The Food & Lower Classes Overwhelming Indian Political System

Political armies, led by the lower classes, are again trying to march on the voters’ stomach. History is replete with great battalions defeated by an enemy as weak as hunger, leading to Napoleon’s observation about armies marching on their stomachs. As the election battle cry rings through the Indian air, our generals have begun clanging their pots and pans. Not merely in the figurative manner of empty vessels, but quite literally ladling out the stuff. Trying to salve the burns from Mani Shankar Aiyar’s disparaging ‘chaiwalla’ remark, Congress workers recently set up free ‘Rahul Milk’ booths in Gorakhpur and ‘Priyanka khichdi’ stalls in Rae Bareli.
Mr Modi’s emergence from the Ghanchi community, which in the present social discourse is counted amongst the Most Backward Classes of India, changes the electoral game altogether. The Indian political process is likely to undergo a metamorphosis in the upcoming general elections with Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi set to challenge the Congress’ structures of power. This was somewhat unthinkable given Mr Modi’s social background.
The two former stalwarts of the BJP, Atal Behari Vajpayee and L.K. Advani, come from a cultural system that has much in common with that of most Congress leaders. There was mutual respect amongst them as their caste and class were comparable. For example, Mr Vajpayee maintained cordial relations with Congress Prime Ministers Jawaharlal Nehru, Lal Bahadur Shastri and P.V. Narasimha Rao.
Mr Modi’s emergence from the Ghanchi community of Gujarat, which in the present social discourse is counted amongst the Most Backward Classes of India, changes the electoral game altogether.
Mr Modi’s electoral graph is soaring because of the support of the Other Backward Classes and the MBCs. His chaiwallah roots — which send a subtle message to the electorate — are being used by the BJP. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad have gone a step ahead to reinforce Mr Modi’s class background by launching “Chai pe Charcha” across the country. This programme has a huge potential to mobilise the backward classes into the BJP-fold.
The Congress was not prepared for this and is not equipped organisationally to checkmate this mobilisation around Mr Modi. The Congress and the Left parties had planned to corner Mr Modi on the communalism versus secularism plank. The secularists do not know how to handle Mr Modi who has embarked on a different course. Mr Modi’s chaiwallah discourse will help him cross the secular bridge very easily.
After the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992, the Sangh Parivar forces mobilised youth from the backward classes with an anti-Islam and anti-Christian agenda. They also mobilised them in the name of Hindu festivals such as Ganpati, Hanuman Jayanti and Ramnavami celebrations. Krishna Janmashtami is not very much on their agenda, particularly in north India, because the Yadavs considered Krishna as their own god, hence the BJP is wary of projecting him too much. The Yadavs in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh did not take the most backward classes with them. Therefore, they look for an alternative and Mr Modi is seen as one, as he comes from a similar background.
In Bihar, reservations are in place for MBCs, but their sympathies lie with the Janata Dal (United). The effort of the BJP in Bihar is to wean all MBCs away from chief minister Nitish Kumar.
Because of the BJP’s massive propaganda, MBCs all over the country are now getting drawn to Mr Modi, as his chaiwallah identity politics appeals to them. They are the most neglected communities in India comprising artisans — potters, weavers/shepherds, barbers, washermen/women, carpenters, iron and goldsmith, fishermen/women, oil grinders, toddy tappers and so on. In a globalised and liberalised economy, most of these communities lost their traditional occupations and turned to street vending and agrarian labour. The chaiwallahs are a part of this social grouping.
Congress strategists, who were working to retain religious minorities, dalits and tribals, did not expect these unorganised castes to move into the BJP fold and transform votebank politics into a new brand — “chaiwallah politics”. This may become yet another votebank but presently it is an aspirational group.
Though some of them are beneficiaries of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, the Congress never really connected with them as a political party. To connect with these sections the Congress needs to communicate — Rahul Gandhi’s advertisements such as “Main nahin hum’” say little or nothing to them.
In north India, MBCs do not have access to higher education, something that could give them the hope of benefiting from reservation quotas. In the last 10 years that the Congress Party was in power, it did not give them adequate representation in governing bodies, neither at the top of the Congress Party itself.
Unlike the BJP, the Congress did not put a team of intellectuals in place who had a feel of the grassroots, to suitably communicate with these classes.
From the days of the Mandal Commission movement, they have evolved a thinking of hating the OBCs as reservation-wallahs.
Within the BJP there are many Mani Shankar Aiyers and Janardan Dwivedis. For now they are silent. They want power and only Mr Modi can give it to them. The Congress had power for long but never allowed a backward leader to emerge.
The danger is that once Mr Modi comes to power, a range of anti-backward intellectual forces will take over the institutions of the national state apparatus.
In 2002, after Mr Modi won the Gujarat election, in one of my articles in a national daily I had written: “If the secularists and communists do not allow the OBCs to grow in their organisations Mr Modi will become their national leader and their prime ministerial candidate too. In such a situation, feeble OBC voices like mine will be drowned.”
After 12 years this is threatening to come true. Congress leaders across the country have no cultural connect with the backward classes because they practice “elite untouchability”. The backward classes, therefore, developed a feeling that “we are the outside gate-wallahs” for the Congress.
Mr Dwivedi’s statement that there should be an end to reservation on caste lines and introduction of quota for the financially weaker sections, bringing all communities under its ambit, has come in very handy for the “Moditva brigade”. Not that the BJP loves caste-based reservations, but they surely love their votes.
There is a new consciousness among the post-Mandal generation of backward classes, they too want to claim their space. Apart from their social and economic empowerment, the urge for representativeness is visible among them. When Mr Modi appears on TV channels for a Chai pe Charcha, they flock to see their comrade. He is not just a class comrade. He is also their caste comrade.
Kitchen remedies were certainly called for since Narendra Modi, always quick to pump up the primus and boil up a cutting riposte, had turned Aiyar’s jibe into his own tea-party. Free chai began flowing at BJP rallies. And the PM-in-rating flaunted how far a lowly worker had progressed compared to TamBrahms born sucking silver spoons. To say nothing of dynasts surrounded by the entire cutlery set of chamchas.
Rahul is indeed what Parsi matrons dismiss as a ‘doodh-pav’, a namby-pamby; it takes more imagination to picture the Gandhi princess sweating over a bubbling degchi. But, either way, the rasoi response is appropriate considering that their much-loved grandmother presided so imperiously over her ‘kitchen cabinet’.
Tea and khichdi are ma-ka-doodh ( mother’s milk) to Indians, so, unlike latter-day unwholesome stuff, ‘Yeh hi hai right choice of freebies, baby’. Or baba, whose photograph beamed from the thermocole cups of free ‘Rahul Milk’. As always, the PM Wannabe ran off with the advantage since chai is easier to dish up and dish out than even the simplest gruel of dal cooked with chaval. Khichdi may be the comfort food of Bharat, but ‘garam chai’ is the undisputed wake-up call for everyone dwelling north, east or west of the Vindhyas.
True, khichdi is politically nourishing when served up as the mid-day meal scheme. (Sometimes lizards, rats and other uninvited guests skew the stew, or else it’s the usual problem of ‘dal mein kuchh kala’.) But tea has a deeper resonance because the corner chai-shop, like the coffee-house of Europe, is the brewing place of political thought and opinion. Scribes covering Indian elections know that, more reliably than in any lofty location, the conversations at the humble tea-stall indicate which way the ‘hawa’ is blowing.
Our clever Chaiwalla has shown that large dollops of ‘Rahul doodh’ add richness to the scorn he pours on his rival. The Priyanka khichdi is a somewhat more complex thali on which to sup. Any maharaj worth his ‘meethu’ will tell you that the Gujarati version is tough to master. Like the lady herself, it’s not the mish-mash mess of its metaphorical reputation, but calls for the perfect marriage of softness and form.
To counter the Priyanka brand, our Gujju Gathia No. 1, may have to take a bay leaf out of the Rajasthani book: ‘khichdi ke teen yaar — ghee, pappad aur achar’. Being a consummate cooker-up of political storms, Narendrabhai can deploy all three — not to perk up this Congress khichdi, but make it serve his own purpose.
Anyone who has come in the path of this juggernaut single-mindedly thundering its way to Delhi has learnt that NaMo can be as unctuous as ghee, crush his opponents like pappad, and add mirch-masala to everything. From future promises to present boasts to past facts.
Opinion polls tell us that, let alone being wholesome, Rahul Milk is not even halfsome. Kejriwal started off with the perfect ingredients, but then foolishly thought he didn’t need to follow any recipe. The other hopeful fronts are a khichdi at its metaphorical worst. That makes our dishy Gujarati the ultimate ‘comfort food’. But, we should still think twice before ‘kadhi’-ing favour with him
So the coming of new leadership heralds two major changes- the rise of the backward classes and also more attention to gastronomic taste

New Planet saving Water Technologies

It is a fact that the water shortage is likely to be the cause of Third World War. But still there is a ray of hope and that is immediate adoption of latest technologies that could possibly be the salvation. What are the new and emerging technologies that will help business overcome the scarcity of clean, fresh water?
Desalination Plant
The well is but one of a long list of innovations in water technology that have enabled human development to continue apace. Sophisticated pipeline networks and treatment plants today furnish us with this elixir of life and industry. As intense pressure is placed on the planet’s limited water supplies, businesses are again turning to technological innovation. New and emerging inventions should see human civilisation through the 21st century and, with any luck, the next 10,000 years.
Nanotechnology in Filtration:
According to the World Health Organisation, 1.6 million people die each year from diarrhoeal diseases attributable to lack of safe drinking water as well as basic sanitation. Researchers in India have come up with a solution to this perennial problem with a water purification system using nanotechnology.
The technology removes microbes, bacteria and other matter from water using composite nanoparticles, which emit silver ions that destroy contaminants. “Our work can start saving lives,” says Prof Thalappil Pradeep of the Indian Institute of Technology Madras. “For just $2.50 a year you can deliver microbially safe water for a family.”
It is a sign that low-cost water purification may finally be round the corner – and be commercially scaleable.
Nanotechnology Prototype
Nanotechnology in filtration: a prototype developed by the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras Photograph: Indian Institute of Technology
Membrane chemistry: Membranes, through which water passes to be filtered and purified, are integral to modern water treatment processing. The pores of membranes used in ultrafiltration can be just 10 or 20 nanometres across – 3,000 times finer than a human hair.
But while membrane chemistry has been around for several years, it remains a source of intense research and development. “Chemistry significantly contributes to innovative water treatment solutions, such as turning salt water into fresh water suitable for human consumption,” says Yannick Fovet, head of global development for water at chemical company BASF.
Recent breakthroughs have been credited with forcing down the cost of desalinated water from $1 per cubic metre to between $0.80 and $0.50 over five years. New ceramic membranes are helping to make treatment more affordable. “Membrane technology is increasingly important because system integrity, longevity and costs have improved,” explains Paul Street, business development director for engineering firm Black & Veatch.
Seawater desalination:
Although holding much promise for the future, seawater desalination is still extremely expensive, with reverse osmosis technology consuming a vast amount of energy: around 4 kilowatt hours of energy for every cubic metre of water.
One solution being explored in Singapore, which opened its first seawater desalination plant in 2005, is biomimicry – mimicking the biological processes by which mangrove plants and euryhaline fish (fish that can live in fresh briny or salt water) extract seawater using minimal energy. Another new approach is to use biomimetic membranes enhanced with aquaporin: proteins embedded in cell membranes that selectively shuttle water in and out of cells while blocking out salts.
If science can find a way of effectively mimicking these biological processes, innovative engineering solutions can potentially be derived for seawater desalination. Seawater desalination can then be transformed beyond our wildest imagination.
Smart monitoring:
In developing countries alone, it is estimated that 45m cubic metres are lost every day in distribution networks. Leaks are not only costly for companies, but increase pressure on stretched water resources and raise the likelihood of pollutants infiltrating supplies.
It does not make commercial sense to invest billions in additional reservoirs and water catchment, treatment plants [and] pumping stations, when as much as 60% of water produced is unaccounted for.
New monitoring technologies help companies to ensure the integrity of their vast water supply networks. Electronic instruments, such as pressure and acoustic sensors, connected wirelessly in real time to centralised and cloud-based monitoring systems will allow companies to detect and pinpoint leaks much quicker.
Smart Sensors
Intelligent irrigation:
Approximately 70% of the world’s freshwater is used by the agricultural industry. Applying a more intelligent approach to water management by deploying precision irrigation systems and computer algorithms and modelling is already beginning to bring benefits to farmers in developed countries.
However, while this approach embraces new instrumentation and analytical technologies, innovation comes from a change in mindset that emphasises the importance of measuring and forecasting.
In the old days there was not so much stress on measuring because we thought we had plenty of water. It’s a bit of a paradigm switch for the water industry, which like others is used to throwing new engineering developments at problems.
Wastewater processing:
Engineering still has its place, however. Many people living in urban areas, even in advanced economies, still do not have their sewage adequately treated and wastewater is often discharged, untreated, into rivers and estuaries or used as irrigation water.
New technologies are promising to transform wastewater into a resource for energy generation and a source of drinking water. Modular hybrid activated sludge digesters, for instance, are now removing nutrients to be used as fertilisers and are, in turn, driving down the energy required for treatment by up to half.
There is an urgent need for wastewater systems that are more compact, so that new plants can be built in urban areas where land is scarce and for upgrading and expanding extant facilities.
Mobile recycling facilities:
An unexpected by product from the explosion of the global hydraulic fracturing industry has been demand for highly mobile water treatment facilities. Investment is being channelled into reverse osmosis units that will allow companies to treat high volumes of water to extract gas and injected into the subsurface.
There will be knock-on benefits as products [will be developed] with new applications where the price tolerance is much lower. As these technologies develop and learn to treat high volumes of water, we will see cheaper, more potable treatment systems and we will start to move away from massive centralised treatment systems.

The Legacy of Manmohan Singh -A Tragic Figure

Manmohan Singh will go down in history as the third longest serving Prime Minister of India since Independence. He has already started looking for alternative accommodation in Delhi which means that he has no wish to continue in that post beyond May 2014.  Various commentators and analysts are already engaged in the exercise of assessing his legacy.  For me, Manmohan Singh will go down in history as one of the most tragic figures of our times.

In 2004, when he was selected as Prime Minister by Sonia Gandhi, people were led to believe that a brilliant new arrangement had been devised by the UPA under which Sonia Gandhi would look after politics and Manmohan Singh would look after governance – an arrangement which the Constitution of India did not permit.
The early economic successes of this government, largely based on the work done during the NDA regime gave currency to the theory that this arrangement was working beautifully. When the going got tough the arrangement came unstuck; in fact this arrangement itself was the reason for the going getting tough. As Chairman of the National Advisory Council Sonia Gandhi regularly interfered in governance, but yet the dignity of the Office of the Prime Minister of India was not as totally compromised as now, with Rahul Gandhi around. People knew the truth but the facade was still intact. Today, even that pretense is gone.
The cabinet of the Government of India in its wisdom decided to adopt an ordinance providing relief to convicted MPs and MLAs. Rahul Gandhi made a dramatic appearance at a Congress party press conference and declared that the ordinance should be torn and thrown away. Predictably, the cabinet met soon enough and withdrew the ordinance. Similarly, in the meeting of the extended AICC, Rahul Gandhi, the householder, demanded that nine LPG cylinders were not enough for a family and the number should be raised to at least 12. The Prime Minister obeyed and Rahul Gandhi’s suggestion was notified.
Speaking to the nation on September 21, 2012, to explain the reasons for the increase in administered prices of petroleum products, the Prime Minister had stated, “Where would the money have come from? Money does not grow on trees”. Suddenly, money started going on trees and the Government of India had no hesitation in assuming the additional burden of Rs. 5000 core without batting an eyelid.
Rahul Gandhi is the new knight-in-shining-armour for the Congress party. Though he has never spoken a word about the various scams of the UPA government, he is determined to fight the corruption which exists in our system. Someone has convinced him that if five or six bills are passed corruption in India will come to an end.
These bills could not be passed in Parliament in the recently held session, but the knight-in-shining-armour must have his way. So, the Government of India will promulgate these laws through the ordinance route. Rahul, the Superman, has the Prime Minister at his beck and call. Whatever little dignity Manmohan Singh had left has been destroyed completely by Rahul Gandhi.
At another level, we were told in 2004 that the Prime Minister had already fixed the economy of India through his reforms initiated in 1991 and that India was on a sustainable double-digit growth path under his stewardship. As Prime Minister he wanted to leave a legacy in foreign affairs; he took various initiatives. Pakistan responded to his overtures by the terrorist attack in Mumbai and the beheading of our jawan on the Line of Control.
Indian neighbourhood is in much greater turmoil today than ever before. But the biggest setback is in India’s relationship with the one country that the Prime Minister loved, and that is the USA.  Remember the time when he told President Bush that Indians loved him. He went to Washington in July 2005 and concluded the infamous nuclear deal with the US and surrendered the sovereignty of India in the nuclear field. But the same US with which he wished to build a long lasting relationship has now turned against India and there is a real war going on between us on various fronts.
Shankar Acharya, the former Chief Economic Advisor to the Government of India in a recent article described Manmohan Singh’s legacy in the filed of economy as ugly and not merely bad. The same can be said about foreign affairs also. But, his tragedy is greater than his shattered legacy. His tragedy is the tragedy of human frailty in all its ugliness.

The Animal Farm of AAP- the Anti-Liberal Party of India

You could have done better but I don’t mind/ You just kinda wasted my precious time” , says Bob Dylan, ‘Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right’
Taqqiya is not hall mark only of Muslims religion. It has been used very effectively by a new Indian political part – common man party popularly known as AAP. What is the appeal of the Aam Aadmi Party? Can it make a difference? What are its views on economics, politics and social issues? The AAP gets more attention in the media space than all the other parties combined. And it has been doing so for the last three months. This is no mean achievement, and the party needs to be credited for its brilliance, albeit one that Machiavelli would be most proud of.
A nowhere party to now a party with a difference, and a party with a promise of change. The Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP’s rise to power has been a symbol of hope for many. A hope that maybe India could change for the better; a hope that India could be corruption-free. The AAP has selected candidates on a transparent, non-corrupt and non-criminal basis — a huge positive for a criminal- and corrupt-infested Parliament. Thus, there is hope that India will see honest politics and, with it, honest economics. For, as Kejriwal recently stated his version of the AAP’s economic policy: “Our economic policy is honest politics.”
There is no doubt that Election 2014 is shaping up as the most important election, ever, in Indian history. And as the one promising to be different, we need to examine what the AAP’s leaders say and mean when they opine on policy. Until just a few weeks ago, most people assumed that the AAP believed strongly in political freedom. That view has been dented by protests, sleepovers and resignations on the ground that it is “The AAP Way or No Way”.
Does any AAP party member know, or even care, as to the contents of the Lokpal bill that forced the “principled” resignation of Kejriwal’s party? When asked as to how the Lokpal bill would affect the life of the aam aadmi for which it was explicitly meant (The Big Fight, NDTV, February 15), senior member of the AAP party, Ashutosh, went into convoluted contortions to answer this straightforward question. He started explaining that big-ticket corruption needs to be checked and ended with a reference to Lal Bahadur Shastri. When a panel member persisted: But how does the Lokpal bill affect the life of a Delhi citizen? His lack of response reminded me of a refrain among the youth of the 1960s: “Ask no questions and you will be told no lies.”
On social policy, the AAP showed great progressiveness with support for gay rights. But no sooner had the applause peaked than the party opined on the constructive mohalla role of khaap panchayats. When criticism mounted about the anti-social and murderous khaaps (especially in the state of Haryana where the AAP wants to make a dent in electoral politics), the AAP made a hasty retreat and said, of course, we don’t believe in murder, and murder should be punished. Thankfully, AAP leaders did not suggest an amendment to the Constitution regarding the special status of khaap murders. It is getting difficult to distinguish political expediency from the AAP’s actions.
Ditto with another AAP foray into “social policy”, or how to appear all things to all people at all times. Fundamentalism, the antithesis of liberalism, is apparently no bar to the AAP’s policy recommendations. Among all the Muslims in India, the AAP felt compelled to reach out to Maulana Tauqeer Khan, a cleric known more for his fatwa against a liberal Muslim writer, Taslima Nasreen, than for his views on progressive politics. And to round out the anti-liberal picture, the AAP leadership stated that too few of the graduating class from Delhi high schools were finding admission in Delhi universities and wasn’t that a shame? Remind you of Mumbai and the “liberal” Thackeray?
On economic freedom, the jury was out, with many suspecting that the AAP was to the left of the Left. The AAP believed in clean government-dictated licence permit raj — an oxymoron to define an oxymoron. The common belief also was (is?) that the AAP wanted to turn the clock back, way back, on economic reforms. Policy actions and policy recommendations mark the extremes of their anti-liberal position. For example, by delivering on their promise of free water to the residents of the richest city in India, Delhi, and a city that was already receiving water at one of the lowest prices in the world. To compound illiberality, the AAP formulated its water policy in a most ingeniously stupid manner. It postulated that if a household consumed a drop more than 20 kilolitres per month, its free water would be converted to fully priced water! Even an anti-market populist like the late Hugo Chavez of Venezuela never dreamt, let alone tried, such a populist anti-liberal measure.
Expectations were high that once the Aam Aadmi economic policy manifesto was released, it would confirm the status of the AAP as a “liberal” progressive party. The document has yet to see the light of day, and even Godot may appear before a liberal economic AAP manifesto sees daylight. Hints about its nature were liberally sprinkled by Kejriwal at a function hosted by industry lobbyist CII. Reading his statements, all liberals would come back enthused by the AAP conversion. Some throwaway and giveaway lines: “We are not against capitalism, but we are against crony capitalism. The government has no business to be in business, it should be left with the private players. Licence and inspector raj has to end…”
Is Kejriwal being real, or is he playing politics in the firm belief that voters are stupid (a belief shared by the ruling Congress party — just look at their actions on Telangana)? How plausible is the notion that Kejriwal is a liberal, economic or otherwise? None of the evidence suggests that he is. You cannot be half-pregnant, or half-liberal, or half-secular. You can, of course — but then you, as an individual or as a party, are just like any other. There goes your Unique Selling Point, your raison d’etre. But then, the AAP might argue, being liberal does not win elections. True. On the other hand, by being so much like other parties, by playing conventional politics, the party with a difference is fast becoming the party with no difference. This has historical precedence — well, almost. In Animal Farm, George Orwell posits a world ruled by Men, and the animals rebel because they believe that “Man is the only real enemy we have. Remove Man from the scene, and the root cause of hunger and overwork is abolished for ever.” The revolutionary anarchist animals, led by the pigs, succeed in overthrowing Man. But soon reality sets in. “The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.”

The Politicians Cower in Face of Ethnic Diversity?

Harvard sociologist Robert Putnam has completed an important study of more than 30,000 North Americans and concluded that — especially if you live in ethnically diverse cities such as Toronto, Vancouver or Los Angeles — it’s likely you are “hunkering down.”
That’s the colloquial phrase that Putnam, who has been an adviser to everyone from Bill Clinton and Tony Blair to the U.S. State Department and the World Bank, uses to describe the lack of trust he discovered among most North Americans in diverse urban settings.
Since geographers rank Greater Toronto and Metro Vancouver respectively the third and fourth most “hyper-diverse” cities in the world — more than 45 per cent of the residents of each metropolis are born outside the country — Putnam’s findings are more than relevant to these regions. Indeed, when the Vancouver Foundation recently conducted a massive survey of Metro Vancouver residents, researchers discovered most people in this West Coast city feel unusually high levels of loneliness and lack of friends.
Even though Putnam realized the results of his own research into diversity challenged his pro-multicultural values, he still holds hope that immigration may have long-term benefits in North America if handled responsibly by politicians. Some Canadian politicians are starting to respond.
Still, the author of the classic book Bowling Alone, which chronicles the decline in civil engagement in North America since the 1950s, has felt contradictory feelings as his findings have been confirmed by researchers in Canada, Sweden, Peru, Pakistan, Kenya and beyond.
He has realized neither of the two dominant North American myths about multiculturalism are accurate.
In contrast to conservatives’ beliefs, Putnam says multicultural diversity doesn’t necessarily lead to open “conflict” among people of different ethnic groups. “Race riots” and violence do not necessarily break out.
On the other hand, contrary to liberals’ dreams, Putnam did not find pople of different ethnicities inevitably discover “harmony” or enjoy “fusion.”
Putnam’s survey of 41 American cities and towns found people in ethnically diverse regions tend to be more quiet and polite — but also disengaged and wary. While Putnam believes there may be long-term benefits for some from immigration (including enhanced scientific and intellectual innovation), he’s convinced the short-term effect on most cities is a drop in “social capital.”
People in diverse urban regions tend to seek shelter in their own little worlds. “Diversity, at least in the short run, seems to bring out the turtle in all of us. … The more ethnically diverse the people we live around, the less we trust them.”
Putnam adds an additional disturbing discovery — that “in-group trust, too, is lower in more diverse settings.” In other words, people also become more distrustful even of members of their own ethnic group. “Inhabitants of diverse communities tend to withdraw from collective life, to distrust their neighbours, regardless of the colour of their skin, to withdraw even from close friends, to expect the worst from their community and its leaders, to volunteer less, give less to charity and work on community projects less often, vote less … have less faith that they can actually make a difference, and to huddle unhappily in front of the television,” Putnam writes in his report E Pluribus Unum: Diversity and Community in the 21st century.
The Vancouver Foundation survey of 3,800 diverse Metro residents confirmed Putnam’s results. It found one in four Metro residents feels alone more often than they would like, one-third consider Vancouver a difficult place to make friends, most don’t socialize with their neighbours, half don’t volunteer and most feel that, while diversity is generally a good thing, they prefer to be with members of their own ethnic group.
More than half of respondents, of all ethnicities, also agreed that Vancouver is becoming a resort town for the wealthy and that there is too much foreign ownership of real estate.
Since Putnam first uncovered his “inconvenient truths” about the downside of diversity, he has extensively “kicked the tires” of his studies to see if other reasons could explain a lack of mutual regard in multicultural societies.
But he’s failed to find evidence to contradict his own findings. Indeed, many others have confirmed them, including Harvard economist Edward Glaeser, author of Triumph of the City; American academics Edward Miguel, Matthew Kahn and Dora Costa; and Oxford economist Paul Collier, author of Exodus: How Migration is Changing the World.
As Putnam summarizes, higher diversity leads to “lower confidence in local government, local leaders and the local news media … less expectation others will cooperate to solve dilemmas … less likelihood of working on a community project … lower likelihood of giving to charity … and less happiness and lower perceived quality of life.”
One of the most serious downsides of greater diversity, emphasize Putnam and others, is people become more reluctant to pay taxes. Higher ethnic diversity leads to more reluctance to redistribute wealth. In high-immigrant societies, Glaeser found the relatively well-off have less empathy for those on lower incomes because they don’t see them as being basically like themselves.
Collier is among those who speculates decades-long anti-tax campaigns in California — which have led to decaying road systems and battered public schools — could relate to the state’s high ethnic diversity. California has more immigrants than any other U.S. state.
What’s to be done? The first thing Putnam seeks is that people on the political right and left get over their blind spots. “It would be unfortunate if a politically correct progressivism were to deny the reality of the challenge to social solidarity posed by diversity,” writes Putnam. “It would be equally unfortunate if an historical and ethnocentric conservatism were to deny that addressing that challenge is both feasible and desirable.”
Putnam’s ideas for overcoming the divisive effects of diversity demand going beyond “tolerance”; they focus on “creating more opportunities for meaningful interaction across ethnic lines.”
Putnam, in addition, stresses that governments need to help North American immigrants improve their English (or French) and better fund overwhelmed educational and health facilities.
Transcending the mistrust associated with ethnic diversity will not come quickly or easily. But Putnam remains hopeful it can be done if public officials more frankly face the problem, adjust immigration levels and become more creative. As a liberal, Putnam puts faith in the advice of the 19th-century sociologist Max Weber, who stressed civil societies can slowly overcome intransigent predicaments — because “politics is a slow boring of hard boards

Policy Gap as Immigrant Students Excel

A look at any graduating class at major Canadian universities will show a high proportion of children of immigrants. Most people who have attended Grade 12 graduation ceremonies or spent time on university campuses have seen the signs. But some may still be surprised by a study by Statistics Canada, Garnett Picot and Feng Hou that verifies that young Canadians with immigrant backgrounds are almost twice as likely to go to university as students whose parents were born in Canada.
The study’s hard numbers confirm impressions obtained on Canada’s major urban university campuses, where visible minorities tend to prevail on honour rolls and in business, science and engineering programs. “Students with immigrant backgrounds in Canada display a significant advantage regarding university attendance,” write Picot, of Queen’s University, and Hou, of the University of Victoria.
The social policy experts found 50 per cent of students who immigrated to Canada go to university, compared to 31 per cent of students who had one parent who is an immigrant and only 25 per cent of students whose parents were both born in Canada.
The university success story is strongest among ethnic Chinese. “Students with Chinese origins are 40 percentage points more likely to attend university than those with Canadian-born parents,” write Picot and Heng Hou. “That means that almost three-quarters of students with Chinese origins attend university, more than twice the rate among students with Canadian-born parents.”
What are the policy implications of this?
The Picot and Hou study, which is supported by emerging research across Canada and the U.S., highlights an awkward reality for governments and school officials. Public officials are still formally required to channel energy into affirmative action programs for visible minorities, English-as-a-second language students and immigrants. But these studies show it is the students of those with Canadian parents who are falling behind.
Some scholars are calling for a shift in education priorities in light of studies done by Picot, Hou and Grace Kao in the U.S., where data also show that children of immigrants have, on average, higher wages and educational levels than children of the American-born population.
One of the many revealing reality checks to come out of the Picot and Hou study is its confirmation that most students in North America who learn English as a second language are not at a disadvantage because of it.
While many immigrant background children do relatively poorly on standardized literacy tests at age 15, the vast majority have dramatically overcome the language challenge by Grade 12. This is especially the case, say studies, for Chinese students and Asian females. “Poor performing secondary school students (at age 15) … with Chinese backgrounds were seven times more likely to attend university than their poor-performing counterparts with a Canadian background. Low-performing students with other Asian backgrounds were four times more likely.”
Almost as an afterthought, the Picot and Hou survey notes that students in Canada who have immigrant backgrounds in Europe don’t do any better at university than third-generation Canadians.
What’s behind the incredible university success of Canadian students with Asian backgrounds? That’s the question Yale law professor Amy Chua wrote about in Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother and her latest book (co-written with husband Jed Rubenfeld), The Triple Package: How Three Unlikely Traits Explain the Rise and Fall of Cultural Groups in America.
Breaking the unwritten rules of multicultural discourse, Chua argues people of Chinese and Jewish backgrounds, along with Iranians, Koreans and South Asians, have three traits that gear them to success: a group superiority complex, individual anxiety and the ability to control their impulses.
Picot and Hou offer their own perspective on the reasons for positive university outcomes among immigrant-background youngsters. For one, they say Canadian schools do not follow the European practice of “streaming” students into vocational or academic programs in their early teens. This gives ESL students in Canada time to master a new language before applying for universities.
In addition, Picot and Hou believe Canada’s immigration policies, which favour skilled and wealthy immigrants, have led to many Asian immigrants being more educated and often more affluent than third-generation Canadians. They’re also more urban; Metro Vancouver’s population is 45 per cent foreign born.
Perhaps most importantly, however, the researchers follow the lead of Chua, the famous Tiger Mom, and maintain that Asian immigrant parents put far more emphasis on working to ensure their children succeed in Canadian universities (they did not measure colleges). “University aspirations among students and their parents account for the largest portion” of factors explaining the “advantage” that immigrant-background students have in Canadian universities, Picot and Hou maintain.
So what should policy-makers do in response to these unforeseen university trends? A similar imbalance has arisen in British educational systems, where Oxford economist Paul Collier has found that “the success of immigrants can demoralize, rather than inspire” the less-successful students of British background. “Faced with decades of frustration of their hopes, the dominant narrative of the indigenous underclass has evolved as fatalism: Avoid disappointment by not trying,” Collier writes in Exodus: How Migration is Changing the World.
Demoralization may be compounded by competition: Those working-class children who buck the pressure to conform to expectations of failure are, in effect, competing for space … with the children of aspiring migrants.
High-immigrant Western countries such as Britain, the U.S. and Canada have never figured out how to address the problems of the under-achieving domestically born. These Western countries have developed either universal programs or affirmative-action plans for identifiable minority groups, Collier says. None of them has ever designed a way to respond to the more “nebulous” needs of the general “indigenous” population.
The biggest and toughest question of all is coming up with a strategy to help underperforming non-immigrant Canadians. I am really concerned about the lack of motivation among average students of Canadian background. Yet no one in government or education has come up with a solution. Even though it might not seem too concrete a strategy, maybe there is at least a bit of hope in some kind of ethno-cultural exchange.
The cultural attitudes of the parents has much to do with why immigrant-background students tend to perform better. Yet there can be a severe downside to students who are driven by family pressure. Many immigrant background students “burn out,” he says, succumbing in particular to mental illness.
As a result students from immigrant and Canadian backgrounds have something to learn from each other. Average kids who are content with mediocrity would benefit from spending more time with the kids who are excelling. There is not much wrong, he suggests, with going to summer school to improve your grades. At the same time, super-achieving offspring of immigrants could learn something from Canadian-background students — that sometimes it’s best to contain the unbridled and unhealthy pursuit of high marks.Is it possible to bring these two distinct attitudes closer together in Canada?

Parliament – An Unnecessary Institution in India

India prides itself on being the largest parliamentary democracy in world. It pats itself for upholding the role of the lawmakers, a large majority of whom are criminals. But does India need a parliament? It is a billion dollar question, seeing its make up and functioning. I have aleady written how criminals get elected in India ( http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-1083725 )
However the working of the Indian parliament leaves one to wonder why India spends billions of dollars on a non-functioning instution that is full of either criminals or charlatans, whose only aim to garner wealth and power. The recent Telangana happenings are the last straw that should break this camel’s neck and help it die in peace for peace to be brought to Indian citizens.
The blackout of the live transmission of the Lok Sabha debate on the Telangana Bill was the least shocking aspect of the entire exercise. Nor was the behaviour of the rival factions of Andhra MPs, pepper spray or not, difficult to explain. Indeed, one explains the other. In no other Parliament of a major democracy could a Bill with so much at stake be passed without more than a perfunctory debate or without a single vote count on something like 110-plus amendments. A topic which has been debated in the public, required a commission, caused suicides and much damage to public property, and on which strong views were held by rival sides, would never have been passed with such ease if there had been a genuine legislative chamber.
The truth, however, is that India’s Parliaments have been rendered non-functional — not by rowdy MPs but by the executive which has concentrated total power in its hands. The executive controls the business and the procedure of the legislature. When it comes to discussing a Bill, it is done off the floor of the House and between the leaderships of the major parties in secret. Thus late as the Telangana Bill came to the Lok Sabha, the discussion of all the amendments which were acceptable to the UPA was carried out between the Congress and BJP in a secret conclave. What was presented to Parliament was pre-cooked and predetermined to pass. This is why a voice vote was enough to pass the agreed upon amendments and to reject the rest without any debate. Why just that day, on any other day you could blank out the live debate in Parliament and nothing will be lost. Parliament does not debate legislation any longer. What happens is that the leadership of the major parties meets outside and determines in a give and take bargain what will be allowed to go through and what not. Parliament as such is impotent and irrelevant to any systematic debates.
It was not always thus. Parliament functioned much like its British counterpart for the first 24 years after Independence. There were major debates and historic speeches made on the floor of the House. Listen to the debates on India’s policy on China or recall Annadurai’s speech in 1962 where he told North Indians that the South was going to secede. Members could disagree with their party’s policy as British MPs can and frequently do. A Bill regarding the bifurcation of a state would take at least three months in each House in the UK. India retains the pretence of a parliamentary system, but does not have substance anymore.
This position has been evolving since Indira Gandhi began to concentrate executive power in the hands of the prime minister after her re-election in 1971. Later, when frequent defections became a problem, anti-defection laws were passed and the Ninth Schedule sounded the death knell for the independence of backbench MPs. An Indian MP has to obey the chief whip’s command. Most of the time, he/she is not allowed to speak if they are in disagreement with the position of the party. Bills are amended in standing committees and then brought before Parliament, where they are passed on the nod. The MP is thus impotent, and, except as a bodily presence, not doing much.
The only way an MP can register a disagreement is to stop Parliament from functioning. A lot of the time MPs misbehave under orders from their whip when their party does not want some piece of legislation to be introduced since, once a Bill is allowed to be introduced, it is guaranteed to pass. This is why Samajwadi Party MPs rioted when the Bill to secure reservations in promotions for the Dalits was about to be introduced. Or they riot as a bargaining ploy for their party vis-a-vis the ruling party. When the MP’s party is in power, as happened with Congress MPs from Andhra Pradesh, the only recourse is rioting. This was well anticipated by the Congress and used to squeeze last-minute concessions from the BJP to pass the Bill.
No ruling party wants Parliament to function. Let them riot, but to not legislate is the mantra.

Sacred Canadian Cows Most Dare Not Criticize.

Every culture has its unacknowledged taboos—the things you are forbidden to say or do in polite company, the accepted truths you are not allowed to doubt. You might think that a liberal, open-minded country like Canada would be free of such taboos, but you’d be wrong. In spite of our belief in our own enlightened tolerance, some things are simply not open to debate. If you try, you’re bound to shock the neighbours.
It’s risky to question the wisdom of the tribe. You might get stoned. On the other hand, some people might sneak up to you afterwards and confess that they secretly agree.
So here’s a challenge to a few of our nation’s most widely held beliefs. You say these things in public at your own peril. I will be elaborating on these points over the months to come. Feel free to stone me or secretly agree—or, even better, add to the list. At the very least, they’re sure to start a good dinner-party fight.
Multiculturalism is a Nefarious Anti-National concept
Multiculturalism is a contradiction in terms. It has created social, political, economic and cultural ghettos. It is essentially a refinement of old imperial policy “ divide and rule”. Although PM Trudeau is regarded as the main theorist of Multiculturalism, he did build on work done by PM Diefenbaker (Bill of Rights) and the Bilingualism and Biculturalism Commission. Much of what Trudeau did was a reaction to key issues of the time : the rise of Quebec nationalism and separatism; fear of American dominance; lack of Canadian unity ; and far from least, federal Progressive Conservative Party control of southern Ontario. In the mid-60′s, an assistant to PM Lester Pearson, Tom Kent, allegedly…advised the Liberal leader on how to break-up the Progressive Conservatives’ political grip on Toronto. The solution was quite simple : Open up the immigration flood gates to non-traditional immigrants. Even though, at the time, (non-traditional) Toronto population pockets were small … the newcomers would naturally gravitate to their own people and become isolated and, therefore, politically controllable. Their numbers would grow and all of the Great White Gods of the Liberal Party had to do was “remind” them of who let them into Canada. This could be achieved by funding their leaders and expanding their ethnic press through Liberal government funding. The ethnic press couldn’t very well bite the hand that fed it, so their output would be guaranteed to be pro-Liberal.
It was a Canadian sellout. Trudeau accepted Kent’s corrupt policy and began to put his own, but self-admitted, experimental ideas about nationalism into practice. His description of French and English as two scorpions in a bottle predicted what he would do. After failing to satisfy Canadians that Bicultural policies should exist alongside bilingual policies, he used the term Multicultural to describe his vision of Canada. And yet the Canadians, despite their awareness of the nefarious aspect swear by this outmoded anti-national concept
Mollycoddling of Immigrants is Harmful
The immigrants come to this country and they are supposed to be aware that the official language are English and French. They are supposed to be contribute to the economy. Yest the money spent on providing translation and interpreting services is astronomical. Similarly the misuse of welfare funds by them is just winked upon. Their culture is given more importance and their sensibilities are catered, no pandered to. They are permitted to bring their cultural baggage, including use of peculiar dress and wearing of arms, even when against accepted norms.
This mollycoddling leads to a sense of frustration, but who cares, as long as the politicians get their votes.
Margaret Atwood Writes Some Awful Books
I have never been able to endure the Queen of CanLit Margaret Atwood who bestrides the literary world like a colossus. Nobody has won more awards than she has, and nobody is more feared. There is no such thing as a bad review of a Margaret Atwood book in Canada. That’s too bad, because many of her books are tedious and unreadable, full of tortuous plots and unpleasant characters. Why will no one say so? Because we’re grateful that she’s put us on the global map. And because if they do, they’ll never work in this country again
Recycling is a Waste of Time and Money
Once upon a time it was easy to put out the trash. Today, the Garbage Gestapo rule our lives. Every household has become a mini version of the village dump, and every one of us has become a garbage picker, carefully separating our organics from our bottles and papers, and worrying about where our dryer lint is supposed to go.
Don’t try to sneak a wine bottle into the wrong bag! The trash police will punish you. The truth about recycling is that it’s a giant waste of dollars and doesn’t help the environment. But don’t tell your kids. They won’t believe you. They’ve been brainwashed.
Only Private Enterprise Can Save Health Care
Tommy Douglas, the CBC’s Greatest Canadian, brought us universal health care. But even his plan didn’t originally pay for everybody’s ingrown toenails. His primary goal was to make sure nobody faced financial ruin if they got sick.
Today we have a system where controlling costs is more important than treating patients, and where ideology is crippling us. In some places, including Toronto, people go blind waiting for cataract surgery. The government could restore their sight tomorrow simply by sending them to a private clinic instead of to a hospital. The cost to the government would be exactly the same. But in Canada, private is a dirty word, and so the government would rather you go blind. Poor Tommy would be spinning in his grave.
David Suzuki is Bad for the Environment
From global warming to farmed salmon and genetically modified crops, David Suzuki has just one message: The End is Nigh.
He is our homegrown prophet of doom who preaches the essential wickedness of the human race. Like a modern Savonarola, he warns that unless we cast our material possessions into the bonfire, we’re all going to hell. The trouble with this apocalyptic vision is that people are starting to tune out. And our hugely expensive investment in the unworkable Kyoto treaty, which Mr. Suzuki tells us doesn’t go nearly far enough, will crowd out more practical measures to cut smog and clean up our waste sites.
A National Daycare Program Won’t Do a Thing To Help Poor Kids
Cheap national daycare! Who could be against it? It’s supposed to give kids a better start in life, and nobody can object to that. But in Quebec, where the program started, universal daycare has turned out to be nothing more than a giant (and extremely costly) subsidy for relatively well-heeled middle-class parents. Few poor parents use the system.
No doubt convenient daycare is a godsend for many. But so far there is no definitive evidence that kids who go to daycare go on to do better in school or in life. So if we want to invest billions in helping kids, why are we spending it on the kids who need help the least?
Group of Seven are Overexposed Genre Painters
I like A.Y. Jackson as much as you do. His paintings remind me of my younger days. I grew up with a reproduction of The West Wind hanging in our living room. (That was by Tom Thomson, who wasn’t really a member of Group of Seven, but never mind.) Group of Seven were the first artists to depict the wild Canadian landscape, and they were bold young rebels in their time.
But that time was 80 years ago. Today their work is the quintessence of bourgeois picture-postcard art—the kind of art it’s safe to take your mother to see. Enough, already. Maybe it’s time we moved on.
The United States is the World’s Greatest Force for Good
Of all the shocking things you can say around the dinner table, this is the most shocking one. After all, America-bashing is part of our national identity.
At best, we see our neighbour as a well-intentioned but arrogant and blundering bully that throws its weight around too much. At worst, we see our neighbour as one of the most evil nations in the world. And yet, right now, hundreds of millions of people in India and China and other desperately poor parts of the world are being liberated from millennia of suffering and serfdom. Why? Because of the United States, which has spread its idea of economic freedom—and its purchasing power—around the world.
True, and irrefutable facts, but would you dare be critical. I dare you do so!! However be warned : you do so at your peril.

Why do Indians & Pakistanis Hate Valentine’s Day

I’m always surprised to note Indians’ and Pakistanis’ angst against Valentine’s Day. It is just a day which is an ode to St Valentine, a guy who defended the rights of lovers to express their feelings. Naturally, he made enemies, because there are always more people against love than for it. A case of sour grapes, I’m sure.
So, let’s check out what makes them see red when the season marked by red heart balloons appears?
.One of the foremost reasons for the all-round protests is that the festival is an imported one, not originally South Asian. For God’s sake! In a countries obsessed with all things “phoren”, why this sudden wave of patriotism when it comes to saying “I Love You”?
The second reason put forward is that why keep aside just one day for love, when 365 days are there in a year! Arre, how many men would say I love you or gift their women anything the remaining 364 days?
When it comes to hypocrisy, South Asians are born leaders. They will indulge their wildest fantasies, but not admit to them. They will read Playboy magazines tucked under their pillows, but join dharnas against sex ruining our society!
Another reason cited is that it’s too commercial, and too much money is wasted on this day. As if these people practice frugality on the never-ending festivals throughout the year.
Another “logic” put forward is that we have bigger problems to deal with, and we can’t be bothered with a day dedicated to love! Puleeeze…if gifting chocolates, teddy bears and going on a date helps some people to get away from their otherwise drab lives, why grudge them?
Anyone who proclaims that their Hindu or Islamic religion does not allow practice of Valentine’s Day, has to be a bigot. It’s just a day you set aside to go for a movie or have dinner with that special someone, and no religion says love is bad. For the Sufis, love equalled spirituality.There are people who think making a fast buck by selling red balloons and chocolates amounts to a sin. How different is this from making money by selling kites at Makar Sankranti or bangles on Id? Both are about celebrating life, isn’t it?
Many scorn Valentine’s Day for being a scam. Well, if it’s a scam, it is certainly one of the least harmful ones in countries ridden with scams of all types.
People who have never expressed love for their spouses or been the lucky recipients of romantic love form the majority of people protesting against Valentine’s Day. It’s like the perfect misfit!
When radical groups condemn Valentine’s Day as “nothing but a Western onslaught on India’s culture to attract youth for commercial purposes” , follow this up by stealing Valentine’s Day cards from shops and burn them in a bonfire, besides harassing hand-holding couples, is it not a clear expression of rage against the soaring popularity of the day, as evident in restaurants promoting Valentine’s Day dinners, stores selling flowers and chocolates, media organising love-letter competitions?
The only reason which seems to make some sense maybe the pressure on guys to express their love for their beloved in just the right way. As someone has shared: “I may express my profound love for her on all 364 days, but, on Valentine’s day, if I fail to go to meet her without being armed with at least a red rose, I stand the risk of being kicked out of her life!”
Valentine’s Day is actually quite a light-hearted festival, but widespread efforts to repress it are anything but light-hearted. They represent intent to declare war on modernity in real terms.
Let me quote a poem to state my case: “Umar bhar hum yahi bhool karte rahe, Dhool chehre pe thi, aur aaina saaf karte rahe…”( We have been committing the same mistake our whole life/ the dust was on our face, and we were cleaning the mirror…)

It’s Criminals, Whom Indians Vote For

It’s criminal, how Indians vote
The Lok Sabha has 162 MPs with pending criminal charges; one in three state assembly members is involved in an unlawful case. Data from the last two national elections shows candidates with charges from mischief to murder are most likely to win. A look at why Indians are making law breakers law makers
Elections in India are known as a one-of-a-kind festival of democracy , replete with colourful pageantry, flamboyant personalities and very large numbers. The size of the country’s electorate when India heads to the polls for Parliamentary elections later this spring is expected to reach nearly 800 million. According to census data, an estimated 150 million people are eligible to vote for the first time. Elections certainly bring out the best in India’s raucous democracy, but they also expose some of its blemishes. Consider this extraordinary figure: 30% of members of Parliament have criminal cases pending against them. And that is an increase from the previous Parliament elected in 2004, when “only” 24% of MPs were similarly situated. In the fight to curb these figures , there have been some positive developments. The Supreme Court of India recently decided to disqualify sitting politicians who are convicted of criminal acts. And for the first time, an anti-corruption party vaulted to victory in Delhi’s state assembly. These are certainly bright spots, but efforts thus far have barely scratched the surface. It will take significantly more sweeping measures that tackle the institutional roots of the trends and get to the heart of the crime-politics nexus. In India’s electoral marketplace, as in any market, there are underlying supply and demand factors that facilitate exchange. And in this case, politicians with criminal records are supplying what voters and parties demand: candidates that are effective and well-funded .
TROUBLE IN THE HOUSE
In 2003, in response to landmark public interest litigation, the Supreme Court ruled that any person standing for elected office at the state or national levels must submit, at the time of their nomination, a judicial affidavit detailing their financial assets and liabilities, education qualifications and pending criminal cases. While the disclosures have their shortcomings, the data — taken as a whole — gives a reasonable snapshot of the biographical profiles of India’s most influential lawmakers. And the picture isn’t pretty. The 15th Lok Sabha is home to 162 MPs with pending criminal cases. These cases involve a diverse array of charges, ranging from mischief to murder . If one were to focus only on serious charges — such as murder, kidnapping and physical assault — approximately 14% or 76 MPs face pending cases. The situation at the state and local level is similar. Roughly one in three members of state assemblies (31%) is involved in at least one criminal case. Again about half, roughly 15%, face serious charges. There has been no systematic analysis of panchayats and urban local bodies, but there is evidence that local tiers of governance are hardly free of criminality. Based on data collected by the Association for Democratic Reforms, 17% and 21% of municipal corporators in Mumbai and Delhi, respectively, declared involvement in criminal cases.
TICKET TO SUCCESS
The answer to why political parties nominate candidates with criminal backgrounds is obvious: because they win (see graph on the right). Choosing a candidate at random contesting either the 2004 or 2009 Parliamentary elections, he or she had — on average — a 7% chance of winning. Compare this with a candidate who faces a criminal charge: he or she had a 22% chance of winning. Granted, this simple comparison does not take into account other factors such as education, party or type of electoral constituency. Nevertheless , the contrast is marked. Of course, the real question is what makes these candidates winnable. At least part of the answer comes down to cold, hard cash — an area in which those who break the law often have a leg up. Election costs in India have grown considerably over the years thanks to a growing population, marked increase in the competiveness of elections and elevated voter expectations of handouts. Money does not buy elections; what a well-financed campaign buys is viability. Indeed, there is a strong correlation between a Parliamentary candidate’s personal assets and the likelihood of election . Drawing on data from 2004 and 2009, the poorest 20% of candidates, in terms of personal financial assets, had a 1% chance of winning Parliamentary elections. The richest quintile, in contrast, had a greater than 25% shot. Parties also value “muscle” because it often brings with it the added benefit of money. As election costs have soared, parties have struggled to find legitimate sources of funding. As a result, they place a premium on candidates who will not drain limited party coffers. The quest for private funds is further propelled by an ineffectual election finance regime, marked by numerous loopholes and a lack of transparency. When it comes to campaign cash, candidates accused of breaking the law have a distinct advantage: they both have access to liquid forms of finance and are willing to deploy it. In the last two Parliamentary elections, roughly 6% of candidates in the lowest quintile of candidate wealth (or poorest 1/5th) faced criminal cases compared to nearly 20% of candidates in the top quintile.
‘HONOUR’ OF CRIME
Money is an important part of the story but, on its own, is an insufficient explanation — if only because parties have access to wealthy candidates who are not linked to criminal activity, from cricket heroes to film stars and industrialists. It is also not immediately clear why voters would prefer a wealthy, “tainted” candidate to “clean” alternative. As the deputy president of the state unit of one major party once confided, candidates with criminal records thrive because they have “currency.” In contexts where the rule of law is weak and social divisions are highly salient, politicians often use their criminal reputation as a badge of honour — a signal of their credibility to protect the interests of their community and its allies, from physical safety to access to government benefits and social insurance . The “protection” on offer is grounded in the “politics of dignity” and can be readily justified in defensive terms. The appeal of candidates who are willing to do what it takes — by hook or crook — to protect the interests of their community provides some intuition for why the odds of a Parliamentary candidate winning an election actually increase with the severity of the charges.
NEED FOR CHANGE
Recent judicial action is a positive step, but interrupting this rhythm requires deeper institutional change. The unexpected victory of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is a positive sign of popular frustration with malfeasance , but is unlikely to be a game-changer . If the high levels of criminality in politics could be attributed to a lack of information about candidates’ biographies, a public awareness campaign might make a dent in criminality rates. Alas, the situation is far more nuanced. India needs a credible election finance regime with real teeth to rein in under-the-table funding. And the state’s ability to impartially deliver benefits , physical safety and timely justice has to improve. Unless an investment in institutional change is made, parties — as well as many voters — will continue to view a candidate’s criminal reputation as a potential asset rather than a liability.

Silencing of liberal India: Gag Culture Reigns Supreme

Liberal India is being silenced because its joy at exposing hypocrisy is far greater than its commitment to defending freedom. Yet another book withdrawn and pulped by the publisher under pressure. The “pulping” of Wendy Doniger’s book, The Hindus: An Alternative History, is the pulping of liberal India. The agreement by the publisher to withdraw it is like putting a contract out on free expression. In India you publish at your peril. It is in a shockingly long line of books and art withdrawn from free circulation one way or the other, sometimes against the law, sometimes in the garb of law.Courts, publishers, educators and professional offence mongers are to blame.
India is a democracy, but its reputation as a bastion of liberal values is dimming by the day. The argumentative Indian is being replaced by the offended Indian, the tolerant Indian by the intolerant mob, the reflective citizen by the hurt communal mobiliser, the courageous Indian by the cowardly thug who needs the state to protect it against every argument, the pious Indian by the ultimate blasphemer who thinks he needs to protect the gods rather than the gods being there to protect him. Whether this is a tiny minority or represents the majority is beside the point. The point is that the assault on free expression is winning. How is liberal India being silenced?
Liberal India is being silenced because its joy at exposing hypocrisy is far greater than its commitment to defending freedom. Every time a book is under assault, the same tiresome argument breaks out. “Oh, you did not speak when so and so was banned. You did not speak when Taslima Nasreen was the target, or when Jitender Bhargava was ordered to withdraw his book on Air India.” Or there is the partisan division: you did not object to what the Congress did to Salman Rushdie, or the CPM in West Bengal.
The point is that we spend all our psychic energies in exposing each other, not in defending values. If freedom is to survive, we have to set aside this debate on hypocrisy. It devours all energy. But it also legitimises the disposition that is at the heart of banning books: a fragile ego that takes joy in revenge, rather than taking pride in freedom. Let us get on with the task of defending the core values.
Liberal India has been silenced because it never understood that toleration does not, to use Govind Ranade’s phrase, come in halves. You cannot pick and choose when to be tolerant. You cannot choose to be tolerant along partisan lines. Neither can you choose to be tolerant based on what you think are distinctions between good and bad scholarship, serious and scurrilous books. These distinctions are a good basis for criticism; they are not the best basis for deciding whom the law will protect. And R.V. Bhasin, author of a banned book on Islam, will be protected as much as Wendy Doniger. And so it should be. If you want a hundred flowers to bloom, a few weeds will grow as well.
Liberal India has been silenced because the one institution that needs to protect it constantly fails: the courts. Civil society and politics have a lot to answer for. But the incentives to mobilise around the banning of books have largely been created by the laws and by the convoluted jurisprudence of the courts. A law that signals that it is open to banning books will incite mobilisations to ban books. If the state gives the category of taking easy “offence” such aid and succour, offence will be easily taken.
In the case of Doniger’s book, there seems to have been no threat of the book provoking large-scale violence. Despite protest and criticism, the book has been in circulation. But more importantly, the courts have sown the seeds of further confusion. For example, the Bombay High Court judgment on the Bhasin case upheld the idea that it is “no defence that the writing contains a truthful account of past events or is supported by good authority.” Courts uphold the idea that the criticism of religion must only be “academic”, whatever that means. Lampooing is part of legitimate criticism.
While banning the novel, Dharamkaarana, they showed no regard for the artistic integrity of the work. Courts should be the bully pulpit of constitutional values. They should draw strong lines protecting freedom. No wonder liberals worry that the court will not rescue them. No wonder the mere threat of litigation is a dampener on free expression.
Liberal India has been silenced by professional offence-mongers. Those who now claim to speak on behalf of communities use every trick they can to silence. There is often the threat of violence. The use of law is not, in this instance, an exercise of citizens’ rights. It is the use of law as a tactic of intimidation. Often, these groups have the implicit backing of political parties. No political party in Maharashtra stood up for the rights of scholars. As a result of the James Laine episode, most publishers do not want to even touch books on Shivaji.
The BJP’s relationship with groups that initiate these mobilisations has often been one of plausible deniability. It gives aid and succour to vicious offence mongering, it legitimises this contrived narrative of Hindu hurt. All it needs to do to overcome these suspicions is come clean and emphatically state that it does not support the “withdrawal” of books. We do not need political parties that take on the garb of liberalism by avoiding issues; we need political parties that actually defend liberal values.
Liberal India has been let down by its publishers. If major presses like Oxford University Press (OUP) and Penguin cave in to the threat of litigation so easily and fail to take matters up to the Supreme Court, it will become easier for people to intimidate. Recall OUP’s conduct in the case of the Calcutta High Court banning a scholarly monograph by Hans Dembowski on the judiciary. Indian business is supine because it feels politically vulnerable at so many different levels.
Liberal India has been silenced by its educators. The extraordinary failure of the project of liberal education is manifesting itself in the pathology of liberal institutions. If so many of India’s educated middle classes, which inhabit key institutions like the judiciary, bureaucracy, media, are so confused about basic constitutional values, if they are so content at liberty being abridged, one by one, you have to wonder about liberal education.
The fact that universities themselves did not remain exemplars of criticism, that they banished a healthy engagement with tradition has meant that the most ignorant and violent have now become the custodians of tradition. Wendy Doniger could not have damaged Hindus. But if Liberal India dies, Hinduism will die as well.
After the news of withdrawal and pulping of Wendy Doniger’s The Hindus: An Alternate History appeared in media, reaction on the social networking sites were, in a way, a microcosm of how Indian opinion works. While many decried the decision and called it “atrocious” and “deeply disappointing”, some fringe extremist Hindu groups began a campaign against Doniger. They were shrill and shouted others down.
Something similar happens in real life. The fringe right wingers make a lot of noise, shout others down and get books and art banned.
The trend started banning Continent of Circe by Nirad Chaudhari. And it was initiated by none other than Jawahar lal nehru= the oft proclaimed father of democracy. je also got Sahir Ludhianvi banned from radio for his song ” Jinhe naaz hai hind pe, woh kahan hain” .
And the latest victim is Wendy Doniger. Bowing to a legal challenge from a Hindu extremist outfit, Penguin Books India has agreed to recall and pulp all copies of American scholar Wendy Doniger’s book The Hindus: An Alternative History. The organisation, Shiksha Bachao Andolan Committee, had filed a civil suit and two criminal complaints. It had dubbed the book “disrespectful of Hinduism”. Wendy Doniger is a prominent Indologist based at the University of Chicago.
In between Nirad and Wendy there are a host of other casulties. Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses were banned for thir supposedly anti-Muslim content.
Arguably the most famous face of Indian art, MF Hussain was hounded out of India and forced to spend his last years in exile after his paintings of Indian deities and Bharat Mata in nude attracted right wingers’ ire. His exhibitions were picketed and attacked and he left India for Qatar in 2006, never to return again.
Mistry’s award-winning book, Such a Long Journey — published in 1991 — is set in India in the 1970s. It describes the life and loves of a bank clerk from Mumbai’s Parsee community against a background of political unrest. It attracted Shiv Sena’s displeasure in 2010 for painting it in a “derogatory” light. Aditya Thackeray, Bal Thackeray’s grandson, protested against the novel to the vice chancellor of the University of Mumbai, who had it removed from the syllabus. Mistry later decried the “sorry spectacle of book-burning and book-banning”.
The American author and professor of religious studies landed in the cross-hairs of India’s right wing for his book Shivaji: Hindu King in Islamic India. Published in 2003, the book was targeted for alleged ‘derogatory’ references to the Maratha king. In 2004, saffron fringe groups vandalised Pune’s Bhandarkar Institute in protest, which was soon joined by Shiv Sena.The government banned the book on the grounds that it could lead to communal tension. The Bombay high court lifted the ban and the Supreme Court upheld the decision. The book, however, is still not easily available in India.
An Irish-Indian satirist, Aubrey Menen retold the epic Ramayana in an irreverent fashion in 1956. The book, Rama Retold, ruffled many feathers and was banned by the government for “offending religious sensitivities”. Later, The Collected Essays of A.K. Ramanujan and Paula Richman’s Many Ramayanas: The Diversity of a Narrative Tradition in South Asia featuring Ramanujan’s work were both dropped by the Delhi University from its curriculum
Some 30 years ago Sunanda K Datta-Ray’s ‘Smash & Grab: The Annexation of Sikkim’, perhaps the only book on one of the most important chapters of post-1947 history, was withdrawn and pulped by Vikas Publishing, the biggest publisher of the times. Vikas did so to settle a case filed by India’s last representative to Gangtok who had been uncharitably portrayed in ‘Smash & Grab’. Publishers in India are not known to fight legal battles to a bitter finish. This gagging of writer, poets and artists of any genre shows a definite disregard to right of expression, a curb on creativity and amounts to intellectual murder. But who is listening in India? This is a country of hyposcrites who claim to be most humane and yet treat other human beings as worse than animals; who show off as gretest democracy and have criminals posing as law makers; who show themselves as champions of spitituality and their godmen are experts in veneality, and explotation. When would this country awake in a ‘heaven of freedom’ as dreamt by Tagore.

The Myth of Hindu Terror

India is home to nearly 18 per cent of the world’s population. That’s a huge chunk of humanity in one country. Of this, nearly 82 per cent are Hindus. So naturally, it is a nation with a Hindu identity, irrespective of whether people with more “secular” outlook accept it or not. If Turkey can be called a Muslim nation and Germany a Christian nation, India is for sure a Hindu nation that functions in the form of a democracy.
Background:
Unfortunately India is one of the biggest victims of terrorism in the 21st century world. Interestingly, it has become very fashionable over the past 4 to 6 years to flash Hindutva “terror” or Saffron “terror” at the drop of a hat. Hindutva, is essentially an ideology which is pro-Hindu, and Saffron is a colour most associated with Sanatana Dharma, or Hinduism as the world labels it. Many people bring “Hindu terror”, “Hindutva terror” or “Saffron terror” into political and media discussions to score brownie points with the generally Hindu-despising crowd out there — the so-called secular people, communists, and some ‘friendly neighbours’ of who have a big stake in projecting Hindus in bad light.
Since Islamic terror or Muslim terror has been so much in news this century, some people felt obligated to bring in an “equal-equal” balancing act to emphasise their own secular credentials. Of course it would be stupid to say that there are no bad people who are Hindus. They exist. There are criminals, rapists, murderers and much worse people who happen to be from practicing Hindu family or just have a Hindu name. But ‘Hindutva terror’ or ‘Hindu terror’ is mostly meaningless as hardly any Hindu would go out and commit terrorism for the glory of the Bhagavad Gita or for attaining heaven for the sake of Krishna or Durga, or cite a Vedic mantra before blowing up a group of people. Hindu criminals surely exist, but Hindu ‘terror’(of the Islamist variety) is mostly imaginary. I have never come across an act of Hindutva ‘terror’ that killed even 100 people (that’s 0.8 per cent of the number of global terror victims in 2011) anywhere in the world in one incident. You can leave a comment below to educate us if you find this claim false.
Now let’s go beyond our opinions and claims. Let’s get some hard statistics from credible reports. Beyond the studios of some select media houses, does Hindutva ‘terror’, so fondly peddled by our neo-intellectuals, even exist? If it exists among 15-18 per cent of the world’s population, shouldn’t it be a very visible form of terror in international reports and news items? That too when India itself features among the 6 most terror-affected countries in the global ranking?
I found one very credible and internationally accepted report on the previous year’s terrorism statistics. I was actually hoping to see a lot of ‘Hindutva terror’-related information from this comprehensive world report on terrorism in 2011. To my shock, there was not even a single mention of ‘Hindu’, ‘RSS’, ‘Sangh’, ‘Saffron’ and other labels that Indian media regularly feeds us. There were 16 mentions of India in this 33-page comprehensive report, but not ONE mention of the word ‘Hindu’! I checked and rechecked, just to ensure that I was not missing something.
How did this happen?
How come the world’s most comprehensive report on terrorism from 2011 does not have a mention of even one terror incident involving ‘Hindutva’ or ‘Hindu’ which many politicians and mediapersons don’t seem to stop talking about in India?
2011 Global Terror Statistics:
After failing to find any mention of ‘Hindutva’ terror, I then extracted some key numbers that I hope Indian media stalwarts will read through and get a larger, global perspective. There were over 10,000 terrorist attacks in 2011, affecting nearly 45,000 victims in 70 countries and resulting in over 12,500 deaths. That’s a very large number of people getting affected, even though the number of attacks were fewer compared to 2007.
India features among the six countries most affected by terrorism in 2011. In Afghanistan, 3,353 people died due to terror attacks in 2011. Iraq saw 3,063 deaths, Pakistan saw 2,033, Somalia saw 1,101, Nigeria saw 593 and India saw 479 victims. These are purely terrorism-related deaths, and do not include deaths in religious / sectarian wars like in Syria where more than 20,000 people have died in 2011 itself. The war-torn Afghanistan, the unstable Iraq, and the very likely imploding Pakistan together account for 64 per cent of the terrorist attacks in the world during 2011. India’s most volatile neighbour Pakistan, with a long history exporting terrorism, saw an increase of 8 per cent in terror attacks compared to 2010.
Now let us come to religious demographics. I am not sure this even deserves mention, but something needs to stand in contrast to all the ‘Hindutva’ bashing in Indian media.:
1. In 2011, 56 per cent of the world’s terrorist attacks (5,700) were by Sunni Muslims. 70 per cent of the worldwide deaths were also OF Sunni Muslims.
2. Effectively, out of the 12,533 terror victims in the world in 2011, 8,886 were killed by Sunni Muslim extremists.
3. There were 279 suicide attacks in the world during 2011. Sunni Muslims conducted 93 per cent of these attacks.
4. Out of 12,000+ killed by terrorists in 2011, 6,418 were civilians. 755 were children. Nearly 90 per cent of terror victims, with their religion identified, were Muslims.
Amazing! What will the ‘secular’ columnists, who made a living bashing ‘Hindutva terror’ do now? Not ONE mention in the world’s most comprehensive report of Hindu ‘terror’. Not to mention the fact that an overwhelming majority of terrorists listed happen to be Muslims, whom these folks hesitate to highlight, thanks to their ‘equal-equal’ reporting mission. Is it time for them to get back to their ‘terrorism has no religion’ cliche?
2011 Indian Terror Groups per the Global Report:
Since India unfortunately figured in this list, it was necessary to dig deep into incidents involving the country, to find out who in India was killing that many people. According to the report, the top non-Muslim terrorist groups in the world were FARC from Columbia (carried out 377 attacks in 2011), CPI-Maoist in India (351 attacks), NPA-CPP of Philippines that struck 102 times and PKK of Turkey (carried out 48 attacks).
Here were the only 3 Indian terror organisations featured:
1. Communist ideology holding Communist Party of India – Maoist.
2. Indian Mujahideen, the terror outfit that is alleged to have links with Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), for which the incumbent Foreign Minister of India Salman Khurshid was a legal voice.
3. Harkat ul-Jihad Islami (HUJI).
Inference:
The summary of the report is pretty clear. It’s unfortunate for India that it did figure as the sixth most terror-affected nation on this planet. However, even though Hindus form 15 to 18 per cent of the world’s population across dozens of countries, with an overwhelming majority in India, they had zero mention in the comprehensive world terror report for 2011. Not only was there no mention of the word ‘Hindu’ itself, all other related labels like ‘Hindutva’, ‘RSS’ etc. were absent as well. Among the three Indian terrorist outfits featured in the global report, two were Islamist and one was Communist. Ironically, it is the advocates of these very same ideologies that have been trying desperately to project to the world the imaginary idea of ‘Hindutva terror’ and the huge danger it poses to humanity.
I hope India’s top politicians, their speechwriters and media editors read this report carefully. Perhaps they would do better by getting back to the ‘terrorism has no religion’ cliche instead of discrediting themselves by peddling the non-existent ‘Hindutva Terror’.

China’s Historical Amnesia

In 1984, George Orwell observes that those who control the present control the past; those who control the past control the future. What he means is that rulers in a totalitarian regime must fabricate history in order to survive. Those familiar with the former Soviet Union and contemporary China would find Orwell’s insight extremely compelling.
Of course, today’s China can no longer be called a totalitarian system. But strictly speaking, it still retains some of the defining political characteristics of totalitarianism, such as the monopolistic control of the state by a Leninist party. Another totalitarian feature in the current Chinese political system is the suppression and distortion of historical memory, in particular, that of the brutal years of Maoist rule.
Under the late dictator Mao Zedong, more than 40 million innocent Chinese were murdered in violent political campaigns or starved to death following Mao’s disastrous economic policy. In terms of the amount of human suffering caused by a single dictator, Mao definitely rivals Hitler and Stalin.
Yet, you would not know much about Mao’s crimes against humanity if you were living in China today. His giant portrait still hangs on top of Tiananmen. His image adorns the 100-yuan bills (the largest denomination of the Chinese currency). His chemically preserved body is on display in his mausoleum at the centre of Tiananmen Square (a hot tourist attraction for Chinese visitors).
The latest sign that Mao’s status has risen was the lavish ceremony staged by the top leadership of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) on December 26, 2013, to commemorate his 120th birthday. The new Chinese leader, Xi Jinping, whose father was purged by Mao and who himself was sent to the countryside as a teenager during the Cultural Revolution, delivered a speech that focused largely on Mao’s contributions and glossed over his “mistakes.” Shaoshan, a rural town in Hunan province where Mao was born, reportedly spent several hundred million dollars on festivities celebrating Mao’s birthday.
Compared with Hitler and Stalin, Mao has fared far better politically after his demise. Hitler has been condemned as one of history’s vilest criminals. De-Stalinisation in the former Soviet Union exposed Uncle Joe’s many crimes (although his stock has appreciated under Putin). But Mao, who was obsessed with how history would judge him, has got away with mass murder. Official history books in China scrupulously whitewash the atrocities committed against the Chinese people during Mao’s rule. Historical archives containing evidence of Mao’s direct responsibility for such atrocities are classified and off-limits to researchers. Publications on the most traumatic events during Maoist rule (such as the Anti-Rightist Campaign, the Great Leap Forward famine and the Cultural Revolution) are heavily censored.
The CCP has many reasons to protect the image of the late dictator. As one of the founders of the CCP, Mao’s historical status is inseparably linked with the party’s political legitimacy. Discrediting Mao completely would produce devastating collateral damage for the CCP. Since the party itself was also instrumental in carrying out Mao’s policies, a thorough accounting of Mao’s crimes would make the party a willing institutional accomplice. Most importantly, Mao established the organisational principles and structures of the party that continue to function today. Purging the legacy of Maoism would be tantamount to destroying the genetic coding of China’s ruling party.
As with many of its policies, protecting Mao’s legacy may serve the party’s interests well, but entails hidden but exorbitant political costs for the country as a whole. At the most basic level, Chinese born after the death of Mao in 1976 have abysmal knowledge of China’s history in general, and the history of the Maoist period in particular. Worse still, what they do know about recent Chinese ­history reflects the enormous success of the party’s systemic efforts to distort and fabricate history. For instance, the majority of the Chinese people today believe that it was the Communists who ­defeated the Japanese during World War II (a complete lie). At the same time, very few people know the mass starvation, unspeakable cruelty and political madness that were common during the Mao years.
At a higher level, China can be said to have lost its collective memory. Such a nation, strictly speaking, cannot be at peace with itself or its neighbours. We are beginning to see manifestations of some of the destructive consequences of China’s historical amnesia. Internally, there is growing political polarisation. Moderates have become more radical because they feel that an oppressive post-totalitarian system unwilling to face its past cannot be reformed. Conservatives have become even more hardline, as they fear that they must hold the line on defending Maoism. Most disgruntled ordinary people, knowing little of the evil of Maoism, have embraced Mao as an anti-authority icon to express their frustrations with high inequality and endemic corruption under the current regime. Political stability and social cohesion are hard to maintain under these ­circumstances.
Externally, such historical ­amnesia is epitomised by rising ­nationalist sentiments and an aggressive foreign policy. The best example is the on-going Sino-Japanese territorial dispute. ­Having demonised Japan as the country most responsible for China’s historical sufferings, China has painted itself into a corner and has no alternative but to continue a policy that could result in a dangerous military confrontation with Japan (and its ally, the United States).
Based on what we know about the nature of post-totalitarian regimes, it would be naïve to count on its elites to abandon one of its principal strategies of political survival — fabricating history and destroying collective memory. The good news is that Chinese society is trying to repair and restore its collective memory. The most intriguing recent developments on this front are the public apologies made by former Red Guards during the Cultural Revolution who felt responsible for the deaths and beatings of their teachers. It is hard to tell whether this minor, albeit courageous, gesture will lead to a political reawakening of Chinese society. But George Orwell may eventually be proved too pessimistic. The CCP is ­finding it increasingly hard to brainwash people in a more autonomous, diverse and well-­informed society.

The Muslim Conquest of India

India’s centuries-long resistance to Muslim aggression began in 636 B.C. This started a series of incursions in which Muslim warriors desecrated Hindu places of worship and universities, slaughtered monks and priests, and unleashed a reign of terror to impose Islam and subjugate the majority Hindu population. In K.S. Lai’s 1973 book, Growth of Muslim Population of Medieval India (1000-1800), the author estimated that about 60-80 million people died in India between 1000 and 1525 as a result of Islamic invasions.

Modern India still faces significant encroachment and cross-border terrorism from Muslims who today represent demographic and territorial challenges to the Asian country. The Muslim population of India has increased dramatically since the partitioning of British India into the two independent states of India and Pakistan, the latter officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. This has resulted in greater clout by Muslims in the determination of government allegiances, policies, and expenditures, in addition to a significant increase in general unrest.

Although the religious component of the 2011 census in India has yet to be released, it is believed that the Hindu population has dropped below 80% for the first time since independence in 1947. The official word is that the data on religion is being withheld so as not to influence the upcoming elections this year. Apparently, political leaders worry that the information will skew election results as Hindus become increasingly alarmed about Muslim population growth and cast their votes for the political party that opposes illegal immigration. Their concerns are not misplaced, as areas with marked Muslim population increases have seen higher rates of violent crime.

In a push to appease the growing Muslim population and garner votes, the Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence Bill was created and has been promoted. The legislation is built on the erroneous assumption that majorities violently target minorities. The bill has been characterized as discriminatory, biased, and unconstitutional by Hindu leaders because it targets the Hindu majority, presumes guilt even from anonymous complaints, and is designed solely to aid prosecutions brought by minority populations. Hindu leaders are rightly concerned that if this bill becomes law, only Hindus will be prosecuted and convicted of violent acts and the incitement of hate crimes.

The last time India’s religious data was released in the 2001 census published in 2005, the Hindu demographic share had indeed declined. Overall, the proportion of Hindus shrank from 83.4% percent in 1961 to 80.5% in the 2001 census. In some regions, the increases were even more dramatic. In West Bengal, a state bordering Bangladesh, the Muslim population increased to 36%, up from 20% of the population in 1947.

These statistics give great unease within India because the country is bordered by two Muslim-majority nations. Pakistan, to the west, is about 97% Muslim, making it the second-most populous Muslim-majority country with the largest Shia population in the world. The 1,800-mile border between Pakistan and India is considered one of the most dangerous borders on the globe, with hostilities dating back to 1947. Meanwhile, Bangladesh, to the east, and nearly surrounded by India, is 90.4% Muslim. Massive illegal immigration and smuggling along the shared 2,429-mile border have engendered much violence.

The marked increase in the number of Muslims within India has profoundly impacted the country, especially in the border regions of West Bengal and Bangladesh, where significant illegal immigration has occurred. In these regions, Muslims have engaged in cattle-trafficking and slaughtering, desecration of Hindu religious sites, and sexual harassment of Hindu girls. The Border Security Forces, although fully armed, have been powerless to stop the criminal activity under orders from the Indian Home Minister, who has tied their hands.

Last August, a heavily armed group of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terrorists and Pakistani troops entered Indian territory and ambushed an Indian patrol. Lashkar e Taiba first achieved worldwide notoriety following the 2008 Mumbai attack. For three days, they held the largest city in India hostage with 12 shooting and bombing attacks, killing 164 people and injuring more than 300, allegedly with the support of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence. In January, Pakistani troops infiltrated Jammu and killed two Indian soldiers, beheading one. The Indian Defense Minister has cited 188 such incidents at the borders with Pakistan in the past three years.

Illegal immigration on India’s border with Bangladesh has been encouraged by all of the major political parties, who provide IDs, ration cards, and voter registrations for the mostly Muslim new arrivals. Touts or fixers help them attain citizenship, often providing fake documents. They assist with job placement for a cut of the immigrants’ salaries. As a result, the majority Hindu population fears that an Islamic conspiracy exists to take over India’s border states.

These fears are magnified by new mosques and madrasas that have sprung up along the border to serve as safe havens for militants and storage for arms and ammunition. Some illegal immigrants are used by jihadists to set off blasts, smuggle counterfeit currency, or transport drugs.

The increasing number of Muslims — their ranks boosted by illegal immigration — has also utilized the “vote bank” phenomenon to gain political influence. In contrast to the Hindu practice, common in most democracies, of voting according to individual preferences based on each candidate’s political platform and other considerations, the Muslim practice is for the community to vote in concert, according to the mandate of the local imam. In existence since independence, this tactic has gained steam over the past 30-40 years.

Further, non-Muslim candidates are often forced into deal-making with Muslims. The way this occurs is that non-Muslim politicians who engage in traditional door-to-door campaigning to garner support are prohibited from entering Muslim areas. Thus, they must visit the local imam for political deal-making that will translate into Muslim votes.

Whenever Hindu politicians assess the support needed to get elected, they factor in the influence of Muslim communities, with their large number of votes associated with each mosque. Just one imam endorsement can yield a block of votes and increase a candidate’s chance of winning an election.

In this way, a candidate becomes beholden to Muslim religious leaders, who can guarantee the votes of an entire community. In return, non-Muslim candidates could end up granting prime real estate for mosque-building; providing Muslims with better jobs and business opportunities, plus more government money and resources; allowing arrest and harassment of Hindu leaders and the release of jihadists, and ignoring Islamic propaganda and criminal syndicate activity. Of the 500 seats in the Parliament, about 150 seats are affected by Muslim vote bank considerations.

Vote bank politics were at work recently in an inflammatory West Bengal incident, in which 13 local tribal members were accused of gang rape. The allegations are believed to be part of a conspiracy fueled by a politician who is fighting to maintain and expand her political power. The charges were made against tribal members who recently engaged in a six-month strike against area Muslim-owned factories to protest sexual assaults on their women and to win better pay.

The tribal members vehemently deny that any rape took place and assert that the government is siding with the Muslim business owners by bringing false charges against them. According to reports from IBTL (India Behind the Lens), evidence exists of police brutality to extract confessions and of media collusion. In the aftermath of the alleged rape, IBTL reports that police have surrounded the village, are molesting tribal women, and are prohibiting tribal males from remaining in the area.

India’s 1,300-year-old struggle against Muslim aggression has thus evolved from past border invasions and violent skirmishes to today’s internal political battles. As more and more Muslims enter the country illegally, they have gained political clout through alliances with politicians willing to swap votes for favors. In this way, India is turning its back on its Hindu tradition and population to embrace a foolhardy and dangerous future.

The Paradox of America’s Fading Empire – The Global Implications

My prediction of a decline in American power turned out to be absolutely correct. But what we are seeing is that this reduction in power is producing, at last, a more reasonable attitude toward the outside world. In the days of President George W. Bush, there was something unbearable about the U.S., about the idea that there is just one form of democracy with a specific type of financial capitalism, and that this must be extended all over the world. Perhaps the emergence of a new, more reasonable American foreign policy is important in terms of geopolitical balance. It means the risk of war and the risk of conflict, or hysterical conflict, is lower or nil. The most important event of 2013 was the change in the relationship between the U.S. and Iran (through the nuclear talks). I have always said that a new kind of civil society has emerged in Iran, so there is nothing new as far as that country is concerned. The new American policy is a dramatic shift.

I was not very impressed by the election of Barack Obama as the first black president. I took it as a gimmick. At the time, there was a sort of panic over the financial collapse, and I thought the election was used to trick us into forgetting the incredible financial mess the U.S. Produced. Obama’s re-election was something different, however. The social security debate in the U.S., such as the one over Obamacare healthcare reform, is something very important to me. When you start discussing these things, people will tell you, “Look at how the tea party is taking control of the Republican Party.” But I know that the tea party receives most of its support from Americans over 60, the ageing generation.

Perhaps the U.S. is again turning into something different. Perhaps we are on the verge of a new phase where America tries to think again in terms of equality. I have no conclusion, but one must not miss the turning points in history.

It is obvious we need the U.S. and the American imperial system. The period from 1945 to perhaps 1980 was good for the “free world” when there was the Soviet threat. But after the Cold War, the U.S. was losing industrial might and tended to compensate by using military action. This produced negative reactions everywhere and produced the defeat or disaster in Iraq in the George W. Bush era.

When Bush was in power, Americans became — by pretending to be so militarily powerful — completely repulsive. But as soon as they admit that their power is waning, people on the periphery of the empire can start worrying about a world without the U.S. Army. And what they imagine is not very pleasant. Once the U.S. acknowledges that it is not the ruler of the world, once it acts reasonably, then many, many nations will realize that they need the U.S. This is the paradox.

Once the U.S. admits this, the decline in America’s hard economic and military power will produce a rise in its soft power.

China’s control issues

Many people believe that China will be the great power after the U.S. I do not belong to that school. No demographer believes in a brilliant or simple future for China, because of its demographics. We have learned that China is going to change its “one-child policy,” but it is simply too late. We have no experience of this kind of demographic imbalance in a country of 1.3 billion people. A small country can make adjustments through immigration or emigration, but China is so big that there is no correcting what it has done.

China was able to produce a Communist revolution, like Russia did, by strongly promoting equality among all people. What is happening now in China is a tremendous rise in inequality, more than in other countries. Development through exports of goods and imports of foreign capital, and China’s transformation into the “workshop of the world” — this was very much a decision taken by the oligarchies and capitalist system in the West. The Chinese Communist Party is a little like a rodeo cowboy trying to stay on a bucking horse.

It is quite unpleasant these days for Japan to be so geographically close to China (with the security tensions in the East and South China seas). I talked about this at a symposium in Kyoto. I said China would use such tensions to ease domestic resentments and difficulties. I would say that, mentally, China seems much closer to the year 1900. You have a mix of basic literacy, economic takeoff and the collapse of traditional religion — in this case communism. So the Chinese have a tendency to become over excited and therefore develop strong nationalistic attitudes. It would be ridiculous to overestimate China’s military ability. If the U.S. and Japan stick together, there ought to be no problem.

In the Arab world, we are seeing revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, and there is a dramatic problem in Syria. But this is no worse than what we experienced in Europe. If you compare everything that has happened in the Muslim world — the Taliban, Osama bin Laden, the revolutions — to European history — the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution, Nazism, fascism — this is nothing. Europe was the place for people killing each other in the name of ideology. Things were much worse in Europe. What is happening in Syria, though, is on a European scale.

Europe: free to a fault

Besides China, the other big problem in the world is Europe. There is a connection between free trade and the rise of inequality and, additionally, depression. There is so much pressure on wages in most developed countries. When you get close to actual free trade, what you have is economic war against all. As long as you can manipulate your currency, you can use what we call in French protection par le change — “protection through currency management.” But we cannot do this in the eurozone. Europe used to be a place with a preference for social and trade protection; now it is turning into a zone of raging free trade wars and maximum deflation.

What we have is German industry destroying French, Italian and Spanish industries, and so on. Germans are charming people; their problem is that they are too efficient. You have Germany as a continental hanger-on and dominant power. It is like the story of the novel “Metamorphosis” by Kafka, in which a man goes to sleep and wakes up transformed into a giant bug. To me, this is a metaphor for what is happening to Europe. We went to sleep a community of free and equal nations and woke up as … a hierarchy of nations with the Germans on top. Europe no longer is the continent of democracy. The problem we have in France is that the ruling class has a German inferiority complex.

What will the world order in 2014 look like?

Things are getting worse and worse in Southern Europe. What we have there is a collapse of social systems and democracy, and so much violence. The economy is supposed to save the currency, so we keep saving the euro. It is like a god, and you have to make sacrifices to the gods.

I used to think the euro was bound to disappear. I’ll probably be vindicated someday — the euro will collapse and I’ll be considered a major prophet. But I wonder what will happen over the next few years. The elite say the disappearance of the euro, the collapse of the euro, would be a complete disaster, that it is impossible.

There was a time when I thought protectionism would be good for Continental Europe by pushing up wages and thereby increasing global demand. But I no longer think this is a viable option because of the attitudes of Germany and France toward trade. My preoccupation now is not protectionism; it is getting rid of the euro. Protectionism through currency management is my only real goal now. All I want is to move away from the ideology of absolute free trade. The French will protect their cinema. Americans will protect their military things. The Japanese will protect a lot of things.

In praise of Abenomics

I know Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the ruling Liberal Democratic Party are right-wing, and I’m just like any centre-left person in Europe or the U.S., but I’m all for Abenomics. That is because the implicit goal of the policy mix is the welfare of the general population. I wish we had something like this in Europe. I have always been fascinated by comparisons of Germany and Japan. They have so much in common — the same family structures, male primogeniture traditions, industrial traditions and emphasis on technology. These days, however, I’m fascinated by the complete divergence between the two.

Germany has adjusted to free trade by placing maximum emphasis on trade. The country seems to be unconsciously going back to some kind of power politics on the European continent, organizing the eastern part as labor and using the western part as consumers and controlling the whole lot. In contrast, Japan is isolated, so there is no possibility for it to dominate and expand. But this also means Japan will try flexible monetary policies, which is rather the opposite. Now you have a flexible Japan and a rigid Germany.

I’m instinctively against the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) because I think less free trade is the solution. I have always been under the impression that the TPP is a political thing; it is not free trade but regional trade. It leaves out China. I always thought the purpose was much more ideological than practical.

When I think about Japan, the real problems I see are not with the economy but rather with the birthrate and ageing population. These issues are much more important than the TPP. And yet Japan till recently have not been paying much attention to that. The withering away of the American imperial order is making Japan realize its ( along with that of Germany’s) potential for world supremacy. The fading of one super power does create a vacuum, and other potential powers become keener to fill in the void.

Canada’s “Multicultural Experiment” A Case of Importing Cancer

In the wake of Nelson Mandela’s funeral, Brian Mulroney and other past Prime Ministers of Canada boasted that they had supported Mandela’s efforts to end the injustice created by South Africa’s apartheid policy. Even current PM Stephen Harper joined them in praising Mandela. The problem is that all of these PMs have helped to create an equally oppressive Multiculturalism policy in Canada. One of the supposed aims of that policy may have been to make all Canadians feel equal, but the results of it have been to marginalize mainstream Canadians in their own country.

Here is how Canada’s “Multicultural Model” evolved :

(1) Although PM Trudeau is regarded as the main theorist of Multiculturalism, he did build on work done by PM Diefenbaker (Bill of Rights) and the Bilingualism and Biculturalism Commission. Much of what Trudeau did was a reaction to key issues of the time : the rise of Quebec nationalism and separatism; fear of American dominance; lack of Canadian unity ; and far from least, federal Progressive Conservative Party control of southern Ontario.

Long-time political activist Michael McCutcheon describes the Liberal Party’s attack on Progressive Conservative control : “In the mid-60′s, an assistant to PM Lester Pearson, Tom Kent, allegedly…advised the Liberal leader on how to break-up the Progressive Conservatives’ political grip on Toronto. The solution was quite simple : Open up the immigration flood gates to non-traditional immigrants. Even though, at the time, (non-traditional) Toronto population pockets were small … the newcomers would naturally gravitate to their own people and become isolated and, therefore, politically controllable. Their numbers would grow and all of the Great White Gods of the Liberal Party had to do was “remind” them of who let them into Canada. This could be achieved by funding their leaders and expanding their ethnic press through Liberal government funding. The ethnic press couldn’t very well bite the hand that fed it, so their output would be guaranteed to be pro-Liberal.

This was a very simple… brilliant, long term strategy for the Liberal Party. It was a Canadian sellout, but, politically it worked. The gates were flung open and non-traditional immigrants came in – not to take (their) place in … culture and society, no. No, rather to install and impose the values and customs of their own failed society, good or bad, on our Canadian society. Subsequently, elections proved that Kent’s plan, of dividing and conquering, worked. “

(2) In the late 1960′s, Trudeau accepted Kent’s corrupt policy and began to put his own, but self-admitted, “experimental” ideas about nationalism into practice. His description of Canada’s French and English as two scorpions in a bottle predicted what he would do. After failing to satisfy Canadians (of non-English and non-French heritage) that Bicultural policies should exist alongside bilingual policies, he used the term “Multicultural” to describe his vision of Canada. According to Trudeau, Canada could avoid internal conflict between its colonizing French / English founders (and also between (a) founders and (b) subsequent immigrant groups) by declaring that Canada did not have any distinctive culture. Following Kent, he continued the policy of immigration from non-traditional source countries to dilute the influence of French and English-Canadian nationalists.

(3) Trudeau is generally regarded as a man of considerable intellect, so the question he must have asked himself was this : “Would an infusion of different races into Canada really solve the French / English conflict?” This is probably why he presented his solution as an “experiment” rather than a certainty. At the same time, however, he drifted off into the world of fantasy by suggesting that Canada could eventually present its “Multiculturalism” as a model for other countries, not just to stop conflicts within other country’s borders but to stop conflicts that some countries might have with other countries. To reduce this, we could say Trudeau was saying, “If you have a civil problem, import huge numbers of people from China and India !!! That will solve your domestic ills.” To Trudeau, a dilution of nationalism could eventually prevent international catastrophes such as nuclear war.

(4) From the start, the word “Multiculturalism” meant not so much “Multi-ethnic” as primarily the “Marginalization of Canada’s two major groups”. In 1962, Canada had repealed the 1952 Immigration Act and opened Canada to visible minorities, that is, to those of non-European or non-Aboriginal background. Trudeau must have thought about how many of these Third World people should be allowed into First World Canada but did not say much publicly. In 1961, Canada had 300,000 visible minorities who comprised about 2% of Canada’s population. By 1986, after he had left politics, 1.1 million visible minorities lived here, about 4% of our population. During this time and later, he watched as Third World supposed-asylum seekers engaged in mass refugee system cheating. In effect, they set up a second immigration door into Canada and mocked Trudeau. By 2001, Canada had 4 million visible minorities out of a population of 31 million (about 13 %). As a result of a mass immigration policy that was introduced to turn Kent’s policy into one that would benefit the Progressive Conservative Party, by 2011, after Trudeau’s death, the number had exploded to over 6 million, or close to 20 % visible minorities.

(5) Quite early in the “Multiculturalism Experiment”, Trudeau realized he had to suppress negative reactions. By playing the race card and passing legislation, ending with his Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982, his government gradually moved decision-making away from elected officials who were subject to public pressure. Control went to Human Rights tribunals and to the courts. Trudeau’s government was briefly interrupted by Joe Clark’s 9-month government in 1979-80, but resumed after it fell. One of the great ironies in Trudeau’s plan happened after he displaced Clark in 1980. Up to this point, his entire Multicultural fantasy almost completely ignored economic issues like unemployment. But strangely , in order to protect Canada’s jobless, his government gradually cut immigration from 143,000 in 1980 to 89,000 in 1983.

(6) In doing that, Trudeau and his camp actually put immigration, the blunt instrument which they had used to attack Canada’s mainstream population, on the back-burner. For a time, his government seemed to say that the economic well-being of Canadians had to take precedence over the ‘Multicultural Experiment’ . That was a very significant action because in the 30+ years since then, no other government has moved to reduce immigration—-in spite of the fact that Canada has experienced several significant economic downturns similar to the one Trudeau faced in the early 1980′s.

(7) The second of the great ironies in Trudeau’s reign was that he refused to have Canada apologize to ethnic groups for alleged “historical wrongs” Up to the 1970′s, most Canadian historians had considered early immigration conflicts with China, India and Japan as defensive measures which were intended to protect Canadians from a potential flood of cheap labour. But some historians in the 1970′s, more to see their personal stars rise in academia than to tell the truth, carefully picked incidents which supported the ethnic groups who wanted apologies. And since then, Canada’s Prime Ministers, starting with Brian Mulroney and continuing with Chretien, Martin and Harper, have been only too willing to grovel for them. Mulroney apologized and compensated Japanese-Canadians in 1988. Harper acted similarly with the Chinese in 2006.

(8) In 1984, Brian Mulroney’ s Progressive Conservative government took power and continued the “multicultural experiment”. Supposedly to prevent discrimination in hiring, Mulroney’s government adopted the work of Ontario Judge Rosalie Abella, the chair of a Royal Commission which investigated this issue. This was like throwing gasoline on fire. Abella had concluded that women, the disabled, Canada’s Aboriginals and visible minorities had been victims. Her conclusions were adopted in 1986 Employment Equity legislation. But according to Professor of Sociology Martin Loney, Abella erred in concluding that visible minorities were victims. According to him, Abella failed to recognize that Canada should not be blamed for the fact that recently-arrived visible minorities had not secured jobs immediately upon their arrival. Loney stated that Abella had assumed that, if immediate employment did not happen, racial discrimination was occurring. The result was that Abella, whose parents had survived the Holocaust in Europe, created a Multicultural Holocaust for many Canadians who now began to be displaced in the employment queues by recently-arrived immigrants. And, for fear of public scorn, no government has ever calculated how many immigrants received jobs primarily because of their race. However, the number must be staggering.

(9) In 1986, Mulroney’s gov’t passed the Multiculturalism Act. This formalized in law what Trudeau had started. But again, with great irony, Mulroney’s government thoughtfully commissioned two major studies. The first was to answer the question : “Would immigration solve problems caused by an aging population?” The answer was NO. The second was “Would immigration stimulate Canada’s economy?” Again,the answer was NO : over the previous 120+ years, immigration had provided no significant positive impact on Canada’s economy. Yet Mulroney’s government foolishly ignored both. Responding to trends that showed that the Liberal Party had benefited from Tom Kent’s policy, Mulroney’s government thought they too could increase their share of the immigrant vote if they increased Canada’s immigration intake to 250,000 per year. That intake has remained in place since then—the first time in Canadian immigration history that immigration intake has remained at an uninterrupted high rate.

(10) Mulroney’s government fell in 1993 and Jean Chretien’s Liberal gov’t took power. However, this was a “Carry-On” gov’t which differed little in “Multiculturalism” and immigration policy from the previous one. Similarly, almost nothing changed when Paul Martin replaced Jean Chretien as Liberal PM in 2003. The current PM Harper has not had the courage to stop what we refer to as a policy of “Institutionalized Gross Stupidity”. Mainstream Canadians continue to be marginalized and the number of ethnic enclaves and visible minorities has exploded. Ethnic groups and the immigration lobby have accelerated their brow-beating of mainstream Canadians for alleged historical wrongs.

Canada’s media (our publicly subsidized CBC in particular) should have helped to expose this madness. Instead, they have joined many politicians in performing acts which used to be reserved for the darkest and most treasonous closets in the country.

If Canadians are to realize anything important this Christmas, it is that creating a Rainbow / Multicultural state was probably one of the most foolish acts ever performed in Canada. In South Africa, when Nelson Mandela called his country a “Rainbow State”, he put a good face on a problem to avoid a civil war. The same potential for civil conflict is accumulating here. If Nelson Mandela and other prominent figures in Canadian or world history could see the marginalization of Canada’s mainstream population, a result of senselessly importing an oppressive, cancerous Multicultural problem, they would definitely call for quick euthanasia for it and numerous retroactive measures to clean up the extraordinary injustice it has created.

NETHERLANDS OFFICIALLY ABANDONS MULTI-CULTURALISM

he Dutch government says it will abandon the long-standing model of multiculturalism that has encouraged Muslim immigrants to create a parallel society within the Netherlands. A new integration bill (covering letter and 15-page action plan), which Dutch Interior Minister Piet Hein Donner presented to parliament, reads: “The government shares the social dissatisfaction over the multicultural society model and plans to shift priority to the values of the Dutch people. In the new integration system, the values of the Dutch society play a central role. With this change, the government steps away from the model of a multicultural society.”

The letter continues: “A more obligatory integration is justified because the government also demands that from its own citizens. It is necessary because otherwise the society gradually grows apart and eventually no one feels at home anymore in the Netherlands. The integration will not be tailored to different groups.”

The new integration policy will place more demands on immigrants. For example, immigrants will be required to learn the Dutch language, and the government will take a tougher approach to immigrants to ignore Dutch values or disobey Dutch law.

The government will also stop offering special subsidies for Muslim immigrants because, according to Donner, “it is not the government’s job to integrate immigrants.” The government will introduce new legislation that outlaws forced marriages and will also impose tougher measures against Muslim immigrants who lower their chances of employment by the way they dress. More specifically, the government will impose a ban on face-covering Islamic burqas as of January 1, 2013.

If necessary, the government will introduce extra measures to allow the removal of residence permits from immigrants who fail their integration course.

The measures are being imposed by the new centre-right government of Conservatives (VVD) and Christian Democrats (CDA), with parliamentary support from the anti-Islam Freedom Party (PVV), whose leader, Geert Wilders, is currently on trial in Amsterdam for “inciting hatred” against Muslims.

As expected, Muslim organizations in Holland have been quick to criticize the proposals. The Moroccan-Dutch organization Samenwerkingsverband van Marokkaanse Nederlanders, which advises the government on integration matters, argues that Muslim immigrants need extra support to find a job. The umbrella Muslim group Contactorgaan Moslims en Overheid says that although it agrees that immigrants should be better integrated into Dutch society, it is opposed to a ban on burqas.

But polls show that a majority of Dutch voters support the government’s skepticism about multiculturalism. According to a Maurice de Hond poll published by the center-right newspaper Trouw on June 19, 74 percent of Dutch voters say immigrants should conform to Dutch values. Moreover, 83 percent of those polled support a ban on burqas in public spaces.

The proper integration of the more than one million Muslims now living in Holland has been a major political issue ever since 2002, when Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn was assassinated for his views on Muslim immigration, and since 2004, when Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh was stabbed to death for producing a movie that criticized Islam.

Muslim immigration to the Netherlands can be traced back to the 1960s and 1970s, when a blue collar labour shortage prompted the Dutch government to conclude recruitment agreements with countries like Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia and Turkey. In the 1980s and 1990s, Muslims also arrived in the Netherlands as asylum seekers and refugees, mainly from Afghanistan, Bosnia, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan and Somalia.

There are now an estimated 1.2 million Muslims in the Netherlands, which is equivalent to about 6 percent of the country’s overall population. Moroccans and Turks comprise nearly two-thirds of all Muslims in the Netherlands. Most Muslims live in the four major cities of the country: Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht.

As their numbers grow, Muslim immigrants have become increasingly more assertive in carving out a role for Islam within Dutch society. For example, a documentary aired by the television program Network in June 2009 reported that Dutch law was being systematically undermined by the growth of Sharia justice in the Netherlands.

In December 2004, the Dutch Ministry of the Interior published a 60-page report titled From Dawa to Jihad. Prepared by the Dutch intelligence agency AIVD, the report says that the Netherlands is home to up to 50,000 radical Muslims whose key ideological aim is to target the Western way of life and to confront Western political, economic, and cultural domination.

The report concludes that Dutch society is poorly equipped to resist the threat of radical Islam because of “a culture of permissiveness” that has become synonymous with “closing one’s eyes” to multiple transgressions of the law.

As for Interior Minister Donner, he has undergone a late-in-life conversion on the issue of Muslim immigration. In September 2006, while serving as justice minister, Donner provoked an outcry after saying that he welcomed the introduction of Islamic Sharia law in the Netherlands if the majority wants it. He also said Holland should give Muslims more freedoms to behave according to their traditions.

After applauding Queen Beatrix for respecting Islam by not insisting that a Muslim leader shake hands with her during a visit to the Mobarak Mosque in The Hague, Donner said: “A tone that I do not like has crept into the political debate on integration. A tone of: ‘Thou shalt assimilate. Thou shalt adopt our values in public. Be reasonable, do it our way.’ That is not my approach.”

Fast forward to 2011 and Donner now says his government “will distance itself from the relativism contained in the model of a multicultural society.” Although society changes, he says, it must not be “interchangeable with any other form of society.”

The Global Economy Is Once Again Shaking

America’s economic crisis is only half over. At least that’s the conclusion of Yale economist Stephen Roach. If Roach is right, it may be time to brace yourself. The world is shaking, and this time the emerging market powerhouses like China and India are facing their own reckonings. America is on its own—and a massive seismic activity could soon be unleashed. “My advice is to keep the champagne on ice,” advises Roach at Project Syndicate. Some people believe the last two quarters of strengthening gross domestic product mean America is finally breaking out of its brutally anaemic recovery.

That’s just “wishful thinking” according to Roach. In Roach’s view, “American consumers’ balance-sheet repair is, at best, only about half-finished,” and the “healing process still has years to go.” Roach, known for his often gloomy outlook, is probably an optimist in this assessment. With the Federal Reserve now supposedly cutting back its artificial stimulus, debt servicing costs threaten to eviscerate U.S. consumers and shove the global economy back into recession.

It’s true that personal debt levels have fallen. Due to the massive numbers of mortgage defaults and bankruptcies since 2008, the debt-to-income ratio for American households is now down to 109 percent, from the bubble peak of 135 percent in 2007. As Roach points out, this level is still extremely high—35 percentage points above the 30-year average of the final three decades of the 20th century. It is also true that people are finally saving more. The personal savings rate has increased from a pre-crisis 2.9 percent to 4.9 percent. But it too is far below the norms seen between 1970 and 2000.

However, debt and savings levels don’t give the whole picture. The cost to carry the debt is more important. And the cost of supporting all that debt may be set to soar.

In December, the Federal Reserve announced it would start to wind down its unprecedented stimulus programs. Since Federal Reserve money printing is the biggest factor keeping interest rates low and debt “affordable” for consumers, it didn’t take long before tremors began to be felt. Although the Fed said it would take it slowly, the news reverberated through the investment community. Within days, markets began to tumble and volatility surge. By the beginning of February, the Dow Jones Index and Nasdaq were both down 7 percent from their highs. The S&P 500 was down 5 percent. We are staring into the face of a “market bloodbath” unless the Fed halts its tapering, the Royal Bank of Scotland warned on February 4.

At street level the ground is buckling too. Factory orders in the U.S. suffered their sharpest fall in 33 years this January. The ISM manufacturing index plunged from 56.5 to 51.3, the biggest one-month decline since the Lehman crisis threatened to wipe out Wall Street. ING’s Rob Carnell called the news “absolutely awful”—and the worst since the recession of 1980. All those manufacturing jobs boasted about in the State of the Union address will disappear as if the Earth opened up and swallowed them.

Meanwhile, America’s labour force remains trapped at a 50-year low, with millions of workers forced into early retirement or too discouraged to even look for work. According to the Telegraph’s Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, U.S. money supply growth rate has been slowing for months. Now that the Fed is reducing stimulus, money supply growth may be set to disappear altogether. This signals a “lull ahead,” he warns. Evans-Pritchard is being an optimist too. In a debt-based economy that mathematically requires ever greater amounts of money to cover principal and interest payments, even a reduced money supply can turn deadly. But so far, the biggest effect from the Federal Reserve’s taper announcement has been overseas.

The BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) are now facing massive currency devaluations and foreign investor flight. If American consumers won’t be able to buy their goods, who will? So far, only China, with its massive $3.2 trillion foreign currency stockpile looks capable of resisting. But China has its own internal American-esque debt problems.

Since the Fed’s December announcement, the Brazilian real has stumbled 4 percent against the dollar; Russia’s rouble has cascaded 8 percent; India’s rupee is down 1.2 percent; and the South African rand has dropped about 7 percent. These are massive distortions for currencies that usually move fractions of a percent. Only the Chinese yuan appears unaffected.

With currencies falling and interest rates thrusting, temblors are straining bond markets too. Russia cancelled its second government bond auction in as many weeks on February 5. Russia also promised “unlimited” interventions to defend the rouble after it hit a record low against a basket of currencies. It is not clear how much longer Russia can hold out before being forced to borrow money at sharply higher—unsustainable—rates. After Sochi, watch out. On February 5, Brazil was forced to cancel its bond auction due to unfavourable “market conditions.” Credit default swaps—measures of a nation’s ability to repay debt—among virtually all emerging markets are widening.

The problem for Russia, Brazil and the other BRICS is that to prop up their currencies, they have to tighten monetary policy and restrict credit. That may be impossible without severely crippling their banking sectors and pushing their economies into recession. “The crisis is imminent. I don’t think Obama is going to finish his second term without the bottom dropping out.”:, says Peter Schiff, while Capital Economics’ Neal Shearing comments: ”Our concern is that this could lead to a new phase of the crisis. These countries are caught between a rock and a hard place.”

Other nations are shaking too. Turkey once bragged about avoiding the 2008 economic meltdown. On January 29, its central bank doubled its interest rate to stem foreign capital flight and stabilize the value of its currency. Since the Fed’s taper announcement, Turks have seen 10 percent of their currency’s value ground away. Analysts warn that the interest rate shock will shatter growth and knock the economy into full-blown recession. Protesters are already standing down water cannons in the streets of Istanbul over government corruption and Internet monitoring. Greek-like protests with burning cars and firebombs due to unemployment and sealed bank accounts may be next.

On the outskirts of Buenos Aires, the flickering light of burning tires gives proof of the growing social unrest where week-long electricity blackouts are now common. Riots and protests are slowly constricting the capital city. From behind closed doors with iron bars, vendors fear looting will spread from the suburbs where striking police officers no longer patrol.

Argentina has no one to blame for its hyperinflation and soaring unemployment. This is not the Federal Reserve’s fault. It is a socialist tragedy—nationalizing foreign-owned companies, restricting private enterprise, limiting free exchange of goods, telling people how much they are allowed to sell refrigerators for, printing money to finance unaffordable social programs—that has been years in the making.

Yet Federal Reserve policy does not act in a vacuum. It may have pushed Argentina into the rift. The end of easy money from the Fed caused the few foreign investors left in Argentina to head for the exit. In January, Argentina devalued the peso by 19 percent. It then promptly outlawed all businesses from raising prices—under threat of prosecution. As a result, businesses are closing up and unemployment is rising. The black market, which doesn’t operate under the constraint of taxes and government regulation, is thriving. Nation-wide union salary negotiations are up next. Inflation is running at 74 percent. Things look bleak.

The entire global financial system is propped up by the U.S. Federal Reserve money-printing. Now with the Fed slowing its stimulus, chaos is engulfing a world that has become dependent on easy money. “The crisis is imminent,” writes EuroPacific Capital’s Peter Schiff. “I don’t think Obama is going to finish his second term without the bottom dropping out. And stock market investors are oblivious to the problems.”

The only way to mitigate the global wreckage will be for the Fed to reverse course and dramatically increase its monetary stimulus. By doing so, it might postpone the crisis and buy some time.

But what will the Fed do? The Fed refuses to acknowledge any responsibility. As U.S. Treasury Secretary John Connally said to foreign finance ministers in 1971, “The dollar is our currency, but it’s your problem.”

However, Fed is a false god anyway. It cannot heal the world’s debt-addicted financial systems. It cannot re-create the global economy or even mend the economic fault lines tearing apart America’s own economy.

But here is the irony of today’s situation. Back in 2008, the last time the world faced a global economic crisis, investors still fled to the U.S. for protection—even though Wall Street banks and U.S. policies were the cause of the crisis. It appears history is repeating.

Will the world once again turn to America as a safe haven? Will this once again save America from its own financial sins and delay its day of reckoning? As much as the world hates the dollar, and hates American financial dominance, there does not appear to be a viable alternative monetary system. China is distrusted and faces its own debt problems. Europe is still disunified and fragmented. There is gold, but if even a fraction of global money flows moved in that direction, the metal would blast through $10,000 per ounce in a heartbeat.

Even if the world does rush to America once again for safety, it will only do so in disgust and of necessity. U.S. economic policy has made big enemies for America. The world hates being whip lashed with every Federal Reserve whim. It hates the power of the Fed. It hates the power of America, the dollar and its reserve currency status. And it is working to find an alternative. When that day comes, and it is coming soon, you won’t want to be living in America for long. And then what happens to Canada!

The Ugly Indian: Inherently Racist

A map doing the rounds on the Internet shows India as one of the most racist countries on planet Earth. One can hear the cries of outrage and calls to ban the World Wide Web. But how was the map researched? People were apparently asked who they wanted to live next to and most Indians wanted someone exactly like them as their neighbour. We know that already, don’t we? Long before anyone else we invented the most comprehensive and well-articulated system of discrimination known to humanity. It is known as the caste system in polite society. Illegal it may be but it is still followed in some form or the other to this day. And let alone neighbourhoods which keep to themselves or frown upon inter-race marriages or segregate seats on buses, the caste system even outlawed the wrong shadows falling on the right people.

Indians are most vocal anti-racist when they are in countries that are open, democratic and value human values and human rights. Sorry, they are still racist, but hide their racist feelings, and proclaim from the roof tops there culture of believing the whole world as their family- all the while saving themselves from the pernicious touch of others. They are curiously racist even towards Indians of other religions and provinces. Not long ago, at the railway stations, there used to be Hindu water and Muslim water, though the pitchers were filled from the same tap.

So it is not surprising that we are also prejudiced against the people of Africa and the people from our own Northeast. Late last year, a little diplomatic storm erupted in Goa when ministers of the Bharatiya Janata Party-ruled state government declared that all Africans were drug dealers and some leaders even suggested to ostracize them. There was injured pride when members of the government were called racist, like it was a novel concept.

In Bengaluru, a couple of years ago, there were reports of young people from the Northeast fleeing the city after rumours that they were going to be attacked for “being different” surfaced on the Internet. “Chinky” is what they’re known as, in reference to their eyes, as so many Africans are called “blackies” in reference to the colour of their skin.

Now the new Aam Aadmi Party government in Delhi — the chosen government of the common man — is under the scanner for its attitude towards both Indians from the Northeast and people from Africa. Law minister Somnath Bharti carried out a now infamous raid in the Khirki Extension area of the national capital based on complaints against African residents by their Indian neighbours. These Africans were apparently running “dens of vice” in the area and the police was doing nothing about it. Plus, as it turned out, the Africans dressed differently and ate differently.

The stereotyping is clear and unsurprising: people not of Indian origin, who eat and dress differently, are also most likely to be involved in unsavoury activities. The Indians in the neighbourhood cannot possibly tolerate such behaviour, since Indians, goes the implication, are far too pure to get involved in such doings. And so the AAP minister to the rescue. The police refused to act without evidence. So the minister and his people barged into people’s homes, dragged the women out in the middle of the night and even, according to the women, forced them to urinate in public to provide samples for drug-testing.

After this, the AAP government continued to blame the police for not listening to its minister. The treatment of the women by the minister was not so important and nor, evidently, was it seen as an aberration. The common person had complained about these “outsiders”. The police had done nothing. The first responsibility of the AAP government was to the common person. Why bring up issues like racism or human rights? If you do, you are a) against the common person; b) on the payroll of other political parties or; c) against anyone who is working for the common people.

The AAP government has since also approved of khap panchayats in spite of their extremely regressive judgments, especially targeting women. The AAP has been, to put it politely, not vocal enough on the death of a young boy from Arunachal Pradesh, who died from injuries he received after he objected to some personal remarks about his facial features and hairstyle by some shopkeepers in the Lajpat Nagar area of Delhi.

Representing the common person is therefore seen as emphasizing the common person’s biases and ignorance. It does not matter if these biases are against the law or against human dignity or, indeed, common decency. The common person only wants neighbours who are exactly like him or her, remember? Africans and people who look different, even if they claim to be Indian, cannot possibly fit in. Ever since the riots of 1992-93, Mumbai’s residential areas have been segregated into Hindu-Muslim and many buildings pride themselves on being discriminatory to Muslims and also to non-vegetarians.

Of course, it is unfair to brand all of India as racist — regardless of the map. There are many who are warm and welcoming. But the heritage of discrimination means that we may be kind out of the goodness of our hearts — not necessarily because we understand why racism and stigma and discrimination are wrong. That is, we are sometimes fair and tolerating despite ourselves.

It is not a pretty picture and it is even worse when a ruling government endorses the narrow-minded and petty prejudices of the population. It is bad enough with the religious segregation that some political parties endorse or encourage. There are enough fissures in Indian society already, without the AAP pandering to the lowest common denominator.

We have this idea in India that our cities must be cosmopolitan and accepting, but this notion needs to be backed by official support, strength and conviction. When a police commissioner of a city like Mumbai blames sex education for rising crimes against women, you know that you are not just fighting simple ignorance but deep-rooted moral hypocrisy.

The AAP was seen by many as being different from other tired, venal and sectarian political outfits. And this gave India hope. But that difference has manifested itself in several unfortunate ways since the party came to power in Delhi. And like all hypocrisy, there is some irony at work here too. Nigerians, for instance, are stigmatized the world over, for being devious and unscrupulous Internet spammers and con men. And yet, the AAP’s law minister, the same Mr Bharti who condemned the Africans of Khirki Extension for being immoral, has long faced allegations for being part of a company which ran a well-known Internet scam. Stereotypes are not always the same as truth!

What we need from our politicians is the ability to understand prejudices that manifest as hatred, and that have to be countered not encouraged. The AAP has not managed to pass that particular test yet — putting it at the same level as the other parties it directs its self-righteous rage at. The sad but inescapable truth is we are guilty of racism: not always but distressingly often, not all of us but, unfortunately, far too many.

If this is to change we must begin by first and unreservedly accepting this fact. Our mistreatment of African people is a direct product of our attitude to colour. We don’t like those who are darker than us whilst we ourselves hanker for a fairer complexion.

To be honest, colour consciousness also permeates the way North Indians treat South Indians. We dismiss Africans as habshis; we contemptuously categorize South Indians as madrasis. Colour leads us to deride their food, customs, language and behaviour.

I have lived in Africa and I know that Africans believe Indians are more racist than Europeans and Americans. I have lived in Britain where West Indians and Africans would say the same. I can’t think of many countries where Fair and Lovely creams do such roaring business. In England, for example, they would be considered not just unacceptable but an abomination. Certainly there can’t be many countries where the equivalents of Shahrukh Khan and John Abraham proudly advertise them. Yet our celebrities have no compunction about doing this.

Alongside caste, our marriage advertisements stipulate colour. I used to think Punjabis were the most guilty. I now accept the rest of North India is no different.

All of this is not just embarrassing, it’s shameful. Yet, we are blissfully unaware or, at least, unconcerned by the moral issues it raises. Wilful ignorance is our bliss!

Our attitude to our own citizens from the Northeast is no less racist. Here, more than colour, it’s their different features that attract our obloquy. Once again, that extends to cover their language, culture, food, clothes and behaviour.

Not only do we call them ‘chinkies’ but often do our best not to mix with them. We prefer them to live apart, keeping their own company almost living their own lives, separate and away from us. For most of us, the Northeast is another country only accidentally and peripherally Indian. It may be geographically at an arm’s length from the mainland; in terms of acceptance and integration it might as well be another continent.

The worst part is that many of us are unaware of this hateful prejudice, several unconcerned, quite a few unwilling to change and most — yes most — unashamed when made aware of this horrible truth. Consider two other situations and you’ll realize how deeply compromised our moral attitude actually is. Watch us beside fair-skinned Europeans and Americans and we seem to delight in their company. When they visit, they’re honoured guests. When invited to their homes, we’re over eager to impress. The other telling situation occurs when Indians go abroad. If mistreated we often, if not readily, suspect racism even when that’s patently not the case. Usually it’s the first explanation that comes to mind.

Women from Northeastern states have highlighted time and again the sexual harassment they face from the people in the city with many recounting incidents where they were singled out for such harassment because of their appearance. “It is shocking and disgusting how men in the city think that women from the Northeast are fine with being sexually harassed and have no principles. There have been a number of times where men have propositioned me on the road and passed lewd comments because of the erroneous perception they have of us,” said Rose, a student at Delhi University, who goes by one name only.

The need for gender sensitization, especially when it comes to women from the Northeast has been discussed on and off again and experts believe that institutions such as schools and colleges are places where this can be done best.

As potential victims we are very conscious of it, as perpetrators we’re disinclined to accept it of ourselves. The truth is Indians especially in North India can be very nasty to people whose skin colour or features we don’t like, often just because they’re different to ours. The last few weeks in Delhi have held up a mirror and the reflection is unappealing. Monsters we may not be but angels we definitely are not.

Student groups and some politicians have demanded an anti-racism law and a National Commission for Minorities-type body to ensure the safety of the people from the Northeast. Discrimination against the people of the Northeast is not new. Ask any North-easterner who stays in Delhi or for that matter anywhere else in India and you will get a clear picture of her grim experiences: from unkind comments (including stereotyping) to physical abuse, they endure humiliation on a regular basis. Four days before Tania’s death, two young women from Manipur were thrashed in full public view by goons. When they went to a local police station, the police refused to register an FIR till members of a Northeast association called up a senior official.

India never misses a chance to publicize its rich diversity but the truth is that Indians are parochial: a large segment of people feel secure to live in their little worlds and protect its borders from any ‘external influence’. Remember the Shiv Sena’s aggressive stand against the people from the south as well as the north?

While there was an economic angle to the Sena’s stand against non-Maharashtrians (though the violence it unleashed on non-Maharashtrians cannot be justified on any grounds), in the case of North-easterners even that narrow economic logic will fall flat.

Tania was killed in Lajpat Nagar, a middle-class colony in south Delhi, but racial attacks happen on a regular basis even inside the best of the educational institutions. And since the youth from the Northeast usually bear the brunt of such racist attacks, it is up to the youngsters from other parts of India to redress the situation.

They need to stand up and speak out against such racial attacks. Such violence cannot be looked at only as a law and order problem but as a result of ignorance and certainly as an attitude problem. And who better to change such an attitude but the young people of the country?

Agreed that it is unfair to brand all of India as racist. There are many who are warm and welcoming. We may be kind out of the goodness — not necessarily because we understand why racism and stigma are wrong; but in reality an average Indian is epitome of racism and prejudice.

Obama Fulfilling Winston Churchill Prophecy

One of the first acts of Barack Obama’s presidency was to send back to Britain a powerful Oval Office sculpture of Winston Churchill, looking beetle-browed and determined, the way Churchill really looked when he was defying Hitler.
At the time, Obama’s gesture seemed another little eccentric footnote to this extremist administration. After all, Obama’s Dreams from My Father celebrates his biological father who abandoned him as a baby, to return to Kenya after the terrorist Mau Mau Jono Kenyatta came to power. Obama Sr. soon fell out with Kenyatta, was purged from the regime, and managed to have two consecutive drunk driving accidents, the second of which killed him.
In the real post-colonial world, Obama’s Leninist ideology is completely passé. India’s Prime Minister Singh is a free market economist. Over there, English is still the language of politics and commerce, and free market policies have created a sustained economic boom. China is no longer rigidly Marxist either, and it is booming using free market principles. The real talents of individuals in India and China now have a greater chance to flourish. In Russia, Putin has introduced a 14% flat tax, and is boosting traditional morality. Only Obama still harbors that old post-colonial rage against white imperialists, which is why he can’t tell the difference between murderous terror gangs and democratic revolutions. Iran is ruled by a corrupt and evil priesthood, opposed by hundreds of thousand of young people who look to the civilized world for hope. After Obama’s Geneva Surrender we know that he honestly can’t tell the difference between reactionary murder regimes and modern peoples.
For civilized people Al Qaeda is a mass child-murdering criminal gang, a horrific throwback to a dark and bloody past. Photos of AQ’s slaughtering innocent children, women old people in the Syrian Christian village of Maloula have gone viral all over the web. The mall massacres in Nairobi, Kenya showed a primitive murder gang head-chopping black and white Africans alike, and those pictures were flashed around the world as well. Normal human beings of all faiths were terribly shocked, including many civilized Muslims.
But for Obama Al Qaeda is just like the Mau Mau terror group, who beat the British in Kenya by slaughtering white farm families in acts of horrific terror. Obama truly is not like us; his beliefs are utterly alien to our political tradition. That is why this administration violates all the rules. It is not an accident. It is simply who they are.
The act of sending the bust of Churchill back to Britain signaled Obama’s hatred for the Anglo-American political tradition, including the US Constitution. So far only one prominent liberal has expressed open outrage — Nat Hentoff, the civil liberties advocate who used to write for the Village Voice.
Obama’s recent Geneva Surrender to the primitive Mullahcracy is still being seen by millions of dope-addled American airheads as the road to peace. So what if the Saudis are terrified about Iranian nuclear weapons that are now within the grasp of the mass-murdering mullahs? So what if Israel is now surrounded by 170,000 missiles in the Iranian Crescent? So what if the Geneva Surrender was instantly violated by Russia breaking the sanctions against Iran?
And that solemn seven-power “peace” agreement broke down within days. John Kerry is now insisting on dismembering Jerusalem and the West Bank as a sop to please the worst totalitarians, an exact copy of the Surrender to Hitler that started World War Two. The nuclear horse is out of the barn, after sixty years of successful American efforts to thwart nuclear proliferation to mad regimes. Obama has welcomed Iran to big power nuclear status in the Middle East. The libs call this “diplomacy” but it is abject surrender to evil.
The Saudis remember that Ayatollah Khomeini tried to overthrow their regime during the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, the hajj. They know the mullahs want to control Mecca and Medina, and thereby run the entire Sunni world, 80% of Islam. Arab-Persian hatred is ancient and enduring.
Obama’s little spiteful act of returning the bust of Churchill signaled this whole administration’s gangster approach to governance. Winston Churchill, for all of his human faults, was still the greatest defender of civilized values against Nazi and Stalinist tyranny.
Fortunately Churchill spoke prophetically about tyrant-appeasers like Obama and Kerry. We have his prophetic words when Prime Minister Chamberlain came back from the Munich Surrender:
“You were given the choice between war and dishonour.
You chose dishonour, and you will have war.”
One tick of history later and Hitler invaded Poland in alliance with Stalin.
Against the consistent advice of our best military officers, Obama has surrendered — and surrendered to the most radical and fanatical mass murdering regimes in the Middle East. For five years the United States had an open window of opportunity to set back the Iranian nuclear program with minimal risk — just the way we stopped Saddam from developing his nuclear program, using sanctions and a no-fly zone. Now that window of action has slammed shut.
Obama took no action. He lied and delayed and lied and delayed — telling Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the civilized world that “Iran would never be allowed to get nuclear weapons.”
If you want to see who won that confrontation, just look at the laughter on the faces of the mullahs today. They look drunk from their victory. Mullah Rouhani can’t stop laughing.
Obama is a malignant narcissist, and therefore dangerous. The Democratic Party, which has known all about Obama for years, must have known about his openly confessed radical Leninist ideology. Today senior Democrats are leaving Congress for fear of the voters’ revenge. They know exactly what they have done, just as Ted Kennedy knew how to undermine our borders and immigration laws during his decades in the US Senate. These people act with malice aforethought. That is why they are allied with the Muslim Brotherhood, and maybe the Iranians as well.
Maybe there will be a miracle that spares the world from another major war. We all hope so. But if Obama’s arrogant fiasco comes tumbling down and war does break out in the Middle East, conservatives must remind America of Churchill’s prophecy of 1938 and Obama’s dishonor.

Billionaires and Crony Socialism

The survival rate of crony socialism matches that of a cockroach.
President Barack Obama mentioned inequality in his State of the Union address: “inequality has deepened” in the US. A few days later, Christine Lagarde, managing director of the IMF, stated in her Dimbleby lecture that both the level of and increase in inequality were a major problem in the world. She stated that “Seven out of ten people in the world today live in countries where inequality has increased over the past three decades… In India, the net worth of the billionaire community increased twelve-fold in 15 years, enough to eliminate absolute poverty in this country twice over”.
I am quite prepared to accept that inequality may have increased, and increased substantially, in the US, as both Obama and Lagarde are stating. But it is by no means a slam dunk conclusion. Further, what does inequality deepening in the US have to do with billionaire wealth and poverty reduction in India? The fact remains that per capita income in the poor developing countries has increased substantially faster than incomes in the West, and this has led to a radical decline in world inequality. At around a Gini level of 0.61 today, the world is the most equal since 1890. (A Gini level of 1 represents perfect inequality, one person has all the income; and a Gini of 0 means perfect equality, everyone has the same income.) It does not take an IMF to do a back of the envelope calculation on trends in world inequality. Since 1980, for four-fifths of the world’s population residing in the developing world, per capita income has been growing at a significantly higher pace than the developed world. This leads to an increase in world equality. Further, it can be the case that even if in every country inequality worsens, world inequality can improve. (These and related issues were explored in a 2002 book, Imagine There’s No Country: Poverty, Inequality and Growth in the Era of Globalisation, Peterson Institute for International Economics, Washington DC. Many of the conclusions and forecasts in the book have stood the test of time!)
Billionaire wealth: Forbes data (the only source!) for 1999 indicated that there were six dollar billionaires in India with $5.3 billion in assets; in 2013, that number had expanded to 55 billionaires and $183 bn in assets. This is an increase of over 34 times the 1999 value. On a per billionaire basis, the increase is only 3.8 times. Over the same time-period, both per capita income and the Sensex (in US dollars) have expanded in a near identical fashion by 3.5 times.
Three conclusions follow from this quick perusal of Indian data. First, the joint wealth of dollar billionaires has expanded 34 times, well in excess of the IMF chief’s claim of only 12 times. Second, per billionaire wealth did not expand at a pace significantly faster than the income or stock ownership of an average person. A major conclusion that follows is that, unlike other countries (especially China), India has not experienced much increase in inequality over the last 15 years. This back of the envelope conclusion (comparison of wealthy billionaires with the aam aadmi) is also supported by NSS data on real per capita consumption — a Gini of 0.30 in 1999 and a Gini of 0.32 in 2011-12, an increase of less than 7 per cent over 12 years.
But the larger point that Lagarde was making remains valid, though it is not immediately apparent what the larger point is. Is it the case that, if billionaire wealth had not increased by a factor of 34, poverty would have been removed twice over? Are poverty removal and wealth generation not part of the same process? Or perhaps, what the IMF chief meant was that the somewhat “ill-begotten” wealth of the billionaires could be redistributed to the poor via increased taxation?
Indirectly or directly, there is constant talk in the liberal media, NGOs and international organisations (with the UN being the most extreme example) about crony capitalism being behind wealth and income concentration, and that if only this were to be reduced, the world would be a better place. What I want to discuss today are the ills of crony socialism and their deleterious effects on poverty reduction. Crony socialism defined as only government programmes meant for poverty reduction — in-the-name-of-the-poor expenditures. The table documents aggregate data on Indian consumption, poverty and related data for the NSS years since 1999-2000. The last two rows document the money required to achieve zero poverty in any given year and what government spends to reduce poverty. The former is calculated under the assumption that god, and not the politician, is identifying and redistributing to the poor as defined by the Tendulkar poverty line.
In 1999-2000, the government was spending 1.1 per cent of GDP on transfer subsidies, and 3.1 per cent of GDP was needed. What the data underline is the fact that, as poverty has declined due to high growth, Sonianomics has engineered exactly the opposite pattern — today, only 0.44 per cent of GDP is needed to achieve zero poverty and the government is spending six times as much to reduce poverty. Why this huge divergence? Because the government expenditures for the poor are not really meant for them; they are designed to benefit the middle class but always, always, in the name of the poor.
A perspective on this is provided by the Congress’s last stand before elections — increasing subsidised LPG cylinders from nine to 12, or an increase in the existing subsidy by 33 per cent: from an expenditure level of Rs 40,000 crore to Rs 52,000 crore. What is the amount of expenditure needed with perfect targeting? Rs 48 000 crore. That is, the amount spent on LPG subsidy alone is enough to achieve zero poverty in India in 2013-14.
Perfect targeting is not possible, but it must be possible to reduce the leakage. In this regard, the Aadhar identification programme (incidentally dispensed by the Congress!) needs to be supported to allow poor people to get the money meant for them. But don’t be surprised if money meant for them does not reach them. It is not only corruption that eats the poor man’s lunch; it is badly designed policies like MGNREGA, food subsidies, free water and half-price electricity.
Oh yes. Lagarde claimed that billionaires’ wealth increase over the last 15 years was enough to eliminate poverty in India twice over. Reduction in crony socialism will be far more effective; today, a minimum of Rs 300,000 crore is spent on transfer subsidies rather than the amount needed, Rs 48,000 crore. The ill-begotten gains of crony capitalism over 15 years reduce poverty twice over according to the IMF; the ill-begotten gains of crony socialism in one year can reduce Indian poverty six times over! I exaggerate, but only ever so slightly. And yes — in Darwinian terms, crony socialism has the genes of a cockroach.

Weird Marriage Rituals

 Whom gods have joined together, let no man rend asunder. But tying the knot in any culture comes with a laundry list of traditions and rituals, including the old rhyme, “something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue.” These are some weird customs collected from all over the globe. As you read this list of strange wedding traditions just think to yourself – which the weirdest one?

Drinking from the Toilet
Newlyweds in France were forced to drink leftovers from their wedding out of a toilet bowl. Nowadays, chocolate and champagne are used as a substitute, but still served out of a toilet. The idea was to give the bride and groom strength before their wedding night.
Kumbh Vivah
Indian men and women born as Mangliks are believed to be cursed. It is believed that Mangalik Dosha negatively impacts married life, causing tension and sometimes the untimely death of one of the partners. To cancel these effects, a Kumbh Vivah can be performed before the wedding. This is a wedding between a Mangalik and either a statue of Vishnu or an earthen pot or peepal or banana tree. Even, Aishwarya Rai had one such marriage before marrying Abhishek Bachchan.

Spitting on the Bride
At a wedding ceremony held by the Massai people in Kenya the father of the bride blesses his daughter by spitting on her head and breasts. She then leaves with her husband and does not look back for fear of turning into stone.
Charivari
Charivari is possibly the most annoying wedding tradition one have ever come across. On a couple’s wedding night, friends, family and other wedding guests group together outside the newlyweds’ home and continue to make as much intolerable noise as possible. They’d bang on pots, kettles, sing out loud and do whatever they could to upset the couple. The newlyweds are also expected to go out and please them with snacks and drinks. It is a French folk custom and practiced as a regular wedding activity to celebrate the nuptials.
Smashing Dishes
In parts of Germany, a ritual called Polterabend is practiced. It typically starts with profligate feasts and finishes with the entire guest making as much noise as possible. Dishes are damaged, pots are clashed and cookeries are smashed. It is believed that the cacophonous sounds caused by all this represent the inevitable future trouble that the couple will face in their married lives. By breaking the dishes in advance, the community is preparing the pair for the obstacles ahead and at the same time wishing them luck.
Beating the Groom’s Feet
In South Korea after the wedding ceremony, the groom has to endure a beating from his friends before he can retire with his bride. Friends of the groom take off his socks, knot a rope around the ankles, and begin beating the soles of his feet with dried fish. A particular type of fish is used i.e. Yellow corvine. Sometimes a stick or cane is also used. The intention behind this tradition is to check the groom’s strength and knowledge. He is often asked questions and quizzed during the test.
Kidnapping Brides
Bride Kidnapping is a crazy ritual where a man abducts the woman he wants to marry. Also known as marriage by arrest or by seizure, bride kidnapping also include elopements, where couples run away without the consent of their parents. In some parts of the world, the ritual is considered as a sex crime. In some cultures like the Romani or Gypsies it is still practiced. It is believed that if you manage to convincingly or forcefully kidnap a girl, she will officially be called your wife.
Preplanned Crying
Weird but true that crying is one of the wedding function in China. A month before the wedding, a bride is expected to cry for about an hour. After 10 days, her mother joins her in the ritual. After another ten days, her grandmothers, sisters and other females unite in the ritual. The bride weeps in different tones which sound like a song and with various words which are seen as an expression of happiness and joy.
Blackening of the Bride
Imagine all of your friends throwing disgusting things at you, covering you in grossness, and then tying you to a tree. This is the typical pre-marital humiliation that Scottish brides endure in certain parts of the country. Supposedly if you can handle this you can handle anything, including marriage.
No Washrooms
For tribes of the Tidong community in Northern Borneo newly married couples are required to be confined to their house while not emptying their bowels or urinating for three days and nights.
A Whale of a Tale
In Fiji not only are men expected to ask their father in law for his daughters hand in marriage, they are also expected to bring him a whale tooth. Let’s think about this, excluding the black market the only place in the world to get a whale tooth is in the mouth of the largest mammal on earth, which also happens to spend most of its time underwater. That’s true love.
Kissing Party
In Sweden, whenever either the bride or groom leaves their table to use the bathroom the other gets kissed…a lot. If the groom has to go then every male in the reception will get a chance to kiss the bride and vice versa.
Fairies on the Floor
In Ireland when the bride and groom are dancing the bride’s feet have to stay on the floor. The Irish believe that if they don’t, evil fairies will come and sweep her away. The logic? Evil fairies like beautiful things. The bride is beautiful. The fairies can only get to her if she is not touching the ground.
Aim Carefully
In Yugur culture (an ethnic Chinese minority) the groom will actually shoot his bride with a bow and arrow before the wedding…three times. The arrows don’t have arrowheads, but still, that’s like getting shot with rubber bullets. Once the deed is done, the groom will collect the arrows and break them, thus ensuring that they will love each other forever.
Serious Business
In Congo, if you want to ruin someone’s wedding just hire a comedian. In order for the marriage to be taken seriously the bride and groom are not allowed to smile throughout the entire ceremony.
Jump over a Broom
Jumping the broom is a time-honored wedding tradition in which the bride and groom jump over a broom during the ceremony. The act symbolizes a new beginning and a sweeping away of the past, and can also signify the joining of two families or offer a respectful nod to family ancestors.
Wooden Duck Carving
The wooden duck carving is a tradition in Korea. You would wonder what the bride and groom have to do with wooden carved dicks. The deal is that the ducks are placed by the bride and groom in their new home without each other knowing where and how the others duck is placed. The idea behind this is that, if the ducks when brought together are nose to nose that means the couple would have a happy married life, if they are tail to tail then they would have a number of fights.
Slaughtering a Cow
It sounds pretty inhuman to do such a thing, but then slaughtering a cow along with gunshot fired in the air is a wedding ritual in Egypt amongst the Muslims. It is also common South Africa and among Nubian ceremonies. It is considered lucky to be able to get married on the day this happens in Egypt. Supposedly the death of something gives life to another. The parents of the groom are expected to slaughter the animal and the men of the family fire the gunshots.
Fat Wedding
In Northwest Africa, the bigger the bride, the better. In order for a man to flaunt his prominent status, he needs a fat wife. Stomach rolls, stretch marks and overlapping thighs are all indications that he is wealthy enough to keep his wife satisfied. In a ritual called Leblouh, girls from the ages of five to 15 are sent to “fat farms” and force-fed thousands of calories in order for them to gain weight rapidly, thus preparing them to be declared fit for marriage
The Wooden Spoon
Some hopeful brides dream of that sparkling diamond ring and the joy of presenting it to their friends and family. But how would the bride feel if they were presented with a wooden spoon instead? In Wales, the man carves a ‘love spoon’ which symbolises his desire to feed his future wife and provide for her. The bride is supposed to wear the wooden spoon around her neck instead of a ring – certainly a cheaper option but far from glamourous!
Housebound Honeymooners
It’s not just the wedding day itself that has some strange customs – Indonesian honeymooners are confined to their homes for three days following the wedding, even if this means not going to the toilet. This honeymoon house arrest is believed to produce a happy marriage full of healthy babies.
Inspecting a Baby Chick’s Liver
Personality, lifestyle, education, background or other factors don’t give a hint if a marriage will succeed or fail for the Daur people of China. They base their happy-marriage predictions on the liver of a baby chick. As the couple is about to set their wedding date, the two share a knife to slice open a chick to inspect its liver. A healthy liver means they can set a date and the marriage will flourish. A bad liver means setting a date at that moment would doom the union. Thus the couple keeps slaughtering chicks until they find one with a suitable liver that ensures a bright future — as long as you’re not the chicken.
Now, tell me which ceremonies shall you like to be performed.