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Could India be attacked both by China and Pakistan together?

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

If India is attacked, it would have not just China but Pakistan also to take care of on multiple fronts.

The two enemy allies would bear down on India together, not just from the west and north but also on the north-eastern theatre encompassing Arunachal Pradesh.

There is no denying the threat as multiple talks between India and China, even involving our foreign minister and national security adviser, isn’t making Beijing see reason in Ladakh. As for Pakistan, this year alone it has made 800 ceasefire violations in Jammu and Kashmir.

Indians are acutely aware of the situation. In January itself, army chief General MM Naravane had admitted of a collusion between China and Pakistan which would push India into a two-front war. The general had pinpointed Siachen and Shaksgam Valley (see image below) where the “threat of collusion is maximum.”

India can’t wait till July 29 when it would receive the first set of five Rafale jets from France and in all likelihood would deploy them on the Ladakh theatre without much delay.

The first Rafale set would land into the 17 Squadron “Golden Arrows” in Ambala next week, taking off from Istres in France, touch the French airbase in Al Dhafra near Abu Dhabi in the UAE and after a night’s halt, Indian pilots would bring them home with at least two rounds of mid-air refuelling during its entire journey. (Midair-fuelling in itself is a spectacle you mustn’t miss watching).

Rafale, a 4.5-generation fighter jet, with its Meteor missiles could end China’s presence in Ladakh in minutes. China admittedly have 600 fourth and fourth-generation-plus jets yet Rafale is said to be a league apart than both the F-16s and JF-17s in terms of range, armaments and electronic warfare capability. Most jets in Pakistan’s inventory are US-made F-16s besides JF-17s which are China-made.

But India is hampered by a lack of central command and after decommissioning of the MiG-21 Bison, it’s down to just over 30 squadrons, far less than at least 42 required to take on China and Pakistan in air in a two-front war.

India has rushed Rafale-maker Dassault co. to make several India-specific changes in the jets which were not part of the initial agreement.

India-specific enhancements include cold-engine start in high-altitude bases; radar-warning receivers, low-band jammers, infra-red search etc but the clincher is air-to-air missile Meteor and 5.1-meter-long cruise missile SCALP which could hit targets with precision as far as 120km and 600km. India, literally, won’t have to leave its airspace to hit the target it wants to smoke out across the border.

Manufactured by European firm MBDA, the Meteor leaves no escape zone once the pilot looks at his radar and pulls the kill switch. The analysts believe there is no air missile presently which is better than Meteor.

The unthinkable Nuclear slide

Rafale jets, critically, could also deliver nuclear weapons. While India hasn’t bought a nuclear warhead delivery missile along with the jets, it could do so at a short notice. The Mirages, presently, are the aircraft for nuclear weapons with India.

Sure, we are not walking down the nuclear-war path yet. It would pop humanity out of existence. There is no point in discussing who has more nuclear weapons as Pakistan and China, put together, are way above India’s N-stockpiles. Analysts expect a conventional war, if god forbids it indeed breaks out, as a nuclear war would leave no winners.

Sure, India is pulling out all the stops. Its defence allocation for the 2020-21 fiscal year stood at Rs 471,378 crores (US$65.86 billion). The latest we hear is that defence ministry has approved the purchase of 21 Russian MiG-29 and 12 Sukhoi Su-30MKI fighter aircraft, costing $2.43 billion. In the pipeline is incomparable S400 missiles, a $5.2 billion deal with Russia. And then there of course is Rafale jets, a deal worth Rs 59,000 crore (US$7.9 billion).

While on Rafale, how do they perform in real situation? Well, in 2011, Rafale operated over Benghazi and Tripoli in Libya and carried out a flawless mission. It has also taken part in operations in Mali and destroyed the enemy infrastructure without a fuss. Then it was Chad in Africa where four Rafale jets hit 21 targets after remaining airborne for nearly 10 hours, starting from their base in Saint-Dizier in eastern France.  India would be the third country, besides Egypt and Qatar, to induct Rafale in its squadrons.

All this spend is to improve India’s deterrence which of course act to reduce the threat of conflicts. It hasn’t stopped Indian prime minister Narendra Modi from declaring that India could take care of Pakistan in 7-10 days. His time frame is not too off the mark: The 1971 War lasted a mere 13 days. The one against China, which we lost, all put together was a fortnight’s affair.

As for China, gone are the days when bigger countries could gulp down another nation like you would do a spoonful of honey. Saudi Arabia hasn’t been able to bring Yemen to its knees yet; Americans failed in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. Soviet Union couldn’t keep Afghanistan in its palm and instead it hastened the demise of the Communist regime.  India won’t be a cakewalk too if China and Pakistan were to mire it down on multiple fronts. It could only be a Looneys’ mission. But then who would’ve thought before June 15 that things would come to such a sorry pass between India and China?

 

 

The London Times chooses India’s planned new Central Vista to reveal its’ Hinduphobia

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

If I was the editor of London Times, god forbids, and had sought out my New Delhi correspondent Hugh Tomlinson in my cabin, it would cross my mind how he would make a living outside the News Building in London.

I am afraid I don’t know how good he is with his arms or legs, for as far as his mind is concerned, there is enough in his latest piece to suggest it’s in need of attention.

He has chosen to write about the proposed “Central Vista” in India’s Capital which would be at least six years in the making and would house India’s parliamentarians besides carving out a new residence for its prime minister.

Somehow, he has quoted £2.4 billion as the cost of new Central Vista which is nearly three times the proposed expenditure. I mean I distinctly remember the concerned Indian minister to have pegged the figure at £800 million. Who is Hugh’s source? I need to ask for he hasn’t bothered with his source in the piece. Not even “according to a tea-seller outside the ministry who refused to be named.” I know pen-pushers are grumpy on their salary; and pissed at any penny the government spends. But even lies need be palatable. You can’t describe the fly-in-your-tea as a new delicacy.

Then Hugh shouts out that the expense involves the one on Indian prime minister Mr Modi’s new residence. I mean it would only be ready after 2024 when Modi would’ve finished his second term. Who knows the people’s choice thereafter? Unless of course a bird has hummed the future in Hugh’s ears. And if indeed it’s a prediction, how would he approach Rahul Gandhi after dooming his prospects? Burning bridges from both ends, I say.

By now, I know figures are not Hugh’s strong points. To his eyes, India’s parliament is almost a century old. It’s actually seven years outside since it began functioning in 1927. As a Briton, he ought to remember that all it took was seven years of World War II to terminate the British Empire of centuries. It was enough to move the nerve centre of world from London to Washington.

Hugh, I would tell him, do work on your history. I mean you find the Parliament House most viewed structure after Taj Mahal. It can’t be that you haven’t been to Gateway of India. Or the magnificent view of Rashtrapati Bhavan from India Gate has escaped you. You also declare with flourish that the new Central Vista would “consign to history” the Parliament House.  The latter in fact would only be turned into a museum.

A few visits to library—I mean not the one of our own in The Times which hides more than it reveals– would let you know that in today’s free world, words such as imperialism and slavery are cussed terms.

When this new city we call New Delhi came up, built by Herbert Baker and Edwin Lutyens, and which led to creation of the Parliament and the Viceroy’s House (Rashtrapati Bhavan) among others, India’s native leaders, later its founding fathers, viewed it as permanent edifice of colonialism. Nehru had mocked it as the “chief temple where the High Priest officiated” while Mahatma Gandhi is rumoured to have wanted to turn the Viceroy’s House into a hospital.

Baker was the disciple of arch-imperialist Cecil Rhodes. Baker’s words “…People must raise themselves to liberty, it is a blessing that must be earned…” are still engraved outside New Delhi’s secretariats. This view was the guiding public face of colonialism, propounded by men such as John Ruskin which justified centuries of genocide and pillage by the British around the world. Lutyens had viewed the Taj Mahal, which Hugh so admires, as “small but very costly beer.” It can’t be that it has escaped Hugh’s attention the statues of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were attacked in Portland recently . Today’s US is hell-bent on discarding racists and slavery-champions, what if they were its founding fathers.

Hugh clearly suffers from Hinduphobia. I squirmed in my seat at his words that the present move is “desecration of India’s heritage” amidst the growing fears that “Modi aims to sweep away India’s secular foundations and establish a Hindu theocracy.” I mean even by prejudicial yardstick of The Times, this was too far out.

For India to establish a Hindu theocracy, it would have to drive 200 Indian Muslims into Indian Ocean. It would have to deny voting rights to millions; dump periodic elections and burn up the Indian Constitution. Modi could perhaps all do this if he could transport a billion Hindus to some other planet which is habitable but has not a single other soul.

Who gave Hugh this idea? I hope not one among the 100 “historians” and “architects” who have written a letter to Delhi’s planners recently. How do you bring people into decision-making? By referendum? And keep the voters-in-favour waiting for four years. a la Brexit?

The official word to me seems pretty sound. The 500-odd member of parliaments (MPs) don’t have their own chambers to meet or attend a stream of visitors. Where do they handle secret documents that the MPs are required to read and refer? Where do they peer through volume of committees-related work? Is the present Parliament safe on hazards such as “fire” and “earthquake-resistant”? Does it have basic public facilities and ample parking? Do we want people to take call on such specialized matters? Don’t elections in democracy mean that the work of people has ended and the job of government has begun?

It is India’s money and India’s choice. They have every right to vision an India of tomorrow. If it feels the new Central Vista would lead to better coordination among parliamentarians, cabinet, the President and their attendant staff for efficient running of the country, who is me or Hugh to knit the dog’s hair?

The one thing I would grant Hugh is that he didn’t give the headline. Next in my chamber is the sub-editor who put “vanity scheme” in the headline. Who’s vanity? Modi’s? Where’s such a reference in the text?

 

Why China is fighting the world? What’s the method behind this madness?

(This is a reprint from the NewsBred).

Why is China so reckless, why it doesn’t mind that the world is beginning to array itself against Beijing politically, economically and militarily?

It has pushed India to a point where India is doing navy drills with the United States in Andaman and Nicobar, right at the mouth of Malacca Strait which, if it was to be blocked, would finish China. Eighty-percent of China’s energy and trade is conducted through these waters. This is the strait which joins Indian Ocean with Pacific Ocean.

China has torched the informal summits between its leader Xi Jinping and Narendra Modi, all those moments at swing in Ahmedabad, those hugs at BRICS and SCOs, after it killed 20 Indian soldiers and buried billions of Chinese investments now, and for decades, in India. It has created an enemy in India when an enduring friendship was in the front lawns.

It has angered the United States, The European Union and a host of other democratic nations with its revamped security laws on Hong Kong to the extent that Washington would offload its officials at airports; England is offering citizenship to Hong Kong residents, tearing the extradition treaty and EU is vowing to stand by the “citizens of Hong Kong.”

It has annoyed most of its neighbours in Indo-Pacific–Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Japan etc—with its aggressive claims on reefs and islands; patrolling and sinking their assets with impunity. Most of them it shares seats with in ASEAN and RCEP.  Besides, nations such as Vietnam, Japan and Indonesia—and many others—are de facto NATO bases which could cripple the supply lines of China.

It has spat on one of its largest partners, Australia, by raising a prohibitive 80% tariffs on exports by Canberra. All this for Australia voicing their concern on Hong Kong.

Leave aside Tibet or Taiwan, China is also making partners such as Kazakhstan fume with claims on its sovereignty. They recently had a report in its servile media where Kazakhstan was said to belong to China since ages and that Kazakhs would have no problem if they were to merge with China.

Isn’t China mindful that Hong Kong, as a global financial hub, is their interface with the capitalist world?

This is a country which has a debt that is 300 percent of its GDP. Its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is staring at a financial catastrophe in the Covid-19 world. It has lent $1.5 trillion to more than 150 countries. Several of these countries would soon be defaulting on loans.

Most of us know that China is world’s largest exporter. Very few realize that it’s also world’s second largest importer. It imports minerals and oil to run its industries which feed its exports. Why is it endangering these imports?

It’s telecom giant Huawei, with over $100 billion of revenue every year, has gone on a “survival mode” as said by its own president, Guo Ping since US has shut its door. So would do India, England and the Western world.

Isn’t China mindful that the world is seething in anger against them? That actions against Beijing are already shifting gears? Why is it shooting itself in the foot? Why is it willing to lose in seconds all that it had gained in decades?

An incident during the lockdown perhaps holds an answer to China’s present recklessness. People of Hubei and Ziangxi clashed with the police as they were refrained from crossing the bridge over the Yangtze River. All they wanted was to get back to work. China’s big firms, which engage 30 crore migrants, were opening up. Millions today need work to survive.

It’s all about population

China has always worried about its population. Even way back in 1820, every third person in the world was Chinese. It could feed its people due to its fertile floodlands around two major rivers: the Yellow river and Yangtze River. That of course was the agricultural era. But food is food in any era. That was the reason it annexed Tibet since both these rivers originated there. What if India, a neighbour, poisons those rivers? What if a puny like Tibet, without any army, could choke it to its death? China thus staked its claim on Tibet and cooked up historical evidence when Tibetans are no Han Chinese.

It’s thus inevitable that people’s anger would burst forth if world begins to pull out its manufacturing units out of mainland.  The population is already ageing, Covid-19 hasn’t been a help in an already falling birth rate. What happens if “Tiananmen Square” erupts in every province?

This is the reason why China is taking on the world. It wants to stoke the feeling of nationalism in its 1.40 billion population. It has insurmountable problems since the world is hostile and views them as villain of this Coronavirus catastrophe. Their best bet is to tell its people that they need to get behind since Capitalist forces of the world want to break them up like they did during the Opium Wars of the 19th century.

It would give Communist Party of China (CCP) the handle to retain its control over the people and even over its own comrades. It could further tighten its surveillance over its own citizens in the name of national security. In China, a mobile SIM subscription links a person to his health, finances and recognition details. In the name of controlling health, Beijing is making it mandatory for all its citizens to register to its Apps now.

There is no getting away that more its “sheep”—a term for its citizens—try to breakaway from the fold, more are the chances that China would indulge in some reckless political or military gamble. It explains why the Dragon is more like a mad elephant gone berserk these days.

 

 

New York Times and its’ factory of lies knows no stopping

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

New York Times (NYT) is topping the charts of India-haters and if facts are the essence of journalism, it stares at an unprecedented credibility crisis. (Do check a piece on them I had done this week itself).

It has run a story today which claims that India is filling up its prisons with dozens of its critics in a nationwide crackdown. I ran up and down the 1000-word bile but couldn’t find those multiple cities which could be described as a “nationwide” crackdown.

It has built up its story around one Natasha Narwal, a social activist, who has been booked by the Delhi Police for murder, terrorism and instigating religious violence. The newspaper openly accuses the Delhi Police of vendetta since a judge had earlier released Narwal, albeit in a separate case. What New York Times has hidden is that Narwal’s bail plea was refused on July 14—a good five days before this piece has been published. But then why let facts come in the way of a bucket of lies?

If the NYT had not hidden this refusal of bail, the readers would’ve known that the investigations allege the activist was actively “participating to cause riots in Delhi.” The judge had noted that there was no merit in her bail application. These riots had claimed 59 innocent lives, so it’s not a small fact, howsoever oddball it is to NYT.

The newspaper has quoted from a couple of human rights groups and a lawyer. All deserve a closer look.

Let’s begin with Human Rights Watch and its South Asia director Meenakshi Ganguly. The newspaper quotes her that these cases against the activists appear to be “politically motivated.” This is the same Ms Ganguly which had earlier claimed that Kashmiri Pandits had been “asked” to leave the valley in 1990. As many as 500,000 Kashmiri Hindus were driven out of the Valley, many were killed and raped, and the lady sounded as if they had received an envelope in a letterbox to pack up and leave their homes of decades. Kashmiri Muslims had caused this tragedy, a true “pogrom” of Hindus but it’s not even a footnote in discussion. You can’t accuse NYT of not having chosen their sources with care.

The newspaper sheds copious tears that one Khalid Saifi, a member of United Against Hate group, was arrested, his only crime being “he is a Muslim.” Apparently, New York Times and United Against Hate group have a way of helping each other out in hate stories. I am not sure if this group is an Indian extension of one with a similar title in the United States. But for a social activist network, it’s surprising that United Against Hope neither has a facebook page, a twitter handle or a website of its own. But these are minor details. Look at how the two—NYT and United Against Hate—have cooked up stuff in the past.

In February this year, Human Rights Group had quoted a fact-checker source to publish a report which claimed that cow vigilantes have hurt Muslims and Dalits at the provocation of leaders of ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). A diligent Indian reporter went through the haystack of lies to come up with irrefutable evidence to the contrary. This Indian reporter had then cautioned the NYT correspondent who had penned the piece. Guess what, the NYT piece of then and now is both written by one Kai Schultz.  NYT of course wouldn’t bother if there is a quid pro quo involved. Afterall, a dubious group is the building block of fake NYT stories of hate against Modi’s India.

NYT also mentions a report of Delhi Minorities Commission which has accused the police and politicians from Modi’s party in supporting a “pogrom” against minority Muslims. This commission is under the control of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) who run Delhi government and are sworn opponent of the Modi government. How unbiased NYT thinks this Commission would be in presenting the facts? NYT, for sure, won’t tell the readers that the chairman of this commission, Zafarul Islam, is a known sympathizer of radical Islamist and terror sympathizer Zakir Naik. NYT won’t tell that this commission is headed by a person who is threatening Hindus with “avalanche” from the Arab world. And that he is facing a sedition charge from the Indian state.

NYT further quotes a lawyer who is a radical Leftist and associated with several Communist mouthpieces. It quotes a police official, without naming him, that orders from higher-ups are not allowing a persecution case to be filed against a young BJP leader, Kapil Mishra. Readers must believe the NYT that this police official exists and is not a figment of imagination.

Either NYT still thinks India is a land of snake-charmers. Or it feels nobody in India knows its track-record of lies and propaganda. NYT sold a lie to its own citizens on Iraq War. The world is still counting its cost. It ran a pile of lies on Iran’s nuclear programme. In 1983 it had claimed that Soviets had destroyed a civilian Korean airliner 007. Five years later they had to acknowledge that they had lied, not by pangs of ethics but because a congressperson’s inquiry had nailed them down.

New York Times had cheered when a “democratically elected” president of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez had been forced to step down. The newspaper had described the ruinous win of Boris Yeltsin in 1996 as “A Victory for Russian Democracy.” With such a dubious record, NYT still expects that people would swallow its rant on “democracy” and “human rights.” A naked emperor would surely identify with them.

 

 

Who are these blessed people in our Coronavirus world?

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

Thailand hasn’t reported a new Coronavirus case for seven weeks now. Nobody has died in the Indo-China countries of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia to the pandemic which has tormented our world with millions of cases besides 600,000 dead and counting. Are we talking of two different planets here?

This only gets intriguing if you remember that Thailand was the first country outside China to report the first Coronavirus positive patient. That it’s one the most visited place for people from Wuhan, the villain of this tragic outbreak. That Bangkok for five years now is the most visited city of the world, with 22 million visitors last year. That Thailand was the worst-effected country with HIV/AIDS outside East and Southern Africa. In 2018 alone, 18,000 people died to AIDS-related illness. That around half of those infected are young people between 15-24 years.

Big cities and slums are said to be most susceptible to Coronavirus outbreaks. Experts cite New York, London, Mumbai and Delhi as proof, as they do the instance of slums of Brazil which would soon have 100,000 dead from the pandemic. Both Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh account for 20 million living lives. The cities of these countries also abound in slums. We aren’t even counting the visitors. Yet there are no community outbreaks.

Scientists would love to nail down the reason why Coronavirus stands defeated at the doors of these countries. Has it anything to do with the mighty Mekong River, 12th biggest in the world, which passes through all these four countries through its length of 4,350 kms? Another country which is home to Mekong River is Myanmar which too has only six deaths to show thus far. Yunnan, the southwestern Chinese province through which Mekong also flows through, has less than 190 cases. All have recovered.

Mekong River, there is little doubt, is the water-road in this part of the world. It’s a safety net during times of crisis. When lockdowns are enforced and economy begins to pinch, a whole lot of unprivileged people—informal workers, labourers, taxi drivers, little traders—go from their rural habitats to cities and back. In times of crisis, it’s nature’s supermarket: the forests, rivers and wetlands which provide food and sustenance to the teeming poor. Then there are fisheries which ensure nobody sleeps hungry.

All this is okay but it doesn’t explain why Coronavirus has stayed away? Should we offer the silly logic that there might be something in the features and physical make-up of these people who look similar and could pass off as locals? I mean if you spot a Vietnamese in Thailand what chances are that you would know he is a foreigner?

The AFP recently ran a story in which it threw wild darts in the darkness to guess the phenomenon. Could be the Thai habit of greeting others with a Wai, another name for Namaste really, which is social distancing by habit? Should one put it to Thailand’s robust health care system? The outdoor lifestyle of many Thais? Is there a genetic component one is missing here?

Thais have a mask-wearing culture. Heavy vehicular traffic and the resultant air pollution, not to forget the emissions from industries and farmers burning fields for plantations, has made masks a way of life over the years. A study informs that during the pandemic, 95 percent of Thais have been wearing masks in public.

Experts are also wondering if this has to do with the immune system. It’s the part of the world where malaria, dengue, cholera etc break out frequently. Has it imbued these people with some sort of immunity in their genetic make-up?

Is Thailand doing things differently than others? Let’s look at the timeline: China reported its outbreak on December 31, 2019. Three days later, Thai airports were screening the visitors. A day later, an emergency operation centre had been set up by the public health ministry. By January 8, the first suspected Coronavirus case had been identified. Within days, people arriving at airports were monitored and quarantined, if necessary. Eventually all visitors from abroad were quarantined.

There was a moment of disquiet for sure. Transmissions had begun to jump by March in Bangkok. A cluster of infected patients developed around nightclubs and a boxing stadium. On March 21, schools and non-essential businesses had been shut. On March 26, public gatherings were banned. International flights had stopped by April 4. Red-light districts were closed. Sex workers rushed back home. Tourists fled.

But at least 58 people have died in Thailand due to the pandemic. What explains the “miracle” of Indo-China? The incredulous immunity of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos?

Besides the routine measures—we all know, masks, social-distancing, sanitizing hands etc—Vietnam has adopted a stringent screening procedure. Thus, be it banks, restaurants, airports or even apartment complexes, all need to have themselves screened at virtually every point of interaction, so to say. In Cambodia, thanks to overwhelming medical aid from around the world, the corona-testing kits are cheap and readily available. No less is said to be the reason that most of Cambodia is rural, as is Laos, and the pandemic has been easy on the village folks so far.

It’s this success against the Corona, that all these countries are now open to foreign visitors. They are not back to normal, for they never went off the rails in the first instance. I know you would bring up economic fallout–there are plenty of whiners in India for me to know their type–but that, some other day, some other time.

 

 

China wants its women to stay indoors and raise children

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

Where would the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) want its women citizens to be? At home, raising children rather than seeking a career for themselves.

Chinese lawmakers have passed a law—2879 in favour, two against, five abstaining—in the 2020 National People’s Congress recently where an estranged couple is required to wait for 30 days before proceeding with application for separation.

If you were to ask a member of the Rahul Gandhi’s Congress party in India, he would say: Big deal. After all, the 1955 Hindu Marriage Act in India provides for a statutory cooling period of six months. What he probably won’t tell is that the Supreme Court of India since 2017 has allowed a waiving of this cooling off period if a trial court reckons there is no hope of reconciliation between alienated partners.

Much of China’s growth has emerged out of mass participation of its labour force. But if births are low, population is ageing and women want career ahead of kids, it’s better the fairer-sex stay at home and rear children. This also explains why there are few legislations to protect women’s rights in the workplace. The totalitarian regime in China just wants to make it harder for couple to make choices in their marriage.

China has passed this law, worried as it is by its ageing population and abysmally low birth rate, despite lifting the one-child policy of 36 years in 2015.  Its birth-rate fell to its lowest point in seven decades in 2019. That’s primarily because women increasingly are joining the work stream, becoming financially independent and find raising children a problem. Despite China’s massive economy size, 600 million Chinese citizens have a monthly income of only $140, as admitted by none other than Chinese premier Li Keqiang.

The cost of raising children in China is becoming prohibitive by the day.  If both the partners are working, sparing money to have children looked after in their absence, not to forget the damning cost of education till they have a university degree, is daunting. It is more so in big cities which are now mushrooming all over China.  In all China has 160 cities with a million residents in its fold. The government also doesn’t offer support by way of family funds.

No wonder, women’s financial independence and the deterrence of expenses on children is hurting China big time.  China has a median age average of 40 years which would be increased to 65 years, or 35 percent of the population by 2050.  In comparison, the dependency ratio in India should be less than 2 per cent by 2050. Every second person in India presently is less than 25 years in age.

China is worried that women not only are increasingly in career-mode, they are seeking divorce in millions. Between 2003-2019, more than 4 million Chinese couples ended their marriages. It’s a sign of gender equality which on paper is increasingly in sync with the Chinese propaganda of “gender-neutral view” but the reality is dark.

Predictably, China’s mouthpiece media of the Communist regime, are welcoming the move. People’s Daily feels the move would deter “careless” divorces. State news agency, Xinhua, finds the new law as legal guarantee of securing a “harmonious family and society.”

There are inspirational stories such as one of real-estate magnate Zhang Xin (see image) who is worth $3 billion and is called “the woman who built Beijing.” She came up the hard way, her family struggled financially but she went on to work for Goldman Sachs in London and on return formed SOHO China with her husband. In 10 years, it was the biggest property developer in the country. But China would rather not have such tales which move its women.

Li is on record that China will not set any GDP growth target in Coronavirus year of 2020. It’s facing heat on Taiwan, Hong Kong and Xinjiang. It’s border row with India is turning into an embarrassment. It’s technological flagships such as Huawei are being kept out of door around the globe. Multinationals are beginning to pull out from China as a manufacturing outpost.

The new divorce law would come into force in 2021. Meanwhile, the same-sex marriage reform was once again postponed in National People’s Congress. It’s a sweet irony that world’s most populous nation today is seeking more and not less births. That is history’s sweet revenge on a nation on steroids.

 

India’s Coronavirus story and the million lies of New York Times

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

The New York Times today archived India’s one-million Coronavirus-infected moment with a dishonest, unsubstantiated piece, full of malice in heart.

The newspaper was only accurate on 30,000-plus cases every day and third-worst Corona-hit nation but then duped its readers by hiding that India’s cases-per-million are better than 110 other nations. Yeah, no typo here. Better than 110 other nations.

It has described India’s 25,000 deaths with a lyrical description of “long lines of bodies snake out of cremation ground in some areas” but I invite readers to look hard in Google search image and find one for me which fits the mould. Yeah Delhi had a spike in deaths for a while but there is no evidence of “long lines of bodies.” Evidence, that eternal logic, is missing in the piece.

I mean in a nation of 1.3 billion, 25,000-plus lives are lost. The lazy bums who shared the byline hopped the glaring data on the floor which informs us that India suffers 418,000 accidental deaths every year. Leave aside road accidents (150,000) or Railway crossing/accidents (131,000), more than 15,000 die each year due to heat and sun-stroke.

The report frowns up India claiming only 25,000 deaths. It attributes it to “sparse testing.” It doesn’t put forward any data, any statistics, to back its claim. It doesn’t bother to find out or tell its readers that India is testing 3.2 lakhs every day. So, 18 deaths on a daily average in four months in a nation which houses 18 percent of world’s humanity is an unfolding disaster.

There is a certain glee in quoting the researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who claim by the end of next year, India would be the worst-hit country in the world. When the smell of vaccine is beginning to hit our nostrils, from the puff of air across the world, these prophets of doom are informing us India would be buried six feet under.

There is a flourish in claiming that India has already lost 100 million jobs when 90 million are daily wage-earners and technically have no jobs. How do you lose a job which you don’t have in the first place?

It repeats the plight of migrants like a ritual of circumcision in Islam, holy chants on a dying Hindu or baptism of a new Christian. Migrants are a mandatory colouring on India’s corona canvas these days even though free ration and cash subsidy to them is a fact uncontested. To fit migrants into the mosaic of the story, the piece claims the spread of Coronavirus is because of them returning home in India’s interiors.

It quotes a Delhi professor of epidemiology, Dr Anand Krishnan, who makes the astounding claim that less Coronavirus deaths have occurred in India because citizens are young and don’t suffer from obesity and diabetes. I mean India is the diabetes capital of the world with confirmed 50 million cases. Which India is in discussion here? Who is this quack?

One could only visualize a preening Dr Anand Krishan claiming that lockdown was “premature and it did nothing.” And that really is the trajectory of the story: This is the right time to enforce “lockdown”, now that India is slipping down the rope.  Maybe, just maybe, India’s policymakers would panic and return to lockdown months and bury India’s story for good.

Journalist R. Jagannathan is a voice which deserves the ears of those in India’s power-corridors. “Jaggi” claims in a piece that (a) India’s jobs are in services sector which would be lost forever in another bout of lockdowns; (b) lockdowns could unleash desperate people as anarchist, violent forces on the street; (c) that a few lives lost is a choice every society makes when pushed to the wall.

Soldiers lose their lives protecting the nation at the border; policemen do likewise in the interior and doctors too succumb as the present pandemic has shown.  Larger good should always take precedence over lesser good. Livelihoods are more important than lives now. All we could do is to ask citizens not to drop their guards and keep beefing up the healthcare in the background.

And let arm-chair pen-pushers spin a yarn in their own junkyard.

 

 

 

Corona-free on fake papers, visiting Bangladeshis are a major health risk

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

Who visit India most? Bangladeshis. And I am not talking about illegal immigrants which are vote banks in Bengal and Assam, for instance. Most take the visa route, mainly for shopping or medical care but quite a few have work visas and they overstay.

All of this would have been routine but for the news that Bangladeshis who work abroad are acquiring fake Corona Virus negative certificates through a friendly specialist hospital and zipping off to their destinations. They of course don’t mind putting their lives at risk—or spreading infection in countries who are their hosts.

On Wednesday, the Bangladeshi authorities had one Mohammad Shahed arrested at the India border who had disguised himself as a woman and covered himself in a back burqa from head to toe.

The authorities didn’t swoop down on Shahed because he had a long criminal record—which he did have—but for the repugnant act of issuing fake Corona certificates to anyone who could cough up $50 per person. He could do this because he ran a hospital in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh.

Millions of Bangladeshis work in Europe and elsewhere.

Malaysia, for instance, was willing to pay visa fee, airfares, medical recruitment agency commissions and levies for Bangladeshi workers before the Corona-induced break didn’t allow pen-to-paper over the agreement. Malaysia has as many as eight lakh Bangladeshis working in their country.

In Europe, it’s a common sight to see them filling up the grocery stores, cleaning tables, cooking in Tandoori restaurants or just selling bottled water on the streets. While walking in Florence last year, I saw a stream of Bangladeshis on the road leading up to iconic Duomo cathedral. Most of the stuff bore the mark of world-famous Italian brands which of course were fake.

The makers of such duplicates are once again seeking out customers now that roads have begun to fill up and shutters are going up in Italy and elsewhere in Europe. They require the affable Bangladeshis to return, who are all keen to oblige, and are circumventing the rules through such men of compassion as Shahed.

 

 

Many of such workers of course are a great help to their mother country, bringing in billions of dollars of remittance but Corona Virus pandemic has been a body blow, most who came back home haven’t been able to return and live the good life again.

Bangladesh, one of the poorest countries in the world, makes up for 20 percent of India’s all foreign visitors. Last year, the Indian embassy in Dhaka issued 15 lakh visas to locals. So much so that Dhaka alone has three of seven Indian visa centres in Bangladesh. These are legal visitors and must not be confused with millions of illegals who sneak into India, your proverbial car-cleaner or maids whose presence in home chores keep your wife in good humour.

Then there are factory workers who you would think India doesn’t need having an abundance of poor and destitute men of their own. Yet they come, like Mohammed Saidul Rahman (22), Mohammed Abdul Wahab (28) Mohammed Emdadul (35) and Mohammed Alittan Ali (42) who were arrested in Kollam, Kerala in the midst of Corona Virus in May for continuing to work in a cashew nut factory even though their visas had expired.

Having such an obliging neighbour like India, you would think, keeps Bangladesh grateful. Not the least. Bangladesh foreign minister A.K. Abdul Momen cancelled his visit to India just before lockdowns on the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). Interestingly, the argument by the VVIP was not the exclusion of his native Muslims from acquiring Indian citizenship, it was to contend that India was awarding citizenship to minorities even though they were not persecuted in the Islamic republic of Bangladesh, as they were in two other Islamic neighbourhood nations, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The Corona certificate scam should sober up those who clamour that India is discriminating against Muslims under CAA. Leave aside Rohingya Muslims for whom copious tears are shed, Corona carriers on fake certificates from across the border could be a serious health hazard emanating from such compassion.

 

 

 

Prophet Muhammad movie in Indian homes is an edgy affair

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

Nobody knows how the debut of movie “Muhammad, Messenger of God” in Indian homes next week would be reacted to by millions of Indian Muslims.

A new player in the Over The Top (OTT) streaming platforms, Don Cinema, run by an Indian Mehmood Ali, would release the movie on its App on July 21–a month which closes with Bakra Eid, or the Festival of the Sacrifice, considered holier than Eid al-Fitr, the two Islamic holidays celebrated world over.

The film’s score has been composed by that Mozart of Madras, A.R. Rahman, who had a fatwa issued against him on this movie itself six years ago, as it was on its Iranian film-maker Majid Majidi by a little-known Indian Islamic organisation, Raza Academy. Rahman was asked to read Kalima (The Word) again and re-solemnize his marriage.

The same organisation has issued a bugle again for this “intolerable” act by Don Cinema, wondering why Muslims are always the “target” even when it’s known that a “Muslim will die in honour than to see or hear even the slightest insult on his Holy Prophet.” The Academy has ended its appeal with the unveiled threat that it would cause “unrest” and “law and order” problem.

This movie on the Prophet of Islam was state-sponsored by Iran and released world over in 2015 but Saudi Arabia has banned it and so have a score of other Islamic countries who profess faith in Sunni Islam. As is known, Iran is the centre of Shia faith and Saudi Arabia of Sunni and the two have been violently divided over many a century over its purity.

The film took seven years in the making and has been hailed as a masterpiece by moviegoers yet the depiction of Prophet Muhammad, or anybody embodying him in art, cartoon or movies, is a taboo disapproved by Islamic theologians. Very few have crossed the redline and not paid the price.

In 2005, cartoons on the Islamic Prophet published by a Danish newspaper led to violent protests, attack on embassies and consumer boycotts and left scores of people dead.

In 2015, Islamic militants smoked out 12 lives at the offices of French magazine Charlie Hebdo for depicting the Prophet in cartoons which were termed blasphemous.

Salman Rushdie’s is an episode known world over as his 1988 book “The Satanic Verses” fell into crosshairs with Islam’s adherents and Iran’s late supreme leader Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa, calling on Muslims world over to kill the author.

Closer home, Kamlesh Tiwari, a Hindu nationalist politician, had his throat slit inside his home by two Islamic fundamentalists for calling the Prophet Muhammad as the first homosexual last year.

The movie which depicts the early life of Prophet Muhammad, claims to show Islam in good light and spread its message of peace and brotherhood which has been tarred by jihadis and terrorists in recent decades. It’s been mainly shot in Iran but when elephants were required for the movie, India refused permission to filmmakers who later opted for South Africa.

As it shaped up the storyline went thus:

An attack on Mecca is ordered to destroy the Kaaba by the order of Abraha, King of Habasha. One of his commanders lead a force of thousands of soldiers, horses and elephants. As the army reaches the gate of Mecca, the elephants halt and refuse to move on the divine order. Next, small birds in millions release a hail of stones onto the invaders and the army is wiped out. A month later, the Prophet Muhammad is born. This pre-Islamic Arabia is seen through the eyes of the Prophet Muhammad from birth to the age of 13.

The movie at no point shows the face of the Prophet. Only his hand and feet in the cradle as a baby, and a child from the back is shown. The identity of the boy who played the Prophet Muhammad has not been revealed so far.

The apprehension on reception of this movie in India is valid. The first attempt to depict the Prophet Muhammad in a movie called “The Message” happened 43 years ago. In 1976, Anthony Quinn played the Prophet’s uncle Hamza. The film didn’t depict the Prophet Muhammad’s face on screen but Muslims were offended nevertheless. The movie’s director, Syrian Moustapha Al-Akkad was killed in a 2005 suicide bombing in Amman. It’s not confirmed though whether the attack was related to the movie.

In 1977, gun-terrorists sieged the B’nai B’rith building in Washington DC and demanded the movie’s release in the United States to be cancelled or they would blow up the building. A policeman and a journalist died in the standoff.

Interestingly, this movie was released in 2018 in Saudi Arabia after a 42-year ban. It became the first Arabic title to get a theatrical release in Saudi Arabia. Since it was approved by the Middle East censors, many other Islamic countries such as Egypt, Morocco, Iraq, Lebanon, Ethiopia etc also released the movie. This is only one of the two movies ever made on The Prophet, the other being the present one by the Iranian director.

It’s not clear how the release of this Iranian movie would play out in India. It’s unlikely the radical Islamic elements in India would look the other way. Even though the Shias in India might keep their peace since the movie has the blessing of Islamic Republic of Iran, the Sunnis would take the leaf out of Saudi Arabia’s book and all hell could break loose. For all we know, Don Cinema could itself develop cold feet. One surely can’t take one’s eyes off the movie even before one has seen it.

 

 

How good has India been in E-education in this Summer of Corona?

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

Kids have numbers. I mean there are 25 crore children who visit 15 lakh schools in India—or when they last visited before March 16 shut them down.

Most liked the break. Some didn’t. For India had found an alternative to physical classes. It moved online. Government and educational bodies launched several e-learning portals and apps such as DIKSHA portal, e-Pathshala, Swayam, STEM-based games etc.

Hawks were keen to found out if much-touted India’s 4G network spread would hold up. Yes, the 4G data is very affordable, it’s said to be robust enough to cover the entire country, but India is that dark abyss for marginalized communities, those stuck in deep interiors, who don’t have smartphones, leave alone laptops and desktops.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) tells us that although 78 percent of India’s 1.3 billion population have mobile phones, the tele-density hasn’t seeped beyond 57 percent.  The rest are innocents to such advances. Then not everyone at home has access to smartphones. How could a family of three teenagers with one smartphone fall into a lockstep to study online?

Well, some did. There is a Kumar family in Ghaziabad, in Delhi NCR itself, where three teenagers worked out a schedule to use their solitary smartphone to good use. Nidhi, 15, begins the day with an hour’s coaching on a WhatsApp video call; the younger brother gets hold of the phone next, and finally the older brother pushes his applications to colleges.

At the other end of the spectrum is Ishan Khandelwal from a privileged background who isn’t able to come to terms with the final XII paper he missed due to Corona suspension of exams. He still has emerged with a grade to envy, booked his berth in a premier US educational institution and hopes Donald Trump would smile one of these days.

There is no end to such stirring tales of defiance. Pravinsinh Jadeja, a primary school teacher in Gujarat’s tribal district of Dahod, has turned an open space into an e-learning school of his own. The kids in their two-room school, now shut, don’t have internet or access to TV. So Jadeja, all of 43, has done his own smart bit.

Every morning, Jadeja, armed with his 5.5 inch Android smartphone holds a live session on DD Girnar’s YouTube channel. The students sit on cots while the winds blow and cows moo in the background. Jadeja is not alone. There are 30 other teachers across 10 villages in Dahod who do similarly and hold a shining light on the community of teachers. In Chennai, class 10 students in corporation schools have been temporarily provided with Android phones.

Similarly, at least 20 percent students don’t have e-access to the All-India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) online classes even though 8 million others do. The body has now arranged for 500 colleges to provide access of internet to any student living nearby, even if he or she is not a student of that institution.

Pakistan a disturbing contrast

Sometime, we don’t realize how good India has been with education in this distressing spell of Corona Virus pandemic. Lakhs and lakhs of students are being taught at home. Contrast this with Pakistan where students are being put in jail for demonstrating against the e-learning diktat even as they don’t have access to internet.

Quetta is one of the largest and most impoverished districts in Pakistan. Nine out of 32 districts are completely devoid of mobile internet services due to security reasons. Schools in Pakistan are closed since March 13. Students are holding demonstrations, sitting on hunger strikes, and subjected to violence, for demanding e-access to studies. Some have gone to High Court.

Quetta isn’t a stand-alone district in Pakistan. Much of the country doesn’t have internet infrastructure. Where it’s available, the network quality is poor. Only 35 percent of population have access to internet. Mostly it’s 3G connections. According to The Inclusive Internet Index 2020, Pakistan is 76th ranked country out of 100 nations. It’s the lowest among all Asian countries.

India, despite its multiple challenges, is among the top 50 countries on quality internet access. It’s only 13 rungs below China, now that a comparison between the two is regularly sought.  India has massively bridged the gap vis-à-vis China in recent years.

At the time of independence of the two countries in late 1940s, the two population-behemoths suffered from massive illiteracy. India’s rulers lacked resources, if not the will, to put education as priority. Thus, just a generation ago in 1982, China’s literacy rate was almost double at 64 percent to India’s 37. Today, in 2020, India’s literacy rate has jumped to 81.3 percent compared to China’s 96.84 percent. India is in a hurry to make up the lost years.

So when Corona pandemic threatened this march, India was up to the task. Not just the government or commercial ventures but even NGOs like Pratham are pushing their digital, radio and SMS-based programmes via village administration in 10 Indian states. The Ministry of Human Resource Development (HRD) is busy disseminating lessons through radio and television. State education departments are innovating new models to reach their local populace.

There is also intense involvement at the school, parents and the government level. In Karnataka, the state government stopped online classes for children below six, citing an advice by NIMHANS (National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro-Sciences), a premier Bengaluru-based mental health institution, that it could affect the mental health of kids.

The furious schools—goaded by parents–though would’ve none of it. After the state government banned online classes up to Class 5 on June 15, they challenged the decision in the Karnataka High Court. The court has quietly asked the state government to take a walk as its act is a violation of students’ fundamental rights to life and education.

The syllabus for next year has been reduced by 30 percent. The HRD minister Ramesh Pokhriyal “Nishank” has tentatively put the reopening of schools after August 15. But India is undeterred by the delay. If the present pandemic is any guide, India could make virtual education a norm, and not an exception, in the next five years.