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”.

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