distraught mother. Next to her, the infant daughter he had never met dozed in his fiancee's arms.

Cpl. Juan Alcantara, 22, a native of the Dominican Republic, was killed Aug. 6, 2007, by an explosive in Baqouba. He was buried by a cardinal and eulogized by a congressman but to his sister, those tributes seemed as hollow as citizenship.

"He can't take the oath from a coffin," she sobbed.

There are tens of thousands of foreign-born members in the U.S. armed forces. Many have been naturalized, but more than 20,000 are not U.S. citizens.

"Green card soldiers," they are often called, and early in the war, Bush signed an executive order making them eligible to apply for citizenship as soon as they enlist. Previously, legal residents in the military had to wait three years.

Since Bush's order, nearly 37,000 soldiers have been naturalized. And 109 who lost their lives have been granted posthumous citizenship.

They are buried with purple hearts and other decorations, and their names are engraved on tombstones in Arlington as well as in Mexico and India and Guatemala.

Among them:

• Marine Cpl. Armando Ariel Gonzalez, 25, who fled Cuba on a raft with his father and brother in 1995 and dreamed of becoming an American firefighter. He was crushed by a refueling tank in southern Iraq on April 14, 2003.

• Army Spc. Justin Onwordi, a 28-year-old Nigerian medic whose heart seemed as big as his smiling 6-foot-4 frame and who left behind a wife and baby boy. He died when his vehicle was blown up in Baghdad on Aug. 2, 2004.

• Army Pfc. Ming Sun, 20, of China who loved the U.S. military so much he planned to make a career out of it, boasting that he would rise to the rank of general. He was killed in a firefight in Ramadi on Jan. 9, 2007.

• Army Spc. Uday Singh, 21, of India, killed when his patrol was attacked in Habbaniyah on Dec. 1, 2003. Singh was the first Sikh to die in battle as a U.S. soldier, and it is his headstone at Arlington that displays the Khanda.

• Marine Lance Cpl. Patrick O'Day from Scotland, buried in the California rain as bagpipes played and his 19-year-old pregnant wife told mourners how honored her 20-year-old husband had felt to fight for the country he loved.

"He left us in the most honorable way a man could," Shauna O'Day said at the March 2003 Santa Rosa service. "I'm proud to say my husband is a Marine. I'm proud to say my husband fought for our country. I'm proud to say he is a hero, my hero."

Not all surviving family members feel so sure. Some parents blame themselves for bringing their child to the U.S. in the first place. Others face confusion and resentment when they try to bury their child back home.

At Lance Cpl. Juan Lopez's July 4, 2004, funeral in the central Mexican town of San Luis de la Paz, Mexican soldiers demanded that the U.S. Marine honor guard surrender their arms, even though the rifles were ceremonial. Earlier, the Mexican Defense Department had denied the Marines' request to conduct the traditional 21-gun salute, saying foreign troops were not permitted to bear arms on Mexican soil.

And so mourners, many deeply opposed to the war, witnessed an extraordinary 45-minute standoff that disrupted the funeral even as Lopez's weeping widow was handed his posthumous citizenship by a U.S. embassy official.

The same swirl of conflicting emotions and messages often overshadows the military funerals of posthumous citizens in the U.S.

Smuggled across the Mexican border in his mother's arms when he was 2 months old, Jose Garibay was just 21 when he died in Nasiriyah. The Costa Mesa police department made him an honorary police officer, something he had hoped one day to become. America made him a citizen.

But his mother, Simona Garibay, couldn't conceal her bewilderment and pain. It seemed, she said in interviews after the funeral, that more value was being placed on her son's death than on his life.

Immigrant advocates have similar mixed feelings about military service. Non-citizens cannot become officers or serve in high-security jobs, they note, and yet the benefits of citizenship are regularly pitched by recruiters, and some recruitment programs specifically target colleges and high schools with predominantly Latino students.

"Immigrants are lured into service and then used as political pawns or cannon fodder," said Dan Kesselbrenner, executive director of the National Immigration Project, a program of the National Lawyers Guild. "It is sad thing to see people so desperate to get status in this country that they are prepared to die for it."

Others question whether non-citizens should even be permitted to serve. Mark Krikorian of the conservative Center for Immigration Studies, argues that defending America should be the job of Americans, not non-citizens whose loyalty might be suspect. In granting special benefits, including fast-track citizenship, Krikorian says, there is a danger that soldiering will eventually become yet another job that Americans won't do.

And yet, immigrants have always fought — and died — in America's wars.

During the Cvil War, the Union army recruited Irish and German immigrants off the boat. Alfred Rascon, an illegal immigrant from Mexico, received the Medal of Honor for acts of bravery during the Vietnam war. In the 1990s, Gen. John Shalikashvili, born in Poland after his family fled the occupied Republic of Georgia, became chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

After the Iraq invasion, the U.S. Embassy in Mexico fielded hundreds of requests from Mexicans offering to fight in exchange for citizenship. They mistakenly believed that Bush's order also applied to nonresidents.

The right to become an American is not automatic for those who die in combat. Families must formally apply for citizenship within two years of the soldier's death, and not all choose to do so.

"He's Italian, better to leave it like that," Saveria Romeo says of her 23-year-old son, Army Staff Sgt. Vincenzo Romeo, who was born in Calabria, died in Iraq and is buried in New Jersey. A miniature Italian flag marks his grave, next to an American one.

"What good would it do?" she says. "It won't bring back my son."

But it would allow her to apply for citizenship for herself, a benefit only recently offered to surviving parents and spouses. Until 2003 posthumous citizenship was granted only through an act of Congress and was purely symbolic. There were no benefits for next of kin.

Romeo says she has no desire to apply. She says she couldn't bear to benefit in any way from her son's death. And besides, she feels Italian, not American.

Fernando Suarez del Solar just feels angry — angry at what he considers the futility of a war that claimed his only son, angry at the military recruiters he says courted young Jesus relentlessly even when the family still lived in Tijuana.

His son was just 13, Suarez del Solar said, when he was first dazzled by Marine recruiters in a California mall. For the next two years Jesus begged the family to emigrate and eventually they did, settling in Escondido, Calif., where the teen signed up for the Marines before he left high school.

Lance Cpl. Jesus Suarez Del Solar was 20 when he was killed by a bomb in the first week of the war. He left behind a wife and baby and parents so bitter about his death that they eventually divorced.

Today, his 52-year-old father has become an outspoken peace activist who travels the country organizing anti-war marches, giving speeches and working with counter-recruitment groups to dissuade young Latinos from joining the U.S. military.

"There is nothing in my life now but saving these young people," he says. "It is just something I feel have to do."

But first he had to journey to Iraq. He had to see for himself the dusty stretch of wasteland where his son became an American. In tears, he planted a small wooden cross. And he prayed for his son — and for all the other immigrants who became citizens in death.

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Social Production of Hierarchy and Education Sites

Dear All,
I find this post very interesting because it critiques the question "what is the agenda of edu-factory".
Hierarchies have always been an integral part of non Western societies but the Western world in the last 400 years has had very specific agendas in categorizing non Western societies, for political and business purposes.
This extends to non Western education, non Western values, non Western cultural mores, non Western elites and non Western society at large.
Western universities, education models and education institutions of the Oxbridge variety have played along with that agenda and portrayed themselves as physical / virtual sites and locations for a "disinterested search for knowledge and rational critique", riding on the back of what are self defined as "Western cultural values" of freedom, discussion, open debate, sound models of higher education, vis a vis, non Western hierarchies in knowledge and education.
Globalization is now seeing the business models of many such educational institutions clutching for ways and means to retain their global influence. So often, the Western educational fringe raises the questions of corporatism, wage rates, exclusion etc.
This whole model of discussing cleavages in education is suspect, because it presumes the continued domination of Western cultural values and educational institutions.
I sometimes feel, 400 years of domination over the world is enough, is it not. Let others also talk.
So when one raises the issue in terms that Xiang Biao has raised, it immediately strikes some forgotten chords in people like me - brown from the outside, white from the inside.
Xiang Bao - "Institutionalized education in most part of the human society seems intrinsically hierarchical"
That it need not be so, is a purely Western idea of the last 400 years.
So I feel it would be good to see the numbers of people who have traditionally been in higher education in previous times and the numbers who are now seeking entry into so called "democratic / liberal institutes of Westernized higher education".
-- However, we should not deny that educational hierarchy is also widely recognized, respected and sometimes even celebrated by the larger society. --
As Xiang Bao goes on to discuss the numbers entering education in Asia, maybe we need some comparative analysis with the numbers in Europe and America and how these scale up in comparison with overall population. He has suggested the numbers from Far East.
I would be very interested in similar data regarding other Asian countries.
But somehow the colonial agendas would never make this a fashionable topic for study, and Indian TV shows are well known for advertising one or two scholarships to Oxbridge.
Imagine, Indian media gets British professors to conduct third rate quiz shows and millions of students go through rounds and rounds of elimination to emerge as victors.
What for ? For a one or two seats in Oxbridge !! From a pool of millions of aspirants.
Needless to say, among the millions other who are left out, a few thousands force their skeptical middle class parents to shelve out money and foreign currency for "paid education and degrees", convincing their sceptical parents that after their education they will be given residence / work permits in EU and America and will not be thrown back to native countries.
So, the competition for marketing and corporate funds for attracting this few thousands of Chinese and Indian students becomes an industry by itself.
Native students in Western countries, who see themselves as disinterested pristine academics, feel, suddenly shortchanged by the struggle for Chinese and Indian students, by the managers and corporate staff, marketeers and racketeers, of Western universities, which they think are "their own" by definition and by birth.

The social production of hierarchy, and what we can do about it : Notes from Asia

Here is Xiang Biao scheduled contribution.

The social production of hierarchy, and what we can do about
it: Notes from Asia


Institutionalized education in most part of the human society seems intrinsically hierarchical. One is supposed to progress from a “lower” level of learning to the “higher”; “average” kids study in mediocre schools, and the “outstanding” go to top colleges; and finally, “degree” is by definition hierarchical. Recent discussions on higher education have focused on the
governmentalization /corporatization (roughly meaning tightened administrative management in order to make university managerially accountable) and the marketization of universities. This essay explores the logic of hierarchy making in a larger, societal context. It is beyond dispute
that established institutions have deeply vested interest in maintaining exclusive and hierarchical systems, and it is also true that hierarchy, particularly in the form of the
ranking tally, is imposed top down by the establishment.
However, we should not deny that educational hierarchy is also widely recognized, respected and sometimes even celebrated by the larger society. Nor should we reduce the public acceptance to merely an example of false consciousness. Most people know much better than us (university nerds) how to deal with the world. There are ethnical and moral dimensions to the socially produced
hierarchy. Instead of aiming to eradicate hierarchy altogether (which cannot be a feasible agenda despite the ideological appeal), this post wishes to explore room in the social process of hierarchy making which may enable realistic action agendas.

Precarious Hierarchy and the Ethnics of Hierarchy :

In the modern time in general, higher education become less exclusive, and educational hierarchy become much less absolute. In colonial Asia, for example, formal English education had such a magic power that it directly contributed to the creation of the institution of modern
dowry in India. It is also safe to say that, in Asia at least, higher education become less hierarchical in the so-called neoliberal era. (I use neoliberal era with some reluctance. By this term I am referring to the period starting at the end of 1970s for China, the beginning of
1990s for India, the early 1990s for Japan, and the late 1990s for South Korea).
China launched a new, unprecedented round of university expansion in 1998. The number of newly admitted students jumped from 1.08 million in 1998 to 2.5 million in 2001. By 2007, the planed intake reached 5.67 million!
Similar to Japan and South Korea, entering universities is no longer a crucial life event—it is not difficult to get in, and furthermore getting in does not guarantee good job prospects. Students have more freedom in choosing universities according to location, subject or campus “culture” instead of a single system of hierarchical evaluation.
But hierarchy certainly does not go away. Universities become ever more concerned about hierarchical ranking.
Shanghai Jiaotong University produces one of the best known tallies in the world. This reflects the fact that previously fixed hierarchy is replaced by more dynamic and unstable
differentiation. Hierarchy is in struggle. This also suggests that the process of hierarchy making becomes more public, or social, than before when it was declared by the state or established by tradition.
Underlying the new project of hierarchy making in the higher education is a unmistakable capitalist logic. The higher rank a university secures, the higher tuition fees it
charges. But the opposite is untrue. In general, students cannot enter a high-rank university simply by paying more fees. There is a limit to capitalism.
A curious example is the mushrooming MBA courses in China. On the one hand, no other institutions are more conscious than the MBA programs about hierarchical ranking which directly determine the fees they charge. On the other hand, most of the MBA students, particularly those enrolled in the elite institutes in China, had work experiences and many are self employed, and thus the ranking does not mean much for them in the material sense (say, compared to other students who may need a strong university brand for looking for jobs).
When I asked an entrepreneur (incidentally, a Taiwanese) why he applied for an expensive MBA course in Shanghai, he gave me three reasons: good teachers, the reputation of the course (“it sounds good”), and the opportunity to prove that, after
working for many years, he is still able to pass tough examinations. The Chinese capitalist class in the making need symbolic capital, but they need “solid” symbolic capital, i.e., not cheap parody ready for sale.
The hierarchical ranking of universities undoubtedly facilitates exchange between financial and cultural capital.
But at the very same time as different types of capital are exchangeable, each capital must maintain minimum autonomy. Thus, in order to be acceptable to the general public,
hierarchy must be based on “merit” to some extent.
Universities also have to maintain a balance. For example elite universities in the US charge high fees but also provide generous scholarships. Scholarships attract good students to keep its ranking high which in turn justifies high fees.
In China at least until the very recent time, socially produced hierarchy in higher education has significant moral connotations. For example, lecturers and students from top universities are expected to be more vocal in criticizing the status quo, and the state have to be more careful in
dealing with professors from these institutions. In a largely authoritarian and politically conservative system, this status provide the institutions with special clout to be more independent, critical, daring in thinking alternatives, and sometimes more eccentric in behavior.
People rank the universities high to counteract the state power and private economic interest, no matter how symbolically.

New Battles :

Hierarchy itself may not be a problem. The issue is what kind of hierarchy prevails. Our goals should be, apart from continuing the historical progress of destabilizing and “softening” hierarchy in general, making the hegemonic hierarchy more ethical.
In Asia as well as elsewhere, states have been active in domesticating and incorporating the institutions that are high in hierarchy. The corporate world may have similar desires, although their efforts are less orchestrated and their relations to universities less clear. But, both the
state and the economic establishment need seemingly independent universities for the purpose of legitimation.
(Say, the state occasionally needs some “independent scholars” to back their views, and financial institutes also like donating money to “independent” learning institutes.) The contradictions internal to the project of legitimation provide important space for actions.
Furthermore, the interests of the state and of the capital do not always fit well, and playing one against the other can be another strategy.
I cannot quite imagine autonomous universities in practical sense. As Mao Zedong repeatedly reminded us, intellectuals are a piece of feather who cannot exist without someone else’s skin. We need others for our material survival. But perhaps we can fight for a more “autonomous” evaluation system with strong moral and ethical concerns.
Another important battle field is pre-university education. I am not too worried about the corporatization or privatization of universities as I believe that that will not go too far. Even state bureaucrats and diehard capitalists would frown upon universities that have no
intellectual or ideological teeth at all.
What is much more dangerous, for China, is the on-going process of privatization and hierarchization in secondary education.
As it is less easy for money to infiltrate into higher education, well-off families start the race early. Parents spend thousands of US dollars to send children to good primary and high schools and even kindergartens. (In Beijing, top kindergartens literally charge thousands of US
dollars for a seat.)
In Japan, elite private universities such as Keio and Waseda set up their own so-called “escalator” system including kindergartens, primary and secondary schools. Children from wealthy families buy the expensive ticket to enter the escalator on the ground floor,
which take them to the top universities in the future with certain “merits.” Thus social inequality is produced and reproduced without upsetting the “merit”-based hierarchy
of universities. In China, except those who are desperate to consolidate their newly acquired financial assets into firm class status, most people want to escape from the frenzied
competition in which children became the main victims. Thus there is social base for mobilization to fight against this trend. Among other things, top universities may be able to do something, even symbolically, to counteract the education industry.

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Saturday, 29 September 2007

Headless Chickens ? And Indian Foreign Policy ?

Dear All
1. I have not read the texts of Naomi Klein and Milton Friedman being referred to in this group - but I would tend to weigh in on the side of Joe and Peter - by this I mean that, I find Eddie's
characterization of the character of western liberal democracies underpinned by the more general economic and globally expansionist post Marxian philosophy characterized by the "smoke screen antics" of the Chicago school - as being a bit less finely nuanced than I find Eddie's
views in general.

An analysis, or for that matter a criticism, of periods of history and its dominant players - must be nuanced in my opinion - if they are to be useful for coming generations and not just talk that can be disregarded by those who hold power in particular societies at particular epochs in history.

This in my opinion holds true for all ages and is a condition of humanity that we must avoid over simplifying in our quest for easy recourse to criticism and analysis of swathes of human thought and achievements.
Post Marxian Chicago school inspired neo liberalism - the core ideology of western democracies that have collectively ganged up as federations to play the role of global policemen - as the basis of the dominant economic conglomerates of US and EU must also be seen in this light. This is my opinion and I think that this kind of view - allows for more nuances of real politik - to be seen clearly in the light of liberal western democracy as a post Marxian ideology that is packaged into a product fit for export around the world.

2. With regard to the Myanmar crisis, I note the extreme reluctance in supporting an obvious revolution from the bottom - of the same policy architects of Indian foreign policy - who get together in Washington and criticize Indian parliamentarians as a group of headless chickens and yet cry themselves hoarse in saying that India must not let go of the historic opportunity to come out of its nuclear pariah status holding the coat tails of the US president who is himself now on his way out from White House as well as the pages of history.

Indian foreign ministry is supposedly weighing up the strategic losses and gains of supporting an obviously brutal military junta on its extreme eastern borders - the issues of Myanmar's natural gas reserves and Chinese real politik in the Bay of Bengal have been often commented on.

However, I would like to step back a bit and see in the reluctance of Indian democracy that is pallying up with Washington corridors of power - a certain unanimity of interest in supporting military dictatorships in critical parts of the world. Is this not the quintessence of the Chicago school economic doctrines, now emerging as a starkly Indian response to the unrest on its eastern borders ?

It is time we now begin asking ourselves the question, what is it really that now separates New Delhi from Washington, apart from the climate ?

Thursday, 5 April 2007

Romas of Europe as Earliest Indian Immigrants

I recently had the ocassion to look up the etymology of the word for God. In the course of my explorations I came across some startling finds. I wish to share the same with you.

I was startled to discover, that the Romas of Europe, the much maligned, neglected and unintegrated, outsiders of the neo liberal, selectively expansionist, European welfare state, use a term called "Devel" or "Del" for God, as a central term in the faith of the Roma people.
Now this set alarm bells ringing in my mind.

In Hindi and Sanskrit, we use the term called devta for the gods. I have often been intrigued by the familiar looking dresses of people standing by the wayside on roads of many European cities.
Some of them playing music, some selling old magazines, some selling brass as gold rings.
A couple of times when I could condescend to go and talk to some of them, they would always greet me with a hearty hug and smile when they came to know I was from India.
So, in a sense, I, the epitome of sophisticated, cultured, upper class, well bred, university educated Indian, out to make my mark on cynical Englishmen, would be taken aback by this profoundly non european, informal way of greeting, on the streets, of european cities.
But somehow, I never made any mental connection, and indeed, like an Indian Brahmin, would have felt thoroughly ashamed if anyone had used the term New Roma for me.
But nowI realize my foolishness as the more I study, the more my ignorance ofthe phenomenon called life, glitters brilliantly.
These poor and discarded Romas, the scourge of the Social Services departments and paid social workers of West European countries, knew I was an Indian, and they happened to be just the only ones in Europe, genuinely happy, to see an Indian on the roads of Europe.
Amazing stuff.

So as a consequence of these linguistic adventures, I had the ocassion to study about the Romas of Europe, I was amazed to read, "a further mystery is the exact region within India which may have been the original territory occupied by the Romas before their emigration, to different parts of Europe."
Then it all clicked. Oh my God, I thought in perfect sounding academic English, taught to me by Methodist Christians, or as the Romas would say, "mo, mro, or my"devla. What a world we live in.

Monday, 12 March 2007

Indian Community and Civil Nuclear Treaty

The Indian American community in United States, has begun to influence some internal nuances of American politics and legislation, and does not see itself now, as merely confined to the Motel Patels or as quiet, unobtrusive and discreet attendees at Presidential campaign fund raising dinners.
The chief Indo-US civil nuclear deal negotiator, on US side, has been talking of the role played by this community, in influencing the American Congress, to back legislation, at facilitating a global strategic relationship with India.
In American foreign policy parlance, this is called, "engagement with a rising power".
He termed it the "coming out party of the Indian-American community in United States."
US Under Secretary of state for Political Affairs, Nicholas Burns, has been talking to the Indian Foreign Secretary ShivShankar Menon on sealing up the treaty by early 2008, so that then India can supposedly go ahead with negotiations with IAEA regarding many issues concerning an inspection of nuclear plants regime.
From the perspective of :
1. Global warming / irreversible climate change, 2. Indian energy choices, 3. Policy planning, 4. Public debate on crucial energy choices,
one does find the secrecy about the 123 Agreement in line with the way the Indian Political Establishment and Indian Science and Technology Establishment ( IPE, ISTE ) usually operates. Singing one tune in Mumbai and Delhi and yet another in Washington and Geneva. They just do not consider the Indian public, worthy of any inputs into the debate. This is in stark contrast to the news we keep hearing from Washington circles.

Patriotism is assumed to be the line taken by the Indian nuclear establishment and its desire to retain some control over nuclear bombs, reprocessing technology, end use verification of reprocessed fuel, and attempt to cap India's strategic nuclear program. It is amazing that the Indian Science and Technology Establishment, is raising the issue of "strategic nuclear program" , but is totally silent on the issue of global warming and Indian contribution to it.

In Geneva and Washington, these high flying Indian IAS bureaucrats, compare the car ownership ratios of rural Indians with Americans, to deflect attention from incompetence of coherent environment and energy policy.

American nuclear industry for its part, is of course lobbying for retaining some control over critical parts, for which India and specialist procurement bureaucrats, will be major buyers ( and critically dependent) in years to come, and will have to keep everyone in good humour.
No wonder, the contribution of Indian American community in US, in fostering US - Indian friendship, is being much appreciated by American diplomats.

Monday, 5 March 2007

Global Warming and Human Rights

It is very interesting that Sheila Watt-Cloutier, an Inuit born inside the Canadian Arctic, has spoken of the issue of global warming and climate change as a human rights issue.
Indigenous people of the coldest parts of the earth have now joined debate as Inuit people are beginning to use power guzzling Air conditioners for the first time, running out of snow bricks for their houses and facing life threatening conditions when they fall through melting snow while hunting for food.
One cannot but see her case as a human rights issue for indigenous people especially vulnerable because their traditional habitats are low lying areas of the world.
This also is coming, at a time when the North American public, is exploring ways and means of "limiting the destructive impact of American foreign policy" in some resources rich parts of the earth, especially the Middle East, faced with a situation of rising global concern against a unipolar world.
The American public just does not seem to be biting, and ready to accept the charitable arguments of fostering democracy, rule of law and healthy civilizational principles, in the Middle East and is waking upto the reality of its power in a unipolar world.
The lady who is a lawyer by profession, has stated, "By protecting the rights of those living sustainably in the Amazon Basin, or the rights of the Inuit hunter on the snow and ice, this commission will also be preserving the world's environmental early-warning system ", in her arguments in front of Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States in Washington.
Very interesting stuff.
One can only hope that the Indian Political Elite and Indian Science and Technology Establishment, (IPE, ISTE ), which has been so keen and active on the issue of civil nuclear cooperation with US and the Nuclear suppliers Group, will take note and begin to fashion its arguments in this light.