Over the last two days, I have been meeting people from other countries, many of whom have only heard of India over television, but never visited. Some others have distant memories of this country and find that the country that is, is no longer the country they remember. India has changed; irrevocably, and in ways that were completely unimaginable 10 years ago.

Personally, I find that I have ambiguous feelings towards the whole issue. A part of me presents the new India with a pride, a pride in having come this far, a pride in having the capacity to match some of the best in the world. Another part feels ashamed of the traffic, the indiscipline and the sheer chaos that characterizes much of India. Yet another part yearns for some unknown, lost innocence that seemed a part of my childhood, that I don’t find any longer in the children of today.

I am trying to put these conflicting feelings in words as I experience this inner struggle between pride, shame, embarrassment and nostalgia. On the positive side, I feel truly proud that people who came into India 20 years ago, find it unrecognizable today. Better roads, better cars, greater material comforts and impressive buildings, all speaking success stories that would have been unthinkable 20 years ago. I feel happy that there is nothing that is not available in India. I feel proud of what we have managed to achieve since the pre-liberalization era of the 1980s.

I also feel embarrassed that despite our obvious economic progress, we remain indisciplined. We have no idea how to use our roads, how to respect the traffic lights or how to follow traffic rules. I feel ashamed that while we publicly applaud Anna Hazare’s efforts at eliminating corruption in the public sphere, we do not think twice about offering a cop a hundred-rupee bribe to let us go for jumping the red. I also feel ashamed that our sex ratio is a pathetic 914:1000, while we continue to wax eloquent about the Indian tradition of worshipping the Mother Goddess.

I sometimes wonder if my western education and the short time spent in France have made me an incorrigible cynic. But, I would be happier seeing my country develop not just in economic terms but also in human terms. I would like to see some concrete action against the most damaging social ills like corruption and bureaucratic inefficiency. I would like to see social development getting as much focus as economic success, at the risk of sounding like a card-carrying member of the Communist Party! I also hope to see the freedom of speech and expression being defended as passionately as it is today, even if that freedom is inconvenient to me. I hope to see more people believe that the most important thing about a democracy is the freedom to debate, discuss and disagree on the most critical issues facing our nation today.

And I hope my hopes and dreams materialize in my lifetime. I hope that one day I will leave India, and also hope that one day my India will make me regret my decision to leave it. I hope to see my country win that many more World Cups, but also hope that cricket doesn’t become the only binding force in this country of 1.23 billion. Only time will tell if my hopes and dreams will be realized.And I hope that day comes soon enough!

Higher education and Budget 2009

In the Finance Bill 2009, nearly 9 billion INR (approx. $189 million) has been allocated to spending on higher education. This is a 36% hike on spending for higher education over the previous financial year. Let’s first look at the actual provisions of the budget. All information below has been taken from the official budget site (PDF link) of the Government of India.

  1. Student loans for the economically weaker sections of society: Full interest subsidy for the moratorium period for loans taken from scheduled banks to study any approved course in any recognized institution in India. This basically translates as an exemption from payment of interest for any loan taken, until one year (usually) after the end of studies. In other words, if I take a loan for pursuing an MBA degree, I don’t pay it back until I get a job, or for one year after the end of my studies (whichever is earlier.)
  2. INR 900 crores (INR 9 billion) for education and INR 495 crores (4.9 billion) to set up and upgrade polytechnics.
  3. About 9 billion to set-up Central Universities in states that don’t have any.
  4. About 20 billion for IITs and NITs of which 4.5 billion is for setting up of new IITs and NITs.

That’s the only information we have about proposed budgetary spending for education in India. This table (PDF link) details the total expenditure by department/ministry. Here is the summary of the department relevant to this post.

As you can see, total expenditure on school education and literacy is around 20,000 crores (200 billion), in 2007-08. It increased to about 260 billion in 2008-09. Total planned expenditure for 2009-10 is around 290 billion. In comparison, spending on higher education has gone up from 62 billion in 2007-08 to around 159 billion in 2009-10. In other words, there has been a 130% increase in total spending on higher education over the last 3 years, compared to a mere 40% for school education and literacy.

Now, there seems to be a basic problem in this spending pattern. Although, in absolute terms, spending on primary education exceeds spending on higher education, it still works out to very less. Consider this, in 2001, roughly 35 percent of India’s billion-strong population was less than 15 years of age. (Source) This is the section of the population that is concerned with primary education. The total number of persons concerned is thus about 350 million. A total expenditure of about 30 billion for 350 million persons is about 85 rupees per person. This amount is negligible by almost all standards. Considering the abnormally high drop-out rates in India, the challenge of achieving total literacy is even higher.

Now, it’s not as if spending on higher education must be cut. However, it is important to remember that primary education is the stepping stone to progress. Unless children go to school and get educated, spending on higher education will be meaningless. Also, subsidizing higher education makes no sense to me. Giving fee concessions for students in universities does not solve the problem. This is especially true with the IITs and NITs. Making credit freely available and encouraging banks to check only the capacity of the student to get a job and pay the money back will go a long way in getting students from underprivileged families into college. It is not important to give free education. It is more important to impart quality education, especially in the tertiary education sector.

Facilitating access to centres of excellence in higher education, especially for economically backward sections of society can be done simply by removing the financial hurdles that exist today. The IITs are a case in point. It is extremely difficult to gain access to any of the IITs. The creation of new IITs and NITs will only solve this problem to a certain extent. It is more important to ensure that the existing IITs and NITs do not lose their relevance and quality in the endeavour to create new ones. In other words, an increase in the number of such institutions must not compromise quality. To ensure this, spending on upgradation and maintenance of infrastructure is essential. What is neither required nor advisable is subsidising the tuition fee, or lowering the entry barrier by relaxing the norms for reserved categories.

Much can be done for higher education within the existing framework. Primary education, on the other hand, requires a complete overhaul. The National Literacy Missions don’t seem to be working too well. The school dropout rates are still alarmingly high, and show no signs of dropping. Female literacy is abysmal, especially in rural areas and in the BIMARU states. Correcting these anomalies require, not just money, but also political will. Sadly, for our government, it seems to be taking a back seat. Catering to the IT and ITeS sectors seem to take priority, with the government going out of its way to provide engineering education and training at the cost of basic literacy programmes.

The need of the hour is to address basic concerns regarding primary education. Ensuring that primary schools exist and function in rural areas (at least one in every village) is essential. Even the one-room schools that do exist suffer from lack of amenities and even teachers. Providing of drinking water, sanitation and a comfortable learning environment will also greatly help. Of these, sanitation is especially important if we want to keep girls in schools at least until they are 14. Many girls drop out of schools due to the complete absence of toilets in the schools. The noon-meal scheme that worked so well in some Indian states needs to be properly implemented, ensuring that the children get a nutritious and well-cooked meal, at least once a day. These measures are already in place. It just requires budgetary allocation, and more importantly, political will to function properly. Whether it will actually happen is the million-dollar question.

A bad night…and a worse day ahead

I was planning to move to WordPress today. But, there seems to be a problem with the move. I still haven’t figured out how to move without damaging the blog. But, all these troubles suddenly seem trivial. I sat glued to television for almost 2 hours this morning. I couldn’t react. I was shocked beyond measure. A bomb blast is one thing. It has happened before, and will continue to happen for many years to come. But, the audacity with which terrorists stormed the Taj and Trident, is too horrifying to analyse. It has taken me nearly six hours to come to terms with the tragedy, and gather my thoughts to actually write about it. I am still not being very coherent. I am sitting in far-off Chennai, but you never know. I could be next on their radar. Or the people I love and cherish. Suddenly, the world seems a lot more unsafe than it was yesterday.

But, taking a step back from the human tragedy that is playing out all around us, we must ask the all-important question, "Is the Indian State soft on terror?" I am not an expert. I have no idea what kind of intelligence the government had. But, I do wonder how 20 terrorists managed to sneak into Mumbai, armed with AK-47 assault rifles and grenades, by sea, without being detected. Are our coastlines that porous? I understand that the coast can never be hermetically sealed. Fishing trawlers, merchant vehicles and catamarans will continue to ply, and for entirely innocent purposes. But, the terrorists used rubberised boats to get into Mumbai. It’s too scary to contemplate what this means to other, not-so-safe locations along the coast.

Amidst all this drama, the Prime Minister has not uttered a single word. We hear he has called for an emergency meeting. Good. But, is it not his responsibility, as the Head of the Government to reassure his people that his government will act? I don’t know about protocol, but the PMO claims it will be inappropriate for the PM to address the nation while military operations are still on. I just do not get it. Why? Why is it not appropriate for the elected representative of the nation to talk to those who elected him? We are not asking him for information on the operations. We are simply asking for a reassurance that the state will not hesitate to act. Is it too much to ask?

I have refrained from criticising the government so far. I have tried my best, despite my dislike for the Gandhi family, to give the government the benefit of doubt. But now, I am not so sure. They are keeping a convicted terrorist alive and politicking. Politicians are busy playing the blame game. They are delaying Afzal Guru’s execution for fear of hurting minority sentiments. Do we really think our country’s Muslims are pro-Guru? I seriously doubt it. What are they waiting for? For another attack on Parliament? Or one on 10, Janpath maybe? It is time for the government to act. Before it is too late.

Globalisation and higher education

I attended a CSA conference on Globalisation and its Impact on higher education this morning. I came away feeling that the speakers were tilting a little too much towards the left for my taste. I also found that one particular speaker was stuck somewhere in the 19th century for his attitude towards globalisation in the education sector. The speaker in question, Dr. Loganathan, is from the Department of Economics at Sir Thyagaraya College in Chennai. So far so good. The problem starts when he opened his mouth to talk economics. Let me explain. He has a problem with the private sector in education. He also has a problem with foreign participation in education. That is fine, as long as you can substantiate the belief, especially in a panel discussion, with decent arguments. That is where the core problem lies. I wanted to rebut him point by point right there, but not wanting to hijack the discussion, I am limiting myself to this blog. His arguments are given in bold. They are summarised from my notes and are not quoted verbatim. My rebuttals in normal font. So, here we go!

Private participation in education has resulted in too many private engineering and arts and science colleges. Since these colleges charge very high fees, the weaker sections of the population are denied access to education.

Right! I agree. But, these private colleges exist to supplement supply of education on the government’s side, and not to replace it.These "weaker sections" have access to public institutions (colleges, universities, schools etc.), which provide highly subsidised, even free education. Now, what about those who are economically backward but cannot access public institutions because of our reservation policy? I admit, that is a problem. But, one that is completely irrelevant to the discussion on globalisation and its impact on education in India. Another theme for another day.

Private institutions will deny the right of the teachers to form unions, and therefore, the right to go on a strike if they so wish. With education being completely public, there is no such danger.

Of course, there is no danger of anyone ever making teachers accountable. Because, every time someone asks questions, they will go on strike, colleges will shut down indefinitely and students will be affected. Let’s get one thing straight here. Going on a strike in not a right. It is a criminal waste of time, and the taxpayers’ money. Will our communists ever get this right? Kerala is stagnating because of this.

With the entry of the private sector, education is increasingly commercialised. This results in the degradation of Indian culture and the disappearance of the Guru-shishya Parampara.

Eh? Of fine. If you insist. But frankly, I don’t see the point at all. I dismissed this one as the rants of an old man.

The entry of the private sector creates competition. This results in private institutions offering sub-standard education.

I beg to differ. Competition inspires improvement in quality. Also, all public institutions are not great. Our very own Madras University is a case in point. It is not equipped with the most basic facilities such as a photocopy machine or a fax. It possesses hardly any computers for a university of that size, and a wi-fi zone is perhaps too much to hope for. In brief, lack of quality is a generic problem in education in India. At least in the public sector, they can procure these things from a part of the profits they make (we hope).

IIT graduates quit the country to serve a foreign state. This is a waste of the taxpayers’ money. In effect, we are subsidising education for those studying abroad.

Hmm. What to say to such a dumb argument? Don’t give things away free. Follow the IIM route. Make credit available for students who get admission into premier institutions. That way, you provide access and don’t waste taxpayers’ money. What say?

Foreign universities want to accredit and evaluate Indian universities. This is a loss in national pride and dignity.

It is not. We really need a global yardstick for measuring quality of education. If that must be done by foreign universities, so be it. Why are we unnecessarily making this an issue of national pride? We could insist on the same in other countries. If our universities are willing to go abroad that is.

On the whole, it was impossible to digest the fact that a senior professor from one of Chennai’s oldest colleges was talking as if he belonged to the 19th century. We need this mindset to change. Maybe it will be difficult to change the mindset of that generation. It is after all, the generation that has seen the worst of economic crises in their youth. But, let’s hope that at least the younger generations will see globalisation and liberalisation of trade, not as a threat but as an opportunity. Let’s hope.

On violence and CEO deaths

The lynching of the CEO of an Italian auto parts manufacturer is bad enough. What’s worse is the Labour Minister Oscar Fernandes’ justification of the violence proportioning the blame on the management that "pushed the employees to the limit." I am no longer shocked at the politician’s lack of tact, and complete callousness. My few years of observing Indian politics has taught me that we cannot expect any better from them. But, what got my goat were a few comments on Nita’s post on the same issue. Especially a comment by Odzer where he pretty much justified the killing because he was a big shot. I agree that we do not hear about the death of the "common man" every day. I also agree that there is so much publicity because he was the CEO of a company. But tell me something. Does the fact that Mr. Chaudhry made a lot of money as the CEO of an Italian firm justify his killing? Does his family not mourn his death as much as the family of a sweeper who dies? Especially when the person was killed?

The problem is not just with this case. The problem lies in the basic distrust of those who make lots of money. This was a trend I noticed during the recent financial meltdown. Most people I spoke to were far from sympathetic to the fact that thousands of investment bankers lost their jobs. In fact, most of them simply said, "They made so much money for so long. It won’t hurt them to be without a job now." What we do not understand is that someone is not making money at someone else’s expense. Life is not a zero-sum game. For CEOs and investment bankers to be successful, a factory worker or an investor does not necessarily have to suffer. Why are we so apathetic towards the plight of a top official? We kept quiet when an engineer from IIT was murdered in Bihar. But, the Singur issue is burning. We all sympathise and empathise with those poor farmers who are being exploited by the tyrannical Tatas. But, we fail to look at the other side of the issue or take into account the loss incurred by Tata Motors. And this is simply because the Tatas are the rich capitalists exploiters. I may sound extremely pissed off. The fact is that I really am. As long as we cling on to feudal and outdated notions of industry, ownership and investment, we will never progress. That’s what the Communists really want right? So that they can blame the big, bad capitalist world for the stagnation? We are a democracy> If we do not progress, if we stagnate and suffer in chronic poverty, it is because we elect people like Oscar Fernandes who will do anything to preserve his vote bank. After all, we only get the governance we deserve.

Education, reservations and reform

Here is a brilliant economic analysis of the reservation policy by Atanu Dey on his blog on development. It is, at first glance, very impressive. He uses economic theory, common sense and impeccable argumentation to prove that reservations are untenable. But, all is not right with his reasoning. I can still spot a few weak links in the arguments, though I am no economist.

First, he states, rather unambiguously, that

“Let’s pause here for a moment to reflect on this: there is no shortage of jobs for qualified candidates. In fact, there is a shortage of qualified people. The shortage arises from the limited supply of seats in educational institutions. That shortage of seats is mandated by the government. The government mandates the shortage and then assigns itself the power to dictate how the rationing of seats will be done. That rationing is motivated primarily by vote-bank politics.”

First things first, as someone points out in the comments section, there is no real shortage of seats as mandated by the government. In fact, thousands of seats are left vacant at the end of counselling for engineering admissions every year in the state of Tamil Nadu. According to Wikipedia, Tamil Nadu has 40 universities. This page should provide more information on the state of education in Tamil Nadu. According to the statistics given above, the state has over 1000 colleges providing professional education, in addition to 255 engineering colleges, and 13 medical colleges. Admittedly, Tamil Nadu is one of India’s more progressive states, but with good governance and political will, there is no reason why even the BIMARU states must not do as well. Secondly, the question of supply of education is a tricky one. Must all education necessarily lead to a degree? What about companies that recruit graduates of arts and science courses and train them to perform the work expected of them efficiently? One good example would be the TAS, which trains and qualifies young recruits. So, actually speaking, the claim that there is an artificially created shortage of education is a myth.

Dey suggests that higher education must be opened up to private enterprise. I agree. But the point here is, it already is. Sure, there are regulations and processes such as accreditation, but that must remain in order to maintain the quality of education. Then is the emphasis on separating education and testing. I agree again. But, that’s what board exams and university exams are all about right? An autonomous arts and science college under the Madras University is free to decide on its syllabus. It’s free to do what it pleases during the academic year. At the end of the semester, the students are tested on what they were taught during the semester. The exam process is overseen and endorsed by the University which then delivers the degree. What more can be done? I don’t really get the point.

Third, the pricing issue. Privatisation of education and a total absence of control will lead to anarchy. Don’t get me wrong. I am not advocating the nationalisation of colleges, or complete government control. Far from it. Education is already quite private, to a very large extent. Prices are sky-high. What the government can do is to provide scholarships, grants and stipends to those who deserve it. To contend that private colleges will charge less than government ones because they run their companies better is both ridiculously short-sighted and foolishly optimistic. I am no fan of government control, but this logic simply does not appeal to my brain. Private companies want profit. So will private colleges. In such a situation, how exactly will they agree to offer education at a lower cost than the government?

I can foresee one negative fallout if Dey’s idea were implemented. India will go the way of the United States. While colleges in the US are some of the best in the world, it a fact that many who finish grad school spend half their lives trying to repay their educational loans, pay off home mortgages and rid themselves of debt. And in a country like India, which is trying desperately to improve its enrolment in institutes of higher education, this is a really bad idea. A situation like this will lead to a decline in overall education levels and India’s already abysmal human development indicators will only fall further.

This said, I do agree when Dey says reservations are a terrible idea. Only, my reasons are entirely different from his. I read in the Times of India yesterday that the cutoff marks at the IIT-JEE had been reduced. While I did not exactly understand the logic behind the marking scheme, I also read that there was to be a 10% relaxation for OBC candidates. Suppose I am an OBC candidate. The normal cutoff mark in an entrance exam is 70%. But, I am given a 10% relaxation because I belong to the OBC category. That means I just need 63% to qualify. So, essentially, the government is telling me this, “Since you are underprivileged, and have been oppressed for centuries, we consider you to be less intelligent than your upper-caste counterparts, and hence incapable of scoring the mandatory 70%. We are being generous and giving you a chance despite your questionable intellect.” I am sorry if I am being hyper-sensitive, but I find the attitude both patronising and demeaning. And that’s the reason I am so against this practice of norm-relaxation.

Cheap garments and irresponsible reporting

I have an idea. Let’s take six well-to-do Indian teenagers to London and make them work at street-corner bakeries for a month. Guess what? It’s horrible, they will say. “They make us wake up at 4 in the morning to knead the dough, make the loaf and bake the bread, ready to open shop at 7. As if that’s not enough, they expect us to knead dough and make bread all day. This is how we imagined a sweatshop to be: dirty, smelly – it’s absolutely horrible. It’s my idea of hell.” Think it ridiculous? Then sample this. The Daily Mail UK takes it upon itself to report conditions in garment factories across India. It might have been a hard-hitting revelation on the condition of India’s workers slogging away at garment factories for less than $5 a day. If, and only if they had bothered to check their facts and not make some grossly unacceptable errors in the process.

Many things are wrong with the way the story has been reported by the Mail. For example, they take six, virtually unskilled, teenagers to India from Britain. They make them work in a garment factory and stitch, lo and behold, collars. My mother and aunts have been in the industry for as long as I can remember. I grew up in garment factories run by my aunt and others for nearly 15 years of my life. As far as I know, and my mother corroborates the fact, collars are the most difficult to stitch in shirts or tops. Collar-stitching, or cuff-stitching is never given to an amateur. The articles claims that the tailors are made to stitch a collar a minute. But elsewhere, it claims that a 4000-strong workforce turns out barely 10,000 garments a day. From what I know, two and a half pieces per worker per day is pathetic. No garment factory worth its salt would allow productivity to slip so low. Least of all, the illustrious Shahi Enterprises mentioned. The means one of two things. Either the first statistic is false, or the second.

Next, it claims that the teens were demoted from the position of tailor to a lowlier-paid position of shirt-ironer. First things first, ironing is not an easy ask. It comes under the category of garment-finishing, and is one of the most important things in the garment-making process. Second, finding a competent ironer is no mean task and they are often paid much more than the tailor who makes the garment in the first place.

Finally, the salary levels. They are blatantly made up. In the early 1990s, the average salary of a competent tailor used to be between 250 and 300 rupees a day. In pound terms it amounts to somewhere between three pounds and five pounds at the current exchange rate. Wages have undoubtedly gone up since then. So, the Mail’s claim that workers survive at less than 2 pounds a day is false. If I am the one who is mistaken, then I would like them to substantiate the values with actual figures.

What exactly is the Mail trying to accomplish? Telling the world that the clothes they buy from H&M and Marks&Spencer’s supports human rights abuses in India by forcing workers to work 18-hour days? I am sorry, but no garment factory can sustain 18-hour workdays. It’s practically impossible to force workers to work such long hours six days a week, especially in an industry that is so labour-intensive. In India, labour laws and worker-friendly, sometimes even called draconian by entrepreneurs. Will the workers shut up and agree to being treated like slaves in such a context?

To me, the attitude of the Mail reflects one of two things. 1) Irresponsible reporting without verifying facts and looking at the other side of the picture. 2) An obvious and disgusting attempt to portray Indian workers and factories in a bad light. For the sake of my peace of mind, I am willing to give them the benefit of doubt and assume it’s simply irresponsible reporting.

Of apples and oranges

Here is a gem from Sitaram Yechury. I mean, who publishes such crap? Oh, a well-known newspaper like Hindustan Times of course. I actually checked if it was published under a satire or humour column or something. But no. I had overestimated their intelligence I suppose. And did you know that our dear Mr. Yechury got his BA (Hons.) in Economics from St. Stephen’s? I find that rather hard to believe after reading the following words.

“…globalisation has given rise to the phenomenon of ‘jobless growth’. The growth of employment has always been lower than the GDP growth rate globally. Both these features put together mean that the purchasing power of the vast majority of the world’s population has been declining.”

Eh? What’s the relation? It’s like putting apples and oranges together and claiming that there is a fall in mango production this year. Ok. Ok. I think it’s time I stop taking any communist seriously. As Amit Varma so succintly puts it,

“Let’s all just stay poor then, so there’s no danger of losing the money we haven’t had a chance to earn anyway.”

Someone teach these guys basic economics please!!

Of stock market crashes and cricket matches…

Hey! That rhymed. I swear I wasn’t trying to make it rhyme. Anyway, on to today’s rants. Yes, they are rants. First, the cricket match. Of course I am talking of the one we won. It was absolutely fantastic to see the famed Aussie batting line-up collapse like a pack of cards. And I, for one, was absolutely delighted to see Mr. Ponting and his men finally taste defeat. Notwithstanding their arrogance, I am tired of seeing the Aussies win all the time. For a sport to be interesting, there must be an element of uncertainty. If the result of the match is known before it ever happens, there is no point in watching the match. What better weekend could I have asked for after the Australian media called India cry babies for whining about the umpiring at Sydney because they could not take a defeat? Take it guys! We can play cricket too.

But while we are on the topic, I came across this article on the Sydney Morning Herald, albeit a few weeks too late. It is extremely irritating to see an Australian whine about having been stripped of the right to veto a decision at the ICC. Don’t you get it guys? Veto power of any kind, in any forum, is fundamentally unequal and unjust. And yes, by any forum, I mean the UN Security Council too. After all, why should the fate of the world be determined by the whim of a select few? So, stop cribbing about how an Indian deprived you guys of your birth right to a veto. The attitude sucks. Here is an excellent blog post on the issue. Greatbong has analysed and argued much better than I could ever hope to.

That said, on the the stock market now. It crashed yesterday. And today. And, it will probably continue to fall tomorrow. I still haven’t understood the cause of the original crash. Dad said it was a technical snag. Whatever the reason, it triggered off a massive fall in the prices of shares and the markets fell by about five percent today. What I don’t understand is this. Why do people choose to sell as soon as there is a problem, and without analysing the underlying cause. As far as I can see, the Indian economy is doing reasonably well. There is nothing seriously wrong with it. The stock markets have been bullish for almost 3 months now. Why then, do people feel the need to dump as many shares as possible on a bad day? After all, India’s is not an export-driven market. It has a huge domestic market to fall back on. If I had shares, I would probably adopt a wait-and-watch policy. The market are sure to rally. They are sure to recover on a few days, weeks, or months. I will probably still be able to cut my losses then. By selling when the markets crash, people only tend to maximise their losses. Correct me if I am wrong here, but my common sense tells me watch the markets closely before selling anything.

And finally, something unrelated to either the markets or cricket. Here is a recipe for Bisibelebath. I have never eaten bisibelebath with ginger-garlic paste in it. Every dish does not have to contain garlic, ginger and fennel seeds. It’s possible to cook without any of it, you know? For a better, and more authentic recipe of the dish, check out my food blog (link in side bar). And for goodness’ sake, check atleast 3 sites before deciding to make anything learnt from the net. Not all internet recipes are authentic, and even fewer taste original.