Vol-CX : August 1, 2013

Dear Colleagues

Here is another version of for your perusal:

1. The nature of economic transformation taking place in different regions of India is so complex that simple macro-economic indicators do not capture the diversity. A large part of Odisha continues to be seen as backward and most tribal communities continue to lack basic services of education, health, water and sanitation. Yet, Odisha seems to have a vibrant economy at the small scale level if the latest data on credit penetration of scheduled banks is to be believed. It seems to be doing better than Punjab and Haryana?

2. The composite culture of Indian society is best visible on the streets of Hyderabad. Irrespective of the owners’ religion, all shops are decorated during Ramazan. At the time of Iftar at dusk, everyone seems to be having something special to eat. The ‘biryani’ is a trade-mark of Hyderabad, and savoured by all. Salarjang museum show -cases the historical roots and inspirations of this culture. Till the time of his cremation, very few knew that YSR’s faith was Christianity. The schools, libraries, museums and community centres are the sites of learning and promotion of such a composite culture in Hyderabad.

3.  For the young Tamilians of northern Sri Lanka, education and employment in the modern economy is far more attractive than the call for a ‘motherland’. Girls are in majority, bicycling to schools and colleges, and traveling to far away lands in search of new opportunities. Physical migration sometimes enables transcending social ghettoization. The forthcoming Provincial elections in this region of Sri Lanka can promote advancement of such aspirations. Yet, the older generation may find it difficult to move beyond the past?

4.  A recent longitudinal study of learning trajectories for primary school students was presented in Young Lives conference in Oxford. The sample from Andhra Pradesh showed disturbing results: only 10% of the students are learning as per benchmarks for grades 1-5; bottom 10% are learning nothing at all; mean levels of achievement are very low. If the situation is so pathetic in otherwise dynamic AP, one can only imagine that the learning outcomes for primary school students in the northern/eastern states of the country may be even worse!

5.  The recent death of children eating mid-day meal in a school in Bihar is not due to the negligence of the poor cook or the greed of the school teacher or her husband. They are part of a long and never ending chain of corruption and nepotism that has infested every vein of Indian society, institutional persona and individual DNA. The selling of spurious drugs, marketing of contaminated foods and locally ‘brewed’ bottled water are all part of the same phenomenon of corruption, non-enforcement of regulations, deliberate weakening and undermining of the institutional autonomy and capacity of compliance-enforcing mechanisms. The demand for ‘rule of law’ has to be raised at every step of our lives, every moment, by everyone; only then there is possibility of change?

All the very best

Rajesh Tandon