In the above article (really well articulated), Varun Grover picks up two main arguments that generally upper caste Hindus give against reservation. He then shows the flaw in both those arguments. I agree with ‘almost’ all that he says.
Upper caste Hindu argument against Reservation #1
Reservation enables bypassing of merit.
Any fair evaluation of ‘merit’ requires a level playing field. A Dalit kid from an underprivileged family with no access to clean water or regular electricity or healthcare, constantly living in fear of their identity being disclosed at school, or being bullied or discriminated against by their classmates and teachers could not be expected to excel in an academic system conflating merit with cramming skills.
Do reservations bypass merit? Yes, they do.
And yet Varun is right. It is absolutely okay for “less meritorious” people to go ahead in life, especially when the reason they seem to be less meritorious is not because they are any less smart / capable but because they were in a non-level game to begin with.
Upper caste Hindu argument against Reservation #2
Reservations should be given on the basis of economic status alone because otherwise “rich Dalits are taking undue advantage of the policy”.
I am an upper caste Hindu and I do believe that rich Dalits are indeed having an undue advantage over their poorer counterparts.
Reservations aim to bring something much more valuable than financial status — they bring dignity and representation.
This is a great perspective. I agree with it. Reservations are not necessarily about alleviating poverty (there are so many other schemes that exist for that purpose).
But if you go back and read his counter to the first argument (meritocracy), he himself paints the picture of a ‘poor’ Dalit – someone with ‘no access to clean water’. See the issue?
Varun gives examples of rich, successful and famous Dalits who regularly face discrimination. Yes, that’s a sad fact. So is reservation solving that problem? May be not as much. Will taking away reservation help? No, not at all (so I am totally with him when he says later in the article that just because reservations haven’t done enough in seven decades, does *not* mean there is a case for abolishing them).
But is it worth trying to modify the policy in a way that within the lower-caste populace, they are the poorer ones who get to benefit more than the richer ones? Yes I think so.
For this to happen, Dalits will probably have to split into two groups – the rich Dalits and the poorer Dalits (I have no idea if this already is the case in the Dalit community – I am guessing not so much).
As a group, they probably need to be united, be there for each other. And this also means that the poor Dalits would continue to lose out to the rich ones. Yes some good ones will pull others up – but it’s left to the ‘richer’ Dalits to decide who they can help. This is an issue.
The time for this issue to be addressed has just not come yet (and even when it comes, the Dalits need to decide how to improve the reservation policy, not the upper caste folks like me/Varun). Until then, at least what is there, should remain. And on that, well I guess Varun and I are anyway on the same page.
So, yeah that’s all. It’s funny though that a not so famous ‘Savarna’ dude who went to IIT but is in a creative field today is debating nuances of ‘reservation’ with another Savarna famous dude who went to IT-BHU and is in a creative field himself.
United Nations Convention against Torture (UNCAT) is an international human rights treaty, that aims to prevent torture and other acts of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment around the world.
A week or two ago, I saw an insightful video. Sonali, a young law student explains in there, how most of us demanding justice for the shopkeeper father-son from Tamil Nadu (tortured to death by police), were demanding something that had already been provided.
In her IGTV video, she then suggests some specific demands that we should probably make if we really care about improvement of the policing system in India:
setting up of a Police Complaint Authority
making CCTV mandatory in police stations
better training & sensitization of police officers
signing of UNCAT
She explains how there are only 9 countries in the world that have not yet signed the United Nations Convention against Torture (UNCAT) – India is one of them. There is a slight inaccuracy in this statement that I will clarify in a bit. Hold on.
Anyway, so her video made me wonder – have tortures gone down in countries that have signed the Convention? But even before that, I needed to figure out an explanation to the obvious question.
It so happens that India has signed the convention. It did so in 1997 itself. What it has not done is – ratify the same.
‘Ratification’ is the next step after signing, where in the country becomes legally obliged to adhere to the rules of the Convention. Signing just shows intent – there is no legal obligation as such. It’s been 23 years since the signing. India has not yet ratified UNCAT. Why?
Most of our Indian laws are borrowed from Britishers – we modified and adapted them once we got independence. Even today, in 2020, most Indian states follow the Indian Police Act 1861 (with few modifications).
Since they were the Britishers who set up the policing system, they didn’t see any issue in ingraining a culture of torture in there. It probably made sense – they were the ‘rulers’, the Indians their subjects.
The issue is – the overall ideology of how policing should happen, has continued till date.
What this means is, if and when India chooses to ratify the UN convention against torture – it will have to fundamentally redesign the policing structure / ideology (across all states – each state has its own policing regulation). And this probably is too much of work! And so India has done nothing about it! Since 23 years!
I also came across an interesting and a very recent video where Karan Thapar interviews India’s former Law Minister Ashwani Kumar (AK held this position for about six months during the second term of Congress Govt. under Dr. Manmohan Singh).
I learnt two important things from watching the video:
The Congress Govt. did spend 3 months preparing an anti-torture bill (in 2010) but didn’t do enough to get it enacted (I’ve linked the bill for you to read, it’s only few pages).
At some point, Arun Kumar took up this issue with Supreme Court, requesting the court to ‘nudge’ the present Modi Govt. to do something about ratifying UNCAT. The Supreme Court however said in 2019 that this wasn’t something it should be doing (in the video, you can see AK expressing how this is a weird thing for SC to say because it has taken up similar issues earlier where it did ‘nudge’ the Govt. to act, like for mob-lynching related laws).
Do we have enough laws already? Would more laws change anything? One can debate for years I guess. But let me come to my million dollar question.
When a country ratifies the UN convention against torture, do incidences of torture go down?
Because if the above is not happening, what’s even the point?
I tried hard to find an answer but there is nothing really. The best I could discover was this book from early 2000 that tries to assess UNCAT. But you can only read few pages in here, and those pages don’t answer my question. The book doesn’t seem to be available anywhere (either in print or as an e-book).
So let me just go ahead and raise another question.
Why does police torture anyway?
Primarily, two reasons:
to show the victim who the boss is (display of power); and
to extract useful information that can help in an investigation (possibly saving innocent lives as a result).
Point 1 is about mentality. Britishers probably designed the policing system in this way because it was important for them not just to extract information, but also, once in a while to show who the boss was.
The fact that this mentality still exists in the police force, is shameful. At least that’s what I think.
Intuitively, many of us certainly believe that torture must work because what else explains this statistic: over 70% of Indians (& Chinese) are okay with torture as long as the bigger objective of ‘protecting the public’ is met.
Whether or not ratifying the UNCAT brings down the cases of torture in India, it will be nice if policing system is reformed. Attempts to reform don’t always lead to any real change as was observed in Tanzania, but it’s worth trying at least? It’s not that no reform has happened in India.
The first National Police Commission in 1981 delivered eight reports addressing a range of police issues. In 2005, the Police Drafting Committee drafted a Model Police Act to replace the existing and archaic Police Act, 1861. Most recently, last year, the Supreme Court issued new directives to state governments to implement the directives that the apex court had recommended in 2006. Thus, both the problems and potential solutions to India’s police problems are well-understood.
What has perhaps stymied the implementation of these reforms is the lack of political will, which in turn could be linked to the growing criminalization of politics. When lawmakers increasingly feature serious criminal charges in their resume, they have very little incentive to professionalize the police force.
As far as I could find out, the draft of “Model Police Act” remains just that – a draft. And our police personnel continue to torture and execute ‘encounters’ as they please. There will always be good cops who will never do this, but the system allows and approves of the killings if and when a cop (or the politician s/he reports to) wants to.
We, the citizens, outrage when we feel that the person tortured / killed was innocent. But we are okay, even somewhat relieved when we feel that the person killed were anyway criminal / terrorist / rapist.
1. Sonali’s video (watch from 5:30 onwards if you just want to listen to what else we can demand from our government)
2. Explanation of why India has not yet ratified the UNCAT.
I am not kidding. Watch this NatGeo video below (even if you watch it later, notice the title of the video – Horseshoe Crabs Mate in Massive Beach “Orgy”).
Horseshoe crabs have been around for 450 million years. To put that in perspective, our ancestors have been around only for about 6 million years (and the modern form of humans evolved just 200,000 years ago). May be we weren’t having enough beach orgies!
Jokes aside, something happened last month that made BBC publish this article yesterday, which then showed up in my inbox today (I have a Google Alert set for “Covid vaccine”, yes).
So how is a 450 million year old crab species connected to Covid vaccine?
It’s not just Covid. Since 1977, it is mandatory in US for any vaccine / drug / surgical instrument (that can come in contact with blood) to pass something called a ‘LAL’ test that depends upon the blue blood of horseshoe crabs.
L: limulus (short for Limulus polyphemus – the biological name of these crabs – which btw are not really crabs but belong to a different species of anthropods – closer to scorpions and spiders)
A: amebocyte – a kind of cell found in these crabs that contains…
When a bacteria (with endotoxin) comes in contact with this lysate, clotting occurs immediately and you know that the bacteria is there. Endotoxins can kill humans if not detected.
So to make sure a vaccine will not cause any infection when injected, you drop a small quantity of LAL in it and if the LAL doesn’t coagulate – you are good to go. Simple! But I told you this was approved in 1977. So how did we manage before that?
Before LAL, the only way to test the toxicity of any new vaccine (or experimental drug) was to inject lab rabbits and monitor their symptoms. It was a time consuming manual process that sucked big time. And if you are into animations and all that, the below video is fun to watch – shows cute rabbits.
So who came up with this briLALiant idea?
Although the LAL test was approved by US in 1977, research started almost twenty years earlier by this guy called Fred Bang, who btw received some sort of an award only in 2019 (that’s pretty much the only thing you will find about him in the Wiki page linked to his name).
Today, around 400k to 500k of these crabs are caught (once a year) and taken to labs where ~30% of their blue blood is removed from a vein near their heart. They are then released back to the beach / ocean.
In the 1980s and through the early 1990s, the process seemed sustainable. The pharma industry claimed that only 3% of the crabs died. But in recent years, it’s been estimated that upto 30% may be dying from this process.
The number of horseshoe crabs in Delaware Bay (NJ) for example dipped from 1.2 million in 1990 to just 300k+ by 2003, but has thankfully hovered around that figure since then.
By the way, lysate is super expensive. Present estimates seem to range anywhere between 13,000 to 16,000 USD per liter of the blue blood!
Is there no alternative?
Actually there is. Back in 1997 itself, scientists at the National University of Singapore – Ling Ding Jeak and Bo How (husband-wife), created something called an rFC test (using only lab made formulations) that could also detect endotoxin (in bacteria) just like the LAL test.
There have been several more studies since then. It took a lot of time for anything to change as the world at large continued to rely on the blue blood sucked from these crabs (which are not crabs).
It was only four years ago, in 2016 that the synthetic alternative to crab lysate was approved in Europe (which I guess is still valid) and it seemed that US would go down that route too but eventually it didn’t. And this brings me back to the BBC article that I wrote about in the beginning.
The article shares how last month (June 2020), US stated that the safety of the synthetic alternative is ‘unproven’ and so, any new drug / vaccine must continue to use LAL test (or else FDA will not approve it).
What about India?
I tried to find if the LAL test is mandatory in India, only to realize there is no way to search for this keyword. All Google shows me are sites that mention Dr. Lal labs! LOL!
By the way if you want to read up more on what went behind creating the synthetic lysate – here is a great article. Bloomberg also did a mini-doc on Prof. Ding’s breakthrough – see below (will play from 3:29 when she shows up with her husband – they are cute).
That’s it for this blog – hope you learnt something new and if you are up to learn even more, how about this – horseshoe crabs have two compounded eyes and seven simple eyes – a total of nine eyes! Ok, byes, byes. Need to plan this beach orgy thing now. Gotta live long!
Few months ago, I was trying to find books to read on how politicians play with the “Us Vs. Them” psychology to manipulate public opinion to get votes (or even otherwise). In that process I discovered a book that Jon has written. That’s how I came to know about him.
As I was listening to / reading his book, I got fascinated with the way he explained things and I wondered if videos existed where he was probably giving some talks. Many of them do actually. That’s how I stumbled upon the Ted talk, embedded above. The insights are fascinating – watch it.
Let me share few more snapshots from this talk.
At some point during the talk, Jon emphasizes on the importance of both right-wing and left-wing guys to realize that what’s best for the society is when both of them co-exist. And in that context, one of the examples that he offers is that of co-existence of Vishnu (preserver / stable / conservative) and Shiva (destroyer / unstable / liberal).
While the above is just a theory and you may choose to buy it or not, let me share something which is less disputable – it’s just a survey result.
From thousands of surveys, conducted across countries, Jon found that those who identify themselves as liberals, predominantly view only “harm” and “fairness” as moral hinges (which even the conservatives do).
But those who identify themselves as conservatives, believe in three additional aspects of morality – namely: a) respecting authority, b) group’s welfare over individual’s and c) the notion of “purity”. It will be a bit too much for me to explain these concepts to you – but if my blog makes you curious at all, just watch the video.
And of course, if you want to understand more about why we often think ‘we’ are absolutely right while the person with an opposite ideology is ‘obviously’ wrong – and why can’t one just look at the ‘facts’ – Jon Haidt’s book is a must-read.
Also ended up creating this t-shirt design. That’ll be all for this blog!
A tragedy occurred yesterday morning (01 Jul – Wed) in Kashmir. Militants fired at security personnel from a mosque. Not only did a CRPF jawaan die, but also a civilian – who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. His 3 year old grandchild was with him when he died. The child survived. Someone with a camera captured several images of the incident. Some images are disturbing. You can read the whole news here (this particular article has done the courtesy of blurring out some of the more sensitive portions of some of the images). // update – there is a more extensive article now by Huffpost
If you are a Kashmiri and you just know a civilian got killed by a bullet – you are more than likely to assume that Indian soldiers were behind it (you have heard so many stories / known personally about army brutality that “facts” don’t matter – instincts do; also who has the ‘fact’s anyway?). If you see the below video where the deceased’s family is interviewed, that’s what they claim – soldiers killed the guy!
Most of us will never know the reality. But that is not the point here. The images that surfaced are of a tragedy. No civilian should die in a fight that is not theirs. No child should ever get traumatized like this. And that’s the first thing that most of us (liberal or conservative) would think of.
Now let’s look at what Sambit Patra tried to do with the image. I don’t want to share that particular tweet of his, because it’s disgusting. The best I can do is draw it and share below.
Sambit Patra’s tweet may or may not be problematic owing to the sensitive nature of the image itself – but IT DEFINITELY IS PROBLEMATIC because of what he intended to do with the photograph(s).
Journalists and activist use sensitive images ALL the time (not just that of children next to dead bodies but dead bodies of children themselves or of people dying). That’s just a fact. There are many debates and discussions and pros and cons and ethical protocols and questions around which image to use, which not to and on and on, but net-net, sensitive images are both created and used.
What matters more is – what is the intent behind publishing it / sharing it?
Is the intent to record visual history? Fine, wait for some time and when the subject is no more “news” go ahead and show the pictures in museums and publish them in books.
Is the intent to highlight a tragedy? Is it bringing to forefront a struggle of a section of society? Fine, go ahead – use the image.
Even the example that Sambit Patra himself offers, where sensitive images were used – literally meet the above requirement.
By the way, I tried to find if any sensitive photograph of Vemula was even used by anyone to dalit-shame the Government – could not find a SINGLE one! Chances are, Sambit Patra is just lying on that one. Even if they had been – it would have been about emphasizing the struggles of being a dalit in India.
Coming to the other two examples that he offers:
Floyd – the video of him dying helped in reviving BLM by once again highlighting the struggles of being a Black in America
The dead Syrian child – Aylan Kurdi’simage – helped bring to forefront the struggles of escaping one’s war raged country
Sambit Patra knowingly breaks the moral / ethical code of conduct – that’s what petty politicians do. His intention of using a sensitive photograph has nothing to do with caring about the tragedy. HIS INTENTION IS TO ATTACK.
Treat all subjects of news coverage with respect and dignity, showing particular compassion to victims of crime or tragedy
Radio-Television National Directors Association (RTNDA) – (source)
When New York Times showed the below picture of a starving child from Yemen for example, the Editor explained why they chose to publish the photograph.
‘This is our job as journalists: to bear witness, to give voice to those who are otherwise abandoned, victimized and forgotten,’ it read. Source.
Sensitive photographs are used to bring struggles of a section of society to forefront often when THAT’S THE ONLY WAY JOURNALISTS AND ACTIVISTS CAN MAKE THE REST OF THE WORLD ‘SEE’ THE PROBLEM / CARE ABOUT THE PROBLEM.
NOW GET THIS – THE INDIAN GOVT. ALREADY USES SO MANY TECHNIQUES TO SUPPERS THE VOICE OF DISSENT – FROM FAKE FIRS TARGETTING JOURNALISTS TO NOT LETTING KASHMIR HAVE 4G SINCE OVER A YEAR NOW!
So where is the moral justification for someone like Sambit Patra to use an image of a tragedy to do what he did?
He is clearly not concerned about the guy who just died. He doesn’t acknowledge the trauma of the 3 year old child. He doesn’t express his grief (if he has any). He simply uses his words to target Pulitzer prize winning journalists and anyone who questions him / the Govt!
Just read the above tweet. He neither denies nor accepts that his tweet is heartless (because he knows it is). He neither denies nor accepts that his tweet is hateful (because he knows it is – that’s what he is trying to do in the first place).
His response doesn’t even address his own action. His response is making an allegation on the person who asks him the question – a textbook example of “ad hominem fallacy” – something that unfortunately every politician is guilty of.
Sambit Patra uses Ad Hominem Fallacy (like many other politicians who can’t defend their actions)
The ad hominem is a fallacy of relevance where someone rejects or criticizes another person’s view on the basis of personal characteristics, background, physical appearance, or other features irrelevant to the argument at issue.
Just go back and read his replies to Vishal Dadlani (music composer / singer) and Sagarika Ghose (journalist / author).
Dear Sambit Patra, Vishal Dadlani does NOT matter to citizens of India as much as you do – or any politician in power – even if Vishal is a Jihad lover or a Pak lover! He is not a politician – in power, YOU are! Question to you – Sambit Patra – is of relevance right now. Question to Vishal Dadlani is not!!
It does not matter to the citizens of India whether Sagarika Ghose is heartless and endorses Jihad or endorses terrorism or not! She is a journalist / author. She is not a politician in power. You – Sambit Patra – are. And you know it. You know what are you doing. I can only pray to God, that such ad hominem strategies stop working for you some day!
“It takes heart to stand against Pak sponsored terrorism” – you say.
There are two things wrong with the above statement.
1 – When did you take a stand against Pak sponsord terrorism? You shared a sensitive photo, and just used it to make fun of Pulitzer Prize winning journalists!
2 – What the fuck does it even mean when you say “it takes heart to stand against Pak sponsored terrorism”? They are the Indian security forces standing against Pak sponsored terrorism, not some weak section of a society!! It takes heart to stand for the weak. It takes heart to stand for the oppressed. But, no it doesn’t take any heart to stand against Pak sponsored terrorism! It takes strategy and policies and muscle-power. The government already has it. And that the government should!
SO STOP BULLSHITTING TO JUSTIFY WHAT CANNOT BE! YOU ARE USING PICTURES OF A TRAGEDY TO TALK ABOUT EVERYTHING BUT THE TRAGEDY! THIS IS ALL THERE IS TO IT.
I thought about why you did this; why you do what you do; what you want to achieve. And the following seem to be the plausible answers:
if you / someone from the Govt. didn’t hijack the story, the same photographs would have been used (and rightly so) to claim something like “civilians / innocent are losing lives in crossfire between security forces and militants – this must end” – then the onus would be on Govt. to do something about it
such stunts that divert the debate from “tragedy” to “us Vs. them” get rewarded in BJP – so it serves your career path
Can’t wait for assholes like you Sambit Patra to just rot and fade away. The longer a mentality like yours exists, the longer you continue to speak, spread hatred and misguide everyone, the more we as citizens suffer.
Below are some of the advice from the Society of Professional Journalists’ code of ethics (guess how many of them Sambit Patra cared to adhere to when he decided to hijack this story)
Show compassion for those who may be affected adversely by news coverage. Use special sensitivity when dealing with children and inexperienced sources or subjects.
Be sensitive when seeking or using interviews or photographs of those affected by tragedy or grief.
Recognize that private people have a greater right to control information about themselves than do public officials and others who seek power, influence or attention. Only an overriding public need can justify intrusion into anyone’s privacy.
Show good taste. Avoid pandering to lurid curiosity.
I just finished reading the above linked article from NatGeo. Following are two new things that I learnt :
WHO is ok with approving any vaccine that works at least on 50% people! (this is new to me – very important to note) – although an “ideal” vaccine candidate is one that works at least 70% times (again as per WHO itself)
Only around 50% of a population typically agrees to get vaccinated even after a vaccine is declared safe and effective (“vaccine hesitancy” – I didn’t know about this useful ino when I made my video). Also, women are more unsure than men (though not by much) when it comes to deciding if they want to get vaccinated (the article doesn’t offer any explanation for this).
There are four more key points in the article – that I have already known about and explained in my VATSANALYSIS video (it’s super insightful, crisp and also somewhat funny – you will love it – scroll down to see it).
Those four additional points in the NatGeo article are:
When vaccine approval is rushed, healthy people suffer (and even die) // the article begins with a 1976 example – and later gives few more recent examples
140+ vaccine candidates are in different test stages (in my video, I could claim 100+ but then I had published it a month ago; also the best place to keep track of all the vaccine candidates is here).
The article also offers a broad (but dry) overview of the three phases of clinical trials // I’ve obviously explained this in great detail in my video (with nice animations and jokes and all that)
Some vaccines are more effective (like that for polio – once you take it, you are almost sure you will never get the disease) while other vaccines are not that effective (vaccination against Malaria approved in 2015 example) // this is a nice way to put things in perspective which I didn’t do that well in my video analysis. I did however talk about the ineffectiveness of many existing vaccines and said towards the end of the video, how we don’t really know that once the vaccination against Covid is out, would we need to take it just once, or once every year or every few years? We still don’t know.