Thoughts on economics and liberty

Author: Sanjeev Sabhlok

Soft racism in the West – the last frontier for equal freedom

Let me preface this post by stating that most Westerners I meet are the most pleasant and decent people one can imagine. Australians have a natural knack for friendship that I find amazing, and a knack for putting you at ease. Humour and wisecracks are their forte. My critique below does not apply to most people I have come across during my sixteen years in the West. (Which is the same as saying that not all Indians discriminate on grounds of caste, although caste discrimination – and it is race-based in my view – is in fact far more prevalent than what I'm going to discuss shortly, below).  

Let me also re-affirm at the outset a few things some of which I have stated elsewhere, such as that Westerners do not, as a rule, hate Indians. It is just that some of them are terribly stupid. I disagree with the UN Committee on Elimination of Racial Discrimination's rebuke of the Victorian government and police for allegedly "ignoring racial motives behind a spate of assaults on Indian students in Melbourne". Let this be very clear about this: violent crime is far less prevalent in Australia than in India, and in any event, the hoopla about the mass killings of Indians in Australia was so misplaced that it simply reaffirms once again that stupidity rules the world. Confused analysis of facts is the norm, not the exception. and the UN, in particular, has lost all credibility with me (what with its seriously flawed IPCC findings and all that).  

Finally, let me make note that racism in India is far deeper and more insidious than in the West. I'll go into details of Indian racism separately (I've given examples earlier, such as caste-based racism and racism against people from NE India – see also BFN and DOF for an extensive discussion). Things in India are actually quite bad. Every few months when someone from India doesn't agree with what I have to say, I am bombarded with emails with racist epithets. Some call me 'Kala angrez' (black Englishman) and use the most foul and threatening language to 'prove' their case (I had to report one such message to the Police since it threatened assault). Such comments from Indians are both deeply racist and totally misinformed. So when I talk about Western soft racism, I do not mean to imply that this is a particularly worse problem than similar problems in the highly ill-educated Third World. It is all a relative matter, in the end… All very sad.

But I digress. Let me turn now to the issue of this blog post; an issue that is obvious to all but is not widely discussed. Too much emphasis is placed in the Indian media (and in others) on 'hard' (or overt) forms of racism – but that part  is largely over and done with – at least in the West. Far more common and far more insidious is soft racism.

In soft racism 'race' (I use inverted commas since 'race' is a nonsensical, non-existent concept) is not publicly acknowledged and no offensive comments or expressions are used , but strong undercurrent of racism and prejudice are implicit in its import. Soft racism is not aggressive, it is not violent, it does not use harsh or foul (racist) language. Instead, it uses subtle cues that are hard to distinguish from what would otherwise be thought of as 'considered judgement'. It is therefore sophisticated, not crude. It is in many ways implicit, a state of mind. Its outcomes are subtle as well: leading to discrimination against and devaluation of merit. And it is quite common in across the world – including in the West and India.  

The decline of hard racism

"One day [in June 1893], when he was travelling from Durban to Pretoria in the first class compartment of a train, a Britishman boarded the compartment. On seeing Gandhiji, the Britishman got furious. He called the Railway officer, and both ordered him to get out of the train. Since Gandhiji had purchased a first class ticket, he refused to do so. However, they paid no heed to him. Gandhiji also did not budge. Finally the police were summoned. They pushed him out of the compartment and threw his luggage out of the window. Gandhiji had to spend the whole night on the platform." (from Jyoti Solapurkar's article)

The days when Gandhi could be kicked out of a first class compartment  because of the colour of his skin are now over. Feeling humiliated, but not mentally broken by this horrible and shabby treatment from those whom he had earlier held in some esteem, Gandhi led a movement for equal freedom that destroyed the last vestiges of open racism across the entire world. Martin Luther King, one of his many followers, finished off the job that Lincoln had started but could not complete during his lifetime. Let no one have the slightest doubt, therefore, including Obama, that Barak Obama is President today ONLY BECAUSE GANDHI – an Indian – LIVED AND CHANGED THE WORLD. Obama should install a memorial to Gandhi before he is (soon?) thrown out by Americans for his socialist leanings

True, hard racism still exists – in plenty – across the West. A recent example is the hate mail received by Ken Wyatt, Australia's first aboriginal MP likely to be elected to the House of Representatives which said: 'Wouldn't know you were indigenous – we wouldn't have voted for you if we did'. Or when he was called "Uncle Tom Wyatt" while walking in his electorate. Australia has at least some very mean- and petty-minded hard racists. No doubt about it. They are a blight on this otherwise great nation. But as I have argued, hard racism in Australia is now very small and to call Australia racist would be wrong. Plain wrong. The country is fine. A few of its people are very stupid.

And yet the underbelly of soft racism continues

What is much more widespread and chronic is soft racism. It is, as I have defined above, not related to overt or aggressive racism, but to ignorance. It might even be practised unconsciously. It is at its heart a disease of ignorance, a disease of poor education. It is based on stereotypes (on which I've written much about in DOF). The recent claims by Dev Patel, the star of Slumdog Millionnaire, that Hollywood is institutionally racist are precisely the kind of thing I'm talking about. Here's a brilliant actor whose contributions and talent are being deliberately undermined and devalued by soft racist owners of Hollywood studios. (Is it time for Indians to now take over control of Hollywood – not just the IT industry of USA?). It sometimes must feel to Indians living in the West what a low-caste person perhaps feel living in India! (Tit-for-tat!? No. Both are bad. Both must go.)

It is time to take serious note of this blight on humanity, and work towards its reduction, if not elimination. Soft racism is now the last major frontier in the battle for equal freedom. Once we can find a way to get people to stop stereotyping others' knowledge, abilities, or character based only on the colour of their skin, we would have achieved equal freedom.

This one is going to be very, very hard to overcome, though. I struggle to think of ways to eliminate it, but I've got a few ideas that I'll suggest towards the end of this post. In the main, I believe that education and (global) competition are the main tools that will ultimately compress out the last vestiges of soft racism from the minds of humanity, and finally let the world live as one happy family

The magnitude of soft racism

It is difficult for me to place a precise figure on the magnitude of soft racism found in the West but I am inclined to say it is actually quite high – although low in comparison to that found in India. I had estimated that assertive (hard) racism could be around 7 per cent of the Western populations. When subtle prejudices are factored in, including those that people may not be aware of,  I'd say that soft racism perhaps afflicts 50 per cent or more of the Western population. This is the group of Western citizens who have a prejudice in favour of (or against) people merely because of skin colour – regardless of whether they consciously know about their prejudice or not.

Kinds of soft racism typically 'practised'

The list, below – in no particular order and not intended to be comprehensive – illustrates some of the ways in which soft racism is 'practised' (if that is the word) in the West. I'm happy to hear from readers other examples they may have come across. 
1) Career discrimination. If you are an Indian living in the West, then excepting areas where technical merit is an undeniable requirement, expect your career to have a very bumpy ride. You are not likely to be selected into jobs that are even remotely compatible with your skill set. Your skills will be devalued by about 80% by the market. A doctorate from a top-ranked (Western) university will be treated as equivalent to a high school diploma – if that! If you are selected into a job, you can expect to be paid far less than what a 'white' person of comparable skills is paid. And it will not matter that you have excelled in your academic career and outclassed Westerners. It will hardly matter if you have managed massive organisations and large budgets. You will often be valued less than locally qualified graduate with lower degrees and experience. And your career will be frozen at low levels of seniority.
Such discrimination is less in the private sector since it can't afford the luxury of discrimination. Private sector managers will seriously undermine their own careers if they employ the second best. But in the public sector career discrimination on skin colour is rampant, particularly because those managers do not face significant penalties for discriminating on the basis of irrelevant characteristics (public sector accountability is very low, despite some truly wonderful advances made by the West in this area). Therefore, higher positions in the public sector in the West are almost totally sealed off to Indians. Yes, there are a few isolated exceptions, but 'race' discrimination is perhaps ten times more prevalent than gender discrimination. So if you are an Indian woman, then you'll be very lucky to get a job that recognises even 1/10th of your skills.
The only way to a good 'career' in the West is to run your own business. But many Indians who migrate to the West are professionals who prefer to work in organisations and avoid the risks of entrepreneurship. 
2) Social discrimination
Non-aggressive social prevalence of racist messages is very common. It takes many forms, some outlined below:
a) Bodily stereotyping: 
A typical conversation with a soft racist goes like this: 
"It is cold today!" I make polite conversation in the lift, "You aren't geared for the weather outside!"
The soft racist replies, looking down at me, "The cold doesn't affect me. I like the cold. I have an Irish background. You probably don't experience much cold in India."
That marks the break. The end. End of relationship. I can't have any more polite conversations with such ill-informed louts. This kind of nonsense, too common to mention, simply reflects the deplorable level of education in Australian schools. If only they taught children that:
  • Most parts of Australia become MUCH HOTTER in summer than most parts in India. I can't even begin to describe the kind of sharp heat of the Australian sun in the peak of summer (because of greater UV content). 
  • Many parts of India get much colder than Australia in winter. (Have Australian teachers ever heard of the Himalayas? Is geography even taught in Australia? Why are these people so ignorant about India?)
  • And are they taught basic biology? Just because someone is born or lives (or lived) in a particular place (whether hot or cold), the person's body 'type' doesn't become different! Humans are 99.99% identical genetically. The ambient temperature when the above conversation took place was 9 degrees Celsius, and everyone (except this ignorant racist!) was wearing a thick overcoat. I know of plenty of 'white' 'Aussies' as well who shiver when the temperature drops slightly below 21 degrees. Humans have a wide range of temperature-tolerance characteristics. Sanjay Gandhi wore a mere shawl in Moscow in the middle of the deep Russian winter when everyone else was dressed up in thick layers of warm clothes and overcoats. 

The ignorance of the human condition displayed by such comments would be laughable were it not for the fact that such soft racists move up to positions of power from which their biases and prejudices damage the prospects of those who don't look exactly like them. 

b) Language stereotyping:

Language stereotyping is even more common. Apparently Indians don't know English. Here's an extract from DOF (draft):

 "I mentioned to an Australian colleague that while growing up in India I used to read many American comics and English novels. The colleague inquired whether these were translations, imagining perhaps that Indians could not read English! Many people in the West find it hard to believe that many Indians speak, read and write English quite well in India itself, and do not have to learn it after reaching the West! This might be a case of harmless ignorance but I know that this person has since been promoted and will soon be recruiting people. Such ignorance is likely to impinge badly on such recruitment decisions, depriving people of Indian origin job opportunities – often denying them even an interview call. Helen Szoke, CEO of the Victorian Equal Opportunity Commission, notes that despite labour and skill shortages, recent arrivals from non-English-speaking countries do not easily get jobs compatible with their skills. This hurts everyone: Australia misses out on talent and the immigrants are unable to perform to the level they are qualified for and earn less. Clearly, the use of stereotypes to select people for public office (including government jobs) are particularly insidious and inimical to equal freedom. Such decisions shouldbe based on merit and those who discriminate on the basis of irrelevant characteristics for selection to tax-payer funded jobs should be seriously punished. "

One of the worst examples of soft racism I have experienced was when I sent this article to for publication. 

One of their editors, Jeffrey Tucker (a famous writer but clearly with an ego too big for his skull), wrote back tersely (not the slightest sense of email etiquette), "Your article is excellent but I sadly have to decline to run it because no one has time these days for language repair." I asked him what he meant by such a disparaging phrase "language repair". He responded: "the problem is that the English is not as fluid as it would be for a native." I was flabbergasted, and suggested that even liberals can't overcome hubris easily. I suggested that his comment (about alleged 'natives' who apparently are the only ones with the the gift of writing good English) reeks of racism and blocked him out permanently from my email system. I don't have time to communicate with alleged liberals who are racists at heart. Who cares a fig about their mastery over the English language? They may. I don't. I care,  most importantly, to be treated with respect. That is a million times more important to me than knowing how much English you know.

His offensive statement implied that all (Anglo Saxon?) Westerners write good English. That is utter tripe. Nonsense. I have seen atrocious English written by at least half the Anglo-Saxons I have come across. I do not claim to be the world's best writer of English:  but I do claim that I can write well enough to get by – to communicate. And can JT communicate in Hindi, for instance? So shall I trash his ideas completely merely because he can't write Hindi as a 'native'? Language is a communication tool, not an end in itself. We must be able to get our message across. No more. All else – the polish and glitter – is a waste of time. Good for a Nobel prize, perhaps, but not for eliminating poverty and misgovernance. If one were to go by JT's conception of life, then all writings by non-native speakers should be thrown out – lost entirely to humanity. Indeed, should make it clear on its website that non-native English speakers need not try to write or propagate freedom. Language has never been a yardstick for the quality of an idea.

JT should have realised (had he asked) that I am full time employee with extremely limited spare time. I write in an absolute tearing hurry (just like this one has been dashed off rapidly)! If necessary I revise, condense, edit. But apparently, according to JT, only native English speakers can edit! Non-native speakers must perish the thought of writing for What utter racist claptrap. 

I think I've got my point across, so I should leave JT alone to stew in his 'white' sweat. The point is that Indians are likely to experience outright rejection of their ideas by the surfeit of soft racists in the West, regardless of the merit of their ideas. This bias against a different name, a different skin colour, flows through into the career prospects of Indians, as well. I have seen this at work at very close quarters for ten years, so I speak with great confidence about  my understandings of the underbelly of Western soft racism.

c) Cultural stereotypes

Assumptions about Indians are made not only about their knowledge, heat-tolerating capacity, English skills, but on a range of other, cultural, matters. Such cultural stereotypes are often outed in the most odd and unexpected circumstances. I'll illustrate two – both of which surprised me (I could list another 20, but this is a blog post, not a book!):

  • In my previous job, nearly 9 years ago in Australia, one of my managers said in passing during a private conversation that they were looking for stakeholder skills and hadn't found them in the area in which worked. In response I told her politely  that I had dealt with senior stakeholders the whole of my working life before coming to Australia (where I was cooped into a tiny research role). I had all the relevant skills, but my role was not expansive enough,  making me play second fiddle. Only after making that comment did my manager give me opportunities to display my skills, and only then was I promoted (twice) – finally into a senior stakeholder management role, after they found I out-performed in every role I took. But their bias against me was clearly at work, unwritten rules that prevent Indians from even being considered for certain roles.
  • Then there was the case of a particularly stupid senior manager (in one of my different roles, in a different time and place). He came to me after a talk I had given to a large group of people and suggested to me that a (trivial, short) training that I had recently attended must have prompted my ability to deliver my outstanding talk. One more example of absurd racist nonsense! I have been speaking in public since the age of 10, I was in my school and college debating teams, and have delivered hundreds of public talks over the years. To even suggest that a single, short training (it wasn't even that) can create speaking skills is such claptrap that I wonder how these people think. But this kind of nonsense is actually quite typical. Such soft racists live and thrive in senior positions in the West, holding on to their ridiculous prejudices about Indians, preventing them from the opportunities where they can express their capacities fully. They don't know what the IAS is, they don't care to know anything about India, and yet they prejudge all Indians. 

Cultural stereotyping in the West is dangerous for the career prospects of Indians. It blocks opportunity for them and makes for a lose-lose situation for all (but of course, there are no penalties for public sector managers who give full play to their prejudices). 

3) Foreign aid: 

I won't go into details about this one since I've already written extensively on it, but this (foreign aid) is perhaps the most abhorrent soft racist expression of all, for it is underpinned by the idea of the "White Man's Burden", as if the 'white' man is Atlas, supporting the Earth..
Stupid 'white' men (and women) who think that it is because of their charity that the poor of the world survive, or can survive, are, in my view, soft racists. People like Tim Costello and Peter Singer, who keep harping on the need to increase foreign aid are soft racists (I'm naming them since they are just too loud and held in high esteem in the West). Apparently THEY somehow know what is good for the poor. They will feed the poor, they will take care of the health of the poor. They will save the soul of the poor.
Foreign aid is racist when it is not given in the form a lesson to the poor to stand up on their own feet. I'm fine if Adam Smith's book on how to create wealth is given to a child instead of food. Let the child's parents read it and elect a government that can create wealth. Yes, this may sound harsh, but the most urgent thing the people of poor nations like India need to realise is that THEY are responsible for their fate. They must bootstrap. They must stand up on their own feet. That means giving them some really tough love, not feeding and mollycoddling them, but teaching them. I don't want to see any more images of charitable Clintons or Gates visiting India's villages and spreading their wealth around. I'd rather have people like Hakey or Friedman visit India and talk to them about the reasons of their poverty. The guru is more important than a donor of foreign aid.
And this it was that Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Regan did FAR more good for the poor in India than anyone who ever gave India foreign aid. These two taught the world to stand on its feet. That lesson was imbibed (at least partly) by Indian politicians in the 1990s, and today India can afford to thumb its nose to foreign aid. Foreign aid creates dependency. It is EVIL. Aid is a disease of ignorance that causes the 'white' 'races' to somehow feel better by 'giving' to others. Foreign aid CONFIRMS AND REITERATES SOFT RACISM. Foreign aid is a curse. It must stop if racism is to ever end. 
To the West I say: DON'T GIVE. But have TRADE. Free Trade. The West should drop its barriers to trade. Let subsidies to rich farmers be withdrawn. That is the ONLY fair and decent way to deal with others. As equals. Do not display your silly charitable (soft racist) intentions. Help others by teaching them – f you know anything (and people like Tim Costello and Peter Singer don't know the ABC of wealth creation, so they must step out of the picture).

Underlying real causes of soft racism

Of course, there do exist some genuine reasons for the common Western stereotypes about Indians (or Muslims, or whatever). Everyone in the world (including me) uses stereotypes as convenient shortcuts.We can't possibly live without stereotypes.

  • The status of all Muslims declines all over the world each time Muslim terrorists engage in violence. Muslims then lose out on jobs, they lose out on promotions, they are no longer welcomed as migrants. 
  • The status of all Indians worldwide declines each time any any Indian indulges in corruption. If the Commonwealth Games in Delhi are mismanaged (as all signs seem to be showing they will be) expect soft racism against Indians to increase sharply. 
  • And it is true, for instance, that given the cultural differences between Indians and Westerners (such as the level of informality prevalent in the West), it may take time for Indians from India to acclimatise to working in the West. 

Thus, by no means am I claiming that all Indians will perform outstandingly well in all roles. That is not my point. The point is that individual assessment is needed on certain key matters, but stereotypes are more readily used. Soft racism become a real problem when people with doctorates from some of the world's best universities are treated on par with high school students (or less) and not given even the basic opportunity  to perform in trivial jobs. None of the reasons for stereotypes explain the lack of individual-specific assessment that is crucial for a merit-based non-discriminatory society.

I know of a person with some of the best qualifications from India, some of the best senior executive experience in India, and a Masters in public administration from one of the best universities in the world (in the USA). She also holds a doctorate from Melbourne university. BUT she was not, and has not been given even a toehold in any policy-related job, an area in which she excels. She has stopped applying, so rampant is soft racism in Australia. She now works for disabled Australians, a menial job that places her LOWER than a third rate high school student from Australia. Shame on soft racism in Australia that treats some of its high quality immigrants like dirt.  Equal freedom DOES NOT EXIST IN THE WEST.

How will soft racism be eliminated?
Soft racism won't go away easily. It is a disease of IGNORANCE. It is a disease of prejudice. It is a disease of stereotyping. It is not an overt thing that someone can observe and therefore prohibit (like not kicking out people from first class train compartments because of the colour of their skin). Gandhi couldn't have done a thing about it using the methods he used, for what would have happened would be so subtle he couldn't prove anything, let alone lead a movement. (For instance, he would have been lucky to be employed in a public sector organisation even as an article clerk, leave alone barrister (which was his qualification)).   
It will be reduced by education. Sure. So more education – and better education – is good. 
But (at least in my view) it will only be cured when countries like India get their act together and become economic powerhouses, towering like giants over a receding West led by socialists like Obama. That day will come very soon if suggestions in BFN are followed. Then, and only then, will soft racism die, as the 'white' Western world finds that its assumptions about Indians were so badly misplaced.Therefore global competition is the main element of the cure for soft racism.
Will that (competition) happen soon? Unfortunately not. The sad reality is that even though India's current performance is not what its people are capable of (it is working at 1/100th its potential), it has chosen to underperform. It has chosen to be poor. India's misgovernance (and the misgovernance of the Third World more generally) is, in a fundamental sense, the ultimate cause of soft racism. 
Till India becomes a free nation, expect soft racism against Indians to continue. Nothing that I or you say or write against it will make any difference. 
I believe that the ONLY way out of this mess is for Indians to join FTI, and to lead India to freedom. Then, and only then, will the world steadily becoming more competitive and free, will Western prejudices that so badly damage the prospects of Indians across the world, come to an end. 
When Indians choose socialism, when Indians choose Congress and BJP over a (potential) liberal party, when Indians choose Vedic socialism or Baba Ramdev, they HARM THEMSELVES DEEPLY. They harm themselves economically, they harm themselves psychologically. They increase corruption. They  destroy India's reputation. They harm Indian interests in India and abroad. ALL INDIANS EVERYWHERE LOSE. 
And so, India, if you want to regain self-respect, then BECOME RICH AND POWERFUL. Become the world's largest free society. There is no other way to be respected but to become worthy of respect. This can only happen if India becomes more rich and powerful than USA. Being a powerless, impotent poverty-stricken nation is no way to gain respect in this world. Today, no one in the West even knows where to find India on the world map, leave alone possessing deeper knowledge about India. The winner takes all. Today the children of the West don't know – and don't care – about India, because they can get away with it. Because not knowing about India doesn't hurt their pocket.
Everything in interconnected. Everything boils down to India becoming a free nation. As far as the careers of Indians are concerned – these poor people are blighted both within and outside India. They suffer because their leaders are sub-standard and can't lead India to prosperity.  They must now rise and lead India. There is no other recourse left.
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Democratic distress in Australia and India

Just a few days ago I was boasting to someone I know in Australia about how much Australia had to learn from India on the conduct of elections. Australia's electoral machinery is incompetent seemingly beyond compare! They are STILL struggling to declare results in its TINY parliamentary constituencies. Elections were held on 21 August Saturday. It is Thursday evening 26 August. Six full days gone and no results yet!  And I couldn't help laughing when the Australian Electoral  Commission confused everyone in Australia about the meaning of "seats won" (here). 

In this mess, I was proud of the fact that India has some of the most effective and efficient voting systems in the world, proud to have been part of these systems from January 1983 to 2000 – during which period I held roles as diverse as Presiding Officer, Assistant Returning Officer, Returning Officer, Additional Chief Electoral Officer, State Observer, and Central Observer. I was also involved in the testing of the first few Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) in India in 1991. I held some doubts about their reliability but I believe that most issues I had raised (and others had raised) were later resolved. The mass use of EVMs was not undertaken till after 2000, though. 

How easy is it to tamper with India's EVMs?

But now comes bad news that has seriously punctured my pride in India's fabled election capabilities. It appears that India's EVMs may not only NOT be a suitable role model for the world, but these gadgets might actually endanger India's democracy – unless they are immediately, and possibly radically, improved.

[Addendum!!: Sorry, looks like I took Sandeep's well written article (below) at face value. The machines are most likely fine. See Supratim's detailed comment below. Key elements:

  • These machines have hard-coded chips and need machine language for programming, each being individually coded.
  • These machines are not connected to the internet at any point in time – so you need physical access to hack them

In brief, I thank Supratim Basu, a senior FTI member, for reminding me not to rush to conclusions. In the same vein, there are serious issues with way the ECI has handled this matter. It should issue a public challenge (and reward to ANYONE in the world to prove that the machine can be tampered, GIVEN the strict processes that accompany its use.) See the first two comments on this post (by Supratim and me) before rushing to conclusion about Sandeep's article that you'll shortly read, below.

I apologise for the flurry I might have caused and accidentally giving air to potential innuendo re: the machines. However, I do think that repeated exposure and verification of the truth is vital. So let the ECI set up a process to ensure that such questions do not arise in the minds of Indians in the future. The credibility of EVMs is absolutely crucial to the integrity of India's democracy. Once that is done I can continue being proud of India's election machinery.]


Thanks to Shantanu Bhagwat (a senior FTI member) for pointing me to a number of relevant facts which I should list first, for your information:

1. Shantanu's note on Facebook.

2. His two articles: On EVMs and some unanswered questions |  EVMs and some unanswered questions – Part II

3. These slides.

4. And finally this article, Democracy imperilled by Sandeep B in The Pioneer, 26 August 2010. I've copied it entirely below for your convenience. Read this article, and be VERY, VERY concerned. Also read it on Sandeep's blog. (Sandeep, if you chance by this blog, I trust I have your permission to post your very important article here. – I'll also write to Sandeep separately on this and see if he objects to this being posted in full). 

Democracy Imperilled – by Sandeep B.

The arrest of Hari Prasad, a technologist whose research helped prove beyond doubt that Indian EVMs are vulnerable to fraud, sends out a dangerous signal: That anybody who challenges the Central Election Commission runs the danger of persecution and prosecution in our democracy 

Voting and freedom in a democracy are inseparable. Voting stands right at the top as one of the important ways people exercise their freedom to choose who they want to entrust with running their lives. Voting is what gives a Government the authority to govern and this authority must ideally be based on virtuous principles. Those who vote perform their duty in the fullest sense when they thoroughly understand exactly what the person they’re voting for truly represents. While this is not true of an average voter anywhere in the world today, there are thousands of such well-aware voters.

Which is why the election process is sacrosanct in strong democracies. Which is also why the Election Commission of India is a quasi-judicial constitutional body with sweeping powers that are binding even on the President. Which is also why it is insulated from the executive. But in practice, it has been infected with the same decay of political meddling that plagues most institutions in this country. 

A recent instance of this malaise is the arrest of Mr Hari Prasad, technical coordinator and a key resource person of an independent citizens’ forum, VeTA. The organisation describes its purpose as “promoting Verifiability, Transparency and Accountability in Indian elections”.

Mr Prasad is a technologist with expertise in electronic voting machines, now the de facto method of voting in Indian elections. He collaborated with a team headed by Mr Alex Halderman, a Computer Science professor at Michigan University and Mr Rop Gonggrijp, a security researcher from the Netherlands, on a project that involved detailed technical analysis of Indian EVMs. Their studies yielded conclusive, scientific proof that EVMs could easily be tampered with. They conducted several demonstrations across major Indian cities showing how EVMs could be rigged.

On August 17, 2009, the EC invited them for a similar demonstration and laid illogical conditions under which the demonstration was to be done. What followed is detailed in the lucid Democracy at Risk (GVL Narasimha Rao, VeTa), also available as a downloadable book in pdf format ( 

Mr Halderman captures the sequence of events that followed after February 2010 “when an anonymous source approached Hari and offered a (EVM) machine for him to study. This source requested anonymity and we have honoured this request. We have every reason to believe that the source had lawful access to the machine and made it available for scientific study as a matter of conscience, out of concern over potential security problems.” The team used this EVM to demonstrate on a TV channel how it could easily be tampered with. In the first week of August, the police visited Mr Prasad and recorded a statement about this EVM he had used. 

And then, suddenly on August 21, he was arrested on a bizarre charge — that of stealing an EVM from Maharashtra. In his text message, Mr Prasad says, “I am not worried or scared at all by these tricks from the EC. I came to know that because of tremendous pressure, police had no other option than to arrest me. Our new CEC is positive in resolving EVM vulnerabilities but it seems even he came under pressure to change his stance from what he promised us on August 10.” 

The episode clearly reeks of intimidation by the EC or whoever directed the arrest. As Mr Rao’s book shows, the EC has been obstinate in its stand that EVMs are “foolproof”, “perfect” and “tamper-free” despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary across the world. Mr Halderman, Mr Prasad, et al have shown that by embedding a Bluetooth (wireless technology) device, it’s possible to manipulate the EVM using remote devices like a mobile phone.

The book painstakingly explains this and other methods of manipulation. Ideally, India should’ve followed suit — or ordered deeper inquiry — when the Netherlands, Germany, Italy and Ireland banned EVMs because they were “easy to falsify,” risked eavesdropping” and “lacked transparency”. What’s worse is that Indian EVMs leave no trail — there is no mechanism to track suspected election fraud. 

The EC’s obstinacy thus defies reason. On one hand, the EC insists that EVMs are impregnable. So there should really be no reason to not let the researchers examine the machine. What or who is it scared of? Indeed, if it were transparent, it should’ve actually facilitated Mr Prasad and team to expose any vulnerability in the EVMs. That would’ve restored our faith in the health of our democratic institutions. Instead, Mr PV Indiresan issued an outlandish analogy equating a call for a scientific inquiry into EVMs with testing the chastity of Sita. This only helps deepen suspicions about foul play in the issue.

[DIGRESSION by Sanjeev: Btw, on 4 February 2008, Indiresan wrote to me "I will try [to review the book]" and gave his address for being sent the book, Breaking Free of Nehru. The publisher Anthem Press sent it to him by courier. He not only did not bother to review it, he did not respond to numerous subsequent email reminders. See thisWhat credibility does such a man have? Not with me, anyway. Small things like this show the true character of a man. Was he scared of publicly discussing my extremely adverse comments on Nehru's socialism? I trust he will one day tell me why he promised to so something but then backed out. And he didn't return the book either. 

Second, NO SCIENTIST WORTH HIS SALT WILL EVER MAKE THE STATEMENT THAT INDIRESAN HAS MADE. A scientist is sworn to the truth, and to experiment. Why should he bring religious symbolism into a factual matter?

The UPA reached a new low in 2009 when it bulldozed the appointment of Mr Navin Chawla as Chief Election Commissioner who the Shah Commission report “declared as unfit to hold any public office which demands an attitude of fair play and consideration for others.” And now the arrest of Mr Prasad has again sent an ugly signal. Is it safe to conclude that ordinary citizens will be persecuted for seeking the truth? Ironically, on August 9, the Cabinet passed the Whistleblower Bill, but who should people turn to when the state’s institutions themselves begin to look like agents of intimidation? The current CEC, Mr SY Quraishi, must come clean immediately on this shameful affair. The country has a right to know whether the EC is a body of the Constitution or just an arm of a political party. 

Tampering of EVMs is a serious issue with potential to shatter the foundations of democracy. The logical end of this will mean that only one party gets to wield power forever. If the voting process is subverted, it won’t be long before national interest will be equated with a particular political party’s interest — it harks back to a black era when “India was Indira”. 

Mr Prasad’s arrest also shows how many of our fundamental freedoms are slowly being taken away without our knowledge. Equally, it’s ironical that the state is virtually powerless against a dangerous man like Abdul Nasser Madani but swoops down on an individual who asked uncomfortable questions concerning national interest. 

However, it’s heartening to see the groundswell of support that has emerged across the country for Mr Prasad. Petitions, Internet groups, blogs and articles have strongly condemned the strong-arm tactics of the EC. VeTA has also indicated approaching the Supreme Court for a “renewed legal battle”. This news has already attracted international attention with people comparing this with the Florida EVM fiasco. It’s a huge blot on India’s image in the world, which regards our elections as reasonably “fair and free”. The EC needs to urgently show complete transparency with regard to this episode — admitting that the EVMs are flawed is not a personal insult to the EC. 

This issue is in many ways a good test of the saying about eternal vigilance and is an opportunity to prove Ambrose Pierce wrong when he said that voting is “the instrument and symbol of a free man’s power to make a fool of himself and a wreck of his country.” 


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The dangerous idea of equality

Here are extracts from BFN about the dangerous aspiration for equality. This is a quick cut and paste without footnotes and referencing. The actual text can be readily accessed. But first a short (one and half minute) video from Youtube by Milton Friedman:

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The real choice before us today is between the two western models of governance – socialism or capitalism; between the life-denying concept of equality and the life-sustaining concept of freedom. Even if we don’t care about the philosophy of freedom, pragmatism would lead us to the more successful model. Capitalism is dramatically successful, just as socialism is dramatically unsuccessful. 

But there are far more important and compelling reasons to follow the path of freedom. Of these, delivering a society based on ethics and morality ranks the highest. Despite the noble intentions of its practitioners, socialism is immoral and destroys the moral fabric of entire societies. Freedom, on the other hand, delivers the highest ethical values and creates for each individual a level playing field by providing equality of opportunity through which the individual is enabled to discover his or her talents and achieve his or her highest potential. While the individual is the moral centre of a free society, the society is the immoral centre of a socialist one. Freedom is about far more important things than economic success, although a poor country like India should welcome its merits on that ground alone.

But at times, markets challenge us emotionally as they appear to be heartless. We are not comfortable with the outcomes of a free market which we may reluctantly agree produces great wealth, but which we find also results in increased inequality. We tend to see inequality as fundamentally wrong, even though we know that every individual will actually become much better off in a free market than he or she is today. 
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I wonder, though, about the hypocrisy behind our alleged preference for equality. Gandhi once asked some socialists who had come to visit him, ‘Now tell me how many of you have servants in your homes?’ The socialists Gandhi was talking to said they had a servant in each home. Gandhi replied, ‘And you call yourself Socialists while you make others slave for you! It is a queer kind of Socialism which, I must say, I cannot understand’.  If we genuinely wanted everyone to have exactly the same income, why do we bargain so hard with our poor garbage pickers and maidservants and pay them only the market rate? And if bargains of this sort are good for us (it being a free market for the services of these poor people), why are these negotiations bad for the society as a whole? 
I will show that not only has equality no real content, but that it is dangerous. On the other hand, I will show that equality of opportunity is a critical requirement for a free society, and helps us to eliminate poverty.

The Problem with Equality

Everyone knows that 2 = 2; a trivial equality. Its use in driving our life’s goals is very limited in consequence, for it is merely a tautology – a statement which uses words to pointlessly say the same thing. What does it matter if two equals two? What can we derive from it? 
Similarly, economic equality among people is neither here nor there; a trivial curiosity. Attaching an ‘equal to’ sign between our incomes (or wealth) does not add any significance to our lives; it doesn’t say whether we are free, whether we are experiencing a high quality of life, whether our children are likely to succeed. If two people achieve equal income through the free markets it is of no import; it is a mere statistical coincidence. 
The key question that we need to ask is: did these two people get to function in a free society with equality of opportunity? If they were provided with an equal opportunity then their equal outcome is unexceptionable; albeit coincidental. The more common, and expected, outcome of a free market, though, is a vast increase in individual wealth accompanied by significant inequality among individuals, noting that this inequality does not remain static. Unlike in a feudal society, the level of economic inequality as well as the persons who are wealthy or poor changes dramatically with time in a free society. The children of workers can become far richer than the children of people who are rich today, depending on how diligently they apply themselves.
The key driver of a free society is justice. Our economic worth is a function of justice, not some tautological concept like equality. While our lives have infinite intrinsic worth and we are all equal in the eyes of law, our economic worth must be determined in the market by the balance between the demand and supply for the services we provide. We may find ourselves ‘valued’ by the market on the basis of our beautiful voice that people like to hear, our philosophy that people enjoy reading about, or because of a drug we invented to save people’s lives. In each case, the fair and just price for our service is what is negotiated and agreed to in a free market. 
Where wealth of any sort is acquired by trading our services in the marketplace in this manner, where all trades make the parties to the trade better off, there all outcomes of these trades are just, and therefore morally superior, irrespective of the society’s Gini coefficients and Lorenz curves.  Equality is not an issue that is considered even in the passing in a free society; justice drives all understandings. Indeed, honestly acquired wealth is virtuous wealth; it must be applauded through a standing ovation. Each great singer, each great philosopher, each great inventor, and each business leader becomes rich by his or her own effort; each of them is worthy of that wealth. Who cares whether that creates inequality in society? Why should the inequality created by Lata Mangeshkar’s voice bother anyone?
And yet equality is relevant in a free society, at the commencement of the ‘race’. Everyone must be given a similar opportunity to run, to sing, to invent, or to play. But at the end of the race, only the best athlete, singer, inventor, or tennis player must win. The effort put in by an individual and his contribution being perceived as valuable by others tells us about the justness and morality of the acquisition of wealth. That is very important. For instance, wealth acquired through corruption is not just, and is therefore immoral. John Ruskin  said that ‘the beneficialness of the inequality depends, first, on the methods by which it was accomplished; and, secondly, on the purposes to which it is applied’. On Ruskin’s second point, we note two things:
  • We note that the very process of generation of inequality through ethical trades is beneficial. We, the consumers, benefit through the products made by hard working innovative people. Most of us will find purposeful employment through jobs that such people create.
  • Second, if left to their own devices, many wealthy people promote the arts and sciences as well as other forms of philanthropy. They don’t have to do so, though, since they have contributed enough if their wealth was acquired through ethical trades.
Inequality is not the same as poverty. Extreme poverty diminishes our capacity to act freely and reduces equality of opportunity. A free society needs to take strong action against poverty. On the other hand, even the most extreme inequality does not in any way diminish anyone’s freedom if all people are well above the poverty line. In the USA or Australia, which are relatively freer than India, some people are extremely rich, but most are at least well-to-do. 
Therefore India must banish poverty if it wishes to be free. Reducing inequality on the other hand, is neither here nor there; it is but idle talk for a few jealous people who are afraid to put in the hard work needed to succeed. Indeed, each of us must aspire to be dramatically unequal to others; to be rich, to be happy, to be great! A free society doesn’t countenance these utterly feeble ambitions of equality. It teaches its children to be great, to be better than others in every way; not to seek trivial equality with others. And the way a free society encourages infinite ambition in the minds of its children is by way of its government completely getting out of the way! 
Indeed, equality should be banished from our list of priorities because it is extremely dangerous. Equality is not an innocuous concept – something to be had if we can: ‘And oh, yes, by the way, can I get a glass of equality with two spoons of sugar?’ Equality invariably takes us on the path to perdition. It is a poison that allures us with a strangely beautiful fragrance; but a society that drinks of it will be racked by endless pain; its members will lose their intellectual prowess and die an early death. Its people will multiply like flies; its rulers will be cruel and rapacious. Anyone who is sane and healthy flees a society where equality has poisoned the minds of its leaders.
The reason equality is dangerous is because the only mechanism available to us to create genuine equality is to redistribute wealth, not to create it. That can only be done by plundering those who are richer than us. But to steal and plunder is violation of the fundamental principles of freedom; it is an attack on our life itself. It is a crime no matter whether it is committed by an ordinary robber or an elected prime minister. 
And therefore economic equality is associated only with those political ideologies which oppose freedom and which disrespect life; ideologies that do not hesitate to violently coerce others to cough up their property. The main such ideology, of socialism, aims to abolish property rights and vest all property in the state. But there is only one way to abolish property: through the use of force. Hence, socialists do not hesitate to decapitate the rich or otherwise threaten them with state-controlled violence to grab their property. 
Indeed, property is anathema to socialists because of its dangerous disease of equality. If they could, they wouldn’t allow anyone to even own a pen, for even a pen or paint-brush can spew unbelievable wealth. Socialists probably hate J K Rowling with all their heart for creating Harry Potter, and Pablo Picasso for making his paintings. And they almost certainly hate Lata Mangeshkar with all their might; if they could, they would rip out her vocal chords to stop her from getting rich. The great problem from the socialists’ perspective is that no matter how hard they divest us of property and force us to become equal, then put us together inside a box, lock the box and throw away the key, inequality always springs out like Houdini – strong and triumphant. 
Their problem is that the aspiration to be unequal to others, to be richer than others, to be faster and healthier than others, is unique to the human species, and cannot be abolished. Each of us spends a lifetime yearning for greater wealth, wanting to be at least equal if not better off than our neighbours. We seek the best jobs; we want to look smart and dress up in flashy clothes; we want to drive around in a fancy Porsche. Just look at the craze for lotteries – the millions of people who plunk their hard earned money into the dream of inequality; the dream of becoming richer than others. Even those who seek God seek to be selected by God ahead of others; they want to achieve nirvana before countless other lesser qualified souls. Inequality is our deepest ambition; no amount of socialism will rid us of it. Only some silly politicians seem to want such equality, but even they actually yearn to be our rulers and to be remembered by others. Stalin and Mao were not interested in equality of fame – they ruthlessly destroyed their competitors in order to remain the rulers, and as to wealth, their wealth was unlimited. Even Nehru’s family’s wealth is not equal to others; its scale is unknown, but it is nowhere near the per capita income of an 
Indian. Socialist Ministers grab money with both hands and build untold wealth their family has never seen before.
Since inequality is like a starfish whose arms grow back no matter how many times they are cut off, a socialist society has no choice but to continuously plunder. The socialist society must also tell people what to produce. Picasso must be licensed to produce any painting at all; and then he is to be given a quota on how many paintings to produce. Having done that, the socialist society then has to take away his paintings so that he cannot become rich. 
The socialist society has an impossible task laid out for it. Starting with an abundant faith in the idea of equality, it degenerates rapidly; its leaders fight among themselves and often kill each other; its people finally rebel against the decadence and corruption they see around themselves, as they did in the erstwhile USSR, and they will do in India upon reading this book (!). In fact this book itself is a rebellion against the much milder, but equally problematic Nehruvian socialism. Socialism comes to grief in the end for what we really crave for is freedom; not equality.
We could, under a distasteful counterfactual scenario, be persuaded to tolerate the ideology of equality could it be demonstrated to unequivocally increase our wealth to an astounding level – well beyond what free-market capitalism routinely generates. But socialism fails bitterly on this front, too. Human beings are not robots. We work hard to generate wealth only if we are free to think, free to produce what we wish to produce, and free to keep the rewards of our efforts. Creativity and innovation decline precipitously under socialism; socialism impoverishes entire societies and makes it hard for them to recoup their energies for decades. India’s example is in front of us, but there are many worse examples. When the Soviet Union tried to collectivize its agriculture in order to make each farmer ‘equal’, it quickly came on to its knees. The entire Soviet Union could not produce enough to feed itself. Tens of thousands perished of starvation. Its mighty armed force and secret service (KGB) were able to compel its scientists, under close observation, to produce, or rather, to steal the design of weapons and spacecraft, but until its end the socialist USSR could not produce enough bread for its people. 
Taken to the extreme, as with the (erstwhile) Soviet Union, Maoist China, or Naxalites, socialism physically assaults and kills people. Millions of people have been murdered by Marx’s equality-driven ideology over the twentieth century. If we add to this the far more numerous indirect killings –namely deaths through hunger and preventable disease arising from socialist mismanagement in countries like India – then the number of people killed in the cause of equality runs into the hundreds of millions; possibly a couple of billions. Equality is not a hot cup of coffee that we may order if available. It is deadly poison. Once this disease of equality infects somebody’s mind, the consequences for that society can become extremely bad. People infected by equality are infinitely more dangerous than those who go berserk and shoot people at random. Equality is as bad as religious fundamentalism in its disastrous consequences for society.
Socialist countries are also some of the most unequal, the difference being that their inequality is derived from corruption and the misuse of power, and is therefore immoral inequality. Corrupt politicians in India have misused socialist controls to acquire untold wealth and create great immoral inequality in India. Our socialist ministers never hesitate to loot even those public funds intended to assist the poor. I talk about this from personal experience, including one involving a Chief Minister. 
Plunder need not be pursued through physical coercion alone. It can be more sophisticated, such as under the guise of ‘welfare’ socialism. One of the most apt descriptions of socialism comes from Frédéric Bastiat (1801–50) who fought Karl Marx’s ideas tooth and nail even in Marx’s time. Unfortunately Bastiat died very young. It is possible that if he had he lived longer the world might have been saved from the killing fields of socialism. Bastiat noted in 1850 that: 
[L]egal plunder can be committed in an infinite number of ways. Thus we have an infinite number of plans for organizing it: tariffs, protection, benefits, subsidies, encouragements, progressive taxation,  public schools, guaranteed jobs, guaranteed profits, minimum wages, a right to relief, a right to the tools of labour, free credit, and so on, and so on. All these plans as a whole – with their common aim of legal plunder – constitute socialism. 
The message for us is simple – be extremely wary of anyone who preaches equality. You never know when this person is going to shut your mouth, steal your wealth and property, and kill you and your children. There are some Indians who ‘accept’ equality as a good thing if it happens by itself. Such people are merely misguided for statistical equality is meaningless and can never be ‘good’ in isolation of the reality of that society. But if someone genuinely believes in equality, then run for your life as fast as you can! Freedom is as basic to us as life itself. Equality is simply nowhere in that league. It is a curiosity for economists who idle their time making Lorenz doodles. To consider even slightly diminishing our freedom in order to promote equality is like throwing away a priceless pearl necklace and picking up a slithering, poisonous snake to hang around our neck, instead; a snake that will bite us while we are sound asleep.
And yet, socialism will always remains tantalizingly hypnotic to people who have not understood the magic of free markets and equality of opportunity. By painting a rosy but false picture of the world, socialism ensnares children every day and continues to have a vast following among those children who never grew up. The arguments of capitalism require enormous critical thinking since the invisible hand is actually invisible! Not being a socialist is hard work for our brains. I will try to make the invisible hand a bit more visible in this book so that more of us can see through the great pitfalls of socialism. 
But one need not be ashamed of having been a supporter of equality sometime in our life. The disease of equality strikes almost everyone once, like chickenpox. I too caught this disease momentarily during one of my early years in university. Who isn’t fascinated by an ideal world where all of us are somehow blissfully equally competent and equally resourced? Some residual virus of this disease remained in my head until as recently as 1995 when, during my mid-career PhD studies, I expressed concern about economic inequality among nations in one of my term papers. What I should been have concerned about, instead, was about the self-inflicted poverty of nations like India which insist on being poor despite the prescriptions for wealth being available off the shelf. 
There is a strong leftist bent in most academic discourse which arises largely from desktop academics who never grew up; never got rid of their chicken pox. They have a dreamy-eyed view of politicians, bureaucrats, armed forces and the police. These academics project their own virtuous feelings about other human beings on government functionaries; and in doing so they make a fatal blunder. The good thing about Nehruvian socialism is that being a less extreme form of socialism than Russian communism, it has probably inoculated us. Once India fully recovers from its socialist fever and its head clears up, it should remain free of equality and socialism forever, unlike Russia which may yet revert to communism once again.
The thing we really want when we talk of equality is the eradication of poverty. That also remains a matter closest to my heart; and it is to a discussion of removal of poverty that I will now turn to. Just a brief comment first – poverty cannot be eliminated unless we foster conditions which create great wealth and great inequality. We need sufficient numbers of extremely rich people whom we can tap into, both as taxpayers and high calibre experts, to help us banish poverty.

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Baba Ramdev’s irrational demand to prohibit cow slaughter

Here’s a conversation with Harsh Vora which is worth posting as a separate blog post, given it is a separate topic and raises fundamental issues in relation to liberty in India, and puts to question the capacity or knowledge of Baba Ramdev to elevate India to a major superpower. He does need to learn some basic economics. Yoga is not good enough to run a modern nation successfully.


Hmm, what do you think about banning cow-slaughter in India? Swami Ramdev has been consistently rallying against cow-slaughter in India. He explains it well, “These politicians have no limit of wickedness. They ban the slaughter of tigers (which are carnivore), and allow free killing of cow (which are herbivore, and which have been considered as mother since ages). No animal should be allowed to be killed in Bharat Varsha, for all of them have the right to live.”

He emphasizes the importance of cow not merely on the religious basis, but on moral and well as scientific grounds. Moral ground: They provide us milk. Until we are a certain age old, our biological mother breast-feeds us. And after that age, our cow feeds us with milk. So, they are are second-mother, and deserve to be respected. Scientific ground: Cow manure has been used as a beneficial fertilizer in farms. Cow urine helps us cure many diseases of the body. For example, the pH value of cow urine is 8-10 so it is a sure shot medicine for indigestion. Cow urine is anti-neoplastic which helps to cure cancer. These are just a few of the many benefits. Thus, cow should be given better if not less importance.

This, I strongly believe, is a legitimate reason raised by Swamiji. I fear we might not be on the same page, so far as this matter is concerned. Note that this has to do least with “organized religion,” for conscience surely dictates that ALL beings have the right to live.


Dear Harsh

My view is very simple. The cow is food in all parts of the world (except for a few Hindus and Jains in India), and Hindus ate the cow for thousands of years till the influence of the Jains made them change their mind.

Regardless of that, I don’t expect the state to dictate what food a person may or may not eat. I don’t expect it to create a law that you SHOULD eat beef, for instance.

The ONLY reason the state can impose its views on such matters is if you harm others in this process, or if doing so will harm the environment.

The cow is not a scarce animal. Plenty of cows exist and plenty more can be produced as needed. The tiger is a genuine scarce animal and being at the top of the ecological food chain of the jungle, the dying out of tigers can severely damage the natural environment. For instance if tigers die then all forests will be ravaged and destroyed by plant eating animals. Hence for tigers a different policy applies.

But the policy on tigers (see my article on the environment) does not ask that you don’t kill tigers. It asks for tigers (indeed jungles) to be privatised and reared just like any other animal. Wherever wildlife has been privatised (Coase theorem will show you how it works), it has flourished.

There are innumerable instances of the truth of this theorem. There is, for instance, no threat of extinction of crocodiles in Australia since crocodile farms are licensed to grow them and sell their meat and skin. It is a highly profitable business. Eg. see this.

I respect your or Baba Ramdev’s right NOT to eat beef IF you so feel (on any ground, call it moral if you wish), but I REFUSE to have you impose your will through the state on this matter. That involves the TOTAL DESTRUCTION of freedom.

You will first have to prove to me that eating beef is harmful. The entire world except a few Hindus in India eats beef, and they haven’t died. Note that Indians ate beef for thousands of years till the Jain influence grew strong. They didn’t die. And I know of MANY MANY Indians who eat beef outside India. They aren’t dying. So what’s the problem? Food is supposed to nourish. What you or I or anyone else puts into our own mouths is none of the business of others.

If eating beef is not lethal and it doesn’t kill others, then there is no cause to interfere in the freedoms of others to eat beef. I think Baba Ramdev is trying to impose HIS version of morality on the rest of the world. That amounts to dictatorship. Let him learn to respect others.

He is welcome not to kill cows for food. But let him please learn the basics of freedom.




1) That Indians ate beef in the past is well documented, e.g. by Gandhi, Nehru, and also in a detailed book: Jha’s Myth of the Holy Cow.

2) I believe animals must be treated respectfully and have clarified in detail in Chapter 4 of DOF. That does not mean that we elevate them to a pedestal equal to us.

3) It is a huge disincentive for farmers to raising cows in India (and hence most are KILLED UPON BIRTH) because they can’t sell them freely in the market, except for milk, which they hardly produce any. What the Baba Ramdev policy will do is to ensure that MORE COWS ARE KILLED AT BIRTH. Is that what he wants? And why does he want to harm the Indian farmer who may well earn a decent livelihood by selling cows for meat?

4) Do you want to see how a cow should be treated and respected? Then visit Australian farms. You’ll find cows allowed to roam freely and widely over a vast expanse of grass; their needs catered to carefully; their health monitored by veterinarians (who are paid MORE than doctors). And when they are taken to abbatoirs, the regulations require a very specific and humane way of killing them for meat. Compare with the way cows are often treated in India – with the GREATEST DISRESPECT, driven from one garbage heap to another, forced to live a sad and tragic life before finally being sold in underhand ways to people who will kill them without the slightest mercy and without access to modern machines. Want to show respect for something? Then privatise it. The owner will show it respect if it becomes an economic good.


I wasn’t aware that this is a hot topic in India. E.g.

Chanced upon this:

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