Sunday, April 30, 2006

Anti War in New York

A couple of hundred thousand people marched from 21st street Manhattan to Broadway in New York City on 29th April 2006. Trade unions, church groups, energy groups, peace groups, Iraq veterans, revolutionary groups, musicians all were demanding that troops be pulled out of Iraq, and troops not be sent to Iran. This is the 4th year of the war and a time when popularity for President Bush and support for the war are on an all time low. Mobilization of a 200,000 thousand people is a Herculean task but it was done effectively and the streets were over flowing with people against the war.

However we marched on a Saturday morning when there was no office crowd that we could bother. We sat outside an empty City Hall with all our flyers and banners and spoke about the war with groups that already agreed on its illegality and horrors. It was a symbolic one day march with streets allocated to us so that we didnt disrupt any traffic. We returned to our homes in the evening and will get back to our daily routines by Monday. Was the mobilization of a 200,000 people at all efective or did it all go waste? Does the white house even know that there were so many people on the streets of New York that day? Guaging from the lousy media coverage that the march got, I doubt that they do. What would have happened if just 5,000 people out of the 200,000 decided to stay put outside the hall and not leave till they were heard? What would have happened if 10,000 people courted arrest? We are 3 years into the war now and more people are dying each day. Can we afford to waste all the efforts that go into mobilizing so many people? Shouldnt we be more insistent, more stubborn about being listened to?

Maybe the march was to get people together and form alliances and coalitions, so that there could be a cohesive effort against the war. However, the time has come when we cannot just make token demonstrations. The rally can very easily be dismissed by onlookers as a one day carnival. It can definitely be a carnival, but it has to be a long drawn out continuous carnival.

**********

Some banners at the march

The People United will NEVER be Defeated - Che Guevara
No Blood for Oil
Asian Latin Black and White, Against the War we must UNITE
Bombing for Peace is like Fucking for Virginity
No War between Countries, No Peace between Classes
War, Poverty, Repression, Corruption - Its Time for a SYSTEM CHANGE
Break the Borders, Its Time for a COMMUNIST REVOLUTION
My DICK would make a better Vice President
TRUST WOMEN
STOP the Attacks on Workers Rights
STOP the Genocide in Darfur

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Ground Zero

Ground Zero, a report on the state of rehabilitation in the Narmada Valley (on OutLook).

- Official estimates say of the 21,421 displaced, 15,965 still have to be resettled. 5,456 have exercised their choice to move to Gujarat.
- Rs 1,200 crore spent on relief. There is little to show for this, say villagers.
- Land allocation to oustees has been done in a slipshod manner. Many have land only on paper.
- New settlements lack basic amenities including potable water and inadequate drainage. Hence very few takers.

R&R racket

While the NBA protests for R&R continue and also await the SC decision, for now electoral politics seem to have prevailed once again.
A report on Tehelka: Land for land is a big hoax

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Chernobyl disaster

Today is the 20th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster.

The Chernobyl disaster arose from an accident that occurred at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Pripyat, Ukraine. On Saturday, April 26, 1986, at 1:23:58 a.m. local time, the unit 4 reactor of the Chernobyl power plant—known as Chernobyl-4—suffered a catastrophic steam explosion that resulted in a fire, a series of additional explosions, and a nuclear meltdown. It is regarded as the worst accident in the history of nuclear power. Because there was no containment building, a plume of radioactive fallout drifted over parts of the western Soviet Union, Eastern and Western Europe, Scandinavia, the British Isles, and the eastern United States. Large areas of Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia were badly contaminated, resulting in the evacuation and resettlement of over 336,000 people. About 60% of the radioactive fallout landed in Belarus. According to the 2006 TORCH report, half of the radioactive fallout landed outside the three soviet countries. The disaster released over four hundred times more radiation than the atomic bomb of Hiroshima.
...
A 2005 report prepared by the Chernobyl Forum, led by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and World Health Organization (WHO), attributed 56 direct deaths; 47 accident workers and 9 children with thyroid cancer, and estimated that as many as 9,000 people, among the approximately 6.6 million, will ultimately die from some form of cancer (one of the induced diseases). For its part, Greenpeace estimates a total death toll of 93,000 but cite in their report “The most recently published figures indicate that in Belarus, Russia and the Ukraine alone the accident could have resulted in an estimated 200,000 additional deaths in the period between 1990 and 2004.”

Legally Modified

Legally Modified, a report on DownToEarth, regarding government plans to label GM food in India.
This is the first decisive move towards a gm food regime in the country. But the wisdom of the move has been questioned. While some have welcomed it, others say it is retrograde because the new regime will make it impossible in future to ban gm food, which raises serious health questions.
But farmer leader Vijay Jawandhia thinks the move is clearly an approval for all gm food imports. He says, “Though gm food existed in the Indian shelves when quantitative restriction on food imports was lifted in 2001, it had no legal acceptance and could have been banned easily. But these new rules mean India is accepting gm food for public consumption. This will promote foreign agribusiness.” GM contamination is also suspected in other imported products like tomato juice, tomato ketchups and potato chips.

Anju Sangwan, researcher and coordinator of food safety division with the New Delhi-based organisation Consumer Voice, is skeptical of the move. She says, “Although India is considering a strong labelling regime, it doesn’t have the necessary infrastructure to conduct the required testing.” A senior scientist at the National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources, New Delhi, says, “India has no lab that can actually do large-scale testing for food with gm traces as low as 1 per cent.”

There could also be a problem at the World Trade Organization (WTO). WTO's International Codex Committee on food labelling is yet to include mandatory labelling for gm food, owing to us pressure. Thus, if India seeks mandatory labelling of gm food, it runs the risk of being challenged at WTO .

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Rural Social Mobilization

The transformation of Kavthepiran village
Amongst a number of other problems, this village in Sangli district, Maharashtra, was ridden with alcoholism and disease for over two decades. Since 2001, that began to change. Kavthepiran made a turnaround, banned alcoholism, and won a national award for 100 per cent sanitation this year.

[A report on IndiaTogether.]

Sunday, April 23, 2006

RDB review

A pretty cool review of Rang De Basanti is here.
(link forwarded by Satya)

Thursday, April 20, 2006

why bottled water/colas?

As many other sectors and products, the bottled water and cola industry is rapidly growing in India (and as in many cases, mostly catering to the urban folk).

Bottled water/soft drinks amongst other things require plastic, oil, pesticides, chemicals, infringe on limited natural water resources. Many of the soft drinks don't have any nutritional value. Studies have even found high levels of pesticides in these drinks.

then why bottled water and colas?

my thoughts on possible reasons ...
  • Water quality
    But till just 5 years back there was hardly any bottled water and so many still don't drink it---are they suffering or did we due to unbottled water? Further, there were no regulations on bottled water quality till sometime back (am not sure about now) and pesticides were found in tests, so it is not that bottled water is the *best*.
  • "Coolness" factor
    If you don't drink bottled water/colas you don't belong to *the* class.
  • Aamir Khan, Aishwarya Rai say so (possibly related to above)
  • Who was time to think about such things? It is convenient, just *enjoy* it.
  • Suits my taste buds!
  • Tuesday, April 18, 2006

    TSU @ UMass

    Tent State University comes to UMass, Amherst this week (17th-21st April). The UMass TSU site is here.
    Tent State University (TSU) is a week-long, outdoor university shaped by students, workers and community members. TSU calls for equal access to education and it creates an example of what a university should be: a democratically controlled public space that brings together diverse groups to exchange ideas, art, and culture.

    Some pics from last nite:
    The registration tent and the W.E.B DuBois Library looming over the tents.


    hunger strikes end

    Medha and others end fast, put faith in Supreme Court.

    Bhopal gas victims end hunger strike after meeting the PM. He agreed to meet four of the six demands. It seems that the demands that the Prime Minister will not agree to meet are those which would most hurt Dow Chemical.

    Monday, April 17, 2006

    GoM's confidential report on Narmada visit

    Link to the report, obtained exclusively by The Hindu, "A Brief Note on the Assessment of Resettlement and Rehabilitation (R & R) Sites and Submergence of Villages of the Sardar Sarovar Project." The note marked confidential and dated April 9, 2006, was signed by Union Minister of Water Resources, Saifuddin Soz, Union Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment Meira Kumar, and Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office Prithviraj Chauhan.

    The report makes a very sad reading of the ground realities in the affected areas and of the oustees. This line at the end of the report summarizes it all,
    The reports of the Rehabilitation and Resettlement Sub Group and the GRA on the basis of which Narmada Control Authority (NCA) granted permission for raising the height has been largely paperwork and it has no relevance with the situation on the ground.

    Wonder why Mr. Manmohan Singh is still not doing anything about it?
    To do the least, he could have just made the report public on April 9th. People need to know what the truth is! He could have even scored a few political points over BJP by making the report public.

    Another report on The Hindu: Narmada project: clearing the confusion
    The factual answers to ten relevant questions are clear. Now the Prime Minister needs to act justly and responsibly, in line with the Supreme Court's judgment.

    Sunday, April 16, 2006

    Blue Gold

    Frontline's April issue has a series of articles on water privatization and its effects.

        Thirst for profit
        Private water, Public misery
        Manager's nightmare
        Showing the way
        Bottled loot
        Interview: Anil Naidoo

    Poison vs Nutrition, a report by CSE on pesticides in bottled water and soft drinks sold in India.

    The water wars have already begun!

    whose PM? what media?

    The Gujarat MPs meet the PM and the PMO issues an official statement. While the affected people and the protestors patiently wait at Jantar Mantar for the more than 2 weeks to seek a meeting or a clear statement from the PMO---never mind that some of them are on a hunger strike (some for more than 2 weeks) and some have travelled on foot more than 800 km and more than that never mind that they are the ones at the wrong end of government policies. (Details of the protests are here and here).

    While that is on, the media is firmly stuck in its belief of celebrity market-value. The media blitz after Aamir Khan visited the protest sites had several articles about the new avatar of the actor---whatever happened to the movement and their issues.
    Two images showing possible contrasting media interest!

    While that happens, Mr. Modi is on a 51-hour fast and NBA office is ransacked.

    The NBA press release regarding the attack on their office and Soz's statement that the SC will decide the issue and that dam construction and rehab should be done simultaneously is here.
    Fast by Medha, Bhawatiben and Jamsinghbai is in the 19th day.

    Saturday, April 15, 2006

    India Together links

    A moral breach in the dam
    As the demands for justice draw embarrassingly close to the PM, the decision to raise the height of the Sardar Sarovar dam is being reviewed. But promises are nothing new, and officials have always known that they can be broken with impunity. Should we expect anything different this time?

    Reliance's Dahanu power plant under scrutiny
    As per consent conditions issued by MPCB to Reliance Energy in 2004, the maximum temperature of the hot water discharged had to be within the limit of 50 Centigrade of the intake water temperature. However readings from an industrial thermometer showed the inlet temperature at 260C while the outlet went as high as 350 C, 40C higher than permitted. They made this case before the DTEPA on 21 March and the Chairman, Justice Dharmadhikari (Retd.) directed the MPCB to conduct fresh tests in their presence.

    Water privatiziation in India

    P. Sainath reports: Thirst for profit
    The corporate hijack of water is on and if the current trend continues, India's water sources will be in private hands before long.
    ...
    "In 1998, the World Bank predicted that the global trade in water would soon be a U.S. $800 billion industry, and by 2001, this projection had been jacked up to one trillion dollars." And these revenues are "based on the fact that only five per cent of the world's population are now receiving their water supply from corporations". So as the corporate grip on water tightens, "water could become a multi-trillion-dollar industry in the future. What if city after city privatises its water services?"
    ...
    About 118 million households -- 62 per cent of the total -- do not have drinking water at home. As census household survey data analysed by Dr. S. L. Rao show, 300 million Indians draw water from community taps or handpumps. (Many World Bank and Asian Development Bank projects, by the way, will end up doing away with those community taps.)

    About five million Indian families (roughly the population of Canada) still draw water from ponds, tanks, rivers and springs. This is a stratified society. The big dams that have displaced millions of Indians in the past decades have also narrowed control and access to water. Atop this structured inequity, we now install hyper-inequality.
    ...
    hose bringing it to you include some of the top corporations in the world. Some of the companies now making a beeline for India have been turfed out of Latin America. Suez, one of the Big Three of water, told the Guardian that "it was almost impossible for it to work in Latin America or Africa. And so, instead, it would "be concentrating on China, India and Eastern Europe." The company did not mention that it had been tossed out of Grenoble in its native France as well. As Maude Barlow points out, that city also jailed its own mayor and a senior Suez executive for bribery.

    As she also shows, it's not just any racket. It's scale is stunning. "Bottled water costs up to 10,000 times more than tap water in local communities. For the same price as one bottle, 1,000 gallons of water could be delivered to a person's home."

    In Bolivia, when the MNC Bechtel took control of the water supply in the city of Cochabamba, it raised prices by 200 per cent

    Friday, April 14, 2006

    Dispensable Citizens

    The Creating dispensable citizens
    This is not merely about whether the dam should be constructed or not. It is about condoning state inaction and then blaming the victim.

    ... the struggle does not stop at the Narmada Valley or Bhopal ... it has to go on.

    PM to meet Bhopal gas tragedy protestors

    Initial details here.

    eve teasing

    ... is this related to it? or is it just *normal* celebrity advertisement for a MNC?

    Thursday, April 13, 2006

    India related Qs ...

    (1) What percentage of India's population is involved/dependent in/on agriculture? (cultivators and agricultural labourers)

    (2) What is the male/female literacy rate of India?

    (3) What is the percentage of Bombay's population living in slums?

    (4) What is India's Defence budget? (in terms of % total expenditure)

    ... will post answer's tomorrow (till then post your answers).

    435 since June 2005

    Paromita Shastri's report: 42 Days, 99 Farmer Suicides... on Outlook India.
    Medha Patkar was 'arrested' because the police said she was attempting suicide. By that count, 435 farmers who have committed suicide in Vidarbha region alone since June 2005, must be criminals. DA says depression and lure of Rs one lakh for the family is the reason. But what about the state which abdicated its responsibility and left them to die in the first place? 77 farmers killed themselves in March. April, they say, is the cruelest month. The toll in the first 11 days? 22 so far, and counting...
    That’s one of the reasons the district administration (DA) says many farmers are killing themselves: Just to get the money. Rs 1,00,000/- for a human life. Cheap, isn’t it?
    But, VJS counters, nobody there has got any money so far.
    ...
    if I had a debt hanging on me for a few years and couldn’t think of any way to repay it from my paltry income, I too would be really depressed. Unfortunately, the DA in the same breath vehemently denies that the deaths have anything to do with debt. And that is probably going a bit too far.
    ...
    The SAS also finds that farming in India has become so uneconomic that 40 per cent of our farmers want to get out of the stranglehold of the land. They also don’t get 40 per cent of the price that city consumers pay for their produce. Even close to 60 years after independence, half of rural credit is supplied by local moneylenders at prohibitive rates. The poverty of land and work is simply unprecedented in the backward regions. The sheer despair that leads these helpless people to death can never be felt by city people, who can easily secede from an inefficient administration and surround themselves with private services and barred gates.
    ...
    Last month, 77 farmers committed suicide in Vidarbha, the highest monthly toll so far. The agriculture ministry’s headcount for the country in the last five years is a scandalous 9000!

    Narmada project: the points at issue

    An article in The Hindu discussing the important questions raised by the NBA struggle.
    (1) Are big dams in general good or bad?
    (2) More specifically, is the Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP) a good project?
    (3) Is the SSP, as currently under implementation, in conformity with the prescribed conditions on the environmental and rehabilitation aspects?
    (4) If there is a failure on the rehabilitation front, is there a case for suspending construction work until that failure has been rectified, as demanded by the NBA? In particular, is the form of protest, including fasting by three persons, right, or does it amount to coercion?
    (5) In a parliamentary democracy like ours, is there room for people's movements like the NBA? Are not the people's interests taken care of by their elected representatives in Parliament and the State Legislatures?

    People in the bureaucracy are reported to have asked with real or feigned indignation: "Can we give a veto power over governmental decision-making to an individual?" That falls strangely on one's ears. What veto power? The juggernaut is rolling heedless of protests. The Chief Minister of Gujarat is reported to have said that nothing must be allowed to stop the project. What power have the people been able to exercise? One can in fact turn that around and ask — as some have done — the opposite question: "Are peaceful protests ineffective? Will the state respond only to violence?" ...
    Unfortunately, it is the absence of response to letters, memoranda, resolutions, and even personal pleas at meetings, that drive people to such confrontational methods. If there had been early and constructive responses to Medha Patkar's pleas she could have avoided recourse to such an extreme step.
    ...
    The NBA's petition to the Supreme Court led to a hiatus in the project from 1994 to 2000, and the NBA is often blamed for this six-year delay. However, when it filed its petition in 1994, did NBA ask the Supreme Court to take six years to deliver judgment?
    ...
    As for `ideology,' it is curious that those who equate `development' with big dams and other big projects, huge shopping malls filled with the world's merchandise, and roads bursting with automobiles, are not described as ideologues, but those who argue that such ideas of development have brought the world to the brink of disaster and that we must pull back from the brink before it is too late, are castigated as ideologues.

    Wednesday, April 12, 2006

    bhopal gas victims struggle

    Bhopal gas tragedy victims begin hunger strike.

    You can participate in a global rolling hunger strike to suppor their cause. Register here.

    links

    NBA's report on the visit by the Union Ministers to the valley is here.

    Medha's condition worsens on 14th day of hunger strike.

    NBA serves a 48-hour ultimatum to the Center, decided at a Jan Samelan, to stop construction on the dam and address the rehab issue.

    Fight for democracy in Nepal is on:
            Protests Erupt Against Nepal’s King Gyanendra
            Democracy From Below

    IndiaTogether links

    An independent voice for workers
    Far a very long time, the union movement in India has worked with a peculiar structure - the affiliation of the major workers' unions with political parties. This has meant that the politcial interests of those parties were placed first, and workers' concerns were taken up only within the umbrella of such partisanship. Many unions have, as a result, lost their credibility as effective ways of addressing labour issues. Moreover, the varying political affiliations of various workers' organisations has effectively split their voices, rendering each of them quite powerless on its own.
    Against this backdrop, a new effort is now underway to more clearly separate the interests of workers from other aims, especially political ones.
    * * * * * * *
    Whites asbestos, a health time bomb
    Unexamined in the media, workers in India work up to their knees in asbestos powder, breaking up asbestos cement roofs and pipes. Stories of the toll asbestos takes on people are yet to hit the headlines in India as been the case in US, Europe, Australia and Japan. Indian homes are often built of asbestos cement roofs, and people cut their own windows and doorways. Research is showing asbestos epidemics across the globe even in countries where it is currently banned, as the consequence of past exposure, with estimated deaths reaching 30 per day.
    While white asbestos mining is currently banned in India, its import, export or use in manufacturing is permitted. But recently, the Ministry of Mines has indicated that it may lift the mining ban.
    The reality is that the country's most powerful parliamentarians bless the asbestos industry. On 1 January 2006, production began at an asbestos-cement factory in Rae Bareli, Uttar Pradesh, in the constituency of Sonia Gandhi. The factory is of Visaka Industries, one of India's largest asbestos groups. The company also has asbestos-cement factories in Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Karnataka. The Chairman of Visaka Industries, G Vivekanand, is the son of the G Venkataswamy, Member of Parliament, Deputy Leader of the Indian Congress Parliamentary Party and a former Union Textile Minister.

    Tuesday, April 11, 2006

    tales of 2 struggles

    Forgotten People by Joe Athialy on CounterCurrents.

    Narmada project has failed to deliver: Comptroller and Auditor General of India.

    Medha into 14th day of the hunger strike, Central government has not released the report based on the Ministerial.

    dam update

    Ministerial team submits report to the Prime Minister, no news of the report bein made public.

    Aamir Khan to join the NBA and Bhopal protests on Friday. Amongst the other actors i read about that joined the NBA: Nandita Das, Rahul Bose.

    NBA unites Congress and BJP in Gujarat.

    Dilip's article in Mid-Day, Last night in Manibeli is here.

    Monday, April 10, 2006

    Salman sentenced

    Salman Khan is sentenced to 5-year RI in the black buck poaching case.
    Seven other accused, including comedian Satish Shah, were acquitted in this case. In other cases, actors Saif Ali Khan, Neelam, Tabbu and Sonali Bendre are co-accused.

    charges on NBA for non-violence?

    Medha and Jamsinghbhai both remain in the All India Insitute of Medical Science where they have been isolated since they were forcefully removed against their will from dharna when 500 police stormed the sleeping protestors, late Wednesday night. Medha has been denied contact with any visitors by administration and the police, a gesture which is in total violation of her democratic rights.
    The charges filed against NBA and Medha are:
    - 186: Obstructing public servants in discharge of public function
    - 332: Voluntary causing hurt to deter public servant from his duty
    - 353: Assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty
    - 147: For rioting
    - 149: Unlawful assembly
    - 309: Attempt to commit suicide
    - 34: Common intention
    ... all after a non-violent protest!

    above, from the NBA press release (08 April 2006).
    * * * * * *

    The three-member team of Central Ministers, led by Water Resources Minister Saifuddin Soz, visited the Narmada valley in Madhya Pradesh on Friday to assess the status of resettlement and rehabilitation of families displaced by the Narmada dam. It is yet to submit its report to Dr. Singh.

    Medha writes to the PM to make report public.
    Shouldn't this be automatic in a democracy?---Projects affecting people, for the people and by the people's tax money.

    Thursday, April 06, 2006

    dam update

    Medha's health is critical and she has been forcibly shifted to a hospital. Earlier she had refused to end the hunger-strike after Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee said that a 3 member team will be visiting Madhya Pradesh to inspect the rehabilitation and resettlement efforts. The NBA is demanding the construction work to be halted immediately and the full R&R provided before submergence---according to the Supreme Court ruling.

    More at: http://www.bhopal.net/march/

    The AID India petition challenging the SSP electricity generation claims is here.

    Wednesday, April 05, 2006

    why support the NBA?

    It is my impression that majority of the middle-class, the upper-class---the ones that have most benefited from the 8-10% economic boom and are "shining"--- are mostly apathetic or even hostile towards people's movements in India today.
    Here are my two cents worth of why all of us (in whatever strata we are---lower, middle, upper) should support in any way possible, the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) and other people's movements.
  • Accountability: The government is charged with violation of Supreme Court's verdict (clearance without rehabilitation and distributing money instead of land to the Project Affected Peoples). If such acts are not protested against, it will just add to the unaccountability of the State and one day anyone one of us might be the ones affected by it.
  • Responsibility: Even if you agree in the "greater-common-good" argument of so-called "development", if you enjoy access to water/electricity and/or live in an urban locality, it is most likely that you get it as a result of a dam---which has surely displaced many! The politicians pit the urban beneficiaries against those displaced people and label protestors "anti-development", "anti-national" etc.---conveniently done to remove focus from their responsibilities of clean/transparent evaluation and implementation of the projects. For those--the rural poor---who have been displaced by many such "national interest" projects with little or zero chance of getting the benefits (water/electricity/steel/airports...), isn't it our moral responsibility to make sure that they are adequately rehabilitated before we enjoy the benefits?
  • Alternatives: The government over the past 50 years has invested in huge infrastructure projects and continues to do so. Many studies have been done and alternative models suggested. Why aren't we seeing any seriousness of pursuing or exploring these options? Are they better? What is the government's stand on these approaches? Can they justify investment in big projects which are more than anything else huge monuments of corruption?

    Other than the vote, peoples movements are a way to register protest and question the governments motives and make it more accountable for its actions.
  • Narmada Petition

    AID India is running a petition pointing out the gross misinformation regarding electricity generation via the SSP and further challenges the SSP engineers to sign a bond to backup their claims.
    Consider signing it. You could also fast or light a candle on April 7th, to show solidarity for the struggle.

    Tuesday, April 04, 2006

    two articles

    The Price Of Being A Woman: Slavery In Modern India by Justin Huggler.
    The desire for sons has created a severe shortage of marriageable young women. As their value rises, unscrupulous men are trading them around the subcontinent and beyond as if they were a mere commodity.

    Links to the 2001 India Census Population tables (with gender ratios for each state):
        Population by sex and sex ratio (J&K: 892, Punjab: 876, Chandigarh: 777, Haryana: 861, Delhi: 821, U.P: 898, Sikkim: 875, Arunachal: 893)
        Population by sex and sex ratio (0-6 years) (H.P: 896, Punjab: 798, Chandigarh: 845, Haryana: 819, Delhi: 868, Gujarat: 883)

    * * * * * * *

    Coca-Cola: Sucking Communities Dry by Joe Zacune.
    Coca-Cola is one of the most recognizable brands in the world. The company claims to adhere to the “highest ethical standards” and to be “an outstanding corporate citizen in every community we serve”. Yet Coca-Cola’s activities around the world tell a different story. Coca-Cola has been accused of dehydrating communities in its pursuit of water resources to feed its own plants, drying up farmers’ wells and destroying local agriculture. The company has also violated workers’ rights in countries such as Colombia, Turkey, Guatemala and Russia. Only through its multi-million dollar marketing campaigns can Coca-Cola sustain the clean image it craves.

    "You cannot ignore the voice of the poor"

    Government's first response proves futile; NBA rejects appeal to call off fast.
    Last Saturday, Dr. Singh had assured Ms. Patkar after a meeting that he would convene a meeting of the concerned Ministers and get back to them. When there was no word from the Prime Minister by Tuesday, Ms. Patkar and others went on indefinite fast. Monday's visit by the Ministers was the first response of the Government since then.
    ...
    Said Ms. Patkar: "You cannot ignore the voice of the poor in a development process. Development need not mean displacement. And you cannot have a handful of people take decisions without the participation of those affected and those asked to sacrifice their all."
    ...
    Looking frail and weak, Ms. Patkar told the Ministerial team that the indefinite fast would continue till the construction of the Narmada dam in Gujarat was halted and a full review of the project and the rehabilitation situation on the ground was conducted. According to reports, the Gujarat Government has already raised the height of the dam from 110.64 metres to about 113 metres. The Narmada Control Authority permission is to take it to 121.92 metres.

    Monday, April 03, 2006

    dam update

    Three activists of the NBA are in the sixth day of their hunger strike (and Medha's health is reported to be deteriorating). The NBA is non-violently protesting the clearance to raise the dam height to 121 metres without rehabilitation to affected people (going as back as the year 2000)---a violation of the Supreme Court judgement!
    While this is happening, police detains NBA activists. Arundhati Roy points out that non-violent struggles are being ignored by the government---a real cause of worry.

    While all of this happens, the PM or the PMO have issued no statement or indicated that they will address the issue. If they are so sure that everything is going fine with SSP, why aren't the openly supporting it and bringing it under scrutiny? or taking a concrete step(stopping the clearance to increase dam height) and conducting a study of the claims of the affected. The central government remains mum for 6 days now and counting.

    Shouldn't we be worried that the government itself is not following Supreme Court rulings, totally ignoring voices of the people and not taking into account how its policies are affecting the people---or will it take the demolition of our homes, or forced displacement with no rehab, to identify with the problems of the people of the Narmada valley, the Bhopal gas victims, the farmers committing suicides! or till then should we just concentrate on wardrobe malfunctions, 11,000+ Sensex, or Pathan's "four-play"?

    Do majority of the middle-class and the so-called "mainstream" (media, policy makers, corporations, elites ...) have anything other apathy and anti-pathy for such struggles?

    onion shower

    Union Agriculture Minister, Sharad Pawar, received an onion shower at a farmers gathering in Nashik. The farmers were responding to the falling prices of onions and lack of empathy and no relief-package initiative announcement by the minister during his address. Possibly the first time, Mr. Pawar has received such a reception at a rally in his home state!

    Sunday, April 02, 2006

    India Shining meets the Great Depression

    P. Sainath reports on India Together: India Shining meets the Great Depression
    In the villages, we demolish their lives, and in the city their homes. The smug indifference of the elite is matched by the governments they do not vote in, but control. P Sainath contrasts the tongue-lolling coverage of the Beautiful People with the studied indifference to the plight of millions.
    ...
    Farm suicides in Vidarbha crossed 400 this week. The Sensex crossed the 11,000 mark. And Lakme Fashion Week issued over 500 media passes to journalists. All three are firsts. All happened the same week. And each captures in a brilliant if bizarre way a sense of where India's Brave New World is headed. A powerful measure of a massive disconnect. Of the gap between the haves and the have-mores on the one hand, and the dispossessed and desperate, on the other.
    ...
    Why is the Indian state doing this to its farmers? Isn't farming, after all, the biggest private sector in India? Because being private isn't enough. Ruthlessly, each policy, every budget moves us further towards a corporate takeover of agriculture.

    Saturday, April 01, 2006

    Whose terrorism is it?

    Saw John Pilgers movie - Palestine is still the Issue , yesterday. Thought it was a very well made movie, and raised many important questions. An excerpt from a fact sheet that went around amongst the audience during the screening -
    "The modern borders of Palestine were drawn by the British, whose forces occupied this part of the Ottoman Empire in 1917-18. The stage for conflict was set when Britain declared that it viewed "with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people" ignoring the legitimate national rights of the Arab people and its own promise to the Arabs to support their independance from Ottoman rule. British mandate rule opened the door to large scale Jewish migration from Europe. Unlike existing Jewish communities in Palestine, the new immigrants were Zionists, meaning they believed in establishing a Jewish state as the solution to European anti-semitism. In the 1948 War, Jewish forces conquered additional territory and established the state of Israel on 78% of mandate Palestine. Some 750,000 Palestinians fled or were driven from their homes. Israel was established, Palestine was not. In the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, Israel conquered the rest of Palestine and has since ruled Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, through military occupation."

    Contrary to the American talk about "spreading democray to the world" it has supported this military occupation of Palestine by Israel and provides upto 10 billion USD to Israel of which 3 billion get used for and by the military. The rights of the Palestinian people have been crushed. They are humiliated each day and live in constant fear of death and destruction. What gets reported are the Palestinian suicide bombers. But what about the years of state sponsored terrorism that Israel with the help of the US has carried out against the Palestinian people. At least three former Israeli leaders including Ariel Shaaron whom G.W Bush calls "a man of peace", have been involved in carrying out systematic, deliberate civilian attacks against the Palestinian people. No one will doubt that state sponsored terrorism is a lot more dangerous than individual attacks of terrorism, with examples like the Gujrat genocide, the genocide in Darfur, or going furthur back in time, the Holocaust. Yet, instead of addressing this bigger issue, this bigger problem, what is being held up as the main problem is the suicide bombers in Palestine who may be as much of victims as the people that get killed by their bombs (as pointed out in the documentary by the father of a little Israeli girl who was killed by a suicide bomber).
    Today, any opposition to the Israeli occupation is anti-semitism and any support of the Palestinian cause is supporting terrorism. This attitude has left the Palestinian people groping for justice in the dark. They are denied life and freedom. Whether Israel (and their friends in arms, the US and UK- who also finacially support the Israeli military) will let a viable two state solution or a one secular state solution (as opposed to a Zionist state) happen or not is a question not many people need an answer to. The strategic position of Israel in the midst of the Arab middle east has and will overshadow any moral dilemma they have about the attrocities meted out to the Palestinian people, who despite all odds have stood up to, fought against and continue to resist the occupation. The will and courage of the Palestinian people needs to be applauded by all. They have fought against an enemy with tanks and choppers and snipers and bombers, with slingshots and stones and continue to do so. Their spirit, is what has forced the rest of the world to keep addressing the issue.

    March to Delhi

    On 20 February 2006, around 150 Bhopal gas tragedy survivors began a march on foot from Bhopal to New Delhi (800 km) as part of the "March to Delhi, for justice and dignity in Bhopal" campaign. They are currently in Delhi and wish to meet the Prime Minister.
    Their demands:
        To ensure that the Indian authorities:
        1. Set up a National Commission on Bhopal
        2. Provide Safe Drinking Water
        3. Prosecute Union Carbide and Anderson
        4. Make Dow Clean Up and Pay
        5. Blacklist Dow and Union Carbide
        6. Remember Bhopal

    The padyatra home page is here.

    On Tuesday March 28th, 350 Bhopalis were carted (Report 1 and Report 2) off to jail, but were "not under arrest" say police, merely detained without charge.
    4pm IST, Bano Bee, 55, is struck in the chest and knocked unconscious.
    At 4.01pm IST a kick in the chest knocks Ashraaf Bee, 60, senseless. Both women had walked 800km to see the Prime Minister

    All 350 were released the same day, and since have met Mr. Ram Vilas Paswan (Minister of Chemicals and Fetilizers) on March 29th, who has ensured a meeting with the Prime Minister sometime next week.