Sunday, October 04, 2009

Rights of Admission Reserved

Middle India's horror of the prospect of having to be admitted to a government hospital is probably equaled only by the prospect of having to apply for a driver's license, buying a house and having the servant not turning up for work because her kid is sick.

We of course never step into one unless we've been in an accident, in case of which one of our relatives will promptly transfer us to the nearest private hospital as soon as we are stable, or to get a doctor's certificate. We pay for it. Why do we not use it? Why let the rickshawwalla monopolise the GHs? We pay horrible amounts to the private hospitals which we could save if only we forced the policy makers to shift some thought to the sick sick sick state of healthcare in India.

Be warned, our private hospitals too are slipping away. We'll soon have no choice.. and by that time it could be too late. If you've noticed the proliferation of white and arab faces in the lobbies of the private hospitals, you'll know what I'm talking about. Medical tourism has brought smiles to the faces of doctors, hospitals and the hospitality industry. And it has increased the healthcare costs of the middle class. The doctors have no time for you, the Indian acute angina patient.. you only pay around two lakhs for care. The arab guy in the 5* room next door pays 20. The white guy in the other 5* room pays 20 too and the sweet fella even tips the wardboy and nurses in the thousands while you snap at them to dust your luggage. What are your chances? of getting a smile from the cute nurse? a decent wash from the wardboy without missing a spot? They'll get their chest shaved with a mach4 and you with a seven o'clock single blade.

Most of the problems in modern India can probably be traced to the complete apathy towards the society from middle India. The only people with the opportunity and resources to change the face of India are only too happy to sit on their asses and complain in the kitty party or the smoking corner of the office about the servant who didn't show up.

We don't only have modern day tragedies like the above right beside our glittering skyscrapers (ok.. 30 storey buildings anyways), we're building a future tragedy for ourselves.

Seriously, how do we get away from this trap? We already subsidise a spoilt bunch of brats to do the MBBS. Now we're letting an environment create itself where they'll probably have to be forced by regulation to treat Indians. They're already railing against the 1 year rural stint. We'll probably have doctors protesting against what they'll call a quota system where for every 1 case of medical tourism, they'll have to treat an Indian (we have the right to choose who we treat, rights of admission reserved, its a competitive world - if you can't afford it go to the unani/siddha practitioner). There's talk of a parallel system to treat rural patients with a 3 year medical course. We, with our medical insurance, better sanitation and currently grinning docs, couldn't care less about second rate care for the rural patients. Won't we soon be relegated to second rate care too when the pathetically small number of medical professionals that India turns out (and a significant %age of which bleed out to developed nations) would rather treat those who pay them better?

Lets remember that we have no "public option", no social security net. We're completely dependent on ourselves and our relatives/friends in case of a medical catastrophe without de-risking. We've let the government healthcare system get screwed and in our apathy, we've also left out other parts of healthcare like malpractice laws, accountability of doctors in both public and private practice, primary care, emergency care, urban and rural sanitation etc. etc. etc.

Its time we got involved in our future health. Unlike the short sighted people of Surat who kept their houses sparkling and dumbed crap on the streets and then found themselves in muck of their own making, lets start concentrating on real issues. Indian hockey and the sad state of Indian theatre will sort itself out.

Support the govt when it asks the newly minted docs to do a rural stint or at the very least in a in a semi-urban govt facilty. A secondary cadre of medical professionals is OK as long as they are never mistaken for doctors - paramedics with training in primary and emergency care should be more like it. We need medical schools much more than we need IIMs. Instead of expanding already stressed govt. medical colleges, open more secondary and tertiary care centers in semi-urban centers. If IT/ITES, real-estate firms and auto manfs. see potential in Tier 2/3 cities, so can the govt. Create mechanisms to identify good students from govt. schools to be trained as docs with subsidies and loans - they'll be less susceptible to taking the subsidy and running to the US/UK. Create an NRI quota to explicitly cross subsidise poorer students.. their fees shouldn't be just fully costed, they should have a nice fat profit margin. Tax medical tourism liberally, not as a luxury or to punish but enought to help cross subsidise primary care in India and keep the industry competitive. Loans are a far better way of administering student education expenses. Instead of subsidising any student, the govt. can pay a large percentage of the EMI as long as the person stays back in India.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

When sharing is stealing... but is it?

The problem is both Joel and the RIAA have a point. Joel might not have made money from the music he shared but he did deny whatever few cents that the artist might've gotten from a CD/Download that was bought legally. What raises everyone's hackles is obviously the immensely disproportionate damages and harassment that Joel and his like are being subject to.

The RIAA is definitely doing this to make an example. I don't think they much care about winning the damages as long as they've made their point. And no court is going to throw the case out either since the RIAA argument does have merit. The concepts clouding the case are
1. The RIAA is right but its intimidation is over the top and as a well funded entity using well exposed bullying tactics, it raises natural responses of disgust. And its ridiculous ads only serve to solidify the image of fatcat industrialists trying to suppress and oppress.

2. The RIAA is also an obsolete entity representing a fast declining way of making money off the back of creativity. The music industry itself is structured in such a way that mounds and mounds of flab in the form of useless MBAs and analysts and marketers and distributors have to be paid off. Its like one of those large corporate NGOs where 8% of your donation reaches the hungry child and the rest goes to pay those glossy mailers, envelope lickers and people plotting how to assault you with pictures selected to wrench your heart.
3. If they were serious about surviving they would've latched onto better ways of distributing music like Apple has and trimmed their physical business and wouldn't have put themselves in this position in the first place
4. It would've been so easy to mail Joel a reasonable bill for a few hundred $s, a booklet advising him on how cheap it is to pay on itunes and some simplified lawyer-speak on how keeping on with illegal sharing/downloads hurts everyone. A hundred such Joels and most of us would've gotten the message and all the consumer threats to never buy an MB of music would've been non-existent. But No! Lawyers wouldn't get paid thataway would they?
5. This is related to 2 in that all the flab creeps the price of a CD to whatever and to top off consumer disgust, albums rarely have more than 2 or 3 good songs. Consumers are disgusted with this and refuse to buy whole CDs preferring instead to download them illegaly. This in fact is the first argument offered by illegal downloaders.
So are the consumers blameless? Of course not. Its plain and simple stealing. The edge is taken off our guilt by the sheer ease of being able to hate the Music industry/RIAA with their lawyers and fatcats. Some of that hate is rubbing off on artists too.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Burn the house to roast the pig?

And the US Govt. spurred by general outrage, again does exactly the wrong thing.

Why would you amend the Tax code to do this? The tax code has nothing to do with this and has to be constantly simplified and not added to. The tax code should be relooked at only to reflect socio-economic changes and not political ones. Its a socio-economic tool and not a political tool.

IF (and its a big one) there are employees at the firm actually doing a good job of clearing up the mess, THEY deserve a bonus,if not now, maybe in the future, and they too will come under this net. And there are a million loopholes to worm out of a "bonus". The ideal way would be to cap payouts and go through tight regulations and approval process for every bonus. As nationalised (lets get real... yeah nationalised) firms, this CAN and SHOULD be done. I'm sure taxpayers would'nt mind paying people at these firms who really deserve it, for these few would be the one who're actually protecting the bailout money. For all my ranting, I still believe in people and I do believe that some that really do a good job do exist.

And American taxpayers shouldn't have to resort to changes in tax code to get the money back. They simply ought to demand 100% of it back without a tax code change. They deserve the money back. The money has been stolen from them and doesn't require a change in law to get it back. A tax code change implies that many other institutions honestly restructuring and have the potential to turn a corner this year or the next will also be affected. It also implies that a government can be a vindictive and petty institution and I thought that was thrown out with Bush and his minions.

For once I agree with the minority Republicans who oppose this
"Led by Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio, the party leader, several House Republicans assailed the legislation, calling it a diversion by Democrats eager to escape scrutiny for failing to block the bonuses."

The Govt. had an opportunity to block such unfair payouts
...and they didn't. Its a Govt. screw up and it is acknowledged that people in the know, knew. Most of the payouts went out last week and the week before and the govt. could very well have blocked it.

As of now, employees of firms with bailouts should be considered public servants. The thieves should be punished and the ones doing the protecting effectively can be rewarded. Changing tax codes takes care of the former but restricts the latter.

Scorn Trails A.I.G. Executives, Even in Their Driveways

And this is completely wrong. The executives should be taken as a collective and dealt with in that way. Hounding individuals is simply not the way to go.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Randism Rocks the world... literally

The case for Paying out AIG Bonuses
There is simply no case. Any and all arguments are superficial and do not hold up to even the simplest scrutiny.

Argument 1. Sanctity of Contracts.

There is no such thing as sanctity of contracts as far as "retention bonuses" for any AIG employee goes unless he or she is a PR agent. Retention bonuses are for people to stay back. And as the author himself describes, many have already packed up and still received their so called retention bonuses and you and I know that the minute they receive the money, so will the rest. Moreover, by definition a bonus is a share of the profits from a profitable company that goes to an employee for having made a significantly positivie contribution to that company's profits. Hmm.. AIG has plunged depths that even the Dutch East India Company didn't and not only did these employees NOT contribute anything, they were directly party to the mess the world financial markets are in.
The emotional would also add that if the sanctity of contracts is not upheld for the millions of middle class workers in the Auto, IT, Manufacturing etc. etc. sectors, why in the bloody hell is it important to uphold it for incompetent fatcats?
If Auto contracts are only under "negotiation" so are these. We know finally how the blue collars at GM & C etc. will fare. So please spare us the hijinks.

Argument 2. A.I.G. built this bomb, and it may be the only outfit that really knows how to defuse it. taxpayers need to keep some of these brainiacs in their seats.

Bollocks. First AIG didn't build it. It was a second rate party that gave the people who built it, the erstwhile Wall Street, the rating organisations and the Main Street divisions, the bulwark to keep going at it by insuring possible defaults to the main culprit, CDOs, by issuing CDSes.

Now... the people who created CDOs.. you gotta admire them ... give loans, chop em up and sell them and other parties make CDOs and spread it around till no one can actually see any risk. Now on the other hand how can anyone who insures these things be anything but a complete and utter idiot?

These are no "brainiacs". If they were, they wouldn't have been party to this "risk mitigation" scheme in the first place. Any brainiac would've known that this was in fact a brush the risk under the carpet scheme. Problem of course was that the lump of risk was big enough to trip the whole world's economy. And any brainiac would've at the right time, maybe mid or late 2007, skipped out of AIG and traded against AIG's books. These are no brainiacs, these were incompetent fools with inflated egos for whom innovation was not about creating money or empowering people with it but thieving it.

Argument 3. A.I.G. knew it needed to keep its people.

So? They'll leave irrespective of what you offer them. Which you already have. And quite a few have already left. This goes against the grain of market economics. So you'll pay significantly HIGHER for incompetent people to work in a failed firm propped up by tax dollars? Umm.. how really does this work?
AIG fuelled by incompetent and greedy fools, requires tax money to keep it afloat. And then you give the same fools Higher than usual pay to KEEP them? So that this incompetent organisation doesn't get into a depper hole... which it will manage to do by paying the same fools to do the same job? Wow! that blows my mind!

Dear Mr. Sorkin. You seem earnest in your arguments. From 13000 kms across the world, maybe seeing it from here gives me a more objective perspective than one who's in the thick of things. Or maybe I'm just a guy who like black and white or maybe its because I'm from a country where politicians and fatcats are honestly acknowledged to be thieves. Here's my two pence or 10000 shares of AIG - What we're seeing here is a kleptocracy run by thieves who've been discovered because they grabbed too much too fast and are making a last ditch attempt to distribute the loot.And it seems to me that its not just AIG but endemic to all the bailouts that the US Govt. is offering.

All of this of course is assuming what seems to be taken for granted... the world will collapse if not for AIG, and the other bailed out minions. I still haven't seen one good case... hell! ANY case.. for the people who vote in your country to pay for this world-saving gesture even as they battle lay offs and erosion of their property values. Its always been implied and no one, not even Jon Stewart, who I suppose is the only remaining person in your country with a modicum of intelligence has tried to prove it.

All this only serves to demonstrate, quite dramatically, in fact that the current system, constructed and encouraged by Messrs. Reagan and Greenspan and Paulson bowing to the Goddess Rand does not favour merit and rewards incompetents who had parents rich enough to pay for Harvard. Everything that critics had to say about Ayn Rand zealots has come to pass. Does the egg in your face and the peasants with pitchforks at your door force the least bit of remorse on you people?
If I were anyone with authority, I'd take my chance with "government appointed financial people" ,that some NYT reader contemptuously labels them, trying to disentagle this. They may not be Harvard or Wharton but I'm assuming that there's every chance that they're not inbred boston brahmin neanderthals and can tell a loan from a deposit.

Has anyone thought how satisfying it would be to actually hold these people accountable? To make them live in an industrial town and sign up with the UAW and get 200 days of work a year where they actually make a nut or a bolt instead of weaving themselves money from other people's entrepreneurship and work for the simple service of moving money from one place to another?

Sunday, March 15, 2009

India Dancing

Never ever ever did I think I'd ever write something on an Indian dancing show... in complimentary terms.
But I gotta say this about the Zee TV Dance India Dance show. Just absolutely amazing. Everything about the show except maybe for the sets.. which aren't bad really, they just don't do justice to the amazing dancers, the really good judges, decent anchors and the fantastic fantastic Mithunda who does one helluva job being the "grandmaster".
I don't give out compliments easily but where it is deserved, they go.
I've never seen a show on a Hindi GE channel that I was fascinated by. Never. Vijay TV has some innovative shows like Ipadikku Rose and a few others including comedy shows like *Lollu Sabha which have really good concepts and pretty good implementation and I don't watch other language GE channels of course. And I do a lot of browsing and I'm pretty sure I've seen at least two or three episodes of every show on Hindi and Tamil GE channels (except for the completely irredeemable ones).

First things first; Zee's Dance India Dance has simply the most amazing dance and dancers I've seen on TV, including "So Yo Think You Can Dance" that draws from the most vibrant dance community, the US. Its gratifying to see such amazing dance and variety among Indian dancers. I did think what next for these guys? But then I put it aside because the dancing was just too fascinating to think too much during the show.

Next comes the best job I've seen done by an anchor judge, Mithunda. Crisp with very little or no flabby gyaan, incisive comments and ones that even a layman like me can see matter and pertinent. And he is great fun too!

And then there are the three judges who each mentor a certain number of dancers, choreograph and choose styles for the dancers' efforts. Do I credit them or the dancers with the really innovative dances and the introduction of never before seen styles into Indian TV? They do a great job of mentoring and judging. The non-existence of a point system and a simple elimination system seems to help their objectivity too. Remo, Terence and Geeta gave me a measure of faith that there can be sanity in the crap that is the usual dance TV.

This is also one dance show that has very little flab in the way of useless drama, the crafted behind-the-scenes bitching, the mummy-daddy sentiment etc. etc. It does, of course, but its kept to a bare minimum. Also we've a wide selection of people from various places, even one who doesn't speak Hindi at all and speaks only Malayalam, which ... Mithunda translates for us :D. The diversity immediately speaks in terms of competence of dancers who introduce to us diversity in styles and moves. Its a wonder that the incredibly stale punjabi staple of both people and dance still finds takers among the producers of other shows. Its automatically assumed that for any dance or reality show you need a vast majority of participants from Punjab and Delhi the concept which this show uncerimoniously flushes down the toilet. The best dancer here so far being a Muslim from Bangalore, Salman. I'm assuming that these guys will mine even better showstoppers if they reach into TN, Andhra and the NE.

Even the onscreen histrionics you see on dance shows and reality TV is helluva lot better. Its not over the top and seems to have very little scripting. I might be wrong but is it real embarrassment I see in the anchors' faces when they announce an elimination? The responses to winning a certain round or a spot prize or losing also seems pretty raw and un-scripted and Mithunda's zingers are definitely un-rehearsed.

All in all, from locking-popping to madhuri jhatkas, from pole dancing to belly dancing, from staid tangos to item numbers the dancing has taken my breath away and is as of now the ONLY show I watch on a Hindi GE channel.

Mebbe I should buy some UTV and Zee shares. The disclaimer being ... the episodes that have the auditions are nothing to write home about.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

I Bourgeois

Untouchable women enjoy a night of fashion

Why the hell wasn't this reported in Indian media? Because the indian media is more concerned with suppressing the acknowledgement of the existence and treatment of dalits than in bringing it to light. Why? Because its audience, the "great" Indian Middle Class is more embarrassed than shameful of its treatment of the Dalits. They'd rather not acknowledge their existence than do anything to better the "untouchable"'s lot. A dramatic example of this of course is the middle class student's protests over Mandal 1 & 2. Obvioulsy all of the students were upper caste and it was such a blatant upper caste movement that they didn't even try to prove otherwise that it was a pan-class movement. In their disgusting diplay, the upper caste students and their parents brandished brooms and rakes to tell the media what they thought their under-privileged brethren should rather be doing.

Our NRI brethren are of course, as is their wont, even more vocal about their objections to reservation and they don't care enough to make a distinction between SC/STs and OBCs. NRIs are almost exclusively upper caste excluding at the most a few OBCs from TN/Andhra, Punjab and Gujarat. A quick run-through of the common surnames will tell you the truth.

A run through of the NRI demonstrations on the 2006 reservations issue.
The author writes about the hypocrisy of the demostrators far more effectively and in fewer words than I can

An IIT defending its reticence to reservations

Sure, you can be agnostic to caste and privileges if you're an Amity University or an IIPM but you're an IIT. If the Govt. forces Air India to fly to Aizwal for all of two passengers and we look at that as a public service, how is an IIT/IIM/DU any different? An IIT is our government's construct. Our government is Our societal construct. A society that has over 160 million Dalits, over 80 million Tribals constituting a good quarter of our poulation and a wide variety of lower castes estimated at 52% of pop. by the Govt. and quoted at 35% by the National Statistical Organisation, which figure obviously the anti-reservationists use (they selectively don't use the 28% of SC/STs)

If an IIT's job is to take children of traditionally privileged parents who can afford an education in a DPS or a DAV, the extra tuitions, the Kota classes and Brilliant's tutorials and turn them into exemplars of talent, why don't we simply outsource the job to SRM university? For if it were not for these consequences of privilege, many of the IITians and DU students would find that their "merit" is the same as the the son or daughter of their sweeper. Their SC/ST brethren also labour under the stigma that their surnames produce automatically and the fact that their parents are usually blue collar or menial workers who can neither afford nor understand what their children need to succeed academically. IIT Kanpur is mistaking the symptom of its existence to its cause.

The atrocities against Dalits, Tribals and minorities aren't just systemic and institutional but also violent.

As one would notice, the violence isn't random but is brought to bear brutally when the oppressed stand up for their rights or show cognisance of their rights or show improvement in their lot beyond what is judged by the upper castes as agreeable.

The Indian Middle class is rife with hypocrisy. So are its constructs like the Indian media. Unlike Engels idea of the bourgeois, I refuse to give the Indian Bourgeois the credit for breaking down barriers and dismantling feudalism. The Indian bourgeois is more interested in keeping those barriers and constructing a modern version of feudalism.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Holding a mirror to yourself - Slumdog

The NYT tries to understand why we Indians hate Slumdog

To be honest, I didn’t think it was a great movie as far as Oscar nominated ones go. Considering the stilted english (as opposed to accented), the bad acting by the lead etc. But I did think it was an honest and plausible portrayal of the situation surrounding the characters.

I was surprised by some of my friends’ reaction to the movie. While they borrowed phrases like “poverty porn” and used the argument of western condescension which used tired old cliches like the taj, bachchan etc… they WERE honestly disturbed by the picture of India that the movie painted.
… which is endemic to the middle class and higher in India. Most of us have absolutely no idea how our drivers and housemaids and electricians live. Seeing them on the screen disturbs our “middle-class sentiments”. There is no acknowledgement that we, the middle class are a privileged 40-50 million in a country of a billion. We’re interested only in stories of Vinod Dham and Sabeer Bhatia and gossip about our business houses’ latest acquisitions abroad… and forwarding fake spam on how 30% of NASA is Indian and the value of the Hyderabad nawab’s fortune.

Helplessness? Apathy? Romanticisation of poverty to hide guilt? I don’t know but “Slumdog Millionaire” as an international phenomenon is discomfiting.

Again, most of the Indian middle class would like very much to subscribe to the right winger's idea of India. A great country where there aren't any cultural dissonants like Muslims and embarrassing truths like our Dalits. Where all of us live like the NRIs in the Karan Jonar-Yash Chopra movies. Which is why you'll find wide support for the "nationalist" right wing loonies of the sangh from the middle class. This is even more drastic in our NRI brethren who hypocritically would support all kinds of minority protection, anti-racism measures etc. in their adopted homes but would generously contribute moral and monetary support to the Sangh which does the exact opposite of supressing minoroties and glossing over our societies damnable truths like untouchability, casteism, indentured servitude and feudalism.

As for the organised protests and forced shutting of theaters, I tend to agree with Mr. Sinha’s analysis of our dear Hindutwadis attempting to deflect attention from their actions which for probably the first time are being seen on mainstream internation screens. Its an embarrassment to them. Movies like Bombay, Parzania and Black Friday might exist but that an open truth to be shared among us Indians and we'll then proceed to give it a cursory acknowledgement. But to be seen on the silver screen all around the world? And just when Advani is launching his web2.0 initiative? The right wingers are giving people around the world more credit than they deserve. They're assuming the people of the world or the NRIs will put two and two together and actually see that Advani is the same leader that helped inititate the embarassing scene of riots in Slumdog. Don't worry my dear saffronites, we resident Indians and much less our NRI brethren are all too caught up in fighting off the 100 Re. increase of our housemaid's salary to notice you a******s tearing our country apart.