Thursday, May 29, 2014

Modi happened in Election 2014

This Lok Sabha election was a structural break for India as its voters comprehensively rejected their Nehru-Gandhi past.

 Written by Surjit S Bhalla | May 20, 2014 8:49 am

Essentially, the Indian polity has called the Congress’s bluff,
seen it for the calculating set of politicians they have been.

Just what happened on May 16? In a word, Modi. Of course, there are several other factors that determined the contours of Election 2014, but the defining characteristic was the PM-designate, Narendra Modi. Can one individual define an election? Possible, if that individual rightly senses the mood of the country, and its changing sense of direction. Recall what happened in that other defining election, albeit of a lower seismic magnitude — Barack Obama in 2008. The parallels are close — a black man winning the presidency in a country where the blacks obtained civil rights just 50 years ago; a lower caste OBC winning in a country where caste matters a lot. Post the 2008 election in the US, one found out that maybe white Americans are not that racist after all; post-May 16, India has found out that caste has ceased to occupy an important place in the minds of voters.

So what did happen in India? Several myths abound as to what explains Modi’s record-breaking win — 336 seats for the NDA, and the highest ever seat per vote recorded for any alliance or party in India, that is, nine seats for every 1 per cent of the vote. In the record-setting 1984 election, the Congress obtained 8.5 seats for each per cent vote. A partial listing of the myths:

Myth 1: The Congress lost because it operated a corruption and scam infested regime: Commonwealth Games, Coalgate, 2G, etc. As if UPA 1, and all governments before, have not been corrupt. Corruption is one of the factors affecting voters’ choice, but not a very important factor. Else, why would all opinion and exit polls suggest that corruption was one of the least important determinants of voters’ choice? And just look at the results for the Aam Aadmi Party, which ran exclusively against crony capitalism and corruption — and managed to win only four of the 432 seats it contested, and lost its deposit in 413, another record.

Myth 2: The Congress lost because of a weak economy — high inflation and low growth. I am a card-carrying member of the club that believes that economic performance determines voting behaviour. But this election was not an average election, to which average explanations are applicable. By itself, the weak economy and corruption would mean that the Congress and UPA would lose seats. But to lose 200 seats is a black swan event. In 2009, with the best economy ever, the UPA gained “only” 54 seats, and the NDA lost “only” 26 seats. So, with the worst economy ever, one might have expected the NDA and UPA to go back to approximately their 2004 levels, that is, around 200 for both the UPA and NDA. Indeed, according to the CNN-IBN tracker poll, both alliances were in a near neck-to-neck battle as late as August 2013.

Myth 3: Anti-incumbency, voter fatigue after 10 years of UPA rule resulted in the Modi win. When all else fails, indulge in an anti-incumbency explanation. Too many counter examples exist. Remember 2009, when the incumbent UPA got elected. Or Madhya Pradesh 2003, when Digvijaya Singh, and the Congress, got unceremoniously voted out after 10 years in power. Or Modi’s Gujarat, or Chouhan’s MP, returned for a third and second consecutive term, respectively.

Myth 4: The weak leadership of Rahul Gandhi affected the Congress’s performance. Imagine that any individual but Modi was the leader of the BJP — say, L.K. Advani, Rajnath Singh, Arun Jaitley, Sushma Swaraj or Shivraj Chouhan. No one was betting that any of these individuals would offer a large difference with respect to the UPA leadership. The common refrain of many, including myself, has been that there isn’t a naya paisa’s worth of difference between the UPA and NDA. And there hasn’t been — till Modi came along.

So what explains the Modi win? The UPA campaign offered two all important “reasons” to vote for the UPA. Vote for us because we do so much for you, and don’t vote for Modi because he is evil.

Look what the Congress guaranteed to the Indian citizen, especially the poor. A jobs guarantee programme, so that the poor had jobs. A food security bill, so that two-thirds of the population was guaranteed food at throwaway prices. A land acquisition bill, so that the poor got a fair price. A right to information act, and a Lokpal bill, so that corrupt government officials could be caught red-handed. And yet, the Congress managed to win only 44 out of 543 seats, about half of what the BJP got in only its second election in 1989.
Modi is evil, we are not: An important fact about the recent election, and possibly related to the overwhelming beyond-expectations majority that Narendra Modi obtained, is that, to the best of my knowledge, no individual in Indian or world history has been unjustly vilified as much as Modi has been. This vilification continues even to this day, especially by the “sickular” parties and their left-intellectual storm troopers. I am choosing my words wisely, because the condemnation campaign has almost universally invoked images of the Nazi and Fascist European regimes of the 1930s.

What is most informative, and disturbing, about these storm troopers (among whom are many domestic and foreign journalists), is that they invariably belong to the Congress party and/or have been its sympathisers until recently. Let me make my position clear, possibly for the umpteenth time. Narendra Modi was chief minister at the time the Gujarat riots happened just as Rajiv Gandhi was the prime minister of India at the time the Delhi pogrom against Sikhs occurred. Both have to assume responsibility for what happened under their watch. All I am asking is whether the Congress storm-troopers, or Modi-baiters, have ever condemned Rajiv Gandhi and/ or the Congress party with the same language and allusions to Hitler as they have done, and continue to do, about Modi?

Morality and philosophy aside, an election is not an absolute choice but rather a choice between individuals. So, especially in the case of the Congress versus Modi, the issue of 2002 versus 1984 is irrelevant, that is, individuals who are upset by Modi should be equally (if not more) upset by the Congress.

Strategic Voting by Muslims — backfired: In the Muslim and Yadav states of UP and Bihar, the turnout was higher by about 12 percentage points. Did the UPA whizkids consider that their strategy of concentrated Muslim and Yadav voting against Modi might engineer a counter-strategy — for every one Muslim and Yadav (MY) that indulged in strategic voting, there were probably four non-MY voters ensuring that the negative strategy (sic) did not succeed.

Essentially, the Indian polity has called the Congress’s bluff, seen it for the calculating set of politicians they have been. Their governance demanded not only change, but wholesale rejection. The Indian polity has elected a leader. The “historical low” losers contend that all Modi has done is package a dream, a dream that will not last, a dream that will soon become a nightmare. The losers, and Congress apologists, believe that Modi will soon crash to earth. I have no doubt that the expectations of the Modi government are sky high, and that it is impossible for the transformed reality to be an equal match to the expectations. Equally, I have no doubt that the Modi-led government will make a strong effort to match a large fraction of these expectations — and that they will largely succeed.

The writer is chairman of Oxus Investments, an emerging market advisory firm, and a senior advisor to Zyfin, a leading financial information company.


Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Why It’s So Hard for Men to See Misogyny

Men were surprised by #YesAllWomen because men don’t see what women experience.

By Amanda Hess

When Santa Barbara police arrived at Elliot Rodger’s apartment last month—after Rodger’s mother alerted authorities to her son’s YouTube videos, where he expressed his resentment of women who don’t have sex with him, aired his jealousy of the men they do choose, and stated his intentions to remedy this “injustice” through a display of his own “magnificence and power”—they left with the impression that he was a “perfectly polite, kind and wonderful human.” Then Rodger killed six people and himself on Friday night, leaving a manifesto that spelled out his virulent hatred for women in more explicit terms, and Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown deemed him a “madman.”
Amanda Hess Amanda Hess

Amanda Hess is a Slate staff writer. Email her at, or follow her on Twitter.

Another rude awakening played out on social media this weekend as news of Rodger’s attack spread around the world. When women took to Twitter to share their own everyday experiences with men who had reduced them to sexual conquests and threatened them with violence for failing to comply—filing their anecdotes under the hashtag #YesAllWomen—some men joined in to express surprise at these revelations, which amassed more quickly than observers could digest. How can some men manage to appear polite, kind, even “wonderful” in public while perpetuating sexism under the radar of other men’s notice? And how could this dynamic be so obvious to so many women, yet completely foreign to the men in their lives? Some #YesAllWomen contributors suggested that men simply aren’t paying attention to misogyny. Others claimed that they deliberately ignore it. There could also be a performative aspect to this public outpouring of male shock—a man who expresses his own lack of awareness of sexism implicitly absolves himself of his own contributions to it.

But there are other, more insidious hurdles that prevent male bystanders from helping to fight violence against women. Among men, misogyny hides in plain sight, and not just because most men are oblivious to the problem or callous toward its impact. Men who objectify and threaten women often strategically obscure their actions from other men, taking care to harass women when other men aren’t around.

Placating these men is a rational choice, a form of self-defense to protect against setting off an aggressor.

The night after the murders, I was at a backyard party in New York, talking with a female friend, when a drunk man stepped right between us. “I was thinking the exact same thing,” he said. As we had been discussing pay discrepancies between male and female journalists, we informed him that this was unlikely. But we politely endured him as he dominated our conversation, insisted on hugging me, and talked too long about his obsession with my friend’s hair. I escaped inside, and my friend followed a few minutes later. The guy had asked for her phone number, and she had declined, informing him that she was married and, by the way, her husband was at the party. “Why did I say that? I wouldn’t have been interested in him even if I weren’t married,” she told me. “Being married was, like, the sixth most pressing reason you weren’t into him,” I said. We agreed that she had said this because aggressive men are more likely to defer to another man’s domain than to accept a woman’s autonomous rejection of him.

A week before the murders, I experienced a similar dynamic when I went for a jog in Palm Springs, California. It was early on a weekend morning, and the streets that had been full of pedestrians the night before were now quiet. When I paused outside a convenience store to stretch, a man sitting at a bus stop across the street from me began yelling obscene comments about my body. When my boyfriend came out of the convenience store, he shut up.

These are forms of male aggression that only women see. But even when men are afforded a front seat to harassment, they don’t always have the correct vantage point for recognizing the subtlety of its operation. Four years before the murders, I was sitting in a bar in Washington, D.C. with a male friend. Another young woman was alone at the bar when an older man scooted next to her. He was aggressive, wasted, and sitting too close, but she smiled curtly at his ramblings and laughed softly at his jokes as she patiently downed her drink. “Why is she humoring him?” my friend asked me. “You would never do that.” I was too embarrassed to say: “Because he looks scary” and “I do it all the time.”

Women who have experienced this can recognize that placating these men is a rational choice, a form of self-defense to protect against setting off an aggressor. But to male bystanders, it often looks like a warm welcome, and that helps to shift blame in the public eye from the harasser and onto his target, who’s failed to respond with the type of masculine bravado that men more easily recognize. Two weeks before the murders, Louis C.K.—who has always recognized pervasive male violence against women in his stand-up—spelled out how this works in an episode of Louie, where he recalls watching a man and a woman walking together on a date. “He goes to kiss her, and she does an amazing thing that women somehow learn how to do—she hugged him very warmly. Men think this is affection, but what this is is a boxing maneuver.” Women “are better at rejecting us than we are,” C.K. said. “They have the skills to reject men in the way that we can then not kill them.”

When Elliot Rodger finally snapped, he drove to a Santa Barbara sorority house as part of his plan to give the “female gender one last chance to provide me with the pleasures I deserved from them,” and killed two women who were walking outside. Before he hit the sorority house, he stabbed three men in his apartment; after he left the sorority, he killed another man who was entering a nearby convenience store. In the course of the attack, he wounded 13 more people. Rodger hated all the women who did not provide him sex, but he also resented the men he felt had been standing in the way of his conquests, though they were never made aware of this belief. (Many men die of domestic-violence-related murders this way, killed by ex-boyfriends, ex-husbands, and family members of the women in their lives.) Some men are using this death count to claim that Rodger’s killings were not motivated by misogyny, but that is a simplistic account of how misogyny operates in a society that privately abides the hatred of women unless it’s expressed in its most obvious forms.

Source: Slate
Amanda Hess is a Slate staff writer. Email her at, or follow her on Twitter.


Friday, May 23, 2014

Door by Door, India Strives to Know More About Death


The New York TimesMAGADI, India — M. R. Gundappa, 60, died the way most Indians do: with no doctor present, no monitors beeping by his side and no written record. The only person present was his wife, Sushilamma, 48, who spent the day of his death trying to get him admitted to a government hospital where he could be treated for abdominal pain.

On a recent afternoon, Sushilamma spent an hour trying to retrieve her memories of the fateful day in 2013 for an official from the Office of the Registrar General of India, who sifted through her story for clues to what had caused her husband’s death.

Nearly 70 percent of deaths in India, five million in all each year, take place in the absence of medical supervision, according to the office, which is responsible for registering births and deaths.

To fill this gap, a new survey, the Million Death Study, is trying to turn the clock back on a million premature deaths that took place between 2001 and 2014, sifting through evidence provided by families and caregivers. By assigning causes to these deaths, based on the accounts of witnesses, the study hopes to identify the major causes of premature death in India.

“The idea is to show, with evidence, that many of these deaths are preventable,” said Prabhat Jha, a professor at the University of Toronto, who conceived of the project.

While full results are not expected for four to five years, some preliminary findings have been released, and those have stirred controversy. The survey’s estimate of total malaria deaths in India is more than 10 times the World Health Organization’s. Its figure for deaths related to H.I.V. infections is significantly lower than what the United Nations predicted, and the Indian government, which has spent heavily to control the spread of the disease, may take that into account as it settles on future medical priorities.

Approaching strangers to ask about the deaths of their loved ones is no simple endeavor in India, a fact that was brought home to Ashok Kumar, a registrar official, when he knocked on a door in the town of Magadi, in the southern state of Karnataka, on a recent day.

Seeing his credentials, Sushilamma opened the door, allowing him to settle into the cramped living room, under the watch of a pantheon of family gods perched on the pale walls. A garlanded photograph of her husband was a recent addition, and her eyes were drawn to the photograph as she discussed the details of his death with the visitor.

Then the neighbors came, to watch, to listen, to offer sympathy and sometimes to fill in some gaps when her account faltered.

As the interview stretched and Mr. Kumar went into the details of the death, her answers became vague as his questions became more pointed.

“Did he have a pain in his heart?” he asked.

“I don’t think so,” she replied.

“Are you sure? Was there any pain in this region?” he asked, gesturing to his chest.

No. No, she insisted.

“Try and remember,” he said.

“I really don’t remember,” she said in an apologetic tone, shaking her head, a weariness creeping in.

Mr. Kumar’s questioning was part of an unusual form of medical investigation, a verbal autopsy, that traces its roots to 17th-century London, a city haunted by epidemics, where “death searchers” regularly showed up at homes after someone died.

In India, two pioneering studies were conducted in the 1950s and ’60s, but were more limited in scope.

“We are literally chasing down death in millions of homes over a decade now,” said Suresh Rathi, a senior researcher who manages the project. “Where would we find the doctors for that?”

Twice a year, senior registrar officials like Mr. Kumar visit households across India that reported deaths in the previous six months, carrying verbal autopsy forms. Scans of the completed forms are shared with the Bangalore office of the Center for Global Health Research, an international nonprofit group that is collaborating with the registrar’s office on the project.

Each verbal autopsy form is sent to two doctors from a pool of about 300, who independently assign a probable cause of death. If their verdicts match, the cause of death is made final. Otherwise, a senior doctor is asked to arbitrate and make a decision.

This part is completed fairly quickly, Professor Jha said. The real challenge is getting the verbal autopsies.

In urban areas, Mr. Kumar said, “we may be welcomed into homes, but are not always welcome to discuss details of a loved one’s death.”

Village residents are more willing to share their stories, according to Professor Jha. “It is almost cathartic,” he said. “For many it is a chance to vent about the treatment or the lack of it at government and even private hospitals.”

Language poses an additional obstacle: Autopsy narratives are recorded in regional languages, and though the project employs doctors fluent in 18 of India’s 20 officially recognized languages, 2,000 verbal autopsies have had to be thrown out because they were incomprehensible.

Some 42,000 autopsies have been gathered and analyzed, each on a paper form. Because of the study’s reliance on paper, it could take anywhere from four to five years before the final results are available. That reservoir of information will be valuable to public health specialists, but will probably bring little to the families who were its subjects. The results will never be shared with them, and the deaths will remain unexplained.

Still, the researchers persist. On a hot afternoon in the village of Uragahalli, Mr. Kumar was trying to obtain an account of the death of a girl who had survived barely an hour after her birth.

The girl’s mother had lost consciousness after the delivery, and remembered very little. So Mr. Kumar relied on the baby’s aging grandparents, who struggled to put what happened into words.

“What’s the use talking about this now?” the grandmother asked in the local Kannada language, her irritation clear.

The interview with Sushilamma, the widow, was equally exhausting. The end of the interview had the quality of a bandage being slowly unwrapped from an open wound: She described many hours of pleading with doctors to tell her what was wrong with her husband.

“The worst part is I still don’t know what happened,” she said, her voice tinged with something more than grief.


Thursday, May 15, 2014

The New Age Nuptial Solution

By Suhas Yellapantula - HYDERABAD    |    Published: 15th May 2014 09:56 AM
Last Updated: 15th May 2014 09:57 AM

‘I’m an artist and I’m not unemployed’, ‘I’m a man and I love to cook’, ‘We are from South India and we are not Madrasis’ – these are only a few examples from #Breaking Stereotypes, a social campaign by a matrimonial website that has taken the web world viral.

Catchy in their concept and to the point, the campaign had many youngsters share a knowing smile before they went ahead and shared the post. As urban India looks to break away from the shackles of traditional notions of society, what has made the campaign pick up so fast is the freedom of expression it affords youngsters.

“When we started this website, we wanted to be different from the traditional matrimonial websites and we wanted to target people from the age-group of 22 to 27. As we started to speak to more people, we realised that youngsters today are not looking for caste or sub-caste or religion for marrying a person, they just want to connect with the other person. That’s when we decided to start #Breaking Stereotypes,” shares Hitesh Dhingra, co-founder of that launched the campaign.

Explaining the process, Hitesh, one of three co-founders at the company, says “We reached out to around 50 people through our friends and family. These are real people with real stories. So we decided to click their pictures and post them on Facebook.”

The campaign, which started on April 9, has received over 90,000 shares in a little over a month. Hitesh admits that they had never imagined it to be such an overwhelming success. “We never expected it to go this viral! It clearly suggests that there is a complete shift in the mindset of youngsters. Not just children, but even parents are slowly opening up to the idea and prefer their child to choose their own partners,” added the 34-year-old.

When 42-year-old Rajesh Dudeja from New Delhi was one of the first people to share the the campaign on Facebook, little did he know that it would become a trending topic on social media.

Within four days, the album had received 3,750 shares and Dudeja himself received 128 friend requests from people who thought he was the fountainhead behind the idea and wanted to be a part of the album.

“I happened to come across this offbeat matrimony site which had posted these in their blog. I really liked their concept, and thought it would be a great share on Facebook as there are many liberal youth out there who are trying to break free from the chains of tradition, dogma and stereotyping,” said Dudeja.

One of the reasons for the campaign going viral was the fact that it was easy to relate to as many youngsters could see the story of their lives through these pictures. “One picture shows a man holding a placard which reads ‘I studied electrical engineering and I design clothes’. It’s the story of my life really – when I decided to design clothes after completing my engineering, people laughed at me. Even my parents were not very supportive but I went ahead and followed my passion. I’m  sure there are a lot of people out there with similar stories and I’m glad this campaign is creating awareness,” expresses city-lad Uday Bhaskar.

Messages from the campaign

I have a degree in science and I’m a make-up artist

I am a doctor and I have good handwriting

I run an NGO but I still love my H&M blazer My best friend is a guy and I’m not sleeping with him

I am a Punjabi and I don’t like Yo Yo Honey Singh


Thursday, May 01, 2014

శ్రీ కౌముది మే 2014