Thursday, December 30

Amusing take on U2 and Africa

From here. I quote:

An expert commission of African leaders today announced their plan for comprehensive reform of music band U2. Saying that U2’s rock had lost touch with its African roots, the commission called for urgent measures to halt U2’s slide towards impending crisis.

“Our youth today are imperiled by low quality music,” said Commission chairman Nelson Mandela. “We will be lending African musicians to U2 to try to refurbish their sound to satisfy the urgent and growing needs for diversionary entertainment at a time of crisis in the global music and financial sectors.”

Concerns about U2 have been growing in Africa for a while. One Western aid blogger testified to the Commission that his teenage kids found U2’s music “cheesy.” The Mandela Commission proposed that U2 follow a series of steps to recover its Edge:

1) Hire African consultants to analyze U2’s “poverty of music trap”

2) Prepare a Band-owned and Commission-approved Comprehensive U2 Reform Strategy Design (CURSD)

3) Undertake a rehabilitation tour of African capitals to field-test and ground-truth proposed reforms

4) Subject all songs to randomized experiments in which the effect on wellbeing of control and treatment groups is rigorously assessed.

Mandela expressed optimism that the Commission’s report and proposed reforms had come in time to stave off terminal crisis in U2, and restore its effectiveness in the 80s arena rock field.

More on UK Charities’ income sources

Saw this article in the financial times today. Its talking about how uk charities are struggling with getting money. I quote:

Fergus Finlay, head in Ireland of Barnardo’s, a children’s charity, has managed for the past two years to meet rising demand for services such as breakfast clubs for poor children, even though this has meant cutting staff salaries and eating into reserves. In common with the leaders of many other nonprofit organisations around the world, however, he anticipates still greater pressures ahead – and scant prospects for individual voluntary support to compensate for cuts in tax-funded public money.

See what I mean? why are charities getting funded by taxes? A fascinating graph gives some fascinating if incomplete information.


Now check out the middle graph and see where the 4th element is. This is Income from other sources, presumably from the government sector. I tried to see the original report, but it carefully avoids specifying where or what this “other sources” is. Now when you see that majority of the funding is actually coming from other sources, one is very surprised that the report does not break out this “other”. One could say that this is from the corporate sector but I rather doubt it.

Here is a partial list of schemes and projects that you can apply to to get government funding. Here is another government site itself which talks about what to do to get funding from the government. They even have a bloody separate domain name. This is all taking taxes from you and I, and giving them to charities without asking us and then the charities income is also tax free. And now they are talking about matching voluntary contributions with tax funded funds. What on earth? What on earth is this? This isnt fair and this is economic madness.

Wednesday, December 29

Smuggled Swede sweets eat away Danish tax take

Economics always wins out. Denmark has a high sugar tax rate so what’s going to happen? People are going to smuggle in Swedish candy.

An estimated 300 million kronor ($44.18 million) worth of illegally smuggled sweets and chocolate from Sweden are sold in Denmark every year, the Danish tax authority announced on Tuesday.

Skat, the Danish tax authority, revealed that every other kiosk that it has inspected sells smuggled candy from Sweden.
The reason behind the appetite for
illegal Swedish candy stems from a high sugar duty amounting to 17.75 Danish kroner ($3.15) per kilogramme, resulting in brisk illegal cross-border trade.
"Candy is our biggest challenge right now," Skat's Lars Klamer told Danmarks Radio (DR) on Monday.
According to the report, illegal candy
sales cost the Danish industry millions of kroner because it cannot compete on price. At the same time, they also cheat the state out of millions in taxes and duties.
Klamer added that the number of individuals and businesses simply crossing the Öresund between Copenhagen and Malmö to shop without paying taxes and surcharges has soared.
He acknowledged that the tax agency has made progress in stamping out smuggled beer and soft drink sales, but the Danish Chamber of Commerce singled out the job and business losses as a result of the illegal trade.
The chamber estimated that 15 percent of all candy trade in Denmark is illegal, the report said.

Tuesday, December 28

International equity portfolio allocations and transaction costs

I got an email out of the blue.

Dear Dr. Bhaskar,

Hope this email finds you in best of your health and spirit.

I am Chandra, Sunil Poshakwale’s PhD student and you were one of my external advisors in my MRes. I would like to thank you for all your help and support at the initial stage of my PhD. I have now completed my doctorate and working as a Lecturer at the University of Stirling, Scotland. In fact you were the one to float my doctorate’s idea when you visited Cranfield University as a guest lecturer in 2007. I still remember you saying to me that one of the reasons you do not trade in emerging markets because its not worth it, given the high transaction cost. You then asked me to prove this, if I could and that would be a good PhD project.

Tapping your idea of transaction costs I have now published a paper in Journal of Banking and Finance. Please find attached the article which I published with Sunil.

Once again profound thanks for all your support. I would be very glad to have further research ideas which I can work on, pariticulary those benefiting international investors.

Kind regards

Dr. Chandra Thapa
Lecturer in Finance
University of Stirling

Quite a nice man, eh? for him to remember an off the cuff conversation from many years back. This is the paper he has written along with my old friend Sunil Poskakwale. Journal of Banking & Finance 34 (2010) 2627–2638

a b s t r a c t
In spite of the critical role of transaction cost, there are not many papers that explicitly examine its influence
on international equity portfolio allocation decisions. Using bilateral cross-country equity portfolio
investment data and three direct measures of transaction costs for 36 countries, we provide evidence that
markets where transaction costs are lower attract greater equity portfolio investments. The results imply
that future research on international equity portfolio diversification cannot afford to ignore the role of
transaction costs, and policy makers, especially in emerging markets, will have to reduce transaction
costs to attract higher levels of foreign equity portfolio investments.

Interesting article indeed and something that does touch on one of my pet bug bears, the assumption that transaction costs are zero. This is ridiculous to assume that they are zero. They arent zero, this isnt a perfect world. Economics and Finance are applied sciences, what’s the bloody point of putting in an assumption like that? Next thing you know, you will assume that investors are totally rational and follow all economic laws. heh.

Monday, December 27

Should you friend your parents on Facebook?

Well, my son was a friend on Facebook and then about an year back, he defriended me : ( or whatever the correct term is. Then my mum joined Facebook so i friended her. Bit challenging eh? Here’s a convenient flow chart if faced with this conundrum. Not that it worked for my son who lives at home, isn't planning to move out in the new year and has an apartment of his own..I guess he is now in the “little shit” category, and provides a simple test of when he grows up when he friends me again, eh? lol

What are your kids doing?

Sunday, December 26

A charity funded by the Govt is not a charity #ukpolitics

So there is this charity called as Booktrust Charity. It does good stuff, like giving out books for people to read when they are children. For me as a confirmed bibliophile, I like the idea, get more people to read about it.

But here’s what is confusing me. This is supposed to be a charity? So where is the charitable giving? Relying on the government to fund you means that you arent a charity, you are just another government department. Do you think that the government has some other sources of money other than mandatory extraction of money from your pocket and mine via taxes.

So the government, very rightly, said if you are a charity, then get charitable donations, why are you relying on the govt to fund philanthropic activities?

These charities which are reliant on govt funding screw it up for the other charities like ours. We do not rely on government funding. We rely on our volunteers who go about getting money, running to raise money, etc. etc. So how come they get govt funding while we dont? Because we are based upon the principle that if its charity, then its not going to be based upon forcible extraction of money.

Everybody who is backing this charity to have government funding, you dont want a charity, you want public investment. Bah!, this is intellectual incoherence of the first order.

How Europe is seizing your pension assets

And this is happening all legally. Remember, you chaps, your money is not save from these grasping politicians who will rob the people who scrimp and save to give to the feckless and useless. Bloody thieves. Argentina did the same. And then these buggers want you to increase your pension contribution. Bah!, no wonder pensions are the furthest things from people’s minds.

I quote:

People’s retirement savings are a convenient source of revenue for governments that don’t want to reduce spending or make privatizations. As most pension schemes in Europe are organised by the state, European ministers of finance have a facilitated access to the savings accumulated there, and it is only logical that they try to get a hold of this money for their own ends. In recent weeks I have noted five such attempts: Three situations concern private personal savings; two others refer to national funds.

The most striking example is Hungary, where last month the government made the citizens an offer they could not refuse. They could either remit their individual retirement savings to the state, or lose the right to the basic state pension (but still have an obligation to pay contributions for it). In this extortionate way, the government wants to gain control over $14bn of individual retirement savings.

The Bulgarian government has come up with a similar idea. $300m of private early retirement savings was supposed to be transferred to the state pension scheme. The government gave way after trade unions protested and finally only about 20% of the original plans were implemented.

A slightly less drastic situation is developing in Poland. The government wants to transfer of 1/3 of future contributions from individual retirement accounts to the state-run social security system. Since this system does not back its liabilities with stocks or even bonds, the money taken away from the savers will go directly to the state treasury and savers will lose about $2.3bn a year. The Polish government is more generous than the Hungarian one, but only because it wants to seize just 1/3 of the future savings and also allows the citizens to keep the money accumulated so far.

The fourth example is Ireland. In 2001, the National Pension Reserve Fund was brought into existence for the purpose of supporting pensions of the Irish people in the years 2025-2050. The scheme was also supposed to provide for the pensions of some public sector employees (mainly university staff). However, in March 2009, the Irish government earmarked €4bn from this fund for rescuing banks. In November 2010, the remaining savings of €2.5bn was seized to support the bailout of the rest of the country.

The final example is France. In November, the French parliament decided to earmark €33bn from the national reserve pension fund FRR to reduce the short-term pension scheme deficit. In this way, the retirement savings intended for the years 2020-2040 will be used earlier, that is in the years 2011-2024, and the government will spend the saved up resources on other purposes.

It looks like although the governments are able to enforce general participation in pension schemes, they do not seem to be the best guardians of the money accumulated there. 

Wednesday, December 22

Economic Activity amongst Black people in UK during 18th Century

While the United Kingdom abolished slavery legally in 1833 and actually banned trading in Slaves back in 1807, there were still slaves during the 18th century. In addition, you end up with many Black slaves who are now freemen (so to say) and their children who are now based in the UK. Which I never considered. As it so happens, the estimates of these ex-slaves is approximately 10,000 in the 18th century. So how did they survive now that their economic activity was no longer driven by the slave owner?

Seems like the researcher found that these black citizens were mostly employed as domestic servants. Post domestic service, they would either go into business of their own or move household. Service of their own was of various kinds, such as teaching sword fighting, buying and selling food items, coal merchants, etc. They could also do apprenticeships. If the black chaps did not do domestic service, then they would usually go into the Navy. Other jobs that the historical record (which is admittedly patchy) relate to being shop assistants, druggists, musicians, ministers of religion, constables and in one case, a lawyer. These were all men and their situation was much better than the Black women whose lives were much more difficult post manumission. Domestic service was obviously high up in the list of occupations, but prostitution seems to be unfortunately high up on the list as well.

So what happened to the second generation? They seem to have moved into a wider set of occupations compared to their parents. Hair dressers, ministers, gardeners, lace makers, cabinet makers, sea captains, engine fitters, and so on and so forth. Seems like this was fairly typical economic behaviour and not so much different from what other poor white folks in the United Kingdom would also see. But what wasn't clear was how did they find the jobs? Besides word of mouth, it would be quite interesting to find out how prospective employers and employees linked up.

And that’s where this second paper comes in handy. I quote one classified advertisement on page five on Tuesday 7 November 1876 edition of the Liverpool

A Coloured Man (from Canada) desires a Situation as SERVANT in
gentleman’s family. Accustomed to horses. Age 50. Miss Cane, 130

More examples and I quote:

On Monday 18 December 1876 a ‘respectable, well-educated Young Coloured Man’ who had recently arrived in England (although he does not say from where) advertised his availability for work in the Liverpool Mercury. He was specifically looking for a position in a Mercantile Office to start immediately or in the beginning of January 1877. He advertised himself as having a sound knowledge of bookkeeping and a ‘fair legible hand’. He assured future employers that he could produce ‘excellent certificates’ as to sobriety and honesty. His advert was repeated on Saturday 23 December 1876. The Liverpool Mercury also carried two adverts for a ‘Coloured Young Man’ on Tuesday 18 and Saturday 22 November 1879. He was looking to ‘make himself useful’ in a situation in a hotel, billiard room or as a messenger for offices or shops. On 10 November 1900 a ‘Coloured Young Lady’ advertised her desire to find work in a Bazaar or Playhouse as an attendant in The Era. The advertisement was also carried on 17 November 1900.

So looks like that despite the cost involved in placing this classified advertisement, the black men and women would actually place advertisements and would presumably get jobs.

Employers on the other hand would hire black / coloured folks via advertisements for specific purposes. For example, there were quite a lot of advertisements which actually relied on the colour of their skin for the job. This is like becoming an attraction in a bar, on the stage, barmaids, entertainers at hotels, musicians, animal trainers in a circus. Here is one example from The Era 19 October 1889.

WANTED a Steady Man as Animal Keeper. One that will enter the
Lion’s Den and give a performance if required. A Coloured Man

other advertising entries show coloured and black folks applying for jobs as a travelling servant, valet or butler, nurse or maid but these were in the minority. Looks like the job opportunities were quite oriented towards the colour of skin itself. As it so happens, having a black or coloured servant was considered to be high class and were sought after. One has to remember that we are talking about a comparatively small number of black and coloured people in the UK which would not have threatened the general public. It was more during the second world war where there was a step change in the number of black people in common society. What also did not help was that 130,000 Black GI’s came over from the USA as part of the Invasion Force. That really changed the dynamic of how white indigenous white people saw the growth of Black communities in the UK. The post world war period with the wholesale importation of workers from commonwealth countries such as Jamaica, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Kenya, Uganda, etc. then again changed the dynamic even further.

Quite an interesting view on a long lost part of British life.

Sunday, October 24

Shambling around doing stuff

It is slowly picking up speed on the charity front after the slow down over the summer. So what have I been up to?

1. Well, had a nice session with the SIFE LSE team who were formed for the first time this academic year. The financial trading game is going on fine, the interaction with TeachFirst is good and should pick up speed. Then we had a long chat about potential environmental projects and a shed load of projects popped up during the discussions, ranging from helping ex-convicts to homeless people to ex-soldiers who want to get back into civilian life and and and. Anyway, the chaps have decided to go away and check out the options. Spoke to one of our COO’s and he has kindly offered to sponsor a good sustainability project that has a clear business case (revenue, costs or both). So this promises to be good fun.

2. Help for Hero’s, we had a good quiz night and managed to raise more than £2000 for this charity. Good stuff, I think i will do a bit more for these fellows, lets see, I have some ideas which are brewing away.

3. Meeting somebody for the 100books projects next week which unfortunately sort of got paused because the main pusher of the project had to move jobs. But hopefully we can resurrect it and make something of this. Watch this space.

4. The team from Nottingham University SIFE team have met with Pat Ryan, who is our CEO of the IT4CH charity. They are apparently quite happy and excited to join into the charity and and and. Quite happy with this.

5. Talking about IT4CH, after pimping myself, managed to raise a £1000 cheque for the charity, that should help. We have also got a great volunteer who is speaking to various IT firms in London who could be potential donors of equipment.

6. An interesting project popped up at work during a sustainability meeting, and that’s a proposal to reduce the grammage of our printing paper from 80gsm to 75gsm. This could aim to reduce costs, save 15-12 tons of paper consumption daily. So am sponsoring this at my business unit to see if it works, if the client facing chaps don't object and the printing works. Quite a good idea, eh?

7. Didnt mention this before, but hosted a team from Essex University who were interested in knowing what we are doing with our sustainability piece within the bank. Quite an interesting talk, got two MD’s in as well to speak. This is one of our biggest selling points to graduates who love to join us because we live and breathe sustainability. Its indeed part of the DNA. Have you checked out our sustainability activities and report?? We walk the walk and talk the talk Smile

Another UK freedom of speech issue

This is ridiculous. You remember the Behzti issue? This isnt at the same level but we have a challenge with the British libel laws which screw up freedom of speech. I quote the original article which caused all this problem


The Sikh Times article from 23 August 2007 by Hardeep Singh
Recently a division due to the influence of an accused Cult leader called Jeet Singh has disturbed the peace in the Sikh community in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire. The police and local MP are aware of the situation and have offered considerable support in finding an appropriate resolution to the crisis.
The Gurdwara 'Sikh Temple' was set up in 1991 by members of the Sikh community with the hope to join the local Sikh congregation and work to provide religious services and guidance for the community members. Wycombe is one of 3 affiliated Gurdwara's which was set up with the blessings of a Holy Saint Sant Baba Gian Singh Maharaj from Gurdwara Nirmal Kutia in Johla, Jullunder, Panjab.
The Origin of the lineage of true Saints from this ecclesiastical institution began with a man called Sant Baba Karam Singh from Hoti Mardan (1826 - 1903). Upon the dissolution of the Sikh army after the annexation of the Punjab to British India in 1849, Karam Singh joined the Corps of Guides which had been raised by the British in the Sutlej territory in 1846 to defend British interests in the region against the formidable Pashtun/Afghan tribesman, and which was later reorganised as the 5th (Guides) Battalion of the 12th Frontier Force Regiment, with Mardan near Peshawar.
During the famous 'Sepoy Mutiny' in 1857 Karam Singh along with his regiment, the 'Guides' helped the British defeat the mutineers in the British India forces in the Historic battle for Delhi on the 20th of September 1857. He later took official leave from his services to the British army and spent many years in solitude and deep meditation.
The fifth and present successor to Karam Singh the Historical Saint Soldier figure, is Sant Baba Roshan Singh who has set up Hospitals and Schools for the poor in the Panjab and is working to tackle deprivation and social/Health inequalities in the state.
The current conflict effecting Wycombe's Sikh community started in 2003 when the last of the lineage of Saints in the Gurudwara Nirmal Kutia, Jullunder passed away, without inaugurating a 'legally appointed successor' to the assets and position as head authoritarian of Nirmal Kutia.
In Wycombe, the catalyst for the division is the split over the allegiance to the cult leader who is currently contesting his claim over successorship to Nirmal Kutia in the Indian High courts, the matter is still pending.
Cults are by no means a new phenomenon affecting the Sikhs globally and Jeet Singh is one of several high profile accused Cultists who are causing difficulties for the community worldwide.
He has asserted that the place known as Gurudwara Nirmal Kutia, India is not in fact a Sikh Gurudwara at which an offertory is maintained. It has been stated that Nirmal Kutia is a 'Dera' (abode or residence) of Jeet Singh and any offerings made there are offerings made to him personally.
Only last month July 24 in Sirsa, district of Haryana, Six persons were injured when a Dera Sacha Sauda (cult) follower fired at Sikhs in a village in Sirsa district of Haryana, leading to tension in the area. According to official sources in Chandigarh, the six persons, belonging to Sikh community, had received minor injuries on their legs after the shooting incident in Mallewala village, about 10 kms from Sirsa, and were treated in a local hospital.
The area was tense following the stand off between the Cult followers and members of the Sikh community after the recent alleged blasphemous act of the Cult Chief Sant Gurmit Ram Rahim Singh following his appearance in dress similar to that of 10th Guru, Guru Gobind Singh.
Colonel GS Sandhu, Chairman of a Non Governmental organisation and Human Rights front called 'Aapna Panjab', is alarmed by the increase in Cultist activities in India,
'Simple Sikh men and women are being exploited by some of the ever increasing numbers of so-called sants and babas who have established dera's (cults) where many have sexually exploited and abused the women followers.'
He stated that the Sikh community needs to be aware of the nefarious activities of these anti-panthic (religious) people. He exhorted the Sikhs all over the world to seek the guidance and follow the teaching of only Sri Guru Granth Sahib and not from these self styled Babas. He gave examples of three such Bababs 'Johlanwala Babu' 'Ram Rahim Singh' and finally the Mann Singh of Pehowa and the latters exploitation of followers.
The Management Committee and Trustees of an affiliate Gurdwara to Wycombe, APDD Birmingham, Oldbury are fully aware of the APDD Wycombe situation which has also had a detrimental impact on their congregation, trustees and fellow management committee members.
In Oldbury, Birmingham the Cult leader attempted to even go as far as producing counterfeit trust deeds with an Attorney from India and remove the incumbent trustees and management committee in order to take over. These aggressive tactics and underhand operations demonstrate the influence these Cult leaders have both in India and abroad, tentacles which have now spread as far as Wycombe, Buckinghamshire.
We advise the Whole Sikh community which is 850,000 strong in the United Kingdom and in particular now those in Wycombe to stand up to these Cult leaders and we urge them to follow the true Guru Sri Gurur Granth Sahib Jee, The holy Scriptures of the Sikhs.
Members of the Sikh community in Wycombe will be looking to work with the local authorities and police to maintain peace within the community in light of this recent difference of opinion with reference Cultist activities which has divided the congregation and caused a bitter demarcation between those who oppose the Cult and those who support it.

Here’s a recent report on this issue. Ridiculous indeed. How on earth is the UK going to hold its head up high when shenanigans like this are allowed? But looking at the Simon Singh saga, one is encouraged that there will be justice

Wednesday, October 20

Judge: Indonesia needs death penalty for graft

An interesting view. China regularly executes people found guilty of corruption. Now I do not like the idea of the death penalty, its a bit too final for me, but to actually treat white collar crime more seriously is something that i would support, across the world, there is an impression that white collar crime is victimless and doesn't really hurt anybody. But it does, it is a slow cancer and ruins the broader society and economy. I am not really sure how much of a deterrent this death penalty business is.

Sunday, October 17

Overreaction to hunger in India

This news item was sent around on a list.

More hungry in India than in Sudan

Rukmini Shrinivasan, TNN, Oct 12, 2010, 03.30am IST

NEW DELHI: India dropped two ranks to 67th among 84 developing countries in the International Food Policy Research Institute's annual " Global Hunger Index" for 2010. Even Sudan, North Korea and Pakistan rank higher than India.

While the report, released on Monday, shows that the proportion of undernourished in India is decreasing, the worsening ranking indicates that other developing countries have done better in tackling hunger. India is home to 42% of the underweight children under the age of five in the world.

The policymakers in India, who are are still fighting over the need to have an expansive National Food Security Act, should look at the following data more closely: in 2005-06, about 44% of Indian children — below five years — were underweight, and nearly half — 48% — were stunted.
The food insecurity is so rampant across the country that India is clubbed with minor economies like
Bangladesh, Timor-Leste and Yemen, recording the highest prevalence of underweight in children under five.
At the beginning of the liberalization era in the early 90s, 24% of the population was undernourished. The situation marginally improved to 22% between 2004 and 2006. Almost 60% of children below five were recorded as underweight in 1988-92. The condition has remained dismal as the latest figure shows 43.5% between 2003-08.
The GHI ranks countries on a scale of 100, with 0 being the best score (no hunger) and 100 the worst. It is composed of three equally weighted indicators: the proportion of undernourished in the population, the prevalence of those underweight in children under five and the under-five mortality rate.

The figures for India are 22% (as of 2004-6), 43.5% (2003-8) and 6.9% as of 2008, respectively. These give India a composite GHI of 24.1, which is classified as alarming in terms of the food security situation.
The strife-torn Democratic Republic of Congo ranks at the bottom of the list of 84 countries with significant levels of hunger. The data has been compiled for 122 countries in all; the remaining 38 countries have a GHI of less than 5 and are not included in the rankings. No data has been recorded for highly developed countries.

South Asia has the highest GHI for any region in the world, at 22.9. The region has, however, made greater progress since 1990 than sub-Saharan Africa, the report adds. India is ranked below all other major South Asian countries — Sri Lanka is ranked 39th, Pakistan 52nd and Nepal 56th.
India's hunger is not purely a product of its middle-income status. While economic progress and hunger levels tend to be inversely correlated (countries with higher gross national income typically have lower GHI scores), some countries are exceptions to the norm.
China has lower hunger levels than its GNI per capita would suggest, while India has higher hunger levels than would be expected from its income per capita, calculations made by the report's authors show.

The 2010 report focuses on child malnutrition, which is the biggest component of hunger worldwide. In India, high 2010 GHI scores are driven by high levels of underweight children, resulting from the low nutritional and social status of women in the country, the report says.

And the respondent went haywire. So I responded so

Here's an experiment you can do. Go check out the gini coefficients of the world and see where we are in terms of inequality. You will be surprised.

See this graph:

India isn't doing that badly, eh? But this was bothering me, so went back to check. And I responded back again.

This was bothering me but going deeper into this, looks like we are making some remarkable progress here. The silly point about India breaking up is frankly silly so wont touch it at all.
But here's the basic question which one asks. We have been showing a significant improvement over the past 20 years. So obviously we are doing something right in the first place. The places where we have touched relate to agriculture, nutrition, education, women's empowerment, income generation. These and other aspects helped us to improve this much. The report does not go into too much depth for Indian operations so had to go elsewhere to look deeper. Across all the dependent factors, we are showing strong and steady improvement in terms of agricultural productivity, increase in nutrition, increase in education, women's empowerment, income levels in the rural and urban areas, etc. etc.
Here's my point, there is nothing that we arent doing that we need to be doing. We just have to keep on doing what we have been doing and doing it better and perhaps more. We are on the right path.
The alarmist headlines and silly sod comments do not help at all because these are just whines, no basic understanding of the underlying issue, no analysis of what has been done or what needs to be done. So until and unless one gets some specific point of improvement, we dont need to get that much excited.
Lage raho munnabhai.

So the next time somebody whines that India has huge numbers of hungry and poor people, tell them yes, and we are doing something about it.

Also, check out this post, turns out the numbers themselves are a bit dodgy.

Saturday, October 16

Slandered! #FAIL

A chap named Manish posted this comment on my photo blog and thankfully its moderated. So here’s what I got.


Manish has left a new comment on your post "Photo Essay: Crowne Plaza Hotel, Gurgaon":
The Grand Park Hotel Gurgaon offers cheap hotels in Gurgaon with all facilities like AC, TV, Wi-Fi, and Luxury and slandered Rooms, situated in best location of Gurgaon.
Mark as spam
Moderate comments for this blog.
Posted by Manish to Piquant Photos at 16 October 2010 07:47


I would love to go and stay in a slandered room! :)


Thursday, October 7

Ancient India as described by Ktesais

This came as a surprise to me when TBS sent it to me, never heard of Ktesais. Here’s the translated wiki entry and an online book which describes what Ktesais is supposed to have said about ancient India.

Pretty interesting what? Its gone on my to be reviewed file, but do flick through this, quite fascinating indeed.

Tuesday, October 5

The Egyptian Gandhi?

I was reading about Mohamed El Baradei who seems to have gotten into bed with the Muslim Brotherhood.

And his visage reminded me of somebody else who got into bed with Islamists, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. He even looked the same.

See? balding head, round specs, large sticky outie ears, mustache. Rebelling against an autocratic government and thus decides to get into bed with the Islamists via the Khilafat Movement. I hope El Baradei remembers his history, this is one thing (Moplah Rebellion) which happened right after the Khilafat Movement kicked off.

Mr. El Baradei, people who sup with the devil should have a long spoon, but I am really disappointed in you, shows you have some rather flexible principles, eh?

Sunday, October 3

The State of Philanthropy in India

I keep on getting irritated by a commonly held view that India does not do charity and philanthropy and I received an email to this effect which made me write this response.

Did you know that India leads in philanthropy amongst developing nations? For example, a recent study by Bain found that we are double that of Brazil and six times that of China? That we give 1 rupee out of every 10 rupees earned? Long way to go before we catch up to developed nations, but hey, we are doing well and we are on the right path.
Since you had to have the obligatory dig at Hinduism, here's something that you might find of interest.

Lokeshwarananda, S. (1968) Charity and charitable services, Encyclopaedia of Social Work in India, vol. I, Planning Commission, Government of India, New Delhi.

Ranganathananda, S. (1968) Philosophy of social work: traditional, Encyclopaedia of Social Work in India, vol. II, Planning Commission, Government of India.

Do suggest you might want to read up on a good solid survey of the charitable and philanthropic historical background within Hinduism. Also covered are the Buddhist, Jain, Sikh and of course Islam contributions going back to ancient times. 
You might want to read Pushpa Sundar's book on charity, Beyond Business: From Merchant Charity to Corporate Citizenship. You will see how the concept of corporatism within India, ranging back very many centuries, has always had a very big CSR element to it, much much before this was a twinkle in the eyes of the west. It wasn’t and still isn't captured properly because the epistemological frameworks (such as the joint family, common goods, village based properties, etc.) hid a lot of social work and charity.

If you want more details on what is happening in the country, check out the Directory of Indian Donor Organisations or the Guidebook on Indian scholarships. You can also review the Profile 300: Selected Voluntary Organisations in India by Murray Culshaw to have an idea of the immense range of social and voluntary work being done by Indians in a bewildering variety of areas, people, funding levels, etc.

I need not tell you the sterling work done by the Parsi Foundations as that's quite visible to everybody, but other foundations such as the Birla Foundation, the Rashtriya Gramin Vikas Nidhi, the Bombay Community Public Trust, and and and have a very long history and have been highly active in this area for many decades if not centuries.

Also something that you need to consider is the concept of company towns ranging from the Reliance's Jamnagar to Tata's Jamshedpur etc.

Then there is the concept of establishing religious institutions like Temples which would be philanthropic institutions in their own right with schools, hospitals, hospices and social work institutions in the villages, towns and cities right down the ages. By and large, these were constructed with corporate or zamindari or merchant or trading money. We end up looking at the big royal temples and forget that the vast majority of smaller temples in the smaller towns and villages were funded locally. The Hindu & Jain Seths and merchants would build wells, temples, rest houses. They would sponsor festivals and establish centres for Sanskrit or religious learning. Before you say that this was religious giving, remember that temples functioned as a crucial economic intermediary for India, they would have liquidity and would frequently loan monies to merchants, extend credit and help in the local economy. Corporate funded temples (usually through agricultural land, mela's, markets or entire villages deeded to the temple) would help livestock breeders, animal husbandry, artisans, long distance traders and creation of agricultural surplus.

Then comes the concept of guilds which was also hugely linked to philanthropy and charity. When a member of a guild would fall ill or go bankrupt or have commercial issues, they would get funded socially. Establishment of training schools or allowing internships/training was more evidence of social work and corporate philanthropy. Much research has been done in Gujarat, Maharashtra and in certain locations in South India (like in the Sari business) on this issue.

This kind of social work did not just work towards humans, but there are a significant number of recorded charitable donations for establishing hospices for sick and wounded animals. Did you know that there is recorded history that Hindu seths actually gave tons of money in the early 17th century to the Mughal Emperor so that cows wont be killed? (Check out Jourdain's 1905 book). Go figure.

Islamic madrasah's, rest houses, creation of public infrastructure,etc. was funded out of zakat and direct contributions by so many Muslim rulers and businessmen. There is a huge body of theological work relating to getting Muslims to be charitable. As a matter of fact, this is accurate for every religion that I have studied in India, but that's beyond this email.

This idea that Bill Gates is going to come and insist that Indian rich people should give made me feel a case of déjà vu. When the East India Company started to rule India, it also started forcing/encouraging/motivating/pushing Indian businessmen to donate to creating schools. I remember reading something about this collector in Surat in early 1900's asking local seth's to donate money to build a school rather than waste them on fireworks. Welcome to western colonialism redux. Bah!

But they worked, a huge number of British "Sir, Rao Bahadur, Rao Saheb, Sardar, Khan's" were created by the company in return for charitable donations for schools, public libraries, meeting halls, rest houses, wells, roads, hospitals, etc. etc. Indian merchants were quite active in helping governments in times of public crisis, for example during the regular famines which struck India in the British Period.

Lets talk about other organisations. Take Ram Krishna Mission, a Hindu organisation which has been in existence for many many moons and is primarily run through donations. It operates hospitals, schools, hospices, libraries and and and. And I am sure somebody will raise the bogey that it tried to claim non-Hindu status, its less well known that this was driven by the fear that the communists in west Bengal would take control over its schools, ironically enough, there is more protection for minority schools rather than Hindu schools, but there you go. But to get back to the point, the RK Mission is not casteist or what have you. And this is just one example, there are countless more examples.

Anyway, next time somebody tells you that India doesn’t do philanthropy or charity, tell them to go suck a lemon, what we have done is pretty good, and while there is always room for improvement and we should improve, there is nothing bad about the country either.

Citizenship questions for Saudi Arabia

Two interesting questions, here and here.

Saturday, October 2

HU scientists discover 'Star of David' molecule

Hebrew University researchers have created a fascinating molecule which can be used for diabetes cures and for green fuel inputs.

Here’s the sucker in question.

And while i was of interest to me as the proverbial nerd, the idiot clown in me was laughing my head off thinking about the idiot rage boys now fulminating on clean fuel or medicines stating that its a Zionist plot. heh.

Sunday, September 26

Sending Elders to Prison

Got this in my inbox. Despite it being very simplistic and USA oriented, it is indeed thought provoking.

Let's put the seniors in jail, and the criminals in a nursing home.
This way the seniors would have access to showers, hobbies, and walks, they'd receive unlimited free prescriptions, dental and medical treatment, wheel chairs etc. and they'd receive money instead of paying it out.
They would have constant video monitoring, so they could be helped instantly, if they fell, or needed assistance.  Bedding would be washed twice a week, and all clothing would be ironed and returned to them.
A guard would check on them every 20 minutes, and bring their meals and snacks to their cell. They would have family visits in a suite built for that purpose.

They would have access to a library, weight room, spiritual counselling, pool and education.
Simple clothing, shoes, slippers, P.J.'s and legal aid would be free on request.
Private, secure rooms for all, with an exercise outdoor yard, with gardens.

Each senior could have a P.C. a T.V. radio, and daily phone calls.

There would be a board of directors to hear complaints, and the guards would have a code of conduct, that would be strictly adhered to.

The "criminals" would get cold food,  be left all alone, and unsupervised, lights off at 8pm, and showers once a week, live in a tiny room, pay $3,000.00 per month and have no hope of ever getting out. Justice for all.
This should make us think of what kind of world we created for ourselves.

Saturday, September 25

Charitable activities update

Gosh, I haven't updated this blog for a long time. Well, have been on holiday, no? :)

1. IT4CH trustee meeting

Had an interesting time when I chaired the trustee meeting. Met with a volunteer who is offering to call up IT companies in London to get hold of their old kit and perhaps give donations. I find it humbling to see and meet with these volunteers. They, for no other reason, but to help out others who are more unfortunate than others, spend their own money and time. Wonderful, and this is what I love about humans, despite their propensity to hack off other’s heads and do mayhem, they also love to help others. Attaboy! I am also going to start writing one photo essay on each volunteer or donation per month, hope to get more content generated for the website. Have you visited it yet? More photos coming up soon. Also attended and spoke at some banking and IT dinners. The good part of this is that they pay the charity a honorarium when I do this. Killing two birds with one stone, eh?

2. Swansea teaching

Will be making my annual pilgrimage to Swansea to talk to the young ones about how to succeed (lol), how to manage their money, and what kind of financial management should they learn. Also about career choices and stuff. Will let you know more when that happens, its sometime in October.

3. SIFE Annual launch

Had a nice time with the business advisory group meeting with the SIFE UK launch, met with several students who were all passionate about helping others with doing business projects. One young lady from Durham wanted more help, so might pop up there one day to see what I can help with. My own group relating to LSE here is spinning up, they are hiring more people at the freshers fair for the LSE SIFE group. Will be meeting them next week. So I am quite happy and looking forward to doing much with this project.

4. MBS mentoring

Have signed up to do mentoring with my old alma mater in Manchester. So have submitted few selections for the students. Found it curious that many students were selecting every bloody industry for career choices under the sun. That’s not good, one has to be focussed. You cant say that you want to be in banking and in pharmaceuticals. It shows signs of a confused mind.

5. For some reason, the 100books initiative has gone a bit cold which is a bit of a shame. I was really looking forward to working with that one. Oh! well, no worries, next time :)

I am also inundated with requests to fund people’s bike rides, climbs, marathons, and and and. While I do try to help, its not fun to turn down many. Keeping my powder dry and money for the ones which I am looking at..Another reason why I didnt give any money to

Anyway, more later :)

Thursday, September 23

In an alternative universe in Egypt

I got this translation in my in-box. This was very sarcastic and just brilliant. But for religious meatheads, the sarcasm and brilliance will just pass over their heads. Its my firm belief that these muttheads are nuts and the fact that everybody and his dog is now getting on the in-your-face religiousity is really sad. But check it out.

The diary of Mister Abd Rabbo (slave to his god), the Muslim in Coptic Egypt
Try to imagine if these things would happen to you as a Muslim one day, how would you feel?

If you got woken up at dawn by the sounds of a very loud microphone that tears your sleep away and fills your ears with a program from CTV broadcast a mass service from church and national TV would be broadcasting it too, and you find a hoarse voice yelling "glory to god, glory to god, come to church to pray to your lord"
of course after that you would fail in sleeping again and would remain awake until you have to get up to go to work.
you wave to a cab and the driver is a Copt who has a tape playing at the loudest possible volume. The tape is a sermon by a fanatic priest saying those who believe in the Prophet Muhammad are infidels, they need to be killed, so you get scared and ask the driver to drop you off and you decide to take the underground
you find a place and sit down in the underground carriage and your are flanked from both sides by pious Copts reading from  their bibles loudly all the way till you get a headache
you are in the minority, almost everyone around you is a Copt so you cannot say anything because if you do the answer you get will be: are you objecting to God's words? and this will lead to a discussion, which will end up with a problem that will require the police, but then you know that most of the police force are Copts, which is another bigger problem, so you just shut up and keep quiet to avoid problems and get to work
So you reach your place of employment and by now you are very tense and nervous because you did not sleep enough, were awoken rudely and got aggravated by the taxi-driver and have a headache from the underground, so you are not feeling happy and still you wish your co-workers a good morning and peace, and they reply back to you, the Lord's morning and Jesus' peace, so you just shut up and get to your desk
you start to work and in a little while you find your colleagues telling you that they will go pray to the Lord and they gather in the corridor and pray together to secure more rewards and after prayer they take out their little booklets with "dua" (that's kind of personal prayers specially formulated using words from the holy book). You feel like using the restroom and you cannot because the corridor is blocked and you cannot interrupt their prayers, so you try very hard to keep it in till they finish
after that you resume your work and your colleague Girgis (George) comes and asks you why don't you convert to the true religion, it is the majority religion, so it is the right one, instead of remaining a heretic and ending up in hell. You are a good person, and we like you, so we want you to be with us on the right path. Because you want to avoid problems you will have to reply to him diplomatically and politely and say, I like my own religion and even if it is the wrong one, I would rather be in it but thank you for your concern about my wellbeing in the afterlife, so he will get very upset with you and a fight will start
so you appreciate that the working day is over and you can go home, so you remember the cab driver and the neighbours in the underground and you decide that your day has already had enough problems so you walk home.
After all that walking you reach home at sunset and that is the timing of the next prayer and you find your small street blocked by those praying. Even the small grocery store has been converted to a small church and you squeeze between the wall and those praying so you can reach your house and you cant help but hear the sermon given by the priest that true religion is Christianity, that the Copts will prevail, that all others are non-believers and need to be killed or repent and adopt the true religion and that those who believe in Muhammad the false prophet are doomed. SO you swallow your words and go home only to find your wife in a state
she tells you that she was walking in the street and your neighbour's son was telling her that the way she is dressed is all wrong because she is creating temptation and she will burn in hell for it and that she is doomed
so you bite your tongue because you do not want any problems because if you complained the Copts would come and torch your house or torch the Muslim shops in the street and the small old mosque, the only one in the neighbourhood, and the police will come and arrest you for inciting disobedience and you might get slapped with a court case for insulting the true religion and then you will go to jail, and if you keep silent your wife will no longer respect you for being a coward and a weakling so you just tell her, malesh, all will be good eventually and they are just misguided, Allah will help them see the light some day, and you hug your wife and you try to sleep only to find the microphones staring again ....

Monday, September 20

A brave couple

This was an amazing photo essay. How a couple, both disabled, make a wonderful life together.

Reminds me of this old Hindi song.

I used to sing this song when I was on crutches for 18 months. Its not fun, i tell you.

Saturday, September 18

The Poor Economist

There once lived a great mathematician in a village outside Ujjain. He was often called by the local king to advice on matters related to the economy. His reputation had spread as far as Taxila in the North and Kanchi in the South.
So it hurt him very much when the village headman told him, "You may be a great mathematician who advises the king on economic matters but your son does not know the value of gold or silver."
The mathematician called his son and asked, "What is more valuable - gold or silver?"
"Gold," said the son.
"That is correct. Why is it then that the village headman makes fun of you, claims you do not know the value of gold or silver? He teases me every day. He mocks me before other village elders as a father who neglects his son. This hurts me. I feel everyone in the
village is laughing behind my back because you do not know what is more valuable, gold or silver. Explain this to me, son."
So the son of the mathematician told his father the reason why the village headman carried this impression. "Every day on my way to school, the village headman calls me to his house. There, in front of all village elders, he holds out a silver coin in one hand and a gold coin in other. He asks me to pick up the more valuable coin. I pick the silver coin. He laughs, the elders jeer, everyone makes fun of me. And then I go to school. This happens every day. That is why they tell you I do not know the value of gold or silver."
The father was confused. His son knew the value of gold and silver, and yet when asked to choose between a gold coin and silver coin always picked the silver coin. "Why don't you pick up the gold coin?" he asked.
In response, the son took the father to his room and showed him a box. In the box were at least a hundred silver coins. Turning to his father, the mathematician's son said, "The day I pick up the gold coin the game will stop. They will stop having fun and I will stop making money."

Caste amongst Muslims and Christians in India

I had a good discussion with some friends on a mailing list. Quite a lot of people were very surprised and wouldn't believe that Muslims and Christians in India have a caste system. So I am taking the liberty (and with permission from some) to put in some points which I and others wrote which confirms the existence of caste in the Indian Muslim and Christian population. It is only when we identify and agree that this happens that we can think about eradication. This is not just Hindu specific, this has become an India wide, cross all religions. We see this situation in Hindus, Muslims, Jains, Buddhists, Christians, Sikhs, you name it.

  1. I dont know about keralites, but among tamil christians, at least 20 years ago, caste was very important in marriage. We have nadar christians, thevar christians, vellalar christians etc. Also a telugu christian lady once told me that she was a brahmin-chrstain and would not intermarry with other 'non-brahmin' christians. One of her relatives had married the tamil actor Nagesh, and she was saying how the family was alright with it since Nagesh was a brahmin although a hindu. I have a Oriya christain friend who says he is kshatriya/Rajput, and in his family they will be willing to marry a brahmin-christian at the most outside his own caste.
    BTW, a muslim friend from Hyderabad, while referring to another muslim caste (I dont remember the name of the caste) told me how they looked down on those muslims and would not intermarry with them. I have heard how in Bengal at one time hindus and muslims married among themselves on caste lines, when they refused to marry from a different caste even if of the same religion.
    Times have changed. I see a lot of intermarriage among urban hindus, especially the IT types, I am sure such changes are happening among christians and muslims also. Intermarriage alone is the solution.
  2. For a genuine student of Kerala Christianity, I can give the names of the following castes in Kerala Christianity:- 1) Anglo Indians ( approved by Government of Kerala os an OBC) 2) Latin Catholics ---( OBC as per GOK) - unofficially they belongs to 3 castes - group of 500s, Groups of 700s & Former Syrains. 3)Nadar Christians ( approved by GOK as an OBC) 4) Scheduled Caste Coverts to Christianity ( approved by GOK as an OBC) -- unofficially they belong to many castes like Pulaya, Parya, Sambvar etc. 5) Mala Aryan Christians ( Approved by GOK/GOI as ST) The Pre-portugese Christians or the Ancient Malabar  Christians now commonly referred as Syrian Christians are classified into two, a) Northists -- who claim they were Christianised by Apostle Thomas b) Southists --- who claim they are the descendants of those Christians who have migrated to Kerala in 4th & 9th Centuries from Syria. Of course  there is no observance of hierachy and ritual purity amoung these castes, the differences mainy exist "in the mind" & in matters of marriage.
  3. I just realised that you might not have access to the journal articles. I only have the second one electronically, the other two are paper, but here are some extracts which you might find of use: In India, Muslim castes generally fall into two categories: higher castes of Syed, Sheikh, Pathan, and Mughal, and lower, service castes. The high castes claim foreign origin from Saudi Arabia, Iran, Afghanistan, or Central Asia, while the members of the low castes are low-caste Hindu converts. Many high castes however are also Hindu converts. For example, manyPathans are publicly known as high-caste Hindu converts. The large number of Sheikhs, as seen in census data on Muslim caste throughout India, makes it probable that many if not most of the Sheikhs are Hindu converts (see Ahmad, 1978a, for a study of a converted Hindu caste that regards itself as a Sheikh subcaste). This is likely a result of what Goodfriend (1983:123) calls the “Sheikh factor” (or Sanskritization in Srinivas’s terminology) , that is, of lower ranking Muslim caste groups attempting to raise their status over time by claiming that they are Sheikhs. These four Muslim high castes are categories, and often (though by no means always) there will be corporate subgroups formed from these categories. In Hyderabad, in addition to the four higher caste categories, the most well-known lower caste groups are the Qureshi (or Qassab, butchers) and  Ladaf (cotton beaters). Other castes that are important in the local hierarchy are Baid Pathan (who have a near-monopoly on the local wholesale betel nut trade) and Chawsh (descendents of Yemeni Arabs who migrated to serve in the Nizam’s forces; see Khalidi, 1997).We should note that being high caste does not necessarily mean that the caste is high status; that is, caste does not fully determine a group’s status. For example, Chawsh, while Arab, are of distinctly lower status than Syeds, Sheikhs, and Mughals in Hyderabad, since their main employment was as military personnel, and others regard them as rough and uncivil. They are not as low as service castes, such as weavers and butchers. However, because of their military background, they are considered lower than “genteel” castes of Syeds, Sheikhs, and Mughals, yet they are still high because of their Arab descent.12 He then talks about the qureshi's and Medhavi Pathans and so on and so forth.  The architect we had was a Qureshi and as you can appreciate over the construction of the house, we discussed various things, caste and history being one of them.
  4. That's true. Christians in Kerala were identified with the upper castes till the westerners came. But please go back to history beofre that and you will find in all books of history that it is the 9th century that Christians came to be accepted as a caste just below the Brahmins. Go back to the social history of Kerala and you will find that the caste system became an integral part of Kerala in this century that is known as the dark of Kerala. That was a little over a century after the Parasuram myth entered Kerala marking the birth of Brahminism. (It had entered Karnataka about a century before that. By saying that caste entered the Kerala Churches only with the westerners you are doing what Hindu fundamentalists are doing by saying that caste is an introduction of colonialism. What happened with the western missionary is that persons from different castes entered the church and they remained as different castes. That is what one means by saying that caste is practised among Christians. By speaking of caste system one does not refer only to its extreme form of caste-based oppression.
  5. It differs from place to place. In Goa and Mangalore, there are four or five castes but occupation makes a difference. In Kerala there are two castes (Nordist and Sudhist) among the Syrian Christians. Latin Christians keep pretty much the system as in their surroundings. Obviously there are many nuances which can be understood from historical factors. For example, there are "Latin Christians" who joined the "Latin Church" considered the authentic church at the "Coonan Cross "Revolt" of 1653 (?). They keep their caste and many intermarry with the Syrian Christians. In TN and AP, there is very little difference between the Hindu and Christian castes. This of course is a simplified versions. It has many nuances. But the basic fact is that caste continues to exist among Christians. For example, some groups like the Nadars who were "untouchable" toddy tappers have moved upwards by using the church structure and have become a "backward" caste. One can mention other nuances. But the basic fact is that caste exists in different ways among Christians though many of its external expressions have changed during the last century. Though Muslims may not recognise it, in practice it exists also among them in different ways. It is important to recognise it and fight against the injustice it does to the subaltern castes.
  6. check these out: *       Ahmad, Imtiaz (1978). Caste and social stratification among Muslims in India. New Delhi: Manohar. OCLC; *       Ali, Syed (December 2002). "Collective and Elective Ethnicity: Caste Among Urban Muslims in India". Sociological Forum 17 (4): 593–620. ; *       Ahmad, S. Shamim; A. K. Chakravarti (January 1981). "Some regional characteristics of Muslim caste systems in India". GeoJournal 5 (1): 55–60.
  7. belonging to a caste itself is not illegal. Not least because there is no agreed legal structure behind what a caste can be. The current way of defining castes is such a hodge podge that castes are identified based upon gazetted notifications. Go figure. Finally, no, I have not come across any well argued historiographically accurate explanation of how the ved or purana or upanishad descriptions of godhead into humans into professions have morphed into the 600 odd castes which are currently gazetted as per the following list. so as you can see, actually belonging to a caste or following the caste system as a means of identification is not illegal.
  8. The government of India stopped collecting data on non-Untouchable (or Dalit) castes after independence. Therefore we do not know how many people of each caste there are. The last census to consider caste for Hyderabad state was in 1921. In this census, in the state of Hyderabad, there were 1,298,277 Muslims counted, with 906,363 returned as Sheikh, 187,679 as Syed, 131,828 Pathans, and 50,048 Mughals. Only 22,359 other caste members were counted (Census of India, 1921:228–236). Although it would be foolish to extrapolate these numbers to today, my observations and conversations with scholars and others indicate that, as in 1921, there are relatively few people of low castes in Hyderabad, while the bulk of Muslims in the city are high caste, mostly Sheikhs. The collection of ethnographic data is valuable here precisely because caste groups are not identifiable through enumeration.
  9. The idea may seem strange that in an egalitarian religion like Islam, there would be ranked, hierarchical divisions among Muslims. Many scholars have debated this point, whether or not caste exists among Muslims in India. It has been clearly established that in some parts of India, and for certain Muslims, caste considerations are strong (e.g., Ahmad, 1976, 1978b, 1981, 1983; Ansari, 1960; Jamous, 1997; Madan, 1995), while for others they are less important (e.g., Fanselow, 1997; Mines, 1978; Vatuk, 1997).
  10. Blood purity is an important concern for Qureshis; they only give and take marriage partners amongst themselves. Qadeer, a 25-year-old butcher, said that if he were to marry out, it would be a major problem. The butchers are very keen on this. There is a distinct sense of honor among them, which is manifest mainly through the maintenance of endogamy (they do not give or take girls from “just anyone”), and the type of work they do—they slaughter only goats. They do not slaughter large animals such as buffalo and cattle, so they feel superior to the buffalo butchers. They also do not slaughter chickens, which is not the province of any particular caste.While the Qureshi are endogamous as a matter of honor, others who are higher caste do not want to associate downward with them. One doctor (a
    Syed) looking for a wife for her son (a Pathan) told me in a firm manner, “No Qureshis. Their culture is completely different.” Aijaz, a marriage lawyer, said that there is biraderi endogamy among groups like butchers because others do not want to marry them, since they always have knives in their hands, and they are a little jahil, rough and uncivil. “But what if they are not practicing butchers?” I asked. He reflected and said, “Yes, I know of one doctor who is of the Qureshi biraderi in Mallepally neighborhood, and his wife is not a butcher.” So, he said, people are only considering money and education now.
  11. The literature on Hindu caste is vast, and beyond the scope of this paper (e.g., Dirks, 1987; Dumont, 1980; Raheja, 1988). Marriott (1976, 1989; see also Marriott and Inden, 1977) argues for interpreting Indian culture through indigenous sociological categories, while Milner (1994) employs aWeberian analysis to examine caste as the most extreme form of status stratification.
    Unlike Marriott, Milner sees caste as comparable to status systems elsewhere.While there are arguments over how best to understand the caste system, another question has been over just how rigid this system historically has been. Cohn (1987) argues that the caste system(s) were quite fluid and that hierarchies of caste were contingent upon local conditions of rule. This changed under the British, who established thorough and relatively stable control, directly and indirectly, over all of India. Also, through the British-administered census, caste was enumerated for the first time, and codified according to a Brahmanical view. Thus, in many places where caste was contested, a hierarchy of castes with Brahmins as superior was imposed by the British (Dirks, 1987). For the most thorough discussion of caste, see Bayly (1999), who gives an excellent account of the development and changes in caste throughout India from the ancient Vedic period to the present.
  12. three of my cousins have married Christians, so I have a reasonably good view of 3 case studies of how caste is pretty solidly entrenched in there. Whether we are talking about who gets invited, the churches which are certain castes, inter marriage between castes and the like are all indicators to the fact that it does exist. And before we start, yes, discrimination is present in both religions, just not on the basis of caste, so if its discrimination that we are looking for, we have that in spades. But to go back to your question, caste as a measure of association is perfectly legal. No illegality in that. It is when you discriminate on that basis, remove opportunities on that basis, etc., that's illegal.

The existence of caste in Muslim and Christian communities that I have observed in Allahabad, Lucknow, Hyderabad, Bhopal and other places pretty much shows that it part and parcel of Indian community life. Calling it localised is irrelevant since its pretty much prevalent wherever there are concentrations of Muslims and Christians. Just like Hindu's try to explain away caste, others also try to explain away caste in their communities. As I said, I dont really have a problem with people wanting to stick with their own biraderi or caste. And as I said, its not illegal either and its a fundamental right. Its when it becomes discriminatory, that's where the problem lies.

Arguing that the caste system exists in India because of Hinduism might be fair. We do need to go after the Hindu guru’s and the Shankaracharya’s to get them to come out clearly against this heinous situation because it is only after we clearly state that despite it being mentioned in some of the Hindu tracts, it does not meant that we think of people in an upper or lower caste basis.

While I am at it, I also disagree with the idea of counting and measuring castes, we are trying to get away from all this caste business and all this measurement, enumeration, will simply perpetuate this and keep huge problems growing. Look at the people who are asking for it and pretty much all of them are asking for this so that they can demand more resources from the government. Nobody thinks about India as a whole. If you do want to help, then help the poor irrespective of their castes. Surely we are all Indians and that’s more important?

Sunday, September 12

The tyke’s next project – building his own pc

Karn came up with his new project, to build his own pc. His current pc is now getting on in years, is about 2 years now, but he wants a new one. So he is thinking about it.

Coincidentally, just came across this great site where this chap builds this absolutely sexy cool pc.

How cool is this?

Well, lets see how that turns out..I think this should be a good little dad-son project, eh? :)

If you want to be a CEO, be and remain a toddler



● Toddlers are full of energy and enthusiasm. You can’t beat a toddler who is really into something and going for it 100 per cent.

● Toddlers are natural risk-takers. They throw themselves into climbing down the banisters in the boldest, bravest fashion.

● Toddlers are persistent. When told not to smear jam on a DVD, they will wait a couple of minutes and then do it again.

● Toddlers are inquisitive. They will not be fobbed off with a stock reply but go on asking “why? why? why?”

● Toddlers are creative. Their felt-tip drawings on walls and sofas betray the liveliest imagination.

● Toddlers have great interpersonal skills. They are good at thawing the hardest heart with hugs and sloppy kisses.

It is a splendid start but I feel there are more traits that the finest CEOs share with two-year-olds. They are assertive and jolly good at saying no. They are not hamstrung by inhibitions. They will march straight up to someone and say: “Who are you?” They are good at making decisions. They don’t need Malcolm Gladwell to tell them to trust their instincts.

I suspect the reason management thinkers have avoided the parallels with toddlers is it upsets their faith in the idea that leadership is an endless “journey” of improvement or “lifelong learning”. The toddler theory says the reverse. Good leaders have the right skills already, the trick is to avoid dulling their edges with too many civilised niceties picked up along the way.

There is one final way in which the toddler is a great role model for the CEO: language. Toddlers say what they mean and say it simply. They never feel tempted to dwell on paradigm shifts or value stacks or synergies.

Saturday, September 11

My ancestral fraud

Heh, found this exceedingly funny, got an email on facebook. Check this out.



Mohamed sent you a message.

Mohamed Fahab

Mohamed Fahab

September 10, 2010 at 9:50pm

Subject: Dear Bhaskar Dasgupta,

Dear Bhaskar Dasgupta,
I am Barrister Mohamed Fahab, personal attorney to Late Mr J.C.Dasgupta,a national of your country, Who died and left some huge amount of money with a bank here in Lome West Africa, valued at US$8.5 million dollars. I have contacted you to assist. Please Reply To My Private Email Ad...( Or call me +228 9177735
Your Full nam.....................................
Your private number...........................
Your private email..............................
Mohamed Fahab,

Thursday, September 9

Some references on population and fertility growth

An email which i sent around.

Population forecasting (and all the attendant and associated aspects) is a strange research area, and almost impossible to predict with any degree of accuracy. The variables are just too many to  cater for, leave alone trying to establish the degree of correlation or causality between them. But economic conditions do have a bearing on population, so do cultural aspects. Here are some more examples:

1. Russia

2. more links on fertility decline

3. Belligerence produces more fertility for example in Israel and Palestine

4. Iran is an example of where population shifts have happened quite often.

5. Here is another view on Egypt's fertility situation.

6. And , here's an interesting research article on India, albeit a bit old. I quote:

There has been a significant decline in fertility in many parts of India since the early 1980s.
This paper reexamines the determinants of fertility levels and fertility decline, using panel data
on Indian districts for 1981 and 1991. We find that women's education is the most important
factor explaining fertility differences across the country and over time. Low levels of child
mortality and son preference also contribute to lower fertility. By contrast, general indicators
of modernization and development such as urbanization, poverty reduction and male literacy
bear no significant association with fertility.

Also look at this chapter for a good overview of the theories behind fertility, population in India.

The UN Population Division does some excellent work in this area.

Finally, the question of food availability is yet another major issue in its own right. Intensive farming is a must and food / dietary changes which accompany economic growth has also important implications on this issue. Incidentally, I was trying to find a good stock opportunity to invest in global food producing firms given this change and missed out on that. But that's an argument for another day.

Sunday, September 5

Charity Photographic competitions and other news on the charitable front

I am conscious that i haven't posted here for some time, it has been manically busy at work and then I left for holiday so wanted to drop a line on what I have been up to in the past month or so.

  1. The IT4CH charity is now moving from up north down to London, it just makes it easier for our CEO and our team to do this from London.
  2. We are also negotiating with several local authorities to lease their buildings for us to keep our spare equipment in, this promises to be of much use.
  3. I put in some funding proposals for carbon change improvement products back in the firm, but dont think they got selected. Shame, next time I will do better :). Am trying to see if we can get some of this stuff formally pushed and funded in a separate matter
  4. SIFE is powering up for this academic year, as usual, I will be at LSE but have also offered to help Essex out. As I mentioned before, i am considering doing something with them on the academic and research front and I thought it might be able to kill 2 birds with one stone.
  5. The discussions with Manchester Business School proceed sporadically, I am specially happy about an internship/graduate recruitment proposal, lets see, early days yet.
  6. And finally, am thinking about submitting my photo essay on the Whittington Hospital in North London to this photo competition. I realise what we do with the kids is not so visually attractive, perhaps Disha would have been better but its way out in India and dont know when I will be there next. I quote from the site:
  7. PhotoPhilanthrophy believes in the power of photography to inspire hope and understanding and to connect people around the world. All subjects photographed should be treated with respect, compassion and dignity. PhotoPhilanthropy reserves the the right to reject any submission based on quality, content or theme. All submissions will be reviewed by the PhotoPhilanthropy team for accuracy of information. Written essays may be edited for clarity.

    Submitted photos must depict the work of a charitable organization (designated by 501c3 in the US, or international equivalent) and be presented as a photo essay. All photographs in the essay must have been taken within the last 3 years. Photographers may enter two essays in the same year. An essay entered in a previous year of the competition may not be re-entered.

    For all submissions, collaboration with the charitable organization will be verified.  For this reason it is mandatory to submit a contact name and email of the person you worked with at the organization.

    Upon completion of review, accepted photo essays will be posted on the PhotoPhilanthropy website.

    What do you think? do you think I have a shot at it with the photographs from the hospital? I realise the differences between the visual impact of a hospital in north London versus say a charity in a hauntingly beautiful but bloody poor place in say Nepal or hot/dry/dusty Sudan, but what the heck, all part of the learning, eh?

Tuesday, August 31

Somewhere along the route from Liberty Hall to Austerity Towers #ukpolitics

This was a brilliant column on how frankly silly CFO’s and wrongful ideas on austerity can screw up perfectly good pragmatic solutions. I quote:

what is not in dispute is that the second most important man in the British government travels second-class…..Then Gordon Brown, then prime minister, expelled generals and admirals from first-class compartments. After the election in May, when Mr Brown was deposed, the pace increased. The new regime imposed the same ban on civil servants……

Somewhere along the route from Liberty Hall to Austerity Towers, one passes the dividing line between common prudence and blithering idiocy, and it seems to me that the British government has now crossed it……..

The fastest journey from London to Sheffield takes more than two hours. Second-class compartments on British trains are cramped, generally noisy, usually crowded and sometimes standing-room only. It is difficult to use a laptop or, unless you have the temperament of a Buddhist monk, switch off and nap. The exception to this are the “quiet carriages”, which are always noisy, acting, as they do, as a magnet for large families with small children, serial telephoners, chatterboxes and officials from the Welsh Environment Agency giving hour-long lectures to their colleagues (I am not making this up).

Mr Clegg is paid a modest £137,000 a year. Say he travels to his constituency every fortnight. That means he would be spending not far off 5 per cent of his working time on these trains. If he can’t work in those hours he is not saving the taxpayer money…..

This is by no means just a British phenomenon, nor confined to railways. The fashion for hair-shirt travel may be traced back to the dotcom boom of the 1990s when the bosses of then-new companies such as Microsoft and Cisco helped to establish their image by conspicuously travelling in the back of planes themselves and expecting employees to follow suit.

This was a minor inconvenience to Bill Gates (who nonetheless travelled business class to Europe), at least until he got his own plane, and to senior executives who were expected to pay for their own upgrades.

It also roughly coincided with three other developments. First, the income of such executives exploded, so paying the extra became a minor detail. Second came the discovery of the pack-’em-in principle. It is now largely forgotten just how roomy the original 1970s jumbo jets were. Then airlines realised that no matter how ghastly they made the experience of travel, passengers were too price-obsessed and (appropriately enough for cattle class) too cowed to rebel. The third trend was the rise of the corporate CFO, trained to know the price of everything and the value of nothing, who found travel costs the easiest item of all to cut.

I used to have this stupidity all the time due to corporate travel policies whenever I would be working outside a bank. They would force people to travel in cattle class for long distances (at one stage, all flights below 10 hours). So what happens? I would be basically be unusable for 2 days for one flight. The result being that they would end up paying more for hotels, the wasted time, the catchup time etc. etc. And when the company is being stupid like this, why would they expect me to fly on a weekend? I wouldnt, so they would lose out on even more business time, week days would just be 1-2 days out of 5. This was when I was flying around the world on a very regular basis. Anyway, I agree, stupidity is not restricted to corporates but also to politics.

Sunday, August 22

Doing Business in India

I did a bit of work in this book in couple of places with an old friend of mine, we did our PhD’s together way back in the early 1990’s in Manchester, he went on to do great and brilliant stuff. Here is the table of contents. Go buy :)

Friday, August 20

Low European Donations to Pakistan – Islamophobia or bad Pakistani reputation?

Found these 3 links on the Pakistani Floods situation.

1. Most Germans reluctant to donate to Pakistan

2. Why Europe Has Been Slow to Help Flood Victims. Quote:

"Many Pakistanis are struggling to understand why the response in the West has been so inadequate," writes Pakistani historian Tariq Ali in the columns of Süddeutsche Zeitung. "Some among them," he explains, "argue that Europe and the United States are reluctant to release funds because their country is now viewed as refuge for terrorists. In fact the issue is more complex, but it is clear that the problem has not been solely caused by Pakistan. The reality is that the main factor limiting international aid is the flagrant Islamaphobia that has that has emerged in Europe and North America since Sept. 11. In a recent poll, more than 50 percent of respondents associated the word "Islam" with terrorism.

"Of course," Tariq Ali remarks, "all of the people interviewed were in the UK, but the British, the French, the Germans, the Dutch and the Danes all think alike. Pakistan is under water and the rest of the world remains indifferent." And he bitterly insists, "Yes, latent prejudice against Muslim countries is one of the reasons for the lack of international aid. But the problem has also been compounded by another factor which is a specifically local: many Pakistanis themselves are reluctant to hand over money because they fear it will end up lining the pockets of the country's corrupt politicians."

In response, the implacable Jyllands Posten points out that "for years Pakistan has contributed to its terrible international reputation." The country "is now viewed as one of the most dangerous places in the world: a nuclear power with an army that is unwilling or unable to stand up to the Taliban and al-Qaida, and a secret service that supports the Taliban." Having said that, even if "it does not benefit from much sympathy, Pakistan still needs massive humanitarian aid," points out the Danish daily.

3. Record rains – but Pakistan is dying for water. Quote:

To put matters in their depressing context, the number of children who perish daily from water-related diseases is several times higher than the rate at which people perished in last week's devastating floods.

The poor Pakistani’s, somebody needs to save them from not only the floods, but their leaders, both civil and military, but the Islamophobia argument is very weak, based upon what I have read and figured, its more to do with the reputation of Pakistan due to corruption, terrorism and general incompetence all around.


Update: 21 August 2010: BBC asked some talking heads on this issue. I quote:

Dr Marie Lall, Pakistan expert at the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House) and senior lecturer at the Institute of Education, says: "I think there is donor fatigue all around. The [2004] Indian Ocean tsunami, the Burmese Cyclone [Nargis, 2008], the [2005] Pakistan earthquake, and [this year's] Haiti earthquake. It is getting too much; we are in a recession and people are short of money."

Rebecca Wynn, Pakistan specialist for UK-based aid agency Oxfam, says: "Many donors have made substantial contributions in humanitarian assistance to Pakistan over the years, particularly in response to the conflict-related displacements over the last two years. Of course, the fact that the people of Pakistan have been hit time and again by disaster is even more reason to give."

Dr Elizabeth Ferris, senior fellow at the US-based Brookings Institution, a foreign policy think tank, says: "It should also be noted that the international humanitarian system isn't set up to deal with more than one major crisis a year. USAID, for example, committed one-third of its annual budget to the Haitian earthquake response. And among the general public there may be a feeling of, 'Well, I donated to the victims of the Haitian earthquake and Haiti is a far needier country than Pakistan.'"


Yale University economics professor Dean Karlan, an expert on charitable giving, says: "Corruption concerns may explain why giving is lower to developing countries than many would like it to be, but it does not explain why there is less money pouring into Pakistan now than does to disaster relief causes in other developing countries with similar governance issues."

Dr Marie Lall says: "People in Pakistan are sceptical the government will be transparent. But they are giving to philanthropic organisations. In the UK, I think people are sceptical of [non-governmental organisations'] overheads and costs. They don't know which ones are transparent and reliable, even though local organisations such as TCF [The Citizens' Foundation] are doing an incredible job."

Dr Elizabeth Ferris says: "People are always sceptical about their money reaching flood victims, particularly in countries with reputations for corruption. But Haiti didn't have a very good reputation in this regard. [Pakistan] President [Asif Ali] Zardari trip to Europe [during the floods] was not a good move. For a few days, that was the 'story' of the Pakistani floods, which doesn't inspire people to be generous, particularly in this economic climate."


Dr Marie Lall says: "British Prime Minister David Cameron's comments in India [when he said Islamabad promoted the export of terror] did not help."

Dr Elizabeth Ferris says: "People are less likely to donate to any country seen as a haven for terrorism. And more generally, the fact that so much Western news coverage in recent years about Pakistan has been negative, stressing its links with the conflict in Afghanistan. I think this is the major reason for the slow public response - the image of Pakistan in our media. There may also be a feeling, particularly in the US, that Islamic governments and charities should be stepping up to the plate to donate."


Rebecca Wynn says: "This disaster has come at a bad time, following the financial crisis and the Haiti earthquake. Many donors made huge commitments to Haiti, so may find it hard to fund another major disaster, particularly in the same year."

Dr Marie Lall says: "Timing may be a factor, but I think it's more to do with not realising the scale of the disaster, and the attitude by the British government; the UK should be leading the aid effort, given the Pakistani diaspora here and the fact that we need Pakistan for the war in Afghanistan."

'Wrong' disaster

Professor Dean Karlan says: "Sudden events seem to generate more funds. A flood (and droughts) happen gradually and build. There isn't any one single day in which news is huge. For the same reason, this pushes the story away from the media spotlight. But massive and sudden earthquakes or tsunamis draw our immediate attention and shock us."

Dr Elizabeth Ferris says: "It's important to note that in general people are likely to give more to emergencies occurring in countries geographically closer to them - although this didn't hold true for the tsunami. But when you trace contributions over time, you find that Americans and Canadians are more likely to respond to disasters in the Western hemisphere while Europeans tend to be more responsive to African countries (and their former colonies, in particular)."

Dr Marie Lall says: "This was not one cataclysmic event, but one which grew over three weeks. The fact that 25% of the country was or is under water is not understood. The low numbers of dead, relatively speaking, mask the disaster on the ground. The crisis has destroyed crops, dead livestock and damaged homes and infrastructure. Food prices are through the roof and there won't be a normal harvest. It will get worse. Farmers will starve."

So pretty much everything, eh?