This guest post by DILIP D’SOUZA is an excerpt from his book, The Curious Case of Binayak Sen
On a recent trip to the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh, I visited a village called Bamhni. The Jan Swasthya Sahyog (JSS; People’s Health Collective, a rural hospital) of Ganiyari runs an outreach clinic there. Every Tuesday, one or two JSS doctors and a small team of health workers get into a Mahindra Bolero SUV in Ganiyari and drive an hour-and-a-half to reach Bamhni.
I spent much of the day with an even smaller JSS team that reaches out even beyond this outreach clinic. The area we were in is part of the Achanakmar Wildlife Sanctuary, which has existed since the mid-70s. As happens with several Indian wildlife reserves, this one has several villages located inside its boundaries. In 2009, Achanakmar was declared part of Project Tiger, the more stringent Indian effort to save that splendid animal. More stringent, that is, in the conditions it spells out for villages in designated sanctuaries. When Achanakmar joined Project Tiger, the residents of Bamhni and several other villages were told they would have to move out of the “core zone” of the sanctuary, so as to leave the tigers an area where they would be undisturbed. Continue reading What Development Means: Dilip D’Souza
Guest post by PARAYI
The Indian government’s planning commission has just told the Supreme court that about 31 rupees a day [slightly more than half a dollar] is enough for a family to live on. The news papers had the details of a diet which can be had on that money. Few grams of rice+ fewer grams of vegetable + no fruit + no fuel etc etc…. Continue reading How To Have Chicken Curry in Peace: Parayi
Guest post by NEERJA DASANI
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s ‘Dilli Darbar’ on Wednesday reaffirmed this government’s unyielding belief in the trickle-down theory. Let a select few be given the pie and eventually they’ll share it byte by byte. One of the hand-picked senior editors at this super-exclusive meeting said Mr. Singh came across as “totally relaxed, confident and jovial” even as they confronted him with ‘very embarrassing questions’.
The life-altering titbits flashed repeatedly on our TV screens. “I am not a lame duck PM” – Arre wah! “I have full support of Sonia Gandhi – What more could we possibly ask for? “This is not a puppet government” – Hear, Hear! “I can come under Lokpal” – Or the Lokpal can come under you, same difference. “Inflation will come under control by March 2012” – No rush, we’ll just quietly wait in a corner, maybe eat a meal or two less, work three jobs, drop out of school…anything for the nation.
But hidden deep within all this rhetoric was a misquote of great magnitude, one that reveals a lot about the man at the helm and the dodginess of the boat we are all currently rocking along on. Continue reading Gandhi vs. Gandhi
In a tangential continuation of my last rant, a news report in the Hindu today caught my eye, because it made clear what we all know: the poor pay much much more for essential services than the rich do and therefore price of living indices as they are currently defined/calculated do not capture in any way the everyday realities of millions of Indians.
Continue reading Water…
It seems the Planning Commission exists on a planet which is so far removed from anything we might call the real world, that one begins to wonder whether its staff have not been born, bred and spent the entirety of their lives within the corridors of Yojana Bhavan, with tubes up their noses for nutrition. How else does one make sense of new figures released by the Tendulkar Committee according to which an income of 560 rupees per month in urban India and 368 rupees per month in rural India is enough to fulfill a person’s daily nutritional needs (2,100 calories urban; 2,400 calories rural). This can only mean one of two things: either the Planning Commission has invented a time machine whereby everyone can access food at 1980 prices, or they have simply gone insane. Continue reading Let Them Eat Gobi
This is a Guest Post by SATYA SAGAR.
Satya Sagar is a writer, journalist and videomaker based in New Delhi. sagarnama at gmail dot com
Is Maoism in India really the only response to poverty and lack of development? Is an armed rebellion the only way to change the way the Indian State operates? Will such a movement lead to a better future for underprivileged people in this country? Are other forms of mass democratic struggles an alternative option at all? These are the questions that haunted me as I sat through a public hearing on drought at Daltonganj in Jharkhand’s Palamu district late October this year. Questions that are not new and have been debated repeatedly within the various strands of the Indian left movement for several decades now, with no clear answers as yet.
While I mused, there was this young woman standing on the stage, slowly edging towards the mike, patiently waiting for her turn to speak. She need not have said anything at all. Her emaciated, frail frame, the harassed look on her face and the tears silently welling up in her sunken eyes had already conveyed to us this was another tale of unmitigated tragedy. Barely in her early twenties, she had been diagnosed with tuberculosis a few months ago. Her husband was already on his deathbed due to the same affliction as there was no public health center near her village. Treatment in town was obviously unaffordable. The drought raging in the district, reported to be the worst in over half a century, would end up wiping out her entire family she explained in a quiet, matter of fact tone.
As we sat there, the small ‘jury’ of three or four of us who had come from Delhi and Ranchi to listen to the woes of Palamu’s villagers felt much, much smaller. For her horror story was only one out of some 3000 similar ones of neglect, deprivation and outright desperation that tensely waited to be recalled that early winter afternoon.
Continue reading Maoist Martyrdom vs. State Barbarism: Satya Sagar
Poverty talk is common; wealth is taboo — even when crorepati candidates (millionaires, billionaires) are on the rise in elections today. There is no doubt whatsoever that our elections are conditioned by wealth, and the rich are thriving on the benefits drawn from their money power. Ironically however, in our people’s democracy, no calls for fair elections are considered credible unless they are accompanied by cries for reforms in the role of wealth and wealthy candidates in the elections. Chances are that the Indian elections of 2009 might get caught up in this credibility trap.
In the first phase of elections, data (affidavits) available of 1440 candidates out of a total of 1715, compiled and analysed by the National Election Watch, is revealing: There are 193 crorepatis contesting elections in this phase; they have increased from 9 percent in 2004 to 14 percent in 2009. Congress has 45, followed by BJP and BSP, with 30 and 22 respectively. All parties, including independents, share this burden. Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Bihar, Jharkhand and Chhatisgarh have a majority of them. Their total assets go as high as 173, 125, 89, 72, 56, 45, 30 crores. Neither the earth, nor the sky is the limit. And the declared assets may just reveal a partial picture, considering the fact that most of them (979 candidates) do not even bother to have a permanent account number (PAN), which is necessary for filing annual income tax returns.
Continue reading Unfair Wealth and Fair Elections