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We talked with Palash Biswas, an editor for Indian Express in Kolkata today also. He urged that there must a transnational disaster management mechanism to avert such scale disaster in the Himalayas.




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Sunday, March 29, 2009



Troubled Galaxy Destroyed Dreams: Chapter 190

Palash Biswas

Sydney Morning Herald
'Politics should be about people, not profit'
BBC News - ‎Mar 28, 2009‎
More than Thousands of people have marched through central London to demand action on poverty, jobs and climate change, ahead of the summit of G20 leaders ...
What the G20 must do
35000 turn out for wet G20 march Times Online
Tens of thousands join Put People First protest to demand economic ...
European Parliament (press release) -
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'Starvation Lake' a tasty mystery
Detroit Free Press - ‎7 hours ago‎
BY OLINE H. COGDILL • SUN SENTINEL • March 29, 2009 In "Starvation Lake," Bryan Gruley delivers a seamless tale of revenge, redemption, secrets and lost ...
Book Review: Fresh voices invigorate the thriller Florida Times-Union
Debut novel skates along smoothly Columbus Dispatch
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Couple whose baby died of starvation did not commit crime, sources
Malaysia Star - ‎Mar 27, 2009‎
By STEPHEN THEN MIRI: The parents of the month-old baby boy who died from starvation when they forgot to feed him due to being too drunk will not be charged ...
Agilent Goes Into Starvation Mode
Forbes - ‎Mar 26, 2009‎
Agilent Technologies sees rainy days ahead, but the scientific instrument maker’s efforts to weather the economic storm are giving hope to investors. ...

Orlando Sentinel
Is 'scapegoating' behind baby's starvation death?
Orlando Sentinel - ‎Mar 28, 2009‎
By Willoughby Mariano | Sentinel Staff Writer An Orlando mother arrested in the starvation death of her infant daughter failed to feed her twin babies — but ...
Police: Starved baby died at same weight she was at two weeks Orlando Homicide Report
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Seattle Times
$6M settlement for starved Everett boy
Seattle Times - ‎Mar 25, 2009‎
The state and three other parties have agreed to pay $6 million to settle a lawsuit brought on behalf of a boy who was intentionally starved by his father ...
$6M settlement reported in Lynnwood starvation Seattle Post Intelligencer
Investigators: $6M settlement for starved boy Northwest Cable News
DSHS, others pay $6 mil in Abegg case The Olympian
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Christian Science Monitor
Sands’s Starvation, Boils Dramatized in IRA Film: Rick Warner
Bloomberg - ‎Mar 23, 2009‎
March 24 (Bloomberg) -- In 1981, Bobby Sands and nine other Irish Republican Army inmates starved themselves to death to protest Britain’s refusal to ...
MOVIE REVIEW: Film depicts IRA’s Bobby Sands starvation crusade Enterprise News
‘Hunger’ pains: IRA prisoner Bobby Sands inspired McQueen’s ... Boston Herald
The Brilliance of Hunger Movie City News
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Obama must halt starvation in Darfur
Atlanta Journal Constitution - ‎Mar 21, 2009‎
By John Prendergast Between 1991 and 1993, I traveled extensively as a human rights monitor in what became known as the “starvation triangle” in ...
One Million Sudanese At Risk Of Starvation: UN RTT News
Sudan: Bring President Al-Bashir to justice now, says Amnesty Amnesty International UK
Over 1 Million People Threatened with Starvation in Sudan
afrol News - Huffington Post
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VIDEO: Kenya drought - starvation feared
Reuters - ‎Mar 25, 2009‎
Mar 25 - The Kenyan government is warning that 10 million people may face starvation if a drought in the country lasts much longer. ...
Enough, population doom merchants
Times Online - ‎18 hours ago‎
In the 1960s they based their campaign on the notion that there would be mass starvation in Africa and the subcontinent unless those countries learnt to cut ...
Cafeteria strike against Meriwether Godsey causes chaos and starvation
Guilfordian - ‎Mar 27, 2009‎
"Eat corporate or die," screamed Head Chef Diana Henry at the top her lungs as Cafeteria employees staged a strike on Founder's Porch in protest of ...
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Business Standard
COUNTERVIEW | Policies perpetuated poverty
Times of India - ‎Mar 27, 2009‎
The UPA and the Congress talked about inclusive growth. But did they strive for it? We call growth inclusive when benefits of economic growth reach vast ...
Get all the news you missed this week in this downloadable capsule Livemint
Brand Advani: Perils Of Rebranding!
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'National movement needed to get rid of poverty, casteism'
Central Chronicle - ‎Mar 28, 2009‎
Noting that the 'Sher-i-Punjab' felt that education should be a tool to remove poverty and misery, former Union minister Jagmohan said while India has ...
New light on Lala Lajpat Rai Hindu
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Washington, December 11, 2008— The World Bank announced today it is boosting aid to India, for much-needed infrastructure and also to help the nation’s poorest states. Funding is being considered for the next four years under the Bank’s country assistance strategy, with more assistance planned for the future.,,contentMDK:22009107~pagePK:64257043~piPK:437376~theSitePK:4607,00.html

My people, worldwide Black untouchables and the Indigenous Aboriginal and Minority Communities are BORN ENSLAVED in POVERTY struck by famine and Food Insecurity and DEBT to die in POVERTY! Since they are the NATURE associated ENVIRONMENT Friendly Peace loving species in this Galaxy! I live with the Peasnt Community destined for SUIcide, Tribals suffering from Starvation, Joblost industrial workers and Displaced Peasants and tribals fighting to survive and bretahe in the GHETTOS created for east bengal refugees!

I have been among the Mine Workers, the People engaged in Illegal Mining, the Population struck by Radioactivity, deforestation and Pollution of every kind.

I have also visited the GRAVE Yards spread over closed JUTE and COTTON Mills and tea gardens.

Our people are Predestined to be BORN in poverty and wither away with DEATH procession INFINITE!

I was BORN in poverty, though as RESETTLED Bengali refugee family we had not to face such Starvation crisis or Food insecurity as our people encounter countrywide. The Bengal as well as Sikh partition Victim refugees resettled in Nainital terai Transformed the HELL into a HEAVEN furher strengthened by GREEN REVOLUTION in sixties led by pant nagar university.

But we also faced calamities and harvest Loss, intense debt situation as the pesants all over the country sufferfrom. We always had been surrounded by Aboriginal tribal population whwerever we were rehabilitated. I have witnessed the Poverty and Stravation, alienation of our trabal brothers and sisters. Specially in Jharkhand, I visited Tribal villages around the Industrial cities and Mines, urban areas. I have seen starvation, Poverty and death face to face in almost every Tribal village all over the country.

Specially in Dandakaranya, targeted specially for REPRESSION to CURB Maoism, not only tribals but SC and OBC and minorities along with the POOR belonging to general catstes do live in Poverty and starvation!

I visited many parts of North East India, separated from mainland and saw the map of Poverty spread everywhere. Bundelkhand in UP, Bidarbha in Maharashtra and many parts of rajasthan and MP live in Poverty lacking basic needs.

The refugees, not able to resettled have been DEHUMANISED as SLUMDOGS and they consist the main Maual Workforcs concentrated in SLUMS around the metros and Developed Urban areas.

I am fortunate to share their experiences also.

In West Bengal, the East Bengal dalit refugees are most Hated and DISCRIMINATED!

The MARXIST Strategy against the PROLETARIAT leaves no SPACE for SC, OBC, ST and Minority Communities to BREATHE freely unless we prove our HUMILITY, Surrender and SUBORDINATION as SUBHUMEN!

The number of chronically hungry people has surpassed the 1 billion mark for the first time as the economic crisis compounds the impact of high food prices, the United Nations’ top agriculture official has warned. In an interview with the Financial Times, Jacques Diouf, director-general of the Food and Agriculture Organisation, warned that the increasing numbers of undernourished people could trigger political instability in developing countries.

“The issue of world food security is an issue of peace and national security,” he said, urging world leaders who are discussing ways to resolve the economic crisis not to forget that last year more than 30 countries suffered food riots.

The Rome-based organisation estimated last year that about 960 million people were chronically hungry in 2008. Diouf said that had since risen and “unfortunately, we are already quoting a number of 1bn people on average for this year”. Before the food crisis started in 2007, there were less than 850 million chronically hungry people in the world, a level that has been roughly constant since the early 1990s owing to the global fight against poverty and countries such as China lifting their economic growth.

Diouf’s assessment signals that the food and economic crisis have reversed the past quarter-century’s slow but constant decline in the proportion of undernourished people as a percentage of the developing world’s population. The percentage fell from 20 percent in 1990-92 to a low of just below 16 percent in the 2003-05 period. But with 1 billion people chronically hungry now, the percentage has risen to almost 18 percent.

As a consequence, the FAO’s director-general proposed ditching the UN’s Millennium Development Goal of halving the number of the world’s undernourished by 2015 and replacing it with a target of “eradicating hunger by 2025”. He said to meet that aim, the world should learn from the mistakes of the 1990s, when investment in agriculture fell sharply, paving the way for the surge in food prices of the past two and a half years.

Diouf is pressing world leaders for a summit in Rome in November to tackle the roots of food insecurity, rather than to continue reacting to every crisis with ad hoc measures. “The food crisis is not over,” he said, warning that although international benchmark prices for major agricultural commodities such as wheat, corn, rice and soyabean had fallen from last year’s peak, they remained almost 30 per cent above the 2005 level. He added that domestic prices in developing countries had not tracked the drop in international prices as their crops had been disappointing.

Now, he said, “the financial crisis is worsening the situation by increasing unemployment, limiting the credit for trading [agricultural commodities] and lowering remittances, which in poor countries were used to purchase food”. “Combining all the elements we are in a very unstable situation,” he added.

At the proposed summit, Diouf said that world leaders should commit to investing in agriculture, particularly in the developing world, as the rise in the world’s population from today’s 6.5 billion people to 9 billion by 2050 will mean the world needs to double its current food output.

He added that leaders also should agree to revive the FAO’s Committee on World Food Security, elevating it to ministerial level to “allow policy decisions [to] be made”. Diouf said that several heads of state and governments already back its idea of a summit in November to tackle the food problem. Previous summits, however, have yielded few policy results.

BBC News
High growth, low votes
BBC News - ‎Mar 26, 2009‎
But this view scarcely stands up to close scrutiny: according to the available evidence, the proportion of the poor below the poverty line significantly ...
CPI-M manifesto for 15th Lok Sabha elections
all 108 news articles »

Sadiq ahmed rightly writes:

The global financial crisis hit South Asia at a time when it was barely recovering from a severe terms of trade shock resulting from the global food and fuel price crisis.The food and fuel price shocks had badly affected South Asia, with cumulative income loss ranging from 34 percent of 2002 GDP for Maldives to 8 percent for Bangladesh. Current account and fiscal balances worsened sharply and inflation surged to unprecedented levels.

After my recent trip to South Asia and based on a review of internal debates and discussions in specific countries, I get a better sense of the effects of the global financial crisis on the region. Although my analysis suggests that every country has been affected, the magnitude and response between countries have differed. India has seen the greatest impact with economic indicators demonstrating significant decreases on many measures. Officials have responded swiftly and taken a number of steps to mitigate some of the worst consequences.

South Asia has the highest rates of malnutrition and the largest numbers of undernourished children in the world! Poverty is often the underlying cause of child malnutrition, and while South Asia has recently experienced impressive economic growth and reduced poverty, this has not translated into improved nutrition. The region fares worse than any other developing region including Sub-Saharan Africa (45% vs. 28%, respectively). There is an urgent need to tackle the severe malnutrition situation in South Asia.

A section of the DALIT intellectuals including ADITYA ROY, Dr Jagadish Haldar, Adhikar Editor Gauranga Biswas, and others have issued an appeal to all Political parties to HIGHLIGHT the demands of the DALITS.

It is a pity to note that our Ambedkarite Friends have not been DISILLUSIONED till this date.

The Marxist GOVT does not issue CASTE CERTIFICATE to our people demanding documents of land before 1952 with certificates from two family persons!

Then, it is worthless to BLAME NORTH INDIA for the INTRODUCTION of Citizenship Act!

I encounter so many Bengali Intellectuals and COMMON people who declare that NORTH Indian Psyche won`t allow a BENGALI Prime Minister!

What about the MARXIST HISTORICAL Blunder?

The North Indian leaders like comrade Harkishan Singh Surajeet Lalu Yadav, Mulayam Singh Yadav, Ram Bilash Paswan and South Indian leaders tried their best to make Comrade Jyoti Basu the Prime Minister of India.

The Bengalies like Brand Buddha, Nirupam Sen, Biman Basu aligned with Prakash Karat and company pulled Basu back!

Our so called Bangla nationality sentiment works against Fact and history while we BLAME only Nehru and Gandhi for partition Holocaust and the PERSECUTION of Aboriginal Indigenous Minority Communities all over the Divided bleeding geopolitics!

The WEST Bengal segment of BENGAL assembly passed the partition Resolution by Majority while EAST BENGAL Rejected it!

It was the HATE SPEECHES of NC Chatterjee and Shyama Prasad Mukherjee and RSS Pro activism under Hindu Mahasabha Umbrella injected CROMINE in Dying muslim League Politics countrywide and the League was INSTITUTED by the BENGALIES only!

Who betrayed PRAJA Krishak Party and IMMUNED FAZLUL Haq?

Who betrayed NETAJI Subhash Chandra Bose?

Basudev Burman is a dalit Intellectual we all know.

He had been the Vice chancellor of kalayani university and the Chairman of Tripura Education Commission. He headed the dalit Samanyay SAMITI until he was elected for Loksabha from reserved Mathurapur seat in South 24 Parganas on CPIM Ticket.

Dr Burman was the Head of the ONE MEMBER BURMAN commission on OBC quota implementation in West Bengal while He DENIED the VERY EXISTENCE of OBC Castes in West Bengal despite no less than FORTY TWO percent OBC population in West Bengal.

As a member of parliament, Dr Burman recorded HIGHEST ATTENDANCE but he never raised a question!

Dr Burman is not known to do anything for his constituency or Bengal in general.

Dr Burman was heading the SAHAMARMI movement in support of the Bengalies residing outside Bengal and demanding CITIZENSHIP , Reservation and the RIGHT to learn Mother tongue. But he kept MUM while his Party supported and VOTED ENACTING anti BENGALI CITIZENSHIP Amendment Act branding all Bengali dalit refugees as BANGLADESHI Illegal Immigrants.

I personally requested DR BURMAN to visit Refugee colonies in UP and Uttaranchal very near to New DELHI but he could not manage TIME during his five year Tenure in the Parliament.

NO CS, OBC or ST or MINORITY member of Parliament cared enough for the ABORIGINAL INDIGENOUS MINORITY communities and VOTED to pass scores of ANTI People acts!

Dr Burman is fielded in RANAGHAT reserve seat this time as other SC ST OBC candidates do beg vote of our people and we support them knowing the record and the past!

The DALIT intellectuals demanded JOB, Awards and Institutions on the name of DALIT ICONS.

I have been in THAKUR nagar where TWENTY FIVE lacs of SC crowd gather every year.

Since BANGAO is a new RESERVE Loksabha seat thanks to DELIMITATION, the MATUAS have become the DECIDING POWER and even the Mainstream MEDIA known for DALIT HATE spends much of the space on Matuas.

The Matuas have resisted CPIM and Left parties but do tend to SUPPORT Ms MAMTA BANNERJEE and her TMC.

Has MAMATA been ever VOCAl on these demands the dalit Intellectuals do present?


Neither the POWER or RESISTANCE Hegemony nor the MEDIA or the CIVIL SOCIETY ever cared for us.

Dr BIODHAN CHANDRA Roy finalised the EAST BENGAL REFUGEE Policy with Pdt Jawahar Lal Nehru denying them the STATUS of PARTITION VICTIM!

DOLE was allocated rejecting COMPENSATION.


The BENGALI BRAHAMINICAL Leadership decided to EXCOMMUNICATE and EXTURMINATE our people and SCATTERED them all over the country in Jungles and Tribal Regions resulting DEGENERATION and DEFACEMENT!

The DEMAND of Charter mentions the Manipulation in Reservation and quota as the reserved seats are often declared as GENERAL because SC ST OBC candidates are not available while our boys and girls in lacs roam in uncertainty having passed Service commission and NET exams.

They are mobilised in VOTE BANK adjustment process and the Marxist Gestapo by the SIGNATORY Intellectuals themselves.

Dr NITISH Biswas happens to be the GENERAL SECRETARY of so many forums to organise the ASPIRING OPORTUNIST People and all tha DALIT INTELLECTUALS throng around him!

Dr Nitish Biswas is not alone.

Lalan Academy and VIJOY SARKAR Memorial commitee have been HIJACKED by CPIM and Marxist ministers Subhash Chakrabarti and ANIL SARKASR manages all the set ups of this kind.

OBC intellectual, the famous MUSICIAN SHUBHENDU Maiti was the FACE projected by CPIM din defence of Nandigram!

Recently I have been in THAKUR NAGAR., the Matua centre.

The dalit intellectuals have demanded KUMBHA Mela status for BARUNI. While the OCCASION is to be seen as rare example of CHAOS and MISMANAGEMENT while FORWARD BLOCK MLA HARI PADA Biswas heads the advicery committee to Matua Mahasangha.

Matuas in lacs gather there with DANKA and disintegrate without any MOBILISATION.

The Matua Mahasangha is not known to follow any PRINCILE or ways of SOCIAL MOBILISATION, EMPOWERMENT and CREATIVE Social work. HARICHAN GURUCHAND Ideology is not discussed at all.

Although the Matua Mahasangha led the Anti CITIZENSHIP AMENDMENT ACT Movement, but pressurised by the Marxists they withdrew from the RESISTANCE and takes every care to be BRANDED as a RELIGIOUS OUTFIT!

What is this?

If God wishes, I'll intervene in Kandhamal: Sister Prema
Kolkata (IANS): Describing religious conversion as "God's work", new Superior General of the Missionaries of Charity (MoC) Sister Mary Prema on Friday said she would go to Orissa's Kandhamal - scene of communal violence - if she received divine inspiration.

The German born Prema, who was elected as MoC head Tuesday, hoped the order's founder Nobel laureate Mother Teresa will be canonised one day. She also expressed her desire to meet Pope Benedict XVI.

Replying to a query on the Kandhamal riots during her maiden media meet after taking over the top position, she said: "We forgive those who caused us suffering".

"If God inspires me, I'll definitely intervene," said Sister Prema, when asked whether she would go to Kandhamal.

Asked to spell out her views on religious conversion, she said: "Every human being has the right to believe. Each person is born with dignity. Religious conversion is God's work".

Sister Prema, who turns 56 in May, responded to a host of posers during the half-hour media interaction at the Missionaries of Charity global headquarters, the Mother House.

Expressing surprise at her election, the nun said she needed to know the community across India.

Sister Nirmala, who had led the congregation for 12 years since Mother Teresa stepped down in 1997, was re-elected for a third term March 13. But the MoC held a second election on Tuesday after she expressed a desire to be relieved of the post owing to ill-health.

"My election was a bit of a surprise to me. I had no plans, Mother led the society quite amazingly. Sister Nirmala followed her. Now, I have to follow Sister Nirmala."

"I'll work for the poor, the downtrodden. I will work to eradicate poverty," said sister Prema, who was born Mechtilde Pierick in Reken, Westfalia, Germany. Her parents are now dead, but she has an elder brother and a twin sister. "Both of them are married and have children." In her early life, Sister Prema taught in a school for the handicapped.

She first came to know about Mother Teresa by reading the book "Something Beautiful for God" by Malcolm Muggeridge.

"Inspired by the book, I met Mother in 1980 in a youth meeting in Berlin, and joined the MoC the same year in Essen, Germany."

Missionaries of Charity sources said she served the poorest of the poor in Italy and other European countries, and was a member of the general chapter in which Nirmala succeeded the Mother as Superior General.

Since 2001, sister Prema is living in Kolkata.

"Sister Nirmala will continue to guide us," she said to a question on her predecessor.

Sister Prema hoped that the Mother will be canonised one day. "The investigation of the Miracle is still on."

The MOC, founded by the Mother in 1950, now has 766 Mother Houses all over the world, of which 246 are in India. "We have 4,950 novices working all over the world, though their numbers have gone down in the last one year," said Prema.

She traced the reason to break-up of families and fewer children.

Sister Prema said the young generation has to be inspired to join the MoC. "Through our humble service and plain lifestyle we have to draw the young generation," she added.

She did not think the charisma of the Mother was missing. "It is still there."

Malvika Singh
With Rajnath Singh supporting Feroze Varun Gandhi and, therefore, all his rather scary utterances, and stating that he will go and campaign for the young aspirant, the Bharatiya Janata Party has established its position vis-à-vis Indian Muslims, Sikhs and other non-Hindus. For a national party to silently endorse a possibly sinful oath is taking humanity back to the days of uncivilized politics when an eye for an eye and an ear for an ear was the war cry of revenge. To see a supposed national party stand by a bagful of false beliefs in the present age of information technology and globalization makes one shudder with fear and sadness. What a waste of energy in a country haunted by poverty and lawlessness, corruption and unjust politics that defy and fight against the essence of pluralism.

Will the majority of the Hindus tolerate and condone this rhetoric and the accompanying acts that contravene the laws of this land? Will they, the majority, join a political dispensation that holds such preposterous positions and unbending beliefs that will, most certainly, kill the soul of India? Often it is an unthinking, wild desperation that manifests itself in such acts and speeches, a personal desperation to grab power at all costs. An ascent to power propelled by rabid speeches of this kind is usually fraught with superficialities and results in an equally sudden downfall. The BJP appears to be ‘using’ Varun Gandhi, maybe because he is a Gandhi. Perhaps his party needs a representative of the ‘first family’ of Indian politics within its fragmented fold to assert its national appeal and to enable it to compete with the Congress. Otherwise, why should the party leadership go out of its way to endorse Varun Gandhi, thus alienating some of its critical allies?

Central pie

India remains a conservative, semi-feudal culture and it will take some more decades and a clear generational shift in politics and society for the democratization of her multi-faceted cultural traditions, her resilient, ancient philosophies and therefore, of the majority mindset, to take place. Respect for diversity, differences and debate will have to override the scheming, wheeling, dealing and more that we have been witness to over the last few decades. All through the last week we have had to hear non-stop repeats of the diatribe of Feroze Varun Gandhi, whom the press insists on calling by his middle name. Then, a few days days ago, that frightening image was juxtaposed with one of Rahul Gandhi, who was calm and collected, engaging with the press on issues that need correction and action. A different tenor, a different endeavour, a different goal. Forcing a polarization, the BJP and Varun Gandhi may well compel the country to make some hard choices. Some will win on the Hindu plank, others will fall by the wayside and Bharat will go through some severe contractions before the birth of a modern civil society. This may well be our trial by fire!

The government is virtually a ‘caretaker’ till the results are declared. If the Congress reaches the 150 mark, chances are that the opportunist bees will race to the hive with their numbers and there could be a radical change of partners in the course of the jig. If the Congress drops its count, the single largest vote-getter, Mayavati or Jayalalithaa or anyone else, will cobble together an ‘united’ collective with all others carrying their ‘numbers’ and jockeying to grab a bit of the Central pie. Real, constructive alliances have not been intrinsic to Indian coalitions. The selfish, divisive ‘alliances’ that have been plaguing India are over for now. The gross horse-trading will resume on the evening of May 16, when votes will be counted. The alliances that will survive till then are those that are mutually beneficial to the partners in the political play.

Spotlight on multi-faith India
1 day ago

NEW DELHI (AFP) — A Muslim-baiting speech ahead of India's elections next month has opened the door to a divisive campaign exploiting the country's religious fault lines.

The black sheep of India's Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, would-be Hindu nationalist MP Varun Gandhi, has prompted a major scandal after TV footage showed him whipping up anti-Muslim hatred while hunting votes in a northern Hindu heartland.

His Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) would, he was taped telling a rally, "cut the head of Muslims" if it beats the incumbent Congress party in the polls that start next month.

Varun Gandhi is now in legal trouble and facing arrest -- as inciting violence is not taken lightly in a country susceptible to the occasional pogrom.

But the BJP is unrepentant, shrugging off calls from the Election Commission to drop him as a candidate.

Observers say debate on issues such as grinding poverty and other pressing social and economic matters is once again being sidelined as the campaign goes sectarian.

But the fact remains that communal issues are still seen as vote winners.

"The effect of religion on Indian politics is staggering, and denying its influence would be a blunder by any political party," said political analyst Pran Chopra.

"Sectarian politics has a great degree of appeal. It can never vanish from Indian politics."

The scandal surrounding Varun Gandhi, analysts say, underscores some unsavoury facts about modern India -- a country that takes pride in its "world's largest democracy" badge and that wants to make the 21st century its own.

They say that more than sixty years after the subcontinent was drowning in the blood of partition, sectarian rabble-rousers can still score points.

"Hate has been employed as an effective tool to polarise in almost every election," noted Suhel Seth, a well-known television commentator and newspaper columnist.

"The tragedy is that the Indian politician has not learnt how to inspire. He has only been taught how to foment hatred, which is no longer a virtue in these frail times fraught as they are with economic and social stress," he wrote in the Hindustan Times newspaper.

Indeed, according to the Midday tabloid, the BJP has a "new lucky mascot" and a "star campaigner" in the London-educated Varun Gandhi, the grandson of former premier Indira Gandhi.

This has left the rival parties arguing about the communal issues that India's founding fathers tried to put behind them in the wake of partition, with Congress labelling the BJP as a major threat to social cohesion.

"The BJP is out to divide people on the basis of communal lines," Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said this week when launching Congress's manifesto.

"This is the record of Mr. Advani," Singh said of BJP leader L.K. Advani. "We currently must reflect whether this is a person who is fit to hold office."

The BJP quickly retaliated, accusing Congress of cynically courting the important Muslim vote -- Islam is followed by 135 million to 140 million of India's 1.1 billion population -- and of being weak on terror.

Caught in the middle are India's Muslims, many of whom hold little faith in either of the two main parties.

"Political parties are linking recent terrorist attacks to communalism to feed prejudice," said Seema Mustafa, an Indian Muslim columnist.

"Muslims across India are arrested at random and have no one to protect them from injustice."

The BJP's own campaign manifesto is expected to reiterate the party's commitment to building a Hindu temple on the ruins of a mosque demolished in 1992 by Hindu zealots.

The demolition sparked Hindu-Muslim violence that claimed around 2,000 lives.

Declining poverty ups UPA's re-election chances: Study

27 Mar 2009, 1726 hrs IST, Shailesh Dobhal & M K Venu, ET Bureau

NEW DELHI: India may have begun to experience a new era in electoral politics, where a large number of incumbents stand a good chance of getting
re-elected because of declining poverty levels, two sets of data indicate.

While poverty has declined in 380 of the 543 Lok Sabha constituencies in the past five years, an analysis by the Economic & Political Weekly (EPW) shows that anti-incumbency, the trend for the electorate to vote out the incumbent representative, has declined significantly between 2004 and 2008.

Some of this may have been reflected in the recent assembly polls in five states, where three incumbent governments retained power. Over two-thirds of sitting MPs lost their seats in the 2004 polls. But they could be more hopeful this time around. If reduction of poverty in 380 constituencies is taken as a proxy for a possible pro-incumbency, then Congress and its present allies seem positioned well.

Of the 380 seats where poverty levels have fallen, Congress has 84, RJD 17, NCP 6, SP 16, BJP 65 and the Left Front 31 while BSP has 10. This is what emerges from the ET-Indicus Analytics Election Special analysis of constituency-level data on over two dozen demographic, social and economic development indicators.

A recent study published in the Economic and Political Weekly found a declining trend in anti-incumbency . The study shows that while 77% of all incumbent state governments were voted out of power in the decade ended 1998, this proportion dropped sharply to just 46% last year.

It is also seen that state election results mirror that of the Lok Sabha in a large number of cases, especially when the two are held within a year of each other. Although a direct correlation between one single measure of development and electoral performance runs the risk of being too simplistic, it’s a safe conclusion that a decline in poverty is a factor that favours re-election.

However, anti-incumbency could work in constituencies where poverty levels have remained static or increased between 2004 and 2008. In the last five years, poverty has remained static in 51 constituencies, and increased in 112 constituencies. Poverty is defined by the government in terms of food intake: people who cannot consume 2,400 calories of energy a day in rural areas or 2,100 calories in urban areas are deemed poor, or below the poverty line (BPL).

The proportion of BPL population fell to 26% from 28% at the national level between 2004 and 2008. During the same period, poverty decreased across all states barring Uttarakhand, which last year took on the dubious mantle of a state with the highest proportion of BPL population at 47% compared with 43% in 2004.

Until 2004, Orissa used to be the state with highest BPL ratio (46%), which has come down to 45% in 2008. Mizoram continues to have least proportion of BPL population at just 1%. Assam saw a 4% drop—the biggest—in BPL population, with all 14 constituencies in the state reporting decreased BPL numbers. This should be good news for Congress, which runs the government in that state.

Primary data from the National Sample Survey Organisation’s 50th, 55th and 61st rounds was taken to arrive at the constituency-wise BPL population projections in 2004 and 2008.

The top 10 constituencies with the largest drop in proportion of BPL population are in the north and eastern states, with as many as six from Uttar Pradesh. Orissa’s Aska constituency saw the biggest 10% drop in BPL population, although the number remains at a high 43%, but below the 46% average number for the state. The Biju Janata Dal sacked and disqualified the MP from Aska, Harihar Swain, for violating the party whip and voting for the Manmohan Singh government in the vote of confidence.

Other constituencies in the top 10 include Pratapgarh, Sultanpur, Sitapur, Jalaun, Akbarpur and Kanpur, all in UP, Orissa’s Berhampur and West Bengal’s Darjeeling. Bihar’s Arrah constituency with a population of 2.5-million gets the dubious distinction of the largest increase in proportion of BPL population, up 8% between 2004 and 2008. This should be bad news for the sitting MP, RJD’s Kanti Singh.

But that needn’t be so. Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s constituency Rae Bareli also saw poverty levels rise, and was one of three constituencies in UP to figure in the list of the worst 10 performers on the BPL score. Want to bet against her re-election?

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Grain politics in hungry India

The Congress has announced 25 kg of rice per poor family at Rs 3 per kg. This seems a mere populist gimmick before elections to lure the voter rather than a sincere policy. In 2008, many parties and governments promised subsidised grains to the poor..
CJ: Citizen Shiba, 1 day ago Views:640 Comments:1

IF MID-DAY meal is to educate India then there is grain politics to democratise India. With the hope that rice at cheaper rate will fetch more votes, raining of populist sops are hot potatoes in time of elections. Congress’ announcement of 25 kg of rice per poor family at Rs 3 per kg is certainly not the first time that promises of cheap grain have been made.

In 1967, DMK pledged it would give three measures of rice for one rupee in TN. That was the first time it came to power in the state. Later, NTR Rama Rao took a leaf out of Tamil Naidu in 1983 when he borrowed Anna’s winning formula and offered rice at Rs 2 per kg. That was 26 years ago.

Suddenly last year, it was the ‘Big Idea’ for politicians. In 2008, many states saw parties promising, or governments giving subsidised grains to the poor. The year began with the Chattisgarh government introducing a scheme of 35 kg of rice at Rs 3 per kg for families Below the Poverty Line (BPL). In April, the Madhya Pradesh Government followed suit, announcing 20 kg of wheat at Rs 3 per kg or 20 kg of rice at Rs 4.
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5 per kg for the poor. And the list goes on with Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Orissa.

A close look at the electoral dividends will unfold the success of grain politics. Karunanidhi in TN, Shivraj Chauhan in MP, Raman Singh in Chhattisgarh and BSYedyuruppa in Karnataka, all won the elections following the promise or delivery of cheap grain.

No doubt, these are all populist promises clearly aimed to lure the voter. It is not bad at a time when governments across the world are pouring billions into bailout packages for corporate fat cats. The question is whether this would really reach the poor or be eaten away by middlemen. On the other side these measures only came to existence before elections as gimmicks rather than sincere policies. Once upon a time India was very poor, now is the time when India is hungry, many for grains and some for votes.

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Global Crisis and Its Impact on the Region: The Need for a New Growth Model

Also available in: Montenegrin

Jan-Peter Olters

World Bank Representative

Country Office Montenegro

IV COSAP Conference and 8th Cetinje Parliamentary Forum

Cetinje, Montenegro, March 27, 2009

Twenty years ago, it had appeared that the fall of the Berlin Wall marked the final nail in the coffin of (what Germans call) Staatsgläubigkeit, the confidence that the state could have a beneficial—and should have an active—role in economic matters. These were the days of the so-called Washington Consensus, with a political emphasis on stabilization, privatization, liberalization, and, not least, deregulation. The collapse of Lehman Brothers and the resultant financial turmoil nineteen years later seem to mark the end of Marktgläubigkeit, the belief in the wealth-creating power of, and the socio-economic benefits from, liberalization and deregulation. Who would have thought—just a few months ago—that international debates on the financial sector would center on supra-national financial-sector regulation and supervision, after rounds of nationalizations in countries as economically liberal as the US and the UK? More clearly than ever before do we see today that our principal challenges consist of having to redefine the interrelation of these two valuable, yet highly imperfect systems of coordinating human conduct, economic ambition, and social development—the market for private goods and the state for public ones, both systems with the potential to advance the lives of people and destroy the wealth of households, firms, and countries.

More than half a century ago, when dissecting The Great Crash of 1929, John Kenneth Galbraith—one of the great, for decades disregarded, economists who is celebrating an unexpected renaissance these days—identified five principal weaknesses explaining the severity of the fallout from the financial crisis on the real sector, culminating in the Great Depression, which weighed so heavily over the 1930s. These were (i) a high degree of income inequality; (ii) corporate greed in the context of weak financial reporting standards; (iii) excessive credit growth and insufficient banking supervision; (iv) excessive external imbalances; and (v) weak data and insufficient economic analysis.

This warrants a reflection deeper than can be provided in a short speech—including in Central and Eastern Europe, a region that appears harder hit by this crisis than many other parts of the world. From today’s perspective, there are indeed increasing indications that history might repeat itself. The IMF and World Bank have forecast negative growth rates for the world as a whole—for the first time in 60 years—, with economies of the euro zone and Russia (Montenegro’s main trading partners) expected to contract between 3 and 5 percent in 2009. In recent weeks, governments in Iceland, Latvia, Hungary, and the Czech Republic were forced to step down. In Europe alone, a considerable number of countries—Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, Hungary, Iceland, Latvia, Serbia, and the Ukraine—have already requested IMF support, and others are following suit. Trade is collapsing, large and prestigious companies everywhere are under threat of closure. Rising unemployment and increasing social unrest, as already seen in France, is feared throughout the continent.

With 1929 in mind, the US and most industrialized countries have adopted very large, deficit-financed fiscal stimulus packages, thereby paying tribute to another great, but equally disregarded economist: John Maynard Keynes. Assuming things go well and as intended, with confidence in economic prospects returning also to the banking sector, we should be able to see some life in at least some of the major economies by mid-year, entailing the potential that the mood changes and confidence improves more quickly than thought possible right now. In that case, the current crisis would be U-shaped, unfreezing liquidity and lifting economies, including those in the region, out of their current difficulties—by 2010 the latest.

However, if major economies remain lifeless by summer, the current policies will have largely proven blunt, without fiscal or monetary ammunition left to give it a second shot. If indeed the case, the crisis will be L-shaped—that is, severe and long drawn out. The immense difficulty in forecasting the crisis’ shape reflects the detachment of economic fundamentals from business sentiment, the almost complete collapse of confidence in and among financial institutions, resulting in the almost complete drying up of liquidity, in Montenegro as much as elsewhere. Once lost, confidence is, of course, the trickiest ingredient to restore.What does this all mean, including for Montenegro?

The short-hand answer is as sobering as the economic environment. Transition and post-transition countries in Central and Eastern Europe will need a new growth model—one that does not depend on foreign direct investments and external credits as the engine for growth. Growth will have to come from within, grounded on innovation and increased productivity. For those of us trained in the dismal science of economics, we will have to have a closer look at the endogenous growth theory. Beyond the mathematics and the equations, these models highlight the crucial importance given to the production of new technologies, to training and education—highlighting those areas, in which carefully designed policy measures can have the largest impact on the long-run growth rate of an economy. There is no one headline-grabbing policy that can achieve this, but a set of reforms improving the overall environment within which private-sector activities take place. These models, of course, did not exist when Galbraith derived the five aforementioned bottlenecks, which have led to the rapid deterioration in the overall economic situation and, ultimately, the Great Depression, but they circumvent a plethora of generally microeconomic policy measures that are required to define this new growth model.

These five fundamental conditions of “shock resistant” economies are as relevant today as they were 80 years ago. By now, of course, there is a robust body of academic literature that has placed a considerable emphasis on questions of social inclusion. Apart for reasons valid in themselves, this focus stems from experiences that social tension and large income inequalities result in lower rates of potential growth, weaken political cohesion, contribute to environmental degradation, and add considerable costs to societies in terms of foregone opportunities. To summarize related challenges into one sentence, this requires an educational system that offers opportunities to everyone, irrespective of his or her background, giving people the tools, once having graduated, to be able to contribute effectively to the greater good, within the public or private sectors. The government’s task of providing for an environment that permits the increase of overall productivity, both in terms of invested capital and employed labor, the focus will have to be on the instruments available to government—public institutions, laws, regulations, and mechanisms ensuring their rules-based application. Today, even more so than in the years before, it is paramount that attention is being paid to the quality aspects of public expenditure, to the careful definition of objectives and priorities, the strict adherence to highest standards during implementation, and the ex post assessment of whether, or to which degree, pre-specified goals could have been realized with the policies implemented. And that is where good data—the road map to policy-makers—enters this equation.

I know none of this sounds particularly exciting or novel. It is hard work in areas where benefits can be had only indirectly and often with a considerable delay. However, this region, in particular, will benefit from the fact that the obligations inherent in the European integration process, so eloquently discussed earlier in this morning, are fully consistent with—in fact, largely define—the development of this new growth model. Thus irrespective of the developments within the EU, or the time required to sort out the current institutional impasse, the continued focus on reforms strengthening public institutions, increasing the quality of the public goods provided, and ensuring the transparent and uniform application and judicial verification of rules and regulations promises considerable benefits—certainly economic ones.

With that I wish you the strength and determination to take the opportunity that is inherent in any crisis and build a Montenegro even more successful and better equipped to tackle the challenges ahead, whether the seas are calm or the waters are troubled.

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India Country Strategy 2009-12

Video | Press Release | Additional Lending |Country Strategy 2009-12 | Previous Country Strategy 2004-08 | Progress Report for Strategy 2004-08

The World Bank’s Country Strategy (CAS) for India for 2009-2012 focuses on helping the country to fast-track the development of much-needed infrastructure and to support the seven poorest states achieve higher standards of living for their people. The strategy envisages a total proposed lending program of US$14 billion, for the next three years, of which US$9.6 billion is from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) and US$4.4 billion (SDR 2.982 billion equivalent at the current exchange rate) from the International Development Association (IDA).

Giovanna Prennushi, World Bank Economic Advisor talks about the key points of the India Strategy

The strategy is closely aligned with the Government of India’s own development priorities expressed in the Eleventh Five Year Plan. It was arrived at after a series of consultations with a broad range of stakeholders including the government and civil society. Under the strategy, the Bank will use lending, dialogue, analytical work, engagement with the private sector, and capacity building to help India achieve its goals.

Maintaining rapid and inclusive growth

Infrastructure: For India's rapid and sustained growth, major investments in power, transport, water, and urban development are needed. Inadequate power supply remains a critical constraint to growth; while GDP grew at an average of about 8% a year over the past five years, electricity generation only grew at an average of 4.9% per year. The national and state highway networks have not kept pace with the tremendous growth in demand for road transport: only about 30% of state highways are two-lane and more than 50% are in poor condition. Inadequate urban infrastructure is hampering the expansion of growth centers. While the Eleventh Plan foresees a major role for private sector involvement in infrastructure development through PPPs, these may not materialize to the extent hoped for in the aftermath of the global financial crisis. The Government of India has requested the World Bank to specially focus on infrastructure investment in its new strategy, including on strengthening the capacity of government agencies to design and manage public-private partnerships(PPPs).

Rachid Benmessaoud, Acting Country Director for India, talks about the importance of infrastructure for India's growth.

Skills: The shortage of skills is preventing large segments of the population from being part of India's growth story. Nearly 44% of India’s labor force is illiterate, only 17% of it has secondary schooling, and enrollment in higher education is just 11%. This compares unfavorably with, for example, China, where access to secondary education is almost universal and enrollment in higher education exceeds 20%. Moreover, the quality of most Indian graduates is poor and employers offer very little skills upgrading (16% of Indian manufacturers offer in-service training to their employees, compared to over 90% of Chinese firms). The informal sector employs over 90% of the workforce, but there is very little investment or opportunity for formal `skilling’ for informal workers and enterprises.

Agricultural Growth: Low agricultural productivity is keeping some 60 percent of India’s population behind. Shortages of basic rural infrastructure - from roads to electrification - are hindering the growth of off-farm activities. No doubt, agricultural growth has been faster over the past five years (4.7% per year)- facilitated by very good monsoons, greater production of high-value fruits, vegetables, and dairy products, an increase in the minimum support price for grains, and the sudden increase in global prices for agricultural products. But, sustaining this level of performance over the longer term will be difficult without addressing several policy and structural constraints, including a myriad of restrictions, subsidies, support prices, sector governance issues, as well as the tiny size of landholdings and years of underinvestment. The Indian Government has asked the World Bank to place special emphasis on agricultural development in its new strategy.

Making development sustainable
Most environmental indicators suggest that growth is extracting an increasing toll on the country's natural resources - water, land, forests, soils and biodiversity - and leaving a larger pollution footprint. India is highly vulnerable to climate change; cyclones, floods and droughts are happening with increasing frequency, and the Himalayan glaciers that feed India’s largest rivers show clear signs of retreat. Indeed, climate change will impact India first and foremost through its water resources. Rising temperatures will also affect agricultural yields, forests, and marine and coastal biodiversity. India will need to better manage these resources (particularly water) and reduce the burden that environmental degradation is imposing on the population, particularly on the most vulnerable groups.

Increasing the effectiveness of service delivery
While much progress has been made on primary school enrollment, improvements have been elusive in other sectors, particularly health. Although deaths from TB have fallen and polio cases have reduced dramatically in 2008, child malnutrition levels are worse than in Sub-Saharan Africa, despite large expenditures. No Indian city provides water 24/7, only half the population has access to safe drinking water, and less than a third has access to sanitation. Public services fall short largely because they have little or no accountability to the ultimate client, and outdated management systems are unable to provide the information needed for decision-making. These issues are particularly acute in centrally sponsored schemes which are designed and funded by the central government but implemented by the states and lower echelons of government. Given the importance of these schemes, systemic improvements in design and governance are crucial to get results from public spending. The Government of India has requested the World Bank to place special emphasis in its new strategy on centrally sponsored schemes that aim to achieve the MDGs. The Bank will focus on increasing accountability to citizens, decentralizing responsibilities, and enhancing private sector participation in the delivery of these services.

Strategies for states
Given India’s enormous size and diversity, the Bank will adopt different strategies for states depending on their needs, stages of development, and capacity for project implementation. Special strategies will also be adopted for the Northeastern and Himalayan states.

Low-income states
The new strategy devotes more resources to engaging with India’s seven low-income states - Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh - which are home to more than half of India’s population. Here, the Bank will focus on poverty reduction and on achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Intensive technical assistance will be provided to help these states develop their administrative capacity. Bank lending to these states will primarily be in the form of low-interest IDA credits as well as technical and advisory services.

Middle-income states
India's richest states already have incomes comparable to lower middle income countries, with incomes being some five times higher than those in the poorest states. This gap is higher than most other democratic societies.In these states, the Bank will provide support on two fronts: fighting poverty in their lagging regions, and addressing the complex challenges emerging from rapid growth. States such as Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Haryana, Gujarat, and Maharashtra will be helped to forge the institutions needed in a middle income economy. Cutting-edge analytical work and the best international expertise will be brought to bear upon complex problems where there are yet no clear solutions. Lending to these states will be in the form of competitively priced IBRD loans, with the International Finance Corporation (IFC) – the Bank’s private sector arm – providing support for private sector clients.

Engaging the Center
The World Bank will continue to assist the central government by providing comprehensive analytical work to underpin policy and institutional reform and to improve the implementation of central government projects on the ground. Under the Sarva Siksha Abhiyan (SSA) for example, while schools are now more accessible and gender parity has been reached, the focus will now be on improving the quality of education provided. In the power sector, the Bank will continue to support Powergrid, India’s national electricity transmission agency, which it has helped to grow into a world-class institution.

Key Studies
The World Bank will also support some key multi-year, cross-sectoral studies on important issues confronting policymakers, including poverty and exclusion, skills and job creation, low-carbon growth, the challenges of rapid urbanization, and the management and development of water resources.

Public Private Partnerships
The World Bank and IFC are collaborating to bring India cutting-edge expertise to deal with emerging issues in Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs), tailored to India’s needs. While this work has so far been the strongest in infrastructure - power transmission, roads, irrigation and rural infrastructure, urban development - it will now be extended to agribusiness, health and education, and renewable energy. The Bank and IFC are also working together on long-term finance: through the proposed India Infrastructure Finance Co. Ltd. Project (IIFCL).

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Contradictions in the World Banks India Country Assistance Strategy

Comment|Benny Kuruvilla|21 September 2004|update 42|url
The India Country Assistance Strategy (CAS) identifies the operations the World Bank intends to finance for the period 2005-08 and the rationale for these operations. The CAS is ambitious and comprehensive in its coverage; it intends to significantly influence reform in governance at the central and state level, on macro-economic issues as well as in key sectors such as energy, health, water, education, agriculture and trade as its basis for extending loans. On 7 August 2004, representatives of social movements, national alliances and civil society organisations met in New Delhi and issued a statement explicitly rejecting the Bank's strategy for India.

The Bank invited comments on the CAS for less than a month on its website. This was clearly insufficient for a public consultation as it excluded the vast majority of people and groups in India who do not have access to the internet. Moreover the CAS was incomplete; crucial annexes constituting important policy directives (for e.g. guidelines for lending and the private sector development strategy) were unavailable to the public.

The central thread of the document with respect to the power sector is the key role of privatisation and high investment; evident from the fact that the bulk of the Bank's initiatives are dealt with in the section 'promoting private sector led growth'. It is shocking that the Bank continues advocating privatisation as 'the policy option', when there have been serious demonstrated problems, in the Indian power sector. Limitations of the existing regulatory mechanisms to handle private sector actors and market forces, complexities created by the existing information asymmetry, imbalances in service costs to various classes of consumers, and the limited role and ability of civil society organizations to provide checks and balances to market forces need to be taken into account before privatisation attempts can be furthered.

The Bank's plans to offer investments in hydroelectric generation ignore important lessons from the past. With dam projects such as the Sardar Sarovar in the Narmada valley, infrastructure lending has a contentious history in India but the Bank has consistently refused to accept its responsibility for the unresolved social and environmental legacy of its dam projects. Incredulously the CAS claims that some major actors including the National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC) have started to "improve their environmental and social safeguards practices". By deciding to work with the NHPC the Bank aids an institution that is notorious for brutal displacement without resettlement, no guidelines for public hearing and poor environmental and social assessment. Violations have been reported from almost all the on-going hydro projects of NHPC - from Jammu and Kashmir to Arunachal Pradesh.

The Bank is appreciative of the recent reduction in average tariffs on agricultural products and advocates for the improvement in the legal framework to enable the easy sale and transfer of lands. The former has already resulted in the dumping of agricultural products, causing a free-fall in farm prices whereas the latter will erode the very livelihood base of India's small-hold and marginal farmers. Considered one of the prime causes of suicides by farmers, it is unimaginable to think of them as solutions to the problems of the agriculture sector. The CAS comes heavily against subsidies in any form and advocates strongly for full recovery of recurring cost of generating and distribution of electricity. Electricity is not just a tradable commodity for farmers. Along with water and farmgate price, it is one the three crucial elements for the sustenance of their occupation.

The Bank also seeks to increase its array of partnerships with local research and academic institutions in both developing its analytical work and disseminating important findings; re-shaped analytical and advisory activities (AAA) will actually promote its reform and private sector-led development paradigm trying to change the country's face of information gathering and dissemination mechanisms. The Bank aims to use its immense financial resources to produce its own version of 'knowledge'. The Bank's strategy here is not to stifle dissent as much as it is to neutralise it... it is more to "normalise" its view of the world and development issues.

The Bank through its reform programmes, knowledge activities and private sector dominated worldview will shape India's policy, economic and social environment. But the extent to which this is possible should be determined by India's democratic institutions. Civil society groups have mounted a campaign calling upon local governments, legislative assemblies and the Indian parliament to reject this document, as it is an affront to the social justice and democratic traditions of the Indian constitution.


Comment by Benny Kuruvilla of Focus on the Global South

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