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Home Demolition in Delhi: Thousands Rendered Homeless

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Home Demolition in Delhi: Thousands Rendered Homeless, Kathputli Artists’ Colony Demolished, Death of Democracy!

In the two days demolition drive by Delhi Development Authority (DDA) in assistance with Delhi Police demolished more than 1000 houses at Kathputli Colony, in West Delhi on October 30th and October 31st 2017. During the demolition, Police lathicharged on the residents mercilessly and also shot some Tear gas on them. On the basis of a Public Notice served on October 25th to evict the place in 5 days, they carried out this drive. They demolished some 100 houses on day one with 5 Bulldozers on place and they came with greater force on next days to brutally demolishing the rest. The gross Human Rights Violation was done by Delhi Police in two days where they just behaved like they are meant to Peace and Tranquility but they have been brought by DDA to bring as much fear they can create through their Lathis and Abusive Languages. They beat anyone who tried to say a word, they pushed anyone, they grabbed the collars of anyone who resisted, be it man, woman or a child.

People from different communal groups living in the vicinity of each other for decades now. In the early 1970s, a handful of performers from Rajasthan settled in West Delhi’s Shadipur region. Artists who were primarily puppeteers and musicians often moved throughout the capital to perform and over a period of time Shadipur became a convenient location for the same. Over time, they were joined by a variety of artists and people from states like Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Bihar, Orissa and Jharkhand and together they formed a single settlement known as Kathputli colony (The term refers to string puppet theatre).

Raheja Plan

Raheja Plan

The Actual Case:

Kathputli Colony was planned for the In-Situ Slum Redevelopment under Rajiv Was Yojana in 2009  through Public Private Partnership where contract was given to Raheja Developers (Can also be read Builders at many places) for this at Rs 6.22 Crore. Raheja developed a plan of 170 Premium and 2800 EWS Flats for the area. People were happy with the project initially when the first survey was done. There were some 2631 eligible beneficiaries as per the first survey. To which the builders slyly added an Office Complex and Mall on his “share” of 35% of the land, while They were allotted only 18% in the contract. This then raised the height of the 2800 EWS flats to 15 stories. It enraged the residents as they didn’t want such a tall dwelling unit and such change in plan.

Secondly, The survey was done after the plan where Raheja developed a plan for 2800 families and families in Survey came out to 2631. It also raised the questions that how was it possible that Raheja with the numbers and planned the units for such exact families.

Thirdly, People were sent to the Transit Camp for a duration of 2 years by Force, by Greed or By Fear to Anand Parbat whereas many people refused to go and after a long struggle they go a High Court Order in their favour in March 2014 for a Resurvey where DDA accepted that there are more families than the last survey and they planned to shift them to Narela till the Project is completed. Narela is situated on the outskirts of Delhi and is more than 30 KMs from their current location which lacks the basic services for living.

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The Current Situation

As of now, after the two days of demolition just 50 or 60 houses have remained in Kathputli Colony till the article was finally drafted. The notice for this demolition was served on October 25th but people didn’t know about it as there were no Public Announcement or Individual Notification done. People were forced out from their houses and anyone who refused to go were beaten by Police. By the afternoon all the nearby shops were closed, the entry and exit points were seized by Police. No one was allowed to enter in to the colony. Looking at such scary scenes, People were very scared. One elderly woman hung herself as her house was demolished. She is still critical in hospital, some social activists (Ex MP Annie Raja and others) were also thrashed and manhandled by Police.

One of the residents said that their children are missing from afternoon and they didn’t return till late evening. A father in 60s was performing the post death rituals of his son when he was thrown out from his house and he was wandering with those stuff to perform the ritual. There are many such stories in the Colony from two days. Police didn’t let people sleep in nights as they came every hour to ask them to leave or they will throw them. The Police from Ranjit Nagar Police Station were the main culprits here. They also open fired in night whose evidence (A Bullet) was produced by residents in the morning when I was interacting with them and they also brought it to the Press Conference organised by National Alliance for People’s Movements and Delhi Solidarity Group. Other Organisations like Basti Bachao Sangharsh Smiti is also working with people to help them to face this hard time.

In a Public Interest Litigation filed for the case, High Court has ordered a Stay for ten days and has asked the SHO of Ranjit Nagar to maintain the Status Quo strictly. A bigger struggle on the violation of Human Rights is still to be fought.

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India: Spate of Attacks on Muslims And Dalits in Bihar

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There has been a spate of attempts to whip up communal tension and to inflict violence on Dalits in various parts of Bihar throughout October 2017: almost half the districts of the state experienced communal tension on the occasion of Dussehra-Muharram These incidents reflect the manner in which the feudal-communal forces of Bihar feel emboldened by the abduction of the 2015 mandate by the Nitish-BJP Government.

In Arwal, there were attempts to whip up a communal climate around the end of September and early October, when Dussehra and Moharram coincide. CPI(ML) leaders Comrade Rameshwar Prasad, Mahanand and Inquilabi Muslim Conference convener Anwar Hussain visited various areas in Arwal on 3 October, appealing to people to uphold Arwal’s legacy of communal harmony and unity and rebuff the poisonous attempts of Sanghi forces to vitiate this culture.

Frustrated by its failure to foment violence during the Tazia procession and on other occasions, Sanghi goons started closing shops and spreading rumours to vitiate the atmosphere. Many Muslim houses were vandalized and fruit shops were looted. The Sanghi cadres also attacked and vandalized CPI (ML) leader Sohail Akhtar’s house. A negligent administration responded only under pressure from the CPI (ML), holding a flag march and imposing Section 144 to maintain peace.

Meanwhile in Sikariya village in Bihta, feudal-communal forces attacked dalits on the day of Durga Puja. The incident in Sikariya started with a petty dispute about motorcycle parking at the Durga Puja site, upon which members of the dominant Bhumihar community beat up and injured Dhurkheli and Ritesh Kumar – both from the Mahadalit Ravidas community. When the dalits went to the Thana on 1 October to file a complaint, the Thana in-charge informed the attackers. The attackers then arrived at the Thana and filed a case of theft, chain-snatching and molestation against the dalits. Feudal powers from the neighbourng 10 villages held a meeting and resolved to ‘teach a lesson’ to the Mahadalits.

Hundreds marched in protest on 6 October at Bihta against the attack and false cases on Dalits, followed by a public meeting addressed by former MP Comrade Rameshwar Prasad, as well as Comrades Gopal Singh, Surendra Yadav,Vinod Yadav, Rakesh Manjhi and others.

Burning of Mahadalit Homes in Khagariya

On 18 October feudal dominant forces burnt down the houses of 70 Mahadalits from the Musahar community in Chhamsiya village (Morkahi Thana), Khagariya district. Heavy firing also ensued and Mahadalits were beaten up. Property worth lakhs has been reduced to ashes, including household goods and goats. Many people are reported missing.

The Special Task Force (STF) of the police in cahoots with criminal Munna Yadav is behind the burning of Mahadalit houses Khagariya. The criminal gangs in Khagariya have the protection of JD(U) MLA Poonam Yadav and her strongman husband Ranvir Yadav. The CPI (ML) has called for a Khagariya-Samastipur bandh on 23 October to protest against the burning of Mahadalit homes, as well the Samastipur firing that killed one person, and the kidnapping of a 16 year old girl in Tajpur. State-wide protests will also be organized on the same day.

The CPI (ML) enquiry team comprising Tarari MLA Sudama Prasad and AIARLA leader Gopal Ravidas reported that the site of the incident (of burning houses) is only 17 km from Khagariya but it took them a long time to reach there, with 3 rivers needing to be crossed and long distances covered on foot. Clearly, development is a long way from here, in spite of tall claims by the government.

The enquiry team report said that 82 houses were set ablaze and destroyed, out of which 79 belong to people from the Musahar community and 3 to poor Kumhar families. Properties worth about 80 lakhs, 13 goats, 1 cow and 1 buffalo have also been burnt to ashes. The attack was carried out by the Munna Yadav gang at 9 pm. This area has always been prone to power tussles by different gangs. The pretext for the attack was Munna Yadav’s with to ‘teach a lesson’ to the people of Chhamasiya for, according to him, supporting a rival gang led by Angad Singh.

On 17 October Munna Yadav arrived in Chhamasiya along with STF jawans, without informing ether the Thana or the local Chowkidar. The local people said that the STF carried out early morning raids in the village, looted ornaments, and threatened to come again. The STF arrested four villagers (Aman Sada, Santosh Sada, Suman Pandit, Devendra Choudhury) and 2 people from neighbouring village Amousi who had come to buy fish. They lodged false cases of possessing rifles and pistols against the villagers.

The CPI (ML) has made the following demands:

    • 1. Withdrawal of all false cases from against the villagers

2. Rs 5 lakh compensation, Indira Awas and 5 decimals land to all victim families.

3. Permanent police camp for the protection of the people.

4. Arrest of all the criminals and action against the STF in-charge.

5. Road and bridge construction in the area.

6. Speedy trial in the case. 

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The Inspiring Legacy Of The November Revolution

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The Inspiring Legacy Of The November Revolution

A hundred years ago, the world had experienced a different kind of earthquake. An unprecedented upheaval in Russia had shaken the whole world. It was a revolution where for the first time political power passed from the hands of a small caucus of the rich and the elite to a grand collective of the oppressed and toiling masses. It was no military coup or conspiratorial strike, rather waves of organised people’s power sweeping away the relics of an autocratic regime. A festival of the oppressed, an awakening of a disempowered people to a life of freedom. It was the great October (now remembered as November in the wake of a change in calendar) revolution led by Lenin and his party of Bolshevik revolutionaries.

Never before had the world witnessed anything of this sort and on such a scale. True, the Communist Manifesto published nearly seventy years earlier had envisioned such a revolutionary overthrow of the old (capitalist) order to march towards a new symphony of human emancipation. True, Marx’s Magnum Opus, Capital, had first seen the light of day fifty years previously, soon after which the brave communards of Paris had demonstrated in action the feasibility of the idea of a revolution led by the working class. Yet, it was the November Revolution which for the first time showed the full potential of this vision, clearly and decisively, before the entire world. The world got its first paradigm of a popular uprising where workers and peasants came together, civilians and soldiers fought together, women and men marched together, the young and the old celebrated their victories together.

Of course, it did not happen just in those ten days that shook the world as immortalised by the great socialist chronicler John Reed. It took decades of class struggle to facilitate the rise of the revolutionary Russian Social Democratic Labour Party that eventually grew into the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, a series of strikes and other struggles, much study and analysis, research and social investigation, rigorous organisational discipline and great political imagination and initiative, and of course plenty of failures and rehearsals including the failed revolution of 1905 and the stepping stone of the February 1917 revolution.

The November Revolution effected a sea change in the initial communist idea of revolution taking place only after capitalism had reached a saturation point, as a moment of explosion of the inherent contradictions of capitalism. Instead, revolution happened in a backward capitalist country saddled with feudal survivals and ruled by an autocratic tsarist regime. It also replaced the soaring expectation of revolution on a continental, if not global, scale with the sobering reality of revolution in a single country, of the imperialist chain snapping at its weakest link. Of course, the revolution triggered a global awakening and served as the strongest inspiration in the early 20th century in the battle for freedom and democracy in every corner of the world.

Along with the Communist Manifesto, the November Revolution made the biggest contribution in spreading the ideas of socialism and inspiring the communist movement across the world. For all its subsequent limitations and problems, it must be said that the Communist International formed in the wake of the November Revolution played a historic role in encouraging and strengthening the international communist movement in its formative years. The transformation of backward Russia into an advanced nation with all sections of the working people enjoying rights never witnessed before in any capitalist country and the rise of a people-oriented planned economy in place of the profit-hungry market economy spread the message of socialism far and wide. Indeed, the growing international impact of the Soviet Union made it a rallying centre for countries across the world looking to overcome colonial and feudal hurdles to emerge as free and prosperous nations. For a major part of the twentieth century, the Soviet Union remained a powerful counterpoint to the capitalist world.

The stagnation, derailment and eventual collapse of the Soviet Union cannot obliterate its role as an inspiration for national liberation movements, as the bulwark of resistance against Hitler’s fascist aggression, the force that bore the brunt of the fascist attack and eventually emerged triumphant to the great relief and joy of the whole world, and finally as a contending pole against the global domination of US imperialism. Following the disappearance of the Soviet Union we are witnessing a massive neo-colonial offensive of global capital and a desperate American drive for unipolar global domination and now in the rise of Donald Trump and his trumpets in different countries, even the threat of a resurrection of Hitler’s brand of fascism appears all too real. Our celebrations of the centenary of the Great November Revolution must be not just an affirmation of a pivotal moment of world history but a determined resolve to draw on its multiple lessons and inspirations to face the present juncture and develop a revolutionary answer to the challenges posed by a crisis-ridden global capitalism and the badly dented and dilapidated paradigm of bourgeois democracy.

Of course, even in its collapse, the great twentieth century world historic experiment that was the USSR, left us with questions that socialism in the twenty first century must answer. Socialism has to outdo capitalism in its inner dynamism, socialist democracy must be able to demonstrate its superiority over bourgeois democracy in every respect, the working class organised under the communist party and leading the socialist state must ensure sustained comprehensive representation and participation of the whole class and draw consistently on the advances in science and technology and other fields of knowledge and creative arts to propel the socialist model forward. But most crucially, it is the grand innovative and revolutionary spirit of the November Revolution, of turning adversity into opportunity and seizing the moment firmly and decisively in the interest of the revolutionary advance of the people and the communist cause that must guide and drive today’s communists in facing the Trumps and Putins and Modis and Erdogans of our times.

PS: It is heartening to remember that Liberation had begun its journey in November 1967, in the fiftieth anniversary of the great November Revolution. The historic Naxalbari peasant uprising had just happened a few months ago and its thunderous message had begun to resonate in distant corners of India. Communists across the world had launched a powerful debate against the early signs of stagnation and distortions in the Soviet Union, especially in its foreign policy with the erstwhile socialist model getting trapped in a superpower syndrome in its contention with US imperialism – and Liberation had joined the debate, with its bid to spread the message of Naxalbari in the face of a brutal crackdown by the Indian state and uphold the revolutionary legacy of November. Today, when the November Revolution has turned 100, Liberation has also completed 50 challenging years. Liberation salutes the ever inspiring revolutionary legacy of Lenin and November and Charu Mazumdar and Naxalbari. We shall fight, we shall win. 

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A Well-Kept Open Secret: Washington Is Behind India’s Brutal Demonetization Project

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First published by Global Research in January 2017

In early November 2016, without warning, the Indian government declared the two largest denomination bills invalid, abolishing over 80 percent of circulating cash by value. Amidst all the commotion and outrage this caused, nobody seems to have taken note of the decisive role that Washington played in this. That is surprising, as Washington’s role has been disguised only very superficially.

US-President Barack Obama has declared the strategic partnership with India a priority of his foreign policy. China needs to be reined in. In the context of this partnership, the US government’s development agency USAID has negotiated cooperation agreements with the Indian ministry of financeOne of these has the declared goal to push back the use of cash in favor of digital payments in India and globally.

On November 8, Indian prime minster Narendra Modi announced that the two largest denominations of banknotes could not be used for payments any more with almost immediate effect. Owners could only recoup their value by putting them into a bank account before the short grace period expired. The amount of cash that banks were allowed to pay out to individual customers was severely restricted. Almost half of Indians have no bank account and many do not even have a bank nearby. The economy is largely cash based. Thus, a severe shortage of cash ensued. Those who suffered the most were the poorest and most vulnerable. They had additional difficulty earning their meager living in the informal sector or paying for essential goods and services like food, medicine or hospitals. Chaos and fraud reigned well into December.

Four weeks earlier

Not even four weeks before this assault on Indians, USAID had announced the establishment of „Catalyst: Inclusive Cashless Payment Partnership“, with the goal of effecting a quantum leap in cashless payment in India. The press statement of October 14 says that Catalyst “marks the next phase of partnership between USAID and Ministry of Finance to facilitate universal financial inclusion”. The statement does not show up in the list of press statements on the website of USAID (anymore?). Not even filtering statements with the word “India” would bring it up. To find it, you seem to have to know it exists, or stumble upon it in a web search. Indeed, this and other statements, which seemed rather boring before, have become a lot more interesting and revealing after November 8.

Reading the statements with hindsight it becomes obvious, that Catalyst and the partnership of USAID and the Indian Ministry of Finance, from which Catalyst originated, are little more than fronts which were used to be able to prepare the assault on all Indians using cash without arousing undue suspicion. Even the name Catalyst sounds a lot more ominous, once you know what happened on November 9.

Catalyst’s Director of Project Incubation is Alok Gupta, who used to be Chief Operating Officer of the World Resources Institute in Washington, which has USAID as one of its main sponsors. He was also an original member of the team that developed Aadhaar, the Big-Brother-like biometric identification system.

According to a report of the Indian Economic Times, USAID has committed to finance Catalyst for three years. Amounts are kept secret.

Badal Malick was Vice President of India’s most important online marketplace Snapdeal, before he was appointed as CEO of Catalyst. He commented:

 Catalyst’s mission is to solve multiple coordination problems that have blocked the penetration of digital payments among merchants and low-income consumers. We look forward to creating a sustainable and replicable model. (…) While there has been (…) a concerted push for digital payments by the government, there is still a last mile gap when it comes to merchant acceptance and coordination issues. We want to bring a holistic ecosystem approach to these problems.

Ten months earlier

The multiple coordination problem and the cash-ecosystem-issue that Malick mentions had been analysed in a report that USAID commissioned in 2015 and presented in January 2016, in the context of the anti-cash partnership with the Indian Ministry of Finance. The press release on this presentation is also not in USAID’s list of press statements (anymore?). The title of the study was “Beyond Cash”.

“Merchants, like consumers, are trapped in cash ecosystems, which inhibits their interest” in digital payment it said in the report. Since few traders accept digital payments, few consumers have an interest in it, and since few consumers use digital payments, few traders have an interest in it. Given that banks and payment providers charge fees for equipment to use or even just try out digital payment, a strong external impulse is needed to achieve a level of card penetration that would create mutual interest of both sides in digital payment options.

It turned out in November that the declared “holistic ecosystem approach” to create this impulse consisted in destroying the cash-ecosystem for a limited time and to slowly dry it up later, by limiting the availability of cash from banks for individual customers. Since the assault had to be a surprise to achieve its full catalyst-results, the published Beyond-Cash-Study and the protagonists of Catalyst could not openly describe their plans. They used a clever trick to disguise them and still be able to openly do the necessary preparations, even including expert hearings. They consistently talked of a regional field experiment that they were ostensibly planning.

“The goal is to take one city and increase the digital payments 10x in six to 12 months,” said Malick less than four weeks before most cash was abolished in the whole of India. To not be limited in their preparation on one city alone, the Beyond-Cash-report and Catalyst kept talking about a range of regions they were examining, ostensibly in order to later decide which was the best city or region for the field experiment. Only in November did it became clear that the whole of India should be the guinea-pig-region for a global drive to end the reliance on cash. Reading a statement of Ambassador Jonathan Addleton, USAID Mission Director to India, with hindsight, it becomes clear that he stealthily announced that, when he said four weeks earlier:

India is at the forefront of global efforts to digitize economies and create new economic opportunities that extend to hard-to-reach populations. Catalyst will support these efforts by focusing on the challenge of making everyday purchases cashless.

Veterans of the war on cash in action

Who are the institutions behind this decisive attack on cash? Upon the presentation of the Beyond-Cash-report, USAID declared: “Over 35 key Indian, American and international organizations have partnered with the Ministry of Finance and USAID on this initiative.” On the website catalyst.org one can see that they are mostly IT- and payment service providers who want to make money from digital payments or from the associated data generation on users. Many are veterans of,what a high-ranking official of Deutsche Bundesbank called the “war of interested financial institutions on cash” (in German). They include the Better Than Cash Alliance, the Gates Foundation (Microsoft), Omidyar Network (eBay), the Dell Foundation Mastercard, Visa, Metlife Foundation.

The Better Than Cash Alliance

The Better Than Cash Alliance, which includes USAID as a member, is mentioned first for a reason. It was founded in 2012 to push back cash on a global scale. The secretariat is housed at the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDP) in New York, which might have its reason in the fact that this rather poor small UN-organization was glad to have the Gates-Foundation in one of the two preceding years and the Master-Card-Foundation in the other as its most generous donors.

The members of the Alliance are large US-Institutions which would benefit most from pushing back cash, i.e. credit card companies Mastercard and Visa, and also some US-institutions whose names come up a lot in books on the history of the United States intelligence services, namely Ford Foundation and USAID. A prominent member is also the Gates-Foundation. Omidyar Network of eBay-founder Pierre Omidyar and Citi are important contributors. Almost all of these are individually also partners in the current USAID-India-Initiative to end the reliance on cash in India and beyond. The initiative and the Catalyst-program seem little more than an extended Better Than Cash Alliance, augmented by Indian and Asian organizations with a strong business interest in a much decreased use of cash.

Reserve Bank of India’s IMF-Chicago Boy

The partnership to prepare the temporary banning of most cash in India coincides roughly with the tenure of Raghuram Rajan at the helm of Reserve Bank of India from September 2013 to September 2016. Rajan (53) had been, and is now again, economics professor at the University of Chicago. From 2003 to 2006 he had been Chief Economist of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in Washington. (This is a cv-item he shares with another important warrior against cash, Ken Rogoff.) He is a member of the Group of Thirty, a rather shady organization, where high ranking representatives of the world major commercial financial institutions share their thoughts and plans with the presidents of the most important central banks, behind closed doors and with no minutes taken. It becomes increasingly clear that the Group of Thirty is one of the major coordination centers of the worldwide war on cash. Its membership includes other key warriers like Rogoff, Larry Summers and others.

Raghuram Rajan has ample reason to expect to climb further to the highest rungs in international finance and thus had good reason to play Washington’s game well. He already was a President of the American Finance Association and inaugural recipient of its Fisher-Black-Prize in financial research. He won the handsomely endowed prizes of Infosys for economic research and of Deutsche Bank for financial economics as well as the Financial Times/Goldman Sachs Prize for best economics book. He was declared Indian of the year by NASSCOM and Central Banker of the year by Euromoney and by The Banker. He is considered a possible successor of Christine Lagard at the helm of the IMF, but can certainly also expect to be considered for other top jobs in international finance.

As a Central Bank Governor, Rajan was liked and well respected by the financial sector, but very much disliked by company people from the real (producing) sector, despite his penchant for deregulation and economic reform. The main reason was the restrictive monetary policy he introduced and staunchly defended. After he was viciously criticized from the ranks of the governing party, he declared in June that he would not seek a second term in September. Later he told the New York Times that he had wanted to stay on, but not for a whole term, and that premier Modi would not have that. A former commerce and law Minister, Mr. Swamy, said on the occasion of Rajan’s  departure that it would make Indian industrialists happy:

I certainly wanted him out, and I made it clear to the prime minister, as clear as possible. (…) His audience was essentially Western, and his audience in India was transplanted westernized society. People used to come in delegations to my house to urge me to do something about it.

A disaster that had to happen

If Rajan was involved in the preparation of this assault to declare most of Indians’ banknotes illegal – and there should be little doubt about that, given his personal and institutional links and the importance of Reserve Bank of India in the provision of cash – he had ample reason to stay in the background. After all, it cannot have surprised anyone closely involved in the matter, that this would result in chaos and extreme hardship, especially for the majority of poor and rural Indians, who were flagged as the supposed beneficiaries of the badly misnamed “financial-inclusion”-drive. USAID and partners had analysed the situation extensively and found in the Beyond-Cash-report that 97% of transactions were done in cash and that only 55% of Indians had a bank account. They also found that even of these bank accounts, “only 29% have been used in the last three months“.

All this was well known and made it a certainty that suddenly abolishing most cash would cause severe and even existential problems to many small traders and producers and to many people in remote regions without banks. When it did, it became obvious, how false the promise of financial inclusion by digitalization of payments and pushing back cash has always been. There simply is no other means of payment that can compete with cash in allowing everybody with such low hurdles to participate in the market economy.

However, for Visa, Mastercard and the other payment service providers, who were not affected by these existential problems of the huddled masses, the assault on cash will most likely turn out a big success, “scaling up” digital payments in the “trial region”. After this chaos and with all the losses that they had to suffer, all business people who can afford it, are likely to make sure they can accept digital payments in the future. And consumers, who are restricted in the amount of cash they can get from banks now, will use opportunities to pay with cards, much to the benefit of Visa, Mastercard and the other members of the extended Better Than Cash Alliance.

Why Washington is waging a global war on cash

The business interests of the US-companies that dominate the gobal IT business and payment systems are an important reason for the zeal of the US-government in its push to reduce cash use worldwide, but it is not the only one and might not be the most important one. Another motive is surveillance power that goes with increased use of digital payment. US-intelligence organizations and IT-companies together can survey all international payments done through banks and can monitor most of the general stream of digital data. Financial data tends to be the most important and valuable.

Even more importantly, the status of the dollar as the worlds currency of reference and the dominance of US companies in international finance provide the US government with tremendous power over all participants in the formal non-cash financial system. It can make everybody conform to American law rather than to their local or international rules. German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung has recently run a chilling story describing how that works (German). Employees of a Geran factoring firm doing completely legal business with Iran were put on a US terror list, which meant that they were shut off most of the financial system and even some logistics companies would not transport their furniture any more. A major German bank was forced to fire several employees upon US request, who had not done anything improper or unlawful.

There are many more such examples. Every internationally active bank can be blackmailed by the US government into following their orders, since revoking their license to do business in the US or in dollars basically amounts to shutting them down. Just think about Deutsche Bank, which had to negotiate with the US treasury for months whether they would have to pay a fne of 14 billion dollars and most likely go broke, or get away with seven billion and survive. If you have the power to bankrupt the largest banks even of large countries, you have power over their governments, too. This power through dominance over the financial system and the associated data is already there. The less cash there is in use, the more extensive and secure it is, as the use of cash is a major avenue for evading this power.

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A Well-Kept Open Secret: Washington Is Behind India’s Brutal Demonetization Project

First published by Global Research in January 2017

In early November 2016, without warning, the Indian government declared the two largest denomination bills invalid, abolishing over 80 percent of circulating cash by value. Amidst all the commotion and outrage this caused, nobody seems to have taken note of the decisive role that Washington played in this. That is surprising, as Washington’s role has been disguised only very superficially.

US-President Barack Obama has declared the strategic partnership with India a priority of his foreign policy. China needs to be reined in. In the context of this partnership, the US government’s development agency USAID has negotiated cooperation agreements with the Indian ministry of financeOne of these has the declared goal to push back the use of cash in favor of digital payments in India and globally.

On November 8, Indian prime minster Narendra Modi announced that the two largest denominations of banknotes could not be used for payments any more with almost immediate effect. Owners could only recoup their value by putting them into a bank account before the short grace period expired. The amount of cash that banks were allowed to pay out to individual customers was severely restricted. Almost half of Indians have no bank account and many do not even have a bank nearby. The economy is largely cash based. Thus, a severe shortage of cash ensued. Those who suffered the most were the poorest and most vulnerable. They had additional difficulty earning their meager living in the informal sector or paying for essential goods and services like food, medicine or hospitals. Chaos and fraud reigned well into December.

Four weeks earlier

Not even four weeks before this assault on Indians, USAID had announced the establishment of „Catalyst: Inclusive Cashless Payment Partnership“, with the goal of effecting a quantum leap in cashless payment in India. The press statement of October 14 says that Catalyst “marks the next phase of partnership between USAID and Ministry of Finance to facilitate universal financial inclusion”. The statement does not show up in the list of press statements on the website of USAID (anymore?). Not even filtering statements with the word “India” would bring it up. To find it, you seem to have to know it exists, or stumble upon it in a web search. Indeed, this and other statements, which seemed rather boring before, have become a lot more interesting and revealing after November 8.

Reading the statements with hindsight it becomes obvious, that Catalyst and the partnership of USAID and the Indian Ministry of Finance, from which Catalyst originated, are little more than fronts which were used to be able to prepare the assault on all Indians using cash without arousing undue suspicion. Even the name Catalyst sounds a lot more ominous, once you know what happened on November 9.

Catalyst’s Director of Project Incubation is Alok Gupta, who used to be Chief Operating Officer of the World Resources Institute in Washington, which has USAID as one of its main sponsors. He was also an original member of the team that developed Aadhaar, the Big-Brother-like biometric identification system.

According to a report of the Indian Economic Times, USAID has committed to finance Catalyst for three years. Amounts are kept secret.

Badal Malick was Vice President of India’s most important online marketplace Snapdeal, before he was appointed as CEO of Catalyst. He commented:

 Catalyst’s mission is to solve multiple coordination problems that have blocked the penetration of digital payments among merchants and low-income consumers. We look forward to creating a sustainable and replicable model. (…) While there has been (…) a concerted push for digital payments by the government, there is still a last mile gap when it comes to merchant acceptance and coordination issues. We want to bring a holistic ecosystem approach to these problems.

Ten months earlier

The multiple coordination problem and the cash-ecosystem-issue that Malick mentions had been analysed in a report that USAID commissioned in 2015 and presented in January 2016, in the context of the anti-cash partnership with the Indian Ministry of Finance. The press release on this presentation is also not in USAID’s list of press statements (anymore?). The title of the study was Beyond Cash”.

“Merchants, like consumers, are trapped in cash ecosystems, which inhibits their interest” in digital payment it said in the report. Since few traders accept digital payments, few consumers have an interest in it, and since few consumers use digital payments, few traders have an interest in it. Given that banks and payment providers charge fees for equipment to use or even just try out digital payment, a strong external impulse is needed to achieve a level of card penetration that would create mutual interest of both sides in digital payment options.

It turned out in November that the declared “holistic ecosystem approach” to create this impulse consisted in destroying the cash-ecosystem for a limited time and to slowly dry it up later, by limiting the availability of cash from banks for individual customers. Since the assault had to be a surprise to achieve its full catalyst-results, the published Beyond-Cash-Study and the protagonists of Catalyst could not openly describe their plans. They used a clever trick to disguise them and still be able to openly do the necessary preparations, even including expert hearings. They consistently talked of a regional field experiment that they were ostensibly planning.

“The goal is to take one city and increase the digital payments 10x in six to 12 months,” said Malick less than four weeks before most cash was abolished in the whole of India. To not be limited in their preparation on one city alone, the Beyond-Cash-report and Catalyst kept talking about a range of regions they were examining, ostensibly in order to later decide which was the best city or region for the field experiment. Only in November did it became clear that the whole of India should be the guinea-pig-region for a global drive to end the reliance on cash. Reading a statement of Ambassador Jonathan Addleton, USAID Mission Director to India, with hindsight, it becomes clear that he stealthily announced that, when he said four weeks earlier:

India is at the forefront of global efforts to digitize economies and create new economic opportunities that extend to hard-to-reach populations. Catalyst will support these efforts by focusing on the challenge of making everyday purchases cashless.

Veterans of the war on cash in action

Who are the institutions behind this decisive attack on cash? Upon the presentation of the Beyond-Cash-report, USAID declared: “Over 35 key Indian, American and international organizations have partnered with the Ministry of Finance and USAID on this initiative.” On the website catalyst.org one can see that they are mostly IT- and payment service providers who want to make money from digital payments or from the associated data generation on users. Many are veterans of,what a high-ranking official of Deutsche Bundesbank called the “war of interested financial institutions on cash” (in German). They include the Better Than Cash Alliance, the Gates Foundation (Microsoft), Omidyar Network (eBay), the Dell Foundation Mastercard, Visa, Metlife Foundation.

The Better Than Cash Alliance

The Better Than Cash Alliance, which includes USAID as a member, is mentioned first for a reason. It was founded in 2012 to push back cash on a global scale. The secretariat is housed at the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDP) in New York, which might have its reason in the fact that this rather poor small UN-organization was glad to have the Gates-Foundation in one of the two preceding years and the Master-Card-Foundation in the other as its most generous donors.

The members of the Alliance are large US-Institutions which would benefit most from pushing back cash, i.e. credit card companies Mastercard and Visa, and also some US-institutions whose names come up a lot in books on the history of the United States intelligence services, namely Ford Foundation and USAID. A prominent member is also the Gates-Foundation. Omidyar Network of eBay-founder Pierre Omidyar and Citi are important contributors. Almost all of these are individually also partners in the current USAID-India-Initiative to end the reliance on cash in India and beyond. The initiative and the Catalyst-program seem little more than an extended Better Than Cash Alliance, augmented by Indian and Asian organizations with a strong business interest in a much decreased use of cash.

Reserve Bank of India’s IMF-Chicago Boy

The partnership to prepare the temporary banning of most cash in India coincides roughly with the tenure of Raghuram Rajan at the helm of Reserve Bank of India from September 2013 to September 2016. Rajan (53) had been, and is now again, economics professor at the University of Chicago. From 2003 to 2006 he had been Chief Economist of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in Washington. (This is a cv-item he shares with another important warrior against cash, Ken Rogoff.) He is a member of the Group of Thirty, a rather shady organization, where high ranking representatives of the world major commercial financial institutions share their thoughts and plans with the presidents of the most important central banks, behind closed doors and with no minutes taken. It becomes increasingly clear that the Group of Thirty is one of the major coordination centers of the worldwide war on cash. Its membership includes other key warriers like Rogoff, Larry Summers and others.

Raghuram Rajan has ample reason to expect to climb further to the highest rungs in international finance and thus had good reason to play Washington’s game well. He already was a President of the American Finance Association and inaugural recipient of its Fisher-Black-Prize in financial research. He won the handsomely endowed prizes of Infosys for economic research and of Deutsche Bank for financial economics as well as the Financial Times/Goldman Sachs Prize for best economics book. He was declared Indian of the year by NASSCOM and Central Banker of the year by Euromoney and by The Banker. He is considered a possible successor of Christine Lagard at the helm of the IMF, but can certainly also expect to be considered for other top jobs in international finance.

As a Central Bank Governor, Rajan was liked and well respected by the financial sector, but very much disliked by company people from the real (producing) sector, despite his penchant for deregulation and economic reform. The main reason was the restrictive monetary policy he introduced and staunchly defended. After he was viciously criticized from the ranks of the governing party, he declared in June that he would not seek a second term in September. Later he told the New York Times that he had wanted to stay on, but not for a whole term, and that premier Modi would not have that. A former commerce and law Minister, Mr. Swamy, said on the occasion of Rajan’s  departure that it would make Indian industrialists happy:

I certainly wanted him out, and I made it clear to the prime minister, as clear as possible. (…) His audience was essentially Western, and his audience in India was transplanted westernized society. People used to come in delegations to my house to urge me to do something about it.

A disaster that had to happen

If Rajan was involved in the preparation of this assault to declare most of Indians’ banknotes illegal – and there should be little doubt about that, given his personal and institutional links and the importance of Reserve Bank of India in the provision of cash – he had ample reason to stay in the background. After all, it cannot have surprised anyone closely involved in the matter, that this would result in chaos and extreme hardship, especially for the majority of poor and rural Indians, who were flagged as the supposed beneficiaries of the badly misnamed “financial-inclusion”-drive. USAID and partners had analysed the situation extensively and found in the Beyond-Cash-report that 97% of transactions were done in cash and that only 55% of Indians had a bank account. They also found that even of these bank accounts, “only 29% have been used in the last three months“.

All this was well known and made it a certainty that suddenly abolishing most cash would cause severe and even existential problems to many small traders and producers and to many people in remote regions without banks. When it did, it became obvious, how false the promise of financial inclusion by digitalization of payments and pushing back cash has always been. There simply is no other means of payment that can compete with cash in allowing everybody with such low hurdles to participate in the market economy.

However, for Visa, Mastercard and the other payment service providers, who were not affected by these existential problems of the huddled masses, the assault on cash will most likely turn out a big success, “scaling up” digital payments in the “trial region”. After this chaos and with all the losses that they had to suffer, all business people who can afford it, are likely to make sure they can accept digital payments in the future. And consumers, who are restricted in the amount of cash they can get from banks now, will use opportunities to pay with cards, much to the benefit of Visa, Mastercard and the other members of the extended Better Than Cash Alliance.

Why Washington is waging a global war on cash

The business interests of the US-companies that dominate the gobal IT business and payment systems are an important reason for the zeal of the US-government in its push to reduce cash use worldwide, but it is not the only one and might not be the most important one. Another motive is surveillance power that goes with increased use of digital payment. US-intelligence organizations and IT-companies together can survey all international payments done through banks and can monitor most of the general stream of digital data. Financial data tends to be the most important and valuable.

Even more importantly, the status of the dollar as the worlds currency of reference and the dominance of US companies in international finance provide the US government with tremendous power over all participants in the formal non-cash financial system. It can make everybody conform to American law rather than to their local or international rules. German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung has recently run a chilling story describing how that works (German). Employees of a Geran factoring firm doing completely legal business with Iran were put on a US terror list, which meant that they were shut off most of the financial system and even some logistics companies would not transport their furniture any more. A major German bank was forced to fire several employees upon US request, who had not done anything improper or unlawful.

There are many more such examples. Every internationally active bank can be blackmailed by the US government into following their orders, since revoking their license to do business in the US or in dollars basically amounts to shutting them down. Just think about Deutsche Bank, which had to negotiate with the US treasury for months whether they would have to pay a fne of 14 billion dollars and most likely go broke, or get away with seven billion and survive. If you have the power to bankrupt the largest banks even of large countries, you have power over their governments, too. This power through dominance over the financial system and the associated data is already there. The less cash there is in use, the more extensive and secure it is, as the use of cash is a major avenue for evading this power.

Posted in USA, IndiaComments Off on A Well-Kept Open Secret: Washington Is Behind India’s Brutal Demonetization Project

GM Mustard and the Indian Government: The Game Is up, the Emperor Has No Clothes!

NOVANEWS

The next stage of the case involving the commercialisation of genetically modified (GM) mustard in India is to be heard on 15 September in the Supreme Court (SC). GM mustard could be India’s first commercially cultivated GM food crop, which could very well open the floodgates to the commercialisation of various other food crops that are in the pipeline.

Lead petitioner Aruna Rodrigues is seeking a moratorium on the environmental release of any genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the absence of comprehensive, transparent and rigorous biosafety protocols in the public domain and biosafety studies conducted by independent expert bodies the results of which are made available in public domain.

The petitioners argue that the present circumstances warrant a prohibition on commercial release of DMH-11 mustard in view of the fact that:

  • Mustard is a crop of origin/diversity in India
  • DMH-11 and parental lines contain herbicide tolerant (HT) traits
  • DMH11 has failed to satisfy the prior requirement of ‘need’ of this crop as evidenced from the results of the open field trials
  • The conduct of Biosafety Research Level (‘BRL’) trials were comprehensively flawed and are invalid

In this ongoing saga, two government ‘additional affidavits’ were recently submitted to the SC, following the recommendations of the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) to permit the environmental release of DMH-11 and its transgenic parental lines.

The government says that only 15 kilograms of DMH-11 would be planted in the upcoming winter season (beginning from Oct 2017) to demonstrate its yield potential and commercial viability. It has revealed plans for hybrid seed production in preparation for commercial use in approx. two years.

It also reiterates its claims that DMH-11 is not a HT crop. It claims it has been developed through ‘hybridization technology’. The government averred that DMH-11 does not pose any risk to human/animal health or the environment. Furthermore, it urged that the DMH-11 and other hybrids using this technology are necessary to improve yields in mustard in India which has been ‘stagnant around 7-8 MT for the last 20 years’.

The government has not only projected the hybrid seed production of DMH-11 as an innocuous and harmless procedure, but also revealed its predisposed mind to permit commercialisation of GE Mustard.

Exposing the government’s claims

In response to this, Aruna Rodrigues has submitted a 45-page ‘Addtional Affidavit Reply’ (citing all relevant sources and in-depth arguments) to the SC to rebut the claims by the government.

The basis of the rebuttal is stated on pages 3 and 4:

“At the outset, it is stated that the above [government] Affidavits hide more than they reveal. The stand of the Central Government reflects a high degree of technical incompetence and a deliberate intent to obfuscate science. The claims made are also straightforwardly untrue; broad statements, without evidence, presented as fact.”

Based on the Report on Assessment for Food & Environmental Safety (AFES) submitted by the Sub-Committee of GEAC, the government argues that DMH-11 does not pose any risk to human/animal health or the environment.

In response to this, Rodrigues states:

“As such, the AFES Report is not a detailed scientific description of the biosafety of HT DMH-11. The dossier with the raw biosafety data submitted by CGMCP [Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants at the University of Delhi, which has developed DMH -11] running into thousands of pages is still concealed, for which the Petitioners were constrained to initiate contempt proceedings against the Respondents which is currently pending for consideration by this Hon’ble Court.”

While Rodrigues expresses deep concern about the government’s attempts to confuse and even mislead on matters of core importance to biosafety, she is also concerned about minutes of a crucial GEAC meeting being suppressed.

The affidavit then discusses the recent report by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science & Technology, Environment and Forests: ‘Genetically Modified Crops and its Impact on Environment’.

The report is scathing in its criticism of the regulation and risk assessment of GMOs, including GM HT mustard. It finds relevant high-level agencies as shockingly casual in their approach to GMOs in agriculture and “takes serious note of the apathy of the concerned government agencies” about the impact of GMOs on the environment (including agriculture) and on human and animal health. It finds the current regulatory framework to lack rigour, expertise, transparency and is seriously ‘conflicted’ (conflict of interest).

The Committee strongly believes that unless the bio-safety and socioeconomic desirability is evaluated by a participatory, independent and transparent process and a retrieval and accountability regime is put in place, no GM crop should be introduced in the country. The report states that with GM mustard being an herbicide tolerant GMO, there is clear evidence on the adverse impacts of such GMOs from elsewhere in the world.

The Committee argues that the government should reconsider its decision to commercialise GM crops in the country and recommends that the whole process of evaluation should be carried out by an independent agency consisting of the people of impeccable credentials in the relevant field to ensure that there is no violation of the existing regulations in this regard.

The above findings are entirely in agreement with four previous official government reports. A short description of these reports is contained in the affidavit, followed by a discussion of the history of regulatory delinquency with special reference to events surrounding GM brinjal. Regrettably and alarmingly, in HT mustard DMH-11, India faces a repeat of the disastrous regulatory history of Bt brinjal, which was eventually prevented from being commercially cultivated.

The affidavit then goes on to deconstruct each aspect of the government’s case for GM mustard. It exposes a catalogue of deceptions and misrepresentations, not least the government’s newly concocted claim that HT stands for ‘hybridisation technology’ and not ‘herbicide tolerant’, which – given the evidence set out by Rodrigues in the affidavit – appears to be a desperate attempt to backtrack given the massive dangers and impracticalities associated with HT crops in a country like India.

As in previous court documents and in various other literature, it is made clear that GM mustard does not improve yields and that there is in fact no need for it. Much is also made of the field trails that were based on invalid tests, poor science and a lack of rigour and is supported by a good degree of technical data and argument. The conclusion is there has been a “regulatory vacuum” and the SC is being misled by the government.

Rodrigues is scathing in her criticisms, not least in the proven dangers posed by the herbicide glufosinate and the contamination of India’s mustard germplasm. The government’s actions indicate:

“a disregard for India’s priceless biodiversity, a heritage that we must ferociously guard and also status as a biodiversity ‘hot spot’… lip service is paid to the certain contamination of India’s germplasm from HT DMH 11. This is outstanding issue that Petitioners emphasise repeatedly, because it is critical. If the GM ‘genie’ escapes, it cannot be bottled again.”

Rodrigues adds:

“In reality, the ruse is to obtain the authorisation of this Hon’ble Court now, to ‘creeping commercialisation’ which will be undertaken in 2 stages. This first stage, (limited to 15 kg of seed), will be the backdoor entry to eventual full commercial release sometime in the future, when there is sufficient seed produced from this first stage for full commercial planting.”

Given the conflicts of interest at work in the regulatory process, the invalid field tests, the lack of transparency, the proven lack of need, the threat to India’s mustard biodiversity and the dangers of glufosinate to health and to agriculture in a nation of small farmers using a multi-cropping system, isn’t it time for the government to come clean? Isn’t it time to follow the recommendation set out in numerous high-level reports.

The developers at Delhi University, the government and the GEAC have been found out.

No one wants GM mustard. Not farmers, not the various states. And do we hear the public speaking out in favour of it?

The game is up. The emperor has no clothes. The fraud has been exposed.

For those who have not been following the issue of GM mustard in India and its implications, additional insight may be obtained by accessing Colin’s previous articles on the matter here.

Posted in IndiaComments Off on GM Mustard and the Indian Government: The Game Is up, the Emperor Has No Clothes!

Foreign Capital Dictates India’s Development Agenda

NOVANEWS

Foreign Capital Dictates India’s Development Agenda: Cultural Imperialism and the Seeds of Catastrophe, Ripping Up India’s Social Fabric

 

Foreign capital is dictating the prevailing development agenda in India. The aim is to replace current structures with a system of industrial agriculture suited to the needs of Western agribusiness, food processing and retail concerns (see this). The plan is for a fraction of the population left in farming working on contracts for large suppliers and large chain supermarkets offering a diet of highly processed, denutrified, genetically altered food based on crops soaked with chemicals and grown in increasingly degraded soils according to an unsustainable model of agriculture that is less climate/drought resistant, less diverse and unable to achieve food security.

Unfortunately, India’s political elites seem to be hellbent on capitulating to the needs of foreign players and their mindset that implies ‘poorer’ nations must be helped out of their awful ‘backwardness’ by the West and its powerful corporations and billionaire ‘philanthropists’. As with Monsanto and the Gates Foundation in Africa and the ‘helping’ of Africans by imposing a controlling system of agriculture, there is more than a hint of ethnocentricity and the old colonialist mentality at work.

The type of ‘development’ or ‘globalisation’ being rolled out by Washington and the World Bank is based on a need to homogenise cultures, production and consumption across the world because powerful transnational corporations’ business models rely on fast profits and global uniformity.

We need look no further than farming to see this at work. To understand what has happened to agriculture, whether in the West or in India, we must begin with the most basic element: how seeds have become increasingly uniform, less genetically diverse and subject to the control of corporate interests.

Eradicating seed diversity

In his report for The Ecologist, Oliver Tickell notes that for millennia, cereals were grown as ‘landraces’. Every field would include maybe half a dozen separate cereal species, divisible into as many as 200 varieties. Each would embody considerable genetic diversity. During the 19th century, however, farmers began to pick out specific lines that yielded higher returns under ideal agronomic conditions. Then, in search of greater stability and uniformity, crop breeders selected single seeds from these lines, bulked them up over successive plantings, then named and marketed them as distinct varieties.

Shortly before the first world war, these named varieties were hybridised in search of the ideal combination of agronomic qualities, putting together, for example, traits for large seed heads and short straw to increase yields yet further (under ideal conditions) and increase profitability for ‘efficient’ farmers.

As a result, plant breeders eradicated genetic diversity. As crops are genetically uniform, they can no longer evolve in the field to withstand insects and fungi and have to be constantly sprayed with pesticides. Moreover, the short straw length means that more of the plants’ energy goes into the grain – but then they can’t grow up above the weeds, so the system relies on repeated use of herbicides.

The use of these proprietary seeds and synthetic chemical inputs used to make them develop is a huge money-spinner for agribusiness companies. While in certain cases, yields have increased, there have been massive environmental, social and economic costs for the type of Green Revolution agriculture that has been rolled out, not least in terms of bad food and diets, degraded soils, water pollution and scarcity, poor health and the destruction of formerly largely self-sufficient rural communities and an increasing dependence on fossil fuels (transportation of food across greater distances, reliance on oil/hydrocarbon-based inputs) with all the implications that entails for climate change.

And as for climate change, genetically diverse crops are now needed more than ever; crops that have evolved to meet changing conditions, producing reliable yields all the time, rather than maximum yield when everything is just right but with the risk of total crop failure when you get flood, or drought, or some new insect or fungus or virus.

The eradication of seed diversity went much further than merely prioritising corporate seeds: it deliberately sidelined traditional seeds kept by farmers that were actually higher yielding. For example, the scientist R.H. Richharia was the director of the Central Rice Research Institute in Cuttack at the time of the Green Revolution in India.

Richharia’s research showed that several indigenous rice varieties gave high yields without the use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides. Unfortunately, these traditional varieties were ignored in favour of the newer corporate seeds. These traditional different varieties are ideal needed for different conditions. Richharia documented the existence of indigenous high-yielding varieties, early-maturing varieties, drought-resistant varieties, scented varieties, special flavour varieties and the like.

Once we began to see genetic diversity being eradicated in the field, what we also saw was a change in farming practices towards chemical-intensive monocropping, often for export or for far away cities rather than local communities, and ultimately the undermining or eradication of self-contained rural economies, traditions and cultures.

Cultural imperialism and the eradication of indigenous culture

Green Revolution technology and ideology imported from the West has merely served to undermine an indigenous farming sector that once catered for the diverse dietary needs and climatic conditions of India and it has actually produced and fuelled drought, degraded soilsillnesses and malnutrition, farmer distress and many other issues.

Environmental scientist Viva Kermani locates India’s traditional farming practices within the framework of deep-seated cultural and spiritual meaning. She notes that centuries before the appearance of the modern-day environmental movement, the shruti (Vedas, Upanishads) and smruti (Ramayana, Mahabharata, Puranas, other scriptures) instructed people that the animals and plants found in India are sacred; that like humans, our fellow creatures, including plants have consciousness; and, therefore, all aspects of nature are to be revered.

The Vedic deities have deep symbolism and many layers of existence. One such association is with ecology. Surya is associated with the sun, the source of heat and light that nourishes everyone; Indra is associated with rain, crops, and abundance; and Agni is the deity of fire and transformation and controls all changes. There was also Vrikshayurveda – an ancient Sanskrit text on the science of plants and trees. It contains details about soil conservation, planting, sowing, treatment, propagating, how to deal with pests and diseases and a lot more.

On the other hand, Kermani notes that the Western religions, especially Christianity, viewed this nature worship as paganism, failing to recognise the scientific and spiritual basis of the relationship between man and nature and how this is the only way to sustain ecological balance.

Similarly, Vandana Shiva outlines the traditional knowledge of women and the biodiversity that protects the earth are threatened by the monocultures, intensive chemical input, and large processing factories that come with GM Mustard – the next push in the treadmill of Green Revolution technology. Women’s caretaking of the seed, food and sacredness of mustard is to be stripped away, while local oil mills are shut down and corporations take over the value chain from seed-to-oil.

In trying to displace a traditional pre-existing system of production with one that is controlled by Western corporations (which, as Kermani implies, regards nature as something to be dominated and subjugated by corporations in a quest for power and profit), there is an underlying assumption that the Indian farmer is backward, ignorant and in need of ‘help’. This type of cultural hegemony helps legitimise the increasing economic domination of Indian food and agriculture by foreign interests.

But nothing could be further from the truth. As described in this paper in the Journal of South Asian Studies, for thousands of years farmers experimented with different plant and animal specimens acquired through migration, trading networks, gift exchanges or accidental diffusion. By learning and doing, trial and error, new knowledge was blended with older, traditional knowledge systems. The farmer possesses acute observation, good memory for detail and transmission through teaching and story-telling.

Moreover, the papers’s authors Marika Vicziany and Jagjit Plahe argue that smallholder farmers (the backbone of Indian agriculture) have traditionally engaged in risk minimising strategies. They took measures to manage drought, grow cereals with long stalks that can be used as fodder, engage in cropping practices that promote biodiversity, ethno-engineer soil and water conservation, use self-provisioning systems on farm recycling and use collective sharing systems such as managing common resource properties.

Farmers know their micro-environment, so they can plant crops that mature at different times, thereby facilitating more rapid crop rotation without exhausting the soil. By contrast, the authors argue that large-scale industrially-based agricultural production erodes biodiversity by depleting the organisms that live in soil, and making adverse changes to the structure of the soil and the kind of plants that can be grown in such artificially-created environments.

Vicziany and Plahe note that many of the practices of small farmers which were once regarded as primitive or misguided are now recognised as sophisticated and appropriate. For instance, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimates that globally just 20 cultivated plant species account for 90 percent of all the plant-based food consumed by humans. This narrow genetic base of the global food system has put food security at serious risk.

It is no surprise that various high-level reports have thus called for agroecology and smallholder farmers to be prioritised and invested in order to achieve global sustainable food security. Instead, what we see is (despite progress in Sikkim and Andhra Pradesh) the marginalisation of organic agriculture by corporate interests, not least in India by the powerful agrochemical lobby.

The authors conclude that traditional food production systems depend on using the knowledge and expertise of village communities and cultures in contrast to prioritising imported, industrial–commercial inputs. The widespread but artificial conditions created by the latter work against the survival of traditional knowledge, which creates and sustains unique indigenous farming practices and food culture.

Given that India is still very much an agrarian-based economy with the majority still employed in agriculture or agriculture-related activities, what we continue to see in India is an attack by foreign capital on the social, economic and cultural fabric of the nation.

Whether it is fuelled by Bill Gates, the World Bank’s neoliberal-based rhetoric about ‘enabling the business of agriculture’, or The World Economic Forum’s ‘Grow’ strategy, the implication is that the world’s farmers must capitulate to the West and its powerful corporations and a globalised, corrupt system of capitalism that will funnel profits to these companies while hooking farmers on a chemical treadmill.

What we currently see is the capturing of markets and global supply chains for the benefit of transnational corporations involved in food production. We see the destruction of natural habitat in Indonesia to produce palm oil. We see the use of cynical lies (linked to palm oil production) to corrupt India’s food system with genetically modified seeds. We witness the devastating impact on farmers and rural communities. We see the degradation of soils, health and water resources.

And, in places like India, we also see the transnational corporate commercialisation and displacement of localised productive systems: systems centred on smallholder/family farms that are more productive and sustainable, produce a healthier and more diverse diet, are better for securing local and regional food security and are the life-blood of communities.

Farms worked by farmers who Viva Kermani says have

“legitimate claims to being scientists, innovators, natural resource stewards, seed savers and hybridisation experts are being reduced to becoming recipients of technical fixes and consumers of the poisonous products of a growing agricultural inputs industry.”

The same farmers whose seeds and knowledge was stolen by corporations to be bred for proprietary chemical-dependent hybrids, now to be genetically engineered.

We also see the ripping up of India’s social fabric all for the bottom line of corporate profit.

Posted in IndiaComments Off on Foreign Capital Dictates India’s Development Agenda

Iran, India seem to be parting ways on long coveted giant gas field

NOVANEWS

Indian PM Narendra Modi

Press TV

Iran’s Ministry of Petroleum says it has started preliminary talks with Russians to develop Farzad B but negotiations also continue with the Indians who have long coveted the giant gas field.

“For the development of the Farzad B field, we are pursuing three separate paths in parallel, but none of the options is definite yet,” director of the integrated planning at the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) Karim Zobeidi said on Monday.

The third path is the implementation of a development study plan in cooperation with a foreign consultant and Iran’s Petropars company, the official explained.

Zobeidi said negotiations with the Indians have not achieved satisfactory results but they have not stopped either and that Iran was pursuing preliminary talks with a Russian company as the second path.

“Along these two routes, the study of the development of Farzad A and B and the feasibility of the injection of gas from these fields into Aghajari (oil field) in cooperation with a foreign consultant and Petropars company is in progress,” he added.

Indian companies discovered the Farzad B gas field in Iran in 2008 and have bid several times for the development rights.

The Indians were supposed to develop the field after its exploration, but they stopped their activities after the West intensified sanctions on the Islamic Republic in 2012.

With the lifting of the sanctions, India once again called for the development of Farzad B by ONGC Videsh which is the overseas investment arm of the country’s biggest energy exploration firm.

According to an agreement, the Indians were first to submit a technical plan and then a financial proposal for the development of the field, but Iran did not agree with the other side’s financial proposals.

In the absence of an agreement between Iran and India, the development plan for Farzad B will be put to international tender.

In May, Minister of Petroleum Bijan Zangeneh announced that Iran had signed a basic agreement with Russia’s energy giant Gazprom over the development of Farzad B.

Indians shift attention to ‘Israel’

On Monday, Reuters cited India’s Oil Minister Dharmendra Pradhan as saying that state-run Oil and Natural Gas Corp planned to bid for disputed Israeli offshore oil-and-gas exploration blocks.

A high-ranking Indian delegation visited Israel last month to discuss taking part in the tender for blocks in the Mediterranean Sea, the news agency reported.

“We will definitely bid for ‘Israel’s’ oil-and-gas blocks,” Reuters quoted Pradhan as saying.

New Delhi has deep military ties with Tel Aviv but they reportedly seek to expand their relationship to other sectors such as energy and technology following Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to ‘Israel’ in July.

According to Reuters, ‘Israeli’ officials were pleased with the visit by the Indian economic team, while many oil majors have been hesitant to enter the ‘Israeli’ market, fearing a backlash from oil-rich Arab states.

Lebanon has a long-standing dispute with ‘Israel’ which stands accused of stealing Arab resources.

Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri has said ‘Israel’ was overtly stealing Lebanon’s underwater oil and gas reserves off the coast of south Lebanon. Hezbollah has warned that it would use force to protect Lebanon’s resources.

The gas discoveries have created a new source of friction between Lebanon and ‘Israel’, which have clashed repeatedly.

Lacking in natural resources, ‘Israel’ has said it had discovered two fields thought to contain about 24 trillion cubic meters of natural gas, enough to make it energy self-sufficient for decades. Lebanese leaders have said the reserves were a “golden opportunity” for Lebanon to service its huge debt and rebuild its economy.

Posted in India, IranComments Off on Iran, India seem to be parting ways on long coveted giant gas field

The Unwanted: Indian Government Threatens to Deport Rohingya Refugees to Myanmar

NOVANEWS

In this Friday, March 17, 2017, image made from video, people who identify themselves as Rohingya, walk at the Dar Paing camp, north of Sittwe, Rakhine state, Myanmar. More than 120,000 Rohingya were forced into camps five years ago, and their suffering may have only worsened since Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi rose to power in Myanmar last year.

Last week, the Indian central government directed state authorities to deport illegal immigrants from India, including Rohingyas, a Muslim ethnic minority that is in danger of persecution in their home country of Myanmar, The Times of India reported.

About 40,000 Rohingyas have fled to India after being rejected from their home country and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has issued identification cards to about 16,500 Rohingyas to prevent them from being harassed, arbitrarily arrested, detained or deported.

According to the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs, “Due to a variety of reasons, including political and economic turmoil in neighboring countries, people from such countries often enter India. There are cultural and ethnic similarities, on many occasions such migration goes unnoticed and they settle in Indian territory.”

However, India Prime Minister Narendra Modi claimed that Rohingya peoples’ registration status with the UNHCR would not exclude them from detection and deportation, warning that any illegal immigrants in his fatherland threaten the security and rights of Indian nationals and encroach upon national resources.

“They are doing it, we can’t stop them from registering. But we are not signatory to the accord on refugees,” Modi claimed, adding that, “As far as we are concerned they are all illegal immigrants. They have no basis to live here. Anybody who is an illegal migrant will be deported.”

The Indian home ministry also confirmed these beliefs, stating that, “These illegal immigrants not only infringe on the rights of Indian citizens but also pose grave security challenges,” referring to the rise in terrorism over the last few decades due to vulnerable immigrants readily embodying terrorist ideologies.

It is not a secret that Indian terrorist organizations like Mujahideen and Lashkar-e-Toiba are sympathetic towards Rohingya people. The 2013 terrorist attack at the Mahabodhi temple in Bodh Gaya was motivated by the killing of Rohingyas in Myanmar. Abdul Karim Tunda, a bomb-maker for Lashkar-e-Toiba, also admitted to actively recruiting Rohingyas after being arrested in 2013.

However, according to India’s UNHCR office, the practice of non-refoulement — which states that a country’s international obligation is not to force asylum seekers to return to a nation in which they face danger — falls under international law duties for all states, regardless of whether a country has signed the Refugee Convention, which India has not. The office also added that it hasn’t received any official word that Rohingya refugees are to be deported.

There are approximately 300,000 Rohingya people also living in settlements in Bangladesh. Like the Indian government, the Bangladesh government has also expressed concern regarding the flood of refugees: “We hope the Rohingya will be able to return to Myanmar. Our population levels are already at an unbearable burden.”

Related:

Death Toll of Swine Flu Virus Outbreak in Myanmar Reaches 23
US Needs Better Safeguards to Prevent Aid to Myanmar Leaking to Lawless Groups
Urgent Assistance Needed in Myanmar as Children ‘Waste Away’ – Cash-Strapped WFP
India, China to Partake in Naval Exercise at Indian Ocean
India Denies Chinese Intrusion in Ladakh, no Thaw in Doklam Standoff

Posted in India, South AsiaComments Off on The Unwanted: Indian Government Threatens to Deport Rohingya Refugees to Myanmar

‘A Massacre’: 35 Indian Children Killed Due to Hospital Negligence

NOVANEWS
 

At least 30 children died on Thursday and Friday in a hospital in Uttar Pradesh, India, after the facility’s supply of liquid oxygen was cut off due to an unpaid electricity bill.

Between 11am and 2am, medical practitioners and family members frantically passed out manual resuscitator bags to parents as families desperately scrambled to save their children’s lives. According to police reports, 21 of the deaths were caused by oxygen shortage, cited by Chicago Tribune.

“We saw children dying around us,” a victim’s father said.

“Obviously, it’s the hospital’s fault,” he added. “So many children have died because of them. My son was fine until nighttime, then something wrong happened.”

Indian Nobel Peace Prize winner and child advocate Kailash Satyarthi tweeted, “30 kids died in a hospital without oxygen. This is not a tragedy. It’s a massacre.”

Referencing India’s 70th anniversary of its independence from England, Satyarthi castigated the government: “Is this what 70 years of freedom means for our children?”

30 kids died in hospital without oxygen. This is not a tragedy. It’s a massacre. Is this what 70 years of freedom means for our children?

 

The state’s health minister and hospital officials claimed that the deaths were not caused by the unpaid bill. The state’s chief minister, Yogi Adityanath, however, has established a committee to investigate the electricity bill.

“The guilty will not be spared,” Adityanath asserted.

According to documents revealed by The Washington Post, the hospital owed a whopping $89,750 to Pushpa Sales Private Limited, a medical supply company based in Lucknow.

The company had sent multiple letters to the hospital and district magistrate over a period of six months requesting payment. After the contract between the supply company and the hospital ended on July 31, Pushpa waited four more days before cutting off the oxygen supply on August 4.

Extreme negligence on the part of the hospital’s chief medical officer is alleged, after he apparently ignored warnings from employees monitoring oxygen storage levels that the supply would only last until Thursday.

Intense anger flooded social media outlets following the aftermath of what is now seen to be a completely avoidable tragedy.

A political cartoon depicting babies as angels in the sky and an Indian government official trying to reach them quickly surfaced on the internet.

Related:

India Has No Reason to Oppose Establishment of Chinese Base in Djibouti
India’s Foreign Defense Procurement Jumps Eightfold Under Modi Regime
Expert Says India’s Reaction to Operation in Doklam Shows No Self Confidence
Himalayan Standoff: China, India Have ‘Enough Wisdom to Resolve It Peacefully’
India Freezes Purchase of Additional AH-64E Apache From US

Posted in IndiaComments Off on ‘A Massacre’: 35 Indian Children Killed Due to Hospital Negligence

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