Saturday, June 24, 2006

how do you like delhi?

I get this awkward question a lot. I sidestep. I evade. I volunteer unrelated information. I underplay. But there's no getting around the answer, which is not much. The main reason is that I run into too many bloated, obnoxious, aggressive louts--and not just on the road. The PM is right that Delhi's drivers are absurdly selfish and rude, but the behavior isn't limited to the road. A simple trip to the movies is ruined--not only by people who chatter through the whole thing, but by pushing and shoving in the queue, jumping the queue entirely, then fighting and justifying why YOU deserve to be first, etc. It's second nature, according to the Times of India. But I can't help wondering why. The Reader's Digest says Mumbai is the rudest city in the world, but nobody has ever been as rude to me there as in Delhi, where my neighbors treat me to a daily lesson.

I'm in the USA now, where people are racist, ignorant and every other thing, and I can't get over how polite everyone is, holding doors open, waiting to let me go first.... Is it overcrowding that makes people rude? Is it class? Is it the heat? I don't know.

Flame away.

manmohan knows

Attention drivers:
The horn is not a forcefield.
The Nathu Sweets entrance to the GKII M-block market is ONE WAY.
There is only ONE righthand turn lane.

Now, on to your reading:

Where are your manners, PM asks motorists

June 24, 2006 15:57 IST

Appalled by the chaos on Indian roads, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday said that wind swept roads and fancy cars alone did not reflect progress, it had to be accompanied by good road manners and discipline.

"Building modern roads and driving modern cars are not the end all and be all of progress. Good road manners and adherence to road discipline are equally important," he said at a national highway project inauguration function in Bangalore.

"I think we must ask ourselves, why can't we be more polite to each other, more caring of each other, more respectful of each other," Dr Singh asked.

The prime minister said people must learn road manners, how to give way to pedestrians, how to observe normal rules while overtaking, how to park and when not to blow a horn.

"These are simple rules, but their observance makes a lot of difference to our daily lives," he said, adding: "We Indians behave with great courtesy at home and with our family and friends. But sometimes, when we go out we leave these good manners at home. On the road, we lose control of our good senses. Why should this be so."

Friday, June 23, 2006

the big whine

Sometimes I wonder why Americans are so stumped why the rest of the world could do without them. Take the World Cup. Yesterday, the USA team was eliminated by a game Ghana side, the Cinderella of the tournament, and all the USA can talk about is the foul called in the box that resulted in the winning goal. Yes, kids, sometimes things won't go your way--even though the whole of FIFA has conspired over the past two decades to encourage American soccer.

Some points to consider:
(1) The foul, though minor, was similar to many that have been whistled in the tourney by somewhat overzealous refs. Players should be well aware of the trend, and play accordingly.
(2) Who cares? I'm psyched that Ghana is doing so well. I always root for Africa.
(3) Shouldn't the USA be questioning the error that put the ball in the box, where Ghana had better position on the ball than the US player, in the first place?
(4) A 1-1 tie wouldn't have been enough for the USA to advance anyway, because the team failed to win, or score a goal, in its other two games.

"To give a penalty in that situation is bizarre. It really deflated us."

"If that's a foul, there's a lot of penalties in the game."

"The referee should have the experience to know what's a foul and what's not."


Third worlders, take heart. The USA may continue to whine and make excuses, but not only have Americans failed to match their hype in World Cup soccer. Team USA also failed to win the international baseball classic, got blinked 0 wins and 4 losses in Olympic hockey, and even failed to win gold in Olympic basketball--notwithstanding the whinging that opened the amateur competition to NBA players a few years back after the US lost for the first time.

Maybe we don't "deserve" to win.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

confession: not a good socialist

OK, I know that I tend to profess a certain fellow feeling for the common man in this blog. But I have to ask: Has anyone else recently vowed never to fly Air Deccan again, following a scrum at the ticket booth, the gate, and the door of the aircraft? The words "very expensive interstate bus" come to mind....

I imagine a TV-comedy sketch with guys walking down the aisles of the Deccan flight, tinkling soda bottles and reeling out "Kaaald drrrink," "Aaahmlit brayda, Aahmlit brayda..." Guys parachuting onto the wing with vada pao, etc.

sad, but not surprising - a prejudice for English

Posting from the good ole USA today.... Now, not only are schools refusing to admit poor students, they're finding reasons to refuse students with bad English. Reasonable enough, in one sense--private schools needn't be in the business of providing remedial English help. But this is another piece of evidence showing the tremendous obstacles that face the lower class before they can pull themselves up by their bootstraps--which is apparently what most would have them do.

97.6% marks is not enough for admission to Delhi school
Wednesday, June 21, 2006 18:24 IST

NEW DELHI: Sixteen-year-old Garima Godar achieved the rare feat of securing 97.6 per cent marks in the class X board exams, but she got a rude shock when a top Delhi school denied her admission apparently due to her poor spoken English.

Everything seemed to be going right for Garima, daughter of a police constable, until she appeared for the entrance test for admission in Delhi Public School (DPS), Dwarka.

To her dismay, despite her excellent academic record, she did not find her name in the merit list of the school.

"I just don't understand what went wrong. I was a bit nervous in the interview. But my performance was up to my expectation," she said.

When contacted about the incident, DPS Dwarka Principal Umat Aluma said that though Garima's academic achievement was good, she fell short of standards in the entrance test and interview for admission to the top public school.

"We take into account the marks of previous examination, performance in entrance test and interview. She had secured good marks no doubt. But her performance in the other two tests were not up to our expectations," she said.

However, Garima is not satisfied with the reasons offered by the school for not selecting her. "In my case, it seems it was my performance in the interview (including my spoken English) that was not up to the mark. If this is true, is it not the responsibility of the school to help me improve my English? What else is a school meant for?" she asked.

Taking note of an incident wherein a top public school in the capital denied admission to a girl who secured 97.6 per cent marks in class X exams, Delhi Government today launched an inquiry into the matter and decided to offer scholarship to her.

Besides asking his ministry officials for a report by tomorrow in the matter, Education Minister Arvinder Singh Lovely has asked another branch of Delhi Public School to admit her.

"We are inquiring into the matter. I have asked officials of the education department to get the details from both the school authorities and the girl by tomorrow," Lovely said.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006


My recent post on reservations received a number of comments from both sides of the debate, primarily showing how polarizing this issue has become.

I am reminded of the US, where education has long been known to be greatly biased against the poor and non-white. Ridiculous solutions and ridiculous proposals are constantly introduced--and rarely is anything implemented--though that is not to say either that India's new quotas are ridiculous or won't be enacted into law.

e.g. Private school "vouchers" - This plan admitted that the US public school system was a failure in poor urban communities and proposed to give parents "vouchers" tha twould help them pay to send their kids to private schools. Since the vouchers would have been valued at a few thousand dollars, and private schools cost around $20,000 a year in the US, and the concerned parents make around $15,000, this was an absurd plan. But the most absurd thing was that the media, and many Americans, treated it with the utmost seriousness. Not only would it not have helped the relevant communities, by abandoning government-sponsored schools and hiding behind fake privatization, it would have left the poor much worse off.

This was profoundly sad, considering that the US government could immediately redress many of the problems that plague education without spending an additional dime on funding. How? Public education in the US is funded almost exclusively by property taxes. The rich neighborhoods have the highest property values, pay the most tax, and have the best schools. Unlike India, the US is segregated economically, so the poor receive educations funded only by their paltry property taxes. A simple solution would be to put all the property tax into one big pot, and allocate it to the school districts based on population and/or need. As in India, however, the wealthy do not want to sacrifice any of their advantages to benefit the less fortunate.

india's maoists step up rebellion

Thursday, June 8, 2006 Page A16
Special to The Globe and Mail

DORNAPAL, INDIA -- Madkam Devi, a pretty 19-year-old in a sari printed with pink flowers, shifted the thin-limbed infant on her hip and gazed into space as she described how she narrowly escaped being hacked to death by Maoist revolutionaries a month ago.

She and 51 other villagers of Manikonta, a village in the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh, had returned to their homes from a government relief camp on April 25 to collect cooking pots, plastic buckets and other household items they had left behind when they made their hurried departure for police protection from the guerrillas. Finding the village deserted, they quickly gathered their belongings and started back to the relief camp. They didn't get far before the Maoists ambushed them.

"Some people panicked and tried to run, but some of the Maoists were wearing uniforms and shouted to us that they were the police, and we shouldn't be afraid," Ms. Devi said.

The Maoists, including about 50 gunmen in uniforms and another 150 irregulars armed with axes and wooden staves, killed two villagers and captured the others, Ms. Devi said. Some were badly beaten, a taste of the treatment the prisoners would receive over the next four days. But the worst was to come. As an example of the fate that awaits villagers who participate in a government-aided people's movement against their rebellion, the Maoists executed 13 of the villagers.

The Maoists -- sometimes called Naxalites, in reference to an armed uprising in the village of Naxalbari in West Bengal, from which the movement began in 1967 -- have maintained a low-level insurrection in India for nearly 40 years, organizing uprisings among landless workers, hijacking trains, mounting frequent attacks on police posts and industrial facilities, and murdering their political opponents. Their rebellion is gaining ground, expanding across 14 eastern and central Indian states, running all the way from the Nepal border in the north to the southern coast, and becoming a major Communist force intent on winning control of the Indian state through military means.

And the war is growing ever more deadly. More than 700 people, 500 of them civilians, were killed in raids, land-mine blasts and other incidents in 2005. Provisional data from the past four months suggest the death toll will be higher in 2006.

The rapid increase in violence has prompted some experts, such as Ajai Sahni of the New Delhi-based Institute for Conflict Management, to warn that the Naxalite insurrection has surpassed separatist terrorists in Kashmir as the largest internal threat to India's ability to govern its vast territory.

India's national and state governments have long refused to acknowledge the seriousness of the problem, because of what it says about their administrations, Mr. Sahni said. "Unlike the Kashmir issue, which we could blame on somebody else, this was entirely indigenous. It pointed to state failures."

The Maoist movement is rooted in the deep impoverishment of rural India. Although India's economy is growing at close to 8 per cent a year, nearly three-quarters of its people live in rural areas that continue to lag far behind the cities, especially in the problem states of north and central India. Just 20 per cent of rural people have access to basic amenities such as running water, compared with 70 per cent in urban areas. And poor nutrition and lack of health care mean that the infant-mortality rate for rural India is nearly 40 per cent higher than in urban areas.

In Chhattisgarh, the lack of local economic progress is obvious despite a huge influx of investment to develop the state's mineral resources. "Mining has been going on for three decades, but the only industry to flourish in the area is prostitution," a spokesman for the Maoists recently told local reporters.

In recent months, the rebel attacks have become more daring. In November, hundreds of Maoists stormed a jail in Bihar, freeing a captured Maoist leader and about half of the facility's 650 inmates. In February, the rebels raided a state-owned mining company in Chhattisgarh, stealing tonnes of explosives for the manufacture of crude bombs.

The violent attack on the villagers of Manikonta signalled a shift in strategy by the guerrillas, who previously had focused attacks on organs of the state. By brutalizing ordinary villagers, the Maoists are taking a dangerous gamble. Historically, they have embraced local causes and won respect, and sometimes support, through hard work and a dogged battle against social injustice and government corruption.

In Chhattisgarh, local observers say that years ago the Maoists forced contractors to pay tribal labourers the wages mandated by the state, rather than skimming from the payroll. They thrashed corrupt officials of the forest department, and forced truant government teachers to show up for their classes in the deep jungle, instead of merely drawing their salaries.

However, Chhattisgarh officials now say that the Maoists more often work to stop projects that would benefit the local poor.

"Contrary to what they [the Maoists] say, Naxalism is not growing, because there is no development in the state," said Chhattisgarh Home Secretary B. K. S. Ray. "Basically, this is a terrorist movement to gain political power through violence. Initially, they may have wanted land reform and equality, but now it's a gang of extortionists, gangsters and killers."

The tribal people of rural India need roads, schools and jobs. But the Maoists are committed to a full-scale Communist upheaval and radical redistribution of wealth, and believe that these incremental gains will never erase the gross inequalities of what they term India's "bourgeois comprador democracy."

"There is no dilution in the ideology," said Mr. Sahni of the Institute of Conflict Management. "There is absolutely no set of economic initiatives on the horizon that can give prosperity, dignity et cetera to 810 million people in rural India."