Monday, July 27, 2015

The war which killed 116,000 Indian soldiers







Source: NewsFlicks

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Saturday, July 25, 2015

Our man in Dublin, Yeats

Gayatri Jayaraman    25-07-2015

It is the Irish poet's sesquicentennial and the world is rediscovering him. Why has India forgotten him?

If you were in England this summer, you would have seen Yeats verses up all over the Tube... "Sailing to Byzantium", "Versus he made when a stranger asked who he was" by Lady Gregory, (of the Irish Literary Reform movement and whose son, Robert Gregory's death is the subject of Yeats' "An Irish Airman Forsees his Death"), and "What is Truth" by Louis MacNeice, whose criticism of Yeats and his beliefs is crucial to knowing the poet and the man.

I was reading Yeats in the rain recently and was reminded of American poet Vijay Seshadri's evocative casual recitation of my personal favourite lines from "Sailing to Byzantium" at the Kitab Khana in Mumbai on a trip late in 2014, to illustrate another point he was making.

"Had I the heaven's embroidered cloths,

Enwrought with golden and silver light,

The blue and the dim and the dark cloths

Of night and light and the half-light;..."

Writing for Poetry Ireland this month to commemorate the year, Seshadri writes: "His subject matter wasn't exactly incidental to the pleasure I got from him, but it was improbable enough, even though it was often political, to a teenager living in the American Midwest during Vietnam and the civil rights movement, and in the rising tide of second-wave feminism. His feeling and allegiances were just as distant. At the same time, though, his language was immediate and stirring, and his voice was recognisable because he was a major, often unacknowledged, influence on a whole generation of contemporary American poets, black-and-white, I was reading at the same time I encountered him."

Seshadri, who is better known as he who composed "The Disappearances", which ran on the back page of The New Yorker in the aftermath of 9/11, but whose best known work I see as "The Long Meadow" which bears the distinct mark of the Mahabharata, admits he has been deeply influenced by Yeats, whom he says taught him to read John Ashberry, while yet claiming to bear an Indianness that is incidental to his Midwest upbringing. Seshadri is more an American poet, a Pulitzer-prize winning one, than an Indian, a self-deceit I wager borne out by the stamp of Yeats, who was equally an influence on a generation of Indian poets, upon him.

Not only did Yeats write the introduction to Tagore's Gitanjali, and push for his Nobel, which he would never have got left to the opinion of those such as Philip Larkin (who referred to him as "Rabindrum Tagore", "some Indian" and his work as "f*ck all"), but was instrumental in having The Post Office performed at the Abbey Theatre in 1913. While he disagreed on Tagore's later books, he was not the be all and end all of Yeats' Indian influence. Influenced early on by Vedanta, the Vivekachudamani, via Mohini Chatterjee whom he met in Dublin, the Bhagavad Gita, and striking up a friendship with Purohit Swami with whom he translated the Upanishads in 1935, but also built lasting friendships with Indian poets, the likes of Sarojini Naidu and Manmohan Ghose. It was much of Yeats' ready embracing of the mysticism of India that found in him the problematic for critics like Ernest Rhys and Louis MacNeice. It spawned a poetic pagan Irish possessiveness of Yeats, with Rhys saying of him: "It was Ireland, not India, gave Yeats his poetical birthright and mystical bias."

Yet, Yeats fought for the integrity of the poetic identity of India like few before him and none till TS Eliot, though more detachedly, had done. From Mansarovar to the Himalayan shrines they reminded him of Irish pilgrim trails and he spoke of consciousness like it was but natural to Irish mysticism that he have one.

Among the later poets, Yeats and his trimetre would continue to haunt Dom Moraes' lyricism, early Nissim Ezekiel, in the antithesis that he was to Kamala Das, and in Keki Daruwala's longing for mythological escapes, amongst others.

It is amazing, and gratifying, that the nationalistic Yeats is not turned into a Hindutva icon, a Max Mueller of sorts, in the deeply divisive modern day Indian sociopolitical context. So monumental is the channelling of Yeats that he becomes the unwitting (though Yeats would surely argue otherwise) catalyst by which a poetic identity of India is passed on.

So when Seshadri begins by saying "There were almost no points of contact, external or internal, between Yeats' experience and my own," he is hurting to be reminded:

"Who has not felt a little of the despair the son of righteousness now feels, staring wildly around him?

The god watches, not without compassion and a certain wonder.

This is the final illusion,the one to which all the others lead."

... You, Seshadri my friend, are in denial of all the India we are steeped in. As are we.

Source: dailyo  

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Thursday, July 16, 2015

The Iran Deal Is a Victory for Obama Diplomacy Over Bush Warmongering

new republic
     Photo: Jewel Samad/Getty Images

July 14, 2015

By Matthew Duss @mattduss

“I don't want to just end the war, but I want to end the mindset that got us into war in the first place.” That was Senator Barack Obama, speaking about Iraq in a 2008 primary debate. For a candidate who had seen his own campaign surge on the strength of his opposition to the Iraq war, it was a near-perfect distillation of the change he hoped to bring to America’s foreign policy discussion, long dominated by hawkish views that were shattering against the bloody reality of Iraq’s civil war.

During the 2008 campaign, Obama started—and won—a hugely significant debate about the proper uses of U.S. power. His declaration that he would not be afraid to talk to America’s enemies brought accusations of naiveté from both his Republican adversary John McCain and Democratic primary opponent Hillary Clinton, who would go on to begin implementing that same policy toward Iran as Obama’s first Secretary of State.

Ending that mindset has proven a difficult task. The idea that military force is decisive in a way that diplomacy is not remains a very attractive one, especially for politicians looking for cheap ways to appear tough. And to be fair, Obama has moved slowly on this, often frustratingly so. There are policy areas, particularly the use of drone warfare, where he has continued the commitment to the use of force. But Obama’s Iran policy is one in which the president has followed through on that central promise of his candidacy, and with great results. In short, Obama’s Iran policy is the anti–Iraq war.

The invasion and occupation of Iraq resulted in the deaths of more than 4,000 U.S. troops and more than 100,000 Iraqis, including many times that number seriously and permanently injured. It cost American taxpayers trillions of dollars. It empowered both Iran and Al Qaeda in the region, and led to the creation of the Islamic State. Its negative repercussions will bedevil the region, and U.S. policymakers, for decades to come. Conceived by the Bush administration as a demonstration of American military power, it succeeded only in demonstrating its limits.

In stark contrast, the historic nuclear deal announced Tuesday in Vienna between the U.S. and its P5+1 partners and Iran demonstrates an alternative vision of the use of American power. It shows that our security and the security of our partners can be effectively advanced through multilateral diplomacy, and proves once again the importance of U.S. global leadership in addressing shared problems. Specifically, it achieves the central goal of blocking Iran's path to a nuclear weapon by dramatically reducing its capacity to produce nuclear fuel (something which continued to expand even under tight international sanctions), and by putting Iran's entire nuclear infrastructure under the most intensive inspections regime in history.

As a result of the deal, the International Atomic Energy Agency will have eyes on Iran's nuclear program at every level: mining, procurement, production, enrichment, etc. Not only does this deep visibility create a deterrent to cheating, but it also means that, when the intensive inspection period expires years from now, the IAEA will possess far more detailed information and understanding of Iran's program than any other in the world.

And by demonstrating to the Iranian regime that a positive change in its behavior can produce benefits, the deal could empower more moderate elements within Iran calling for broader reforms. This is one reason why the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran has supported this diplomacy all along, and hailed the agreement this morning as “a victory of diplomacy and peace,” and why Iran’s hawks remain hostile to any agreement, a position they’ve long shared with U.S. hardliners. (It’s no secret why the most ardent supporters of the Iraq war have been the loudest critics of Iran diplomacy: The failure of the former and success of the latter utterly discredits their claims about how the world works.)

Frankly, if there were any justice, we would be seeing an outbreak of “Support Our Diplomats” bumper stickers. Americans rightly honor those who defend our security with military strength, and it’s time to accord the same to those who do it through effective and painstaking diplomacy.

To be clear, this agreement addresses one contentious issue among many that the U.S. and the international community have with Iran. Now that the deal is inked, the administration must articulate a more detailed strategy for confronting Iran’s regional troublemaking. There's precedent for this: The U.S. did it with the USSR, a far more powerful and threatening adversary than Iran, even as we were negotiating and implementing arms agreements. At the same time, the reality of post-Iraq war Middle East requires the U.S. and Iran to look for ways to confront shared challenges, particularly the growth of ISIS. There’s no “one-size-fits-all” policy for a region that’s increasingly fragmented. And the U.S. has no interest in taking sides in a sectarian Cold War.

Ending the mindset that got us into Iraq isn’t the work of one presidency, but of a generation. That work received a huge boost today. The Vienna agreement is a victory for a better vision of foreign policy.

Matthew Duss is president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace, based in Washington, D.C.

Source: newrepublic

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Tuesday, July 07, 2015

The government would have loved it if I had quietly slunk away, but that I was not willing to do: Amartya Sen

Amartya Sen speaks about his assessment of Modi's first year as PM, researching gender in the 1960s, his love for Sanskrit literature, and what judo can teach those who frame social policy.


indianexpress
      Nobel laureate Amartya Sen.

Written by Amrita Dutta | New Delhi | Updated: July 8, 2015 7:53 am

Nobel laureate Amartya Sen’s new book is a collection of essays, brought out by the Oxford University Press in collaboration with The Little Magazine. In this wide-ranging interview, he speaks to Amrita Dutta about his assessment of Narendra Modi’s first year as PM, researching gender in the 1960s, his love for Sanskrit literature, and what judo can teach those who frame social policy.

The Country of First Boys is the title of your new book, a collection of essays. Could you talk a bit about what the phrase is trying to say?

When I was growing up in Bengal, it was a big thing: ‘Who is the first boy in class?’ It had to be a boy, and, second, he had to be a great achiever. And it didn’t matter what the others did. I found it very offensive, even as a child. There are three things here. One, there is a strong gender preference, which is characteristic of India, much more so than we often recognise. If you compare India with Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, not to mention China, we come out worse in female life expectancy, female literacy, female schooling, female survival. The previous government did not do enough, but the present government is doing less than enough.

The second thing is the concentration on the more successful and neglecting what happens to the rest. [Of course], we see great successes. Indians go abroad and run institutions, whether it be Microsoft or Deutsche Bank. On the other hand, there are a whole lot of people from whom we have no expectations, nor do they have any expectations from themselves. The third point is that success or failure depends a great deal on social stratification, on caste, class, community and so on.

A year on, how do you read the PM as a leader? Were some of your fears about Narendra Modi unfounded? Were some confirmed?

The positive thing about Modi, which I recognized even earlier, was that he was telling people: we can get things done. I admired it then, I admired it now. The problem begins with what it is that he wants to get done.

I think he has a wrong understanding of economic development. You can think of development as a process with human beings at the centre, or you can see it as a process with financial and industrial leadership [at the centre]. He definitely belongs to the latter [school of thought]. You need the financial leaders, no doubt, you also need the industrial entrepreneurs. But humanity has to be in the middle. The previous government also failed in that but they were trying to correct a bit with [schemes like] Sarva Siksha Abhiyan, funding for which has just been cut. Funding for school meals too has just been cut. I don’t think we recognise how out of tune India is with Asia, because the Asian model of economic development has been to combine the power of the market economy with human beings having the capability to lead a good life. There is some idea that you first become rich, and then raise the level of human development. But every country that has been successful, whether we look at Europe and America, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong, China or Thailand, has concentrated on raising human capability along with the power of market economy. We pay no attention to that, as if the quality of human beings is not central to human development. If India was bad at that earlier, it’s worse at it now.

I can’t say I am disappointed, I was expecting that. Because they were playing up Gujarat, which may have had a high growth rate but has neglected the human side—recently the Economist ran an article on how its immunisation rates are lower than Bihar’s.

But what made me speak up at the time of the elections was my concern at the Hindutva elements in Modi’s agenda. You see that as an academic very much now, in the interference in the academic administration of the National Book Trust, where A Sethumadhavan has been replaced by an RSS ideologue, or at the Indian Council of Cultural Relations or the Indian Council of Historical Research. There has been that sectarianism [on display]. And despite rhetoric to the contrary, there have been cases of church burning, talk of ghar wapsi. India deserves better than that. In that respect, have I been reassured? I am afraid not.

What is happening at the Nalanda University now? Has some kind of a compromise been worked out?

What happened at Nalanda is a relatively nicer story than either it first appeared and also compared with what is happening to other educational/cultural institutions like ICCR or NBT or ICHR or for that matter TIFR, as well as what might be happening to the IIMs if the bill goes through. The board wanted unanimously me to continue as chancellor, but the government’s advice was clear: under no circumstances. Some people wanted to continue the battle but I thought that would be a mistake. First, because attention was being diverted to a personality issue. Second, it was clear to me that even if my friends in the board were to win in keeping me as chancellor, I could not be an effective leader because I would have to fight the government all the time. But I decided to make it a public affair so that it would be difficult to put a Hindutva ideologue in charge at Nalanda. The government did not want it to be made public at all. They would have loved it if I had quietly slunk away, but that, I am afraid, I was not willing to do.

Did anybody in the government reach out — the PM or the Minister of External Affairs — to you after you spoke out?

They couldn’t reassure me. The ministry of external affairs put out a lot of misleading statements, like ‘Amartya Sen was impatient. We would have liked him to continue’. But the minister did not say so. The minister spoke clearly to the members of the board and said that Amartya Sen wasn’t acceptable. Even if the ministry made public statements, they were at odds with what the minister was saying to the board. I think she was also trying to get a non-Sen solution, and we’ve got a good solution. [Former foreign minister of Singapore George Yeo has been appointed chancellor.] I am happy with the way it has turned out. If there’s one thing to learn from this, it is that in a democracy, if you are critical of the government, you have to express it. Sitting quietly and grumbling about it is not going to help. That’s not what democracy is for.

Could you talk a bit about your love for Sanskrit literature? What sense does it give you ancient Indian culture?

Sanskrit and maths were my favourite subjects in school. When the Nobel academy asked me to donate two items to its museum, I gave them Aryabhata’s book on maths, Aryabhatiya, which I had read in Sanskrit in school, and my bicycle. The bike I had used to collect data about the famine period. I would ride to farms in Bengal and get them to open their dusty rooms where they had kept their records. I used it even more while researching on gender and inequality, when I would go to villages near Santiniketan to weigh boys and girls under the age of five. (By the time girls were five, they had fallen behind in terms of weight.) I was very proud that I had become quite good at weighing children. I had a very good research assistant, the first Santhal in her village to get a BA. On one occasion, she called me to help her weigh a teething child. And I did it without getting bitten.

I get an extraordinary positive impression of the past, which makes me very proud. I get an impression of a very cerebrally active society — never as remarkable as the Chinese in observational science — but in the philosophy of science, and the speculation of it, very high brow. On the philosophy of jurispredence. In fact, my book Idea of Justice is based on a distinction that only Sanskrit scholars make, between niti and nyaya. I think Meghdootam is extraordinarily important to understanding Indian culture. But my favourite Kalidasa play is Mricchakatika — and it had a profound influence on my understanding of justice. I also like the Vedas, and I don’t think you have to be a passionate believer in Hindutva to like it — it is a great book. People don’t even recognise that it is not just a book on religion but also a book on human behaviour. Some of the verses are absolutely overpowering. But I don’t at all accept the view that the Vedas had interesting mathematics. It had some arithmetic puzzles, that is all.

When you started analysing women’s health and education with respect to economic growth, in the 1960s, what were the reactions?

I became interested in gender equality when I was in college at Presidency, Kolkata. Marx’s idea of false consciousness, I thought, applied to women. I also did a few papers when I was teaching in Jadavpur University. I was amazed not just at the inequality but the fact that people knew about it and took it for granted. Secondly, if you drew their attention to it, they would give you lectures about culture. I was told that this was a Western point of view, that Indian women do not think of themselves as individuals, but as an extension of their families. I had an argument at the Delhi School of Economics in the 1960s, and I said this was a form of ultimate denial of a person’s individuality, which is one of the huge possessions we have. That is the way inequality survives, by making underdogs become upholders of the inequality.

Are you working on any books right now?

I wrote a mathematical book when I was at the Delhi School of Economics, it was published in 1970, called Collective Choice and Social Welfare, which I hope I am not being immodest when I say that it had quite an influence in the literature that followed in economics. A lot of people have grumbled that I should write a follow-up. But then some people, including the big influence on my economic thinking, Kenneth Arrow, told me that it’s a classic, you can’t change it. So I have begun adding a few chapters to it, and I am about half-way there.

I am also writing something of a memoir, not to be confused with an autobiography. It is not about what happened, but about what I thought. I have reached the age of 12 or 13, so I have a long way to go.

You were around 11 when you first saw the ruins of Nalanda. What has the idea of Nalanda come to mean to you?

I remember being bowled over, especially at the sight of the excavations at the site. That’s when I thought I should do something about it. So my ability to lead the first stage of the Nalanda revival has been a fulfillment of a dream. The idea of Nalanda emphasises that human progress has always been linked to thinking, and not just doing. Secondly, that Indians were capable of building and running such a university at that time is a matter of considerable pride. They were teaching religion and philosophy, but also medicine, public healthcare, linguistics, certainly astronomy—in a way that is distinctly modern. Third, Nalanda attracted people from everywhere. They were ready to sit down together and discuss things together, resolve differences through discussion.

You have lived all your life on university campuses, haven’t you?

My father was a teacher, my grandfather was a teacher. One reason I haven’t retired even though I am 81 is because I love students, and they like me. Ultimately, when I look back on my life, the thing that I am happiest with is that I was a teacher.

You have written for decades on India’s education. What was your experience of school like?

I was very lucky because I went to a very nice school in Santiniketan. [Before that], I had a little over a year at St Gregory’s School in Dhaka, which was very keen on performance. After I got the Nobel, I visited the school. The headmaster said they had started a few scholarships in my name. He also said he got out my old exam scripts to inspire the students. Inspire, I said? ‘That was my hope,’ said the headmaster. But then he checked that my position in class was 33rd in a class of 36, and he wondered whether it was a good idea.

I have to say I became a relatively good student once I went to Santiniketan, where no one worried about grades, it was almost shameful to worry about them. One of my teachers described a classmate of mine: “She is quite an original thinker, even though her grades are very good.” I liked that aspect: there was no pressure to be a first boy.

Not only were there girls with me (I was in school in the 1940s) but my mother was also schooled there earlier. She was proud of the fact that she did judo there, 90 years ago. She must have been one of the first Indian women to do judo. She had a Japanese teacher, who for the first week, only taught them how to fall without hurting themselves. In some ways, the idea of what happens to those who fall seems to me not just an approach fit for judo, but for humanity at large—and for social policy.

Source: indianexpress

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Saturday, July 04, 2015

30 per cent of rural households landless, live off manual labour

T. C. A. Sharad Raghavan

Literacy, second most common form of deprivation.

Nearly 19 per cent of India’s rural population in 2011 lacked at least one of seven socio-economic parameters used to estimate deprivation that include source of income, the presence of an able and literate adult and quality dwelling.

The first socio-economic and caste census in India since 1934, the Socio Economic and Caste Census 2011 (SECC), was released here on Friday by Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.

Among the crucial findings of the exercise, conducted by the Ministry of Rural Development, was that about 30 per cent of rural households are landless and derive a major part of their income from manual, casual labour. The second most common form of deprivation was literacy with close to a quarter – 23.5 per cent — of rural households having no literate adults above the age of 25.

The Hindu


Releasing the census, Mr Jaitley said the findings would form the basis for States and the Centre to take policy decisions on schemes and programmes. “It provides a basis for helping to target groups for support and for policy planning,” he added.

However, the data released on Friday pertained only to the socio-economic parameters of the SECC 2011. The detailed caste-based data that will include figures for the Other Backward Classes will be placed before Parliament.

“Although it is called the Socio Economic and Caste data, the release so far has been of only the socio-economic data. The detailed caste-based data has not yet been released. However, Parliament has asked for this data, and so it will be placed before them at some point. At that point, it will be made public," said National Statistical Commission Chairman Pronab Sen.

Deprivation, not income

The extent of and approach to deprivation captured by the SECC 2011 contrasts with the poverty estimates of the erstwhile Planning Commission, which were income-based. As per the Commission’s last estimate, in 2011-12, 25.7 per cent of India’s rural population was below the poverty line ie. with an income below Rs. 816 per capita per month.

Dr Sen, told The Hindu that the poverty estimates of the Planning Commission and the SECC were not comparable. “This census measures deprivation on the basis of what a household does not have as against the Planning Commission’s poverty estimates that looked at the income an individual does have,” he said.

Source: thehindu

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శ్రీ కౌముది జూలై 2015