INDIA: THE ISSUES AND PROBLEMS:
WHO IS BEST TO FIX IT MODI RAHUL OR AAP?
THREE ARTICLES FOR YOU TO PONDER: READ BELOW
3) Congress Disasterous Taxation : Misrule and Super Plan
2) America Development Super Spying Computer
1) In India, a Spectre For Us All, And A Resistance Coming
By John Pilger
January 03, 2014 "Information Clearing House - In five-star hotels on Mumbai's seafront, children of the rich squeal joyfully as they play hide and seek. Nearby, at the National Theatre for the Performing Arts, people arrive for the Mumbai Literary Festival: famous authors and notables drawn from India's Raj class. They step deftly over a woman lying across the pavement, her birch brooms laid out for sale, her two children silhouettes in a banyan tree that is their home.
It is Children's Day in India. On page nine of the Times of India, a study reports that every second child is malnourished. Nearly two million children under the age of five die every year from preventable illness as common as diarrhoea. Of those who survive, half are stunted due to a lack of nutrients. The national school dropout rate is 40 per cent. Statistics like these flow like a river permanently in flood. No other country comes close. The small thin legs dangling in a banyan tree are poignant evidence.
The leviathan once known as Bombay is the centre for most of India's foreign trade, global financial dealing and personal wealth. Yet at low tide on the Mithi River, in ditches, at the roadside, people are forced to defecate. Half the city's population is without sanitation and lives in slums without basic services. This has doubled since the 1990s when "Shining India" was invented by an American advertising firm as part of the Hindu nationalist BJP party's propaganda that it was "liberating" India's economy and "way of life".
Barriers protecting industry, manufacturing and agriculture were demolished. Coke, Pizza Hut, Microsoft, Monsanto and Rupert Murdoch entered what had been forbidden territory. Limitless "growth" was now the measure of human progress, consuming both the BJP and Congress, the party of independence. Shining India would catch up China and become a superpower, a "tiger", and the middle classes would get their proper entitlement in a society where there was no middle. As for the majority in the "world's largest democracy", they would vote and remain invisible.
There was no tiger economy for them. The hype about a high-tech India storming the barricades of the first world was largely a myth. This is not to deny India's rise in pre-eminence in computer technology and engineering, but the new urban technocratic class is relatively tiny and the impact of its gains on the fortunes of the majority is negligible.
When the national grid collapsed in 2012, leaving 700 million people powerless, almost half had so little electricity, they "barely noticed", wrote one observer. On my last two visits, the front pages boasted that India had "gatecrashed the super-exclusive ICBM (intercontinental ballistic missile) club" and launched its "largest ever" aircraft carrier and sent a rocket to Mars: the latter lauded by the government as "a historic moment for all of us to cheer".
The cheering was inaudible in the rows of tarpaper shacks you see as you land at Mumbai international airport and in myriad villages denied basic technology, such as light and safe water. Here, land is life and the enemy is a rampant "free market". Foreign multinationals' dominance of food grains, genetically modified seed, fertilisers and pesticides has sucked small farmers into a ruthless global market and led to debt and destitution. More than 250,000 farmers have killed themselves since the mid-1990s - a figure that may be a fraction of the truth as local authorities wilfully misreport "accidental" deaths.
"Across the length and breadth of India," says the acclaimed environmentalist Vandana Shiva, "the government has declared war on its own people." Using colonial-era laws, fertile land has been taken from poor farmers for as little as 300 rupees a square metre; developers have sold it for up to 600,000 rupees a square metre. In Uttar Pradesh, a new expressway serves "luxury" townships with sporting facilities and a Formula One racetrack, having eliminated 1225 villages. The farmers and their communities have fought back, as they do all over India; in 2011, four were killed and many injured in clashes with police.
For Britain, India is now a "priority market" - to quote the government's arms sales unit. In 2010, David Cameron took the heads of the major British arms companies to Delhi and signed a $700 million contract to supply Hawk fighter-bombers. Disguised as "trainers", these lethal aircraft were used against the villages of East Timor. They may well be the Cameron government's biggest single "contribution" to Shining India.
The opportunism is understandable. India has become a model of the imperial cult of "neo-liberalism" - almost everything must be privatized, sold off. The worldwide assault on social democracy and the collusion of major parliamentary parties - begun in the US and Britain in the 1980s - has produced in India a dystopia of extremes and a spectre for us all.
Whereas Nehru's democracy succeeded in granting the vote - today, there are 3.2 million elected representatives - it failed to build a semblance of social and economic justice. Widespread violence against women is only now precariously on a political agenda. Secularism may have been Nehru's grand vision, but Muslims in India remain among the poorest, most discriminated against and brutalised minority on earth. According to the 2006 Sachar Commission, in the elite institutes of technology, only four out of 100 students are Muslim, and in the cities Muslims have fewer chances of regular employment than the "untouchable" Dalits and indigenous Adivasis. "It is ironic," wrote Khushwant Singh, "that the highest incidence of violence against Muslims and Christians has taken place in Gujarat, the home state of Bapu Gandhi."
Gujarat is also the home state of Narendra Modi, winner of three consecutive victories as BJP chief minister and the favourite to see off the diffident Rahul Gandhi in national elections in May. With his xenophobic Hindutva ideology, Modi appeals directly to dispossessed Hindus who believe Muslims are "privileged". Soon after he came to power in 2002, mobs slaughtered hundreds of Muslims. An investigating commission heard that Modi had ordered officials not to stop the rioters - which he denies. Admired by powerful industrialists, he boasts the highest "growth" in India.
In the face of these dangers, the great popular resistance that gave India its independence is stirring. The gang rape of a Delhi student in 2012 has brought vast numbers into the streets, reflecting disillusionment with the political elite and anger at its acceptance of injustice and a modernised feudalism. The popular movements are often led or inspired by extraordinary women - the likes of Medha Patkar, Binalakshmi Nepram, Vandana Shiva and Arundhati Roy - and they demonstrate that the poor and vulnerable need not be weak. This is India's enduring gift to the world, and those with corrupted power ignore it at their peril.
This article first appeared in the Guardian, UK - Follow John Pilger on twitter @johnpilger
2) America Developing Super Spying Computer
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The US National Security Agency is trying to develop a computer that could ultimately break most encryption programmes, whether they are used to protect other nations' spying programmes or consumers' bank accounts, The Washington Post has reported.
The report, which the newspaper said was based on documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, comes amid continuing controversy over the spy agency's programme to collect the phone records internet communications of private citizens.
In its report, The Washington Post said that the NSA is trying to develop a so-called " quantum computer" that could be used to break encryption codes used to cloak sensitive information.
Such a computer, which would be able to perform several calculations at once instead of in a single stream, could take years to develop, the newspaper said. In addition to being able to break through the cloaks meant to protect private data, such a computer would have implications for such fields as medicine, the newspaper reported.
The research is part of a $79.7 million research programme called " Penetrating Hard Targets," the newspaper said. Other, non-governmental researchers are also trying to develop quantum computers, and it is not clear whether the NSA programme lags the private efforts or is ahead of them.
Snowden, living in Russia with temporary asylum, last year leaked documents he collected while working for the NSA. The United States has charged him with espionage, and more charges could follow.
His disclosures have sparked a debate over how much leeway to give the US government in gathering information to protect Americans from terrorism, and have prompted numerous lawsuits.
Last week, a federal judge ruled that the NSA's collection of phone call records is lawful, while another judge earlier in December questioned the programme's constitutionality. The issue is now more likely to move before the US Supreme Court.
On Thursday, the editorial board of the New York Times said that the US government should grant Snowden clemency or a plea bargain, given the public value of revelations over the National Security Agency's vast spying programmes.
If there’s one subject that the mainstream Pakistani intelligentsia takes seriously, it is regional and global geo-politics. Accepting the diversity, complexity and conflict within our society is beyond many of our brightest minds. But assume that Pakistan is a monolith, engaged in existential conflicts with other states and these same minds prove themselves second to none.
This is not to suggest that international relations isn’t a legitimate field of knowledge. But reducing it, as our establishment lackeys are prone to do, to a narrative of unending conspiracy is another matter.
Having said this, there’s a long history of proxy wars and intrigues in our wider region that precedes the Pakistani state. It has been almost two centuries since the British and Russian empires pioneered the so-called Great Game as they struggled for control over Central and Southwest Asia. The world has changed since then, but the colonial game has yet to be confined to the dustbin of history.
Amongst its other inheritances, Pakistan was bequeathed with a “strategic location”. Accordingly, successive (military) rulers have never ceased to remind us about our status as “frontline” state. A growing number of people here now recognise the need to move beyond the static worldview that has made perennial “enemies” of our immediate neighbours, but those who have made their living on such enmities will not give up their calling so easily.
It is thus that “experts” are speculating furiously about the future regional balance of power as the US “drawdown” deadline draws nearer. Those close to the establishment seem to think that post-2014 Afghanistan is again Pakistan’s for the taking. The truth is they are simply refusing to acknowledge the host of possible permutations.
To be sure, there are not just a handful of players in the game. Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, China, Russia, Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf states claim a stake because they comprise the wider region. Beyond this are the global powers — most prominently the US — that continue to demand a place at the main negotiating table.
If there’s to be some kind of durable peace in Afghanistan and the region, a regional consensus will have to be forged, regardless of Washington’s preferred end result. This is why we ought to move beyond our obsession with strategic conflict and start imagining strategic cooperation.
The government would argue that it has done exactly that by engaging China immediately after coming to power. But that is neither here nor there. China has never been regional public enemy number one. That mantle has always belonged to India, with Afghanistan a close second.
Sadly little has changed on that front. Pakistani establishment and its ideologues still view every sign of cooperation between our two immediate neighbours as a conspiracy against Pakistan. We are also not comfortable with Iran, which has an influential role to play both in Afghanistan and the region more generally. There was a suggestion that the gas pipeline project would help turn over a new leaf in relations with Iran and India, but that initiative appears to be dead in the water.
At the end of the day, our closest allies in the region remain the Sunni supremacist states in the Gulf. Notwithstanding the destructive role that our Muslim brethren have played in fomenting bigotry and violence within Pakistani society, our trust in them has not wavered, and is unlikely to in the near future.
For their part, none of these states, least of all the Gulf kingdoms, have yet to take the lead in generating a regional consensus, for Afghanistan or more generally. Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s recent rants against Washington suggest that contemporary alliances are hardly to be taken for granted either.
All this suggests that the “Great Game” is alive and well. Chances are that things will get even more gory and desperate for the millions caught in the crossfire before anything gets better. And all states who act in the name of these people will continue insisting that their strategic initiatives are in the “greater national interest”.
Yet we cannot obsess about others. Those struggling for the cause of regional — and by extension internal — peace in Pakistan must continue to wage the battle against a myopic military establishment that seeks to drum up nationalistic frenzy at every available opportunity. Such a policy can only be the source of more proxy wars, palace intrigues, and perhaps most importantly, social discord within Pakistan.
Resisting this policy — whether it’s called strategic depth or anything else — is an uphill battle because there is no obvious blueprint for peace. Meanwhile influential political and intellectual constituencies simply do not tolerate any affront to monolithic Pakistani nationalism. But regardless of the constraints, all progressives must come together and take on this fight. The game has already gone on too long.
3) Congress Disasterous Taxation : Misrule and Super Plan
1. Why is the Govt. beating about the bush to solve the inflation caused during the past 5 years, triggered by the Govt.'s own misrule to raise taxation through Customs, excise or Service tax to meet the financial needs for the Sonia favourite programmes of MNREGA, Food for the poor..etc., most of the funds getting diverted to personal kitties?
2. When the crude prices were ruling at 140 US$ per barrel, the petrol prices were around Rs.42-44 perlitre. When the crude fell to US$90 per barrel, the petrol prices were raised to 60+ per litre and steadily increased to present levels of Rs.77 or more!!
Every time the argument put forward is rise in international crude prices or the fall in rupee value demanding such increase. But the Govt. refuses to give a detailed calculation of the inputs starting from buying crude and the outputs in the distillation columns from the gas, lower fractions, octane petrol, the naphtha, light and heavy diesel..etc., besides the heavier fractions like lubes, petroleum jelly and so on.
3. Being the easiest way to collect the funds, petrol prices are increased periodically on demand by 10, Janpath and NAC for additional funds to meet the so called poverty alleviation n programmes, a joke played on the poor since the time of Indira Gandhi.
4. The allies of Congress too played the accompaniments by escalating the food prices, by importing lakhs of mt. of wheat at inflated rates, much higher than the first quality procured from Punjab and the local produce allowed to get wet and rot in open storages!!
Similar exercises are followed by the Food Ministry in the Onion or potato or rice (exported during shortages) or sugar by manipulations from Centre to get heaving kick backs esp. Sharad Pawar. Would anyone ask Sharad Pawar how many Sugar factories he owns in South America that supplies raw sugar to Indian sugar factories through Dawood Ibrahim controlled shipping?
Pawar forced UP to pay only Rs.125-150 per.quintal for sugarcane procured as against Rs.225 for his own co-operatives in Maharshtra!! When the farmers refused to agree to supply @Rs.125, Pawar got the raw-sugar imported from Brazil/Argentina, that arrived in Kandla within a week of the policy decision? Dawood Ibrahim had already brought these shiploads of raw sugar to Dubai and Kandla received the shipments within a week!!
5. Pulses were imported at almost 30% higher than the retail rates and lakhs of mt. were rotting in the ports/ godowns rotting and pests eating away the stocks in burst bags- shown by TV. Wholesalers refused to clear the goods @Rs.30 a Kg. as against retail markets @Rs.20-25/-
The entire stocks worth crores were dumped in the sea and shortages locally increased the prices of pulses by over 50% immediately that doubled within a year. To meet shortages Pranab Mukherjee made trips abroad and declared that no pulses ere available in global markets, in his usual grinning style ignoring the serious situation thrust on the poor- high prices of Dhall, Onions, the poor man's diet.
6. Periodic increases of LPG, Diesel further brought grief to the Common man and the PM declares that higher prices benefit the farmers- forgetting that it was the middle-men and Politicians who benefit from such shortages.
7. Unless and until all these fake programmes of freeships in the name of poverty alleviation but funds reaching personal kitties is stopped, and the funds are expended for infra-structure developments like pit-head power generation..etc., the economy will further slide down the slope despite experts like Rangarajan or Raghuram attempting to hold it up.
The government's key policymakers are drawing up plans to tackle the problem of stubborn food prices and may rope in cooperative entities to set up standalone stores to sell vegetables and other food products across the country.
The race to tackle the inflation problem, identified as one of the factors for the rout of the Congress in the recent state elections, has gathered momentum in the run-up to the 2014 national polls. Double digit food inflation and spiralling prices of vegetables have hurt households across the spectrum and triggered anger and unease among voters.
C Rangarajan, who heads the Economic Advisory Council to the Prime minister, has floated the idea of a "government organized initiative" involving the cooperative sector and states to ease the pain of high food prices. "We should create a network of retail outlets in our country and these networks should focus on a limited number of commodities. I think that will have a salutary effect on the market prices," Rangarajan told TOI. 'The cooperative institution is the most ideal for it. And what we should focus on is not cooperative retail outlets catering to a very large number of commodities... I think that is not what is required. Actually the focus has to be on perishables, certain kinds of grain, certain kinds of dal," he added.
The idea is at a preliminary stage and would require massive cooperation. Building the infrastructure to support the initiative would also be an enormous task. The former RBI governor and a veteran policy maker said these retail outlets should be modelled on the lines of Apna Bazaar, Kamdhenu stores or Mother Diary's Safal initiative but should be implemented through cooperatives. "If we focus on major towns in our country, then it will have a moderating impact," he said, adding that states must play their part in containing prices and promote the setting up of such cooperative institutions.
Top government officials welcomed the idea but said there were several implementation issues that would need to be worked out. Several cooperative entities such as the National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India (NAFED) and the National Cooperative Consumers Federation of India have intervened in the market during crisis to help ease supplies and moderate prices. But officials said massive storage facilities would need to be set up to implement the idea.
"It is a good idea but has come a bit too late," said Ashok Gulati, chairman of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices. Rangarajan said the long-term solution to high food prices would require efforts to raise farm productivity, rework the farm marketing set up and a shift in the production of the basket of agricultural goods. "It is said that how can we not offer remunerative prices to farmers. Yes we should offer remunerative prices to farmers but at the same time it must be matched by productivity increase in agriculture, otherwise the remunerative prices to farmers will eventually result in the headline inflation rising," Rangarajan said.
"We need to amend some aspects of the APMC Act to enable retailers and others to have direct access to farmers. The mandi system is not necessarily working to the advantage of either the farmer or the consumer. I believe the present marketing arrangement particularly relating to perishables is very archaic. We need to change it," he said.
It may be a good idea to open stores retailing select commodities to rein in food inflation. But these measures can really address only the symptom and not stamp out the problem. There is an urgent need to increase supplies, raise the productivity of agriculture, create a credible supply chain and build cold storages for perishables such as fruits and vegetables. That is the real, lasting solution to food inflation. The cooperative sector has sometimes been used for price intervention, but enabling it to emerge as a credible retail chain requires massive investment and effort. Building consensus among states to involve them in taming prices would also require leadership. But the focus has to be on building the infrastructure needed to ensure hassle-free supplies and reforming laws that benefit neither farmers nor consumers but serve vested interests in the trade.