Tuesday, August 31, 2010


I have been travelling to Addis Ababa since 2008 owing to work related assignments. In 2008, the number of visits were one which increased to 2 in 2009 and subsequently to 3 in 2010. With the passage of each year the duration of stay in Addis has also increased. Each time, I have observed certain things that have accumulated in the store house of my inventory. With this time’s visit, I felt that the inventory is now upto its brim and so it is waiting to splurge on in these pages. Hence forth this write up was born. This write up is a summary of various observations that I gathered seeing things all around addis. Those observations have been categorized under certain fields and domains which are as follows -

My work on behalf of South South Cooperation Initiatives of TERI (The Energy and Resources Institute, New Delhi) has allowed me to liaison with United Nations Economic Commission for Africa. Such an exposure has been very helpful for me in learning how policy relevant research is streamlined into decision making process of Africa Union through United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA). This assignment has given the opportunity to learn more about the work which is being done on Climate Policy and other pertinent areas of sustainable development. Discussions with ECA colleagues has been very fruitful in terms of its intellectual content. And the best part of those discussions has been that they never got bounded by the terms of reference of our official work. So the discussions started from a particular topic and then went all around and travelled to sociopolitical, economic and other issues that are extremely relevant in today’s context of Africa. Specifically one of the discussions, which I cherish was in Dr. Wane's house during a dinner invitation. I was fortunate enough to be invited in that dinner which had the presence of some important policy decision makers at the AU level. In the course of the dinner discussion, I was being asked by all people over there about TERI. It was a nice feeling to talk about TERI in front of the people in that dinner invitation and finally the most comprehending part was when all of them appreciated and praised what TERI is doing in the area of sustainable development. All eminent people in that dinner invitation passed on their regards and support for our Director General and institute Directors and asked me to convey their regards to them. I felt extremely proud at that instance. It was in this dinner meeting we got into a discussion regarding the politics in Africa and also on dynamics of the political relations in South Asia, especially between India and Pakistan. Most of the people in the dinner had wide knowledge on art and culture and so I shared the grief that how culturally India and Pakistan are so bounded but still politically we have not been able to be united. Then the discussion went onto facts based historical discourse between India and Pakistan relations. It is at this point, one eminent individual from African Union (who was present in the dinner) brought in the issue of conflicts in Africa. It was an hour long discussion with him and learnt a lot on the AU process, its dynamics from him. Dr. Cheik, who is a well known agroeconomist and my friend brought in his view points on what he has seen during his travels in conflict ridden Sudan. Their eyes were sparkling while discussing these issues as was mine while discussing about India Pakistan relations.

For the sake of the limited space of this article, I wont ponder more on the work aspect but rather would go into some other sets of observations.

The best thing about Addis has been the warmth, affection that I have received from most of the people there apart from one instance about which I will talk later. Before going to Addis, I had made a plan that which are the circles where I need to go and interact with people to know more about the place and its people. As a follow up action point of that, I have visited churches, Islamic preying ocassions, stadiums, gyms, dance sessions, music sessions, live music sessions, shopping complexes, coffee shops, movie halls, seminars etc. From all these places I have tried to observe the people and learn more about them by observing them. Also in the UN complex, have met people from various countries during lunch and learnt extensively on different work areas that different divisions of UN is engaged in. Some of the people who became the support framework during the stay are – Tamaret, Jeremy, Joachim, Esthera, Bruke, Dr. Mikru, Dr. Hamid, Khatija, Hailu, Behailu, Dr. Wane, Dr. Medhat el Helaphi, Dr. Chiek, Malaku. Dr. Hamid had already left for Oman. In addition to this there are many other people who I have met in various institutes, university, Indian Cultural Association, Government of Ethiopia – Harar Region. Various people have helped in each step from getting a house to opening bank account. Also have met many Indian professors in Addis Ababa University working extensively on several domains pertaining to sustainable development.

Now I would move on from the micro aspect of people to a larger macro domain of the economy of the country -

The economy of Ethiopia relies on a large extent to coffee, sesame and soyabean exports. The transition from agriculture to industry has not yet taken place to that extent. Although many Chinese engineering farms have been coming into Ethiopia. But they have not yet started a full scale production of industrial goods. So the economy is still very much dependent on agricultural goods export although over the years the country has become a net food importing country. Service sector doesnot contribute to a large part of the economy. Many Chinese and Indian companies are working in this country and have employed people from this country as well as their own nation to contribute to service sector of this country.
So major part of the earning for the country is through its exports. Local beer production also contributes to growth of this country. Bioethanol production from sugarcane has started lately. Earning of any country dependent on agricultural products would depend on the climatic and geographical conditions of the country. So understanding of the economy could be done through learning the existing geographical conditions of the country. The only way to do that is through understanding the geography of the country. Thus to understand the geography of the country, I started travelling across various directions from Addis with the help of Bruke. Bruke took me around every Sunday in various directions from Addis Ababa . The next segment highlights the observations during those radial travels from Addis.

Radial travels included going towards south, east, north, north-west of Addis and each time the experience was very different. Even before highlighting the findings of radial travels outside Addis, I would like to detail out some of the findings that I had through roaming around in Addis. A summary statistics of the housing pattern by roaming around in Addis revealed that mostly 40% of the housing arrangements are slums, 30% belonged to houses which could be taken by middle class people, 20% for elite people and 10% for people living in condemoniums belonging to people in transition from middle class to the upper segments. This analysis can be misleading as it is only based on the assumption that the kind of housing in which the people live is an indicator of their class status which might not be true in certain cases. But still this distribution statistics is an indicator of the existing class structure within the city of Addis. People from various regions of Ethiopia also migrate to Addis and they are of very different nature. For many of them who are migrating from north west side to Addis Ababa it becomes very difficult owing to the roads. The roads in the north west are “Kaccha” and it takes almost 3 days for people to travel from north west of Ethiopia to Addis on bus, car to travel more than 200 kms. I got a hint of that while travelling with Bruke towards north west of Addis. We started from Addis but could proceed only for a few kms owing to the worse conditions of the road. But this was starkly different in east, north of Addis where the roads were good. Roads on the east have been built by firms from China whereas the one on the north were constructed by some European firms. I liked the road towards north, which was a zig zag one through some mountains and then the road glides down to a plain land with long stretches of green highlands all around the road reminding of Switzerland. The same green highlands and mountains could be seen while travelling to Sebeta mountains which had the source of the mineral water. Mineral water from these mountains are packed and sold as “Yes” mineral water in Addis. Bruke showed me the mineral water processing plant in Sebeta mountains also.

Richness in music, art and culture of this continent has been felt by me every time in these last few months. And they were felt in the amazing Jazz concerts, lively music related discussions with musicians, choreographers, colleagues. A brush painting through the canvas of art, music, culture traversed from the fusion music of West Africa with jazz, blues to rich folk music of Fulani, Sahelian tribes. Also it touched the sculpture art of Osamanu Saw of Senegal to many artists of Ethiopia. It also saw the music evolution of TEDDY AFRO, Makossa form of music, experimentations of Richard Bona, Baubacore Triore, Diabete, Baba Gal. Such richness was enhanced by the skills displayed in the live performances of musicians from Ethio Color, Nubic Arc, Habesha Beatz. Also to understand the future generation of the country, I visited the graduation ceremony in Addis where saw the positive energies of youth. Those ceremonies were marked by rich Salsa music in which I also participated. My friend, choreographer, music teacher Behailu had invited me in that ceremony to see and understand the pulse of the feelings of future generation. Energy from Salsa was spread all around that ceremony and actually it violated the law of conservation of energy. As it was not constant or conserved, rather it was constantly created and dissipated. So there was a continuous construction, deconstruction of energy. Sometimes the positive energy were getting dissipated and then it was giving birth to a new one. It is quite true that every positive energy when born inside has a negative source as its origin or creates its own termination for future streams of positive energies. One such form of dissipative source of energy vibration I got while taking an evening walk. It came from three young guys who were hardly 23 – 24 and seemed to be from a well off family. The next segment skims through that experience -

These three guys who were from a very well off family passed on a nasty comment being smitten by the cool consumerism and after getting drunk that state of mind increased which instigated them to pass on a comment on all people walking along the road which included me on that particular day. But after listening to their comments and chuckles for quite sometime had to get back to them and told them to say sorry for their behavior. I would not have done that if these people were not blessed with all the wealth, resources that many people donot have. But when I have met those people on roads who donot have so much, they are so sweet, sensitive and generate a compassionate feeling. What I realized was that “The Cool Consumerism” of the world in some ways is making sensitivity a dilapidated state of mind. If this hits the future generation of this continent then it cannot be good for human civilization. It is the sensitivity of the future generation, their compassion for people who are not blessed with the resources and benefits in this part of the world can bring wellfaristic change. So stood there and kept on persevering with the three guys requesting them to say atleast sorry for their behavior to the people of their own country. All the people around supported me and finally two of them said sorry. But this incident taught me that this growing trend of “Cool Consumerism” that has hit many countries including India has the virus of making the young generation cushioned, ignorant to the sensitivities and sufferings of their neighbourhood. And that could be a cause for larger internal strife which the world cannot afford at this instance. So there is a need to strike the right balance to have the exposure to the clean breeze of all cultures without loosing the sensitivity about country people and the positivities of traditionalities. The future to strike peace, cooperation in this world lies in getting a balance between the traditionalities, exposures to cross fertilization of cultures which is very essential. But at what degree it should happen to strike an optimality would be only expressed by the coming generation and time.

Monday, August 16, 2010

MEANING OF INDEPENDENCE: On the eve of 15th August, 2010

The idea to write this piece came last week when there was a “meaning of independence” contest within our institute to celebrate independence day of India. All colleagues were requested to send a short write up on “meaning of independence” to them on and “what would they do to promote that” within 100 words. The restriction on the number of words muddled up my thoughts which were not getting restricted in that word limit. Realised, how difficult it is to shorten and put forward thoughts in single sentences. After lot of struggle, what I penned down on mind is something like this -

“Independence achieved through sovereignty and democracy is the inculcating motivation to identify sensitivities of human beings across nations through the lense of humanity. As Indians we would try to celebrate this spirit by bridging relations across various nationalities the essence of which have emerged from sovereign, democratic nationalism spirit of our country.

So being an Indian I would identify and relate with sensitivities, emotional freedom of human beings through music, sports, art and culture. To maintain this value of independence, would sing Sufi songs with Mouluds *, Bauls**, Dervishes*** at the same time. This spirituality of getting emersed in the greater humanitarian citizenship emerges only from the legacy of India's rich democratic spirit.

Footnotes - *the Sufi musicians of Islamic belts of Ethiopia, **West Bengal in India, ***in Pakistan, North Africa, Middle East”

After completion of the write up and sending to our colleagues Sreeja Nair and Kunal Nagpal, realized even after series of attempts to restrict the write up it has still come down only to 108 words. Then thought why not to extend this a little bit more. But for that extension needed some content. Surprisingly, the content came after two days which was a Saturday.
Saturday evening I was invited on an African – Latino music, dance performance session in Addis Ababa in a place called “Alize” in Bole Road where different bands perform. It was a students graduation ceremony. The performance started with dancers putting forward group, solo acts of Salsa (a kind of Latin American dance that has the influence of Jazz), Merengue (a kind of ball room dance which is said to be typically of Caribbean origin where there is a frequent dragging of feet), Rumba (a kind of Cuban ball room dance with an emphasis on movements of hip), Cha Cha (a type of ball dance that goes with fast rythm), Zouk (a type of dance of disco steps with a Caribbean origin that goes with fast rhythm ).
It was a kind of treat to see all African people, some Indians, some Europeans performing these forms of dance being led by my choreographer friend – Bhailu. While observing all of them dancing, I realized that I was seeing a laterally inverted image of the thought that had sent for the Independence Day write up to Sreeja, Kunal the other day. What I thought in terms of singing with people of Sufi cult was reflected even in the dance form which was coming live in front of my eyes.
I realized, that how Africa after a big bang explosion of culture, art, rhythm, sound, music has given rise to all these dance forms that spread all across the world. So even though the dance forms as mentioned in this write up are being said to be belonging to different parts of the world, there is an African confluence that has happened in all of these forms. It is a different feeling to read about this and at the same time experience the cultural confluence and big bang explosion in front of the eyes. I became a part of that cultural confluence and explosion when one of the African friend requested me to dance with them.
Bhailu only knew that I can dance a little bit of basic “solo and couple” salsa steps. So joined them in the basic “solo 6 Matra” (if I put it analogically in terms of Hindustani Classical Rhythm Language) salsa form of dance. What I wanted to do by singing with Sufi musicians was partially being realized through being a part of our cultural big bang explosion. The culture, art, humanities were getting expanded through dance forms and large number of people joining us. The sense of independence was coming before 15th August as it was an evening of 14th August.
As an Indian, was feeling proud to be a part of this exercise as the sense of getting mixed with the practice of cultural confluences is something that lies in its fullest form in India’s sovereign democracy.
The entire session was a kind of a roller coaster ride for me travelling from the origin, birth of a culture to its terminal points where it has spread. But this journey did not end there.
The next day, Sunday which was 15th August (independence day of India) got an invitation from my friend Cheik (who is a leading agronomist by profession and has travelled extensively in Africa, Latin America) to attend a jazz concert where his percussionist friend was playing in one of the jazz bands. Cheik is a good soccer player and has represented the National Soccer Team of Mauratania and has an enriching collection of Colombian, Cuban Salsa and Jazz. Both Cheik and I attended the Jazz concert and all throughout the concert with different jazz rhythm, progression structures, Cheik was explaining which part of the performance has a largely Sahelian origin and West African influence. He also explained how in the Colombian jazz – salsa combined playing the trumpet and saxophone starts playing a dominant role which doesnot exist in case of Cuban one.
The journey which started with the writing of a “Independence Day” write up was ending through all forms of practical sessions on music, culture. Yes, this 15th August (2010), understood how free, independent culture, art is and how it will always stay independent and create confluence patterns in its own way as human civilization will progress.

Saturday, August 14, 2010


The recent debate on women reservation bill raises some behavioral anecdotal thoughts which are the subject matter of this piece. The first question to ask is – why there is a need for women reservation bill? Does women reservation really create welfare and gender equity across the various segments of the society.
Some skeptics might say if men and women are treated equally in a society, then there is no need to create a reservation. The concept of reservation could itself be a signal of discrimination amongst men and women in an idealistic, equal society. But given the way we as human beings behave it is not always driven by this idealistic situation. Men as human beings could possess ego, insecurities, chauvinism of various types that could create drive towards creating discrimination. And this can exist across castes, segments of the society including the elitist ones. Such underline emotions and behavioural traits could create a drive towards discrimination against women assuming that the state of society is not idealistic, considering the behavioural traits of a human society. If one tosses the coin upside down, then it is also true that ego, chauvinism, insecurities also exists amongst women. Then can it be the case that a reservation of women would lead to a shift of power, positional authorities to a woman who over the years in most of the transient societies of countries like India has faced discrimination. Will such reservation would really be wellfaristic or will it be a shift of power that might lead to perverse results. If one assumes that historically position, intellect, sensitivities of a woman has been neglected in our society then the bill could be a signal for infusing woman empowerment. But the fundamental question is does a reservation bill create an empowerment.

If one asks the question, what is the behavior that is expected after women gets empowered or what are the traits that a human being should develop after being empowered. If seen from that lense, one needs to see whether a reservation bill creates an equality in terms of facilities available for men, women. Does equal facility mean equally empowered? Empowerment is a much broader societal question. Equal opportunities and access might not mean empowerment. But if one analyses from a comparative point of view, the bill could reserve the right to access to basic facilities for women who might not be receiving them without a bill. But this could be only assured if the institutions that guides the operational aspect of the reservation bill works in an efficient way and creates opportunities for women who really deserve them and comes up in the social ladder from bottom. Behavioral aspects of institution, the nature of the human beings would actually determine who will bear the fruits of a woman reservation bill and whether that would actually empower women who are really in need of empowerment.
So if one summarises three questions – a) Why there is a need for woman empowerment?, b) How that empowerment is done through women reservation bill and c) What is the outcome of a reservation bill on empowerment, then clearly a behavioural dimension emerges. For instance the answer to the first question is to create an equal idealistic outcome for women in the society. But whether that will be done would depend on the behavior of institutions and agents who are human beings. So how the nitty gritties of a reservation bill is implemented by institutions and human beings in a society is a behavioural question and that would guide the outcome of the reservation bill on the degree and extent of woman reservation bill in India.
In this context, one can explore one of the options for better targeting and identification to enhance the efficiency of the implementation aspects of woman reservation bill in India. The option which is being discussed is the use of Unique Identification (UID) Card as an instrument for better targeting leading to efficiency in the implementation of the women reservation bill.


The women reservation bill aims to ensure that the down trodden segment of the women population gets an access to the important facilities of education, health and job opportunities. This could help in ensuring gender empowerment. But the fact is if the real needies of the woman populace in the country doesnot get an access to these facilities, the welfare aspect of the bill could be falsified.
So it is essential to identify the people who needs to be empowered. The question to answer is how that identification of the people could be done. One way to do that is to use the present UID system to target the BPL population and women belonging to that segment of the society. This would help in saving some resources as no new additional identification system would not have to be created. UID scheme could help in targeting the women and would help in proper targeting of the subsidies that could be allocated to reserve the places of women. This would reduce in some ways the distortion that could be created if the reservation process doesnot create a real space to the women populace who need it. An essential step to move in this direction could be to bring in some additional features of the income levels, societal backgrounds in the ID scheme. Public private partnerships could be thought of to bring in efficiency in the targeting and final identification of the people who need reservation for their women empowerment.

As a part of that mechanism, forms could be designed by the government and distributed by the local governance units of the government at the panchayat level. Identification of the targeted population could be done through data collection by private independent agencies employed by the government. Once data collection is done those data could be used by private agencies in preparing an UID with the respective traits of the women population.

The question is whether a separate ID system should be created for this or whether the existing UID project should be merged and be used for this identification of the targeted woman population who could reap the benefits of woman reservation bill. Once efficiency is brought at the grass root in the identification of the population and the distribution of the ID cards to the targeted population, much of the distortions could be cured.
Learning lessons could be drawn from the experiences of Estonia, Pakistan in designing ID cards. In Estonia public private partnerships are also being promoted in the launching of ID schemes and in their subsequent distribution to the beneficiaries who needs to be empowered. Mobile check vans for registration, auditing and monitoring can also be thought for bringing in supervision in the system of identification. This has been successfully implemented in countries like Estonia, Pakistan. The cost and benefit implications of this processes have to be seen in our country owing to the large state specific variations. The state governments have to play a key role in the implementation of these processes and have to continuously inform the central government. Decentralization in the implementation process with a centralized regulatory supervision is required for effective operationalisation of the ID schemes that can go a long way in rightful identification of the woman population who could reap the benefits of reservation bill.

Acknowledgement – The international country literature on UID referred in this piece has been provided by my friend and colleague - Ms. Shailly Kedia.

Millenium Hall and World Cup: a new world in the next millenium through hall and cup

Last Sunday, I went to the Millenium Hall in Addis Ababa to watch the world cup finals along with the people of this nation. The hall had a huge capacity and it was evident in the huge volume of crowd which had gathered. It was an ambie...nce of happy faces with lot of positive energies vibrating and flowing all around. Before the match started, there was a musical extravaganza which had the best of African rythm mixed with the flavour of rock music. The two hour music concert, in which everybody was dancing in the crowd showed how each human being was getting intersparsed and blended in a homogenous mixture of happiness that prevailed all around. To put in words of chemistry, the solutes (which were individual happiness of people) were getting blended and stirred through the passion of music finally leading to a formation of a homogenous mixture. Even, my happiness was a distinct solute in that mixture which was different from the unknown middle aged guy who was dancing beside me for almost 2 hours in his own way.But at the end of 2 hour concert we realised that we are not individual solutes any more.We all have become part of a homogenous mixture of happiness which had an enormous uniformity across the crowds. Boundaries between human beings were broken to create that uniformity. Vuvuzelas, music, dance,african rythm all had played a critical role in that transformation. Such a music extravaganza had a perfect termination when the telecast started in big screens within the hall. The glitter, sparkle in eyes of people all around can be easily felt when a film on ups and downs of the world cup was shown in the big screen. So a weeping brazilian fan on the screen became vivid in the tears of people around me. At the end of the film, when the promo and adertisement on Africa United was shown there was a huge uproar and rise of cheering voices. It seemed a high tide or tsunami has struck in the ocean. The shaking up for tsunami has happened and voices of people were increasing like a rising tide of tsunami. Lines and the script of "Africa United" promo was buzzing in my ears. And why it was buzzing - because Sunday I saw an united new world for next millenium through the hall (millenium) and cup (World).