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Season for oligarchies – Corporates may control vegetable trade

November 26, 2010 33 comments
Very soon, this is all we will get to eat. Some overpaid corporate executive will decide what we eat at what price! (Cartoonist- Andy Singer; cartoon courtesy-www.mindfully.org.). Click for larger image.

Very soon, this is all we will get to eat. Some overpaid corporate executive will decide what we eat, at what price! (Cartoonist- Andy Singer; cartoon courtesy-www.mindfully.org.). Click for larger image.

death for ordinary rythu bazars and vegetable markets, (as) the entire trade of vegetables, fruits and meat will come under the control of corporates like Metro, Heritage, Reliance or Al Kabeer once the massive terminal market complexes (TMCs) being proposed come into existence in the state.

The corporate setting up the TMCs will (INVEST) Rs 150 crore towards this business, the state government will have a 26 per cent stake (for) 50 acres to 200 acres of land. The private enterprise (PE) will own the remaining portion of the business.

The state government is constructing these massive modern whosesale markets in Hyderabad, Guntur, Vizag and Tirupati, ostensibly to help the farmers. The farmers will directly sell the produce to the TMC, thereby cutting out middlemen. Another advantage is a cleaner, modern bazar with facilities like warehousing, cold storage, ripening chambers, cleaning, grading and processing along with extension of advisory service to farmers.

However, prices will be fixed by the corporate. (with) retail prices of vegetables likely to go up for the consumer. The question is would it benefit the farmers or the company which will gain control over the entire vegetable business of the state.

Corporations will decide which pesticide, what seeds, what prices, what items we eat. Who do you think will benefit? Not me, I know! (Cartoonist - Joe Mohr; cartoon courtesy - http://ecopolitology.org.). Click for larger image.

Corporations will decide which pesticide, what seeds, what prices, what items we eat. Who do you think will benefit? Not me, I know! (Cartoonist - Joe Mohr; cartoon courtesy - http://ecopolitology.org.). Click for larger image.

The TMC will control the production and collection of vegetables from the farmers over certain radius, “While it is not mandatory for the farmer to sell his produce to the TMC, the private operator will offer him a higher price as well as induce them with loans for procurement for seeds. This in the end will make the farmer a captive seller to the TMC and for the retail consumer, the prices of vegetables, fruits and meat will become costlier,” said the sources. (read more via Corporates may control vegetable trade; parts excised for brevity).

Ignorant bureaucrats

Kasargod in Kerala is in the grip of a strange malady. Deformed children.

The Plantation Corporation of Kerala (PCK) has been cultivating cashew in 4500 hectares spread across this district. Since the early 1980s the PCK has been aerially spraying an organochlorine pesticide called endosulfan that has been banned in many countries including Singapore, Denmark, Germany, Holland and Sweden. Over the last several months, various reports in the media as well as studies done by institutions like the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), New Delhi have indicated a strong link between the aerial spraying of endosulfan and the number of deaths and illnesses in the area. (read more via The Hindu : Cashews for human life?).

Cartoonist - Clay Bennet; cartoon courtesy - www.ritholtz.com). Click for larger image.

Corporate executives will soon dictate to us. They will buy Government's silence. (Cartoonist - Clay Bennet; cartoon courtesy - http://www.ritholtz.com). Click for larger image.

We have seen stories on how swine flu started in La Gloria, a little town in Mexico, at the one of Mexico’s biggest hog factories, owned by the world’s largest pig processor, Smithfield Foods. The world diabetes epidemic by industrial and junk food is become an old story.

And now this

AP Government wants to handover vegetable trade to highest bidder. Some 50-150 acres of land is proposed to be given these companies. These corporations will be able to raise all that money for investment just by p-ledging the land that the Government is handing over to them.

These private monopolies will have monopoly over agricultural output in their designated areas. Producers will given the choice of selling at any mandi to that monopoly buyer. All the ryuthu bazaars will close. The nearly 10,000 vegetable vendors who serve Hyderabad’s 10 lakh (1 million) households can buy from the one monopoly buyer. Another 10,000 eating houses will have the choice of one vendor.

India has indeed becoming a ‘free’ country.

Collusion or collaboration? The Think Tank Initiative

November 24, 2010 10 comments

Is the West capturing Indian think-tanks via Think Tank Initiative-an effort to increase policy development capacity.

Number of Government Employees (data and image source - data360.org.). Click for larger image.

Number of US Government Employees (data and image source – data360.org.). Click for larger image.

Bloated bureaucracies

Reluctantly, the West now admits that ‘no one can argue India is a failing or failed state’. With a rising economy, India is being subjected to a tide of aggressive trade and tariff barriers, diplomatic actions and propaganda initiatives. With such non-military aggression, India definitely needs to muscle up its own foreign affairs ministry.

A declining Britain has  15000 Foreign Office employees. India has a cadre, numbering less than 700 of Indian Foreign Service (IFS) rank – compared to 15000 Foreign Office Staff in UK. The Indian IFS-to-Foreign Office employee of Britain may not be an apt comparison – but that is the best indicative data for now.

USA has some 2.0 crore (20 million) employees (local, state and federal) – roughly equal to India’s which has a population, four times the size of US population. And we are not talking of contract staff in the US Govt. who are off-rolls. Experts worry about

the 10.5 million federal contractors and grantees the government’s “hidden workforce” because politicians tend not to mention them when discussing the size of the federal bureaucracy. Yet such workers absorbed nearly $400 billion in federal contracting funds and $100 billion in federal grants in 2005. They often performed vital work such as researching new vaccines, running federal computer systems and making body armor, weapons and meals for the military.

The number of civil servants is increasing, too, up 54,000 since 2002 to 1.9 million workers. That is still fewer than the 2.2 million civil servants on the federal payroll in 1990, at the end of the Cold War.

The US foreign service comprises of some 11,500 Foreign Service employees 7,400 Civil Service employees 31,000 Foreign Service National employees  – totaling to about 50,000.

A remarkable case comes from Ireland. In a country of 45 lakhs, some 3 lakhs are highly paid government employees. An estimated 69% are in the 15-64 years of employable age – leaving us with a workforce of 30 lakhs people. Fully 10% of the Irish workforce is in the Government. With such a bloated bureaucracy, apart from bankruptcy, what else can happen in Ireland?

Been there and done that! The Think Tanks are a known devil. Indians love this unknown angel.

Been there and done that! The Think Tanks are a known devil. Indians love this unknown angel.

Brains and brawn

These small numbers of IFS bureaucrats have run a tight ship. At this stage I will take recourse to Lant Pritchett and his discussion paper on ‘India-The Flailing State’. Pritchett thinks that India ‘runs’ due to the ‘incredibly spectacular intelligence, cleverness, and competence of the top tiers of the Indian government’.

Indian bureaucracy, of which these 600+ IFS diplomats are a part of, are let us assume, better than the British 15,000 – or the American diplomatic corps or Chinese 50,000 foreign office employees. For instance, Pritchett notes that the World Bank, which usually has

Setting up a think tank. All you need is some devious money. Cartoonist - Wiley Miller.

Setting up a think tank. All you need is some devious money. Cartoonist – Wiley Miller.

staff of high quality with international expertise, was by and large matched or over-matched at nearly every level by their counter-parts at the corresponding levels in the government. The brains of the Indian state can formulate excellent policies and programs in nearly every domain. The head is so strong it can even remain in teetering control of the mountain of official paper work … (from Is India a Flailing State? Detours on the Four Lane Highway to Modernization Lant Pritchett Harvard Kennedy School.)

Red herrings – the challenge ahead

To get around the ‘problem’ of economic stagnation, the West has created artificial ‘crisis’ situations.

  1. Population Explosion
  2. Global Warming and climate change
  3. Civil Wars in Africa
  4. Islamic Demonization and the spectre of Islamic terrorism
  5. Financial meltdowns

These are major diplomatic offensives using media, academia, events and situations, to

  • Maintain superior negotiating positions
  • Define the agenda – which usually means non-substantive issues.

But for an India to match the trade and tariff barriers, propaganda and diplomatic offensives, calls for more resources.

The inner working of think tanks. Cartoonist – Wiley Miller.

The inner working of think tanks. Cartoonist – Wiley Miller.

Distortion of outcomes

Complicating the current situation is the US currency mechanism, called USCAP (by 2ndlook) which favors selected US allies with advantageous exchange rates.

Using outsiders

I am all for a thin Government. Now, if that must not change, what must? Judicious use of ‘outsiders’? What Americans call think-tanks. India has a few think-tanks – and these Indian think-tanks turn out competent, workman-type of reports.

Using Western constructs, ideology (and funds) as a start point, these Indian think-tanks believe that they are not effective due to funding constraints, for one. The other allegation that these think-tanks make is how Indian government and bureaucracy does not take them or their output seriously.

Collaboration and cooperation

This may be the opportunity and opening that Indian media (the largest in the world, quantitatively) can use to improve their standing in the global market.

Indian media caters largely to the domestic consumer for one and the Indian diaspora for another. In spite of its size, high growth rate and healthy financial position, Indian media is not thinking global.

Indian media and the academia can change this. Collaborative work, supplementing GoI’s output can be the direction for all three constituents – media, academia, and the bureaucracy to break out of the current pecking order.

Benign designs?

The manner of funding Indian NGOs by external sources, especially the West, isnot benign anymore. More than 33 lakh NGOs operate in India, with foreign funding that is estimated at US$4 billion. This figure is double the official Government figure that is based on declared receipts, which reports say, are under-declared.

In times to come

Is the West aiming to capture these Indian ‘think-tanks’? The promotion of Western Climate Change agenda by Amartya Sen, under the auspices of the Aspen Institute India is indication of times to come.

The lure of ‘foreign’ sabbaticals to Indians is reducing. An over-valued rupee has diluted the perceived value of foreign junkets. Better opportunities at home has decreased the attractiveness of Western posting. With increasing opportunities in India, some of usual tools used earlier have been blunted.

A new idea!

How then is the West aiming to ‘influence’ Indian policy ‘development’? The Think Tank Initiative is an ambitious South-Asia wide effort to increase policy development capacity. Run by

five international donors, coordinated by Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC), an ambitious South Asia-wide effort to increase policy development capacity in the subcontinent, through the “Think Tank Initiative” (TTI). The donors, contributing a total pool of $110 million globally, include the Hewlett and Gates Foundations and the British and Dutch governments.

 Fishing in the thinktank (Cartoon Date - Mar 29, 2009; from the Lincoln Journal Star; Courtesy - nealo.com - Cartoon by Neal Obermeyer). Click for larger picture.

Fishing in the thinktank (Cartoon Date – Mar 29, 2009; from the Lincoln Journal Star; Courtesy – nealo.com – Cartoon by Neal Obermeyer). Click for larger picture.

The first salvo was fired by Kanti Bajpai who wrote about the ‘few’ Indian think-tanks in April 2010. This was soon followed by Sanjaya Baru – earlier spokesman and media advisor to the Indian Prime Minister (between May 2004-July 2008). He espoused the cause of foreign funding of Indian think tanks. Prof. PN Bhagwati joined the issue with Sanjaya Baru, and suggested that Indian Govt. can depend on NRIs – instead foreign funding.

By the way, we are in august company. This initiative has reached out to China, too!


 

Europe’s Probable Fall

November 22, 2010 27 comments

 

Europe's Titanic ego problem - May 10, 2010, at 06.27 PM (Cartoonist-Cam Cardow, copyright 2010 Cagle Cartoons; courtesy - theweek.com.). Click for larger image.

Europe's Titanic ego problem - May 10, 2010, at 06.27 PM (Cartoonist-Cam Cardow, copyright 2010 Cagle Cartoons; courtesy - caglecartoons.com.). Click for larger image.

The success of Europe is considerable, but must not be exaggerated. There are still problems, including poverty to cite only one example, several million children in the UK suffer from malnutrition. While Europe has succeeded in attracting new members, it has not been successful in integrating its new immigrant populations. The European project is being tested by the lack of success of the Lisbon treaty.

The problem, however, is that while the peace will probably last another major European war is a very unlikely scenario the prosperity may not.

The choice is basically as follows. By accepting reform and the need for some sacrifices, the European fall will occur, but it will be reasonably gentle and gradual. By refusing to reform and rejecting sacrifice, Europe’s fall will be precipitate. At the moment, unfortunately, the more likely scenario is the second one. (read more via Europe’s Probable Fall – The Times of India).

A culture of entitlement has robbed European society of its vitality. The writer feels that Europe can choose how it will decline. Gradually and gently. Otherwise, precipitate – sudden, visible, maybe violent. I am being gentle by call it decline. Lehman says it is fall. No less.

Cartoon from timeesofindia.com). Publication date - 16th November 2010.

Cartoon from timeesofindia.com). Publication date - 16th November 2010.

Probably, many in India and the Indians abroad, the RNIs and the NRIs, brought up on the milk of Western superiority will mourn the passing away of their ‘dream’. I am sure they will quickly find some other ‘superior’ culture for loyalties.

The dream is dead. Long live the dream.

Rats on stormy seas!

November 22, 2010 2 comments
Princess Esra, Mukarram Jah's Turkish-born first wife, dressed in a saree! What a comedown! To dress like a plebian Indian!

Princess Esra, Mukarram Jah's Turkish-born first wife, dressed in a saree! What a comedown! To dress like a plebian Indian!

What is curious in all (this) seen over the last decade, is the fact that it is a woman who is now at the helm of affairs managing the Nizam’s properties. Women had no public presence up to the time of the seventh Nizam. Until, of course, Durru Shehvar and Niloufer, the last Ottoman Caliph’s daughter and niece respectively, married Osman Ali Khan’s two sons and moved to Hyderabad. “They were in public, participating in polo matches, playing tennis. The two girls had European lifestyles while the Nizam’s sons had Mughlai lifestyles’’ It was for this reason the marriages did not last with Princess Niloufer getting a divorce and Durru Shehvar living separately in England.
The history of the Nizam’s family is as intriguing as its present. Esra may have found Hyderabad stifling, but now, it is said, the name plate outside her house in London carries her past in bold letters: Princess Esra of Hyderabad. (read more via THE RISE OF A PRINCESS.).

Why stay with these dirty, poor Indians

Fleeing from a starving, hungry, poor 1947-India, straight to London and other better climes. Now, that UK and Europe are in trouble …

The earlier Hyderabad was not acceptable to the Princess Esra – but she now sports her identity on her proverbial sleeve – dressed in a saree. What a comedown, milady! After all, the Nizam’s sons had

married the daughter and the niece of the last Caliph of Turkey, Abdul Majid II. As part of the marriage arrangements, the Caliph had nominated the Nizam’s son as heir to the Caliphate, so uniting the supreme spiritual authority of the Muslim world with its greatest concentration of riches. The dynasty seemed unassailable. (read more via www.outlookindia.com | Princess To The Rescue).

I wonder why images of rats seeking safety on a floating ship in stormy seas cross my mind!

Is Urdu a “Muslim’ Language?

November 22, 2010 2 comments

Muslims have barricaded themselves behind Urdu – and now fault India, Govt., Hindus for ignoring Urdu.

Cartoon by Khalil Bendib; March 2006; source & courtest - http://www.bendib.com/newones/2006/march/large/Apostasy%20in%20Islam.jpg  |  Click for image.

Cartoon by Khalil Bendib; March 2006; source & courtest – http://www.bendib.com/newones/2006/march/large/Apostasy%20in%20Islam.jpg | Click for image.

Urdu is a ‘Muslim’ Language

On 6th November 2010, early in the morning, the day after Diwali, I was at Hyderabad Railway Station to receive a friend. Since, I was early, I decided to buy a newspaper. Since, it was the day after Diwali, there was no issue of any newspaper in English, Hindi, Telugu.

But Urdu newspapers were available.

Except Urdu

Understandably – as most Urdu readers were Muslims – who don’t celebrate the ‘Hindu’ festival of Diwali.

Since Urdu was so specifically a Muslim language, it has stagnated and is at death’s door. Unlike Telugu, which survived 400 years of hostility and active neglect by the Nizam’s government – and the benign neglect by the Indian State.


India’s gift to PoK!

November 22, 2010 5 comments
(.Cartoonist - Shyam Jagota; Courtesy - http://virup.wordpress.com). Click for larger image.

(Cartoonist - Shyam Jagota; Courtesy - http://virup.wordpress.com). Click for larger image.

Azaad Kashmir – Take Arundhati Roy

Would Arundhati Roy live in Azaad Kashmir-PoK? Will Azaad Kashmir be, is it better, than India?

If the answer is yes, she is welcome to go there. If not, why does she want others to be part of that hell? Remember, many Communists from Britain and USA actually migrated to the ‘Promised Paradise’ of Soviet Russia. Arundhati should follow her own advice!

Go to Azaad Kashmir in PoK.

Discovery Science Channel needs to discover facts

November 22, 2010 1 comment
Modern science and modern media are more about fiction than fact!

Modern science and modern media are more about fiction than fact!

Channel surfing I caught at Discovery – Science a programme on Gunpowder somewhere between 15:00-18:00 on 9th November 2010.

In this entire rather long and boring episode, there was no mention at all of India. Not once. Strange, because, India was the largest industrial producer of saltpeter, for hundreds of years, the most important ingredient in gunpowder.

The credits at the end claimed that this was made by a  Granite Production – a regular supplier of documentaries to BSkyB – British Sky Broadcasting, from where Discovery Science apparently picked this up. I have written to Discovery Science about this. Let me see how they respond!

If they do – that is!

 

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