/**SNAP Code begin **/ /**SNAP Code end **/

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

It's Time to Repeat the Message, Over and Over Again

B. Raman writes a wonderful column (via Sriram at INI Signal ) in Outlook introspecting on the 5th anniversary of Godhra carnage and the hypocrisy of secular intellectuals and secular media and the communal politics played by UPA. Few highlights:

This has always happened after every communal riot. Whenever some Muslims take the law into their own hands, it is always the police which is criticised for acting against them. The secular elite rarely criticises the Muslims, who violated the law in the first place, and rarely calls for action against them. The voice of the secular elite will carry greater credibility if it modifies its present position that "the Muslims can do no wrong" and that it is always the Hindus and the Administration who are responsible for anything going wrong, which affects the interests of the Muslims.

One talks often of the spreading radicalisation of the Muslim youth and of the need to address the root causes of their anger and to appeal to their hearts and minds. This is very important. I have myself been advocating it since the Mumbai blasts of March, 1993. But, we should also take note of the emerging radicalisation of sections of the Hindu youth and of the need to address the root causes of their anger and to appeal to their hearts and minds. The government will be committing an error of judgement if it fails to take note of the feelings of concern and hurt in the minds of large sections of the Hindu youth.

The Muslims are the rightful citizens of this country. We are proud of them. They have every right to enjoy the benefits of our Constitution and the fruits of our economic development and to expect that the Administration, including the Police, will protect them.

At the same time, I have also been pointing out that the Muslims too have obligations like any other citizen, whatever be his or her religion—like the obligation to observe the law; not to look beyond our frontiers for ideological and religious inspiration; to condemn the resort to brutal terrorism by members of their community; and to help the police in dealing with this terrorism. They also have the obligation to try to achieve their legitimate political and economic objectives through legitimate means and not through intimidation.

Recently, a highly-respected intellectual of Delhi told me of his sense of shock when he heard some leaders of the Muslim community warn at a meeting convened by one of the Ministries of the government of India that there would be more jihadi terrorism in India if the Sachar Commission report was not implemented in toto.

What is this but an attempt at criminal intimidation? Doesn't the government have the obligation to put down such attempts? Doesn't the public have the right to protest against it? If a Muslim leader resorts to intimidation, one dismisses it as an instance of understandable anger. If a Hindu protests against such intimidation, he is demonised as communal, anti-Muslim, anti-Islam etc. These double standards have to go if we have to strengthen national harmony and integrity.
(Highlight mine) [Outlook]

Our self appointed secular media is so biased that it refers Muslims as minority group and Hindus as saffrons. There is no boundary to its stupidity and double standard.

Raman's message has to be repeated over and over again, year after year, by more and more people from judges to bureaucrats to right thinking people. It's time to side line the justifications of jihadi actions by self-appointed secular media and subversive religious appeasement politics of left wing parties such as Congress I.

Update: K. P. S. Gill has a different introspection of Godhra and the following riots. He is dismayed at the grand standing of various NGOs and the secular media as they try to keep the post-Godhra-carnage riots wounds alive keeping the communities divided while doing little heal the victims of riots. He also worries nothing is being to done to deal with such deadly events in future.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Nehru's Foreign Policy in a Sentence

We are told Jawaharlal Nehru, our first prime minister, was a worldly man. He knew the vast history of India expressed in his Discovery of India. He understood the secular nature of our nation. He understood our neighbourhood. And he understood the importance of technology in a modern nation - the five IITs and government-owned monster steel and power plants are a testimony of his superior intellect. Sure he lost a war to China and let Pakistan keep occupied Jammu & Kashmir. But the general conclusion is, overall, his near two decades in power, leading a young nation, was positive force.

After reading one episode in a recent book on the history of Indian foreign policy, I am not so sure. Thirty years before P.V. Narashima Rao's Look East Policy, Badruddin Tyabji, an IFS senior policy adviser to Nehru, proposed, in early 1961, in a meeting with Indian ambassadors posted to Southeast Asian countries, that India needs to create and nurture close relations with Southeast Asian countries. Historians and linguists have known for centuries about the close cultural and trade ties between former Indo-China region and India. And one would expect it to be natural that India pursue close ties with this region.

But Nehru's unbending closeness to Soviet Union, which he developed while living in an Utopian socialism period in England, early in his life, had a peremptory response, "Do you gentlemen want India to become friendly with Coca Cola governments?" Thus single handedly killing any initiation of significant diplomatic contacts with Southeast Asian countries making India blind to the amazing rise of Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, Malaysia, and others from poor deprecate nations to rich to middle-income nations.

The significance of Nehru was not in his actions, while important at the time and now, but the precedents he set: 17 years in unquestioned power (by contrast, George Washington run for two terms, for a total of eight years, as US president, about 200 years prior, and was well aware of any precedent he was setting as a leader of a new country) , path to economic socialism, non-response to Pakistani and Chinese aggression, and much more. We are, more than 40 years after his death, still unable to get out from under his shadow.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Only Call Received by One Victim’s Family

Apparently Pak ministers and babus are more interested in telling us what to do than consoling their own. Only call received by the family of one of the victim of Samjhauta Express was from Indian Consulate. Apparently our much maligned MEA comes through, again, to help people in distress, as during Lebanon war. A neighbour of that family writes to Dawn:

According to him, his relatives are still with the charred bodies waiting to return to Pakistan.

Despite ringing the helplines and contacting the relevant offices, he says he has not received a single call in reply. The only call he received was from the Indian high commissioner’s office to condole the death of his relatives.[Dawn]


Monday, February 19, 2007

Another Massacre, Another Set Of Conspiracy Theories

Sixty-seven people are dead in the latest train terror attack - this time on Samjhauta Express, which was taking mostly visiting Pakistanis back to their country. The attack was perpetrated using rudimentary explosives fortified by gasoline bottles to generate maximum heat and damage to the compartments.

Because the design of the railway bogies is probably hundred years old (government owns the coach building company and its happy building the same bogies decade after decade - like the unchanged ambassador car), the windows of bogies still have iron rods and people couldn't get out from the inferno - a few were rescued from windows that did not have the rods. If the bogie designers think the rods have a purpose - mostly to protect travelers inside, they should at least install latches to release the rods for quick escape in emergencies such as fire or flooding.

As soon as the dead were counted, conspiracy theories started in the classic Indian tradition: Islamic terrorists did it; fundamentalists Hindus did it; people in the Indian government did it; and finally, the next-Musharraf (apparently next want-to-be president of Pak) did it.

Those who believe Islamic terrorists are hapless victims of Gujarat massacres are probably looking at the list of traveler names trying to identify how many of them are Gujarati names, especially those traders and business folks who apparently support Modi, and looking for any statements from terror groups putting the blame on Muslims being under siege in the country. Some are probably working to write blogs and op-eds and books on how to save and protect the still to be arrested and prosecuted terrorists.

Those who believe Muslims are incapable of such heinous acts - after all, Jews attacked World Trade Center (or was it a CIA conspiracy) and are behind most terrorist attacks - are probably looking at dates. When did Gujarat massacres happen? When did Congress I men light fire to the train at Godhra to kill the hapless RSS sanikas traveling through? When did Ayodhya happen? When did partition's original idea take seed? If any of the dates match up with 19th or mid-February, it must be the Hindus revenge killings - after all most of the dead are Pakistanis and probably all of them are Muslims. 27 February 2002! Close enough. Godhra train burning. Fifth anniversary? Even better! Must be the Hindus. Now why would they attack Pakistanis? Why won't they attack local Muslims if it was revenge that they seek? And why not in Gujarat instead of in Haryana/Delhi? The answer to the obvious questions would be sure Gujarat was actual site of training burning but there were clashes in UP too, remember. And so there is cause and motivation.

Another theory is someone in Indian government conspired with Indian security/intelligence forces to derail the peace process. This is classic Pak's explanation for any terror on Indian soil - their own forces did it to discredit Pak and its good-natured jihadis. But there is new constituent for this theory in India now - one just has to follow the utter bizarre theories given to save Mohd. Afzal, the terrorist who planned and attacked Indian seat of democracy, from hanging. (It was the BJP government in cahoots with Indian intelligence agencies that attacked the parliament and framed the peacenik Afzal.) By extension, Indian government can plant a bomb to stop the peace talks to be held between the foreign ministers in few days. But the bomb is too crude for intelligence agencies? But that's the point, isn't it. How else can conspirators shift blame to Islamic terrorists if the bombs weren't crude.

And the last theory that the Pak establishment did it to stop the peace process so that a Musharraf-in-waiting can topple Musharraf and be the next general president of Pak. Of all the conspiracy theories surrounding this tragedy this, I have admit, is most bizarre! It's like India attacking US to stop terror-training camps in Pak! After India defeats the US, it can use US capabilities - both hard and soft - to stop the training camps in Pak. Why not depose the general in Islamabad or Rawalpindi itself? It's not like Gen Mush was elected democratically. A coupe to depose the leader of previous coupe - what could be more simpler. And if the next leader is another Musharraf, the world probably won't mind.

My intuition is that the bombs were rudimentary because the terrorists didn't have enough training or don't have access to RDX, and the like sophisticated and compact explosives, used in Mumbai bombing, last July, that massacred two hundred people. The timing and target and victims points surely to Indian-Pak peace process - the burning down of bus station when bus service started from Srinagar to Pak, in April 2005, comes to mind. It's a message to Pak - don't make the peace deal India. If Pak does make a deal with India, the jihadi infrastructure in Pak is unnecessary and will have to be shut down. That's a major problem for the global jihadi groups like al-Qaeda or more local jihadi groups like JeM.

We should know, in the next few days, weeks, and months, who the terrorists are and what their motivation is. Watch closely to the reporting provided by Praveen Swami of The Hindu - I can't think of anyone who does a better job of analyzing and reporting post-terror attacks investigation.

Cross-posted on INI-Signal.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Is It Muslim Appeasement Or Not?

Sane people think what Manmohan and his cohorts are doing - when they say Muslims should have first dibs on national resources and identify hundreds of, apparently pure, Muslim villages to target sops - is justified. They usually tend to be blind to or give benefit of doubt to the vote bank politics that our politicians play.

Apparently, actual data - that our economist pradana mantri (and I am sure our education mantri) doesn’t want to read - says something else:

As much as 84 per cent Hindus in the below poverty line (BPL) category in the rural areas live in a condition dubbed as the ‘below double’ poverty line. The percentage of Muslims in this category stands at 86, that is only two per cent higher than their Hindu counterparts.

The plight of the people belonging to the ‘double below the poverty line’ category could be gauged from the fact that they are found to be much below the ceiling of the poverty line. “They are extremely poor people and their percentage among both Hindus and Muslims is quite high,” an official in the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation said.

Among the Christian poor in the rural areas, around 70 per cent belong to the extremely poor category. The data, furnished by the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO), a body under the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, belie any move to initiate ‘affirmative action’ for a particular group of people on the basis of their religion. [Pioneer]

There are few more details in this news report.

Advani, The Reconciliator

I guess if Sonia had this meeting it would be covered by all TV channels all the time, but Advani is in a media so-called saffron box. Anything, supposedly bad he does will be covered but any actual good he does will be ignored. But the Urdu media covered it (captured as summary in English newspaper) - and they are not happy with any reconciliation.

After Advani enabled a meeting between Jewish groups and some Islamic groups on Feb 7, at his house.

The visit of some Jewish religious leaders to New Delhi and their meeting with some Muslim intellectuals and clerics at the residence of the Leader of Opposition L.K. Advani has given rise to a lot of criticism. New Delhi-based Hindustan Express on February 7, in its lead, named eminent Islamic scholars and businessmen and Imams who met at Advani’s home. This report led to statements issued by Jamaat-e-Islami and the Shahi Imam of the Fatehpuri Masjid who described such a meeting as “highly objectionable, in view of situation faced by Muslims the world over.” Jamiat-Ulema-e-Hind described this meeting “as a plan for misleading Muslims” and said “the secret nature of this meeting is alarming.” Akhbar-e-Mashriq, Rashtriya Sahara, Hindustan Express and some other papers have written editorials criticising the meeting. In fact, some of those present there thought it necessary to “explain” their presence through statements and press conferences. [IE]

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Black Friday - Review

By Rampalli Srinivas

A feature film documenting real incidents is like a twin edged sword both for its makers and performers. Make it a little too realistic, it will end up like a documentary and put in a little too much drama and it loses its authenticity. It becomes that much more difficult if you are making this film in India against an additional barrier of its legal system and politically correct censorship. Also throw in the chance of a life threat from one or more of the players behind the conspiracy.

If a film maker decides to risk all these and make such a film what else can you call it but one of the most important chapters in the annals of Indian cinema. It is cinema at its starkest with extremely believable recreation of the actual incidents. I strongly believe this movie has turned a new leaf in Indian cinema and paved way for many such efforts in the future. No words can be enough to describe this gutsy effort by a young film maker like Anurag Kashyap. He showed the guts to take up such a project and has executed it with a vice like grip on the audience starting from the first scene.

The only flaw I can point is that the length of the episode showcasing the travails of Badhshah Khan, in an attempt to escape the police through various places in India. However, he deserves some slack in this regard for the simple reason that this is the episode which contributes the most towards making his effort into a movie and not a documentary.

It greatly helps that this film has a cast comprising of very few recognizable faces and among them are Kay Kay Menon, Pawan Malhotra and Aditya Srivastava, who just melt into their roles in such a fashion that you only see their characters. Cinematography is extremely good with innovative lighting schemes and the manner in which the camera follows the characters through the slums and bylanes of Mumbai is spellbounding.

The casting idea reminded me of Paul Greengrass's United 93. The narration without taking sides reminded me of Steven Spielberg's Munich. However, it needs to be mentioned that this film was made before either of the above two (it was lying in the cans waiting for the courts to clear it!). The camerawork through the slums of Mumbai reminded me of Fernando Meirelle's Cidade De Deus (City of God).

For someone awaiting an Indian movie of international standards, this one is like an oasis in the desert. It is my wholehearted plea to everyone wishing international recognition for Indian cinema - Please go watch this movie!

Rampalli Srinivas is a guest blogger at Gudem.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Long Overdue Trans-State Law Force

One more police commission, one more decent proposal, one more file gathering dust. I hope the last isn't true in this case.

Former Solicitor General Soli Sorabjee's committee on police reforms makes the right recommendations. In fact these proposed reforms are long overdue considering the nature of terror and law enforcements issues facing the nation.

“With the blurring of the line of distinction between external aggression and internal disturbances engineered by terrorist groups etc — often instigated, abetted, aided and supported by inimical foreign forces — and the organized criminal groups supporting them, with arms, ammunition, and funding through hawala transactions etc, any measures taken to combat their activities can be regarded as measures taken for defence of India in terms of entry number I of the Union List.”

And keep it separate from CBI, which is an investigative agency with limited mandate and, shall we say, utterly manipulated by politics even if one were ignore its dismal record in prosecuting high-profile bribery cases.

It also clarified that the proposed agency not be confused with the existing CBI which is seen as “essentially, an investigative agency.” The reason: prevention and control of national-security crime, collection, collation, analysis or criminal intelligence does not fall within the CBI’s charter of duties. [IE]

Expect most big states to talk of federalism and their control over police force. But they don't mind blaming the center when there is terror attack or when they can't fight naxalites in a compartmentalized state level. It's time to bulldoze the no-vote and go ahead with a central law enforcement department that handles cases that cross state boundaries. And keep those politicians out of the decision making process by making the new department involvement automatic when it's a trans-state case.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Killing The Milk Business - The GOI Way

Most mature economies control inflation by managing monetary policy. Recently deceased Milton Friedman tried to drill this into economy watchers for decades. Apparently no one in GOI is listening.

Even as Y.V. Reddy tries his best to control inflation by raising interest rates (the best way yet) and controlling money lending activities (not the best way because it's so hard to do and disruptive to banking operations), our socialist government - still is stuck in the old ways - manipulates the prices of individual items in the consumer price index inflation-indicator basket. So it bans (a favourite act of any Indian government) export of onions to bring onion prices down - one item in CPI basket - hurting the (onion) farmers one week; it bans pulses export to bring down lentil prices - another item in CPI basket - hurting the (lentil) farmers another week and so on.

Instead of allowing monetary policies to work it way through the system and let market take care of liquidity, and hence inflation, our government likes to micromanage individual levers of the economy - because it thinks its smart enough to understand the needs of each and every family in the country - just like any true socialist economy.

Now it's the turn dairy farmers. Milk prices in the CPI basket out of line - you know the drill - ban milk exports devastating producers of this perishable commodity:

Milk powder exports of 65,000 tonnes threatened, milk prices fall Re 1 a litre.

Kuldeep Saluja is an angry man. The managing director of Delhi-based Sterling Agro-Industries had exported 10,000 tonnes of skimmed milk powder (SMP) last year, and was about to invest Rs 70 crore to build more capacity and tap into a buoyant global market.

But the government’s decision last week to ban SMP exports has put paid to those plans—and sparked fresh debate about the wisdom of squeezing agricultural producers in order to protect consumers.

Not only is India the world’s largest milk producer, milk powder exports have been a booming business. Total exports ballooned from 4,185 tonnes in 2003-04 to 28,200 tonnes the following year, and 50,510 tonnes last year. This year, the government stepped in when exports were about to touch 65,000 tonnes.

The government’s argument is that exports are welcome, but fighting inflation takes priority.

Yes, yes. Fighting inflation. It's like putting out forest fire one tree at the time. Business plans, export orders, individual farmers livelihood all go out the window because milk is now the target item as per our government decree.

This is not a way to run a mature economy. Here is one way to run it.

Related blog: Ajay Shah writes about the milk ban.

Cross-posted on INI-Signal.

Another Chinese Story - Attacking Marxists?

Here's what I would call ironic.

Denial of service attacks originating from China are attacking www.marxists.org. Even though Mao ZeDong himself claimed to have been inspired to pursue his murderous revolution by Karl Marx and his writings, apparently the Chinese (not sure if it's the government or not) and the true marxist, Brian Basgen, who runs this web site, do not believe it.

While some might find it odd that the government created by Mao’s Communist Revolution would be behind an effort to deny access to the texts so important to its founding, Mr. Basgen said he did not. “It is ironic for people who don’t know what is going on in China,” he said. “The Chinese so-called Communist government has nothing to do with Communism. It has been going toward capitalism for a long time.”

How does Mr. Basgen know a true marxist?

And, to be strictly accurate, the Marxist archive does not even consider Mao a true Marxist. He is considered a “reference writer,” along with Adam Smith, Josef Stalin, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, among others. Mao failed a key question, Mr. Basgen said: “Did he serve to liberate working people?” [Link]

That would make for a pretty short list of marxists.

History According to Chinese

There is history and then there is Chinese history. I found this out while talking to a Chinese colleague few years ago - even if one accounts for nationalistic spin by governments, Chinese official history falls under separate category.

And so the history of 1962 war. The perpetrators becomes the victims, as usual when it comes to India's neighbours.

He quoted former Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai as saying that “we had sent three open telegrams to (Jawaharlal) Nehru asking him to make a public reply, but he refused. He was so discourteous; he wouldn't even do us the courtesy of replying, so we had no choice but to drive him out.”

“....To the surprise of the world, China announced its unilateral and unconditional withdrawal to 20 kilometres behind the disputed McMahon Line,” he said quoting Zhou. [Link]

The He is Lau Nai-keung, a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, talking about the peaceful nature of Chinese Communist regime, ahead of Chinese foreign minister, Li Zhaoxing’s , visit to India.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Solution Is Next Door

Farmers suicides in Vidarbha is global news. An economics Nobel prize winner, anti-globalizer, and Columbia professor, Joseph Stiglitz, blames suicides on globalization - displaced farmers due to rich countries subsidies. Our own Manmohan blames it on not enough sops and announced an almost a $1billion dollar relief package - that apparently was not enough according to local, so called, activists. And then there are others who relate any free market ideas and market failures to the suicides, comparing interest rates on loans to luxury cars to interest rates on loans to poor farmers to subsidies provided by US to its cotton farmers to blaming the private black market (forced privatization!).

While this blame game and calls for more aid, more spending, more subsidies, and more anti-trade tariff continues, just based on trouble in one part of the country, cotton farming in the rest of country is booming. India will be second largest cotton producer in the world, after China, replacing US. India share of global cotton production went from 12% in 2002-03 to 17.5% in 2006-07. And this when the land for cotton cultivation increased a bit from 7.5 to 8.4 lakh hectares where as the yields increased 50% in five years. [Link]

Our media, as usual being lazy, does no home work to identify the dichotomy. Our government has not analytical skills - that will force it to make rational decision, a big no no. Sanjeev Nayyar, a consultant, provides reason for the dichotomy in Business Standard (via Ajay Shah blog). Apparently Maharashtra state government has to look in the mirror for the cause and solution to the suicides.

Cotton farmers commit suicide in Maharashtra but prosper in Gujarat. The prime minister visits Vidarbha and announces sops, yet the suicides continue. Both states accounted for roughly the same proportion of the country’s production in 1991-92 (Gujarat was 12.7 per cent and Maharashtra was 10.5 per cent). While Maharashtra’s share has increased only marginally in the period since, to 14.8 per cent in 2005-06, Gujarat’s share is up three times, to 36.5 per cent; Maharashtra’s area under cotton has grown just marginally, Gujarat’s has nearly doubled; and Gujarat’s yield is more than three times that of Maharashtra. [Link]

Nayyar compares Maharashtra cotton state monopoly experience with Gujarat's cotton free market experience. With two thirds of land under cultivation, Gujarat produces three times the cotton as Maharashtra. Gujarat focused on improving irrigation system and removing hurdles for farmers to make their own decisions. Maharashtra followed the classic socialist solution to every issue - creation of monopoly. Brides, arbitrary exercise of power, non-payments, and coercion quickly followed - result of any classic socialist solution.

No wonder the media doesn't want to talk about. No wonder Manmohan's government (his agriculture minister is from that state) and Congress I state government doesn't want to do anything about it. Calls for more sops, more subsidies, and blaming globalization won't stop the horror of suicides. Now that should be a scandal and news, not who hosts a game show.

Cross-posted on INI-Signal

Jamsetji Gobbles Up British Steel

So the story goes that when Jamsetji wanted to build the Indian steel plant in 1902 (history of Tata Steel), the imperial viceroy of the time, I think it was George Curzon (or may be it was Gilbert Elliot who was the viceroy when the actual factory was constructed in 1908) said, "I will eat all steel the plant can produce." Meaning, it's not going to happen.

Well, about 100 years later, with much water under the bridge, Jamsetji's creation gobbled up the former imperial power's British Steel, now called Corus Steel. Of course, Tata steel paid $12billion (6.2 billion pounds) to create the world's fifth largest steel company, outbidding a Brazilian rival, instead of stealing it like Curzon would have probably done.

Bloomberg's Andy Mukherjee writes Tata Steel may have paid high premium for Corus, but they may actually add value to it and it may be the right thing for Tata Steel growth.