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Geraldo Rivera knows exactly why Trayvon Martin an unarmed black teenager was shot dead. He wore a hoodie, a hoodie on a black person is scary! we all know that, don’t we ? Only some people should wear hoodies, or hoods of any form.

Geraldo also offered a wonderful textbook notpology to all those offended by his extremely valuable advice.

Thanks Geraldo, we all get your advice. Now we know whose hoodies to be scare of and whose not to be scared of.

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Posted by on April 5, 2012 in Humor, Society, Uncategorized

 

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Dinesh Derailed

Dinesh Trivedi just presented a Railway Budget. He also got fired. What happened? Well, he wasn’t ‘populist’ enough that’s what happened. He apparently did not keep the best interests of the ‘aam admi’ (common man) in mind while deciding to hike fares.

Didi wants Dinesh to step out.

Mr Trivedi proposed a series of increases in Rail fares cutting across classes. The increases he proposed were given out as paise per kilometer. The opposition accused him of misrepresenting in paise what would actually be sizeable increases in passenger fare. Well here is the truth behind it, a paise/kilometer increase makes a lot of sense! The increase in rates has not been uniform across classes, for the suburban trains most indispensable for the common man, the increase comes up to Rs 2/100 kms. How many people use suburban trains to travel a 100kms? Only those people would face even a Rs 2 increase in their fares.

One thing that stands out clear is that while many support Mr Trivedi’s budget given its strong emphasis on safety , modernization and a reduction in the operating ratio, all dire requirements for the railways, very few oppose the fare increases as a whole. Not even Trinamool Congress Leader Mamta Bannerjee or her sidekick Derek O’Brien (He should have stuck with his know it all school kids at the Bournvia Quiz Contest) are opposed to fare hikes in the classes above the sleeper class, that is, the AC 2nd and 1st class. They oppose the increases in the lower classes as only that would affect the aam admi. This shows that everybody, even the hardcore communists, recognize the need to increase revenues within the railways. Before going into ways in which revenue can be increased, let’s look at why it needs to be increased.

1)      Operating ratio has to be decreased, currently 95 rupees are spent for every 100 rupees earned by the railways. The railways are owned by the government, ruining its financial health would not be in the best interests of the aam admi.

2)      SAFETY! – The Indian Railways transports a large sea of humanity. Around 30 million people travel by train every day!  Given this figure the number of accidents may seem like a relatively small percentage, however is being a part of small percentage any consolation to those who lose their lives? Small percentages translate to large numbers in India, making safety a major priority. The list of accidents can be seen here on wiki.  Safety costs money, Trivedi’s plan includes modernization of tracks, signaling systems and manning all level crossings.  The Aam admi values his life.

3)      Modernization-Hygiene- More Safety – How many of us who have travelled by our beloved Indian trains (even that really cool looking Shatabdi tween Chennai and Bangalore often preferred over flights) can call them hygienic ? The stench that accompanies  the railways is so characteristic that its considered ‘un-Indian’ to complain about it. Some of us have noticed recently with glee that the open-toilet systems are changing; many of the trains now have greener toilets (Lalu Prasad Yadav initiated this venture). Under Trivedi’s plan 2,500 more coaches would have green toilets by 2013. The open toilet system is dreadfully unhygienic, especially for those with homes near railway tracks. It also corrodes the tracks and costs the railways around 350 crores of rupees per year.

4)      Capacity! – Despite being such a large network serving countless number of people, there is always more demand for railway tickets. (We all have at some point woken up at 8am and  restlessly hit the refresh button on the tatkal bookings site of IRCTC with our fingers crossed hoping to get lucky).  Trivedi has set aside Rs 4410 crores to augment capacity.

5)      RnD (Design) – The Indian Railways don’t really look like the ones in Japan do they? The railways are a solid system and do their job well, it could do with a revamp in design though. Trivedi plans to put money into a dedicated Railway design wing at the National Institute of Design.

6)      Many more reasons can be found in the budget highlights.

To do all of the above Dinesh Trivedi has proposed borrowing from the market Rs 15,000 crores and also a nominal hike in the fares (after ten long years!).

The opposition thinks that fares should be increased only in the upper classes and not in the lower. I’d like to talk about why this is not such a great idea.

The Indian Railways is a price discriminating monopoly. Prices are different based on whether you are a student/senior citizen/physically handicapped/female senior citizen etc. Prices are different across different trains even for the same classes. The Indian railways also forces consumers to reveal their preferences by offering a range of products. All this is done with the differences in price elasticities in demand across the categories kept in mind. That is acknowledging the fact that increasing the prices have an impact on the quantity of ticket sales, and thereby on the revenue, but this impact is different across different categories.

While I do not have any data to substantiate my claims, I shall consider a case where there is a high increase in prices in the upper classes and none in the lower ones. I broadly guess that given the high fares in the AC 1st and 2nd classes and presence of low cost airlines as close substitutes, these classes would have relatively more elastic demand, that is an increase in prices would cut down travel by AC 1st class a lot, Making them a lot less competitive when compared to airlines which have a great advantage of saving on time. (Make my trip allowed me to book tickets from Delhi to Chennai by a low cost airline at Rs 4,700 as long as I booked really early, the corresponding Rajdhani ticket price on a 1st class was Rs 4,500). Some of the current AC travelers may also switch to the already overwhelmed second class sleepers given the large difference in prices, again bringing no new revenue and putting the ‘aam admi’ in further trouble with regard to lack of capacity.

For short distances buses might substitute the sleeper class trains, however as far as I have seen, the buses are more expensive than the trains and do not work very well for longer distances. Therefore the most inelastic segment of demand would be that for long distance travel by sleeper class, which is where the revenue killing has to be made. The price hike here is pretty nominal a Rs 5 per hundred kilometers is not going to put anybody off traveling.

We would all like safer more hygienic travel even if it meant shedding an extra hundred rupees. The hue and cry is over nothing. Kudos to Mr Trivedi for standing upright through this whole mess and refusing to roll back his changes despite being threatened with ouster. Those who oppose his changes should take a look at this.

 
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Posted by on March 15, 2012 in Economics, India, Politics, Society, Uncategorized

 

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The cradle babies of Tamil Nadu

Click here to read on, at InPEC.

 
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Posted by on February 14, 2012 in Society

 

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The invisible hand is evil.

“Intelligent life on a planet comes of age, when it first works out the reason for its very existence. If superior creatures ever visit earth, the first question they will ask, in order to asses the level of our civilization is: Have they discovered evolution yet ?” – Richard Dawkins.

Education today trains us with a variety of skills. People are equipped to program computers and make power point presentations about mergers and acquisitions etc. That’s right, education today, trains us, but we learn very little, to me, this is a fundamental flaw which has led to imbalanced poorly informed societies. Of course fear contributes to all this, what would I do without a job and all the world’s learning in my head if I don’t have a skill required by a corporate ?.

The problem is, we don’t understand Darwin. Darwin, gave us the key to understanding ourselves. Dawkins made things a little simpler, I would make The Selfish Gene mandatory reading in schools, if I could. Natural selection is a fierce competition for the gene to survive. If Dawkins’ superior creatures were indeed, despite all odds, to pay us a visit, they would say, “Why these primitives have discovered evolution, but do not fully understand its implications.” It is true, that Darwin’s theories have turned around biology, but they should have also turned around the social sciences, the impact here hasn’t been felt as much, largely because people are willing to be willfully ignorant.

Natural selection tells us about the survival of the gene, the selfishness inherent in such a struggle for survival and how even apparently altruistic acts can be broken down into the selfish protection of a gene. (By the way, don’t anthropomorphise selfishness, the genes aren’t consciously selfish the way I am sometimes, but it is selfishness that helps them survive.) As Dawkins says (yes I am a HUGE fan) let us learn to be altruistic, because we were born selfish.

It is very interesting to note, that incomplete understanding of the theories of early survival, especially how brutal a natural Darwinian world is, how savagely without mercy the weaker of the species got killed off by nature, leads people to fall into the traps of Darwinism in the social sphere. The main point here is, we are instinctively geared to be Darwinian survival machines, selfish and thoughtless, the mainstream too a product of primitive survival mechanisms,promotes these ideas.

The most important take away from learning about evolution is that it is still happening today, why that is relevant is not because we may evolve into some weird hyper-intelligent species tomorrow (no evolution takes time) its important because it teaches us that we are still primates, controlled at our deepest level by the same forces that created us, the same forces that makes the wild world full of pain and suffering and a crazy struggle for survival. We are still competing, struggling, and leaving out half the population to be losers in the struggle, left behind and forced to die out by the razor sharp scythe of natural selection.

Of course equilibrium could arise, whats so great about that, you could have a market with an equilibrium price, with a large chunk of people too weak to be a part of it, the voiceless with sunken eyes, left to their fate by market forces, the new economic name for ruthless natural selection. The invisible hand of the market is evil if left to itself as it chooses not to grab the neediest of the needy.

Libertarians are economic darwinists, they like everything to happen naturally, for things to equilibriate, but some of us will always fall behind in the race, and more importantly some of our needs will never be fulfilled by competition alone. If you doubt that markets are an economic manifestation of natural selection, think about how they fail every time the ‘good’ in question loses its competitive character. You don’t see a large multinational company in the business of cleaning up the air, do you?.

Darwinism is something we need to learn to understand how things are, so that we can change our fate with an awareness no species before us has possessed. It is not and never should be a guideline to build our society, do note, that it is so programmed into us, that we don’t have to consciously follow it, it is escaping from its throes that would require conscious action.

I am not anti competition, competition has helped us a lot in both the natural and the economic world, it has brought out the best in us and kept our brains sharp. However, it will not serve the purpose of building a more equitable society, it will not remove the pain from the faces of the have-nots as they watch the haves whizz past them. For, nobody was born with the same abilities or in a level playing field. The forces that shaped us are impersonal, they may lead to our destruction with the same disregard they showed while creating us. If we do not learn to get over our selfishness and myopia, we will soon be another hapless species faced with imminent doom in the hands of natural selection and more dangerously the forces of nature.

 
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Posted by on February 10, 2012 in Darwin, Dawkins, Economics, Evolution, Society

 

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Narendra Modi – India’s desperation and forgetfulness.

Narendra Modi is a man of many colors. One of them as we all know, is saffron. Moving on, Narendra Modi is also White and Green and an embodiment of the Ashoka Chakra. Narendra Modi personifies the Tiranga Jhanda. You guys think I am mad don’t you? So let me explain.

Modi has been saffron from a very early age. A member of the Rashrtiya Swayam Sevak’s Sangh since childhood and now also the Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime leader, a possible Prime Ministerial Candidate.

In January 2001 Gujarat shook. A 7.7 magnitude earthquake rattled the Kutch region claiming above twelve thousand lives and leaving Gujarat in shambles. Gujarat needed a leader, someone who would step in and take charge. Restore the livelihoods of the wounded and homeless masses. Gujarat needed Modi. In October 2001, Modi came to power and he did work, Modi did commendable work and was praised by many including the United Nations. Modi was a miracle. Or was he ?

In February 2002, Gujarat burned. Every report I read makes it very clear the religion followed by the owners of the burnt bodies. Fifty eight Hindus burnt in a train in Godhra. Seven hundred and ninety Muslims were killed in the violence thereafter etc. Was Modi complicit in giving the hindus a free run ? Was the saffron in him standing out ? These questions have been asked and will continue being asked over and over again. The courts gave Modi a clean chit and he came out smiling. I ask you, how does it matter? How does it matter who he sided with or whether he sided with anybody at all ? People died. Hindu/Muslim/Christian/Buddhist or Atheist is not the question here. People were killing each other and burning while law enforcement did little to nothing for a very long time. If you take religion out of the equation you realize Modi has no excuse left. He has to admit that he did not act effectively to stop the mass burning of his citizenry even when he doesn’t have to admit that he was pro-hindu. He has to admit his inefficiency if not his criminality.

Modi has since been turning white, peaceful, at least to the naked eye. He doesn’t want to be seen as a right wing extremist anymore. He wrote a letter to the public which reminds me of one of the apology letters I used to write in school. Mr Modi those are things that work when you go back to class ten minutes late after lunch time not when you are accused of not enforcing basic human rights in your state.(Also someone ask him what he means by ‘citizens of Gujarat’, it beats me). He is also saintly white because he doesn’t overturn the ghastly prohibition law on liquor. Ofcourse this only leads to illegal and shady liquor sales.

If you think the saffronization ended with the post Godhra riots, you need to read up about Sohrabuddin. It was a fake encounter staged by the police to brand an innocent man a terrorist and kill him. Yes he was also Muslim. The case centers around the involvement of Modi’s right hand man Amit Shah. Who is currently on bail. Now you must know that Modi, the true patriot that he is wants the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) back. POTA which I find similar to USA’s Patriot Act, has a provision to detain a person for 180 days without filing of charges. More importantly, any confession made to the police during this time would be considered as evidence in the court, unlike under other acts. Look at it in this light, putting Modi in charge means getting back POTA and giving this man the power to lock anyone up for 180 days and forcing a confession out of him/her and sentencing him/her for it.

I agree we need strong anti terror inititiatives in India, the combination of Modi and POTA , is not what we need. The Indian people are faced with a bag of rotten choices, corruption or right wing extremism. A dynasty rule or a Hindu Rashtra, how do we choose ?
We must be very careful in making our choices, Hitler too came to power in Germany citing his developmental work and Germany’s need for strong patriotic leadership. Modi I agree is no Hitler. Isn’t Hitler/1000 or Hitler/10,000 bad enough though ?

Modi is also the embodiment of the Ashoka Chakra. Tireless work for development and his various ‘yojanas’ or plans which have aided in the rapid development of Gujarat. Critics point out that Gujarat with its vibrant diaspora was poised for development anyway. Nevertheless I give this man credit where its due.
He has also taken hues of green lately, with his latest book on climate change. Good show Modi. I am impressed. Even IPCC chief Dr Rk Pachauri who I greatly admire is impressed by the book.

That is why I nearly supported Modi myself. Until I realized I shouldn’t. I am borrowing a quote already used in this context by a fellow blogger here. Benjamin Franklin’s dictum that “Those who give up liberty to gain temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety. “ You should read the article by Supriyo Chaudhuri its less verbose and really wonderful.

Modi, while embodying all the shades of our flag is really a test of our memory. Are we going to live up to the saying that public memory is short or are we going to move beyond that? Let us be worthy of our liberty.

Share it with friends, let someone come and beat me up for abusing Modi (seriously kidding) :P. Click below.

 
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Posted by on October 31, 2011 in India, National, Politics, Society

 

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1, 2, 3, Infinity

The census 2011 will be a herculean task

Its census time guys ! Yeah its not easy to count everyone in  a country whose population easily exceeds the billion mark. The Indian president will be numero uno on the list. After that they’ll have to count everyone ! You , me , that annoying guy who spits paan on the street , the homeless lepr , the aging widow in the village who hardly steps out of her home, the gypsy who hardly stays in one place, the nth holy fraudulent swami, the long forgotten prisoner and so on.

Its no easy task and it does not end with just counting. Data has to be collected on literacy rates, infant and maternal mortality, language , religion, disability, migration , urbanization and a plethora of other issues which for the 1st time will be stored in national population register . Unique Identification Numbers and biometric cards will be provided once this register is completed.  The budgets for these projects run into thousands of crores (2209 crore for the census operation and 3539.24 crores for the NPR) source : NDTV. The census commissioner C Chandramouli seems to be taking his up his job , described by P Chidambaram as the “biggest exercise since humankind came into existence” pretty cheerfully. His website boldly declares “We also count people in India” like its just something they do for entertainment after a friday evening of beer and music.

The very interesting line here is the government’s proud declaration that no information will be collected on caste. Well well , we are removing caste from our political and social equations are we ? I would be the first one to celebrate, I’d probably jump up and down,  run down the streets and hug everyone I meet. I find it a premature reaction though. Does no’t caste based legislations occur ? Isn’t everything from seats in educational institutions to legislative assemblies reserved based on caste. Whence then cometh the need to eliminate caste based data collection ? So, Is the government saying, “We need not know anything about the demographics of the castes but we will still conjure up our wild and wicked fantasies and legislate based on them” . There are lot of notable excuses too, one gentleman at the home ministry graciously turns our attention to the visible problem of dishonesty while reporting caste. My dear friend, If they fool you so well during a census, how are you so sure when you present them proudly displayable certificates of excellence with the alphabet soup of SC , ST , OBC stamped across them? What if I declare that my ancient cult of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, may the sauce be upon him, is highly depressed and oppressed though having a large number of followers and we need reservation to protect us ? Ah maybe that would be fine because they collect data on religions, just not caste. The census website though does declare that they collect data on the SC and ST. Maybe its not politically correct to call them castes anymore.

Maybe this is just a problem which occurs when census activities are started on the 1st of April. All said, I highly appreciate the depth and breadth of this time’s census undertaking. Let us all hope it gives us a large storehouse of data with which decisions to steer the nation can be made with sounder reasoning.

— The bull

 
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Posted by on April 1, 2010 in National, Politics, Society

 

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How dare they interbreed ?

Sania Mirza , a tennis player with the kind of talent that gets over hyped in cricket drenched India, wants to marry a Pakistani.

The internet is filled with morons who are quite genuinely appalled. Well, we have drawn an imaginary border line somewhere there remember ? How dare people across the line interbreed.

To those who are aghast at me calling the Indo-Pak border imaginary, all I can say is look at a satellite picture of the earth. Your sacred borders dont exist. Ants , snakes , termites and rats dont see them. They may be mating right at the border now for all you know. the rivers dont see them until men make their dams. The carbon dioxide we so carelessly emit doesn’t see those lines. Nature doesn’t see your imaginary lines or your imaginary Gods.

Please take a look at Carl Sagan’s cosmos. The earth is a tiny oasis of life in a humongous indifferent universe which doesn’t give a whizzing fire cracker about these largely carbon ‘life’ forms. This planet is a happy accident that sustains our life.

So stop the apoplexy about people choosing to wed and breed despite the existence of border lines which come n go ever so often.

 
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Posted by on March 31, 2010 in Society

 

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