Sunday, June 22, 2008

Indo-US nuke deal - hidden fact?

I had always been perplexed on the contentious issue of the Indo-US nuclear deal ever since Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to the US in 2005. I read editorials, articles, and interviews discussing both sides of the matter, but could not come to a reasoned conclusion myself.

India has to look into herself for the uranium required for her existing plants and also for the plants under development according to an article (read here ) by Associated Press journalist Neelesh Misra published in the Hindustan Times.

I am still no where close to finding a stance on the Indo-US nuke deal. But I have one question – why has this information been kept as a loosely guarded secret for 3-4years now?

My thanks to M J Akbar for his leader page article, in the Khaleej Times dated 22 June 2008, that brought this news out (read article here).

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Is Globalization the cause of it all?

Yesterday, I received the second serious response to something I had written in this blog. I loved the effort Selva took to jot down his thoughts on the lecture by Sainath. I have put the first part of his thought for discussion. It seems he doesn't want to be Nero's guest anymore. This is the change we need to see in today's world.
Selva : Ok. Coming to the point. First, the title. Globalizing inequality. As Mr. Sainath points out, globalization indeed makes rich people richer. That is, if they are able to cope up with the changing winds. But we cannot claim that globalization makes poor people poorer. Globalization was neither meant to bring up inequality nor to abolish it. Inequality existed before globalization. It exists now, when there is globalization. It'll exist in the future, whether there is globalization or not. This claim is based on the books I read and on my social, economical and mainly psychological observations.

>> I do not know whether I can confidently say that the poor are not getting any poorer due to globalization. Before I start with this, proponents of globalization - the likes of Thomas Freidman and Jeffrey Sachs - speak of globalization as being a panacea for all world problems (Sachs in his book The End of Poverty, keeps repeating the globalization mantra!) Even if globalization is not making people poorer, it is not in any way improving the conditions of the poor in societies as these people say it will. How much longer can the poor wait? There is this disparity that has crept in. Accumulation of feelings of unfairness and resentment against the rich, which the disparity brings in the poor, may break the dam any time (as it has in many parts of the world).

With the advent of Manmohanics (in the early 90s) the inequality in India has only become larger. It has made the poor poorer, symbolically at least. The policies adopted by the various governments since then have undermined the traditionally strong sectors in India (eg. the agricultural sector). The opening of the markets has done some good to the affluent, but has caused misery to the poor, scaled much more than earlier times(exemplified by the ever increasing number of farmer suicides).. The priorities of the government have changed – not for the good of all. Something that strengthens some sections of the society while undermining the poorer sections can not be a solution in any sense.

Leaving the discussion of one country, and taking the world as a bigger market, we can find evidence that the farm policies of the ‘globalized’ world is pitted against the poor farmers in the developing world, while the subsidies rich farmers in the rich countries are not affected as much. In many countries the food produced by the local farmers are being sold at prices higher than the food being imported from the rich world. Since most of the people living in these countries are farmers themselves, the decrease in food prices (due to imports) does more harm than good. Moreover, when the rich farming corporations mint money when the farmers are suffering, the poor farmers feel they are being stolen from.

The global markets are under the control of a few very powerful people (read as governments, MNCs). They would go any way to twist the arms of the poorer countries for their good. Take the case of the high price of the anti-retroviral drugs being sold in Africa. Diseases like AIDS that are in epidemic proportions in some African nations can be the reason why these countries fail to make it up the economic ladder. When the medication against this disease is not sold cheaply in the poor countries, the realization of this unfairness causes much more than merely making the poor poorer. Many of the world issues revolve around relatively new terms like terrorism, which can be attributed to such feelings of hostility against the few who wield all the power.

Taking the bigger picture, the world is becoming poorer – the poor as well as the rich.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Globalizing Inequality

P Sainath is a rural journalist and has written about people and places we do not hear much about in today’s ‘flat’ world. He spends 270 days a year living in households in rural India - with villagers in Vidharba, Wayanad, Andhra, Orissa and elsewhere - who have been struck most by government non-intervention. The number of farmer suicides at these places corroborates this.

This lecture ‘Globalizing Inequality’, which he gave at the State University of Washington, Vancouver in 2005, is a real eye-opener. He gives accounts of events that took place in the developing as well as in the economically rich world, which justifies his stand against the kind of globalization plaguing us today, with a few men wielding all the power and controlling the masses.

Through these cases he takes up during the lecture, he convinced me that today’s world does not take up matters that are of no consequence to the few in the driving seat. Today, when we measure economic success of a nation based on its stock exchange value, we are moving further away from the ground reality – from the masses - which do not have an influence on the stock exchanges.

There is a historical text by Tacitus (from his annals), which speaks about Nero burning down Rome. It was during a party that he had organized which had guests that included intellects, columnists, and political figures, when the fire started. And how? He had used the poor from Rome and had put them on fire as a source of light for the guests at night. Rome’s poor then and today’s poor are no different. They are being burnt by the various policies pursued by governments in their home countries as well as by international organizations and nations. We know who today’s Nero is. We are Nero’s guests in today’s world. Sainath asks us to stop being his guest, and watching this lecture would be the most appropriate way to make a start in this direction.

Watch the lecture here.

Read the citation for Sainath read at the Ramon Magsaysay award presentation ceremony here.

Read all his editorials, op-ed articles, reports here.

Sunday, June 08, 2008


I am in my Sunday evening walk.
This is the time I get to be myself,
This is the time I get to sing out loud.

When with people, I have to be
what they see in me.
When alone, I am myself.
I do not have to consider people’s
plight at having to hear me sing.

Today the only ones present,
are the trees;
and the cold that pokes firmly at my sinews.
Then, there is the wide empty road
lying ahead, and the star-filled sky and me.

The greener other side

I watch you crawl
across the muddy path, in large numbers.
Looking for the never
reachable ‘greener’ other side.

I have seen many before you
being trampled by men,
who have lost touch with nature.
There will be a similar stampede
in a few minutes today.
Cross quickly!!