Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Covid Doesn’t Give Standing Ovations

If it did the curve in the chart would have been at worst flat at zero. But it’s not. Reminding us that we need to beat the virus each time and not get too complacent about having successfully contained it once in 39 days last year thanks to our public health system that needs a serious upgrading. We’ve lowered our guard and we’re paying for it. Cases are rising fast and the death count has resumed after 336 days. There aren’t many solutions to flattening that curve now. Partially softening the already leaky lockdown in a few hours is not one of them. 

Friday, March 26, 2021

50 Years Ago, Tens of Millions of Muslims Free Themselves From Pakistan

On 26 March 1971, East Pakistan declared independence from Pakistan after armed forces perpetrated a massacre at Dhaka University. A few months earlier, the Awami League of Mujibur Rahman, a party in what is now Bangladesh, secured enough seats in the first free and fair general election in the country after the 1947 independence to form the government of Pakistan. But Ali Bhutto and the political/military leaders in West Pakistan, current day Pakistan, didn’t want to transfer power. Instead they eventually sent in the army with the objective to “kill three million of them and the rest will eat out of our hands”.

As a result of the chaos 10 million people fled to India creating a mammoth humanitarian crisis – the largest refugee camp in human history – in an already overpopulated country that was slowly emerging from a devastating British Raj. This led to India’s RAW training some of these refugees and sending them across the border to fight back the oppressors. Nevertheless the Pakistani army went on a massive killing spree for almost nine months. An estimated 3 million people died, 300,000 women and girls were raped. This event is known as the Bangladesh genocide. 

It ended after Pakistan bombarded India and the latter retaliated and won the war in 13 short days. Which explains why Indian PM Narendra Modi was the chief guest in the capital of the 87%-Muslim 160-million-people country today. But in 1971 it was an “avatar of Goddess Durga” who was at the helm of the subcontinent. 

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Greatest Party of Mauritius Turns 85

It gave us so many things. Improvement in worker conditions early on. Followed by a decisive victory against proportional representation. Then the most magic of moments: independence. Along with an excellent constitution and electoral system. Newly-born Mauritius was a left-for-dead country even before the oil crises and terrible cyclones of the 1970s but brilliant policies enabled us to make significant progress providing rapid upward social mobility to the many. 

Since 2005 however it is in its darkest period, furiously betraying its DNA. It’s time for the Labour Party to reconnect to what works.

Friday, January 29, 2021

T-Series is the Most Viewed Channel on YouTube

When I saw that Shakira’s channel on that platform – incidentally the second most visited website in the world – had reached an eye-popping 20 billion views I googled up the most viewed one. Wikipedia, which turned 20 exactly two weeks ago, lists the Indian music channel as the most popular with 141 billion views. And 170 million subscribers. If these subscribers were a country it would be the 8th or 9th most populous country in the world. Add another 100 million followers in the next couple of years and it will be breathing down on the neck of Indonesia which is on its way to become only the fourth country with a population exceeding 300 million. 

That shouldn’t be too difficult considering that there are 8 times more people in India and the subcontinent is on track to regain its status as the largest economy in the world which it held during 85% of the last 2,000 years. Having the largest diaspora and a 10,000-year old culture shouldn’t hurt either. 

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Remembering the Harvard Psychologist Who Taught Millions Where to Be

Baba Ram Dass (RD), born Richard Alpert in 1931, was an American psychologist who tried marijuana, Mexican mushrooms, psilocybin and LSD in trying to give meaning to his very comfortable but ultimately empty life. As the drug trips didn’t last more than a few days he decided to seek out holy men who might know more about these fleeting states of consciousness he had just discovered and which a 2,500-year book had described very accurately. His quest took him to an Iranian Sufi and eventually to Neem Karoli Baba (NKB), an Indian saint on whom big doses of LSD had no effect and who arranged for RD to get some solid spiritual training. 

The American returned to the US and a few years later published Be Here Now (pictured above) which has sold over 2 million copies since 1971. It is a book which influenced many people including the late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs who travelled to India to try to duplicate RD’s experience.

What made Ram Dass special is not only that he combed through a massive amount of spiritual literature, tried a vast range of meditative practices and delivered loving-kindness in unusual locations but also that he explained so well what he had learned and experienced. His self-deprecating sense of humour makes listening to RD even more pleasant. 

He died in Maui, Hawaii exactly a year ago. His life journey has important policy implications.

Friday, November 27, 2020

Dracula to Vigorously Promote Vegan Diet

He announced this yesterday on a radio program in Transylvania. When asked what prompted such a big change he confessed that he was inspired by Ali Mansoor launching a grassroots movement and George Chung publishing another book. The count who refused to observe social distancing wore a brand new cape and the legendary four-and-half-inch fangs looked sharp as ever. Dracula also mentioned that he had applied for the top job at the National Blood Bank of Transylvania.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Renga At the Blackboard

To explain the mess proportional representation (PR) would throw Mauritius into after the Labour Party feared that the Governor would impose it. We’re in the first half of 1956 at the Port-Louis theatre or about two years before Seeneevassen passes away, Guy Rozemont had just died and the movement against PR is gaining steam. Dupré, the LP candidate, wins the by-election in the capital with 52% of the votes and this buries PR for good. So writes Sada Reddi in his 2000 biography of Sir Veerasamy Ringadoo, the longest-serving Finance Minster of independent Mauritius, its first President and who would have been 100 today. 

SVR has been unjustly painted as an incompetent Finance Minister (FM) of an incompetent government that had brought the country to its knees. The current economic contraction, forty years after the last one and when Ringadoo was Minister of Finance, will likely cast a more objective light on his performance. 

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Doctor Who Gave Elephant Dose to Mosquito Fired

Seriously, a mosquito checks into a hospital because it’s not happy with its trademark hum and without doing any examination the doctor gives it the same giant injection of god knows what she administered to a hippo a few hours earlier. This has sent the poor insect into a deep coma and triggered an inquiry. It turns out that the doctor does this to every patient that visits the medical institution, big and small. The regular complimentary invitations to seminars organised by Big Pharma in posh locations may explain why an identical dose is applied each time. 

It’s not any different from the proposal of nominating 20 PR seats after each general election to correct any seat/vote share imbalance. Why would you use 20 MPs irrespective of whether you have a 60-2, 41-21 or 30-32? There’s no good reason especially when we know that this will create two types of political instability and blunt our democracy by preventing voters from keeping that many politicians out of parliament. Besides there’s a better and more elegant solution. 

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Pope’s Warning Turns One

Francis visited us exactly a year today and celebrated a wonderful mass in honour of Father Laval in Port-Louis. Later in the day he told a gathering of the civil society and the authorities to move away from the idolatrous economy we had been worshipping (understand by this speculative FDI, record inequality, national problems not solved, not enough regard for the environment and a degraded public health system because trickle down economics had made government run out of money).

Twelve months later, how much of this common sense has been heeded?