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Sunday, May 31, 2009

More misery from mining

"In countries with fragile institutions, the mining sector is recognised by many to have produced more misery than wealth for local populations. It has been shown in this regard that countries rich in natural resources may be characterised by worse economic performances than less endowed countries. No consensus has yet emerged to explain such an apparent paradox (Collier and Hoeffler, 2005; Ross, 1999) and this manner of approaching such issues is itself the subject of debate. However, twelve of the states that are most dependent on mining production and six that depend on petroleum are classified by the World Bank as heavily indebted poor countries (HIPC) and have among the worst ratings on the Human Development Index (HDI), according to data compiled by the UN Development Programme (EIR, 2003a: 15)."
(Ed: Bonnie Campbell in 'Mining in Africa: Regulation and development,' p. 190 IDRC)

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Null values

"The ability to handle 'null' values in a consistent manner is one of the important requirements of any RDBMS software. When a row is inserted into a table it is expected that every column in the new row will have a correct value but very often this is not the case. When a new employee record is created he or she may not have been allocated to a department or may not have a manager defined as yet. Also unmarried employees would not have a spouse even though the employee table may have a column for a spouse name."
"When a table is created and its columns are defined, it is possible to designate some columns that are mandatory -- these columns must have a valid value at all times -- and some others that are not. The reasons for making some columns mandatory could be because of database design considerations -- these columns are part of the primary key or a foreign key -- or there could be significant business reasons: for example, every employee must have a salary!"
(Prithwis Mukerjee in 'Business Information Systems: Systems engineering for business managers,' p. 66 Jaico)

Friday, May 29, 2009

Fair wages

"The first criterion of Fair Trade is that the producer of a craft item or food product is paid a fair wage in the local economy where she or he is working. The most clear cut example is the case of coffee, where Fairtrade labelling Organisations International (FLO) has determined that to cover the cost of production and invest in the community a farmer cooperative should receive at least $1.26 a pound, reflecting a five cent premium added to the floor price of $1.21. If the coffee has been grown organically, the Fair Trade price increases to $1.41 in recognition of the additional costs associated with environmentally friendly agricultural practices. The five cent social premium does not go to increasing the income of the farmers directly but instead is used to invest in community development. For example, in Tanzania, the Kilimanjaro Native Co-operative Union Ltd. uses the social premium to establish a cooperative bank to finance economic projects and an education fund that benefits both children and adult members."
(Jacqueline DeCarlo in 'Fair Trade: A beginner's guide,' p. 45 Viva)

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Unit-linked insurance

"From the year 2002 to 2006, unit-linked business has been growing at more than 200 per cent every year. The year 2005 was the most significant year for unit linked insurance policies (ULIP) with growth as high as 420 per cent and in 2006 the premium doubled with almost 100 per cent growth over the previous year. The year 2007 is also expected to have similar trends. It is estimated that ULIP would touch upon Rs 96,143 crore in 2010."
(H. Sadhak in 'Life Insurance in India: Opportunities, challenges and strategic perspective,' p. 141 Response)

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Reliability vs validity

"Reliability and validity are two important characteristics of any measurement procedure. Reliability refers to the confidence we can place on the measuring instrument to give us the same numeric value when the measurement is repeated on the same object. Validity on the other hand means that our measuring instrument actually measures the property it is supposed to measure. Reliability of an instrument does not warranty its validity."
"For example, there may be an instrument which can measure the number of things a child can recall from his last one day's activities. If this instrument returns the same value when implemented on the same child, it is a reliable instrument. But if someone claims that it is a valid instrument for measuring the IQ level of the child, he may be wrong. This instrument may just be measuring the memory level and not the IQ level of the child."
(Ajai S. Gaur and Sanjaya S. Gaur in 'Statistical Methods for Practice and Research: A guide to data analysis using SPSS,' p. 31 Response)

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Organisational culture

"We define organisational culture as a complex set of shared beliefs, guiding values, behavioural norms, and basic assumptions acquired over time that shape our thinking and behaviour; they are part of the social fabric of the organisation -- its genetic code. As such, culture drives the organisation and guides the behaviour of everyone in that organisation -- how they think, feel, and act. In other words, the culture forms a behaviour template..."
"Any change initiative is unlikely to be successful -- that is, implemented and sustained -- unless there is an appropriate organisational culture in place to support the plan. So it's critical that change leaders fully understand the organisation's cultural profile before undertaking the change. How then can we go about getting an accurate picture of an organisation's culture so that leaders can transition its current value set to a new value set?"
"An assessment of a firm's culture (sometimes called a gap analysis) is a useful tool in ensuring that the correct cultural elements are in place to support and align the strategy/vision, resources, and systems required to affect the road map to change. Change leaders must align all four elements with each change initiative to ensure lasting transformation."
(Michael J. Kavanagh and Mohan Thite in 'Human Resource Information Systems: Basics, applications, and future directions,' p. 192 Sage)

Monday, May 25, 2009

Sick leave

"While participants pointed out that they attempted to cope with physical strain and ill-health through medical intervention and maximisation of rest and sleep, sick leave to recover from illness was not easily granted. Given the emphasis on mass production, employers laid down strict guidelines about granting leave. While agents with less than six months tenure with the organisation were not eligible for any kind of leave, agents whose tenure went beyond six months were expected to plan for and inform about their leave requirements well in advance. Moreover, availing of leave without prior consent was considered to be an unauthorised absence. Employer organisations went to the extent of blocking bank salary accounts of those absenting themselves and refusing to give relieving letters to those who finally decided to quit given the situation. Requests for leave with no notice even during instances of ill-health were examined in the light of expected and/or ongoing call volume and targets, and accordingly, were granted or denied. In other words, when the call volume and targets were high, agents were expected to report to duty no matter how ill they were. Agents absenting themselves, whether with or without intimation, were either warned or dismissed. In some organisations, the management kept a strict watch on people taking sick leave, going to the extent of checking out agents' homes or places frequented by them as well as verifying submitted medical certificates."
(Ernesto Noronha and Premilla D'Cruz in 'Employee Identity in Indian Call Centres: The notion of professionalism,' p. 98 Response)

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Seven types of values

"In 365 BC, Aristotle had mentioned about seven types of values. They are: religious, political, social, aesthetic, ethical, economic, and judicial. In today's economic environment, VE lays stress on economic values. The constituents of economic values are: esteem, exchange, use, and cost."
(Anil Kumar Mukhopadhyaya in 'Value Engineering Mastermind: From concept to value engineering certification,' p. 38 Response)

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Nana Sahib and Indira Gandhi

"Analysis of facial features does reveal that the facial architecture between Nana and Indira is consistent. In reviewing the personalities of Nana Sahib and Indira Gandhi, certain character traits are also consistent. In particular, both Nana and Indira demonstrate a tendency to be authoritarian and to use military force. When Nana took control of Cawnpore, he placed his foes in irons, just as when Indira Gandhi called a state of emergency in 1975, she had her adversaries arrested. Nana used military force to regain his throne and reign. Indira Gandhi put into action Operation Blue Star to deal with militants. Violence, though, just begets violence."
"When I read about Bahadur Shah Zafar and saw his image, he immediately reminded me of Jawaharlal Nehru. People do incarnate in groups and can reincarnate to continue work started in another lifetime. George W. Bush, Al Gore, Bill Clinton and Ralph Nader were part of the American Revolution and they reincarnated to participate in American presidential politics in contemporary times..."
(Walter Semkiw in 'Born Again: Reincarnation cases involving international celebrities, India's political legends and film stars,' p. 311 Ritana)

Friday, May 22, 2009

Don't bite off too much

"The most crucial mistake you can make is taking on too much strategy. Leaders of strategic dialogues and companies in general typically fail because they overcommit, overprioritise, lack focus, and don't put enough resources against any one strategic initiative to be successful. As Peter Senge wrote in 'The Dance of Change,' start small, get some wins, and grow from there. Not only is fewer better, but those fewer need to be properly resourced and have hard metrics put against them to track the progress and return on investment on specific strategic initiatives over time."
(Scott M. Davis in ‘The Shift: The transformation of today’s marketers into tomorrow’s growth leaders,’ p. 62 Wiley)

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Bioaccumulation

"The body is an ecosystem of sorts, an exquisitely coordinated mass of disparate units functioning within a whole. And like any ecosystem, the body can be invaded by foreign substances that muck up the works. Quantifying how many such invaders our bodies harbor has been the quest of studies on bioaccumulation... Bioaccumulation has become its own corner of medical science, with studies suggesting that virtually everyone alive on this planet harbors a stew of toxic substances..."
"The biomonitoring program at the US Centers for Disease Control has a massive project under way that measures people's exposure to toxic substances by assessing metabolites of toxins in their blood or urine. This gives a picture of what actually has been absorbed by our bodies, rather that what is in our proximity. This shift from measuring pollutants in our water, air, or soil to what has melded itself into our biology has led to related shifts in thinking about medical etiology and chemical risk."
(Daniel Goleman in 'Ecological Intelligence: Knowing the hidden impacts of what we buy,' p. 147 Penguin)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Boutique trap

"I was getting a lot of things right, but, looking back, I can see that I also made one pretty big mistake. If I had invested in properly computerising the company, then I probably would have found it easier to grow the business and break out of the boutique trap. The truth is, I almost certainly should have computerised, but I just didn't understand computers enough to know how important they were. When I'd started in the mid-eighties I'd made sure I understood every aspect of my business, but as technology became more important there was a whole element of the operation that I neglected. I let my personal disinterest in computers affect my business, and, if I had taken a different stance and tried to get to grips with what computerisation could have done for Alexander Mann, maybe the company could have been twice, if not ten times, as big."
(James Caan in 'The Real Deal: My story from Brick Lane to Dragon's Den,' p. 166 Virgin)

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

True anarchists

"My last hope was technology. The true anarchists, I figured, had gone to work for dot-com companies. The internet, after all, was bringing about massive social change without any help from revolutionaries. Maybe that's where idealism had taken up residence. I had been fantasising about meeting one of these techno-lunatics for months. One of them, surely, would turn out to be my perfect Californian optimist. Then I could go home."
"My first call was Craig Newmark. Craig was the founder of craigslist, a cult website which started in the mid-1990s as a modest local event service for the residents of San Francisco and then grew into one of the largest free communities in the world..."
"'What makes me optimistic in a big way -- by following through with our principles, giving people a break and treating others well, somehow we've created a culture of trust with the community.' Craig adjusted his coffee spoon. 'And that's really big.'"
(Laurence Shorter in 'The Optimist,' p. 261 Canongate)

Monday, May 18, 2009

Crisis is the crucible

"One can fly from sadness. From sadness one can receive. The feeling of being thrown into a world not of our own making, the sense of being torn between equally appealing possibilities, the chronic anxiety over nothing in particular: if we don't flee from these seemingly inevitable situations, then we likely suspect that this sense of alienation, this ongoing limbo, this relentless anxiety are calls for us to take responsibility for our own unique beings, for us to become, for once, authentic. We conclude that crisis is the crucible that burns away the inessential and reveals to us our vital core."
(Eric G. Wilson in 'Against Happiness,' p. 42 FSG)

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Mohammad Iqbal

"I worked on the story till about four in the morning. One of the problems while writing a piece like this, I've since realized, is that you get too ambitious. You read your New Journalism pieces from the books where they are collected, you read the features in The New Yorker and The Atlantic, and you tell yourself you want to write like that, and you paralyze yourself. The trick is just to tell the story simply, the best you can, without thinking of how impressed people will be when they read it. So I wrote and wrote. Muneeza's dad was half the story now, and in my mind I downgraded it from a classic 6000-word profile into half of a 3000-word story. All these days, as I'd been finding out more and more about him, I'd been formulating paragraphs here and there, some with anecdotes, some with straight narrative, some with my own speculation. I wrote all that down."
"When I eventually went to bed, I had more than enough on Mohammad Iqbal. The material would need chopping and polishing, but I had it all down. That left the task of meeting Thombre again and getting his story. I figured that would be easier."
"Until a couple of days ago, this story had been my biggest immediate problem. Now it was trivial. My problem was what came after. I was a protagonist in the sequel that would never be written, and I had no idea how it would go."
(Amit Varma in 'My Friend Sancho,' p. 118 Hachette)

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Chomolungma

"Finch glanced at the label attached to the suitcase. 'As there are no mountains that I'm aware of in Venice, I can only assume that another woman must be involved.'"
"George didn't reply as he handed his cheque to the clerk standing behind the counter."
"'Just as I thought,' said Finch. 'And as you've already implied that I'm something of an expert when it comes to the fairer sex, allow me to warn you that trying to juggle two women at once, even if they do live on different continents, is never easy.'"
"George grinned as he folded his receipt and placed it in an inside pocket. 'My dear Finch,' he said, 'allow me to point out that there has to be a first woman before there can be a second.' Without another he picked up his suitcase, gave Finch a thin smile and headed towards the front door."
"'I wouldn't repeat that when you come face to face with Chomolungma for the first time,' said Finch quietly. 'I have a feeling that particular lady might well turn out to be an unforgiving mistress.'"
"George didn't look back."
(Jeffrey Archer in 'Paths of Glory,' p. 141 Pan)

Friday, May 15, 2009

Just enough pay

"Psychological time, which is memory projected, which is future and past, drives our wok because it drives money. 'Time is money,' is an aphorism which has become an accepted concept. We work for a future where we are too old to work, but we will still need money. We work because the rent or mortgage is due, or groceries must be bought once more. This fear of lack in the future drives us, just as it has for thousands of years."
"But, if our work is profound quiet, there is no beginning or end to our workday, there is no retirement and there is no future or past."
"Is there good pay and a benefits package for this work of profound quiet, this stepping out of time and future and fear?"
"The fact is that the pay is just enough, not more. Just enough may not be what we expect, or want, or dream of, nevertheless, it is enough."
"This is not 'prosperity consciousness,' this is not 'creating your own reality,' this does not sell books and feed fantasies. Just enough may be more radical simplicity than we ever considered, but enough is a response to our life, not to our greed, self-centredness, cravings, and compulsions."
"If we want to satisfy our greed and compulsions, we must abandon the quiet, where enough is sufficient, and we must reenter the world of thought and division. There, we can manipulate reality, bending it to our material desires. This can be done easily. We can create wealth, prosperity. We hope that we can acquire more and more, until we are full..."
"But, we can never be full, we can only consume..."
"We actually have enough and need nothing more than just enough. Our actual requirements are really just to be still, to love, to relate."
"The pay for the recognition of this fundamental quiet is just enough. Not a great deal, but all things considered, a fair deal. After all, there is just enough for all of us, no one need be left out."
(Steven Harrison in 'Doing Nothing: Coming to the end of the spiritual search,' p. 98 Wisdom Tree)

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Devotional practice

"If one's emotional intelligence is high, one will empathise well with the feeling of the other. However, changing feelings affect one's perception of things. One must be able to understand them in a larger context. That one can do if one meditates on improving one's perception. To perceive better one must focus one's attention properly."
"It is important to pay attention to how one pays attention. The habits of placing your attention will determine what one knows. Dr Paul Brunton said, 'The faculty of fixing attention at will and retaining it ultimately helps burn a way through the hardest of intellectual problems.' Where attention goes, energy flows."
"Leaders emphasise heavily on practice that produces excellent results but they have not spelt out the details of their methods. I term it 'devotional practice' because I feel that they must have carried out their tasks with unwavering commitment, faith, intensity, regularity, vigour and a focus on results. They must have vibrated some feelings, though not necessarily from religious texts..."
"Upasana means devotional practice... The central concept is that when one is dealing with the mind one cannot make it receptive to intellectual appeal only. It is aroused to act only when one entreats it with feelings imbued with affection, faith, commitment, compassion and love."
(Shrinivas Pandit in 'The Alchemy of Leadership,' p. 67 TMH)

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

From marketing to conversation

"Companies, products and markets, and the communities that sustain them, are increasingly built by conversation. If marketing was once the essential differentiator in ensuring that a new product or service met consumer need, it is being usurped by a less controlled and more dynamic interaction between producer and consumer. For all sorts of enterprises, the ability to create new ideas, products and opportunities is becoming rooted in their ability to stage new conversations with their markets and their customers. And why is conversation such a powerful word to capture all this? Because it is an inherently creative activity. As Theodore Zeldin has memorably said, 'When minds meet, they don't just exchange facts; they transform them, reshape them, draw different implications from them, engage in new trains of thought. Conversation does not simply reshuffle the cards. It creates new cards.'"
"The challenge for marketing is that its core instinct is to attempt to influence the customer in a controlled way. This is precisely the opposite of what is now required for success, which is more dynamic and messy flow of information, ideas and exchange between producer and consumer in which both parties will change their approach or perception as a result."
(Richard Reeves and John Knell in 'The 80 Minute MBA: Everything you'll never learn at business school,' p. 110 Hachette)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Foot massage techniques

"Giving a reflexology treatment will involve using your hands to apply pressure and different types of massage to the feet. The techniques are simple but require practice and patience to perfect them. Practise the basic techniques on your own hands or feet, this shows you how the techniques feel to the patient. You will also learn how much pressure to apply, which is important for the patient's comfort and saves the therapist's muscles from strain."
"Treating the feet and performing the different types of hand movements do not require great strength. Although initially your shoulders, arm and hands may feel some strain before they become stronger, it is helpful to pace yourself and not take on too much, perhaps just a few treatments per week as a start. Eventually you may be able to do several per day depending on your own strength, although quality is always better than quantity."
"When you are treating others, be prepared to adapt to their needs. Some feet are very sensitive, and if the patient is ill and has never had reflexology before, the first few treatments may need to be very light. Some parts of the feet may be much more sensitive than others, so again, the first treatment should be a gentle exploration, noting those areas that need a lighter touch. This also helps to recognise progress in the treatment, when sensitive areas become less painful, this is a good sign that the corresponding physical anatomy is reacting well to the treatment."
(David Vennells in 'The Path to Good Health and Inner Peace,' p. 74 Full Circle)

Monday, May 11, 2009

Trend spotting

"Most traders are trend followers. They accept the widespread belief that the trend is a trader's friend. Many years of exhaustive research and trading experience have convinced us that this notion is flawed. For the sake of completeness, we have added a corollary to this premise -- the trend is your friend, unless the trend is about to end."
"Human nature is such that we are inclined to extrapolate current events into the future. Some expectations have outcomes that are immutable and universally applicable: The sun rises in the morning and sets in the evening. Cut your hand with a knife and you will bleed. Fall from an elevated level and gravity will pull you down. There are no exceptions. Other expectations may be disappointed: Flip a light switch and a dark room becomes bright -- but what happens if the electricity is not in service?"
"Similarly, in terms of trading markets, as long as buying pressure is greater than selling pressure, a market's trend is up, and, conversely, as long as selling pressure is greater than buying pressure, a market's trend is down. To expect that buying pressure will continue to exceed selling pressure and extend an uptrend indefinitely or that selling pressure will continue to exceed buying pressure and extend a downtrend indefinitely is foolhardy. No market trend continues forever, just as no tree grows to the sky. Market dynamics are not dictated by the forces that govern human nature. Most traders are content to trade comfortably and with a trend, but what happens when buying and selling pressure move into equilibrium or when buying pressure overcomes selling pressure or when selling pressure overcomes buying pressure? During these transition periods of buying and selling pressure, market fundamentals, news, and expectations usually remain intact. However, under this veneer, the supply/ demand dynamics are in fact being redefined. Maintaining a trading edge by anticipating these internal market changes is imperative to ensuring a trader's good mental and financial health."
(Ed: David Keller in 'Breakthroughs in Technical Analysis: New thinking from the world's top minds,' p. 21 Viva)

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Sufism emanates from the Sharia

"I find that the word Sharia seems to scare most non-Muslims for they associate it with medieval laws. Most media debates that involve the Sharia engage in a confrontationist attitude questioning the rationale of age-old beliefs. Television news channels looking for controversial sound bytes often pick up the worst representatives of Muslim opinion and then wonder why moderate voices are not heard. Non-issues are usually turned into Sharia debates in which the channels and Muslim radicals share a mutually beneficial relationship. Little wonder that most people simply do not relate the rigidity of the Sharia with Sufism, which is perceived as a compassionate ideology."
"Sufis strictly follow the Sharia, Islamic laws based on the Quran, Hadith and Ijma, consensus of the Muslim community. Sharia is the outward conduct that prepares the mystic for the spiritual path. Sufis go through rigorous ascetic disciplines but do not enforce rigidity on their followers through fatwa, decrees."
"The Sufi philosophy is classified into three stages: Sharia, the outward law, Tareeqa, the Way and Haqeeqa, the Truth. Prophet Muhammad said, 'The Sharia law is my word, Tareeqa my actions and Haqeeqa my inner state.' Throughout Islamic history, Sufis developed ways suited to the times, evolving methods for guiding people on the path of righteousness. Sufism represents the vibrancy of Islam in adapting to local customs and tradition. It reaffirms unity of faith and the diversity of devotional expression in the Muslim world..."
"The Sufis originated from a group of about 45 companions of Prophet Muhammad called the Ashab e Suffa, People of the Bench. Having renounced the world, these people sat in front of the Prophet's mosque practising incessant prayer and fasting. They made the mosque their home and were looked after by the Prophet and his family. The area of the Bench is still visible and forms the outer part of the Prophet's chamber in Madinah."
(Sadia Dehlvi in 'Sufism: The Heart of Islam,' p. 27 Harper)

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Getting over bad memories

"Most bad memories are life size, and when you have life size bad memories, shrinking them down, putting yourself in them so you can see exactly what you were wearing (and turning the picture sideways and then being able to play that memory forwards and then backwards) will help you change the way you feel about them."
"Being able to play these memories forwards with circus music and backwards with silly music makes it so that the feelings become separated from the images and the memories no longer haunt you. The purpose of memories is to learn from them or to enjoy them or to use them as guides for your behaviour and it doesn't help to relive trauma. Over the years, I've helped many, many people whose lives had been crippled by traumatic experiences to get away from the memories."
"For example, recently I worked with a woman who had been terribly abused when she was young. She'd been gang raped. A terrible, terrible thing. What was even worse was that she relived it every day not once but over and over again. It made it so that she constantly lived in fear. Her body was racked with stress. Her mind was unable to think about anything, especially the future and especially hope."
"It was impossible for her to carry on relationships because everything that happened triggered off the one bad memory. Even though it had happened over twenty years earlier, she was still paralysed by the pictures in her mind, the sounds, the smells and, worst of all, the feelings of helplessness and being out of control. Rape is not about sex. Rape is about violence and anytime violence is done to anyone, it's a horrible thing."
"I know that I'm fond of saying this over and over again but the best thing about the past is that it's over and when it's not over something is amiss in your mind because it's not the rapist that's making you remember -- it's you. Inside your own mind, holding on to terrible memories. None of us are exempt from this. When my wife died some four years ago, she died in my arms. The memory stuck with me over and over again and I was forced to take my own advice."
"Step one for getting over bad memories is to look at them for the last time in the same way. One of the things that you'll notice about bad memories is that they're life size. They're not a little picture in your mind. They're not blurry. They're not out of focus. They're just like being there in that moment again."
(Richard Bandler in 'Get the Life You Want: The secrets to quick & lasting life change,' p. 52 Harper)

Friday, May 8, 2009

Altruistic behaviour

"Altruistic behaviour undoubtedly exists. Many people in all cultures often give a helping hand to others in need without demanding anything in return. Where does altruistic unselfish behaviour originate? The conceptual schema that tries to incorporate altruistic behaviour into our usual norm is called ethics."
"Of course spiritual traditions make ethics more complicated than just the conceptual context for the study of altruistic behaviour. In most spiritual traditions, for example, ethics is about discriminating between good and evil. We humans have a discriminative function called conscience; we suffer pangs of conscience if we fail to choose good. Thus we have the simple statement of spiritual ethics, 'Be good, do good' (to yourself and others), from the Hindu Swami Sivananda. Another statement, this one by the Rabbi Hillel, expresses the same concept: 'If I am not for myself, who am I? If I am only for myself, what am I?' And still another statement, this one from Christianity: 'Do unto others as you want others to do unto you.'"
"It is this discriminative conscience that enables us to do good. Where does conscience originate? It is the bidding of the supramental or soul level of being. In this way, our altruistic behaviour proves the existence and reality of the supramental domain."
(Amit Goswami in 'God is not Dead: What quantum physics tells us about our origins and how we should live,' p. 178 Jaico)

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Financial sector reform for stimulating investment

"There are certain Indian realities we must face up to. Deserving small and fresh entrepreneurs are finding it very difficult to get loans from the banks while retail banking seems to be at its peak. This is not a healthy sign. Activities promoted by retail banking do not create significant value addition and employment. From a macroeconomic perspective, people have perceived lower deposit rates a threat to their future earnings and increased savings substantially. Thus, low interest rate may not boost up aggregate demand even if it keeps raising consumption among the relatively affluent sections of the young generation."
"Labour-intensive small and self-employed activities are the right ways out of poverty and stagnation of millions. Way back in mid-1960s there was a debate as to whether the stagnation in Indian industries was caused by an 'effective demand' problem. The situation is very different now. But somehow it seems that 'investment demand' by small firms is not being materialised and public investment is still trapped in a low level equilibrium."
(Asian Development Bank in 'Macroeconomic Management and Government Finances,' p. 163 OUP)

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Molecular pharming: Plants as bioreactors

"Niche pathway engineering for catechin biosynthesis in tea: Tea is grown in 31 countries across the globe and India is a major player in its export. Keeping in view the present global scenario, research on tea needed focus to meet the challenge of quality that supports health attributes. Tea has medicinal value due to its richness in polyphenols, wherein catechins are the most abundant. Catechins and their derivatives are responsible for astringency and bitterness of tea and taste. These are also important pharmaceutical compounds being strong antioxidants. While the biochemistry of catechin biosynthesis in tea is known, the control points and molecular aspects were not considered. To engineer the pathway for its desired modulation in the tea clones or in alternative crops of choice or to synthesise the flavonoids in vitro for use in pharmaceutical and other relevant industry, it is implicit to clone the niche-pathway genes from tea."
(Ed: V. L. Chopra, R. P. Sharma, S. R. Bhat, and B. M. Prasanna in 'Search for New Genes,' p. 218 Academic)

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan

"When Kale Khan died, the elders of the clan lamented that the glorious era of Patiala vocalism had come to an end. This remark stung Ghulam Ali. He started practising round the clock to prove them wrong. And the rest, as they say, is history."
"It is well known that Ghulam Ali was trained in vocalism as well as on the sarangi. In his early youth, he made a living as a sarangi accompanist in Bombay as well as Lahore. However, he gave it up as soon as his career as a vocalist took off. His early years as a vocalist - sometimes supporting his father - were limited to engagements in Punjab and Kashmir, and very few people outside the region had heard of him. His big break came when he was almost 40 - at the Vikramaditya Music Conference in Bombay (1944). He stole the show with brilliant renditions of khayala, thumari and bhajana. The news of this conquest spread all over the country. Overnight, he became Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, and thereafter, for over two decades, no major music festival in non-peninsular India was conceived without his participation."
"In 1953, the celebrated Carnatic vocalist, G. N. Balasubramaniam (GNB), organised, for him, a concert tour of south Indian cities - in those days, almost alien territory for Hindustani musicians. At first, the stark contrast between the ascetic culture of Carnatic vidvans and Bade Ghulam Ali's majestic personality, raised considerable scepticism. South Indian connoisseurs needed just one concert to change their mind about Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, and to hail him as a 'bhagavatar,' the highest honorific conferred on singers in the Carnatic tradition."
"Bade Ghulam Ali became an important pillar of Hindustani music so speedily that few know of his having been a Pakistani national for over a decade after Independence. His home was in Lahore, while his audiences were in India, which he could visit for only limited periods each year. Neither government obstructed his movements across the border; but neither formally acknowledged his stature. During that period, even the mention of his name was prohibited on All India Radio. His application for Indian citizenship was pending when, in 1957, the Chief Minister of the erstwhile Bombay State, Morarji Desai, was charmed by his music and took up his case with Delhi. Desai not only got his nationality papers through, but also gave him a comfortable residence in Bombay, along with ancillary facilities. The ustad remained a resident of Bombay though, in later years, he developed a substantial presence also in Calcutta."
(Deepak Raja in 'Khayal Vocalism: Continuity within change,' p. 237 DK)

Monday, May 4, 2009

Forest management

"Vietnam has conducted radical renovation in the forestry sector since 1990 by involving local people in forest management. Households and village communities have been increasingly recognised as important stakeholders in national forestry policies. Most of these policies have been towards allocating land and forests to households for forestry-related purposes. Allocation is the process by which a household or group of households receive 50-year-use and management rights over a specified area of barren land for reforestation (plantation), or natural forest for management and protection. The ownership rights are contained in an allocation document called the Red Book."
"In the central Vietnamese province of Thua Thien Hue, forests have been under state control since the reunification of the country in 1975. State control and management of forests was executed through State Forest Enterprises (SFE), which logged forests and were charged with forest 'protection' from degradation, particularly unauthorised logging. Forst protection duties have also been shared with the Forest Protection Department (FPD)."
"Starting with Program 327 (1992), however, local households were involved with SFEs in joint-plantation programs that provided a benefit-sharing mechanism..."
(Ed: Edward L. Webb and Ganesh P. Shivakoti in 'Decentralization, Forests and Rural Communities: Policy outcomes in South and Southeast Asia,' p. 269 Sage)

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Middle classes

"Within India's political discourse, the term middle class has come to refer to some 60-80 million urban dwellers who work mainly in the professions and the civil service or are self-employed. The positive support that this motley stratum provided to Rajiv's economic programme in the first two years of his rule can be understood by focusing on two different issues."
"First, Rajiv Gandhi's early economic policies provided concrete benefits to the middle classes. Reduction in taxes and abolition of such programmes as the Compulsory Savings Deposit Scheme were received with great enthusiasm. Moreover, the government seems to have decided to hinge its new economic strategy on the buying power of these groups. Controls on production have been released and exports are not going up all that rapidly. Who, under these circumstances, is going to buy all the new products that are now suddenly appearing on the market? Clearly, the government is hoping that the middle income groups will use their increased incomes to soak up the growing supply and thus avoid a demand constraint on growth. Whether this will become the basis of a successful development strategy is not an issue under discussion here; that is for the economists to debate."
"From the point of view of the political inclinations of the middle-income groups, the new strategy has meant not only improved incomes over the short run, but also for almost the first time in post-colonial India, an economy that is not beset by shortages of consumer goods. Growing incomes and availability of products have, in turn, helped generate benign views of the government. That such tangible rewards are more important than any set of shared values with the leadership was highlighted when these very middle groups threw their weight against the government's plans to raise petroleum prices during February 1987. Also, with the emergence of corruption scandals within the government during 1987 and 1988, many in this fickle political group have changed their evaluation of Rajiv Gandhi."
"A second issue of longer-term significance has not received much attention. Over the last decade, there has been a major change in how Indian industry finances itself. Significant contribution to industrial investment is now made by the sale of public stocks. While exact figures are not known, the phenomenon of middle-income groups, including Indians living outside of India, buying stocks in a big way has been widely noticed over the last decade. This is increasingly creating a structural link between middle-income groups and big business. The political significance of this fact is likely to grow. Middle-income groups now have a growing stake in the economic health of industry and commerce. Policies that facilitate this goal are thus likely to and do receive support."
(Atul Kohli in 'Democracy and Development in India: From socialism to pro-business,' p. 213 OUP)

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Orphan

"At school he suddenly became conscious of what he was: an orphan. He had never been aware of this status, for many of his classmates seemed to be orphans too. Every so often someone would drop out of school to work in the ricefields or help with the nets, and Adam would learn that their father had drowned at sea or their mother had died in childbirth; now they were an orphan. On this island it seemed entirely normal to have lost at least one parent. But one day they had a new teacher, a young Sasak who had studied at the Universiteit van Indonesie. He taught them the difference between orphans who had lost one parent and those who had lost both. There was a word that distinguished the two: piatu. It was important to be precise with our Indonesian language, the teacher said; we have to use it carefully and with pride. This revelation troubled Adam greatly. Had he been orphaned once or twice? Was he a true orphan, more pitiful than the others? He went home and consulted Karl's dictionary, kept on the highest, dustiest shelves like some forgotten, forbidden relic. Perhaps he would be less of an orphan in Dutch. He would discover that in every language but his own he would be an ordinary, unremarkable orphan. He remembered the Dutch for 'orphan' and found it quickly, but the definition was full of words he did not understand and left him more frustrated than ever."
(Tash Aw in 'Map of the Invisible World,' p. 73 Harper)

Friday, May 1, 2009

Populist measures

"It is easy to be critical of political leaders for resorting to populist measures, but to a certain extent populist initiatives are built into the democratic process, especially when political parties are not strong and the party system is splintered. Growth acceleration does not necessarily resolve the problem, since it is likely to be accompanied by increasing inequality. Indeed, there seems to be a rhythmic relationship between growth, inequality, inclusiveness, and populist policies. Episodes of growth acceleration are likely to result in increased inequality, discontent over which is likely to persuade political leaders to take recourse to bursts of effort at inclusiveness, and attempts at inclusiveness are likely to encompass populist measures as well; some even consider the notion of inclusiveness to be just a cover for populist policies. The drive for inclusiveness may not, however, be sufficient for attracting political support, perhaps it could never be, given the high level of expectations. But political leaders cannot be blamed for not trying to secure their own political future through policies that they calculate will win over blocks of voters. In any case, it would be difficult to suggest that the state has been any less interventionist in the arena of social justice in the post-liberalisation period than it was before."
(Baldev Raj Nayar in 'The Myth of the Shrinking State: Globalization and the State in India,' p. 115 OUP)