Friday, April 23, 2010

Is more Government Control good or bad?

With demise of Soviet style Socialism in the 1980s most people believed that Government control of affairs of the society will become less and less and Laissez-faire Capitalism will rule the World.But it did not happen.Governments in most of the Western World is trying to control their economies more than before. Is more Government control good or bad?

Let me try to define Laissez-faire Capitalism.
Ayn Rand the Russian-American writer,a staunch supporter of Capitalism said

When I say “capitalism,” I mean a full, pure, uncontrolled, unregulated laissez-faire capitalism—with a separation of state and economics, in the same way and for the same reasons as the separation of state and church.

Actually no country followed Laissez-faire economic system. But most of the Western European countries and USA had a relatively free market economy though with varying degree of Government control.
But after the  economic crisis of 2008-09 the Governments are thinking about controlling their economies more and more.
 In USA, President Barack Obama's Democratic Party is trying to pass an economy regulation legislation which will increase the control of Government on the financial system.
In a speech today in New York Obama said:

I believe in the power of the free market. I believe in a strong financial sector that helps people to raise capital and get loans and invest their savings. But a free market was never meant to be a free license to take whatever you can get, however you can get it. That is what happened too often in the years leading up to the crisis. Some on Wall Street forgot that behind every dollar traded or leveraged, there is a family looking to buy a house, pay for an education, open a business, or save for retirement.

I have also spoken before about the need to build a new foundation for economic growth in the 21st century. And, given the importance of the financial sector, Wall Street reform is an absolutely essential part of that foundation. Without it, our house will continue to sit on shifting sands, leaving our families, businesses and the global economy vulnerable to future crises. That is why I feel so strongly that we need to enact a set of updated, common-sense rules to ensure accountability on Wall Street and to protect consumers in our financial system.

It is widely agreed that the economic recession of 2008 could have been avoided if the Government had intervened to control unbridled sub prime lending and Mortgage frauds. It is also now clear that it was the bailout by Government using tax payers money that helped to prevent bankruptcy of many Companies.

Recent revelations that Goldman Sachs duped its own customers and made big profits raises the need for more Government regulation in Banking sector.
“The simultaneous selling of securities to customers and shorting them because they believed they were going to default is the most cynical use of credit information that I have ever seen,” said Sylvain R. Raynes, an expert in structured finance at R & R Consulting in New York. “When you buy protection against an event that you have a hand in causing, you are buying fire insurance on someone else’s house and then committing arson.”

Let me quote Obama again:

"It is for this reason that we need a system to shut these firms down with the least amount of collateral damage to innocent people and businesses. And from the start, I've insisted that the financial industry -- and not taxpayers -- shoulder the costs in the event that a large financial company should falter. The goal is to make certain that taxpayers are never again on the hook because a firm is deemed "too big to fail.

"In the end, our system only works -- our markets are only free -- when there are basic safeguards that prevent abuse, that check excess, that ensure that it is more profitable to play by the rules than to game the system. And that is what these reforms are designed to achieve: no more, no less. Because that is how we will ensure that our economy works for consumers, that it works for investors, that it works for financial institutions -- that it works for all of us.

I agree with Obama here. More Government controls,safeguards and regulation will only help the economy.

As the Nobel Prize winning economist and a strong supporter of economic regulations by the State, Paul Krugman said:

For the fact is that much of the financial industry has become a racket — a game in which a handful of people are lavishly paid to mislead and exploit consumers and investors. And if we don’t lower the boom on these practices, the racket will just go on.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The sad story of Dr Siras.Time to end this moral policing

Dr Srinivas Ramachandra Siras,Chairman of the Department of Modern Indian Languages at Aligarh Muslim University was about to retire from his job in September this year after 22 years of distinguished service.. But on February 19, 2010 he was suspended from his job and was asked to leave the University campus vacating his quarters. His crime.....? Having consensual sex in the privacy of his quarters. All the hell broke loose because of a minor factor. His partner was a man.

The Vice Chancellor said he is being suspended for grave misconduct. The suspension was on the basis of a video recording filmed inside Dr Siras's quarters with out his consent.

Dr Siras approached the High Court. On April 1 a Division Bench of Allahabad High Court stayed the suspension and allowed Dr Siras to resume his work and to live in his quarters.

On April 4 Dr Siras approached the Chief Judicial Magistrate seeking action against AMU officials and media persons for intruding his privacy, harassing and blackmailing him.

The life less body of 62-year-old Siras, was found on April 7 lying on the bed in his private apartment outside the University. It was believed that he died at least 2 days ago, may be on April 5, the day after he approached the Court against University authorities. Cause of death is still not known.

Was he killed? Or did he commit suicide? He was on the verge of a personal victory after the High Court order. He proved that he is a fighter by approaching the Court against University authorities. Will such a person take his own life at that particular juncture?

The family members and the Teachers Association have demanded high level probe into the matter.

Some people on the AMU faculty believe that the Vice Chancellor of the University was trying to divert attention from the negative publicity it had received with the recent inquiry ordered by the President of India, Pratibha Patil, after instances of financial bungling and mismanagement came to light. They believe that the video filming was arranged and paid for by top administrators of the University.

A first information report (FIR) was finally registered against four Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) officials and some journalists for breaching the privacy of Dr Siras, on April 9. The case was registered only because of the directions of the court.

The Integrated network of sexual minorities of India [INFOSEM] has started an online petition campaign in this issue. The network demands a judicial enquiry into the whole issue and the suspension of the Vice Chancellor; they want the AMU to respect the rights of its faculty and students, especially their privacy in matters of sex, sexuality and gender.

Aligarh Muslim University is supposed to be the bastion of minority religious rights. But when it comes to the rights of sexual minorities AMU was found inept in ensuring justice.

In view of the recent landmark Delhi High Court judgment legalising Gay sex, let us hope that at least in future, rights of sexual minorities will not be trampled upon by society.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Cervical Cancer Vaccine Project stopped in India

The Indian Central Government have announced  the suspension of the HPV vaccine project due to allegations of unethical pratices and deaths of 4 tribal girls in Andhra Pradesh.

Director-General of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) V.M. Katoch said that he had asked the Health and Family Welfare Ministry, the State governments and the people not to go ahead with the programme. “There can be no compromise, if ethical issues have been violated by any non-governmental organisation or pharmaceutical company. The government is all for the people, and genuine issues have to be addressed.”
The HPV vaccine, Gardasil, meant to prevent cervical cancer among women, has reportedly led to the death of four girls who were administered the dose in Khammam district of Andhra Pradesh. Over 120 girls, who were given the shots, have reported adverse side-effects.

The trials are being described as a “demonstration project” by PATH-International, a U.S.-based non-governmental organisation, which is conducting the project for American pharmaceutical company Merck since July 2009.

The girls, aged between 10 and 14 and belonging to the most vulnerable sections of society, were enrolled in the study approved by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and the respective State governments, and is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

At a press conference  conducted in New Delhi on April 7 by representatives of the All-India Democratic Women's Association (AIDWA), Saheli, Sama, All-India People's Science Network, and the Jan Swasthya Abhiyan — Ms.Brinda Karat, the CPI [M] leader accused the pharmaceutical company of misleadingly promoting the vaccine as preventive for cervical cancer as it prevented the cancer of only two strains of hundreds that caused cervical cancer.

“The literature circulated in the project makes outright false statements about its safety, efficacy and duration of effectiveness. The girls and their parents have been told through the project documents that the vaccine will give life-long immunity, has no side-effects other than minor ones like fever and rash, and would not affect future fertility of the young girls,” the speakers said at the press conference.

After visiting some of the areas where the vaccine was administered, Ms. Karat had said the people were given to understand that it was an expensive vaccine and that they would not be able to afford it once the company's project was over, hence they should get their daughters vaccinated. Since the NRHM logo was on the card, the villagers went for the injection.

Close to 70 civil society groups, public health organisations, medical professionals, human rights organisations, women's groups and individuals have voiced their opposition to the nature of the HPV (human papilloma virus) vaccination ‘projects' carried out in Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat by PATH International, in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and the respective State governments.

They urged the Union government to come up with a national policy on this kind of medical “experimentation” and a pro-people vaccine policy based on public health needs.

In a memorandum submitted to Health and Family Welfare Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, the groups pointed out that the efficacy of the vaccines, Gardasil and Cervarix, was highly suspect and a number of very serious side-effects, including deaths of vaccinated girls, were reported across the world.

As per extensive documentations made after fact-finding missions by local groups in Khammam district of Andhra Pradesh (where 14,000 girls in the age group of 10-14 years have been vaccinated with three doses of the HPV vaccine), 120 reported adverse side-effects.

The groups also demanded that the government set up an inquiry into the death of four tribal girls and into the side-effects of the vaccine on affected girls so that responsibility could be fixed and action taken.

I had posted about HPV vaccine before in my other blog titled

Should I give the cervical cancer vaccine to my daughter?

My conclusion was like this.

I will not recommend HPV Vaccine with the present available scientific evidence due to the fact that the efficacy in preventing invasive cervical cancer is not much and there is a small but considerable risk of adverse events.

Even though India reports more than 70000 deaths yearly due to cervical cancer,this coslty vaccine [around 10000 Rs for 3 shots] is highly unlikely to make any change in incidence of Cervical cancer in India due to low efficacy and prohibitive cost.

Attempt by Pharma companies to make Indian Government buy such expensive and not so needed intervention through this sham of clinical trials conducted by [?pharma funded] 'NGO's has to be stopped at any cost.

Adapted from reports in The Hindu

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

From Dandi to Dantewada. A study in contrast

April 6. 1930

Millions of Indians led by Gandhiji made salt illegally defying the law as a non- violent form of protest against exploitation and injustice of the ruling British empire.

April 6, 2010.

 Maoists killed 72 jawans of the CRPF in an ambush in Dantiwada in a grossly violent form of 'protest' against alleged exploitation and injustice of the rulers.

 Methods of agitation cannot be as dissimilar as the above two. Ironically both happened on the same date 80 years apart.

Salt Sathygraha

Civil disobedience by symbolically breaking the Salt law was the strategy adopted my Gandhiji to create a political awakening in India and there by bring pressure on British to leave India.Salt he knew is essential for all communities, rich and poor alike. He announced his intention to the British through this letter.

                                  LETTER TO LORD IRWIN
                                                                 SATYAGRHA ASHRAM, SABARMATI,

                                                                                                           March 2, 1930
Dear Friend,
I cannot intentionally hurt anything that lives, much less fellow human beings, even though they may do the greatest wrong to me and mine. Whilst, therefore, I hold
the British rule to be a curse, I do not intend harm to a single Englishman or to any legitimate interest he may have in India.

And why do I regard the British rule as a curse?

It has impoverished the dumb millions by a system of progressive exploitation and by a ruinously expensive military and civil administration which the country can never afford.
It has reduced us politically to serfdom.

It is common cause that, however disorganized and, for the time being, insignificant it may be, the party of violence is gaining ground and making itself felt. Its end is the same as mine. But I am convinced that it cannot bring the desired relief to the dumb millions. And the conviction is growing deeper and deeper in me that nothing but unadulterated non-violence can check the organized violence of the British Government. Many think that non-violence is not an active force. My experience, limited though it undoubtedly is, shows that non-violence can be an intensely active force. It is my purpose to set
in motion that force as well against the organized violent force of the British rule as [against] the unorganized violent force of the growing party of violence. To sit still would be to give rein to both the forces above mentioned. Having an unquestioning and immovable faith in the efficacy of non-violence as I know it, it would be sinful on my
part to wait any longer.
But if you cannot see your way to deal with these evils and my letter makes no
appeal to your heart, on the 11th day of this month,1 I shall proceed with such co-workers of the Ashram as I can take, to disregard theprovisions of the salt laws. I regard this tax to be the most iniquitous of all from the poor man’s standpoint. As the independence movement is essentially for the poorest in the land the beginning will
be made with this evil. The wonder is that we have submitted to the cruel monopoly for so long. It is, I know, open to you to frustrate my design by arresting me. I hope that there will be tens of thousands ready, in a disciplined manner, to take up the work after me, and, in the act of disobeying the Salt Act to lay themselves open to the penalties of a law that should never have disfigured the Statute-book.
This letter is not in any way intended as a threat but is a simple and sacred duty peremptory on a civil resister. Therefore I am having it specially delivered by a young English friend who believes in the Indian cause and is a full believer in non-violence and whom Providence seems to have sent to me, as it were, for the very purpose.
I remain,
Your sincere friend,

Gandhiji started the march along with 78 satyagrahis, well trained in strict discipline and adherence to satyagraha and non violence on March 12. Walking around 15-20 kms a day through 4 districts covering scores of villages he reached Dandi and broke the Salt law on April 6, along with millions of Indians through out  the country.
Here is how United Press reporter Webb Miller described the Darsana Salt Work Satyagraha which was broke up by the British Police.

Not one of the marchers even raised an arm to fend off the blows. They went down like ten-pins. From where I stood I heard the sickening whacks of the clubs on unprotected skulls. The waiting crowd of watchers groaned and sucked in their breaths in sympathetic pain at every blow. Those struck down fell sprawling, unconscious or writhing in pain with fractured skulls or broken shoulders. In two or three minutes the ground was quilted with bodies. Great patches of blood widened on their white clothes. The survivors without breaking ranks silently and doggedly marched on until struck down

Maoist violence

Maoists believe Indian State should be overthrown by an armed revolution. They are of the opinion that the exploitation of poor of the Country can only end by a violent revolution. For them each and every person representing the State or the Capitalist class is a legitimate target to kill.Thats why they killed in cold blood 72 jawans of CRPF.

Study in contrast
Maoist believes the end justifies the means by which it is achieved. In contrast Gandhiji believed violence begets violence and an illegitimate way of achieving an end makes the end meaningless. Violence for a good cause makes the cause bad.Non-violence unites while violence divides people.

Is Gandhiji's strategy and beliefs outdated? I do not think so. All over the World it is getting more and more acceptance. You can see such strategies working in anti-war movements and in agitations of environmental groups.

Looking back at the history of the World I am sure that this mindless violence produced by Maoist fundamentalist ideology is bound to fail.

But how many more lives will it take before its inevitable failure?

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Can the Maoists shun violence?

There are many who believe that Maoists are forced to resort to violence against the State.They feel it is a  response to the extreme repression of the Indian state.They say that since the Indian state is always ignoring or violently repressing various people’s movements, the people have no choice but to take to violence.


In a long article in The Outlook depicting her experience of living and traveling with the Maoists, Arundathi Roy shares similar view. She says

But what should I suggest they do? Go to court? Do a dharna at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi? A rally? A relay hunger strike? It sounds ridiculous. The promoters of the New Economic Policy—who find it so easy to say “There Is No Alternative”—should be asked to suggest an alternative Resistance Policy.

Is that true that Maoists are resorting to violence only because the State is extremely repressive and violent and they having no other alternative but to be violent?

The programme of the CPI[Maoist] says:

The immediate aim and programme of the Maoist party is to carry on and complete the already ongoing and advancing New Democratic Revolution in India as a part of the world proletarian revolution by overthrowing the semi-colonial, semi-feudal system under the neo-colonial form of indirect rule, exploitation and control. This revolution will remain directed against imperialism, feudalism and comprador bureaucratic capitalism. This revolution will be carried out and completed through armed agrarian revolutionary war, i.e. protracted people’s war with the armed seizure of power remaining as its central and principal task, encircling the cities from the countryside and thereby finally capturing them. Hence the countryside as well as the PPW (Protracted People’s War) will remain as the “center of gravity” of the party’s work, while urban work will be complimentary to it.

Here you can see that there is no talk of a non-violent alternative to fight against oppression.

The document states further that

Since armed struggle will remain as the highest and main form of struggle and the army as the main form of organization of this revolution, hence it will continue to play a decisive role, whereas the UF[United Front] will be built in the course of armed struggle and for the seizure of power through armed struggle. Mass organizations and mass struggles are necessary and indispensable but their purpose is to serve the war.

Maoists do not believe in the present Indian State and aims to overthrow it.The problems of the Adivasis are used by the Maoists to organise them against the State.Such people's movements are used by Maoists to serve their armed struggle against the State.

 This means Maoists can never shun violence.If they shun violence they cease to be Maoists.

 Can the Indian State defeat the Maoists?

 Yes,but not  by killing all the tribals in Maoist movement,but by genuinely addressing the problems of Adivasis.