Distant India in a Distant Time


Muslim refugees on a train from Delhi to Lahore, 1947 — Click to enlarge

Henri Cartier-Bresson is perhaps the most well-known photographer in India, or rather—an important distinction—the photographer whose work is most well-known. He first visited India in the fall of 1947. One of only two Western photographers granted access to Gandhi, Cartier-Bresson shot a series of portraits of the ailing leader the week before he was killed by Nathuram Godse, a Hindu chauvinist, in January 1948. Cartier-Bresson then covered Gandhi’s funeral and the national mourning that followed.

First published in Life magazine, these photos brought Cartier-Bresson worldwide recognition. They were also widely reproduced in India, and are today so familiar there that his authorship is usually forgotten. The same is true of many quieter, more tableaux-like photos he took on subsequent visits in 1950, 1966, and 1980. In “Henri Cartier-Bresson: India in Full Frame,” the Rubin Museum brings together selections from each of these trips.

Whether the Rubin Museum is an easy trip – or not likely – this article is worth the read. History comes alive. The photographer’s eye is well understood. We learn, we learn more.

India’s caste system even includes access to cooking fuel and electricity

❝ Among their many privileges, India’s wealthiest households can rely on a consistent supply of electricity and access to cooking gas. The situation is rather different for other social groups, however. My research has shown lower caste and tribal households have 10-30% less access to electricity and clean cooking fuel, even when controlling for other factors like income or education.

This is just one outcome of India’s caste system, which divides the country’s population into rigid and hereditary social strata. Caste discrimination was declared illegal in the Indian constitution – and positive discrimination was introduced to correct historical injustices. Those assisted by the constitution are the “scheduled castes”. They make up about 16% of India’s population and, despite affirmative action, still face many disadvantages.

❝ The “scheduled tribes” are another disadvantaged group. They include tribal or indigenous communities throughout India, and are outside the Hindu caste system. They comprise about 8% of the population.

❝ Despite substantial progress since independence, India still contains the largest number of energy-deprived people in the world, especially among these marginalised social groups. Access to modern energy has obvious direct benefits (lighting, cooked food, and so on), but it can also help micro-enterprises flourish and improve health and environmental quality.

An article worth reading in its entirety. Democracy not only must confront right-wing ideologues from fascists to supposed republicans, a significant part of the problem in many lands is the history of the dominant religion.

China, India Reaching Climate Goals Early — Trump’s US Will Fall Short

❝ Gradual reductions in coal in China and India put the two countries on track to better their carbon emissions goals.

According to Climate Action Tracker forecasts, greenhouse gas emissions from both countries are growing more slowly than previously predicted. The difference projects roughly 2 to 3 billion tons annually by 2030.

That would be sufficient to offset the expected underperformance of the U.S. — the number two contributor to world carbon emissions, behind China and ahead of India.

❝ American President Donald Trump rolled back the country’s emission controls, putting U.S. on track to miss its Paris Pledge mark. The U.S. is now on track to emit 400 million metric tons more than previously projected by 2030…

❝ …The other two top emitters are ardently fighting climate change by cutting coal use and boosting renewables. “Five years ago, the idea of either China or India stopping — or even slowing — coal use was considered an insurmountable hurdle…

The analysts rated both China and India’s climate plans as “medium,” but said that Trump’s planned policies could downgrade U.S. from “medium” to “inadequate.”

Like most of his projects, you can expect Trump to Fail or Go Bankrupt. Running the US government, he may succeed in doing both in record time.

Arms sales around the world are the highest they’ve been since the end of the Cold War


Noah Seelam/AFP

❝ Global arms sales over the last five years reached their highest level since 1990, with India continuing to top the charts as the world’s largest defense importer, a report from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute has found.

Between 2012 and 2016, India accounted for 13 percent of global arms imports, followed by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, China and Algeria, said SIPRI, which tracks global arms purchases. Between 2007 and 2011, India accounted for 9.7 percent of global imports, still more than any other country…

❝ Despite rising threats, and a ‘Make in India’ program to encourage local arms production, India’s domestic defense sector is not capable of meeting New Delhi’s growing requirements…

“They spend a lot of time and also money trying to develop weapons in India and things just go hopelessly wrong,” Siemon Wezeman, a senior researcher with SIPRI, said, adding that leaves them relying on imports…

❝ …The shift under Modi to rely more on private Indian companies for defense procurement, could lead to success. India signed an $8.7 billion contract to buy 36 Rafale jets from Dassault Aviation SA…Analysts also warned that structural changes to India’s defense purchasing would take a long time, given the lengthy timelines involved in defense R&D and manufacturing, as well as the necessity of meeting the military’s pressing requirements for combat-ready equipment.

RTFA for the gory details. Getting caught in the same sort of military-industrial complex that only shares ownership of the US economy with fossil fuel barons doesn’t seem like forward-looking economic design or planning. India might have more of a chance at long-term economic success working at building a mutual relationship based on peace with neighbors in the region. After all, they all were shoved into the same trick bag by departing Imperial England back in the day.

A woman died from a superbug that beat all 26 antibiotics available in the United States


A culture of Klebsiella pneumoniaeLarry Mulvehill/Getty

❝ If you had any doubts about the “nightmare” and “catastrophic threat” of antimicrobial resistance, take a look at this new field report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Nevada public health officials tell the story of a Washoe County resident who appeared at a Reno hospital in August 2016 with sepsis. Doctors found out that she was infected with a type of carbapenem-resistant enterobacteriaceae, or CRE, superbug called Klebsiella pneumoniae and quickly put her in isolation. Tests showed that the bacterium, which spread throughout her body, was resistant to 26 different antibiotics — or every antibiotic available in the US.

In early September, the woman, who was in her 70s, developed septic shock and died.

❝ What makes this case particularly alarming is that the infection probably didn’t originate in the US. The woman had spent significant amounts of time in India, and while there, was hospitalized on several occasions over two years for a femur fracture and later, bone infections.

India has a major superbug issue, particularly in its hospitals. The authors of the report suggest the patient may have picked up her infection while in hospital there…

❝ This is a frightening story of a deadly bacterium doctors couldn’t control — and the real limits of our antibiotic arsenal. But it’s also a reminder of how tricky the superbug problem will be to solve without a lot of international collaboration.

RTFA, especially if you think the GOUSA can solve all its own problems alone. Mobility, communications, ease of travel compared to what was available a half-century ago, all mean little to someone who thinks the world begins and ends at their county line.

The rest of us have to be concerned with staying alive.

Cripes! Even America’s favorite cons are being outsourced

❝ Police in India say they have arrested 70 call centre workers on suspicion of tricking American citizens into sending them money by posing as US tax officials.

A total of 772 workers were arrested on Wednesday in raids on nine fake call centres in a Mumbai suburb…

An estimated $36.5 million was extorted from Americans, police said.

❝ Seventy were placed under formal arrest, 630 were released pending questioning over the coming days, and 72 were freed without further investigation.

“The motive was earning money,” said Parag Marere, a deputy commissioner of police. “They were running an illegal process, posing themselves as officers of the [US] Internal Revenue Service.”

Marere said the year-long scam involved running fake call centres that sent voicemail messages telling US nationals to call back because they owed back taxes.

Those who called back and believed the threats would fork out thousands of dollars to “settle” their case, he said. The scam brought in more than $150,000 a day…

Americans are so fracking gullible. You get a voicemail telling you to callback the IRS – without ever checking on the phone number. You’re only calling back – much of the time – because you know you’ve been Trumping your tax bill, anyway. If they can pump you for how much you think you owe – it’s only a matter of playing the fish until you’re landed. You can go higher or lower. It’s all in the game.

Somewhere along the line you might notice your IRS agent has an accent. Perfectly reasonable in a nation of immigrants. If the boiler room is like most I’ve heard, you should also detect conversational background noise. And if everyone has the same accent – you’re in trouble, Bubba. The IRS doesn’t restrict hiring to any one ethnicity. 🙂

Amnesty for tax evaders in India uncovers hidden billion$

❝ A tax evasion amnesty in India has prompted tens of thousands of people to declare more than $9.5 billion in undeclared income and assets…All were offered immunity from prosecution in return for paying tax, a surcharge and a penalty…It is estimated that the government could raise nearly $4.5 billion from the scheme.

❝ The government contacted about 700,000 suspected tax evaders earlier this year, urging them to declare hidden income and assets…They were told they would not be pursued by the authorities if they came clean and paid a penalty…

The BBC’s Sanjoy Majumder in Delhi says that despite the huge numbers, the amount declared is only a fraction of the country’s undisclosed earnings.

It does not account for money stashed in Swiss banks and overseas tax havens which some government investigators believe amounts to around $500 billion…

❝ In a series of tweets on Saturday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared the amnesty “successful”, saying it was “a great contribution towards transparency and growth of the economy”.

The government says the money raised will be spent on public welfare.

Looks like many of the corporate barons of India’s economy still take 19th Century thieves as their role model. Something often true of their class, globally. Not as easy to getaway with as it obviously has been in India.

Rare Indian records survived over a century — now free online

Indian records

Over the crackle of an old record, you can hear a woman singing in Urdu. Though listening to her is as easy as clicking a few buttons on the British Library website, her voice comes to you across vast distances in space and time.

Sometime in the early 20th century, engineers recorded the voice of a woman called Malkajan for the German company Odeon, which pressed shellac discs for Indian record collectors in the 1910s and 30s. Now her work is part of a series of recordings called The Odeon Collection, digitized by Mumbai record collector Suresh Chandvankar with help from a grant from the British Library. There are over 1400 recordings in the collection, and all are free to the listening public…

Click here to access the archive. You will see the first recording up top and more choices on the right. The choices are expandable.

Enjoy the search. Enjoy listening.

Milestone: For the first time in a century, tiger populations are growing

After a century of constant decline, global wild tiger populations are on the rise! According to the most recent data, around 3,890 tigers now exist in the wild — up from an estimated 3,200 in 2010.

We can attribute this updated minimum number — compiled from national tiger surveys — to rising tiger populations in India, Russia, Nepal, and Bhutan; improved surveys; and enhanced protection of this iconic species…

Governments of countries with tiger populations came together in 2010 to pledge the goal of doubling wild tiger numbers by 2022. Our work is not done: these countries are meeting again this month to report on their progress and commit to next steps to help tigers rebound…

Tracking tiger populations and understanding the threats the species faces is absolutely vital in order to protect these big cats. Classified as endangered, tigers face daily the hazards of poaching and habitat loss. Every part of the tiger — from whisker to tail — is traded in illegal wildlife markets, feeding a multi-billion dollar criminal network.

Though we’ve seen real gains in some countries, the outlook isn’t as clear in Southeast Asia, where poaching and rampant deforestation continue to negatively impact tiger numbers.

But the hopeful news of rising tiger numbers proves we can make a difference when we come together to tackle these challenges. WWF works with governments, law enforcement, and local communities to advocate zero tolerance for tiger poaching across Asia, and uses the latest technology to protect and connect fragile tiger habitat. Together, we have a chance to reach our goal of doubling wild tiger numbers by 2022.

Huzzah!

15 Liters of water – Om Malik

Om at Taj Mahal

When California was amidst a drought, I decided to implement a three minute shower limit so as to minimize my water usage. A typical shower is about eight minutes long and takes up about 17 gallons or 65 liters of water. So a three minute shower consumes about six gallons Of water. I embraced other water saving changes, but the short shower was the one which I thought made the most sense on an individual level. It has become a habit since, only to realize that I could do more.

When I came to Delhi to visit my parents, I had to use a bucket of water to take a bath. Water is a real luxury around the world. You remember that when you open the taps and there isn’t a drop in sight. And that is why you figure out how to bathe with a bucket of water. This is what you learn as a child and it remains for you forever. It didn’t take me long to remind myself – a good bath needs about 15 liters of water. That’s about 3.96 gallons of water. I will remember that next time I open the shower tap!

March 30, 2016, New Delhi

Worth remembering no matter where we are in the world.

Thank you, Om.