Friday, August 8, 2008

Western Myths About "Peaceful, Stable, and Prosperous" India

Guest Post by Pankaj Mishra

In the past five years bomb attacks claimed by Islamist groups have killed hundreds across the Indian cities of Mumbai, Delhi, Jaipur, Varanasi, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Ahmedabad. An Indian Muslim was even involved in the failed assault on Glasgow airport in July last year. Yet George Bush reportedly introduced Manmohan Singh to his wife, Laura, as "the prime minister of India, a democracy which does not have a single al-Qaida member in a population of 150 million Muslims".

To be fair to Bush, he was only repeating a cliche deployed by Indian politicians and American pundits such as Thomas Friedman to promote India as a squeaky-clean ally of the United States. However, Fareed Zakaria, the Indian-born Muslim editor of Newsweek International, ought to know better. In his new book, The Post-American World, he describes India as a "powerful package" and claims it has been "peaceful, stable, and prosperous" since 1997 - a decade in which India and Pakistan came close to nuclear war, tens of thousands of Indian farmers took their own lives, Maoist insurgencies erupted across large parts of the country, and Hindu nationalists in Gujarat murdered more than 2,000 Muslims.

Apparently, no inconvenient truths are allowed to mar what Foreign Affairs, the foreign policy journal of America's elite, has declared a "roaring capitalist success story". Add Bollywood's singing and dancing stars, beauty queens and Booker prize-winning writers to the Tatas, the Mittals and the IT tycoons, and the picture of Indian confidence, vigour and felicity is complete.

The passive consumer of this image, already puzzled by recurring reports of explosions in Indian cities, may be startled to learn from the National Counterterrorism Centre (NCTC) in Washington that the death toll from terrorist attacks in India between January 2004 and March 2007 was 3,674, second only to that in Iraq. (In the same period, 1,000 died as a result of such attacks in Pakistan, the "most dangerous place on earth" according to the Economist, Newsweek and other vendors of geopolitical insight.)

To put it in plain language - which the NCTC is unlikely to use - India is host to some of the fiercest conflicts in the world. Since 1989 more than 80,000 have died in insurgencies in Kashmir and the northeastern states.

Manmohan Singh himself has called the Maoist insurgency centred on the state of Chhattisgarh the biggest internal security threat to India since independence. The Maoists, however, are confined to rural areas; their bold tactics haven't rattled Indian middle-class confidence in recent years as much as the bomb attacks in major cities have.

Politicians and the media routinely blame Pakistan for terrorist violence in India. It is likely that the ISI, Pakistan's intelligence agency, was involved in the bombings two weeks ago in Ahmedabad and Bangalore, which killed 46 people. But their scale and audacity also hints that the perpetrators have support networks within India.

The Indian elite's obsession with the "foreign hand" obscures the fact that the roots of some of the violence lie in the previous two decades of traumatic political and economic change, particularly the rise of Hindu nationalism, and the related growth of ruthlessness towards those left behind by India's expanding economy.

In 2006 a commission appointed by the government revealed that Muslims in India are worse educated and less likely to find employment than low-caste Hindus. Muslim isolation and despair is compounded by what B Raman, a hawkish security analyst, was moved after the most recent attacks to describe as the "inherent unfairness of the Indian criminal justice system".

To take one example, the names of the politicians, businessmen, officials and policemen who colluded in the anti-Muslim pogrom in Gujarat in 2002 are widely known. Some of them were caught on video, in a sting carried out last year by the weekly magazine Tehelka, proudly recalling how they murdered and raped Muslims. But, as Amnesty International pointed out in a recent report, justice continues to evade most victims and survivors of the violence. Tens of thousands still languish in refugee camps, too afraid to return to their homes.

In an article I wrote for the New York Times in 2003 I underlined the likely perils if the depressed and alienated minority of Muslims were to abandon their much-tested faith in the Indian political and legal system. Predictably Hindu nationalists, most of them resident in the UK and US, inundated my email inbox, accusing me of showing India in a bad light.

It is now clear that a tiny but militantly disaffected minority of Indian Muslims has begun to heed the international pied pipers of jihad. Furthermore, there is no effective defence against their malevolence. Conventional counter-terrorism strategies - increased police presence or greater surveillance - don't work in India's large, densely populated cities. Nor do draconian laws such as the Prevention of Terrorist Activities Act, which allowed police to hold suspects without charge for six months and was repealed in 2004.

Gung-ho members of the middle class clamour for Israeli-style retaliation against jihadi training camps in Pakistan. But India can "do a Lebanon" only by risking nuclear war with its neighbour; and Indian intelligence agencies are too inept to imitate Mossad's policy of targeted killings, which have reaped for Israel an endless supply of dedicated and resourceful enemies.

As we now know, the promoters of pre-emptive strikes and rendition have proved to be the most effective recruiting agents for jihad. In that sense the Indian government's inability to raise the ante, to pursue an endless war on terror or to order 150 million of its poorest citizens to reform their religion is a good thing. For it helps to maintain a necessary focus on terrorism as another symptom of a wider crisis that will be alleviated not so much by better policing, intelligence gathering or consultation with mullahs as by confronting socioeconomic frustrations and political grievances.

The absence of "tough" retaliation also leaves the jihadi terrorists incapable of dealing more than a few glancing blows to the Indian state. Certainly, a hysterical response of the kind that followed the 7/7 attacks in London - a crackdown on civil liberties and demonisation of Islam - would in India only have accelerated the radicalisation of the Muslim minority.

It is true that nihilist terrorism has no greater adversary than people who refuse to be terrorised or provoked. There have been remarkably few instances of retaliation against Muslims in the wake of terror attacks. In Mumbai, where nearly 200 people were killed by bomb explosions on commuter trains in 2006, normal life resumed even more quickly than in London in July 2005.

But the resilience of India's poor, who have no option but to get on with their lives, should not be taken for granted, or used to peddle India as a stable, business-friendly country. For their stoicism in the face of terror also expresses the bitter wisdom of the weak: that violence is far from being an aberration in the inequitable world our political and business elites have made.

· Pankaj Mishra is the author of Temptations of the West: How to Be Modern in India, Pakistan and Beyond

Here is a video clip about Maoists in India:


Anonymous said...

Interestingly I saw this piece on website.Its a commie views website right? India is on good growth trajectory and independent market surveys confirmed it to be so. We are 100% stable,peaceful not yet prosperous for a country of our size,with diversity in languages,ethnicity,religion etc. There is turbulence in jammu coz of Muslim appeasement(venomous Mufti family and opportunistic Abdullahs).Muslims have a very powerful constituency here coz of their block voting tactics and Congress Party almost wholly depend on them for votes.Hindus are not homogeneous in anyway except that they dont belong to abrahamic religions and votes for bread and butter issues of bijili, sadak, pani. Its very unfair to say that 2000 muslims were slaughtered by hindu activist like its kinda single massacre. It started with 3000 SIMI(ISI instigated organisation) people stopping a train and burning 65 hindu activists alive. That resulted in rioting where 790 muslims and 254 hindus where killed in riot not genocide.The Modi govt is accused for giving hindu activists a 3 day "retribution window" after which Army was called out and everything stopped. That was a questionable practice. But in hindsight, I think Muslims must know that Hindus are no longer "sheeps to slaughter".Now there are bomb blasts and stuff..and i don't know how much longer people are going to put up with Islamofascists. Another backlash in on the horizon.

Riaz Haq said...

Yes, this piece is by Pankaj Mishra published by Guardian yesterday, and it's attributed as such if you read to the end. And no, this is not a commie site. While I do not agree with the piece in its entirety, I do see that it points out how the Indian democracy is failing to serve majority of its ordinary citizens, including the poor in the rural areas as well as its Muslim minority who are being left out in its shaky march toward prosperity. What happened in Gujarat is an absolute blot on India's secular democracy. Defending it is even more shameful.

Anonymous said...

I am not trying to nick-pick or something..but can u explain what you mean by this.
"Muslim minority who are being left out in its shaky march toward prosperity"
Its not like muslims are black or something..easily distinguished and discriminated against. Only place I have seen that are banned for Muslims(or ppl of other religion) in India is inside 'some' temples.How can you say muslims are left out, nobody is taken with or left out.A democracy or an good representative system can only provide equal opportunity. And I can vouch for that(I live here..).
I will make a few observations why muslims are down on the growth index:
* the muslims live in a ghettoised manner and look with suspicion modern education. tonnes of saudi funds go into building mosques and madrassas in every nook and corner.
* govt is scared of any social reform measures (not development) in muslim areas..coz even polio vaccinations are suspected to be contraception stuff.
*there is a oppressive self-inflicted system among muslims where girls are married off early,no family planning
(my rich muslim friend has 9 siblings..this is slowly changing)
all middile class hindu families go only max 2 children(so more recourse concentration)..3 is rare..Lalo Prasad Yadav has 9 kids..and lives in Bihar..I am talking abt normal places..not stone age places..
* The "oppression talk" among a minority of muslims who are the highly educated(not highly wealthy) and impoverished madrassa going is coz they are highly intolerant of other people points of views or lifestyle.These are the type of ppl who blow up men,women, kids& hospitals.A Darul-Harb attitude.. i think this is a global prob among muslims not only in India. If u recall..recent Saudi Arabia initiated interfaith dialogue in Madrid..the crux of the meeting agenda is to convert all other religionists to islam..if u want u can look it up.
* The main friction of hindu-muslim riot is because muslims get disproportionate political power due to "block-voting".

Its very painful and provocative when you write like "muslims are oppressed in India" posts. I can rhetorically give you a money back guarantee if you visit India in person and POST "MUSLIMS ARE OPPRESSED and LEFT behind deliberately"..You may be talking about Sanchar committe report or something...BUT IRONICALLY THERE IS A LOT OF PEOPLE HERE WHO PROFIT GREATLY IF THE IS A TALK THAT "muslims are oppressed" and create paranoia in minds of muslims. But as the saying goes, "even paranoid people have enemies".

Riaz Haq said...

There is no question that progress in India is very uneven, with the highly disproportionate benefits of growth going to a small number of people. It has some of the richest as well the poorest people in the world. It is home to the largest number of impoverished people and the highest population of undernourished children. It has serious gender bias issues that manifest as growing number of female infanticides. Such inequities breed resentment and lead to major social strife. History is filled with such examples.

All of the independent published reports and Indian government data and my own personal observations during my visits to India indicate that Muslims remain far behind even the untouchables in terms of education and economic status. Muslims do not have the benefit of any affirmative action programs that have helped untouchables in India and African-Americans in the US.

As India matures in its democracy, it'll have to deal with such inequities effectively to ensure smooth sailing. It'll need to be proactive in helping its less fortunate citizens including women, farmers and Muslim minorities.
It'll not be helpful to perpetuate the stereotypes to blame the victims, as it'll only serve to exacerbate the problems.

Anonymous said...

I give up! I think u r not understanding wat i am saying..
*I not suggesting that there is no inequality
*You can even spot inequality in india by satellite maps.
* All I am saying is the inequality and poverty is by default not by design.
*There is equal opportunity for all means nobody is barred from doing something they wanna 2..that doesnt mean adequate no: of schools with teachers or healthcare r there.
*Bad attitude doesn't help either.
The bad indices for Muslims in general is coz of attitude towards modernity and western education.

u may know that the icon of educated youth is former president and space scientist APJ Abdul Kalam.

If u have visited India and still holds those views i have nothing to add..
like saying goes when all you have is hammer everything looks like a nail.

Riaz Haq said...

I received a long commentary via email from Razzak L. It may be disturbing to some and interesting to others. Here it is:

"I am probably older than all of you. As a child grew among Hindus (there was no Pakistan in my child hood), As a young professional studied and Worked among Hindus in England and worked among Hindus in USA. A Total of 40 year mileage before settling back in my old country to get older and die..During this period read Hindu's Religious Epics Mahabharata, Ramayana and Geeta. Then Bibles and Jews' Torah, and of course read English translation of Quran at 11by a British translator named Sell.(Gandhi had recommended it in his Biography) Saw carnage on the Punjab Border during Partition in preadolescence. BY my being with Hindus I have learned a few of their provincial languages which I can read and write with the fluency of native. If I drop my First two names and use only last name I immediately get metamorphosed in to a Hindu Baniya. And I have passed as one in many Hindu "Western" groups and ate at Temples without difficulty.

Some examples:

* Hindus are keeping their prejudice within their country !!!!: (Don't forget daily riots in Bombay in 1946 and Gujarat Carnage 4 years back).
* Place: London University Dorm (1965): A few Hindu PH.D students, Doctors and Intellectuals came to meet my Hindu Room Partner. He was not here. I introduced myself with my last name and they immediately assumed me as a Hindu. The conversations and discussions which followed for 2 hours were venomous against Muslims to the degree which would put Nazis to shame when talking against 1939 Jews.
* In US, a Hindu Family (1975) in my neighborhood would not touch a glass of water in my house hold.
* The new present Lady President of India had in her First speech this year had, asserted that Hindu ladies were wearing Sarees and covering their heads because Mughal soldiers would abduct and rape them. Muslim ruled India for 700 years. Muslim Kings married Hindu princesses and brought in the concept of Hijabs, and Burqas. Hindu women covered whole body contours with a multiplied robs called sarees Nevertheless The Lady President was perhaps telling truth. The old Temple's sculptures around India show statutes of cloth-less men and women in most graphic and erotic sexual postures which tourists would avoid to see with their daughters around.
* Hindus don't speak of their religion in foreign countries because 25% (300m) of 1 B population is religiosly untouchable called chudras or achhuts. Muslims another 15% are called Mallechs ( =dirty foreigners)-2nd Rates.
* 1986: New Delhi: Went to attend a Seminar. Reached Sofital Surya a 5 Star Hotel (thanks to Indian Ministry of Irrigation, they had fixed only Rs 350 per night for neighboring Cylone, Pakistan and Bangladesh participants). Got up in the morning and picked up the news paper from under the door. There was Hindu Muslim Riot Curfew in 4 Cities (Babri Masjid thing), including Old Delhi, One in Assam asking for a New State, one in Tribal area of Jarkhand bordering Bihar, UP and W. Bengal, asking for a new stae and daily revolt in Kashmir. What a way to start the the day!!!
* Regarding Hijab of Sarees claimed by the lady President (Rashtrpatni?). Now Hollywood has taken second "puritan" place in nudity and erotic dances after Bollywood. It cost $ 2 to ask a Hindu support actress to shed her cloths for camera, takes perhaps $1200 for a high profile chick to raise her hemline 4 inch above knee and drop her blouse 3 inch below contours' top line. All compitible with Hindu's ancient religious culture come back after Mughals' had put a screw on it for 7 Centuries and British packed and went home 1947,.
* One jucy story to turn the subject in a light vein: (1977): Place: Philadeplphia, PA Railway staion Platform. A beautiful 30'sh lady with absolutely white set of teeth with a 3 year old girl, in Sarree was asking the Black Station Attendemnt perhaps about some train connections. I approached her. She wanted to reach her home at Terrytown, upstate NY. We sat on the adjacent seats in Phili-NYC train. I intoduced myself by with my Hindu name for which I had no problem because I could speak her provincial langauge with more fluency than her. Then came Hindu Muslim topic. The poison spilling out of her, I had never seen such worse coming out of a pretty lady. A mischievious thought stuck me.

My car was parked at Penn Central Staion in NY City. She had to go to Grand Central Station to get a train to Terrytown which was 3 hours drive one way from New York City.It was 11at night time. I volunteered to drive her to Terrytown, and we became a little more frank in 3 hour drive (Child was sleeping). Learnt Husband was continuous traveller to Europe and she was not a happy wife.. Got her phone. We then after carried on for 2 years. My only problem was that I had to keep my waist covered with a towel before and after the love.
So much about Muslims raping the Hindu women."

JazzianButt said...

i am not in politics at all, but still i feels that india is not a peaceful county at all!!!
there are lots and lots of internal problems in india e.g

Muslim-hindu conflicts
hindu-crist conflicts
conflict on Kashmir
7 bomb blasts at same day in benglore and other cities.

and many other factors are there. so india is not a peaceful state at all.

Anonymous said...

Doesn't it impress you Pakistanis that India, a much more populous and far poorer land than Pakistan, nevertheless manages to reain a demiocracy?

I have never had any illusions that India is economically better off than Pakistan. That is an absurd Indian myth indeed. It has alaways been poorer, and manty decades of economic misanagement by the Nehru family held it back. Even Pakistan did much better.

But so what?

Riaz Haq said...

BBC News on Hindu extremists targeting Christian orphans in Orissa today:

Police in the Indian state of Orissa say suspected Hindu extremists have set fire to an orphanage run by Christian missionaries, burning a woman to death.

The mob reportedly ordered people out of building before setting it alight.

But the woman - a cook at the orphanage - was thrown into the burning building when she tried to stop them from attacking the children.

Local Hindus went on the rampage after the killing on Saturday of one of their leaders.

His supporters suspect Christians were responsible, but the police believe he was killed by Maoist rebels.

The religious leader, Swami Laxamanananda Saraswati, was at the centre of controversy late last year.

Hindus accused Christians of attacking him and police were called in to restore order in the ensuing violence.

Hindu extremists have targeted Christians in Orissa before. Nine years ago an Australian missionary and his two sons were burnt alive by a mob that set their car on fire.

Riaz Haq said...

Last year, Indian Planning Commission member Syeda Hameed acknowledged that India is worse than Bangladesh and Pakistan when it comes to nourishment and is showing little improvement.

Speaking at a conference on "Malnutrition an emergency: what it costs the nation", she said even Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during interactions with the Planning Commission has described malnourishment as the "blackest mark".

"I should not compare. But countries like Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka are better," she said. The conference was organized last year by the Confederation of Indian Industry and the Ministry of Development of Northeastern Region.

According to India's Family Health Survey, almost 46 percent of children under the age of three are undernourished - an improvement of just one percent in the last seven years. This is only a shade better than Sub-Saharan Africa where about 35 percent of children are malnourished.

India has recently been described as a "nutritional weakling" by a British report.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an LA Times report on the vicious cycle of poverty in rural India:

India has long been plagued by unscrupulous moneylenders who exploit impoverished farmers. But with crops failing more frequently, farmers are left even more desperate and vulnerable.

Reporting from Jhansi, India - She stops for long stretches, lost in thought, trying to make sense of how she's been left half a person.

Sunita, 18, who requested that her family name not be used to preserve her chance of getting married, said her nightmare started in early 2007 after her father took a loan for her sister's wedding. The local moneylender charged 60% annual interest.

When the family was unable to make the exorbitant interest payments, she said, the moneylender forced himself on her, not once or twice but repeatedly over many months.

"I used to cry a lot and became a living corpse," she said.

Sunita's allegations, which the moneylender denies, cast a harsh light on widespread abuses in rural India, where a highly bureaucratic banking system, corruption and widespread illiteracy allow unethical people with extra income to exploit poor villagers, activists say.

But here in the Bundelkhand region in central India that is among the nation's more impoverished areas, the problem is exacerbated by climate change and environmental mismanagement, they say, suggesting that ecological degradation and global warming are changing human life in more ways than just elevated sea levels and melting glaciers.

"Before, a bad year would lead to a good year," said Bharat Dogra, a fellow at New Delhi's Institute of Social Sciences specializing in the Bundelkhand region. "Now climate change is giving us seven or eight bad years in a row, putting local people deeper and deeper in debt. I expect the situation will only get worse."

An estimated 200,000 Indian farmers have ended their lives since 1997, including many in this area, largely because of debt.

A 2007 study of 13 Bundelkhand villages found that up to 45% of farming families had forfeited their land, and in extreme cases some were forced into indentured servitude. Tractor companies, land mafia and bankers routinely collude, encouraging farmers to take loans they can't afford, a 2008 report by India's Supreme Court found, knowing they'll default and be forced to sell their land.

"While a few people borrow for social status or a desire to buy a new motorcycle, in most cases it's for sheer survival," Dogra said. "When they see their children starving after several years of crop failures, many feel they have no choice."

Recent amendments to a 1976 law in Uttar Pradesh state have increased the maximum punishment for unauthorized money-lending to three years in jail, up from six months, but many loan sharks are well-connected and elude prosecution. The law specifies that lenders must obtain a state license, but the requirements for obtaining it can be vague, a situation that critics say gives bureaucrats significant leeway to enact arbitrary rules and exact questionable fees.

"I take occasional loans when we're desperate," says Jhagdu, 50, a farmer in Barora, 60 miles south of Jhansi, sitting on his haunches with teeth stained red from chewing betel nut. "When there's no rain, like now, you can't repay for a year, so the amounts can double."

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an interesting commentary by Kapil Komireddi published in the Guardian earlier this year:

Indian Muslims in particular have rarely known a life uninterrupted by communal conflict or unimpaired by poverty and prejudice. Their grievances are legion, and the list of atrocities committed against them by the Indian state is long. In 2002 at least 1,000 Muslims were slaughtered by Hindu mobs in the western state of Gujarat in what was the second state-sponsored pogrom in India (Sikhs were the object of the first, in 1984).

For decades Indian intellectuals have claimed that religion, particularly Hinduism, is perfectly compatible with secularism. Indian secularism, they said repeatedly, is not a total rejection of religion by the state but rather an equal appreciation of every faith. Even though no faith is in principle privileged by the state, this approach made it possible for religion to find expression in the public sphere, and, since Hindus in India outnumber adherents of every other faith, Hinduism dominated it. Almost every government building in India has a prominently positioned picture of a Hindu deity. Hindu rituals accompany the inauguration of all public works, without exception.

The novelist Shashi Tharoor tried to burnish this certifiably sectarian phenomenon with a facile analogy: Indian Muslims, he wrote, accept Hindu rituals at state ceremonies in the same spirit as teetotallers accept champagne in western celebrations. This self-affirming explanation is characteristic of someone who belongs to the majority community. Muslims I interviewed took a different view, but understandably, they were unwilling to protest for the fear of being labelled as "angry Muslims" in a country famous for its tolerant Hindus.

The failure of secularism in India – or, more accurately, the failure of the Indian model of secularism – may be just one aspect of the gamut of failures, but it has the potential to bring down the country. Secularism in India rests entirely upon the goodwill of the Hindu majority. Can this kind of secularism really survive a Narendra Modi as prime minister? As Hindus are increasingly infected by the kind of hatred that Varun Gandhi's speech displayed, maybe it is time for Indian secularists to embrace a new, more radical kind of secularism that is not afraid to recognise and reject the principal source of this strife: religion itself.

Riaz Haq said...

India(49) has more than twice as many billionaires as Japan (22) which is a far richer country.

Indian and UNICEF officials concur that Indians are much worse off than Pakistanis and Bangladeshis in basic nutrition and sanitation.

Meanwhile, India is worse than Bangladesh and Pakistan when it comes to nourishment and is showing little improvement in the area despite big money being spent on it, says Planning Commission member Syeda Hameed.

India might be an emerging economic power, but it is way behind Pakistan, Bangladesh and even Afghanistan in providing basic sanitation facilities, a key reason behind the death of 2.1 million children under five in the country.Lizette Burgers, chief water and environment sanitation of the UNICEF, said India is making progress in providing sanitation but it lags behind most of the other countries in South Asia.

Most of the 8-9% growth has fattened the bottom line of a small percentage of India's population, with the rest getting poorer. India's Gini Index has increased from about 32 to 36 from 2000 to 2007.

India now has 100 million more people living below the poverty line than in 2004, according to official estimates released on Sunday. The poverty rate has risen to 37.2 percent of the population from 27.5 percent in 2004, according to a Reuters report.

The rising gap between abject poverty and obscene wealth in India is fueling anger, and insurgencies such as the Maoists'.

Riaz Haq said...

More people in India, the world’s second most crowded country, have access to a mobile telephone than to a toilet, according to a set of recommendations released today by United Nations University (UNU) on how to cut the number of people with inadequate sanitation.

“It is a tragic irony to think that in India, a country now wealthy enough that roughly half of the people own phones, about half cannot afford the basic necessity and dignity of a toilet,” said Zafar Adeel, Director of United Nations University's Institute for Water, Environment and Health (IWEH), and chair of UN-Water, a coordinating body for water-related work at 27 UN agencies and their partners.

India has some 545 million cell phones, enough to serve about 45 per cent of the population, but only about 366 million people or 31 per cent of the population had access to improved sanitation in 2008.

The recommendations released today are meant to accelerate the pace towards reaching the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) on halving the proportion of people without access to safe water and basic sanitation.

If current global trends continue, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) predict there will be a shortfall of 1 billion persons from that sanitation goal by the target date of 2015.

“Anyone who shirks the topic as repugnant, minimizes it as undignified, or considers unworthy those in need should let others take over for the sake of 1.5 million children and countless others killed each year by contaminated water and unhealthy sanitation,” said Mr. Adeel.

Included in the nine recommendations are the suggestions to adjust the MDG target from a 50 per cent improvement by 2015 to 100 per cent coverage by 2025; and to reassign official development assistance equal to 0.002 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) to sanitation.

The UNU report cites a rough cost of $300 to build a toilet, including labour, materials and advice.

“The world can expect, however, a return of between $3 and $34 for every dollar spent on sanitation, realized through reduced poverty and health costs and higher productivity – an economic and humanitarian opportunity of historic proportions,” added Mr. Adeel.

Mayraj said...

He wasn't just a Muslim phobe, he was latino phobe as well.

This is the guy Fareed Zakaria admires????
The Hispanic Challenge
By Samuel P. Huntington

Two articles by two reactionaries. I have not read Samuel Huntington, but his clash of civilizations is famous for its belief that he and others like him are superior to Muslims. I thought FZ was strange. Now I know who taught him.

Remembering Samuel Huntington
A man of towering intellect, who never shied away from going for the jugular.

Samuel Huntington's Legacy
Why his works on world order -- political and otherwise -- are still relevant today.

Riaz Haq said...

Here are some excerpts from an Op Ed in The Hindu on growing disconnect between mass media and mass reality:

•The mass reality in India (which has over 70 per cent of its people living in the rural areas), is that rural India is in the midst of the worst agrarian crisis in four decades. Millions of livelihoods in the rural areas have been damaged or destroyed in the last 15 years as a result of this crisis, because of the predatory commercialisation of the countryside and the reduction of all human values to exchange value. As a result, lakhs of farmers have committed suicide and millions of people have migrated, and are migrating, from the rural areas to the cities and towns in search of jobs that are not there. They have moved towards a status that is neither that of a ‘worker' nor that of a ‘farmer.' Many of them end up as domestic labourers, or even criminals. We have been pushed towards corporate farming, a process in which farming is taken out of the hands of the farmers and put in the hands of corporates. This process is not being achieved with guns, tanks, bulldozers or lathis. It is done by making farming unviable for the millions of small family farm-holders, due to the high cost of inputs such as seed, fertilizer and power, and uneconomical prices.
•India was ranked fourth in the list of countries with the most number of dollar billionaires, but 126th in human development. This means it is better to be a poor person in Bolivia (the poorest nation in South America) or Guatemala or Gabon rather than in India. Here, some 83.6 crore people (of a total of 110-120 crore) in India survive on less than Rs.20 a day.
•Eight Indian States in India are economically poorer than African states, said a recent Oxford University study. Life expectancy in India is lower than in Bolivia, Kazakhstan and Mongolia.
•According to the National Sample Survey Organisation, the average monthly per capita expenditure of the Indian farm household is Rs.503. Of that, some 55 per cent is spent on food, 18 per cent on fuel, clothing and footwear, leaving precious little to be spent on education or health.
•A report of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations shows that between 1995-97 and 1999-2001, India added more newly hungry millions than the rest of the world taken together. The average rural family is consuming 100 kg less of food than it was consuming earlier. Indebtedness has doubled in the past decade. Cultivation costs have increased exorbitantly and farming incomes have collapsed, leading to wide-scale suicides by farmers.
•While there were 512 accredited journalists covering the Lakme India Fashion Week event, there were only six journalists to cover farmer suicides in Vidharbha. In that Fashion Week programme, the models were displaying cotton garments, while the men and women who grew that cotton were killing themselves at a distance of an hour's flight from Nagpur in the Vidharbha region. Nobody told that story except one or two journalists, locally.
Is this a responsible way for the Indian media to function? Should the media turn a Nelson's eye to the harsh economic realities facing over 75 per cent of our people, and concentrate on some ‘Potemkin villages' where all is glamour and show business? Are not the Indian media behaving much like Queen Marie Antoinette, who famously said that if people had no bread, they should eat cake.
No doubt, sometimes the media mention farmers' suicides, the rise in the price of essential commodities and so on, but such coverage is at most 5 to 10 per cent of the total. The bulk of the coverage goes to showing cricket, the life of film stars, pop music, fashion parades, astrology…

Riaz Haq said...

Some 700 people have been killed in more than half a dozen militant attacks in Mumbai since 1993, including the horrific assault in November 2008. And the violence shows no signs of abating, according to Soutik Biswas as of the BBC who traces the origins of Mumbai violence to anti-Muslim riots by Hindu fanatics in early 1993 after Babri Masjid demolition by the BJP-Sangh Parivar-led Hindu mobs:

The most commonly peddled narrative is that by attacking its much touted financial and entertainment capital, you deal a body blow to India and get global media attention. But that is only a small part of the story. Many residents will tell you that Mumbai began going downhill in early 1993 when it convulsed in religious rioting and murder for two weeks following the demolition of the Babri mosque by Hindu fanatics in December 1992. At least 900 people died, mostly Muslims. Two months after the riots, the underworld set off series of bombs to avenge the riots, killing more than 250 people. Many of them were Muslims too.

That is when the rule of law broke down, many say irretrievably. A 1998 two-volume report on the religious riots was ignored by successive governments, who failed to prosecute politicians and policemen involved in the rioting. At the same time, the authorities were seen to proceed swiftly with prosecuting those involved in the bombings, leading to allegations that the government was anti-Muslim. The seeds of mistrust between the two largest communities in India's most cosmopolitan city had been firmly planted.

The image of Mumbai as a liberal city ruled by law and reason has long turned out to be a chimera, according to Gyan Prakash, author of Mumbai Fables, a much acclaimed book on the restless city. Over the years, say many analysts, the state's authority has been eroded as a nexus of greedy politicians, a thriving underworld, unscrupulous property developers and a discredited police force seem to have been ruling the roost, undermining institutions.

Last month, gunmen shot dead the city's leading crime journalist on a rainy morning and zipped away openly on their motorbikes. A block of flats meant for war widows was allegedly grabbed by politicians, retired army officers and other such privileged folks, until the courts stepped in. "Conspiracies hatched by politicians, builders, criminals, Hindu militants and Muslim dons appeared to be the underlying dynamic of the city. Anger and violence ruled the street," wrote Mr Prakash of the city in the mid-1990s. Not much has changed - the poisonous cocktail endures, and makes the city easy to attack. The rich in Mumbai, as a friend says, live with one foot in New York and one foot in the city. The poor and the middle-class bleed.

Behind the deceptive facade of its glitzy nightlife, fancy ocean-front flats owned by film stars and businessmen, and India's most expensive building, owned by its richest man, Mumbai is a tired and bitter city, being eaten up from within. The majority of its people live in slums, and millions live on the streets. This cannot make for a very happy place, and the city's "resilient spirit" has now become the cruellest Indian cliche. And what attracts religious extremists to launch attacks here? They are appalled, says the city's most famous chronicler, Suketu Mehta, that Mumbai stands for "lucre, profane dreams and indiscriminate openness"....

Riaz Haq said...

Lack of water and toilets are a major problem for Anna Hazare supporters in New Delhi, according to media reports:

As droves of people flocked to Ramlila Maidan to voice their support for Anna Hazare, lack of water and sanitation facilities at the venue tested the resolve of quite a few supporters.

With the protests probably stretching over more than two weeks, protesters hope that arrangements will be made soon for clean drinking water and medicines to alleviate the suffering of the people flocking to support the movement.

According to the agreement reached between Team Anna and police, the organisers have to arrange for drinking water, medical aid and mobile toilets.

A protester at the venue said, "There is no water and toilets are in a deplorable condition. People, especially women, who have come from outside Delhi are suffering terribly here."

Scarcity of water and sanitation facilities at the venue have created trouble for the Gandhian's supporters, with one fainting and being rushed to a hospital.

One Vishnu Dutt Sharma from Uttar Pradesh who is fasting in the city collapsed in the morning and was rushed to LNJP hospital where he is being treated. "He did not have food or water for three days. He fell unconscious," an agitator said.

A doctor at the venue said the basic problem was scarcity and the quality of water the protesters were drinking.

"There is no proper arrangement for water supply and people are not carrying bottled water. So they are facing problems," he said.

To provide relief, a group of doctors from Indian Medical Association have set up camp at the venue to ensure round-the-clock emergency medical care free of cost to the supporters.

Dr AP Singh of IMA said, "We have volunteered to provide free medical services because we support the cause of Hazare and his team. Corruption affects everybody, including us and we feel that if we can contribute in some way to this movement, we would have done our part."

Dr Sachin Bhargav, another doctor, said, "we are providing medicines free of cost, and paying for them from our own pockets, because we believe in Anna's cause, and sympathise with the poor people who have come here from villages all over India."

Armed with medicines for common ailments like dehydration, gastro-enteritis and fever, the doctors have treated over 400 patients since the protest began at Ramlila Maidan, and referred around 10 patients to nearby hospitals.

The doctors have put their own practise at stake to volunteer at the Maidan.

"The government is not providing proper facilities because it wants the people to leave as soon as possible. Despite this, people won't leave, and we won't rest till the government agrees to Hazare's demands," Amina Khan, a nurse, alleged.

The doctors are also playing a part in ensuring that the crowd doesn't go out of control. Singh said, "If any supporter becomes too aggressive or starts hyperventilating, volunteers bring him to us, and we give them medicines to calm them down, thus preventing any untoward incident."

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a critical analysis of Tom Friedman's "Flat World" on India:

In the first chapter of his bestseller on globalization, The World Is Flat, three-time Pulitzer Prize–winning foreign affairs columnist for The New York Times Thomas Friedman suggests that his repertoire of achievements also includes being heir to Christopher Columbus. According to Friedman, he has followed in the footsteps of the fifteenth-century icon by making an unexpected discovery regarding the shape of the world during an encounter with “people called Indians.”

Friedman’s Indians reside in India proper, of course, not in the Caribbean, and include among their ranks CEO Nandan Nilekani of Infosys Technologies Limited in Bangalore, where Friedman has come in the early twenty-first century to investigate phenomena such as outsourcing and to exult over the globalization-era instructions he receives at the KGA Golf Club downtown: “Aim at either Microsoft or IBM.” Nilekani unwittingly plants the flat-world seed in Friedman’s mind by commenting, in reference to technological advancements enabling other countries to challenge presumed American hegemony in certain business sectors: “Tom, the playing field is being leveled.”

The Columbus-like discovery process culminates with Friedman’s conversion of one of the components of Nilekani’s idiomatic expression into a more convenient synonym: “What Nandan is saying, I thought to myself, is that the playing field is being flattened… Flattened? Flattened? I rolled that word around in my head for a while and then, in the chemical way that these things happen, it just popped out: My God, he’s telling me the world is flat!”

No compelling justification is ever provided for how a war against deterrables will solve the problem of undeterrables who by definition cannot be deterred.

The viability of the new metaphor has already been called into question by Friedman’s assessment two pages prior to the flat-world discovery that the Infosys campus is in fact “a different world,” given that the rest of India is not characterized by things like a “massive resort-size swimming pool” and a “fabulous health club.” No attention is meanwhile paid to the possibility that a normal, round earth—on which all circumferential points are equidistant from the center—might more effectively convey the notion of the global network Friedman maintains is increasingly equalizing human opportunity.

An array of disclaimers and metaphorical qualifications begins to surface around page 536, such that it ultimately appears that the book might have been more appropriately titled The World Is Sometimes Indefinitely Maybe Partially Flat—But Don’t Worry, I Know It’s Not, or perhaps The World Is Flat, Except for the Part That Is Un-Flat and the Twilight Zone Where Half-Flat People Live. As for his announcement that “unlike Columbus, I didn’t stop with India,” Friedman intends this as an affirmation of his continued exploration of various parts of the globe and not as an admission of his continuing tendency to err—which he does first and foremost by incorrectly attributing the discovery that the earth is round to the geographically misguided Italian voyager.

Leaving aside for the moment the blunders that plague Friedman’s writing, the comparison with Columbus is actually quite apt in other ways, as well. For instance, both characters might be accused of transmitting a similar brand of hubris, nurtured by their respective societies, according to which “the Other” is permitted existence only via the discoverer-hero himself. While Columbus is credited with enabling preexisting populations on the American continent to enter the realm of true existence by reporting them to European civilization, Friedman assumes responsibility for the earth’s inhabitants in general without literally having to encounter them.

Riaz Haq said...

Here are some excerpts of an Asia Times review of a book titled "The Imperial Messenger" criticizing NY Times columnist Tom Friedman's work:

A new book on the influential New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman sets out to debunk his hawkish, neo-liberal views, accusing him of overt racism, factual errors and skewed judgments on issues ranging from the United States invasion of Iraq to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Deconstructing one of the country's highest-paid journalists, Belen Fernandez's The Imperial Messenger: Thomas Friedman at Work presents a comprehensive overview of the man - and three-time Pulitzer Prize winner - she describes as "characterized by reduction of complex international phenomena to simplistic rhetoric and theorems that rarely withstand the test of reality".
The Imperial Messenger looks at Friedman's obsession with US global dominance, his Orientalism vis-a-vis the Arab/Muslim world, and his special relationship with Israel.
Fernandez explained that the first chapter, "America", incorporates Friedman's "cheerleading of punitive economic systems at home and abroad" while the "Special Relationship" chapter delves into the inconsistencies of his persona as a serious critic of the Jewish state.

"His criticism, of course, is limited to intermittently encouraging the Israelis to slightly curtail settlements," Fernandez told Inter Press Service (IPS). "Not because he cares about the plight of non-settlers, but because he wants to avoid a situation in which Palestinians demand equal rights in a multiethnic democracy."

As an example, Fernandez cites his advocacy of the war in Iraq "to create a free, open and progressive model in the heart of the Arab/Muslim world to promote the ideas of tolerance, pluralism and democratization".

She says Friedman wrote this after having said in 2002 that "unless the US encourage(s) alternative energies that will slowly bring the price of oil down and force Arab/Muslim countries to open up and adapt to modernity - we can invade Iraq once a week and it's not going to unleash democracy in the Arab world".

In the same year, Friedman classifies the invasion of Iraq as "the most important task worth doing and worth debating", even while admitting that it "would be a huge, long, costly task - if it is doable at all, and I am not embarrassed to say that I don't know if it is".

In the "Arab/Muslim World" chapter, she quotes Friedman as concluding that the "short answer" for why the US invaded Iraq and Afghanistan in response to 9/11 "is because Pakistan has nukes that we fear and Saudi Arabia has oil that we crave".
After stripping down columns, articles and his books, Fernandez said her perception of Friedman worsened from beginning to end.

"I realized how truly criminal his behavior is, whereas before I had thought of him more as a somewhat amusing purveyor of mixed metaphors who had by accident ascended to the post of New York Times foreign affairs columnist," she told IPS.

"The New York Times is totally complicit in Friedman's crimes, just as it was complicit in selling the whole business of the Iraq war. The degenerate state of the mainstream media, which actively sides with corporate profit over human life, is simply a testament to the importance of alternative media outlets."

Riaz Haq said...

Here are excerpts of a Bloomberg piece by Indian journalist Pankaj Mishra on Pakistan's "unplanned revolution":

...I also saw much in this recent visit that did not conform to the main Western narrative for South Asia -- one in which India is steadily rising and Pakistan rapidly collapsing.

Born of certain geopolitical needs and exigencies, this vision was always most useful to those who have built up India as an investment destination and a strategic counterweight to China, and who have sought to bribe and cajole Pakistan’s military-intelligence establishment into the war on terrorism.

Seen through the narrow lens of the West’s security and economic interests, the great internal contradictions and tumult within these two large nation-states disappear. In the Western view, the credit-fueled consumerism among the Indian middle class appears a much bigger phenomenon than the extraordinary Maoist uprising in Central India.
Traveling through Pakistan, I realized how much my own knowledge of the country -- its problems as well as prospects -- was partial, defective or simply useless. Certainly, truisms about the general state of crisis were not hard to corroborate. Criminal gangs shot rocket-propelled grenades at each other and the police in Karachi’s Lyari neighborhood. Shiite Hazaras were being assassinated in Balochistan every day. Street riots broke out in several places over severe power shortages -- indeed, the one sound that seemed to unite the country was the groan of diesel generators, helping the more affluent Pakistanis cope with early summer heat.
Gangsters with Kalashnikovs

In this eternally air-conditioned Pakistan, meanwhile, there exist fashion shows, rock bands, literary festivals, internationally prominent writers, Oscar-winning filmmakers and the bold anchors of a lively new electronic media. This is the glamorously liberal country upheld by English-speaking Pakistanis fretting about their national image in the West (some of them might have been gratified by the runaway success of Hello magazine’s first Pakistani edition last week).

But much less conspicuous and more significant, other signs of a society in rapid socioeconomic and political transition abounded. The elected parliament is about to complete its five- year term -- a rare event in Pakistan -- and its amendments to the constitution have taken away some if not all of the near- despotic prerogatives of the president’s office.

Political parties are scrambling to take advantage of the strengthening ethno-linguistic movements for provincial autonomy in Punjab and Sindh provinces. Young men and women, poor as well as upper middle class, have suddenly buoyed the anti-corruption campaign led by Imran Khan, an ex-cricketer turned politician.

After radically increasing the size of the consumerist middle class to 30 million, Pakistan’s formal economy, which grew only 2.4 percent in 2011, currently presents a dismal picture. But the informal sector of the economy, which spreads across rural and urban areas, is creating what the architect and social scientist Arif Hasan calls Pakistan’s “unplanned revolution.” Karachi, where a mall of Dubai-grossness recently erupted near the city’s main beach, now boasts “a first world economy and sociology, but with a third world wage and political structure.”

Even in Lyari, Karachi’s diseased old heart, where young gangsters with Kalashnikovs lurked in the alleys, billboards vended quick proficiency in information technology and the English language. Everywhere, in the Salt Range in northwestern Punjab as well as the long corridor between Lahore and Islamabad, were gated housing colonies, private colleges, fast- food restaurants and other markers of Pakistan’s breakneck suburbanization....

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Wall Street Journal story on the stunting of human capital growth in India:

At least 3,000 children as young as six are being recruited by insurgent groups across India, according to a new report published by a human rights group.

The New Delhi-based Asian Centre for Human Rights says the practice of using child soldiers is “rampant,” with the majority recruited in Maoist-affected states like Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and West Bengal.

Maoist rebels, also known as Naxalites, have been described by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as India’s greatest internal security challenge. They assert control over vast areas of land in central and eastern India. The insurgency was launched in the late 1960s in West Bengal. The rebels say they are fighting for the rights of indigenous tribes and the rural poor, and their ultimate goal is to create a communist society.