More of the Same in the Global India

Braj Ranjan Mani

The tyranny of capitalism in India cannot be grasped, let alone resisted, in isolation from its wider social context. Capitalism is far more dangerous in India than in the Euro-America because of the culture and economics of caste.

Today, India (after China and the US) has the world's third largest middle class (250-300 million); 49 enlisted dollar billionaires (black market economy and overseas banks allow some crooks to remain unlisted); and the single largest concentration of the world's poor (800 million), most of them illiterate or semi-literate, considering 70 per cent in India's 1.2 billion are either illiterate or have no more than a primary education. A political analyst, representing the views of Indian elite, calls this "a new triad of India's political economy," and adds, "The poor were always with us, but billionaire businessmen and a huge middle class were not. They constitute a historical novelty for India." A more empathetic view with compelling stories and statistics, delineating the depredation of the elite and the suffering of the people, is brought home in a new book which demonstrates that the economy "may be in good statistical health," but "it is by no means in good social or ecological health." Unravelling the social consequences of the growth story, the authors point out that the footprint of the wealthiest Indians is 330 times that of the poorest 40 per cent; and that with each new Special Economic Zone, India loses the capacity to feed 50, 000 to 1,00,000 people each year. * [Aseem Shrivastava and Ashish Kothari, Churning the Earth: The Making of Global India (New Delhi: Penguin, 2012).]

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Questions of name

Gail Omvedt

"Dalit", "Scheduled Caste", "Ex-Untouchable" and "Harijan". These are only some of the many words used to refer to the most oppressed sections of Indian society, "untouchable" in the traditional caste order, performers of the most degrading task, and still today caught in the throes of poverty, discrimination and the remnants of untouchability.

"Dalit" is still probably the most widespread of these terms, but it is not uncontested. Many are uncomfortable with its apparent militancy. It means literally "crushed" or "ground down", and it has an interesting history. It is first found, apparently, in the '30s, when it was used as a Marathi and Hindi translation for the British term "Depressed Classes." (As elsewhere, "classes" here meant "castes", something to remember when we are discussing OBCs.) Ambedkar used it in this way to refer to his Depressed Class conferences, though in English we most often find him using the simple and descriptive term "Untouchable". His conflicts with Gandhi in the early '30s were at least partly a matter of terminology. Gandhi had, for him, the brilliant idea of using the term "Harijan", taken from the bhakti movement. Ambedkar resisted this, just as he resisted Gandhi's attempt to turn an Untouchable League (which Ambedkar thought should take up general issues of civil rights) into a paternalistic organisation controlled by upper-caste Hindus. Ambedkar, and militant Dalits ever since, have seen the word "Harijan" as demeaning and false, hence oppressive.

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Learning from a controversy

Sukhadeo Thorat

skthorat_copy_copy_copy_copy_copyThe insights in the NCERT cartoon report can help to make the curriculum and the classroom more inclusive

While the NCERT textbooks report has generated much heat, it has also shed positive light on the issue. It is time to reflect on this side of the debate and deal with the questions it raises.

The committee's mandate was to identify educationally inappropriate materials in textbooks and suggest alternatives, if necessary. The committee used the 2005 National Curriculum Framework (NCF) guidelines to review the text. In the case of the cartoons, due to the absence of clear guidelines, the committee used the existing literature on cartoons besides the 2005 NCF. This literature recognised the value of cartoons in teaching, but also advised caution: cartoons should be made and used for well-defined educational purposes, they must be tested for their consequences, sensitivities of various groups should be addressed, and the use of animal images to represent human beings, and the overuse of cartoons be avoided.

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Name of God, wealth of Brahmins

Dr. K. Jamanadas

Dr. Ambedkar asked to use temple money for public good

In a special editorial in Mahanayak of 14th July 2012, titled, 'Name of God, wealth of Brahmins', the author has given interesting statistics. The following is the gist of it.

Mr. Sharad Yadav has recently demanded that the money collected in the temples should be taken over by the government. Sharad Yadav is one of the militant OBC leaders who emerged after the post-Mandal agitation. India is considered to be the most backward country in the world in the matters of education, health, malnutrition of children, poverty and neglect of human rights. But the people in the country are quite generous in donating money to the temples. They are far ahead in this respect of all throughout the world.

On 24th of January 1954, Dr Ambedkar had said in a conference of the devotees of Saibaba, that money is collected in the name of religion and spent on improper matters. In the present condition of poverty and misery, it is a highly criminal tendency to collect the money in the name of religion and spend it on festivals or on Brahmins. The money should be spent on hospitals, on education, on industrial enterprises, to provide employment to the unemployed, on poor and helpless women, on vocational training, and matters like these. The suggestion of Sharad Yadav is in consonance with the ideas expressed by Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar. Therefore, we support the suggestion of Mr. Sharad Yadav, wholeheartedly.

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Nothing but academic immorality

Kancha Ilaiah

Educational issues are best left with Parliament and not with 'intellectual' experts

kancha_ilaiah_copy_copy_copy_copy_copy_copyEver since the Thorat committee submitted its report on the political science text books of the NCERT of class IX to XII recommending deletion of some cartoons, changing of some words a gnat war has started against Thorat personally. M S S Pandian, who agreed to be a member of the committee never attends the meetings of the committee but writes a dissent note straight away sitting at home. If ethics are left to winds anybody can attack anybody. Pandian is a good historian no doubt. But that does not give the authority to indulge in unethical claims. If academics attack politicians for not doing their duty but ruling the roost over the nation should not academicians follow some public morals and ethics of academics? This is a serious committee constituted by a central government agency to examine the contents of the school text books that shape millions of lives in this country. A member's primary duty is participate in the meetings and deliberations of the committee and influence its report's content from within.

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Dalit or Scheduled Caste: A Terminological Choice

Gail Omvedt

(Posted yesterday on her blog, 'seeking begumpura')


bhag__53

The Thorat Committee has recommended that the term "dalit" used in textbooks should be expunged and replaced by the legalistic terminology "scheduled caste." The reasoning for this is not clear. "Dalit" has become partly a controversial term, and it is true that not all who fall under the category of "scheduled castes" will accept it for themselves. Their reasons may differ – for some, it is a negative term, and they have moved into a space where they want a positive identity. This is true, for example, of many Buddhists. For others, the traditional caste name is preferable.

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