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Comments for The Acorn

On the Indian National Interest

Last Build Date: Tue, 15 Aug 2017 04:29:03 +0000


Comment on Three thoughts on Independence Day by Sambaran Mitra

Tue, 15 Aug 2017 04:29:03 +0000

Longbottom test! Take a bow Nitin, if you coined the term.

Comment on Can I have an opinion on how to annihilate caste? by gbz

Fri, 10 Feb 2017 03:19:44 +0000

What you have in mind is a laudable goal but its a 100 yr project. And such projects need institutions dedicated to the cause. That said, annihilation, if i understand you correctly, is a very difficult objective. Much more achievable is probably the merging and intermingling of castes. Which in the long run produces the same result. This is of course best achieved through inter-caste marriages. So probably the best way to get there is to encourage inter caste marriages. From where we stand, just defending it would be a start. (returning to this blog after very long time, good to see it active again!)

Comment on Can I have an opinion on how to annihilate caste? by Partha

Mon, 06 Feb 2017 22:34:27 +0000

When you ask about how to annihilate caste, you are asking how to prevent creating boundaries or divisions. The fact of the matter is that there are deep rooted divisions in our minds, it could be caste, class, religion, race, or gender. I'd say we need, not just an opinion on how to annihilate the divisions we have in our minds, but a technology to get address it. For that we might have to expand our identities beyond just being human, once our identities are about being a life form, we can aspire to treat everything around us with dignity.

Comment on Can I have an opinion on how to annihilate caste? by Gaurav Pandit

Fri, 03 Feb 2017 04:17:17 +0000

Lot of (private) companies ask for religion and caste to be fIlled up in their joining/application forms with no option such as 'I don't want to declare'. What are they doing with this data? This brings caste consciousness to a place where it has no relevance. Such practices need to be termed illegal. Similarly, another annoying habit of strangers to first check for the caste. Rather than oblige, we must ask them why do they want to know!

Comment on Can I have an opinion on how to annihilate caste? by Kartheek

Thu, 02 Feb 2017 15:42:54 +0000

"Dear Nitin, A very good article. I fully agree that talking "loud" about caste can only be detrimental to the purpose of achieving a caste-agnostic society. But firstly, what exactly is caste-"agnostic" society? My understanding is it is one where people don't just care about caste. But that is contradictory in my opinion. As long as there is caste and since our's is very hierarchical, the society will be very "conscious" about caste. So the goal or should I say dream, should be caste-"less" society. In my observation coming from a semi-urban; urban background, if I can (over) simplify the situation, there are 4 basic groups. Brahmans and other "vegetarian" communities, Other forward castes(OFC), Other Backward castes(OBC), Scheduled castes. Brahmans want to distinguish themselves from others in every aspect of life and they still seem to define their identify in terms of purity. On the other extreme, all the other 3 groups discriminate very badly against SC/STs. But "within" OFC, OBC people seem to be "agnostic". Now each group have many castes within them. If these groups can inter-marry, one generation down the line we will have only 4 groups and since we are a democracy, demographics and politics will ensure that OBC becomes more powerful and therefore economically advanced and then OFC's and OBC's can converge and become one entity as people tend to define their identity by "class". I don't really know how can SC/ST group and merge with the "others" given massive social prejudice, but I am very sure only inter-marriage can eliminate caste.

Comment on Can I have an opinion on how to annihilate caste? by Ashok

Thu, 02 Feb 2017 10:29:55 +0000

Also,talking about empirical evidence, is there none in the clear contribution of the 'caste discourse' of Gandhi,Ambedkar,Periyar,Phule to the current status of many millions? Or is it your point that the waters have been muddied by the Mayawatis and Ramadosses? (note that Goel/Deshpande seem to conclude that a ruling BSP contributed to improved pride and expectations among dalits) 2) Assumes that caste discourse rather than ‘caste practices’ is the what of ‘reminds’ people of caste identity : As covered in the previous comment caste discourse of those challenging discrimination only follows caste discourse causing / supporting caste practices of discrimination. It is anybody's guess which of these leads to caste identity among the majority of Indians who are not privileged to be 'caste agnostic'. To assume that the discourse of those challenging caste discrimination is the sole or main cause of caste identity is by any means a stretch of the imagination. Especially considering that one of these has a short and chequered (meaningful) history of less than two centuries and the other maybe ten times more. 3) Ignores ‘types’ of caste discourse and assumes all have the same intent and content: The kind of caste discourse that most of Mr Pai's well-meaning critics would have in mind would be the kind that exhorts the lower castes to not accept discrimination as the norm and that which asks the historically privileged to be aware of their blind-spots. Both of these are different from the pre-dominant,lived,internalised caste discourse which is the exact opposite. If one who has historically gotten a raw-deal is reminded that a) statistically he has a high chance of the same happening again b) he should fight for equality c) not unthinkingly accept the 'received wisdom' of his ancestors who may have told him 'but this is how its always been' because he likely has the same capabilities as everyone else How would this kind of 'reminding' of caste lead to lower 'performance'? In fact given the immense weight of the factors a,b and c above there needs to be a national campaign of 'caste discourse' to ensure that a large portion of India can reach its true potential I think one of the points being missed that caste is one of those things which does not disappear because one individual chooses to ignore it. If the context in which he is embedded continues with the status quo, his choice makes very less difference. In a crude sense, the argument is similar to those of poverty and structural inequality. Ofcourse anyone can have any opinion. But, if the opinion appears to betray fundamental biases, people may suspect these are a result of your background as the cause. Consider also your position of relative social power as a head of a ‘think-tank’ and the size of your twitter following which raises expectations on the kinds of arguments you put forward. With great power comes great criticism especially when making sweeping/unqualified statement on a medium with a 140 character constraint known for knee-jerk reactions on sensitive topics.

Comment on Can I have an opinion on how to annihilate caste? by Ashok

Thu, 02 Feb 2017 09:45:59 +0000

I was looking forward to this piece because I was conflicted by the reaction to your tweets earlier. However, I am disappointed that this is poorly argued because it: 1) Misrepresents evidence to support the claim that reminding people of their caste is problematic 2) Assumes that caste discourse rather than ‘caste practices’ is the what of ‘reminds’ people of caste identity 3) Ignores ‘types’ of caste discourse and assumes all have the same intent and content 1) Misrepresenting evidence: The argument is that ‘caste discourse’ leads to ‘reminding people of their caste identity’ and that the mentioned studies provide evidence that this adversely affects their performance. Here the first flawed assumption is that it is the ‘caste discourse’ of those challenging caste based discrimination is what ‘reminds’ people of their caste identity. The second flawed assumption is that the studies support the claim. Nowhere do either of the articles make this claim. They instead make the claim that in a context where caste awareness is already high DUE TO PRE-EXISTING CONDITIONS (which have existed over centuries if not millenia), expectations are lowered . Goel/Deshpande study: This one directly CONTRADICTS the claim put forth regarding ‘reminding’ of caste identity. The paper presents a correlation and there is no claim of causality being attributed to level of self-professed caste-identity among the lower castes. Indeed they say “Causality between the two could run the other way around too. Actual earnings might impact perceptions: lower-ranked groups internalise existing disparities as “normal” and/ or expect discriminatory treatment, and thus, have lower perceptions.” ...and from the last line of the paper “Our data do not allow us to test for causality between the two, so we can only speculate about whether perception gaps cause gaps in actual earnings or the other way around. That exploration could be the matter of future research” Even if it were a test for causality there is nothing here about 'reminding' or the role of 'caste discourse' in 'reminding'. Hoff & Pandey study: The authors are clear that they are presenting evidence that mistrust undermines motivation and not that the act of ‘reminding’ of caste identity reduces their motivation. The study which is set in rural UP where caste identity is already very strong. Note that this was not strong because of the rise of post-independence caste politics. It was strong for atleast many centuries before. Even in the present day, the study states that majority of lower castes were made to follow discriminatory practices such as living in separate areas,outside the village and standing up in the presence of higher castes. The caste identity of the students was not introduced by the study but was already a part of their daily lived experience. The authors are clear that it was not awareness of caste identity that drove lower expectations BUT the fact that the evaluator was concerned with their caste identity (by announcing it before the start of the test). It was not the students self-awareness of their caste identity (which, by the way, was common across the three variants) but the fact that they saw the evaluator (presumably higher caste as it is a safe assumption in villages) was concerned about their caste. The authors mention in the summary ‘mistrust undermines motivation’. The mistrust only comes into the picture when they see the person evaluating them being concerned with their caste not as in the 3rd variant where the discretionary power of this evaluator is eliminated. If this study was to even begin to support your claim, then there would need to be a fourth test where the same participants would be reminded of their caste identity in a manner where they know that the evalua[...]

Comment on Can I have an opinion on how to annihilate caste? by Ajit

Wed, 01 Feb 2017 19:38:02 +0000

So called caste agnostic have no clue to the depth it is ingrained in our mindset, our culture. Probable reasons are having no acquaintances with people from lower castes. Or more important never bothered to listen to their stories. Their apprehensions. Lack of confidence. Even their willingness to tell their story cause of the smirk. Keyword LISTEN. All people from small towns laugh at the naivety of urban folks. Coz they r clueless about the rural side, their way of life. Villages not more than 15-20kms from their residence. If any 'privileged' person has actually peeked into the lives of a Dalit cannot give such rhetoric n meaningless arguments as you have mentioned. Hence, so called caste-agnostic maybe shielded n don't practice casteism in their small circle of world. But their opinions are rejected coz of their ignorance. Even urban areas have their caste discrimination methods bit they are very subtle. If you haven't seen them adds to ur ignorance. Separate lifts for servants. Societies for specific community people. N these so called caste agnostics r easily spotted for their hypocrisy us when they read an article about caste atrocities, they will say it is a one off incident. Thats a diffferent matter that every state, every district in every state has sometime or other been in news for caste atrocities. But they continue to be one off incidents. Basically if caste atrocities are not acknowledged, how can such people be considered caste agnostic.

Comment on Can I have an opinion on how to annihilate caste? by K

Wed, 01 Feb 2017 18:07:15 +0000

One way to reduce the caste discourse - to stop reminding people of their own caste and also to stop communicating one's caste to to remove the surnames indicating caste, from the name. Every time one reads a name with a surname indicating a particular caste, it's getting into the subconscious mind. Biases do creep in. As long as names have caste surnames, one doesn't need to deliberately remind people of their caste or other's caste, it automatically gets in, subconsciously. Mere self-imposed gag orders don't help. A caste agnostic name will go a long way in stopping this kind of subtle caste discourse. Following the arguments in this post, would be great if you can legally replace your surname with a caste-agnostic one (may be Kumar?). An affidavit and an advertisement in newspaper is all that's needed. Having said that, one should remember that there is a limit to this approach. Just similar to the evidence that reminding people of one's caste affects their performance, remembering people of their gender also affects performance. Gender and the name indicating one's gender can't be addressed through this approach.

Comment on Pouring supreme scorn on liberty by Deepak Misra

Sun, 29 Jan 2017 05:04:15 +0000

I think the comments on this article are missing the point all together. The issues is not whether the decision is good or bad, not whether it will do good or not .... The main point is whether it is legal or not. We are talking here about fundamental rights which are guaranteed by the constitution and it is shocking that the organ which has sworn on the same constitution to protect it seems to indicate that this right is not fundamental. The issues is about an organ of the state passing unconstitutional orders. A court is supposed to decide on matters on law. Here we have a reasonably arbitrary "order" which is not yet a judgement. The main danger which such orders are that this sets a precedent for future judgement. If judicial authorities want to reform society and make this country great, they should stand for elections and get votes from the people.

Comment on A better way of selecting the top brass by prateek agrawal

Sun, 08 Jan 2017 12:07:57 +0000

there's a reason why we dont trust the Office of PM in this country..that reason is politics. In India, everything is done by politics. But some constitutional & other crucial posts have to be above politics. Thats why we dont leave appointment of judges etc to politicians.... & that's why no matter who is in power, military's apolitical nature must be preserved at all costs.

Comment on The pink rhinoceros at the party by Amna Nashit

Wed, 04 Jan 2017 12:01:25 +0000

The beauty of the story is that it can be applied to so many politicians in today's day and age. Modi with his so-called war on black money and corruption; Trump with his acknowledgement of Islamic terror and immigration crisis as legit issues. All enjoying popular support by the mere act of acknowledging the elephant (or pink-rhino) in the room, instead of side-stepping it like their eloquent opponents

Comment on Trump is not Putin’s puppet by Andrew Shamrao

Tue, 03 Jan 2017 18:09:27 +0000

It's clear from Trump's behavior that he does not feel beholden to anyone. He is a pragmatic deal maker. To that end, it makes sense to make "friends" of enemies. His pragmatism will allow him to tolerate human rights issues in the interest of the goal - to "win" - whatever that means to him. To him, his end will justify the means.

Comment on Why parking needs more than proof of space by Manu Varma

Tue, 03 Jan 2017 05:02:02 +0000

For contrast, parking in most US cities, downtown areas is of the order of $40 for 2-24 hrs. NYC goes to $50, and this rate applies to nearly all of Manhattan.

Comment on How long will the Great Currency Swap be popular? by Bhamy V. Shenoy

Mon, 26 Dec 2016 03:30:50 +0000

a simple but realistic way of looking at public support to demonetization. Actually no one has systematically gone around to take a survey of public opinion. Those pundits who write (mostly against) are basing their opinions on pre conceived ideas. Ask ordinary consumer who has very little savings, he or she is not disturbed by demonetization. As some one wrote based on prices of different commodities demonetization has been a success. I am sure there are others who interpret the same data to argue that demonetization is a failure. They argue that since people do not have cash to spend prices have come down. It is it really true?