Saturday, June 19, 2010

From ‘Foreign Correspondent. Fifty Years of Reporting South Asia. Revised Edition’. Edited by John Elliott, Bernard Imhasly, Simon Denyer. # 2

Matt Miller – Indian Firm’s Success Stirs Controversy Often Aided by State Licenses, Reliance May Stumble With Gandhi. The Asian Wall Street Journal 24 June 1987

……In India, some companies are more equal than others.
On 7 May, the finance ministry lowered the consumption tax on purified terephthalic acid, or PTA, a substance used in making polyster fibre. Only one company in India is a major consumer: Reliance Industries Ltd. It stands to save Rs 225 million ($ 17.5 million) a year because of the tax change.
Government policies that appear tailor-made to benefit Reliance are nothing new. Now India’s third-largest private corporation, Reliance could hardly have risen from its humble beginnings without numerous official favours.

………During the past decade, the textile and petrochemical company has been granted industrial licenses while others waited in vain for government approval. On several occasions, Reliance, more than any other company, profited when duties were suddenly raised or lowered, or when imports were restricted.

…….In 1981, more than 400 companies applied for a license to produce polyster filament yarn; forty-three made the waiting list. Reliance was given the major license of 10,000 tons annually. Another company obtained the only other license granted, one for 6000 tons.
Reliance built a fully integrated plant. The other company, Orkay Silk Mills ltd, decided to begin production by importing polyster chips, the raw material used in making the yarn. But the government twice raised the duty on the imported chips, then banned imports altogether, effectively crippling Orkay’s production.

………in a country where it takes years to get through the bureaucracy on the simplest of requests, Reliance could obtain action in a matter of weeks.

Arthur Max – Calcutta Today. Associated Press 11 November 1990

‘Bengalis are not business people,’ says Ajay Chatterjee of the Calcutta Municipal Development Authority. ‘They love literature, songs, drama. They are not pragmatic or practical.’

……Built on mosquito-infested delta land 80 miles above the Bay of Bengal, Calcutta suffers temperatures above 100 day after day in summer. The drenching rains of the monsoon season, from July to September, bring only humidity, not relief.

British author Geoffrey Moorhouse called it an act of lunacy to build a city here. ‘Everything in Nature was against it.’

Robert Clive, who turned the East India Company into an empire for England in the 1750s, called Calcutta ‘the most wicked place in the Universe.’

Mark Twain, who visited in 1896, said the weather was ‘enough to make a brass doorknob mushy.’

…….With all its faults, most Calcuttans are intensely loyal.

‘Bengalis love their wretched city with the same passion as a mother loves her sick child,’ wrote Khushwant Singh………….

About 300,000 people have no home other than the pavement, according to some estimates……….Thirteen per cent of the street dwellers work as rickshaw pullers, earning an average 66 cents a day. It’s the last major city on earth where men pull passenger carriages like human horses.

The study estimated that 43 per cent of the city’s residents live in huts in squatter settlements, refugee colonies or slum neighbourhoods……..

But an outsider walking through even the deepest slums of Howrah senses no anger, nor danger.

……….Bettina Borgmann, a German doctor…… a slum clinic.

‘But the people surprise me. Most seem quite happy. They are content with what they have………I have never felt uncomfortable here.’

Mark Fineman – Lynchings over Caste Stir India. The Los Angeles Times 12 April 1991

From a sturdy limb of Mehrana’s holy banyan tree, Roshni, sixteen and Bijendra, twenty, were hanged just after 8 a.m. for all the village to see, a symbol of order, the elders had said, of tradition and of the village’s izzat – chastity and honour.

The young woman, Roshni, was a high-caste Hindu……one of the Jats who own the land, the village and power over the likes of Bijendra and his fellow Jatavs. Bijendra…….was from a ‘backward’ caste, traditionally so impure and inferior that they became known as Hinduism’s Untouchables.

……..They had to die. With that, even Roshni’s father, Ganga Ram, agreed.

……..And so he helped string up his daughter, her lover and the couple’s best friend from the centuries-old banyan tree. But even after three strong tugs on the rope, Roshni and Bijendra refused to die. So the Jats gathered a heap of dry wood, then dragged the young couple, writhing in pain, to the makeshift funeral pyre they had built nearby.

……..In reality, Mehrana is just 70 miles south of the capital, New Delhi.

Bernard Imhasly – Destruction of the Mosque in Ayodhya Violent Resolution of the Indian Temple Dispute. Neue Zuercher Zeitung (Switzerland) 7 December 1992

Ayodhya: On Sunday afternoon militant Hindu activists stormed the Babri mosque in Ayodhya……the central dome collapsed while the police stood by. Almost at the same moment, numerous houses and huts around the city belonging to Muslims went up in flames………

Stephen Wagstyl – The Child Victims of India’s Slave Trade. Financial Times 19 December 1992

Child labour is banned in India in many industries, including carpet weaving.

Bonded labour…….is illegal for employees of any age.

But India lacks the resources to properly police laws on child labour

…………For the most part, the boys have few complaints about their food, which consisted of thin soups, vegetables and bread. But in almost every other way they were abused. They worked twelve hours a day from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. with three half-hour breaks for meals – seven days a week, every week of the year.
They were rarely allowed out of the huts in which they worked and slept……….They were never paid. If they worked slowly, they were beaten, sometimes with a wooden stick. Worst of all was the common treatment for cuts to the fingers suffered during weaving. The loom owners would scrape the powder off a match on to the wound and then set fire to it to staunch the bleeding. ‘It hurt very much,’ says twelve-year old Chilatra Choudhray.
Above all, the children suffered acute psychological distress. Madan Lal’s only thought was for his mother. ‘I always missed my mother. I always cried for my mother but there was nobody there to listen.’
Satyarthi says that since the early 1980s, he has helped in the release of 5000 children, almost all of them untouchables.

Edward A. Gargan – Hindu Storm, Trust is Torn. Police Role in Bombay Riots. The New York Times 4 February 1993

Day after day after day, for nine days and nights beginning 6 January, mobs of Hindus rampaged through this city, killing and burning people only because they were Muslims. No Muslim was safe – not in the slums, not in high-rise apartments……… an orgy of violence that left 600 people dead and 2000 injured.

……..Transcripts of conversations between the police control room and officers on the streets, taken from the regular police radio band…………….show that the officers at police headquarters repeatedly told constables in the field to allow Muslim homes to burn and to prevent aid from reaching victims.

…………Throughout the nine days of rioting, witnesses said that neither the Maharashtra authorities nor the Central government in New Delhi made any effort to staunch the flow of blood…………

‘Some of the happenings in Bombay do bear a resemblance to Germany in the 1930s,’ said Nani Palkhivala, a constitutional lawyer and former Indian Ambassador to the United States. ‘These are things we have never seen in the 300 years of Bombay. People were literally burnt alive. Is this civilization? Is this humanity?’

Celia W. Dugger – Religious Riots Loom over Indian Politics. The New York Times 27 July 2002

………Mothers were skewered on swords as their children watched. Young women were stripped and raped in broad daylight, then doused with kerosene and set on fire. A pregnant woman’s belly was slit open, her foetus raised skyward on the tip of a sword and then tossed onto one of the fires that blazed across the city.

The violence raged for days and persisted for more than two months, claiming almost 1000 lives. It was driven by hatred and sparked by a terrible crime: a Muslim mob stoned a train car loaded with activists from the World Hindu Council on 27 February, then set it on fire, killing fifty-nine people, mostly women and children.

……..The day after the train attack, police officers here in Ahmedabad did not arrest a single person from among the tens of thousands who rampaged through Muslim enclaves, raping and looting as well as burning alive 124 Muslims.

Police officials and survivors said in interviews that workers and officials of the party and the council were complicit in the attacks and, in some cases, instigated the mobs.

……..In the recent carnage in Gujarat, most of those killed were Muslims. Among the survivors, 100,000 became refuges in their own country. More than 20,000 homes and businesses were damaged or destroyed, along with 360 Muslim places of worship.

……..In an interview in June, the state’s chief minister, Narendra Modi, offered no consolation to the state’s Muslims and expressed satisfaction with his government’s performance. His only regret, he said, was that he did not handle the news media better.

………..The National Human Rights Commission, headed by a retired chief justice of the Supreme Court, concluded that the state’s efforts were ‘a comprehensive failure’.

The commission released a confidential report on 12 June that named officials from the Bharatiya Janata Party who have been accused by survivors and witnesses of instigating the violence…………… ‘These are grave matters indeed,’ the commission wrote, ‘that must not be allowed to be forgiven or forgotten.’

……….in the three days after the train attack – when Muslims were overwhelmingly the victims of violence – the police killed more Muslims than Hindus, twenty-two to fourteen, in what was ostensibly an effort to stop attacks on Muslims.

An alliance of non-profit groups surveyed almost 2800 Muslim families who accused the Bharatiya Janata Party or affiliated Hindu nationalist groups of involvement in the violence. But Mr Modi dismissed the charges. ‘Not a single complaints has been registered like this,’ he insisted.

Edward Luce – Supply and Demands. What has Water to Do with Politics? In India Everything. Financial Times Weekend Magazine 24 July 2004

Most Indians have extremely limited and unreliable access to what they need most. Around three-quarters of the population have no public sanitary facilities (such as toilets). More – about 80 per cent – have no access to safe drinking water……..every year more than one million Indian children are killed by microbes in their drinking water.

Somini Sengupta – In India, Maoist Guerrilas Widen ‘People’s War’. The New York Times 13 April 2006

One senior Indian intelligence official estimated that Maoists exert varying degrees of influence over a quarter of India’s 600 districts.

Peter Foster – The Forgotten Victims of India’s Drive to Success. The Daily Telegraph 2 May 2006

While Africa hogs the headlines, the celebrity endorsements and the crisis summits the reality is that half of the world’s 146 million under-nourished children live in just three countries – India, Bangladesh and Pakistan
In China the prevalence of underweight children almost halved between 1990 and 2002 – from 19 to 8 per cent – while in India the annual rate of reduction since 1990 is less than 2 per cent.

A UN report this week put India above only Uganda when it comes to teacher absenteeism. The result is that 40 per cent of Indians still cannot read and write.

It’s worth remembering that India’s much-vaunted IT sector employs just 1.3 million people from a workforce of 400 million.

Jo Johnson – Inequality Threatens India’s Economic Boom. Financial Times 1 November 2007

‘Forty per cent of Indians are now landless and 23 per cent are in abject poverty’, said P. V. Rajagopal, vice-chairman of the Gandhi Peace Foundation……………‘Such conditions have bred Maoist insurgency in 172 of India’s 600 districts and farmers are killing themselves in 100 other districts.’

James Astill – In the Face of Chaos. The Economist 21 February 2009

…….Most Pakistanis are moderate. That is why, in last year’s unusually unrigged election, a coalition of Islamists……..did miserably, losing power in NWFP and Baluchistan. And though Punjab, where 60 per cent of Pakistanis live, is LeTs heartland, it is more orderly than sever big Indian states, and richer.

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