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UK-based donor NGO Oxfam calculation flawed, finds more poor in US, Europe than China: Pro-market institutes

By Rajiv Shah
Some of the world’s top institutes favouring free market have got together to declare that well-known UK-based NGO Oxfam’s latest report “An Economy for the 99%”, which claims that eight richest men in the world, between them, have the same amount of wealth as the bottom 50% of the world’s population, is “misleading”.
Particularly objecting to the methodology adopted by Oxfam to calculate poverty, these institutes say that debt can be found everywhere in Oxfam’s wealth deciles, and if one eradicates all the debt, most of the people in those statistics would “magically become a lot richer.”
The institutes which have taken objection to the Oxfam report include Cato, a public policy research organization, claimed to be dedicated to the principle of “individual liberty, limited government, free markets and peace”, and the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), which itself to be “UK’s original free-market think-tank”.
The reactions come following an alleged media campaign citing…

Gujarat’s Muslim rehab sites: The cruelty within

By Rajiv Shah
It was early 1970s, when I was sought to be navigated into Marxism-Leninism by my then “political mentor” and a senior student colleague, Sohail Hashmi. A total novice in politics, I was doing bachelors in English at Kirori Mal College, Delhi University, while he was in human geography.
Impressed by his argumentative power, I would often look upon Hashmi – formerly very active with CPM, but now more into culture, heritage, and things similar – as one of those who would, very soon, trigger a proletarian revolution in India, like Lenin and his colleagues did in Russia! While I don’t care to remember most of what Hashmi had taught me (perhaps he himself would have unlearned some of it), I still recall a seemingly academic argument he had advanced in order to prove how Hindus and Muslims faced similar exploitation.
This is what he told me, roughly: “Make a graph and draw two separate lines of class exploitation – one for Hindus, another for Muslims. You would find that both H…

Wither Gunotsav?: Gujarat children's math level worse than most states, including UP, Bihar, Rajasthan, Odisha

By Rajiv Shah
Data provided by the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2016 not only suggest that girl child education remains a major hurdle in rural Gujarat (click HERE), widely regarded by Government of India as a “model” state for other states to follow. Gujarat is found to be behind a large number of states even in learning levels at the primary level.
ASER has released the data at a time when Gujarat government is holding its high-profile annual Gunotsav festival, sending out all senior officials, including IAS and IPS bureaucrats, to remotest parts of the state to "improve" the quality of education in the states. The data suggest, the yearly exercise, begun by Prime Minister Narendra Modi as Gujarat's chief minister, does not appear to have had any major impact vis-a-vis other states.
Thus, the data show that just 23% of Gujarat’s standard 3 children can read standard 2 level text, which is worse than 10 other major states – Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Kerala, Ma…

Model Gujarat's 24% girls in age-group 15-16 don't attend school, higher than 17 states; national average 16%: ASER

By Rajiv Shah
The 11th Annual Status of Education Report (ASER 2016), released in Delhi, has revealed that Gujarat, a model state for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, remains one of the poorest performers in enrolling girls in rural schools, both at upper primary and secondary level.
Exploding the myth that Gujarat has made strides in school education under Modi, who ruled the state between 2001 and 2014, the report has found that out of 21 major states, just three (Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh) have a higher out of school girls in the age group 15-16 than Gujarat.
At 23.5%, Gujarat’s out of school girls in this age group is higher than several of the backward states such as Odisha (19.2%), Chhattisgarh (18.4%), Jharkhand (14.3%), Assam (12%) and Bihar (11.3%). The national average, the report, which is based on rural household surveys across India, is 16.1%.
ASER oes not find things any better for rural boys’ enrollment in the age group 15-16. Here, too, of 21 major states, j…

Federalize Indian foreign policy, Modi's Gujarat showed way, Centre ill-equipped: Reliance thinktank experts

By Rajiv Shah
Experts attached with Reliance Industries Ltd's (RIL's) thinktank have strongly advocated “federalization of foreign policy” for India, insisting, globalization has “eroded traditional boundaries”, and “the Central government by itself is not well-equipped to meet the challenges posed by new political, economic and social forces.”
Part of a project on paradiplomacy under Prof Harsh V Pant, who is distinguished fellow and head of Observer Research Foundation's (ORF’s) Strategic Studies programme, and is non-resident fellow with the Wadhwani Chair in US-India Policy Studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Washington, DC , the thinktank argues in favour of “subnational involvement in international affairs”.
In a two part commentary, jointly authored with ORF research assistant Falguni Tewari, Prof Pant says that “states are often better equipped than the Central government to undertake diplomatic measures in areas of trade, commerce, foreign…

Urban India's air quality deteriorated by 13% in 2010-15; China improved by 17%, US by 15%, European Union by 20%

By Rajiv Shah
In one of the sharpest critiques of air pollution in the recent past, a fresh report has said that air quality levels in urban India between 2010 and 2015 deteriorated by 13% at a time when these improved by 17% in China. The pollution levels improved in the US by 15%, and 20% in European Union (EU), it reveals.
“In 2016, severe air pollution has disrupted everyday life, especially during the winter”, the report notes, insisting, “In 2015 air pollution (PM2.5) levels in India increased in a rapid manner overtaking even China.”
Calculated as PM2.5 air quality standards, the report, “Airpocalypse: Assessment of Air Pollution in Indian Cities”, and authored by top international environmental NGO Greenpeace’s Sunil Dahiya, Lauri Myllyvirta and Nandikesh Sivalingam, states, pollution levels in India’s cities have been “increasing steadily for past 10 years”, with 2015 being “the worst year on record.”
Short for "Particulate Matter, 2.5 micrometers or less" "PM2.5 …

4.3% rural women faced molestation on defacating in open, 7.6% on going to market. Comparable?, asks study

By Rajiv Shah
In a sharp critique of the Government of India thinking, continuing since the UPA days, that rural women are “vulnerable to sexual assault” when they defecate in the open, a recent study carried has said that such a view only distracts policy makers “from the real social divisions, based on caste, that prevent the adoption of affordable latrines”.
Carried out jointly by scholars from Indian Statistical Institute, University of Pennsylvania and Research Institute for Compassionate Economics (RICE), and published by RICE, the study believes such a thinking only caters to the urbanite view that “if women had more decision-making power, many more households in rural India would invest in latrines.”
Based on an interview of 1,046 women, as part of the paper “Understanding open defecation in rural India: Untouchability, pollution, and latrine pits” by Diane Coffey, Aashish Gupta, Payal Hathi, Dean Spears, Nikhil Srivastav, and Sangita Vyas, the study says, “4.3% told us that wh…