Sunday, February 18, 2018

Peter Richerson’s review of ‘The ages of discord’ by Peter Turchin

On blockchain technology

The blockchain paradox: Why distributed ledger technologies may do little to transform the economy ( via Namit Arora) : “Regardless of the model, my point is that blockchain technologies cannot escape the problem of governance.”
Also The great cryptocurrency heist :”Blockchains don’t offer us a trustless system, but rather a reassignment of trust”

Friday, February 16, 2018

Pankaj Mishra reviews a book of Ta-Nehisi Coates

A flavour of the review “The intimate relationship between America’s internal and external wars, established by its original sin, has long been clear. The question was always how long mainstream intellectuals could continue to offer fig-leaf euphemisms for shock-and-awe racism, and suppress an entwined history of white supremacism and militarisation with fables about American exceptionalism, liberalism’s long battle with totalitarianism, and that sort of thing. Hurricane Katrina, coming after the non-discovery of WMDs in Iraq, undermined liberal faith in Bush’s heavily racialised war. American claims to global moral leadership since the 1960s had depended greatly on the apparent breakthrough of the civil rights movement, and the sidelining of the bigots who screamed: ‘segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation for ever’. In New Orleans, black bodies naked before the elements of the world – elements which included trigger-happy Blackwater mercenaries guarding the rich – made it clear that old-style racial separation had been replaced by sharply defined zones of prosperity and destitution: segregation for ever. But the apparent successes of social liberalism, culminating in Obama’s election, managed to obscure the new regimes of racial sequester for a while longer. Since the 1990s, the bonanzas of free trade and financial deregulation had helped breed greater tolerance for racial and sexual variety, primarily among the privileged – the CIA under Obama set up a recruiting office at the Miami Beach Gay Pride parade. Overt racism and homophobia had become taboo, even as imprisonment or premature death removed 1.5 million black men from public life. Diversification and multiculturalism among upwardly mobile, college-educated elites went together with mass incarceration at home and endless military interventions abroad.” from a review of We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy by Ta-Nehisi Coates in ( book available hereWhy do white people like what I write?

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Rahul Banerjee on our trip to Pandutalab(v)

The colony of cooks-5

As mentioned before, I quit the colony around 2007 leaving the Short Stay Home in charge of the people of the colony and a new leadership grew which was not to the best interests of the colony. Some of them tried to sell of the land on which the Short Stay Home was built and when they did not succeed, they tried to built a temple on part of it. Over years, I had to make efforts to get hold of the land and succeeded. Meanwhile, the old home which was sturdy was demolished. It remains to build a good house useful for the public but meanwhile I am busy running Swadhar Greh with nobody willing to take charge of it. Apparently women with family problems who have shown some independence is not a popular theme and we  get very little funding outside the government sources. The funds usually come late and we have to take loans, sometimes at high interest, to run the home. This and the counselling centre take most of my time these days.
Meanwhile, the municipality decided to appeal in the A.P. High Court, the decision of the Zilla Court in our favour ( we have entered the case as a third party and have been funding the proceedings). This meant that a new and somewhat expensive lawyer had to be hired in Hyderabad. Now the new leadership of the colony was not of much help and I was approached to raise funds etc. for the proceedings. The case is still going on. Perhaps it was routine to appeal and we are expected to win after the previous two decisions in our favour and the colony established for more than two decades. But the case goes on, perhaps due to the lack of enough judges in the High Court, and money has to be raised to help with the proceedings.

The colony of cooks-4:1994-2007

By this rime I was a full activist for TDP. I was also taking part in various agitations and movements from earlier times. Earlier from the eighties when I was with the Communist Party, there was a fight to get fishermen the right to sell their produce in the market without interference from a contractor, various women’s movements, and also a movement to get fair prices for milk producers where I was hurt in a lathicharge. Now there were movements like protest against indecency (asleela vyatirekodyamam), Consumer’s movement (viniyogagadarula udyamam), literature type activities, protests against liquor consumption in illegal outlets ( belts shops).
This was towards the end of 1994 after.we won the case in the municipal court. At this juncture, the assembly elections took place. We in the cooks colony campaigned for TDP and one Eedara Haribabu  became the MLA as TDP candidate. Some of the TDP candidates also became members of the Municipal Committee ex officio  and the balance in the committee shifted in the favour of TDP. We were expecting more good things to happen when I got a shock in the form of a call from the Munkcipal Chairman who belonged to the Congress Party. He said though he was from a different party, he did not want to appeal the Municipal Court decision in favour of the poor people but the current MLA Haribabu wanted to appeal in the District (Zilla) Court. I was furious and dashed off on my scooter to confront the MLA. My younger friends Gangadhar and Lakhminarayana tried in vain to prevent me and followed me on their vehicles. By the time I reached the Municipal office, the. lA already left the place. By that time Gangadhar and Lakshminarayana caught up with and physically prevented me from proceeding any further. This was early 1995 and I am still not sure what I would have done if I had caught up with the MLA. In any case, the  MLA helped us later with the sanction of a boring well to the colony.
During this period, I was also caught up with various administrative positions with TDP. I also developed as a speaker, singer, poet. Possibly, NTR bestowing attention on me on three different occasions ( once as a speaker, once as a singer and once as an anti liquor agitator)by garlanding me might have helped in improving my image in the public. And C.B. Naidu too appreciated my work and sanctioned the administrative positions I held. I was a member of the Price Monitoring Committee from 1995-98, Jury Member for Nandi awards from 1996-1998, a director of the Mineral Development corporation from 1998-2000 and Regional Organiser (RO) for Women Welfare and Child Development Department from 2000-2005.
But my commitment to the colony continued, and I actually lived in the colony from 1997-2004 running the Short Stay Home whereas my husband Balakrishna lived with the children in our own house since he felt that both of us living in the colony may seem like we got the place for ourselves. During this period, the Short Stay Home also became a hub of activity for women activists and it was not uncommon to see 10-15 of them there on a given day and discussing various issues. They also helped us with our colony problems. Some of the Dalit women leaders probably cut their teeth during that time. These include Betapudi Rajeswari, ,G.Mary Ratnakumari and others. And some of the women in the colony also developed in to leadership roles.
During this time, we also started a Dpep(?) school for children, these were not regular schools but schools run by volunteers with encouragement from the government. Even children from outside the colony attended our school. The youth in the colony helped with various tasks like digging a big hole for a step well storage tank, making reasonable earthen roads etc. Some of the younger people who helped were Ravi, Shyam,Siva, Venkaiah and even younger people like Jagadish, Suresh, Raja, Kishore, Subbarao and others. We also collected the evidence needed for the court, gathered finances for the case, Karavadi Raghavarao continued to argue ably for us. Dr. A.P. Vithal continued to encourage us and provided financial support. He also treated the children living in unhealthy and conditions of malnutrition. Many other contacts that we made during the political processes possibly helped our profile. Finally, we won the Zilla Court too. This was around 2004-2005. We also got back some of the land we lost with the help of Mantri Sreenivasarao. Some people who gave up hope and left came back. We also facilitated Pushpamba who proved to be an excellent witness on our behalf. For some unknown reason Pushpamba, a graceful old lady committed suicide later, just leaving a note that she was taking her own life.
At this stage, despite my protests, the colony was named as Aruna Colony my many and a board was put up with that name. But trouble was brewing. Some of the people who became leaders during the struggle felt this as a threat to their leadership. They colluded with a lady councillor in the municipality and removed the board. I already moved back to my home, husband and children in 2004. I felt that it was time to move on for good from the colony. Around 2007, I left to the colony the Short Stay Home I built in honour of mother Tella Narayanamma, and made it in to a committee Hall. I thought that it was the end of my Association with the colony of cooks. But it was not be. The rest, next time.

P.S. There was a hiccup in posting from India after the previous post. Many of the next few appeared on Facebook. 

Saturday, January 06, 2018

The colony of cooks-3:The first court case 1991-94 ( continued)

The Revenue Department refused to survey the land for allotment. We had to hire a private surveyor to do this. He surveyed, made room for roads and we finally allotted about 750 square feet of land for each person. There were two other allotments. One for me in a corner where I built a Short Stay Home for women and another for Mattibandi (cart of soil) Venkaiah who helped us at cheap rates to fill up the allotted plots again with fresh earth. Meanwhile, there was fresh trouble. We heard that several politicians were making representation to our local M.P. to cancel our allotments. His name was Magunti Subbaramieddi, and we heard that he was in Tirupati making arrangements for a Congrss Party session. We hired a Commander Jeep and made a dash to Tirupati to meet him.i and Saraswati Lakshmi Kumari were in the front seat and Sesharatnamma, Vijayamma., Singaiah, Raja and others in the back seats. We met Sri Subbaramireddy. He said that he knew Babu (C.B.Naidu) well and that he would speak to him ( by that time, they were in different parties but there were family friendships). Since we could not afford to keep the Jeep for the night, we started back immediately. I was at the end of the front seat of the Jeep and I did not sleep during the previous two nights. Around midnight, Lakshmi Kumari suddenly pulled me inside. Apparently, I fell asleep and was about to fall and if Lakshmi Kuari had not pulled me inside, I would not have been here to tell you the story.
By 92-93, we somehow built our houses, many of them tin sheds, after a lots financial struggles. However, our troubles continued. The Municipality used to dump rubbish on our land. Some rowdies burnt the huts without tin roofs. Luckily the damage was contained with our collective efforts and finally by a fire engine. A complaint to the Collector took care of the dumping of rubbish. We took turns to keep vigil during the nights to protect the houses from vandals and rowdies.At one time there was a rumpor that there was price of one lakh rupees on my head and some rowdies were hired from a neighboring district to assassinate me. I was unaware of these rumours and once went home on a scooter driven by Lakshmi Kumar. She was blasted by my husband who just then heard the rumours. We had help too. Our lawyer Karavadi Raghavarao encouraged us. The local S.I. Murali Krishna used to visit us often.
At the same time,APMAS (Andhra Pradesh Mahila Abhyudaya Samiti) with Ramalakshmi Arudra, Dr. K.V.Krishna Kumari, Roudri and others encouraged us. We ( the cooks group) started participating in some of the activities like movement against excessive prices, indecent pictures,... some of the younger people started Yuva Jana Abhyudaya Samiti and it was encouraged by the elders. Lenin was supposed to have said ‘every cook must learn to rule the state’. We probably made a start on this. The women in the movement used to try to protect the colony in the night with big ladles available to them and in the day moved around the government offices with me leaving the houses in the care of their husbands. This went on until 1994.
Then we had municipal elections. Mantri Sreenivasa Rao contested on behalf of the Congress Party, Venkata Rao on behalf of TDP, me and Matte Raghava Rani as independents. Sreenivasa Rao won the election and as soon as he won, he sanctioned electricity to the Colony. We used this for organising payment of taxes. Raghavarao argued well for us in the Municipal Court and one Pushpamba proved to be an excellent witness for us. And we won the case in 1994. As soon as we won our folks went around to various goddesses to honour their previous vows, took me along and also treated me as a goddess. I tried to dissuade them from doing this since it would be very natural to treat me as a devil if I made mistakes. This caution proved to be useful in the next few years.

The colony of cooks-3: The first court case 1991-94

Below I will describe the years of struggle in Aruna’s own words transcribed by me. This is what she remembered during a few days of December, 2017 when I spent some weeks in Ongole. The dates may not be entirely accurate but she has newspaper cuttings from that period and a more accurate account can be put together at some stage. The story so far is that a swamp land near the Ongole bus station was sanctioned for cooks colony by the Revenue Department.The cooks drained the land to some extent and built a few huts on the higher ground. The Municipality went to court against the Revenue Department for sanctioning the land without their consent. The society formed by the cooks entered the case as the third party respondent with Karavadi Raghavarao arguming for them. There was a stay order since the cooks were already in possession of the land. Though the cooks were not supposed to do any thing more until the final decision was given by the court, the conditions were unlivable with only bits of higher ground in the swamp and Swampy conditions with mosquitoes all around. Back to Aruna.
The grant of valuable land in the middle of the town was not appreciated by either the political parties including leftist ones or the various wings of the government. It was around this time I shifted from Communist Party to Telugu Desai Party.The shift did not help. But some particular politicians off and on and some individuals interested in the welfare of the poor helped us as I continued to lead the cooks in establishing the colony. I will mention some of these names as I go along and might have forgotten some names, I hope to include some of the other names in a fuller account later on. Some of the early supporters I remember are Dr. A.P.Vithal, A.V.S. ( movie artist)Dr. Chavali Santikumar and various other progressives.There was a police officer, the late Murali Krishna who was S.I. at that time and became a D.S.P. later on provided us with protection. Apart from the political parties who were opposing us, there were also other establishments like the Veterinary Department,R.T.C. , Ekalavya Colony nearby who were claiming parts of the land sanctioned to us and also started encroaching on the land sanctioned to us. Then there were rowdies harassing us and we did not know at whose behest.And we did not have the minimal infrastructure to establish the colony. We decided to proceed with establishing the colony despite the limitations imposed by the judgement of maintaingn the status quo.
The first problem was to fill up the land outside the higher ground on which we established the huts. At that time we had communal meals with lanterns and candles. Finally I decided to proceed with the development of the colony and sold my gold bangles to start the proceedings. Dr. A.P. Vithal also helped with the finances. The first step was to fill up the land away from the huts. The rubbish dump to the Municipality was close to us. We spoke to the drivers of the tractors dumping the rubbish and during the next few months diverted thousands of tractors of rubbish, at the cost of twenty rupees to each load, to fill up the rest of our allotted land. The smell was unbearable but we had to stay there to make sure that the rubbish was dumped on our lot. Some of the people who stood guard to achieve this were Sesharatnamma, Saraswati Lakshmi Kumari, Sivapraxad, Rajyalakshmi, Koteswararao,Shyam and others. Once Sivaprasad was badly hurt by glass pieces while rearranging the rubbish but did not flinch. I tried to help him and I too was hurt. Then the attention of all shifted to me and after that I stopped getting in to the rubbish and just guided the others. Those were difficult times with mosquitos all around. We used smoke tablets to drive them away to some extent, bought mosquito nets and blankets for protection during the nights. Finally, we filled the dump some time during 1992. The nest job is to fill up the land with proper soil to cover the rubbish. We felt that unless we built semi-proper houses on that land, it would be difficult to keep the land. It was also necessary to make proper house allotments instead of the huts we arbitrarily built earlier. ( to be continued)

Thursday, December 28, 2017

How Inequality works “The political upheavals and populist incursions of the past few years owe much to widespread perceptions of inequality and economic injustice in advanced economies. While median wages have stagnated, incomes at the top have continued to rise, and there is growing evidence to suggest that the two phenomena are connected.“
World’s richest become 1 trillion richer in 2017

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Teaching reading

This is what I want for my students. First, I want them to read a book, all the way through. I want them to find something difficult and do it anyway. Then, I want them to notice what a powerful tool literature is, to understand that without it we can’t know ourselves or the society we live in. I want them to discover that if they learn to handle language they’ll no longer be helpless, drowning in sugary gratification. Finally, I want them to see that reading breeds thinking, and thinking breeds resistance, and surely, especially right now, that is a good thing.“ from 'The difficulty is the point': teaching spoon-fed students how to really read 

Saturday, December 23, 2017

A birth in the Short Stay Home (Swadhar Greh)

This is currently run by Aruna Tella under the auspices of APMAS. Yesterday night, one of the girls here gave birth to her second child, a son again. The pains started around one in the morning but the girls could not get a response from the hospital. Aruna Tella was woken up around three a.m. and somehow the voice of the person who spoke mattered and an ambulance was arranged immediately. The birth came around four thirty in the morning. There was no doctor at that time though one was supposed to be present. But the ambulance and the treatment were free thanks to a scheme introduced by CBNaidu and improved by Y. Raja Sekhara Reddy.
Some of the cases I have seen here are from lower middle classes with failed marriages often arranged by parents for underage girls. The girl’s case is one such. Parents forcibly married her to a person who turned out to be a drunkard and wife beater. She could not take it and came to the house with one child. Then there was reconcialiation for few months and she came back again pregnant. At some stage she developed a relationship with somebody she liked. She claims that the second child is his and possibly the first child too. Luckily, he is prepared to marry.
She was taken to the hospital by two other girls who were also in the home after difficult relationships. The first girl was in love with a person of different caste and her parents were against it. She joined the home and started working hoping to marry after she turned eighteen. She started working and fell in love with another at work. The first lover was heartbroken and tried to commit suicide. After that failed attempt, he continued to implore her and she complained about him to the police for harassment. The other girl came from better economic background and waiting for her lover to complete his studies. But she does not want to share work with others and often pays others to her share of work. There are some problems of fights, thefts and so on but in emergencies, they seem to come to each other’s aid.

some of these problems seem related to sex and marriage. There is an impression that extramarital affairs have been generally on the rise. The cause of these problems may be the desire of the parents to marrying off the girl’s at a young age with their own norms of alliances, property, status etc and not taking in to account the temparement of the children.

Addendum to The Colony of cooks-2

I would like to point out some special problems faced by women in these agitations. In this particular struggle, we had to meet politicians and officials. They were generally courteous but even during this brief period, there were a couple of disconcerting instances.
Once we had to meet a politician known for his fondness for the other sex, and I met him with a couple of cooks. After a meeting, the politician asked me to meet him alone in the evening. We were a bit vary of the prospect. The other two ladies were reluctant to let me go alone. They said that they would come along with me, wait outside and if I did not come out in five minutes they would burst in to the office. They also said that they were prepared to give up their allotment but would not leave me to the whims of a known womaniser. Possibly apart from the desire to finish the process that I started, the loyalty of such friends kept me going. Once inside, I reminded the politician that I was friends with his son and he addressed me ‘akka’. I also told him how good looking his granddaughter was. Anyway after five minutes, the other ladies came in and the meeting ended without much problems and there was no further trouble with the politician.
The second time, there was a municipal council meeting about the sanction of the land to us and we met and requested the councillors not to object to our request. The resolution supporting us almost passed but there was one dissenter. Since it was the last council meeting before the next elections, the matter was sent to an officer to either uphold or squandered the dissent. The official also knew me from other agitations in which I was participating at that time. He wanted to discuss the matter privately with me. But I went with my colleagues when I met him next and the official upheld the dissent and that was how the matter was sent to the court in the first place but the judge upheld the status quo. But as they say correlation is not the same as causation.