Tuesday, June 22, 2021

More on Fathers Day

My dad used to tell us these short poems. Thinking of him this Fathers Day and of course, preserving these for the future


ਬਾਪੂ ਬਾਪੂ ਕਹਿੰਦੇ ਸੀ 

ਬੜੇ ਸੁਖੀ ਰਹਿੰਦੇ ਸੀ 

ਬਾਪੂ ਬਾਪੂ ਅਖਵਾਯਾ ਹੈ 

ਬੜਾ ਦੁਖ ਪਾਯਾ ਹੈ 

Baapu Baapu kahinde see, 

BaDaa/Daade sukhi rahinde see 

Baapu Baapu akhwaya hai 

bada/Daada dukh paaya hai 


The second one: 

ਢੀਆਂ ਜੁੱਵਾਈ ਲੈ ਗਏ, 

ਤੇ ਨੂਵਾਂ ਲੈ ਗਈ ਪੂਤ 

ਕਹੈ ਮਨੋਹਰ ਜਾਫ਼ਰੀ, 

ਹਮ  ਰਹੇ ਊਤ ਕੇ ਊਤ 

Dheeyaan juwai lai gaye, 

Te nuhaan lai gayi poot

Kahe Manohar Jafri 

Ham rahe oot ke oot. 




Monday, June 21, 2021

On Father's Day

भौतिक विज्ञान (Physics) के अध्यापक ने समझाया, 

मात्रा वज़न और वेग (Momentum) बदल सकती है 

दिशा नहीं। 


माँ सहेली से बोलीं, 

"इनका तो तुम जानती ही हो। अब रोज रोज क्या कहना!" 

मैं बोला, 

"मेरे पापा के तो क्या कहने!" 


* This is a wordplay on 2 figures of speech and 2 meanings of the same word in Hindi

क्या कहना (resignation) and क्या कहने (praise)

मात्रा means quantity and the addition of the vowel to the consonant in the Hindi script. 


In the first paragraph, 

The Physics teacher explains that quantity (Matra) can change 

the mass 

and the momentum of a body

but not its direction. 


In the second paragraph, a change of matra (vowel) changes the direction of the insinuation completely. In the first line, the mother uses a Hindi phrase (Kya Kehna) that usually indicates resignation (in this case, to her husband's habits). 

In the second line, the child changes one vowel sound (Kya kehne) and this phrase means "My dad is incomparable! in a complimentary way. 


 

Tuesday, June 08, 2021

Lakshadweep: What's really happening there?

In December 2020, Praful K Patel was made the administrator of the Union Territory of Lakshadweep. 

Since then, he has managed to make himself rather unpopular. 

So, I decided to understand why someone would want to be so unpopular. 

I have just finished reading over 2000 pages of content on Lakshadweep - History, Census reports, official documents, the works. 

Let me try to piece that complex story bit by bit. 

First, the current state

It is the smallest UT in India, with just one district. 

It has 36 islands, of which 10 are uninhabited. 

It also has the highest population density in India. 

The density of population of the district as per 2011 Census is 2,149 persons per sq.km as against 1895 in 2001. 

In terms of participation in the work force, 70% of the people in the island are "Not Working" - neither full time nor part time, as per the 2011 Census. 

There are two aerial connects - Agatti and Bangaram. The other way to get there is to take a cruise ship from the mainland (Kerala). The commute is 14-15 hours. 

All tourism is owned by the state government, except one private hotel, which is on Bangaram island. This hotel is now closed on account of some legal issues with the administration. 

Lakshadweep is 97% Muslim. 

The entire place allows no alcohol because it is an Islamic region (yes, this is different from alcohol ban in Bihar and Gujarat, where the cause of ban is control over crime rate. Here, the reason for the ban is the religion of the majority). Further, carrying of drugs and narcotics is a punishable offence. 

There is only one crop on the entire region - coconuts. Some people have private vegetable gardens etc. but mostly everything, including the diesel needed to provide electricity on the island, is carried from the mainland. 

In terms of livestock, most islanders keep goats and poultry. Cattle is rare because feed is expensive and hard to come by. 

There are only 2 occupations - fishing and coconut farming. Tourism is NOT a major employment option. 

There is a solar power plant that was operational even in 2012, but the island has made no move towards solar, hydel, tidal, wind, or any other renewable energy resource. Diesel continues to be the mainstay of power generation. 

There is ONE coir processing factory, nothing to create processed food items from coconut. 

The per capita income is, as expected, low. But what is even more interesting is the level of skew. Because of the strong caste based employment, the land owning communities make a lot more money than the (non) working other communities. 

Tuna is one of the most expensive fish in the world. It is abundant in the waters around Lakshadweep. What is even more remarkable is that because of very low pollution, the tuna of Lakshadweep will command high prices. But the first time tuna was exported from Lakshadweep was in June 2021.  This was because the processing centers and cold storage were built very recently. 

So, how do people manage? Well, there is free drinking water, free education, reservation for Lakshadweep students in many mainland colleges, and cheap electricity and petrol/diesel. 

There are no movie theaters. 

Choppy phone connection (only BSNL).  

The closest port to Lakshadweep is Maldives. While both regions are very similar in terms of what they offer to tourists (Maldives is larger, but the coral reefs, tropical climate, etc. are very similar and offer the same tourism experience), the tourism arrivals to both areas are poles apart. Maldives has NOT spoilt its natural beauty or resources. Therefore, the idea that tourism will destroy the natural beauty is not true.  

(Up to 1956, people used to visit each other from Maldives to Lakshadweep and vice versa with no paperwork. But when Lakshadweep became an Indian territory in 1956, these visits were stopped). 

The History 

This is where things get really interesting. For 32 sq kms, this place really has some history to its credit. 

The official website of Lakshadweep mentions that Lakshadweep is, and always has been, Muslim Majority. In fact, according to the Census, only three religions even make up the count - Muslims, 97%, Hindus, and Christians. 

But there is a problem with that. The main surnames are all Hindu. The matrilineal tradition followed on the island is the same as Malayali Hindus. The caste system is a derivative of the Hindu system. 

This account of the history helped me piece a few things together: History of Lakshadweep from British Era to status of a union territory of India (mapsofindia.com) The Wiki history also corroborates largely what is given in the mapsofIndia article. 

According to this, there was mass conversion in the middle ages. This is in line with what happened in the rest of Karnataka and Tipu Sultan's domain. 

However, in the rest of the country, diversity returned slowly. What is absolutely remarkable is that in Lakshadweep, this concentration has only deepened with each decade. 

The Census Records for Lakshadweep are only valid from the 1971 Census, because until then, there was reorganisation. This is the population chart. 


The only other place where we observe this patterns is Kashmir after the 1990 Hindu exodus 

The Moplah Massacre 

In 1921, the Muslims of Malabar, Minicoy, and other islands (in the area we now collectively call Lakshadweep) joined the Khilafat Movement with the mainland Muslim leaders. 

This event is euphemistically called the Moplah Rebellion and other names. While the area usually marked for the Moplah is Kerala, it is interesting that the population of Lakshadweep reduced from 1911 to 1921. 

There were many causes for the Moplah massacre. But the motivation for participation was religious. All non Muslims were massacred. These were mostly two classes - the colonial overlords (all of whom were Christians) and the Hindus.  

Administrative History 

This is also very interesting. This 36 island, 32 sq km archipelago has seen the Beebi empire - Tipu Sultan (1787, after a revolt by the islanders against the Beebi) - British (1799, after the third Carnatic war) - South Canara - Madras Presidency  - India - Reorganisation and eventually, Lakshadweep. 
The administrative entity as we know it today, dates back to 1956. 


My questions for Lakshadweep 

There are some questions I have about Lakshadweep, as a citizen of India. 

1. In the table I shared earlier, Lakshadweep has not allowed any diversity to develop in the region. In every part of India, diversity has been restored as people moved from one place to another and also as old prejudices were overwritten by modern education and tolerance. But Lakshadweep has been sending its young people to reserved seats all over mainland India, without allowing any incursion into itself from that same mainland. Why? 

2. From the same table, the part of the table that, for me, deserves the most attention: 
Where are the Hindu women? In 1991, the same time that it happened in Kashmir, the population of Hindu women started decreasing. Within a decade, they were 62% of what they were in 1991, but in 2011, this population reduction was too drastic to not be alarming. Only 185 Hindu women remain on the islands? WHY? 

3. This question has a half page background. You can read or skip straight to the question.  
As per the Budget Document of 2020-21, the actual expenditure on providing ONLY the central govt benefits and administration expenses on Lakshadweep was 1376.46 crores. Let us assume that the rate of population growth over one decade is the same as the rate of population growth over the previous 3 decades (rolling average). According to this, the average rate of decadal population growth on the island is 17%  and the expected population in 2020-21 should be 75,662. 

This means that the per capita govt expenditure of the government on Lakshadweep was 1,81,922 rs. Read that again: The Government of India spent 1,81,922 rs on the diesel, electricity, and other freebies on EVERY INDIVIDUAL citizen of Lakshadweep. This number, in 2021, according to the Budget document linked above, is going to rise to 1,93,930 rs. 

Receipts from Lakshadweep for the last 3 years: 0. 

Why is this number shocking? Because, dear heart, the per capita income of an Indian in 2020 is Indian rupees 94, 954. Yes, half of the subsidies received by someone from Lakshadweep. 

Why would Lakshadweep be such an honoured citizen? 

Why is it that India is ok with 70% of Lakshadweep residents not doing any work, giving them more in subsidy than a mainland citizen makes in per capita income, and also being ok with ZERO receipts from the island? 

The answer i got was that Lakshadweep islands are strategically located and it is important to keep the local population happy to ensure the protection of our marine borders and to keep an eye on international waters through the local residents. 

So, How did we do on that front? 

After the Church attacks in Sri Lanka, the boat carrying the terrorists made its way to Lakshadweep. As the Swarajya mag asks, How did the terrorists know they would find shelter and support in India's Lakshadweep? 

Today, the administrator actually has to send government officials on local "fishing" boats to monitor its own local citizens and their activities. 
The locals insist that they keep their eyes and ears open. Since actual data is not in the public domain, we will simply say that for some reason, that surveillance is not being seen as enough. 

Therefore, my question is - 

Would it not make more sense to rehabilitate the 65000 residents of Lakshadweep and convert the area to a pure naval base, with no civilian activity? 

We are not earning from tourism, the local population continues to depend on the mainland for everything, and the Navy is missing out on a very important base. 

In this plan, about 5 tourist facilities were ready to be deployed for eco-tourism. Where are they today? 
Why does the island not want to serve alcohol when Maldives, with an absolutely similar religion profile, has no such issues and has been able to sustainably tap the eco-tourism potential? 

5. If you read the articles related to the Lakshadweep issue, they have either been written by islanders based in the mainland, or by mainland journalists. In most cases, the correspondents have given a voice to the Muslim population of the island. That is great. But any impartial journalist would at least ask a couple of Hindu islanders how they feel about the changes? 

6. In the Lakshadweep Census, only a Hindu can belong to a Scheduled Caste, but Muslims can also belong to a Scheduled Tribe. If all Muslims are universal brothers, and they have no concept of tribe, why is ST reservation available to them? Tribe and caste are both ethnographic concepts endemic to the Indic people - largely called Hindu (as in the religion) but both these are social constructs within that religion. The concept of tribe does not exist in Islam (the religion). So, why are non-Indic religions eligible for  SC, ST, or OBC? They are entitled to minority benefits in all parts of the country. (In my view, minority religion benefits should be by state population compositions). 

And now, to what's really going on

The Swarajya mag does a very good job of explaining the orders and the details, and I largely agree with them. That no mainstream media has even bothered to explain these points is a very telling data point. 

But lets go over them one by one:  


A. No one who has more than 2 children can contest Panchayat Elections  (with exceptions) 

As a citizen, I FULLY SUPPORT and endorse this. This provision is also in force in other states and makes perfect sense. An ecologically sensitive area should, on its own, be mindful of its population.

When the locals tell us in their news reports that they have only 32 sq. kms of land in all their islands, we want to say the exact same thing back to them - you should not have waited until there is a govt directive. You should have controlled the population on your own one decade ago. 

If people feel that this directive is aimed at a certain religion - that religion should understand that the fertility rate of Iran is 2.115 Iran is an Islamic country. The fertility rate for Maldives, its closest cousin, is 1.8! The documented fertility rate of Lakshadweep is 1.6. Which means that in effect, there should not be an issue in implementing this rule. Since its a matrilineal society, I am not sure that the reason of the man having multiple wives and therefore having more than 2 children will be valid in Lakshadweep. One user on Quora mentions that this is because most Panchayat contenders are senior citizens who do have more than 2 children. And that is how misinformation is spread. The rule applies only to infants born after the date of notification. Which means that if you have been elected before and have more than 2 children, no issues. If you are planning to get elected and are expecting your nth child already, no problem. The regulation is only for the future. 

Further, the rules provide for 50% of the Panchayat seats being reserved for women. I support this too. 


B. The Goonda Act - The argument being provided against this is that with such low crime rate, why is Goonda Act needed? 
Crime Rate is a function of reported crime. If, as the locals allege, there really is no crime, why the fear of the Goonda Act? 
Because it is arbitrary. Because it allows law enforcement to detain someone at will. 
And to that extent, my view is that if the administration is allowing this, it must be for a very good reason. It is a case of he says - she says, and it is up to each one of us to think whom we believe. 

C. Allowing alcohol on the islands - The locals are up in arms against this because of their religious beliefs and the latest I have read is that it will encourage hooliganism. But alcohol is being allowed for tourists. The locals do not have to consume it if it goes against their religious beliefs. The key word is allow, not impose. No one is forcing the locals to consume alcohol, and the locals should not force non locals to abstain. They may be only 2000 Hindus on the island, but they are still there. If the dietary preference of the majority is important, then the preference of the minority also should be. 

D. Ban beef - In a largely Muslim island, banning beef is stupid to say the least. Even as it comes to picking battles, this one is best left to a skirmish zone. At this point, national security and the role of the islanders in it is more important than their feeding habits. 
But how much cattle is there in Lakshadweep? According to a Quora user, 44 cows and 8 buffaloes support the dairy needs of 60,000 people. I will leave it at that. Could not find the official livestock numbers. 

E. All coconut solid waste must be disposed responsibly - The islanders are protesting because "this is how we have always done it" and if you want us to do more responsible waste management, you must create the infrastructure for it. We have always just thrown our coconuts around. 
Time to stop, I think. 

F. Govt officials will go on fishing boats to gather intelligence - Again, given the strategic importance of these islands, this should be welcomed, not resisted, by the locals. In most such cases, one would worry about corruption on the boat, but like, what are the fishing boats earning except the fish? Observers being on the boats will help the officials to benefit from the outreach of the fishing boats in the ocean. I see no reason to resist this. 

G. And we keep the best for the last  - The Lakshadweep Development Authority Regulation. This allows the government to acquire land for development projects in Lakshadweep. Let's go back to two data points: 
A. The 2018 sustainable ecotourism development proposed by Niti Aayog. (linked above) 
B. The fact that 70 percent of the island's population is "Not Working". 

It has now been 3 years since that report. The report has maps of areas that have been identified for specific projects. Yet, not ONE of those projects has taken off. 

The LDAR rules are being touted as "autocratic" yet they are no different from land acquisition rules anywhere in the country. 

The locals are indicating that this will allow the govt to kill the sensitive ecology of the place. 
Inherent in this accusation is a distrust of the government's intentions. I want to challenge that inherent distrust. If they have inherent distrust in the intentions of the government, they should not remain under the doles given by that government. One cannot take incredible subsidies with one hand and write notes of distrust with another. If the intentions of the government in ensuring that Lakshadweep residents get easy admissions on the mainland in higher education, ensuring that the islanders are not left wanting for anything, are trust worthy, then the intentions of the govt in this development are trustworthy too. 

The population pyramid of Lakshadweep indicates a very high young population - a population that needs to work. 


Lakshadweep needs to create opportunities to work, and do it in a sustainable way. And they have to trust the government to do this right. OR they have to find a way to make sustainable economic opportunities for their people. I would support that. That population pyramid, left without work, on the coastal area of the islands, is recipe for unlawful activities. 

And therefore, according to me, the issue is not the LDAR, but the growth and sustenance of Lakshadweep. I am ok if the islanders take charge. But if not, they have to trust someone else to do the right thing. 

Bibliography 
A. Detailed Census reports of the islands from 1951 to 2011 
B. Quora answers on Lakshadweep 
C. Various online mainstream media publications on the issue 
D. Gazette notifications where applicable
E. Blogs et al as linked 
G. Research reports by private organisations who researched tourism, both as a commission from the state govt, and on their own 
H. Academic papers on tuna fishing and other industries of Lakshadweep 
I. India Budget documents related to Lakshadweep
J. Niti Aayog and other govt plan documents 
K. Maps - both Google and Bing maps and paper atlases from India and historical atlases. 

Sunday, June 06, 2021

Book review: Quotations for our time, compiled by Dr. Laurence Peter

Phew! What a book! 

A book of quotations rarely deserves a review for itself. But this one is truly special. The difference that a curator makes to a collection can only be appreciated when we read something that is superlatively compiled. This is that rare book of quotations that is superlatively compiled. 

I am a sucker for quotes and suffice to say that I have read plenty of quote compilations. And while every editor does a good job, this one truly, truly stands out. 

1. First, the size. 5000 quotes is not a joke. 

2. The quality of content. This book has content that we can now read with the advantage of hindsight. And its amazing how right the naysayers were and how wrong the promoters turned out to me. All the warnings were given, and obviously ignored. We ended up with exactly what the warning implied and it was not good. But the foresight of those warnings. Someone had to dig them up, organise and publish them. 

3. The contraditions and the repeats - if two ppl have said the same thing at any time, we will hear about it here. 

4. The author's comments - the BEST part of the book are these bracketed quotes which are the author's comments. They make the book hilarious in some parts. 

What didn'twork 

Its good as a reference book, but I was reading it as a book, and that can get tedious and intellectually tiring at times. This book was read over many pauses for over a month. 

There are some repeats

And also, some cases where the author's better judgement either worked too well or left him entirely. 



Saturday, June 05, 2021

The day i lost respect for PV Narsimha Rao

 So,  we started watching Scam 1992 and then The Big Bull. Then Googled who the PM was who was in the pocket of Harshad Mehta. 

Realised it was PV Narsimha Rao. 

And that,  is how i lost all respect for PV Narsimha Rao. 

I really was stupid enough to think he was not corrupt. He was a Congress PM. Even a Prince,  when he becomes a Congress CM, cannot stop selling the vaccines that he bought under govt procurement to private hospitals.  



Friday, June 04, 2021

Five Awesome Netflix documentaries to watch

1. Spycraft - if you like espionage this is one of the best that i have seen. 


2. Inside Job - on the 2008 crisis, but with the macro view that is usually missing. 


3. The Great Hack -  The documentary that explains the Cambridge Analytica phenomenon. 


4. The Social Dilemma - The documentary that explains social media addiction - how it works, how pervasive it already is. 


5. Bad Boy Billionaires - I loved this documentary because the popular discourse is that these businessmen were fraudsters to start with. But when you see this documentary, you realise that its a nuanced story each time. They were riding a tiger, or just plain vilified.