Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Panidars and fisherfolk of Bhagalpur

"Chief Minister Laloo Prasad has managed to accomplish one task for which at least 40,000 fishermen of Bhagalpur will remember him forever.  Though zamindari was abolished in Bihar, at least on paper, in 1952, the panidari over the water of Ganga had been left untouched.  Under this system, peculiar to Bihar, the panidars fattened and flourished, while the poor fishermen suffered.  But with the passage of an act in the Bihar
legislature in August last, the tax collecting rights over Ganga now vest with the government of Bihar." from an EPW article by Indu Bharti quoted here in 1991 (via Pradhamanath Sastry).
A 2010 report on later developments Keeping rivers alive:
"It is really tragic that Bihar, a land of three large fertile floodplains, has to import more than 60% of its fish from pond culture farms in Andhra Pradesh. This unfortunate state of affairs reminds us that strong steps are urgently needed. Fishing will have to be regulated and its intensity controlled, especially in dolphin hotspots. Having said this, we re-emphasize the need to completely curb destructive practices by fishers and mafia alike. Regulated and non-destructive fishing sustained over a long-term could itself lead to restoration of collapsed fish stocks and needs to be a long-term goal for the management of the Ganges basin fisheries. The restoration should lead to improved health, numbers and availability of native commercial carps, and preponderance of larger fish sizes and improved juvenile recruitment. Large-scale restoration would involve measures for protecting hydrological services, flooding regimes, preventing degradation of bank habitats and pollution control.

There have been many episodes of mass exodus of fisher families from the area to work as construction labourers in big cities, both because ‘nothing is left to fish’, and the perennial threat of criminal gangs. There is a pressing need to examine alternative livelihood options. Commercial gains for fishers via alternative livelihoods need not be antithetical to dolphin conservation, or ecologically sensitive riverfront management. While reducing pressure on the already depleted resource base, these options could also improve the local economy through involvement of fishers’ knowledge and enterprise. A good example that has been successful elsewhere is the creation of community based aquaculture or fishing cooperatives. Cooperatives set up by local fisher groups via microcredit initiatives could empower fishers to manage their respective stretches, and at the same time, help the sanctuary authorities in monitoring and regulating illegal, destructive fishing."
More recent reports which I have not read are in the proceedings of a symposium Rivers for Life.

Sunday, June 28, 2015


Where as the megaliths of Gobekli Tepe are dated around 9000 BC, the megaliths in India seem to be from around 3000 BC, with the Indus Valley civilization (Early Harappan) already beginning or in existence. From 'Megaliths in ancient India and their possible association to Astronomy' by Mayank Vahla and others.                  )

Peter Dorman on the Greek referendum

What are the beginnings of labor?

Sumit Guha and others (quoted in his book 'Beyond Caste', a good review here)) suggest that local hierarchical systems esembling caste systems existed all over South Asia and elsewhere and discount religion. A crucial part of these systems is the use of labour by lesser ranked groups in the hierarchy. So, it may be worthwhile to look at the beginnings of the uses of labour. In a preview of a recent book, Michael Hudson says "We begin the volume in 10,000 BC in Gobekli Tepe in Turkey where you have very large city-like ceremonial sites, larger than Stonehenge, huge sites that took hundreds of years to build with huge stone megaliths, even in the pre-pottery Neolithic. They didn’t yet have metal to carve these stones. They didn’t even have pottery. But they had in Gobekli all sorts of huge carvings in a seasonal site where people would come together on ceremonial occasions, like midsummer. We researched from Turkey in 10,000 BC to Sumer in the third millennium BC, Babylonia in the second millennium BC, the building of the pyramids, and we have the actual bills and accounting statements for what’s paid to labour to build the pyramids.
We found they were not built by slaves. They were built by well-paid skilled labour. The problem in these early periods was how to get labour to work at hard tasks, if not willingly? For 10,000 years there was a labour shortage. If people didn’t want to work hard, they could just move somewhere else. The labour that built temples and big ceremonial sites had to be at least quasi-voluntary even in the Bronze Age c. 2000 BC. Otherwise, people wouldn’t have gone there.............We found that one reason why people were willing to do building work with hard manual labour was the beer parties. There were huge expenditures on beer. If you’re going to have a lot of people come voluntarily to do something like city building or constructing their own kind of national identity of a palace and walls, you’ve got to have plenty of beer. You also need plenty of meat, with many animals being sacrificed. Archaeologists have found their bones and reconstructed the diets with fair accuracy.
What they found is that the people doing the manual labour on the pyramids, the Mesopotamian temples and city walls and other sites were given a good high protein diet. There were plenty of festivals. The way of integrating these people was by public feasts. This was like creating a peer group to participate in a ceremonial creation of national identity." 
I looked at some of the articles in the book. Though the evidence is not as convincing as Michael Hudson suggests, it seems plausible that the beginnings of semi-voluntary labour are rooted in some sort of primitive religions and the chiefs or leaders who contributed to some records of natural cycles and probably predicted some seasonal and cosmological events. There is more later on about this, for example,
 "First the priesthoods, then the accountants and scribes. The calendar keepers were usually the chiefs (there may have been “sky chiefs” and “war chiefs” separately, or perhaps their roles were combined as dynastic rulers developed). Most of the religions were cosmological. They wanted to create an integrated cosmology of nature and society (“On earth, as it is in heaven”). Administration was based on the astronomical rhythms of the calendar, lunar and solar cycles. For instance, you typically find a society divided into 12 tribes, as you had in Israel and also in Greece with its amphictyonies. In a division of 12 tribes, each could take turns administering the ceremonial centre for one month out of the year."
But this is one region and it is partly speculation. Neolithic age and such came at different times to different region and possibly different kinds of societies existed at the same time. One has to look more about the Indian context to see the beginnings of labor but it seems (from the work of Kosambi and others) different local cults were present from prehistoric times.
P.S. Check also the skeptic's site and Gobekli Tepe: Fuel for crankery. There is also  https://www.facebook.com/gobeklitepe and for details without any theory  http://essayweb.net/history/ancient/gobekli.shtml

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Dalits as Hindus

Recently, there have been discussions of caste and Hinduism in some circles following the IITM fracas and Mumford's letter. Here is point which Kancha Ilaiah made long ago that has not come up in the discussions.
 ".. until the twentieth century, Dalits were regarded not as Hindus but as a separate and subordinate element throughout India. They were defined as Hindu only in the context of a demographic struggle during which Hindu nationalists realized that counting them as such was critical to the project of redefining the country in Hindu-majority terms." 

Earlier I quoted from "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" 
The above quote is from From Village to City: Hinduism and the "Hindu Caste System" by Nathaniel Roberts.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Two books

Just finished reading 'Beyond Caste' by Sumit Guha. In spite of the rave reviews, I do not think that I understand it well or agree with some of it. But it goes beyond the book by Nicholas Dirks and probably the best book on caste that I read so far. I was planning to write a bit about it but meanwhile 'Labor in the Ancient World' edited by Piotr Steinkeller and Michael Hudson has arrived. I plan to read at least some of it before writing any thing. Michael Hudson talks about it here.
P.S. Meanwhile I am told that I should read 'The Annihilation of caste' by B. Ambedkar. I have read bits and pieces by Ambedkar on various topics earlier but not this book.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Old friends: Lowell Jones

Bombay 1974. He visited Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in early 1974. Since accommodation was not immediately available we put him for a few days. Then he refused to move and stayed on for two months and had to learn eating the Indian way. He is still teaching in SUNY, Stoney Brook.

And from Britian

News from my home state

No wars here but "They have travelled nearly 900 kilometres to get here, and now wait to be picked up for daily wage work. Uncertainty binds these labourers. They have come this distance switching two trains, from Puttaparthy and Kadiri, in Anantapur district, Andhra Pradesh. "There is no drought work (i.e. work under the rural employment guarantee act, or MNREGA) in the villages, and we haven’t got paid for the work we have done for weeks,” multiple farmers told me. And whatever work there is, falls to a tenth of the actual demand, over the course of the year." from No ticket, will travel

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Fine regimes in earlier days

There are precedents for Ferguson. "In eighteenth-century Bengal and Bihar under East India Company administration, fines were part of the tax toll in each district, and cases were judged and fines collected by the tax farmer or tax collector in each area. Fines varied by capacity to pay. In this region "women were appointed to discover cases of fornication and adultery, which were fined heavily on the production of the slightest evidence". More than a century later, in the division of Bakarganj (now in Barisal district of Bangladesh) J.C.Jack, a settlement officer, observed that malicious complaints were encouraged, interference in village quarrels was extensive, and fines for the most trivial offences wee enormous. Jack obtained the account book of one landlord, which closely resembles the tax farmers' accounts from eighteenth-century western India. The landlord, for example, fined one of tenants for an alleged affair with his own mother-in-law.Logically enough, state functionaries punished those who settled disputes without paying the state; so, for example, two men of mercantile castes in Jaipur kingdom who settled their own quarrel were then fined for not reporting it to the state. Community councils and pancayats were fined if local councils disliked their decision, or if they failed to notify the state. Similarly, in the Pesva's territories in 1766, an official who committed some infraction of religious law and arranged purification rituals without state sanction was fined the considerable sum of 3,000 rupees. So in addition to being s source of political power for the ruling houses, family broils and sexual misconduct also supplied important fiscal resources..............Considerable sums were also raised by interference in family affairs; the rich banker Hari Cintaman Patwardhan adopted a son in 1793-1794 and paid 22,000 rupees for permission to do so." from Chapter four, 132 of "Beyond Caste' by Sumit Guha

Working women in the family

Psoriatic arthritis since 1984. Finally getting some relief thanks to working women in the family. Lalita bought the chair for a thousand dollars a few years ago. Shanti bought the contraption today. Jhansi helped buying most of the books around.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Some Telugu folk songs

here. In a thread in Avineni Bhaskar's timeline, Sreenivas Paruchuri writes "I can't tell you the authors' names. I am also not sure if its an individual's work or a collective work - both possibilities exist. But certainly both are modern songs, from the early 20th century, with their origins in north coastal districts. Basically all "rangam paaTalu", that is with reference to Rangoon/Burma are from this time period. What is called "folk/jaanapadam" is not necessarily "old". Very idealistic notions exist here! But its another colonial legacy that we picked and glorified. See the essay http://eemaata.com/em/issues/200609/901.html"
In the linked essay, the authors write "భావ కవులు రాసిన ఈ కవిత్వమంతా పల్లెటూళ్ళలో వుండేవాళ్ళ సంస్కృతిని అందులోనూ కింది కులాల వాళ్ళ సంస్కృతిని అందంగా చిత్రించేదే అయినా వాళ్ళ కవిత్వ భాష మాత్రం యథాపూర్వంగా మధ్య తరగతి కవితా భాషే అయింది."Much more inn the article.

Just when I thought that I was getting somewhere

Friday, June 19, 2015

Two songs by Hemanta kumar

A post by David Mumford

'All men are created equal'? kindly sent by a reader of this blog in the previous post.
P.S.I find the article well-intentioned but does not seem useful to me. I think caste is political and about keeping economic advantages apart from various other strands. Mumford could have studied some of the institutes he is familiar with, their origin, development, composition of personnel and the powers within. He visited India several times, spent many months in various institutes and adopted an Indian child.
P.P.S. I found that our library has an electronic version of 'Beyond Cast' by Sumit Guha and started reading it. The few pages I read so far sugest that it is a very ood book to understand the political nature of caste.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Michael Pettis 'Internal and external balance'

"The Leaderless Economy makes the same point I try to make in The Great Rebalancing: the economic analysis of any country is largely useless if it ignores, or treats as a minor issue, links with the external sector – i.e. other countries – and this is even more true today than in the past. Even something as important, and as seemingly “domestic”, as the US savings rate (which for most people is assumed largely to reflect cultural preferences towards thrift among American households) is not determined primarily by American households but rather by its links with savings distortions abroad.
This might seem a profoundly counterintuitive statement, but in fact you only need to understand two or three accounting identities to be able to work logically through the explanation. " says Michael Pettis in a review of 'The Leaderless Economy' and of his own work. 
See also his response to the first comment on dark matter. An excerpt "The authors argue, like I do in my May 17 blog entry, that our accounting systems fail adequately to measure all the things they should measure, and while my entry is about the failures of GDP calculations, they focus on the failures of balance of payments calculations. They argue that countries import and export value that cannot easily be calculated or included in the B-o-P measures, which they call “dark matter”, and for this reason certain current account deficits and surpluses may be overstated while other current account deficits and surpluses may be understated.
They identify three forms of dark matter in particular that countries like the US may be exporting. First, outward FDI may come with considerable technical and technological expertise that isn’t correctly valued in the FDI numbers (on a relative basis). Second, some countries, most obviously the USA, serve an insurance function which creates a premium foreign investors effectively pay. Third. some financial markets, again most obviously the USA, serve as liquidity providers, which also creates a premium foreign investors effectively pay.
They calculate each of these and estimate that the US is a huge exporter of dark matter, followed by the UK, with Germany ranking fourth. Developing countries, especially Asian, are the biggest importers, although Russia is the largest importer."

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Genetics allows dead to speak from the grave

says Razib Khan in a survey article with lots of links. I do not understand lots of it and am keeping it mainly for future reference and links. Family systems of Emmanuel Todd are not mentioned in the discussion.He has a later article The Aryan invasion was not fantasy. I usually think in terms of migration. The author seems to be thinking in terms of cultural dominance. Even this is not clear to me except perhaps in many of the languages that are current in India. What evolved including religion, myths etc seems to be a combination with indigenous elements. I do not know which are more dominant but tend towards indigenous elements.

Upperstall on hemanta kumar

on his birthday Hemanta Mukherjee
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GhHtcYWDhfc He was MD for the above film.
And one of his duets;

The video leads to other Geeta Dutt songs

Different strands in Europeans

DNA deciphers roots of modern Europeans by Carl Zimmer:
"The first were hunter-gatherers who arrived some 45,000 years ago in Europe. Then came farmers who arrived from the Near East about 8,000 years ago.
Finally, a group of nomadic sheepherders from western Russia called the Yamnaya arrived about 4,500 years ago. The authors of the new studies also suggest that the Yamnaya language may have given rise to many of the languages spoken in Europe today."
"For decades, linguists have debated how Indo-European got to Europe. Some favor the idea that the original farmers brought Indo-European into Europe from Turkey. Others think the language came from the Russian steppes thousands of years later.
The new genetic results won’t settle the debate, said Eske Willerslev, an evolutionary biologist at Copenhagen University who led the Danish team. But he did say the results were consistent with the idea that the Yamnaya brought Indo-European from the steppes to Europe."

The man with the golden arm

This man's blood has saved the lives of two million babies (via Ed Yong):
"Rhesus disease happens when a pregnant woman has rhesus-negative blood (RhD negative) and the baby in her womb has rhesus-positive blood (RhD positive), inherited from its father. If the mother has been sensitized to rhesus-positive blood, usually during a previous pregnancy with an rhesus-positive baby, she may produce antibodies that destroy the baby's "foreign" blood cells.
Harrison was discovered to have an unusual antibody in his blood and in the 1960s he worked with doctors to use the antibodies to develop an injection called Anti-D. It prevents women with rhesus-negative blood from developing RhD antibodies during pregnancy."

Monday, June 15, 2015

Geopolitical fundamentals of the world island

From The Geopolitics of American Global Decline  by Alfred Mccoy (via Steven Hsu at Information Processing)
"In 2003, when the U.S. invaded Iraq, imperial historian Paul Kennedy returned to Mackinder’s century-old treatise to explain this seemingly inexplicable misadventure. “Right now, with hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops in the Eurasian rimlands,” Kennedy wrote in the Guardian, “it looks as if Washington is taking seriously Mackinder’s injunction to ensure control of ‘the geographical pivot of history.’” If we interpret these remarks expansively, the sudden proliferation of U.S. bases across Afghanistan and Iraq should be seen as yet another imperial bid for a pivotal position at the edge of the Eurasian heartland, akin to those old British colonial forts along India’s Northwest Frontier......
Washington’s moves, in other words, represent something old, even if on a previously unimaginable scale. But the rise of China as the world’s largest economy, inconceivable a century ago, represents something new and so threatens to overturn the maritime geopolitics that have shaped world power for the past 400 years. Instead of focusing purely on building a blue-water navy like the British or a global aerospace armada akin to America’s, China is reaching deep within the world island in an attempt to thoroughly reshape the geopolitical fundamentals of global power. It is using a subtle strategy that has so far eluded Washington’s power elites."

Two Geeta Dutt Duets

The role of the friendless in oranizations

From The tyranny of the friendless :
" I’ve recently come to the realization that organizational decay is typically dominated by a single factor that is easy to understand, being so core to human sociology. While it’s associated with large companies, it can set in when they’re small. It’s a consequence of in-group exclusivity. Almost all organizations function as oligarchies, some with formal in-crowds (government officials or titled managers) and some without. If this in-crowd develops a conscious desire to exclude others, it will select and promote people who are likely to retain and even guard its boundaries. Only a certain type of person is likely to do this: friendlesspeople. Those who dislike, and are disliked by, the out-crowd are unlikely to let anyone else in. They’re non-sticky: they come with a promise of “You get just me”, and that makes them very attractive candidates for admission into the elite."

Jhansi in 1975 and 2015

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Potluri Somasekhararao RIP

A friend during my early days in Melbourne. We have spent of lot of time together for about five years dining, drinking, listening to Telugu songs particularly Ganji Nagabhushanam songs around midnight. I still remember vividly Nagagabhushanam versions of ' preyasi manohari' at his urging, ' patapaduma krishna',....He was only 58.

Another picture of the Herbig Tree

Links June 14, 2005

From Reality-based community"We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."
Continuation. Obama is no coward
And the Indian President
Bank of England governor Mark Carney has called for longer prison sentences for bankers who break the law, in a speech attacking on ethics in the City.
The obscure legal system that lets corporations sue countries
The Wall Street takeover of non-profit boards

Millions of children hard at work in India
Everybody hates Pearson and Xseed Trends in education
Aspirational parents condemn children to a desperate. joyless life by George Monbiot

Lesson from Stanford prison experiment

(via MindHacks) The real lesson of the Stanford prison experiment by Maria Konnikova:
"What emerges from these details isn’t a perfectly lucid photograph but an ambiguous watercolor. While it’s true that some guards and prisoners behaved in alarming ways, it’s also the case that their environment was designed to encourage—and, in some cases, to require—those behaviors. ...........
Taken together, these two studies don’t suggest that we all have an innate capacity for tyranny or victimhood. Instead, they suggest that our behavior largely conforms to our preconceived expectations. All else being equal, we act as we think we’re expected to act—especially if that expectation comes from above. Suggest, as the Stanford setup did, that we should behave in stereotypical tough-guard fashion, and we strive to fit that role. Tell us, as the BBC experimenters did, that we shouldn’t give up hope of social mobility, and we act accordingly."

People just like us

from Adelaide, Australia

A new immigrant lived here from 1855-60

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Sumit Guha interview

His book is expensive but some of his papers here https://utexas.academia.edu/SumitGuha. This paper may have a preview of some of his ideas.

A discussion on German economics

in Economist's View. Friedrich List seems to be missing. More about him here

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

360 degrees virtual reality


Missing link between brain and immune system?

There are several reports like this . Lot of the coverage seems to come from the university publicity department. Following up I came upon this reddit thread. There has been ongoing research for some time related to the vagus nerve as the second comment in the thread indicated and this article posted earlier. Along the thread, I noticed this comment:
"[–]nigaraze 38 points  
this may be true, but the lab that published this is notorious in the field for doing bad work and publishing articles for the sake of publishing. seehttp://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v521/n7552/full/nature14444.html to read an article published last week, authored by much of the rett syndrome community, in direct opposition to a very famous paper by kipnis three years ago which promised to cure rett syndrome. kipnis' specialty is sensational science that will make it to the front page of reddit, true or not"

Cuba's coral reefs, Bay of Pigs

Monday, June 08, 2015

The Look of Silence

Joshua Oppenheimer: why I returned to Indonesia's killing fields:
"If Oppenheimer’s methods are provocative, so is his political message: that we in the west are an essential part of the horror, injustice and silence. Both the American and UK governments, he reminds us, sanctioned the mass killings of so-called communists in Indonesia in 1965 at the height of the cold war – “the UK was the biggest supplier of weapons”. When he drew attention to Britain’s role at the Baftas last year, the BBC, much to his dismay, removed the reference when it broadcast his speech.In The Look of Silence, he uncovers a long-lost late-60s NBC TV news broadcast from Indonesia in which the reporter praises the country’s beauty and celebrates the recent genocide as “the single biggest defeat handed to communists anywhere in the world”. It then cuts to footage of survivors held in a prison camp and forced to work “but this time as prisoners and at gunpoint”. The company they are working for as slave labour is Goodyear.
“This was reported on US television in 1967,” says Oppenheimer. “Because of the lens of ideology, Americans did not perceive this as a replay of what happened commercially and industrially at Auschwitz. This is a profound stain on America’s claim to be a force for justice and democracy in the postwar world.”"
P.S. May be related: "Lord of the Flies" by William Golding and "Looking Away" by Harsh Mander

Two passages aboput Keynes from James Crotty's 1986 article

Marx, Keynes, and Minsky on the instability of the capitalist growth process and the nature of government economic policy

Keynes in 1933 “The decadent international but individualistic capitalism, in the hands of which we found ourselves after the war, is not a success. It is not intelligent, it is not beautiful, it is not just, it is not virtuous-and it doesn’t deliver the goods. In short, we dislike it and are beginning to despise it” 

"Keynes himself was quite class conscious and knew the class to which he owed allegiance. “I can be influenced by what seems to me to be justice and good sense,” he once argued, “but the class war will find me on the side of the educated bourgeoisie.” It was this fear of a radical working-class political movement that explains his interest in “semiautonomy” for the public authorities that were to direct investment and control capital flows in his new SSA. They were to operate under the guidance of an elite corps of upper-class intellectuals (such as himself) and were to be insulated to a significant degree from oversight by elected officials."

A readable account from 1986 on Minsky, Keynes and Marx

Saturday, June 06, 2015

Thursday, June 04, 2015

This and that

1. One difference between Labour and Liberal governments in Victoria, Australia. My wife Jhansi sells some electronic stuff and some of the clients are schools. Whenever, there is a Labour government, school orders increase. This was our experience for about twenty years.
2. Boundary strategies. This is a story I heard from my friend Krishnaji long ago. His parents shared a mud wall with their neighbour. She would come around festival occasions to mend the wall with mud and cow dung and there very happy to let her do it. But after a few years, they found that the wall has moved to their side (apparently, she was thickening the wall on their side and scraping it on her side).

3. Australia is still a country for the underdog. Overwhelming response to story about  homeless schoolgirl Alicia living under a bridge

4. Peasants and professors- Neo-liberalism and peasantry's distress from India. Some professors were in the pay commissions and I knew some of them.

5. In World's best run economy, house prices keep falling...

6. Wondering and watching: What we can learn from Fredrik Barth from Savage Minds
"Part of what he argued for at the RSA is today taken for granted. He was skeptical of «deep structures», be they social, cultural or mental, as found in Radcliffe-Brown, Geertz or Levi-Strauss. He was one of the most vocal – but not the first – to depart with the notion of culture as a bounded entity. It was, Barth argued, the processes of social life that should be understood, not its hardened form. What meaningful strategies do people follow? What set of concrete opportunities and limitations influence their behavior? And out of this, what aggregate phenomena emerge?
These ideas lay behind his introduction to Ethnic Groups and Boundaries (1968), which was for years on the top 100 on the social science citation index. "

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

On Mondragon

A manufacturer of equality (via Lambert Strether of Naked Capitalism):
"In the United States, top corporate execs sometimes make more in an hour than their workers can make in a year. At Mondragon, one of Spain’s largest companies, no execs can make more in an hour than their workers make in a day."

Sumit Guha's "Beyond Caste"

In a crowded field, this book is being haile as a significant addition. I do not have access to the book and is too expensive to buy. Meanwhile here are two reviews of the book, the first by Tirthankar Roy:  "It is, furthermore, a persuasive and a totally new way of thinking about a difficult subject, a truly significant achievement."
The second by Nathaniel Roberts says that it is the most important book on caste since Louis Dumont's book.
Some of Sumit Guha's articles can be downloaded from here and may give a flavour of the book.

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

On Mumbai's street dwellers

Of no fixed address: Mumbai's street dwellers are nether beggars nor destitute (via Madhukar Shukla)

"Once night falls, the pavement is their home, intruded upon daily by the city that zips by. Mumbai’s street-dwellers are neither beggars nor destitute, but people who have taken a chance on the city, and are looking for a way out. "

Cuban agricultural revolution

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JIWsxo5nNgg&feature=youtu.be from 2009.
A recent article from Food Commision "Cuba's Food Production Revolution" starts with the 2006 documentary by Faith Morgan and says "An internet search for Vivero Organipónico Alamar brings up swathes of glowing articles. There is little doubt that it, and other farms like it, represent truly innovative and sustainable alternatives to the intensive, commercial, oil heavy agriculture that dominates much of the world. That said, Cuba still imports a massive 70% of its food. In 2008, Cuba spent $2.2 billion on food imports including $700 million on rice and beans and $250 million on powdered milk................
That said, Cuban food production continues to increase. Reuters recently reported that Cuban rice production increased by 44.6% from 2008 to 2009, from 207,500 to 300,000 tonnes. Since Raul Castro took over as president from his brother Fidel in 2008 the state has increased what it pays for crops; decentralised agricultural decision making and distribution; and leased 50% of vacant state lands to 100,000 individuals and private and state co-operative farms. Investment continues in agricultural alternatives to fossil fuelled farming. State run Cuban national newspaperGranma International reported in May that the production of bio-pesticides saved the Cuban economy $15 million annually.
Part of the state’s strategy to increase food production also includes the development of genetically modified (GM) crops. Cuban developed GM corn has been planted across an area that totals over 1,000 hectares across 14 provinces. The objective for the corn was to develop a variety that is resistant to the palomilla moth. According to Granma International, the corn has been developed under strict measures of biosecurity and subjected to rigorous eco-toxicologic studies.
I asked a young Cuban academic if he was concerned about the biodiversity implications of planting GM crops. He told me: “No. The main problem with GM crops in other parts of the world is their development and ownership by multi-national companies. In Cuba that won’t be a problem.”
Cuba’s embracing of GM seems less likely to sit as well with environmentalists as its organic production methods. It does not quite fit with the slightly romanticised image of Cuba presented by Morgan’s film. It can perhaps be seen as symptomatic of an intensely pragmatic and very Cuban approach to food production that will certainly be watched with interest by the rest of the world."

IMF report on fuel subsidies .

is out with several commentaries which contradict each other. Here is the link to their website with links to a video and their blogs Global Energy subsidies: An update. Their subsidies include (which is most of the 5.3 trillion dollars mentioned) the so called externalities like damage to environment and health now and in future and also more controversially comparison with other GST type taxes.  The worst offenders are USA, China, Russia and India. Their solution is hike in fuel prices which will fall on consumers. Contrary to what some articles claim, they are aware of the affect on the poor and say
 "While energy subsidy reform is clearly beneficial from the view of the entire society, there are potentially important distributional issues as the fiscal and environmental benefits and the welfare loss from consumption reduction may accrue to different segments of the population. For example, most of environmental benefits may go to urban populations. This creates winners and losers from energy subsidy reform, which can introduce major obstacles to achieving energy subsidy reform. In addition, energy subsidy reform should protect the poor and vulnerable, making sure their well-being is not adversely affected. The proper use of the fiscal gain would be crucial in addressing this issue as well as the overall distributional impact of reform benefits. " Page 31 ofhttp://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/wp/2015/wp15105.pdf
I have only browsed through the report and have to go through it more carefully. On the whole, it seems comprehensive model to follow and improve on. Here are some commentaries from Vox, and Tim Worstall at Forbes. Nicholas Stern Says in an artcle in The Guardian "While the IMF’s figures are eyewateringly large, they are, if anything, conservative because they are based on low estimates of the costs of climate change from the US government, which tends to omit many of the largest risks. While the IMF offers a regional breakdown, there are no figures for individual countries."
From an earlier article by Puneet Kollipara in The Washington Post "Calculating a policy’s benefits, on the other hand, can be tougher. We’re talking about avoided deaths, avoided illnesses, as well as the aesthetic value of cleaner air. We can get a sense of how many fewer illnesses and deaths a policy might yield — at least for the pollutants we know a lot about. But how do you quantify the dollar value of those benefits so you can weigh them against costs? How do you put a dollar figure on a human life, or on the economic productivity gains and health-care savings from one less heart attack, or on the aesthetic value of cleaner air? It’s not a straightforward task at all, as many scholars have pointed out." and also discusses the political problems.

Monday, June 01, 2015

Two interesting articles on health

By 1973, I was suffering from stomach problems probably triggered by my mother's death in 1967. I was 32, evenings were getting longer and it seemed be time to marry and settle down. I asked the doctor I was visiting whether I was fit for marriage. He said that if I kept looking at my little finger and keep thinking that it would wither away, it would probably wither away and he said that there was nothing very wrong with me and that I could marry. I did in December 1973 and I was in Switzerland next year on a research fellowship and stayed on for ten months until the middle of 1975. That was six months longer than I expected and I ran out of the medicines I took for my stomach problems. I did not know what to do and somehow did not make the effort to see a doctor in a new country and stopped taking the medicine. But nothing happened and I did not have to take medicines for stomach problems again until ten years ago where again I took some medicine for reflux for a few months. I was reminded of those incidents while reading the following articles.
Hacking the nervous system by Gaia Vince "However the technology develops, our understanding of how the body manages disease has changed for ever. “It’s become increasingly clear that we can’t see organ systems in isolation, like we did in the past,” says Paul-Peter Tak. “We just looked at the immune system and therefore we have medicines that target the immune system.
“But it’s very clear that the human is one entity: mind and body are one. It sounds logical but it’s not how we looked at it before. We didn’t have the science to agree with what may seem intuitive. Now we have new data and new insights.”"
The truth about psychosomatic illness by Suzanne O'Sullivan. These are extracts from fer book "It’s All In Your Head"