Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Did Indians adopt the heliocentric theory long before Copernicus?


I wrote about this two years ago.
There are many temples in India devoted to deities representing the Sun, moon and the planets in India. Most of them do contain a visual representation of the Solar system, with the Sun at the centre. All other deities surround the sun. The individual deities face random directions, possibly illustrating the concept that each rotates independently around its own axis. There is no deity representing the earth, showing that the builders did not have the concept of the earth being yet another planet.

Do the Navagraha models indicate that there was a wide spread heliocentric concept before Copernicus formulated it as a theory? Or is the central placement of the Sun God only a way of showing his relative importance?

I found some information relevant to the whole question, when I ran into a book published in India in 2005:
Navagraha Temples of Tamil Nadu Kaveri Delta
by Padma Raghavan and Savita Narayan,
ISBN No: 81-89066-22-6, Published in 2005
English Edition Publishers and Distributors (India) Pvt. Ltd.
5/10, 11, 105 Jogani Industrial Complex, V. N. Purav Marg, (Near ATI) Chunabhatti, Mumbai 400022
The book describes fourteen temples, each devoted to a single deity. The deities involved are Sun and moon, five visually dominant planets, and Rahu and Ketu representing places along the Sun's apparent path in the sky where eclipses occur.
Based on the compositions by the Nayanmars which mention them, the authors believe that the temples were in existence in the 7th Century A. D. They say that there is evidence that the Suryanar (the Sun God) Temple near Kumbakonam was built in 1100 A. D.

Srinivasan Ramani 


Sunday, April 8, 2018

Are Administrative Reforms Dead?


The Administrative Reforms Commission (ARC) Reports are important documents from the UPSC civil services exam perspective, says the site https://byjus.com/free-ias-prep/arc-reports-for-upsc-mains-exam , but what about comprehensive, public  discussion of administrative reform issues from the nation’s point of view? Don’t we need it every year?
There have been two Administrative Reforms Commissions in India. They have produced a series of reports, which have received Government Consideration. Some recommendations have been implemented. All that was long ago.
Now, there seems to be a Dept of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances https://darpg.gov.in/about-arc
However, there seems to be no public report of any action related to Administrative Reform after 2011. 
The one exception I could find was a blog post by Amitabh Kant of Niti Aayog. 
https://blogs.economictimes.indiatimes.com/et-commentary/administrative-reforms-rebolting-the-steel-frame/

Discovering that there is a Ministry of Administrative Reforms  reminded me of something that Dr Kirit Parikh said in a public talk over two decades ago. It was about a gardener who was taking care of a small piece of lawn in the economics department of JNU. One day, the gardener goes to the Chairman of the Dept. and says that they have to find another gardener. “Why?” says the Chairman, “Are you leaving?” “No”, says the gardener, “I have been made permanent!”
Don’t we need to review our administrative practices regularly? Don’t we need to make visible improvements to them, and tell the country about it? 
Srinivasan Ramani



Friday, April 6, 2018

Spring Cleaning Indian Systems


Certain things should not change, like the basic structure of our constitution. Other things should be reviewed periodically and changed if necessary as permitted by the constitution. For instance, how many levels of courts are there in India? I am not sure about the answer and I suspect this is a question the bulk of our citizens cannot answer either. Flattening the structure by reducing the number of levels and strengthening the lowest level are well-known management ideas. I believe that it is worth discussing if we can reduce the long time needed to settle cases in India by such flattening of the structure. Flattening levels can be done without reducing the number of court buildings or the number of judicial officers involved. It is only necessary to upgrade some of the lower courts.  
Giving the government power to regulate institutions is necessary. It is unlikely to promote corruption because it deals with policy and principles applicable to all. On the other hand, when the government runs a bank, any loan application can seek political or bureaucratic support. So, does modern India need a number of businesses run under political and bureaucratic direction?
There are many other issues that can be listed that are worth review. It is the job of the legislature to review existing practices. We don’t need to keep on doing something just because we have been doing it for seventy years!
Srinivasan Ramani  



Monday, March 26, 2018

முதுமையில் உதித்த கவிதை தொகுப்பு

முதுமையில் உதித்த கவிதை தொகுப்பு
By B. N. Bheemachar
Review by Srinivasan Ramani
  

Readers who don't read Tamil: Please permit me this blog post, in which I review a book in my mother tongue!

Mr Bheemachar is 83, but as alert and energetic as those who are 38!
Recently, he lent me this 87 page book to read. I was delighted to read
it and decided to share my excitement over this blogpost. I am one of
those with an eternal guilt feeling about having stopped writing in my
mother tongue soon after leaving college. That I lived mostly outside
Tamilnadu is only a lame excuse.
I was delighted to read a book of verses in Tamil, addressing
questions about modern life. Particularly one that is a delightful
departure from tradition. For instance, there is a chapter
named குழந்தையின் கேள்விக் குரல் in which the child asks God
a number of difficult questions!   

ஆமாம்! நான் ஒன்று கேட்கிரேன்,
உலகத்தை நீ படைத்தாய் உண்மை.
ஆனால், நாடுகளின் வரம்புகளை யார் வகுத்தார் ?
                                                          ஏன் வகுத்தார் ?


அன்று அதிசயங்கள் பல செய்தாய் நீ என்று
கேட்டேன் படித்தேன்,
ஆனால், ஏன் அதை இப்போது செய்வதை
நிறுத்தி கொண்டாய்?  


விண்ணில் சென்று திரும்பும் விண் ஆராய்ச்சிக் கூடத்தை
நீ வெடித்து தகர்த்தது ஏன் ?
ஆனால்! அதை உன்னால் தவிர்க்க முடியாதது ஏன் ?
இல்லையேல் உன் உத்திரவுஇன்றி உன்
எல்லையில் ஊடுருவிட்டார் என்ற சீற்றமா?  


Asking God to answer difficult questions is a tradition in Tamil, but
not the mainline tradition.


I remembered MS Viswanathan's song with Kannadasan's lyrics, sung by T M Soundararajan in Pava Mannippu (thanks to KV Nagarajan and Swarnam Nagarajan
for correcting my citation):
பறவையை கண்டான் .. விமானம் படைத்தான் .. பாயும் மீனங்களில் படகினை கண்டான் .. எதிரொலி கேட்டான் வானொலி படைத்தான் .. எதனைக் கண்டான் பணம்தனைப் படைத்தான் .. மனிதன் மாறிவிட்டான் .. மதத்தில் ஏறிவிட்டான் ..


However, the book is not all about philosophy. There is a mischievous
humour pervading the book. The author says “ஜெயிலிலும்
இருப்பான்! ஜேப்பட்டியிலும் இருப்பான்!” and asks you to
guess who it is; he invites you to call him over your mobile to
convey your answer!
He talks about an NRI who invites his mother to visit the USA,
not for sightseeing, but to care for her grandson who is having a
bout of asthma! You see, it costs a thousand dollars a week to
provide the boy this care! Six months later, Amma has to go to
Australia. It would do good to her own asthma!
The subjects of most articles are amazingly relevant to modern life.
I will merely list some article titles to give you a taste of what
the author talks about:
ஆறு மாத தாம்பாத்யம் அம்மாவின் அந்திய கடன் திருமகன் பள்ளி எழுச்சி முதுமையில் மறதி கடவுள் ஏன் வேண்டும்? மறையும் மலர்கள் சிதைந்த சிசுக்கள் நான் யார்? ஆயிரம் பிறை கண்ட நான் (80 வயது) லஞ்சம் உடல் இழந்த பிறகு உயிர் எதற்கு? ஆட்சி செய்யும் SMS மதுரையில் ஒரு நாள்

The book is a delight to read for anyone who can read Tamil;
it is particularly valuable to everyone who is afraid that he/she is
losing their ability read and enjoy a book in their own mother tongue.
This book was written in 2013 and is out of print; but if a few of us
can make the effort, we can hopefully make it available over the Web
for several decades!
I will conclude this post with a photocopy of the back cover of the
book.

Srinivasan Ramani   

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Apps on our phones and our privacy


There is a lot of publicity about misuse of customer data by Internet-based services companies. Regulatory agencies and the government should do their work and reduce risks to citizens. I have some suggestions:
1)  An App demanding blanket access to customers’ contacts, photographs, etc. should not be allowed. They cannot harvest your contacts and bother all those in those contacts with commercial solicitation. The App could ask for limited access, such as the email address of a person in my contacts when I ask the App to send him an email. The service provider should not misuse his email address to solicit business from him. 
2)  Terms and Conditions for online apps should not exceed 200 words and should be in simple English. The T & C are not for obfuscation.
3)  For Indian customers, the legal jurisdiction should always be local Indian courts according to the customer’s location.
4)  Irrelevant information should not be demanded. It is no business of the email provider whether the customer is male or female, and what the customer’s age is.
5)  No credit card or debit card of the customer should be stored by the online service provider. The customer can always provide them for one-time use, whenever required, directly to the payment gateway.
6)  No customer data should be taken beyond the Indian border. If an Indian customer goes abroad, his customer data should continue to stay in India and not be migrated abroad.
7)  Selling of customer data should not be allowed.
8)  The government should consider encouraging Indian companies to provide Internet-based services provided they offer greater privacy and security to Indian customers.
9)  The use of cookies should be regulated by law. They should be used only for the essential functions, not for gathering data beyond the minimal requirements for the service provided and commerce in such data.  

Online services do provide free services and earn their costs and profits through advertising. The indirect costs to the customer of being spied upon all the time and having one's privacy violated should be considered in this context. 

Srinivasan Ramani

Sunday, March 11, 2018

The Smart Phone and Politics


A member of the state’s legislative assembly in India (MLA) represents 250,000 people on the average. The member of parliament (MP) represents one to two million people on the average. What does the communications revolution and the Internet mean to the peoples’ representatives? I believe that they provide the best way for the representatives to hear from the people. I believe that every representative needs a well-publicized mobile number and email address to receive grievances.  The fact that most adults have access to a cell phone makes them the most suitable communication device for them to communicate with peoples’ representatives. If the communications received are promptly acknowledged and acted upon, that representative is going to be very popular and vice versa. This is obvious from peoples’ priorities. Visit https://newsclick.in/jobs-and-water-are-main-issues-karnataka-survey  Very often the action required is only to re-send the grievance to the government entity concerned and demanding that a proper reply is sent in time. 
This method of grievance redressal is important, but political parties have not given adequate importance to this so far. They have understood the use of mass media. In fact, panel discussions held every working day on most TV channels have become the public forums where the spokesmen of the parties justify their behaviour and reply to major complaints. This is valuable, as the parties are answerable on a day-to-day basis, but it is not enough.
TV discussions do not hold the government departments and officials answerable in any way better than was the case in 1940! Panel discussions can deal with policy issues, but not with the day-to-day performance of tens of thousands of government offices. Electronic grievance reporting under the supervision of peoples’ representatives will make a very big difference to the efficiency of government machinery.
This recognition should be the foundation of e-governance.

Srinivasan Ramani


Thursday, November 16, 2017

Learning is fun


Growing children are building up models of the world in their mind. They learn quickly and enjoy it. Parents value their children’s learning, in many cases because of the practical value of knowledge in the modern world. When you are talking about a young child, it is best to forget the practical utility of knowledge. There will be time for that in the years to come. What is relevant at this phase is that learning is fun. To learn how primitive people cooked food over an open fire on the ground might fascinate a child. You may tell them that cooking made food easily digestible and safer to eat, but you are telling them about fire not to get them jobs as chefs! 

Also forget about the school curriculum. All learning is not book learning. Casual learning guided by the child’s curiosity is the most exciting form of learning for the child. This does not mean that one has to stick to princes, princesses, witches and frogs! As a mentor, you will look for what develops children’s curiosity and makes them ask good questions. Unlike a teacher, you do not have a fixed set of academic goals to achieve. The conversations I wish to promote are more like play. If they teach only one thing it is okay, as long it is that learning is fun!

I plan to tweet periodically giving suggestions to parents as to what conversations they could have with their children. The tweet format will be a safeguard against long articles!  My focus would be on the age group 3-8. Many of the questions I raise might be too easy for many of the older kids in that age group. Such smart kids should teach their younger siblings and friends! They will find my suggestions useful.

Let me leave the theory here, and go on to the real work! You will see a couple of tweets at least this week! Visit my Twitter account @smschacha

Srinivasan Ramani