Bangladesh

Why China is not bothered at the world screaming in its ears?

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

There is a reason why China doesn’t give a damn to retaliatory measures by the United States, Europe, India or anyone else for that matter.

Individuals or nations don’t turn their back on overflowing coffers and even if they make noise, there is little by way of action on the ground—or ocean if you have South China Sea in mind.

The world today is a buyers’ market and China is stuffing yuan in mouths which open up with the honest intention of registering their protests against the Beijing.

The latest trade figures of China in June are breathtaking. When the world is said to be angry at Coronavirus pandemic and neighbours are traumatized by the Middle Kingdom’s bullying, China’s exports have picked up. The biggest shock though is that its imports have risen by 2.7 per cent too, implying that more money is reaching the pockets of distressed economies of the world.

This is not Cold War II—as analysts are fond of saying these days.  Soviet Union was an empire cut off by the liberal or western world. China, in contrast, doesn’t have an empire. It just has found a way to every central bank and command structure of the nations.

This is more than geopolitics. This is geo-economics.

We all had thought that it’s payback time for a boorish China, induced by the pandemic. Well, it imported $167.15 billion worth of goods in June 2020 and made a nonsense of the Bloomberg prediction of a 10 per cent slump. China meanwhile exported $213.6 billion which is a hike of 0.5 per cent.

If China could import as much as it exports—presently some $46.2 billion adrift—it could scoff at punitive actions by the rest of the world as not just economies but the global industrial chain and trade won’t move without its consent.

China’s imports have taken off since their domestic market today is worth 41.2 trillion yuan. It has grown at a breakneck speed in last six years, contributing 57.8 percent to GDP growth during this spell.

Interestingly, its trade surplus hasn’t dropped by much against the United States. In June, it was $29.41 billion compared to $29.91 a year ago at the same stage.

China’s imports of copper concentrate from the United States is its highest in nearly two years. It’s purchase of iron ore has jumped to 35.3 per cent since October 2017. The arrival of soybeans has climbed by 71 per cent. It has imported record meat, including offal, which is nearly 74 per cent up to the same period a year ago.

And this is cutting across all ideologies, without distinction between friends and rivals. For instance, China is about to open its money reserves for beleaguered Iran. Yet, the arch rivals of the Islamic Republic—Saudi Arabia—is the biggest exporter of oil to Beijing. China’s crude oil imports from the Saudi kingdom has risen by 15% in June. This record import is in the shadow of price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia, the world’s top oil exporters. This is when Moscow, as we know, is said to be the blood-brother of Beijing these days. On top of it, China has also boosted its inflows from Brazil, Norway and Angola.

India of course is a very minor trading partner for China since it imports a mere 3% of China’s overall exports. New Delhi could hurt mega business houses of China, especially the digital kind, but it’s not to say it is bringing beads of sweat on Beijing’s forehead.

India could feel that it has favourable neighbouring relations with the governments in Afghanistan and Bangladesh but China, against it, has brought Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Nepal in its fold. It’s planning to invest $50 billion in Bangladesh over the next couple of years.

China, further, has deployed its military infrastructure around Indian Ocean. It already has eight naval ships in these waters. It has sold 10 submarines to India’s neighbours—8 to Pakistan and 2 to Bangladesh. It has a naval base in Djibouti and a military surveillance capability on Myanmar’s Coco island. It’s offering land exchange to Myanmar.

So even though one keeps hearing the angst of world against China, in effect little is changing on the ground. It would take more than mere rhetoric to keep China honest. So far there is little to suggest that the world is walking the talk.

 

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.

 

 

 

Modi is India’s greatest prime minister by a distance—here’s why

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

The very headline demands a comparison. Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru had his own view of India, not the one he shared with his mentor Mahatma Gandhi. Views on science was one thing, Hindus were another. Gandhi’s India was more than just Hindus, often at its cost. Nehru’s India could do without Hindus. For their own reasons, almost a century they shared between them (1869-1964), never made Hindus a political question.  Hindus, “the bloodiest story in human history” as historian Will Durant put it, remained unattended.

Indira Gandhi didn’t burden herself with the weight of ideology. Power was all that mattered. Two notables which she is credited with, probably owed little to her. The liberation of Bangladesh was an Indian army’s gift. Indeed, New Delhi held back the permission to storm Dhaka well beyond the expiry date. The storming of Golden Temple, and clearing of Sant Jarnail Bhindranwale and his proverbial 40 henchmen, was the outcome of her own experiment which went horribly wrong. Between the imposition of the Emergency and her butchering of Constitution–“secular” and all–it’s difficult to say which was worse.

Rajiv Gandhi, the reluctant politician, was terrible on Sri Lanka’s Tamil issue. He paid with his life in the end. He also apparently had a blood-streak in him which his velvety profile hid well. Ask the survivors of 1984 Sikh Progrom, it’s justice in perpetual limbo.  He also carried on the tradition of Muslim appeasement which under Mahatma Gandhi had cost India  its western and eastern arms.  He upturned the Supreme Court verdict on Shah Bano which had granted the divorced woman the right to alimony. Sharia Law had trumped democracy. India was rightly perceived to be a soft state by fundamentalists.  It gave wind to separatists in Kashmir.

Thereafter, terrorism became the headlines. Hindus were shown the chimera of independence as lakhs of them were driven out of Kashmir Valley. Atal Behari Vajpayee favoured peace with Pakistan and got Kargil in return. Vajpayee was no ordinary leader though. He made India nuclear. It was a game changer in India’s security doctrine. Vajpayee also did bold reforms in education and infrastructure.

Manmohan Singh was an economist at the service of politicians. He was a dummy prime minister, an accidental one, who turned a blind eye to scams dancing -under his chair. Pamphleteers give him credit for opening up the Indian economy. In essence, he only carried out the dictates of his prime minister Narasimha Rao who didn’t belong to Nehru-Gandhi clan. His has been a pursuit of power, of communal bias— “Muslims have the first right on India’s resources” – and between visits to hospitals, he is presently panting for a Rajya Sabha seat.

In all these pre-Modi years, India wrestled with hunger, wars and terrorism as its three key moments. In the 60s, India was without food. Wars bloodied its earth virtually every decade. Terrorism brought death to cities after 1990. Mumbai’s 26/11 was as big a psychological scar to India as battles of Panipat from Babur to Ahmed Shah Abdali. Rich made the best of licence raj; poor couldn’t even enter a park. Police and bank accounts were out of bounds. Subsidies were for the middlemen. Entrepreneurship a sin and a road to suicide. Mandal Commission–oh we forgot VP Singh–created regional satraps in Mayawati and Yadavs on the plank of Dalit politics.

Modi now has completed six years in office. His both terms secured with a resounding vote from 1.35 billion Indians. He chose demonetization against black money and Indians became friends with the digital world, an offshoot nobody had foreseen. India took halting steps towards one-tax regime in Goods and Services Tax (GST). India’s unseen people today have electricity, cylinders, health coupons, bank accounts, direct subsidies, Mudra loans and gifts of sanitation etc. These benefits don’t choose Hindus over Muslims.

Yet, this is not what makes Modi India’s greatest prime minister ever. It’s about vision–which is not ideology–where he seems to be up against the world. He dreams of a safe, prosperous and united India but not at the cost of Hindus. It upsets a hell of a lot of people.

Let’s begin with Kashmir. He has restructured the former state which was manipulated by Nehru-Gandhi clan to ensure Kashmir Valley always wins. In due course, it became a personal fiefdom of Abdullahs and Muftis. Now the assembly seats, whenever elections are held, would see a balance in proportion to size and population. There is not an ounce of evidence to suggest it is against Kashmiri Muslims. But there is plenty to suggest it would hurt the entrenched regional dynasties who had turned a blind eye, if not aided and abetted, the terrorism from across the border. Muslims in Kashmir Valley were in pits in all these years. They could only look up.

An impartial history would judge Modi as an Indian who saved India’s borders which Prithvirajs, Gandhis and Nehrus couldn’t do in a thousand years. Kashmir was a lost case. In 2047, it would’ve been hundred years to that thorn. It was not a matter of if, but only of when, India would become the rest of Kashmir.  In the age of Islamic State (IS) and its known cahoots in India this was given. My children, and their children, and their children, have been blessed with that one ring of security which is Modi’s offering at Mother India’s feet.

Then, we have Ram Janmabhoomi. This was hanging fire much beyond our independent years. Nothing had been in doubt: That the Babri Masjid had been built over a temple; that it was a mosque in disuse; and that mosques are routinely removed in Saudi Arabia. Yet, Hindus were denied a home for their supreme deity in their own land. Modi has managed it without resorting to unconstitutional norms.

One half of India’s 200 Muslims, their womenfolk, had a constitutional disadvantage due to a practice which isn’t objected to by Sharia Law even though the Holy Book probably doesn’t sanction it. A husband could take away his wife’s investment of her life and career in him by simply pronouncing triple talaq. This was slavery within homes. It hurt Muslim women, their kids, the family, the society and the nation. The Triple Talaq Act 2019, which had been approved by Supreme Court but stuck in Parliament on numbers, was finally enacted within days Modi assumed his second term. This was the first definite step towards Uniform Civil Code (UCC) which is desired by the Constitution.

It’s said Muslims are unsafe in Modi’s India. Lynchings are cited as proof. I remember so clearly the early days of Modi’s first term when this word was repeated ad nauseam. A few scribes and newspapers worked in lockstep on this agenda. You couldn’t pick up a newspaper where “lynching”, real or fake, wasn’t mentioned. Lynchings have always happened in rural India where cows are wealth and people would give life to protect them. It’s no different to how anti-CAA and now migrants have been picked for propaganda though they couldn’t care less for Muslims or poor.

This anti-India lobby of journalists, politicians and their foreign handlers see an existential threat in Modi. He is a Hindu in thought and action but they would rather portray him as anti-Muslim. It’s easy to sway millions of Muslims for most are uneducated and poor; and have a latent fear of Hindu’s rise. This frenzy would again be on us once Corona Virus recedes in the background.

Modi’s position is secure in history. His real test would be coming four years. Anti-India lobby, which includes Jihadis, Communists and imperialist forces, won’t give him a moment’s respite on Muslims. Modi is a nationalist and nationalists are always a threat to these global forces.  I predict an anarchy on streets where police would be immobilized. Any action they take would have screaming headlines and images in next day’s daily. It in turn would bring pressure groups such as the United Nations, European Parliament, George Soros etc. into play. Police would freeze; the anarchy would bring in violent mobs in a bid to overthrow him. This is a script I am reading it out to you in advance. How Modi responds, we would see.

We haven’t touched how painstakingly Modi has invested his time and energy to be a world leader of considerable respect. Or how, if we beat Corona, he would invite books of gratitude. He doesn’t part with national coffers easily which is a leeway we must grant to a Gujarati. But the sum is always greater than the parts and it’s the whole which makes Modi the greatest ever.

 

“Bloodiest story of human history” and its long shadow on a resurgent India

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

Never since the bloodbath of the Partition in 1947 which cost two million lives have Muslims and Hindus been so disenchanted with each other as of now and understanding its complexity could steer clear a resurgent India from becoming a prisoner of its past.

Rioters have taken to streets, cost lives and burnt public property worth millions since the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) was passed by the Parliament in the closing days of 2019. Despite Indian prime minister Narendra Modi putting all doubts to rest with a rousing speech to a mammoth crowd in the Capital, there has been no letting up on the angst on either side.

The Act in essence eases up the citizenship process for the persecuted religious minority, including Hindus, in three Islamic republics of Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan but its opponents want Muslims covered too even though they are not in minority in these countries and there are other avenues for them to gain Indian citizenship.

First students of a few Muslim educational institutions and then the rioters have made violent headlines and now supporters of the Citizenship Act are filling up the streets, albeit peacefully, but there is little mistaking that Muslims and Hindus are standing on the two sides of the great divide.

“Bloodiest story of human history”

Hindus historically resent almost a millennium-long persecution (8th to 18th century) at the hands of Muslim invaders who forged empires and inflicted what historian Will Durant described as the “bloodiest story of human history.” The wounds festered further when India was amputated of its western and eastern parts on the call of Muslim leaders on religious grounds by the departing British in 1947. The newly-formed Pakistan since then has forced India into four wars and supplied terrorists to turn Kashmir into a killing field. That scores of riots between the two since independence has claimed more than 10,000 lives has only bloodied the nation’s fabric.

Hindus further simmer that the Congress party, which ruled most in independent India, has “appeased” Muslims with funds and doles, created a minority affairs ministry with a separate budget and yet championed “secularism” from the rooftop. Muslims have control on their religious and educational institutions but the same is denied to Hindus. Hindus fear that such “appeasement” could cause another break-up of India like it did at the independence.

Muslims, on their part, largely detest the rise of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which Hindus view as essentially one of its own.  The party is in its second term with full majority under a hugely popular prime minister Narendra Modi who arguably has done more for Indian Muslims than Congress. Yet a series of events, such as overturning of triple talaqs (instant divorce), abrogation of special rights to Jammu and Kashmir and the favourable judicial verdict for a temple for Hindus’ deity Lord Rama in Ayodhya, has made sizeable number of Muslims long-faced.

A doctored Liberal narrative

The Liberal discourse, which controls the narrative, has largely tried to whitewash India’s violent experience with Islam and tried to present a composite Hindu-Muslim history though the truth is the great tradition of India’s ascetics and saints never caught the fancy of Muslim hearts. Nor India’s rich philosophy mattered to Muslim invaders but for a handful of notable exceptions.

Indian and Muslim literatures have largely run a parallel course. Pre-Muslim Indian history or Hindu heroes find no mention in Muslim annals. Muslim rulers have largely been indifferent to India’s magnificent traditions of sculpture. Some synthesis in language and music, or architecture, has been spruced up as proof of harmony. But it’s a stretch of imagination. Oppressors have never been seen indigenous by natives anywhere in the world. For example, Thanksgiving Day carries completely different connotations for White Americans than it does for Red Indians. While one celebrates it as the day when Pilgrim Fathers stepped on to the American soil, the Red Indians view it as a day of mourning.

The present disquiet has reopened the old wounds. While it is true that Indian Muslims by and large are peaceful, as perhaps are their majority in the world, yet it only takes a few to cause upheavals around the globe and bring Islam’s violent historical past on to the centrestage. Muslims need a credible, constructive leadership, at least in India, which speaks up against entitlement, support moves which free up their women from hardliners, and backs the long-pending Constitutional demand of a Uniform Civil Code which could help get rid of a few regressive Sharia (Islamic) laws. Till a voice emerges from within for one people, one nation, the historical suspicion of two-nation theory, which gave birth to Pakistan, would remain fresh in the mind of Hindus.

Liberals ensure that anything that makes Muslims uncomfortable must be branded as “hate” or “Islamophobia.” This puts the reformation on back-burner. Till it’s encouraged, societies around the world would be convulsed into turmoil, be it in Europe or in India.

 

Onion crisis and its political shadow in India is one of history’s poor jokes

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

History pulls some poor jokes and I am afraid onion is one of them though it’s unlikely millions of my agitated fellow Indians would view the matter as funny.

Onion prices have hit the roof in India, a kilogram costing one-third of an average Indian’s daily income of $4 dollars, forcing a worried government to seek tranches of supply from Egypt of all places lest the people’s anger extracts a political cost too grave in nature.

There’s a precedent for such grave forebodings too as governments once fell on rising onion costs in Delhi and Rajasthan and Indira Gandhi once channelized such anger to ride to power in 1980 even though the excesses of Emergency were still fresh in people’s mind.

Onion to Indians is what air is to human life, invisible yet impossible to do without, a bulb of a food which launches a thousand curries, an essential even if inconspicuous item on your food plate, peeling of which is always a teary proposition and consumption of which is strictly no-no if the next thing you are doing is to kiss your lover. You see, what is pungent for your food is odour between two mouths!

Onions were once despised by Indians

Yet history tells us that onion was one of the forbidden foods for ancient Indians who were seeking an austere life. Holy scriptures despised it as an aphrodisiac, unsuitable in quest of a spiritual life.  One of history’s most famous travellers, Hieun Tsang of China, observed in the seventh century that very few locals used onions for fear of being expelled beyond the walls of the town.

Muslim invaders then came in hordes but always returned after loots, unlike the Mughals who dominated the next millennium and barely ate anything without the onions. Their cuisine of rich meat dishes and biryani (flavoured rice), virtually embedded with this layered bulb, sometimes raw, mostly burned brown and mixed, let a strong aroma to the royal kitchenette and their dining halls. The smell soon blew down to the masses beyond the royal walls and before long, onion occupied the pride of place which it retains to this day for an average Indian’s food buds.

The irony won’t be lost to a history student as he observes a renaissance of ancient India and its true ethos of our times which laments the loss of its virility due to a thousand years of servility at the hands of the Muslim invaders and British colonialists and yet is unmindful that one of Indians’ staple food, the unputdownable onions, is actually a gift of the Mughals. That’s what you call out history for one of its poor jokes.

As onion grew in importance, so did its crop for farmers to the extent that India today is the second biggest producer and exporter of onions in the world and earns $360 million each year from its surplus. Once in a while, the monsoon is delayed or rains are active till the onset of winters and this double whammy makes onions scarce and dearer. That’s when fumes of anger hit the power corridors of government and occasionally envelopes it too. This year is a classic case study of such a frightful scenario.

Plans and the battle ahead

India hopes to come to grips with it in a matter of month or two for there is always an abundance of onions between January and May which allows the excess to be stored and used till August before the fresh crop in winter keeps Indian kitchens running for the rest of the year. It’s this winter crop, called Rabi crop in India, which has suffered the vagaries of weather this year.

Indian government is countering the crisis by banning exports and calling for imports from diverse nations such as Egypt, UAE and Turkey to meet the shortfall. Times were when India turned to Pakistan in such crisis as it was in 2010 but now the ties between the two neighbours is in deep freeze and India even needs permission to use air space of its arch-rivals. There are also measures to subsidize such imports for Indian consumers as well as a policy to ensure Indian farmers don’t get shortchanged in price only because the weather has played truant.

Such assurance though are difficult to extend to its Middle and Far East clients as well as to  neighbours like Bangladesh and Sri Lanka who are used to special brown Indian onions and find the alternative, say the white ones from Egypt, too bland in taste.  Yet Egypt is now shipping its onions to Sri Lanka which it had done never before. Even the Netherlands is importing onions to Sri Lanka though the transportation lag is no less than six weeks. Onion cost has skyrocketed for India’s traditional export clients and there is fear that India might have yielded too much ground to exporting rivals such as Pakistan, China and Egypt.

(This piece also appeared in rt.com).

 

 

New India beefs up Mahatma Gandhi in a formidable armour

(This piece is reproduced in NewsBred courtesy rt.com)

India is abuzz with Mahatma Gandhi in the year of his 150th birth anniversary but there is a new version to his message of “ahimsa” (non-violence) which its enemies are finding out at a great personal cost.

Gandhi was the “apostle” of peace and non-violence who offered the other cheek when slapped but India of today would rather leave a black eye on its aggressor as it did on Pakistan with retaliatory heavy shelling in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) on Sunday which left at least 6-10 Pakistani soldiers dead and blew up three terrorist camps into thin air.

It was a grim fresh reminder to Pakistan that India has the doctrine of an eye-for-an-eye in its new rulebook and the “surgical strikes” and “Balakot airstrikes” which followed the terrorist attacks in Uri (2016) and Pulwama (2019) was the new philosophy and not an exception.

India is still an adherent to “non-violence” and has an unbroken history of peaceful coexistence, never eyeing others’ territory but the painful lessons of past demand it puts a premium on the integrity of its Union.

India’s National Security Advisor Ajit Doval often reminds his audience that India was overrun by invaders despite being arguably the most advanced civilization of its times. It never protected its seas even though they straddle three of its four corners. It led to the servitude of almost a thousand years. It faced wars imposed by Pakistan on three of four occasions: 1947-48, 1965 and 1999. It didn’t use 90,000 prisoners-of-war as a bargaining chip nor advanced deep inside Pakistan after winning a conclusive war in 1971 which led to the creation of Bangladesh.

India was seen as an epitome of a “soft” nation as terrorists kept crossing the Line of Control (LoC) through Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir and cost tens of thousands of civilians and soldiers lives since 1990. The horrific attack in Mumbai, India’s commercial capital, when terrorists from across the border sprayed machine guns on civilians on streets and five-star hotels, known as 26/11 in nation’s damaged psyche, evoked no retaliatory response from India. Worse, the very next year in 2009, the same United Progressive Alliance (UPA), returned to power without any retribution from its masses.

All this has changed for good. India today is driven in its bid to modernize its army: It has only recently ceded its top spot to Saudi Arabia as the biggest arms importer of the world—the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) reckons India accounted for 12% of the total global arms imports for the 2013-2017 period. It has lapped up Russia’s S-400 advanced missile system defying the threat of sanctions from the United States. It has gone ahead with its purchase of France’s Rafale fighter jets even though the move threatened to derail Indian prime minister Narendra Modi’s bid for a second term on the unfounded charges of corruption this year.

India today is literally taking the fight into enemy camp: It rakes up the issue of Balochistan and its independence from Pakistan; it has vowed to wrest back the control of PoK for a unified Kashmir and its defence minister Rajnath Singh has already debunked the “No-First-Use” nuclear doctrine. India stood up for its ally Bhutan and stared down China in a face-to-face standoff between the two armed forces in Doklam in 2017 which lasted months.

India is not only flexing its armed muscle but is also a crusader against global terrorism on international forums. India has successfully overturned China’s reluctance in having Masood Azhar of Pakistan blacklisted by the United Nations. It dissuaded South Asian countries such as Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Bhutan from joining the SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) Summit hosted by Islamabad in November 2016 after the Uri attack. It recently tried it’s very best to have Pakistan blacklisted by the FATF (Financial Action Task Force) and has openly fallen out with Turkey and Malaysia for standing by Pakistan on the Kashmir issue.

India loves and is proud of Mahatma Gandhi and the message of “vasudhaiva kutumbakam (The World Is One Family) which defined the great man’s extraordinary life. But it doesn’t want to ignore the lessons of history. It is prepared to lift arms to protect its people and boundaries which is different from being an aggressor. It’s a nuanced approach to Gandhi’s philosophy and it seems to be paying dividends.

(This is a reprint from Russia Today—rt.com— for whom the author has penned this piece).

Hail India’s war against poverty but don’t overlook the dangers ahead

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

Every coin has two sides but let’s first flip the one which is justifiably being feted across the globe: In mere 10 years, India has halved its poverty from 55 to 28 percent, i.e 369 out 640 million people are out of its vicious grip. The World Bank estimates that if India doesn’t lift its foot from the pedal, extreme poverty would belong to past in 2030.

Extreme poverty isn’t about the money you have in your pockets which incidentally is less than US$1.90 per day in monetary terms. The global standards follow Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) which focuses on health, education and living standards and measures them through the 10 indicators of nutrition, child mortality, schooling years, school attendance, sanitation, cooking fuel, drinking water, electricity, housing and assets. Those who lack in one-third of these parameters are extremely poor.

 It’s no-brainer to most Indians to identify the areas in which India has managed giant leaps: 93% of India now has access to electricity; almost 100 percent houses now have household toilets; 94% have access to cooking gas and housing-for-all could be a reality by 2022. However nutrition (India’s in 100th out of 118 in Global Hunger Index); child mortality (at 1.2 million a year the highest in the world); education (one in six Indians is out of its bounds) and drinking water (100 million Indians have almost zero-access) are gaping holes and forces us to look at the other side of the coin.

Urban and rural divide for instance. An urban worker earns eight times an average of agriculture worker even though two-third of India’s 1.3 billion people live in its villages. This disparity partially explains why 34 farmers commit suicide per day in India. Indian farmers are smallest landholding class on the planet and can’t bargain in open market for their little produce. It tells us about the inequality in consumption and physical and social infrastructure. If forewarns us about the violence which is heaving below the urban-rural divide.

India’s political elites do paper it over with doles such as Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee (MGNREG) programme which assures 100 days of guaranteed wages for unskilled manual labour. But what about the other 265 days? Why waste India’a incomparable human resources – every second Indian is less than 25 years—on digging wells and laying roads when they could be trained to use technology? Is there even a comparison between manual and skilled labour? What stops Indian farmers to adopt technology?

Gender and caste are two other areas which continue to hold India back. Jobs for women indeed have fallen off from a high of 36 percent in 2005 to 26 percent in 2018. Nearly 200 million women either don’t get paid or are in the unorganized sector. Poverty and restrictive social or family mores still keep them out of the basic education loop, forget about the digitized education which has overtaken the world.  

Muslims and Scheduled Tribes/Scheduled Castes continue to be India’s poorest living groups. Sure there is a huge reduction in their rates of poverty between 2006 and 2016, still every second person among Scheduled Tribe and every third among Muslims is poor. Admittedly, there is a reason for it since Muslims still prefer Madarasa (seminary) where religious initiation is the preferred mode to grounding in science and mathematics. Tribals face the issue of assimilation in mainstream India.

At a macro-level, 364 million Indians are still extremely poor, which is more than the population of United States. At a micro-scale, just four states—Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh—account for 196 million of these extremely poor. Some are as poor as Sierra Leone in Sub-Saharan Africa, like Alirajpur district in Madhya Pradesh, the poorest in India, where 77 per cent of people aren’t sure if they would live to see another day.

It’s not to deny India’s eye-catching gains in war against poverty. The average life-expectancy of an Indian has increased by 11 years since 1990. Still it remains one of the 10 poorest countries in the globe alongside Bangladesh, Peru, Vietnam, Pakistan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Combodia, Ethiopia, Nigeria and Haiti. It’s a war which is not over till it’s over.

 

 

 

Left is over; let a thousand lotus bloom

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

BJP has swallowed Left in West Bengal which is a significant tide in the history of the state and the nation.

With Kerala gone too, along with Tripura last year, Left as a political and ideological force has its’ funeral procession waiting at its door.

It was a political force which dominated the discourse of independent India, shaping Nehruvian philosophy and garnering numbers of its own which helped form many a government, most notably in 1989, 1996 and 2004; the last one being a stunning guerilla ambush of Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s “Shining India.”

Left was a far deadlier force as an ideology since its call to the poor and “secular” cloak hid the agenda of breaking up India by pitting poor against the rich; Hindus against the Muslims and making sure India doesn’t reclaim its glorious heritage and thus identity.

Left stood on two planks of Congress and propaganda. Congress provided the spread, power and fund which in turn turbo-charged propaganda through media and academia. (I am sure many names will swirl in your head when I name media and academia but let’s resist name-shaming for the time being).

It’s reasonable to assume that their ideological fulcrums in Russia and China massively nourished this elephant in the room for many decades and perhaps still do. Fundamentalist Islamic states which seek converts worldwide, couldn’t have ignored this massive power bloc. Colonial forces, without colonies but not without agenda, sprouted NGOs and CIA never slept. With a friendly umpire in Congress and Left, India’s pitch was queered and transgressions were ignored.

Such powerful entities don’t die easily. Left has no takers in politics but its’ foolish to assume they are dead ideologically too. That they wouldn’t be up to their mischief.  I suspect they would strike back with double the vengeance. They still have their tools in media, academia, judiciary and bureaucracy. The ears and pockets of foreign forces aren’t spent. A strong India would be an eyesore to many. More so to the West who dreads a resurgent Asia.

In the first Parliament in 1952, Left was the main “opponent.” Once it split in 1967, the newly born CPI-M made steady progress in subsequent elections—(19 seats in 1967), (25 in 1971), (30 in 1980). In 2004, it stood at 43 seats! Indeed, it put Congress on wheels.

The rise of BJP has struck at its roots. Its’ cadres and proxies, or whosoever was left after Mamata’s poach, are shifting in en masse to BJP. In 2009, Left had 19 winners and just nine in 2014. They had two seats from West Bengal in 2014—now they have none. Kerala, where they had the majority stakes in the ruling coalition, they now have just one. Barring four in Tamil Nadu, that too thanks to Congress and DMK which made space for them, it’s politically over.

Those who know the troubled history of Bengal, its’ vicissitudes, they won’t miss the magnitude of this seminal moment. It’s been a land of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Ravindranath Tagore, Subhas Chandra Bose,  Vivekanand, equally vivid in the nightmare of blood which flowed in the streets, if not in Hooghly, on many a occasion. Be it the sinister design of Muslim League and Suhrawardy—Direct Action Day—or when Bangladesh beckoned on the other side. Writers, poets, revolutionaries, social reformers have jostled side by side with butchers, scoundrels, monsters and Satans. Bengal has always been a land of extremes.

But for propaganda tools, little is left in Left’s kit. No longer can they sell poverty to  an aspirational India. No longer it’s a magnet to deprived. There are no takers to these dream-merchants. They can foment trouble in fertile universities, dictate narrative through Lutyens Media and flash their blood-soaked daggers. India can’t go back into the jar of 60s.

Sure, Left still controls the levers of Lutyens media and academia. It’s not a negligible tool. But Modi 1.0 has shown it can be combated. India, by and large, didn’t fall for it. Yes, NYT, Washington Post, Time and BBC, the typical choirboys, were at hand. But people knew better. As long as 1.3 billion people can smell rose in their verandah, these guys can walk up and down the street and stare at “Beware” signs. We can live with that. Archaeology can have its new section. Dinosaurs can have their museums.  Market won’t run out of wreaths.

 

 

Minorities: Wish Imran Khan looks at this mirror of his own

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

Mr Imran Khan, Prime Minister of Pakistan, please don’t be a joke.

You want Pakistan to be a shining light of example for India in its treatment of minorities. It must be the cruelest joke not only on Hindus, Sikhs and Christians of whosoever are left in Pakistan but also on fellow Muslims such as Shias and Ahmadiyyas in the persecution of which you’ve played your hand. And should I remind you of what Pakistan has done even to Sunni Muslims, nearly 2.5 millions now, whom you left to their own fate in Bangladesh after agreeing to repatriate them?

I would not even get into the basic fact of only 2 per-cent of 23 percent of Hindus/Sikhs/Christians at the time of Partition are now left in Pakistan. Or that correspondingly, India’s 8 per cent of Muslims minority in 1947 has now ballooned to nearly 20 per cent. Let me begin by showing you the mirror on your act both as a Prime Minister and as a politician.

Isn’t it a fact that soon after you became the Prime Minister, you removed Dr. Atif Mian from the Economic Advisory Council only because he is an Ahmadiyya and in protest of which two other economists in the panel, Dr. Imran Rasul and Dr. Asi Ijaz Khwaja resigned? Do you need be reminded that a Punjab minister Salman Taseer was assassinated in 2011, being blamed for blasphemy as he advocated a fair trial for Christians even as you were flourishing in your political career?  Or that a Sunni Muslim terrorist group called Sipah-e-Sahaba which targets Shias is said to enjoy the state patronage?

Do you need be reminded that since your Constituent Assembly in 1949 declared Pakistan to be an Islamic State, Kafirs include both minorities and even fellow Muslims? Shias may number 20 per cent of the population but violent extremist action against them is routine. Ahmadiyyas have been declared non-Muslim by a writ of the state. There are forced conversions to Islam. Their houses of worships are bombed frequently. Pakistan’s pro-Wahabi/Saudi leaning against anti-Shia/Iranian is known to all but to you. The concept of a minority is alien to Islam and Pakistan. They have no future in Pakistan. The religious cleansing is consistent with the state philosophy. As Justice MC Chagla wrote in Roses in December: “To Pakistan, everything is communal.”

The constitutional amendment in the 1980s included in non-Muslims not only Christian, Hindu, Sikh, Parsi or Buddhist community, but also anyone of the Qadani/Lahori sect, a Bahai or a person belonging to any of the scheduled castes. Ahmadiyyas are already declared non-Muslims. Campaigns are on to condemn Shias to similar fate.

Around a million Muslims from Bihar opted to go to East Pakistan in 1948 because they believed in Qaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah and in the concept of “Islamic Pakistan.”  They were the ‘Urdu” speakers to “Bengali-speaking” inhabitants of East Pakistan.  They overtly supported West Pakistan during the turbulent year of 1971 when a successful revolt against the repression, death and rape of Pakistan’s army culminated in India’s intervention and creation of Bangladesh.

It unfolded a nightmare for these Bihari Muslim migrants. First Mukti Vahini and then Bangladesh state systematically targeted and killed them. Everything they owned was taken away from them. The glamorous sounding “Geneva Camp” near Dhaka is a living hell for these Bihari Muslims to this day.

Various heads of Pakistan have visited “Geneva Camp” over decades. In the 1980s, Pakistani president Zia-ul-Haq assured these “stranded Pakistanis.” Later Nawaz Sharif made similar promises during the 90s. Benazir Bhutto, who belonged to Sindh, earlier had made it clear that there was no space for them in Pakistan. During his 2002 trip to Bangladesh, then Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf said he couldn’t allow Biharis to emigrate to Pakistan. This is the fate of nearly 2.5 million Urdu-speaking outcasts rotting in Geneva and others camps around Bangladesh.

Their loyalty and belief in the concept of Pakistan has resulted in a terrible fate for nearly three generations of these Bihari Muslims. Only 1.7 lakh have been repatriated so far. The rest have been stalled. Those who have been repatriated are experiencing a living hell.

Most of those repatriated are crammed in a slum in Mian Channu in Punjab, Pakistan. During the 1980s Karachi riots, the ethnic Sindhis targeted them with impunity. Their schools are bombed. Then there is Orangi town in Karachi which houses Biharis in a pathetic condition.

This is the price fellow Muslims who believed in the idea of Pakistan have paid over generations. The medal of destitution is all they have got for their loyalty.  But look at the gall and cheek of Pakistan’s Prime Minister and his copious tears on minorities.

Swami Sanand’s death would sit heavy on Modi’s conscience

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

We all need to go beyond the death of fasting Swami Sanand (October 11,2018) and the disappointment he carried to his pyre at Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s indifference to his demands for  “Aviral Ganga.”

His no longer can be treated as an unfortunate incident for it throws up a whole lot of disturbing questions about the present ruling dispensation, unethical Congress, the clique of Sadhus and even Shankracharya, and above all an ecological disaster which awaits at least 40 million Indians if Maa Ganga goes.

If you cared to look on Youtube, you would be startled by the lucidity and conviction of the great man, how logical and disappointed he sounded on Prime Ministers, ministers, high bureaucrats, media and his own fraternity of sanyasis and sadhus, how instructional he is to individuals like you and me about trusting no one but yourself in achieving a higher cultural and ecological goal.

Those who hold the Hindu heritage and its revival as their life’s mission; that PM Narendra Modi is the harbinger of that change, would be sorely wounded hearing the great Sage say the project of “there can be no bigger conspiracy than Namami Gange”1 and that over Rs 20,000 crores spent on the holy river since 1986–and hundreds and thousands of crores more in near future–have been such a terrible, colossal waste.

He makes you shudder to the bones when he asks how the holy water, considered essential for a dying Hindu in every household, whose ashes if submerged in the holy river could pave the way for “nirvana”, which makes 10-12 crore devotees gather in faith in a Kumbh Mela; whose bacterial properties are lauded in 11 of 18 Puranas; which Krishna mentions in Bhagwad Gita as a dual image of his own, whose water once remained pure in jars even after decades, is hugely disease-prone today.

His stark questions to Uttarakhand government that it promotes and earns millions in the name of holy tourism in Haridwar and Rishikesh; makes visits of “kanwarias” as a moment to whip up the holy sentiments; and yet makes no attempt to stop hundreds of “barsati naaluhs” (rain-fed drains) from throwing its waste into the holy river; the debris of construction which further pollutes the river; the unbridled sand-mining, is a case of willful corrupt hypocrisy.

To the Central government, he outlines the wrong methodology of measuring the contaminated Ganga water; the hundreds of dams under construction/planned, usurping Ganga’s lands, the obfuscation between a judicial order and the real situation on ground which made him undertake multiple fasts since 2008 when he forsake his identity of G.D. Agarwal, a graduate from Berkley University, an IIT-professor; an original member-secretary of the Central Pollution Control Board, and took to “sanyas” all with the sole purpose of devoting the rest of his life to the service of the mighty river he always addressed as Gangaji or Maa Ganga (“Like all women are not your mother; all rivers are not Gangaji”, is one of his famous euphemism).

He believed implicitly in the vow of PM Narendra Modi on the banks of river Ganga in Varanasi as his “mother” but then over a period of four-and-a-half years saw the uselessness of “Namami Gange”, the same bureaucratic apathy and the same litany of false promises. His first two letters to Modi during his final and fatal fast were initially addressed as “my younger brother” before his final letter took a formal tone. None of them elicited a response.

Politicians cutting across party lines are shown in poor light in various audios and videos which are listed at the end of this article and which are source of all the facts in this article. MatraSadan,here he lived and fasted, issued a transcript of Swami Sanand’s conversation with Union Minister Nitin Gadkari, holding the Ganga Rejuvenation project, which shows a rather disdainful minister.

Swami Sanand’s interview with Madhu Purnima Kishwar mentions how then Union Minister Jairam Ramesh once refused to scuttle a project since Rs. 500 crores had been spent on it. “If money is the issue, we would raise Rs 500 crores for you,” retorted Swami Sanand. “And our commission?” said Ramesh, rather jestily. “We would arrange it too,” sniped back Swami Sanand.

Swami Sanand’s views are readily available on YouTube on how he was forcibly admitted in AIIMS; how visitors couldn’t reach him in hospital even in visitors’ hours unless they were screened; how his faith in fellow sadhus and sanyasis—“all sadhus are dhongis, maukhata lagaye huan hain “(all Sadhus are hypocrites and two-faced)”—and even in his own Guru and Shankracharya—“how my private emails to government were instantly made available to them and how I was subsequently rebuked by them”—was completely eroded by the end of his legendary life. Not to mention environmentalist Sunita Narain who he found making excuses for her absence to Ganga’s cause.

And why this fuss was all about?

Because Swami Sanand scientifically knew more about Gangaji more than ordinary folks in this country do. The holy river which begins in Gangotri glacier in Himalayas’s southern slope and runs through India and Bangladesh, a total distance of 2520 kms, home to 140 different species of fish and 90 species of amphibians, many of them now extinct, is the mother which nurtured India’s civilization for tens of thousands of years. It created the arable lands, lush forests, supported life which allowed the cultural, intellectual and religious magnificence of this country to flourish and endure.

The sediment-rich flow of Ganga and Brahmaputra is the largest known river delta in the world, spanning 59,000 square kilometers, supporting the livelihood of 400 million people. Vedas heavily mention Ganga as a sacred river.

It’s just not water alone—though it’s important enough for who survives without water?—but its’ unique properties. DS Bhargava of University of Roorkee found Ganga to decompose organic waste at a 15-25 rates faster than any other river of the world.

New Delhi’s Malaria Research Center claimed that water taken from Gange’s upper ambit prevented mosquito breeding. British bacteriologist Ernest Hanbury Hankin found out in 1896 that Vibrio Cholerae, a deadly bacterium known to spread Cholera, was killed within three hours after it was added in water from Ganga. He eventually concluded that Ganga—and Yamuna—have been largely responsible for preventing the spread of cholera.

Swami Sanand’s death to Gangaji’s cause was not the first one. Swami Nigmananda had died for a similar cause, seven years ago in 2011.  Swami Sanand’s had famously predicted that Swami Nigmananda’s death would make 10 Nigmananda’s sacrifice their lives. He himself was to be the next in line. The people we choose to effect the change, however, remain indifferent. Ganga remains a dump of our waste. Nothing but a mass resistance would do if Ganga, or India, is to survive.

Reference:

1-  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F7rW0nNkxwU (23.51-24.05)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pzdoc-8kupk

http://thinkworks.in/speakers/gd-agarwal/