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Next week, we will celebrate yet another independence day. Yet another independence day with fighter planes whirring, tanks roaring, military bands playing and prime minister speaking. We celebrate this independence day with many uncertain dark clouds.

Economy

The second economic survey tabled by Ministry of Finance paints a gloomy picture on the economy and almost neglecting any numbers on employment position in India.

War

After few decades, we are, to put it lightly, in a delicate situation with China. No one knows the end game. All it takes is one man’s anger in Delhi or Beijing or one soldier’s trigger finger to what could not be but called catastrophe.

Divisive forces

What we are witnessing is a propaganda machinery being run over India. Last year I wrote on various methods of propaganda and provided examples to reconcile those methods. It has only grown further.

Surveillance

What we are also seeing is a surveillance state in the making. To crudely translate an old Tamil adage, “In overdose, even the elixir becomes poison.” This touted elixir is Aadhaar. And this has crept up from birth to death, trying to enslave us without our consent.

We cannot much do about economy and war, except to work hard, pay taxes and morally support our valiant soldiers.

But on propaganda and Aadhaar, we, as individuals, as friends, as family, as colleagues, as strangers meeting on social media, we have immense responsibilities. Responsibility to know, responsibility to question, responsibility to agree or disagree, responsibility to keep guard, stay vigilant and thus responsibility to protect our liberty.

On forces dividing us:

One important aspect of liberty is freedom of thought and expression. This expression, invariably will consist of opinions of others which we may never agree. But how do we manage these opinions? There is a long line of tradition in India where very divergent and diverse opinions were accommodated and respected. A very stark case in point. Adi Shankara, in a debate, was challenged in the art of love, by a woman. He was a saint, a celibate, a Brahmachari. But this did happen in our own country. Don’t believe me? Take a look here.

How are differences of opinions handled these days with respect anything that the government does? We can distil it down to “you vs I” theme, or “us vs them” theme.

This ‘us vs them’ theme is identity based. It asks the question ‘are you with us or against us.’ This starts with knowingly false assumptions used to manipulate our innermost identity, here the innermost identity is being a Hindu. You can see the list of propaganda techniques in this post.

This ‘us vs them’ game is called as Hindutva, a political ideology which has to be differentiated from my morning Surya Namaskar, prayer before a meal, festivals, rituals and our temple visits. It can be argued by many that these are one and the same. Don’t trust me. Few sentences will help understand what it is.

“Thus, the seeds of today’s Hindu Jagriti, awakening, were created the very instance that an invader threatened the fabric of Hindu society which was religious tolerance. The vibrancy of Hindu society was noticeable at all times in that despite such barbarism from the Islamic hordes of central Asia and Turkey, Hindus never played with the same rules that Muslims did. The communist and Muslim intelligentsia, led by Nehruvian ideologists who are never short of distorted history, have been unable to show that any Hindu ruler ever matched the cruelty of even a ‘moderate’ Muslim ruler.

It is these characteristics of Hindu society and the Muslim psyche that remain today. Hindus never lost their tolerance and willingness to change. However, Muslims, led by the Islamic clergy and Islamic society’s innate unwillingness to change, did not notice the scars that Hindus felt from the Indian past. It is admirable that Hindus never took advantage of the debt Muslims owed Hindus for their tolerance and non-vengefulness.”

Do you want to know where this is quoted from? Contact me separately.

It cunningly links Mughals of centuries ago with Muslims of today. I am sure each of us have Muslim friends and if you really think that above paragraphs are correct, pick up the phone and read it aloud and say to him or her that you believe in this. Most of us wont. Because, we don’t believe that we must hold our fellow Muslim friends responsible for an act which was committed centuries ago. So here, we take the easy route of placing the crime on some unknown, that is, ‘them.’

Alternatively, how many of our parents worked in government institutions? Do we say that they are corrupt? No. But generalise that ‘government is corrupt.’ This is another example of ‘us vs them.’ We ignore our immediate surrounding and generalise the fault on unknown ‘them.’

This hate is poisonous. It has become so poisonous that we attribute meanings only after we know the speaker or author of a particular opinion. Even in this example, if I say that I have written it, I will be called a Congi, slave and what not. If I say that this was written by my fellow Muslim friend, well, there are stereotypes for him as well, readymade and ready to fire venom. Or if I say that these are the words of disgruntled supporter of current government, there are other stereotypes for them as well. Is this not right? Have we not seen such instances?

So what this ‘us vs them’ identity based on fake whatsapp messages, fake images, fake quotes, fake testimonials, fake inventions have done is, to either use our existing prejudice or try to create that prejudice in first place.

When Amir Khan felt growing intolerance, I opposed him. I still stand by it. We, as general citizens are extremely tolerant. But this ‘us vs them’ division can co-exist with tolerance and just divides us without us knowing it and we play an unsuspecting target in this con game.

This ‘us vs them’ also sees every issue through this prism. If you have ever disagreed on policies, you would have noticed. Thus, this ‘us vs them’ scheme reduces our freedom of expression, because, it makes the dissenter think twice before what she or he wants to speak. That is not the state of liberty which our independence was supposed to mean.

So this independence day, lets not give into this ‘us vs them’ manipulation of clever propagandists. Its in our hands. No one can come into our brain and take a decision or create that prejudice if we do not allow them to.

On Aadhaar:

This was created for a specific purpose. That purpose was to check the leaks which occur in government bureaucracy and target the rightful recipients. And it was supposed to be of choice. How righteous the cause!

In 2017, this righteous cause has become mandatory. To be a citizen of India, you have to have Aadhaar. Now the immediate question that I had in my mind is, what about the tribes in Nicobar Islands? Are we going to mandate Aadhaar? Or are they not Indians? Never mind. The learned counsels of government will come up with some spin.

This unique identity, which is now mandated, was questioned in the supreme court of India. Government went ahead and said citizens do not have rights over their bodies. If we don’t have right over our bodies, then who does? At this point, we have to be very clear.

THE GOVERNMENT IS FOR US. WE ARE NOT FOR GOVERNMENT.

Why would any government go to such an extent in defence of a scheme whose benefits have been disproved time and again? There is no other answer but the foundations of a surveillance state.

An innocent question posed to us is – “what have you got to hide?” The answer to this is – by liberty, I choose to reveal what I want to reveal. That is what freedom is. Don’t confuse this with income and crime which we have to disclose by duty. There is an interesting question before our supreme court now which asks “is privacy a fundamental right?” We don’t have an answer yet. But the government states that it is not.

An example of surveillance state goes back to World War II and its aftermath. The dreaded Nazi spies and post war Soviet spying on citizens in an era of less technology must deter us from going in that direction. But we are assured. Assured that no, its not. Assured that, this is in best hands with no motive. It says, “trust us.”

It is worth remembering John Stuart Mill on this day. He wrote ‘On Liberty,’ which is a must read for any person who wishes to understand what freedom means.

“…if by momentary discouragement, or temporary panic, or a fit of enthusiasm for an individual, they can be induced to lay their liberties at the feet even of a great man, or trust him with powers which enable him to subvert their institutions; in all these cases they are more or less unfit for liberty: and though it may be for their good to have had it even for a short time, they are unlikely long to enjoy it.”

Person that we must infer here is Aadhaar. We are allowing this to subvert all our institutions. We are allowing this to spread its tentacles to all walks of life. We are allowing to surrender our liberty to this master.

By now, most of us have Aadhaar and must have linked it t our bank accounts or PAN. If you haven’t, continue your resistance. If you have, lets us pray that this monster will be slayed by some government in the future, for we must demand it.

I will end by quoting Mill again, for even after many days I could not think of a better sentence to convey.

“There is a limit to the legitimate interference of collective opinion with individual independence: and to find that limit, and maintain it against encroachment, is as indispensable to a good condition of human affairs, as protection against political despotism.”

Happy Independence day!!

Originally published here.

Before I get into deconstructing the coverup, let us get one thing straight. If the government were innocent, taking straightforward action would have been a simple issue. There would be no need for organized trolls, massive fake news deployment on right wing blogs, smear campaigns against a doctor recognized to have saved lives in a nightmare that already took too many. The coverup, in my eyes, is a confession of guilt. Because direct and appropriate action needs to be avoided, it becomes important to manipulate the country into believing another reality.
Running through the various coverups, diversions and scapegoating attempts.

Siddharth nath singh - Uttar Pradesh health minister

No child died due to lack of oxygen supply

Known facts blow this nonsense claim out of the water so much, there is little to dispute. Oxygen supply was stopped. Patients who died were dependent on oxygen. Efforts were made to ventilate them manually, efforts failed, they died. People saw their kids struggle to breathe and die. If this isn't death due to lack of oxygen, one wonders what is.


Why was oxygen supply absent?

7 deaths a day is normal, explain Uttar Pradesh government

But the death toll is more than 7 per day. It is:

August 7: 9 (4 NICU, 2 AES, 3 non-AES)

August 8: 12 (7 NICU, 3 AES, 2 non-AES)

August 9: 9 (6 NICU, 2 AES, 1 non-AES)

August 10: 23 (14 NICU, 3 AES, 6 non-AES)

August 11: 7 (3 NICU, 2 AES, 2 non-AES)

Given that one doesn't expect doctors, administrators, magistrates to be illiterate, one must conclude that this is a deliberate misreporting of facts that the UP govt is doing.

Yogi Adityanth calls deaths a 'despicable incident'

One wonders which deaths Yogi Adityanath is talking about. The ones that didn't happen as a result of oxygen deprivation or the ones that are not out of the ordinary because 7 deaths a day is normal.

The Uttar Pradesh government is denying a problem with the deaths at all.

So, if there are no deaths out of the ordinary, what is Yogi Adityanath calling despicable? The normal happenings in Uttar Pradesh?

One tends to agree that what is coming to light about how things work in UP is ghastly, even if we don't agree about the deaths being routine.

Pushpa Sales, oxygen supplier booked

The hospital did not pay the bills for the oxygen. The supply was cut off after the supplier continued to provide oxygen for months without payment. When they could no longer do it, the government, instead of finding out why they were not paid, is investigating them for stopping supply. What is to investigate in why they stopped supply? Oldest reason in the book - unpaid bills!

Principal of college resigns / sacked

Depending on which version you believe, the principal of the Baba Raghav Das Medical College resigned on the 12th - the day after the tragedy. The government apparently was planning to sack him, but he had already resigned.

Why did he resign or why did the government want to sack him, if there were no death due to lack of oxygen, as claimed by the health minister and the number of deaths was normal?

"No oxygen deprivation."No postmortem that would prove it conclusively either

there is no provision to get postmortem conducted on patients who died of infection. “Hence, we are not conducting autopsy on bodies of the children"
Dr. P K Singh
New Principal of BRD Medical College
"No post-mortem was done on the deceased"
Siddharth nath singh - Uttar Pradesh health minister
Siddharth Nath Singh
Health Minister
"No postmortem is being conducted on the children who died at the hospital. No family member has come forward till now requesting that postmortem be conducted. We have received no orders for autopsy, in case postmortem examinations were conducted, the cause of death would have come as cardio respiratory arrest."
Dr. K K Gupta director general of medical education
K K Gupta
Director General (Medical Education)
“A detailed inquiry is on… There was no shortage of oxygen,”
Anil Kumar
Gorakhpur Division Commissioner
“I have not received any directive to conduct autopsy on the bodies.”
Ravindra Kumar
Chief Medical Officer

Hospital staff kept the information about non-payment from Yogi Adityanath

Um... oops. Pushpa Sales wrote letters directly to the Chief Minister's office. Multiple times. Well in advance. If Yogi Adityanath won't be informed by hospital authorities AND he won't be informed by his own office about his correspondence, perhaps he should resign and make way for a CM at least respected by his own staff.

Adityanath had made mega efforts against encephalitis

Deaths happened after oxygen supply failed. Only 12 out of 60 deaths in 5 days were in the encephalitis ward. If govt can't understand names of wards, then their competence on encephalitis fight too is suspect. God knows what Adityanath fought, if he cannot even recognize the name or lack of it.

Or, it is a deliberate irrelevant diversion to project Adityanath as blameless.

“Anyone found guilty will not be spared,” ~ Adityanath

If this isn't just lip service to appear to be taking the deaths seriously, why were autopsies not ordered to establish the cause of death conclusively? Why was the doctor who saved more children from dying sacked and organized party trolls put to the job of smearing his reputation? Why is there no investigation into the delay in paying Pushpa Sales for the oxygen supply or investigating rumors of demands of kickbacks?

The targeting of Dr. Kafeel Ahmad

The organized BJP fake news and paid tweeting machinery is at work spreading rumors about Dr. Kafeel Ahmad. Identical points made in identical posts across known BJP fake news websites display a desperate and rambling array of accusations against Dr. Kafeel Ahmad.

Clearly, someone with a reason went digging for dirt on him after appreciative reports of his role in the Gorakhpur tragedy emerged. No such compilation predates the incident. All the compilations make several identical accusations. It seems that BJP does not appreciate anyone saving lives in Uttar Pradesh.

Or more likely, BJP does not like a Muslim saving lives, when it is clearly their thug Adityanath's govt that has fucked up big time and resulted in these deaths. Therefore, standard process. Sleaze, slander, carpet bomb false information.

Dr. Kafeel Ahmad stole oxygen cylinders from the hospital

During normal operations, oxygen is supplied to a large central tank and piped through the hospital for providing to patients. A tank is large enough to last the entire hospital for 6 days and costs several lakh rupees. Oxygen cylinders are only the emergency backup, and repeatedly missing or empty cylinders would be noticed. This is like saying someone stole your society's water tank and no one noticed. This is ABSURD.

Dr. Kafeel Ahmad spent a year in jail for raping a woman

The minimum sentence for rape in India is 10 years. It is impossible for a rape convict to be out of jail in a year, unless he spent a year in rape without trial and was set free for lack of a case - which is the police closure on record - of him being falsely accused.

If cases being filed is evidence of guilt, Adityanath has cases of murder and attempt to murder against him. Sack? Yes, please.

Dr. Kafeel Ahmad was responsible for oxygen supply

Not true. Verified by several individuals and news outlets. Besides, bhakts need to decide whether there were no deaths due to lack of oxygen, or whether there were deaths due to lack of oxygen, requiring someone to be sacked for the lack, in which case, the paper trail for investigating lack of payments is useful. Multiple letters to both the hospital as well as the CM show that the matter was raised often by the supplier. So why was he not paid?

Dr. Kafeel Ahmad's ward was the only one with deaths - no adults depending on oxygen died.

False. 18 adults died. This was reported by local newspapers well before the incident became a national outrage.

Dr. Kafeel Ahmad supported Samajwadi Party and was appointed by them. He was a critic of BJP

Irrelevant even if it were true. The political beliefs of Dr. Kafeel Ahmad are irrelevant to the situation and should not be a reason to punish him in a misplaced political vendetta.

Dr. Kafeel Ahmad had an illegal private practice

It is common for doctors in government hospitals to have a private practice - though it is illegal. Government salaries do not pay as well as private practice and enforcing this rule would result in good doctors stopping working at government hospitals. However, in the case of Dr. Kafeel Ahmad, it isn't true, as he was employed by the hospital on an "ad hoc" basis and was not a full employee and thus the rule did not apply to him.

Even if all the allegations against Dr. Kafeel Ahmad were true (and they seem pure fiction so far)

There is no official explanation for why he was sacked. His guilt on other issues does not explain why he is sacked after saving lives when he was employed just fine before. The sacking of Dr. Kafeel Ahmad does not explain why the bills for oxygen were not paid.

Clearly, there is every effort to evade looking at the obstruction of payments to Pushpa Sales that led them to cut off oxygen supply to the hospital.

Combined with multiple allegations of kickbacks, avoidance of autopsies to establish cause of deaths, a CM who had been informed of the dues pretending to be unaware of them, and organized trolling and fake news being employed to deflect attention and invent scapegoats, it seems clear that the holds on payments came from someone high up in Adityanath's government - the person/s is being protected now.

Otherwise, it would have been a simple matter of finding the deaths outrageous, like everyone else and calling for an investigation into the dues owed by the hospital and the deaths to establish the cause. There would be no need to find someone to blame - the people naturally to blame would be known to the masses and they would be behind bars by now.

As I watch the Gorakhpur tragedy unfold, "Nero's Guests", a documentary by P Sainath, comes to my mind. It concludes with Sainath's speech where he shares a piece of ancient history involving Nero, the infamous emperor of Rome.

When Rome burnt and Nero could not control the fire, he decided to throw a party and invite "everybody who was anybody" to deflect attention from the fire. But there was no provision to illuminate the huge garden that was supposed to accommodate the laundry list of invitees. Which is when Nero had an idea.

He summoned the convicts in the Roman jail, particularly the ones about to be hanged or imprisoned for life, and burnt them alive in the periphery of the garden. The fire ensured there was no absence of light, and the party went on without any difficulties.

As horrific as it sounds, Sainath makes an important point. "The problem for me is not Nero," he says in the speech. "What did Nero's guests do? Did they speak out against it?"

The reactions to the Gorakhpur massacre and I use the word massacre with all responsibility, indicate we, as a society, particularly the urban middle class, have become Nero's guests. The government hospital does not pay 60 lakh rupees for kids' oxygen but spends 40 crores on cow ambulances. In the aftermath of what happened, the doctor who spent from his own pocket to save kids is sacked. One or two other people have been suspended, but the babus, and more importantly, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath have shrugged responsibility when the buck directly stops with him.

Yet, social media is flooding with comments normalizing the incident. We are being told how people have died at the hospital in the past, and how Gorakhpur is an ideal town. The doctor who saved kids is sacked and we are told how he is actually an immoral man being accused of crimes in 2009. So when Times Now anchor Navika Kumar asks her guest to not "rake up kids' deaths and divert from real issues" while debating Vande Mataram, she seems to be a mere reflection of Nero's guests who watch her show.

When a man is killed in Dadri, we discuss whether the meat in his fridge was beef. When a man is lynched in Rajasthan, we wonder whether he indeed had a legitimate permit, as if it justifies the lynching if he did not. The way we, in the media, report rural India, and the indifference with which the urban middle class treats the plight of those who are not "one of them", are all examples of normalisation that establish ourselves as Nero's guests. However, If 60 infants dying due to criminal negligence does not disturb us, then nothing will.

The normalization has severely and successfully diluted the value of human life. As George Orwell famously said, "All animals are equal, but some are more equal than the others."

The death toll in the tragedy at BRD Medical college in Gorakhpur has reached 79, but there are no signs of the government focusing its priorities on the well being of citizens. Instead, the government and its obedient hordes on social media continue to seek scapegoats that would let those responsible for governance off the hook - no matter the cost.


What exactly happened?

When BRD Medical college did not pay their supplier of liquid oxygen since November 2016, the bills kept mounting. Pushpa Sales Pvt Ltd kept the supply going on humanitarian grounds for months, while demanding payments for the dues. The college did not pay. Finally, the supplier stopped the supply of oxygen to the hospital, leading to the deaths of large numbers of children and some adults - patients who were dependent on oxygen for survival.

Why were the bills not paid?

The hospital had 3.86 crore in its account on Wednesday. Yet the dues were not paid, putting patients at risk.

Multiple sources have revealed to the media that the payments were held back due to the supplier not paying kickbacks to people in key positions in the government.

What else do we know about the health priorities about UP government?

Well, here is how it is.

Talk of seriously warped priorities.

What action taken?

Well, Yogi Adityanath promised action and was dutifully and unquestioningly reported by a gushing media. Sakshi Maharaj called it a massacre. Clearly, BJP, as always was going to be "not responsible". Enter the mission bakra hunt!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cvdOdI9-EaE

So who are the villains now?

Pushpa Sales

The supplier of oxygen, who provided oxygen to the medical college for months in spite of non-payment of dues and had to stop, because their supplier refused to give them more credit when the hospital wouldn't release funds... well, the government is booking them for holding back supply of life saving oxygen.

Dr. Rajiv Mishra

The principal of BRD medical college has been suspended - why is uncelar, because the UP government insists no one died because of lack of oxygen. The doctor says he anticipated this coming and had resigned. He had allegedly been instructed to hold back payments to Pushpa Sales.

Dr. Kafeel Ahmad

Dr Kafeel Ahmad appears to have been tossed on the heap mostly because he's an attractive target to trolls - likely because he is a Muslim, because otherwise, it is clear that he worked hard and at own expense to save lives of children when oxygen ran out. He still saw 60 die.

And of course, Muslim target locked, we have the usual suspects rewriting reality to coddle their masters. India Samvad and several other BJP mouthpieces put out articles slandering Dr. Kafeel Ahmad with their usual sleaze. Some of the nonsense put out is addressed here.

Apparently Dr. Kafeel Ahmad was caught appearing in medical exams on behalf of someone else, is a rapist, was suspended by Manipal university over criminal charges, verdict upheld by High Court ..... and other random results they could quickly cobble together in order to discredit him. 

Dubious stories and irrelevant to his actions in the emergency, regardless. Even if the stories were true, none of them explain why the oxygen bills were not paid by the hospital. And even if all the stories were true, it doesn't change the fact that he did save lives.

Dr. Kafeel Ahmad has a private practice. 

I dare BJP to enforce that doctors in government hospitals can't have private practice. All doctors in government hospitals have private practice. But wait. BJP would probably happily do it, given their overall goal to collapse and privatize healthcare anyway.

Deaths only happened in Dr. Kafeel Ahmad's ward, when there were also other adults depending on oxygen - who would have been at risk too, if oxygen supply was really cut off - inplying that Dr Kafeel Ahmad was somehow responsible for the deaths and not oxygen deprivation.

Flat out lie - Gorakhpur newsline reports the deaths of 18 adults as well.

The only thing abundantly clear at this point is that the BJP machine cares not a hoot for accountability and will punish others for their own actions and irresponsibility. There is still no explanation for why the hospital did not pay for life essential oxygen on time. Was there a scarcity of funds? Were there funds withheld? Who is to blame for the non-payment and will the heads of people responsible for these dead children AND adults ever face any consequences, or will random people continue to be persecuted and coverups splashed in social media till people tire of expecting accountability from this plague masquerading as a political party on yet another subject?

Apologists for Prime Minister Modi’s Demonetisation policy are now claiming it led to a  big rise in direct tax revenues for Financial Year (FY) 2016-17. See, for instance this from Swarajya: 

Does this stack up?

The obvious logical flaw in this line of reasoning is the well-known ‘Post hoc ergo propter hoc’ fallacy. This is a Latin phrase that means, ‘After this, therefore because of  this’. The logical fallacy lies in the assumption that X caused Y because Y happened some time after X. It is possible that Y happened despite X, not necessarily because of X. Indeed if X had not happened then it is at least conceivable that something even better than Y might have resulted; we’ll never know. But without further analysis the conclusion is always suspect that X directly or indirectly caused Y.

How do we judge the claimed rise in 2016-17 tax revenues? Is it something we might have observed anyway? Regardless of what happened on Nov 8? Luckily for us the tax revenues in each year are part of a time-series data set published by the Government. The full report is here:

Table 1.1 of this report shows the tax revenues for each year since 2000-01. The first few rows of this table are shown here.


I have examined the trend in tax revenues by drawing trend charts. The following charts show the trend in direct tax revenues for Personal tax and for Corporate tax.

Tax Collection 2000-01 to 2016-17

Personal Income Tax

Corporation tax

These charts clearly show that the trend over nearly 2 decades has been one of  steady year-on-year growth in direct tax revenues.

This is of course to be expected. India’s GDP has grown over this period, economic activity has expanded, wages have risen and more people are tax payers - albeit the vast majority of people are too poor to be liable for income tax. In 2016-17 the total number of direct tax assessees (including companies, partnerships, trusts, individual, and 6 other categories) stood at 62.7 million in a country of 1,250 million people.

The key point is this: the growth in tax revenues in 2016-17 is just trend growth; it’s part of the pattern that we saw for the last decade. At least that much growth would almost certainly have happened even if the PM had not declared 86% of the currency to be no more than worthless scraps of paper.

Arguably it  might have been higher if demonetisation had not battered the economy as hard as in fact it did; we’ll never know. But to claim that the rise this past year is one of the benefits of demonetisation is to clutch at straws. It is a deliberate misuse of the official statistics; It is a cynical attempt to hoodwink the public into thinking that the sacrifices they willingly made in the months after Nov 2016 was worth it. The least the Government can do is not  insult their intelligence by claiming benefits on a fallacious and specious use of statistics.