Friday, April 24, 2015

Story : The Cargo plane and the tissue boxes

A large cargo plane has suffered one engine failure while flying and must immediately reduce its weight to prevent a crash, by dropping out some of its cargo load from the back side bay doors. There are 10 minutes within which to act, failing which enough altitude will be lost and they will crash into some oncoming mountains. The pilots relay this to the airman crew head inside the cargo plane. Inside the plane are some crates full of heavy-duty metal equipment, some crates carrying drinks, and the rest of the space is being taken up by hundreds of crates carrying tissue boxes. A glance at the inventory roster reveals that the equipment and the drinks combined weigh as much as all the remaining crates put together. But that is in terms of wegiht. In terms of monetary value, they are worth 100 times more than the remaining crates.

Keeping in mind that the heavy equipment and the drinks are high-value consignments whose cost cannot be covered by the insurance cover, the crew head instructs his staff to start with the crates having tissue boxes first.

Did this story ring a bell with some global-level issue that you can recollect?

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Book : The Secrets to Nonviolent Prosperity: The Principles of Liberty

Wonderful book description.. (I haven't read the book yet but the descriptions and reviews stand on their own)

The Secrets to Nonviolent Prosperity: The Principles of Liberty

A Review of "The Secrets to Nonviolent Prosperity: The Principles of Liberty"

The new book by Trevor Z. Gamble - The Secrets to Nonviolent Prosperity (published in paperback and Kindle editions, 2011) - provides a welcoming introduction to ideas that go a long way toward resolving many of our contemporary problems and the deeper concerns behind them. Like many of us, the author realizes that something is amiss in the world. Then he takes us on a journey to find out what is wrong and how it relates to our understanding (or misunderstanding) of politics, economics, human rights - and ultimately, the idea of freedom itself.

Mr. Gamble opens his book like the 12th-century thinker, Bernard of Chartres, by acknowledging his debt to writers who came before him - political scientists, psychologists, and economists who enabled him, in effect, to stand on their shoulders so that he can see a bit farther than they did. And the first thing he sees is that we can do away with the tiresome convention of thinking about politics in terms of "left" and "right" with all of the name-calling that goes with it. And it's not enough, says the author, to point to the villains of history to find out why things have gone wrong. After all, every nightmare-toting dictator in the history of the world was able to get there because he (or she) had plenty of followers willing to do the dirty work. In other words, it's not just them...

In his next chapter, Gamble identifies the concept of "human rights" as a basic source for gaining insights into and unraveling the problems that surround us. He explains and adopts the excellent definition of rights laid out by Murray Rothbard and Hans-Hermann Hoppe: self-ownership. Consequently, he defines the most important human right as the right of ownership that one has over one's own body. Better yet, he explains that it is the only self-evident "right" that we can have, and from it, he deduces our ethical concepts of rights to personal property and the constellation of ideas that come into play with that realization. In doing so, he explores the non-aggression axiom that lies at the basis of all fruitful and peaceful human interactions - stressing, as he does so, the inviolability of all human beings as ends in themselves.

Once he has marked out this intellectual and ethical territory, he goes on to explore topics such as equality, property rights, government entitlements, collectivism, majority-rules politics, the natural environment, third-world poverty, and related issues. This would be a daunting task if he didn't do two things that make his book particularly enjoyable to read.

* First he enlivens his narrative by breaking it up with fascinating quotations from figures that loom large in literature, politics, and history. What makes his use of these quotations especially useful, however, is how and when he inserts them into the text. These quotes appear in the most unexpected places, and they call a complete halt to our thinking - forcing us to engage our minds and question our assumptions. The reader is continually shocked by the unsavory pedigree of words uttered by a number of "favorite" American icons. At other times, these quotations simply reinforce what Mr. Gamble has attempted to explain. All of them, however, are delightful in the context of the narrative and well worth the price of the book.

* Second, he ends each chapter with a section entitled "I Object!" It's the author's way of entering into a dialog with readers who may disagree strongly with the things he has been writing. By including these objections, Mr. Gamble anticipates some of the most common complaints that can be registered against his viewpoint, and he addresses them fairly. This alone sets him apart from writers who are so convinced of their brilliance that they can't imagine anyone disagreeing with them about anything.

Once we are grounded in the ethics of self-ownership and non-aggression as the bases for constructive human relationships, Mr. Gamble's remaining chapters address the following topics:

* Money, central banking, hard currency, debt, and the source of inflation and economic manipulation

* Taxes and their meaning in our lives and in our relationship with others

* The real meaning of profits, capitalism, democracy, and the nation-state

* The how and why of bailouts, price fixing, tariffs, innovation, labor unions, social security, and tax-funded undertakings

The penultimate chapter is one of my favorites. The author devotes it to dispelling a good number of commonly held myths. Among them are favorites such as the following:
* Self-sufficiency (a favorite of nationalists)
* Local buying (its good and bad points)
* Inequality and its value to us
* The idea that one person's loss is another's gain
* Free trade and its imposters
* Employers as tyrants
* The meaning of capitalism vis-à-vis communism

In his final chapter, Mr. Gamble asks a thought provoking question: what should we do? He clearly wishes to see improvements come quickly, but how are we to accomplish change? Hint: not by depending upon promises by politicians. After exploring a number of different approaches to change, he seems to choose the route that all of us are capable of enacting - changing how we ourselves interact with others and calmly discussing our insights with friends and acquaintances. This is not a call for destroying or compelling or storming or squatting. It is a call to reasoned discussion and an invitation to make changes in our own lives - including how we interact with our own children.

And that brings us back to where we began, doesn't it? After all, if we can raise a generation of children who have been respected and treated as inviolable human beings, won't they be able to stand on our shoulders and see even farther than we do? And if you are passionate about human rights and liberty (but find it difficult to express yourself), The Secrets to Nonviolent Prosperity can do your talking for you. Try it, and see for yourself.

Participatory Budgeting in Delhi..

How opposing one defective Car model doesn't make one anti-technology [GM issue explained for technology lovers]

Share this with your technology-inclined friends!

While we all agree that research and science are important and that innovation shouldn't be blocked, here's a little devil-in-the-details sharing about GM (genetically modified) foods technology.

The present GM varieties being marketed, those being in focus, are defective models that a company shouldn't be pushing to market. Kind of like releasing a car model whose braking system the company's management internally knows tends to get defective after the first 10,000kms, so they decided to test the car only for 1000 kms. Results were positive so it went into production and is now being aggressively marketed. The industry regulator believes that there is no further independent testing of the car needed since they already know that it is safe, from the 1000km test. The top boss of the regulatory commission happens to be the car company's former high-level employee. Oh, and IPR (intellectual property rights) laws ban any third party from conducting any kind of tests on the car, they're quite strict about that. If you as an independent consumer try to conduct any test or research on this car model, you're likely to get sued and loose everything you have in lifelong litigation, and your research results likely cannot be accepted as evidence. Hence, the car company isn't doing the tests needed and isn't letting anyone else do them either.

The car is now released for open trials, which isn't actually a test for safety; it's one for studying financial potential and performance metrics. But people are led to falsely believe it's a safety test and the car company likes it that way. This test isn't being conducted in separate off-limits proving grounds or Top Gear style retired airport runways where the car being tested wouldn't interact with normal civilian traffic.. several units of the car are actually being driven actively all throughout the country, including on the streets you cross everyday, highways, expressways, AutoBahns etc, by regular people and with children in the back seat. The law of the land has exempted the company from any liability or any obligation for call-back or money-back should anything unfortunate happen, since the regulatory agency has already declared it to be safe. No one wants to talk about what will start to happen when the users of this car cross the 10,000km mark. Right now there are very few first-buyers who have, and the company is quick to respond to any complaints with the standard "it's the driver's fault, we are not liable" reply.

As per our current wisdom which is brought to us by our academia, government and media, all the people who are protesting against the release of this car model or its open testing are hereby decreed to be against technology and anti-progress, anti-science, and should not be listened to. Otherwise society will end up going backwards and we will all die for lack of cars, as if there isn't any other company on the planet capable of manufacturing the requisite number of cars (scroll down to find out that there actually is).


Coming back to the GMOs.. two main technologies:

BT : they produce a toxin that supposedly only harms one specific insect (in the patent they're classified as pesticide and not as food), but it turns out that humans and that insect are not from different planets after all and share certain physiology. Hence, that toxin is turning out to be harmful to living organisms other than that particular insect, surprise surprise. Plus, it turns out that insect is already evolving to beat the BT-toxin, and there's other pests coming in too, resulting in farmers having to resume spraying pesticides on their crops. That ruins the single most important USP of BT technology : that pesticides would no longer be required. The technology was basically betting that biological evolution doesn't happen. (and that's Intelligent Design for you). It also turns out horizontal gene transfer does exist as a phenomena.. the technology was betting on the assumption that it didn't. Which means that the BT-toxin-producing tendency is capable of "installing" itself into other plants as well as the human body's gut bacteria : that itself was a very grey area and treated as non-existent until quite recently.

HT  or "Roundup-ready" herbicide tolerant : glyphosate tolerant.. the recent Mexico court ruling was mainly about glyphosate. It's a toxin right up there next to DDT and friends, and its devastating effect on pollinators like bees (without whom you can't have most plant reproduction) as well as on humans is only now being brought out. If you remove the glyphosate herbicide, that GM crop is useless.. the whole technology was betting on the assumption that glyphosate only kills every single other plant in the whole field (making multicropping impossible btw) but is perfectly safe for humans and other non-plants (despite Monsanto in their own fields mandating their employees wear fully enclosed protective suits and not get in contact with any particles in the field).

Some other technologies being explored:
Golden Rice : It is being compared only with rice, and so is claimed to provide more necessary nutrients. The assumption here again is that people only eat rice and nothing else. Foods like drumsticks (Moringa) have more of those nutrients than the Golden Rice can ever hope to achieve, and it's far cheaper to increase their consumption in the target population. (this thing and others like it literally grow on trees) But the assumption is that people prefer eating only and only rice in their meals and will never ever touch anything like drumsticks, so one must try squeezing all the required stuff into the rice only while forgetting that there are other items in people's meals and the rice was supposed to be for the carbs.

DNA structure:
Also, it turns out that plants are not predominantly left-brained like the people who designed the GM seeds. So DNA is quite messy and integrative, whereas the gene theory upon which the entire GM technology is based, says that DNA is linear and reductive. It assumes that there is an exact input-to-output relation between gene and characteristic. So they thought that precisely X gene sequence controls Y characteristic, and its placement or removal will then control only and only that characteristic of the plant and have absolutely no side effect whatsoever on the rest of the living being and its other characteristics. It was assumed that there is no integrative overall structure  or inter-relationship between the various parts of the genetic sequence. Typical assumptions of the techno-savvy left-brain mindset. All very neat and orderly, a place for everything and everything in its place. Turns out that assumption was false, DNA is integrative and inter-relational, and one drastic change in one part tends to have other effects on other characteristics too which they didn't bother to check out, since the assumption was that nothing else will get affected.

So it's not like the flagship products of the GMO sector have "a few chinks to iron out". The very technologies they are based upon have lost their core USPs in light of emerging realities, and have become redundant. You can't make an improved version of a floppy disk : it's pointless, you need to go back to the drawing board and look at the whole thing again from an improved understanding of the science of food.

Some websites where you'll find good info on this topic:  : this European scientist repeated Monsanto's same feeding trial on rats that had "proved" safety of their GM products, but made one tiny alteration: He ran the experiment for 2 years instead of Monsanto's 3 months. (after which their opposition to independent testing really kicked in!) The result : After 2 years of eating them, those GM foods seem to be the exact opposite of safe, and the rats that managed to survive the feeding trial are just not what you'd call "perfectly healthy". To this day, Monsanto is refusing to accept the research's results, but not daring to repeat it, which would have been the scientific way of proving something wrong, which happened to them (Seralini repeated their study and got disputing results). They even terminated another long-term study of theirs midway and refused to share the results with anyone. So for someone who supports science, it's worth questioning which side of science are GM producers on? If they are pro-science, then why are they and their supporters opposing independent scientific research?

Videos : Genetic Roulette, Seed Freedom, Bought... there's many independent films out there which channels like Discovery don't want to show, even if the film-makers themselves aren't charging any money. (saala tereko free mein itna mast maal mil raha hai... fir bhi wohi purane shows repeat pe repeat karte jaa raha hai tu?). But there's surprisingly no independent films out there (not in my years of looking around) which make any case FOR GM foods. It seems every independent film maker out there working on food sector is against GM only, while every corporate studio wants to religiously avoid sharing these objections. Wonder why?


Now, for those who don't care about the harms part and want to "be positive" and focus on the gains, here's a 30-year side by side growing study by Rodale Institute (they incorporated GM when it became mainstream). Tested conventional non-gm, GM, organic.
Result? Organic won hands down. Greater yield per unit area, lower costs, lower inputs, lower CO2 emissions, negative damage to soil (ie, soil health improved year on year). Everything that the world's  scientists and our governments have been desiring from a technology to grow food, delivered without the pesky patents or high input costs. And what's more, it's an industry alternative that while lowering the bottom line, actually creates more jobs (with zero work related illnesses) at the same time! Organic technology has much higher job creation opportunities, while simultaneously having much lower costs than GM technology! Now you'd object that this organization might have had some bias (but apparently Monsanto conducting its own tests has no bias). May I point you to the scientific method : The best way to prove a research study wrong is by repeating the experiment as defined and publishing your results.

Note: There are presently heavy government subsidies given to the competitors, and the market dominance combined with lack of market mechanisms for decentralized organic technology are hampering these cost benefits from making their way to the retail end. That changes when more people join in and market share increases, and this sector is witnessing exponential growth right now, with the first adopters being everyone from politicians' families to movie stars to industry leaders to well-educated people. Like in any other technology's life cycle, early adopters pay higher but this funds the technology and enables it to come into its own.

What makes things difficult here for those who love technology and internally bracket everything natural as non-technological and backward, is having to eat humble pie and admit that nature might be technologically more advanced than present human attempts in at least ONE sector (saala ek ko jaane do, kya jaata hai tumhaara?), and might have a solution that is still far better than what our best scientists and mega-corporations have come up with so far. Given the fact that she has had a multi-billion year head start and access to a planet-full of resources to tap into for her research, we shouldn't be so surprised and definitely not so jealous of her. On our end, more research should happen of course, but it should happen safely, without treating you and me and our children like lab rats. Defective products shouldn't be pushed to market for the sake of recouping investments made so far. If you know your closest competitor is so far ahead of you, then you should either invest in researching something like GMOs for the long, long run (I'm talking multiple human lifetimes here), or not invest at all and simply go for the best alternative solution available that delivers better, even if you can't earn royalties off it. But it's wrong to get impatient or greedy and push defective products to market just for the sake of showing a profit this year, and it's wrong to use massive government subsidies, IPR and friends in high places as a crutch to conceal your product's defectiveness.

And that's pretty much what all your "anti-technology" friends are trying to tell you. Nobody's being anti-technology. They're just warning about defective products that can cause irreversible harm. That is all. On the other hand, they are also actively supporting organic technology which seems much more promising, so it would be nice if we didn't have anti-technology and anti-science people and mega corporations unnecessarily harming progress.

PS: this is adapted from a reply in another email conversation, so apologies if some reference is not explained or linked fully here. Do search the net for it, you'll find it easily and get bonus points for not being spoon-fed.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Do you support universal adoption of Aadhar card? When Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled AGAINST it?

There are reasons why the developed countries of the world have opted out of UID for their citizens. It is foolish to think we're smarter than everybody else. It is especially foolish to not bother doing any homework on your end and then say "But what's the problem, why are you opposed to Aadhar? It is good only!".


On 23 February 2015, I accompanied two young persons applying to have their marriage registered under the Special Marriage Act before the Additional District Magistrate (ADM) in Delhi. They were told that the system would not accept their application without their Aadhaar enrolment ID. They categorically refused to comply, and cited the orders of the Supreme Court. They proposed going to court to get a direction issued to the ADM. The ADM then relented and that led to the acceptance of their application – a series of dots (….) in the enrolment ID column did the trick. The form, though, remains unchanged.

On 25 February, 2015, the Ministry of Rural Development sent out a letter about the government's decision that wages under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) would only be paid through direct cash transfer, and that all states "are to seed the Aadhaar numbers of the MGNREGA beneficiaries and enrol the MGNREGA beneficiaries who have not yet got enrolled for Aadhaar." Jean Dreze reports from the field that those not enrolled are not being given job cards. There has been no revision of these circulars.

On 3 March, 2015, a Maharashtra Cabinet decision is recorded as having taken the "revolutionary decision to link ration cards and FPSs with biometric database and Aadhaar." The same day, the Election Commission announced a National Electoral Roll Purification and Authentication Program (NERPAP) to be done by linking the Aadhaar database with the electoral database to be completed by 15 August, 2015.

The most immediate and proximate consequence was of exclusion – where people not enrolled on the UID database may be denied a service because they did not have an Aadhaar number. Those not enrolled for any reason, ranging from those unable to get on to the database to those not wanting to, and those whose biometrics may not work because of the nature of their work – such as manual labor or those working with chemicals – or because of age, could find themselves deprived of their entitlements. There was also in the background the constant iteration of the UIDAI that enrolment was voluntary and not mandatory.

So, on September 23, 2013, the court issued an interim order, till the case could be finally decided, that "no person should suffer for not getting the Aadhaar card", even where some authority had issued a circular making it mandatory.
On March 16, 2015, when counsel for the petitioners expressed his concern that governments were pushing ahead with enrolment so they could present the court with a fait accompli – that they already have large numbers on the database and so the project should be allowed to go on – the court said during the hearing that that would not hold weight with them.

In the UK, when their identity scheme was abandoned for being "intrusive, bullying and ineffective," the database had to be dismantled; that was the only way to respect the law and to protect citizens from a surveillance state.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Remembering Vinoba Bhave, Sarvodaya, Bhoodaan

Some anecdotes from an all-but-forgotten past which might just shine a
light onto what frame of thinking we need to adopt to solve present
day issues.

Even back then, conventional thinking labeled it impossible; said that
we cannot hope for things to happen by choice and goodwill; that
anything that is for the good of all must be done through more and
more laws and regulation and force and even violence if need be.
Basically the same message conventional thinking gives us today.
Fortunately, history has shown high disrespect to conventional

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

#AAPBreakup became a tool for preventing news of good things happening in Delhi from spreading
And there's a Lottttttt more that I just don't have the energy to put here.

Sad to see that whether intentionally or unintentionally, YY and PB
have managed to attack THIS all, and have given the country's
mainstream media the excuse it was looking for to mostly censor all of
these real-impact stories in favour of something that, at the end of
the day, didn't really impact the common man or woman's life on the

If people across the nation aren't lighting the torch under their
chief ministers' arses to do many of these obvious common-sense but
much-needed steps right now, then YY-PB and group as well as those who
were so stupidly attacking them (duh, focus on what really matters
yaar, why u so insecure?), stand at least partially accountable for
it. It is a bad thing to prevent news of good things happening from
spreading where they should. They know how the media of this country
operates. YY of all people surely knew how even the littlest of things
was enough to guarantee a full-scale hijacking of the people's
attention. Hence his actions puzzle me and tell me that this guy
better be left alone for some time.. he's lost sight of the ball and
forgot about the long-term universal benefit that comes from removing
oneself from the equation.

The whole narrative being formed of AK and team being ultra-evil
super-Nazis etc etc is just so absolutely inconsistent with the
factual series of real tangible steps on the ground they are
undertaking. The narrative simply doesn't co-relate with reality for
me. And I also think that people who are doing so much groundwork
obviously won't have the time at hand required to do the due thinking
about the spat that happened. If I was in AK's place I'd probably be
putting Gandhiji's Talisman in front of myself the whole time, and
allotting very little to no time to any activity that did not in some
or the other way help the people I have been tasked with helping. YY
and PB weren't busy managing the lives of millions of people, that too
in the crucial first days, that too with full-on daily interactions
with large numbers of people, and in ways that are a first, where
there really isn't any reference point to compare with and guide,
where even more careful attention and devotion to one's duty is
required. Respect for a person's mental bandwidth seems to have gone
out the window. And to remember that this all erupts when one of the
main stakeholders has had to leave things and go away and be
off-communication for medical treatment.. and to see YY and PB coming
on TV cameras and launching their protests aimed at AK while the guy
was still away for treatment.. that was plain and simple
under-the-belt. I couldn't imagine what the bloody hell these guys
thought they'll achieve from doing the exact same thing they've been
complaining about since years now.

I'm supposed to believe the narrative that a person who's attending
naturapathy where one of the biggest preconditions is to empty one's
thoughts of negativities, is busy hatching evil diabolical schemes on
assassinating people's characters who aren't even in his
opponent-sights to begin with (I'm supposed to believe that he's
forgotten all about Mugambo Ambani and his stooges running the whole
show), and hasn't spent any time thinking about the real on-the-ground
solutions that he co-incidentally gets going as soon as he's back, and
still manages to have the treatment work for him. Bull Shit.

And just to counter the obvious answer, NO, I now don't think it's a
wise idea (this is a BIG change from my earlier stand. I like evolving
my opinions in light of heretofore unknown facts coming to light. If
you don't like that, f**k off.) to hand over and away control of AAP
to people who are demonstrating rampant impatience, non-groundedness,
disconnection from the common man's issues, sheer lack of humility,
total absence of mind, non-acknowledgement of the context we are all
in (HeLLOo, Modi, Land Acquisition, attacks on minorities, increasing
crimes on women and backwards, destruction of the idea of India,
corporate takeover, destruction of forests.. remember??), and who
place the flawed Western ideologies disguised as democracy over and
above practicality. (USA has put 1 out of its every 100 adults in
jail, highest prison population in the world, and crime hasn't
reduced. Innocent people across the planet are being slaughtered left,
right and center for the sake of their oil and geopolitical interests.
Society is falling apart. Real happiness as well as physical health is
at an all-time low. Fear is becoming the only motivating factor in
life. They're printing money out of thin air to keep the economy
going, imposing the inflation on the whole world, and the wealth is
only trickling up from the commoners to the upper class. The planet
has been put in peril and they're the biggest culprit for it. That's
not what a democracy looks like, buddy. There's something seriously
wrong in the very basic DNA of how the USA is that has turned them
into the single biggest threat to the planet)

It's definitely not a wise idea to be blindly handing over the reigns
when confusion is so rampant, there is full evidence of deliberate
destructive intervention by shadow players on behalf of the supposed
opponents, and it's so obvious that the real target of whoever is
pulling the strings behind this whole thing is the censoring of all
the good work that's going on so as to prevent other local people from
daring to opt for a real alternative.

That's a time to hunker down, fortify the walls and toss all the
noisemakers out, and let them keep protesting how undemocratically it
all happened till they grow up and start working on things that
actually matter to the people they claim to be serving. Let them go
start the initiative elsewhere on their own if they're so sure they
know everything. Biology 101, man. The seeds leave and go make new
trees, and everyone tries a variation they feel will be better. Anyone
who's ever managed a startup or a fledgling initiative will know the
necessity of shielding it from those who will intentionally or
unintentionally end up destroying the whole thing because of having
some basic fundas ass-backwards. And if you're really undertaken any
inititative and ever had to act to protect it, then you'll recall that
the loudest protest that you've heard is "what is this? See, I was
right all along. There is no democracy in this ____. You are just
another dictator!".

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

6 reasons why BRT (bus rapid transit) is better than Metro

Much ink has been spilt debating the minutae of the current 5.8 km
corridor, its pros and cons. But this misses the point. One shoddily implemented
short stretch cannot be the reason for scrapping BRT as a solution for mobility in
Delhi, indeed in other Indian cities. It is like saying if a man wearing a blue shirt
committed a crime then all men wearing blue shirts are criminals!

[from a PDF shared.. and with a few lines removed in order to bring the focus on the issue at hand, avoid the everybody-loves-to-hate-____ audience]

While the BRT corridor is under attack by car owning critics, the expensive, shiny toy
that is the Delhi Metro can do no wrong (the DMRC website dubs it as "swanky and
modern"). In fact, every city worth its salt from Kochi to Jaipur has one or wants one.
It makes us feel modern much like Nehru's 'temples of modern India' in the socialist
era. So whether we ride the Metro or not (and most car owners do not) we feel
proud to have it. It matters little whether it addresses urban mobility in a cost
effective manner or not. The Metro has been effectively packaged and sold to the
country as a successful engineering project, delivered on time and within budget. It
showcases the can-do attitude of a resurgent India, something we can wow the
world with. But wait a minute, this is about moving people not a feel good factor
where India could build a white elephant quickly and competently with Japanese
largesse. A "swanky and modern" BRT too can be sexy. But then who cares!

#1. Don't bark up the wrong tree
If it had to choose, Delhi needs many more buses and a better managed bus system
than Metro. Buses provide flexibility of routes and last mile connectivity unlike the
Metro. New bus routes can be deployed quickly to respond to the fast changing
geography of a rapidly expanding city. Described as a "surface subway" by
Wikipedia, a well designed and managed BRT combines the capacity and speed
of light rail or metro with the flexibility, lower cost and simplicity of a bus system.
Urban mobility solutions for Delhi need not be zero sum, that is, either BRT or Metro.
But at present the focus is only on (i) moving private vehicles faster (read cars and
faster moving cars) by creating signal free corridors, flyovers and elevated roads,
and (ii) expanding the Metro. Buses, especially an extensive and efficient BRT
system are not in the picture. This is short sighted (see homily #2) and wastefully
expensive (see homily #3).

#2. Do not believe in mythology
An earlier article at this site debunked five myths of Delhi traffic. Myth #2 was "more
roads and flyovers will ease congestion." Myth #4 was "Delhi Metro will solve all
(public transport) problems." But these myths persist in the minds of our netas and
babus and have led to abandoning the BRT as a crucial piece of the urban mobility
puzzle. It is easy to see why Delhi's car owning elite and middle classes love the
Metro—it does not compete with them for road space either being underground or
elevated! The shoddily implemented 5.8 kms of the current BRT corridor on the
other hand, goes through tony parts of South Delhi where it crowds out private car
owners. But history is not destiny. Cars and BRT can co-exist. They do in other
cities of the world (see homily #6). And they certainly can in Delhi. After all, the city
has one of the world's highest proportions of road area – a fifth of its total area is
paved over.

#3. Money saved is money earned
A kilometre of elevated Metro costs about Rs. 100-150 crores, about ten times that
of BRT. Each kilometre of underground Metro costs about thirty times as much. But
Delhites do not care. After all, much of their beloved Metro has been financed with
Japanese largesse and to a lesser extent with that of the central government (read a
gift from the rest of India to Delhites)—of the total project cost of Rs. 70,433 crores
($11.4 billion) for Phases I, II and III, the Government of the NCT of Delhi has
contributed a princely sum of Rs. 8,683 crores ($1.4 billion) or 12.3%! The problem
is there is not enough money in donors coffers or in the central government kitty to
replicate this for all Indian cities big and small.

#4. Those who speak loudest are not always right
The pen is mightier than the sword, especially if the pen is wielded by those who can
emote in English print media and on television. They are the ones who drive the
cars and the SUVs and feel the pinch of the current corridor as buses with sweaty
masses whiz past (at least on that short stretch). So they complain the loudest.
They argue the masses have been given a shiny toy to ride in. When we could not
give them bread we gave them cake. So BRT be damned. But the whiners are
wrong. The solution they offer to the masses is not financially sustainable (see
homily #3) and will not address the problem (see Myth#4 in the earlier article).

#5. One swallow does not a summer make
5.8 kms of a poorly implemented BRT corridor cannot be used against the concept to
seal its fate. The corridor became political football between an incompetent
implementing agency, namely, Delhi Integrated Multi-Modal Transit System Limited
(DIMTS) and Delhi government's Public Works Department (PWD). In any other
system where accountability mattered, heads would have rolled. Instead the babus
at DIMTS who gave BRT a bad name went on to plum postings. For want of a shoe
nail a kingdom was lost.

#6. Don't be an ostrich
India and Indians especially our babus are known to be knowledge proof. The
refrain always is "it can work in city X or Y but it cannot work here" "we are too
different" (see Myth#6 in the earlier article). Yes, no two cities are alike as no two
persons are. But world over, cities have shown how well a BRT can work. Closer
home, Ahmedabad's BRT Jan Marg has received international and national
accolades. The ostrich buries its head in the sand thinking if it cannot see its
enemies they cannot either. We know what happens in that case.

Shreekant Gupta is with the Delhi School of Economics and LKY School of Public
Policy, Singapore. He was former Director, National Institute of Urban Affairs, New
Delhi. The views expressed by the author are personal.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Kisan MahaPanchayat in Delhi, memorandum to PM full text

Copied from

New Delhi, March 18th 2015: Major farmer unions of India affiliated with the All India Coordination Committee of Farmers Movement (AICCFM) have launched a massive agitation against NDA's anti-farmer policies, and to seek a resolution to several burning issues pertaining to farm livelihoods, on March 18th 2015 through a Kisan Maha Panchayat in the heart of India's capital. Thousands of farmers have resolved to stay put on Parliament Street in India's capital until the government engages them in a dialogue to resolve various burning issues. Anti-farmer measures through the Land Acquisition Ordinance, recent report of Shanta Kumar High Level Committee on restructuring FCI, the mindless push by the government of GM crops, lack of fair and remunerative prices for farm produce, demand for a farm income commission, removing agriculture from free trade agreements including WTO, adequate disaster relief for farmers etc., are issues on the agenda of these farm unions. The acute farm distress in India, marked by unabated farm suicides was flagged as a matter that needs urgent addressal. It is reported that during the NDA Government since May 2014, more than 7000 farmers have committed suicide. The government, instead of increasing Budget allocation to deal with the agrarian crisis, has drastically reduced agriculture budget drastically from around 31 thousand crore in 2014-15 to around 25 thousand crores in 2015-16. In fact, the budget outlays for Dept of Agriculture and Cooperation as well as for animal husbandry and fisheries are down to the levels of budgetary allocations five years ago!

To protest against various anti-farmer policies, and to secure some long pending demands that will guarantee minimum living incomes to all farm households, thousands of farmers from all over India have congregated at the Kisan Maha Panchayat on Parliament Street in the heart of the capital today (March 18th 2015).

All the unions threatened to step up their agitation if the Ordinance-routed dilutions to the Land Acquisition Act of 2013 were not rolled back by the government. "In the current debate unfolding in the Parliament, we are watching out for those political parties which are ready to sacrifice farmers' interests as well as the food security interests of the country, in their mindless support for the industry. We would like to warn them that they will have to face increased opposition from citizens who are fighting for their basic right to livelihood. Even a preliminary prima facie analysis shows that at least 50% of the tens of lakhs of hectares that have been acquired in the name of land banks, industrial corridors, freight corridors, highways, airports and so on have remained unallotted or unutilized for the stated purpose – given that the average Indian farm household has just around one hectare of landholding, this means dispossession of lakhs of farmers straightaway, and this is totally unacceptable. In such a scenario, protecting farmers' interests without diluting consent and comprehensive impact assessment clauses in law becomes critical".

Shri Ajmer Singh Lakhowal, President, BKU Punjab said that various moves by the government in the past few months belie the BJP promises before elections that emphasized on increase in farmers' income with an acknowledgement that agriculture is the largest employer in India. "Whether it is the reported plans to dismantle the current procurement system in the country in the name of a High Level Committee report for restructuring FCI or the lack of any moves to announce MSPs that give a margin of at least 50% over cost of cultivation, it is apparent that this government is not committed to reviving agriculture or securing sustainable dignified incomes to farm households. We demand that the MSP should be at least 50% over cost of production, and that procurement systems in the country be strengthened further and not weakened in any way. We need a system which will create a win-win for food security of consumers and livelihood security of farmers", he said.

Speaking to media persons, Shri Rakesh Tikait, National Spokesperson, Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU) demanded that the Government should set up a Farm Income Commission to guarantee minimum living incomes to all farm households. While such living incomes can be ensured through adequate, fair and remunerative price decisions coupled with procurement and other market intervention mechanisms, there is also a need to compensate for losses due to various natural calamities including wild animal attacks on crops. He also demanded that all arrears due to sugarcane farmers should be paid immediately and the same recovered later from the sugar industry.

"The government is exhibiting its pro-industry stance by pushing for unneeded, unwanted and unsafe GMOs in our farming. We want all open air field trials of GM crops stopped immediately in the country since such open air trials pose not only a risk of contamination but also risk of trade rejection. Further, any moves towards trade liberalization in agriculture whether through the WTO route or through free trade agreements are unacceptable to us. FTAs such as Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and EU India FTA will lead to slashing of agricultural tariff and allowing import of cheap subsidised foods which would further depress farmgate prices and drastically impact farmers' livelihood. The issues with Agreement on Agriculture are not limited to just MSP and procurement but the fact that we are getting priced out due to unfair and cleverly-camouflaged subsidies elsewhere. This is now a well-understood issue and the government has to ensure that AoA is removed from the WTO and that all FTAs being negotiated by the government should immediately drop any agriculture-related clauses", said Shri Yudhvir Singh, Convenor of the All India Coordination Committee of Indian Farmers Movements.

It is important to note that these farmer unions are not affiliated with any political party and farmers affiliated with these unions have come from far and wide, spending their own resources, to get their voice heard with the government and to assert their rights. 

For any communication in this regard, please contact:

Rakesh Tikait: +91-9219666799; Email:
Yudhvir Singh: +91-9868146405; Email:



18th March 2015

Shri Narendra Modi,
Prime Minister of India
7, Race Course Road
New Delhi - 110011.

Dear Sir,

Subject: Memorandum seeking resolution to various issues of concern for farmers of the country and for withdrawing recent anti-farmer policies and measures – reg.

We, farmer leaders associated with All India Coordination Committee of Farmers Movement (AICCFM), are very disappointed with the NDA government policy reforms on agriculture which are unfortunately not directed for the benefit of millions of small and marginal farmers but are mainly to benefit a handful of corporates to augment their profit. We were quite hopeful that under your leadership, we would see a big support for agriculture sector and a concrete plan to deal with the on-going agrarian crisis. But in 300 days of your leadership, we have not seen any tangible gains. Agrarian crisis has become more acute and farmers' suicides are continuing unabated. We fear that the pro-corporate agricultural policy reforms in this NDA rule will further worsen our situation.

Today, more than 50 thousand farmers assembled at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi and held a Kisan Maha Panchayat to protest against your government's anti-farmer policies on agriculture. The objectionable Land Acquisition Ordinance which is bound to worsen farm livelihoods, recent report of Shanta Kumar High Level Committee on restructuring FCI, the mindless push by the government of GM crops, lack of fair and remunerative prices for farm produce, and our long-pending demand for a farm income commission etc., were the key issues which was raised by the farmers leaders at Jantar Mantar. In this age of diminishing farm returns and increasing inflation, where official data points to incomes from cultivation in agricultural households being far lower than statutory minimum wages for unskilled work, farmers are agitating to secure a long pending demand for income support that will guarantee minimum living incomes to all farm households.

Through this memorandum, members of the AICCFM would like to seek resolution of some burning issues, failing which we will be forced to launch a massive agitation against NDA's anti-farmer policies. These include:

1.      The Land Acquisition Ordinance: The Ordinance and the Bill in Lok Sabha completely reverses any pro-farmer provisions of the 2013 Act, which were brought about after decades of struggle by farmers and project displaced people. The changes being brought in by your government puts the Act back to the 1894 level. It is apparent that the key objective of amending the LARR Act 2013 is to get rid of all social safeguards that protected farmers against forcible and unjustifiable land acquisition in the name of public purpose or PPPs. We object your government's move to remove these safeguards especially, the mandatory approval of at least 70% and 80% of affected people for acquiring land for PPP projects and for private companies respectively; the provisions for 'No land without consent of people'; 'the scrutiny of public purpose'; mechanism of Social Impact Assessment with public participation in Social Impact Assessment; and No to multi-cropped land. At another level, it is seen that the government is also diluting other laws so that resource-grabbing by corporations is made easier.

The NDA government is ready to facilitate large-scale land acquisition and land grabbing for several so-called development projects, including for private sector, which will have serious impact on the livelihood security of the farmers and food security of our sovereign nation. Lakhs of hectares of land have already been acquired in the name of various development projects including freight corridors, industrial corridors, land banks, highways and so on. Some estimates put this in tens of thousands of square kilometres of land or lakhs of hectares of land. It is also reported that much of the land acquired is unallotted and under-/un-utilised by the acquirer, especially against the purpose for which it has been acquired. While there is a need for a White Paper to be issued by the government on the exact status of acquisition, compensation, utilisation put of that land for the initial-stated reason, resettlement and rehabilitation of displaced etc., it has to be remembered that in a country where the average landholding is just around one hectare of land for a majority of landholders, this magnitude of land acquisition is a direct denial of livelihood rights of lakhs of Indians.

The AICCFM farmers demand an immediate withdrawal of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill (Amendment) Bill 2015 even though it has been cleared by the Lok Sabha early this month and the same should not be tabled in Rajya Sabha at all. We urge the government to listen to the mood of the nation on the subject. The overwhelming demand is that the Ordinance should be scrapped. In fact, any deficiencies in the 2013 Act should be addressed rather than weaken the legislation against farmers' interests.

2.      Provide Remunerative Price for Farmers Produce and Implement C2+50: Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP), in its manifesto (2014) announced that it will ensure that agriculture becomes profitable. The party and its leaders had promised to implement Swaminathan Commission Report's (2005) recommendation to provide MSP based on Cost of production (C2) plus 50% as profit margin. However, even after forming the central government, NDA has made no attempt to implement this promise; further, the MSP announcements have been extremely disappointing. We demand from the BJP government that it fulfil its commitment as announced in its manifesto and provide remunerative price for farmers produce, at C2+50%.

3.      Shanta Kumar High Level Committee Report and Recommendation on Restructuring FCI: Farmers' organisations all over the country are quite outraged at the Anti-Farmer and Anti-Food-Security recommendations of the High Level Committee (HCL) on Restructuring of Food Corporation of India (FCI). The recommendations are essentially a U-turn on BJP promises made in the manifesto which favoured universal food security. The HLC report recommends that FCI step out of procurement operations in addition to asking for dilution of the National Food Security Act (NFSA) to reduce its coverage from present 67% to 40% which would be disastrous not only for the livelihood of millions of farmers but will affect food security of the millions of India's landless, poor and destitutes. And in order to finish the MSP system, this committee recommended bringing in the cash transfer in the food security programme. We demand that the government announce that these recommendations are not acceptable to it and therefore, will not be taken on board.

4.      Write off all farm loans: The latest NSSO findings on agricultural households shows the levels of indebtedness of agricultural households. Today, the unabated phenomenon of farmers' suicide indicates that Indian farmers are reeling under such loan burden from institutional sources and private moneylenders. Farmers' leaders demand that the NDA government must write off all institutional loans of farmers. Government must also instruct public banks and cooperatives banks to give fresh loans to farmers at 0% interest.

5.      Institute Government Policy to compensate loss due to Natural Calamity: Farmers' leaders demand that the NDA government bring in a Union Policy to compensate farmers for the crop loss due to natural calamity. There should be a clear-cut provision for irrigated and non-irrigated farmers for compensation. The Government must also institute an Emergency Fund to provide compensation to farmers on an urgent basis in case of crop loss due to natural calamities, like floods, heavy rains and drought as well as wild animal attacks.

Certain parts of India, especially Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir have witnessed heavy rain and hail storm in last one week (in March 2015) which destroyed standing crops of wheat, mustard, cotton and horticulture crops like apples. We demand from your government a grant Rs. 30,000 per acre for food crops, Rs. 50,000 for cash crops and to bring in proper measures to compensate horticulture farmers as soon as possible for their loss.

6.      Trade Liberalization in Agriculture: We urge the NDA government not to allow any trade liberalization in agricultural goods through WTO or FTAs. Given the unabated and disguised subsidies given elsewhere to agricultural produce, Indian farmers end up making huge losses, when such subsidised produce gets imported. Farmers unions demand from Indian government to move a proposal in the WTO to remove Agreement on Agriculture (AoA) from WTO. Farmers also demand that agriculture-related provisions from all FTAs negotiated by the Indian government must be dropped.

7.      Institute Farmers' Pay Commission: Farmers demand from the NDA government to institute a Farmers Income Commission whose mandate will be to ensure minimum living incomes in a guaranteed fashion to all farm households. Through this commission, government must ensure income to farmers which is equal to the salary of a 4th Grade government employees to help them live a dignified life.

8.      NO to GMOs: Farmers unions would like to remind the NDA government to stay true to their earlier stand of utmost precaution with regard to GMOs, which their state governments are still reflecting at this point of time. GMOs are unneeded, unwanted and unsafe in our food and farming systems and we demand that the government do not allow any open air field trials of GMOs, further commercialisation or import of any Genetically Engineered seeds or crops or trees.

9.      Pay Arrears to Sugarcane Farmers: Sugarcane farmers have not received their arrears for the last two years. We demand that instead of forcing sugar industries to pay to farmers, the government instead pay all arrears due to sugarcane farmers immediately and collect the same from the industry.

We would like to have your intervention on these issues of major concern for farmers and we hope that you would soon take appropriate measures to address our concerns in a substantive and solid fashion.

Kind regards,

Ch. Naresh Tikait,

Dewanchand Chaudhury,
Vice President,

Yudhvir Singh,

Rajpal Sharma,

Ratan Singh Mann
BKU President

Rajesh Chouhan

Ajmer Singh Lakhowal,
State President,
BKU Punjab

Balram Lambardar,
Vice President,

Satnam Singh Cheema,

Virender Singh
BKU, Delhi

KT Gangadhar
Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha, Karnataka

Jagdish Singh,
BKU, Madhya Pradesh

Vijay Jawandhia,
Shetkari Sanghatan,

KS Puttanaiah (MLA),
Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha, Karnataka

K. Sella Mutthu,
President, Tamil Nadu Farmers Association, Tamil Nadu

Uzhavar Ulaippalar Katchi,
Tamil Nadu Farmers Association

S S Gill,
BKU Himachal

Chamarasa Patil
Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha, Karnataka

Vidyadhar Okhla,
BKU, Rajasthan

For any communication in this regard, please contact:

Rakesh Tikait: +91-9219666799; Email:

Yudhvir Singh: +91-9868146405; Email:

Did you know that Monsanto doesn't allow independent research on its seeds?

When we hear that "there isn't sufficient evidence to prove that GM foods are harmful to health", maybe this is why?

However, at least this research project managed to get away with some independent research on GM foods:
Next time someone tells you "there is no evidence to prove...", do check whether there has been any real effort made to look for that evidence or not. Blindly assuming things would be anti-science now, won't it?

That's part 7 of an 8-part series of articles; synopsis below:

Eight Ways Monsanto Fails at Sustainable Agriculture

Monsanto aggressively touts its technology as vital to achieving laudable goals such as ensuring adequate food production, responding to the challenge of global warming, and reducing agriculture's negative impacts on the environment.

The reality is not so flattering. In fact, Monsanto has held back the development of sustainable agriculture, and continues to do so, in several ways:

#1: Promoting Pesticide Resistance

Monsanto's RoundupReady and Bt technologies lead to resistant weeds and insects that can make farming harder and reduce sustainability.

#2: Increasing Herbicide Use

Roundup resistance has led to greater use of herbicides, with troubling implications for biodiversity, sustainability, and human health.

#3: Spreading Gene Contamination

Engineered genes have a bad habit of turning up in non-GE crops. And when this happens, sustainable farmers—and their customers—pay a high price.

#4: Expanding Monoculture

Monsanto's emphasis on limited varieties of a few commodity crops contributes to reduced biodiversity and, as a consequence, to increased pesticide use and fertilizer pollution.

#5: Marginalizing Alternatives

Monsanto's single-minded emphasis on GE fixes for farming challenges may come at the expense of cheaper, more effective solutions.

#6: Lobbying and Advertising

Monsanto outspends all other agribusinesses on efforts to persuade Congress and the public to maintain the industrial agriculture status quo.

#7: Suppressing Research

By creating obstacles to independent research on its products, Monsanto makes it harder for farmers and policy makers to make informed decisions that can lead to more sustainable agriculture.

#8: Falling Short on Feeding the World

Monsanto contributes little to helping the world feed itself, and has failed to endorse science-backed solutions that don't give its products a central role.

Up in arms over the #beefban? Here's something you should see

Up in arms over the #beefban ?

It's ironic that while most of the world's intellectuals, progressives
and sustainability-advocates are passionately advocating a drastic
cut-down in consumption of meat from present levels, India's
intellectuals are knee-jerking to a well-timed beef-ban order passed
by the Maharashtra government recently. (Notice how something else
we're supposed to be focusing upon is being continuously sidelined?)
So the progressives in India, at least in this topic, are going in
completely the opposite way the world's progressives are moving. A
person opposing beef consumption in the west is branded a secular
tree-hugging nonviolent hippie, while someone saying the same thing in
India risks being labeled a far-right fundamentalist!

Something's not right here. India and the rest of the world aren't on
completely separate planets that spin in opposite directions. We have
things in common. Especially the biosphere of this planet that we

I'm attaching an infographic that highlights the shocking numbers of
the price this planet has to pay for beef. Go search on the net and
you'll find more stuff. Check out a movie called "Cowspiracy". The
international beef consumption is actually causing as much or more
greenhouse gas emissions than the world's transport sector. Did you
know that? One of the biggest causers of climate change is an eating
habit which could easily switch over tomorrow. Beef consumption is
literally the "holy cow" that several organizations talking about
climate destabilization don't want to touch.

See the infographic here:
Or see the attachment.

Mind, there is nobody among these scores of activists all around the
globe telling you or India's poor folks not to have meat (So stop
being so defensive! Breathe out... breathe in.. say Ooohhhhhmmmm...).
Remember the case of Easter Island? Of how they cut down all their
trees and ultimately collapsed? That's what's happening here. Excess
of something is bad for everybody, and there is a serous excess of
beef production+consumption happening on this planet right now. Bans
should be opposed of course. But not to the extent of destroying the
larger cause of having a sustainable planet to live on. Not to the
extent of declaring beef parties and eating it when you didn't need
to, just to show how democratic you are.

Rather, a constructive out-of-the-box way to deal with #beefban is as follows:
1. Identify the economically weak segments of society that currently
depend upon beef consumption for their essential nutrients intake.
2. Study the local geography, land use patterns etc.
3. Campaign for getting these communities access to ways they can grow
their own food, or otherwise secure alternative healthy sources of
nutrition at same or cheaper expense. Like access to vacant lots
without needing ownership, or assistance in setting up microfarms like
how Venezuela is doing.
4. Chances are that you'll find the root causes behind poor
communities' reliance on beef consumption are some bigger historical
injustices that need to be undone. Simply opposing a ban and stopping
there won't do anything to address those larger injustices.. heck, we
might end up continuing them.

Couple of points I want to make about the tendency of activism:

1. Being extremely rigid about a few pre-selected principles (like our
right to choose what to eat and what not to) while casually giving a
pass to other equally important ones (like our duty to be a
responsible consumer who doesn't harm the planet) really only makes
one.. a fundamentalist! (ie, jo ek hi funda pe atkaa hua hai; aur kuch
bhi sunna nahin chahta)

2. It's not worth giving up long-term wisdom just to get all fiery and
riled up about a sudden ban happening somewhere. If we become like
that, then we have given the powers that be a way of gaming us,
manipulating us.. a no-brainer recipe for keeping the thinkers and
speakers amongst the citizenry distracted while they can get away with
their more subtle and far-reaching actual plans. Apart from being
utterly useless, sudden decisions like bans are also diversion tactics
in the psy-ops war going on, delivered with excellent timing and
designed to distract. What we need is a measured response and
conscious allocation of priorities after taking the larger context
into consideration. Not beef-parties which would only end up
strengthening the logic for keeping the ban in place.

3. Reality is not binary; it is multi-faceted. Just because a segment
that you disagree with supports something doesn't mean you
automatically have to oppose it. Step away from binary logic. There
are several sectors emerging over the past decade where mainstream
science and academia have been proved disastrously wrong while
faith-based groups have been proven unexpectedly right, even if they
themselves didn't know exactly how they were right about it and even
if they're still wrong about a host of other issues. We need to be
intelligent and use mental filters instead of blockades.

Disclosure : The author of this email/post is a vegetarian. Duh.
PS: The focus on beef and not on other sources of meat or on milk
consumption is intentional and calculated. Message to the quire: One
step at a time, people. Let's pick our battles wisely.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Rodale Institute's report on side-by-side conventional vs organic Farming Systems Trial (FST) over 30 year period
Rodale Institute's report on side-by-side conventional vs organic
Farming Systems Trial (FST) over 30 year period.

Quick summary points:
1. Organic yields match conventional yields.
2. Organic outperforms conventional in years of drought.
3. Organic farming systems build rather than deplete soil organic
matter, making it a more sustainable system.
4. Organic farming uses 45% less energy and is more efficient.
5. Conventional systems produce 40% more greenhouse gases.
6. Organic farming systems are more profitable than conventional.

Documentary on rape issue that I feel is much better than #IndiasDaughter

I'd like to share about another documentary that I believe is way more effective in highlighting not just the issue of rape in India but even the systemic changes needed and the path ahead. And if we look from the perspective of distinguishing between retributive justice and restorative justice, then I believe this documentary goes the restorative way whereas "India's Daughter" goes the retributive way.

And I am personally of the opinion that documentary movies are supposed to be restorative and not retributive; that they should increase our level of consciousness, not our level of anger, and enable us to act from a space of positivity, even with the darkest of issues. I also strongly believe that looking at problems from a systemic perspective, where issues are interlinked, where we don't fall into the victim-perpetrator paradigm is necessary.

This documentary had some difference that it was part of a series of documentaries, had a talk show format, and managed to get screened.. just once... on a national television channel. Unfortunately, a lot of people who ought to have seen it missed it, and because it "already came once", don't put that much of an importance on watching it screening-style and having a real discussion on it. In short, we tended to discriminate against it because it has come on TV. The few times I've shared a proposal to screen it, I got a reply "lekin yeh toh already TV pe aa chuka hai na" as if I'm trying to re-telecast a Bigg Boss episode that happened 2 years ago. I get such a response even from people who hadn't seen it! :P. So a little rebranding maybe necessary.. would gladly welcome some inputs on it. I think screening this the way we screen other documentary films, and having a discussion on it, will be extremely helpful in really opening up a dialogue as well as bringing out actionable steps around womens issues.

Please click here to see this documentary and know more:

On youtube, this is available in many Indian languages:

(pls screen in the local language!)

Short clips here for those with slower net connections or seeing on mobile:

(change the "hindi" to other languages like "tamil", "marathi", "malayalam" etc in the link above)

PS: Personal opinion: If we prioritize to defiantly screen things just because an authority has officially banned it, or because it's "all the rage right now", then we're setting ourselves up for a well-laid trap of distraction and can be gamed by the powers that be.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Which kind of patriot do you choose to be?

Came across this graphic on twitter. OCR'd it!

PATRIOTISM: Having traveled quite extensively in the last 21 years, I
have met three types of people:

1. Those who have not seen the world or ever had a chance to
experience other cultures, but believe that their country is the best;

2. Those who have seen the world but felt like an outsider everywhere
(because they could not or would not bother to make an extra effort
to get to know other cultures) so they have decided that their country
is the best;

3. Those who have seen the world but they are so confused that they
consider doing anything patriotic or sounding remotely patriotic a
mild form of provincialism and backwardness (such people always
declare themselves as citizen of the world and term "global" is always
at the tip of their tongue);

4. then there is a fourth kind: those who are open to accepting
whatever has become less enchanting about their country and culture
and still be proud of what is good

---- the people belonging to the last category are the ones who take
their nation forward because understanding what is broken, is the
first step to fix it.

Credits: Aadya Shukla, .. don't know him though.. his message was shared
as a screenshot.

(Apologies for the blind assumption of being male.. Should've guessed from the content. Remarkable dose of wisdom and humility. Patriotism as it should be.)

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Tagore's Sriniketan Experiment

In 1906, Tagore released his 15 point Village Reconstruction Charter in Pabna (now in Bangladesh). This document makes clear that making villages autonomous was chief among his concerns. It was necessary to use "indigenously made goods."

Further, all the village disputes had to be settled within through a process of village arbitration.

A community grain bank was necessary to guard against famines.

In a gesture towards the necessity of women's autonomy, the Charter asks that "housewives" be trained in a trade that could enhance the family's income.

While Tagore sought autonomy for villages, he did not wish that they remain isolated. In his view, it was necessary that "brotherhood" was cultivated between "hamlets, villages and districts."

A few of Tagore's concerns were generally shared by reform minded intellectuals and government officials: science and history had to be taught in village schools; and, demographic data had to be compiled meticulously for every village.

Many of his concerns were however unique. His Charter, for instance, stressed the need for building communal harmony and asked that the essence of all religions be taught in schools.

Call from Delhi govt for suggestions on public WiFi (10-point questionnaire)

Copied this from AAP's twitter timeline (across multiple tweets). It's a unique opportunity for tech entrepreneurs out there. If you have the tech know-how, here's a government waiting for you to come and deliver it. Don't miss it! ::

Reference: (and the tweets just before it)

Aam Aadmi Party government of Delhi wants to give its every citizen the 'Right to WiFi.'

The universal access to Internet is a transformative idea that can empower citizen.

Delhi Dialogue Commission has come up with a set of ten questions for a wider consultation to inform its work.

Q 1. How do you define public wifi? Kindly suggest case studies on public wifi from other parts of the world.

Q 2. What should be the ideal level of access to public wifi? Can it be made available right upto your doorstep? 1/2
Q 2. If yes, what are the feasibility and technological challenges? Or shud it be available at well-defined public spaces in neighbourhoods?

Q 3. What is the infrastructure and technology required to create the public WiFi network?

Q 4. What should be the essential services that a government should aim at providing through public WiFi?

Q 5. What is the capex and opex required to create and operate public WiFi?

Q 6. What could be a model that makes public WiFi viable, sustainable and scalable in terms of usage, technology and financials?

Q 7. Can public WiFi network be made financially self-sustainable if viewed from the welfare service perspective alone?

Q 8. Should there be multiple operators or an exclusive operator in a well-defined zone of the city?

Q 9. What could be the operating architecture that brings all the stake holders together?

Q 10. What are the advantages and disadvantages of a private enterprise model vis a vis a PSU model?

#AAP govt would like to invite suggestions, viewpoints nd recommendations to each of the above 10 questions on its email id

Read "The Moneyless Manifesto" by Mark Boyle online, or download

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