Wednesday, 30 November 2011

India sinks to a new low in the global corruption ranking

Though the article here
talks about this new low only in terms of India's image, it strengthens my argument that we are sadly becoming more and more corrupt as a nation.

No doubt some will counter with the question which is meant rhetorically: "But what about the current anti-corruption drive?"

My answer: first, it is not entirely evident that the anti-corruption movement is itself willing to free itself of corruption; and second, it is true that, at the same time as we are becoming increasingly corrupt as a nation, a few hundreds of thousands among us are becoming more actively committed to the fight against corruption.

I hope and pray that the number of those fighting against corruption increases, but that will only happen as each of us recognizes that the line against corruption passes through each of our hearts: what is important is not only to be "against corruption" in some verbal sense or in terms of being willing to go on political demonstrations; rather, what is important is to be willing to face the fact that, in our increasingly corrupt culture, if one is to act against corruption, one must be prepared to pay the cost in terms of delays, losses, inconvenience, ostracism, harassment, and perhaps even violence against one's property and person.

Thankfully, an increasing number are becoming willing to pay such a price. That that is not yet showing up in the rankings is evidence of how small that number is still. May their tribe increase.

Science and Technology in the Vedas

I'm afraid that I have only just got around to reading a book by the above title, published in 2007, Dr. R.V.S.S Avadhanulu.

It exemplifies all the strengths and all the weaknesses of the conservative view.

Strengths: it is clear, well organised, makes excellent distinctions, and is based on sound knowledge of Sanskrit as well as of our traditions.

Weaknesses: it is not willing to question any of our pieties. The problem is that if one is not willing to ask questions, then one cannot really grow that body of knowledge. Further, as there are different traditions in our country, one cannot explore the differences between our traditions in any substantial way.

Here is a simple example of the sort of thing I mean. Dr Avadhanulu provides an instructive (one might even say exhaustive) account of the Vedic and Vedantic views of the importance of the Vedas themselves. He also documents how much of the Vedas have been lost (as far as can be deduced). However, he does not ask how is it that a body of knowledge that was held in apparently the highest esteem by our people came to be lost by our people? Or perhaps it was the case that only a few of our people held the Vedas in that high esteem? If so, how come that even those few did not hang to the most precious thing in their lives? Further, as the majority of the Vedas have been lost, how do we know that what we do have is as important as that which we have lost? If I lose just the last few pages of a novel, that novel is not much use to me; if I lose several chapters from different sections of any book then surelythat book (whether fiction or non-fiction) is not much use to me? Please note that I am not arguing that what we have of the Vedas is not of much use; I am simply raising the sorts of questions that we must ask if we are to grow beyond our pieties.

Naturally, the question also arises: do we actually need to grow beyond our pieties? One way of answering that question is to consider the following.

Though Dr Avadhanulu does not demonstrate this, it is clear from even the most cursory knowledge of the subject, that early Indian technology was developed to a height greater than anywhere else in Asia (perhaps in the world, though that is a different matter, and can be argued about). How come we lost that technological lead? By the way, it is clear that we did not lose that lead simply because others overtook us - we actually degenerated in our level of civilization. I am referring of course to PRE-Vedic technology. Then, in another phase of our history, the Vedic phase, we again developed technology to the highest degree in Asia - but without building on the pre-Vedic technologies at least in some aspects. However, we lost not only Vedic technologies, we lost most of the Vedas themselves! Then we had Buddhist technology (which, again, if not in all aspects at least in many significant aspects, did not build on Vedic technology). At a specific point, perhaps as a result of the violence of the campaign to eliminate Buddhism from among our people, we lost Buddhist technology too. From this simple history, a basic question arises: what is wrong with our traditional way of dealing with knowledge that, highly technologically gifted as our people can historically be seen to be, we have lost our edge again and again? Did we lose it each time for fundamentally different reasons or for similar reasons? In what ways do we need to grow beyond our traditions so that we don't lose again whatever edge we are developing now? Those are the sorts of questions, and they are important for our children and grandchildren, that the conservative approach is not merely uncomfortable with, but specifically forbids one from asking. At the same time, I am deeply grateful to Dr Avadhanulu and other conservative scholars and researchers who have done and are doing so much to preserve and further our knowledge of our traditions.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Poem written some two years ago, on approaching my 60th birthday


My hairs are counted down
As I am counted up

What when they both reach zero?
An eye is on that sparrow!

So when I, ripe, fall
I will find (imagine!) the ground beneath it all:

Is there a friend who is closer than a brother?
Anyone who cares when no one is around?

Can the scales ever balance for those who are poor?
Cloudless skies, will those really be found?

Well, at least I know that he
Who up-ends tables, uses the whip,

Arranges, where the weights are imponderable
And the books can no longer be cooked

For even my hairs to be counted up
While I am gently counted down

And neither will amount to zero (imagine!)
When I can touch and kiss him, who is
the ground beneath it all.

Prabhu Guptara
7 June 2009

One indication for prospects for business in India in comparison to other parts of the world

Please see my post at:

Poem written in April 2011: "On a Visit, near Lucknow"

That chandelier you see, Sir, is Belgian.
True, one bulb is missing, some are cracked,
And all are – ahem – dusty
From the labours of servants who were ignorant or overenthusiastic.

That clock, sir, like this simple toast rack, doesn’t work any more.

But in our heyday, Sir, can you imagine how much it would have cost
How many years’ labour for how many of our people
Not only to buy these beloved things, but to transport them from Belgium to London
From London to Calcutta, thence by boat to Kanpur
(The river is blocked, nothing comes that way now)
And then by road the half-day journey to Lucknow.

Today, Sir, we can get anything everything direct from Sharjah.
By air. Direct.

But, Sir, Naseeruddin, Naseeruddin, Naseeruddin Haider!
He was something else!

What a vision he had of linking the Gomti and the Ganga!

If Kanpur and Lucknow had been connected, what a city Lucknow would have been!

Who would have cared for Lahore, Delhi and Calcutta?
Or even London, New York or Beijing?

Would there have been aircraft?
Might we, using ancient knowledge, have leapfrogged to a different propulsion system?

But, Sir, our nawaabs and thaakurs may be no more, their propulsion was the same
As that of our netas, only we are faster and harder - and more devious.

They all thought, Sir, they all think, themselves to be masters of the universe.

It is like - you know the story of the Naag Temple down the road, Sir?

No? Ah, then you must know! The most incredibly rich Jaat of the area
Had a dream in which he was granted a vision of the Naag Devta.

You must be knowing, Sir, Naag Devta, Shivji, Vishnu?

Yes yes of course, you live abroad but you are Indian, my apologies!

I’m sorry, Sir, but I must ask, I must not assume!

Nowadays, Sir, even Indians living in our own country don’t know anything about our traditions!

Anyway, the visionary demand was that a temple be built to the Naag Devta.

In the morning, trembling, the Jaat went to a pundit he knew a bit
And retailed the story, whereupon the wily pundit demurred:
building a temple is no small endeavour!

The terrified Jaat fell at the pundit’s feet and offered to sell everything he owned.

So, today, a beautiful cobra’s head overshadows the road, as you have seen,
The temple is splendid, overpowering. The pundit does very well.

The Jaat? I wondered if you would ask.

He volunteers at the temple, surviving gratefully on whatever is offered to him.

Yes, indeed, Sir, so what is the point of the story? That is what I am telling only.

This Jaat, Sir, was also a master of the universe.

All these masters of the universe had dreams.

And their dreams required them to sacrifice themselves and all they had.

But even at the height of their success, Sir, they were merely poor servants of their dream
Only imagining their mastery of the universe.

I am sorry, Sir, I fold my hands, I am an aged servant, not a philosopher
But we who've lived an age, even if we are uneducated, sometimes do reflect.

Many thanks, Sir, you are very kind. The master is good
But we have fallen on hard times, and everything is so expensive nowadays,
Thanks to today’s masters of the universe.


Monday, 28 November 2011

More and more impressive: Forward Press magazine

The magazine started boldly, struggled to find its voice for several months, but has for about a year now being doing better and better.

The current issue is outstanding:

- Bihar: Who Got How Much Land and for How Much?

- Which castes have what percentage of faculty positions at India's premier university, JNU?

- should one version of the Rama story be imposed on everyone - and if so, which?, by Ram Puniyani

- Is the father of the Indian Constitution, Dr Ambedkar, now outshining Gandhiji?, by Prof Kancha Ilaiah

- Nuclear energy: does India need it? by Ratan Mani Lal

- The monumental dalit response to "national" memorials across the Yamuna from Delhi

- Call for splintered Dalitbahujan movements to come together

- Chandra Bhushan Prasad Yadav, Editor-in-Chief, Yadav Shakti, asks "the Mulnivasi castes... the original inhabitants" of India to read and to think

- Progress-prone versus Progress-Resistant Societies: Why Real Change is So Hard, by Thom Wolf

- review of Jagdeo Prasad's Complete Works, by Dr Sanjay Navle

- Srilal Shukla: a tribute by Prem Kumar Mani

- our national language, Hindi - how was it created?, by Vishal Mangalwadi

- the story of the creation of the first-ever Hindi thesaurus, by Arvind and Kusum Kumar

- should 27% of all government purchases and contracts be awarded to dalitbahujans?, by an Indian professor

- Mayawati and Nitish: Similar Path, Different Destinations, by Rajnikant Vashishtha

- Waman Meshram calls on all SCs, STs n OBCs to oppose the hypocrisy of both the Congress and the BJP

- On Phule’s death anniversary, Truthseekers International's honour to the unrecognized work of farming

- Mahishasura and Macaulay: The Limits of Postmodernity, by Ivan Kostka

- case study of decision-making in a family, by Hansraj and Kasturbai Jain

- and more...

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Eye-witness account of the situation regarding the current elections in UP

A friend writes from UP:

"All major political parties are now actively campaigning. The amount of money being lavished is visible and frightening. Regular and organized ‘daawats’, distribution of silver toe rings to women, large amounts of cash being given to agents and leaders - these visuals are unabashed and open!" (sic.)

There are many kinds of bribery.

May God grant to our people the elementary commonsense to see that anyone who is willing to bribe you to get your vote, is not the kind of person for whom you should vote...

Fraudunlent "Swiss Bank Corporation" note regarding accounts allegedly held in Switzerland by Rajeev Gandhi, A Raja and others

A relative of mine forwards to me a note claiming to be from "Swiss Bank Corporation" showing that accounts there are currently as follows:

"Rajeev Ratna Gandhi - 1,98,356/-Crores
Andimuthu Raja - 7,856/-Crores
Harshad Mehta - 1,35,121/- Crores
Sharad Govindrao Pawar - 28,956/-Crores
Palaniappan Chidambaram - 33,451/-Crores
Suresh Kalmadi - 5,560/-Crores
Muthuvel Karunanidhi - 35,009/-Crores
Ketan Parekh - 8,256/-Crores
Chirag Jayesh Mohini - 96,455/-Crores
Kalanithi Maran - 15,090/-Crores".

My relative asks how authentic such a note is likely to be.

Naturally, the named people may have this much or even more money in accounts outside India or possibly in Switzerland(though the latter is highly unlikely, for reasons I have written about on my Blog and elsewhere).

However, my reply to my relative consisted of this one line: "Swiss Bank Corporation stopped existing in 1998".

Simple tests regarding the authenticity of any such note would be: What is the date mentioned on the note? Does the company actually exist from which the note claims to originate? Why would they send such a note to the person who claims that the note has been sent to her/him? Would such a note ever list more than one person? Why would the amount of money held by her/him be listed? Is the list at least in some sort of order? (Above, the list is neither in alphabetical order nor in the order of amounts held..., nor is there any other indication of why the list should be in this particular order - rather the order might indicate the preoccupations of the people fabricating this note).

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Muslims for secular democracy

A brave article, "A different sort of Valley ‘protest’", by Javed Anand of the organisation, Muslims for Secular Democracy is in The Indian Express today:

All I can say is that we also need Christians for secular democracy, Hindus for secular democracy, and so on.

Most of all we need upper castes committed to genuine democracy for dalitbahujans.

That will come only if we are all committed to education and freedom of thought for all.

Free markets in goods and services are only as important as free markets in philosophy, religions and ideologies.

That is the only way we can arrive at our own conclusions - and change our minds about these and other matters, if we feel that necessary or desirable.

Freedom of thought, of association, and of action is the only way we will grow beyond the sort of development that our country is experiencing at present, and grow into the kind of national development that we all, I believe, really desire.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Are our various Hindu approaches absolutist or relativistic in ethics?

The question has come up as I see mention of a particular event where three views of ethics are to be presented from the platform: that of the Gita, that of the Koran, and that of the Bible (I should say that none of these presentations are by me, in this particular instance!).

One's view of ethics is always related to one's view of God, since without God no real "ethics" are possible, only rules that individuals may or may not make up for themselves (because individuals are also then free to live not on the basis of rules or principles but even on the basis of whims and fancies).

I guess it is fair to say that the Koran's view of ethics, like its view of God, is absolutist. God is totally sovereign, His will is immmutable, and we can either comply or face punishment. Perhaps some Muslim friends will correct me if they feel that I am being too extreme or partial in my portrayal of the Koran's view of God and of ethics.

The Biblical view (again, I hope that readers better acquainted with the book than me will correct me) seems to me neither absolutist nor relativistic. I would describe it as "aspirationalist" or "idealist". Yes, certain absolutes are presented (e.g. Thou shalt not commit theft or adultery or murder...) but these are negative absolutes, which leave enormous room for positive things. In other words, it is an ethic which emphasises freedom within limits (yes, there was a tree in the Garden of Eden from which one could not eat, but that was only one tree; Adam and Eve were free to eat the fruit of any other tree, and they were free to cultivate and shape the garden as they wished). The New Testament continues in that broad vein, giving very few specific positive commands, and those are mostly to do with aspiring towards ideals that are impossible or rather difficult (such as the total purity of "Look at every woman without lust in your heart" or the total generosity of "if anyone begs you for a coat, give to him your shirt also"). In other words, ideals are presented to us (most fully in the person of Jesus the Lord) and we are urged to grow towards those, with the associated need for self-examination, and the motivation against discouragement provided by the forgiveness for our failures and shortcomings extended to those who are willing to accept that on the basis of the Lord's death on the cross, as well as the encouragement and enablement made possible toward that ideal by His resurrection and the relationship which is therefore possible with Him today. The ideas is that His power working in us can continue to transform us in spite of weaknesses and failures, if we are willing to get up and run again towards those character ideals.

As in the case of my discussion of the Koran and the Bible, I hope that friends who know the Gita better than I do will correct me if my view of ethics in the Gita is distorted: so far as I can see, the Gita's view of ethics is one that is based on the various dharmas (systems of duties, rules and obligations) associated with one's caste as defined by varnashrama provided one has bhakti towards Shri Krishna. The idea is that one is born in a particular caste, which has defined duties and one should do everything one can to uphold those duties and obligations, however illogical or immoral those may seem, provided one has faith in Shri Krishna.

I should also immediately point out that this is only ONE Hindu view of ethics. Overall, we could say that we Hindus are absolutist in terms of our personal orientation (we may owe allegiance, for example as above, to Shri Krishna) but outside that we are relativistic.

What I mean is that while we will not be ashamed about our devotion to our Kuladeva or Ishtadeva, we have no problem with others having their own Kuladeva or Ishtadeva or guru or whatever.

Why do have no problem with that?

Principally because we regard all bhakti and all philosophy and all tapasya as operating at a lower level than the mystical flash which we associate with becoming "fully enlightened" or "self-realised". The mystical flash can certainly come as a result of tapasya or philosophy or bhakti or whatever, but these are mere routes, and they do not by themselves guarantee that one will have the mystical flash, which may even come entirely unbidden. The important thing is not whether we try or don't, the important thing is whether the flash comes. As long as the flash does not come, we should long for it and work towards it, but if and when it comes, it obliterates for us any and all the routes we may have pursued towards it.

Moreover, specifically in terms of our topic: if and when one has such a mystical flash, one is considered to have immediately transcended the earthly level where ethics and morality apply.

That is why so many of our gods and gurus have the liberty to indulge in behaviour that would be, for the rest of us who are not yet enlightened, regarded as immoral or unethical. If they are at a spiritual level beyond ours, they have the liberty to do things that we unenlightened ones cannot - whether in ethics or in the realms of miracles, curses, boons and so on.

So, what is my conclusion?

Some of us simply accept and continue in what we were taught as children, some of us reject everything that was taught to anyone, but some of us do want to study and think properly about the different views of divinity, reality, personality and - in this case - morality or ethics.

In ethics, some of us tend more towards the idealist, some towards the absolutist, some to the traditionalist (which ultimately, in the case of our tradition, eventually becomes relativist).

The important thing, as Jesus put it, is that we seek passionately for the Truth, combining that with love not only those who disagree with us but even those who may consider themselves our enemies. That is what makes democracy and indeed actually in the end even personal/social/political freedom possible.

Cheating, Rationalism, Rationalisation and Rationality.

No this post is not merely a play on words, as has become so beloved in our country.

So what is it about?

Chen-Bo Zhong of the University of Toronto says that "research on ethical decision making has been heavily influenced by normative decision theories that view intelligent choices as involving conscious deliberation and analysis". In other words, research has been done on the basis that conscious deliberation is the most important part of ethical choices.

The question is whether this is so primarily in the West or, as Western influence has spread, whether it has become increasingly true also of other parts of the world?

In any case, current research (not only by Zhong) suggests that ethical decision making may depend on more metaphorical and embodied factors.

Zhong's own research suggests that deliberative decision making may actually increase unethical behaviors while reducing altruistic motives.

His findings highlight the potential ethical downsides of a rationalistic approach toward ethical decision making and he calls for a better understanding
of the intuitive nature of moral functions:

However, Zhong may be confusing deliberation with rationalism and rationalisation.

As rationality, rationalism and rationalisation have become increasingly intertwined in the West, is it possible that the rationality of less educated people, whether in the West or in India or other "developing countries", is more in tune with global ethical ideals?

After all rationality is not the exclusive province of educated people!

Moreover, educated people may be rationalistic rather than properly rational for reasons to do with the rise of rationalism rather than with deliberation itself.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Action against black money internationally

Do you know any country in the world as thorough and rigorous against black money as Switzerland?

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

On the government's generosity to itself, but meanness to our citizens

Why is 100% tax deduction allowed to the PM's National Relief Fund (for example) while only 50% deduction is allowed to non-government-run charities?

Is there any evidence that the government-run charities do 200% as much good as other charities?

My guess is that the performance of the government-run charities has never been assessed.

Friday, 11 November 2011

My proposals for Eliminating Black Money in India

Presumably I am a very bad writer.

My proposals for eliminating black money in India have been turned down by Civil Society, Economic Times, The Hindustan Times, Indian Express, Mint, Tehelka, and The Hindu.

But I am glad to inform you that The International Indian magazine (published from Dubai) has published them - please see pages 54-57 of this month's magazine -

I will be glad to respond to questions or suggestions, and indeed to discuss my proposals further

My proposals for Eliminating Black Money in India

Presumably I am a very bad writer.

My proposals for eliminating black money in India have been turned down by Civil Society, Economic Times, The Hindustan Times, Indian Express, Mint, Tehelka, and The Hindu.

But I am glad to inform you that The International Indian magazine (published from Dubai) has published them - please see pages 54-57 of this month's magazine -

I will be glad to respond to questions or suggestions, and indeed to discuss my proposals further

Statue of Mahatma Gandhi gift of Indian community to France on 11/11/11

A 2-metre high statue of Mahatma Gandhi was unveiled in the presence of the Indian Ambassador to France, of the Maire of Vauréal and of the Pondicherry Minister of Tourism.

The statue (for which the French could find a site only in Vauréal, 50 km from Paris), is a gift to France from the Indian community in France "as the Statue of Liberty was offered to the USA by France 125 years back".

However, a statue of Mahatma Phule or of Dr Ambedkar would have been better as they were more enlightened and did at least as much for India.

Brace yourself: India will do badly... but better than most countries

So car sales last quarter were down 24% in October, hitting an 11-year low, according to SIAM (the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers)?

And the October trade gap was the widest in four years due to exports slowing sharply amid weakening global demand, while import payments surged due to high crude oil prices and a rise in coal imports?

Just two signs of the difficulties facing the Indian economy - about which i warned at the start of the current crisis in 2008; thank God, it has taken 3 years to hit us - so we should have been well prepared. Are we?

However, be of good cheer: in the short to medium term, we will be hit even more by the current crisis, but we will do less badly than almost all other countries (except the US and the UK - I have an open mind about the Euro). In all these cases, the good news is no thanks to the national governments involved. Rather it is global forces at play.