Category: Rights, liberties and awareness mongering
Issues related with various rights, resistance, justice movements, people’s struggles. Awareness mongering to the hilt. Giving voice to causes that need it, bringing to attention things that may be missed. Countering propaganda, undermining discrimination. This area tries to fix the world, one starfish at a time.
The following is the response by Poorva Joshipura, CEO of PETA India to my article on Jallikattu published yesterday. Obviously PETA India disagrees with those wanting jallikattu to not be banned, but Poorva asserts a similarity between jallikattu and bullfighting, raises questions about injuries to humans and animals and questions the validity of the argument that a ban on jallikattu would harm the survival of indigenous breeds of cattle.
I am the CEO of PETA India and I have read your article essentially defending jallikattu.
Please know that nobody ever said jallikattu is bullfighting nor used arguments against bullfighting for jallikattu—jallikattu is jallikattu, a cruelty on its own (which admittedly has some similarities to bullfighting). Jallikattu is a spectacle in which a mob of grown men taunt, chase and deliberately terrify bulls. These animals become so panicked they slip, fall, run into barriers and traffic, and even jump off cliffs, so desperate are they to escape. They also accidentally run smack straight into people while attempting to flee, causing numerous human injuries and deaths. From 2010 to 2014, media outlets reported that there were some 1,100 human injuries and 17 deaths caused by jallikattu-style events, including the death of a child. The actual number is probably higher since many injuries likely weren’t reported in the news.
Your piece, which claims “[jallikattu] is by no means a fight that endangers the animals” and that “the worst a bull will usually come to is exhaustion and injuries” is false, as bulls not only commonly break their bones, but some bulls like some humans also lose their lives. In any case, causing unnecessary suffering and injuries to bulls is also rightly against the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PCA) Act 1960. Your point that “I don’t think even PETA will dispute this” is also, therefore, false. It would be nice for you to contact PETA rather than to assume anything and write what you think PETA would say.
On the similarities between jallikattu and bullfighting—since you raised the point—there are many. You say weapons are used in bullfights—well guess what, they are also used during jallikattu events. During jallikattu, in the holding area, participants stab and jab bulls with sickles, spears, knives and sticks in order to force them to run toward the mob of men (which goes against their desire, which is to flee in the opposite direction). In bullfighting, the bulls are often deliberately disoriented. For jallikattu, bulls may be force-fed alcohol for the same purpose. Jallikattu participants also cause bulls intense pain by yanking their nose ropes, and jallikattu participants also punch, jump on and drag bulls to the ground and twist and bite their tails.
You also claim the bulls used for jallikattu are “aggressive by nature and prone to attack”. Are you sure you’re not talking about the jallikattu players? The bulls run helter-skelter not because they are aggressive, but because they are scared. They are so scared they need to be coerced to participate through weapons and the cruel methods as described above.
In fact, a teacher in Mexico conducted an experiment to prove it is not the bulls, but the humans, who are aggressive. The teacher had the students stand in a bullfighting arena where a bull was let loose and matadors used red flags as they do during bullfights. As you can see in the video, the bull just wants to find a way out, and is working on doing so, without hurting anyone:
The video shows bulls will not attack if not provoked.
So desperate have jallikattu supporters become to be allowed to taunt bulls, they have come up with all sorts of ridiculous arguments, such as that jallikattu is somehow a native breed conservation scheme. Ha! Nothing can be further from the truth. The prevalence of various breeds of cattle used by humans in India is almost entirely determined by the choices of the country’s dairy industry. This is because humans manipulate domesticated breeds to suit their own purposes, such as increased milk production. The industry was determining which types of cow were bred in India long before the Supreme Court confirmed a ban on jallikattu in 2014. In other words, where there is an interest in choosing native breeds over those who are foreign or cross-bred, the influence has to be put on the dairy industry, and that is happening elsewhere. And of course the ban on the use of bulls in performances is just that—it does not prevent anyone from keeping cattle for other purposes should they choose.
You have concluded your piece by mentioning that other animals suffer—but the existence of one type of suffering cannot justify another. If it did, setting animal rights aside, even human rights would never progress. You, as a woman, or me as a woman, would likely never have been educated or have the opportunities we have today if people thought this way.
Thank you very much for including the video shared with you by Sachin at the end, but your inclusion of it will not undo the damage your piece may otherwise do to bulls who need all of the support they get. And by the way, those videos were taken at a time when jallikattu was conducted under established rules and regulations. Pro-jallikattu advocates already made the arguments to the Supreme Court that the spectacle can once again be conducted under such rules, but the court has acknowledged that causing bulls fear and forcing them to run this way is not only the infliction of unnecessary suffering, which is against Indian law, but also incredibly hard on this species of animal in particular. To understand more about jallikattu, please read the attached Supreme Court order.
By the way, it’s not only jallikattu which is banned under Indian law but also dogfighting, cockfighting, bull racing, bullfighting, the use of certain species of animals in performances like circuses and film and more and the bans apply India-wide, not only in Tamil Nadu. That’s because just as it would be wrong to get kicks off of the expense of abusing a woman or a child, it is wrong to get kicks off of the abuse of animals just because they are vulnerable and unlike humans, cannot speak up for themselves.
And for anyone who really wants to show their strength, I invite them to join PETA India. It takes much more strength to stand up for what’s right, than to be part of a mob taunting an animal who has not chosen to be there.
I do wish you would not glorify cruelty to animals, and quite frankly I wish you would take your piece down or modify it. It’s the animals who are the victims here, and the animals desperately need us on their side. Anyway, you have my direct email address now. Please do feel free to touch base with me in the future.
I will respond to Poorva Joshipura, PETA India separately later without detracting from it in any way here. My hope is to find a middle ground that does justice to both animals and man. I welcome your views as well. A dialogue of this nature can only enrich our collective awareness and thoughtfulness with regard to issues that impact lives, regardless of conclusion.
I have refrained from commenting on jallikattu for a long time, mainly because I don't have any real experience or concrete insight on the subject (yes, that does prevent me from making opinions known). However, after several debates, reading up, arguments and a lot of thinking, I can definitely say that a middle way needs to be found. A ban is not an answer and animal rights must be upheld to the best of our capacity (which can be considerable if we make an effort).
I think it is quite harmful to import PETA arguments against bullfighting and slap them onto Jallikattu for a handy halo of standards for animals. While I still am not expert enough to provide a "solution" that I can robustly defend without doubt, here is my thinking on several aspects of the issue.
What is jallikattu?
Jallikattu is a part of the celebrations of Pongal in Tamil Nadu, where youth of a village engage in a bull taming match, where a bull trained to buck them off is sent into the arena and the objective is to hang on to the bull by the rump, while the bull tries to buck them off. There are no weapons or rope involved and only bare hands may be used to hold on to the bull. Injuries to contestants are more likely (and prevalent in reality) than to bulls. If the bull succeeds in bucking them off, it wins, or the youth to hang on to the end wins.Like many other rites of passage seen in tribal societies worldwide, it is a test of the man's strength and skill in going barehanded against a bull. It is also a process of selecting the best bull for breeding. The event has been criticized due objections about cruelty to the bulls.
What is bullfighting?
For the purposes of this discussion, bullfighting would be what is practiced in Spain. Another cultural tradition. However, in this, the bull is repeatedly "hooked" at the hump with lances and finally when weakened with loss of blood and pain and defeated, it is killed with a sword. The bullfight invariably ends with the death of the bull. In rare instances, a bull that fights exceptionally well may be spared the final strike (but not the injuries). There is no competition involved. It is a traditional "art form" slaughter. The bull's struggle to evade a certain death is entertainment. There is no option for the bull to escape the injuries or death, usually.
How is jallikattu different from bullfighting?
In case the difference is still not evident, jallikattu pits the strength of a 60 kilo man against a 400+ kilo bull and the bull has far more power and horns. It is by no means a fight that endangers the animals - though of course accidents are possible in everything involving reflexes. The worst a bull will usually come to is exhaustion and injuries. I don't think even PETA will dispute this. In contrast, in bullfighting, the animal is pitted against people with weapons, some of them mounted on horses. When bulls disemboweled more horses than bulls getting killed, they started protecting the horses. There is no question of allowing a bull to win, merely making a spectacle of its death. Whatever our stands on what constitutes animal rights, the factual dissimilarities are glaring enough that arguments for or against cannot be copy-pasted between the two as currently appears to be happening.
Beyond this, I am looking specifically at jallikattu rather than bringing bullfighting into it. What considerations are there? What lives and livelihoods are involved?
The jallikattu bull
The bulls used in jallikattu are primarily from thekangayam breed of cattle. They are aggressive by nature and prone to attack. They are further trained for the sport, it is true, but these bulls are not preferred for work with far more docile breeds being easily available. They are, however good for breeding because of generations of stock selected for strength and reflexes. It is very common in rural societies for the males of herd animals to be castrated (horses, bulls, bullocks... even goats if there are more than one male!). The reason for this is that herd behavior dictates that males fight among themselves for dominance. This is natural behavior. Leaving the best of each generation with the temple as "public property" of sorts for all breeding needs of the village solves issues related to access or individuals maintaining their own breeding males (who will fight and do damage if they encounter each other). The jallikattu serves to identify the strongest stock for this purpose.
The ecology and economy of jallikattu
Where there is a feat of strength, you have a crowd of men to watch. It is easy for testosterone to dominate the narrative where the only thing visible about jallikattu is the fight or perhaps, due to hot debates on the subject, the question of breeding stock. But there is more to that. There are lives, livelihoods and the survival of an entire indigenous species tied in closely with the sport. Small farmers like P. Muthukarupan of Sivaganga, Tamil Nadu breed bulls for jallikattu. Their cattle will lose value. Jallikattu is an important area where indigenous cattle of India continue to be supported and preferred.
In a country where successive government policies have endangered indigenous cattle breeds, the sport not only provides robust and preferred survival to a few, it generates public awareness and interest in their well being and qualities. Two decades ago, P. Sainath's tragicomic epic "Everybody Loves a Good Drought" already described vanishing indigenous breeds as an established problem. The first section of the book "Still crazy after all these years - A brief introduction to the Indian absurd" sets the tone for a book that is relentless in portrayal of the gloriously hilarious and tragic mismatch between government policies and people's realities. The first story "Very few specimens - but a lot of bull" described the haphazard processes of introduction of "superior breeds of cattle" in Odisha that wiped out the famed Khairar bull in the Komna region.
This is a situation that has repeated all over the country in the name of increased milk production. In 2015, he reported the efforts to reverse such damage in Kerala with the dawning awareness that many Indian indigenous breeds are at threat of extinction. But many other pressures are in play. The holy cow is a big deal in India. There is increasing resistance to cow slaughter rendering non-milk-producing cattle a liability. This further reduces the demand for indigenous species, as their milk production is lower than the imported and hybrid breeds. Ironically, the indigenous cattle actually give much better returns in comparison witht he expense and effort that goes into maintaining them, vis-a-vis the more exotic breeds.
So far, jallikattu has protected the native breeds that are engaged in the activities from going the same way as the rest of the indigenous breeds. The jallikattu ban threatens to change that. But it isn't that simple either. The bulls bred for jallikattu are naturally aggressive, and most cow shelters don't want them - they wren't exactly bred to meekly accept marginal care and be no trouble! They can be aggressive and hostile and a lot of trouble to care for. With the restrictions on cattle slaughter, there won't be much help from those quarters either. There will be no real reason left for the survival of some prize breeds from India.
Of course, the question of survival of indigenous breeds of cattle is larger than jallikattu. I am merely noting that this will add another breed to the mix.
What constitutes animal abuse and where is the line?
Man and animals have coexisted for a long time. Man has harnessed and often exploted animals for daily needs. From eating chicken that are grown more like a vegetable than a bird to using police dogs for risky work like bomb detection or protection. Animals are leading less than optimal lives and facing danger, injury or death to enable our lives all the time. Horses have often been injured beyond recovery at the very young ages they participate in horse races. Bullock carts, ploughs, saddles have caused sores on livestock since time immemorial. Reluctant animals have been flogged to work, patient horses have stood amid exploding firecrackers in marriage processions. Not to mention the national assault on the hearing of dogs every Diwali. Sheepdogs work alongside their masters come snow or sunshine. Cows, buffaloes, goats get their teats pulled with varying degrees of gentleness and efficiency twice a day. The garbage of our lives overflows to kill countless animals, while our "progress" destroys their ecosystems. I am not trying to justify anything here. I am trying to create a larger picture of an interconnected system, where many species of animals often live in harmony with man. Often not even found in nature at all. Witness the silkworm.
Witness the story of "Shaktiman", the police horse who turned out to be a mare who broke her leg while at work on an aggressive protest. I knew that horse was dead, only a matter of time the minute I saw the hind leg broken. It is unlikely that the veternarians caring for Shaktiman didn't know it. A horse bears most of the weight of its body on its hind legs. The horse's hoof also has a spongy pad inside (not getting into medical technicalities) that help pumps blood back up to the heart when it walks, so it is also important for blood circulation in the body. A horse does not burp. Walking helps speed digestion, so trapped gasses escape as farts (yep, stinky). A horse with three legs can perhaps hobble briefly if the injured leg is a foreleg, because the hindlegs easily take up most of the weight. A horse with a missing hindleg cannot walk. And a horse that doesn't walk is a matter of waiting for the compromised digestion and circulation to fail, because there is no way the forelegs can compensate for the missing power of a hindleg. There will be terrible back pain from that enormous weight now being supported only on one side of the spine. The kindest "treatment" for her was a mercy killing. Yet she was subjected to a long drawn and painful death going through a political circus of journalists and prosthetics and what not till the inevitable happened. In the line of duty. Not just the injury, but the manner of death.
The need to bring in this kind of perspective is because a lot of people doing these debates have actually never come close to livestock. They have no idea of the realities of their needs, the threats they face or even their power. While the idea of an adult man hanging on to a bull feels remarkably threatening, the only power of a body most people know is human. How powerful is a bull?
That is two people trying to wrestle down a bull at once. Very alarming. Two aggressive men? We are practically conditioned to think of this as unfair. But wait a minute. The bull has all four feet in the air and the two men, in fact, appear to be pulled up. What would the weight of the people have to be if two of them hung on you and you had to jump off the ground? That is what the weight of people is like to a bull. And you don't have to believe me. Please do a google image search for jallikattu to see if you spot pics that even remotely look like an overpowered bull. There are several of boys about to be gored, though.
Does wrestling with a 60 kilo unarmed man cause a 400 kilo bull any significant harm? I don't know personally. From my experience with horses, I can say even a 200 kilo filly cannot be overpowered without at least a couple of people, rope and serious technique. That is why the Spanish bullfights use weapons and that is why without weapons, the goal in jallikattu cannot exceed "hanging on". And trust me, hanging on is going to do little more than irritate a bull that can pull a few hundred kilos easy. That is my thinking.
But there are other serious issues. For example, injuries to tails, stories of bulls being fed liquor or sedatives to make them more aggressive. Man is a pretty cruel animal and a man in a crowd eager for a spectacle... Here is a good documentary about the cruelty to bulls to get them agitated. Please note, that this is a collection of recorded cruelty as opposed to a documentary on the standard practice. Many of these practices need to go. (The link to this film was kindly provided by Sachin Bangera, who works with PETA India. Thank you, Sachin.)
Frankly, I don't think the liquor is going to harm a bull any more than it would harm a person. People who do attend the fights say that it is glucose water for a burst of engergy and not alcohol at all. Rubbing irritants, injuring them and more will harm. Consulting with veterinarians on safety is important. Establishing an arena and disallowing unofficial street chasing is important. I think a lot of good could come out of creating a set of rules that must be followed, failing which the animal or youth could be banned from the proceedings. We already have laws against cruelty to animals for that. We do not need a ban on jallikattu to prevent cruelty. This would be more useful than putting everyone out of work. Competition and peer pressure would ensure better practices or loss of face and overall improve safety standards, like in any other dangerous sport. Substances that cannot be fed, blood tests in the event of doubt (or as a matter of course), protective clothing for participants, disqualification on holding tail, etc. Whatever. Seniors of the field must be consulted.
Which brings us to the bigger risk.
Convention on Biological Diversity
India is a signatory to the Convention on Biological Diversity, a global miltilateral treaty that obliges us to "develop national strategies for the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity". While I have no legal understanding and no doubt it could be debated up and down the street, it does seem to my limited understanding that a ban on jallikattu that jeopardizes the future of the indigenous species used in it, violates the spirit of the agreement. And how serious is the risk? Very. From over a hundred indigenous cattle breeds in India, we have less than 40 left and those too are under threatas resistance to cattle slaughter increases and in turn increases the liability that cattle threaten to be. This makes people reluctant to own cattle altogether as well as prefer higher yielding cattle for their investment. Any move that reduces the utility of male cattle will add to the threat of extinction faced by our indigenous breeds.
Injuries and deaths of youths who participate in jallikattu.
These are actually more common than injuries to bulls. My views on this are twofold. The first is that best practices and preventative measures must be established where possible. The second is that like all sports with threat of life, the choice eventually must rest on the participant. If countless adventure sports are not banned, then jallikattu must not be either, on account of safety of participants.
This last, I am quite certain of. The rest needs debate. But more importantly, it needs debate that includes people who participate in the sport, instead of the same five talking heads representing "people like us" having an opinion on everything. People like us are conditioned to fear whatever looks darkskinned and sweaty and dirty and male and loud. However, our fears cannot dictate the practices of other people in another place in a shared country.
This article keeps getting updated as I add any important information brough to my notice. If you are interested in the subject, do keep checking back.
The Deputy Municipal Commissioner's remarked on 5th January, 2016, "Validity of issue of occupation certificate dated on 18.4.2015 is doubtful". If any flat-owners take possession and come to stay in their flats, they are in for a rude shock.When they start having baths and flushing toilets in sufficient numbers, their sewage will overflow.
See level difference in two blue circles in this drainage plan
Near the building, the drainage is 102.926 metres above mean sea level. Further down the line, the level is 105.862 metres – three metres higher, i.e. up the hill. The explanation given by K Raheja's CEO, M D Chande, is that "adequate slope is available between the last chamber in the building and the manhole on Municipal road to which the line is connected is confirmed by emptying water tanker in the last chamber in the presence of municipal staff." However, Mr Chande steadfastly refuses to back his claims with any figures i.e. metres above sea level, degree of slope, etc. Home buyers should remember that a slope of one foot per ten feet of length is needed for sewage sludge to flow; otherwise silting, stagnationand overflow are bound to happen.
Mr Chande claims that MCGM's Assistant Engineer - Maintenance gave NOC dated 20th November 2015 for the uphill drainage line without requiring the builder to submit any plans or diagrams. "Why seek NOC from Maintenance department? Why not Building Proposal department?" we asked Mr Chande. His reply was that after giving OC, Building Proposal has no further jurisdiction. So he was forced to approach Maintenance Department. But MCGM disregarded the Maintenance Department NOC and issued instructions to prosecute Palm Grove Beach Hotels for "unauthorized lying of sewer pipeline and drainage work". Read MCGM's Designated Officer's sanctionto prosecute. DMC's remarks
MCGM's Deputy Municipal Commissioner wrote an office memo in January 2016, titled "Full Occupation Certificate issued... without completing all necessary works in the building". The DMC wrote: "It is reported that Building Proposal Department have given full Occupation Certificate to Building No. 6 on 18.4.2015... It is seen that now developer has started the work of laying drainage line. Designated Officer R/Central Ward had issued stop work notice on 9.12.2015... This clearly shows that before issue of occupation certificate, the drainage work was not completed." See the screenshot below.
The Assistant Police Inspector's statement prior to FIR mentions the mukadam Ramesh Kishan More, "Manager" Mr Chande and supervisor Virendra Dube. Read the statement: http://bit.ly/KRaheja4
As always, even while filing an FIR, the authorities catch unimportant minions and let the bosses go free. So, who were the persons named in the FIR? Not the directors of Palm Grove Beach Hotels and note even theproject's architect. At first, FIR was registered against Mr Chande and Mr Virendra Dube, a site supervisor working on contract basis. Here's the screenshot. Later, the FIR was further diluted by removal of Mr Chande's name with white ink, and its replacement with Mr Dube's name, evidently because they represented to MCGM that Mr Chande, CEO, is "not concerned in this matter". So Mr Dube's name is mentioned twice in the same sentence. See the screenshot below:
So the blame for this multi-crore rupee fraud is being pinned only on a site supervisor who has zero discretionary powers and only follows orders. One is reminded of Justice S J Kathawalla's recent reprimand to EOW in a case concerning a builder... someone drags Palm Grove before Justice Kathawalla!
On an internet where a woman with opinions attracts a flock of men advising her on the opinions she should have, women who refuse to listen often become targets of those who decry them as feminists. And sometimes end up applying the label wrongly. As in my case. I am not a feminist. I think feminism is too focused on men, too focused on the face off with power than results, and has tepid goals.
I believe that every person on the planet should have the freedom to pursue his or her goals without interference as long as they don't harm anyone. Women face far more interference in the pursuit of their goals than men do. Often in the form of artificially imposed limits on what they should or shouldn't do, or preemptive demoralization about what they won't be able to do. Also I am a woman. So I take particular interest that women find ways over, under around or through unfair blocks to their pursuit of their choices.
Unlike feminism, I'm not bothered about men with regard to women's rights. In a country like India, where rights of everyone are trampled to some or other degree, wanting equal rights as men would practically amount to committing to limit yourself. If I'm fighting unjust limitations, why in the world would I commit to fighting them only to the degree men are able to? Besides, who died and made men the gold standard anyway? Society today is structured to suit men. Getting an equal stake in it will still not make it suit women unless women go ahead and create what fits their needs. And they are capable and they are doing it. And when blocked, they deserve the support to get past those blocks. Asking a male dominated society or government to grant women rights is totally not my game. I don't acknowledge the ownership of the male gender over rights of the female gender to grant or otherwise.
I don't care for the constant face offs with patriarchy that feminism gets into. Sure, they are necessary sometimes. But most times, it is just giving too much importance to what should be undermined, not persuaded. I prefer to get women past blocks by hook or crook and leaving misogyny to deal with it. In a magnanimous mood, I may even offer sympathy for their loss of power over women and provide some tips on surviving in a changing world. I prefer sneaky ways that avoid confrontations and spend the energy on results for women than teaching reluctant men lessons they don't want to learn.
I also find that feminism focuses on very few and specific problems women face - which usually aren't the biggest in normal pursuit of self actualization. While fighting injustice is important, the excessive focus often borders on surreal and can be very counter productive for women. And a lot of guerilla tactics women use to succeed in day to day life in real life, which I heartily endorse because they get results, would go against the ethics of feminism. Particularly under conditions of extreme repression. For example, compromising with patriarchy and wearing a 4 foot ghunghat, but using the "virtue" goodwill and negotiating the right to hold an indepeendent bank account - an area far more important that "tradition" doesn't have much "guidelines" for.
To give the bottom line, I'm interested in knowing what is the priority for the woman in question and using every trick, clean or dirty to help her achieve it, before moving to next priority. Picking battles. Sneaking in goals instead of face offs against a far more powerful and dangerous entity.
Feminism today works on TV. The ground reality in India is vastly different. A girl who falls for the propaganda to believe she has the right to wear what she wants WILL end up catering to the male gaze in the name of her "right", often sacrificing hard authority for acceptance and approval. Because what is "fashionable" caters to the male gaze. In the process, if her boobs get taken more seriously than her marksheet or if a rapist who is fully wrong ends up wrecking her life, it doesn't really matter who is wrong, because she will foot the bill regardless. Where are the voices explaining what women who wield power know from hard experience? That like you can dress to convey authority and professionalism, you can also dress to convey sexual permissiveness - which is what a lot of fashion does? Where are all the feminists who insist "I never ask for it" explaining how they dress strategically to present themselves advantageously in situations? Even to the point of conveying aloofness to imply authority? Merely stating the extremes of what is allowed is not empowerment. Knowledge is power.Having a competent strategy for situations that may put women at a disadvantage is power. Yep, you can totally flaunt your body if you want. Here is how and when to do it, so you get the results you want, instead of having to dodge gropers or having your brother arrested for your murder. THAT is empowerment.
We have a lot of theory - which is good. But there is little tying it to hard practical life experiences. Most of the conversations are in the stratosphere in a country where a woman can tell her friend "last night was fantastic. He totally raped me" - implying vigorous sex and not a rape at all. Where are the initial conversations that set definitions and ground rules on consent before the esoteric stuff on what the slightest rape is?
So no, I'm not a feminist. I'm a whatever worksist. Including falling in with patriarchy to mitigate risks for the more important stuff that must not fail. My idea of winning strategies is those that succeed before people wanting to block them even realize the move was made. And if they do realize, I'll choose my attacks, not meet them on their turf. The goal is success, the blocks are a waste of time and to fully be avoided as far as possible.
If you think women should know their place, I'm not a feminist, playing by the rules of a male dominated society. I'm much, much worse.
It isn't just in India, that people are being forced to put money into banks. Banks worldwide are in trouble. Banks worldwide are needing bailouts. Demonetisation of notes is being considered as well as put into action in country after country - Europe (plan to not make 500 Euros post 2018), Venezuela (got reversed after protests from people) and now Pakistan (plan to demonetise Rs.5000 notes) and Australia (may abolish $100 note), though none of them have been as extreme as the abrupt discontinuation of 86% of the cash in the country, as India did. Governments are in difficult positions. If banks collapse, chaos will result. If they bail out banks, it is not sustainable. And worldwide, government and banks seem to have hit on the bright idea of using the people to get money into banks. Or rather, use the money of customers to continue with their mismanaged methods that have got them to this point. It wouldn't work, normally. One whiff of banks using the customer's money would have people withdrawing their money from banks. Unless - they couldn't withdraw, because there was no real way to do it.
The idea is simple. Go cashless - or as close to cashless as possible. With people unable to withdraw money, their money will remain in the banking system, even while they transact and it moves from account to account. Banks would have most of the money of the whole country to tap into. And no matter what happened, no matter how mismanaged, no matter how close to collapse, there would be no way for people in the country to prevent banks from looting them. Eventually you progress to what is called negative interest rates, where you pay banks for keeping money in them.
What could possibly go wrong?
Please note, I am not an economist. But it doesn't take rocket science to figure out that mishandled anything can only be fixed by handling it right. If banks are in a crisis, demonetisation may fill them flush with cash, but it cannot fix the problem. It will only give banks the freedom to make even bigger, catastrophic mistakes with money that isn't even theirs. Of course the government gets the side effect of unprecedented surveillance and control over lives of citizens. Soon, being harrassed by tax officials or being framed in cases would be the least of worries for dissenters. With very little effort, the government would have the power to cut off your access to all life essentials - or at least make access very difficult as yourself - your own money in your banks, access to cooking gas, your phone numbers... and it goes downhill from there. Whatever you have attached to this monolith.
Here are some very possible scenarios the current debate on demonetisation does not cover adequately:
Shrinking of the economy
Economic migrants are returning to their places of origin by the hordes. Jobs are being lost in entire sectors. Tourism has as good as crashed without money to spend freely. Most tourism in India happens away from the city in small towns and remote places where internet connectivity can be iffy. No matter the propaganda on TV, very few will (or indeed are) risking travel without actual hard cash to back up any cashless plans. A friend in the adventure tourism industry reports of hotels running empty with Christmas coming up, even when they are giving rooms at off season rates. They actually made a tidy profit, because a large chunk of a trip's expense is hotel rooms, which they got for way less than what they budgeted for. So he should be thrilled, right? um... Nope. That one trip is the only business he has in sight at the moment. Usually, they don't have time to breathe in this season. Automobile manufacturers have stopped or cut down production drastically. Local markets everywhere are shrinking. Reduced number of sellers seeing some sales in essential goods creates an illusion of normalcy, but it is an illusion, because the number of sellers have reduced to the point where the few left can try to survive on half of what they used to earn.
Agriculture has been hit unevenly. Those who got their produce sold and new crops planted before demonetisation are relatively unaffected, but most farmers are facing severe crisis with an entire year's worth of profits wrecked. The season that was just over was good. Good rain leading to good harvests. Except demonetisation resulted in their crops selling at the rates of the dirt they grew in. Devastated farmers have dumped tomatoes on roads because the prices they get wouldn't even cover taking them anywhere to sell. As reports of farmers unable to buy seed created outrage, an oblivious government did the one thing it was doing rapidly - poked a few more holes in their grand demonetisation to temporarily allow farmers to buy seeds from government outlets using the old demonetised notes. The government still appears to be oblivious, because the biggest cost of sowing crops is not the seed, but the labour and related expenses that go into it. To add insult to injury, in several places (notably in Uttar Pradesh), the government shops didn't accept the old notes anyway, because the banks wouldn't accept the notes from them - under the directions of the government.
Small industries - garment manufacturers, beedi manufacturers, etc - are rapidly shutting down or drastically cutting down workers, leaving thousands out of work. The pundits of the "market" appear to think that once cash is back (and note, they aren't even talking cashless at this point), things will get to normal. I admit I don't have their knowledge of economics. But I have the experience of living in countless small towns, villages and remote places on shoestring budgets (or credit) and I can assure you, there is no such thing as a jobs bonanza. The jobs being lost as a tsunami had trickled into existence over decades. Banks may be ready and willing, indeed eager to give cheap loans, but other than big companies and their audacious attitudes, I cannot imagine people coming out of a money crisis even thinking of risking loans before their depleted savings are shored again and loans taken to survive are repaid. Because for these people, the consequences of not repaying loans are not write-offs.
To be blunt, even before demonetisation, we weren't really adding much jobs. If the loss of jobs can be reversed, it still isn't an impressive pace. And I don't think it will reverse with the ease it was broken. It will have to recover from this trauma. Less jobs and less incomes mean less taxes after this one time bonanza and more NPAs. So the government and banks may end up losing income while they gain access to use a lot more money of depositors. That way lies bad news, in my view.
The overall situation of desperation puts India at risk of unrest and lawlessness. We already see increased violence at banks. That is the most obvious. People want money, banks don't have money, anger happens, bankers are overtired, something blows on occasion, more frequently as time passes and the pressure does not relent. The government appears to be oblivious to this, as the usual propaganda channels are recklessly blaming banks for black market trading of cash, telling people via television that there is plenty of money and so on. Bankers have died of stress at work. There has been a suicide as well. This is bad news waiting to happen unless the government wakes up fast. Which it does not seem inclined to do, given that it is still trying to prevent a "cut" of demonetised money from being deposited at all and their absurd rules and roll backs and new rules to try and make it happen are further stressing banks and depositors. But still, this is the most obvious.
Situations of mass desperation are ripe for creating hostility and generating violence with rumors and incitement. With elections coming up in several states, this is a very real risk. Given that the ruling party seems to consistently profit from elections held after riots, I don't know whether they see this as a bug or a feature.
The banks are also vulnerable to threats from terrorists or other enemies of the country. Attacks on the banking system at this point have the potential of bringing the entire country to a complete standstill. And they don't even have to involve theft of funds. Even simple DoS attacks preventing cashless transactions from succeeding would create considerable disruption. It is unclear whether the government has even prepared for such an eventuality.
Money being funnelled out of citizens and into banks and foreign services
When you spend Rs.100 as cash, and the next person spends Rs. 100 as cash and so on, the Rs. 100 remains Rs. 100. If you swipe a card and incur a 2% charge, With every transaction, the Rs.100 bleeds money to service providers and there is a continuous loss of value that can be recovered from it. Rs. 100 becomes Rs. 98, which becomes Rs. 96 and so on (yes, I know I should be getting into decimals and more accurate percentages. Too lazy). This is a tremendous bonanza for banks and other service providers. It doesn't get any more free money than this. For them, not you. Keep servers running, completely automated transactions keep dumping money at you. Is it any surprise that there is a rash of providers applying to become payment banks? It is likely that rates would be lowered. And why not, if they are able to get a cut on literally every single time anyone transacts for any reason - doesn't even have to be business - say someone giving their child pocket money? But the money with people will keep shrinking like this.
Worse, we will be bleeding money out of the country with every use of payment systems owned fully or partially by foreign companies. The government may well promote fully Indian solutions (not in a hurry, Paytm is 40% Chinese and the government is promoting it the most right now). But even with Indian solutions promoted, there will be considerable use of companies like Visa and Mastercard by those who need compatibility outside India - online purchases, travel... I am no economic expert, but I cannot imagine this to be a good thing - for foreign companies to profit from massive amounts of routine transactions in India. Would probably have serious implications for the trade deficit or something.
Collapse of banks
Here I say with even more stress that I am not an economist. But I don't see how this would not happen. Even with withdrawal of cash prevented, the flow of funds from one bank to another cannot be prevented without completely ending all pretense at an economy. Sooner or later, banks with accounts of mostly spenders and small businesses will start collapsing, because money from those accounts will be used to pay those with accounts in bigger banks. Smaller businesses would be more vulnerable for collapse and NPAs given to them will disrupt matters further. Now here is the irony in this. The banking crisis is largely of banks lending to big corporations. They are the ones most likely to cannibalize smaller banks with far less NPAs. Saraswat Bank for example apparently has a pretty healthy 2.6% of NPAs. If this happens (and I hope it doesn't - as a result of failure to go cashless), it would be like punishing banks for not serving problem customers.
Where does this end?
What this whole circus achieves is cosmetic covering up of the problem. Preventing the money of citizens from being withdrawn to prevent collapse of banks cannot be a functional solution to anything. It is a violation of citizen rights. It is an exploitation of their money. It does nothing to prevent banks from taking their mismanagement further into a loss making zone, confident that the customers money cannot escape. What would a point be where anyone says "enough"? What comes next? Any other asset citizens can use to escape the banks? Gold? Silver? Diamonds? Real Estate? How many of our rightful and honestly earned possessions will be regimented for this forced rescue of banks? What point is enough? And why is it not "enough" right now instead of pulling this horrendous attack by a government on the country at the behest of businesses?
Delayed Ekta Parksville: Builder offers full refund plus 9% interest
Mumbai, 9th December 2016: Vineet Malik, a flat-buyer in Ekta Parksville aggrieved by the interminable delay in project completion and occupation certificate, received a pleasant surprise a couple of days ago. Ekta Parksville Homes Pvt Ltd sent him a letter that agreed to cancel the deal and refund the entire amount paid by him – Rs 25.24 lakhs – and additionally, interest of 9%. The total amount that Ekta World offered to pay is Rs 34.57 lakhs.
This letter was received in the wake of patient exchange of correspondence and meetings by Vineet Malik with CMD Ashok Mohanani, plus mainstream media and social media coverage (especially our blog) and also my and Sulaiman Bhimani's meeting and negotiation with the builder's men on Vineet Malik's behalf.
Ekta World's letter dated 3rd December 2016 proposed interest payment of Rs 9.32 lakhs to Vineet Malik.
At first, this seemed like an extremely generous offer, and any aggrieved buyer should be thrilled by this success! But let us examine the issue a bit more closely. After a delay of more than three years (and counting) in delivering the agreed flat in the Virar project, Ekta World is, "as a goodwill gesture" agreeing to pay back the paid amount plus 9% interest. This rate of interest is no more than what he would have had to pay for a project loan.
On the other hand, what is the penalty and interest that the buyer would have to pay Ekta World if he had slipped up in paying up his installments on time? Read this excerpt from the one-sided Registered Agreement.
The agreement states Ekta World can terminate the contract after giving the helpless buyer only seven days notice, if he slipped up in paying even one installment! Not only that, he would further forfeit 20% of the total consideration i.e. Rs 5.2 lakhs. Read this excerpt from the agreement.
Further, in case the builder chose not to terminate the contract unilaterally, the interest payable by the buyer for the delayed payment would be 24%. Read this excerpt.
So, 24% interest from buyer, 9% interest from builder. Does that sound fair? Vineet Malik doesn't think so.
Therefore, this feisty investor is turning down Ekta World's generous offer of interest of Rs 9.32 lakhs for five years. He will continue fighting for his just and equitable dues i.e. 24% interest on the refunded amount.