Friday, September 23, 2016

Is real life slavery causing virtual life over-nationalism?

Addressed to my friends who are working in the mainstream corporate sector and similar, and who keep sharing and writing on our various social groups about patriotism, supporting the armed forces, ranting against Pakistan and saying statements like "teach Pakistan a lesson", hating anyone who dares to question the integrity of the armed forces, attacking people for opposing AFPSA, etc etc:

My dear friends,

If you did not have to be such a big c**k sucker in your real life,

Then maybe you would not have felt the need to be such a breast-beating, destruction-mongering, judgemental, over-simplifying, one-dimensional, self-acclaimed pseudo-patriot in your virtual life.

In both lives you're going off balance.

Mistaking the difference between being an employee and a slave in one,

and mistaking the difference between being a patriot and a fascist in the other. 

The latter makes you liable to being exploited by the very forces that seek to destroy the country you love.

Maybe bringing back some balance in the real life could do you some good in the virtual one too. Just sayin' ! :P

My take on the AAP arrests, "wrongdoings" spree

If you were the only group of ministers / MLAs in the country

that have your local police force following orders of a higher power that is your arch rival and is openly hostile towards your party,

and if you knew that the local police force are continuously hunting for every possible way to arrest you, including for total non-arrest-worthy "crimes" like getting duped by fake universities,

if you knew you were under constant surveillance,

then in such a situation, would you or your colleagues bother to do even one tiny bit of wrongdoing, while the controversies are still hot?

That wouldn't make any sense at all.

I can easily expect even the most corrupt party in India to keep their heads down during such a time and maintain a strictly clean profile.

So then why are we seeing so much arrests and defamation of AAP ministers and MLAs, that too for such absolutely useless things?

Why is our media continuously reporting these things with every sentence of theirs having already pre-decided that these people are indeed evil?

For reporting an arrest of an MLA or minister from any other party, and while the matter is still not completely proven in court, the media would have diligently used words like "allegedly" or "minister gets targeted" etc. They would have cautioned against taking the accusers at their word, and have explored the possibilities of this being a politically motivated thing.

But here, looong before even the very first court hearing, our media is continuously ordering the viewer/reader to judge these people as pure evil.

Simple logic says : these people aren't doing the infinite wrongs being credited to them. They are not suddenly infused with power.

What power? They have absolutely zero control over the police which is hot on their ass 24/7, the media is inciting the public against them so much it looks like they WANT to see a lynching, and they have no Z+ security even. They don't have any black money pools wherefrom to buy protection from local goons. This is the most powerless bunch of politicians we have seen in the history of India.

It simply does not make any sense to be really doing what you're accused of with this reality in force.

The real wrongdoers seem to be the accusers and the ones on whose behest they're screaming.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Outreach for Maharashtra Villages mapping activity

Hi Friends,

We (DataMeet Pune chapter) are analyzing, cleaning and attributing a huge GIS dataset we got recently that has boundaries and census-linked attributes including unique ID codes of every village in Maharashtra, and are inter-linking it with other large datasets like village-level Census data.

We want to put this out in the open where it can go a long way in empowering social sector, citizens groups in localizing and tracking issues like water scarcity, farmer suicides, displacement etc, in finding patterns, fixing accountability and advocating solutions backed with data. If you work or volunteer with an NGO that might be interested in this, please connect us. We can use inputs from experienced orgs about what data to visualize, where the interconnections are, etc. We also encourage NGOs to share their data and statistics and let's collaborate to get it mapped, visualized, corroborated with other datasets and taken forward. This applies to a broad spectrum of sectors like education, employment, empowerment, ecology, food, water, energy etc.

Inviting you to check it out, and join in if interested. You can participate in any way : mapping, data churning, creating visualizations, developing web-based tools or even just reading through spreadsheets and helping us fill in the blanks. (ex: linking PDF maps to sub district codes, or matching unlinked villages with their correct codes and locations). It is also an excellent opportunity to learn using technology platforms like QGIS, R, d3.js, web tools on real world multi-faceted and locally relevant data. 

Check out this tracking spreadsheet from where we're co-ordinating this multi-pronged effort:

There are many worksheets there at the bottom (its a shared google spreadsheet). Please see the "Readme" sheet first. You will find google drive links for downloading all the datasets so you can just download and get started on your end at your own pace. There is also a documentation (hackpad) link where we're gathering all the details about this. If you're in Pune, do catch our next meetup to touch base with more people working on this, and we'd love to have folks from other places in Maharashtra also get involved. In Nagpur there's a venue and host NGO ready to start meetups.

Some links:
Know more about the DataMeet community and join the all-india mailing list:
Get in touch with the Pune chapter :
Email us: pune [at]

PS: Don't assume that this is for adults only. Younger people can do much more here. Share this with high school students you know as a Geography project!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Want the law changed to protect your profits?

A company that needs to change the laws of the land to protect its profits... is a company that is incapable of doing business and one that a wise investor would do well to steer clear of.

Because the political equations could change at any moment and there is no real security for the investment.

The very basic requirements for being a businessman include being able to successfully turn a profit while operating well within the laws of the land.

Monday, September 19, 2016

The rock under which life thrives

It also may be that someone is not overly attached to logic, because it just happens to be the rock under which life thrives, and not necessarily because of which.

--- John Samson, in a long email thread on the HrutCollage mailing list in Pune

Friday, September 16, 2016

A priority voting system that won't "waste" your vote

Electoral reform: A simple and interesting proposal has come from the Jill Stein camp (green party presidential candidate in US elections): a priority vote system that can get rid of the fear of "wasting your vote".

Suppose there are parties A, B, C. The incumbent is A, totally corrupt and at any cost you dont want them to win. B is the biggest opposition but you know they also have corrupts and criminals among them, just as much black money in funding, etc. C is new, shows most promise for bringing the change you wish to see, you really like and trust their candidate for your constituency and you want them to represent you.

But they are new, have very little funds for outreach, and might not get the numbers needed. It might also be an independent candidate. And the fear in your mind is: by voting for C, you might decrease B's lead and unwillingly end up making A win, which you want to avoid at all costs.

So out of fear of A winning, you pick "the lesser evil" and vote for B even though your original choice was C. This is fear-based politcs, and i liked Stein's quote on this: "the politics of fear has only delivered us what we feared the most".

Under the new proposed system, you vote for: C, B, [others in decreasing order of preference].
After first round of counting, if C doesn't get a clear majority, then your vote is automatically transferred to B. So it will never work in A's favour. This way, you can vote for those you like best, instead of "least worst", without any fear of "wasting" your vote. Takes the fear out of politics.

But even before we manage to bring in such a system, think : Instead of voting for the lesser evil, how about if we disposed of these never-ending speculations (typically pushed by the media that is secretly biased) and simply voted for the greater good? Even if that candidate doesn't win, won't you have made an investment for a future election where your candidate will have better ground to stand on thanks to prior votes earned? Can any vote made for positive change ever truly be 'wasted'? Or is that also a manipulation being used to game you? What improvent are you making in your children's lives by voting for the lesser evil? So the next time you go to vote, kindly leave your fear outside the polling booth.

PS: Are you from the US? Check out the electoral option that the media doesn't want you to know about :

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Media bias anaylsis: Centre returns 14 bills passed by Delhi Assembly

Imagine sending a leave application to your boss and then it gets rejected with the official reason that you did not take your boss's permission prior to writing the leave application.
>> headline is be targeted at implying blame game.. true headline would be..
Centre returns 14 bills passed by Delhi Assembly

>> I'm not being able to find an article which actually lists or links to the exact bills. Instance of media acting like high priests.. they are sharing broken down bits and pieces of info along with their own mixings, but not sharing the actual info that they are reporting on. How hard can it possibly be to share a 14-point list?
>> why is the word "infuriated" being used? The reporter has blandly wrote that AAP / AK is infuriated, without providing any detail or evidence. Did he blow his cock, point his index finger ahead and start screaming at the top of his lungs? Did he tear his muffler and topi to shreds? Did he do one of those Hitler reacts? Surely something qualifying as "infuriated" would have been caught on camera and endlessly looped on all news channels for a whole month. It's TRP gold! But we never saw anything like that. Did he take a glass of water and drink it at one go? (whoops, wrong CM :P) How do the lines below qualify as "infuriated"?
"It is my humble request to Prime Minister Modi that he should have a big heart. Have a big heart. Forget the defeat of the Delhi assembly elections and don't take revenge from the people of the city. Should the Centre have the right to block every law of the Delhi government? Is the Central government the headmaster of the Delhi government?"

Same news, better headline, had to be by another country's media:
Kejriwal urges Home Minister to clear 14 Bills passed by Delhi Assembly
>> and HELLO, take a look at this sequence of events, which seems to have been conveniently censored out by the other media orgs reporting on same issue:
...To discuss and push for these bills, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal has sought an appointment with Singh.
...Kejriwal said these Bills have been forwarded to the ministry of home affairs by Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung.
..."The lieutenant governor has sent 14 Bills of the Delhi government to the MHA. I have sought an appointment from Rajnath ji to discuss Bills," Kejriwal tweeted.

>> NOWHERE in the DNA or Hindustantimes articles was anything mentioned about the CM seeking an appointment with Centre, about LG having ALREADY forwarded the bills to the Centre. Instead the articles are implying that AAP was "at it again", trying to pass bills on their own and not bothering for properly co-ordinating with the Centre. But if the Centre is complaining that you cannot pass this without my approval and then returning the bills, then HELLO, the bill came to you FOR YOUR APPROVAL. Imagine sending a leave application to your boss and then it gets rejected with the official reason that you did not take your boss's permission prior to writing the leave application.

The Centre has reportedly stated that LG's permission must be taken BEFORE passing it in the assembly. That doesn't make sense.. there are 2 sets of rules governing this and one set (not mentioned here) DOES provide for Assembly clearing the bill first and THEN sending to Centre for approval. Indeed, that is the default sequence of events that has always been followed by all past Delhi govts. But the present govt follows the same procedure and suddenly our media brands them as unprofessional fools.

Think about this logically. Would it make any sense for an elected govt to first send a bill to Centre for permission to even TALK about it at the Assembly floor and have to wait for possibly months for Centre's approval? (some of these have been collecting dust since an year or so with the Centre) In the process of deliberation, the bill might even undergo changes. How do you take pre-approval of that? And after deliberation and passing, the bill AGAIN has to go to Centre for approval. So the Centre is claiming that any piece of legislation for Delhi needs both pre-approval and post-approval. Then is the claim that Centre is acting like the headmaster not valid? What will they want next : the democratically elected representatives of the people of Delhi have to take prior permission from Centre for even thinking about a bill?

What's being implied is a sheer double wastage : first ask Centre permission for even initiating talking about a bill, and then redundantly ask them their permission for passing it. At this rate, why doesn't the Centre simply suspend the democratically elected govt, declare President's Rule in Delhi again and take over the business of creating the bills too?

So let's list down here what India's mainstream media has categorically FAILED to report:

1. This has NEVER been the due procedure for all past Delhi state governments. The Sheila Dixit govt and the ones before never had to do all this to-and-fro business to pass any bill. This new bureaucratic handicapping has been brought in illegally by the present Central govt without properly codifying into any law, and obviously we can predict that any future non-AAP Delhi govt will not be put through this treatment.. this is exclusively for AAP govt, for the sole purpose of preventing them from fulfilling the duties that they were elected for.

2. Is the Centre even the least bit interested in doing what is best for the people of Delhi? Why aren't any of the 14 bills themselves being highlighted? Are each and every one of them really not passable or truly against the people's best interests? If there are technical hurdles, can't modifications be made, why to completely reject? Does that demonstrate either true statesmanship or federal co-operativism on the Centre's part? Dear media, can we have the details of each of the bills please?

3. If the reason for returning was really as officially stated, then it means that the reason was 'there' when the very first bill itself came. So why let several months pass, why waste taxpayer money in letting not one, not two, not three, but 14 bills collect in MHA office for no use when the Centre could have immediately returned the first bill that came, duly informed the state govt what was wrong and the state govt would have taken remedial steps then itself? Who in the MHA or PMO thought it's a good idea to allowe the count to notch up to 14? Was the Centre sleeping on its Delhi related duties all this time? If not, then why didn't they say anything when the very first bill came? Where is the Centre's apology to the people of Delhi for having wasted their tax money and time? Far from apologizing, from the news reports it sounds like the Central govt is quite pleased with themselves for waiting till 14 bills gather dust, for wasting taxpayer money and dragging this all for so long, and then at the end of it, rejecting all for the same reason. So much for quick and efficient governance. So either the Centre has been caught sleeping on their job, or the reason for rejection/returning has freshly been invented and did not exist when the first bill was sent by Delhi State to Centre for approval. There can be only two possible explanations for the Centre's behaviour in this case: incompetence, or willful dereliction of duty.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

How feminists are being weaponized by the status quo

A very common pattern I see being deployed throughout the world : any man is exposing the status quo, exposing the illegal actions by a power elite that have or will threaten the life and liberty of millions, or will deprive millions of their right? Slam a sexual harassment / rape / spouse-killing charge on him and drown out the original case concerning the lives of multitudes, with a case concerning just two people or so.

Julian Assange
Rajinder Pachauri
Tarun Tejpal
Sashi Tharoor
Kurt Sonnenfeld

and many more that I keep coming across but can't recollect right now. I won't comment on which I think is a true case or false, but at the end of the day, the larger causes they stand for, stand screwed.

The obvious but unasked question here is : Why would anybody who knows they are being constantly watched, who know they are up against a massively more powerful opponent and could get screwed any second, be at the same time suddenly unable to restrain themselves from any unnatural 'urge' to harass / rape? That too why is it always timed precisely to happen when the time is the most critical for their cause? When they can easily avoid any threat to their cause by simply going home, watching porn and masturbating? Or heck, even going to a prostitute would be far less dangerous to their cause than raping someone.

These people aren't even in any position of great executive power at the time; they do NOT have people to order around as they please. Even if media limelight may have given them the same amount of mental real estate in people's minds as anyone holding a position of real executive authority, when it comes to action on the ground, they don't have any actual power.

They have no control whatsoever on the police force (and in fact have every reason to avoid ANY run-in with authorities), no deep connections that will cover their asses.

How such a sequence of events could happen at all.. just doesn't make any sense. I honestly don't think human behaviour can ever go so suicidally stupid. What makes a lot more sense, is if the elites whom these people were standing up against, who don't want the truth to come out, plant such cases to assassinate the characters of those who were going to expose their crimes. Qui bono : Who benefits? The greatest beneficiary of the rape case against Julian Assange, for example, is the US Military whose war crimes he has been exposing. There's a mental messing up happening : oh, if the guy whistleblowing turns out to be a rapist then maybe the US military isn't really raping entire nations and all those mountains of evidence that have absolutely nothing to do with the rape case can just be blindly dismissed.. discredit by association.

What's also worth observing is the role played by well-meaning people who jump on such cases and become part of the shrill noise that drowns out all the larger issues. When I see various friends in different networks start off when the latest such case comes up (and note, even I'm among them many times), it looks almost like a feeding frenzy is going on, like some kind of catharsis is happening, like lashing out against this one-off case, seeing this one supposedly-powerful person get shot down (note: this is only perceived; the ones truly in executive power would rarely even get any due coverage, forget the damage), will magically take care of everything and we can all go back to being screwed by the system and taking our deliberately lowered quality of life and loss of security & liberty for granted, having let off our excess steam on a one-off incident and thus having diverted it from that which it was supposed to be building up against.

In practically no case have I seen the person doing the attacking try to take on the responsibility of the larger cause that their target was shouldering. No one wanting Assange to be tried for the rape cases, would want to even touch the cases of the entire nations getting raped; would want to do anything for the milions of women there living lives much more hellish. Sympathize, sure. Actually do something, stick your neck out like the guy you just shot down was doing? No. While I don't think they're in cahoots with the status quo, I can see how the focussed, ignore-everything-else, repeating and easily predictable behaviour has by now been thoroughly researched, analyzed, weaponized and repurposed to serve injustice to the very many (like the millions of people killed in Iraq/Afghanistan or Bradley Manning still held captive without fair trial) while making a grand show of standing up for the rights of the very few.

And look at the stark difference between what gets trumpeted and what gets censored : one-off cases versus cases involving systemic, structural injustice. Alleged plight of one woman versus well-known plight of all women. Is the stereotypical inability of women to differentiate between scales and be prone to emotional attention-grabbing being gamed by the elites?

If you do not look at the larger picture, do not pay attention to the context, and react to news reportage in a predictable way, then you will be used as a weapon to inflict further damage to the very cause you stand for.

This post was sparked by this video:
>> Julian Assange's testimony to the United Nations. Eye-opening details on the US govt's treatment of whistleblower Bradley Manning and the ongoing attack on Wikileaks.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Prioritizing setting up GPS for public transit

I seriously think the GPS transmitters need to go on ST buses first.

There we have the longest wait times,

Ability to get some real full-fledged work done if we know where our bus is and how long it'll take to come,

serious consequences for missing a bus,

Not having * any * other * way * to get to the destination,

also a valid use case for chasing down and catching a missed bus.

Writing this from an st stand in a town in maharashtra, waiting at 6pm for a bus that was scheduled to arrive at 3.30 but the inquiry desk has no clue whats the holdup and how long it will take. My destination is not very popular and if the bus doesnt come or if i miss it, i might have to stay here overnight.

And leave aside gps.. there's a valid case for simply having the conductors tweet or post or sms to a common app about the comings and goings, which stop passed, telling if the bus is too crowded or so.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Fwd: [datameet] Govt. of Tamilnadu order of Content Publishing under Creative Commons

Commons approach gaining prominence and currency, totally turns on its head the concept of "this is government property"

---------- Forwarded message ----------

So the order is issued by the Secretary, Tamilnadu Government. The primary purpose of this initiative is to ensure that the - if works in tamil are published under CC by SA, aided by technology, it has the potential to reach people globally.

In essence the order says that:

1) Books & other literary works that shall be published under CC by SA
  • That have been nationalized
  • Produced by the Tamil Development Department & other Government departments, 
  • Rare books collected by the Tamil Development Department & Tamil University
  • Digital Copies of - Old Scrolls, Pictures & Stone carvings

2) Research papers and books (subject to copyright rules) of the students & teachers of the Tamil University should be published on their website

3) If any of the above have been procured by other Government departments, from Individuals or private enterprises - they too can be published after obtaining due permission from the owner.

The letter doesn't explicitly mentioned CC by SA for (2) & (3) but I think that's what was intended.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
There is an order by Govt. of Tamilnadu, approved last month to publish govt. content under creative commons, this is a big deal for govt. data too. Can someone who knows tamil translate the order and its scope?

Just because a country has problems..

Quote from the comic character Jerry, on a mockumentary "Better Life Foundation" by AIB: (told in a hilarious context of change in leadership at the NGO after a series of crises)

Just because a country has problems

You don't elect the first dictator you see, okay?
(it comes at 23 mins in..)


Monday, August 8, 2016

Charlie Chaplin's Great Dictator speech, and the story around it

Have you heard/read Charlie Chaplin's speech from 'The Great Dictator'? It's been billed as "The Greatest, Most Relevant Speech Ever" and similar.



I found some interesting information around this here:
... He chose to make The Great Dictator – a "satirical attack on fascism" and his "most overtly political film".
... Making a comedy about Hitler was seen as highly controversial, but Chaplin's financial independence allowed him to take the risk. "I was determined to go ahead," he later wrote, "for Hitler must be laughed at."

What's also interesting to read is that at the time, this amazing speech was taken rather negatively by many, and he suffered many consequences for it including later deportation from USA. He was hated for, as a comedian and an actor, having dared to so boldly express his political views and taken a stand on things. He didn't just act in this movie.. he spent two years writing the script himself.

This strikes a bell with what I see today happening when certain popular actors of our time have dared to put in considerable efforts and take a serious stand on things, like Amir Khan's call in 2014 to not vote for parties fielding criminal candidates, after a very detailed explanation for it in his SMJ episode. (See, I've already pissed some of you off by just mentioning his name! I'm sure even Chaplin must have been accused similarly back then. Come on, I dare you to watch that episode full : ).

Excerpts from Chaplin's speech:
"I'm sorry, but I don't want to be an emperor. That's not my business. I don't want to rule or conquer anyone. I should like to help everyone - if possible"

"More than machinery we need humanity. More than cleverness we need kindness and gentleness. Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost...."

"Don't give yourselves to these unnatural men - machine men with machine minds and machine hearts! You are not machines! You are not cattle! You are men! You have the love of humanity in your hearts! You don't hate! Only the unloved hate - the unloved and the unnatural! Soldiers! Don't fight for slavery! Fight for liberty!"

"By the promise of these things, brutes have risen to power, but they lie. They do not fulfill their promise, they never will. Dictators free themselves but they enslave the people!"

Surprising how something spoken more than half a century ago is still so embarassingly relevant today!

Cartoon: What the Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan seems to be ignoring

Sunday, August 7, 2016

How To Digitize static maps

Fwd: 9 August, 2.30 to 6.30 p.m., at Jantar Mantar: Solidarity Action with Irom Sharmila & Democratic Movements for Justice & Peace

I know some people who will probably get seriously pissed off by this, hence especially sharing for them! :P

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Save Sharmila

9 August 2016: A Day of Reflection

Reaffirming Solidarity -- Towards Justice, Peace, and Hope

   Today, Irom Sharmila makes a move towards freedom, by giving up her fast, which has lasted nearly 16 years. We feel deep respect for Irom Sharmila's non-violent struggle and her indomitable spirit, and support her decision to give up the fast. The struggle for peace and justice will continue.

    On 9 August, 1942, Mahatma Gandhi and other leaders of the Quit India movement were arrested. The British government promulgated the Armed Forced Special Powers Ordinance on 15 August 1942, to quell the Quit India movement.

   The government of India promulgated the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), 1958; and subsequently imposed it in several parts of the country. People in Manipur, including Imas (`mothers': elderly women activists), Meira Paibis (women's groups, literally women holding `mashaals'), and many civil society groups, are struggling for AFSPA to be repealed, in the interests of peace and justice. They want good governance to be restored in the state. Experts argue that the Act perpetuates violation of fundamental democratic rights. It grants excessive powers, and impunity, to armed forces. Atrocities against ordinary citizens have been documented over the years.


     In 2012, the Extra Judicial Execution Victim Families Association (EEVFAM) filed a PIL in the Supreme Court of India, alleging 1,528 fake encounters in Manipur since the 1980s. The Court ordered investigation into six cases, all of which were proved to be fake encounters: killing of innocent persons, by armed forces or police commandos. The Court has ruled that all the remaining cases must be thoroughly probed. It has questioned impunity, ruling that armed forces cannot use excessive force even in areas that come under AFSPA.

    Humane, democratic solutions are needed to solve real problems faced by people; dialogue rather than repression. We stand in solidarity with democratic people's movements in Manipur, and elsewhere in the country -- being waged today by dalits, women, minorities, workers, people with disabilities, sexuality rights activists, and other marginalised sections. We -- ordinary people, students, teachers, feminists, activists -- care for democracy and human rights, peace and good governance, accountability and justice.  We feel that we are all responsible for helping to bring this about. We need to listen, learn, and together search for ways to move ahead, to actually resolve many very difficult situations. 

    We propose 9 August 2016, as a day of reflection: upon our own ethics and politics, upon freedom, justice, peace -- and hope. We will sit together that day, in quiet companionship. We will sit at Jantar Mantar -- from 2.30 to 6.30 p.m. Do join! We may sing some songs, read poetry, draw, sit in a circle, talk…; some may want to fast for the day, they could break their fast at 6. We would like to light candles as it gets dark. We are not planning this as a protest. Rather, a moment of quiet solidarity.

Please feel free to forward this to others who may be interesting in joining on the 9th. And, do bring along poetry, umbrella, mats, water, candle, posters, or anything else you'd like to share. This is a spontaneous action with no central organizing committee; your participation helps lend it meaning!

-          Shanti, Deepti Priya, Runu Chakraborty, Nandini Rao, Shraddha Chikerur, Uma Chakravarthy, Ravi Nitesh, Devika Mittal, Sampurna Trust, Save Sharmila Solidarity Campaign, Ninglun Hanghal, Felix Padel, Malvika Gupta, Dhruva Narayan, Sunita Kumari ….

*SSSC is part of this solidarity action. 

Shanti, Deepti Priya, Runu Chakraborty, Nandini Rao, Shraddha Chikerur, Uma Chakravarthy, Ravi Nitesh, Devika Mittal, Sampurna Trust, Save Sharmila Solidarity Campaign, Ninglun Hanghal, Felix Padel, Malvika Gupta, Dhruva Narayan, Sunita Kumari …. ...................................
Save Sharmila Solidarity Campaign
(A joint initiative of various organizations & movements)
E-mail:savesharmila[at]        Facebook: Groups/savesharmilacampaign


The case for realistic and inclusive cost estimation for energy policy

This was an input in a discussion thread on a mailing list...

I recall reading about a financial cost analysis on various sources of electric power, from friends in Prayas Energy advocacy group. It was showing that nuclear power is more expensive than renewable. I don't recall the exact details though.

Here there is great opportunity in pursuing an honest production cost estimation by factoring in state subsidies and concessions and also costs of displacement and environmental damages as is being done in some other countries. So how about pushing that idea into the energy policy : realistic cost estimation and internalisation of heretofore externalised costs?

And then we advocate taking decision on whether to commission a new nuclear / coal plant or decentralized rooftop solar array on the basis of sound and simple numerical comparison and long term financial prudence. By taking this approach, we score many points : we avoid getting into ideology and endless debates, take the practical and economical high ground, and we can gather the ammo needed to directly and decisively attack the most core and vulnerable component of the fossil/nuclear/big-hydro and centralized production lobby: the claim that it's cheaper. If that gets overturned, they don't have much else to run to.

Whose interests are best served when justice isn't?
CJI TS Thakur highlights low judge-to-population ratio in India
Flagging the huge backlog of cases and abysmal judge-to-population ratio, Chief Justice of India T S Thakur has appealed to the law graduates to join the bar or the judiciary.
... The target of having no case older than five years pending was found to be "very difficult" because there are "lakhs and lakhs of cases which are today ten years old, 15 years old, and may be 20 years old", said Justice TS Thakur.

>> just FYI.. In 2014 elections, AAP's manifesto was the only one that took this up as an issue and promised immediate measures for expansion in judge population, including setting up of new institutes and increasing the seats and more training for judges... and resolution of the backlogs.

During his time in Tihar jail, Arvind Kejriwal when getting a chance to interact with media, chose to raise the issue of the 1 lakh+ undertrials languishing in India's jails who have been kept there for way longer than even the maximum punishment for which they have been accused, and who are in for simply not being able to furnish bail amounts of a few hundred or thousand rupees. Need I remind you that we spend more taxpayer money than that on keeping these people in our overcrowded and inhuman-condition prisons. Just this makes a simple financial argument for govt to fund bails for those whose time 'in' has exceeded the maximum sentence for the accusation that they've been charged with (charged with, mind, not convicted. Techically they're supposed to be innocent until proven guilty but hey ours is a democracy right?) This is happening because their cases are part of the severe national legal backlog.

The other parties have been silent.. a peculiar characteristic about the BJP manifesto was that the single answer to many of these issues, including that of corruption, was something along the lines of "the problems will all go away once there is good governance" .. which amounts to an amorphous promise sans any solid action points or guarantees, and reminds me of Obama's equally vague promise of "Change" in his 2008 campaign, which people blindly assumed to mean a whole lot of things whose opposite happened. It should be noted that the same PR company has handled critical parts of both Obama's and Modi's election campaigns.

In the last two years of BJP rule, while never sparing an opportunity to blame past Congress admins for the glaring situation of the present, we don't see any major initiatives taken or announced by the Modi govt in this sector to remedy the situation. Setting up of new law institutes and judges training would definitely have made it to the headlines.. instead what did make it is the Centre's repeated attempts to get control over appointment of SC judges and other examples of friction between executive and judiciary that's been lethal to democracy in other countries.

In fact, it's during this time that the gravest calls have been made in public by the very top rungs of the judiciary. Why did a group that typically frowns on media trials have to go public with this? This stage would have been reached only after complete frustration at the judiciary's end in getting the word across through proper admin channels to the executive (ie, the Central govt ministries in charge of this and the PMO)

This also provokes a more controversial question : Is there an agenda of both past and present Central govts to 'reign in' and control one of the most critical pillars of democracy through structural starvation? Is India's low judge-to-population ratio the output of deliberate policy by the ruling powers and not mere incompetence? Whose interests are best served when justice isn't?

Interesting links for July 2016

Interesting links for July 2016. Last week's been quite busy, apologies again for the delay in posting this! Quite a lot of things have happened this month!

Thursday, August 4, 2016

On the trumpeting of GST unity

Don't wanna upset the (ahem.. mainstream-induced) celebrative mood, but will just point out that the last times all parties showed so much unity in getting a bill / amendment etc passed were:

- When they amended the Constitution to override the Election Commission's rules and so enabled candidated with serious criminal records to stand for elections from Panchayat to MP level,

- When they gave themselves an enormous pay raise and increase in perks. (btw, this was one of the things much hated about Congress/UPA, but was carried forward and not reversed or corrected after new govt took over in 2014.. so they get credit for being against Congress but bear no responsibility to reverse its bad policies).

People need to be most watchful when all the leaders suddenly start singing the same tune. And especially so when the mainstream media joins in as cheerleader and you're also getting whatsapp messages on groups from your compulsive forwarder friends instructing you that this is very good and you should be ecstatically happy about it. 

Just having bipartisan support doesn't necessarily make something good. It increases probability of it being good, but that's not guaranteed.

Well, this brings a vice-versa message from an earlier article : When they instruct you to absolutely love something that's yet to come, is going to impact your day to day life, and is supposed to be good for you, then take it with a pinch of salt (meaning: don't take their word for it, do your own research).

Here's some articles that came up with just a primary search for "GST flaws":

Articles from around Sep 2015 criticizing aspects of GST.. I'm yet to see if any of the questioned aspects have been satisfactorily remediated by now.
Why the GST Bill may be flawed and conflicted
... The 'biggest tax reform since 1947” was launched sans public consultation'..
Flaws in India's GST defeats its purpose
GST’s seven deadly defects
Government should abandon it, work towards a unified Central levy instead.

This is dated 18 July 2016:
GST Bill has many critical flaws that must be fixed ASAP



I have a fear of not having anybody to love. Of not finding anyone, now, who would fall in love with who I am. Of loving my ugliest and wanting to be with me for the rest of my life.

Found myself relating a lot with this...
The blog post has more interesting stuff so check it out!

Monday, August 1, 2016

How would porn be interpreted by future archaeologists?

Imagine that a thousand years from now an archaeological expedition
recovers an intact 1TB solid state hard disk drive. They manage to
figure out how to read and decode the binary information encoded in
it. To their surprise, they find about 100 GBs of porn on it.

Imagine what conclusions the archaeologists might draw, declare
officially, and put into the history books (or equivalent in their
cultur) to describe today's life and times:

"This ancient civilization was highly sexually liberated.."

"Sex was not a taboo topic in day-to-day conversations back then.."

"Sex wasn't confined to monogamy relationships; in fact, it appears
that a lot of it happened between complete strangers even if they had
other official partners. The females were highly promiscuous, and
would get sexually aroused merely on receiving a look or tone of voice
from the males..."

"Women were highly respected and revered as goddesses. Entire folders
were dedicated to multimedia documentations of sex rituals performed
by them with chosen male disciples. The disciples themselves seemed
generic and interchangeable.. the documentation doesn't seem to have
recorded their names or anything unique, while that was
enthusiastically done for the godesses, even the way they spoke or
moved was given high importance. This shows that women must have
enjoyed a very high social status in this ancient culture."

"We have also recovered ancient scrolls called 'saved web pages'
revealing an ancient form of virtual gathering called a 'forum' where
followers were enthusiastically discussing these rituals down to very
minute details, and bringing together more and more of them. Frequent
documenters would rise up a social ladder on the basis of
contributions they made to the discussions, and could gain priest-like
status in the eyes of other followers..."

"Our ancestors seem to have accorded their body's genitals with a very
high status. They were very prominently shown and a variety of rituals
were performed using them.."

.. you get the drift, right?

So let's apply this scenario retrospectively.

Imagine that a thousand years ago in what is now central India, there
were a bunch of rulers or elite classes who wanted to make a lucrative
business out of people's innate sexual curiosities.

They owned a large area of land that was kept fenced off and common
persons were barred entry (much like today's swathes of private lands
owned by our elites). Away from prying eyes they commissioned several
stone exhibits and had many of their favourite porno scenes set into

The resources and funding raised for this project was similar to the
enormous amounts raised by the porn industry of our times. And it
wasn't wasted : Once the project was constructed, wealthy people from
far and wide flocked to the site and readily paid any price for
getting to tour the place.

Of course, information about this place was mostly shared
word-of-mouth among closed circles and was strictly kept off of
official records. Dignitaries going there would be officially visiting
nearby areas for other official reasons. It became a secret Disneyland
for the well-heeled sexually curious that reaped rich returns for the
local rulers and owners who commissioned the project.

If one would wonder "no way, how can the elites among the population
behave like that?"
.. Well, why don't you take a look at what the elites of our times are up to?

Related links:
Khajuraho Group of Monuments
Turin Erotic Papyrus

Note: This article is an exercise in re-imagination, not any
assertion. But hey.. what if... !!

On another note, I would personally prefer it if the archeologists would find this, and not 100 GB of maintream TV news channel broadcasts or soap operas.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Green Resources : project for a Sustainability Knowledge Base / Archive

Over the past few months i've been working on a proof-of-concept for an archival website..

To capture the wonderful stuff regarding sustainability

Being shared among networks such as this,

To properly attribute & manage the info so that:

1. It becomes accessible to a broader audience; and

2. You can find it when you need it even after months or years have gone by.

The pilot site is here:

please check it out and let me know how you feel about it.

Look at the left & right for slide-in menus.

See the About section if you're getting curious.

This site goes way beyond the confines of standard websites/blogs and pushes the limits for the features needed.

Proud to share it was all done using free and open source technology, namely wordpress enhanced with a platoon of plugins.

The site's USP is a multi-channel filter using which you can filter down to the subject, type, location, level, language etc to refine your search.

The articles can also have features like their own map location and mulitple attachments.

In terms of content focus, my initial idea is that this should be a haystack that archives several short leads to resources, like contact details of a RWH expert in Delhi region, or growing method of a particular millet crop in Vidarbha region, or way to avoid a particular pest attacking a plant in city balconies, etc. Stuff that we usually share on our groups and mailing lists when somebody asks. I'm not looking at having full-fledged well-written articles because I already see  some sites like Vikalp Sangam, TheAlternative, Ecologise, TheBetterIndia etc doing a great job with that. Rather we should link to those articles and so help people find them. And geography wise, I'm focussing on material relevant to Indians (which may be international in origin but relevant here)

What's needed now: The Human Component

While technology is important, for something like this to succeed we need many caring hands on deck. Without that, this is just a tool without a master, and there's no way just one or two or people can keep up with the plethora of content being shared nowadays.

At the NPC (National Permaculture Convergence, Feb'16) and since, i got a strong feeling that the time has come, there are many more people coming forward wanting to do this and telling me they need something like this. So hoping to find ways to take this forward! Maybe a group out there with enough hands onboard can adopt this. Or maybe multiple groups can depute people and co-host it. Do reply back if you're interested.

And while the way forward gets charted, the site is LIVE and is open for you to contribute content! And yes, we can handle a flood of content and have ways of managing it effectively so jump right in!

There's a cool Submit an Article section where you can create an article yourself, attach a photo too, and when you submit it, it'll queue up for an editor to attribute, approve and publish. This keeps minimal load on you as a contributor... no need to login etc.

Lastly, this work is shared in the spirit of gift economy. The output is open source and free, while the inputs have been time-taking and a great learning experience for me (am open to web design projects, ahem!). If you liked this initiative and want to contribute towards it in any way, then click here: Contribute

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Happy Guru Purnima

19th July 2016: Guru Purnima is an Indian and Nepalese festival dedicated to spiritual and academic teachers. This festival is traditionally celebrated by Hindus, Jains and Buddhists, to pay their respects to their teachers and express their gratitude.

Wishing a Happy Guru Purnima to all the children who have taught me so much!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The link between our leaders' behavior and voters' preferences

Here's an interesting mail-forward from a friend of mine highlighting the day-to-day behavior of India's politicians, compared to how their counterparts in other countries behave. I then shared some insight about it, scroll to bottom to see it.

Why we are where we are and likely to remain there.... 

And even more interesting, a conversation that followed:

Me: We all know very well that there's only one party in this country that has broken this trend and even today goes around without all this stupidity.. AAP.

My Friend:
NO. Party politics needs to be kept away giving way to education; then only the Country will see the desired thorough change,

Is that really how all the other countries achieved it? Every last one of them? Did the USA and Britain and countries of Europe abandon all politics, elections etc and let a dictatorship handle things while they educated one generation? Would it be really wise to expect an idealistic "should be should be" solution with no real strategy of implementing it, and ignore the path others have followed?

As far as I know, there has been plenty of cronyism elsewhere too. At some point the electorate starting expecting better behavior and decency from their leaders and their authorities, and started voting more for those who lived up to those basic expectations. Like, for example, don't vote for a party that harbors criminals and rapists in its ranks, no matter how promising the main leader at the top looks : a very simple and basic way of drawing the line between acceptable and unacceptable.

They understood that there is a definite link between this day-to-day behavior and the actual character and overall work that the politician in question will end up doing for the country. They got the point that this basic linkage is far more reliable than the overly complicated soap-opera style speculations and calculations and isne-usne-iska-uska that we use with our typical Indian tendency to selectively over-think in political matters. They understood that a good leader is first: a decent person and second: one who keeps decent company, that these criteria aren't supposed to be overridden no matter how great the stated promises coming from the top, no matter how infinitely shrewd and wise you think that top guy is.

Today India has one of the most highly criminalized elected bodies, from Panchayat level all the way to the various State Legislative Assemblies and all the way to Central level, on this planet and in India's own history. It's not an allegation, it's a fact. Here's a tool that can help you look into this: . I see a direct link between all the pictures shared above and this one simple basic fact, and I can also recognize and empathize with the bias which makes people overlook this, coming from a desperate hope against the simple laws of reality.

PS: I'll also point out the propaganda aim I recognized in the selection of images in this collection. I've seen such collections in email forwards in past years, and this one has a slight difference: all BJP leaders have been sanitized out of it. We're supposed to infer that they don't do the exact same thing and are much better.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

What should be done to Facebook and others for violating your country's citizens' rights

Facebook CAN track you offline: Site wins Belgian privacy case over following logged out users

...The social media site has won a legal battle against the Belgian data protection authority over tracking its users while they are not logged into Facebook.
Originally, the regulator had won its case and ordered the social network to stop tracking non-members when they visited publicly available Facebook pages.
But the Brussels Appeals Court dismissed the case, on the grounds that the regulator has no jurisdiction over Facebook Inc, which has its European headquarters in Ireland.

>> An example of how legal speak defies common sense.

The people that FB is tracking are in Belgium, and Belgium's data protection authority is trying to protect its own people from the violative actions of an outside company operating over the internet. If the outside company, basically a foreigner, is caught committing wrongdoing to citizens of Belgium, then it's a simple case of attack on national sovereignty and should be treated as such.

What the court has decided, means that if a NATIVE service had been caught doing it then the authorities could be free to prosecute them, but since it's a FOREIGN service doing it, it's suddenly totally OK.

Tomorrow, if a foreign based entity is caught committing crimes and doing harm to Belgian people, tomorrow if a foreigner is caught having raped a Belgian citizen, then that will be completely valid and legitimate according to the basic logic that the Bussels Appeals Court has followed in this case.

Which of course is absolute bullshit.

What is SUPPOSED to happen here is that Belgium has to issue an extradition warrant to Ireland to extradite and prosecute Facebook's executives for committing crimes on the citizens of Belgium. (It might be something that only earns a fine as per rules, but the due process is supposed to be the same.)

If Ireland is then unable to proceed as the people in question aren't really in Ireland and it's just a business address registered there to evade higher corporate taxes or obligations elsewhere, then the obvious next step is to SHUT DOWN the business by locking down that office, and confiscate whatever property, equipment and accounts are in Ireland and connected with the business till the executives responsible come down and face due process. If they want to contest the extradition warrant, let them take it up in a court in Ireland as per law. The only other alternative for the company is to forgo everything they had in Ireland and remain out as absconders. It is then up to tax authories at all other places where this business is based, to decide that if this business is no longer based in Ireland, then where is it, and which country should claim taxation and other obligations from it?

This situation brings forward the need for localizing transactions : Irrespective of where the hell the business is based, if they are violating Belgian laws (and being foreigners are hence seen as atacking the sovereignty of Belgium) then the Belgian authorities must have complete right to prosecute them in whichever way they can. And this can happen in quite some ways:

1. Put out summons for executives of Facebook to summon them to a Belgian court and failing which they are to be declared as absconders; if they ever enter Belgian territory (like, say, changing flights at Brussels) then they are to be taken into custody. (hey, this is exactly what was being done when the US set out for capturing Edward Snowden, including being willing to force any plane carrying him passing their or allies' airspace to land)

2. Summon any Belgian citizenship holding employees of Facebook or who are in a working contract with it as representatives of the company; let them off if they resign or forfeit the job contract immediately.

3. Enter the company in a national boycott list according to which all Belgian companies and citizens are forbidden from performing business transactions with it, hence economic boycott.
(Note: people using facebook don't get covered here, as they are consumers of freely provided service and not doing financial transactions with FB)

4. Use extradition treaties to summon FB representatives to Belgian court.

5. Confiscate any property owned by the company or its subsidiaries that is there or enters into Belgian territory.

6. Apply similar measures for other entities that are found to be benefiting from transacting with FB and aren't doing anything to make FB comply.

Given the present indoctrination that big internet companies like Facebook are above and beyond any country's laws, this all might seem too far-fetched to you. But try imagining what should be done if it was some other foreign based small company or individual found to be violating the legally enshrined rights of citizens of your country. If you WANT to have a law and order system, then let's treat everyone the same before the law, shall we?

Monday, July 4, 2016

Interesting Links for June 2016

Interesting Links for June 2016

When they instruct you to hate, don't.

When the mainstream media,

whom you know is criminally culpable in causing wars and financial, environmental, social and cultural plunder and in general making bad things happen,

which you know is acting against the best interests of the public and in the best interests of power elites who own the media companies or who are in the common circles with them...

When this mainstream media

Is going out of its way

to encourage and instruct you

to absolutely hate any particular public figure,

Friday, July 1, 2016

The Palikade Permaculture Project - Plantation 1st Phase

The Palikade Permaculture Project – Phase 1 plantation
In March 2016, we (Astrid Rao and Sneha Shetty) attended a Permaculture Design Course (PDC) organised by Academy for Earth Sustainability and conducted by Narsanna Koppula , where we were introduced to the intricacies of water harvesting and soil conservation (WH & SC) among many other themes of permaculture.

In WH & SC, we learnt about "vegetative consolidation" of water harvesting structures i.e. consciously designed multi-level planting of trees, shrubs and ground cover on the water harvesting structures. The purpose is to strengthen the structures, increase biomass, enhance soil health, create micro-climates and many others. The loose soil of the newly created bunds also provide a good base for new saplings to grow in.

At our 18-acre farm in Kamshet, which we call 'Palikade', we decided to start with designing the land forms for WH & SC. We have only the rains as a source of water here, so we decided to grow indigenous/ native, hardy, rain fed trees as well as quick growing leguminous shrubs that would fix nitrogen into the soil, provide us loads of biomass and create microclimate. We started growing saplings of the latter in our nursery in April. Then we made a plant palette of what would grow well in our area, choosing species that would serve many functions. It would be a tropical food forest that would provide for food, clothing, shelter and other needs of not just the human residents but all the stake holders including the birds, insects and micro organisms (in Narsanna's words). This was a great opportunity to grow native trees that have been on my wish list for years (yes, i am a serious tree lover).

We began the water harvesting structures in April - boundary trenches, contour trenches, a couple of ponds and a percolation tank at the highest point in the property with the hope that they will hold the water and let it percolate into the subsoil, thereby using the soil itself to hold water. We also intend to grow a mix of cereals, millets, pulses, oilseeds and green manure on the land meant for growing annual crops & orchards in future. This is to regenerate the soil ('make the entire land a compost pit' – Narsanna's words). In the coming months, we will continue to plant a live fence on the boundary, comprising of various plants serving multiple functions.
Permaculture has the answers people – and Narsanna Koppula (founder of Aranya Agricultural Alternatives, Hyderabad) is a leading light of our times.

In the last one week, we have planted more than 2200 saplings and cuttings (of about 90 species), sowed hundreds of seeds and will continue to populate the bunds with ground cover (grasses, climbers and shrubs) of various types that will all do their bit to contribute to the fertility of soil and up our sustainability quotient.

Wishing you a very Happy Van Mahotsav – we at Native Place and Nirvana Adventures are happy to contribute to the mammoth task that the Maharashtra govt has undertaken to plant 2 crore trees by the 1st of July 2016. We are grateful that we could source about 1,000 plants from Government nurseries (Forest Dept- Shirota, Social Forestry - Pune & PWD- Pune) at very affordable rates. Thanks a ton, guys!

Peace Bliss & Happy Landings
From Native Place and team at Nirvana Paragliding Club , Kamshet , India

See some photos from this activity on

Few pics below:

(see facebook album linked above for all pics)


Note from Nikhil:
Feeling very lucky to have gotten to do a little participation in this huge project and getting to pick the brains of the designers. I walked barefoot in beautiful natural surroundings, got totally wet and totally muddy, was all over the beautiful sticky mud and can now say I have truly experienced the magic of monsoons. 

Palikade is a work of art and some very deeply thought out planning that can serve as an example for any student of planning or engineering. So many steps taken to harvest water, to make it go exactly where it needs to, to enrich the soil to the fullest; so much care taken with each sapling, ensuring the various indigenous species are well-mixed and spaced out with the prevalent flora, fully grown tree's canopy, height, root zone, nutrients etc kept in mind, sunlight, shade, wind direction, access, slopes all taken into account. I got to see high level engineering in perfect harmony with nature here, hats off to Astrid Rao and Sneha Shetty for meticulously planning and executing this project and the sheer amount of love and fun they brought into it. Even for the planting operations for our drinking, cleaning, cooking etc we were using rainwater directly collected from the roof of the small house there!

The local farmers from the village who were working on the project were also enjoying every moment, have understood many concepts of permaculture and were actively discussing about applying some ideas on their side. They also contributed their tacit knowledge about the wild medicinal herbs in the area, local growing habits, seasonal variations etc, all of which went into informing the project design. The ladies requested for and took saplings like drumstick home to plant for their kitchen gardens. So even the strong local connect that Astrid has established with the community here since over a decade, and the informal spreading of sustainability concepts, is something very exciting and we can look forward to more wonderful things happening here in the near future.

Astrid and Sneha
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