Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Learn to like weeds

Naturalist Richard Mabey believes that weeds are misunderstood. "Weeds present us with an opportunity to look at boundaries in nature – the boundaries between the wild and the cultivated. It is an anthropological distinction which we all operate around. An enormous number of weeds have led to valuable medicines. The nightshade family and the thorn apple crop up in plenty of people's gardens, but they would be regarded as extremely objectionable invaders despite their value in modern medicine.

But the real usefulness of weeds is the attempt to vegetate disrupted earth – that is, in a sense, their ecological role. If there weren't such plants on the planet there would be nothing to start the succession of spoilt ground back to more complex vegetation. We spend an enormous quantity of our agricultural and gardening budgets on weed control, and the chemicals used do unquantified damage to all kinds of other creatures, possibly even ourselves, and the plants we're doing this to are obviously blameless. Like any other species, we need to control our environment to make it tolerable for us to live in. But it would be easier, cheaper and more environmentally sound if we accepted our responsibility in the generation of weeds – and we might find it much more easy to live with them if we did."

Read more : Give weeds a chance

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Dissolve the People

Does it look like there is a whole lot of goodwill towards the Government of India in Kashmir, which Roy has to work hard towards alienating? All over the North-East and Kashmir, reeling under the military jackboot of the draconian AFSPA, the Government of India is nothing but an occupying army, a spontaneous disaffection generator.

where there is violence, there is always and inevitably suffering

Dalai Lama: Theoretically, one could imagine a situation where armed intervention at an early stage might prevent large-scale conflict. The problem is that it is very difficult, if not impossible, to predict the outcome of violence. That it will be just is not guaranteed at the outset – it will only become clear in hindsight. The only certainty is that where there is violence, there is always and inevitably suffering.

Japanese citizens question a possible nuclear deal with India

Manmohan Singh is in Tokyo, trying to conclude yet another nuclear deal with yet another country. As the deal is under a cloud, many Japanese citizens have written an open letter to him:

"It is true, as India has repeatedly pointed out, that the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) is an unequal treaty. However, looking at India now, one cannot help thinking that India believes power and prestige derive from the possession of nuclear weapons. India might have adopted a nuclear no-first-use strategy, but seen from the perspective of the experience of the Hibakusha, the possession of nuclear weapons is by no means a source of power and prestige. Rather, it is the epitome of immorality."

Saturday, October 23, 2010

A spring view

Though a country be sundered, hills and rivers endure;
And spring comes green again to trees and grasses
Where petals have been shed like tears
And lonely birds have sung their grief.
After the war-fires of three months,
One message from home is worth a ton of gold.

I stroke my white hair. It has grown too thin
To hold the hairpins any more.

-Tu Fu (c.750). (trans. Witter Bynner)

Friday, October 22, 2010

Campaigners welcome MoEf's halt to expansion of Vedanta plant

India's environment ministry has ordered Vedanta Resources to halt a sixfold expansion of an aluminium refinery in Orissa, eastern India, to "maintain the status quo" and undertake "no further construction activity". It is another blow for the company, which in August was denied permission to mine bauxite on local tribal land. "Vedanta is learning the hard way that it cannot ride roughshod over tribal peoples forever," said Stephen Corry, director of Survival International, a leading member of the international campaign against Vedanta's plans in Orissa. "Other companies should learn from Vedanta's mistakes: before investing time and money in a project, a company must gain the consent of local tribal communities."

See BBC story on this

Thursday, October 21, 2010

As women you’re not supposed to possess desire, let alone ‘alternative’ desire

Next month, Sumati Kaul will take part in her third annual ‘Gay Pride march’ in India. And for the first time since she began telling some friends and associates that she is a lesbian, she is planning to do so without a mask. As recently as July, when smaller marches were held in several cities, she kept on her mask and avoided the cameras. “I didn’t want my family to see me on television,” said the 31-year-old software company manager. But then the social pressures faced by many women — to marry, to be a dutiful wife, to bear children and carry on the family line — hit her with special force, given her sexual orientation, and forced her hand. Coming out to her family was, in one sense, a relief, and she earns enough from her job to continue living independently in Delhi without help from her relatives.  “My family won’t talk to me, and my uncles will either force me into a marriage or kill me,” she said, in a matter-of-fact tone. She sees no possibility of reconciliation. “To my uncles and my father, ‘lesbian’ is a dirty word,” she said. “Unless I get married, there’s no way back for me.” As she spoke, her partner listened, nodding. She, too, will be in the gay pride march next month, but she will keep her mask on. Her family lives nearby in Delhi and is even more conservative than Sumati’s.

When lesbians think their safety depends on invisibility. By Nilanjana S Roy

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Lovely’s Lane

Alok Rai updates us on Delhi's continuing absurdities post-CWG

It was bound to come sooner or later. The wonder – the absolute, outrageous, impudent surprise of it all is that it has come so soon. The Games have barely limped to their pathetic conclusion – and those of us who are waiting for the post-Games reckoning are waiting but impatiently, inadequately consoled by the sound of the sharpening of the knives, the braiding of the hangman’s rope – or, most likely, the Japanese water torture of the promised Shunglu probe. And in the midst of this unfolding fiasco, this still-running disaster, the lovely Mr Arvinder Singh Lovely, Delhi’s Transport Minister, has made the suggestion that the insult of the Games lane, the closing off to the public of a significant part of the road which has been made with public money, be made permanent. This – as we were told in full-page ads paid for by us – was done with threats of  a hefty fine or, worse, far worse, being exposed to the courtesies of a Delhi cop. The ineffable experience of crawling along patiently (but proudly, always proudly!) while sundry others flashing CWG insignia whizzed past in the CWG lane – an experience that so many of us chose to miss, could now become a permanent feature of the metro experience. I can’t wait!

Read the full piece on kafila

Thursday, October 14, 2010

"Soon, most of Goa’s earth will be deposited in China"

"The environment devastation caused by mining in Goa and the unbridled acceleration of ore extraction propelled by the China demand in the last five years cannot escape anyone". Former director of Panos Institute’s Asia Regional Programmes, London-based Carmen Miranda’s crusading environmental activism has seen her in the forefront of global campaigns in eco hotspots from Bangladesh to Nepal, Indonesia, Pakistan and India, among others.

"If we are not careful, in the near future, people will have to go to China to visit Goa, as most of our land will be deposited there, leaving just a hole in the ground in Goa. What angers me is the attitude of the Goa government and mining lobby, who think that they have a God-given right to destroy everyone else’s way of life and resources in Goa for the benefit of China and a handful of extremely rich mining barons".

See interview with Devika Sequeira, Deccan Herald

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Woh intizaar tha jis ka, yeh woh sahar to nahin

As Faiz put it so eloquently - this surely is not the dawn we were waiting for

Asaduddin Owaisi says the “prevailing peace is not to be confused with the sense of unease” that exists in the community. “How can we move on,” he asks, “Muslims have been reduced to second-class citizens”.

Read full article in Outlook

Environment Minister questions government's development policy in northeast India

In note to PM, Jairam takes on govt, puts question mark on N-E projects
Ravish Tiwari, Financial Express

New Delhi: In unprecedented distancing from the government by a key
minister and questioning its development works in the strategic
North-East and Bhutan, environment minister Jairam Ramesh has taken up
with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh demands for a review of all hydel
projects in the region and a “moratorium on any further clearances for
hydel projects in Arunachal Pradesh” since “these are bound to be the
subject of agitation” in Assam.

In a letter to the PM on September 16 after attending a meeting in
Guwahati of “civil society organisations” opposed to big dams, Ramesh
has highlighted the views of ‘some NGOs’ that “we should not make
Arunachal Pradesh a pawn in the race between India and China”.

This, Ramesh states, was the response to his explanation on the
‘strategic significance’ of projects in Arunachal Pradesh. But in his
letter, he only names one NGO called Adi Students Union which made a
representation to him on this issue.

At least ten times in the three-page letter to the PM, he refers to
‘sentiments’, ‘dominant view’, ‘great concern’, ‘concerns of the
people’, ‘opposition building up’.

The letter ends with the warning that the “feeling in vocal sections
of Assam’s society particularly appears to be that ‘mainland India’ is
exploiting the North-East hydel resources for its benefits”.

What’s worrying for the government is that Ramesh has already made
some assurances that could impact the pace of progress. “What I could
assure the audience, of course, is that for projects not yet started,
we will carry out cumulative environmental impact assessment studies
as well as comprehensive biodiversity studies.”

This flies in the face of his own commitment to fast-track projects on
the Siang river in Arunachal Pradesh. It is recorded in the minutes of
a recent meeting of the task force on hydro power development: “MoS
for environment and forests emphasised the need for time-bound
development of hydro potential in Siang river and he offered, on his
part, to consider forest and environment clearance on a fast track
basis for hydro electric projects in Siang river.”

Ramesh has taken up with the PM concerns over mega projects in Bhutan
like the Kurichu dam and Mangdechhu hydel project. These are bound to
have diplomatic ramifications as these projects are being built with
Indian help, and power produced from them would be purchased by India.
There are strong strategic underpinnings to these projects as they
symbolise the cooperation hastened by Bhutan’s unflinching support to
not let its territory be used by N-E insurgent groups. Confirming that
he had written to the PM after his trip to the N-E, Ramesh refused to
go into details. He, however, said the PM is slated to take an
inter-ministerial meeting on the subject on October 13.

In his letter, Ramesh has pointed to concerns over projects mostly
being built on tributaries of the Brahmaputra which even China is
looking to harness on its side. He is careful enough to front these as
views distilled from a “public consultation” organised at the “request
of a large number of civil society organizations in Assam” on
September 10 where he claims “over a thousand people participated in
an interaction which extended over six hours”. At the same time, he
ends up lending weight to some of these concerns while pointing out
that elections in Assam are due in next six months. “Even leaving
aside polls, these issues are important in themselves and merit our
serious consideration. I believe that some of the concerns that were
expressed cannot be dismissed lightly.” The key concerns and
“sentiments” to which Ramesh has sought to draw the PM’s attention

* There should be a “moratorium on any further clearances for hydel
projects in Arunachal Pradesh” until downstream impact assessment
studies, cumulative environment impact assessment studies and
biodiversity impact studies are completed.

* The 135 dams of different capacities being planned in Arunachal
Pradesh “are being given green signal” without carrying out these

* These MoUs signed “with the knowledge of the Central government”
have not taken on board the concerns of the people of Assam. “The
Government of Assam should be a party to these MoUs, especially where
downstream impacts are significant”. Incidentally, most of these MoUs
were signed during the first UPA government.

* There is “great concern” on the downstream impact in certain
districts of Assam from “existing hydel projects of NEEPCO like
Ranganadi and Kopili”. Incidentally, these projects have been declared
fully operational more than five years ago. “There is also concern on
the Kurichu hydel project executed by India in Bhutan and its
downstream impacts in districts like Barpeta, Baska, Nalbari and

* “There is opposition building up in Assam to the 2000-mw Lower
Subansiri hydel project being implemented by NHPC in Arunachal
Pradesh... the demand being made, on the basis of an expert committee
report prepared by a team from IIT Guwahati, Guwahati University and
Dibrugarh University is for the project to be scrapped”. Ramesh,
however, has also clarified in his letter that he told the audience he
was “in no position to make any commitment on the existing Lower

* Award of projects in Arunachal Pradesh to different companies in the
same river basin is making the “task of environment impact assessment
very difficult”. The examples given are of three different companies
involved in projects on Subansiri and also on Siang.

* The 1750-mw Lower Demwe hydel project on the Lohit river “should not
be given forest clearance, although environmental clearance has
already been given for the project” because of the downstream impact
of this project on Assam.

* The 1500-mw Tipaimukh hydro-electric project in Manipur “should not
be proceeded till a comprehensive downstream impact assessment study
has been undertaken”.

* Impact of hydel projects in Bhutan need to be “studied better”. The
entire approach to dams in the N-E “needs to be looked afresh”.

article link

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Kisan Swaraj Yatra is a nation-wide mobilization drawing fresh attention to the continuing agricultural crisis in India, and calling for a comprehensive new path for Indian agriculture – that will provide livelihood and food security for small farmers, keep our soils alive, and our food and water poison-free. The bus-Yatra will start at the Sabarmati Gandhi Ashram on Oct 2nd, and pass through 20 states to reach Rajghat, New Delhi on Dec 11th.

Saturday, October 9, 2010


Imagine there's no heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today...

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace...

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world...

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will live as one

'Nepal believes in disarmament of all weapons of mass destruction'

'Nepal believes in disarmament of all weapons of mass destruction'
Friday, 08 October 2010 10:22

Gyan Chandra Acharya, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Nepal to the United Nations, said that Nepal believes in general and complete disarmament of all weapons of mass destruction including biological, chemical, nuclear, radiological weapons in a time-bound manner.

He delivered this statement in the First Committee meeting of the UN General Assembly held in New York on Thursday.

"As a party to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty and Chemical Weapon Convention, Nepal strongly supports the elimination of nuclear weapons to attain nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation once and for all," said Acharya.

Ambassador Acharya also stressed that Nepal fully supports the effective implementation of the Program of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons.

Nepal supports the adoption of a legally binding instrument to regulate international arms transfer for transparency and accountability, he said. He also stated that Nepal stands for prevention of arms race in the outer space and encourages an early conclusion of a Fissile Materials Cut-Off Treaty.

While highlighting Nepal as a host country to the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Asia and the Pacific, Ambassador Acharya informed the Committee that Nepal would be tabling a resolution on United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Asia and the Pacific at the current Session of the Committee.

Ambassador Acharya observed that despite over a billion people living in poverty and hunger, our precious yet scarce resources are consistently being diverted towards the procurement, research and development of ever sophisticated weapon systems which, runs contrary to our moral standing. 


On Liu Xiaobo Being Awarded the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize

Press Statement of His Holiness the Dalai Lama on Liu Xiaobo Being Awarded the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize

I would like to offer my heart-felt congratulations to Mr. Liu Xiaobo for being awarded this year’s Nobel Peace Prize.

Awarding the Peace Prize to him is the international community’s recognition of the increasing voices among the Chinese people in pushing China towards political, legal and constitutional reforms.

I have been personally moved as well as encouraged by the efforts of hundreds of Chinese intellectuals and concerned citizens, including Mr. Liu Xiaobo in signing the Charter 08, which calls for democracy and freedom in China. I expressed my admiration in a public statement on 12 December 2008, two days after it was released and while I was on a visit to Poland. I believe in the years ahead, future generations of Chinese will be able to enjoy the fruits of the efforts that the current Chinese citizens are making towards responsible governance.

I believe that Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao’s recent comments on freedom of speech being indispensable for any country and people’s wish for democracy and freedom being irresistible are a reflection of the growing yearning for a more open China. Such reforms can only lead to a harmonious, stable and prosperous China, which can contribute greatly to a more peaceful world.

I would like to take this opportunity to renew my call to the government of China to release Mr. Liu Xiaobo and other prisoners of conscience who have been imprisoned for exercising their freedom of expression.

October 8, 2010

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Repeal AFSPA: Are the people of Kashmir and the Northeast not ‘our people’?

Irom Sharmila has been on a fast unto death for the repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) after troops of the Assam Rifles gunned down 10 civilians at Malom near Imphal airport on November 2, 2000. She is periodically arrested and force-fed by the Indian state.
Dear Prime Minister, Home Minister and Sonia Gandhi,
We have noticed a striking anomaly in the way the armed forces and the state treats the people of Kashmir and the Northeast. When contemplating the use of the armed forces in the forest belt, the armed forces and the state concluded (quite correctly, in our opinion) that they should not be used against the people of this region, including the Maoists, since ‘they are our people’. Yet the very same armed forces have no compunction about being deployed against the people of Kashmir and the Northeast, and the state agrees! Worse still, the armed forces insist that they cannot carry out their duties without AFSPA, which allows them to rape, torture and kill with impunity.
So what is happening here? Are the people of Kashmir and the Northeast not ‘our people’? This is indeed the message that comes across. And if these people feel that they are not regarded or treated as ‘our people’ by the state and armed forces of India, is it surprising that many of them do not want to belong to India?
In fact, AFSPA allows the armed forces to commit atrocities that would be considered war crimes even if they were directed at a foreign enemy. There is no justification for keeping it on the statute books, because it is incompatible with international humanitarian law. Its enforcement in these states has been one of the main reasons why there has been no resolution of the conflicts in them for decades. Consulting the armed forces about the repeal of a law that allows them unlimited power is worse than useless: why would they ever agree? Surely you ought instead to be consulting people like Irom Sharmila, who has been waging a heroic and totally non-violent struggle against AFSPA for ten years!
Shouldn’t the government be asking her why she is ready to sacrifice her life to get this law repealed? And taking her answer deadly seriously before she dies?

Monday, October 4, 2010

People can fight against their own elites when the latter pursue politics which do not benefit them

Aditi Bhaduri an independent journalist and researcher based in Kolkata and New Delhi, talks of the issues around the Palestine conference, recently held in Delhi

"People can fight against their own elites when the latter pursue politics which do not benefit them. The political hope of the poor in Southasia is that there should be justice. Only the elite can ignore the aspect of justice and pass off self-interest as national interest. Since the poor believe in mass justice, the leaders of mass movements of the poor speak of pursuing justice both nationally and internationally. We have common problems in Southasia that we cannot isolate ourselves from; we should therefore unite and fight together.

The role of the US and Israel is part of the problem in militarisation in Southasia too. Israel would like to increase its interests in Sri Lanka and Nepal, just as it has used its military equipment, trade and other sources such as agricultural research, culture and academia, to increase its influence in India which is detrimental to the Palestinian struggle. This is of course something it cannot do in Bangladesh and Pakistan. In such a case the leadership in Nepal has to frame its response. The position of the people of Nepal and other peoples of Southasia regarding the Israel and Palestine issue is not as distant or abstract as it might seem".