Monday, December 9, 2013
"If you ask me for an overall caption for the AAP movement, it would be,
from subject-ship to citizenship. People who think they can demand
things of their rulers, people who believe they have certain rights, who
are not becharaas (the helpless) who are not to be taken for granted,
and that the rulers are not mai-baap. And that's a very major transition."
Sunday, December 8, 2013
One is that the top decision makers in government and the govt machinery are foolproof, infallible people who will never betray their citizens for their personal advantage.
Another is that the way to solve the problems of the day is by having maximum control over everything... by id'ing, tracking everything and everyone, and that we all need a perfect someone on top to keep a close watch over everything.
And yet another assumption is that the problems facing society originate from the population at large and particularly from those at the bottom of the societal/financial pyramid; and not from the elites and rulers at the top of the pyramid. We feel that all the poverty, hunger, deaths, child malnutrition, separation, pollution, disempowerment, discrimination, negativity etc is because of those sneaky people running away from unforgiving debt or fleeing persecution because of sexual orientation or life partner choices or being evicted out of their ancestral lands.... we think these people on the fringes of our society have no right to be burdening our infrastructure and clogging our welfare services. So they're the problem and they should all be tracked, ID'd, denied any basic human dignity because they can't prove that they're one of us, criminalized for not being "proper", and stamped out.
And then again... we make the assumption that finally we'll be able to devise a heavy, sophisticated system that will be able to ensure that despite having unlimited funds, extensive mafia links and questionable ties with the ruling elites of our society who are running this system, no "terrorist" can manage to fake his way through.
Saturday, December 7, 2013
The Surprising Healing Qualities ... of DirtA doctor discovers exposure to healthy farm soil holds keys to healthy bodies
"While soil scientists are busy documenting these soil-to-food links, immunologists and allergists in Europe are working above ground to uncover another intriguing soil-health connection, the so-called "farm effect." Why is it that children raised on ecologically managed farms in Central Europe have much lower rates of allergy and asthma than urban children or those raised on industrialized farms? Once again, almost everything points to microbes—in manure, in unpasteurized milk, in stable dust, on unwashed food and, yes, in the soil. In one study, researchers cultured farm children's mattresses and found a potpourri of bacteria—most of which are typically found in soil."
"But what if our own immune cells are simply a backup mechanism to a more sophisticated first line of defense—our resident microbes?
And what if a healthy and diverse soil microbiome can foster a more diverse and protective human microbiome?"
"A group of French microbiologists were among the first to document this game of pass-the-gene when they identified the exact same sequence of DNA in two different Bacteroidetes bacteria species, one living on seaweed and the other in the intestines of Japanese people. They concluded that the marine bacteria had hitchhiked their way into the human gut via sushi and other seaweed dishes and passed their seaweed-digesting DNA on to resident microbes of the human host. The end result of this exchange is that many Japanese—and possibly people from other seaweed-eating cultures—have acquired a greater ability than the rest of us to extract valuable nutrients from their nori."
"Thinking of a healthy body as an extension of a healthy farm, and vice versa, is a paradigm shift for many of us. But when we consider that all of our cells get their building blocks from plants and soil then, suddenly, it all makes sense. In fact, it is not too much of a stretch to say: We are soil."
- "A critical, independent and investigative press is the lifeblood of any democracy. The press must be free from state interference. It must have the economic strength to stand up to the blandishments of government officials. It must have sufficient independence from vested interests to be bold and inquiring without fear or favor. It must enjoy the protection of the constitution, so that it can protect our rights as citizens."
- "If there is a country that has committed unspeakable atrocities in the world, it is the United States of America. They don't care for human beings."
- "The current world financial crisis also starkly reminds us that many of the concepts that guided our sense of how the world and its affairs are best ordered, have suddenly been shown to be wanting.”
- "Gandhi rejects the Adam Smith notion of human nature as motivated by self-interest and brute needs and returns us to our spiritual dimension with its impulses for nonviolence, justice and equality. He exposes the fallacy of the claim that everyone can be rich and successful provided they work hard. He points to the millions who work themselves to the bone and still remain hungry."
- "There is no doubt that the United States now feels that they are the only superpower in the world and they can do what they like."
- “It is said that no one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones.”
- “Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity, it is an act of justice. Like Slavery and Apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings. Sometimes it falls on a generation to be great. YOU can be that great generation. Let your greatness blossom.”
- “We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.”
- “No single person can liberate a country. You can only liberate a country if you act as a collective.”
- "If the United States of America or Britain is having elections, they don't ask for observers from Africa or from Asia. But when we have elections, they want observers."
- “When a man is denied the right to live the life he believes in, he has no choice but to become an outlaw.”
- On Gandhi: "From his understanding of wealth and poverty came his understanding of labor and capital, which led him to the solution of trusteeship based on the belief that there is no private ownership of capital; it is given in trust for redistribution and equalization. Similarly, while recognizing differential aptitudes and talents, he holds that these are gifts from God to be used for the collective good."
Wednesday, December 4, 2013
an educational NGO that I worked with in 2011-12 and where I publicly
walked out of in protest.. that's another story.
What you mentioned... " TFI classrooms to have absolute autonomy in
their curriculum, evaluation, instruction"...well well!
Long before my walkng-out, this is exactly what I had proposed to Pune
city team one month into my Fellowship when I was pulled up and
reprimanded for my poor performance. I shared with them Astra taylor's
talk on unschooled life and some other resources I'd found, and gave
them a challenge that for the next 2 units (ie, 3 months), I wanted
complete autonomy and freedom from TFI, esp the weekly testing ,
tracking regime. In exchange I offered that I won't take any salary or
reimbursements for the next 3 months. That way if I screwed up, TFI
could simply end my fellowship, say I wasn't even with them for last 3
months, and wash their hands off the case.
I challenged them that after that period they do their assessments and
see how far the kids have come. My plan (only in vague form in my head
at the time) was to let the class be, and using the free time gained
from not having to do so much deliverables after school, and the energy
gained from not having to control the classroom during school, I'd do
one-on-one or one-on-two tutoring with each kid after school hours. I'd
found that I could easily help them master an entire week's or more of
maths/english lessons in an hour when working with them alone, but this
worked only when I didn't have any other workload.
Naturally, the proposal was immediately shot down, ridiculed, with the
logical argument that I had no right to play around with the children's
futures (apparently they held the monopoly on that). My failures to
prove effectiveness in following their system so far were used to assume
I wouldn't succeed even in my own. In hindsight I think I'd have
probably failed to prove anything (because our systems used to measure
the learning of the children were themselves flawed), but I really
wanted the kids and myself to get a breather from the onslaught and
wanted to see how they can develop if allowed to talk and interact with
each other all day.
Why am I sharing this? Because I'm quite sure a LOT of teachers out
there have considered this and are too afraid to talk about it out of
fear of being ridiculed.
Tuesday, December 3, 2013
Hoping something like this project really comes about soon!
Commotion is an open-source communication tool that uses mobile phones, computers, and
other wireless devices to create
decentralized mesh networks.
Sunday, December 1, 2013
Haven't you noticed it too, in your college or workplace? If empathy is indeed what makes civilization, then clearly we're on the path of destroying it right now.
Thursday, November 28, 2013
Some quick points from there: The following deaths have been branded
as accident or suicide and no further investigation has been done by
1. two high-ranking engineers—KK Josh and Abhish Shivam—on India's
first nuclear-powered submarine were found on railway tracks by
workers. They were pulled from the line before a train could crush
them, but were already dead. No marks were found on the bodies, so it
was clear they hadn't been hit by a moving train, and reports allege
they were poisoned elsewhere before being placed on the tracks to make
the deaths look either accidental or like a suicide.
2. When nuclear scientist Lokanathan Mahalingam's body turned up in
June of 2009, it was palmed off as a suicide and largely ignored by
the Indian media.
3. Five years earlier, in the same forest where Mahalingham's body was
eventually discovered, an armed group with sophisticated weaponry
allegedly tried to abduct an official from India's Nuclear Power
Corporation (NPC). He, however, managed to escape.
4. Another NPC employee, Ravi Mule, had been murdered weeks before,
with police failing to "make any headway" into his case and
effectively leaving his family to investigate the crime.
5. A couple of years later, in April of 2011, when the body of former
scientist Uma Rao was found, investigators ruled the death as suicide,
but family members contested the verdict, saying there had been no
signs that Rao was suicidal.
6. the case of M Iyer, who was found with internal haemorrhaging to
his skull—possibly the result of a "kinky experiment," according to a
police officer. After a preliminary look-in, the police couldn't work
out how Iyer had suffered internal injuries while not displaying any
cuts or bruises, and investigations fizzled out.
My thoughts on the case:
I think we're settling for a very low-brain-usage, quick-fix
resolution of the issue by blindly tagging the case with Indo-Pak
The writer has done a good job of bringing the mysteries together and
highlighting the facts that cleary point to a conspiracy; that there's
been a deliberate cover-up by the government to keep the people from
knowing that Indian nuclear scientists are being targeted and
assassinated. But I feel he doesn't delve deep enough into finding out
or even pointing at the why's.
The motive behind killing someone who's not famous on the national
scene or who doesn't hold a critical military or governmental
position, but is privy to high-level technical information, is not to
pave way for war or not to destabilize the country. The country
should, but couldn't care less.
The motive behind such kinds of killings is to hide something that
hasn't come out into the spotlight yet; to prevent it from catching
too many people's attention. And because this is targeted at a small
group of professionals : Indian nuclear scientists, these killings
serve to silence everyone in the whole group through fear of being
"next". The absense of any real official investigation into the
killings, the callous dismissals by the government, serves to tell
them that their own government is complicit and no one is going to
In such a situation it becomes the duty of the people from whom
certain truths are being kept away, to reach out and uncover those
truths. The best way to defeat these malicious elements doing the
killings, is to bring out the things that they've been so desperately
trying to hide : To make them fail in their mission.
So, let me set out my theories.
I think that this is not about nuclear weapons.
It's about nuclear energy. It's about the nuclear power stations that
the Indian govt is setting up, in ways that violate most international
nuclear regulatory safeguards.
The primary element of the Indo-US nuclear deal was the zero-liability
arrangement, under which in the event of something going disastrously
wrong, the companies making and operating the power plants cannot be
held reliable. This was the critical and most hotly debated element :
without this, there's no deal.
To bring this arrangement into perspective, recall the Bhopal gas leak
disaster : the deadliest industrial accident in recorded human
history. Today we have extensive coverage in the media and civil
society and public discourse about how the Indian govt has failed to
bring the people who caused this disaster to justice, and how the
companies who caused this, who willingly neglected safety have
treated Indians like expendable trash and refused to give any
compensation whatsoever to the victims despite the fact that they make
billions in profits each year.
If a zero-liability arrangement had been legislated to cover chemical
factories prior to the disaster, it would have been ILLEGAL for India
or Indians or any civil society group representing the kin of the
people who died or were injured, to get either justice or compensation
for the Bhopal gas tragedy. No matter how clearly the case may point
to responsibility for such an accident on the people who own and
operate the plants and who profit from cutting costs on safety
measures, we will be legally prevented from pursuing justice or
accountability. The owners can be as irresponsible as they want and
just leave when things go wrong, leaving us to clean up any mess they
Now, there's been an overdrive from the Indian govt and nuclear
establishment to repeatedly convince the people that the nuclear power
plants are going to be super-duper safe, that there is absolutely no
possibility of anything going wrong. There are several nuclear
scientists going all around the place emphasizing this. They've even
roped in India's rocket scientist, APJ Abdul Kalam, to certify that
it's all good. With all due respect, APJ is no longer in a technical
capacity to be saying anything about this subject. There are several
scholars and researchers and scientists from all around the world
opposing nuclear who know much more about the industry than he does.
But keeping that aside, I think it's clear that there is a consistent,
full-on campaign to convince the public that these power stations are
going to be as solid as a rock and are no threat to the public.
So, just contrast the zero-liability arangement with the safety
assurances. If nuclear power was as safe as is being campaigned, why
would a zero-liability arangement be needed? Let's bring this down to
a tangible level:
Would you buy a house if the guy you're paying to build it, it puts a
zero-liability condition on it? No. There can be no safety without
responsibility. For the house, you might be able to use an insurance
cover. But there is no insurance company in the world that is ready to
cover the Koodankulam, Jaitapur and other nuclear power plants being
set up in India. The Koodankulam reactor has 30 million people living
in its immediate risk zone. This is why the zero-liability arrangement
was needed. Because for them this is serious, they have taken the
trouble of really assessing the risks involved and have come to a
conclusion that they will lose all their money if they cover these
projects. An insurance company wouldn't give you accident insurance
cover for your car if they were certain that you cannot be trusted to
drive it safely and there is a high chance that you'll have an
accident. I would like to allege that it's been a similar case with
the nuclear power plants. With this in mind, all the public
reassurances fall flat. They can talk safety all they like and make
all kinds of castles in the air : if they're not taking responsibilty,
if it's not backed up with solid actions and legally bound guarantees,
they're as good as lying. Abdul Kalam isn't going to do squat if
Koodankulam blows up and kills over 30 million people while
irradiating the Bay of Bengal and destroying fisheries-dependent food
security of most of South-East Asia.
There's been very little to no opposition to these projects heard from
the Indian nuclear scientist community. The ones who are expressing
concerns, are being not-published by the media and being ridiculed,
yes, but even among the civil society networks there are few to no
nuclear scientists coming out in opposition to nuclear power. What do
the people make of this? Simple. These guys are THE guys who would
know, for sure, if a nuclear power plant being set up in my country
poses any risk. Since there are quite a number of them coming out in
support of nuclear power, and so few to none coming out in opposition,
the average person can hence assume that the opposition to nuclear
power is unjustified and that the grassroots movements and civil
society organisations protesting, don't know what they're doing and
should not be supported.
This is where the assassinations of Indian nuclear scientists comes
into the picture and serves as a smoking gun. What if the reason why
we're not hearing any objections from the scientists is because of the
assassinations, because the ones who are still alive and know some
inconvenient truths have been intimidated into not telling the people?
What if the truth that is being prevented from getting out, is that
all the assurances being made on safety and no-risk of nuclear power,
are false? The fact that there are targeted killings happening in this
crucial group throws into question any official statements coming out
of this group. The truth is more likely to be the opposite of what the
status quo is asserting.
content is important to note here:
My association with ecology and human community-cultures developed
rather accidentally over 30 years ago when I reached Bastar in the
course of my work and wanderings with some Gandhians, many of whom I
still fondly remember and admire. Once in Bastar, I got into
field-research project (1980-85) in Abujhmad region of Bastar on the
thematic of Adivasi world view and the modern world. Spread over 4000
sq kms of, at places, impenetrable vegetation and with a somewhat
stable population of 13000, Abujhmad is the 'back of beyond' in
Bastar. It had had little or no contact with the outside world. More
interior villages as Ehnaar had never known the impact of wheels. The
small community lived on food gathering and hunting, with shifting
cultivation as a supplement. In a somewhat primeval stage it had
neither trade, nor industry, livelihood, occupation or other modern
apparatus. But neither was there hunger, starvation, beggary or
There are big promises by development agencies and governments to make
people's lives better by bringing in modern infrastructure, commerce,
education, modern amenities etc to places that didn't have them. But
there is, till date, not a single "modern" system that has clearly
been able to provide to its people a system where there is no hunger,
starvation, beggary or lingering disease. When we talk about
modernization today, we are destroying thousands-year-old systems that
were delivering on these, and replacing them with systems that have
repeatedly failed the people AND harmed the environment which our
future generations need.
Here is my assertion: All that glitters is not high-tech; just because
something is new doesn't make it better. We are imposing inferior,
immature, unsustainable and self-destructive technologies upon people
who don't want or need them. Our high-tech gadgetry, our technology,
our chips and wires and wireless... is all INFERIOR to the natural
systems. Not superior; inferior. For the simple fact that it's all so
pathetically dependent, wasteful, non-regenerative,
non-self-sustainable and it has no future once certain limited
resources run out. We have taken shortcuts to accomplish things, and
those shortcuts are at too high a cost to be used again and again. We
are using inferior technology. We have a long way to go still in
developing it further. There is no reason to impose an inferior
technology on anyone; it will only cause more damage.