Reality Check India

RTE Bill links

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on December 30, 2009

Here are some links about the RTE (Right to Education Bill)

http://prayatna.typepad.com/education/2009/12/school-choice-national-conference-2009-session-1-summary.html

http://www.schoolchoice.in/scnc2009/

I read some of the PPT slides on the site. Quick impressions :

1. There is widespread acceptance that proper utilization of the 25% quota is the key

2. The slides by Sam Carlson focused on the implementation and monitoring the utlization of the 25% quota

3. One slide says that the 25% quota can be be scaled up so “entire disadvantaged” communities benefit

4. Everyone skimmed over the all important fact that Christian run schools cannot be brought under this regime

There is some good material on those two sites.

We will watch this bill closely as the rules are worked out.

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RTE, Right to Education Bill, how well thought out is it ?

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on December 29, 2009

First the PDF of the RTE gazette notification is available here.

The RTE bill is being polished and packaged. You can expect to see it on your neighbourhood shelves soon.

How well thought out is it ? Well, read the above PDF and judge it for yourself.

Here is an excellent opinion piece titled “Trick or Teach”

Talk about obfuscation. Who is to decide who this “weaker section and disadvantaged group in the neighbourhood” is? And what is “the extent of per-child-expenditure by the State”? The answer to the first question is: state-level bureaucrats and local politicians will decide who qualifies. It sets up one more opportunity for milking the poor and holding private schools to ransom. In addition, the government’s “per-child-expenditure” is about Rs 3,000 a year, based on an extrapolation from figures provided by the standing committee on human resources development. That’s Rs 250 a month! Under the NREGA, the government pays Rs 100 a day for the poorest of the poor to dig ditches. Even that is low. In Goa, the mandated rate for manual labour is Rs 200 a day.

The RTE Act is poorly framed. It is currently being translated into policy under the ministrations of half a dozen bureaucrats. Like all well-meaning legislation, it will only create more problems. Government schools will remain non-functional. Private schools will have to face, in addition to highfalutin government influence over admission policies, the spectre of dealing with low-level bureaucrats and local politicians (read thugs).

Source : TOI

Also like to add,

1) Christian schools, which control the majority of elite schools are exempt from this. So even if the rest of the RTE Act was perfect and the whole thing worked completely as intended – there would be little impact on the ground. You still cant get your dumb kid into St Xavier or Don Bosco or Mount Carmel. I guess we need to be thankful that at least these will be spared.

2) If you were running a Hindu non-linguistic school, you could be excused for mistaking this to be a ransom note. Some examples.

  • Clause 14. No screening procedure for admission. In fact, if you had a screening procedure you are liable to a 25,000 penalty for the first interview and Rs 50,000 for each subsequent offence. Alternately, you may plead for mercy from your local party functionary.
  • Clause 15. No denial of admission. So if multiple students present themselves for limited seats, you are not allowed to screen them. So it is either hefty fines or prostrating before your local party functionary.
  • Clause 19.5. Recognition and penalty. All schools must meet recognition criteria, which themselves are unrealistic compared to government schools. In addition, clause 20 allows the government powers to modify the norms at anytime.  If you fail to meet the criteria or get your recognition withdrawn, here is the penalty. Rs One Lakh for the offense itself and Rs 10,000 for each day the school operates. In other words if you operate a school and fail to get recognition from the government for a year – you have to cough up 1 Lakh + 365*10,000 = Rs 37.5 Lakh.

The list just goes on and on. The most stunning aspect of the bill is.

There is no acknowledgement of the role to be played by the owners, founders, trustees, and management of the school themselves.

On the ground this bill will have poisonous divisive effect.

1. Children will have to get their caste certificates ready at Kindergarten level given the shortage.

2. Till date, schools at least in urban areas have largely been free of caste identity. Not any more.

3. The school management committee, if workable will also have to meet caste quotas in addition to the 50% women quota. Otherwise, the management will pack the SMCs with their appointees to get around compliance.

4. Places enormous power at the hands of local politicos. Has the ability to undo decades of hard work for the school boards and transfer control to the politicos.  Who in turn are largely elected for being benefit protectors of the data less quota regime, the core of contemporary Indian politics.

5. I dont think the economic quota is workable. It will produce grand anomalies. Impossible to set a meaningful cut off or to check income certificates.  Quick turnaround (for better or worse) not accounted for. Pressure to cover government employees at lower grades under economic criteria, etc, etc.

Forever third world. Looming threats to free agent hood

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on December 26, 2009

We don’t make any bones about the basic nature of Indian democracy. Elections are nothing but another chance to say ‘hurrah’ for your closest benefit protector. This is what keeps all issues like sewage on the roads or inflation off the voters minds.

If you have been reading this blog you already know my theory about the ‘Free Agent Voter‘. The Congress party is about to embark on two major initiatives to compact the population of free agents even further.

  1. The Right to Education Act : How on earth can you oppose something as noble as the right to education, you are sure to ask ?
  2. The inclusion of religious quota and the inclusion of Christians and Muslims in the SC list.

Lets look at the Right to Education Act in this post.

First of all, opposing the Right to Education Act does not mean opposing the Right to Education. The real problem with the RTE is that it will compact the free agents to insignificance while thrusting an extremely suboptimal education policy down the nations taxpayers throats. It will also consolidate existing locked in groups using the adhesive of communal suspicion. Let me elaborate.

The most insidious aspect of the bill is the 25% quota system. Actually, not just that, but that the government gets to select who benefits from this 25% quota. Actually, not just that, but that the government gets to select who benefits without any burden of data.

Sounds familiar ? Yes, this is nothing but the quota system in disguise. This time it is for non minority schools, may include economic and disabled sub quota, and is pegged for the moment at 25%.  None of this is of course cut in iron. Once the basic premise of 25% is accepted, there is very little ground to oppose hiking it to 26%, 30%, or even 50%.  The reimbursement model is simply unworkable and at best will be a massive taxpayer burden with no accountability from either the government or school managements. It will lead to several moral hazards “Why should taxpayer X who sends his kids to a Rs 400/mo school subsidize select student Y to go to a Rs 2000/mo school ?”. How does a popular school select from a large pool of “voucher holders” ? An entrance exam ? Should the open category poor or OBC poor be selected against the economic sub quota ? The questions go on – and the final answer is of course, who ever has the recommendation letter  from people powerful enough to influence the SMCs (School Management Committees) . This is always the equilibrium of arbitrary policy and the sweet spot of Indian politicians.

Wait, Isn’t this about poor students ?

Yeah at first it could be, but a soap bubble soon assumes a spherical shape even if it looks like a pear as it leaves the straw.  The act includes several categories ranging from poor to handicapped to  SC/ST/Socially Backward all lumped together in a completely ill thought out manner.

There can only be one ‘primary staging group’ for social justice. There can be other derived or sub groups, but never two primary groups.  You cant have fluid identification (like economic status) and tribal identification (like caste/religioin) both as primary staging groups.  Sooner or later it will degenerate into sub quotas very much like our higher education and public employment policy so that we have separate quotas for each group.

What about St Xaviers (or insert favourite school here) ?

Minority schools will be exempt from this program. At best it will just be a matter of showing that these schools have admitted poor students from their own community. See proposals here.  It might even be a win-win for them because they can get government reimbursement for their not so popular school branches but retain control of the really good ones.

How does this impact free agent voter population ?

Very bad news here for India. Everyone knows arbitrary policy purely at the pleasure of individuals and life stories can easily cut the other way. Hence it is better to be on the safe side.

From the standpoint of minorities. The mere fact that their leaders have managed to keep the corrupt Indian state off their back will be a remarkable achievement. Their touchstone will be the plight of the other non-minority schools nearby now under a new permit raj of the so called school management committees (SMCs), which too will degenerate in due time into tribal representation.  All this creates a grand incentive for the minorities to support the safest choice that protects this insulating layer.

From the standpoint of Hindus. This is where it gets interesting. Schools who enjoy a strong tribal political base (read run by politically strong castes) have little to fear from the status quo but much to fear from the destruction of it.  Therefore, the natural reaction is to rally behind the electoral choice that best protects this status quo. This usually takes the form of a few caste leaders with connections who can secure a place at the resource allocation table. However, this is an uneasy calm because these leaders could develop vested interests themselves in short order.

Schools run by Hindu non linguistic politically weaker communities will serve as demonstration of what awaits the other locked-in groups if they attempt to defect. The management of these schools will have to keep their phone lines ready to humor the smallest politician or neighborhood big shot who will have their own favourite disadvantaged. The nimble ones may quickly offer seats to the kins of politicians and insulate themselves a bit, but even that will be short lived because the demands never stop.

So what are you saying, ditch this program  ?

Ignore for a minute that it does not matter what I say. I fully support government involvement directly in education. In other words, cut this crap and just open new government schools like it is done everywhere else. Instead of educating 1 poor child in a Delhi Public School, educate 100 in a new government school. Go ahead, construct 8 story school blocks in urban areas.

You can then use the coercive powers of the state to attract the resources need to run these schools. This is the path a true socialist state would have taken. However, if you really want to pursue a voucher system, first put in place two things.

  • Identification of beneficiaries must automatically come with the burden of data.
  • The voucher must be valid at all schools. No exemptions based on tribal identity.

It wont happen. This strikes at the very root of our contemporary political setup. Instead, our netas will use this to peddle yet another round of divide and rule in disguise. Our media will distract the issue by putting on air hysterical supporters of merit and letting them make a fool of themselves. Mission accomplished.

——

Bonus links :

Picture of victims of data less social justice used to promote a completely unrelated policy, that of a disabled sub-quota. This one is a classic.

Headline finesse “Migrant kids to have better access to education“. Actually migrant kids are no better off, they have to fight with stationary  kids based on how their tribal identity is currently classified.

Another template article on substantive equality written without  Microsoft Excel running on any computer in a 5 km radius.

Victims of data less social justice find a saviour

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on December 13, 2009

If any one is looking for a perfect case study of the effect of quota without data on the political system, look no further.

Recently, the Tamilnadu government partitioned the SC quota into two. SC-Arundathiyars were allocated 3% and the non-Arundathiyars the remaining.  There was a massive event in the city organized by various members of the community to thank the Chief Minister.

”We are a hundred times happier now than we would be at one of our weddings. Kalaignar Karunanidhi is responsible for this,” said AMK president Valasai Ravichandran.

Arundathi Makkal Katchi leaders renewed their vow to support Karunanidhi and the DMK in all upcoming elections. In the recent general election, the AMK had supported the DMK.

Source : Express Buzz (emphasis added)

This quota enabled students of their community to bag 59 medical seats and 1100+ engineering seats. We wish them well.  They have every right to these benefits under the social justice platform.

The real question is this :  Is this not a grave injustice to this community that it took 65 years to correct ?  A simple pulse check of the utilization of the quota would have revealed that this community was left behind decades ago. Three generations of Arundathiyars would have been Collectors, Government officials, Doctors, and Policemen. Instead, for six decades,  six % of Tamilnadu was forced to continue in their plight. Think about what lies at the root of this.

Why was a simple pulse check not performed on this all important socialist ration of education and jobs ?  In my view,  engineered exclusion is the worst kind of injustice. This is the kind of justice that Amartya Sen would never ever talk about. The ambiguity and the promise of something better is key to fake socialism.  They would never support measurement because it undermines the promise.  This is why exactly ZERO  social activists, NGOs, socially aware bloggers are talking about this.

In this light, Mr Karunanidhi needs to be applauded. Think about it.  The judicial system has excused itself from scrutiny leaving hundreds of millions waiting for social justice marooned. They are completely at the mercy of the politicians with no public domain data available to build up public consciousness about what needs to be done. The  media and social activists wont touch this either.  Therefore one has to conclude that in this case Mr Karunanidhi really has rescued this community from the tyranny of adhoc social justice.  Has he not ?  Easily distracted, the courts have let down the very people strict scrutiny will help most.  The most backward.

The real question remains.  How many other communities are there like this ? When will their turn come ? What if they are numerically small and found mainly at traffic signals and breaking stones ? What if they cannot offer a concentrated and stationery vote bank ? Who will speak for them ?

In a parallel India, imagine if marginalized groups were guaranteed a place on the platform.  There would be no need to beg for what is rightfully theirs. This would instantly release hundreds of millions into free agent hood and put big ticket issues back on the voting block.

PS:

Not a single ELM TV channel carried the story.

Nothing on blogs where the legal eagles nest.

Lamp unislamic, minister of UPA (led by Congress Party)

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on December 13, 2009

Mr E Ahmed, Union Minister of State of Railways, of the  Muslim League refused to light a kuthuvilakku (a lamp) at a public event at Indo Japan Chamber of Commerce.

The UPA (Congress Party led coalition) minister is first from left

Here is the report,

The minister, who flew into the city on Saturday especially to inaugurate the seminar on ‘Status of Infrastructure’, organised by the Indo-Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, caught the other dignitaries offguard when he declined to accept the candle offered to him to light the kuthuvilakku on the podium.

One of the organisers told this newspaper that the minister refused to light the lamp because it is an un-Islamic action.

“The Muslim community does not light lamps. It is against Shariah, the code which governs Islam,” said another. IJCCI president N. Krishnaswami told this reporter not to make an issue of this.

Source  : DC

This is the Indo Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry event.  The government just made a laughing stock of the Indian people in view of the Japanese. They are sure to chuckle, “WTF, you guys haven’t even sorted this out among yourselves after 65 years ?”

The factors that make it unacceptable are :

  • The Kuthuvilakku is widely accepted as a “secular” thing. There are no images of Gods on the lamp
  • Even the “Dravidian” leadership, widely considered to be rabidly anti-hindu, light the Kuthuvilakku at the drop of a hat
  • The great Indian political nervousness is not justified in this case.  “First you will ask us to light the lamp, then you will ask for data about performance of the social justice platform“.  Lighting the lamp is not like lighting a fuse. The bedrock of contemporary Indian politics is not about to be blasted away. So there is nothing to fear
  • Several prominent Muslims have lighted the lamp before the minister. See here for an example
  • Sharia cannot be followed in the public domain, at least in front of other countries. No one is forcing you to light a lamp at home

Note to Mr Vishnu Som.

This kind of behaviour and not minarets in alpine villages, measure up to a fundamental threat to Indian Muslims.

Ayodhya for dummies – the real ones

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on December 8, 2009

Mr Vir Sanghvi’s Q&A titled Ayodhya for Dummies is nothing short of a spectacle.

We wonder if this was to atone for his ‘Liberhan report is complete rubbish‘ comment. We would not be surprised if the Q&A took two passes to write. The first pass would have the right answers, and the second pass a varnish job to give it a secular shine.

2. Did Muslim invaders destroy Hindu temples?

Ans. The sad answer is yes, they did. Some of this was for the purposes of looting (temples were rich) but some of the destruction was religion-driven.

Why is this a sad answer ?  If raiding of temples were only for looting, the invaders would have left the structures untouched. This was almost never the case.  Looting was overlaid on what was primarily seen a religious duty.  None of this of course rubs off on present day Muslims.  So there is no need to get defensive about the true nature of Mughal rule.

Yes it was. There is no getting around that. Religious tolerance was not always a quality prized by medieval Muslim warriors.

But let’s keep in mind that those were different times. There was an era when Hinduism had been eclipsed in much of India by Buddhism. When Hinduism made a comeback some centuries later, Hindu kings destroyed Buddhist monasteries, more or less throwing Buddhism out of India.

I dont think people in India care about “medieval Muslim warrious” (see the dilution in action).Before the secular varnish, the sentence would have read, “…Mughal rulers of India“.  Why attempt to “get around” anything either.  People will then wonder if it was easy for the historians to “get around” Akbar or the Bahmanis ?

The Buddhism argument is a polemic. Also funny because it unwittingly does great disservice to the Indian Muslims and underhandedly supports the demolition.  It pulls the rug from under the Muslims in the sense that it says that the actions of the kar sevaks could indeed be justified if they had rebuilt exactly one Buddhist site first. They could even take Mathura if they rebuild yet another Buddhist site.  It is silly to bring Mr Abhishek Singhvi’s TV soundbits nonsense under the microscope.

Buddhism, Jainism, Hinduism are all native religions to the area. Throughout history each of them have had their crests and troughs.  Hinduism predates and embraces all – even giving Buddha a position in the Dasavataram.

6. Was this true?

Ans. Probably not. There are many controversies about the historical Ram, his very existence and the location of his Ayodhya. Some historians and archaeologists dispute that today’s Ayodhya is the same as the Ayodhya of the Ramayana.

Moreover, several other spots have also been claimed as birthplaces of Ram.  So it is not clear that this one has any special claim. It is just one of many.

Besides, the overwhelming majority of Hindus had never heard of this spot till the controversy began. So if Ram was born here thousands of years ago, why did most of us only hear of the place in the mid-80s?

EA

Look how he sets it up. It as he suggests there is a controversy about Ram’s very existance, then that surely overtakes all other controversies, does it not ? It Lord Ram did not even exist, then it means he was never born, which also means there can not possibly be a birthplace. This is a time tested technique. The Indian opinion makers forward this as their basic position and proceed to offer each argument as a concession from their stand. How clever ?

Well, King Dasharathan did not leave a GPS receiver as proof of where his son was born.  History is funny in the sense that you can dispute everything.  How do we know where the prophets were born ? This is the same logic that questions the Ram Sethu.

The overwhelming majority of Hindus (rather Indians) have not heard of this because the overwhelming majority spend all their time fetching drinking water or stepping over sewage thanks to the fake socialist state imposed on them.

Mr Jairam Ramesh of the Congress party himself admitted that under the Congress Party’s 50+ year watch India has been groomed to sweep the Nobel prizes for filth and garbage. Lets say the overwhelming majority had in fact “heard about this spot”, would it then make the razing of the mosque  justifiable or atleast understandable ? If that is all you have, then the BJPs Ram Janmabhoomi movement was just an exercise to make the majority “hear about this spot” and let emotion guide events.

The question should be the following:

If there was ever a Ram temple commemorating his birthplace at Ayodhya, based on what we know about the Mughals, what are the chances that they pulled it down ?

Even the answer to that is not going to help us.

Like every other issue in front of us today, I first suspect the masked man behind the curtain who everyone else in the room is trained to ignore. The constitutional benefits that can accrue due to group identity and the role of the leadership in protecting these benefits. At first glance, the Muslims of today have little reason not to agree to a relocation in exchange for real harmony. We hear relocation of mosques in routine in Pakistan. However, I can understand why they would be loathe to do so. It would seriously weaken their group identity, signal a colossal failure of the protectors, and correspondingly strengthen the other side.

A complete separation of rigid identity from benefits is the only way we can hope to take on such big issues. This strikes at the heart of the entire political setup in the country today. Yet this is our ticket to freedom away from a guaranteed identity based showdown in the near future.

Media minarets

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on December 3, 2009

I followed with great amusement The Acorn’s expert deconstruction of Mr Vishnu Som’s startling assertion that the swiss minaret ban “represents a fundamental threat to millions of Muslims in our country”.

In his response, he really goes to town on those who call him on it.  You can tell he left nuance at home as he goes to work defending his statement. The closest he gets is this :

One can go on and on with this line of thought … the central point being easy to understand … the decision to ban minarets is regressive, its anti-Muslim, and violates religious freedom. As I have argued earlier, this is part of a larger wave against Muslims … perhaps part of the generalisation that Muslims are universally terrorists or inclined to violence.

I cannot tolerate such a generalisation and cannot tolerate people who believe that to be the truth. And it is generalisations like this which represent a fundamental threat to Muslims in India and around the world.

Can the minaret ban be considered to be regressive, anti-muslim, and violates religious freedom ? Sure.  But the prayer call is banned in many places around the world. Many mosques in the western world do not have minarets.  So, this is really a ban on the future construction of a specific type architectural feature. All four existing swiss minarets can stay.

What we are left with is this. Generalizations that all muslims are universally terrorists or inclined to violence represent a fundamental threat to Muslims in Indian and around the world.

That is like pouring a keg of water into a pitcher of beer.

Nitin called him out specifically on this:  Cause = ‘minaret ban’, Effect = ‘fundamental threat to millions of muslims in our country’

Mr Vishnu Som puts up a defence of this:  Cause = ‘stereotyping of all muslims as terrorists’, Effect = ‘fundamental threat to all muslims of the world including Indians’.

Problem is we cant go from here to there. The new diluted version drips innocence.

Before you dismiss this little social media skirmish, think about why they say the things they say.

About a week ago, another ELM anchor claimed that India’s recent vote against Iran will have far reaching domestic political impact.  Really ?

Indian Muslims are Indian just like everyone else. They worry about rampant price rise, ten thousand crore scams, and rapidly deteriorating living standards just like Hindus.  Of course, they would be upset with the minaret ban, just like a Tamil Hindu will be upset about their beloved Murugan temples bulldozed in Malaysia. Existing temples were not spared either. Yet, no one said this was a fundamental threat to Hindus in India.  You may think this why-cant-i-have-what-he-has arguments are tiring. I agree, but they represent the touchstone of reason.

Upset, even anger, cannot be parlayed into a fundamental threat.

Constantly drumming into our heads that Indian muslims obsess, at a fundamental level, about their  coreligionists  in faraway places deepens suspicions in society.   It also confuses the liberal muslim to the point of, “Hey, is this for real? Are we supposed to be alarmed at the Swiss referendum results?”.

If the Muslims in India really thought the minaret ban is a fundamental threat to millions of their Indian coreligionists – then I’d rather hear it from an Indian Muslim.