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9

There was a interactive panel discussion in Mumbai WTC on the 29th of January 2015 organized by World Trade Centre (WTC) and All India Association of Industries (AIAI) in collaboration with the Indo-France Chamber of Commerce and Industries (IFCCI). It was to discuss ‘Smart Cities in India: Reality in the Making’.

Dignitaries on the stage included Mr. Sanjay Sethi (IAS) (Additional Metropolitan Commissioner-I, MMRDA), Ms. Laura Prasad (Secretary General, IFCCI), Dr. Laveesh Bhandari (Founder and Chief Economist, Indicus Analytics Pvt. Ltd.), Mr. Vijay Kalantri (President, AIAI and Vice Chairman, MVIRDC WTC), Mr. Shankar Aggarwal (IAS, Secretary, Ministry of Urban Development Government of India), Mr. Dilip Shekdar (Chief Architect, Naya Raipur Development Authority), Mr. Ravi Kant Malhan (Director, Head Business Development:  Smart Cities and Special Projects, Schneider Electric India), Capt. Somesh Batra (Vice Chairman, MVIRDC WTC) and  Mr. Abhishek Lodha (Managing Director, Lodha Group).

A journalist, Shruti Ravindran who had attended it, tweeted a photo of a shocking quote from a brochure 'Smart Cities in India: Reality in the Making' released during this event.

Smart cities that exclude the poor
Smart cities that exclude the poor

 

The quote in the above photo says:

...There are only two ways to keep people out of any space - prices and policing. In other words, the prices will automatically be higher in such cities - the notion that they will be low cost is flawed. Even if possible from a cost provision perspective, they cannot be low cost from a demand supply perspective.

Even with high prices, the conventional laws in India will not enable us to exclude millions of poor Indians from enjoying the privileges of such great infrastructure. Hence the police will need to physically exclude people from such cities, and they will need a different set of laws from those operating in the rest of India for them to be able to do so. Creating special enclaves is the only method of doing so. And therefore GIFT is an SEZ and so will each of these 100 smart cities have to be.

(excerpt from an article by Laveesh Bhandari, Founder and Chief Economist at Indicus Analytics Pvt Ltd)

So let me get this right. The government will be used to empty land to build smart cities in the name of developing the country. It will be called "inclusive development". And the smart cities built on this land will be for the rich - by design. And we are talking of a hundred cities, displacing god knows how many people. The police of the land will be used "on the tax payer's money" (as these hotshots like to call it) to keep the poor out of these cities using laws OTHER THAN INDIAN LAWS.

Am I the only one being reminded of Arundhati Roy's infamous quote that earned her the anger of the oh-so-innocent middle classes? Here it is, if you don't remember. And she said this in 2007.

We have a growing middle class, being reared on a diet of radical consumerism and aggressive greed. Unlike industrializing western countries which had colonies from which to plunder resources and generate slave labour to feed this process, we have to colonize ourselves, our own nether parts. We’ve begun to eat our own limbs. The greed that is being generated (and marketed as a value interchangeable with nationalism) can only be sated by grabbing land, water and resources from the vulnerable. What we’re witnessing is the most successful secessionist struggle ever waged in Independent India. The secession of the middle and upper classes from the rest of the country.

~ Arundhati Roy

This could be considered the impractical fantasy of rich men (albeit very rich men and sponsors of the ruling party behind this government), but the brochure also carries an introductory message from Shankar Aggarwal, IAS, Union Ministry of Urban Development, GOVERNMENT OF INDIA, not to mention him being personally present there and meeting journalists on the sidelines to announce the Framework for 100 smart cities to be ready by February.

Framework for 100 smart cities to be ready by February says Aggarwal - Moneylife
Framework for 100 smart cities to be ready by February says Aggarwal - Moneylife

Here are some relevant excerpts from the brochure including the message from Shankar Aggarwal, the program schedule of the event, including names of speakers, the profile of the author Dr. Laveesh Bhandari, the article itself, and another article on GIFT, which is referenced in this article as a model. Excerpts from Smart Cities in India: Reality in the Making

Given the opaque manner in which this government operates, as well as dramatic undermining of protections of local interests and environment through ordinances, such views should be a cause of alarm for citizens, if the much heralded development is going to actually be displacement on a massive scale, disenfranchisement of local populations and their explicit exclusion from the "growth story" while the rich use the country's power to get land for their shangri-las, use the country's resources "24/7" (can this ever be promised to those who will be displaced to create these "enclaves"?) and use the country's police force to protect what will essentially be elite facilities barred to the common masses through special laws created to protect the elite.

I imagine, the elites will also only be paying for their actual residences and the cost of creating these havens for them will also have to be borne by the country.

Is this development or colonization of India by the rich? The Gujarat model is all set to exploit India as well. All we need are new signboards, "Poor citizens and dogs not allowed"

3

A mind boggling 21,000 MOUs appear to have been signed at the Vibrant Gujarat Summit this year. Considering that this was a three day event and assuming it covered 12 hours a day and assuming people were signing MOUs left, right and center from the word go, it computes to a mind boggling 9.7 MOUs per minute or about one MOU signed per 6 seconds - every minute of the event.

Unless this is a "Narendra Modi rescues 15,000 Gujaratis from Uttarakhand floods" type news, it probably took a whole team of people to even record any MOUs happening accurately, let alone facilitating. Gujarat Government should disclose details of how they enabled such a miracle in the interest of enabling business knowledge in India.

I am a complete dud, so if any reader wants to explain even the basics to me in the comments, I'd be much grateful. Questions particularly plaguing my curiosity are:

  1. What is an MOU and what goes into signing one?
  2. Which are the parties that have to sign/witness it?
  3. How are signed MOUs recorded?
  4. How much time was actually provided for this signing?
  5. What sort of staff arrangements had to be made to even make something like this possible?

Many thanks.

The Great Game blog has an interesting post by Shelley Kasli that caught my eye.

The Kingmakers

But many a king on a first-class throne,

If he wants to call his crown his own,

Must manage somehow to get through

More dirty work than I ever do.

—W.S. GILBERT in The Pirates of Penzance
quoted in David Ogilvy’s memoir

On the day the 2014 Lok Sabha Election results were announced, amidst the media hype and public frenzy while the people took home hope in their hearts and smiles on their faces Mukesh Ambani added almost $1 billion to his wealth while Gautam Adani gained $400 million. However this is not the story of Kings, but the Kingmakers. The story of the nobles of an ancient Celtic clan with close ties to the Queen who as managers of the Raj made their Empire managing opium production in India and later in the scramble for China. Improvising on the psychological warfare techniques developed by the Nazis during World War II and under the direct order from Churchill these band of irregular spies were sent to US to carry out covert propaganda to change US public opinion and drag US to war. After the war these same group had no scruples in applying the psychological warfare methods they had learned on the civilian population in peacetime and a transition was made from active propaganda operations during the war to careers in advertising and public opinion surveys afterwards. Interestingly today India stands on the same crossroads with foreign spies running rampant on Indian soil as was the America in the mid 40s. The divine intervention of the British Intelligence is omnipresent. This is the story of the shadowy world of British Intelligence who managed the Indian Election campaigns of both the BJP and Congress through their Psychological Warfare outfits we now know as PR agencies.

Read more: http://greatgameindia.com/the-kingmakers-baker-street-spies-indian-elections/

David Ogilvy – PsyWar with a Suit

In those days it was the fashion for diplomats to regard Intelligence Officers as unprincipled ruffians. We returned the compliment by regarding the diplomats as ceremonial and gutless.

- DAVID OGILVY, Blood, Brains and Beer

The post looks at the players influencing minds in this election and meanders through history tracing linkages of power and their evolution and ties in with implications for today's India and raises several important questions. What are the agendas at play here? Who profits? At what cost?

The post meticulously ties various threads from the history of intelligence operations and power and references book after book for obscure insights that add in to the picture with quotes that drive the point home.

David Ogilvy - British Intelligence - Baker Street Spies - Indian Elections-GreatGameIndia
David Ogilvy - British Intelligence - Baker Street Spies - Indian Elections-GreatGameIndia

When those tasked with influencing the nation's mind have historic ties with international power brokers, what happens to the nation's interest? Does the influence even remain limited to what the objective of the party was? What implications does this have for the country?

Should foreign PR Firms the handy outfits of Intelligence Agencies be allowed to manage any political party’s election campaigns ?

The question is more serious and not just related to any specific party since through these agencies psychological warfare is employed on unsuspecting citizens country wide who have no clue about any of these. This raises serious national security concerns.

When billions of dollars are invested by these firms in micromanaging our election campaigns due to any particular party’s political, ideological, monetary or other alliance with them, the question that the people of the country should be asking is when and how they would start reaping their profits from the pockets of ordinary citizens.

Report by Shelley Kasli

Nandan Nilekeni, who is contesting from Bangalore, declared assets worth 7,700 crore rupees, making him the richest politician in India - at least officially, on paper. In his interview to NDTV, he described his rags to riches story and described some of his achievements including "My real wealth is however my experience as cofounder of Infosys and as Aadhar Chairman which gave away 60,000 crore identity cards to people of India as promised." [Congress supporters are now saying this number is wrong and he said 60 crore, which creates problems of a different sort. Read on.]

This sounds very wonderful, except as a long term critic of Aadhaar Cards, I wanted to verify.

60 thousand crore is 600000000000.

Now, as per our census, India's population over 7 years of age is 1,051,404,135.

Let us put these two numbers side by side, and you will see what I saw.

600000000000
1051404135

60000,00,00,000
105,14,04,135

Even if every single Indian above age 7 has an Aadhaar card, he has distributed more cards than the population. Not just more, 570 TIMES more.

One can only wonder who got the remaining cards, particularly considering the recent Cobrapost sting about how easy it is to create fake Aadhaar cards.

This is supposed to be an achievement?

Update:

Now people are saying NDTV reported wrong, and he said 60 crore, which makes some sense, as that is the number being used quite frequently (60 crore UID cards, 60 crore saved per year, etc)

So now the numbers look like

60,00,00,000
105,14,04,135

Which, at least looks like a possible number, but now, at an estimated expense of 150,000 crore so far (it was 45,000 crore in 2010) it is looking like we have spent a mind boggling Rs.2,500 on each card "given away"? (If it were 60 thousand crore cards, they'd have cost a very cheap Rs.2.5)

And after all this, what we have is a card anyone can fake (remember the UID card for "coriander" plant?). The data is owned privately and stored on servers in the US, where it will be subject to US laws and could be accessed by the US government (if not already). One only has to wonder what the biometric data will be for people who don't even go in person to get their cards made.

In any case, this ain't looking like something a chap would put as an achievement or learning!

For a reference, the entire health sector was allocated 37,330 crore in the budget - this includes NHM (NRHM + NUHM) - 21,239 crore, AYUSH (Ayurveda, Yoga, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy) - 1069 crore, 4, 727 crore for medical education, training and research, 150 crore  will be provided for ‘The National Programme for the Health Care of Elderly’, Pradhan Mantri Swasthya Suraksha Yojana (PMSSY) (medical colleges) - 1650 crore and more.

And we are saying making ID cards and records for less than 60% of the population costs almost 4 times all this?

In a voice news report at CGNet Swara, social activist Bighnaraj Panda who tells Mahammad Ashlam from Kalahandi Odisha that he went to SP office on 13th December itself to inform him about the abduction of the laborers.He also gave numbers for abductors to the police. On 14th they also went to local police station in Jaipatna with families of abducted labors to file a FIR. No FIR was filed, no action was taken.

The labourers, originally paid an advance to work in Andhra Pradesh after their rice harvest were forcibly abducted and taken to Raipur work in brick kilns in Chattisgarh before the harvest. 10 out of the 12 labourers abducted escaped and returned to their village, while the contractor turned back with the remaining two to recover advances paid. On the way, after heavy drinking and demands that the two captured labourers repay the advances paid to all twelve, the contractor chopped off their hands saying that if they refused to work for him, they couldn't work for anyone. The incident of chopping hands took place at night of 15th December. This was two days after the abduction was brought to the attention of police.

It is possible that something as simple as police calling up the provided numbers to ask about the abudction could have made the labour contractors wary and prevented the severing of the hands of the two labourers.

At the last update, five men have been held and two detained for the crime. Bandhua, a campaign against bonded labour has demanded immediate action against the contractors along with compensation and rehabilitation for the now disabled labourers.

While The Indian Bonded Labour System Abolition Act of 1976 prohibits any service arising out of debt, including forced labour and bonded labour, bonded labour continues to remain common in India. However, with most of the people affected being from the very poor and marginalized castes who are also often migrants, there is little awareness or political will to tackle the issue, while contractors and employers continue to be powerful and politically connected local bigwigs. Thus the act remains mostly on paper. Mines, brick kilns and other labour intensive work with dismal working conditions often engages bonded labour who are often paid too little for the original loan to be recovered.

This story is compounded by a police force notoriously callous about abductions. In fact, a missing person report is rarely taken seriously, as was shockingly displayed in the cases in the immediate aftermath of the December 16 Gang Rape in Delhi, where a five year old gang raped had been reported missing and ignored by the police, while another young woman who later landed up dead was assumed by the police to have run away with someone and her mother was not taken seriously when she reported her daughter missing.

This case, at a bizarre intersection of the callousness of our system is a marker for where we are in terms of evolution as a country for all its citizens. The exploitation of debt to force labourers to work in undesirable conditions, the abduction, torture, the blind eye to complaints of abduction accompanied by identities of abductors and phone numbers, the lack of media attention and the ongoing lack of accuracy in reporting what is basically a non-interesting fringe story for media, the lack of any serious outrage.... all points to us being a country where two men tortured, their hands deliberately severed, in hospital with severe blood loss and fighting for life, their lives - if they recover -  forever blighted by further poverty from even more reduced capacity to earn.... are not important.

Some people are more equal than others. Others are far less equal than others, but of course, we are all equal. On paper. As long as the paper isn't newsprint.

Yep. Here we are. Long way to go before claiming to be civilized.