Monthly Archives: March 2010

Symposium announcement

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Here is an interesting symposium that puts together some very fine thinkers. Satyanarayan from EFLU is putting together an anthology of Dalit writings from South India. I have heard him speak and read his articles. He is an original. Very focused and clear in his thinking. Not at all simplistic in his oppositional discourse. Then there is Umesh, a very fine historian. His earnestness makes his scholarship more valuable. Venkat Rao from EFLU has been speaking the Balagangadhar logic regarding caste. So it would be an interesting exchange to watch out for.

Department of English

A One-day Symposium on Dalit Studies in the Indian Universities

31 March 2010

Venue: Dean Hall, Administrative Building,

SRTM University, Nanded

Concept Note

We deem it necessary to see critically how the dalits across India see an emergent pan-Indian dalit cultural identity. This cultural identity is being articulated through creative writing in many Indian languages. It has been through such creative writings, also known as dalit literature, that the dalits have repudiated norms of untouchability, oppressive caste structure and the normative ideology of brahminism. The emergence of dalit consciousness and dalit voice across India during the last three decades has received considerable attention in the realm of social sciences. However, the so-called mainstream literary theory has largely remained uninfluenced / unaffected by the literary, cultural, theoretical and ideological issues raised by the new writers.

Dalit literature emerged as the revolutionary literature and challenged the norms, standards and principles of the so-called mainstream brahminical literature, aesthetics and literary theory. Dalit literature is not the literature of mere protest or negation. It aims at dismantling the existing structures of exploitation and restructuring the global society.

Started in Marathi during the seventies, dalit literature is now being written in several Indian languages. These literatures, barring languages, do share the egalitarian ideology and expose the exploitative mechanisms latent in the Indian society. The rise of dalit women writers in many parts of India has raised many issues pertaining to brahminical patriarchy, dalit male chauvinism and specificity of the dalit women’s exploitation. Many dalit women writers have refused to subsume their ideological and practical issues in the overarching rubric of Indian feminism. Apart from creative writing, there have been attempts to theorise caste, patriarchy and culture. However, such writings hardly find any space in the curricula in the Indian universities, leaving them lopsided and socially irrelevant.

It is now being widely accepted that educational system is exceptionally important in maintaining the status quo in the society. Curriculum happens to be actual means whereby a particular worldview is inculcated in the learners’ minds. Basil Bernstein suggests how a society, selects, classifies, distributes, transmits and evaluates the educational knowledge it considers to be public, reflects both the distribution of power and the principles of social control. Since the curriculum is a result of deliberate selection and organization of the cultural knowledge in the syllabus, textbook has been the significant issue in educational research. The traditional curriculum designed for courses in literatures at the UG and PG levels has either underrepresented or not represented the literatures produced and theories developed by the subaltern writers and intellectuals. Marginal incorporation of dalit literature into the curriculum, which is predominantly brahminical and patriarchal, only serves to legitimise it.

This symposium aims at discussing the state of courses in dalit studies / literatures in various universities and colleges and hopes to explore the commonalities in the experiences of the teachers committed to contribute to alternative pedagogy. The Department of English of SRTM University, Nanded plans to start an interdisciplinary course in Dalit Studies from the next academic year. The deliberations in this Symposium will also be hopefully useful in designing and conducting of this course.

Resource Persons

Dr. K Satyanarayana (Head, Department of Cultural Studies, EFLU, Hyderabad)

Dr. Venkat Rao (Department of Literatures in English, EFLU, Hyderabad)

Dr. Umesh Bagade (Professor and Head, Department of History, BAMU, Aurangabad)

Prof. Rahul Pungaliya (Dept. of English, Abasaheb Garware College, Pune)

Dr. Bhagwan Jadhav (Dean, Faculty of Arts, SRTM University, Nanded)

Contact

Dilip Chavan – dilipchavan@gmail.com

Population boom: a myth?

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Is population on the rise? Are all our problems related to the teeming millions? It is a hot topic out there. Here is an interesting take on it.

Many of today’s most-respected thinkers, from Stephen Hawking to David Attenborough, argue that our efforts to fight climate change and other environmental perils will all fail unless we “do something” about population growth. In the Universe in a Nutshell, Hawking declares that, “in the last 200 years, population growth has become exponential… The world population doubles every forty years.”

But this is nonsense. For a start, there is no exponential growth. In fact, population growth is slowing. For more than three decades now, the average number of babies being born to women in most of the world has been in decline. Globally, women today have half as many babies as their mothers did, mostly out of choice. They are doing it for their own good, the good of their families, and, if it helps the planet too, then so much the better.

Here are the numbers. Forty years ago, the average woman had between five and six kids. Now she has 2.6. This is getting close to the replacement level which, allowing for girls who don’t make it to adulthood, is around 2.3. As I show in my new book, Peoplequake, half the world already has a fertility rate below the long-term replacement level. That includes all of Europe, much of the Caribbean and the far east from Japan to Vietnam and Thailand, Australia, Canada, Sri Lanka, Turkey, Algeria, Kazakhstan, and Tunisia.

It also includes China, where the state decides how many children couples can have. This is brutal and repulsive. But the odd thing is that it may not make much difference any more: Chinese communities around the world have gone the same way without any compulsion—Taiwan, Singapore, and even Hong Kong. When Britain handed Hong Kong back to China in 1997, it had the lowest fertility rate in the world: below one child per woman.

So why is this happening? Demographers used to say that women only started having fewer children when they got educated and the economy got rich, as in Europe. But tell that to the women of Bangladesh, one of the world’s poorest nations, where girls are among the least educated in the world, and mostly marry in their mid-teens. They have just three children now, less than half the number their mothers had. India is even lower, at 2.8. Tell that also to the women of Brazil. In this hotbed of Catholicism, women have two children on average—and this is falling. Nothing the priests say can stop it.

Women are doing this because, for the first time in history, they can. Better healthcare and sanitation mean that most babies now live to grow up. It is no longer necessary to have five or six children to ensure the next generation—so they don’t.

More here.

While you were crying recession, the rich just got richer

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If there is any doubt about the insidiousness of capitalist logic, check this out. In a year that cried nothing but recession, the rich just got richer. Here is a fine piece by Andre Damon from here.

World’s billionaires grew 50 percent richer in 2009

2009 will be remembered by millions of ordinary people as the year they lost their job, their house, or the prospect of an education. For the rich, however, it was a bonanza.

The world’s billionaires saw their wealth grow by 50 percent last year, and their ranks swell to 1,011, from 793, according to the latest Forbes list of billionaires.

The combined net worth of these 1,011 individuals increased to $3.6 trillion, up $1.2 trillion from the year before. On average, each billionaire had his or her wealth increase by $500 million.

Four hundred and three billionaires reside in the United States. They constitute just 0.00014 percent of the country’s total population, but control 8 percent of the national wealth. Each of these individuals holds over 300 million times more wealth than the average US resident.

The list included 21 hedge fund managers, who as a group more than made up for whatever losses they incurred in 2008. Some of them, including James Simons, John Arnold, and George Soros, raked in profits during both the collapse and the market recovery.

Topping the list of wealthiest hedge fund managers was John Paulson, at $32 billion. Paulson made billions in 2008 by betting that the housing market would collapse, and billions more through the stock market recovery of 2009.

Only one of the 21 hedge fund managers on last year’s Forbes list fell off. This was Raj Rajaratnam of Galleon Group, who was arrested last year on charges of insider trading.

Hedge fund managers James Simons, John Arnold, and David Tepper got average returns of 62, 52, and 31 percent, respectively, between 2008 and 2010. David Tepper made $2.3 billion over the past year, while John Paulson’s wealth grew by $6 billion.

The number of US billionaires grew to 403, up from 359 last year. The Asia-Pacific region had 234 billionaires, up from 130 the last year. Europe has 248 billionaires, despite having twice the population of the United States.

The 1,011 people on this list command a phenomenal amount of personal wealth. Their holdings are larger than the gross domestic products of every country besides China, Japan, and the United States. The wealth of the 403 US billionaires could more than cover the 2008 US federal deficit, with money left over for the states.

While the number of billionaires on the list is just short of the all-time high of 1,125 reached in 2007, it represents a phenomenal rebound. At this rate, the number of billionaires will once again hit record levels next year.

Carlos Slim Helú, a Mexican telecommunications tycoon, moved up to the first position on the list at $53.5 billion, beating out Americans Bill Gates ($53 billion) and Warren Buffet ($47 billion). The wealth of all three men rose dramatically. Over the last several years Slim Helú made roughly $27 million a day compared with the average daily income of $16.50 for Mexican workers.

The rich in India and China gained among the most. “For the first time, mainland China has the most billionaires outside the US,” Forbes said in its statement. “US citizens still dominate the ranks, but their grip is slipping.”

The hedge fund managers and financiers on the list benefitted directly from the bank bailout, which transferred huge sums of public funds into the accounts of the largest financial companies. But the billionaires in every other industry were the indirect recipients the government’s wealth transfer program also.

The Wall Street Journal, commenting on the figures, wrote, “How did the world’s rich get so much richer? Stock markets…. In short, what the stock market had taketh, the stock market hath giveth back–-at least to the billionaires.”

But the stock market recovery itself is no accident; it was the direct outcome of policies pursued by both US political parties. The bailout has been financed by a policy of fiscal austerity and high unemployment. The rapid increase in the wealth of the billionaires is the result of the impoverishment of tens of millions; it is the other face of mass unemployment, poverty, utility shutoffs, and foreclosures.

Aside from direct government handouts to the banks and super-rich, the major driver of the recovery of corporate profits—and thus the stock market—was productivity growth and corporate downsizing.

In 2009, the unemployment rate rose from 7.7 to 10 percent, three million jobs were lost, and wages fell dramatically. Millions of families lost their homes and became dislocated. But productivity, the amount of output that is produced from each hour of work, rose by 7 percent.

The money freed up through the destruction of social programs, higher employee output, and corporate restructuring has found its way into the pockets of the people on Forbes’ list.

Capital Guru

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A rather old letter but not dated. Reproduced from churumuri this letter was written by Bhamy V Shenoy, a consumer activist from Mysore. What this letter reveals is how the so called spiritual leaders are actually into a commerce without products.

“I am back from Ravi Shankar’s Sangam 2008 within a few hours of its inauguration. It was supposed to be an “all-India NGO summit for protection of environment and access to social justice.” In reality, this was one of the cleverest hoaxes perpetrated in the name of a spiritual movement using the facade of NGOs.

“We should keep away from this “spiritual” person. His is a commercial ashram doling out psychological products specially for some foreigners and middle-class women who have studied in English medium schools. Many are working there as volunteers. It was impressive to see how so many could be motivated to give their services free of cost to produce profit for an institution. This requires genius of the highest order.

“I even met a professor from IIT Bombay who is a volunteer there. When I expressed my disappointment with the whole show, she was very “sympathetic” and assured me that she too felt the same way at first, and later thanks to “guruji” she could see the light.

“Uniformly every volunteer to whom I complained about the NGOs being taken for a ride, responded in the same manner as though all of them were robots programmed by some unknown force. The whole campus is filled with security people. Going from one place to another place was like going from one section of a jail to another where every gate is protected by a security guard.

“After charging Rs 5,000 as a delegation fee, Art Of Living was providing us a room to be shared with two others, and with no towels, soap, drinking water, etc. The food was sub-standard. We were expected to wash dishes after eating.

“We did not go there as his disciples. I do not think delegates were taking part to learn about self-help as his disciples may be expected to do. I refused to wash dishes which was not liked by some. This is not because I dislike it. I have done it often. But I did not pay Rs 5,000 to do that. Moreover on the website, I was offered better lodging and food facilities.

“What a wonderful way of advertising his product by charging us!

“Companies pay money to advertise their products, but here Ravi Shankar collects money from us and introduces us to his product.

“There were satsanghs, “free” introductory yoga classes, visit to his first abode, etc. I am sure some NGOs would have decided to buy his products and will act as his emissaries. Of course, there will be a few like me who will attempt to do just the opposite. There were spies in the ashram observing people like me. It was obvious and at one time I was even frightened.

“During an evening satsangh, there were some planted questions put to Ravi Shankar. Still, his responses were pedestrian at best. One of the questions was about the new burning topic of global warming and climate change and what he (Ravi Shankar) thought about them.

“At first, he ridiculed those who are worried about such things and proceeded to give the example of the Y2K phenomenon. Ravi Shankar dwelt on how foolishly people worried about Y2K, about places exploding, about the world coming to an end, etc and how nothing of the kind took place. He was suggesting that Y2K was not a problem and so also global warming. Little did he take into consideration the elaborate precautions taken by the world to prepare for Y2K and how India became the world capital for IT and outsourcing as a result.

“What a pity such an ignoramus is considered as a “guruji” even by the firebrand Vandana Shiva.

“Someone asked the question about the unrest and violence in Kashmir and his response was to pat the questioner and to state that youth should get involved.

“After spending less than 24 hours, I decided to leave the place. The cult-like environment was suffocating. Some other delegates from Mangalore with whom I have been conversing also decided to leave after the inauguration. One of the speakers Ananth Nadkarni, vice president, Tata council for community initiatives, too decided to leave early. Another speaker who was to talk on HIV left even before the end of the first day.

“But for Vandana Shiva, none of the advertised experts and well-known speakers (R.K. Pachauri, Ashok Khsola, et al) were present. Is it possible that their names were prominently placed to sell the Sangam?

“We were told that about 500 delegates had registered and there were three silver sponsors. They must have raised at least Rs 30 lakh and the incremental cost would be no more than Rs. 3 lakh. This is an excellent and clever way of making huge profits. Business colleges should use this as a case study. We should admire the entrepreneurial capabilities of Ravi Shankar. It needs genius.

“Despite being a keynote speaker, Vandana Shiva spoke for just few minutes and that too in a rambling manner. She took the opportunity to bash Tata’s small car, the Nano. Her so-called keynote speech was dull and did not dwell on the main subject. A high school student could have delivered a better speech with greater insight.

“A High Court judge also gave an uninspiring talk making no substantive points except offering “pranams” to “guruji“. What a joke!

“I attended the first workshop and it was also equally boring. Speakers were more interested in offering pranams than dwelling on the subject.

“I do not think we can collaborate with this group. When they were pressing us to register all the time, and not giving us any suggestions on how we could collaborate, I knew this was a commercial establishment and not a spiritual centre as is advertised. Perhaps we should write an article on how NGOs should guard against such frauds in the future.

“I am sure during your meeting with Ravi Shankar and his people, you would have come to the same conclusion. Let us now revert back to the poverty issue and stop any idea of collaborating with Ravi Shankar.

“I am planning to demand the return of payment since facts were misrepresented to me while registering. I am exploring the possibility of filing a case in the consumers’ forum. When our NGO, Mysore Grahakara Parishat, is encouraging others to file cases, I need to follow that example.”

Interesting Find

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Scientists have discovered a macabre death scene that took place 67 million years ago. The setting was a nest, in which a baby dinosaur had just hatched from an egg, only to face an 11-foot-long snake waiting to devour it.

The moment was frozen forever when, apparently, the nest was buried in a sudden avalanche of mud or sand and everything was fossilized.

The discovery was made by Jeffrey Wilson, a professor at the University of Michigan. He had heard about the amazing fields of dinosaur eggs discovered in India.

Wilson visited a scientist in India who showed him a broken, fossilized egg encased in a briefcase-sized block of stone. He leaned in to take a closer look and saw something else.

“I was stunned when I saw it,” Wilson says, “because, sort of leaping out at me, were the peculiar articulations between the vertebrae of a snake, and so I had no idea that there would be a snake there but there it was sitting in front of me.”

Image from Wilson et al. 2010, PLoS Biology

The blocks of stone containing the fossilized remains of the snake Sanajeh indicus, a partial clutch of  three sauropod eggs, and a sauropod hatchling.

Uncovering A Dinosaur Death Scene

With permission from the Indian government, Wilson put the stone in his backpack and flew home. He emphasizes that he did not check the bag.

Wilson spent a year cleaning the stone. Bit by bit, it revealed more of the egg and more of the snake. But it’s what the snake was doing that turned this rare find into something even more unusual — a grim tableau right out of a science fiction movie.

“It was amazing,” Wilson recalls, “because we realized that not only do we have an egg, not only do we have a chain of vertebrae, but they are arranged in a coil, and on top of the coil was a skull.”

The snake was coiled around the broken eggshell. “Next to that coil, eggshell, skull, was a solid egg, and another solid egg, and then some larger bones,” says Wilson.

Those bones belonged to a baby sauropod. Full-grown sauropods were the vegetarian 100-ton giants of the dinosaur world. But the baby was only about a foot-and-a-half long. It had apparently just hatched from that broken egg. The snake, about 11 feet long, had been waiting for the baby to hatch in order to eat it.

Image from Wilson et al. 2010, PLoS Biology

A diagram of the fossil find provided shows the snake Sanajeh indicus coiled around a crushed          sauropod egg near two eggs from the same clutch. The hatchling sauropod at right probably just emerged from the egg.

‘Anaconda’ Meets ‘Jurassic Park’

Wilson says scientists have since found three snake fossils and more eggs at the same site this one came from. They add new details to a 67-million-year-old story, says Wilson.

“The sauropods, these big dinosaurs, would come in, they would use their hind limb and probably kick out a small depression,” Wilson says. “They would squat down they would lay a clutch of six to twelve eggs, they would cover it up with a little layer of sediment and maybe some vegetation and then they would leave it.”

And the snakes knew that.

“It’s ‘Anaconda meets Jurassic Park,’ ” says Jason Head, a paleontologist at the University of Toronto who worked with Wilson’s team. “These sauropods would lay these huge fields of eggs that we find in India, just kind of kilometers of dinosaur eggshell, and so with these hatchling dinosaurs it must have just been a smorgasbord where a whole ecosystem of predators could basically come in and feed on them.”

In this case, a sudden avalanche of sand or mud must have intervened and buried both prey and predator like the human life scenes entombed by the eruption of Pompeii.

The scientists call the snake Sanajeh indicus. It did not have a modern snake’s jaw, which basically unhinges so the snake can swallow large prey, but instead had a jaw more like a lizard.

Head says the snake probably made up for that by growing very large. So did the sauropods, which probably grew very fast as well, given their apparent tastiness.

The discovery is described in the journal PLOS Biology.

From: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=124217483

Yes

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A poem I came across:

Yes I am rabid optimist

For me

Every tree that continues to stand,

Every stream that continues to flow,

Every child that runs away from home,

Is an indication

That the battle

Is not only on

It is being won.

Possibly you will tell me

About the nuclear arms race,

And all I can tell you

Is that

An unknown child

Held my hand

With  love.

You will try to draw me

Into the plateau of practical life

Tell me

That   not only  god but all the religious

And irreligious leaders

Are  dead.

And all I can tell you

Is that

Across the forest

Lives a young man

Who calls the  earth

His mother

You will give me the

Boring details of the rise of state power

After   every revolution.

And all I can tell you

Is that

In our tribe

We still share

Our  bread.

You will reason with me

And I will talk nonsense like this.

And because the difference between reason and poetry

Is  the difference between breathing and living life,

I will read poems to you.

Poems full of optimism

Poems full of dreams

May be poems better than this..

-sathyu.