Thursday, December 30, 2010

Urdu is our very own

Yesterday, the Governor of Karnataka, Shri Bharadwaj, said that forgetting the heritage of Urdu amounts to forgetting history itself, considering that so much of our past is intrinsically linked to the language. Urdu was an indigenous language born around Delhi, the very heart of India, he added. The country has a “historical commitment” to the language that should be upheld. Dismissing the view that the idea of secularism as a western import, he said rulers like Akbar are classic examples of indigenous secularism. “Secularism is within us, we only need to knock on our hearts to draw it out,” he said. 
India will reject forces that stifle any religion or language

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Kaash Ke Wo Binayak Sen Na Hota

Kaash Ke Wo Binayak Sen Na Hota
If only he weren’t Binayak Sen;
a poem by Rizvi Amir Abbas Syed

काश के वो सिखों का हत्यारा होता, या गुजरात के नरसंघार में शामिल होताकाश के वो प्राइवेट अस्पताल के लुटेरे डाक्टरों में से एक होताकाश के वो किसी मल्टीनेशनल कंपनी का दलाल होताकाश के वो राष्ट्रीय धरोहर को बेचने वाला बनिया होता

If only he were a murderer of Sikhs, or involved in the massacre in Gujarat
If only he were one of the malpractitioners at a private hospital
If only he were an agent of a multinational company
If only he were a merchant of national property

काश के वो हिंसा प्रेरित करने वाले सलवा-जुडूम का सदस्य होताकाश के वो भाषा, धर्म, मस्जिद, मंदिर के नाम पर रथ यात्रा निकाल पाताकाश के वो घूसखोर पुलिस का अफसर होताकाश के वो किसान की मेहनत से उपजे अनाज को सडा़ने वाला कृषि मंत्री होता

If only he were a member of violence inciting Salwa Judum
If only he could conduct a Rath Yatra on the name of language, religion, mosque, or a temple
If only he were a corrupt police officer
If only he were an agriculture minister letting the grain produced by hardworking farmers rot

काश के वो त्रिशूल बाँटने वाला धार्मिक गुरु होताकाश के वो टीवी चेन्नलों पर नफरत फैलाने वाला कठमुल्ला होताकाश के वो जंगलों को उजाड़ कर खदान बनाने वाला मंत्री होताकाश के वो पुलिस और सेना के अत्याचार पर गर्व करने वाला राष्ट्रवादी होता

If only he were a religious guru distributing Trishools to people
If only he were a hate spewing Mullah on TV channels
If only he were a minister uprooting forests to make way for mines
If only he were a nationalist who feels proud about tortures committed
by the armed forces and the police

काश के वो अहम् की खातिर इंसानियत की बलि चढा़ने वाले वक्तव्य देताकाश के उसके हृदय में करुना और दया नाम की कोई चीज़ न होतीकाश के वो अपने सारे सुख और चैन तो त्याग कर गाँव की सेवा में ना जाताकाश के वो भी हम आप जैसे सोये हुए नागरिकों में से एक होता

If only he would make a public statement on sacrificing humanity for one’s pride
If only he didn’t have any compassion or empathy in his heart
If only he didn’t leave his cozy life and went to villages for social work
If only he was a sleeping citizen like you or I

काश के वो भी अपने परिवार और व्यापार में व्यस्त और मस्त होताकाश के वो महात्मा गाँधी के आदर्शों का मजा़क़ उडा़ पताकाश के वो डाक्टरों द्वारा ली गयी शपथ का पालन नहीं करताकाश के वो भ्रष्ट अन्यायपालिका और दबंगों के आगे घुटने टेक देता
If only he was happily immersed in his family and businesses
If only he would mock Gandhi’s ideals
If only he wouldn’t follow the Hippocratic oath
If only he would surrender to corruption, injustice and bullies

काश के वो घूस लेकर आतंक को भारत में प्रवेश देने वाला सुरक्षा कर्मी होताकाश के वो देश को गरीबों और किसानो की समस्या से बहकाने वाली न्यूज़ सुनाताकाश के वो नोबेल शांति पुरूस्कार के विजेता ओबामा साहब के साथ नाचता गाताकाश के उसका दिल मानवाधिकार के लिए नहीं धड़कता

If only he was a security guard letting terror enter India for a bribeIf only he would deliver news to distract people from the issues of the poor and the farmersIf only he would sing and dance with the Nobel Peace Prize winner Mr. ओबामा, If only his heart wouldn’t beat for human rights

तो आजबिनायक देश का खलनायक नहीं कहलातान कोई कार्यवाही होती, न ही देशद्रोही का इलजा़म गढा़ जाताउम्र कै़द की जंजीरों से दूर वो भी सम्मानीय और स्वतंत्र होताकाश, काश, काश !!!

Then today Binayak wouldn’t be called a villain in this country
There wouldn’t be any prosecution, nor a charge for treason
He would be free and far from the chains of life imprisonments, and well respected
If only though, if only.

Buy a Mercedes, pay 7 per cent interest. Buy a tractor, pay 12 per cent.

When businessmen from Aurangabad in the backward Marathwada region bought 150 Mercedes Benz luxury cars worth Rs. 65 crore at one go in October, it grabbed media attention. The top public sector bank, State Bank of India, offered the buyers loans of over Rs. 40 crore. “This,” says Devidas Tulzapurkar, president of the Aurangabad district bank employees association, “at an interest rate of 7 per cent.” A top SBI official said the bank was “proud to be part of this deal,” and would “continue to scout for similar deals in the future.”

The value of the Mercedes deal equals the annual income of tens of thousands of rural Marathwada households. And countless farmers in Maharashtra struggle to get any loans from formal sources of credit. It took roughly a decade and tens of thousands of suicides before Indian farmers got loans at 7 per cent interest — many, in theory only. Prior to 2005, those who got any bank loans at all shelled out between 9 and 12 per cent. Several were forced to take non-agricultural loans at even higher rates of interest. Buy a Mercedes, pay 7 per cent interest. Buy a tractor, pay 12 per cent. The hallowed micro-finance institutions (MFIs) do worse. There, it's smaller sums at interest rates of between 24 and 36 per cent or higher. 

Starved of credit, peasants turned to moneylenders and other informal sources. Within 10 years from 1991, the number of Indian farm households in debt almost doubled from 26 per cent to 48.6 per cent. A crazy underestimate but an official number. Many policy-driven disasters hit farmers at the same time. Exploding input costs in the name of ‘market-based prices.' Crashing prices for their commercial crops, often rigged by powerful traders and corporations. Slashing of investment in agriculture. A credit squeeze as banks moved away from farm loans to fuelling upper middle class lifestyles. Within the many factors driving over two lakh farmers to suicide in 13 years, indebtedness and the credit squeeze rank high. (And MFIs are now among the squeezers). 

Even as the media celebrate our greatest car deal ever as a sign of “rural resurgence,” the subject of many media stories, comes the latest data of the National Crime Records Bureau. These show a sharp increase in farm suicides in 2009 with at least 17,368 farmers killing themselves in the year of “rural resurgence.” That's over 7 per cent higher than in 2008 and the worst numbers since 2004. This brings the total farm suicides since 1997 to 216,500. While all suicides have multiple causes, their strong concentration within regions and among cash crop farmers is an alarming and dismal trend.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

We have arrested him because we have arrested that very sense of justice in ourselves

We do not have to agree with Binayak Sen, anymore than we have to agree with Mahaswta Devi or Arundhati Roy or Baba Amte. But these have been voices of conscience. These are people who have care and healed, given a voice to the voiceless. They represent the essential goodness of our society. They are Indians and outstanding Indians and no nation state can negate that. I admit that such people are not easy people. They irritate, they agonize over things we take for granted or ignore. They take the ethical to the very core of our lives. Let us be clear. It is not Sen’s ideology that threatens us. It is his ethics, his sense of goodness. We have arrested him because we have arrested that very sense of justice in ourselves.

Read Shiv Vishwanathan's letter to the PM 

Sustainable mining is an oxymoron

says Jerry West. "The conditions that have supported humans historically are dependent upon a loop of sustainability that provides a certain amount renewable resources through a widely bio-diverse web. When over consumption degrades those resources and bio-diversity shrinks, their provision is not sustainable and the conditions are changed, and if changed enough they cease to support certain forms of life. Currently over half of the Earth's eco-systems are degraded and species are going extinct at an alarming rate. The loss of each species changes the conditions for those that are left. The cause of this loss to a large part is the result of human over consumption. Humans are devouring their life support system, and destroying their sustainability. The only remedy is to reduce consumption and begin a process of reversing growth. Anyone who speaks of sustainability without speaking of reducing consumption and reversing growth is blowing smoke."

Read: Sustainability Means Consume Less

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Jaitapur Nuclear Power Park: chronology of a disaster

French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s India visit early December 2010 has materialized in signing of General Framework Agreement for building the European Pressure Reactors (EPRs) for Jaitapur Nuclear Power Park (JNPP) which is being set up in Konkan region of Maharashtra, in Ratnagiri district.. However, many issues remain unresolved as admitted by India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who reportedly said “there are issues of pricing ..these are matters of negotiations” which is linked to insurance cost and which, in turn, is linked with nuclear liability concerns.

But there are many other issues which the officials don’t seem to be much concerned about. There are environmental concerns and safety risks besides displacing people and ruining their livelihood. The Madban plateau, green forests along the hill slopes, wetland habitat and thick mangroves along the creek, the Arjuna river and the creek waters rich in marine life together form an integrated and unique ecosystem supporting wide variety of flora and fauna. The NEERI-KVV study has not considered the essential part i.e. the plant animal interactions, ethnobotanical and anthropological studies” highlights an appeal for signature campaign by the Janhit Sewa Samiti. Parallel studies by the Bombay Natural History Society have shown that the project will cause substantial environmental damage. According to National Oceanography Goa, Jaitapur comes under earthquake-prone zone and hence a nuclear power plant is not advisable.

Environment minister Jairam Ramesh admitted to the deficiencies in this NEERI’s EIA, when a delegation met him in May 2010 to bring to his notice the facts about Madban and ecological disastrous impact of a nuclear power plant there. But political compulsions seem to have driven Ramesh to give green signal to the project just before Sarkozy’s India visit.

The people's opposition to the project has also been ignored. A public hearing on proposed project by the NPCIL on May 16, 2010 at Madban was a mere farce. Around 1000 people attended. The mandatory requirement of providing EIA report in local language to affected villagers a month in advance was not met. Only Madban Gram Panchayat received a copy a month ago in English and just four days before the public hearing in Marathi, thus violating the Environment Protection Act 1986 and Environment Protection Rules 2006 & 2009.

This despite the fact that on January 22, 2010, 2335 farmers from four villages - Madban, Karel, Niveli and Mithgavane from Ratnagiri district of Konkan region of Maharashtra, refused to accept cheques of compensation for their 938 hectares of land forcibly acquired by the government through the Nuclear Power Corporation of India. This was for the Jaitapur Nuclear Power Park (JNPP). Only 56 landowners, most of who are settled in Mumbai-Pune for decades, accepted this compensation and got rid of their land. Last October, the state government established a committee to revise the compensation and announced a rehabilitation package that includes Rs 2 crore with a recurring amount of Rs 25 lakh for each of the four villages; permanent job for farmer’s kin or Rs 5 lakh; and an amount equivalent to 375 to 750 days of agricultural wages for lifetime to compensate for the loss of livelihood.

The villagers burnt the copies of this package shouting slogans ‘we don’t sell our mother’ and ‘beggars accept money (for their motherland)’. On October 29, 2010 more than 2000 farmers and fisher folk assembled despite prohibitory orders, to court arrest to protest against the proposed nuclear power project on their fertile land.

We don't sell our mother

Saturday, December 25, 2010

No space for peaceful protest in India

Describing rights activist Binayak Sen's conviction as ''outrageous'', former Delhi High Court Chief Justice Rajinder Sachar today said People's Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL) will challenge the order and the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act under which he was found guilty.

"It is scandalous to say that he (Sen) was working against the interest of the country. The Unlawful Activities Prevention Act under which he has been convicted is unconstitutional," Sachar said in a statement here.

Read Tehelka article on his imprisonment

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Zero Nuclear Weapons

My take: The video below is good in that it raises concerns, but i wish there would be some focus on the biggest nuke power of them all, the United States. As long as there is an imbalance in perception, smaller powers are going to follow the same path: what works for the big is good for me kind of logic!

ICAN note on the video: Events this month have provided a stark reminder that nuclear weapons are a present-day threat, not a problem of the past. From the bombing of nuclear scientists in Iran to the direct threat of nuclear war on the Korean Peninsula, it has been a disturbing close to the decade. The growing risk of nuclear proliferation and use should lead decision-makers to an obvious conclusion: these weapons must urgently be outlawed and abolished. The approach of arms control and incremental steps is failing. We need a comprehensive disarmament treaty that establishes the same basic standard for all countries: zero nuclear weapons. This short video is a reminder of the dangerous times we live in. And it is an urgent call to action.

watch the video

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Bant Singh

Bant Singh is a revolutionary singer in Punjab, India, whose two year-old daughter was raped by upper caste men. When he sought justice, they cut off his limbs. But he can still sing, and in this video letter he expresses no self-pity. Film by Sanjay Kak

watch the video

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The homogenous Indian

Why does it say, on a carton of jamun juice, "Indian berry"? As an Indian you don't need to be told what a jamun looks or tastes like; in fact, it would make more sense to describe a berry as a jamun-like fruit. But that's what happens when you live among cartons and tetrapaks and toilet paper rolls. You lose your bearings. You forget that you live in India. India needs to be explained to you. 

To be an urban Indian today is to feel a bit lost, a bit unsure about who you really are. Pinpointing your identity is quite a task. Actually, you may have to sift through multiple identities to choose the ones that best represent you. I meant that metaphorically but taken at a very literal level, just look at the hazaar pieces of laminated plastic that urban citizens accumulate. There's the driver's licence, passport, credit card, ATM card, PAN card, voter's ID and, depending on your situation, student ID or employee ID slung about the neck like a dog collar. Then there are the various club membership cards — of professional associations, film societies and weekend resorts. Bookshops, supermarkets and clothing stores give out loyalty cards to encourage regular patronage. Hell, even the sweeper and the servant maid have to flash their photo IDs at the apartment gate before the watchman lets them in.

And to think that, not long ago, the only proof of your identity was a ration card! I eat, therefore I am. Very basic.

Read: The multi-layered Indian

Friday, December 17, 2010

Conservation Natural History Museum cancels expedition to arid Chaco

Paraguay has tonight formally suspended a Natural History Museum expedition, arranged to investigate part of the nation's virgin dry forest, to allow more time for consultation with the indigenous people. The museum had been criticised in South America and Europe for its plans to send up to 60 botanists, zoologists and other scientists to an area of the dry Chaco forest, the only place in Latin America outside the Amazon where tribes uncontacted by outsiders are known to live. Fears were raised by some settled Ayoreo Indians that the scientists and their large back-up teams could stumble upon groups of indigenous peoples living in voluntary isolation, and pass on dangerous and even fatal diseases. The Paraguayan government has been deeply embarrassed that some Ayoreo leaders have claimed they knew nothing about the scientists' trip until learning about it in the press. The museum defended its trip, "expected to discover several hundred new species of plants and insects", saying that to "scientifically record the richness and diversity of the animals and plants in this remote region is extremely important for the future management of this fragile habitat".

Read more: Concern for wellbeing of uncontacted tribes stalls science trip

Julian Assange: Why the world needs WikiLeaks

Earlier today, Julian Assange on being released in London, reminded the world of others besides him: "During my time in solitary confinement in the bottom of a Victorian prison I had time to reflect on the conditions of those people around the world also in solitary confinement, also on remand, in conditions that are more difficult than those faced by me. Those people also need your attention and support" (reminded me of all the powerless undertrials languishing in our prisons).

Assange had talked in July to TED's Chris Anderson about how the site operates, what it has accomplished -- and what drives him. The interview includes graphic footage of a recent US airstrike in Baghdad.

TED Interview

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

An income commission for farmers to end agrarian distress?

When little children in cities have a Happy Meal burger at McDonalds and get a Batman car or Ben 10 toy free, they are getting much more for free — all gift-wrapped by wheat and potato farmers in some far-off village. They are not paying for the labour put in by the farmer, the profits forgone by him, and the higher cost of living that he did not bill on the food buyer. The only remuneration he gets is based on the minimum support price (MSP) determined by the government which cannot be raised beyond a certain level for fear of pushing up food prices. MSP for wheat is less than Rs 11 a kg. MSP also does not take into account the cost of labour (free or paid), the cost of seeds (bought or traditional), or the cost of living.

Read More from Shreelatha Menon

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Kai Frieze on the way journalism's changed to media

How do you go from the indignant maven of We the People to “Okie. Gnite tweeple”? Why does Rajdeep Sardesai describe his own monogrammed opinions on CNN IBN as “our editor’s take”? Why does he shout so much? Why is plagiarism not a firing offence for newspaper film reviewers? Is the copy desk just the workstation where you concoct the ‘Letter for the Editor’? What is wrong with Arnab Goswami? Why is every story an ‘exclusive’, even if it’s not? Are TV anchors journalists, or entertainers? And aren’t newspapers supposed to have front-page news instead of one big ad—sorry, edvertorial?

Read: The Media is the Message

College lecturer loses job for essay topic

Noor Mohammed Bhat, a college lecturer in Srinagar, who decided to get creative with the English examination paper, has been sacked by his college. Amongst his essay topics: “Are the stone pelters real heroes? Discuss.” According to the Associated Press, Bhat has been charged with promoting secession. Kashmir Dispatch reports say he’s been charged under section 13 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

Read on