Why India Trails China- Amartya Sen


MODERN India is, in many ways, a success. Its claim to be the world’s largest democracy is not hollow. Its media is vibrant and free; Indians buy more newspapers every day than any other nation. Since independence in 1947, life expectancy at birth has more than doubled, to 66 years from 32, and per-capita income (adjusted for inflation) has grown fivefold. In recent decades, reforms pushed up the country’s once sluggish growth rate to around 8 percent per year, before it fell back a couple of percentage points over the last two years. For years, India’s economic growth rate ranked second among the world’s large economies, after China, which it has consistently trailed by at least one percentage point.

The hope that India might overtake China one day in economic growth now seems a distant one. But that comparison is not what should worry Indians most. The far greater gap between India and China is in the provision of essential public services — a failing that depresses living standards and is a persistent drag on growth.

Inequality is high in both countries, but China has done far more than India to raise life expectancy, expand general education and secure health care for its people. India has elite schools of varying degrees of excellence for the privileged, but among all Indians 7 or older, nearly one in every five males and one in every three females are illiterate. And most schools are of low quality; less than half the children can divide 20 by 5, even after four years of schooling.

India may be the world’s largest producer of generic medicine, but its health care system is an unregulated mess. The poor have to rely on low-quality — and sometimes exploitative — private medical care, because there isn’t enough decent public care. While China devotes 2.7 percent of its gross domestic product to government spending on health care, India allots 1.2 percent.

India’s underperformance can be traced to a failure to learn from the examples of so-called Asian economic development, in which rapid expansion of human capability is both a goal in itself and an integral element in achieving rapid growth. Japan pioneered that approach, starting after the Meiji Restoration in 1868, when it resolved to achieve a fully literate society within a few decades. As Kido Takayoshi, a leader of that reform, explained: “Our people are no different from the Americans or Europeans of today; it is all a matter of education or lack of education.” Through investments in education and health care, Japan simultaneously enhanced living standards and labor productivity — the government collaborating with the market.

Despite the catastrophe of Japan’s war years, the lessons of its development experience remained and were followed, in the postwar period, by South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore and other economies in East Asia. China, which during the Mao era made advances in land reform and basic education and health care, embarked on market reforms in the early 1980s; its huge success changed the shape of the world economy. India has paid inadequate attention to these lessons.

Is there a conundrum here that democratic India has done worse than China in educating its citizens and improving their health? Perhaps, but the puzzle need not be a brainteaser. Democratic participation, free expression and rule of law are largely realities in India, and still largely aspirations in China. India has not had a famine since independence, while China had the largest famine in recorded history, from 1958 to 1961, when Mao’s disastrous Great Leap Forward killed some 30 million people. Nevertheless, using democratic means to remedy endemic problems — chronic undernourishment, a disorganized medical system or dysfunctional school systems — demands sustained deliberation, political engagement, media coverage, popular pressure. In short, more democratic process, not less.

In China, decision making takes place at the top. The country’s leaders are skeptical, if not hostile, with regard to the value of multiparty democracy, but they have been strongly committed to eliminating hunger, illiteracy and medical neglect, and that is enormously to their credit.

There are inevitable fragilities in a nondemocratic system because mistakes are hard to correct. Dissent is dangerous. There is little recourse for victims of injustice. Edicts like the one-child policy can be very harsh. Still, China’s present leaders have used the basic approach of accelerating development by expanding human capability with great decisiveness and skill.

The case for combating debilitating inequality in India is not only a matter of social justice. Unlike India, China did not miss the huge lesson of Asian economic development, about the economic returns that come from bettering human lives, especially at the bottom of the socioeconomic pyramid. India’s growth and its earnings from exports have tended to depend narrowly on a few sectors, like information technology, pharmaceuticals and specialized auto parts, many of which rely on the role of highly trained personnel from the well-educated classes. For India to match China in its range of manufacturing capacity — its ability to produce gadgets of almost every kind, with increasing use of technology and better quality control — it needs a better-educated and healthier labor force at all levels of society. What it needs most is more knowledge and public discussion about the nature and the huge extent of inequality and its damaging consequences, including for economic growth.


Political prisoners observe Hunger strike on 23rd March Bhagat Singh’s martyrdom day for ABOLISHMENT OF #Deathpenalty


Numerous countries across the world have abolished the death sentence as a form of punishment. However India, claimed repeatedly by its rulers to be a democratic country still retains this inhuman practice and the bloody eye-for-an-eye code of justice. Capital punishment is unacceptable with democratic principles and hence we believe that it should be abolished in India. With this demand about forty political prisoners of the Nagpur Central prison, including ten women will observe a one day token Hunger strike on 23rd March 2013.

Bhagat Singh, Sukhdeo and Rajguru, who fought against British Imperialism and underwent a prolonged struggle against the colonial prison administration for recognition of their political prisoner status were hanged to death by the British. As part of this struggle, political prisoners across the country observe the day of their martyrdom, 23rd March each year as ‘Political Prisoners Day’.

On this occasion, the government never fails to sponsor full page advertisements in the daily papers, whilst killing his thoughts and opinions. The government colluding with Imperialism and making numerous agreements for the sale of the nation, is like the British brutally crushing those who resist- the revolutionaries, democrats and patriots. Those who believe in freedom, equality and liberty are branded as anti-nationals and some are sentenced to death by hanging to make an example.

Through this press note, we call that all those imprisoned for their rights, justice, freedom, equality and liberty be recognized as political prisoners and be unconditionally released.

Yours faithfully,

Undertrial Bhimrao Bhovate

Date: 21st March 2013

Place: Nagpur Prison.


PRESS RELEASE-State Repression on Punjab farmers: an offensive response to democratic protest

March 10, 2013

PUDR Press Statement

Democracy within its value frame assumes the right to protest as a vital means towards ensuring the guarantee of those rights and values it stands for. However, today we are witnessing a different ‘culture of democracy’ where the right to protest is increasingly becoming not just an empty notion, in fact, protest itself is being turned into an offence. The mass arrest of members and activists of 17 peasants’ and workers’ organizations in Punjab as a preventive act of securing law and order situation is symptomatic of this different ‘culture of democracy’.

On 6 March, members of these organizations had decided to jam rail traffic under their state-wide ‘Rail Roko’ agitation to push for their long pending demands after witnessing a prolonged response of apathy from the government. The farmers have been demanding an increase in the Minimum Support Price based on the price index, as per the Swaminathan Committee report, more subsidies for the poor and checks on the hike in prices of diesel and other farm inputs. Government responded in pre-emptive confinement of those involved with the agitation, under the name of protection law and order situation. Early in the day, Punjab police arrested Jagmohan Singh (provincial General secretary, BKU Ekta_dakaunda), Dr. Darshan Pal and Satwant Singh Wazidpur, Patiala distt. president & secretary of BKU (Ekta Dakaunda) Darshan Lal, state secretary of Dehati Mazdoor Sabha (CPM Pasla); Ruldu Singh, president of Punjab Khet Union; Harmesh Malri, state president of Pendu Khet Mazdoor Union; Kanwalpreet Singh Pannu, state convener of Kisan Sangharsh Committee (Piddy); Nirbhai Singh Dhudike, Moga president of Kirti Kisan Union; Gurmeet Singh Bakhtupura, AICTU state president and during the day, another 1353 persons were rounded up. Houses of many Union activists were raided and many were detained to be either released by the evening or sent to Judicial Custody.

This act of police repression is an attempt to quell the protest aimed at securing what has been due to the farmers and workers for long. In the given political climate of state repression we apprehend fabrication of false charges against those participating in this people’s movement. The forebodings of such acts are clear in ending into a deterred space of struggle for democratic rights, something that defeats the end that democracy is meant to achieve. PUDR strongly condemns this act of repression by the state elite and demands the immediate release of the activists. PUDR also extends solidarity with protesters and their demands.

Asish Gupta and D. Manjit
(Secretaries, PUDR)


Film fete provides platform for Koodankulam protesters


100 short films, documentaries to be screened

Xavior Amma, leader of People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy, addressing the 8th edition of Vibgyor International Film Festival heldin Thrissur on Saturday.

Xavior Amma, leader of People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy, addressing the 8th edition of Vibgyor International Film Festival heldin Thrissur on Saturday.

Nothing can dampen the spirit of the protesters against Koodankulam Nuclear Plant, said Xavior Amma, leader for People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy, a group which is fighting against the nuke project.

She was addressing a discussion session at the 8th edition of Vibgyor International Film Festival held here on Saturday.

“We will fight till the end even if we are branded as traitors by the State,” she said. Xavior Amma has been the leader of the agitation ever since it began in 1988. People came to know about the sufferings of the Koodankulam protesters through the narrative of her struggles.

In September, 2012 she was arrested as part of effort to suppress the agitation. The police had booked several cases against S.P. Udayakumar, the leader of the movement, during the last lap of the agitation.

“They booked false cases against many of us to dampen the spirit of the agitation. But the people knew that the protesters were right and hence they never withdrew their support,” said Xavior Amma.

She alleged that the nuclear power plant will affect the biodiversity in the vicinity.

“Our struggle is for protection of human rights and conservation of environment. But the protest is being branded as the one taken out by ‘ignorant’ fisher folk who have come under the influence of the U.S. government. We are being branded as traitors and American spies,” she said.

The Vibgyor Film Collective donated books to the library set up at Kudankulam for the children there.

More than 100 short films, documentaries and animation films are being screened at the five-day festival. The theme of the festival is “Stolen Democracies.”

Addressing the inaugural function at the K.T. Mohammed Memorial Regional Theatre, Marcia Gomez Oliviera, academic from Brazil, said that youth apparently did not want to fight for democracy.

“They want to struggle only to earn money. Money means everything to them. As an academic, when I teach about democracy in class, I face a question from students: is democracy worth fighting for? Democracy, in this sense, is not stolen. It does not exist at many places,” she said.


Breaking the Collective – Notes from Jantar Mantar & Koodankulam #womenrights #Vaw

JANUARY 11, 2013

Guest Post by Vivek Vellanki, kafila.org

The death of the young girl brought incommensurable grief for the ‘Indian’ people. A national angst ensued with divergent voices seeking divergent ends: justice, death penalty, fast track courts, end to patriarchy, chemical castration, and a long list that cannot be spelt out here. There was a glimmer of hope that the discursiveness would ensue a quintessentially democratic process of debate, discussion, and deliberation amongst the people. The Indian state with its long-standing reputation wouldn’t allow for that to happen. It had to continue on its pet peeve of Breaking the Collective! The people’s movement in Koodankulam, the anti-corruption movement, the movement for seperate Telangana are some of the many instances that remind us of this pet avocation of the Indian state being pursued in recent times, almost, vocationally. However cynical it may sound, amidst the entire candle lighting and sloganeering, we failed to realise that the protest in Delhi was happening on the terrain that the government decided, in a manner that it wished for it to play out, and was party to the people it wanted to see there. I wish to argue that the closing down of the metro stations has a relation to the nature of the protests at Jantar Mantar. Furthermore it concurs with the tactics of chocking people’s movements logistically and stifling the collective by pathologizing the everyday life of masses. The tragedy of this lies in the fact that such actions of the state have become so recurrent that they have entered our common sense and they present themselves as normal and logical responses. Albeit they have been rationalized by invoking a specious reference to law, order, and safety, there is a need to unpack such a rationalization. My attempt is to extract these actions from that location of common sense and present them for public scrutiny. Through this essay, I would like to draw the connections between the democratic protests happening in locations across the country and state action in dealing with them. In doing so, I hope to bring to notice how the Indian state uses its machinery to purge protests of their democratic tenor and eventually, at least, attempts to break the collective.Each one of us would unequivocally agree that the rape of the young girl was, amongst other reasons, an incident that depicted the break down of the police and rights of the citizen in the country. It was an incident where the patriarchal nature of the Indian state and society seeped in its disparaging attitude towards women manifested itself in the most grotesque of physical acts. However, there is no need to mention that this was not the first of such incidents. The case of Soni Sori, Khairlanji murders, and others are only stark reminders that our history has been marred with such instances and equally blotted with the visible inks of our silence. I wish to highlight that this incident is one where the state and society has openly accepted its fault and shortcoming; the Indian state and society are – guilty as charged. The question that begs to be asked is, why then did the Delhi government decide to shut down the ten metro stations on the day of the protest? While the question might read as a simple one that doesn’t need much attention, I beg to differ.

The morning news on the 29th of December carried two prominent headlines, at least in the capital city of Delhi. First being that the victim had succumbed to the injuries and second that ten metro stations were being closed. Often, the reporters read these in the same breath. I was travelling, on that day, with two other friends, both students, to the site of the protest. Even before embarking on the journey, the thought of a dysfunctional metro started deterring us. However, the actual journey was more arduous. It involved negotiations with auto drivers, walks through intimidating lanes filled with policemen armed to be in a war zone, and spending a sizeable amount from our pockets. While it might not be much considering the urgency of the issue and the angst that it has generated, spending Rs.80 over a journey that should’ve cost Rs.32, it can be a deterrent for many. It is the amount and effort that can deter students, the lower middle class, and the working class. Nonetheless, I am sure that there were many there who were undeterred and expressed their solidarity, a fact that reinstates ones faith in the possibilities of the collective. However, what we might need to ask is why did the government deem it important to close down the metro stations?

The repeated unquestioned closure of the metro stations has led to a common sensical acceptance of such a decision as one that would ensure ‘safety’ and abate chaos. Satish Deshpande’s phrase ‘squinting at society’ haunts the back of my head and is a reminder that the apparent might have more to it. We can see it only if we are ready to look beyond the apparent and often we must. The closing of the metro stations needs to be viewed as an attempt by the Indian state to ensure that a large number of people are not mobilised to the site of the protest. The two specific messages entwined within this are: the state doesn’t want people to collectivise over an issue that affects their lives and it also merely wants a particular group of individuals to be present. This clearly explicates the interest of the state to ensure a protest that is carried out by a compliant people who determine the nature, form, and limits of that protest. And in doing so, they ensure that the protests are rendered as a symbolic appeal for justice negating the possibility of it snowballing into a collective movement that might possibly raise questions that transcend the immediate incident. The appeal for justice cannot be rooted in an isolated event, and by its very nature encompasses a broader memory. The tactical end here is the isolation of the incident from the collective social memory, which is achieved by isolating the subjects that embody it.

[ The heavily armoured police ‘guarded’ the protest site at Delhi on 29th December 2012 ]

The closing down of the metro stations had a significant impact on the nature of the protests. It brought with it a collective that was ‘cleansed’ of divergent voices and identities. I am quite certain that the protest was definitely limited from what could have been a democratic collective of people involved in a democratic process. The collectivisation of the people at Jantar Mantar laid the possibility of a democratic protest that could move beyond mere sloganeering and towards affecting public consciousness. Such a shift is not a simple moment of revelation achieved through an individual’s participation by lighting a candle or making a poster. While these acts have their own significance, shift in public consciousness is a process that ensues through debate, discussion, and deliberation. We wanted to be a part of the protest in hope of the same. We wished that there would be people sitting there and discussing the various issues that have surfaced through the searing angst faced by the young girl and her family. The deep-rooted patriarchal values of our society, the commodification of women, the pejorative portrayal and objectification of women in popular media, palpable masculinity as being normative, constitutional homophobia, and several others. This wasn’t to be the case. There was little discussion, let alone debate at the site. The few divergent voices were left standing on the sides and became mere spectators to the over powering voices of a homogenous group shouting, “we want justice, we want justice”, while another group walked in silence. The first managed to drown in its noise all other voices while the latter chose to drown its own voice in silent sorrow. The homogeneity of the people at the site of the protest was striking. One of the friends who I accompanied to the protest, Vikram Chukka, articulated well the problem with homogeneity, “It must be noted that there is a correlation between the class/caste/socio-political standing of publics assembling at Jantar Mantar and the ‘partial’ articulation of justice. The nature of urban middle class in India is one of hypocrisy and non-association. As Arundhati Roy frequently reminds us, the greatest secessionist movement in modern India is the secession of the middle classes into an outer space leaving the majority poor and marginalized behind. There is a ‘self-other’ binary that operates. The texture of middle class activism we see at India gate vindicates the point about whom these middle class publics consider the ‘self’ and hence the ‘legitimate’ subjects of state and thereby entitled to justice. For this reason, gender violence in Kashmir, Chhattisgarh and so forth do not find mention here.” The point here is that the homogeneity is not mere chance but is constructed through several actions of the state and civil society. One of the core tenets of the construction, I feel, was the closing down of the ten metro stations.


[ The police deployment left one wondering if it was a site for democratic protest or a war zone.]

The imagination of a collective embarking on a democratic process is not simply a utopian idea. The anti-nuclear protest in Idinthakarai is an example, when posited against the protests in Delhi, presents us with an alternative imagination of a collective. Such a collective is capable of transcending the particulars by asking questions that speak in a broader language of justice. The distinction between them is two fold. First, the constitution of the collective is starkly different and one which embodies the voices and identities of the brutally marginalised. This gives them the ability to call into question the basic contradictions and devolution of power, which perpetuates unquestioned exploitation, dehumanisation, and rape. Secondly, it also highlights the intolerance of the state towards such a collective and its democratic process. The unleashing of the state machinery – oppressive and symbolic – to break such a collective provides compelling insights in understanding the issue at hand.

Fortuitously I happened to, in the same week, visit Idinthakarai. I intended to reach the village of Idinthakarai on the 31st of December. The village of Idinthakarai is a small coastal village located 30kms away from Kanyakumari and 2 kms away from the KKNPP. The people from this village and neighbouring villages have been part of a historic struggle, lasting over 25 years, against the KKNPP. Their struggles found new vigour in August 2011 against the backdrop of the Fukushima disaster and a hot run that was conducted at KKNPP. Since then the village of Idinthakarai and the Samara pandal have formed the epicentre of the peaceful struggle led by the people. Over the last 15 months, the people have been involved in peaceful protests, hunger strikes, rallies, and publics meetings. Their pursuit being “risk-free electricity, a disease-free life, unpolluted natural resources, sustainable development and a peaceful future.” However, their protests have been denigrated by the Indian state as ‘foreign’ aided or as the raucous voice of the ‘ignorant’ and ‘illiterate’ lot The Indian state in its self-righteous belligerence unleashed the brutality of the police upon the people. The overt oppression has meant that over 18000 cases are pending on the people of Idinthakarai and neighbouring villages. Surprisingly, or not, even young children haven’t been spared from the entourage of sedition cases being dispersed like toffees.

I reached the village of Idinthakarai on 31st of Decemeber. Several people from across the country made their way to the village in solidarity of the protests. Activists from the Narmada Bachao Andolan, People’s United for Civil Liberties, Kerala Youth Solidarity, and other groups participated in a rally, public meeting, book release, and cultural programme. On New Years Eve, over 3000 people walked to the beach in Idinthakarai and pledged to fight against the atrocities being perpetuated across the country, and to do it as a collective that cut across caste, class, and gender lines. The break down of the self-other binary and a collective that included distinct disadvantaged groups facilitated a broader articulation for justice that was not merely rooted in ‘a’ incident.

However, the reality of everyday existence in this village turned, by the state, into an exiled land was to strike soon. On 3rd of January I wanted to make a trip to Koodankulam. I stood in the village of Idinthakarai for over an hour, waiting with other people from the village. Women, students, men, fisher folk waiting to go out and sell their catch, pregnant women wanting to make a trip to the hospital. All of us waited, some more and others less. The only means of leaving the village was an auto rickshaw that refused to take more than three people at a time fearing the RTO officials (Road Transport Organisation) and the police that was picketed right outside the village.

[ People waiting to travel to Koodankulam. ]

I intend to draw your attention back to the core issue at hand – Breaking the Collective! The parallel between the closing down of the ten metro stations and the people’s movement in Idinthakarai lies on the same plane. The state machinery – in these cases public transport – has been used to disrupt the collectivisation of the public while such an action is validated common sensically as being necessary and apt. The village has been cut off from other villages by the shut down of the public transport and bus service for the last four months. The bus service being shut down has meant that people from the neighbouring villages cannot visit Idinthakarai and Samara pandal as frequently as they used to. It means that an attack is launched to disintegrate the collective. The attempted disintegration of the collective is not merely manifest in the lathi charge of the police, nor is it only in the self imposed exile with the perpetual threat of an arrest, nor is it merely lodged in the tear gas shells, nor is it only in the several cases filed against the people. These are the overt means used by the state to break the collective and a democratic protest. While there is a need to question them, a more subtle and unquestioned attack continues on the democratic protest. The state is able to achieve this end by, not merely using oppressive means, but also by the wrecking of the normal everyday life; whether it is in New Delhi or Idinthakarai!
The attack on the collective has to be framed as a larger political question, one that fundamentally affects the struggle towards justice, equality, and freedom. As Vikram Chukka put it, “A democratic political system must in its essence facilitate the process of emancipation through public collectivization. It must make sure that people get a safe and free environment to discuss, protest, and in the process positively affect the public consciousness for the better. It is this way that empowerment is possible. This has been a basic tenet of modern democratic value. On the contrary, by trying to choke people’s movements and protests (even when the government concedes and concurs with the plausibility of cause and the urgency with which it presents itself, as in the case of Delhi rape incident) the state is only acting in the opposite direction. Far from facilitating such democratic movements for greater justice and freedom in the society, with its display of brute force in terms of police and through other symbolic means, the State is only causing terror. This impedes the democratic process.”

A departure is mandated in the perception of the collective as not merely a group involved in a protest but rather in a reflective process affecting the public consciousness. The people’s movement in Idinthakarai is a reminder of this. The collective at Idinthakarai are not merely involved in a protest against the nuclear plant in a fit of rage urged on by sloganeering. The collectivisation has provided the opportunity to understand the problems that face their material existence while simultaneously providing the means to address such an issue. For this reason, the treatment of democratic protests as pathological and anti-nation is a reason for us to be alarmed. We live in a democratic country where the collective public life is continuously being broken down by the democratic state itself. We are being pushed into the realms of highly individualised and an atomised existence. Our (middle class) self-righteous, homogenous cry for justice and freedom cannot be ‘ours’ alone. It has to be ushered in with other such voices that have been active and yet many others that want to be heard. It has to be through a democratic process of debate, discussion, and deliberation. The reclamation of the collective is imperative in our struggle for justice, equality, and freedom. I remember a quote I read in a friend’s house, “To think that I am alone would be gross injustice!”

[ Binayak Sen at Idinthakarai, early hours of 1st January 2013 ]

Three insipirational women, along with the several others in Idinthakarai, Selvi, Sundari, and Xavier Ammal received the prestigious Chingari award for their involvement in the people’s movement against nuclear energy. The Indian state presented them, for the same reason, with charges of sedition. Fortunately, a temporary relief ensued when they were granted bail on 14th Decemeber, 2012. However, they are required to present themselves in the Madurai police station everyday, 300kms away from their families in Idinthakarai. With the bus facility to Idinthakarai shut down, they cannot, yet, dream of returning to the village. Their everyday existence is made arduous. The women in Idinthakarai are the ‘deviants’ of a patriarchal society articulating and asserting their rights to life and livelihood. At the same time the angst and protests in Delhi provide a historical juncture with the possibility of a democratic collectivisation that can raise uneasy questions challenging social institutions and structures that perpetuate such incidents. However, justice and the struggle towards it are not rooted in the incident alone but in the collective memory that must be invoked through the collective by including the voices and identities from across the country. However, the attempt to break the collective – struggling for justice, equality, and freedom – continues. Can we see it and resist it?

Vivek Vellanki is a student of education and currently works at the Regional Resource Centre for Elementary Education, Delhi University. He can be reached at vivek.vellanki@gmail.com

Launch of ‘Bole Gujarat’ campaign, based on ‘ Kolavari Di” #mustshare

Where is Democracy? on August 17, 2012 at 4pm in Ahmedabad.
The song would not have been possible without Dhanush. We are indebted to Dhanush for Kolaveri which became a craze with people of all ages.

‘Where is Democracy?’ based on Kolaveri , is a satire on the state of democracy in Gujarat. Exposing the myth of Vibrant Gujarat the song raises questions about corruption, poverty, women’s conditions, the atmosphere of fear and how the image of one leader has been promoted while others have been pushed to a corner.

Sung by Priyank Upadhyay, it has been directed and shot by young Anhad filmmaker Arma Ansari. While Manish Dhakad has acted in
the music video, Shabnam Hashmi has penned the words for the song.

Anhad launches the campaign, lets make it viral


An Urgent Appeal to the Conscience of Nation on Koodankulam

A warning to the TN Govt on Koodankulam

A warning to the TN Govt on Koodankulam (Photo credit: Joe Athialy)


Dear Fellow Citizens of India,

On the occasion of our Parliament, the pinnacle of democratic governance, celebrating its 60th anniversary, our hard earned democracy is being ruthlessly repressed and violently suppressed. Within the accelerated race towards ‘destructive development’ and the generation of nuclear power to fuel such ‘development,’ entirely peaceful mass protests voicing people’s legitimate dissent are brutally put down. The common man, woman and child are unheard. In utter desperation, people at large are surrendering their ‘Voter ID cards,’ the ultimate symbol of ‘people’s power,’ which is the essence of any genuine democracy. Can there be a more ominous way to dissent?

Much like the recent anti-corruption upsurge, various actions for social, gender and ecological justice and other struggles in various parts of the country to safeguard people’s rights for their lives, dignity, resources, and livelihoods, the people’s movement in Koodankulam demanding a safe future is facing callous repression from the government and continued apathy from the public at large. Disappointingly, our mainstream media also persists in under-reporting this genuinely populist movement.

People in Idinthakarai village had to end their 14-day long fast this week. It is appalling that nobody from the Tamil Nadu, or Central, Government came to speak to them, and that police strength in the area has been intensified, with every possible intimidating tactic –including taking away the food ration cards of agitating villagers.

We appeal to you in a state of urgency and desperation.

The debate on India’s energy future is far from settled. We will need broader consensus and greater persuasion to ensure that India opts for the safest, most sustainable people-centric energy future.

The reactor project in Koodankulam perpetrates too many unacceptable violations of norms and procedures. The agitating people are peacefully and persistently trying to raise several important questions – both site-specific and generic with regard to nuclear power – through all possible forums. Many independent experts and scientists have already emphasized the various dangers of going ahead with the Koodankulam reactors.

At this critical juncture, we urge realizing a wider consultation is necessary before continuing the large-scale nuclear expansion that this government is already deeply engaged in.

We entreat you to demand that the government immediately stop intimidating and harassing peaceful protesters.

It is imperative that we immediately unite by raising our voices to defend democracy and the ethos of our country. Unacceptable precedents like the outright repression and silencing of the Koodankulam people’s movement will have adverse implications for all future individual and collective struggles.

With best regards,

Prashant Bhushan
Vandana Shiva
Partha Chatterjee
Admiral L. Ramdas
Lalita Ramdas
Surendra Gadekar
Sanghamitra Gadekar
Narayan Desai
Anand Patwardhan
M G Devasahayam
Gnani Sankaran
Achin vanaik
Suvrat Raju
Saraswati Kavula
G Sundar Rajan
Adil Ali
Gabriele Detrech
Ramesh Radhakrishnan
R R Srinivasan
Sudhir Vombatkere
Jatin Desai
Sukla Sen
Vivek Sundara
Ram Puniyani
Shabnam Hashmi
John Dayal
EAS Sharma
Malem Ningthouja Chairperson, Campaign for Peace & Democracy (Manipur)
Aruna Rodrigues
Pushpa Mitra Bhargava
Nagesh Hegde
Sudha S
Meher Engineer
Arati Chokshi
Ujjwala Mhatre
Preeti Sampat
Kabir Khan
G R Vora
Harsh Kapoor
Shri Prakash
Praful Bidwai
Chandra Bhushan Chaudhary
Gowru Chinappa
A K Ramakrishnan
Gita Hariharan
Kavita Krishnan
Indira Chakravarthi
Sajeer Abdul Rahman
Anivar Aravind
Asit Das
Priyamvada Gopal
Kamayani Bali Mahabal
Shankar Sharma
Karuna Raina
Xavier Dias
Nayana Patel
Stan Swamy
Rajeev Bhargav
Ilina Sen
Soumya Dutta
Vivek Monteiro
Madhura Chakraborty
Shonali Sardesai, Senior Social Scientist, World Bank
Jaya Seal Ghosh, Actress
Nirupa Bhanger, Executive Director, The Anchorage
Vijay Bhangar, ITT Bombay
Sandeep pandey
Neeraj Jain



Video: why the IT Rules are a threat to your Internet as you know it

At the Internet Democracy Project, we believe that the Internet is changing democracy just as irrevocably as it is changing dictatorships. But if that is the case, what does that mean for our struggles and visions for social change in the democratic world?

This video raises questions about a set of rules notified under the Indian IT Act, which allow anyone who is offended by any online content to ask the intermediaries to remove it. But someone, somewhere may always be offended…. so these amendments inevitably encourage not just the government but the public themselves to turn censor.

What does this mean for freedom of expression?

Member of Parliament Shri P. Rajeeve has called for the annulment of the IT Rules in Parliament. But what exactly is the problem with these rules? And how could they affect you? Watch the video to know more. and check http://www.internetdemocracy.in/

The Seed Emergency: The Threat to Food and Democracy

Vandana Shiva

Patenting seeds has led to a farming and food crisis – and huge profits for US biotechnology corporations.

The seed is the first link in the food chain – and seed sovereignty is the foundation of food sovereignty. If farmers do not have their own seeds or access to open pollinated varieties that they can save, improve and exchange, they have no seed sovereignty – and consequently no food sovereignty.

The deepening agrarian and food crisis has its roots in changes in the seed supply system, and the erosion of seed diversity and seed sovereignty.

Seed sovereignty includes the farmer’s rights to save, breed and exchange seeds, to have access to diverse open source seeds which can be saved – and which are not patented, genetically modified, owned or controlled by emerging seed giants. It is based on reclaiming seeds and biodiversity as commons and public good.

The past twenty years have seen a very rapid erosion of seed diversity and seed sovereignty, and the concentration of the control over seeds by a very small number of giant corporations. In 1995, when the UN organised the Plant Genetic Resources Conference in Leipzig, it was reported that 75 per cent of all agricultural biodiversity had disappeared because of the introduction of “modern” varieties, which are always cultivated as monocultures. Since then, the erosion has accelerated.

The introduction of the Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights Agreement of the World Trade Organisation has accelerated the spread of genetically engineered seeds – which can be patented – and for which royalties can be collected. Navdanya was started in response to the introduction of these patents on seeds in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade – a forerunner to the WTO – about which a Monsanto representative later stated: “In drafting these agreements, we were the patient, diagnostician [and] physician all in one.” Corporations defined a problem – and for them the problem was farmers saving seeds. They offered a solution, and the solution was to make it illegal for farmers to save seed – by introducing patents and intellectual property rights [PDF] on those very seeds. As a result, acreage under GM corn, soya, canola, cotton has increased dramatically.

Threats to seed sovereignty

Besides displacing and destroying diversity, patented GMO seeds are also undermining seed sovereignty. Across the world, new seed laws are being introduced which enforce compulsory registration of seeds, thus making it impossible for small farmers to grow their own diversity, and forcing them into dependency on giant seed corporations. Corporations are also patenting climate resilient seeds evolved by farmers – thus robbing farmers of using their own seeds and knowledge for climate adaptation.

Another threat to seed sovereignty is genetic contamination. India has lost its cotton seeds because of contamination from Bt Cotton – a strain engineered to contain the pesticide Bacillus thuringiensis bacterium. Canada has lost its canola seed because of contamination from Roundup Ready canola. And Mexico has lost its corn due to contamination from Bt Cotton.

After contamination, biotech seed corporations sue farmers with patent infringement cases, as happened in the case of Percy Schmeiser. That is why more than 80 groups came together and filed a case to prevent Monsanto from suing farmers whose seed had been contaminated.

As a farmer’s seed supply is eroded, and farmers become dependent on patented GMO seed, the result is debt. India, the home of cotton, has lost its cotton seed diversity and cotton seed sovereignty. Some 95 per cent of the country’s cotton seed is now controlled by Monsanto – and the debt trap created by being forced to buy seed every year – with royalty payments – has pushed hundreds of thousands of farmers to suicide; of the 250,000 farmer suicides, the majority are in the cotton belt.

Seeding control

Even as the disappearance of biodiversity and seed sovereignty creates a major crisis for agriculture and food security, corporations are pushing governments to use public money to destroy the public seed supply and replace it with unreliable non-renewable, patented seed – which must be bought each and every year.

In Europe, the 1994 regulation for protection of plant varieties forces farmers to make a “compulsory voluntary contribution” to seed companies. The terms themselves are contradictory. What is compulsory cannot be voluntary.

In France, a law was passed in November 2011, which makes royalty payments compulsory. As Agriculture Minister Bruna Le Marie stated: “Seeds can be longer be royalty free, as is currently the case.” Of the 5,000 or so cultivated plant varieties, 600 are protected by certificate in France, and these account for 99 per cent of the varieties grown by farmers.

The “compulsory voluntary contribution”, in other words a royalty, is justified on grounds that “a fee is paid to certificate holders [seed companies] to sustain funding of research and efforts to improve genetic resources”.

Monsanto pirates biodiversity and genetic resources from farming communities, as it did in the case of a wheat biopiracy case fought by Navdanya with Greenpeace, and climate resilient crops and brinjal (also known as aubergine or eggplant) varieties for Bt Brinjal. As Monsanto states, “it draws from a collection of germ-plasm that is unparalleled in history” and “mines the diversity in this genetic library to develop elite seeds faster than ever before”.

In effect, what is taking place is the enclosure of the genetic commons of our biodiversity and the intellectual commons of public breeding by farming communities and public institutions. And the GMO seeds Monsanto is offering are failing. This is not “improvement” of genetic resources, but degradation. This is not innovation but piracy.

For example, the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) – being pushed by the Gates Foundation – is a major assault on Africa’s seed sovereignty.


The 2009 US Global Food Security Act [PDF] also called the Lugar-Casey Act [PDF], “A bill to authorise appropriations for fiscal years 2010 through 2014 to provide assistance to foreign countries to promote food security, to stimulate rural economies, and to improve emergency response to food crisis, to amend the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 and for other purposes”.

The amendment to the Foreign Assistance Act would “include research on bio-technological advances appropriate to local ecological conditions, including genetically modified technology”. The $ 7.7bn that goes with the bill would go to benefit Monsanto to push GM seeds.

An article in Forbes, titled “Why Uncle Sam Supports Franken Foods”, shows how agribusiness is the only sector in which US has a positive trade balance. Hence the push for GMOs – because they bring royalties to the US. However, royalties for Monsanto are based on debt, suicidal farmers and the disappearance of biodiversity worldwide.

Under the US Global Food Security Act, Nepal signed an agreement with USAID and Monsanto. This led to massive protests across the country. India was forced to allow patents on seeds through the first dispute brought by the US against India in the WTO. Since 2004, India has also been trying to introduce a Seed Act which would require farmers to register their own seeds and take licenses. This in effect would force farmers from using their indigenous seed varieties. By creating a Seed Satyagraha – a non-cooperation movement in Gandhi’s footsteps, handing over hundreds of thousands of signatures to the prime minister, and working with parliament – we have so far prevented the Seed Law from being introduced.

India has signed a US-India Knowledge Initiative in Agriculture, with Monsanto on the Board. Individual states are also being pressured to sign agreements with Monsanto. One example is the Monsanto-Rajasthan Memorandum of Understanding, under which Monsanto would get intellectual property rights to all genetic resources, and to carry out research on indigenous seeds. It took a campaign by Navdanya and a “Monsanto Quit India” Bija Yatra [“seed pilgrimage”] to force the government of Rajasthan to cancel the MOU.

This asymmetric pressure of Monsanto on the US government, and the joint pressure of both on the governments across the world, is a major threat to the future of seeds, the future of food and the future of democracy.
TRANSCEND Member Prof. Vandana Shiva is a physicist, ecofeminist, philosopher, activist, and author of more than 20 books and 500 papers. She is the founder of the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology, and has campaigned for biodiversity, conservation and farmers’ rights, winning the Right Livelihood Award [Alternative Nobel Prize] in 1993. She is executive director of the Navdanya Trust

Source: TRANSCEND Media Service, Sunday, February 12, 2012

Open Letter to Kenneth Roth of Human Rights Watch

Separate  Between Religion and State

Having experienced the ways in which religious fundamentalists have used both armed violence and state power to attack fundamental freedoms, we want to express our alarm at the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood and other representatives of political Islam. We believe that secularism is a minimum precondition for the freedom and equality of all citizens. It is intrinsic to democracy and the full realisation of human rights.

Rather than becoming complicit with religious fundamentalists in power, we call on Human Rights Watch to report violations and threats against those targeted by fundamentalists and to support the call for secularism, and the continuing struggle for social justice.

Dear Kenneth Roth,

In your Introduction to Human Rights Watch’s World Report 2012, “Time to Abandon the Autocrats and Embrace Rights,” you urge support for the newly elected governments that have brought the Muslim Brotherhood to power in Tunisia and Egypt. In your desire to “constructively engage” with the new governments, you ask states to stop supporting autocrats. But you are not a state; you are the head of an international human rights organization whose role is to report on human rights violations, an honorable and necessary task which your essay largely neglects.

You say, “It is important to nurture the rights-respecting elements of political Islam while standing firm against repression in its name,” but you fail to call for the most basic guarantee of rights—the separation of religion from the state. Salafi mobs have caned women in Tunisian cafes and Egyptian shops; attacked churches in Egypt; taken over whole villages in Tunisia and shut down Manouba University for two months in an effort to exert social pressure on veiling. And while “moderate Islamist” leaders say they will protect the rights of women (if not gays), they have done very little to bring these mobs under control. You, however, are so unconcerned with the rights of women, gays, and religious minorities that you mention them only once, as follows: “Many Islamic parties have indeed embraced disturbing positions that would subjugate the rights of women and restrict religious, personal, and political freedoms. But so have many of the autocratic regimes that the West props up.” Are we really going to set the bar that low? This is the voice of an apologist, not a senior human rights advocate.

Nor do you point to the one of the clearest threats to rights—particularly to women and religious and sexual minorities—the threat to introduce so-called “shari’a law.” It is simply not good enough to say we do not know what kind of Islamic law, if any, will result, when it is already clear that freedom of expression and freedom of religion—not to mention the choice not to veil—are under threat. And while it is true that the Muslim Brotherhood has not been in power for very long, we can get some idea of what to expect by looking at their track record. In the UK, where they were in exile for decades, unfettered by political persecution, the exigencies of government, or the demands of popular pressure, the Muslim Brotherhood systematically promoted gender apartheid and parallel legal systems enshrining the most regressive version of “shari’a law”. Yusef al-Qaradawi, a leading scholar associated with them, publicly maintains that homosexuality should be punished by death. They supported deniers of the holocaust and the Bangladesh genocide of 1971, and shared platforms with salafi-jihadis, spreading their calls for militant jihad. But, rather than examine the record of Muslim fundamentalists in the West, you keep demanding that Western governments “engage.”

Western governments are engaged already; if support for autocrats was their Plan A, the Muslim Brotherhood has long been their Plan B. The CIA’s involvement with the Muslim Brotherhood goes back to the 1950s and was revived under the Bush administration, while support for both the Muslim Brotherhood and Jamaat e Islaami has been crucial to the “soft counter-terror” strategy of the British state. Have you heard the phrases “non-violent extremism” or “moderate Islamism?” This language is deployed to sanitize movements that may have substituted elections for bombs as a way of achieving power but still remain committed to systematic discrimination.

Like you, we support calls to dismantle the security state and to promote the rule of law. But we do not see that one set of autocratic structures should be replaced by another which claims divine sanction. And while the overthrow of repressive governments was a victory and free elections are, in principle, a step towards democracy, shouldn’t the leader of a prominent human rights organization be supporting popular calls to prevent backlash and safeguard fundamental rights? In other words, rather than advocating strategic support for parties who may use elections to halt the call for continuing change and attack basic rights, shouldn’t you support the voices for both liberty and equality that are arguing that the revolutions must continue?

Throughout your essay, you focus only on the traditional political aspects of the human rights agenda. You say, for instance, that “the Arab upheavals were inspired by a vision of freedom, a desire for a voice in one’s destiny, and a quest for governments that are accountable to the public rather than captured by a ruling elite.” While this is true as far as it goes, it completely leaves out the role that economic and social demands played in the uprisings. You seem able to hear only the voices of the right wing—the Islamist politicians— and not the voices of the people who initiated and sustained these revolutions: the unemployed and the poor of Tunisia, seeking ways to survive; the thousands of Egyptian women who mobilized against the security forces who tore off their clothes and subjected them to the sexual assaults known as “virginity tests.” These assaults are a form of state torture, usually a central issue to human rights organizations, yet you overlook them because they happen to women.

The way you ignore social and economic rights is of a piece with your neglect of women, sexual rights, and religious minorities. Your vision is still rooted in the period before the Vienna Conference and the great advances it made in holding non-state actors accountable and seeing women’s rights as human rights. Your essay makes it all too clear that while the researchers, campaigners, and country specialists who are the arms and legs and body of Human Rights Watch may defend the rights of women, minorities, and the poor, the head of their organization is mainly interested in relations between states.


Canadian Council of Muslim Women (CCMW)

Centre for Secular Space (CSS), global

Marea, Italy

Nijera Kori, Bangladesh

One Law for All, UK

Organisation Against Women’s Discrimination in Iran, UK

Secularism Is a Women’s Issue (SIAWI), global

Southall Black Sisters, UK

Women’s Initiative for Citizenship and Universal Rights (WICUR), global

Women Living Under Muslim Laws (WLUML), global

Individuals (organizations listed for identification purposes only)

Dorothy Aken’Ova, Exercutive Director, INCRESE, Nigeria

Codou Bop, Coordinator, Research Group on Women and the Law, Senegal

Ariane Brunet, Co-Founder, Urgent Action Fund, Canada

Lalia Ducos, WICUR-Women’s Initiative for Citizenship and Universal Rights

Laura Giudetti, Marea, Italy

Asma Guenifi, President, Ni Putes Ni Soumises, France

Lilian Halls-French, Co-President, Initiative Féministe Européenne pour Une Autre Europe (IFE-EFI)

Anissa Helie, Assistant Professor, John Jay College, US

Marieme Helie Lucas, Secularism is a Women’s Issue

Alia Hogben, Canadian Council of Muslim Women

Hameeda Hossain, Bangladesh

Khushi Kabir, Nijera Kori, Bangladesh

Sultana Kamal, Executive Director, Ain O Salish Kendra (ASK), Bangladesh

Frances Kissling, Visiting Scholar, University of Pennsylvania Center for Bioethics

Maryam Namazie, One Law for All and Equal Rights Now; Organisation against Women’s Discrimination in Iran, UK

Pragna Patel, Southall Black Sisters, UK

Gita Sahgal, Centre for Secular Space, UK

Fatou Sow, Women Living Under Muslim Laws (WLUML)

Meredith Tax, Centre for Secular Space, USA

Faizun Zackariya, Cofounder, Muslim Women’s Research and Action Front (MWRAF), Sri Lanka

Afiya Zia, Journalist, Pakistan



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