Indians are the most likely people in the world to have heart related problems. To those Indians whose close ones were at one time or another affected by heart disease, this may not be that much of a suprise. While a great deal of attention is (appropriately) being focused on the AIDS epidemic in India, heart disease is not given much priority. The accounts from doctors are alarming.
“By one estimate, 60 percent of the world’s coronary heart patients will be in India by 2010”
“India has the highest incidence of heart related diseases in the world and the number of those affected is likely to double in the coming years”
The size of the problem is staggering. Even if the above predictions turn out to be inflated, India is ill equipped to deal with problems on such a colossal scale. The cost to India in terms of rupees spent, human resources lost and emotional, will be colossal.
Part of the problem may be that we Indians don’t have a central health information resource specific to the Indian population. Even for a third-world country, this is surprising. When we try to find information online, we are assured by websites for Americans or Europeans that until we are in our 40s, we are safe and need not worry about heart problems. However, this is true only for American and European populations. Indians are susceptible from the time they enter their 30s.
India needs premier central health institutes that can fund research into the epidemiology of medical problems, disseminate information that is relevant to the Indian population, and track the progress of strategies to counter the spread of such problems in the Indian population. Existing institutions such as AIIMS currently provide the best medical care, but do not have large-scale, nationwide epidemiology programmes. Of course we need hospitals, but without epidemiologic knowledge, we are simply shooting in the dark.
On the face of it, Communism is a peaceful doctrine. All it says is that people should share resources. Joint ownership of resources, that sounds like a good idea. The problem, of course, is that it doesn’t work. Communism may seem like just another way to apportion resources, but its history demonstrates that it is really an inhumanly violent doctrine. (That is because there are no safeguards; the people in power are not responsible to those they rule over.) It inevitably devolves into a violence-when-desired doctrine.
This is evidenced by the excessive violence in all communist regimes so far. Soviet Russia had its share of extreme rulers. Millions were killed, and terror was the performance-motivating factor for most of the U.S.S.R.’s history. China followed much the same route under Mao Ze-Dong during the euphemistically named cultural revolution in the 1960s. In today’s media-driven world, China’s communist party recognizes that it is folly to be so blatant and have resorted to total indoctrination of the Chinese population to achieve the same aims. Any dissidents (the Falun Gong, for example) are dealt with savagely.
The latest in the line of Marx’s descendants to embrace violence and repression wholeheartedly are the Indian communists, the CPI(M). Following in the footsteps of their Soviet and Chinese gods, they have rigged every election in West Bengal (as reported by every English language daily published out of Calcutta after every election) since they came to power in the 1970s. The CPI(M) operates like the Chinese Communist Party, pilfering public funds to pay a huge array of “cadres” operating at a street-by-street level. The recent violence in Nandigram is the latest example of the disregard for ethics of even a basic pretense at humanity demonstrated by the CPI(M), which sent its cadres in to rape and torture villagers who did nothing worse than resist the confiscation of their own land for the CPI(M)’s commercial designs. In typical Communist fashion, saving loss of face became more important than the land and the law and the people.
Caste is, of course, a very good indicator of poverty in India. In the past, people were denied access to certain facilities based on their caste. This meant that certain castes weren’t allowed to develop in certain ways, and it became the root cause of today’s poverty structure, which is overwhelmingly biased against certain castes.
But I want to ask the question: does caste continue to be causally responsible for poverty? More specifically, conditional on the situation prevailing say 10 years ago, is caste still being used to deny opportunities to people today? Or, are we confusing the effect of the socio-economic stratum for the effect of caste?
Let’s be even more specific. Descendants of poor families are more likely to be poor than descendants of rich families. Descendants of both poor and rich families are also likely to retain their caste, since caste is hereditary and inter-caste marriage is still relatively rare. Thus descendants with castes which are poorer today are likely to be poorer than descendants of castes which are richer today. In statistical terms, the wealth of the family at the start of the time period under study is a confounder for the effect of caste.
The right way to ask the question is: take two families with similar economic conditions but with different caste; is one of the families likely to have richer descendants, say 50 years in the future?
The Gnome desktop environment, as packaged with Ubuntu 7.10 “Gutsy Gibbon”, is a queer mix of liberating and frustrating. While it’s got some great features and applets, and Compiz is pretty cool, it really falls flat on its face in some areas. While I understand that the Gnome people want to be minimalist, the extremes to which they go are counter-productive. Here are some of my gripes:
- Their File Open dialogs don’t have a place where you can type in a file location; you are forced to navigate to it using mouse clicks. This becomes really frustrating if you want to hide folders starting with a period (“.”). I like to hide them because there are way too many and I access them only rarely. But when I do want to access them, Gnome makes it so difficult.
- Having the option to see more information about what’s going on during various operations can save a lot of frustration. I guess giving people access to information doesn’t necessarily go against Gnome’s philosophy; there could be an option to turn on extra information. One applet which frustrates me in this regard is the nm-applet which provides wireless access. The applet sometimes cannot connect to wireless networks, for example if I had to restart a wireless router. The problem is it keeps working away without allowing any kind of interaction. There is no option to cancel, no output indicating what it’s doing; just the animation showing that it’s working.
- Gnome workspaces simply don’t implement the best aspects of workspaces. The only thing you can do with Gnome workspaces is have different applications on different workspaces. What would be vastly more useful is to allow a different set of icons on each workspace. This is more important now that Gnome shows large thumbnail views of PDF files; there simply isn’t enough space on a single workspace, and Gnome prevents users from effectively using the additional space that multiple workspaces provide. Allowing a different desktop background would nice too, but this is just eye candy.
- Gnome has drawers, but these are too limited. You can’t look at its contents and see what each element is. (The drawers just show identical icons for all PDF documents, for example.)
- You can’t select multiple applications on the taskbar (using Ctrl-click, for example) to close or minimize several windows at once! This is the worst regression I’ve seen. I once tried to open a large number of audio files with Audacity (thinking they would be queued in a playlist) and it opened up about 50 windows. I had to close them one by one.
So if you have a large number of documents that you want to organize on your desktop for quick access, there is no way to do it: you can’t use workspaces because all workspaces have the same desktop icons, and you can’t use drawers because you have no way to label a drawer or its contents.
And, this isn’t Gnome’s fault, but lack of good out-of-the-box hibernate negates all the benefits of having multiple desktops.<
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