Archive | South Asia

Trump Wants Regime Change in Syria, Extended US Led Wars in Yemen, Afghanistan, South Sudan

NOVANEWS
 

In March 2011, Obama launched war on Syria to destroy its sovereignty and replace Assad with pro-Western puppet rule.

Trump upped the stakes. He escalated war, increased US terror-bombing, and doubled the number of US forces on the ground ahead of likely larger numbers coming.

His hugely dangerous war plan risks direct confrontation with Russia. Instead of governing responsibly, he’s recklessly risking possible nuclear war in the Middle East and on the Korean peninsula.

In northern Syria, hundreds of thousands of civilians are threatened by US terror-bombing – targeting infrastructure and government sites on the phony pretext of combating ISIS America created and supports.

On Monday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ spokesman Staphane Dujarric issued a briefing on catastrophic humanitarian conditions in Yemen, Mosul, Afghanistan, South Sudan, and the safety of over 400,000 Syrians in Raqqa.

Around 10 million Yemenis

“require immediate assistance to save or sustain their lives,” he stressed. The country is “the largest food security emergency in the world…on the brink of (catastrophic) famine.”

Fighting and terror-bombing of Mosul continues, up to 400,000 displaced so far – in desperate need of aid. The lives and welfare of around two million Iraqis are endangered by ongoing conflict. The civilian death toll keeps mounting.

“(D)etainees in Afghanistan continue to face torture and ill-treatment in government detention facilities.”

America’s longest war continues endlessly with no prospect for resolution.

In South Sudan,

“lack of accountability for crimes perpetrated during the conflict remains one of the country’s biggest challenges.”

Syrians in and around Raqqa are exposed to daily ground fighting and US-led terror-bombing – including against infrastructure, hospitals, schools, mosques, markets and residential areas.

Unknown numbers of civilians are being killed daily, perhaps thousands before the campaign ends.

According to Dujarric,

“(i)n past weeks, civilians have been exposed to daily fighting and airstrikes which resulted in an escalating number of civilian deaths and injuries…”

“Some 39,000 (were) newly displaced,” most in open areas without shelter or protection from fighting and bombing. Desperate people are without humanitarian aid.

Russia’s intervention in Syria improved conditions greatly for its people – liberated from hundreds of areas previously controlled by US-supported terrorists, provided with humanitarian aid by Moscow and Syria to sustain them.

Separately on Monday, the US Treasury Department announced sanctions on 271 Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center personnel – on the phony pretext of involvement in chemical weapons development.

Washington holds them responsible for developing the toxic agent used in Kahn Sheikhoun on April 4 – an incident  Syria had nothing to do with, a false flag irresponsibly blamed on its military and Bashar al-Assad.

Last Friday, Sergey Lavrov said Russia’s call for an independent, unbiased on-site investigation was “blocked by Western delegations without any explanations.”

“(O)bvious false information” is being used by America and its rogue allies to topple Assad – likely by escalated war, involving larger numbers of US forces.

Posted in Middle East, USA, Afghanistan, Sudan, Syria, Yemen0 Comments

From Drone Strikes to MOAB: The Strategically Silenced

NOVANEWS

By Hoda Katebi

A Pakistani Army soldier patrols in South Waziristan on November 17, 2009. (Photo: Tyler Hicks / The New York Times)

A Pakistani Army soldier patrols in South Waziristan on November 17, 2009. South Waziristan is one of many areas where US attacks have continually devastated people’s lives and homes, but remain invisible in most US media. (Photo: Tyler Hicks / The New York Times)

US foreign policy consists of trading bodies for approval ratings, guilt for innocence, absence for life, and strategic silencing, all for fear of a threat both feigned and self-made.

On April 13, 2017, the Trump regime dropped the GBU-43 massive ordnance air blast (MOAB) also known as the “Mother of all Bombs” in the Achin district of Nangarhar in Afghanistan. While the official statement from the Headquarters of the United States Forces in Kabul, Afghanistan, notes that the military “took every precaution to avoid civilian casualties” in what White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer called on Thursday morning a remote, mountainous area, the Achin district is, in fact, home to a population of 150,000 and sits a little over 20 miles from the capital of Nangarhar, a province in Eastern Afghanistan with a population of almost 1.5 million. This population now has to endure, at the very least, the lasting psychological effects of witnessing a massive mushroom cloud rising from their backyards, as well as the ongoing threats to their safety.

Bilal Sarwary, a journalist based in Afghanistan who spoke to locals in the area after the bombing, told BBC Friday morning that “their doors are destroyed or damaged and every single window or glass is broken … [they felt] more like doomsday … like the sky is coming down.” Fresh bombings in Achin continued through this morning, according to local sources. Nangarhar has been noted by many Afghans as one of the more beautiful parts of the country, with perpetual spring-like weather.

Tribal elders in Achin district , ” windows&doors in 4KM radius broken and damaged.”

Just a reminder, Achin is not “populated by Daesh” it is populated by thousands of people, many of whom have been suffering under Daesh

The US government and mainstream media’s failure to mention the presence of unmistakably large civilian populations — and the fact that these populations were placed in immediate physical and psychological dangers — is not at all an uncommon practice. Much like the history of physical, rhetorical, ideological and academic erasure of Indigenous people from North America, there is a continual erasure of mass populations in the Middle East and Africa, who are frequently invisibilized and deemed irrelevant by those who wish to craft a narrative that excuses violence and mass destruction.

Afghanistan carries a deep history of being designated as a testing ground for Western and Russian military weaponry (as India, Ghana and other Asian and African countries are for Western medicine). Although its population is significantly larger than that of Berkeley, California, Achin is portrayed as empty and vacant — a place where the dropping of a never-before-used, 30-foot-long, 21,600-pound bomb filled with 18,000 pounds of explosives is portrayed as carrying no risk of civilian casualties.

Beyond recognizing the continual erasure of civilians and populations at the state’s discretion, it is important to ask: According to the US government, who is classified as a “civilian”? Who is not considered a “civilian,” and is instead marked with the ever-shifting and contagious label of “enemy combatant”?

To answer this question, we must turn toward the foreign policy hallmark and legacy of the Obama administration: drone strikes.

According to The Drone Papers, secret CIA and military documents leaked to The Intercept under Obama’s term, anyone on the ground is largely deemed guilty until proven innocent — and proving as much is a near-impossible task when the suspect in question has been conveniently killed and is therefore unable to speak or go to trial and the only statements provided are given by the US military personnel who conducted the strikes. Drone strikes are supposedly designed to assassinate only those posing a “continuing, imminent threat to US persons,” yet this threat is determined based on minimal or poor “intelligence” gathered from phones (which constantly shift hands) and emails in undeclared war zones, such as Yemen and Somalia, unreliable government watch lists, and information gathered by machines and subject to fallible human interpretation.

Anyone unfortunate enough to be passing through the targeted area (however ambiguous or random it may be) at the time of a drone strike is deemed “guilty by association” and designated by the military as an “enemy killed in action” or EKIA, and therefore no longer a civilian. Therefore, not only are those killed by drone strikes more often than not simply unintended victims targeted based on faulty evidence, but determinations of guilt or innocence are largely arbitrary and contextual.

Ultimately, the distinction between enemy and civilian is irrelevant when there is no trial, little evidence, and virtually no follow-up in response to casualties. Despite the ambiguity or messiness of official labels, at the end of the day, anything seen through a drone scope is deemed utterly worthless.

On March 17, 2017, US-led coalition airstrikes hit Mosul, Iraq, killing the highest number of civilians in one blow since the start of the 2003 invasion.

The same day, a US airstrike targeted a mosque and religious school in Syria (which the US later denied, despite photographic evidence) while 300 people were praying. Forty-two people were killed and many more were injured.

Although it has recently escalated, the murder of civilians in the ongoing “war on terror” is not new. Consider the US’s targeting of Yemen, where, according to a UN News Center report last year, “children are paying the heaviest price.” Salon reported that ongoing US-backed Saudi bombing “intentionally targets food production” and Truthout has analyzed how strikes have continually worsened the ongoing famine in Yemen.

According to comments given to The Intercept by a source within the intelligence community wishing to remain anonymous, official reports of civilian casualties from the US government are “exaggerating at best, if not outright lies.”

This all, of course, fits plainly and clearly into a larger structure of the physical and ideological “war on terror,” in which anti-Muslim racism is funded by weapons manufacturers looking to profit from consequent anti-Muslim violence both domestically and abroad; by Zionist groups working to maintain an ethno-supremacist apartheid regime in Israel; and by other individuals and organizations seeking to maintain and increase their power and privilege, politically, socially and economically.

Certainly, erasing populations, designating them as test subjects and retroactively applying “enemy” labels to hide mistakes have become normalized strategies of US foreign policy. These strategies are tied to systems of profit and privilege, as well as to political popularity. From Thomas Jefferson and the Barbary Wars to Donald Trump, airstrikes, bombings, coups, wars and violence against the AMENSA (Africa, Middle East, Muslim, South Asia) region have been seen as quick fixes for low presidential approval ratings.

Now that Obama’s poll numbers are in tailspin – watch for him to launch a strike in Libya or Iran. He is desperate.

In this tweet from 2012, Trump forecasted that then-President Obama would conduct airstrikes against Muslim countries as a way to increase his approval rating, a tactic that Obama used and now-President Trump has adopted as well.

No single drone strike or bombing should be seen in isolation, but rather within this larger context of a social, political, military and economic anti-Muslim system. There are people and organizations that profit off of the erasure and destruction of Muslim bodies and bodies of color. This profit-driven murder becomes infinitely easier to carry out when Afghan, Iraqi, Somali, Yemeni and other voices and narratives are intentionally and consistently excluded from Western spaces and conversations.

Individual narratives and stories are crucial: narratives of what it feels like for your mother to be killed by a drone strikethe preference for cloudy days over blue skies because drones can only fly on clear days; the haunting feeling of being on the US drone kill list and watching family, friends and strangers die in your place due to miscalculation; the perpetual ominous hum of drones flying above your community; or not knowing which Friday prayer will be your last. Buried beneath state-sanctioned narratives of erasure are human lives that are continuously tormented, tortured and haunted. These lives are exactly what the regime wants you to forget.

Posted in USA, Afghanistan0 Comments

Adityanath: A Track Record of Hate-Mongering And Violence

NOVANEWS

Image result for Adityanath PHOTO

With Adityanath being appointed Chief Minister, influential sections of the electronic and print media in Hindi and English have gone into an overdrive to whitewash his track record and give his communal bahubali (goon/don) a makeover. So we have a host of stories remoulding Adityanath as a ‘Vikas Guru’ and telling us how he loves dogs and cows, what he eats for breakfast, and how he loves and employs Muslims.

These media houses, happy to brand Muslim men as “terrorists” without any evidence, are shy of calling a spade a spade, and calling Adityanath a saffron-cloaked, hate-spewing leader of a terrorist outfit the Hindu Yuva Vahini. They are ignoring the copious, overflowing evidence of Adityanath’s speeches and writings reeking of obscurantism, misogyny, communalism and casteism, as well as evidence of direct involvement in crime and communal violence.

The Gorakhnath Peeth: History of Hindutva Hate

In 1949, the Ram Lalla and Sita idols appeared inside the Babri Masjid following a ceremony by Mahant Digvijaynath, a leader of the Hindu Mahasabha and the then head of the Gorakhnath Peeth. Digvijaynath had also been investigated in the Gandhi murder case. His successor Mahant Avaidyanath was a leading figure of the Ram Janmabhoomi campaign. Adityanath succeeded him in 1994.

From his seat in the Gorakhpur Peeth, Adityanath has not only been a key political figure in Eastern UP but also sought to interfere in bordering Nepal, demanding that Nepal must be declared a Hindu kingdom.

Travesty of Gorakhnath’s Teachings

The Gorakhnath Peeth has evolved in a direction away from the original spirit of the teachings of the 11th century saint Gorakhnath, which are expressed in a set of couplets and verses called the Gorakhbani.

To cite just some of those verses:

While remaining within the mind, not disclosing the secret,

The immortal words (words of nectar) should be spoken.

If anybody in front (of you) is fire,

O avadhūt, you should become water.

A Hindu worships in the temple,

A Muslim in the mosque.

A yogi worships the supreme

Where there is neither temple nor mosque.

Gorakh says Oh avadhūt, listen:

Be like this in the world:

Look with your eyes, listen with your ears,

But don’t say anything with your mouth.

Adityanath is a very far cry from a true yogi of the Gorakhnath tradition. He spews hate speech not “words of nectar.” He pits temple against mosque for political power. He instigates strife – lights communal fires – rather than be ‘water if anyone is fire.’

Adityanath’s Hate Speech

Open Adityanath’s website and you are greeted with the slogan “Hindutva is the conscience of the nation. To attack it to invite the holocaust.”

Here is a sample of Adityanath’s worst hate speeches.

At Etah in 2005, he said – “I will not stop till I turn UP and India into a Hindu Rashtra (Hindu Nation).”

In a TV interview just before the recent UP polls, Adityanath defended changing the names of places with “Muslim” names to Hindu ones in Gorakhpur (Gorakhpur’s Miyan Bazaar to Maya Bazaar, Ali Nagar to Arya Nagar, Urdu Bazaar to Hindi Bazaar). Asked if he would change the name of the Taj Mahal, he said “yes of course.”

In September 2014 at a rally in Noida, he suggested that Muslim population must be regulated to control riots: “There have been 450 riot cases in West UP in two-and-a-half years of Samajwadi Party rule because the population of a particular community is rising manifold. Why are there no riots in Eastern UP? You can easily understand. In places where there are 10 to 20% minorities, stray communal incidents take place. Where there are 20 to 35% of them, serious communal riots take place and where they are more than 35%, there is no place for non-Muslims.”

In February 2015, he declared at the Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s ‘Virat Hindu Sammelan’ in Varanasi: “Every time a Hindu visits the Vishwanath temple, the Gyanvapi mosque taunts us. If given a chance, we will install statues of Goddess Gauri, Ganesh and Nandi in every mosque.”

In June 2015, at a temple ceremony in Varanasi, Adityanath declared, “Lord Shankar was the biggest Yogi who started Yoga. Mahadev (another name for Shankar) lives in every particle of this country. So, those who want to avoid surya namaskar, Yoga and Lord Shankar can leave Hindustan or drown in the ocean.”

In November 2015, he reacted to Shah Rukh Khan’s remarks against intolerance, saying “These people speak the language of terrorists. There is no difference between the language of Shah Rukh Khan and that of Hafiz Saeed. He (Khan) should remember that if a huge mass of people boycotts his films, he will also have to wander on the streets like a normal Muslim.”
14 December 2014: 6 December (Babri Masjid demolition anniversary) is a matter of valour, pride and unity for Hindus.

In June 2016 he said, “When they could not stop karsevaks from demolishing the Babri Masjid, how will they be able to stop us from carrying out the construction of the mandir?
In various speech videos, Adityanath has said, “if one Hindu dies, we will kill a 100 of (them)” and “If they (Muslims) take (marry) one Hindu girl, we will get 100 Muslim girls … in the rest of Uttar Pradesh Hindu women run away with Muslim but in Gorakhpur, Hindu men marry Muslim women and bring them home.”

At a Virat Hindu Chetna rally in Siddharthnagar in 2007-08 organised by the Hindu Yuva Vahini, Adityanath declared that Hindu culture and Muslim culture can never co-exist and that a religious war is inevitable which is why Hindus need to get organised and face this challenge in the most aggressive fashion possible. He stated that Hindu Yuva Vahini is doing the work of uniting Hindus. At the same rally a speaker called to rape corpses of Muslim women and another called to strip Muslims of voting rights.

On Women

In a detailed write up titled ‘Matrashakti — Bharatiya Shakti ke Sandarbh Mein’ on his own website, Adityanath writes that “women are not capable of being left free or independent…women need male protection from birth to death… a woman is protected in her childhood by her father, by her husband in her youth and by her son in her old age.” This idea of women being under a man’s protection all her life (father, husband, and son) is straight from the Manusmriti.

He writes, “Whereas in our shastras, the greatness of women has been described, at the same time considering their importance and their decorum and dignity, the need to give them protection is also mentioned….Just like if you leave energy free and uncontrolled and unregulated, it may become useless and destructive, similarly ‘shakti swaroopa stree’— woman as the epitome of power — does not really need freedom, but a meaningful role — woman as the epitome of power — does not really need freedom, but a meaningful role with protection and channelisation…. For only such controlled and protected women power will give birth to and raise great men and when required step out of home to the battlefield to destroy evil powers.”

Adityanath writes that women should receive education today, “Else the thoughtless storm of women freedom of the western world will drive them to an even more disastrous condition and it will hamper the creation and stability of the home and family and prevent the glorious rebuilding of the nation and motherland.”

He vehemently opposes the idea of 33% reservations for women in Parliament and Assemblies, saying “Women do already have reservations in many areas. First analyse and assess the impact of this in gram sabhas, panchayats and local bodies. Assess and then decide whether women who are in active politics, and public life like men, whether in this process they may not lose their importance and role as mothers, daughter and sisters.”
He adds, “If men acquire women-like qualities, they become gods but when women acquire men like qualities, they become (‘rakshasa’) demon like. Serious thought must be given to these issues. What if this leads to the creation of the Frankenstien’s monster?”

On Caste and Reservations

In a write up on his website titled ‘A Country Burning In The Fire of Reservation Demands,’ Adityanath elaborates on the idea that RSS leaders too periodically express: the need for a reassessment of the policy of caste-based reservations. He argues here that caste-based reservations for Dalits should be restricted to one generation. Here too he writes disapprovingly about ‘India’s Mother-power developing a strong desire for reservations’ and wonders where this will take society. He ends with a mention of the Sachar Committee report and raises the bogey of reservations for Muslims.

Japanese Encephalitis

Adityanath’s followers on social media are claiming that his efforts have reduced the occurrence of the encephalitis epidemic in Gorakhpur. Gorakhpur-based journalist Manoj Kumar Singh does a reality check, pointing out that “The central government did not release funds for two years for the payment of 108 employees of Encephalitis ward in BRD Medical College, Gorakhpur. Instead, isplaying full insensitivity towards a highly epidemic prone region, these 108 posts were scrapped in August 2016.”

Manoj Singh adds, “As per an August 2016 estimate only 30 crores were needed for maintenance of equipments, pay of doctors and paramedical staff and medicines etc in this hospital. Ten crore more were required for the ICU installation. Union minister of state for health Anupriya Patel made a visit of this hospital in August 2016 till then the government had failed to allocate an amount of merely 40 crores in the annual workplan to regularly run this hospital. Even after that no substantial fund have been allocated for this hospital where 9286 patients (90 percent of them were children) have died of Encephalitis alone and thousands maimed out of 39100 admitted since 1978.”

As for claims of ‘reduced numbers,’ Manoj Singh says this is because Governments and Centre and State “are not following their own guidelines and the hospitals have stopped recording and/or reporting such cases officially. So the its now very difficult to know the exact number of encephalitis cases that have occurred in this region which includes ten districts of eastern UP and at least four districts of Bihar from where people come for treatment to this and other private hospitals in Gorakhpur. It was reported in media (Gorakhpur Newsline) that in 2015 nearly 500 cases from Kushinagar district were not recorded as Encephalitis, out of these more than 250 died of the dreaded disease.”

How Mulayam’s Opportunism Provided Impunity For Adityanath

In 2007, the SP Government headed by Mulayam Singh punished, transferred the DM Hari Om who arrested a riot-mongering Adityanath, and in sundry other ways the Mulayam Government pandered to the saffron forces, even splurging public money on them. The opportunist Mulayam Government helped Adityanath evade consequences for communal violence and hate-speech. Here are excerpts of a report from the archives of Liberation, March 2007:

“Recently, Gorakhpur and around a dozen districts adjoining it fell victim to communal violence spread by Yogi Adityanath, the local MP and his gang. Yogi has emerged as a new symbol of Hindutva offensive in the region. The fascist paratroopers of his Hindu Yuva Vahini have been targeting minorities since a decade. When the then DM of Gorakhpur arrested Yogi and his men, he along with other officials was suspended by Mulayam government. The new DM sent by Mulayam administration to Gorakhpur first visited Yogi in the jail, after taking charge. Obviously, the communal forces were emboldened and thus starting with a minor scuffle, the assault on Muslims spread to Basti, Kushi Nagar, Deoria and elsewhere.

In the name of controlling the ‘riots’, Mulayam government deployed PAC in these areas, which is notorious for its blatant anti-minority bias. With the help of PAC, HYV activists looted the houses and business complexes of minorities and set them on fire. In Padrauna, the HQ of Kushi Nagar district, CPI(ML) investigation team found that the communal violence spread there only after PAC was deployed. PAC instigated the mobs to indulge in arson and loot. A similar pattern was repeated in many other centres.

Earlier during the Mau riots also, where at least half a dozen innocent people fell victim to the communal violence, the Mulayam government had remained a mute spectator for full 72 hours and when RSS- BJP launched a mischievous misinformation campaign about Hindu massacre in Mau, the Mulayam Government did nothing to counter it. However, later the truth came out that in Mau communal violence too the key role was played by HYV.

It may appear shocking for those who believe that Mulayam Singh is fighting a messianic battle against the communal forces in UP, that the Chief Minister of UP doled out Rs. 8 crore from the Government exchequer to the Vishwa Hindu Parishad for organizing a Sant Sammelan in Allahabad from February 11-13. And with this money, the most notorious of the RSS outfits, VHP has launched an aggressive fascist propaganda through posters, hoardings and so-called Sant sammelans! A PIL is pending in the Allahabad High Court, urging that the public money be reimbursed from the VHP.

The degree of strategic relations between SP and BJP can be gauged from the fact that the UP government accorded the status of state guest to BJP leaders when they assembled in Lucknow last month for the Party’s National Executive Meet. Public money was wasted on their stay in luxurious hotels. And it was this Executive Committee Meet which heralded the ‘return’ of BJP to its offensive Hindutva agenda. All sorts of rhetorical speeches were made to communally charge the atmosphere and whip up hysteria around the issues of Ram Temple, ‘Muslim appeasement’ and terrorism. Kalyan Singh, who is being projected as next Chief Minister, used highly objectionable language against the Muslim community.”

As Adityanath takes over the reins of UP, the divisive fire has started to spread. Slaughter houses have been shut down on the pretext that they are “illegal” – poor Muslims running these places will have to apply for fresh licenses. Anti-Romeo squads are indulging in full scale moral policing, harassing young men and young women out in public spaces in the name of keeping women safe. In keeping with Adityanath’s views on restricting women’s freedom, such “protection” is not only aimed at targeting Muslim youth but at restricting women’s rights. Several people, mostly Muslim, have already been arrested in UP for posting ‘objectionable’ posts about Adityanath on social media. In a video from Meerut, a Hindu woman can be seen thrashing a group of Muslim women as her husband shouts out from behind her “Your father Yogi is now CM, you’re done for.”

The thinly veiled pretence that Aditynath style Hindutva hate is ‘fringe’ while the Modi ‘mainstream’ stands for ‘development’ has been dropped. It is all too clear that Hindutva is at the core of Modi’s agenda of pro-corporate development. Progressive forces must build resistance both to the anti-people economic policies as well as the Hindutva hate agenda. 

 

Posted in India0 Comments

Bengaluru Municipality Contract Sanitation Workers Strike on Women’s Day

NOVANEWS

Image result for Women’s Day PHOTO

The official Government ‘celebrations’ of International Women’s Day came a cropper in Bengaluru thanks to a powerful strike by the city Municipal Corporation’s contract sanitation workers (97% of whom are Dalit women). The BBMP (the local administrative body in Bangalore) had not paid the workers arrears from August 2016. After a series of protests, wages for the contracted powrakarmikas (corporation workers) had been revised from Rs 7000 in most wards to Rs 14000 through a government notification. However, the BBMP has continued to pay the former unrevised wages. While the BBMP claims that the money for the arrears has been released, the passbooks of the workers indicate that they have not received it. The powrakarmikas of the union, the BBMP Guttige Powrakarmikara Sangha decided to Strike on International Women’s Day, to demand that the BBMP pay them their arrears, and also ensure their safety and dignity at work.

‘Know Your Powrakarmika’ Campaign

In the week before 8 March, an intense campaign was held in the Indiranagar, Koramangala, Malleswaram and RT Nagar areas, appealing to residents to ‘Know Your Powrakarmika’ and highlighting the insanitary, inhuman and dangerous conditions under which sanitation work is done. This campaign was all the more important because this work and the workers are kept ‘invisible’. The campaign held photo exhibitions highlighting the lives and work of the powrakarmikas, and involved children in creating street graffiti in support of the workers. On social media, the campaign shared a video of a protest song (with music by Hanumantharayappa) which hailed the sanitation worker, singing “Jhadamali, if you do not sweep the streets, the roosters do not crow, nor does the sun rise in the morning…the life-long struggle for food is soiled by shit and filth in the gutters…” A recent health check-up of powrakarmikas found a very large proportion of them suffering from mouth cancer from the betel-nut they chewed to avoid having to drink water. Drinking water would mean that they would need toilets – and they have no access to toilets while at work on the streets. In most wards, the workers are receiving Rs 7000. In HAL Airport ward the wages are as low as Rs 6000 and in some wards such as Gandhinagar wages are as low as Rs 5000.

On 3 March, five days before Women’s Day, more than 3000 students from St Joseph’s Commerce College, St Joseph’s Evening College, Mount Carmel College, Aloysius College, Jyothi Nivas College, St Joseph’s Arts and Science College and Jain College responded to an appeal by the Union, and gathered at Town Hall in support of the striking workers, where a skit was performed and the photo exhibition displayed. When the Mayor, Ms G Padmavathi came to meet the gathering, students submitted a memorandum to her, pointing out that the workers “clean our drainages, handle the garbage of the city, take out the dirt of our toilets and latrines sometimes even with the bare hands and do all other kinds of menial work,” and “are abused by contractors, not paid just wages by the government and ill-treated by society. Residents insult them, citizens curse and abuse them and they are treated with contempt. They are victims of verbal, physical and even sexual abuse with no recourse to grievance redressal.” The memorandum raised the issue of caste, “All of them belong to the untouchable community of Madigas, mostly women who have no option of moving into another job given their traditional occupation and stigma attached to it. Society simply does not accept them in other occupations.” They said, “What shocks us more than anything else is the treatment meted out to them by the state and government. They are denied a wage for living. …The contractors who have been in charge of the Powrakarmikas have been their greatest exploiters.”

f. Full compliance with the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act 2013.

Women’s Day Strike!

On 8 March 2017, more than 1000 powrakarmikas gathered outside the BBMP office in protest against the apathy of the government towards their inhuman working condition and the blatant violation of labour laws with non-payment of wages. Contractors in several wards threatened the workers against going on strike. Braving the threats, thousands of workers gathered from Indiranagar, RT Nagar, Koramanagala, Hegganahalli, Kengeri, Ramamurthynagar, Gandhinagar, Banaswadi and Yelahanka outside the BBMP headquarters.

Most newspapers that morning had IWD features raising issues of safety and rights – but mostly even the more serious stories invisibilised caste and raised concerns only of the women of privileged classes. Advertisements and government propaganda meanwhile played to stereotypes of women as consumers of cosmetics, gifts who are obsessed with their looks and body image.

The powrakarmikas arrived at the BBMP office to find that the Karnataka government was hosting its own Women’s Day celebration on the premises of the BBMP office itself, with stalls selling handicrafts and offering body-fat check-ups for women. What a contrast between these stalls and the women with callused hands and lined faces, full of energetic slogans and embodying the real IWD fighting spirit on the other side of the road!

The police was most distressed by the gathering numbers of powrakarmikas, particularly because the Chief Minister was scheduled to make an appearance at the official Women’s Day programme. A police officer told some activists, “Why did you have to protest on Women’s Day? If you want to celebrate Women’s Day why don’t you ask the women to go to the official stalls and buy something?” The powrakarmikas, hearing this, asked the cops, “We haven’t been paid by the Corporation and you now want us to buy stuff at the Corporation’s stalls?”

When the CM turned up in his car, he rolled down his window to greet the women, thinking they were crowds gathered for the government IWD event. He heard the angry slogans of women workers directed at him and hastily rolled up his window again!

A bust representing a powrakarmika had been made by a group of artists. After some hassling with the police who refused to allow it to be installed on the premises, the bust was tied to the outer fence of the Corporation office as a symbol of protest. A theatre group also joined the workers with beats and drums carrying with them a giant giant papier maché figure representing a powrakarmika. The lively IWD demonstration by the powrakarmikas soon attracted the attention of all bystanders while the official government stalls were left desolate. Students who had been tasked with operating the government stalls all came over to the other side, enquiring about what the protests was about. They could all be heard talking amongst themselves, expressing shock and dismay at the government’s treatment of the workers.

‘Varalakshmi Is My Name, Do What You Like!’

An agitated Mayor Ms G Padmavathi came out to demand from the workers why they were striking today. She told them, “You should be careful, you may be fired.” At this, Varalakshmi stood up defiantly and declared her name and ward number, daring the Mayor to “Do what you please, I’m not scared of you!” Other workers asked Ms Padmavathi, “Aren’t we women, don’t our rights matter?”

Contractors from Horamavu and Ramurthynagar also arrived at the scene with one of them threatening to fire the workers for striking. The powrakarmikas responded with even louder slogans.

Several activists, students and filmmakers came out to declare support for the powrakarmikas’ IWD Strike, including film director BM Giriraj, noted activist and writer G Ramakrishna, and leading feminist activist Donna Fernandes.

A journalist came up to ask Meena, a powrakarmika, what her demands were. Meena’s teenage daughter Monisha was by her side, and interrupted her mother to tell the journalist, “My mother has always wanted to visit Cubbon Park, I want her to get a weekly day off, so that I can take her to spend the day at the park!”

A Victory

After a few hours of protest, the BBMP commissioner called the Union members in to his office to discuss the demands. The four main demands raised were:

      1) Immediate payment of arrears which amounts to about Rs 30,000 to Rs 40,000

2) Regularisation as has been promised by the Karnataka cabinet and chief minister Siddharamiah

3) Weekly off, festival off and national holiday off

4) Direct payment of arrears and future salaries from the government

The Commissioner responded with the following assurances:

      1) Rs. 21,000/- will be deposited in workers accounts in 2 weeks, the remaining will be deposited in 1 month.

2) BBMP will regularize Powrakarmikas, but modalities need to be worked out so it will take time

3) Weekly off will be started soon. Commissioner will meet with the Union representatives next week to discuss modalities of the weekly off on rotation basis.

4) The Chief Minister has also ordered BBMP to pay arrears and future salaries directly, and this will be started in the next few weeks

The Commissioner came out to speak to the workers and make the agreement public. When he said “the Government wants to ensure that the children of powrakarmikas are not forced to become powrakarmikas in turn, one of the workers, Anjamma retorted, “The only way to ensure this is by regularizing the contract workers today.”

Based on the assurance given by the commissioner, the strike was withdrawn. There was some scepticism as the same promise had been made about four times before as well. However, in the week following the Strike, the government has slowly started paying the arrears to the workers. While they are yet to reach all the workers, the March 8 Women’s Day protest certainly succeeded in pressuring the government to pay the workers their wages and ensure a minimum dignity of labour. However, there is still a long way to go with the modalities for the weekly off and the proper implementation of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act for powrakarmikas, yet to be worked out. 

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Reports: AIPWA Vidhan Sabha March in Bihar

NOVANEWS

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Thousands of women demonstrated under the banner of AIPWA in front of the Chief Minister on 19 March on the issues of education for women students, especially from dalit and weaker sections, increasing violence against women and attempts by the administration to shield the culprits, and justice for the victims. The protest march started from Gate Public Library, proceeded to the Vidhan Sabha and culminated in a meeting at Gardanibagh.

The speakers said that contrary to the Nitish government’s claims of empowering women, they are actually being attacked in various ways. Lack of adequate number of schools, lack of facilities in existing schools, insufficient number of higher education institutes in districts and inability of guardians to send their daughters to cities for higher education, and paucity of infrastructure and teachers in district level institutions are serious deterrents to women’s education in the State. Moreover, several cases of rape, murder, death due to lack of medical facilities, and molestation have come to light in Ambedkar and Kasturba Vidyalayas. In the Dika rape and murder case the police failed even to add sections under POCSO and gang rape and no charge sheet has been filed even two and a half months after the incident. The Nawada girl student was even forced to change her statement under threat. The speakers stressed their determination to continue the struggle on the issues of education, dignity and security.

Sankalp Yatra in Memory of Comrade Srilata

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The CPI(ML) Sangharsh Sankalp Yatra, resolving to carry forward the struggles of late Com. Srilata Swaminathan, reached Manpura in the evening of 26 February 2017. The Yatra from Udaipur to Ghantali, Banswada passed through Piladar, Gatod, Jaisamand, Veerpura, Kantoda, Sallara, Dingari, Kejad, Sarada, Badgaon, Badavali, Intali Pal, Intali Khera, Dagar, Baroda, Dharod, Dudar, Salumber, and Jodsagar Bhagal before reaching Manpura. As it passed through the villages, Party activists spoke to the people and gathered their views on MNREGA, education, health care, ration, women’s safety and other issues.

CPI(ML) State Committee member Shankar Lal Chaudhury said the Yatra had started from Udaipur and had held public meetings at Kewra, Oda, Rela, Devpura, Paluna, Palodara, Amarpura, Piladar and other villages and reached Bovas in the evening. He said that no MNREGA work was going on in any of these villages and the people are deeply troubled by unemployment. In the name of constructing toilets, incomplete structures have been put up which cannot be used; people have no option but to defecate in open spaces as they used to earlier. Party District Secretary Dr Chandra Dev Ola said that the Yatra would move forward the next day and would hold meetings and people’s interaction at Malpur, Morila, Rajpura, Devgaon, Kholri, Bhimpur-Barbadd, Jhallara, Bhagal, Dhikadhola, Payra, Ghated, Dhawda, Sanjola, Hadmatiya, Matasula, Jhadap and other villages.

Addressing the meetings at various villages Party State Secretary Mahendra Chaudhury said that Com. Srilata Swaminathan had for forty years waged a dedicated struggle against oppression in Adivasi regions of the State. She worked hard to organize the rural poor and adivasis against atrocities by feudal forces, moneylenders, forest officers and the police. He said that the Party would organize movements to carry forward her struggles for the poor and adivasis of the State.

The foundation stone for a memorial for Comrade Srilata was laid in Ghantali village by party Central Committee Member Com. Prabhat and CPI (ML)’s Rajasthan state secretary Com. Mahendra Chowdhary.

Bagmati Dam Construction Stayed Under People’s Pressure

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Thousands of workers, farmers, and common citizens blocked the NH 57 at Benibad (Muzaffarpur) and NH 50 at Vishupur (Darbhanga) on 9 March 2017 on the issue of stopping work on the destructive Baghmati dam construction, responding to a call by the CPI (ML) and the ‘Chaas Vaas Jeevan Bachao-Baghmati Bachao Sangharsh Morcha’. Earlier, about 5000 people led by Comrades Dhirendra Jha, Laxmeshwar Mishra, Jitendra Yadav and Krishna Mohan blocked the NH-57 at Benibad, paralyzing traffic in several districts.

A Satyagraha fast was started on 7 February 2017 at Benibad in Gayaghat village of Muzaffarpur with the following demands: constituting a high level committee for review of the Baghmati dam project on the basis of present geographical conditions; guarantee of housing for the displaced; withdrawal of the ridiculous and false cases slapped on protestors and ending the conspiracy of repression to stop the agitation. Sitting on the fast are 4 women—district councilor Vijnesh Yadav, Sarpanch Kanchan Kumari, social activist Neelu Singh, and Deputy Sarpanch Radha Devi—and social activists including Ramlochan Singh, Dinesh Sahni and ex-Sarpanch Jagannath Paswan. After the satyagraha, the DM had given the assurance of staying the dam construction work but he went back on his word and the construction work continued; the people’s anger against this broken word has resulted in the blockade of the National Highway. The BDO had come to the venue on behalf of the DM and assured that the construction work would be stopped, after which the road block ended.
Morcha convener Jitendra Yadav announced that a ‘Jansunwai’ (people’s hearing) would be held in Patna on 29 March. The Darbhanga blockade was led by Comrades Baidyanath Yadav, Sunil Yadav, Pappu Paswan, Surendra Paswan, Lallan Choudhury, Shivsagar Choudhury and others.

Protest In Koderma Against Killing Of Dalit Villager By Police For Playing Holi

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On the day of Holi the police beat to death Pradeep Choudhury, a dalit in Tehri village, Satgawa block, Koderma district, after a police chowkidar complained that Pradeep had sprinkled Holi colour on him. On 19 March 2017 hundreds of people led by MLA Rajkumar Yadav marched in angry protest against this through Satgawa bazaar, Kolidih and Basodih to Madhopur where a meeting was held. Addressing the meeting Rajkumar Yadav said that clearly Pradeep Choudhury’s death was a result of the police beating but the police is trying to propagate the lie that Pradeep was an epilepsy patient and to register his death as a case of unnatural death which is completely false. He said that if the responsible police personnel are not arrested by 20 March the CPI (ML) would launch a massive agitation.
Following the protest the DIG, SP and other officials met the victim’s family and gave the assurance that an unbiased enquiry would be conducted into the incident.

A huge protest march was also held in Jhumri Talaiyya against Pradeep’s killing. The speakers addressing the meeting said that Pradeep’s wife has also given a public statement that severe beating by the police was the cause of her husband’s death. They demanded that a case of murder should be registered in Pradeep’s death and appealed to the people to participate in the gherao of the Collectorate on 28 March and strengthen the fight for justice.

Youth Conference in Bangladesh

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On 25–27 February, 2017, the 7th National conference of YUB (Youth Unity of Bangladesh), Bangladesh Jubonotri, was organized at Dhaka, Bangladesh. Youth Unity of Bangladesh is the Youth Organization of Workers party of Bangladesh. On behalf of Revolutionary Youth Association (RYA), National vice-president, Com. Navkiran Natt, attended the conference. Com. Abhay Mukopadhyay, National Gen. Secy. Of DYFI, Com. Zamir Mola, State secy. DYFI, Com. Top Bahadur B C from CPMUML Nepal, Com. Stephen from Youth League Rebel, Germany, Com. Alex and Com. Hakki Erman Ergincan from Vanguard Youth Turkey, also participated in the conference.

The Conference started with a huge mass rally starting from Shaheed Minar, Bangladesh to YUB’s office where it was converted into a public meeting. The public meeting was addressed by the leaders of worker’s party of Bangladesh and Youth Unity of Bangladesh, where they raised concerns about the rise of right wing forces in the country, and deplorable conditions of the youth and workers of Bangladesh. Leaders from various countries also addressed the meeting, stressing the growing need of international unity of left and democratic forces to combat the attack of the rise of right wing forces internationally.
On the second day, 26th February, delegate session of the conference was organized. On this occasion, all the foreign guests and participants addressed the delegates.

Com. Sabbaha Ali Khan Collins was elected as National President, and Com. Shaiful Islam Tapan was elected as New Gen. Sec. of YUB.

On the third day of the conference, an international seminar “Raise The Voice For Employment, Secularism, and Democracy” was held. 

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Identifying the Foundations of Womens’ Oppression, Charting the Course of Struggles for Liberation

NOVANEWS

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8 March – International Women’s Day – was born in the struggles that women factory workers in their thousands waged against bondage a century ago. Communists began the tradition of observing IWD in memory of those struggles. Ironically, the powers-that-be and the advertisements all across try to hide the real legacy of Women’s Day and seek to establish a different narrative. They try to tell us that International Women’s Day (IWD) is an occasion when husbands are supposed to buy women washing machines and kitchen gadgets, when boyfriends are supposed to buy them flowers, and governments are supposed to make promises for ‘women empowerment’. So it is important for us to collectively reassert the fighting legacy of the international women’s day and draw lessons for the tasks and challenges at hand. On the occasion of International Women’s Day 2017 let us reiterate some key concerns of the women’s movement.

Origins of Gender Oppression

Women’s oppression is not ‘natural’ – it came into being in the course of human history. Marxism helps us to identify the material circumstances in which such oppression was born and in which it is sustained. In the most early human societies, women were not oppressed, and there was no rigid ‘gender division of labour.’ That is, women could hunt and gather food just as men did. Women were revered for their ability to give birth, and pregnant women or nursing mothers might stay away from hunts. But as such, there was no concept of gender inequality.

Engels, in his book “The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State”, shows us that institutions like ‘family’ and monogamous marriage are historic institutions – i.e. they came into being at a certain juncture in history, coinciding with the rise of private property and class conflict.

Engels looks are historic evidence of how early human societies – and surviving indigenous (adivasi) societies – do not have systematic gender or class inequality and oppression. The knowledge of who is the father of a child is not considered important. Families trace their lineage from mother to daughter.

With the domestication of animals and with agriculture, humans were able to create and preserve a surplus – over and above the bare minimum needed to survive. Class-divisions emerged in society as a section of humans began to control the surplus and treat it as ‘private property’ or private wealth. Coinciding with the emergence of class society, we find the rise of inequality between men and women.

The family and monogamous marriage are institutions that help to ensure that property can be inherited from father to son – and to ensure a legitimate son, women’s sexuality must be controlled and monogamy ensured. Engels shows how throughout the history of monogamy, monogamy has been enforced only on women while men have been free to have sexual relations outside of marriage. We can add here that the ideological privileging of heterosexual monogamy was also accompanied in some societies by the criminalisation of homosexuality and other sexual orientations and identities. Just as there is nothing ‘natural’ about women’s oppression, there is nothing ‘unnatural’ about homosexuality.

With the rise of private property, production moved outside the household and was controlled by men – while tasks of ‘reproduction’ – not only bearing children but the work of ‘reproducing’ society and the next generation, i.e. cooking, cleaning, caring for children, the elderly etc. were relegated to the ‘private’ sphere (the family) and allotted to women. The gender division of labour was born. Engels observed that

    “With the patriarchal family, and still more with the single monogamous family, a change came. Household management lost its public character. It no longer concerned society. It became a private service; the wife became the head servant, excluded from all participation in social production.”

What happens to the family institution under capitalism? Capitalism requires women and even children to be drawn into the workforce as paid labour. But it also requires women to continue to bear the burden of unpaid care work inside the household. Let us understand this problem a little better.

Capitalism Needs Domestic Labour

Marx identified labour power as the source of surplus value. What is surplus value? It is value produced by the worker in excess of the minimum value required to sustain and regenerate the worker and replenish his or her labour power. The capitalist seeks to push down this minimum value as low as possible, so as to increase the surplus value. That is, it seeks to pay the worker as little as possible. To understand this better, let’s look at a poster.

The poster shows workers entering a factory gate in the morning and coming out in the evening. What happens between that entry and exit? How do the workers who exit the workplace exhausted each evening – their labour power depleted – make it to work again the next morning with their labour power replenished? The answer is: the workers’ labour power is replenished by those who cook meals for them, provide various kinds of comfort and care inside the home. And the bulk of such work is done by women.

The capitalist knows that workers need meals, a roof over the head, a bed, sleep – so as to be available for work the next day. Plus, the capitalist also needs the workforce of the future to be reproduced – i.e. children to be born. And it needs future workers (children of workers) to be cared for. It also needs the unemployed – members of the reserve army of labour – to be cared for. Moreover there is the problem of past workers – retired workers, aged and elderly people etc. But the capitalist does not wish to have to bear the burden of this cooking and care, because if either the individual capitalist or the State pays for this burden, it decreases the surplus value produced by the worker. Much of this (unpaid) labour of cooking, cleaning, caring for children and the elderly, providing loving human communication and care is done by people within households, families and communities – and the bulk of this labour is done by women.

Let us look at another poster from the workers’ struggle for the 8-hour day. The poster declares that the 24-hour day must be divided into three parts: 8 hours each for work, rest, and ‘what we will’ (whatever we like or enjoy). Of course, the capitalist wants to increase the ‘work’ part of the day as much as possible, and shrink the ‘rest’ and ‘leisure’ part of the day as much as possible. Contract sanitation workers working for the Bengaluru Municipal Corporation get no leave, no holidays. During a Strike they observed on 8 March, Monisha, the teenage daughter of one of the workers Meena, told a journalist that Meena had always wanted to visit Cubbon Park, and she would take her there if only the corporation would give the workers a day off. (See the report by Sanjana on the Strike in this IWD feature in this issue of Liberation.) Time for leisure – to visit a park, relax with one’s daughter – is still important even for those workers who have other very pressing demands.

But think about this 24-hour day from the point of view of a woman.

If a woman is not a paid worker, she is actually working 24 hours a day – because domestic labour has no fixed working hours: if a baby cries in the night or wets itself, it must be attended to immediately. If she is a paid worker, she is doing a double shift, because after a hard day at work, she still has to come home and cook and care for others. She does not have 8 hours for rest and 8 hours for ‘what you will’ (which can include leisure, enjoyment as well as something like attending meetings of unions and women’s organisations.) She has a much harder struggle than men to make time for these activities.

Think about it – this domestic labour is endless. It involves collecting fuel and water as well as the actual process of cooking. It involves playing with children, wiping the tears of a crying child, waking up in the middle of the night to care for a sick child or adult.

Now some will say – ‘how great women are, they do this wonderful work uncomplainingly, because that is the nature of women. Women’s Day is an occasion to salute such women, give them our respect.’ But we say that such ‘praise’ is an ideological ploy – a way of justifying and glorifying oppression. The women’s movement as well as revolutionary Marxists all over the world have challenged the ideology that claims that such unpaid, unrecognised labour of social reproduction is ‘natural’ to women and is ‘women’s work.’ They have said that a) men must share this domestic labour and b) the employer and the State must be made to bear greater burdens of social reproduction, by providing welfare measures, water, fuel, food, messes or canteens providing cooked food, pensions for the elderly, healthcare, maternity benefits, education and child care etc.

Who Does The Tasks Of Social Reproduction?

Women, as we have already noted, bear the bulk of the burden of domestic labour, which is part of the labour of ‘social reproduction.’ Capitalism needs labour power to be reproduced – and women bear the burden of this reproduction. The tasks of social reproduction do not only comprise unpaid work done inside the home: they also comprise paid domestic work, sanitation work, cooking mid-day meals in schools, teaching, healthcare work and so on. In India such work is often contractualised and extremely underpaid. It is no coincidence that much of this underpaid work of social reproduction is also done by women. And also, Dalits and Dalit women do a disproportionate share of the forms of social reproductive labour that are considered ‘dirty.’

Social reproduction also involves the reproduction of the entire structure of oppressive social relationships of class, caste, gender, race – day after day, generation after generation. In India, controlling women’s reproduction and sexuality is required not only to maintain the patriarchal transfer of private property but also to ensure the reproduction of the caste system. It is in large measure through the institutions of family/household that control of women’s reproduction and sexuality is achieved and women’s unpaid domestic labour is made possible.

Challenging the Patriarchal Commonsense of ‘Private/Public’, ‘Home/World’ Binary

A Marxist approach to the women’s movement helps us to look at the entire structure of society – and the role of women’s inequality and oppression – whole rather than through the binaries of ‘ghare’ and ‘baire’, ‘family’ and ‘workplace,’ ‘private’ and ‘public.’

In the dominant discourse, we find that on the one hand it is argued that women are ‘safe’ within families and face ‘danger’ when ‘forced’ to go ‘outside’ (to work, to defecate, to study etc). On the other hand, gender and caste discrimination, oppression and violence is defined as a problem of ‘culture’ – basically a problem of the sphere of the ‘family’ or ‘community,’ and so the ‘private’ problem of individuals and families or the ‘cultural’ problem of communities rather than the problem and responsibility of the State and public institutions. How do we challenge this dominant discourse?

We can see very clearly how the family/household institution disciplines and schools women in unpaid care work duties; teaches men entitlement over women’s labour, sexuality and reproduction; defines domestic violence as the “chastisement” of women for failure to do her “duties”; and helps to reproduce the ideologies and hierarchies of caste and gender, generation after generation.

In India, National Family Health Survey (NFHS) 2005-06 data, as well as data gathered by the Indian Human Development Survey (IHDS) 2012 establish how denial of autonomy is itself a form of violence and discrimination faced by Indian women. It is important to emphasise this point, because State policies as well as patriarchal common sense often prescribe and impose restrictions on women’s autonomy and mobility in the name of keeping them ‘safe’ from violence.

• Only 5% of women in India have sole control over choosing their husbands – IHDS 2012• 79.88% of women need permission to visit a health centre – IHDS 2012

NFHS 2005-06 data shows that the patriarchal sense of entitlement to women’s domestic services, helps legitimise domestic violence. Between 34-62 percent of men and women – ranging from educated to illiterate – believe that domestic violence is justified for one reason or another. Both category of respondents, men and women, tended to justify wife beating on the following ‘grounds’ – if wives argue with the husband, fail to show proper respect to in-laws, neglect the house or children, or go out without telling the husband. Women are tied by very widespread domestic violence to the social reproductive domestic roles ‘fixed’ for them – but patriarchal hegemony ensures that a large percentage of women accept such violence as the norm.

Even rape statistics in India reveal a high level of disguised violence against women’s autonomy. In her article ‘Rape, Rhetoric and Reality’, (The Hindu, December 19, 2014), Rukmini S points out that no less than 40% of “what is classified as rape (in Delhi police files) is actually parental criminalisation of consensual sexual relationships, often when it comes to inter-caste and inter-religious couples.” Each of the women in these ‘rape’ cases, then, are victims not of rape, but of coercion and violence by their own parents, families, and communities in their own homes. But this violence remains an open secret, in which even the police is complicit, and such violence now enjoys political sanction and encouragement from political forces patronised by ruling parties.

Domestic violence as well as restrictions on women’s mobility then are inflicted on women by the families and communities they are born in, in order to prevent them from posing a threat to the caste order. And once married, women are subjected to domestic violence to discipline them into performing social reproductive labour. In India marriage involves moving into the marital home, which is often far away from the woman’s natal home. One of the most common forms of domestic violence is to prevent the newly-wed woman from contacting her parents and friends. The bride is subjected to various forms of humiliation and shaming – a sort of ‘ragging’ that is supposed to break her into her new role. As a result, the newly-wed bride’s situation becomes comparable in vulnerability to that of migrant labour. This isolation and vulnerability of the new bride, a migrant in ‘her own home,’ mostly disguised and romanticised ideologically, becomes starkly visible in instances for example in Haryana where, thanks to the low sex ratio, brides are ‘imported’ and purchased from other states.

Disciplinary Methods Drawn From Caste and Household Systems

Not only households, even the State feel entitled to demand social reproductive labour from women: both unpaid labour inside the home as well as severely underpaid ‘voluntary’ labour from incentive- or honorarium-based workers. The State, then, has no interest in challenging the systematic denial of women’s autonomy or the ‘normalcy’ of domestic violence. This leads to a peculiar situation where state-led campaigns exhort society to allow girls to be born – so that they can grow up to fulfil social reproductive duties later! Beti Bachao campaign slogans such as Beti nahin bachaoge to bahu kahan se laoge (If you don’t save a daughter today how will you get a bride tomorrow) – reflect the fact that such campaigns originated in Haryana with the ‘Unmarried Men’s Union’ (Avivahit Purush Sangathan) who declared that the low sex ratio was preventing them from getting the brides from the prescribed caste and community – brides they felt entitled to having. The Swacch Bharat campaign widely uses slogans and advertisements suggesting that toilets should be built so that daughters and daughter-in-law, who should be veiled and whose place is in the home, should never have to go outside the house.

Widespread restrictions on women’s mobility in India are one of the factors responsible for the low workforce participation rate of women. The state and capitalist forces want more women to be drawn into the labour force – but at the same time they want to prevent and curb the likely consequences of women joining the workforce: greater autonomy and mobility and control over their own lives.

In both production and social reproduction work, women workers are disciplined using tools and methods drawn from the social reproductive spheres of the household and the education system, as well as from the caste system. By doing so, the Indian State and Indian Governments seek to offer a docile, disciplined and unlikely-to-revolt (or so they hope) female workforce as an incentive to global capital to ‘Make in India.’ So, young women garment workers (mostly Dalit) in Tamil Nadu factories producing for global brands, keep women under strict surveillance in hostels, prevent any social outing or mobility outside the hostel or factory premises; punish socialisation between female and male workers; ban mobile phones for women workers and mete out humiliating casteist punishments to them for violating these rules. The factory managements justify these restrictions (similar to restrictions in women’s hostels in education institutions) by claiming that the workers’ families demand them.

The social relationships of caste and gender together are also other means of disciplining workers. For instance, in rural Bihar or Andhra Pradesh, the upper caste landlord will assert a feudal sense of entitlement over not only the labour but the sexual being of Dalit women labourers. What happens when the women workers migrate to the city? One woman sanitation worker in Bangalore, a Dalit migrant woman from Andhra Pradesh, referring to the fact that the contractors contractors are also from Andhra Pradesh and inevitably from the dominant Reddy (Kapu) caste, put it this way, “We escaped our villages in Chittur, Nellore, Ananthpuram and other districts of Andhra and ran to Bangalore to escape the caste oppression at the hands of the Kapus and they have now followed us to the cities and force us to shed our sweat and blood for them to prosper!”

Communal Fascism and the Metaphor of ‘Family’

Communal fascists also exploit the widespread anxieties over women’s sexual autonomy as a threat to the caste system. They use the slogan of love jihad to foment communal hatred and violence directed at real and imagined inter-faith love.

It is significant that one of the central metaphors of the Sangh’s ‘social harmony’ rhetoric is that of the ‘home’ – ‘Ghar,’ and its sister-term ‘family’ – ‘parivar.’ This metaphor is evoked to valorize the patriarchal family and subjugation of women – even to the extent of justifying wife-beating as necessary chastisement of erring wives. (‘Holier Than Cow: Wisdom on women from a Rashtra Sevika Sangh camp,’ Neha Dixit, Outlook, 28 January 2013) The RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat describes the RSS as ‘familyist not feminist;’ feminist assertions of women’s autonomy are painted as Western-inspired disruptions of the harmonious Indian family. Oppressive social practices and restrictions on women’s mobility are all rationalized as having evolved to ‘protect’ women from ‘rapacious Muslims’.

Hindu religion is described, moreover, as the ‘home’ for Dalits and Muslims, and to prescribe and order ‘ghar wapsi’ – ‘return home’ for these sections. The RSS and BJP recast relations between workers and bosses as harmonious relations within the ‘industry family,’ whereby justifying erosion and dilution of labour laws. To justify child labour and dilute the child labour abolition laws, in the name of allowing ‘family-based’ occupations to employ children.

The analogy of ‘family’ and ‘home’ are invoked not only to glamourise gender hierarchy but class and caste hierarchies. And communal violence in the name of curbing ‘love jehad’ are as hostile to women’s autonomy and equality as to the claims of Muslim and Dalit men to equality and dignity.

Some Conclusions

What are some of the conclusions that revolutionary Marxists and all those who want to fight patriarchy and structures of oppression can draw?

We cannot say that we must fight ‘cultural’ arena first, change mindsets, and that the task of challenging structures of production can come ‘later.’

Neither can we say that we must fight ‘economic’ oppression first and that the questions of violence and discrimination and attacks on women’s autonomy inside households can come ‘later.’

We can’t say we will fight communal fascism first, women’s rights and equality can come ‘later.’

We can’t say we will fight to annihilate caste first, and questions of gender and women’s freedom can come ‘later.’

We have to fight on all these fronts together – seeing how essential each such fight is to other fights.

It means the asserting the right to autonomy in households and family – women’s azaadi (freedom) inside homes from their own parents, brothers, husbands, control over her own life, decisions, sexuality and reproduction – as central to struggles to annihilate caste, resist communalism, organise working class struggles. It means working class struggles can’t be organised only on factory floors or workplaces – but everywhere, including in the communities where workers live. In those areas, it will mean demanding state support for social reproductive tasks (homes, running water, fuel, public toilets, food rations, children’s education, health, maternity entitlements, pensions for all etc). 
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Salt of the Earth

The 1954 film Salt of the Earth, based on a real miners’ struggle of 1950s USA, shows how Mexican-American mine-workers in America realise, during a historic Strike, that they cannot win the battle against the bosses without the unity and mutual equality and respect of the male mine-workers and the women. The male workers and Union leaders initially don’t think the women’s demand for hot running water in their homes (as was provided in the white workers’ homes) was worth including in the Strike’s main demands. They would tell women that the first priority was workplace safety and wage equality between Mexican and white workers, and better sanitation could come ‘later.’ The women in reply remind of the immense labour it takes to chop wood as fuel to heat water needed for daily chores: “We ought to be in the wood choppers’ union. Chop wood for breakfast. Chop wood to wash his clothes. Chop wood, heat the iron. Chop wood, scrub the floor. Chop wood, cook his dinner.” When a court order prohibits male workers from picketing, women take over the Strike’s picket lines. When women are jailed, men have to do the unwaged housework – and quickly realise how housework ‘never ends’, and how important the issue of hot running water is. They realise the need to address “two kinds of slavery, wage slavery and domestic slavery” and the question of “Equality in jobs, equality in the home” together.

In the film, Esperanza, the wife of the Union leader Ramon who resents her activism and independence, says to him, “Yes. I talk of dignity. The Anglo bosses look down on you, and you hate them for it. “Stay in your place, you dirty Mexican” — that’s what they tell you. But why must you say to me, “Stay in your place.” Do you feel better having someone lower than you? Whose neck shall I stand on, to make me feel superior? And what will I get out of it? I don’t want anything lower than I am. I’m low enough already. I want to rise. And push everything up with me as I go …And if you can’t understand this you’re a fool — because you can’t win this strike without me! You can’t win anything without me!”

Ramon eventually understands this truth, and the united action of men and women together wins the Strike. This 1954 film teaches us a lot today – about how issues of ‘equality’ (of race/caste and gender) at the workplace as well as in the community and in households are as central to class struggle as the issues of wages.

It will mean asserting women’s right to toilet breaks, food, workplace safety, healthcare etc – as well as equal wages and committees against sexual harassment at the workplace. It will mean asserting that Dalit men and women will no longer do the work of cleaning human or animal excreta or animal carcasses. It will mean challenging the feudal-style caste hierarchies between maalik (boss) and mazdoor (worker) that are found in rural India but often reproduced in cities. It means fighting for women’s fullest freedom in those communities and in the process confronting caste and communal divisions directly and breaking down these divisions. It will mean asserting the right of all women to leisure and pleasure, liberty and equality.

Posted in India0 Comments

Kakkoos – Dirty Secret of Manual Scavenging

NOVANEWS

Image result for Manual Scavenging CARTOON

The All India People’s Forum (AIPF) on 19 March screened Kakkoos, (Toilet) a powerful Tamil documentary film on manual scavenging in Tamil Nadu, directed by Divya. The screening took place in Chennai at the Madras Reporters Guild.

Though the film was released on 26 February 2017, and immediately received much acclaim and positive reviews as a courageous film, the TN police and Government, disturbed by the theme and content of the film, have stopped the screening of the film in Coimbatore, Madurai and Kanyakumari claiming it poses a threat to law and order. Organizations and groups attempting to screen the film were questioned and in some cases even threatened. The AIPF screening was organized to protest against and highlight such draconian attempts to curb free speech and prevent the dirty secret of manual scavenging from being revealed.

Divya, the film’s director and editor, is a CPI(ML) activist from Madurai. She and her team covered many towns and cities in Tamil Nadu on foot to be able to locate manual scavengers – whose work is usually done ‘out of sight.’ The sights and scenes the film covers – men and women cleaning overflowing toilets, toilets clogged with sanitary napkins: cleaning human faeces with their bare hands – are difficult to watch and must have been extremely difficult to film. But it forces the viewer to face facts about the sheer crime of allowing millions of human beings to do such work in India. It shows the unspeakable – and asks hard-hitting questions about caste and class in the process. It is not a film designed to elicit sympathy for manual scavengers: as Divya herself has said many times, she wants people to feel guilt and anger and an urgency to eradicate manual scavenging without a moment’s delay.

The screening was followed by a discussion in which Bezwada Wilson, founder of the Safai Karamchari Andolan and Magsaysay Award Winner, Carnatic vocalist TM Krishna who won the Magsaysay along with Wilson, and Bhasha Singh, activist and author of The Unseen: Manual Scavengers of India participated. The discussion was presided over by R Vidyasagar, convener of AIPF’s Tamil Nadu chapter.

Bezwada Wilson pointed out that Modi who speaks of Swacch Bharat and overnight imposed the disastrous demonetization without a qualm, lacks the political will to abolish manual scavenging. He praised the film for showing a ‘360 degrees’ look at all angles of the question of manual scavenging.

Bhasha Singh commended the film for showing the issues of class, caste and gender as they come together in the lives of the manual scavengers. She said that the Swacch Bharat slogan and campaign and its silence on caste and manual scavenging mocked at the lives of the Dalits condemned to do such demeaning labour.

TM Krishna said he was very much moved by the film and warmly thanked the director Divya and its crew. In the name of culture, he said, there was a tremendous mass movement for Jallikattu and an ordinance was passed with urgency. But what kind of culture sleeps easy while allowing such inhuman manual scavenging, he asked? Caste is not in the shit but in the mindset, he said and that should be eradicated. We need an urgent, powerful people’s movement to annihilating caste and eradicate manual scavenging, he said. He said we saw criminal acts repeatedly done all throughout the film – we also must take responsibility for these criminal acts.

Divya on behalf of the film’s crew thanked everybody who supported the film and AIPF for screening it. She expressed gratitude to Bhasha Singh’s book for inspiring her own work.
A large number of people – young students, intellectuals, artists, journalists, social media activists, professionals, left activists – participated in the screening and discussion, bought the film’s DVD, and contributed to the expense of the event. Noted environmental activist Nityanand Jayaraman, noted Carnatic vocalist Sangeetha Sivakumar, AICCTU All India Secretary Bhuvaneswari, and State President A S Kumar were also present.

The guests were presented with the DVD copy of the film. Divya, the film’s director presented Bhasha Singh with a copy; journalist, social activist and theatre personality Gnani presented TM Krishna with a copy while Comrade Balasundaram, CPIML Central Committee member, presented Bezwada Wilson with a copy.

Posted in India0 Comments

Distortion of History: BSNs Observe Black Day

NOVANEWS

Related image

By Sajjad Shaukat

In order to pollute the minds of the patriot people of the Baluchistan province against the

federation of Pakistan, every year Baloch Sub Nationalists (BSNs) observe March 27 as a black

day on alleged annexation of Kallat state with Pakistan in 1948.

During this very day, shutter down strikes in small and far-flung areas of Balochistan and

demonstrations of small attendance by exiled BSNs take place. As these hostile elements, while

following the foreign agenda of the anti-Pakistan countries distort the historical facts; the Baloch

must need to know the actual perspective about accession of Kallat state with Pakistan.

No doubt, Baloch leaders and people of Balochistan played a vital role in creation of Pakistan,

and ultimately succeeded under the leadership and guidance of Quaid-e- Azam Muhammad Ali

Jinnah in achieving Pakistan as an independent state. In fact, Balochistan is an integral part of

Pakistan with a history of supporting Resolution of Pakistan-1940, which envisaged creation of a

separate homeland for Muslim majority areas of the Sub-continent, as the Baloch had strongly

opposed plan of the united India.

Unfortunately, there are still been certain dissident elements which not only opposed the idea of

Two Nation Theory-the fundamental ideological base for creation of Pakistan, but also left no

stone unturned in polluting the minds of the innocent Baloch by distorting the history of

Balochistan’s accession to Pakistan. In reality, before the independence of Pakistan, the

territories which are now consolidated into the province of Balochistan did not constitute a

settled province. Apart from Quetta District that was administrated under civil law, the rest of the territory was under Frontier Crimes Regulations (FCR). The then government of British India constituted a special body of tribal elders known as “SHAHI JIRGA” for consultation by

Assistant Governor General (AGG) on local issues relating to British Balochistan.

On June 29, 1947, “SHAHI JIRGA” of the British Balochistan as representative body of AGG along with elected members of Quetta Municipal Body unanimously passed a resolution of forming part of Pakistan. The State of Kalat had customary over lordship on the princely states of Kharan,

Makran and Lasbela. As these three states decided to join Pakistan in March 1948, the Khan of

Kalat (KoK) also acceded with Pakistan on March 27, 1948. The brother of KoK Shehzada

Abdul Karim of Kakat having mustered 130 tribesmen started insurgency in 1948 which never

took off ground and the matter was brought under control.

Regretfully, Baloch Sub Nationalists (BSNs) distort history of accession of Kalat with Pakistan

and give reference of the so-called insurgency of 1948 by brother of KoK, whereas the document

of accession of State of Kalat with Pakistan was signed by KoK himself as legitimate ruler of

State of Kalat.

Notably, as a result of the general elections 2013, the government led by the nationalist leader

Chief Minister Balochistan Dr Abdul Malik Baloch was established in Balochistan, while on

December 7, 2013; local bodies elections were largely held in a peaceful manner in the province.

However, these elections proved that majority of the Baloch are loyal to the federation, and do

not favour separation of the Balachistan, as they have rejected the case of separatists, being

projected by anti-Pakistan powers.

Even a Gallup survey of the UK official body, DFID, conducted on July 20, 212, had disclosed

that the vast majority of the Baloch people oppose the idea of an independent Balochistan. This

survey has also proved that some external entities have been conducting acts of sabotage in the

province by backing the minority groups.

As regards the deteriorating situation of Balochistan and the missing persons, everyone knows

that Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA), Baloch Salvation Front (BSF) and their affiliated

outfits, including another group, Jundollah (God’s soldiers) which have been fighting for

secession of the province gets logistic support from American CIA, Indian RAW, and Israeli

Mossad. In the past few years, these militants kidnapped and killed many innocent people and

the security personnel in the province. They also massacred many persons through suicide

attacks, bomb blasts, targeted killings and sectarian violence. Therefore, they are responsible for

dumped bodies and extrajudicial killings in the province. On a number of occasions, these

insurgent groups claimed responsibility for their subversive acts. A majority of the disappeared

individuals are also in the detention centers (Farrari Camps) which are being run by foreign-

assisted Baloch feudal lords (Sardars) who want to continue old system of feudalism in the

province so as to maintain their status, prestige and influence at the cost of people of the

province.

It is mentionable that India, US and Israel have been internationalizing the Balochistan issue in

accordance with their secret goals. In this respect, in connivance with the Baloch separatist

leaders who have taken refuge in Switzerland, Sweden, US and London, these foreign elements

use media, various NGOs and human rights organizations for false propaganda against

Pakistan’s security  agencies in relation to extrajudicial killings, mutilated bodies and the missing persons.

Nevertheless, during this vary day, it is also of particular attention that since, the government of

the Balochistan province announced general pardon and protection to the Baloch militants as part of reconciliation process, many militants and their leaders have surrendered their arms and

decided to work for the development of Pakistan and the province.

Besides, Pakistan’s Armed Forces have broken the backbone of the foreign-backed terrorists by

the successful military operation Zarb-e- Azb which has also been extended to Balochistan where peace has been restored. But, it is misfortune that based in Afghanistan; external secret agencies such as CIA, RAW and Mossad have, again, started subversive activities in Balochistan. As part of the double, game, these agencies are using the separatist elements and terrorist organizations like the Islamic State group (Also known as Daesh, ISIS, ISIL), the Tehreek-e- Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the Tehreek-e- Taliban Pakistan Jamaat-ur- Ahrar (TTP-JA also known as JuA), including other similar outfits in creating unrest in Balochistan, as recent terror attacks in the province has proved.

Now, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project is their special target. Taking cognizance of historical facts, the idea of observing Black Day must be denounced by all the segments of society, while the majority of the Baloch has already rejected the call for shutter down strike. But, these anti-Pakistan aims of the separatist elements also needs to be countered by our own historians, analysts and media persons by giving true perspective of history and denouncing the hostile elements who distorting the facts in order to advance their vested interests.

These internal entities of Pakistan must point out that People of Balochistan, especially the youth are very loyal and patriotic Pakistanis who believe in unity and sovereignty of the country. They cannot be misled by elusive designs of greedy leaders who plan to observe March 27 as Black Day.

Particularly, media must proactively project the role of Baloch leaders in creation of Pakistan

and in defending the state of Pakistan. For the purpose, talk shows must be held giving correct

perspective of historical records by explaining the process of accession of State of Kalat with

Pakistan and internal rift between KoK and his brother.

Our own intellectuals must indicate that insurgency of 1948 which started by Shehzada Abdul

Karim of Kakat never took off, because it was not supported by other realist Baloch leaders, and

it was based on misguided thoughts suggested by few Indian Congress leaders. The aim was to

destabilize Pakistan by creating militancy in Balochistan.

Returning to our earlier discussion, last year, Baloch Sub Nationalists and Baloch Salvation

Front called for a shutter down strike in Balochistan on March 27 to observe it as Black Day.

Since it is the date of legal accession of State of Kalat with Pakistan, therefore, the strike call was

based on negative contemplation and wicked designs to misguide the Baloch, especially the

youth. In order to obtain the foreign agenda against Pakistan, these hostile elements who distort

the history, want that every year, this Black Day should be observed.

 

Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants,
Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations

Posted in Pakistan & Kashmir0 Comments

The BRICS New Development Bank meets in Delhi: Dashing Africa’s green-developmental hopes?

AP

Will the Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa (BRICS) bloc ever really challenge the world financial order? The BRICS New Development Bank (NDB) leadership is meeting in New Delhi from 31 March to 2 April with a degree of fanfare unmatched by accomplishments. It is a good moment to assess progress since the BRICS Summit in 2013 when rumour had it that the then host city of Durban would also be the NDB’s home base. (It ended up in Shanghai, launched in 2015.)

BRICS leaders often state their vision of establishing alternatives to the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. Indeed the NDB leadership began with environmentally-oriented loans last year, and in 2017 wants to add $3 billion in new credits.

But looked at from South Africa, questions immediately arise about key personnel, as well as the willingness of the only local NDB borrower so far – the electricity parastatal Eskom – to support renewable energy, and perhaps most importantly whether the country and the continent can afford more expensive hard-currency loans.

Greenwashing finance as Africa loses IMF power

Why green loans? The original NDB designers were two former World Bank chief economists, Joe Stiglitz and Nick Stern. Although their public endorsements of the NDB stressed sustainable development and climate change, in private Stern offered a different rationale during a 2013 conference of the elite British Academy (which he chairs): “If you have a development bank that is part of a [major business] deal then it makes it more difficult for governments to be unreliable.”

Stern asked, “are there any press here, by the way? OK, so this bit’s off the record. We started to move the idea of a BRICS-led development bank for those two reasons. Coupled with the idea that the rich countries would not let the balance sheets of the World Bank and some of the regional development banks expand very much, and they would not allow their share in those banks to be diluted.”

While this is true, the BRICS gained substantial IMF voting power increases in the 2015 restructuring (e.g. China up 37%, India 23%, Brazil 11% and Russia 8%), but with negligible United States or European dilution. Instead, the rising BRICS shares were as a result of Nigeria and Venezuela losing 41% of their vote, along with Libya at -39%, Morocco -27%, Gabon -26%, Algeria -26%, Namibia -26%, Cameroon -23%, Mauritius -21% and even South Africa lost 21%.

Four BRIC countries stood on African and Latin American heads to get better executive director seats at the IMF table. When they got there, the BRICS directors approved the reappointment of Christine Lagarde in 2016 and after she was convicted on a $430 million corruption charge last December, the IMF directors unanimously endorsed her continued employment.

The NDB’s first loans did boost environmentally-oriented projects, as $300 million went to Brazil, $81 million to China, $250 million to India and $180 million to SA, the latter to connect renewable Independent Power Producer generators to the main grid. But these processes are accomplished with mostly local-currency inputs, hence the US$ loans were inappropriate. Like the other multilaterals, NDB repayments are in US dollars, which adversely affect the borrower’s balance of payments, although the NDB has started fund-raising from yuan and rupee markets so this may eventually change.

But worse, Eskom’s two most recent leaders, Brian Molefe and Matshela Koko, simultaneously announced that they wanted nothing more to do with renewable energy. A massive battle over renewables was only resolved a month ago when Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan’s Budget Statement recommitted to the IPP contracts. (Koko may well have to step down after last week’s conflict-of-interest revelations involving a scandalous $100 million tender suspiciously won by his stepdaughter’s company.)

In that budget, Gordhan refused Eskom further nuclear energy financing, beyond an initial $15 million: a tiny downpayment on the in-principle reactor purchase agreement that President Jacob Zuma had made to Moscow-based Rosatom, with anticipated costs of $50-100 billion. The principle supplier of raw inputs to the nukes – if they are built – will be Oakbay, a uranium (and coal) company owned by the notorious Gupta brothers.

Gupta gyrations

This week the Guptas are in court fighting Gordhan over his failure to reverse the main SA commercial banks’ boycott of Oakbay and other Gupta-owned firms. This boycott is the widely understood reason that Gordhan was recalled from a UK-US investment trip on Tuesday morning: to be fired.

For the NDB, such turmoil is extremely important because SA’s Governor to the NDB is Gordhan. And the oft-rumoured ascension to the Treasury by Molefe is vital in part because he was SA’s BRICS Business Council leader until recently – following his own humiliating resignation as Eskom chief executive last November. That was the result of the Public Protector’s “State of Capture” report revealing influence over Molefe by the Guptas.

After he (incorrectly) claimed that the Gupta’s luxurious Saxonwold neighbourhood contained a shebeen (pub) that might explain his regular presence there, Molefe’s credibility was utterly destroyed. Nevertheless, in January, Molefe was appointed to parliament amidst fresh controversies over Gupta meddling.

Just before the Eskom resignation, Molefe made an articulate appeal for a replacement of “the current ‘casino’ financial system or ‘law of the jungle’ with a project that expressly promotes the common good among nations, provides credit for high-technology development projects, on youth education and training and meets the growth challenges of the future.”

Molefe bragged that “BRICS and its allies are taking bold corrective measures by building a world system based on real value and to create a system capable of fundamentally shaping socio-economic growth and development. There have been some significant steps taken, in particular the launch of the NDB, which has already started funding key projects.”

Yet these are the very ‘key projects’ – renewable energy – that Molefe was sabotaging at that time, suggesting his NDB pronouncements simply cannot be taken seriously.

The NDB website itself observes “a need for Multilateral Development Banks to reinvent themselves” on the one hand, but on the other, its president KV Kamath last September signed a deal with the World Bank for “co-financing of projects; facilitating knowledge exchange… and facilitating secondments and staff exchanges.”

NDB personnel

In contrast to Molefe, two other executives from SA receive regular praise. Ironically, SA’s NDB Director is former Reserve Bank Governor (1999-2009) Tito Mboweni, who had slammed the NDB as “very costly” in 2013. Upon accepting the NDB directorship two years later (as the only one of the five not employed by a BRICS state), he promptly declared that nuclear energy financing “falls squarely within the mandate of the NDB.”

Mboweni is International Advisor to Goldman Sachs. That should have been an embarrassment in January 2016 when, according to financial journalists, the bank “identified shorting the rand as one of its top trades for this year due to falling commodity prices and SA’s current account deficit.” At that point the SA currency was rapidly pushed down to its historic low of R18/$. (It since recovered to R12/$ after the speculative wave ebbed, but recent Treasury turmoil just drove it below R13/$.)

SA’s NDB Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, Leslie Maasdorp, also worked at Goldman Sachs (and Barclays and Bank of America), led Pretoria’s failed privatisation strategy and was an unsuccessful, short-lived chief executive of privatised education firm AdvTech.

One other NDB job remains open: the much-advertised head of the NDB Africa Regional Centre in Johannesburg. In December 2015, Zuma announced that his 2014-15 finance minister, Nhlanhla Nene, would urgently take that job. It appeared to be a fig-leaf appointment, so as to replace the fiscally-conservative Nene with a man – Desmond van Rooyen – considered close to the Guptas.

This caused such an uproar that not only did three top white bankers communicate to Zuma that he must reverse course, but also a “critical intervention” (according to the country’s leading business writer, Peter Bruce) was made by Beijing’s owners of the Johannesburg-based Standard Bank, leading to van Rooyen’s firing within four days, and Gordhan’s appointment.

Zuma, acting as clumsily as usual, never had a guarantee of Nene’s job from the NDB officials, who subsequently stalled the Africa Regional Centre’s launch. It was originally scheduled for March 2016. Then last September, the BRICS Business Council website declared that the new Centre’s Johannesburg headquarters would be ready by November. (The Africa Regional Centre is still to be launched, now more than a year late.)

The location was ‘well received’ in the rest of Africa, according to the Business Council, because the NDB will lend to other countries, not just the BRICS. Leading Ugandan official Louis Kasekende argued that Africa should “have access to credit as quickly as possible at low rates,” especially to “reduce the timeframe of projects finalisation and approval process.”

Inappropriate finance for Africa

Reducing the timeframe would logically mean reducing attention to environmental and social dimensions (the critique of development banks most often made by civil society). But the larger problem is the exceptionally high debt burden African countries now shoulder, following the world crash of commodity prices from 2011-15. The NDB would offer Africa only hard-currency loans that are extremely expensive when currencies crash.

As the Financial Times recently reported, “One factor Africa’s indebted countries have in common is sharp devaluations of their currencies against the US dollar. Since mid-2014, the Mozambique metical is down 56 per cent against the dollar, the Angolan kwanza 41 per cent and the Ghanaian cedi 36 per cent, for example.” In 2011, 6.3 South African rand bought a US dollar; today it costs twice as much.

After multilateral lenders’ and G7 debt relief in 2006, the foreign debt of SubSaharan Africa was cut by $100 billion, to $200 billion. But thanks mainly to Chinese state loans (associated with the extractive industries), it is now up again above $400 billion, with countries like Angola, Chad and Ghana paying more than 30% of their governments’ revenues on debt servicing.

South Africa’s own payment obligations to the BRICS NDB will become onerous as well. To capitalise the NDB, $680 million was allocated by Nene in 2015-16, rising steadily to $3.2 billion this year and $6.2 billion by 2020. The NDB’s capital base, which is notionally $100 billion, is shared equally by all five (unlike the $100 billion Contingent Reserve Arrangement which treats South Africa the way the IMF does, with a much smaller share of the quota: $10 billion). Other multilateral financiers cost South Africa $19.2 billion in ‘provisions’ made in the current budget (i.e. to be paid when called for by the financier); indeed only the IMF capital subscription will be more costly ($6.4 billion this year, rising to $7.2 billion in 2020) than the NDB.

Paying these substantial subscriptions is onerous, given that they contribute to enforcing the neo-liberal ideology that continues oppressing the continent’s people. But moreover, South Africa also faces a terrifying rise in its own foreign debt, which according to the March 2017 SA Reserve Bank Quarterly Bulletin had risen to $143 billion in September 2016, a $10.6 billion rise over the prior three months. At 50% of GDP, this is the highest debt burden in the country’s modern history; the only prior default was in 1985 when the ratio was 40%.

The reason for soaring foreign debt is that multinational corporations are taking SA-sourced profits and dividends to London and other offshore financial headquarters. Indeed, as Chinese lenders, Indian steelmakers, other BRICS mining houses and the Gupta family externalise their own funding flows, the tragic irony of the NDB emerges.

In sum, the unnecessary NDB loans to Eskom contribute to more BRIC country power over the one African country, South Africa, that once had the potential to stand up and fight for justice. But perhaps Molefe in the Gupta’s suburb of Saxonwold, that might just have been shebeen talk.

Posted in India, Russia0 Comments

Lavrov: No force on earth can compete with NATO and US’ drug trafficking business in Afghanistan

NOVANEWS

“In country after country, from Mexico and Honduras to Panama and Peru, the CIA helped set up or consolidate intelligence agencies that became forces of repression, and whose intelligence connections to other countries greased the way for illicit drug shipments.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has done it again. He has recently grabbed the New World Order establishment by the horn and cut them to pieces with a chainsaw when he said that the establishment has done covert and illegal operations in places like Afghanistan. Lavrov did not mince words:

The US operation against the Taliban and al-Qaeda was supported by all countries. It’s another matter that after receiving the international approval, the United States and its NATO allies, which took over in Afghanistan, started acting rather inconsistently, to put it mildly.

“During their operation in Afghanistan, the terrorist threat has not been rooted out, while the drug threat has increased many times over. The drug industry prospered. There is factual evidence that some of the NATO contingents in Afghanistan turned a blind eye to the illegal drug trafficking, even if they were not directly involved in these criminal schemes.

“Afghanistan is a separate case, although the current developments there, which are a result of the NATO operation’s failure, despite the carte blanche the bloc received from the international community, can be considered an unintended cause of managed chaos. In Iraq, Syria and Libya, this chaos was created intentionally.”

Lavrov is right in line with the scholarly world. Peter Dale Scott of the University of California writes:

“In country after country, from Mexico and Honduras to Panama and Peru, the CIA helped set up or consolidate intelligence agencies that became forces of repression, and whose intelligence connections to other countries greased the way for illicit drug shipments.”[1]

Noted historian Alfred W. McCoy of the University of Wisconsin has reported the same thing.[2] McCoy began to work on this issue while he was a Ph.D. candidate in Southeast Asian history at Yale back in 1972. He accused American officials of condoning and even cooperating with corrupt elements in Southeast Asia’s illegal drug trade out of political and military considerations.” McCoy’s

“major charges was that South Vietnam’s President Nguyễn Văn Thiệu, Vice President Nguyễn Cao Kỳ, and Prime Minister Trần Thiện Khiêm led a narcotics ring with ties to the Corsican mafia, the Trafficante crime family in Florida, and other high level military officials in South Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand. Those implicated by McCoy included Laotian Generals Ouane Rattikone and Vang Pao and South Vietnamese Generals Đăng Văn Quang and Ngô Dzu.”

McCoy produced enough evidence which indicated that the CIA used “tribal mercenaries” in places like Laos in order to maintain their criminal and drug trafficking business.

In short, Lavrov was essentially deconstructing the CIA when he said that they have been spreading corruption throughout the world for decades. Whenever they take a break from spreading opium, they start perpetuating wars and creating false flags in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and now in Syria.

The CIA is certainly not happy about what Lavrov has said. This is one reason why they hate Russia and all that it represents.


[1] Peter Dale Scott and Jonathan Marshall, Cocaine Politics: Drugs, Armies, and the CIA in Central America (Berkley: The University of California Press, 1998), vii-viii. See also American War Machine: Deep Politics, the CIA Global Drug Connection, and the Road to Afghanistan (New York: Rowman & Littlefield, 2010 and 2014); Peter Dale Scott, Drugs, Oil, and War: The United States in Afghanistan, Colombia, and Indochina (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2003).

[2] Alfred W. McCoy, The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade (Chicago: Lawrence Hill Books, 2003).

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