Thursday, March 30, 2006

Sensex overtakes Dow, finally

Index closes at an all-time high of 11,183.48, against Dow's 11,154.54
Business Standard Thursday, March 30, 2006
The BSE Sensex today overtook the US equity benchmark index, the Dow Jones Industrial Average, when it closed at an all-time high of 11,183.48 points. The 30-share Dow, the oldest equity index, had closed at 11,154.54 points yesterday after a drop of 96 points in reaction to the interest rate hike by the Federal Reserve, talks of more hikes in the offing and the price of crude oil crossing $66 per barrel.
The Sensex today gained 97 points to touch a new high, powered by leading pharmaceuticals and technology stocks. Strong fund flows coupled with expectations of strong fourth-quarter earnings aided the rally, dealers said. The Sensex has given a return of over 75 per cent over the past year (from 6,367.86 points to today’s close of 11,1183.48 points) against the Dow Jones return of a mere 7.20 per cent (10,405.70 points to 11,154.54 points on Tuesday). Even in the past three years, the Indian market gave more than five times the return delivered by Dow Jones.A few weeks ago, the price-earnings (P/E) ratio of the Sensex surpassed that of Dow Jones.
Analysts have been talking about high valuations of Indian stocks for nearly a year now, but the market has been scaling new highs on the back of strong fund inflows. Currently, the Sensex is trading at a trailing 12 month (P/E) of 20.53 against the Dow P/E of 18.6.But some analysts maintain that stock market in India still may not be more expensive than the developed markets given the pace of earnings growth. Corporate earnings are likely to grow by 15 per cent in the coming financial year, while earnings growth in the US is estimated to be around 8 per cent, which implies that based on forward earnings, India trades at a lower earnings multiple.
Traditionally, despite higher growth rates, emerging markets have not got higher valuations than developed markets as they scored less in several other parameters like macro imbalances, corporate governance, inefficient resource allocation and weak banking systems. However, now America is seen as failing on all these counts, especially given its huge trade deficit and corporate governance issues.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

'India will be the biggest superpower'

I know you are not a Bush fan, but what's your take on the nuclear deal?
It is one good thing that Bush has done (laughs)!
You have written that India will overtake the US in 45 years.
It is going to be India's century. India is going to be the biggest economy in the world. It is going to be the biggest superpower of the 21st century. Clyde Prestowitz, president of the think tank Economic Strategy Institute
India Rising: Complete Coverage of the Asia Society Conference 2006
March 27, 2006
'There's no comparison between India and China'
March 22, 2006
'India was the greatest wastage of manpower'
March 22, 2006
'India was the greatest wastage of manpower'
March 21, 2006
In India, the problem is not economics, but politicsM&M to seal 3 buyouts
March 20, 2006
Images: Meet a rising starIndia: Little allowed, everything possible'Current infrastructure not enough for 9% growth'Boeing to revise India forecast in June'India needs deeper capital markets''India will lead in the Asian century''Inhuman curricular load on Indian students'Bollywood, India's advertisement to the world'India's power is infinite''Business with India is always rewarding''India is open for business''US Congress will pass nuclear deal'World's collapse, India's rise?
March 18, 2006
Pics: PM at the Asia Society meet'Merit in capital account convertibility'India has come to terms with globalisation: PM
March 17, 2006
'India has tremendous potential to be a global player'PM to open Asia Society conference on Saturday

Don't demolish property rights

Sauvik Chakraverti The Times of India Wednesday, March 15, 2006
While considering the merits of the judicial order to demolish over 18,000 private buildings in Delhi, a few plain truths must be borne in mind. First and foremost is the fact that overbuilding and overcrowding are not caused by private greed. Rather, they are a result of poor transportation. There is surely enough land in the National Capital Region for every citizen to own a Lutyens-type bungalow, but this land cannot be brought into service because of poor connectivity. This is a state failure, because of which builders have the perverse incentive to ignore building bye-laws and overbuild. If there were expressways to each of the 400 towns in the NCR, property prices in Delhi would crash, overcrowding would end, and overbuilding would be unprofitable.
Under 'natural law' every landowner is free to build what he likes on his own property. If we sacrifice some of this freedom for collective gain, then that collective gain must materialise. Here, we are forced to conclude that our town planners have actually contrived to destroy our habitat. Delhi is a new city, built from scratch. In the late 60s, the posh colonies of south Delhi did not exist. They are unlivable now only because of poor urban planning. Delhi's planners completely failed to anticipate the automobile revolution. Localities built by the Delhi Development Authority have 'scooter garages'. They are swamped by cars today, and there is no place to park. These DDA localities should first be demolished and rebuilt by private developers. The judge who heartlessly ordered demolitions was sticking to the letter of the law. How did these laws come about? Here, we find that babus were delegated powers to pass these rules. They were not passed by any representative body, and hence possess not a shred of democratic legitimacy.
The judge was not only heartless, he was also thoughtless, for what will now transpire is massive blackmailing. When faced with a babu armed with demolition orders, property owners will be forced to fork out huge sums. They will live in constant fear and trepidation. Rather than the rule of law, what will transpire is more illegality and insecurity. As for urban villages, its original inhabitants owned extensive tracts of land that were usurped by the state, for low compensation. These villages were kept poor and denied every urban amenity. Hauz Khas, Zamrudpur, Katwaria Sarai and Mehrauli became ghettoes. If they are seeing property development today, the resultant gains should not be denied to these victims of 'rural development'. Bulldozing constructions in these neglected enclaves is therefore a great injustice. Both custom as well as the letter of the law do not permit it.
Keeping these four basic truths in mind, this judicial order must be seen as an instrument of tyranny and injustice. Its purpose is to divert blame for all our urban problems on private property owners and developers. Authorities who cannot clear garbage, who cannot build roads good enough to withstand Delhi's scanty rains, who cannot regulate traffic and keep pedestrians secure — it is these autho-rities whose 'authorisations' have secured judicial support. Cities do not need building bye-laws and zoning restrictions. If there were relief in torts, building bye-laws would be totally unnecessary. Similarly, a healthy mix of commercial and residential properties in a locality is a natural outcome of liberty, and is in the interest of the residents. Normally, a shopkeeper would build his house atop his shop. Private residents would thus find it easy to shop near one's home. With zoning restrictions, we are forced to drive to the nearest market.
Commercial activity in any area actually serves to raise property prices of those who own residences there. We can therefore contemplate a future without urban planning, no building bye-laws and no zoning restrictions. All that the city fathers would have to take care of would be 'public properties' like roads and parks. Any encroachments on these, of course, should be demolished. Our freedoms end where our properties end. We can then make the whole of India a great piece of real estate. The writer is an economist

Shopaholics Unite

SWAGATO GANGULY The Times of India DEVIL'S ADVOCATE: Friday, March 17, 2006
Consumerism gets a bad rap, yet human beings across history and culture have yearned to possess things. We are not disembodied selves but have an intimate relationship with the material world around us. And this world includes, emphatically, the products of human ingenuity. Modern industrial civilisation has only made such artefacts more appealing and enticing than ever before, and made them accessible to larger numbers of people. V S Naipaul found beauty in supermarket shelves, Salman Rushdie wrote an essay on the pleasures of bread, and Andy Warhol painted commercial soup cans.
Consumerism doesn't have to mean lusting after a Maruti Swift — it can include purchasing ethnic handicrafts or Che Guevera T-shirts, catching an art film by Rituparno Ghosh, vacationing in Orissa, or snapping up the latest offerings of Arundhati Roy and Naomi Klein. By obscuring this connection, fashionable writers are simply doing a good job of marketing themselves. The point is, contrary to the idea that consuming objects confer on us a soulless conformity, it is precisely through the act of exercising choice that the consumer asserts her individuality.
We are, in a profound sense, the objects we consume. In non-market cultures, whether feudal or socialist, there is no means of exercising choice, and consequently no individuality. Consider the havoc that would be wrought if instead of going shopping, we spent our time on non-consumerist activities like visiting friends or appreciating nature. Industry sales would plummet, corporations would go bankrupt, and there would be massive retrenchment of workers. Without a job or the ability to feed our children, we would rapidly lose the capacity to enjoy friends or nature.
Anti-consumerism is bad not only in economics but also philosophically. It depends on the infantilising idea that we don't know what's good for us. It's puritanism reinvented, and presided over by a neo-Brahminical elite who will lay us on the couch, interpret our desires for us and inform us that we've been duped. It's the same as when the witch doctor told us we've been possessed by the devil. Sure, one can get addicted to objects, and that can have negative consequences. But the same applies to relationships with people, or any of the other good things of life. Shouldn't we, as mature adults, be allowed to judge for ourselves?

Sunday, March 26, 2006

The new Anglo-Hindu alliance that President Bush has helped forge

Tusar N Mohapatra said... Why this fixation with Christianity? Just because you're born into it? 3:48 PM
Gagdad Bob said... It looks like Tusar is a fellow Aurobindian. I hope he stays around and contributes to the discussion, because I believe that the future of spirituality will involve a synthesis of Christian and Aurobindian ideals. Since we can write off Europe, the new Anglo-Hindu alliance that President Bush has helped forge will be of capital importance for the future of psychohistorical evolution. 5:54 PM

World's Religions after September 11: A Global Congress

Group attempts to re-establish human rights, make them compliment religion
From Sept. 11-15, 2006, McGill students will have the opportunity to see history in the making. McGill's Faculty of Religious Studies will join scholars and important religious figures from around the world in the World's Religions after September 11: A Global Congress, where they will attempt to re-work the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the World's Religions. After the shock and horror of 9/11, many people gave up on religion's potential to do good in the world; the goal of this conference is to turn the current thinking on its head.
Says Professor Arvind Sharma of McGill's Faculty of Religious Studies, "We're hoping to change the popular perception of native religion. People have formed the impression after 9/11 that religion is a negative thing, and we want to point out the positive side. We want to emphasize that religion can be a force for good." Though the Congress' steering committees are run by McGill faculty members, "theme chairs," advisers and consultants for the project hail from around the world. In addition, the project has some impressive patrons (touted in a full-page add of a recent edition of the New York Times) backing the cause, including the Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Bishop Belo of Timor Leste and Shirin Ebadi.
One of the most supportive backers of the Congress is the Council for a Parliament of World's Religions, which met most recently in 2004 and plans to meet again in 2009. It may seem strange to host such a conference five years after 9/11, but the events may only now be relevant subjects for discussion. "The timing of the project has something to do with the Declaration, as it struck many of us that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted in 1948 after the Second World War, an event which came to be looked upon as an excess of secular ideas," says Sharma. "The proposed Universal Declaration is an antidote to the ill effects of extremism on the rise now-this is the time to get the document out, before we see the same problems."Indeed, this may be the time. But is it the place? It's a surprise to many that a conference being held in Canada to so explicitly address a US event. But, says Sharma, "Canada is more liberal. The Parliament met in Chicago [in 2004] and some scholars were prevented from speaking in the US. 9/11 happened in America, but it was a global event."
Moreover, Professor Gerbern Oegema of the Faculty of Religious Studies believes, Montreal is the ideal setting. "The idea that it will take place in Montreal, where the people are very open and unbiased provides a chance to meet so many people. "Students are often part of many religions and Canada is a mixture of religions," he says, so combining student participation and Canadian location seems close to perfect. Professors Oegema and Sharma have high expectations for the Congress. "We hope," says Sharma, "because it's an international gathering, to have 2,000 people, because it will indicate that religions do not always fight with each other and that the division between religion and the secular is not something that cannot be breached." Updating the Declaration will be a way of garnering more support for human rights and global peace. Moreover, Professor Oegema believes that a turn in ideas is already beginning to show. "We're already in the process of change. That this conference is happening shows that.." Visit to find out more.

Global Ethics and Religion Forum

Description and Mission Statement Upcoming Event: "The Military Ethics of Fighting Terror: An Israeli Perspective" Lecture by Israel Prize laureate Asa Kasher (Tel Aviv University) Hosted by Congregation B'nai Israel, Tustin, CA, April 6. Click here for more information.
To Support the Work of the ForumPlease Click Here (On-line Donation Available)
The Global Ethics and Religion Forum is an educational, non-profit NGO dedicated to increasing global ethical responsibility. Incorporated in 2001 and receiving US federal non-profit status in 2002, GERF is an international organization based in Southern California. The heart of the organization consists of some 60 distinguished scholars from around the world who provide the ethical and intercultural expertise for the Forum’s projects. GERF is guided by a twenty-one member Board of Directors which combines both academic and community/business leaders.
The scholarly expertise of the Forum is organized into an International Board of Consultants with experts in international law, economics, business and management, literature, agriculture, philosophy and world religions. World traditions like Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, Islam, Baha’i, Judaism and Confucianism are currently represented among Board of Consultants’ members residing in China, India, Indonesia, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, The Hague, England, Wales, Canada, and the United States. The Board of Directors also has a rich diversity of experience which includes the presidency of institutes of higher learning, university trusteeship, leadership in financial services and banking, expertise in management, law, medicine and film, as well as corporate ownership and religious leadership.
The Forum promotes global ethical responsibility by addressing specific issues such as human rights and responsibilities, war and reconciliation, race and gender, globalization and economic justice, ecological ethics and global medical issues through an intercultural and interreligious approach. The activities of the Forum are made widely available to the public through conferences, books and film. Forum conferences are open to the public and explicitly organized to make the interchange of ideas across traditions and among disciplines accessible to interested lay people, students as well as community members.
The Forum presents yearly conferences in Southern California and at Cambridge University, and co-sponsors conferences, primarily in Asia. Universities and non-profit organizations in Southern California with which the Forum has partnered include the University of California at Los Angeles; University of California, Irvine; Loyola Marymount University; California State University, Northridge; California Lutheran University; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; and Long Beach Memorial Medical Center. Outside Southern California, the Forum has partnered with Marquette University; Cambridge University (Clare Hall), England; Payap University, Chiang Mai, Thailand; and the University of Gujarat, Ahmedabad, India. Many of the participants in these programs have also contributed to two book series. The first is the “Library of Global Ethics and Religion” which is published in Oxford, England and is now in its fourth volume, and the second is a new sequence of books on ethical issues in science, ethics and religion to be published by Cambridge University Press, with a first volume on “Global Medical Ethics.”
In the medium of film, the Forum has begun a documentary series, “Patterns for Peace,” focusing on local efforts for peace and harmony in specific regions which can be models for a more peaceful global community. The first two documentaries, “Patterns for Peace: India as a Model for Peace in a Multi-Religious Society” and “Global Voices for Human Rights” are due out in 2006.
With an inclusive and pluralistic orientation, the Global Ethics and Religion Forum neither emphasizes nor excludes the perspective of any particular World Religion, and the Forum endorses no specific political party or political affiliation. Some Current Projects
Human Rights
One current GERF project is a Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the World's Religions which can be viewed via the "Human Rights" navigation button in the left-hand column.
Ecology and Global Health (Click here for Program Details)
Our most recent international conference series was on "Ecology and Global Health," to be held at Long Beach Memorial Medical Center and Clare Hall, Cambridge University. To view program details for the conferences, please click on the link above.
A third current project is the production of a documentary series. The first documentary will be titled "Patterns for Peace: India as a Model for Peace in a Multi-Religious Society," and the second will be titled "Global Voices for Human Rights."
Justice and the Ethics of War
A fourth, and our newest, project is to develop a revised Just War Theory for the 21st Century. This will take into account multi-cultural and multi-religious perspectives. This revision of Just War Theory is intended to develop an ethics of war which explicitly addresses contemporary issues like international terrorism, the use of torture, weapons of mass destruction, humanitarian intervention, private military companies, and child soldiers. The first major event in this project will be a consultation among key participants at Clare Hall, Cambridge University, in early June 2006. This will be followed by the three-day symposium on "Religion and War" which the Forum is coordinating for the Global Congress on "The World Religions After 9-11," in Montreal, Canada, September 11-15, 2006. The director of the Global Congress is Arvind Sharma, a member of the Forum's International Board of Consultants, and the director of the symposium "Religion and War" is Joseph Runzo, the Forum's Executive Director.
This project to revise Just War Theory for the 21st Century will be initiated by the Forum's April 2006 event:
Upcoming Event: "The Military Ethics of Fighting Terror: An Israeli Perspective"
Lecture by Israel Prize laureate Asa Kasher (Tel Aviv University) hosted by Congregation B'nai Israel, Tustin, CA, April 6. Click here for more information.
Patterns for Peace:
India as a Model for Peace in a Multi-Religious Society
The Global Ethics and Religion Forum is in the post-production phase of making an extraordinary documentary of BBC quality entitled "Patterns for Peace: India as a Model for Peace in a Multi-Religious Society." This documentary will advance interreligious understanding with a focus on the multi-religious society of India and the heritage of Gandhi, bringing international attention to India's heritage of peace and nonviolence in an extremely diverse society.
In the wake of recent tragedies and violence around the world, it is essential that there be open discussion of paths which can lead us into a more peaceful and harmonious future. To move toward such a future, the international community can draw on India’s centuries of experience of diverse communities of Christians, Hindus, Muslims, Jews, Sikhs, and Buddhists living together in peace, and on India’s deep religious and Gandhian heritage of nonviolence. This heritage has already touched the world, inspiring the fight against Apartheid in South Africa and the movement for civil rights in the United States, but it is needed now more than ever, as war and civil strife increasingly threaten our global community.
We have been able to respond to this need by collecting over 55 hours of outstanding footage for the documentary. This footage was shot by two exceptional young filmmakers primarily on location in the states of Gujarat and Rajasthan. Among the many people interviewed for the documentary are: His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama; Father Cedric Prakash, S.J., Director of the Center for Human Rights, Justice and Peace in Ahmedabad; a group of low caste singers from Rajasthan; the Maharaja of Jodhpur; Colonel Fateh Singh, who both fought the India-Pakistan wars and was a UN Peacekeeper in the Middle East; the Sikh economist Surjit Singh; and Maulana Wahiduddin Khan, an 83 year old scholar of the Quran, internationally recognized for his dedication to issues of peace and interreligious understanding.
With the assistance of three outstanding film producers/writers--Emmy award winning producer David Garcia (producer at Universal Studios for 25 years with over 600 films, documentaries, and television episodes to his credit) producer Judith Mayotte, winner of two Emmys and a Peabody Award, and the distinguished documentary producer/writer Frank Kosa--we now have the opportunity to transform this incomparable material into a compelling, truly informative, and accurate documentary. (

Patently Ridiculous

Something has gone very wrong with the United States patent system
The New York Times Editorial: March 22, 2006
Americans think of the granting of patents as a benevolent process that lets inventors enjoy the fruits of their hard work and innovations. But times have changed. The definition of what is patentable has slowly evolved to include business practices and broad ideas. The fact that the Smucker's company went to court over patents on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches might have provoked chuckles. But it became a symbol of a system gone awry.
Technological advances raise new questions with each passing year. Should genes be patentable? What about life forms? The high-tech and pharmaceutical industries find themselves at odds on reform because patents affect their businesses so differently. The understaffed Patent and Trademark Office needs to draw the line between a real innovation and an obvious concept that should be freely available as a building block for future generations of creative thinkers.
Meanwhile, profiteers, including lawyers and hedge funds, have turned the very purpose of patent rights — to encourage people to invent and produce — on its head, using them to tax, blackmail and even shut down productive companies unless they pay high enough ransoms. These so-called patent trolls have emerged as the villains in this intellectual property debate.
The possibility of this sort of abuse is inherent in the concept of patents, which in this country allow no one to produce or sell a patented product for up to 20 years without a license from the patent holder. Our nation's founders considered intellectual property important enough to include in the Constitution, but did not establish the system for the sake of the inventor. It exists for the sake of society, or, as it says in the Constitution, "to promote the progress of science and the useful arts."
Now the pendulum has swung so far in the direction of the patent holder that many experts say we are not only restricting competition, but discouraging research and innovation as well. More patents are slipping through that are not new, like the peanut butter and jelly sandwich, or that should be obvious, like the migration of a simple business practice onto the Internet or a mobile device.
The problem lies not just with the short-staffed patent office, but also with the courts. The ease with which patent holders can get an injunction to shut down a thriving business means that many companies are quietly paying rather than fighting.
The recent threat that BlackBerry service might be shut down by an injunction caught everyone's attention. The patent office found that the three disputed patents should not have been granted in the case of the BlackBerry, a popular wireless communications device. Yet Research in Motion, the company that makes it, settled for a staggering $612.5 million to avoid an injunction.
The Supreme Court now appears ready to weigh in and — we hope — restore some sanity to the system. Yesterday the court heard arguments on whether the patent for a blood test for a vitamin deficiency was so broadly construed that it included a natural process of the human body and the idea of how to interpret it. Such a patent could prevent other inventors from developing new and better tests. The court will also hear arguments next week in a case attacking eBay, the global marketplace.
The court will not be able to solve the problem by itself, no matter how wise its ultimate rulings. The patent office, which handles three times as many applications as it did in 1985, has to be upgraded to meet the 21st century. There is legislation in the House to address that issue, and it needs to be taken up. By giving other people or companies the right to submit documentation before patents are granted and to challenge decisions, patents' quality could be improved and the courthouse avoided.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Sumitra Sumitomo

These days we hear a lot of noise concerning Corporate Social responsibility (CSR), but hardly see anything tangible. Here is one instance where Sumitomo Corporation India Pvt. Ltd. has actually been helpful by awarding scholarships to undergraduates. This is all the more laudable as it encourages good students to study Humanities. Thank you, good friend.
Final year of Masters in Philosophy at the University of Delhi.
Graduated in Philosophy from St. Stephen's College, Delhi, India.
2001 (Rs.13881.00), 2002 (Rs.14559.00), 2003 (Rs.14228.40)
To Silika Mohapatra
A student of Philosophy pursuing graduation
from St. Stephen's College, Delhi, India.
2005 (Rs.13011.00), 2006 (Rs.13275.00)
Sumitomo Corporation India Private Limited New Delhi Head Office 4th Floor DLF Centre Sansad Marg, New Delhi 110001, lndia Phone (011) 23737181-185 Fax (011) 23737111

Politics, nationality, democracy - all run on irrational basis

There are many imponderables. We must train ourselves to look beyond surface happenings in a holistic fashion. Sentiments and political system are two entirely different things. By expressing our opinion on a few burning issues we can't change the duly elected governments. Politics should be left to the politicians and others should concentrate on their respective economic activities. Those who are in power have their own compulsions. Politics is a difficult vocation, and we should not pretend of being more concerned than the elected representatives.

Since we do not have all the facts before us, we shouldn't offer opinions on matters of state; those who are in the office are better equipped to do that. Democracy is a system of authorisation and hierarchy. Aspiring politicians may better come out in the open and let it be a no-holds-barred fight, without fighting shy of the consequences. Long-distance sub-nationalism and arm-chair politics should stop. As responsible citizens, we must respect our constitutional systems.

In politics, as in other spheres of life, nobody can sideline anybody. It's all a play of Time and Nature. Nature hates to move in linear pattern, curves are more frequent. Time has always surprises in store for us. It's futile to expect fairness in politics; it's always Machiavellian. Life would be unbearable without some aesthetic. Charisma and brand value take long to be created. If millions of people derive pleasure from the political theatre and one family manages to provide them, then it's great showmanship, lovingly called statesmanship in politics. Just consider, how people are emotionally attached to their Kings and Queens in Japan, UK, and elsewhere.

We delude ourselves by uttering the word, Democracy. Politics, nationality, democracy- all run on irrational basis. Multi-party politics in India is a recent phenomenon, let it evolve. If we return some day to our traditional Monarchical system, nothing wrong in that. For Market and Corporate empires with overlapping and inter-penetrating borders are replacing old models of nationhood and governance. Mania economy is the in thing, there is no rationality. Boudrillard speaks of Seduction; there is no escape from that. So in the meantime, let's not be unduly perturbed over things, rather watch and enjoy. Of course, we need some pretext to relish the aesthetic of blurting out e-mails. So thanks to [...] for that. Fraternally, Tusar N. Mohapatra
Subject: May be tomorrow, he will find beauty in our caste system, Sandip to Tusar (Suggest Your CM) Date: Fri, 24 Feb 2006 15:18:23 +0530

Dear [...] babu:
All his garbled logic can't justify Tasar babu's above statement. What is in his mind, when he wrote those words? Does he want to get the Gajapati Raja of Puri and coronate him in BBSR? It beats me as to how can a modern man write like this in an elite forum in 21st century? It is mind boggling that we have such people amongst us - may be tomorrow he will find "beautiy" in our caste system. With such confused ideas and lead intellectuals, Bihar will soon overtake us. With such friends, our people, don't need enemies to keep them down. Best wishes, Sandip

Subject: We must suggest, support or protest , Arun's disagreement with Tusar (Suggest Your CM) Date: Sat, 25 Feb 2006 09:14:51 +0530 From: arun patnaik Date: Feb 24, 2006 4:49 PM Cc:

Dear [...],

Tusar babu's mail is well written ( in good english) but makes hardly any sense why he chose to write that way. There are hundred and one reasons for us to disagree to what he says and thinks about Politics, Society, People and Issues.

1. People in a democracy cant be dictated by others ideologies what others say. We must suggest, support or protest against if we feel anything against the interset of the society and its poeple. We cant just vote and elect the legislatures and sit down and expect them to do everything for us.

2. I dont understand why he suggests that people should not react and even suggest to the elected representatives, whats his problem? If he thinks that they (elected representatives) are doing a great job why the people and the state is still back ward??? I am not sure if they are even equipped enough to do something for the state?

I must say that we should be open to any discussion and debate on any issue that concerns the people and society. As the responsible citizens,we must respect our constitutional systems an so more and more people must take part in these should not give unnecessary headache to others who thinks irrationality everywhere.

At the end of the day the legislatures are accountable to the people and the state and not to these well written meaning less compositions. I am just mailing this by using my freedom of _expression, those who agree to this may mail to me. Thanks and best regds Arun Patnaik

Subject: Power politics is not synonymous with Policy Politics Says Mahesh (Suggest Your CM) Date: Sat, 25 Feb 2006 16:32:19 +0530 From: Mahesh Mahadarshee Date: Feb 25, 2006 12:18 PM Subject: with reference to Tusar Mohapatra's understanding of politics

[...] bhai,
It is with reference to Mr Mohapatra's mail. It clearly seems to me that he has been ignorant of the broadest sense of Politics. Power politics is not synonymous with Policy Politics. Government is more of policy than power. Also, centres of de facto power are now not necessarily at constitutionally provided positions. As such politics is no more the preserve of "politicians". No concerned citizen can afford to be a bystander and onlooker. Every concerned citizen has every reason to design and redesign politics to arrive at greatest possible consensus which is the core essential of politics. Mahesh

Tusar N. Mohapatra : Democracy is all about suppleness of thought and plasticity of ideas. It is prudent to chew over cues than to wildly react instantly. Lack of reading is one of the major maladies today. No wonder, most of us carry a school-goers' world-view throughout. To qualify as an elite or intellectual one has to be well-read. Welcome to the world of Savitri Era Learning Forum.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Forming the perfect society

Elk Grove Village, IL: Nateshbhai's home
Sri Aurobindo (Aurobindo Ghose: 1872-1950) was born in Bengal, traveled to England at the age of 7, and returned to India at the age of 21, after completing his education in Cambridge University. Upon returning, however, Sri Aurobindo joined the Indian Nationalist Movement which rallied for national consciousness of India within the British Empire. While stirring Indian-pride by way of patriotic writings, he was eventually imprisoned in Calcutta. At that time, however, he experienced the divine vision of Lord Krishna in the presiding magistrate. The time in prison became an important turning point in his life: he later described his one-year imprisonment as living in an aashrama (hermitage) where he found God.
Sri Aurobindo's campaign now dealt with the divine nature of mother India. He soon escaped British arrest by traveling to Pondicherry, a French settlement (located in today's southern state of Tamil Nadu). His major works (written in English) from this time period were published as books: The Life Divine, Synthesis of Yoga, Essays on the Gita, etc. The Ashram he founded in Pondicherry was expanded by the help of a French woman, Mirra Richard, later known as 'The Mother.'
With India's independence in 1947, Sri Aurobindo emphasized:
(1) the need for national unity amongst free India,
(2) true liberation of all of its peoples,
(3) an "inter-nationalism" or world-union for all humans,
(4) the spread of India's gift of Hindu spirituality to the rest of the world, and
(5) a step in evolution toward the "super-man" who is above vices, negativity, etc., thus forming the perfect society.
Sri Aurobindo's teachings continued the tradition of great seers such as Chanakya (Kautilya or Vishnugupta: c. 350 BC - 275 BC, who made efforts to unite Bharat or India under a virtuous emperor, Chandragupta Maurya, during the expansion of Alexander the Great) and recently, the determined spirit of Mahatma Gandhiji (Mohandas K. Gandhi: 1869-1948), to work toward a free and united India, and supporting its rich spirituality and culture.

Friday, March 17, 2006

When the divine moment arrives

There are moments when the Spirit moves among men and the breath of the Lord is abroad upon the waters of our being; there are others when it retires and men are left to act in the strength or weakness of their egoism. The first are periods when even a little effort produces great results; the second are spaces of time when much labour goes to the making of a little result...
Unhappy is the man or the nation which, when the divine moment arrives, is found sleeping or unprepared to use it, because the lamp has not been kept trimmed for the welcome and the ears are sealed to the call. — Sri Aurobindo (The Hour of God)
A few well-known journalists and quite a few members of the Opposition are of the opinion that A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, though a scientist of no mean stature, is no politician and that hence his being the President of the Republic has to be viewed with reservation. And this all the more so because the President is not only a "political institution," but also the supreme head of the country's armed forces. Another contention is that since Dr. Kalam has spearheaded India's missile technology, satellite programme and nuclear weaponisation, such a "Missile-Man" will send a "wrong signal" to the world at large.
Whatever that may be, I see the event in a totally different light. At this juncture of our nation's history when criminalisation of politics is a fact, when corruption is rife in almost every branch and aspect of the country's activity and when the so-called "national leaders" — politicians, puny men with no vision, no imagination nor backbone — of every hue appear to have thrown overboard all values of decency, discipline, honesty, rectitude and a sense of duty to promote their own narrow, petty selfish ends, Dr. Kalam now at the head of the nation seems to be the man of the hour, almost a godsend.
Dr. Kalam is an idealist. He has a vision for the country. A man of integrity, he is universally acknowledged as a simple, humble, honest and hard-working man. His thirst for knowledge is huge and his pursuit of it limited to no one field but many. He is dynamic and a successful monitor of teamwork in the area of his specialisation...
Whatever that may be, suffice it to know that there are more things in heaven and earth than our surface outward petty view can scan or gauge and that men are only "playthings" — instruments — in the hands of those things (read forces) that work behind this apparent reality for the evolution of an individual, a nation, mankind or the earth as a whole. BIBHAS JYOTI MUTSUDDI The Hindu Open Page Tuesday, Aug 27, 2002

The Nationalist Congress Party

The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) is a true inheritor of the rich and glorious political legacy handed to the Indian National Congress (INC) by early stalwarts like Dada Bhai Naorogi, Gopal Krishna Gokhale, Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Annie Besant, and by other veterans of the freedom struggle - The Father of the Nation Mahatma Gandhi himself, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Sardar Vallabhi Patel, Sri Aurobindo, Subhash Chandra Bose, Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan, Smt. Sarojini Naidu, Madam Bikhaji Kama and Aruna Asaf Ali. This legacy is one of ardent nationalism and of secular ethos, the fountain-head of which is the very history of our civilization. It is also one of standing for individual freedom - social, economic and political...NCP is the Millennial Party with a modern and progressive orientation. Our idelogy is of holistic democracy anchored on Gandhian secularism, equity, social justice and federalism based National Unity.

How prophetic were the words of Sri Aurobindo

(Sri Aurobindo on the so-called “non-violence” and the “Hindu–Muslim unity” in India)
(Quoted here below is the conversation that Sri Aurobindo had with one of his disciples on 23rd July 1924 which makes interesting reading even now after a lapse of 80 years)
(“Evening Talks with Sri Aurobindo” by A.B. Purani, Second Series, Page 56 to 59)
Disciple: The Mahatma believes that non-violence purifies the man who practises it.
Sri Aurobindo: I believe Gandhi does not know what actually happens to the man’s nature when he takes to Satyagraha or non-violence. He thinks that men get purified by it. But when men suffer, or subject themselves to voluntarily suffering, what happens is that their vital being gets strengthened. These movements affect the vital being only and not any other part. Now, when you cannot oppose the force that oppresses, you say that you will suffer. That suffering is vital and it gives strength. When the man who has thus suffered gets power he becomes a worse oppressor. That is what I have written in the Essays on the Gita that when a nation gets freedom by the suffering of its leaders and other men, it oppresses other nations in it turn. It is almost always the case with those who suppress their vital being. It allows the pressure on itself, gets strong and then finds vent in some other direction.
The same thing happened to the Puritans in England. Cromwell and his men came to power and became the worst oppressors. In Christianity the principle for non-violence is there but it is meant to be practised for religious and spiritual temperaments. It may be partial but it can certainly develop certain types of spiritual temperaments. What one can do is to transform the spirit of violence. But in this practice of Satyagraha it is not transformed. When you insist on such a one-sided principle what happens is that cant, hypocrisy and dishonesty get in and there is no purification at all. Purification can come by the transformation of the impulse of violence, as I said.
In that respect the old system in India was much better. The man who had the fighting spirit became the Kshatriya and then the fighting spirit was raised above the ordinary vital influence. The attempt was to spiritualize it. It succeeded in doing what passive resistance cannot and will not achieve. The Kshatriya was the man who would not allow any oppression, who would fight it out and he was the man who would not oppress anybody. That was the ideal.
Disciple: Those who take to non-violence as a religion cannot intellectually conceive the possibility of transforming the spirit of violence.
Sri Aurobindo: But you can’t get rid of the spirit of fighting like that.
Disciple: There is also the question of Hindu-Muslim unity which the non-violence school is trying to solve on the basis of their theory.
Sri Aurobindo: You can live amicably with a religion whose principle is toleration. But how is it possible to live peacefully with a religion whose principle is “I will not tolerate you”? How are you going to have unity with these people? Certainly, Hindu-Muslim unity cannot be arrived at on the basis that the Muslims will go on converting Hindus while the Hindus shall not convert any Mohammedan.
Disciple: There was only recently the boycott of a drama in Andhra because some Hindu in the show was represented as marrying a Muslim Lady!
Sri Aurobindo: You can’t build unity on such a basis. Perhaps, the only way of making the Mohammedans harmless is to make them lose their fanatic faith in their religion.
Disciple: Can that be done by education?
Sri Aurobindo: Not by the kind of education they receive at Aligarh but by a more liberalizing education. The Turks, for instance, are not fanatical because they have more liberal ideas. Even when they fight it is not so much for Islam as for right and liberty.
It was the Mohammedans and the Christians who began the religious wars-- i.e. fighting for religion. First the Jews began persecuting and then the Christians when they began to disagree among themselves began to persecute also.
Disciples: The Mohammedans religion was born under such circumstances that the followers never forgot the origin.
Sri Aurobindo: That was the result of the passive-resistance which they practised. They went on suffering till they got strong enough and, when they got power, they began to persecute others with a vengeance.
The Roman Government persecuted the Christians and the Christians suffered. When the Christians came to power they started inquisitions and they always said that the institutions like the inquisition were very good for the souls of those people (Laughter).
Disciples: Did you read Malaviya’s speech about the Multan riots and also what C. Rajgopalachari ha said?
Sri Aurobindo: I am sorry they are making a fetish of this Hindu-Muslim unity. It is no use ignoring facts; some day the Hindus may have to fight the Muslim and they must prepare for it. Hindu–Muslim unity should not mean the subjection of the Hindus. Every time the mildness of the Hindu has given way. The best solution would be to allow the Hindus to organize themselves and the Hindu-Muslim unit would take care of itself, it would automatically solve the problem. Otherwise, we are lulled into a false sense of satisfaction that we have solved a difficult problem, when in fact we have only shelved it. Thursday, March 16, 2006 # posted by swamijyoti @ 5:41 PM

TV Stations Fined Over CBS Show Deemed to Be Indecent

By JULIE BOSMAN The New York Times: March 16, 2006
The Federal Communications Commission leveled a record $3.6 million fine yesterday against 111 television stations that broadcast an episode of "Without a Trace" in December 2004, with the agency saying the CBS show suggested that its teenage characters were participating in a sexual orgy...In a statement last night, CBS said it continued to disagree that the incident was "legally indecent." "More than two years ago we apologized to viewers for the inappropriate and unexpected halftime incident," the statement said. "We will continue to pursue all remedies necessary to affirm our legal rights. Today's decision by the F.C.C. is just another step in the process."
Michael K. Powell, the former chairman of the commission, was criticized for a hard line on indecency cases, but Mr. Martin appears to be taking an even tougher stance. He is also promising to speed the F.C.C.'s response time, vowing to address complaints within nine months of being lodged, said Tamara Lipper, a spokeswoman for the F.C.C. Ms. Lipper said the orders could give broadcasters guidance in what is appropriate programming. "The commission is committed to a restrained, effective and consistent approach," she said. Tim Winter, the executive director of the Parents Television Council, a conservative advocacy group, said the group believed that the law was applied properly "in every instance."
"We absolutely are elated by the rulings handed down by the F.C.C.," Mr. Winter said. "Where they could fine a broadcaster for breaking the law, they did so. We think this sends a very powerful signal that those who violate the law will be punished." E. Christopher Murray, a civil rights lawyer at Reisman, Peirez & Reisman in Garden City, N.Y., said the decisions might have a chilling effect on broadcasters. "The F.C.C., in its mind, is getting tougher on these kinds of programs," Mr. Murray said. "But there's going to be a difficult job for the TV networks to determine what's acceptable and what's not."

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Paul rather than Spinoza

If you haven't read that slim little volume Ideas Have Consequences by Richard M. Weaver, you really ought to, because it is one of the keystones of modern conservative thought. It is so pithy and so pregnant with implications, that I have probably read it a dozen times. It is just the kind of book I like--very unsaturated, leaving lots of space to engage your own imagination. Although I don't agree with every word of it, it's just so provocative in nailing the essential philosophical divide in our time, that I go back to it time and again for inspiration and clarity.
After all, if ideas didn't have consequences, there would be no need to get all excited about them. If leftists want to believe that men and women are identical, what's the big deal? If secular fundamentalists want to teach kooky materialist metaphysics dressed up as neo-Darwinism, why object? If the sophisticates at the New York Times believe that poverty and not bad values or absence of fathers causes crime, so what? If neo-Spinozean environmentalists want to say that the environment is God, who gives a hoot?
Now, I have no objection to Spinoza the person (or Benedict the person, for that matter). What I object to is his dangerous ideas. Even then, I should hasten to point out that, in his day, Spinoza undoubtedly represented an advance over what had come before. Remember a few days ago, I made the point that one of the key developments of modernity was the separation of the realms of religion, science, politics, and aesthetics. Prior to the enlightenment, those realms were thoroughly conflated--just like the Muslim Middle East today--so that the church wielded all kinds of inappropriate power over who was in charge or what people were free to discover with their intellect.
In fact, Spinoza was actually excommunicated from his orthodox Jewish community, presumably because of his heretical ideas, although no one knows for sure. I don't know much about 17th century Judaism, but it may have been quite intellectually stifling, much like the Catholicism of the day. So for someone to rebel against it may well have been a courageous thing to do. Looking at it from a world-psychohistorical standpoint, I see the Enlightenment as mankind's adolescence, as we rebel against mother and father God and move out on our own for the first time.
This is obviously a vital and unavoidable stage in psychological development. But all of us--well, some of us, anyway--know that adolescence is just a stage, not an endpoint. While the Islamic world awaits the day that it can leave its cognitive infancy behind and enter adolescence, the task of the West is a different one. We must leave the cognitive adolescence of secular rationalism behind and claim our full manhood, which involves a translogical synthesis of reason and revelation, science and spirit, vertical and horizontal, Adam and Evolution.
Thus, our dispute with pure rationalism as an overarching explanation is not just over the content of its ideas, but with the personal and psychohistorical stage from which those ideas arise. In this regard, it is critical to bear in mind that the great religious sages and saints of history are not illogical but translogical. It is not that they have abandoned worldly reason. Rather, they have transcended it. Reason is still entirely appropriate to the limited realm it addresses, but an entirely different form of reason applies to the supersensible world. Religions are metaphysical systems that use language in a very special way to disclose the hyperdimensional domain of Spirit and and to make it "present" to us. But again, that will only happen if you raise your intellect up to religion, not drag religion down to ego-level pseudo-rationalism.
This vulgar form of religion is undoubtedly what Spinoza and his ilk were objecting to. In fact, Spinoza is considered one of the first, if not the first, to introduce "higher criticism" to the study of the Bible, and to regard it simply as a historical document rather than a revealed one. Again, this undoubtedly had its place in the adolescent scheme of things, but it takes a grown man to get over one's adolescent rebellion and to realize that our parents weren't complete idiots--or how much uncannily luminous wisdom there is in scripture.
The Apostle Paul was fully aware of the translogical nature of his agenda, mentioning it time and again: "This is the wisdom we preach among the perfect, yet not the wisdom of this age nor of the leaders of this age, which will come to nothing. We preach the wisdom of God, mysterious and hidden, which was foreordained by God before all ages for our glory, a wisdom that none of the leaders of this age have ever known." At the time, that was a completely crazy thing to say, yet who could argue with it? Has not what passed for the wisdom of the first century sunk into oblivion, while Paul's divine folly continues to be proclaimed in every corner of the world? Who would have thought such a thing possible at the time? Only a madman, a fool for God. It is useless to try to understand the things of which Paul speaks with the lower consciousness of pure rationalism.
Thankfully, America's founders were in the mold of Paul rather than Spinoza. These were post-enlightenment men, and yet, they were men, nothing at all like the intoxicated and intemperate adolescents of the French Revolution--and most every other revolution since then. In holding firm to Judeo-Christian principles, they believed that they were obeying both reason and common sense. Who could have the audacity to call such men backwards or regressive, when these world-historical political avatars--and I use that term advisedly--still know more about us than we will ever know about them? They are still our primary defense against the adolescents of the ACLU and the secular Left. They saw them coming. posted by Gagdad Bob at 6:22 PM 40 comments

Architecture and environment

Sited on the coastal edge of the Bay of Bengal, Golconde, a dormitory for the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry, India, was designed by architects George Nakashima and Antonin Raymond. Golconde is a remarkable architectural edifice, seamlessly negotiating between the tenets of early modernist architecture while addressing the pragmatic impositions of a tropical context. Espousing radical economy and uncompromising construction standards, it proposes environmental sensitivity as a foundation for the design process. Completed in 1942, Golconde was the first reinforced, cast-in-place concrete building in India and clearly celebrates the modernist credo: architecture as the manifest union of aesthetics, technology, and social reform. This exhibition assembles construction drawings, architects' letters and journals, and extensive photographs of this extraordinary building.
Golconde is "a dormitory for the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry, India...designed by architects George Nakashima and Antonin Raymond," completed in 1945 and named for nearby diamond mines. This building is the subject of an exhibition (by Pankaj Vir Gupta and Christine Mueller) on display at the Graham Foundation until May 25, as well as a gallery talk on March 28 by Andy Tinucci.
The building is notable for being "the first reinforced, cast-in-place concrete building in India," though Gupta and Mueller view it as "one of the earliest works of sustainable modern architecture in the world, [espousing] the virtue of radical economy and uncompromising construction standards". Reading the exhibition authors' AIA report (PDF link), it appears that Antonin Raymond's Tokyo-based office received the commission for the dormitory in 1935. He moved to Japan as project architect for Frank Lloyd Wright's Imperial Hotel, churning out some impressive concrete buildings after its completion.
George Nakashima was working in Raymond's office at the time, working as project architect on the dormitory while also becoming an ashram devotee. As Nakashima oversaw the project and its constrcution, the original six-month construction schedule was drawn out to years, due to inexperienced construction crews, political unrest affecting imports, the desire to limit the noise and disruptions usually associated with large-scale construction, and the impending world war.
These images from the AIA report illustrate the amazing quality of the architecture, its detailing and craftsmanship, and its site integration. When Gupta and Mueller say, "[Golconde] proposes a mode of architectural practice where issues of technology and environment dictate the conception and tenor of the design process," it's clear the building is as timely today as it was when it was completed over sixty years ago. posted by John Wednesday, March 15, 2006 @ 1:00 PM A Daily Dose of Architecture is the product of John Hill, an architect who lives and works in Chicago.

Inter-religious Cooperation and Global Change

From a Clash of Civilisations to a Dialogue of Civilisations Josef Boehle, PhD University of Birmingham, UK Pacifica Review: Peace, Security and Global Change, (Volume 14, Number 3, October 2002)
A multi-centred, permanent World Network, Forum and Council for religious traditions, spiritual movements, indigenous traditions and inter-religious organisations is needed. This is the argument made here. Such a permanent, inter-religious world body, respecting regional and local diversity, would have to be multi-centred and include a diversity of organisational forms. It should be based on a global inter-religious network, with permanent, co-ordinating centres on every continent, with a global inter-religious coordination council, with a general assembly or forum held every two years and regional assemblies in the years between general assemblies. It should include humanitarian, research and media institutions; it would need to be supported by local and national groups and involve committed citizens as well as religious and spiritual leaders.
A World Inter-religious Forum, based on a network and coordinated by a council, could also help a wide diversity of programmes and initiatives to emerge in creative response to today’s great problems and long-term challenges, such as poverty, lack of education, epidemic diseases, war, the environmental crisis, conflict among religions, the root causes of terrorism, unjust economic systems, etc. It would need to be independent but have structural links to the UN System to be globally effective and to be able to facilitate peace-building, dialogue encounters, information exchanges and cooperative activities with the world of politics and economics. One of the most difficult challenges would be the question of representation, as it is not possible to find in the world of religions and spirituality clear criteria for who represents the multitude of religious traditions and spiritual paths. The representation in the forum and council should be based on the participation in a global inter-religious network, with additional places for large and clearly identifiable religious, spiritual or indigenous communities and for outstanding and widely recognised moral and spiritual leaders.
Such a network, forum and council would not be realised within a few years and would not be able to perfectly represent all religious, spiritual and indigenous groups. However, a development in this direction with a critical mass of initial participants could be realised within 5 to 10 years if the will towards global inter-religious cooperation can be further mobilised. To achieve this the support of the major inter-religious organisations, of religious communities and of key religious and spiritual leaders is crucial.

Attacks On Religious Faiths, Fatal For World Peace

By Tanveer Jafri Posted on: 3/12/2006 PeaceJournalism.Com Issue 16 - Feb, 2006
All those who are deeply inclined towards spiritualism & religious faiths have hard belief that the soul that pleases GOD with its good deeds in its previous birth, gets the birth as a human being, as a reward of his those good deeds. It is also believed that among all the creatures on the earth, man is the most superior creation of GOD. If we look upon the achievements of human beings & their countless victories the above said sayings are well confirmed. Where as the man has made unimaginable & countless developments but at the same time for centuries he has shown itself as a cruel formation of the earth. History is full of human achievements & his cruelties, alike.
As is being seen that for centuries, the man has become an enemy of the man. On one side, man is achieving limitless achievements by his positive efforts; on the other side he has established new records in cruel & beastly fields. Now after killing the human beings, the man for his cruelty, is aiming at the great men, Gods & Goddesses & even Holy Scriptures & holy places...In all, all the above incidents prove that these incidents are carried on by the ill natured people, with the aim of inciting the religious feelings of the people so that people of one community may blast their anger balloons on the people of other community. Undoubtedly, the network of these terrorists is not limited to them who spread terror but there are their patrons who politicians are dressed in white but behind the curtains & play an important role when come out. The aim of these politicians is to spread violence by inciting the feelings of people, so that there is polarization on the basis of religion or sect on large scale. These scornful deeds are often adopted to soften their passage to throne.
Evidently, Christ, Mohammad, Rama, Krishna, Buddha, Nanak, Moosa, Ali or all great men are neither heredity of any religion or sect nor their messages are limited for any one religion. All these great men incarnated on this earth for the welfare of humanity & not for the welfare of any one sect. So we the human beings have this moral responsibility to give regards to all those incarnations of all sects who embodied themselves in the human form on this earth. It is essential because if we wish our Gods or holy places to be revered, we shall have to pay reverence to Gods & holy places of the other faiths. If we so called human beings dare not so much or our fundamental religious education has checked & confirmed our thoughts to consider our own religion the best, then too we have no right to insult the faiths or damage the religious places of other religions. Not only in India but in the entire world & almost all the people of the world are bearing the pain of attacks on their religious faiths. At such times, all of us must show the tolerance & goodwill for each other so that the evil spirits & their politician patrons might not succeed in their nefarious actions.

Big Business and the eradication of extreme poverty

By: Dr. Zeki Ergas Posted on: 3/12/2006 Issue 16 - Feb, 2006
Big Business is certainly one of the ‘Big Four’ forces, or global institutions, which control the political and socio-economic life of the planet -- the other three being: the national governments of the rich and of the ‘emerging’ countries; civil society; and the international organisations. Metaphorically speaking, the ‘Big Four’ can be seen as the four wheels of a vehicle -- a truck, for example, or a tractor. All four wheels are obviously necessary for that vehicle to advance on a road that is in bad shape – full of potholes (that represent the various problems of the world). But, it is important to emphasize that only two wheels, Big Business and the governments of the rich and of the ‘emerging’ countries, have real traction. That is so because the money, or the capital, the lifeblood of socio-economic life. The other two wheels, civil society and the international organisations, have no real traction, having little money. In part they are dependent on the generosity of the population, in part on the largesse of the governments of the rich and of the ‘emerging’ countries, and of Big Business.
Only the civil society, through its myriad NGOs representing social, cultural and religious groups -- women, youth, children, workers, peasants, Christians, and so on -- openly opposes the globalisation ‘agenda’. The World Social Forum (WSF), founded some five years ago as a reaction to the WEF, is the main international platform of the civil society. The first gatherings took place in Porto Alegre, Brazil. They were held in three different locations in 2006: Bamako, Caracas and Karachi; in 2007, there will be, again, only one location, in Nairobi, Kenya. The WSFs are increasingly emerging as places where socially-oriented (as opposed to profit-oriented globalisation) alternative models of development are being introduced and tested.
So, the conclusion is inescapable: the very rich are getting richer. That does not necessarily mean that the very poor are getting poorer. It is possible that all the boats are rising together, and that the very rich are getting richer while the number of the very poor is decreasing. That does not seem to be the case. The very poor cannot, of course, to get any poorer, they are already as poor as one can get. But, be that as it may, the evidence that the CRIB countries (China, Russia, India and Brazil) appears to be that these four countries were successful, in the last few years, to reduce ordinary poverty, moving poor people into the lower middle class, while not much of a dent has been made the very poor category -- especially in sub-Saharan Africa where there are some 300 million very poor people.
Ultimately, of course, the eradication of extreme poverty is a matter of human dignity and human solidarity. Human dignity continues to be trampled under the heavy boot of profit-driven neo-liberal globalisation. Human solidarity demands that the BHN of the extremely poor people are satisfied. That the rich world does not do so is a very serious violation of an essential human right. Extreme poverty is a great evil, because it is like a living death, which goes on until physical death finalises it. Presently what Big Business is doing is to throw some crumbs to the very poor while keeping the loaf for itself. As long as that situation persists, extreme poverty will be a stain on the face of humanity.
I would like to close on an optimistic note. Jeffrey Sachs, the director of the UN Millennium Project, said recently: ‘We live in a time of profound paradox, but also profound possibility, and profound hope. The paradox is that this (extreme poverty) continues in a world of vast wealth and knowledge. The hope is the fact that we live in an age of vast possibility. If we choose correctly, this kind of extreme poverty could be ended in our generation.’

Sri Aurobindo on the nature of true democracy

by Paulette Auroville Today August 2004
Sri Aurobindo saw history as unfolding cycles. The earliest age, religious-spiritual, was essentially symbolic, imaginative and intuitive. God, the deities and other numinous principles were experienced as omnipresent; the institutions, religious or social, were symbols of this mode of consciousness to which ethical, psychological and economic factors were subordinated. The symbolic age was succeeded by the typal, a fixed though not yet rigid social order. Predominantly psychological and ethical, it nurtured great social ideals; the ideal of social honour remains its main legacy. The conventional age followed, based upon unquestionable authorities and hierarchies. The interdependence between the ethical and social functions vanished, being replaced by order of birth and heredity, determining the function, family customs and rituals. Thus, the caste system was born.
Ancient India considered individuals not as social, but as spiritual beings undergoing an evolutionary process. This is the key to that dharma-based society, for which its unique form of democracy streamed from the high planes of the intuitive mind. The symbolic age corresponded to that of the Vedas. Its fourfold order of society, caturvarnya, was comprised of the head (the brahmana, being of knowledge and spirituality), the arms (the ksatriya, being of honour and power), the thighs (the vaisya, being of trade and production) and the feet (the sudra, being of dedication and service). They constituted the four limbs of the virat purusa or purusasukta, the Rig Veda's Cosmic Being.
The ethical age that followed corresponded to that of the Upanishads. An age of bold seeking, it gave birth to grand philosophical systems and versatile literature, marking the inception of art as well as science. Complex social systems, large kingdoms and empires were its feature. No longer reserved for initiates, the quest for the One in its myriad of aspects took the popular form of the Divine dwelling in the secret heart of every being, hradye guhayam. Even outcasts had saints revered by all...
Ancient India was the repository of the highest form of democracy: the Sacred determined the political and social order. The Vedic age saw the people (visah) sitting in urban councils, empowered to impose their will even on the monarch. This continued in successive ages, down to the time of the larger kingdoms and empires. Dharma commanded respect for the autonomy and self-determination of the villages, city-states, republics and constitutional kingdoms; a true unity in diversity of a multitude of ethnicities and people. The villages and townships were neither mere geographical units nor conglomerates for electoral, administrative or other purposes, but real communities functioning on their own power and will, constituting the most stable foundation of the collective being.
The villages were governed by their elected panchayats and officers. Self-sufficient, they were auto-nomous, self-governing units managing their own education, tribunals, police, economic and other needs. Thus were the townships ruled by their own assemblies and committees by the force of an elective system, which included voting so as to register the common will of the people. Metropolitan governments administered police and the magistrature, public works, registration, collection of municipal taxes, trade and industry, the management of sacred and public places and so on. The villages and townships sent their representatives to the kingdom's general assembly. The village communities were like small village republics and the townships, larger urban republics. The guild governments and the metropolitan polities even enjoyed the astounding privilege of striking coins, customarily exercised only by the king or the republics.
The set-up of the monarchic institution evoked the constitutional monarchy. The king's executive powers rested upon his respect for the dharma, of which he was the executor and servant; depending on the assent of the people, he was not allowed autocratic interferences. If he betrayed his royal svadharma, Manu's law acknowledged the people's right of insurrection and regicide. Through conquest or coalition a kingdom of confederated republics later evolved. Before the sixth century B.C there were republican states as well, contemporary to the Greek city-states; those with a strong organisation lasted until the beginning of the Christian era. Afterwards these too were replaced by the monarchical state. In the simpler as in the complex polities none of the social orders was predominant; nor was uniformity needed. The social, political and economic dharma and its artha shastra harmonised the pre-existent patterns with newly evolved ones. The State stood for co-ordination, with no right of infringing on the autonomous functioning of the varnas (social classes), kulas (clan families), sanghas (spiritual communities) or any polity. From king to servant, all were bound to maintain the dharma.
At a latter stage the rishis envisaged a unifying political rule by a universal emperor (cakravartin), yet without destroying the self-governance of the autonomous polities; although there is no evidence of its application. Caturvarnya, the fourfold order of the vedic age, continued throughout the ethical-philosophical upanishadic age; it began to vanish during the conventional age, replaced by the caste-system established on heredity rather than individual merit. Also, the empire and the imperial monarchy tended to undermine the autonomy of the lesser polities, turning them into factors of division. The decline of a society that had lost the thread of life – and with it, of renewal – had commenced. Intellectual and artistic pursuit, the scientific and critical intelligence, creativity and intuition were numbed. Social functions became artificial, and the dharma so strict that it hampered the freedom of the spiritual quest; moksha (liberation) was sought in opposition to the sacredness of life. Partial truths were enhanced, others denied, the grand spiritual synthesis waned. When the British Empire took over not much was left of a society run for two millennia on the basis of intuitive democracy and self-government as dharma, intended as the quest for self-perfection of all the classes of society. The gates to foreign invasion were fully open.

Perilous Optimism

by Ernest Partridge 2000 University of California, Riverside Other Voices
Human beings thrive on hope. Without some sense that our individual deliberate effort brings us closer to a fulfillment of our personal goals, we simply cannot function from one day to the next. And yet, hope often betrays us, as it blinds us to clear and evident danger and leads us to courses of action and inaction that will eventually result in the loss of our property, our livelihood, our liberty, and even our very lives.
Pangloss is admired, and Cassandra is despised and ignored. But as the Trojans were to learn to their sorrow, Cassandra was right, and had she been heeded, the toil of appropriate preparation for the coming adversity would have been insignificant measured against the devastation that followed a brief season of blissful and ignorant optimism. Throughout history, and most recently in the mid-Twentieth century, millions have perished due to stubborn and ill-advised optimism. For example, Hitler made his intentions brutally clear in Mein Kampf, yet neither the British nor American governments took heed until the Wehrmacht crossed the Polish border.
Today, Cassandra holds advanced degrees in biology, ecology, climatology, and other theoretical and applied environmental sciences. In a vast library of published book and papers, these scientists warn us that if civilization continues on its present course, unspeakable devastation awaits us or our near descendants. Turning away from that "present course" toward "sustainability," will be difficult, costly and uncertain, but far preferable to a continuation of "business (and policy) as usual."
As a discomforted public, and their chosen political leaders, cry out "say it isn't so!," there is no shortage of reassuring optimists to tell us, "don't worry be happy." We sincerely wish that we could believe them. But brute scientific facts, and the weakness of the Panglosian arguments, forbid. And so, in this paper we will confront some of the arguments of the optimists, and sadly conclude that their reassurances can not stand up against scientific evidence, fundamental natural laws, logical scrutiny, or even plain common sense. While the optimists are numerous and their reassurances familiar, we will focus our attention primarily on two individuals: the late economist, Julian Simon, and the philosopher, Mark Sagoff.
Julian Simon's Cornucopism: The Elements
The late Julian Simon's essential thesis is that there are no physical limitations on economic growth or human population growth. The only resource shortage, he claims, is human knowledge and ingenuity: "The Ultimate Resource" which, in adequate supply, is capable of solving any and all resource problems. Prof. Simon's ideas have been universally dismissed by environmental scientists as crackpot, and yet he was something of a hero among libertarians, neo-orthodox economists, and their political disciples. Because the latter group is far more influential in the articulation and implementation of national and international environmental and economic policies, Simon's ideas should be taken very seriously, and scrupulously examined and rebutted. 12
Similarly, Mark Sagoff believes that human ingenuity, what Simon calls "The Ultimate Resource," combined with accumulated information and technological advancement, will overcome any and all resource and consumption limits in the near or distant future...In sum, Sagoff assures us that "... technology can deliver greater and greater abundance...." and that "the endless expansion of the global economy is physically possible..." 4 (Sagoff, 1997, 29). In addition: "if there is a limiting factor in economic production, it is knowledge, and ... as long as knowledge advances, the economy can expand." 5 (Sagoff, 1995, 610)
In brief, both Sagoff and Simon are confident that knowledge and human ingenuity, combined with market incentives, will suffice to meet any upcoming environmental emergencies...If the optimistic view of Simon and Sagoff is overwhelmingly rejected by informed scientific opinion, why should anyone take the optimists seriously? Should we not, instead, ignore them as we move ahead with the serious business of establishing a sustainable world economy, in harmony with the physical and biotic limitations of the Earth?

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Competition key to free market to succeed

True competition recognises “the smart other”
True understanding of Competition in the free-market economic sense requires understanding of both demand and supply sides. On the supply side, collectively, we seem to lack a mature understanding of the freedoms and dignity due to the supplier, the role of the entrepreneur, the freedom to carry on businesses unhindered by government agencies once the ground rules are specified, etc. Any minor misdemeanour by the supply class becomes a case of greed and an occasion to build further “safeguards”. The cynical attitude is carried not only by politicians and bureaucrats but also laypersons.For free market to succeed, we need to internalise that
1. A truly competitive economy seeks to create a large number of healthy suppliers to match the needs of a large number of buyers. Together they work it out in the marketplace that leads to higher efficiency and effectiveness in using different factors of production.
2. The supplier is no saint and it requires the collective wisdom of the buyers to keep him on his toes! But then, he is a necessary entity. The balance of power between the buyer and supplier keeps the system in fine mettle. Adopting market forces to mediate the economic affairs of society rather than leaving it to the machinations of politicians and the whims of bureaucrats requires this realistic understanding.
3. Long-term healthy suppliers would rather seek out other combatants who are alive and healthy with whom they enter into a social contract without value-reducing hit-and-run guerrilla warfare (or, at the other extreme, cartelisation). Bad suppliers fight to the last and leave no fruits for anyone to enjoy.
4. Good suppliers automatically prevent bad suppliers from entering the arena. The dynamic balance of power between suppliers and buyers (and amongst suppliers) ensures a minimum entry barrier.
5. The supplier exists not because of an executive order from the government by the legitimisation provided by the buyer.
6. Applied to any society, the Competitive Paradigm carries bigger and nobler ideas of “choice to the customer” or “efficient utilisation of resources” “enlightened civil society-backed businesses” etc. Competition as part of state policy should only be a manifestation of higher societal norms.
7. True competition recognises “the smart other”. This carries possibilities for cooperation. Within such recognition resides possibilities for creating positive-sum games with entities not traditionally thought of as partners. Cooperation need not be cartelisation.
(Appeared in “TAPMI - Creation of Wealth” Series in Business Today, August 15, 2004) posted by Sankaran at Sunday, February 26, 2006 Location:TAPMI, Manipal, Karnataka, India

An Antidote to the Scarcity Mindset

Getting trapped into a scarcity mindset on account of poverty and hunger is certainly understandable. But how about the intelligentsia that is over-nourished and over- clothed? Scarcity mindset is an irony here, coming as it does from a land of rich myths with a thousand noble characters. Remember Kunti, Yudhishtira, Karna and others?The scarcity mindset has major implications. Take the issue of Competition. It is amazing how easily we understand the idea of competition; the problem is that our understanding is convoluted! Competition can be on the demand side or on the supply side. On the demand side, competitive mindset and scarcity mentality are synonymous. There is intense rivalry to take things: whether it pertains to the ration card or the identity card, cooking gas connection, or making contacts at high places. While competition can exist on the take side, there can be competition on the give side too. This supply side competition is something our society has not thought through adequately.
That free market economics is predicated upon supply side competition (or the give side) is something we need to mull over and understand.No doubt, in every transaction there is a give and take. Marketing may degenerate into taking over the territories to create unfair monopolies. It may result in taking over the mind of the customer by persuasive unethical propaganda. These are excesses which need balancing forces. However, let us not forget the fundamentals. The idea of marketing is rooted in the idea of keenly finding out what the consumer wants and giving choice to the customer, essentially ideas on the give side. A predominantly take mentality reduces ourselves morally and spiritually. Scarcity becomes the Scarcity of the Mind.
All told, scarcity mindset may be the biggest enemy of wealth creation. Whether we are referring to wealth of the financial or non-financial variety, the important issue is the very approach towards wealth itself. Scarcity mindset plays havoc particularly with intangible wealth such as trust and social capital. With scarcity mindset one just will not be able to conceive that sharing can be mutually beneficial; after all one’s gain is only at the cost of others. All transaction would then become, at best, tactical and at worst, a matter of snatching. Scarcity mindset seriously erodes the power of noble thinking and action, and it sabotages cooperative behaviour. Nobility becomes a matter of luxury for the “moralist” for indulging himself or herself. In other words, nobility would then have no practical value except for self-indulgence. “Business Today”, December 05, 2004 posted by Sankaran at Sunday, February 26, 2006 Location:TAPMI, Manipal, Karnataka, India

There is not a moment to lose

Rice seeks Congress support to implement nuke deal The Times of India Teusday, March 14, 2006 PTI
WASHINGTON: Seeking Congress support to amend laws for implementation of the historic Indo-US nuclear agreement, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Monday said it was a strategic achievement which would strengthen international security. "We are consulting extensively with Congress as we seek to amend the laws needed to implement the agreement. This is an opportunity that should not be missed," Rice said in an article in 'The Washington Post'. "Looking back decades from now, we will recognise this moment as the time when America invested the strategic capital needed to recast its relationship with India. Rice said the agreement was a strategic achievement which will strengthen international security, enhance energy security and environmental protection, foster economic and technological development and help transform the partnership between the world's oldest and the world's largest democracy.
Asserting that a thriving, democratic India will be a pillar of Asia's progress, shaping its development for decades, she said "this is a future that America wants to share with India, and there is not a moment to lose." Our civilian nuclear agreement is an essential step towards our goal of transforming America's partnership with India. "For too long during the past century, differences over domestic policies and international purposes kept India and the United States estranged." "India's civilian government functions transparently and accountably. It is fighting terrorism and extremism, and it has a 30-year record of responsible behaviour on nonproliferation matters," the Secretary of State said. On protests on the nuclear deal with India from other countries, she said aspiring proliferators such as North Korea or Iran may seek to draw connections between themselves and India, but their rhetoric rings hollow. "Iran is a state sponsor of terrorism that has violated its own commitments and is defying the international community's efforts to contain its nuclear ambitions. North Korea, the least transparent country in the world, threatens its neighbors and proliferates weapons. There is simply no comparison between the Iranian or North Korean regimes and India."
"Our agreement with India will make our future more secure, by expanding the reach of the international nonproliferation regime. The International Atomic Energy Agency would gain access to India's civilian nuclear programme that it currently does not have," she said. Our agreement is also good for energy security. India, a nation of a billion people, has a massive appetite for energy to meet its growing development needs. Civilian nuclear energy will make it less reliant on unstable sources of oil and gas. The deal will allow India to contribute to and share in the advanced technology that is needed for the future development of nuclear energy. And because nuclear energy is cleaner than fossil fuels, our agreement will also benefit the environment, she said. Our agreement is good for American jobs, because it opens the door to civilian nuclear trade and cooperation between our nations.