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Islamic world changing?

February 28, 2011 19 comments

Does empty rage count as a reason to expose nations to unknown rulers and uncertainty? Unknown devils instead of known devils?

Widespread protests across the Islamic Middle East. Are they for real? (Image courtesy - Times Of India).

Widespread protests across the Islamic Middle East. Are they for real? (Image courtesy - Times Of India). Click for larger image.

Is this change for real?

After two months of protests, two regime changes, it may be time to take a 2ndlook at the developments across the Islamic Middle East. These protests were triggered when,

On Dec. 17, 2010, in the impoverished Tunisian town of Sidi Bouzid, a street vendor who had been slapped in the face by a policewoman confiscating his wares set himself on fire outside of a government building. The desperate act of the vendor, Mohamed Bouazizi, led to protests in the town, which were recorded in video clips posted on YouTube. By the time he died on Jan. 4, 2011, protests that started over Mr. Bouazizi’s treatment in Sidi Bouzid had spread to cities throughout the country.

On Jan. 14, the president, Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, fled the country he had ruled with an iron hand for 23 years. Less than a month later, Hosni Mubarak, perhaps the most powerful figure in the region, president for 29 years of the largest Arab country, was forced to step down after 18 days of massive demonstrations cost him the support of the military and the United States. (via Middle East Protests (2010-11) – The New York Times).

There has been gushing coverage in the mainstream media on these ‘protests (which) may have now acquired a life of their own’ and ‘sweeping changes … coming to the Arab lands, where authoritarian regimes are the norm’ and how ‘present protests, could be a game-changer’.

While quick to deny the role of the very same media in the West, for events like the Gifford shooting, Western media has been quick to proclaim that Western ‘technology’, especially, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook were behind these protests and regime changes. An overjoyed world of Twitterati, Chatterati, Bloggerati, Paparazzi went ahead and claimed credit for this ‘change’. This was seen as extension of earlier trend like when

Soviet Union collapsed soon after copiers and faxes appeared and information began freely circulating here. The problem, however, is that nobody has proved a cause-effect correlation between fax machines and the Soviet collapse. Nonetheless, leading Western media outlets can’t stop glorifying the Internet and social networks as the new tools for empowering grassroots resistance movements. As President Dmitry Medvedev said last week in Vladikavkaz: “Let’s face the truth. They have been preparing such a scenario for us, and now they will try even harder to implement it.” Medvedev’s reaction shows that the Kremlin is taking the threat very seriously.

After 30 years, a few days of rage will not make a real difference! (Cartoonist - Carlos Latuff).

After 30 years, a few days of rage will not make a real difference! (Cartoonist - Carlos Latuff).

Aladdin’s Lamp – Old despots for new

Covering this wave of protests, CNN correspondents Nadia Oweidat and Cynthia P. Schneider wrote of the ‘the vision articulated in protests, blogs, posts and tweets’ – a vision of a ‘new great awakening is unfolding across the Arab world’.

decades of brutal repression and lack of accountability, governments in the Arab world will be responsible and responsive to their people. They will foster individual freedoms, religious and ethnic diversity, enable economic growth and uphold fair judicial processes

Ringing words – but empty. Specifically, what exactly is the Arab world asking for?

Are Arabs talking of Western style’ democracy’ and ‘freedom‘? Like ‘freedom’ in the USA, with 20 lakh prisoners – the largest prison population in the world? Or ‘religious tolerance’ like single-faith Switzerland where a third mosque with minarets was not allowed? Is it political freedom, like Europe which believes that a two-party collusive democracy is better than one-party conspiring oligarchy?

Maybe, build on ethnic-diversity like the Danes who want to pay Muslims to leave Denmark. Why not even aim for a ‘fair’ legal-system like Britain, where hundreds of thousands of people have been arrested to build a DNA data-bank – ostensibly to help in criminal identification. To be like the West today, that has the lowest levels of diversity – ethnic, linguistic and religious diversity. And makes the most noise about freedom and human rights.

How bad were these ‘despots’

Indeed, a case could be made for these stable despots who have sent packing in Tunisia and Egypt. Says Foreign Policy, a US magazine “Tunisia and Egypt have made particularly rapid economic progress in recent years.” In both these countries, people have seen economic progress, without dependence on oil – unlike most of Islamic Middle East. Compared to Turkey’s per-capita, with its imperial past, at US$ 11,500, or oil-inflated Oman’s US$ 25,000 or petro-daddy  Saudi’s US$ 23,300, Tunisia with US$ 9100 per capita and Egypt with US$ 5900 come out favorably. Tunisia or Egypt did not favor the beheading or amputation routine of Iran or Saudi Arabia – or mass-imprisonment regimes like USA, UK or China. Like all modern-State-nations, concentration of wealth is a ‘given’ – regardless of Europe, USA or Islamic Middle-East.

There was neither a shining vision, nor economic necessity, or relative oppression, which triggered these revolts. Instead of an ‘elected’ Hosni Mubarak, Egyptians got Army Rule. Was that a satisfactory or a desirable outcome? Does empty rage count as a reason to expose nations to unknown rulers and uncertainty? Unknown devils instead of known devils? Does a change in government without modifying governance-model make any difference?

Without a viable ‘reason’ for revolt, what made so many people come out in the open?

Translation - 'SoLong suckers!' ( Cartoon courtesy - cagle.com).Click for larger image.

Translation - 'So Long suckers!' ( Cartoon courtesy - cagle.com). Click for larger image.

The trail of the US Plan

We may need to look at Wikileaks to get some real answers. Specifically, a trail of US diplomatic cables. These cables revealed US Administration’s consensus to institute a non-electoral regime change in Egypt. Some of these regime-change organizers from Egypt met in USA, supported by USA, with funds and covert promises of diplomatic support at the right time. Coincidentally, a Google employee, Wael Ghonim, became a spokesman for the protesters at Tahrir Square.

Frank Wisner, former US ambassador to Egypt, an old hand in US Foreign Policy, was sent to Egypt to arrive at modalities of Mubarak’s ouster – “to deliver a specific, one-time message to President Mubarak”.

Wisner has been active on Egypt policy and is said by several Egypt hands in Washington to have pushed to create a group of scholars and academics in Washington to advocate for strengthening ties to the Mubarak regime. That group, which was never fully formed, was to be a counter weight to the bipartisan Egypt Working Group led by the likes of former NSC official Elliott Abrams and the Carnegie Endowment’s Michele Dunne. The Abrams-Dunne group had been pushing for a harder line against Mubarak in the months leading up to the current crisis.

Wisner’s father, Frank Wisner Sr., was the CIA agent portrayed in the film The Good Shepherd. Wisner was previously married to Christine de Ganay, former wife of Pal Sarkozy, the father of French president Nicolas Sarkozy. (via Is Obama’s new Egypt “envoy” too close to Mubarak? | The Cable).

Within days of Mubarak’s ouster, on February 21st, 2011, Frank Wisner’s boss, a senior US diplomat, United States Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs William J. Burns arrived in Cairo.

Time out

After 30 years in power and 82 years of age, Mubarak’s time was over.  Nearly, 2 years ago, Elliot Abrams, associated with shaping US foreign policy, wrote, “Mubarak is 81 years old, so placing all our bets on him–even for so short a time as the three years left to President Obama–is unwise.” Tactically, it was better for US to initiate and control the regime change than allow some ‘random’ political events to determine the outcome in Egypt. Similar logic would apply to  Tunisia. An important cog in the wheel, in each country, were the army establishments in Tunisia and Egypt.

In Tunisia, the refusal of an army general to back Ben Ali and fire on protesters proved to be the turning point. In Egypt, too, the world is waiting to see what the Egyptian army will do.

Egypt’s army is the 10th largest in the world, almost half a million strong, and one of the biggest beneficiaries (along with the Pakistan army) of US military aid. Since 1952, all Egyptian presidents have come from the military. So, even though Mubarak has not been sighted since the protests began, all eyes are actually on the generals. (via Tunisia to Egypt, an Arab upheaval – The Times of India).

The US probably will be able to change Middle East's rulers in the next 2-4 years. Howmuch blood is theonlyopen question? (Cartoon by drybones.com).

The US probably will be able to change Middle East's rulers in the next 2-4 years. How much blood is the only open question? (Cartoon by drybones.com).

Soon after his inauguration, President Barack Obama’s

interview with the Dubai-based Al-Arabiya Network on Monday was a dramatic piece of public diplomacy aimed at capitalizing on the new American president’s international popularity, though it balanced America’s traditional commitment to Israel, whose security Obama called “paramount”.

“I have Muslim members of my family. I have lived in Muslim countries,” Obama said, according to a White House transcript. “My job to the Muslim world is to communicate that the Americans are not your enemy.”

In Cairo, Obama said ‘the time had come to “speak the truth” and “seek a new beginning.” With most Post WWII regimes at end-point, America needs to break-in a new generation of rulers in the Middle East.

These new rulers need to be better attuned to diplomacy instead of war; economics and alliances instead of revolts and revolutions; economy instead of ideology.

Having softened the Muslim world with a relentlessly aggressive campaign from 1992-2008, the West chose ‘Hussein’ Obama to speak softly – after the Muslim world had seen the big American stick in Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia etc.

How important is the gold-holdings of all these Middle East rulers?

Some answers we know. Some we can guess.

But some answers, only time will give.

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Indian Govt on hunt for 31 ‘wanted’

February 27, 2011 Leave a comment
Cartoon by Kirtish Bhatt; courtesy - http://bamulahija.wordpress.com

Cartoon by Kirtish Bhatt; courtesy - http://bamulahija.wordpress.com

Centre has shared an updated dossier of 31 most wanted terrorists — including 19 of IM and 12 of the other Lashkar-SIMI front, Jama-i-tul Ansarul Muslimeen (JIAM) — with states, asking them to launch a manhunt for them. Security agencies believe that 10 terrorists may be hiding somewhere in the country.

With a majority of them suspected to be in West Asian countries like the UAE and Qatar on Pakistani passports, India has sought help from these nations in the wake of the Varanasi blast.

“A list, comprising 17 top IM terrorists, including Bhatkal brothers — Riyaz and Iqbal — the outfit’s bombmaker Yasin Bhatkal, financer Mohsin Chaudhary and technical expert Abdus Subhan Usman Qureshi alias Tauqeer, has also been with Pakistan for over nine months,” said a senior home ministry official. New Delhi had shared these details with Islamabad during foreign secretary-level talks in February. (Post-Varanasi, govt on hunt for 31 ‘wanted’ – The Times of India).

Small numbers …big problem

31 terrorists is India’s problem. The answer to these 31 operatives is dedicated teams for each terrorist.  Teams drawn from the 10 affected states, with 2 specialists from each state, dedicated to the  task of booking these 31 terrorists. 620 in all. 30 support staff. 6 in information technology; 12 in accounts & admin another twelve in documentation and secretarial section. Another 50 experts in language, cipher, psychology, intelligence, politics and culture can support this group. 700 people in all. To hunt down these 31.

Replacing these 31 operatives will be tough for any organization.

India must 'loose' 2000 DAT Teams (Dedicated Anti-Terrorist Teams) on the 2000 terrorists and 42 terrorist training camps. Table Source - 2ndlook.

India must 'loose' 2000 DAT Teams (Dedicated Anti-Terrorist Teams) on the 2000 terrorists and 42 terrorist training camps. Table Source - 2ndlook.

 

Let’s do the numbers

Indian police has a superb network of ‘humint.’ But, they need more than that – for neutralizing terror.

There are finally less than 1000 SIMI + HuJI activists who could be future terrorists. There are a similar 1000 Kashmiri terrorists. What India needs to do, is to set up a national database on these 2000 suspects – allot (say) teams of 5 policemen to these 1000 suspects.

Monitoring the activities of the 2000 suspects cannot be a national pastime. With neural networks and similar ‘intelligent’ systems, India police should be able to improve their ‘intelligence.’

2ndlook plan for terrorism

2ndlook has been working on a plan to tackle terrorism for 30 months now – resting on an intel-based theme. Not on more – computers, policemen, organizations.

The first output in this plan was the answer to counterfeit currency problem. 2ndlook analyzed this problem (in September 2008) down to a handful of Western companies, their Governments and proprietors who supply Pakistan with the paraphernalia to make fake currency notes. India needs to tackle these 12 companies and about 4 Governments.

The second stage in this plan was 50 days before 26/11 Mumbai attackson October 3rd 2008. Specialist teams to tackle identified, confirmed, proven terrorist candidates – DAT Teams (Dedicated Anti-Terrorist Teams). Instead of Western-style Draconian laws, which depend on mass jails, kills, hanging, State Terrorism, torture, India must depend on a targetted alternative.

Cartoon by Kirtish Bhatt; courtesy - http://bamulahija.wordpress.com

Cartoon by Kirtish Bhatt; courtesy - http://bamulahija.wordpress.com

For numbers will set you free

After 26/11, came a bigger 2ndlook anti-terrorism plan. Without demonizing Pakistan, or Pakistanis. Further development of better data came in December 2009, when specific numbers were revealed by Army Chief Deepak Kapoor. 42 terrorist camps is what the Indian intelligence agencies had estimated. Instead of putting a full army on alert, is it not possible to lob grenades into these 42 army camps every month for six months. With such sustained attacks comings in, how long will this structure-of-terrorism hold up.

Indian Government has taken action on some of these proposed points. The FCN issue was taken up with the necessary Euro-zone countries. India also decided to make its own security paper, instead of depending on unreliable-and-unethical European companies.

Carnegie, I can see you

February 25, 2011 3 comments
Time magazine used the Population Explosion idea on its cover. (Picture courtesy - shipbright.wordpress.com).

Time magazine used the Population Explosion idea on its cover. (Picture courtesy - shipbright.wordpress.com).

according to a study by the Carnegie Institution’s Department of Global Energy. It has concluded that the 13th-century Mongol leader’s bloody advance, laying waste to vast swaths of territory and wiping out entire civilisations en route, may have scrubbed 700m tonnes of carbon from the atmosphere – roughly the quantity of carbon dioxide generated in a year through global petrol consumption – by allowing previously populated and cultivated land to return to carbon-absorbing forest. (via Why Genghis Khan was good for the planet | From the Guardian | The Guardian).

Genocides are good

For some 100 years, the Carnegie Endowment /Institutions has been providing cover, logic and justification for Desert Bloc’s genocidal behaviour. This is yet another example. Genghis Khan was good, because he ‘reduced population’. Hitler was good because he reduced the Jewish population. Churchill was very good – he reduced Indian, Arab, populations. Various American Presidents were also very good. They annihilated the entire Native American Population in the USA. Anglo-Saxon Policy in Australia is good because it has again wiped out Australian Aborigine population.

Before that, the Abbot of Citeaux instructed his followers at the start of the Albigensian Crusade“Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius” (Kill them all, God will know his own). “Get gold, humanely if possible, but at all hazards, get gold.” (1511, King Ferdinand of Spain to his conquistadors). Since, it was not possible humanely, the Spanish Conquistadors massacred millions.

These massacres cut green house gas emissions. And this is a double-trick. So, in our outrage at the notion that Genghis Khan’s massacres were good, we don’t reject the fraud of Global Warming Is Bad notion.

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.

Carnegie, I can see ya!

Churchill quote - I do not understand this squeamishness about the use of gas ... I am strongly in favour of using poisoned gas against uncivilised tribes ... It is not necessary to use only the most deadly gases ; gases can be used which would cause great inconvenience and would spread a lively terror could be used which would cause great inconvenience, and would spread a lively terror and yet leave no serious permanent effect on most of those affected. (Litctman 1995: 519)

Churchill quote - I do not understand this squeamishness about the use of gas ... I am strongly in favour of using poisoned gas against uncivilised tribes ... It is not necessary to use only the most deadly gases ; gases can be used which would cause great inconvenience and would spread a lively terror could be used which would cause great inconvenience, and would spread a lively terror and yet leave no serious permanent effect on most of those affected. (Litctman 1995: 519)

Even God can’t help you (Corruption-II)

February 24, 2011 3 comments
Cartoon by Ninan; courtesy - virup.wordpress.com

Cartoon by Ninan; courtesy – virup.wordpress.com

Not like that in ‘foreign countries

Jagdish Bhagwati, a wannabe-Nobel Prize-ee, declares, that unlike India,”In America, if you are caught, even God can’t help you’.

The world’s largest prison population will testify to Bhagwati’s assertion.

The biggest scams on earth, in the USA, will also confirm that sending minions to jail does not get rid of crime or corruption. Corruption is an ‘India only’ phenomenon, rests on a basic assumption that  ‘foreign countries’ are better. Bhagwati leads the charge on this front.

Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel Prize winning economist (2001) implies that all governments can be bought – but then he goes further. Stiglitz claims the ‘US has the best democratic government money can buy!’ In the august company of Jagdish Bhagwati are The New Chatteratti. Like Chetan Bhagat, who believe during the British Raj, nothing like corruption could have existed. They dive deeper.

the United States values wealth, competition, individualism and religion. These are pretty much core to the essence of American society and culture.

However, ask someone to articulate Indian community values, and there won’t be a clear answer. Do we value wealth or education? Do we value democracy where people have a greater say in how they are governed, or do we believe in power in the hands of a select few to whom the laws don’t apply? Do we value honesty, or do we value getting a job done anyhow? Do we believe in frugality, or do we want to show off our wealth? Do we value our local communities, or do we value being part of India?

There are conflicting responses to any of these questions in the India … I call it confusion. Values cannot be unpredictable, they are consistent. The past decade was spent by Indian society in a muddled set of values. A clear set of values … a lack of good values is why scams happen, nepotism exists and the government doesn’t care about its people.

The reason there is no concrete set of Indian values yet is that the concept of India itself is new. Just over six decades ago, there was no India. We had a collection of princely states, with kings and queens, which the British ruled at gunpoint. When the latter left, we loosely stitched these together, cut off a large chunk with partition and labelled the result India. (Read more: Adding values to life – The Times of India; parts excised for brevity).

It all boils down to a belief in ‘character-less Indians’. It’s not just Chetan Bhagat or Jagdish Bhgwati. Sharmila Tagore thinks that Indians are sexual deviants, lechers. Dipankar Gupta has a different take – Indians are ill-mannered. Of course, all these cognoscenti of Indian character are better than Indians – and also think that ‘foreigners’ are better!

Dirty, rotten, brown Indians!

In a manner of speaking, some Indians continue to live with a poor self image – the vacuum of self-esteem that that these worthies reflect so well. Our political leadership, fortunately, does not quite believe that they are the only corrupt ones. They should know better.

It was in response to Nobel economist Gunnar Myrdal’s famous observations on corruption in India in his three-volume tome, Asian Drama, that Indira Gandhi famously observed that “corruption is a global phenomenon”.(Sanjaya Baru: Corruption and development)

Some 10 years later,

In 1985, Rajiv Gandhi on his first foreign tour as prime minister (at) one of his press conferences was asked if civil servants in India were paid so low that corruption in government had become a big problem. “We have no evidence from the western countries that higher pay for civil servants has completely removed corruption there,” Mr Gandhi said. (parts excized; text in parenthesis supplied; A K Bhattacharya: Look afresh at cooling-off rules).

A multi-author study on international commerce and was more balanced

Despite popular belief, corrupt practices are not a developing country’s problem. It is global and affects both the developed and the developing … In a recent news item from the WBI published in April 2004 the cost of corruption in both rich and developing countries is estimated at $1000 billion ($1 trillion) a year. (from Issues in international commercial law By Iwan Davies).

A former Home Secretary, during the demolition of Babri Masjid, was Madhav Godbole. He writes in his book,

In line with Indira Gandhi’s famous remark, “corruption is a global phenomenon,” one could say that motivated campaigning through the media is also a global phenomenon (from Unfinished innings: recollections and reflections of a civil servant By Madhav Godbole).

Looking far … and further

Was the Lockheed Scandal more egregious than the Harshad Mehta Scam? Was Watergate more dangerous than The Lewinsky Affair? Of course, there were many other scandals – bigger or less famous. Emperor Bokassa’s diamonds to Valery Giscard d’Estaing. Hardly anyone remembers Valery Giscard d’Estaing and Bokassa’s diamonds. Or how Margaret Thatcher used her official position to obtain a Saudi arms deal for her son, Sir Mark Thatcher, which reputedly netted £12m (around US$17m). Mark Thatcher ‘coup’ shenanigans in oil-rich Equatorial Guinea.

Between WWI and WWII, many questions were raised in the British Parliament- and outside about Neville Chamberlain’s holdings in ICI, shares estimated at 11000. His son, Francis Chamberlain, had joined the Kynoch Works an old firm with which the Chamberlain family was associated. As also with BSA Company (Birmingham Small Arms) in which he was a director.

Joe Kennedy Cartoon| LIFE | 25 Jan 1963

Joe Kennedy Cartoon| LIFE | 25 Jan 1963

Joseph Kennedy, whose ‘career’ in Hollywood (after taking over a company by deceit), Wall Street, (he short-sold all his  shares just before the October Crash that set of the Great Depression), bootlegging (in partnership with the mafia), was second to none. His son – the President, John F.Kennedy. But don’t ask Americans about the son of bootlegger who flouted the US Constitution many times – John F.Kennedy. After JFK’s killing, 60 years on, there are many suspects who had motives. Mafia tops this list.

It has always been a source of wonder to me how could Joseph Kennedy, a bootlegger and a friend of the mafiosi become SEC Chairman? And after that, could the Great Depression not drag on? It was always 2ndlook’s suspicion that Hank Paulson’s behaviour in the Lehman collapse is similar to Bootlegger Kennedy’s behaviour. And this now coming out all in the open!! This is very similar to Joseph Kennedy’s shorting the market before The Great Depression.

Joseph Kennedy got his leg up by funding the presidential campaign of Roosevelt – whose own family made their money from opium trade in China. For Kennedy’s support, Roosevelt rewarded Kennedy with appointment as Head of SEC (1934) and as US ambassador to Britain (1938). An interesting book traces the Great Depression to a clique of 40 bankers and politicians – including Kennedy, Churchill, Bernard M. Baruch etc. Jack Churchill, Winston Churchill’s brother, ‘airbrushed out of history’, had some role.

In a democracy, people have choice!

In a democracy, people have choice!

Jack Churchill emerges from this fascinating book as an engaging and honourable man who dealt well with the mixed blessing of having a very great man as an elder brother. He was a constant support to Winston, and was able to shield the family from some of the worst effects of the Wall Street Crash of 1929 and the ensuing Great Depression, although Winston never referred publicly to this.

More recently, we had the internet media agog with Dick Cheney and his misdeeds. His attempts to bribe Nigerian officials resulted in settlement offer of US$250m. (Finally, Dick Cheney seems to have got away. Was that with or without God’s help, Professor Bhagwati.).

Corruption and conspiracy

But all this is not corruption. These are conspiracy theories. In India, conspiracy theories become corruption. In the Great Land of USA, and much of the West, corruption is a Conspiracy Theory. Initially difficult to understand, but corruption-as-conspiracy has a simple explanation.

To understand this, we will have to go to Singapore. Where anything you say, write, print, about the rich and the powerful (called slander, libel and defamation). These are laws made for the ‘safety’ and ‘protection’ of the rich and powerful. A conviction will set you back by a few millions of dollars, euros, francs, pounds, et al. Unless you have rock-solid evidence.

Something that does not happen in India at all. Indian courts and jurisprudence, put very little value on  slander, libel and defamation. Indian media gets the rub-of-the green. But more on that in my next post.

So, Shri Bhagat, Bhagwati & Co., before you leap, fly, dive, jump, run to conclusions about us ‘backward’ Indians, let me tell you something. While you stay with us, we would appreciate some civility. You do know that India’s doors are wide open. You can leave. Leave us backward Indians behind.

I promise, we wont miss you.

PS

Corrupt border guards are not unique to India’s borders.

Really, Mr.Bhagwati?

February 23, 2011 5 comments

Why do foreigners of Indian origin (like Prof.Bhagwati) think they know much more about India – and are much better than we desi Indians?

I wonder why is it so difficult to understand that 'corruption is a global pheomenon' - because Desert Bloc political systems are now a global phenomenon. (Cartoon by Kirtish Bhatt; courtesy -  pressvarta.wall.fm).

I wonder why is it so difficult to understand that ‘corruption is a global phenomenon’ – because Desert Bloc political systems are now a global phenomenon. (Cartoon by Kirtish Bhatt – Dec. 10. 2010; courtesy – pressvarta.wall.fm).

Anxious are the ignorant

Recently, at a book-promotion event in Kolkatta,

A Britisher in the audience offered that Indians were more honest about being corrupt, naming Mayawati as a favourite, provoking titters all around. (via The Telegraph – Kolkata| Metro | When corruption is a daily habit)

The Britisher may be more right than most Indians imagine.

Mind games, verbal cues

Discussing ‘corruption-in-India’ a common belief is that yesterday was better. Data, facts, statistics, events, and other corroboration tools are for the birds. When a sentence starts with, ‘these days …’ or its Hindi equivalent ‘आज के ज़माने में’or when ‘It is not like olden days …’ or ‘पहले ज़माने में …’ you know what is coming your way.

Professor Jagdish Bhagwati, a Nobel prize candidate, for instance, believes that the Indian governance in ‘the 1950s had a civil service, and a political class, that were the envy of the world’.

Really, Mr.Bhagwati? Is that true?

Between 1934 and 1940, the Sugar Syndicate functioned as an association of millers largely based in northern India and made repeated attempts to help its members “manage” the market. The price of sugarcane was fixed by the government itself, while the price of sugar was controlled by a Syndicate. In September 1940, Purushothamdas Thakurdas wrote to Rajendra Prasad thanking him for his help, and hoping such help would be extended in future also: “We (Indian Sugar Syndicate) are extremely thankful to you for having taken up the cause of the industry and arranging meetings for the purpose of bringing home to the growers and cane cooperative societies that the problems facing the industry were as much their problems.”

Thapar went on to add: “In May 1940, under instructions from B M Birla, I had sent you a cheque for Rs 5,000 to enable you to help the sugar industry in whatever manner you might think best. I have advised the ISS office to send you another cheque for Rs 5,000 which I hope you will be receiving very soon.”

Was this a bribe? Was this payment for “lobbying”? How much would Rs 10,000 in 1940 be today? Can we accuse, with hindsight, that India’s first president was in the pay of the sugar cartel? Not necessarily, after all Rajendrababu was paid by cheque and all this was placed on record, and is now available in the archives of the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library. So, it was not a “bribe”, but a regular payment for services rendered — as an intermediary. The word “lobbyist” is more recent! (from Sanjaya Baru: Cartels and competition).

Desert Bloc polity creates modern day 'polity'. Indian outrage is partly because they have known better - Bharattantra. (Cartoon by Kirtish Bhatt ; courtesy - apnablog.in).

Desert Bloc polity creates modern day ‘polity’. Indian outrage is partly because they have known better – Bharattantra. (Cartoon by Kirtish Bhatt ; courtesy – apnablog.in).

A biographer of Nehru writes,

Even before taking office as head of the interim government in September 1946, Nehru lashed out at what he called “the colossal corruption and nepotism that are rampant everywhere.””Corrupt people have to be swept away by a broomstick,” he cried while campaigning for his Congress Party in late 1945. The attack on corruption began in earnest after Nehru became interim prime minister … (from Comrades at odds: the United States and India, 1947-1964 By Andrew Jon Rotter).

Dr.Rajendra Prasad was equally concerned about corruption. Soon after Independence, he wrote, as the President of India, to Prime Minister JL Nehru about how corruption would ‘prove a nail in the coffin of the Congress’. Or another case, during India’s de-colonization campaign, in

the Raj era when a Congress worker kept aside money collected for the party. He returned it only after a shakedown by Gandhiji himself. (via The Telegraph – Kolkata| Metro | When corruption is a daily habit).

After all, how many remember that

Nehru’s cabinet minister Rao Shiv Bahadur Singh was jailed as early as in 1949 for accepting a mere 25,000 rupees for forging a mining document. (India’s free-market mantra-DAWN.COM).

Of course, the writer does not adjust for inflation. Based on a gold index, the value of 1949 Rs.25,000 is now (January 2011) more than a crore of Indian Rupees.

Not exactly a small sum.

Looking back in wonder

In the early fifties, Nehru set up a Corruption Commission with JB Kripalani, Paul Appleby (a Ford Foundation consultant), AD Gorwala (a retired ICS officer) as members.They submitted various reports – Report on the Efficient Conduct of State Enterprises (A. D. Gorwala), 1951; Public Administration in India-Report of a Survey (Paul H. Appleby), 1953; Railway Corruption Enquiry Committee (J. B. Kriplani), 1955 et al. The Great Gift of the British to India, railways was not only a vast scrap heap of metal, but a den of corruption. Corruption and safety took another 50 years – by the 1990’s, by when the entire railway system was modernized and computerized.

Corruption in India has seriously reduced in railways, telephones, banks, industrial policy. What we have are now fewer bigger scams. (Cartoon by Kirtish Bhat; courtesy - bamulahija.blogspot.com.).

Corruption in India has seriously reduced in railways, telephones, banks, industrial policy. What we have are now fewer bigger scams. (Cartoon by Kirtish Bhat; courtesy – bamulahija.blogspot.com.).

This was followed up by a committee headed by K. Santhanam, an MP. This committee’s report, the Santhanam Committee Report (1964) suggested institutional mechanisms and process-related steps to fight corruption. The Santhanam Committee recommendations of 1962-1964, led the Government of India to set up the Central Vigilance Commission in 1964.

But much before this, way back in 1928, a much-less famous man then, wrote

Corruption will be out one day, however much one may try to conceal it; and the public can, as its right and duty, in every case of justifiable suspicion, call its servants to strict account, dismiss them, sue them in a law court or appoint an arbitrator or inspector to scrutinise their conduct, as it likes. – Mahatma Gandhi in Young India (1928).

Yesterday, Once More?

So, Bhagwati-bhau, corruption was an old problem – that continues. Of late, what has happened is that Indian media has certainly become more vocal. Maybe you should check if Kuznet’s Curve applies to corruption also – in its many avatars.

Before you give uninformed opinions, it is a good idea to take a 2ndlook.

While discussing ‘corruption-in-India’ a common belief is that yesterday was better. No data, facts, statistics, events, and other corroboration tools are offered to support this statement.When a sentence starts with, ‘these days …’ or its Hindi equivalent ‘आज के ज़माने में’ or when ‘It is not like olden days …’ or ‘पहले ज़माने में …’ you know what is coming your way.


Understanding Ravana is essential!

February 4, 2011 27 comments
Soldiers of Ayodhya being attacked by bandits in a forest (Image link courtesy - mumbaimirror). Click for larger image.

Soldiers of Ayodhya being attacked by bandits in a forest (Image link courtesy - mumbaimirror). Click for larger image.

Most of the rakshasas have been humanised and the 10 heads of Ravan do not find mention. “People are bad from inside,” says Goel. “It doesn’t manifest physically. The 10 heads were a metaphor for the ten qualities of Ravan – valour, generosity, intelligence, knowledgeable, etc. We chose to elaborate those qualities instead of showing the heads,” says Goel.

In contrast, Ram is shabby looking, with a thick unkempt beard, long hair and no ornaments. “Being forest dwellers, Ram and Laxman could not shave every day,” explains Goel. Since this is Ravan’s story, the role of Ram’s kin has been minimised to make place for more fleshed out characters from Ravan’s family. (via The legend of the fallen one, Lifestyle – Sunday Read – Mumbai Mirror).

Ravana deserves study

This is a most interesting project. To fully and really understand Indian classics, texts and scriptures, the idea of Asuras needs to understood. I am not sure how much these writers have understood the Asura concept – and its link with slavery. They seem to be more interested in ‘balancing’ the picture, rather than ‘righting’ the picture.

Demonising Ravana

Ravana was not a demon (which is a bad English equivalent of Asura) but an asura. And some Indians have taken the easy way out, by demonising Ravana. I hope these ‘creators’ understand that demonising Ravana, or romanticising him too, is counter-productive.

Understanding Ravana is essential!

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