Date Archives August 2020

Dear 24-Year-Old Basant

Dear 24-year-old Basant,

This is your second year in JNU and you’re 24 now, about to take the UPSC civil services preliminary exam next month. This is your first attempt. And you’re pretty excited. Typical of the street-dog in you.

I’ll give you a few suggestions about how to pace your preparation and what to do during the run-up to the D Day. I don’t expect the headstrong, all-knowing brat in you to take my words seriously. But please have a look at these points. Maybe you’ll love my writing style. Of course, I’m being sarcastic. I know how un-coachable you are.

1. Develop Six Sigma Self-Care Habits

Taking care of yourself – physically and, more importantly, mentally – will help you stay healthy and maintain a positive attitude and stick to a regular schedule.

Don’t lounge in your trackpants and tee shirts all day. Get up at 4:30 A.M., take a shower, and dress in clothes you usually wear when you go to the JNU central library.

You should do these things.

Eat regular, frugal meals. Stay away from unhealthy stuff.

Drink lots of water and stay hydrated.

Play volleyball with (and against) Sarfaraz, Sanjay and Apu Da like your usual maniac self. (Had it been this time of this year, I would have said, walk for one hour every day while practicing appropriate social distancing)

Find time to unwind. Listen to Ustaad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan as much as you can. Spend a lot of time with Rao Garu and Umakant.

Get lots and lots (and lots) of sleep.

Go off to sleep by 10:30 PM.

And don’t go to that TV room of your hostel. It’s a den of lazy people who practice wasting time as an art form.

2. Plan Your Day Every Morning

Every morning (after you have showered and wore appropriate clothes), jot down your goals and priorities for the day on that white writing board of yours. You’ve bought it and fixed it on the wall in front of your study table for a reason. Use it.

An organized to-do list keeps you focused on the specific tasks you need to complete. And checking items off the list provides a great sense of accomplishment. On a daily basis.

Once you’ve written down your goals, make a schedule for the day that will enable you to achieve those goals. Your schedule should include blocks of time dedicated exclusively to certain tasks. Do include meal times and study breaks as well.

And once you have created your schedule, try to stick to it as much as you can.

3. Eliminate Distractions and Time Stealers

Your hostel life in JNU offers ample opportunity for distraction. (Even though you don’t have a girlfriend. Poor lanky Basant.) And each distraction is an opportunity for procrastination that leads to reduced productivity.

Most of your distractions require self-discipline to avoid. As you create a  study routine, think about the distractions and temptations around you. Do your best to remove them from your daily life.  Say no to friends and foes as much as you can. Most of your friends are very competent time stealers. As dangerous as TV. Have I told you?

When you struggle to stay focused, try the Pomodoro Method.

4. Focus on the Positive

Give yourself permission to be human. To fail. To err. It’s alright to make mistakes. No need to pursue or expect perfection every single day. And remember your rivals (other students who are going to take this exam next month) are making mistakes as well. Now, don’t gibe that smile of yours.

Look for the silver lining every single day. After you wake up, spend a few minutes before getting out of bed brainstorming the beautiful things you have in your life since your Pipli days. Before you go to bed each evening, make a list of the good things that happened to you that day.

Engage in activities you love (as and when time permits). Listen to Ustaad Nusrat and play volleyball.

I’ll keep giving you tips for free even if you hate my hair cut.



Sociology – Paper 2 – Reading Materials – Recommendations

Sociology – Paper 2 – Reading Materials – Recommendations

This page is under construction. I’ll take some time to give a detailed recommendation as to what you should read and what you should ignore in every book given bellow. I intend to give unit-wise and sub-unit-wise reading lists.

Sociology – Paper II – Recommendation – Reading Materials

Read the Economically and Political Weekly online for free every week. It’s current issues stay free on its website for a week. So, you don’t have to buy it.

Read the Seminar online.It’s free and extremely helpful for your preparation.

Both the EPW and the Seminar are ideologically left-of-the-centre. I’ll tell you how to tackle this issue.

Ram Ahuja’s books are necessary, but absolutely not sufficient.

Irrespective of your educational background – whether you’ve done your graduation in science, arts or commerce – and your life’s circumstances, you please read these books (or study materials) and look for the portions that are relevant to the UPSC syllabus. Please find time to spend a lot of time with last 10 (or 15) years’ questions. That will help you understand how the questions are framed.

IGNOU – MSO 004, MSO 14, ESO 14 & ESO 16

NCERT Sociology Textbooks for 11th and 12th

Modernization of Indian Tradition – Yogendra  Singh

Handbook of Indian Sociology – Veena Das

Interrogating Caste – Dipankar Gupta

Caste in Question: Identity or Hierarchy – Dipankar Gupta

Political Sociology in India – Dipankar Gupta

Caste: Its Twentieth Century Avatar – M. N. Srinivas

Caste in Modern India and Other Essays – M. N. Srinivas

Understanding Caste: From Buddha To Ambedkar And Beyond – Gail Omvedt

Social Change in Modern India – M. N. Srinivas

Social Stratification – Dipankar Gupta (Editor)

Society In India: Concepts, Theories and Recent Trends – Ram Ahuja

Social Problems In India – Ram Ahuja

Contemporary India – Neera Chandhoke and Praveen Priyadarshi

Social Stratification and Change in India –  Yogendra Singh

Culture Change in India: Identity and Globalization – Yogendra Singh

Social Change in India: Crisis and Resilience – Yogendra Singh

Contemporary India – Satish Deshpande

Yojana (Independence Day Special 2001 – on population)


You need to read a few chapters from the following books. I’ll update this list later.

Buddhism in India : Challenging Brahmanism and Caste – Gail Omvedt

Reinventing Revolution: New Social Movements in India – Gail Omvedt

Population Concerns in India – K Srinivasan



This is the syllabus. I intend to give unit-wise and sub-unit-wise reading lists.


A. Introducing Indian Society:


(i) Perspectives on the study of Indian society:

Indology (GS. Ghurye).

Structural functionalism (M N Srinivas).

Marxist sociology (A R Desai).


(ii) Impact of colonial rule on Indian society :

Social background of Indian nationalism.

Modernization of Indian tradition.

Protests and movements during the colonial period.

Social reforms.

B. Social Structure:

(i) Rural and Agrarian Social Structure:

The idea of Indian village and village studies.

Agrarian social structure – evolution of land tenure system, land reforms.

(ii) Caste System:

Perspectives on the study of caste systems: GS Ghurye, M N Srinivas, Louis Dumont, Andre Beteille.

Features of caste system.

Untouchability – forms and perspectives.

(iii) Tribal communities in India:

Definitional problems.

Geographical spread.

Colonial policies and tribes.

Issues of integration and autonomy.

(iv) Social Classes in India:

Agrarian class structure.

Industrial class structure.

Middle classes in India.


(v) Systems of Kinship in India:

Lineage and descent in India.

Types of kinship systems.

Family and marriage in India.

Household dimensions of the family.

(vi) Religion and Society:

Religious communities in India.

Problems of religious minorities.

Patriarchy, entitlements and sexual division of labour.


C. Social Changes in India:


(i) Visions of Social Change in India:

Idea of development planning and mixed economy.

Constitution, law and social change.

Education and social change.


(ii) Rural and Agrarian transformation in India:

Programmes of rural development, Community Development Programme, cooperatives, poverty alleviation schemes.

Green revolution and social change.

Changing modes of production in Indian agriculture.

Problems of rural labour, bondage, migration.


(iii) Industrialization and Urbanisation in India:

Evolution of modern industry in India.

Growth of urban settlements in India.

Working class: structure, growth, class mobilization.

Informal sector, child labour.

Slums and deprivation in urban areas.


(iv) Politics and Society:

Nation, democracy and citizenship.

Political parties, pressure groups , social and political elite.

Regionalism and decentralization of power.



(v) Social Movements in Modern India:

Peasants and farmers movements.

Women’s movement.

Backward classes & Dalit movement.

Environmental movements.

Ethnicity and Identity movements.


(vi) Population Dynamics: Population size, growth, composition and distribution. Components of population growth: birth, death, migration. Population policy and family planning. Emerging issues: ageing, sex ratios, child and infant mortality, reproductive health.


(vii) Challenges of Social Transformation:

Crisis of development: displacement, environmental problems and sustainability.

Poverty, deprivation and inequalities.

Violence against women.

Caste conflicts.

Ethnic conflicts, communalism, religious revivalism.

Illiteracy and disparities in education.




Dear 16-year-old Basant

Dear 16-year-old Basant,

Next year, you’re going to take the IIT-JEE exam, and you’re pretty confident about your focus and study techniques. Deep in your street-dog heart you know you’re too hardworking a student to fail an exam. Your head thinks, despite not having right books and coaching materials, you can clear this exam and become a top-class energy engineer before you fall in love with a beautiful girl. Energy engineering. 1988. What a visionary you’ve always been, mate.

Now, listen to me, lanky boy. You’ll fail. You’ll get into severe depression. You’ll be so distracted in life that Sarat, your younger brother, will hit you for sixes when you bowl to him in your village cricket matches. Then, in full public view, he’ll shout at you a few words about how Javed Miandad decimated Chetan Sharma a couple of years back. It’ll become a typical Ambani family thing. A brother can be a difficult business, you know.

Cut to to life’s business. Your joining arts stream and choosing sociology as the honours subject is the best thing that will happen to you. You’ll join the classes in the second year, skipping the first year to prepare for the IIT-JEE exam. Anup Bhai will give you his books and top quality class notes even if he doesn’t know much about you. Rabi Sir will teach you Marx, Weber and Pareto better than the finest in JNU, his alma mater, even if you don’t speak a single sentence in his classes in two years because of your incessant stammering. Ashraf Chacha will give you a place to stay in Bhubaneswar even if you’re a rank stranger to him. Pragyan (Kar) and (Sudhanya) Naani will give away their books without making you conscious of your life’s circumstances. Anil will give you all his psychology books that he bought for his future wife. Anil’s Mom will feed you meals everyday you visit them. Anup Bhai will join JNU for his Masters. Rabi Sir will make you dream about going there. Ashraf Chacha will share his meals with you. Don’t tell me that you won’t meet great men and women without Wikipedia knowing about them.

And there’ll be friends and blood relatives who will taunt you for your chronic stammering. Learn how to ignore their daily barrage of ridicule. No good can come of it.

Now, let’s talk about your street-dog stubbornness a bit. You’ll fall in love with a girl who happens to be the best student in your class and a magician when it comes to public speaking. Your love life will start with a huge traffic jam. The girl – her name, I don’t remember – will be in love with another boy and clueless about your feelings. And you’ll get into depression for another two and half years.

Traffic jams will never leave you alone. In your exams, in love life and in professional career. Someday, you’ll handle the traffic department of J and K like a boss. More on that some other time.

More than anything else, I’ll always admire you for your ability and willingness to work on your stuttering. You’ll work on your handicap and you’ll be able to overcome it. You and your radio. No speech therapist and no expert advice. I adore that patented bullheadedness of yours. I still don’t know why you sell this dope to yourself that you don’t need to be good at public speaking to be successful in life. Because of that mental block, you won’t take the next step ahead. To become articulate on the podium like your one-sided love, that beautiful girl. You should take your public speaking skills seriously. The world will always be grateful to that Churchill chap for his oratory that made a huge difference to the outcome of the World War II. He was a rabid racist, though. More on that later.

You’re 16 years old and you’ve a long road ahead, but don’t get sucked into traffic jams. The IIT JEE exam will be a traffic jam. Falling  for a love that is not meant to be yours will be a traffic jam. Stammering will a traffic jam. You’ll manoeuvre those roadblocks quite brilliantly. Some kind-hearted, selfless people will hold your hands. Be grateful to them. They’ll guide you on the express highway of life without expecting anything in turn. Share your experience of handling traffic jams with the young drivers you meet when you become a better, mature driver.

Drive well, do it on your terms and take care of your car. Your body is your most expensive car. And a BMW doesn’t run on adulterated kerosene oil and second-hand spare parts. Eat well and keep your body strong and agile. You’ll need these good habits after 32 years when life will re-arrange itself because of a virus. Prepare yourself well for 2020.


Service sector – driver of India’s growth

Service sector – driver of India’s growth

(Friends, these are the basic points. Please don’t worry too much if you don’t remember the statistics. Read the entire article and understand how service sector has contributed to the economy.)

  1. The share of manufacturing in India’s GDP has remained stagnant around 16 per cent for nearly three decades.
  2. India’s growth story has been driven by services, which has a 55 per cent share in the economy.
  3. Services exports have outperformed goods exports in the recent years, due to which India’s share in the world’s commercial services exports has risen steadily over the past decade to reach 3.5 per cent in 2018 — twice the sector’s share in the world’s merchandise exports,1.7 per cent.
  4. The Centre rolled out a whopping Rs 20.9 lakh crore stimulus package to pull the economy out from the ravages of the pandemic. The package had a strong focus on the MSME sector, employee provident fund, power distribution companies and taxation, among other affected areas. Most of the stimulus package is in the form of funding and loan opportunities and, injecting liquidity to the market.
  5. The sector’s significance in the economy continues to grow with its share amounting to two-thirds of total FDI inflows into India and about 38 per cent of total exports.



What internet means to an island economy

What internet means to an island economy

(Friends, I’ll show how to take notes from this article a bit later.)

24 Aug 2020 Deborshi Chaki

The Andamans just became one of the last Indian territories to get high-speed net. Will new businesses come up?
While the internet in itself will not solve persistent developmental challenges, it does offer a pathway to amplify economic transformations which are already underway.

MUMBAI : On 10 August, when the Prime Ministerinaugurated India’s first 5G-ready undersea optical fibre cable network between the Andamans and Chennai, life came full circle for Sunil Gupta. Around a year ago, he had made the difficult decision to wind up his startup in Bengaluru, a B2B tech platform for the tourism industry, and return to his hometown Port Blair in order to spend more time with his ageing parents.
“I had to close the company because the internet was dismally slow in Port Blair which makes remote working impossible,” said Gupta, who has since his return has opened a tourist hostel for budget travellers in Wandoor beach about 25km from Port Blair. But with data speeds set to improve dramatically once the undersea cable becomes fully operational, Gupta said that those plans have suddenly changed.

“Once connectivity improves, then it doesn’t really matter whether one is in Port Blair or in Bengaluru, rather the cost of operations will be less in Port Blair,” he said.

The 2,300km submarine optical fibre cable link, a long-standing demand among the local population, will deliver a bandwidth of 2×200 gigabits per second (Gbps) between Chennai and Port Blair, and 2×100 Gbps between capital Port Blair and the other islands. Though the internet arrived in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands via satellite connectivity in the early 2000s, data transfer speeds during all these years have been rudimentary.

While users in the Indian mainland upgraded to superfast digital ecosystems, the islands have remained in the 2G era (Lakshadweep will also get an undersea cable soon). Though technically speaking 4G service is available on the islands, it seldom worked. In the absence of proper connectivity, internet bandwidth, a precious commodity in the islands, was kept largely for the exclusive use of the local government machinery, leaving a large portion of the local population without any form of digital connectivity.

Now, the arrival of the undersea cable is expected to usher in an IT and ITes revolution on the islands. The islands have a high literacy rate of 86.6% and a ready workforce made up of a large English-speaking young population. While the internet in itself will not solve persistent developmental challenges—ranging from geographic remoteness to a heavy reliance on the government for the supply of goods and services—it does offer a pathway to amplify economic transformations which are already underway. The internet may finally offer the islanders a reasonable shot at diversifying beyond tourism.

A decade long wait

Located around 1,200km from the Indian mainland in the Bay of Bengal, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, a former prison colony, carefully chosen for its sheer inaccessibility and remoteness, served as a natural prison for more than a century. The nearest continental landmass from the Andamans is the coast of Myanmar, which is about a day’s journey by sea from the capital Port Blair.

The island group is India’s largest union territory and is centrally administered by the union government through a lieutenant governor, the highest-ranking official of the local administration. The islands are scattered across an 800km zone from north to south. The main island clusters of Andaman and Nicobar are separated by high seas and lie to the north of the Malacca Strait, a busy sea route through which one-third of the world’s sea trade passes. Over the years, the islands have emerged as a sought-after tourist destination as well as a strategic point in the Bay of Bengal for the defence forces and currently serves as the headquarters of India’s first tri-services command, which is headed by all the three services on a rotation basis. While the National Optical Fibre Network (NOFN) initiative began in 2011 to provide broadband connectivity to over 200,000 gram panchayats across all 26 states and union territories, it did not include the Andaman and Nicobar Islands due to technical challenges. Telecom providers in the islands, therefore, were left to rely on expensive satellite connectivity to provide 2Mbps speeds. The high cost meant digital connectivity remained out of reach for a large section of the population.

3G services provided by the state-run BSNL and by private operators worked only intermittently. Uploading a single file could take hours. “For years, it was simply impossible for local businesses in the islands to stay competitive due to the lack of proper connectivity,” said M. Vinod, president of the Andaman and Association of Tour Operators. “Right from managing flight and hotel bookings online to accepting payments digitally, everything was a big challenge,” he said, adding: “But we expect things to be markedly better in the coming months.”

Lt General A.K. Singh, former lieutenant governor of the islands who played a key role in getting the project sanctioned, agrees. “It is a defining moment, a game-changer in multiple fields—education, health, governance, e-initiatives. The feeling of isolation which prevailed among the people will reduce; business opportunities will enhance. The islands are well placed for establishing call centres & BPO industry. The people are multilingual and there are no labour issues. In anticipation of the undersea cable, we had started foreign language classes to prepare our people. The possibilities are immense,” he told Mint.

The idea of optic fibre connectivity to the islands was first introduced by the erstwhile Planning Commission in 2010, following which it constituted a technical committee for studying the existing available bandwidth, future requirement and the strategy to be adopted for providing adequate bandwidth through reliable connectivity to the islands.

The technical committee after conducting several rounds of discussion with stakeholders such as the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro), the ministry of defence and the local administration submitted its report to the Commission in January 2011. In its report, it proposed provisioning submarine optical fibre connectivity to six major islands which include Port Blair, Havelock, Little Andaman, Car Nicobar, Kamorta and Campbell Bay and satellite connectivity for other islands.

As per the proposal, the six islands were to be connected through one of the existing consortium cables passing through the region to the Indian mainland. Based on the report of the technical committee, the Planning Commission, in April 2011, conveyed its in-principle approval for laying the undersea optical fibre cable to connect the six major islands. Soon after, the Andaman and Nicobar administration prepared a proposal and invited bids for implementation of the project including its operation and maintenance for 15 years on a turnkey basis. The financial bids of the project were first opened in March 2013, with an initial estimated project cost of ₹413.55 crore. However, the project went into cold storage soon after and was revived only in 2016 under the Modi government.

A strategic asset

In addition to improving digital connectivity to the islands, the project is expected to provide heft to India’s strategic ambitions in the Indian Ocean region, where China’s dominance has been on a steady rise.

Over the years, the Chinese have steadily increased their presence in neighbouring Myanmar. In 1992, China is believed to have established a SIGINT (signals intelligence) gathering station on Great Coco Island to monitor Indian naval activity and missile launches in the Bay of Bengal. In addition to that, the Chinese are believed to have constructed an airstrip in the islands for surveillance-related purposes.

“The Andaman Nicobar Islands are like an unsinkable aircraft carrier of India in a very strategic location in the Bay of Bengal, overlooking the sea lines of communication (SLOCS) and the Malacca Straits,” said Lt. General Singh. “Communication was a huge challenge even for our defence forces. The three-tier security around the islands will be greatly facilitated. The west coast of the islands, which is very sparsely inhabited, can now be continuously monitored using technology,” he added.

When conceived, it was also suggested that the undersea cable connectivity be extended from Kolkata to the Andamans, in addition to Chennai. The resulting ring-like structure will reduce downtime of the optic fibre cable significantly, which takes a relatively long time to repair and restore given the complexities involved. Additionally, Trai had also suggested that the connectivity from Kolkata may be used to route traffic from the entire North-Eastern region of the country directly to Chennai, bypassing the large fault-prone terrestrial part of the international connectivity from Kolkata to Chennai. Trai had further argued that the optimum fibre network may also be used to provide connectivity to the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) nations such as Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh. Further, connectivity could be extended beyond Chennai to Sri Lanka and the Maldives via submarine cable. Experts say that the project, if extended by another 1000km eastward, will open up a host of opportunities for India in the Asean region and help counterbalance China. With this, experts feel that countries such as Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam too will eventually connect their respective digital highways with the project.

In conclusion

With digital connectivity already up significantly in several pockets in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands due to the cable, the transformative impact of the project has begun showing results.

The islanders say that dealing with rising covid-19 cases, which poses an extinction threat to the indigenous tribes of the island, will be relatively easier now. In the absence of proper connectivity, locals claim that the infections have been on a steady rise as people are forced to venture out for daily chores risking themselves and others. Alongside, students who have returned to their homes from the mainland continue to sit out of online classes in the absence of internet connectivity. But that may not be for long. With digital connectivity set to improve, it is the service sector which harbours the highest level of anticipation and hopes regarding newer job opportunities and new possibilities.

“When I arrived (in the islands) in July 2013, I witnessed first-hand the great challenges faced by the people there. Communication was one of them,” said Lt General Singh. “To see the project get complete is very satisfying,” he added. In the long-run, it may also turn out to be an important milestone in India’s long-standing Look East policy, an effort to cultivate extensive economic and strategic relations with the nations of Southeast Asia in order to bolster its standing as a regional power.

Above all, the long-awaited project will create a sense of integration and confidence among the islanders, who are living in one of India’s remotest corners and who have until now been disadvantaged and deprived of their ‘right to internet access’–a fundamental right no less.

How to write better – 1

Friends, I’ll share top quality resources (available online for free) here. The first three are my favourites.

You please find some time to work on your writing skills. And let me know if you need anything.