Tuesday, 30 June 2009

My Glasshouse

While I waste no time in blaming the US for many of the problems across the world, I am not quick enough to condemn similar behavior that has Indian roots. Let me bring up a few examples.

Cash Crops -
The Indian government blatantly encourages cash crops. Cash crops make the farmer dependent on the "market" for prices. Prices as we all know are always controlled by cartels. Investments in cash crops are encouraged and farmers from a "cash-crop" background are treated with far greater respect than their poorer peers who grow food crops that find their way to our kitchens more readily.
Aditya Birla group recently received coverage for its search for large tea-estates. At the other extreme there are farmers who have managed to profitably cultivate dry-land paddy. When we are tryin to increase the per capita availability of food grain (a genuine measure of growth), why should we be more interested in tea than in paddy?

Sudan -
One of my mentors recently visited Sudan. She explained how there were many Indians in Sudan. I assumed they were like Indians in many parts of Africa. Indians that could be described as second and third generation migrants who first came as labor. I could not have been farther from the truth. Two large Indian companies have a huge presence in Sudan's oil sector. They have substantial contracts from the Sudanese government. We know that Sudan is about as far away from democracy as America's corporate citizens. The government is totalitarian and violation of human rights is omnipresent. Sudan is an oil producing nation state and India's presence in the region can only be looked at as a strategy to try and gain some control over it's own energy needs. This presence of Indian corporate houses in Sudan is as unacceptable as the presence of Bechtel and Halliburton in Iraq.

Kashmir -
I have lost a few good friends over my opinions on the Kashmir issue. I believe that the presence of the Army in the region is unacceptable. India never delivered on it's promise of a plebiscite in the region. The world is turning a blind eye to the human rights violations and the thousands of people who are living under gun-point (militants and the army).
My position is simple. As an individual who lives down-south I have no right to have a say in what the people of Kashmir want. If cessation is what they want and that is the opinion of the overwhelming majority of ALL Kashmiris then that is what they should get. The only conclusive way to resolve the issue is through a plebiscite. What gives us the right to "integrate" a bunch of people who do not want to be part of this country.

North East
Out of sight is out of mind! This area in India is probably the most soaked in insurgency. As a citizen of India, I need a "permit" to enter many parts of North Eastern India. Most Indians look on the people of the North Eastern Region as outsiders. They are called "chinky" or "Chinese". They are quickly labeled as beauticians or cooks in Chinese restaurants. The discrimination and stereotyping is rampant. The region has given us some of the best Human Rights activists that this country has seen. Women, in general, have far more rights in the communities of North Eastern India than in the rest of the country. The presence of the army, insurgency, and Human Rights violations in the region receive little or no attention in the mainstream. You cannot have a such a vast region as a part of this country and treat it’s citizens as “outsiders”.

Monday, 29 June 2009

Water Water Nowhere and Not a Drop to Drink

There are areas in Karnataka and Kerala that I have read about that are facing a serious water shortage thanks to beverage companies such as Coca-Cola and Pepsi Co. These companies continue to dig their bore wells deeper and deplete water resources as if they owned water. Water is the asset that they sell. Why should they be allowed to get it for free and sell it at a premium at the cost of the blood and life of an India farmer?

A farmer gets very little electricity because, people like me, need electricity to stay networked, refrigerate beer and sleep under a fan. With the little electricity that the farmer gets, it is close to impossible to tap water from the existing bore wells. A farmer is now forced to dig deeper because the Cola c are sucking the water out from under their feet faster than they can sink a bore-well. I am tired of seeing companies make massive profits out of assets that are not theirs and deny the farmers a right to existence (forget livelihood).

My wife is unable to drink bottled water because it tastes awkward. She drinks straight from the tap and has never had a stomach upset. I invariably fall ill with a stomach flu once every two months. If people like me would put the fear of infection behind them, people who are thirsty will probably have more water to drink.

While the exploitation of water resources continues by the stars of the “market”, India is on the brink of a drought and rumors have started about at El Nino taking root. If this climate change becomes a reality we will be in a deep mess.

While all this happens, the Government of Karnataka has said there will be no water to TN from the KRS dam. I guess the legal and verbal water wars between the two states will commence shortly. There will be a few skirmishes as Karunanidhi and Yedyurappa try and consolidate their positions in the their respective states. Farmers on both sides of the border will, in the meanwhile, get screwed for water. Pepsi and Coke will continue to bottle and sell Pepsi and Coke.

My frustration is increasing day-by-day. The magnitude of problems is growing and the solutions seem nowhere in sight. Finding optimism in the middle of all this seems a challenge.

Sunday, 28 June 2009


No matter how much I read about Palestine, I always find out something new. Every time I think the atrocities have reached a new low, I find out that the occupying army in Gaza can do worse. Unfortunately, it has started to resemble a holocaust.

Some facts that I picked up today

  • The largest fleet of F-16 jets outside the US is in Israel
  • Over 1500 children have been killed in the conflict (this includes 300 plus on the Isreali side)
  • Isreal controls all the water in the region
  • It could take several hours to cross from one Palestinian village to another because of border check posts controlled by heavily armed Israeli conscripts
  • There are several roads that run over some of the oldest agricultural lands in the world that can only be used by Israelis
  • Palestinian towns are controlled by a handful of Israeli settlers with military grade weapons.
  • 1/3rd of all US aid US aid reaches Israel. Israel has received as much Aid from the US as the rest of the world combined.
  • Zionist lobbyists spent over 46 million dollars in the US of A lobbying with politicians.

The most moving piece that I saw today was a video of a 5 year-old palestinian girl challenging a journalist to live in her shoes for two days and not break down.

As usual when you have a gigantic humanitarian crises soaked in blood, the US of A has it’s hands stained with the most blood. In this case they are responsible for all the weapons, a massive cover-up in the global media and for blocking every single attempt for peace in exchange for election funding.

On a more optimistic note there are many Israelis who believe that the occupation is illegal, unwarranted and unfair to the people who’s land they live on. Unfortunately there are very few Americans that share that view. Oppression after all is their religion.

If the people of Asia can focus their efforts on solving this conflict peacefully and firmly evict the Americans from the Middle East – we will have a strong chance for global peace. We would have solved the global problem of dealing with the world’s biggest bully.

For those of us of us who do not have the patience to read the reams and reams of neutral coverage of the crisis on the web I would suggest a documentary called "Occupation 101"
There are plenty of You Tube videos of Chomsky and Democracy Now as well that provide a more balanced coverage of the Palestinian story.


Saturday, 27 June 2009

Everybody Loves a Good War

Thanks to countercurrents.org, I came across this report on bombings in Pakistan and the death of over 80 civilians. These civilians were attending the funeral of civilian victims of another US drone attack. If you cannot see the "cycle of violence" - you are either really stupid or the American Government.

The US is deploying it’s fool-proof war sustenance strategy. This strategy, as we have seen in Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine involves using immense air power (drones, helicopters guns, and fighter planes) to bomb civilians. The moment you massacre dozens of civilians, a few people are bound to loathe you. That loathing and hatred can in-turn be used as a “just cause” and the war can continue its virtuous cycle of profit for the Halliburton’s of the world and vicious cycle of death and violence for the citizens of Asia.

I love the “Change” and “Yes We Can” approach that Obama has brought to killing civilians in Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan. They do not in troops any more. They just bomb them from the sky and from un-manned planes. This strategy means Obama need not talk about war as much, because Americans do not get killed as much.

Someday in the not too distant future the Pakistan government will increase taxes. The taxes will be used to repay loans taken from the IMF, World Bank and the US government. The Pakistan Government will use the money from these loans to pay American contractors to build infrastructure (roads, hospitals and schools). This infrastructure will need to be rebuilt because it will be first destroyed by the might of the US army. But, these taxes will not be enough. In addition to the taxes US contractors will be allowed to charge locals for the use of water, air and soil.

God Bless American Business! How many more children have to die for the blessing to be complete?

Friday, 26 June 2009

The richest Indian cabinet just got a little richer

Nandan Nilekani was given a cabinet rank yesterday. His portfolio - the National ID project.

Nandan Nilekani has increased the average/per-capita wealth of the cabinet. According to the National Election Watch, cabinet was already the richest cabinet in Indian history. They just got a little richer.

This cabinet is probably the most unrepresentative cabinet in Indian history. It has become a club of the wealthy. More than anything, it is representative of nepotism and the inequitable distribution of wealth in this country. We cannot any more afford to be in denial that we are a polyarchy.
You can read more about polyarchy here.

When there is no concept of Social Security in the country, why have a "social security number"? I have a PAN Card, Ration Card, Election Card, Driver's License and Passport. Why do I need to be identified any further? There are over 800 million people living on less than a dollar a day in India. I cannot see how the diversion of resources to this grand scheme is going to address real issues (food, water, education, healthcare etc) in any way. It will allow the government and private sector participants in the scheme to monitor a lot of what the common man does. It will also pave the way for rampant identity theft.

Nilekani's new role is an eerie reminder of Larry Ellison's grand scheme after 9/11 to pull in some revenue for Oracle through a National ID scheme in the US. This scheme, like many other, was riding on a wave of fear created in the American media about terrorists, terrorism, WMDs and Islamophobia.

The current government's flirtatious overtures to the corporate sector are ominous. It is apparent that we will get a CII budget and key sectors that affect the poor might be privatized in the next five years. Social Security - even if it is just a number, is the best excuse that the government will have to continue to adopt the privatization model.

While the Indian cabinet gets richer, 800 million Indians who subsist on below a dollar day will get poorer because they cannot be "identified". At the same time, the government will start tracking other citizens who have been “identified”.

On a related note, many people (like me) who condemn violence but believe that violence has roots in oppression and a lack of development will be labeled as "maoist sympathizers". I find it hard to believe that 1000s of people who have less food then what was available to their peers during the Bengal famine would be interested in the philosophy of Chairman Mao and his little red book. They are more likely to go to any extent to get food and a glass of water for their families. Unfortunately, this includes armed struggle. While these rotten egg realities hit the fan, we invite mining companies to these very same districts and call the poor “insurgents”. Leaders who do not hesitate to develop IT platforms for these companies get “cabinet rank”.