Archive | May 9th, 2016

Corporate Plunder From Public Sector Banks A Scam Even Worse Than The 2G Scam

NOVANEWS

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The Modi Government has made it clear that while it will help corporations loot and scoot from India, it will brand activists defending the rights of India’s poor as ‘anti-nationals’.

The Modi Government prevented the environmental activist Priya Pillai from flying out of India, branding her ‘anti-national’ for seeking to discuss concerns about MNC plunder of adivasis’ land and destruction of the environment.

But the same Government has just facilitated the super-rich Vijay Mallya in fleeing Indian shores to avoid paying his massive debts to public sector banks and evade criminal charges of money laundering.

The police issued ‘lookout notices’ to Ms Pillai and to two JNU students facing ‘sedition’ charges. But the CBI under Modi ‘modified’ the original lookout notice seeking Mallya’s detention at the country’s exit points, instead seeking only ‘information’. For the Modi Government, then, dissenting students can be treated as dangerous criminals and arrested, but corporate scamsters are given a free hand to plunder the country and then go scot free to evade justice. Mallya’s company Kingfisher called itself ‘The King of Good Times’ – and indeed Modi’s promised acche din has materialized for the likes of Mallya and Ambani alone.

Another notable contrast is between how different categories of loan defaulters – depending on whether they are poor farmers or corporate cronies of the Government – are treated in the country. Farmers who take loans of modest amounts and fail to repay them are hounded and humiliated by the police and loan recovery agents – resulting the suicide of some 15000 farmers every year. But Mallya, who owes public sector banks upwards of Rs 9000 crore, is allowed to flaunt his lavish lifestyle of yachts, parties and private islands, and simply quit Indian soil rather than life itself.

Both the UPA and NDA Governments promoted cronyism, forcing the public sector banks to bear the burden of the unpaid debts of the Mallyas, Ambanis and other corporations. In 2010, when Mallya’s Kingfisher airlines was heading for a crash, the UPA Government facilitated a safe landing, with a debt-restructuring agreement. Mallya handed over goodwill and trademarks of the Kingfisher brand to the public sector banks as security in the event of non-payment of dues – but today, the brand value of Kingfisher has plummeted and the banks are unable to find buyers! In 2015, the Modi Government facilitated a debt restructuring agreement for Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Gas, allowing it to repay its massive loans to public sector banks by 2031 instead of 2019!

These corporate bailouts combined with a larger economic slowdown, have precipitated a banking crisis in India, with Non-Performing Assets (NPAs) of banks surging to 17 per cent in the past couple of years. A report of the Credit Suisse titled ‘House of Debt’, has listed the 10 most indebted corporate houses in India – Lanco Group, Jaypee Group, GMR Group, Videocon Group, GVK Group, Essar Group, Adani Group, Reliance ADA Group, JSW Group and Vedanta Group – pointing out that the bulk of these unpaid debts are owed to public sector banks.

These unpaid loans point to a scam even larger than the 2G scam. Rs 1.14 lakh crore – amounting to 40% of corporate bad loans – have been written off during the last three years (2013-15). According to the India Ratings Report, a further Rs 52,227 crore is expected to be written off in the financial year 2016 – taking the total up to 1.66 lakh crore. This does not count the huge loans which have been ‘restructured’ to delay repayment periods or slash interest costs. RBI governor Raghuram Rajan pointed out that “this money would have allowed 1.5 million of the poorest children to get a full degree from the top private universities in the country, all expenses paid.” Imagine, then, how many degrees from public universities this amount could have funded? Yet, the BJP machinery brands subsidies to JNU, where a substantial percentage of students are from socially, economically and regionally deprived backgrounds, as a ‘waste of public funds’, while presiding over an open plunder of public funds by crony capitalists!

The phenomenon of crony capitalism extends also and especially to crony ‘godman’ businesses – where godmen close to Governments, like Asaram, Ramdev and Sri Sri Ravishankar are allowed to flout laws with impunity. Recently the Modi and Kejriwal Governments have together allowed the godman Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and his Art of Living organizations to organize a massive extravaganza on the banks of the Yamuna, irreversibly destroying the fragile riverine ecology and grabbing land forcibly from Dalit peasants. Sadly, even the National Green Tribunal and the courts, while noting the illegality and the damage, disciplined and restrained themselves rather than the offenders. Instead of putting a stop to the Ravishankar extravaganza, the NGT merely imposed a fine to ‘compensate’ for the damage – of which Ravishankar arrogantly refused to pay a paisa.

Why are the public sector banks not declaring the names of serial offenders in terms of unpaid loans – and the pending unpaid amounts? The country deserves to know the amount stolen from the public banks and the names of plunderers – and the Government must be made to answer for this loot. Crony capitalists and crony godmen cannot be allowed to practice the ‘Art of Cheating’ and the ‘Art of Looting and Leaving’ India.

– See more at: http://cpiml.org/ml-update/vol-19-no-12/corporate-plunder-from-public-sector-banks-a-scam-even-worse-than-the-2g-scam#sthash.NcoQTdl1.dpuf

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A Manifesto for May Day 2016 : Resist India, Resist!

NOVANEWS

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It has been two years since Narendra Modi became India’s Prime Minister unleashing a trajectory of governance that is proving to be nothing short of a political calamity for our society and polity. Never before has India seen a government so callous and indifferent to the plight of the people. Even as large parts of the country are reeling under severe drought and famine-like conditions, and dozens of farmers continue to be driven daily to suicides under a crushing burden of debt and insecurity, the government nonchalantly congratulates itself for promising to double farm income by 2022. The CM of Maharashtra, the worst drought-affected state, is least concerned about this alarming agrarian distress, he is busy issuing deportation threats to whoever does not chant ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ and his cabinet colleague makes her tour of drought-affected areas memorable by taking selfies on her smartphone! The PM is of course busy touring foreign lands, addressing election rallies, occasionally taking time off to deliver his radio gospels or appreciate his own wax statue in a Madame Tussauds museum.

It is a government which came to power with only 31% of the polled vote, but almost from day one it has been in a state of permanent war with large sections of the citizenry including many who had voted it to power. Its land acquisition ordinance has been rejected by all, but it continues to promote large-scale diversion and acquisition of agricultural land in flagrant violation of the mandates of the 2013 Act for compensation and rehabilitation.

To push its ‘Make in India’ agenda it is desperately trying to subvert every law and institution of the land – labour rights, environmental safeguards, natural resources, the entire framework of democracy are all being mortgaged to lure foreign investment. Dissenting students in premier educational institutions are being branded ‘casteist’ and ‘anti-national’ and subjected to systematic political persecution. RSS cadres have been planted in influential positions across the institutional spectrum and in key Constitutional posts, and President’s Rule is being imposed to destabilize elected non-BJP governments while in BJP-ruled states governance has become a metaphor for state-sponsored anarchy, terror and relentless communal polarisation.

Accompanying this war on the people and their constitutional rights and liberties, is the Sangh brigade’s sinister invasion of history. Modi came to power with the slogan of ‘Congress-mukt Bharat’ – in the guise of this slogan he not only spearheaded a campaign to oust the discredited Manmohan Singh dispensation at the Centre and other tainted Congress-led regimes in the states, but also sought to produce a narrative that would trash the Congress teleologically and construct a non-existent past for the BJP. Patel was the first Congress leader to be hijacked in the process, and during his first year in power Modi also tried his level best to appropriate Gandhi through his much hyped ‘Swachh Bharat’ campaign. With the declassification of Netaji files and the celebration of Ambedkar’s 125th birth anniversary, now the Sangh-BJP establishment is out to claim the legacies of Subhas Bose and Ambedkar. Sangh ideologues would like us to believe that Ambedkar’s call for ‘annihilation of castes’ was meant to unify Hindus as a community, the RSS mouthpiece ‘Organiser’ describing Ambedkar as a ‘great unifier’. No wonder Rohith Vemula and his comrades have been dubbed ‘anti-national’ and activists and intellectuals spreading the ideas of Bhagat Singh and Ambedkar have been attacked virulently by Sanghi goons.

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Stop Massacre of Civilians in Kashmir

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Less than ten days after the PDP-BJP Government assumed power in Kashmir, Kashmir has witnessed a fresh bout of killings of civilian protesters by Army bullets. Five civilians have been killed, and several have suffered injuries that may cripple them for life. Once more, Kashmir has been plunged into the cycle of killings, protests, more killings, accompanied by curfews and internet bans.

The episode was triggered when civilians came on the streets of Handwara to protest the alleged molestation of a minor girl by Army personnel. The Army responded by firing on and killing three civilians. When people came on the streets in other parts of northern Kashmir to protest the killings, the Army again responded by killing more civilians.

The handling of the complaint of alleged molestation by the J&K Police has been rife with shocking violations of laws and norms. By law, the police should have promptly registered an FIR and recorded the girl’s statement before a magistrate. Instead, the police instead illegally recorded and released a video of the girl that denied molestation by the Army and revealed the identity of the girl, thus compromising her privacy and safety. The girl’s statement before the magistrate (denying molestation by the Army) has been recorded only after the police held the girl, her father and aunt in illegal custody for several days. While such a statement might have carried credibility and calmed tempers had it been recorded on the very first day, it can no longer do so now, because the J&K Police itself has fatally compromised the credibility of the process and sent the unmistakable message that it cared more to protect the Army’s reputation than to ensure well-being and justice for a Kashmiri teenage girl. And whatever the facts about the alleged molestation, there can be no excuse for the killings of civilian protesters.

The Handwara episode has once again underlined how the heavy military deployment in civilian areas of Kashmir promotes a callous disregard for the value of Kashmiri lives and the right of Kashmiris to protest. Time and again, we see how civilian protests and stone pelting by young people in Kashmir are invariably met with bullets aimed to kill, while similar protests in other states are generally handled with more restraint, with police action intended at dispersing rather than killing protesters. The Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti has made some token expressions of anguish and has appealed to the Union Defence Minister to rein in the Army and prevent civilian killings. But the very ineffectualness of these gestures expose the opportunism of the PDP, and the yawning gap between Kashmir’s main political parties and the agony of Kashmir’s people. The BJP Government at the Centre and its increased footprint in the Valley is undoubtedly intensifying the alienation of Kashmiri people. The attempts by vested interests including Central Ministers to create polarization and hatred by fanning up hyper-jingoist frenzy in NIT Srinagar are a case in point. The calculated attacks on Kashmiri students in various campuses all over India, and the use of sedition laws to suppress protests against the execution of Afzal Guru, are all sending the message to Kashmiris that their voices will be gagged and criminalised.

The Congress and National Conference have condemned the current round of killings. P Chidambaram, who was Home Minister in the UPA Government has preached against a militarized approach to Kashmir and has even called for a repeal of the AFSPA. But when he himself was Home Minister, he and his Government presided over a spree of killings of civilian protesters in Kashmir in 2010, and the cover-up of the Shopian rape and murder in 2009.

The glaring contrast in the ways the BJP in power deals with protests and agitations in Kashmir and other states can only further alienate and anger the common people of Kashmir. In Haryana Jats were allowed to go on a veritable rampage in the name of reservations and the Khattar government came to a political settlement. In Gujarat, militant protests by the powerful Patel lobby do not lead to an unleashing of state terror. But protests in Kashmir, on any issue whatsoever, are always sought to be silenced and crushed militarily. The largely biased coverage of the killings by the Indian media, painting protesting Kashmiri civilians as violent and the Army brutality as a display of nationalism, adds further to Kashmir’s agony and alienation.

The rhetoric of ‘development’ and ‘governance’ is no substitute for a political solution to the central issue of Kashmiri self-determination and questions of denial of justice in Kashmir. The first precondition for meaningful political dialogue must be the withdrawal of Army from civilian areas in Kashmir; the scrapping of draconian laws like the AFSPA and PSA; a credible process of truth and justice in the various instances of fake encounters, disappearances, mass graves, and sexual assaults in Kashmir; and the freedom of political expression and protest for the Kashmiri people, both in the Valley and in the rest of India.

– See more at: http://cpiml.org/ml-update/vol-19-no-17/stop-massacre-of-civilians-in-kashmir#sthash.AnVeMIqn.dpuf

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Europe on the Boil

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With the Eurozone sovereign debt crisis intensifying, and people’s anger on the rise against austerity measures imposed by the IMF-World Bank, Europe’ ruling classes are struggling to cope. The survival of the Eurozone (the economic and monetary union of 17 EU countries that have Euro as a common currency) has fallen in crisis, with multiple countries needing bailouts. Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel described the ongoing Eurozone crisis as Europe’s “toughest hour since World War II.” Some countries like Greece and Italy, are trying the recipe of a change of guard, ushering in Governments headed by technocrats, in a desperate bid to stem the crisis. But these measures are doing little to contain or placate people’s anger, which has got a boost in the arm from the global Occupy climate.

Bankers’ Government in Italy

In Italy, the centre-right Government headed by the flamboyant and controversial media mogul Silvio Berlusconi was forced to step down in the wake of the stubborn economic crisis. Its place has been taken by a new government headed by (unelected) technocrat Prime Minister Mario Monti, with a Cabinet comprising entirely of unelected ‘expert’ academic economists, military men, diplomats, and CEOs including the CEO of Italy’s biggest retail bank as Industry Minister. Monti has said that he enjoys the confidence of political leaders who assured him that ‘that the non-presence of politicians in the government would help it.’ But on the very day the Government faced a vote of confidence in Parliament (17 November), thousands of protestors hit the streets across Italy against what they called the ‘Bankers’ Government.’

Students clashed with police in the main financial centre, Milan, as they tried to march towards Bocconi University over which PM Monti presides. Remaining unimpressed by Monti’s assurance that austerity measures would be balanced by ‘social fairness’, protestors in Rome paralysed the city centre.

Protests Continue in Greece

On 17 November every year, students hold a protest march in Athens to the US embassy to commemorate the bloody suppression of a student uprising by a military dictatorship backed by the US. This year, people’s resistance to austerity measures swelled the ranks of the protestors, with 7000 marching in defiance of tear gas attacks by police. On the same day, a new coalition government headed by technocrat PM Lucas Papademos won a confidence vote in Parliament.

For the past three years, Greece has been suffering a severe debt crisis, recession and record unemployment. Greece opted for a bailout from IMF which came with austerity measures attached. Fund-Bank institutions and European leaders are also trying to intervene with new bailouts to resolve the Greek crisis. The new government faces the challenge of passing a new austerity budget and implement the sweeping privatisation packages that Greece has pledged, in the face of immense public resentment.

The new Governments in Italy and Greece may have won confidence votes in Parliament – but it is clear that they are very far from enjoying the confidence of the public, which is determined to fight the Governments of bankers that are imposing hardships on the people.

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India: 11 Years of Irom Sharmila’s Fast: AFSPA Must Go!

NOVANEWS

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On November 2, 11 years back, a young woman in Manipur, disturbed by the terrible Malom massacre in which the Assam Rifles killed 14 civilians, went on a hunger-fast in mourning and protest. Some days later, on November 5, she decided to begin an indefinite fast – to be broken only when the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act 1958 – instrument of the humiliation and repression imposed on Manipur and the North East – was scrapped.

This November, the debate over AFSPA has sharpened when the J&K Chief Minister Omar Abdullah tried to stem the outrage over the custodial death of an activist of his own party, and the acknowledgement of thousands of mass graves in the state, by declaring that AFSPA should be lifted from some of the civilian areas of the state. This intention – a far from adequate measure in light of the extent of human rights violations – has been met with vitriolic protests on part of Army leaders and their propagandists. All those seeking repeal of AFSPA are being branded as foreign-funded anti-nationals, and the shameful history of torture, fake encounters, massacres and custodial killings by security forces are sought to be silenced in the name of ‘patriotism,’ which in turn is sought to be equated with a blind defence of the armed forces. The Central Government too is taking the line that any partial lifting of AFSPA, let alone repeal of AFSPA, can be possible only with the consent of the Army. And the BJP has termed the campaign against AFSPA as a motivated attack on the army’s morale.

The writ of AFSPA runs in most of the North East states, as well as in Kashmir – in all regions where there is heavy deployment of armed forces in the name of combating insurgency. The very presence, for decades on end, of such huge contingents of armed forces in civilian areas, of course, inevitably brings severe repression and rights violations in its wake. What the AFSPA does is to provide a cloak of impunity to the armed forces for acts of violence meted out by them to civilians. It gives the armed forces a licence to kill civilians on mere ‘suspicion’, and it protects the armed forces from prosecution in the case of any such acts of violence on civilians. Prosecution is possible only with sanction from the Central Government: and in the hundreds of cases of fake encounters, rapes and custodial killings reported from the North East and Kashmir, the Government has withheld sanction in most cases. The Army claims it will be ‘handicapped’ without AFSPA. Can we allow the Army in a democratic country to claim that it is ‘handicapped’ without the right to conduct fake encounters and custodial killings of thousands and bury the victims in mass graves, no questions asked?

In 2004, following the rape and murder of a young woman, Thangjam Manorama, by jawans of the Assam Rifles, a huge protest movement erupted on the streets of Manipur. The Meira Paibi women of Manipur protested without clothes outside the army headquarters in Imphal, with banners saying, ‘Indian Army Rape Us.’ In an effort to contain those protests, the UPA Government set up the Justice Jeevan Reddy committee to look into the AFSPA. The Jeevan Reddy Committee did recommend that the AFSPA be scrapped. But the UPA Government has taken no action on that recommendation.

As we salute the courageous struggle of Irom Sharmila and express solidarity with her ongoing fast, we must demand the immediate scrapping of AFSPA. The scrapping of AFSPA can only be a first step in restoring peace and justice to the North East and Kashmir. The truth about custodial disappearances, rapes and ‘encounter’ killings must be established and the guilty punished. And above all, the army deployment in civilian areas must be withdrawn so that the people of these regions can breathe free and without fear.

PSA Amendment: Far From Enough

Recently, the J&K Government amended the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act. But the amendment brings no joy to the people of Kashmir.

The PSA, in force since 1978 is what is used to jail Kashmiri youth when they raise slogans on the streets. The very name is a mockery since one wonders how this act provides safety to the people of Kashmir! In its 2011 report, the Amnesty International termed this a ‘lawless law,’ used “to secure the long-term detention of individuals against whom there is insufficient evidence for a trial”. The amended Act, however, does nothing to reduce the unconstitutional lawlessness of the PSA: it merely reduces the detention period somewhat.

PSA and AFSPA are being used to crush the voices of people from J&K seeking freedom and dignity. These symbols of the humiliation of a repressed people must go!

– M F Janawari, student, JNU

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