Thursday, December 31, 2009

Monday, December 28, 2009

Recovering from Chikungunya

Apparently, recovering from Chikungunya may take a long time for some. A friend from Hyderabad hsays that he recovered quickly after suffering for a couple of months using some unani medicine. It is available from shop called Arammasala kirana grocery (approximate name) near Nampalli station and is close to Arastu Lodge. Apparently one can ask for packets with a list of the ingredients and perhaps check for toxicity.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

In the season of giving

a discussion on giving by Peter Singer and William Easterly on via Christmas Charity Gift-Giving Video Edition: Peter Singer and I on Questions like too much establishment costs of some organizations, keeping track of whether the money is spent for the causes given and the results are discussed and there are links to some reliable efforts (but what is reliable now may not be reliable tomorrow)and links to organizations which evaluate charities.
My own small efforts are through organizations in places I know where I can get feedback through friends and relatives and can visit once in a while. Two such I know which work mostly in Andhra Pradsh are:, the first organized by Benjamin Kaila and friends and the second by Mrs Krishnarao and friends. Mrs. Krishnarao lives in Maryland and wants to start a blog to attract more people to their efforts and inform of the ongoing efforts. If any dody can help please contact her.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Lok Satta on A.P. agitation

has several posts on the A.P. agiatation, suggestive of 'subsidiarity', including this Lok Satta pities Chiranjeevi’s ignorance. Excerpt:
"Talking to the media, party spokesmen Mr. Katari Srinivasa Rao, Mr. V.Laxman Balaji, Mrs. K.Geeta Murthy said that what all the Lok Satta had been agitating for is in accordance with the 73rd and 74th amendments to the Constitution which envisaged transfer of powers, responsibilities, resources and personnel to local governments. The Lok Satta stand is in tune with Mahatma Gandhi’s dream of gram swaraj.

The Lok Satta has all along fought for empowerment of panchayats, mandal parishads, zilla parishads, municipalities and municipal corporations so that they would be at the service of citizens who are sovereign in a democracy. Governments existed for people and not the other way round. The era of power vesting in the PM, CM and the DM (prime minister, chief minister and district magistrate) should give way for power in the hands of governments elected at the local level.....
The traditional political parties should realize that the formation of a Telangana State is merely a means and not an end. There will not be any transformation in the lives of people unless they are empowered and corruption eliminated, and quality education, healthcare and livelihood opportunities provided to all without reference to the accident of their birth in a particular caste or religion or region."
See alsoTv9 Special Interview with Jayaprakash Narayana on Present Crisis :

Thursday, December 24, 2009

SRI blog

started recently: Global News and Views - System of Rice Intensification (SRI) . The latest post mentions introduction of SRI in Afghanistan.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Obama Ain't It

Who Will Be A Champion Of The Left We Can Believe In? As Bush-lite, Obama Ain't It
By Evert Cilliers

See also Glenn Greenwald's Greg Craig and Obama's worsening civil liberties record
(both via 3queaksdaily)
P.S. See also He’s not perfect but Obama deserves at least a B

Joan Mencher on sustainable agriculture

Interviw in Frontline The right to food .Excerpt:
"There were three processes that destroyed the traditional face of Indian agriculture. First, the Green Revolution; second, the 1991 liberalisation of the Indian economy; and third, the George Bush-Manmohan Singh summit in July 2005 [U.S.-India Knowledge Initiative on Agriculture], which really gave free entry to large American food corporations into India.

But there are people trying to revive ways of traditional forms of agriculture. One of the important things to be aware of is that large corporations are spreading the idea that anyone who tries to oppose all these scientific innovations is anti-science, anti-technology, [and] anti-modern, whereas I would argue that what they are calling modernity is not modernity and, furthermore, they ignore the much more complicated discipline of eco-science completely. Colleges have a big deal of knowledge about what works, but they do not support ecological sciences. Even eco-sciences are often pressured to do absolutely simple research. Eco-scientists are testing only one part of a thing when they do research on it without understanding the larger implications of such work. It’s the synergy between various parts that matters. Research in the ecological sciences needs to be improved."

Arun Shrivastava has been saying similar things: Links to some of his articles.

As John Little quotes in Merton's Sociology Science "Scientists often choose problems for investigation that are vitally linked with major values and interests of the time." May be the recent financial crisis will bring a shift in the paradigms.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

A tax on short-term debt instead of Tobin tax

suggests Luigi Zingales in A tax on short-term debt would stabilise the system .

Arvind Subramanian blogs an aid and Dutch Disease

Arvind Subramanian in The Effects of Foreign Aid: Dutch Disease:
"Manufacturing exports has been the predominant mode for escape from underdevelopment for many developing countries, especially in Asia. So, what aid does to manufacturing exports can be one key piece of the puzzle in understanding the aggregate effect of aid.

In this paper forthcoming in the Journal of Development Economics, Raghuram Rajan and I show that aid tends to depress the growth of exportable goods. This will not be the last word on the subject because the methodology in this paper, as in much of the aid literature, could be improved.

But the innovation in this paper is not to look at the variation in the data across countries (which is what almost the entire aid literature does) but at the variation within countries across sectors. We categorize goods by how exportable they could be for low-income countries, and find that in countries that receive more aid, more exportable sectors grow substantially more slowly than less exportable ones. The numbers suggest that in countries that receive additional aid of 1 percent of GDP, exportable sectors grow more slowly by 0.5 percent per year (and clothing and footwear sectors that are particularly exportable in low-income countries grow slower by 1 percent per year).

We also provide suggestive evidence that the channel through which this effect is felt is the exchange rate. In other words, aid tends to make a country less competitive (reflected in an overvalued exchange rate) which in turn depresses the prospects of the more exportable sectors. In the jargon, this is the famous “Dutch Disease” effect of aid."

Further discussion by David Roodman of Center for Global Development Does Aid Cause Dutch Disease? and Subramanian's response:
"Whether and how manufacturing exports can be an engine of overall growth is still debated. But the historical experience is strongly suggestive that if export sectors grow slowly or grow slower than other sectors, overall growth is affected. So, our paper could be interpreted not as a lament about the effects of aid on export sectors but as a celebration of its effects on non-export sectors. But, in my view and also in the historical record, between export and non-export sectors as an engine of growth, there is no contest."

Friday, December 18, 2009

More on Telangana

Tarunabh Khaitan in Subsidiarity and State Formation links to several interesting articles related to the current discussions on Telangana and says "What is striking in all of these commentaries is that they ignore sub-nationalism as a possible basis for further state-formation. Instead, each of them analyses different aspects of democratic representation and efficiency---the twin pillars that underpin the principle of subsidiarity. The Telengana issue could well trigger the second wave of state formation in India: if this happens, subsidiarity should be a useful guide for the second states reorganisation commission. Of course, subsidiarity will also require far stronger local governments than we have at the moment--will our policy makers travel that far?"
The article about subsidiarity mentioned by Khaitan is behind a firewall. According to the Wikipedia article:
"Subsidiarity is an organizing principle that matters ought to be handled by the smallest, lowest or least centralized competent authority. The Oxford English Dictionary defines subsidiarity as the idea that a central authority should have a subsidiary function, performing only those tasks which cannot be performed effectively at a more immediate or local level. The concept is applicable in the fields of government, political science, cybernetics, management, military (Mission Command) and, metaphorically, in the distribution of software module responsibilities in object-oriented programming (according to the Information expert design guideline). Subsidiarity is, ideally or in principle, one of the features of federalism, where it asserts the rights of the parts over the whole.

The word subsidiarity is derived from the Latin word subsidiarius and has its origins in Catholic social teaching (see Subsidiarity (Catholicism)).[1] The concept or principle is found in several constitutions around the world (see for example the Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution which asserts States rights.

It is presently best known as a fundamental principle of European Union law."

From the first of the articles mentioned From 27 to 45? by Bibek Debroi:
" First, India’s present organisation into states (and UTs) isn’t rational, if rationality is interpreted as delivering better governance. The word governance is much abused and different people mean different things when they use it. Governance is a process and it is also about delivering public goods and services (law and order, primary health, school education, roads, drinking and irrigation water, electricity). These are still areas characterised by some degree of market failure. In addition, there are anti-poverty programmes. In all these, trading off economies (of scale and scope) with diseconomies, there is an optimal level of administration at which these can be delivered. While there is a case for centralisation for defence and national security, there is a case for decentralisation for public goods. As a rough rule of the thumb, at least in India’s heartland, optimal governance requires population sizes smaller than 50 million (25 million is more like it) and geographical expanse less than 35,000 sq km.
Second, there is an empirical proposition. Across India’s 28 states and its UTs, work co-authored with Laveesh Bhandari shows smaller states perform better than larger states — on an average. Small states perform better than large states on physical infrastructure, social infrastructure, law and order and anti-poverty programmes. However, this is on an average and isn’t a finding specific to Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand or Uttarakhand. Nor is it the case that administrative restructuring alone solves all governance problems. For instance, the Northeast and Jammu and Kashmir have issues that administrative restructuring alone cannot solve. What of the three newly-formed states? A long enough data time-series doesn’t exist. Subject to that, the answer depends on indicators used. Across indicators, Uttarakhand performs better than UP. The Chhattisgarh-MP comparison is iffy, with Chhattisgarh performing better on some indicators and worse on others. For Bihar-Jharkhand, Bihar generally performs better than Jharkhand. If an argument about optimal administrative level is accepted, the question shouldn’t only be about carved-out states like Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Uttarakhand. Governance should also improve in what remains — MP, Bihar, UP. Since one cannot control for other variables, there is a post hoc ergo propter hoc danger. With this caveat, governance (however defined) has improved in MP, Bihar, UP....
In this controversy over Telangana, there is an impression that there is a great deal of controversy. However, if one thinks about it, there should be complete consensus on these seven propositions. Unfortunately, in its preference towards setting up commissions right, left and centre, the UPA didn’t set up the one it should have and the whirlwind is being reaped now.

Perhaps there is a moral there too. Governments are reluctant to delegate decision-making to commissions. Instead, there is a preference for arbitrary exercise of centralised power, exactly the opposite of what the Constitution intended."

Karthik Muralidharan in Too small to fail :
"As states get more involved in large-scale social protection programmes like the NREGA and RSBY, it may be desirable to increase investment in state capacity to deliver services effectively and one way of doing this may be to create new state administrations with more manageable jurisdictions. Smaller states can also experiment more easily with innovations in governance and service delivery, which can be replicated across states if found to be successful."

Pratap Bhanu Mehta in Sizeable matters :
"Two issues in particular need attention. The first is dealing with legitimate concerns over state size. Mayawati’s proposal for further dividing UP merits serious consideration for a number of reasons that have been reiterated on several occasions. But more than creating states, the focus should be on building states. The success of a state depends not on size, but on state capacity. This varies widely across India. But we understand little about the conditions under which different states are likely to acquire the requisite state capacity."

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Some links 16th December, 2009

Jeffry Sachs on climate financing for the poor How to hold the rich to their word. Similar plans for Telangana and other 'underdeveloped' regions?
Felix Salmon reports on recent article As Microfinance Grows in India, So Do Its Rivals . The evidence seems to be mostly from Mahaboobnagar district and it seems that people are borrowing money from traditional lender to repay their micro loans.
Brenda Rosser on Bernanke's Saving's Glut Hypothesis. Contradiction Number One.
All the above links via Economist's View .
3qurksdaily discusses a Boston Globe article on the sacking of Uk's top drug advisor for saying that alcohol is more hazardous than many banned substancesYou can't handle the truth . One of the comments: "Anyone who has spent ANY time in the UK can attest to the extraordinary "enabling" social role that alcohol plays (for many people). I wonder if this was factored into the calculations? When Jim wanders down to his local pub after work to socialize and meet new friends, does this count as a "social benefit"? It had better count."
P.S. see also Gulzar Natarajan's post Are MFIs and moneylenders complements?

Human Genetic Diversity in Asia

Report on the recent paper Mapping Human Genetic Diversity in Asia in BBC News Genetic 'map' of Asia's diversity . Excerpts:
"The study found that, as expected, individuals who were from the same region, or who shared a common language also had a great deal in common genetically.

But it also answered a question about the origin of Asia's population. It showed that the continent was likely populated primarily through a single migration event from the south.

Previously, there has been some debate about whether Asia was populated in two waves - one to South East Asia, and a later one to central and north-east Asia, or whether only a single migration occurred."
More detailed discussion and links in Rajib Khan's post Are Chinese subsets of Southeast Asians? .

Sunday, December 13, 2009

From the blogs

Brad DeLong in "Anyone Telling You Uncertainty About Climate Change Is a Reason for Inaction Is Either a Fool or a Scoundrel":
"There is one set of circumstances in which uncertainty is a reason for inaction: (a) the measures you would take would be expensive, (b) the measures you would take will be irreversible, and (c) you will get a lot of new information soon to help you judge the situation better.

That set of circumstances does not apply here."

What the wealth of nations is really built upon:
"Relying on game theory analysis, Dasgupta reached two conclusions. The first is that stable societies – that is, where cheats can be found and punished, if only by a refusal to do business with them in future – are a precondition for successful institutions. If every interaction is a one-off, co-operation is impossible, and all those wonderful investments in machinery, education and innovation will simply never happen.

The second conclusion was that co-operation is extremely fragile. Dasgupta’s game theory suggested that even a successful, co-operative society is always at risk of breaking down. “It is easier to destroy institutions than to build them,” he argued, and cited the Watts riots and the decline of many pre-modern civilisations. The credit crisis is, arguably, another example.

If true, this is very disturbing: it suggests that we should perhaps spend less effort thinking about how to develop poor countries, and more effort holding together our own fragile societies.

I was not totally convinced. Perhaps I am complacent, but the past 200 years of economic history contain far more examples of poor countries becoming rich than of rich countries becoming poor.

As Sir Partha patiently explained his algebra to a gaggle of admiring schoolchildren, I was left with more questions than answers about why we trust each other and our institutions, and how such trust is created and destroyed. That, I think, was exactly his aim."

Soutik Biswas in Does India need more states?:
"Also, many say, if you have nine "Hindi-speaking" states, why can't you have two "Telugu speaking ones"?

Others say new states don't serve any purpose. They end up benefiting entrenched local elites and the middle class, and leave the poor in the lurch. They point to Jharkhand which was carved out of southern Bihar in 2000 - nine years on, many of its people have turned to Maoists, and its politicians are embroiled in some of India's worst corruption.

A number of north-eastern states carved out of Assam are accused of becoming fiefs of local elites or kleptocracies. The issues of lack of development and growing corruption are untouched. Creating financially unstable states, critics say, can lead to even more problems.

Others say new states remain works in progress - among them Uttarkhand and Chattisgarh, despite the latter's current woes and a strong Maoist presence. It has taken some four decades for Haryana and Himachal Pradesh to turn into successful states. And India still has relatively few states given the size of its population: with some 300 million people, the US has 50 states; India with its billion-plus people has only 28."

Tarunabh Khaitan in Law and Other Things:
"Indeed, what ought to be the basis of devolving power? Nick Barber's excellent paper 'The Limited Modesty of Subsidiarity' compares subsidiarity and nationalism as two distinct reasons for doing so. Simply put, subsidiarity requires that power should be exercised at the smallest unit that can exercise it efficiently. There is a presumption in favour of smaller units, with the rider of efficiency. An important implication of subsidiarity is that one size need not fit all, that different regions can have different ways of sharing power (even our federal constitution admits and accommodates idiosyncratic circumstances of certain states under the provisions in Part XXI)."
P.S. A Telugu article by muppalla Ranganayakamma is reproduced in this blog and also in తెలంగాణ పై రంగనాయకమ్మ గారి వ్యాసమ్

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Indian consul-general in Melbourne

Anita Nayar interviewd. Portarait and interview in The Age The joy of the envoy.

Friday, December 11, 2009


Ramachandra Guha says Telangana isn’t scary. From the Wikipedia article on Telangana :
"The States Reorganization Commission (SRC) was not in favour of merging the Telangana region with the then Andhra state. Para 382 of States Reorganization Commission Report (SRC) said "..opinion in Andhra is overwhelmingly in favour of the larger unit, public opinion in Telangana has still to crystallize itself. Important leaders of public opinion in Andhra themselves seem to appreciate that the unification of Telangana with Andhra, though desirable, should be based on a voluntary and willing association of the people and that it is primarily for the people of Telangana to take a decision about their future...". The concerns of Telanganas were manifold . The region had a less developed economy than Andhra, but with a larger revenue base (mostly because it taxed rather than prohibited alcoholic beverages), which Telanganas feared might be diverted for use in Andhra. They also feared that planned dam projects on the Krishna and Godavari rivers would not benefit Telangana proportionately even though Telanganas controlled the headwaters of the rivers. Telanganas feared too that the people of Andhra would have the advantage in jobs, particularly in government and education. Para 386 of States Reorganization Commission Report (SRC) said "After taking all these factors into consideration we have come to the conclusions that it will be in the interests of Andhra as well as Telangana area is to constitute into a separate State, which may be known as the Hyderabad State with provision for its unification with Andhra after the general elections likely to be held in or about 1961 if by a two thirds majority the legislature of the residency Hyderabad State expresses itself in favor of such unification."

The central government decided to ignore the SRC recommendations and established unified Andhra Pradesh on November 1, 1956. However, a "Gentlemen's agreement" provided reassurances to the Telangana people as well to Andhra people in terms of power sharing as well as administrative domicile rules and distribution of expenses of various regions. This agreement is known as Gentlemen's agreement of Andhra Pradesh (1956)."
From Gentlemen's agreement of Andhra Pradesh (1956):
"1. There will be one legislature for the whole of Andhra Pradesh which will be the sole law making body for the entire state and there be one Governor for the State aided and advised by the Council of Ministers responsible to the State Assembly for the entire field of Administration.

2. For the more convenient transaction of the business of Government with regard to some specified matters the Telangana area will be treated as one region.

3. For the Telangana region there will be a Regional Standing Committee of the state assembly consisting of the members of the State Assembly belonging to that region including the Ministers from that region but not including the Chief Minister.

4. Legislation relating to specified matters will be referred to the Regional committee. In respect of specified matters proposals may also be made by the Regional Committee to the State Government for legislation or with regard to the question of general policy not involving any financial commitments other than expenditure of a routine and incidental character.

5. The advice tendered by the Regional Committee will normally be accepted by the Government and the State Legislature. In case of difference of opinion, reference will be made to the Governor whose decision will be binding.

6. The Regional Committee will deal with following matters:
--Development and economic planning within the framework of the general development plans formulated by the State Legislature.

--Local Self Government, that is to say, the Constitutional powers of Municipal Corporations, Improvement Trusts, District Boards and district authorities for the purpose of Local Self Government or Village Administration.

--Public health and sanitation, local hospitals and dispensaries.

--Primary and secondary education.

--Regulation of admission to the educational institutions in the telangana region.

--Prohibition—Sale of agricultural lands.

--Cottage and small scale Industries, and Agriculture, Cooperative Societies, Markets and Fairs. Unless revised by agreement earlier this arrangement will be reviewed after ten years.

7. Domicile Rules : A temporary provision be made to ensure that for a period of five years, Telangana is regarded as a unit as far as recruitment to subordinate services is concerned; posts borne on the cadre of these services may be reserved for being filled up by persons who satisfy the domicile conditions as prescribed under the existing Hyderabad Mulki Rules. ( 12 years of Stay in Telangana area)

8. Distribution of expenditure between Telangana and Andhra Regions--- Allocation of expenditure with the resources of the state is a matter which falls within the purview of the State Government and the State Legislature.. Since , however, it has been agreed to the representatives of Andhra and Telangana that the expenditure of the new state on central and general administration should be borne proportionately by the two regions and the balance of income should be reserved for expenditure on the development of Telangana area, it is open to the state government to act in accordance with the terms of agreement in making budgetary allocations. The Government of India propose to invite the attention of the Chief Minister of Andhra to this particular understanding and to express the hope that it will be implemented.

9. The existing educational facilities including Technical Education in Telangana should be secured to the students of Telangana and further improved---

10. The cabinet will consist of members in proportion of 60:40 percent for Andhra and Telangana respectively, out of 40 % of Telangana ministers, one will be a Muslim from Telangana. If the Chief Minister is from one region the other region should be given Dy Chief Ministership."
It seems that at least some of these conditions have not been met, hence the continuing agatation.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

College education in USA

While the article by David Orr What Is Education For? mentioned in a previous post calls for new paradigms in education, That Old College Lie by Kevin Carey considers the failures of the American education with the existing paradigms about learning and training. Some passages:
"The near-total lack of useful information about teaching and learning has three main effects, all bad for students. First, it creates distortions in the higher-education market that drive up prices. Second, it gives colleges free rein to ignore their teaching obligations in favor of a mad contest for status and self-gratification. Third, it leaves colleges that serve the most disadvantaged students with the fewest resources.

The information deficit turns college into what economists call a "reputational good." If you go to the store and buy a shirt, you can learn pretty much everything you need to know before you buy it: the material, where it was made, how to clean it, and so on. College is different. You’re paying up-front for professors you’ve never met and degree programs you probably haven’t even chosen yet. Instead, you rely on what other people think of the college. Of course, some students simply have to go the college that’s nearest to them or least expensive. But if you have the luxury of choosing, in all likelihood, you choose based on reputation.......
Ten percent of the U.S. News rankings are based on spending per student, with additional points for high faculty salaries and other costly items. If an innovative college found a way to become more efficient and charge less while maintaining academic quality, its U.S. News ranking would actually go down.......
The information deficit also acts as a powerful impediment to reform. Anyone who has ever attended college knows that many college teachers are terrible at their jobs. Universities like to pretend that great scholars make great instructors, but one indifferent, outdated lecture from a tenured professor is enough to conclude otherwise. Because scholarly outcomes are visible, in the form of publications and citations, while teaching outcomes are currently not, colleges privilege the former above the latter. Tenure-track professors are routinely discouraged from spending too much time teaching, lest students distract from the mandate to publish. Legitimate evaluations of professorial teaching skill are practically unknown.

Putting the scholarly and teaching missions in better balance would require a confrontation with traditionally autonomous academic departments. That inevitably creates controversy, and controversy is poisonous in a market that depends so heavily on hazy, decades-old reputations."
Hr goes on to suggest some solutions and lobbies standing in the way of reform. Link via Felix Salmon who discussed the article in America’s broken colleges.

Paper batteries

Batteries made from nanotubes ... and paper :
"Scientists have made batteries and supercapacitors with little more than ordinary office paper and some carbon and silver nanomaterials. The research, published online December 7 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, brings scientists closer to lightweight printable batteries that may one day be molded into computers, cell phones or solar panels."
See also the first comment. There is also a BBC report on the topic Battery made of paper charges up .

David Orr on education

From an old article by David W. Orr on education What Is Education For? (via Anil Kumar):
". No student should graduate from this or any other educational institution without a basic comprehension of: • the laws of thermodynamics • the basic principles of ecology • carrying capacity • energetics • least-cost, end-use analysis • how to live well in a place • limits of technology • appropriate scale • sustainable agriculture and forestry • steady-state economics • environmental ethics

Do graduates of this college, in Aldo Leopold's words, know that "they are only cogs in an ecological mechanism such that, if they will work with that mechanism, their mental wealth and material wealth can expand indefinitely (and) if they refuse to work with it, it will ultimately grind them to dust." Leopold asked: "If education does not teach us these things, then what is education for?""

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Two articles on development

Daniel Little in Alleviating rural poverty:
"We need to put the poor first. However, I also believe that our ability to achieve this goal is highly sensitive to the distributive structures and property systems that exist in poor countries. The property institutions of developing countries have enormous impact on the full human development of the poor. As a result, ethically desirable human development goals are difficult to attain within any social system in which the antecedent property relations are highly stratified and in which political power is largely in the hands of the existing elites."
He goes on to give the example of distribution of benefits during the green revolution in Malayasia. More detailed discussion in Institutions,Inequality and Well-being Distributive Determinants of Rural Development
Abstract of Is Relative Size of Minority Population Linked to Underdevelopment? by Mohd Sanjeer Alam:
"West Bengal provides a good context to examine whether the relative size of a minority population is linked to underdevelopment. The association between the size of the Muslim population and deficiency in social and physical infrastructure remains consistent at all levels in the state. No matter what the scale or context, the relative size of the Muslim population is inversely associated with the availability of amenities, a pattern that defies theoretical expectations and calls for further investigation."

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Weather and growth of plants

We consume a lot of coriander leaves and for the past few years I have been trying to grow coriander in all kinds of seasons; generally summer is supposed to be the good season for vegetables in Melbourne. One year I sowed the seeds in the middle of April so that the plants were established before the onset of winter. Generally they have been lasting until November. Thet start seeding in Ocober but the lower leaves are edible until the middle of November. Generally they seem to grow quite big, some were about 6-7 feet tall this year. Those I sowed in November grew only one foot tall and have seeded already. Time to sow the coriander seeds again.

Cosanguinity marriage and depression

may be related according to a pilot study Relationship between consanguinity and depression in a south Indian population published in the Indian Journal of Psychiatry.
P.S. I found this journal through a link in MindHacks. At the moment it is freely available online.

Heat Meditation

From g Tum-mo heat meditation:
"Monks in Tibet-that mountainous country so blessed with oddities-can consciously raise the temperature in their hands and feet 6-7º C (10-12º F), in laboratory conditions (Benson, et al., 1982). There appear to be several methods of g Tum-mo meditation, as described by Alexandra David-Neel (1965), but all seem to involve the visualization of oneself filled with fire. Whether, for adepts, such visualization is necessary for control of body temperature is not clear to me, because Benson reports that one of his research participants began undergoing g-Tummo changes every time he sat down. Monks will even have little contests where they spend a night on a river bank, repeatedly draping themselves with wet sheets, and seeing who can dry the most. I get cold just thinking about it.

It presumably takes some time to develop this ability, but apparently not so much that it is rare in Tibet: David-Neel claims that most Tibetans have the knowledge of how to do it, and that they put it to practical use.

What interests me about this is not simply that the mind has considerable control over the body-that is a familiar refrain from many areas of research. What interests me is that we could have this ability and not know it unless someone teaches us. No one had to teach me how to shiver, or to raise little body hairs, or to contract my blood vessels. So, if we are capable of mentally warming our extremities, why should we not automatically know how to do it? It seems that boundary in the temperature regulation system between what is automatic and what is susceptible to willed intervention is strangely situated."

Friday, December 04, 2009

I hope that this report is not true

Twenty five years after the Bhopal ragedy , this reort India absolves US N-suppliers of damages:
NEW DELHI: The Indian government has absolved American nuclear companies of liability in case of a possible accident during the building and installation of nuclear reactors and facilities in India. A Civil Nuclear Liability bill cleared by the Union Cabinet late on Thursday presents India’s desire to work with the American firms. Washington has been asking New Delhi that the nuclear deal the two countries signed last year would be futile as the American companies, and most Western firms, would not do business with India unless the liability law was promulgated. Most American companies see huge investment potential in India and only want it to have a law to limit the claims for damages in the wake of an accident that may occur before they hand over a nuclear plant to the country. In the bill, the Indian government is seeking to bear the entire compensation for any nuclear accident. iftikhar gilani

Update 14th Dec. 09 Capping nuclear liability is a non-starter :
"The government proposes to introduce a Civil Nuclear Liability Bill to appease foreign investors. Any legislation that attempts to dilute the Polluter Pays and Precautionary Principle and imposes a cap on liability will be in blatant defiance of Supreme Court judgments and is likely to be struck down."

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

A new book about structures

John Levi Marin's Social Structures is drawing some attention from academics RIP levi-strauss, long live structuralism. A nice review by Gagan Sood appeared in the Science Magazine Asking About Origins, but is behind the paywall. Here is the conclusion of Sood's review:
"It is too early to tell whether Martin's explanation of where structures come from will stand. "But if we are to see whether structural analysis can make a contribution to a general sociology, even simple initial accounts are encouraging." From this vantage, there are many reasons to be encouraged by—and to applaud—this work. The value of the book and of its larger research agenda might, thus, lie not in having produced clear answers to the questions posed at its outset but in suggesting powerful and promising ways in which that fundamental topic might be approached. For this alone, Social Structures deserves a wide readership and its ideas a sympathetic hearing."

Monday, November 30, 2009

Life in Auschwitz

The man who smuggled himself into Auschwitz :
"He describes Auschwitz as "hell on earth" and says he would lie awake at night listening to the ramblings and screams of prisoners.

"It was pretty ghastly at night, you got this terrible stench," he says.

He talked to Jewish prisoners but says they rarely spoke of their previous life, instead they were focused on the hell they were living and the work they were forced to do in factories outside the camp.
"There were nearly three million human beings worked to death in different factories," says Mr Avey. "They knew at that rate they'd last about five months.

"They very seldom talk about their civil life. They only talked about the situation, the punishments they were getting, the work they were made to do."

He says he would ask where people he'd met previously had gone and he would be told they'd "gone up the chimney".

"It was so impersonal. Auschwitz was evil, everything about it was wrong." "
P.S. Frontline Vol. 26 :: No. 24 Nov 21 - Dec 04, 2009 has several articles on Dalit life in India.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Problems for pedestrians in India

by Madhav Badami in The Hindu:Where the pedestrian is a third class citizen .
In Hyderabad I have seen people who drove long distances to Brahamanda Reddi Park for safe walking exercise in the mornings.

Two links to Indian writers

Amitava Kumar on Suketu Mehta Suketu Mehta One Story High
Review of Roadrunner: An Indian Quest in America by Dilip D'Souza

Tadepalli about the influence of Sanskrit on Telugu

From [తెలుగుపదం] తెలుగులో క్తాంతాలు - చరిత్ర, కల్పన:
"అచ్చతెలుగులో కూడా ఇలాంటి నిర్మాణాలు చెయ్యడానికి అవకాశం ఉందని కొన్ని పదాల ద్వారా తెలుస్తోంది. కానీ అలాంటి నిర్మాణాల సూత్రీకరణకి సాంప్రదాయిక తెలుగు వ్యాకరణాల్లో స్థానమివ్వడం జఱగలేదు. కారణం - ఒకటి, ఈ అవకాశం ఉన్నట్లు మన పూర్వీకులు గ్రహించక పోవడం. గ్రహించక పోవడానికి కారణం - ఆ పదాల మార్గంలో నూతనపదాల కల్పన అప్పటికే స్తంభించిపోయి ఉండడం. సంస్కృతం నుంచి అన్ని పదాల్నీ యథాతథంగా దిగుమతి చేసుకోవడానికి అలవాటుపడి ఉండడం. రెండోది, మన పూర్వుల్లో అధికసంఖ్యాకులు వల్లమాలిన సంస్కృతాభిమానం చేత అంధీకృతులు. ఈ పిచ్చి అభిమానం మాతృభాషని ఇతోఽధికంగా పరిశోధించడానికి అప్పట్లో ఒక పెద్ద మానసిక ఆటంకం (mental barrier) గా మారింది. ఆ శోధించిన కొద్దిపాటి భాషని కూడా సంస్కృత పద్ధతుల్లోనే శోధించడానికి మొగ్గుచూపారు. తెలుగుని ఒక ప్రత్యేక వ్యక్తిత్వం ఉన్న భాషగా వారు పరిగణించలేదు. తెలుగుభాషకే సొంతమైన, విలక్షణమైన అనేక విషయాలు సంస్కృత వైయాకరణ పరిభాషతో వివరించడానికి సాధ్యం కాకపోవడంతో అవి అపరిష్కృతంగా, అసూత్రీకృతంగా మిగిలిపోయాయి. తత్‌ఫలితంగా ఆంధ్రభాషాభూషణం ఒక్కటి మినహాయిస్తే అహోబలపండితీయము మొ||న మన ప్రాచీన వ్యాకరణాలు సైతం సంస్కృతంలోనే సంస్కృత పద్ధతుల్లో వ్రాయబడ్డాయి."

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Science books for kids (and grownups)

"As times have changed, so has the science - and so should science books. Just in time for holiday giving, here's a selection of books for kids (and grownups) that incorporate recent developments on the scientific frontiers". Here is a selection by Alan Boyle Science by the book (via 3quarksdaily).

John Stallings reminiscences

at Notices of AMS Remembering John Stallings.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Sharing information with colleagues

Do academic scientists share information with their colleagues? Not necessarily from a survey of bio=scientists:
"“Every scientist knows that science advances only if knowledge is shared,” (Warnick and Wojick 2009). Science is a cumulative process, so its progress and benefits to society hinge critically on multiple scientists testing and building on each others’ work. However, the contribution to the “scientific commons” (Merton 1973) is challenged by individual scientists’ self-interest. While a scientist who shares her results during the research process provides the stepping stones for discovery by others, they may not acknowledge her contribution. Indeed, misappropriation of scientific research and increased reluctance to share information and materials is considered a major problem in science (Cohen and Walsh 2008, Couzin-Frankel and Grom 2009).................
the higher is the reward for solving the problem, the less willing are scientists to share information through conferences and working papers.
Our models emphasise very different aspects of sharing – with the sole exception of the competitive environment. This is important because it means that the important policy question is not “whether open science” is practiced, but rather is “how open science can be supported in different environments.” We find that in both models the competitive environments reduce the practice of open science. Note that competition increases with value of the returns, or prize, for scientific solutions. This means that introducing valuable prizes may induce scientists to increase their research efforts, but it also is likely to stifle their willingness to openly share – one-on-one or with everyone. It also supports recommendations such as that of Rennie et al. (1997) that papers should acknowledge the work that is done by all contributors, where a contributor is a person who "has added usefully to the work", because such acknowledgement would, to some extent, mitigate competition.

It is also important to realise that both the commercial and intellectual value of prizes may stifle the practice of open science. While concerns over open science have escalated as scientists recognise the commercial potential of their work, the dampening effect of competition on sharing need not depend on commercial value. Prizes that enhance scientific reputation also dampen the incentive to share. Indeed, for the bio-scientists in our sample, intellectual prizes, rather than patents or engagement with industry through consulting (which we would expect to be related to commercial potential), reduce the likelihood of one-to-one sharing. In contrast, patents and consulting both decrease the likelihood of general sharing by the bio-scientists in our sample. Similarly, scientists who consider their research to be applied are less likely to generally share.

These results suggest that increased government research funding is likely to promote information sharing. However, our analysis shows that this is only true to the extent that increased research funding relaxes competition. Increased funding makes it more likely that individual scientists working on a problem will receive funding, but it is also likely to draw more scientists to work on the problem."

In areas like mathematics where data sharing is not so significant, there re other problems. There is a tendency to pre-empt others by putting out sketchy papers and then trying for years to prove them.

Private college fiasco in Australia

From The Age Private college system a fiasco in need of a fix by Sushi Das:
"Even as the rot in international education is laid bare, the Victorian Brumby Government would like us to believe the problems with private colleges are restricted to a handful of small, fly-by-night operators. Rubbish.

The recent closure of nine colleges in Melbourne and Sydney left nearly 3000 stranded foreign students clinging on to nothing more than hope.

Known collectively as the Meridian colleges, some had been operating since 2006, and one since 1999. All were owned by Global Campus Management, which is in turn owned by the big Cayman Islands-based SinoEd Group.

These colleges were neither small, nor fly-by-night. They closed because Global Campus Management went into voluntary administration after investors lost confidence in the colleges' survival on projected student numbers. Undoubtedly, a business decision that not only put profit before the quality of education, but also showed callous disregard for students, some of whom were just weeks away from finishing their courses.

Nobody is saying the bigger private colleges are taking under-the-counter payments for certificates or issuing fake work-experience documents, as some smaller colleges are accused of doing. But the fact remains that students have as many complaints about the big colleges as they do about the small ones.

And many of these complaints arise from college operators putting profits ahead of education and welfare - something federal and state governments have condemned.

Despite the business-led closures, the Victorian Government, which only months ago refused to acknowledge there was a looming crisis, now wants us to believe the mess is being cleaned up by an official crackdown. The truth is the Meridian colleges were not even targets of the Government's current emergency audit of 41 "high-risk" colleges.

So far this year, a total of nine private colleges for domestic and foreign students have closed in Victoria alone: eight prompted by financial concerns and one forced by the education regulator because of failure to comply with course and teaching regulations.

Belatedly, the Government is trying to bring about changes to boost the power of the regulator to close colleges sooner. These measures, while welcome, should have been taken years ago - when industry insiders were screaming about major systemic problems in vocational education; when students were lodging complaints; and when news reports were regularly exposing rorts and scams.

Skills Minister Jacinta Allan has presided over a $5.4 billion export industry that has allowed private college operators to grow rich on the back of exploitation of students from developing countries. And up until about a week ago, she did not lift a finger to improve the workings of the regulator, the Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority.

The regulator's limp-wristed approach has allowed people to open colleges without rigorous scrutiny. Operating at the moment are colleges whose chief executives know nothing about education, colleges managed by people still in their 20s, colleges that teach automotive training from the ninth floor of a building, colleges that do not keep proper records and colleges that threaten to have students deported unless they pay fees in advance of the due date.

Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard has blamed state regulators for the crisis. But the Brumby Government has yet to acknowledge its part in the fiasco that now undermines Victoria's biggest export earner.

As colleges collapse, and more are predicted to close, increasing numbers of displaced students must be provided with alternative colleges or be given a refund. It is their legal entitlement.

Many are being absorbed by bigger private colleges. But could these colleges collapse too? There is certainly no shortage of students complaining about being ripped off, mistreated and generally messed about by them.

Two of the bigger colleges taking on displaced students are Cambridge International College and Carrick Institute. They have their own problems. In August, The Age revealed that Cambridge, run by Roger Ferrett, was struggling to deal with a crisis in its welfare course. There were allegations that hundreds of students were being shunted through sub-standard workplace training.

Carrick Institute is also dealing with unhappy students, including one who is seeking $90,000 damages in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal after his student visa was revoked and then returned by the Department of Immigration. The visa fiasco resulted from the college's alleged failure to keep proper attendance records.

And, in an unbelievably audacious twist, owner Catherine Carrick wants taxpayers to help bail out private colleges because they are burdened by displaced students.

Turmoil, uncertainty and fear plague the international education industry. Three things are now urgently needed: an industry-wide solution to the crisis; a complete rethink on whether private colleges in a deregulated environment are the way forward for vocational education; and an education regulator that has the power and the will to do its job properly."

Monday, November 23, 2009

What Makes a Nation Rich?

What Makes a Nation Rich? One Economist's Big Answer (via Greg Mankiw):
"Say you're a world leader and you want your country's economy to prosper. According to this Clark Medal winner from MIT, there's a simple solution: start with free elections."
Related: Elections in developing countries: do they improve economic policy? .

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Kannabiran on Balagopal

Kannabiran in A One in a Century Rights Activist briefly discusses a point that I have been wondering about:
"In an interview published in Prajatantra in March 2001 on the Telugu novel Rago,
Balagopal expressed the view that the Marxist world view is deficient in certain
respects and that his philosophical investigations had reached a certain satisfactory stage. However, having said that, he never completed the task of elaborating upon his philosophical position."
I remember reading a telugu article which suggested that Balagopal might have been thinking about the work of Raymond Williams and Theodor Adorno .

The sister has crossed the line

Video and transcript of an interview with Malalai Joya.

An excerpt from her book A Woman Among Warlords (links from Pavaman).

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Rajib reviews

The Faith Instinct by Nicholas Wade. The review has also a number of links and in one of the comments Rajib says "...every nation i've seen in the WVS has religious people either matching, or more often surpassing, the non-religious in total fertility. i won't hypothesize the mechanism, but it's a robust finding."
In an From population genetics to linguistics Rajib has quick preview of the studies of the relationship between language families and gene families and discusses a recent paper on the linguistic diversity of Sahul using population genetics.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


Many online Telugu books and pdf files available at తెలుగుపరిశోధన . For dictionaries check here . For some other dictionaries see the earlier post .

Universe in our own backyards

MindHacks discusses some recent papers on The illusion of a universe in our own back yard: . Among them:
"Science News covers a revealing new study on the Hadza people of Tanzania that has the potential shake up some of the rusty thinking in evolutionary psychology.

A common line of argument in this field is to suggest that sexual preferences for certain body types exist because we've evolved these desires to maximise our chances of mating with the most fertile or healthiest partner.

For example, studies have interpreted the fact that taller men are more likely to attract mates and reproduce in terms of evolutionary pressures on sexual desire. But most of these and similar studies have been completed on Western samples, while the authors draw conclusions about the 'universal' nature of these 'evolutionary' pressures.

To test how universal these body preferences really are, anthropologists Rebecca Sear and Frank Marlowe looked at whether similar preferences existed in the Hadza people, a hunter-gather tribe from Tanzania.

It turns out, these supposedly 'universal preferences' don't exist in the Hadza."
"The problems with relying on Western college students as participants in psychology studies is also addressed by a new paper just released by Behavioural and Brain Sciences which you can read online as a pdf.

The article reviews data from psychology experiments and argues that not only are college students a very restricted subset of society, but they are actually wildly atypical in comparison to the rest of the world's population.

In fact, the authors state that "The findings suggest that members of WEIRD [Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich and Democratic] societies, including young children, are among the least representative populations one could find for generalizing about humans"."
Links in the MindHacks article.

The marketplace of ideas

A must read article says Abi at Nanopolitan: The Ph.D. Problem by Louis Menand. From the editors' introduction:
"His new book, The Marketplace of Ideas, to be published in December by W.W. Norton, is informed in part by his recent service as faculty co-leader in the development of Harvard College’s new General Education curriculum, introduced this fall (the book is dedicated to his colleagues in that protracted task).

In this work, Menand examines general education, the state of the humanities, the tensions between disciplinary and interdisciplinary work, and, in chapter four, “Why Do Professors All Think Alike?” The following excerpts, from the third and fourth chapters and his conclusion, probe the professionalization of a research-oriented professoriate and the practice and consequences of contemporary doctoral education, and the resulting implications for liberal-arts colleges, universities, and the wider society."

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Books about India

After reading the recent controvery about GM brinjal , I tried to look the history of brinjal in India and found this list: Ten Best Book List:KC recommends good Indian readings for expats . The link is K.T. Acharya. Here are some articles about his contributions:

Monday, November 09, 2009

Ambedkar Sanskrit Fellowship

In Next Generations Manan Ahmad points to some new scholarships for graduate studies about South Asia and among them:
"Applications are sought for the Ambedkar Sanskrit Fellowship at Columbia University in the City of New York. This is a five-year award covering tuition and stipend. One fellowship will be awarded for the academic year 2010-11 (deadline for application to the Department of Middle East, South Asia, and African Studies is January 4, 2010), and, it is anticipated, two more in each of the following two years. Applicants are expected to have completed work at the Master’s level prior to admission. Preliminary inquiries, including a brief statement of purpose explaining what the applicant intends to study and why that course of study, may be directed to Sheldon Pollock,"
P.S. From google search, I see that Ambedkar not only learnt Sanskrit in his later years (apparently his teachers refused to teach him in school and he studied Persian instead) but also advocated Sanskrit as a national language for India. I have been off and on looking at science writing in Telugu and technical dictionaries in a few Indian languages. Finding systematic terminology for science writing seems to be a problem and it seems easier to borrow from Sanskrit. I wonder whether Sanskrit can play a role similar to Latin for unifying scientific terminology for Indian languages.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Some reviews

Soutik Biswas discusses Dalrymple's 'Nine Lives' in Faith and Pelf and Dilip D'Souza points to some of the lapses in the book India Untold . Dilip's comment:
"Nine Lives is proof that Dalrymple knows this country better than most Indians, but it also displays a creeping complacency in writing about it."
Amitava Kumar and V.V. Ganeshananthan discuss South Asian diaspora literature, war, and conflict—and their fiction selections for Guernica in I Don’t Want To Fight:
"Amitava Kumar: You are asking what is South Asian writing. It is fiction which has at least three of the following: a large family or two, arranged marriage, misery, some violence, Bollywood, the interior design of nostalgia which uses the furniture of loss. You can choose the stylistic beverage-to-go: verbal exuberance or hushed poetry.

This is a caricature. But only partly. Give me an example of a novel you’ve read recently by a South Asian or about South Asia that departs from this model."

Thursday, November 05, 2009


front page has been updated మొదటి పేజీ. Some of the tools are in మార్గదర్శకాలు and check(from the list on the left) to see what is available like ప్రత్యేక పేజీలు. It has been a problem to find Telugu equivalents of many English words used everyday and there is a paucity of online dictionaries (See the discussion in తెలుగు నిఘంటువు గురించి…) in Telugu. The site seems to be an effort by many bloggers, particularly Veeven, to find suitable Telugu equivalents of frequently used English words. It is not clear to me how this is to going to fulfil the need for terminology in writing science books in Telugu but the governmental efforts in this direction seem fragmentary and taking a long time. In view of this, the brave effort by Veeven and other bloggers fills a gap and is worth supporting; I hope that more people will participate.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Claude Levi-Strauss RIP

news via 3quarksdaily. One of the posts from a new blog about his work On the Anthropology of Levi-Strauss.
Here is a downloadable version of Tristes tropiques which has several passages about India.
P.S. A very readable article about philosophy and Claude Levi-Strauss in 3quarksdaily.

One day at a time for the glacier man

Chewang Norphel's work which was mentioned in 'Glacier man' Chewang Norphel seems to be getting more attention. There is a long article in Science (requires ubscription)Profile: Chewang Norphel: Glacier Man and a report in Hindustan Times A lonely struggle for the Iceman. From the Hindustan Times report:
"Earlier this year, Norphel finally received Rs 13 lakh from the Department of Science & Technology to build and maintain two glaciers for the next two years.

Another Rs 10 lakh for three more glaciers will come from the Indian Army in Jammu & Kashmir, under its people-friendly project Operation Sadbhavana (Good Intentions), which funds small-scale projects supported by local populations.

“It’s a simple concept that can be managed with local manpower and materials,” says Dr V.C. Goyal, a senior scientist and hydrologist with the Department of Science and Technology. “If it works, then it could be applied across various regions in the Himalayan belt, since there’s a tremendous water shortage across all these hilly regions due to the receding glaciers.”

The Department has now involved the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council and respective village heads.

All small steps, but about time.

According to a United Nations Environment Programme report released in March 2008, trends in glacial melt suggest that the Ganga, Indus and Brahmaputra — which contribute more than 60 per cent of the water for all the rivers of India — may become seasonal as a consequence of climate change.

For Norphel, the solution is in taking it one day at a time.

“I am now building five more glaciers with the money I have received from the government,” he says, as he takes hurried steps across the brown mountains at a project site. “I’m also planning to train villagers with instruction CDs that I have made, so that I can pass on the knowledge before I die.” "
From the Science magazine article:
"A new climate threat
Norphel's glaciers are site specific—they require a certain altitude, water flow, and surface area temperature, so they are not suitable for every location, notes Andreas Schild, head of the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development in Kathmandu. "Nevertheless, we are going to have to do some serious out-of-the-box thinking when it comes to sustainable water storage and investigate the efficiency of artificial-glacier technology," Schild says.

Norphel notes that he has already had interest in his glaciers from nongovernmental organizations working in Afghanistan and Turkmenistan. "In some areas, reservoirs are a much more practical solution," he says. "But in terms of water storage and release at the irrigation season, you can't beat artificial glaciers."

Despite his success, there has been little attention from the academic world. "I could do with some scientific help from specialists," Norphel says. "I am trying to collect data on how and where the glacier forms best, and which parts precipitate first and why, so that I can improve on them and people can use the technique elsewhere.

This September day, Norphel and his glaciers receive their first scientific visitor. Adina Racoviteanu, a geography graduate student at the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research and the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado, Boulder, is passing through Stakmo en route to her glacier field stations farther east. When she offers to make Norphel a topographic map of the artificial glacier site using her hand-held GPS monitor, a $3000 device, his eyes light up. The pair spend the next several hours taking readings across the site, achieving what would take Norphel weeks to do with his tape measure and plumb line.

Later that day, as Norphel leaps nimbly across the boulders above Stakmo village, he points out his latest design tweaks. In 2006, when it rained for a week and the Zanskar River, which freezes over each winter, melted ahead of time, flash floods and landslides devastated his glacier here. "Blocking walls and canals were damaged by floods," recalls Norphel. "I'm still at the experimental stage, but I've been able to completely redesign this glacier site to make it withstand floods better.

The Stakmo site will soon have three artificial glaciers at increasing altitudes, so by the time the lowest one is spent, the one above it will have begun melting, and then the highest before the natural one at the top starts to liquidize. Norphel points out his latest seepage-avoidance technology: a 200-meter cement chamber that will be connected to the artificial glacier with 2- to 3-meter-long pipe. This will help distribute and freeze sheets of water evenly in the artificial glacier as well as providing a water reservoir for later in the year. "Creating the first such chamber is difficult in terms of design and funding," he says. "The rest will still be expensive but easy to replicate."

Money remains a huge problem. Norphel says that 75 other nearby villages are in suitable locations for his artificial-glacier technique, but he lacks funds, and what funds are promised do not typically arrive in full. The watershed development program allots $50,000 per project per village, but so far, only $12,000 has been released in two installments over the past 6 years.

And there's another problem: continued climate change. There is less and less snowfall during wintertime, when it is needed to contribute to Norphel's artificial glaciers. Instead, rain is arriving in September, ruining the harvests. It's a worrying trend. "These glaciers are not magic formations. They need that water over winter," says Norphel.

As the "retired" engineer makes his way up the mountain to his glacial work site, singing drifts up the valley from the villagers in the fields below, who are harvesting the last of this year's barley with simple scythes. It's a scene that must have played out for centuries. Without the Glacier Man, this village might well have fallen silent a decade ago."

Development challenges in extremist areas

Excerpts from Planning Commission Expert Groups Report "Development Challenges in Extremist Areas"are in Madhukar Shukla's post "The "Greatest Threat to India's Internal Security" !!?? .
Arundhati Roy The heart of India is under attack and Rohit Copra's post and possibly The Long March.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Wealth transmission in small-scale socities

From ScienceDaily reportInequality, 'Silver Spoon' Effect Found In Ancient Societies:
"The researchers also showed that levels of inequality are influenced both by the types of wealth important to a society and the governing rules and regulations. Hunter-gatherers rely on their wits, social connections and strength to make a living. In these economies, wealth inheritance is modest because wits and social connections can be transferred only to a certain degree. The level of economic inequality in hunter-gatherer societies is on a par with the most egalitarian modern democratic economies."
Despite the ScienceDaily title, the study is based on 21 contemporary and recent populations. The populations studied are of four types hunter-gatherer, horticultural, pastoral, and agricultural populations (the main difference between hoticultural and agricultural seems to be the use of plough).

The paper (needs access)Intergenerational Wealth Transmission and the Dynamics of Inequality in Small-Scale Societies with supporting supplement online material is free access are in Science magazine. Rajib Khan has long post which has much material from the paper To crush your enemies, and steal their cattle for your sons! . The three of wealth transferred is categorized "embodied (body weight, grip strength, practical skills, and, in predemographic transition populations, reproductive success); material (land, livestock, and household goods); and relational (social ties in food-sharing networks and other forms of assistance)."
They do not consider other forms "heritable determinants of well-being such as ritual knowledge, an important source of institutionalized inequality in some populations." and it is not clear how much it applies to societies like Indian.
From the paper:
"Our principal conclusion is that there exist substantial differences among economic systems in the intergenerational transmission of wealth and that these arise because material wealth is more important in agricultural and pastoral societies and because, in these systems, material wealth is substantially more heritable than embodied and relational wealth. By way of comparison, the degree of intergenerational transmission of wealth in hunter-gatherer and horticultural populations is comparable to the intergenerational transmission of earnings in the Nordic social democratic countries (5)—the average β for earnings in Denmark, Sweden, and Norway is 0.18—whereas the agricultural and pastoral societies in our data set are comparable to economies in which inequalities are inherited most strongly across generations, the United States and Italy, where the average β for earnings is 0.43. Concerning wealth inequality, the Gini measure in the hunter-gatherer and horticultural populations is almost exactly the average of the Gini measure of disposable income for Denmark, Norway, and Finland (0.24); the pastoral and agricultural populations are substantially more unequal than the most unequal of the high-income nations, the United States, whose Gini coefficient is 0.37 (21). "
In the same issue, Acegmolu and Robinson explain their take on the paper Foundations of Societal Inequality:
"...results of Borgerhoff Mulder et al., which show substantial differences in inheritability of assets and inequality not only between, but also within hunter-gather, horticultural, pastoral, and agricultural societies."
They attribute to this to the difference in institutions "What makes the findings important for social science is the link between inequality and institutions that regulate the inheritability of assets."
P.S. A summary of the results is available in the papers section of:
(New Data on the Roots of Inequality Reveal Key Role of Wealth Inheritance)

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Some online Telugu books

The blog భువనవిజయము has links to some interesting Telugu books. Among them is Arudra's Vyasapeetham. I found this and several other Arudra books in Kalyan Mukherjea's house this march and enjoyed reading. It covers several topics from mythology to different types of interest (money). It did not seem to be as thorough as his books and articles on Vemana, the relatioship between Rama ans Sita, Gurajada Apparao but the beginning of analysis on several topics somewhat reminiscent of Tapi Dharmarao. There is probably much material here for further investigations.
The site has links to some free Telugu books including some my Mallampalli Somasekhara Sarma and G.V. Krishnarao.
Telugu Parisodhana has also made many books available online or has links to them.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Two book reviews from EPW

T.N. Madan reviews Fazrana Shaik's "Making Sense of Pakistan" in Sense and Sensibilities in Pkistan.
"From the time of Sayyid Ahmad Khan late in the 19th century,many Muslim politicians
were apprehensive that the introduction of democratic institutions from the local up to the national levels would reduce Muslims to the position of a minority in a country (more precisely north India) where they had been the ruling community
for more than half a millennium. This produced what Shaikh calls “the minority complex” ........."

Shaik recommends a conscious effort to renounce " a type of militant Islam that is at odds with Islamic traditions indigeneous to South Asia".
However, there seem to be many elements common with India. The Indian trajectory is discussed in Sujeeb Mukherjee's review Indian Democracy: Puzzle of Unanswered Questions .
See also the discussion in 3quarksdaily on Pervez Hoodbhoy's article
The Saudi-isation of Pakistan. The discussion goes back up to General Zia-ul-Haq's regime.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A new book on democracy

From the Wikipedia article on The Life and Death of Democracy by John Keane:
"The Life and Death of Democracy stresses that, understood simply as people governing themselves, democracy implied something that continues to have a radical bite: it supposed that humans could invent and use institutions specially designed to allow them to decide for themselves, as equals, a thought that may seem very common now but was extraordinarily innovative at its conception. Following this path, the book challenges the common view of democracy as a timeless fulfilment of our political destiny with built-in historical guarantees, emphasising that democracy is not a way of doing politics that has always been with us or will unquestionably be with us forever, but instead an evolving, adaptable concept of a rather frail nature, especially at times when there are signs of mounting disagreement about its meaning, its efficacy, and desirability.
Under the third part of Monitory Democracy, The Life and Death of Democracy addresses the viability of democracy in modern times and post-1945, where democracy becomes globally accepted as the political governing form par excellence but is also met with serious criticisms of inefficiency. The presence of new democratic institutions along with mutations of older ones on the national (public integrity commissions, judicial review procedures, parliaments for minorities, public interest litigation, citizens’ assemblies to name just a few) and international level (forums, summits, regional parliaments, human rights watch organisations, etc) is examined giving to this last part its title. John Keane considers monitory democracy to be the most complex form of democracy yet due to its intricate network of institutions and inner dynamics while its fruitful evolution is not taken for granted. On the contrary, this part explores the sustainability and irreversibility of this trend, traces its development and examines it against the background of past democratic experiences and future challenges. Democracy is not a done deal or something accomplished according to the book but still an unfinished experiment that “thrives on imperfection” [5]. For this reason, it advocates the imperative to think in entirely new and fresh ways about democracy’s virtues."

The author's Home Page has links to a number of reviews and here is a critical review via 3quarksdaily The democratic wish by John Gray.

There is also the problem of monitoring groups, think tanks etc being funded by powerful groups. This seems to have happened in the US (the books by Edward Berman and Jane Roelofs mentioned in an earlier post give some evidence)and there is a general feel in many comments in 'The Economist's view'(see comments in "Let A Hundred Theories Bloom") that regulators and elected officials have been captured by special interests. With many states having large police and military, which is at least powerful against its own citizens, it is not clear how the powerful special interest groups can be thrawted in a demacratic set up.
EPW has review of a book The State of India's Democracy edited by Sumit Ganguly and others.

Two articles on cancer

Naked Mole Rat Wins the War on Cancer
Cancers Can Vanish Without Treatment, but How?
(both via 3quarksdaily)

Monday, October 26, 2009

Some Indian Music Links

Indian Raga:Classical Music for the Uninitiated (via Blogbharti)
Man Panchhi Albela has links to many of my favourite Hindi songs and also has has link to a song from Ksudita Pashan in the post A Dozen 'Piyas'.
A couple of links that were posted earlier:
Film Songs in Rags
Short Takes: Bageshree: Rajan P. Parrikar

A strange political history book

Political History of Andhra Pradesh - Narisetti Innaiah Which according to this blog post:
"Sri Narisetti Innaiah’s new book Political History of Andhra Pradesh was released by Sri Ravipraksh on Sunday 18th October 2009 on TV 9 channel,creating history and a new trend. ...........
This book is hailed as the most useful reference book for all journalists and people interested to know many fascinating facets of political spectrum of Andhra Pradesh; covering with 100 years of history. Many interesting supplementary tables like hereditary politicians and defectors are appended."

Sunday, October 25, 2009

From the blogs

Michael Johnson of 'The Primate Diaries' in Science and the Worship of Truth ays that science is more like religion that worships doubt. I am not so sure about this but there are interesting passages along the way like "Having studied primates for many years (specifically bonobos) it's very easy to spot similarities between human societies. Primates, whether bonobos or humans, are fond of forming groups and developing social hierarchies. Individuals rise within those hierarchies based on ability and political patronage. This is so obvious that it's not often appreciated.

Scientists and Cardinals both rise to a given position in their field based on how their work is regarded by their peers and how well they play the game. If you identify someone as a potential ally or you want to curry favor with someone higher up than you are there are a few standard tactics. You help promote their work, praise them in public, invite them to conferences, and help them advance in their field. In bonobos this is called social grooming (though, admittedly, bonobo conferences are probably a lot more fun). This reflects a tit-for-tat political exchange that is universal to our species as well as many others.

Scientists also have a creed, or a set of beliefs that guide their action. This creed is that the natural world demonstrates predictable patterns that can be deciphered with careful analysis. Rather than study the Bible incessantly and debate what it can tell us about God's plan, scientists study nature. If you like, you can even go as far as Thomas Carlyle in his criticism of Charles Darwin and state that scientists are beholden to a "Gospel of Dirt." The method of science is to bounce ideas off of reality in order to separate the ones that work from the ones that don't. Christians and Muslims have their sacred text, scientists have theirs. However, this is where the comparison end."
Rajib Khan has several interest posts, some relating to evolution.
The arcs of evolutionary genetics always cross back follows up the discussion in "The Red Queen" with recent experimental evidence. Take away sentences: "To use an example with contemporary relevance, clonal lineages are undercapitalized when market conditions shift and overleveraged and stuck with only a few viable strategies. Sex may not offer up the same short term yields, but it is a diversified portfolio designed to weather, and even benefit from, downturns and market volatility. Until a great selective moderation, males are here to stay." See also The arc of evolutionary genetics is long and The arc of evolutionary genetics may be irreversible .
Rahul Siddharthan in Magnetic monopoles from classical physics
" The recent experiments have not discovered a new phenomenon of nature -- the laws of physics don't need to be rewritten. What they have found is something that would behave exactly as a collection of magnetic monopoles would behave, if observed at not too fine a scale."
Basheer Peer in Outline of the republic (via Amitava Kumar):
"In the end, military campaigns – no matter how sophisticated – will fail as long as the Pakistani state refuses to see Waziristan, Balochistan, and swathes of South Punjab as the brutally marginalised and chronically underdeveloped areas they are. For 60 years now, Pakistan has avoided the expense of infrastructure development, and controlled the frontier through financial assistance to tribal leaders – whose authority has now been usurped by militants. Among the four million people who live in tribal areas like Waziristan, the literacy rate remains a mere 17 per cent – the figure for women is only three per cent. To regain its legitimacy and authority in these places, Pakistan will have to deploy more than troops. Next door in Afghanistan, the United States is learning the hard way that an occupying army may not be the best tool with which to build a functioning state, and Pakistan may soon confront the same problem.

Before I left Pakistan, I met with Aitizaz Ahsan, the leader of the Lawyers’ Movement, whose mass protests restored Pakistan’s chief justice to his seat and united hundreds of thousands of Pakistanis across regional, political and class barriers in a non-violent, democratic exercise. When I asked Ahsan about Pakistan’s future, he did not mention military victories, in Waziristan or elsewhere. “When the dust of this conflict settles,” he said, “we have to rebuild a new country, move from being a national security state to being a welfare state. We have to rebuild our blighted public schools, we have to make the feudal lords give a little bit of Pakistan back to its poor farmers, we have to integrate the tribal areas as a part of the NWFP and build modern infrastructure and systems of governance there. We have to give people on the margins a stake in Pakistan.”"

Friday, October 23, 2009

An online thesis

I found a possibly very interesting online thsis rejected by the student himself while looking for follow ups of Edward Berman's The ideology of philanthropy : the influence of the Carnegie, Ford, and Rockefeller foundations on American foreign policy and Foundations and Public Policy: The Mask of Pluralism by Joan Roelofs. The thesis is available here. From the summary:
"The Democracy Manipulation Model outlined in this thesis builds upon Antonio Gramsci’s work on the maintenance of ideological hegemony, and incorporates the Joan Roelofs critical analyses of liberal philanthropy, and William Robinson’s writings on the elite manipulation of popular revolutions. The Model’s central focus on the manipulation of media landscapes draws upon Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky’s seminal work on the political economy of the mass media, and the thesis utilises Steven Lukes three views of power to describe the dynamics of social engineering. Case studies presented in this thesis examine how elite funding bodies have consciously manipulated all manner of media systems (including organizations that are commonly perceived to be Left-leaning or progressive) in both the US and abroad in an effort to manufacture public consent for elite interests. It is hoped that the Model outlined in this thesis will provide a useful tool for progressive activists struggling to eradicate capitalism and replace it with an alternative, sustainable and equitable form of democratic governance."

Guardian on "What the Dog Saw"

From Guardian article on Malcom Gladwell's book "What the Dog Saw" (via 3quarksdaily):
"This is what Gladwell does best: he takes an idea, recasts it as a human story, and works it through to its conclusion, taking a strip off conventional wisdoms as he goes. Even when the patterns he identifies are spurious or the conclusions flawed, the arguments he raises are clear, provocative and important. It's as if he is saying, read this, then go and think for yourself. His pieces, he says, are meant to be "adventures".

Gladwell's most recent book, Outliers, was knocked by some critics for stating the obvious: that successful people put in a lot of hours, but crucially are often in the right place at the right time and seize the opportunities life throws their way. Before that, Blink drew flak for urging readers to go with their gut feelings, except when their gut feelings were wrong.

Both books were spun out of articles Gladwell published in the New Yorker, and it is easy to see why they met with a mixed reaction. When Gladwell's theories are drawn across a broader canvas, the cracks are harder to ignore. One virtue of What the Dog Saw is that the pieces are perfectly crafted: they achieve their purpose more effectively when they aren't stretched out.

In his introduction, Gladwell tries to head off the familiar criticisms by re-stating what his writing is and isn't trying to achieve. "Good writing does not succeed or fail on the strength of its ability to persuade. Not the kind you'll find in this book, anyway. It succeeds or fails on the strength of its ability to engage you, to make you think." On that basis, Gladwell surely succeeds.

Back to that warning. There is nothing new in this new book, but that is clear from the start. What is less clear is that all the pieces are available free of charge from Gladwell's own website. If you like, you can go there and read the original New Yorker articles, complete with beautiful layouts and cartoons. You can even print them out and staple them together using an industrial stapler from the stationery cupboard at work. A trial run suggests that this could occupy an idle lunchtime.

Gladwell's publisher no doubt paid a lot of money to repackage his free stories and sell them on for a tidy profit. It is a scenario that has the makings of a Gladwellian dilemma. Why buy the book if the content is free? And what does that say about me? Is the feeling of being mugged by the publisher trumped by the virtue of convenience? The book is beautiful and brings together the writing that made Gladwell the extraordinary figure he is today. That alone is worth paying something for, but if you want to avoid mental anguish it might be safer to buy it for someone else."

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Some old stuff

Felix Salmon revisits his excellent review of
Freakonmics. Conclusion:

"If you're interested in Steven Levitt the person, then by all means read Freakonomics: you'll learn a decent amount about him and his interests. If you're interested in his work, however, I'd advise waiting for his next book, or maybe trying to track down his original papers. This short and hurried book is not the book you're looking for."

Following up a question in a Deepavali quiz, I find the completion of a story from Pavan Varma's "Being Indian" and learn that Hindu idols are perpetual minors. Pushkar’s problem :
"Mahant Laharpuri, a portly man in his sixties today and an undisputed guardian of the Brahma temple, filed a case in Pushkar courts against Benugopal Sharma, head priest of the Savitri temple. Laharpuri demanded the right to perform pujas at the Savitri temple for five days every year and more noteworthy is his other demand, to take the offerings coming his way on those days. As guardian of the Brahma temple, he said it was his right on the dwelling of the wife. The five days coincide with the Pushkar fair when pilgrim attendance is at its peak. The exact collections of Savitri temple are not clear but a considerable part of its annual revenue comes from the five days that Laharpuri is interested in. The Brahma temple is more visited and is said to collect rupees fifteen to twenty lakhs yearly...... Last year the court dismissed the dispute. However, a fresh appeal has been now filed in the District and Sessions court at Ajmer and the hearing is slated for September 17.

M e a n wh i l e, Bansal says, as defence counsel he had told the court that since Savitri was Brahma’s deserted wife she should be given alimony instead by the Brahma temple. However, this was rejected by the court on the grounds that it cannot be done in regard to idols. Also according to Hindu law (regarding idols) deities are perpetual minors and they are under guardianship of the head priest, and therefore the question of any sort of maintenance does not arise."

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Participatory Irrigation Management; a case study from Kerala

"Vermillion (1999), drawing from Ostrom (1990), has classified three types of collective action observed in participatory irrigation management: constitutional
actions—observed at the initial/organizing stage; collective choice—formulation of rules and sanctions that describe the functioning of the system; and operational
actions, which are observed at the functioning stage. Limited information is available describing constitutional actions pertaining to check-dams, as this system has been in existence for many decades. Strict rules are lacking in the management of check-dams, therefore giving less importance to collective choice. Operational actions are more important, as these are essential elements of the successful management
of check-dams." say Balooni et all in Community initiatives in building and managing temporary check-dams across seasonal streams for water harvesting in South India. Conclusions:
"Check-dams represent a traditional water harvesting system and play a vital role in sustaining and enhancing the agrarian life of Kumbadaje panchayat. This motivation, and more importantly the people’s passion to carry forward traditional practices, are the major factors for community initiatives in building and managing the
check-dams. Without check-dams,most of the agricultural land would remain unutilized during the summer, thereby limiting the scope for growing perennial
(cash) crops.

Collective action among farmers is mostly noticeable during resource mobilization and construction of the check-dams. Cost-sharing arrangements vary among the check-
dams in our study. The head of a farmers’ group conducts most of the management activities of a check-dam on behalf of others. The success of this arrangement can be attributed to the homogenous and small size groups of farmers dependent on a check-dam. However, there is a lack of coordination among decision-makers belonging to different check-dams in the study area for timely and simultaneous construction of check-dams. Late building affects the usefulness and viability of check-dams. In most of the check-dams we studied, there is no definite and effective water distribution mechanism. However, with the increasing demand for water, farmers
need to implement allocation mechanisms to avoid conflicts.

There seems to be some reduction in the importance of this traditional water
harvesting system, as seen in the declining trend in construction of check-dams. The reason is not the lack of collective action among the farmers but the increased use of bore wells for meeting irrigation requirements. A decline in the availability of specialized skilled labourers for building check-dams may further contribute to this trend in the coming years. Subsidized electricity causes both over exploitation of ground water and excessive use of capital. Both contribute to the comparative neglect of check-dams. If the subsidy on electricity is not reduced, the government should consider providing appropriate incentives for constructing and managing check-dams, which enable more efficient use of water and also generate the positive externality of recharging ground water in surrounding areas.

Temporary check-dams are more suitable for water harvesting in our study area than semi-permanent and permanent check-dams. Many semi-permanent and permanent structures, built with government support, have become defunct due to defective construction.The traditional technologyof building check-dams should be sustained in the study area. The role of the government should be limited to providing funds primarily for building traditional check-dams and emergency maintenance operations, with minimal intervention in the management activities of the farmers’ groups. Such limited but critical government intervention is needed to sustain such traditional
water harvesting systems in India and elsewhere."
Another case of community resource management from MR The economics of local forest management (or another lesson in Elinor Ostrom).