03 March 2015

Winds of Change in Greece: the Battle Goes On

“My country has suffered a humanitarian catastrophe that is unprecedented during peacetime, but we are also the country that is closest to reversing the policies that have brought us to this point”, said Alexis Tsipras before the January 2015 elections in a talk with the magazine Transform! (http://www.jacobinmag.com/2015/01/alexis.tsipras-interview-syriza retrieved 15.02.2015). About the same time, Pablo Iglesias – the young General Secretary of Spanish anti-austerity party Podemos, who later shared the dais with Tsipras in the main election rally in Athens – tweeted: “2015 will be the year of change in Spain and Europe. We will start in Greece. Let’s go Alexis, let’s go!” With his party actually emerging victorious, Tsipras told thousands of cheering supporters gathered in Athens: “Greece leaves behind catastrophic austerity, it leaves behind fear and authoritarianism, it leaves behind five years of humiliation and suffering”. As the suffering, struggling Greeks celebrated their victory, greetings flew in from all across the globe. From Latin America, the forerunner in the global battle against neoliberal onslaughts, several governments expressed firm solidarity. Equally warm was the Cuban response. Venezuela’s foreign minister Elias Jaua tweeted: “The Greek people, after a long and historic battle against neoliberalism, has crowned itself a wonderful victory. Syriza is fresh air for Europe!” The pan-European and global perspectives have been firmly embedded in the Greek vision too. To quote Tsipras once again from the source cited...

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Obituary : Professor Tulsi Ram # Comrade Rajarshi Dasgupta

Professor Tulsi Ram Professor Tulsi Ram’s untimely demise at the age of 65 years took place on 13 February at Rockland Hospital in Faridabad. Till his last breath he continued his fight against the politics, ideology and culture of communal – religious violence, superstition and social and economic inequalities. Tulsi Ram joined the left movement by associating with AISF and CPI during his days in Banaras Hindu University. Later he joined JNU and after his finishing his PhD in International Politics, got appointment as a faculty in the same university. Besides engaging in research in Marxism, International Politics, in particular the international politics during the period of Soviet Union, he also studied Buddhist perspectives and Ambedkarism, assimilating his understandings of them in his larger understanding of politics. Besides being very well grounded in Ambedkarite thought, he remained a Marxist till his last breath. He never resorted to rhetoric or non-constructive criticism of the work culture of Communist parties on the issue of caste. Instead, he used the platforms available to him to present his nuanced understanding and analysis of the caste question. He wanted to resolve this question by engaging in criticism and introspection from within the Marxist organizational structure. Today, when the Dalit movement is undergoing a great crisis and a deep process of introspection and inner struggle is underway, Prof. Tulsi Ram’s absence will be keenly felt....

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Muzaffarnagar Baaqi Hai

Nakul Singh Sawhney’s new documentary, Muzaffarnagar Baaqi Hai, lays bare the crucial relationship between the communal pogrom in Muzaffarnagar and Shamli districts of Western Uttar Pradesh, and the historic victory of the BJP and Modi in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. The film is framed by Gorakh Pandey’s poem: ‘The riots were fierce this time/Blood rained heavily/Next year’s crop of votes will be good.’ What comes through very powerfully in the film is Muzaffarnagar’s legacy of harmony between Hindus and Muslims. This legacy of ‘Mohabbatnagar’, of the love between Hindus and Muslims, still has survivals, as is shown by Pravin’s testimony. Pravin conducts the filmmaker through his village, pointing out the homes of the Muslims who have been chased out, and speaking of those Muslim friends with intimacy and warmth. The filmmaker has dogged the footsteps of BJP leaders as they campaigned in Western UP interiors during the Lok Sabha elections. As we see the film’s footage of BJP leaders’ speeches and rallies that are an indictment of their stoking of communal hatred for votes, we are forced to ask, why did the mainstream channels stay away from these selfsame meetings and rallies? The film records speeches Modi lieutenant Amit Shah made to Jat audiences, justifying riots by drawing upon the ideology of ‘avenging honour of women’: the same ‘honour’ for which women and self-choice partners are killed by...

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Updates Report :

All India Conference of Contract Workers in Bangaluru All India Conference of Contract Workers, organized by AICCTU, was held in Bangalore on 1-2 February 2015. On the first day of the conference, around 4000 workers marched from Freedom Park to Banappa Park in a massive rally organized in support of their demands. The rally included contract sanitation workers of Bangalore Municipal Corporation (BBMP), contract workers of Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB), workers from the NIMHANS Hospital, workers employed in public sector undertakings such as HAL, BHEL and BEML, workers from the Bangalore Race Course and MICO-BOSCH, workers in the Ready Mix industries such as RMC, Prism Cements, RDC Concrete, Lafarge and Kennametal WIDIA. Contract workers from Koppal, Davanagere, Mysore, Mangalore, Gangavati and Kolar, as well as Electricity Supply contract workers from Tamil Nadu also joined the rally. Delegates from across the country came to attend the Conference, and took part in the rally. The rally was followed by a public meeting which was presided over by All India Vice President of AICCTU Com. Shankar. AICCTU general secretary Com. Swapan Mukherjee delivered the inaugural speech. The meeting was addressed by Karnataka State President of the AICCTU Comrade Balan, Bihar State Government Employees leader Comrade Rambali, Karnataka State Secretary of the CPI(ML) Comrade Bharadwaj, AICCTU State Organising Secretary Clifton D’ Rozario, Deepa Pathak from Uttarakhand among others. At the...

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Reforming FCI or Cutting Back Food Security?

(It is well known that the USA is putting pressure on India to give up its food security programme by undermining public procurement and the public distribution system, to make India dependent on imported food. The Modi Government is obliging the US by doing so. Excerpts from the article by Nitin Sethi, Business Standard, January 29, 2015) The National Democratic Alliance government set up the high-level Shanta Kumar Committee to restructure and reform the state-owned Food Corporation of India. Instead, the panel ended up providing a road map to restructure the entire farming and food security policy of the government. In doing so, the panel has re-ignited the debate that ran like a fire in a pine forest through the entire second tenure of the United Progressive Alliance government: should the National Food Security Act be as minimalistic as possible or should it be an expansive reform of the existing public distribution system? The Shanta Kumar Committee has made many recommendations on changing what FCI does and how it does it. But it is the big-ticket recommendations on food security that stretch the terms of reference given to the panel to the limits. The panel suggests that in the medium term, the country should move towards cash transfers instead of distributing subsidised grain through FCI. This would also mean that the government’s role of buying grain from the farmers...

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How Modi Government is Placating Big Pharma

(Paranjoy Guha Thakuta, noted journalist, educator and commentator exposes how Modi is appeasing pharmaceutical corporations at the cost of India’s poor patients’ access to medicines. A shorter version of the piece appeared earlier in Asian Age, Nov 18, 2014. Subtitles our own – ed/) The government of India led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi took a lot of credit for standing up to pressure from the United States which wanted India to agree to a trade facilitation agreement in the World Trade Organization (WTO) without finding a permanent solution to the issue of what should be appropriate food stock-holding norms. In November, the US agreed to India’s concerns whereas it had earlier accused this country of almost single-handedly blocking a deal in the WTO. Weakening Right to ‘Make in India’ But this is only one part of the story. Quietly and somewhat surreptitiously, the Modi government has accommodated and acquiesced with American interests by going along with the demands of large multinational corporations (MNCs) that manufacture pharmaceuticals. The government is in the process weakening domestic companies that have been producing and selling a wide range of medicines at a fraction of the prices at which the MNCs market their products across the developing world, notably in African countries. Such medicines include drugs for treating HIV/AIDS, diabetes and cancer. Prime Minister Modi has been trying to market the “Make in...

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Modi’s Secret Promises on Nuke Liability Selling Out Indian Interests to US Corporations

News channels gave ‘wall-to-wall coverage’ of the Obama visit. “The nation” was told about Obama’s dietary preferences and Michelle’s frocks and Obama-Modi “gup.” Yet, in spite of the hype and the optics, the media seemed to decide that “the nation did not want to know” the fine print of the Nuke Deal ‘breakthrough’ that was sealed between the two! It appears that India has agreed to issue a memorandum diluting its interpretation of our law to protect MNC suppliers of nuclear equipment from being sued by Indian disaster victims. In the Indian epic Mahabharata, the Pandavas gift away to the enemy what was not theirs to gift away – the person of Draupadi. On the eve of Republic Day, what Modi has gifted away to Obama – without so much as telling, let alone asking Indian citizens – is the right of Indian victims of future nuclear Bhopals, to sue the US and other MNC suppliers of reactors. And he has, without telling or asking us, used our taxpayers’ money, our Jan Dhan, to subsidise these MNC suppliers in case of such accidents. On the occasion of Republic Day, the Indian public lost their right to health and safety, and a law passed by Indian Parliament was scuttled in a secret deal between the US President and Indian PM! What can be more shameful? Obama in his last speech...

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Beyond the Namobama’Hype

As Prime Minister, he devoted his first Independence Day speech to inviting foreign capital to come and ‘make in India’. Now Narendra Damodardas Modi has used the first Republic Day celebration of his government to demonstrate his government’s readiness to accommodate US demands and blandish his million-rupee pinstripe suit, tailored in UK, that had his name embroidered all over. It seems Modi is however not the first to set a precedent by wearing such a suit. Hosni Mubarak, Egypt’s ousted President, had apparently already worn his name on his sleeves to deny Modi the opportunity to create a world record. Unfortunately for Modi, narcissism and megalomania are also subject to competition. Observers of Indo-US relations have noted all the ‘right steps’ the Modi government has been taking from day one to impress the US. From decontrolled pharmaceutical prices and US-friendly patent norms announced before and during Modi’s US trip to increased FDI in insurance, easier land-grab policy and vastly reduced food security cover and all such steps taken or recommended on the eve of Obama’s Republic Day visit to India, the Modi government has gone all out to satisfy the Americans. Freeing American suppliers of liabilities in case of any damage inflicted by their reactors on the Indian people has been the latest concession offered during Obama’s R-Day visit. Modi and his men now hope that US will now...

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CPI(M)’s 21st Congress Draft: Evasive Account of Recurring Lapses and Alarming Decline

The CPI(M) CC has released the draft review report on the party’s political-tactical line (PTL) for the forthcoming 21st Congress of the party. The report takes a critical look at the implementation of the party’s PTL over the last two and a half decades – the period that witnessed a sea-change in India’s political landscape with the rise of the BJP, proliferation of regional parties and consolidation of identity politics. The political changes have of course taken place in an equally significant paradigm shift in India’s policy realm, in the spheres of economic policies as well as domestic and external affairs. This is also the period which saw the CPI(M) reach its peak in terms of its national political profile with a sixty-odd contingent of MPs representing the CPI(M) and its Left allies during 2004-2009 and decline dramatically ever since then. By choosing such a long period for review, the report tends to underestimate the current crisis of the party, balancing the ongoing decline with the gains of what now appears a distant past. This also helps the Central Committee avoid a really critical examination of the party’s line, instead focusing on the ‘implementation’ of the line. The resultant narrative is basically a recollection of facts, replete with many valid but rather general observations and devoid of any specific thrust or clear direction. The CPI(M)’s quest for the elusive...

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It Isn’t ‘Terrorism’ If the Perpetrator is White ?

Rania Khalek asked ‘Why can’t media describe Chapel Hill murders as terrorism? Submitted by Rania Khalek’ (Electronic Intifada, 17 February, 2015). Here are excerpts from her story. Deah Barakat, Yusor Abu-Salha and Razan Abu-Salha were remarkable individuals devoted to helping the disenfranchised at home and refugees abroad. The plight of Syrian and Palestinian refugees were particularly near and dear to their hearts. “Yusor and Deah told us that one time [Hicks] knocked on their door and told them they were being too loud, with his gun at his waist,” recalled Yousef, brother of Yusor and Razan. “I knew in my head this was hate because of who my sister was and how she looked — she wore the headscarf proudly,” he added, noting that the violent harassment didn’t begin until Yusor moved in with Deah. “Even then my sister sympathized with him. She said maybe this man has been influenced negatively by the media and she was going to show him the truth about Muslims by showing him kindness.” Appearing on CNN, Deah’s sister Suzanne Barakat slammed the inconsistent application of the “terrorism” label: Had roles been reversed and the man was Muslim, was of Arab descent, was of South Asian descent, this would have immediately been labeled an act of terror. I haven’t heard anyone use the term terrorist here. Why the double standard? He has terrorized our...

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Challenge Islamophobic and Racist Violence in the US and India

The murder of three young Muslims in the US, followed by the brutal violence by US police on an aged Indian man, Sureshbhai Patel, have once again shone the spotlight on deeply entrenched Islamophobia and racism in the USA. In Chapel Hill, North Carolina, a Muslim man DeahBarakat, his wife Yusor Abu-Salha, and her sister Razan Mohammed Abu-Salha were gunned down in their home by a white neighbor. The killer had been reportedly been expressing prejudice and hatred for the hijab worn by Yusor Abu-Salha, and had picked fights before with the Muslim family. In a familiar pattern, the US police are trying to portray the killings as the consequence of a ‘parking dispute’ rather than an Islamophobic hate crime. This is reminiscent of the Delhi Police chief trying to portray targeted vandalizationand desecration of churches in India’s national capital as a ‘robbery’, comparable to ‘robberies’ of temples. The US media also largely ignored and trivialized the murders, thereby reflecting their own unwillingness to recognize and challengeIslamophobia. But local people, including neighbours, co-workers, and fellow students of the three victims, came out in large numbers to protest the hate crime. On social media also, outrage over the killings spilt over with the ‘Muslim Lives Matter’ hashtag, striking a chord with ongoing protests against racist murders that had used the ‘Black Lives Matter’ hashtag. Soon after, in Alabama, police officers...

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Covert Attack on the Constitution

On the occasion of Republic Day, the Information and Broadcasting Ministry of the Modi Government issued an advertisement, with an image of the Preamble of the Constitution minus two key words – ‘secular’ and ‘socialist’. The Preamble of the Constitution declares that “WE, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a SOVEREIGN SOCIALIST SECULAR DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC and to secure to all its citizens: JUSTICE, social, economic and political; LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship; EQUALITY of status and of opportunity; And to promote among them all FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the Nation; IN OUR CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY this twenty-sixth day of November, 1949, do HEREBY ADOPT, ENACT AND GIVE TO OURSELVES THIS CONSTITUTION.” Scrambling to defend itself on the intent behind the omission of ‘secular’ and ‘socialist’ from a 2015 Republic Day advertisement, the Modi Government – as well as the BJP and its allies – found themselves speaking in many contradictory tongues. First, the I&B Ministry explained that they had merely used a watermark of the original 1950 Preamble, which at the time only had the words ‘Sovereign Democratic Republic’. What is wrong in commemorating the original Preamble, they asked innocently? Had the mater remained there, perhaps the apprehensions of India’s concerned citizens would have subsided. But soon enough, Shiv Sena, an ally of...

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The Exit of Jitan Ram Manjhi and the Agenda of Assertion of the Oppressed People in Bihar Politics

After nine months of professed ‘renunciation’ of office, Nitish Kumar has secured his ‘re-anointment’ as the Chief Minister of Bihar. The much awaited showdown between Nitish Kumar and Jitan Ram Manjhi eventually fizzled out rather tamely, as Manjhi tendered his resignation just a little before the scheduled floor test in the Assembly. The support extended by the BJP remained an unused cheque, with its future validity remaining an open question. Nitish Kumar has time till the middle of March to prove his majority. Kumar now says his decision to resign and hand over power to Jitan Ram Manjhi in the wake of the rout of the JD(U) in the Lok Sabha election of 2014 was an ‘emotional’ one. Being the calculating and pragmatic politician that he is, Nitish Kumar is not really known for taking ‘emotional’ decisions. Indeed, the decision to install Jitan Ram Manjhi as the stopgap Chief Minister of Bihar was anything but an ‘emotional’ gesture. It was a shrewd political move aimed at killing several birds with one stone. By making Jitan Ram Manjhi the Chief Minister, Nitish Kumar had insulated both his party and government from the immediate impact of the huge defeat suffered in the Lok Sabha elections. He projected himself as a leader who was ready to shoulder responsibility for the defeat. And most significantly, he wanted to convey the message that he...

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Delhi Gives Modi His First Big Jolt

Just nine months after the BJP’s sweeping Lok Sabha victory under Modi’s stewardship, Delhi has handed out the BJP a crushing defeat in the elections to the Delhi Assembly. In May 2014, the BJP had bagged all the 7 LS seats in Delhi with a lead in 60 of the 70 Assembly segments. In February 2015, the outcome stands spectacularly reversed with the BJP reduced to just three seats and the AAP securing way above half of the polled vote and an astounding seat tally exceeding even the 95% mark. The Delhi verdict stands out for its unprecedented intensity and sharp clarity. To be sure, the verdict must be seen primarily in the specific context of Delhi where the AAP had struck a popular chord with its brief stint of 49 days before Arvind Kejriwal had dramatically resigned. This time round, Delhi has voted overwhelmingly to give AAP the strongest possible mandate and the fullest opportunity to translate its promises into reality. The urban poor and every deprived neighbourhood of Delhi voted overwhelmingly for the AAP as did large sections of Delhi’s middle class voters. The BJP must have sensed it coming and so it pressed all it had into service. Modi led the campaign from the front with all the might of his government; Amit Shah applied all his vote-gathering acumen while the RSS brought its fabled organizational...

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