Under trials : Stuck in prison, despite getting bail

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A matter of great shame. Judicial processes are teriibly slow and convoluted. It benefits the criminal wonderfully.  Innocents especially the poor are always at the receiving end.

Over 40 undertrials stuck in prison, despite getting bail

They Can’t Walk Free As They Have None

To Stand Surety For Them

A Subramani | TNN

Chennai: That any arrested person is entitled to walk out of jail once he obtains bail and furnishes surety to the satisfaction of a magistrate, is common knowledge.

But do you know that more than 40 persons are languishing at Puzhal Central Prison-II though they have got bail but are unable to find persons to stand surety for them? Also, do you know that one such less-privileged prisoner — P Muthu of Kumananchavadi near Poonamallee — died of cancer after remaining in prison for nearly three years?

While Muthu and at least 43 others remained behind bars because they had no one to stand surety for them, 91 others are in Puzhal-II for more than a year as the police concerned had not filed a chargesheet as yet.

“Most of them are petty offenders, and are ready to plead guilty. Even if convicted, they would be sentenced only for a few months. But, unless the police file a chargesheet, the magistrate cannot dispose of the matter,” said a prison official. “Delaying chargesheet is a way of delaying their release,” he added.

Puzhal Prison-II has 116 inmates who are in jail for more than 90 days but less than one year. There are 43 others who are staying in jail between 60 days and 90 days. “In regular crimes, if the police fail to lay chargesheet in 60 days, the accused could avail the statutory bail benefit and walk out of jail,” said special public prosecutor for human rights cases, V Kannadasan.

The Puzhal-II is home to about a dozen inmates facing charges under Section 75 (public nuisance) of City Police Act and Section 7(1)(a) of the Criminal Law Amendment Act. They are inside for periods ranging 3-4 months, in spite of the fact that if convicted they would be sentenced to serve only a couple of weeks in jail.

“Personal liberty is the most sacred of all fundamental rights,” said Kannadasan, adding, “prison authorities cannot be blamed for this sorry state of affairs.” He said that the data itself was being compiled only as per the directions of the director-general of police (prisons) R Natraj, to be sent to the legal services authority for redressal.

Even in the case of Muthu, the prison authorities took note of his poor health condition and forwarded his request to be sent out on own bond to the jurisdictional court. As there was no response either from the court or from legal aid authorities, he was admitted in the Government Royapettah Hospital in February 2009. Till his death on April 9, he did not get any help, lament prison staff.

He was arrested by the Poonamallee police on charges of preparing to commit robbery (crime no. 735/2006) in 2006, ahead of the assembly elections. “His three-year incarceration was meaningful in one sense. It exposed the insensitivity of the judiciary and ineffectiveness of the legal aid system,” said Kannadasan.

Featured Image source — https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Delhi/undertrials-languishing-in-jail-despite-being-granted-bail/article23403807.ece

Religion and politics do not make as lethal a mix as Politics and violence

Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Gaffar Khan, Suu Kyi, The Dalai Lama were /are  staunch believers in their religion and examples of politics based on compassion and humane values.

Then there are ‘Secularists”, Stalin, Mao, Jinnah, The US administration with their blend of secularism and politics.

Ed

extracts from TOI

Secularists aren’t saints

Madhu Purnima Kishwar

Congress leaders are understandably the most vociferous in displaying righteous outrage at the unfortunate speech delivered by Varun Gandhi, just as they spare no occasion to castigate Narendra Modi for the Gujarat riots of 2002.

However, their words would have more credibility if they expressed comparable shame at the fact that their party led the way in showing that riots and massacres can be used as means to manipulate vote banks.

Apart from the infamous massacre of Sikhs in 1984, the 1970s and 1980s witnessed a series of communal riots presided over by the Congress party in places like Meerut, Malliana, Jamshedpur, Kanpur, Bhiwandi, Bhagalpur, Ahmedabad and Hyderabad.

The arrest of Congress leader Meghsingh Chaudhary at the instance of the Supreme Court appointed Special Investigative Team for his active participation in the Gulbarga Society massacre in Ahmedabad in 2002 confirms what knowledgeable people in Gujarat have for long alleged — that many Congressmen enthusiastically joined hands with members of the sangh parivar in the anti-Muslim riots of 2002.

Without doubt, serious problems do arise when politicians decide to use select religious symbols and manipulate religious sentiments of people in order to acquire power. However, history is witness to the fact that religion and politics do not make as lethal a mix as do politics and violence.

We would do well to remember that many of the highly venerated political figures of the 20th century have been those who brought the best values of their faith traditions to uplift politics to new moral heights. By contrast, many of those who claimed to be secular and, therefore, treated matters of faith with disdain, caused massive genocides and human suffering.

The US is secular but that has not prevented it from polarising global politics on religious lines.

Stalin did not use a religious justification while carrying out his genocide of the Soviet Union’s peasantry. He did so in the garb of a secular cause, namely, “collectivisation of land” and the uprooting of those he called “kulaks”. Nor did he confine his waves of assassinations and purges to those with religious beliefs. He claimed that he killed people in the name of building a secular and socialist republic.

Jinnah was not religious minded. He too merely used certain religious symbols and Islamic slogans to mobilise Muslims against the Hindus as a political force.

Jinnah’s aim was secular in so far as he acquired political power for himself. Though claiming to defend the political and economic interests of Muslims of the subcontinent, he left behind many more millions of Muslims in India as a mistrusted minority than could be accommodated within the absurd geographical borders of the new ‘Islamic’ state he created for them.

By contrast, Mahatma Gandhi’s politics and world view were rooted in Hindu Sanatan Dharma. Gandhi chose truth and nonviolence as his guiding principles, not any ideology or “ism”. He drew some of his inspiration from the bhakti-Sufi traditions rather than the ideology of modern-day secularism, as defined by the West. That did not prevent him from being a historic global role model of ethical politics.

Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan derived strength from his unshakeable faith in Islam. That did not prevent him from becoming Gandhi’s most valued colleague in promoting the cause of communal harmony and freedom from colonial rule.

Aung San Suu Kyi and the Dalai Lama make no secret of the fact that they draw inspiration from their Buddhist world view.

Martin Luther King drew his strength from Christianity.

It is worth noting that even Marxists and socialists in India have had to deploy the wisdom of men like Kabir, Nanak, Bulleh Shah and Namdev whenever they decide to spread the message of communal harmony as a counter to the divisive agenda of some Hindutvavadis.

All these bhakts and Sufis derived their world view from their deep connection with the Divine who they saw manifested in every living being, rather than through secular education.

In short, despite the inspiration the leaders discussed above took from their religious ideals, they remain outstanding examples of politics based on compassion and humane values.
The writer is a senior fellow at CSDS.

“You’re either with us or against us” : A police officer’s plea

This article http://www.indianexpress.com/news/You-re-either-with-us-or-against-us/368483 – an article by an IPS officer defining how the police has a “thankless job” and has to work with either conspiracy theories or flak.

The title of the article – “You’re either with us or against us” – rather sadly, defines the more highlighted muslim mindset, which is mostly a result of third-grade leadership by people like the Imam Bukhari who end up lowering the debate on such national issues, as well as, the intellect of a large sections of the muslim community.

Through our earlier post by Arif Mohammed Khan, we’re hoping to raise the level of this debate, and invite the moderate and sane muslim voice, which is not coming up, or not allowed to come up. A simple reference to the comments posted by muslims on this article at Indian Express’s site, is proof that the moderate and majority of educated muslim voice differs with what the media is highlighting, and what is heard and believed in most of India by Hindus.

We believe there is hope, and all of us, need to work hard in making this sane voice of the general educated muslim heard – a lot more, and a lot louder.

——— The article as appear in Indian Express ————–

Inspector M.C. Sharma of the Delhi Police succumbed to injuries on September 19, after an encounter that also resulted in the deaths of two terrorist suspects.An officer with multiple awards for gallantry, Inspector Sharma died a martyr for the nation.

As a police officer, what is especially distressing to see were media reports about locals protesting the episode as another fake encounter. They were joined by social organisations and NGOs, then vice-chancellors and Union ministers, and now the mainstream media is carrying stories of how it doesn’t all add up. This episode covers all the professional dilemmas that face our police forces as we attempt to take on one of the most significant and well-organised threats to internal security. There is no denying that the modern Indian state faces a very peculiar problem with militant Islamism, especially the home-grown variety. The strategy conventionally used to fight terrorism have to deftly negotiate the minefield that is the politics of religious identity in India. When every act of commission and omission by the police is analysed through the lens of communal politics then the already difficult task of fighting terrorism becomes well nigh impossible.

Listen to the questions being raised one despairs for the fate of a civil society that is unable to distinguish between its violators and defenders. Why were two terrorists killed? Why was one arrested? Why and how did two of them escape? Why did Inspector Sharma die? Why wasn’t he wearing a bulletproof jacket? Let us add up the worst of the conspiracy theories and we get the following scenario. Delhi Police was under pressure from the media and the Government to do something. So they made elaborate plans. A house was rented in a Muslim locality close to a mosque. Three innocent youths were picked up from different places and brought there at some unspecified time which would be corroborated by a ‘local eye witness’. Then two of them were shot dead and the third was arrested so he could testify as an eyewitness against the cops in the murder case that ought to be registered against Sharma and his team. To make the story more believable Sharma was shot dead by his own colleagues. How paranoid does one have to be to believe this theory?We will believe the worst about our men in khaki based on conjecture and propaganda because it is our democratic right and duty not to trust them. And the terrorists whose murderous deeds have been splattered across our TV screens deserve all the benefit of the doubt.It seems to me that the life or death of a policeman is the cheapest commodity in our public life. Unfortunately due to a shameful post-Independence history where the police were not firm with dealing with communal violence and often became a direct party to them, and because of endemic corruption and incompetence and resource constraints, our credibility as upholder of the law stands badly dented. There can be no denying that the real and perceived bias of the police apparatus in India has directly contributed to creating a generation of radicalised Muslim youth. But what is equally obvious is that they are now linked to a transnational militant ideology that aims to weave together the narrative of global revenge for local injustices. Getting rid of this institutional bias is important to win the trust of all minorities though it will not wean back those already radicalised.

There is no denying that the national response to jihadist Terror would entail making difficult and decisive choices, not least between the need for public safety and civil liberties. But one hopes that before it is too late, our civil society can find it within itself to trust the professional police leadership with a key role. Police forces all over the country would need to be backed by a cross party political consensus and a nationwide mandate for action. Perhaps even the constitutional contours of our federal structure would also need to change. Can a national threat be met by a piecemeal response? Our capabilities for targeted surveillance and general monitoring will need to improve, minorities need to be recruited, language skills improved, hitherto absent analytical and profiling capabilities developed and inter agency co-operation regardless of the political differences, would have to become second nature.

Like any other proud police officer I salute the sacrifice of Inspector Sharma. I am sure that he knew, like all of us do, that his khaki uniform may one day ask him to lay down his life in the line of duty. But I am equally, and sadly, sure that the significance of his sacrifice lies immersed with his ashes.

Extending Article 370 beyond Kashmir; Could this be a solution?

n 2004 my friend and mentor, Prasanna Lal Das, wrote an article called “Article 370 – a case to extend it beyond Kashmir“, and ofcourse as most Indians do, I was out of my wits on reading the title. To me Article 370 was clearly another case of appeasement of “kashmiri muslims”. I never read the article.

An article on Kashmir stating the problem

Today, I caught up on an article in the Indian Express titled “Beyond highway of peace” (http://www.indianexpress.com/story/349899.html; 18 August, 2008 ) which highlights a few points.

Separatist Hurriyat leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, however, said the mass protests have not surprised him. “We always saw it coming,” he said. “Amarnath land row might be the immediate cause, but the level of anger is the result of the long pent up disillusionment with New Delhi’s status quo policies,” he said.

…“New Delhi talks to us when the situation is really bad here. And when there is apparent peace, they ignore us,” he said.

It is a fact that the Centre and its various agencies on ground in Kashmir had been extremely complacent after the recent drop in militant violence and a surge in mainstream political activity.

My observations on the article

The article ofcourse like most of those appearing in media, states the problem superficially, and for that reason cannot, and does not, offer any solution.

The following few points, however, occur to me on reading this article:

  • The centre becomes complacent when things are going well, instead of constantly keeping on its toes, and regularly engaging people (or their representatives and leaders; elected or even self-appointed) in discussions and creating mini agreements
  • They are happy in finding simple answers to problems which are often coloured with their worldview (which can be rather outdated in the evolving human race) of how things *should be* instead of *how it is in reality*
  • These views are often “taught” to the politicians rather then based on *critical thinking*, *dialogue*, and *understanding people’s anxieties*

Liberating people; self-organising groups; moving beyond conventional and easy categories of success

As I have matured and grown in my spiritual pursuits, I have developed a somewhat different outlook to the reason for conflicts and in general ways of management. I have increasingly become a die-hard fan of democracy at workplace, which traditionally has been very centrally controlled and managed. Ideas of small self-organising groups of people working towards common “agreed” goals, have inspired me over the last few years. I have observed people, driven from their own collective self-interest, acting extremely responsibly and much beyond their normal abilities. I have noticed this at my workplace.

Yet, it is true that some people often are not mature enough to see the larger picture, and may not appreciate the values propagated in democratic and self-organising setups; or those who are unable to raise their mental make-up, and can remain stuck in shallow self-centered, and *taught* behaviour. These people are often not ones who can engage in *radical thinking*. Yet, these people are fewer in numbers, in my experience. Most people are not trained to think and question, in our society; however, most of these people can be inspired by greater causes of common collective long-term good.

This is the opportunity that the politicians have. They need to constantly work in liberating people, engaging them in inspired action, and training them radical thinking and questioning – doing all these things themselves. And this is where the problem lies – most of our politicians are not trained in experimenting, and in moving beyond their conventional ‘easy’ categories of answers.

Coming back to Prasanna’s article

On reading his article which presents a case to extend Article 370 beyond Kashmir to all of India’s states, is completely based on values of federalism, and liberating people, allowing them to self-determine their own rules, and how they would like to live their lives.

Gandhi ofcourse, was a big propagator of local self-determination, down to the village level, with complete ownership of local resources with the people of the region.

I feel, this is the answer to Kashmir’s, and in general, all of India’s problems; and the world’s as well.

Once again, the framework of this federalism must propagate some central core modern spiritual, humanist and civic values such as *liberty*, *equal opportunity*, *secularism* and *non-violence*. These values must be accessible and applicable to all citizens irrespective of race, religion or gender. The state must constantly train and engage leaders in dialogue and training, in action based on inspiration, and, in questioning and radical thinking. With these, the collective consciousness of people could be raised, and with it the risk of degeneration of federal values, and other motivated self-interests of local leaders taking over, is minimised.

Some quotes from Prasanna’s extremely inspiring article:

Article 370, unwittingly perhaps considering its historical circumstances, may be the brightest glint of federal expression in the Indian constitution, which otherwise remains largely unitary in character. Large sections of the Indian population (and regions that contain them) thus feel increasingly marginalized from the ‘mainstream’, and seemingly disparate phenomenon like recent disturbances in the northeast, the girding of heartland India by naxalites, the trivialization of the parliamentary process, and paradoxically enough, the continuing impasse in Jammu & Kashmir, may well be said to spring from the centralized nature of governance in India which concentrates power in the hands of a few organized interest groups and leaves the average citizen with only symbols of democratic participation like ritualized elections and awe-inspiring, monumental edifices where elected representatives apparently serve the people. Article 370, minus its current imperfections, may well be the harbinger of a ‘new India.’

it may be time to view the article in a larger national context. Does the article offer any guidelines to the governing system in the rest of India? Is there greater merit in the rest of India adopting some of the salient features of the article than in denouncing it largely on the grounds of ‘we don’t have it, so shouldn’t she’? Should we choose to be frogs in a well pulling each other down, or is it time to climb out of the holes we have dug for ourselves, and take a look at the larger world around?

The article recognizes that India is a diverse country and that a region may have special needs which may or may not be in consonance with the needs of the rest of the country. It thus leaves discretionary powers with the state and subjects all central laws/amendments to state approval before they can be implemented in a state. It transfers accountability and power to the state government in virtually all matters except those that deal with the integrity of the Indian union, and its international relationships.

Make no mistake; Article 370 was not formed to lay down the principles of center-state relationships or to directly solve the problem described above. It isn’t thus either exhaustive enough or extensive enough to cover the gamut of issues that go into center-state relations. It however does provide the springboard necessary to begin questioning the unitary model we have chosen to adopt in the whole country, bar Kashmir. And if it can work in Kashmir, why can it not work in the rest of the country too?

The other more fundamental problem with Article 370 is its state-centric, monolithic view of autonomy and local governance. In keeping with the overall unitary spirit of the constitution, the article does little to promote grassroots governance and concentrates all significant powers in the hands of the state government. The version of autonomy it thus creates is in essence a majoritarian one – it cloaks a centralized mode of governance under the garb of an autonomous one. Kashmir can thus never be truly autonomous unless it itself allows power to percolate downwards to the people. In its current avatar, Article 370 is largely a sham, and its fundamental centralizing proclivities must be given a thorough makeover before the article can truly become a template for other states.

He also puts in a word of caution, which I believe vindicates my stand of a framework which allows for common accepted civic, humanist and spiritual values of *liberty*, *equal opportunity*, *secularism* and *non-violence*, and also the need for constant training, dialogue and engagement in radical and critical thinking.

A more pertinent concern is perhaps the ability of the states to do justice to increased power, and handle it responsibly. Unfortunately, recent Indian constitutional history isn’t exactly littered with examples of farsightedness shown by states – their record is patchy at best, and downright shoddy in reality. In fact, a case may be made that but for central intervention and guidance, most Indian states, driven by narrow, parochial concerns, would have descended into anarchy a long time ago. Possibly the worst record in this regard is that of the Jammu & Kashmir legislature itself, which has shown a remarkable ability to shoot itself in the foot consistently. The recently proposed bill debarring Kashmiri women from property rights on marriage to ‘outsiders’, the legislature’s refusal to accept the amendment limiting the size of state ministries to 15% of the total elected strength, and its long standing refusal to recognize Anglo-Indians and other minorities in the state are just three examples of legislation which persistently refuses to look beyond the state. What guarantees are there that other states shan’t do the same, and perhaps worse?

The answer to both questions lies in the inchoate nature of Article 370, and in its flawed, single-state focused implementation. As stated earlier, the article is not designed to guide center-state relations, but in the case of Jammu & Kashmir, it does just that. Limiting the article to one state however produces one very significant consequence – it allows Jammu & Kashmir to create discriminatory legislation without fear of consequence (as no other state is in a position to answer it in the same coin).

And the recommendation to not seek easy answers, but to continually challenge our thinking:

At the end however, the question about India’s secular fabric will remain – will expanding the article to the entire country send wrong signals to minority communities in India? This is the most morally challenging part of the debate because like it or not, religion and religious emotions are inextricably tied to the history of the question. Needless to say, the government must be steadfastly secular in its implementation of federalism in India, and religious leaders must indubitably play an important part in the process, but there are no easy answers to the question. *The time may however have come to move away from the politics of easy answers.*

Mohan Kedkar: Mumbaikars express gratitude for selfless service

Help for Bandra braveheart’s kin

TIMES NEWS NETWORK

Mumbai: “He was always a quiet boy. He was always the first one to rush and help people,’’ said 55-year-old Pandurang Redkar about his 20-year-old son Mohan who died while saving a couple from drowning at Bandra bandstand four months ago.

He seemed oblivious of the praises that eminent personalities heaped on him at a crowded hall in Khar (W) on Saturday evening. Redkar wept as commissioner of police Hasan Gafoor handed him an envelope containing a cheque of Rs 4 lakh, an award for his son’s bravery. The function ended with around 100 people paying a silent tribute to Mohan.

To acknowledge the display of courage and selfless service of this young mechanic, the members of the Mohalla Committee Movement Trust, with the help of the Bandra police, collected the reward money from people. Some of the police staff also contributed to this fund.

“The police are looked down upon as being ‘toughies’. But we are human beings. Whenever I think of this youngster, I get shivers down my spine,’’ said additional commissioner of police Archana Tyagi. “The Bandra police themselves initiated the collection. This shows that we too have a soft side,’’ said Tyagi.

Originally from Malavan village in Sindhudurg district, Mohan was working as a trainee mechanic with Mahindra & Mahindra in Kandivli for the past two years. He was the primary breadwinner of his family.

Both his parents have heart ailments while his sister and elder brother are engineering students in Goa. Due to financial constraints in the family, Redkar left studies after Std X to train as a diesel mechanic.

His relatives said his mother’s treatment was possible only because of his earnings. On April 11, Mohan visited Bhabha Hospital to inquire if he could get his mother admitted for heart valve medical treatment.

After making the inquiries, he went to take a stroll at Bandstand. “Suddenly, he noticed a young couple huddled in chest deep water, trying hard to hold on to the rocks. Without hesitation, he removed his clothes, gave his cellphone to an onlooker and flung himself into the cold water,’’ said Prakash George, senior police inspector, Bandra police station.

“He was swept away from the shore after dragging them to safety,’’ he added. Ironically, at the end of the day, Mohan’s body was brought to the same Bhabha Hospital from where he had started his day. What would Redkar’s father do with the money?

“Use it for my daughter’s education,’’ he replied. When asked how he felt about his son becoming an icon of selflessness, he wept, again. toireporter@timesgroup.com

REMEMBERING THE GOOD SAMARITAN: Mohan’s father, Pandurang Redkar, was handed over a cheque of Rs 4 lakh by Mumbai police commissioner Hasan Gafoor on Saturday

Cure This : A citizen photo-journalism initiative

This is another initiative by Srijan Foundation Trust to help change government (state and central) policies and mismanagement of issues that concerns the ordinary citizen of the city/country.

See: http://curethis.wordpress.com/ to see some recent posts on water mismanagement by the Delhi government.

Between a rock and a hard place

An enlightening (and frustrating) article by P. Sainath. He is an authority on state of Indian agriculture, and has travelled extensively throughout the country, documenting the disgraceful mess created by this entity called “the Indian government”. One of the most popular books he has written, which will send shivers up your spine is, “Everyone loves a good drought“.

http://www.indiatogether.org/2008/apr/psa-foodprice.htm

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19 April 2008 – The bailout of Bear Stearns by the U S Federal Reserve was worth $30 billion. That is roughly twice the ‘loan waiver’ given to millions of Indian farmers. The latter move has been scorched by the ideologues of the free market and neo-liberalism as ‘fiscal insanity’ or ‘irreversible damage.’ The media – even those mildly critical – have been far more muted in their criticism of the ‘rescue’ of Bear Stearns. That is, one of the biggest global investment banks and securities trading and brokerage firms anywhere on the planet.

Think of it: a tiny Wall Street cabal which gave itself bonuses worth billions of dollars just weeks before the crash gets a bailout of Rs.1,19,520 crores. That’s almost double the Rs.60,000 crores given to tens of millions of farmers in dire straits in this country. A country where one farmer kills himself every 30 minutes in despair. The problems of farmers do not even begin to end with that waiver.

On the other hand, a bunch of thugs in tuxedos who did pretty much whatever they wanted, laying a minefield across the world, have got the waiver of a lifetime (or many lifetimes). The lifejacket for the bank does not require the return of their bonuses. So much so that Jim Rogers, CEO of Rogers Holdings and a staunch free marketer, calls it “Socialism for the rich.” In his words “the Federal Reserve is using taxpayer money to buy a bunch of Bear Stearns traders’ Maseratis.” He points out that hundreds of billions of dollars are being spent to bail out Wall Street as a whole. The theologians of the global market are between a rock and a hard place. Hypocrisy has rammed into reality.

Three of the basic principles the believers of corporate-led globalisation swear by have been so eloquently summed by Professor James Galbraith Jr. of the University of Texas at Austin. One: all successes are global. Two: all failures are national. Three: the market is beyond reproach.

This is election year. So we see Minister after Minister, the latest being Kapil Sibal, tell us that the price rise and food shortages in India are the result of global factors.
What a lovely waiver!
Protect at home, preach abroad

For over a decade, we were assured that everything good that ever happened was because we had embraced corporate-led globalisation. All the negative effects visible were the result of our own national inertia and corruption. And of course, the market would heal all wounds. The notion of state meddling in economic matters was blasphemy. Now the nations feeding us this rot – which we recite by rote – are nationalising banks, bailing out brigands and pouring in funds to stop factories from closing down.

Now having to blame ‘global factors’ for the price rise at home must seem a bit galling. Failures at home? Er, well, you see, let’s not go there now. This is election year. So we see Minister after Minister, the latest being Kapil Sibal, tell us that the price rise and food shortages in India are the “result of global factors.” Nothing to do with us. No less amusing to see the World Bank and the IMF warn of starvation and riots. It’s hard to think of anyone who has contributed more to those phenomena than they have. And now Finance Minister P. Chidambaram calls for an urgent “global consensus on the price spiral.” Without this, social unrest would conflagrate into a “global contagion.”

To be fair to the Union Agriculture Minister, he alone has not laid the blame at the door of faceless global forces. Sharad Pawar locates the problem closer home. In his view, south Indians are eating too many chapathis, leading to shortages of wheat. (DNA page 1, April 2, 2008). An entertaining view but there’s a problem with it. Even while dietary changes do affect consumption patterns, these occur over decades. There is little evidence of an outburst of wheat-centric gluttony in the southern states these past six months. (Unless, of course, with great cunning, the southies are hoarding it up for future chapathi orgies.)

Someone is hoarding it up, though, and it is not the general public, south or north. The presence of very large traders including MNCs buying directly from farmers has been on awhile. A process aided by our strangling of the old Agricultural Produce Marketing Committees’ Act. We’ve set the soil for contract farming and corporate agriculture. Meanwhile, the lip service paid to higher Minimum Support Prices (MSP) has proved worse than a sham. In practice, producers are being pushed towards private trade. Fewer procurement centres, delays in purchasing and, still worse, delays in payments are the norm. Then, when procurement is poor, we announce that the farmers are doing so well in the market, they don’t want to sell to the state.

The present mess was arrived at with much celebration of the farmer’s right to sell as and when he liked, to whom he wished. In effect, millions of farmers, deep in trouble, have been selling their produce at distress rates for several seasons now. The bargaining power of individual farmers on their own is zilch.

Total procurement has been down. When market prices for the farmers’ produce have been higher than the MSP, this might be expected. But it has happened even when the MSP has been raised. There have also been cases of traders picking up produce from indebted farmers and then claiming the higher MSP on it themselves. On the whole, though, smaller traders are in trouble. The big boys are here. And so even with enough grain within the country just now, the less well-off cannot access it at affordable rates.

The Centre’s pressing the States to act against hoarding is itself an admission of the problem. But there is yet to be a single instance of action against really big hoarders and speculators. These include giant companies operating through a variety of pointmen. The raids now focussed on small traders will yield little.

Meanwhile, the entry and growing entrenchment of giants in retail ensures things will get worse. (Remember this was supposed to provide us with cheap prices? Then look at the gap between wholesale and retail prices.) We have also nurtured the commodities futures market despite its clear links to speculation and price rise. It’s odd how every other small trader will brief you at length on this – but you won’t see much of that story in the media. In fact, with markets tanking around the world, more speculators have seized on foodgrain as a good bet. Which it is.

Through the reforms period, we have pushed millions of small farmers to shift from foodcrop to cash crops. The acreage under foodcrop has reduced across these years. And we also exported millions of tonnes of grain – as in 2002 and 2003. What’s more, we exported at prices cheaper than those we charged poor people in this country for the same grain. The idea was that we had a “huge surplus” of grain and could well afford to export. The truth was that the massive pileup of unsold stock arose from a surplus of hunger rather than of grain. The purchasing power of the poor had collapsed. But the fake “surplus” story came in handy. It allowed the export of grain – heavily subsidised by us – to be consumed by European cattle.

The present mess is no surprise. For years, economists such as Utsa Patnaik have warned strongly that we would arrive at where we are now. As she repeatedly pointed out, the effects of all our actions could be seen in the plummeting net per capita availability of foodgrain. From 510 grams per Indian in 1991 to 422 grams by 2005. With the top fifth of Indians doing better than ever before, this meant that those below were eating far less than they did just a few years ago.

The plunging food intake of the poorer sections has come along with the steady scrapping of the public distribution system. On the one hand, the PDS has been sharply whittled down. On the other, millions who need BPL cards are denied them. In Mumbai, just 0.28 per cent of ration cardholders have BPL cards. Now, even those who do have cards find no supplies to buy. And of course, we’ve spared no efforts to link our agriculture to the volatility of global prices in a world where a handful of corporations control those prices. Their clout within India has grown rapidly. Their control extends further each day from the field and farm gate to the price and sale of the final product.

Meanwhile, each budget takes further the process of “growth” driven by the consumption of the rich. Tax breaks at the top, cuts in state spending, all these too have a major role in making life unbearable below. Yet, even as the edifice crumbles, a few true believers hold out for the Second Coming. “Price rise reflects scarcity,” says one editorial, “and at no time is free trade more effective as a welfare enhancer than when it combats scarcity by quickly getting supplies where the demand is.” But governments are “denying free trade this role.” Well, get set for the global contagion.

P Sainath
19 Apr 2008

P. Sainath is the 2007 winner of the Ramon Magsaysay award for Journalism, Literature, and Creative Communication Arts. He is one of the two recipients of the A.H. Boerma Award, 2001, granted for his contributions in changing the nature of the development debate on food, hunger and rural development in the Indian media.

Why Tibet Matters

This is a wonderful eye opening article, very well reasoned out for creating a much more radical Tibet policy by the Indian government – for reasons much beyond politics alone – and covering matters of India’s integrity and Spirituality.

http://www.indianexpress.com/story/296828.html : by Sonia Jabbar for the Indian Express.

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To sacrifice Tibet’s interests would be to sacrifice our own.

Sonia Jabbar

Is Tibet a nuisance for India, and when it negotiates with China on the border issue, should India unhesitatingly sacrifice Tibetan interests to secure our own? While there has been much talk about the burden of hosting the Dalai Lama and 1,85,000 Tibetan refugees for 50 years, few have acknowledged India’s debt to them and why repaying that debt is not only a moral imperative but a strategically self-interested one.

The first is a civilisational debt. When the Dalai Lama teaches from the works of the Vikramshila or Nalanda masters, he always prefaces his teachings with, “these are Indian treasures. We have only been its guardians in Tibet for a thousand years, and now that the teachings have faded in India we have brought them back intact. This is the gift we return to India.” It is no small gift.

Few will recall the sacking of Nalanda, the destruction of thousands of birch-bark books or the fact that Buddhism itself disappeared from Indian soil after the 13th century. Ask an educated Indian whether Shantideva, Atisha, Nagarjuna, Aryadeva, or Vasubandhu mean anything to them and chances are you’ll draw a blank. Ask a Tibetan teenager and you’re likely to hear the history of the Indian Buddhist masters and the journey of their teachings to Tibet from 7th-11th century AD.

Nalanda, once the greatest centre of Buddhist learning from the 5th to 12th centuries, today lives in spirit not amongst its archaeological remains in Bihar, but in the vibrant Tibetan colleges of Sera, Drepung and Ganden, relocated in Karnataka after the Tibetan exodus of 1959. These are modeled on the Nalanda tradition, transmitting India’s ancient treasures to meritorious students, many of whom are poor Indian Buddhists from the Himalayan belt.

The second debt is strategic and vital to India’s future. The Government of India has been at pains to ‘reiterate’ that they have ‘always’ considered Tibet an integral part of China; our Communists have insisted that the ‘disturbances’ are China’s ‘internal matter.’ The fact is that the ‘always’ is only five years old, and the ‘internal matter’ a crumbling fantasy.

In November 1950, Nehru informed the chief ministers, ‘When news came to us that the Chinese Government had formally announced military operations against Tibet, we were surprised and distressed. Immediately we sent a note of protest [to Chou En Lai on 26/10/50] and requested the Chinese Government not to proceed… To use coercion and armed force, when a way to peaceful settlement is open, is always wrong. To do so against a country like Tibet, which is obviously not in a position to offer much resistance and which could not injure China, seemed to us to add to the wrongness of this behaviour.’

India unilaterally ‘recognised’ the ‘Tibet Autonomous Region,’ as ‘a territory of China,’ for the first time during Vajpayee’s China visit in 2003. Before this, India’s terminology in official documents was deliberately left ambiguous. In 1954 India described Tibet as a geographic location: ‘the Tibet region of China.’ In 1988, the Rajiv Gandhi government brought it closer to China’s position, but still kept it vague enough with, ‘Tibet is an autonomous region of China.’ The 2003 declaration toes the Chinese line word-for-word.

What are the implications of accepting Tibet as an ‘integral part of China’? First, leaving aside the distortion of Tibet’s long history of independence, the declaration contravenes the treaty obligations between British India and Tibet, which we have inherited under the Indian Independence Act of 1947. Two treaties directly affect our territorial integrity: the 1904 Convention Between Great Britain and Tibet, which recognises the boundary between Tibet and Sikkim, and the Anglo-Tibet Treaty of 1914, in which India recognised Tibet as an independent nation under the suzerainty (as opposed to sovereignty) of China. In return, Tibet was to respect the Mc Mahon Line, the eastern boundary between Tibet and Arunachal. Until the Chinese invasion of Tibet, both agreements held and the border was peaceful.

China has never accepted Sikkim and Arunachal as parts of India, even today claiming the latter as its own. But when two countries have concluded an agreement between them, China has no locus standi as a third country. A sovereign state is one that negotiates and sign treaties with other states. Once a state exists it cannot simply be wished away simply because another nation has invaded it.

That the world does not wish to challenge China’s illegal occupation of Tibet thus rendering it a de facto (not de jure) part of China is another matter. However, it is pertinent to ask why the Government of India is so solicitous of China’s national interests at the expense of our own. If China refuses to recognise the treaties signed by India and Tibet, there is no reason for India to recognise the 17-point 1951 agreement, thrust upon Tibet under Chinese gunpoint. China possesses no other legal documents to prove its claims over Tibet.

We have learned few lessons in foreign policy. India unilaterally surrendered its influence in Tibet in the 1954 trade agreement with China by removing its military personnel from the Tibetan trading towns of Yatung and Gyantse, giving up Indian rest houses, land, and Tibet’s communications including the postal, telegraph and public telephone services operated by the Government of India. The agreement had a validity of eight years, and it is no coincidence that its expiry coincided with the 1962 war. If those who parrot the ‘Tibet is an integral part of China’ line paused to think, they would realise that they are unwittingly conceding China’s claim over 83,743 sq km of Arunachal territory.

The Dalai Lama’s ‘middle way’ position has been clear since the mid-’80s: autonomy and not independence. It begs the question why, if China is willing to pursue a ‘one country, two systems’ policy in the Han-majority areas of Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau, is it so hysterically opposed to the Tibetan proposals. In 1999 Wang Lixion, a prominent Chinese intellectual, pointed out that an independent or autonomous Tibet under the influence of the Dalai Lama, ‘would naturally orient it towards India,’ taking 2.5 million sq km or 26 per cent of China’s land mass away from China’s sphere of influence into India’s. To lose this vast swathe of land would be to ‘expose [China’s] fatal underbelly.’ It should be understood that it is not on its demerits that the Dalai Lama’s proposals are being rejected, but because of India’s potential influence.

While one is not advocating India’s lebensraum or hostilities with China, one should be aware that China controls the headwaters of many Indian rivers that originate in the Tibetan plateau. India is already facing acute water shortages. China has already anticipated its future water problems by damming the headwaters of the Sutlej and Brahmaputra. While the ‘thirsty’ provinces of Xingjian and Gansu will undoubtedly benefit by China’s plans to divert the waters of the Brahmaputra, India needs to wake up well before our rivers begin drying up.

It is time we recognised that Tibet and India’s destinies are entwined. To sacrifice Tibet’s interests would mean to sacrifice our own. There is no need to go down that road again.

The writer is a journalist who has studied Buddhism for the last 20 years

I stand by Bhutia and Aamir; shame to the CPM

While Bhutia refused to carry the Olympic torch in his support for Tibet and HH Dalai Lama, Aamir is carrying the same ‘…with a prayer for the Tibetans and their struggle’. I relate to both of these men, and their stand in taking opposite actions but with the same purpose.

Shame to the communists in India, who are calling this an ‘internal matter of China’, notwithstanding Dalai Lama’s message who is repeatedly saying that he is ‘okay with a Tibetan Autonomous region within the Chinese nationhood, but would want religious and cultural freedom for the region of Tibet and Tibetans’.

Not allowing ‘freedom of religion’ and ‘imposing a different cultural identity by force’ (changing demographics of a certain region purposefully and by force) is a violation of basic human rights; this is not ‘humanism’ for sure – and yet the communists claim to have ‘humanism’ and ‘dignity for all’ as their primary ideology, rather than any religious affiliation.

They seem to follow a ‘policy of convenience’ rather than ‘principles’, which they project most of the time.

You will notice, that very often in international political matters, these policies bend to cater to the policies of their ‘evolved’ Chinese brethren, even if their stand is against basic humanitarian principles.

CPM’s communists are certainly no better the Saudis and other Islamic fanatics, who follow the same principles, just a different way of expressing the fanaticism- just like Aamir and Bhutia who have the same objective but different actions – ofcourse the latter are ‘men of principles’.