Author: Ashish Shukla

Decoding Hyderabad polls: And the meaning it carries for Indian politics

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

Hyderabad and its municipal elections would carry a deeper political meaning in days to come.

All this while we wondered why BJP was investing so much of its political campaign on a piddly elections. After the results are out, and BJP has been spectacular, we must read its meaning.

One of course is that Asaduddin Owaisi must watch his back. It’s no good saying that we didn’t contest all seats. But BJP won even in your backyard. It limits your options.

One, any party which aligns with you would think twice. It would be seen as pandering to the Islamist theme which in today’s terms is seen as secessionist, jihadis and standing on an anti-Hindu platform. Call it polarization if you must but that’s the ground reality. You might think you are speaking for minority Muslims but majority feel you are masking Rohingyas, trouble-makers everywhere.

Two, the likes of Mamata Banerjee, Pinaryi Vijayan etc would be back in the drawing room if they are fancying a tie-up with AIMIM post assembly elections. They would be loathe to declare Owaisi as their partner before the elections and BJP would keep pressing its thumb on that sore wound: That its rivals are hand in gloves with Islamist forces and must come clean.

Third, it doesn’t bode good for KCR at all. He faces a double whammy. One of course is that in order to control the 150-seat civic body, he would have to align with Owaisi. There is no other option. Congress with two seats is wretched and BJP is out of bounds. It compromises him ahead of the 2023 assembly elections.

Fourth, the days of dynasty politics are over in India. KC Rao was blatant in promoting his son and daughter. The nation is no longer interested in surnames, your kitchen dwellers. There was a reason how BJP cashed in on the frustration of youth—the very force which had led to creation of Telangana in the first place.

Fifth, spare us this concocted myth that BJP is nothing but a two-man show. The first man to show up in Hyderabad was Tejasvi Surya, still in his 20s; and the man in charge on ground was Bandi Sanjay Kumar, BJP state unit head, not yet 50.

It would interest readers to know that Modi had been calling up Bandi Sanjay Kumar to know which way the wind was blowing. Kumar wasn’t being treated as dirt like Congress does to its long-standing pillars, Khushboo for instance. And Kumar doesn’t carry any political heritage. Son of ordinary parents, he went through the grind of RSS, ABVP, BJP Youth Morcha etc. He twice had tickets for assembly elections and he lost on both occasions. But he wasn’t dumped. He returned with win in 2019 Lok Sabha elections. That’s how talent is spotted and invested in in the BJP.

Further, Bandi Sanjay Kumar isn’t just Telangana BJP head. He was in-charge of the BJP in Kerala and Tamil Nadu, both of which go under assembly elections in next few months. He has been kept in eye since 1996 when LK Advani, during his 35-day Suraj Rath Yatra, relied on then 19-year-old Kumar for the seamless movement of his vehicle. After a quarter of a century, he is ready.

The critics could cry themselves hoarse. They could term it brute majority, polarization, poll-machine etc but the fact is BJP is unstoppable. People are convinced of their sincerity and integrity and the benefits they could spot in their changed lives.

You want to believe you own propaganda, please go ahead. But the voters know better.

 

Farmers have already lost this game: The only option left is violence

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

Farmers want trouble. They now even don’t want MSP or APMC.

Let’s say there are two sets of demands of farmers: One concerns MSP and APMC. The other is a host of other issues including electricity, matter-in-civil-courts-only, no-hard-penalty-on-stubble etc. If the government is making concessions on all these issues and still the farmers bring placards of “Yes’ or “No” to Vigyan Bhawan, what inference do you want to draw?

You think private players are the root of trouble? That they would hold “poor farmers” to ransom? But since when have wheat and paddy been produced in factories? And even if elephants do fly, how would it take away your MSP. Do you need be told that more paddy from Punjab was procured at MSP jthan at any time in India’s independent history? That the first record it broke was in 2017-18 with 176.61 lakh tonnes procured. That it has bettered this year with 202.77 lakh tonnes procured. How could private players deprive you?

Be that as it may, farmers are at Delhi’s gates. They have laid siege to the Capital. And they won’t go away in a hurry. The “poor farmers” have also brought in their women and children and elderly. In Delhi’s cold and with Covid-19 surging, they have both power and persuasion as their aces. Where do we go from here?

One, simply throw this notion out of the window that the next round on December 9 would see a breakthrough. There won’t be one, on Wednesday and in other rounds if they occur.

Farmers feel they have nothing to lose, at least for the next few weeks. For they have all the time in the world. If government blinks, the template of anarchy would succeed. If it doesn’t, agitating farmers hope it spins out of control.

You see, Punjab farmers are free because paddy season is over. It has been sowed, reaped and sold in Punjab. The next one of wheat has also been put into fields. Harvest is only due in April. Farmers have 8-12 weeks to dance on Centre’s head.

What options Centre have? Clearly, it doesn’t want to use force and it must not. It doesn’t want to lose the perception battle. It’s not a communal matter, it concerns the “annadatas” of the nation and before you know it, this entire farce would morph into something entirely different and all those infamous slogans of Modi-baiters—“Democracy in Danger”, “totalitarian India”, “Hindu extremists”—would fill the air. The prepaid media would be rubbing their hands in glee, and EU, UN and US Congress would be practicing in front of mirror which finger looks best on camera.

So farmers want to appear “peaceful and vulnerable.” Centre is “sympathetic and caring.” Both are engaged in perception battle. We know on whose side the propaganda is. Where does Modi go from here?

Let’s look at how the next few days could unfold. Centre: we are agreeing to all what you want. So why still have the agitation? If you want the three Farm Acts to be repealed, only the Parliament should take a call. After it, it was the Parliament which turned those Bills into Acts.

Farmers are unlikely to accede. For it could be back to square one. They would insist: Scrap the Acts. One, they have only a few weeks free. Thereafter, it’s wheat crop. Time is critical here.

Government could respond: Are you representing all farmers of India? Could we take a referendum please? Let India’s farmers take a call whether a simple majority want “Yes” or “No” on Farm Acts. Modi would obey it as “janadesh.”

What, you are still not ok with this? So let’s do one this thing: We know 40 farmers’ unions are leading this agitation. That’s why they have a seat in Vigyan Bhawan. You claim to be voice of India’s farmers. Could we see how many members you have on roll? You and I both would know if you are voice of India’s farmers.

This is a battle of attrition. An exercise in perception. Farmers are losing it from time to time—like calling for “Bharat Bandh”—and declaring “effigy burning” (did it really happen on Saturday?). It’s called “muscle flexing”; “baring teeth” to scare the opponent. They also want to project it’s not just Punjab but farmers of rest of India who are agitated. December 8 either way won’t offer a clue. Farmers of Western Uttar Pradesh, for example, won’t stay around for long. The sugarcane season would beckon and this agitation can wait.

So Modi won’t lift a baton. The only course open to him is the Art of Persuasion. If farmers still want to agitate, they would have to explain why now. Farmers can’t lose time. They can’t also be anything but peaceful. So stay put if you want. You might win the Battle of Propaganda. And lose the War on Reforms.

 

 

Malviya is just a start; even Modi would be muzzled on days next: Unless this road is pursued

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

It’s an alert to Modi government. It would face more and more hurdles in getting its message across to the citizens on the social media platform of twitter.

Twitter flagged a tweet by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) IT Cell chief Amit Malviya on Wednesday as “manipulated media”.

Malviya had posted a video which busted the lie of Rahul Gandhi about a policeman swinging his baton at an agitating farmer. Malviya’s video in response clearly showed there was more gap between the policeman and farmer than you have between the wicketkeeper and point fielder in cricket. Look below for yourself: Not even a blind would miss out on Rahul Gandhi’s forgery. An image could be manipulated: Not an unedited video.

But twitter beat even a blind. It came swinging out in response. Not against Rahul Gandhi but against Amit Malviya! It flagged Malviya’s as “manipulated media.”

This morning the Left-Liberal media had its bone between the teeth. Indian Express put it on front page, word-to-word a bigger story than the agitating farmers who have put a siege on the Capital. The newspaper has painted the town red.

Now I would tell you why it’s not just between Malviya and Gandhi or twitter as an arbiter. Why it should concern the Modi government. And why it should concern we the citizens.

Please bear with me a little background.

It’s 1% in control of 99% of humanity

Our world today is split between Left-Liberals and Conservatives. The first one is Joe Biden; the latter Donald Trump. In India’s context, its Congress and BJP. The rise of Conservatives—call them right-wingers if you must—is a phenomenon of the last decade. Citizens have realized that in the name of Liberalism and Globalization, the elite few have sucked the life out of majority of humanity. That 1% of the world has more money, resources and power than the combined rest 99%. That their own land, labour and resources were being usurped by the global elites who held political process, media, academia, movies etc in thrall. Who controlled all the means of information, manipulated it so that it could keep the citizenry in a matrix, uninformed and easily malleable.

But then came Social Media. The elites had thought it was just another means of controlling the narrative. But now the citizens had 140 characters and the button. People began talking. Sharing. Discussing. Lies began to be nailed. Opinions began gathering a mass. The Empire of Lies began crumbling. Citizenry began wresting control of Truth.

They hadn’t thought Brexit was possible. They ordered a referendum, secured in their ivory tower. But the vote went opposite. The media and academia had declared Hillary Clinton a winner even before the 2016 presidential elections in the US were over. Donald Trump it was though who came out beaming. Narendra Modi was called every abuse the mankind had invented. He too came out beaming from ear-to-ear in 2014. The smile became even wider in 2019 polls. People began winning against the Power.

Then 2020 beckoned. Increasingly the signs were that Donald Trump would win again. Now all stops were pulled. Social Media, a front soldier of Left-Liberals, now hit upon an idea. Twitter declared in February that it would have its own fact-finding mechanism to tell the innocent readers who is telling a lie. If being the God of Truth is the name of the Game, and if we are losing this battle of controlling the Truth in our palms, we would create a new arbiter in the game. A new God of Truth, but completely in our control.

So fact-check websites began springing all over the place. They were well-protected by the likes of Twitter. They were the “independent” voices. Nobody knows how these voices passed the credibility test of Twitter and Facebook.

The Double-Standards in Plain View: Samples

Look at Alt News in India. There are specific website and twitter accounts devoted to busting the lies of Alt News. But Alt News always gets a free pass from twitter. Look at Devdutt Pattanaik, the fake mythologist. He uses the vilest of language, words which you won’t use even in the privacy of your toilet. But he too gets a free pass. A Kapil Mishra is hauled over the coals on Delhi riots but a Sonia Gandhi, despite her “aar-paar-ki-ladai” exhortation gets a free pass. As against this is True Indology twitter account. It has suffered more sacks from twitter than India did at the hands of Mahmud of Ghazni.

This brings me to the present. In the run-up to the US presidential elections, Twitter began “censoring” president Donald Trump on his tweets regularly. When Trump warned rioters against looting during BlackLivesMatter days, Twitter called out that he was glorifying violence. The squeeze on Trump was so acute that the president with 80 million followers on twitter, blurted out in anger: “Twitter is targeting the President of the United States, 24/7, while turning their heads to protest organizers who are planning, plotting their next moves daily on this platform.”

Now keep this at the back of your mind as we come to Malviya episode. The same playbook has been applied by twitter in India as it has been doing for last few months in the US. There is an “independent” voice they rely on which decides on “manipulated media”. They have taken on Malviya because he is the bluntest of all voices in the BJP. He is the David who is slaying the Goliath of Left-Liberal lies. He takes them head-on as those who watch his encounters with Rajdeep Sardesai would vouch for. So, take him down first. Draw his teeth out. Do it to all who counter the Left-Liberals narrative strongly. If this method reaches to Narendra Modi himself, so be it. After all, twitter did take on Trump ruthlessly.

So Amit Malviya is only the start. This is going to snowball in coming weeks and months. Modi government could do what Trump had proposed just before the US elections: Since Twitter is acting like an editor on its platform, on what should go and what shouldn’t, it should be brought under the laws of the land. That twitter is thus a media platform subject to regulations, checks and balances, like every other media outlet is.

Again, I predict Amit Malviya would be a norm for other conservative voices on the platform. Unless the government tells them who is the boss here.

 

If Modi’s Centre agrees on MSP, it would be betrayal of India & its farmers

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

Most of us know that the fate of farmers’ agitation depends if the Centre agrees to their guaranteed Minimum Support Price (MSP) demand on Thursday.

So what’s MSP?

MSP is the price at which the government purchases crops from the farmers. This was first announced way back in 1966-67. It was for wheat only which again is in the focus. Green Revolution had brought in surplus in the agriculture market and the farmers needed to be saved from falling profits. Now of course this MSP extends to two dozen crops, announced at the beginning of each season of Rabi and Kharif.

So, if the crops have had a bumper harvest, the government purchases at the MSP to make up for the farmers as the surplus drives the market price down. The government decides on MSP after recommendations from state governments, ministries and dedicated Commission. There are other factors like drought and floods which matter.

Sure, the MSPs are not static. In October 2019, the government had increased the MSP of rabi crops. In June this year, in order to help farmers, the Centre increased the MSP of 14 Kharif crops. (A week later though, thousands of maize farmers from Madhya Pradesh sat on a Satyagraha Andolan. They too wanted an MSP on their produce.)

Since 2009, the MSP on a crop is based on cost, demand, supply, changes in prices, market trend and international prices. The cost of labour, as per market rate, is also factored in.

So look at it this way: if the harvest is bumper, and the market price is low, the MSP would make up for the shortfall. Now keep this at the back of your mind: For the market price could be MANIPULATED.

And who manipulates market prices? Those who control market. In today’s India, the market is controlled by big mandis, who in turn is controlled by big farmers, who in turn are hand in gloves with the politicians and secessionist forces.

Here is the catch. There is only a certain percentage of crops which the government buys under the MSP. The farmers still have to go to mandis nearby for the rest of the crops which are controlled by middlemen at the behest of rich farmers and politicians. Invariably, that price is kept lower than MSP. A farmer still ends up as a loser.

An examples. MP farmers were on “Satyagraha” this June because the maize MSP was Rs 1,850 but in market it was Rs 900-1,000 per quintal. Now look at this double whammy in simpler terms: I am a farmer, the MSP on my crop is Rs 100 which the Centre has calculated on the basis of my costs which, say comes to Rs 80. But the market is selling it at Rs 60. So I am not only losing out on MSP even in market I am getting Rs 20 less even on my investment. Go figure that out.

Let’s take the reverse of this example. Let’s say the harvest is low on cereals. Now almost two-thirds of the total cereal production is through MSP. Only one-third is left for open market. So if the harvest is low, the farmer can’t make most from the rise in demand. He has to depend on the MSP which could be lower. He can’t make profit. So, if a farmer leaves producing cereals, it affects consumption pattern of citizens too.

Does one know what MSP does to India’s trade with other countries? Many have complained in the World Trade Organization (WTO) against India. Australia has complained on what, US and European Union have on sugarcane and pulses. These MSPs have been termed trade-distorting, breaching the 10 per cent norm for subsidy on farm production, set down by the WTO.

Sure, this piece is not enough to bring an entire White Paper on MSP but an additional point need be mentioned:

States could now intervene in the agricultural markets to ensure that the prices don’t fall steeply. The losses States suffer, 40 percent of it would be borne by the Centre. (In case of north-eastern states, it’s up to 50 percent).

Do you know that the Organisation of Economic Cooperation Development and the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (OECD-ICAIR) reported that farmers lost Rs 45 lakh crores (phew!) due to manipulated pricing between Rs 2000-2017?

Do you know that the Shanta Kumar Committee in 2015 reported that only 6 per cent of the MSP could be received by the farmers, implying that 94 per cent of India’s farmers were deprived from the benefit of the MSP. That only a crore out of 14.5 crore farmers benefitted out of MSP?

Do you know that In 2016, NITI Aayog had revealed that only 10 percent of the farmers were aware of the right prices before the sowing season?

It would be a huge betrayal of India if the Centre was to agree to the agitating farmers’ demands of fixed MSP. The talks are bound to fail and must fail. If they don’t, BJP would lose support of majority of Indian farmers, not to say millions of Indians like me who want this caucus, this nexus of corrupt and secessionist forces driven into the Arabian Sea.

 

 

 

Inbound nephews and nieces of Joe Biden: A return to killing fields

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

It’s as good a moment to laugh at or mourn for the Americans and verify this utterance four years down the line in 2024.

For men like me, it’s a moment of chuckle since the US media is having an orgasm on Good Old Joe and his team even though Georgia, Wisconscin, Arizona and Nevada and 79 critical electoral votes are being challenged.

But then the US media, in the presidential campaign, never raised the little matter of “war and peace” while pitching for Joe Biden and now wouldn’t like the Americans to peek at the dossier of his inbound nieces and nephews.

So, we have Tony Blinken as Secretary of the State who was disappointed that the United States didn’t apply enough force in Syria and advocated that Saudi Arabia be sided with in their bombings in Yemen. He had chortled along with Biden for military action in Libya. Those polite call him Biden’s “alter ego.” Those blunt prefer the phrase of “war-mongering psycho.”

Somehow, this essential on the man misses the US media completely as they harp on his experience, having been a deputy both in the offices of the National Security Advisor (2013-2015) and Secretary of State (2015-2017).

This once aspiring film producer couldn’t have found a better script than his own journey: Jewish parents, father who dominated the world of venture capital, mother a patron of arts, a stepfather who survived the holocaust and became one of the most influential lawyer on the global stage.

Blinken’s access in the ante-chambers of White House was visible as back as on May 1, 2011, peering behind Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton while the Operation Abbottabad against Osama bin Laden was on ( Blinken in red circle in image below).

Then you have Jake Sullivan, the National Security Advisor, who once wrote to her boss Hillary Clinton that “Al Qaeda is on our side” in Syria. He also was a key player in hyping up the fake allegations of Trump-Russia collusion. He too is all for “American exceptionalism” which is America-in-the-palm-of-military-industrial-complex-again in the post-Trump world.

Then there are nieces. Michele Flournoy who is most likely to be the Secretary of Defense. Janet Yellen, treasury secretary, who is an inflation hawk, unlikely to support large spending on social welfare, and generally means that the rigged US financial system, a private monetary system, is ruling the roost again.

If still unconvinced, they say, follow the money and truth would reveal itself to you.

The two most-common link between most of these nephews and nieces is CNAS (Centre for New American Security) and CSIS (Centre for Strategic and International Studies)—the 2nd and 6th highest recipient of US government and defense-contractor funding.

Who are the top donors to CNAS? Northrop, Grumman, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and the Department of Defense. Now Michele Flournoy is co-founder of CNAS. One of her well-documented sleight of hand was in getting the UAE to pay CNAS $250,000 to draft just a report that it must buy American drones. These pilotless birds, US-made, have never stopped ending up in Gulf theocracies, never mind their human rights record or brutal bombings in neighbourhood such as Yemen.

Tony Blinken has been with CSIS, Jake Sullivan with Macro Advisory Partners, run by British spy chiefs, not to say with Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, funded by 10 military agencies and defence contractors. Watch out for the names of Avril Haines (top contender for CIA director) and Kathleen Hicks (CSIS) in case their names pop up in your New York Times of Washington Post tomorrow morning.

There is this moral from Aesop’s fable: “A man is known by the company he keeps.” To me, it means the return of GIs boots in the far-flung corners of the world. The US media would never mention that this set cost the United States humiliating defeat in Iraq and Afghanistan, just as in Vietnam. Some three million service members spent time in Iraq and Afghanistan for no gain in the last 19 years. Some $6 trillion dollars of the taxpayers have gone down the drain. Some 515,000 people have been killed, including 260,000 civilians.

So the sacred cow of foreign policy and the golden calves of defence establishment would again be venerated. Those who found Donald Trump an evil incarnate in the last four years, a Hitler reborn, would sing peace hymns in the background to genocides. Meanwhile, you could carry on with your clowns in NYT and Washington Post.

 

 

“Farce of Farmers”: No Indian could be neutral at this hour; which side are you on?

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

Let there be no doubt that it’s not about farmers. Think of all the reasons you could and I would demolish it clinically.

MSP? “Farmers” are worried that Minimum Support Price is not guaranteed. That private players would manipulate them in future. Now when the prime minister Narendra Modi has assured MSP in the Parliament; and the Centre needs free foodgrains for 80-crore citizens, there is no way “farmers” wouldn’t get the MSP.

Unconvinced? Let’s look at the figures.The agitation is about wheat and paddy, right? Now between Punjab (69%) and Haryana (25%), some 94 percent of all wheat and paddy is procured. It’s only going up. In 2019, the wheat bought was 34.1 million tonnes. This year it’s already 38.9 million tonnes. In 2019, the Centre had bought 26.6 million tonnes of paddy. This year, it’s 31.6 million.

So, if the agitation is only about wheat and paddy, and MSP on it, what’s the problem here?

APMC? The “fear” that mandis would be bypassed. Really? Does the Farm Acts say so? Is allowing farmers to sell anywhere they want under APMC is doing away with APMC? How is more freedom spun into less freedom narrative? Who else dominates APMC but rich farmers, powerful traders and entrenched politicians?

Unconvinced? Let’s pour over statistics released only this September. Punjab has 31 percent Scheduled Caste population. Yet only 22 Dalits received aid under PM Kisan Samman Nidhi Yojna. Why? Because this set doesn’t own much of land. The land is owned by rich farmers. In Punjab, only 3.5% of private farm land belong to Dalits. As against, Punjab has the richest of all farmers in India—classified as owning more than 10 hectares of land among all non-mountainous states of India. While the national average is 0.57% of total land in the hands of the rich, in Punjab it scales up to 5.28%.

There is no third argument in this farce. You would ask me if this is so why thousands of farmers have gathered at the gate of Delhi and choked the entrance to the Capital? All I know is that this mob is made up of all kinds: Rich-elite farmers, the people-towing trucks which the politicians are so adept at harnessing. When you have tell-tale evidence of Khalistanis popping up their banners; Popular Front of India (PFI) shouting their support; Delhi’s Arvind Kejriwal opening his “langar” for them; Punjab chief minister Capt. Amarinder Singh not picking up phone of his counterpart from Haryana, you know this is anything but farmers.

So, if this is not about farmers what is this all about? This is about controlling India. About usurping the power. To be the handmaidens of those who are upset at the national narrative of last six years. Those who are frustrated that neither voters nor judiciary is being swayed by their propaganda. The last resort of these losers is to unleash anarchy on the street. To keep drumming Bad Police whenever the cops push back. Police freezes, judiciary is dumbstruck—so what option Centre really has?

The Centre has called the farmers for a 3 p.m meeting on Tuesday. If it takes place, it would fail. It should. Centre has more than Punjab to worry about. It can’t guarantee MSP. It can’t handover a template in the hands of anarchists. If you guarantee MSP, you are dissuading private players from improving the agriculture sector which is in shambles. It needs big investment in tech, seeds, water-capacity. Do you think state governments like Punjab could do so? A state government which even can’t solve the stubble-burning problem? Which levies 8.6 percent tax on farm proceeds so it could offer free electricity and free water? Is it concerned that chemicals in water are now producing Cancer Villages of Punjab?

Let me make another prediction. You would have “farmers” rally in support around India, hogging your newspapers in coming days. At least in Kerala, Telangana, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Maharashtra etc who would also pass resolutions in assembly that they wouldn’t implement Farm Acts 2020. Brussels and Washington would be deeply concerned.

Somehow the students of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), Jamia Millia Islamia or Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) would seek “Azaadi” for the farmers. Our Swara Bhaskars and filmi set of Bhatts and Akhtars and Kashyaps would join voices. Our Asaduddin Owaisi would be worrying about India’s democracy in front of cameras. “Award Waapsi” has already begun.

That’s why I say this is not about farmers.

Now let’s look at the other side. What options the Modi government really has to stop this recurrence of anarchy? It has seen anti-CAA protests and now this Farmers’ Stir which has been whipped up on misinformation, propaganda and the agenda to destabilize India. All in one year. Many more would occur.

Where does Modi government go from here?

Farmers’ stir: Analysing the situation from two sides of the barricades; Who’s wrong?

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

Farmers on foot, tractors, trucks have marched from Punjab towards Haryana and Delhi. Along the way, they have faced barricades, police resistance which morphed into tear gas, water canons and arguably some baton wielding. It’s not a pretty picture and the typical hubris of Modi government is painted in our newspapers. The stand off has refused to die down two months after the three Farmers’ Acts were passed by the Parliament in September.

Emotions are running high. So I would cut out the flourish and engage the readers in the simplest of language possible.

So, let’s first work out what the farmers want and what the Centre is loathe to give it to them. The essence of these Farm Acts is that (a) it’s now One Nation, One Agriculture market; (b) that farmers could engage with private players; and (c) No need to hoard the grains.

ONE NATION ONE AGRICULTRE MARKET: It implies that a farmer could sell his produce anywhere in the country. So, if I am a Punjab farmer, and couldn’t look beyond the mandis of the state (read Agriculture Produce Market Committee—APMC) thus far, I could now scan the neighbouring states of Himachal, Haryana or Uttar Pradesh and get the best price on my produce;

FARMERS COULD ENGAGE WITH PRIVATE PLAYERS: Farmers in Punjab are hampered on water and technological issues. The water tables of the state are so depleted that there are “Cancer Villages in Punjab” due to all the chemicals and pesticides. The simplest example on technological issue is the stubble-burning which makes Delhi a gas chamber and which the farmers’ can’t attend to because of the cost involved. Now farmers could engage private players for redemption on these fronts, including seeds.

NO STOCKPILING: The Centre says we have enough food. Farmers’ don’t need to stockpile but for exceptional circumstances. The State government wants to have it say. It’s not a major point in the present confrontation.

xxx

Once these three Farm bills were moved, Shiromani Akali Dal walked out of the alliance with the BJP. The Punjab state government of Congress, led by Captain Amarinder Singh, moved a resolution which was passed by the state assembly to override these Farm Acts of the Centre. Yet, the agitation has refused to die down because the President of India hasn’t given his assent to the state assembly’s resolution.

The arguments from the other side, backed by the Punjab state government and passed by the assembly, are these:

(a)    The State government could notify the fee on any private or electronic transaction. So if you go to Punjab, as a private, player, the state government could actually levy tax on you (So whither Ease of Doing Business?)

(b)    Instead of a few hundred mandis, the whole Punjab state would thus become a mandi over which the writ of the state government would run large;

(c)     The Punjab state government says that the procurement of wheat and paddy should happen only on the Minimum Support Price (MSP). If it is bought for less, the state would have the right to punish the private player. The State say we are doing so to protect the future of farmers: What happens if the Centre changes its mind and does away the MSP for wheat and paddy?

It’s the MSP which is the stickiest of all points. The contention that private players in future could hold the farmers at their mercy is unfounded. As of last year, the total procurement by private players in the State was a mere 0.58 per cent. Further, under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana, some 80 crores of the 150-crore population are being given free foodgrains. The Centre would always need to procure foodgrains. The incitement to farmers that their future would be held to ransom is fallacious.

Sure, the MSP is not just important for the farmers. It’s also important for the Punjab state government. It taxes farmers to the tune of 8.5 per cent. Last year, the Punjab state government made 3600 crore revenue out of this exercise. This money, they claim, they spend on the welfare of farmers which includes free electricity and free water.

Naturally, MSP suits both farmers and the Punjab state government. Farmers get free subsidies. The State government affords it through taxation, most of which comes from the revenue that the Centre gives by procuring the foodgrains.

The Centre is loathe to guarantee MSP. One, there is little logic as outlined since the government would always need foodgrains. Two, as said, private players are miniscule in this game. Besides, wheat and paddy are not the only produce from Punjab. There is a flourishing dairy industry too. All could benefit if the market is allowed to take its own course.

Arguing in favour of farmers for “free” subsidies is the same if I go to my bank tomorrow and say I can’t pay my loan back because it pinches my pocket. That’s no argument. You can’t run a nation on this premise. Further private players, as said, could provide solution to a lot of lingering farm issues in this country. If the threat of a punitive State action is around, nobody would come forward. The farm situation would only worsen. E-commerce players like Grofers and Big Basket, a win-win for all, would suffer.

Now look at it from another perspective. This issue seems only to concern Punjab. The farmers in the rest of the country have no issue with these three Farm Acts. Wheat and Paddy and that too of Punjab farmers isn’t the entire India and its produce. Could a state hold to ransom which is good for farmers and sectors all across?

Now let’s delve on the political aspect of it. Captain Amarinder Singh and Congress know that the election is only a year and a half away in 2022. This is the right time to make a capital investment. Shrimoni Akali Dal too want to recover its lost ground. It’s BJP, who would fight all 117 seats alone. Who stands to lose the most? One should give BJP credit for persisting in face of such adverse poll logic.

There is also this question of middlemen. It’s not an inconsiderable number in Punjab: At the last count it was 36,000. The Food Corporation of India (FCI) gave them Rs 1,600 crores at 2.5 percent commission last year. They stand to lose the most if the monopoly of mandis (APMC) is done with. They also flourish under the political patronage. Both won’t like the new measures to kick in.

 

Pattanaik is quick to seize on the “Suitable Boy” kiss: But Khajuraho analogy doesn’t fit

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

Devdutt Pattanaik has again pulled a fast one. His twitter timeline has an image of a sculpture, most likely from Khajuraho, where a kiss is being performed. He followed it with another one such image. He taunts “Hindutva” and he mocks saffron warriors including True Indology.

Pattanaik has done so in response to the Netflix serial “The Suitable Boy” being in crosshairs for showing a kiss inside a temple. His import is Hindu Dharma has always been nonchalant about such activities, that sex was a part of life and openly exhibited in public view. That the Hindu dharma today is hostage to Hindutva extremists. And that the right-wing Hindu governments is fuelling it. He kills the other bird with one stone in dragging saffron warriors and True Indology. Who’s the boss here now?

The misinformation is deliberate. It hides that temples like Khajuraho were built when Buddhism was the flavour. When Hindu dharma was in retreat. So, a show had to be put on devdasis and apsaras. Shringara too which was one of the Navrasas. Such images were put on exteriors of temples so visitors don’t lose sight of their roots. People still kept their padukas outside the temple. Inside was still sacred. Pious and devotional thoughts were still encouraged. Epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata still ran around the four corners.

Temples of past must be seen in their contexts. Cities came around temples and not the other way round. Temples were where artisans, writers, sculptors, poets could earn their living. The donation from the Kings and Rich kept the tradition, the folklore, the civilization alive. Music were performed. Debates happened. People gathered. The heritage received a fresh coat. Temples were more than just Gods.

But they were not Lodhi gardens or venue of sex escapades. They were still essentially abode of Gods. A place where a pure mind and a pure body could meet divinity. You were encouraged to wash yourself clean. Yogis did tapasayas, people took vows, sought forgiveness from the residents of heavens.  A Menaka was seen a temptation to break the sadhana of a Vishwamitra.

So it’s facile on Pattanaik’s part to spin a story which could show Hindutva as no different from Crusaders or Jihadis. Hindutva was a word coined by Veer Savarkar. He was an atheist and used it to define all who lived in India. This was to counter the assertion of Muslim fundamentalists of his times. “Hindutva” was a pamphlet published in 1923 when the Khilafat movement was at its peak and had gripped Mahatma Gandhi. Hindutva to him implied Hinduness of its people. It didn’t have religious connotations. Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) also doesn’t use it in a theological sense.

Men like Pattanaik and Shashi Tharoor know how to please their masters. The narrative that India is in grip of religious extremism and Narendra Modi’s BJP is fuelling it. That Hindutva is the raging fire which would burn up Muslim homes, rape its women and leave its children destitute. That ultimately it would break up India in dozens.

The stance on “Suitable Boy”, if anything has come late. Netflix has been begging for censure for some years now. It surely is good business for Netflix to stoke controversy and there is no better way than to show Hindu extremism. Everyone watches the show, money keeps raining and those who promote Netflix—Left-Liberal moneybags of course—have their hands full with bounty.

Pattanaiks surely help in confusing Hindus. To sow division in ranks. To earn one more invitation to Indian consulate in Canada (never mind he would never praise Modi government for this show of Liberalism). One more pre-order of a million on next book.

So folks, no kissing in temple for me. No overlooking the agenda. No public relations exercise from Hindus. We would scream and we would exhort for that’s the only way we could throw off the weight of centuries. To strain every sinew of ours, to exert every vocal cord at our command. If we look bad, too bad.

 

What does China really gain by fighting its neighbours? A lot it seems

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

No country has more land or maritime borders than China has. It has 14 neighbours around its’ 22,000 km land borders. In South China Sea, there are six (Vietnam, Philippines, Taiwan, Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia). And if you thought it had good relations with at least one, even Russia and North Korea could disappoint you. (You could click here and know all why China is so prickly).

It doesn’t add up.

President Xi Jinping once said there’s “no gene for invasion in the Chinese people’s blood.” But then you have its media organs emitting more fire in a day than a Dragon would in its’ lifetime.

It doesn’t add up.

China claims its military preparedness—the monsters it showcases in its military parades—is defensive in nature. Its embedded media in foreign journals, its implanted professors in your OpEds all harangue how the peaceful rise of a nation—which shares its wealth with all comers, be it Africa, Latin America or Europe—is being resented by a fading superpower in the United States. That China is beefing up just in case the United States tries out its hand before the balance shifts irrevocably. But what threat China has from Myanmar, Bhutan, Singapore or Brunei? I mean Nepal?

It doesn’t add up.

As I fiddle with my scrapbook, I find President Xi uttering: “A far-off relative is not as good as a close neighbour.” Really? Then why lay trap for them as housewives do for nibbling rats on the kitchen floors. You want your Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to reach Ushuaia, the end of the world, and yet you want trouble on its very first mile. The only harmony you have is with your “far-off relatives” in Africa and Latin America.

It doesn’t add up.

The funny thing is China hasn’t added an inch to its territory for all this muscle-flexing. I mean ignore Rahul Gandhi for a moment who believes China is already inside our drawing rooms. Or Aksai Chin whose every stone and pebble is worth in gold for the Beijing. But at least for a decade, the only capture China has managed is headlines. It would appear China doesn’t want peace but it doesn’t want war either. Who exactly is sitting inside the Foreign office building of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)?

CCP is different; Chinese people are different

My theory is, to begin with, we must not confuse China with Chinese people. Before Communists took over, China had a civilisation. It had its own tradition, culture and rituals. Now to the outside world, all they have is factory labours whose backs have inclined forward an extra millimetre even as I write this. It’s not a happy society where voices are shackled and your family numbers, your working hours and daily wages are dictated by the Big Brother.

How do you make sure that it remains that way without a challenge to your authority? Well, one of course is the way of Tiananmen Square. The other is to constantly remind them that the decades of Colonial slavery is returning. That West again has a barrel pointing its nozzle towards the peaceful China. That we must make sacrifices—Ah, that essential Communist ideology of eternal struggle—for the glory of the motherland.

Secondly, Beijing has seen the benefits of flexing muscle with its neighbours. Most cower. Like Myanmar who has admitted that they are afraid of China. That if the big neighbour was to shutdown projects, it would strengthen the embedded Communist insurgents who owe their existence to Beijing. Nepal wonders why China is on its tail when it did its bidding against India? That what does Beijing really mean when it constructs 11 buildings inside their territory and then leave them unoccupied? To what end?

Well, the end is to have a still more strangulating effect on the world which already owes hundreds of trillion dollars to Beijing. To make the poor neighbours at its borders to keep prostrating. Very few react the way Modi’s India did. That move has backfired. If the intention was to weaken Modi internally, and its stooges to take over New Delhi, the recent poll wins convey a different outcome. But this exception doesn’t bend the rule of holding neighbours by throat.

When everyone is talking about how to defend the Diaoyu Islands, how to crack whip on the Philippines, how to fix the upstart Vietnam, how to pull India’s ears which is nurturing the Quad and stood up to in Doklam, the society falls in line. What appears a belligerent Beijing to the outside world is projected as besieged Beijing to its people. A handful of people who control the destiny of a billion and a half citizens are probably doing it for selves and not for the future of the motherland. What if China burns and the humanity is doomed.

 

 

 

Indian Express is specious on “Gupkar Gang” and Kargil analogy. Here’s why!

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

Indian Express is being specious in showing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as double-tongued in calling its rivals as “Gupkar Gang” and yet being ally with National Conference (NC) in Kargil, Ladakh.

There is an editorial too in the newspaper in delicious English which to writers is orgasmic. Let’s first get a few basics out of the way in case you are joining this match in slog overs.

Jammu and Kashmir ceased being a state on August 5, 2019. Regional satraps, Abdullahs (NC) and Mehbooba Mufti (PDP) went into house arrest. All are released now. All want the erstwhile special status for Jammu and Kashmir, now a Union Territory, restored. Farooq Abdullah is publicly asking China–the gravest threat as an entity—if it could help.

Meanwhile, the Centre pushed the political process in motion through elections. It began small, at the district level. The one of LAHDC (Leh)—Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council—was held last month. BJP secured a majority. The one in LAHDC (Kargil) is some three years away. In the present Kargil body, elected in 2018, National Conference heads an alliance of 26 elected members. Three of them are from the BJP.

Now the District Development Council (DDC) elections in the other Union Territory, Jammu and Kashmir, are due from November 28 in eight phases. All the regional satraps of the region have joined hands. They did so under the Gupkar Declaration which was an understanding amongst them to restore the special status of J and K. But afraid of missing the bus, they have buried their differences and to hell with J and K’s autonomy. They can’t let DDC elections go. Congress is a part of it, the alliance—People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) having fielded three Congress candidates in the list for first three phases so far.

That has led to Union home minister Amit Shah calling them a “Gupkar Gang.” And that it’s anti-national. And that Congress must specify if they stand with the forces who want Article 370 and Article 35A restored. And now this alliance is blowing back the hot air through the nozzles of tweets and co-opted media such as Indian Express.

So first spot the difference papered over by Indian Express. One, NC and BJP were never in pre-poll alliance in Kargil like Gupkar-Congress is in Jammu and Kashmir. Two, Kargil is not wanting the restoration of Article 370 and 35A as is being done in Jammu and Kashmir. Three, NC in Jammu and Kashmir is as different from one in Kargil as chalk is from cheese. As an analogy refer to Punjab: Captain Amarinder Singh is a Congress chief minister but practically independent. If it wasn’t so the Gandhis wouldn’t have left Navjot Singh Sidhu at his tail.

But Kargil is still in a lower pecking order of Indian Express. The newspaper’s lead today is that Centre is afraid and has practically put the Alliance’s candidate under house arrest. How would they campaign? Meanwhile, the newspaper alleges that the representatives of BJP and its allies are roaming free with a police escort in tow. These are serious charges and one would wait a few hours before I could share its nuances with you.

On a broader point though BJP can’t be afraid. Even if they lose DDC elections, it won’t change things on the ground. It would only cost them talking shop. Article 370 and 35A would remain a thing of the past. And Gupkaris, please stop doing this charade of special status for your beloved J and K. You are now queuing up to join the new J and K. Admit that the sham of “J and K of past” is just a façade to reclaim your dynasty. Arguably to hand it over to Pakistan–and Chin–by default. Your hapless citizens, all this while, have only been a tool to yield dividends.

All it would do is to afford Abudllahs and Mehbooa a toehold over the ground slipping under their feet. They would have a semblance of power and it would help keep sheep under the flock, whatever is left. It would keep them in the news. In editorials of the likes of Indian Express. But they have been marginalized. Glory is a thing of the past. Its shadow—like of Roshni land scam—is lengthening.

If anything, Farooq Abdullah should be grateful he hasn’t been brought under a sedition charge for openly calling for China when India has an existential issue with the giant neighbour. India is bleeding men and money. You can’t have someone open the front doors and usher the enemy in.