Thursday, August 23, 2007

Morons of herculean proportions..


The Left phobia in the media continues. That the media today is inhabited by loads and loads of morons is confirmed day in and day out.

Today the Times of India declared that Indians in the "red" bastions of Kolkata and Kochi had voted for the nuclear deal. A graphical illustration of some questions and answers with votes in percentages is laid out for the viewer to see the conclusion that there is a huge upsurge of votes for the nuclear deal. Hidden conspicuously however is the most important thing to note: The Sample Size of the voters. What kind of stupid vote is this? Tomorrow, I might publish a vote sample of 15 people (all of whom I know) in a particular locality in some particular town and say that 91% Indians have voted for the nuclear deal because 14 of the 15 people agreed with it! What kind of nonsense is being peddled by these media-men? I am shocked and appalled at the lack of quality.

Hindustan Times was more honest. It boldly declared that Indians have rejected the nuclear deal by testing this question among the mammoth number of 586 respondents!

Yesterday, Sagarika Ghose betrayed an absolute ZERO knowledge of the workings of a Communist party in a discussion titled, "Karat and Stick", asking if Karat was the most powerful man in India today. That the fact that the CPI(M) depends upon collective decision making is solely forgotten or rather not unknown by these moronic journalists. Questions such as how the Bengal Left hadn't attended the Central Committee meeting (because the Bengal CM, one among a dozen CC members from Bengal, had skipped the meeting to attend a investment meet), is Karat the high priest of the Leftist "Church" etc were asked in this nincompoop special program. Ms Ghose should talk to her dad sometime, who surely knows a thing or two about the functioning of Indian parties and their organisations. That Bhaskar Ghose has a nincompoop for a daughter is really sad to know.

An yet another idiot in CNN IBN writes a blog entry questioning the Left's dependence on nationalism when they should be working toward working class consciousness as he pontificates. This idiot simply doesn't even know that the Left in India today have been subscribing to the theory that third world nationalism is a bulwark against imperialism, since the early 1930s. The fool then asks why the Left is supporting the nuclear bomb lobby when it opposed the deal. Easily ignored by this idiot is that nowhere in the Left's multiple releases (available at hte public domain at ) is the mention of a nuclear bomb being made.

Today in the Outlook, a fool named Jaideep Mazumdar (a correspondent based in Kolkata) writes not a word about the Left's position on the nuclear deal but affirms that he supports the deal because Manmohan Singh says so! Why? Because Manmohan Singh is a honest man and thats why the nuclear deal is good. And what follows is a huge rant about the Left's policies in Bengal on urban neglect, trade unionism, blah blah and therefore the nuclear deal should be supported! This idiot must be first trained in logic, I believe sincerely. And this idiot should also answer the question as to how the Left has ruled for 30 years in a state in India, winning election after election, if all they have done is misrule! And this nincompoop proudly says that he hasn't read the details of the nuclear deal, either.

The filth in the Indian media just keeps piling on and on. There are legitimate points that can be made as critiques of the Left's position on various issues. That the media lacks a semblance of knowledge of the workings of the Left and even the objectivity to study the deal as well as the strategic question is a severe indiction of the lack of quality in these circles. Too much Page 3 has got their brains fried in cocktails, I believe.

But the answer to the piling nonsense and savagery of criticism is very simple. These corporate owned mouthpieces of the bourgeosie have no concern for the common Indian citizen to whom this facade of a nuclear deal brings nothing significant. No question is asked about the costs that would be entailed or whether at all if this energy is going to be feasibly increasing India's thoroughput.

Vague answers on "India becoming a world player" (when there are honour killings, starvation deaths, farmer suicides, separationist struggles, tribal doldrums, rising inequality, pathetic HDI {India is 127th in the world in this index}) because of a deal with the superpower, without even giving the fineprint of the strategic costs and benefits of such a deal are peddled.

The only thing that the mass media is capable of, is to cater to the lowest tastes of hype and hyperbole. Witness the ultra-heavy coverage of the Sanjay Dutt saga.

A friend of mine, in la Sukumar Ray style wrote this on the Indian media:

Every hour by the studio clock
Comes news from here and there
limited by the atmo-sphere
Read by some Singh or Sharma
or Some Sood, Gupta or Varma.
all chips of the Hindi block.

A sample of the past few days
shows the pathos that Hindi plays


Good Morning its six o clock
Sanju has brushed his teeth
there is a flood in Bihar
While Sanju sips his tea
mumbai has two feet of water
Sanju has just done his potty.
He missed his toilet paper
and did his do with a "lota"
And then the camera zooms
to the channels "local" in view
asking Sanju coming from loo
"Abhi kaisa lag raha hai"
A normally constipated face
beams in a new found gaze.
"I know now why I did the do"
Its the blessed prison's chai


While all of us thus get sanjood
the sensex drops 600
and farmers die of debt
But thats not news you dude!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Left in the limelight..

Three columns in the Hindustan Times; each by Vir Sanghvi, Barkha Dutt and Rajdeep Sardesai were written on the Left recently in the aftermath of the Left's positioning on the Nuclear Deal. All three start of, as pious recognition of the presence of probity in the Left leadership and end up questioning the position of the Left on the Nuclear Deal as well as questioning the very basis of existence of the Left. In the course of doing so, blatant falsehoods are peddled. Sample this from Vir Sanghvi: "The CPI didn't play a role in the freedom movement" (Hasn't Sanghvi ever heard of Meerut Conspiracy Case and the about the revolutionaries incarcarated in Kalapani?)and so on.

All the articles are blatantly flawed; not just for their argumentation; but also for their serial lack of objectivity as well as analytical rigour. It is a travesty and a recognition of the mediocrity that peddles television media today. And to say that these three ordinary analysts who have dominated mass media soundbyte in the country today are considered stellar journalists is a further indiction of the quality of the media that prevails in the country today. Why do I say so? Read on.

The Nuclear Deal with the United States cannot and must not be seen by divorcing it from the larger strategic relationship that has been drawn between the two states for the past 9 years. From the NSSP (Next steps in strategic protocol) moves in the NDA regime to the defence agreement signed by Pranab Mukherjee in 2005 with Washington, there has been a clear indication of how India wills on to bandwagon with the unipolar nation that is driving world political economy today. The reasoning offered is that it is in India's interest to do so. Divorced from this understanding is what exactly does India's interest entail? The interests of the middle classes who would stand to gain by this relationship to get immediate visas or the upper business classes who shall get their cut of the bargain when they sign up on lucrative partnership/ investment deals with their American counterparts; should only these interests be considered Indian national interest? How does one define national interest? This question is never asked in the media; the mass media in particular with it's dependence on short term memory and emphasis on formal and personality driven politics is incapable of asking that question.

It is in this regard that one should read the Nuclear Deal. While entering into a strategic partnership with the United States, care must be taken whether this would hamper India's geopolitical interests in the periphery of its environs. During the Cold War era, the balance of power game played between the United States and the USSR drew India toward the latter, even as the country tried to play even-handed and get benefits out of the relationship from both the superpowers.

After the end of the Cold War, there has been a significant turn toward hegemonization of world polity by the US establishment, particularly since the coming to power (in a dubious manner) by the George Bush regime. This neoconservative regime has tried to dominate world polity by focusing its efforts on the energy sector, seriously involving itself in the West Asian region, by launching a phoney war against Iraq and now tries to take that forward in Iran. Even the Horn of Africa wasn't spared.

The redefinition of the relationship with India has to be seen in this context. Ostensibly formal politics defines this relationship as between two democracies (although the content of the rather "formal democracies" is never argued upon). Never is it understood that in the system of international politics, relations are defined between nations as units of power, no matter whatever be the content of power internally in the different units be.

Clearly the United States wants India to be a bulwark against the rise of other powers in the Asian region (read China) and to prevent the multipolar formation of forces such as the Shanghai Co-operation Council (a tie up between Russia, China, Kazakhstan and other central asian powers). The dangling of the nuclear carrot is to be seen in this very particular context.

One only needs to trace the sequence of events since the then Petroleum Minister, Mani Shankar Aiyar notified an energy partnership with Iran and Syria, which has the potential to transform relations between these various units in the Asian region and also had the oeuvre to bring in new markets to these nations. The entry of cheap gas into India was seen to be fruitful not just for reasons of diplomacy and statecraft but also to the aam aadmi, as steady supply of natural gas was bound to help depreciate the pressing necessity for energy consumption in the country. What immediately succeeded this incident was the announcement of a nuclear partnership by Condoleeza Rice, the secretary of state for external affairs of the US. What followed later was the removal of Mani Shankar Aiyar from power and the bringing in of Murli Deora, a person who has a track record of pro-Americanism and corporate cronyism. The pipeline deal since then has been left in the lurch, as many spanners to the works has been brought about by the government itself (witness the PM saying that it would be difficult to get an banking underwriting for the deal even before the deal was conceptualized!). The offering of an alternate pipeline through American cronies in Central Asia (Turkmenistan) also added fuel to the theory that the deal was being sabotaged by American influence.

When George Bush visited (during which time, these very reporters went gaga over his retinue of K-9 dogs, his attire and his body language), the nuclear deal was conceptualized and agreed upon, as a step forward in the Next Steps in Strategic protocol movement launched by the NDA regime. Lets consider the merits of the Nuclear Deal itself, something that has been threshed out a zillion times in the media, but quickly.

The deal promises India a steady supply of fuel (subject to certain conditions, which were debated endlessly from the point of view of nuclear scientists who saw this as a threat to India's unique indigenous three stage nuclear fuel generation process), setting a stimulus for the set up of ancillary businesses in India, while giving nuclear suppliers in the US (who have been stymied domestically because of the stall in nuclear generation) a fillip by giving them a captive market. From all estimates however, this deal would still materialize into a situation when only 8% of the energy generation in the country would come from the stable of nuclear energy in 2020.

Now opposition to this deal (which was consolidated during the 123 agreement, which went ahead to give India-specific commitments, overruling several prior objections to nuclear proliferation in third world countries, in the United States), was hinged on two legs. One leg was the ultra-nationalist one, which saw the deal as a cap on India's nuclear weaponisation programme (articulated by the BJP and its acolytes). The lesser version of the position was that articulated by the scientists, who still felt that the express commitments made were still harmful to the three stage indigenous process and the ability of India to be able to export that indigenous technology as well as reactors. The other leg, while sympathetic to the latter argument of the scientists, looked upon this deal in the angle of strategic partnership as well, seeing the deal as creating a situation where India acts as a junior partner of US imperialism in the South Asian region, thereby creating a dangerous situation where the current battleground against the US (which has been waged through the aegis of terrorism) would shift toward India full time (the theatre has already started playing itself out, witness the multiple terrorist acts in the nation, even by terrorist cells recruiting Indians themselves), as well as the further creation of hitches in India's already estranged neighbors. While countries in Europe, for e.g., had grown from nationalistic divisions after World War II, to form co-operative councils with stout economic relationships through the aegis of the European Union. Such a possibility has not been achieved in the South Asian region, because of the lingering antagonism between the various nations, India, China and Pakistan.

It is in this context that one should view the opposition of the Left toward the nuclear deal. Despite the pronouncements by Manmohan Singh that he would articulate a foreign policy that is considerate of a relationship with other powers as well as the United States, empirical evidence on the ground doesn't say so. The growing nexus with the United States has continued to under-cut relations with the multipolar world bringing a baggage of problems geo-politically, realistically and forcefully. The Left, which has always articulated an anti-imperialist zeal throughout its existence only continues to do so and hence rejects the deal. Its as simple to understand why when seen in this understanding. The Left is criticised by saying that the parties were dictated to by Moscow and were beholden to China. Easily forgotten is the fact that the largest and perhaps the only relevent constituent (the CPI(M)) wasn't recognized by the Chinese Communist Party as a fraternal Communist party till 1978 and which had split from the original CPI, primarily because of the differences in understanding of the nature of the Indian state and the bourgeosie, which were not shared by the right-CPI, ideologically closer to the Soviet party. That the CPI(M) was seen as an independent communist party, just like the Italian one is never mentioned. But I digress.

Let me get back to ranting now. Why do these superficial reporters (Dutt/Sanghvi/Sardesai) fail to understand this or atleast fail to report this? Is it because they lack the understanding of international politics? (Barkha Dutt called the details in the 123 Agreement as gobbledygook, thus disregarding any pretense of understanding things in detail). Is it because they want clearly to see national interest in the lines of what the urban middle class would want to interpret and love to hear? The latter seems to be the most plausible reason.

Why should the Left, whose traditional constituency is NOT the urban elite or the upper middle class, peddle its understanding to suit these very same sections? How are the ordinary Indian citizens who are also dependent on energy in great ways, going to benefit out of a deal which is only to get us 8% of the energy requirements at enormous cost in 2020? Why can't the very same investment made in renewable and environmentally secure sources of energy? Aren't these legitimate questions, which should be asked by a voice, that is not tarnished by the corruption that prevails in bourgeois political parties today in India?

It is but logical therefore that the Left, whose probity is lauded by these columnists, must represent the voice of the ordinary citizen, even if she/he doesn't understand the "gobbledygook" of the 123 agreement.

Taking this argument forward now, let us now understand how this translates into the political positioning of the Left vis-a-vis this government. The current UPA Government was formed as a coalition supported by the Left from the outside, on the basis that this will be a secular and humane alternative to the communal-driven and avowedly neoliberal NDA government that was defeated at the hustings. With 61 MPs, who were primarily elected after being victorious against Congress legislators, how can the Left be part of the government? That would be against the grain of probity that is subjectively installed in the Left consciousness. This is the precise reason for the formulation of the Common Minimum Programme, a catalog of policies that are not very different in content from the Congress party's, which won the most number of seats in the hustings.

So, everytime the Left stopped certain policies from culmination (FDI in Insurance/Retail; Disinvestment of well performing PSUs; pension reforms; others), all of them were in contradiction to the very DNA of what suggested the Left's social policy of increasing equitous development and creating self-reliance. Did the Left ever oppose FDI in manufacturing? No media person talks about that.

It was but sure that a confrontation between the neoliberal-led Congress government and the Left was bound to happen. The Left considers the Congress as a landlord-big bourgeois party which mouths social democracy while articulating the interests of its primary sections. No wonder, the Congress never did sincere land reform to eradicate rural oligarchies and consequently inequities that still plague the nation. Yet the bigger danger of communalism that has an innate fascist form (structurally different to the European version, but consequentially very similar: witness Gujarat) bound these very same antagonist forces. It was similar to the alliance between the Soviet Union and the Allied Powers against the German led axis powers in the World War.

Instead of harping upon the differences in the left-right-centre spectrum that constitutes every democracy, the superficial media sees this differences through the vacuous angle of "ego" and "personalities"; as if Manmohan Singh's reactions to the left's opposition were only driven by his "pious" personality rather than his neoliberal outlook. I see this trend as the biggest example of foreign direct investment from America, where the media plays a similar role in the manufacturing of consent (credit to Dr. Chomsky) and harps on the same meta-analysis in the television rooms without a substantive content.

I hope Sanghvi, Dutt and Sardesai realise their limitations and improve upon their substantive thinking. Anything less and these self-declared national experts are nothing but mediocre hacks who are lucky to get the spotlight that they get. I feel sorry for their viewers.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Betrayal of a Mandate

To use violence against people demanding government action on social and economic issues is second nature for a state that deals with such situations as they were only a question of maintaining “law and order”. The gunning down of six left activists in Mudigonda of Khammam district of Andhra Pradesh on July 28 during a bandh called by the CPI(M) and CPI to protest the failure of the government to redistribute land is only the most recent example of the state showing its brutal face when confronted with genuine demands. This has been how governments at the centre and the states have, since the 1950s, responded to movements seeking redistribution of agricultural land.

It is also very common for political parties to promise land reform during their election campaigns, but to very quickly retract on these commitments. In Andhra Pradesh, the Telugu Desam Party (TDP), when it came to power for a second time in 1994 with a promise to implement welfare measures, took the path of neoliberalism under Chandrababu Naidu (after he was re-elected in 1999), only to be discredited in the eyes of the people and then drubbed at the polls in 2004. It was the backlash against the TDP’s regressive policies in the state that brought the Congress, led by Y S Rajasekhara Reddy, to power, but the present state government has not shown itself to be very different from its predecessor in the manner in which it has addressed the land issue. The inaction of the state government is a betrayal of the mandate of 2004, for redistribution of land was one of the important campaign promises of the Congress Party in the state assembly elections of that year.

The Andhra Pradesh Assignment Lands (Prohibition of Transfers) Act, 1977 was supposed to enable the state to distribute land to the poor. The Act had been passed to prohibit the sale or alienation of land assigned for distribution, to any third party. But the Congress government has amended the same Act to regularise unauthorised possession of assigned land. From private encroachment of the land meant for redistribution to illegal buying of such land from the poor in the name of “developing the land” and selling it for higher returns, the government has allegedly encouraged all kinds of malpractices. The government claims that it has distributed 4.37 lakh acres of land. However the CPI(M) and CPI allege that concrete steps have not been taken to implement the suggestions of the Koneru Ranga Rao Committee (set up by the Congress government in 2004) that came up with a list of measures to effect redistribution in accordance with already framed laws.

The left parties had demanded that the recommendations made in the Koneru Committee’s report be implemented and an independent authority be formed to monitor the implementation of the redistribution process as well as an ombudsman be appointed for the Indiramma housing project for the poor, which has seen a number of irregularities. The bandh call on July 28 was the culmination of the agitation, which had been going on for nearly three months.

The police were at their most brutal in Mudigonda. The use of AK-47s against unarmed protesters is reflective of what the state really thinks about people’s protests. That the use of firearms must be the last resort and only under extreme duress are rules that are too often disregarded by the police. In the present case, the firing upon the protestors was ordered even as they were being lathi charged. The measures taken by the chief minister after the incident to punish the personnel involved and to compensate the victims will not be enough to mollify the anger that has erupted against this regime.

The drubbing that Rajasekhara Reddy’s predecessor received at the polls should forewarn the Congress Party in Andhra Pradesh. The incumbent government has to demonstrate that it is serious about addressing the issue of land reform. Only that would be a fitting compensation to the activists who lost their lives in the police firing in Mudigonda on July 28. But is the Congress government in the state capable of such action?

Editorial written for the Economic and Political Weekly