Thursday, July 22, 2010

A case for data, rather than rhetoric

I am going to sink myself into a once in a bluemoon rant about brf. Berating brf here is neither productive nor constructive nor fun, but I have to take the liberty to rant this one time. So please indulge me, I promise to not indulge in this task for a looong time.

It is on the issue of data, statistics, facts, numbers, etc. The problem that typifies not only the pakistan thread, but also most other threads is a clear lack of data-points with which one can decipher trends and trade-offs for themselves rather than let experts spoon-feed these for them. A battle-cry for data comes when someone goes past the initial stage of rhetoric and wants to establish facts on a crystal-clear basis such that even a nay-sayer would find it hard to deny pithy maxims, whether they be on pakistan or India. That is the precise methodology with which one can win fencesitters to your side and put ostriches to shame. Data also helps one establish clear trends, the true turning points, the cataclysms, the strategic stalemates, the "Orange alerts" that produce a heightened sense of awareness without causing much damage on the ground, etc.

Specifically, questions on India bother me. How many "below the poverty line" people are there in India? Noone has been able to give a precise answer to this question -- with numbers varying from 30% to 90%, depending on who speaks and what axe that person has to grind. How many Muslims are there in India? Numbers go all the way from ~16% (official estimates) to 25% (if you ask the RSS folks). To top this, even the current census exercise is checkered with organizational issues such as lack of manpower, disturbed areas, lack of access to all the gullies and mohallas with only the phrase "unorganized chaos" coming close to capturing the mayhem in the madness. Similarly, how many Backward Castes people are there in India? Without knowing how many there are, we have a 50% cap on reservations. One glance at the "Know Your India" thread that started off as a repository of such information shows how a thread can and will get lost in the wilderness when rhetoric overwhelms data.

In the midst of all this accounting mess, if and when data-collection exercises get made, they are either hidden from the common man in the form of "Confidential" or "Top Secret" classifications even for the most useless trivia. Much of the data that is collected is hidden under the garb of OSA somuchso that even a simple access to mundane lists can get people into immense trouble. I can understand the political logic behind why easy access to data can be painful to certain vested interests, but why does brf have to be apathetic to scouring for data? Why focus on rhetoric instead? Needless to say, not all of the qualities of a subject can be expressed in the form of numbers and I am quite aware of this when it comes to citation indices and their liberal misuse in academe. But to stymie a call for data by using technicalities or diversions only muddies the waters rather than clarifies it, only grows the agyaan tree rather than prune it, only typifies the ostrich rather than the cheetah.


At July 23, 2010 at 4:24 AM , Anonymous Al() said...

Stan, Is there any truth to the allegation that the Taliban and Afghan had a meeting in the Maldives recently.

It appears Maldives hosted Robert Blake yesterday.

At July 23, 2010 at 4:26 AM , Anonymous al said...

Glad to see that the GoI is forging ahead with its Iran relationship.

At July 23, 2010 at 7:47 AM , Anonymous Al said...

Also, certainly agree with your point on collecting data, but collecting data of the type you mention takes a lot of effort, rhetoric is easy as the pakis remind us very often.

At July 23, 2010 at 10:39 AM , Anonymous Al said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At July 25, 2010 at 8:51 AM , Anonymous Al said...

Stan, please delete previous post if you can. I think this entire talks-with-pakistan charade last week was orchestrated by the GoI from the beginning, which is impressive.

At July 26, 2010 at 11:18 AM , Anonymous Al said...

Union Minister E. Ahamed is protesting against the labeling of PFI as a terrorist group!! WTF is going on in India? Who allowed this fellow who sympathizes with terrorist groups like PFI into the Union Ministry ?

"Union minister and IUML leader E Ahmed today said he was "ashamed" of Kerala Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan for indulging in "harmful propaganda" against the Muslim community.

"I don't know why the Chief Minister is sharing the view of people having nefarious designs against my community....I am ashamed of a Chief Minister who is indulging in harmful propaganda and campaign. I don't know his political agenda, but Muslims will reject it," he told reporters outside Parliament House."

At July 27, 2010 at 11:04 AM , Blogger Pax-Indica said...

Al, Robert Blake did visit maldives, see the IDSA take on him in today's post. India seems to have washed its hands or so it seems. I can understand why Mahinda Rajapakse is keen to mediate: much of SL's Tamil and Muslim woes comes with a strategic depth in Maldives. In fact, the Uma Maheswaran led-PLOTE wanted to capture power in maldives in 1988, which was thwarted by India's able intervention. The US' interest may be more than just al qaeda. China's entry into Marao and the nearby Diego Garcia, which is a part of the atoll chain that makes Maldive Islands could well be a big reason to mediate. The Taliban afghan peace meet was mediated in Maldives, Linky

At July 27, 2010 at 12:33 PM , Anonymous Al said...

Pax-indica, thanks. Checked that out.

Pakistan was reported to be training some terrorists and sending them to maldives, so India cannot really stay hands off with Maldives, and at the very least maintain a hidden presence there at this time. It is a lot easier to keep track of any jihadi activity in maldives that could be directed at India, rather than track the entire Indian coastline to detect their intrusion into India.

At July 27, 2010 at 1:36 PM , Blogger Pax-Indica said...

There was talk of the Md. Nasheed govt handing over a base to Indian navy. Promptly it died down when the Gayoom opposition put a spoke in the works for popularity stakes. Good thing is that both sides (Gayoom and Nasheed) are decent wrt India.


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