Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Indian History Trivia (7): The "Non-Legend" of Cyril Radcliffe

For most of us - the pre- and post-independence generation of India and Pakistan - the reaction would be ...

...Cyril Radcliffe, who?....

... Which, perhaps, is a lesson about how history unfolds - and gets (or doesn't get) documented.... Like a river or wind, it has its own logic and direction (though as humans, we may call it amoral)

Not many books or commentries on the formation of India and Pakistan mention his name... even though, he was literally the true "achitect" of the two nation-states.

His was the un-envious role in the partitioning of the Indian sub-continent. A day before the Indian independence - on the last day of his first and only 5-week visit to the sub-continent - he wrote to his nephew:

"I am going to see Mountbatten sworn as the first Governor General of the Indian Union at the Viceroy's house in the morning and then I station myself firmly on the Delhi airport until an aeroplane from England comes along. Nobody in India will love me... and there will be roughly 80 million people with a grievance who will begin looking for me. I do not want them to find me. I have worked and traveled and sweated - oh I have sweated all the time."

So who was Cyril Radcliffe? What was his role in "The Partition"?

The idea of partitioning of the subcontinent and the "two nation theory" was in the air since early 1930s (when it was voiced by poet Md Iqbal - the lyricist of "Sare Jahan Se Accha, Hindostan Hamara"), but the actual decision to divide India came much late. It was only on June 3rd, 1947 - less than 2 months before the independence - that the British Parliament passed the Bill, approving the partitioning of the territory into India and Pakistan.

But how do you divide the land, people, their lives and their sanjhi virasat?

Sir Cyril Radcliffe, a distinguished barrister, was appointed to draw the boundaries between the two nations. It was only on June 30, 1947, the Governer General of India constituted the two Boundary Commissions for the partition of Punjab and Bengal - each consisting of two Hindu members and two Muslim members.

Radcliffe's task was an unenviable one, given that:

  • he had never ever been to the subcontinent in his life earlier; he did not know its people, and had no first hand knowledge of its culture, economics, or perhaps even history...

  • he had to work with Census statistics, which were outdated and unreliable - the previous major census was done in 1931. In 1941, the British were too preoccupied with WW-II and though the Census was conducted, it supplied meager information to rely on (in fact, there were also reasons to believe that the demographic statistics were falsfied in Punjab and Bengal by the communal elements on both sides). In any case, he had to rely on data and statistics that were clearly obsolete.... and

  • he hardly had any time to do a proper job of the assignment, even if wanted to. He arrived in India on July 8th, 1947 for the first time, and the Award was announced on August 16th... He had to submit his recommendations before the two nations became independent (Pakistan on August 14th and India on August 15th). Within these five weeks, he was given the momentous task of deciding on a boundary that, as one chronicle noted, will divide "more than 35 million people, thousands of villages, towns and cities, a unified system of canals and communication networks, and 16 million Muslims, 15 million Hindus and 5 million Sikhs, who despite their religious differences, shared a common culure, language and history."

    One will never know his thought processes, judgements, and discretions which determined the destiny of two nations, and which created a continental schism that still haunts many. He had insurmountable challenge of creating two homogenous countries - one Hindu and another Muslim - which perhaps was beyond human capabilities. Just a few examples:

  • Religious contiguity, unfortunately, does not follow geography. One of the most sacred Sikh Shrine, Nankana Sahib, was located in Western Punjab - which was surrounded by an overwhelming Muslim population

  • Gurdaspur had a slight Muslim majority, but it was the Sikhs who dominated their economically.

  • There were many shrines of Sufi saints who were equally revered by the Muslims, as well as by Hindus and Sikhs.

  • Lahore had a Muslim majority, but it was Hindus and Sikhs who owned the bulk of banking, insurance and manufacturing.


    Needless to say - and if one puts oneself in Radcliffe's shoes - his was a no-win situation. And not surprisingly, neither the "owners" of India or Pakistan were satisfied by his Award.

    And though he architected the historyof the subcontinent (and its repercussions), and literally created two nations, he remains an unknown figure for most in these two countries...

    The only "homage"(?) he ever got was from the poet W.H. Auden in his lesser-known poem The Partition:

    Unbiased at least he was when he arrived on his mission,
    Having never set eyes on the land he was called to partition
    Between two peoples fanatically at odds,
    With their different diets and incompatible gods.
    "Time," they had briefed him in London, "is short. It's too late
    For mutual reconciliation or rational debate:
    The only solution now lies in separation.
    The Viceroy thinks, as you will see from his letter,
    That the less you are seen in his company the better,
    So we've arranged to provide you with other accommodation.
    We can give you four judges, two Moslem and two Hindu,
    To consult with, but the final decision must rest with you."

    Shut up in a lonely mansion, with police night and day
    Patrolling the gardens to keep the assassins away,
    He got down to work, to the task of settling the fate
    Of millions. The maps at his disposal were out of date
    And the Census Returns almost certainly incorrect,
    But there was no time to check them, no time to inspect
    Contested areas. The weather was frightfully hot,
    And a bout of dysentery kept him constantly on the trot,
    But in seven weeks it was done, the frontiers decided,
    A continent for better or worse divided.

    The next day he sailed for England, where he could quickly forget
    The case, as a good lawyer must. Return he would not,
    Afraid, as he told his Club, that he might get shot.

    ...Yes, we may sit here today and judge the history in terms of right and wrongs... But what Cyril Radcliffe, inadvertently, did prove - to go back to where we started - History, like a river or wind, it has its own logic and direction (though as humans, we may call it amoral)....

    Earlier Posts in the Series:
    1. The Story of Junagadh
    2. The Foundations of "Nehruvian Socialism"
    3. A "Nation-in-Making"
    4. Legacy of "The Raj"
    5. India's 1st 5-Star Hotel

    The Third Side of the Partition Coin
    "The Partition" by W.H. Auden
    The Other Side of Silence
    Splitting the Difference
    Sanjhi Virasat

  • Saturday, January 20, 2007

    On Merit & Discrimination: Pygmalion in the Classroom

    In 1960s, Robert Rosenthal, currently a Professor of Psychology at Univ of California, along with and Lenore Jacobson had conducted a series interesting experiments about what a teacher - and his/her beliefs, hopes, biases and prejudices - can do to a student.

    The findings of their unsettling study finally got published as a book: The Pygmalion in the Classroom
    ...and have been replicated more than 350 times since then....

    The experimental design was simple:

    Randomly select a groups of students, and group of teachers. Tell the teachers that they are going to teach some of the brightest of the brains in the school.

    The Result: The students out-performed their batch, even though they had no "real" differentiating "merit".

    Rosenthal's studies were about the schools, so one issue that begged the questions:
    does this apply to higher education?

    Apparently, it does, as he shared the example of the juniors he teaches:

      "I ask them to define a research problem, search the literature, design an experiment and come in with results all in one semester. Now nobody can do all that in one semester. I can't do that in one semester, but these are juniors: they don't know it can't be done; so they all do it. They do amazing things."
    The reverse of this self-fulfilling prophesy was also true - i.e., if the teachers perceived students as below average, their perfomance was also below average...

    Some other later studies also identified the reasons for such perceptions (which are quite relevant to contemporary Indian acadmic environment) for such perceptions - and therefore, lower performance among students:

  • Sex. Lower expectations are often held for older girls--particularly in scientific and technical areas-- because of sex role stereotyping.

  • Sociao-Economic Status. Teachers sometimes hold lower expectations of students from lower SES backgrounds.

  • Race/Ethnicity. Students from minority races or ethnic groups are sometimes viewed as less capable than Anglo students.

  • Type of School. Students from either inner city schools or rural schools are sometimes presumed to be less capable than students from suburban schools.

  • Appearance.The expense or style of students' clothes and students' grooming habits can influence teachers' expectations.

  • Oral Language Patterns. The presence of any nonstandard English speaking pattern can sometimes lead teachers to hold lower expectations.

  • Messiness/ Disorganisation. Students whose work areas or assignments are messy are sometimes perceived as having lower ability.

  • Readiness. Immaturity or lack of experience may be confused with learning ability, leading to inappropriately low expectations.

  • Halo Effect. Some teachers generalize from one characteristic a student may have, thereby making unfounded assumptions about the student's overall ability or behavior.

  • Seating Position. If students seat themselves at the sides or back of the classroom, some teachers perceive this as a sign of lower learning motivation and/or ability and treat students accordingly.

  • Negative Comments about Students. Teachers' expectations are sometimes influenced by the negative comments of other staff members.

  • Outdated Theories. Educational theories which stress the limitations of learners can lead to lowered expectations.

  • Tracking or Long-Term Ability Groups. Placement in "low" tracks or groups can cause students to be viewed as having less learning potential than they actually have.

    Rosenthal's book ends with a quote from GB Shaw's play "Pygmalion":

      ..."You see, really and truly, apart from the things anyone can pick up (the dressing and the proper way of speaking, and so on), the difference between a lady and a flower girl is not how she behaves, but how she's treated. I shall always be a flower girl to Professor Higgins, because he always treats me as a flower girl, and always will; but I know I can be a lady to you, because you always treat me as a lady, and always will."
    ...perhaps - as the so-called "issues" of reservations, quota and merit, etc. become increasingly a reality in India - Rosenthal's studies put the issue/choice in a nutshell:

    It all depends on....
    How do you treat Eliza Doolittle?
    ... As a "lady" or as a "flower girl"?!!!

    Rosenthal Lecture
    Expectations & Student Outcomes
    Pygmalion In The Classroom
    "Proper" English & Reservations-of-a-Different-Kind
    Quota/Reservations: More ""Reserved" than Others
  • Monday, January 15, 2007

    The Number Game... India's IT/ITES Exports

    India's IT-ITES/BPO exports, as everyone "knows" is booming.

    According to the statistics cited at the India Brand Equity Foundation (which quotes data from Reserve Bank of India (RBI), India's central bank, and IDC):

  • "India's sunshine sector - IT-ITeS - continues to chart double-digit growth and is expected to grow to US$ 53 billion by the end of calendar year 2008, says an IDC study. It will witness a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 23.1 per cent till 2008..."
  • "The Indian IT-ITeS industry has recorded revenues of US$ 23.6 billion in FY 2005-06, as compared with export revenues of US$ 17.7 billion in FY 2004-05, a remarkable 33 per cent growth in exports."

    This is one industry that has been adding to India's exports by leaps-and-bounds - depending on the source, the figures range between 25%-to-50%/annum!!!

    Which is an eminently (feel-)good news... till one does a reality check :-((

    According to NASSCOM (National Association of Software and Service Companies), a significant %age of these exports are to USA - accounting for almost 2/3rd of the export revenues.

    So do US statistics reflect this surge of Indian IT-ITES exports?

    ... Which is when one hits another reality!!!

    According to a report by US Govt Accountabiity Office, entitled "US and India Data on Offshoring show Significant Differences" in BPT (Business, Professional and Technical" trade services, which - to the best of my knowledge - is the US term for the Indian IT-ITES exports):

    " show that for 2003, the United States reported $420 million in unaffiliated imports of BPT services from India, while India reported approximately $8.7 billion in exports of affiliated and unaffiliated BPT services to the United States."

    Obviously, $420mn-US imports is too a huge difference from $8.7bn-Indian exports to be a typographical error.

    Image and video hosting by TinyPic

    So what accounts for this this discrepancy?

    Apparently, Indian way of counting the chicken is pretty different than their counterparts in US, e.g.,:

  • About 40-50% of the discrepancy can be accounted by the fact that India counts the earnings of temporary Indian workers residing in the United States as exports to the United States. However, the US only includes temporary foreign workers who have been in the United States less than 1 year and who are not on the payrolls of firms in the United States.

  • Another 10-15% difference in the numbers is due to the fact that India defines services more broadly than does the United States. For example, Indian data on trade in services include packaged software and software embedded on computer hardware, which the United States classifies as trade in goods. In addition, India includes in its data certain information technology-enabled services, such as some financial services, that are not included in US's definition of BPT services.

  • India also treats sales to US-owned firms located outside of the United States as exports to the United States, but the United States does not count these as imports.

  • US calculates import data on BPT services from India as those from the unaffiliated parties only, while Indian data include both affiliated and unaffiliated trade but do not separate them. That is, Indian calculations of IT-ITES exports includes intra-company trade, which is not considered as 'export' by the US.

    Just in case, one wonders why RBI does not put its foot down on this spurious "number game", here is an explanation - RBI's data is actually the NASSCOM data:

    "RBI, which is India’s central bank, is responsible for reporting official Indian data on trade in services. However, RBI data on trade in services incorporate the data collected by India’s primary information technology association — the National Association of Software and Service Companies (NASSCOM)... Thus, the data cited above for India come from NASSCOM."

    To find similar examples of the Number Game, please see:
  • A World Deceived By "Numbers/ Facts"
  • FDI: China and India - Just a Difference in Definition!!!
  • How to Increase GDP: Learning from Indian Budget

  • Friday, January 05, 2007

    The Collapse of U$D Economy?? - Part II

    More than 2 years back, I had written about The Collapse of Dollar Economy?

    The reasons for such a blasphemous statement were as follows:

  • The U$D is/was valued not because it represents strong fundamentals, but because it is/was the monopoly currency in the global oil-trade (and since every country need oil, they need to buy and keep U$D as forex)

  • Betting on that, the US economic policies have allowed its debt to grow to an almost insolvent levels, which is not sustainable in the long run,

  • However, Euro as an alternative petro-currency poses a major threat to petro-dollar.

    Finally, I have found a taker of this argument in none other than David Walker, the Comptroller of the US. In an accompanying note to the Financial Report of the United States Government, realeased on December 15th, 2006, he cautions:

      Despite improvement in both the fiscal year 2006 reported net operating cost and the cash-based budget deficit, the U.S. government’s total reported liabilities, net social insurance commitments, and other fiscal exposures continue to grow and now total approximately $50 trillion, representing approximately four times the Nation’s total output (GDP) in fiscal year 2006, up from about $20 trillion, or two times GDP in fiscal year 2000.

      As this long-term fiscal imbalance continues to grow, the retirement of the “baby boom” generation is closer to becoming a reality with the first wave of boomers eligible for early retirement under Social Security in 2008.

      Given these and other factors, it seems clear that the nation’s current fiscal path is unsustainable and that tough choices by the President and the Congress are necessary in order to address the nation’s large and growing long-term fiscal imbalance.

    Meanwhile, a month old news-item in Financial Times reports that Oil Producers are gradually moving away from U$D... replacing it with Euros

  • Monday, January 01, 2007

    Welcoming 2007.... changing the "daily average"

    The "good news", as the 2006 comes to an end, was:

    ... according to a news item by Steven Herst of Associated Press on yahoo news, the hanging of Saddam Hussein did not have any impact on daily lives of people in Baghdad:

      "..There was no sign of a feared Sunni uprising in retaliation for the execution, and the bloodshed from civil warfare on Saturday was not far off the daily average92 from bombings and death squads."
    I guess this stability of "daily average" is a metaphor for many other things too - ranging from farmers' suicide in India to melting of ice caps in the arctics...

    ...the "daily average" remains stable - and, so apparently, it seems that we are doing well in this world

    With this note, let's welcome 2007 in our lives... with the hope that we may be able to change the base point of this "daily average" in some small ways.

    Have a great and meaningful year!!!