Here’s how not to capture India in a day

Ridley Scott is asking Indians to capture What they did on October 10 to create a reel of “India in a Day”. Scroll talks about it here . The article shows two Youtube videos. The first one is a concept explication. The second one (scroll down a bit) is “what exactly do they want!”.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/ed0HwXuRfGk“>

Will he able to?

I say this project will yield a very skewed slice of the country . The “urban, left liberal, yuppie anglophone” India. I say this because: See the videos explaining the concept and the example video where the implementing director (some American Desi) is asking people in his very American accent on what he wants them to do.

Watch here:

https://www.youtube.com/embed/EhXqMrqw0BU“>

I am all for people satisfying their creative pursuits. However, I would have appreciated some localization of this effort. Some attempt to make the request a better cultural fit with a wider cross-section of India.

The current video wont appeal to large masses of Indians with bilingual English proficiency. Because they train in English, not in “American”, and at least an American Desi should understand that, if not Ridley Scott.

Let’s wait to see what this turns out into.

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The Interpretation of Gender and Unfair Advantages In Sport

Reflecting on how some female athletes are banned from competitive sport because of gender issues, the piece casts a larger question on what physical characteristics should be considered as creating unfair advantage in sport?

If you follow Indian Athletics, you would be familiar the name Duttee Chand, a promising sprinter, in the last couple of years swiftly rose into prominence to become the country’s best prospect in 100m and 200m. However this journey has been cut short as suspicion was raised on her gender. After a battery of tests it was found that she has more male hormones than is permissible to compete as a female. She needs further tests and possibly medical or surgical intervention before she can return to run. This is not the first time a female athlete in India has gone through this. Shanti Soundarajan (2006) and Pinki Pramanik (2012) are at least two other cases in the recent past.

Duttee is still a teenager and as this piece by Shivani Naik in Indian Express suggests, a huge pall of uncertainty glooms over her promising career.For instance, currently she is banned from International contests and is not competing in the ongoing Asiad, where she was expected to make her first big splash on the international scene. That was not be.

These cases raise a larger question. Why do we have such deterministic standards (based on physical characteristics) of what constitutes gender in sport? The manifestation of Gender as a neat dichotomous construct (Male or Female) is more of a social construction (Duttee or any of the other athletes I mentioned earlier were raised as females) than a scientific one. The latter is perhaps more fuzzy.

A further question is that of what constitutes unfair advantage in Sport? For instance height clearly signals an advantage in basketball and volleyball. Yet both these sports do not organize competition by height categories. Hence teams from “taller” [sic] nations have historically fared better.Yet, there are other sports that recognize the import of these advantages. Boxing and wrestling are clearly organized by weight categories. But perhaps all these respective sports look more spectacular because of this organization. We wouldn’t enjoy a basketball or volleyball game as much with shorter players.

Similarly, if women born with certain characteristics can run faster/better, why do we hold that as an unfair advantage? Is it different from being taller than others which lets one pocket more baskets than the rest or be better spikers?

Mumbai Metro Fare Row: Government Should Foster innovation, relinquish control

The Mumbai Metro from Versova to Ghatkpoar, the first 11 km leg of  Bombay’s much needed Metro began yesterday. The reports are impressive, both in media, social media and on this remarkable infrastructure discussion forum .  A quibble remains.

Reliance, the company response for building and operating the metro has notified the fares to be Rs 10, 20, 30 and 40. The Government wants the metro to be priced much lower at Rs 9, 11 and 13. Legally, Reliance, being the majority stakeholder is free to set the fares. Perturbed, the Government has moved the court.

On the surface the Reliance metro fare seems very high. Especially the latter two slabs (Rs 30 for 8 ams, and Rs 40 for 10 kms) seem rather unaffordable. Yet, I am not convinced that the fares need to be drastically reduced or regulated by the government.

Currently Reliance has announced a flat (anywhere to anywhere) promotional fare of Rs 10 , which will prevail for a month.A  smart move.  In that time, they would announce monthly and other season (quarterly) and tourist (weekly, three day and one day) passes , which would presumably work out to much lower than the existing Rs 40 for a single ride, for a medium to heavy user. Further they could introduce lower weekend rates or differentiate between peak/off-peak rates. In other words, there are ways in which Reliance cold make the metro affordable for a regular user but keep the charges high for an occasional user. This is how most systems in the world operate.(For instance in Chicago you pay $2.5 for a single ride on the subway, but $10 for unlimited rides a day, $28 for a week and $100 for a month.)

In sum, I believe that Reliance needs to keep an innovative fare structure that lets the occasional commuter subsidize the regular user. The fares proposed by the Government could make it difficult to maintain the system, and would dissuade the operator from running the service with the needed efficiency and upkeep.

For now, the Government needs to step back, relax and watch if Metro become a long overdue  comfortable means of transit for a section of Bombay. And expedite lines 2 and 3!

Why Capitalism could fail under Narendra Modi?

Bulk of the rhetoric about Narendra Modi’s becoming the PM of India has centered around the Gujarat Riots and whether he is culpable or not. Or related, the incorporation of Hindu Hardliners into the mainstream under his governance.

His proponents argue that he should be supported because his approach to governance fosters “development”.  By enabling a favorable business environment (getting speedy clearances, shortening the red tape etc. ).  And this they argue is reason enough to give him a change to replicate for the country , the wonders he has done to Gujarat.

Now two articles by very illustrious economists hint at why the development argument for Modi may not play out as expected.

First in this piece Mihir Shah, a member of the planning commission explains why the argument that capitalism initially creates wealth disparity but slowly reduces this disparity is flawed. It is flawed because the conditions for that to happen (honest relationships and transactions between business, focus on state provision of education, healthcare) are not met.

How does Mihir’s piece this apply to Narendra Modi? Fair question. Read  SIDDHARTH VARADARAJAN ‘s excellent piece to find out exactly why? Basically he argues that Modi in pursuing his pro-development capitalist agenda, violates the exact conditions under which capitalism fails to provide inclusive growth. 

Still want to vote for Mr Modi? Of course depends on what your idea of prosperity is.

When Hindi Heartland Encounters India’s Deep South.

Is the Modi Wave a hype after all? 

April 20, 2014: This is a photo from today’s Hindu from an election rally by BJP (India’s Hindu Nationalist Party) strongman Rajnath Singh in Tamil Nadu

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Responding to Arvind Kejriwal: News Broadcasters Contradict Themselves

Arvind Kejriwal of the Aam Aadmi Party has a knack for hitting the headlines. Usually it is because media love to provide airtime and space to someone who can call others names and Arvind dosen’t mince his words, except when his cough takes over. And true to his style, his recent tirade was against the media themselves .This put the media in a fix.

Although a small “evolved” section of the media , saw nothing extraordinary or alarming in the allegations, the “rank and file” of the media took exception and has decided to react more strongly. In a statement, The News Broadcasters Association (NBA) has issued a warning to the Aam Aadmi Party to exercise restraint.  Here’s an excerpt from an article reporting on this:

NBA reminded Kejriwal and his associates that the electronic media is independent and discharging its responsibilities in a fair, transparent and balanced manner and asked the AAP not to hurl “unsubstantiated and unverified charges” on the electronic media

Curiously the statement goes on to say,

NBA requests the convenor of AAP to “immediately refrain” from making such preposterous allegations failing which NBA members would be forced to reconsider coverage of the activities of  the AAP (underline added).

The suggestion here implies that the decision to cover activities of a political party is based on the party’s favorable view of the news media in the first place. Doesn’t the media contradict itself, it’ s own core principles here? The News Broadcaster Association in other words has justified its own criticism.

Review of Swaraj by Shekhar Gupta: A misplaced critique

Review of Swaraj by Shekhar Gupta: A misplaced critique

his critique of Swaraj by Arvind Kejriwal of the Aam Aadmi Party by Shekhar Gupta (SG) of Indian Express centres around what historical source is more accurate in providing historical “facts”. The following quote from the article reflects Shekhar’s core problem with Arvind’s historically inspired solutions from ancient India.
“But learning ancient Indian history from Chandamama or Amar Chitra Katha (Swaraj even has sketches) is even more perilous than knowing Mughal history from watching Jodha Akbar. Particularly for grown-ups”

My critique of Shekhar, Arvind and many others including those on the center right of the Indian political spectrum is the relevance of this method. In other words, I accuse them of being too “stuck in the past”, rather too “stuck in thinking the past is relevant” given the tectonic shifts in social,political and economic structures of our society from ancient times. Yes it may be instructive to learn from certain mistakes/experiences of the past. But in romanticizing how functional ancient India was, it is very dangerous to draw on that romanticism to provide solutions for modern India. Wish SG had at pointed that out as the main problem, than questioning Arvind’s sources for stating his philosophy.