How the Parliamentary Committee has “managed” Lokpal

by Ritwik on December 9, 2011

From this NDTV report on the recommendations made by the parliamentary committee on the Lokpal:

On the role of CBI and CVC vis-a-vis Lokpal, the report recommends a five-stage mechanism. In the first stage, a complaint must be received by the Lokpal who would hold a preliminary inquiry in stage 2. If a case is made out, it would be referred to CBI in stage 3 which will investigate independently of the Lokpal or ministries. In stage 4, the case would go to the Directorate of Prosecution which will be under the superintendence of Lokpal. In the 5th and last stage, the case would go to a special judge or a Lokpal Judge.

There goes any chance of the Lokpal actually doing any good whatsoever. In true Indian way, it has been “managed” …

Maybe not such a bad thing, as the idea of the Lokpal, particularly the so-called “Jan Lokpal” variety, seems to be a cure worse than the disease.

The best way to spend your money this diwali – donate to Wikileaks

by Ritwik on October 26, 2011

Update: The donation page lists a number of methods you can use to help Wikileaks. Unfortunately it isn’t as easy as clicking once in Paypal. That’s the point. If it were, it wouldn’t be so important to donate ;)

From the wikileaks donation page

Censorship, like everything else in the West, has been privatized.

As a result of exposing U.S. embassies from around the world, five major US financial institutions, VISA, MasterCard, PayPal, Western Union and the Bank of America, have tried to economically strangle WikiLeaks The attack has blocked over 95% of our donations, costing tens of millions of dollars in lost revenue. The attack is entirely political. In fact, in the only formal review to occur, the US Treasury found that there were no lawful grounds to add WikiLeaks to financial blockade .

Your donations are vital to pay for our fight against this and other kinds of censorship, for Wikileaks’ projects, staff, servers and protective infrastructure. We are entirely supported by the general public.

I for one can’t think of a better way of spending my money this Diwali.

Facebook’s data practices – did the delete button work?

by Ritwik on October 22, 2011

Watch this brilliant and informative video about facebook’s frightening data practices:

“1200 pages? No KGB or CIA ever had that much information on a normal citizen”

[click on the small “cc” button on the bottom right to see English subtitles]


Petition against removal of Ramanujan’s Essay

by Ritwik on October 22, 2011

Please sign and circulate this petition against the removal of AK Ramanuja’s beautiful essay “300 Ramayanas: Five Examples and Three Thoughts” from the history syllabus of the University of Delhi due to pressure mounted by right wing zealots:

You can access the full text of the essay here:


This university is a cola free zone

by Ritwik on October 18, 2011

For the last few months, all shops and canteens in Jawaharlal Nehru University have been banned from selling aerated drinks such as Coca Cola, Pepsi, Fanta etc. While on the surface it may seem like a “revolutionary” step against polluting corporations, closer examination would reveal that products like Minute Maid, Mazaa,  etc are easily available. These products are manufactured by the Coca Cola Company, and a message to this end is displayed prominently on the bottles.

I fail to see any logic here. Regardless of whether I buy Coke, Mazaa or Minute Maid, the profits go to the same firm. So how this move achieves anything as far as a “war against corporations” goes eludes me.

Perhaps there is a “health” argument here – since aerated drinks are bad for health they should not be sold in universities. There are many problems with such policing:

1) We are talking not of a school, but of a largely postgraduate research university. Surely the residents should be allowed to decide whether or not and how much of aerated beverages they want to consume? Besides students, the campus also hosts teachers, non teaching staff and their families. It seems excessive to deny them the simple pleasure of buying a bottle of cola.

2) The argument that “let the authorities/students union decide what is good for you” strikes at the heart of the concept of a university, especially one such as JNU. A university is supposed to equip people to make rational and enlightened choices – to be able to determine what sort of life they want to lead and how they intend to go about it, as long as it is not actively harmful to others. Freedom is central to making an enlightened choice.

3) Taking off from the last point, unlike smoking, you are not harming anybody else by drinking a bottle of Coke. And if I need to be protected from myself to such a degree, then all kinds of snacks, oily food etc should be banned – perhaps JNU can be converted into a dharmashala offering only sattvik food and goat’s milk.

I conclude that the move is either mind-numbingly hypocritical or absolutely stupid, or both. This is sad, because at one point in time, things in JNU used to make more sense than this.

Atulya Bharat, part 1

by Ritwik on September 22, 2011

Set poverty line at Rs. 31

“Target” subsidy schemes to the “genuinely” poor – those earning less than Rs. 31/day

Make mandatory “hi-tech” id cards to check “pilferage”. After all the non-poor [those earning >Rs. 31/day] are stealing grains allocated for the poor

Allow millions of tonnes of grains in FCI godowns to go waste, year after year due to lack of storage facilities. While people starve of hunger, year after year.

Acquire cultivable land, and build swanky housing complexes, swanky malls, swanky tanning clubs, and swanky hospitals which cater to “medical tourists”

India is well on its way to achieving a place at the “high table” of the “comity of nations”

Steve Jobs resigns as Apple CEO

by Ritwik on August 25, 2011

Apple’s iconic founder Steve Jobs today resigned as CEO of the company. In his second reign at Apple [1997-2011], he made the then struggling company the world’s most iconic brand and richest corporation. In a stellar business career spanning almost 4 decades Jobs has redefined computing, portable music players, digital music distribution, animated films, tablet computing and smart phones – each time bringing products and services that revolutionized the industry and created new growth areas. He has had significant impact on advertising and retail as well.

However, as John Gruber puts it “Jobs’s greatest creation isn’t any Apple product. It is Apple itself.”

He will continue as Apple’s Chairman, passing on day to day duties to his chosen successor Tim Cook.

A college dropout, Jobs entire career has consisted of taking farsighted decisions that were initially criticized by tech and business  “pundits”. As one of the titans of silicon valley, Jobs both learnt from and helped create its iconic business culture that constantly fosters innovation. I am attaching a few links which make for good reading on him:

Resignation letter –

Jobs Departure is the end of an extraordinary era –

Here’s what Apple loses –

For Anna: Mumbai’s dabbawalas to take a break tomorrow, first time in 120 yrs

by Ritwik on August 19, 2011

read the story in the Express

this has much symbolic significance, just like the first-time-ever metro protests i saw yesterday, or all-girls march in north campus again which i witnessed yesterday. the issue is not really whether all these people truly understand the intricacies of the lokpal agitation. the issue is that they are spontaneously organizing against the excesses of the political class. and that is a damn good thing. And mind you, I am AGAINST the idea of lokpal, as corruption in my view is inevitable with the kind of crony capitalism we’ve created post 1991. However we shall ignore the importance of this trend only at our peril.

If we are not our brother’s keeper, at least let us not be his executioner – When Brando Refused an Oscar

by Ritwik on July 19, 2011

Sharing with you the full text of Marlon Brando’s speech refusing to accept an Academy award for Best Actor for his leading role in The Godfather.

Unfortunately the essence of his lamentation is as valid today as it was then (and not only in the context of native Americans).

The Unfinished Oscar Speech
March 27, 1973

For 200 years we have said to the Indian people who are fighting for their land, their life, their families and their right to be free: ”Lay down your arms, my friends, and then we will remain together. Only if you lay down your arms, my friends, can we then talk of peace and come to an agreement which will be good for you.”
When they laid down their arms, we murdered them. We lied to them. We cheated them out of their lands. We starved them into signing fraudulent agreements that we called treaties which we never kept. We turned them into beggars on a continent that gave life for as long as life can remember. And by any interpretation of history, however twisted, we did not do right. We were not lawful nor were we just in what we did. For them, we do not have to restore these people, we do not have to live up to some agreements, because it is given to us by virtue of our power to attack the rights of others, to take their property, to take their lives when they are trying to defend their land and liberty, and to make their virtues a crime and our own vices virtues.

But there is one thing which is beyond the reach of this perversity and that is the tremendous verdict of history. And history will surely judge us. But do we care? What kind of moral schizophrenia is it that allows us to shout at the top of our national voice for all the world to hear that we live up to our commitment when every page of history and when all the thirsty, starving, humiliating days and nights of the last 100 years in the lives of the American Indian contradict that voice?

It would seem that the respect for principle and the love of one’s neighbor have become dysfunctional in this country of ours, and that all we have done, all that we have succeeded in accomplishing with our power is simply annihilating the hopes of the newborn countries in this world, as well as friends and enemies alike, that we’re not humane, and that we do not live up to our agreements.

Perhaps at this moment you are saying to yourself what the hell has all this got to do with the Academy Awards? Why is this woman standing up here, ruining our evening, invading our lives with things that don’t concern us, and that we don’t care about? Wasting our time and money and intruding in our homes.

I think the answer to those unspoken questions is that the motion picture community has been as responsible as any for degrading the Indian and making a mockery of his character, describing his as savage, hostile and evil. It’s hard enough for children to grow up in this world. When Indian children watch television, and they watch films, and when they see their race depicted as they are in films, their minds become injured in ways we can never know.

Recently there have been a few faltering steps to correct this situation, but too faltering and too few, so I, as a member in this profession, do not feel that I can as a citizen of the United States accept an award here tonight. I think awards in this country at this time are inappropriate to be received or given until the condition of the American Indian is drastically altered. If we are not our brother’s keeper, at least let us not be his executioner.

I would have been here tonight to speak to you directly, but I felt that perhaps I could be of better use if I went to Wounded Knee to help forestall in whatever way I can the establishment of a peace which would be dishonorable as long as the rivers shall run and the grass shall grow.

I would hope that those who are listening would not look upon this as a rude intrusion, but as an earnest effort to focus attention on an issue that might very well determine whether or not this country has the right to say from this point forward we believe in the inalienable rights of all people to remain free and independent on lands that have supported their life beyond living memory.

Thank you for your kindness and your courtesy to Miss Littlefeather. Thank you and good night.

(thanks to

Some Notes on Sophie’s World

by Ritwik on July 13, 2011

Sophie’s World: A novel about the history of philosophy [Written by: Jostein Gaarder]

I had planned to read this book for the longest time. Happily some recent circumstances have dictated that I not only go through it, but even make lots of notes along the way.

The premise is very interesting. It tells us about a teenager called Sophie living in Norway, who almost involuntarily gets sucked into an in-depth course in (Western) philosophy taught by a mysterious philosopher.

Gaarder, who has taught philosophy to school students for many years, has managed to provide his readers a bird’s eye view of the entire history of Western Philosophy- from the early natural philosophers all the way to the mid 20th century, covering along the way classical philosophy, the middle ages, the Renaissance, rationalism, empiricism, the enlightenment, romanticism, nihilism and communism.

The story is well crafted (with an interesting if slightly predictable twist in the middle) and ensures that even casual readers will continue reading on just for the resolution (at least until Kant)

The writing is crisp and the language lucid. The aforementioned twist is also important for the way it illustrates certain philosophical ideas, especially of Spinoza and Berkeley, but I shall say no more on this.

One major quarrel I have with the book is its euro-centricism. There are sporadic attempts to talk about Hindu, Buddhist and Chinese philosophy, but these are nothing but minor asides in the narrative.

I can understand that the author is ill-equipped to talk on this matter, but then he should desist from presenting many important ideas, inventions and discoveries as Europe’s gift to mankind when so-called oriental systems had already grappled with the same centuries earlier.

That aside, Sophie’s World can confidently be recommended to all, even if you don’t have any particular interest in philosophy – the story is rich enough, the writing engaging – and you’ll probably learn much along the way. now online

by Ritwik on June 27, 2011 is the latest website created by me.

It’s a photography portfolio – the first one I’ve ever done. I had a really fun time doing this.

Do check it out –


Why we shouldn’t view 100% cut-off in isolation

by Ritwik on June 17, 2011

A well-known college of Delhi University has created sensation by declaring a 100% “cut-off” for students of non-commerce background for its coveted Bachelor of Commerce (Honours) Programme. Predictably, our media-circus has got in the act, thereby rendering impossible any chance of people looking at the matter in the proper context and with the right perspective.

However, I’ll make an attempt to argue that firstly, only part of the blame for this scenario lies with the college or the University, and secondly the brouhaha is premature since cut-offs will be moderated from the second list onward.

While analyzing this matter, it is essential that we first look at how admissions are done at Delhi University. With the exception of English, Journalism and Mass Media, for which entrance exams are conducted, all colleges declare individual course-wise cut-offs. For the purpose of admission, only marks secured in the final exams of Class XII are considered. One could be an exceptional student all through school, and fall ill during the class XII board exams, consequently securing low marks, and be essentially left without a viable choice when it comes to admission to college. To repeat, no consideration whatsoever is accorded to any part of a student’s entire academic record apart from Class XII board exam marks. Talk about arbitrary or what …

DU, being a central university, is not allowed to reserve seats/give concessions to students who have passed out of schools affiliated to the Central Board of Secondary Education or the Council for the Indian Schools Certification Examination [CISCE]. Thus, a student securing 90% in exams conducted by a state board say Maharashtra or Andhra Pradesh is treated exactly equal to a student securing 90% in the ICSE exam. While this may appear laudably egalitarian, it has certain deleterious consequences.

Over the years it has been observed that some state boards are more profligate in awarding marks than the higher standards applied by CBSE or CISCE. Hence students belonging to the latter were at a disadvantage. Possibly as a result of this, CBSE and CISCE have been marking on a more liberal curve in the last few years. This, coupled with the fact that our board exams [CBSE and CISCE included] test only one’s regularity, consistency and ability to memorize, thus being easily coachable, has resulted in a virtual explosion of the number of students securing 95% and above.

According to Prof Dinesh Singh, VC of Delhi University, this year as many as 800 students have scored above 95%. The situation is ridiculous because the system is actually encouraging boards like CBSE or CISCE to dilute standards, thus making their very existence redundant since they are expected to be of “higher” quality than the state boards.

So let us accord at least part of the blame for 100% cut-offs to the policies which are encouraging dumbing down by education boards.

Secondly, it is observed year after year that DU colleges get carried away in declaring their first cut-off lists. They cynically assume that students and their parents, especially those who are coming from other states, would be impressed by a college’s high cut-offs and assume it must be a great institution. Much mirth ensued last year when Delhi College of Arts and Commerce (DCAC), at best a college of mediocre reputation, declared a higher commerce cut-off than SRCC, the most renowned commerce college in the country. This year, SRCC hit back by raising the cut-off to 100, thereby ensuring that nobody can appear more prestigious!

Therefore, we should remind ourselves that the first cut-off list is illusionary, and things collapse into reality in the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and yes even the 5th cut-off lists. Hindu College, one of the most prestigious in DU, declared 4th cut-off lists in several courses last year.

Just glancing through the cut-off lists for this year, I notice that Hindu has declared a 99% cut-off for commerce, a 95-97% cut off for math, a 89-94% cut-off for political science, and so on. I find these figures amusing. Let us wait for the 2nd list!

In light of the above, it is my ardent request (especially to admission seekers) to avoid being sucked in by the blind hysteria being whipped up by an irresponsible-as-usual media, wait patiently for subsequent cut-off lists, and ask pointed questions to those in authority as to why arbitrariness and lack of common sense rule our education system, from top to bottom.