Reality Check India

Below poverty level is not ‘Below poverty level’

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on August 28, 2009

In a fake socialist state like ours, nothing is free.  Within weeks of Amartya Sen holding out his theory that poverty is not just being poor, the Congress government has announced this gem.

Currently, BPL families are identified on the basis of scores (0 to 4) on 13 socio-economic parameters. But an expert committee, formed by the rural development ministry, has recommended additional marks for scheduled castes and tribes (SC/STs), Most Backward Castes, Other Backward Classes (OBCs) and Muslims. If a household has members with tuberculosis, leprosy, disability, mental illness or AIDS, it will also be awarded points.

Source : BS (Panel recommends caste as new BPL criteria)

Every instrument of dispensation of public goods are now being made to serve the grand interest.  The Indian state will divide people even for completely secular purposes such as identification of the poor.  The actual benefits that accrue to the BPL families from such divisions are not important.

What is important is to demonstrate :

  1. the power of the elected to determine your position in society in a completely ad hoc way
  2. the width of this regime. It is not just about college seats.
  3. the plight of those who are not covered. (we get nothing, but my neighbour gets shafted, so this must be good for me, let me vote for my group)
  4. the irrationality of it all (for example : why are christians not given 1 point for being a minority? ) By intentionally leaving irrationality on the table, they will put it out of sane discussion.

If there are any international* students of political science who want to study India. Start from here. This is the where it starts and ends. There are very few free agent voters. The number is getting compacted every election cycle.

* (Indian political science students, please do not explore this angle in your thesis. Lets just say…)

We are not outraged

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on August 17, 2009

To The Gentle People of the World,

We wish to inform you that the following headlines are not representative of what people think in India.

A nation outraged ! (over Harbajans racial attack on Symonds)

A nation outraged ! (over Shahrukhs ‘detention’)  My great aunt (74 yrs) traveling alone has been detailed in JFK for 11 hours. She does not have a muslim last name. She came out with a smile. Her only complaint was there was no vegetarian food in the deli that the immigration officer too her to. So, she just had to eat the hamburger buns. King Khan should stop crying. Special treatment by birth, political connections, corruption enabler middlemen connections, bolly/kolly/tollywood status, or closeness to 200+1 families stop once you leave our shores.

Nation clamors for social justice to Shah Rukh Khan. (No, the nation clamors for no such thing. The nation clamors for data driven social justice, but the politico-medio class wants ad-hoc social justice delivered purely at their pleasure. But you already knew that this setup forms the cornerstone of Indian politics)

Nation clamors for vengeance against Brad Pitt and Angeline Jolie (No such thing) The nation could not care less. SRK shows his bollywood shtyle mentality by declaring that “If they want I can frisk Angelina when she is here in India”. Dude, this is cheap even by Bollywood standards.

In fact, if you see any headline that starts with “A nation outraged …” – Run ! The media here does not know the first thing about what the nation thinks.


Hey readers, Are you checking out the only worthwhile Indian blog on contemporary issues, Barbarindians ?

The idea of social justice

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on August 9, 2009

Amartya Sen is all over Indian TV channels promoting his new book titled “The Idea of Justice“. I am just writing this post from observing the various interviews he has given to TV channels like IBN and NDTV.

In the true spirit of the “Argumentative Indian”, it is hard to really get to the core of what he is trying to say. He is like a dragonfly, you approach it with great stealth, your fingers ready to snap it, you are almost certain you have it but it flies off to land a feet away.

Take the following example :

Three children — Anne, Bob and Carla — are quarrelling over a flute: Anne claims the flute on the ground that she is the only one of the three who knows how to play it; Bob demands it on the basis that he is so poor that — unlike others — he has no other toys to play with and it would therefore mean a lot to him if the flute were given to him; and Carla says that it belongs to her because she has made it with her own labour.

The important thing to note here is that none of the claimants questions their rival’s argument but claims that his or hers is the most persuasive. So, who deserves the flute?

Should it go to the child for whom it represents the only source of entertainment as he has no other toys to play with? Or to the one who can actually make practical use of it; or to the child to whom it must belong by virtue of her “right” to the fruits of her labour?


To the common man, the question of who should have the flute can be easily adjudicated. It is as simple as this. Who has current ownership of the flute. We have evolved to a point where the words ‘current’ and ‘ownership’ are fairly clear. Dissent at this basic level will be met with, ‘What the f— is he thinking’. If you find something unclaimed first, you have a ownership right over those who only found it in your possession.

If Carla (the child who made the flute) has not yet traded her ownership rights (i.e sold it ) she owns it. Bob (the poor child) has no rights unless he found the unclaimed flute first. Similarly, Anne (the child who knows to play  it) has no rights unless she too found the unclaimed flute first.

I do not think any reasonable person, including die hard socialists really dispute the simple ownership scenario described above.  It is helpful to remember that socialism never promises an absolute equality, it only promises an undefined greater equality.  The soup called ‘something better’ can easily be sold to the masses under various brands.

The scenario described by Amartya Sen is not about justice but about social justice. It could be better phrased as the following.

Imagine that a government had resources to produce exactly one flute, and it was decided that it had no choice but to produce a flute. Who among Bob, Anne, Carla should get that flute ?

See how smoothly we are able to transpose a scenario of ownership into a scenario justifying a central power deciding competing claims.Mr Sen is simply saying that this central deciding power must be compassionate and hold judgement in favour of eliminating the most obvious forms of injustice. Mughal emperor Akbar is portrayed as the ideal here. It is hard to argue with this theme because we are instantly presented with an example of how hard it is to teach a starving student. The real problem in the Indian context is that there are multiple such ‘obvious forms of injustice’ so the problem comes down to assigning weights and evaluating claims of being a victim of an ‘obvious injustice’.

This is the well tread social justice trail.

The book should have been called the ‘The Idea of Social Justice’.

Also check out Acorns take on it.