Thursday, October 30, 2008

End Of the Despot

Hindustan Times
New Delhi, October 30, 2008
First Published: 00:52 IST(30/10/2008)
Last Updated: 00:54 IST(30/10/2008)

On November 10, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom would have completed 30 years in office. But South Asia’s longest-serving authoritarian leader, who it seemed had always been president of the Maldives, was voted out of office in the country’s first multi-party election.

Gayoom, 71, present at every South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation summit since Saarc was formed 23 years ago, will be missing when the regional body holds its 16th summit in the Maldives next year.

In his place, Mohammed “Anni” Nasheed, leader of the Maldivian Democratic Party, the new President, will be representing his country. The change has come after a long, drawn out struggle for democracy in a country where Gayoom and the Maldives were synonymous.

Nasheed won 54 per cent in comparison to 46 per cent for the longtime ruler in Tuesday’s runoff, election officials said. Nearly 87 per cent of the nation’s 209,000 registered voters had cast their ballots.

“I want a peaceful transition,” Nasheed, who was 11 years old when Gayoom took power in 1978, told reporters as results came in Wednesday. “I want my supporters to be calm.”

“This is a happier day than ever in the history of the Maldives. The Maldives will change, it will have a peaceful government,” said Nasheed, 41.

He said he had no plans to pursue criminal charges against Gayoom, whom he had accused of corruption, but instead will arrange a pension and security for him.

“A test of our democracy will be how we treat Maumoon. I don’t think we should be going for a witch-hunt and digging up the past,” Nasheed added.

“In the life of a democracy this is a great moment, a great example by Maldivians. I accepted the will of the people," Gayoom said after his defeat.

“My legacy is going to be introducing a modern, liberal form of democracy. That is the greatest legacy anyone can give.”

Gayoom, who “won” 96.4 per cent of the total vote in 1988 as his highest in six terms as president, polled 90.28 per cent as “lowest” in 2003.

With the Maldives embracing democracy, and Pakistan and Nepal holding credible elections, South Asia’s map suddenly looks less authoritarian. Only Bangladesh, where the military rules by proxy, and Myanmar, where the military rules directly, remain holdouts.

Gayoom missed shattering Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew’s 31-year, unbroken stint as prime minister from 1959 to 1990.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Vibrant Culture

Though Indian People are normally presented in a poor light by the west but in fact they are far better. It pains a lot when some so called educated elite of India themselves join the west and start attacking their own culture. We should know that in India we have the oldest continuing cultural tradition. No where in the world do we find anything parallel to it. Egyptians or Iraqis were not aware of the culture of their forefathers until the archaeologists arrived. Even the Greeks only had vague knowledge. On the other hand when Europeons came to India they found that the people here were fully aware of their past. Even a common Indian knew about the famous person living in their locality, thousand years before Christ. The mantras which the Brahmins chant are written even before that.

Anglicist and Orientilist

Earlier the britishers in India regarded education as the personal matter of the Indians and they never interferred. But as the time passed they needed some educated men so that they can serve them by doing some kind of clerical jobs. But they realised that indigeneous education system was not competent enough to produce such men. By the charter Act of 1813 it was decided that every year 1 Lakh rupees would be spent on the propogation of education on India. 
At this there arose a controversy. The officials of the East India company were divided over the issue of propogation of which education - Oriental or Anglicised.
Either Indigeneous education was to be promoted or the Modern English Education. A General Comittee of Public Instruction was made to look into the matter.
Within the committee the two groups, the Orientalist was led by H.T. Princep and the Anglicist by Lord Macauly.
The aim of the British as stated in the famous minute of Lord Macaulay in 1835 was to produce a class of men Indian in blood and colour but british in oppinion, moral, taste and intellect. In other words they wanted to create 'Brown Englishmen' to fill the lower cadres in the Company's administration. So decision was taken in favour of the Anglicists. 

Monday, October 20, 2008

'Grave neglect: The Begum of Awadh'

This is an article from the magazine : Himal Southasian (July 2008)

Grave neglect: The Begum of Awadh
By: Surabhi Pudasaini

In the Bag Bazaar area of Kathmandu, flanked by a rundown shopping mall on one side and what goes for a phone booth on the other, is a small area enclosed by neat piles of bricks. Inside, on a slightly elevated plane, stands a lonely tree surrounded by flowerpots, used plastic cups and advertisements for phone cards. It is an unremarkable space, and bears no indication of being the tomb of an extraordinary freedom fighter, Begum Hazrat Mahal.
Hazrat Mahal was the wife of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah of Awadh, which spanned large parts of modern-day Uttar Pradesh. She continued to live in Lucknow after the kingdom’s annexation by the British in 1856, and her husband’s subsequent exile to Calcutta. When the revolutionaries captured Lucknow during the first War of Independence, in 1857, Hazrat Mahal promptly rose to the occasion, crowning her 12-year old son Birjis Qadr king, and leading the revolutionary government as a regent-queen.
As the ruler of Awadh, Hazrat Mahal proved herself as a courageous leader and a fine strategist. She travelled great distances, rallying her people to oppose the British, and convincing Indian soldiers in the colonial army to join the rebellion. Lucknow was able to repel the British troops for six months, continuing to fight long after most other revolutionary strongholds had fallen. After the British recaptured the capital, the begum fled to a nearby fort, where she continued to incite rebellion. Even when defeat became a certainty, she refused all offers of clemency and wealth from the British, choosing instead to undertake a hazardous journey through dense forests to the safe haven of Nepal.
There is little reliable information about the more than two decades that Hazrat Mahal spent in Kathmandu. Having been granted asylum by the then-prime minister, Jung Bahadur Rana, by all accounts in exchange for her jewellery and treasures, she is said to have arrived in the valley sometime in 1858, with a small band of faithful supporters. Some narratives state that the Rana rulers gave her a palace in which to live, and also provided a military commission for her son. There is also speculation that Hazrat Mahal continued to play a role in politics from across the frontier.
There is a notable blank in historical records about Hazrat Mahal’s stay in Nepal. She died in Kathmandu in 1879 (some records put it at 1874), and was buried in the courtyard of the ‘Hindustani Masjid’, the mosque she is said to have built for her followers. Decades later, this structure was torn down and a new mosque, now known as the Jama Masjid, was built in its place. Today, the humble mound of bricks that is said to mark Hazrat Mahal’s resting place falls outside the grounds of the mosque. This tomb is certainly inadequate as a marker for the rebel Begum of Awadh, so far away from home in Kathmandu.

Text of Guru Granth Sahib

Guru Granth Sahib contains the composition of all the sikh gurus starting from the first Guru, Guru Nanak Dev Ji. The first composition in Guru Granth Sahib is 'Japuji Sahib' writtent by Guru Nanak Dev Ji. It is regarded as the composition which contains the jist of the entire Granth Sahib. The compilation of Granth Sahib was was started by the fifth Guru of the Sikhs, Guru Arjan Dev Ji. He started collected the hymns of all the earlier Gurus and compiled all of them into one big volume ie. Guru Granth Sahib. Later on the successive Gurus wrote their hymns and in the end tenth Guru of the sikhs, Guru Gobind Singh ji  added all of them in the Granth Sahib.
Besides the compositions of the sikh gurus it contains the compositions of various saints of the time. Only those compositions were added that were according to the sikh way of thought. 
Guru Granth Sahib ji includes 31 Ragas. Various 'Banis' or compositions are written in various ragas. For further information visit the following link:

Guru Granth Sahib Ji

Guru Granth Sahib Ji is the living Guru of the sikhs. It is the only Holy book of the world which is given the status of the Guru. It consists of 1430 pages and hymns of the saints of various religions including Hindu ,Muslims and sikhs. It was given the status of Guru by the tenth Guru of the sikhs  Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji. He had declared that after him Guruu Granth Sahib will be the Guru of the sikhs. Guru Ji said –

“Sab Sikhan ko hokam hai Guru Manyo Granth” meaning “All Sikhs are commanded to take the Granth as Guru”

Guru Gobind Singh Ji Giving Granth Sahib the status of Guru

Friday, October 17, 2008

'Real' Reporting

Whenever I read the news or see it on the television I always find a glaring difference in the reporting. Whenever a westerner dies he or she has a name, has a family, has dreams whereas when a Afghan or an Iraqi dies he has nothin. He only has a number. As if he never lived. Al the dead are easily declared terrorists. Nobody talks about the Germans killed in the allied bombings or the Japanese killed by the Americans or the Koreans or the Vietnamese who were killed by spraying poisoonous liquid. American generals very often boast of their killings in vietnam. Similar thing is done When reporting about the people killed by the serbians not by the non-serbians. Photos of the civilians killed by the suicide bombers are telecast again and again but hhundreds of people killed by the so called precision bombs of the NATO forces are not shown. Only numbers are told that too much less. But truth will always come up.

'Poverty the eye cannot see'

This is an article from the magazine : Himal Southasian (october 2008)

Poverty the eye cannot see

By: Harsh Mander
In India, there are near-constant debates about defining and measuring poverty, hunger, malnutrition and starvation. If these were merely of academic interest, this writer could pass them by in his uneducated ignorance. Any confusion could be rationalised by echoing an irreverent professor at the Delhi School of Economics, who compares statistics to a hapless and impoverished tribal man, arrested by a police inspector in a dreaded Indian police station. “If you torture both enough,” the professor tells his students, “you can force them to admit to anything!”
Faye Hall
Yet we cannot afford to ignore the sometimes complex calculations of estimating poverty and hunger levels. Especially since the 1990s in India, these calculations have been deployed by public planners and finance managers to justify cutting back public expenditures on food security, by targeting a hitherto universal public distribution system (through a country-wide network of subsidised foodgrain ration shops) at only those who are officially ‘certified’ to be poor. The same calculations of allegedly declining poverty and hunger are used to limit public expenditures on a range of other programmes for the poor – such as pensions for destitute old people and maternity benefits – and to minimise official acknowledgement of the adverse impacts of the policies of ‘structural adjustment’ programmes.
When poverty lines are fixed by politicians and administrators with one eye on political implications and another on budgetary ones, commentator Ashwani Saith has pithily surmised that this “usually leads to a squint and to cockeyed vision”. In a passionate and cogent critique of poverty-line estimates, Saith has asked, “Are the poor from Mars and the rich from Venus?” Poverty and its handmaiden, inequality, he says, “are everywhere for all those with eyes to see”, yet academics and policymakers “have an almost existential need to know how much of ‘it’ there is, and who ‘they’ are.” In fact, they are in “every landlord’s house, in each village, every five-star hotel is surrounded by them, every posh colony has its antithesis outside its gate, where the other half strives to survive … they greet you again on the pavements after a late night … you have a brush with them at traffic lights.”
Overproduction or under-consumption
Most poverty lines are constructed around the severely minimalist premise of the least amount of money that an average person would require to buy the cheapest food that, when eaten, would metabolise into the minimum calories that he or she requires to lead an active and healthy life. Nutritionists the world over have experimented with many sets of people in order to construct estimates of the minimum calorie requirements of average populations. The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of energy has been pegged by Indian planners at 2100 kilocalories for urban and 2400 for rural people per day for ‘normal’ work, based on recommendations by the Nutrition Expert Group to the Planning Commission in 1968.

On the other hand, studies have established that some people, especially poor labourers, need to expend far greater energy, thus requiring substantially higher levels of caloric intake. As such, poverty levels need to be seen as biased against those who are most deprived. A World Health Organisation study in 1985, for instance, found that a male subsistence farmer who puts in seven hours of work in his fields every day requires 2780 kilocalories; a woman who puts in four hours of housework and three hours in the fields expends around 2235 kilocalories. Heavy work such as earth-cutting, carrying head-loads, mining and pedalling rickshaws requires even higher food fuel, close to 3550 kilocalories. Less-than-subsistence nutritional intake for the impoverished can lead to avoidable illness and early death.
The Delhi-based economist Utsa Patnaik argues that even the extremely modest minimal standards of caloric intake prescribed for calculating poverty thresholds have been quietly (and, she believes, dishonestly) abandoned by New Delhi’s policymakers. She suggests that this has been done in order to perpetrate a myth about rapidly falling poverty levels in an era of globalisation and structural adjustment. Patnaik finds that the nutritional norms of 2100 and 2400 kilocalories were actually used to assess poverty levels only in 1973-74, when rural and urban poverty lines were fixed at around INR 49 and INR 57 per head per month. Since then, the National Planning Commission has never altered this baseline, essentially assuming that people’s consumption patterns would remain completely unchanged, despite the changes in diet that have taken place over the past three decades. Meanwhile, a simple pricing index has been used to adjust upwards the 1973-74 poverty line. Additionally, it is unlikely that the assumed cost of minimum food requirements fixed in the early 1970s still reflects the real cost of food in India.
What did this official practice of calculating poverty hide? In 1999-2000, for instance, the price-adjusted poverty line was INR 328 per month per rural person. By this count, the proportion of poor people in Indian villages had fallen to 27 percent, from 37 percent in 1993-1994. There are important political ramifications to this. The central government, for instance, tried to use this data to justify a cabinet decision to reduce the quantity and price of subsidised foodgrain made available through the public distribution system. This was precariously resisted by a broad range of critics, who also sought the mediation of the Supreme Court. But Utsa Patnaik points out that planners remain silent as to the fact that a monthly expenditure of INR 328 enables a person to access, at best, only 1890 kilocalories a day, more than 500 kilocalories below the modest minimal norm of 2400 officially fixed three decades ago. Patnaik is of the view that the burgeoning food stocks that characterised the Indian situation a few years ago do not represent overproduction but rather under-consumption.
The current threshold for rural poverty-line expenditure is INR 11 per person per day, with the urban level just a bit higher at INR 17 per day. Patnaik challenges the Planning Commission officials to spend even a week in an Indian village, trying to survive on this amount of money. Even exempting them from any physical labour, she observes that their daily allowance would permit them to purchase no more than one bottle of mineral water.
Purely biological
Even if the Planning Commission had been scrupulous in adhering to its minimal caloric norms, the computation of underfed poor people would still make a range of ethically and politically problematic assumptions about the behaviour and choices available to impoverished people. Nutritionists point out that when a calculation is made as to the amount needed for a particular nutrient, it is assumed that the requirements of all other nutrients are also met. For instance, if it is assessed that an adult male requires 2400 calories daily, it is assumed that he will also get the required proteins, vitamins, etc. In fact, the official poverty line fulfils only the protein requirement, if at all, from cereals.
The Centre for Policy Alternatives in New Delhi has devised an alternative poverty index based on expenditure required for basic needs of nutrition, health care, clothing, shelter and so on. By these standards, in 2001 a monthly expenditure was required of INR 840 per head. Yet even this would place 68.5 percent of the urban and 80 percent of the rural population below the poverty line, a far cry from the upbeat government claims of a fall of poverty ratios to 26.1 percent. Furthermore, the strict poverty-line standards of India’s planners require people to purchase only the cheapest foodstuffs, regardless of cultural and personal preference. Economist Pranab Bardhan regards this as self-evident that “in a situation of extreme poverty, as in India, one is less preoccupied with the cultural, sociological and political factors” in defining a “purely biological minimum” standard. He clarifies that people should be excluded from poverty calculations if they “forego the opportunity to buy cheaper sources of calories and protein just because these items are not tasty enough.”
Such a comparison is harsh and somewhat overdrawn, but one is reminded of the British colonial treatment of famine in India, on which Mike Davis’s Late Victorian Holocausts contains some devastating insights. Davis points out that colonial policy took the view that some people (the impoverished, aged and destitute) were expendable; though lives could have been saved in drought-struck areas, some officials felt that the free market should be allowed to hold sway, and that any state intervention would lead to unusual price fluctuations. Davis also draws a link between these practices and the Holocaust, when Nazi commanders at concentration camps continuously experimented with lowering food rations for Jewish inmates. Not only were the scientists who were performing these experiments intricately familiar with the histories of famines in India; the Nazi conception of calorie intake required by a concentration-camp inhabitant was greatly shaped by the Indian Famine Commission’s conception of the nutritional requirement of Indian famine victims hired on public-works projects.
The non-measurable
There is a whole other element to the consumption of food than pure calories. Ashwani Saith asks whether the poor are “permitted to have palates and preferences”, whether poor children are entitled to eat “fast food occasionally – not often enough to become obese, but occasionally at least to know how the other half thrives, and to harbour the illusion that they belong to the same universe as other children?” He points out that the minimal-caloric-level norms rule out social hospitality and ritual feasts. There are myriad accounts available of how dispossessed people in India experience a profound psychological and cultural sense of deprivation when they cannot feed their guests, and even people who beg on streets derive great dignity and self-esteem by being hospitable to visitors. When this writer sat down one evening, a homeless, destitute widow who begged at temples in Madurai insisted on giving him ‘colour’, Tamil slang for aerated cold drinks.
As for some other pitfalls in regarding household expenditure as a measure of well being, it assumes that impoverished people can depend on reliable, accessible and satisfactory quality services of health and education from the public sector. For instance, in 1962 a working group of economists fixed the poverty line at a level that excluded any expenditure on health and education. They justified this by making the assumption that both be provided free of cost by the state, because it was a constitutional requirement; likewise, the experts also assumed that urban housing would be subsidised by the state. Today, we know that these assumptions are light years away from the realities of most poor families, who spend enormous amounts of their scarce money on health matters, while the urban poor rarely have access to state housing.
While poverty surveys can be dismissed as laughable in their design and execution, they cannot be completely disregarded, given that they can block access to officially subsidised food and safety nets. For instance, the Planning Commission instituted a rural survey of poor families based on a 13-point scoring scale. By the norms of the survey, a household was at risk of being regarded as relatively well-endowed and consequently ineligible for subsidised food and other government aid if the dwelling had a roof and toilet; if the children attended school; if some of its members were educated; if it had access to credit; and if the family occasionally ate non-vegetarian food. The survey also disqualified forest-based Adivasis who hunted and foraged, and fisherfolk and poor people who benefited from government sanitation programmes.
The selection of urban poor families is even more arbitrary, based on local enquiries by often corrupt officials of the notorious Food Department, when poor households apply for ration cards. The procedures effectively rule out those who are most needy in any city, due to their constantly contested citizenship – migrant workers, rag-pickers, homeless populations, the mentally ill and leprosy patients, the destitute who live by begging, residents of ‘illegal’ and demolished slums, minorities (especially if they come from eastern India and therefore are suspected to be Bangladeshi migrants), construction workers, rickshaw pullers and head-loaders, sex workers and domestic workers.
For the urban poor, who constitute around one-third of poor people in India, it is astounding that the government has still not devised a way of identifying those who are most poor. It is left to officials mostly of the Food Department and Civil Supplies Department to assess the monetary incomes of people who apply for ration cards, to decide whether they are eligible. In one study, it was found that only around 150 ration cards were distributed for people identified to be living below the poverty line in Dharavi slum of Bombay. The overwhelming majority of slum and street residents in all cities have been similarly excluded from the government’s poverty-identification efforts, and consequently from accessing the official food schemes. The state government of Delhi, in an affidavit to the Supreme Court, went so far as to claim that there was not a single family within the realm that qualified as “the poorest of the poor” for ‘Antyodaya’ cards, which entitles cardholders to discounted rations.
There is an old proverb that goes, What the eye cannot see, the heart cannot grieve. The capacities of governments seem acutely limited in their ability to see, and then list and measure, such issues as hunger, deprivation and want, and then to identify those who chronically live at the edge of starvation. There is, in fact, no dearth of professional knowledge and resources available to public authorities. What is lacking is integrity and compassion.
Harsh Maher is a social activist, writer and former civil servant who has worked in Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh for two decades.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008


Ernesto "Che" Guevara was an Argentine Marxist revolutionary, politician, author, physician, military theorist, and guerrilla leader. He was born on June 14, 1928 in Rosario, Argentina, the eldest of five children in a family of Basque and Irish descent. In spite of the fact that he was suffering from Asthama right from the beginning yet he was a very good athlete.