March 31, 2007
As my inputs for Outlook's latest story on 'How The Other India Survives' I wrote on how there was no need for mega projects to help villages.
March 30, 2007
A few months after the attacks in US on September 11, 2001, I came across write-ups on the internet which raised serious doubts about the official version of the attacks. These were based on common sense and I was surprised at myself that I didn't myself, earlier, spot the blatant misguiding direction of the official version.
Anyway, after that, things appear reasonably clear to me. Much more has been written about on the internet that raises specific questions on the Sept 11 official theory.
9/11 and the Evidence is the latest write-up that I have come across on the subject.
March 29, 2007
March 20, 2007
What happened last week in Nandigram village in West Bengal state of India is one of the many culminating results of a hideous obsession with a single top-down model of development as initiated and thrust upon the country in the last decade by the likes of prime minister of India, Manmohan Singh, finance minister P. Chidambaram and deputy chairman of Planning Commission, Montek Singh Ahluwalia.
In my understanding, many many development projects and special economic zones (SEZs) are simply excuses to loot the land and resources of India and its non-urban (and urban-poor) people through a widespread abuse of democracy. Ecology considerations are also given a reckless and dangerous go-by by the central government of India and the country's various state governments.
At least three newsreports -- That night in Nandigram, Villagers say more people died, many bodies removed after police firing in Nandigram: Medha and Alarm bells sound in Nandigram for Indian democracy -- bring out some facets of the Gestapo-like operation carried out in Nandigram village by the Communist Party of India (Marxist)'s state government in West Bengal implicity supported by the Congress-Allies-led central government in Delhi (this is not to say that the Bharatiya Janata Party or BJP as it is commonly referred to as, or other political parties in India, would have done anything different).
Back in 2002, during the mass murder and destruction of Muslims and their properties in Gujarat, I, like many other Indians, were deeply distressed at the horrors being carried out in Gujarat.
I was doing a lot of reading on the goings-on at that time and among them was a write up by Harsh Mander titled 'Cry, the beloved country'. It was as insightful as some other write-ups that I had come across at at that time.
Over the last four years I have read more about Harsh Mander's work -- both before and after 2002. I am convinced that his works are worth being read and that he is personally a honest and courageous person. One thing though -- I think Mander sometimes fails to highlight the shades of grey among the people whose causes he takes up.
Harsh Mander was among the very very few civil service officers (he quite the IAS 2-3 years ago) who courageously and unflinchingly implemented his powers as an IAS officer upholding the legal rights of common citizens without fear or favour.
His books 'The Ripped Chest: Public Policy and the Poor in India' and 'Unheard Voices: Stories of Forgotten Lives' are worth a read.
I present below some excerpts from Harsh Mander's book 'The Ripped Chest - Public Policy and the Poor in India' that is published by Bangalore-based Books for Change (www.booksforchange.net) and the first edition of which came out in 2004.
from Preface (pages xvi-xxi):
"...India is home to the largest number of poor people in the world. It also has a colossal and still burgeoning interventionist state, whose stated goals and political imperatives impel massive, diverse and multi-faceted demonstrations of public programmes to combat poverty.
Despite some conspicuous successes, the manifest cumulative failure of a half-century of these state efforts to overcome, or even significantly dent, the base of poverty in India is what motivated the investigation that underlies this book. It is written also against the background of the threatened retreat of the state worldwide from its most fundamental responsibilities of ensuring equity, justice and decent living standards for all its people.
The first section attempts a critical appraisal of the dominant neo-liberal notions of 'good governance' in contemporary social science literature. These lay stress on a reduced role of the state that facilitates, nurtures and shares power and responsibilities with a relatively unfettered private sector; liberalised markets; competitive provisioning of public goods by both the public and private sectors; the rule of law, which protects the right to property and the sanctity of contracts, prevents crimes against property and person, and ensures stability and predictability necessary for private investment to flourish; transparency and accountability. If we unbundle these beliefs, they are premised on a number of axioms. The first of these is the structural adjustment policies that liberate the market, rein in government spending, secure macro-economic stability, and liberalise trade and investment, would always lead to enhanced economic growth..."
...more to follow soon...
March 09, 2007
This is what I, as an Indian citizen, think of our country's budget 2007 and the media's coverage of it:
This year's budget is more or less a continuing deception from previous ones. The media is portraying it as Chidambaram's succumbing to Sonia Gandhi's or Left parties' diktats. Notwithstanding the fact that those diktats were unwarranted and unnecessary, it is my sense that those diktats were anyway not anti-rich or anti-development as many in the media tend to portray. Last three years has seen the economy grow at a fast pace but the same steep rate of growth is not reflected in the revenue collection figures disclosed in the budget.
Many commentators in the media crib about subsidies to rural sector without highlighting the fact most of these subsidies end up accruing to chemical-based fertiliser and pesticide companies whose products have significantly polluted the fertile lands of rural India, or end up being eaten by government IAS-ICS agents.
The media also chooses to suppress the fact that vast subsidies are given to the affluent or already better-off sections in the form of: tax exemptions to large-sized IT (technology) companies making superlative profits (the 12% minimum alternate tax on IT companies introduced in this budget is a welcome measure but not enough as it is still a lot lower than the 33% tax paid by other companies); tax exemptions to SEZs; heavily-subsidised diesel that today is consumed more by private SUVs and swanky cars running on diesel engines than transportation of goods by trucks across the country; heavy slashing of customs-&-excise duty rates on non-essential products like jewellery, plastics, processed food, aerated beverage drinks like colas; and so on.
Huge and unprecedented increase of Rs 40,000 crore for defense expenditure outlay (taking the total to Rs 96,000 crore) without transparently laying down before the nation a detailed rationale behind it, is another glaring point that the media has chosen not to question adequately. The Tehelka expose of corruption among our defence forces and the ministry of defence is not forgotten by some of us.
I pray that it is not too late before our country, its ecology and its majority non-affluent population get completely devastated by corporate entities and their sophisticated political goons like Chidambarams, Montek Singh Ahluwalias, Manmohan Singhs, Mulayam Yadavs, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjees, Bal Thackerays and Arun Jaitleys, aided and abetted by a 'deliberately-looking-the-other-way' media and a 'consumption-obsessed' urban citizenry.
March 05, 2007
Below is the gist of a real-life phone conversation in India between a journalist and his/her editor (unfortunately, I can not reveal identities, but if you are/become a reliable friend of mine I can disclose it on the phone):
"Editor (angrily): "Why haven't you managed to arrange for a column article by any popular chief of AAAA (one particular corporate sector)? There is no time to wait. Get it fast."
Journalist: "I have approached 2-3 corporate heads that fit your criteria and even followed up with them continuously but have not received any confirmation from them; in fact one of them has explicitly declined to contribute."
Editor (angrily): "You should have got it from one."
Journalist (also now worked up, but at a great risk to his/her future prospects in that media company): "I am sorry but I can not go around begging these corporate heads to write a column for us."
Editor (angrily): "I don't want to listen to this crap. You have to do your job even if you have to beg."
Journalist: "My job does not involve begging."
Editor: (angrily cuts off the phone connection)........"
The above is the story of many media (print and television) editors in India who are allowing themselves to be manipulated and abused by political and corporate bigwigs and also expect their correspondents to do the same. Of course, in front of the pubic and their readers/viewers, they try to portray themselves to be upright and brave.
Do the readers/viewers fall for their tricks? I wonder. At least the corporates and their PR (public relations) firms and politicians don't. Barring a few (who conciously choose not to manipulate) they have perfected the art of manipulating the media editors. One technique is that of being accessible to one and denying access to the other. Which is exactly why the journalist in the above case was not being given confirmation by the corporate bigwigs he/she had approached due to his/her editor's demands.