May 2006 — Monthly Archive
Rediff interviews Dr Udit Raj, chairman of the All India Confederation of the Scheduled Castes and Tribes. The interview was fascinating, I think, because it offers a nice counterpoint to the world of protestors who come from a largely urbanized middle-class environment where caste is largely meaningless and highlights the levels of us-vs-them identity politics that drives much of Indian politics. This retort from Dr Raj particularly highlights why the divide is so visceral:
For long, in many places 70 per cent to 80 per cent seats were open in the general category. The upper castes were using it. Right? Now they have been given 50 per cent of the total seats whereas the upper caste population is just 15 per cent. I think that is good enough. What more do the upper castes want?
Ultimately, one’s views on quotas will be colored by the India one sees. There are those who want a meritocratic India free of the curse of caste, where the disadvantaged are helped using sound economic principles such as better primary education and easy student loans. Then there are those who see quotas as a shortcut to success, for who dividing up every pie the country has (from institutions of higher learning to private industry) according to the caste divisions of the country makes perfect sense. (I can’t wait until they try this particular formula in Parliament, by the way.)
What I am most appalled about is that there is not one leader in the country who can make the case for sound economic welfare for the poor without carving the country up on the basis of caste. Punishing modern India’s middle-class for historical wrongs seems to violate every principle of natural justice, upto and including the Fundamental Right to Equality India’s constitution grants to its citizens (by limiting opportunities available to a person based on his caste, not his ability). I am not very hopeful about this, but I hope Manmohan Singh has the spine to resign and call for fresh elections before he is asked to preside over this travesty.
JK notes that the good people at the Shiv Sena are protesting a book that paints Shivaji in an unflattering light. Of course, Indians are not alone in banning what they don’t like, it’s just that they do it more often (and with more enthusiasm) than Western Europe. The irony is that most Western Europeans and Indians celebrate their right to free speech without being aware how fragile it really is. The lack of a strong First Amendment in both places means that freedom of speech is malleable, subject to the tastes of the ruling classes (or mobs) of the day. Freedom of speech means nothing if it does not include the right to gore sacred cows.
A day after I ran into the beautiful Anonymous font, I noticed that the Microsoft Download Center now has Consolas available for use on non-Vista systems. Consolas (which ships with Vista along with a bunch of other fonts) looks great on ClearType-enabled LCD screens even at small sizes and is highly recommended.