(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
The corporate tax reforms of Friday are seen as the biggest in India since 1991 when India opened up its gates to the global headwinds of liberalization.
By slashing up to 10 per cent of the existing tax burden on the corporates, the Modi government has now made them internationally competitive, inviting investments both from within and abroad which in turn implies more growth, more jobs and more income—the surest way to spurt in consumption.
Good things under Modi government usually leave its opponent red-faced and into attempts at spitting the moon. Praise is impossible; prejudice is palpable and putsch is the goal.
Indian Express has an army of lowbrows and it’s always fun to see its toxic factory working overtime when good things are brewing.
So, this is how Indian Express reacted to Modi government’s Big Bang reforms of Friday:
“Analysts (no one is named or quoted) raise question over whether corporate would (indeed) reinvest the surplus, or (opt for) reducing debts or high shareholders’ returns.”
Smart alec isn’t it. I mean don’t we have the instance under UPA when provident funds of employees were swindled by powers? That scamsters like Nirav Modi, Mehul Choksi and Vijay Mallya were given loans to pay off their existing loans? That real estate barons took our money and diverted it into other projects? That subsidies and cash-sops meant for the poor were siphoned off by profiteers? What’s the guarantee that present tax-sops would help the nation and not the corporate-honchos?
Indian Express has of course obscured a crucial piece of the jigsaw. It’s how attractive Indian companies would now be to foreign funds. India is now as attractive as any other Asian country, or almost all, for multinationals to invest or move their production/assemblage operations to India.
Both Indian Express, and its comrade-in-arms, The Hindu, have lamented the fiscal deficit which would grow after Friday’s measures. Tax-cuts would mean lesser revenue for the government and hence the income and spending divergence would grow further. Both have shed copious tears.
But, as economist Surjit Bhalla tweets, the fiscal deficit arises from within. It’s endogenous, an outcome of policies…government budget deficit should be neither the goal nor the instrument of good policy. It’s the byproduct of good policy…Alas the lessons in Econ 000 escapes all the opposition and a large majority of professional economists in India.”
The Hindu goes at length to measure every penny which India would lose by way of these tax-cuts. It says: “Ms Sitharaman said the revenue foregone is Rs 1.45 lakh crore…the bounty of Rs 1.75 lakh crore received from the Resere Bank of India, as dividend is obviously a cushion and it is this money that the government has now given away.”
Who are we to tell these foggies that no foreign investor invests in India because the “fiscal deficit” is not remarkable. They do it for growth since most of the world is starved for growth.
Sitaram Yechury, the known Modi-government baiter, is up to his old tricks: “Enriching Corporates: Heaping further miseries on people. Misappropriation of RBI reserves of Rs 1.76 lakh crore is now being transferred to corporates instead of being used for increasing public investment that will generate employment and boost demand.”
Kids’ stuff really. These were the same forces who were flashing a dipping Sensex as a sign that Indian economy has sunk. Now that Sensex has moved upwards like it never did in the last decade, they are suggesting that Sensex is no indicator of country’s economy!
Don’t think it would stop any soon. Modi would return from Houston and “Howdy, Modi” with a list of investments in India. It would rile these forces further. Sitaram Yechury is already saying that it’s a massive concession to foreign speculators.
I mean what do we do with such inimical forces who don’t see any good in Triple Talaq Act, Article 370 abrogation or Big Ticket reforms. When Parliament works at its optimum, there is a chorus what’s the rush in pushing through bills. When Ayodhya dispute is being unravelled daily, they have a problem with that too. Nothing which the citizens consider good for the country is deemed one by these forces.
Insufferables, I say.
(Post Script: Neither Indian Express nor The Hindu would tell you Prime Minister Narendra Modi used special powers to bring the ordinance to amend the finance bill to cut corporate tax rates before leaving for the US. Section 12 of the Cabinet rules empowers the PM to use the power of the Cabinet under special circumstances. Anything but Modi seen in good light.)
(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
First, the bitter truth.
You are fed lies by the mainstream media.
They told you Iraq had Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD).
They lied you about reasons to invade Libya.
That the revolution in Ukraine was people’s movement as it is in Hong Kong and Venezuela.
That Syria’s Bashar al-Assad is despotic but Saudi Arabia is benign enough to be heading the UN Human Rights Commission!( This when Saudi Arabia in 2015 beheaded more people than ISIS)
That North Korea is a terror to the world even though it hasn’t attacked a single country all these years.
Iran is an eyesore even though it was faithful to the pact it had with the West and now millions of its citizen face starvation because of the US-inflicted sanctions which are ot UN-mandated.
You never come to read the macabre truth of Africa where regimes are overturned and humanity is butchered every day as imperialists eye their land, labour and resources.
Russia is certified aggressor even though it’s NATO which is encircling the beleaguered land.
The truth on terrorism which US claims to be in fight against would make you lose faith in humanity.
Closer home, a miniature version is Lutyens Media, wholly deceitful and corrupt.
They would never question why PoK was never an agenda in the Congress hegemony; they would never report on the gruesome murders and brutal rapes on Kashmiri Pandits; millions of infiltrators in our East don’t prick their journalism of courage; tens of thousands of soldiers killed by naxals and terrorists are not martyrs in their eyes but only a brutal face of a repressive regime; their umbrella of protection is big enough to shelter Congress, TMC, SP, BSP, RJD, Left and what have you. Lynchings are for Muslims; religious persecution is for minorities only. Why bother that an Ankit or Gudiya have also paid with their lives and that a temple was vandalized in the very heart of the Indian Capital not long ago.
Don’t for a second think that Western and Lutyens Media are unrelated. They are part of a network: sharing scoops (e,g Panama Papers), editorial pages and a clutch of celebrities and personalities who are agents of Liberal Order, implying in the garb of protecting freedom, human rights and democracy, they cause defiant societies to implode from within. They work on the faultlines: Like in India, the Lutyens Media loses no opportunity to blow up any terrible incident against a Muslim or a Dalit; work on the gender and North-South divide; scare minority against the majority; preach their own brand of secularism – all of which of course takes flight in States where Hindus are in minority and repressed; gender-divide which doesn’t include Muslim women and secularism which doesn’t extend for example to Kashmiri Pandits. They subvert India’s history and heritage; culture and legacy; where mausoleums are celebrated and sublime temples are ignored. Ghar-Wapsi is a calamity but thousands of conversions in the countryside are a matter of celebration.
This network feeds each other into a size of a behemoth. Lutyens Media din a BBC, New York Times, CNN or Time into your ears and vice versa; the news agencies such as AFP, AP and Reuters are the feeding pipes as are social media giants Google, Facebook and Twitter who dump searches, bury voices or slap bans against all those which run contrary to Liberal Order.
How do you arrive at truth? The “base camp” of course is the voices which never reach you. In India, you could look at following websites and reason out yourself which could be closer to truth:
Abroad, I can suggest a handful which are puncturing the mainstream narrative with facts, logic and reason:
Clearly the above voices are in the wilderness. They don’t reach you till you look for them. The biggest disadvantage is they are not mainstream.
What’s mainstream? Mainstream is the narrative which seamlessly weaves into your daily life. You accept the news beamed in your drawing rooms or the ones dropped in the morning in your frontyard is credible. They are credible because they speak of freedom, equality, liberty which appeals to human senses. (George Orwell had predicted long ago that good words would covey exactly the opposite meaning by ruling classes). They are credible because everyone else finds them credible. You don’t want to be the odd man out. Lies constantly drummed become truth in due course.
How a sample of alternative media I have mentioned above could become mainstream? First admit the tall order because you are talking of dismantling the very narrative which you have been fed since you started walking. From your kindergarten schools to higher education to job, mainstream narrative becomes you. To unlearn what you’ve learnt all your life is difficult.
But truth like light has a way of shining through the pall of darkness. As 99% of the world become more dispossessed than they were in the 60s, they intuitively feel that Democrats or Republicans (US), Congress (India), Conservative or Labour (United Kingdom), use the tool of Liberal Order to bond and feed on each other. Their goal is hegemony of the world, of our minds. Alternative views are systematically put out of sight.
It’s unlikely the alternative media could become mainstream. For that to happen, you first need to have a system (government, universities, academia, media) in place. That is mostly unlikely to happen. Liberal Order has monopolized lexicons of Liberty, Equality, Freedom and Democracy. You exposure on lies would be seen as conspiracy theorists; your flashing of mirror in face would be dubbed whataboutery; you assertion of your culture and legacy would be labeled as one of a fundamentalist.
Narratives, however, do change when anti-mainstream opinions come to power, as it has in India (Narendra Modi), United States (Donald Trump) and Russia (Vladimir Putin) for example. They have been hoisted to power by millions of dispossessed and faceless citizens. Mainstream narrative willfully ignores them and they end up consolidating the alternative forces. It gives rise to foot soldiers–the websites I have mentioned above—to yank open the door further. There is a need to support these websites with funds and footfalls; provide a structure to what till now is an organic growth; organize seminars, institute awards, hold public dialogue vigorously. Have your own Nobel or Magsaysay Awards which are manipulated; Pulitzer or Booker prize which never gives space to alternative views.
Social Media is a good start but not a conclusive one as the Big Brother sooner than later would come back to bite you. So hold hands, spare time and money, and let the good word spread.
(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
I conversed with Mahatma Gandhi in dreams last night. I was in heaven with a collection of his thoughts and words—“India Of My Dreams”—and spotted the Bapu in a corner spinning khadi wheel. He looked healthy, probably because the sinful Indian Express and The Hindu are barred from heavens. I touched his feet, squatted in front and opened the book which, truth to tell, pleased him. My subject was his views on Hindi language and I had bookmarked his specific utterances on the matter. I read on:
“I have the greatest faith in the Dravidians someday taking up Hindi study seriously. If an eighth of the industry that they put in mastering English were to be devoted to learning Hindi, instead of the rest of India, remaining a sealed book to them, they will be one with us as never before…The Dravidians being in a minority, national economy suggests that they should learn the common language of the rest of India than that the rest should learn Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malyalam in order to be able to converse with Dravidian India” (Young India 16-6-’20)
Bapu, do you realize the folly of your words? That how profitable it is for local forces to keep the rest of India a sealed book for its audience? Sure, the Commie rags play their part: They never mention that Adi Shankracharya was a Dravidian; that a host of CBSE schools which teach Hindi are run by DMK/AIDMK leaders. If I was to make your words known to them, your statutes or framed images would be blackened or put to fire.
“Little does anyone know that almost all the Tamils and the Telugus living in South Africa can carry on an intelligent conversation in Hindi.” Young India (16-6-’20).
Again Bapu, how does it matter? Even Latin is compulsory in schools in England. But this is whataboutery. The ground reality is, a famous actor (Kamal Haasan) promises burning fields in his state if Hindi was introduced in the curriculum.
“Bengal and Madras are the two provinces that are cut off from the rest of India for want of knowledge of Hindustani on their part. Bengal, because of its prejudice against learning any other language of India…” (Young India 2-2-’21)
Sure Bapu, Bengal and Madras remain cut off from rest of India to this day. Sure, Mamata Banerjee cries “Bengali pride” from rooftops. Sure, DMK leader Stalin (never mind he has a European and not a Dravidian name) has given a call for agitation against Hindi later this week. I only hope you were more discreet. Just imagine if Prime Minister Narendra Modi was to quote you on the subject?
“A knowledge of English opens up intercourse only with the comparatively few English-knowing Indians, whereas a possible knowledge of Hindustani enables us to hold intercourse with the largest number of our countrymen. (Young India 2-2’-21)
Bapu, they are doing well as it is. They pay income-tax for rest of India. It’s another matter most of it is recovered with interest from the Centre when Chennai drowns in flood once every two years. Most of its population reaps the benefit of Centre’s SC/ST schemes. Why bother?
“If we were not living in artificial conditions, the people living in the South will not consider the learning of Hindi as a strain on them, much less a superfluity…. If it is to be for and of the starving millions, of the illiterate millions, of the illiterate women, of the suppressed ‘untouchables’, Hindi is the only possible common language.” (Young India, 18-6-31)
Sorry Bapu, they do speak for starving millions and “untouchables” when the Elections are around. They also speak about illiteracy admittedly though only of Muslims. I am afraid it’s nothing less than “imposition” you are suggesting. All you would do is to produce South Indian versions of Nathuram Godse.
“The cry of “mother tongue in danger” is either ignorant or hypocritical. And where it is sincere it speaks little for the patriotism of those who will grudge our children an hour per day for Hindustani. We must break through the provincial crust if we are to reach the core of all- Indian nationalism. Is India one country and one national or countries and many nations.” (Harijan, 10-9-’38)
Bapu do you realize the monstrosity of your outreach? Do you realize you echo every syllable of BJP/RSS on nationalism? Who would now celebrate October 2 as your 150th birth anniversary in Dravidian India? How long do you think Congress would keep owning you up?
Bapu had long stopped spinning his wheels. He was staring me, long and hard. His spectacles had cracked. The poor goat of his had started bleating. He looked around—none of his favourites, Nehru or Azad, were in heaven. Sardar Patel was a neighbour but had long disowned him for betraying him with India’s prime ministership. The likes of Subhas Bose and Bhagat Singh were never enamoured of him. Gurudev Tagore had long turned sceptical of him. I felt sorry for the great man. The entire Congress party rode on his shoulders for close to a century. They mouthed platitudes on his every birth anniversary. Political leaders made a beeline for Rajghat on his death anniversary. His beaming face adorns nation’s currency. Yet they have shunned his ideology. Gandhi is not for defending; he is an ATM to encash for the dynasty.
(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
A typical day when I hit roads in my car in the Capital. The roads themselves have three types of variations.
One is in the neighbourhood which teems with shops, cows, pedestrians, vehicles of all shapes and sizes. Here you could find our Virat Kohlis and Saina Nahiwals of future under the benign doting glances of their parents on the balcony. Schools-buses come every afternoon in the weekdays; alien cars make a stop in front of floors which rent young lives that celebrate weekends with booze, music and dance. Navigation requires yogic-contortions. Baring smiles on ladies who occupy a patch of lane for their daily round of gossip is a daily act. Here are no traffic lights.
Out of my sector are the big, bad roads. Traffic here is always slow, a bane of our municipal corporations who hadn’t accounted for a future of burgeoning cars, lakhs of flats and millions of residents. Now there is a scramble to collect the daily waste, roads dug to wire our homes with competing WiFis, multiple gaps in dividers for vehicles to switch over from left to right and vice-versa. Not that it matters to we the citizens: We simply opt for wrong side of traffic flow, braving ugly glances, gesticulating hands and showers of curse. How does it matter when a second of time and an ounce of fuel has been successfully saved?
All this before you hit your first traffic lights of the day. They usually take offs half a week. You can’t blame them either: We the traffic are colour-blind to their signals. It’s indiscreet to press on accelerators when it’s Green; It’s too idealistic to stop on Reds unless and until shrivelled beggars and their acrobat sons and daughters fulfil your idea of charity; or desperate men with fake editions of Sidney Sheldon and Irving Stone in your face reflect your educated background.
The next hour is a tribute to your ever-growing vocabulary on abuses. English swear-words are too polite. They are no match to our Punjabi and Hindi lexicons. The worst ones are reserved for the two-wheelers who swarm around your vehicle; darting from left and write, brushing your bumpers, navigating a gap you thought didn’t exist between two cars. Invariably you are forced to move out of right-most lane where the slowest of vehicle is lording over the lane meant for the fastest. There are three-wheelers who couldn’t care less if their iron frames scratch your newly-painted car or goods carriers who move slower than a bicycle and make you swerve wildly to the hail of abuses in the background.
The irony is, all of these troubles could actually be your work to the others. You too jump traffic lights; you too speak on your mobile as you drive; you too drive against the traffic once in a while and it’s been ages since you submitted your car for a pollution check. You too subdue the traffic police with your rank and position if a folded 100-rupee note isn’t a good-enough grease to his palms.
So you too are part of the problem. Other traffic violators have turned you into one. Or it could be you who has turned others into traffic violators. Daily we hit the roads, daily we come back cursing the jungle that is out there on the roads. We are not wrong too when we curse the rogue mobike-rider who you nearly killed or one who ran a scratch across the length of your car. You also swear at the governance which leaves huge potholes and unmanned traffic lights out there. Submerged roads could test out the lungs of your car; or worse you could’ve an idea how a submarine floats under the water.
So, on the terrifying jungle out there which could maim or kill you and your dear ones, all the stakeholders- people, traffic planners and regulators—are guilty. Planners don’t have a vision for future; Enforcers are corrupt and we the people have turned monsters on the road. Like millions of gods we have on different aspects of our lives, we need to invent a traffic Ganesha too for our wellbeing.
Let’s now view the new whip which has angered most in this country. Most of us are either dipping deep into our pockets or crowding the Pollution Control centres on gas stations. We find the measures too draconian what if our registration, insurance and pollution papers are not in order. We aren’t counting the benefits which discipline would bring on our roads and provides umbrella against pelting hefty medical bills.
At the outset there is every reason to applaud the transport minister Nitin Gadkari. He has been vocal on the Motor Vehicles Amendment bill for more than two years. He spent months in consultations with the states before finalizing and winning the ascent from the Parliament. He has shown a bloody-mindedness ignoring populism and discomfiture within his own ranks.
Three states go for elections in next three months and are all headed by BJP—Haryana, Maharashtra and Jharkhand. But for Haryana, the other two aren’t willing to face people’s wrath. Gujarat has brought down the fines by almost 90 per cent; Karnataka and Uttarakhand would implement the Act but reduce the fines to just a slap on the wrist. Assam, Uttar Pradesh and Tripura haven’t even implemented it.
Non-BJP states have only poured scorn on the new Motor Vehicles Act. Congress, which runs Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh and Punjab have put the new Act on hold. Rajasthan would implement it but the fines would be reduced to a minimum.
There is no second-guessing the “non-BJP” states of West Bengal, Kerala and Odisha. West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee is vocal that she wouldn’t implement the Act and burden her people. Kerala initially implemented the bill but now has put it on hold. The Odisha government of Naveen Patnaik has announced a three-month moratorium on the new Act. Interestingly, the Delhi government of Arvind Kejriwal is all in support of the Act.
It’s clear populism and politics would finally prevail over prudence. Our dharnas, noise and cribs matter to politicians. Asking us to wear seat belts, ride with helmets, follow zebra-crossing is too much of an ask. As it is to the tilted-heads on mobikes, using shoulders to attend calls on their mobile-phones.
Is this the entire truth? Doesn’t a couple with two small children, an old mobike and a few thousand rupees for a salary have a compulsion of their own on roads? Don’t we have faulty traffic signals? Don’t poor people buy a spluttering vehicle for a pittance only because it’s without papers? Don’t we have bus-stops right after the traffic-lights? Does the new Act take into account the last man on the road?
Good governance is one thing; populism is another. One leaves us with standardized conduct out on the streets; the other leaves us with chaos and anarchy. Good governance is never a zero-sum game: A few would always suffer in a society of extreme disparity. We have always longed for a government which governs for the good of the people. Now that we have it, we should strengthen and not weaken it.
(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
Iran has shown its hurt on India which has unilaterally stopped the import of its oil, unwilling to stand in the corner of the adversaries of the United States.
Ali Chegeni, Iranian Ambassador to India, didn’t mince his words in a press briefing in New Delhi on Tuesday, chiding India for succumbing to the “sanctions” of the United States.
The Donald Trump administration is going berserk in his attempt to destroy Iran, first pulling out of the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) despite Iran being faithful to the deal and piling on with economic sanctions without approval from its allies or world community in the form of United Nations.
India hasn’t imported oil from Iran for months now and couched its action as “reduced” and not “stopped” to suit its independent image. But now that Iran has gone public, India has been shown as having been arm-twisted by the United States.
Fans of India’s prime minister Narendra Modi and his muscular foreign policy could feel cheated as a multi-polar world—against the unipolar bullying of United States—is nearer to being a reality.
Russia and China, hit by sanctions and trade wars, are now joined at hips and Iran is a vital clog in their drive to keep Middle East, even Eurasia, out of bounds for the United States. European Union (EU) has created INSTEX (Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges) to keep trading with Iran without resorting to direct transfers of money between the two entities. India is seen as one final piece of jigsaw of the emerging multi-polar world which would signal the further unravelling of US’ hegemony.
To be sure, the United States is one hell of an economic power and throws its weight to bring nations under its heel. It’s the nerve centre of global economy. Be it goods or money; data or transportation, the world doesn’t move much without the express will of the United States.
The United States is the kingpin of globalization. It anchors International Monetary Fund (IMF). It controls over 50 per cent of the venture capital, all but 10 per cent of currency trade use its dollars. Tech and finance doesn’t move without its dollars; it could cripple phone-operating systems of the world; it controls the fund-management assets. As The Economist puts it: “Across the panel, it’s normal to use a Visa card, invoice exports in dollars, sleep beside a device with a Qualcomm chip, watch Netflix and work for a firm that BlackRock invests in.”
If a firm is blacklisted, no bank would touch you with a barge pole and you are put outside the dollar payment system. There is a law in place which controls the foreign investment into Silicon Valley—if you fall foul, you could virtually say goodbye to transactions in semiconductors and software, a virtual ruination in today’s world.
Economy isn’t the imperative though which has guided India’s change of course vis-à-vis Iran. India needs to hedge its bets. That’s the demand of the geopolitics reality. It neither can annoy the chief actors of the drama nor it can afford to align itself with either of the two groups: United States vs the Russia-China combine. If it snuggles up to the United States, it loses the strategic and military advantage of Russia. It provokes China to join hands with Pakistan and cause mayhem on its borders. If it slips into the arms of Russia-China, it must brace itself to the devastation which the United States could unleash, like the one they have in Hong Kong.
India thus follows the sensible policy of keeping its suitors interested. Both the United States and China need India. The United States in its existential mission to squeeze China and badly needs India. China wants to keep India dormant for the same reason. It can’t afford a naval configuration of United States-Japan-Australia-India to spike its waters.
India too needs to do a balancing act of its own. So it relents on South China Sea to ensure China doesn’t help Pakistan to the extent its borders are put under siege. It relents to United States’ demand on Iran to ensure its military purchases from Russia are unimpaired. It knows the mischief the United States is capable of. India internally is in an ideological churn. And the United States is expert in fishing in troubled waters. Kashmir could so easily go horribly wrong.
I suspect Modi’s India, in its heart, is for a multi-polar world. United States doesn’t follow rules, it isn’t friends with anyone. All it wants is servility. Those who are independent—like Cuba, Venezuela, Russia, China, North Korea or Iran—face its wrath. India is still some leagues away before it could trust China completely and dump the United States for good. India is pivotal to Project Eurasia but can’t afford to annoy either of the two blocs. It’s a watchful tread by them.
It’s just not the United States: India has also made a choice in warming up to Saudi Arabia-Israel in the Middle East. They are Iran’s sworn enemies. By drawing close to the Gulf Muslim nations, India has left Pakistan sterile. Pakistan’s fervent appeal on religious lines to Muslim nations has drawn a very tepid response on Kashmir. Instead we have the situation where Modi is being accorded the highest civilian honour in UAE and Bahrain. This comes in the backdrop of Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and Maldives conferring similar honours to him. It has isolated Pakistan on Kashmir.
Iran has shown it can’t wait for India interminably. It doesn’t want to be a minor player in India’s international diplomatic games. It’s a perfectly legitimate response given how Iran and its’ proud people are waging a war for survival. Modi government though is in the thick of its own war with internal and external enemies. One hopes, through the backdoor diplomatic channels, India and Iran remain warm to each other. Till the time is ripe.
It’s good for the world.
(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
If you were a Rajdeep Sardesai or Shekhar Gupta or Barkha Dutt, you would wish for a return of pre-2014 days. You could write or broadcast what you wanted, unchallenged, unquestioned; behemoth of India’s media, sought by global media outlets; prime ministers and presidents, kings and queens, knocking at your door for interviews; film stars lining up as if for auditions. You were firmly in your ivory tower, never seen in grocery shops or bookstores, metros or airports, malls or traffic stops.
Then winds changed. India’s right-wingers took hold in Centre. Websites, such as OpIndia and Swarajyamag among others, began nicking the bubble. The lies were exposed, bigotry was unmasked, anti-Hindu stance was bared in public. History began breaking free from the narrative of glorious Mughals, valiant Tipu Sultan, soothing Amir Khusru and pacifist Ashoka. One began viewing a Romila Thapar, Irfan Habib, Audrey Truschke, Sheldon Pollock in the light they deserved. Amartya Sen and Raghuram Rajan lost their halo. The benign mask of neutrality dropped like shame around our film stars and directors. Writers and academicians were revealed to be peddlers. Jurists and legal luminaries were found to be men of straw.
An avalanche was thus set in motion. The ecosystem began drowning in the outrage of the masses. Narendra Modi won over the poor; the intelligent found the counter-narrative on social media. Eco-system upped the game, terming every threat as trolls or bhakts. Internet warriors, on their part, found new converts. Eco-system termed the rivals as fake news peddlers. Lutyens Media began organizing debates and seminars to save their turf. Anyone or anything which didn’t agree with them was “fake news”. The entire game was one of credibility – and they were losing it. The 2019 Elections confirmed their worst fears.
Now a new round of conflict has been set in motion. The eco-system has realized they have been outnumbered. Social Media platforms are rallying such mass to grow in size. The “fake news” narrative hasn’t helped. So they have now launched a new initiative. This initiative doesn’t just have newspapers and news agencies, it has also roped in biggies like the Google, Facebook and Twitter. “Fake News” has been given a new name of “misinformation.” What was seen as “local” divide in Indian context, now has acquired “global” dimension. We might just have stumbled upon the global network which feeds and breeds this “eco-system” to disrupt India.
The Hindu has a front-page anchor today where it has grandiosely announced that it is partnering BBC and other global media outlets to fight the “misinformation” in public domain. That it wants to protect its audience. That BBC set it in motion through a “Trusted News Summit” earlier this year. That those in it together include European Broadcasting Union (EBU), Facebook, Financial Times, Google, AFP, Microsoft, Reuters, Twitter, BBC and of course The Hindu. That,they would alert each other when a “misinformation” is to be fought.
It’s a new challenge to India’s internet warriors. So far, we knew the bias of, say Twitter, which suspended accounts (e.g of True Indology, Sonam Mahajan etc) made twitterati remove tweets (Paresh Rawal) while those with similar offence (Shehla Rashid etc) kept flourishing. Netizens were able to dig up the dirt on Raheel Khursheed, CEO of Twitter (2014-2018), on his pro-Pakistan bias. Parliamentarians were outraged enough to summon twitter CEO Jack Dorsey. The clamour against Twitter’s alleged bias has only grown bigger in our times. Dorsey has admitted his staff could be overwhelmingly Left-leaning.
So how should internet warriors respond to this openly-aligned forces against them? First, it must leverage its numbers. Every sixth of twitter’s worldwide users is from India. Is has grown in leaps and bounds in last two years. This collective might must be leveraged by netizens, hopefully under the benevolent gaze of the government.
The time perhaps has also come for India to come up with their own micro-blogging platform such as one of Sina Weibo which China has. It’s a mix of Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. India could thus also protect its own data. The internet giants would have no option but to fall in line.
Importantly, The eco-system is getting ready to bite you—what’s your response?
(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
On the two sides of political divide, India’s Right and Left-Liberals, only a handful enjoy a persona such as P. Chidambaram. He is an elite among elitists, second only to Gandhis, and his gravitas in public appearances suggests of a man bred in arrogance. He isn’t of a light-banter type, back-slapping his friends. Never a dhoti and a khadi shirt has been worn with a swagger which could put rockstar in shade.
Chidambaram wears a smile which he could patent. It’s a benign, patronizing smile, never warm, only a favour which he is bestowing to his audience. When he speaks, there is this cocked eyebrow judging you on your incompetence. He is that Pope of politics who is used to reverence from his audience.
In a sense, it’s a classic cloak borrowed off from the Nehru-Gandhis: A benevolent knight, God’s chosen one for his people, who must have his cake while the masses must revel in the crumbs. A blue-blooded Congressman never questions the scions; and never lets down the coterie and sycophants who must do his bidding.
The morning after Tihar got arguably its most famous occupant, Lutyens Media who breed and multiply like mosquito do in sewers and gutters, were busy treating the moment as a victory of sorts. Hindustan Times lettered “Chidambaram, Karti get relief from arrest”; Times of India made much of Supreme Court disapproving of High Court judge quoting Enforcement Directorate (ED) note; The Hindu didn’t forget to mention Chidambaram and son got anticipatory bail in Aircel-Maxis money laundering case; and Indian Express, the daddy of them all, front-paged “Judge-slams-agencies”.
I mean a heavyweight-like-few-others is in notorious Tihar jail. Chidambaram is a thread which could showcase the entire gamut of alleged corruption in the decade (2004-2014) of UPA rule, reveal the arteries and veins which gutted body India, arguably institutionalized corruption; sterilized bureaucracy and defanged investigating agencies. It has a far bigger implication for the present and the future then a mere judicial custody. Yet our Lutyens Media has just taken a note of his arrest: There are no sermons, no digging up the dirt, no editorial – nothing.
The servile TV channels for once were not too keen on TRPs. None of them stationed their cameras in front of Tihar Jail for images which could have lasted them a week. No helicopters like they did once as Sanjay Dutt was being whisked to the Yerwada jail. These were the very channels who were aghast when CBI men were jumping the fence of Chidambaram’s residence. Yet the TV grabs of the year were not shot, nor archived for posterity. As if they wanted to erase people’s memory, sanitize history.
I scanned the timeline of Shekhar Gupta, Rajdeep Sardesai, Sagarika Ghose etc on twitter and found nothing this morning. JUST NOTHING. The one of Barkha Dutt though was outrageous. She may have changed media affiliations faster than actors change clothes in a song sequence but her crooked logic is unimpaired.
Ms Dutt is aghast as to why Congress is not taking to the streets on the matter of P. Chidambaram! Could you believe it! Ms Dutt is asking Congress to mobilize public opinion and come out in support of its two stalwarts (the other one being DK Shivakumar). She would rather have the party alienate the people than dump the allegedly corrupt. She is exhorting Congress to defend the two infamous. She views DK Shivakumar as a fire-fighter for Congress; and can’t get over the fact that the Party has done no better than depute its legal luminaries or arrange just a press conference for P. Chidambaram. She is asking Sonia and Rahul to sit outside PC’s residence and court arrest alongside him. She is asking if Priyanka Gandhi could accompany Robert Vadra, why not here? Barkha sure is a queen of the bizarre.
It is no different to how Lutyens Media treated the Sunanda Pushkar murder (yes, murder now that it has been established she was poisoned). There was no journalism of courage, no intense gaze which could penetrate the layers of deception. Or how they treated the Sonia-Rahul bail in National Herald case, AgustaWestland and many other scams: just in passing. It’s different from the anniversary they run on an Akhlaq and a Pehlu Khan; a Gauri Lankesh or an Asifa Bano.
There is no escaping the fact that a few luminaries and media houses are part of this “eco-system.” This eco-system is willing to ignore corruption, blood stains, violence, seditious conduct and harm to this country as long as it serves their agenda. Their sense of democracy and secularism has a skewed prism. Never lose an opportunity to hang them out to dry.
(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
If this is not on a war-footing what else is. Come October 2 and the Centre could announce a ban on a slew of Single-Use Plastic (SUP) items for us folks. All 4000-odd urban local bodies must segregate recyclable and non-recyclable plastic waste; 5 lakh sarpanchs (village heads) and swachhagrahis (cleanliness volunteers) would receive a personal exhortation from Prime Minister Narendra Modi; and Himalayan region and other eco-fragile zones would be made plastic-free. There is a mile of other initiatives which could be read here.
This is a giant leap in the fight against plastic. We all look smart in being lucid against plastic over a coffee with friends. But we do little. We ignore that plastic is not biodegradable (that is, it wouldn’t decompose into a natural substance like soil) and its’ devastating lives on land or water. From the straws we use to the cups of Starbucks Coffee; from the water-bottles to the cutlery we use at airports; from our grocery bags to the chips packet we pick up from gas stations, every bit of plastic is indestructible. Dormant or burnt in landfills, plastic keeps releasing toxic chemicals which find its way into our food and water supply. It contaminates the air we breathe. It is linked to cancer, birth defects, impaired immunity, respiratory and endocrine problems and many, many more. It eats into the soil nutrients and impairs its vitality. Plastic is the Frankenstein of our own making.
A lot of plastic we litter blows into nature’s wilderness. Wild animals and birds can’t ingest them and starve to death since their intestines fall blocked. A prized Cape buffalo in Delhi zoo has become one such victim. Last year, it was an elephant. Half of all camels that die on the Arabian Peninsula each year are its prey. One of Japan’s famous Nara Park deer was found to have a 4.3kg of plastic in its stomach. Eight African elephants died in Zimbabwe in 2016: the list is endless.
Over 100,000 marine mammals and over 1 million sea birds die by plastic every year. One recent study has found plastic inside every single whale, dolphin and seal examined. By 2050, there would be more plastic than fish in the ocean. Aquatic mammals mistake plastic for food and either ingest them or become entangled by plastic. As it blocks their digestion system, they eventually die a slow and painful death. The ecology of the ocean is shattered. Death of one species is an existential issue for others.
The thing is, we all can be hands-on to this problem. It doesn’t take much either; just a little mindfulness. You could have a zero waste kit which has a reusable or paper straw; a collapsible coffee cup; reusable cutlery, disposable cup, bamboo toothbrush, eco-friendly wraps, cloth bags etc. It’s the best way to make a statement outdoors; makes you look progressive too. There are multiple choices for such a kit. We are living in a finite world and its’ infinite exploitation simply is unsustainable.
So be in sync with your government which is walking the talk. Already, in the headquarters of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the Capital, water bottles have been banned following Modi’s public exhortation on Independence Day last month. Where once was stack of cartons of water bottles and garbage containers which overflowed with used ones, there is now jugs and paper glasses to meet the needs.
This new course correction would surely hurt the food and beverages-producing giants. But profit can’t ride over the existential crisis. Amazon and Walmart are already pulling up socks. Amazon has announced it would remove non-recyclable plastic from its deliveries in India by June 2020. It won’t have the air-pillows and bubble wraps it used to protect products. Now it would be padding made out of paper. Walmart-owned Flipkart, India’s biggest e-commerce company, has set a deadline of March 2021 for itself. This would be a moment of reckoning for multinational giants who lineup our fridges with soft-drinks and water bottles. India abounds in restaurant chains, just running over the names of a few would give you an idea of how mammoth the scale is. The argument that SUP helps us fight food waste, keeping food and water fresher for long duration, cuts out contamination and is cost-effective simply won’t cut ice.
This is a fight in which we all are together. For our own survival.
(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
Indian Express is going to length to find voices which could question the Centre on its fiat on Jammu & Kashmir, notably on constitutional, human rights and its federal-character-under-assault grounds.
Conveniently kept out of view is terrorism, loss of tens of thousands of civilian/army lives and billions of tax-payers money which never reached the commoners of the troubled state.
The newspaper doesn’t have a stance on the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits, that minorities were discriminated against in the state, that caste reservations was out of bounds; and that 106 Central Laws (Prevention of Corruption Act, Land Acquisition Act, Right to Education Act, National Commission for Minorities Act etc) were rendered lifeless by those who governed the Centre and Srinagar.
Where are people in Indian Express’ discourse? Do we hear from them on Jammu and Ladakh which has bigger area and still bigger population than the Valley? Where are its investigating geniuses who hide from its readers that Kashmir Valley gets more financial allocation that what Jammu and Ladakh divisions, put together, are provided for? Why it escapes them that the per-capita subsidy to J & K is 16 times more than West Bengal and 12 times more than Bihar?
In its’ Sunday’s edition today (September 1, 2019), Indian Express has flushed out a Supreme Court lawyer Aman Hingorani who turned a doctoral research into a book (Unravelling the Kashmir Knot) and now has an entire page dedicated to his discourse to the crème da la crème of the Capital on the Constitutional heist which the Modi government has pulled off in J & K. The newspaper takes Hingorani’s discourse on a page they pompously call “Explained”. The man himself is preening to his audience that at the end of his discourse, they would realize the futility of Centre’s move. (You dumbs, here I am to get you rid of your ignorance).
I am not sure if it was an interactive session or Hingorani’s monologue. But since Express claims the session was meant to benefit its’ readers, I as one of its most long-lasting consumer, have a few questions for Hingorani and I hope they are not inconvenient enough to be ducked by both the newspaper and the “star” it has peddled today.
HINGORANI: The Accession terms were the same in J & K as it was for other princely states. But while other princely states merged their territory into India, Jammu and Kashmir refused to do so…
Question: Please avoid the misinformation that all other princely states had merged their territory into India. Junagadh and Hyderabad hadn’t. They were intransigent compared to a prostrated Maharaja Hari Singh of J & K. But while Junagadh and Hyderabad succumbed to India’s military pressure, J & K was allowed to dictate terms.
Now how did that happen? Was it because Junagadh and Hyderabad were managed by Sardar Patel while J & K was left to be Pt. Nehru’s toy? Your turn Mr Hingorani.
HINGORANI: Article 370 had been emptied long ago…It had never come in the way of New Delhi dealing with the state in the way it wanted to deal with the state.
Question: Article 370 was the stepping stone on which Article 35 and 1954 Presidential Order were later added. It allowed J & K to have a separate constitution, a state flag and autonomy over the internal region of Kashmir. It allowed the state government to discriminate against Hindu and Sikhs who migrated at Partition; against Valmikis of Punjab whom they lured with the promise of citizenship but never delivered.
Article 370 makes a mockery of Article 14 which guarantees equality before the law and the principles of liberty. As we know, not everyone living in J & K could vote in the election to the state assembly. Further, Article 15 prohibits discrimination on the basis of religion, caste, sex, place of birth or race etc.
So Mr Hingorani, could you please revisit your position in light of the facts obscured in your discourse?
HINGORANI: Many states have restrictions on people buying land, what’s so special about it (Article 370)?
Question: Let me rephrase this question and see Mr Hingorani what’s your response: Which are other states where a woman, if she marries outside her state, is denied rights over land? Ok, here’s a dollop of escape route I let you have: Just name one state.
HINGORANI: India can’t go to United Nations and then say (Kashmir) is an internal issue…
Question: So Mr Hingorani, what did United Nations do when Pakistan not only occupied a part of Kashmir but also later ceded 20% of the entire area, Gilgit-Baltistan etc, to China? What right Pakistan has on the area of Kashmir it has illegally occupied? What rights Pakistan has of ceding Kashmir to China which has no claim over the territory? Did they take the route of people’s referendum? Was there any instrument of accession signed that you are so fond of quoting? Hasn’t United Nations become irrelevant on Kashmir? If it hasn’t, then why didn’t United Nations make any noise after India’s move this month: That wait, this matter is under us, and India can’t decide on its own on J & K?
HINGORANI: Presidential Rule is an emergency provision. It is not meant for taking far-reaching decisions…
Question: And you think 70 years spent in the quagmire still doesn’t confer an emergency-status to J & K. If the application of President’s Rule now is a travesty of justice, what would you say to the Presidential Order of 1954? Does our constitution bind the President not to take such a decision? If it doesn’t, what’s your gripe?
HINGORANI: Can you use emergency provisions to dismember and destroy the identity of a state?
Question: You call it dismembering of state but not question the latter which had no time for Ladakh. You would call it destruction of identity of state but would make no mention that how come Kashmir Valley, with lesser population and lesser area, had 46 assembly seats to Jammu’s 37 in the state assembly. Isn’t it a stolen identity? Who did it? Didn’t it allow Muftis and Abdullahs perpetuity in power? Was it subversion or empowerment of democracy?
It’s important we interject when our newspapers peddle a one-sided warped discourse. It’s certainly not neutral or unbiased. It’s easy to hide behind the cloak that it’s a writer’s own personal view. But when none of your editorials present any piece which speaks for Kashmiri Pandits, minorities, deprivation of central laws or the welfare of SC-STs in J & K or even question why after 70 years the lot of Kashmiris haven’t improved, then it’s legitimate to ask: Who are you speaking for?
(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
India and Pakistan have started whipping up support in their corners as the Ring that is Jammu and Kashmir gets ready for a trade of punches.
Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan wants his people on the streets in solidarity against the rearranged status of Jammu and Kashmir while Narendra Modi is reserving the month of September for his ministers’ outreach to people in 35 state capitals and 370 cities.
The momentum is with India where Modi has secured a cheque of gratitude from a billion people and possibly from history too on the once intractable issue of Kashmir. He has second guessed almost everyone including the global powers, jihadi nuts in the Valley and secessionists forces within India. It’s nearly a month and India hasn’t fired a single bullet in anger.
Imran Khan is relying on propaganda and the good offices of China without realizing that slaves could only stare at the feet, and not go at the throat of the masters. It has a good ranch of guerillas, terrorists and Talibans but to take on world’s second largest army, bigger than United States, you need stallion and not jackass. Mooting closure of airspace could only evoke yawn. His dream of becoming prime minister is now a raging nightmare.
India’s enemies are investing much in the hope that Muftis and Abdullahs would be free soon and hold court; Valley would be put to flame and Lutyens Media would manufacture sob stories. For the moment, they have nothing but the sham cry of violations of human rights and India’s federal-structure-in-danger to keep stoking the dying embers.
When would Muftis and Abdullahs be set free? My guess is not in next four weeks. Modi government prefers embarrassment to harm. Half measures would come back to bite. You don’t do PR exercise with enemies. If the world can turn one eye away on Xinjiang in China; it could as well the other on Kashmir.
There is incremental easing up in Kashmir Valley. Landlines have been restored. Independence Day and Eid were celebrated. Journalists, despite the brouhaha, are getting passes to move around at will. Schools and Colleges have been reopened. It’s not to say Valley would be quiet. Muftis and Abdullahs could pay a heavy cost if flutes and music alone is the noise in their backyards.
There are a few things which the Modi government must follow as gospel. One, learn to ignore the barking dogs. Valley and Lutyens Media would be shooting from both sides of mouth. They must not be allowed to set the agenda. Give them a damn. Two, this outreach to people in September can’t be one-off thing. People need constant repeats on facts. Lose no opportunity, be it face-to-face, social media, spokespersons or editorials in newspapers. This is the only war your adversary would be engaging you in; so treat it as one. Three, name and shame the enemies within who run contrary to India’s interests. Three generations of this lobby has fattened itself on Kashmir. The cat is too fat now; it must be made to shed some weight.
I suspect Centre has hit upon an ace in raking up some high profile cases. So mournful is media on P. Chidambaram’s custody that Kashmir has been put on the backburner. The cases against Sharad Pawar and Ahmed Patel’s son too would shrink space on Kashmir. Heat has been turned on against Trinamool Congress (TMC). Three state elections in three months would further pull the rug under Kashmir’s feet. Why, when was the last you heard on “Jai Shri Ram” crimes and “lynchings”?
But this is just the first phase of preparedness. Kashmir is serious. Heads could roll in Pakistan’s establishment. Imran Khan could invite a fate similar to Nawaz Sharif. General Qamar Javed Bajwa has to justify his extension. United States could change tack in case it can’t summon India against China, Iran and Russia. So don’t take your eyes off. India has to handle Kashmir in real time. It could take months, years and even generations. But a start, a good one at that, has been made. And the nation can’t be thankful enough.