/**SNAP Code begin **/ /**SNAP Code end **/

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Different Worlds Looking at Bharat, circa 1971

After reading the prologue, I skipped to the epilogue of Ramachandra Guha's India After Gandhi. The prologue was interesting because it shows that Bharat is a Black Swan - an idea that was developed by Nassim Taleb. A Black Swan, that rare event that changes the world, don't exists according to self proclaimed experts in universities - those PhD types - whom Nassim calls mediocres' living in Mediocristan (Nassim is from Lebanon living in US). Guha writes according to prominent social scientists standard wisdom (socio-economic models of mediocristan, that is) Bharat doesn't either. Both books, though unrelated, seem fascinating (how can a book that calls the bell curve is a great intellectual fraud be otherwise!)

Skipped forward, in the epilogue of India After Gandhi, Guha writes (and quotes a diplomat):

In 1971, at the time of the crisis over Bangladesh, when India found itself simultaneously at odds with communist China, Islamic Pakistan, and America, an Indian diplomat captured his country's uniqueness in this way:

India is regarded warily in the West because she is against the concept of Imperialism and because she "invented" the "Third World."

India is looked on with suspicion in the "Third World" because of her (subversive) sentiments of democracy, human rights, etc.; the Muslim world is wrathful because of our secularism.

The Communist countries regard India as insolent - and potentially dangerous - because we have rejected Communism as the prime condition for Progress.

We are, of course, on the side of God. But is God on our side? [D. N. Chatterjee to P. N. Haksar, 6 July 1971 - as quoted on page 758 of India After Gandhi]

The uniqueness still stands after 35 years. The western governments are barely warming up to the country, but now the global NGOs have taken on their sneering imperialist attitude, say with regards to global warming or public policy issues such as AIDS; although most of the third world have become democracies themselves now the left wing NGOs, both global and national, are wary about economic (subversive) development; the Muslim world hasn't changed one bit; the only communist country (that matters) China still regards India as insolent and dangerous to its hegemony in economic growth and Asia power play.

We are still on God's side. Is God on our side?

Black Saturday

Abhinav Kumar, IPS working in Uttarakhand, writes about the low priority that states give to police forces despite continued terror for over a decade and half:

With regard to the resource crunch in the police, the government in its infinite wisdom has maintained that police is a non-plan subject and therefore, other than for disbursing salaries and allowances it will automatically be accorded low priority for resource allocation....The last time I checked the annual outlay for police modernisation of the Government of India was about Rs 1000 crores, and that by a conservative estimate was the economic cost of the Mumbai train blasts of 2006. The question therefore is not whether we can afford to modernise our police forces but whether can we afford not to modernise them.
And he has some advice on long overdue proactive action -
We know that the bulk of participants in terrorist incidents receive support from across the border; we have to adopt more robust policies. Cross-border pursuits, destruction of militant training facilities by covert means and assassinations of key figures in the terrorist hierarchy are all measures adopted by other states in protecting what they perceive to be their right to security. The war against terror is a war. It must be now acknowledged as such. [Black Friday remains with us - IE]

That amazing Anurag Kashyap's movie Black Friday was on real-life display again, this time on a Saturday. But no one is listening. Have to count those votes.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Incarnation by Decree

The godless communist Chinese government will apparent determine who the next incarnation of Gautama Buddha is. And that too by the party politburo's decree.

In one of history's more absurd acts of totalitarianism, China has banned Buddhist monks in Tibet from reincarnating without government permission. According to a statement issued by the State Administration for Religious Affairs, the law, which goes into effect next month and strictly stipulates the procedures by which one is to reincarnate, is "an important move to institutionalize management of reincarnation." But beyond the irony lies China's true motive: to cut off the influence of the Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled spiritual and political leader, and to quell the region's Buddhist religious establishment more than 50 years after China invaded the small Himalayan country. By barring any Buddhist monk living outside China from seeking reincarnation, the law effectively gives Chinese authorities the power to choose the next Dalai Lama, whose soul, by tradition, is reborn as a new human to continue the work of relieving suffering. [Newsweek]

CM as Chief Manipulator

When intelligence came in March of 2007 that six kgs of military grade explosives came to Hyderabad by terror handlers, the chief minister of Andhra Pradesh, whose primary job is to provide security to the people of the state, was calculating the risk of losing some votes in an election long time from now. With a 5% reservations for Muslims in the state by amending the state constitution, after repeated rebuff from the state high court, under constant pressure from the terror sympathizing parties like MIM, which support the ruling Congress I party, YSR Reddy thought he had the Muslim votes sealed. Sure many will vote for MIM, but Congress I will get the spoils.

Day after terror attacks YSR (second from left) seen laughing enjoying
himself with his fellow Congress I coterie (Barbad Katte via Acorn)

So the intelligence input was ignored and the police were asked to stand down. Terrorists were by and large Muslims, and so no terrorists, i.e, no Muslims, will be pursued. Then came the Mecca Masjid bombing in May. RDX and mobile phone controlled precision IED was used. Some Muslims went on a short riot. But mostly masjid personnel didn't want the police to do anything. They didn't provide much help. They would with deal the bombing on their own. CM had nothing to do. No extra vigilance. No extra security was put in place. The standard explanation was we don't know who did it. Terrorists were by and large Muslims, and so no terrorists, i.e, no Muslims, will be pursued.

No tough questions were asked by the apparent secular national media that likes to count bodies based on religious affiliation.

The disowned Bangladeshi author Taslima Nasrin was attacked at a book ceremony of her book translation into Telugu. Local news media personnel protected the writer. The police did little with their hands tied. The attackers were from MIM party, supporters of Congress I in power. The police knew who they were dealing with. They can't protect innocent victims because they had standing orders.

Indian intelligence has known since March 2007 that eight kilogrammes of military-grade explosive were delivered to an HuJI operative in Hyderabad. However, for its own reasons, the Congress government in Andhra Pradesh did not allow the kinds of aggressive — and unpopular — policing that the Central Bureau of Investigation and city police felt were necessary to secure the city. Neither during the recent communal incidents nor in response to the attack on Taslima Nasrin by fundamentalist thugs did the government demonstrate the kind of even-handed political and administrative resolve needed to address the deep communal strains in Hyderabad. It is true that successive governments have failed on this count since 1993, when the first Lashkar-e-Taiba terror module formed in the city. This makes the latest inaction all the more inexcusable. [Resurgent terror, wider implications - The Hindu]

The terrorists, instead of going away like the CM dreamed, set of a series of bombs in crowed market places and parks using that military grade explosives and mobile phone precision IED that they perfected at Mecca Masjid bombing three months prior. They killed 43 people and maimed 51. Now the chief manipulator wants to explain away. Within hours of explosion, the CM talks of Bangladeshi terrorists working with Pakistani terrorists. That to deflect question about local terror support structure that formed under his very nose. And to provide a mask for terror sympathizer supports like MIM - his friends and allies in power.

Dr. Reddy declined to give details of the investigation, merely saying that this “dastardly attack against humanity” had similarities with the May 18 blast in Mecca Masjid (in which HuJI operatives were suspected to have links). Denying that there was intelligence failure, he said the police could not be blamed for not foiling a plot hatched in a neighbouring country, but executed here. [External forces behind Hyderabad blasts - The Hindu]

The chief minister is not just a chief manipulator but also facilitated the terror and mayhem just like the local terror infrastructure that made the bombs, planned the attacks, and killed scores of people. CM was part of the terror infrastructure.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Terror Strikes Again

My sister and her husband decided in the last minute not to go to the laser show that is shown at Lumbini park auditorium, where one of the bomb exploded, because it was raining. In fact the usually packed weekend show was not well attended because of rain - 500 people instead of 1500 capacity. My family was extremely lucky to take a pass at the government created mediocre laser show.

I was seated exactly where the explosions took place, on those blue seats to the middle left of the auditorium, about an year ago, with my and my sister's family - small children running around and playing amongst those seats.

Three months after perfecting mobile phone timed precision IED, terrorists stuck again with a vengeance in Hyderabad. There was intelligence about the explosive material getting across from Bangladesh specifically with regards these bombings. But the state Congress I CM YSR Reddy calculated he would loose Muslim votes, what ever little Congress I gets now, in the next election, almost two years away, if he goes after terrorists, their infrastructure, and their sympathizers, some of whom are his allies in power - apparently all of them Muslims, too hard.

India’s Intelligence services learned over five months ago that an eight-kg consignment of military-grade explosives had been delivered to a Harkat ul-Jihadi-e-Islami terror cell preparing for strikes in Hyderabad. [Intelligence had warned of strikes - The Hindu]
So the terrorists killed with a grin on their face. They killed 40 and maimed 54 in a series of blasts at Lumbini park, near Assembly, on the bank of Tank Bund, and Gokul Chat bandar, an extremely busy standing-only pani puri place in Koti, next to Andhra Bank. Few more unexploded bombs were found in crowed market places in Dilsuhknagar and Narayanaguda. That pretty much covers the entire city not including the old city where the Mecca Masjid bombing took place in May.

Pictures from The Hindu
After analyzing the contents of an unexploded bomb at Dilsukhnagar, experts said the charge in the bomb was that of Neo Gel-90, the Ammonium Nitrate emulsifier-based explosive. The packing indicated that it was made by Amin Explosives in Nagpur. Metal balls, easily available in any spare parts shops, were packed into the device. Police say the device was not similar to the ones that were exploded in the Mecca Masjid, where RDX and TNT were used and the detonation was done through a cellular phone. [External forces behind Hyderabad blasts - The Hindu]

The bags were checked when I went into auditorium more than an year ago. I would think bags were checked on Saturday, especially after the Mecca Masjid bombing just three months ago. So how did the large explosives - that could kill 10s and hurt many more - get into the auditorium? The shows are after dark because it's an open air auditorium. The park personnel clean the place and make sure things are in order before allowing people, usually half hour before the show. I strongly suspect the Lumbini Park bombing was an internal conspiracy job. Instead of breaking the terror infrastructure that the CM enabled by his lackluster attitude after receiving specific intelligence, he wants to point finger at the usual suspects - Bangladeshi and Pakistan terrorists. Those terrorists surely played a role. But the perpetrators are local and infrastructure is local. So is the enabling chief minister.

The mainstream national media, those gate keepers of Nehru family, will not ask tough questions or investigate the missing pieces - they are too busy counting if more Muslims dead than Hindus or there were any Gujarati businessmen in the dead. It's time Muslims stand up and take a stand against the appeasing attitude at the state and central governments. It's an insult to all Muslims to think that terrorists should not be pursued, and their infrastructure destroyed, because those mass murders are Muslims too.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Novartis Patent Folly

Extending patents for incremental improvements is bad idea

Novartis wants India's patent law changed. The Swiss drug company's patent application for Gleevec was rejected by patent office in January 2006 and the company, although it owns Sandoz, a large global generic drug maker, went to court asking the court to change the patent law to, apparently, meet WTO standards. India is a member of WTO and agreed to enact patent protection and intellectual property protection under WTO and legally phased in WTO patent requirements by 2005. The Chennai High Court ruled that it can't make a ruling on a patent regime that was agreed upon at WTO. Individual companies can't approach WTO, only countries can. Apparently Novartis doesn't want to go after India using Swiss (or EU) government. Hence the public posturing of Novartis for changing, and apparently strengthening, patent law. Some people agree that patent law needs strengthening - because a western company said so and because, they probably think, FDI from drug companies can be effected. They understand that middle-class and poor cancer patients may be dis-served by what Novartis wants, but they think society and health care benefits in the long run. Whereas, others, usually the NGO types, think the patent law is already too strong and the court ruling was good thing and Novartis should back off mainly because patent monopoly medicine is very expensive compared to generic medicine produced by companies with razor thin profit margins. So what is it that Novartis want changed?

Bibek Debroy, in his column in Indian Express, outlined what the issue is and laid out the facts but, interestingly, avoids taking position on Novartis's Gleevec case.

Most anti-cancer drugs inhibit division of cells. Imatinib mesilate inhibits tyrosine kinase enzymes (catalysts). As an anti-cancer drug, it belongs to a slightly different category and can be used to treat leukaemia, tumours and other malignancies. Novartis chemists, particularly Brian Druker, identified imatinib in the late nineties and, having obtained US FDA approval in 2001, Novartis markets imatinib as Gleevec in the US and Glivec in Europe and Australia. In 1998, Novartis filed a patent application for Gleevec/Glivec in India. [Answer to cancer? - IE]

This issue boils down to patenting incremental change. Indian Patent regime offers patent protection for 20 years, on par with most countries that have strong patent regimes. But legacy pharmaceutical companies, those that makes medicines by trail and error using mainly chemical compositions, are having a tough time producing new drugs in their R&D labs. Most recent new drugs are bio-engineered based on genetics and the bio-pharmaceutical companies, although it's extremely hard and expensive to do, pretty much know what they are targeting and what they are producing. The old chemical based legacy drug companies patents are running out and most have few new drugs in their pipelines that can continue generating revenues to support their company's growth.

Loose patent regimes enable them to grow revenues based on exploiting old existing, but still patented, drugs. They play the game of incremental improvements to keep the drug, for which patent is supposed to be expired in an year or so, under continued patent, sometimes for another 20 years.

While there may surely be a real need for improving existing drug, the drug companies spend hundreds of millions of dollars on lawyers to keep generic drug makers away and pressure on patent regimes using courts, because a new monopoly on the old drug is sometimes worth several billion dollars over an extended period of time.

Unfortunately for Novartis, Indian patent regime didn't fall for it's Gleevac game. The drug was grandfathered in under the old patent regime. The apparent improvement on the existing drug, if a patent is given to it, would keep it a monopoly drug for another 20 years. Hence the public relations campaign by Novartis.

There may be a real value to the improvement to existing drugs. But if the patent is given at to Novartis, the 20-year patent should be for just the improvement portion of the drug, not for the entire drug. Let Novartis charge a premium over the generic and let the market place decide if the market wants to pay the premium for the newly improved portion of the drug. Surely the price of the new drug will not be the old monopoly price but higher than the generic price and would be set based on demand economics. But then Novartis will not be able to keep up the revenue stream of the old drug.

Novartis actually gives away this drug in India (via NGOs) and has little to lose in terms of current revenue from India. The reason for it's patent filing and court case is to set a precedence. The growing richer middle class can afford to pay more for a monopoly drug in decade or two, however the monopoly is obtained. The new 2005 patent law, which already complies with the patent framework laid out in WTO, may well need changes, but it doesn't need to be changed to appease Novartis type cases.

Two issues come to mind: what about the necessary improvements to patented drugs? Why would any company pursue improvements if they can't make money off of it? That's one reason I think incremental improvements should be granted patent only for the improved portion allowing a monopoly for just that aspect of the medicine. There could be some improvement that can't be patent independently - i.e., patent the whole medicine or none of it. In that case, it's tough luck. If there are improvements to be made that can be priced at premium, even generic makers would do it for differentiation and pricing power. Obviously neither the original inventor nor the generic maker will spend money improving the drug if they cannot get a patent for the improvement.

The second issue that crops up from time to time is: what if a patented medicine has shown to cure another disease. A patented breast cancer drug can also treat lung cancer, for example, and, lucky for the company, the new finding comes when breast cancer drug patent is supposed to expire. A medicine that has net worth of $10billion, for example, over the life time of its patent is now worth a total of, say, $30billion if the patent is extended for another 20 years, with only incremental lung cancer effectiveness testing trails cost. What should have been a public good after patent expiration continues to be a private good with monopoly pricing to go with. I think in this case the patent should not extended because there is no way the drug can be differentially patented just to treat the lung cancer while having the same medicine, as generics, in the market for treating breast cancer.

In order to address both issues: incremental and alternative use, public R&D in universities and public research lab should step in. Beyond doing basic research, public R&D should start working on improvements and alternative use of patented medicine as the information is publicly available. Because the patented drug becomes a public good after the patent expires, any incremental improvements and alternative uses can be captured by generics and can be available to public at reasonable cost. The original inventor makes a profit from the invention and after patent expiration public utility, attained from giving monopoly protection, is also served. There may be a case when the improvements and alternative uses are detected when the patent is in still force. In this case, the original inventing company should be allowed to use the improved formulation or market the drug for alternative use exclusively as per patent rules. This way the original inventor can gain by collaborating with public R&D and the public further rewards the inventor for the invention.

By taking away the incentive for incremental improvements and alternative use from drug companies, they will focus their R&D on original drug formulation instead of tweaking the old drug and spending hundreds of million of dollars on lawyers to tie up the generic companies and patent offices in courts, undermining the whole patent system, and creating lot of dead weight in the economy.

Unfortunately, the world, at least rich one, as Micheal Crichton lays out in his novel Next, is moving the other way, which will surely be followed by the not-so-rich world, by example or coercion. Increasingly most drug inventions are staying private under monopoly protection. That's one reason why health care cost is ballooning in US; most other rich countries have socialized health care with price controls on drugs to their own detriment in the long run. The price controls of these socialized systems may also be playing a role in allowing the legacy drug companies, usually located in these countries, to play the patent game. The allure of riches by undercutting the good system for their own private benefit is too enticing.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

More To Independence Story Than Satyagraha

I always wondered about the schizophrenia about Indian attitude towards what finally brought freedom from British imperialism. While we rightly claim we did it non-violently, using hartals, non-cooperation, namak marches, and, of course, satyagraha, we also want to celebrate the 150 years of first war of independence - as though there were other wars. We can always call it the only war of independence. It's another matter that we can't get our act straight to celebrate the events in a dignified manner.

So which is it? Did we fight militarily or protest non-violently for independence? Subbas Chandra Boseji is revered by many as the lone fighter leading the Indian National Army, although he was allied with the new imperialists, and surely vastly more tyrannical, the Nazis and the imperial Japan. And surely the current Indian military doesn't consider itself a successor of INA. Because his allies were defeated, it's hard to see how Boseji could have continued his fight after WWII ended, even if he were alive when the war ended. He could have always taken fight underground within the nation itself.

And then there was a massive road block for any armed conflict with the British, let alone a war of independence - Gandhiji, at least since 1918 when he emerged as leading figure of the ongoing independence struggle.

Apparently there is more to the story of independence, especially why it came in mid-1947, than satyagraha. Amaresh Misra writes in column in Indian Express that Bharatiya sepoys who made up the front line in British Army were increasing not acting as the front line. Beyond the massive 1857 revolt, one doesn't hear much about these smaller revolts, but the British knew what these events, these individual revolts, meant. By 1947, the British realized that they had no British army in the empire's crown Jewel, especially when the loyal Gurkas started turning on them.

Bayly and Harper* also profile how Indian army personnel fighting for the British in the 1940s were “nationalists” and “made clear to their British officers early on in the war that the writing was on the wall for Imperial rule”.

During the 1942 Quit India Movement, T.B. Dadachanji, a Parsi VCO, “disobeyed an order to take a mobile column into a riotous city on the grounds that he might be forced to shoot his own people”. Yet Dadachanji was not court-martialled. Drawing a parallel between 1857 and 1942, Bayly and Harper note wryly that “if a new Indian Mutiny were to break out, would it not be in Lucknow where the Union flag still waved over the ruins of the old British residency?”

Apparently, the ignominious British defeat at Japanese hands in 1942 played a major part in denting the myth of imperial invincibility. Subhas Chandra Bose’s INA tapped into the widespread discontent of Indian army personnel, especially over the way British officers had abandoned them during the Allied flight from Singapore. That ‘INA sympathies’ crossed over to influence Congress leaders, moderates, and those soldiers who remained ‘loyal’ during the Second World War, was demonstrated in November 1945 during the Red Fort INA trials. The trial of Shah Nawaz Khan, P.K. Sehgal and G.S. Dhillon, three INA officers, saw Nehru don the barrister’s robe after decades. Sardar Patel called the INA men “patriots” and observed that a trial should instead be initiated against Viceroy Linlithgow, the man in charge during the 1943 Bengal famine. V.D. Savarkar, the author of the first book on 1857, had sent a telegram to British Prime Minister Attlee demanding general amnesty for all INA prisoners: “it was signed, not with Savarkar’s name, but with a date, ‘1857’”. In one epochal incident, the Gurkha escort accompanying Sehgal to the trial premises did not intervene when a scuffle broke out between Sehgal and some British officers. The British read this as a danger sign, as Gurkhas were considered the most ‘loyal’ amongst ‘loyalists’. The British were ultimately unable to prosecute thousands of INA men.

In 1946, an actual army ‘mutiny’ broke out at the Jabalpur cantonment. News of it was suppressed, but ‘leaks’ prompted other ‘mutinies’ in Hyderabad, Madras, Pune, Lucknow and Calcutta. The 1946 naval ‘mutiny’ spread from Bombay to Karachi and Calcutta. Prime Minister Attlee, when asked why the British were leaving India, specifically mentioned the army’s role. Indian soldiers, he observed, could not be ‘trusted’ to hold India.[Ties that bind 1857 and 1947 - IE]

May be there are other, smaller, wars (or at least revolts) of independence that we don't hear of much.

* Christopher Bayly and Tim Harper, British historians chronicled the events that Misra talks about in Forgotten Armies: Britain’s Asian Empire & the War with Japan and Forgotten Wars: The end of Britain’s Asian Empire. Misra also refer to a book by Alex Von Tunzelmann’s The Indian Summer, which, apparently, includes plenty of unpublished accounts until now.

Not So Outdated Fears

China still has a job to do

K. Subrahmanyam, one of our premier national security analyst, is not sure why China, along with Indian-born Chinese, is so worried about the quad-informal- alliance of India, US, Australia, and Japan, especially Malabar 07 in which Singapore is to join also.

This has drawn a lot of attention, especially from China and its admirers in India. They consider this a follow-up of the quadrilateral ministerial meeting held in May in Manila on the sidelines of the ASEAN Regional Forum among the foreign ministers of the US, India, Japan and Australia. Prior to this meeting, there was a demarche from Beijing expressing concern. India and Australia gave reassurances that the quadrilateral did not have any anti-Chinese connotation, and that it wasn’t directed against any country.

However, it is very difficult for people conditioned by the Cold War to see the realities of a new balance of power in which a war among the major powers armed with nuclear weapons is considered virtually impossible. [New world, if only China could sea - IE]

Sri Subrahmanyam goes on to explain why India, actually, has to be weary of China, not the other way round. This may explain India's position to local communists (those Indian-born Chinese), who for reason seem oblivious to the fact China now is more like Chile under Augusto Pinochet - dictatorship with a free market, may be because they are still getting the money bags (it's good to keep your friends, especially in an potential adversary nation), I doubt the Chinese want to hear it. Not because it's not news to them - it's one of the most effect strategic game Chinese played since the middle of cold-war - but because they have something else in mind.

China still has a job to do. They're concentrating their entire military moderation with US in mind, mainly to keep US at bay in what would be an tangentially asymmetric war, when it goes after Taiwan. Japan, being an ally of US, has already declared that it would assist Taiwan and US, in case of war. Australia being close ally of US, will surely be involved. Imagine the Chinese consternation if India joins in that group on the eastern flank - may be not directly, but by providing all the support needed, overtly or covertly, for opposing alliance. Surely the Russian are not going to come to Chinese aid, despite their own massive joint exercise in Central Asia under Shanghai Corporation Organization.

Clearly the quad-alliance is not an exercise to fight the mighty navy of Islamic terrorists holed up in Pakistan region or East Asia. China has every reason to fear the alliance and the massive Malabar 07.

Quote of Our Times

"In news coverage, a picture, which necessarily omits complexities and nuances, is not worth a thousand words."

- Rajan Menon, The End of Alliances

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Sixty Years of Freedom

Achieved Little with Lack of Cultural Anchor

Shasti purti, ie completing sixty years, is a special year. It symbolizes the end of the cycle of years and the beginning of the new cycle. It marks culmination of a life time in a person's life. I guess in a secularized, anything but our culture, world one will not hear the significance of 60 year cycle in any writings or media - precious metal jubilees matter more now. But still, for some reason, it seems like this year there is lot more introspection about the country then usual - may be because it's a multiple of a decade.

There are some good ones, Sumit Ganguly, and some sore ones, Jaithirath Rao.

While during the past 60 years, sovereign freedom was brilliant with a sovereign flag flying high and there was amazing political freedom with little interruption, economically of the country was in bad shape, socially the country was a bid stable, and, importantly, culturally the country did not have a mooring.

Lack of economic freedom is clear case. Any freedom to start and run a business was throttled crushing at least two generations of economic or personal aspirations, energy, and talent, and created a vast legacy of corruption that is now attributed to being part of culture.

Political freedom is also a clear case. Whether one likes the party that ruled party for most of 60 years (and I don't), there was freedom to form a new political party and contest in elections. The vast majority of the regional parties, the continued existence of communists parties, and rise of BJP were clearly because of this political freedom. It's another matter if these parties performed and people demanded performance from these parties. At least they chose their representatives.

Social freedom or stability was of a more muddle. While caste system was still in place, there was some escape from it, especially for sudras, if one fled to a city. And government helped in it's own bureaucratic and incompetent way. We still have a long way to go on the caste system. But the religious stability- all though there were frequent riots (egged on mostly by the current, apparently, secular Congress I) between various religious groups - the overall situation was stable, although was based on false veneer.

The veneer was a distortion of pre-British history. It was possible to keep the stable veneer as long as the one ideology was in control of the history lessons, the media, and the bureaucracy and there was little independent history research or voices heard. Rise of BJP shattered the veneer. Hence the current appearance of religious and social uneasiness, if not turmoil. As the long the veneer exists, officially anyway, there will be social instability. Only after the country digests it's various layers of history openly will some semblance of social stability return in another state or format. The current version of social instability has a long way to go and has to undergo transformation, hopefully not a violent one, before stability returns.

But the most important aspect, failure, if you will, of the shasti purthi is cultural. Because of the checked history, invasions, adaptations, and colonialism, the country has little cultural moorings. One can identify a broad Hindu or Bharatiya (including Islamic influences) culture, but there is little connection to it for vast majority of people. I am not talking about the religious aspects of the culture, but the social, political, scientific, linguistic, business, and philosophical aspects of culture. There is a huge detachment between an enlightened Bharatiya pre-colonial culture and the current culture. And this gap has, and is, being filled by Euro-centric culture - call it enlightenment, western, white, or colonial culture.

One can easily find quotations that in analysis on independence that Indians started fighting for independence only after absorbing enlightenment ethos of the British and Europe. Of course, this is nonsense. The fight for, and spark for, independence started after the British changed - from being partners in a Bharatiya way of life, like the Mughals did, to becoming colonial white masters and started treating people as slaves. But beyond that example, in every life, post-independence, one doesn't look to pre-colonial Bharatiya culture for reference but to European culture and, increasingly, to American culture. One can easily find a quote from European philosophy or to European historic reference than from Bharatiya philosophy or to historic references when reading an article in a newspaper or magazine. Most college educated can quote Aristotle or Shakespeare or Kipling rather than Vyasa Maharishi or Kalidasa or Sardar Patel.

Being closed to the world for sixty years under socialism and self sufficiency ideology disallowed most Indians to find their cultural moorings. The sixty years were a precious loss because the world was more distant place then. Now with globalization, the influence of the west is in everybody's face all the time. It's hard to find a culture mooring that is any different from the west, ie based on European enlightenment. But unless we can make that culture connection to the pre-colonial enlightened Bharatiya era, our society will be destined to be culturally second-class and will always be at the receiving end from the west. I look to pre-colonial enlightened Bharatiya era not because it was a golden age, but because we have to pick up our moral and culture center, from where we left off, to continue to evolve and improve culturally and solve our unique social and political problems. We'll never make clear break from our past to take the western enlightenment, because it was not our experience or historic baggage, but unless we make that connection back to our historic past, we would always be in our current muddled state of politics with a corrupt way of life and amoral anchor.

Becoming a rich nation from a growing economy and higher per capita will ultimately do little to finding our own cultural moorings. But an open, confident, and a rich society may have chance to pick up the historic pieces and enable the engendering of a proud civilization with it's own cultural center. That really was the real tragedy, the missed opportunity, of the first shasti purti of a newly free, but a closed socialistic, country.

Happy Independence Day. Enjoy the existing freedoms and work for new ones.

Related: Atanu Dey provides an excellent quote from Sri Aurobindo, who was born on August 15th too, at IEB. Also read the quote in Chaitanya's comment.