Sunday, May 29, 2011

Myth of Vibrant Gujarat

Ram Puniyani

Nearly nine years after the carnage of Gujarat (Feb 2011), a perception has been created that Gujarat is developing with rapid strides, there is all peace and harmony and minorities are happy. Like 'Shining India' a word has been coined, 'Vibrant Gujarat'.

Nothing can be farther from truth. In the aftermath of the violence, the death of over two thousand Muslims, the rapes, the humiliation at the hands of instigated mobs, are still fresh in the air as the state has totally been unjust to the victims of the violence. There was no rehabilitation worth its name, the 'refugee camps' were closed too soon. State totally washed its hands off the rehabilitation process.

Today while the few amongst the Muslim minorities, especially a section of traders, have been won over by the BJP and dominant social forces, the majority of Muslim community has been forced to live the life of severe social and economic deprivation.

 The trend of ghettotization is increasing in major cities and expanding. Juhapura is the showpiece of the fear and insecurity which has gripped the Muslim community. Many a traders are trying to continue with their businesses in old localities while settling their families in the Muslim ghettoes like Juhapura. Most of the Muslim establishments have changed their names and patterns to sound like being the Hindu establishments, with the hope that this will prevent their religion being identified in the future pogroms, protect their property, and this move will overcome the economic boycott from the majority community. Incidentally this call of economic boycott of Muslims has been given by VHP.

 The domination of Modi/BJP in the social and political arena is leading to the situation where a large section of Muslims is forced to hide their pain and anger and carry on with the ignominies of their situations. Remarkably many a social groups from amongst Muslim communities are concentrating their work in the area of education; preparing the youth to take up jobs in the fields that are free from discrimination, and to prepare them to traditional and newer avenues of self employment.

A major study by Abdul Saleh Sharif (Relative Development of Gujarat and Socio-Religious Differentials, 2011) is very revealing about the condition of Muslims. This shows that Muslims fare very badly on the parameters of poverty, hunger, education and vulnerability on security issues. The study shows that levels of hunger are high in Gujarat alongside Orissa and Bihar. Muslims are educationally deprived. Muslim community which at one time was dominating in diamond and textile trade has been pushed behind. Poverty of Gujarat Muslims is 8 times more than high caste Hindus and 50% more than OBCs. Twelve per cent Muslims have bank accounts but only 2.6% of them get bank loans. This study concludes that Muslims in Gujarat face high levels of discrimination, even on the roll out of NREGA, Gujarat is at the bottom of the pile. (TOI, Feb 18, 2011, Mumbai)

As per the report of Pratham, an NGO devoted to the issues of education (Annual Status of Education Report), Gujarat is worse than Bihar when it comes to educational standards. Gujarat has been doing miserably in Social development indices and its budgetary allotment in this sector is low compared to other large states, being 17th amongst the 18 large states. While all this is happening, the mental ghettoes, the emotional partitions have become fairly strong and physical ghettoes tell the real truth of Gujarat, the 'Hindu Rashtra in One State'. Those displaced due to carnage are living with no civic facilities reaching them. The banks and telephone companies are shunning these areas and children's education is one of the major problems for the victims.

Through conclaves like Guarvi Gujarat, and the annual meetings of NRIs; Industrialists, investment is being solicited and more than the forthcoming investment, projections are being made of the flow of dollars, creating the image that it is during Modi regime that Guajarat has begun to progress. The fact is that there are some investments; there is some industrialization; but it is far from what is being projected. In previous Vibrant Summits claims of big capital investments have been made. For example in 2005 claim for Rs.106161 crores had been made. Out of that investment of Rs.74019 crores (63%) was made as stated by Chief Minister but in reality as per the information availed under R.T.I. only Rs.24998 crores (23.52%) projects were under implementation.

As per Teesta Setalvad, "…Likewise, in 2007, 363 MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) were made in which Modi Government claimed to have mobilized capital investments of Rs.461835 crores. Factually this amount was Rs.451835 crores and not Rs.461835  crores so an excess investment of Rs.10000 crores was claimed. Out of this State Government claimed to have made an investment of Rs.264575  crores but as per the figures by Industry Commissioner of Gujarat projects worth Rs.122400.66 crores (27.08%) were under implementation. Actually out of the investments in 2003, 2005 and 2007 only 20.28% of projects were under implementation in Gujarat."

While Gujarat was already amongst the most industrialized states, it has been able to invite good deal of investment. Still it remains next to Maharashtra which leads the pack. While one does not hear much about the Maharashtra progress, through different types of media hypes the image of Gujarat phenomenon has been built up. The industrialization in Gujarat has a pattern. Two decades back, the growth rate of Gujarat was something between 12 and 13 per cent. The national average was six to seven per cent then. Today, Gujarat has the growth rate of 11 per cent while National growth rate is 10 per cent. This fact should make the matters clear to us.

As such Gujarat state has opened its coffers to subsidize the industrialists. Land, water and soft loans are the order of the day; they have been given to the industrialists at extremely cheap rates. It was one of the reasons because of which Tata shifted his Nano project to Gujarat. The subsidy, which this small car gets, is huge. Industrialists are having a free run and the social concerns like job creation are very poor in the Gujarat pattern. Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra are far ahead of Gujarat in the Job creation ratio on the investment. The investment figures which are flashed are not all actualized. One of the major victims of the reckless industrialization is the ecology, which has been ignored totally far as Gujarat is concerned.

The growth differentials in Gujarat are very appalling. On one hand, there is the growth, on other there is a serious decline in the social indicators of like sex ratio. According to 'India State Hunger Index 2008', Gujarat is shockingly ranked worse than Orissa. Gujarat is ranked 13th in the 17 big states which were calculated in this list. Gujarat is only above Jharkhand, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh, which are globally equal to the hunger situation in Ethiopia. Poverty levels are rising; employment and agriculture are not in good shape. The agricultural production has been declining, e.g. from 65.71 lakh tones in 2003-2004 to 51.53 in 2004-2005. A survey conducted by NSS in 2005 reveals that approximately 40% farmers of state said that given the option they would like to shift away from agriculture. Recent studies show that during the last decade agriculture and labor both have suffered extensively.

Modi, in a reply given in state assembly stated that in one year up to Jan 2007, 148 farmers had committed suicide and the condition is worsening on that score. While on one side the state exports electricity, its villages are having a power deficit. Indian Express 8th April 2007 reported that state is reeling under the shortfall of 900 mega Watt of power, the victims of this are mainly in the villages. One of the indices of poverty, prevalence of anemia, is very revealing on this count. The percentage of women suffering from anemia has risen from 46.3% in 1999 to 55.5% in 2004 (Third round of National Family Health survey report 2006) among women. Amongst children it rose from 74.5% to 80.1%. Some of the reports point out the conditions of dalits and women has deteriorated during last decade. For women, one of the indices is the declining sex ratio in Gujarat during last decade. The plight of Adivasis is no better.

Gujarat is facing problems at the level of living conditions more of poor, women and minorities. The media hype is meant to change the image of Narendra Modi from the one who led the carnage to a development man. But deeper look at the economic and social situation tell us another story.

Gadkari steps in to handle Sushma-Jaitley controversy

Posted on: 29 May 2011, 12:15 AM
New Delhi: With two senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders locking horns with each other, the internal bickering within the party cadres has once again emerged on the surface. 

After leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj appeared to blame Arun Jaitley and others for the rise of mining magnates Reddy brothers in Karnataka, the party has gone into a damage-control mode. 

With Sushma’s remarks on Jaitley threatening to snowball into a major row, BJP President Nitin Gadkari and former party president Rajnath Singh have stepped in to pacify the controversy. 

Gadkari stated clearly, "The party leader is elected by the BJP legislature party in the presence of a team of central observers. The Chief Minister, in exercise of his constitutional prerogative, forms his cabinet in consultation with the party's central and state leadership."

In order to solve the dispute, the Central leadership will come into action during the National review party meeting to be held in Lucknow. 

Although Jaitley did not comment over Sushma’s remark, but party president appeared to be in damage-control mode. According to sources, Gadkari discussed the issue with the senior leaders. 

Thereafter Gadkari came out with a statement which said there is "Absolutely no question of any individual or individuals influencing this process in any particular manner".

Earlier, former BJP chief Rajnath Singh said all decisions related to Karnataka, including appointment of Arun Jaitley as in-charge of the state, had his consent.

"Reports of a rift between Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley are baseless. This is true that Arun was in-charge of Karnataka. I had sent him there as I was president (of BJP) during the cabinet formation," Singh said.

Sushma, widely perceived to be close to the Reddy brothers, had in an interview to a news magazine the decision to induct Reddy brothers into the cabinet was not hers but it was BJP leaders Jaitley, Yeddyurappa, M Venkaiah Naidu and Ananth Kumar who had decided. 

Sushma had denied being their mentor and shifted the accountability to Jaitley, who was the state in-charge at the time, Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa and the then central observers from the party, Venkaiah Naidu and Ananth Kumar.

IPL Winner Chennai Super Kings 2011: Trophy Photos

The Chennai Super Kings, riding the high wave of unbeaten run at home, outclassed the Royal Challengers Bangalore by 58 runs to retain the Indian Premier League trophy here on Saturday in a most one-sided final.

Winning the toss and batting first, the Super Kings, courtesy a 159-run partnership between openers Murali Vijay (95) and Michael Hussey (63), piled up 205 for five, setting a rather stiff target for Royal Challengers.
And then off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin took three wickets, including that of IPL's leading scorer Chris Gayle (0), to hasten the Royal Challengers to defeat as the visitors were restricted to 147 for eight.

The Royal Challengers again ended up as the bridesmaid, having lost the 2009 final to Deccan Chargers when the IPL was played in South Africa while the Super Kings underlined their phenomenal consistency with second win in three appearances in the final.

Egypt court fines Mubarak, two ex-ministers $90 mn

2011-05-28 20:10:00 IANS

Cairo, May 28 (IANS) An Egyptian court Saturday ordered a fine of 540 million Egyptian pounds ($90 million) on former president Hosni Mubarak and two ministers for damaging the economy by cutting off mobile and internet services during the anti-regime protests, state media reported.

The Administrative Court of State Council ordered Mubarak to pay 200 million Egyptian pounds to the state treasury, former prime minister Ahmed Nazif 40 million Egyptian pounds and former interior minister Habib el-Adli 300 million Egyptian pounds, said state news agency MENA.

This was the first court conviction against Mubarak since he was forced to step down Feb 11 after the 18-day protests.

The fine would be taken from their own assets and will be in compensation for the damages they caused to the economy when they ordered a shutdown of the mobile and internet services during the nationwide demonstration which erupted Jan 25.
Mubarak shut down internet and blocked mobile phone services Jan 28 in a bid to prevent activists from using social network services like Twitter and Facebook to organise the protests.

Mubarak faces more accusations, including ordering shooting of peaceful protesters and corruption charges. He is under custody at a hospital in Sharm el-Sheikh.

Residents call for help amidst fierce fighting :Yemen

Posted in: Front Page
Written By: Majid al-Kibsi

Article Date: May 28, 2011 - 11:53:09 AM

Residents in al-Hasaba area have complained about the bad humanitarian situation they have endured due to the armed conflict between the authorities and Sadeq al-Ahmar and his brother’s militias that started on Monday.

The residents demanded an end to the conflict, complaining that residential areas have been turned into battlegrounds for guerillas. Mohammed al-Dhari is among the citizens who lives in al-Hasaba and demanded that the government acts to halt residents from evacuating the area.
“I was about to die two times. The first time I was out of the house and  the they struck it with two rocket-propelled grenades (RPG) on the rooftop,” he said.

“The second time, I was in the frontyard of my house and the RPG exploded nearby, injuring me in the hand. The blast pushed me to hit the door and injure my head.”
Al-Dhari also said that a two-storey neighboring house had been completely demolished due to the random shooting by al-Ahmar militias. He demanded that the government protects the houses in the area.
“I had to evacuate in a rush and I think the house will be an easy target for the burglars who spread fast in the area. They are trying to steal from any house in the area,” said al-Dhari.
His son Waseem added that the “area is more like cemetery”.
“The houses are destroyed and the casualties are everywhere. You can also see the military clothes on the ground after they took it off and ran away,” said Waseem.
Fares Anam, a journalist at the Yemen Observer newspaper, lives next to the Army Maintenance Corps. He confirmed that he and his family were moving out of their home, fleeing from the current tough situation in their neighborhood.

“The conflict is getting worse day by day and the clashes on Tuesday night was non-stop all night. Both sides used heavy weapons,” said Anam.
He also said that he was not the only one considering moving out of the area.

“Residents in the neighborhood are moving out in large numbers because the conflict area has expanded and reached houses far from al-Ahmar’s house,” said Anam.

He said that the problem was not only the authorities and al-Ahmar family. Other parties have joined the conflict as well. He said that many tribal leaders who live in that area have joined the fight.
“The area has turned into a guerilla war zone. Tribal leaders have installed barracks of their own and they shoot semi-randomly towards any direction they think the other side’s shooting comes from.” 
Marwan al-Soba’ai, another resident, said that fear has engulfed even surrounding areas.

“We found bullets on the rooftop of the house. This places fear among our families. The situation must be stopped as soon as possible,” he said.
Eyewitnesses confirmed that the shooting in residential areas was from the side of al-Ahmar family.

“The authorities are shooting towards one direction, to the side of al-Ahamr house, but al-Ahmar militia is spread all over the areas, in houses, Al-Rammah School, Raba’ah al-Adwiah mosque, Yamania building and even Saba news agency,” said one eyewitness.

He said that thieves were spreading out over the area and that it was not safe anymore. He said that if he went there, it would be only in the morning and for couple of hours only.
The Ministry of Interior has announced that its building was not occupied by the militias of al-Ahmar. In addition, the Ministry of Defense’s SMS news service by 26Sept announced that President Ali Abdullah Saleh has issued a warrant of arrest for Abdullah al-Ahmar’s sons in order to put them on trial for treason and armed mutiny.
Sadeq al-Ahmar, the eldest brother of the al-Ahmar family and the head sheikh of the Hashid tribes, said that he was willing to stop shootings if President Saleh stopped first. He said that he was not willing to have a mediation with the president though.
Al-Ahmar replied to the arrest warrant: “I am waiting for him.” 
At least two kilometers around al-Ahmar’s house is totally under his control. This makes it difficult for the authorities to strike, except with heavy artillery. 

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