Brother killed India ex-minister

The brother of a senior leader of India’s main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party has been found guilty of killing him last year.

A court in the western city of Mumbai said Praveen Mahajan had shot and killed his brother Pramod Mahajan, a former federal minister.

Mr Mahajan is likely to be sentenced on Tuesday, reports say.

Pramod Mahajan died 12 days after being shot at his home in Mumbai in April last year.

Reports say his brother fired three shots at him from a licensed revolver from close range because of a family dispute.

Technocrat

After initially confessing to murdering his brother, Mr Mahajan later denied it in the courts.

Pramod Mahajan, 56, was one of the most recognised political figures in India.

Although he lacked a political base, he was an influential figure in the BJP where he was part of the party’s Generation Next – a group of savvy and relatively younger “technocrat” leaders.

A former telecommunications minister, he is credited with bringing about a revolution in the industry.

Judge SP Davre told a crowded courtroom that eye witness accounts from the dead man’s wife – who heard her husband ask “what did I do, that I was killed by my brother?” – as he was rushed to hospital could be accepted as evidence.

Correspondents say that Praveen Mahajan is likely to receive a life sentence or the death penalty on Tuesday – even though such sentences are rarely carried out in India.

The prosecution said that after murdering Pramod, Praveen then went to the nearest police station and allegedly confessed to his crime. He has been in custody since then.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2007/12/17 12:44:26 GMT

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Muslims and Dalits discriminated in corporate India

For some time now and especially after publication of Sachar Committee Report Muslims put much emphasis on acquiring modern education. In rapidly globalized economy of India, education was promised to be the key to a brighter future for Muslim kids.

A recent study, however, finds that getting a call for interview can be reduced to as much as 33% for a candidate with Muslim names compared to an equivalent-qualified candidate with high caste Hindu name.

Study was lead by Chairperson of the University Grants Commission Prof. Sukhdeo Thorat and Paul Attewell of City University of New York. Beginning in October 2005 and lasting 66 weeks the study involved responding to job advertisements appearing in national and regional English newspapers with sets of resumes that were similar except for names. For each advertised position researchers sent applications with identical qualifications and experience that differed only in names. There was no explicit mention of caste or religion but names were easily identifiable as upper caste Hindu name, Dalit or Muslim names.

Only private companies were targeted and jobs that required little or no experience. In 66 weeks, researchers sent 4808 applications in response to 548 job advertisements. A call for interview or for a written test was considered a success for that application. Researchers were looking to see if chances of receiving an interview call are same for a high caste, a Dalit and a Muslim name.

Two statistical methods on the data resulted in a similar outcome. One method suggested that odds for a Dalit name is 0.67 and for a Muslim name is 0.33 to receive an interview call as compared to an equally qualified applicant with a high caste Hindu name. Another method gave the odds 0.68 and 0.35 for Dalits and Muslims, respectively. Both statistical models results are statistically significant which means that it is highly unlikely for this to happen by random chance.

The researchers concluded that “having a high-caste name considerably improves a job applicant’s chances of a positive outcome” adding that “on average, college-educated lower-caste and Muslim job applicants fare less well than equivalently- qualified applicants with high caste names, when applying by mail for employment with the modern private-enterprise sector.”

This is not surprising; Sachar Committee also found that private sectors had a dismal representation of Muslims. Sachar Committee recommended sensitizing private sector about diversity in their work force and suggested boosting Muslims recruitment through positive discrimination and affirmative action. Sachar Committee Report proposed the idea of an incentive based ‘diversity index.’

Sachar Committee Report also noted that “our data shows when Muslims appear for the prescribed tests and interviews their success rate is appreciable. This applies both to the public and private sector jobs.” But the present study suggests that any Muslim has about one third of a chance for landing that test or interview compared to a high caste Hindu.

Thorat and Attewell in their research article published in October 13th, 2007 issue of Economic and Political Weekly write that despite legal safeguards when a social group remains backward then it is blamed on group’s low level of education. These two who have been studying discrimination in United States and India states that discrimination is not acknowledged in a modern capitalist economy.

This study conclusively proves that there is discrimination in corporate India against Dalits and Muslims, with Muslims suffering the most.

“These were all highly-educated and appropriately qualified applicants attempting to enter the modern private sector, yet even in this sector, caste and religion proved influential in determining ones job chances,” researchers commented.

twocircles 

India approves 2.5 billion deal with Israeli Defence

New Delhi – India has started a 2.5-billion-dollar (Rs10,000 crore)  joint venture with Israel to develop an advanced range surface-to-air missile capable of detecting and destroying hostile aircraft, missiles and spy planes, news reports said Friday. India now buys half of its arms from Israel, making it Israel’s biggest customer. It is thus funding the Israeli occupation in Palestine, because the Israeli economy rests on its defense industry, its main export, as well as the inflow of US tax dollars.

With more than a billion people, India is a country of striking contrasts. India accounts for 40 per cent of the world’s poor and its fiscal deficit is one of the highest in the world. Almost half of Indian women are still illiterate; about 40 million primary school-age children are not in school. 21 percent increase and India. Just one lakh people in India account for at least one tenth of the country’s GDP. In 2006, India had 1,00,015 people with a personal net worth in excess of at least $1 million (Rs 4.1 crore) each, according to the World Wealth Report. Last year, the number of Indians getting richer grew at 20.5%.

According to the Israel National Insurance Institute findings, one of every four Israelis lives below the poverty line — that’s 1.6 million people. Thirty-five percent of children are living in poverty, leaving Israel with this unhappy distinction. The number of Israeli millionaires per capita is twice the world average, according to the 2005 World Wealth Report.  The rate of increase in the number of millionaires in Israel is 50 higher than global rates, says Merrill Lynch report (2006).

During BJP rule, the pro- zionist Hindutva intelligentia took the controle of political corridors of power in the Prime Minister’s office, the Defence Ministry and the Home ministry, in New Delhi. It is being alleged that the presence of this arms trading network were traced in many armed conflicts across India. This influential network also established various research institutions across India to hype security risks and thus to promote weapon trade. The money coming from the bribes and the kick backs have been channelised to the welfare of Sangh Parivar empire.  The military agreements, collaboration on nuclear and missile defense, and sharing of intelligence with Israel has continued even with the communist supported new United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government.

India’s Cabinet Committee on Security chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday approved the project between the Defence Research and Development Organization and Israel Aerospace Industries for developing the missile system which would have a range of about 70 kilometres, the Times of India daily reported. The CCS’s meeting was attended by defence minister AK Antony, external affairs minister, Pranab Mukherjee, finance minister, P Chidambaram and home minister, Shivraj Patil. The venture would work towards developing an air defence system for the Indian Air Force to replace its ageing Soviet-era Pechoura missile system. India, which has traditional ties with the Non Aligned Movement (NAM) and has supported the Palestinian cause for decades, established diplomatic relations with Israel in 1992. Defense ties between the two countries have also boomed due to the ideological bondage between India’s Hindutva Fascism and  Israel’s Zionism.

Business Week reported in 2005 that India became Israel’s largest importer of weapons the previous year, accounting for about half of the $3.6 billion worth of weapons exported by that country. Not coincidentally, that year also proved to be the second best recorded year for the Israeli weapons industry, making Israel the 5th largest weapons exporter in the world and accounting for about 10 percent of the world’s weapons trade.

Poverty rates in Israel reached a new peak in 2005, although they leveled off in 2006, according to statistics by the National Insurance Institute. It ranks among Western countries with the greatest percentage of poor children, according to the insurance institute.

Some 7,400 Israelis are worth at least $1 million, the World Wealth Report said, including 84 who have at least $30 million. The total liquid assets of Israel’s upper echelon grew by 25 percent, to $30 billion, between 2004 and 2005, according to the report. Those designated by the report as the nine richest Israelis made their fortunes in everything from diamonds to real estate to communications to entertainment.

But, India and Israel have found a shared enemy to target in their respective “anti-terrorism” operations, conflating Kashmir and Pakistan with Palestine, and also common agreement on a framework that has gained global currency with Bush’s “war on terrorism,” resulting in the new “India-Israel-US axis.” US based Indian scholar, Vijay Prashad says Mossad and India’s Research Analysis Wing (RAW) shared information and analysis from the late 1970s onwards.

The door to Washington, many have realized, is through Tel Aviv. And in the U.S., according to some, the door to Capitol Hill is through AIPAC, the pro-Israel lobbying group that shuts down all criticism of Israel as “anti-Semitic.” Hindu right-wing groups, such as the Indian American Political Action Committee (USINAPAC) and the Hindu American Foundation (linked to the VHP) have forged alliances with AIPAC and the American Jewish Committee. The missile deal has been hanging fire for at least a year, but its approval just before India’s national security adviser M.K. Narayanan’s trip to Washington is a signal to the powerful Jewish lobby in the US, whose support will be vital in seeing through the 123 Agreement in the US Congress. Reports says that US may get  another lucrative order from the Indian Air Force for 126 multi-role combat aircraft, the biggest military aviation deal in history.

The Israeli help comes after repeated delays in the indigenous Akash missile project that is still to undergo user trials, the Indian Express newspaper reported.

Meanwhile, sources told the IANS news agency that 18 command and launch systems would be built for the new missile system. The new missile is likely to be an advanced version of the Israeli Spyder quick-reaction missile which has an effective range of 55 kilometres.

India and Israel are already in a 14-billion-rupee project to develop an extended-range version of the Barak missile that is deployed on frontline Indian Navy warships. The next-generation Barak will have a 70-kilometre range against the 10-kilometre radius of the existing missile.

India and Israel have increased cooperation in varied fields particularly in military and intelligence ventures since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1992.

According government estimates, Israel has become India’s second biggest defence supplier after Russia, providing military equipment worth 1.6 billion dollars in 2006.

India has already acquired the Green Pine early-warning radar from Israel.

Other joint-venture projects are underway for spy planes, electronic warfare systems and AWACS (airborne warning and control systems), while Israel is helping India with the modernization of its Soviet-era fighter jets and tanks.

Recent Major Indian deals with Israel

Feb 2007

In Delhi, the Ashkenazi chief rabbi met top Hindu leaders including leaders of the RSS and BJP in what was termed as “Jewish-Hindu summit.” It led to a 9-point “Declaration of Mutual Understanding and Cooperation from the First Jewish-Hindu Leadership Summit”. The declaration was signed from the Hindu side by Swami Dayanand Saraswati, head of Dharma Acharya Sabha, who is close to the RSS. The tainted Kanchi Shankaracharya Swami Jayendra Saraswati too was involved with the Hindu side represented by some thirty prominent Hindu leaders. Israeli Ambassador David Danieli was also present during the dinner at Advani’s official residence while the (Jewish) Indian officer, Lt. Gen. (retd) JFR Jacob, was part of the Jewish delegation.  “Since Jews were a powerful community in the US, their association with Hindus would help to strengthen Indo-US relations.”  said, another key organizer, Mr. Bawa Jain.

Israel recently transferred five million shekels (5.5 Crores of Indian Rupees) to the Israel Anti-Drug Abuse Foundation (IADAF) operations in Goa. The  organization’s hostel in Goa which treats hundreds of Israelis who suffer from symptoms of drug abuse while traveling in the Indian sub-continent each year. Young Israelis after having to serve 3 years in the Army feel they need to explore the world and get away from all the problems of Israel. Every year, many Israeli young people enjoy their  freedom by visiting Indian beaches of Goa and Kerala and indulge in drug usage .

June 2007

Israeli deputy chief of general staff Major General Moshe Kaplinsky visited J&K from June 14 to discuss various issues with army officers in the state. He met Lt Gen Tej Sapru, general officer commanding of 16 corps and other senior officers in the state to discuss issues of mutual interest. Israel, ranks fifth globally in security-related exports and the role of its spy agency, MOSSAD is being  alleged in  many armed conflicts around the world.

Muslim Intellectual Forum (MIF), a Mumbai based platform of intellectuals, thinkers and human rights activists has linked the  release of Al-Qaida related CDs with the visit of Israeli military and intelligence delegation to India. In a statement Feroze H. Mithiborwala, Convenor of MIF, said, “The latest addition of the Al- Qaida Hind tapes appeared on the same day that an Israeli military and intelligence delegation was to visit India and advice the government on counter-terror measures in Jammu and Kashmir.” He added that it has been the observation MIF that the Al-Qaida tapes come at the most opportune times for US president George Bush and Israel.

“In our estimation, Al-Qaida is nothing but a front organization of the CIA and MOSSAD. The US-Zionist empire has stated that their war against terror will be fought endlessly and across borders and for that they have created a phantom organization, the Al-Qaida. Interestingly, the growth of US-Israeli Imperialism is directly proportional to the growth of terrorism and inversely proportional to the growing resistance,” Feroze said.

The 7/11 Mumbai terror attack occurred on the same day that Israel launched its war on Lebanon. The terror attack on the Sankatmoc-han Mandir on March 7, 2006, occurred a few days after the greatest Indian upsurge after the Quit India movement, against the visit of Bush. Even the terror attack on the Indian Parliament has never been investigated, he said.  The Convenor of MIF viewed that in India basically terror attacks have replaced communal riots as a strategy of the state to divide, confuse and terrorise the people. No terrorist attack requires a commission of enquiry, only pin the blame on some Muslim sounding organization.

In  Jun, 2007, The State Bank of India (SBI) has become the first foreign bank to open a branch in the Israel’s diamond exchange.  The Central Bank of India owns 59.7% of it.

In July 2007, India’s Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) found many ‘blood diamonds’ are being smuggled in to Surat, the country’s polishing center.The rough diamonds from “Antwerp, London and Israel  are brought on fishing boats through the shallow waters of Gujarat’s west coast, they said. Blood or Conflict diamonds originate primarily from war zones where they are illegally mined and later sold secretly. The perpetrators use the profits to buy arms, fund civil wars and military coups against legitimate governments there.

Surat’s gems and jewellery industry, which comprises of more than 6,000 small and big diamond cutting and polishing units, employs around seven lakh people. Being the largest processor and exporter of precious stones in the world, India, with a turnover of Rs 45,000 crore, has always been suspected of getting blood diamonds processed here, DRI officials say. And with nine out of every 11 diamonds in the world being cut in Surat, the city’s cutting and polishing industry is closely associate itself with hinutva mafia. Rough diamond activity in Israel was in high gear in June. Israel’s exports of rough diamonds skyrocketed, totaling $341 million, a 74.5 percent rise over the $195 million in rough diamonds in June 2006.

Critics of the diamond industry point to Botswana, the largest supplier of uncut diamonds in the world, where a fourth of the population lives on less than a dollar a day. A third of the people of are undernourished and the life expectancy is 36 years. Botswana has the second largest per capita AIDS rate on the planet, with nearly a quarter of the people infected. Similar conditions persist throughout the diamond-producing regions of the world.

Indian-Israeli trade – primarily in diamonds, machinery, chemicals, rubber and plastic – grew from $200 million in 1992 to $3 billion in 2006.

July 2007

Israel Desalination Enterprises Technologies (IDE) won two tenders to build three more desalination plants in Gujarat for $9.5 million. Earlier in 2002, IDE built a plant capable of producing 5,500 cu m in Gujarat province where it plans to build one of the plants. “Gujarat and Israel are divided by land but are united by water, in terms of its management and renewable resources’ Modi said. (Ahmedabad News Line, ExpressIndia.com, June 22, 2007)

Hindutva’s  “super patriotic” government in Gujarat also help Jews in Gujarat to migrate to their dream land. Loshana havah Yerusalim (Next year in Jerusalem) became the goal of this tiny population of little over 200 aspiring jews.

Indian drug manufacturer, Elder Pharmaceuticals Ltd said  it had entered into an exclusive in-licensing deal with Israel’s Enzymotec to sell the latter’s cholesterol reducing dietary supplement, CardiaBeat, in India.  Under the deal, Enzymotec will supply the bulk drug to Elder, which would make and sell the finished drug in India under the brand name of Lipicheck.

A study conducted by Elder pegs the size of the domestic cardio vascular drugs market at about Rs 4.5-5 billion, with an annual growth rate of 18-20 per cent, it said. CardiaBeat will be launched by September 2007 and is expected to generate revenue of nearly Rs 200 million by the end of the third year, the company said in a statement.

The technology giant, Cisco’s second biggest non-U.S. R&D facility is in Israel even though,  its Bangalore site is the largest in the world.

16 July 2007 

Untouchables’ left behind in booming nation

DALLIPUR, India — The hip young Indians working inside this country’s multinational call centers have one thing in common: Almost all hail from India’s upper and middle castes, elites in this highly stratified society.

India may be booming, but not for those who occupy the lowest rung of society. The Dalits, once known as untouchables, continue to live in grinding poverty and suffer discrimination in education, jobs, and healthcare. For them, status and often occupation are still predetermined in the womb.

While some Indians had hoped urbanization and growth would crumble ideas about caste, observers say tradition and prejudice have ultimately prevailed.

“There’s talk of a modern India. But the truth is India can’t truly move ahead with caste in place,” said Chandra Bhan Prasad, a Dalit writer and specialist on India’s caste system. “In all ways, it’s worse than the Jim Crow laws were in the American South because it’s completely sanctioned by religion. Despite so many reforms, the idea of untouchability is still very much a part of Indian life.”

As India’s economy surges, one of the country’s most serious and stubborn challenges is how to combat entrenched caste prejudice. Dalits, along with other “backward” castes, make up the majority of India’s 1.1 billion people, and social scientists worry that these groups are being left behind.

The contrast between the gleaming call centers of rising India and the abject poverty that is the reality for many Dalits is all too obvious in Dallipur, an impoverished village on the outskirts of Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh state.

Without electricity, paved roads or running water, the hamlet is home to landless Mushars, the lowest social stratum of Dalits, who work as shoe shiners, trash pickers, toilet cleaners, and street sweepers.

Amid the straw and mud villages, two children died of starvation last year — not for lack of food in the area, but as a result of prejudice.

Chandrika, a 24-year-old Dalit mother, recalled carrying her crying 2-year-old son and her weak 20-month-old daughter to a nearby health center. There, she pleaded for a card that would allow her malnourished children to receive free milk.

But before the nurses could examine her children, she was mocked and shooed away by doctors, who told the young mother to go beg in the market.

“They said again and again, ‘We don’t want to see you Dalits here bothering us,’ ” said Chandrika, a thin, dark-skinned woman who wept as she recounted how her children died. “My milk had dried up from stress. There was no work for me. There was no one to hear my plight.”

Local government leaders who came to investigate her children’s deaths insisted that the shy mother and her fellow villagers build a raised concrete stage — Dalits could be addressed by upper castes only from a higher platform, Chandrika and other villagers were told. The 3-foot-tall dais remains in Dallipur today, the only outcome of the investigation.

By virtue of birth, some castes inherit wealth; the Dalits inherit debt.

Caste often determines Indians’ spouses, friends, residence and, most important, occupation — part of a Hindu belief that people inherit their stations in life based on the sins and good deeds of past lives.

Some Indians believe that the spread of capitalism in urban areas has in some ways dissolved caste by creating new occupations and eliminating obsolete ones. For instance, with the growing use of flush toilets in Indian cities, the disposal of human waste, once a job for Dalits, is now done with a simple pull of a lever.

In booming evening bazaars in Mumbai and New Delhi, lower castes sell cellphones, leather tennis shoes, and grooming kits from small shops and curbside pushcarts alongside higher castes, with everyone “in a capitalist rush to make money,” said Prasad, the writer. “A lower-caste businessman may even enjoy an evening cigarette with a higher caste, completely taboo even 50 years ago.”

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh recently compared India’s caste system to apartheid in South Africa, calling it not just prejudice but “a blot on humanity.”

Critics say that such statements are simply meant to garner votes from lower castes and that any gains made by Dalits have been marginal.

“India is not a true democracy,” said Anup Srivastava, a researcher with the People’s Vigilance Commission on Human Rights in Varanasi who is investigating complaints filed by Dalits about discrimination among neighbors, in schools, at hospitals and at work. “The country is independent. But the people aren’t. How can there be a democracy when there are still people known as untouchables who face daily discrimination?”

Copyright 2007 Globe Newspaper Company.

Emily Wax, Washington Post July 5, 2007

Indian’s migration history is 2500 years old

NRI saga goes back over 2,500 years

For most of the new NRI generation, the Indian migration started about 60 years or 100 years at the most. But this saga goes back over 2,500 years ago much before Biblical times to distant shores of Africa, South-East Asia and the Far East. Considering that they travelled by sailboats into uncharted seas in voyages that took months to the Far East, it remains a humongous achievement.

Most of the second NRI generation in the US and Britain traces its roots to their fathers who left their motherland after India became independent. Canada is an exception as sturdy Punjabi farmers settled there earlier around 1930s. NRIs in East and South Africa, Mauritius and the Caribbean go back to just over a century when their forefathers went abroad to work as labourers to build a railway in East Africa or work on sugar plantations.

While Sri Lanka and Myanmar are just over the horizon for Indian seafarers, negotiating tricky straits and storms to land in Java, Sumatra, Cambodia, Vietnam, Bali and the Philippines demonstrated their real test of skill and endurance over 2,500 years ago. Sailing west was relatively easy as the annual monsoon winds carried their sailboats from Kutch to the Gulf and then south to East Africa and a few months later, they returned as the winds changed into the opposite direction.

‘The diaspora of Indians in ancient times to the countries of South East Asia and the annals of those kingdoms by the Hindu colonists were quite unlike the later European ways of colonization,’ writes Utpal K. Banerjee in his new book ‘Hindu Joy of Life’, ‘Among the European powers were the English, Dutch, French, Portuguese and Spaniards, all five of which acted with explicit support of home government and were accompanied by military forces to back them to forcibly impose supremacy over the people of other countries; mainly to exploit the resources of the colony and benefit their homeland.’

The Indians, on the contrary, enriched the native populations by introducing the art of writing, high degree of culture, improved methods of cultivation, improved handicrafts and introduced new industries, claims Banerjee. ‘Indians went out of their country without any sort of backing of any of the Indian states,’ he said. ‘Hindus left their motherland to settle abroad in colonies and not to make fortune and run back to motherland. It was diaspora in the truest sense, where the penetration of Hindu civilization, culture, languages in South East Asia took place so peacefully that the indigenous population never felt that their country had been taken over.’ Here is a book that chronicles the 2,500 years of Indian settlement abroad in lucid terms in one of its chapters. This highly readable panorama of the Hindu way of life, as opposed to narrow religion described in dry, abstract terms, presents the full canvas of the arts and culture that endures in all NRI communities to this day. In full colour, it is an ide

al introduction for the new NRI generation to learn about their heritage from their gods, scriptures to their fine arts, dance and music. The author writes with the experience of travels to almost all the countries with NRI populations and many more where he was sent to lecture on Indian art and culture.

He scripts the NRI saga right up to the present day. He outlines how the British rulers channelled the recent waves of Indian settlement abroad. After the abolition of slavery, the planters needed farm workers and so they tapped the huge manpower resource of India for the sugar plantations of Jamaica, South Africa and Mauritius from UP and Bihar. They needed workers to build the Kenya Uganda Railway towards the end of the 19th century, so they sent them from Punjab. They needed farmers for the hostile lands of Canada and so Punjabi farmers were allowed in.

After the Second World War, both Britain and the US needed factory workers, skilled professionals and admitted Indians in large numbers from 1960 onwards. The latest flow of Indian immigrants to the US, Britain and Canada came from east Africa in the 1960s to 1980s when the independent African governments wanted to provide jobs for their indigenous peoples. At the end of the last century, Indian IT workers went to fix the Millennium Bug in the computer systems followed by thousands of IT professionals.

Wherever NRIs settled, they have prospered. As law-abiding citizens by and large, they have preserved enduring Indian values. And they have maintained their links with India from distant lands through their way of life. Banerjee pays NRIs a warm tribute by writing, ‘This is no mean achievement, in spite of the initial handicaps and owes a lot to the innate vitality of the Indian civilization.’ In brief, India has always been ‘a soft super power’.

29 May 2007

(A media consultant to a UN Agency, Kul Bhushan previously worked abroad as a newspaper editor and has traveled to over 55 countries. He lives in New Delhi and can be contacted at: kulbhushan2038@gmail.com)

Caste system is racial discrimination: UN rights panel

GENEVA: UN Human Rights Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) has controverted India’s stand at its recent Geneva hearings that the caste system is not racial discrimination based on descent.

In its concluding observations, CERD, which consists of reputed international experts in international law, academics, sociologists and diplomacy, arrived at the conclusion that India’s denial is not correct, and that there is alarming discrimination in practice against Dalits and Scheduled Tribes, as well as minorities who have converted from Hinduism to Christianity or Islam to avoid discrimination.

CERD, however, complimented the Union government for its legislation and constitution to counter whatever discrimination there is, and the efforts made by the Indian delegation to explain its stand in its 35-page report on racial discrimination, submitted after a 7-year wait.

India’s stand in the report is that its caste discrimination falls within the scope of article 1 of the convention on racial discrimination. Indian laws ban discrimination of any kind. Despite the exchange of views with the Indian delegation, CERD maintained that “discrimination based on ‘descent’ includes discrimination against members of communities based on forms of social stratification such as caste and analogous systems of inherited status which nullify or impair their equal enjoyment of human rights.” Discrimination based on the ground of caste is therefore fully covered by the convention.

Some comments to the Indian delegation by experts was one by Prof Sicilianos the India rapporteur: “The reason why we are talking about caste all the time is that it is difficult to know why India refuses to discuss this.” He questioned: “If India is really committed to social cohesion is it not conceivable that you may use every single instrument at your disposal to assist you?

Why see the convention as a threat instead of assisting you in achieving social cohesion?” The committee pointed out with appreciation the declaration of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, where he likened the practice of untouchability to apartheid in South Africa, at the Dalit minority international conference in December 2006.

The observations were made after detailed perusal of India’s report, and a two-day interaction with the members of the Indian delegation, which were mostly cordial and illuminatory, but unfortunately marred by word-sparring and confusing statements by a member of the Indian delegation on customs in the caste system — that the Indian society is not constructed around and does not function on the basis of caste and that poverty and other social problems affected many castes; that those who are born in a caste are proud to be part of that caste; and that children of inter-caste marriages are casteless “unlike race when black marries white.”

CERD has observed that there is de facto discrimination against the Dalits and Scheduled Tribes, who cannot defend themselves, and who are disadvantaged in practice in jobs, education, affirmative action (despite legislation), elections, political participation and compensation. Their lands tend to be appropriated by upper caste neighbours, while they don’t get any protection from the police, and they are even sexually exploited, some CERD observers felt.

CERD says that there is “social acceptance of caste-based discrimination and racial and ethnic prejudice” particularly in rural areas. CERD calls for its eradication by intensifying public education and awareness-raising campaigns, incorporating educational objectives of inter-caste tolerance and respect for other ethnicities, as well as instruction of the culture of scheduled castes and scheduled and other tribes, in the National Curriculum framework, and ensuring adequate media representation of issues concerning scheduled castes, tribes and ethnic minorities, with a view to achieving true social cohesion among all ethnic groups, castes and tribes of India.

SHEILA MATHRANI, TIMES NEWS NETWORK  MARCH 30, 2007

Billionaires contribute 25 percent of India’s GDP !

Bad Governance Promotes Bad Business

Nandigram violence bespeaks inefficient policies of Indian government

India is a fascinating, incredible nation — the more one sees of it, the more one is mesmerized by its sheer diversity. Many of us Indians, seeing the country from within, wonder how it is perceived by the rest of the world.

In the mid-seventies, there was the “Garibi Hatao” (“Abolish Poverty”) campaign; in 2004, we had the “Aam Admi” (“Common Man”) campaign. Aam Admi was sponsored by the Indian National Congress, the party behind the present ruling coalition government and one that has ruled India for more than 80 percent of the time since independence. The result of the Garibi Hatao campaign, if it can be concluded after only three decades, can be seen by all: 70 percent of Indians live on less that $2 a day and more than 30 percent of these on less than $1 a day. Recent reports showed that 95 percent of rural India, where 65 percent of 1.1 billion Indians live, lives on less than $1 a day, and 5 percent on less than 2 cents a day. In other words, not much has changed.

Incredible India also showed “results” under Aam Admi, as Indians continued to feature in the global billionaires list published by Forbes.

Japan, with a nominal economy more than five times the size of India’s GDP, and a population of less than 1/8th of India’s, has 24 billionaires (combined net wealth of $64 billion) whereas India has 36 billionaires (combined net wealth of $191 billion).

When the billionaires’ wealth is computed as a percentage of GDP, India probably ranks highest in the world, at around 25 percent (even excluding the wealth of Indian residents abroad), whereas the comparable figure for the world is 6-7 percent. For the U.S., it is 12-13 percent, and for Japan, less than 2 percent. India’s share of global GDP is 2 percent. For 17 percent of the population, per capita income is around $700, 1/10th of the global average, and nearly 1/60th of the U.S. average. India’s per capita GNI is lower than Sub-Saharan Africa.

So there goes another feather in the cap of the government’s “unity in diversity” and “Incredible India” bottom line.

The Indian government, led by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Finance Minister P. Chidambaram and their colleagues, pursues policies in a mad race to the bottom for growth, the benchmark being China. To record a higher growth rate, the present administration is ready to acquire 20,000 acres of land if not more from poor Indian farmers at dictated prices — acres that will be given to anyone willing to pay $500 million, irrespective of the credibility of the owner. The government will even offer concessions if need be — in the form of free land, free taxes, subsidized mining and more. You name it, toss down a few million dollars, and it’s yours to do with as you please.

In the race to the bottom, a well-researched area in global emerging economics, states export economies deliberately in an attempt to keep their currencies low. When developed and developing giants indulge in this practice, imagine the power that poor Bangladesh or Kenya gain in export competitiveness. So for every winner in this race to the bottom, there will be many more losers. (The real winner is the country that is importing against credit money because in the end it pays less for imports, and thereby contains inflation.)

In the Indian scenario, states are encouraged to indulge in a similar race to the bottom. Like Kenya or Bangladesh, the states of Assam or Bihar have no chance of competing with a Gujarat or a Maharashtra. Thus, along with the bright side of India’s economic growth in a few large states, there remains a darker side in many more states.

When the real estate boom hit India a little late, somehow the billionaires’ portfolio wasn’t filled with 25 percent of India’s land. “How unfair,” decried Indian policy makers. Billionaires contribute 25 percent of India’s GDP in wealth; don’t they deserve to own 25 percent of India’s land? Present policy makers are slowly reserving up to 25 percent of Indian land for the billionaires’ club — not through the constitution, but through another driver called “inclusive growth.” This involves special economic zones (SEZs) that combine the 21st century industrialization drive with the 19th century colonial act of land acquisition.

Just like that, the constitutional reservation fails to make any difference to the millions of the needy poor, some of whom now operate under Maoist-terrorism; on one-fourth of Indian land, there is disenchantment through neglect from administration after administration.

Democracy, economic growth, getting rich, industrialization, SEZs — these aren’t in and of themselves good or bad for society. It’s what one does with them that determines whether they are good or bad.

So we have the latest controversy of forceful land acquisition at a pittance of $25,000 an acre of investment in one proposed capital intensive chemical hub SEZ in Nandigram, in left-controlled West Bengal state: poor villagers (including women and children) of Nandigram were killed or terrorized (including raped) on March 14 by minions of the state administration for their land. The numbers vary from 14 to many more, if local media is to be believed.

Through some simple arithmetic, we can see that at $25,000 per acre of land, the whole of India, including parliament would fall short of attracting 1/15th of the FDI that has gone into China in last 30 years.

If this is not land grabbing in the name of industrialization taking place within Indian states, I don’t know what is.

If government looked into governance and improved it by reducing corruption and making business rules friendly to good businesses rather than bad ones, as it stands now, India would not be able to run its race against China but it still might come up a winner in economic growth for society.

Otherwise, as a citizen, I must say that developments like Nandigram hurt.

Ranjit Goswami, OhMyNews.COM , March 18, 2007