Wednesday, 22 July 2009

First DKP now Gangu Bai Hangal

Within the span of a week, Indian music has lost two of its most prominent stars.
First we lost D K Pattamal and then Gangu Bai Hangal.

As an illiterate connoisseur of Indian Classical music, to me their brilliance was unmistakable and they were in my book as powerful as Mallika Arjun Mansur or Kumar Gandharv when it came to their music. They both have produced some great students and their legacy will survive through the voices of their disciples.

I have been fortunate enough to see both artists in performance and attended one of Gangubai Hangal’s last public appearances.

May their souls continue to stir our souls.

Turn to the Lok Sabha Channel for real News.

15 minutes of live coverage on the Lok Sabha gave me more insight into what is happening in the country than the four papers, three magazines that I subscribe to and all news channels put together.

The media was literally “eclipsed” yesterday. Astrologers, scientists, and practitioners of tantra were hogging up the airwaves and print. As I was channel surfing waiting for dinner I landed on the Lok Sabha channel with live coverage of the house (at about 8:30 PM). With P C Chacko in the chair, members were given a minute to raise question of “importance to the public”. These JAM segments included some very very interesting statements –

  • Why is the Indian Medical Association Supporting Pepsi Co?
  • Why is there a 66% increase in Cancer cases in Kuttanad in Kerala?
  • Why is Maharashtra building a dam on a river that supplies water to AP in contravention of a Supreme Court ruling?
  • Why was there a blast in two explosives factories in Orissa and why were the located in the proximity of residential buildings?
  • On a lighter side, why does the face of Tulsidas figure on Bidi packaging?

I must track this “public importance” session as it will probably tell me far more than what the media ever will.

Sunday, 12 July 2009


I am and upset.
I get confused very easily about the shallow stuff that happens around me and do not know what to do when I encounter it. I am sure and absolutely certain of the issue associated with capitalism.
My confusion starts when I enter the realm of objectification. For example- Is it okay for me to objectify music. Is it okay for me to believe in a boundless god.
Meeting my mentors always leaves me vexed.

Friday, 10 July 2009

A Capitalist Media Cannot be a Democratic Media

I find it infuriating that nobody in the media has taken the courage to critique the appointment of right wing capitalists to key positions in the government. In a country where 800 million people live on an income of below 1 dollar a day is it a crime to look for inclusive growth that does not put all power and wealth in the hands of limited few? Does talking about and discussing poverty mean being ostracized? The way the media talks about poverty (or rather does not talk about poverty) seems to prove something.

Iraq is the best example of the dangers of mixing right wing capitalism with governance. Here is a quick recap for our friends in this country who watch the English new channels and think they get the real picture. If you can not force a country to sell its resources, start a war in the name of democracy. Flatten the country with F-16 bombers, call it “shock and awe”, destroy it’s infrastructure and fire everybody in the public sector in the name of “cleansing”. Bring in Bechtel, the oil companies, Halliburton and every other multinational company that likes to make a quick billion in a calamity. Kill about 100,000 civilians and convince the world that the locals are barbarians. Then change the laws to allow only US companies to control wealth and resources. That is how the capitalist machinery works.

The media refers to “capitalism” as “democracy”. They seem to think that they are the one and the same thing. For example, the government in China has many capitalists, but it is a communist state.

The media confuses the two words because they (the media) themselves are critical cogs in the capitalist machinery. Imagine for a second, what would happen to Prannoy Roy, Arnab Goswami or Rajdeep Sardesai if they were to stand-up and criticize Essar for it’s dealings with tribals in Chattisgarh? To get the answer to this question you have to look at who their advertisers are. One channel, had it’s parent publication sell it’s soul (read masthead) to Reliance Communications. I guess this news channel would not mind if it’s anchors had “Reliance” tattooed on their foreheads (in color and not single tone of course).

Indra Nooyi who’s company consumes billions of litres of India’s water resources and denies farmers access to water is on Manmohan Singh’s “panel”. Lakshmi Mittal would give his right arms for a concession to the Iron Ore mines in India’s tribal districts. Both people exploit common property resource for the profits of their share holders who are not even Indian citizens. The media talks about these decisions as amazing sparks of brilliance. Hidden interests?

Why do we insist on packaged drinking water? Should the government not be supplying potable drinking water to every citizen out of the tap? If they did provide potable water – it would put Pepsi Co out of business in India and many farmers back into production. But then again, when the PM feels that he needs Indra’s advice I am sure she will be talking about getting bottled water to the homes of every citizen. The media will, at that juncture, stand on its hind legs, bark and extend a paw to the advertising division at Pepsi after which it will promptly play a game of “fetch”.

Mr Mittal will not hesitate to evict every tribal on land that he feels can get him billions in iron ore. He would readily object to any move to get locals to own the mines and sell the ore in the open market. Ownership by local communities would translate to better education, healthcare, and access to water through their own revenue streams. Overtime they would realize that the foreign direct investment would not have been an investment in their future but an investment for a short-term profit at their long-term expense.

The present government though like the BJP and the CPI (in West Bengal) will sell all our assets to large corporations. These corporations will complete the classic slam-bang-thank you maam routine (without protection) and look at their EPS or EBITDA figures.

The most profitable companies seek a tax waiver. The poorest people are expected to pay VAT on salt? Dandi march anyone? We have an opportunity to lift people out of poverty by nationalizing key sectors such as mining, we have instead been told that we need to “lease” it out. Theft of common property is theft of common property even if you call it a lease.

We need a red-light district dedicated to the media. Here they can walk naked along the streets, selling themselves at any price to any bidder from a PR company. They can be wined, dined, sweet-talked into airing any story. However, unfortunately for them and fortunately for us, most of India still has their head in a place where the sun shines.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Economic Stimulus?

What sort of Economic stimulus do you give to a group of 600 million people living below the poverty line?
The answer according to Pranab Mukherjee is Privatization.
He, obviously, has read very little about what happened during privatization in South America or what is happening with the privatization in Iraq.
Go ahead shoot us all in the head.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Beat it MJ!

  • Why do I, as an Indian citizen have to be a victim of American Voyeurism?
  • I find it repulsive that all Indian news channels should carry a live feed of his funeral procession and memorial concert.
  • The event was not worthy of the attention it received and did not it merit the coverage that it got on Indian channels.
  • MJ had little or no impact on the lives of a majority of people in this nation
  • The coverage allowed the "pro-rich" Indian budget to be brushed under the carpet and critical issues that the budget raised were forgotten to make way for an American recluse that represented the worst possible problems with the malady of consumption. This problem was glorified and we were being sold the idea that he was the greatest artist ever.
  • If American want to mourn him, that is their democratic right. I do not want to mourn him and I do not think that the people of India should be forced to feel a sense of loss. I find him nothing more than a piece of cheap entertainment. The media would want us to believe otherwise.
  • MJ himself would have been distressed at how his death being used for profiteering.

Monday, 6 July 2009

|Armchair Revolutionary| A call for Anarcho-Syndicalism in India’s Mines

The mineral wealth of this nation is a common property resource. Any commercialization of this mineral wealth should be done in a miserly fashion and should compensate in adequate proportion (i) the people who have lived in the midst of these resources and (ii) the labor that is employed in these mines in occupational environments that are often hazardous.

What I suggest is radical and would require a re-politicization of the labor movement in India. The current politics of the labor movement are more reactionary and their role is limited to that of a vote-bank or the first line of blame for failed manufacturing units.

The new politics would have to be built on the anarcho-syndicalist movement. We would need the labor to take ownership of resources and they would have responsibility for mining, protecting the environment, ensuring the participation of host communities and ensure that the mined produce get’s a fair price in the international markets. Profits would have to be shared equally between all stakeholders including (and eventually) the government. If Tata Steel, Essar Steel or Mittal Steel – wants “ore” they buy it from the labor controlled mines.

The initial phase would require a grass-roots pacifist resistance which would entail labor setting up their own mines without government permission, interference or supervision. Ignore the laws the same way the government has ignored the people. The movement needs to have checks and balances to prevent the infiltration of arms and corruption into the movement.

It would also require a pacifist struggle to shut down existing mines that are operated by the private sector in India. In particular, we would have to target mining concessions given to large private sector parties such as Mittal-Arcelor, TATAs and Essar. The judicial system is stacked in favor of private enterprise. Litigation as a means to change will take forever. We need to change this through a pacifist struggle. No arms and all civil disobedience.

If planned quickly and executed with grass-roots support of tsunamic proportions there is no reasons why we cannot recreate the successes of the people’s movements in Argentina and Bolivia.

My rationale is simple – we need to retain control of profitable entities and not allow them to be controlled by large corporations. We need to prevent leakage of wealth and resources, conserve the environment and find employment for India's impoversihed. The current political system has abdicated power to the the "market model". They will be inclined to hand over common property resources to the players who operate out of commodities markets in exchange for infrastructure that will benefit a small minority of Indians.


Manufacturing Consent for a Two-party system

The media's obsession around the BJP is interesting. There has been a lot of manufactured news around the need for two large political parties at the national level. The demise of the BJP would be counter-productive to this cause and hence the much needed news to focus attention on "rebuilding of the BJP".

Like in the US (Democrats and Republicans) and the UK (Labour and Conservatives) a two party system does not offer too many choices. For example - Obama's strategy for American Imperialism and war is no different to that of his presidential predecessor. The Corporate houses who funded Bush and Obama are not dissimilar - this translates to their positions being identical. The policy-based differences in UK between the two national parties are equally thin.

A very plural - multi-party regional political system seems to be more representative. While it may not be more representative of the Urban Middle Class and Urban elite, it will be more representative of the 800 MILLION Indians who live on less than a dollar a day. We know that both the Manmohan Singh and Advani think-tanks have a bent towards the "Model" as designed and directed by the IMF, World Bank and WTO. With the complete collapse of this model in South America - it is obvious that such models will never work in an impoverished country like India.

Because the global corporatocracy cannot enforce these models covertly they now use direct force. e.g. Iraq. The best example is the introduction of Bechtel for the water supply system in Iraq after a majority of Public Sector employees were "sacked" by the occupying forces. Bechtel came to Iraq soon after being kicked out of Bolivia by the people for preventing rain water harvesting on the grounds of unfair competition and inflating the price of water by a factor of 300. Such sadly hilarious examples are numerous.

The continuous efforts of the media to create a two-party system in India is bewildering because of the undemocratic nature of such a system. Lastly, the media's approach to the budget and their lack of honest coverage of budget issues that affect 800 Million Indians is bordering on being obscene.

Equally alarming is this red paint job that media is engaged in with "Maoists". Calling the people in these district insurgents is like the American demand for Palestine to Lay Down arms before negotiating. This deliberate and pointed effort to create an illusion of "violence" and "insecurity" is to cloud the real issues. The real issues being lack of food, water, education and primary health care. "Maoists" seems to be the excuse for the government and media to oppress voices that can direct us to the real picture of this country. This environment is the perfect excuse for commericalising natural resources in the "red districts". It looks and smells like the Nigerian privatization moves on Oil.

Neither of the two parties has condemned or questioned the occupation of the NWFP in Pakistan by the US Army. It is known that the Intelligence Agencies and the Pakistan government are influenced by the US government and need the approval of the US government to survive. Sri Lanka and Pakistan have a massive refugee crisis on their hands. We are on the brink of a drought. Can we afford to focus on issues that only benefit corporate houses - do millions of other people not exists? We are being pushed by the media into a conflict with Pakistan who's government is nothing more than a puppet in the hands of the US. We need to be on the side of the people of Pakistan, not the government.

My questions are
  • Other than Hindutva and the Gandhi family - how are the two parties different?
  • What have these two parties done that has had a direct impact on the poorest of the poor in this country in the last 15 years?
  • The revenues that the media generated in the US with the Obama effect was maddening. Is the Rahul Gandhi story of change any different? A well packaged pipe dream that is about as good as and as far from reality as an SRK film?
  • The media is reduced to producing news that their advertisers want. (Fear, Insecurity, Violence - all targeted at the urban middle class with brand ambassadors such as Simir Grewal and Shobha De). This environment will allow corporate lobbyists to push "reform" through in the backdrop of confusion rooted in insecurity.

Saturday, 4 July 2009

I Was Wrong

I keep saying 800 million people live on less than a dollar a day
I was wrong. My apologies

Begin Quote-->
Economic Survey 2008-09: Over 60% Indians live on Rs 20/day 3 Jul 2009, 0259
hrs IST, TNN
<---Enf Quote I picked this up from the cgnet listserve

There was a time when all newspaper published theIndian Economi Survey. Sadly the survey is not readily available in print. This prevents us from making real comparisons that can measure development. For example per-capita availability of food grain and water, as opposed to a world bank measure such as "GDP" to understand "development".

Friday, 3 July 2009

Uncle Sam In India?

Most people who mark 26/11 as a global watershed and all world events as its aftermath conveniently forget the elephant in the room. That elephant is arguably the single biggest terrorist organisation in the world - the government of the United States. It has been consistently condemned by international courts for acts of terrorism. The Indian media chooses to forget this easily and is ready to apportion all blame of 26/11 to Pakistan and buy into the US definition of who constitutes a terrorist or a rogue state.

When convenient, the US government has supported, and will continue to support, brutal regimes. For example - The Taliban in Afghanistan in the 80s, The Shah in Iran, Nicolae Ceaucescu in Romania, Israel and its suppression of Palestine for over 30 years, and countries across the length and breadth of South, Central and Latin America. They have repeatedly used military aggression against civilians in the name of democracy. They have done this in Panama, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan and now Pakistan. How is killing people in the name of terror different from killing people in the name of democracy? The US has attacked over 50 countries in the last 50 years.

The killing of thousands of civilians in the name of “democracy” and calling it the "war on terror" has to end. We have to have the collective balls to tell the US that they are the “real” terrorists and they need to stop encouraging terrorism in their government and around the world. 26/11 allowed the media to seed fear in the minds of the urban middle class Indian. Fear sells very easily and the media has capitalised on this fear.

The US government, for several decades now, has decided that it will use repressive violence to manage world affairs and retain control of the global stage. The latest in its long list of atrocities can be found in Pakistan. The US army is indiscriminately bombing villages in Pakistan. There are hundreds of civilians dying. In fact it would not come as surprise if they are using chemical weapons. They are killing people in order to track down their brothers who they created, in order to fight a proxy war against the Soviets.

Thanks to the support of the United States, terrorist organisations have spread like wildfire from Iraq, to Pakistan and now to India. The media has us believe that Iran, like Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan is on the brink of chaos. The common thread across all these countries for decades is constant US interference. The fact that the US government manufactures the chaos is brushed under the carpet.

India is now going to be at the receiving end of the US policy of “global terror.”Our media has successfully created a fear psychosis about terrorist groups operating out of Pakistan buying right into US global rhetoric. This fear psychosis is very similar to the fear that Clinton and then Bush manufactured against Iraq with the WMD theories. They sold the fear to the media and the media in turn sold it to the people. If we continue on this path, it will not be long before an Indian attack on Pakistan will be justified with the words "just cause". America used those very same words when invading Iraq and Afghanistan.

We cannot expect Pakistan to do anything about India's concerns unless the US leaves the region permanently. An overwhelming US presence in the form of military aid and military strikes in Pakistan will be a distraction to peace and stability in the region.

The US departure will be in the interests of democracy, the South Asian Region and India in particular. If the US leaves, the civil War in Pakistan will end and the two countries (India and Pakistan) will have an opportunity to constructively resolve issues, particularly the contentious question of Kashmir. Addressing these would require an attitudanal change from all sides which can be catalysed by the absence of the US and the prevalence of peace.

The media has to be more responsible and understand that they are not dealing with a democratic government in the United States. They are dealing with a polyarchy. The US is one of the few countries in the world where corruption in the form of lobbying is legal. Special interests groups dictate US policies more than the electorate. The triangle of Dick Cheney, Halliburton and the Iraq War is probably the most conspicuous example of US polyarchy. Obama is not above this. Over thirty percent of his election funds came from lobbyists. His recent track-record is proof that he is no different from Bush, Clinton, Reagan, Carter or Nixon. Incidentally, Carter started the Afghan conflict by funding the Taliban in Pakistan. Carter is now a Nobel Laureate for peace while the region burns.

The media needs to stop breeding insecurity and focus its attention on the US stranglehold on world politics. We need to target our solutions at getting the US out of Asia permanently and disarming their ability to invade countries unilaterally. It is this irrational power that the US has over the international community that is preventing democratic forces from tackling terrorism. For example, no UN resolution against Israel and its oppression of Palestine has ever been passed because the US government vetoes it. If you prevent democracies from acting in unison in a situation like Palestine, you are bound to breed more terror on both sides of the war on terror. The US is replicating the Palestine story across Asia. Do we ignore it because we are naïve or because we are puppets? Either way, we are in grave peril if we continue to do so.

Post Script-
According to this article at

Begin Quote -
As a start, on May 27th, we learned that the State Department will build a new "embassy" in Islamabad, Pakistan, which at $736 million will be the second priciest ever constructed, only $4 million less, if cost overruns don't occur, than the Vatican-City-sized one the Bush administration put up in Baghdad. The State Department was also reportedly planning to buy the five-star Pearl Continental Hotel (complete with pool) in Peshawar, near the border with Afghanistan, to use as a consulate and living quarters for its staff there.
- End Quote

Reminds me of Saddam's Palaces.

Thursday, 2 July 2009

The Hindu Business Line on Drugs, Water and Pepsi

Before you come to the conclusion that I am on Drugs or Pepsi please see THIS

Here is the summary – (i) Pepsi is going to fight anemia (!!?) and (ii) they are patenting a seeding technology for dry land paddy to help farmers who are affected by the water scarcity that invariably affects farmland in the vicinity of wherever they set up shop.

Let us look at the first absurd claim – They are going to launch a soft drink with medicinal properties that will treat Anemia. The clinical trials for this will begin in India.(ROFL)

There is a very fundamental and contradictory problem with that objective. Pepsi Co are a disease themselves. They first need to get their pipes out of India's vulnerable water resources before they start wearing a halo around their heads.

  • In 2002, PepsiCo India used 6.21 liters of water per liter of beverage manufactured by it. YOU do the math!
  • The volume of Blue Gold that they consumed can be best described as vulgar. This is happening when the country is struggling for water!
  • More accurate reports estimate that Pepsi saved 8 billion litres of water last year by applying some "new" technology. Now, how much did they waste?
  • Plachimada in Kerala is an excellent example of how ground water resources are over-exploited and locals are denied the right to an equal share of water by the beverage giants. Toxic chemicals are in abundance in wells 1km away from the beverage factory.
  • Thanks to local voices and the Supreme Court the factory eventually lost its license.
This same factory (Coke) was getting environmental awards! An eerie reminder of the Satyam Fiasco and it’s Corporate Governance awards. Every time a company splashes a Press Release about an award, I promptly take a clip off the clothesline and take it to the bridge of my nose.

The HBL article in question refuses to address the intolerable levels of pollution created by beverage companies, their poaching and unbridled looting of water resources, and the cognizant exploitation of water resources that are essential to farmers.

We have a water crises on our hands and they have the gall to launch a product with medicinal value? Since senior citizens are likely to read this blog, I will desist from profanity.

Pepsi now says they will sell soft drinks that cure anemia. They conveniently ignore the fact that excessive groundwater extraction causes diseases far graver than Anemia. The idea itself is anemic and my face turned pale the first time I read the article.

You can not fool all the people all the time! Their publicity stunts are becoming intolerable. Their claim of "sustainability" needs to be proven!

What is alarming about the piece is the tag line - "India lead country in global project; clinical trials soon". It is well known that the pesticide levels in their drinks are not great. Now they want to run clinical trials? We are supposed to be guinea pigs for some grand CSR scheme that messes with our livers?

The second issue is typically American. The profiteering is transparent in this line - "Pepsi is in the process of patenting the seeder which seeds the soil directly"

First you take away their water. Then you invent technology that seeds without water. Then you patent the technology. This vicious cycle is getting absurd.

Navadarshanam, a Gandhian Ashram in the outskirts of Bangalore has been growing dry land paddy without fertilizer for several years. They brought in farmers from North Karnataka who were experts in this crop because of the perennial drought conditions in Northern Karnataka. If Pepsi thinks that dry land farming and related technology is their invention - they need to read up on the history of Agriculture. We do not need a bunch of R&D suits from the US telling us how to plough, till and harvest.

God forbid, if we ever need to kill a large number of innocent civilians in a third world country, we will call upon the expertise of the US corporate sector and their R&D wing.

The outstandingly brilliant journalists who wrote this piece must been on drugs themselves. It looks like they lapped up every piece of bovine manure that the Pepsico CEO regurgitated without questioning it one bit.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

The Pirate Bay is Sold to a Listed Company!

Today announced that it was being sold to a gaming company in Sweden.
While the blog on is reassuring, I can not say the same about the Press Release from their potential owners.

It looks like the six year battle for survival for the world's largest P2P tracking service is at an end. I think the community is to blame. We should have been able to consolidate to give the people who sustained TPB a better deal.

I feel we have lost an opportunity to break the inequality which exists when it comes to knowledge and information. Corporate America has just won another battle. Who will win the war?

The way Pirate Bay is structured is very interesting. The real owners of Pirate Bay are not publicly know and Pirate Bay does not know the location of its nodes or servers. Pirate Bay is also structured in such a way that the core team will NOT BENEFIT from the sale of Pirate Bay. So whatever money comes in - as a result of the sale (~7Mln USD) will go into a foundation that will focus on issues relevant to the Pirate Bay. The current core team can only play an advisory role in the foundation.

What they have done is to go down fighting in a very big way. Nobody can accuse them of selling out. They have out maneuvered the suits that were litigating against them.

To understand more about this sale from a pirate bay perspective - download this torrent
(A very revealing and straightforward interview soon after the announcement).

Somebody @ ThePirateBay has opened a forum for whining, shouting and related posts @