Tag Archives: India

Wikileaks and Singapore’s reputation

12 Dec

A series of Wikileaks cables obtained by the Sydney Morning Herald has shown that senior Singaporean officials have been sending confidential information to their U.S. counterparts on their dismissive impressions of neighbouring states.

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Alarming Rates of Farm Suicides in India

20 Nov

A latest report by Prof. K Nagaraj of the Madras Institute of Development Studies (MIDS) and published in The Hindu revealed that within 1997 to 2005, the states of Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh (including Chhattisgarh) accounted for 43.9 per cent of all suicides and 64 per cent of all farm suicides in the country.

In another article for the Counterpunch dated 17/18 Nov by the same writer, P. Sainath commented that 150,000 Indian farmers were estimated to have committed suicide within that period. That works out to an average of one Indian farmer passing away every 32 minutes.

Professor Nagara who culled the data from National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) said the estimated figure “is a bottom line estimate” as it excludes people such as tenant and women farmers.

The cause, according to Professor Nagaraj is the domination of highly diversified, commercialised agriculture; water stress; compounded by dissipating state investment in agriculture. As these costs increase, lack of regulation pertaining to the sector worsened the problem.

US and EU subsidies to their growers also cause prices to drop while large corporations engaged in price rigging.

“From the mid-’90s onwards,” points out Professor Nagaraj, “prices and farm incomes crashed. As costs rose – even as bank credit dried up – so did indebtedness. Even as subsidies for corporate farmers in the West rose, we cut our few, very minimal life supports and subsidies to our own farmers. The collapse of investment in agriculture also meant it was and is most difficult to get out of this trap.”

In an article for Znet, “The Suicide Economy Of Corporate Globalisation”, Vandana Shiva attributed the causes to what Professor Nagaraj mentioned – rising production costs and decreasing selling prices.

The writer accused the World Bank of its structural adjustment programs that forced India to open up its seed sector to global corporations such as Cargill, Monsanto, and Syngenta.

Farmers are compelled to purchase these patented seeds which cannot be saved and which required fertilizers and pesticides. Seeds which used to be free and which can be saved became a cost which farmers had to buy annually, thereby, causing widespread poverty and debt.

Planting only corporate seeds also mean that one type of crop is grown which indirectly spells the disappearance of traditional and diverse crops such as legumes, millets, and oilseeds. Planting only one type of crop also increases the risks of crop failure.

The free trade WTO rules in agriculture also allows dumping which cause prices to drop while EU and US subsidises its own agricultural sector.

In short, neoliberalism does kill, in this case, the Indian farmers who are driven to debt… …

The link between free markets and controversial land reforms in India & China

30 Oct

According to the Telegraph, “India’s poor in land rights march”, as many as 25,000 landless poor have marched to New Delhi, demanding the government and the middle classes to acknowledge their needs. An Al Jazeera article, “Indian peasants march to Delhi” dated 29 October, reported that the peaceful procession, which lasted for a month, saw protestors marching 350 kilometres from the central city of Gwalior.

Though the police have stopped the protestors from reaching the Parliament, they have staged a sit-down protest at a large, dusty carnival ground in the heart of Delhi, according to the BBC. The protestors have demanded the government sets up a National Land Authority, fast-track courts and a single window system to deal with land and livelihood disputes.

Similar controversial land reforms and land grabs are taking place in China.

According to China’s Public Security Bureau, a total of 87,000 public disturbances or demonstrations are recorded in 2005; an increase of 6.6% from 2004 and 50% in 2003. Most of the protesters are poor rural workers or peasants who are displeased over illegal land grabs, inadequate compensation for land requisition and official corruption.

That these demonstrations, some violent, have emerged is the direct result of controversial land reforms and land grabs, caused by governments opening up their country to “free markets” forces; mainly to attract large overseas corporations to invest in these areas. The corrupted local government then forces or cheats farmers or rural peasants to lose their lands, and hence, their means of livelihood.

In China, these conflicts are a result of local governments collaborating with developers; who arbitrarily seize these lands for industrial or residential projects. Only a small amount of the land payments by developers are used to compensate the affected farmers.

In India, farmers are forced from their land or cheated of its value by local mafias or corrupt officials when land is acquired for governmental projects such as mines, dams and special economic zones aimed at attracting foreign firms with generous tax breaks. Its vague property laws and widespread corruption are blamed for widespread poverty amongst Indian farmers.

The plight of the rural workers has deteriorated in recent years. Last year, the average urban incomes in China is 3.28 times higher than that of rural incomes. The march organiser in India, Puthan Vithal Rajgopal also told AFP in a news report that “forty percent of Indians are now landless and 23 per cent of them are in abject poverty”.

UN Security Council will not impose strict restrictions on arms deals

6 Oct

In an Amnesty International press release dated 1 October 2007, UN must impose arms embargo on Myanmar, the human rights organisation urges the “United Nations Security Council to impose a comprehensive and mandatory arms embargo on Myanmar. It also calls on the country’s principal arms suppliers — in particular China and India, but also Russia, Serbia, Ukraine and ASEAN nations — to suspend all arms supplies to the military Junta.”

While this call to arms embargo should be applauded, the likelihood of that happening is slim considering that China and Russia, two of the permanent member in the UN Security Council, are themselves involved in providing military equipment to the Burmese military regime.

Even though the EU and United States have imposed arms embargo on the regime, and that the United Kingdom and the United States are themselves permanent members in the UN Security Council, they are unlikely to favour this option as it may open up precedents which may require them to stop the profitable sales of arms the next time a dictator starts killing its innocent civilians.

Moreover, all the permanent nation members within the UN Security Council are profiting lucratively from the sales and transfer of weapons to other countries.

According to Wiki on Arms Industry, with information provided by Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), the top 5 largest arms exporters are US, Russia, Germany, France and UK. In the SIPRI 2007 yearbook, summary of Chapter 10, International Arms Transfer, The USA and Russia were the largest suppliers in the five-year period 2002–2006, each accounting for around 30 per cent of global deliveries.” It also claims that, “China and India remained the largest arms exporters in the world.” More chillingly, the summary stated that, “Transparency in arms transfers, which in the 1990s saw significant improvement, with more and better national export reports, has remained stagnant in the past few years.”

According to an AL Jazeera report, US ‘biggest global arms dealer’ dated 1 October 2007, the country cornered “nearly 42 per cent of the arms market”. The Conventional Arms Transfers to Developing Nations report concluded that US arms deal is worth $16.9bn, a $3.4bn increase over 2005. Russia comes at second place boosing its worldwide arms sales “by $1.2bn, ending 2006 in second place with 21.6 per cent of the market”. The report however does not take into consideration the “illegal weapons transfers, worth an estimated $10bn.”

The profits from arms deals means that the UN Security Council is highly unlikely to implement measures to reduce global arms or strictly restrict arms sales.

Burmese shrug off military rule

26 Sep

It should not come as a surprise that the Burmese riot police has finally retaliated with violence on the protesting monks. The restraint that the military regime has practised until recently has somewhat bolstered the protestors’ confidence, which had the uncanny effect of causing the mass protests to further swell.

Now that the regime has lost their head by attacking the revered monks, the option of no longer NOT using violence is basically thrown out of the window. The effect of this outright display and actual violence on the protestors and monks is likely to escalate and either:

a) cause the size of the protests to dwindle as the monks or people fear physical retaliation; or

b) further expand because the ordinary Burmese are no longer willing to watch idly while the monks, highly respected in their society are attacked.

The second probability is more likely to occur since the increase in fuel hikes has caused far too much misery to the livelihoods of the ordinary people that they feel they have no choice but to publicly protest; despite knowing the severity of the repercussions.

This is a crucial period where international pressure is likely to play an important role in ensuring that violence is reduced or stopped.

As Bush announces more sanctions against Burma, China has urged the latter for stability.

Yet, asking the Burmese military regime to stop the violence cannot be executed without urging for a process of immediate dialogue.

To this end, ASEAN can and should play a decisive meditative role by urging the Burmese military government to:

a) release Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest;

b) release the activists and monks who have been imprisoned for participating in the protests;

c) engage in a tri – party dialogue process (consisting of the Burmese military; Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy leaders; and ASEAN acting as the arbitrator)

The aim of the dialogue, not only to reduce and stop the violence, could also pave the way for the generals to “relinquish their authority” while allowing the country to transit towards a process of democratisation – from military to civilian rule.

The likelihood of ASEAN to initiate this process is slim considering it has always advocated a “non-interference on internal affairs” approach towards its members.

However, ASEAN also understands that if it does not act to ensure that violence stops in Burma, its credibility as a trade- security bloc which tries to embody a human rights mechanism (with its newly drafted ASEAN Charter) will merely be an empty call.

China and India, which are close trading partners with the regime should also exert pressure on the government.

This is perhaps the tipping point where the Burmese needs more international pressure and aid more than ever, if they ever wanted to shrug off military rule. People in other countries can help by signing petitions or protesting outside the Burmese embassy in their own countries. They could also write to the Burmese government and or their elected members of parliament to urge them to take up the cause of allowing the Burmese their right to freedom of assembly and stopping the violence.