A kind appeal for help


Few months back one of my friends met with an accident. He was enjoying a happy life till then (working with a good Hotel). After the accident he was bedridden for a couple of months, lost his job and then eventually he passed away last weekend.

But the real tragedy starts now. He was married against the wishes of both his parents as well as her parents and for that sole reason no one from his side, including his own mother/brother/sister came to see him in his last days or  even the dead body. From the girl’s side, the less said the better. Her parents are happy to see her suffer for going against their wishes. With few neighbors and friends they somehow managed to finish the burial.

The family — his wife and one year old little kid has absolutely no source of income. In fact they were so burdened by the medical expenses that they couldn’t even pay the rent for the last few months. They didn’t even have any groceries in the house. Since I was not in the city (Hyderabad), I asked some of my friends to go there and give some immediate help, which they kindly did. I have also started collecting money from my friends but I don’t know how much I can collect and hence I thought I will use all possible means to approach everyone I know.

Some of my friends have suggested that she may need professional counseling help as she is facing this crisis all alone. We are considering this also. But our priority is to ensure that she has enough financial resources with her for the next few months and we are sure that she will eventually recover and find a job. Luckily she has some prior experience as a teacher in a private school and with some references she may find a job.

If anyone is interesting in supporting this family in any way, please get in touch with me.

Thank you very much.

You can contribute here : https://milaap.org/campaigns/support-a-family


Small Relatively Absolute Data Analysis.

I have come across a very interested article on Newslaundry titled – “Think India has become more communal under Modi? The numbers will disappoint you.” Given that the blog has been written by an esteemed socio-politico-economic-data analysist and a renowned unbiased journalist, I cannot criticize it. Anyway, how can I criticize any article now, given that I didn’t create a blog and do the same in 1984? I have seen people take big “U-turns” about the political opinions but is it possible to take such “U-turns” with data. I don’t know.

So I just want to understand and learn some of the concepts. Only that much.

If there is one thing that we can trust the State on, it is their passion to duly register an FIR on every communal incident, where the state itself is either complicit or worse the aggressor.  Of course, given that the State we are talking about is UP, there should be no doubts about anyone’s sincerity and we can completely trust the data (registering the FIR and NCRB compilation). Hence, the first few paras of this article are very clear to me.

The problem starts from here.  I have never seen such a discrete information like States joined by “lines” (which normally represent continuity between data points). What does the line joining Chandigarh and Goa indicate? Of course, it is just a technical point, but I want to make sure that I am not missing any grand theory here.



image source : newslaundry.com

Thus it was asserted that communal violence increased by nearly 25% in the first five months of 2015 under the Modi government as against the first five months of 2014 during the last days of the UPA. The actual raw numbers are 287 incidents in January-May 2015 as against 232 incidents in the corresponding period 2014.

Leaving aside the fact there’s a relatively small absolute difference between the two numbers and there’s no way to know if the difference is statistically significant

This paragraph is amazing. What exactly is “relatively small absolute difference”? I also want to learn how to calculate such relatively small absolute differences.

There seems to a big dilemma about whether the numbers are “statistically significant”.  The statistics that I had learned (and still learning) seems to suggest that the data is “statistically very significant”. Statistical significance comes into the picture if we are analyzing a small sample and if we want to check if the relationship exhibited by the sample is just because of some sampling or other issues. Why should we bother about “statistical significance” when the data here refers to that of the entire population?

I know that because of 1984 and all that………. But one last question.

To take an extreme case, suppose we compare March 15 across any two years and find that there was one incident last year and two incidents this year on that date. Would we then be entitled to assert a 100% increase in communal violence on that day? Of course, not. 

If there was ONE communal incident last year and if there are TWO communal incidents this year, I would think that there is a 100% increase and I thought that is simple mathematics.  “Of course, not.” I must be very wrong. Like Alzebra there must be some Cow-zebra that will explain why it is “ofcourse not” 100%. Any tutorial on that will be very helpful.






Opinion Polls: Scientific Basis or Surrogate Campaigning?

What is the mathematical reasoning behind opinion polls in India? Which branch of statistics can give us insights into how vote shares can be converted into seats? For a complex multi-stage sampling process, how are poll agencies coming up with a precise “3% margin of error” estimate?

No one gives us answers to these questions—– because there are no legitimate answers. Psephologists, pollsters, data scientists etc have become the election-babas of India.

Is it surprising then that the opinion polls are manipulated?

According this tweet by Rajdeep Sardesai of CNN-IBN, the same agency did a national poll for different media outlets within a fortnight with different figures.

According to an article by Rukmini Shrinivasan  in Times of India the manipulation of opinion polls(perhaps with good intentions) was never a secret:

No agency wants to admit it but the statistical models that take them from voting preferences to seats include some element of subjectivity. In his early years, CVoter’s Deshmukh candidly admits that he applied his journalistic instincts to the numbers before arriving at a final seats tally. The agency now uses a proprietary algorithm, which he is still continuously fine-tuning , but there remains an element of something intangible. “I won’t call it a qualitative element, but insight gained from the quantitative data over time,” Deshmukh says. “The final figures can be decided by application of some political wisdom, but political wisdom should not dominate over findings collected from voters’ data,” Kumar says. (emphasis mine)

The only way to estimate voter preferences is by collecting a random and representative sample. If that is the case then why would anyone spoil the randomness of data by using their “political wisdom”? Adjusting the sample to demographics is one thing but to blatantly contaminate and manipulate the data under the garb of “political wisdom” or “journalistic instincts” works only in India.

It is not an easy exercise to arrive at seat estimates in a multi-party and representative democratic set up like India and some degree of manipulation is perhaps inevitable.  However, the News Express expose revelation that this manipulation can happen at the behest of some vested interests is very worrying.

Some analysts and journalists are quick to suggest that there should be more transparency in the methodology and the process should be monitored by an independent regulator (like Lokpal??).

No matter how transparent the methodology is, once an agency decides to manipulate the results of an opinion poll they can manipulate the survey data itself and I am not sure how any regulator can prevent this.  The only possible “regulator” for opinion polls is the credibility. If the seat projections of the opinion polls differ from the final results by a significant margin, these agencies should be out of business. However, if you look at the recent Delhi exit polls, C-Voter (Cong-20 and AAP-15), AC Neilsen (Cong-16 and AAP-15), ORG (Cong-20 and AAP-6) are nowhere near the actual results and none of these agencies even bothered to explain the discrepancy. The news channels continue to engage them and there is no incentive to be accurate.

The problem with the manipulation of opinion polls is that it directly interferes with the process of free and fair elections in two ways:

  1. There is something called “bandwagon effect” —- the probability of any individual adopting it[a particular choice] increases with the proportion who have already done so. Yogendra Yadav, based on the surveys of CSDS confirmed that Indian voters tend to back the winning horse. By manipulating the poll results (without any scientific basis) the agencies are creating a false bandwagon effect, thereby giving an edge to a political party.
  2. Election campaigning is regulated by EC with a model code of conduct which gives a level playing field to all the political parties. However, in many states, especially in South India, it is not uncommon for political parties to own news channels and these news channels are becoming centers of surrogate campaigning by repeatedly telecasting the favorable opinion polls.

Both of these are serious issues and while a complete ban on the opinion polls is not a solution, we should be open to the idea of a short blackout period just before the elections.

Also read : My previous post on why opinion polls should not be taken seriously.

Rule by Ordinance

Article 123 of the constitution enables the President to promulgate an ordinance when both of the houses are not in session and it is practically not possible to pass a law. From the text of the article —  “circumstances exist which render it necessary for him to take immediate action” —  it is very clear that the ordinance route should be used only when both the houses are not in session and the costs of delaying a particular legislation are extremely high. The ordinance process is inherently undemocratic and the constituent assembly felt the same. To quote Prof. K. T. Shah:

Most of us, I am sure, view with a certain degree of dislike or distrust the ordinance-making power vested in the Chief Executive. However we may clothe it, however it may necessary, however much it may be justified, it is a negation of the rule of law. That is to say, it is not legislation passed by the normal Legislature, and yet would have the force of law which is undesirable. Even if it may be unavoidable, and more than that, even if it may be justifiable in the hour of the emergency, the very fact that it is an extraordinary or emergency power, that it is a decree or order of the Executive passed without deliberation by the Legislature, should make it clear that it cannot be allowed, and it must not be allowed, to last a minute longer than such extraordinary circumstances would require.

To use such executive veto to give legislative effect to the so called important “anti-graft” bills shows the extent to which this government is prepared to undermine the institutions even in the last few days of its tenure.  If these bills are so important then why they were not passed in the parliament a week ago? And if ordinance route is becoming a norm, then what is the point in having a Parliament?