Friday, August 31, 2007

Imprisonment and voting rights

from The Age EditorialThe right decision for democracy:
"YESTERDAY'S ruling by the High Court, overturning Federal Government legislation introduced last year barring anyone serving a jail term from voting, is an important constitutional decision that re-establishes the most fundamental of all democratic rights. Up to a point: the court upheld earlier legislation banning any prisoners serving jail terms of three or more years from voting.

The irony is that the person who challenged the laws, Vickie Lee Roach, an Aboriginal woman who was jailed for five years in 2004 and is not eligible for parole until next year, remains ineligible to vote. Nevertheless, Ms Roach, in winning the war but not the battle, has had restored to some others the rights that should not have been removed in the first place.

Until yesterday Australia was one of a handful of countries that bans all prisoners from voting. Three years ago, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Britain was in breach of prisoners' human rights, effectively forcing the government to begin the process of lifting a ban brought in just after transportation to the colonies was abolished."
A table giving an overview ofhow 45 "democratic" countries regulate voting for felons from the site

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Two Dalit Stories

From the Outlook obituary'The Mountain Parted':
"Dasrath eked out a living as a farm hand, toiling in the fields of local landlords on bare subsistence wages. One day, in the early '60s, his wife Phaguni fell ill and Dasrath set off with her to the nearest hospital. She died on the way. If only there was no hill blocking the road to the town, Dasrath would have made it to the hospital in time, and perhaps his wife's life would have been saved.

The villagers of Gelaur had to take a circuitous route and travel 19 km to Wazirganj, the nearest district town. This was because the massive 360 feet long, 25 feet high and 30 feet wide sheer rock came in the way of the shortest possible route between the village and the town.

The situation would have brought about a feeling of resignation or fatalism in the average man—as if God had himself put this giant obstacle in the path of his ailing wife. Dasrath's response was different and radical—at once unthinkable and stunningly simple. He decided to alter geography with chisel and hammer. To cut a road through the huge mass of rock.

After 22 years of back-breaking, single-handed toil, Dasrath finished in the mid-'80s."
FromBBC News:
"But the sixty-something Dalit from Dumka in the eastern Indian state of Jharkhand has published a newspaper every week without fail for the past 21 years, highlighting discrimination against the poor and local corruption.

Mr Rajak's four-page, handwritten Hindi-news Din Dalit is photocopied 100 times and sold to subscribers or pasted onto Dumka's main traffic lights, bus stands and roads.

Din Dalit is not just another small town news sheet - the newspaper is registered with India's Registrar of Newspapers, thanks to the efforts of India's first Dalit President, KR Narayanan, after Mr Rajak wrote to him.

Since its first edition in October 1986, Din Dalit has made a difference to the lives of local people, even helping a resident to secure social security from the authorities after his plight was reported in the paper.

Mr Rajak says he decided to bring out the newspaper after he was humiliated by local authorities when he took some people to meet them to help enlist them in a government social security scheme.

"I was very hurt. I approached the local media to highlight the incident but they did not show any interest. So I decided to go ahead and bring out my own newspaper," he says.

Over the years, Din Dalit has run stories on diverse subjects like a local scam in the distribution of specially-made cycles for disabled people, and bungling in a government housing scheme and kerosene oil distribution for the poor.

After washing clothes through the week for a living, Mr Rajak concentrates on bringing out the paper by selecting the news, deciding on the editorial page content and headlining the articles on Sundays.

The paper now even boasts a reporter - 45-year-old Ravi Shanker Gupta, who works in a grocery and goes out to collect news when he gets a work break."

Faults in the texture of existence

Abi mentioned Stumbling on Happiness several times in his blog and Tabula Rasa recommended it one of the comments. I finally read mainly because the last five books I read did not mention Shakespeare and this one did. I found it excellent and see it more as a book on 'self deception as a survival mechanism' and how we can possibly stumble on to improve a bit. Here is an interview with the authorand the book is much better than the interview.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Tara Winkler in Cambodia

From Sydney Morning Herald:
"TARA Winkler had an enviable life. She grew up in Bondi, enjoyed the beach lifestyle and was establishing a career in the film industry.

But after a holiday to Cambodia she gave it all up to devote herself to rescuing orphans from a life of abuse and neglect.

During that visit two years ago Winkler was deeply moved by the suffering of children she encountered at an orphanage at Battambang, in the country's west.

She established the Cambodian Children's Trust to support the orphanage, which she described as heartbreakingly run-down.

As the months passed, rumours intensified of underhand dealings by the orphanage's former director.

Early this year, Ms Winkler returned to Australia on a three-month fund-raising trip, and took measures to safeguard all donations to the orphanage.

She went back to Cambodia this month after learning the orphanage's director and staff had been removed by the former director and replaced with his relatives.

The former director allegedly has a history of embezzling donations from foreign sponsors, funnelling the money into his own property and livestock.

"It got a bit nasty and all of the children were being abused really badly - physically and verbally," Ms Winkler told The Sun-Herald from Battambang. "They have lost several kilograms each and look like little stick figures and really unhealthy."

Seven of the children have hepatitis B and one girl is HIV positive.

In a desperate bid to save the children, the young Australian set up her own orphanage - in just two weeks.

Battambang's Governor and government authorities gave her team full support to remove the children from the former orphanage and rehouse them, Ms Winkler said."
Tara Winkler's sitehere.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

New alliance?

From Asia Times article by Siddarth Srivatsava:
"The Indian government formally approved the US$100 billion Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC), the country's largest infrastructure project, ahead of the three-day visit of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe this week.
Business apart, India and Japan are also seeking each other as strategic partners in making a combined pitch for a permanent seat at the United Nations Security Council and military and security cooperation in East Asia to check the influence of China. Beijing has been anxious about the "Quadrilateral Initiative" (Quad) involving India, the US, Japan and Australia.

India is looking to host its biggest multilateral exercise with navies of the four countries as well as Singapore in the Bay of Bengal next month. Twenty-five warships will include the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Nimitz and the US nuclear submarine SSN Chicago. The US, Japan and India held similar exercises off the Japanese coast last year; this is the first time that the Australians will take part."

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Bayesian Heresy’s Friday Book Club

Bayesian Heresy’s Friday Book Clubwill start discussing Daniel Yergin'sThe Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money, and Power. I read the book, enjoyed it though I felt that it was sympathetic to the oil industry as the wikipedia article says.
There is a similar discussion in Marginal Revolution about 'A Farewell to Alms' but visit MR infrequently afterthis post.

Chris Dillow on the downside of inequality

Chris Dillow links to various articles on the downside of inequality. Some of them like Sapolsky's review article and the more recent research article discuss the effects on health. Further discussion at Economist's view.
More links to Sapolsky's work here. I am currently reading Sapolsky'sWhy Zebras Don't Get Ulcers.

From Shivam's blog

I cannot get over thisphotographfrom Shivam's blog. Apart from Shivam (?) picking his nose, the characters or lifetime experiences of some of the others seems etched on their faces.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Assorted links to Glenn Loury

In New York Review of Books, William McNeill reviewd Glenn Lowry's "The Anatomy of Racial Inequality" and two other books on race in America. Lowry, an African American professor was an opponent of affirmative action in his younger days and had considerably
changed his opinions by this time. McNeill is not convinced of the solutions offered and says
"My own opinion is that every human group, when seeking to consolidate internal cohesion, strengthens itself most effectually by engaging in conflicts with its outside rivals. Yet overall and across long periods of time, arrangements for accommodation and cooperation among different and rival groups prevail, simply because cooperation—sometimes willing, but often forcibly imposed—sustains the collective generation of wealth and power that most people prefer to their opposites. Disputes over how to distribute such wealth are perpetual; and cooperation on one scale always creates or intensifies conflict on another. That is why the race problem within American society may diminish if black manpower becomes vital in wartime; and why moral exhortation, even if rooted in religious conviction, is unlikely to make much difference, unless, or until, other Americans feel that joint action with blacks is needed for success in some sort of external conflict."
This seems to be a strange solution and even Iraq war supporters have not come up with this reason. Meanwhile Loury wonders Why Are So Many Americans in Prison?:
"Never before has a supposedly free country denied basic liberty to so many of its citizens. In December 2006, some 2.25 million persons were being held in the nearly 5,000 prisons and jails that are scattered across America’s urban and rural landscapes. One third of inmates in state prisons are violent criminals, convicted of homicide, rape, or robbery. But the other two thirds consist mainly of property and drug offenders. Inmates are disproportionately drawn from the most disadvantaged parts of society. On average, state inmates have fewer than 11 years of schooling. They are also vastly disproportionately black and brown.
A more convincing argument is that imprisonment rates have continued to rise while crime rates have fallen because we have become progressively more punitive: not because crime has continued to explode (it hasn’t), not because we made a smart policy choice, but because we have made a collective decision to increase the rate of punishment.
Despite a sharp national decline in crime, American criminal justice has become crueler and less caring than it has been at any other time in our modern history. Why?

The question has no simple answer, but the racial composition of prisons is a good place to start. The punitive turn in the nation’s social policy—intimately connected with public rhetoric about responsibility, dependency, social hygiene, and the reclamation of public order—can be fully grasped only when viewed against the backdrop of America’s often ugly and violent racial history: there is a reason why our inclination toward forgiveness and the extension of a second chance to those who have violated our behavioral strictures is so stunted, and why our mainstream political discourses are so bereft of self-examination and searching social criticism. This historical resonance between the stigma of race and the stigma of imprisonment serves to keep alive in our public culture the subordinating social meanings that have always been associated with blackness. Race helps to explain why the United States is exceptional among the democratic industrial societies in the severity and extent of its punitive policy and in the paucity of its social-welfare institutions. "
Update: (via 3quarksdaily)Adiscussion on "Why Are So Many Americans in Prison?" and a review of three recent books on prisons.

Nepali teacher wins Magsaysay Award

"Mahabir Pun, 52, from the remote village of Nangi in Nepal, will receive the 2007 Award for Community Leadership and a US$50,000 prize along with six other awardees in Manila, Philippines this month (31 August).

Pun started the project — The Nepal Wireless Networking Project — to meet the communication needs of his village, seven hours climb to the nearest road and without a telephone connection.

"I believe that better communication systems are important for the overall development of a community and a nation," Pun told SciDev.Net.

Under the project, villagers and a team of international volunteers initially powered several computers with small hydro-generators in a nearby stream.

They then linked them wirelessly to the Internet with a series of television dish antennas and mountaintop relay stations, using the nearest telephone connection in the town of Pokhara, a two-day trip away.

Pun said the project has so far provided 14 rural villages with access to services like telemedicine, distance learning, e-marketing of local products and telephone services."
From an editorial in

"Almost unnoticed, Nepal is developing simple and cheap technologies that make the best of local resources and don't damage the environment.

Down a narrow alley in Kathmandu's historic heart, through a low door, you enter Akal Man Nakarmi's workshop. Nakarmi's surname means 'metalsmith' and the soft-spoken craftsman's ancestors crafted copper utensils and forged statues of deities in bronze.

Today, Nakarmi makes small turbines called Peltric Sets for micro-hydro electric generation plants across the Himalaya. He can't keep up with demand.

Nepal's successes in scientific application in recent decades aren't about grandiose hydropower dams or major infrastructure projects.

The new technologies that have worked have been indigenously designed, based on traditional skills and knowledge, and are cheap and easy to use and maintain. In fact, to visit Nepal these days is to see the 'small is beautiful' concept of development economist E. F. Schumacher in action."

Mahe Jabeen wins an award

Mahe Jabeen winsRajeev Gandhi Manav Seva award for child welfare.

Friday, August 17, 2007

A wide ranging article on American and Global Economy

in Harvard Magazine by Jonathan Shaw (via 3quarksdaily). Very readable. A sample excerpt:
"The global imbalances created by this dynamic of American borrowing and foreign lending appear stable for now, but if they slip suddenly, that could pose serious dangers for middle- and working-class Americans through soaring interest rates, a crash in the housing market, and sharply higher prices for anything no longer made domestically. Harvard economists and political scientists see possible threats to globalization (the opening of markets and trade that has made the economy a world phenomenon): the risk of rising protectionism; the potential for a world recession if market forces unwind the imbalances too quickly; and even the possibility that political considerations could trump shared economic interests, causing nations to use their international financial positions as weapons."
Not so typical excerpt:
"That last idea—that nations can wield power through their accumulation of currency reserves—is rooted in our own history. When President Dwight D. Eisenhower learned in 1956 that Britain, in collusion with France and Israel, had invaded Egypt without U.S. knowledge, he was infuriated. “Many people remember Suez,” notes Jeffrey Frankel, Harpel professor of capital formation and growth at the Kennedy School of Government (KSG), but few recall “the specific way that Eisenhower forced the British to back down.” At the time, there was a run on the pound sterling and he blocked the International Monetary Fund (IMF) from stabilizing the currency. With sterling on the verge of collapse, says Frankel, “Eisenhower told them, ‘We are not going to bail out the pound unless you pull out of Suez.’” Facing bankruptcy, the British withdrew. This incident, notes Frankel, “marked the end of Great Britain’s ability to conduct an independent foreign policy.” "

SBS documentary on Noor Inayat Khan

today. From The Age:
"A beautiful Indian princess from a Sufi pacifist family holds "the principal and most dangerous post in France" during the Nazi occupation of Paris in the summer of 1943. Noor Inayat Khan was not a soldier but a radio operator, transmitting secrets between Paris and London, and working under the pseudonym Madeleine. It is astounding that Noor, a princess from a muslim family, came to be in such a precarious position.

Her success in the post, and her behaviour when captured by the Germans, earned her a George Cross - one of only three awarded to women in World War II. This documentary follows Noor's story, from her birth in Moscow and unconventional upbringing in Paris, to her training in the Women's Auxiliary Air Force and eventual deployment to France."
More about Noor Inayat Khan at Wikipedia.

Sarah O'Connor on Shah Rukh Khan

From The Age:
O'Connor, 22, was coming to terms with her new-found stardom when "Sporting Life" called yesterday. "I didn't know much about Bollywood, except they do a lot of dancing and singing. Now that I've seen it, I'm like, this is pretty big," said O'Connor, who has a speaking role in which she clashes with one of the Indian players at a cocktail party. "I play a bit of a bitch," she said. "I didn't know who he (Khan) was, but I'd heard he was the Brad Pitt of Bollywood, and then I met him and you could just tell. He had the look and the smell. As soon as he came out, it was like a rock concert. People were going mental, they baked cakes, brought flowers, some girls fainted. When I shook his hand, I thought maybe I shouldn't wash it."

Chak De India is like Bend It Like Beckham, with sticks. But it keeps Bollywood silliness to a minimum. "There's an underdog team and they come together and win. It's predictable, but it's good. It has a great storyline," O'Connor said. "It was funny, when I did the movie we had the big crowds, so you kind of feel what it would be like to play for Australia. Then a month after we finished filming, I got a call-up to go to Argentina with the Australian team for the Champions Trophy. I got all these emails from the Indian girls saying, 'This is the real thing'!"

The spiral of risk

This is a first attempt to understand the sub-prime problem; the posts linked below seem somewhat understandable. John Kay in Financial Times (via bayesianheresy):
"The financial economics I once taught treated risk as just another commodity. People bought and sold it in line with their varying preferences. The result, in the Panglossian world of efficient markets, was that risk was widely spread and held by those best able to bear it.

Real life led me to a different view. Risk markets are driven less by different tastes for risk than by differences in information and understanding. People who know a little of what they are doing pass risks to people who know less. Since ignorance is not evenly distributed, the result may be to concentrate risk rather than spread it. The truth began to dawn when I studied what happened at Lloyd’s two decades ago."
A comment inRoubini's postlinks to
a letter from J. Kyle Bass, Managing Partner of Hayman Capital . Excerpt:
"He told me that the “real money” (US insurance companies, pension funds, etc) accounts had stopped purchasing mezzanine tranches of US Subprime debt in late 2003 and that they needed a mechanism that could enable them to “mark up” these loans, package them opaquely, and EXPORT THE NEWLY PACKAGED RISK TO UNWITTING BUYERS IN ASIA AND CENTRAL EUROPE!!!! He told me with a straight face that these CDOs were the only way to get rid of the riskiest tranches of Subprime debt. "
There are aseveral posts on the topic in Information Processing. See in particular Profits from the meltdown and guide to the perplexed.
More at NY Times .

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Mukul Kesavan on India's Unique Democracy

Mukul Kesavan in India's Model Democracy:
"Pluralism, a stratagem born of weakness (the early nationalist elite had no other way of demonstrating that they represented anyone but themselves), became the cornerstone of Indian political practice, because it legitimised the compromises essential for keeping hundreds of jostling identities aboard the good ship India.

This was the ultimate political goal: to keep the diversity of a subcontinent afloat in a democratic ark. Everything else was negotiable.
If India didn't exist, no-one would have the imagination to invent it."

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

From an article of Mark Tully

Inthis article, Mark Tully says:
"Mahatma Gandhi said that he had never made a fetish of consistency. Hinduism for him was so broad that "every variety of belief found protection under its ample fold". It's not surprising that his country does not make a fetish of the efficiency which demands consistency and which, far from being capacious, only knows one way of doing anything."
I wonder whether some sort of secularism is embedded in Hinduism.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Emotional Memory Formation

From Information Processing:
"A mutation in the gene for the α2b-adrenoceptor improves the formation of memories of strong emotional events. Students in Zurich with the mutation performed twice as well on a controlled test. Rwandan refugees with the mutation tended to suffer significantly more often from flashbacks of traumatic events. So, the mutation affects cognitive function in a clear way. It's also distributed unevenly among different populations -- 30% of Swiss and 12% of Rwandans have the mutant allele."
For more links and excerpts from an interesting Economist article see Steve Hsu's post linked above. However, as the Economist article says:
"Whether that result has wider implications remains to be seen. Human genetics has a notorious history of jumping to extravagant conclusions from scant data, but that does not mean conclusions should be ducked if the data are good. In this case, the statistics suggest Rwanda may have been lucky: the long-term mental-health effects of the war may not be as widespread as they would have been in people with a different genetic mix. On the other hand, are those who easily forget the horrors of history condemned to repeat them?"

Monday, August 13, 2007

An interview with P. Sainath

An interesting interview with Sainath via Kuffir. Excerpt:
"I have a problem with always looking back only to what was said in the 1920s and what was said during the civil disobedience movement or during the Quit India movement. I do not believe Gandhi was the only leader of the freedom struggle. If you’re looking at statues and reverence, you would find there are far more statues of Baba Saheb Ambedkar, a PhD from Columbia University who emerged from the untouchable classes of Indian society.

In fact, the difference between Ambedkar and any other Indian leader is that the statues of Ambedkar are put up by public subscription, not by government fatwa. The freedom struggle of India gave us many leaders and luminaries of enormous standing. However, I think that on many issues I would rather look at Gandhi and Ambedkar in terms of what would their stance or their understanding of the present situation be? How would they act now? On some of the central issues of our time—oppression of the poorer castes and the so-called untouchables—I think history has proven Ambedkar to be right. Ambedkar’s prognosis of the role that caste would play in democracy, of how a lack of economic democracy would damage political democracy, has been borne out by history. What would Gandhi say about the obscene inequality that you’re looking at in the world? A man who said that for those who die of hunger the only form in which God may dare appear is food. That’s the interesting thing for me."
Interestingly, from Mark Lindley's Life and Times of Gora, chapter 5:
"Gandhi wanted to be certain, however, that Manorama was acting freely. Early in 1946, when he had occasion to visit Madras, he asked Gora and Manorama (as well as Mythri) to meet him there, and he asked an orthodox caste-Hindu colleague who was fluent in Telugu to interview Manorama and see if she was under duress. But she was unequivocal: “We are working for social equality and the eradication of Untouchability.” So Gandhi declared, “Now they are my children. Let them wait for two years and in the meantime let us announce their engagement.” Arjun Rao, the groom whom Gora and Sara swa thi had chosen, was sent for and came to Madras. Gandhi found him presentable and fairly fluent in Hindi, which was the one language common to every one at Sevagram, so he invited him to spend the next two years there, while Manorama, who did not speak Hindi, would study at a nurses’ and midwives’ training center in Andhra. At Sevagram Gandhi told Arjun,

“You should become like Ambedkar. You should work for the re moval of Untouchability and caste. Untouchability must go at any cost.” "
P.S. Sainath says "Palagummi is the name of a now-nonexistent village in Andhra Pradesh. ... My granddad used to tell me that Palagummi was a village in the Godavari area," According to Wikipedia, there is still a village Palagummi in Razole Mandal of East Godavari District.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

A passion for reading

Froman interview with Pankaj Mishra:
"Initially, I saw the life of the writer as a life of reading, which for me was really an extension of the life of idleness that I’d been living as an undergraduate at university. Reading gave me so much pleasure that I felt that maybe I could continue that life indefinitely. I basically went from day to day, reading a lot, loving most books I read and making notes about them. I was just hoping that nothing would happen—like having to apply for a job or think seriously about a career—that would put a stop to the wonderful life I was leading. And, miraculously, nothing stopped me.
Most of what I read now is for reviewing purposes or related to something I want to write about. It’s slightly utilitarian. I definitely miss that sense of being a disinterested reader who’s reading purely for the pleasure of imagining his way into emotional situations and vividly realized scenes in nineteenth-century France or late nineteenth-century Russia. Often I find that when I go back to those books by Flaubert or Chekhov—which I loved—I’m unable to summon up that same imaginative richness. That seems to me a huge loss. Now I’m thinking more about the craftsmanship of it—why did this paragraph end here—narrowly technical things.
(while discussing his book avout Budha)
Three books inspired me. One was Claude Lévi-Strauss’s Tristes Tropiques. It’s an extraordinarily radical book in that it’s the mid-twentieth century and he’s doing straightforward ethnography in Brazil while at the same time he’s looking at his own experience as a Frenchman and the larger encounter that’s happening between Western modernity and older cultures. The other book I had in mind was Native Realm by Czeslaw Milosz. It’s another hugely fascinating example of someone mixing personal history with a larger historical account. My experience was quite different from theirs, I was neither an academic like Lévi-Strauss nor someone coping with very fraught political situations the way Milosz was, but these books were inspirations if not models. Also [V. S. Naipaul’s] An Area of Darkness, which I think is one of the more interesting examples of experimental nonfiction: it’s an essay, a travelogue, it’s an instance of what today might be called cultural studies, it’s certainly a memoir—a very angry one at times—there is a range of moods and a range of tones."

"BLVR: If you could have every American read one book, what would it be?

PM: A House for Mr. Biswas. It’s quite removed from the glamorous notions of what a great novel should be. It’s about a man in the middle of nowhere working his way out of a background of deprivation and wanting a house of his own for his growing family. The frustration and partial fulfillment of that desire is described with great insight and humor, and, most extraordinarily, with no sentimentality. Apart from other things, reading that book makes you understand—intuitively—the violence in the world today."

"BLVR: Are you ambitious?

PM: Well, I feel very privileged to get to read and write and not to have to do things that I don’t like, and I don’t want to give that up. Everything else is just a bonus and often a distraction from the writing, reading, and traveling that gives me the most pleasure. I feel that I already have the life I love and I don’t see how it could be improved radically by any greater material success I might have—bigger advances, more prizes. It’s a kind of madness. And the culture of prize-giving is so corrupt. To think of what someone like Flaubert would have made of it, what kind of utter disgust and scorn it would have aroused in figures like Tolstoy or Dostoyevsky. What would they say if they were told they all had to compete for these little trinkets that were given out? Yet the longing for a very garish kind of success seems as widespread among writers as among investment bankers."
More links to Pankaj Mishra here.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Assorted Telugu related articles

Nagaraju on the role of Rayalaseemain the development of Telugu.
Velcheru Narayana Rao in Coconut and Honey: Samskrit and Telugu in Medieval Andhrasuggests that Krishnadevaraya’s decision to encourage Telugu was a political decision. Very interesting article with lots more.
Narla Venkateswara Rao in ‘Idli Digvijayam’ (Telugu article) in Narla Rachanalu, vol.2 pp. 317-322 relates the decline of popularity of ‘idli’ with that of the Vijayanagara empire resulting in the decline of irrigation and availability of rice.
Idli seems to have come to India from Indonesia.
A recent article in Current Sciencestudies the rise and fall of the Vijayanagara empire in terms of control of resources and trade (at one place they seem to have used ‘nadir’ for ‘zenith’). They also suggest that a mini green revolution took place. A summary here.
K.Srinivasulu in Caste, Class and Social Articulation in Andhra Pradesh: Mapping Differential Regional Trajectories studies the effects of green revolution and different trajectories of class and caste struggles in different regions of A.P.
“In this paper we have examined the significance of class and caste on social mobilisation in Andhra Pradesh. The central question addressed here is: why have two of the State’s major regions, Telangana and coastal Andhra, differed in terms of social mobilisation, as class-based agrarian movement and dalit mobilisation have been gaining ground in these two regions respectively?”

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

A Farewell to Alms

by Gregory Clark is being touted as the next blockbuster. Here are some excerpts from
Tyler Cowen's review in New York Times
"Economists typically explain the wealth of a nation by pointing to good policies and the quality of a country’s institutions. But why do these differences exist in the first place?

In “A Farewell to Alms: A Brief Economic History of the World” (forthcoming, Princeton University Press,, Gregory Clark, an economics professor at the University of California, Davis, identifies the quality of labor as the fundamental factor behind economic growth. Poor labor quality discourages capital from flowing into a country, which means that poverty persists. Good institutions never have a chance to develop.
A simple example from Professor Clark shows the importance of labor in economic development. As early as the 19th century, textile factories in the West and in India had essentially the same machinery, and it was not hard to transport the final product. Yet the difference in cultures could be seen on the factory floor. Although Indian labor costs were many times lower, Indian labor was far less efficient at many basic tasks.

For instance, when it came to “doffing” (periodically removing spindles of yarn from machines), American workers were often six or more times as productive as their Indian counterparts, according to measures from the early to mid-20th century. Importing Western managers did not in general narrow these gaps. As a result, India failed to attract comparable capital investment.

Professor Clark’s argument implies that the current outsourcing trend is a small blip in a larger historical pattern of diverging productivity and living standards across nations. Wealthy countries face the most serious competitive challenges from other wealthy regions, or from nations on the cusp of development, and not from places with the lowest wages. Shortages of quality labor, for instance, are already holding back India in international competition."

I find it difficult to believe such differences remain constant and it reminds me of the speculation that the wealth of nations was determined by 1000 B.C.
UPDATE: Lively discussion at Economist's View .

Interesting reads

Mistakes were made (but not by me)
The Lucifer Effect
The Starfish and the Spider

Chemists Without Borders

Bill Hooker in 3quarksdaily writes about new vaccines from Cuba, Groundwater Arsenic and new international efforts without borders:
"Bego and co-founders Steve Chambreau and Lacy Brent are not the first to decide that doctors should not be the only profession without borders. There are also Laywers, Teachers, Sociologists, Builders, Engineers, Clowns and I daresay a good many other Professions Without Borders. All of them seek to do, within their own fields of expertise, something roughly on par with the mission of MSF. So really, the name of the organization largely explains what CWB are about:

Chemists Without Borders is a public benefit, non-profit, international humanitarian organization designed to alleviate human suffering through the use of proven chemical technologies and related skills. Our primary goals include, but are not limited to, providing affordable medicines and vaccines to those who need them most, supplying clean water in developing countries, facilitating sustainable energy technologies, and supporting chemistry education.

I became aware of CWB through their commitment to Open Chemistry, and then by taking part in their conference call series I learned about their interest in groundwater arsenic remediation, which is the problem I want to think about here."

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Book Mules

The following is reminiscent of the work of Aravinda and Ravi of Aidindia in north coastal Andhra. From
"The idea of loading mules with books and taking them into the mountain villages was started by the University of Momboy, a small institution that prides itself on its community-based initiatives and on doing far more than universities in Venezuela are required to do by law.
The 23 children at the little school were very excited.
"Bibilomu-u-u-u-las," they shouted as the bags of books were unstrapped. They dived in eagerly, keen to grab the best titles and within minutes were being read to by Christina and Juana, two of the project leaders.
"Spreading the joy of reading is our main aim," Christina Vieras told me.

"But it's more than that. We're helping educate people about other important things like the environment. All the children are planting trees. Anything to improve the quality of life and connect these communities."
As the project grows, it is using the latest technology.
Somehow there is already a limited mobile phone signal here, so the organisers are taking advantage of that and equipping the mules with laptops and projectors.

The book mules are becoming cyber mules and cine mules.

"We want to install wireless modems under the banana plants so the villagers can use the internet," says Robert Ramirez, the co-ordinator of the university's Network of Enterprising Rural Schools.

"Imagine if people in the poor towns in the valley can e-mail saying how many tomatoes they'll need next week, or how much celery.

"The farmers can reply telling them how much they can produce. It's blending localisation and globalisation." "

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Sensex falls

and Gulzar Natarajan connects the dots:
A longer article by Nouriel Roubini along similar lines but full access needs subscrption which I do not have:
UPDATE: See also the discussion (at my request) in
and a general article on housing prices
New Economist links to a New Statesman special issue on India:

Images of 'ghost chilli'

with commentary from
See how meager the food is in image 4.
Update(Nov. 4, 2007): The link above is not working anymore. Try:
or google.