11 November 2013

On Cover 3 : Modi “Should Feel Ashamed Of Himself In Bhagat Singh’s Company”

Recently, there has been news that Modi will release a coffee table version of Bhagat Singh’s jail notebooks. Bhagat Singh’s family members have vehemently opposed this move, and Bhagat Singh scholar Prof.Chaman Lal has placed all the facts to expose the lie that the Jail Notebooks are being published for the first time (‘A short publication history of Bhagat Singh’s Jail Notebook’, EPW Web Exclusives, Vol – XLVIII No. 42, October 19, 2013.) What is laughable about Modi releasing Bhagat Singh’s Jail Notebook is that the Notebook itself is testimony to Bhagat Singh’s Marxist ideology and temperament, including detailed quotes from Marx on religion, Lenin, Trotsky and other communist revolutionaries who are anathema for Modi and his RSS. It is well known that Bhagat Singh, during his trial, had sent a telegram to the Russian Bolshevik Party on Lenin’s death anniversary: “ON LENIN DAY WE SEND HEARTY GREETINGS TO ALL who are doing something for carrying forward the ideas of the great Lenin. We wish success to the great experiment Russia is carrying out. We join our voice to that of the international working class movement. The proletariat will win. Capitalism will be defeated. Death to Imperialism.” In his article ‘Why I Am an Atheist’, Bhagat Singh writes: “Up to that period (1925) I was a romantic revolutionary. Up till then we were to follow. Now came the time...

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On Cover 2 : General Giap and the Myth of American Invincibility

(Excerpted from article by James A. Warren, Daily Beast, October 12, 2013) Just before the American ground war in Vietnam began in March 1965 with the landing of a brigade of US Marines at Danang, General Vo Nguyen Giap, who had been commander in chief of Communist armed forces in Vietnam since 1944, told a television interviewer that “Things are going badly for the enemy, because the South Vietnamese soldiers do not want to fight for the Americans. But we are in no hurry. The longer we wait, the greater will be the Americans’ defeat.” It was not the first time Communist Vietnam’s senior military strategist spoke with such insouciant prescience about an adversary who possessed the most powerful military force in the world. Nor would it be the last. Giap, a self-trained soldier from a small village in Quang Binh Province, central Vietnam, had already trounced Vietnam’s colonial masters, the French, after eight years of war (1946-1954). He had begun fighting against the fabled Foreign Legion and the regular French army with a force of a few thousand partially trained guerrillas. The war against France culminated in a spectacular Communist victory over 15,000 French troops in the remote valley fortress of Dien Bien Phu. Henri Navarre, the French commander, hoped to lure Giap into a set-piece battle there, in which France’s vastly superior firepower could be brought to...

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The US Government Shutdown and Debt Ceiling Row

Far from being a passing shadow, the curious developments in America was symptomatic of a defining paradox of the political economy of that country and at the same time reflective of the continuing crisis of the international capitalist order. But a brief chronicle of the main events will be in order before we come to their deeper implications. The US government staggered into a partial shutdown due to lack of funds when the Congress missed a 1st October deadline to pass a budget necessary for funding the federal government, after Republicans (who constitute a majority in the Congress) stubbornly demanded changes in the Affordable Care Act – a healthcare law nicknamed Obamacare — which the Democrats refused. As a result of the shutdown, national parks, museums, federal buildings and services were closed down and about 8 lakh federal workers sent on unpaid leave. Only some critical parts of the government ranging from the military to air traffic controllers remained open. The last time such a thing happened was in 1995-96. The initial fight over the healthcare law soon turned into a bigger debate over the statutory debt ceiling. The Congress is required by law to set an absolute limit on federal government borrowing, which can be revised by the Congress alone. So far as a growing economy naturally requires an extended borrowing space, this limit has been frequently revised...

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OBITUARY

Com. MP Sinha Comrade MP Sinha, a former Vice-President of the Indian People’s Front in Bihar passed away in Patna on 5 October 2013 at the age of 89 after a long illness of several months. He had suffered a paralytic stroke while undergoing dialysis for renal failure. Com. Sinha had joined the Communist movement in 1943 and remained associated with the CPI journal Janshakti till 1948. While being in government service subsequently for four decades, he retained his Marxist commitment. In the 1970s he was involved with the Marxist Coordination Committee and from mid-1980s onward he became active in Indian People’s Front, the CPI(ML)-led revolutionary democratic front. He was elected a Vice-President of the IPF in Bihar. His house served as a regular centre of IPF activities and meetings and he played a significant role in popularising the IPF in sections of the Patna intelligentsia. Even after the dissolution of the IPF in the early 1990s, Comrade Sinha remained a committed well-wisher and friend of the CPI(ML) and the revolutionary Left camp in Bihar. Liberation condoles his passing and pays homage to his memory. GP Deshpande (Pranay Krishna, General Secretary, Jan Sanskriti Manch, pays tribute to GP Deshpande) Govind Purushottam Deshpande (1938–2013) or GPD as he was fondly called, breathed his last on 16, October, 2013. GPD’s intellectual personality, in its versatility as an expert on International affairs,...

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UPDATES

Withdraw the UPA Ordinance to Protect Criminals It was the Congress-led UPA government that brought in the latest ordinance which sought to negate a Supreme Court order summarily disqualifying MPs and MLAs convicted for serious crimes. The ordinance cleared by the UPA Cabinet and endorsed by an all-party meeting needs to be viewed in the context of the shameful credentials of our elected representatives. The deadly combination of money power and muscle power has led to a veritable explosion of criminality in the Parliament and State Assemblies. According to their own affidavits, about 58% of our 543 elected members of Parliament are crorepatis. Nearly 30% of them – 162 to be precise – have a total of more than 400 criminal charges pending against them. About 14% or 76 MPs have serious pending criminal charges against them. In the elections to the Lok Sabha and various State Assemblies since 2008, of the 4807 elected members (MPs and MLAs) 1460 (30%) have declared criminal cases against them, while 688 (14%) have declared serious criminal cases. But only 24 of them, i.e., only 0.5%, have declared in their affidavits that they have been convicted at some point in a court of law. In addition to the general problem of very slow court proceedings, what is responsible for this extremely low rate of conviction is obviously the political clout these powerful people...

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Shahid (Azmi): Beyond the Film

(Mahtab Alam is a Delhi based civil rights activist and journalist. He co-edits IndiaResists.com and currently working on a book on Shahid Azmi. Email: activist.journalist@gmail.com) I am pained, the heart bleeds, when I hear what they have endured. But in spite of all that, it will never be easy for me to see an innocent being sent behind bars or to the gallows only because the crime alleged was a bomb blast. -Shahid Azmi (1977-2010) The much awaited feature film, Shahid, directed by Hansal Mehta was released for public on Friday, 18th October. It is a biographical Hindi film based on the life and works of Mumbai based slain civil and democratic rights’ lawyer, Shahid Azmi. The film, before its public release, was premiered at various national and international film festivals including at the Toronto International Film Festival 2012 (TIFF 2012), the New York Indian Film Festival, the Chicago South Asian Film Festival, and the Mumbai Film Festival (MAMI) and won many awards. Ever since it is made, it has been receiving loud applause from film critics, saying ‘it needed to have made’ and is ‘a brave, unflinching and one of the strongest films’ ever made on the issue. However, there are people who believe that, it is ‘an incomplete tale of Shahadat’ , arguing ‘Mehta brings the film to an abrupt, grinding halt’ and ‘it would be too...

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Combating Communalism and Islamophobia

On September 30th, Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde wrote to all Chief Ministers asking them to ensure that “no innocent Muslims is detained in terror cases.” This recognition of an enormous issue of human rights violations is itself a vindication and victory for the many ongoing struggles against Islamophobic witch-hunt. Representatives of some of those struggles participated in a national convention hosted by the CPI(ML) in Delhi on September 25th. But Shinde’s letter also smacks of hypocrisy and doublespeak. Because he and his Ministry have a poor record of intervening to secure justice in the blatant and rampant cases of minority witch-hunt. The Batla House case if of course themost obvious one, where the Special Cell of Delhi Police, directly under the Home Ministry, is suspected of a fake encounter and false case against innocents, but the Home Ministry has blocked any impartial judicial enquiry. Shinde has refused to intervene in the Pune German Bakery blast case in which Himayat Baig is one of the accused even after Indian Mujahideen co-founder Yasin Bhatkal claimed Baig was not involved in the terror strike. There are many Congress-ruled Governments including his native Maharashtra, as well as Andhra Pradesh, which are among the worst offenders in this regard, but he has not lifted a finger to intervene and correct the course in those states. Islamophobia, inherited from the US ‘war on terror’...

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Cover Feature : Justice Not Vengeance:

(Excerpts from the special article by Bela Bhatia in EPW, September 21, 2013 Vol XlVIII No. 38, Economic & Political Weekly) …Wails and cries now rented the air, heavy with the acrid smell from the burnt houses. In the evening light, bodies lay strewn on the wet earth, which bore marks of hundreds of desperate footprints. Even as the men tried to brace themselves for the next task ahead, taking the wounded to the nearest hospital, the policemen from the police camp located just across a field in the middle school of Barki Kharaon finally made an appearance. When they asked the men of the tola to carry the bodies of the dead to the roadside, they met with stiff resistance. These protectors of law had turned a deaf ear and a blind eye to the happenings of that afternoon, now they could at least carry the dead, the people thought. With the help of the chowkidar, the police carried the bodies while the relatives carried the wounded. The laxity of the Bhojpur administration, both before and after the massacre, was an extension of the general apathy of the government machinery in Bihar. As in this case and many before it, one finds that the machinery is not only ill-equipped and ineffective but often works in an extremely biased manner. Initially, the district administration wanted the post-mortem to be...

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Cover Feature : A Massacre of Justice

What happened to the blood spilt at Laxmanpur Bathe on the night of December 1st 1997? The blood of 58 people, butchered in their sleep? The blood of the poorest of the poor, the oppressed – who paid with that blood for daring to dream of equality, emancipation, and dignity? Will the blood of Bathe remain ‘orphan blood’ – or will we embrace it, adopt it, join its cries for justice? Those 58 people didn’t die in a natural calamity. Nor in an accident. The massacre wasn’t even ‘revenge’ against dalit labourers for demanding wages or land – for after all, there were other villages where such struggles over land and wages had been much sharper. The landlord armies themselves had changed sharply from their earlier avatars. Since the emergence of the CPI(ML) as an electoral contender in 1989, they had become explicitly political, with the intention of terrorising the political base of the CPI(ML). To call it a ‘caste war’ is to obscure this essentially political form that class struggle had taken. So, Bathe was chosen for the bloodbath due to entirely cold-blooded political calculations. As CPI(ML)’s then General Secretary Vinod Mishra had written, “This time the target chosen was a village in Jehanabad that lies close to the districts of Bhojpur, Patna and Aurangabad. The essential purpose was to send the message across the whole of central...

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Recommendations by the Report of Raghuram Rajan Committee: A Critical Assessment

The Raghuram Rajan Committe Report (2013) proposes a general method of allocation of funds based on two criteria firstly ‘developmental needs’ of states measured by performance in certain socio-economic indicators (combined in a composite index of under-development) and secondly, improvement of states in the same index over time. Since the very publication of the report its recommendations have been questioned by critics, including a serious note of dissent by one of the members in the committee, Dr. Shaibal Gupta. Further criticisms have come from particular sections of media. It is necessary to look critically at the methodology used to arrive at the recommendations and also at the politico-economic implication of such recommendations. This discussion attempts to put together a critical account of what exactly the Raghuram Rajan Committe has proposed and also discuss whether the note of dissent by Dr. Gupta appended with the report holds any merit. To put it in simple terms Rajan’s Committee develops an index of under-development of all the states of India. The underdevelopment index combines the following ten sub-components: (i) monthly per capita consumption expenditure (mpce), (ii) education, (iii) health, (iv) household amenities, (v) poverty rate, (vi) female literacy, (vii) percent of SC-ST population, (viii) urbanization rate, (viii) financial inclusion, and (x) connectivity. The states with highest ranking of index are underdeveloped and states with lowest rankings are relatively more developed.1 But fund...

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Banking Reforms: Alarm Bell of Denationalisation and Foreign Takeover

RBI Govenor Raghuram Rajan’s recent proposals made before the American financial establishment and press in Washington portend an ominous future for the Indian banking sector. Together with the Banking Laws (Amendment) Bill 2011 passed by Parliament during the 2012 Winter Session, his open invitation to foreign banks to take over Indian banks and the assurance to mete out near-national treatment to such foreign banks clear the decks for a veritable denationalization of the Indian banking Industry, where the scene is still dominated by public sector Indian banks with an industry share of 80% with private Indian and foreign banks accounting for the rest, 15 percent and 5 percent respectively. Announcing that the policy for entry of foreign banks is in the making and will be unveiled soon, the former IMF chief economist and current head of India’s apex bank, Rajan assured his audience of the Indian financial establishment’s readiness to provide a big opening for foreign banks in India. “That is going to be a big big opening because one could even contemplate taking over Indian banks, small Indian banks and so on”, declared Rajan, adding “if you adopt a wholly owned subsidiaries structure and we are coming up with details on that in next couple of weeks, we will allow you near national treatment.” Undoubtedly, Mr. Rajan’s words must have been music to the ears of the sinking...

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India Must Reject the Manmohan Legacy of Shameful Subservience to US Interests

Ahead of the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, Manmohan Singh had clinched the Indo-US nuclear deal with George Bush in 2008. Five years later, as India awaits the general elections of 2014, Singh was back in America to open up India’s national exchequer to American companies in mega defence and nuclear purchase agreements. The joint statement issued after the third Obama-Manmohan meeting (ignoring the occasions when the two have met on the sidelines of multilateral summits) talks of enhanced defence, economic and of course foreign policy cooperation between the two countries. The Obama-Manmohan summit produced a separate Joint Declaration on Defence Cooperation expanding on the 2005 Framework Agreement, with the US promising to treat India as one of its ‘closest partners’ in matters of defence technology transfer, trade, research, co-development and co-production of defence articles and services, including the most advanced and sophisticated technology. India has agreed to participate in the 2014 Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) naval exercise in Hawaii, the world’s largest multilateral maritime exercise to be hosted by the US Pacific Command, signalling a new readiness to integrate India more closely fully with America’s strategic goals and operations. Ten years ago, Indo-US defence trade was worth just $100 million which has since risen to $10 billion, and the US is obviously looking gleefully at India’s burgeoning defence budget. Manmohan Singh’s ‘short working visit’ also finalised initial agreements...

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The Fodder Scam Verdict : Lessons and Challenges

The conviction of Lalu Prasad Yadav, Jagannath Mishra and Jagdish Sharma in the Rs 950-crore fodder scam by a special CBI court in Ranchi is now likely to result in the first case of disqualification in the wake of the Supreme Court’s July 10 verdict that calls for automatic and immediate post-conviction disqualification of any member of state legislature or Parliament. The government had in fact brought an ordinance to counter the Supreme Court judgement and abort the threat of such disqualification. However much Rahul Gandhi may now dismiss the ordinance as ‘complete nonsense’ and the BJP may oppose and ridicule it in public, the fact remains that the ordinance was mulled by none other than Rahul’s own government and endorsed by all parties including the BJP! The scam-ridden Indian polity will surely now try to use the fodder scam example to seek some legitimacy and paper over the current crop of 21st century scams that are immensely bigger than the Bofors scam of the 1980s or the fodder scam of the 1990s. This is where the people of India will have to intervene and insist on matching punishment for the architects and managers of scams like the 2G and coalgate ones which have caused far bigger loss to the national exchequer. If Jagannath Mishra and Lalu Prasad are held responsible for having presided over the fodder scam, there...

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Boldly Confront Corporate-Backed Corruption and Clamour for Modi

Even as the Congress tries hard to hit an emotional pitch over its food-for-vote campaign, the spectre of corruption keeps coming back to haunt it hard, challenging its survival in power and threatening to reduce it to its lowest ever tally in the coming Lok Sabha elections. The CBI, the caged parrot of the powers that be as the Supreme Court famously described it, has now named a top industrialist and a retired bureaucrat in a fresh FIR on coal-block allocations. While the naming of Kumar Mangalam Birla, chairman of AV Birla group and former Coal Secretary PC Parakh has raised eyebrows in some circles, what the nation really wants to know is why the third side of the triangle has been left out. The corporate-bureaucrat nexus is actually an abbreviated form of the corporate-bureaucrat-minister triangle and in this case the minister was none other than the Prime Minister who officiated over the coal ministry for three years during the first UPA government. The Prime Minister’s Office has sought to justify the allocation on the part of the Prime Minister while saying the CBI was free to investigate the case as it deemed fit. The PMO statement also links the allocation to strong recommendations of the Odisha government. The PMO reply may at best point to the involvement of an additional party in the form of the Odisha government,...

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