Saturday, August 28, 2010

We Indians like intermediaries

Bhaskar Datta, Professor at University of Warwick writes an article for ‘The Times Of India’ on ‘why most Indians go hungry to bed’. He points out that despite the abundance of food production; most Indians still go hungry to bed because India does not have an adequate delivery mechanism. According to him, finding an alternative to the current delivery system of PDS is imperative. Up to this point, his analysis is quite satisfactory. He ups the ante.

However, the alternative that he recommends and describes in last two paragraphs turns out to be a let-down. He highly (rather hurriedly) recommends the system of stamps, an idea originated in the US (No wonder, Bhaskar Datta must be an Indian). He says ‘The biggest advantage of food stamps is that it would wipe out the leakages associated with the PDS’. But he does not explain ‘how’. He probably must have assumed that the corruption that occurs in the PDS would not occur in the distribution of food stamps if it were to be implemented in India. (I am afraid, there would be another Telgi of the 'food' stamps- a 'foody' Telgi)

Professor Bhaskar Datta does not discuss any disadvantage of the system of food stamps, though he simply says ‘Of course, the system is not foolproof’. This sounds rhetoric, similar to saying ‘No system is perfect’. Perhaps, he wants to suggest that though the system of food stamps is not foolproof (because no system is perfect), it is better than the PDS.

This is sheer credulity. The system that has worked probably successfully in the US should not necessarily work in India.

Hence, a few questions need to be raised. Why does the PDS fail to distribute food grains to the poor? Are intermediaries in the system to be blamed? If yes, then is the system of food stamps a system without intermediaries? Is it possible to have a system with minimum or no intermediaries?

Intermediaries are part of our life. We can’t live without them. They are present in all spheres of our life. We need them in the form of agents to get a driving license, to rent a house or a flat, to get a passport, to have a gas connection, to have insurance and other products. We need them in the form of coaching classes to have better education. Most of them are free from any regulation or scrutiny. We believe in them. Even if we think of removing them, we feel helpless. We need them, because we like to be spoon-fed. Spoken words are more believable to us than writeen or printed words are. The reason is very simple: we dislike reading. Also we lack reading and writing skills. We do not know how to read. We are not aware of various ways of reading and writing. We do not know how to write briefly yet comprehensively. We do not like to keep records. We are indifferent to loss of valuable records. We want somebody to remember them and tell us them whenever we are in need of them.

That is why before we think of replacing PDS (however flawed it may be) with any other system; we should not forget that we Indians like intermediaries.


Here is the link of Professor Bhaskar Datta’s article:

Friday, August 20, 2010

Dangerously modern....

We should not feel uncomfortable to believe that the system of casts is still deeply rooted in India. When I decided to settle down in life, I wanted to marry a girl who belonged to a caste other than that of mine. But it was not possible without falling in love. And I was not in love. So the idea of an inter-caste arranged marriage occurred to me. It had occurred to me for the first time when I was reading a play written by Shyam Manohar, whose observations on contemporary Indian society have been incisive for many years. A character from the play questions our modernity referring to the fact that inter-caste arranged marriages are still a taboo in our society. If a marriage is inter-caste, the obvious implication is that it is either a love marriage or a love-cum-arranged marriage, but it is never a purely arranged marriage.

I told my parents to ‘arrange’ a girl who should be an ‘outsider’. My parents supported me for this ‘noble’ cause. They also credulously believed in my argument that mine would be a path-breaking effort to abolish our deep rooted system of castes. But they had no idea of how to ‘arrange’ an ‘outsider’ for their son. When my mother approached her acquaintances that belonged to the castes different from ours and asked them whether they could suggest prospective brides from their families, most of them simply ignored this ‘unwarranted’ proposal. We then approached various marriage bureaus. Most of them said that they had no such category.

My thought of an arranged inter-caste marriage would appal the protagonists of my community. A few of them even bluntly asked whether I was suffering from some ‘problem’ and indirectly threatened us that my family would be ostracised from the community. An elderly uncle argued that inter-caste arranged marriages would create a male-female imbalance in our community as our daughters would remain unmarried, which would further give rise to more female foeticides endangering the already declining female to male ratio in our community. To drive home the point, he explained his point with figures. He took the latest female to male ratio which is 922: 1000 and it is less than the 1961 ratio, which is 936:1000. I appreciated his concern for declining female to male ratio; however, I brought to his notice the flaw in his logic that the overall census can not be used to justify to the point about our particular community. And I suddenly said to him, ‘That is why caste-based census is essential to know the exact male-female ratio in our community.’ My uncle did not speak anything for a while. He looked at me. I looked at him. We were lost in thoughts. Looking was thinking.

Most of us believe that we are modern, as we accept inter-caste marriages. But inter-caste marriages are simply love marriages, not arranged. Therefore, most of us are half modern. Most love marriages are inter-caste as if love can take place only between those from different castes. Those who are not aware of ‘love’ and ‘arranged’ marriages may think that the concept of ‘love marriages’ is an antithesis to that of ‘arranged marriages’ as if in arranges marriages no love exists. But this is not true. ‘Love marriages’ is just a misnomer to ‘inter-caste marriages’. ‘Love marriage’ is the only way to happen inter-caste marriages. That is why if a marriage is inter-caste, it is unambiguously inferred that it is a love marriage.

Indians are modern only to the extent of accepting inter-caste love marriages. Indians are orthodox as inter-caste arranged marriages are still rare. Those so-called secular intellectuals who condemn rising honour killings in India never utter a word against our equally or probably more dangerous half modern and half traditional way of life. Half knowledge is more dangerous than ignorance. Then being half modern and half traditional is not less dangerous than being brutally orthodox, if not more. We have no moral right to castigate the ‘khap panchayats’ that openly justify honour killings. We are equally dangerous.

- Shirish

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Namskar Everyone


I would like to 'Namskar' to all of you who are reading my blog. 'Namskar' is an Indian way of greeting. I prefer it to 'hi' or 'hallo' as I am Indian or Bharatiya.

My objective of writing this blog is to express my views on various social or political issues and also to speak out on anything that fascintes me. I also like to publish reviews of books that I have read.

Enjoy reading.

 Shukriya ... which means 'Thanks'... a nice Indian way of thanking... Shukriya.