Posts Tagged ‘India’

(Indian) Democracy: constitutional and populist

October 8, 2008

In a piece titled Constitutional Morality (pdf), Andre Beteille talks about constitutional and populist democracies; Beteille also traces the histories of Indian democracy and the making of Indian constitution in the piece and indicates the relevance of the constitution to our democratic norms and working; he concludes the piece with the prediction that India might be destined to oscillate between constitutionalism and populism:

Our politicians may devise ingenious ways of getting round the Constitution and violating its rules from time to time, but they do not like to see the open defiance of it by others. In that sense the Constitution has come to acquire a significant symbolic value among Indians. But the currents of populism run deep in the country’s political life, and they too have their own moral compulsions. It would appear therefore that the people of India are destined to oscillate endlessly between the two poles of constitutionalism and populism without ever discarding the one or the other.

There are also plenty of Ambedkar, Gandhi, Indira Gandhi and JP in the piece. A very interesting read; take a look!

Link: via Law and other things.

A way of controlling AIDS

June 20, 2008

Alex Tabarrok gives some pointers in MR (in a post which involves more sex, Thailand, and The Wisdom of Whores):

In More Sex is Safer Sex Steven Landsburg famously argued (based on work by Michael Kremer) that if more people, especially more sexually conservative people, had sex the AIDS epidemic could be reduced. Landsburg wrote:

Imagine a country where almost all women are monogamous, while all men demand two female partners per year. Under those circumstances, a few prostitutes end up servicing all the men. Before long, the prostitutes are infected; they pass the disease on to the men; the men bring it home to their monogamous wives. But if each of those monogamous wives were willing to take on one extramarital partner, the market for prostitution would die out, and the virus, unable to spread fast enough to maintain itself, might well die out along with it.

In The Wisdom of Whores (see also my earlier post) Elizabeth Pisani says that such a country exists, it’s Thailand, and the results of more sex were safer sex – exactly as Landsburg argued.

Take a look (and, don’t miss the comments — one of the commentors at least, credits Steinbeck with the discovery of the some of these ideas too)!

By the way, while we are on the topic, take a look at this review (hat tip to Swarup for the email pointer) in New York Review of books by Darlymple, titled India: the place of sex, which is a review of four books — one on Chola bronzes, a translation of Kamasutra, another book on Kamasutra, and one on Tantric sex. Reading the review, you realise that we could have been Thailand, if only we kept up our traditions from those days 🙂 By the way, Amitav Ghosh, in his In an antique land also mentions (with enough supporting scholarly material, of course) how India was indeed perceived as a land of sexual mores by foreigners during the medieval period.

Norwegian-Indians, Norwegian-Pakistanis and their integration

April 9, 2008

A million and a half people were killed under the Partition of British-India into India and Pakistan. This incident during the summer of 1947 has been described as Asia’s holocaust: How has this conflict affected the relationship between Norwegian-Pakistanis and Norwegian-Indians and their integration into Norway? Are such conflicts inherited or are we witnessing the development of a Desi community?

Lorenz Khazaleh interviews Lavleen Kaur on her thesis topic; via which also lists several other interviews by Lorenz that might be of interest. Take a look!

Darwin in Indian biology textbooks (the absence of)

March 31, 2008

Prof. Balaram, in his latest editorial at Current Science, brings some disturbing news to our attention (pdf):

 … I wondered how much are our children are taught about Darwin. I took a clandestine look at a X standard biology textbook and found a picture of Gregor Mendel, but no mention of Darwin. There were sections on cell structures, genetics, respiration, nervous and reproductive systems, population and health, but surprisingly not even a passing mention of the origins of biological diversity. On enquiry, the owner of the textbook was dismissive: “Only you and the BBC are interested in Darwin”.

Considering the accepted importance of evolutionary  concepts in biology, the cavalier treatment meted out to Darwin in the high school textbook puzzled me. But, I quickly discovered that “evolution” is a word that is avoided elsewhere too.

Till I read the editorial, I was under the impression that in India at least, we did not have any problems with teaching evolution. May be my impression was incorrect; may be the biology textbooks that we perused also did not have any reference to Darwin, and all of what I know about Darwin and his work stem from my non-textbook reading. In any case, I only hope that Prof. Balaram’s editorial will be a starting point for the revision of the textbooks!