Category Archives: Analysis

Factual Thinking

Facts & Opinions.

Hopefully you know how to differentiate between them. No? Well this should help then.

It is a fact that my weight is closer to 100 kg than 70 kg. It is someone’s opinion that I am a fat slob! I will not say who, but they know 😀

There. Now you know the difference. But, I want you to go one step further. How do we use facts? In our thinking. In our conversations. In our decision making.

Typically, most of use only those facts that are suitable to our point of view. In effect, our point of view, may influence what facts that we look for, and make us discard the inconvenient ones. Rare are those humans, who are capable of looking at all facts, and then alter their point of view accordingly.

One reason for this not being a strong point amongst us in India is our schooling system. It encourages being “right” over being “different”. Compliance is the key. We encourage debates to choose a winner, not a solution.  We encourage the habit of looking at facts selectively.

So, what could be done differently?

There is not much emphasis given to teaching students on how to solve problems taking into account all the facts, as well as opinions, available. This approach has been codified by the famous Edward de Bono, through various approaches for thinking and acting (as in taking action), and these are available through books  that are easy to understand.

I think it is Amartya Sen who has written in one of his books that ancient India was known for a debating style that was more inclusive. While, he has not connected this to whether the debates were based on facts or ideas alone, or a combination of both, but I would not at all be surprised to find a reference that is similar to the approach outlined by de Bono. Perhaps such an approach (let me know if you know of it) might be more acceptable to the educators in India. The key is to choose the appropriate weightage for facts, and for opinions. Include both, but try not to allow one to dominate the other.

So much so for the process. The real benefit of including this aspect in the teaching methodology will be seen in a few years time. As I see it, the more number of youngsters we have in this country who are able to avoid the trap of choosing facts selectively in the process of solving problems, the better are the chances that they will make more meaningful contribution (definitely more than me! hopefully more than you?) to the nation. Learning to deal with opinions, especially one’s different from own’s, should be a part of the learning

In a recent interview, Fali Nariman, the experienced lawyer, credited Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the former PM, with the ability to take people along with him in the decision making process. If our polity could only learn from his legacy, and stop taking rigid stances, we could all benefit immensely.

So, what do you do when faced with inconvenient facts?

PS: I tried to get my sons to view all the facts about how their football club actually operates. Placed certain inconvenient facts about how the footballers they admire so much, could help subsidise the exorbitant ticket prices of the clubs they play for, by lowering their salaries, but choose not to. Not interested they said! 😉



The connected Indian farmer

What are the thoughts come to mind when you think of the Indian farmer?

  • someone who is unscientific and does not like change?
  • backward and unconnected?

Well, think again!

On Jun 17 2015, the Central Govt. took a decision to provide a bonus of Rs 200 per quintal of pulses.  The news item goes on to say:

in view of a large surplus of cereals in contrast to huge deficit of pulses, the Cabinet made an exception and decided to give a bonus of Rs 200/- per quintal for pulses over and above the recommendations of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP).

“This is expected to give a strong price signal to farmers to increase acreage and invest for increase in productivity of pulses,” the government said. The decision is based on recommendations of CACP for the price policy for kharif crops for the 2015-16.

On Jul 4 2015, there is another newspaper report that gives us this tidbit:

Pulses have been sown in 2.26 million hectares so far, more than double the 0.97 million hectares sown by this time last year.
The high acreage under pulses could be on account of farmers taking a signal from the soaring prices in the market.

Yet another article published on the same day, provided this input:

On asset ownership, the survey shows that over 68% of rural households own a mobile phone

You might have already made out the connection. Between the Govt. indicating the increased Minimum Support Price (MSP) on Jun 17, and the sowing coverage report on Jul 3, the farmers have already responded to the incentive on offer! Not sure that most media, barring All India Radio, would have given the news item of the MSP increase sufficient coverage. Mobile phone conversations to pass on the message are most likely the reason for this quick response in increased cultivation.

Three cheers for “The connected Indian farmer”!

These are still early days for Kharif sowing, and the monsoon has still a long way to go. We shall see the results later this year. Hopefully, it will be a good one for all of us.