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→
…it takes an error to father a sin. ─ J. Robert Oppenheimer
Future historians of India may well describe the past year as a year of political sin. This was the year in which the man who had earlier presided over the Gujarat Carnage was awarded the ultimate prize. The year saw an election that touched a new low marked by shallowness, vulgarities and lies – in no small measure by the labors of the man himself. Equally appalling have been the exertions of a large class of literati and glitterati to portray philistinism and inanities spouted by the most powerful mouth as wisdom of a visionary leader.
An entire country seems to have gone blind – unable to see that the emperor has no clothes. In this age of incessant television it should be obvious to anyone that the supreme leader does not carry conviction even when enunciating relatively higher banalities. He is at his natural best only when he mocks someone as a shehzada or slanders and vilifies an entire community through phrases such as ame paanch, amara pachees. It is an irony of history that the republic which had Nehru as its first prime minister has one now for whom even common mythology is too cerebral. He must vulgarize Pushpak Viman and Ganesha and reduce them to quackeries of aviation and surgery.
Misfortune of the nation goes beyond the man. Forces of the diabolic housed in the hydra-headed Parivaar can now accomplish the impossible. They can now occupy the political center stage without leaving off the lunatic fringe. They can adopt Gandhi without renouncing Godse; erect world’s tallest statue of a leader who had punished their forefathers for assassinating Gandhi; even co-opt Bhagat Singh without batting an eyelid about what he stood for and what he had to say about ideologies like theirs. They can further refine the art of doublespeak. Their “statesmen” can pave the way for corporate plunder and call it sab ka vikas (development for all). Their “ideologues” can advocate sab ka saath (inclusion of all) by exhorting Hindu women to give birth to a minimum of four children each, lest Hindus are reduced to a minority “in their own country”. Continue reading The Sin and the Error : Ravi Sinha→
On 17th December there was a dramatic sequence where, the youngest of a family of aged parents and five sisters who were inmates of Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry attempted suicide by jumping off a water tank. The police rescued the woman, booked her and her sisters for attempt to suicide and released them on bail. This was following a Supreme Court order evicting them from the ashram at the end of a decade long struggle against the ashram. Their demand was simple that the management of the Ashram be taken over by the State to contain the corruption within. On the morning of 18th December, the family of seven decided to walk into the sea. Three died, four were rescued. Amongst the four who were rescued, one was allegedly raped by two men in her state of unconsciousness.
The South Asian spiritual landscape perhaps is the most diverse – ranging all hues and shades of spirituality cutting across religions and castes and has attracted followers internationally including celebrities like the Beatles, Isaac Tigrett (the founder of Hard Rock Café) and many others. Without exception, all of these spiritual groups ask for “total” surrender, though the terms of this surrender would differ from group to group. And many have willingly surrendered! For a non-believer it might be difficult to understand this leap of faith. But, for the believer this becomes the single most important event in her/his life. Even more important than birth marriage, love or death! And, when the terms of surrender is breached – though all hell breaks loose, people cling on to their faith. Despite “Sexy Sadie”, Paul McCartney held that Transcendental Meditation was a gift The Beatles had received from the Maharishi at a time when they were looking for something to stabilise them. In the BBC documentary The Secret Swami Tigrett stated that he believed that there was truth to the rumors of Sai Baba’s actions of pedophilia and sexual abuse towards some of his young male followers, but also such rumours would not change his belief in the Baba. Continue reading Pondicherry Ashram Suicides and The Spiritual Surrender: Bobby Kunhu→
And how can Bihar, which they say has been witness to a glorious past, be an exception. Of course nobody could have imagined that ‘surprise of surprises’ or (should I call) ‘mother of all surprises’ would be reserved for the Bihar police. In fact it was one life time experience for all of them there where they found how ‘Rs 50,000 can balloon into Rs 1.14 crore’.
The central character in the still unfolding drama is Giriraj Singh, a RSS activist since his childhood days, and a senior leader in the state, who has already carved out a name for himself nationally for his controversial statements. People would remember how he proposed to Modi opponents to go to Pakistan during election campaign or how he eulogized Brahmeshwar Singh, leader of Ranveer Sena, the private army of landlords which had been allegedly responsible for hundreds of killings of innocents as ‘true Gandhian of our times’ when the dreaded figure was killed in a gang war. As an aside it needs be mentioned here that Giriraj Singh was one of the first in the state who had vouched for Mr Narendra Modi’s PM candidature also. Continue reading The ‘Patriots’ of Our Times !→
A corruption Scandal in Turkey first broke on December, 17th last year. Under instructions by the public prosecutor Celal Kara, the financial police took into custody several suspects comprising famous businessmen (Ali Agaoğlu and Reza Zarrab), family members of three ministers from the cabinet (sons of ministers Muammer Güler, Zafer Çaglayan and Erdoğan Bayraktar) and high level bureaucrats. Main suspects were immediately arrested by the court.
Prime Minister Erdoğan declared that this was a fabricated investigation to humiliate his government on the eve of coming elections. The Prime Minister accused Fethullah Gülen, the founder of the Gülen Movement, living in a self-imposed exile in the US for the last 15 years, for placing a plot to overthrow his government.
Let us make no mistake, the Big Media in India does not merely report; it is a player in Indian politics in general and elections in particular.
Now that the debate is out in public it is time to insist on a code of conduct for the media as well. After Arvind Kejriwal’s recent allegations against four television channels that have been blown out of proportion and misrepresented, there has been an uproar. A burst of righteous anger, not only from those accused by Kejriwal of having been bought out by a particular party, but also by professional bodies like the News Broadcasters Association (NBA), the Editor’s Guild, the Broadcast Editors Association (BEA) and other senior journalists.
The NBA, which is a private association, threatened to black out Kejriwal and AAP news and then went on to assert its objectivity and fairness against the “unsubstantiated and unverified allegations” against the news channels.
The BEA said in its statement:
“BEA condemns Arvind Kejriwal’s irresponsible statement on media. BEA believes that electronic media is discharging its responsibility in a fair and objective manner. It is wrong to say that TV channels are pursuing a biased agenda in favour of any person or party. BEA believes that such statements are a conspiracy to dilute the credibility of media. We have strong faith in the self regulatory institutions that electronic media has developed…”
Let us concede for the sake of argument that Arvind Kejriwal went overboard and his statement about ‘jailing mediapersons’ was uncalled for. But does the claim of the BEA, NBA and other bodies really stand up to scrutiny? Is the electronic media really dïscharging its responsibility in a fair and objective manner”? What precisely, may we ask, are the “self regulatory institutions that electronic media has developed” and what have they done by way of reigning in the Indian media that have sunk to new lows in recent years with “paid news”and “advertorials” – not to mention private treaties with big corporations ? We ask the BEA and the NBA and 0ther defenders of the media, is this the ethical behavior they talk of? Is this self-regulation? Maybe Kejriwal’s allegations are “unsubstantiated” in the sense that there is no “proof”, but there is little doubt from the instructions that journalists have been receiving from their bosses, that a lot more than mere reporting is at stake. And just for the record, the the Chairman of one of media houses accused by Kejriwal, Subhash Chandra of Zee News, is currently facing a case of extortion – using his channel’s news-gathering for blackmail. We would love to hear how this qualifies as ‘fair and objective’in the eyes of the BEA and other luminaries. Continue reading Time For a Code of Conduct for Media→
गणतंत्र दिवस की सुबह। अौर उस सत्र का शीर्षक था ‘विचारों का गणतंत्र’। अशिस नंदी पहले उदाहरण द्वारा विस्तार से समझाते हैं कि क्यों एक सवर्ण एलीट का भ्रष्टाचार हमारी बनायी ‘भ्रष्टाचार’ की मानक परिभाषाअों में फिट नहीं होता अौर क्यों सिर्फ दलित का भ्रष्टाचार ही ‘भ्रष्टाचार’ नज़र अाता है। इसलिए जब वे यह कहते हैं कि भ्रष्टाचारियों का बहुमत वंचित जातियों से अाता है तो वह यह कहते हुए वापिस पुरानी बात दोहराना ज़रूरी नहीं समझते कि यहाँ दोष उनका नहीं, ‘भ्रष्टाचार’ की उस भ्रामक परिभाषा का है जिसमें एलीट का भ्रष्टाचार फिट ही नहीं होता। इसे वह अंत में जवाब देने के लिए मिले दो मिनट के समय भी दोहराते हैं कि उनके उक्त कथन को दो मिनट पहले कही बात के संदर्भ में देखा जाए। जैसा नंदी ने बाद में भी कहा, अौर उनकी अध्ययन शैली से परिचित लोग यह जानते भी हैं, वे किसी भी वक़्त यह नहीं कह रहे थे कि भ्रष्टाचार की कोई जाति होती है, बल्कि वे भ्रष्टाचार को पहचानने अौर निर्धारित करने की जो प्रचलित समाजदृष्टि है, उसके पीछे छिपी जातिवादी मानसिकता को पहचानने की अोर इशारा कर रहे थे। यह तर्क प्रणाली समझने में थोड़ी जटिल हो सकती है, लेकिन इसकी कोई वजह मुझे फिर भी नज़र नहीं अाती कि ठहरकर, ज़रा सा समय देने पर भी यह बात समझ न अाए। Continue reading जहाँ वे सेतु बनते हैं: मिहिर पंड्या→
The hornet’s nest stirred by Ashis Nandy’s comments at the Jaipur Literature Festival might – hopefully – be dying down, but certain questions raised by the occurrences on the 26th probably require a little reflection on everyone’s part.
In the corporate and social media blitz, a lot of the details have been forgotten, excised and overlooked. Till yesterday it was not clear what his entire speech consisted of. The most quoted line from his talk at the festival is: “it is a fact that most of the corrupt come from the OBC, the Scheduled Castes and now increasingly the STs and as long as it is the case, the Indian republic will survive.” None of those attacking Nandy for being casteist or spewing hate-speech have in fact even attempted to explain the latter part of the quote: “as long as it is the case, the Indian republic will survive.” How is that a casteist statement? More importantly, media reproductions of his statement have excised a crucial disclaimer he himself gives at the beginning: “It will be an undignified, even vulgar statement, but it is a fact that most of the corrupt come from the OBC, the Scheduled Castes and now increasingly the STs and as long as it is the case, the Indian republic will survive.” Continue reading Ashis Nandy, Media and the Work of Acceleration: Anirban Gupta Nigam→
For the past few days I have been preoccupied in one part of my mind in dealing with two reasons for anguish. The first reason has to do with the profound sense of disappointment and anger with which I heard Prof. Ashis Nandy, a man I consider to be a great teacher, friend and in possession of one of the finest minds of our time, commit himself in public to a flippant and vulgar position when speaking of the relationship between caste and corruption at the Jaipur Literary Festival.
I was saddened because Prof. Nandy’s statements do a great disservice to the suppleness and ethical integrity of his thinking, and represent one of those sadly paradoxical situations where an intellectual can become their own worst adversary. I am unambiguously critical of the Nandy who chooses to be pompously opinionated and misinformed at a forum like the Jaipur Literary Festival or while riding the hot-air currents of television especially because I remain a partisan of the Nandy who can be (when he chooses to be) one of the most thoughtful and insightful witnesses to our time in his writing. Continue reading Ashis Nandy’s Predicament and Ours→
This release was put out by the Rajasthan unit of thePEOPLE’S UNION FOR CIVIL LIBERTIESon 26 January
PUCL condemns the FIR lodged under sec. 506 IPC, criminal intimidation and 3-1(10) of prevention of atrocities against SC,ST 1989 against Prof. Ashis Nandy for his statements in a discussion at the Jaipur Literature Festival 2013 and the protest demanding his arrest.
From the reports we have received, he was not exhorting hate and not being casteist and was only making an academic point which means that nobody is free from corruption.
Proceeding criminally against him and arresting him is restricting academic freedom and academic debate. Now that he has apologised and regretted what he has said the matter should be closed.
Prem Krishan Sharma, President
Kavita Srivastav, General Secretary
Ms. Shiela Dixit, Chief Minister Delhi NCR
Mr. Sushil Kumar Shinde, Home Minister, India
Mr. Tejendar Khanna, Lt. Governor, Delhi NCR
This is to clarify a small misunderstanding. I know a part of the protests made you believe that women in Delhi are asking to take policemen away from their VIP duties and put them on Delhi streets. This is incorrect. Many of the protestors are too young to understand
Ma’am and Sirs, the roads are unsafe enough. All Delhi women know – when you see a Delhi policeman, you run. This is what our mothers taught us. This is what we teach our children. I sincerely request you to increase VIP duties for all cops in the Delhi National Capital Region. Please don’t waste your time and energy transferring or suspending any of these gentlemen. All you have to do is ensure no cops are given non-VIP duties. Continue reading This is to clarify a small misunderstanding: Anusha Rizvi→
On Friday, Supreme Court judges KS Radhakrishnan and CK Prasad gave the go-ahead for 45,000 new auto rickshaw permits to be issued in Delhi. The move has the potential to drastically improve the city’s auto-rickshaw service for passengers and drivers alike, but many unanswered questions about distribution, implementation and numbers remain.
There are currently around 55,000 auto-rickshaws in the capital. The number of autos has not grown since the Supreme Court stopped the issuing of new auto permits in 1997 due to concern about the pollution emitted from the old dirty two-stroke petrol engines (now replaced with CNG).
The number has not remained frozen. Evidence suggests that it has actually fallen since 1997 because around 20,000 autos were lost during the CNG switchover as many drivers had their permits cancelled as they were too slow to convert their autos to the new fuel or simply could not afford the conversion. The fall in numbers contrasts with the growing demand for autos from Delhi’s population, which grew 21.6% in the period 2001-2011.
When you are in journalism, something that slowly builds up in you is your immunity to suprise. You can feel fear, sadness, hopelessness, impatience, and even joy, though the last emotion is increasingly becoming a rare thing in this field. But whatever you feel, one thing is for sure, that you generally don’t get surprised. So when I initially heard about a lone Canadian woman of advanced age and energetic spirits, who had come to India at the age of 19 in the 1960s, fighting the land mafia in Hardwar, without any help from anyone, I was intrigued, but NOT surprised.
As I read it, neither Aditya, nor Partha nor Gyan seems to deny that the Anna Hazare movement is populist. The debate here seems to be about: what kind of populism is it? Aditya is saying that this populism can lead to progressive political consequences, ‘by the presence of an anti-institutional dimension, of a certain challenge to political normalization’, while Partha (and Gyan too if I read him correctly) seem to be arguing that this populism is not progressive even if sometimes anti-institutional. And here Aditya reads Laclau contra Partha: that populism may indeed be the royal road to the constitution of the political. Partha and Gyan maintain that this populism works with a notion of ‘we the people’ who are free from corruption defined against ‘they the corrupt enemy’ (the government and netas). This ‘we the people’ can very well gloss over all internal contradictions, social divides and heterogeneities – hence Gyan points out that Dalits and minorities will not be counted or simply assumed away.
Manesar is an emerging industrial hub roughly fifty kilometers from Delhi. Factories rise along the co-ordinates of a neat grid, overshadowed by the rocky Aravallis. The world is made here – cars, bikes, semiconductors, automotive parts, electronics, telecommunications equipment. Manesar has a little bit of everything. Even a bomb data analysis centre and a brain research lab and a military school and a heritage hotel. On a Maruti Swift, speeding down National Highway 8 towards Jaipur, you could make it to Manesar from Delhi, through Gurgaon, in less than an hour. Maruti’s ads are all about speed and control. Speed and control will cruise you to Manesar.
I have been trying to make sense of the Anna Hazare event. I agree that it was historical, but was it a tragedy, or a farce? The swift exchange between Partha Chatterjee (PC) and Aditya Nigam (AN) and their reference to Ernesto Laclau and ‘populism’ have given me a familiar frame to enter into the debate around the event. Here, I will concentrate on the question of populism and its normative status. However, unlike PC and AN, I have got nothing to offer to ‘the Left’ (Independent or Dependent), because I am not a leftist, rather one who likes sitting on the fence on a nice arm-chair and this piece will perhaps bear an imprint of that position. Also, apologies are due to the readers of Kafila as I have not read, just browsed through, the two pieces written by Shuddhabrata Sengupta, which have been wildly popular – if Facebook is an indicator – and have been referred to by both PC and AN. Therefore, I might be repeating what Sengupta has already said.
Partha Chatterjee and Shuddhabrata Sengupta rightly argue that “corruption” is indeed a new Indian label for “the lives of others”. The East German Stasi also surely saw their vigilance as directed against the politics of “the enemies of the people”, except that in their case the state and the party were seen to contain all the good people, with the bad people choosing to remain in the unmobilized parts of civil society. Hence the pro-Hazare gatherings certainly have some of the disturbing echoes of mass rallies under Hitler and Stalin with the working and middle-classes adoring a mediocre and Chaplinesque figure who promises a new wave of moral cleansing. Continue reading Our Corruption, Our Selves: Arjun Appadurai→
Not enough people are asking what is motivating people to go to Ramlila Maidan in such large numbers. People like GhazalaJamil and Anish Ahluwalia are not asking this question because for them the whole thing is an elite, middle-class conspiracy that is anti-Dalit, anti-OBC, anti-Muslim, anti-justice, anti-equality, anti-peace, anti-love and anti-sex.
These saviours of the marginalised, the poor and the vulnerable make the point that Anna Hazare’s means are showing contempt for the people by not letting people’s chosen representatives delay anti-corruption measures. They are making the point that unless Anna Hazare’s movements takes up issues of land reforms and justice for Gujarat’s Muslims, he should not be supported. Continue reading The People→
I have been thinking that If we drop “corruption” and “middle class” we may find some other way to understand what we sense unfolding from Ramila grounds and television studios.
The term middle class has bloated so much that it now holds within it Narayan Murthy to Shekhar Gupta via Nandan Nilekani to a student in Sonepat to all people in this list and on facebook. And on the other hand corruption seem to have bloated much further in which commissions from infrastructure deals (in lakhs of crores), commissions for arms deals, someone delaying papers, to admission costs, to a hawker buying some uninterrupted time in the street (20 rupees) is all melted down.
On August 17 at 5:30 in the morning I sat up to follow the latest developments on Hazare front (for sleepless nocturnal souls like me it helps that Ramzan are on). Logged into my facebook account and found that I have been labelled ‘a cynic’ for my status updates and posts on Hazare mobilisation. Got into a facebook ‘discussion’ argument with a friend abroad (All my homesick friends abroad have been smelling wafts of the ‘Arab Spring’ in all this).