To the Editor:
These are Orwellian days when war is peace and a xxx per cent national unemployment is a rising economy. Yet despite this deranged logic, there is more to be concerned about on the national scene, and that is the casual acceptance by the populace of almost every conceivable immoral or unethical practice on the part of the Administration. Whether it be the I.T.T. scandal, the Watergate bugging, the wheat deal or the bombing of civilians, it all seems to be accepted with a shrug. All this is ample evidence that we have died spiritually, and we are ready for totalitarianism. I remember once a high administration official was fired for accepting an overcoat as a gift.
Richmond, Oct. 16, 1972
Sai Baba of Shirdi is a patron saint to many. The small town of Shirdi is known to us only because Sai Baba resided and did his work there.
Sai Baba was a fakir. A fakir is someone who has given up on Earthly pleasures and attachments to things physical. It includes very things we describe as wealth and luxury.
A fakir, or faqir (/fəˈkɪər/; Arabic: فقیر (noun of faqr)), derived from faqr (Arabic: فقر, “poverty”) is a Sufi Muslim ascetic who has taken vows of poverty and worship, renouncing all relations and possessions. Fakirs are prevalent in the Middle East and South Asia. A fakir is thought to be self-sufficient and possesses only the spiritual need for God.
Sai Baba’s time is early 20th century and he is said to have died in 1918. So, we have some photos of Sai Baba when he was alive. Some of them are shown in this post. As you can see in the photo below, he is wearing clothes which seem unwashed and are torn and is sans any adornment which is in line with his status as a fakir. No one had to say to us Inme fakiri dikhti hai to inform us or to confirm his status as a fakir. That he possesed almost nothing in terms of money or wealth is another indicator. What we know of him is because his contemporary disciples have told us so. That he could laurel himself with the finest of clothes of silk and adorn himself with loads of gold and silver ornaments was certainly possible, as his contemporary disciples included some very wealthy people. But instead, being true to his nature, he chose to live a simple life, and not partaking any worldly pleasures or objects that were indeed seen by him as not required.
Sai Baba’s work included helping one and all, including especially the downtrodden and people on the margins of the society. And now 100 years after his death, his disciples seem to have reinvented him in their own self-image. Look at the photo above, which is the template for his idols at Shirdi and elsewhere. And look at what they have done with the idol made of marble. They have made it into something which Sai Baba was not. Look at the corruption of his image that they have made.
A Sai Baba adorned with gold!
This just a perversion of the saint and what he stood for, bringing him down to and equalling in the depravity of wealth which he was indifferent about. He is adorned with the finest silks and surrounded by gold and silver ornaments. And devotees make show off triumphantly what they have “devoted” to the cause of Sai Baba. Someone had made a gold crown for him, how much he himself must have despised something like that, he chose to wear a torn headcloth over a crown.
A Sai Baba surrounded by silver!
The revamped image of Sai Baba is in tune with the self-image of the devotees. They see him enjoying the finest silks and ornaments made of gold, silver and diamonds and hard cash just as they do. The people who are “managing” the temple after him, are no different. In name of charity, they are doing anything but charity. The management of the temple now seeks to remove all the beggars from the temple premises. So if Sai Baba came to Shirdi 100 years later, he would not be allowed as he would resemble a beggar. The irony of the situation is not lost, you just have to visit Shirdi once to see the rampant monetization of the premises. The entire setup is just the anti-thesis of what Sai Baba was and what he stood for. And this my friends is the tragedy of Sai Baba..
(All the images CC by SA from Wikimedia Commons)
Longish quotes from London Review of Books from After Nehru by Perry Anderson
To be impressive, however, is not to be miraculous, as Indians and others still regularly describe the political system that crystallised after independence. There was never anything supernatural about it: terrestrial explanations suffice. The stability of Indian democracy came in the first instance from the conditions of the country’s independence. There was no overthrow of the Raj, but a transfer of power by it to Congress as its successor. The colonial bureaucracy and army were left intact, minus the colonisers.
For twenty years, across five polls between 1951 and 1971, Congress never once won a majority of votes. In this period, at the peak of its popularity as an organisation, its average share of the electorate was 45 per cent. This yielded it crushing majorities in the Lok Sabha, amounting to just under 70 per cent of the seats in Parliament. In effect, the distortions of the electoral system meant that at national level it faced no political opposition. At state or district level, this did not hold. But there, the centre had powers that could deal swiftly with any local trouble. These too were heirlooms of the Raj, eagerly appropriated by Congress.
No other system of inequality, dividing not simply, as in most cases, noble from commoner, rich from poor, trader from farmer, learned from unlettered, but the clean from the unclean, the seeable from the unseeable, the wretched from the abject, the abject from the subhuman, has ever been so extreme, and so hard-wired with religious force into human expectation.
Fixing in hierarchical position and dividing from one another every disadvantaged group, legitimating every misery in this life as a penalty for moral transgression in a previous incarnation, as it became the habitual framework of the nation it struck away any possibility of broad collective action to redress earthly injustice that might otherwise have threatened the stability of the parliamentary order over which Congress serenely presided for two decades after independence.
By the end of his life, Nehru would have liked a more presentable fig-leaf for Indian rule, but that he had any intention of allowing free expression of the popular will in Kashmir can be excluded: he could never afford to do so. He had shown no compunction in incarcerating on trumped-up charges the ostensible embodiment of the ultimate legitimacy of Indian conquest of the region, and no hesitation in presiding over subcontracted tyrannies of whose nature he was well aware.
Surrounded by mediocrities, Nehru accumulated more posts than he could handle – permanent foreign minister as well as prime minister, not to speak of defence minister, head of the planning commission, president of Congress, at various times. He was not a good administrator, finding it difficult to delegate, but even had he been, this was a pluralism too far.
Nor was Ambedkar consoled by sanctimonious plaudits for his role in drafting the constitution. He knew he had been used by Congress, and said two years later: ‘People always keep on saying to me: oh sir, you are the maker of the constitution. My answer is I was a hack. What I was asked to do I did much against my will.’
Secularism in India, it is explained, does not mean anything so unsophisticated as the separation of state and religion. Rather – so one version goes – the Indian state is secular because, while it may well finance or sponsor this or that religious institution or activity, in doing so it maintains an ‘equidistance’ from the variegated faiths before it.
As with other oppressed minorities in societies keen to advertise their pluralism, a sprinkling of celebrities – a batsman or film star here, a scientist or symbolic office-holder there – adorns, but doesn’t materially alter, the position of the overwhelming majority of Muslims in India.
What the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act effectively does in such zones, the young Indian historian Ananya Vajpeyi has written, is ‘to create an entirely separate space within India, a sort of second and shadow nation, that functions as a military state rather than an electoral democracy, and only remains hidden because it is not, at least so far, officially ruled by a general or a dictator’. This space should ‘not be thought of as a zone of exception, but as a contradiction so extreme that it undoes the totality in which it is embedded’, which breaks down into ‘two distinct and mutually opposed regimes’ that form ‘two nations: India and non-India’.
Had the party or state been truly secular, in each case this would have been a priority, but that was the last thing it had in mind. There cannot be a genuinely secular party or state unless it is willing to confront religious superstition and bigotry, rather than truckle to them. Neither party nor state has ever contemplated doing that, because both have rested, sociologically speaking, on Hindu caste society. The continued dominance of upper castes in public institutions – administration, police, courts, universities, media – belongs to the same matrix.
After Independence, Gandhi’s doctrines were consigned to the museum, but his saturation of politics with Hindu pathos lived on.
Indian secularism of the post-independence period had never sharply separated state and religion, let alone developed any systematic critique of Hinduism.
The BJP does not oppose, but upholds secularism, for ‘India is secular because it is Hindu.’
‘Myths have a way of running away with their proponents,’ G. Balachandran, an Indian critic of this outlook, of whom there have not been that many, has remarked: ‘Belief in the essentially secular character of the modern Indian state and society can often be little more than an exercise in self-congratulation which overlooks or rationalises the sectarian religious outlook pervading large areas of contemporary social and political practice.’
Mayawati’s erection of 150,000 statues of Ambedkar, not to speak of two hundred effigies of her party’s elephant symbol and of herself (the largest 24 feet high, and like the rest covered in pink polythene as the state went to the polls in March, on the orders of the Election Commission, so as not to beguile or distract voters), at the cost of more schools and healthcare, offers an extreme case of this identity politics, which does not seek to abolish caste, as Ambedkar had wanted, but to affirm it.
Castes continue to be, as they have always been, and Ambedkar saw, one of the purest negations of any notion of liberty and equality, let alone fraternity, imaginable. That the Indian state has never lifted a juridical finger to do away with them, but in seeking only to ameliorate has if anything legally entrenched them, says more about its secularism than the omission of any reference to it in the constitution, or the belated passage of an amendment rectifying the omission to embellish the Emergency.
With it has come a large measure of convergence between Congress and the BJP in government, each pursuing at home a neoliberal economic agenda, as far as their allies will allow them, and abroad a strategic rapprochement with the United States. Culturally, they now bathe in a common atmosphere in which religious insignia, symbols, idols and anthems are taken for granted in commercial and official spaces alike.
In India democracy never extended very far from government to the parties contending for it, which were always run from the top down. Today, however, many have become something other than the oligarchic organisations into which the political scientists Ostrogorsky and Michels thought all parties must sooner or later turn. With the exception of the communists and the BJP, they have become family firms competing for market shares of the electorate and so access to public office.
Of the ensuing scenery, André Béteille, the doyen of sociologists of India, has written that the ‘abject surrender’ of Congress to a single family, corrupting all other parties, has done irreparable harm to Indian democracy, poisoning the wells of public life.
The court, now self-recruiting, is the most powerful judiciary on earth. It has acquired such an abnormal degree of authority because of the decay of the representative institutions around it. Even admirers are aware of the risks. In the graphic phrase of Upendra Baxi, India’s leading legal scholar and one of the first to bring a public interest suit before the court, it is ‘chemotherapy for a carcinogenic body politic’
Comparing India and China from another angle, one of the most lucid political minds of the subcontinent, Pratap Bhanu Mehta, has observed that in the People’s Republic, where there is no democracy, communist rule is based on output legitimacy: it is accepted by the masses for the material benefits it takes great care to deliver them, however unequally. Whereas in India, democracy allows just the opposite – an input legitimacy from the holding of free elections, that thereby excuses the political class from distributing more than confetti to the masses who have elected them.
Three years later, with typical dishonesty, the Manmohan regime renamed it as ‘Gandhian’ to fool the masses into believing that Congress was responsible for it.
Caste, not class, and alas, least of all the working class, is what counts most in popular life, at once sustaining Indian democracy and draining it of reconstructive energy.
If the poor remain divided against themselves, and workers are scattered and ill-organised, what of other sources of opposition within the political system? The new middle class has turned against mega-corruption, but is scarcely foreign to the bribe and the wink, let alone favours to kin, at its own level of advantage. Besotted with a culture of celebrity and consumption, on spectacularly vapid display in much of the media, and to all appearances hardening in collective egoism, it is no leaven in the social order. The intelligentsia is another matter. There, India possesses a range and quality of minds that perhaps no other developing society in the world, and not that many developed ones, can match. Whether working inside or outside the union, it forms an interconnected community of impressive acuity and distinction. In what kind of relationship does it stand to the country? Intellectuals are often held, quite wrongly, to be critical by definition. But in some societies, the mistake has become internalised as a self-conception or expectation, and so it probably is for most Indian intellectuals. How far do they live up to it?
A rigid social hierarchy was the basis of original democratic stability, and its mutation into a compartmentalised identity politics has simultaneously deepened parliamentary democracy and debauched it. Throughout, caste is the cage that has held Indian democracy together, and it has yet to escape.
In the 1920s the great Tamil iconoclast E.V. Ramasamy could declare: ‘He who invented God is a fool. He who propagates God is a scoundrel. He who worships God is a barbarian.’
Hindu culture, exceptionally rich in epics and metaphysics, was exceptionally poor in history, a branch of knowledge radically devalued by the doctrines of karma, for which any given temporal existence on earth was no more than a fleeting episode in the moral cycle of the soul.
‘In an overwhelmingly religious society,’ one subcontinental scholar has written, ‘even the most clear-sighted leaders have found it impossible to distinguish romanticism from history and the latter from mythology.’
Moral indignation is too precious an export to be wasted at home. That the democracy of his country and the humanity of his leader preside over an indurated tyranny, replete with torture and murder, within what they claim as their national borders, need not ruffle a loyal Indian citizen.
Nobel prizes are rarely badges of political courage – some of infamy – so there is little reason for surprise at a silence that, in one form or another, is so common among Indian intellectuals.
What is true is that no break away from the union is conceivable in this area, not because of any economic impossibility, but because Delhi can unleash overwhelming military force, as it has done for a half a century, to crush any attempt at secession, and can count on exhaustion eventually wearing out all resistance, as it cannot in Kashmir, where the alternatives of independence or inclusion in Pakistan have not left the Valley, and any free vote would prefer either to the Indian yoke.
Still, at the altar of Trimurti, costs are discounted inversely to gains. Unity, whose moral and political deadweight is heavier, is safer from reproach than democracy or secularity.
The dynasty that still rules the country, its name as fake as the knock-off of a prestige brand, is the negation of any self-respecting republic.
Congress had its place in the national liberation struggle. Gandhi, who had made it the mass force it became, called at independence for its dissolution. He was right. Since then the party has been a steadily increasing calamity for the country. Its exit from the scene would be the best single gift Indian democracy could give itself.
The political ills that all well-meaning patriots now deplore are not sudden or recent maladies of a once healthy system. They descend from its original composition, through the ruling family and its affiliates, and the venerations and half-truths surrounding these and the organisation enclosing them.
How to score brownie points over one’s opponents?
How much lower can one stoop academically?
Disclaimer: This story has a no particular names, feel free to fill in what you like. This is not a work of fiction.
This is a story that I heard recently. Though the events mentioned in the story are almost 2 decades old. The story is set circa 1996. The
story is an esteemed academic institution in the state of UP.
In this institute in a particular department, among many other faculties there were two protagonists of our story. For the sake of keeping a track of their activities let us call them X and Y. Now as it happens in many academic institutes, and in between many academics, X and Y did not go along very well. Added to that they say that X was a bit eccentric to put it mildly and a crackpot to put it okayishly. Less said about Y is better. It would be rather revealed by actions. They would fight bitterly and did not see each other in a good light. Now, it so happens that in this institute at end of the semester the students are given feedback forms for each of the courses that they take. For this purpose another faculty member distributes the forms on the last day of the course. These forms are collected, sealed and given to the HoD for evaluation. Based on the feedback the HoD calls the faculty member to discuss issues worth discussing. This entire process is supposedly confidential and the discussion happens after the exams are over.
Now it so happened that in this fateful year, Y went on the last day of X’s class to give the feedback form to the students. The forms were duly collected, sealed and given to the HoD. Now comes the interesting part of the story. When the HoD started to read the feedback forms, he noticed that a few of them were a bit too harsh and nasty. Now it so turns out that though X was a bit eccentric, but was quite popular with the students. So this naturally created a doubt in the HoDs mind. Why only this year the students have given a bad review of X?
So the HoD glanced through the feedback forms which were a bit too negative. And guess what! He discovered that the handwriting in all of them was uncannily similar. How can different students writing negative feedback have all the same handwriting? Well one explanation is that they all conspired to do so. Practicing for hours on end to make sure all of their handwriting are similar! But an easier one is that a single person must have written all these negative reviews! Keeping this in mind the HoD compared these negative feedback forms with the handwriting of people he knew. And then guess what it matched the handwriting of someone from his department!
Now you will get 10/10 points if you have already guessed what happened next. It so turned out that the handwriting on the negative feedback sheets matched that of Y. After this Y was summoned by the HoD to explain this uncanny resemblance between the handwritings. Well Y did not have much of an answer, even if any answer was given, it is not known to us. Perhaps Y will remember this episode for life. So after this Y was punished for faking student feedback form. This perhaps would be unique charge against a faculty in a premier institute. The punishment was of banishment from the department for one full semester. When he came back he was super embarrassed due to this. Or as they would put in Hindi किसी को मु़ह दिखाने लायक नही राहा
And it so happened that this episode was followed by exit of Y from this institute a few years later. It is said that in the new institute that Y joined he continued with his old ways of deceit and treachery, and of cheap tactics. The only difference being that there was no one here to challenge Y and his cheap ways. The sad part is that this continued for over a decade and Y was able to form an empire at the new institute. But then the Indian academia has many such people.
Reflecting on this I think how much lower can one fall academically to score brownie points over one’s opponents? On another hand I feel like laughing at botched up attempts to do this, reminds me of Rowan Atkinson’s Black Adder.
What kind of person would indulge in this behavior? Is such a person fit for any confidential work? And why should any academic institute harbour such a person?
This story needs to be spread, told and retold for Y is still out there…
The year 2005 was a significant event in the history of India, as it
saw the introduction of bill for Right to Information. Under this
act any person could request data from government departments
pertaining to issues of interest. This was seen as first step
towards transparency of government of India, and indeed it was. The
RTI act was a weapon in hands of activists, who could now get the
required information officially. What was important also was that
there was a timeline which had to be adhered to while replying to
the RTI query. The information gathered from the various RTI queries
which individuals across the country empowered the citizens about
their rights regarding many issues. Also equally importantly RTI was
a tool for exposing the corruption running rampant in various
government departments. A RTI query could expose the irregularities
and bypassing of rules and regulations, leading to
corruption. There are many famous cases for their expose of big
names and massive corruption which were brought to light. (Some
Some people became what are now known as RTI activists. The RTI
activists were whistleblowers of the RTI age. These activists
exposed many scams at local and national levels. Such expose make
the people involved very uncomfortable. And as it happens in many
cases the people involved are very powerful and would not stop at
anything to attain their goals. In many such cases the RTI activists
were “easy” targets. By using the four-fold approach of /saam/,
/daam/, /dand/ and finally /bhed/ those in trouble try to stop the RTI
activists. Unfortunately in many cases, it turns out the activists
were killed as a result of their whistleblowing acts. (Give
What the RTI activists in various parts lack is a safety net, by
this I mean they lack support from people with similar
interests. They also lack, in a sense, a feeling of community who
will stand by them in case of such bad incidents. What can be done
for them? What kind of mechanism can result in their protection?
There was a proposed whistleblower bill, which if enacted will
provide security to such people. But the bill was not passed. Is
there any other option? Is there a way in which people can still ask
for information under RTI, without revealing their identity, so that
they cannot be “targetted” as whistleblowers. Is there a way in
which despite being anonymous there is a sense of community among
the activists of the RTI? It seems there can be an alternative way in
which we the people can provide a sense of anonymity and at the same
time that of a community to the RTI activists. What follows is
such a proposal which will try to cover these fundamental issues.
The proposal is to setup a front, which for lack of a name I would
call a /collective/ for now, which will mask those requesting RTI
from various government departments. The activists can send their
queries to the government departments through this collective. This
collective will in a sense create a buffer between activists and the
respective government departments, and associated problematic
elements. Since the RTI queries will be sent through this
collective, there will be sense of anonymity for the RTI activists,
as their names wouldn’t come under spotlight as in the earlier
case. One can also have a way in which the activist need not reveal
their identity to collective, that is we should also allow for
anonymous requests for queries. Some may point out that this might
be abused, but we have to give in this possibility hoping that pros
will outnumber the cons. Thus at no point we would have any data
regarding the identity of the applicant, hence we will not be able
to reveal it, when asked. This as will be pointed out can be abused,
but Thus the collective will form a mask for all the RTI
requests. Of coure people who want their name displayed for their
work, will be proud public faces of the collective. It would be much
more difficult to subdue or silence or attack the collective as it
would not be single point contact, but rather a distributed system.
So what do the activists gain by submitting to the collective,
apart from the anonymity. The collective will have a policy that
all the data that it receives from these RTI queries, will be put
up in public domain. This will in turn create a public archive of
information which will be accessible to anyone. Such a archive will
address many issues, like redundancy in filing of RTI queries, or
making the future RTI queries much more pointed and making material
available for researchers.
Such is a very rough proposal for the formation of the
collective. Suggestions and refinements in the proposal and
possible way of execution of this collective are needed.
“I don’t want to live in a world where everything that I say, everything I do, everyone I talk to, every expression of creativity or love or friendship is recorded. That’s not something I’m willing to support, it’s not something I’m willing to build, and it’s not something I’m willing to live under.”
With the case of Tarun Tejpal exposed there was a media flurry for breaking the news to the audience. But it was a broken news, it did not need breaking. Though I am not against questions Mr. Tejpal, and some media houses questioning Tehelka having double standards this episode needs a deeper analysis.
Sometime back the Niraa Radia tapes appeared in the public. And they were breaking the news. But soon some very interesting personalities also surfaced in the tapes. They included the likes of Ratan Tata and Barkha Dutt amongst others. And suddenly there was a complete radio silence on that. It seems NDTV especially became really silent about this whole issue. But more importantly none of the other media houses dared to raise questions to Ms. Dutt, the tone and manner which we are seeing in case of Mr. Tejpal, via Shoma Choudhary. Since we have already crossed the double standards, I call this particular episode from media having “Triple Standards”. One for themselves, one for the general public and one for vendetta against fellow reporters who might have made them uncomfortable in the past.
Personally for me, the case against Ms. Dutt was for more serious and grave as the future of entire country was being decided, though no “individuals” were harmed. And also the intent and tonality of the Radia tapes just shows how powerful and at the same time morally corrupt the media have become. So far Mr. Tejpal is concerned he admitted to and will perhaps face law for what he has done. But what about Ms. Dutt? No cases, not even a CBI enquiry! The matter has been suppressed well. Forget about law, one has a feeling that collective amnesia that media is presenting in this case will make even people forget that this incident ever happened. Even after all this there seems to be no remorse and none of other journalist dared ask accountability from Ms. Dutt or for that matter anyone else from NDTV. So this vehement attack on Tehelka on this issue seems more like a soap opera which shows that they do not leave out people from media when they are exposed. What about themselves?
I just no longer see Ms. Dutt speaking on behalf of “We The People” for she is no longer one of us, but rather firmly on the other side.
Privatisation seems to have gone from dynamic ideological choice, to route of least resistance for the state to abdicate its responsibility in a variety of policy areas. Anything difficult and measurable – problem schools; elderly care; waste disposal; big infrastructure projects – is left to private capital. In exactly the same way that outsourcing has evolved for private enterprise, it has become an expensive way of getting rid of problems to which those in charge have no solutions.
It is much easier to close a free school than to explain why a state school has gone disastrously wrong.
The same is happening in India. Now they are planning to privatize airports and Indian Airlines on the reasons of efficiency. For education, the government supports private school with aids. When the same money could have been used to better the government schools. In each sector the reliance on private sector to do the jobs is increasing. Even in case of vehicles in government offices, the trend is that you employ a private vehicle and a driver, instead of having a driver on the payroll. So is the case with computer maintenance. In each government office there are private firms which are paid large sums to make sure that the computers are kept running. Why can’t there be an internal department to look after that? The privatization both complete and contractual, lead to massive corruption opportunities for both politicians and the bureaucrats as can be seen in the recent series of scams that have surfaced in India. The main problem that is facing the people is privatization of our natural resources and that of responsibilities of the Government, the resulting corruption is just the tip of the iceberg. It is a symptom of the disease. Even then the major media houses never question, why these mega scams became possible in the first place? They are more eager to make scapegoats out of certain people, but the system which allowed the scams to happen is never challenged.
That said, it seems the ideological stance privatization, resulting in denial of responsibility of state and loss of money from the public purse cannot be halted unless there is a strong pressure from within to halt such measures.
Former Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha on Tuesday blamed Congress leader and union minister Jairam Ramesh as being “singularly responsible for shaving off 2.5% of the GDP” by not giving environmental clearance to projects during his stint as the environment minister, escalating the war of words between the two.
Mr. Sinha should understand that economy is not everything. If at all protecting environment costs so much of GDP indirectly, even then it is okay. Perhaps we should provide 2.5% of GDP to protect our environment, and that would ensure it will remain for posterity. The rampant rape of environment in form of various “developmental” projects and its toll on the flora and fauna is something that needs to be stopped. For example consider the illegal and legal mining in Goa and its impact on the fragile ecosystem there. Ramesh had a choice, and he exercised it. How many ministers do that? If the environment ministry will itself not worry about the environment then who will? Sinha in criticizing Ramesh seems to have forgotten this basic fact. Otherwise what is the reason for the Environment ministry to exist? For there are certain things that cannot be equalized in terms of money, and our flora and fauna is one of them. Mr. Sinha should understand that extinction is forever, no amount of money can bring back lost species or lost ecosystems. But people who are corrupted by lure of money at any cost (to environment and other people) will not understand this. Even if they do, their priorities are set by the bottom line, which is money.
“This experience has taught me one very important lesson: without Congressional action or a strong judicial precedent, I would strongly recommend against anyone trusting their private data to a company with physical ties to the United States,”
Read the article. What would you do when faced with such situation?
Information is power. But like all power, there are those who want to keep it for themselves. The world's entire scientific and cultural heritage, published over centuries in books and journals, is increasingly being digitized and locked up by a handful of private corporations. Want to read the papers featuring the most famous results of the sciences? You'll need to send enormous amounts to publishers like Reed Elsevier. There are those struggling to change this. The Open Access Movement has fought valiantly to ensure that scientists do not sign their copyrights away but instead ensure their work is published on the Internet, under terms that allow anyone to access it. But even under the best scenarios, their work will only apply to things published in the future. Everything up until now will have been lost. That is too high a price to pay. Forcing academics to pay money to read the work of their colleagues? Scanning entire libraries but only allowing the folks at Google to read them? Providing scientific articles to those at elite universities in the First World, but not to children in the Global South? It's outrageous and unacceptable. "I agree," many say, "but what can we do? The companies hold the copyrights, they make enormous amounts of money by charging for access, and it's perfectly legal - there's nothing we can do to stop them." But there is something we can, something that's already being done: we can fight back. Those with access to these resources - students, librarians, scientists - you have been given a privilege. You get to feed at this banquet of knowledge while the rest of the world is locked out. But you need not - indeed, morally, you cannot - keep this privilege for yourselves. You have a duty to share it with the world. And you have: trading passwords with colleagues, filling download requests for friends. Meanwhile, those who have been locked out are not standing idly by. You have been sneaking through holes and climbing over fences, liberating the information locked up by the publishers and sharing them with your friends. But all of this action goes on in the dark, hidden underground. It's called stealing or piracy, as if sharing a wealth of knowledge were the moral equivalent of plundering a ship and murdering its crew. But sharing isn't immoral - it's a moral imperative. Only those blinded by greed would refuse to let a friend make a copy. Large corporations, of course, are blinded by greed. The laws under which they operate require it - their shareholders would revolt at anything less. And the politicians they have bought off back them, passing laws giving them the exclusive power to decide who can make copies. There is no justice in following unjust laws. It's time to come into the light and, in the grand tradition of civil disobedience, declare our opposition to this private theft of public culture. We need to take information, wherever it is stored, make our copies and share them with the world. We need to take stuff that's out of copyright and add it to the archive. We need to buy secret databases and put them on the Web. We need to download scientific journals and upload them to file sharing networks. We need to fight for Guerilla Open Access. With enough of us, around the world, we'll not just send a strong message opposing the privatization of knowledge - we'll make it a thing of the past. Will you join us? Aaron Swartz July 2008, Eremo, Italy via | Open Access Manifesto
Privacy protects us from abuses by those in power, even if we’re doing nothing wrong at the time of surveillance.
Too many wrongly characterize the debate as “security versus privacy.” The real choice is liberty versus control. Tyranny, whether it arises under threat of foreign physical attack or under constant domestic authoritative scrutiny, is still tyranny. Liberty requires security without intrusion, security plus privacy. Widespread police surveillance is the very definition of a police state. And that’s why we should champion privacy even when we have nothing to hide.
Make no mistake, Aaron was a criminal and, despite popular belief, there was no prosecutorial overreach. The US Attorney who oversaw his prosecution described her office’s actions as “appropriate” and, according to the law, she was telling the truth. The job of prosecutors is to bully and intimidate suspects, using the threat of some of the world’s harshest sentencing laws into plea bargaining for a shorter sentence in exchange for an admission of guilt. This is American “justice;” our current system of severe sentencing and mandatory minimums gives prosecutors overwhelming power – power that was once in the hands of judges and juries – to the point that today less than 5% of criminal cases are resolved by a jury (3% in federal cases).
via Common Dreams.
RIP Aaron Swartz.
It is convenient to set out s. 292 of the Indian Penal Code at this stage:
“292. Sale of obscene books etc. : Whoever- (a) sells, lets to hire, distributes, publicly exhibits or in any manner puts into circulation, or for purposes of sale, hire, distribution, public exhibition or circulation, makes, produces or has in his possession any obscene book, pamphlet, paper, drawing, painting, representation or figure or any other obscene object whatsoever, or
(b) imports, exports or conveys any obscene object for any of the purposes aforesaid, or knowing or having reason to believe that such object will be sold, let to hire, distributed or publicly exhibited or in any manner put into circulation, or
(c) takes part in or receives profits from any business in the course of which he knows or has reason to believe that any such obscene objects are, for any of the purposes aforesaid, made, produced, purchased, kept, imported, exported, conveyed, publicly exhibited or in any manner put into circulation, or
(d) advertises or makes known by any means whatsoever that any person is engaged or is ready to engage in any act which is an offence under this section, or that any such obscene object can be procured from or through any person, or
(e) offers or attempts to do any act which is an offence -under this section,
19(1) All citizens shall have the right-
(a) to freedom of speech and expression; (2) Nothing -in sub-clause (a) of clause (1) shall affect the operation of any existing law, or prevent the State from making any law, in so far as such law imposes reasonable restrictions on the exercise of the right conferred by the said sub-clause in the interests of public order, decency or morality”
No doubt this article guarantees complete freedom of speech and expression but it also makes an exception in favour of existing laws which impose restrictions on the exercise of the right in the interests of public decency or morality.
Condemnation of obscenity depends as much upon the mores of the people as upon the individual. It is always a question of degree or as the lawyers are accustomed to say, of where the line is to be drawn. It is, however, clear that obscenity by itself has extremely “poor value in the-propagation of ideas, opinions and informations of public interest or profit.” When there is propagation of ideas, opinions and informations of public interest or profit, the approach to the problem may become different because then the interest of society may tilt the scales in favour of free speech and expression. It is thus that books on medical science with intimate illustrations and photographs, though in a sense immodest, are not considered to be obscene but the same illustrations and photographs collected in book form without the medical text would certainly be considered to be obscene.
“I think the test of obscenity is this, whether the tendency of the matter charged as obscenity is to deperave and corrupt those whose minds are open to such immoral influences, and into whose hands a publication of this sort may fall. . . . . it is quite certain that it would suggest to the minds of the young of either sex, or even to persons of more advanced years, thoughts of a most impure and libidinous character.”
He wants us to say that a book is not necessarily obscene because there is a word here or a word there, or a passage here and a passage there which may be offensive to particularly sensitive persons. He says that the overall effect of the book should be the test and secondly, that the book should only be condemned if it has no redeeming merit at all, for then it is “dirt for dirt’s sake”, or as Mr. Justice Frankfurter put it in his inimitable way “dirt for money’s sake.
We need not attempt to bowdlerize all literature and thus rob speech and expression of freedom. A balance should be maintained between freedom of speech and expression and public decency and morality but when the latter is substantially transgressed the former must give way.
The taboo on sex in art and literature which was more strict thirty-five years ago, seemed to him to corrode domestic and social life and his definite view was that a candid discussion of sex through art was the only catharsis for purifying and relieving the congested emotion is.
“The law seeks to protect not those who protect themselves, but those whose prurient minds take delight and sexual pleasures from erotic writings.”
The word “obscene” in the section is not limited to writings, pictures etc. intended to arouse sexual desire. At the same time the mere treating with sex and nudity in art and literature is not per se evidence of obscenity.
Exception. – This section does not extend to any book, pamphlet, writing, drawing or painting kept or used bona fide for religious purposes or any representation sculptured, engraved, painted or otherwise represented on or in any temple, or on any car used for the conveyance of idols, or kept or used for any religious purpose.”
This was I think long back, but the views have not changed ever since the. The idea that somethings are bad for everyone is something which all cultures adhere to, and it is very hard for people, especially people in power to let this notion go. This is another way of controlling people. This is what is common to fundamentalism and democracy. The notion that our past was a golden one, and anything new will harm it and jeopardize the future of the culture. From what I feel is that there was no golden past, it just was.
And thinking about morality, though they say that there are some universal principles, everyone does not subscribe to same ones. In his theory Kohlberg, outlines these differences. But that said, he does not talk about obscenity, which I think it is highly cultural. For example a burqa clad woman is a common picture in certain Islamic communities, or a woman with ghunghat is all but common in certain Hindu communities, but at the same time some people might be find it too restrictive. And a woman in short skirt might be a common scene in the urban areas in certain countries, but it might be a great taboo for some others. There are no universal standards for what counts as moral or decent.
But, of course, corporate media professionals have long propped up the illusion that the public is offered an ‘impartial’ selection of facts, opinions and perspectives from which any individual can derive a well-informed world view. Simply put, ‘impartiality’ is what the establishment says is impartial.
The major political parties offer no real choice. They all represent essentially the same interests crushing any moves towards meaningful public participation in the shaping of policy; or towards genuine concern for all members of society, particularly the weak and the vulnerable.
US media analyst Robert McChesney observes:
‘In many respects we now live in a society that is only formally democratic, as the great mass of citizens have minimal say on the major public issues of the day, and such issues are scarcely debated at all in any meaningful sense in the electoral arena.’ (McChesney, Rich Media, Poor Democracy, The New Press, 2000, p. 260).
PS: Somehow as of today 2-1-2012 1330 hrs IST medialens server is not working and is giving a Forbidden 403 error from my connection. I do not know what the cause is? Is the medialens server down?
The longer this worldwide disparity and inequality is perpetuated, the more the masses will revolt and the faster we will internally replicate the Israeli model of domestic control – drones overhead, all dissent criminalized, SWAT teams busting through doors, deadly force as an acceptable form of subjugation, food used as a weapon, and constant surveillance.
Hope that this Orwellian dystopia does not happen.
“It’s not important how much money has been earned. It’s important how it has been put to use, whether it has been put to good use or not.”
via Indian Express.
Nitin Gadkari , the incumbent BJP president, is in news for all wrong reasons these days. Apart from the allegations that his business interests have shadyness by IAC activist Arvind Kejriwal, he is also making blunders in quoting and is also facing some rebellion from within his own party. But the quote above comes in his (or his acts?) defence from the RSS camp. And it is amusing too, as at times RSS distances itself from the BJP, saying that it is their internal matter, but at other times also gives self-proclaimed clean-chits to BJP members. It is interesting to note how the very concept and meaning of corruption is being twisted by RSS cheif Mohan Bhagwat in the quote above The act itself is set aside as to whether it is good or bad, while the motive with which the result of the act (the black money) will be utilised determines the morality of the act. Now that being the case how do we decide whether the money is “put to good use or not”? This is an entirely subjective view. Something that is good for a person or a community may be bad for others. For example if someone makes a lot of money and invests it in something else to make more money, then for that person the use is definitely good use, but for others it is not. And there is nothing like free money, corruption happens only when money meant for something else goes to the corrupt person. With this cigol even murders may be justified. Trying to justify the act of corruption by making statements like this one, is making classic Orwellian Newspeak. This just makes the point that the BJP is just another Congress, which comes with a remote control too.
Two of my favourite authors. Both of them were from almost same era, early part of 20th century. Both of them wrote about bureaucracy, corruption, control, power, and helplessness of individuals in the greater scheme of things. Reading them a dark feeling covers your soul, and all chances of redemption appear bleak. We are, it seems, doomed for life, and only non-existence in to oblivion or death can relieve us of these torments, as it does to many characters of this duo.
The things that are happening now around us, the FUDs and stereotyping of “The Enemy” reminds one much of the situation in Nineteen Eight Four. Maybe the policy makers grew up reading Nineteen Eight Four and found enough material to be implemented in the real world. Or as it happens in The Castle, one can easily identify with the main protagonist whose life is made into an unending sequence of visits to the offices in The Castle. As it happens during visits to most of the government offices.
The marking of a day named after a particular section of the population or a particular political cause or even a slogan could be seen as a secular festival and was used to remember and rally supporters, amplify and spread the central message of the movement.
What is interesting is that most of these post-1945 days originated from within state institutions or global institutions, whose massive bureaucracies were deployed to popularise them.
However, over the past few decades these days have been captured, almost wholesale, by corporate interests which shamelessly use them to market their goods and launch public relations exercises. This takeover by the private sector has paralleled the retreat of the State and the spread of neo-liberalism as the hegemonic ruling ideology of our times.
Thus, the various days to mark different diseases provide excellent opportunities for corporate hospitals and health insurers to frighten people and access their services. Women’s Day is similarly used to make women “feel good” by making them purchase cosmetics.
The recent World Environment Day (5 June) is a case in point. If it were not for the advertisements which were splashed all over the newspapers or the various “events” organised by different companies and showrooms, one would never have remembered that 5 June was World Environment Day.
The political power of the private sector is the foundation on which the negotiations over climate change have become so intractable.
Events like World Environment Day (and the earlier Earth Day and Earth Hour) have now become opportunities for these pursuers of private profit to greenwash themselves and hide their politics.
We perhaps need to abandon all these special “Days” and find newer, better tools for building solidarities, raising public awareness and celebrating our politics.
via Greenwash Day.
Perhaps, but we must be absolutely clear about one central issue. Private corporations have one primary goal: Profit. Everything else is secondary. Corporate largesse is predicated solely by self-interest.
Perhaps this should be the first lesson taught to students when they are in schools.
Under the terms of the international bailout, the new government must fire up to 150,000 civil servants, slash spending by 11 billion euros this month, sell off a swathe of state-owned companies, improve tax collection and open closed professions to competition.
Of course, the only way is to make more space and opportunities for private companies, less social welfare.
“The way of collecting royalties is unfair, [Monsanto] charges us in double: when we buy the seeds and then when we sell the soy.”
Will this also happen in India?
यावेळी कलमाडींच्या चेह-यावर आपण काही मोठे कर्तुत्व करून आलो आहोत आणि जमलेले लोक आपल्या स्वागतासाठीच आले आहेत असा भाव होता.
via Maharashtra Times.
आता काय म्हणायचे?
”Look, every chief minister has been corrupt. In that sense, Yeddy is no different,” says a member of the Congress. “But he is probably the first CM to collect bribes and kickbacks in cheques.”
These are the words for the former Karnataka Cheif Minister B. S. Yedurappa. This should be read by all the bankers, they can make accounts which cannot be accounted. So that people who are taking bribes can have it easier. Is this not what the Swiss Banks and the tax havens are doing?
To quote A K Antony on the current state of affairs in the nation.
“Our country is passing through a transparency revolution. Walls of secrecy are crumbling gradually. But politicians, bureaucracy, judiciary, business people, armed forces, and journalists are still not ready for this transition to transparency,”
And then he adds:
“But they will have to follow the transition and I don’t think anybody can take any step in a different direction,”
Lets see how much of this comes through, within our life times.
Posting for a wider reading.
Indian Rationalist Association & Rationalist International
When Sathya Sai Baba died this morning (24 April 2011) at the age of
85 years, he proved once again that miracles and predictions fail. He
had predicted at a public gathering at his head quarters in
Puttaparthy, in 2000, and repeatedly many times, that he would die at
the age of 96 only. And till the last moment, many of his devotees
clung to his word and waited for a miracle. May it be an eye opener
for the millions of gullible people whom he misguided and deluded.
De mortuis nihil nisi bene, they say, say nothing but good of the
dead. But I think Sathya Sai Baba’s case qualifies for an exception.
Too great is the damage that he did to India. His devastating
influence on reason and scientific temper caused huge setback to the
country. At a time, when scientific progress led to great social and
economic leaps and scientific awakening started spreading all over
India, Sathya Sai Baba launched a “counter revolution” of
superstition, supported by irresponsible politicians and other public
figures who should have known better. In my judgment, this is his
greatest crime. I have succeeded again and again to expose him
publicly as a fraud, so did some other rationalists. But due to his
political protectors he was never held responsible for his crimes
against public reason. Nor was he ever booked for any other crime he
was accused of. Numerous cases of alleged sexual abuse and murder are
yet to be investigated, not to mention the financial secrets of his
Sathya Sai Baba insisted in all seriousness that he was god, the
creator of the universe, and “proved” his divinity with a couple of
small “miracles”. As son of a village tantric he was familiar with the
hand sleights and tricks of the trade. However, he did not only
fascinate poor and uneducated villagers with his fraudulent
performances. Over the years, he managed to attract a galaxy of
India’s rich and powerful, among them ministers, prime ministers,
presidents, chief justices, top industrialists and superstars.
Sathya Sai Baba had a special modus operandi that was the key for his
astonishing success and the root of his enormous clout. Many of his
high society devotees came to serve their own vested interests. Some
came to rub shoulders with the prominent. Many joined the club because
it was working as a powerful syndicate spreading its tentacles all
over the political system. It was a way to the top jobs and a way to
get things done. Others were seeking financial support or wanted to
get rid of ill-gotten black money: The empire, it is alleged, was
based on money laundering, using foreign devotees and branches. In
fact, the huge foreign donations to Sai Baba stood in contrast to the
comparatively modest number of active foreign devotees and the
sometimes quite weak foreign branches, some of them residing in
private homes. That is no great surprise, when one considers that Sai
Baba did not speak any other language than Telugu and traveled only
once in his whole life abroad – to visit his friend Idi Amin in
On his 80th birthday, Sai Baba’s supporters announced that he would
turn from a miracle man to a philanthropist. That was, after I had
demonstrated his miracles so often in TV shows that many kids in the
streets could imitate them. That he since spent a part of the great
fortunes, swindled out of the gullible, for social development around
his ancestral village, is highlighted now to present him as a saint.
But as useful and welcome hospitals, schools and drinking water
projects for the poor always may be: this kind of alibi-philanthropy
is well known even from mafia-bosses. It cannot be weighed against his
crimes and the damage he has done to the Indian society.
In December 2005, I wrote a letter to then President Dr. Abdul Kalam,
one of Sai Baba’s ardent supporters, which was never answered. I
demanded criminal investigations against Sai Baba. If his social
development projects are meant to be indulgence to nullify his crimes,
this procedure is unprecedented and unacceptable, I wrote. It is a
shame for India that well-founded accusations and numerous reputed
witnesses against Sai Baba are ignored without any investigation. Do
saffron clothes make an offender untouchable for the law? Do we have
to tolerate that political protectionism raises its head so boldly,
mocking India’s democracy?
Sathya Sai Baba caused great damage to India. His irresponsible
political patrons corrupted the political culture of India. Encouraged
by the clout of Sathya sai Baba, a new clan of miracle mongers
imitated him. India would have been a better place without Sathya Sai
(This or other articles from the Rationalist International Bulletin
may be reproduced by journals, blogs or web sites without change or
alteration in its content, and with due acknowledgment.)
Rationalist International: firstname.lastname@example.org
ITAT had accepted Mayawati’s claim that immovable property worth Rs 62.72 lakh and cash payments of Rs 2 lakh were gifts given by her supporters out of love and affection.
Now that this being the case, it reminds me of the Jadu ki Jhappi of Munnabhai. How many more people will get tax exemptions based on this judgment? And what if a commoner like me argues the same way?
I had the power of my tongue but had no power to take decisions. I am not a saint. But I am neither a villain as is being projected.
What can one say more? If there are such shameless confessions, and still they are out?
- Typically the party in the soup tries to downplay WikiLeaks itself, saying that this is what has been said by the US diplomats and is nothing more than office gossip.
- At the same time the other party mounts an attack on the party in soup, trying to tell us “Isn’t it the same thing that we were saying from so many years?” And they will tell you how the other party is bad to its core. In this case they never question the authenticity of WikiLeaks.
- The cycle repeats. Only the role of the parties are changed!
So WikiLeaks is like a hot potato, which none of our political parties have courage to handle. As soon as they land with one, they try to throw it away as soon as possible. When it is in someone else’s hand they will try to make some brownie points out of it.
Indian media with some exceptions is trying to play down the damage done by WikiLeaks to the political and the civil system. They may be hand-in-glove with those accused, or may be afraid that their own names may appear in the future issues of WikiLeaks.
Sibal said this in a public meeting
I ask this question, if a poor child does not have any means for education, then how will Lokpal Bill help? If a poor man needs help for medical services then he will call up a politician. How will Lokpal Bill help.
When Mr. Hazare responded by saying that Mr, Sibal should not be in the committee if he thinks Lokpal bill is useless, then Sibal clarified his position by saying:
the scope of the Bill is different. The problems of the common man are different. …
I said that if you want to educate children, then this has no connection to Lokpal. If there is no convenience of water…Lokpal is only connected to corruption and we will bring a good bill that will stop corruption.
To get to what I am saying you do not even have to read between the lines. The very fact that there are problems in the Indian system, the likes of which Sibal mentions, viz. poor child not having means for education, poor man needing medical services and others at least in part are linked to India being a very corrupt state. Since we are a corrupt state, that is the reason people cannot get access to basic needs of a good life, like education for their children and medical services, without clout of some politician, as Mr. Sibal puts it. And this is accepted, by saying that going through a politican will perhaps help a poor person, than cleaning the system itself.
How can a bad governing system which is corrupt as deep as it can be, and public inconvenience it causes and a strong anti-corruption bill be not related? The Lokpal Bill is in every related to problems of common man, and that is the reason why it gathered such a wide support.