Reality Check India

The fork in the road has come for India

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on September 4, 2006

There is no parallel track left. We have finally come to the fork in the road.

Tony Blair – about the IRA peace process


Many are wondering why this blog is obsessed with the OBC quota. Cant we just let this one go ? Everything is broken in India, from fair price shops, to electricity theft, to illegal mines, to child labor, to corrupt babus, to pollution, to unlivable cities. Why this focus on this one issue ? Why are you not asking for data on economic zones or data on Narmada dam displacement ? Cant we live with one more broken window ?

The answer is no. None of the above issues divide the country along rigid lines. OBC quotas would be welcome if it were monitored and we could actually define who a “backward” class is. This central fact is ignored on purpose by the politicians and now even the media.

Ladies and gentlemen – We have reached a fork in the road. The politicians alone cannot be blamed because the judiciary has not been absolutely watertight in its rulings. The exception (TN) is now becoming the rule across India. The creamy layer which is in effect in all states is also sought to be done away with. There is no attempt at measurement or enumeration of OBC castes – even though their economic, poliltical, and educational power is visible for all to see.

This is it. How the judiciary handles this overt votebank politics will determine the future course of this country.  If the current OBC lists are accepted without questioning or data, they will be extended to more and more areas. There is no turning back. This will also spell the end of national parties like Congress and BJP, leaving the regional caste based parties to occupy centrestage. Just watch the next election results.

Every caste in the OBC list must have data to prove that it is socially and educationally backward. This singular requirement, which would be a given in all countries except India, will clip the wings of casteist elements and put an end once and for all to vote banks. We can then focus on helping those who are really backward based on actual data and continuous monitoring.


Will the minority quota in the Supreme Court pass scrutiny ?

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on August 4, 2012

You may have been following the journey of the 4.5% minority quota in Central Educational Institutions (IIT/AIIMS/etc)  announced by the UPA Government.  To quickly recap, the quota was scrapped by the AP High Court and on appeal the apex court refused to stay the judgment. The matter has now been posted before a constitution bench of the Supreme Court.  Lets take a look at the substantial issues involved in the case.

Why was the quota denied by the AP High Court

The government appears to have been hasty in implementation of this quota. The quota was struck down on three major grounds.

  • No legislative authorization. The quota was announced by an executive order (an office memo) instead of by law.
  • No homogeneity except on religious basis. The quota clubbed together widely disparate communities like Muslims and Christians. Which was a clear indicator to the judges that the quota was implemented on religious grounds only.
  • No data.  Before tinkering with the quota, the government did not consult the NCBC (National Comm for Backward Classes). This procedural flaw seems to have sealed the fate of the case.

For further reading, I recommend this excellent interview with K. Vivek Reddy who represented the petitioners in the case.  Make sure you also listen to the podcast.

Where are we now ?

First of all, it is important to note that this is a sub-quota.  This means that minority communities already in the list of backward classes are sought to be plucked out and allocated an exclusive quota. This happens by reducing the quota for those groups remaining by 4.5% so the overall quota does not exceed the 50%  ceiling.  Once again the point to keep in mind is these minority communities already have access to a quota.  The whole issue is about rearrangement.

Sadhanand Dhume had an article in the Wall Street Journal, which was a bit light in my opinion.  I want to highlight this piece because  it demonstrates a common fallacy.

On all these occasions, the political class blundered by viewing the community through the prism of faith rather than nationality. Muslims are Indians and the best way for India to integrate them is to strive to treat them as individuals, not members of a group. Indians disregard this commonsense notion at their own peril. This means stressing equality of opportunity rather than equality of outcomes. Better schools in Muslim-majority districts, along with privately endowed fellowships for bright students from Muslim-dominated schools (but open to all), are a start.

Source : WSJ

Well this is against Justice 101.  The reality is that the quota system exists and the stakes are huge. Talk to any government employee about the roster system.  So  turning a blind eye to dominant communities in the OBC list while exhorting the muslims to settle for scholarships is unjust.   In fact, in Krishnaiah Vs Govt of India (2012)   the National Commission of Minorities argues that the entire quota system is anomalous and assuming the reality of such a system, their group interests need to be safeguarded. This is a pretty strong argument as we shall see, one that cannot be quenched easily.

…………..The Commission was of the view that ideally the criteria for reservation should be socio-economic backwardness and not religion or caste. Further, Article 16(4) should be the basis for providing reservation benefits to minority groups who are socially and economically backward.  Reservation should be provided only as a short term, time-bound measure for enabling greater participation, both in education and employment. As we have mentioned earlier, the lists of SC/ST and OBC have not been scientifically prepared  ither on the basis of a proper survey or reliable data on socio-economic status of a particular caste or class. Therefore, the entire system of reservation, including that for SCs/STs and OBCs needs to be overhauled.  Reservation as available to SCs and STs is open-ended as it is available to all belonging to the category irrespective of income, educational and economic status. OBCs enjoy 27 percent reservation in employment, though creamy layer is excluded.  The norms and methodology adopted, as pointed out in Chapter-VIII is full of anomalies and hence amenable to large-scale abuse. For this reason, the better off among the groups take advantage of reservation at the cost of socially and economically backward and deprived.  It is, therefore, necessary to limit benefits of reservation to the socially and economically backward only.

It is important to note that the NCBC has not revised its list nor is any public data available regarding the progress made by various communities in the OBC list. This leads people like Owaisi to make impenetrable arguments.

Owaisi’s challenge

Soon after the AP High Court judgment, an enraged Asaduddin Owaisi asked Muslims to challenge the basis of the entire OBC quota.

“The Centre provided reservation to minority community on the basis of empirical data prepared by a panel headed by ex-Chief Justice of India Ranganath Misra, which was constituted by the government to look into the issues of linguistic and religious minorities. But, basing on which empirical data did the OBCs get the 27 per cent reservation? Is it fair?” Owaisi asked.


Describing the High Court judgment as erroneous, he said the court said there was no homogeneity between any two minority groups. “In such case, what homogeneity could one find between any two castes among the 93 castes included in the OBC list like say, Yadav and Kurma or Gouda and Munnuru Kapu?” he asked. There was discrimination on the part of the court while questioning the homogeneity between two minority groups.

Source : IBN

From a legal perspective I find Owaisi’s arguments very persuasive.  If they are weak, I havent heard a substantial rebuttal of what he is saying.   Look at this way : If the undivided quota which contains Muslims and Christian groups can be homogeneous, it is difficult to sustain an argument that these groups lose their homogeneity out of the group.  In other words, the undivided list does not confer homogeneity to its constituents.

The most critical case

I strongly believe this quota issue is one of the most critical cases to hit our country.  The court has the unenvious task of adjudicating this claim within the walls of a  broken system made permanent by habit. In any case, the UPA government seems to be better prepared this time. Here is the data they seem to have collected.

  • Former CJI Ranganath Mishra’s report (interalia recommended 8.4% sub quota)
  • Former Delhi HC CJ Rajindher Sachar’s report (concluded Muslims are worse off)
  • representation data for Sikhs, Christians, Muslims in recent admissions 2009,10,11 from IIT/AIIMS/JNU/DU etc


Here is the crux of the matter. All these surveys fall afoul of equal protection guaranteed under Article 14 of the constitution. This alone should be sufficient to throw out the minority quota.

Equal protection

Think about what these surveys (Mishra, Sachar, Representation) measure.  They take a target group (Muslims/ Christians) and measure them against the rest of the population. For the moment assume that the measurement is robust and it isnt.  Based on this comparison they draw certain conclusions and recommend exclusive reservation as an antidote for whatever ill they find.

The problem is that there are 2159 classes in the central OBC list. Out of this, 52 (Muslim) + 22 (Christian)  + 2 (Sikh) are singled out for measurement with a view to providing them relief.  There is no reason for this singling out other than the fact that they are distinguished by their religion.  Theoretically you could pull out an alternate group of 55 (Gounders,Dhivar,Kahar,Bhoi,..) + 22 (Keer,Mallah,..) + 2 (Mehra,..) and you could arrive at the same conclusions and make a similarly strong case for a special 4.5% quota for this group.  So the very act of measuring a select group while denying the same measurement to other groups is ultra vires to the constitution because it denies equal protection of law to all these groups that are left out. If the Supreme Court glosses over this; then floodgates are open for any random combination of communities to form alliances and demand measurement only for their group on their terms.

See the irony here.  Owaisi is now the reasonable man because he seeks accommodation for his community within a platform widely acknowledged to be broken.  To allow that would compromise the constitution and cause injustice to those who were not similarly measured, to deny him would be unjust because he atleast has some data, the others have none.

What can be done ?  Essentially we have arrived at a fork in the road. The only way out is to comprehensively measure every community, not on the basis of census surveys but on representation in services and education.  Because imbalance in  representation is the purported aim of this whole social justice exercise.  Once all communities in the OBC List are tabulated, the group can be split into two or three. Minorities would automatically get into the group which makes it easier for them to access the benefits. But others would have the chance too.

Will the court stand up and deliver ?


Womens quota – goodbye ladies

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on March 5, 2010

I am not surprised at the complete lack of debate about such a ground breaking policy as the women’s quota.  We are past the fork in the road.  The courts have stepped aside and let the political class have their way with our equality.

This quota will put paid to any hopes India may have about exiting third world status. Why?

  1. Undemocratic. You cant choose who you want.
  2. Exception for SC/ST arrived at after painstaking deliberation.
  3. Constitution never envisaged reserved seats for any group other than SC/ST. Women were backward even at the time of framing of constitution. This would fall foul of the basic structure doctrine, but no one knows what it is any more.
  4. All quota is engineered justice. You cannot support Womens quota and oppose fine tuning of  it, such as OBC or Muslim or Christian sub quota. It is a moral hazard trap. BJP is walking into this trap with its eyes wide open. They are going to come out looking like bumbling hypocrites when someone confronts them with the usage facts of quota for Muslim women.

Even technically the Womens Quota suffers from fatal weaknesses.

  1. The so called 15 -year time limit is laughable. You cant expect beneficiaries to pull rug from the very law that allowed them to reach heights.
  2. Sub Quota cannot be resisted on any grounds. How does the idea of Mr Owaisi talking from the moral high ground sound to you ?  Guess what you dont have an answer to him.
  3. Will produce more Priya Dutts, Jayanthi Natrajan (grand daughter of ex-TN CM), Supriya Shule since there are no checks, such as creamy layer. What purpose is served by this.
  4. Can be used by the government to play games and undermine democracy further. They can simply reserve a seat where an incumbent  male candidate from opposition party was strong.
  5. Will promote dynasty even further as the knee jerk reaction to unseating a male incumbent would be for him to find a woman kin as replacement.
  6. Lessons not learnt from SC/ST quota. They dont work for SC/STs once elected. They simply toe party line often following upper caste dictum. BSP did not appear on scene due to the SC quota.
  7. Further legitimizes quota claims in other spheres simply based on under representation without considering other factors.
  8. Disincentive to work for true empowerment of women. Keep quiet you have quota.
  9. Very need for women’s quota not clear. Women may be fewer in number but they are in powerful positions.
  10. Women are not going to join free agents in a future equality protest. The AIIMS scenes are probably going to be the last. Goodbye ladies !

PRS Summary with links to draft bill.

Nuke deal and the G8 statement

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on July 15, 2009

Surprising lack of commentary on the recent happenings at the G8.  To summarize, the G8 resolved (with India standing by) that they will curb technology transfer to countries that have not signed the NPT. (i.e India) 

The official statement is here.  (read it yourself , do not depend on the media to interpret it for you)

Yesterday, I happened to watch Lalit Mansingh and G.Parthasarathy on a TV channel discuss this issue. The following  is Mr Mansinghs base position. 

At the end of the day money matters. If the US does not co-operate, France and Russia will. We have major defence deals (the 136 fighter aircraft) and we are going to spend $150 Bn on nuclear industry. Given such deals up for grabs, all this posturing with G8 will fall apart.

This is naive. Even if dangling these carrots were a negotiation tactic, it should be kept under wraps.  This is also amazingly dangerous.  If you link the nuclear deal with the aircraft deal, you using the airforce as a casino table chip. What if the American warplanes are better and our enemies aquire it ?  On the otherhand, you enter negotiations with France and Russia from a weak and pathetic position. For one of the guests, the 123 agreement was primarily a prestige issue. It lifted the “ban” on Indian scientists. I wont even comment on this.

Currently, it is clear atleast to me that there is a Rashomon like understanding of the 123 agreement in the US and Indian camps. We are moving on parallel roads. At some point, we will arrive at the fork in the road. Then several things can happen, the most likely outcome will be India agreeing to fall in line. Why ? Because anything conceded can be massaged by the Indian media and the public does not have a strong opinion on the weapons thing. At least not strong enough to influence voting patterns.  A diametrically opposite environment in the USA.  Only a child would think that you can bring the USA around by merely dangling carrots in the form of 136 aircraft (using borrowed money even).

Case in point :

Former US ambassador Frank Wisner also said that his country would not backstab India on nuclear cooperation

“We are bound by a sovereign decision. US made a sovereign decision. We passed Hyde Act followed by 123 Agreement. We are bound by those laws, we respect its word. It is a law,” said Wisner.

Source : IBNLIVE  (emp added)

The quote attributed to Mr Wisner says nothing about “backstabbing”. He is merely saying that Hyde+123 is the law as far as he is concerned. How on earth does what he said translate to an ‘anti-backstabbing’ statement ?  Barbarindians has several such examples.

We were told that the nuclear deal would cover technology transfer, reprocessing rights, rights to atleast status quo on weapons programme.

But then remember we are also told that the social programs we sink crores into are reaching the targets.  We are also shown life stories of various ministers as evidence.

EC about to turn shell

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on February 1, 2009

There are two ways to deal with shell institutions.

1. Do not force their hand. Orchestrate events and calibrate media coverage so that people still think there is some meat there. This is the “Keep the faith strategy

2. Force their hand. You can still calibrate media coverage. The problem happens when you ask them to openly deal with something outrageous. People see through all this. This is the “Open the kimono strategy
Example : We thought the Central Vigilance Commission had some meat on their bones, but they were forced to address the 60K Cr loss to the treasury. There is now complete silence from them while they are forced to squirm.

Example : We thought the TRAI was working in some hitech modern field, so we expect them to be above samosa eating babus. Then we find they are also toothless because their recommendations are trashed and there is no check (in the sense of checks and balances) there either.

Example : We thought the Supreme Court could address the all important twin aspects of equality and social justice. The actual verdict did not matter as long as it laid out clear checks and balances in the quota system. It needed to clarify to both the truly backward and those who were going to agree to an abridged concept of equality. The nation waited with bated breath, yet when the judgement actually came there was precious little commentary on it. The court waived its right of strict scrutiny of such a fundamental concept without telling us what its own standards of scrutiny were. Most people thought, “Oh, okay we get it. Sorry for the trouble.”

We will stop here. Why ? Because everything stems from and is rooted in this grand Indian anomaly. The day we compromise on equality and social justice is the day we selected the fork in the road.

Back to the topic.


Next on stage – The Election Commission

Telegraph India

Pic courtesy : Telegraph India

Now it is the turn of the Election Commission. They are about to step into the spotlight and find out exactly where they stand. They are being forced to open up their kimono and I suspect it is not going to be a pretty sight.

Exhibit 1

This is the constitution (via Barbarindians excellent take on the whole issue)

Provided further that any other Election Commissioner or a Regional Commissioner shall not be removed from office except on the recommendation of the Chief Election Commissioner.

– Constitution of India. Section 324(5)

Exhibit 2

The CEC has prepared a comprehensive report with over 40 acts of partisanship. We hear this includes outrageous attempts by Mr Chawla to scuttle the Karnataka elections and UP elections.
Exhibit 3

The 1995 verdict reiterated, “Since the other ECs were not intended to be permanent appointees they could not be granted the irremovability protection of the CEC, a permanent incumbent, and, therefore, they were placed under the protective umbrella of an independent CEC.”

Source : TOI

Is the timing suspect ?

This is a typical news item you see in the Indian media.

NEW DELHI: The timing of CEC N Gopalaswami’s recommendation for the removal of his likely successor Navin Chawla is no doubt suspicious as it has been made barely three months before the general election and his own retirement.

First a tutorial about the Indian media. It is 40+% news and 60-% opinion. You might wonder, exactly why is the CECs letter  “suspicious” ? Who thinks it is ? It would be suspicious if the CEC had raised the issue 9months and 11days (9-11 see) ahead of the elections. But 3 months ?

Another example is “Nation outraged over bail to Mangalore attackers. This was in big red letters flashing on major news channels. Really ? I just checked my locality and no one cares. So who thinks the “Nation is outraged” ? Who is the “Nation” ? Who checked ?

Mr Singhvi says “There are several intricate issues of law involved including the very jurisdiction of the CEC to exercise such powers on a colleague,”

I just wish a reporter asked, “Sir, intricate issues like what ?”

A boss wants to fire his subordinate. End of story.

P.Chidambaram’s funny outtakes

Constitutional post

“I thought all Election Commissioners hold constitutional posts to which the Constitution prescribes the term. Neither I nor you can disturb that,” Mr. Chidambaram said here.

As the chief spokesperson of the government, Mr. Chidambaram was asked at a press conference to spell out the rules as per the law to handle the issue.

Peals of laughter

“There is no rule which requires the spokesperson of the government to be trained in law,” he said, sending the hall into peals of laughter.

Source : Hindu

Okay, I was wrong earlier. A reporter indeed had the guts  to ask him and see what happened. The press audience erupts into laughter, blissfully unaware of the ruins left behind. Blissfully unaware that the uber educated home minister is ignorant of such an important civics lesson.  A 1 minute google search could have answered his questions. The reality is that whatever the constitution says does not really matter all that much. He knows that.

As far as PCs opinion is concerned. He values “life stories” over facts. Enough said.

Be scared people.

Maharashtras free agent population to shrink

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on December 26, 2008

I sat in front of the computer. WordPress jumped to life. The topic on my mind was Pakistan. This was going to be an effortless post. Some server would host a few extra bytes of nonsense in a few minutes. Just when I started to type the first characters, I heard a commotion outside in the street.I went up to the window and looked out into the real world.

Nagpur, Dec 23 (IANS) Cutting across party lines, Maratha legislators in Maharashtra Tuesday made common cause to demand inclusion of their community in the ‘other backward classes’ (OBC) category and extension of reservation facility in education and jobs.

Several Maratha members of both houses of the state legislature, attending its winter session in this second capital of the state, held demonstrations at the Vidhan Bhavan premises in support of their demand.

Former chief minister Vilasrao Deshmikh, also a Maratha, told reporters that his government had assured the community of sympathetic consideration of the demand.

The demonstrations were led by Pandurang Phundkar of the Bharatiya Janata Party and Bhai Jagtap of the Congress.

Source : Mangalorean (emp mine)

I lost all interest in writing about big ticket issues.

I have been following this issue for a while now. It appears that the issue has now matured. There is no going back. 25% of Maharastrians are going to leave free-agent voter-hood.

You cant fault the Marathas either for wanting to be included in the list.If X can have it just for being X, why cant Y have it for being Y ? We cant apply reason and measurement selectively.We passed that fork in the road long back.

Is a life term in India just 7 years ?

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on September 15, 2008

This government and judiciary took a billion Indian down the wrong fork in the road. The court waived its right of American style strict scrutiny while not specifying what its own standards of such scrutiny were. Therefore Article 14,  both the equality aspect and social justice aspect were surrendered.  Neither of the two aspects can work without data.So, a billion Indians especially the backward who really need social justice took a kick in the teeth.

Still, there was hope if someone killed your father – got caught – and got sentenced to life, justice would be served. This sequence of events itself is rare in India considering the length of time if takes for such a conviction. Now, we find a life term is not just 14 years but a mere 7 in many cases. This will quickly become the new floor, the next time around murderers will expect to be out in 3 to 5 years. Good behaviour could mean a lot of things.

A reality check : You cannot cut slack on the constitution and expect the penal code to be remain sacred. It is all interconnected. Those who are really backward will start to find the Maoist leadership to be of integrity, the SIMI to be more consistent, the  Hurriyat to represent freedom from a life of such ad hocism and skullduggery.

Can you blame them ?

What is this country offering them ?


The news is that the Madras High Court cleared the decks for releasing selected life termers who served just 7 years of their term. It is reported there was a dramatic hearing at the Chief Justice Gangulys residence on a Sunday night.

CHENNAI: The Madras High Court has rejected a plea from Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy seeking to stay the operation of an order dated 11.09.08 giving en masse remission to 1405 life convicts on September 15, on the day of Anna’s birth centenary.The prisoners may be released subject to the usual conditions relating to execution of bonds, said the first bench comprising Chief Justice of Madras High Court A K Ganguly and Justice S M Ibrahim Kalifulla at a special sitting at the Chief Justice residence on Sunday night.

In the public interest writ petition, Swamy contended that the GO was issued in contravention of Section 433 and 433 A of the Cr PC, which envisaged commutation of life sentence to a term not exceeding 14 years. Therefore the rule is 14 years, but the government has indiscriminately and arbitrarily applied seven years period without any reference to the legal provision.

Source : Express Buzz

The questions that will be asked by the man on the street (some of whom were killed by those released) are

1. Is it now officially OK to release lifers after seven years ?

2. Is this facility available to all states ?

3. What is the meaning of the provisions in the penal code related to the 14 year minimum term ?

4. Can this facility be availed at any time, not just during the centenary celebrations ? So, could the government selectively release a few on a whim ? Of course, saying they will pick roses for a living henceforth and present themselves to probation officers.

5. Does the stance of the two pillars of democracy in this matter – reinforce already marginal Indians like (Muslims, Kashmiris, Assamese, Tribals in Chattisgarh) or does it disgust them ? Will they now work harder to make sure they are not part of the “India 2020 Vision” being shown to them ?

6. Is it practical to rearrest each one of them if the Supreme Court stays this GO ? What is the hurry here ?

OBC quota judgement today

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on April 10, 2008


The bus has finally arrived at the fork in the road. 

SC upholds OBC quota, but excludes “creamy layer”


The conductor asked all passengers named Data and Reason to get down from the bus. The driver then took the left fork with the remaining passengers. The next bus stops on the left fork are

1. Hike Creamy Layer to arbitrary high limit – 1 Km

2. Private University Quota – 10 Km

3. Faculty caste quota for each department in IIT, IISC, IIM – 15 Km

4. Private Sector Quota – 20 Km

5. Caste wars among OBC jostling for quota share – 25 Km

6. Bengal wanting equal benefits as TN – 26 Km


Yes, we have been thrown out of the bus at the fork.  It is mid afternooon and the Indian sun is beating down,  but we will continue on foot on the right fork. 


Youth bulge and India

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on January 29, 2008

This blog propelled me to write this post. 

You have heard about the great “age advantage” that awaits India. We are told how we are about to reap the benefits of a young population, while the aging west pays the price for not reproducing.  India, today has a remarkable 51 percent of its population under 25 and 67% under 35.  By 2020, the average Indian will be 29, the average Chinese 27, and the average Japanese 48.  Wow !

The natural counter question is : Well, does the youth bulge guarantee economic success ? The answer is a resounding NO. In fact, it would be a miracle if violence can be avoided and conditions created for economic transformation. This is the essence of the popular youth bulge theory. The Law and Other Things blog makes a great attempt to put it in an Indian context. The theory is very compelling partly due to its plain speaking German author – Prof Heinsohn.  After all, it simply says that violence needs young unattached male fighers. Duh! I think there is much more in this simple theory than meets the eye.

First this theory in a nutshell.

Gunnar Heinsohn, a social scientist and genocide researcher at the University of Bremen, has an explanation for why this might be so. Since its publication in 2003, his eccentric and eye-opening Sons and World Power* (not available in English) has become something of a cult book. In Mr Heinsohn’s view, when 15 to 29-year-olds make up more than 30 per cent of the population, violence tends to happen; when large percentages are under 15, violence is often imminent.


I will not bore you more with explaining this theory further. There are plenty of resources on the web. I want to focus on what this theory has for India.

A common misconception :

The population growth could “transform into a demographic dividend if every child was born healthy and was educated,” said Health Minister Ambumani Ramadoss.

Really, is it that simple ? According to the youth-bulge theory, education and health has little bearing on the proclivity to violence. In fact, well fed and educated youth are even more dangerous.  The north-east, Kashmir, Punjab have lower poverty and higher education. Sri Lankans, both Tamils and Sinhalese have high literacy levels.  So, obviously the excellent & free education system in Sri Lanka did not help them.  The less said about our public primary education the better.

What bulge

I pulled stats for India from the US Census bureau. Our population in 2020 looks is shown in the graphic below. This is when the youth bulge (15 – 35 ) appears to be most pronounced.


Fast forward into the future, in 2050 the population for India would be


You can see that in 2050, the youth bulge has passed.

If the youth bulge indeed correlates with violence, then

  • the worst years would be between 2020 to 2030.
  • the chance to formulate pre-emptive strategies is before 2015

The overall bulge means nothing

I explored further on this by reading many articles on the internet and also thinking a bit about the unique Indian socio-political scenario. For a country like India, the national bulge is not significant. Any statistic will drown in the sheer volume and complexity of India. 

Based on my own rather simplistic analysis, the two important take-aways for India are :

  • The youth bulge in the number of males who cant find partners (linked to the widening sex gap) .
  • The youth bulge in the groups which have grievances against the state (linked to how closely knit these groups are and what their expectations are from the state).

In street level talk, groups would measure their expectations with respect to what other groups have received from the state.There is no absolute measure of how much of the social pie is legitimate. This is an uncomfortable truth that no Indian would like to accept, no Indian columnist to write about, or media to call.  Yet this forms the core of new ideas in behaviour theory. See our earlier posts on Prof Russell Hardin and Mancur Olsen.

Security strategies based on the youth bulge theory

This is probably one of the most interesting applications of the bulge theory. Faced with an insurgent situation, the state can adapt its responses based on the bulge. Some strategies might be (State vs Insurgent-A) :

  • Wait for Insurgent-A’s bulge to pass. In the meantime, engage in offensive options that hasten the process. Sri Lanka might be following this method. Notice the remarkable levels of immigration to the west and the natural passing of the bulge.
  • Compromise the youth bulge of Insurgent-A. This happens by diluting the identity of the group itself.  See the example of Assam and its rising Bangladeshi muslim population as mentioned in this post.

India’s primary bulge problem

We are at a fork in the road, as this blog has mentioned several times in the past. As boring and bitter as it sounds, concrete and exclusive benefits linked simply to people being in a group is the recipe for disaster. The effects are :

  • Now youth bulges have to be monitored for a hundred new groups. Each one with a deadly potential for violence.
  • The total absence of data and the non-insistence (so far) of the judicial system of it, makes violence even more attractive. Sometimes it is the only legitimate route left (see the faith reposed in violence by Assamese tribals, the Gujjars, and the remarkable success of the violent route by the Vanniyars, the Christian-Hindu violence in Orissa’s Kandhamal district and so forth)
  • As population explodes and a severe crunch on natural resources like fresh water and clean air is felt – these violent groups can also stake territorial claims such as control over water bodies, hill resorts etc. Islands of pleasure, such as luxury residences in SEZs will be the first to be targeted.

What can be done

We have a short time window before the problem explodes in our face.  A possible strategy is.

  • Primary education. I know, this will only worsen the potential for violence, but it has a good counterbalancing effect. It will make people aware of the need of data and check the political forces and co-operative media. This further leads to weakening of group identity. The end result is the non-effectiveness of a youth bulge in any group. The group itself is irrelevant as competing claims to benefits have to pass the data test.
  • Trim bulges in dominant extremist groups.  India is going to have a youth bulge in 2020, this need not mean that naxals also get to enjoy a proportional share of this bulge.  However, if unmonitored benefits accrue to groups at the exclusion of the really deprived (atleast in their own view), then the ranks of established extremists will swell. The naxal bulge will become much more pronounced than the overall Indian bulge. 

Sorry to bore you again, but the central culprit is the entrenchment in India of adhoc and unmonitored benefits to groups favoured by the state. This might lead to more pronounced youth bulges in the extremist ranks compared to the already big Indian youth bulge.

When that happens, the following would suddenly make a lot of sense.

“LOOK AT IT THIS WAY,” Gunnar Heinsohn said. “Your family is in a shooting war with a family across the street. Your forces consist of a father, mother and one child, perhaps two. The other family has a father, mother and seven children, perhaps eight or nine. For your family, the loss of one person would be devastating. The larger family can take casualties and continue fighting.”

Internet resource on Prof Heinsohn

More on this later.

Let us rewrite the constitution

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on October 16, 2007

The UPA government is guilty of taking this country to a fork in the road. This cannot have a happy ending. Such confrontation could have been avoided by taking a data driven approach to quota issues. See previous articles (The fork in the road has come for IndiaQuota confrontation )


In an interview to a private news channel, TN Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi said that there is a need to setup a constituent assembly that could draft a new constitution.

Speaking to Indian Express editor-in-chief Shekhar Gupta on Walk the Talk, he said that India should look towards a federal form of government.

”Our Constitution has been changed many times. What should be done is that all the shortcomings of the Constitution should be addressed in one sitting. That is what I feel,” said M Karunanidhi.

Source: NDTV

External observers like Churumuri (from Karnataka) scratch their heads and wonder whats happening. They connect it with the BJP or wonder if this demand will die a natural death. They are in for a rude shock. They wonder what is so wrong with the existing constitution that requires calling for a new constituent assembly. Lets examine it :

The single most troublesome issue with the current constitution is the concept of fundamental rights.  For politicians like Karunanidhi, this problem manifests itself in the form of the judicial intervention. You see, our current constitution allows the judiciary to intervene when fundamental rights are sought to be taken away or abridged. As Fali Nariman, pointed out recently – this judicial power was at its lowest ebb in the notorious case of ADM Jabalpur (1976). The then Chief Justice proclaimed that :

“Liberty itself is the gift of the law (i.e the gift of the parliament) and it may by the law be forfeited or abridged”

Source: Fali Nariman’s article from Deccan Chronicle

Lets try that again in plain language :

Our current constitution says that : Every Indian (even the cunning fox type) has certain inalienable rights such as the right to equality.  This fundamental right is not derived because the laws allow it, but because of that fact that he/she belongs to the human species. This also allows room for an abridgement of these rights in the interest of social justice. The problem is, “How compelling must the circumstance be for this abridgement ?”. In other words, do we need rigorous data ? The courts have no choice but to examine the presence of compelling evidence. The politicians have no choice but to stonewall it to protect their interests (caste/religion/whatever). This is the fork in the road I mentioned earlier.

Now, imagine if we had another constitution that said : The law will vest every Indian with a right to equality. The right to equality is not because the individual is a human being, but because the law (the parliament) grants them this right. Now, laws can be made that can grant different levels of equality to different groups of people. Obviously we all agree that cunning foxes cannot be treated equally with innocent rabbits. So there we go, the power to identify cunning foxes is now with the politicians. There is no need for data, because neither the right to equality nor the right to social justice is due to nature. They both are a gift of the parliament.  Can you approach the courts when you do not get a birthday gift ? (Its a rough analogy, but it illustrates the nature of gift).

Watch the program on NDTV’s Walk the Talk on Oct 20 at 7:30 PM IST.