Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Interview with Julian Assange

By Andy Greenberg in Forbes. Julian Assange says "WikiLeaks is designed to make capitalism more free and ethical."
I remember that Julian took a math. course from me years ago. I do not remember which year or which course. His assignment grades were not good and he came a few times to discuss the assignments. He was more interested in the correct arguments than the grades and never made any fuss about grades. I do not even remember whether he took the final exam ( he was mainly taking Physics courses, I think). He seemed capable of doing much better in the course but did not seem to have enough time for the course. Seemed a very nice guy.

Links to mostly micro finance matters

Parmesh Shaw Andhra Pradesh: Crisis or Opportunity?

The rest are interviews with Vijay Mahajan, a profile of him and two articles by him. He seems to be in the business for a long time, erudite and articulate.

Profile of Social Entrepreneurs – Lynne Brown and Vijay Mahajan:By – Nitish Kumar and Mosharaf Hossain

A 1999 article with G. Nagsri Building Sustainable Microfinance Institutions in India

Excerpts from Vijay Mahajan interviews from 2005, 2006Vijay Mahajan speaks about new economics and micro-finance

Vijay Mahajan on the Risk of a Microfinance Bubble


Microfinance Now: an interview with Vijay Mahajan

Vijay Mahajan: Micro loans, macro returns

Monday, November 29, 2010

Siddharth Varadarajan on Radia Tapes

From Welcome to the Matrix of the Indian state:
"What got exposed is so unpleasant that several major newspapers and television channels that normally scramble to bring “breaking” and “exclusive” stories have chosen to look the other way. Their silence, though understandable, is unfortunate. Even unforgivable......
In an interview to NDTV and the Indian Express on Saturday — two media houses that have so far avoided covering the tapes — Ratan Tata has called the recordings a “smokescreen” designed to hide the real truth. He is wrong. Utterly wrong. No doubt we know very little about who leaked the recordings and why these were cherry-picked from a wider set of 5,000 recordings the Enforcement Directorate and Income Tax authorities made as part of their surveillance of Ms Radia. But even if the story they tell is partial and designed to expose only a fraction of the corporate lobbying which has been going on, we would be naive to ignore the contents of the tapes or be dismissive about their significance."
The Outlook magazine hs wide coverage of the taped conversations The Power Tapes.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

More on micro finance problems in Andhra Pradesh

This review of Portfolios of the Poor: How the World's Poor Live on $2 a Day says:
"Relative to their income, these poor households engaged in more financial intermediation than richer people do.
Portfolios explains this surprising result by focusing on an oft-neglected dimension of poverty. We sometimes think about poor people’s income as if the only problem is that there is not enough of it. This view misses another hugely burdensome dimension of poverty: income is variable and risky. But as the authors observe, “One of the least remarked-on problems of living on two dollars a day is that you don’t literally get that amount each day.” Because poor people live so close to the edge, they have to – and do – scramble more than the rest of us to avoid going hungry, or to scrape together the larger amounts that they occasionally need for life events or investment opportunities. Savings and loans are their principal tools for doing this, so the availability and quality of those tools were very important for the diary households.
Thus, “microfinance” as we know it is not delivering financial services to people who otherwise would have none. It is adding further tools to the ones that poor people already have at their disposal."

In Microfinance: What's wrong with it (also available at http://intellibriefs.blogspot.com/2010/11/microfinance-whats-wrong-with-it.html) M.Rajshekhar explains how "easy money is altering the credit culture in villages" and the development of SHGs, MFIs in Andhra pradesh and the recent crackdown on MFIs by the state government. Excerpts:

"Over the last five years, the nature of microfinance delivery has changed. Says S Sivakumar, head of ITC’s eChoupal initiative: “Microfinance used to stand on two pillars: income generation and social capital.”

At one end, it was meant to create income-generating activities, which would enable women to repay loans of 30% interest without driving themselves into destitution. At the other end, MFIs had to forge a form of social capital that would encourage repayment, as SHGs did.

Both these pillars got undermined as MFIs chased growth. They defined their role as only of credit delivery, and focused on making processes idiot-proof and scalable. They left income generation and social-capital building to the groups and the government. ....

The easy money is altering the credit culture in villages. In Warangal district, employees of a large MFI say that, earlier, women had to be cajoled into taking loans. They would borrow nervously and repay fastidiously, out of not wanting to be locked out of a source of credit that lent quickly and without collateral.

Increasingly, the employees add, some women are getting blasé about borrowing. “When we warn women against defaulting, some of them retort, ‘we will borrow from someone else’.” Instances have been reported of women negotiating loans by pitting MFIs against each other.

Rural India, usually the elite among them, is beginning to exploit the microfinance model for private gain . For instance, in a village in Hanamakonda’s Palaveyipullah mandal, the centre leader and a group member took money from several MFIs in the name of 10 other women, paid interest for 10 weeks, and then stopped. That is one kind of a change.

At the lower reaches in the villages, as MFIs lend to households without regular cash flows, communities are changing in a different way. Women talk about the pressure to ensure weekly repayments. Some of this pressure comes from fellow group members.

If a member is unable to pay interest, the remaining group members have to make good the shortfall. They better, for a default means no loans for any of them in the future. In the process, an inversion has taken place. Says anti-caste writer Kancha Illiah: “Five years ago, SHG members used to beat up husbands who beat their wives. Now, they are beating up women who fail to repay.”"

Discussion by David Roodman When Indian Elephants Fight after a recent trip:
"Still, the true bottom line is this: credit, the poor, and business-like insistence on regular repayment are a dangerous combination. Pushed too hard, credit can easily become a buzz saw. Change any one those three elements, and it is safer: savings instead of credit (cf. Gates Foundation), the well-off instead of the poor, the flexible and somewhat subsidized communality of SHGs instead of the hard-nosed efficiency of MFIs. If microcredit is to safely serve the poor, it must soften its edges. There are many ways to do that. But probably all are harder with growth is rapid. Fast growth in credit to the poor is therefore dangerous, and often unworthy of the label “development.”"
P.S. There are several posts in the recent weeks in David Roodman's blog as well as CGAP Microfinance Blog, Candid Unheard Voice of Indian Microfinance and other places.

I would like to believe this

15-minute writing exercise closes the gender gap in university-level physics.
See the comments too, in particular, comment 35.

Friday, November 26, 2010

A post on Telugu lullabies

by సుభద్ర వేదుల నాకు నచ్చిన మూడు లాలి పాటలు...
More favourites appear in the comments. My list of three probably reflects my age (almost seventy):
శాంతకుమారి ధర్మదేవతలో "మీవంటిదేనండి మా కన్నె పాప"
రావు బాలసరస్వతీదేవి "బంగారు పాపాయి బహుమతులుపొందాలి"
సుశీల ముద్దుబిడ్డలో"చిట్టీ పొట్టీ వరాలమూట"
The songs are available at http://www.oldtelugusongs.com/ ( There are different spellings for the singers. For this particular song of శాంతకుమారి look under P. Santakumari).

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


Lane Kenworthy on trickle down economics When is economic growth good for the poor? "What accounts for this difference in the degree to which economic growth has boosted the incomes of the poor? We usually think of trickle down as a process of rising earnings, via more work hours and higher wages. But in almost all of these countries (Ireland and the Netherlands are exceptions) the earnings of low-end households increased little, if at all, over time. Instead, as the next chart shows, it is increases in net government transfers — transfers received minus taxes paid — that tended to drive increases in incomes." There is some discussion in Economist's View. One of the comments by Sandwichman has links to various papers questioning economic growth, for example, "Negative Externalities as an Engine of Economic Growth" by stephano Bartolini.

Interesting format. Barry Eichengreen reviews five books in an interview
Barry Eichengreen on the Euro. A quote "Europe endured a century of conflict. The idea that European integration is a mechanism for delivering peace and harmony is now deeply ingrained. It’s been taught to generations of schoolchildren, and Europe is better off for it". Lessons for the subcontinent?

Ed Yong "Negative Externalities as an Engine of Economic GrowthFake CVs reveal discrimination against Muslims in French job market"inspired by a previous study of racial discrimination in America by Marianne Bertrand and Sendhil Mullainathan "a careful, real-world experiment that does its best to unveil the effect of religion, with all else being equal."

Pervez Hoodbhoy on Peddling Pseudo Science "Why are prominent scientists spreading paranoia in Pakistan that the USA may be triggering earthquakes globally, and could also have caused the catastrophic floods in Pakistan?"

Open Laboratory 2010

Information about submissions You can now start submitting your blog posts for the Open Laboratory 2010. And there are links to several science posts that I missed. surprisingly, there is only one Carl Zimmer post ( my favourite science writer at the moment) submitted so far. Since Carl Zimmer is well known and does not need any more prizes, I will not bother to submit his posts and instead try to read some of the posts by others that I missed.
P.S. See the comment below and the latest post:
Open Laboratory 2010 – only eight days till the deadline!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Router in the brain?

"We are very good at doing many things at once. As you read this column, your brain can also manage your heartbeat, perceive the melody of a song playing on the radio, and send out complicated instructions for drinking a cup of coffee. It can do all that because it is parceled into hundreds of relatively self-contained regions. These regions can work on different tasks at the same time. Yet there are simple jobs—like math problems—that our brains can handle only one at a time. It is as if signals were flying down a 20-lane superhighway, and then the road narrowed to a single lane." says Carl zimmer and explains some recent research in The "Router" in Your Head—a Bottleneck of Processing. Some more excerpts:
"Pashler and his colleagues found that it typically took just under a second for people to respond to the brake lights on the car ahead. But it took longer for them to react if they had responded to a tone within one-third of a second before the lights went on. Pashler found that, on average, the test subjects’ reaction time increased by 0.174 second. That may not seem like a big difference, but if you are driving 65 miles an hour, it translates into an extra 16 feet. That distance can mean the difference between a close call and a high-speed rear-end collision."
"If we don’t have enough time between two tasks, we slow down on the second one—a lag known as the 'psychological refractory period'.....

Each time we perform a task we perform it in three steps. Step 1: Take in information from the senses. Step 2: Figure out what to do in response. Step 3: Carry out that plan by moving muscles. Stanislas Dehaene, chair of experimental cognitive psychology at the College of France, and neuroscientist Mariano Sigman of the University of Buenos Aires wondered where along these steps the traffic jam arises. To find out, they designed new variations on the classic Telford experiments.

In these experiments, subjects had to decide whether a number was higher or lower than 45. In each version of the test, the scientists varied one of the three steps of the thought process to see if they could change the length of the psychological refractory period. Only when they tinkered with step 2—figuring out what response to make—could they produce a change.....

Dehaene now thinks he knows why our thoughts get stuck in bottlenecks: The neurons that take in sensory information send it to a neural network that he and his colleagues call the "router." Like the router in a computer network, the brain’s version can be reconfigured to send signals to different locations. Depending on the task at hand, it can direct signals to the parts of the brain that produce speech, for instance, or to the parts that can make a foot push down on a brake pedal. Each time the router switches to a new configuration, however, it experiences a slight delay."
These, more examples and links in Carl zimmer's article.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Interesting reading

From All Lines Are Busy:
"The tapes also paint a dismal picture of how everything—from cabinet berths to natural resources—is now available for the right price. The now controversial 2G allocation was just one of the many manipulations orchestrated by players in high places. There are conversations on civil aviation with 1980-batch IAS officer Sunil Arora, publicist Suhel Seth and many others which have not been included here. The worst fallout, however, is that it has besmirched the hitherto ‘fair’ name of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who agreed to take Raja back in the same ministry that now stands exposed in the biggest scam in independent India, despite knowledge of the tapes."

Friday, November 19, 2010

Felix Salmon on micro finance lessons from Andhra Pradesh

Felix Salmon has thoughtful post on microfinance The lessons of Andhra Pradesh with lots of links. One of them is David Roodman's Microcredit Portfolios Are Sand Castles. Felix Salmon's conclusion:

"SKS won’t ever be able to collect on the loans where its borrowers have gone on strike, and there’s no point in even trying; neither can it sell those loans to anybody else. Roodman says that “microcredit portfolios are like sand castles” — if you try to pick them up and move them to another institution, they disintegrate, since they’re based on a personal relationship between lender and borrower.

SKS’s loan portfolio in Andhra Pradesh has effectively evaporated, and no for-profit microlender is immune from the same thing happening to them. This is a global issue, which should be addressed by scaling back, going local, giving borrowers ownership of their lenders, and generally being much less ambitious when it comes to growth rates. Much better that full-service banks grow organically out of local communities than monoline microlenders parachute in, flush with venture-capital funds, make a huge splash, and then implode."

Thursday, November 18, 2010

A sampling on 'Language Shapes Our Reality '

from Integral Options Cafe Language Shapes Our Reality . The last one is about the recent paper The Language of Implicit Preferences by Ogunnaike, O., Dunham, Y., & Banaji, M. This paper is reported in several places. From Anthropologist in the Attic :
"Linguist Benjamin Lee Whorf first posited in the 1930s that language is so powerful that it can determine thought. Mainstream psychology has taken the more skeptical view that while language may affect thought processes, it doesn't influence thought itself. This new study suggests that Whorf's idea, when not caricatured, may generate interesting hypotheses that researchers can continue to test.

"These results challenge our views of attitudes as stable," Banaji says. "There still remain big questions about just how fixed or flexible they are, and language may provide a window through which we will learn about their nature.""
Incidentally, M. Banaji did her early education in Secunderabad, india.

Shiva Tandava Stotra

Through a message in oldtelugusongs discussion group, I came to know of this interesting Shiva Tandava Stotra. Lyrics and meaning in English are given in a link to the Wikipedia article.
Lyrics in Telugu here, recital by S.P. Balasubramaniam.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Rabibdra Sangeet tune in a Hindi film

'RAHI MATWALE,TU CHHED EK BAR'sung mostly by Talat and mostly by Suraiya, the tune based on 'O re Grihabashi' by Tagore.
P.S. So much space in the Indian Railways in the old days!
P.S. Various pieces put together

Churumuri on Jairam Ramesh

From CHURUMURI POLL: Should SUVs be banned?:
"It’s no exaggeration to conclude that Union environment minister Jairam Ramesh has become the pencil in the hands of Congress chief Sonia Gandhi for the “course correction” from the unidimensional, growth-at-all-costs approach that the Manmohan Singh government had embarked upon in the first year of UPA-II."

Earlier Churumuri post on Jairam 18 things you might like to know about Jairam.

See Abi's post A slap in the face of India's science academies for his response to 'Inter Academy Report on GM Crops'( mentioned in an earier post post on this blog).

For comments on the revised report see Rahul Siddharthan's post An apology of a justification. Excerpt:
"Some senior scientists have been circulating a letter calling for the Academy Presidents to be dismissed. First I thought that was an over-reaction. Then I thought they may have a point. Now I think they did not go far enough. The academies should be dismantled. They have no understanding of scientific ethics. That makes them an active danger to Indian science."

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Some encouraging reports about India

Vivek Wadhwa in The Berkeley Blog Entrepreneurship tech boom erupts in India :
"The Indian technology industry got its start running call centers and doing low-level IT work for western firms. Then, in the 2000s, it started taking on higher-level IT tasks, offering management consulting services, and performing sophisticated R&D. Now there is another transition happening, one far more significant: a transition to development of innovative technology products. Instead of providing IT services as the big outsourcing companies do, a new breed of start-ups is developing high-value products based on intellectual property. The Indian industry group NASSCOM estimates that in 2008, the country’s software product revenues totaled $1.64 billion. It forecasts that this will grow to $11 billion per year by 2015.
I was surprised at the changes that are powering the new transition: its tech workers are leaving high-paying jobs in IT services, and kids out of school are ignoring social taboos against failure and defying marriage customs to become entrepreneurs. A few Americans are also joining the fray, starting their ventures in India rather than in Silicon Valley.....
At the NASSCOM event, I met dozens of tech-service industry workers who had become entrepreneurs. A surprisingly high proportion weren’t developing products for their former customers, but were instead looking inward to solve India’s problems."
and Why some young US workers now seek fortunes in India from Christian Science Monitor.

Robert Sapolsky discusses brain’s literal-metaphorical confusions

A passage from This Is Your Brain on Metaphors
"What are we to make of the brain processing literal and metaphorical versions of a concept in the same brain region? Or that our neural circuitry doesn’t cleanly differentiate between the real and the symbolic? What are the consequences of the fact that evolution is a tinkerer and not an inventor, and has duct-taped metaphors and symbols to whichever pre-existing brain areas provided the closest fit?"
(via 'The Loom')

Converting information to energy

From Demonic device converts information to energy:
"A paradox put into practice

To create a real-life version of the demon experiment, Sano and his colleagues placed an elongated nanoscale polystyrene bead, which could rotate either clockwise or anticlockwise, into a bath of buffer solution. The team applied a varying voltage around the bead, making it progressively harder for the bead to rotate a full 360 degrees in the anticlockwise direction. This effectively created a "spiral staircase" that was harder to "climb up" in the anticlockwise direction than to "fall down" in the clockwise direction, says Sano.

“This is a beautiful experimental demonstration that information has a thermodynamic content.”
When left alone, the bead was randomly jostled by the surrounding molecules, sometimes being given enough of a push to turn anticlockwise against the voltage — or jump up the stairs — but more often turning clockwise — or going "downstairs". But then the team introduced their version of Maxwell's demon.

They watched the motion of the bead, and when it randomly turned anticlockwise they quickly adjusted the voltage — the equivalent of Maxwell's demon slamming the door shut on a gas molecule — making it tougher for the bead to turn back clockwise. The bead is thus encouraged to keep climbing "upstairs", without any energy being directly imparted to the bead, says Sano.

The experiment does not actually violate the second law of thermodynamics, because in the system as a whole, energy must be consumed by the equipment — and the experimenters — to monitor the bead and switch the voltage as needed. But it does show that information can be used as a medium to transfer energy, says Sano. The bead is driven as a mini-rotor, with a information-to-energy conversion efficiency of 28%."
Preprint Information heat engine: converting information to energy by feedback control and the abstract in Nature Physics Experimental demonstration of information-to-energy conversion and validation of the generalized Jarzynski equality.
P.S. See Using Information to Extract Energy:
"It’s a great result, worth making a fuss about. But some commentators spun it as “converting information into energy.” That’s not quite right — it’s more like “using information to extract energy from a heat bath.”"

Monday, November 15, 2010

An experimental study of conditional cooperation

Björn Vollan and Elinor Ostrom comment in Cooperation and the Commons on a recent paper Conditional Cooperation and Costly Monitoring Explain Success in Forest Commons Management by Devesh Rustagi, Stefanie Engel and Michael Kosfeld (both articles need subscrption).
Abstract of the paper:
"Recent evidence suggests that prosocial behaviors like conditional cooperation and costly norm enforcement can stabilize large-scale cooperation for commons management. However, field evidence on the extent to which variation in these behaviors among actual commons users accounts for natural commons outcomes is altogether missing. Here, we combine experimental measures of conditional cooperation and survey measures on costly monitoring among 49 forest user groups in Ethiopia with measures of natural forest commons outcomes to show that (i) groups vary in conditional cooperator share, (ii) groups with larger conditional cooperator share are more successful in forest commons management, and (iii) costly monitoring is a key instrument with which conditional cooperators enforce cooperation. Our findings are consistent with models of gene-culture coevolution on human cooperation and provide external validity to laboratory experiments on social dilemmas."

From the comments by Björn Vollan and Elinor Ostrom:
"By establishing this link between the levels of cooperation observed in field labs with local forest conditions, Rustagi et al. have increased the confidence that scholars can have in the external validity of results from previous experiments carried out all over the world, with student and nonstudent subjects. In addition, by adding to findings showing diverse levels of cooperation in social dilemmas, rather than no cooperation, they support the growing acceptance of a behavioral theory of human action (14): Individuals facing dilemmas, who learn from experience and adopt a norm of conditional cooperation, achieve levels of cooperation that increase over time—if a sufficient number of conditional cooperators are present. If a group is composed of a substantial number of free riders, however, cooperation levels fall over time.

One way of interpreting Rustagi et al.'s findings is that learning and norm-adopting individuals are attracted to certain situations, and then are affected by the behavior of other actors facing the same situation (see the figure). Initially, this leads to some degree of cooperation (e.g., acceptance of rules of the forest group, monitoring other users, and helping to maintain their forest). If enough individuals initially cooperate, they slowly obtain benefits from the forest, and levels of cooperation grow. Alternatively, initial cooperation rates can be low, and then can continue to decline over time.

Rustagi et al. identify a number of well-known variables that can influence cooperation, including the size of the forest group, its leadership, and the heterogeneity of the group. Other, broader, variables include village elevation and market access, with villages closer to markets for wood products more likely to invest in cooperative management. Other field studies have found that prior experience in cooperative management increases the likelihood of groups successfully managing a resource."

Thursday, November 11, 2010

From the 1941 census

Recently I was reading "The Telangana Movement 1944-51" by Barry Pavier. On page 69, he quotes from Census of India 1941, Hyderabad, Vol.2, 672-674. The numbers given (rounding off, in millions)Hindus 10, Untouchables 3, Muslims 2, Tribals .7

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Links 10th November

From The Guardian "For art critic Tom Lubbock, language has been his life and his livelihood. But in 2008, he developed a lethal brain tumour and was told he would slowly lose control over speech and writing. This is his account of what happens when words slip away" Tom Lubbock: a memoir of living with a brain tumour via MindHacks post A poetry of muddlings and loss

This kind of philosophy is ok with me “Philosophy does not contribute to our knowledge of the world we live in after the manner of any of the natural sciences. You can ask any scientist to show you the achievements of science over the past millennium, and they have much to show: libraries full of well-established facts and well-confirmed theories. If you ask a philosopher to produce a handbook of well-established and unchallengeable philosophical truths, there’s nothing to show. I think that is because philosophy is not a quest for knowledge about the world, but rather a quest for understanding the conceptual scheme in terms of which we conceive of the knowledge we achieve about the world. One of the rewards of doing philosophy is a clearer understanding of the way we think about ourselves and about the world we live in, not fresh facts about reality.”from Hacker’s challenge . And there is more on neuroscientists, consciousness studies “The whole endeavour of the consciousness studies community is absurd – they are in pursuit of a chimera. They misunderstand the nature of consciousness. The conception of consciousness which they have is incoherent. The questions they are asking don’t make sense. They have to go back to the drawing board and start all over again.”
“I doubt whether this absurd misunderstanding is stoppable. It’s too entrenched now. But I think it is a kind of intellectual fraud. I’m not accusing paid-up members of the so-called consciousness studies community of bad faith – I’m sure they are just deluded – but the result of their confusion is that we’re bringing up a whole generation of people to think in a thoroughly muddled way, to have hopes and expectations which are totally absurd, and to concentrate on things which are just incoherent. It’s literally a total waste of time. But if anyone thinks that I am completely mistaken, I’d like them to explain to me why. If they cannot show that my arguments are wrong, they should admit the errors of their ways and withdraw from the field! That’s the challenge.”

Jonah Leher's interview of Antonio Damasio Self Comes To Mind (via 3quarksdaily). A quote “The whole endeavour of the consciousness studies community is absurd – they are in pursuit of a chimera. They misunderstand the nature of consciousness. The conception of consciousness which they have is incoherent. The questions they are asking don’t make sense. They have to go back to the drawing board and start all over again.” But there is more.

And Special Edition of Science Times via 'The Loom'. It has an article A Direct Hit of Drugs to Treat Brain Cancer on glioblastoma, the brain tumor that affects Tom Lubbock.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

More on p-word from Andrew Gelman

Poli sci plagiarism update, and a note about the benefits of not caring:

Bombay Plan

According to Wikipedia Bombay plan :
"The Bombay Plan is the name commonly given to a World War II-era set of proposals for the development of the post-independence economy of India. The plan, published in 1944/1945 by seven leading Indian industrialists, proposed state intervention in the economic development of the nation after independence from the United Kingdom (which occurred in 1947).

Titled A Brief Memorandum Outlining a Plan of Economic Development for India, the signatories of the Plan were[1] Jehangir Ratanji Dadabhoy Tata, Ghanshyam Das Birla, Ardeshir Dalal, Sri Ram, Kasturbhai Lalbhai, Ardeshir Darabshaw Shroff and John Mathai. The Plan went through two editions: the first was published in January 1944. This first edition became "Part I" of the second edition, published in 2 volumes in 1945 under the editorship of Purushottamdas Thakurdas.

Although Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India, did not officially accept the plan, "the Nehruvian era witnessed [what was effectively] the implementation of the Bombay Plan; a substantially interventionist state and an economy with a sizeable public sector."[2] Its perceived influence has given it iconic status, and "it is no exaggeration to say that the Bombay Plan has come to occupy something of a mythic position in Indian historiography. There is scarcely a study of postwar Indian economic history that does not point to it as an indicator of the developmental and nationalistic aspiration of the domestic capitalist class."[3].....
Although the Bombay Plan did not itself propose a socialist agenda, "virtually all" commentators acknowledge "that there is a direct line of continuity from the Bombay Plan of 1944-1945 to the First Five-Year Plan in 1950."[3] An alternative line of reasoning is that the Bombay Plan was a reaction to the widespread social discontent of the 1940s (resulting from unprecedented industrial growth during wartime), and a product of the fear that the movement against colonial rule would become a movement against private property.[5]"
It is available online here
and is discussed in books like Ramachandra Guha's "India after Gandhi" and V. Krishna Anath's "India since independence".

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Vaccine-derived polio

From Polio in India: Many steps up… and a long one back :
"There are two types of polio vaccine: injectable or IPV, which uses a killed virus, and oral or OPV, which uses a weakened live virus. (For those into mid-20th century history, IPV is the Jonas Salk vaccine — announced to enormous fanfare in 1955 — and OPV is the Albert Sabin vaccine.) Industrialized countries overwhelmingly use IPV. But developing countries, and the global eradication campaign, use OPV, for several reasons. It’s cheaper to produce and especially to deliver, since it is administered in a couple of drops of liquid — which means no syringes to buy or dispose of, and no need for trained health-care personnel to give it. But it also confers protection not only on the kids who receive it, but on other kids nearby — because the weakened virus replicates in the gut, is shed in feces, and therefore can indirectly inoculate any child who accidentally swallows fecal particles from the vaccinated one.

But if the vaccine virus sheds its attenuating mutations and reverts to the infectious strength of the wild-type viruses, it can spread through that same route. It then poses a risk to anyone who is not currently vaccinated. As poorer countries become polio-free, they often drop vaccination as an unnecessary expense, leaving any children born after the end of vaccination vulnerable to a VDPV infection.

If you do the rough math in your head, you might be thinking, Well, this hypothetical country is polio-free already, so where’s the full-strength VDPV coming from? The answer lies in a further complexity of the vaccine virus: In certain people with certain immune deficiencies, it not only reverts, it replicates — and is shed — for a very long time, months to years. The immune deficiency transforms the vaccinated child into a polio version of Typhoid Mary, and into a severe risk of unpredictable duration.

VDPV is an unintended consequence of success: It only becomes a risk when a country gets so close to being polio-free that there is little or no wild virus to compete with the vaccine-derived one. But repeated outbreaks of VDPV have already brought polio roaring back to places that thought they were done with the disease. VDPV brought polio back to the Americas, via an outbreak in Hispaniola and the Dominican Republic, in 2000. It was also imported into the United States in 2005 via a woman who had chosen not to be vaccinated and who picked up the vaccine-derived virus from the recently vaccinated child of a Costa Rican host family.

Most famously in public heath circles, VDPV caused a huge, ongoing outbreak in Nigeria, starting in 2006, that has racked up almost 300 cases so far — straining the fragile acceptance of polio vaccine that had only just been restored after a number of imams in the north of Nigeria persuaded their congregations in 2003 to turn away from the vaccination campaigns. (For the worldwide accounting of VDPV outbreaks, see this World Health Organization table.)

VDPV will remain a risk as long as OPV is used, because it’s OPV itself that creates the risk. The only way to put an end to that risk, forever, is to conclude the polio campaign by deploying IPV in all the countries that have been using OPV. That will force the eradication campaign to take on at least some of the expense that it had hoped to reduce by using OPV instead. And that’s the true significance of the Indian girl’s case last week: the “ticking time bomb” is not just the threat of additional polio, but the threat of a huge additional bill for a campaign that is constantly on the verge of donor fatigue."
(via Not Exactly Rocket Science )
See also Vaccine-related polio a ticking time bomb in S India from Deccan Herald.

A Vallabhai Patel quote

advising backward caste tenants "Government wants to divide you and shahukar, but for you your shahukar is everything. You should laugh at and consider him a fool if somebody says that you should change your shahukar. It is like asking a patibrata (i.e. a dutiful wife) to change her husband. How can you leave a shahukar who has helped you in your difficulties"
from page 35 of Sunil Sen's "Peasant Movements in India: Mid nineteenth to Twentith centuries", 1982 reviewed by Shahid Amin in EPW, January 1964 and available

Friday, November 05, 2010

Improving numerical competence

From Electric brain stimulation improves maths performance:
"The research looked at influencing newly-learned (rather than existing) mathematical abilities: volunteers were asked to learn new symbols, demonstrate that they had learned them, and then apply this knowledge to solving puzzles involving these symbols. Electrical stimulation was applied at the point when they were learning the symbols. The new research shows that right to left stimulation of the parietal lobe enhances the ability of volunteers to retain and apply this new knowledge to problems for at least six months. Previous work by the team showed that a similar induced impairment effect was short-lived."

Link to the abstract and the paper Modulating Neuronal Activity Produces Specific and Long-Lasting Changes in Numerical Competence.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Ramachandra Guha on K. Balagopal

Searching for Balgopal articles on agrarian problems, I came across this The honest leftist .
Many of Balagopal's articles (some with misprints, and parts missing) are available here .

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Rahul Siddharthan on Arundhati Roy

From the comments section of Sedition and the Roy:
"Ms Roy generally makes the point in the worst possible way, but generally the point is lurking there somewhere."

More on sedition by Ashis Nandy in The Great Indian Love Affair With Censorship

A new strategy to fight some viruses

From The Guardian article Immune discovery opens up new line of attack against viruses:
"In a series of experiments, James's group found that in many cases, antibodies do very little to stop viruses from infecting cells. Instead, the antibodies cling to the viruses when they invade cells and use the cells' own biological machinery to kill the virus.

James showed that once inside an infected cell, antibodies attract a protein called TRIM21. This in turn signals to the cell's equivalent of a waste disposal machine, a large cluster of proteins called a proteasome. When the proteasome arrives, it latches on to TRIM21 and goes to work, dismantling the virus piece by piece. The process happens quickly, and often before the virus has a chance to cause harm.

The discovery, which is reported in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, could pave the way for a new generation of antiviral drugs that fight infections by supercharging the body's own defences.

Future treatments based on James's work are only expected to work against a class of viruses that do not shed their protein coats when they invade healthy cells. Those that do would leave the attached antibodies outside the cells, and so not trigger the cell's own immune attack.

James's team has already begun investigating how to turn the finding into new drugs. Tests on cells in the laboratory show that administering TRIM21 boosts resistance to infection, presumably by bolstering the natural immune attack."