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5

Porn has come under extensive criticism from feminists as well. I find this scary. Accusations vary from porn resulting in rape to porn being born from an exploitation of women. I disagree with a lot of these accusations and agree with a few, but do not see blocking of porn as an answer. More importantly, I find it alarming that feminism can selectively abdicate interest in the agency of women.

Who decides whether and what porn should be banned?

A large part of the feminist view is that men deciding what harms women is a problem. A sizeable chunk of feminists also thinks porn should be banned because it harms women. Very few people actually ask porn watching women or performers. In my view, people who don't want to watch porn are not required to watch it, just like people not interested in cricket are not forced to follow scores on cricket websites. Thus, there is little question of porn being imposed on people and the primary stakeholders would be producers, performers and viewers - mostly not consulted in deliberations on bans. Other stakeholders could be law enforcement, social workers and doctors working with the industry and so on. Few, if any women enjoy porn that is violent, but there are women viewers as well as performers who like rough sex porn. Our efforts to figure out a way to reduce the harms of porn don't consult them. In my view not only is this authoritarian, bypassing stakeholders is unlikely to result in effective ways of dealing with the issue.

Can porn cause harm?

There is harm related to porn including addiction, unhealthy expectations about sex and violent or non-consensual sex. On the darker side is a sordid saga of drug abuse among porn performers, sexual abuse and allegedly, trafficking women to make porn, blackmail and more. Extreme and hardcore acts or object insertions can result in people injuring themselves. Those added to a rape can result in serious injury and worse. They can give men all sorts of misconceptions about what women like during sex. And this is "legal" porn (as in not depicting criminal acts) - not even necessarily violent porn. There is also little doubt that a lot of mainstream porn is too aggressive and disrespectful of women for women's tastes.

So are many Bollywood films. I'd argue songs like "Khambe jaisi khadi hain" starring the conscience of the nation, Aamir Khan, with "heroes" pursuing reluctant actresses, heartily idolized by cheering and jeering mob of sidekicks have inspired more non-consensual  sexual pursuit of women than porn films ever will. Catcalls and whistles from the balcony during rape/molestation/erotic scenes are embarrassing cinema traditions. When the heroine can slap the hero for harassing her, and discover at the end of the film that she was wrong for misjudging him. I would argue that public figures and people in positions of authority that excuse rape and hold victims responsible for "asking for it" do more harm than porn. Because these are cultural influences, rather than private activities.

What are the things already being done about "bad" porn?

Association of Sites Advocating Child Protection, Internet Watch Foundation and FBI track and seize servers that run child pornography. Google does not want revenge porn to appear in search results. There are other initiatives by ordinary netizens like Anonymous who are relentless in their efforts in their pursuit of child abusers and child porn. Efforts like feminist porn, Porna porn or sex-positive porn are growing rapidly as more and more people turn toward more "real" depictions of sex rather than aggressive porn that "gets off" on humiliating women. Bishakha Datta puts it well in her fine article on the porn ban, "If we applied the free speech argument to porn, we wouldn’t ban porn. We’d fight porn with more porn, make more porn for women." She is planning to create a porn-o-meter service to rate porn for being child, women and law friendly that depicts women enjoying and controlling the sexual action as well. Top rated videos of most popular sites are increasingly of the kind where women participate and enjoy the sex.

Above prejudices and ethics is hard business

A part of the problem is also the "quality", as a pragmatic porn performer who does not want to be named, told me. If a director fails to convey pleasure and emotional connect it can look alarmingly indifferent to a woman's pleasure. A woman's pleasure can be more subtle to portray and capture than a man's very visible orgasm. It is also no coincidence that most films with good production values and acting and direction also have sex that looks enjoyable for all participants.

While the audience was mostly men, this did not matter so much, but with the rise in viewership by women, this has started mattering. If women friendly porn has demand, it will be created. And it should be, because as Pu La Deshpande had said in his speech celebrating the 75th show of the outrageous Sangeet Vastraharan, "There is only one answer to inappropriate things and that is doing what is appropriate in an excellent manner."

Here is Erika Lust, who makes porn videos talking about the need for porn to change.

Porn is hardly a new concern. Other countries already have laws that the biggest sites have to comply with to remain accessible to viewers in order to profit. Any porn site with noticeable viewership already explicitly requires performers to be of adult age and to sign consent forms. They remove reported criminal porn - because they are here to do business from the desires of people, not protect criminals at the cost of their own business and reputation. The question of why aggression with woman turns men on - whether as a fantasy or in real life is a question beyond the scope of this piece.

Does porn symbolize crimes against women?

Meena Kandasamy, a feminist has published an article in which she argues against the porn ban, yet declares porn to be against women's rights (then why should it not be banned?)

I do think that the pornographic industry overwhelmingly represents NOT freedom but its opposite, the enslavement of women's bodies, the casualisation of paedophilia, the trivialisation of rape, the culture of trophy videos of rape, and all this, on top of being one of the most exploitative global sex industries that has trafficking, forced prostitution, abuse and near-slavery ingrained in it.

I invite anyone to check out the top porn sites to see if pedophilia or rape is present at all (whether casualized, trivialized or in another form) let alone "overwhelmingly represents". Women who participate willingly in BDSM cannot be considered to be "enslaved" beyond the sexual role play. I dare say that if the top visited sites don't carry it, most porn viewers never come across it. If you specifically search for child or rape porn, you will find it regardless of blocks, because if there is something you can find on the internet, you can find it around a block as well.

Conditions of porn performers

There are porn performers who reach the top of name and fame as performers and go on to produce their own content and there are those that do a brief stint and reach a dead end - like the bulk of acting and modeling work. There are plenty of "stars" speaking candidly about the profession, including their sex lives on and off screen when their partner is also a co-star; interacting with fans in an extremely candid manner, including doing Reddit IAmAs, where anyone can ask them anything and answering questions on Quora. There are candid Reddit IAmAs of partners of porn performers who speak of dedication to their work and career; the "work" of porn and sex being different things and even being committed to monogamy off screen.

Technology is killing mainstream porn but empowering the talent. It cuts out the middle man and let's almost anyone work from home. ~ Tory Lane

It is a career choice with its occupational hazards. Not all that different from a film star talking about how it isn't all about glamour but days of slogging doing retakes after retakes.

A construction worker abuses her body for far less money and comfort. Do we call for bans on construction work or coal mines because workers fall to their die, get health problems or abuse their body beyond endurance for a pittance? Is it not supremely ironic that feminists who would otherwise object to a woman being measured by her vagina end up condemning entire professions chosen by women because the part of the body overworked is the vagina? Is being a woman all about being a vagina then, that breaking your back ferrying gravel and cement is no reason for a ban but a far less brutal life as a sex performer is? Or is it that there is nothing to be outraged about a woman's sexuality unless she happens to earn from it?

This is not to say there is no ugly side. There are sex performers who get exploited, who face rude costars and suffer unpleasant sex from both the physical stress of postures for camera rather than comfort as well as brutal partners with usually larger than average penises. They speak of the abuse and humiliation of derogatory co-stars, being penetrated roughly, of drugs and exploiters. Why does the "victim" return to do another film? Performers make compromises they later regret because of the lure of money, like any of us. Women have had sex in ways that strips them of dignity for all kinds of reasons ranging from promotions to desperate attempts at preventing husbands from straying.

Defining the whole by a part

But more importantly, it is not so different from the million other people who "bitch" about their jobs, even as they continue to do them. Go to a corporate office, there will be bitter sense of victimization by colleagues and seniors considered to be manipulative, exploitative or otherwise unfair. Of bosses who will push employees beyond endurance to get the "work" done. Of work pressures that lead to suicides. Students commit suicide from exam pressures. Farmers commit suicide because they cannot afford to live. Bigggest common factor in cases of marital rape is marriage. Ban marriage? Every profession, occupation has a terrible side, but porn and prostitution appear to be two where a professional cannot talk about a bad day at work or problems they face without it becoming the "truth" of the industry.

What about the agency of women?

Whatever happened of the power of women to make choices including their own mistakes? If a woman chooses to wear skimpy clothes and walk on the streets of Delhi at midnight and gets raped, do we ask for roads to be closed to public after dark? If a porn performer faces abuse, why is it that instead of insisting that criminals be brought to book, we act like the ministers we condemn and condemn porn instead of the specific criminals? There is some preference within people to prevent porn, just like there is a preference to prevent women out on the streets among those who would deny them agency.

Concerns about Indian porn performers

That said, while I have no data, my perception is that the Indian porn performers do much worse than those in countries where it can be produced legally. I believe this is because performing contracts, mandatory health checks, legal status allow legal porn performers to build proper fan followings and improve  working conditions in ways that they find safe in ways Indian performers cannot. Indeed a lot of Indian porn I have seen appears to be little more than a shoot of a sexual encounter with a prostitute with little production values or direction beyond showing sex. If porn performing were legal in India, many prostitutes would be able to move out of prostitution and dictate who they would have sex with for an income and on what terms. They would be able to create and sell their own porn instead of being videotaped by profiteers who exploited them for their own profit. They would be able to choose producers who offered working conditions that did not exploit them.

What can the government do?

If we really want to do something about porn, in order to prevent exploitation of women, the need is not to ban it, but to legalize porn production so that working standards may be enforced, production companies can be formed and held accountable for the age and consent of performers in videos they produce and more. So that a porn performer may be able to file a case for rape just like any model can, if she gets forced to do things she has not agreed to do. I have often argued that instead of prudish bans on sex related activities like prostitution or porn, India needs to encourage a thriving sex industry that allows the government to crack down on exploitation and crime, because professionals will be interested in maintaining their licences to operate. Instead of fighting a token war against a tide of people interested in sex and profiteers thriving on exploiting women to provide it, the government can turn the bulk of consumers and providers on their side and really create conditions that deter crimes and exploitation.

[tweetthis]The only answer to inappropriate things is doing what is appropriate well. ~ PuLa[/tweetthis]

If porn is legal, it will become easier to monitor human trafficking, because the larger production houses that earn the most will have a vested interest in remaining legal and focusing on the money and they will have a way to be legal. Smaller operators in turn will not be able to earn enough from meager revenues from marginalized visibility to make the risks of crime worthwhile. It may not stop crimes altogether, but it will most definitely help to make them unnecessary as well as serve as strong deterrent for the vast majority.

One strength the government has, is the same one it exploits when it profits from FDI. The size of India's population is an asset when it comes to being a market. If the government can identify porn that encourages unhealthy attitudes about women and consent, it can pass a law requiring such content to carry disclaimers For example:

  • The following material is a fictional depiction of activities that are illegal in civilized countries - for enacted rape porn or "forced sex" etc
  • The actions depicted in this video can cause injury and are performed by practiced professionals. Don't try them at home - for extreme insertion porn.
  • The women in this video have consented to participate in a fictional depiction of dominance over women. Such actions without consent are illegal worldwide. - for rough sex, domination, BDSM, etc

Given the size of India's population, if sites that don't comply are blocked, it will result in a competition for the market share and allow the government to actively combat harmful messages potentially conveyed by porn.

The need is to not measure porn by the ethical standards of prudes with malice toward the industry, but by the standards of those engaging with it.

12

This post explains Net neutrality and the challenge facing it in India for all of you who can't exactly figure out what is going on. This is not intended to be comprehensive, but it gives you the bare bones of the issue and ideas on how to find out more to form your own opinion.

Net Neutrality is the idea that internet access not be manipulated to favor some websites over others. Unfortunately the user will still be limited by the internet package they purchase. Let us be upfront.

So why, if you don't have a website is this debate important to you?

When you surf the internet for entertainment or information or engagement, your freedom is at stake when you are manipulated toward using some sites over others. While some deals are transparent - in the form of packs - "100 MBof Facebook data free with 100MB 2g" or whatever, other deals may simply manifest as one website opening rapidly while another is agonizingly slow. So, your tendency to go with whichever is ready fast plays out over hundreds of thousands of users. Some sites make a windfall from your unintentional bias (that has been induced by technology) while others may become extinct. Do you intend to be biased?

So what if I am biased? I like fast websites, and they made the effort to be fast for me.

Not exactly. Throttling is more like other websites being made slower. But there are tangible disadvantages to you too. Let us begin with saying that there is no such thing as a free lunch. When Flipkart invests its money to get you on their site, it only does it because it earns more from your visit. When your network ties up with one operator, it is essentially like the taxi driver who takes you to the "cheapest hotel" and earns a commission for bringing you. You have nothing more than the driver's word that it is the cheapest.

If you are looking for a laptop and get an array of prices from Flipkart fast, while its competing sites will load agonizingly slow, chances are high that you miss finding the cheapest option, because you will be bored surfing slow sites while one blazing fast one is tantalizingly close. The difference in the laptop costs would probably buy you several data upgrades that could let you surf and find the best choice.

But I don't buy online.

How about Facebook (which has a history of offering user data to governments) being the only social network you can use because it is fast and even if you are willing to use a safer one, all your contacts are on Facebook, because it is fast.

What happens when you have to buy data packs and what looked like a FREE Facebook pack becomes a collection of 100MB packs each coming with something else free? One for WhatsApp, one for Google, another for youtube.... Would it be cheaper, really? It isn't cheap while you get the "free Flopkart" either. Only less visible, because you will easily use up the 100MB non-Facebook data and you're getting only one pack.

[tweetthis]Is "Free" really free? #NetNeutrality[/tweetthis]

What is the price we pay for free packs?
What is the price we pay for free packs?

Would the cheap packs still be free if you purchased them a-la-carte and added sites you use often one by one - for a price? You'd have to, because using them normally would give you the slow versions or be costly if you use them a lot. How many sites do you use in a month?

What if you are an activist or blogger?

If you get a whim to start a blog, you can just start one today. Without Net Neutrality, your blog would be like the tree that fell unseen, unheard - did you even make a blog if no one reads it? If people get bored waiting for it to load and find something better to do? This page loaded in 2 seconds. If it loaded in 8, would you have waited to read something that says "pay attention here"?

There are hundreds of blogs starting daily. Causes. Initiatives. Businesses. Someone finds a problem with degradation of environment in their area, starts a website to converge resources and information to fight it. Today, if you want to start a website, you buy a domain name that costs about Rs.300 for the first year and some webhosting space and you're in business. If you are like me, you already have a server and one domain name later, you add a new website to it. New initiative launched for a net cost of Rs.300 and some effort. What if all these people would be seen normally worldwide, but achingly slow in India, where their target audience is?

Or, the cost of starting a website just went up to Rs.300 + hosting + Airtel hafta + Idea hafta + Vodafone hafta...... 20 operators later, and most of your website running cost would be about PREVENTING artificial interference from driving away your visitors instead of whatever you are trying to do. Or, of course you can pray that all your visitors have the patience of a saint.

[tweetthis remove_twitter_handles="true"]Without #NetNeutrality most of the cost of website would be in preventing it being silenced by paying off providers[/tweetthis]

When the Net Neutrality debate was raging in the US, activists had organized a day when websites participating in the protest deliberately slowed down their websites to show people what the internet would be like without Net Neutrality. It was the 10th September - day after my son's birthday. I will remember it for a long time, because almost none of my visitors read a second page on any of the six blogs I had activated it on, on that day. From thousands of pageviews, that day was a few hundred. Who'd want to read another page on a site that just.wont.load? I did it deliberately. This would become my reality unless I was willing to shell out money for faster access.

There is a protocol coming up. Http/2. It is already released of sorts. Google and big sites implement it. By the end of the year, a very popular server called Nginx will be implementing it. Sites worldwide will become much, much faster. Except for sites that won't pay these middlemen - in India.

The Telecom industry has been showing huge profits.

This isn't about not being able to afford. It is about exploiting a ready resource for the profit of some cronies. I have said this before, during the debate on FDI and I say it now. We are not used to thinking of the Indian population as a national resource. Yet, if you can harness something that earns you a rupee from each Indian a month, you'll earn a cool 1.2 billion every month. Whether it is by opening the market so foreign companies can profit, or luring citizens to services you make deals with, so those services earn from it. And make no mistake, even if you buy nothing on Facebook, write nothing, even checking your notifications loads pages and earns Facebook ad revenues. Notice how the notifications are designed so that you can NEVER make out which post got the like from your friend till you actually click the link to find out. That's a page load.

I am not trying to be paranoid or even grudge anyone advertizing revenues. Only pointing out that your convenience is not the goal, the goal is revenue. But it wastes YOUR time. But other services that may be way more user friendly will not be able to compete with a network promoted by every telecom operator in the country. Even if you are willing to risk a slower network, people you network with will likely not.

In other words, this is a manipulation, and for all the claims of "giving Facebook free", as Rajesh Mathews put it, I have yet to come across a single free data pack on any mobile provider's website. You have to purchase data, and you get their crony for "free", which will be recovered from your hide in other ways.

Data is data. What you use it for is your business. When you purchase data, it is being sold because it is profitable selling it. The idea that existing data is not profitable and hence principles of equality must be ignored is discrimination and illegal.

The idea that there isn't enough spectrum and therefore existing services that are ALREADY MAKING MASSIVE PROFITS can hold India's internet hostage for their own windfalls is plain and ugly cronyism, if the government allows it.

5

As the magic 49 number of days of Modi sarkar comes to a close, it has been a good journey. Looking back at some of the hilarious points of what is fast coming to be known as the U-Turn sarkar.

Should India be entertaining Pakistani VIPs if there is conflict at the border?

That is how the Modi sarkar began. Before, Modi had only contempt for Manmohan Singh's sarkar that apparently did not retaliate strongly enough to Indian soldiers being killed at the border. That too, in Telugu, it seems.

Modi blasts Manmohan Singh for taking killings at the LoC lightly
Modi blasts Manmohan Singh for taking killings at the LoC lightly

Modi himself had refused the evil Pakistanis in a massive demonstration of patriotic solidarity. Little did Dr. Manmohan Singh know that when people say his silence was a problem, they mean it. He could have tried something as simple as inviting Pakistan's Prime Minister for an important national function. Like so:

Modi on LoC conflicts and relations with Pakistan before and after
Modi on LoC conflicts and relations with Pakistan before and after

Or perhaps I may be wrong, and this may not be a patriotic move so much as the first installment on the election campaign expenses. Even as the poor beheaded jawan's wife was protesting. Sometimes greater good has to be seen.

Modi's sponsor Adani wants to sell power to Pakistan
Modi's sponsor Adani wants to sell power to Pakistan

But at least Modi was right about the other borders I think. Illegal Bangladeshis are such a nuisance. Modi was right to threaten to deport them

Bangladeshis were to be deported before elections
Bangladeshis were to be deported before elections

 

but there is a problem. After all, he'd just invited their Prime Minister for his coronation. So he at least tried to get rid of the "illegal" from it, if not deporting.

Visa-free entry to Bangladeshis under 18 years and over 65 years
Visa-free entry to Bangladeshis under 18 years and over 65 years

The solution was so simple, one must really wonder why Dr. Mannu never thought of it. Simply allow them visa free entry - voila! Now they can stay where they are legally!!!

This Modi sarkar is pure genius, I tell you.

What about that evil Gandhi bloodline (excluding the pure blood of Varun Gandhi, BJP). Dr. Subramanian Swamy had Priyanka Gandhi red handed. Multiple DINs! That evil witch and that Karti Chidambaram!!!

 

Appropriately terrified, Priyanka Gandhi confessed to making multiple applications and offered to pay the fine (and nicely ignored the jail time, thank you very much).

But wait. That was before. Now that Modi sarkar is in place, the greater efficiency showed that Priyanka Vadra may have applied as many times as she liked, but the super efficient (retrospectively as well) Ministry of Corporate affairs had actually issued her only one DIN. What a DIN about DINs. Just like Nitin Gadkari (No, you can't check now, the extra DINs nicely show "not yet issued" now that a better government is in place.)

Oops! Priyana Vadra and Karti Chidambaram had only one DIN each
Oops! Priyana Vadra and Karti Chidambaram had only one DIN each. Fooled ya!

Modi sarkar had Vadra terrified while UPA2 was in rule.

Vadra security privileges - before
Vadra security privileges - before

Then, as they campaigned, they probably thought a panicked Vadra would fight too hard to defeat them, so they kinda.... reassured.

Action against Vadra or no? Election Campaign
Action against Vadra or no? Election Campaign

And never let it be said BJP goes back on its word. Robert Vadra remains unscathed.

What about Robert Vadra's security exemptions?
What about Robert Vadra's security exemptions?

They had even terrified the couple together. Imagine losing security privileges and having to go through security checks at airports? I bet the couple lost sleepless nights.

Modi Sarkar has brought acche din to the country.

Jaitlet had thought that the Income Tax exemption slab should be raised to 5 lakh before the elections. Now that he got to present the budget, he raised it to 2.5 lakh.

 

What should the IT exemption slab be? Beore and after
What should the IT exemption slab be? Beore and after

Hey! No need to get outraged! If you ignore the decimal point, 25 is five times 5.

What about investments in railways?

Everything perfect on that front. Just watch.

What about the railways? Before and after
What about the railways? Before and after

We have no hesitation in telling you that UPA2 would have totally messed up the privatization of railways and FDI, but now that it is a BJP sarkar and BJP no longer plays dog in the manger with the government, many things that UPA2 wanted to do are now possible without BJP staging a walkout against itself.

Still not convinced? You are a cynical sickular. Try this.

Modi railway hike before and after
Modi railway hike before and after

Oh wait. I meant this.

uday-lalit-amit-shah-after

Amazing, isn't it, the things you can do when you can get a dozen newspapers to publish near identical articles without sources that can push things that happened before the election aside? Like this one?

Did Uday Lalit represent Amit Shah? Before
Did Uday Lalit represent Amit Shah? Before

There are many, many such gems. And you cannot blame BJP. After all, they have delivered the only real promise they made before the election - Modi as PM. To avoid confusion, they even avoided publishing a manifesto as far as possible.

So you really cannot claim that they cannot do U-Turns.

Welcome to the opening innings of U-Turn sarkar. May the remaining period be as hilarious as so far... and may worries about the country never plague your dazzled brain.

Note: This post actually has a lot of things missing (mostly because I got tired of doing screenshots). Feel free to nominate your favorites to this collection in the comments. I will update as and when I am back in the mood to play screenshot-screenshot.

Some ideas to get you started. Google up what Jaitley thought about declassifying the Henderson Brooks report on the 1962 war before and after the elections

Arun Jaitley's U-Turn on the Henderson Brooks report on the 1962 war
Arun Jaitley's U-Turn on the Henderson Brooks report on the 1962 war

or Aadhaar cards, or.... you get the idea? Or you could try non-specific U-Turns like strict action against criminal politicians, inflation, using ordinances in non-emergencies and the infamous "Acche Din"!

Let's see what you come up with.

You're welcome.

1

There is a category of journalists and publications which consistently publish seemingly scientific articles that are aimed at one or more of the following goals:

  1. Trivializing the problem of farmer suicides and denying the agrarian crisis.
  2. Exonerating the role of neo-liberal policies, insufficient support to agriculture and the role of unsuitable crops (including GM) in the agrarian crisis.
  3. Promoting GM crops, privatization, FDI and reduction of "sops" to farmers.
  4. Discrediting activists and journalists who criticize the role of corporations in increasing inequality.

You will find the same names and publications determinedly plodding along on an agenda that is highly focused (these won't be the guys talking about rural sanitation or soil health or large dams, for example - unless it illustrates some other political issue they are working on - not in terms of important in their own right and requiring solutions)

The latest instalment in this branch of journalism comes from "The myth of farmer suicides" by Ravi Shanker Kapoor in Business Standard. To put it simply, the article aims to trivialize farmer suicides as some invention of sentimental journalists. Much opinion building in the article pads a nonsense central argument. And the argument uses a false premise (what a surprise!)

According to P Sainath, in the six years between 2004 and 2009, as many as 102,628 tillers killed themselves. The total number of suicides in this period were 720,528, which makes farmer suicides 14.24 per cent. The Economic Survey says agriculture accounts for about 58 per cent employment in the country. Out of the 100 employed in India, 58 are farmers. So, if there are, say, 90 farmers among the 100 people who kill themselves, the situation is alarming. But this number doesn't reach even 15. Therefore, farmer suicides don't indicate agrarian crisis.

This entire construct would have you believe that all employment from agriculture is in the form of small and marginal farmers. Either it is a malicious attempt to dismiss what farmers go through, or the author is completely ignorant about agriculture, in which case, it is an important question to ask - why write at all about something you don't know?

Capping ignorance with inhumanity, he goes on to say that a situation is alarming only when it is severe to be the cause for 90%. With this logic, we shouln't bother to fight terror at all. All deaths from terror wouldn't make up 1% of all unnatural deaths in the country. Let alone 15 - a number he pulls from God knows where (my hunch is because it is the closest multiple of five 14.24 falls short of - falling short of something is important to illustrate, I guess. 10% would be more dramatic, but 14.24% didn't fit.).

The shoddily written article forgets to spell out the point it is making, but I'll do it for you. It is trying to say agriculture provides employment to 58%, but causes only 15% suicides, therefore things are actually going well and the bleeding hearts are trying to fleece you of your hard earned money (article is obviously aimed at the middle class working in "service sector") by aiming policies at these better off people. He kind of subtly makes you aware of it by quoting NCRB suicide data for 2011:

While 11.4 per cent people who committed suicide were from the service sector, the corresponding number for the farm sector was 10.3 per cent.

On an unrelated note, this is the sort of thinking that refers to the country's funds collected from taxes as "tax-payer's money" as if since they own it, they have a special right to it. Quite forgetting that the tax payer's money is sitting happily in their bank accounts, and this is the country's account that they are eyeing.

But I digress. Coming back to the numbers:

11.4% people doing committing suicide had profession as "service" - which in India means "had a job working for someone else" - as opposed to doing business or housewife or farming, etc. This includes your workers in mines and factories - as opposed to the "service sector" - which usually refers to the tertiary sector - as in they do not have tangible goods as products. This is an important distinction, because there are far more people in India with jobs than merely in the tertiary sector. How many are these people?

Let's take a look at the employment data from the economic survey. 2,89,99,000 is the number of people employed in the organized sector. The unorganized sector happens to actually be the bulk of jobs. According to the National Sample Survey Organization total employment in both organized and unorganized sector was 45.9 crore workers (2004-2005), of which unorganized workers formed 94%. Out of the 43.3 crore unorganized workers, 26.9 crore workers were employed in the agriculture sector, 2.6 crore in construction and the remaining in manufacturing activities, trade and transport, communication and services. A large number of unorganized workers were home based and were engaged in occupations like bidi-making, agarbatti-making, papad making, tailoring and embroidery work.

So this number of suicides, which is 11.4% of all suicides is 15,482 out of about 45.9 crore employed people in the country.

Now, let us look at the farmer suicide data. The farmer suicides are not typical of the "agricultural sector", but specifically marginal and small farmers who own their own land. Yes. Owning the land is important. Tenant farmer suicides are not suicides according to our government, nor are suiciding farmer relatives of farmers who committed suicides - if the land is not in their name. If the land is in the name of an 80 year old man who no longer is able to work in the fields, and his 52 year old farmer son commits suicide, according to our "statistics", it is a suicide, but not a farmer suicide. Get it? So, the number of farmer suicides is from among owners of small and marginal farms strictly. While I don't have the latest statistics for this, the data from the agricultural census 2005-06 states that the number of individual marginal farmers is:

GroupIndividualJointTotal
Marginal726284571091503283543489
Small20913853298248023896333
Total9354231013897512107439822

In other words, the 14,027 deaths that have happened, have happened from among approximately 10,74,39,822 - which is about a fourth of the number of employed people.

In still other words, 0.003% of all employed people commit suicide, while 0.013% of all small/marginal farmers commit suicide. This looks like it is at least four times "normal". Damn straight that is an agrarian crisis that is being stuffed under the pretty carpet.

And this is without getting into realities that the suicide numbers are not equal across India. Want to tally farmer suicides versus farmer land owning small and marginal farmers in only five states - Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh that account for two thirds of all farmer suicides? Want to try it for the farmer suicide capital of India - Vidarbha? The percentages will be far worse.

Vidarbha: The Farmer Suicide capital of India

I was going to do it, except I can't find the land holdings records for Maharashtra. I have seen them somewhere. If I find those, expect this casual debunk to reach levels of devastation.

This is the broad logic. Specific numbers, detailed analysis, inclusions, exclusions, whatever - I'm no number juggler - may make minor differences, but they can hardly change the difference so completely that farmers suicides are the same as others. Let alone what the joker is trying to peddle - that farmer suicides are actually less than the average.

Similar one by "think tank" Takshashila goes a step further and *assumes* that 60% of the population is farmers. Yep. The assumption that 6 out of 10 people are farmers was needed to reach a point where you can say farmers aren't committing suicide any more than others. All nicely packaged as "Indians are killing themselves, while farmers are dying in Vidarbha" What does it imply? Farmers are not Indians? Non-farmers are killing themselves, but farmers are merely dying (as opposed to suicide - killing themselves)? Very cool subliminals. Wondering about the need to fight expert opinion on farmer suicides when agriculture is obviously way beyond the area of expertise or even casual knowledge.

Wiser people with numbers, please feel free to refine the calculations in comments, I'll add them as appropriate.

8

Increasing privatization of necessities means citizens are forced to make purchases from private entities that are opaque to scrutiny and unaccountable to people. It is a permanent profit.

Privatizing essentials for living is undemocratic, because private corporations are not chosen by the people and they are not accountable to the people. We are a democracy, though these days many thought leaders seem to see it as a handicap. Things defined as necessities and included in the human development index MUST have government provided options, even if private entities offer their own services too. Like phones, healthcare, PDS or buses. Some things – air, water, land and sunlight – must NEVER be turned into the hands of anyone not accountable to citizens. Our ancestors weren’t fools to worship them – they are the foundations of life itself. Better than saving the cows, the Nationalists should save these.

Shifting the burden of responsibility from accountable government to opaque, private entities

This may seem like a small matter, but it is not. This is the government forcing people to make purchases from private entities, and I don’t see how any government has the right to impose them on people in a democracy. If companies want to sell better water, let them create their own networks for whoever wants to buy it – and source it from anywhere except this country – make it from the sea for all I care. It is possible. It requires technology, but the fancy corporates have abundant and better tech, I hear. Shouldn’t be a problem.

Supposed experts argue that the government is inefficient and that is why we need private companies. This is pro-privatization bull shit. Indian Government organizations run some of the most amazing, intricate and huge infrastructures in the world. ISRO has some of the greatest space programmes in the world for a fraction of the budget of the NASA and definitely not proportionately less capacity. Our Army is one of the largest in the world. We are capable of achieving quality. Not to mention we have indigenously developed nuclear capacities. We aren’t stupid. It is strange how we excel in some services and are miraculously incompetent where corporate alternatives exist. Or perhaps, those with possible profits in privatization keep quality low to prepare the stage by saying, oh, the government can’t do better, we are not private.

Are corporations really more efficient?

India’s telephone network is one of the largest in the world. Public transport, water pipelines… We can reach to every citizen of the country for things like vaccination, census, elections. Show me the corporation that has capabilities of this scale. We privatized electricity in Mumbai, but show me the corporation that electrified the many villages that need it instead of taking over already profitable areas. That is still this “incapable” government’s job and tax payer’s expense.

Why are there corporate subsidies, bailouts and bankruptcies if corporates are more efficient? Of course necessities being privatized will not go kaput, because we’ll cover the losses no matter what for our own survival needs. Unless they do fail and then it will be a humanitarian disaster that the tax payer must bail out to prevent humanitarian catastrophe. In other words, corporates are able to sell “better” on the basis of advertised efficiency, and make the tax payer suffer the inefficiencies that later emerge. Which CEO or upper management doesn’t get paid when the company is going bankrupt? With essentials, the consumer is powerless with choice between several corporations with similar methods and prices.

We blame the government for not making profit while operating in areas of all kinds of lack of development and think corporates that only run in profitable environments and still can make losses are better? What crap logic is this?

Does privatization bring solutions?

If privatization is the solution to everything not working, then the previous year is proof that we must privatize the Parliament instead of merely letting puppets of corporations run it. Let’s do away with elections, stop calling us a democracy and simply go with the “better option”. Let’s privatize the police force. It is far more inefficient than water supply. Whoever thinks people need cops more than they need water is insane. We take water for granted, because we still have it. As in, you and I – witness the massive protests by those whose water gets threatened over dams being privatized, built, destroyed or water sources being polluted… but wait, you didn’t hear about them.

It is also funny how the “need” for privatization is visible only in the areas where massive infrastructures built at the tax payer’s expense are peddled away to a company that couldn’t have dreamed of creating them. A company that will then bill the same tax payers more for using their creation. Big profits are made – from the “big market” India is. As economy slows, sales drop, stocks drop. No such risk with essentials. You will sell your gold and your house and yourself before you live without water.

Is no one connecting the dots to this massive collusion between government and private players? Why is this happening? Because India is a "developing country" in spite of massive undevelopedness and has delusions of being a superpower. Unfortunately, GDP cannot be faked. The money hemorrhaging through scams, misgovernance, lousy policies and plain posturing needs to come from somewhere. So we are now doing what a drunkard does - selling belongings to pay for booze.

Is it really development to sell away what the government owns?

Like the broke farmers selling their land and borrowing from moneylenders, we are selling or leasing our assets to corporates to afford running the country. We are walking this path, because we didn’t take the farmer suicides seriously enough to UNDERSTAND what was happening. Like the farmer who can’t afford seeds and sells more and more of his life till nothing is left, we can’t afford our outgoing.

Payments over $100 billion coming up. We have a few reserves, but using them will make us less super power and be the stamp on the government’s lack of credibility with money. Time to sell something. The FDI in Retail flopped because massive outcry was raised. Some other FDIs still happened. India is assuring Wallmart that the FDI too is going to happen. Pranab Mukherjee is candid “I need the money“. Never mind that a Parliamentary Standing Committee on Commerce report on FDI in Retail in May 2009 recommended against it. Now water privatization. A bomb proof market of citizen’s needs is sold for vast amounts of money, as guaranteed, stupendous profit.

Corporations are less corrupt is a popular perception – because they 1. legitimize many payments that come out of the customers pocket (compare salaries like CEOs, perks to top management, meeting and conference and such expenses, corporate branding, dress codes, running expenses… for example) and 2. they are not transparent, so you don’t know anyway. You can’t file an RTI to find out even if you suspect. But make no mistake, you pay for the glitter. It isn’t corruption if they tell you upfront. It is only unfortunate and these costs are unavoidable cost of running the operation and you want water from it and now you must pay your bill.

Who is responsible if the poor cannot afford life essential services from private operators?

I have no wish to dictate what corporates do with their operations with non-essentials, but I think in a country with massive poverty, necessities must be as lean and subsidized as possible without trying to “recover investments” at the cost of human rights. There are arguments about “welfare state” and such. I don’t know when the word welfare itself became a bad word, but I cannot understand why it is wrong to ensure a basic human need like water for all regardless of their ability to pay for it.

Is our country really saying that staying in the country is different from having water for living in it? What next? Air? Sunlight? Earth? With India being the most polluted country in the world and radiation increasingly recognized as unsafe, they are possible. Imagine piped breathing air for enclosed spaces from villages or other areas with trees and low pollution, portable air decontaminators with bluetooth pairing with your phone and computer. Radiation and other contamination free properties available for a price. Huge roofs over cities for solar power and you can pay to enter and spend some time in the sun… But only privatized after the tax payer first pays for creating the infrastructures. And then the rest of the people should live with the lousy contaminated state of their “services” or pay up. Our experts would talk about India’s prowess in taming the four elements of our ancient texts.

Why have development indexes by country at all? Privatize all needs, and ask UN to speak with service providers over people dying of hunger and thirst, who will simply say that they are not customers, and they are not answerable for those they don’t provide service to. We can always say that we cannot help epidemics, since we don't have a service to monitor them, and we don't have the service because no one wants to pay for a service that monitors epidemics where mostly poor die. So we at least don’t appear so bad.

Life essential needs are not merely products and services, they are what make life possible

The big, fatal mistake is in buying the government and corporate bullshit that basic needs are services. They are the backbone of a country. They are the resources of the nation entrusted to elected representatives to govern to the advantage and well-being of all. That is why you don’t have corporations who built millions of kilometers of water pipelines. They developed with the taxes paid by the average person to develop the country – over decades, a little at a time. In ANY country. Like building your own home, but as a country. For your whole family. You speak of national unity and staying together and such? This is it that we are kicking away and wondering why people are breaking free.

It isn’t about corporates offering better quality or not, it is about representatives of the people being directly in control of their basic needs. Quality can be improved. You can’t ask a corporate why it provides a certain service to a certain area more than others. You can’t ask a corporate why you don’t get water, but the theme water park in your locality does or make it pay or suffer. Elected representatives have to listen or they get voted out. They have to answer. You can’t ask a corporate just how much profit it is making out of selling water to the “domestic and agricultural sector” and how much of the water is throttled and diverted to other large corporations for their purposes. It is happening already, but now you can file an RTI at least.

In theory, you could regulate what a corporate offers, manage prices, force service to needy areas, even force RTI – which should be done anyway for publicly offered services… but then you would end up taking responsibility for consequences too – witness Kingfisher and its bankruptcy over being forced to service less popular destinations. Now imagine Kingfisher selling your water. Either the poor go thirsty, or bail us out. The corporate becomes beyond the reach of any result, because it has the people by their needs.

If corporations are more efficient, why do they take over what is already working well instead of developing new assets?

Why not ask corporations interested in working in the “water sector” to pick areas with water problems and no infrastructure and develop them and bill the people for a set period before handing control over to the country?

Why not hand over our poor, damaged, polluted, destroyed water bodies to corporates, let them clean up, sue industries that are wrecking them, and make them usable again in return for using them to sell water for some years? They have the resources to make it possible, unlike citizens who cannot and governments who will not. Why not ask for development in return for controlling development? Why can’t corporates be expected to participate in building the country like citizens?

Wouldn’t that be a more logical use of a “more efficient entity”? We have huge areas with drought and such. They could do with a “solution” that is more effective than the government. Water and sewerage of Mumbai is separate from BMC to be eventually privatized. What is the problem with Mumbai’s already excellent water that privatization will fix and the BMC cannot?

Apparently, it is only the government’s inefficiencies that corporates fix. Apparently these corporates that are better than the government cannot create from scratch. And stupid citizens believe this bullshit, because we have people dedicated to telling them over and over that the Emperor is wearing this miraculous robe that is visible to the intelligent. So they ignore draining wallets and pretend to be smart rather than be publicly known as fools or worse “low society people who can’t even afford so much”.

Because we don’t expect capitalism to have a soul. We only expect it to churn out cash. Cash it earns from the masses and delivers to those in power as the price of keeping even more for itself. It is a one way flow. Few citizens other than employees have any way of earning back from these entities. Then we have the amazing numbers of inequality that activists will quote and get criticized for. We admire progress. Increasing numbers. They manage to sink once in a while in spite of such odds when their customers are no longer able to pay more to sustain them.

But asking such questions will not work. I will get a bunch of trolls calling me socialist as if it were a curse – even though I have little knowledge of socialism and am simply questioning what I am seeing being promoted as a good idea – like everything else questioned on this blog, because the maths seems fake.

Make no mistake, the strategic “experts” hit bulls eye when they say the next wars will be fought over water – apparently they don’t coordinate their bullshit with the development experts, and this is not on their bullshit agenda. Both between countries, and inside countries – as water resources become scarce, people will kill and die for water. Our government here is giving corporations the tools for future genocides, or “anti-national elements” tools for the next French Revolution. Because NO ONE can live without water.

But the mainstream media will continue to tell us that they are anti-national people wanting “our” water as long as we pay the bills.