Spending Power Is Not Political Power, Earning Power Is.

The States may be spending more on paper, but how much freedom do adolescents have to spend their pocket money? Spending power is not really political power. Earning power is political power. If the States were to themselves collect the money they spend, I’d call that real political power.

In a recent article, Swaminathan Aiyar argues that “The most excessive concentration of power relates to state capitals, from which power must be devolved to cities and districts.” His point is that the States account for 62% of government spending, which means we must shift the focus of the decentralization debate to within the States.

I beg to differ. The States may be spending more on paper, but like adolescents, they have not much freedom in how they spend it. Spending power is not really political power. Earning power is political power. If the States were to themselves collect the money they spend, I’d call that real political power. Let’s look at the data.

I’m not sure how Swaminathan Aiyar gets his numbers, but using 14th FC recommendations over FY 2015-16 to 2019-20, this is what I get (excluding aid, loans, etc):

Central revenue expenditure: 60,99,448 cr (32%)
State revenue expenditure: 1,29,80,292 cr (68%)

This means the Centre spends only 32% of the total public money in India. 68% of the money is spent by States. Swami’s numbers are 38% and 62%. Maybe he includes foreign aid to the Centre. Anyway, our numbers are quite close, so let me proceed to make my point.

My point is, while the Centre is spending only 32%, how much revenue is it pocketing in the first place? It’s a whopping 63%. Again, here are the numbers based on 14th FC recommendations for FY 2015-16 to 2019-20

Total revenue receipts: 1,91,04,281 cr
Central revenue receipts: 1,20,62,932 cr (63%)
State revenue receipts: 70,41,349 cr (37%)

What does this mean? The States have to spend 1,29,80,292 cr but they’re allowed to get revenue only of 70,41,349 cr. That is, the Centre is unnecessarily accumulating 59,38,943 cr. What does it do with this unnecessarily accumulated cash? It gives it away as tax devolution (roughly 66%) and grants (34%).

Although Swami makes the simple assumption that the spender wields power, the facts are more complicated. It’s actually the revenue collector who wields power. Since the Centre collects 63% of all revenue, it is possible to conclude that it wields its influence over all 63% of government spending in India.

In short, Swami’s conclusion, that the real decentralization that needs to take place is within the States, is not exactly supported by the facts presented above.

Can Someone Tell Me Why Sharada Wants Her Son to Read And Write Kannada?

Day before yesterday, I got an interesting message from a good real-life friend on Facebook. “Hi, I need a favour,” began Sharada.

This was the rest of the message:

Dinesh’s school decided to drop Kannada from their curriculum. Dinesh loves his school and generally doesn’t like displacement so I offered him two choices, change school or learn with me. He has agreed to learn from me. I don’t know how to teach. Do you have any suggestions?

Dinesh is 8. His parents, Sharada and her husband Ramesh (a childhood friend of mine) are Kannadigas. Dinesh’s school is the so-called National Academy for Learning, or NAFL, situated somewhere in Bengaluru.

I don’t know about you, but the name of this school suggests to me that the educatables aren’t exactly kids there. More like adults getting ready for some serious national stuff.

Why did Sharada ask me for this favour?

I think she asked me because I’m pretty serious about education in the mother tongue, have written a book or two in Kannada, and take Indian languages more seriously than most of her friends.

My 9-year-old son attends a world-class school in Mysore, and my 4-year-old daughter will join him there this June. It’s a private Kannada-medium school called Arivu.

Arivu’s world-class-ness doesn’t come from a stately building with a 10-foot compound. It comes from the great teachers, the atmosphere of fun, experiential learning, zero-stress, parents’ involvement and total integration with the rest of the world around the school, not to mention the language of instruction.

“If your neighbourhood has seceded from the real India, a good English-medium school can appear to have some of these good qualities.”

It’s the kind of school which actively and constantly pesters parents to come and visit the campus, sit in the classrooms, make tea, sing, dance, teach children what they know best, and so on.

I know, I know, it sounds a little crazy and I often don’t get time to participate as much as I would like. But like any right-thinking parent, I would like to do more of this stuff, not less.

Arivu’s advantage over English-medium schools

It’s impossible for an English-medium school to have the above qualities in India. Why? Because they make money from exactly the opposite of everything Arivu stands for.

I’m not just throwing this at you. I have had first-hand experience with these schools. I was educated in an English-medium school, and never in a Kannada-medium school. My wife and I also reviewed the best of the best English medium schools in Mysore before deciding on Arivu for our kids.

If your neighbourhood has seceded from the real India, a good English-medium school can appear to have some of these good qualities. Besides, they throw in a lot of other goodies like horse-riding, French, etc., so your idea of what makes a school good is quite blurred to begin with.

“There aren’t too many Arivus in Bengaluru. Not anymore. And even if there’s one close by, how can you send your kid to the kind of school your housemaid looks down on?”

Sharada’s family lives in one of these independent republics, but it’s completely land-locked by India. Like many of her friends, however, she feels she doesn’t have the choice of returning to India.

Her son’s school, NAFL, is perhaps one of the best English-medium schools in Bengaluru. That means Sharada has signed up for 10-foot compounds, closed doors, and a standing instruction to stand outside the compound while the instruction happens inside.

Good English-medium schools make a virtue of these vices, and you’re easily sold since you have the picture of your office cubicle in mind. You leave your child to the self-appointed experts and go do what you think your job is.

Besides, people like Sharada in cities like Bengaluru don’t have too much choice. There aren’t too many Arivus in Bengaluru. Not anymore. And even if there’s one close by, how can you send your kid to the kind of school your housemaid looks down on?

That would go completely against the tide of the times… which is to secede from India as completely as possible.

Does Dinesh really need Kannada?

I have to disclose an important fact for you to get the big picture: Dinesh-the-Kannadiga can’t speak Kannada.

He has the potential (who doesn’t?) but right now he can’t speak it. He barely manages to understand his parents when they speak to him in Kannada, but always replies back in English with a superb call-centre accent. I know good English, obviously, but I don’t get his accent. I’ve tried.

“[Dinesh] barely manages to understand his parents when they speak to him in Kannada, but always replies back in English with a superb call-centre accent.”

I also think his parents speak more to him in Kannada when I’m around. Oops! Did I just say that? I think she and her husband will kill me for this. They’re two of my best friends in the world!

But my point is this. The kid is 8, and he’s already schooled like a foreigner in Karnataka. His apartment complex doesn’t need him to speak in Kannada. His school doesn’t. His republic doesn’t. The Indian nation doesn’t (it wants him to learn Hindi, which his school is patriotically teaching, anyway).

The auto-rickshaw drivers are a dying tribe; everyone is switching to Ola or TaxiForSure or Meru or whatever, so he won’t need Kannada to move around independently in Bengaluru.

Even housemaids are in the line for a visa to Dinesh’s republic, so Dinesh won’t need Kannada to talk to the help either. In fact, kids don’t speak to housemaids so much anyway.

So why does Sharada want her son to read and write Kannada?

However you look at it, there’s a good reason why NAFL is kicking Kannada out of its classrooms: it’s possible to paint the picture of a Bangalore, an India, and a world in which Kannada is unnecessary.

That it’s inferior, and that it’s already dead, is already being driven into children’s heads, so that makes it easy to convince parents to let go. And the parents have already conceded that the experts on the matter are within the school’s compound.

“[T]here’s a good reason why NAFL is kicking Kannada out of its classrooms: it’s possible to paint the picture of a Bangalore, an India, and a world in which Kannada is unnecessary”

So, why, why, why does she want her son to read and write Kannada?

I’ve told her a couple of times that Dinesh must first learn to speak Kannada. Reading and writing must come later.

Somehow, she doesn’t appreciate this point. She thinks her duty is to teach Dinesh how to read and write Kannada when he can’t speak the language. In fact, she thinks he does speak Kannada. But trust me, he cannot.

I broke my head over the question. Why, why, why does she want Dinesh to read and write Kannada?

I’d have loved to ask her directly, but she’s not answering my phone. Perhaps I’ve been too direct in telling her that Dinesh must speak Kannada first. Perhaps that hurt her.

The only answer I have is that she’s driven by an irrational urge. The kind of urge that a sandalwood tree has to ensure that its saplings carry its scent.

It’s stupid to ask why. That’s how the tree is wired. That’s how we’re wired.

And oh, here’s the suggestion you wanted from me, Sharada — the same one again: don’t teach Dinesh to read and write Kannada. Make him speak it first. Do whatever it takes. That’s how you grow the Kannada sapling.

As far as NAFL is concerned, I don’t expect it to do anything better than kick Kannada out of campus. That’s how those trees are wired. The question is whether your Kannada sapling can take nutrients from them and gradually outgrow them — or not.

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[First Published: Huffington Post May 18, 2015 at 05:33PM, http://ift.tt/1IKVjRd]

Why Does Sharada Want Her 8-Year Old Son to Read and Write Kannada?

Sharada’s family lives in one of these independent republics which has seceded from India. But it’s completely land-locked by it. Like many of her friends, she feels she doesn’t have the choice of returning to India. Her son’s school, NAFL, is perhaps one of the best English medium schools in Bengaluru. That means Sharada has signed up for ten-foot compounds, closed doors, and a standing instruction to stand outside the compound while the instruction happens inside. Good English-medium schools make a virtue of these vices, and you’re easily sold since you have the picture of your office cubicle in mind. You leave your child to the self-appointed experts and go do what you think your job is.

Day before yesterday, I got an interesting message from a good real-life friend on Facebook. “Hi, I need a favor,” began Sharada,

Dinesh’s school decided to drop Kannada from their curriculum. Dinesh loves his school and generally doesn’t like displacement so I offered him 2 choices, change school or learn with me. He has agreed to learn from me. I don’t know how to teach. Do you have any suggestions?

Dinesh is eight. He’s a pure Kannadiga by birth, meaning both Sharada and her husband Ramesh (a childhood friend of mine) are Kannadigas. Dinesh’s school is the so-called National Academy for Learning, or NAFL, situated somewhere in Bengaluru.

I don’t know about you, but the name of this school suggests to me that the educatables aren’t exactly kids there. More like adults getting ready for some serious national stuff.

Why did Sharada ask me for this favor?

I think she asked me because I’m pretty serious about education in the mother tongue, have written a book or two in Kannada, and take Indian languages more seriously than most of her friends.

My 9-year-old son attends a world-class school in Mysore, and my 4-year-old daughter will join the same school this June. It’s a private Kannada medium school called Arivu.

Arivu‘s world-class-ness doesn’t come from a stately building with a ten-foot compound. It comes from the great teachers, the atmosphere of fun, experiential learning, zero-stress, parents’ involvement, and total integration with the rest of the world around the school, not to mention the language of instruction.

It’s the kind of school which actively and constantly pesters parents to come and visit the campus, sit in the classrooms, make tea, sing, dance, teach children what they know best, and so on and so forth.

I know, I know, this is crazy. I don’t get the time to do this many a time, but I have no doubt in my mind that any right-thinking parent wants to do more of this, not less.

English-medium schools can’t come even close to being like Arivu

It’s impossible for an English-medium school to have the above qualities in India. Why? Because they make money from exactly the opposite of everything Arivu stands for.

(I’m not just throwing this at you. I have first-hand experience with these schools. I was educated in an English-medium school, never in a Kannada-medium school. My wife and I also reviewed the best of the best English medium schools in Mysore before settling for Arivu for our kids.)

If your neighborhood has seceded from the real India, a good English-medium school can appear to have some of these good qualities. Besides, they throw in a lot of other goodies like horse-riding, French, etc., so your idea of what makes a school good is quite blurred to begin with.

Sharada’s family lives in one of these independent republics which has seceded from India. But it’s completely land-locked by it. Like many of her friends, she feels she doesn’t have the choice of returning to India.

Her son’s school, NAFL, is perhaps one of the best English medium schools in Bengaluru. That means Sharada has signed up for ten-foot compounds, closed doors, and a standing instruction to stand outside the compound while the instruction happens inside.

Good English-medium schools make a virtue of these vices, and you’re easily sold since you have the picture of your office cubicle in mind. You leave your child to the self-appointed experts and go do what you think your job is.

Besides, people like Sharada in cities like Bengaluru don’t have too much choice. There aren’t too many Arivus in Bengaluru. Not any more. The ones that are there aren’t necessarily close by. And even if there’s one close by, how can you send your kid to the kind of school your housemaid has begun to dislike?

That would go completely against the tide of the times… which is to secede from India as completely as possible. That’s where the money is, and that’s why there aren’t too many Arivus in Bengaluru.

Does Dinesh really need Kannada?

I have to disclose an important fact for you to get the big picture: Dinesh-the-Kannadiga can’t speak Kannada.

He has the potential (who doesn’t?) but right now he can’t speak it. He barely manages to understand his parents when they speak to him in Kannada, but always replies back in English with a superb call-center accent. I know good English, obviously, but I don’t get his accent. I’ve tried.

I also think his parents speak more to him in Kannada when I’m around. Oops! Did I just say that? I think she and her husband will kill me for this. They’re two of my best friends in the world!

But my point is this. The kid is eight, and he’s already schooled like a foreigner in Karnataka. His apartment complex doesn’t need him to speak in Kannada. His school doesn’t. His republic doesn’t. The Indian nation doesn’t (it wants him to learn Hindi, which his school is patriotically teaching, anyway).

The auto-rickshaw drivers are a dying tribe; everyone is switching to Ola or TaxiForSure or Meru or whatever, so he won’t need Kannada to move around independently in Bengaluru.

Even housemaids are in the line for a visa to Dinesh’s republic, so Dinesh won’t need Kannada to talk to the housemaids. In fact, kids don’t speak to housemaids so much anyway.

So why does Sharada want her son to read and write Kannada?

However you look at it, there’s a good reason why NAFL is kicking Kannada out of its classrooms: it’s possible to paint the picture of a Bangalore, an India, and a world in which Kannada is unnecessary.

That it’s inferior, and that it’s already dead, is already being driven into children’s heads, so that makes it easy to convince parents to let go. And the parents have already conceded that the experts in the matter are within the school’s compound.

So, why, why, why does she want her son to read and write Kannada?

I’ve told her a couple of times that Dinesh must first learn to speak Kannada. Reading and writing must come later.

Somehow, she doesn’t appreciate this point. She thinks her duty is to teach Dinesh how to read and write Kannada when he can’t speak the language. In fact, she thinks he does speak Kannada. But trust me, he cannot.

I broke my head over the question. Why, why, why does she want Dinesh to read and write Kannada?

I’d have loved to ask her directly, but she’s not answering my phone. Perhaps I’ve been too direct in telling her that Dinesh must speak Kannada first. Perhaps that hurt her.

The only answer I have is that she’s driven by an irrational urge. The kind of urge that a sandalwood tree has to ensure that its saplings carry its scent.

It’s stupid to ask why. That’s how the tree is wired. That’s how we’re wired.

And oh, here’s the suggestion you wanted from me, Sharada – the same one again: don’t teach Dinesh to read and write Kannada. Make him speak it first. Do whatever it takes. That’s how you grow the Kannada sapling.

As far as NAFL is concerned, I don’t expect it to do anything better than kick Kannada out of campus. That’s how those trees are wired. The question is whether your Kannada sapling can take nutrients from them and gradually outgrow them, or not.

(Note: Names changed to protect privacy, but this article is based on a real-life incident.)

RSS Must Understand the ‘Foreign’ in ‘Foreign-Funded NGO’

The RSS it taking the right stance w.r.t. NGOs supported by foreign funds. It would be folly to think that foreign countries fund these organizations for purely humanitarian reasons. But there’s a catch. In a nation of foreigners, who is a foreigner and who isn’t?

The RSS is taking the right stance w.r.t. NGOs supported by foreign funds. It would be folly to think that foreign countries fund these organizations for purely humanitarian reasons.

But there’s a catch. In a nation of foreigners, who is a foreigner and who isn’t?

The Gujarat High Court has famously, and correctly, declared Hindi as a foreign language in Gujarat.

The obvious corollary to this is that Hindi speakers are foreigners in Gujarat.

The next obvious corollary is that the speakers of every language are foreigners in states other than those to which that language is native. Because, you see, Hindi and Gujarat aren’t special in any way.

In most cases, this means a person from one Indian state is a foreigner in another. That includes the Prime Minister, the President, everyone.

They’re all Indians, of course, but they’re still foreigners in states which speak a language that’s not theirs. This appears like a dilution of the word foreign, but we’ll have to live with it. India is not a typical nation anyway.

Returning to the question of NGOs, if one extends the RSS’s argument, no NGO must operate in more than one Indian state. One such NGO that must go is the RSS itself.

Finally, why should we consider a trans-state GO (governmental organization) sacrosanct? After all, making a mistake legal (by removing the N in NGO) doesn’t make it a non-mistake.

I mean, foreigners are foreigners irrespective of the means of transport they take to arrive at the port of entry. It’s immaterial whether they take an NGO-ship or a GO-plane.

What am I suggesting? Just this: we must take state autonomy seriously. Every Indian must take state autonomy seriously.

Not to mention, even the RSS must take state autonomy seriously. Their own arguments, taken in conjunction with the Indian Judiciary’s understanding of what’s foreign and what’s not, lead to this conclusion.

India’s states are equivalent to full-fledged nations elsewhere in the world. The way to keep India strong and united is to treat the states as autonomous entities having come together for a common purpose.

That’s not the historical background of India, but that’s the way we need to think moving forward.

Only Rapes, Murders, and Legislators Watching Porn?

Multilingual, multicultural nations have one big problem to solve in the media-driven world. It’s this. Minority languages and the stories of people who speak them are almost completely suppressed on ‘national media’. Anyone browsing through Indian ‘national’ newspapers, tv channels, radio stations, etc., finds hardly any news about a State like Karnataka that its people would like to call news. If you go by these media houses, you’d tend to think that the only things that happen in States like Karnataka are rapes, murders and legislators watching porn in the assembly.

Multilingual, multicultural nations have one big problem to solve in the media-driven world.

It’s this. Minority languages and the stories of people who speak them are almost completely suppressed on ‘national media’.

Anyone browsing through Indian ‘national’ newspapers, tv channels, radio stations, etc., finds hardly any news about a State like Karnataka that its people would like to call news.

If you go by these media houses, you’d tend to think that the only things that happen in States like Karnataka are rapes, murders and legislators watching porn in the assembly.

Okay, add that colonial game to the list: cricket.

In reality, this image is false. It appears true because the national media is looking for news with shock value. The only thing that appears like a shock to it is rapes, cricket, and the like.

You know what really carries shock value in a State like Karnataka? Almost every single move made by the Centre. But the national media can’t call it a shock because it is hand-in-glove with its lawful advances on the liberty of the people.

I carry the hope that one day, social media will completely overtake mainstream media. It’s an important part of the overall democratization of India. In fact, if we all decide to stop watching mainstream media today, that day is today.

Obviously, the forces that suppress the voices from within the States won’t keep quiet when social media overtakes mainstream media. But it will be a much more difficult battle for them.

We can make it even more difficult if we start today.