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Just Shoot Me

Bala, 28, Gordon Gekko in the making, pseudo-intellectual, cynic, bibliophile, obsessive compulsive ranter...

Free Market Assholism

February 28, 2008

== People, This entire act was a satire, not a real act. So go read this post to get the full details.

(for people arriving here by googling "Anti-Charitable contributions act of 1877", the partial text is given after a couple of paragraphs)

I have been trying to finish reading Mike Davis' "Late Victorian Holocausts" for about a year and a half now. In this excellent(and heavy) book there is a mention of a law passed by the British colonial Government (by viceroy lord lytton) during the famine of 1877-78. The law was called "Anti-Charitable Contributions Act of 1877". The law was meant to punish people for donating to the poor and the needy during famines(!). I know, it sounds too stupid and outlandish. I wanted to see what such an act would exactly say and went googling for it. It is in a book called Famine campaign in southern India by William Digby (published 1878). The book is under copyright, so i had to pull the entire text of the Act from Google books - one snippet at a time by guess work and a thousand or so search phrase combinations. I have pulled most of the text out, but atleast a quarter remains unreachable (The book cannot be bought, but is available in New York public library). I already knew what comes out of letting communists legislate and now i know what comes out of free market fundies legislating.
First a little background:
a) By 1877 most of India is under British Rule. British regent for colonial India is Lord Lytton
b) Famine happens in Southern India (The erstwhile "Madras Presidency") and millions starve.
c) Causes of famine : ecological (el nino), technological (introduction of railways facilitates movement of grain outward from famine stricken areas), economical (introduction of trading grain commodity markets leads to hoarding, speculation drives prices up) and imperial (grain exports to Britain)
c) Lord Lytton being an blind acolyte of Adam Smith and Thomas Malthus, believes the proverbial "invisible hand" will eventually salvage the situation (i.e.. the starving people will die and stop being his problem)
d) Pesky bleeding hearts in London (Like Florence Nightingale) start making noises and organizing aid for the famine stricken in India
e) Lytton is annoyed. The damned bleeding hearts are interfering with the functioning of free markets. He enacts the said "Anti-charitable contributions act of 1877", to punish bleeding hearts
g) Situation gets out of hand and food riots happen even in places like Tanjore (Rice bowl of TamilNadu for at least a couple of millenia)
e) Lytton finally relents and sets up "work camps" where they feed the inmates a ration which ensures that they won't have enough strength to riot.(1627 calories per day for heavy labor)
f) Eventually 10 million die in a couple of years.


I am reproducing the partial text of the Anti-Charitable Contributions Act of 1877 here (Acknowledgements and gratitude to Willaim Digby). In this age, such a thing would belong only in the pages of The Onion. But a hundred and fifty years ago, this meant the death of 10 million people.

The Anti-Humanitarian Act of 1877
An Act to define and amend the Law relating to charitable contributions during Famine Periods. Whereas it is expedient to define and amend the law relating to charitable contributions during famine periods. It is hereby enacted as follows:-

Chapter I

1. This act be called 'The Anti-Charitable Contributions Act,1877:" (short title) .It extends to the whole of the Madras Presidency. (commencement) And it has already been put into execution.viz, from August 6, 1877. (local extent)

2. On and from that day the Laws specified in the scheduled hereto annexed were repealed. But all powers conferred under either of such instructions be deemed to have be deemed to have been conferred under this Act. And all references to either of such Laws shall be deemed to be made to this Act.
These Laws are as follows :
(a) The Bible in use among Christians particularly those portions relating to giving of alms.
(b) The Koran
(c) The Hindoo Sastras and all traditions which counsel the support of life by charity.
(d) The Buddhist Banas.
(enactment repealed)

3. A contribution is a sum of money, or any quantity of food, or piece of clothing given to persons in deep and piece of clothing given to persons in deep and dire necessity.

(non necessity for aid)
4. It has at length been recognised by the Supreme Government that distress exists in the Madras Presidency in the Madras Presidency, and seeing that Famines occur with frequent regularity and must be fought on system, the government is prepared to deal with all distress that arises. It has been stated that half a million people have already died of famine, but the supreme Government has not seen each of these corpses. It is therefore enacted that it will henceforth be penal for any person to allude to this so-called ' fact,' the penalty in case of non-compliance with this order will be the same as dacoity and other crimes of violence (see acts relating to Dacoities)

Chapter IV

A, a lady living in ...(unclear) Madras, was discovered feeding a number of little children every morning with milk and brown bread. A is punishable with a fine of 500 Rs. on the first occasion and imprisonment at the discretion of the magistrate, on all subsequent occasions, when the heinous charge is proved

B. another lady living in Rayda, Madras has established a number A, third lady [it is anticipated that the ladies will be the grossest offenders], visits a relief camp, and gives 2-anna pieces to the poorest and most emaciated of children. She also clothes some. On her first visit she finds she has not a sufficient number of 2-anna pieces and sends several rupees worth by a friend D. This is a very gross transgression. A should be transported to the Andamans - not so much for the original offense, but for inducing D to break the law. D should be imprisoned for six months and recieve fifty lashes.

C (in the employment of the Government) is reported to have given Liebig's Extract to a starving man, and recovered him. This, C did, knowing that there was a relief camp a mile and a half beyond his dwelling. C may plead that it was a wet night when he did this and the starving man was exhausted but this aggravates the offense, as when camps are provided, nobody ought to be outside them, C will of course be imprisoned for twelve months will be degraded, and his past service not be allowed to count for pension.

All cases that may be brought up are to be dealt with in the spirit of these illustrations.

(See Section 2.) This is unnecessary, as the as the laws, human and divine, which are to be abrogated have been already set forth in detail

A. forms of plaints &C

There are to be no forms of plaints. The evidence of the informer that A or B to the end of the alphabet, has been guilty of the crime of aiding or abetting in any way charitable relief, shall be sufficient to secure a conviction. No defence is to be allowed to prisoners, are to be considered non compos mentis, which they clearly are, if they give of their substance and expend their sympathy upon the starving the dying, when Government has taken the task in hand.


The object of this Act is to amend and codify the law governing the giving of charitable allowances on the part of the general public during a time of famine and indeed at all other times. The want... (unclear after this point)



posted by Bala, 11:13 PM | link | 0 comments |

BSNL blocks CNN?

February 26, 2008

For a couple of days, i have not been able to access CNN.com using my BSNL Dataone connection. I am not able to access CNN.com and its sub portals like CNN money using both Firefox 2.0.* and IE 6.*. I tried pinging, CNN. com and got request timed out. I googled for any one else reporting such a case and i found a deleted question in yahoo answers reporting the same. One other thing i can confirm is that i was able to access the site last week.

Is this a case of censorship or tech glitch?. Anyone else having this problem?

(My ISP for the office internet connection is Airtel and there i am able to access CNN.com without any problem)


posted by Bala, 7:24 PM | link | 2 comments |

War to the knife

February 23, 2008

The only way any indigenous resistance movement could have won against the East India Company / British crown was by waging a "War to the knife". A War to the knife refers to a fight to the finish,mortal combat, final solution etc etc. They should have gone for the throat and made the cost of colonizing impossibly high for the Englishmen - both in blood and in gold. There was a lame attempt in 1857 to do something similar, but despite having the necessary religious fervour, it failed because the company could draw upon reserves the rebels could only dream of.

60 years before the sepoy mutiny, a local strategic genius tried to wage a similar war against the company. Chinna Marudhu was a guy who understood what it took to get rid of the red coats - ethnic cleansing. Nothing sort of total war could succeed against the company. In a pamphlet that appeared in Tiruchy and Srirangam in June 1801 (it came to be known as the Trichy proclamation) he lays out how to get rid of the company

...It is therefore recommended, that every person in his place and pollam fly to arms and unite together, in order to make even the name of the low wretches to cease.....wherever they find any of the low wretches, destroy them... But should there be any who like dogs enjoy their ease and obey the commands of the low wretches, such should be cut of to the foetus in the womb...

The entire text of the Jambu Dweepa proclamation, was mentioned in the revenue dispatches of the company. The original text has been lost, but the translation that appeared in the dispatches can be found in a book by a certain J. Gourlay. It is available in google books here. The text of the proclamation appears in the 18th page. A recent tamil translation is here

Read through the text and you will find the scope of the war Marudu hoped to wage. (and the colourful language he uses to harangue his audience).


posted by Bala, 1:29 AM | link | 0 comments |

The Appeal

February 19, 2008

John Grisham's latest novel, the appeal is moderately enjoyable. Something readable from him after a long time.


posted by Bala, 10:01 PM | link | 0 comments |

Valentine's day special

February 18, 2008

Something unique happened to me on this Valentine's day. While walking past Rajaji Park on the evening of the 14th, i slipped on a vazhaipazha thol some samooga virodhi had thrown on the pavement. Ended up with torn pants and a skinned knee. How often does one hear a genuine slipped-on-a-banana-peel incident outside of a Tom and Jerry cartoon?


posted by Bala, 7:36 PM | link | 2 comments |

Being Nandivarman

February 15, 2008

In the previous post i had written about the last verse of nandhi kalambagam that killed Pallava king Nandivarman III. So how does a verse end up killing a king?. Let us be skeptical about the mystic aspects of word power. Granted that words can kill (or atleast get you badly beaten up during rush hour traffic in suburban Madurai), but we shall discredit the whole power-of-the-written-word-that-has-potential / siddha mysticism etc etc. We shall speculate at a plausible scenario how Nandivarman got himself killed.

The bare facts we know are: Nandivarman died in 869 AD and his love for the Tamil literature had something to do with his death. (Somesar Mudhumozhi veNba makes it clear that nandhi kalambagam killed him). So, how do you kill a king?. He is know ordinary king - he is the last great monarch of a dynasty that has held sway in a violent region for more than 300 years. He is the heir to the badasses who went toe to toe with Pulikesin II (who himself was a heavyweight) and burnt Vatapi (Badami) to the ground. Nandivarman's reign was a tough time all around. The Pandyas were resurgent in the South, Rashtrakutas were gaining power in the North and more new kids were arriving on the block every decade. With shifting alliances and shaky allegiances, he has kept the dying Pallava empire together with an iron fist. And amidst all this he has found time to play art connoisseur. So how does such a man, who obviously was a worthy successor to the above mentioned badasses-who-burnt-vatapi get himself killed over a poem?

My guess is his enemies slipped in a assassin past his security by disguising him as a poet. The mashkirovka involved had to be good, for nandivarman was the connoisseur - he would have sniffed a phony poet before kadaVul vazhthu(prayer to the lord and by tradition the first verse in any work of literature) was over and the assassin would find himself been sitting on a kazhumaram and cursing the day he took on such a stupid contract(Kazhumaram is a sharp long iron stick, where enemies of the state and other such "enemy combatants" were impaled through their buttocks). So they (the coup plotters) went through the trouble to invent a whole new type of siRRillakkiyam to pique the lit lover's interest. They made sure word of the new kalambagam reached nandhivarman and voila, they had a gate pass to the palace. And the assassin, (who i bet was as good as Jet Li was in The Hero ) trotted up to the palace, waived his security clearance in the faces of the praetorian guard and accomplished the tough task of regicide.


posted by Bala, 7:24 PM | link | 2 comments |

Assassination by verse

February 14, 2008

"வானுறு மதியை அடைந்ததுன் வதனம்
மறிகடல் புகுந்ததுன் கீர்த்தி
கானுறு புலியை அடைந்ததுன் வீரம்
கற்பகம் அடைந்ததுன் கரங்கள்
தேனுறு மலராள் அரியிடம் புகுந்தாள்
செந்தழல் அடைந்ததுன் தேகம்
நானும் என் கலியும் எவ்விடம் புகுவோம்
நந்தியே நந்தயா பரனே!"

This is the verse that killed Pallava monarch Nandhivarman III in 869 AD. This is the last verse of nandi kalambagam sung by one of Nandhivarman's many rival claimants for the throne. The verse basically "unmakes" nandhivarman's existence and dropped him dead.


posted by Bala, 6:23 PM | link | 0 comments |

Holy Crap!

February 13, 2008

The king of B movies Uwe Boll has made it to Madurai. A tamil dubbed version of In the name of the king is playing here now. Hail Boll!
posted by Bala, 7:54 PM | link | 0 comments |

Making money when the mortages burn

February 06, 2008

So somebody is making money in the sub prime mess (that is without shorting anything)
posted by Bala, 11:18 AM | link | 0 comments |

RIP sir Ulrich

February 03, 2008

The guy who played one of my favourite characters is dead. Rest in Peace, Sir Ulrich Von Lichtenstein


posted by Bala, 8:50 PM | link | 0 comments |