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Re: Sanjeev's mail

On Fri, 29 May 1998, Ari Sitaramayya wrote:

> My comment about "amateurish" is only about the two paragraphs that I took
> out of the preamble (or was it manifesto). I stand by it. 

Dear Sitaramayya,

While locking horns (in a friendly way!) with you in the past 10-15 posts,
I have repeatedly requested you to you to be very specific in your
proposals to bring reform to democracy, to rural areas, to government, to
our manifesto, etc.  If at the end of spending at least 10 hours with you,
answering each and every doubt/ query, all I get from you is

	"I stand by my view that you have written very amateurish

without any "professionally drafted," alternative paragraphs being
proposed by you, then I am deeply disappointed. 

I almost feel like crying (!) I may write a poem or two and then you're in
trouble, you know! You'll be bored to death! You may even go to sleep ...

Hey!  I'm entitled to some relief from stone-walling, and I need to know
the precise, exact views (expressed in sentences which can go into the
document), since I am too dumb to imagine which part of the para you want
to change, and with what words. 

Coming to the definition of amateur. Maybe you mean that you prefer the
comforting (and confused) views of people with B.A. in English literature
(such as my Comissioner, Planning and Development, who planned for the
entire economy of Assam and later became in charge of the entire silk
production in India: [no offence meant to him: he was personally a great

If that is so then I can only rue the day I continued my education after
joining the IAS. I should have continued with my "god-given" right to
dictate policy to India without any further thinking or self-improvement.
Or maybe I should have aimed to become completely illiterate, like many of
our politicians! Democracy means that one must pander to the lowest

So let us make it clear in the Manifesto that we wish only the illiterate
to be our rulers, since they have this deep understanding of how the world
(read: village-life) works!  They are the true professionals! They can run
big governments most efficiently and create wealth for everyone so that
the other people - the "educated" ones, can simply leave the country out
of sheer happiness and joy at the vast array of opportunities that exist
for them!

I have logged 2/3rd of my life needlessly educating myself.  These years
would have been enough to get two MDs in medicine, if you count the 4
years I spent studying on the side, during my field service years. I have
needlessly accumulated 23 1/2 years of formal education at the moment. 
Next year I will have 24 1/2.  I have only 11 years of experience at the
top management levels in the state government. Maybe I need to retire
first at the age of 60 before I start thinking on my own. My brain must be
kept under tight control and I must parrot the mumbo-jumbo of our rulers.

I have been needlessly trained in more than 5 national and state-level
Institutes of Public Administration, the National Dairy Development Board
(by the Great Dr. Kurien himself), the National Institute of Small
industries, the National Informatics Center, the Computer Maintenance
Corporation, the National Institute of Rural Development, etc. I have been
quite un-necessarily trained in policy communication by one of the world's
best programs in policy communication at the Population Reference Bureau,
Washington. I was needlessly selected to train top civil servants in the
National Academy... 

The whole exercise was needless. What a waste of effort! My batch-mates
today are Commissioners of Education, Home, etc., etc., in Assam for the
past 4 years. They **actually** run each and every thing that you and I
are talking about. To get an appointment to talk to me would have been a
rare privilege for most people of India! You would get glimpses of me in
carcades or in rare public meetings. But that would have been better.  At
least I would not raise inconvenient issues for some people somewhere. Let
the sleeping dogs lie, they say. Let the poor commit suicide and let our
engineers flee from India.

Further, all I needed was to decompose my brain cells fully, get into some
fanatic mode about some religion or caste, or pander to my innate phobias
about foreigners, while at the same time retaining some generalized
"good-will"  for the poor. That would have been sufficient for me to run
for the office of Prime Minister (or at least for Chief Minister) and
intelligently run the government, making India the richest nation in the

But on a serious note, I honestly do not think I am yet able to write
"professionally." I do believe that there are many people who can do a
better job, and so I am seeking them in earnest. I am also wanting to be
critiqued and criticized.  I want to keep improving till one day, I might
even become a "real professional" and be able to write clearly... 

Well, finally, and more to the point, is it possible, that instead of a
simple statement that you "stand by something" may I please suggest that
we follow a more helpful approach?  Let us stand for reason and
**preciseness.** The way to formulate a sustainable objection would be to:

	a) determine which part or line of the Manifesto you differ from
		(that will be put in red in the manifesto)
	b) specify the alternative (I will put the new one in green on the 
	c) Give very specific reasons why your new formulation is better
	 	than the earlier one.
	d) Allow the debate to form on that issue and then, whoever
		wins that point, gets to write that part of the manifesto.
	e) All lines in the manifesto, etc., remain open to debate
		in perpetuity so that we do not exclude better
		ways of thinking about things in the future.

This is how debates have been resolved in the past on this list, and this
is perhaps an efficient way to resolve them in the future if we are
serious about bringing out an 'ideal' document. 

We cannot be productive if we make this into a mere debating society, and
stop debates with "I stand by whatever." None of have time for that.  That
is very frustrating. 

We are building a document and then, if we all think it is necessary, we
will go into action. This is the first part of the action, itself:
converting one's generalized and often confused thinking into a specific,
meaningful document which can be read and understood by everyone, and is
based on research and facts rather than on mere opinion. 

I am grateful to Puneet about the very essential point on definitions. I
can see clearly that definitions need to be very precise, else everyone
(including me) seems to be floating about with their own definitions of
words. It is easy to go astray when people mean different things for the
same word. 

Therefore I will make a section on the manifesto called "Definitions" and
try to define some key words, like democracy, socialism, capitalism, etc.
Anyone willing to help out? 

Finally, I close my rather longish (please forgive me, this is the last
time I will allow myself to ramble away like this) post by stating, in all
sincerity, that I am really looking forward to some very specific
point-wise critique by Sitaramayya, who has raised issues of concern,
which need to be addressed more precisely. Opportunities to the poor: a
critical issue. We must think much more on this, for example.

Also, we must - before we forget - return to the topic of Local
Self-Governance. Utkarsh, how's the progress on that front? Let the side
debates not distract us from the main topic of the week.