BJP’s Assault On Education

May 16, 2016

BJP’s Assault on Education and Educational Institutions

Nalini Taneja

Delhi University

While an impression is sought to be created that the BJP is holding back its agenda in deference to a large body of opinion in the country being opposed to it, on the ground the BJP has been having a field day in pushing through its programmes. It is concentrating on and going full steam ahead on the cultural & educational front in polarising society along communal lines. There is an attempt to Hinduise the educational system, root out liberal and leftist influences, and to re-write history in order to justify its anti-minority outlook.

This is evident not only from the much publicised agenda sought to be implemented at the State Education Ministers’ Conference held in October ’98 but also from the massive text book revision undertaken by the Sangh Parivar in keeping with this design. Much of their agenda is incorporated through moral education and general knowledge texts that concentrate on inculcating a Hindu consciousness and ‘pride in being a Hindu’. In the Government schools in the BJP ruled states and in the 20,000 odd Vidya Bharti schools and the shishu mandirs all over the country, the prescribed syllabus presents Indian culture as Hindu culture, totally denying its pluralistic character and the contribution of the minorities to the creation of the Indian identity. Everything Indian is shown to be of Hindu origin and the minorities are characterised as foreigners owing their first allegiance to political forces outside this country.

In the name of ‘Indianised nationalised and spiritualised’ education there is an attempt to polarise and divide people along religious lines by communalising their consciousness. Through a distortion and concoction of facts there is an effort to reconstruct history and tradition along communal and sectarian lines. In fact it is quite clear what the agenda paper at the Conference meant by the abrogation of the Articles 29 and 30 of the Constitution. Uma Bharti, the Union Minister of State in the Ministry of Human Resources did not take long to pronounce that the Kashmir problem finds its roots in the teaching pattern in the Madrasas and that there is a need to closely monitor them.

Thanks to these books and the efforts of their ‘dedicated’ teachers lakhs of children grow up with prejudice and hatred towards the minorities, considering them alien, and in total ignorance of our composite and rich cultural heritage. By wanting to make Sanskrit and the Upanishads and Vedas compulsory in schools to the exclusion of other texts they deny not only the secular character of our cultural heritage but also the significance of popular cultural expression and langu ages in the making of Indian culture.

The homogenised and predominantly Hindu picture of Indian identity these texts present is contrary to facts and to peoples’ historical experience. Inspite of their verbal diatribe against Macaulay, they adopt, lock stock and barrel, the Orientalist Western British Imperialist sponsored theory that sees Eastern societies as unique and incapable of modern development independently. They have also conveniently appropriated the British divide and rule paradigm of Hindus and Muslims as separate civilisational entities that cannot survive together in peace. How much of their ideological ammunition has its source in the most reactionary theories of imperialist domination is a fact that should be talked about much more and be exposed for what it represents. These theories are asserted in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

A massive survey project by the Anthropological Survey of India published in the form of a series called People of India proves a number of points which give lie to the lies of the Sangh Parivar. It shows that approximately more than 4000-odd communities inhabit this country and their cultural profile is rooted and shaped by their relationship with their environment, their occupational status, their language, etc., primarily and that religion falls way down in the construction of their identities. This survey also shows that Hindus and Muslims share more than 95% characteristics of various kinds that are common and that it is shared lives that have given shape the diverse cultural expressions. Among other things the studies also show that nobody today can be characterised as an original inhabitant or a foreigner.

Unmindful of such data and historical truth, the Sangh Parivar is pressing on with its own agenda. There is a move to change the content of school education in general as well and a review of the NCERT syllabus is an integral part of this move. As most of us would remember there was a concerted assault on the NCERT textbooks by the RSS backed political groups even during the Party government in the immediate aftermath of the Emergency. Among the books sought to be banned and consigned to a fascist type of bonfire were the history textbooks of our most eminent historians like Romila Thapar, RS Sharma and Bipan Chandra because they present a secular view on history. What they did not succeed in doing then they are trying to achieve now under the BJP Government rule. A Review Committee has been formed for the review of syllabus with a chairman whose only claim to fame is his landmark judgment that Hindutva is a way of life not religion.

The UP State education minister says publicly that by the next session twenty-five textbooks will have to be re-written. The RSS has undertaken to write along communal lines the history of every district, and has a separate Institute known as the Bharatiya Itihas Sankalan Samiti, with 400 branches all over the country, for coordinating and giving direction to this effort. One of the key ‘achievements’ of this Samiti is the ‘cleansing’ of Christian influence on historical chronology. The kalganana or the ‘scientific Hindu way of calculating time’ does away with the BC/AD system and works according to the Hindu calculation of time traced from the Deva Yuga to the present Kali Yuga! Murli Manohar Joshi is already on record that the history and philosophy of foreign lands had prevented universities from becoming centres of learning. It is an indication of what they mean ‘Indianising’ education.

Science is sought to be combined with spirituality, in the name of which obscurantism and chauvinism are freely allowed to masquerade as national pride. Vedic Mathematics was introduced in the UP schools but had to be withdrawn. The recent directives curtailing experiments on animals in laboratories at the initiatives of Maneka Gandhi and sanctioned by the highest authorities in some scientific establishments, if implemented with all its clauses will set back research by decades and make next to impossible almost any experiments.

The implementation of the compulsory Saraswati Vandana and Vande Mataram mandate in the Government schools in the BJP ruled states, the renaming of towns and streets, bhajan mandalis, ‘social service’, festivals, even sporting events, particularly cricket matches between India and Pakistan, are transformed into lessons of popular education outside the formal classroom. ‘Kargil’ has become the latest and most convenient peg to hang their version of history and nationhood on as the elections draw near.

Internet is now being used as a major media of popular education, with special reference to the NRIs from whom they derive major funds, and now increasingly for equipping the middle class with arguments, data, and the intellectual resources to fulfill their leadership role in the communal bandwagon. Land has already been earmarked and according to press reports a few months back, permission has been obtained by the Delhi Government from the relevant authorities, for setting up a Holocaust type of museum on Partition which would reflect the RSS sectarian view of the tragedy. One can imagine the consequences of this along with their programme to liberate monuments. These would in fact result in the reconstruction and manipulation of popular memory to suit their diabolical designs.

All this is reinforced by the capture of the institutions of learning and education with the stated goal of influencing the funding and direction of research and educational policy. The control over committees and autonomous bodies through the strength of the State apparatus has already resulted in the creation of institutional structures designed to give sanction and legitimacy to the changes that they are pushing through and to survive the life of the present BJP Government. They guarantee the continuance of the fascist agenda even if the BJP Government is defeated at the hustings. The battle for the minds of the Indian people is clearly at a critical stage and the sooner the democratic movement in this country faces this reality, the better equipped it will be to face this onslaught on democracy for clearly this is what it is. The struggle for a secular third front in the Parliament is only one dimension of this larger struggle for the defense of democracy and peoples’ dignity.

UNDERMINING OF EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONS AND COMMITTEES

The crucial institutional measures taken by the BJP government during its rule are:

It has filled the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR) with historians notorious for their association with the VHP campaign on Ayodhya and without any credibility in the field of history writing…..now hardly any secular historian remains as a Council member. The assault on ICHR is clearly aimed at influencing the direction and funding of historical research towards the Sangh Parivar’s communal agenda.

The Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR) has been similarly reconstituted and filled with pro RSS men whose only call to fame is their support to the Sangh Parivar’s Hindu Rashtra agenda.

The Indian Institute of Advanced Studies (IIAS) in Simla has a new chairman and several other members of the same ideological colour, among them Kirit Joshi, member of the Ved Vidya Pratishthan, an RSS outfit and GC Pande, an orthodox Sanskrit scholar.

For the Nehru Museum and Memorial Library, the candidature of eminent historians like Professors Mushir ul Hasan and Madhavan Palat were brushed aside to appoint as Director a person from the Doordarshan expected to be softer to their designs. The institution has big funds apart from a number of Senior Fellowships for research and scholarship, and is an important centre for organising seminars and discussions in social sciences.

The National Museum and other museums are being used by the BJP government to propagate the Sangh Parivar’s view of Indian History and tradition, by renaming galleries, the descriptive placards, or by virtue of choice in selection of items displayed, and various special exhibitions organised and curated for particular occasions.

The Indian Institute of Mass Communication, which comes under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, has been given a Chairman for its Advisory/Executive Council a person of RSS affiliations.

The Director of the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) has an Advisor with RSS links.

In the areas of Science and technology there is a systematic shift in budgetary allocations to favour branches linked with military and nuclear research and development (R&D), and to the detriment of research and studies in the fields of agriculture, health, medicine, and a general science education…. General science education, which has little place in the RSS scheme of an obscurantist and communal agenda for the ‘people’, has been relegated to the back stage.

In its caretaker capacity and in the face of all democratic opinion the BJP government has appointed a new Secretary, Mr Hari Gautam, with Known RSS links and is also making a move to appoint a new Chairperson of the University Grants Commission (UGC). The UGC is the primary body for higher education in the country, and it is well known that this government has already undermined its authority and autonomy with regard to decision-making. The UGC is being systematically used by this Govt. to privatise and commercialise education, to encourage commercial self-financing courses and to curtail state funding in the areas of study considered non-commercial.

Vice chancellors to various universities in the country have been appointed with the sole criteria of having a sympathiser at the helm of affairs.

At the Aligarh Muslim University the BJP government, despite widespread protests from the University community, has openly supported the erosion of even nominal democratic rights on the campus by the Vice Chancellor. For a long time the VC tried to block the elections for the Students Union.

A National Elementary Education Mission (NEEM) has been constituted with the aim of implementing and giving legitimacy to the BJP agenda on Education in the ‘mission mode’, i.e., on a war footing.

Key personnel in National Institute of Planning (NIEPA) and National Council of Research and Training (NCERT) have been changed, all with a view to bringing about changes through the ‘proper channels’.

A ‘Review Committee’ has been formed for the review of syllabus with a chairman (former Chief Justice of India JS Verma) whose only claim to fame is his ‘landmark’ judgment that Hindutva is a way of life not religion; hence there is nothing wrong with Hindutva ideology.

The Executive Committee of the Council for the Advancement of Peoples’ Action and Rural Technology (CAPART), which channelises the government funding in rural development sector including studies on technology development and alternatives, has been transformed into a political appendage of the Sangh Parivar.

CAPART has eight national standing committees (NSCs) which sanction and monitor projects and evolve policies.. Since its formation in 1986, CAPART has disbursed Rs 447 crores to 6,370 organisations. All NSCs were dissolved and new ones formed, bypassing the Director General and all the internal structures of CAPART.

THE SAFFRONISATION OF SYLLABI AND SCHOOL TEXT BOOKS

Communal historiography may be quite old in India but the new additions reflect greater contemporary use in dividing society along communal lines. They are also stronger in the language and expressions used. Communal bias is woven into school textbooks with preposterous ?facts? in a way that can only have dangerous consequences for the educational standards in this country.

In the name of curriculum reform there is an attempt to rewrite textbooks along communal lines on a scale that will submerge all secular interpretations in school level teaching. A whole generation would grow up with their collective memory of a shared heritage destroyed and with ideas and information that have no basis in reality. A successful implementation of these texts on a widespread scale will mean the triumph of unreason as well as a tremendous and sudden deterioration in the quality of education, where the minimum criteria of correct empirical data and a scientific temper and reason are thrown to the winds. Our children will be little suited to face the real world or the world of scholarship.

In 1996, the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) conducted an evaluation of school textbooks in various subjects, including those prescribed in Vidya Bharati schools in the country. It found that many of the Vidya Bharati textbooks were “designed to promote bigotry and religious fanaticism in the name of inculcating knowledge of culture in the young generation.” A lot of very objectionable material was even being utilised for instruction in schools which, “presumably, have been accorded recognition.” It reported that there were 6,000 such schools with 12 lakh children on their rolls under the tutelage of 40,000 teachers where these books formed the core of the curriculum.

Today these books already form an integral portion of the curriculum in the 20,000 or more Vidya Bharati schools and Shishu Mandirs involving nearly 40 lakh children. The introduction of these texts into the Government schools in the BJP ruled states has massively increased the number of children who are being made victims of this second rate and poisonous ‘knowledge’. The take over of educational bodies from the highest levels to those determining the syllabi in schools will carry this wave of fascist propaganda into the entire educational process. Coupled with other forms of popular education they could change our entire ways of looking at ourselves, and also propel our political visions along fascist rather than democratic lines.

SAMPLES FROM THE HISTORY TEXTS

In the history texts the old communal interpretation of history reigns supreme. The Aryans are shown as the original inhabitants of India and the builders of Indian civilisation and the coming of Muslims an intrusion that shattered the imagined homogeneity of Indian diaspora. In their imagination it was an attack of proportions that only Macaulay equalled. The ancient period of history, especially the Mauryan and the Gupta period, is painted as ‘Golden’ because the rulers during this time are seen to be Hindus, and the medieval centuries as the advent of darkness, threat to culture, and an attack on Indian civilization.

The Moghul kings, especially Aurangzeb, are painted as cruel tyrants without reference to the medieval context in which these rulers acted. As far as these texts are concerned the cultural integration and emergence of new forms of cultural expression as a result of shared life, translations of religious texts, adoption of new dance musical and religious forms, did not exist. Bhakti and growth of national languages and literatures of the regional languages are not seen as linked to the context of this shared life.

This communal and sectarian interpretation of history also extends to the study of the National Movement, where the Muslims are painted as the enemies of the nation and responsible for Partition, and the Hindu communal forces as the greatest patriots and nationalists. The conflict between the Mughals and the Marathas and Rajputs, also feudal powers are given the status of nationalist struggles. Shivaji and Rana Pratap are great national heroes for their opposition to ‘Muslim power’. Similarly, K.S. Hegdewar and M.S. Golwalkar are great heroes in the books used as part of Sanskar Saurabh series whereas Nehru does not find a mention. Among the great men of India no Muslim or Communist finds reference, whereas the most insignificant of Hindu heroes are extolled in extravagant terms.

Those who cannot be ignored by any means are appropriated by misrepresenting them and what they stood for, as, for example, Bhagat Singh. It would appear that during the national movement there was just one definition of nation and nationhood, that of the Sangh Parivar today. The struggle for a secular nation does not exist. In these texts democracy is deliberately confused with majoritarianism, minority rights with communalism, modernity with British rule and oppression, British rule with Christianity, Hinduism with nationalism. The role of the people and popular struggles are also underplayed as unity across religions was quite pronounced in popular struggles and they are not easily open to a sectarian interpretation. Rationality, reason, factual correctness and a democratic perspective are all thrown to the winds in these texts.

Religious chauvinism is carried to the extreme in these texts. In the text books distributed in Vidya Bharti schools the map of India is shown as including not only Pakistan and Bangladesh but also the entire region of Bhutan, Nepal, Tibet and even parts of Myanmar (punnya bhoomi Bharat).

These texts are being used in Shishu Mandirs and Government Schools in BJP controlled states.

Kanhaiya Kumar, The Indomitable Spirit

March 4, 2016


Kanhaiya Kumar, Out On Bail, Speaks Of ‘Azadi’ On JNU Campus

Kanhaiya_Kumar_1

NEW DELHI, March 3, 2016:  Jawaharlal Nehru University student leader Kanhaiya Kumar who was released from jail today on bail received a hero’s welcome at the campus on Thursday evening. In a defiant speech, he took shots at the government tearing into charges of sedition against him and said he had faith in India’s Constitution and democracy. Here are the highlights of his address:
  • I want to thank everyone who has stood with JNU.
  • I want to thank the people sitting in Parliament deciding what is right and what is wrong.
  • I want to thank their police and some media channels.
  • I have no hatred towards anybody, especially towards ABVP.
  • Because the ABVP we have on campus is more rational than the ABVP outside.
  • There will be no witch hunt against them.
  • We have no ill feelings towards ABVP because we truly believe in democracy and the Constitution.
  • We don’t look at ABVP as the enemy, we look at them like the Opposition.
  • The best thing about how JNU has stood up in one voice was that it was spontaneous.
  • They had all of it planned but we were spontaneous.
  • We stand up for all parts of Constitution – socialism, secularism and equality.
  • I don’t want to comment on the case. It is sub judice.
  • I have many differences with the PM but I agree with his tweet – Satyameva Jayate – truth will triumph.
  • In railway stations you will find a guy who shows you magic tricks. We have some people like that in our country.
  • They say black money will come back, sabka saath sabka vikas, equality and all that.
  • Yes we Indians forget things too soon but this time the tamasha is too big. These jumlas won’t be forgotten.
  • But what will happen if you speak up?
  • Their cyber-cell will release doctored videos and count condoms in your dustbins.
  • This is a planned attack to delegitimise the UGC protests, to prevent justice to Rohith Vemula.
  • But let me just say it is not easy to get admission in JNU neither it is easy to silence those in JNU.
  • You cannot dilute our struggle.
  • They say soldiers are dying on the borders – I salute them.
  • I want to ask the BJP lawmaker who said in Parliament that soldiers are dying on the border – is he your son or brother?
  • He is the son or father of the farmer who is dying of drought.
  • Do not create a false debate in this country.
  • Who is responsible for their deaths?
  • We will not rest till everybody has an equal right to prosperity.
  • We are not asking for freedom from India because India has not colonised anyone.
  • The man fighting on the border, perhaps he wanted to study but he couldn’t get to JNU.
  • You want to silence one Rohith, today look how big that revolution has become.
  • I realised one thing in jail. We, the people of JNU speak in civilised voices, but we use heavy terminologies.
  • Perhaps it doesn’t reach the common man. We have to establish communication with the common people.
  • We will bring Sabka Saath Sabka Vikaas for real.
  • Today the honourable PM was talking about Stalin, I say Modi ji speak about Hitler too sometimes. Or maybe Mussolini?
  • He speaks of Mann Ki Baat but doesn’t listen.
  • What is happening today in the country is very dangerous.
  • It is not about one party, one news channel.
  • I have never told this to anybody but my family makes Rs. 3,000. Can you imagine somebody like me doing a PhD in any other college?
  • And they are calling anybody who stands up for this, traitor?
  • What kind of a self-proclaimed nationalism is this?
  • I want to remind our government that 69 per cent voted against you.
  • Just 31 per cent voted for you and some of them were caught up in your jumlas.
  • And today they are running a distraction campaign so that people don’t ask them the real questions.
  • RSS mouthpiece The Organiser did a cover story on JNU.
  • If they can reason in a debate why JNU should be shut for four months, I will agree with them.
  • They want to suppress the voice of dissent but I want to tell them, you will never be able to do that.
  • Once again let’s raise slogans for freedom – not from India, but within India.
  • Freedom from hunger, poverty, the caste system – all of that.

   Courtesy: ndtv.com

ZeeNews Whistleblower Vishwa Deepak Unearths The Conspiracy

February 25, 2016

‘It feels like we are govt spokespersons’

Following is the post put up by Vishwa Deepak on Facebook, in which he announced his decision to resign from Zee News following the coverage of JNU protests.

vishwa-deepak-2

As journalists, we raise questions about others but never about ourselves. We decide everyone else’s responsibility but never ours. We are called the fourth pillar of democracy but are we, our institutions , our thinking and our “modus operandi” democratic enough ? This is not just my question. It is a question everybody is asking today.The way JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar was framed in the name of “nationalism” and was proved “anti-national” through media trials is a dangerous tendency. We, as journalists, have a responsibility to ask questions to those in authority… In the history of journalism, whatever positive has been achieved is a result of such questions.

To ask or not to ask questions is a matter of personal choice. But I believe what is personal is also political. There comes a time when you have to choose between your professional responsibilities and socio-political convictions and take a side. I have chosen to go with the latter and due to differences on these grounds with my organisation Zee News, I have resigned with effect from 19 February.

My resignation is dedicated to the country’s lakhs and crores of “Kanhaiya”s and to those friends from JNU who struggle and make sacrifices with eyes full of beautiful dreams.

“Dear ZEE News,

After 1 year 4 months and 4 days, it’s high time that I should leave your organization. I should have left it much before, but if I don’t leave now, then I’ll never be able to forgive myself.

What I want to say next has not been stated out of emotion or anger. It is a well-considered statement. Besides being a journalist, I am a citizen of this country, where the poison of nationalism is being spread and the country is being pushed towards a civil war. My civil liability and professional responsibility says that I should stop this poison. I know my efforts are like crossing the sea with the help of a boat but I am keen to make the effort. On this thought, on the issue of blind nationalism over JNUSU President Kanhaiya Kumar, I resign from my post. I want this resignation to be accepted without any personal malice.

Indeed, this it is not personal. It is a matter of professional responsibility. In the end, it is a matter of sense of responsibility and patriotism too. With regret, I say that on these three parameters, by being associated with you, as an organization, in the last year, I have failed many times.

After May 2014, when Narendra Modi has become the PM, almost every newsroom of the country has been communalized, but here, situations are even more catastrophic. I apologise for using such a heavy word. But I have no other word except this. Why is it that all news is written by adding a ‘Modi angle’? Stories are written keeping in mind how it will benefit the agenda of the Modi government. We have seriously started doubting that we are journalists. It feels like we are the spokespersons of the government, or that we are supari killers. Modi is the PM of our country, and is my PM too. But being a journalist, it is difficult to accept so much Modi devotion. My conscience is starting to rebel against me, it seems like I am sick.

Behind every story there is an agenda, behind every show there is an effort to call the Modi government ‘great’. Wanting to attack the opposition in every argument. No word other than attack or war is acceptable. What is all this? Sometimes I stop and think that I am getting mad. Why are we being made so inferior and immoral? After studying from the country’s top media institutions and working at Aaj Tak and BBC, Deutsche Welle (Germany) , the situation is such that people have started calling me a journalist from ‘Chhee News’. Our integrity is being questioned; who will take the responsibility for all this?

There are so many things to say… A campaign is being constantly running against Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal and is still running. Why?

Basic policies like electricity-water, education and the odd-even policy were also questioned. Disagreement with Keriwal disagreement and criticism is something that everyone has a right to. If I start making a list of stories done against Kejriwal then I think many pages will be filled. I want to know if journalistic principles and ethics hold a certain value or not?

In the Rohith Vemula suicide case, first he was called as a Dalit scholar, then a Dalit student. At least, the story should have been written properly. The ABVP and Bandaru Dattatreya need to answer for Rohith Vemula’s suicide.

I remember that we questioned stellar writers across all regional languages including Uday Prakash when they started returning their Sahitya Academy Awards on the debate on intolerance. Lakhs of people read Uday Prakash’s books. He is the pride of the language that we speak everyday, and use in our workplace. His writings portray our lives, our dreams, and our struggles. But we are keen to prove that all these things were pre-planned. That hurt then, but I still tolerated it somehow.

But till when should I tolerate this situation and for how long?

I can’t sleep well these days. I am anxious. Perhaps this is the result of a feeling of guilt. The biggest blot that an individual can have on him is that he is anti-national. However, the question is: as journalists, do we have the right to distribute the degree of anti-national? Isn’t it the job of the court?

We have tagged many students of JNU as ‘anti-national’ including Kanhaiya. If among them one gets killed tomorrow, who will take the responsibility? We have not only created an atmosphere for someone’s murder and the destruction of a few families but also created a platform to spread riots and cause a civil war. What kind of patriotism is this? What kind of journalism is this?

Are we the BJP or RSS’S mouthpieces, for us to do whatever they say? A video which did not even have the slogan of ‘Pakistan zindabad’ was still aired continuously. How did we blindly believe that these voices which came in the dark were of Kanhaiya or his friends? Instead of ‘Bhartiya Court zindabad,’ they heard Pakistan zindabad and spoilt some peoples career, hopes and led their families to destruction. It would have been good if we would have let the investigating agencies conduct a probe and then waited for the results.

People are threatening Umar Khalid’s sister. People are calling her a traitor’s sister.

Isn’t this our responsibility? Kanhaiya not once but repeatedly said that he doesn’t promote anti-nationalist slogans, but nobody heard him, because we were toing the line of the NDA government. Have we ever seen Kanhaiya’s house properly? Kanhaiya’s home is a painful symbol of the country’s farmers and the common man. It represents expectations of the country which are being buried every moment. But we have become blind. In my area too, there are many houses like this. In those broken walls and already fragile lives, we have injected the poison of nationalism without even thinking what the result would be. If Kanhaiya’s paralyzed father dies of shock, will we be responsible?

If The Indian Express would not have done a story, the country wouldn’t have been able to find out from where he gets the inspiration to talk. Rama Naga and others are in the same situation. Struggling against poverty, these boys are studying with the help of subsidies given to JNU. But the commercials interests have ruined their career.

We may disagree with their politics or their ideas, but how can they become traitors? How can we do the court’s job? Is it a mere coincidence that the Delhi Police in its FIR has mentioned Zee News?

It is said that we are in collusion with the Delhi Police. What answer do we give to this allegation?

Why do we hate JNU? I believe that JNU is a beautiful garden of modern values, democracy, diversity and co-existence of opposing views. And people call us traitors.

I would like to know: Is JNU against the law or the BJP leader who barged into the court premises and thrashed the left-wing leader? While the BJP leader and his supporters were mercilessly beating Amique Jamai, the CPI activist, the cops remained mute spectators. Even as the live coverage showed OP Sharma clearly hitting Jamai, we were carrying the news as ‘allegations of violence against OP Sharma’. When I asked why we used the word ‘allegation’ when the video is self-explanatory, I was told that the order has been issued from the higher-ups. How can our ‘higher-ups’ stoop so low? It is understandable when it comes to Modi but should we have to be careful now of not writing anything against AVBP leaders and BJP leaders like OP Sharma?

I have started hating my existence, my journalism and my helplessness. Did I leave other jobs and decide to be a journalist for all this? I doubt it.

Now, I just have two options; either to quit journalism or excuse myself from these situations. I am opting for the latter. I have not yet declared anything; I have just raised some questions pertaining to my profession and identity. No matter how small, but it is still my accountability- not so much towards others, but more towards me. I am convinced that I won’t be hired elsewhere. I am aware that if I stick around I might be able to earn up to a lakh rupees. My salary is good, but these situations are demanding a lot of sacrifices, which I am not willing to do. Being brought up in a middle-class family, I am fully aware that you have to face a lot of difficulties with a modest income but still I don’t want to suppress my conscience.

I am repeating myself that I don’t have any personal vendetta against anybody. These matters are purely related to editorial policy. I hope they are understood in the same way. I would also like to mention that if any media house has the right to declaim its right-wing tendencies then even we as individuals are entitled to talk about our political inclinations. Being a journalist, it is my responsibility to have an unbiased approach. But as an individual and a citizen, I have chosen the leftist ideology. This is my identity. On a final note, I am thankful for the year-long struggle that I have been through in Zee News, which has helped me make good friends.”

BJP’s Attack On Indian Universities

January 31, 2016

The Right-Wing Attack on India’s Universities

AATISH TASEER

Varanasi (India), Jan 27, 2016: I met Sandeep Pandey days after he was sacked from his position as a visiting professor at a prestigious technical institute at Banaras Hindu University. We sat in a dreary guesthouse on the university campus. Mr. Pandey had just finished a long train ride. With his wrinkled kurta pajama and rubber slippers, he was every bit the picture of an old-fashioned Indian leftist.That was why he’d been fired. “Ideologically, I am at the opposite extreme to the people who are at present in power,” he said. “These people not only cannot tolerate any dissent; they don’t even tolerate disagreement. They want everybody who disagrees with them out of this campus.” Mr. Pandey was referring to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and — more to the point — the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the B.J.P.’s cultural fountainhead.

The R.S.S., a Hindu nationalist organization, was founded in 1925 as a muscular alternative to Mahatma Gandhi’s freedom movement. Its founder admired Adolf Hitler, and in 1948 the organization was blamed for indirectly inspiring Gandhi’s assassination. The B.J.P. has not always had an easy relationship with the R.S.S. With its fanciful ideas of Hindu purity and its sweeping range of prejudices, the organization is dangerously out of step with the realities of India’s political landscape. When the B.J.P. wants to win an election, it usually distances itself from the R.S.S.’s cultural agenda.

Mr. Modi’s 2014 election had very little to do with the R.S.S. and everything to do with his personality and promises of development. But the R.S.S. doesn’t see it that way. Like a fairy-tale dwarf, the group has sought to extract its due from the man it helped into power. As payment for the debt, the R.S.S. wants control of education. Specifically, it wants to install its men at the helm of universities where they will wreak vengeance on the traditionally left-wing intellectual establishment that has always held them in contempt.

At a prestigious film institute, students are protesting the appointment of a president whose only qualification, they feel, is a willingness to advance the R.S.S.’s agenda. The group’s members have met with the education minister in the hope of shaping education policy; in states that the B.J.P. controls, the R.S.S. has been putting forward the names of underqualified ideologues for advisory positions on the content of textbooks and curriculums. It has also sought to put those who share its ideology at the head of important cultural institutions, such as the Indian Council of Historical Research.

This is the background to Mr. Pandey’s dismissal. His new boss, Girish Chandra Tripathi, the vice chancellor, is an R.S.S. man. The Ministry of Education helped push through his appointment after Mr. Modi’s election. One B.H.U. professor, who wished not to be named, described Mr. Tripathi as “an academic thug with no qualifications.” (He was previously a professor of economics.)

The new vice chancellor soon turned on Mr. Pandey. “It was all engineered,” Mr. Pandey said to me. First, the professor said, he was denounced by a student. Then a local news website printed a bogus story accusing him of being part of an armed guerrilla movement. (Mr. Pandey, a Gandhian, opposes all violence.) Soon after, the technical institute’s board of governors decided, on Mr. Tripathi’s recommendation, that he be fired. He is an alumnus of the university and a mechanical engineer with a degree from the University of California, Berkeley. He has won awards for his social work. None of this made a difference. He was given a month to clear out.

I thought I should speak to the vice chancellor. He was out of town, but came on the telephone. The mention of “Sandeep Pandey” was like a trigger. He told me that Mr. Pandey had questioned whether Kashmir was an integral part of India and he had tried to screen the banned documentary “India’s Daughter,” which deals with the infamous gang rape and murder of Jyoti Singh, a physiotherapy student in New Delhi in 2012.

I must not have seemed sufficiently appalled. Mr. Tripathi tried a different track. He said, on hearing of my connection to an American publication, “Tell me, can you, being a professor in America, criticize the American government?” Yes, I answered. He tried again. “Can you,” he thundered down the line, “being a professor in America, teach what is against America’s interests?” I remembered a professor at Amherst College, my alma mater, who had once compared George W. Bush to Osama bin Laden. “Probably,” I said. “Well, maybe you can in America,” he said with disgust. “But you can’t do it in India.”

I had one last question. I had seen the vice chancellor recently at a religious event celebrating the university’s centenary, where the presiding pundit had claimed that ancient India possessed the science of gestational surrogacy. “We had these technologies, too,” the pundit said, “but over the course of a thousand years of slavery we forgot them. Or, rather, we were made to forget them.” Mr. Pandey, a man of science, had told me that Mr. Tripathi and his ilk were of the same mind as the pundit and even believed ancient India had possessed aircraft and ballistic missiles.

I had to ask. Did the vice chancellor really believe this? “I still say it,” he said defensively. I asked him to explain further. He said this was not a conversation to be had on the telephone. He would show me all the evidence later. The line went dead.

The problem with the vice chancellor is not just that he is right-wing. It is that he is unqualified for his position. This was never more apparent than in his total inability to grasp the value of dissent at an institution of learning.

Mr. Pandey has spent a lifetime working among some of India’s most voiceless people. It was sinister in the extreme that he should be dismissed for being “anti-national.” And that term is being bandied about far too much by the R.S.S. and its allies these days. The R.S.S.’s student wing at the University of Hyderabad recently smeared a 26-year-old doctoral student (Rohit Vemula) from a low-caste background as “anti-national” for his activism. The university decided to ban him from all public spaces. Earlier this month he committed suicide.

The R.S.S. has always been more of a liability for Mr. Modi than an asset. The organization has been waiting to introduce its radical agenda on the cultural and academic landscape in place of the Modi government’s promise of development. If Mr. Modi gives them an opening, they will bury him. They will reduce his broad mandate to the hysteria of a few. And, in the bargain, they will do immeasurable harm to the capacious idea of what it means to be Indian.


   Courtesy: nytimes.com

Movement Against Fascist Forces

October 22, 2015

Writers, artists announce movement against fascist forces

An Special Correspondent

Writers-speaking-at-discussion-in-PCI-600x400

New Delhi, October 21, 2015:  Eminent writers, artists and media persons, who are peeved at the present government’s insensitivity and inaction against hate-peddlers and violent radicals of   Hindutva groups, announced on Monday that they will fight fascist forces tooth and nail. They alleged that these forces have “tacit support and endorsement” of the Narendra Modi government at the Centre.In the wake of growing intolerance and targeted killings of writers and rationalists and repeated incidents of lynching on the pretext of cow protection, a discussion was jointly organized by the Press club of India, the Indian Women’s Press Corps, the Janwadi Leikhakh Sangh and the Pragatisheel Leikhakh Morcha on Monday at the Press Club here.

Coming down heavily on the Prime Minister and his government for the growing atmosphere of intolerance and communal discourse, they resolved to take a protest march on October 23 from Sri Ram Centre to Sahitya Academy in the Capital. They said the PM is maintaining eloquent silence over the murderous attacks on writers and rationalists while his party members, MPs as well as his cabinet ministers are making provocative statements and remarks.  Writers at a Pratirodh Sangh (protest forum) in Press Club of India also raised concern over the deafening silence of Sahitya Academy which is the autonomous body of literaturers.

Speaking on the occasion, veteran journalist and Hindi writer Mangalesh Dabral, who returned his Sahitya Academy award in protest against the government’s inaction, has warned that: “History will not forgive us if we do not speak up at the situation when the core values of our civilization are under attacks”.

He said that democracy is not all about the rule of majority, but its real tests lies in the well-being of minorities and other marginalised sections of society.  Taking Finance Minister Arun Jaitly to task for dubbing the revolt of writers as “manufactured protest”, he said it was a “mischievous narrative to malign them”.

“Are the killings of rationalists Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare and M M Kalburgi manufactured? Was Akhlak killing manufactured? They are not manufactured, but there is design into all these incidents,” Dabral asked the Finance Minister.

When this correspondent asked that writers are not defending their stand forcefully in TV discussions, Dabral quipped, “We do not cross the limit of decency to prove our point”.

Om Thanvi, ex-editor of Jansatta, said here is a Prime Minister who took refuge under the President Pranab Mukherjee’s speech for appealing peace in the country. It was “mischievous and cunning” as Muslims are not attacking Hindus or Hindus and Muslims are not fighting but the Hindutva radicals who are hell-bent to destroy the communal fabric of the country. Instead of taking action against these radicals the PM is making appeal for calm and peace, he said.

Conducting the discussion Press Club of India  general secretary Nadeem Ahmad Kazmi said that the majority of journalists are with writers in their fight against intolerance and fascism, He pointed that Hindutva groups are using all  means to “control communication” the manifestation of which is seen in the media narrative against the writers returning their awards. “They are not using swords or resorting to violence…. Instead of listening to their concerns, a section of media is accusing them of belonging to one quarter or the other”, said Kazmi. Many writers spoke on the occasion and castigated the opposition parties, including the Congress for raising their voice forcefully against these forces as they are more concerned with their political interest than the country’s interest.

Noted poet and critic K. Sachidanandan in his statement urged the silent majority to come together against the “mono-religious and mono-cultural entity”. He also raises concern over the BJP government’s bid to control prestigious institutions like ICHR, NBT and FTII, to name a few, which were so far headed by eminent scholars, educationists, social scientists, philosophers and thinkers. They are systematically destroyed by the appointment of little known, ignorant or ill-reputed people, he said.

“It is ironical that those who have vowed to safeguard the Constitutional rights are themselves challenging the constitution with inflammatory statements and hate-speeches every other day leading to riots and instilling fear in the minorities, he said.

Modi@365

May 31, 2015

Regressive Phase

Sitaram Yechury


Sitaram_Yechury_sketch

More dangerous than unmet economic goals is the ideological chauvinism.

The King of France, Louis XV, achieved notoriety for saying, “After me, the deluge”. As the first year of this Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance government ends, Prime Minister Narendra Modi seems to be amending this to read as: “Before me, the void: After me, the deluge”. He has gone as far to say, twice on foreign soil in May, that NRIs were “ashamed” of being called Indians before he got elected.

During the course of this one year, we are being told ad-nauseum that Mr. Modi is rebuilding India from the ruins left behind by six decades of successive governments. Alas, Atal Bihari Vajpayee and the six-year long NDA government have been confined to forgotten history. Undoubtedly, there has been a plethora of unfulfilled promises, a merciless loot of our resources and growing exploitation of our people during these decades. This, however, is not the point of this Modi government’s public relations exercise. Their point is to portray the Prime Minister with the arrival of a messiah a la the mythological Kalki Avatar. Never mind that the Governor of the Reserve Bank of India has recently said that Mr. Modi must not be thought of as “Ronald Reagan on a white horse”. The myth-manufacturing PR wheel continues to turn.

It is now clear that what has been attempted this year is an attack on whatever rights common Indians have managed to achieve through struggles for so far. The government is in retreat, with huge cuts in the budget, in vital areas of health, education, social welfare, Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes sub-plans etc.

There is a new trident of challenges that is being constructed before both the country and the people: there is an aggressive pursuit of neoliberal economic reforms, an onslaught on the secular democratic foundations of the Indian republic by the sharpening of communal polarisation, and a the slow but certain movement towards authoritarian rule. The last is easily seen in the damaging of democratic institutions and the bypassing of methods sacrosanct in a parliamentary democracy.

Economic challenges

This NDA government is aggressively pursuing neoliberal economic reforms followed by the previous Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh. All key sectors of our economy have now being opened up for greater Foreign Direct Investment inflows. The government is backtracking on many issues that it had opposed earlier such as permitting FDI in retail trade. The most brazen U-turn has been the new Land Acquisition Ordinance that it has pushed through thrice after having supported the 2013 Bill. The urgency to hand over real estate to foreign and domestic corporates for profit maximisation is driving the government’s agenda at the expense of ruining vast sections of our peasantry. Precious mineral resources are being handed over for private profit along with ambitious targets of the privatisation of the public sector. Crony capitalism is having a field day.

The statistical base year for national income accounts has been changed in order to project the GDP growth rate in better light. Despite this, it is clear that manufacturing and industrial growth is just not taking off. Corporates have registered an unprecedented accumulation of inventories. This is leading to a fall in employment sharply. Coupled with the relentless rise in the prices of all essential commodities and successive big hikes in the prices of fuel, this is imposing severe hardships on the livelihood of our people.

Agrarian distress

The agrarian distress is deepening. For the first time since Independence, a fall in the total cultivated area has been reported. With the hike in the prices of inputs and the sharp decrease in subsidies, many farmers are abandoning agricultural activity as they are unable to survive. Forced to borrow, they suffer debts that they are unable to repay. This is resulting in continued incidents of distress suicides. The state of the workers is no better — the share of wages as a proportion of GDP now stands a little over 10 per cent compared to over 25 per cent in 1990-91.

On the other hand, the rich have become richer. As per the Forbes list 2014, the 100 richest people in India are all U.S.$ billionaires, i.e., 45 more than the figure of 55 in 2011. The combined wealth of these 100 billionaires comes to $346 billion. The share of the top 1 per cent in the total wealth of households has increased from 36.8 per cent in 2000 to a phenomenal 49 per cent in 2014. The promised ‘better days’ or ‘acche din’ are turning from illusions into a nightmare for the vast majority.

Communal polarisation

Simultaneously, communal polarisation is being kept on the boil and is being sharpened through governmental patronage. The BJP, as the political arm of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, is advancing the project of transforming the modern secular democratic Indian republic into the RSS project of an intolerant ‘Hindu Rashtra’. The communal campaigns of ‘ghar wapsi’ and the stigmatisation of inter-religious marriages as ‘love jihad’ are accompanied with frenzied efforts to replace history by mythology and philosophy by theology. This is resulting in attempts to change the curriculum of schools and the nature of research bodies in the country. There are growing reports of communal tensions and even riots from various corners of the country. Attacks on Muslim minorities and targeting Christian churches in particular have grown exponentially. Mr. Modi has not assured even on the floor of Parliament that action would be taken against those who violate the law with impunity, by delivering inciting hate speeches.

Using the strength of its majority in the Lok Sabha, albeit with just 31 per cent of the vote polled, the BJP bulldozed nearly 50 legislations without parliamentary scrutiny. Parliamentary scrutiny is exercised by the Parliamentary Standing Committees examining all legislative proposals. These committees have as their members virtually the entire political spectrum represented in both Houses of Parliament at any point of time. This enables them to suggest fine-tuning of these legislations and if necessary, to reconsider or redraft some.

These are indeed ominous signals. This year has been marked by the NDA not being able to meet economic expectations, no doubt. But it has heralded a new and retrogressive phase in India, which is more dangerous. The government is stepping back from international commitments made in the spheres of environment, human rights and labour laws, the latest being the changes in the Juvenile Justice law. This government believes in reversing progressive economics by minimising government where it is most required — pulling millions out of poverty — and replacing it with policies for the already rich and powerful. This, along with a narrow and chauvinistic idea of India, threatens to push back even small social gains made. Social peace and harmony are undervalued goods, and any attempt to tinker with social amity as political design will have explosive consequences.

Moreover, Mr. Modi and the BJP claim as their triumph the fact that no corruption scam has emerged during the course of this year. Does anyone recollect any such scam during the first four years of the UPA government? Just as time exposed the UPA scams, so will time expose this government’s record in aggressively pursuing crony capitalism.

Louis XV’s infamous remark is widely believed to have anticipated the French Revolution. What Mr. Modi’s attempts to paint India as the land of the void before him leads to, surely time will tell.


Sitaram Yechury is the general secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist).

One Year Of Modi Govt

May 30, 2015


One Year of Modi govt: Bure Din For Social Sector

Modi government has damaged the rights-based legislative framework without spelling out what will replace it.


Aruna Roy & Nikhil Dey

No one in the last two decades has come to power with greater euphoria than the Narendra Modi sarkar. It has taken less than a year for that euphoria to recede and change to disappointment. There are sufficient reasons for this change. The celebrations of the first year in office of this government are in sharp contrast to the plight of the common person.

The callousness of the government is most noticeable in its attitude to social sector issues. It does not seem to realise that rights-based legislation were not a UPA creation, but a reflection of the aspirations of millions of Indians struggling to procure the most basic entitlements. In its desire to establish itself by discarding past achievements, the current government is making a cardinal mistake.

Nothing could be more symptomatic of this narrow partisan approach than the prime minister’s statement on the MGNREGA in Parliament. It is shocking that the PM could promise to build a programme only to establish its monumental failure. This statement sent a strong message down the line to discredit and mismanage the programme. It is a failure not only of leadership but of vision and governance. The PM’s rhetoric sounds hollow even to his own party. The Madhya Pradesh chief minister has publicly stated that the MGNREGA is one of the best programmes in independent India.

Rights-based legislation like the forest rights act, right to food, right to education and right to information, passed in the last 10 years, did not merely provide economic and social entitlements to the poor. They were an attempt by India’s poorest citizens to claim delivery of basic services and ensure accountability. The people’s right to participate to ensure delivery and to monitor these programmes arose from numerous failures.

Rights-based legislation are an attempt by people to demand a share of governance. The demand for transparency, the right to question, audit development programmes and their implementation, arose from this. This framework is being undermined through budget cuts and the attempt to replace rights with cash transfers, which are much more in a paradigm of doles and handouts. Bank accounts without money and spurious promises through contributory pension and insurance schemes cannot replace the crippling of existing programmes. Even as earlier programmes and laws are ridiculed, there is no vision or direction for what is to replace them.

There is, in fact, no roadmap this government has to offer for the social sector. If this government felt that the earlier legislation were a complete failure, it should have issued a white paper on the shortcomings and provided a blueprint for how these would be overcome. This would at least have provided the people of this country an idea of what they could expect and where they could hold the government to account.

Much of rural India has found itself reeling under a loss of social sector entitlements and scrambling to save whatever resources it has. In the farming community, many might not be personally affected by the land acquisition ordinance, but most are affected by market-driven policies on minimum support prices and inefficiencies in the provision of fertilisers, irrigation, etc. The obstinacy of the government in repeatedly reimposing the ordinance has only confirmed the rural sector’s fears that these are the days of “company raj” and “bure din”.

The government has probably begun to realise that the MGNREGA is one of the less expensive ways to provide basic support, especially in times of distress. But the PM’s earlier message has been internalised by the system to such an extent that even the PMO’s later assurance to extend support for the MGNREGA has not been able to change things on the ground. People are still unable to get work. What could be a more decisive example of poor governance?

The attack on participatory governance has been even more surprising. While there was a stated ideological bias against social sector entitlements, the rhetoric on transparency, accountability, anti-corruption and improved efficiency seemed unequivocal. However, by repeated and deliberate acts of omission and commission, this government has made sure that a carefully constructed transparency framework has been comprehensively undermined. The accountability laws waiting to be implemented and passed have been pushed into amendments and committees.

The non-appointment of the chief information commissioner and three other commissioners cannot be justified on any legitimate ground. Despite repeated protests, the government has brazened it out to undermine the credibility of the information commission. The whistleblower protection and Lokpal laws were passed with great difficulty. They have been weakened through proposed amendments and further delayed by sending them to standing committees.

The grievance redressal law (a kind of RTI part II) would have ensured accountability of all government servants and been crucial to ensuring efficiency and service delivery. Instead, institutions more responsive in engaging with the people have been replaced by exclusive structures. The argument of efficiency remains a myth as the entire system functions with extraordinary centralisation, opacity and lack of public accountability.

The fact that this is a “Modi sarkar” and not the “NDA or BJP sarkar” is proclaimed repeatedly and deliberately. It is testimony to the undemocratic nature of the government’s current internal politics. Critics gave the BJP credit for its (comparative) internal democracy. The ruling party is now defined in the feudal mould of a single ruler, rather than a party that functions collectively and democratically.

The chaiwalla image has been replaced by that of a sartorially conscious leader with a designer suit. All decisions are taken by the PM, and he is constantly travelling abroad. This has led to a dysfunctional single-leader system where questions of the people do not get answered and find no platform.

Finally, the attack on activists, NGOs and other dissenters on development politics is unwise and deeply damaging to our democratic framework. People committed to the welfare of marginalised communities and the environment find themselves branded as “anti-national”, with a completely warped sense of what true national interest is. We can only hope that the people will assert their rights and demand that promises be kept and that we will see a more inclusive and plural India.


The writers are with the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan. Roy was a member of the UPA’s National Advisory Council until May 2013 / Courtesy: Indian Express

Darjeeling Toy Train To Run Again From Christmas

December 20, 2014

Darjeeling Toy Train Running Again

darjeeling-wiki

Darjeeling | Saturday, Dec 20 2014:  After nearly four years the ‘toy train’ of the World Heritage Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR) is set to run again from the Christmas day.

Senior officials of Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) today said the toy train services between Siliguri Junction and Darjeeling would resume on December 25.

Divisional railway manager of Katihar division of North Eastern Frontier Railway Arun Kumar Sharma said, “restoration work on all the damaged stretches has finished. We also ran the toy train on trial basis after completion of the work and have found things to be satisfactory,’

Sources in the heritage Darjeeling Himalayan Railways (DHR) said new railway tacks had been laid, test drive completed and clearance from the Railway Safety Commissioner received.

Built between 1879 and 1881, the railway is about 78 km from Siliguri at the base of the Himalayas to Darjeeling. DHR was declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1999.

A landslide at Paglajhora on June 14, 2010 brought to a halt the train services between Siliguri and Kurseong. Although services were maintained between Siliguri to Gayabari, another landslide on the highway at Tindharia in September 2011 further shortened the service till Rongtong.

The Toy Train, which started its maiden voyage on August 23, 1880, has been synonymous with the picturesque Darjeeling Hills.

Do Petro Price Cuts Reflect the fall in crude oil price?

December 3, 2014

Do diesel, petrol price cuts really reflect the fall in crude oil price?

Pallavi Pengonda

Brent crude oil prices have declined by 18.3% in November. But since the rupee, too, has declined against the US dollar, the Indian basket of crude oil has dropped at a slower pace of 12.3% to Rs.4,355.87 per barrel in November. And yet, retail petrol and diesel prices in Delhi have dropped a much lower 1.4% and 1.6%, respectively, from 1 November to 1 December.

petro-graph

It’s easy to argue that oil companies typically revise prices every fortnight on the basis of average prices for the previous fortnight, which is why there is a lag. But these average calculations are not really for one fortnight. For instance, pricing for the first fortnight this month is based on the average prices from 13 November to 26 November. Pricing for the first fortnight of November was based on average prices from 11 October to 29 October.

Nevertheless, going by those calculations too, the drop in prices seems much lower than warranted. Consider this: average crude prices in the second fortnight of November declined by 9% compared with the second fortnight of October, according to data from the Petroleum Planning and Analysis Cell. And average crude prices of the Indian basket in the last fortnight itself fell by 5.5%. So how is it that consumers gained much less even through petrol and diesel pricing is supposed to be set by markets?

Sure, one reason for the stark variance is that the much-anticipated price cut in mid-November was said to be set off against the excise duty hike. Nevertheless, even after adjusting for the excise duty hike, petrol and diesel prices in Delhi have fallen by about 3.8% and 4.4%, respectively, in the last one month. Analysts reckon that international diesel prices haven’t fallen as much compared with Brent.

Still, the difference in the rate of decline between average prices in the Indian basket of crude and retail prices is difficult to ignore.

This leaves many questions. Why aren’t prices actually market-related? There is no reason why we cannot look at daily change in retail fuel prices in India when international oil prices and currency exchange rate details are published on a daily basis. The argument that the implementation of daily revision in retail selling prices would lead to an increase in volatility does not hold much water given the fact that prices of another significant commodity, gold, are updated on a daily basis. Secondly, how is it that retail prices of the state-run oil marketers are almost similar?

Finally, the million dollar question is, why is the entire benefit not passed on to consumers?


           www.livemint.com

Mamata’s Al-Qaida Link

October 5, 2014

IM men killed making IEDs in Trinamool leader’s house

BURDWAN, Oct 2, 2014: Two suspected Indian Mujahideen militants were killed and a third injured critically in West Bengal’s Burdwan town when an IED they were allegedly making exploded in the house of a Trinamool Congress leader which also doubles as the local party office.

The blast took place on Thursday afternoon.

Locals say that when police arrived, two women held them off at gunpoint threatening to blow up the house and delaying them long enough to burn several documents and evidence. Among the half burnt papers found later were leaflets of al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri and Indian Mujahideen. Only a month ago, Zawahiri had warned of ‘jihad’ in India.

Police sources said 55 IEDs were seized along with RDX, several wrist watch dials, maps and SIM cards. Some half-burnt books were in Arabic, say police sources. Security agencies believe that since the militants were already assembling IEDs, they had planned to hit an Indian city in a few days.

NIA, IB and other central agencies are already in Burdwan but say they are getting no cooperation from the state police. Local cops are accused of trying to hush up the blast. They destroyed the seized IEDs, bombs and explosives on Friday before central investigators could arrive. SP SMH Meerza claimed those dead did not have any criminal antecedents and that the bombs were crude socket-bombs. But CID inspector Amar Kumar Mondal, who led the bomb squad, said he defused 55 IEDs and RDX.

While Shakeel Ahmed from Nadia was killed on the spot, East Midnapore’s Shobhan Mondal died in hospital. Hasan Saheb of Murshidabad is in critical condition. Shakeel’s widow Rumi Biwi and Hasan’s wife Amina Biwi have been detained along with landlord and Trinamool leader Nurul Hasan Choudhury. The Opposition BJP and CPM demand a probe into the “Trinamool-terror nexus”.

The blast took place around noon on Thursday. Fire brigade and police believed they were responding to a domestic fire and were shocked to see two women brandishing revolvers and threatening to blow up the house if they dared enter.

In an instant, a ‘cylinder blast’ had transformed into a national security issue. Locals say they saw the two women burn several documents before they let police enter after an hour. Police took away the IEDs in sand-laden trucks. It took seven hours for a CID team from Kolkata to destroy them in controlled detonation the next morning.

When central agencies arrived on Friday afternoon, they were stunned to learn that the IEDs and RDX had been destroyed.

A four-member IB team was the first to arrive from New Delhi. An IB inspector alleged that Burdwan sadar police were not cooperating with them. “Neither the Burdwan SP nor the thana is helping us. They have destroyed all the bombs and explosives instead of retaining them for examination. The case will now become useless because of lack of evidence. The seized explosives would have been crucial in the case,” he said.

An NIA team arrived on Saturday, followed by a Central Forensic Science Laboratory team from Hyderabad. CFSL’s P D Ganesh said that the sand samples collected from the detonation site on the riverbank point to Indian Mujahideen. He said that police should have kept the explosives, and waited for them instead of destroying them. NIA and CFSL experts entered the house for the first time around 12pm on Saturday, two days after the blast.

The ruling Trinamool Congress is in a tight spot because the house served as its local party office. Trinamool leader Nurul Hasan has told police that he had given the first floor on rent to Shakeel Ahmed for Rs 18,000 three months ago and claims he does not know the others.

BJP district secretary Sandeep Nandy has demanded a CBI probe. “NIA and CBI should interrogate the three detainees and the injured person. The house is the local party office of Trinamool and you can see its flags even today. Burdwan SP SMH Meerza is trying to hush up the incident, claiming police have seized 15 crude bombs. He is trying to save the Trinamool leader. The Trinamool-terrorism link should be probed. This is a very serious matter,” Nandy said.

CPM leader Amal Haldar said burnt papers posters of Indian Mujahideen have been found. “The Trinamool-terror link has now been proved. We demand an NIA probe,” said Haldar.

Shakeel was in Mumbai for a long time before coming to Burdwan, sources say. IGP-CID R Shiva Kumar and IGP-western zone Siddhinath Gupta are interrogating the three detainees. “We have told the women to call their guardians. All 55 crude socket bombs have been destroyed by CID yesterday. The victims have no criminal background. The condition of the third victim is serious,” Meerza said.

Courtesy: TOI