Thursday, March 29, 2007

biofuels, people and the environment

George Monbiot writes about the effects of biofuels, "Five-year freeze needed on biofuels".
Oil produced from plants sets up competition for food between cars and people. People and the environment will lose.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

India Is Colonising Itself

Arundhati Roy in conversation with Shoma Chaudhury.
A recent Supreme Court judgment allowing the Vasant Kunj Mall to resume construction though it didn’t have the requisite clearances said in so many words, that the question of Corporations indulging in malpractice does not arise!

I’d say the biggest indictment of all is that we are still a country, a culture a society which continues to nurture and practice the notion of untouchability. While our economists number-crunch and boast about the growth rate, a million people, human scavengers - earn their living carrying several kilos of other peoples’ shit on their heads every day. And if they didn’t carry shit on their heads they would starve to death. Some fucking superpower this.

No different from police and State violence anywhere else – including the issue of hypocrisy and doublespeak so perfected by all political parties including the mainstream Left. Are communist bullets different from capitalist ones? Odd things are happening. It snowed in Saudi Arabia. Owls are out in broad daylight The Chinese Government tabled a bill sanctioning the right to private property. I don’t know if all of this has to do with climate change.

How can the rebels be the flip side of the state? Would anybody say that those who fought against Apartheid – however brutal their methods - were the flip side of the state? What about those who fought the French in Algeria? Or those who fought the Nazis? Or those who fought Colonial Regimes? Or those who are fighting the US occupation of Iraq? Are they the flip side of the State? This facile new report-driven ‘human rights’ discourse, this meaningless condemnation game that we all are forced to play, makes politicians of us all and leaches the real politics out of everything.

The government has slammed the door in the face of every attempt at non-violent resistance. When people take to arms, there is going to be all kinds of violence – revolutionary, lumpen and outright criminal. The government is responsible for the monstrous situations it creates.

It’s true that everybody changes radically when they come to power – look at Mandela’s ANC. Corrupt, capitalist, bowing to the IMF, driving the poor out of their homes – honouring Suharto the killer of hundreds of thousands of Indonesian communists with South Africa’s highest civilian award. Who would have thought it could happen? But does this mean South Africans should have backed away from the struggle against apartheid? Or that they should regret it now? Does it mean Algeria should have remained a French Colony, that Kashmiris, Iraqis and Palestinians should accept military occupation? That people whose dignity is being assaulted should give up the fight because they can’t find saints to lead them into battle?

Saturday, March 17, 2007

whom is Doha saving?

Devinder Sharma reports on the two-day seminar "Saving Doha and delivering on development" held in New Delhi from 13th March.
India's Commerce Minister Kamal Nath provided ample evidence of India's willingness to go along with the rich and industrialised countries. In what appears to be a u-turn in India's position so far, Mr Kamal Nath said: "This round is not about removal, but about reduction of distortions that lead to artificiality in prices."

Knowing well that Kamal Nath's 'tough' posturing is aimed only at the media, Lamy now made it abundantly clear that an agreement on Doha round has to be reached before the expiry of the US Trade Promotion Agreement in June. If the agreement is not signed by June, the US President will lose his Fast Track authority to approve international trade agreements, which means the US Senate/Congress will then oversee the agreements. That is why the US wants to hurry. If no agreement is signed by June it will still be beneficial for Indian agriculture. As long as the subsidies stay in the rich countries, we will not be able to protect our agriculture.

... the empirical evidence that Sandra Polaski of the US-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace presented showing that the Doha round to be heavily biased against the developing countries, found few takers. The UNCTAD-India study on Green Box subsidies and the benefits it would throw for the developing countries if the support were to be abolished, also did not find many takers.

Whatever the US and EU may offer to keep Doha round is not going to translate into any actual reduction in the massive domestic support, this much is known. The US $360 billion support to agriculture in US, EU and Japan will remain intact. In fact, the US has announced more support to agriculture under its new Farm Bill 2007, and this is not surprising.

The tall claims of 'victory' at the conclusion of every WTO Ministerial and general council agreements speaks volumes about the incompetence and failure of the negotiators from the developing world. I don't know if any one of them has ever worked out cost and benefits accruing from the Doha round. Negotiators should be asked to openly spell out the benefits to their respective countries after they have inked an agreement. It is high time trade negotiators are made accountable to the society.

Meanwhile, Indian farmers and for that farmers in the other developing countries must continue to pay the price with their blood for yet another unseen 'development', which in reality means keeping agribusiness companies in western countries afloat.

On one hand the PM agrees to policies of WTO formed in Geneva, which benefit the developed countries and on the other hand thousands of farmers are committing suicides and he announces irrelevant relief packages.

Friday, March 16, 2007

don't look away

Watched Mira Nair's 'The Namesake' at MAMI's International Film Festival of Mumbai. The movie was the closing movie of the festival and was preceded by an awards ceremony. Several personalities associated with movies spoke---Girish Karnad, Govind Nihlani, Sonali Kulkarni, K Shantaram(?) and each of them spoke of their lives, their experiences in the film industry, whom they are grateful to, how unique the festival is, what they thought of the future of cinema etc.

The highlight of the evening (including the movie which I thought was average) for me was a very short speech by Aparna Sen. She received an award (i forget which) and was described as a humanist director by the awardee. In her two-minute speech, she did not speak much about her films nor the award, she reminded everyone of the diminishing democratic processes around the country, the lack of respect for human life, the skewed media angle and their thirst for celebrity news. No doubt her speech had Nandigram at the back of her mind, which she mentioned and also pointed to sufferings of the poor in other parts of the country. She concluded by saying "don't look away", do whatever you can to change the situation, but if you ignore it, it will only become worse.

p.s.: "Dont' look away" also happens to be a song in her move 'Mr. and Mrs. Iyer'.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

what freedom?

The West Bengal government is directing the police against the people of the state. NAPM reports that at least 20 villagers have been killed and hundreds injured due to police firing in Nandigram. This is after the West Bengal Chief Minister made a public statement that the SEZ related acquisition will be put on hold and land will be acquired only after the villagers consent.

* * * * *

Puru: "We live in a free and democratic country right?"

Ashwin: "Yes, we do. But the constitution has been modified slightly to better the lives of the people and to ensure the growth, progress and development of the country".

Puru: "Oh, is it? I was not aware of that."

Ashwin: "You better learn it. Here is how it goes ..."
India is my country.

Tatas, Birlas and Ambanis are the only Gods of this country.

All the children, women, men, birds, animals, insects, trees, water and air belongs to them.
All the land of this country belongs to them.

From today the policy they make is the constitution of the country.

Jai Tata! Jai Birla! Jai Ambani!

Ashwin: "Remember it carefully and enjoy your stay!"

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Indian pride!

Smita sends a pointer to this article regarding the question of Indian pride.
Who cares about farmer suicides now? Who cares about the children of immigrant workers? India is busy following the West, even when accusing it of racism, following it faithfully into the fast lane of neo-liberalist progress.

... the matter finally came to light, it was because the servant — behind his master's back — murdered a Delhi prostitute, whose father managed to be heard more than immigrant labourers from Bihar or Bangladesh tend to be. Since then, India has been discussing various theories: on the one side, that of cannibalism and sex murders, and on the other that of organ trade. Both have their supporters in the argumentative middle classes. As for the debates in those vast Delhi slums of immigrant and landless labourers from the agricultural hinterlands, well...