Saturday, May 30, 2009

Mumbai Varsity Lowly 130 In Asia Top 200

By Roger Alexander

The front-page headline in the Times of India today (May 30) caught my attention since the admission season is upon us and friends and family are running around like headless chicken trying to get their kids into a “good” college.

There is not a single Indian university or educational institution (including the IITs and IIMs) in the Top 10. In fact only seven Indian institutions are listed in the Top 100.

The report goes on to say that China and Hong Kong have beaten India hollow in higher education. South Korea with 46 and China with 39 institutions make up nearly half the list.

“Forget the global education sweepstakes - no Indian institution features even in the Top 10 power list of the Asian University Rankings. That includes the blue-chip IITs and the state universities that hold Presidency status,” says the report.

The University of Delhi at No 60 and the University of Mumbai at a lower grade of 130 in 200 institutions on the list is what we offer our kids by way of “quality” education.

Another report in the same paper today says that on his first day in office the first file new HRD minister Kapil Sibal called for was on the Foreign Education Providers Bill making it clear where his priorities lie. India's education portals will now open up to foreign universities providing “world class learning”.

World Class Learning? Surely, you must be joking, Mr Sibal. Consider this: Just days before the election process began in April, the previous government announced the formation of 15 new Central Universities.

Shockingly, 12 of these do not have any land, building, faculty or any other infrastructure. But they do have Vice-Chancellors who were appointed by one selection committee in record time. This tells its own story!

I hope Kapil Sibal is aware that expenditure per student in higher education is probably the lowest in India among the emerging economies. Spending per student in higher education was only 400 dollars per student in 2007 in India – when Sibal was Science and Technology minister - way below developed countries like USA ($ 9,629), UK ($ 8,502), Japan ($ 4,830) or even developing countries like China ($ 2,728), Russia ($ 1,024) or Brazil ($ 3,986).

The Central Universities Bill that Kapil Sibal will now pilot, rather than place emphasis to autonomy and academic freedom, gives sweeping powers to the Visitor. Besides, the government has so far refused to take any measures to regulate private players who are making huge profits by charging exorbitant fees without subscribing to any standards of quality.

The Congress party has continuously attempted to open the higher education sector to foreign investment, which has not only accelerated the pace of commercialization in education, but also poses a serious threat to the intellectual self-reliance of the country.

On the other hand, while the government has actively promoted the commercialization of education, it has refused failed to bring any social control legislations to tame the profiteering of private institutions.

Indeed, the most striking feature of the education sector in this country in the last five years has been the hugely escalating cost of education, from the primary level to the institutions of higher education.

A legislation to this effect was sabotaged by the government. Now that the same set are back, don't expect change. Manmohan Singh loves the status quo. And why not. Many important political leaders in government are associated with the Congress and its allies and run such institutions to make mega bucks through exorbitantly high capitation fees, up to Rs 30 lakh a student for a medical seat. How can we expect regulations or control to be put on them?

Not only that, even government institutes have seen huge fee hikes. For example, IIM Kolkata doubled its fees to Rs 9 lakh last year. Kapil Sibal has on more than one occasion proclaimed that quality comes at a price, or something to that effect.

But while education barons are minting money, the plight of the teachers has been totally ignored. Under the specious plea of “there is no money”, a large number of teaching positions have not been filled up on a regular basis. Instead, lakhs of casual teachers work on a “clock-hour basis” and get a pittance as wages.

For example, in Maharashtra, these new recruits, with post-graduate qualifications, teach @ Rs 200 per hour for a maximum of 8 hours a week and get paid a maximum of Rs 6400 per month compared to more than Rs 25,000 that a regular teacher gets paid.

In the last five years every effort was made by the Planning Commission and the Commerce Ministry to push for a legislation to allow FDI in education. This was to honour the commitments made by Manmohan Singh and his selected (not elected) clique to the WTO and Indo-US Joint CEO Forum.

What kind of fraud FDI in higher education involves can be estimated from the fact that of the 144 foreign providers advertising tertiary education in Indian newspapers, 44 are neither recognized nor accredited in their countries of origin. 110 foreign providers are already operating in this country without government permission, violating UGC guidelines, but no action has been taken against them.

As a result, today while the Congress makes tall claims about making India a superpower, we continue to be one of the most backward countries in the field of human development. The Human Development Report for 2007-08 ranks India at 128th position in its Human Development Index.

In fact one “achievement” the Congress should take credit for is that things have gone from bad to worse in the last 5 years as India was ranked at least one place higher (127) in the UNDP’s HDI ratings in 2004. India (HDI rank 128, adult literacy 61%) is ranked below countries like Sri Lanka (HDI rank 99, Adult Literacy 90.7), Occupied Palestinian Territories (HDI rank 106, Adult Literacy 92.4) and Botswana (HDI rank 124, Adult Literacy 81.2).

And the likes of Kapil Sibal boast they will make India a Knowledge Superpower. This must surely rank as a sick joke, if not a cruel one.

Roger And Out

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Meaning Of The Verdict

By Prakash Karat

What is the meaning of this verdict? How is it to be interpreted? The first point to be noted is that while there has been a pro-Congress trend in some parts of the country, taken overall, there is no big shift in favour of the Congress. In terms of vote share, the Congress has got just about 2 per cent more than in 2004.

According to the Election Commission's figures, the Congress party has got 28.55 per cent of the vote. In 2004, it had got 26.53 per cent. The Congress made big gains in Kerala and Rajasthan and improved its position in Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra.

Its allies like the DMK in Tamil Nadu and the Trinamool Congress in West Bengal were also successful. That there was no wave or a strong all-India shift in favour of the Congress can be seen by the party losing ground in states like Orissa, Jharkhand, Assam, Gujarat, Chattisgarh and Karnataka to mention a few. Here the Congress vote share and seats have gone down compared to 2004. In Andhra Pradesh, while its seats increased, the vote share of the Congress has gone down.

Another feature is that while Congress gained 2 per cent, the BJP lost around 3 per cent. The loss of the BJP has gone to the Congress but the combined percentage of vote of both parties stands more or less as it was in 2004. In 2004, the two parties combined got 48.69 per cent of the vote and in 2009 it stands at over one per cent less at 47.35 per cent.

This is at a time when the Congress and the BJP fought more seats than in 2004. This is particularly significant since it shows no reversal in the long term decline of the two parties. The non-Congress, non-BJP parties continue to have more than 50 per cent share of the vote.

BJP Rejected
The second point to note in interpreting the verdict is the failure of the BJP and its political platform. The people have rejected the BJP's claim of providing good governance and defending national security. What they saw in the election campaign was the recurrence of communal rhetoric and the ingrained penchant for communalising all problems including terrorism.

Varun Gandhi's virulent hate speeches and the eulogising of Narendra Modi as the future leader symbolised this campaign. The failure to capitalise on a host of issues such as price rise, unemployment and the continuing agrarian distress by the major opposition party underlines the depth of the rejection of the BJP.

The only NDA partner to do well was the JD (U) in Bihar and that is not due to the BJP but the positive impact of the Nitish Kumar government and the care he took to demarcate himself from the communal platform of the BJP.

Another pointer to the rejection of the BJP comes from Orissa. The BJD, which broke from the BJP just two months before the election, won a spectacular victory getting 103 of the 145 seats in the assembly. In the 2004 assembly election, the BJD-BJP alliance won 93 seats. Thus, the BJD improved its performance after breaking with the BJP.

Reasons for Congress Success
The third point to understand the verdict is that despite the neo-liberal predilections of the Congress-led government, some of the measures adopted have had a positive impact on the people. These are the NREGA, which now extends to the entire country, the Tribal Forest Rights Act and the increase in the minimum support price for rice and wheat, the loan waiver scheme for farmers and some such measures, many of whom were brought under the pressure of the Left parties.

Despite the agrarian crisis, such measures provided some relief to the rural people. Along with this should be seen the measures taken by some of the state governments such as the Rs 2 per kg of rice scheme in Andhra Pradesh and the Re 1 per kg scheme in Tamilnadu and other social welfare measures.

In Orissa too, the Rs 2 per kg of rice bolstered the support for the Navin Patnaik government. At the same time, the fact that four years of high growth of the GDP did not lead to redistribution of resources and incomes and instead sharply increased economic inequalities did play a role in restricting the Congress's capacity to expand its popular base.

The Congress gained more support amongst the minorities who were keen to ensure that the BJP does not make a come back. The non-Congress, non-BJP parties were not seen as a viable alternative in most parts of the country and this accentuated the shift in minority support to the Congress.

The Congress party has also benefited from the concern of the people that the country should face unitedly the threat of terrorism and their fear that communalism can only aggravate the situation.

Setback for the Left
The CPI (M) and the Left have suffered a serious setback with the losses in West Bengal and Kerala. It was expected that the Left would get a lesser number of seats in these elections given the fact that in Kerala, the LDF had won an unprecedented 18 out of the 20 seats and the Congress got none in the 2004 elections.

In West Bengal too, the odds were heavier given the Trinamool Congress and Congress combining and all the anti-Communist forces launching a concerted attack against the CPI (M) and the Left Front. But the extent of the defeat in both these states has led to the CPI(M) getting only 16 seats, the lowest ever in the Lok Sabha.

This calls for a serious examination of the causes for these reverses. We have to conduct a self-critical review to ascertain what are the factors which are responsible for this poor performance.

Both national and state level factors have to be analysed. The electoral-tactical line formulated by the Party at the national level and the national political situation which influenced the Lok Sabha polls must be studied. Along with that, the specific state factors in both West Bengal and Kerala must also be taken into account.

The Politburo, in its meeting held on May 18, 2009, has initiated such a review which will be completed by the Central Committee in its meeting to be held in June. After identifying the reasons for the failure, the Party will have to take the necessary political and organisational measures to overcome the shortcomings and mistakes.

On this basis, the Party will strenuously work to regain the support of those sections of the people who were alienated from the Party and the Left-led fronts. Such a self-critical exercise will also pave the basis for the Party taking up the organisational tasks set out in the Party Congress to strengthen the Party and to expand its mass influence.

Third Front Alliance
In the discussions held in the Politburo, there was a preliminary review of the Party's effort to forge a non-Congress, non-BJP alliance and present it as an electoral alternative. The Central Committee, in its meeting held in Kochi in January 2009, had worked out the electoral-tactical line and given the direction that “the Left parties along with the secular parties should work together to make a non-Congress, non-BJP alternative realizable.”

The CPI(M) and the CPI had an electoral understanding with some of the non-Congress, non-BJP parties in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Orissa and seat adjustments in Karnataka. On the basis of these state level understandings forged on the eve of the elections, we attempted to project them as a national level non-Congress, non-BJP alternative.

The defeat of the Left in West Bengal and Kerala and the failure of the alliance in Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu to win a majority of the seats undermined any effective presence of the “Third Front” at the national level. It is evident that such a combination which had its relevance in the concerned states was not a credible and viable alternative at the national level. Further, the electoral combinations, which were forged state-wise, precluded any national policy platform being projected.

There have been two consequences of the projection of a Third Front. Firstly, the BJP-led NDA was adversely affected by the formation of a non-Congress secular combination. The BJP and the NDA's tally has come down since they were denied any significant ally in the states of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Orissa.

The second point to be noted is that the secular non-Congress combination has got 21 per cent of the vote and this shows the potential for building up a third alternative on the lines suggested by the CPI (M) in its Party Congress. That is, an alternative which is not merely an electoral alliance but a coming together of the parties and forces on a common platform through movements and struggles for alternative policies distinct from that of the Congress and the BJP.

Money Power
A disturbing feature of this Lok Sabha election was the use of money on a scale not seen before. States like Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka saw an unprecedented use of illegal money. The Madurai constituency in Tamil Nadu was the worst example of the brazen use of money.

In other states too, this trend has grown which is vitiating the democratic process. More and more tickets are being given to moneybags and parties are collecting huge sums of money to be deployed for bribing voters. This is a threat to the entire democratic process and is particularly inimical to the Left's interests which cannot indulge in such unscrupulous use of money power.

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Yechury Admits Leadership's Failure

Sitaram Yechury's interview to Karan Thapar for the programme Devil’s Advocate

Karan Thapar: Prakash Karat has accepted that the election results are a major setback, but the truth is actually much worse than that. Can you deny that this is the worst electoral performance in your party's 45-year-history?

Sitaram Yechury: Not at all. I don’t deny it. This is the worst debacle we have had. Soon after we were formed in 64, the first election we contested in 1967 we won 19 seats--today we won 16.

Karan Thapar: So you have literally gone back below your starting point.

Sitaram Yechury: And this is a serious matter. It is a matter which the politburo has admitted is a very big debacle and we have to understand why this happened and seriously introspect.

Karan Thapar: Let’s for a moment pause over the statistics of your performance. You have gone from your best ever electoral performance to your worst ever in just five straight years. This time around you have lost 63 per cent of the seats you had, or to put it differently you have lost 68 percent more seats than you have won. Those statistics are worrying and actually they are appalling.

Sitaram Yechury: Statistics are statistics and you can always manipulate them but that is not the point. The fact is that you cannot escape from this reality that this has been a very big debacle for us. It’s been the worst performance electorally by the party.

Karan Thapar: Let’s then come to why you did so badly. To begin with, can you accept that breaking with the UPA (United Progressive Alliance) was a mistake? The voters didn't understand why you did it and worst of all it made CPI-M look like a party which was promoting instability.

Sitaram Yechury: All these issues we have decided will be discussed--both national and state-level issues—introspected upon and a very serious, honest, self-critical review will be made by us.

Karan Thapar: Let me quote to you what your defeated MPs are saying. Prashant Pradhan, your defeated MP from Kontai, says: "People have not taken kindly to the withdrawal of support from the UPA government. The poor and the farmers never understood why we wanted to topple the government."

Sitaram Yechury: You see these are points of views which have come across. As I said all issues will be discussed by us and on all of them we will come to some honest, self-critical conclusion.

Karan Thapar: Let me quote to you Amitabh Nandi, a defeated MP from Dumdum. He says: "From day one of withdrawing support from UPA our slogans, our activities have proved we are against stability."

Sitaram Yechury: These are opinions that have come and as I said all these issues will be discussed thoroughly and that process has already begun. By the middle of June I think we will come to our conclusion.

Karan Thapar: But can you accept that these are very valid opinions?

Sitaram Yechury: These issues will be discussed, definitely.

Karan Thapar: These are not inexperienced, foolish people talking. These are some of your most senior, cherished MPs, now defeated. They know what they are talking about.

Sitaram Yechury: They have been our leaders in Parliament. There is no way we are going to discount anything anybody says within the party. Everything will be taken seriously and discussed.

Karan Thapar: Now the second problem with breaking with the UPA was that you forced the Congress into the arms of the Trinamool Congress, thus creating a coalition that was able to attract the anti-Left votes in West Bengal at a time when you were yourself suffering from Nandigram, Singur and beginning to realise that the Muslim population could be disaffected. Rather than divide your opponents you ended up uniting and strengthening them.

Sitaram Yechury: But remember that the Congress and the Trinamool always had a ground-level understanding even without an alliance. What happened this time was that the de facto converted itself into de jure.

Karan Thapar: Which was a disaster for you...

Sitaram Yechury: This had its impact, definitely. There’s no doubt about it. We anticipated that this would have an impact on the marginal seats, but there are other reasons why this defeat has occurred in Bengal and those have to be seriously examined.

Karan Thapar: Absolutely. No one denies there are other reasons in Bengal. But given those other reasons, the worst tactic for you was to unite your opponents on a single platform. You should have divided them, not united them.

Sitaram Yechury: Like I said we will review all of this.

Karan Thapar: But can you accept this was bad tactics?

Sitaram Yechury: Not just this, all other questions will be discussed and reviewed. All that I can say right now is that on any one of these issues we have not come to any conclusive decision.

Karan Thapar: But you accept that given that you already had problems in Bengal, devising a strategy that unites your opponents was a pretty silly thing to do?

Sitaram Yechury: But it could well be that our opponents were going to unite any way?

Karan Thapar: Maybe but you prodded them into it. If you hadn’t broken with Congress they might not have gone with Trinamool and then you would have faced a divided opposition not a united one.

Sitaram Yechury: In the last elections, remember, of the 61 Left MPs 54 came to the Lok Sabha defeating Congress candidates. So going into elections with the Congress was never the issue.

Karan Thapar: But the problem was that this time, by breaking with the UPA, you pushed the Congress into the arms of the TMC and thus created a platform of unity against you which otherwise would have been two divided parties.

Sitaram Yechury: That is the reason why I am saying that what was de facto has become de jure.

Karan Thapar: And that was a disaster...

Sitaram Yechury: We will review that...

Karan Thapar: Is it true that Jyoti Basu advised the CPI-M leadership not to break with the UPA?

Sitaram Yechury: He may have had his opinions within the committees but there is no advice that has come to us.

Karan Thapar: What opinion did he express in the committees?

Sitaram Yechury: That I can't tell you. That is something which even he won't tell you.

Karan Thapar: Can I infer that within the committees he expressed a measure of dissent about breaking with the UPA?

Sitaram Yechury: You see breaking from the UPA was not a one-time decision or which happened one-off. It was a series of developments which were taking place as a result of which it culminated in our withdrawing support. On various steps in this process he had some issues to tell us which he told.

Karan Thapar: So there were various moments when he expressed his opinion; there were issues he had to speak about which he did speak about.

Sitaram Yechury: Yes, definitely. Inside the party all of us will give our opinion but once we collectively decide that is our party matter.

Karan Thapar: Thank you, I think you have said it all. You can't confirm it but within the party at various stages he had opinions to express and he did express them.

Sitaram Yechury: He conveyed what he felt at a number of times.

Karan Thapar: He conveyed what he felt at a number of times, not (just) once or twice.

Sitaram Yechury: Even today he does.

Karan Thapar: The second biggest mistake was in fact the Third Front. We all knew what it didn't stand for--it was anti-Congress, anti-BJP—but no one actually knew what it stood for. As a result of which it lacked credibility and it projected negativity.

Sitaram Yechury: We in the politburo have come to the conclusion that the Third Front …. you understand how this Third Front emerged? It was state-level alliances in various states. Now this was brought together as a national alternative, which people obviously found had neither credibility or viability. Both were lacking. Thus the result. That is what we have accepted.

Karan Thapar: Finish the sentence you half began before you interrupted yourself: “We in the Politburo have to come a conclusion about the Third Front” and then you stopped. What is that conclusion?

Sitaram Yechury: That it was neither viable nor credible...

Karan Thapar: Would you therefore say that it was a mistake?

Sitaram Yechury: The way it was projected was a mistake. I’ll tell you why. The CPI-M always had this opinion, which we still continue to have, that India requires a third political alternative. This third political alternative will have to bring about a shift in the policy trajectory in the country. But that cannot be a cut-and-paste job on the eve of elections.

Karan Thapar: This was a hastily put together cut-and-paste job?

Sitaram Yechury: A cut-and-paste job, and to achieve our objective of a third alternative there are no short cuts. It will have to be done through sustained, prolonged, popular struggles. .

Karan Thapar: This was an attempt at putting together a Third Front, not just by cut and paste but by short-cut methods and that was a mistake.

Sitaram Yechury: Yes. That is something which will be a subject of our review in the central committee (of the CPI-M).

Karan Thapar: But in fact it was not just the projection of the Third Front, it was not just the haste and the cut-and-paste manner in which it was put together. Even the composition of the Third Front was wrong. To begin with, almost all its members were former BJP allies. Two of them, Jayalalithaa and Mayawati, face serious charges of corruption. As a result of its composition this front undermined your cherished principles of probity and secularism. These people should have never been your allies.

Sitaram Yechury: That is why in retrospect we are saying that people didn't find it credible. They did not find this front credible.

Karan Thapar: No doubt the people did not find it credible. The election results prove that. But can you accept that at a prior stage you chose the wrong allies? You should not have approached people like Jayalalithaa, like Mayawati.

Sitaram Yechury: In the states we had electoral understandings—with Jayalalithaa it was an understanding in Tamil Nadu; with the TDP it was an understanding in Andhra Pradesh. But we brought all this together as a national alternative. That did not find credibility with the people.

Karan Thapar: You’re accepting that projecting a state level understanding into a national understanding was a mistake. But even at the state level it was a mistake. Just look at the speed with which Jayalalithaa left you. She left you immediately after the elections and before the counting. The TRS left you after the voting and before the counting. As soon as the counting was over the JD-S and the BSP left you. They showed no loyalty to you at the state or national level.

Sitaram Yechury: The AIADMK has not left us formally, but you are right about the BSP, JD-S and TRS. That is precisely the point I am making--the front was neither credible nor viable. This (election result) has only confirmed that.

Karan Thapar: One other thing. At a time when the country was yearning for a strong and stable government, no one believed that the Third Front could offer it and more importantly the prospect of Mayawati as Prime Minister put a lot of people off, maybe even frightened them.

Sitaram Yechury: I don't think it was only a question of stability that people wanted. If it was stability then they would have found little to choose between the UPA and the NDA. They wanted stability with a commitment to the secular, democratic foundations of India. This was the combination which they found the Third Front lacked the credibility to give. And Commitment to secular, democratic foundations the NDA would never give. Hence the result.

Karan Thapar: The reason you lacked credibility in terms of secular foundations of India is not just because of the composition of the Third Front. But if you look at what your party did in Kerala your alliance with (PDP leader) A N Madhani was another mistake.

Sitaram Yechury: There was no alliance with Madhani.

Karan Thapar: Your own local partymen in Kerala have called it an alliance and say it is a mistake.

Sitaram Yechury: In Kerala, not only Madhani, various other issues that have impacted on these elections, all of them will be reviewed.

Karan Thapar: Let us briefly talk about the manner in which your two bastions--of West Bengal and Kerala--undermined your performance. To begin with, how did you permit yourself to go into an election when your entire Kerala unit was not just feuding but acrimoniously tearing itself apart?

Sitaram Yechury: But remember in Kerala this sort of situation prevailed in the 2006 elections and that time there were street-level demonstrations (as well).

Karan Thapar: Except that the situation had got much worse. On the eve of elections your state secretariat wanted V S Achutanandan removed as Chief Minister.

Sitaram Yechury: No, that was not true. That was only a media-created rumour. But the point is in 2006 what was seen as acrimony between our leaders resulted in a two-third majority victory in the Assembly.

Karan Thapar: Except that by 2009 you were no longer the beneficiary of doubts in the minds of the people. They were convinced by then 3 years of feuding meant that you were tearing yourself apart and you were allying with people like Madani. You were losing credibility.

Sitaram Yechury: Remember the elections in 2009 were for the Central government not state government. In Kerala and Bengal people are very conscious, they know what choices they want and whom they want where (i.e. at the Centre).

Karan Thapar: All right let me quote to you Hanan Mollah, one of your defeated MPs. This is what he told several papers: "We have been severely punished. Did we lose touch with ground reality?" What is your answer to that question?

Sitaram Yechury: That is precisely what we are examining. That is the answer we will give in our Central Committee when we meet in June.

Karan Thapar: What is your hunch? You are a political man, no doubt a definitive answer will come after the analysis but what is your instinct?

Sitaram Yechury: Obviously we have lost touch otherwise this sort of result would not have come. But to what degree, why we lost touch, what were the inadequacies, that is something we are seriously examining.

Karan Thapar: But you agree that you lost touch?

Sitaram Yechury: Of course, the results show that.

Karan Thapar: Now let’s come to the question: where does responsibility lie. I want to quote to you what one of your defeated candidates, Amitabh Nandy, has said. He says: "When we complete our introspection it will certainly emerge that the party's top leadership has failed." Would you agree?

Sitaram Yechury: Please understand one thing that this has been a very big debacle for us. Also understand the fact that this is for the first time in the last two decades that a secular government is being formed in India in which the CPI-M has no role. This is a big setback. People, therefore, are expressing their disappointment. All these sentiments
will be taken into account by us.

Karan Thapar: When you say this is the first time a secular government is being formed in India for two decades without any role or presence of CPI-M, you are underlining how irrelevant or marginalised you have become. So let us come back to Amitabh Nandy. Will you accept that the party's top leadership has failed?

Sitaram Yechury: That is what we are examining. Of course the top leadership of the party will have to take the leaderships role, I mean play the leaderships role. That it will.

Karan Thapar: Will the question when you do your examination be raised:has the leadership failed? Will that question be raised?

Sitaram Yechury: Of course it will come. Of course it will be discussed. Remember a Communist party functions by what we call the Leninist principles of organisation, where it is collective functioning with individual responsibility.

Karan Thapar: Both the collective functioning of the leadership will be inquired into as well as the issue of individual responsibility?

Sitaram Yechury: Of course. Yes. All of this will come in to the review. Definitely.

Karan Thapar: Your allies have absolutely no compunction at all in pointing the finger of blame straight at the Delhi leadership of CPI-M. Debabrata Biswas has done it, Abani Roy has done it and now increasingly AB Bardhan is doing it. They say the CPI-M leadership was arrogant and it had lost touch with the masses.

Sitaram Yechury: We have also heard these comments but all of them were party to all the decisions that were taken together in the Left parties' meeting.

Karan Thapar: No doubt but is there any truth in their claim that your leadership was arrogant?

Sitaram Yechury: If our allies are saying all this we will definitely take that into account in our review. Definitely.

Karan Thapar: You won’t turn a deaf ear?

Sitaram Yechury: No, definitely not.

Karan Thapar: You won't sweep it under the carpet?

Sitaram Yechury: No, it is for our own survival to get back the people who have been alienated from us and to advance further that we have to be candid, honest and rigorously honest in this self-critical examination.

Karan Thapar: If you want to be candid and rigorously honest then I put this to you: after facing a similar disastrous electoral performance, LK Advani offered his resignation to the BJP as Leader of Opposition. Why in similar circumstances in the CPI-M has Prakash Karat not found fit to make a similar gesture?

Sitaram Yechury: Leader of Opposition is a position in Parliament and that Parliament has ceased - the 14th Lok Sabha. And that Parliament has ceased to be. So whether he resigns or not that Parliament has finished.

Karan Thapar: We are talking about the need for candidness, for transparency and for winning back the people you have lost. Surely therefore Prakash Karat must make the gesture of accepting responsibility as General Secretary.

Sitaram Yechury: The point again here is that it will have to be a collective assessment that we will make of these results, of why these results have resulted in this sort of manner. And remember, resignation also can be escape from responsibilities.

Karan Thapar: You said a very interesting thing. A collective assessment will be made.

Sitaram Yechury: Yes.

Karan Thapar: Now your Central Committee is due to meet in June. At that meeting what are the chances that Prakash Karat will either step down voluntarily or be stripped of his responsibilities.

Sitaram Yechury: Again let me tell you the Central Committee is going to discuss the reasons for our debacle.

Karan Thapar: And they are going into the question of leadership?

Sitaram Yechury: Leadership of course. In that process. But it will not be on the basis of who is going to resign or not--that is not the issue. The issue is what are the mistakes, why were they committed and how can they be corrected.

Karan Thapar: But can you rule out the possibility of Prakash Karat accepting responsibility at that stage and resigning?

Sitaram Yechury: The Central Committee, as I said, will comprehensively review. Beyond that I cannot go today.

Karan Thapar: Let me put this to you. There is no doubt that the two issues on which you ended up losing seats were the break with the UPA and creation of a less than credible Third Front. Of both those Prakash Karat was the central architect. Is it not therefore the case that, as the Press is saying, he has the greatest measure of direct responsibility for this defeat?

Sitaram Yechury: Prakash Karat is the General Secretary of the CPI-M. These were the decisions of the CPI-M and he as General Secretary will articulate these decisions, naturally.

Karan Thapar: In most organisations when things go wrong the man at the top takes the responsibility.

Sitaram Yechury: But I think that is also one way of escaping responsibility.

Karan Thapar: Are you going to hold him to the job to punish him rather than let him go?

Sitaram Yechury: It is not a question of an individual. As I said, we will collectively assess what are our mistakes.

Karan Thapar: And therefore if you are going to collectively assess his future depends on the outcome and decisions of the central committee.

Sitaram Yechury: Well, the future of the party depends on it.

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Saturday, May 23, 2009

Coping With Victory And Defeat

By Siddharth Varadarajan

With the poorly conceived Third Front promising little more than political instability and the Bharatiya Janata Party standing for greater social turmoil and division, the victory of the Congress is a vote for calm, centrist stability of the kind the country has not seen for more than two decades.

That voters have attached a premium to both the formation of a stable government and to the pursuit of social-democratic policies should come as no surprise given the spectres of economic hardship, terrorist violence and communal polarisation that haunt our collective psyche today.

The only irony is that the Left and the Congress, whose partnership for four out of the past five years provided the United Progressive Alliance both the aura of stability and the caché of populism, should have ended up such bitter rivals on the eve of the election.

On the eve of the general election, the coming together of major challenges like the world financial crisis, the implosion of Pakistan and the rising tide of religious intolerance within India and the region had shifted the matrix of rational policy in such a manner that the issues on which the Left and the Congress had parted company last year made no sense at all to voters in 2009.

On most issues of consequence, domestic and foreign, the distance between centrist and leftist policy was getting eroded. Having resisted the National Rural Employment Guarantee scheme when activists first mooted the idea in 2004, the Congress took it up seriously only after the Left parties made it a priority.

Even then, conservative elements within the ruling establishment like Montek Singh Ahluwalia of the Planning Commission remained sceptical and sought to limit the Central government’s fiscal commitment to it.

Only when the economic slowdown hit India in 2008 — and the importance of NREGA as both a politically convenient safety net for the poor and an accelerator-multiplier to kickstart the economy became apparent — did the Congress make its implementation a priority.

The Congress may have been a late and even reluctant convert; but what matters finally is that the party and the Left ended up on the same page.

On other economic matters which divided the Congress and the Left like financial sector liberalisation, the fact that the Indian banking and insurance sectors were insulated from the global turmoil which felled giants like AIG and Lehman Brothers provided a further basis for the two sides to speak the same broad language.

Instead of celebrating the return of the social-democratic paradigm and using this to leverage a further shift away from neo-liberal dogma, however, the Left found itself holding the can on the one free-market policy its rural support base viscerally opposed: land acquisition.

If nationally, the CPI(M) and its allies were pilloried for a leftism that was largely declaratory, the Left Front paid the price in its bastion of West Bengal for the “rightism” of its policies that allowed Mamata Banerjee to emerge as a defender of the peasantry’s right to till the soil.

Consider the irony: the Left broke with the Congress because it felt the latter had deviated from the Common Minimum Programme of 2004. But in 2009, it allied itself to a diverse set of political parties without any programme other than the desire to establish a “non-Congress, non-BJP” government.

So it was that the Left found itself at election time with allies such as the Telugu Desam Party, the All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, the Biju Janata Dal and the Bahujan Samaj Party — groups that had no interest in pushing the direction of national economic policy one way or the other and which had all, in recent times, been closely associated with the BJP and its communal politics.

This programmatic dilution of the ‘Third Front’ allowed the grouping to look strong on paper but it was devoid of any political ballast. But even this might not have proved fatal except for another factor: As a result of its break with the Congress over an issue that was not so decisive to the direction of Indian foreign policy in the long run — the nuclear deal — the Left facilitated the creation of a coalition that went on to storm the seemingly impregnable red fortress of Bengal.

To be sure, there were and are valid reasons for the CPI(M) to have wanted to build a Third Front. But its failure to articulate a positive pro-people programme around which such a front could be established rendered the exercise electorally and politically futile.

As it looks towards rebuilding itself in Kerala and West Bengal and enlarging its prospects as a genuinely national alternative, the Left will have to be self-critical about its preference for conjuring up expedient top-down coalitions rather than organic, bottom-up alliances based on the kind of struggles and movements the communists know best.

Unless it does so, the parliamentary communist movement will find itself increasingly squeezed by Maoist extremism on the left and the electoral machine of ‘bourgeois’ parties on the right against which it cannot easily compete. If the Left needs to introspect, what of the BJP, which paid the price for believing that the Indian voter would prefer divisiveness and strife to the comforting anchor of centrism?

The rot in the party runs so deep that it cannot be reversed by the resignation of LK Advani. The very fact that its spokesmen thought Narendra Modi’s name would generate a wave in favour of the BJP despite the Supreme Court ordering a probe into his role in the 2002 mass killing of Muslims in Gujarat shows the extent to which they are out of touch with the pulse of the country.

But since the party did relatively better in Gujarat and Karnataka, especially the coastal region where Christians, Muslims and ‘immoral’ Hindus have been targeted by the Sangh Parivar, it is possible the RSS will conclude that religious polarisation is a good electoral strategy for the BJP to pursue. If this is the direction the party takes, its capacity to generate tension and insecurity in civil society will increase even if its national political prospects continue to remain dim.

As for the Congress, the party needs to guard against the hubris that usually accompanies the kind of dramatic, unexpected victory it has just received. The INC defeated the Left fair and square but must realise that its success owes more to the social-democratic elements of its economic policies than to the ‘reforms’ the party’s more affluent backers espouse.

Second, vanquishing the politics the BJP stands for requires more than electoral success. The socio-economic and administrative support structures on which the politics of communalism thrives need to be dismantled through careful, sensitive intervention.

The party must resist the old Congress way of pandering to identity politics as a low-cost way of doing the right thing by India’s diverse electorate. India’s Muslims, for example, want equal opportunities and justice, not the banning of a book or the expulsion of a Taslima Nasreen. Providing these will involve taking on entrenched interests and attitudes, especially in the police and administration, something the
Congress has always shied away from doing.

Finally, the re-election of the UPA must not be seen as a licence to indulge in the ‘Congress culture’ of the past. The public got a glimpse of that culture when some leaders started pushing for Rahul Gandhi to be made Prime Minister as soon as the scale of the party’s victory became apparent.

Sonia Gandhi did well to nip these demands in the bud. If she can go further by pensioning off entrenched interests and democratising the functioning of the party’s leadership, the Congress will be better placed to meet the expectations of those who have voted for it.

Courtesy: The Hindu

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Thursday, May 21, 2009

How Mayawati Lost The Plot

By SR Darapuri

Kanshi Ram and Mayawati started their politics with “Tilak, Tarazu aur Talwar- inko maro jute char” (Beat the Brahmins, Banias and Thakurs with shoes) and “Vote hamara raj tumhara nahin chalega” (we won’t allow you to rule us with our vote).

Besides this, in order to attract dalits (Scheduled Castes.) they gave the slogans like “Baba tera mission adhura, Kanshi Ram karenge pura” (Kanshi Ram will fulfil the mission left incomplete by Dr Ambedkar) and “Political power is the key to the entire problem.”

Through these slogans they aimed at attracting and agitating the dalits against the ‘savarnas’(higher castes) and they succeeded also to a good extent. This polarization of dalits was further facilitated by the political vacuum created by the division and downfall of Republican Party of India which was established by Dr Ambedkar himself in 1956.

Since 1995 Mayawati made various experiments to broaden the base of her Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). In the beginning it was known as the party of the dalits only.

Later on Muslims and Other Backward Castes were also co-opted. It fought the 1993 Assembly election jointly with Samajwadi Party (SP), a party of Other Backward Classes and made good gains.

It resulted in the formation of first coalition government of BSP and SP in Uttar Pradesh state of India. This coalition of natural allies became a subject of discussion all over India but soon a clash of personal ambitions resulted in its fall in June, 1995.

Kanshi Ram and Mayawati grabbed the post of chief minister by making an unethical and opportunist alliance with Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP), a party of orthodox Hindus and the bitterest enemy of dalits.
This put the dalit movement and dalit politics on the path of opportunism bereft of principles. It not only confused the direction of dalit politics but also fogged the difference between friends and foes of dalits.

This alliance not only gave a lease of life to the dying BJP but also broke the natural alliance of dalits and Backward Castes for ever. This unprincipled and opportunistic alliance was justified as being essential for getting into power and party workers were mislead by this briefing.

This alliance with BJP not only confused the dalits but Muslims also moved away from BSP as they consider BJP as their bitterest enemy. During the first tenure of BSP rule in 1995 some land was distributed to empower the dalits because till then the party workers had some pressure on the party leadership.

But later on in order to please the upper castes, dalit interests were given a go bye and getting power became the sole motive of the party leadership.

After first tenure of Mayawati's chief ministership, this process became faster and BSP raced towards 'Sarvajan' throwing aside the 'Bahujan'. In every election moneyed, musclemen and mafias were given preference being winning candidates and dalits were restricted to reserved seats only. Party mission was overtaken by money power and muscle power.

Old missionary party workers and those who were close to Kanshi Ram were made to exit the party unceremoniously. As such dalits were put on the margin in the party but they continued to be with the party with the hope that one day they may also get some benefit of government but their hopes were belied.

From 1995 to 2003 Mayawati thrice became the chief minster of Uttar Pradesh but she always took the help of the BJP. During this period neither any dalit agenda was chalked out nor any effort was made in that direction.

During 1993 this author during many discussions with Kanshi Ram suggested chalking out a dalit agenda but my suggestions were ignored.

I think it was done purposely because declaration of an agenda brings upon a duty to implement it and if failed it brings upon the responsibility and accountability for the failure.

It is a matter of regret and sorrow that a party seeking political power in the name of dalits has not framed any agenda till to date as a result of which the dalits have been deprived of any gain coming from a government being run in their name.

The result is that the dalits of UP are the most backward dalits in whole of India, barring Bihar and Orissa. During this period moneyed and musclemen of upper castes have been managing to get Assembly and Parliament tickets and getting elected they been enjoying the fruits of power whereas dalits with a meagre representation have been deprived of all such benefits.

The BSP, which is doing politics in the name of Dr BR Ambedkar, in its effort to secure power has totally ignored his warning in which he had said that “dalits have two enemies. One is Brahmanism and the other is Capitalism and dalits should never compromise with them.”

But Mayawati has compromised with both by co-opting Brahmins and the Corporate sector. At present dalit politics has become a tool for power grabbing. It reached its height when before 2007 Assembly elections Mayawati formed Dalit Brahman Bhaichara Committees (Dalit Brahmans Brotherhood Committees) headed by a Brahman president and a dalit as secretary.

The election success of BSP during 2007 was mainly attributed to the important role played by Brahmins and they got a lion’s share in power which was much disproportionate to their population. Dalits were reduced to the level of second class players in the Party and in ministership.

This methodology of co-opting Upper Caste people was publicized as new 'social engineering' and BSP was transformed from the Party of dalits to a Party of Sarvajan (all inclusive).

During this period slogans such as “Haathi nahin Ganesh hai, Brahma, Vishnu, Mahesh hai” (it is not an elephant but a trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh- all Hindu gods) and “Brahman shankh bajaiga, Haathi dilli jaiga”( Brahman will blow the conch and elephant will march towards Delhi) were coined to placate the upper caste persons much to the chagrin of dalits.

The elephant symbolizes the symbol of BSP. The varna system of graded inequality became fully operative in the Party and dalits were further pushed to the margin.

Even now during Mayawati's present regime, dalits have been totally ignored and sarvajan have occupied the front seats. All important ministerial posts have been given to upper caste people.

Mayawati’s personal corruption has percolated to all the branches of administration and U.P. has been assessed to be “ an alarmingly corrupt state”. The various welfare schemes aiming at empowering dalits and other weaker sections of society have fallen a prey to all pervading corruption thereby depriving the intended beneficiaries of their benefits.

Blatant corruption came to light during recruitment to the posts of safai karamcharis (sweepers). Similar complaints surfaced during other recruitments also. It is said that there might be only a few lucky persons who escaped payment of high price for government jobs.

The funds intended for development works were spent on installation of statues including her own and creating royal memorials and parks.
Since 1990 UP has been deprived of any development and creation of employment opportunities.

This lack of development has adversely affected the dalits as a result of which they have become the most backward dalits in whole of India.

As per 2001 senses their sex ratio, literacy rates and works participation rate are much lower than their counter-parts in other states. A fall of 13 per cent dalits from the category of cultivators to the category of landless labourers during the last decade (1991-2001) indicates their 'disempowerment'.

If judged from the angle of protection against atrocities on dalits, there has been no decrease during Mayawati’s rule. On the contrary as a result of written and oral orders from Mayawati, the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act-1989 has become inoperative.

This act was intended to prevent atrocities and award stringent punishment to the perpetrators of atrocities on dalits. The atrocity cases against dalits are taking place as before but they are not being registered by police. As a result of non-registration of cases, dalits are condemned to suffer atrocities and deprivation from monitory compensation.

The intention behind not allowing the registration of cases is to keep the crime figures low thereby projecting a 'crimeless' state. In spite of all this UP stands first in whole of India in terms of crime against dalits. As such Mayawati has totally failed to give even legal protection to dalits.

Mayawati's action of ignoring the dalits and giving preference to upper castes has resulted in disillusionment and anguish amongst dalits. This has been displayed by them during the recent 2009 Lok Sabha elections.

Most of the criminals, moneyed men and muscle men fielded by Mayawati have been defeated as the dalits did not vote for them. Mayawati now and earlier also gave tickets to the persons whom she had herself accused of threat and assault during the Guest House case of 2nd June, 1995. But dalits refused to oblige her and almost all have been defeated.

Mayawati as before had confined the dalits to 17 reserved seats only out of whom only 2 have been elected. If we look at the allotment of tickets during this election it is found that Brahmins being 7.5 per cent of the total population of the state were given 20 tickets i.e. 25 per cent of total seats whereas the dalits with 21 per cent population were given 17 reserved seats only.

Out of the total 20 seats won by BSP, 5 are Brahmins and only 2 are dalits. On account of this hold of Brahmins in the party, the people have started calling BSP as a Brahmins Samaj Party. From the angle of representation dalits are marginalized in the party. This has been one of the major grievances of dalits against Mayawati.

With a view to attract Most Backward Classes, Mayawati sent a recommendation to the Central Government for inclusion of 16 castes in the list of Schedule Castes. Earlier Mulayam Singh had also made a similar attempt which was opposed by dalits as it would have harmed their reservation quota. It was challenged in the court and had to be dropped.

This action of Mayawati irritated the dalits. Whereas Mayawati strongly recommended the case for 10 per cent reservation for the poor among the upper castes, she did not show a similar interest in respect of dalits. Her declaration of granting 10 per cent reservation to dalits in private sector has remained on paper only.

Mayawati’s way of ignoring dalits and treating them as a bonded vote bank has irritated a large section of awakened and oppressed section of dalits and has instilled in them a feeling of alienation. But as before Mayawati tried to fool them by projecting a possibility of her becoming the Prime Minister of India. But most of dalits refused to be taken in.

A big chunk of Chamar and Jatav votes, which is the core vote bank of the BSP, moved away from her to Congress fold. Other dalits sub-castes like Pasi, Dhobi, Khatik and Balmiki had earlier moved towards SP and BJP.

The Most Backward Classes also deserted Mayawati. Afraid of Mayawati’s love for BJP Muslims also walked away from BSP. This resulted in a limited success on 20 seats only as against a projected tally of 50-60 seats whereby she could stake her claim to the prime ministership.

The disheartening defeat of BSP during this election has clearly shown that vote base of BSP has shrunk. Not only Muslims and Most Backward Classes have deserted BSP but a big chunk of dalits have also moved away from it to Congress.

Dalit society has been badly divided on sub-caste lines. Dalit movements and dalit politics have fallen a pray to opportunism, corruption and immorality. Today it is standing at cross roads. It is not only a danger signal for Mayawati but for whole of dalit society.

Will Mayawati and dalit intellectuals think over it with their cool mind? If it is not done immediately it may again result in betrayal of dalit interests. There is a fear of dalits again becoming political slaves of Congress. It should be a matter of grave concern and serious introspection by all Ambedkarites.

Going by present signs Mayawati has refused to learn any lesson from her debacle. As rightly pointed out by BG Verghese in ‘Deccan Herald’ dated 2009 “the lesson Mayawati requires to learn is that she has been cut to size not on account of conspiracies against dalit-ki-beti (daughter of a dalit) but because of her own greed, corruption and authoritarianism that is fast blunting her original appeal as a dalit leader intent on forging a wider social alliance.
People do not want innumerable self-aggrandizing statues and mausoleums at the cost of good governance and welfare. She perhaps still has time to learn and mend her ways.”

The recent election results show that dalits have rejected Mayawati’s much trumpeted up “Sarvajan Formula” and she needs to do a serious introspection and learn from her mistakes otherwise it will prove to be a missed opportunity.


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Monday, May 18, 2009

Money Mantra Makes MPs

By Roger Alexander

With as many as 300 crorepatis — nearly double of 154 in the last Lok Sabha – becoming MPs, the 15th Lok Sabha can no longer be called the House of the People. With 55.25% crorepati members, it is now the House of the Privileged!

If more than half of the MPs are crorepatis, you can be sure that the rest are equally rich for many have benami and hidden assets that are not known. In fact the Election Commission has confirmed that a large number of candidates did not file their PAN details, meaning they do not pay Income Tax. So the number of crorepatis could be much higher.

There have been reports that many of these worthies bought their nominations from the parties they now represent. Indeed, money can't buy you love, but it can buy you power and pelf.

As news reports indicate, these crorepatis spent vast sums to buy votes to get 'elected' to the Lok Sabha. To put it differently, it is akin to buying sex for pleasure. This not only scandalous but disgusting as well and nothing short of the prostitution of Parliament.

And given the class character of the ruling alliance it comes as no
surprise that eight of the 10 richest MPs in the list belong to the Congress and its ally NCP. In all, all 45% of the crorepati MPs belong to Congress (137).

The Opposition benches are also adorned by crorepatis, exposing the class character of India's body politic. 20% of crorepati MPs belong to the BJP (58), a shade less than 5% to the Samajwadi Party (14) and more than 4% to the BSP (13).

These parties are followed by DMK and Shiv Sena. Interestingly, the JD(U) has the seventh biggest group of crorepatis in the new House.

The Rajya Sabha too boasts of similar figures, with half the members in the crorepati bracket.

The wealthiest MP in the new Lok Sabha (sic) is Namma Nageswara Rao of TDP, elected from Khammam in Andhra Pradesh. He is worth Rs 173 crore. Rao is followed by steel baron Naveen Jindal (Congress) from Kurukshetra with assets of Rs 131 crore.

Others at the top of the crorepati club are L Rajagopal (Congress), Praful Patel (NCP), Supriya Sule (NCP), Rajkumari Ratna Singh of Pratapgarh (Congress) and Andhra chief minister YSR Reddy's son YS Rajamohan Reddy.

Amongst states, the most crorepatis are from UP (52), followed by Maharastra (37), Andhra Pradesh (31) and Karnataka (25), Bihar (17), Tamil Nadu (17) and MP (15). Gujarat, at number 10, has sent 12 crorepatis to the new House this time.

All the 7 Congress MPs from Delhi are crorepatis. All the 13 MPs from Punjab are crorepatis. Both winners from Arunachal Pradesh are crorepatis. Three of the four Himachal MPs are crorepatis, and three of five from Uttarakhand are also in the same league.

Even Bengal and Kerala, where the Congress and its allies scored a thumping victory over the Left, elected 10 and 4 crorepatis respectively. And in India's poorest states – Bihar (17/40), Rajasthan (14/25), Orissa (6/21), Jharkhand (5/14), and Chhattisgarh (2/11) – crorepatis virtually 'bought' their way to the Lok Sabha.

Small states and Union Territories that elect only one MP each – Sikkim, Meghalaya, Dadra & Nagar Haveli, Daman & Diu, Puducherry, Chandigarh, and Lakshdweep – have the dubious distinction of returning only crorepati candidates, making it a 100% strike rate for the moneybags.

Unlike previous years, the class character of the 15th Lok Sabha now mirrors the Indian state. Only fat-cat capitalists and landlords will control the levers of the state and swagger in the corridors of power for the next five years.

Not surprisingly, it is party-time for the rich, richer, and richest. News reports have revealed just who was partying after the victory of their candidates in the general election. This party was caught on TV cameras at Dalal Street (home of the Bombay Stock Exchange) on Monday, May 18 – the first day of trading after the results were announced.

On 'Memorable Monday' the 30-share Bombay Stock Exchange's benchmark Sensex posted its biggest ever gain of over 2,100 points in just one-minute trade.

Cheering the decisive win of the Congress, 'investors' – who constitute less than 2% of India's population that invests in stocks - became richer by a whopping Rs 6,500,000,000,000 (Rs 6.5 trillion) in just 60 seconds!

Investor wealth, measured in terms of the combined market capitalisation of all the listed companies, increased by over Rs 6,564,770,000,000 crore (Rs 6.56 trillion) in a minute to Rs 44,634,209,700,000 (Rs 44.634 trillion).

If this money was to be distributed among the entire populace – men, women, and children – every Indian would be richer by about Rs 45,000, i.e. six years of income earned through blood, sweat and tears for each of India's 835 million citizens who subsist on Rs 20 per day!

Unfortunately, that's not how capitalism works. The 30 Sensex companies that account for over 47 per cent of the total market capitalisation of all the firms, saw their combined market valuation rise by over Rs 3,160,000,000,000 (Rs 3.16 trillion).

The combined market capitalisation of the 30 blue-chip stocks rose to Rs 21,535,900,900,000 (Rs 21.536 trillion) on Monday, from Rs 183,684,133,000,000 (Rs 183.68 trillion) at the end of trade on May 15 when it was assumed that it would be a hung Parliament.

And who were the biggest gainers? The top five were the Anil Ambani's firms Reliance Communication and Reliance Infrastructure, engineering major Larsen & Toubro, the flagship company of Jaypee Group Jaiprakash Associates and the country's largest private sector lender ICICI Bank.

Other major gainers in the index were Kushal Pal Singh's DLF (16.62%), Anil Agarwal's Sterlite Industries (16.53%), Kumar Mangalam Birla's Hindalco Industries (15.06%), and Sunil Mitta's Bharti Airtel (14.53%). Partially privatised PSUs BHEL and SBI also posted gains.

Indeed, there is an unprecedented sense of jubilation among the super-rich because with the Left losing heavily, all the so-called reforms that all of Manmohan Singh's pet schemes that were scuttled by the Left for five years – disinvestment of all PSUs, especially navaratnas, FDI in retail, opening of the insurance sector to foreign companies, sale of public sector banks, hire-and-fire labour policies, speculative trading in foodgrains and other commodities (in short every sector where easy money is to made selling the family silver) – will now be rolled out with much fanfare in the name of economic reforms to fuel India's 'growth story'.

Market pundits say during the coming week foreign institutional investors will start pumping in fresh funds to avail the golden opportunity to loot India.

The Congress's Left-less victory over the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance has revived hopes of a slew of pro-market policy changes that would take Indian markets to new highs in the coming days. Understandably, the mood is that of "Jai Ho!", as many headlines in the corporate media and blogs suggest.

In the last Lok Sabha, the Left was in a position to force the government to launch pro-poor measures like the NREG, RTI, Forest Rights Act, and farm loan waivers besides increased spending in the social sector and agriculture - ironically measures that paid the Congress handsome dividends in this election - despite resistance from the likes of Manmohan Singh, P Chidambaram and Montek Singh Ahluwalia who complained “there was no money to fund such 'populist' schemes”.

But now that the number of crorepatis in the Lok Sabha has doubled, there are hardly and votaries of the toiling masses who will protest against injustices meted out to the poor and marginalised.

Indeed, because of the Left Front's poor showing, there will hardly be anyone other than the 24 Left MPs who will raise their voice on behalf of the over 77 per cent of the populace, or an estimated 836 million people, who earn an income of Rs 20 per day and over 300 million living below the poverty line.

Since the Left parties now constitute only a droplet in an ocean of crorepatis in Parliament, they have no choice other than taking the people's struggles to the streets and farms in the interest of a just society, not a Crorepati Club.

(This entry has been edited after it was first posted)

Roger And Out

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Sunday, May 17, 2009

Left Out

By Roger Alexander

The results are out and the verdict is unambiguous. Contrary to predictions and analysis, including that of this writer, there is only one winner – the Congress, even though it has won just 205 seats. And every other party, including the Congress's own allies, are losers.

Till the night of May 15 it was believed the Congress would have to beg estranged friends, especially the Left, to return to the UPA fold to reach the halfway mark. Nothing of the sort was required for the Left has been decimated. Indeed, the Left is the biggest loser in this election.

While details of voting patterns and other details will be available only after a few days to enable an in-depth analysis, it is evident that in Kerala factionalism led to a rout of the Left. Indeed, a faction-ridden Communist party is an oxymoron. And that's what seems to have dismayed even die-hard supporters outside the party fold, not to speak of disgruntled allies and disenchanted workers who seemed to be working at cross-purposes during the campaign.

No amount of semantics over pre-poll hiccups over seat sharing, community preferences, or minor swings can explain the debacle especially since the Kerala state government was supposed to be doing a decent job.

But it is the storming of the Left citadel, West Bengal, that has everyone - party bosses, sympathisers and independent observers alike – flummoxed. Indeed, all exit polls predicted around 26 seats for the Left Front. The result is worse – a paltry 15 seats.

This performance is worse than its previous low of 16 in 1984 when the election was fought in the shadow of Indira Gandhi's assassination. And the argument that the Left was against a formidable Trinamool-Congress 'mahajot' does not explain the crushing defeat.

It will be remembered that a similar 'mahajot' existed in the 2001 state assembly elections. But the Left Front easily met that challenge. Even in the panchayat elections last year, the Left Front emerged victorious – though battered and bruised - with a 52 per cent vote share.

So it all boils down to the failure of the CPI(M)'s fabled party machinery to convince the Left's traditional supporters – the working class, farmers, sharecroppers, and other poor sections – to once again vote for the Left.

Remember, the Left citadel was built on the land reforms post 1977 when it won a decisive victory in the assembly elections after the Emergency. Though the Zamindari system was abolished by an enactment in the West Bengal State Assembly way back in 1957, the land holding pattern had undergone little change.

A vast majority of the cultivators had little or no land in their possession. In an effort to penetrate and widen its support base in the rural areas, the CPI(M), after coming to power, initiated steps to correct the existing imbalance in land relations.

For this adopted a two-prong strategy. On the one hand, it stressed the empowerment of the landless and marginal farmers – ‘Operation Barga’. Additionally, it tried to complete the unfinished task of distributing surplus land vested from the landlords.

On the other, the Left Front government introduced a three-tier panchayat system and in 1978 held its first election. The panchayat system was important for it was expected to give the people a participatory role in the process of rural development.

So along with its deep roots in the working class movement the CPI(M) also won the allegiance of the rural poor as Operation Barga empowered not only the tillers of the land but the rights of sharecroppers as well. And that's the way it remained for the next 30 years.

But when the CPI(M) decided to take economic development to the next higher plane through industrialisation as the gains of land reforms were petering out, it made a monumental tactical blunder: it failed to convince farmers and sharecroppers that land acquisition for industrialisation was in their interest.

For this the CPI(M) does not have anyone to blame but itself. First, the Left Front was divided over land acquisition with the Forward Bloc and RSP bitterly opposing the policy.

Second, even after the Doubting Thomases within the Left Front were arm-twisted into accepting the new reality, the party cadre were neither ideologically equipped nor trained to take the all-important message to the grassroots.

In fact, the whole exercise was entrusted to the government bureaucracy without the participation of the gram panchayats and zilla parishads, led by party members, that were supposed to be part of the decision-making process.

Ironically, the very forces led by the Congress that had determinedly fought for the 'rights' of the jotedars (landlords) when their holdings were expropriated in the Seventies have now emerged as the 'saviours' of the beneficiaries of the land reforms undertaken by the Left.

The farmers, of course, have no future as land fragmentation has made most holdings economically unviable. It will be remembered that compensation for the 1000 acres acquired for the Tata Nano plant in Singur was distributed amongst 10,000 title holders, meaning one family eking out a living on one-tenth of an acre.

Yet the party cadres at the village level failed to convince the farmers that they could become more prosperous if industry came up on their land. Politically that was a fatal error.

Of course there are other issues – arrogance of party cadres, complacency, revisionist tendencies, an unhealthy reliance on bourgeois democracy to achieve revolutionary goals, and revisionism - that contributed to the rout of the Left, but at the moment
the failure to address the concerns of farmers seems to be the biggest factor that led to the shock result.

Imagine, if in a politically conscious state like West Bengal where the choice is between a pro-poor and progressive Left Front and a mercurial and retrograde Mamata Banerjee, the electorate chooses the latter, there must be something really wrong with the politics of the CPI(M) and its allies.

(If there is one lesson to be learnt from this election, it is this: Electoral arithmetic does not always work. That is why the Left Front decisively lost an election this writer earlier felt was a no contest.)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Congress Left In The Lurch

By Roger Alexander

The Left is back in fashion.

Even with Manmohan Singh who hated being a “bonded slave” of the comrades. He now "regrets" having parted ways with the Left.

And Rahul Gandhi, who wants “to keep communal forces at bay” with the very people he called "obsolete" just the other day.

And Sharad Pawar, who is shouting from the rooftops that “no government can be formed without the support of the Left.”

And Lalu Prasad and Ramvilas Paswan who get nostalgic about “past friendship”.

And Amar Singh now wants an “urgent meeting” with Prakash Karat.

And Kapil Sibal. And Jayanti Natrajan. And Prannoy Roy. And Rajdeep Sardesai. And Arnab Goswami...The list is long and interesting.

All insist the Left has "no choice" but to support the Congress. According to them, "politics is the art of the possible."

Indeed, so loud is the clamour to do business with the Left parties and their allies in the Third Front that one wonders what happened to Rahul Gandhi's brave words of taking the Congress back to the halcyon days of one-party rule.

So what gives?

It is evident that with the five-phase election now over, the Congress has got the heebie-jeebies. Gone is the bravado and swagger of the five past years. And as the day of reckoning on May 16 approaches, the ruling party is literally clutching at straws.

Nothing illustrates this better than Rahul Gandhi's craven overtures to J Jayalalithaa, Chandrababu Naidu, Nitish Kumar and, above all, to the Left Front even before the election process is complete.

The Congress, of course, is an old practitioner at chicanery, back-stabbing, underhand deals, and double-cross. Remember Manmohan Singh jauntily flashing the V-sign just before he faced the trust vote on June 22 last year? He could afford to be optimistic then, secure in the knowledge that with Amar Singh's help he had bought off enough MPs to save his government. But buying a billion votes is a different kettle of fish.

Rahul's plans to once again sneak him into 7, Race Course Road through the backdoor without having to face the electorate lie in tatters. Even self-professed allies have called his bluff.

For the Congress, the writing is on the wall. The maths is working like this: the Congress's dream of winning in Andhra and Tamil Nadu have evaporated; Sharad Pawar has shafted it in Maharashtra; Mamata Banerjee may not win more seats than the Left Front in West Bengal; Naveen Patnaik may hold his own in Orissa; and most importantly the BJP should retain its strength in the states it rules.

Rahul has no choice. He must turn poacher.

But alas, the only thing coming in the way of the Congress's political nirvana is the Left-led Third Front. Not only have the members of this front – the TRS and JD(S) notwithstanding - snubbed the Congress, other parties that are not formally part of the Third Front are also eyeing greener pastures in a non-Congress, non-BJP dispensation.

The fact of the matter is that after ten years and two coalition governments – NDA and UPA – the small parties are chary of being handmaidens of the two big parties. Not only do they have to scramble for crumbs thrown at them when it comes to cabinet berths, the big brothers also try to muscle into the political space they have carved for themselves in the provinces.

Chandrababu Naidu was the first to realise that the BJP was gaining at the TDP's expense in Andhra Pradesh during the Vajpayee years. Naveen Patnaik came to the same conclusion in Orissa recently. Deve Gowda is still to recoup after being taken for a ride by the saffron party. And Mayawati who has played footsie with the big two in the past has only scars to show for her dalliance.

On the UPA side of the fence, Lalu Prasad and Paswan realised late in the day that the Congress was keen on regaining Bihar for itself using their muscle. Mulayam Singh
Yadav did not yield an inch over sharing seats in Uttar Pradesh knowing full well he would be writing his own epitaph. And Mamata Banerjee was smart enough to offer only “unwinnable” seats in West Bengal and keep her options open.

So it is only natural that whoever forms the government, the small parties will hold the whiphand. And if they stick together and play their cards smartly, they can certainly take the country on a new track.

For this to happen the Left Front must emerge as the largest formation after the Congress and BJP to provide the glue to keep the smaller together in a tight bloc that can call the shots when it comes to forming the next government.

Roger And Out!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Third Time Lucky?

By Mahesh Rangarajan/DNA/May 11, 2009

The spectre of a Third Front government looms large over the political scene. Both the Congress and its premier rival, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), are struggling to cross the 150 line in the Lok Sabha. The hill is tough to climb for each party though for very different reasons.

Since 1996, it has been impossible for the BJP to aspire to power without brining a significant clutch of regional party's on board. And the Congress has found that for the most part, the key to power lies in befriending the Left parties.

There have been difficult moments in Jayalalithaa's parting with AB Vajpayee in 1999 and in the Left-Congress divide of August 2008. It is sign of the times that large parties are unwilling to foreclose options.

Both fear the return of a Third Front as it would provide a different kind of alternative. At the base of the endurance of such an idea is the simple fact that one of every two Indians does not vote for either the Congress or the BJP.

There have been two Third Front governments in history and both were short-lived. VP Singh lasted from December 1989 till December of the following year. The Deve Gowda and IK Gujral ministries together lasted only 21 months.

On the first occasion, it was the BJP that propped up and then toppled the government. On the latter occasions, Congress did the honours. It is therefore ingenuous for either party to say Third Front ministries are inherently unstable. The prime reason they broke up was to do with the choices of the larger national parties.

More serious is the idea that economic crisis necessarily follows in the wake of such governments. The balance of payments crisis of the summer of 1991 is laid at the doors of VP Singh and Chandrasekhar.

But the seeds of the crisis were laid in the Rajiv Gandhi era, which ended in December 1989. By then, the fiscal deficit of the Union and states combined stood at a hefty 10 per cent.

Similarly, it is often forgotten that the devaluation of the rupee and the painful adjustments that followed happened for the first time under a Congress government and that too one headed by none other than Indira Gandhi. In 1966, after three failed monsoons, India was in a fragile state and there was no option but to accept the bitter medicine prescribed by the US.

More serious is the charge that coalitions fare worse in the sphere of domestic economic policy. VP Singh waived farm loans for over Rs10,000 crore and a few months later announced implementation of the Mandal Commission recommendations for reserving jobs for the OBCs.

Yet, these were followed up in 2004-2009 by Manmohan Singh. The difference was that the farm loan waiver was now seven times as large. And those reservations were extended to higher educational institutions.

In effect, there are larger forces pushing for these changes and they operate even when the governments are headed by one large party or consist of a mosaic of parties. Obviously, it is not coalitions per se but the art and style of governance that matters the most.

The coalitions that have governed India did set down some significant milestones. VP Singh took steps to restore peace in Punjab. The United Front stood for a federalist principle in Indian politics and fell because it refused to give into the Congress bullying on the issue of the dismissal of the Karunanidhi government in Tamil Nadu.

It is indeed the case that coalition regimes have coincided with times of economic retreat. This was the case in 1979-80 when the economy shrunk by 5 per cent. There was similar turbulence though not of such degree in the start and the end of the 1990s.

But for the most part this was also due to larger economic trends at the global level. No one could have predicted the impact of the first Gulf War on oil prices in 1991. If this undid the positive record of the National Front, the United Front's dream budget of 1997 was undone by the Asian flu.

In any case there are major contrasts between 2009 and 1996; the last time such a formation had looked feasible. One is that regional parties have by now been stable partners in alliance governments. On one occasion, even the Union finance minister was from a regional party.

Second, the experience of such parties in administering complex and large economies has grown manifold. Leaders like N Chandrababu Naidu and J Jayalalithaa have run large states with significant overseas trade and large secondary and tertiary sector economies.

There are reasons galore to criticise a Third Front. Most crucially it lacks an arbiter in case differences arise. But the larger charges of economic mismanagement and political drift hardly stand up to serious scrutiny.

It may not be a blessing given India's myriad problems but a Third Front is a political possibility, not a spectre to give anyone sleepless nights. It might even enable more decentralisation in an over-centralised federal polity.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Aporkalypse Now—Finding The Real Swine In The Pandemic Pandemonium

By Lucinda Marshall/04 May, 2009/

For the last eight years, there has been no shortage of things to worry about--

Bin Laden, Al Queda, Saddam Hussein, Anthrax, Bird Flu, Katrina, sub-prime mortgages, health care costs, gas pump prices, unemployment, stock price plunges and now we have H1N1, the non-Kosher virus formerly known as Swine Flu.

The news media is pigging out (sorry, I’ll try to contain myself) with 24/7 coverage of the potential pandemic and breathless reports that this is the new Black Death and millions could die. According to MSNBC, “H1N1 swine flu is seen as the biggest risk since H5N1 avian flu re-emerged in 2003, killing 257 people of 421 infected in 15 countries. In 1968 a “Hong Kong” flu pandemic killed about 1 million people globally, and a 1957 pandemic killed about 2 million. Seasonal flu kills 250,000 to 500,000 people in a normal year, including healthy children in rich countries.” However, as I write this, the World Health Organization (WHO) reports that, only 12 people have died so far of this outbreak of H1N1.

To put all of this in further perspective, it is useful to compare these numbers to the annual number of deaths from other causes. According to WHO:

1 million people die from malaria each year

2 million from AIDS

2 million from air pollution

7.4 million from cancer

17.5 million from cardiovascular disease

1.6 million from tuberculosis

In other words, we KNOW that 31.5 million people will die each year from causes that in large part could be prevented, but 7 deaths a pandemic makes? Have we, as Simon Jenkins suggests in The Guardian all gone demented? Perhaps. But for the sake of argument, let’s assume that WHO knows what it is talking about and that a lot of people could get sick from this virus, the question then becomes whether it is the virus we should fear or our ability to react to it.

Like any other disease, the first question should always be what is causing it and how can we prevent it, not the pharmaceutical industry driven approach of how can we (profitably) treat it with drugs such as Tamiflu, which as I noted during the bird flu scare is made by a company in which former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfield has a significant financial stake.

Another critical point is that unlike birds that can fly pretty much anywhere, human and pig interaction is for the most part limited to farms, especially factory farms and circumstantial evidence indicates that this outbreak may have originated at a Smithfield Foods facility in Perote, Mexico. Grist reports that, “Smithfield operates massive hog-raising operations Perote, Mexico, in the state of Vera Cruz, where the outbreak originated. The operations, grouped under a Smithfield subsidiary called Granjas Carroll, raise 950,000 hogs per year.” According to Grist, 30% of the population living near the plant have become ill with flu-like symptoms which they believe is due contamination from the hog factory.

But as Narco News points out, the real culprit in swine flu may be NAFTA which went into effect the same year that Smithfield opened its Mexican facility in the aftermath of being hit with huge fines for environmental pollution in the U.S., “The so-called “swine flu” exploded because an environmental disaster simply moved to Mexico where environmental and worker safety laws, if they exist, are not enforced against powerful multinational corporations.”

The issue of whether agri-business run factory farms are the source of the problem has been all but ignored by the U.S. media. Instead we are being told to stay home if sick and seek medical care if really sick. Nice advice presuming you have paid sick leave benefits and health insurance. And even for those able to seek medical care, there are real questions about the adequacy of whether our problem-plagued healthcare infrastructure to handle a massive additional medical incident. As John Nichols points out, we need to reinstate funding for pandemic response; disaster preparedness and infrastructure maintenance aren’t luxuries, they are a necessity, something we surely should have learned from Hurricane Katrina.

So while we need to take this threat seriously, we need to do so in the context of the many existing health pandemics that already exist, we need to take steps to insure that our healthcare system itself is healthy and we need to address the root causes of what allowed the conditions in which the H1N1 virus manifested and take the necessary steps to correct policies that endanger public health.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Welcome Prime Minister Narendra Modi

By Roger Alexander

Now that I have your attention...

A carefully placed remark by Arun Shourie that Narendra Modi should be the prime minister of India and Arun Jaitley's quick endorsement - “Gujarat under the leadership of Narendra Modi has emerged as a role model for India” - has unleashed paroxysmal excitement in media circles. And true to form, most corporate media outlets in the country are spending considerable resources to follow and interview not the Butcher of Gujarat but the state's “saviour”.

Not surprisingly, the BJP has been quick to cash in. So what started as a ringing endorsement of Narendra Modi's “industry and business-friendly” policies by “captains” of Indian Inc, including Anil Ambani, Sunil Mittal and Ratan Tata, is now being palmed off as gospel truth.

Indeed, even the Supreme Court's recent direction that Modi's role in the 2002 Gujarat riots be probed by the Special Investigation Team is being termed a “shot in the arm” for the chief minister by self-appointed TV commentators and pollsters.

Their electoral calculations point out that this investigation will “enhance Modi's standing”. BJP spokesman also gleefully point out that the SC's directive will help the BJP in electoral arena.

These shameless apologists don't care that Modi's so-called “Vibrant Gujarat” is a figment of their warped imagination, a PR coup. But fortunately, truth is stranger than fiction.

Vivian Fernandes of CNBC-TV18, a pro-business channel, reported from Ahmedabad recently, “The land of the Nano is not just hungry for investments, it is just plain hungry. Also, it fares even worse than Orissa.”

According to the first-ever India State Hunger Index there is not a single state in the country where hunger levels are low or moderate. In most, they are alarming. The index is a combination of three measures: calorie deficiency, underweight children and infant deaths.

Of 88 countries studied internationally, Indian ranks 66. And within India there are wide variations. The index paints a grim picture of Gujarat under Modi's rule. The reports reveals that despite double digit overall economic and agricultural growth, Gujarat is 13th on the Indian list, below Haiti which is ranked 69. So despite double digit overall economic and agricultural growth, Modi's “Vibrant Gujarat” is at the same level as Orissa.

The BJP's drummer boys claim, “Under Modi, Gujarat has become an economic dynamo.” They point out that the state grew at approximately 12 per cent in 2006-7 against India’s overall growth of about 8 per cent that year.

But what is so great about this statistic? In 1994-1995 Gujarat surged at the rate of 13.2 per cent. There was no Narendra Modi then. In the years 1994-2001, Gujarat’s state domestic product registered a growth average of between 10 and 13 per cent. There was no Modi then either. He stepped in only at the tail end of this period so obviously he has done nothing special.

On the other hand, despite decades of growth, as much as 93 per cent of Gujarat’s workforce still toils in the informal sector. This is why growth is not always development. In fact, on the Human Development Index, Gujarat fell one place in 2003-2004, and now ranks below Kerala, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Karnataka. In terms of rural prosperity, Gujarat is at number five and well behind Punjab, the front ranker.

There is more. Workers employed under the National Rural Employment Guarantee (NREG) scheme in Gujarat receive half of what their counterparts get elsewhere. Interestingly, this fact was recently released by a Parliamentary Committee headed Kalyan Singh, once Hindutva's poster boy.

According to Ernst and Young, hired by Modi as consultants for the Vibrant Gujarat conclave of 2005, in terms of investment climate Gujarat ranked behind Kerala, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, and on par with Karnataka at that time.
In terms of Workforce Quality, the same professionals gave Gujarat a very average “B grade” as it failed to measure up on a number of counts. It may be recalled in this connection that the Asian Development Bank in 1996 had ranked Gujarat as number two in India in terms of its investment climate. But in 2005, it was rated at number five.

So it is obvious that it is Modi’s highly personalized executive style, rather than his gift for economic miracles that attracts India Inc. “They give as much thought to Gujarat slipping in the development index as they would a drain inspector’s report. What matters to them is the manner of delivery. Modi did not just give Nano shelter, but also readied permits for Ratan Tata in three days flat...Here is a man who can bend the law at will, but you have to be good to him. Sweetening politicians is easier than playing by the book,” observes JNU professor Dipankar Gupta, adding, “CEO’s now look at Modi just as the ancient Israelites must have looked at Moses.”

Not surprisingly they don't give a damn about Modi's abysmal human rights record. The latest statistics put out by National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) reveal that Gujarat stands third in the list of states of complaints about human rights violation.

According to Vijay Zala and Zahid Quereshi reporting for the Ahmedabad Mirror on March 16, 2009, “A total of 3,813 complaints of human rights violation were received from Gujarat. That’s a notch higher than Bihar, much maligned for its lawlessness.” Overall, Modi's Gujarat ranked third in the rogues' gallery.

The Ahmedabad Mirror reporters talked to noted human rights activists, police brass and representatives of NGOs to know how bad the situation was on the ground level. Among those who gave an insight into the human rights situation in the state were senior lawyer and rights activist Girish Patel, NGO Citizens for Peace and Justice’s Teesta Setalvad, senior lawyer Mukul Sinha and social scientist Achyut Yagnik.

According to Girish Patel, violation of human rights is rampant in Gujarat. “This is the only state where ‘state terrorism’ prevails, where encounter deaths, forced disappearance of people, custodial violence, misuse of POTA and illegal detentions are common.”

He said district magistrates in Gujarat invoke Section 144 for long duration, which is an infringement of citizens’ human rights. The Gujarat Human Rights Commission is left non-functional, which burdens NHRC with a lot of monitoring in the state.

Patel said civil and political liberties of people are being violated in Gujarat in the name of development. Many projects launched in the state have taken away shelter and means of livelihood of poor people. The Kankaria lake front and Sabarmati river front projects in Ahmedabad have displaced a number of marginalised people, who were promised rehabilitation but never provided.

He said Modi claims to make the state free of fear, corruption and hunger. But while the three scourges remain, what has gone is the state of being ‘free’. Coining a new term - Unfortunate Resident Gujaratis (URG) - Patel said that is what has become of the state’s people.

Teesta Setalvad encapsulated the human rights situation in the state. “The mismatch between industrial and economic progress of Gujarat and its abysmal human rights record only points at how low the level of human development index in the state is. People must be provided health care, education, employment etc for Gujarat to be truly vibrant,” she says.

Social scientist Achyut Yagnik said three sections — Muslims, Adivasis and Dalits — have all along faced atrocities and human rights violations in Gujarat. The frequency and intensity of atrocity on these sections have increased since 2002. “There are two Gujarats – the ‘aam’ and the ‘khaas’. Of the two, the ‘aam’ Gujarat has been suffering badly at the hands of the ‘khaas’ Gujarat,” he points out.

Senior lawyer and social activists Mukul Sinha said incidence of human rights violations have increased in Gujarat since 2002. “Victims don’t get compensation, legal aid and proper rehabilitation. Crime against women has also increased. And disturbingly, rights violation cases occur more in the developed areas of the state,” he observes.

Yet, Narendra Modi, the chief minister of this state, is actually being seriously promoted as the Prime Minister of India!

The likes of Prannoy Roy, Barkha Dutt and Rajdeep Sardesai may think that Narendra Modi and Varun Gandhi make for great prime time television. So besides giving the BJP the boot in these elections, it's time right-thinking viewers gave these shameless media pundits the thumbs-down as well.

Roger And Out