Monday, February 28, 2011

Guardian, ask the question

A recent story on the Guardian RSS feed titled „Indian women lead fight for prohibition in villages “ ( presented an all-positive picture of local democracy in action, in rural (or, not very urban, at any rate) India.

The article describes how a community leader (of a village called Changal, which last year became one of the first in the state to successfully use a 1994 law to expel alcohol vendors) was advised to refrain from supporting local alcohol prohibition, as it might lead to young people switching to medicinal drugs and the village losing its development grant (presumably as a punitive measure, given the cash-strapped position of the grant-granting authorities).

> Neither has occurred, he (Changal's sarpanch, Paranjeet Singh) said

>, and instead there has been a 40% drop in violence.

A 40% drop in violence sounds like a good thing. In many contexts, it can be a very compelling argument to support a given cause. Especially to those of us who have lived in urban locations with high incidents of drunken louts (term extended to include fourteen-year-old girls) attacking the citizenry, out of bravado or a desire for petty cash swiftly appropriated.

However, a journalist may not let a statement like that get away unchallenged. A 40% drop? Measured by whom? Over which period? Was there a control group, which ensured that some, all or most of the drop may be attributed to the anti-alcohol legislation? For how long did the drop last?

A country where journalists are required to weekly read basic norms of debate has 85% better agricultural output.

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