Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Mining As A Threat To The Commons: The Case Of South America

  by  César Padilla
      August 23, 2016

The struggle against mining in the region is often presented as opposition to development. In fact, the communities affected and environmental organizations are struggling to recover and exercise their basic human rights. This struggle will continue so long as mining corporations and governments rely upon the mining model to enclose the commons

The latest cycle of mining expansion in South America dates from the mid-1990s. Since then, levels of investment in exploration and exploitation have generally held steady. Such investment has benefited from reforms in the laws governing mining in almost all countries, and the high demand for basic minerals for industrial use, especially in China and India, which have translated into high prices. The so-called “financial crisis” of the early 21st century further accelerated the rising prices of precious metals, which are now seen as a “safe-haven” value given the vulnerability of currencies. This trend has meant, in turn, an increase in the number of mining projects in the portfolios of transnational corporations and an expansion of the areas given in concession throughout the region.
The concessions granted to mining interests have soared in Peru, from 7.3 percent of the national territory in 2005 to 15.4 percent in 2009. This, in turn, has intensified socio-environmental conflicts on territories and communities. In Colombia, President Santos’s aggressive promotion of mining (“la locomotora minera”) has entailed a substantial increase in mining concessions. According to the Ministry of Mines of Colombia, more than 40 percent of the national territory is being sought for mining concessions. In Argentina, the number of mining projects increased 740 percent from 2003 to 2007 alone, reaching the considerable number of 336 projects (Swampa/Antonelli, 2010). In Ecuador, despite the mining mandate (mandato minero) that reverted mining concessions to the State during the Constituent Assembly in 2008 (Acosta 2009), there has been an increase in mining concessions, especially along the southern border with Peru.
The increase in areas given over to mining concessions in South America has involved profound disruptions of ecosystems and the communities that have depended on them for centuries. Communities have lost access to their most valued properties that they customarily shared in a sustained manner. The natural and cultural elements that have supported the communities’ development, lifestyles and systems of existence – all the components that contribute to the concept of “vivir bien” (literally, “living well”) – are under siege1 (Choquehuanca 2010).
Water has been one of the commons goods most affected by mining in the region. Defined as a “thirsty industry” (Cereceda 2007), mining has been dispossessing the agricultural communities of their water sources. It has also diminished access to water for urban populations, especially in critical hydric zones such as northern Chile, southern Peru, and the Bolivian altiplano.2 Accordingly, one of the most important demands of the communities affected by mining is protecting the water sources for their use in agriculture and for human consumption. They also seek to keep water resources intact to conserve the ecosystems and ensure that various rituals associated with water can continue.
The most recent conflicts between communities and mining enterprises – in which the governments have not been neutral actors but rather allies of the transnationals – have been over protection of the water. The people of Islay in the Tacna region in southern Peru, worried about their access to water and its conservation, succeeded in getting the government to reject the environmental impact study submitted by Southern Copper Peru for its Tía María mining project. They understood the dangers that mining poses for human existence. For example, the Puno region in Peru was brought to a standstill for 45 days in 2011, and the border with Bolivia was shut down, because of the risks of mining contamination of the rivers that flow into Lake Titicaca.
Mining cannot be productive and sustainably managed if it ends up driving the population from its territory. Mining not only brings an end to the water, but also to the way of life tied to the land, traditions, spirituality and sense of belonging. It has recently been learned that mining by transnational companies in the high Andean glaciers along the border between Chile and Argentina is jeopardizing waters that are critical to these mountainous ecosystems.3 Fortunately, a new Argentinean law protecting the glaciers has been enacted in an attempt to prevent droughts and conserve the ecosystems of these highly productive valleys.4
There are similar fights to protect water in northern Colombia’s páramos, the ecologically vulnerable high elevations between the upper forest line and permanent snow line. Thepáramo are a symbol of life in extreme conditions, a place of long cycles of regeneration, reproduction of species and arrested growth. Destroying the páramo destroys not only the ecosystem and the water, but the reproduction of life itself. A Canadian mining company, GreyStar, in the páramos of Santurbán in the department of Santander, near the border with Venezuela, was involved in intense negotiations with the government to build a massive mining operation in the páramo. Ultimately, the government succeeded in getting the company to withdraw its environmental impact study.
Mining operations in South America are also having a major impact on the soil, which is especially important to the indigenous and small farmer populations. Mining concessions have taken tens of thousands of hectares from these people and, in the process, impeded free transit through many regions. The mining has also prevented communities from using the soil to raise stock and harvest subsistence resources such as firewood, mushrooms, wild fruits, natural materials for crafts and plants for culinary and medicinal uses. Mining has also wounded the forest, which is the habitat of the spirits, the forces in favor of and against humans, the place where one consults one’s destiny and where one gets the answers for future decisions. The mountains have a special meaning in the mythology of the high-Andean cultures; they are theApus, or sacred mountains, understood as divinities whose supernatural powers care for and protect the inhabitants of the altiplano and govern their destinies.
The ancestral and agricultural peoples depend on their territories for their subsistence and for the development of their culture. This is made clear every time the states make commitments to mining development, such as in the case of Wirikuta in Mexico, spurring opposition by communities that the state wants to resettle elsewhere.5 The Huichol people, who call themselves Wixárika, who inhabit the Sierra de Catorce, consider their surroundings to be a sacred place. They call it Wirikuta and they have paid tribute to it from time immemorial. In their cosmogony, Wirikuta is one of the five cardinal points that gave rise to the world; there were born the gods under the influence of the powerful Tau (the Sun), which they consider the pillar of life. Therefore, they say, its destruction would mean the end of humankind.
What is at stake in all these situations is the replacement of stable, ancient systems of life with systems of consumption and markets. Mining displaces the “permanent” view of life, and imposes conceptions of life as “transitory and disposable.” By forcing communities to migrate to cities or other regions, or disrupting their traditional cultures, mining concessions profoundly alter and even destroy communities. In addition, mining interventions destroy archeological vestiges, ceremonial sites, cemeteries, and other material and nonmaterial expressions of culture. Mining exploration roads and large craters resulting from open pit mines inflict harm on large areas of nature, threatening biodiversity as some plant and animal species disappear forever.
Biodiversity is also threatened by climate change, another side effect of mining through the use of fossil fuels in its operations, and in generating thermoelectricity to feed the mineral production processes. It has been noted that nearly 10 percent of global energy consumption can be attributed to mining (Earthworks 2003).
Mining is not just displacing farming from one area to another it is disrupting biodynamic agriculture cycles based on ancestral knowledge that have been effectively used for centuries. Mining threatens the cultural traditions and customs that have sustained soil conservation practices, managed planting time and coordinated agricultural work with subtle bio-indicators. The Quechua and Aymara farmers of Puno were accustomed to predicting the climate and the moments for planting their crops based on biological indicators. The state of development of a species of ants made it possible to determine the rains and frosts in that region of the Peruvian altiplano. If the young ants had lost their wings early, the crops would also come early. A certain cactus that flowered early ratified the message of the insects: the time to plant had come. With the displacement of communities and the consequent abandonment of traditional activities based on ancestral and millenary knowledge of one’s surroundings, we are losing priceless cultural knowledge and traditions, which are often impossible to recover.
The mining industry’s involvement in South American societies has devalued the idea of sovereignty – the ability of a people to decide the fate of its territories. It has also corrupted governments as mining interests use political manipulation and blackmail to achieve their goals. Mining companies have used a series of financial mechanisms to hide their actual income so that they can avoid paying their due income taxes and royalties (Alcayaga 2005). Such corruption of public servants and white collar crime are further eroding the ethics and morality of South American socieites.
The struggle against mining in the region is often presented as opposition to development. In fact, the communities affected and environmental organizations are struggling to recover and exercise their basic human rights. This struggle will continue so long as mining corporations and governments rely upon the mining model to enclose the commons.


  • Acosta, Alberto. 2009. La maldición de la abundancia. Quito. Abya Yala.
  • Alcayaga Julian. 2005. Manual del defensor del Cobre.
  • Cereceda, Enrique. 2007. Agua y minería, una industria sedienta. Bnamericas.
  • Choquehuanca, David. 2010. Hacia la reconstrucción del vivir bien. Alai.
  • Swampa, M. and A. Antonelli. 2010. Minería Transnacional, Biblos. Buenos Aires.
César Padilla (Chile) is an anthropologist with a master’s degree and co-founder of the Latin American Observatory of Environmental Conflicts (OCLA), specializing in mining, environment and communities, and coordinator of the Observatory of Latin American Mining Conflicts (OCMAL). He has been involved with conflicts among communities, mining companies and states in several Latin American countries and has published works about social and environmental conflicts provoked by mining.
First published in Wealthofthecommons.org/
Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

 The Pelletised Face of Kashmir

Press Release
16th August 2016

Peoples Union for Democratic Rights is horrified that the Rajya Sabha which debated the situation in Jammu and Kashmir on August 10, could not muster resolve to call for an immediate halt to use of pellet guns, which is not used anywhere in either India or the world for policing. Since the killing of Burhan Muzzafar Wani on July 8, the onslaught on unarmed innocent civilian continues by the armed forces and state police in the Kashmir Valley. The Central Government has decided to add more troops in one of world’s most heavily militarised region empowered by legal immunity for any crime/atrocity committed by them against civilians. Protests are being met with tear gas shells, pellet guns and bullets.   

In Qazigund in South Kashmir, three people- two women and a man were killed by members of the 9 Rashtriya Rifles contingent of the Indian army on 18th of July. In another incident, a 26 year old Riyaz Ahmed Shah, who worked as an ATM Guard was killed in Karan Nagar while he was on his way back home on his scooter. His body was lying in a pool of blood on the deserted road. This case exposes the false narrative created by the Central Government around the usage of ‘force’ against the ‘unruly’ mob as Riyaz was not part of any protest. In fact, he worked in the morning as a salesman and in the evening as a guard. The doctors at the Shri Maharja Hari Singh hospital (SMSH) found over 300 pellets in his body and exposed the official account which alleged his death was due to a road accident. Amir Bashir Lone, a resident of Shopian District met with a similar fate when he was shot with pellets on his head.

The statistics from the ground zero is alarming, with over 6000 people injured, 300 of them  blinded by pellets, 40 odd maimed, and 60 people killed in past one month itself. In an unique protest, medicos who have been treating injured civilians’ under most onerous condition, sat on a protest on August 10, covering their one eye with a bandage expressing their angst against the un-abating use of pellets and demanding their immediate ban. Another disturbing feature is the systematic arrest of thousands of youth and night raids being conducted across Kashmir. The scale of this operation can be gauged from    a poster issued by the Police in Narwara, Eidgah in Old City of Srinagar which carried a list of 117 youths being sought by Police with a warning that they will be booked under the dreadful Public Safety Act. Given the record of yesteryears, when youths were subjected to torture in custody, the fact that most are being sent across to Jammu, away from their family and friends, fills us with fear at their plight. 

Instead of addressing the root causes behind Kashmiri people’s disenchantment with Indian State, the Government is moving towards an all out offensive by replacing or complementing existing forces with Army. Government of India has refused to allow a visit by an All Party delegation, because the Government has much to hide. The likelihood of kill count and other crimes rising is beyond doubt.

If ever India’s democratic conscience is being tested, it is now. PUDR appeals that if we remain mute today while we witness the disgraceful behaviour of the Government of India which persists with the criminal use of strong arm methods including of lethal pellet guns and bullets, as well as at the absolute lack of compassion exhibited by them, then we betray our own people who are coming under such relentless attack for demanding their right of self-determination.  How many more people must die and how many more years must pass before we stand in solidarity with the Kashmiri people for their just and democratic demand.

Deepika Tandon & Moushumi Basu
(Secretaries PUDR)                                                                                    
New Delhi
16th August, 2016

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Cow Vigilantism

‘Communal Fascism Will Not Pass’


Cow vigilantism which has received tremendous boost since the ascendance of BJP at the centre got its first fitting reply in Gujarat recently. The way in which a self-proclaimed Gau Rakshak Dal—owing allegiance to Shiv Sena—attacked a group of Dallts in Una (11th July 2016) who were skinning a dead cow, publicly flogged them, led them to the police station charging them with cow slaughter and even circulated a video of the whole incident on social media to spread further terror, has caused tremendous uproar.
Thousands and thousands of Dalits have come out on streets in different parts of the state, gheraoed government offices, damaged government property, enforced state-wide bandh and tried to bring the government to its knees, demanding severe punishment to the guilty and strict action against the police and government officials who failed to act upon their complaint when they were being publicly brutalised.
The wave of protests has still not ebbed. The anger still simmers. Protest rallies still continue.
There have been thirty incidents of suicide attempts by Dalit youth protesting the Una incident within a span of just one week. People across political spectrum are appealing to the angry youth not to resort to this extreme step and continue with peaceful struggle. Undoubtedly, Una incident and the consequent Dalit assertion is proving to be a great turning point in the history of the Dalit movement as Dalits have ultimately realised that politics of Hindutva is strengthening and further consolidating the purity and pollution based caste system. The growing disenchantment of Dalits with the politics of Hindutva was very much evident when their protests reached Narendra Modi's home town of Vadnagar itself where thousands of Dalits participated in a militant demonstration blaming the Prime Minister himself and BJP for the brutal thrashing of Dalits. Videos of the protest showed many Dalit people shouting, "Hai re Modi... hai-hai re Modi,"—modification of a slogan used by women during Hindu funeral processions.
The outrage has rekindled memories of the militant assertion in early eighties led by the earlier generation of young Dalits wherein they had fought to defend policy ol reservation and also dared to take on the Hindutva formations head-on.
It has also been a great learning experience for ordinary dalits in the state who comprise around eight per cent of the population and who were largely co-opted by the Hindutva formations in their project of hate and exclusion. One unique form of struggle adapted by the protesters this time has rattled the ruling elite tremendously and has the potential of nationwide resonance. It involved throwing of carcasses of dead cows at government offices, outside the houses of prominent politicians, removal of which became a strenuous affair even for the establishment. A large section among them have even boycotted work of collecting dead bovines and have even declared that henceforth they are ready to die of hunger but would not take up the occupation again. In fact, by this simple act Dalits have rather issued a warning to the Manuvadi / Brahminical forces that the day they resolve to leave all those 'dirty' professions for which they are stigmatised, a catastrophe like situation awaits them. One of the activists who 'pioneered' this unique form told a correspondent that they have stopped doing it to teach them a lesson.
Fact finding reports which have appeared in sections of the media tell how the police did not stop the perpetrators on their way and also took hours to lodge a simple FIR and arrest the criminals. There are even unconfirmed reports that local police had even tipped the Gau Rakshak Dal about the skinning of the dead cow. The complicity and connivance of the local police is evident also in the fact that despite enough proof available with it in the form of the video of the incident about involvement of more than thirty people in the thrashing incident, it has kept number of arrests limited at eight only and is trying to portray it as an one off incident.
The unfolding Dalit outrage which found the state government in deep slumber has brought to the fore many other similar recent incidents where Dalits had come under attack at the hands of Gau Rakshak Dal and the silence maintained by the police which had even refused to entertain complaints lodged by the victims. It has also given a vent to pent up anger of the dalits against daily humiliations and discrimination faced by them, widespread existence of exclusion and untouchability in social life, denial of basic human rights and manifold spurt in atrocities in the state in recent times and failure of the powers that be to take proactive measures to curb the growing menace.
The criminal acts by the Gau Rakshaks and the impunity with which they are ready to take law into their hands which has received nationwide attention has also been an occasion for the senior members of the bureaucracy to speak out about the menace they have become all over the state. Chief Secretary of the state G R Gloria is reported to have told a national daily that,
"These vigilantes are self-proclaimed gau rakshaks but in actual fact they are hooligans". According to him "there are as many as 200 cow vigilante groups in Gujarat who have become a law and order problem because of their aggression and the way they take law into their hands and government is going to take strong action against them. The Chief Secretary was even categorical in admitting that lower level police personnel are hand in glove with these vigilantes."
It is worth emphasising that not some time ago even the Punjab-Haryana high court while ordering CBI probe into the death of Mustain, a transporter at the hands of members of another Gau Rakshak Dal in Kurukshetra, Haryana (March 2016) had under tied the growing criminalisation of the Cow Protectors who work with impunity. It said that so-called cow vigilante groups constituted with the backing of political bosses and senior functionaries governing the state, including police,
"..[a]re bent upon circumventing law and fleecing poor persons ferrying their animals, be it for any personal domestic use or otherwise.... Apparently even the senior functionaries of the police are hand-in-glove with such vigilante groups."
Dalit anger witnessed on the streets of Gujarat—variously described as Dalit rebellion by a section of the commentators—has had spiralling effect in other parts of the country as well, and has also helped galvanise the entire parliamentary opposition camp which has even demanded that there should be immediate ban on all such Gau Rakshak Dals and all such miscreants who operate under its name and engage in mayhem. Members of parliament on the floor of the house have denounced all these vigilante groups who are targeting Muslims as well as Dalits. brutalising them in very many ways and on occasions lynching them and explained how the policies and programmes of the powers that be has made a conducive atmosphere for their proliferation and demanded ban on them.
The manner in which cow is being moved at the centre stage of politics and where mere a rumour that it is being slaughtered somewhere gives miscreants a licence to take law into their own hands with due connivance of the police and administration, is being compared with neighbouring Pakistan where the 'crime of blasphemy' serves similar purpose. Pakistan has lost many precious lives and many more are rotting in jail due to its refusal to check religious fanatics for whom the blasphemy laws have become a tool to intimidate innocents. Concerns are being raised whether India would similarly go 'Pakistan' way -unable to stop erosion of secular principles in polity and facilitating further legitimacy to faith in social-political lives.
The open letter by Lalu Prasad Yadav to PM Modi in the aftermath of the Una incident captures the prevalent mood in the country wherein he had described how actions by cow vigilante groups—which are receiving state patronage—has created an ambience of terror and intimidation among farmers, tribals, dalits and all those people who are engaged in cattle trading. In his open letter he has directly blamed 'RSS as well as PM Modi' being responsible for this state of affairs.
While the BJP and RSS having lost battle of perceptions are busy counting losses in the aftermath of the Una incident, and assessing its electoral fallout, the misogynistic remarks by a senior leader of the BJP targeting Ms Mayawati, leader of BSP and who has been Chief Minister of UP, has added further fuel to the fire. It is a different matter that all their 'regrets' about these remarks expressed on the floor of the house have proved to be an eyewash and at ground level they are trying to be on the offensive again utilising similar condemnable remarks allegedly made by a fellow politican of the BSP.
Coming close on the heels of demolition of Ambedkar Bhavan, in neighbouring Maharashtra by a BJP led government—a decision which it regrets now because of spurt in voices of opposition to this act—and the nationwide mass movement which emerged after the 'institutional murder' of scholar Rohith Vemula of Hyderabad Central University, and the alleged role of few central ministers in letting it happen and a series of anti-Dalit actions and controversial statements by its top leaders targeting the community, or their attempts to discontinue the policy of affirmative action for Dalits and Adivasis, the unfolding Dalit anger has also seriously dented their well-planned strategy of consolidating their base among the Dalits at an all India level. Undoubtedly Dalit outrage has not only put the saffron dispensation at the state as well as centre on the defensive and has put paid to their well calibrated strategy of appropriating Ambedkar by projecting him as a 'Hindu Social Reformer'.
Despite their claims vis-a-vis Hindu Unity, this incident—which was no exception and was part of a unfolding pattern of denying basic human rights to Dalits, intimidating them and using them as storm-troppers for their anti-minority actions—has laid bare the essentially Manuvadi / Brahminical core of their ideology based on exclusion and hate. In fact their worldview is basically anti-thetical to any vision of dalit empowerment/emancipation or for that matter inclusive development. And it has further demonstrated that their feverish attempts notwithstanding to aggravate tensions between dalits and muslims at grassroots level on flimsy pretext, in their worldview of Hindu Rashtra both of them are equally dispensable. The unprecedented fury shown by the Dalit masses in a state, which has been ruled by the Hindutva forces for more than 15 years, and was projected by them as a unique 'Gujarat Model' of development prior to the elections to the Parliament in 2014, has shaken them to the core and has left them scrambling for solutions. They are slowly realising that the assertion of the Dalit masses has the potential of disrupting all their political calculations in the coming elections to different state assemblies—Punjab, UP and Gujarat itself—which are scheduled to be held in 2017.
Another ignoble aspect of the present phase of 'Dalit Uprising' is the role of the media which (barring exceptions) seems to have become a handmaiden of Hindutva's exclusion centred politics. A cursory perusal of the coverage of the corporate funded and controlled media demonstrate that it has refused to report Dalit mobilisations on massive scale which have consistently challenged and questioned Hindutva politics. A representative example of their Varna dominated, anti-dalit worldview can be had from the way they completely under reported the massive gathering in Mumbai recently where more than 1.5 lakh people had gathered to protest the demolition of Ambedkar Bhavan, by the BJP-Shiv Sena regime. Forget being watchdog of democracy as it is being projected elsewhere, forget its role of being objective it reporting events and analysis, it seems much happy in its metamorphosis of being spokesperson of the powers that be- a situation much worse than what existed during emergency when 'it was asked to bend and decided to crawl'.
The depredations of the cow vigilante groups are not limited to Dalits alone, in fact, Muslims have been their chief targets—as a cursory perusal of events since last two years makes it obvious. The latest in the series happened to be from Gurgaon where two Muslim transporters were attacked by a Gau Rakshak group and were fed with cow dung laced with urine since they were found to be carrying cattles. A video of the said incident had also gone viral. A leader of the group even claimed on camera that they have done it to 'purify' them of their sins. And since Haryana happens to be a BJP ruled state—which is also contemplating forming 'Cow Protection Force' much on the lines of Home Guards and has also appointed a special officer of the IAS rank to curb 'cow smuggling' there was no action against the perpetrators.
It was only last year that Palwal in Haryana witnessed communal riot like situation. The immediate trigger for the situation was the cow vigilantes themselves who had attacked a truck carrying meat and had spread a rumour that it was carrying beef Police reached there within no time and instead of taking action against the perpetrators charged the driver and owner of the truck with criminal conspiracy and sent them to jail. The very next day government announced that all cases filed earlier against 'cow protectors' would be withdrawn immediately making it obvious that how it would have no qualms if similar actions occur in future.
End of December last year, village Banokhedi, district Kanial (Haryana) witnessed indiscriminate firing, by a cow vigilante group on a canter (mini-truck) which was carrying people—most of them belonging to minority community—who were travelling from Punjab to UP for the coming Panchayat elections. It led to death of one youth and serious injuries to several others. Cow vigilantes attacked the truck in middle of the night and what was more worrisome that there were few policemen also with them. Later five people were arrested among them there were two policemen as well.
The menace of cow vigilante groups is not limited to one particular area or state, it has spread all over the country. Few months back cow vigilantes had lynched two youths belonging to minority community (one of them a minor) near Latehar, Jharkhand and left them hanging on tree, as they were also found carrying cattles and the cow protectors wanted to 'teach them a lesson'. Sarahan village, District Nahan (Himachal Pradesh) was witness to an attack on a group of minority youth by cow vigilantes (Oct 2015) which led to death of one of them and four others were seriously wounded. Cow vigilantes alleged that the youth were engaged in cow smuggling. Last year similar group attacked a Kashmir bound truck with petrol bomb which led to the death of a young man Zahid (19 years) because of serious burn injuries. It was only few months back that Mehbooba Mufti, Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir wrote to Chief Minister of Punjab how people from Kashmir who are meat exporters and traders are being regularly brutalised in  the state by self-proclaimed Gau Bhakts.
It is futile to imagine that BJP—an affiliate of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)—would rein in Cow Vigilantes, just because Dalits are feeling outraged over some incidents involving them or sections of judiciary or even executives are appalled at their transgressing of Constitutional values and principles or the peace and justice loving people of the country are reminding the Pracharak turned PM that he had declared in the august house of the Parliament that for him 'Constitution is the most sacred book now'.
The Sangh Parivar, operates through its vast network of what are known as anushangik (affiliated) organisations—with a strict division of labour between them—to further the agenda of Hindu Rashtra. In fact, it would leave no stone unturned to deflect attention of the people from its essentially Varna mindset which, refuses to even acknowledge that assertion of Dalits has basis in the age old hierarchy based caste system. They would be ready to go to any extent to silence all such voices which are questioning them, challenging them and are in a position to put roadblocks on their 'path to victory'. An inkling of what is in store for all such voices can be had from the unprovoked attack on a public meeting protesting Dalit atrocities in Gujarat organised by a Dalit group in the heart of the capital itself by an organisation which is alleged to be close to the Hindutva Brigage.
Ongoing attacks on Dalits in the 'model state of Gujarat' or an overall spurt in atrocities against Dalits presents before all those Dalit leaders a pertinent question who had joined the Modi bandwagon before his ascent to power and in a way helped sanitise his controversial role in the Gujarat carnage (2002 )when he happened to be Chief Minister. Whether the likes of Athavales, Udit Rajs and Paswans would still cling to aprons of power, further facilitating whitewashing of this essentially anti-Dalit and anti-oppressed regime or would listen to the clarion call given by the Dalits on the streets of Gujarat that without fighting RSS and Modi led BJP, Dalit emancipation cannot even be imagined.
The unfolding Dalit outrage also poses important question before the Dalit movement itself. Whether anger witnessed would just peter away or would be able to reinvigorate the radical agenda of Ambedkarite politics centering on caste annihilation and fighting capitalism and would present a systemic challenge before the Manuvadi-Hindutva forces forging alliances with like-minded forces. Parties like BSP have lot many things to answer on this issue.
No doubt, unfolding cow vigilantism and continued silence maintained by the net-savvy PM over attacks on Dalils and minorities has further exposed the real agenda of this government. Analysts are predicting that the ruling dispensation will have to pay heavily because of its essentially anti-Dalit world view in coming elections to state assemblies. What is still unclear that how all such forces, formations who are opposed to the agenda of Hindutva and are keen to defend secularism in the country and further democracy to the grassroots level, are strategising so that the exclucivist agenda of Hindutva is delivered a crushing defeat not only at the electoral level but at the social level also and what role a reinvigorated left is ready to play in the unfolding situation. It remains to be seen whether there would be parallel realignment of various social and political forces at the ground level comprehending the menace the very politics of Hindutva presents before the country.
The present moment in the country's history is pregnant with tremendous possibilities and demand- a creative, energetic and strategic intervention from the revolutionary left.
One is reminded of the historic slogan raised during anti-fascist struggles in 30s which declared that 'Fasicsm will Not Pass'. It was a time when a united front of communists, anarchists, socialists and republicans had come up and were fighting shoulder to shoulder which was also joined in by non-party people from town and country, because everyone had realised what a victory for fascism would mean to Spain.
Vol. 49, No.5, Aug 7 - 13, 2016
- See more at: http://www.frontierweekly.com/articles/vol-49/49-5/49-5-Communal%20Fascism%20Will%20Not%20Pass.html#sthash.Fcp0Jhfp.dpuf

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Condemn strongly, RSS attempt to cover up Child Right abuse of Assam Children
 exposed by Neha Dixit in Outlook magzine
India: Full Text of Citizens Statement Against Attack on Journalist Neha Dixit For Exposing the RSS!
Tuesday, 9 August 2016
South Asia Citizens Web

August 8, 2016
We, the undersigned journalists, activists and academics, condemn in the strongest terms, the brazen attack launched by RSS organizations and individuals on journalist Neha Dixit and Outlook magazine for a thorough investigative report by Dixit based on three months of field work. This report revealed how different Sangh outfits trafficked 31 tribal girls, some as young as three years, from tribal areas of Assam, to Punjab and Gujarat. Orders were issued to these organizations by the Assam State Commission for the Protection of Child Rights, the Child Welfare Committee (Kokrajhar), the State Child Protection Society, and Childline (Delhi and Patiala), to return the children to Assam. These orders were violated with impunity by Sangh-run institutions with the help of the Gujarat and Punjab governments.
On the publication of this report in Outlook [http://www.outlookindia.com/magazine/story/operation-betiuthao/297626], a police complaint was lodged at Latasil Police Station on grounds of inciting communal hatred, and the police registered an FIR against Indranil Roy (Publisher), Krishna Prasad (Editor) of Outlook and Neha Dixit, writer of the story. The complainants are Bijon Mahajan (BJP spokesperson and Gauhati High Court advocate), Mominul Awwal (BJP Minority Cell) and Subhash Chandra Kayal (Assistant Solicitor General).
Instead of launching an investigation into the trafficking, the police have chosen to act on a frivolous and motivated complaint against those who exposed the crime. We demand that the police immediately file charges against those who conduct child trafficking.
In addition, RSS organizations have started a campaign targeting Neha Dixit and Outlook in social media, claiming “defamation”, and we can expect more trumped up police complaints and legal interventions. We are also aware that these Hindutva brigades often take the law into their own hands, unleashing violence with impunity, emboldened by the current regime.
RSS organizations and individuals have long used the law and police machinery to hound artists and intellectuals from MF Hussain to Ashis Nandy, invoking the legal section of “inciting communal hatred” to stifle freedom of expression, using it whenever their own communally violent and hate-inducing tactics and actions are revealed and made public. Journalists are particularly vulnerable, as their investigative reports that reveal RSS organizations’ strategies to attack minorities, Hinduise tribals and created hatred between communities, are themselves targeted as “inciting communal hatred”.
We condemn these familiar and reprehensible tactics of the RSS machinery and appeal to our legal justice system to be alert to the misuse of courts and legal machinery by these forces.
We also demand that all criminal action against Neha Dixit and Outlook be dropped, as this is an intolerable attack on freedom of the press to publish thoroughly researched articles in the public interest.
  • Pamela Philipose
  • Siddharth Varadarajan
  • Vidya Subrahmaniam
  • Anuradha Bhasin Jamwal
  • Om Thanvi
  • Manoj Joshi
  • Jyoti Malhotra
  • Monobina Gupta
  • Akshaya Mukul
  • Ajoy Ashirwad
  • Vikhar Ahmed Sayeed
  • Abhimanyu Kumar
  • Pheroze L Vincent
  • Venkitesh Ramakrishnan
  • Ritwik Sharma
  • Sarthak Ray
  • Sevanti Ninan
  • Geeta Seshu
  • Swati Bhattacharjee
  • Mannika Chopra
  • Shuma Raha
  • Shruti Ganpatye
  • Raksha Kumar
  • Anam Mittra
  • Vinaya Deshpande
  • Indira Jaising
  • Shabnam Hashmi
  • Ilina Sen
  • Harsh Mander
  • Lalita Ramdas
  • Kavita Krishnan
  • Vrinda Grover
  • Kavita Srivastava
  • Deepti Sharma
  • Aditya Shrivastava
  • Mihira Sood
  • Pyoli Swatija
  • Achin Vanaik
  • Susie Tharu
  • Jayati Ghosh
  • J Devika
  • Apoorvanand
  • Gautam Bhan
  • Sunalini Kumar
  • Jyotirmaya Sharma
  • Janaki Nair
  • Rohini Hensman
  • Radhika Singha
  • Ritu Dewan
  • Bishnupriya Paul
  • V Sujatha
  • Kumkum Roy
  • Supriya Varma
  • Karthik Bittu
  • Anita Ghai
  • Sujata Patel
  • Satish Deshpande
  • Nivedita Menon
  • Baidik Bhattacharya
  • Aditya Nigam
  • Virginia Saldanha
  • Shilpa Phadke
  • Mary John
  • Urvashi Butalia
  • Ritu Menon
  • Aniket Alam
  • Shipra Nigam
  • Kalyani Menon-Sen
  • Ankita Anand
  • Amrita Nandy
  • Anuradha Banerji
  • Vineeta Bal
  • Japleen Pasricha
  • Meena Saraswati Seshu
  • Arundhati Duru
  • Sandhya Srinivasan
  • Monisha Behal
  • Abha Bhaiya
  • Aruna Burte
  • Jeevika
  • Jhuma Sen
  • Papori Bora
  • Dipa Sinha
  • G Arunima
  • Lata Singh
  • Ranjani Mazumdar
  • Rachana Johri
  • Kamayani Bali Mahabal
  • Rimple Mehta
  • Pramada Menon
  • Geetha Nambisan
  • Aarthi Pai
  • Virginia Saldanha
  • Vidya Reddy
  • Pushpa
  • Vasudha Mohanka
  • Urvashi Sarkar
  • Sarojini NB
  • Soma KP
  • Kavitha Muralidharan
  • Veena Poonacha
  • Deepa Venkatachalam
  • Ranjana Padhi
  • Shambhavi Prakash
  • Guneet Ahuja
  • Meena Menon
  • Moushumi Basu
  • T K Rajalakshmi

Monday, August 8, 2016

ਦੇਸ਼ ਭਰ 'ਚ ਕਸ਼ਮੀਰੀਆਂ ਨਾਲ ਹੋ ਰਿਹਾ ਵਿਵਹਾਰ- ਹਮਰਾ ਕੁਰੇਸ਼ੀ

ਕਸ਼ਮੀਰੀ ਹੋਣ ਦਾ ਨਿਸਾਨ
ਕਸ਼ਮੀਰ ਵਾਦੀ ਤੋਂ ਬਾਹਰ ਦੇਸ਼ ਭਰ ’ਚ ਕਸ਼ਮੀਰੀ ਵਿਦਿਆਰਥੀਆਂ ਨਾਲ ਕੀਤੇ ਜਾ ਰਹੇ ਆਮ ਮਾੜੇ ਵਰਤਾਅ ਲਈ ਰਾਜ ਮਸ਼ੀਨਰੀ ਅਤੇ ਪੁਲੀਸ ਬਲਾਂ ਨੂੰ ਜਵਾਬ ਦੇਹ ਠਹਿਰਾਉਣਾ ਹੋਵੇਗਾ।      
                                                                                                        ਹਮਰਾ ਕੁਰੇਸ਼ੀ
ਸਾਡੇ ਸ਼ਹਿਰਾਂ ਅਤੇ ਕਸਬਿਆਂ ਵਿੱਚ ਕਸ਼ਮੀਰੀ ਵਿਦਿਆਰਥੀਆਂ ਉੱਪਰ ਹੋ ਰਹੇ ਹਮਲਿਆਂ ਦੀਆਂ ਖਬਰਾਂ ਵਿੱਚ ਵਾਧਾ ਹੋਇਆ ਹੈ। ਅਸਲ ਵਿੱਚ ਪਿਛਲੇ ਕਈ ਸਾਲਾਂ ਤੋਂ ਜਦੋਂ ਵੀ ਉਹ ਕਸ਼ਮੀਰੀ ਵਾਦੀ ਚੋਂ ਬਾਹਰ ਨਿਕਲਦੇ ਹਨ ਤਾਂ ਉਹਨਾਂ ਨਾਲ  ਕੀਤੇ ਜਾ ਰਹੇ ਵਰਤਾਉ ਦੇ ਬਿਊਰੇ ਆਉਂਦੇ ਹਨ। ਉਹਨਾਂ ਨੂੰ ਫਿਰਕੂ ਰੰਗਤ ਨਾਲ ਲਬਰੇਜ਼ ਤਾਹਨੇ ਮਾਰੇ ਜਾਂਦੇ ਹਨ ਅਤੇ ਕਈਆਂ ਨੂੰ ਦਹਿਸ਼ਤਗਰਦ ਤੱਕ ਕਿਹਾ ਜਾਂਦਾ ਹੈ। ਕਿਉਂਕਿ ਲੋਕ ਉਹਨਾਂ ਨੂੰ ਸ਼ੱਕੀ ਨਜਰਾਂ ਨਾਲ ਦੇਖਦੇ  ਹਨ, ਇਸ ਕਰਕੇ ਉਹਨਾਂ ਨੂੰ ਹੋਸਟਲਾਂ ਅਤੇ ਹੋਟਲਾਂ ਵਿੱਚ ਵੀ ਰਹਿਣ ਲਈ ਕਮਰੇ ਵੀ ਨਹੀਂ ਮਿਲਦੇ। ਉਹਨਾਂ ਨੂੰ ਕਿਰਾਏ ’ਤੇ ਮਕਾਨ ਲੈਣ ਲਈ ਨੇੜੇ ਦੇ ਪੁਲੀਸ ਥਾਣੇ ਵਿੱਚ ਇਤਲਾਹ ਕਰਨੀ ਪੈਂਦੀ ਹੈ। ਕੀ ਕਸ਼ਮੀਰੀ ਵਿਦੇਸ਼ੀ ਹਨ? ਜਾਂ ਉਹ ਦੁਸ਼ਮਣ ਦੇਸ਼ ਤੋਂ ਆਏ ਹਨ? ਕਿ ਉਹਨਾਂ ਨੂੰ ਥਾਣੇ ਰਿਪੋਰਟ ਕਰਨੀ ਜਰੂਰੀ ਹੈ। ਅਸੀ ਕਸ਼ਮੀਰੀਆਂ ਨੂੰ ਸ਼ੱਕ ਦੀ ਨਿਗਾਹ ਨਾਲ ਕਿਉਂ ਵੇਖਦੇ ਹਾਂ? ਕਸ਼ਮੀਰੀਆਂ ਉੱਪਰ ਕਰੜੀ ਨਜ਼ਰ ਰੱਖਣ ਲਈ ਪੁਲੀਸ ਨੂੰ ਸਿਖਲਾਈ ਅਤੇ ਹੁਕਮ ਕਿਉਂ ਦਿੱਤੇ ਜਾਂਦੇ ਹਨ।?
          ਇਹ ਕੋਈ ਅਚਾਨਕ ਵਾਪਰ ਰਿਹਾ ਵਰਤਾਰਾ ਨਹੀਂ, ਬਹੁਤ ਪਹਿਲਾਂ 2003 ਵਿੱਚ ‘ਪੀਪਲਜ਼ ਯੂਨੀਅਨ ਫਾਰ ਡੈਮੋਕਰੈਟਿਕ ਰਾਈਟਸ’ ਨੇ ਵਾਦੀ ਤੋਂ ਬਾਹਰ ਕਸ਼ਮੀਰੀ ਵਿਦਿਆਰਥੀਆਂ ਨਾਲ ਕੀਤੇ ਜਾ ਰਹੇ ਮਾੜੇ ਵਰਤਾਅ ਦੇ ਵਿਸਥਾਰ ਵਰਨਣ ਕਰਦਾ ਇੱਕ ਕਿਤਾਬਚਾ ਜਾਰੀ ਕੀਤਾ ਸੀ। ਇਹ ਰੁਝਾਣ ਹੋਰ ਵੀ ਭੈੜਾ ਹੋ ਗਿਆ ਹੈ। ਇਸ ਸਾਲ ਅੱਧ ਜੁਲਾਈ ਵਿੱਚ ਭੁਪਾਲ ਅਤੇ ਹੈਦਰਾਬਾਦ ਵਿੱਚ ਦੋ ਵਿਦਿਆਰਥੀਆਂ, ਇੱਕ ਕਸ਼ਮੀਰੀ ਅਤੇ ਇੱਕ ਕਸ਼ਮੀਰੀ ਦਿੱਖ ਵਾਲੇ ਦੀ ਰਾਜਸੀ ਗੁੰਡਿਆਂ ਨੇ ਕੁੱਟ ਮਾਰ ਕੀਤੀ। ਗਰਮੀਆਂ ’ਚ ਪਹਿਲਾਂ ਰਾਜਸਥਾਨ ਦੇ ਮੇਵਾੜ/ਚਿਤੌੜਗੜ ਖਿੱਤੇ ’ਚ ਪੜ੍ਹਦੇ ਚਾਰ ਕਸ਼ਮੀਰੀ ਵਿਦਿਆਰਥੀਆਂ ਦੀ ਹਾਲਾਤ ਤੱਕਣੀ ਦੁਖਦਾਈ ਸੀ। ਉਹਨਾਂ ਨੂੰ ਇਸ ਤਰ੍ਹਾਂ ਖੜ੍ਹੇ  ਹੋਣ ਲਈ ਮਜ਼ਬੂਰ ਕੀਤਾ ਗਿਆ ਜਿਵੇਂ ਉਹਨਾਂ ਨੇ ਇੱਕ ਬਹੁਤ ਹੀ ਘਿਨਾਉਣਾ ਅਪਰਾਧ ਕੀਤਾ ਹੋਵੇ। ਉਹਨਾਂ ਨੇ ਕੇਵਲ ਸਥਾਨਕ ਬਾਜ਼ਾਰ ਚੋਂ 300ਗ੍ਰਾਮ ਬੱਕਰੇ  ਦਾ ਮੀਟ ਖਰੀਦਿਆ ਸੀ। ਇਹ ਗਊ ਦੇ ਮਾਸ ਦੀ ਅਫਵਾਹ ਉਡਾਉਣ ਨਾਲ ਉਹਨਾਂ ਦੀ ਗ੍ਰਿਫਤਾਰੀ ਅਤੇ ਜਨਤਕ ਅਪਮਾਨ ਕਰਨ ਲਈ ਕਾਫੀ ਸੀ। ਇਹ ਕਸ਼ਮੀਰੀ ਵਿਦਿਆਰਥੀਆਂ ਅਤੇ ਪੇਸ਼ਾਵਰਾਂ ਨਾਲ ਕੀਤੇ ਜਾ ਰਹੇ ਵਰਤਾੳ ਦੇ ਵੇਰਵੇ ਹਨ ਕਿ ਕਿਵੇਂ ਸਥਾਨਕ ਪੁਲੀਸ ਉਹਨਾਂ ਨੂੰ ਕਿੰਨੀ ਕਰੜੀ ਨਿਗਾਰਾਨੀ ਹੇਠ ਰੱਖਦੀ ਹੈ ਕਿ ਉਹ ਕਿੱਥੇ ਖਾਂਦੇ, ਰਹਿੰਦੇ ਅਤੇ ਸਫਰ ਕਰਦੇ ਹਨ।
ਕਸ਼ਮੀਰ ਯੂਨੀਵਰਸਿਟੀ ਦੇ ਮੀਡੀਆ ਐਜੂਕੇਸ਼ਨ ਰਿਸਰਚ ਸੈਂਟਰ ਦੇ ਪ੍ਰੋਫੈਸਰ ਨਸੀਰ ਮਿਰਜਾ ਨੇ 2004 ’ਚ ਕਿਹਾ ਸੀ ਕਿ ਪੰਜਾਬ ਰਾਹੀਂ ਲੰਘ ਗੱਡੀਆਂ ਵਿੱਚ ਸਫ਼ਰ ਕਰਦੇ ਕਸ਼ਮੀਰੀਆਂ ਨੂੰ ਤੰਗ ਪ੍ਰਸ਼ਾਨ ਕਰਨ ਅਤੇ ਉਹਨਾਂ ਵੱਲੋਂ ਆਪਣੀ ਸੁਰੱਖਿਅਤਾ ਵੱਸ ਪੈਸੇ ਦੇਣ ਲਈ ਮਜ਼ਬੂਰ ਹੋਣ ਦੀਆਂ ਕਹਾਣੀਆਂ ਸਥਾਨਕ ਕਸ਼ਮੀਰੀ ਅਖਬਾਰ ਛਾਪ ਰਹੇ ਹਨ। ਹੁਣੇ ਹੀ ਜਾਮੀਆ ਮਾਲੀਆ ਇਸਲਾਮੀਆ ਦਿੱਲੀ ਯੂਨੀਵਰਸਿਟੀ ਦੇ ‘ਮਾਸ ਕਮਿਊਨੀਕੇਸ਼ਨ ਰੀਸਰਚ ਸੈਂਟਰ ਦੇ ਵਿਦਿਆਰਥੀਆਂ ਦੇ ਗਰੁੱਪ ਨੂੰ ਆਪਣੀ ਮਨਪਸੰਦ ਦੇ ਵਿਚਾਰ ’ਤੇ ਇੱਕ ਡਾਕੂਮੈਂਟਰੀ ਫਿਲਮ ਤਿਆਰ ਕਰਨ ਲਈ ਕਿਹਾ ਗਿਆ। ਉਹਨਾਂ ਨੇ ਪ੍ਰਧਾਨ ਮੰਤਰੀ ਨੇ ਜਾਣਕਾਰੀ ਦਿੱਤੀ  ਕਿ ਦਿੱਲੀ ਵਿੱਚ ਅੱਗੇ ਵਧਣ ਦੇ ਅਨੇਕਾ ਮੌਕਿਆਂ ਹਨ ਅਤੇ ਕਸ਼ਮੀਰੀ ਨੌਜਵਾਨਾਂ ਆਉਣ ਅਤੇ ਉਹਨਾਂ ਦਾ ਫਾਇਦਾ ਉਠਾਉਣ। ਇਸ ਪਿੱਛੋਂ ਕਸ਼ਮੀਰੀ ਨੌਜਵਾਨ ਵੱਲੋਂ ਉੱਥੇ ਆਉਣ ਦੇ ਲਏ ਗਏ ਫੈਸਲੇ ’ਤੇ ਕੇਂਦਰਤ ਕਰਦੀ ‘ਕਾਸ਼’ ਨਾਮ ਦੀ ਡਾਕੂਮੈਂਟਰੀ ਤਿਆਰ ਕੀਤੀ । ਇਹ ਡਾਕੂਮੈਂਟਰੀ ਉਸ ਕਸ਼ਮੀਰੀ ਨੌਜਵਾਨ ਵੱਲੋਂ ਵਾਦੀ ਚੋਂ ਨਿਕਲਣ ਬਾਅਦ ਉਸਨੂੰ  ਪ੍ਰੇਸ਼ਾਨ ਅਤੇ ਅਪਮਾਨ ਕੀਤੇ ਜਾਣ ਦਾ ਸਪੱਸ਼ਟ ਵਰਨਣ ਹੈ। ਉਸਨੂੰ ਕਿਰਾਏ ’ਤੇ ਕਮਰਾ ਵੀ ਨਹੀਂ ਮਿਲਦਾ। ਇਹ ਗੱਲ ਨਹੀ. ਕਿ ਸਿਆਸਤਦਾਨਾਂ ਨੂੰ ਇਸ ਬਾਰੇ ਕੋਈ ਇਲਮ ਨਹੀਂ। ਗੁਲਾਮ ਨਬੀ ਆਜ਼ਾਦ, ਉਮਰ ਅਬਦੁੱਲਾ, ਮੁਫਤੀ ਮਹੁੰਮਦ ਸਾਇਦ ਅਤੇ ਮਹਿਬੂਬਾ ਮੁਫਤੀ ਨੇ ਆਪਣੇ ਹਮਰੁਤਬਿਆਂ ਨਾਲ ਮੀਟਿੰਗਾਂ ਵੀ ਕੀਤੀਆਂ ਹਨ। ਸਪੱਸ਼ਟ ਹੈ ਇਹਨਾਂ ਦਾ ਕੋਈ ਅਸਰ ਨਹੀਂ ਪਿਆ।  2006 ਦੀਆਂ ਗਰਮੀਆਂ ਵਿੰਚ ਲੱਗਭੱਗ ਸਾਰੇ ਰੋਜਾਨਾ ਅਖਬਾਰਾਂ ’ਚ ਰਿਪੋਰਟ ਕੀਤਾ ਗਿਆ ਕਿ ਗੁਲਾਮ ਨਬੀ ਆਜ਼ਾਦ ਨੇ  11 ਰਾਜਾਂ ਦੇ ਮੁੱਖ ਮੰਤਰੀਆਂ ਨੂੰ ਡੀ.ਜੀ.ਪੀ. ਪੁਲੀਸ ਜਾਂ ਵਧੀਕ ਡੀ.ਜੀ.ਪੀ. ਪੁਲੀਸ ਨਾਲ ਸਲਾਹ ਮਸ਼ਬਰੇ ਬਗੈਰ ਕਸ਼ਮੀਰੀ ਵਿਦਿਆਰਥੀਆਂ ਅਤੇ ਵਪਾਰੀਆਂ ਨੂੰ  ਪ੍ਰੇਸ਼ਾਨ ਕਰਨ ਜਾਂ ਕੋਈ ਹੋਰ ਕਾਰਵਾਈ ਕਰਨ ਨਾ ਕਰਨ ਲਈ ਕਿਹਾ ਸੀ ਤਾਂ ਕਿ ਕਿਸੇ ਇਲਾਕੇ ਵਿੱਚ ਹੋਈ ਕਿਸੇ ਦਹਿਸ਼ਤਰਗਦੀ ਘਟਨਾਂ ਕਰਕੇ ਪੁੱਛਗਿੱਛ ਦੇ ਬਹਾਨੇ ਮਾਸੂਮ ਕਸ਼ਮੀਰੀਆਂ ਨੂੰ ਤੰਗ ਪ੍ਰਸ਼ਾਨ ਕਰਨ ਨਾ ਕੀਤਾ ਜਾ ਸਕੇ। ਆਜ਼ਾਦ ਦੀ ਉਪਰੋਕਤ ਬਿਆਨ ਕੀਤੀ ਅਪੀਲ ਦੇ ਬਾਵਜੂਦ ਗੁਜਰਾਤ ਤੋਂ ਚਿੰਤਾਜਨਕ ਰਿਪੋਰਟਾ ਆਈਆਂ। ਅਹਿਮਦਾਬਾਦ ਦੇ  ਵੇਤਵਾ ਇਲਾਕੇ ’ਚ  ਹੋਏ ਪੁਲੀਸ ਮੁਕਾਬਲੇ ਵਿੱਚ ਚਾਰ ਕਸ਼ਮੀਰੀ ਦਹਿਸ਼ਤਗਰਦਾਂ ਹੋਣ ਦੀ ਖਬਰ ਤੋਂ  ਬਾਅਦ ਅਹਿਮਦਾਬਾਦ ਤੋਂ ਅਜਿਹੀ ਇੱਕ ਰਿਪੋਰਟ ਛਪੀ ਕਿ ਅਹਿਮਦਾਬਾਦ ਅਤੇ ਮੁੰਬਈ ਦੇ ਜੁਰਮ ਰੋਕੂ ਵਿਭਾਗ ਪੁਲੀਸ ਮੁਕਾਬਲਿਆਂ ’ਚ ਨਿਸਾਨੇ ਵਜੋਂ ਵਰਤਣ ਲਈ ਆਪਸ ਵਿੱਚ ਨਜ਼ਬਬੰਦਾਂ ਦਾ ਅਦਾਨ ਪ੍ਰਦਾਨ ਕਰਦੇ ਰਹਿੰਦੇ ਹਨ...ਭਰੋਸੇਯੋਗ ਸੂਤਰਾਂ ਅਨੁਸਾਰ ਇਹ ਚਾਰੇ ਵੀ ਨਜਬਬੰਦ ਸਨ ਜਿਹੜੇ ਪਿਛਲੇ ਚਾਰ ਮਹੀਨਿਆਂ ਤੋਂ ਸਿਟੀ ਪੁਲਸ ਦੀ ਹਿਰਾਸਤ ਵਿੱਚ ਸਨ।
ਸਵਰਗੀ ਮੁਫਤੀ ਮਹੁੰਮਦ ਸਈਦ ਨਾਲ ਦੋ ਵਾਰ (ਇੱਕ ਵਾਰ ਜਦੋਂ ਉਹ ਕੇਂਦਰੀ ਗ੍ਰਹਿ ਵਜ਼ੀਰ ਸਨ ਅਤੇ ਇੱਕ ਵਾਰ ਜਦੋਂ ਉਹ ਜੰਮੂ ਕਸ਼ਮੀਰ ਦੇ ਮੁੱਖ ਮੰਤਰੀ ਸਨ) ਨਾਲ ਮੁਲਾਕਾਤ ਦੌਰਾਨ ਮੈਂ ਉਹਨਾਂ ਨੂੰ ਵਾਦੀ ਚੋਂ ਬਾਹਰ ਨਿਕਲਦਿਆਂ ਕਸ਼ਮੀਰੀਆਂ ਦੇ ਨਾਲ ਕੀਤੇ ਜਾ ਰਹੇ ਵਰਤਾੳ ਬਾਰੇ ਟਿੱਪਣੀ ਕਰਨ ਲਈ ਕਿਹਾ। ਉਹਨਾਂ ਨੇ ਵਿਸਥਾਰ ਪੂਰਬਕ ਉਤਰ ਦਿੱਤਾ: ਮੈ ਕਸ਼ਮੀਰ ਤੋਂ ਬਾਹਰ ਕੁੱਝ ਪੀੜਤ ਕਸ਼ਮੀਰੀਆਂ ਵੱਲੋਂ ਸਾਹਮਣਾ ਕੀਤੇ ਜਾਂਦੇ ਮਾੜੇ ਵਰਤਾਅ  ਅਤੇ ਅਪਮਾਨ ਬਾਰੇ ਜਾਣੂ ਹਾਂ। ਮੈਂ ਮੀਟਿੰਗਾਂ ਵਿੱਚ ਸਾਰੇ ਭਾਰਤੀ ਮੁਸਲਮਾਨਾਂ ਨੂੰ ਸ਼ੱਕ ਦੀ ਨਿਗਾਹ ਨਾਲ ਦੇਖਣ ਦੇ ਖਤਰਿਆਂ ਬਾਰੇ ਖੁੱਲ੍ਹੇ ਤੌਰ ’ਤੇ ਬੋਲਿਆ ਹਾਂ। ਸਾਰੇ ਭਾਰਤੀ ਮੁਸਲਮਾਨਾਂ ਨੂੰ ਦਾਊਦ ਇਬਰਾਹਮ ਵਰਗਿਆਂ ਨਾਲ ਨਾਂ ਨੱਥੀ ਕਰੋ। ਮੈਂ ਭਾਰਤੀ ਮੁਸਲਮਾਨਾਂ ਦੀਆਂ ਕਿੰਨੀਆਂ ਹੀ ਘਟਨਾਵਾਂ ਦਾ ਵਰਨਣ ਕੀਤਾ ਹੈ ਪਰ ਫ਼ਿਰ ਮੈਨੂੰ ਡਰ ਹੈ ਕਿ ਕਿਸੇ ਪੱਧਰ ’ਤੇ ਪਾਲਾਬੰਦੀ ਹੋ ਰਹੀ ਹੈ।
ਅਜਿਹਾ ਕੋਈ ਪਲੇਟਫਾਰਮ ਜਾਂ ਫੋਰਮ ਨਹੀਂ ਹੈ ਜਿੱਥੇ ਕੋਈ ਪੀੜਤ ਕਸ਼ਮੀਰ ਆਪਣੀ ਸ਼ਿਕਾਇਤ ਵੀ ਦਰਜ ਕਰਵਾ ਸਕੇ। ਕੋਈ ਹੈਲਪਲਾਈਨ ਨੰਬਰ ਵੀ ਨਹੀਂ ਹੈ। ਇਹ ਕੇਵਲ ਪਾਰਦਰਸ਼ਤਾ ਜਾਂ ਜਵਾਬਦੇਹੀ ਦੀ ਘਾਟ ਨਹੀਂ  ਸਗੋਂ ਅਥਾਹ ਫਿਰਕੂ ਵਿਹਾਰ ਹੈ ਜਿਸਨੇ ਹਾਲਾਤਾਂ ਨੂੰ ਗੰਭੀਰ ਅਤੇ ਚਿੰਤਾਜਨਕ ਬਣਾ ਦਿੱਤਾ ਹੈ।
                               ਲੇਖਕ ਇੱਕ ਆਜ਼ਾਦ ਪੱਤਰਕਾਰ ਅਤੇ ‘ਅਣਕਹੀ ਕਸ਼ਮੀਰੀ ਦਾਸਤਾਨ’ ਦਾ ਲੇਖਕ ਹੈ
                                              ਪੇਸ਼ਕਾਰੀ ਪ੍ਰਿਤਪਾਲ ਸਿੰਘ (ਦਾ ਟ੍ਰਿਬਿਊਨ ਚੋਂ ਧੰਨਬਾਦ ਸਹਿਤ)

Saturday, July 30, 2016

A law against children

The amended act legalises the bulk of child labour while claiming to do the opposite.

written by Harsh Mander | July 29, 2016

Of the many injustices that have scarred India, the most unconscionable are those of unequal childhoods. The law in the country has permitted children to be confined to work instead of being in schools and at carefree play. India’s child labour law, until the recent amendments passed by Parliament, barred child work until 14 years only in officially designated hazardous employment. There was no bar on the employment of children between 14 and 18 years.
On the face of it, two major amendments to India’s child labour law seem welcome. These amendments prohibit all work, hazardous or otherwise, for children under 14, who now also enjoy the constitutional right to free and compulsory education. And for adolescents between 14 and 18 years, whose labour was entirely lawful until now, the law prohibits their employment in work scheduled as hazardous.
Yet on closer scrutiny, we discover the same pattern as many other pronouncements of this government vis a vis the poor: The reality of what is being offered is the reverse of what appears on paper. The ban on hazardous adolescent work is accompanied by changes in the schedule of hazardous work in the statute, bringing these down from 83 prohibited activities to only three. Apart from mining and explosives, the law only prohibits processes deemed hazardous under the Factories Act 1948. In other words, the amended law prohibits only that child work which is considered hazardous for adult workers, without recognising the specific vulnerabilities of children.
More damaging is the caveat in the amended law that permits even children under 14 years to now work in non-hazardous “family enterprises” after school hours and during vacations. The family is defined to include not just the child’s parents and siblings, but also siblings of the child’s parents. And a family enterprise includes any work, profession or business in which any family member works along with other persons.
In effect, this proviso accomplishes the very opposite of what it claims to do. Instead of ending child labour, it actually makes lawful once again a large part of child work that was earlier unlawful. It is estimated that around 80 per cent of child labour is in work with family members. This is in farms, forests, home-based work such as bidi rolling, carpet weaving, making of bangles and handicrafts, home-based assembly tasks, domestic work, eateries, roadside garages, and street vending. Child rights activists had fought long and hard to compel governments to include many of these occupations in the statutory list of hazardous occupations. But by the double whammy of legalising child participation in non-hazardous “family enterprise” work and drastically trimming the list of hazardous occupations, in effect the government has again legalised the bulk of child work.
Reopening the flood gates for child labour by these amendments is part of a larger package of weakening labour protections for enhancing labour market flexibility to facilitate higher corporate investments. The quarter century of economic reforms has witnessed the steady dismantling of factory floor manufacture by organised adult workers into a preference for unorganised migrant, adolescent and child workers and contractual and home-based production systems.
Home-based work absolves the owners and managers of global supply chains from any legal obligations of fair wages, healthy work conditions and social protection to the actual end-line workers who labour in isolated home-based units. Economist Archana Prasad points to the surge of home based work from 23.3 million (1999-2000) to 37.4 million workers in 2011-2012. Of this, 16 million were women home-based workers. Nearly 32 per cent of total women workers outside agriculture are home-based workers. Around 73 per cent of these women engage in home-based manufacture, in sectors such as apparel, tobacco products and textiles. Once work is undertaken within the four walls of a home, children routinely (but up to now unlawfully) assist their mothers for long hours to complete and maximise their “piece-work” orders. What these amendments accomplish is to render this child labour lawful.
The argument that has long held sway is that child labour, however unfortunate, is inevitable as long as households remained poor. Only after parents escape poverty will their children be able to enter school. What these claims ignore is that the reverse is far more true. That child labour is indeed a major cause of persisting poverty. That if a child is trapped in labour instead of being able to attend fully to her schooling, she will never be able to escape the poverty of her parents. The child of a sanitation worker, rag-picker, domestic worker or casual labourer is likely to be trapped in the professions of her parents unless she is able to access quality education. And also, for every child in work is an adult denied the same work, an adult who could have ensured that her children could be in school. We may argue that working with one’s hands is integral to a full education. But in that case, the opportunities and the obligation to work must surely lie with children of privilege as much as it does with children of disadvantage?
Children enrolled in schools but rising from disadvantage face many barriers. They may be poorly nourished; be first-generation learners; have no place for study in their homes; and be unable to afford tutors. It is they who would be further disadvantaged by this amendment.
Those who defend this amendment applaud the opportunity it would provide for children to learn the trades of their parents. This argument is a thinly disguised defence of caste, because it is only the caste system that envisages the “natural” transition of children into the professions of their parents. Why should the child of a potter learn to be a potter, and not a poet; the child of a sanitation worker not a doctor; and the child of a leather tanner not a philosopher? These amendments are one more spur to India’s ancient tradition of unequal childhoods.
Mander is a human rights worker and writer

Everything you need to know about Child Labour Amendment Bill

What is the bill all about?
In 1986, Parliament enacted a law to protect children from forced labour and exploitation, putting a blanket ban on employing children under the age of 18. It triggered several protests and even trade unions cited practical difficulties, especially for poor families. Later, in November 2012, the UPA government proposed amendments to the law to allow partial relaxation. The current bill is a modified version of the UPA’s proposals.
What does the new bill say?
The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Bill prohibits employment of children below 14 years of age in all occupations. But it allows adolescents (those between 14 and 18 years of age) to work in non-hazardous occupations and processes. They can work in family-run establishments like a grocery store but can’t work in a chemical factory.
How does the new law take care of education for children?
The new law, while giving some relaxation for employment, makes it mandatory that the child can help one’s family and a family enterprise only after school hours or during vacations. During school days, no family can employ its children for job.
What if a family or an employer is found violating the law?
In case of violation, only the employer will be held responsible. He may pay up to Rs 50,000 as penalty and face imprisonment between six months and two years. For subsequent offence, the penalty will be imprisonment between one and three years.
What happens when a child is rescued from forced labour?
It will be the responsibility of the state government to rehabilitate the child. The government will give Rs 15,000 and add the fine from the employer to help the child’s rehabilitation.

Pranab Bardhan, Economist, on What the Modi Government Has – and Hasn’t – Done So Far

By Jahnavi Sen on 26/07/2016

Economist and professor at the University of California, Berkeley Pranab Bardhan spoke to The Wire about global discontent amongst the working class, the Modi government’s policies, the need for employment generation, the controversy around Raghuram Rajan and more.

What would you say are the economic reasons for the anti-establishment political forces we’ve seen coming up, from different sides of the political spectrum, in the US and Europe?
There are many things happening in the world, but the ones I suppose you are referring to are the recent, unexpected rise of (Donald) Trump in the US, the triumph of Brexit in Britain and in general the rise of a lot of right-wing parties in Europe. Everybody is saying that there are several factors involved.
One is the consequence of globalisation. From globalisation, a lot of people have benefited. Certainly owners of capital have benefited, owners of technology have benefited. People like you and me who are more flexible because of our education and can move around the world, we have also benefited from globalisation. Even some poor people, like the young women in the garment export industry in Bangladesh, have benefited. But many other members of the working class have not, particularly in Europe and the US. A lot of workers in manufacturing industry there have lost their jobs because many of the industries have moved production to China and other countries. So those workers are dissatisfied and it is not an accident that both in Britain and in the US they have expressed their sympathy for those kind of causes. So that’s one factor – globalisation. Not just globalisation, the unequal benefits flowing from globalisation.
Second, even if globalisation were not there, this tremendous technical change that’s going on has to be reckoned with. Globalisation has also interacted with technology, but even if there was no globalisation, technological change would have caused job losses of various kinds. That would have increased dissatisfaction, particularly of workers who do not have much skill or education to take advantage of the new technology. So there’s dissatisfaction because of that. Automation, for example. In the West, already robots are taking away jobs in some sectors. Robots can easily take jobs in relatively routine type of work. That’s why many unskilled workers who are losing out are worried. That’s factor number two.
Factor number three. For quite some time, for various reasons including the first two reasons that I mentioned, labour movements in the world are getting weaker. By labour movements I particularly mean those led by trade unions. Trade unions are getting weaker, so as a result labour is struggling. Workers’ causes have suffered. There are not that many movements taking up the cause of the disgruntled worker, that’s factor number three.
Factor number four, which is very important in the US and western Europe, is immigration. Even if these other factors were not there, just because of immigration, there would have been discontent. Immigration is related to globalisation in some sense. Globalisation is free movement of goods, free movements of people, free movements of capital–of these the free movement of people is immigration. And immigration has this special issue, which may not be in the first three factors that I mentioned. For the first three factors that I mentioned, their effects are largely economic. The fourth, immigration, is not just economic. Of course immigration has economic consequences but it also affects cultural relations and the social fabric. Quite often, local people do not like (whether for right or wrong reasons) the new culture that the immigrants are bringing – new religious beliefs, morals and cultural practices, for example those with respect to women and to liberal values in general. So that causes some resentment. And the other issue related to culture is that the old community bonds of those societies are frayed.
I think if you combine these four factors, there is a lot of disgruntlement particularly among the poor and particularly among the older people. Older people voted largely for Brexit, for instance. Of course in numbers the older people vote more than the young so it comes out in the votes much more. But older workers who are used to some types of technology, culture and social issues feel threatened. Also, younger people can adjust more easily to take different types of jobs, older people don’t have that. Those, I think, are the fundamental factors behind this phenomenon.
And would you say this disgruntlement is a serious threat to mainstream economic orthodoxy?
As I said, it’s not just economic, it’s cultural and social too. The answer to your question would depend on what you mean by economic orthodoxy. If you mean by economic orthodoxy the idea that free movement of goods and capital is good, obviously this is against that. However, there’s a different aspect of orthodoxy, what you would call macroeconomic orthodoxy, and this is a matter of the big dispute in the West. The economic orthodoxy which emphasises restraining the government and the macroeconomic policy of austerity. If you regard Keynesianism as non-orthodoxy (in some contexts Keynesian policy is already a part of the othodoxy), that is a big dispute. Countries which have taken the policy of austerity have not been successful in creating jobs. So obviously this increases disgruntlement.

The other thing is, and I don’t know if you can call it orthodoxy or not, in many Western countries, macroeconomic policy that gets prominence is monetary policy, interest rate policy. In a sense Keynesians say that monetary policy is not enough, we have to do fiscal expansion, etc. But fiscal expansion means also raising more taxes and that is what the right-wing quite often in the US and in Europe are resisting. So those disputes are related to the economic orthodoxy issue.
To move a little bit to the specifics of India, since 1991, India has been going in a certain direction in terms of economic policy. Would you say this has been good for the country? Also, would you say there’s been some difference in economic policy between the Congress and the BJP, or in the way they package their policies?
I’ll not have a simple answer to this. Do I support the movement towards economic liberalisation that started with the delicensing in the mid-1980s my general answer is yes. Because when don’t allow market forces to work, and this used to be true for the license permit raj, what happens is that those licenses and permits go to only some politically favoured groups like the case of earlier licenses and permits mainly going to the monopoly business houses. I am generally in favour of opening up of opportunities for more people. It is also important that this economic liberalisation has coincided with a social phenomenon in India, which is often not commented on. It is also in this period that through democracy, gradually the lower castes and in general the weaker sections of the population( of course only some of them not all of them) have been able to come up and benefit from these new opportunities.
I’ll give you an example. Particularly in South India and West India, peasant castes (not the really low but in the middle ranks), became gradually not only more economically prosperous, but in general socially more assertive. Take the case of garment industry around Coimbatore; the main entrepreneurs there are often from a caste group called Gounder, a peasant caste. They did well in agriculture, got some money and they invested the money in this. These are not from established business houses like Tatas, Birlas and Ambanis, they are the new entrepreneurs.
So I’m just saying along with economic liberalisation, this has been a period in which some limited amount of social transformation has occurred, largely because of our democracy. So these new entrepreneurs have been able to take opportunities opened up by liberalisation. A lot of people say there are a lot more even Dalit entrepreneurs now, but one should not exaggerate. The phenomenon is observable more for the middle castes.
So in general my answer is yes, but that does not mean I am wholeheartedly in favour of liberalisation, unless some corrective measures are taken to curb its adverse effects. Everybody would recognise that when you open up markets, just as opportunities open up for people, the benefits are unequally distributed, particularly because initial endowments and available social and infrastructural facilities are different for different people . So yes, I gave you some examples of lower groups coming up, but in general inequality has been increasing all over the world, including in India. So market reform has to be accompanied with measures to correct those inequalities.
That’s where the Congress-BJP issues come up, because I think in the UPA I regime in the 2004-2009 period there were some attempts in response to this problem of inequality, some efforts were taken to improve welfare of common people. The National Advisory Council (NAC) that Sonia Gandhi created had some effect. For example, MGNREGA, the rural employment guarantee, came in that period pushed by the NAC, even though the idea of employment on public works as a safety net for poor people is quite old in India. Similarly, a very important measure was the Right to Information Act. That also grew out of a movement which was there earlier. The Forest Rights Act, which by the way is yet to be fully implemented, came as a way to stop the long dispossession of tribal people from their land and rights to use forests.
These are in a way in reaction to forces of inequality generated by market reform. So you might say those are positive aspects of the UPA regime. But there are many negative aspects of the UPA regime too. But let me go on to the BJP. Has BJP taken different policies? I think BJP’s difference in these matters is often more in rhetoric than in actuality. BJP, has not got rid of the programmes that I just mentioned. Even though they were very much opposed to MGNREGA, it’s ironical that the BJP is now taking credit for it. So that’s good. Earlier Modi came out with lot of things against NREGA, saying that ‘we’ll keep it as a monument to the failures of the Congress’. And now his ministers are claiming credit for that. That doesn’t mean that everything is fine with NREGA, there’s still lot of corruption and leakage in NREGA . The government is not helping matters, as in many cases, I understand that wage payments have not been made for several months. This is very serious, not only because it is hurting the poor. The whole idea of NREGA is that if I as a landless worker demands work, the government guarantees work. If I find that when I work I’m not paid for six months, the next time I will not demand work. So in a sense there is a self-fulfilling aspect to its failure. In any case, it is not true that wherever work was demanded it was given. There’s a lot of unmet wants in NREGA. There are a lot of other problems in NREGA, but even with all that that I would say NREGA has been a major positive step in India.
Similarly, the other thing that the UPA regime did which BJP has not discontinued is the National Food Security Act, which now in rural areas is to reach around 75% of the people. In fact people have not commented on this – in West Bengal I find, on of the platforms on which Mamata Banerjee won was the programme of Rs 2 per kg of rice. That was very popular. What Mamata never mentioned, and I’m surprised opposition didn’t mention much either, is that this is part of the central government scheme. Mamata expanded on it a little bit, but it is largely an impact of the Act.
In general I would say on many of these welfare measures which UPA started, BJP, whatever the rhetoric, has more or less continued. I would not say that there is a big difference.
One difference for BJP I should comment on here. Modi in the 2014 elections, said that we have to have a new approach. The UPA approach was “giving doles”, he said. We’re going to create jobs instead, so that is a different approach. First of all, he has not created enough jobs and I don’t think by 2019 the job situation is going to change very much, I don’t expect much of a dent on the enormous and alarming problem of not enough good jobs for the young people. The other day, in one interview Mr Modi has said, yes jobs are being created, but they’re as yet invisible. We have a whole statistical machinery, very soon these jobs should have been captured in the statistics! We don’t see that. In fact the Labour Bureau now collects a few times every year job data for eight industries, eight relatively labour-intensive industries. And if you look at them, if anything it’s getting worse. So where are Mr Modi’s invisible jobs?
This new approach of job creation, I think it was basically a hoax on the electorate. The BJP before coming to power gave the impression that ‘we are going to create jobs, look at the Gujarat model’. The Gujarat model is not a model for creating jobs! Gujarat is a state where the economic growth rate was high, but not necessarily job creation. Economic growth rate was high partly because Modi as chief minister gave a lot of capital subsidies to the large companies, run by the Ambanis, Adanis, and Essar. They are primarily in capital-intensive industries like petrochemicals, petroleum refineries, etc. And if you disaggregate Gujarat’s growth, a large part of the growth was in these sectors. So Gujarat is a model of high growth but not of jobs. These two have been mixed up in the election campaign in 2014.
But going back to doles, just now I told you that Modi’s model, the Gujarat model, was based on capital subsidies. What is that? That’s dole to the capitalists. Even on a national level if you look at the data and check how much of our subsidies go to the better off people, it’s a very substantial sum. In fact, there are some estimates which show that of our total subsidies that the government gives both in the Centre and the states, the amounts that go to the better off exceed 10% of GDP. So why do you object to doles to the poor when you are giving a much larger amount to the wealthy (a few times larger than our total anti-poverty programmes)?. Modi or anybody has no ground to stand on when they talk disparagingly about doles to the poor.
What would you say the government could be doing differently in terms of employment generation and anti-poverty programmes?
Employment generation is a very difficult subject. Employment is not that easy to generate, that’s why I’m pessimistic about the prospects. Yes, there are some things that can be done in the long run. For example, suppose you are a small producer. Like the majority of producers in India you are in the informal sector, you have a little shop, a little household enterprise. So what are your main problems? Main problems are quite often things like electricity. Suppose you are in the garment industry, which is highly labour-intensive and creates lots of jobs. At the moment you employ say 5-6 people, an informal household enterprise. Now you are thinking of expanding to hire 50 people.
Quite often in India it is said, jobs are not being created because of labour laws. Because in India the labour laws tell you that if you hire more than 100 people and if you want to sack somebody, you need government permission. So that restricts hiring. But let me go back to this concrete example. This guy who was hiring 5-6 people now is thinking of expanding to 50, labour law is not a problem. Labour law kicks in when you have 100, right?
When I’m thinking of expanding to hire 50 people, a little larger size, what are my binding constraints? Electricity is a major one, because at the moment the only use of electricity I probably have is a little light bulb. Now, maybe I will need tailoring machines or other kinds of power equipments. So then I have to worry about whether I have a regular supply of electricity. Even if I have regular supply, does the voltage fluctuate? With voltage fluctuations these machines are going to burn out. So those issues to me are concrete issues. So what we do about electricity is very important.
To be fair to Mr Modi, he’s done a good job about electricity in Gujarat. But now that he’s prime minister of India, he has to do it to the rest of India. I’ve not seen many signs of that. Electricity reform, to me, is a very important part of reform, which neither UPA nor the current administration has done much about. Electricity is a major input needed for people to expand jobs. Many people regard UDAY, the programme the government has introduced for financial restructuring of the heavily-losing state electricity distribution companies is more like ‘kicking the can down the road’.
Similarly, roads. Roads improve connectivity. I understand that one of the areas in which this government has done reasonably well is in building roads. I hope that continues. So in the long run electricity and roads are extremely important for creating jobs, much more important in my judgment than labour laws. If labour laws are reformed, I have nothing against it. But I don’t think that is major constraint. That is one of 20 other constraints. But people give too much emphasis on labour reform.
There’s something that I would suggest for employment generation in the short run, which I don’t find people suggesting. Currently, in order to encourage investment, the government gives subsidies to capitalists. So essentially you come with your capital and you’ll get a subsidy, a tax holiday or other facilities in a Special Economic Zone, these are all parts of capital subsidies. When you subsidise capital, it is not a surprise that people will use capital-intensive technology and not many jobs will be created. So that immediately suggests to me an opposite policy, wage subsidy. Why don’t you start a policy that says to the capitalists, if you create more jobs instead of introducing automation, machines etc., for each new person you hire the wage that you have to pay will be subsidised by the government. To me there is a great deal of scope for converting at least a part of the large capital subsidies into wage subsidies.
In our country now bulging with young people, the employment situation is potentially a big social problem. Already in parts of India it’s happening. In West Bengal, I see this all the time. In fact in West Bengal if you get a car and drive around the state, you’ll be stopped in many places. Young people will come and stop your car and say you have to pay money. They will of course tell you ‘this puja, that puja’ etc. It’s just that they don’t have jobs, essentially they’re collecting their forms of taxes. This will happen more and more in other parts of north India. In large parts of West Bengal now, if you want to build, you have to buy materials from these particular young people who will charge a much higher price and for inferior material. Otherwise gundas will come and not allow you to build. So where are these people coming from? As they don’t have jobs, they are into criminal and semi-criminal occupations.
On poverty alleviation, I’m in general in support of many of the poverty alleviation policies. NREGA I am very much in support of. But, there are some subsidies I’m against, I think I’m in general in favour of phasing out the fertiliser subsidies which is at the moment is costly financially and environmentally. Similarly, I’d in general phase out the policy of support prices given to producing rice and wheat. Rice is a water-intensive crop which is often grown in unsuitable areas (like Punjab), depleting the water table. The other thing it is doing, apart from damaging the environment and costing a great deal of money, it focusses attention on two cereals rice and wheat. Agriculture has to diversify, we should go much more into fruits, vegetables and dairy products, livestock products in general. One constraint that we have is that for products like fruits, vegetables, dairy and livestock products, we need cold storage. So I would suggest lot more investment in cold storage and roads.
If in India if you can reduce large parts of what I called before the subsidies to the better off, you’ll be able to give what is called a basic income to everybody. In my scheme any citizen of India will get, every month, a certain amount of money, no questions asked. I have made calculations that if the subsidies to the better off are given up in India, then you can afford to give every person in India Rs 10,000 a year. If you have a family of four, that’s Rs 40,000. That’s a big change to poverty. You don’t need fresh taxation, the only thing you need is to get rid of the subsidies to the better off. But suppose, in the beginning you cannot get rid of all the subsidies to the better off, well get rid of as many as you can but meanwhile you need taxes. I think there’s great deal of taxable capacity in our real estate sector. The real estate sector is a sector in which values are off and on going up in every city, even small cities. But the government is not getting enough out of it, much of it going into the so-called black economy.
One area in which I would say both the UPA regime and particularly the Modi regime is guilty of not doing anything is health. This is big deficiency of Indian policy.
People often do not know that in health expenditure, India is not just third world but fourth world. India’s health expenditure as proportion of GDP is lower than in many other poor nations. Secondly, most of the expenditure is not in public health. Most of the diseases in India are because of public health and sanitation problems. That’s where the emphasis should be. The Swacchh Bharat campaign for sanitation (which is a continuation of the UPA Nirmal Bharat campaign) concentrates on toilet building through contractors, without looking into why the toilets are often malfunctioning, why they are not used by many. The issues of public education toward better habits of personal hygiene can be handled better by social activists and NGO’s than by bureaucrats, but this government is unduly suspicious of NGO’s in general. Thirdly, there was some talk in the last few days of the UPA regime and the first few days of the Modi regime of a move towards universal health care. I find now the Modi government is going in the opposite direction. There is a NITI Aayog document suggesting that we go away from universal healthcare towards subsidised private health insurance. That’s the US model – a highly defective and prohibitively expensive model. This is not the right model for us. Of course it is not easy to construct a service like the National Health Service in the UK or a similar system in France. But you don’t have to look to UK or France. A neighbouring country, Thailand, now has a universal health service. Study that case and see what they have done. It’s not that expensive to do. In health, it seems like we’re going in the opposite direction.
In the Indian context that we’ve been talking about with the critical employment problem and increasing inequality, what do you make of initiatives like Make in India or Smart Cities?
I’m not as enthusiastic as the current government is about the Smart Cities programme. If there are no other constraints then it’s okay, but it seems to me that most of the emphasis in the Smart Cities programme is on digitisation, IT etc. But most of our cities are not liveable at the moment. Make it liveable for the majority of the population, that is where the real smartness lies, digitisation is not the real smartness.
Make in India, I’m not even sure what it means. If Make in India means something should be produced in India, not elsewhere, that goes back to the old protectionist regime. If that is the case then I’m not sure I’m in favour of it. But in general if you want to encourage manufacturing, I’m all for it. There are many constraints, I’ve already mentioned some kinds of constraints. For Make in India, you need a great deal of reform in electricity and other infrastructural facilities. You also need a great deal of private and public investment.
At the moment, there is a big stagnation going on in private investment because of the bank debt problem. Wilful defaulters have not paid back huge loans, so the banks are in trouble. Therefore, the banks don’t want to lend, so there is a debt overhang and stagnation in the field of private investment in India now. This means all the more that public investment has to go up. The problem with public investment is twofold. One is where is the money going to come from? Now I would not be against even increasing fiscal deficit to spend on public investment, but there both the UPA government and the current government have an external problem.They’re worried that international credit rating agencies will lower our rating if the deficit increases. Now what is the cost of lowering rating? A lot of portfolio investment by foreign financial institutions will suffer. But I am not sure this volatile part of foreign investment should be encouraged. It may also affect FDI. But as yet foreign investment is not coming to fields which will create many jobs. So I think I’d worry less about foreign investment. I’m generally in favour of foreign investment, but not at the expense of domestic public investment. So that’s one problem.
The other problem is that for quite some time we have followed the mode of public private partnership (PPP), that did not work. In fact in many cases there has been corruption in PPP. The whole modality of PPP has to be re-thought, has to be made transparent and less corruption prone. There is a tendency, whenever one thinks about reforming PPP, that when the business is doing well, private people make money, but when it’s not, there is pressure for renegotiation of terms and the losses are on the public sector. This peculiar principle – privatise the profit and socialise the losses is not the way to run a PPP. So I think PPP’s, which otherwise I’m in favour of because the government does not have enough money, has to be re-thought of and reorganised.
One of the other big things that Modi talked a lot about in his campaign was federalism and increasing power to the states. But a lot of people have argued that in his tenure what he has actually done is increase centralisation. Would you agree with that?
I largely agree. Everybody know that power has been centralised into PMO, the Prime Minister’s Office. In fact that has sometimes made difficult to make quick decisions, which goes against two of the government’s objectives, that of easing business and of federalism.
Similarly, before the Bihar elections, Modi went to a big election rally in the state and announced a special package for Bihar and the way he went about it was very interesting. In front of thousands of people, he said how much money will be given to Bihar (without any consultation with Bihar officials) He said, “50,000 crore! Nahi, 80,000 crore! Nahi, 1,20,000 crore!” It was like a public auction. This is not federalism. This is what I call ‘federalism Modi-style’. To me it’s the king giving largess to his subjects. But more substantially, yes some money has been transferred to the states. But that is not Modi’s doing, that has been done by the Finance Commission, which is a constitutional body, and its dispensations are constitutionally mandated for the government to follow, whether it be Modi or anyone else.
Another to notice, also true for the UPA regime, is that in recent years, in the budget, there are a lot of new cesses. Education cess, Swacch Bharat cess, etc.. An interesting thing about a cess is that you don’t have to share it with the states. This is not good for federal finance.
And lastly, one institution which could have played a creative role in federalism is the NITI Aayog. Now the problem with NITI Aayog as I see it is that unlike the Planning Commission, it does not have any financial powers. Planning Commission could at least decide how much money states would get for some centrally-sponsored schemes, so chief ministers used to take it seriously. But now that power has been given to the finance ministry. So that is centralisation, not decentralisation. So the NITI Aayog has mainly policy suggestions powers, no financial powers, and therefore many non-BJP chief ministers don’t take NITI Aayog seriously. Second, in Niti Aayog meetings discussion is on an agenda pre-selected by the Central government, which do not suit the states. Third, if it is the job of NITI Aayog to coordinate with the states, there is already a pre-existing body called Inter-state Council which has been in existence since the 1990s. It did not meet for 10 years until recently. In fact I have heard that officers posted in the Inter-state Council see it as a punishment posting, because nothing happens there. That’s the organisation created to have inter-state coordination. I hope NITI Aayog postings don’t get a similar reputation soon.
There is a debate among economists about how independent the central bank should be. If they are too independent, the charge is that they serve as the handmaiden of private banks and are not accountable to the people. But if they are not independent of government, it becomes hard for them to make tough decisions when those are sometimes needed. How should a country like India strike a balance, especially in the context of the controversy that Raghuram Rajan’s tenure and imminent departure has triggered?
It’s really sad about Raghuram Rajan, who is such a bright and wise person. India had a rare opportunity to have someone like him as the central banker, not many countries have this opportunity. We wasted this opportunity. Having RSS attack dogs out to get him and Mr. Modi remaining silent, and opening his mouth to utter some platitudes only after Mr. Rajan resigned – this is scandalous, in my judgment.
In Rajan’s case something else may have happened. He was not very popular with the wilful defaulters on bank loans, many of whom are crony capitalists. I am sure from behind the scene they must have out pressure, because Rajan has come out with very strong strictures against them. He called them ‘freeloaders’, since it is essentially taxpayers money that they have taken and are defaulting on. I think that’s also behind it, not just RSS pressure but also these tycoons and crony capitalists who were quite uncomfortable with the stringent policies Rajan was following.
I also find the current way of doing things problematic. There should be much more public debate and discussion on the issues and the different policy opinions of the candidates . But once you appoint , don’t interfere. I am generally in favour of central bank independence subject not to day-to-day scrutiny but periodic review. Policies every 3-5 years should be discussed in public, in parliament, everywhere. But no day-to-day interference.
Rajan has recently come out with a statement that the governor’s tenure should be at least five years, not three. I agree with that. But like I said, every three years, parliament and the public should have a discussion on the policies being followed in the last three years.
In any case, going back to something I mentioned before, there is too much focus on monetary policy. I think it should be much more balanced, both on fiscal and monetary policy. Our governments are always scared of what international credit rating agencies would think if they talk about fiscal expansion even for long-term investment.
Should India be seeking more trade and investment deals that integrate more fully with other economies? Should we focus on mega deals like TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) or the RCEP (Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership) that is currently being negotiated or can they work against us?
Generally I would say yes, India should integrate much more. These days, without integration you cannot succeed. It’s not like the old days, when someone was good at producing something so they sell it in the world market. What has changed is the predominance of a global value chain. Different countries have different locations on the chain. If you can’t find your own niche on the chain, then you’ve lost it. The Chinese have done a very good job at finding this niche and over time also moving up the ladder to higher value. They are now moving out of labour-intensive exports to more skill-intensive exports. So most laptops, smart phones, etc. are now produced in China. We have no alternative but to integrate – become part of the global value chain.
That’s my general principle. It’s a different issue when it comes to the TPP or the RCEP. I’m not sure whether some of these trade agreements are helpful. TPP will probably help Vietnam, because they have many things to sell to the US. But I am not sure in general that the gain from TPP is that much. These deals vary from case to case.
What I don’t like is that India, at the world forum, often takes a holier-than-thou economic-nationalist attitude. I don’t think that’s the right attitude. Then people laugh at us, they know India isn’t a big power in the economic world. They can do without India. Even the one sector where we were big, the software sector, is now gradually going elsewhere, to the Philippines for instance, to Israel. So if it comes to that, the world might say okay go ahead, bye. We don’t have that much bargaining power, so we shouldn’t take that attitude.
Speaking of China, why do you think they have been able to grow so rapidly, move so many people out of agriculture and reduce poverty so much faster than India?
I have a book about this (‪Awakening Giants, Feet of Clay: Assessing the Economic Rise of China and India‪). To give a two-minute answer, the Chinese have succeeded at something that we have not. And that goes back to something that I’ve mentioned before, about labour-intensive industrialisation. That’s where poor people’s jobs are. The reason we have a job problem is because we haven’t solved this problem. We think of the IT sector, we think of Smart Cities – these aren’t going to create jobs for poor people.
I also mentioned before the need for roads, electricity, etc. to create jobs – this is where the Chinese’s major success lies. Infrastructure is the major dazzling success in China. The first time I went to China was in 1989 and since then I go quite often. It’s just breath-taking. And we are nowhere near that.
There are things that they can do that we can’t do as easily. If they need to acquire land, they just do it immediately. We can’t do that, there’s a whole process. So there are things they can do because of the political system that we can’t. But it’s not just that. Going back to health and education, it’s really tragic that India today is where China was in the early 1970s. Even before the reforms, during the Maoist period, they improved health and education immensely. As a result, Chinese workers are healthier and more educated than ours. That in itself increases productivity. Health and education should be improved no matter what, but Chinese workers are more productive simply because of these reasons. Secondly, is the physical infrastructure– roads, electricity, etc.. Physical and social infrastructure together create a base for labour-intensive industrialisation. The groundwork was carried out in China in the socialist period and accelerated post-reform.
This area, social and physical infrastructure, I’d say is a major economic failure of India. And that has its effect on jobs and labour-intensive industrialisation. That has a substantial effect in reducing poverty.
Our poverty has also declined, but nothing like in China. They have raised above the poverty line nearly half a billion people within a short span of time