After a Nuit Debout (night standing up), We Wake Up with a Political Strike: Charles Reeve

Guest post by CHARLES REEVE

[Note from Livia Bocadacce: During 2016, social movements in France and in India have been huge and tough. In both countries, youth, workers, students, oppressed people fought against governments who disregarded their desires of freedom and decent life, and have faced violent repression. But in France, we don’t hear about Indian struggles such as Una Dalits’ movement or Hyderabad and JNU students’ protests. In India, the very strong French movement of last spring, called “Nuits Debout”, has aroused very poor coverage. Because we believe we have to learn from the crossed experiences of fighting, because we refuse a globalization only based on trade and forced migrations, because we hope a globalization that could encourage the circulation of critical thinking and collectiveaction repertoire, we proposed this article on the Nuits debout to Kafila. Hoping it will generate debates and further interests. ]

Nuit Debout, image courtesy gaucherevolutionnaire.fr
Nuit Debout, image courtesy gaucherevolutionnaire.fr

After a Nuit debout (night standing up), we wake up with a political strike (1)

Living in a moment is always pleasanter than writing about it— it’s always risky to draw conclusions about situations still evolving or to speculate about what they will become. Going on for now over three months [when this post was written – AN], Nuit debout is a new kind of spontaneous, social movement along the lines of « Occupy » and Spain’s « M15 » movement. It has taken on an unanticipated size and importance, all the while developing characteristic features of French society. I won’t go back over its development or its collective spirit. The two texts already published in the May and June issues of the Brooklyn Rail, the first by Anouk Colombani and the second by Ferdinand Cazalis et Emilien Bernard (CQFD, n°143, mai 2016) have provided sufficient detail and clarity to let us grasp the essence and dynamism of these mobilizations.

Continue reading “After a Nuit Debout (night standing up), We Wake Up with a Political Strike: Charles Reeve”

Revisiting the demonetization survey: Juhi Tyagi

Guest Post by JUHI TYAGI

In light of the recent book, I Am A Troll: Inside the Secret World of the BJP’s Digital Diary authored by journalist Swati Chaturvedi which describes the working of the BJP’s media’s cell to systematically undermine dissenting opinions, we need to revisit other, seemingly innocuous, government media campaigns such as the demonetization survey and its use as a tool in bending into shape public opinion.

The demonetization survey was officially launched on 22nd November 2016 on the NM app by the government. Its purpose was to receive feedback from the people themselves on the validity of withdrawing 86 percent of the currency in circulation to address two problems: that of black money and counterfeit currency. The survey consisted of nine questions, with the tenth providing space for sharing suggestions. The questions dealt with people’s beliefs about the existence of black money in India and on its need to be eliminated. On their opinions of the government’s efforts against corruption, and more particularly, on the effectiveness of demonetization in ridding society of black money, all corruption and terrorism while creating opportunities for higher education, health care and affordable housing for all.

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The Indian Newspaper Industry – Response to Times of India Editorial: JAC for Implementation of Majithia Wage Board

The following is a response by M J Pandey on behalf of the JOINT ACTION COMMITTEE FOR IMPLEMENTATION OF MAJITHIA WAGE BOARD, to a Times of India editorial calling for “reasonable tax and labour policies”.

With reference to the unsigned editorial ‘Indian Newspaper industry: Red Ink splashed across the bottom line’ (Times of India, Jan 19, 2017), a case is being made out for concessions to the newspaper industry on the grounds that it is in the doldrums and is beleaguered by various burdens, including that of wage board wages, GST, DAVP, etc.

Without mentioning the recent illegal closure of six editions of The Hindustan Times as the obvious peg for this, the editorial seeks a range of concessions – from a part-discontinuance of the wage board for newspaper employees, to subsidies on advertising and tax.

Clearly, what the newspaper industry has lost in judicial review, it is now seeking to stealthily recoup through administrative fiat.

Under the fig leaf of “freedom of speech”, the editorial makes a number of indefensible propositions. However, we will confine ourselves to the empiricial terrain of the Wage Boards and wish to make the following points:

That a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court headed by the then Chief Justice of India P Sathasivam had on Feb 7, 2014 (ABP Pvt Ltd and Anr vs Union of India and Ors), upheld ‘the constitutional validity of the Act and the Amendment Act, 1974’ (referring to the Working Journalists Act, 1955) and rejected the contention of improper constitution of the Wage Boards, irregularity in the procedure adopted by the Majithia Wage Board and that Majithia Wage Boards had overlooked the relevant aspects and considered extraneous factors while drafting the recommendations.

Continue reading “The Indian Newspaper Industry – Response to Times of India Editorial: JAC for Implementation of Majithia Wage Board”

NHRC indicts Chhattisgarh police: WSS statement

STATEMENT BY WOMEN AGAINST SEXUAL VIOLENCE AND STATE REPRESSION

WSS welcomes the decisive intervention of the National Human Rights Commission in  cases of sexual violence against Adivasi women by police and security forces engaged in anti-Maoist operations in Chhattisgarh. Validating our assertion that sexual violence is being used as a weapon of war in Bastar,  the Commission has held the State government “vicariously liable” for gross violations of human rights.

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Demonetization not a “war on black money” unless finances of political parties made accountable: Nishank Varshney

Guest Post by NISHANK VARSHNEY

While the common man is being subjected to infinite scrutiny and daily changing rules, the political parties enjoy to have a free-run at not disclosing a large part of their income, running into thousands of Crores. As long as the political parties continue to enjoy this exemption, the menace of black money cannot be said to have been tackled.

In one of the most unprecedented decisions in the Indian history that was taken on 8th November, 2016, the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, suddenly announced the cancellation of Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 notes with a view of “eliminating black money”. Over the last seven weeks, the PM has regularly reiterated this stand, and called Demonetization a “war on black money” through his speeches at various election rallies, the survey on his mobile app, and most recently in his “Mann ki Baat” program on Sunday. However, Mr. Nasim Zaidi, the Chief Election Commissioner of India, recently expressed that “many political parties are being used as conduits for siphoning off black money”.

As per the Representation of the People Act, 1951 (RP Act), political parties are not required to report the names of the individuals or organizations from whom they have received donations of amounts less than Rs. 20,000. A study by Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) has shown that these ‘unaccounted donations’ form a large part of political parties’ income. In the year 2014-15 alone, BJP declared an income of 505.26 Crore from unknown sources, while Congress received a sum of 445.22 Crore from unknown sources during the same time-period. At present, there are over 1700 registered political parties in India, and many political parties may have been misusing this exemption to convert their black money, as voiced by the Chief Election Commissioner. Continue reading “Demonetization not a “war on black money” unless finances of political parties made accountable: Nishank Varshney”

Corrupt Notes – the Black Comedy of Tragic Error: R Srivatsan

Guest post by R. SRIVATSAN

Reflections on the many paradoxes of the demonetization process: the schizophrenia of the BJP, the desire of the well to do, the baffling sacrifice of the have nots, the faults and fault lines that propagate through our society in crisis.

Narendra Modi and Arun Jaitley, in their brilliant strategy to kill black money through the withdrawal of currency, show no basic understanding of what the term ‘black money’ signifies.  Prabhat Patnaik has recently argued there is no such thing as black money – there is only a black economy.  However, one aspect of the black economy is the refusal to pay taxes and instead hoard wealth in the form of currency that is not recorded in bank deposits.  Another is the payment of bribes with untraceable currency to authorities and politicians who use their position of leverage as personal property on which they charge a rent for use. Both these uses of black money as corruption have a common lineage. In both cases, corruption is the failure of categories that were supposed to have been water-tight.  A) “All income is taxable” B) “Public servants are true servants of the people”

But first, here is an attempt to shake our convictions that the refusal to pay taxes is a moral evil.  To do so, let me take the example of a Hollywood film, Stranger than Fiction (2006).  The plot of this film, which has a quite complex fantasy storyline, baits the viewer’s desire through the emerging love interest between an IRS auditor Harold Crick and his investigative target Ana Pascal, who runs a bakery.  Ana is a conscientious objector against taxation. She argues that she openly defies taxation since she doesn’t support the hegemonic objectives of the USA which spends most of its revenue income on weapons of war and destruction.  Ana is thus the beautiful and charming face of morally upright conscientious objection which masks the libertarian hatred for a state that taxes more than minimally.  As Robert Nozick asserted long ago such taxation is seen as thievery, against the sacred right to private property.  Ana’s position thus also masks the refusal to redistribute wealth through welfare. As a viewer, I found it extremely difficult to think of Ana as an evil person.  She was the most charming free-spirit I had encountered on celluloid (well, on a TV screen) for a long time. The objective of this sub-plot of film criticism is to help the reader shed the ready moral judgement that not paying taxes is a universal crime and a sin against society, so that it becomes possible to examine exactly what the complex nature of the act that constitutes tax evasion is. Continue reading “Corrupt Notes – the Black Comedy of Tragic Error: R Srivatsan”

Jana Gana Mana and the Danger of Passing Sentiment as Law

This originally appeared in The Wire

This is clearly the winter of Karan Johar’s discontent. Barely had the controversy over the illegal fine imposed on him by the Mahrashtra Navnirman Sena died down when the ghost of a controversy about his earlier film, Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham (K3G), has resurfaced in the form of the mind-boggling order from the Supreme Court making it mandatory for the national anthem to played in cinema halls before the screening of a film:

All the cinema halls in India shall play the National Anthem before the feature film starts and all present in the hall are obliged to stand up to show respect to the National Anthem.

Prior to the National Anthem is played or sung in the cinema hall on the screen, the entry and exit doors shall remain closed so that no one can create any kind of disturbance which will amount to disrespect to the National Anthem. After the National Anthem is played or sung, the doors can be opened.

When the National Anthem shall be played in the Cinema Halls, it shall be with the National Flag on the screen.

The national anthem is “the symbol of the Constitutional Patriotism and inherent national quality”, the judgment says. “It does not allow any different notion or the perception of individual rights, that have individually thought of have no space. (sic) The idea is constitutionally impermissible.”

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