Saturday, October 27, 2007

Ekalavya Applies for a Job!!

Let's suppose the modern-day Ekalavya is able to convince the Dronacharyas, manages to get into a decent educational institution, does well in his/her study (or as well as the modern-day Pandavas)...

Or alternatively, the Swaminomics' suggestion that "creating quality schools and colleges for dalits and tribals would be a far better form of affirmative action than job reservation in the private sector", gets implemented, and so Ekalavya goes through this special institution to prepare him/her to join the mainstream society with adequate "merit"...

...and then applies for a job!

Chances are that s/he will find that the world has still not changed - not for him/her.

These are the findings of a recent study, which was done by the Indian Institute of Dalit Studies (IIDS) and Princeton University:

"The researchers filed 4,808 applications for 548 jobs advertised in English newspapers over 66 weeks starting October 2005. Applications by equally-qualified males from higher upper castes, Dalits and Muslims were filed for each vacancy and the response from the corporate sector was shocking.

While all higher upper caste candidates were called for interviews for a particular job vacancy, only 67% Dalits and 33% Muslims were contacted."

The study, original paper published in The Economic & Political Weekly (Oct 13, 2007) mentions the methodology:

"The research staff prepared sets of three matched application letters and résumés (in English) for each type of job. These applications had identical educational qualifications and experience. All the résumés and cover letters presented strong applicants for the job opening: they had suitable degrees from reputable universities...

The only aspect of family background that was communicated in these applications was the applicant’s name, yet this was enough to generate a different pattern of responses to applications from Muslims and dalits, compared to high caste Hindu names. These were all highly-educated and appropriately qualified applicants attempting to enter the modern private sector, yet even in this sector, caste and religion proved influential in determining ones job chances...
These discriminatory outcomes occurred at the very first stage of the process that Indian university graduates go through to apply for a job...."

Another recent study by S Madheswaran and Paul Attwell - Cast Discrimination in Indian Urban Labour Market (Economic & Political Weekly, Oct 13 2007) - concluded:

"...(a) discrimination causes 15 per cent lower wages for SC/STs as compared to equally qualified others; (b) SC/ST workers are discriminated against both in the public and private sectors, but the discrimination effect is much larger in the private sector; (c) discrimination accounts for a large part of the gross earnings difference between the two social groups in the regular salaried urban labour market, with occupational discrimination – unequal access to jobs – being considerably more important than wage discrimination – unequal pay in the same job..."

So what is the future for Ekalavya?

Pretty bleak, actually! - because even in the unlikely scenario of enforced job reservations in private sector, Swaminomics recommends the tactics for "Getting Around Job Quota", e.g.,:

"Faced with job quotas, companies could stop outsourcing and resume in-house operations. They can hire dalits and tribals as sweepers, canteen workers, drivers, chowkidars and so on.... They can open holiday homes for officers in the hills, employing tribals. This will enable them to fulfil job quotas without affecting management or factory quality."

This, perhaps, also represents the distorted definition of Enlightened Self-Interest in a divided society.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Janadesh'07: India's Anti-Colonial March of 21st Century

Lalit Vachani's BBC-documentary "In Search of Gandhi" ends with a stark statement:

We won our freedom sixty years ago, but what has really changed? We proclaim an economic miracle, but the inequality and the violence still continues... there is a new colonialism in India, but we don't seem to care.... After all, we are the colonisers!"

According to chairman of India's National Commission for Denotified, Nomadic and Semi-Nomadic Tribes, Balkrishna Renake: "There are 120 million people who have no rights in this country. They are still waiting in independent India for the right to vote, to have schools and teachers, and for their land."

And so, this month marks perhaps the long march by India's very own colonised citizens - the landless, the tribals, the dalits, the marginal farmers, the displaced, the "project-affected people"... for their right to land - and to dignity.

Unlike other earlier protest- (and solidarity-) rallies in the Indian Capital, these dispensable people are not coming by buses or trains... they are walking. All 350kms. Since October 2nd, when they started from Gwaliar. 25,000 of them from 13 states, including 11,000 women and about 250 foreign satyagrahis from countries which have similar concerns at the grass-root levels (Brazil, Kenya, France, Ireland, Canada Southeast Asia, etc.).

The march, Janadesh 2007, organised by Bhopal-based Ekta Parishad is perhaps the first - and definitely the largest - non-violent satyagraha in the post Independence India.

What do they want?

“We want the government to set up a national land commission," says PV Rajgopal of Ekta Parishad, "Let the Centre and state governments decide once and for all what land is surplus land, wasteland, scrubland, forest, what’s for roads and railway lines and what’s for SEZs... Land promised under the Bhoodan movement is yet to reach people... (people) have been jailed and dubbed Naxalites for raising the issue of their ancestral lands that today fall either under the Forest Act or have been appropriated for railway lines, roads, dams and sezs. For the last 60 years, people have been either pushed out of their spaces or locked into interminable court cases, jailed or shunted around by laws made with no concern for them.

But can a mere 25,000 people with no voice in the system, change the fate of the other 70%-plus of the population of this 1.13bn-strong country?

Maybe!... and hopefully!!

One remembers the words of Margaret Mead:

“Never underestimate the power of a handful of individuals to change the world. After all, it’s the only thing that ever does.”

For more information:

  • Janadesh2007 Global Website
  • Janadesh2007 on Wikipedia
  • Harvest of Dissent
  • Poor but Defiant, Thousands march...
  • India Tribals Begin Massive March
  • Many Feet One Step
  • Janadesh2007 on Google Video
    (Photo credit: various sources from the Net)

  • Sunday, October 21, 2007

    Economic Growth is an 8-Lane Expressway

    Long time back – in the mid ‘80s – I used to live in Delhi. Maruti factory had just come up in Gurgaon – DLF was still developing in a nascent stage - , and sometimes, I had to go there for some professional assignments. It used to take almost 3-4 hours then… A few months back, while visiting the NCR, I had a chance to ply on this yet to be completed expressway, and the experience was akin to a change in paradigm!

    The 28km long New Delhi-Gurgaon Expressway is both a symbol – and a metaphor – of India’s unfolding economic prowess and growth.

    The Symbol:

  • Built on an estimated cost of Rs.750 crores (and Rs.200 crores cost over-run, due to R&R issues), this expressway connects the Indian Capital to the satellite industrial township, Gurgaon.

  • It is also a part of India’s Golden Quadrangle project – a 5,846km of 4- to 6-lane expressways connecting Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai. Once completes, this highway will connect this northern business hub with the western ports, as well bring the newly developed Delhi townships like Dwarka into the loop.

  • The Delhi-Gurgaon region has the highest density of vehicles in India, carrying 150,000 automobiles every day – and given that about 1000 automobiles get registered in Delhi everyday, this is likely to increase by over 7% per annum.

  • Once fully commissioned, this expressway will have 11 flyovers; the expressway has more than 22km of 8-lane road, and the rest is 6-lane road.

  • It will only allow vehicles capable of 80km/hr to 100km/hr speeds (local and slow moving traffic will have to use lanes running under the elevated sections); and it will reduce the travel time on the stretch from more than an hour to just 15 minutes.

    The Metaphor:
  • If you happens to be one without a car, this artifact of economic growth is likely to pass you by – in fact, may even impede your movement; though “planned”, there is not a single pedestrian crossing/over- or under-bridge across this 28km 8-lane expressway!!!

  • Thursday, October 04, 2007

    Tipping Point for US$?

    There is an interesting video discussion with the investment expert, Dr Martin D Weiss at "The Great Dollar Panic of 2007-2008" (Click to watch)

    Some excerpts from the transcript:

      "this credit crisis is many times larger.... Back in 1998, Greenspan was dealing with a small tumor in our financial system that could quickly be isolated and contained. Today, his successor, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, is dealing with a cancer that has already spread throughout the financial system...

      ...Back in 1998, Greenspan was dealing with a crisis that was isolated and easily contained. Now, in 2007, Bernanke is dealing with a crisis that is already spreading out of control to 20,000 cities and towns across America.

      In 1998, the epicenter of the crisis was small Asian markets. This time, the epicenter is right here in the United States, with financial markets that are at least a hundred times larger.

      In 1998, Greenspan was dealing with just one major hedge fund in trouble. He was able to sit down with the big banks. They were able to hash out a bailout. They were able to nip the crisis in the bud.

      Now, Bernanke is trying to cope with at least a thousand hedge funds in this sector. If even just one-tenth of them are entangled in this mess — and there's every indication they are — that alone is 100 times more than 1998. Plus, this time, we already have 140 mortgage companies in trouble, bankrupt or mortally wounded.

      Greenspan's 1998 crisis was a ripple. Bernanke's 2007 crisis is a tidal wave....

      ...It's already striking
      . Bernanke is facing a tidal wave of foreclosures in the $824 billion subprime mortgage market... the $722 billion Alt-A mortgage market... the $517 billion jumbo mortgage market... and, ultimately, in the entire $13.5 trillion mortgage market.... Not only the $13.5 trillion mortgage market, but also the $2.2 trillion U.S commercial paper market... the $2.4 trillion consumer credit market... the $10.1 trillion corporate bond market … and, biggest of all, the $144.8 trillion in derivatives held by U.S. banks alone.

    So apparently, this may be, for all you know, the history in making... the concluding part of a trend that was quite apparent in the long-cycle over last many decades:

    Tuesday, October 02, 2007

    A Slum vs. The International Hotel Complex

    When Yamuna Pushta - one of the largest and oldest slum in East Delhi - was demolished a couple of years back, and made way for an eight-lane highway, the Supreme Court ruled:

      "Poverty could not be an excuse for living in slums."

    The court was unimpressed that many of those evicted had been living on this "encroached" land for more than a generation, that they possessed ration cards issued on their addresses, and that they were paying a license fee of Rs. 7000/-p.a. to MCD (Municipal Corporation of Delhi) for possession of their 12.5 sq.m. plot. The court went on to elaborate:
      "Desperation does not mean they will do something illegal by encroaching public land... In India, we have three weather conditions — heat, rain and winter. If we accept your argument, there will never be an appropriate time to demolish illegal structures standing on public land... Nobody forced you to come to Delhi. Is there a right to live in Delhi only? Stay where you can. If encroachments on public land are to be allowed, there will be anarchy."

    Last year,a similar story got repeated. The only difference this time was that the land was for the "International Hotel Complex" project in South Delhi, whose project cost ran into hundreds of crore of rupee, and would host 5-star hotels, shopping malls, recreational facilties, residential and institutional area, etc... and this time the "defaulters" to this 92 hectare ‘constraint area’ (nice term!!) included Maruti Udyog Limited, Ambience Developers Private Limited, Regency Park Management Services Private Limited, Beverly Park Maintenance Services Private Limited and Jasmine Project Private Limited.

    While the court acknowledged that:
      "DDA's advertisement (Hindu Dec 12, 2003 ) states: "purchaser would be required to obtain necessary clearance for the project from the EPCA and/or DPCC before submitting the plans for sanction to the Building Dept of DDA". There is no confirmation that this requirement was fulfilled by the allottees." went on to conclude that:
      "...Had such parties inkling of an idea that such clearances were not obtained by DDA, they would not have invested such huge sums of money. The stand that wherever constructions have been made unauthorisedly demolition is the only option cannot apply to the present cases, more particularly, when they unlike, where some private individuals or private limited companies or firms being allotted to have made contraventions, are corporate bodies and institutions and the question of their having indulged in any malpractices in getting the approval or sanction does not arise..."

    In case, one missed the last line in the quote: when they... are corporate bodies and institutions and the question of their having indulged in any malpractices in getting the approval or sanction does not arise!!!

    Just to complete the story, the SC did ask the Ministry of Environment and Forestry to take remedial measures and penalise the violators.... And the Environment Ministry subsequently cleared the projects by imposing a penalty of Rs. 1 lakh to each of the developer!!!

    Some months back, I was bemused - and depressed - looking at this sign board outside a property of a known-to-be benign corporate house:

    I guess, it says all about the "aam aadmi" (the common man)... our version of The Unauthorized Person!!!