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जेएनयू की एक बहुत पुरानी शाम से उतने भी प्यारे नहीं देशभक्तों, भारत माता के वीरों (मुँह खुलते ही स्त्रियों को गालियाँ देने वालों को सप...

November 21, 2016

Demonetisation, Proverbial Last Nail In The Coffin Of Already Beleaguered Peasantry

[This is an AHRC article.
Also Published in the Counter Currents.] 
Putting the cacophonous debate on the merits and demerits of demonetisation of Rs 500 and 1000 currency notes aside, there is no doubt over it having hit the farmers all set to go for Rabi crops sowing hardest. Almost entirely dependent upon cash transactions for everything from buying seeds to fertilisers, the move has ended up turning their earnings into trash overnight with many of them having nothing else to “bank” upon and that too for no fault of theirs. Though banking services have never really penetrated well in the hinterlands of India, the World Bank-Gallup Global Findex Survey 2014 put the number of people with a formal bank account in India at a paltry 53 per cent in 2014. This too came only after a massive push to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s massive push to his pet Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojna (PMJDY), banking access had stood at even abysmal 33% the year before.

Further, though the PMJDY did increase the number of accounts opened, it did not actually mean usage of the same for transactions as studies after studies found out. In fact the number of Zero balance, or unused accounts was so high, 76% of the all opened by September 2014, that banks had to take recourse to deposit Rs 1 in scores of them to save the  scheme from embarrassment of being a disastrous failure! The numbers betray the real status of the access an average farmer has to bank accounts. What they do not is the fact that the Reserve Bank of India order debarring cooperative banks from accepting or exchanging old notes has badly affected most of even those farmers who have real, operating accounts in these banks, often the only ones serving the rural areas.
Despite the real concerns over functioning of some of them, particularly in Maharashtra, cooperative banks often serve as the life line for the farmers abandoned by mainstream banks. For example, district co-operative banks have more than 17,000 branches in Uttar Pradesh alone largely catering mostly to sugar cane farmers and having distributed short term crop loans to 32.24 lakh farmers in 2015-16 (until now) alone! Similarly, mainly rural customers of Kerala’s 1,551 primary cooperative banks with deposits over Rs 1, 37,000 crore have been affected badly by the RBI diktat.
It is in this context that the recent request by the Union Agriculture Minister of India to finance ministry for allowing farmers to use them for buying seeds makes perfect sense. It also betrays the fact that the move has been disastrous for already beleaguered peasantry and may as well end up as the proverbial last nail in the coffin of agriculture.
The request makes even more sense because farmers of India have been reeling under a relentless agrarian crisis even before and needed help, not the demonetisation jolt. Forget years of successive droughts having broken their backbones, the extent of damages caused by them across India even this year is hidden to none. The crisis has been severe enough, after all, to put provincial governments and union government at war with each other for claiming credit for relief work, at times going to the absurdity of rushing Water Trains without a drop of water to the affected areas.
It has been severe enough to claim thousands of lives- Maharashtra government, for instance, admitted that 2053 farmers had killed themselves from January 1, 2016 to 30th June as against total 3228 suicides it admitted in 2015. Worse even, this year has seen the crisis earlier hitting the farmers worst in Maharashtra, Bundelkhand and Telangana engulfing newer areas like Karnataka. The state has already seen 457 farm suicides since April this year! In such a scenario , allowing the farmers to use old currency notes to buy seeds, especially after a good monsoon this year might have led to relative easing of pressure off their shoulders.
What makes no sense, however, is the Finance Ministry’s outright rejection of the demand arguing that this may become a conduit to offload black money. Have the implications not been near catastrophic for the farmers, one could have laughed at this lame an excuse! To begin with, the Union Minister of Agriculture had made the request with ample security measures in place, collecting photocopies of identity documents and other details for the selling agencies such as National Seed Corporation, Indian Council of Agricultural Research or state agriculture departments for instance. He had also proposed to allow no refund of money or return of seeds purchased through old currency notes. Further, the same finance ministry has allowed the use of old notes for various essential services, including buying movie tickets in Maharashtra!
Evidently, the finance ministry has not merely erred gravely in denying the demand of a cabinet colleague, it has also exposed farmers’ to even more distress in doing so. The decision does not augur well for anyone- neither the farmers with no cash to go for Rabi sowing despite time slipping out of their hands, nor the country as it could only aggravate the farm crisis and bring a spurt to farm suicides already on an exceptional high this year. 
The finance ministry should immediately reconsider its decision and allow the use of old notes for buying seeds unless it is okay with farm crisis claiming many more lives. It is just that the blame of inviting such a disaster will lie squarely with it in that case.

November 20, 2016

नोटबंदी के बाद भारत: वर्तमान अनिश्चित, भविष्य चिंतित

[नवभारत में 20 नवम्बर 2016 को रविवासरीय परिशिष्ट में प्रकाशित।]

भारत किस दिशा में बढ़ रहा है? आगे आने वाले साल देश और देशवासियों के लिए कैसे होंगे! प्रधानमंत्री नरेन्द्र मोदी के सत्ता में आने के बाद के ढाई सालों में बुद्धिजीवी हलकों में ये सवाल लगातार पूछा जाता रहा है. सांप्रदायिक तनाव बढ़ाते गौरक्षकों के बढ़ते हमले हों या विश्वविद्यालयों पर सरकारी नियंत्रण की कोशिशें, विरोध को देशद्रोह का पर्याय बना देने के बयान हों या भारतीय सेना को सवालों के परे ले जा खड़े कर भारत को पाकिस्तान जैसे भविष्य के खतरे में डाल देने को लेकर चिंताएं, सरकार और उसके समर्थकों ने इस सवाल को बल भी खूब दिया है. हाँ, नोट बंदी के फरमान के बाद अब यह सवाल हर आम इन्सान की जुबान पर है!

पर इस सवाल से जूझने के पहले एक नुक्ता साफ़ कर लेना जरुरी है! ये कि दुनिया के हर हिस्से में, हर समाज में ज्योतिषियों और नजूमियों की मौजूदगी साबित करती है कि भविष्य की चिंता और उसे पहले से जान सकने का कौतूहल सबसे सहज मानवीय स्वभावों में से एक है. अब चूँकि परिवार, समाज, देश ये सब शुरू इंसानों से ही होते हैं, उन्हीं की संवेदनाओं का सामुदायिक विस्तार होते हैं सो उनको भी अपने भविष्य का कौतूहल होना लाजिमी है! शायद ये कौतूहल ही दुनिया के तमाम राष्ट्रों में उनकी स्थिति और भविष्य पर राज्याध्यक्षों के उन सालाना भाषणों की परंपराओं में दिखता है जिन्हें ‘स्टेट ऑफ़ द यूनियन’ (संयुक्त राज्य अमेरिका) या ‘स्टेट ऑफ़ द नेशन’ (फिलीपींस) जैसे नामों से जाना जाता है. इन भाषणों में मूलतः सरकारें अपने देश के हालात का लेखा जोखा जनता के सामने रखती हैं, बताती हैं कि देश कहाँ खड़ा है, आगे किधर जा रहा है!

काश कि भारत में भी ऐसी कोई परंपरा होती. इसलिए भी कि प्रधानमंत्री की मोदी की या तो अंधसमर्थन या अतिविरोध पैदा करने वाली विभाजक छवि के अनुरूप इस सवाल के जवाब के दो अतियों में मिलने की जगह एक दस्तावेज सामने होता जिसे देख एक निष्पक्ष राय बनायी जा सकती. पर अफ़सोस, उसकी अनुपस्थिति में हमें खुद ही इस सवाल से जूझना होगा. वह भी कोशिश कर के उन आंकड़ों और तथ्यों की रोशनी में जो मोदी समर्थन और विरोध की अतियों को लेकर पक्षपाती न हों! सो सिर्फ उन आंकड़ों पर नजर डाली जाय जो खुद सरकार ने दिए हैं!

शुरुआत करते हैं देश में बढ़े सांप्रदायिक और सामुदायिक तनाव से- खासतौर पर इसलिए क्योंकि खुद प्रधानमंत्री मोदी ने गौरक्षा के बहाने की जा रही हिन्सा पर सवाल उठा, 80% गौरक्षकों को मूलतः अपने आपराधिक कारनामों को छुपाने की कोशिश में मुब्तिला बता एक असल दिक्कत साबित कर दिया था! ठीक इसी तरह दिल्ली में 2012 के बार्बरिक सामूहिक बलात्कार और हत्या के बाद पूरे देश की नजर महिलाओं के खिलाफ अपराधों पर भी टिकी हुई है सो इन दोनों को एक पल को किनारे रख सिर्फ अनुसूचित जातियों पर हमलों पर नजर डालें.

खुद राष्ट्रीय अपराध रिकार्ड्स ब्यूरो के आंकड़े दिखाते हैं कि देश में दलितों के खिलाफ अपराध में 2013 की तुलना में 2014 में 19 प्रतिशत का इजाफा हुआ जिनमें 744 तो हत्या के मामले थे! 2015 में इनमें 4.4 प्रतिशत की मामूली गिरावट दर्ज हुई है- 2014 में 47,064 के बरक्स 2015 में दलितों के खिलाफ अपराध के कुल 45,003 मामले दर्ज हुए. पर फिर, कुल संख्या को 2012 के बरक्स देखें तो साफ होता है कि दलितों पर हमलों में एक तिहाई से भी ज्यादा का इजाफा हुआ है. इसमें यह भी जोड़ें कि ब्यूरो के ही मुताबिक जहाँ भारत में दंड संहिता के अंतर्गत सभी संज्ञेय अपराधों में दोषसिद्धि की दर 45% है वहीँ दलित और आदिवासियों के खिलाफ अपराधों के मामले में यही दर सिर्फ 28 प्रतिशत है. स्थिति की भयावहता और साफ़ हो जाती है!

पर क्या स्थिति सिर्फ सामुदायिक और सांप्रदायिक विद्वेष के मामलों में ही ख़राब है? न, ब्यूरो के ही आंकड़ों पर और नजर डालें तो समझ आता है कि सरकारी कृषि नीतियों की वजह से खेती के दम पर जीने के दुरूह होते जाने के दौर में भारत के गाँव भुखमरी और किसानों की आत्महत्यायों के साथ साथ एक दूसरी आग की चपेट में भी हैं.

बीते साल भारत में कृषि सम्बंधित दंगों में भी 2014 में 628 से बढ़ 2,683 पर जा पहुँचे और इनमें दर्जनों से ज्यादा जानें गयी हैं! कृषि दंगों में 327% का यह इजाफा तब हुआ है जब विकास के दावे वाले गुजरात में ऐसे 126 दंगों के स्वीकार के बावजूद लगातार किसान असंतोष झेल रहे पंजाब जैसे राज्यों ने इनकी संख्या शून्य बताई है! इन दंगों के मूल में सामुदायिक विद्वेष नहीं बल्कि किसानों में बढती जा रही निराशा है जो उनके और सरकारी सुरक्षाबलों में सीधे टकराव के रूप में सामने आती है! इस साल नोटबंदी के पहले ही महाराष्ट्र से लेकर बुन्देलखंड तक देश सूखे से हुई हजारों मौतों और पानी वाली रेलगाड़ियाँ चलाने की जरूरतों से जूझता रहा है. नोटबंदी के बाद देश भर से रबी की बुवाई के बेतरह प्रभावित होने की ख़बरों के बीच अगले साल की तस्वीर बहुत आशाजनक नहीं लगती.

पर क्या इन निराशाजनक सूचनाओं के बीच कहीं से कोई उम्मीद की किरण भी नजर आती है? क्या मुश्किल में पड़े ग्रामीण भारत को डिजिटल इंडिया बचा नहीं सकता? अफ़सोस, अखबारी दावों और जुमलों से इतर यहाँ भी खुद सरकारी आंकड़े बताते हैं कि यह लगभग नामुमकिन है! अभी जुलाई में लोक सभा में एक सवाल का जवाब देते हुए वाणिज्य मंत्री निर्मला सीतारामन ने श्रम ब्यूरो के आंकड़ों के हवाले से माना था कि भारत में नए रोजगारों के सृजन के दर में कमी आई है! अफ़सोस यह आधा सच था- उन्होंने खुद ही आगे जोड़ा था कि 2014 में 4.21 लाख नए रोजगारों की तुलना में 2015 में कुल 1.35 लाख नए रोजगार सृजित हुए थे! तीन चौथाई की गिरावट ‘कमी’ नहीं बल्कि ढह जाना होती है!

अर्थव्यवस्था के बाकी क्षेत्रों पर भी नजर डालें तो आलम यही है! निर्माण क्षेत्र दशक भर में सबसे बुरी स्थिति में है, निर्यात गिरा है और खुद विश्व बैंक की व्यापार करने की आसानी की सूची बता रही है कि 2015 में भारत में व्यापार शुरू करना पहले से और ज्यादा मुश्किल हो गया है! अब नए व्यापार शुरू नहीं होंगे तो रोजगार सृजन का क्या होगा? रोजगार नहीं होंगे तो विकास का क्या होगा? जोड़ते रहें और स्थिति फिर अच्छी नहीं नजर आती!



हद यह कि प्रधानमंत्री मोदी की एक बड़ी ताकत मानी जाने वाली आक्रामक विदेश नीति भी यहाँ भारत की मदद करती नजर नहीं आती. आर्थिक मंदी की मार झेल रहे ब्रिटेन ने यूरोपियन यूनियन से निकलने के आप्रवासन नियमों को कड़ा करना शुरू कर दिया था और अब उसने वह लागू भी कर दिए हैं. इन नए नियमों की सबसे बड़ी मार भारतीय आईटी और अन्य कुशल पेशेवरों पर पड़ी है! अभी यही चोट नहीं सँभली थी कि आप्रवासी विरोध के वादे के साथ चुनाव जीते डोनाल्ड ट्रम्प ने सत्ता सँभालते ही आप्रवासियों को वापस भेजने का फैसला दोहरा दिया! बेशक कुछ लोगों ने इस घोषणा को हिस्पैनिक और मुस्लिम आप्रवासियों पर केन्द्रित बता ध्यान भटकाने की कोशिशें कीं, पर आज उनके प्रमुख सलाहकार स्टीव बैनन ने सिलिकॉन वैली (अमेरिका में प्रौद्योगिकी का गढ़) के कुछ ज्यादा ही ‘दक्षिण एशियाई’ होने का बयान देकर साफ़ कर दिया है कि असली निशाना कौन है!

दरअसल नोटबंदी के ‘कड़क’ फैसले के पीछे की इन सारी स्थितियों को ध्यान से देखें तो साफ़ समझ आता है कि यह दरअसल एक हताश दाँव है! समाज और अर्थव्यवस्था की हालत में मोदी सरकार की उद्योग जगत को दी गयी 1.14 लाख करोड़ रुपये की कर्जमाफी जोड़ें (मनमोहन सरकार ने अपने 10 सालों में इसकी आधी भी नहीं दी थी) और समझ आएगा कि भारतीय बैंक किस बोझ से चरमरा रहे थे! अफ़सोस कि जनता तो पैसे होने के बावजूद खाने और इलाज बिना मर ही रही है, बैंक भी शायद ही इस नए जमा धन पर जरुरी ब्याज का बोझ झेल पायें!

कुल मिलाकर यह कि बिना प्रशासन का प्रदर्शन अक्सर प्रहसन में बदल जाता है और देश उसी प्रहसन का मोल चुकाने की स्थिति में आ खड़ा हुआ है! सांप्रदायिक तनाव, सामुदायिक विद्वेष, कृषि संकट से उपजता गुस्सा और डूबती अर्थव्यवस्था का घोल भारत को एक अभूतपूर्व संकट की तरफ ले जा सकता है. पर फिर भी, अभी सब कुछ ख़त्म नहीं हुआ है, बशर्ते सरकार सुनने को और कुछ करने को तैयार हो!
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Demonetisation, Proverbial Last Nail In The Coffin Of Already Beleaguered Peasantry

Putting the cacophonous debate on the merits and demerits of demonetisation of Rs 500 and 1000 currency notes aside, there is no doubt over it having hit the farmers all set to go for Rabi crops sowing hardest. Almost entirely dependent upon cash transactions for everything from buying seeds to fertilisers, the move has ended up turning their earnings into trash overnight with many of them having nothing else to “bank” upon and that too for no fault of theirs. Though banking services have never really penetrated well in the hinterlands of India, the World Bank-Gallup Global Findex Survey 2014 put the number of people with a formal bank account in India at a paltry 53 per cent in 2014. This too came only after a massive push to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s massive push to his pet Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojna (PMJDY), banking access had stood at even abysmal 33% the year before.
Further, though the PMJDY did increase the number of accounts opened, it did not actually mean usage of the same for transactions as studies after studies found out. In fact the number of Zero balance, or unused accounts was so high, 76% of the all opened by September 2014, that banks had to take recourse to deposit Rs 1 in scores of them to save the  scheme from embarrassment of being a disastrous failure! The numbers betray the real status of the access an average farmer has to bank accounts. What they do not is the fact that the Reserve Bank of India order debarring cooperative banks from accepting or exchanging old notes has badly affected most of even those farmers who have real, operating accounts in these banks, often the only ones serving the rural areas.
Despite the real concerns over functioning of some of them, particularly in Maharashtra, cooperative banks often serve as the life line for the farmers abandoned by mainstream banks. For example, district co-operative banks have more than 17,000 branches in Uttar Pradesh alone largely catering mostly to sugar cane farmers and having distributed short term crop loans to 32.24 lakh farmers in 2015-16 (until now) alone! Similarly, mainly rural customers of Kerala’s 1,551 primary cooperative banks with deposits over Rs 1, 37,000 crore have been affected badly by the RBI diktat.
It is in this context that the recent request by the Union Agriculture Minister of India to finance ministry for allowing farmers to use them for buying seeds makes perfect sense. It also betrays the fact that the move has been disastrous for already beleaguered peasantry and may as well end up as the proverbial last nail in the coffin of agriculture.
The request makes even more sense because farmers of India have been reeling under a relentless agrarian crisis even before and needed help, not the demonetisation jolt. Forget years of successive droughts having broken their backbones, the extent of damages caused by them across India even this year is hidden to none. The crisis has been severe enough, after all, to put provincial governments and union government at war with each other for claiming credit for relief work, at times going to the absurdity of rushing Water Trains without a drop of water to the affected areas.
It has been severe enough to claim thousands of lives- Maharashtra government, for instance, admitted that 2053 farmers had killed themselves from January 1, 2016 to 30th June as against total 3228 suicides it admitted in 2015. Worse even, this year has seen the crisis earlier hitting the farmers worst in Maharashtra, Bundelkhand and Telangana engulfing newer areas like Karnataka. The state has already seen 457 farm suicides since April this year! In such a scenario , allowing the farmers to use old currency notes to buy seeds, especially after a good monsoon this year might have led to relative easing of pressure off their shoulders.
What makes no sense, however, is the Finance Ministry’s outright rejection of the demand arguing that this may become a conduit to offload black money. Have the implications not been near catastrophic for the farmers, one could have laughed at this lame an excuse! To begin with, the Union Minister of Agriculture had made the request with ample security measures in place, collecting photocopies of identity documents and other details for the selling agencies such as National Seed Corporation, Indian Council of Agricultural Research or state agriculture departments for instance. He had also proposed to allow no refund of money or return of seeds purchased through old currency notes. Further, the same finance ministry has allowed the use of old notes for various essential services, including buying movie tickets in Maharashtra!
Evidently, the finance ministry has not merely erred gravely in denying the demand of a cabinet colleague, it has also exposed farmers’ to even more distress in doing so. The decision does not augur well for anyone- neither the farmers with no cash to go for Rabi sowing despite time slipping out of their hands, nor the country as it could only aggravate the farm crisis and bring a spurt to farm suicides already on an exceptional high this year. The finance ministry should immediately reconsider its decision and allow the use of old notes for buying seeds unless it is okay with farm crisis claiming many more lives. It is just that the blame of inviting such a disaster will lie squarely with it in that case.

November 08, 2016

Bhopal Encounter: MP Government sheds even the pretence of the rule of law



[This is an AHRC Article
Re-Published in Counter Currents].
bhopal-encounter-killing
bhopal-encounter-killingThe fact that the Madhya Pradesh state government has shed even the pretence of fair-trial, a cornerstone of the rule of law, has emerged as the only uncontested truth four days after the incredulous police encounter that resulted in the killing of 8 under-trial jail escapees. The circumstances of the reported jailbreak from the supposedly highest security prison in the state, and all that followed, are still fuzzy.
Police claims about the circumstances of the jailbreak are downright bizarre. Think about it for a moment: under-trials, belonging to a proscribed group – Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) – escaped after killing an armed guard with spoons and steel plates, unlocking themselves with the keys made of wood, and scaling three layers of jail walls, the last being 25 feet high, undetected, as not a single close circuit television camera installed in the jail was working. There is humour somewhere here in this story.
One cannot laugh at what followed after this reported jailbreak however. An Inspector General of Madhya Pradesh Police (IGP), in charge of the Bhopal area, claimed that the escapee under-trials, spotted on a cliff with no escape route, some 8 kilometres away from the jail, were armed with country made pistols. The Home Minister of the state, who is responsible for all law and order issues, supported the claim. Another IGP, the Chief of Anti-Terror Squad, however, claimed later that the escapee under-trials had no firearms with them at the time of the “encounter”. Cops under his command conducted the “encounter”.
The message is clear. The IGP, Bhopal, tried to justify the killings as unavoidable: blaming the slain for firing at the police parties closing in on them. The IGP (ATS) believed in no such pretense. He asserted on camera that the under-trials were unarmed and added, “so what”! “Even if the police are not being fired at, they can use such force.”
The problem is that the law of the land disallows police from using such lethal force against unarmed persons, even those accused of having committed heinous crimes. The Supreme Court of India has repeatedly criminalised use of such force against those causing no threat to the life of others and have recommended stringent sentences with death penalty for such “trigger happy” cops indulging in such extrajudicial executions; for example, in cases like Prakash Kadam & Etc. v. Ramprasad Vishwanath Gupta & Anr. (Criminal Appeal Nos.1174-1178 of 2011) and the People’s Union for Civil Liberties v. State of Maharashtra & Ors. (Criminal Appeal No. 1255 of 1999).
The Supreme Court of India has also devised a detailed guideline for police “encounters” resulting in deaths. The guidelines ask for immediate registration of a First Information Report in the deaths, the institution of a probe, and no out of turn promotion to the cops involved until the probe is over, and submission of six monthly status reports to the National Human Rights Commission. Evidently, either the IGP (ATS) is unaware of the law or is absolutely certain of the impunity the cops enjoy in the state!
The actions of Madhya Pradesh government in the wake of the encounter suggest the source of this confidence, despite the flouting of clearly established legal procedures. Forget taking punitive action against the those responsible, for allowing the killing of unarmed undertrials, as per IGP (ATS’) own admission, and in that being the case, against IGP (Bhopal) for concocting evidence, the Chief Minister of the state went on to facilitate the cops involved in the encounter. He did that on Madhya Pradesh Foundation Day, the day after the killings. He also announced a cash reward of Rs. 2 lakh each to the cops who participated in the encounter and Rs. one lakh each for those who participated in the search operation. Worse even, he asked the audience if it was not the right way to deal with the ‘terrorists’, perhaps deliberately hiding the fact that they were just undertrials, not convicts!
Of course, he later ordered for a judicial probe into the encounter, as is mandated by the Supreme Court! The fate of this probe launched after the State government already rewarding the cops involved in the extrajudicial killing of the under-trials is anyone’s guess!
Is it not high time for the Supreme Court to step in and stop the farce by taking suo moto notice and instituting a probe, monitored under its purview? If it cannot do that, it might consider exempting Madhya Pradesh from the need of enforcing the law of the land, including the rights the Constitution guarantees to the citizenry.