Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Supreme Court order on national anthem uses patriotism to undermine individual rights // Has the deification of the nation become the nationalisation of God?

"The disinterestedly wise ought to desire the holding together of all being" (Bhagwadgita, III 25)

"...When the national anthem is played it is imperative for everyone to show honour and respect. It would instil a sense of committed patriotism and nationalism…Time has come for people to realise that the national anthem is a symbol of constitutional patriotism… people must feel they live in a nation and this wallowing individually perceived notion of freedom must go…people must feel this is my country, my motherland. [emphasis added] ...

"From the aforesaid, it is clear as crystal that it is the sacred obligation of every citizen to abide by the ideals engrafted in the Constitution. And one such ideal is to show respect for the National Anthem and the National Flag. Be it stated, a time has come, the citizens of the country must realize that they live in a nation and are duty bound to show respect to National Anthem which is the symbol of the Constitutional Patriotism and inherent national quality. It does not allow any different notion or the perception of individual rights, that have individually thought of have no space. The idea is constitutionally impermissible" - From the SC order on the national anthem dated Nov 30, 2016

NB: We Indian citizens are hereby informed that notions of 'individually perceived' rights of the individual have no space and the very idea is tantamount to 'wallowing', and is 'impermissible'. (How else can the rights of an individual be perceived otherwise than by an individual?). Moreover we are told what we must feel; that our obligation to abide by constitutional ideals is 'sacred'. Whatever the expectations the learned Judge who passed this order holds of us, there are also expectations that we citizens hold of our judges. Primary amongst these is that they remain restrained in their speech; and are seen to be aware of the philosophical ramifications of judicial utterances. Many citizens including the highest political leaders may not be so aware and often speak in haste. But when it comes to judges, we expect that they will be cautious and restrained: the exercise of wisdom is the fundamental requirement of judges, even though this is a quality that may only be perceived, not measured. 

'Sacred' is a word that adheres to religion. Are we required by law to a) be religious, and b) shift allegiance from Almighty God to the Nation? Should not the wise amongst us educate citizens as to the complex and indefinable aspect of nationalism, which seems to have emerged as the modern form of prayer? Would the learned judge deem Rabindranath Tagore, the very man who composed the national anthem, to be a nationalist? Here's what Tagore said of nationalism: With the growth of nationalism, man has become the greatest menace to man. Therefore the continual presence of panic goads that very nationalism into ever-increasing menace. Here is Tagore's 4-part essay on Nationalism (1917). Among the many scholarly debates about nationalism, aside from the aforesaid remarks by Tagore, is the one initiated by B R Ambedkar in his Thoughts on Pakistan (1940, 1945. See in particular, Chapter 2). 

Be that as it may, there are some who hold (and I am among them) that the nation-state has become a god-substitute for a godless age. Insofar as the Eternal Creator could scarcely be imagined to seek a dwelling place in a sliver of ground on an insignificant planet, nationalism is a dishonest form of atheism. Religious persons worship God, not nations. The deification of the Nation has turned into the nationalisation of God, and we cannot be forced into a blind acceptance of this substitution. This is not about affinity - love for one's culture or home is natural (although not inevitable). Love for the nation, howsoever defined, ought not to be, and cannot be transformed by diktat into enforced affinity. You cannot dictate my feelings, for the simple reason that love and friendship must be spontaneous to be real. If you order me to feel some emotion under pain of punishment, how can you be sure that my expressions are genuine? As Gandhi said in Hind Swaraj (p 60), 'what is granted under fear can be retained only as long as the fear lasts'

Constitutional patriotism requires the citizen to be law-abiding and faithful to the norms of the constitution. It does not oblige us to accept unjust laws - were this the case, there would have been no national movement in India. The constitution protects religious freedom, but it does not require us to be religious in any way - I am free to be an atheist or agnostic. Nor can it be reduced to such shallow forms of adherence as standing to attention. Sometimes it is not the criticism of specific judgements but the speech of the Bench that undermines the status of the Court. I am sorry to say this judgement is evocative not of wisdom but thoughtlessness. So help me God. DS

The Supreme Court on Wednesday decided to give India a lesson in how exactly it should respect the national anthem. In an order that many experts have deemed a massive gesture of judicial overreach, the court yet again ventured into lawmaking by asking cinema halls to play the national anthem before start of each show along with displaying the national flag on the screen.

This decree to cinema halls was accompanied by other sweeping comments that limit freedom of expression by placing the anthem even beyond artistic interpretation. The Supreme Court, which is supposed to be the ultimate guardian of the fundamental rights of citizens, devalued the notion of individual rights by claiming that it had no place in the context of respecting national symbols.
“Be it stated, a time has come, the citizens of the country must realise that they live in a nation and are duty bound to show respect to National Anthem which is the symbol of the Constitutional patriotism and inherent national quality,” the bench said. “It does not allow any different notion or the perception of individual rights, that have individually thought of have no space. The idea is constitutionally impermissible.”

By laying the rules on how to respect the national symbols, the court has put in place a law that was not envisaged by Parliament. The order has also reversed the cautious, liberal view the Supreme Court has taken in the past when dealing with cases under the Prevention of Insults to the National Honour Act. In 1986, the court took the side of three school children from Kerala who had refused to sing the national anthem during the school assembly every morning. Unlike the current interim order that placed collective responsibility over individual rights, the court decided in 1986 that forcing the children, who were faithful Jehovah’s witnesses, to sing the anthem was an infringement into their freedom of religion.

In developed western democracies, reverence to national symbols is not imposed at the cost of dissent. In 1989, the Supreme Court of the United States went to the extent of allowing the desecration of the national flag, arguing that such an act was very much part of freedom of expression guaranteed under the Constitution. There are also logistical problems that crop up with the order. How will the state implement it? Will policemen stand guard inside cinema halls and book those who do not show respect to the anthem in the manner decreed by the court? In October, the nation witnessed in disgust the assault on a differently-abled man in Goa who was physically incapable of standing up for the anthem. With this order, the Supreme Court may have inadvertently emboldened elements prone to taking the law into their own hands in the name of patriotism.

Suhas Palshikar: Citizens into subjects
SC’s mandating of nationalism and patriotism threatens to turn the wheel of constitutional history backwards. The enterprise of teaching and instilling patriotism is fast picking up. India has fought wars before and both during those wars and in peace time, the citizens of this country have never shown any trace of disloyalty or disaffection toward this country. But suddenly, we seem to be collectively succumbing to this phobia about a shortage of nationalism and patriotism among the public. And so, pills and injections containing vitamins N and P are being forced on to the unsuspecting citizenry...

At first glance, Wednesday’s Supreme Court ruling making it mandatory for cinema halls across the country to play the national anthem before screening movies, and requiring cinema-goers to stand up while it is being played, can be seen as yet another decision that appears more whimsical than grounded in Constitutional principle. Instead of refusing to waste its precious time hearing unimportant petitions from self-righteous busybodies who seek to impose their norms on the whole country, the Supreme Court has entertained many such, and created incentives for people to waste the court’s time and the citizens’ peace. But a comment made by the bench – perhaps revealing the rationale for the decision – should make us sit up and take notice:

When the national anthem is played it is imperative for everyone to show honour and respect. It would instill a sense of committed patriotism and nationalism…Time has come for people to realise that the national anthem is a symbol of constitutional patriotism…people must feel they live in a nation and this wallowing individually perceived notion of freedom must go…people must feel this is my country, my motherland. [emphasis added]  

The Supreme Court just dissed individual liberty.

The bench sneered at one of the pillars of the Indian Constitution. Troubling as it is, more than the ruling itself we should be concerned that India’s highest judges think this way, and think nothing of expressing it this way. The Supreme Court is, after all, the ultimate guardian of individual liberty. It gets this responsibility from no less an authority than the Constitution of India. Citizens will be justified in wondering if the Supreme Court can discharge this assigned responsibility if it harbours such cynicism or disdain for individual liberty.

Legal scholars will no doubt cite scores of High Court and Supreme Court judgements that are unambiguous on the matter. Except when “individual liberty comes into conflict with an interest of the security of the State or public order”, individual liberty is supreme. It would be stretch to argue that people not standing up for the national anthem presents a scintilla of risk to the national interest. Indeed, India’s security or social order has suffered little damage from people not standing up for the national anthem in cinemas from January 26, 1950, till date. The judge’s words do not have a force of law, but to the extent they reveal thought processes, we have to worry. It is bad enough for the Supreme Court to scorn individual freedom. To do so on an issue as unserious and arbitrary as what should be done at cinema halls is terrible.

Tailpiece: Our emergency at the moment has perhaps led us to forget that if we do not give that scope to individual liberty, and give it the protection of the courts, we will create a tradition which will ultimately destroy even whatever little of personal liberty which exists in this country. 
[K M Munshi, Constituent Assembly, December 6, 1948]  

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Harish Khare - The Cult of the Leader: Demonetisation and Modi Worship // Sarita Rani - Deaf PM, Hapless Parliamentarians Need a Dose of Nation-Wide Protests

Are we heading towards an authoritarian regime that curbs our freedom to spend our own money?
“We do not want another ‘god’ as the political leader of our country… We must not only not have any more gods…we must also ‘devalue’ the exaggerated importance that we have given to the office of Prime Minister.”

The author of this wisdom lies gravely unwell in a nursing home in New Delhi. Much before old age and its attendant infirmities took their toll, this man used to articulate - on behalf of the BJP - wise propositions of good governance and democratic accountability. His name is Jaswant Singh, the most suave, educated and responsible minister from the Vajpayee era. Singh had made this formulation in 1987. That was the age when the prime minister had more than 400 seats in the Lok Sabha; he also had a majority in the Rajya Sabha. He had a shouting brigade who would keep the presiding officers in check; he had an officer in the PMO who would publicly deride opposition leaders as “cretins”. That was the age of prime ministerial supremacy and it produced many unmitigated national disasters.

Let us dig a little deeper in history. The year is 1971. Legend has it that the legendary soldier, Sam Manekshaw, told off an impatient prime minister, Indira Gandhi, that he would not  be prepared for “action” in  East Pakistan till he was satisfied that adequate preparations had been made and logistical wrinkles sorted out. The prime minister had the good sense to heed the sound advice of a sound officer and lived thereafter to see the Indian armed forces settle Pakistan’s hash.

These glimpses from the past are being recalled to reiterate the lessons that recent history has taught us. And, the unambiguous lesson from 1975-77 onward, has been a cultivated distrust in the idea of an omnipotent prime minister and his overweening ambition. Beware of a prime minister too powerful. India is too vast a country to be at the mercy of a prime minister and his wisdom.

The demonetisation mess painfully brings home the correctness of Singh’s caution against elevating a leader as god who must be given unambiguous obedience and obeisance. The utter incompetence in implementing the demonetisation drive merely underlines the Reserve Bank of India’s total abdication of its institutional autonomy and voice. The RBI governor was duty-bound to tell the prime minister to slow down, just as General Sam Manekshaw once told another prime minister. 

The country witnesses everyday how the finance ministry officials are encroaching upon the RBI’s institutional space and making a mess of it. This is incongruent. Here is a regime - whose senior-most impresarios take considerable pride in micro-management and have built up a formidable reputation in Gujarat as control freaks - but they were also callously inattentive to the post-demonetisation dislocations. The very arbitrariness and the resulting chaos are being sought to be palmed off as “worth the pain” because prime minister Modi “means well”.

No one is sure of the extent to which the finance minister – let alone the rest of the cabinet members – was privy to this so-called ‘surgical strike’ on black money. The country remains in the dark about whose counsel the prime minister sought while firmaning this most drastic and draconian change in currency notes. Not since Morarji Desai’s gold control (in the wake of the Chinese aggression ) order, has any other single governmental initiative touched the lives of so many Indians. Collective thinking and collective decision-making appear to have been done away with. This unhealthy concentration of power and authority in one man can only be a recipe for unhappy consequences. Already the blue-book of the personality cult is operational. Ideological, political and moral approval is sought for the prime minister and his “bold” move. Anyone disagreeing with the ‘Leader’ is being called a habitual dissenter, a fake secularist, and a potential “deshdrohi”. Anyone dissenting is dismissed and ridiculed as an accomplice of the corrupt and the terrorist.

The officials down the line have interpreted this kingly intolerance as a simple license to shut people up. For example, in Indore, the local officials have outlawed any criticism on the social media of the demonetisation decision because they think “internet social media wars” could disrupt social peace. The ‘Leader’ can disrupt the daily lives of the millions and millions of citizens but no citizen can have a right to share his/her plight, or vent anger about being denied one’s own money. On the other hand, the PMO uses that very social media to conduct an opinion poll of its own and claims wide public approval for the demonetisation move.

Why was one individual – howsoever popular, wise and honest – allowed to undertake this experiment in monetary Stalinism? Collectivist impulses of the state have been let loose. Millions and millions of households have been forced to surrender their meagre savings to the banks. The mopped-up savings will now be available to the omnipotent sarkar, to be dispersed as per the preference of the ruling clique.

If Stalin could force the Soviet citizens to donate their labour for industrialisation and for the glory of “motherland,” we can also force our people to cough up their hard-earned savings to fight off the evil Pakistan. The minatory penetration of a Leviathan state is complete and total even in the remotest part of the land; each day the state issues firmans on how much and how a citizen can use his own money. All because the ‘Leader’ wanted to be “bold” and to “transform” India, like no other Indian leader had done these last 70 years.

In the best of the Stalinist traditions the (virtual) mobs are being encouraged to denounce anyone who dare question the ruling regime’s preferences and priorities. We are manufacturing new orthodoxies: any governmental initiative – good, bad or malevolent – will not be questioned if it is declared to be in aid of fighting “corruption, black money, terrorism and counterfeiting of currency.” It is demanded of the citizens that they put up with the “inconvenience” in “our fight” against these presumed objectives. 

As in Comrade Stalin’s days, endorsements for the regime are expected. Expectedly, the venerable Ratan Tata has led the chorus of approval. Just stand up and applaud. A wise king was always advised to leave his subject unmolested of his two possessions – jameen (land) and jorru (womenfolk).  Rulers, democratic or authoritarian, have faced the most primeval resistance whenever they have sought to take liberties with their citizens’ land or women. Now, we have witnessed a new experiment with a democratically elected king putting his hand in the subject’s jeb (pocket). Consequences will be there. This article was originally published in the Tribune.

Sarita Rani: Deaf PM, Hapless Parliamentarians Need a Dose of Nation-Wide Protests
Prime Minister Narendra Modi faced parliament on Thursday. It’s not so much that he faced it, as he graced it. Like kings and monarchs do. He came, he sat. He listened for exactly an hour and left. He had promised to stay for all the 24 parliamentarians speeches and to respond to their questions. He didn’t. Modi is in the habit of breaking promises. He disdains questions. In fact, he detests people who ask questions. After all, we all saw him walk out of an interview on prime time, live, national television in 2012. 

Aware of Modi’s dislike for interaction with peers of any kind, Indian parliamentarians tried to efface themselves as best they could, while still managing to stand and speak. Former finance minister and prime minister Manmohan Singh called demonetisation: “organised loot and legalised plunder.” Singh is a scholar and a technocrat. He spoke harsh words softly. That’s his style. A style Modi is not bred to recognise.

The Trinamool Congress’s Derek O’Brien brought facts and figures to the table.
  • 1 out of 5000 people has a credit card
  • 5 out of a 1000 people have debit cards
  • 90% of them use it only to withdraw money
  • 4 out of 5 villages don’t have a bank
  • We have a GDP of Rs 45,000 crore a day
  • 59%  of it is (Rs 27,000 crore) is household financial expenditure
  • 87% of that (Rs 24,000 crore) is cash
“So my question is if it’s 24,000 crore cash and it’s been 15 days … we’ve lost Rs 3,75,000 crore – and challenge my figure – of GDP in the last 15 days.” Derek O’Brien said. “This is not about an ATM inconvenience.” Modi was unmoved. Modi is often unmoved when not thinking of himself.
O’Brien offered a specific solution. “Why don’t we allow old and new 500 notes to work in parallel for the time being?” he asked. He pleaded for a solution. Any solution. 

Modi chose not to return to parliament at all, after lunch. 21 parliamentarians left to speak on that day, were left unheard. They represent the people of India. At the very least, they represent Indian voters. They were elected to parliament so their voices could be heard, asserted with pride, not humility. They were meant to make every vote count. Yesterday, 16 united opposition parties were left unheard. At least 70% of Indian voters who did not vote for Modi, were left unheard.

Through the looking glass: Instead, not long after parliament was adjourned abruptly, we heard a series of contrary and conflicting bits of newer measures. On November 9, a cabinet minister had said of the cash crunch, in the style of Marie Antoinette : “Let them use cards.” On November 24: hearing of long queues at banks and people dying of stress, Modi seems to have decided in the style of the Red Queen : “Off with the queues.” This despite promising on November 8 that old currency could be swapped at banks till the end of November.

A couple of hours later, came a minor reprieve. Perhaps a minister begged. Slipped in an order to sign. We will never know. All of these measures end on December 24. None of these neat steps, however, address the simple fact that replacement currency is simply not in place. Simple mathematics and logic, it seems, are of no account here. Both reason and empathy, are officially dead in official India.

And then this morning came yet another announcement. Currency exchanges will happen, but only at (far fewer) RBI counters. If this were merely a farce, one would poke fun at it. But this is fantasy. This is so far down cloud-cuckoo land that it is difficult to describe. To any sane mind, Modi has gone too far down this path himself. And he’s inviting us to follow. In Derek O’Brien’s words, this is “Lulu land.”

Law may be blind, justice is not: To stay on this side of the mirror, one must respond to such a notification. And the simple truth is that there are so few RBI counters that this announcement means less than nothing. Everyone knows it. Modi has to know everyone knows it. Even his supporters by now know everyone knows it. And yet, this is how the world works, when a lawyer handles finance, instead of an economist. Much has been written on the possible illegality of this kind of demonetisation.

It was to get tested today in the Supreme Court, which chose to postpone the hearing till next Friday, December 2. That would be six days after the nation-wide all-opposition call for protest on November 28. Modi could have used the opposition in parliament to extend the date of exchange. Perhaps by a month, or even by two. It would not have solved the problem, but it would have certainly eased things a little. That would have been a face-saving measure. Even a grand gesture in a country that adores grand gestures. His followers would have loved that about him. But he chose not to. Perhaps needed  not to. Instead, he cracked the whip. From the November 8 declaration of allowing the exchange of notes till December 30, he cut it off at midnight.

The authoritarianism of this government is now beyond doubt.

Whatever conflicting ideas of India we may have, we like to believe India is an independent nation. That means we are a free and working democracy. A limping and flawed democracy, yes. But a democracy nevertheless. That means that however flawed our representatives may be, from whichever side of the spectrum they come from, when they stand up in parliament for our sake, they deserve to be heard. They deserve to be listened to. Because Indian voters deserve to be heard.

But when 552 members of parliament cannot get themselves to agree decently, on behalf of 1.25 billion Indians, it is perhaps time to let them go. These 552 parliamentarians may survive on government-given plastic cards. Most Indians can’t. Not now. Perhaps not ever. This Monday the opposition has called for a protest. As a first step, all Indian citizens should join in. Participatory democracy does not end by voting once in five years. Sometimes it needs more. We should join not because we belong to one party or another. But because we belong to a parliamentary democracy. We should give parliamentarians a chance to show that they are capable of working as a worthy opposition.

It is not enough that we share, argue, debate and pass snarky comments on Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp. It’s great. But not enough. Because the thing is, if we can afford to be on social media – chances are we will survive the next year. What we may not truly survive, is the part we did or did not play at this time. Ultimately, democracy is about standing up to be counted. Not sitting down to be liked.

see also
Harish Damodaran - In fact: When the money stops

Cubans pay last respects to Castro

Elderly revolutionaries joined young doctors, famous musicians, government workers and former guerrilla fighters in Havana’s Plaza de la Revolución as thousands lined up to pay their last respects to Fidel Castro. Some carried flags. A few had flowers. All came with memories of the guerrilla leader who overthrew a dictatorship, resisted a US-led invasion, faced down a nuclear superpower and dominated the island’s political life for half a century.
Image may contain: 1 person
Cartoon for @chronicleherald for Monday

At the start of the official commemorations, Orlando Gómez had come with his wife to bid farewell to his old comrade in arms. Waiting in the hot sun to sign the condolence book, he recalled the first time he had gone into combat with Castro in March 1958. A few weeks earlier, Gómez – then an idealistic 18-year-old – had left his home in Havana to join the small rebel army in the Sierra Maestra mountains. He had been put in charge of a mortar unit for the attack on an army garrison at the San Ramón sugar mill. The battle lasted from midnight to 4am. Four guerrillas were killed, but they destroyed the mill and the barracks before returning to their base in the mountains.

“Fidel led by example. He was always in the frontline. He walked faster than everyone. He never stopped moving, but he was very approachable. You could always talk to him,” he recalled. “I want to say goodbye to this extraordinary man. He was a great guerrilla leader and tactician.” Others remember Castro as a leader who stood firm during the Bay of Pigs invasion of 1961 and the Cuban missile crisis, when the world was taken to the brink of nuclear war over the Soviet Union’s efforts to build a missile base on the island.

“He was very open with the people about the threat we faced and how we must pull together to protect our liberty,” said Jorge Jorge, a university teacher who had arrived two hours earlier with a group of friends. “We have come here to share our grief and to show our determination to hold on to Fidel’s ideals. He taught us how to share.”

Like many in the crowd, he had often come to the square to hear Castro deliver his marathon orations, some of which lasted more than six hours. They were often at times of hardship – of which there were many: the death of Che Guevara, the fall of the Soviet Union, and the exodus of migrants escaping economic crisis or political crackdowns.

There is widespread recognition of Castro’s failures, and many – particularly among the young – balk at his dictatorial rule. But this was not the time or the place or the crowd to dwell on the negatives.
“I was born in a poor black family. Thanks to the revolution, I had opportunities that did not exist before,” said Tony Ávila, one of the island’s most famous musicians, who said he had been called up the previous night by the culture ministry and told to attend. He appeared more than happy to do so. “I’m here because of Fidel. He was everything to me.”

It was not just Cubans paying homage. Many foreigners were present – out of curiosity or shared political beliefs. Chilean Alberto Reyes arrived with a handmade flag and a photograph of the dead revolutionary who had inspired him as a youth to join the Manuel Rodríguez Patriotic Front – one of several dozen groups across Latin America that were committed to armed struggle against the rightwing dictatorships that held power across most of the region in the 1970s and 1980s. “He was the light in the lighthouse. More than any other leader, he unified Latin America,” said Reyes, who has lived in Havana since the 1990s.

Many turned up in groups, bearing flags or wearing the uniforms of customs officers or doctors. “I’m here because he gave me the chance to enter medicine,” said Beatriz de la Cruz Quila, a 21-year-old medical student at the Institute of Gastrointestinal Medicine – one of several dozen institutions created after Castro took power in 1959.  The commemoration will continue in Havana until a ceremony on Tuesday night. Then on Wednesday, Castro’s ashes will begin a three-day procession east across the island, going back along the route the victorious rebel army took from the Sierra Maestra to the capital to topple Fulgencio Batista in 1959.

Castro’s remains will be interred on Sunday morning in Santa Ifigenia cemetery in Santiago, which is also the resting place of José Martí, the hero of the 19th-century war of independence against Spain.
That will mark the end of nine days of mourning. Since Fidel’s death on Friday night, the media have run blanket coverage of tributes, interviews, historical documentaries and footage of diplomatic trips and speeches by Castro. Musical performances have been cancelled and bars have been prohibited from selling alcohol.

“There’s a genuine feeling of mourning, that’s not a formality, that’s not showy, that’s not outward-focused, but rather completely intimate,” the former national assembly president Ricardo Alarcón said on state television on Sunday. Not everyone is grief-stricken. Democracy activists have cheered the demise of a leader who repressed political opponents, denied freedom of speech and restricted travel and religious worship. One woman at the Plaza de la Revolución, who only gave her first name Milena, said she was sad but determined to take something positive from the moment. “He should be remembered as a revolutionary who believed in social justice and fought for free public health and education. We need to maintain this. His ideas should live forever”

'Park benches are empty, coffee mugs, morose': Ravish Kumar on 'Love in the time of Notebandi'

Modi tu PM nahin Paytm hai !
Tere seene mein dil nahin, ATM hai !

(NB - these lines were composed by a friend who had better remain un-named - DS)

What happens to matters of the heart when you don't have any hard currency?' After taking on the Government for clamping down on freedom of expression, TV journalist Ravish Kumar chose a different medium for his observations on demonetisation. Namely, fiction. Featuring “Love in the time of Notebandi”. “Park benches are empty, coffee mugs, morose, and I cannot see any more tears in the eyes of teddy bears. Lovers are not emanating the smell of perfume but the stink of old notes.”

This was how Kumar began at the Times Lit Fest in New Delhi, where he was talking about his latest book, Laprek: Laghu Prem Katha, a compilation of short love stories that he first wrote as Facebook posts. “I promise to tell the shrota a love story for the next one hour.” That is the lover’s version of prominently displayed message from the Reserve Bank of India on every currency note.

In the new cash-less future, lovers will not promise each others the moon and stars in the sky. Instead, saving a space in the ATM queue might be proof enough. “So what if the Rs 500 note is of no use? Use notes of Rs 5, Rs 10 and Rs 50 for your affairs, if not coffee then you can at least enjoy a cup of tea, if not a Bloody Mary, then some coconut water, and if not a pastry, then some golgappe.”

Here’s the full talk:

see also
Harish Damodaran - In fact: When the money stops
Alexandre Koyré The Political Function of the Modern Lie
Marx's economic categories

Andrew Pulver - Russian war film set to open amid controversy over accuracy of events

Every Soviet schoolchild was taught about the heroic feats of the last 28 members of Ivan Panfilov’s division, which in late 1941 fought to the death to stop a Nazi tank assault on Moscow in one of the best known episodes of the Soviet war effort. “Russia is vast, but there is nowhere to retreat – Moscow is behind us,” one of the Red Army soldiers, armed at the end with just Molotov cocktails and grenades, said as the attack was halted.

But as a film about the events, Panfilov’s 28, opens in Russia this week, controversy rumbles on over the fact that many of the details of that last stand – both in the film and versions pre-dating it – appear to have been invented. Arguments over the upcoming film and the mythology around the episode in general began last spring, when Sergei Mironenko, the director of Russia’s state archive, gave an interview stating that while there had indeed been a bloody battle outside Moscow, it was not as many had understood it.

His words provoked such outrage that over the summer the archive posted online a 1948 internal Soviet military report into the events, which came to the conclusion that a journalist from the Red Army’s newspaper had made up the particulars of the story, inventing quotes and ignoring the fact that some of the soldiers had survived and one was believed to have surrendered to the Germans.

The legend was cooked up to fit in with the Soviet demand that soldiers should fight to the death rather than surrender. Vladimir Medinsky, the culture minister, reacted furiously to the intervention, saying it was not the job of archivists to make historical evaluations, and if Mironenko wanted to change professions, he should do so. Shortly after, Mironenko was fired.

The nationalist politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky said in recent weeks that he had called at a government meeting for Mironenko to be fired. He claimed his uncle had fought in Panfilov’s division and said those griping about the exact numbers were missing the point. “It’s unacceptable for someone from the archives to start telling the whole country that there were no Panfilov heroes,” he said. Medinsky later went further in his defence of the film and his disgust for those who questioned the story.

“It’s my deep conviction that even if this story was invented from the start to the finish, even if Panfilov never existed, even if there was nothing at all, it’s a sacred legend which it’s simply impossible to besmirch. And people who try to do that are total scumbags.” Medinsky said he would like to send such people, who “poked their dirty, greasy fingers into the history of 1941” back to the war period in a time machine and leave them in a trench to face Nazi tanks armed with just a hand grenade.

Panfilov’s division included many central Asians, and last month Putin and Kazakhstan’s president Nursultan Nazarbayev watched the film together. Under Putin, victory in the second world war has become the main building block of modern Russian identity, and criticism of the Red Army or mentions of the darker sides of the war effort are unwelcome.

The war’s huge place in the national psyche is understandable, given the Soviet Union lost more than 20 million citizens during the war years. But some are uncomfortable that the mythology has overtaken the facts. Alexander Morozov, a history teacher and the chair of the editorial board of a magazine on the teaching of history in schools, called the film a “big mistake”, and said mythologising the war would only confuse children.

He told Ekho Moskvy radio: “We should try to tell the truth, of course. Yes, there was a battle, yes there was heroism. This is what they should have made a film about... But as it is, they’ll watch this film, go online and find a whole load of different information about this battle, and it will undermine their trust in these kind of things.”

see also

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

3,800-Year-Old Ancient ‘Thinking Person’ Statuette Unearthed

JERUSALEM, Nov 23 (Reuters) - A team of Israeli archaeologists and high school students have unearthed a 3,800-year-old pottery jug bearing a statuette of a person who appears deep in thought, sitting with knees bent and head rested on hand.
The 3,800 year-old pottery jug with a rare statuette, discovered during 
excavation in central Israel, at the Israel Antiquities Authority offices.

The Israel Antiquities Authority said on Wednesday the jug, dating back to what archaeologists refer to as the Middle Bronze Age, had been found during an excavation in Yehud, a Tel Aviv suburb. “It seems that at first the jug, which is typical of the period, was prepared and afterwards the unique sculpture was added, the likes of which have never before been discovered in previous research,” said Gilad Itach, who directed the excavation, which included teenage diggers. The statuette is about 18 cm (7 inches) tall.

“One can see that the face of the figure seems to be resting on its hand as if in a state of reflection,” he said. Other vessels and metal items were found such as daggers, arrowheads, an axe head, sheep bones and what are believed to be the bones of a donkey. Itach said the collection seemed to be funeral offerings, likely of an important member of anancient community.

“To the best of my knowledge such a rich funerary assemblage that also includes such a unique pottery vessel has never before been discovered in the country,” he said. The statuette was the latest discovery by the Israel Antiquities Authority, which is charged with carrying out excavations at all major building sites across the country to make sure no relics are destroyed. In recent months its teams have found treasures from gold coins to an ancient mosaic.

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Beautiful avian ballet: Starlings on Otmoor

The starlings are an astonishing thing to see - Near Oxford - England. 

This was filmed at an RSPB reserve called Otmoor. The music is from CSS Music. The track is "soaring with the sun". Like drivers on a freeway, starlings dont appear to mind having neighbors nearby on their sides—or above and below, for that matter—as long as they have open space ahead. That makes sense, since the presence of a clear path in the direction of travel minimizes the likelihood of collisions should the birds need to shift their course abruptly, as is likely when a falcon attacks. 

... the researchers have been able to use it to calculate the number of neighbors to which each starling pays close attention—a quantified elaboration of Pottss chorus line idea. By looking at correlations between the movements of neighboring starlings, they can show that each bird always pays attention to the same number of neighbors, whether theyre closer or farther away. How many neighbors is that? Six or seven, says Cavagna, who points out that starlings in flocks can almost always see many more nearby birds— but the number may be closely tied to birds cognitive ability. The direction of the flock can be coordinated by each birds tracking six or seven other birds. ..

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Press statement by Free Software Movement of India - District Magistrate of Indore bans criticism of de-monetisation on social media // Dhirendra Jha: Rattled by cash crisis, BJP calls off Modi's December 24 rally in Lucknow

Dangerous order by district magistrate of Indore banning any criticism on social media of de-monetisation by Govt. of India - Press statement by Free Software Movement of India

Free Software Movement of India ( - Press release
22 November 2016

The District Magistrate of Indore has issued an order – Order/2956/RADM/2016, Indore/Date 14/11/2016 under Section 144 – banning any criticism on social media such as Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, etc., on exchange of old currency that is “objectionable” or can “cause incitement”. The order is attached here. This, in effect, is a blanket ban on any criticism of the Government on its failure to provide sufficient new notes for the old Rs. 500 and Rs. 1,000 notes that it has demonetised. 

Clearly, having failed to remonetise the economy and putting the common man to immense hardship, the government now wants to clamp down on all criticism on its failures.

The use of Section 144 for censorship of social media also goes far beyond what the Supreme Court has held in its various judgements. The Supreme Court, in Madhu Limaye and Anr v. Ved Murti and Ors. ((1970) 3 SCC 746), held that the use of Section 144 is justified only for prevention of public disturbance or violence, and urgency as the only ground for using this section. 

The state and central governments have been using Section 144 arbitrarily in shutting down the internet and going far beyond what its powers are under Section 144. It has now extended such powers, earlier used only for banning public assembly, to now attacking peoples rights of Freedom of Speech, guaranteed under the Section 19. 

It shows the desperation of the Central and the Madhya Pradesh governments that having failed in the elementary task of providing money to the people for conducting their day to day lives, they are resorting to such draconian measures to stifle all legitimate criticism.

The Free Software Movement of India demands that this Order of the District Magistrate be immediately withdrawn and the Madhya Pradesh government issue an apology to the people for this action.

Yours Sincerely
Kiran Chandra Yarlagadda
General Secretary
Free Software Movement of India
Sy. No. 91, Beside AALIM,
Greenlands colony, Gachibowli ’X’Roads,
Sherilingampally, Rangareddy Dt.,
Pin: 500032
Ph: +919490098011

Larsen & Toubro engineering lay off 14,000 workers

Rattled by cash crisis, BJP calls off Modi's December 24 rally in Lucknow 
Panicked by widespread financial stress caused by the withdrawal of high-value currency notes and unsure about attracting an adequate crowd for a rally Prime Minister Narendra Modi was to address Lucknow on December 24, the Bharatiya Janata Party has cancelled the much-publicised event.
The rally aimed to mark the culmination of the BJP’s four Parivartan Yatras in poll-bound Uttar Pradesh, which were flagged off early this month.

The decision to cancel the rally was taken on Monday, the day before a rattled prime minister defended the demonetisation decision at the BJP’s parliamentary party meeting on Tuesday.
On Monday, BJP President Amit Shah held a meeting with Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and Finance Secretary Shaktikant Das to assess the impact of the financial stress caused by the withdrawal of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 banknotes.

The decision to cancel the Lucknow event was also prompted by the relatively small crowd at the prime minister’s rally in Agra on November 20. “The turnout at Modi’s rally in Agra was not up to the mark,” said a BJP leader who did not want to be identified. “The party fears that the financial stress would accentuate in the course of the next one month, and holding a rally in the capital of UP on December 24 may, therefore, be counterproductive.”

Leadership unnerved: The BJP launched its Parivartan Yatras to swing the electoral mood in Uttar Pradesh in its favour. Modi was to address public meetings almost every week in the state – which goes to polls early next year – to enhance the impact of the yatras, finishing up with a grand rally in Lucknow on December 24, the eve of the birth anniversary of BJP veteran Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

However, last week, the party decided to reschedule Modi’s rally in Kushinagar, scheduled for November 25, to allow its leaders and cadre in eastern Uttar Pradesh more time to mobilise crowds. The rally is now scheduled for November 27.

“Since the anger is more apparent in urban pockets than in villages, the party may still go ahead with Modi’s rallies scheduled to be held in rural settings of the state,” said a BJP leader. The BJP brass appeared to be struggling with the repercussions of demonetisation within days of the government’s having taken the step. Some of the party’s own parliamentarians were reportedly outraged by the move, leading the BJP leadership to cancel two consecutive meetings of its MPs last week.

Many party MPs saw Modi’s emotional speech at the BJP parliamentary party meeting on Tuesday as a means of preventing dissident voices from coming out in the open. “The prime minister, who seemed rattled, broke down during his speech,” said one BJP MP who was present at the meeting. “It was after this that the parliamentary party passed a unanimous resolution endorsing his great crusade.” The resolution commended Modi for his “historic, revolutionary, daring and pro-poor” decision in national interest.

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This video is the nearest you will come to floating through the International Space Station

It’s like a scene from a science fiction film – think Stanley Kubrick’s 1969 classic 2001: A Space Odyssey, or more recent films like The Martian and Gravity – but it’s real.  A point of view shot set to ambient music leisurely takes viewers through the architecture of the International Space Station surrounded by glorious vistas of space and planet Earth (visible from 400 kilometres above). It’s as close to flying as human beings can get. but astronauts at the International Space Station get to experience it on a day-to-day basis.  NASA recently released the footage, which was shot using a 4K High Definition fisheye lens. With this kind of camera technology, the video provides an incredibly detailed view of the Space Station, while at the same time maintaining a documentary reality.

A Hunger Artist - by Franz Kafka (1922)

NB: Franz Kafka's A Hunger Artist was first written in 1922 and published in a collection also entitled A Hunger Artist. Here is the story, a parable for our times - DS

During these last decades the interest in professional fasting has markedly diminished. It used to pay very well to stage such great performances under one's own management, but today that is quite impossible. We live in a different world now. At one time the whole town took a lively interest in the hunger artist; from day to day of his fast the excitement mounted; everybody wanted to see him at least once a day; there were people who bought season tickets for the last few days and sat from morning till night in front of his small barred cage; even in the nighttime there were visiting hours, when the whole effect was heightened by torch flares; on fine days the cage was set out in the open air, and then it was the children's special treat to see the hunger artist; for their elders he was often just a joke that happened to be in fashion, but the children stood open-mouthed, holding each other's hands for greater security, marvelling at him as he sat there pallid in black tights, with his ribs sticking out so prominently, not even on a seat but down among straw on the ground, sometimes giving a courteous nod, answering questions with a constrained smile, or perhaps stretching an arm through the bars so that one might feel how thin it was, and then again withdrawing deep into himself, paying no attention to anyone or anything, not even to the all-important striking of the clock that was the only piece of furniture in his cage, but merely staring into vacancy with half-shut eyes, now and then taking a sip from a tiny glass of water to moisten his lips.

Kafka: An End or a Beginning?

Each torpid turn of the world has such disinherited children, to whom no longer what’s been, and not yet what’s coming, belongs: Rainer Maria Rilke

Yet I felt no certainty about anything, demanding from every single moment a new confirmation of my existence… in truth, a disinherited man Franz Kafka

NB: Both the above citations come at the opening of Erich Heller: The disinherited mind: essays in modern German literature and thought (1952, 1961) DS

Read Kafka's A Hunger Artist (1922) 
An extract: Many more days went by, however, and that too came to an end. An overseer's eye fell on the cage one day and he asked the attendants why this perfectly good cage should be left standing there unused with dirty straw inside it; nobody knew, until one man, helped out by the notice board, remembered about the hunger artist. They poked into the straw with sticks and found him in it. "Are you still fasting?" asked the overseer, "when on earth do you mean to stop?" "Forgive me, everybody, "whispered the hunger artist, only the overseer, who had his ear to the bars, understood him. "Of course," said the overseer, and tapped his forehead with a finger to let the attendants know what state the man was in, "we forgive you." "I always wanted you to admire my fasting," said the hunger artist. "We do admire it," said the overseer, affably. "But you shouldn't admire it," said the hunger artist. "Well then we don't admire it," said the overseer, "but why shouldn't we admire it?" "Because I have to fast, I can't help it," said the hunger artist. "What a fellow you are," said the overseer, "and why can't you help it?" "Because," said the hunger artist, lifting his head a little and speaking, with his lips pursed, as if for a kiss, right into the overseer's ear, so that no syllable might be lost, "because I couldn't find the food I liked. If I had found it, believe me, I should have made no fuss and stuffed myself like you or anyone else." These were his last words, but in his dimming eyes remained the firm though no longer proud persuasion that he was continuing to fast...


Franz Kafka: The Poet of Shame and Guilt 
By Saul Friedländer

Is That Kafka?  99 Finds 
By Reiner Stach

Konundrum:  Selected Prose of Franz Kafka
Translator Peter Wortsman

Review essay by Morten Høi Jensen 
HOW STRANGE to return to Kafka. It takes just a few pages for all our preconceptions about literature to become unmoored. The old tools — character, plot, style — are useless to us; those solemn tomes of theory might as well be returned to their exile on the lower shelves; the recourse to undergraduate Freudianism had better be checked. None of it will guide us here. Erich Heller once wrote of the “pathetic plight of critics in the face of Kafka’s novels.” How one sympathizes! Kafka’s entire oeuvre is an assault on interpretation, on meaning; it is the most formidable rebuttal in the history of literature to the undying but misguided question: “What does this text mean?”

And yet, ironically, few authors are so burdened with the cargo of meaning as Kafka. In the century or so since his work was first introduced to a reading public, he has been hustled in under a plethora of interpretive awnings: Judaism, Christianity, Psychoanalysis, the Holocaust, Communism, Symbolism, Existentialism — you name it. He is the prophet of 20th-century atrocity; a slapstick vaudevillian in the Buster Keaton mold; the grim reaper of post-religious modernity. He either founded a new genre or dissolved all of them. Kafka himself seemed to intuit this: “I am the end or the beginning,” he wrote.

Erich Heller, who, like Kafka, became a doctor of law at the German University in Prague, makes a strong case for the central paradox of Kafka’s writing in his canonical essay on The Castle(collected in 1952’s The Disinherited Mind). He gives us the basic outline of the novel’s plot: a stranger known only as K. arrives in a village believing he has been appointed land-surveyor by the authorities (the village is ruled by a castle). What little contact K. has with these authorities — the two assistants appointed to him, the letters he receives, the phone call he overhears — appears to confirm his appointment. But K. is never quite convinced, and least of all when he is informed by the mayor, “You’ve been taken on as a land-surveyor, as you say, but, unfortunately, we have no need for a land-surveyor.” And so K. spends much of the novel doggedly trying to receive confirmation of his appointment from the elusive castle authorities themselves. Heller elaborates:

K.’s belief appears, from the very outset, to be based on truth and illusion. It is Kafka’s all but unbelievable achievement to force, indeed to frighten, the reader into unquestioning acceptance of this paradox, presented with ruthless realism and irresistible logic. Truth and illusion are mingled in K.’s central belief in such a way that he is deprived of all order of reality. Truth is permanently on the point of taking off its mask and revealing itself as illusion, illusion in constant danger of being verified as truth. It is the predicament of a man who, endowed, with an insatiable appetite for transcendental certainty, finds himself in a world robbed of all spiritual possessions. Thus he is caught in a vicious circle. He cannot accept the world — the village — without first attaining to absolute certainty, and he cannot be certain without first accepting the world. Yet every contact with the world makes a mockery of his search, and the continuance of his search turns into a mere encumbrance.

Is our predicament as readers of Kafka not analogous to K.’s? Are we not frightened into unquestioning acceptance of a paradox presented to us with ruthless realism and irresistible logic? Consider “A Message from the Emperor.” A dying emperor dispatches from his deathbed a message intended for you and you alone — you, “his miserable subject.” But this message will never reach you. The messenger carrying it must penetrate the countless chambers and anterooms of the inner palace, not to mention stairs and courtyards and even a second and a third palace. Finally, there is the capital city, with its teeming masses, where no one ever breaks through. “You, however, sit at your window and dream of the message when evening comes.”

The remote and absent figure of authority, the endless bureaucratic encumbrances, the futility of hope — “A Message from the Emperor,” like its sister-parable “Before the Law,” compresses into a few pages the most familiar hallmarks of that dreaded and diluted term, the Kafkaesque — promiscuously used these days to describe even the most trivial inconveniences, like dealing with Verizon. Happily, the term has recently been given a new lease on life by Reiner Stach (whose third and final volume of Kafka’s biography was just released by Princeton University Press); he usefully identifies it as a “peculiar form of rhetoric, which obscures the situation with analytical precision.”..Read more:

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Monday, November 21, 2016

MGNREGA Workers Demand Their Wages Now // RBI Governor Must Resign: Bankers’ Confederation // Gujarati Bizmen Knew of Note Ban in Advance: Ex-BJP MLA // Purging the poor: Mukul Kesavan

The Government of India (GoI) has failed to pay the wages of thousands upon thousands of rural labourers across the villages of India who have worked under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA).  MGNREGA aims to enhance the livelihood security of households in rural areas of the country by providing at least 100 days of guaranteed wage employment in every financial year to every household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work. Wages are to be paid weekly. In Sitapur district of Uttar Pradesh alone, the GoI owes more than Rs 30 crore in payment for the work done over the last five months. Births, weddings, illnesses and deaths have greeted and tested the households of peasants and labourers, and angry and violated people have enacted one protest after another at the offices of district magistrates and development officers to try to get the government to respond to this injustice, but to no avail. 

This is outrageous!

How does GoI’s failure to pay affect the everyday lives of those whom it is cheating? Here are some glimpses from Sitapur: On October 29, one day before Diwali, Bitoli, a mazdoor saathi of Sangtin Kisaan Mazdoor Sangathan, was moved by desperation to pawn three pairs of brand new toe-rings (bichhiya) owned by her youngest daughter-in-law. After pawning her own anklet (paayal) for Rs 500 and her older daughter-in-law’s earrings for Rs 700 in previous weeks, the toe-rings were the only remaining items of monetary value in Bitoli’s family and she was hoping to get Rs 300 so that her family could at least have one celebratory meal to mark the festival. In Bitoli’s family, seven people have worked under MGNREGA and the GoI owes them Rs 22,000.
Similar stories abound. In Allipur village, Surendra pawned his bicycle for Rs 200. Rekha of Makdera pawned her anklets for Rs 300 while Ram Kishore of Faridpur had to pawn his wife’s silver chain – which cost them Rs 1200 – for only Rs 500.  As these people await payments from the government, chances are that many of them will not be able to retrieve these items because of the excessively steep interest rates. After the wheat is sown, the winter will become another battle and it will be impossible for them to regain their pawned valuables that they fall back on in times of grave crises.

Pawning is not the only site of exploitation. When one mazdoor saathi could not find a buyer for her kharif crop, she went to sell 20 kilogrammes of sesame seeds to a shopkeeper in another village so that she could find some money to prepare for the sowing of wheat. The shopkeeper did not have the money to buy it, so she travelled to another shop three kilometres away. This shopkeeper agreed to buy the sesame seeds at the rate of Rs 4000 per quintal if she agreed to receive the payment at a later date. Last year, the same saathi sold her sesame seeds at Rs 7000 a quintal. With no money in her hands still, this saathi is in deep agony. The sowing of mustard on her farm is already delayed. Her granddaughter’s wedding is about to happen. She feels helpless as all options seem to disappear.
MGNREGA workers had expected the administration to make at least some payments in August during the festival season. But Eid, Raksha Bandhan and Diwali have all come and gone and the homes and villages remain unmarked by festivities. Many homes could not be white-washed; the pooris, kachoris and desserts that are cooked only on festivals remained unrealised temptations for many; and dozens of people who had been waiting for a festival as an excuse to get a long overdue item of new clothing or footwear had to postpone the idea.

As fields are getting ready in Sitapur for the winter wheat crop, peasants and farmworkers are scurrying to find ways to borrow money. During the last several years, the arrival of MGNREGA had significantly reduced the terror of traders who lend money on interest. While MGNREGA had brought the monthly interest rate down from 10% to 5% in some villages, the non-payment of MGNREGA wages has allowed loan sharks to increase rates back to 10%.

Who is to blame for this mess? In Uttar Pradesh, the state government, who employed the labourers, claims that the GoI is not giving it the money to make payments. Yet, it has managed to pay the officers and staff associated with MGNREGA while the most vulnerable people who have actually sweated for the state are being cheated out of their earnings. In fact, these delays appear to be  a systemtic part of the administration’s strategy of budget cuts in social welfare schemes. How ironic that the two political parties in power, Samajwadi Party and Bharatiya Janata Party, who never tire of making claims in the name of the poor, are participating in this complete mockery of the rural poor

As thousands of saathis from Sitapur District prepare to march against this gross violation of their rights, we demand immediate and full payment to all the labourers of MGNREGA.

RBI Governor Must Resign: Bankers’ Confederation on Demonetisation
People are crying at bank counters. Eleven bank officers have died due to stress. An average bank officer has been working up to 16-18 hours… Officers in the ranks of joint custodian in the currency administration cells in banks are the most affected. Many of them couldn’t even claim half-a-day’s leave after working 18 hours for 11 consecutive days. He demanded Patel to take moral responsibility for these deaths.

A TOP leader of India’s largest confederation of bank officers has called for the resignation of RBI governor Urjit Patel, whom he held responsible for causing “havoc” to the economy with the unprepared decision to demonetise currency. D Thomas Franco, senior vice president, All India Bank Officers Confederation which represents over 2.5 lakh senior officers from all nationalised, old-generation private sector, cooperative and regional rural banks in India, told The Indian Express that it is the RBI governor who should take moral responsibility for the crisis and the deaths of people including 11 bank officers in the last 12 days.

Franco said the government could have taken lessons from other countries and from its own demonetisation drive in 1978, when then RBI governor I G Patel had advised the government against the move. “We all know that neither Prime Minister Narendra Modi nor Finance Minister Arun Jaitley is an economist,” Franco said. “We have economists in RBI to take the right decisions on matters relating to economy and people’s lives. The present governor has utterly failed in his role by taking a crucial economic decision without planning, which has brought havoc to the nation’s economy and lives of the majority.”

About the shortage of Rs 100 notes, he said, “What we are getting is mostly soiled notes, reintroduced by RBI because of this crisis. As detection machines reject most of the soiled notes, it is another herculean task for bank officers to sort these out manually. Had there been a little planning, they could have printed Rs 500 and Rs 100 notes instead of printing Rs 2,000 notes. Does it mean these economists have no clue about how transactions work and currency travels in a country like India?… All the soiled notes have to come back again as they are meant to be disposed.”

Franco said the new Rs 500 notes are not available in banks even after 11 days. “When they decided to print Rs 2,000 notes in advance, what prevented the printing of Rs 500 notes? It was the RBI governor who signed all Rs 2,000 notes. Why did his team not realise that the new Rs 2,000 notes are smaller than the old Rs 1,000, forcing the bank system to recalibrate two lakh ATMs?” he said. Franco cited reports of “misery and despair” from the ground. “People are crying at bank counters. Eleven bank officers have died due to stress. An average bank officer has been working up to 16-18 hours… Officers in the ranks of joint custodian in the currency administration cells in banks are the most affected. Many of them couldn’t even claim a half a day’s leave after working 18 hours for 11 consecutive days,” he said. “It was very, very poor planning on the part of RBI that has led to this crisis. They did not even have a roadmap. Those who sat and rolled out the demonetisation drive didn’t have a basic idea about how the Indian economy works and transactions happen. We understand that there were no discussions with experts and stakeholders before they took the decision,” he said.

“RBI has to now count and verify all these banned notes again. When we talk about deposits of several thousand crores, we do not know how many of them were forged notes. Collection of old notes in bank branches is being done in a hurry due to heavy crowds. Before they took the decision, the total currency status in all the banks and branches in the country was a single click away for them,” he said. “The administrative hierarchies too have derailed. It is strange to see that economic affairs secretary Shaktikanta Das is announcing many decisions including the use of indelible ink without any authority while the finance secretary is mum,” he said. “Moreover, RBI is not allowing cooperative banks to exchange currency. They are institutions with a total Rs 10 lakh crore investment and one lakh branches in the most remote areas of the country, serving a rural population of crores,” he said. Franco said the economy is sinking; growth has been affected and think tanks predict immediate impacts will last at least 12 to 15 months.

In an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Yatin Oza, former BJP MLA and Amit Shah’s political mentor, has written that industrialists close to the BJP government already knew of demonetisation before the official announcement on 8 November. Oza claims to possess a video recording which will prove beyond doubt that close associates of Amit Shah were aware of demonetisation beforehand, reports the

I have a video recording with me which will clearly and beyond reasonable doubt prove that all the near and close associates of Shri Amit Shah since 8th Nov till today are engaged into exchange business. There is a big queue outside their office and residence for conversion of black money into white at a discounted rate of 37%, people have queued up outside their office and residence. One has to go without identity with at least a sum of Rs. 1 Crore which will be counted by the employees and a bag containing Rs. 63 lakhs of valid denomination would be handed over. (sic)

Formerly close to PM Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah, Oza is widely credited with giving Shah his break in politics; by appointing him as his election agent. Oza had contested the Assembly elections in Gujarat in 1995. In his letter he has also alleged that district banks in Gujarat exchanged Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes before the announcement.

This in my respectful submission was permitted to be done in Gujarat because all district co-operative banks are controlled by people committed to BJP. These banks right from 9 PM on 8/11/2016 till 5 AM on 9/11/2016 exchanged Rs.500 and Rs.1000 currency notes against smaller denomination. You had through RBI called for the details of exact cash with denominations from all banks of the country on 08/11/2016. You yourself get it verified the veracity of my above statement. I assure you that if I am proved wrong I will tender a public apology.

Currently, Oza is with the Aam Aadmi Party, after breaking away from the BJP. Earlier, he had written a letter to Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal that he was witness to a meeting Amit Shah and Akbaruddin Owais where they allegedly agreed on a deal for the Bihar elections. Here’s the full text of his open letter to Prime Minister Modi, according to read more:

Purging the poor - Demonetization and its consequences by Mukul Kesavan
Some of the discussion about demonetization has centred on whether it will achieve its principal object in the long term. Will it curb tax evasion, shrink the black economy, squeeze funding for criminals and terrorists? What is the collateral damage caused by the move: is the cost of demonetization worth the inconvenience and pain that it will inflict upon the poor and the shock it administers to the economy in general. Was the sweep and suddenness of the move the best or only way to achieve demonetization's objects? The unspoken question behind nearly every consideration of demonetization is this: is demonetization a political masterstroke that wins the prime minister a reputation as an anti-corruption crusader who walks his talk, or has Mr Modi's reach exceeded his grasp? Indian arguments are so polarized that each time an Indian economist writes an op-ed or does an interview on the subject, he is judged by his real or alleged political affiliation, which allows one side or the other to discount his arguments. So when I came upon a short post by Kenneth Rogoff, the economist, on India's demonetization, it seemed a great piece of luck. Rogoff has published, just this year, a book called The Curse of Cash in which he advocates demonetization in the United States...
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