Vietnam

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.

 

 

 

Who is Donald Trump fooling on Iran?

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

I am not a stockbroker but if I was I would bet big against Donald Trump unleashing a war against Iran.

I mean he heads a country which needed half a million of its servicemen to tame a small Kuwait and prepared six months to arrange for its logistics. How would do you do against a large territory like Iran?

His country United States can’t fight two medium-sized wars and can it really afford to free up Far East and China who would strangulate Taiwan the moment it’s off-radar?

And please don’t give me this Nuclear-muscle nonsense. It works best before you use it.  You can nuke a Hiroshima or Nagasaki but you can’t nuke the whole of Iran.

It’s also as if Trump doesn’t know that Pentagon would give a damn to his command for war. US can only declare war if its army wants so—as was the case with Vietnam and Iraq. The military generals of the US have already rejected the notion of abiding with the President’s order for an illegal war.

We know the US, the adolescent that it is of only 200-odd years, makes some silly mistakes (Remember the hostage crisis of the 70s: Jimmy Carter’s helicopters couldn’t fly over Iran at a low height because its filters got clogged with sand). But a war with Iran would be worth an Oscar of the Absurd.

For one, if you don’t allow oil out of Iran to the world; Iran would stop any oil to go out of the Middle East (see picture). Shias are everywhere:  60% of Iraq is Shia; 80% of Bahrain is Shia; the majority in Kuwait is Shia; the oil in Saudi Arabia is controlled by Shia. Iran would damage tankers and make sure the blame doesn’t come its’ way. In the last one month itself, four tankers anchored near Fujairah in UAE were damaged. Two tankers with petrochemical products were attacked in Gulf of Oman this week. No traces were left. It would become a routine. Saudi refineries could go up in smoke. Iran has strategic partners in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen and even Afghanistan.

We also know that the US’ Iran policy is based on a single agenda: Change of Islamic revolutionary regime in Iran. This agenda is unfulfilled even after 40 years. This is a country which unlike a France or England could survive on half a bread. Threat of a war, doesn’t open up the factional feuds in the country. Instead it draws them together—as Western-oriented parties and hardliners are hugging each other at the moment.

It’s also as if the US doesn’t know that its’ tough stance would probably make Iran a nuclear-powered regime in six months. Iran announced on June 17 that it would start withdrawing from compliance with the 2015 nuclear agreement. But if the US pulls out of the deal unilaterally and the other signatories of the pact—China, Russia, France, Britain and Germany—hold their silence, what options Iran is really left with but to press on the raw nerve which inked the pact in the first place?

In this week itself, Iran would exceed the limit on enriched uranium which the 2015 deal had stipulated—only 300kg of uranium hexafluoride enriched to 3.67 per cent, or it’s equivalent, for 15 years.  If Iran adds a few thousand extras of centrifuges, it would reduce the time Iran needs to arm itself with a nuclear weapon.

And how do you think Iran’s opponents would face up to the Persians? Saudi Arabia is so pathetic it can’t even bring tiny Yemen to submission. They can’t do anything to Houthi. A war would only make Turkey stronger. Iran is already being wooed by Russia and China. A common bank is being set up by Syria, Iraq and Iran to facilitate trade between these countries.

If anything a war would break up the United States. By mid-2020, oil prices would hit the roof. Insurance premiums on tankers would be prohibitive. Consumer prices of oil products would multiply. If oil prices exceed $100 per barrel, it would hit China, Europe and the US. If the oil prices are doubled, the US would be in ruins. It is the biggest consumer of electric power.  It doesn’t matter where it gets its energy from, be it Texas, Siberia or Saudi Arabia: if it’s 150% per barrel, US is destroyed.

Then why the hell is the US tightening its screws on Iran? And Donald Trump is increasingly sounding like John Wayne with holster unbuckled?

The short and sweet answer is: Trump wants to stoke up fears in the Middle East so that it could sell its military hardware to Iran’s opponents and fatten up its GDP. It never wanted a war, it never would. If the US wanted a war, it wouldn’t be looking the other way as Iran continues to sell 300 million cubic feet of gas to Iraq. Iran’s sale of oil in the region could go up to two million barrels of oil daily.  

The trouble is, Iran knows the game and is upping the ante: It has given an ultimatum to remaining signatories of the 2015 Pact either fall in line by July 7 and help preserve the nuclear deal or face the music. It’s a classic case of the hunter becoming the hunted. Trump has climbed up a tree but doesn’t know how to get down.

Fun, I say.

You must doff your hat to Times of India

Today, Times of India (March 5, 2016) has three stories on its front page:

Government says no to visit by US Panel:  US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has been denied Indian visas to “discuss and assess religious freedom.”  (NewsBred had an insightful take on it at least four months backwhich you must read if India concerns you).

India takes US to WTO over visa: India has hauled US in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) over their controversial new visa rules.

India rules out joint naval patrol in South China Sea:  India refuses to join US in joint patrolling in South China Sea (all you read on South China Sea is hogwash. Read this and you won’t need to read anything else on South China Sea ever).

INDIAN EXPRESS HAS NONE OF THESE STORIES. FROM ITS FRONT PAGE TO ITS LAST– FROM ITS MASTHEAD TO IMPRINT LINE.

May be Express, busy as it is with all its resources on Kanhaiya affair (just count on the stories in today’s editions—I gave up after 1-2 dozens), just couldn’t free its reporters on other India issues (but that’s ok, they didn’t have time and space to discuss Indian budget).

May be, Express thinks other India issues are not important. (Remember they didn’t have time for India’s win over Pakistan in cricket on its front page; instead writing a fictional “mahaul” story for which got an official rap).

May be, they genuinely missed the 3 stories since all international news agencies AP, AFP, Reuters blocked these stories too from reaching newspapers offices (I couldn’t find one in google search). Never mind if these same agencies cried themselves hoarse on India’s promised joint patrol with US in South China Sea.

The only Express story on US in today’s edition was on its business page, Pg 19:  “Monsanto threatens to exit India.”

So the facts established: Issues that India take up with United States didn’t find space in Express. Issues that United States takes up with India (like Monsanto) is a screaming headline.

What is Monsanto? Well it’s been dubbed as the “most evil corporation on earth.” We won’t waste time here on Monsanto. Readers can take their own sweet time to find about it.

Is Express of today a one-off thing? Or has there been a pattern?

The pro-US role in Indian Express is increasingly getting established. It publishes US envoy Richard Verma, president Barack Obama, Moody’s, Ford Foundation (which had infiltrated Nehru government to the core) and Greenpeace etc on issues where these divine voices question India’s freedom of speech, tolerance etc. (Even though the world knows that US has quarter of world’s all prisoners; its horrific track record against blacks; it snooping and spying on its citizens; the Patriot Law etc probably qualifies it as a “deep state.” today).

I won’t get so far as to question how Express runs without advertisements on its pages. There must be godly-souls in this world who would do anything for “tolerance” and “freedom of speech” issues. Or for that matter the allegations of “foreign funds’ to Kejriwal’s AAP for which, it must be told to readers, got a clean chit from none other than the Modi government last year!!! (can’t help taking a potshot: Kejriwal talks of “freedom of speech” but let’s not forget what he did to Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan—it wasn’t the best case of “freedom of speech, was it?).

Just as the JNU issue was hotting up, Modi addressing farmers in Bargarh, Odisha had said that NGOs with foreign funds were “conspiring” to destabilize his government and defame him.

Let me connect all the dots: A resurgent India would never be “allowed” by the United States. They don’t allow sovereign nations to functions: they only allow vassal—such as Europe, Japan or Gulf kingdoms to exist. Look at what it does to China, Iran, Russia, North Korea and Venezuela.  Or what they did to Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya and Syria and countless Latin American and African countries. You would be naïve to believe that imperialism and colonialism just disappeared after World War II. They only turned more sophisticated and scientific with modern technological tools.

Vajpayee broke the pattern with Nuclear explosion; Modi now is pursing a dollar-free BRICS agenda. The empire would strike back and strike back hard.

What are the tools of those seeking world hegemony? Corporate and bought media for one; NGOs and funded foundations for another; intellectuals such as Amartya Sen (who is married into the Rothschild family); film celebrities (you know whom); superbly controlled academic institutions etc.

These intellectuals, writers and elites conveniently forget that tens of millions of Asians were murdered in Tokyo and Osaka firebombing (I am not evening mentioning Hiroshima and Nagasaki), horrific liquidation of Korean civilians or killing of millions in Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, East Timor and Philippines. Or what’s happening in Middle East where wars have been waged on lies of WMD and Benghazi or Syrian chemical use. So Indian elites, this is the future you have in mind for you and your children?

So a word from a neutral Indian citizen like me to the rest of the countrymen, more importantly to media: “Don’t support BJP or Congress or vice versa if that’s what you are convinced about. You support Kanhaiya–do it. You don’t want to support JNU–don’t do it. But don’t play into such destabilizing forces.

Remember there are forces who don’t want a strong, resurgent India. Those who are blocking Muslims in their own country; who won’t allow a Muslim women to wear “hijaab” but can allow cartoons against the Prophet while taking a legal action against those having anti-Semitic views–these are not the ideal countries that you think they are. Don’t be a tool in their hands.

All they want is a polarized India. Want to test it? I can even predict a headline you would see in paid media next week/month (Ok, watch this space for my prediction in next 48 hours—my wife tells me they won’t leave you alive. Who cares).

If you have interest and safety of your children in your heart, please don’t allow such polarization forces to gather wind. A polarized society would be an ideal breeding ground for ISIS/Al-Qaeda to find its recruiters and wreak havoc on our buses, trains, monuments etc. India would become a living hell. I can foresee such a scenario if you are not alert to this agenda of foreign forces/Indian media/NGOs/academic institutions.

There are people who are after the life of me, you and our children—and they are not Hindu or Muslim