Despite the controversies of demonetization, the central government has again succeeded in deftly hijacking the minds of Indian citizens through a riveting speech made by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. The budget seemed to be especially important given third quarter statistics which are filled with drawbacks of the demonetization policy. Thus we had a budget speech completely focused on digitalization of a country where the ‘digital divide’ stubbornly persists. As the budget theme (Transform, Energize, and Clean) attempted to glorify existing conditions, there were unsurprisingly no transformations in the overall economic framework except the expected tax reduction. In the zeal for “energizing”, the budget had clean forgotten the needs of the informal sector including agricultural sector. Even though the government provocatively claimed that it had cleaned up black money, it revealed no data regarding the amount of black money actually mopped up from the market.
We are reproducing a statement issued by JNUTA on 19 February 2017, on the situation in the university and the administration’s attempts to create a crisis where there is none.
The Jawaharlal Nehru University Teachers Association is deeply distressed at the continuing impasse in the University. Pursuant to its appeal on 13 February to the Vice-Chancellor to initiate a dialogue with the students, JNUTA has through the last week requested a meeting with him to discuss the situation on campus, but has not even received the courtesy of a reply. It has also spoken daily to the students worried about their future and that of the university about the concerns that the teachers, staff, and officers have at restoring the smooth functioning of the University administration building. Continue reading “University Administration Trying to Precipitate Crisis: JNUTA”
There is a lot of talk these days about ‘exclusion’ – which is almost unquestioningly assumed to be a bad thing. The corollary to this understanding of exclusion is that all inclusion is necessarily good. One hears a lot about ‘financial inclusion’ these days, which truth be told, makes me shudder. There is thus a lot of angst expressed these days, especially by the rich and powerful, over the ‘financial exclusion’ of the masses. Here is the basic argument (read the full article, disowned by the edit department, here):
Inclusive growth would mean that all sections of society benefit from economic prosperity. A key metric for inclusion is ‘financial inclusion’ i.e. the access to banking services and affordable financial products such as bank accounts, loans, and deposits for all individuals and businesses. When the poorest of the poor have access to credit and savings facilities, this translates to their financial security. They can grow larger businesses, manage consumption and household expenses better and plan for shocks. The standard of living improves and poverty falls, allowing people to contribute more to the economy as well.
Remember, however, before we proceed:
(i) That in 1997, the Asian financial crisis that wiped out the hard earned life-savings of millions of people, in one fell swoop, was an instance of financial inclusion.
(ii) That it was the banks that were fully responsible for the crises across the USA and Europe, 2008 onward. That the Occupy Wall Street movement was basically a movement against the robbery of ordinary people’s money saved in banks by the banks, who on top of everything wanted to be bailed out with tax payers’ money.
(iii) That very recently Iceland has had to jail 26 bankers responsible for the 2008 financial crisis, “for crimes ranging from insider trading to fraud, money laundering, misleading markets, breach of duties and lying to the authorities”.
(iv) That one of the major reasons India escaped the worst effects of that crisis was because effectively 70 percent of its population still lies outside the banking and financial sector. Of course, the other important difference with the Western capitalist economies was that India’s banks were still largely in the public sector. In other words, banks do not only do what they and the economists say they do. Banks play with the hard-earned savings of the relatively poor, often simply handing handing them over to predator corporations and then writing off!
The Demonetization Gamble
A lot has already been said by now on the Modi government’s decision to demonetize Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes. Economists and economic analysts from the Left-wing Prabhat Patnaik to others like World Bank Chief Economist and former advisor to the Indian government, Kaushik Basu and journalist Swaminathan Aiyar have expressed serious doubts about both the rationale and feasibility of the move. The point has been effectively made by them and others like Arvind Kejriwal (who have been centrally concerned with the issue of corruption and ‘black money’ for a long time now), that this measure does not touch the real big players in the game of black and unaccounted money. Big corporate sharks don’t need to go the ‘black money’ route because government policy itself is written by them and everything they do is made ‘legal’ either in advance, or retrospectively, because the government is in their pockets. Of course illegal activities even at those high levels often go on nevertheless, because the power-corporate elite has become so used to the idea that nothing really matters in this country – that everything they want is theirs. And in any case, the real big money lies deposited in Swiss banks or in circulation elsewhere, in other forms. Continue reading “Demonetization, ‘Financial Inclusion’ and the Great ‘Unbanked’”
Guest post by BAIDURYA CHAKRABARTI
- The demonetization drive of Modi is neither new in content nor in form. In India, it has been done earlier by Morarji Desai; the initial conversion to Euro in the European Union happened within a month’s span. Currency is routinely taken out of circulation. What is significant about Modi’s demonetization is the amount of sensation he has generated out of an otherwise insignificant move. What is routinely done through phasing out denominations is being done in an extremely abrupt manner. He is dressing up a withdrawal and issuing of currency notes as a revolutionary move, and it is being executed in the manner more suited to currency change. What we need to thus ask ourselves is this: why is a routine monetary policy being enacted in this—which I shall later call ‘terroristic’—manner? Clearly, the answer is not economic; even the government does not pretend it to be a strictly economic issue (when they harp on the ‘terror’ factor).
(But before we move on, an aside. This demonetization exposes how the nostalgia for socialist development has fuelled the rise of Modi. Disenchantment with neoliberalism has produced an obscene amount of nostalgia for the pre-liberalization days among the Indian middle class, especially among the left-leaning ones. However, now that a gesture right out of those hoary days have returned to our world, it turns out to be a nightmare.)
- Let us state the obvious things first: demonetization will do next to nothing to the so-called ‘black money’, which are routinely converted into fixed assets or foreign currency. This move dis-incentivizes hoarding of cash, but not speculation, all sorts of accounting practices that can produce the so-called ‘black money’ while bypassing the level of cash transaction altogether. Demonetization is simply an old-school, brute-force monetary policy to curb hyperinflation. The Head of European Central Bank in Europe and Larry Summers, US treasury secretary, has proposed demonetization of their high-currency notes this year. But none of them dream of doing it within a notice of 4 hours!
The recent order by the I&B Ministery to NDTV India to suspend broadcast for 24 hours drew a range of reactions from outrage to bewilderment. The supporters of the ruling party were of course triumphant – Subhash Chandra of Zoo, er sorry Zee News was so excited he wrote a whole article on this. But even outside the partisan responses, many well-meaning self-declared neutral janta declared that national security is not a matter to be trifled with, and that it was right for the government to admonish NDTV. Wait, ADMONISH?! Never mind that the government’s allegation of NDTV having compromised national security simply doesn’t survive a fact-check. Here is how the largest section of (English-speaking, online) popular opinion sees it.
This token punishment was good and important to show that someone is there who is monitoring the media who always thinks behind the mask of freedom of expression that they can do anything in the world. So it is important that the Government of the Day makes its presence felt otherwise there will more chaos and issues like the UPA government where everyone was going around like headless chicken and no one is bothered or cared if a Govt of Man Mohan Singh existed or NO. Even small timers like the Delhi CM AK and his Guru Anna were threatening and taking morcha in Ram leela Maidan every second day and doing expose every third day putting the Govt. of India on the back foot and in defensive mode running for shelter. Now Arvind Kejriwala and his team is running for shelter as every day a Delhi MLA is shown the door of the JAIL and Anna Hazare has been locked in a shell in his hometown watching the sunrise and the sunset. This means business, It is important that Govt of the India should show it exist otherwise human mentality is that then everyone shows that everyone exist and everyone is the BOSS. Cannot allow to happen like this MESS. PM Modi please keep it up and keep the heat on this reckless media, on AK and his gang, on others who are trying to show unnecessary activism and also the Judiciary, keep all the appointments on hold and let them slog day and night. Show who is the BOSS ! Show who is the BOSS !
Yes, Modi ji, show who is the BOSS!
[The Superintendent of Tihar Jail, went a joke recently circulating on WhatsApp, had staked his claim for the Chief Ministership of Delhi, because he had the requisite number of MLAs! The mainstream (Big) media has had a field day, reporting with great ‘earnestness’, what even the ordinary person on the street can see is an orchestrated move to harass and discredit the AAP. A leading paper even did a status report on all the cases against AAP MLAs a couple of days ago, as if it was simply ‘reporting’ (with a straight face). Some day, hopefully we will be able to come out with a more detailed analysis of the ways in which sections of the big media have – even in the person/s of their most benign representatives and columnists – played footsie with the regime at the Centre. This dispensation and its utterly unprincipled and unethical ways are truly unprecedented and this phase of our history has emerged as the dirtiest chapter of parliamentary democracy in India. In the meantime, online news forums have kept the tradition of actual reportage and fairness alive. Here are some extracts from a report by JYOTI PUNWANI, courtesy The Hoot (linked below), on the mohalla clinics and the strange politics of the media that surrounds reportage around such measures undertaken by the Delhi government.]
The AAP’s mohalla clinic experiment drew the attention of The Washington Post. Its article (`What New Delhi’s free clinics can teach America’, March 11, 2016) was also carried by the Chicago Tribune. A University of Southern California delegation came to study mohalla clinics in July.
But our print media didn’t think this important experiment was anything special. Not all covered it; of those that did, some didn’t carry the report in all their editions….
The Indian Express carried a long report in April, after the second batch of clinics opened, in its Delhi edition (“In rented rooms across Delhi, part 2 of ‘mohalla’ clinic project takes off’’). Livemint hada detailed report last month, after more than 100 clinics had opened (`Mohalla clinic: AAP offers affordable healthcare model at doorstep’); and earlier this week, The Hindu evaluated their performance in its Delhi edition (`A thousand promises of prompt health care’).
Among news websites, Newslaundry did a lively report immediately after the first clinic opened (`Mohalla clinics come to town’). In January, Catch News did a report (`#MohallaClinics: AAP has diagnosed Delhi’s health problem. Can it cure it?’), and a follow-up in April after the second batch opened (`AAP Mohalla clinics: rented homes turn clinics, private docs appointed’).
A two-part article appeared in Scroll.in in May (`The clinic at your doorstep: How the Delhi government is rethinking primary healthcare…) Indeed, news websites, rather than newspapers, seem to have given the new experiment the space it deserves.
Going through the reports on mohalla clinics, it became clear that the possible removal of some of them was only the latest move against them. A few days before the NDMC issued this order, the Lieutenant General (LG) of Delhi had got into the act. Consider the sequence of events:
On August 5, the Delhi High Court ruled that the LG was the administrative head of the capital. After the judgment, Deputy CM Manish Sisodia specially requested Najeeb Jung not to transfer the Health and Education secretaries as these two bureaucrats were essential for the AAP’s new initiatives in these sectors. Continue reading “Aam Aadmi Mohalla Clinics Set to Shut Thanks to L-G and BJP Controlled Municipal Bodies: Jyoti Punwani”
Guest post by ADITYA VELIVELLI
A wife’s career taking a backseat due to her husband’s work is no trivial issue. However, Outlook magazine used this issue to defend a powerful couple who had giant conflicts of interest among them.
In the recent cabinet reshuffle, Minister of State for Finance, Jayant Sinha, was shifted out of the finance ministry. A few news articles came out speculating that Sinha’s transfer was due to his wife Punita Sinha’s conflicts of interest and because a Tea party organised by Jayant Sinha involved schmoozing between Corporates and bank officers. Jayant Sinha was in the process of organising a bailout fund for the bad corporate loans at that time. This bailout fund would be paid for by the tax payers. Continue reading “An Example of the Liberal Media Defending Powerful Neoliberal Elites: Aditya Velivelli”