Wednesday, August 31, 2005

On Growing Up...

It is coincidental that this piece came to me today, August 31st, in Paulo Coelho's Warrior of Light newsletter (and I remembered: "There are no coincidences!!")

How do we survive?

It is all very well for us to try to improve our health, our standard of living and our relation with nature, but I am beginning to think we are overdoing it a little.

In the mail they have sent me three liters of products that substitute milk; a Norwegian company would like to know if I am interested in investing in the production of this new type of food, since, according to specialist David Rietz, “ALL (his capitals) cow milk contains 59 active hormones, lots of fat, colesterol,dioxins, bacterias and viruses”.

I think of the calcium that when I was a child my mother told me was good for the bones, but the specialist already has an answer for me: "Calcium? How do cows manage to acquire enough calcium for their large bone structure? From plants!” Of course, the new product is made on the basis of plants, and milk is condemned based on an endless number of studies carried out in a variety of institutes all over the world.

How about proteins? David Rietz is implacable: "I know they call milk ‘liquid meat’ (I have never heard this expression, but he must know what he is talking about) on account of the high dose of protein it contains. But proteins prevent calcium being absorbed by the organism. Countries that have a protein-rich diet also have a high rate of osteoporosis (lack of calcium in the bones)."

In the afternoon my wife sends me a text she found on the Internet:
"People who are now between 40 and 60 years old used to go about in cars that did not have safety belts, head rests or airbags. Children were left loose in the back seat, having a good time jumping around. Cradles were painted in bright colors that are now considered “dubious” because they could contain lead or some other dangerous element.”

The text goes on:
"There were no cellular phones, our parents had no way of knowing where we were: how could that be possible? Children were never right, they were always being punished, but even so they did not have psychological problems of rejection or lack of love. At school there were good students and bad students: the good ones passed, the bad ones had to repeat the year. This was not a reason for consulting a psychotherapist – they just had to repeat the year.”

I, for example, am part of a generation that built the famous ball-bearing carts (I do not know how to explain this to today’s generation – let’s say they were metal balls held between two iron arcs) and we would roll down the hilly streets of Botafogo using our shoes as brakes, falling, hurting ourselves, but ever so proud of our high-speed adventure.

And even so we survived with some scratched knees and few traumas. Not only did we survive, but we also fondly remember the time when milk was not poison, when children had to solve their problems without any help, fought when they had to, and spent a great part of the day without electronic games, inventing their own games with their friends.

...about the children of tomorrow, with their electronic games, parents with mobile phones, psychotherapists helping at each defeat and – above all – having to drink this “magic potion” that will keep them free of cholesterol, osteoporosis, 59 active hormones, and toxins.

They will live with lots of health, lots of equilibrium, and when they grow up they will discover milk... Or will we have to get our milk from drug dealers?"

I liked this piece, but then also recalled one of my favourite quotes by one Max Lerner (he used to write column for Chicago or Los Angeles Times in the 70s).

"All generations live in two worlds – an outer and an inner one. But each generation has its own inner universe – the subjective one, furnishing a window on the world through which it looks out at the outer universe. This inner world is formed early in the teens and twenties, perhaps thirties, and while it may continue to change in open-ended personalities, its basic frame remains the same. My inner word was shaped by what happened in the 1920s, 30s and 40s; that of my son in the 1950s and 60s. We have different conditionings, hang-ups, life styles, and even vocabularies. Since the pace of social change which creates the gap is not slowing down, we shall have to learn to live with it, while making a creative leap of imagination to see the outer world through the inner windows of the other generation."

Perhaps this what the lyrics of that old song meant:

The four seasons of life
Mystic hands guiding through dark and light
An adventure you can't deny
As the sun melts the ice
The four seasons of life

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Is There a "Suicide" in Your Food?!!

When India gained independence, the country did not have enough food to feed its people, and famines were almost an annual occurance. Govt. of India used to issue ads about how to save food, and Prime Minister Shastri had to appeal to the population to keep fast one day a week to save food (and gave the country the slogan "Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan" back in 1960s).

We have come a long way since then, and are a food-surplus nation. In fact, India is world's 2nd and 5th largest exporter of rice and wheat, repectively, and agriculture exports account for 14-15% of country's exports.

Good news so far, till one looks at two paradoxes of this turnaround of Indian agricultural sector:
1. a third of Indian population still goes hungry to bed everyday, and
2. the Indian agricultural sector is gripped by another kind of epidemic: suicides by farmers.

This post is about the suicide economy which remains invisible (to many) under the prowess of Indian agriculture. The estimates show around 25,000 suicides since 1997 when this phenomenon became visible... but the phenomenon is there - and growing!! (one report mentions that in Andhra Pradesh itself 8-10 farmers commit suicide everyday!!)

So why are Indian farmers committing suicide?

The Indian Farmer is India's category of HIPC (Highly Indebted Poor Countries) - resource-rich debt-ridden poor - a victim of development and economic policies.

Facts of Indebtness:

  • According to the 59th National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) report, which was released in May 2005, 49% of the 90-100mn farmer households in the country are living in debt.

  • An Indian farmer household has an average debt of Rs 12,585. The Punjab farmer tops the list with Rs 41,576/household, followed by Kerala with Rs 33,907, Haryana Rs 26,007, Andhra Rs 23,965 and Tamil Nadu Rs 23,963.

  • Half of the indebted farmers belong to five states - UP, Andhra, Maharashtra, West Bengal and Madhya Pradesh.

  • In terms of relative share, the highest farmer debt - and highest suicide rate - is in the most productive states - 82% households in Andhra Pradesh, 74.5% in Tamil Nadu, 65.4% in Punjab, 61.1% in Karnataka, 54.8% in Maharashtra... i.e., ironically, in India’s Most Historically Productive Regions, e.g., India's "breadbasket" Punjab, "Rice bowls" like Kalahandi, Andhra, or Burdwan, fertile lands like Mandya, Shimoga, Haveri, etc.

  • The total rural requirement of short-term loans for crops is about Rs 1 lakh crore/year. The financial institutions (banks, Nabard, etc.) however, supply only 12-14 per cent of this requirement. The rest comes from the local moneylenders, who charge interest rates as high as 60% (as compared to 14% charged by financial institution)

  • The financial institutions refuse loans because of the "bad loans". However, "bad loans" are due to the definition: A defaulter, even for natural reasons like crop failure (or failure of GM seeds), never gets another loan. Even Kisan Credit Cards, which have a limit of Rs 5,000 per acre, are not reusable unless the borrower has repaid the first loan in part/full.

  • However, the banks/financial institutions have yet to recover Rs 1 lakh crore from the corporate sector, while farmers only owe about Rs 15,000 crore.

  • Farmers are not one homogenous lot. They are divided according to their land holdings: marginal farmers (less than 1 hectare); small farmers (2-4 hectares); medium farmers (4-10 hectares); and, large farmers (more than 10 hectares)

  • Small and marginal farmers make up about 60% of Indian farmers. An average holding in India is just about 1.4 ha in size, and only 15 per cent of farmers can be called large. According to a 2004 RBI study, it is the small and marginal farmers who are most deprived of loans.

    ...So why are Indian Farmers indebted?

  • The decline in agriculture started during 1980's, with the decline of public investment in the sector — in irrigation, marketing infrastructure like warehousing, mandis, etc, and seeds and extension services. From 16.4 per cent in 1979-80, plan outlay in agriculture and allied activities slumped to 4.9 per cent in the Ninth Plan (1997-2002), making farming, always the most privatised, independent business, a totally support-less venture in these liberalised, globalised times (the fact that this coincided with the IMF loan is a different story)

  • Meanwhile, the global prices have dropped: from $216/ton in 1995 to $133/ton in 2001 for wheat, $98.2/ton in 1995 to $49.1/ton in 2001 for cotton, $273/ton in 1995 to $178/ton for soyabean, etc.

  • The drop in global prices is not because of increased productivity, efficiency and competitiveness of other developed economies, but due to the agricultural subsidies doled out by the rich nations to their agribusiness corporations (e.g., Monsanto, Cargill, Syngenta, etc.).

  • For instance, the U.S government pays $193/ton to US Soya farmers; 25000 cotton producers in the U.S are given a subsidy of $4bn annually, etc., leading to a subsidy of $ 230 per acre in the USA. In the process, the Indian peasants are loosing $ 26 billion or Rs.1.2 trillion annually. This is a burden their poverty does not allow them to bear. Hence the epidemic of farmer suicides.

    More to come...

  • ...this month (August,2005), Govt of India has tabled the Seed Bill, which proposes compulsory registration of "all kinds and varieties of seeds." It disallows the farmer to use his saved seeds to grow crops, unless he pays for it.

  • Even though farmers use 80% of farm-saved seeds,and farm-saved seeds are exchanged freely amongst them, under the new Bill, the the seeds exchanged among farmers will be treated as "misbranded"... i.e., no farmer can grow or organise production of seeds unless he is registered, and the seed inspector can take samples of any seed or any kind or variety.

    ...well, next time, when we take a morsel of Roti or a spoonfull of rice, at least we can pay homage to these suicide bombers of our globalized economy!!!

    A Harvest of Misery
    Suicide Spree in India's Farms
    The Suicide Economy of Corporate Globalisation
    Seeds of Ruin
    India's Agrarian Suicide
    Farmers and NGOs Oppose Seed Bill

  • Monday, August 22, 2005

    Wharton Study: IMF/WB Bad for Infrastructural "Reforms"

    Finally, the mainstream B-School academics are waking up to this reality, that many knew since long: there is something wrong with the "Free-Market Reforms" driven by IMF/WB:

    Wharton's Prof Witold Henisz and his colleagues became curious about the "mob-on-the-street story": Angry crowds protesting on the street. Political unrest. Governments caving in. Privatization failing. Money being lost for the investors.

    Combing through three decades of market reform and industry decentralization projects in dozens of countries, they tried to find the reasons for the failed or troubled reform efforts.

    And they found the link: The IMF and World Bank do indeed play a significant role in these areas - but often in a negative way. "If you see the IMF and World Bank influencing reforms in a country...," says Henisz, "It's not a seal of approval. It's a warning flag."

    Knowledge@Wharton site reports:

    "But why should the involvement of these large multilateral institutions - founded, as they were, in the interest of global good and having a positive impact on regulatory reform and privatization - be a bad thing? The reason, Henisz says, is rooted in their lending policies. Loans from those groups inevitably come along with certain conditions -- and a good degree of pressure - that can stir unrest among populations resenting what they may perceive to be foreign control over their country. "I think for a long time people have focused on the potential benefits of the reforms," Henisz says. "People thought, 'Well, you just deregulate the market and that's the answer.' But the market part is only focused on efficiency, and people can be resentful that foreign [institutions] are forcing you to make a change. That can cause a dynamic that can have a real impact." In fact, Henisz, Holburn and Zelner found that investors who sent their money to nations facing above - average pressures to enact reforms from the IMF or World Bank are 63% more likely to face subsequent government interference with those reforms - a sign that the reforms may fail - than investors in countries where the World Bank and IMF are exerting less pressure."

    The two studies by Henisz et al can be downloaded from:

    I guess, this posting is relevant to the news that World Bank will loan upto $3bn for the Indian Govt's Bharat Nirman programme.

    Saturday, August 20, 2005

    SEP Field, etc: The Logic of Inaction

    It is an intriguing thought: The more we know, the less we act.

    With the information explosion - countless TV channels, newspapers, internet, travel, etc. - we are, undoubtedly, more aware of the world and people around us (and beyond our immediate circumstances) than the previous generations. A hundred years back, our great-grandparents lived in a world, in which they knew maybe 100-500 people in their lifetime, and barring a few exceptions (and exceptional circumstances) only got a few rare glimpses of the world beyond their limited life-space. Today, as an article in The Economist noted, we can "know" at least 20,000 other people in our lifetime - through media and over phone, internet, or videoconferencing.

    Compared to earlier generations, we (i.e., the social strata which would be reading this post) are also far more aware - on a daily basis - of the great happy happenings in the world...

    ...and about the dreary footnotes of contemporary history...

    ...mutilated bodies, bombs exploding, emaciated infants dying of hunger, immobile bodies lying on footpath as we walk to work, whole communities forced to migrate and become homeless (due to politics, war or large infrastructure projects), global warming, human trade (a polite name for modern day slavery), polluted rivers, sweatshops, AIDS, honour-killing, lives getting downsized/rightsized out of their job, identity and self-esteem...

    Perhaps, once in a while, we think about these, or maybe, even discuss them with some others. But our personal life goes on in its comfortable schedules and routines - and none of these moves most of us to act.

    I guess, to understand this curiously contemporary phenomenon in the lives of urban educated global citizens, we need new concepts.

    I could find three:

    1. SEP Field:
    Douglas Adams (of The Hitchhiker's Guide to The Galaxy) was smart, when he created the fictional technology called SEP (Somebody Else's Problem) Field:

    An SEP field can be erected on, or projected around a bizarre and unbelievable scene so that the unconscious minds of the observers instantly abdicate responsibility for its existence, assert that it's "somebody else's problem", and therefore don't perceive it at all.

    2. Pluralistic Ignorance:
    A curious group/social phenomenon in which people act contrary to their beliefs, because they misperceive beliefs of others - because others are behaving contrary to their beliefs.

    Or in other words, as an individual, I think that my perceptions, beliefs and attitudes are different than others in the group/organisation/society. However, I behave like the others (and contrary to by beliefs), because their behaviour shows that they all are unanimous in their perceptions, beliefs and attitudes...

    The irony being that each person individually thinks the same way... because everyone who disagrees behaves as if he or she agrees, all dissenting members think that the norm is endorsed by every group member but themselves. This, in turn, reinforces their willingness to conform to the group norm, and not express any disagreement.

    And so, we conform to a perceived consensus, instead of acting on their own perception and thinking.

    3. Bystander Effect:
    Another curious phenomenon, observed by social psychologists, that people are less likely to intervene in an emergency situation, and help others, if there are more people around.

    This is a corollary of the Pluralistic Ignorance - that each person monitors the reactions of others in such a situation, and concludes from the lack of initiative of others that other people think that it is not necessary to intervene. Since everyone behaves in this way, no one may take any action, even though some people privately think that they should do something.

    The hopeful factor, however, is that if only one person manages to break out of SEP field - and starts throwing starfish back into the sea - others are more likely to follow, actively get involved and make a difference.

    SEP Field
    Pluralistic Ignorance
    Bystander Effect
    Perspective on "Making a Difference"

    Thursday, August 18, 2005

    12 Laws of Media Matrix

    There is a qualitative difference between reading and watching the news. For most of us, watching the news on TV is far more efficient and less-time consuming. But images and voice are incessant and transient, and unlike when we read a newspaper, there is no time to reflect on and mentally critique the information we are getting exposed to.

    Thus, without realising, we get influenced by images and messages at very subliminal levels of our consciousness.

    These subtle influences mould our sensitivity, awareness and attitudes towards the world around us, specially when media reports news about wars, violence and conflicts (which is a staple menu of mainstream news these days). These messages reach us, and embed in our psyche, in the way the words are used to describe images, e.g., when events/people are described as "horror", "cruel", "devastated", "defenseless", "innocent", "brutal", "systematic", "genocide", etc.

    The following 12 points, described by Norwegian peace studies professor Johann Galtung, about where journalism goes wrong in reporting violence are quite insightful:

    l. Decontextualizing violence: Media often focuses on the irrational acts of violence, without exploring the reasons for unresolved conflicts and polarization.

    2. Dualism: Media often reduces and portrays the number of parties in a conflict to two, when actually more are involved. Stories that just focus on internal developments often ignore such outside or "external" forces as foreign governments and transnational companies.

    3. Manicheanism: Inadvertently media portrays one side as good while demonizes the other as "evil."

    4. Armageddon: presenting violence as inevitable, omitting alternatives.

    5. Focusing on individual acts of violence while avoiding structural causes, like poverty, government neglect, and military or police repression.

    6. Confusion: focusing only on the conflict arena (i.e., the battlefield or location of violent incidents) but not on the forces and factors that influence the violence.

    7. Excluding and omitting the bereaved, thus never explaining why there are acts of revenge and spirals of violence.

    8. Failure to explore the causes of escalation and the impact of media coverage itself.

    9. Failure to explore the goals of outside interventionists, especially big powers.

    l0. Failure to explore peace proposals and offer images of peaceful outcomes.

    11. Confusing cease-fires and negotiations with actual peace.

    12. Omitting reconciliation: conflicts tend to reemerge if attention is not paid to efforts to heal fractured societies. When news about attempts to resolve conflicts are absent, fatalism is reinforced. That can help engender even more violence, when people have no images or information about possible peaceful outcomes and the promise of healing.


    Monday, August 15, 2005

    Understanding India....

    One of my favourite books is Shashi Tharoor's India: From Midnight to Millenium, published in 1997, when Independent India became 50-years old.

    Following is an excerpt from its first chapter:

    "India," Winston Churchill once barked, "is merely a geographical expression. It is no more a single country than the Equator." Churchill was rarely right about India, but it is true that no other country in the world embraces the extraordinary mixture of ethnic groups, the profusion of mutually incomprehensible languages, the varieties of topography and climate, the diversity of religions and cultural practices, and the range of levels of economic development that India does.

    And yet India is more than the sum of its contradictions. It is a country held together, in the words of its first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, "by strong but invisible threads.... About her there is the elusive quality of a legend of long ago; some enchantment seems to have held her mind. She is a myth and an idea, a dream and a vision, and yet very real and present and pervasive."

    How can one approach this land of snow peaks and tropical jungles, with seventeen major languages and twenty-two thousand distinct dialects (including some spoken by more people than speak Danish or Norwegian), inhabited in the last decade of the twentieth century by nearly 940 million individuals of every ethnic extraction known to humanity? How does one come to terms with a country whose population is 51 percent illiterate, but which has educated the world's second largest pool of trained scientists and engineers, whose teeming cities overflow while four out of five Indians scratch a living from the soil? What is the clue to understanding a country rife with despair and disrepair, which nonetheless moved a Mughal emperor to declaim, "If on earth there be paradise of bliss, it is this, it is this, it is this ...?" How does one gauge a culture that elevated nonviolence to an effective moral principle, but whose freedom was born in blood and whose independence still soaks in it? How does one explain a land where peasant organizations and suspicious officials attempt to close down Kentucky Fried Chicken as a threat to the nation, where a former prime minister bitterly criticizes the sale of Pepsi-Cola "in a country where villagers don't have clean drinking water," and which yet invents a greater quantity of sophisticated software for U.S. computer manufacturers than any other country in the world? How can one portray the present, let alone the future, of an ageless civilization that was the birthplace of four major religions, a dozen different traditions of classical dance, eighty-five political parties, and three hundred ways of cooking the potato?

    The short answer is that it can't be done--at least not to everyone's satisfaction. Any truism about India can be immediately contradicted by another truism about India. The country's national motto, emblazoned on its governmental crest, is Satyameva Jayate: "Truth Always Triumphs." The question remains, however: Whose truth? It is a question to which there are at least 940-plus million answers--if the last census hasn't undercounted us again.

    But that sort of answer is no answer at all, and so another answer to those questions has to be sought. And this may lie in a single insight: the singular thing about India is that you can only speak of it in the plural. There are, in the hackneyed phrase, many Indias. Everything exists in countless variants. There is no single standard, no fixed stereotype, no "one way." This pluralism is acknowledged in the way India arranges its own affairs: all groups, faiths, tastes, and ideologies survive and contend for their place in the sun. At a time when most developing countries opted for authoritarian models of government to promote nation-building and to direct development, India chose to be a multiparty democracy. And despite many stresses and strains, including twenty-two months of autocratic rule during a "state of emergency" declared by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1975, a multiparty democracy--freewheeling, rambunctious, corrupt, and inefficient, perhaps, but nonetheless flourishing--India has remained.

    One result is that India strikes many as maddening, chaotic, inefficient, and seemingly unpurposeful as it muddles through into the twenty-first century. Another, though, is that India is not just a country but an adventure, one in which all avenues are open and everything is possible. "All the convergent influences of the world," wrote E. P. Thompson, "run through this society: Hindu, Moslem, Christian, secular; Stalinist, liberal, Maoist, democratic socialist, Gandhian. There is not a thought that is being thought in the West or East that is not active in some Indian mind...."

    Happy Independence Day!

    Thursday, August 11, 2005

    A World Deceived By "Numbers/ Facts"

    Any "fact", when quoted in numbers, creates its own credibility, and gives a us sense of security, willing us to believe in its magical reality.

    Economists, analysts, planners, investors, politicians and media understand this all-too-human (of the urban-elite-educated-kind) phenomenon, and therefore quote numbers to support their ideas and proposals.

    But numbers also deceive and distort reality... and such is the power of numbers that we may not even be aware that we are hallucinating the world we (choose to) live in.

    Here are some examples:

    1. The "Booming" Service Economy of India:
    It is agreed - and is true - that around 50% of India's GDP comes from service sector (which has been growing at a phenomenal rate of 10-11%... or whatever)... I mean, look at the growth of IT, software exports, banking, insurance etc., and who can deny this "reality"

    ...till one looks at the constituents of serice sector with their %age contribution to GDP:

    In 2001, service sector contributed 48% to India's GDP. The following are the share of different economic activities that constitute Service Sector:

    14.0% - Trade (Wholesale /Retail)
    01.0% - Hotels and Restaurants
    01.1% - Railways
    04.3% - Other Transport & Storage
    02.0% - Communication (Post, Telecom)
    06.3% - Banking
    00.7%- Insurance
    04.5% - Dwellings, Real Estate
    01.1% - Business Services
    06.1% - Public Administration; Defence
    01.1% - Personal Services
    05.5% - Community Services
    00.7% - Other Services
    48.0% - Total Services
    (IT & ITES, form part of 1.1% "Personal Services")

    2. The "Booming" Chinese Economy:
    There is no need to quote numbers; we all know how the China has emerged as a global economic superpower:

  • It has a huge positive balance of trade against USA;
  • It is the world's 3rd largest trading nation (it's global trade increased from $20bn in 1980s to $1.15trillions in 2004; exports of trade and services account for 49% of its GDP);
  • China receives around $60bn/annuum as FDI, making it the favoured destination of global investors (compared to that India gets about 1/10th);
  • China's GDP has been growing at an annual rate of around 10% (compared to India's GDP growth rate, which half of this number);
  • China’s economic output is now US$ 1.6 trillion. It will overtake Japan by 2015 and the USA by 2039 if the expected tripling takes place over the next 15 years;
  • In the last 25 years, since the "reforms", 300 million Chinese have been out of poverty and the per capita income has grown four fold - to around US$1000 (double of India)

    There is nothing wrong with these numbers - except what is not said in numbers, e.g.,:

  • More than 50% of Chinese international trade is foreign-direct-investment (FDI)-led, i.e., conducted by "foreign-invested enterprises"

  • More than 50% of Chinese international trade consists of intra-company trade; China is often the last link of the global supply chain—thus, and has trade deficits with almost every economy in East Asia - even though it has large trade surpluses vis-à-vis the U.S. (and to a lesser extent the other developed economies).

  • A large percentage of Chinese international trade consists of trade in raw materials, "intermediate inputs", "semi-finished goods" and "services" rather than finished "products"

  • China defines its poverty line at $76 per year (as compared to the World Bank norm of $365/year - which india also follws);

  • China has the largest income disparity between the rural and urban population

    Some months back, I had posted how the gap in Indian and Chinese FDI is just a function of the way two countries calculate FDI - and am posting it again (sorry for the repetition):
    In terms of comparisons, India attracts less that 10% of the FDI as compared to China. However, such a difference is largely due to the different manner in which india and China calculate what constitutes the FDI.

    The IMF definition of FDI includes 12 different elements:
    -equity capital,
    -reinvested earnings of foreign companies,
    -inter-company debt transactions,
    -short-term and long-term loans,
    -financial leasing,
    -trade credits,
    -non-cash acquisition of equity,
    -investment made by foreign venture capital investors,
    -earnings data of indirectly-held FDI enterprises,
    -control premium and non-competition fee.

    China includes all these in its calculation of FDI, while the Indian FDI reports only equity capital as FDI. Similarly, China reports improted equipments as FDI, while india includes these imports in its trade data.

    Moreover, China also includes domestic money coming through Macau, Taiwan and HK in calculating its FDI inflows (often called "round-tripping" - i.e., domestic money routed through these destinations to be invested in mainland China, to avail concessions, tax breaks etc.). Estimates show that this can be as large as 60% of China's FDIs.


    3. The Employment "Boom" in USA
    According to Bureau of Labor Statistics July '05 payroll jobs release, 207,000 jobs were created in July - which actually is pretty good and assuring...

    ...till, one looks behind these statistics - and as someone pointed out:

    "Of the new jobs, 26,000 (about 13%) are tax-supported government jobs. That leaves 181,000 private sector jobs. Of these private sector jobs, 177,000, or 98%, are in the domestic service sector.

    Here is the breakdown of the major categories:

    - 30,000 food servers and bar tenders;
    - 28,000 health care and social assistance:
    - 12,000 real estate;
    - 6,000 credit intermediation;
    - 8,000 transit and ground passenger transportation;
    -50,000 retail trade; and
    - 8,000 wholesale trade.
    (There were 7,000 construction jobs, most of which were filled by Mexican immigrants.)

    Not a single one of these jobs produces a tradable good or service that can be exported or serve as an import substitute to help reduce the massive and growing US trade deficit. The US economy is employing people to sell things, to move people around, and to serve them fast food and alcoholic beverages."

    Apparently, one does not need a university degree to get a job in USA!!!... What happens to the 65,000 engineers that US universities produce will remain a mystery!!

    Didn't Mark Twain said: "there are lies, damn lies, and stastics."... And almost 50 years back Darral Huff wrote a book called How to Lie with Statistics

    Structure of Indian Service Sector
    Share of Service Sector in India's GDP
    The Economy: Is China Ahead?
    You Don't Need expensive Colege Education to Work in US
    FDI Flow will Increase if Accounting System Changes
    Relevance of China to India
    China in World Trade System
    FDI: China & India - The Difference in Definition
    New York Times: China's great Divide

  • Monday, August 08, 2005

    Tokyo Fire-Bombing: Were Hiroshima-Nagasaki required?

    60-years back, this week, the then-US President Truman announced to the world:

      "The world will note that the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, a military base. That was because we wished in this first attack to avoid, in so far as possible, the killing of civilians."

    (well, that is what he said!)
    We know now that this bombing of a "military base" caused deaths of "about 90,000 people (who) were killed immediately; another 40,000 were injured, many of whom died in protracted agony from radiation sickness. Three days later, a second atomic strike on the city of Nagasaki killed some 37,000 people and injured another 43,000. Together the two bombs eventually killed an estimated 200,000 Japanese civilians."

    The current myth is that, but for these atomic bombs, Japan would not have surrendered.... was it so?

    Hidden in the history of that time, is an unnoticed footnote - the "Tokyo Fire-Bombing", which the Western press would not touch, and the Japanese survivors would not like to dwell upon... An event which happened months before the atom-bombs and with far more lethal consequences:

    The Tokyo Fire-Bombing:
    "The night of March 9, 1945, began typically enough for war-weary Tokyo residents. They went to bed hungry, the distant wailing of air-raid sirens lulling them to sleep.

    But World War II was about to rouse them violently from their fitful dreams into a waking nightmare. Before the new day dawned, a United States air-raid killed or injured as many as 200,000 people. It obliterated a quarter of all Tokyo's buildings, leaving more than a million people homeless.

    The Americans dispatched the first wave of more than 300 bombers from Guam, Saipan and the Tinian Islands, 2,500 kilometres south of Tokyo. Each plane dropped 180 oil-gel sticks, less than a metre long, on the tightly knit neighbourhoods of wooden houses. Then two waves of planes emptied their bays of a lethal cargo: napalm. The resulting inferno unleashed hell on earth.

    Kiyoko Kawasaki, then a 36-year-old mother, remembers running into the street with two buckets on her head for protection, walking into a sea of fire and seeing burning bodies floating in the Sumida River. "The prostitutes who hung out by the riverbank jumped into a nearby pond," she recalled. "But the pond was boiling so they all died."

    Kyoko Arai was just a middle-school student when she witnessed her neighbourhood burn to the ground in the firebombing. She watched people perish when dancing fireballs set their hair alight. Worse, she remembers mothers running into the air-raid shelters with babies in their arms. "They would try to breast-feed the babies, but actually the babies were dead," Arai said. "Some of the mothers went crazy from the shock."

    For survivors, the misery was just beginning. Takae Fujiki, then a 15-year-old high-school student, recalls being "chased" by the bombers. She says they hunted down fleeing civilians to deliberately drop bombs on them. And they napalmed the rivers to cut off an escape route, Fujiki says. "It was obvious they were trying to kill as many of us as possible.""

    11 weeks later, on May 23, 520 giant B-29 "Superfortress" bombers unleashed another 4,500 tons of bombs on Tokyo obliterating Tokyo's commercial center and railway yards, and the Ginza entertainment district. Two days later, on May 25, a second strike of 502 "Superfortress" planes rained down some 4,000 tons of explosives. Together these two B-29 raids destroyed 56 square miles of the Japanese capital.

    Tokyo Fire-Bombing killed many more people than did the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

    Even before the Hiroshima-Nagasaki bombing, American air force General Curtis LeMay boasted that American bombers were "driving them [Japanese] back to the stone age."

    [Note: In a bizzare act of recognition, in 1964, the Japanese government conferred the First Order of Merit with the Grand Cordon of the Rising Sun upon Gen. Curtis LeMay (the father of Strategic Bombing) - the same general who, less than 20 years earlier, had incinerated "well over half a million Japanese civilians, perhaps nearly a million"... And who as the Chief of Staff of US Air Force in 1964, had warned Vietnam that "we're going to bomb them back into the Stone Age."... A phrase repeated again recently during the bombing of Afghanistan]

    Gen. Douglas MacArthur's aide, Brigadier Gen. Bonner Fellers, called Tokyo-Bombings "one of the most ruthless and barbaric killings of noncombatants in all history."

    Was Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki Necessary?
    Apparently not. In early 1945, Japanese govennment had sent feelers to find honorable terms of surrender. After the Tokyo-Bombings, these attempts became more overt. As a report mentions:

    "In April and May 1945, Japan made three attempts through neutral Sweden and Portugal to bring the war to a peaceful end. On April 7, acting Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu met with Swedish ambassador Widon Bagge in Tokyo, asking him "to ascertain what peace terms the United States and Britain had in mind." But he emphasized that unconditional surrender was unacceptable, and that "the Emperor must not be touched."... By early July the US had intercepted messages from Togo to the Japanese ambassador in Moscow, Naotake Sato, showing that the Emperor himself was taking a personal hand in the peace effort, and had directed that the Soviet Union be asked to help end the war. US officials also knew that the key obstacle to ending the war was American insistence on "unconditional surrender," a demand that precluded any negotiations. The Japanese were willing to accept nearly everything, except turning over their semi-divine Emperor. Heir of a 2,600-year-old dynasty, Hirohito was regarded by his people as a "living god" who personified the nation."

    In 1963, US General Dwight Eisenhower wrote in his memoirs:

    "I had been conscious of a feeling of depression and so I voiced to him my grave misgivings, first on the basis of my belief that Japan was already defeated and that dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary, and secondly because I thought that our country should avoid shocking world opinion by the use of a weapon whose employment was, I thought, no longer mandatory as a measure to save American lives. It was my belief that Japan was, at that very moment, seeking some way to surrender with a minimum loss of "face.".... The Japanese were ready to surrender and it wasn't necessary to hit them with that awful thing ... I hated to see our country be the first to use such a weapon."

    OK!!!... All this is history. Long forgoten, often justified as the act of one man ("a few rotten apples"). In contrast, Samuel Huntington (of "Clash of Civilisation" fame) wrote:

    "...the West won the world not by the superiority of its ideas or values or religion but rather by its superiority in applying organized violence. Westerners often forget this fact, non-Westerners never do."

    It is worth a hypothesis to look at present world fromthis light...
    ....just a thought!


    Saturday, August 06, 2005

    Hinduism: The Religion that Never Was

    This thought has been on my mind since many years - actually, since the demolition of Babari Masjid in 1992 - and, the subsequent happenings since then, around this theme...

    So when, I came across this ad, released by Kerala Tourism, a couple of days back, it once again surfaced the contradiction, I have often felt...

    Off and on, whenever the issue of "Hindutva" surfaced in the media and politics, I have wondered about this "branding" of something that never was... at least, not till 1750s...

    The term, Hindu, was originally a Persian word ("river dwellers") - attributed to anyone who lived around or beyond the river Indus. When the colonial British East India Company introduced the census in India (after the "black-hole tragedy" of Calcutta in 1750s to make sense of the "body-count"), "Hindooism" got defined as a religion (which till then was a cluster of different sects, beliefs, philosophies - still is!!).

    But such is the power of "branding" - leveraged by politics and media - that "Hinduism" as a "religion" has seeped into our consciousness, public discourse, and systems...

    We take sides between being a Hindu ("fundamentalist")or a ("Pseudo") Secularist...

    (...A couple of months back, when my teenage daughter, applying for her passport, wrote "none" in front of "Religion" in the application form - the passport office refused to accept her application, till she wrote "Hindu". I, myself, for the sake of "convenience", convinced her to put "Hindu" as religion when she was filling up forms for college admissions...)

    Such personal "compromises for conveniences" apart, it still makes sense to understand "Hinduism" as a "Sanjhi Virasat" - one of the earlier entries on this blog

    ... a "Shared Heritage" which cuts across beliefs and ideologies - is inclusive, rather than exclusive...