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08 January 2015

Clash Of Civilization And Bestiality

If the only means you can think of expressing your disagreement with some cartoons — however unsavoury — is murder, you need to be treated on your terms. Andcould we stop that facile ‘all are equal’ apology? Islamist fundamentalism is the greatest force of Evil facing humanity.

I
ndia joined the world yesterday in being stunned at the brutal murder of about a dozen journalists employed with Charlie Hebdo, a satirical weekly published from Paris. ‘We will kill you to express our disagreement with you’ is the clear message of Islamist extremists.
They are an international mafia that studies a target diligently and finally eliminates it at will: from 9/11 to 7/11 to 26/11 and more. Charlie… is a small media house, most of whose employees work out of their homes and meet only once a week: Wednesday. The terrorists did this homework and finished their task with precision, without getting caught by the supposedly superior police of a First World country, even as a shocked French capital poured into the streets with helplessness writ large on the faces to mourn the barbaric end of a bunch of champions of freedom of expression.
The dread of Islamism must be tackled with a combination of international cooperation and sanctions, a strict visa regime, impregnable borders between countries for infiltrators, a stricter enforcement of secularism in local administration of cities—to stop places of worship from turning into hideouts of rioters and mercenaries, —asuperior intelligence network penetrating every terror module and an end to opportunistic diplomacy and military action of NATO countries where they raise and foster rebel forces for myopic economic reasons and then slink away from their monsters leave them sulking when the virtual colonies headed by puppet governments turn unmanageable.
One of the innumerable acts of lampooning Muslims by Charlie Hebdo
As international media beamed the pictures of lamentation, a few statesmen sounded their resolve to fight the menace, and some people invoked Samuel Huntington’s “clash of civilisations” theory. Indian television relegated the news to captions and tickers, playing up the bytes of an idiotic MP called SakshiMaharaj and stoked the anger of some Opposition leaders.
Some apologists of the bygone powers seized the opportunity to further the ‘all religions—or at least religionists—are equal’ credo.And some began reminiscing about NathuramGodse’s assassination of Mahatma Gandhi in the same breath.
Take a few like Godse apart, and this comparison turns odious. Hindus outraged by works of art wouldn’t rush to the ‘creative’ team and butcher them in cold blood in the name of their gods like the mujahideen do in the name of their unitary God and his ultimate Prophet.Hindu hoodlums could vandalise the art house’s office with sticks nevertheless, and then appear at night on television to argue their case. But the difference does not lie merely in the expressions: automatic firearms guaranteed to kill versus bamboo sticks plus iron rods that ensure, at the most, damage to property and some injured victims.
The bigger difference is undeniable. Something must be done to stop extremist Muslims whose actions are so devastating that the fear they instil in hearts worldwide cannot be allayed by platitudes (though undoubtedly true) that most Muslims are moderates. Of course they would be, they are human beings, and the vast majority of human beings want to lead peaceful lives and want to be left in peace.
But, admit this, for it is the truth. The world is today petrified by Islamist terrorism alone; no amount of leeway shown to Hindu fundamentalists can ever lead to a situation where Hindus would be seen forming Hindus in different countries and marauding round the globe shooting and bombing people and places at will in the name of guarding Brahma, Vishnu, Maheshwara or Mahakali.

Six of the Charlie Hebdo journalists and staff members killed in Wednesday's attack are pictured together in this photo, taken in 2000. Circled top from left is Philippe Honore, Georges Wolinski, Bernard Maris and Jean Cabut. Below them on the stairs, from left, is editor Stephane Charbonnier and cartoonist Bernard ‘Tignous’ Verlhac
Photo from
Daily Mail of the UK
As for freedom of expression, when India expressed solidarity with the victims, led by NarendraModi on Twitter, an inevitable question was hurled at the Prime Minister that finally reached the doorsteps of Swarajya as well. The premier was asked whether upholding liberty was part of his broader policy. We were asked whether we could dare to reproduce those cartoons.
There are three parts in the answer. First, we could, provided this nation-state develops to that stage of acceptance of all kinds of commentary that the West has been accustomed to for the past century or that we were once used to in a remote, ancient Bharatavarsha. To reach that stage, we must first ask the questioners—all of whom happened to be Hindu, with a mix of endorsers and critics of the movie PK — whether they would take it in their stride when fashion designers from New York to Paris paint their deities on lingerie, bathroom slippers and toilet seats. This is not a hypothetical question; incidents exactly of this nature have happened in the past, and Hindus were hurt by it.
Second, even if the fringe like the Hindu goons above or those who did not let Deepa Mehta’sWater to be shot in India are not counted, the Indian state is guilty of institutionalising intolerance by being the first country to ban Satanic Verses in the late 1980s and then going on to force Kamal Haasan to delete ‘objectionable’ scenes from his Vishwaroopam. Before we are asked to reproduce cartoons mocking a faith, a thick-skinned India must evolve and be in place.
Third, freedom cannot be absolute. It’s time we brought into this debate over freedom of expression the aspect of freedom of atheism or irreverence. While the individual must be entitled to choose between belief and scepticism, the compulsive proclivity of the atheist to have fun at the expense of the theist betrays a modicum of sadism.
A controversial cartoon in Charlie… for example, had a Muslim-looking character trying to stop bullets with a copy of the Qur’an and then cursing the holy book for failing to do so with a word I wouldn’t use for the book even if granted complete freedom and foolproof security. There was another where Mohammed was shown with a joker’s red nose.
The terrorists move in on the officer as Ahmed Merabet, who is believed to have been a Muslim, lies wounded on the pavement
Photo from
Daily Mail of the UK
As an editor of a magazine or newspaper, I will not offer space to this bunch to spit at will on perfectly harmless beliefs of people. But, as a rationalist, I will create in my paper a dedicated column for atheists who are learned enough and can argue their point lucidly enough to make believers in sky daddies run for cover in the face of their intellectual onslaught.
But that is about what I would do as a person and a professional, and this is my personal opinion about New Age atheists and their constant insults to perfectly civilized people who are neither prolesytizingnor spreading inter-religious hatred, but quietly finding their peace in their faiths.
The world today faces, not “a clash of civilizations”, but a clash between civilization and an uncivilized regressive and deranged force that is powered by a certain interpretation of one particular religion. It is, quite simply, a war between the Potential of Good and the Purity of Evil, and you cannot take Islam out of it, nor can you do a nuanced balancing act—the time for that is over.
If the sword is used to silence a pen, then the one wielding the sword is outside the pale of all positive historical processes that have led humankind to where we are today. He is a rabid beast and should be treated as such.
A character in Albert Camus’ novel The Plague said that because he could understand everyone, he was unable to judge anybody. Graham Greene once wrote that all violence is primarily a breakdown in communication.
After Peshawar and Paris, we can say that they were well-meaning but mistaken philosophers.
There is nothing to understand here, or communicate about, and no need to. One should only judge, and there can be only one just judgement.
If cold-blooded murder is the only way you think you can express your disagreement with a few cartoons, you need to be exterminated. Unless you see the True Light and learn to draw a few cartoons yourself, expressing your point of view.
Edited by Sandipan Deb

05 January 2015

NDA's Intent Of Transforming India

The establishment of NITI Aayog is a clear message that the government is committed to reforms, decentralization and a cooperative federalism that advocates involving states in the Centre’s decision making.

In what can be seen as the greatest policy shift by the new dispensation, the NDA government has begun the year 2015 with scrapping of the Soviet-modelled Planning Commission with NITI Aayog. While “niti” sounds like the Sanskrit-origin word implying “policy” and “ethics”, it’s actually an acronym for National Institution for Transforming India. 
Swarajya was the first media outlet to forecast the change rather than speculate what it would be like: “…the Planning Commission will soon morph into a body that facilitates coordination between the Centre and the states.It will certainly not be a planning organ by another name, and it will not be a typical think-tank as is being speculated in the media,” read our 23 October article on the issue. And that is precisely what the new body has turned out to be. This writer had broken the story on 25 August on Facebook.
This change had been in the offing since the Narendra Modi government assumed office in May last year. Since the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) was voted to power with the expectation of structural changes in governance, the antiquated Planning Commission had to face the axe before everything.
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Besides the accompanying cartoon, the Nehruvian agency was famously ridiculed for getting its ‘plans’ and targets all wrong by legendary cartoonist RK Laxman; he showed a shooter in a firing range missing the bull’s eye repeatedly, with the trainer asking, “Where do you think you are? Planning Commission?”
Even the Congress, which is emotionally attached to the body since it was an essential part of Nehruvian socialism, had some prominent agents of change post-1991, who conceded in private circles that the commission was no more than a shibboleth.
It’s not that the Planning Commission stayed unchanged since it was established on 15 March 1950 following a history of proposals for such a governing body by astrophysicist Meghnad Saha and revolutionary Subhas Chandra Bose in 1938. The British, acceding to the demand, made a planning board that worked between 1944 and 1946.
It was also not that it was against the market; industrialists and economists had independently formulated at least three development plans for it in 1944 to bridge the gap between the ideologies of MK Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru. However, since the body was formed under the aegis of the first prime minister, who was trained in British socialism, two years after the assassination of Gandhi, it lost much of the decentralising measures suggested by the original proposers.
The authority for creation of the Planning Commission was not derived from the Constitution of India or statute; it was an arm of the central Government of India.
The first Five-Year Plan was launched in 1951, with dictations from the Centre as to how the agricultural sector must be managed. Two subsequent Five-Year Plans were formulated before 1965 when there was a break because of the India-Pakistan war. Two successive years of drought, devaluation of the Indian Rupee, a general rise in prices and erosion of resources disrupted the planning process and, after three Annual Plans between 1966 and 1969, the fourth Five-Year Plan was started in 1969.
A Planning Commission Meeting
A meeting of the first Planning Commission
The Eighth Plan could not take off in 1990 due to the fast changing political situation at the Centre, and the years 1990–91 and 1991–92 were treated as Annual Plans. The Eighth Plan was finally launched in 1992 after the initiation of structural adjustment policies. This chequered history showed that central planning was subject vagaries of the Central government.
The first eight Plans were Keynesian at best and Marxist at worst. The emphasis was on a growing public sector with massive investments in basic and heavy industries; since the launch of the Ninth Plan in 1997, the emphasis on the public sector became less pronounced—six years after liberalisation was unleashed by the prime minister of the 1991-96 period, PV Narasimha Rao.
While the Planning Commission went through quite a few operational makeovers over the years — ranging from being a simple planning body to a powerful ‘control commission’ to a fiscal decentralisation instrument to an official think tank — voices had begun to grow louder for an overhaul even before the new government took charge.
Subsequently, a consultation process was launched for suggestions on the structure and role of the new body and there was a strong view that this should play the role of a catalyst and provide a platform to the Centre, states and experts to discuss issues and arrive at the best solutions.
But then, as the Congress spent the last seven months criticising the Modi government of doing nothing but furthering the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government’s policies, the displeasure it is betraying once NITI has replaced the archaism is ironical. The declared intent to empower states has played well as non-NDA chief ministers have also supported the dissolution of Planning Commission.
However, on the day of the announcement, without knowing what the changes would be, socialists Manish Tewari of the Congress, Sitaram Yechury of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), KC Tyagi of the Janata Dal (United) and Yogendra Yadav of the Aam Aadmi Party disapproved of the change, much as they had all been championing the cause of decentralisation for years and decades.
Besides making themselves objects of loathing to Hindus for frowning only when conversion into the Hindu fold occur while turning a blind eye to conversions out of Hinduism, these socialists have begun appearing as a monolith also in their commentaries on economic policies.
This beats electoral reason because their mutual indistinguishability is making it a Modi-versus-the-rest contest for the voters, which spells a clear advantage for the BJP.
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Nevertheless, NITI per se does not have an electoral message. It is only a statement of intent, which is reassuring for the people, who voted for Modi for better governance and not for reasons of Hindutva that the BJP’s  far-right campaigners love to espouse.
For pragmatists among the advocates of free market — for whom Swarajya stands — government cannot disappear from every sphere of work; it needs to minimise its presence, for which decentralisation is an imperative.
For the ‘people like us’ (PLU) — borrowing from a Rajiv Gandhi-era coinage whose PLU were not like us — it is all the more reassuring that economist and professor at Columbia University, Arvind Panagariya has been appointed as the first Vice-Chairman of the NITI Aayog.(We are delighted to see Bibek Debroy,an editorial advisory board member of Swarajya appointed as a full time member of NITI Aayog)
For the bureaucrats, however, it is more than intent; it’s an order. The Yojana Bhawan staff began hectic preparations to welcome new Vice-Chairman of Niti Aayog and other members.
The landmark sign board in front of Yojana Bhawan has been repainted as NITI Aayog and rooms to seat the senior functionaries have been decked up.
But in the office, there is chaos, albeit of the teething variety. First, the name NITI Aayog has mutually conflicting “institution” and “commission” in it. The new board in Hindi translates to the body being a policy commission while the ‘I’ stands for institution.
So, is it an institutionalised commission? That’s hardly a change; the Planning Commission was an institution, too. Or, is it a commissioned institution? So was the Planning Commission!
Jokes apart, an official at the commission says, although all preparations are on to welcome the vice-chairman and members, they would have preferred if there was some clarity on the functions and the role of the new body.
The post of Minister of State for Planning (independent charge) Rao Inderjit Singh needs to be clarified. Officials with the project appraisal and management division in the former commission need to know about their role, too.
Finally, the babus have not signed any cabinet note which has been sent to the Planning Commission for vetting, as the commission does not exist, while the role of NITI Aayog is still not clearly defined.
For the ordinary citizens, there should be relief once these teething problems are overcome. To address their quotidian needs with the state, it will be easier to deal with a smaller local government than an overbearing but remote New Delhi that is difficult to move.
Here, NITI will, instead of moving funds to the states through a tortuous process after the chief minister goes running to New Delhi like a courtier to beg for funds, only advise the local administration how the emerging demand is to be met through meetings between representatives of the body and the region’s government.
Unlike the Nehruvian plan panel, NITI will not have the power to disburse funds to central ministries and state governments with strings attached. These riders were funny to say the least.
They could be best exemplified with instances where a state had enough money in its treasury, sent from the Centre, for drought relief (say) in a year when it was facing a severe drought, but it could not spend it because the fund had arrived with qualification that it could only be spent on flood relief! The Centre had sent this money with the said rider because historically the state used to face floods and not droughts. It was, therefore, a welcome statement from Prime Minister Modi that NITI marked the end of a one-size-fits-all approach of the Union government.
table
The changes
NITI Aayog “aims to foster cooperative federalism through structured support initiatives and mechanisms with the states on a continuous basis, recognizing that strong states make a strong nation.”
The Cabinet resolution released by the government through the Press Information Bureau says, the states will continue to receive support for removing bottlenecks and will be able to approach the new institution for consulting and capacity building. Further, the states will also tailor their plans to suit their needs under more than 40 centrally sponsored schemes.
Instead of the top-down approach of the Planning Commission, the new body will adopt a bottom-up approach, where decisions will be taken at the local level and then endorsed at the Central level. This also reflects the new government’s approach to develop mechanisms to formulate credible plans at the village level and aggregate these progressively at higher levels of Government.
NITI Aayog will also serve as a think tank of the government and provide the Centre and States with relevant strategic and technical advice across the spectrum of key elements of policy.
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Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Chief Ministers and Governors of various States at the retreat at Race Course Road, following the meeting on Planning Commission revamp, in New Delhi on 7 December 2014. Photo: PTI

The article must end with a message to the PLU. The establishment of NITI announces in no uncertain terms that this government is committed to reforms. It does have some status quoists, though. A judicious manner of making it work as per our expectations will, therefore, involve sustaining our pressure on it for decentralisation as well as further liberalisation rather than dismissing the NDA II as a UPA III avatar.

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Surajit Dasgupta treats no individual, organisation or institution as a holy cow.