Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Globalisation is about connectivity. India still has hundreds of millions of poor people

For many decades, politicians monopolised all economic power in the holy name of socialism and used this to line their pockets and create patronage networks. They shackled every nook and corner of the economy, stopping Indians from using their great energies. Those energies were released when the shackles were lifted in the 1990s. But while industry and trade have been reformed, rural India has not. Hence the vast majority of villagers polled say they are unaware of any change in economic policy whatsoever. The government has spent huge sums on rural development without getting functioning schools, health clinics, pucca roads, telecom and electricity to every village. Dalits and tribals have been given job quotas, the odd ministership and a plethora of subsidies. But they have not been empowered through access to education, telecom electricity and pucca roads. Most subsidies go to the non-poor, and those earmarked for the poor are mostly creamed off by politicians and petty bureaucrats.
Anti-globalisers say that globalisation has bypassed the poor, especially in rural India. Yes, but who is to blame? Globalisation is about connectivity, about connecting every villager to the globe. But thousands of Indian villages do not have connectivity even to the next village by pucca road. They cannot use the internet because monopoly government providers have failed, after 50 years, to get electricity or telecom to them...The government was the hurdle, not the solution to poverty. India still has hundreds of millions of poor people. But the poverty ratio has declined from 56% in 1973 to 28% today. During the heights of Nehruvian and Indira Gandhi socialism, the poverty ratio did not fall at all. Indira Gandhi’s Garibi Hatao policies abolished amiri (or at least white-money amiri) but did not reduce garibi at all.
Poverty started falling from the 1980s onwards when the green revolution raised rural incomes and the first economic reforms accelerated GDP growth. Poverty is still too high, and the poor lack connectivity...Our own government has failed miserably to provide pucca roads, telecom and electricity. Its schools and health clinics suffer from massive absenteeism, and it is too afraid of trade unions to penalise or sack the guilty. International institutions and white donors have poured billions into rural programmes globally. If despite that people remain poor and unconnected, the fault lies in Third World countries that have squandered the money. India is a minor offender compared with Africa and Latin America.

More votes can be won by accelerating FDI in retail chains

The BJP has given notice that it is a real contender for power again in the 2009 general election SWAMINATHAN S ANKLESARIA AIYAR The Economic Times WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 28, 2007
Lesson No 4. Rapid GDP growth with high inflation causes electoral defeat. This has been proved time and again. Narasimha Rao achieved GDP growth of 7.2% and 7.5% in his last two years in office, but the consumer price index rose by a cumulative 22% over these two years, so he got thrashed in 1996. The BJP thought that India was shining when GDP growth soared to 8.7% in 2003-04. But wholesale price inflation rose from 3.4% in 2002-03 to 5.5% in 2003-04 and 6.5% in 2004-05, and that was fatal. Today, after two years of more than 9% GDP growth, the Congress has been beaten in Punjab and Uttarakhand...
Lesson No 6. The rapid growth of services in cities yields very poor political dividends. In 2004, the metros — Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai and Bangalore — voted massively against the NDA. Chandrababu Naidu was humbled in Hyderabad. After 2004, service industries continue to roar ahead, but this may not benefit the Congress. The very same BJP that was thrashed in the cities in 2004 has won 17 of the 23 urban seats it contested in Punjab. Earlier the BJP swept the municipal elections in Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh.
Lesson No. 7. Rapid industrialisation did not help the Congress in Uttarakhand, since modern industry is highly mechanised and creates few jobs. Tata Motors and Bajaj Auto have both doubled their production while halving their workforces. Far more rewarding electorally are new seeds that can raise agricultural incomes. Bt cotton and the promise of big retail chains (like Reliance) helped the Congress wrest several seats from the Akali Dal in its traditional rural stronghold of Malwa. Lesson: more votes can be won by accelerating FDI in retail chains than Sonia realises.

Focus on the very low tech problems (e.g. food, shelter, equality) of real human being in Africa and Asia

Re: Foreword to James Gardner's "The Intelligent Universe," by Ray Kurzweil by Rich on Tue 27 Feb 2007 06:25 PM PST Profile Permanent Link
These white male techno-elitist types are certainly a unique species. Their fetishing of perpetually increasing computational speed feeds their power fantasies of reverse engineering the brain to allow (well to do?) humans to reach biological escape velocity so that their exponentially accelerating intelligence can turn to the more important matters of colonizing the universe.
This ultimate dream of anthropocentric hegemony misses one very important point namely, the exponential acceleration of poverty and suffering in the world as it is right now. Albeit, a bit less stimulating to the testosterone dreams of masculine engineers who are more comfortable in the abstracted reality of mathematically sealed environments than in interactions with the wet ware of warm decimated bodies struggling for survival. It may prove more rewarding to focus on the very low tech problems (e.g. food, shelter, equality) of real human being in Africa and Asia right now.
Consider the following: • 854 million people across the world are hungry, up from 852 million a year ago. • Every day, almost 16,000 children die from hunger-related causes--one child every five seconds. • In essence, hunger is the most extreme form of poverty, where individuals or families cannot afford to meet their most basic need for food. • Hunger manifests itself in many ways other than starvation and famine. Most poor people who battle hunger deal with chronic undernourishment and vitamin or mineral deficiencies, which result in stunted growth, weakness and heightened susceptibility to illness. • Countries in which a large portion of the population battles hunger daily are usually poor and often lack the social safety nets we enjoy, such as soup kitchens, food stamps, and job training programs. When a family that lives in a poor country cannot grow enough food or earn enough money to buy food, there is nowhere to turn for help. Facts and Figures on Population • Today our world houses 6.55 billion people. • The United States is a part of the developed or industrialized world, which consists of about 57 countries with a combined population of about 1 billion, less than one sixth of the world’s population. • In contrast, approximately 5.1 billion people live in the developing world. This world is made up of about 125 low and middle-income countries in which people generally have a lower standard of living with access to fewer goods and services than people in high-income countries. • The remaining 0.4 billion live in countries in transition, which include the Baltic states, eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States.
Facts and Figures on Hunger and Poverty • Worldwide, more than 1 billion people currently live below the international poverty line, earning less than $1 per day. • Among this group of poor people, many have problems obtaining adequate, nutritious food for themselves and their families. As a result, 820 million people in the developing world are undernourished. They consume less than the minimum amount of calories essential for sound health and growth. • Undernourishment negatively affects people’s health, productivity, sense of hope and overall well-being. A lack of food can stunt growth, slow thinking, sap energy, hinder fetal development and contribute to mental retardation. • Economically, the constant securing of food consumes valuable time and energy of poor people, allowing less time for work and earning income. • Socially, the lack of food erodes relationships and feeds shame so that those most in need of support are often least able to call on it. • Go to the World Food Programme website and click on either "Counting the Hungry" or "Interactive Hunger Map" for presentations on hunger and poverty around the world. Facts and Figures on Health • Poor nutrition and calorie deficiencies cause nearly one in three people to die prematurely or have disabilities, according to the World Health Organization. • Pregnant women, new mothers who breastfeed infants, and children are among the most at risk of undernourishment. • In 2005, about 10.1 million children died before they reached their fifth birthday. Almost all of these deaths occured in developing countries, 3/4 of them in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, the two regions that also suffer from the highest rates of hunger and malnutrition. • Most of these deaths are attributed, not to outright starvation, but to diseases that move in on vulnerable children whose bodies have been weakened by hunger. • Every year, more than 20 million low-birth weight babies are born in developing countries. These babies risk dying in infancy, while those who survive often suffer lifelong physical and cognitive disabilities. • The four most common childhood illnesses are diarrhea, acute respiratory illness, malaria and measles. Each of these illnesses is both preventable and treatable. Yet, again, poverty interferes in parents’ ability to access immunizations and medicines. Chronic undernourishment on top of insufficient treatment greatly increases a child’s risk of death. • In the developing world, 27 percent of children under 5 are moderately to severely underweight. 10 percent are severely underweight. 10 percent of children under 5 are moderately to severely wasted, or seriously below weight for one’s height, and an overwhelming 31 percent are moderately to severely stunted, or seriously below normal height for one’s age.
Facts and Figures on HIV/AIDS • The spreading HIV/AIDS epidemic has quickly become a major obstacle in the fight against hunger and poverty in developing countries. • Because the majority of those falling sick with AIDS are young adults who normally harvest crops, food production has dropped dramatically in countries with high HIV/AIDS prevalence rates. • In half of the countries in sub-Saharan Africa, per capita economic growth is estimated to be falling by between 0.5 and 1.2 percent each year as a direct result of AIDS. • Infected adults also leave behind children and elderly relatives, who have little means to provide for themselves. In 2003, 12 million children were newly orphaned in southern Africa, a number expected to rise to 18 million in 2010. • Since the epidemic began, 25 million people have died from AIDS, which has caused more than 15 million children to lose at least one parent. For its analysis, UNICEF uses a term that illustrates the gravity of the situation; child-headed households, or minors orphaned by HIV/AIDS who are raising their siblings. 10, • 1 % (ages 15-49) of the world is HIV prevalent (2005 data). • 1.1 % (ages 15-49) of developing countries are HIV prevalent (2005 data). • Approximately 39.5 million people are living with HIV/AIDS in the world. Of this figure, 63 percent live in Sub-Saharan Africa. • In 2006, 4.3 million people become infected with HIV and 2.9 million people died of AIDS.

The actual word "Hindu" is non-Hindu in origin

The dreaded "H-word" Hindu Voice UK. Anish Shah analyses the psychology behind the widespread tendency of many Hindu-inspired spiritual or yoga groups to vehemently deny any connections with Hinduism
Another place where the "H"-word is avoided is in the commercial publishing world. Again most Yoga books won't mention any Hindu connection. A famous example of this is the writer Deepak Chopra who has made millions of dollars selling Hindu spirituality in America without mentioning the roots of where his teachings come from. He is also an adviser to Virgin Comics who have recently marketed a series of Hindu based comics without actually mentioning the "H"-word. What these people do sometimes (but not always) concede is that they are inspired by "traditional Indian" or "ancient Indian" stories, teachings and history.
Actually, I have met lots of ordinary Hindus who always tell their non-Hindu friends that they are "Indians" when asked about their background or when asked more specifically about religion will say something like "my parents are Hindus" or "I am spiritual, not really 'religious'". Now I'm not saying any of this is lying or false but it does contrast with my Muslim and Sikh friends who always answer with their religion when asked about their identity.
So the question really is: why is the "H"-word so bad? Most people who fall into the groups I have described so far sometimes tend to argue as follows: "Hindu" is a foreign word so doesn't really describe us. That's true - the actual word "Hindu" is non-Hindu in origin, but then so is the word "Indian" and is derived from the word "Hindu" anyway, so is that really any better?
Digging deeper, you find that another reason that a lot of Hindus or Hindu-influenced people do not acknowledge Hinduism is because the word "Hindu" itself has become a dirty word. "Hindu" has become associated with anything which (other) people see as negative - for example: polytheism, idol worship, caste, poverty, extremism, weakness, conservatism - but that anything positive - for example: art, yoga, conservation, tolerance, pluralism, music, dance, spirituality - is seen as separate from "Hinduism". This article isn't about the various negative things associated with Hinduism which need discussion elsewhere but obviously it is unfair to only look at one side of the story.
Communist historians, politicians and intellectuals in India are also quite prominent in claiming that they are not Hindus and that Hinduism hasn't really contributed much to India . In fact, they go a step further and have championed the notion that Hinduism doesn't even originate in India but from somewhere else. However, this is one group that we shouldn't be too surprised about as they have also at the forefront of telling the one-sided negative story of "Hinduism". Sometimes non-Indians just love India too much to be taken in by all this negativity fed to them by these Indian born people with Hindu-sounding names but that's usually the best time to tell them that everything they love is not "Hindu" but "Indian".
One group which has at least recognised the Hindu origin of Yoga has been the Catholic Church has long discouraged all of it's followers from taking up what they perceive as an evil and Pagan practice. Many extremist Christians in America have also condemned Yoga because they see it as Hindu. Other Christian groups have recognised that yoga is too popular and the yoga-banners too mad for that argument to work. So instead they have come up with "Christian-Yoga" which believers can now practice without having to incur the sin of taking up Paganism.
So everywhere you look, you'll see that the people who teach and make a living from Hindu teachings are ashamed of the Hindu roots. Even individuals seem to be ashamed of their Hindu roots. And ironically, the only people who are willing to accept the Hindu origin of teachings and practices such as Yoga are the ones who do not like those practices anyway. So the formula is simple - pick something you hate and call it "Hindu", pick something you like and call it "better than Hinduism". And eventually you get the ridiculous situation where you can have "Christian Yoga" but you can't find "Hindu Yoga" anywhere or even just "Yoga" where the Hindu origin is acknowledged. Ultimately I guess every Hindu reading this needs to ask how they themselves see "Hinduism" and the word "Hindu".
  • To me it represents not just the heritage of my parents and all my ancestors but represents the oldest living tradition in the world today.
  • It represents an unequalled richness in literature, art, architecture and history.
  • It represents a culture of scholars and ascetics who would not even put their own names to their teachings, a culture of warriors who fought bravely in the face of all sorts of enemies and brutalities to ensure the survival of Hinduism when her sister civilisations died one after another.
  • It represents a constantly evolving society which has always moved and renewed itself and has always been an open, tolerant and pluralist society.
  • It represents a wisdom which belongs to everyone, which has benefited the world in the past, benefits the world today and will continue to benefit the world in future long after we are all dead.
  • It represents this and a whole lot more and to me all of these are positive things and therefore to be called "Hindu" should be a matter of pride and honour for anyone, not the swearword that people see it as. CLICK HERE TO COMMENT / DISCUSS

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Nobody wants to follow anybody for a good cause

Working with present set of leaders and campaigner, taking media, civil society and academicians in Orissa together has also become extremely difficult. Nobody wants to follow anybody for a good cause. Since last three years of my working with issue and people, I came across several interesting cases. I had to only laugh looking at their perception and frustration of many people to this platform's activities, particularly about my intense involvement to state's each development.

I find that one sympathizes with another only so long as the other believes in everything he has to say, but as soon as he dares to differ, that sympathy is gone, that loves vanishes. I was ok, when I was restlessly campaign for NIS issue. But when we are campaigning for correcting existing higher education institutions in Orissa and advocates for the need of strengthening primary education in Orissa, a few Non-Resident Oriyas termed me as anti-Orissa?
I receive hundred good and letters of bad taste and it seems to me that their hatred and jealousy are so bitter that no why or how can be asked there. I am surprised to think in silence, when I am able to diagnose the reality in life at this age, how people of such great stature and age could not able to understand, how to shape their future and becoming frustrated and restless and demoralizing people, who are working in a mission, in whatever the capacity they are. This should be stopped at any cost.
I feel that political leader should have possessed passion, a feeling of responsibility and a sense of proportion. Passion in this context means having larger goals in mind, not just advancing your own personal self-interest. Yet the sense of proportion-is perspective , which is equally important. I appeal to our leaders to be conscious in the above lines. A strange development is happening in Orissa with our leaders. Another serious mistake is to create a climate in which people are afraid to tell you the truth. This is a temptation to which many leaders across the years have fallen prey...Regards, Sachi Satpathy Coordinator, Orissa Politics Platform Tue, 27 Feb 2007 12:17:20 +0530 Winner, Infosys Young Achiever's Finalist Award-2005 Mobile-(0)9901307460

Libertarianism is the foundation of the American way. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness

Radical Capitalists Chris Dierkes Monday, February 26, 2007
An interview from CSpan BookTV with Brian Doherty author of the new biography of modern libertarianism Radicals for Capitalism. Fascinating interview and fills a vacuum in the literature. Whatever one's views on the subject matter, he does a very good job of informing--Doherty himself is a libertarian so his views are shaded in that direction. But overall I think he does a fair job--I definitely want to give the book a read. No way to cover all of libertarianism, but just a few thoughts. I come at this topic more from the political philosophy than economics side, but with libertarians the two are always mixed. They certainly are an interesting bred, given that they don't fit very well into either established political party. The recent argument for Liberal-tarians I think is not going much of anywhere, but major new right conservatism is not all libertarian either. Doherty begins by stating that libertarianism is the foundation of the American way. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Interestingly, always pursuing happiness is from the spiritual point of view meditation upon the fact that one is unhappy. As long as one is pursuing happiness, one will never actually be happy. Sadly, says a lot about our country...
In other words, libertarianism as Doherty points out grows out of the fields of economics. I think the automatic linkage of economic market theory to how governments should run (key on should, value judgment) is problematic. I'm not saying there aren't ways in which the two do line up, but the radical-ness (or I would say absolute-ness) of that linkage for a libertarian is what I find wrongheaded. Because every step then is one slippery slope closer to totalitarianism. Trans-fat bans (which I really could care less about) becomes as one libertarian wrote the jack-boot on the throat. Really? In a world where our government is sending people to Egypt and prisons in Eastern Europe to be tortured outside government regulation (there's a piece of evidence against libertarianism) people who want to eat trans-fats are co-martyrs with innocent people tortured? When the ideological element of that is cut away, the movement can claim some major social achievements. e.g. Milton Friedman was a major force behind ending the military draft and moving to an all volunteer army. Note the emphasis on individualism... posted by CJ Smith @ 9:37 AM 2 comments

Monday, February 26, 2007

Free markets will not soon give democracy to China

China's Stubborn Anti-Democracy By Ying Ma
Hoping for change isn't enough
For more than a decade, successive U.S. presidents have declared that political liberalization leading ultimately to democratization in China would be desirable and decidedly in America’s — and the world’s — interests. The Clinton administration, after some initial tortuous twists and turns, fashioned a policy of “constructive engagement” with the Chinese government that called for close bilateral economic and political cooperation along with U.S. advocacy for democracy, open markets and human rights in China. The George W. Bush administration, though openly suspicious of China’s opaque military buildup and strategic intentions, has exhorted China to become a “responsible stakeholder” of the international community while urging it to embrace democracy.
To Washington, a China that is headed down a democratic path — even as it amasses military, political, and economic might — would offer the best assurance for peace, prosperity and cooperation with the United States and the world. China, however, appears immune to and unmoved by U.S. wishes. American democracy promotion — ranging from economic engagement to democracy programs to lofty rhetoric — has not halted the speed at which the Chinese authoritarian behemoth presses on with grave human rights abuses. For now, U.S. hopes remain just hopes.
The reasons for democracy’s slow boat to China are complicated: They range from American delusions to Chinese authoritarian resilience to Chinese nationalism. Far less complicated is the reality that as the United States trumpets democracy worldwide as a strategic objective and a sign of human progress, China is unabashedly providing a counter-example. Successful democratization in China, therefore, will not only usher in freedom for 1.3 billion Chinese citizens, but also strike a blow against the stubbornness of authoritarianism worldwide. It is therefore vital for U.S. policymakers to examine China’s success in resisting democratization, reassess the tools and assumptions of current democracy promotion efforts, and think of new ways to remove the roadblocks to freedom.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Five years are enough

From: Tusar N. Mohapatra To: Sandip Dasverma
Sorry, I don't share your sentiment that Kalam continue. Five years are enough as thousands of others, equally qualified, are in the waiting list. Tusar N Mohapatra

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Markets are never pure in themselves, there is always the pre-existent hands of government

Re: Nonalgorithmic Economics: The Evolution of Future Wealth, by Stuart A. Kaufmann by Rich on Fri 23 Feb 2007 12:17 PM PST Profile Permanent Link
Kaufmann's equation of physical and social systems is a really serious mistaking of logical types. Although I am inspired by Kaufmann's work in self-organizing natural systems, I am a bit skeptical about his advocacy for adapting metaphors from emergent biological systems onto the field of economics or to social systems in general. Although an analysis of self-organization and emergent behavior maybe appropriate in biological systems once we begin to overlay these notions onto social systems there arises real problems.
For example, libertarians would argue that one has to leave the economy to the self-organization of markets and that the emergent behavior of said markets will optimize the potential of the economy. What is left out of this analysis is the very fact that markets are never pure in themselves, there is always the pre-existent hands of government who have already created laws to regulate markets - most often at the behest of powerful economic self-interest groups – and so the economy is already soico-politically constructed and controlled by invisible hands to optimize the business practices of the already rich and powerful Therefore to pretend that market forces or social systems are propelled by the same mechanisms as biological systems is to exclude an extremely important critical dimension from one's analysis. rich

Friday, February 23, 2007

There is a subtle spirituality and awareness

As I mentioned in the previous web diary, my retreat participation is, for the most part, slightly different this time in India – I am taking part in work retreats – dharma as service.
The first of these was a tree-planting and meditation retreat. The reforestation project called Sadhana forest works entirely from the help of volunteers including the two dedicated leaders of the project, Aviram and Orit. These two people really practice Brahmacharya in terms of renunciation of worldly possessions and seem to find Santosha, contentment, from this.
For the last three years they have devoted their lives to putting back an almost extinct tropical dry evergreen forest (one of very few on this planet), which the English (bless them), during the colonial times demolished in order to use the wood for their infrastructure – railways, building construction, boats and ornate furniture. It is difficult for me to find forgiveness at this point but I guess they had no idea of the damage they were doing.
It is only due to the local village temples, which are to be found in small groves of ancient trees, that the re-cultivation of new trees has been able to take place. The seeds of these trees have been used for this purpose. Without them the forest would, indeed, be extinct. These trees are and always have been sacred – the English could not touch them. Little did the villagers know back then just how sacred those trees were to become.
The land mass of the original Tropical Dry Evergreen Forest spread all the way from Sri Lanka and up the Coromandel coast of Tamil Nadu, Southern India, usually a strip of around 50 kms wide and including over 1000 species – all of which are under threat. So, having the opportunity to contribute in some small way really felt like an honour. Unfortunately, I was sick for a lot of the retreat but really benefited from the small amount of planting I did do.
It is, I think, worth mentioning that the community, above everything, practices ahimsa/non-harmfulness. All the food is vegan and no animal or chemical products whatsoever are used either on the land or on people – exemplifying how ahimsa is practiced in a tangible way in daily life. In addition, there is a subtle spirituality and awareness demonstrated daily which is all held within the sustainable structure of the project. Ahimsa, then, is the Sadhana.
There is much more I could say about this project but if you wish to know more then please visit:

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Merit rather than genealogy

Joseph Ellis - February 21st, 2007 Britannica Blog
American society was more open to talent than England or Europe, where hereditary bloodlines were essential credentials for entry into public life. The Founders comprised what Jefferson called “a natural aristocracy,” meaning a political elite based on merit rather than genealogy, thus permitting men of impoverished origins like Hamilton and Franklin, who would have languished in obscurity in London, to reach the top tier. In the latter (i.e., “pre-democratic”) sense, the Founders were a self-conscious elite unburdened by egalitarian assumptions. Their constituency was not “the people” but “the public,” which they regarded as the long-term interest of the citizenry that they—the Founders—had been chosen to divine. Living between the assumptions of an aristocratic and a democratic world without belonging fully to either, the founders maximized the advantages of both. Britannica Blog

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

All the seals are based on Vedas

Home > From the Past German Indologist claims to have decoded Indus scripts
Panaji, Feb 07: Renowned German Indologist and scientist of religion, Egbert Richter Ushanas today claimed that he has unravelled the mystery of Indus Valley scripts by decoding major seals and tablets found during various archaeological excavations. "Already 1,000-odd seals are decoded and of them, 300-odd are printed in monography -- the message of Indus seals and tablets," stated Richter, who has also decoded tablets from Easter Island in Pacific Ocean and disc of Phaistos on Island of Crete in Meditarrenean Sea.
"All the seals are based on Vedas -- Rig Veda and Atharva Veda," Richter told a news agency here. He is here to attend the International Indology Conference, beginning from February 7. Richter, who began decoding the mysteries behind the seals way back in 1988, feels that after decoding 1,000-odd seals, there is no need to decode the rest. "You need not eat all apples of world to understand the apple. Few apples are enough," he quipped. The path-breaking decoding by Richter is based on the Sumerian and Brahmi script wherein he has detected the lost meaning of the seals which can be traced to Vedic era. A Vedic scholar himself, Richter during the course of unravelling the Indus Valley mysteries, has translated all the important Vedic hymns and is a Sanskrit exponent too. Bureau Report

Indian secularism means tolerance and acceptability of all religions

Conference on religion and politics Srinand Jha » IndiaWednesday, February 21, 2007
New Delhi, February 20, 2007: The “Hindu Rashtra” idea is perceived as a “pale imitation” of the concept of theocratic Pakistan and its unacceptability amongst large masses of Indians originates from the fact that it is seen as promoting a “mad and an anti-Hindu” worldview.
This is Panchayati Raj Minister Mani Shankar Aiyer’s rationale for upholding the “sanctity and preciousness” of the “civilizational values” of democracy and secularism that India stands for and promotes. “It is time for India to take the lead on the world stage to offer concepts and solutions for social and political upheavals being witnessed in different parts of the globe”, Aiyer said in his plenary address on the concluding day of a two-day seminar at New Delhi on Tuesday.
Jointly organised by the University of Cambridge and the India International Centre, the conference - entitled Politics and Religion in India - generated seminal discussions on the role of religion in the evolution of politics in India and Pakistan.
Religion continues to retain important space in India, but it is the adaptive and flexible concept of the Hinduism that has remained relevant and acceptable, Aiyer said. In his hour-long and erudite speech, Aiyer sought to draw the difference between the ideas of Western secularism (meaning disassociation from all religions), as against the concept of Indian secularism (meaning tolerance and acceptability of all religions).
Presenting his background paper at one of the sessions, former director of the centre for political studies at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, Aswin Ray said that the “breakdown of the Nehruvian consensus” during the period of emergency in India was the important-most factor contributing to the growth of communalism in India. Former bureaucrat NN Vohra and strategy affairs expert Bharat Karnad were the other speakers at this session.

Four unprecedented achievements of the U.S. Founding Fathers

At the most general level, they created the first modern nation-state based on liberal principles. These include
  • the democratic principle that political sovereignty in any government resides in the citizenry rather than in a divinely sanctioned monarchy,
  • the capitalistic principle that economic productivity depends upon the release of individual energies in the marketplace rather than state-sponsored policies,
  • the moral principle that the individual, not the society or the state, is the sovereign unit in the political equation, and
  • the judicial principle that all citizens, regardless of class or gender, are equal before the law.

Moreover, this liberal formula has become the preferred political recipe for success in the modern world, vanquishing the European monarchies in the 19th century and the totalitarian regimes of Germany, Japan, and the Soviet Union in the 20th century. More specifically, the Founding Fathers managed to defy conventional wisdom in four unprecedented achievements:

  • first, they won a war for colonial independence against the most powerful military and economic power in the world;
  • second, they established the first large-scale republic in the modern world;
  • third, they invented political parties that institutionalized the concept of a legitimate opposition;
  • fourth, they established the principle of the legal separation of church and state, though it took several decades for that principle to be implemented in all the states.

Finally, all these achievements were won without recourse to the guillotine or the firing-squad wall, which is to say without the violent purges that accompanied subsequent revolutions in France, Russia, and China. This was the overarching accomplishment that the British philosopher Alfred Lord North Whitehead had in mind when he observed that there were only two instances in the history of Western Civilization when the political elite of an emerging empire behaved as well as one could reasonably expect: the first was Rome under Caesar Augustus, and the second was the United States under the Founding Fathers.

What about their failures? Slavery was incompatible with the values of the American Revolution, and all the prominent members of the revolutionary generation acknowledged that fact...Indeed, by insisting that slavery was a matter of state rather than federal jurisdiction, they implicitly removed the slavery question from the national agenda. This decision had catastrophic consequences...Please jump in and add your own thoughts.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Hayek put the price mechanism on the same level as, for example, language

Friedrich Hayek identified two different traditions within classical liberalism: the "British tradition" and the "French tradition". Hayek saw the British philosophers David Hume, Adam Smith, Adam Ferguson, Josiah Tucker, Edmund Burke and William Paley as representative of a tradition that articulated beliefs in empiricism, the common law, and in traditions and institutions which had spontaneously evolved but were imperfectly understood. The French tradition included Rousseau, Condorcet, the Encyclopedists and the Physiocrats. This tradition believed in rationalism and the unlimited powers of reason, and sometimes showed hostility to tradition and religion. Hayek conceded that the national labels did not exactly correspond to those belonging to each tradition: Hayek saw the Frenchmen Montesquieu, Constant and Tocqueville as belonging to the "British tradition" and the British Thomas Hobbes, Godwin, Priestley, Richard Price and Thomas Paine as belonging to the "French tradition".[19] Hayek also rejected the label "laissez faire" as originating from the French tradition and alien to the beliefs of Hume, Smith and Burke.
Social and political philosophy
While known more as an economist than a philosopher, in the latter half of his career Hayek made a number of contributions to social philosophy and political philosophy, derived largely from his views on the limits of human knowledge[3], and the role played by his spontaneous order in social institutions. His arguments in favor of a society organized around a market order (in which the apparatus of state is employed solely to secure the peace necessary for a market of free individuals to function) were informed by a moral philosophy derived from epistemological concerns regarding the inherent limits of human knowledge. In his philosophy of science, Hayek was highly critical of what he termed scientism — a false understanding of the methods of science mistakenly forced upon on the social sciences but actually contrary to the practices of genuine science. Usually this involves combining the philosopher's ancient (and confused) demand for demonstrative justification with an associationist's false view that all scientific explanations are simple two variable linear relationships. Hayek points out that much of science involved the explanation of complex multi-variable and non-linear phenomena, and that the social science of economics and undesigned order compares favorably with such complex sciences as Darwinian biology (see The Counter-Revolution of Science: Studies in the Abuse of Reason, 1952 and some of Hayek's later essays in the philosophy of science such as "Degrees of Explanation" and "The Theory of Complex Phenomena"). In The Sensory Order: An Inquiry into the Foundations of Theoretical Psychology (1952), he independently developed a "Hebbian learning" model of learning and memory — an idea which Hayek first conceived in 1920, prior to his study of economics. Hayek's expansion of the "Hebbian synapse" construction into a global brain theory has received continued attention among the best minds in neuroscience, cognitive science, computer science, behavioral science, and evolutionary psychology.
Spontaneous order
Hayek viewed the free price system, not as a conscious invention (that which is intentionally designed by man), but as spontaneous order, or what is referred to as "that which is the result of human action but not of human design". Thus, Hayek put the price mechanism on the same level as, for example, language. Such thinking led him to speculate on how the human brain could accommodate this evolved behavior. In The Sensory Order (1952), he proposed, independently of Donald Hebb, the connectionist hypothesis that forms the basis of the technology of neural networks and of much of modern neurophysiology. Hayek attributed the birth of civilization to private property in his book The Fatal Conceit (1988). According to him, price signals are the only possible way to let each economic decision maker communicate tacit knowledge or dispersed knowledge to each other, in order to solve the economic calculation problem.

It was thought that he diminished the role of reason

Hayek's Leading Ideas
Hayek represented the subjective approach of the free-market oriented Austrian School of Economics, distinguished by its methodological individualism. His economic analysis, therefore, rested upon the insight that every individual chooses and acts in pursuit of his purposes and in accordance with his perception of his options for achieving them. His early writings, as shown above, were in pure economic theory.
Hayek's trade cycle theory explained that overinvestment leads to scarcity of capital compelling a cutback in investment and even the abandonment of a part of the real capital produced because of the excessive investment rate.
His most important discovery was the "division of knowledge" and the spontaneous order. The spontaneous interaction of millions of individuals, each possessing unique information of which beneficial use might be made, created circumstances that cannot be conveyed to any central authority. A system of signals - the price system - was therefore the only mechanism that communicates information and enables people to adapt to circumstances of which they know nothing. The whole modern order and well-being rested on the possibility of adapting to processes that were unknown. It was not scientific knowledge which matters, but the unorganized particular knowledge of time and place.
While for most social philosophers the chief aim of politics consisted in setting up an ideal social order through utopian reforms, Hayek's main task was the finding of rules that enable men with different values and convictions to live together. These rules were established so as to permit each individual to fulfill his aims and to limit government action.
In his "Denationalization of Money" (1976) he convincingly argued that inflation could be avoided only if the monopolistic power of issuing money was taken away from government and state authorities and the task given to private industry to promote competition in currencies.
According to Hayek, cultural evolution was not a result of human reason consciously building institutions, but a process in which culture and reason developed concurrently. The spontaneous social order generated by individuals interacting according to these general rules was distinguished from the constructivist approach exemplified by socialist ideas, which interpreted all order as the product of conscious design.
Hayek's seminal work arose and developed from a comprehensive approach to various intellectual disciplines that condition and influence one another. Although there were only a few direct disciples in academia, Hayek's influence on pure economics, public policy, and social, political, and legal philosophy were tremendous.
Classical Liberalism
During the 1980s, Hayek's interdisciplinary theories gained wider dissemination, especially his opposition to the concept that publc institutions could be designed to meet human requirements and intentions. He preferred an almost laissez-faire approach in which public order evolved from specific ideas and actions. Thus, he was opposed to the highly-centralized economics of the various forms of socialism, which denied the economics of the marketplace.
British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, was greatly influenced by Hayek's ideas of personal liberty and market economics and based many of her government's conservative policies upon her interpretation of his concepts.
In 1991, Hayek published his final volume, Economic Freedom, in which he argued that political/economic coercion is the greatest threat to individual freedom and best achieved through the natural evolution of market forces.
Since Hayek's death in March 1992, there has been continuing debate concerning his interdisciplinary system. It was thought that he diminished the role of reason, and failed to reconcile the value of such liberal institutions as have evolved with their role as preservers and nurturers of reason and freedom. Library > People > Biographies

Monday, February 19, 2007

A mind-boggling array of topics, phenomena, and complexities

Home > Academic Books > The Oxford Companion to Economics in India Author(s) : Kaushik Basu (General Editor) Description: As we get into the twenty-first century, the concept of ‘the Indian economy’ has come to encompass a mind-boggling array of topics, phenomena, and complexities. Understanding India’s economy is not just an intellectual challenge, but, with the country emerging as a major global economy, also a requirement.
This unique volume, the first comprehensive resource of its kind on the contemporary Indian economy, aims to address this need. Culled from the collective wisdom and experience of 200 distinguished contributors, including economists, business leaders, policymakers, and analysts, it collates facts with contemporary thinking on the Indian economy, to provide an accessible account of the diverse range of themes and issues relevant to India today.
The more than 200 entries cover the evolution of the Indian economy from relative obscurity to an emergent global force, from the ‘Hindu’ rate of growth to its recent surge. They span the recent cover stories of India’s phenomenal growth, leadership in software and information technology, and outsourcing success, and also document the backwaters—the widespread poverty, farmer suicides, child labour, and the large and impoverished informal sector that houses a majority of India’s labour force. [OUP]
Seems like a must read book;“It is and, in fact, has just been accomplished astonishingly well. The Oxford Companion to Economics in India (OUP), edited by Kaushik Basu, weighs in at five kilos and is priced at Rs 2,750 but is worth every naya paisa for its range of subject matter and learning.

It would be a tragic irony of fate if India were to throw away her spiritual heritage

In this hour, in the second year of its liberation the nation has to awaken to many more very considerable problems, to vast possibilities opening before her but also to dangers and difficul­ties that may, if not wisely dealt with, become formidable. There is a disordered world-situation left by the war, full of risks and sufferings and shortages and threatening another catastrophe which can only be solved by the united effort of the peoples and can only be truly met by an effort at world-union such as was conceived at San Francisco but has not till now been very successful in the practice; still the effort has to be continued and new devices found which will make easier the difficult transition from the perilous divisions of the past and present to a harmo­nious world-order; for otherwise there can be no escape from continuous calamity and collapse.
There are deeper issues for India herself, since by following certain tempting directions she may conceivably become a nation like many others evolving an opulent industry and commerce, a powerful organisation of social and political life, an immense military strength, practising power-politics with a high degree of success, guarding and ex­tending zealously her gains and her interests, dominating even a large part of the world, but in this apparently magnificent pro­gression forfeiting its Swadharma, losing its soul. Then ancient India and her spirit might disappear altogether and we would have only one more nation like the others and that would be a real gain neither to the world nor to us. There is a question whe­ther she may prosper more harmlessly in the outward life yet lose altogether her richly massed and firmly held spiritual experience and knowledge. It would be a tragic irony of fate if India were to throw away her spiritual heritage at the very moment when in the rest of the world there is more and more a turning towards her for spiritual help and a saving Light. This must not and will surely not happen; but it cannot be said that the danger is not there.
There are indeed other numerous and difficult problems that face this country or will very soon face it. No doubt we will win through, but we must not disguise from ourselves the fact that after these long years of subjection and its cramping and impairing effects a great inner as well as outer liberation and change, a vast inner and outer progress is needed if we are to fulfil India's true destiny. [MESSAGE TO THE ANDHRA UNIVERSITY11th December 1948]
Sri Aurobindo is in no way bound by the present world's insti­tutions or current ideas whether in political, social or economic field; it is not necessary for him either to approve or disapprove of them. He does not regard either capitalism or orthodox social­ism as the right solution for the world's future; nor can he admit that the admission of private enterprise by itself makes the society capitalistic, a socialistic economy can very well admit some amount of controlled or subordinated private enterprise as an aid to its own working or a partial convenience without ceasing to be socialistic. Sri Aurobindo has his own views as to how far Congress economy is intended to be truly socialistic or whe­ther that is only a cover, but he does not care to express his views on that point at present. [CURRENT POLITICAL, SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC IDEAS 15-4-1949]

Saturday, February 17, 2007

They were for national self-sufficiency in key industries

The Nationalist programme could only achieve a partial beginning before it was temporarily broken by severe govern­ment repression. Its most important practical item was Swadeshi plus Boycott; for Swadeshi much was done to make the idea general and a few beginnings were made, but the greater results showed themselves only afterwards in the course of time. Sri Aurobindo was anxious that this part of the movement should be not only propagated in idea but given a practical organisation and an effective force.
He wrote from Baroda asking whether it would not be possible to bring in the industrialists and manufacturers and gain the financial support of landed magnates and create an organisation in which men of industrial and commercial ability and experience and not politicians alone could direct operations and devise means of carrying out the policy; but he was told that it was impossible, the industrialists and the landed magnates were too timid to join in the movement, and the big commercial men were all interested in the import of British goods and therefore on the side of the status quo: so he had to abandon his idea of the organisation of Swadeshi and Boycott.
Both Tilak and Sri Aurobindo were in favour of an effective boycott of British goods — but of British goods only; for there was little in the country to replace foreign articles: so they re­commended the substitution for the British of foreign goods from Germany and Austria and America so that the fullest pressure might be brought upon England. They wanted the Boycott to be a political weapon and not merely an aid to Swadeshi; the total boycott of all foreign goods was an impracticable idea and the very limited application of it recommended in Congress resolutions was too small to be politically effective.
They were for national self-sufficiency in key industries, the production of necessities and of all manufactures of which India had the natural means, but complete self-sufficiency or autarchy did not seem practicable or even desirable since a free India would need to export goods as well as supply them for internal consumption and for that she must import as well and maintain an international exchange. But the sudden enthusiasm for the boycott of all foreign goods was wide and sweeping and the leaders had to conform to this popular cry and be content with the impulse it gave to the Swadeshi idea. Page - 31

The capitalist West is not too far from creating an underclass of untouchables

Edward Berge Says: February 14th, 2007 at 7:23 am I’m not anti-business and pro-government; like all things it’s a dynamic, on-going balance. So in that sense yes, labor unions were instituted in a democracy to balance out the abuses of the owners of business. We’ve seen what business will do if left unfettered in a strict laissez-faire capitalism as witnessed by the abuses of the industrial revolution. So labor unions evolved with government legislation to balance this.
But labor unions have been eroded in part by their own corruption and in larger part by those same laissez-faire capitalists that have the most clout by buying Congressmen and women. As an earlier source noted, those with such just cause protection (government and labor unions) comprise less than 10% of the workforce, with nearly 90% working at will.
At will does not balance the scales to protect employers from predatory employees. In fact the opposite occurs with a regression to unfettered “master-slave” rules that bind employees out of fear of reprisal or whim. And when wrongful termination lawsuits do make it to court trial lawyers go for the punitive touchdown with ends up costing way more than a more reasonable, government-funded arbitration system.
Yes, corporations have instituted ethical business practices, some of out true care and some out of regulatory force. But business cannot be left to police itself just as the fox cannot be counted on to guard the henhouse (or II can be counted on to accurately judge the altitude of its critics). One of the purposes of democracy is checks and balances to protect against conflict of interest, so government plays a crucial role here...
ray harris Says: February 14th, 2007 at 4:40 pm Here’s a radical idea. If people can organise themselves into corporations to pursue profit and receive specific exemptions and privileges under law why can’t a body of employees similarly incorporate themselves into a corporation?
The fact is that US Labor history has largely been about keeping the power in the hands of the corporations. What happened to freedom of association? The freedom to form whatever collective you wanted? If you can create a church, a sporting club, a corporation, for mutual benefit then why not a union?
The bottom line is that capitalism needs a pool of cheap labour. And what this means in very plain terms is that in order for the top to enjoy wealth the bottom has to be kept poor...It is always someone else who has to be poor to make America great.
ray harris Says: February 15th, 2007 at 5:10 pm Who’s going to clean the toilets? I was watching Newshour (yes, we get it here) and there was an interview with a woman from the US Labour movement. The interviewer was pushing the free market argument as a counter-foil. He argued that the market will correct itself somehow. Those that lose jobs in manufacturing can move to higher paid ’service’ jobs. Say what? No matter what ex-manufacturing workers do next they will all need to eat, wear clothes and someone is still going to have to clean the toilets. In India they created the dalits - the untouchables, to do all the dirty work. The capitalist West is not too far from creating an underclass of untouchables, people we determine shall do the dirty work and get paid a pittance. Not my idea of justice...

Just as Rammohan Roy created the new progressive Bengali » Editorial » The Big Idea » A reformer for the poor Sagarika Ghose February 15, 2007
Bhattacharjee’s industrial policy is certainly the only hope for West Bengal but the policy itself must be implemented in a manner that befits Buddha-babu. After all, he is a reformer of the poor, not a reformer of the rich. His economic reforms are designed to rescue millions from poverty, not simply contribute to the coffers of industrial houses.
There is another initiative that Buddha-babu must take as he embarks on the transformation of society and mentality in Bengal. Just as Rammohan Roy created the new progressive Bengali in the 19th century through an exciting fusion of Christian thought and Indian tradition, Bhattacharjee has to create a new, homegrown ‘Leftism’, a Leftism of democratic, market-friendly rootedness. How will he do this? Reformist chief ministers generally always lose the people’s confidence. Chandrababu Naidu, SM Krishna and Om Prakash Chautala were all bundled out of office for daring to reform the economy.
Yet, Bhattacharjee has advantages that his other chief ministerial colleagues do not. In West Bengal, the CPI(M) is a formidably well-organised party machine, a system in which in every village, almost everyone, from the postman to the seamstress, is loyal to an entity they call ‘the party’. Bhattacharjee should use this party machine to his advantage and push a ‘New Bengali’ agenda. He should embark on a programme of mass contact, in almost Gandhian style. If the CPI(M) becomes a regional rather than an ideological party, if it transforms itself (invisibly) into a Bengali DMK or Akali Dal, based on identity rather than ideology, then Bhattacharjee might find he has far more room to manoeuvre ideologically.
In short, for the economic agenda to succeed, the Chief Minister must not sing ‘ekla chalo re’. Instead, this is the time to ride out aggressively to meet the people, to encourage a range of new programmes and campaigns centred on a new Bengal and for using the party machine to embark on a whole new era of populism. Sops, subsidies and gifts to voters have never been the CPI(M)’s style. The cadres have ruled more by fear and intimidation than by generosity. But the time of economic reforms is also the time of generosity. It is a time for unleashing reforms across the board, not just in building flyovers and malls, but in the agriculture market, in police stations, in cultural festivals, in the post offices and in the bureaucracy.
The unsmiling, stern apparatchik must stand forth as a large-hearted leader of the people, a Bengali NTR or MGR, a popular hero, a subaltern who wants to make money for the sake of the village and not for the sake of the city, a towering personality who believes in pragmatism. Certain types of reformers are always popular in India, whether a Krishna Chaitanya or a Ramakrish-na Parmahansa — the reformers of the poor. Reforms have to be phrased in the language and idiom of the poor and not in the language of dry CII policy. Bhattacharjee has the votes, he has the mandate, he has the party organisation, he has the personal incorruptibility and now he has the historic moment. He has the opportunity to create a whole new language of economic reform. If he succeeds, Bhattacharjee will be the first Chief Minister to have created economic reforms in the name of the poor. And that will really be a metamorphosis. The writer is Senior Editor, CNN-IBN Email Sagarika Ghose:

Lucas Dengel of Auro Annam at Auroville

Tamil Nadu - Chennai Biological approach to waste highlighted Staff Reporter Incineration, land filling `do not address real problem' Chennai : The New College Department of Biotechnology and the United States Educational Foundation of India (USEFI) jointly organised a one-day symposium on waste treatment and management...Lucas Dengel of Auro Annam at Auroville made a presentation on the achievements and unexplored scope of effective microorganisms technology in India. Frederick Kaplan, Acting Consul General of the United States in Chennai participated in the inaugural function.

Prof Asiananda of Sri Aurobindo Chair for Human Unity

Surely, we, as humanity, are getting closer to another ‘Cuban Missile Crisis’; and the book, Normative Prognosis, 2011’ by Prof Asiananda of Sri Aurobindo Chair for Human Unity, I know, has come out of the author’s premonition that we might not have the same luck as was in 1962! That fatal bullet in 1914 in Sarajevo which unleashed the long drawn out European civil war of World War I & II followed by the Cold War turning the twentieth century into bloody landscape of a hundred million deaths may be upon us again, this time at nuclear threshold of Armageddon proportions...
This is the vision that has gone into the founding of the Sri Aurobindo Chair for Human Unity at our University which my friend and colleague Prof Asiananda has been holding now for a decade, he has remained committed to renewing and revalidating Rajiv Gandhi’s Action Plan (for a non-violent, nuclear weapon–free New World Order) enabled through the transformation of the UN Security Council in the Round Table of the New Human Commonwealth. Such a transition of the status quo Yalta Order is normative and historically inevitable, and has to be the order of the day after Huntington Fukuyama and the demise of the PNAC.
Prof Jan R. Hakemulder The writer is Chancellor, Intercultural Open University, The Netherlands. This article is excerpted from his preface to Prof Asiananda’s new book, ‘Normative Prognosis-2011’ - Syndicate Features - Posted by Marc Parent mparent7777 mparent CCNWON at 11:56 AM

Friday, February 16, 2007

Peace and a self-existent bliss

Reflections on conflict and peace: Favela Morro da Pereira Written by Damon Lynch Friday, 16 February 2007
The search for perfection, the longing for freedom, truth and pure peace has been humanity's earliest preoccupation in its awakened mind (Ghose, 1971). Humanity dreams of a state of being which is in flagrant contradiction with reality. Sages like Aurobindo suggest that life might well be a series of “transitory satisfactions besieged by physical pain and emotional suffering”, but like generations before us we still long to “build peace and a self-existent bliss”.

Their complaints are too vague to allow for rigorous analysis

Before getting into the details of LSS I will indicate what I take to be soft spots of the Frankfurt/Critical Theory program. February 4th, 2007 Rafe Champion
First of all they are committed to the replacement of what they call capitalism (under various names) by some kind of socialism and participatory democracy. Quite likely these aims are contradictory. They may have given up on revolution but instead them make do with crisis. Those who are humane and reasonable people presumably expect that the changes that they desire will promote peace, freedom and prosperity but they never (to my knowledge) come to grips with the classical liberal agenda which has the same objectives by very different means. It is hard to know whether this is a manifestation of ignorance and lack of curiosity, or whether it just demonstrates the power of groupthink among networks of friends and associates (like the 30 people who endorsed David McKnights book).
Those who write hundreds of thousands of words on methodology and cultural critiques are apparently unable to explain what actual concrete policy proposals they would like to put in place to improve the situation. Cultural critique stands in place of policy and planning, with specified targets and examples of success and failure where policies have been tried. Part of their problem is that any talk of success and failure would need to specify targets and criteria for success and that would mean coming down out of the clouds to talk about the world we actually live in. Their complaints are too vague to allow for rigorous analysis – for example we consume too much – but by what criterion? And do they think that wage reductions would help? (a prima facie excellent policy to reduce consumption).
The other soft spots that I had in mind can actually be found in LSS because they are errors of epistemology, methodology, the theory of rationality, theories of language, psychology, literary interpretation and textual analysis. And more (for another time).

To produce food with a certain consciousness that feeds us on every level

We are a small mixed farm and produce mainly vegetables and eggs. We have an educational program for eight local apprentices. As a volunteer you will become part of our 'community of learners' learning with and from each other. As a farm that is part of the spiritually orientated community/collective of Auroville our work has a spiritual orientation. We are concerned to produce food with a certain consciousness that feeds us on every level. We aim to work, learn and grow in consciousness together. We can welcome up to 10 volunteers who stay in locally made huts. For more information go to our website. Posted by Deepa Singh at 10:58 AM

Rogue aid

Help Not Wanted By MOISÉS NAÍM The New York Times: February 15, 2007 Washington
MY friend was visibly shaken...manufacturing jobs are lost to China every day. But my friend is not in manufacturing. He works in foreign aid. His story is about Nigeria’s trains. The Nigerian government operates three railways, which are notoriously corrupt and inefficient. They are also falling apart. The World Bank — where my friend works — proposed a project based on the commonsense observation that there was no point in lending the Nigerians money without also tackling the corruption that had crippled the railways. After months of negotiation, the bank and Nigeria’s government agreed on a $5 million project that would allow private companies to come in and help clean up the railways.
But just as the deal was about to be signed, the Chinese government offered Nigeria $9 billion to rebuild the entire rail network — no bids, no conditions and no need to reform. That was when my friend packed his suitcase and went to the airport. It is not an isolated case. In recent years, wealthy nondemocratic regimes have begun to undermine development policy through their own activist aid programs. Call it rogue aid. It is development assistance that is nondemocratic in origin and nontransparent in practice, and its effect is typically to stifle real progress while hurting ordinary citizens.
China is actively backing such deals throughout Africa; its financing of roads, electrical plants, ports and the like boomed from $700 million in 2003 to nearly $3 billion for each of the past two years. Indeed, it is a worldwide strategy. Beijing has agreed to expand Indonesia’s electrical grid in a matter of months. Too bad the deal calls for building several plants that use a highly polluting, coal-based Chinese technology. No international agency would have signed off on such an environmentally unfriendly deal.
In the Philippines, the Asian Development Bank, which lends money at low interest rates to poor countries, had agreed to finance Manila’s new aqueduct. It, too, was suddenly told that its money was no longer needed. China was offering cheaper rates, faster approval and fewer questions.
What’s behind this sudden Chinese drive to do good around the world? The three short answers are money, international politics and access to raw materials. China’s central bank has the world’s largest foreign exchange reserves, totaling $1.06 trillion. Beijing is increasingly leveraging this cash to ensure its access to raw materials and to advance China’s growing global influence. What better than a generous foreign-aid program to ensure the good will of a petro-power like Nigeria or a natural-resource-rich neighbor like Indonesia?
China is not the first country to make aid a tool in advancing its interests abroad. The Soviet Union and the United States spent decades giving development aid to dictators in exchange for their allegiance. Even today, American largess to Egypt and Pakistan is rooted in geopolitical calculation.
But beginning in the 1990s, foreign aid had begun to slowly improve. Scrutiny by the news media shamed many developed countries into curbing their bad practices. Today, the projects of organizations like the World Bank are meticulously inspected by watchdog groups. Although the system is far from perfect, it is certainly more transparent than it was when foreign aid routinely helped ruthless dictators stay in power.
Nor is China the only regime offering rogue aid. President Hugo Chávez has not been shy in using his nation’s oil money to recruit allies abroad. Indeed, Venezuela’s ambassador to Nicaragua, explaining his country’s large aid packages in the region, bluntly announced, “We want to infect Latin America with our model.”
Mr. Chávez’s financial aid to Cuba far exceeds what the island used to get from Leonid Brezhnev during the heyday of Soviet communism, and it has dashed hopes for Cuba’s opening as a result of Fidel Castro’s demise and the island’s bankruptcy. Because of Mr. Chávez’s artificial lifeline, Cubans will be forced to wait even longer for the indispensable reforms that will bring their society opportunities for true prosperity and freedom.
Iranian aid to Hamas in Palestine and Hezbollah in Lebanon may have increased Iran’s influence in the region, but it is damaging to the people in those countries for the same reason that Venezuelan aid hurts Cubans. The same can be said of Saudi Arabia’s sponsorship, in countries like Pakistan, of religious schools that fail to equip students with the skills they need to get jobs.
One could argue that students are surely better off going to any school than being in the streets. But why should these be the only options? Why can’t the Saudis finance education, the Chinese pay for railroads and electric grids, and the Venezuelans help Cuba’s economy without also hurting poor Pakistanis, Nigerians and Cubans? Because the goal of these donors is not to help other countries develop. Rather, they seek to further their own national interests, advance an ideological agenda or even line their own pockets. Rogue aid providers couldn’t care less about the long-term well-being of the population of the countries they aid.
States like China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela have the cash and the will to reshape the world into a place very unlike the one where we want to live. By pushing their alternative development model, such states effectively price responsible aid programs out of the market exactly where they are needed most. In place of those programs, rogue donors offer to underwrite a world that is more corrupt, chaotic and authoritarian. That sort of aid is in no one’s interest, except the rogues. Moisés Naím, the editor in chief of Foreign Policy magazine, is the author of “Illicit: How Smugglers, Traffickers and Copycats Are Hijacking the Global Economy.”

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Lawmakers on freebie vacations and other junkets

Editorial: Congress and Self-Reform Published: February 14, 2007
Taxpayers have been slowly discovering the bad, the ugly and, lately, a touch of good in Congress’s tight relations with the lobbying industry. Last November’s candidates promised all manner of reform, and the good was the enactment of a long-overdue ban on lobbyists’ currying insider clout by taking lawmakers on freebie vacations and other junkets. But the bad remains to be dealt with: the practice of lawmakers creating secondary “leadership” kitties to sock away extra money from lobbyists and other special-interest donors beyond the usual campaign committees.
What’s ugly are the crass ways members routinely press lobbyists for leadership donations — for things like $5,000 hunting and fishing trips, and a face-to-face cup of designer coffee that costs a donor $2,500. They use the money to cross-pollinate fellow politicians’ campaigns and, more and more, as a V.I.P. slush fund to pay for extra trips and other indulgences that are hardly the stuff of leadership.
Critics in Congress know the free-flowing PAC’s, as the next big scandal waiting in the wings, should be banned under campaign finance law. The leaders of the House Democratic campaign committee, in fact, have already canceled the committee’s annual ski weekend for lobbyists. Members should follow suit and ban the grossly misnamed leadership PACs as a step toward serious campaign finance reform.
“Only a moron would sell a vote for a $2,000 contribution,” said one typical House member preoccupied with fund-raising. The comment unfortunately raises the question of what more tempting price might eventually emerge.

Fiasco and confusion

Tuesday, February 13, 2007 Aurobindo's Gandhi Bashing
I don't want to be that guy who posted a clip on You-tube imitating Gandhi. But here is a quote that was as refreshing as a cuppa Madras filter coffee.
When Gandhi's movement was started, I said that this movement would lead either to a fiasco or to a great confusion. And I see no reason to change my opinion. Only I would like to add that it has led to both. - Aurobindo June 23, 1926
However a few may argue that it led to India's independence. I see it as something that was given than earned. Your thoughts? Labels: , , posted by Rajesh @ 11:57 PM Name: Rajesh Raghupati Location: Dallas, Texas, US

Monday, February 12, 2007

Solar panels are the only source of electricity

The Vegan Commune Asia » India » Tamil Nadu » Auroville By Chlo and Jesse January 27th 2007
After Mamallapuram we travelled south with Ryan and Neal to Pondicherry. Pondicherry is a bizarre cross between India and France, where we stayed in a vaguely seedy hotel over a definitely seedy bar. Pondicherry is very clean and middle class and it was a nice place to relax a while. After a few days of relaxation and lots of games of cards with Ryan and Neal, they left, as they only had a week left in India.
We then headed into Auroville, "an experiment in human unity", founded on the ideas of a guru called The Mother. In Pondicherry we had bumped into a girl we had met first in Mamallapuram, who was very enthusiastic about a community called Sadhana forest so this is where we headed and where we have been staying for the past two weeks. We live in a small hut, and go to work in the forest in the morning, (the project aims to restore Tropical Dry Evergreen Forest to the area, which was all chopped down by the colonialists, oh the irony!). Everyone in the community helps cook and clean.
Its a Vegan community in a way that goes beyond food, there is a dry composting toilet (very interesting as we both had the dreaded fever-diarrhea that went round camp last week), solar panels are the only source of electricity so we only have lights on in the toilet and living room at night and thus wake up early and go to bed early. It feels really healthy. We have also been given vegan toothpaste powder (yuk!), shampoo, and soap, to use during our stay. There aren't too many mosquitos here but on the first day Jesse got three ticks, and apparently there are three cobras living in camp! We have seen two in Auroville but none in camp. Very big and very freaky!
We are getting on ok with the vegan food but have to leave for chocolate and pasta occasionally. Thus the most danger to our health is going out on the scooter we've hired, especially when we have three people on it. The scooter is good, except the petrol gauge doesn't work, (we have ran out of petrol twice, once on a random road in the dark), and the light only works when we are revving, thus when we slow to go round corners at night we are plunged into darkness. The scooter is really fun though. We went to a hippy, straight edge (no alcohol, drugs etc.) party last week, that was really fun, we danced the night away, (the point seemed to be to look stupid and not care).
Everyone is really nice in the community, there are about forty adults and ten children. It is really international though our best friends are a couple from Brighton! We are having a brilliant time here and it will be really hard to leave, but we may have to some time next week as we only have a month left. Next we plan to head to Kanyakamari, the southern tip of India.