Thursday, November 26, 2009

Mine free? No hope yet.

FT: Bush landmines policy stays


“This administration under­took a policy review and we decided that our landmine policy remains in effect,” a state department spokesman said. “We determined that we would not be able to meet our national defence needs, nor our security commitments to our friends and allies, if we signed this convention.”

The Obama administration has also announced that it is attending a review conference in Colombia, known as the Cartagena summit on a mine-free world, as an observer – the first time the US has taken part in such a gathering.....

But campaigners respond that no “self-deactivating” mine is 100 per cent reliable and that such munitions do not discriminate between children and combatants. By refusing to accede to the convention, they say, Washington is encouraging more than 30 other hold-outs to persist in their stance.

Left and Right

Leaders of Iran and Brazil call for UN reform

The Guardian: Brazil and Iran must talk human rights
NYT: In Welcoming Iranian President, Chavez Blasts Israel

Sunday, November 22, 2009


Hello People!
Working on a short video on land grab. More on that later.
Just stumbled on to this:

Monday, November 16, 2009

Chinese dissidents barred from meeting Obama

FT: China moves to quell dissidents

Also check out the press release issued by Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD)

As Obama Arrives in China, Police “Tuck away” Activists for Fear of Contact

Excerpts of the letter that CHRD sent to President Obama prior to his departure for Asia. Read the full letter here. It said Obama must urge the Chinese leaders to:

1. Immediately release those environmentalists and activists, some gravely ill, who have been incarcerated or made to “disappear” for exercising their freedoms of expression and political participation;

2.Stop punishing individuals for exercising their freedom of expression using Article 105 of the Criminal Code;

3.Provide a specific timetable for the ratification of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which it signed in 1998;

4. Amend the Criminal Procedure Law so that it protects the rights of the lawyers as stipulated in the newly-revised Lawyers Law;

5. And take concrete steps towards the abolition of the Re-education through Labor (RTL) system, which has been used to incarcerate activists, dissidents and religious adherents. The government has repeatedly promised to do so at the UN Human Rights Council and during human rights dialogues with the US and the EU.

Obama presses for Suu Kyi's release

Al Jazeera: Obama tells Myanmar to free Suu Kyi
I have blogged before about Suu Kyi's condition here.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The War Within

Dispossessed tribes ready to wage war with the state

Business Standard, New Delhi Pg 1 headline on a Sunday morning.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Cuban dissident blogger beaten up

Image courtesy:

WSJ: Beating Rattles Cuban Bloggers
Excerpts from the story:

Yoani Sánchez, Cuba's most prominent dissident blogger, is a 34 year-old whose poignant vignettes of daily life in Cuba -- and the resulting aggravations, humiliations and suffering -- have proved to be far more effective criticisms of the Castro regime than the bluster and bravado from Cuba's exile community in Miami.

Earlier this year, she won a top journalism prize from Columbia University but was barred by the government from traveling to New York to accept the award.

A decline in tourism revenues from the global recession and damage from several hurricanes last year have prompted the island's government to clamp down even harder on dissent and freedom of speech, according to a recent report by the Inter American Press Association, a watchdog group.

The group said Cuba currently has 26 journalists in jail, and it cited 102 incidents against Cuban journalists in the past year, including beatings, arbitrary arrests and death threats.

Monday, November 9, 2009

This is how close Dalai Lama is to the Tibet border

TAWANG, Arunachal Pradesh

News from Xinhua:
China voices firm opposition to Dalai Lama's visit to China-India border region

Times of India:
It's a big day for us: Dalai Lama

Dalai Lama defends his border visit

China Clean up ACT?

China denies resource raids as it pledges $10bn in loans to Africa

Barney Jopson of the FT reports from Sharm el-Sheikh
November 9 2009

Wen Jiabao, China's premier, has pledged $10bn in new low-cost loans to Africa over the next three years and defended China's engagement against accusations it is "plundering" the continent's oil and minerals....

Friday, November 6, 2009

Dissent By Hunger

A poet from Manipur (India) celebrates nine years of trying to kill herself
The Economist.

IROM CHANU SHARMILA, 37, a poet and aspirant suicide, was this week unable to attend a cultural festival held in her honour in Imphal, capital of India’s north-eastern state of Manipur. She was in hospital, being force-fed lentil soup through a tube inserted into her nose.


On November 2nd 2000 the poet, known as the “Iron Lady”, embarked on a “fast unto death”—a threat respected as an act of protest in India, often used to great effect by Mohandas Gandhi. Yet Ms Sharmila’s case, like the wretched condition of Manipur, the most violent of seven troubled north-eastern states, is a national embarrassment.

Ms Sharmila began her protest in response to the killing of ten Manipuris by paramilitary troops. To end it, she demands the repeal of a draconian emergency law, the Armed Forces Special Power Act (AFSPA), which has allowed the army to detain, and sometimes kill, north-easterners with impunity. In one possible indication of this, 286 of the 361 people killed in Manipur’s conflict this year were officially reckoned to be militants—a remarkably high number. Only 13 belonged to the security forces. Overall, this death toll makes little Manipur, home to 2.5m people and around 30 ethnically based insurgent groups, India’s most war-ravaged state, deadlier even than better-known Kashmir...

Public works never got so exciting

The rural employment wave across India:
Right to work: Seek and thou shall receive!

India’s grand experiment with public works enjoys a moment in the sun

An article in The Economist.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Letter to the Prime Minister of India: Ministry for development?

Image at Treehugger

To the PM, on Maoists
TK Arun

5 Nov 2009, The Economic Times

Dear Dr Manmohan Singh, You have identified the Maoists as India’s single most vital internal security challenge. And you have called for a nuanced approach for tackling the Maoists, given the potential for multidimensional collateral damage of a strategy that relies solely on the force of arms. Senior colleagues within the Congress party, including general secretaries Digvijay Singh and Rahul Gandhi, have articulated similar sentiments. Yet, the government’s operative policy on Maoists would appear to be combat, led by the ministry of home.

I suggest, Sir, that this failure to reflect the nuanced understanding of the problem in the operative strategy stems, to a large part, from the limitations of the government’s administrative arrangement. The security apparatus is one silo within the government, the developmental machinery, another. So even when a problem requires both verticals to work together, the normal rules of business and entrenched administrative inertia make sure that they do not.

You have used the mechanism of groups of ministers, empowered or otherwise, to get ministries to coordinate. Actually, only the ministers coordinate, while in committee. Their respective ministries go on as before, even if with a slightly altered mandate, thanks to an input from the group of ministers.

May I suggest a different strategy when it comes to tackling the Maoists? Create a new ministry of development and put Mr P Chidambaram, who heads the ministry of home, in charge of this ministry as well.

This new ministry is to be conceived quite differently from the present ministries of rural development, tribal development, etc. These latter ministries implement assorted schemes, each in its own narrow vertical. The ministry of development’s job should not be to implement yet another series of schemes, but to ensure that every single scheme and policy of the government has the desired development impact. Thus, it should have the mandate to ensure any policy proposed by the mining, commerce, agriculture, urban development, coal, steel, home, industry, roads, power or whatever ministry aids, rather than hinders, development.

But doesn’t this already happen, when the collective Cabinet clears notes prepared by individual ministries? Well, it clearly does not. The policy on Special Economic Zones did not have a clear-cut attendant policy to convert those who lose land to the new project into stakeholders in what comes up on their alienated land. Similarly, the current practice of allotting mining leases only helps create the likes of Madhu Koda and the Bellary brothers, not development of the people at large. It is entirely conceivable that a minister with perspicacity and perseverance would be able to vet all policy proposals and developmental schemes cleared by the Centre for its contribution to development, and insist on appropriate changes, if required.

A road ministry’s focus is on delivering roads, the power ministry’s on delivering power. For them, development is an ancillary goal, at best. If there is a separate ministry charged with development, its goal would be to pursue development, by modulating all policies of the government to this end. It could relate with state governments as well, on schemes that require central approval or assistance. Such a ministry could also take charge of projects like skill development, which cut across multiple ministries and the federal divide. This is the case for a new ministry of development.

Why choose Mr Chidambaram to head it? He already heads home, and leads the charge against the Maoists from a security point of view. If he also

has the mandate to tackle the development dimension of this challenge, he would modulate his combat strategy appropriately. This is the immediate rationale. But there is a more substantial reason.

Mr Chidambaram routinely dons, after putting on his white shirt and mundu in the morning, an air of patronising superiority. Yet he wins the grudging respect of even those who dislike this dress sense, with his competence, hard work, attention to detail and perseverance. We need precisely such a minister to deliver on development, liaising and negotiating with other ministries and state governments.

All this, of course, begs the question: what is development, what is it that the new ministry should seek to achieve?

Development should be understood as realising the creative potential of all individuals. Admittedly, this simple definition rests on much conceptual complexity. No one has any predetermined creative potential — it constantly expands, depending on the growth of the individual’s cognitive skills and the scale and manner of his interaction with nature and society. Conventionally, this is understood to mean that there should be more investment in education, healthcare, etc. In one of your recent speeches, you said as much. May I suggest, Sir, that such a formulation sees development as something that can and should be distributed by the government, perhaps with the aid of earnest voluntary organisations.

Development, however, cannot be dispensed, any more than democracy can be exported. It is a function and product of politics. People, particularly the deprived, must be mobilised to collectively demand their rights, secure them and thus be empowered as citizens. If mainstream political parties fail to empower them, but only seek to secure their silence, at best, by throwing them some crumbs, they will end up with the Maoists, who seek their empowerment in the overthrow of the present social order.

So the key task is political mobilisation of the deprived to realise their right to life, liberty and dignity. This can be done only by a political party — neither ministry nor an NGO can do this.

So, do I contradict myself, and negate the suggestion for a ministry of development? Not in the least. That ministry would ensure the wherewithal of political mobilisation in every sphere, such as the Forest Dwellers Act of 2008, of which you are justifiably proud. And political parties that appreciate that substantial emancipation can be achieved within the framework of a liberal democracy would use this wherewithal to mobilise the people to demand and secure their rights. An awakened, empowered people would become creative and transform the world.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Statist Media in Iran?

Courtesy: Americans for Limited Government.

WSJ: Revolutionary Guards Extend Reach to Iran's Media
Planned News Agency Fits With Move to Dominate Accounts of Events; 'They Want to Control Public Opinion'

Also, Journal Opinion:
The President Snubs Iran's Democrats
Nuclear negotiations aren't worth this price.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

'What was govt doing for the last 60 years?'

Q&A: Aruna Roy, Magsaysay award winner and activist

Development is the only way to tackle Naxalism, Magsaysay award winner and activist Aruna Roy tells Business Standard.


What do you think about the use of Air Force against Naxalites in Chhattisgarh?
I am totally against it. I feel extremism is a result of failure of development. If the government does not address the issue in terms of development, it won’t be able to solve it. I have a suspicion that the government wants to clear the place for mining. What they do in the name of acting against Naxalism is to remove all opposition. People who are Gandhians are being prosecuted. Why did they put Binayak Sen in jail? He was not an extremist.

What are your views on Naxalites? Are they not opportunists who are depriving people of development for their survival?
I am not against Naxalites. I need to learn more about them. But in tribal areas, the choice for the people is between RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh) and Naxalites. If pushed to the wall, you do drastic things. In Chhattisgarh, how many tribals are making policy? In Jharkhand, the tribal chief minister has been cooped. When the state uses violent methods, it is unjustified. Besides, tell me, what was the government doing for the last 60 years and why did it all of a sudden wake up to Naxalites?

What is your view on terrorism?
The only solution is to make the system work, for which transparency is needed. There is failure of governance. Second, terror should not be pre-defined as a community. Judiciary should play a key role here. Violations of equality should be treated as violations of the Constitution or else there will be balkanisation of the country.

Ukraine Defies IMF Warnings

The IMF's Ukraine mission chief Ceyla Pazarbasioglu, left, chats with Ukraine Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko
Image: Reuters

Wall Street Journal:
Kiev's deficit widens on social spending, IMF loan in jeopardy?
Ukraine Defies IMF Warnings

By JAMES MARSON in Kiev, Ukraine, and ALEXANDER KOLYANDR in London

Ukraine's president defied warnings of the International Monetary Fund and approved an increase in social spending that will balloon the government deficit. The move will likely lead to a suspension of IMF lending to one of Europe's most fragile economies.

In response, ratings agency Standard & Poor's downgraded its outlook for Ukraine, while the IMF president said he is "very worried" by Ukraine's decision, according to Reuters.

Ukraine's collision with the IMF comes amid jockeying among Ukraine politicians before presidential elections in January.