World Bank

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.

 

 

 

Ravish Kumar, Magsaysay award and connecting the dots

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

Ravish Kumar has won Magsaysay Awards as once did Anna Hazare, Arvind Kejriwal and Admiral Ramdas. The common thread is community service and any inference to Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is incidental.

The award was established by New York-based Rockfeller Brothers Fund in the memory of Philippines president Ramon Magsaysay who died in a plane crash in 1957.  In 2000, Ford Foundation did its bid by constituting the Ramon Magsaysay Emergent Leadership Award.

It is in interest of Indian citizens to know the background of Rockfeller and Ford Foundations.

In the early 20th century, United States legalized endowed foundations. What was once a missionary activity was now called corporate philanthropy. They were the new lifeguards of Imperialism, or call it Capitalism, under threat from Communism.  Among the first to be set up was Carnegie Corporation, endowed in 1911 by profits from Carnegie Steel Company. The Rockfeller Foundation was endowed in 1914 by JD Rockfeller, founder of Standard Oil Company.

Rockfeller Foundation was the early patron which gave seed money to the United Nations, Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR).  These Foundations had massive resources, all tax-free, with an unrestrained brief:  to turn economic muscle into political, cultural and social capital. Massive funds were not there to raise wages of its workers. It was to turn money into power—to run the world. (So we have Bill Gates controlling health, education and agricultural policies all over the world from seemingly dull occupation of selling software).

By the 1920s, US had begun to swoop on overseas markets and its raw materials. In 1924, the Rockfeller and Carnegie Foundations had created the most powerful foreign policy pressure group—the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), later funded by the Ford Foundation as well.  So far CFR has had two dozen US secretaries of state on its roll. No less than 5 CFR members were in the 1943 steering committee that planned the UN. JD Rockfeller bought the land for UN’s New York headquarters at $8.5 million grant.

Then came the 1944 Bretton Woods Agreement to set up a new international monetary system. Now all other currencies were pegged to the value of the US dollar, which, in turn, was pegged to the price of gold. World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) became the checkposts of world’s financial roadways. They demanded Good Governance (as long as they held the strings), Rule of Law (as long as they helped make the laws) and transparent institutions. Ironically, these rules were mandated by two of the most opaque, unaccountable and non-transparent global organizations.  Country after country were cracked open by World Bank for global finance. (A fact:  All dozen presidents of the World Bank since 1946, which has its foot on the throats of Third World governments, have been members of the CFR, barring one.)

The Ford Foundation came into being in 1936. It works in lockstep with US State Department. It is in complete harmony with Bretton Woods philosophy of standardizing business practices and promoting free market.  The Capitalist Order is dressed up in liberal ethos.

It’s with these lenses you need to view the activity of Ford Foundation which has invested tens of millions of dollars in India. Generous aids are given to specific university courses and scholarships. A lot of these funds go to writers, artists, film-makers and activists.  (Again any inference to Award Wapsi gang, List of 49 “eminents”, MeToo movement, dalit scholars and research foundations taking over the edit pages of Lutyens Media is incidental).

These Foundations have made it an art to put their pieces on the chessboard of a society. Elite clubs and think-tanks are formed. Ford Foundation makes no secret of intervening in grassroots political movements as its avowed “goals for the future of mankind.” If your mind is going to Anna Hazare and his sudden centrestage occupation in Indian politics, along with the likes of Kejriwal and Manish Sisodia, the inference again is incidental. It would do us no harm though to remember that Kejriwal-Sisodia have publicly conceded of generous grants by Ford Foundation to their NGO in the past.

By the 1950s, the Rockfeller and Ford Foundations were in an overdrive in funding NGOs and educational institutions around the world. They were quasi-extension of the US government to topple democratically-elected governments in Latin America, Iran and Indoensia. The Indonesian students, trained in counter-insurgency by US army, played a critical role in effecting CIA-backed coup in Indonesia in 1965 that brought General Suharto to power. Similarly, eight years later, young Chilean students were trained at the University of Chicago (endowed by JD Rockfeller) to do their bit in the CIA-backed coup that killed Salvador Allende and brought General Pinochet and his reign of murders that lasted 17 years.

Please reflect why Anna Hazare, who calls himself a Gandhian, never said a word against corporate power or privatization. Why India’s corporate media proclaimed him to be the “voice of the people.” Whether the rage against scams was intended to wither away the powers of government and give levers to privatization? It’s worth reminding readers that Anna Hazare in 2008 received a World Bank award for outstanding public service (Any conjuring up image of Ravish Kumar and his Magsaysay Award, again, is incidental).

Or for example how come urban Gender champions and their feminist movements never have a word to say for a lakh-strong Krantikari Adivasi Mahila Saghathan (Revolutionary Adivasi Women’s Association)? Are they afraid of standing up to mining corporations in the Dandakaranya forest? Is this Capitalism and its ugly face which is covered under Liberal ethos, pushed by these Foundations?

These Foundations core philosophy is to prepare an international cadre which could extend Capitalism and the hegemony of the United States. Find natives who once served colonialism and would now do  them. Take over the fields of education, arts and entertainment; extend hold on the minds of masses. What if its costs millions of dollars? Money is useless if it can’t buy global power.

Magsaysay Award to Ravish Kumar is another piece in this chessboard. A brand has been created as a bulwark against India’s cultural resurgence. Watch how Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi-Vadra are swooning in praise.  The enemy is making moves on all fronts. It is for us to connect the dots and keep fists in front of face.

 

MSM Fake News Monitor: Indian Express on PM’s EAC

Till a few years ago, it was quite a fun to “spot the difference” between two almost identical images. The challenge was irresistible with the taunt that the two images differed on at least 10 counts. You scratched your head, forgot the world, and strained your eyes and crowned yourself genius once the task was accomplished.

Reading Indian Express these days is an exercise of a similar order. You have to match the headlines, the text and the photo and then pour over inverted commas and quotes to understand where the mischief has been planted. It’s not an easy order for most such Fake News are spread over two pages and are 1000-plus words, relying on time-tested tactics that readers would give up after headline or a few first paragraphs.  It costs me hours but I have worked out a way to get through this maze. My strike rate is 99 out of 100 which is good enough and satiates my “spot-the-difference” urge.

First, of course are the stories on Front Page. Indian Express these days have reserved it to Modi-Centre-BJP bashing. (Now Yogi Adityanath is inching up the charts). Even on Front Page, the bigger decks accorded to a headline, the more reasons to suspect a mischief hiding in the text-matter. Most importantly, I make it a point to read the final two paras. It’s almost guaranteed that the saner, and the essential truth of the story, is in these two paras. After you read it, you go through the story backwards and spot the Fake News  It’s a science folks! You got to give the devil his due. (Oh, I am sorry. Leftists don’t believe in Gods or Devils).

There are a few other Fake News spotters in Indian Express. If there is any Front Page news on Dalits, you got to really flush your lens and go through it. Most likely, such stories appear in profusion before an Assembly elections. Many a times these stories are discredited—as you would find in this link of my aggregated stories in NewsBred. Either Indian Express doesn’t carry an apology—like the fake moustache story on Dalits in Gujarat recently—or the Fake-News-buster true account is buried in inside pages.

You could also be sure that the anniversaries of all unfortunate victims of Muslim community, Akhlaq and Pehlu etc, would deserve a Front-Page mega spread, most likely as anchor story. (Never mind, Hindu victims never get such a privilege, some would say not even our soldier martyrs). Now, you must watch out for June 23, 2018 when it would be a year to Junaid Khan’s unfortunate killing in Ballabhgarh. I am second-guessing, you would have an Indian Express anchor on Junaid Khan, come June 23 next year.

I am not even coming to JNU’s Kanhaiyas and Umar Khalids of our world. I am also not mentioning how the coverage of grieving parents and relatives of minority victims—mind you never a Hindu victim–sitting at Jantar Mantar or taking out a demonstration on Capital streets has half-a-page reserved for it. How BHU girls agitation is a news and not that of AMU protesting girl students. For these are subjective matters and is the prerogative of a newspaper. To push the agenda, our mainstream English media-the Lutyens’ Media—let’s its editorial spread of two pages to do the dirty job.

Our attention is Fake News and so we must return to the subject. The second lead of Indian Express today is: “Slowdown concern, need to push growth jobs: PM’s advisors

Quite a few things in this headline and the positioning of the story got my antennas up. I could smell Fake News in the use of “concern” and “PM’s advisors” in the headline. Would PM’s advisors really go public with their “concern” on the state of the economy? And the use of “PM’s advisors” and not the Economic Advisory Council (EAC) was a giveaway on who is meant to be a fall guy. All the economic ills of the country, by inference, must be put at the door of the Prime Minister. His own advisors are expressing concern at their own authoritarian ruler, that’s the inference.

The fake use of “concern” was easy to spot. The Express quoted part-time member Ashima Goyal that EAC would “work as a sounding board of ideas.” But Express cleverly preceded this quote with an inserted view of their own of “concern.” Read this particular para and make up your own mind:

There is a lot of concern about the economy today and the Council will “work as a sounding board of ideas”, EAC member Ashima Goyal said.

 (The Express cleverly held back the full designation of Ashima Goyal. She is a part-time and not full-time EAC member).

That being so, I poured over the rest of the lengthy story. Then I read the same story in Times of India and Hindustan Times. I was intrigued that the Times of India prominently put in a front-page lead box the view of another EAC part-time member Rathin Roy that “IMF’s growth projections are 80% wrong…World Bank’s growth projections are 65% wrong. The government’s estimates are right more than 90% of the time.” However, the front page 1000-plus wordathon of Indian Express has no mention of it at all!

It is such selective and distorted coverage which has made Indian Express lose all its respect in the eyes of the discerning readers. It is morally wrong, agenda-driven, and worse a case of cheating against its paying-consumers. When the readers are seeking true coverage and information, they are getting blighted and manipulated coverage. Indian Express must be having its own compulsion, their hands could be forced but the newspaper would do well to heed this opinion of one of its readers: “I haven’t seen any story which favours a Hindu viewpoint in Indian Express for ages, at least on front page).” The worst thing a newspaper could do to its reputation is to appear biased and agenda-driven.

Facebook has set out 10 tools to check Fake News. A few give-aways are headlines, source, evidence and photos. Indian Express on Thursday’s edition has been found out in peddling a Fake News).