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”

The Sin and the Error : Ravi Sinha

Guest Post by RAVI SINHA

…it takes an error to father a sin. ─ J. Robert Oppenheimer[1]

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”

Pondicherry Ashram Suicides and The Spiritual Surrender: Bobby Kunhu

Guest post by BOBBY KUNHU

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”

The ‘Patriots’ of Our Times !

India is a land of surprises, say many.

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: Tamer Söyler

Guest post by TAMER SӦYLER 

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.

Continue reading “A Corruption Scandal in Turkey: Tamer Söyler”

Time For a Code of Conduct for Media

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”

जहाँ वे सेतु बनते हैं: मिहिर पंड्‌या

Guest post by MIHIR PANDYA

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”