Posts tagged ‘latest news’

August 23, 2011

I’d rather not be Anna

If what we’re watching on TV is indeed a revolution, then it has to be one of the more embarrassing and unintelligible ones of recent times. For now, whatever questions you may have about the Jan Lokpal Bill, here are the answers you’re likely to get: tick the box — (a) Vande Mataram (b) Bharat Mata ki Jai (c) India is Anna, Anna is India (d) Jai Hind.

For completely different reasons, and in completely different ways, you could say that the Maoists and the Jan Lokpal Bill have one thing in common — they both seek the overthrow of the Indian State. One working from the bottom up, by means of an armed struggle, waged by a largely adivasi army, made up of the poorest of the poor. The other, from the top down, by means of a bloodless Gandhian coup, led by a freshly minted saint, and an army of largely urban, and certainly better off people. (In this one, the Government collaborates by doing everything it possibly can to overthrow itself.)

In April 2011, a few days into Anna Hazare’s first “fast unto death,” searching for some way of distracting attention from the massive corruption scams which had battered its credibility, the Government invited Team Anna, the brand name chosen by this “civil society” group, to be part of a joint drafting committee for a new anti-corruption law. A few months down the line it abandoned that effort and tabled its own bill in Parliament, a bill so flawed that it was impossible to take seriously.

Then, on August 16th, the morning of his second “fast unto death,” before he had begun his fast or committed any legal offence, Anna Hazare was arrested and jailed. The struggle for the implementation of the Jan Lokpal Bill now coalesced into a struggle for the right to protest, the struggle for democracy itself. Within hours of this ‘Second Freedom Struggle,’ Anna was released. Cannily, he refused to leave prison, but remained in Tihar jail as an honoured guest, where he began a fast, demanding the right to fast in a public place. For three days, while crowds and television vans gathered outside, members of Team Anna whizzed in and out of the high security prison, carrying out his video messages, to be broadcast on national TV on all channels. (Which other person would be granted this luxury?) Meanwhile 250 employees of the Municipal Commission of Delhi, 15 trucks, and six earth movers worked around the clock to ready the slushy Ramlila grounds for the grand weekend spectacle. Now, waited upon hand and foot, watched over by chanting crowds and crane-mounted cameras, attended to by India’s most expensive doctors, the third phase of Anna’s fast to the death has begun. “From Kashmir to Kanyakumari, India is One,” the TV anchors tell us.

While his means may be Gandhian, Anna Hazare’s demands are certainly not. Contrary to Gandhiji’s ideas about the decentralisation of power, the Jan Lokpal Bill is a draconian, anti-corruption law, in which a panel of carefully chosen people will administer a giant bureaucracy, with thousands of employees, with the power to police everybody from the Prime Minister, the judiciary, members of Parliament, and all of the bureaucracy, down to the lowest government official. The Lokpal will have the powers of investigation, surveillance, and prosecution. Except for the fact that it won’t have its own prisons, it will function as an independent administration, meant to counter the bloated, unaccountable, corrupt one that we already have. Two oligarchies, instead of just one.

Whether it works or not depends on how we view corruption. Is corruption just a matter of legality, of financial irregularity and bribery, or is it the currency of a social transaction in an egregiously unequal society, in which power continues to be concentrated in the hands of a smaller and smaller minority? Imagine, for example, a city of shopping malls, on whose streets hawking has been banned. A hawker pays the local beat cop and the man from the municipality a small bribe to break the law and sell her wares to those who cannot afford the prices in the malls. Is that such a terrible thing? In future will she have to pay the Lokpal representative too? Does the solution to the problems faced by ordinary people lie in addressing the structural inequality, or in creating yet another power structure that people will have to defer to?

Meanwhile the props and the choreography, the aggressive nationalism and flag waving of Anna’s Revolution are all borrowed, from the anti-reservation protests, the world-cup victory parade, and the celebration of the nuclear tests. They signal to us that if we do not support The Fast, we are not ‘true Indians.’ The 24-hour channels have decided that there is no other news in the country worth reporting.

‘The Fast’ of course doesn’t mean Irom Sharmila’s fast that has lasted for more than ten years (she’s being force fed now) against the AFSPA, which allows soldiers in Manipur to kill merely on suspicion. It does not mean the relay hunger fast that is going on right now by ten thousand villagers in Koodankulam protesting against the nuclear power plant. ‘The People’ does not mean the Manipuris who support Irom Sharmila’s fast. Nor does it mean the thousands who are facing down armed policemen and mining mafias in Jagatsinghpur, or Kalinganagar, or Niyamgiri, or Bastar, or Jaitapur. Nor do we mean the victims of the Bhopal gas leak, or the people displaced by dams in the Narmada Valley. Nor do we mean the farmers in NOIDA, or Pune or Haryana or elsewhere in the country, resisting the takeover of the land.

‘The People’ only means the audience that has gathered to watch the spectacle of a 74-year-old man threatening to starve himself to death if his Jan Lokpal Bill is not tabled and passed by Parliament. ‘The People’ are the tens of thousands who have been miraculously multiplied into millions by our TV channels, like Christ multiplied the fishes and loaves to feed the hungry. “A billion voices have spoken,” we’re told. “India is Anna.”

Who is he really, this new saint, this Voice of the People? Oddly enough we’ve heard him say nothing about things of urgent concern. Nothing about the farmer’s suicides in his neighbourhood, or about Operation Green Hunt further away. Nothing about Singur, Nandigram, Lalgarh, nothing about Posco, about farmer’s agitations or the blight of SEZs. He doesn’t seem to have a view about the Government’s plans to deploy the Indian Army in the forests of Central India.

He does however support Raj Thackeray’s Marathi Manoos xenophobia and has praised the ‘development model’ of Gujarat’s Chief Minister who oversaw the 2002 pogrom against Muslims. (Anna withdrew that statement after a public outcry, but presumably not his admiration.)

Despite the din, sober journalists have gone about doing what journalists do. We now have the back-story about Anna’s old relationship with the RSS. We have heard from Mukul Sharma who has studied Anna’s village community in Ralegan Siddhi, where there have been no Gram Panchayat or Co-operative society elections in the last 25 years. We know about Anna’s attitude to ‘harijans’: “It was Mahatma Gandhi’s vision that every village should have one chamar, one sunar, one kumhar and so on. They should all do their work according to their role and occupation, and in this way, a village will be self-dependant. This is what we are practicing in Ralegan Siddhi.” Is it surprising that members of Team Anna have also been associated with Youth for Equality, the anti-reservation (pro-“merit”) movement? The campaign is being handled by people who run a clutch of generously funded NGOs whose donors include Coca-Cola and the Lehman Brothers. Kabir, run by Arvind Kejriwal and Manish Sisodia, key figures in Team Anna, has received $400,000 from the Ford Foundation in the last three years. Among contributors to the India Against Corruption campaign there are Indian companies and foundations that own aluminum plants, build ports and SEZs, and run Real Estate businesses and are closely connected to politicians who run financial empires that run into thousands of crores of rupees. Some of them are currently being investigated for corruption and other crimes. Why are they all so enthusiastic?

Remember the campaign for the Jan Lokpal Bill gathered steam around the same time as embarrassing revelations by Wikileaks and a series of scams, including the 2G spectrum scam, broke, in which major corporations, senior journalists, and government ministers and politicians from the Congress as well as the BJP seem to have colluded in various ways as hundreds of thousands of crores of rupees were being siphoned off from the public exchequer. For the first time in years, journalist-lobbyists were disgraced and it seemed as if some major Captains of Corporate India could actually end up in prison. Perfect timing for a people’s anti-corruption agitation. Or was it?

At a time when the State is withdrawing from its traditional duties and Corporations and NGOs are taking over government functions (water supply, electricity, transport, telecommunication, mining, health, education); at a time when the terrifying power and reach of the corporate owned media is trying to control the public imagination, one would think that these institutions — the corporations, the media, and NGOs — would be included in the jurisdiction of a Lokpal bill. Instead, the proposed bill leaves them out completely.

Now, by shouting louder than everyone else, by pushing a campaign that is hammering away at the theme of evil politicians and government corruption, they have very cleverly let themselves off the hook. Worse, by demonising only the Government they have built themselves a pulpit from which to call for the further withdrawal of the State from the public sphere and for a second round of reforms — more privatisation, more access to public infrastructure and India’s natural resources. It may not be long before Corporate Corruption is made legal and renamed a Lobbying Fee.

Will the 830 million people living on Rs.20 a day really benefit from the strengthening of a set of policies that is impoverishing them and driving this country to civil war?

This awful crisis has been forged out of the utter failure of India’s representative democracy, in which the legislatures are made up of criminals and millionaire politicians who have ceased to represent its people. In which not a single democratic institution is accessible to ordinary people. Do not be fooled by the flag waving. We’re watching India being carved up in war for suzerainty that is as deadly as any battle being waged by the warlords of Afghanistan, only with much, much more at stake.


July 20, 2011

Teen kills parents, hosts party

WEST PALM BEACH: A 17-year-old boy is accused of bludgeoning his parents with a hammer , then calling dozens of friends over for a party while their bodies lay in the bedroom, police said.
Tyler Hadley of Florida is charged with twin counts of first-degree murder in the deaths, which authorities say happened on Saturday. He is being held without bond at a juvenile detention center and it’s not known whether he has an attorney .

The parents Blake and Mary-Jo Hadley were believed to have been struck with a hammer sometime after their son posted on Facebook around 1:15 pm alerting friends to an evening party at his house. Investigators believe the parents were attacked outside their master bedroom and the bodies were moved into the bedroom and the door locked.

As many as 60 people attended the party that night, according to Port St Lucie Police spokesman Tom Nichols. They were loud enough to prompt a noise complaint and a visit by police . The police said, they received a tip on the murders. and returned to the house to find the bodies covered with towels, files and books, with the hammer lying bsetween them. They said they did not know what the motive was.


June 14, 2011

Swami on 4-month fast to save Ganga, dies

Swami Nigamananda

Dehradun: Swami Nigamananda Saraswati, a member of Matri Sadan, an ashram on the banks of the Ganga in Haridwar, had been on a fast for almost four months, died on Monday.

He was protesting against the illegal mining that is polluting the Ganga.

The Swami had recently gone into coma and was admitted to the Jolly Grant Hospital in Dehradun. Baba Ramdev had reportedly visited the Swami in hospital.

Earlier also, for almost three months in 2008, Swami Nigamanand Saraswati had gone on a fast to save Ganga from the illegal mining.


June 8, 2011

Farmers to get 16 per cent developed land in UP

Ghaziabad: A new land acquisition policy announced by the Uttar Pradesh government has provision of providing 16 per cent developed land to the farmers.

The 16 per cent land will be returned to the farmers after developing it and they would be free to sell it later on, state Housing and Urban Development Secretary, Alok Kumar said.

Six per cent additional land will also be provided to the farmers for rehabilitation purpose, he said adding that they will have to pay a development fee on it.

Farmers are angry over the fact that government purchases land at a meagre amount and then sells it at a very high price, Kumar said.

Farmers will have a choice of entering into a contract and receive Rs two lakh per acre or a one-time payment of Rs 76,000 or Rs 23,000 every year for a period of 33 years, he said.

Whenever a development scheme is taken up only 45 per cent of the acquired land is available for selling as the remaining part is utilized in providing public facilities, he added.

The new policy announced recently will not be applicable to old schemes and private builders will have to buy 80 per cent of the Land directly from the farmers, he said.


June 7, 2011

Forceful eviction of Baba Ramdev shocking: IAIF

Baba RamdevWashington: Expressing shock at forceful eviction of Baba Ramdev and his followers from Ramlila Maidan, a New York-based Indian American body termed it as a dangerous attack on the democratic set up in India.

“Baba Ramdev’s intent behind this movement is to bring back approximately USD nine trillion stolen from poor Indians and stashed in foreign countries; and he is determined to reverse this awful trajectory,” the New-York based Indian American Intellectual Forum (IAIF) said in a statement.

Under no circumstances it was supposed to create a law and order problem as is being claimed by the Central Government, Forum’s president Narain Kataria said.

“Baba Ramdev’s allegation that there was a sinister conspiracy to kill him has to be investigated by the Central Bureau of Investigation,” he said, adding the reign of repression let lose against thousands of peaceful men, women and children by 5,000 Delhi policemen should be vehemently condemned with the contempt it deserves.

It is a naked fascism as practiced by dictators in Middle Eastern countries, Kataria alleged.

“The Indians are determined to take back Government of India from their corrupt rulers. Make no mistake; they are waking up silently, slowly but surely. They are not going to stop till the goal is reached,” the Forum said.


June 7, 2011

Maran may be dropped from Cabinet: Report


Dayanidhi MaranNew Delhi: Facing the heat over his alleged role in the 2G sacm, Union Textile Minister Dayanidhi Maran may be dropped in the next cabinet reshuffle, reports claimed Tuesday.

Maran is arriving in Delhi and is expected to meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. As per reports the CBI may name him in the FIR in the Aircel-Maxis deal.

Yesterday, the Prime Minister was asked whether he had sought Maran’s resignation and he said, “All these matters are being looked into by law enforcement agencies. They should be allowed to do their work without fear or favour.”

The CBI has been closing in on Maran. Especially, after the investigating agency recorded the statement of former Aircel chief C Sivasankaran in connection with its ongoing investigations in the second generation spectrum allocation scam during UPA-I regime.

CBI sources said Sivasankaran was asked to clarify certain questions and series of events involving alleged irregularities in spectrum allocation to Aircel, a telecom firm founded by him and later sold to Malaysian firm Maxis.

Sivasankaran heads USD three billion conglomerate, Siva Group, with operations in realty, telecom, shipping, energy and agri exports and e-education/software.

They said Sivasankaran had alleged that he was forced by DMK MP and Textile Minister Dayanidhi Maran to sell his stake in Aircel to Maxis.

Sivasankaran had alleged his applications for licences were rejected when Maran was the telecom minister in 2006, forcing him to sold his company to Maxis, whose owner is considered to be close to Maran and his brother Kalanidhi, who owns Sun TV.

After A Raja and Kanimozhi, Maran is the third DMK leader under the scanner for telecom deals. Action against him may further complicate the relations between the Congress and the Dravidian party.

Maran is the grand nephew of DMK chief M Karunanidhi.

June 7, 2011

2G scam: CBI closing in on Dayanidhi Maran


New Delhi:  Dayanidhi Maran took an early flight to Delhi on Tuesday morning, a day after the CBI – now actively pursuing complaints of a telecom scam allegedly engineered by him – found a witness against the former Telecom Minister.

CBI sources said the agency had, in the wake of the corruption allegations against Maran, sent a report to the Prime Minister’s Office. Any action in the case would need a nod from the highest levels as Maran, who is DMK chief M Karunanidhi’s grand nephew, is the Union Textile Minister in the UPA government at the Centre.

On Monday, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was evasive on Maran’s future in the Cabinet in the wake of the allegations of corruption levelled against him. The Prime Minister was asked whether he had sought Maran’s resignation and he said, “All these matters are being looked into by law enforcement agencies. They should be allowed to do their work without fear or favour.”

Earlier on Monday, the former owner of Aircel Sivasankaran reportedly told the CBI that he was pressured by Mr Maran’s ministry to sell the telecom company in 2006 to an industrialist from Malyasia. “I felt strangulated,” he reportedly said during a lengthy interrogation by the investigating agency. At a press conference in Chennai, Mr Maran countered, “If anyone was being forced (to sell), they could have gone to court.”

Mr Sivasankaran claims that harassment by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT), which repeatedly rejected his applications for mobile network licenses, forced him to sell his company to T Anandakrishnan. Mr Sivasankaran’s successor is reportedly close to Mr Maran and his brother, Kalanidhi, who owns Sun TV.

After Mr Anandakrishnan acquired Aircel, he was granted 14 licences and within months of that, Mr Anandakrishnan’s company invested nearly Rs. 800 crore in Sun TV. The CBI is investigating whether that was a quid pro quo.

Mr Maran has said that he did not use his position as Telecom Minister to harass Mr Sivasankaran, or to later benefit Sun TV. He has also clarified that he does not own any shares in Sun TV.

Mr Maran’s party, the DMK, has been linked in multiple ways with different telecom scams. A Raja, a senior leader who took over from Mr Maran as Telecom Minister, is in jail for the 2G scam; so is Kanimozhi, who is Karunanidhi’s daughter.

The CBI chief AP Singh will appear before the Joint Parliamentary Committee probing the 2G spectrum scam today and present findings.

March 3, 2011

Thomas out as CVC: Supreme Court


New Delhi: The Supreme Court has ruled that PJ Thomas’ appointment as Central Vigilance Commissioner (CVC) is invalid. The Prime Minister and Home Minister, who were two of the three members of the committee that chose him, have been criticized severely by the court.

The third member of that committee, who was Leader of the Opposition, Sushma Swaraj, had objected strongly to Mr Thomas being made CVC because he is accused of corruption himself in a case that goes back to the early 90s, when he was a senior bureaucrat in Kerala.

Like Ms Swaraj, the Supreme Court has argued that Mr Thomas cannot be in charge of fighting corruption as the Central Vigilance Commissioner when his own integrity is being questioned.

The government, in its defense, had argued in court that the biodata for Mr Thomas considered by the PM did not refer to the corruption charges against him. The Supreme Court has rejected that stand, stating that the committee headed by the PM should have “gone beyond the documents” presented to it.

Ms Swaraj, who has voiced her opposition to Mr Thomas’ appointment at different public forums, tweeted after the verdict this morning, “The dignity of the office of CVC has been restored.”

As Food Secretary in Kerala in the early 90s, Mr Thomas campaigned aggressively for the import of edible oil from Malaysia. It later emerged that the price paid for the oil – palmolein – was unjustifiably high.  He has since been charged with corruption and conspiracy.
Those charges are why his appointment has been challenged in the Supreme Court by different Public Interest Litigation cases.

Mr Thomas has repeatedly told the court that the fact that he was promoted over the last few years by the Vigilance Commission proves that the charges against him are incorrect and should not affect his career.

Mr Thomas was privately pressured by the government to resign, but has fought back. That’s caused considerable embarrassment for the government which has in the past few months been bruised black and blue by a flood of corruption scandals. Leading that list is the 2G spectrum scam which pushed A Raja from the Telecom Minister’s office into jail. Mr Raja stands accused of abusing his position and manipulating government policies to award licences for mobile networks at throwaway prices to companies that rewarded him privately with huge kickbacks.

Mr Thomas was Telecom Secretary till he was made Central Vigilance Commissioner. The Supreme Court, which is also monitoring the CBI’s investigation into the spectrum scam, suggested that it would be inappropriate for Mr Thomas to preside over an inquiry that could subject his own actions in the Telecom Ministry to scrutiny. Mr Thomas then recused himself from the 2G investigation.

March 3, 2011

HP: 32 members of marriage party killed in accident


Shimla: Thirty-two members of a marriage party were killed when the vehicle they were travelling in fell into a gorge in Himachal Pradesh’ Chamba district, police said on Thursday. In a separate accident, seven people died when their SUV rolled into another gorge in the same district.

The members of the marriage party were killed when their mini truck (Tata 407) carrying 35 to 40 people fell into a 300-metre-deep gorge near the Chamera dam, some 45 km from district headquarters Chamba, Superintendent of Police Madhu Sudan told a news agency on phone from the spot.

Police came to know about the accident at around 12.30 am on Thursday. Sudan said most of the victims, mostly men, belonged to closely-knit families of a village near the spot.

Another police official said the accident spot has been experiencing continuous rainfall for the past two days.

In the other accident, a Scorpio car carrying eight people fell into a gorge near Bharmour, some 65 km from Chamba. The accident took place at around 9.30 pm on Wednesday.

Seven bodies have been recovered, said Sudan.

Chamba town is located some 450 Km from state capital Shimla.