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Monday, March 18, 2019

Should India have participated in OBOR ?

I had read quite a bit on the One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative of China where 130 countries are participating in building connecting infrastructure - roads, highways, ports and bridges, to increase trade among themselves.

It seemed a win-win for all, but India has refused to participate, primarily citing the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor which passes through Pak-occupied-Kashmir (PoK).

The Karakoram highway was also built by China and Pakistan in the 1960s through PoK. The concerns that India has had against misuse of the economic investment for strategic and military purposes have thus existed for decades, with no redressal. Therefore citing the same concerns for the new corridor wont bring India benefits. 

In my view, India should have participated, and used its interventions to hem in terrorist activity emanating from the region.

Is India OK with an old age pension of Rs. 200 for its elderly poor ?

The Central Govt. has paid the elderly poor below poverty line, a pension of just 200 rs. a month since 2006 ! This amount is not inflation indexed either.

Only 3.5 crores of the estimated 10 crore elderly below poverty line are paid this pension.

But Government employees get paid 12 % over their basic pay / pension to compensate for increasing inflation.

If India cannot afford a basic pension for its poor elderly it should not be paying large sums in salaries and pensions to government employees either. Why are salaries of government employees de-linked from the rest of the economy ?

The Pension Parishad has been asking the Government for years to increase the pension amount to atleast cover basic nutrition which at today's prices would be Rs. 3000 a month. Economists have suggested ways for a small wealth tax, or increasing the tax on stock market transactions or cash transactions to finance old age pension to proper levels.

But the Government ofcourse has no time for this : It is preoccupied instead with colossal statues and bullet trains. It is a government of industrialists and big traders which sells plastic patriotism to the average indian to get itself more power.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Treating Women as Objects..

A neighbour sent me this video. I wrote back : This embarrassing video may pass in macho Indian films but is completely out of place in political messaging. I guess some infantile admirer of the BJP has made it as his paen of praise.

The song itself is rather innocently worded and sung. It is the video which conveys troubling messages :

1. In a long song (in video terms 3 min is very long) the featured woman has no identity except in terms of her immediately married family relationships - there is no reference even to her parents or siblings. One of the oaths I remember in my family's sanatani marriage practices was to not step out without permission of inlaws and husband. Another oath was that you will henceforth have no contact with the home you grew up in !

It seems that these regressive practices fit in well with BJP's world view - rather than help take society in a more just direction, BJP would rather exploit the fault-lines for its passing advantage.

2. The featured lady exhibits no aspect of her life apart from her marital home relationships - she is not even shown managing her home, purchasing anything outside, interacting with neighbours, or heaven forbid - going to work. Seeking to put women in isolation, occupied only in serving their needs, seems to serve these exploitative right wing men well.

3. The lady is featured in nice traditional clothes and is seen singing and dancing throughout - it is a bit much for a 3 min video with no other activities/aspects. She is fixated on the man (presumably her husband), seeking his approval and affection.

But the man treats her THROUGHOUT the video as a sex object only - many of his looks and gestures are lewd almost for a video targetted at families presumably. Perhaps the video maker did not mean it - it looks like he is too culturally devoid to imagine what affection between genuine partners - a husband and wife can be like.

4. The husband is shown as higher in status while the wife simpers and prances around him.

The point of analyzing this objectionable video is that it shows inadvertantly what 'culture' might mean to the BJP and some of its core followers. There is nothing implicitly Indian about the machismo and coyness on display. Everyone I know who saw this video, thought it was vulgar. Vulgarity does not come from exposing body parts alone. It also comes from showing women as objects for men to consume.

Wednesday, March 06, 2019

The Impact of Disasters on Odisha’s Economy

In 2013, Odisha estimated the losses caused by Cyclone Phailin and subsequent floods at Rs 22,000 crores. This was more than the state's annual plan outlay of Rs 21,000 crore for that year.

Even a month after the cyclone, all across the deluge and gale-affected districts there was clear evidence that the state administration was unable to provide relief to the 4 million people rendered homeless by Phailin.

It took Odisha's economy some seve
n years to recover from its last super cyclone in 1999.

During the Ninth Plan period (1997-2002), Odisha was ravaged by a series of disasters. On the eve of the Tenth Plan (2002-03), the entire state was facing severe drought. The total loss of livelihood and damage to capital stock because of calamities between during the Ninth Plan stands at Rs 13,000 crore. This is close to 60 per cent of the state's total plan outlay of Rs 19,000 crore for the Tenth Five-Year Plan.

Natural calamities have seriously affected livelihoods in the state and the income level of households. These also led to serious setback for capital formation process in the economy.

The impact of disasters on Odisha’s economy is evident. The state's per capita income declined rapidly in the second half of the 1990s, disaster-wise the worst phase. It is now half the national average. An average of 900,000 ha of agricultural production is lost every year because of disasters.

Tuesday, March 05, 2019

A primer on Fascism..

My neighbour wrote to me when I pointed out to him the parallels between Nazi thought and RSS : 'What Fascism are the secularists talking about?'

I wrote back to him : Since you asked, here is a primer on what Fascism is : 

1. Fascism seeks to unify a nation under the banner of racial or CULTURAL PURITY as a method of weeding out an imagined WEAKNESS. This is its FIRST characteristic. There are often references to a glorious past – whether it is real, exaggerated or mythical. See here too.

This should remind you of the Hindu Right exhorting Hindus to weed out their weaknesses by going back to the Hindu Right’s singular (false) version of Hinduism.

2.     A SECOND feature of Fascism is that it makes EXTRAVAGANT PROMISES TO GET BACK the lost pride of a nation, or lost lands.

Like the drum beating by the Hindu right that making a Ram Temple at Ayodhya is the top most challenge for India that they will address - above any other of rising hunger, lack of jobs or returns to farmers from farming, etc. 

3. Fascism needs to EXCLUDE SOME PARTS OF SOCIETY as undesirable. This is its THIRD characteristic. The majority of a region is then asked to unite to defend themselves against these others. See here and here too. 

Hitler presented Jews as not being Aryan, and the Hindu Right presents Muslims and Christians as not belonging to the soil of India. Dalits and Tribals are not accepted on equal terms either. False stories are spread about all the groups that the Hindu Right wants to exclude from the mainstream of Indian society. 

4. Fascism involves a FOURTH characteristic - it requires its core support base to be FEARFUL OF THE ‘OTHER’, based on lies. See here too.The 'other' is then forced into ghettos, and finally, into Camps. 

Think of the endless lies told to you about Muslims, and other stories on how reservations for Dalits and Tribals will destroy our society. See how the Hindu neighbourhoods frown upon Muslims amidst them, and they end up in ghettos

5. The FIFTH feature of Fascism is that Nationalism – that is, pride for one’s country, is distorted and manipulated to show to the population that THE ACTIONS OF THE RULERS ARE ALWAYS CORRECT. See here and here too. 

Modi shows himself always above all reproach. But he has done lots to damage our country however - things that were widely criticized. Has he apologized for them - the mass killings his Gujarat Government presided over, or demonetization or beating up Dalits in the name of cow protection ?

6. The SIXTH characteristic of Fascism is to characterize democratic decision making as ‘weak’ and ‘slow’, calling instead for one CHARISMATIC LEADER TO TAKE ALL THE DECISIONS FOR THE COUNTRY. See here and here too. 

Remind you of someone ? 

7. The SEVENTH feature of Fascism is Totalitarianism – THE TOTAL CONTROL OF A SOCIETY and its people. Education, the arts, civil society organizations are all made to fall in line with the vision of the ruling party. Citizens are expected to have faith in a SINGLE ruling party, often personified by one person. 

Remind you of someone and something

8. The EIGHTH feature of Fascism is intense SUPPORT FOR VIOLENCE TO ACHIEVE POLITICAL OBJECTIVES (see here and here too). Censorship and propaganda are routinely deployed to re-fashion society in line with the vision of a single political party. Severe mass inequality is often a result of Fascism

Horrific stories flood our press about the violence deployed by the Hindu Right frequently against minorities. Here is just one of them. Here is another and another

9. The NINTH feature of Fascism is the RAISING OF PRIVATE MILITIAS (civilians trained to use arms and combat techniques) which are then deployed for political ends of the entity to whom they owe allegiance, often using force and violence.

Hitler had his Brownshirts, Mussolini the Blackshirts, and RSS has its Shakhas. 

10. The TENTH feature of Fascism is PARTICIPATION IN ELECTIONS TO BEGIN WITH, until using intimidation and violence in part, the Fascists are able to gain absolute majorities. After some years of so-called legitimate rule, THE SUPREME LEADER THEN DECLARES HIMSELF DICTATOR (Hitler lasted in this position for 12 years, and Mussolini for 18 years). 

The BJP won small electoral victories to begin with, but has kept up an atmosphere of violence in the country when not in power. BJP’s trolls are now calling for Modi to be a Dictator ! 

11. The ELEVENTH characteristic of Fascist Governments is that they are FAR-RIGHT IN THEIR ORIENTATION but back some socialist policies such as spending on large-scale infrastructure, like roads. 

12. The TWELFTH feature of Fascism is that they FEEL NO NEED TO BE CONSISTENT IN THEIR POLICIES. They will espouse whatever they need to, to obtain and consolidate power. They also espouse opposite things to different constituencies. 

Like the BJP and their Right Wing friends have been shown to say something else to Muslims and something else to Hindus. 

13. The THIRTEENTH feature of Fascim is REWARDING OF SUCCESSFUL BUSINESSES – but only those it considers as SERVING THE ‘NATIONAL’ INTERESTIn fact, Mussolini is quoted as saying, “Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power."

So enterprises of Muslims and Dalits connected to meat and the leather industry can be seriously hurt, while those funding BJP like the Adanis and Ambanis can be rewarded continuously by tweaking the rules.

Sunday, March 03, 2019

India will reach replacement levels of population by 2020 - that might imply Indian muslims will reach replacement levels before 2040

We have all heard the constant lies and bogus fears spread by the Hindu right about the population of Muslims in India. Here is an exchange with my neighbour today on this topic :

[6:44 PM, 3/3/2019] Neighbour : Fact is the Muslim population has actually increased in India and faster in percentage terms than of Hindus.

[7:05 PM, 3/3/2019] Me : Fertility Rate - that is, how many children does a woman have in total in all her reproductive years is higher - worldwide and among all religious denominations, for poorer people.

That is because poorer people cannot be that confident their children will grow to adulthood and be around for their parents when the parents are older. As health indicators of a population improve, especially among children, the fertility rate falls. This is science, and has been so for centuries all over the world.

[7:15 PM, 3/3/2019] Me : The latest family health survey of india showed that the total fertility rate for hindus fell from 2.6 ten years ago to 2.1 now.

That of muslims fell from 3.4 to 2.6 in the same period - that is, their fertility rate is falling faster than that of hindus. Muslims are on average having as many children now as hindus were having just 10 years ago - 2.6 per woman.

Scheduled Tribes whose poverty matches that of muslims in india, had a total fertility rate of 2.5 now.

Overall, the poorest indians had on average 3.2 children.

[7:41 PM, 3/3/2019] Me : Fertility is falling faster than expected in India, and the country is on track to reach replacement levels of fertility as soon as 2020. Fertility is declining rapidly, including among the poor and illiterate.

A study projects Muslim woman will require an additional 16 years than Hindu women to reach replacement level fertility of 2.1 children per women.

So if the hindu population reached a total fertility rate of 2.1 in india in say 2022, Muslims might reach the replacement level of 2.1 a few years before 2040.

So should you not think about the toxic messages that the hindu right has been feeding you for decades which are entirely false ?

[7:56 PM, 3/3/2019] Me : Having more children per woman is nothing to do with religion, and everything to do with poverty and health indicators. Hindu India had a higher fertility rate in 2014 (2.4) than Muslim Bangaldesh (2.2).

In fact, Bangladesh reached replacement levels of 2.1 in 2016, a few years ahead of india as a whole.

[8:03 PM, 3/3/2019] Me : As you can see from census data, the fertility rate of Bihar is higher than that of Indian Muslims on average.

Source of the image.

See for yourself the close parallels between India's leadership now, and Germany's leadership before WW2..

An instructive exchange with a neighbour :

[12:34 PM, 3/3/2019] Neighbour : If Modi has not done anything the public must be fools to have elected him as CM repeatedly followed by PM.

[12:37 PM, 3/3/2019] Me : Good lord - surely history has told you that being popular for a time is no proof of the right intent ? Hitler was the most popular leader in germany for more than a decade. he also justified what he did in the name of the national interest and the german people believed him.

[12:39 PM, 3/3/2019] Me : as you would have surely read, goondas are very good at winning elections repeatedly - career criminals. that is why there are so many of them in most political parties. their winning constitutes proof for you on how good they are for our country ?

[12:40 PM, 3/3/2019] Neighbour : Wrong analogy - the favourite one of Congress supporters. Was Hitler democratically elected the first time?

[12:41 PM, 3/3/2019] Me : yes. in elections. he had most of the socialists then in power, murdered on the quiet by private militia.

[12:42 PM, 3/3/2019] Me : no, it isnt a cheap analogy. i have studied some aspects of nazi thought and find modi - and RSS are devout followers. the hindu right wing supported nazi germany and appealed to hitler to attack india to dislodge the british !

[12:44 PM, 3/3/2019] Neighbour: So did another nationaL icon Bose. Nothing wrong if served national interest .

[12:46 PM, 3/3/2019] Me : you cannot speak of Bose and the Hindu right in the same breath ! The Hindu rights' interest was in a final solution of muslims in india. Bose wanted independence, impatient with Gandhi's slow methods. you can speak of Bhagat Singh and Bose together.

[12:47 PM, 3/3/2019] Me : The hindu right NEVER PARTICIPATED - NOT ONE BIT, IN INDIA'S FREEDOM STRUGGLE. Instead they fomented riots in the decades preceeding partition alongside muslim league. 

[1:02 PM, 3/3/2019] Me : Congress opposed partition till the very last. the only elected goernnment to officially endorse the creation of Pakistan was Savarkar's some years before partition. Please read.

 [6:14 PM, 3/3/2019] Me : Since you asked a Q on how he came to rule over the German people, here is a brief cartoon video on the career of Hitler. I think it is a must see for those influenced by the Hindu Right – you can see for yourself the close analogies between Modi and Hitler, and RSS and Nazi thought here. It is not for nothing that scholars have drawn parallels between them for the past many decades. 

Part 2, 8 min long, is a must see.

If you have the time, see part 1 too. It is 6 min long.

It was the BJP Govt. that had released Masood Azhar, the perpetrator of many attacks against India

A good step forward - India was invited by the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC) recently as a guest of honour. The foreign minister Swaraj said there that the fight  against terrorism is not a confrontation against any religion. This was the first time that India had participated in this meet. OIC projects itself as the voice of Muslim countries in the world. Bangladesh had proposed in 2018 that India be invited as an observer but Pakistan had opposed it. In fact Pakistan did not participate in the meet this year as India had been invited. 

However since the hindu right appear to read nothing except their own toxic slogans, here is a primer on the genesis of the last few major terrorist attacks on India : 

1. Most of the high profile terrorist attacks on india in the last few decades including the latest one at Pulwama, can be traced to Masood Azhar who was quickly released along with other jailed militants by the BJP govt. in 1999 when an Indian plane was hijacked. 

2. The BJP govt. did not mount any operation to free the passengers on indian soil, reportedly under the influence of NK Singh (now a BJP politician and appointed chairman of the finance commission by the present Modi govt.). Singh was principal secretary to then PM Vajpayee when the hijack had taken place. 

Singh's brother-in-law (b-in-law) was on board the plane (one among nearly 200 passengers) and many reports say NK Singh and another brother-in-law Nikhil Kumar, head of the National Security Guards (NSG) then, both of whom were in the crisis management group handing the hijack, focused  on protecting their b-in-law on the plane from possible harm if the govt. took any action. In fact, no mock exercises had been held by NSG under the Vajpayee Govt. for two years, and as a result the crisis management group process was just on files. 

3. The b-in-law on the plane - Tomar, a RAW officer had earlier received credible reports of a hijack attempt by terrorists from his junior but had dismissed them. There are no reports of him having provided any leadership on the plane in the midst of the crisis. Yet he was rewarded after the hijack with plum postings. The other b-in-law, NSG chief Nikhil Kumar, graduated to being a Congress politician and was governor of several states. 

4. Having not taken any credible action on indian soil when the hijacked plane sat on the tarmac in Amritsar, the Indian govt. looked plain silly when it sought permission from the Pakistan government and then UAE govt., to mount an operation by indian commandos in Lahore and Dubai when the plane landed there. The permissions were refused by those countries. In contrast, a similar hijacking had been handled competently by the Narsimha Rao Govt. in 1993, again at the Amritsar airport.

5. The present national security advisor to india, Doval, was then the intelligence bureau chief and party to the crisis management - or lack of it. The shrill voices of the hijacked plane's passengers' families were not addressed with firmness to calm down, and the Government appeared to have quickly caved in to their demands to give in to the terrorists. 

6. The Congress party had the
n said that the BJP’s soft approach laid the ‘foundation of terrorism’ not only in India but the world. The UK and the US have refused to negotiate with terrorists when their nationals have been kidnapped - some of those nationals were subsequently murdered by the terrorists. Experts had in fact warned during negotiations that 'giving in to release of militants in response to hijackers' demands will prove to be highly damaging to our national security and will endanger many more lives in future.'

7. Farooque Abdullah had strongly opposed India releasing terrorists held in indian jails on account of several kidnappings and murders, but was over-ruled by the Vajpayee Govt. Panun Kashmir, an association of Kashmiri Pandits had also strongly counselled the Government against releasing the jailed militants. In fact, Rupin Katyal's wife (the lone passenger who was stabbed to death by the terrorists) said a year after his death : 'What hurts is the fact that those responsible for my husband's death have managed to get what they wanted, the release of the militants, and they have all escaped unscathed.'

8. Three of the worst intelligence failures in recent decades happened under the Vajpayee government : Kargil, hijacking of IC-814, and the Parliament attack. There was even a complete failure on the diplomatic front during the hijacking as the developed nations refused to assist as needed, and did not buy the Indian assertion of Pakistan's ISI's involvement. Now, the Modi government is busy spreading disinformation on every front, focused only on increasing its vote bank. 

Ceasefire violations increased by 1000 % under the Modi Government as compared to the UPA II tenure before it. Including the Pulwama attack, there have been 18 major terror attack under the Modi government, where huge intelligence failures have been implicated.

Behind all this present chest beating by the Hindu right in the name of national security is an immature team in the BJP government, focused on short term ends. It is not fit to lead India by any stretch of imagination.