Politics & the Nation
  • Long live Anna Hazare
    • Take a look at this very well written ET editorial on what Anna Hazare is trying to do and how the government should respond.  Agree fully with the views of the editorial.  A couple of excerpts worth our noting:
    • True, any government can rightly assert that it cannot be coerced into accepting wholesale the demands of activists of any hue, whether it be, as in this case, about defining and enshrining the structure and purview of a national anticorruption ombudsman or anything else for that matter. But it is equally true that the very idea of a social contract includes a government’s authority stemming from the consent of those it governs. Representative democracy, in other words, doesn’t mean that solely those elected to office can claim representative status.
  • Reforming the IIMs
    • Recently (sometime in last week of March) we noted about a very critical article that lampooned the government efforts at trying to reform the IIMs.  It articulated a fear that they are about to be privatized in the name of reform.  
    • Today, we have a very well written piece by the Director of IIM, Kozhikode presenting a counterpoint.  Very well written and worth deserving our attention.  You should read it in full.  Do so here.
Finance & Economy
  • On excessive usage of ground water in India
    • Goldman Sachs estimates that the global water consumption is growing at an unsustainable rate, doubling every 20 years. This situation is particularly precarious in the north-western parts of India, comprising Delhi, Haryana, Punjab and Rajasthan. This unpleasant development is caused by excessive pumping of ground water for irrigation.
    • The estimated rate of depletion of groundwater in north-western India is 4 cm of water per year, equivalent to a water table decline of 33 cm per year. Of the 1,065 (out of a total of 5,723) assessment units declared critical or over-exploited in the country, almost two-thirds fall in these four states. Water-hungry farms of the region account for over 90% of the ground water use.
    • Satellite imageries show that this region is experiencing an acute decline in the groundwater table. Studies carried out by the Goddard Space Flight Center of Nasa show that 109 billion cubic metres of groundwater disappeared from the aquifers in the region between 2002 and 2008, which was not expected when monsoon was quite normal.
    • Annual extraction of ground water in India is to the extent of 210 bcm.  It is the highest in the world.
    • Groundwater irrigates over 60% of net area, meets 90% of drinking water needs.
  • The Muslim world and democracy
    • What is the reason behind democracy not taking roots in the Muslim world?  What caused the rise of religious fundamentalism in the Muslim world?  
    • The following excerpts from today's Cursor column in ET give a plausible explanation.  Take a look:
    • Modernity confronted the Muslim world as colonial rule, cultural domination and religious challenge. A tiny elite colluded with the West and eventually stayed on as rulers and the West’s stooges. More often than not, Sovietbacked Left, if not radical, movements sought to give voice to democratic urges in the Muslim world, inviting repression backed by western powers. Democracy in the Muslim world, in other words, died in the crossfire between superpowers, whose self-referential description of their rivalry as the Cold War ignored the fiery heat that consumed nations, lives and democracy in swathes of the so-called third world.
    • Absence of democracy and authoritarianism were made somewhat palatable, after the sharp oil price hikes of the 1970s, by improved living standards. But then, the collusion of the authoritarian Arab regimes in the institutional injustice suffered by Palestinians at the hands of Israel accentuated popular resentment. The West used Israel as the visible symbol of its hegemony in the region, converting the tiny state into a lightning rod for Arab anger, bearing the brunt of generalised anti-West sentiments. And since democratic forms of popular expression were banned, collective anger found a religious idiom, feeding all sorts of Islamist movements. Al Qaeda’s founder Osama bin Laden’s original grouse, let us not forget, was US military presence in Saudi Arabia, the land of the holiest two mosques of Islam.
  • Ever heard of the concept of 'subsidiarity'?
    • It is the principle of organising functions in a hierarchy of responsibility that devolves power to lower level structures to tackle problems best handled by them, leaving only subsidiary functions to higher levels.
Language Lessons
  • skimp: Verb
    • Work hastily or carelessly; deal with inadequately and superficially; Limit in quality or quantity; Subsist on a meagre allowance; Supply sparingly and with restricted quantities
  • limpid: Adjective
    • Clear and bright; Transmitting light; able to be seen through with clarity; (of language) transparently clear; easily understandable
    • eg: Tamiki Hara, a Japanese master of limpid prose...
  • mien: Noun
    • Dignified manner or conduct
    • eg: To display a calm mien in their Zen-like prose they undergo internal turmoil.
  • cohere: Verb
    • Come or be in close contact with; stick or hold together and resist separation; Cause to form a united, orderly, and aesthetically consistent whole; Have internal elements or parts logically connected so that aesthetic consistency results
    • eg: As Japan picked itself up by its bootstraps and its society became more open and cohered with the world...
  • macron: Noun
    • A diacritical mark (-) placed above a vowel to indicate a long sound