Animals, Mendicants, and Mumbai

Earlier this week I went on a very long rant about this Dana Parsons article in the LA Times on the sex trafficking of Nepali girls. Today Dana Parsons’ column takes sensationalist trash to a whole other level. Normally I wouldn’t subject anyone to yet another lecture on primitivism, but I think this particular piece is too precious to keep to myself.

Parsons’ article concerns his attempt at something called “perspective.” He received an email recently from his cousin who is on business in Mumbai, filled with details on the horrible living conditions there. Because of this said email, Parsons now feels a sense of enlightenment and gratitude at the fact that he doesn’t have to live in the squalor that his cousin describes.

You can already guess where this is going. The column outlines the horrors of Mumbai, as narrated by Parsons’ cousin:

There are animals everywhere. Common to see dogs lying in areas by the road. I don’t know how they survive, but I’m told animals are sacred and you watch out for them. There are cows wandering through the streets.
We saw several naked people. Not always children. Several relieving themselves.
Our driver pulled over near some marshy area that I took to be rice fields. I got the camera out and was ready to shoot when we saw that the driver was relieving himself at the side of the car.

Ok, we get it — animals, nudity, and public urination, oh my! How is this substantive news by any standard, and more importantly, how can anyone find these details enlightening, as Mr. Parsons claims?

Truth be told, I’m really not surprised that there are people who view the world the way that Dana Parsons does. What I do find upsetting is that the LA Times is carrying this trash and passing it off as journalism. Then again, what else should I expect — time and time again I have been appalled at their international coverage. I will concede, however, that the LA Times is good for covering a few things, namely: state and local politics, the Hollywood industry, and most importantly, a certain college basketball team that’s going to rout Florida on Saturday. But even if the LAT has no intention of upgrading their international coverage, it’s time for them to cut Dana Parsons off from covering anything related to South Asia. He really needs to be stopped.

156 thoughts on “Animals, Mendicants, and Mumbai

  1. Sorry guys, these excuses dont fly either. Democracy hasn’t held back the development of numerous nations. Neither has population density (think of Japan and the Netherlands which are far more crowded than India). And there is no correlation between size and success. The sole superpower is a large democracy. China is 30% larger than India and far ahead in the Human Development Index. If you think democracy is to blame, why cling to a failed system? If India is too big to govern, why spend blood and money to keep it big and backward? At least for the sake of the millions of starving children and the millions of little ones in bonded labor, shouldn’t India look for alternatives? I think it was Einstein (not sure though) who said: insanity is doing something that doesn’t work over and over again.

    I don’t understand what you’re trying to get at over here.

    India’s performance has been quite neat in the past 10 years – and far far better than most Southeast Asian countries. Not only that, India’s economy is far stronger and stabler than most in Asia. There has been a significant improvement in living standards, and this is a first hand observation/experience. China has a horrible human rights record – take the One Child Policy for instance. Things like these can only happen in a country where freedom is curtailed. Try searching for India, on the other hand, is taking a constructive path towards progress.

    What do you mean by “spending blood and money to keep it big and backward”? What alternatives are you saying India should opt for? When you analyze India’s “sorry performance since independence”, let me remind you that India is hardly a failed system. If you know anything about economics, you’d have known that there hasn’t been a single famine in India since independence. India’s huge population is simply because of the fact that average life expectancy shot up because of great improvement in health care standards after independence. If you call India a failed system, you are totally wrong. Neither do you account for the economic liberalization of the 1990′s.

    You talk about starving children. On what basis do you claim starvation is a problem in India? What if I say hunger is not a problem in India? India is one of the biggest food exporters in the world – thanks to the Green Revolution that made India self-sufficient in terms of food.

    I don’t see any coherency in such views. Please educate yourself before your go out on such a rant in the future. Also, I think its a good idea to make constructive arguments.

  2. Sathya, what you term “excuses” are posts to understand why there’s a difference. No one has ever denied that there’s a problem.

    Your explanation, I take it, is that Indians are genetically or culturally predisposed to filth, is that it?

  3. India’s performance has been quite neat in the past 10 years – and far far better than most Southeast Asian countries. Not only that, India’s economy is far stronger and stabler than most in Asia……..When you analyze India’s “sorry performance since independence”, let me remind you that India is hardly a failed system…….You talk about starving children. On what basis do you claim starvation is a problem in India? What if I say hunger is not a problem in India? India is one of the biggest food exporters in the world – thanks to the Green Revolution that made India self-sufficient in terms of food. I don’t see any coherency in such views. Please educate yourself before your go out on such a rant in the future.

    I am afraid the one needing education here is you. Perhaps you can learn from Nobel Laureate in Economics, Amartya Sen:

    http://www.indiatogether.org/2006/jan/ajo-hunger.htm

    About 320 million Indians go to bed without food every night, and recent data suggests this already alarming situation is getting worse. Despite the magnitude and intensity of this problem, it remains on the margins of policy planning, public action, intellectual discourse, and media coverage”

    “The recent reported increase in the number of Indians suffering from hunger and undernourishment is alarming, especially since the first National Family Health Survey (1992-93) had revealed that India was already one of the most undernourished countries in the world. About half of all Indian children are classified as undernourished, a large percentage of them born with protein deficiency (which affects brain development and learning capacity, among other things). And the 50th round of the National Sample Survey (NSS 1993-94) had established that there was no food security system worth the name in this our land.

    Catchy slogans like India Shining, India Rising and, now, India Everywhere ring somewhat hollow when eminent economists like Patnaik and Amartya Sen affirm that India’s record on the hunger front is not very different from and, in some ways, even worse than that of the popular global icon of extreme deprivation, Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). As Patnaik put it, “A large segment of the rural masses in India … have been already reduced to the nutritional status of Sub-Saharan Africa.” On the basis of data from the NSS (1999-2000) on calorie intake, she estimated that about 40 per cent of the rural population was at the low absorption level of the SSA average. According to Sen, “Estimates of general undernourishment – what is sometimes called protein-energy malnutrition – are nearly twice as high in India as in Sub-Saharan Africa.”

    There seems no denying the fact that chronic hunger persists on a massive scale in the country even while the government spends millions of rupees in vain efforts to maintain “surplus” stocks in overflowing granaries and exports “excess” grain at highly subsidised prices.

    Despite the magnitude and intensity of the problem of endemic hunger, it remains at best on the margins of policy planning, public action and intellectual discourse, not to mention media coverage. According to economist Jean Dreze, “The most startling aspect of the nutrition situation in India is that it is not much of an issue in public debates and electoral politics.”

  4. Well, so what exactly have you been trying to prove so far? I do not intend to say that India does not have any of these problems. I am simply analyzing why it could be so, and population and India’s commitment to democracy and personal freedoms is definitely one of the reasons why we do not match up statistically with other countries in India.

    In any case regardless of what you might have to say, as an Indian citizen hailing from a middle-class family myself, all I have to say is that there has been a marked improvement in the past few years. Whether it is the housing boom, or the surge in the sale of cars, or even the IT industry. All of my friends who are graduating from colleges in India have jobs lined up. True, you could point at Bihar and claim otherwise, but things happen one at a time. For a country that was systematically impoverished over 200 years, things don’t happen overnight. But they are headed in the right direction.

    Your argument, that could basically be summarized as “India sucks, and Indians are a people incapable of achieving anything”, still doesn’t make sense or serve any purpose. May be it doesn’t matter to you, which is understandable.

  5. Well, so what exactly have you been trying to prove so far? I do not intend to say that India does not have any of these problems.

    Denial, delusion, dishonesty. What was your intention when you wrote:

    You talk about starving children. On what basis do you claim starvation is a problem in India? What if I say hunger is not a problem in India? India is one of the biggest food exporters in the world

    Similarly first you claimed India was doing far, far better than most asian countries:

    India’s performance has been quite neat in the past 10 years – and far far better than most Southeast Asian countries. Not only that, India’s economy is far stronger and stabler than most in Asia

    Now you are making (the usual discredited) excuses for India being a laggard compared to other countries:

    population and India’s commitment to democracy and personal freedoms is definitely one of the reasons why we do not match up statistically with other countries

    First get your story straight. Then explain why numerous other nations who have made a “commitment to democracy and personal freedoms” do not have any problem matching up “statistically with other countries”?