Archive | India

Behind the rise of the Indian labor struggle

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On Nov. 9, 2017, 70,000 workers from all corners of India came together in New Delhi for a three-day sit in. Workers from rail, telecommunications, defense, construction, ports and docks, energy, and many other sectors associated with some the largest unions in India joined together to protest the anti-worker, anti-people, and anti-national policies of the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. If their demands are not met, the unions have plans for an indefinite countrywide general strike. The growing unity and militancy of the Indian labor movement are welcome developments and a possible sign of future militant actions.

Among the major unions taking part are:

  • All India Trade Union Congress (The oldest trade union in India; associated with the Communist Party of India)
  • Hind Mazdoor Sabha (Indian Workers Assembly; unaffiliated)
  • Centre of Indian Trade Unions (Associated with the Communist Party of India — Marxist)
  • All India United Trade Union Centre (Associated With Socialist Unity Centre of India — Communist)
  • Trade Union Coordination Centre (Unaffiliated)
  • Self Employed Women’s Association (Unaffiliated)
  • All India Central Council of Trade Unions (Associated with the Communist Party of India [Marxist-Leninist] Liberation)
  • United Trade Union Congress (Associated with the Revolutionary Socialist Party);
  • Labour Progressive Federation (Associated with the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, a regional left-wing party in Tamil Nadu)
  • Mazdoor Ekta Committee — Workers Unity Committee (Associated with the Communist Ghadar Party of India)
  • Indian National Trade Union Congress (associated with Indian National Congress Party)

Those protesting had several demands, including but not limited to an end to speculative trading, an end of privatization and selling of public assets to foreign capital, a higher minimum wage, enforcement of already-existing labor laws, schemes to end unemployment and a universal social security system. The protesters also highlighted the plight of minorities: dalits (“untouchables,” or peoples belonging to the lowest social caste) and adivasi (tribal groups) — both of whom have been under attack by the ruling party and right-wing street gangs supportive of the BJP. Those protesting called for unity among all oppressed people to oppose the religious fundamentalism and bigotry of the ruling BJP and Modi government. The unions’ anger was summed up time and time again by pointing out the anti-worker, pro-capitalist, anti people, bigoted, and pro-international capital policies implemented by the Modi government.

The BJP is a Hindu-Nationalist party and the political wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (meaning National Volunteer Organization, simplified as RSS) a paramilitary right-wing organization heavily influenced by Italian and German fascism. They promote Hindutva (Hindu-ness), the idea that India is a Hindu Rashtra (a Hindu nation). This notion is completely the opposite of what is written in the Indian constitution, that India is a secular nation.

As with most fascist or semi-fascist political formations, the BJP implements laws to benefit the ruling class. India’s working class and the left in general have been on the defensive since India’s adoption of neoliberal economic policies in the early 1990’s under the leadership of the Indian National Congress Party, which had governed India since independence. The BJP has intensified the class struggle — in part by exacerbating social struggle along caste lines — with an all-out attack on the working class, lower castes, dalits and non-Hindu religious practitioners. Even the BJP’s main social base — small shop owners — has not been spared from the attack, which is carried out in service of big capitalists and foreign capital.

Anti-worker attacks

The two outstanding examples of the BJP’s anti-people attacks — besides near-complete inaction over the murder of journalists, communist cadres and Muslims — are demonetization and the Goods and Services Tax (GST). Demonetization and the GST, both touted as master strokes by the BJP government and its lackeys in the Indian corporate media, have destroyed the lives of many ordinary Indians. Demonetization was an attempt to force people in the informal economy into the formal economy. The informal economy, in which a significant portion of people in South Asia work, operates on a cash-only basis and is not well-documented and thus not easily taxed. Many people still lack bank accounts and keep their savings physically in high-denomination rupee notes.

In order to force Indians into the formal economy, the government ruled that the 500- and 1000-rupee notes would become officially worthless. Instead, they could trade in their old currency for a new 2000-rupee note. Overnight, 80 percent of the entire Indian currency stock was worthless. Lines formed across the country as people tried to gain access to their own money. Banks ran out of the new currency notes, while, strangely enough, BJP party members and allies never seemed to have a problem obtaining the new notes. Meanwhile, ordinary Indians were forced to spend weeks in line to access their own money.

After this ‘masterstroke’ came the GST, an attempt to standardize the notoriously complicated tax system. Although the GST might not have had a negative effect on the big corporations in the formal economy, it has hit the small capitalists in the informal economy — such as small shopkeepers, restauranteurs, etc. —particularly hard, which in turn has forced many small producers to fire workers. These attempts by the Indian upper classes to force the working and middle classes in line with their dreams of a neoliberal India are beginning to backfire.

India is a country of extreme wealth disparity. The richest 10 percent of Indians own 80 percent of the wealth in the country, whereas the poorest 50 percent control 3 percent of the wealth. This wealth disparity did not start when the BJP came to power but rather has been a feature of Indian society since the time of the British rule. Joblessness and lack of opportunity has plagued poor and working Indians as food and housing prices have skyrocketed in recent years. Tens of thousands of farmers, unable to pay their debts, have committed suicide as a protest of last resort.

Meanwhile the BJP and Modi in particular have opportunistically used pro-Hindu identity politics (often referred to as “communalism”) and religious intolerance to demagogically pander to its base, as well as a
divide-and-conquer tactic. Whenever there has been economic trouble or an upcoming election, the BJP consistently whips up anti-Muslim sentiment to try and gain the support of the Hindu middle classes. This has unfortunately worked before, but it seems that the economic onslaught has taken its toll and the BJP is losing support.

Rise of left opposition

Meanwhile, the Indian left and formerly-obscure parties are on the rise. The show of unity of India’s major unions is an important development.

India is an incredibly diverse country with thousands of ethnic groups and languages. In response, various unions have spent the previous three months intensively campaigning, spreading information in all major regional languages to activists in all corners of the country. These unions coming together have formed a pole to which activists from all the struggles facing the Indian working masses and oppressed peoples can gravitate towards. The unity of the main unions in the country was apparent in the November mass actions and their call for a continued unified struggle is a real accomplishment, so much so that the unity impressed several independent worker federations who have recently joined.

Continued actions to pressure the government to give in to the demands of the workers are on the horizon. If these demands are not met, the unions have all agreed to launch an indefinite countrywide general strike. This general strike will be the third in 4 years following nationwide strikes of 80 million in 2015 and 150 million in 2016 that took to the streets against the anti-people policies of the Modi government. This time, the workers intend to sustain the general strike until their demands are met. The unions also have plans for sector-/industry-wide strikes across India if the government moves to privatize any more public firms or if any anti-worker laws are passed in the union budget.

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Make 2018 A Year Of People’s Unity and Resistance Against Fascism!

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The year 2017 will be remembered for some of the worst attacks on Muslim and Christian minorities, on Dalits, on critics of the Modi regime, and on the secular, democratic character of India’s Constitution and polity.

Christmas this year has been heralded by a spree of attacks by Sangh mobs on Christians. Carol singers were attacked 10 days before Christmas, and their car burnt inside the premises of a police station in Madhya Pradesh. In what has become a predictable pattern, the police did not arrest the assailants, and instead booked the carol singers for “forcible conversions”. Carol singers were also attacked with a knife in Aligarh in Uttar Pradesh, days after the Hindu Jagran Manch, a Sangh outfit, sent letters to Christian schools in Aligarh warning them against celebrating Christmas, claiming this would “lure Hindu students towards Christianity”. In Mathura in UP, Christians praying inside a home were arrested on charges of “forcible conversion.” An study tracking attacks on Christians globally found that in India in the first six months of 2017, as many attacks on Christians took place as had taken place in the whole of 2016.

Just as activists raising issues of atrocities against Dalits were accused by the BJP of “casteism” in the Gujarat elections, it is the religious minorities – not their attackers – who are accused of being “communal” by the BJP leadership. Sending a subtle message of approval for such attacks on Christians, the President of India Ram Nath Kovind refused to continue the tradition of hearing carol singers on Christmas Eve. His excuse was that to do so would be improper since India is a “secular state”. Ironically, even as the President of India invoked “secularism” as a pretext to shun Christmas celebrations, his party colleague, Union Minister Anant Hegde made in a speech in poll-bound Karnataka, warning that those who identified as “secular” rather than by their religion or caste, would face “trouble” since the BJP was “here to change the Constitution”.

December 2017 will also be seared in public memory for the horrible video-graphed murder of Afrazul in Rajasthan. It is clear by now that the killer Shambhulal, fed on a non-stop diet of Sanghi hate-videos, killed Afrazul because he wanted to figure in a similar video and become a “hero” for the fascist hate groups. Not only did those groups make the video go viral; they were allowed by police to defy prohibitory orders and hold a violent demonstration in support of the killer, even hoisting the saffron ‘Hindu nation’ flag atop the Udaipur court house. While these fascist goons were released on bail after a belated, token arrest, Muslims who protested the killing were arrested and denied bail, as Left groups were even denied permission to hold a Peace March!

Afrazul’s killing was one among a string of attacks on Muslims in BJP-ruled Rajasthan – many of whom were killed by lynch mobs in the name of ‘cow protection.’ As we approach the New Year, BJP’s Rajasthan MLA Gyan Dev Ahuja has openly defended such killings and warned of more, saying, “If you smuggle or kill cows you will of course be killed.” Meanwhile, the Yogi Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh has stopped the salaries of 298 madrasa staff, claiming the madarsas failed to submit requisite documentation. Also in December 2017, a Telangana BJP MLA called upon Hindus to take up swords to “wipe out” anyone who came between them and the goal of a Hindu Nation.

In Ghaziabad in Uttar Pradesh, a BJP leader led an attack on a wedding, declaring that it was a case of “love jehad” since the Muslim groom and the Hindu bride had not secured “permission” from the BJP for the wedding! 2017 will also be infamously remembered for the failure of India’s courts to uphold the autonomy of women and their choice instead to legitimize the poisonous patriarchal and Islamophobic myth of “love jehad”.

2017 will also be remembered for the assassination of journalist and activist Gauri Lankesh, and the manner in which Sanghi cadres celebrated her killing, for the killing of Junaid – and for the countrywide citizens’ protests these soul-searing events generated.

The year 2017 ended with a silver lining, however – with the voters of Gujarat putting up a remarkable fight against communal polarization and highlighting the issues of unemployment and agrarian crisis. If the year 2017 was a year of firings on peasants, it was also a year of peasants and workers asserting unity against divisive violence, fighting back, and putting their issues back on political centre stage. If Dalits were attacked in Saharanpur by BJP-backed mobs for refusing to become footsoldiers of communal violence against Muslims, 2017 also saw the emergence of the Bhim Army as an inspiring movement of Dalit youth. The arrests of peasant leader Akhil Gogoi and Bhim Army leader Chandrashekhar Azad Raavan under draconian laws, and the arrest of employees’ union leaders in Patna when they had been invited for talks with the Government on health workers’ issues, and repeated attempts to use assassinations and defamation laws to chill investigative journalism that question the Government: all point to an attack on democracy that even exceeds the shameful legacy of the Emergency.

2017 has also called the bluff of the Modi Government’s tall claims of ending corruption. The acquittal of all the accused in the 2G scam is squarely due to the calculated apathy of the CBI “caged parrot” even under the Modi regime, which helped to protect the likes of Anil Ambani. The manner in which Jagannath Mishra (now in the BJP embrace) has been acquitted in the Fodder Scam while Opposition leader Laloo Yadav was convicted, also reeks of the manner in which investigative agencies and corruption cases are selectively deployed as political weapons by the BJP Government. Meanwhile, grave corruption and conflict of interest charges involving Amit Shah’s son Jay Shah and Ajit Doval’s son Shaurya Doval, as well as the suspicious death of Justice Loya in a manner that was highly convenient for Amit Shah in the custodial killing cases he faced, are not deemed to merit any investigation.

With every passing day, the Modi regime’s claims of fighting corruption are being exposed even further. Modi had claimed last year that demonetization would clean the economy of black money since black money tended to be stored in big (Rs 500 and Rs 1000) notes. A year later, in December 2017, it is apparent that this claim is bogus. Big denomination notes now constitute no less than 93 per cent of the total currency in circulation: higher than the pre-Note-Ban levels of 86.4 per cent. In fact, it is the first time that high-denomination notes have crossed the 90 per cent mark in 15 years!

Anti-fascist fighters in India are entering 2018 filled with a new sense of determination and confidence. It is apparent that in spite of captive media houses serving as his personal propaganda machinery, and the unrelenting campaign of communal hate and violence, Modi’s stature stands eroded and he is facing resistance from almost every section of India’s people. Let’s make the coming year one of intensified unity and resistance against the fascists!

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India: Remembering Bhopal ‘VIDEO’

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3,000 KILLED AND 150,000 INJURED

TYPICAL COLD CORPORATE RESPONSE

If you’re old enough, you may remember Bhopal.

It was the worst industrial disaster in history. Union Carbide, now owned by Dow Chemical, killed over 3,000, injured 120,000 – and did next-to-nothing NOTHING to help the people injured.

Poor design, poor training, poor maintenance, and not taking the dangers the operation posed to the nearby residents seriously led to this disaster. In other words, 1,500 counts of negligent homicide.

The Yes Men reveal the callousness of Dow Chemical

 

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Will Beijing Really Rename and Reroute the China-Pakistan Economic Corridors (CPEC) to Please India?

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The Chinese Ambassador to India suggested that his country could rename and even reroute the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, popularly known as CPEC, in order to appease New Delhi.

His Excellency Mr. Luo Zhaohui proposed this controversial idea in a speech at the Centre for Chinese and South-East Asian Studies late last week, which is the second time that he spoke about it when considering that the first instance was half a year ago in May. It’s difficult to interpret why this is being brought up yet again, though there are two branches of understanding that can help with figuring out what might be going on. The first one of course is that the Ambassador isn’t serious about the proposal and is simply bringing it up for diplomatic reasons and in order to temporarily alleviate India’s hysterical jingoistic worries about CPEC. That’s indeed very possible, though the second school of thought on this topic is equally plausible as well, and it’s that Beijing might actually be somewhat serious about this suggestion.

To explain, China would ideally like for India to join its One Belt One Road (OBOR) global vision of New Silk Road connectivity, as the complementary synergy between these two Asian Great Powers could literally have world-changing consequences for International Relations, but New Delhi’s ultra-nationalist government has thus far refrained from this due to its maximalist approach to the Kashmir Conflict and fears of being inundated with Chinese goods. In an attempt to temper their unease, Ambassador Zhaohui proposed that China could “create an alternative corridor through Jammu and Kashmir, Nathu La pass or Nepal to deal with India’s concerns”, which would in essence connect over two billion people and create a powerhouse of geopolitical gravity if it was successful.

China-Pakistan Economic Corridor

The problem, however, is that this is more of a liberal fantasy than a functional plan when considering that all indicators point to India’s reluctance to ever agree to this proposal, especially since the South Asian state is in the process of formulating a 100-year-long strategy with the US, as revealed by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson earlier last month. Therefore, it’s fair to suppose that any members of China’s permanent military, intelligence, and especially diplomatic bureaucracies – or “deep state” – who believe in this are followers of the liberal school of thought, which might also suggest that some of them might even believe the unfounded fake news reports about Pakistan’s stability and security, ergo why they would publicly entertain renaming and potentially even rerouting CPEC.

The $250 billion worth of deals that Trump agreed to during his visit to the People’s Republic a few weeks ago might have also had an influence on Ambassador Zhaohui’s revival of his curious proposal, whether as a symbolic diplomatic gesture or a serious initiative. At the end of the day, however, it’s very unlikely that China would ever reroute CPEC because of the grand strategic purpose that the project fulfills in providing Beijing with reliable overland access to the Indian Ocean through which almost all of its Eastern Hemispheric trade traverses, and as for renaming this project, it can’t do so unilaterally without Pakistan’s approval and that won’t ever happen because CPEC has become inseparable from the country’s 21st-century international branding.

The post presented is the partial transcript of the CONTEXT COUNTDOWN radio program on Sputnik News, aired on Friday Nov 24, 2017:

 

 

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Remembering Shaheed Kartar Singh Sarabha

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(Liberation pays tribute to Shaheed Kartar Singh Sarabha, the Ghadar movement hero martyred on 16 November 2015.)

Kartar Singh Sarabha

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kartar Singh Sarabha was 19 when he was executed by the British colonial Raj on 16 November 2015. But his afterlife was a long one if his life was short. Sarabha’s legacy inspired Bhagat Singh, who used to carry a photo of Sarabha in his pocket at all times. Sarabha and the Ghadar movement were the living link between the 1857 First War of Independence; the Russian Revolution; and Bhagat Singh’s generation of revolutionaries.

Kartar Singh Sarabha Grewal was born on 24 May 1896 in Sarabha village, Ludhiana district, Punjab. He was schooled in Ludhiana and did his final year of schooling in Ravenshaw College, Cuttack, Odisha. He sailed to America in 1912 for higher studies, at the age of 15. Soon, the teenager was radicalized by the Indian expatriate working class and students to join the Ghadar movement, which was committed to an armed struggle to recreate the 1857 ‘Ghadar’ (Revolt) to free India from colonial rule.

Professor Chaman Lal writes: “In a life of 19 years, and a political life of only 4 years, Kartar Singh Sarabha set such a glowing example of the struggle for India’s independence, as is very rare to obtain. Sarabha had reached America on the 1st of January, 1912 and attained political consciousness within a period of five or six months. After the founding of the Ghadar Party on the 21st of April, 1913, and especially after the publication of ‘Ghadar’ on the 1st of November, 1913, every moment of his life, every drop of his blood was dedicated to the service to his nation…The newspaper ‘Ghadar’ was brought out from the Ghadar Party office, ‘Yugantar Ashram’ and Kartar Singh Sarabha and Raghuvar Dyal Gupta, along with Lala Hardayal played a key role in this.”

The Ghadar party, with its origins among Indian migrant workers, was marked from the beginning by its revolutionary orientation. Lala Hardayal, who had served as Secretary of the San Francisco branch of the Industrial Workers of the World, was probably the first Indian to write an article on Karl Marx (published in the Modern Review, Calcutta, in March 1912). The Ghadarites were imbued with a broad internationalist outlook, drawing inspiration from Irish, Mexican and Russian as well as Indian revolutionaries.

A March 19,1917 issue of Ghadar proclaimed in bold letters “RUSSIA HAS BECOME FREE, SOON INDIA WILL BE FREE”, following the fall of the Czarist regime in Russia and the beginning of the revolution there. Many of the Ghadar leaders later became communist organizers (one of them, Baba Bujha Singh, joined the Naxalbari movement in 1967, and was arrested and killed in a fake encounter on July 28, 1970.)

They were also united by a strong, principled anti-communal secularism. Among the leaders and martyrs of the Ghadar movement there were Sikhs, Muslims and Hindus from different regions of India. As Sohan Singh Bhakna, who would later become an important leader of the Communist Party of India, said later, “We were not Sikhs or Punjabis. Our religion was patriotism.” The same feeling was expressed by the young Abdullah, one of the rebel sepoys executed in Ambala, who when lured by the authorities to betray his kafir (non-Muslim) comrades, retorted: “It is with these men alone that the gates of heaven shall open to me.”

It was these ideals that moved Kartar Singh Sarabha. When the Ghadar leaders who sailed to India to hoping to wage and win a revolutionary war were arrested, Kartar Singh Sarabha himself took on leadership at the age of 18.

According to Professor Chaman Lal, Kartar Singh Sarabha was betrayed by a police informer. He was reciting poems from Ghadar ki Goonj to to the people gathered in the house, when the police arrived there and arrested him and his comrades. They bravely kept singing revolutionary poems even in captivity. Sarabha was sentenced to death and executed with six other Ghadrites.

Professor Chaman Lal writes: “Kartar Singh Sarabha became Bhagat Singh’s hero from childhood, when he had visited their home and Bhagat Singh’s father Kishan Singh gave one thousand rupees fund to Ghadar party. Bhagat Singh always used to keep Sarabha’s photo in his pocket and Naujwan Bharat Sabha established by Bhagat Singh and Comrades will always begin their slide show or revolutionary heroes after garlanding Sarabha’s photograph on dais.” 

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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

NOVANEWS
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

NOVANEWS

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

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

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