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Posts Tagged ‘india’

Why Don’t Indians Lean Republican?

Posted by kostub on November 3, 2010

If I were to take a poll of the political inclination of the fellow Indian Americans that I know, they would heavily lean towards the Democrats. While I have never actually conducted such a poll , the slant seems quite apparent to me. Politically the Indian American community overwhelmingly votes Democrat. This result is actually quite surprising when you look at it in the light of the India-US relationship. The following contradictions start to emerge. The Bush-era has been the high-point of the India-US relationship. Secondly, two trends important to Indians – the growth of a vibrant Indian tech community in the US and the economic boom that India enjoyed in the last 10 years have been a direct result of Republican policy. So if the Republican party benefits India more, then why do Indians sit so squarely in the Democratic camp?

Before we explore possible answers to this question, let us first understand the assertion I made about the Republican party being more beneficial for India. India has dramatically changed in the last 25 years. Long gone are the days when you had to wait in line for multiple years just to get a landline or when a refrigerator was considered a luxury item. Today your street peddler, fish monger and your maid servant all carry cell phones. India has enjoyed a huge economic boom in the last decade. The seeds of economic prosperity were planted by the Rajiv Gandhi government in the late 80s. These economic liberalization policies were cemented in place in 1991 by the then Finance Minister Manmohan Singh, who did away with the License Raj, deregulated businesses and allowed foreign investment and encouraged private enterprise. In short, India moved from being a socialist economy to a capitalist one. Since then subsequent governments have continued on the path set by these reforms despite opposition from the Left. This has transformed the Indian economy from being virtually stagnant to the second fastest growing major economy in the world, next only to China.

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Posted in india | Tagged: , , , | 8 Comments »

Excuse me, I have a reservation

Posted by kostub on September 8, 2009

Whether born from experience or inherent physiological or cultural differences,
our gender and national origins may and will make a difference in our judging.
– Sonya Sotomayor

Recently, the Indian cabinet approved a 50% reservation for women in Panchayats, while the bill for 33% reservation for women in the parliament still languishes on the back burner due to opposition from the left. Reservations for minorities or women have been a contentious topic in India: there have been numerous protests in the past when reservations have been proposed and this one is no different. In spite of this, no political party ever seems to have considered any alternatives to reservation to solve the problems for the underrepresented classes in society.

The number of women parliamentarians in India is abysmally low with only 10% of the MLAs being women. The women’s liberation movement wants this bill to address that issue have come out strongly in its favor.  There is something to be said about having more women in powerful positions and the hope is having these reservations will address many of the social injustices faced by women. Other countries like Pakistan and Bangladesh already have reservations for women in the parliament, while the US & the UK have a much lower percentage of women legislators than Pakistan and yet have a much better social standing for women. India has had 33% reservation for women in Panchayats for over a decade and that has definitely led to an increase in women participation in politics at the grassroots level. But has that really made any difference to the social status for women, such providing access to education, improving health of women, reducing domestic violence, or has it just been touted as a panacea for all evils just because it provides the political parties with a reliable bank of votes?

Clearly, diversity is a good thing and we definitely want to encourage participation from all classes of society. Diversity provides many socio-economic benefits by bringing together people from various backgrounds, cultures and opinions. This fosters a deeper understanding of issues which may result in more appropriate solutions to address the present social and cultural problems. It also provides a platform for underprivileged classes to raise their standing in the society. In order to increase diversity, India has adopted the reservation system which allocates some percentage of the seats to minorities and women in education and public services. Other countries, such as the US, have policies of affirmative action that provide women and minorities the access to better education and have had reasonable success in improving the social standing of women and minorities alike. Does the Indian system do the same? Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in india | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Obamacare vs Indiacare

Posted by kostub on August 28, 2009

In the last few weeks the healthcare debate has raged all over the US.  Everyday you see new articles in the media describing various conflicting positions held by different people. Now, I don’t claim to be an expert in healthcare reform, and nor have I analyzed the various positions throughly to make any sort of accurate judgement on the proposals. Instead, this article is more what the US could learn from the the healthcare system in India. In fact, it only focuses on one particular aspect of the system – the affordability of healthcare.

The Indian healthcare system is nothing to write home about, in fact it is dismal at best. The amount of government spending on healthcare is minimal, the health of the people is poorer and millions of people do not have access to decent healthcare. This is definitely not a model we want to emulate. But, there is one factor in its favor – viz. low cost. India has good medical facilities, well trained doctors and the  all the same medical treatments that are available in the US. Yet, all of this is available at a fraction of the cost of similar treatments in the US. This has resulted in a huge boom in the medical tourism industry. Before we speculate on the reasons as to why healthcare is more affordable in India, let us look at an example that illustrates the difference in cost: Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in healthcare | Tagged: , , , , | 6 Comments »

The Swine Flu Pan(dem)ic

Posted by kostub on August 18, 2009

It has been almost two weeks since the first casualty from of the swine flu was reported in India [1]. Ever since, Pune (the city which reported the first casualty) has been gripped in extreme panic. Many public places like schools, gyms, theaters and markets were closed for extended periods of time. The amount of traffic on the streets decreased significantly and every person was wearing masks [2]. Was this kind of panic warranted [3] ? What caused it and what is the outcome that we could expect from this?

Swine flu or H1N1 flu was first detected in Mexico in mid-April [4]. Initially a wide number of cases and casualties were reported and there was a general cause for concern amongst visitors to Mexico. I was in Seattle at that time and one of my colleagues was in Mexico on vacation. When he came back we even quarantined him for a week from work to prevent any of us from getting infected. In less than a week the infection had however spread to the US. Many reports indicated that the flu affected healthy adults and humans did not have natural immunity to it [5]. However, within a couple of weeks it was realized that the fear was not as grave as what a was expected. Most of the symptoms were mild and most people recovered without any treatment. The number of deaths in Mexico were retracted and slashed by more than half [6].

The one thing I observed during this whole episode was that the typical American I interacted with was not too concerned about swine flu. Note that the demographic I interact with is a urban, highly-educated, working professional – so I cannot say what the reaction from a average American would be. There were definitely school closures in Seattle, and doctors and teachers were worried, but nothing amounted to outright panic. The general perception from the Indian American community was that Americans as a species, get scared very easily and the media coverage is causing an unnecessary concern. Most people were of the opinion that you would never see such kind of panic in India as Indians have seen all sorts of diseases and a simple sneeze or flu is not going to faze them. How wrong they were. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in india | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »