#India #Gujarat -’I am #NarendraModi’s Wife”- Jashodadaben


In a poor village, the woman who is believed to be the estranged wife of the most powerful man in Gujarat lives in a one-room home
BY Haima Deshpande , OPEN MAGAZINE
TAGGED UNDER | Narendra Modi | Gujarat | Jashodaben Modi
OTHER HALF
“I will not say anything against my husband. He is very powerful. This job is all I have to survive. I am afraid of the consequences” (Photo: SHOME BASU)

“I will not say anything against my husband. He is very powerful. This job is all I have to survive. I am afraid of the consequences” (Photo: SHOME BASU)

She is clad in an ill-fitting blouse and a mod­est printed sari. Somewhat stooped, her face is wrinkled, her hands have obviously seen hard times and her hair is pulled back in a tight bun, making her look severe. Dirt grips the cracks of her slipper-clad feet. She could have been any woman in Rajosana village, Gujarat. But then, she is Jashodaben Chimanlal Modi. Everyone in this village knows her as Narendra Modi’s wife.

After the post-Godhra Gujarat riots, Modi’s po­litical foes in Banaskantha district discovered her in this dusty village. Since then, Jashodaben has lived her life under intense scrutiny. Few among the 2,500 villagers, predominantly Muslim, dis­believe her story. Even Modi has neither con­firmed nor denied her muted claim. At the time of going to press, a faxed request for a comment was not returned by Modi’s office.

People close to her say that she was married to Modi in his native village, Vadnagar, in Mehsana district, when she was 18. At the time of her mar­riage, she had studied only up to Class VII. That is believed to have put a strain on their marriage. (Also, according to a villager, Jashodaben does not like to be photographed as she believes she is not good looking.) A few days after the mar­riage, Jashodaben was sent back to her father Chimanlal’s house to complete her education. As those who know her say, in a bid to please her husband and measure up to his exacting stand­ards, she started studying in Dholaka and com­pleted her SSC (old pattern) in 1972. Then she completed a primary teachers course and worked in Ahmedabad for three months.

Subsequently, on 23 March 1978, Jashodaben joined a primary school in Dekwali village in Banaskantha district. She was later transferred to the District Panchayat School in Roopal village where she worked for 12 years. On 2 December 1991, she came to Rajosana village, where she currently lives. Villagers say that though she has been to Ahmedabad occasionally, she was never asked to stay on by her husband.

Jashodaben, a first standard teacher at the Rajosana Primary School, is very popular among her Muslim students. Muslim women in the vil­lage, none of whom were willing to be quoted, say that Modi’s estranged wife is shaping the per­sonalities of Muslim children through her dili­gence as a teacher. They seem to like her. But the 57-year-old will be retiring in October.

Narendrabhai Modi is a national leader. He is intelligent and good looking. Jashodaben may not be able to match him. But she is his wife; he has married her. He must take her back to live with him,” says a village elder.

When I met her at the school, Jashodaben was as excited as a child and could not stop smiling. She expressed a desire to talk and tell her tale. But the principal of the school, Pravinkumar P Vyas, admonished her for talking to a journalist. “You will only talk to them after school hours. Now go back to your class,” Vyas told her.

She pleaded, “Can I talk to her during the break? It will only take a few minutes.” But the principal was unrelenting.

She left the room meekly, only to come back soon. She said,“I will not say anything against my husband. He is very powerful. This job is all I have to survive. I am afraid of the consequences.” She then went back to her classroom.

Meanwhile, the principal had made a call from his mobile phone to inform somebody that Jashodaben had visitors. He then went to meet her in her classroom. After that, she became a dif­ferent person. She smiled no more, her excite­ment was gone and she looked nervous. She kept wringing her hands. When I approached her again, she screamed, asking to be left alone. But as she walked away, she gestured to suggest that she would talk later.

Later, some men visited the school, one after the other, in different vehicles. They parked their vehicles within the school premises, and looked directly into the principal’s office. After a while, they left. When the school day came to an end, Jashodaben almost ran out to a waiting autorick­shaw. She pointed at me and told some villagers that I was harassing her.

Hiding her face in her hands, she went to her brother’s house in her maternal village in Brahamanwada, about 20 km away. A few min­utes later, a young man who identified himself as Prakashbhai, a reporter from Ram Setu (a two-page government-run newspaper printed with inconsistent frequency), approached me and asked me to leave the village. By then a sizeable crowd had gathered around us.

Though Jashodaben earns a monthly salary of Rs 10,000, she lives in a one-room tenement in the Panchalvas area in the village, and pays a rent of Rs 150 every month. The 100 sq ft room has a tin roof, no toilets, and not even a bathroom. The tap is located outside the house. According to the vil­lagers, Jashodaben wakes up very early and takes a bath outside the house.

Despite the fact that she can afford a better life, she has chosen to stay in a somewhat im­poverished village, in a sympathetic and help­ful neighbourhood. Here, her story is known to all. Even the children of her school refer to her as ‘Narendrabhai Modi’s wife’.

But for all practical purposes, that means lit­tle. Jashodaben does not enjoy any privileges. She has to sweep and clean her house, fill water, use a public toilet, cook her meals and wash her own clothes. She does not have any domestic help.

The moment a car is spotted in the village, those living in the bylane leading to Jashodaben’s house gather outside their homes and maintain a close watch on her. Everyone I met claimed to be close to her. In fact, some even asked for money to ensure good access to her. Every Sunday, she takes the 20 km ride to Brahmanwada in an autorick­shaw to spend the day with her brother’s family. Her brother runs a provision store.
People close to her say that she longs for that phone call from her husband, the call asking her to come and live with him forever. Jashodaben has consulted numerous astrologers for this rea­son. Interestingly, the verdict of all the astrolo­gers is that one day she will definitely live with her husband.

The war between the BJP and Congress in Gujarat, particularly in Rajosana, works in Jashodaben’s favour. Her story will be retold over and over again.

For many years, the Congress had an upper hand in the Panchayat elections, but of late, the BJP is emerging stronger here. So, while Modi’s supporters maintain a close watch on Jashodaben’s activities to ensure that her dis­closures do not embarrass the Chief Minister of Gujarat, his opponents are keen to reveal her to the nation. Meanwhile, Jashodaben is noticed to be turning increasingly religious.

 

PRESS STATEMENT- Justice Markandey Katju on #Faizabad


 

 

Oct 30, 20012 – Press – Realease

 

I have received a letter from Ms. Teesta Setalvad, Co-editor of Communalism Combat mentioning in detail a serious communal accident which occurred on the evening of October 24, 2012. According to this letter, a huge group of people attacked the Nawab Hasan Raja Masjid in the chowk area of Faizabad for four to five hours committing arson and looting including looting of a large number of shops. The aforesaid Masjid was totally gutted and destroyed by the vandals as also the office of the bilingual Hindi-Urdu publication ‘Aap ki Taaqat’ that stands for communal amity and promotes the Ganga-Jumna Tehzeeb, and the concept ‘Hindi Urdu do Behen’. The office of the aforesaid newspaper is in the first floor of the aforesaid Masjid.  The editor of the publication, Manzar Mehdi, is President of the Urdu Press Association and the publication attracts 80 per cent advertisement support from the Hindu community. The Masjid every year welcomes the Durga goddess processionists and other processions with floral tributes. The mosque that dates back to 1790 A.D. has always practised and preached communal harmony.

 

What has hurt Mr. Mehdi most is the ambivalence of the national media (except the Hindustan daily which published the true facts) and he has alleged that the media has not seen it as an attack on the freedom of the press. “Why is the media deserting its own, especially a small publication that has become a symbol of intercommunity harmony?” asked Mr. Mehdi.

 

It is alleged in the letter that the lock of the Masjid was broken, and the Masjid looted and gutted down. The newspaper Aap Ki Taaqat’s office located on the top floor of the Masjid was also not spared, and it has been vandalized. Books were trampled upon and torn, the computer was destroyed.

 

On receipt of the aforesaid letter from Ms. Teesta Setalvad, I have today appointed a one man committee of Mr. Sheetla Singh, Member of the Press Council of India and a very senior journalist who is also editor of Jan Morcha of Faizabad to enquire into this complaint and submit his report at the earliest. I have spoken to Mr. Sheetla Singh and Ms. Teesta Setalvad on telephone.

 

If the allegations in the letter of Ms. Setalvad are correct it is a serious criminal offence which tends to disrupt the secular framework of our Constitution and society, and deserves condemnation and harsh punishment.

 

#Invitation- Public Meeting: “Being Woman, Being Dalit in Haryana” 31st Oct. #Delhi


New Socialist Initiative (NSI)
Invites you to a Public Meeting on
“Being Woman, Being Dalit in Haryana
 Speakers
 Jagmati Sangwan
 
(Director, Women’s Study Centre, M.D University, Rohtak, and State President of AIDWA, Haryana)
  Subhash Gatade
(Prominent Activist & Author of “Godse’s children: Hindutva Terror in India“)
2 pm, 31st Oct., 2012; Seminar Room, Dept. of Sociology, Delhi School of Economics
 
Background: Haryana has yet again witnessed atrocities on Dalits and women. This is not new and has a long history in Haryana – Gohana, Dulina and more recently Mirchpur, is some of the more recent instances of caste violence. Rape cases in Haryana in the last one month have tolled 19 till today. The most recent is a case of gang rape in the ‘world class city’ of Gurgaon of a 6 years old minor. Out of these 19 cases, 12 are Dalit women and 3 are minors. This last case reported is not even 40 km away from the national Capital of Delhi. The State is responsible for the protection of its citizens and their right to live freely in a democratic society, free of oppression on the basis of gender and caste.
 
Rape against women has historically been used as a demonstration of male power over women, as a way of ‘putting them in their place’ by restricting their mobility and controlling the use of their bodies. In Haryana rape is not only used to exert power of men over women, but also to assert caste dominance. This violence is at times justified in the name of honour, where battles over caste honour are fought over the bodies of women, and at others in the name of saving culture.

 

#VAW -Raped by stepfather at 13, Forced to illegal abortion #Mexico


We must never forget!

RH Reality Check / By Dawn Hill

I Was Raped By My Stepfather at 13 and Forced to Get an Illegal Abortion in Mexico

I became pregnant, contrary to the “scientific theories” of many modern Republicans. Not only was the experience loathsome and painful, it was also impossible for me to deal with or talk about because abortion was illegal in the 1950s.

This is one of a series of powerful stories from survivors of rape, you will find them all here .

Last week, Indiana GOP Senate candidate Richard Mourdock argued in a debate that women who have been raped should not have access to abortion services because their pregnancies are a “gift from god.” As a survivor of childhood sexual violence, I disagree with him completely.

My name is Dawn Hill. Though I am old now, there was a time when I was young and carefree as you perhaps are now or can remember being in your childhood. Childhood should be a happy and carefree time for all our children, but my mother found her new husband, my stepfather, much more important. He forever took the joy away from my life when I was just 11 years old: He began molesting me and continued until he began raping me when I was 13.

Mr. Mourdock last night said: “I came to realize life is that gift from God, even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape. It is something that God intended to happen.”

I became pregnant, contrary to the “scientific theories” of many modern Republicans. Not only was the experience loathsome and painful, it was also impossible for me to deal with or talk about because of the times: in the fifties, abortion was illegal. Illegal in the same way the Republican Party platform states it wants to make abortion now by constitutional amendment and just as Presidential candidate Mitt Romney has suggested casually he would “be delighted” to return to.

Please, take a moment to travel back to the fifties with me.

My mother took me to Mexico, where anyone could get an abortion for a price. I have blocked out many memories associated with this entire experience, but I remember the pain. Illegal abortions are not the simple safe vacuum procedure used today by legal abortion providers. Oh, no: They were a “dilatation and curettage.”

This means that my cervix was mechanically opened by insertion of larger and larger metal “dilators” until it was opened enough to get a sort of sharpened spoon inside my 13-year-old uterus, while strangers looked at my exposed parts that were theretofore called “private.”

It was cold and dirty in the room, and then the true torture started. They shoved this curette into me and scraped away the entire lining of my uterus with the sharp side. I screamed the entire time even though no one had seen so much as a tear out of me before this moment because I had developed a stony stoicism to protect my mind from the molestation.

This pain was, however, like nothing I’ve ever felt before or since. Can you imagine what happened to those women and girls who couldn’t even get this barbaric abortion? They stuck wire hangers into themselves and bled to death or suffered other horrible complications. Then, too, I also got a terrible infection from the filthy conditions.

I can tell you, though, that I would have gotten a hundred illegal abortions before carrying that monster’s offspring and going through labor, even to give the child away. That would have been the unkindest cut of all.

For women and girls, safe legal abortions are essential. While many will choose a different path than I with their pregnancies, having that choice is essential. Any encroachment on that right is an encroachment on the life, liberty, and safety of the women and girls of America.

#Mumbai High Court orders probe – Armed men would come, pick women and rape them #VAW


Hours after Mumbai Mirror report…

CM, High Court order probe into horror ‘shelter’

Crime Branch to investigate allegations of rape at Mankhurd women’s home, HC serves notices to state welfare department, police chief

 Yogesh Sadhwani, Mumbai Mirror

Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan on Tuesday ordered the Mumbai Crime Branch to probe allegations of rape at the state-run protective shelter in Mankhurd following a Mumbai Mirror report. The Bombay High Court, too, took suo motu notice of the issue and directed various state agencies to respond by November 5.

A Mumbai Mirror report on Monday quoted an inmate of the Navjeevan Mahila Vastigruh, a protective shelter for women rescued under the Prevention of Immoral Trafficking Act, as saying that the women at the home were starved and often raped by outsiders.

The 24-year-old was one of the 23 women who escaped from the home on Saturday. “The chief minister has ordered a Crime Branch inquiry,” said Amitabh Rajan, additional chief secretary, home department. “I have asked Commissioner Satyapal Singh to investigate and get to the bottom of the case.

Another issue that has come up is the lack of proper supervision at the home.” Rajan said he has also asked Ujwal Uke, principal secretary, Women and Child Development Department, to conduct a thorough departmental inquiry.

The Crime Branch will handle the investigation in a sensitive manner so that the women at the home are encouraged to speak up fearlessly, Rajan assured.

Following the chief minister’s instructions, the Crime Branch has formed a special team, which has been asked to investigate the matter and report to Joint Commissioner (Crime) Himanshu Roy within a week. “We have formed a special investigation team headed by the DCP, detection,” said Roy. “He will be assisted by a team that will include women police officers. They will begin their inquiry immediately and submit a report to me in a week’s time.”

By Monday afternoon, the Bombay High Court had taken suo motu cognisance of the case. Court officials told Mumbai Mirror that notices were sent to the Women and Child Welfare Department, city police commissioner, the Mankhurd home’s superintendent and also a High Court-appointed committee.

A division bench headed by Chief Justice Mohit Shah will hear the Public Interest Litigation on November 5.

The Women and Child Welfare Department, which did not respond for the report on Sunday night despite repeated attempts, claimed on Monday that the woman quoted by Mumbai Mirror was lying about the conditions at the home.

“The Mumbai Mirror report about the state of the women’s home is based on lies,” a district women and child welfare officer said in a statement. “The report has mentioned that armed men often barge into the home and rape the women. No such incident has happened.

Regarding the conditions, the women in the home get food and tea twice a day, which is in accordance with government norms.”

The inmate, however, said any girl in the home would say the same thing she said as that was the reality. She said she was glad that her revelations led the chief minister and the High Court’s intervention.

“I am glad I was of some help to the other girls,” she said. “I was lucky to have escaped from that hell hole. I only hope that those who are still there get a better life and do not suffer any more.”

Cash transfers: UIDAI’s newest battle is with finance ministry #uid #biometrics #aadhar


200 px

200 px (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

 

30 OCT, 2012, 05.59AM IST, M RAJSHEKHAR,ET BUREAU

In its short life, the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) has seen its fair share of skirmishes. Its latest skirmish is with an arm of the finance ministry, thedepartment of financial services (DFS), the genesis of which can be traced back to their different models to make payments.

 
Under the UIDAI model, Aadhaar forms the basis of every transaction. UIDAI plans to capture every person’s fingerprint and iris scan and store it on a central database.

Also read: How Congress can use cash transfers as a main weapon in the 2014 elections

So, when the government transfers money, to avoid duplication, it does so only to Aadhaar-verified accounts. Likewise, for transactions. When a villager wants to, say, withdraw money from her bank account, her fingerprint will be verified on a handheld machine of an agent. That scan will travel for instant verification to the central database.

On verification, the agent gives her the money. The DFS has other ideas. Under its current secretary, DK Mittal, it has been aggressively pursuing its mandate of financial inclusion. A senior official of DFS says, on the condition of anonymity, its thinking is that Aadhaar will take time to reach everyone and that cash transfers can be rolled out without Aadhaar. A senior UIDAI official, who did not want to be named, describes this as a purely “anti-Aadhaar play”.

The DFS plan rides on an architecture created by the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI), which was set up to create a national payment architecture. This National Accounts Clearing House (NACH) can make cash transfers into beneficiary accounts using their IFSC codes and bank account numbers. This system, which is essentially a beefed up version of the Electronic Clearing System (ECS), can handle 10 million transactions a day now and 40 million transactions per day after six months.

Eventually, says M Balakrishnan, chief operating officer of NPCI, the Aadhaar payments bridge will be subsumed into the NACH. “This will give the government flexibility to use either Aadhaar or bank accounts to make payments,” he says. But the story gets complicated as one moves closer to the field. NACH is not Aadhaar-dependent-it doesn’t use Aadhaar to identify the beneficiary’s bank account, but rather uses IFSC codes and bank account numbers.

As such, it is akin to the systems already being followed by the government to make NREGA payments electronically. District administration and panchayat officials send to the state department a list of those who worked on a worksite, their bank account numbers and the amounts to be paid to each of them. The state department, in turn, asks the lead bank to credit the money into the workers’ accounts.

The UIDAI official says the DFS-NPCI model does not close the payment loop. “Aadhaar has created a system where biometric authentication at the last mile also tells us the correct person got the money,” he says.

“In the DFS system, that loop of confirmation-the targeted beneficiary received the money-will not be closed.” Put another way, the UIDAI system uses biometrics to verify twicewhen money is deposited into an account and when money is withdrawn from it. By comparison, the DFS-NPCI model does it only in the second leg, by verifying biometrics with the bank; in the first leg, it relies on bank account number.

Adds Himanshu, a professor in JNU: “If the government later decides to migrate everything to Aadhaar, we might well find that the biometrics captured by the banks cannot be compared with those in the Aadhaar servers. We might need to capture biometrics all over again.”

UIDAI feels its way is the best. The UIDAI official points out that Mittal of DFS, who has stamped his personality on many recent decisions on financial inclusion, is due to retire in January. The UIDAI, he adds, might wait for him to retire or escalate the matter with finance minister P Chidambaram now. How this plays out will determine the cash transfers architecture that finally takes shape.
___________________________________________

 

#India-I reject #censorship: Dr Shashi Tharoor @ Pitch #FOE #FOS


Shashi Tharoor, Union Minister & Member of Indian Parliament

Shashi Tharoor, Union Minister & Member of Indian Parliament

Dr Shashi Tharoor, Minister of State, Ministry of Human Resource Development & Member of Indian Parliament, delivered the Keynote Address, “Role of Digital & Social Media in Connecting with Young India” at the Pitch Youth Marketing Summit, held in New Delhi recently. Dr Tharoor talked about his experiences on Twitter and how social media is shaping the current political scenario in India and worldwide. Here is Dr Tharoor’s complete Keynote Address:

Talking about social media today in India, I think it’s important to start off with some global basics. The first is of course is that the freedom of expression is fundamental. That’s my belief and commitment as a writer and as a politician, and as somebody who uses all media, social and otherwise — social and anti-social!

Freedom of expression is the mortar that binds together the bricks of our freedom and it’s also the open window embedded in those bricks. We need freedom of expression to guarantee all of our other acts. In this country we are all entitled to receive and send information thorough electronic networks, to share information, whether through the newspaper, the TV screen or online websites and to do so without censorship and restriction. This is fundamental to the kind of world which we all live in.

As a writer and a politician, I am conscious how fortunate we are to live in a country that guarantees us that right. Writers in some developing countries have to contend with the argument that development and freedom of expression are incompatible – that the media, for instance, must serve the ends of development as defined by the government, or operate only within the boundaries of what the social and religious authorities define as permissible.  The developing world is full of writers, artists and journalists who have to function in societies which do not grant them this freedom.  For them freedom of expression is the oxygen of their own survival, and that of their society, but they are stifled.  In countries where truth is what the government or the religious establishment says is true, freedom of expression is essential to depict alternative truths which the society needs to accommodate in order to survive.

And yet it is all too often absent, because in many countries, there are those who question the value of freedom of speech in their societies; those who argue that it threatens stability and endangers progress; those who still consider freedom of speech a Western import, an imposition from abroad and not the indigenous expression of every people’s demand for freedom. What has always struck me about this argument is that it is never made by the people, but by governments; never by the powerless but by the powerful; never by the voiceless, but by those whose voices are all that can be heard.  Let us put this argument once and for all to the only test that matters: the choice of every people, to know more or know less, to be heard or be silenced, to stand up or kneel down. Only freedom of expression will allow the world’s oppressed and underprivileged a way out of the darkness that shrouds their voices, and their hopes.  The Internet has been giving them this choice as never before.

But then beyond that, and beyond the way in which social media reflects our freedom of expression, we have to go into how the information society of the 21st century provides citizens with full information to allow democratic participation at all levels in determining their own future.

Technology has become the biggest asset for those who seek to promote and protect freedom of expression around the world. The exciting thing about social media is that the new digital technology offers great possibilities for enhancing traditional media and combining them with new media.

The Internet has been made possible by advances in technology that have also transformed the traditional media. Traditional media, and especially radio and television, remain the sole form of access to the information society for much of the world’s population, including the very poor and the illiterate. The poorest, and the illiterate, have not yet been able to use social media and the internet. But even the rest of us rely on traditional media, we can’t wish them away. There is increasing convergence between television and the internet and soon we can try and see how we can marry modern technologies to actually make serious progress in the world.

Today, however, our focus is on social media. Look at the extraordinary transformation that is happening. Just a day after he was sworn in as our President, Pranab Mukherjee announced that he would be opening a Facebook account to receive and respond to the queries from the public. In fact, his fellow Bengali, Mamata Banerjee, has beaten him to it, with a popular and widely read website that the media mines daily for new stories about her views. Just three years ago, when I first went on social media, it was fashionable for Indian politicians to sneer at the use of social media. Today our own President made it clear that these are essential tools for clear, accountable and credible political leadership. The governments of the world or the big institutions of power have become more vulnerable today because of the fact that the new media technology has exposed them to the uncontrolled impact of instant news. And so the fact is that when we speak about the social media, we can’t get away from understanding the impact of new technology on the way the world is working.

Technology is such that everybody has a mobile phone in her or his pocket and you can do far more than when you could have first acquired a mobile phone. Now, you can take pictures, you can take videos, you can transmit them and go on the internet. Something like 5 billion people worldwide, including 84% of Americans, more than 70% of Chinese and at least 60% of Indians, today use mobile phones. You can all get your messages out more rapidly. The strength of this is that you can enable ordinary people to issue and disseminate even raw footage or compellingly authentic images before the mainstream media or the government can actually do so. So you can open up a social media space even not being a professional media person.

Read more here http://pitchonnet.com/blog/2012/10/30/i-reject-censorship-dr-shashi-tharoor-pitch-youth-marketing-summit/

 

#India- Blundering on land and #Aadhaar #UID #Biometrics


Praful Bidwai, http://www.pratirodh.com/

Aadhaar-UID
Aadhaar-UID system is fraught with serious flaws which will affect poor the most.

The fanfare with which Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi launched a service delivery scheme in Rajasthan based on the Aadhaar (foundation) unique identity (UID), and celebrated the issue of the first Aadhaar number topping the 200-million mark, should make the Indian National Congress a very worried party indeed—assuming it has a good survival instinct and basic grasp of practical politics.

To put it starkly, the Congress and with it, the United Progressive Alliance, is sleepwalking into a minefield with plans to roll out Aadhaar-enabled service delivery schemes in 51 districts in India, and later extend them to the entire country.
The Aadhaar-UID system is fraught with serious flaws and uncertainties, which will affect poor people the most. To make the provision or entitlement to the Public Distribution System (for food), payment of wages under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA), and delivery of old-age pensions and scholarships dependent on Aadhaar is to expose them to unacceptable risk.
Yet, the Rajasthan government has linked 10 schemes to Aadhaar, including those listed above, and entitlements to subsidised medical treatment, the Mukhyamantri BPL Gramin Awas Yojana (rural housing for those officially recognised as BPL, or living below-poverty-line), and the Asha Sahayogini scheme for women who raise public awareness about health, nutrition and sanitation and mobilise people for health facilities.
What is wrong with Aadhaar? First of all, the 12-digit Aadhaar identity number generated by the Unique Identity Authority of India for each citizen is neither unique nor reliable. The biometric techniques it uses, involving a photograph, fingerprints and an iris scan, is untested and riven with uncertainty. Experts point to many technical errors, including indistinct fingerprints due to calluses, and poor iris scans due to cataracts. The UIDAI mission director has himself admitted that fingerprints are not likely to work reliably for authentication. These errors could end up excluding up to 15 percent of the population.
Second, Aadhaar is susceptible to some of the same factors—e.g. bureaucratic lethargy, callousness towards the poor, and influence of the powerful—that result in inaccurate compilation of BPL lists, leading in many cases to the exclusion of 40 percent of poor people. Technology provides no assurance of authenticity for Aadhaar. Every exclusion of the genuinely poor from Aadhaar will heap yet more injustice upon them besides costing the UPA heavy erosion of political support.
Third, last year Parliament’s Standing Committee on Finance rejected the National Identification Authority of India Bill 2010 (to give legal backing for the whole exercise), and termed the project “directionless” and “conceptualised with no clarity of purpose”. It also called the technology used “untested, unproven, unreliable and unsafe”. It raised concerns about privacy, identity theft, misuse, security of data and its duplication and also noted serious differences of opinion within the government, including objections by the Planning Commission.
These are matters of great gravity. No computer is foolproof against hacking; and data loss or theft has serious consequences. The Committee strongly disapproved of the hasty manner in which the UID scheme was approved and said that going ahead with it would be “unethical and violative of Parliament’s prerogatives”.
Faced with these objections, UIDAI chairman Nandan Nilekani promised that the Aadhaar number would not be used as mandatory proof of identity for the provision of public services. But the opposite is happening. It’s even proposed to make Aadhaar compulsory even for opening a bank account.
India is moving towards converting public-service provision into Aadhaar-based cash transfers so the state can wash its hands of its obligations to the people. Dr Singh has just up a high-level committee on cash transfers. But cash is no substitute for creating services/facilities, which don’t exist.
Even more politically disastrous is the UPA’s deception on the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (LARR) Bill. Land is probably the most important site of people’s struggles in defence of their livelihoods and survival rights.
The Bill was meant to be a generous improvement over the colonial Land Acquisition Act 1894 and was touted as a major gain for farmers, and a great legacy of UPA-2, comparable to UPA-1’s NREGA. Originally, it was to exclude tribal lands and limit the acquisition of irrigated multi-cropped land to five percent of the total, to require the consent of 80 percent of both land losers and those whose livelihoods depend on land (e.g. agricultural workers, rural artisans, etc), to apply to ongoing land acquisition where possession hasn’t been taken, and to provide compensation at four to six times the market value of land.
All this was diluted under pressure from the industry, commerce and urban development ministries, and Big Business lobbies, to make the Bill “investor-friendly”. In the Group of Ministers headed by none other than Mr Sharad Pawar, said to be one of our biggest landowners, the 80 percent consent norm was downgraded to “approval” by two-thirds of land losers—never mind the livelihood losers. Tribal land can still be acquired, but as the “last resort”. Contrary to earlier promises, even double displacement would be permitted, albeit in “exceptional” cases. But permitted it will be.
The proposed National Manufacturing and Investment Zones have been exempted from the Bill. It will only apply to future, not ongoing, land acquisitions. And the states have been asked to follow a “sliding scale” of compensation, of between two and four times the market value. Besides, “linear projects” like railways, highways and power lines have been exempted altogether.
Relief and rehabilitation obligations on private buyers, earlier mandatory for acquisitions above 100 acres, have been left to the discretion of the states. Instead of taking rehabilitation responsibility till the project is completed, promoters will only make a one-off payment into an escrow account and won’t have build infrastructure or amenities for the affected people. The account will be managed by a special agency. How responsive it will be to people remains to be seen.
Since then, Ms Sonia Gandhi has intervened to restore the 80 percent consent norm for land losers, but that’s a relatively minor change which only partially undoes the harm. The truth is, even in its modified form, the LARR Bill would at best be a cosmetic improvement over the 1894 Act. No wonder the National Alliance of People’s Movements has called it retrograde because it will transfer “precious natural resources to private corporations and fuel corruption and land conflict”.
The main positive feature of the Bill is that it mandates a Social Impact Assessment, including of whether a project serves a public purpose, and evaluate its presumed benefits and social costs for the project-affected families, with public hearings to be held at the site. The SIA report would be examined by an Expert Group, with some non-governmental representatives, including two social scientists, which can recommend the scrapping of a project.
Another positive feature is that the loss of a house would be made up through the grant of another house, and families affected by irrigation projects would get one acre of land in the command area—although they might lose much more.
However, as past experience with the corrupted Environmental Impact Assessment process vividly shows, the SIA is no guarantee that the project would be properly assessed. Besides, the Bill has accepted the industry lobby’s demand that the SIA be completed within six months—a virtually impossible task if an in-depth assessment is to be made and critically scrutinised.
As for compensation, it took many years even to estimate the social and environmental damage from the Narmada dam projects, leave alone compensate people for it. Thousands of displaced families, who were promised “land for land”, still remain un-rehabilitated, as the recent moving jal satyagraha in Khandwa in Madhya Pradesh showed.
India has displaced 60 million people from land since Independence—equalling the entire population of Britain. Land is now the hottest subject of contestation between the people, on the one hand, and corporate interests and the state, on the other. Not only is land crucial to people’s right to live with dignity. It’s also tied up with the central question of control over the natural resources which it holds, including water, forests and minerals.
Under the present neoliberal model of capitalism, corporations invade nature in ways they have never done before to take over land, water and air, and forcibly turn them into commodities. All Third World countries, and especially fast-growing ones, are witnessing a modified repetition of what England saw in the 18th century—Enclosures of the Commons, or common property resources, including farmland and pastures—only at a faster pace, and with greater ruthlessness.
The UPA is facilitating this to feed corporate greed. Clearly, Ms Gandhi has decided to abdicate her responsibility to exercise a moderating influence on the UPA and push pro-people measures. She has probably convinced herself, perhaps against her own instincts, that GDP growth is all-important; to engineer it, India needs investment, whatever the cost. The UPA will end up paying heavily for this Himalayan misjudgment.
(The article was first published in The Kashmir Times)

#America Acts Like It Owns the World- #Noam Chomsky


 

By Noam Chomsky, Democracy Now!

 

28 October 12

 

 

 

English: A portrait of Noam Chomsky that I too...

English: A portrait of Noam Chomsky that I took in Vancouver Canada. Français : Noam Chomsky à Vancouver au Canada en 2004. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

n the week when President Obama and Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney debated issues of foreign policy and the economy, we turn to world-renowned political dissident, linguist, author and MIT professor, Noam Chomsky. In a recent speech, Chomsky examined topics largely ignored or glossed over during the campaign: China, the Arab Spring, global warming, nuclear proliferation, and the military threat posed by Israel and the U.S. versus Iran. He reflects on the Cuban missile crisis, which took place 50 years ago this week and is still referred to as “the most dangerous moment in human history.” He delivered this talk last month at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst at an event sponsored by the Center for Popular Economics. Chomsky’s talk was entitled “Who Owns the World?” [includes rush transcript]

 

TRANSCRIPT

 

AMY GOODMAN: We’re on the road in Portland, Oregon. We are here as part of our 100-city Silenced Majority tour. On this week when President Obama and Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney debated issues of foreign policy and the economy, we turn to world-renowned political dissident, linguist, author, MIT Professor Noam Chomsky. In a recent speech, Professor Chomsky examined topics largely ignored or glossed over during the campaign, from China to the Arab Spring, to global warming and the nuclear threat posed by Israel versus Iran. He spoke last month at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst at any event sponsored by the Center for Popular Economics. His talk was entitled “Who Owns the World?”

 

NOAM CHOMSKY: When I was thinking about these remarks, I had two topics in mind, couldn’t decide between them—actually pretty obvious ones. One topic is, what are the most important issues that we face? The second topic is, what issues are not being treated seriously—or at all—in the quadrennial frenzy now underway called an election? But I realized that there’s no problem; it’s not a hard choice: they’re the same topic. And there are reasons for it, which are very significant in themselves. I’d like to return to that in a moment. But first a few words on the background, beginning with the announced title, “Who Owns the World?”

 

Actually, a good answer to this was given years ago by Adam Smith, someone we’re supposed to worship but not read. He was—a little subversive when you read him sometimes. He was referring to the most powerful country in the world in his day and, of course, the country that interested him, namely, England. And he pointed out that in England the principal architects of policy are those who own the country: the merchants and manufacturers in his day. And he said they make sure to design policy so that their own interests are most peculiarly attended to. Their interests are served by policy, however grievous the impact on others, including the people of England.

 

But he was an old-fashioned conservative with moral principles, so he added the victims of England, the victims of the—what he called the “savage injustice of the Europeans,” particularly in India. Well, he had no illusions about the owners, so, to quote him again, “All for ourselves and nothing for other people, seems, in every age of the world, to have been the vile maxim of the masters of mankind.” It was true then; it’s true now.

 

Britain kept its position as the dominant world power well into the 20th century despite steady decline. By the end of World War II, dominance had shifted decisively into the hands of the upstart across the sea, the United States, by far the most powerful and wealthy society in world history. Britain could only aspire to be its junior partner as the British foreign office ruefully recognized. At that point, 1945, the United States had literally half the world’s wealth, incredible security, controlled the entire Western Hemisphere, both oceans, the opposite sides of both oceans. There’s nothing—there hasn’t ever been anything like that in history.

 

And planners understood it. Roosevelt’s planners were meeting right through the Second World War, designing the post-war world. They were quite sophisticated about it, and their plans were pretty much implemented. They wanted to make sure that the United States would control what they called a “grand area,” which would include, routinely, the entire Western Hemisphere, the entire Far East, the former British Empire, which the U.S. would be taking over, and as much of Eurasia as possible—crucially, its commercial and industrial centers in Western Europe. And within this region, they said, the United States should hold unquestioned power with military and economic supremacy, while ensuring the limitation of any exercise of sovereignty by states that might interfere with these global designs.

 

And those were pretty realistic plans at the time, given the enormous disparity of power. The U.S. had been by far the richest country in the world even before the Second World War, although it wasn’t—was not yet the major global actor. During the Second World War, the United States gained enormously. Industrial production almost quadrupled, got us out of depression. Meanwhile, industrial rivals were devastated or seriously weakened. So that was an unbelievable system of power.

 

Actually, the policies that were outlined then still hold. You can read them in government pronouncements. But the capacity to implement them has significantly declined. Actually there’s a major theme now in foreign policy discussion—you know, journals and so on. The theme is called “American decline.” So, for example, in the most prestigious establishment international relations journal, Foreign Affairs, a couple of months ago, there was an issue which had on the front cover in big bold letters, “Is America Over?” question mark. That’s announcing the theme of the issue. And there is a standard corollary to this: power is shifting to the west, to China and India, the rising world powers, which are going to be the hegemonic states of the future.

 

Actually, I think the decline—the decline is quite real, but some serious qualifications are in order. First of all, the corollary is highly unlikely, at least in the foreseeable future. China and India are very poor countries. Just take a look at, say, the human development index of the United Nations: they’re way down there. China is around 90th. I think India is around 120th or so, last time I looked. And they have tremendous internal problems—demographic problems, extreme poverty, hopeless inequality, ecological problems. China is a great manufacturing center, but it’s actually mostly an assembly plant. So it assembles parts and components, high technology that comes from the surrounding industrial—more advanced industrial centers—Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore, the United States, Europe—and it basically assembles them. So, if, say, you buy one of these i-things—you know, an iPad from China—that’s called an export from China, but the parts and components and technology come from outside. And the value added in China is minuscule. It’s been calculated. They’ll move up the technology ladder, but it’s a hard climb, India even harder. Well, so I think one should be skeptical about the corollary.

 

But there’s another qualification that’s more serious. The decline is real, but it’s not new. It’s been going on since 1945. In fact, it happened very quickly. In the late 1940s, there’s an event that’s known here as “the loss of China.” China became independent. That’s a loss of a huge piece of the grand area of Asia. And it became a major issue in American domestic policy. Who’s responsible for the loss of China? A lot of recriminations and so on. Actually, the phrase is kind of interesting. Like, I can’t lose your computer, right? Because I don’t own it. I can lose my computer. Well, the phrase “loss of China” kind of presupposes a deeply held principle of kind of American elite consciousness: we own the world, and if some piece of it becomes independent, we’ve lost it. And that’s a terrible loss; we’ve got to do something about it. It’s never questioned, which is interesting in itself.

 

Well, right about the same time, around 1950, concerns developed about the loss of Southeast Asia. That’s what led the United States into the Indochina wars, the worst atrocities of the post-war period—partly lost, partly not. A very significant event in modern history was in 1965, when in Indonesia, which was the main concern—that’s the country of Southeast Asia with most of the wealth and resources—there was a military coup in Indonesia, Suharto coup. It led to an extraordinary massacre, what the New York Times called a “staggering mass slaughter.” It killed hundreds of thousands of people, mostly landless peasants; destroyed the only mass political party; and opened the country up to Western exploitation. Euphoria in the West was so enormous that it couldn’t be contained. So, in the New York Times, describing the “staggering mass slaughter,” it called it a “gleam of light in Asia.” That was the column written by James Reston, the leading liberal thinker in the Times. And the same elsewhere—Europe, Australia. It was a fantastic event.

 

Years later, McGeorge Bundy, who was the national security adviser for Kennedy and Johnson, in retrospect, he pointed out that it probably would have been a good idea to end the Vietnam War at that point, to pull out. Contrary to a lot of illusions, the Vietnam War was fought primarily to ensure that an independent Vietnam would not develop successfully and become a model for other countries in the region. It would not—to borrow Henry Kissinger’s terminology speaking about Chile, we have to prevent what they called the—what he called the “virus” of independent development from spreading contagion elsewhere. That’s a critical part of American foreign policy since the Second World War—Britain, France, others to a lesser degree. And by 1965, that was over. Vietnam was—South Vietnam was virtually destroyed. Word spread to the rest of Indochina it wasn’t going to be a model for anyone, and the contagion was contained. There were—the Suharto regime made sure that Indonesia wouldn’t be infected. And pretty soon the U.S. had dictatorships in every country of the region—Marcos on the Philippines, a dictatorship in Thailand, Chun in South—Park in South Korea. It was no problem about the infection. So that would have been a good time to end the Vietnam War, he felt. Well, that’s Southeast Asia.

 

But the decline continues. In the last 10 years, there’s been a very important event: the loss of South America. For the first time in 500 years, the South—since the conquistadors, the South American countries have begun to move towards independence and a degree of integration. The typical structure of one of the South American countries was a tiny, very rich, Westernized elite, often white, or mostly white, and a huge mass of horrible poverty, countries separated from one another, oriented to—each oriented towards its—you know, either Europe or, more recently, the United States. Last 10 years, that’s been overcome, significantly—beginning to integrate, the prerequisite for independence, even beginning to face some of their horrendous internal problems. Now that’s the loss of South America. One sign is that the United States has been driven out of every single military base in South America. We’re trying to restore a few, but right now there are none.

 

AMY GOODMAN: MIT Professor Noam Chomsky. Coming up, he discusses global warming, nuclear war and the Arab Spring, in a minute. [break]

 

AMY GOODMAN: We’re on the road in Portland, Oregon, part of our 100-city tour. Today, though, we’re spending the hour with world-renowned political dissident, linguist, author, MIT Professor Noam Chomsky. As Election Day comes closer, Chomsky examines topics largely ignored or glossed over during the presidential campaign, including the threat posed to U.S. power by the Arab Spring.

 

NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, moving on to just last year, the Arab Spring is another such threat. It threatens to take that big region out of the grand area. That’s a lot more significant than Southeast Asia or South America. You go back to the 1940s, the State Department recognized that the energy resources of the Middle East are what they called “one of the greatest material prizes in world history,” a spectacular source of strategic power; if we can control Middle East energy, we can control the world.

 

Take a look at the U.S-British coup in Iran in 1953. Very important event. Its shadows cast over the world until today. Now that was—it was a pretense that it was a part of the Cold War; it had nothing to do with the Cold War. What it had to do with was the usual fear: independent nationalism. And it wasn’t even concerned with access to oil or profits. It was concerned with control, control of the oil resources of Iran and, in fact, of the region. And that’s a theme that runs right through policy decisions. It’s not discussed much, but it’s very important to have control, exactly as State Department pointed out—advisers pointed out in the ’40s. If you can control the oil, you can control most of the world. And that goes on.

 

So far, the threat of the Arab Spring has been pretty well contained. In the oil dictatorships, which are the most important ones for the West, every effort to join the Arab Spring has just been crushed by force. Saudi Arabia was so extreme that when there was an effort to go out into the streets, the security presence was so enormous that people were even afraid to go out. There’s a little discussion of what goes on in Bahrain, where it’s been crushed, but eastern Saudi Arabia was much worse. The emirates totally control. So that’s OK. We managed to ensure that the threat of democracy would be smashed in the most important places.

 

Egypt is an interesting case. It’s an important country, not an oil producer—it is a small one. But in Egypt, the United States followed a standard operating procedure. If any of you are going into the diplomatic service, you might as well learn it. There’s a standard procedure when one of your favorite dictators gets into trouble. First, you support him as long as possible. But if it becomes really impossible—say, the army turns against him—then you send him out to pasture and get the intellectual class to issue ringing declarations about your love of democracy, and then try to restore the old system as much as possible. There’s case after case of that—Somoza in Nicaragua, Duvalier in Haiti, Marcos in the Philippines, Chun in South Korea, Mobutu in the Congo, over and over. I mean, it takes genius not to see it. And it’s exactly what was done in Egypt and what France tried to do, not quite with as much success, in Tunisia.

 

Well, the future is uncertain, but the threat of democracy so far is contained. And it’s a real threat. I’ll return to that. It’s also to—important to recognize that the decline over the past 50 years is, to a significant extent, self-inflicted, particularly since the ’70s. I’ll go back to that, too. But first let me say a couple of things about the issues that are most important today and that are being ignored or not dealt seriously—dealt with seriously in the electoral campaigns, for good reasons. So let me start with the most important issues. Now there are two of these. They’re of overwhelming significance, because the fate of the species depends on them. One is environmental disaster, and the other is nuclear war.

 

I’m not going to take much time reviewing the threats of environmental disaster. Actually, they’re on the front pages almost daily. So, for example, last week the New York Times had a front-page story with the headline, “Ending Its Summer Melt, Arctic Sea Ice Sets a New Low That Leads to Warnings.” The melting this summer was far faster than was predicted by the sophisticated computer models and the most recent United Nations report. It’s now predicted that the summer ice might be gone by 2020. It was assumed before that it may be 2050. They quoted scientists who said this is “a prime example of the built-in conservatism of [our] climate forecasts. As dire [the warnings are] about the long-term consequences of heat-trapping emissions … many of [us] fear [that] they may still be underestimating the speed and severity of the impending changes.” Actually, there’s a climate change study program at MIT, where I am. They’ve been warning about this for years, and repeatedly have been proven right.

 

The Times report discusses, briefly, the severe attack—the severe impact of all of this on the global climate, and it adds, “But governments have not responded to the change with any greater urgency about limiting greenhouse emissions. To the contrary, their main response has been to plan for exploitation of newly accessible minerals in the Arctic, including drilling for more oil.” That is, to accelerate the catastrophe. It’s quite interesting. It demonstrates an extraordinary willingness to sacrifice the lives of our children and grandchildren for short-term gain, or perhaps an equally remarkable willingness to shut our eyes so as not to see impending peril—these things you sometimes find with young infants: something looks dangerous, close my eyes and won’t look at it.

 

Well, there is another possibility. I mean, maybe humans are somehow trying to fulfill a prediction of great American biologist who died recently, Ernst Mayr. He argued years ago that intelligence seems to be a lethal mutation. He—and he had some pretty good evidence. There’s a notion of biological success, which is how many of you are there around. You know, that’s biological success. And he pointed out that if you look at the tens of billions of species in human—in world history, the ones that are very successful are the ones that mutate very quickly, like bacteria, or the ones that have a fixed ecological niche, like beetles. They seem to make out fine. But as you move up the scale of what we call intelligence, success declines steadily. When you get up to mammals, it’s very low. There are very few of them around. I mean, there’s a lot of cows; it’s only because we domesticate them. When you get to humans, it’s the same. ‘Til very recently, much too recent a time to show up in any evolutionary accounting, humans were very scattered. There were plenty of other hominids, but they disappeared, probably because humans exterminated them, but nobody knows for sure. Anyhow, maybe we’re trying to show that humans just fit into the general pattern. We can exterminate ourselves, too, the rest of the world with us, and we’re hell bent on it right now.

 

Well, let’s turn to the elections. Both political parties demand that we make the problem worse. In 2008, both party platforms devoted some space to how the government should address climate change. Today, the—in the Republican platform, the issue has essentially disappeared. But the platform does demand that Congress take quick action to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gases. So let’s make sure to make it worse. And it also demands that we open the Alaska’s Arctic Refuge to drilling—I’m quoting now—in order to take “advantage of all of our American God-given resources.” You can’t disobey God, after all. On environmental policy, the program says, “We must restore scientific integrity to our public research institutions and remove political incentives from publicly funded research.” All that’s a code word for climate science: stop funding climate science. Romney himself says there’s no scientific consensus, so we should support more debate and investigation within the scientific community, but no action, except to act to make the problems worse.

 

Well, what about the Democrats? They concede that there’s a problem and advocate that we should work toward an agreement to set emissions limits in unison with other emerging powers. But that’s it. No action. And, in fact, as Obama has emphasized, we have to work hard to gain what he calls a hundred years of energy independence by exploiting domestic or Canadian resources by fracking or other elaborate technologies. Doesn’t ask what the world would look like in a hundred years. So, there are differences. The differences are basically about how enthusiastically the lemmings should march towards the cliff.

 

Let’s turn to the second major issue: nuclear war. That’s also on the front pages daily, but in a way that would seem outlandish to some independent observer viewing what’s going on on earth, and in fact does seem outlandish to a considerable majority of the countries of the world. Now, the current threat, not for the first time, is in the Middle East, focusing on Iran. The general picture in the West is very clear: it’s far too dangerous to allow Iran to reach what’s called “nuclear capability.” That is, the capability enjoyed by many powers, dozens of them, to produce nuclear weapons if they decide to do so. As to whether they’ve decided, U.S. intelligence says it doesn’t know. The International Atomic Energy Agency just produced its most recent report a couple weeks ago, and it concludes—I’ll quote it: it cannot demonstrate “the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran.” Now, that is, it can’t demonstrate something which cannot—a condition that can’t be satisfied. There’s no way to demonstrate the absence of the work—that’s convenient—therefore Iran must be denied the right to enrich uranium, that’s guaranteed to every power that signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

 

Well, that’s the picture in the West. That’s not the picture in the rest of the world. As you know, I’m sure, there was just a meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement—that’s large majority of the countries in the world and representing most of the world’s population—a meeting in Tehran. And once again, not for the first time, they issued a ringing declaration of support for Iran’s right to enrich uranium, right that every country has that signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Pretty much the same is true in the Arab world. It’s interesting. I’ll return to that in a moment.

 

There is a basic reason for the concern. It was expressed succinctly by General Lee Butler. He’s the former head of the U.S. Strategic Command, which controls nuclear weapons and nuclear strategy. He wrote that “It is dangerous in the extreme that in the cauldron of animosities that we call the Middle East,” one nation should arm itself with nuclear weapons, which may inspire other nations to do so. General Butler, however, was not referring to Iran; he was referring to Israel, the country that ranks highest in European polls as the most dangerous country in the world—right above Iran—and, not incidentally, in the Arab world, where the public regard the United States as the second most dangerous country, right after Israel. In the Arab world, Iran, though disliked, ranks far lower as a threat—among the populations, that is, not the dictatorships.

 

With regard to Iranian nuclear weapons, nobody wants them to have them, but in many polls, majorities, sometimes considerable majorities, have said that the region would be more secure if Iran had nuclear weapons, to balance those of their major threats. Now, there’s a lot of commentary in the Western media, in journals, about Arab attitudes towards Iran. And what you read, commonly, is that the Arabs want decisive action against Iran, which is true of the dictators. It’s not true of the populations. But who cares about the populations, what are called, disparagingly, the Arab street? We don’t care about them. Now that’s a reflection of the extremely deep contempt for democracy among Western elites—I mean, so deep that it can’t be perceived. You know, it’s just kind of like reflexive. The study of popular attitudes in the Arab world—and there is very extensive study by Western polling agencies—it reveals very quickly why the U.S. and its allies are so concerned about the threat of democracy and are doing what they can to prevent it. Just take—they certainly don’t want attitudes like those I just indicated to become policy, while of course issuing rousing statements about our passionate dedication to democracy. Those are relayed obediently by reporters and commentators.

 

Well, unlike Iran, Israel refuses to allow inspections at all, refuses to join the Non-Proliferation Treaty, has hundreds of nuclear weapons, has advanced delivery systems. Also, it has a long record of violence and repression. It has annexed and settled conquered territories illegally, in violation of Security Council orders, and many acts of aggression—five times against Lebanon alone, no credible pretext. In the New York Times yesterday, you can read that the Golan Heights are disputed territory, the Syrian Golan Heights. There is a U.N. Security Council resolution, 497, which is unanimous, declaring Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights illegal and demanding that it be rescinded. And in fact, it’s disputed only in Israel and in the New York Times, which in fact is reflecting actual U.S. policy, not formal U.S. policy.

 

Iran has a record of aggression. too. In the last several hundred years, it has invaded and conquered a couple of Arab islands. Now that was under the Shah, U.S.-imposed dictator with U.S. support. That’s actually the only case in several hundred years.

 

Meanwhile, the severe threats of attack continue—you’ve just been hearing them at the U.N.—from the United States, but particularly Israel. Now there is a reaction to this at the highest level in the United States. Leon Panetta, secretary of defense, he said that we don’t want to attack Iran, we hope that Israel won’t attack Iran, but Israel is a sovereign country, and they have to make their own decisions about what they’ll do. You might ask what the reaction would be if you reverse the cast of characters. And those of you who have antiquarian interests might remember that there’s a document called the United Nations Charter, the foundation of modern international law, which bars the threat or use of force in international affairs. Now, there are two rogue states—United States and Israel—for whom—which regard the Charter and international law as just a boring irrelevance, so, do what they like. And that’s accepted.

 

Well, these are not just words; there is an ongoing war, includes terrorism, assassination of nuclear scientists, includes economic war. U.S. threats—not international ones—U.S. threats have cut Iran out of the international financial system. Western military analysts identify what they call “weapons of finance” as acts of war that justify violent response—when they’re directed against us, that is. Cutting Iran out of global financial markets is different.

 

The United States is openly carrying out extensive cyber war against Iran. That’s praised. The Pentagon regards cyber war as an equivalent to an armed attack, which justifies military response, but that’s of course when it’s directed against us. The leading liberal figure in the State Department, Harold Koh—he’s the top State Department legal adviser—he says that cyber war is an act of war if it results in significant destruction—like the attacks against Iranian nuclear facilities. And such acts, he says, justify force in self-defense. But, of course, he means only attacks against the United States or its clients.

 

Well, Israel’s lethal armory, which is enormous, includes advanced submarines, recently provided by Germany. These are capable of carrying Israel’s nuclear-tipped missiles, and these are sure to be deployed in the Persian Gulf or nearby if Israel proceeds with its plans to bomb Iran or, more likely, I suspect, to try to set up conditions in which the United States will do so. And the United States, of course, has a vast array of nuclear weapons all over the world, but surrounding the region, from the Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean, including enough firepower in the Persian Gulf to destroy most of the world.

 

Another story that’s in the news right now is the Israeli bombing of the Iraqi reactor in Osirak, which is suggested as a model for Israeli bombing of Iran. It’s rarely mentioned, however, that the bombing of the Osirak reactor didn’t end Saddam Hussein’s nuclear weapons program. It initiated it. There was no program before it. And the Osirak reactor was not capable of producing uranium for nuclear weapons. But, of course, after the bombings, Saddam immediately turned to developing a nuclear weapons program. And if Iran is bombed, it’s almost certain to proceed just as Saddam Hussein did after the Osirak bombing.

 

AMY GOODMAN: MIT professor and author, Noam Chomsky, continues in a moment. If you’d like a copy of today’s show, you can go to our website at democracynow.org. Professor Chomsky will next look at nuclear weapons race, as this week marks the 50th anniversary of the Cuban missile crisis, often referred to as “the most dangerous moment in human history.” Back in a moment. [break]

 

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. We’re on a 100-city tour, today in Portland, Oregon. I’m Amy Goodman, as we continue our hour today with world-renowned political dissident, linguist, author, and professor emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Noam Chomsky. His recent talk entitled “Who Owns the World?”

 

NOAM CHOMSKY: In a few weeks, we’ll be commemorating the 50th anniversary of “the most dangerous moment in human history.” Now, those are the words of historian, Kennedy adviser, Arthur Schlesinger. He was referring, of course, to the October 1962 missile crisis, “the most dangerous moment in human history.” Others agree. Now, at that time, Kennedy raised the nuclear alert to the second-highest level, just short of launching weapons. He authorized NATO aircraft, with Turkish or other pilots, to take off, fly to Moscow and drop bombs, setting off a likely nuclear conflagration.

 

At the peak of the missile crisis, Kennedy estimated the probability of nuclear war at perhaps 50 percent. It’s a war that would destroy the Northern Hemisphere, President Eisenhower had warned. And facing that risk, Kennedy refused to agree publicly to an offer by Kruschev to end the crisis by simultaneous withdrawal of Russian missiles from Cuba and U.S. missiles from Turkey. These were obsolete missiles. They were already being replaced by invulnerable Polaris submarines. But it was felt necessary to firmly establish the principle that Russia has no right to have any offensive weapons anywhere beyond the borders of the U.S.S.R., even to defend an ally against U.S. attack. That’s now recognized to be the prime reason for deploying missiles there, and actually a plausible one. Meanwhile, the United States must retain the right to have them all over the world, targeting Russia or China or any other enemy. In fact, in 1962, the United—we just recently learned, the United States had just secretly deployed nuclear missiles to Okinawa aimed at China. That was a moment of elevated regional tensions. All of that is very consistent with grand area conceptions, the ones I mentioned that were developed by Roosevelt’s planners.

 

Well, fortunately, in 1962, Kruschev backed down. But the world can’t be assured of such sanity forever. And particularly threatening, in my view, is that intellectual opinion, and even scholarship, hail Kennedy’s behavior as his finest hour. My own view is it’s one of the worst moments in history. Inability to face the truth about ourselves is all too common a feature of the intellectual culture, also personal life, has ominous implications.

 

Well, 10 years later, in 1973, during the Israel-Arab War, Henry Kissinger called a high-level nuclear alert. The purpose was to warn the Russians to keep hands off while he was—so we’ve recently learned—he was secretly informing Israel that they were authorized to violate the ceasefire that had been imposed jointly by the U.S. and Russia. When Reagan came into office a couple of years later, the United States launched operations probing Russian defenses, flying in to Russia to probe defenses, and simulating air and naval attacks, meanwhile placing Pershing missiles in Germany that had a five-minute flight time to Russian targets. They were providing what the CIA called a “super-sudden first strike” capability. The Russians, not surprisingly, were deeply concerned. Actually, that led to a major war scare in 1983. There have been hundreds of cases when human intervention aborted a first-strike launch just minutes before launch. Now, that’s after automated systems gave false alarms. We don’t have Russian records, but there’s no doubt that their systems are far more accident-prone. Actually, it’s a near miracle that nuclear war has been avoided so far.

 

Meanwhile, India and Pakistan have come close to nuclear war several times, and the crises that led to that, especially Kashmir, remain. Both India and Pakistan have refused to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty, along with Israel, and both of them have received U.S. support for development of their nuclear weapons programs, actually, until today, in the case of India, which is now a U.S. ally.

 

War threats in the Middle East, which could become reality very soon, once again escalate the dangers. Well, fortunately, there’s a way out of this, a simple way. There’s a way to mitigate, maybe end, whatever threat Iran is alleged to pose. Very simple: move towards establishing a nuclear-weapons-free zone in the Middle East. Now, the opportunity is coming again this December. There’s an international conference scheduled to deal with this proposal. It has overwhelming international support, including, incidentally, a majority of the population in Israel. That’s fortunately. Unfortunately, it’s blocked by the United States and Israel. A couple of days ago, Israel announced that it’s not going to participate, and it won’t consider the matter until there’s a general regional peace. Obama takes the same stand. He also insists that any agreement must exclude Israel and even must exclude calls for other nations—meaning the U.S.—to provide information about Israeli nuclear activities.

 

The United States and Israel can delay regional peace indefinitely. They’ve been doing that for 35 years on Israel-Palestine, virtual international isolation. It’s a long, important story that I don’t have time to go into here. So, therefore, there’s no hope for an easy way to end what the West regards as the most severe current crisis—no way unless there’s large-scale public pressure. But there can’t be large-scale public pressure unless people at least know about it. And the media have done a stellar job in averting that danger: nothing reported about the conference or about any of the background, no discussion, apart from specialist arms control journals where you can read about it. So, that blocks the easy way to end the worst existing crisis, unless people somehow find a way to break through this.

 

AMY GOODMAN: MIT Professor Noam Chomsky spoke on September 27th of this year at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. His talk was entitled “Who Owns the World?” If you’d like to get a copy of today’s broadcast, you can go to our website at democracynow.org. And I’ll be speaking along with Professor Chomsky and Juan Cole of the University of Michigan in Princeton, New Jersey, on November 11th at 1:30. You can go to our website at democracynow.org for details.

 

 

#India- Price of asking a question to a Minister #Chhattisgarh #torture #Foe #FOS


The Price of a Question

The price of a question

The Price of a Question

I am yet to recuperate from the I trauma I have been through after I innocently asked a question to Chief Minister Raman Singh at a public function at Raipur on October 7. I wonder if I will ever be able to bury the harrowing memories and move on in life.

The traumatic experience of being kicked, slapped, and punched by the cops outside the venue of the meeting and later inside a police station that day still plays in my mind when I retire to bed, giving me shudders in my sleep. The physical and mental agony caused by the police brutality has turned my life into a living hell. I am completely shattered, broken, and devastated now.

Although I am a Congress activist and general secretary of the youth wing of the Raipur Lok Sabha unit of the party, my decision to put forth a question to the chief minister at the farmers’ meet organized by Indira Gandhi Agriculture University had nothing to do with politics. In fact, I attended the event to submit a memorandum to Union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar, who inaugurated the meet, to bring into focus discrepancies between actual agriculture production in the state and the figures shown by the state government, established by RTI replies. But, Mr Pawar refused to accept the memorandum.
I could not resist the impulse to ask the chief minister to explain the reason behind the anomaly between production of paddy and the actual area under cultivation, when the latter made tall claims on the progress made in the agriculture sector in the state in his speech. I was utterly shocked to find him seething in anger and behaving in a manner on becoming of a chief minister, when I raised the issue armed with necessary documents at the function.

“Daru piker aya hai… ise uthakar le jao…“ (He is drunk… Throw him out…)”, the chief minister ordered the policemen, adding, “Na jane log kaise din mein bhi pite hain (I do not understand how some people consume liquor in the day).

Soon I was whisked away from the venue by policemen and taken to a nearby secluded place where I was beaten mercilessly.

I pleaded them not to hurt me since I am not an anti-social person. I was screaming in pain as the policemen went on raining blows on my face.

Later, I was shoved into a waiting police van. My ordeal did not end there and in fact it dawned on me that it had only begun. One police inspector sitting beside me on the backseat of the van started slapping me while another one grabbed me tightly. When I tried to dodge his punches, he hit me with his elbow on my back, straight into my ribs. I felt nauseous and cried in excruciating pain. I was taken to Tikrapara police station, where I was delivered blows on my stomach and face and kicked like a football by a police inspector. The torture continued for about 15 minutes.

He stopped tormenting me only when I threatened to commit suicide to escape persecution. I was then pushed into the lockup after being stripped of all my clothes barring the underwear.

I got a breather, but only for a few moments. About ten minutes later, a police officer surfaced in the police station. I was produced before him. He looked at me menacingly and asked me who planted me in the crowd to ask uncomfortable questions to the chief minister.

When I tried to convince him that it was not pre-planned, the police officer started smacking me on my ears with his both hands simultaneously for about two to three minutes. He only withdrew when he got tired and slumped onto a chair.

In that condition, I was produced before a local court, which sent me to jail. It was around 3 pm when I was taken to Raipur Central Jail. The jail authorities, however, refused to accept me when I complained that my head was reeling and there was pain in my stomach and back. Following this, I was brought to Raipur District Hospital for a medical checkup.

The hospital, however, referred me to the Ambedkar Medical College and Hospital at Raipur, where an X-ray was done on my back.

I was again taken to jail. The authorities admitted me into the jail hospital at night. The next morning, I was shifted to a prison cell where I had to share the room with hardcore criminals. I spent two days and two nights in jail. During that period, I had a lurking fear of threat to my life. I could hardly take the food given in the jail owing to illness. To my amazement, my fellow jail mates took care of me and their comforting words had a soothing effect on me.

What an irony! Humanity is imprisoned, whereas beastliness is set free.

After my release from jail on a personal bond, my family members admitted me to a private hospital. Medical tests there have confirmed loss of hearing and perforation in my left eardrum. Doctors recommended surgery to repair the damaged eardrum.

I am grateful to the media for highlighting my plight all through the ordeal. It is the media, which helped me the most during the crisis. This was the first time in my eight-year long political career; such inhuman cruelty was meted out to me by the government.

But more than the police torture, the chief minister’s irresponsible remarks, dubbing me a drunkard, did immensely harm my family and me. I am now determined to bring to book all my persecutors, who hurt me physically, mentally and socially. I will not rest till then.