Abhay Shivgounda Patil

About what matters.

Archive for the ‘Poverty’ Category

My blogs – So far!

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[Updated on September 2, 2017.]

Latest blog on the Musical form Tarana.

My recent “professional” blogs on LinkedIn here:
Demystifying Continuous Performance Management
Life Lessons from Originals – a wonderful book by Adam Grant
Interviewing for Hiring: Nobel Laureate’s Advice
Leadership Learning
Self-healing Systems

A few personal blogs on education, society and stuff.
If you don’t see beauty, you are not seeing
Notes from a talk by K B Jinan, the activist, designer and disruptive educationist.
Geshe Dorji Damdul on Mindfulness:
HH Dalai Lama’s confidante’s take on mindfulness.
Remembering Dijkstra
My talk on some of the quotes by the eminent computer scientist Edsgar Dijkstra.
Turning Around Universities
My notes of a talk by Prof. Deepak Phatak on how MOOC can dramatically change the role of a traditional University.
Gen Y For Dummies
Had a good time attending the NASSCOM (Pune) session on Gen Y management.
The Loss of Innocence – The IIT, Then and Now
A typical IIT student was intelligent, unassuming, self made, studious and rooted well in the “local” ethos.
Mathematics for justice!
Can we divide something between people such that everyone is guaranteed to be satisfied?
Let’s Talk Dirty!
That’s right. I do want to talk about things dirty.
Watch Thyself!
What do I do when I see an accident?
Wages of Inequality – P. Sainath’s lecture in Pune
Will we ever stop wearing our ideologies on our sleeves and instead focus on the human side of the story?
Can we ever read History with an open mind?
As an 11 year old in the 9th grade, untouched by any “ism” and totally oblivious of the label p-secular …

And here are some personal musings!
Some Poetry recital (काव्यवाचन) on Soundcloud!
संदीप खरे अाणि वैभव जोशींच्या “इर्षाद” च्या निमीत्ताने

Sharad Joshi Interview
“I see a lot of parallels between the socialism of the first Prime Minister Nehru and the so-called development-politics of PM Narendra Modi.” Always insightful to know what this iconic leader has to say on the issues that confront us. (Translated from original Marathi.)
Uniqueness of Religious Regions of Maharashtra
Religious Geography of Maharashtra – now that’s one scary academic sounding topic!
Tale of Two Relocations
My experience of two relocations – first in the year 1993 to the USA and then in 2001 to India.
दोन स्थलांतरांची गोष्ट
“तुम्ही भारतात परत का आलात?”
बोलाचे साहित्य बोलाचेच विश्व, रंकाचे धन आणि रावांचे कवित्व ॥
विश्व मराठी साहित्य संमेलन!
आता तुम्हीच काळजी घ्यायला हवी…
A poem by Shankar Vaidya.
One year of JM – FC road one way plan
Serious issues needing urgent corrective measures. (August 20, 2010)
Was ist Mitaan bitte?


Written by Abhay Shivgounda Patil

February 22, 2015 at 7:32 pm

Loss of Innocence! (Tale of two relocations Part 4)

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new_york_skyline-wideThou shalt never visit the land of plenty
Home then appears still more sordid and old
It just isn’t every Sudama’s destiny
That a boon will turn everything to gold
(Vasant Bapat)

(Reference: Sudama, the childhood friend of Lord Krishna, on his visit to his friend, is dazzled by the opulence of Krishna’s capital. He returns to find his humble home turned in to palace thanks to a miracle wrought by Krishna.)

Story so far: Part 1Part 2 (Nation of outsiders), and Part 3 (Prisoner is the society).   For मराठी version of this part, click here.

Here, I take the meaning of “sordid” as moral sordidness – and not the material poverty. And by moral sordidness I mean our bankrupt public life.

When in India, I had got so accustomed to seeing and reading about the terrible poverty and corruption, that my mind had become desensitized. I remember having read about a statement made by a foreigner traveling in India. He says – “People ask me if I am not shocked by the terrible poverty, lack of cleanliness, neglect of basic necessities and corruption in this county.  Of course, I did feel shocked – but not by these things. I was shocked by the indifference of the well-to-do Indians to these realities of India.” I think this is a very precise observation. My state of mind, when I returned to India, was the same as that of this foreign traveler.

My long stay in America had lowered my immunity, both at the level of body and the mind. I realized that the things which others could take as ‘normal’ troubled me no end. In a way it was the proverbial ‘loss of innocence.’

I realized that many of those caught in this mess decide to go back in a fit of frustration. It did not happen to me though. One cannot bring about a change in one’s environment if one refuses to even look at it. I was sure that I could make a difference – however miniscule – in my surrounding. I was also convinced that my best chance at it was by living in India.

By the way, I also must put on record that neither me nor my family were inconvenienced in anyway as we settled in India.

Born Again Citizen (Concluding part 5. Unpublished).

Written by Abhay Shivgounda Patil

March 1, 2013 at 6:23 am

सोन्याच्या द्वारकेला जाउच नये! (दोन स्थलांतरांची गोष्ट – भाग ४)

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new_york_skyline-wide  सोन्याच्या द्वारकेत शहाण्याने जाउच नये
आपले घर अंगण अधिकच कंगाल दिसते
पुन्हा पाय ठेवी पर्यंत सर्व व्हावे सोनियाचे
प्रत्येक सुदाम्याचे एवढे भागधेय नसते
(प्रवासाच्या कविता, १९८२, वसंत बापट)  

(आत्तापर्यंतची गोष्ट: भाग १, परक्यांचाच देश (भाग२), गणवेषातून मुक्ती नाही (भाग ३)English version साठी इथे टिचकी मारा.

या ओळीतला कंगालपणाचा अर्थ मी भौतिक दारिद्र्य असा घेत नाहीतर आपल्याकडची सार्वजनिक आयुष्यातील दिवाळखोरी असा घेतो.

भारतात असतांना रोज भयानक दारिद्र्य बघण्याची, त्याबद्दल वाचण्याची, एवढी सवय झालेली होती की मन त्याबाबतीत desensitize झलं होतं. एका परदेशी प्रवाश्याचं केंव्हातरी वाचलेलं मनोगत मला नेहमी आठवतं. तो सांगतो–  ” लोक मला विचारतात की भारतातलं भयानक दारिद्र्य, अस्वच्छता, मुलभूत गरजांची होणारी हेळसांड आणि भ्रष्टाचार पाहून तुम्हाला धक्का बसला का? हो मला धक्का बसला हे खरंपण तो या गोष्टींचा नाही. सुखवस्तू भारतीय माणसांची या गोष्टींवर जी प्रतिक्रिया असते ती पाहून मात्र मी नक्कीच थक्क झालो.”   मला हे निरीक्षण् खूपच नेमकं वाटतं. भारतात परतलो तेंव्हा माझी गत या परदेशी माणसासारखीच झाली. अमेरिकेत राहून जशी शरीराची प्रतिकारशक्ती (immunity) कमी झाली होती, तसंच मनाचही झालं होतं.  

नेहमीच्याचगोष्टी पाहून आपल्याला जरा जास्तच त्रास होतोय हे जाणवलं. एका प्रकारचा हा loss of innocence चाच प्रकार होता.

लक्षात आलं की बरीच मंडळी अशा परिस्थितीत तिरीमीरीत पुन्हा परत जायचं ठरवतात. माझं मात्र तसं झालं नाही. केवळ दृष्टी  आड सृष्टी झाली तरी परिस्थितीत काही बदल घडत नाही. आपल्याकडून झालाच तर सकारात्मकचमग तो कितीही छोट्या व्याप्तीचा का असेनाबदल घडेल, आणि ते इथे राहूनच जास्त जमेल हे पटलं होतं.

या ठिकाणी हे ही नमूद करयला हवं की व्यक्तीशः मला आणि माझ्या कुटुंबियाना काही त्रास होत नव्हता

पुढे (शेवट्चा भाग)
बॉर्न अगेन सिटीझन! (अप्रकाशित)

Written by Abhay Shivgounda Patil

March 1, 2013 at 6:21 am

Posted in India, Marathi, NRI, Poetry, Poverty

Wages of Inequality – P. Sainath’s lecture in Pune

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Last week P. Sainath delivered a Parisar annual lecture 2010.  I jotted some notes and am sharing them here.  As I heard him, the only thought in my mind was – when would we – “we” as in people like me – become sensitive to the debilitating wounds inflicted on 800+ million people of the country, who are not like us.   Will we ever stop wearing our ideologies on our sleeves and instead focus on the human side of the story?  We never tire of saying “there is no such thing as a free lunch” or that “development is necessary – and some price has to be paid for it” . But do we ever notice the irony that the folks who enjoy the lunch are not the ones footing the bill?   It is shocking to see how our rulers, bureaucrats and corporates manufacture the inequality – and we, who participate as consumers in this game, hail the development story.

During the talk, Sainath quoted Alex Carey, a noted Australian activist:   “The twentieth century has been characterized by three developments of great political importance: the growth of democracy, the growth of corporate power, and the growth of corporate propaganda as a means of protecting corporate power against democracy”.

What’s going on outside?

To drive home the magnitude of the inequality faced by our nation, Sainath described what would happen in a typical 3 hour window in our country.
  • 6 farmers would commit suicide.
  • 8 to 12 farmers would attempt suicide.

    Jaao, Utho, Looto, Bhago - that should have been the CWG anthem!

  • 274 farmers would quit agriculture.
  • 513 children will be malnourished – and more will suffer grade 3 and 4 of malnourishment.
  • 171 crores of taxes for the rich will be written off – not counting any subsidy.  This is just about 3 types of taxes: direct, custom duty and excise duty. (A total of 500 thousand crores per annum.)

Where do we stand amongst the nations of the world?

  • In 84 hungriest nations – we are 67th.  We were 65th a year before.
  • 46% of children below 5 years of age in India are malnourished.
  • 42% of all malnourished children below 5 years are in India.
  • 31% of all children with stunted growth are in India. (Nepal and Bhutan are better than us.  Bangla Desh marginally worse – they need some more time.)
  •  In the recession year, we added 22 dollar billionaires.  There are 67 $ billionaires in India. Three times more than ones in all the Scandinavian countries put together where standard of living is the best in the world. There are more than 400 Rs. billionaires.  They constitute almost 1/4 of the GDP. (Forbes)
  • We are 134th in the Human Development Index of UNDP.  Even Bolivia, the worst off Latin American nation, is ahead of us.
  • Four of the 10 wealthiest people in the world are Indians.  There are more Indians than Americans in that group.
Some 846 million of Indians subsist on less than half a dollar per day – on about Rs. 20 per day. If you earn Rs. 20 a day in Mumbai, you are not “poor” by the Government definition.  The slab is Rs. 11 and Rs. 9 in rural parts.  Who are these poor?  88% of tribal and 85% of muslims are in this 846 million poor.  While CEO salaries are at an all time high, ILO reports that the salary of workmen fell by 60% in real terms, and as the production doubled, the workforce got reduced by half.  The story of the huge unorganized sector is far worse.

The processes at work

Sainath then enumerated the processes that are at work driving this inequality.
1. Withdrawal of the state from the sectors that matter most to the poor .  Prime examples : Health, education, food.
2. Massive cuts in the subsidies for the poor.
3. Privatization of everything.
5. Unprecedented level of the “constructed” inequality.
6. Rapid transfer of wealth – from poor to the rich.
7. Delegitimization of public sphere.
8. Huge cuts in public services – Capitalism everywhere.
9. Loot of the natural resources.


What are the poor eating?

When they are forced to act, Government appoints a committee.  And they go on appointing committees till they get a report they want.   On poverty, they appointed three committees – one headed by Suresh Tendukar, the other by MC Saxena on BPL (that included Sainath) and the third one called National Commission of Unorganized Sector.  Ideologies of these committees were, may be, a few light years apart.  However all agreed on one thing – that the government’s data on poverty needs to be sharply revised upwards.
And when the Government wants to kill an idea, they constitute a GoM – Group of Ministers.  Pranab-da heads more GoMs than he could count.  
No surprise that there is a GoM on Food Security.  The first recorded minute of their first meeting says – we are discussing food security and nutritional security is not in our scope!
For the first time since 1990  the rate of food production is LAGGING behind the the rate of growth of population.  And rate of population growth has slowed down.   The net per capita grain (cereals+pulses) per day was 440 grams in the period 1955-58.  It rose to 510 grams in 1990 – and it is 432 fo 2005-08!
The food cake is shrinking.  You and me are eating much better.  Then what the heck are the poor eating?
And our Food and Agriculture minister announces bumper crops every year.  He is a very busy man.  He is not just the ICC chief.  Name any outdoor sport, and he heads the national body for that sport.
We often hear that the Government has no money.  We have 45 crores for UID.  We can write off  500 thousand crores of corporate taxes .  But have no money for universalization of PDS (public distribution system).


What is this hunger anyway? 

Poor families in villages often “rotate” their hunger.  Here is what they do.  Two out of eight eat well and go to work for 10 hrs in 49 degree celsius.  Next day they starve and let 2 other members eat well and work.  Somebody has to keep working everyday.
It is not just about remote villages in Bihar or Chhattisgarh.   Teachers in schools near Thane can not teach before noon on Mondays.  They asked for double the quota of grains for Mondays.  Why? Because children’s last meal happens on Friday noon – in the school.  Hungry for three days, it is impossible to handle them before they have a mid day meal on Monday.
Hunger and thirst are the bumper crops.  Ultimate revenue producers. Sources of profit.
Look at the NREGA camps anywhere in India.  You would see 60 and 70 year olds – men and women in the line looking for work.  Old members of the family are the first ones to be sidelined as they can not earn.

What’s the lot of our farmers?

7 out of 9 Vidharbha people are in distress says a Govt study of 5 districts.

There is no food security to those who produce food.  You won’t get a cup of tea, leave alone a glass of milk, when you visit farms in Marathwada and Andhra anymore.   All that is produced is sold.  More than 70% of food producers buy food from the market. They are the worst hit by the unprecedented price rise. 

Who is the culprit?  Government encourages cash crops.  When the crops do well, thy ban the exports.  Most of the farmers who have committed suicide were growers of cash crops.
Most of the suicides notes by Maharashtra’s farmer were not addressed to their families – or even the police.  They were addressed to the PM and CM.  They knew well that it’s the policies that drove them to take this step.
Ramchandra Raut of Washim wanted  to be taken seriously – and he made his last attempt.  He bought Rs 100 stamp paper, notarized it (blank) and wrote his suicide note on it.   Sainath choked as he recounted his visit to Raut’s house.
How rural is the India’s agricultural credit – asks the Aug 13, Hindu article.  Nearly 50% of it was disbursed in metro and urban bank branches!  Corporates like Reliance grab the agriculture credit when they set up cold storages. It is the predatory commercialization of the countryside that is doing the farmers in.
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Written by Abhay Shivgounda Patil

October 23, 2010 at 9:01 pm

Posted in India, Poverty