Monday, 31 March 2014

Book review - Out, Damned Nightspot - Shakespeare and the Countess

Shakespeare and the Countess: The Battle that Gave Birth to the Globe
By Chris Laoutaris

Reviewed by Anne Somerset 

Out, Damned Nightspot
William Shakespeare had good reason to hope that 1596 would prove a prosperous year for him. At great expense the impresario James Burbage had recently acquired and refitted a magnificent theatre where Shakespeare's works could be staged. Unlike the premises at which Shakespeare's theatrical company was then based, the new theatre at Blackfriars was not open to the elements, so plays could be put on even in winter. Large sums had been invested to provide excellent lighting and special-effects technology. Seats would be pricey and Shakespeare would be entitled to a share of the profits. Unfortunately for Shakespeare the venture incurred the disapproval of Elizabeth, Lady Russell, a venerable Blackfriars resident who set about organising a petition against the theatre. She prevailed upon almost all her neighbours to sign it, including her friend Lord Cobham.

Lady Russell was a fearsome adversary. As the sister-in-law of Queen Elizabeth I's lord treasurer, Lord Burghley, she was extremely well connected, and she was also a formidable personage in her own right. Most unusually for the time, she and her sisters had been educated to a very high standard by a father who believed 'women are as capable of learning as men'. All five of his daughters were famed for being 'learned above their sex', with the ability to 'entertain all kind of men with talk worthy the hearing'. From her earliest youth Lady Russell had been exposed to radical religious ideas and was passionately committed to upholding her own advanced form of Protestantism. When the uncompromising beliefs of Puritan divines landed them in trouble with the authorities, she interceded on their behalf, often extricating them from difficulties.

Following the death of her second husband in 1584, Lady Russell had made valiant efforts to protect her daughters' birthright. Her husband had predeceased his father, the Earl of Bedford, but Lady Russell insisted that when Bedford died, his property should be shared by his granddaughters, instead of being bequeathed, as was customary, to his nearest male relative. She conducted an eight-year lawsuit, only for the judges to pronounce against her.

These were by no means the only controversial proceedings she engaged in. Though physically frail and in 'most extreme pain' from a back injury, she was dauntless in confrontations with perceived enemies. During a bitter property dispute, she led 12 armed servants in an assault on people she maintained were wrongfully occupying one of her houses. In a 'most furious, forcible and riotous manner' she not only ousted the unfortunate tenants but also dragged two of them off to another of her residences, where they were 'fast locked' in the stocks for several days. Not long afterwards a bailiff who had displeased her was left 'in utter despair of his life' after it appeared that Lady Russell's servants were planning to string him up in the woods without the formality of a trial.

Towards the end of her life she embarked on further litigation in the Court of Star Chamber. Having first roughly handled a privy councillor who cast doubt on her claims, she shouted down the lord chancellor. To the consternation of the men present, she 'violently and with great audacity began a large discourse and would not by any means be stayed or interrupted'. Once again she lost the case, but at least one observer was filled with reluctant admiration for her 'more than womanlike' courage. Paying tribute to her 'many excellent gifts', he acknowledged her 'great spirit', while regretting that it was 'blemished ... with extreme pride'.

This, then, was the alarming woman with whom Shakespeare found himself in contention in 1596. In part Lady Russell's objections to the Blackfriars Theatre arose from simple nimbyism, for she argued that the increased crowds and traffic would cause 'a general inconvenience to all the inhabitants of the same precinct'. She exploited the authorities' fear of riotous behaviour by suggesting that 'vagrant and lewd persons ... under colour of resorting to the plays will come thither and work all manner of mischief'. She may also have had a more particular grudge against Shakespeare. His recently staged Henry IV, Part 1 had featured a fat, drunken knight called Sir John Oldcastle (an ancestor of her friend Lord Cobham), whose reprobate friend John Russell was the namesake of Elizabeth Russell's late husband. This was probably not a coincidence, but if Shakespeare had been teasing Lady Russell and her circle he came to regret causing such offence. When the play was next staged he tried - too late - to make amends by renaming the two characters Falstaff and Bardolph.

Lady Russell's petition against the Blackfriars Theatre was successful. The authorities refused to allow it to open.. 
read more:

Book Review: JENNIFER SCHUESSLER - Heidegger’s Notebooks Renew Focus on Anti-Semitism

It has long been one of the most contentious questions in 20th-century intellectual history: Just how much, and what kind, of a Nazi was the German philosopher Martin Heidegger?
To his strongest detractors, Heidegger was a committed National Socialist whose hugely influential ideas about the nature of being and the dehumanizing effects of modern technology and much of the modern philosophical tradition itself were fatally compromised by his membership in Hitler’s party from 1933 to 1945. To his staunchest defenders, however, he was a Nazi of convenience — a sometime personal anti-Semite, perhaps, but a philosopher whose towering intellectual achievements are undiminished by temporary political dalliances or everyday bias.

Now, the recent publication in Germany of the first three volumes of Heidegger’s private philosophical notebooks has brought the controversy roaring back, revealing what some say is an unmistakable smoking gun: overtly anti-Semitic statements, written in Heidegger’s own hand, in the context of his philosophical thinking. The so-called black notebooks, written between 1931 and 1941 and named for the color of their oilcloth covers, show Heidegger denouncing the rootlessness and spirit of “empty rationality and calculability” of the Jews, as he works out revisions to his deepest metaphysical ideas in relation to political events of the day.

“World Jewry,” he wrote in 1941, “is ungraspable everywhere and doesn’t need to get involved in military action while continuing to unfurl its influence, whereas we are left to sacrifice the best blood of the best of our people.” The anti-Semitic passages total only about two and a half of the notebooks’ roughly 1,200 pages. Still, some scholars say, they put the lie to any claim that Heidegger’s Nazism can be kept separate from his philosophy, or confined only to the brief period in the early 1930s when he was the rector of the newly Nazified University of Freiburg.

“The evidence now isn’t just undeniable, it’s over the top,” Richard Wolin, an intellectual historian at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York and the author of several books on Heidegger, said in an interview. “Heidegger was engaged with these issues philosophically and intellectually through the course of the whole regime.”

The black notebooks, released by the Frankfurt-based publishing house Vittorio Klostermann, are appearing as Volumes 94 through 96 of Heidegger’s complete works, according to a schedule laid out by the philosopher himself before his death in 1976. Though long whispered about among some Heideggerians, virtually no one outside the family had seen the notebooks, which are kept in the tightly restricted Heidegger archive in Marbach, Germany.

Even before the release of the first volume in late February, however, word of the anti-Semitic passages leaked into the press in France, where Heidegger’s philosophy has exerted its strongest influence,through thinkers like Jean-Paul Sartre and Jacques Derrida.
One Heidegger translator, during an hourlong radio program dedicated to the controversy in December, called the anti-Semitic statements shocking evidence of “intellectual bankruptcy.” But some orthodox Heideggerians went on the attack, charging the editor of the notebooks, Peter Trawny, whose monograph on Heidegger’s anti-Semitism, then unpublished, was also circulating, with self-serving careerism and reckless misinterpretations.

Mr. Trawny, the director of the Martin Heidegger Institute at the University of Wuppertal in Germany, said in a recent interview that there had been pressure from some in France to stop the release of his monograph, “Heidegger and the Myth of Jewish World Conspiracy,” and remove him as editor of future volumes of the notebooks, but that the Heidegger family had been supportive of full publication. “When I read them, I was quite astonished,” Mr. Trawny said of the notebooks. “But there was never any question of modifying the manuscripts.” To some people, such astonishment has a whiff of Claude Rains’s shockin “Casablanca,” given what books like Victor Farias’s “Heidegger and Nazism” (1987) and the French scholar Emmanuel Faye’s “Heidegger: The Introduction of Nazism Into Philosophy” (2005) have established about both Heidegger’s activities in the 1930s and his postwar efforts to minimize his belief in the “inner truth and greatness” of National Socialism, as he put it in 1935.

Both those books caused intellectual convulsions and even suggestions that Heidegger’s work, including his 1927 masterpiece “Being and Time,” should be banished from philosophy to the realm of Nazi ideology. But even those who defend Heidegger’s philosophy more broadly say the black notebooks are hardly the first sign of a specifically anti-Semitic cast to his thought.

Richard Polt, a professor of philosophy at Xavier University in Cincinnati, pointed to the student notes from a seminar that ran from 1933 to 1934 (published in Germany in 2009 and released in English in December), which showed Heidegger speaking of “Semitic nomads” who will never understand the nature of “our German space.” “Although the presence of anti-Semitic comments in the so-called black notebooks is newsworthy,” Mr. Polt said in an email, “it should not come as a surprise to anyone who has been paying attention to the evidence.”

Thomas Sheehan, a Heidegger scholar at Stanford, put it even more strongly, saying in an email that too many Heideggerians “have swallowed the Kool-Aid and bought in wholeheartedly to his story about modernity” as decline, which Heidegger used to “launder” his anti-Semitism. The scandal over the notebooks, Mr. Sheehan added, should be a chance to “rethink, from scratch, what his work was about.” That process will take years, given the volume and notorious difficulty of Heidegger’s writing, so chock-full of neologisms, the old joke goes, that it is impossible to translate even into German. (An English edition of the notebooks is under negotiation; six more volumes remain to be published in German.) A conference on the notebooks is planned at Emory University in Atlanta next fall. Mr. Trawny will also discuss them at the Goethe Institute in New York on April 8.

In a newspaper article derived from his monograph, Mr. Trawny argues that Heidegger rejected the “biologism” of Nazi race theory in favor of a “historial” anti-Semitism (to use a Heideggerian coinage) that emanated “from the history of Being itself.” For Heidegger, in Mr. Trawny’s interpretation, the Jews are not the inventors of modern technology, but “along with the Nazis” — whom he had come to see not as a rebirth of authentic Being, but as another degrading force of modernity — “the most powerful embodiment of it.”

Heidegger, Mr. Trawny said in the interview, is not known to have kept a notebook from 1941 to 1945. And a long-missing notebook from 1945 to 1946 that surfaced in January does not contain anti-Semitic statements, according to an interview in Die Zeit with the notebook’s longtime owner, a son of one of Heidegger’s mistresses, who sold it to the archive at Marbach in March. Mr. Trawny speculates that Heidegger’s reunion in 1950 with the German-Jewish philosopher Hannah Arendt, his former lover and student, helped modify his views of Jews and of the Holocaust, a subject on which he made only minimal (and, many say, minimizing) public comment. “After 1950, we don’t have anti-Semitic passages in the black notebooks anymore,” Mr. Trawny said... read more:

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Ashish Kothari: Modi as India's PM is a cause for worry for environmentalists

Narendra Modi as India’s prime minister will be a development disaster. In Gujarat, his tenure as chief minister has seen worsening or stagnation of the health and livelihood prospects of the poor, and widespread ecological damage. In a recent campaign speech in Goa, he declared that as prime minister, he will re-open mining (never mind that it is stayed by the Supreme Court due to its severe impact on water, environment and livelihoods). And his aggressive pushing of a statue of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, at a staggering cost of Rs. 500 crore, is a scary indication of a megalomania with grave national implications.

The UPA’s record on environmental and livelihood concerns has been poor, with 250,000  hectares forest land sacrificed for mining, industrial and infrastructural projects, and with stagnation in employment generation. But even this could be overshadowed if Modinomics is given free rein. That development cannot be successful at the cost of the natural environment is evident from the widespread social impacts of ecological destruction. Even the World Bank, a promoter of such unsustainable development, recently admitted that environmental damage like air pollution knocks 5.7% points off India’s economic growth.

Effectively, if other damage is added, there is zero or negative economic growth. Not to mention the incalculable socio-cultural impact of displacement, dispossession, disease, premature death, malnutrition, and loss of employment. The UPA’s economic policies ignored all this, and so will Modinomics.

In a recent report, labour and environmental activists Rohit Prajapati and Trupti Shah laid bare the Modi government’s record in Gujarat: Inflated figures of employment created chronic underpayment, deliberate dispossession of farmers to create cheap labour for industries, and the dubious distinction of having 30% of India’s ‘major accident hazard’ industries as also its most ‘critical polluted areas’. 

Other analysts have brought out the abysmal state of health and education, especially among the state’s adivasis and Dalits. Modi’s ‘developmentalism’ includes sidestepping all norms to make land and water available to corporate houses.  It means taking over the land and water of 70 villages to promote the Patel statue as a tourism zone. It involves Project Kalpasar, a 30-km dam across the Gulf of Khambhat, ignoring potentially colossal social and ecological costs, ignoring also the much cheaper, more sustainable, and more democratic alternatives to water security such as those demonstrated by civil society groups in Kachchh and Saurashtra. Given all this, it will not be a surprise if, as PM, he instructs the Union ministry of environment and forests to dilute or sidestep environmental laws to enable corporate take-overs.

The UPA at least brought in some progressive legislation and schemes, under the influence of civil society. Will Modi be open to such influence? Activists in Gujarat report an atmosphere of intolerance and authoritarianism that discourages dissent. Activists peacefully protesting against the Patel statue, or a proposed nuclear power station in Bhavnagar district, or industrial expansion into ecosystems that fisherfolk, farmers, adivasis are dependent on, have been dealt with by heavy police bandobast and repression. The largest number of RTI activists killed or injured in India belong to Gujarat.

Those who will cheer most if Modi becomes PM are the corporate sector and a part of the upwardly mobile middle classes. To them, people’s struggles for justice, movements by the poor to resist displacement and land acquisition, and environmental activism, are all ‘hurdles’ to profits and further enrichment. Unfortunately a large section of the population may also vote for him, dreaming of joining the 10% of India that own 53% of its wealth. But for those who worry about the ‘jobless’ growth of today’s development model, about half of India still deprived of basic needs, and how future generations are being robbed of their right to a healthy environment, Modi’s ascendance to India’s top position is a cause for nightmares.

Gujarat model of development - what will it mean for India?

Arvind Memorial Trust Documentary on Industrial accidents - मौत और मायूसी के कारख़ाने

मौत और मायूसी के कारख़ाने
Factories of Death and Despair 

दूर बैठकर यह अन्दाज़ा लगाना भी कठिन है कि राजधानी के चमचमाते इलाक़ों के अगल-बगल ऐसे औद्योगिक क्षेत्र मौजूद हैं जहाँ मज़दूर आज भी सौ साल पहले जैसे हालात में काम कर रहे हैं। लाखों-लाख मज़दूर बस दो वक़्त की रोटी के लिए रोज़ मौत के साये में काम करते हैं।... कागज़ों पर मज़दूरों के लिए 250 से ज्यादा क़ानून बने हुए हैं लेकिन काम के घण्टेन्यूनतम मज़दूरीपीएफ़ईएसआई कार्डसुरक्षा इन्तज़ाम जैसी चीज़ें यहाँ किसी भद्दे मज़ाक से कम नहीं... आये दिन होने वाली दुर्घटनाओं और मज़दूरों की मौतों की ख़बर या तो मज़दूर की मौत के साथ ही मर जाती है या फ़ि‍र इन कारख़ाना इलाक़ों की अदृश्य दीवारों में क़ैद होकर रह जाती है। दुर्घटनाएँ होती रहती हैंलोग मरते रहते हैंमगर ख़ामोशी के एक सर्द पर्दे के पीछे सबकुछ यूँ ही चलता रहता हैबदस्तूर...

फ़ैज़ के लफ़्ज़ों में:

कहीं नहीं हैकहीं भी नहीं लहू का सुराग़

न दस्त-ओ-नाख़ून-ए-क़ातिल न आस्तीं पे निशाँ

न सुर्ख़ी-ए-लब-ए-ख़ंज़रन रंग-ए-नोक-ए-सनाँ

न ख़ाक पे कोई धब्बा न बाम पे कोई दाग़

कहीं नहीं है
कहीं भी नहीं लहू का सुराग़ ...

यह डॉक्युमेण्ट्री फ़ि‍ल्म तरक़्क़ी की चकाचौंध के पीछे की अँधेरी दुनिया में दाखिल होकर स्वर्गलोक के तलघर के बाशिन्दों की ज़िन्दगी से रूबरू कराती हैतीखे सवाल उठाती है और उनके जवाब तलाशती है।

डॉक्युमेण्ट्री को YouTube  पर देखें

निर्देशकः चारुचन्द्र पाठक
ह्यूमन लैण्‍डस्‍कैप प्रोडक्‍शंस (अरविन्‍द स्‍मृति न्‍यास)
डीवीडी प्राप्‍त करने के लिए सम्‍पर्क करें -
फोन न. - 9910462009

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Pakistani columnist & anchor Raza Rumi attacked, driver killed // Journalists in Pakistan: Here be dragons

speaking out against religious extremists can, and does, get you shot.
LAHORE: An attack on noted columnist and TV anchor Raza Rumi led to the unfortunate death of his driver Mustafa on Friday evening.
Raza Ahmed, popularly known as Raza Rumi, was injured in an attack along with his guard and driver near Raja Market. According to TV reports, Rumi escaped with a minor injury and managed to shift his guard and driver to the hospital in critical condition. However, his driver succumbed to his injuries. The guard’s condition is also said to be critical.
Rumi said he was distraught over his driver's killing, whom he described as “innocent” and a breadwinner for 10 other family members. “God has saved me. I just heard the... bullets when we took a turn near Raja Market and put my head down,” he told AFP, adding his bodyguard leapt to save him. “Extremists want no counter narrative in the state that is why they are attacking alternative voices.”
Amnesty International's Pakistan researcher Mustafa Qadri said: “Raza's case is a sad reminder of the threats faced by journalists like him who are promoting human rights and understanding in Pakistan. “Amnesty International has documented at least three cases of journalists killed this year as a direct result of their work, with scores of others, like Raza, narrowly escaping,” he told AFP.
Earlier this month Pakistan announced it would set up a special commission to protect journalists and will include press freedom as part of peace talks with the Taliban. In a few updates on Twitter, Rumi shared the incident with his followers.
Never doubt that words have power. It’s likely because of the words he spoke and wrote that Raza Rumi was attacked in Lahore last night, an attack that claimed the life of his driver. More words followed; words of condemnation, outrage and a good deal of despair.
Much of it was standard fare of course, and there’s nothing wrong with that. There are the usual calls (ineffective) for the government to do something, anything (they won’t). There was outrage (cathartic, but impotent) at the usual suspects as well; the unnamed liberation-loving stakeholders one simply does not rub the wrong way. And there were also calls (well-intentioned but idealistic) for the media to pull together and (perhaps) announce a boycott, like the one Afghan journalists carried out after the Serena hotel attack.
Let’s start with that last one. Now, while this would be a wonderful show of solidarity, let’s be clear that it will never happen. After all, this is the same industry that would likely report a nuclear attack on a rival group without actually naming that group. This is apparently the consequence of some arcane policy which posits that naming a name that everyone already knows would somehow direct eyeballs or perhaps ratings their way. Point being that you shouldn’t hold your breath waiting for a media boycott, unless oxygen deprivation is your idea of fun.
Speaking of fun, what all and sundry seem to enjoy is hurling slander, invective and abuse with a sprinkling of death threats. Take, for example, that very popular “dollar khor” line that so many just love to use as an accusation to be hurled at any who may dare criticise the holy of holies. Oh, I know it’s just two words, from two different languages; strung together to make what can loosely be defined as a point. But let’s take it to its logical conclusion for a moment, shall we?
To accuse someone of being in the pay of a foreign power, presumably to the detriment of Pakistan, is to accuse that person of treason. Treason, last time I checked, is punishable by death. Thus, does having such an accusation levelled (by top part leadership at that) amount to incitement to murder? Now, before the trolls sharpen their dull little claws, let’s be clear that the attackers were almost certainly not inspired by such a statement. They almost certainly didn’t get up one morning and say: “Gee, Mr Khan says those writing against him are US agents, why don’t we kill them?” That’s not how it happened.
But those who hurl such accusations as easily as they scratch their noses should at least be aware of the implications they are making, though I doubt if deep thinking, or thinking at all, is their forte. They are, however, enablers, and need to recognise themselves as such.
Then, of course, there is the counterargument: If someone is called: ‘Taliban Khan’, why can’t he repay with the same coin? What after all, is the difference between labelling one person a Taliban sympathiser and him labelling his opponents US agents? Prima facie, there isn’t much difference. But if you look at consequences, then the difference is huge indeed. Calling someone “Taliban” will not cause a drone strike on his house.
Calling someone a “traitorous paid agent” will in all likelihood put him or her on a target list. For example, if you go out and accuse one person of being a terrorist, and another of having committed blasphemy and then wait and see who gets arrested and has his house (or entire colony as the case may be) burnt to the ground. You likely won’t have to wait very long for an answer. Also read: Media now in TTP crosshairs
But then, false equivalence is a popular thing indeed. Take for example, the usual line about there being extremists on both sides of the ideological divide. This gem is trotted out every now and then whenever some right-winger says something particularly egregious and his minions feel the need to distract from it.
“Liberal extremists are as intolerant as right-wing extremists” you’ll hear them say. Maybe so, but last I checked there wasn’t a Lashkar-e-Seculari out to kill you if you happened to support the CII. On the other hand, speaking out against religious extremists can, and does, get you shot. Right now, such is the poison that has seeped into our collective consciousness that many out there will think Mr Rumi asked for it, and that his driver was just unfortunate collateral damage. You know, like the kind caused by drones. Because if you can’t win an argument, at the very least you can muddy the waters, and there are some very real dragons in these depths.

Coal, natural gas & oil put 32 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide annually into the atmosphere

By Juan Cole: Burning fossil fuels (coal, natural gas and oil) is putting 32 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide annually into the atmosphere. Since CO2 is a greenhouse gas that traps heat from the sun on earth and prevents it radiating back out to space, this unprecedented human output is causing climate disruption, a process that will accelerate over the next few decades and will prove extremely costly to human society (if the latter can even survive).

The only energy source that has a hope of fixing this problem and of resolving the coming energy crisis is solar. The cost of solar panels is falling rapidly, raising the hope that we can put in enough panels quickly enough to avoid the very worst scenario of carbon-induced climate disruption. (I put in 16 Enphase microinverter panels at my place this winter and they generated 120 kilowatt hours in the past week; my house and electric car averaged 150 kilowatt hours usage per week last month; and that is in Michigan at the tail end of winter).

Here are some promising signs with regard to solar power that have recently been in the news:

1. Cheaper solar panels and more efficient wind turbines now produce so much energy that they pay for themselves quickly even if you add the cost of storage into the mix, and they also pay for the cost of adding more wind and solar. The Scientific American writes that Charles Banhart, a post-doc at Stanford’s Global Clmate and Energy Project, told them: “What we’re saying is that theoretically, it is now theoretically possible to have this perfect world that’s just based on wind and solar.” It adds, “Rather than using existing “stock” fuels like fossil fuels, he said, renewables put out enough excess energy to fuel their own expansion.”

2. The price of electricity generated by solar panels in India has fallen so much that solar is now competitive with coal. India wants to add 22 gigawatts of solar by 2022, but is already looking like it will do at least 3 times that because of falling costs. In twenty years, India will be the country generating the most new demand for electricity in the world, surpassing China.

3. Ghana has started work on a $400 million, 155 megawatt solar utility plant, the largest so far in Africa and the 6th largest in the world. It will be completed in 2015.

4. Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe introduced a feed-in tariff 18 months ago, with dramatic results. Installed solar capacity in the past year and a half has gone from about 2 and a half gigawatts to a whopping 7.5 GW. In an encouraging sign for the Japanese economy, nearly half the photovoltaic panels shipped were manufactured in Japan. Since the tsunami disaster at the Daichi Fukushima nuclear complex, Japan has scrambled to replace the electricity generating capacity of its nuclear reactors. A majority of days in the year are sunny in Japan, but the solar panels generate at least some electricity even when it is overcast. The number of sunny days each year in Japan is comparable to that in Germany, where solar now accounts for 5% of German electricity production, a proportion expected to increase rapidly over the next decade.

5. American hip-hop artist Akon (who grew up in Senegal) is promoting affordable solar energy kits for African villagers that are cheaper than kerosene. He aims to bring power to a million Africans this year.

Rowan Williams attacks Western lifestyle on eve of major report into climate change

The former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams has attacked the Western world’s continued reliance on climate change inducing fossil fuels, warning that present lifestyles are "pushing the environment towards crisis".

Citing the severe winter storms the hit the UK this winter, Dr Williams, who is now the chairman of Christian Aid, said that Britain “got off relatively lightly”, compared with some of the poorest countries in the world, where thousands have died as a result of extreme weather attributed to global warming. Writing in The Sunday Telegraph he said: “It is those living in the typhoon-prone Philippines or in drought-ravaged Malawi who are being forced not only to deal with the miseries of flooded homes and prolonged disruption, but to make fundamental changes in their way of life.”

He continued: “The chaos experienced in Britain came as a shock to many; but for millions around the world, this is nothing new. “And there is a particularly bitter injustice about the fact that those suffering its worst ravages - such as the pastoralists of northern Kenya or the Quilombolas of Brazil, descendants of former slaves cultivating territories increasingly desolated by deforestation - have done least to contribute to it.”

As a ground-breaking report into the impacts of climate change is set to be released tomorrow, Energy Secretary Ed Davey meanwhile declared that Britain must spearhead the worldwide battle against global warming. Climate change is “hugely threatening” to life both in the UK and globally, Mr Davey told The Observer, saying that not to lead the fight against it would be “deeply irresponsible”. Taking aim at climate change sceptics, Dr Williams said that while doubting humanity’s hand in global warming may feel “all very well in the UK”, where we can concentrate on adapting with better flood defences, “these options are not so readily available in the most vulnerable communities around the world”.

The UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s report is expected to warn of catastrophic consequences to food supplies, livelihoods, health and security across the world if global warming is allowed to continue unchecked. In leaked versions of the report, the team warn that rising global temperatures, droughts and heat waves will threaten food supplies and human health, while hundreds of millions of people will be affected by coastal flooding. The final study by experts from around the world is expected to warn that climate change will cause economic losses, exacerbate poverty and increase migration and risks of violent conflict, as well as causing damage to wildlife and habitats.

Israel Guilty of Apartheid, Ethnic Cleansing of Palestinians: UN Rapporteur

Richard Falk, United Nations rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories accused Israel last week of “ethnic cleansing” of Palestinians. Speaking at a press conference, he said that Israeli policies bore “unacceptable characteristics of colonialism, apartheid and ethnic cleansing.” “Every increment of enlarging the settlements or every incident of house demolition is a way of worsening the situation confronting the Palestinian people and reducing what prospects they might have as the outcome of supposed peace negotiations,” he added. Falk is an American who is Jewish, is an international law expert and Professor Emeritus at Princeton University in the US.

According to Falk, more than 11,000 Palestinians had lost their right to live in Jerusalem since 1966 due to Israel imposing residence laws favoring Jews. At the same time, the Israeli government was revoking Palestinian residence permits. “The 11,000 is just the tip of the iceberg,” he said, “because many more are faced with possible challenges to their residence rights.” Falk’s comments lend support to similar statements done in the past regarding Israeli actions towards the Palestinians. In 2006, Ilan Pappé, an Israeli historian and social activist who is a professor with the College of Social Sciences and International Studies at the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom, wrote a book called “The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine.

In that book, Pappé states that the 1948 Palestinian exodus was a planned cleansing of Palestine that was carried out by the Zionist movement leaders, mainly David Ben-Gurion and his associates. The process was carried out through the systematic expulsion of Arabs from about 500 villages, complemented by terrorist attacks executed mainly by members of the Irgun and the Haganah troops acting against the civilian population. Pappé based his assumptions on the Plan Dalet and on village files as a proof of the planned expulsions. Although the purpose of the plan has been amply debated, it seems that the plan was a set of guidelines whose purpose was to take control of the territory of the Jewish state and to defend its borders and its people, including the Jewish population outside its borders as a precaution against an expected invasion by Arab armies.

Predictably, the book caused an uproar. Benny Morris, an Israeli professor of History in the Middle East Studies department of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, wrote, “At best, Ilan Pappé must be one of the world’s sloppiest historians: at worst, one of the most dishonest. In truth, he probably merits a place somewhere between the two.” Morris himself stated, however, “In retrospect, it is clear that what occurred in 1948 in Palestine was a variety of ethnic cleansing of Arab areas by Jews. It is impossible to say how many of the 700,000 or so Palestinians who became refugees in 1948 were physically expelled, as distinct from simply fleeing a combat zone.”

Not everybody was equally critical of Pappé, though. Stephen Howe, professor of the history of colonialism at Bristol University, said that Pappé’s book was an often compelling mixture of historical argument and politico-moral tract. According to Howe, although Pappé’s book might not be the last word on the events of 1948, it still is “a major intervention in an argument that will, and must, continue.”

And it does continue. In November 2013, more than 50 public figures in Britain wrote a letter opposing an Israeli plan to forcibly remove up to 70,000 Palestinian Bedouins from their historic desert land –an act that critics considered ethnic cleansing. The eviction and destruction of approximately 35 villages in the Negev desert, claims the letter, “will mean the forced displacement of Palestinians from their homes and land, and systematic discrimination and separation.”

Writing in Save Canada Post in 2010, Suzanne Weiss, a Holocaust survivor stated, “I am a survivor of the Jewish Holocaust, the Nazis' mass murder of Europe's Jews. The tragic experience of my family and community under Hitler makes me alert to the suffering of other peoples denied their human rights today — including the Palestinians. True, Hitler's Holocaust was unique. The Palestinians are victims of ethnic cleansing and apartheid. Hitler started with that, but went on to extermination. In my family's city in Poland, Piotrkow, 99 per cent of the Jews perished. 

Yet for me, the Israeli government's actions toward the Palestinians awaken horrific memories of my family's experiences under Hitlerism: the inhuman walls, the checkpoints, the daily humiliations, killings, diseases, the systematic deprivation. There's no escaping the fact that Israel has occupied the entire country of Palestine, and taken most of the land, while the Palestinians have been expelled, walled off, and deprived of human rights and human dignity.”

The Agony of Palestine
WAITING FOR RELIEF Yarmouk Camp in Syria for Palestinian refugees

The US is paying the cost of supporting the House of Saud

President Obama flew to Saudi Arabia to patch up relations with King Abdullah at the end of last week in his first visit in five years. The alliance had been strained by Saudi anger over US negotiations with Iran on its nuclear programme and Obama’s refusal to go to war in Syria to overthrow Bashar al-Assad last year. For its part, the US is upset by Saudi Arabia covertly supporting al-Qa’ida-type movements in Syria and elsewhere.

The US-Saudi relationship is a peculiar one in that it is between a reactionary theocratic monarchy – it is the only place in the world where women are not allowed to drive – and a republic that claims to be the chief exponent of secular democracy. The linkage is so solid that it was scarcely affected by 9/11, though al-Qa’ida and the hijackers had demonstrably close connections to Saudi Arabia.

The Saudis want to persuade the US to make a greater effort to overthrow Assad in Syria. Saudi Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz told the Arab League in Kuwait last week that “the legitimate Syrian resistance has been betrayed by the international community and left easy prey to tyrant forces”. This is a bit rich, coming from the potential ruler of a state in which every expression of dissent is being crushed, and the number of political prisoners could be as high as 30,000. Minor criticism of the state on Twitter is enough for Saudis to be called in by the security services.

On 3 February, King Abdullah promulgated a decree that made Saudi jihadis fighting abroad liable to 20 years in prison on their return. The idea is to choke off the supply of Saudi recruits volunteering to fight in Syria, said to number 2,500 at present. Previously, Saudis were able to reach Syria with ease, a sign that the government was turning a blind eye, but now it is saying it will jail them if they come back.

The U-turn may not work: fighting in Syria has popular support in Saudi Arabia; Wahhabism, a puritanical and intolerant variant of Islam, is the ideology of the Saudi state which regards Shia and Sufi Muslims as heretics little different from Christians and Jews. Having stoked hostility to Iran and Shia Islam for so long, the government may not find it easy to demonise and punish Saudis who fought against them. 

The criminalisation of the jihadis is designed in part to persuade the Americans that Saudi Arabia is not encouraging Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis), both al-Qa’ida-type groups, to take over northern Syria and western Iraq. On the contrary, the Saudis say they want to fund and supply a third military force in Syria that will fight both President Assad and the anti-Assad jihadi forces. 

Given that the Syrian army is on the offensive in and around Damascus, Homs and Aleppo, any Saudi and American backed “third force” operating from Jordan is not going to turn the tide on the battlefield in the foreseeable future. If the Americans go along with this plan, then they are saying, in effect, that they are prepared to conduct a long proxy war in Syria, contrary to all the hypocritical outpourings in Washington and Riyadh about ending the suffering of the Syrian people.

For its part, the US establishment has never taken on board that, when it backed the anti-Assad rebels in Syria, it automatically destabilised Iraq. This is sometimes attributed to the departure of US troops, but it was inevitable that an uprising centred on the Sunni majority in Syria, would energise and radicalise the Sunni minority next door in Iraq. Three years after the protests started in Syria, the whole Euphrates valley from, to Jarabulus, on Syria’s border with Turkey, is in the hand of Isis and Jabhat al-Nusra. In the past week, Jabhat al-Nusra fighters have for the first time broken through to the Mediterranean coast north of Latakia.

A problem for the Saudi government is that it has always used jihadis as an arm of its foreign policy, believing that it could disclaim responsibility for their actions. Private donors and jihadi preachers were allowed to operate unhindered. But the disadvantage of this hands-off approach is that, in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria and Iraq, the jihadis were not under total Saudi government control. Those battling in Syria and Iraq today will not be pleased to learn that Riyadh has decided that they have suddenly become outcasts. In recent months, jihadi websites and messages on Twitter have begun to attack the Saudi royal family, one showing a picture of King Abdullah giving a medal to George W Bush with the caption: “medal for invading two Islamic countries”. Another shows trucks packed with armed gunmen with a caption saying they are heading for northern Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi government is showing signs of nervousness. It has backed a counter-revolutionary wave across the Middle East that, in many places, has succeeded. Democratic protesters in Bahrain were crushed in a Saudi-backed clampdown in 2011. In Egypt, it is financially supporting the military regime that overthrew the democratically elected President Morsi in 2013. In Syria, it has ensured that the political opposition is dominated by Islamists and is funded and largely directed by itself.

But, along the way, the Saudi royal family is making a lot of enemies. .. read more:

Brunei brings in system of Islamic law with punishments that include dismemberment..

The Sultan of Brunei, one of the world’s wealthiest rulers and a close ally of Britain, will this week oversee his country’s transition to a system of Islamic law with punishments that include flogging, the dismemberment of limbs and stoning to death. The 67-year-old absolute monarch declared last year that he wanted to introduce a full sharia system in his oil-rich nation and warned critics who took to social media sites to complain that they could be prosecuted using the new laws. The decision to introduce sharia and reintroduce the death penalty has been condemned by NGOs and legal rights campaigners, who say the new rules will breach international laws. It has also triggered alarm among some of Brunei’s non-Muslim communities, who will also be subject to some of the rulings.

The development could put pressure on Britain to rethink its close relationship with Brunei, a former colony. A British regiment based in the country – the last surviving UK regiment stationed in East Asia – is paid for entirely by the Sultan. In a letter to Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) said it deplored the new rules, adding that, if implemented, they would lead to serious human rights violations. “Brunei has not implemented the death penalty for years, so it came as quite a surprise that the new law has reintroduced it,” said the ICJ’s Emerlynne Gil.

Brunei is two-thirds Muslim and has long implemented some sharia, mainly for civil matters such as marriage. But last year the Sultan, who is said to be worth £24bn and lives in a 1,788-room palace, announced a plan to introduce full Islamic law. Offences include insulting the Prophet Mohamed, drinking alcohol, getting pregnant outside of marriage and “sodomy”. The latter will be punishable by stoning. 

“It is because of our need that Allah the Almighty, in all his generosity, has created laws for us, so that we can utilise them to obtain justice,” the Sultan said at the time. It is unclear precisely what is motivating the Sultan, who also serves as the country’s prime minister and assumed the throne in 1967. But in a speech in February to mark the country’s National Day holiday, he claimed the system of an absolute Islamic monarch acted as a “strong and effective firewall” against the challenges of globalisation. He referred specifically to the internet. He claimed that there were those, both in and outside Brunei, which last year chaired the Association of South-East Asian Nations (Asean), who had been challenging his plans and who wanted to see “internal turmoil”. He added: “These parties, it seems, have attempted to mock the king, the Islamic scholars and sharia. They are using the new media, such as blogs, WhatsApp and so on, which are not just accessed by locals but also by those overseas.”

The speech by the Sultan – who for many years was involved in a high-profile legal battle with his brother, a playboy accused of misappropriating £9bn of government assets and who reportedly owned a yacht called Tits – has had the impact of silencing many who might publicly speak out against the move. Yet there are concerns, especially among the minority communities. There are around 30,000 Filipino citizens in Brunei, many of them Catholic, and the Philippine ambassador to Brunei, Nestor Ochoa, recently held a meeting at which he warned his countrymen about the implications of the new laws.

Father Robert Leong, a Catholic priest in Brunei, said there were concerns that baptisms of newborn babies could breach the new rules, which prohibit the “propagation of religion other than Islam to a Muslim or a person having no religion”. He said that the law was being introduced in three phases, with the harshest punishments, including the death penalty, being phased in over two years from Tuesday. “There will be no baptisms. There is not a lot we can do about it. We will have to wait and see what happens,” he said.

Britain granted independence to Brunei in 1984, but has maintained a close relationship with the country. A 1,000-strong regiment of the British Army, the Royal Gurkha Rifles, has been located there since the late 1950s and in 1962 stepped in to quell a rebellion against the Sultan’s father. The regiment is paid for by the Sultan. The British Army also runs a jungle warfare training school in the small nation. A government spokesperson said: “Ministry of Defence discussions are ongoing with the Bruneian authorities to clarify any impact on UK forces.” Royal Dutch Shell, an Anglo-Dutch multinational, also runs a major operation there as a joint venture with the Brunei government.

A briefing document published last year about defence and security opportunities in Brunei by the UK Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said Brunei invested “a significant proportion of the country’s wealth through the City of London”. It said the British Armed Forces garrison was a linchpin of  UK-Brunei relations. “The Government’s goal is to retain a dominant position in these key areas, and to maximise our share of influence as Brunei diversifies its economy and puts increasing emphasis on regional partners like Asean and China,” it said. “As it does so, Brunei will also provide a UK-friendly window into the key growth area of South-east Asia.”

The Sultan has been married three times. He remains married to his first wife, but he divorced his second, a one-time airline stewardess, in 2003 after 21 years. He divorced his third wife, a former TV reporter, in 2010 after five years. Both ex-wives were stripped of their royal titles. Stories of his wealth abound. It was reported that, while playing polo with Prince Charles on one occasion, he had his boots delivered by helicopter to the polo field.
The Brunei government did not respond to queries and the Brunei High Commission in London failed to answer questions from The IoS. However, earlier this year, Brunei’s most senior Muslim cleric claimed that those criticising the new rules did not understand them, according to a report in The Brunei Times.

Dr Ustaz Hj Awg Abdul Aziz Juned said in a lecture in London: “Not even a day after the law was announced, human rights groups on social media commented that the steps taken by the Brunei government to implement the law was out of date and not modern.”

Many BJP leaders not informed about Modi-Sabir Ali meet

The divide in the Bharatiya Janata Party is deepening ahead of the Lok Sabha elections. Sources now say that BJP Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi kept party leaders in the dark as he initiated the induction of expelled JDU leader Sabir Ali into the party. Sources have told CNN-IBN that Modi met Sabir Ali in Gandhinagar on March 6 without the knowledge of other BJP leaders. Sources say Modi's supporters in Gujarat took the initiative to bring in Sabir Ali.
His induction is part of the strategy to have more Muslim faces in the BJP, say sources. Sources also say that BJP leaders in Delhi were informed of his induction much later. Meanwhile, Sabir Ali has now said that his membership of the BJP should be put on hold till party leaders' charges against him are cleared. This comes after BJP leaders Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and Vinay Katiyar accused Ali of being close to Indian Mujahideen terrorist Yasin Bhatkal.
Sabir Ali had earlier also said that he will quit politics if charges are proven against him. "If anyone finds a connection between me and Bhatkal I will quit politics. People who make such allegations must take some moral responsibility. I know my credentials and they are strong," Ali said. Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, who had tweeted expressing displeasure over Sabir Ali's induction into the party, has now deleted his tweet. However, he said that his stand on Sabir Ali remains the same, but he deleted the tweet due to reference to Dawood Ibrahim. The RSS too has expressed displeasure. RSS leader Ram Madhav tweeted, "Sabir Ali's induction has caused great resentment. Party leadership has been apprised of the strong views of the cadre and people against it."
This comes a day after Naqvi tweeted saying Ali has close links to arrested Indian Mujahideen terrorist Yasin Bhatkal, adding that his induction will weaken the BJP's stand against terrorism. Naqvi also said that Ali's induction was akin to Dawood Ibrahim being given a BJP ticket. "Terrorist Bhatkal friend joins BJP. Soon accepting Dawood," Naqvi tweeted... read more:

Sabir Ali steps up attack on Naqvi, says the BJP leader should prove allegations or apologise

Rohini Hensman: The Gujarat model of development & what it would do to the Indian economy

Modi’s policies are exactly the same as those which destroyed the economy of the US, the richest country in the world, resulting in the global crisis: wholesale privatisation and deregulation, extreme disparities in wealth, and unsustainable indebtedness. And they would have the same results in India, such as massive job losses, and worse..

Christine Lagarde: ‘Let me be frank: in the past, economists have underestimated the importance of inequality. They have focused on economic growth, on the size of the pie rather than its distribution. Today, we are more keenly aware of the damage done by inequality. Put simply, a severely skewed income distribution harms the pace and sustainability of growth over the longer term. It leads to an economy of exclusion, and a wasteland of discarded potential’..

For years the BJP, Modi, the corporates which support him and the media they control have bombarded us relentlessly with propaganda and lies about the mess that the UPA has made of the economy and the shining success of ‘vibrant Gujarat’. In reality, we find that the UPA regime suffers from the same problems as other neoliberal regimes and has done better than most, while Modi’s policies would have catastrophic consequences for the Indian economy...

The cornerstone of Modi’s and the BJP’s campaign for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections is that the UPA has ruined the Indian economy and the BJP led by Modi will make it boom. These claims have been reinforced by corporate adulation for Modi in his ‘Vibrant Gujarat’ summits [1] and surveys showing that almost 75% of top corporate CEOs want him to be the PM [2]. How valid are these claims?

The UPA’s performance
The economic reforms initiated by the Congress government in the 1990s raised the GDP growth rate from an average of around 3.5% per annum since Independence to more than 9% between 2005-06 and 2007-08 [3], before dropping to 6.7% in 2008-2009 as a result of the global crisis [4]. Global competition forced manufacturers of products like electrical and electronic goods to improve the quality and reduce the prices of their products. Computers, internet access and mobile phones became much more widely available.

However, neoliberal policies that were part of the changes had serious negative consequences. Privatisation was in many cases accompanied by massive corruption (e.g. the CWG and 2G scams), as politicians and bureaucrats received kickbacks from the corporates they favoured. In other cases, even if there were no kickbacks, lack of adequate regulation allowed corporates to make windfall profits, while public sector banks offered them generous loans without exercising due diligence. The campaign by industrialists for the abolition of protective labour laws reached a crescendo during the NDA regime. It stopped when the UPA came to power, but the anti-labour atmosphere had already influenced state labour departments and even the judiciary to such a degree that workers struggling for their rights were seldom successful.

The result of these trends was a huge increase in inequality. At the top, a few capitalists became dollar billionaires, joining the global rich. Just below them, 10-15% of the population became a prosperous middle class. But for the vast majority there was no improvement. Between the top and the bottom there was an unbridgeable gulf.

These developments were not peculiar to India. A wave of neoliberalism was sweeping through the world. What does this mean? The only interest of most capitalists is to maximise their profits regardless of the damage they do to the economy. If reducing wages below subsistence and destroying the environment boosts profits, so be it; if gambling with worthless derivatives promises trillions, then go for it. If privatisation of public utilities like electricity and water offers huge profits to a few, then that is the way to go, even if it reduces the profits of many others and imposes an intolerable burden on non-coporate users. But normally the state, even if it supports capitalism, takes a broader view. It may regulate the banking sector so that it is not threatened with collapse if risky investments go wrong. It may nationalise railways and public utilities so as to reduce costs for all capitalists. It may even invest in health and education in the interests of a better labour force.

The peculiarity of a neoliberal regime is that the state takes the standpoint of individual capitalists and allows them to do what they want rather than protecting the system as a whole. The corruption unleashed by this regime in countries like the US has been phenomenal. Mortgage providers ramped up the housing market to astronomical levels by offering large mortgages to buyers who would never be able to pay them back. Investment banks then ‘bundled toxic mortgages into complex financial instruments, got credit rating agencies to rate them as AAA securities, and sold them to investors, magnifying and spreading risk throughout the financial system, and all too often betting against the instruments they sold…’ [5]. The outcome was the global crisis of 2008, resulting in millions of homes, jobs and pensions lost on one side, while on the other side gigantic fortunes were made. Years later, some of these banks were penalised, but their CEOs were not [6]. Credit rating agencies too came under fire for giving triple-A ratings to junk; Standard & Poors even faced a civil suit [7]. Yet they too remained in operation.

This background is important in understanding what has been happening in the Indian economy. The global crisis hit all countries across the world. India, because its economy was not fully neoliberalised, did better than most. Its relatively well-regulated banking sector survived, though not unscathed: generous loans given to corporates like Kingfisher Airlines without proper scrutiny of their ability to repay piled up on the balance-sheets of the banks as non-performing assets [8]. This has justifiably been seen as collusion between bank managements and corporates to rob the public of over 3 lakh crores over the past two years [9]. 

The Finance Ministry and Reserve Bank acknowledged the scale of the problem in November 2013, and pledged to take steps to deal with it [10]. Recession and austerity in developed countries hit exports from India, which in turn hit employment, reducing wage expenditure and demand. Paradoxically NREGA, which had been intiated before the crisis, acted as a stimulus package, creating employment, helping to raise agricultural wages and preventing the collapse of rural spending power. But the middle classes, who had been doing so well before the crisis, saw their future and the future of their children threatened.

The net result in India has been a slow-down in economic growth and high rates of inflation, which are causes for concern but not nearly as catastrophic as the slow-down in developed countries. According to Shankar Sharma, a director at one of India’s leading investment brokers, First Global, ‘India’s current economic management is inarguably the best that we have… In the last nine years, India has grown at about seven and a half percent compounded. But more importantly, in this ten years, debt to GDP has come down from 91 percent to 67 percent’ [11]. APCO Worldwide agrees with this assessment of the UPA’s economic performance: ‘India today is a trillion-dollar market with an enviable rate of GDP growth. India’s economy is fueled by the combination of a large services sector, a strong and diversified manufacturing base and a significant agricultural sector that continues to provide a framework for the growth of the domestic economy. The country’s resilience in weathering the recent global downturn and financial crisis has made governments, policy-makers, economists, corporate houses and fund managers believe that India can play a significant role in the recovery of the global economy in the months and years ahead’ [12].

This is a very different picture from the constant BJP blitzkrieg blaring the allegation that the UPA has made a mess of India’s economy. Given that APCO is the PR firm hired by the state government of Gujarat from 2009 to 2013 at a reported cost of $ 25,000 a month to promote Modi’s Vibrant Gujarat [13], it can hardly be accused of pro-Congress bias. Moreover, while rampant corruption during the UPA regime is undeniable, it also enacted the Right to Information (RTI) Act, which played a considerable role in exposing corruption. If the BJP’s anti-UPA propaganda is economical with the truth, what about its pro-Gujarat propaganda?

Corruption, poverty and pollution in Vibrant Gujarat
The average GDP growth rate in Gujarat over the past ten years has been above the national average, but in line with the growth rates of comparable large states like Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Delhi [14]. Gujarat’s growth has been achieved at the cost of handing over complete control over the economy to corporates, and wholesale privatisation: ‘Key sectors – traditionally held to be the preserve of the state – such as ports, roads, rail and power have been handed over to corporate capital. This has meant, inevitably, that the government has abdicated all decision making powers, as well as functional and financial control over such projects. Nowhere else in the country has this abdication of responsibility been so total, nowhere else has the state given over the economy so entirely to the corporates and private investors’. Infrastructure and access to water and electricity favour industry over agriculture and individual consumers. Employment growth in manufacturing and services turned negative in the last five years, and even prior to that was concentrated in the informal sector [15].

The Modi administration’s largesse to corporates can be judged by two examples. One is the staggering subsidies offered to Tata for its Nano plant and other projects. Against an investment of 2900 crores, Tata received a loan of 9570 crores at 0.1% interest, to be paid back on a monthly basis after 20 years, in addition to land at much below market rates, with stamp duty, registration charges and electricity paid for by the state. Tax breaks mean that the people of Gujarat will not be getting any of this money back in the near future [16]. All the rules were bent to provide Adani with a power supply contract costing the state of Gujarat an excess Rs 23,625 crores over 25 years [17], and other companies, including Reliance Industries and Essar Steel, were extended similar favours [18]. So when these companies praise Modi to the skies [1], support his candidature for PM [2], use the media they own to promote Modi and silence criticism of him [19], and put their aircraft at his disposal [20], this is merely quid pro quo.

Any objective definition of ‘corruption’ would include such activities. The scale of corruption in Gujarat is stupendous, and those who campaign against it have not fared well. With only 5% of India’s population, 22% of the murders and 20% of the assaults of RTI activists in recent years have occurred in Gujarat, which has only two RTI Commissioners compared to eight in Maharashtra and nine in Tamil Nadu [21]. The post of Lokayukta (corruption watchdog) was not filled for ten years since 2003. When the Governor and Chief Justice of the High Court selected Justice R. A. Mehta for the post in 2011, as they were empowered to do according to the Gujarat Lokayukta Act, Modi fought tooth and nail against the appointment, reportedly spending Rs 45 crores to challenge it all the way up to the Supreme Court. 

Even after the Supreme Court had upheld the appointment, the state government refused to cooperate with Mehta, leading him to decline the position [22]. Subsequently the state government amended the Lokayukta Act to make it a toothless body under the control of the very government whose corruption it was supposed to monitor [23]! Apparently Modi learned a lesson from the fate of his friend Yedyurappa, former BJP Chief Minister of Karnataka, who was forced to resign due to corruption charges against him initiated by the Karnataka Lokayukta [24], and resolved never to give any Lokayukta the opportunity to do the same to him.

The ordinary people of Gujarat have paid a heavy price for its economic growth. Gujarat has one of the highest poverty levels of all the Indian states. Huge swathes of land allocated to corporates have displaced lakhs of farmers, fishermen, pastoralists, agricultural workers, Dalits and Adivasis. During Modi’s tenure, 16,000 workers, farmers and farm labourers had committed suicide due to economic distress by 2011 [25]. Gujarat has the highest prevalence of hunger and lowest human development indices among states with comparable per capita income, its implementation of NREGA is the worst among large states, and Muslims, ‘in particular, fare poorly on parameters of poverty, hunger, education and vulnerability on security issues’ [26]. 

Refuting Modi’s claim that the high level of malnutrition in Gujarat is a consequence of vegetarianism and figure-consciousness, an eminent scholar has pointed out that the real reasons are extremely low wage rates, malfunctioning of nutrition schemes, lack of potable water supplies, and lack of sanitation: the state ranks 10th in the use of toilets, with more than 65% of households defecating in the open, with resulting high levels of jaundice, diarrhoea, malaria and other diseases [27]. Uncontrolled pollution has destroyed the livelihoods of farmers and fishermen, and subjected the local populations to skin diseases, asthma, TB, cancer and death [28].

Contrary to the myth that Gujarat is a powerhouse attracting large FDI inflows, in 2012-13 its share in FDI was a meagre 2.38%, ranked 6th, compared to Maharashtra’s 39.4% [29]. Most damning of all, for a state that purports to provide a template for the whole country’s economy, is the Modi government’s ‘lack of financial discipline. The Gujarat growth pattern relies on indebtedness. The state’s debt increased from Rs 45,301 crore in 2002 to Rs. 1,38,978 crore in 2013... In terms of per capita indebtedness, the situation is even more worrying, given the size of the state: each Gujarati carries a debt of Rs 23,163 if the population is taken to be 60 million’ [30].

The Gujarat economic model is a more extreme version of neoliberalism than the version practised by the UPA, which retains elements of regulation and social welfare. This is clearly the reason why the majority of CEOs want him to be the PM... Read more:
Rohit Prajapati & Trupti Shah: Capital, Labour & Environment in Modi’s Gujarat

Gujarat Government cracks down on right to freedom of expression // Activist and villagers detained

Ground reality in Gujarat different from what Narendra Modi portrays
Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) convenor Arvind Kejriwal today launched a no-holds-barred attack on Narendra Modi saying the Gujarat Chief Minister had promised to construct 50,000 houses for the poor in the state but not even 50 have been constructed in 11 years. "BJP is highlighting the developmental model of Gujarat, however, the ground reality is otherwise," Mr Kejriwal said while addressing a public meeting in Naujheel town, about 70 km from Mathura. The AAP leader also attacked other BJP ruled states claiming that corruption is rampant there and promises made by them during polls are yet to be fulfilled... "No action has been taken against mining mafia who killed IPS officer Narendra Singh in Madhya Pradesh," Mr Kejriwal said. Narendra Singh, a young IPS officer, was crushed to death under the wheels of a tractor-trolley, allegedly by a member of the mining mafia, after he tried to stop the vehicle carrying stones in Morena district of Madhya Pradesh in May 2012. Mr Kejriwal also criticised the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Samajwadi Party and said that a change of government hardly makes any difference in Uttar Pradesh as both have become "synonymous with corruption". He slammed the Congress for price rise and corruption and attributed these to the Congress' policy of "promoting" the interests of big business houses.