The origins of the word Hindu and Hindu religion

A new trend among the internet Hindus is to refer to Hindu religion as “Sanatan Dharma” claiming that is the original name of the Hinduism. Nothing can be farther from truth. I believe this new trend is a defense for the typical Christian and Islamic criticism of Hinduism is that Hinduism is not a religion but just a phrase given by Arabs to the people living beyond the Sindhu river.

It is a partial truth that the word “Hindu” is derived from “Sindhu” and was widely used by Arabs than the Hindus themselves. However this is not a criticism of Hinduism in any sense. Replace “Hindu” with “Banana loving cow worshippers” or  “Omega 5721″ and that doesn’t really change much.

The reality is that people who living beyond the river Sindhu were different from Arabs. The people themselves had figured this out and used the phrase “Mlenccha” for the Arabs and others.

The fundamental difference between Hinduism and monotheistic religions is that the so called “Hinduism” or whatever else you might wish to call it is free from dogma, prophetism and mindless conformance to some centuries old book.

This is not a disadvantage or a bad thing, in fact the strength of Hindu religion.

The kind of politics that wins 44 seats

Narendra Modi’s government is so far is not very much distinguishable from UPA-2. The same socialist, leftist policies being followed.

Government of India maintained a neutral stand on Israel/Gaza conflict in Parliament but voted against Israel at UNHRC.

India also lost huge territory to Bangladesh recently in UN court.

Giving important to such Kangaroo courts is idiotic. Tomorrow Pakistan might want a UN commission of inquiry against Gujarat riots, what will GoI do in that case ?

Opportunity Cost

Opportunity cost is something that people and politicians often ignore and make incorrect decisions.

How much is education from 1st to 10th worth ?

A lot of people will calculate the fees paid, money spent by student and government on books, teacher infrastructure and come up with a figure of say Rs 5 L.

This might be the money spent on that education but the opportunity cost is the cost of second option which was mutually exclusive to the option 1.

If government had freed education from its clutches and independent and unaffiliated, unregulated institutions were allowed to give primary and secondary education. A lot of above average students could have gone to these schools and completed their 10th standard in say 8 years instead of 10.

This basically means those students would have started earning 2 years ahead of everyone else and would have retired two years late. So the additional money they would have earned by staying in that job would been 2 years of salary while retirement. Which could be anywhere from Rs 1 crore to Rs 50 lakhs.

So the opportunity cost of the government controlled education to students with above average IQ is few lakh rupees and not just Rs 5 Lakh.

 

Note: This is a reflective post. I am just trying to learn.

Is public education worth it ?

Everyone believes that all children should go to school. Even in the remotest villages and even for the most disinterested student, parents and teachers argue that S.S.C. is the bare minimum that someone should aspire for. We are told that education is the key to future.

Education is not a good thing in itself. It is not essential for human welfare by default. For example my great great grandfather did not go to school or college, he was fairly well off and well respected in society. So was everyone else’s great great grandfather.

In last 100 years human productivity has improved by a huge factor. This gain in productivity has come from human creativity and intellect. Just the way our ancestors had to learn basic skills like hunting to stay alive, in a modern world a human being is required to achieve certain level of productivity to survive. This productivity is what is essential and education happens to be the only way to achieve this. The mistake people make however is to equate this sort of productivity enhancing education with “school education” which is totally controlled by government. Indian students for example have absolutely no choice but to go to a government controlled school.

What makes education a good choice is the fact that in the absence of Education a person can be productive only by doing physical work. Physical work means a person burns his calories to produce some output (say a porter on train station). The amount of energy generated by burning a liter of Petrol is several times higher than the kind of energy human body can produce as a result there is not much demand for physical labor in our society and people for whom physical labor is the only option to be productive do not earn enough than those who use their mind to be productive.

Like all things human, education is not a predictable process. Different people have a different rate of learning and hence the kind of productivity they would acquire post formal education is different. It will depend on the kind of education they get, the kind of environment they would learn, quality of teachers and the intellect of the student himself.

Can it be the case in certain cases a student is better off not going to school altogether ? Can we apply some economic analysis to answer this question ?

Actually it is not very hard to do that. Please note that when I say “schoo” I am referring to government controlled formal schools teaching government prescribed material.

Assume that the cost of putting a student through school from 1st to 10th std is Rs 5 Lakh inclusive of all direct and indirect costs (salaries of teachers to money spent on books).

Assuming that the student pursues no further education, his going to school was worth it IF AND ONLY IF that education has made him productive enough to earn and save Rs 5 Lakh in next 10 years. ( For simplicity I have ignored inflation and RoI. With RoI of 10% this could very well go up to say Rs 10 Lakh.)

If the answer to this question is NO then it was a wiser choice not to send that child to school at all and instead saving Rs 5 Lakh in the beginning. Which basically means by the time he is of the age of S.S.C. he would already have Rs 5 Lakh in bank + saved 10 years.

The argument might look absurd to many people. It looks absurd because we see a lot of people around us who got just S.S.C. and improved their quality of life while those who did not go to school continue to languish in poverty.

There are two parts to this observation. Part 1 is that; for most of the students Rs 5 Lakh have been spent by someone else. That is the government; which is in turn you and me (taxpayers). So when a SSC pass student earns Rs 4 Lakh over 10 years, it is a net + 4 Lakh for him where as for a society it is a net loss of Rs 1 Lakh. Ordinary people are not trained to see the opportunity cost.

Imagine if that same student was given Rs 5 Lakh in cash before entering the school and he/she had just put it in the bank, he/she would have got richer by Rs 20 Lakh or so after 20 years. So when you factor in this opportunity cost, the student appears far worse despite saving Rs 4 Lakh over a period of 10 years after getting an economically inefficient education than have say Rs 20 Lakh without going to school (10%.  RoI).

Part 2 here is that a good number of students manage to go beyond S.S.C. or are intelligent enough or responsible enough to ensure that they get productive enough “despite the obstacles placed by the school”. This productivity might come from other investments that parents might make such as tutions, other books, training programs etc.

Because of the government control

I suspect that our entire education system remains mostly economically inefficient. I say entire and mostly because all our schools are controlled by government to lowest possible levels which means if one of the school is proven economically inefficient it makes sense to say all of them are inefficient.

Not just high schools but even same might be true for Engineering colleges such as IIT. Too few IITs means the competition of admission is very high and hence more money gets spent on IIT Coaching every year than the money government spends on running these IITs.

Our students will be far better off in life is government simply shuts down each and every school, fires each and every teacher and all educational officers, sells of real estate where schools exist and instead gives a monthly cheque to all children of school going age we might be far far better off than what we are now.

Does that mean our population would remain illiterate ?

If government simply gets out of education, either gives cash vouchers to kids of school going age, it would mean that our kids will not waste their time in a meaningless unproductive activity called government sponsored education.

It will then be up-to parents, kids and rest of the society to figure out how to use this money and the extra time. Very likely parents will come up with better ways to make productive use of their child’s time. Entrepreneurs will come up with far better educational institutions which will give better, more personalized education in a profitable way.

The current educational system controlled by government is just not dysfunctional but also evil because it wastes 10 years of a child’s most important life.

Does it still make sense ?

Parents have actually figured this out. Entrepreneurs have figured this out. That is why good teachers prefer to run tuition centers instead of teaching in a worthless school system and make far more money than school teachers.

Parents overwhelmingly send their kids to coaching classes by paying hefty amounts. The coaching classes are not greedy, in fact they are doing a great social service to the society. The reason why parents pay huge amount for coaching classes because they know that the possible returns on that investment are very high.

What about the poor ?

If government gets out school system how will poor educate themselves ? That is a a valid question but we see that poor people can afford mobile phones, shampoos, cold drinks and DTH sets. Almost every sector of our economy where government has not put its dirty nose has made things remarkably cheaper for our poor people.

If a poor student is intelligent and can achieve productivity level of X+ if expenditure on his/her education is X, it makes sense for any financial institution to lend him/her that money and make a reasonable profit after his/her education is complete.

This incentive for profit will also drive institutions to be as productive as possible, give monetizable skills starting from a very early age.

But it wont happen !

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Agricultural Labor and Human productivity

Why are farmers and agricultural laborers poor ?

A bank clerk earned a salary of Rs 750 per month 30 years ago. The same clerk assuming no promotions etc. easily fetched Rs 30000 today. That is approximately 40 times more. The same clerk however continues to work for 8 hours a day 6 days a week. (Ignoring Saturday special cases).

A lot of people do not realize why the exact same amount of work invites more money today than 30 years ago. It is not that inflation increased over period and hence bank increased the pay to ensure its employees are able to survive. There is more than what meets the eye.

30 years ago, banks were few, branches were even fewer. They maintained accounts in paper registers which had to be meticulously verified every now and than. Every-time a person wanted to withdraw money he had to walk into a local branch, the clerks had to look at his account and carefully do the math.

Each clerk could handle 30-40 transactions at max a day. Today with computerized systems, a clerk is just a human face to the computer screen. Transactions like withdrawal happen through ATMs. Overall it is reasonable to say that a bank like SBI probably does 10,000 transactions per clerk per day.

Technology has enabled clerks to be around 250 times more productive than 30 years ago and hence banks too have managed to survive despite increasing the salaries of the clerks by 40 times.

Imagine a scenario where there were no computers, yet the banking needs had scaled to what they are today. In such cases banks would have required to hire a huge number of clerks to meet the daily transaction demands. If they had to pay Rs 30, 000 to each of those, the per transaction cost would have hit the roof and banking would have been un-viable for consumers and banks. Imagine you withdrawing Rs 1000 and paying Rs 250 as transaction fee.

Computer systems helped clerks improve their productivity by 250x and salaries by 40x. But there is a key thing about productivity. Why salaries did not increase by 250x ? That is a valid question to ask.

The moment computer started doing most of the work, the need to have an intelligent clerk also diminished. There was no need for the bank to hire First Class M.Com. graduate. They could simply do with second class B.Com. graduate. Clearly these people were willing to work for a lesser salary.

If we somehow manage to invent even better computer systems Banks could even do with a 10th standard pass person. ATMs are already manned by semi literate watchmen in India.

What happened to M.Com. graduates ? They probably did MBA, got into higher positions and probably earned even more money than what they would have earned as clerks.

The key lesson here is that as technology advances, the same job can be done by less smarter individuals. (Smartness == skill level).

So why agricultural laborers are poor ?

With technology human beings are achieving more things with little intelligence. Which basically means average “smartness” of a person in a certain skill is going down. For example, average smartness of bank clerks has gone down, average smartness of school teacher, bus driver, electrician has gone down because technology has helped less smart people achieve same results as a smart person. Smart people on the other hand moved to better professions.

When everyone is climbing the ladder, there is always a vacuum that will get created at the bottom. Agriculture happens to be at the bottom. Agriculture labor is the least productive occupation. One literally burns his bodily calories to produce something of higher calorific value.

The only people left into menial labor are those who could not find any other better occupation.

In a state like Goa which has got very good literacy levels, better economic opportunities and faster adoption of technology people will continue to move up the social ladder faster and faster creating a serious crunch of human labor in least productive occupations.

Note: I am taking an online Economics 101 course. This is a blog was inspired from the first lecture.

Looks like BJP developed cold feet now

I don’t know why Mr. Modi overlooked Dr. Arun Shourie for the post of finance minister. Whatever might be the reasons, his choice of FM Arun Jaitley was terrible and now the recent budget has demonstrated that.

I am not an expert and hence cant understand the technicalities but broadly looking at the schemes and announcements Narendra Modi/Arun Jaitley have miserably failed to show that he is committed to more market friendly India.

It is the same usual Congress-Chaap socialist budget where they announce more funds for IITs, IIMs, Girl Education and Madarassas.

Narendra Modi got elected on the plank of “minimum government” but the budget looks like more of a micro-managing government where they have separate tax rate for LCD tvs less than 19 inch than the larger once.

This budget probably is just Congress budget with a promise “we would do it better than them”.

There has not been any talks of introducing more private participation in education or letting for-profit companies to enter education. Breaking up coal India, getting rid of sick PSUs, simplifying tax code, more uniform taxation policies and so on.

Hard to see why Indian farmers are still not required to pay taxes. They could have kept the same type of slabs that would have easily exempted poor farmers from the ta burden.

Wasting public funds on IITs and IIMs is again a mistake. You do not need an IIT in each state. A good institution also requires proximity to industry and other facilities. Government could have simply given more funding to the existing IITs to either open more campuses or increase the intake.

For-profit companies must be allowed to run universities. Longer this takes, farther we are going to lag behind the world.

This budget was disappointing and I regret staying up for the same.

Rhetoric of Reforms

I am happy to see that Narendra Modi has not appeared on television much these days. That probably shows that he is busy. It would have been disappointing to see him talking the same rhetorical stuff as he did during his campaign.

He appointed Arun Jaitley was finance minister and it was clear that India’s economic policy is likely to follow the same path as that of UPA with a elusive promise “we will do better than them”.

Arun Jaitley blamed the Onion price rises on hoarding and then talked about raids and then increased the export duty. This is utter rubbish. This is exactly the Marxist and Socialist way of killing farmers.

In this brilliant piece Nidhi Srinivas explains why agricultural prices rise in India. These small traders which we were told should be protected from FDI in retail by making us pay more for everything than otherwise are the lot who are busy destroying India’s agriculture.

Typically, thousands of small farmers bring their produce to a small number of licensed commission agents, traders and exporters at their nearest market. Here, quantity is what counts, not quality. When a large number of farmers are trying to sell to a small number of licensed buyers, they have little bargaining power. They have no access to price information in other markets or about the pipeline of arrivals into the same market, which also has an impact on prices.

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Under the APMC law, every commission agent and trader requires a license from every market yard they wish to do business in. So if you wanted to buy from all the established market yards in the country, you would need 7,200 licenses, one for each of the regulated market yards. The bigger catch, though, is that you can only get a license if you own a shop or a godown in that particular market yard.

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Since most yards are decades old and unbearably stretched, finding space is virtually impossible. Old shops are prized more than heirlooms, passing on from father to son for generations. Existing traders and agents are organized into associations that fiercely protect their turf and oppose reforms. This requirement thus makes it impossible for new traders and commission agents to enter a market and offer better, market-linked prices.

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The result is that traders and commission agents in every onion mandi (market) are an old boys’ club, where membership is hereditary and controlled by an intricate system of marriages and alliances. Collusion and price fixing are rampant but no one will expose his brother.

It will be utterly shameful for BJP and Narendra Modi to protect this lot while making farmers and consumers suffer.

Victorian Values in Hinduism – Part 1

I am an atheist and I am broadly free from religion beliefs. I celebrate festivals, I indulge in idolatry and I follow many religious traditions. Yet, I do not believe in any higher power or God. Most certainly I do not believe in God as defined by most scriptures Hindu or non-Hindu.

I am working on a long term project which requires me to do a fair amount of reading of scriptures mostly Mahabharata. One question that often arises among the religious minded people is whether these epics (Mahabharata/Ramayana etc.) are imaginary or real. The confusion is increased because the texts themselves categorize them as “Itihasa” which is the typical term used in most indian language to mean “History”.

In my family most people believed them to be literally true. Most people I met seemed to believe that all those magical things happened literally and our ancestors had access to some kind technology that was forgotten over time.

This is remarkable in two ways. If you consider Christianity, the Church is extremely clear that there is no salvation outside of Church, that the belief in bible has to be unquestionable and the faithful must believe in every single word of the book. This also means that all faithful Christians must believe in immaculate conception, a jealous, all powerful God and just one single God. They have to believe that the Universe was created in 7 days. Some faithful Christians in Goa were kind enough to mail me their books which narrated how earth is only 10,000 years old and how Dinosaurs were actually just 3-4 thousand years old.

I am pretty sure for a reasonable Christian mind these beliefs are not acceptable as a result the attendance in Church is falling year on year in most Christian societies. Church is forced to concede more and more ground to Science each passing day. A lot of European nations for example are no more “faithful” Christians though on paper they might be.

Now, coming back to Hindu beliefs, I wonder if Hindus are expected to interpret scriptures in any certain way to be Hindu. The answer is clearly no. Almost every saint including Sankara to Dnyaneshwar provided their on critic of scriptures and their own meanings which redefined our outlook to Hindu scriptures and these were accepted by society very easily.

What this essentially means is that our own interpretation of the scriptures have changes over period of time pretty often. When I speak to people who claim that the Mahabharata or Ramayana are “real”. They often resort to words like “our ancestors had those secret technologies”. I have rarely seen even the most hardcore fundamentalist Hindu ever say “its Gods work we should never question it”.

This is a dichotomy in my opinion.   One part is where these people feel compelled to say that the scriptures are real. Second part is where they deny the magical aspect of it. If you argue with them enough they often resort to a claim that the interpretation of scriptures is to be taken metaphorically. For example when you prove that it is impossible to have 10 heads (as of Ravana) physiologically, they claim that he was well versed in 10 books or capable of having 10 different perspectives on any issue at the same time. Even though this conflicts with their original assertion that Epics are Itihasa. (If 10 heads of Ravana could be a metaphor so can be everything else.)

Such Hindu beliefs have become a subject of ridicule among Muslims and Christians. For example, Zakir Naik a Islamic zealot recently questioned how can Lord Shiva be called a God if he could not recognize his own son and beheaded him ? Right wing Hindus immediately go on defensive over such questions by coming up with wishy washy theories that the beheading was metaphorical or that he knew but despite of that he wanted to show off his power etc. None of these explanation sound reasonable.

I think a lot of religion Hindus see Christianity and Islam as successful because the kind of political points these religions have scored in short term and try to compete with them on similar terms. These Hindus willingly walk into the trap that has killed the core of these monotheist religions.

Hindus have thus inflicted Victorian values on themselves. I see Hindu seers like Ramdev Baba calling “Homosexuality” a disease curable by Yoga. I see Hindu leaders proclaiming that Alcohol must be banned. I see Hindu leaders actively supporting Islamic and Christian causes against Homosexuality and Sexuality in general.

This is not just idiotic but suicidal for Hinduism. It is like giving away your most potent weapon. Christianity and Islam tend to bring religion into everything. For example for historical reasons Church has certain views on who can have sex with whom in what way. Church’s control on sexuality and choice of partner has more to do with power politics in Europe in ancient time than anything about morality.

Criminalization of homosexuality, associating individual freedom of sexuality/clothing with morality were evolved over period of time in Christian Europe and reached its zenith during the victorian era. Looks like Indian colony has mastered it better than the modern England.

When we hear pro-Hindu leaders saying that wearing mini skirt or bikini is against our culture, or is immoral and hence it should be banned essentially are being more of fundamentalist Christians rather than Hindu.

Hinduism does not have anything to say about how women should chose their clothing or mating partners or intoxication.

 

Introducing IndicDiscourse.com

Long back I published few apps under the banner of Acruti Apps. As time passed, it got popular. Some of my friends in India continued to work on this and they have expanded.

IndicDiscourse.com seems to be the latest one which aims at collecting works of right wing intellectuals in country and putting it in accessible format.

Other properties under AcrutiApps :

Upasanhar.com : Giant collection of Marathi and Hindi free books.

Giant collection of Android apps: http://static.acrutiapps.com/

 

 

The idea of freedom

If a person cannot walk into the middle of the town square and express his or her views without fear of arrest, imprisonment, or physical harm, then that person is living in a fear society, not a free society. We cannot rest until every person living in a “fear society” has finally won their freedom. [Town Square Test

I have been reading a lot about Pramod Muthalik and his Ram Sene in Goan newspapers and popular forums. Pramod Muthalik shot to fame when his goons entered a pub and beat up girls. According to him it was some violation of Hindu culture which he thought needs protecting.

Modifying the Town Square Test , I have a Pub Beating Test. Which goes like this

If you can walk into a pub and beat up girls and still get away with it, you live in the lawless society of assholes.

Ram Sene is perfectly well within its right to come to Goa and setup its units. If the government stops them from doing so, we are not a free society but a society that is hostile to unpopular ideas.

What however Ram Sene should not be allowed to do is to beat up anyone. It is when the do those sort of things, only then government can interfere.

Let us see what Parrikar would do.