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Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted from his personal account, a request asking people to vote about the impact of demonetisation on his app. The link provided leads to his personal website page for downloading the app.

narendra-modi-survey

The profile of the app on the google store however describes it as the "Official app of Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi" (screenshot kindly provided by Shamim Chowdhury)

official-app-pm-modi

The survey in question was an extremely poorly designed one, with a biased sample of smartphone users who are likelier than the rest of the country to be able to conduct cashless transactions and thus have been least impacted by demonetisation. Additionally, the userbase of this application is majorly fans of Modi and framing of questions that does not cover views of dissent - that the demonetisation has proved harmful to people or that it was a bad idea. The results of the survey in question display an overwhelming support for demonetisation.

A pliant media does not appear to be asking enough questions about manipulated data being used as a cover up about impact of such a drastic action that is leading to increased loss of life, livelihoods and economic well being by the day.

However an unverified RTI response indicates that this is not an official app developed for the Prime Minister of India as its profile claims.

modi-app-rti-response

The application profile itself shows the owner as Narendra Modi (and not Government of India - as is the case in the other official applications) and the developer information is:

Developer

This is a blatant attempt to manipulate the minds of Indian citizens into believing that their distress is isolated and that the vast majority of Indians actually are exceedingly pleased with the demonetisation. A perception management exercise that would discourage dissent through misinforming the masses who would believe it to be a properly conducted survey representative of the Indian population at large.

Additionally, the quality of the app is questionable. We have, in the past found vulnerabilities in the app that revealed private information about users installing it and had a very difficult time reporting them and getting them fixed with no clear developer or maintainer information provided that responds to vulnerability reports.

The misleading description of the application must be corrected. News media must disclose that the results of the survey represent a very specific profile of users who are likely to be less than 3% of the population of the country.

It is even more shameful that the Prime Minister of the country, after initiating an exercise invalidating most of its currency had skipped off to Japan where he joked about the unfolding plight of Indians, then he has been addressing public rallies and televised addresses to the nation on a routine basis. However he has not seen fit to address his responsibility as the elected leader of the country by being present in the Parliament to be accountable for the increasingly apparent adverse effects of his allegedly well planned action threatening lives, economy and the well being of citizens nationwide.

The Prime Minister does his office great dishonor.

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The Narendra Modi government has allowed 21 new varieties of GMO crops for field trials in India. This decision was made based on the recommendations of the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC). This is the new GEAC. The old GEAC had the first item listed under "Main functions" on its page as "To permit the use of GMOs and products thereof for commercial applications." This one has "approval of activities involving large-scale use of hazardous living microorganisms and recombinants..." and they are making decisions that will impact our food, here. This is rather like the world's nuclear "watchdog" being created to promote nuclear power.

It is rather strange that a body implies evaluation, but is actually created to proliferate. This GEAC rejected 1 application out of 28 it received. In a world where more and more countries are banning GM crops, India naturally is fertile grounds for yet another reject of the West, where opposition to genetically modified food is increasing. And of course, it helps that if anything can be centralized and made money out of, Indias political cartels will have takers.

In a country where farmers quit farming as a full time profession at a rate that amounts to 2000 less farmers each day over a decade and over a quarter of the country is below an insanely low poverty line, replacing seeds collected from harvests to seed next years crops with expensive genetically modified varieties that need to be purchased each year alone is an economic nightmare, even if GM crops were safe, which I'm going to show below that they are not. It is no coincidence that there are very few suicides among rice and wheat farmers in comparison with cotton farmers whose lives have been devastated by BtCotton.

First, raising some quality concerns. GM crops are not reversible. They introduce new traits into the ecology of the fields where millions of lifeforms live in a symbiosis. The impact of changed traits of crops on other life forms including essential microorganisms in the soil to beneficial insects and contamination of adjacent fields or wild plants is impossible to determine when there are no long term tests of any sort including direct impact on humans. The assumption that it is safe is naive at best and unleashes irreversible changes which cannot be erased with an "oops. Sorry, we thought..." in the future if uncontrolled hybrids emerge.

Additionally, when GM seeds like these - that are resistant to specific poisons are grown in a region, the adaptations of pests to survive result in pests of the region becoming more and more resistant to pesticides and requiring greater applications of chemicals to control crops (including on the GM crops). This has happened in India. In Modi's own Gujarat. India approved Bt Cotton in 2002. In 2010, it failed pest tests in Gujarat. By 2013, the five year decline in cotton production was being blamed on everything from lack of innovation to climate change by GM apologists in media. Anything but GMO. By 2014, Modi who was CM in Gujarat when above failure happened is Prime Minister and opening more crops like wheat, rice and maize for GM field trials.

And guess what Monsanto did? It blamed the farmers for not following the "fine print" like planting refuge areas. A refuge area is basically a strip of ordinary cotton planted around the main crop of BtCotton. Guess why? Because when pests susceptible to the Bt gene die, the ones that survive are those that are resistant to it. So the idea is that they will breed with the pests from the normal cotton and thus lose some of their resistance. And if this doesn't happen (and tough to imagine how that would work effectively given that species breed to become stronger and survive and most of the field is Bt allowing most pests to find their Bt resistant dates on hand, without going to the other crops), it is apparently the farmer's fault. In other words, GM is not responsible...

Of course, that isn't what they had said when promoting BtCotton.

It [traditional methods of farming] has been a complete failure, because you have to modify infrastructure, you have to re-educate them as to how to modify their farming practices themselves. But with biotech, the technology is in a seed. All you have to do is give them the seed.

Because of course the guy with the powerpoint presentation understands agriculture better than the guy who doesn't even understand English and is too dumb to read instructions.

While there is little evidence of safety on various issues, the evidence that GM crops are not safe is mounting.

About a year and a half ago, a farmer in Oregon, USA found some wheat growing in an empty field. He tried to kill it with a herbicide. IT DIDN'T die. Astonished, the farmer sent the wheat to the Oregon state University for testing and it was found that it was genetically modified wheat containing Monsanto's a Roundup resistant CP4/maize EPSPS gene. The USDA confirms this. When this happened, there was no GM wheat approved for use anywhere in the world. Field trials had ended in 2005 on the wheat that was not expected to be viable for more than 2 years. Do the math.

Chief Technology Officer at Monsanto, Robb Fraley tried damage control "It seems likely to be a random, isolated occurrence more consistent with the accidental or purposeful mixing of a small amount of seed during the planting, harvesting or during the fallow cycle in an individual field." However, that doesn't solve the problem that wheat had turned into what basically amounted to a weed. Japan, South Korea and Taiwan postponed wheat imports from the region to avoid the contamination.

This basically shows that GMO food crops are not a choice as advertized. Seeds propagate, and the best intentioned organic farmer may still end up with GM contaminants.

Speaking of GM maize, in Hesse, Germany, many cows in a slaughterhouse died when they were fed Syngenta’s genetically engineered maize cow food. The remaining cattle were slaughtered on the decision of the authorities to... you guessed it... prevent spread of contamination. Syngenta withdrew the "protein" (not one of the better associations with this word) after being charged for covering up livestock deaths including those on the farm of a tenacious farmer who participated in trials and his cattle developed diseases and five cattle died. Syngenta paid him forty thousand euros basically as hush up money and other cover ups, including in tests. In India, maize is not cattle feed, but consumed by humans for the most part. Remember your "makki roti and sarson saag"? Now Modi sarkar has allowed field trials on GM maize in India.

A research paper published by Dr. Judy Carman last year showed marked increase in abdominal inflammation and on an average a 25% heavier uterus among female pigs fed GM feed. In 2009, American Academy Of Environmental Medicine called for Immediate Moratorium on Genetically Modified Foods stating a whole list of health risks related with GM food.

Citing several animal studies, the AAEM concludes "there is more than a casual association between GM foods and adverse health effects" and that "GM foods pose a serious health risk in the areas of toxicology, allergy and immune function, reproductive health, and metabolic, physiologic and genetic health."

I could go on listing studies that have clearly shown the danger, but then what is my voice in the face of an all party (including BJP MPs) Parliamentary Standing Committee that overcame attempts of the state government to prevent them interviewing farmers and recommended against GM in its report?

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This article stating that Ved Pratap Vaidik was participating in the TrackII dialogue representing RSS and Modi (Ved Pratap Vaidik met Hafiz Saeed in same trip, confirming my suspicions about his interview) was apparently originally published in Manorama but isn't accessible anymore. Only copy seems to be in Kashmir Watch, which some people couldn't access. Duplicating it here for the sake of record.

Money matters

By Kallol Bhattacherjee

Focus on trade likely to be the defining feature of Modi's foreign policy

As Prime Minister Narendra Modi touched down in Bhutan on June 15, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was hosting a special Indian guest and his companions in Islamabad, who had come for a Track II dialogue. While the Prime Minister's Office is tight-lipped about editor and columnist Ved Pratap Vaidik's visit to Islamabad, he is believed to have gone to Pakistan as the representative of the RSS, tasked with dispelling misunderstandings about the Sangh Parivar and its south Asian agenda.

Vaidik had travelled to Lahore on his own to meet Sharif in May last year after the Pakistani leader won the elections. In return, Sharif, reportedly, rewarded him with rare access and contacts, which he used extensively during a trip to Pakistan early this year to convince its leaders that Pakistan can do business with India under Modi.

Najam Rafique of the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad, which is hosting the Track II dialogue, told THE WEEK that Vaidik represented not just the RSS, but also Modi. “Vaidik is visiting us as an emissary of the Indian prime minister. On June 23, he is addressing an in-house meeting at ISSI. The agenda is how to revive the Pakistan-India dialogue process and what issues are to be taken up. The Indian side is resisting to discuss Kashmir,” he said. Sources in Islamabad said the Modi government's focus was on trade, especially getting the non-discriminatory trade agreement ratified by Pakistan. Rafique, however, said it might not be easy and would require some arm-twisting by India. “The Pakistani side is insisting that Kashmir should be on the table during the Track II dialogue. But, there is a widespread understanding that trade has to come first,” he said.

Given the sensitivities involved, not all details are on public domain, but Union Minister Arun Jaitley's comment about a possible dialogue with separatists in Kashmir has added to the sentiment that the Modi government will manage south Asia unconventionally, with a surprise cast of characters, if necessary. Darakhshan Andrabi, leader of the Jammu and Kashmir Socialist Democratic Party, who is lobbying Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh for creating an alternative political platform in Kashmiri politics, said the Track II dialogue with Pakistan was aimed at attempting an enabling condition for going ahead with other aspects of life, like trade and development.

Former foreign secretary Shyam Saran said the Modi government's emphasis on trade with Pakistan, the rest of south Asia and the major world powers could well be the defining feature of Indian foreign policy under Modi. “Allowing Pakistani banks in India and the State Bank of India to operate in Pakistan and granting non-discriminatory market access to India by Pakistan will add to India's growth economy status. Much of our diplomatic stalling of the last five years happened because the world, after celebrating our economic growth for some time, suddenly started perceiving us as a low-potential economy hobbled by a weak political structure. India's diplomacy will change dramatically if Modi can create an impression by his initial deals in south Asia and Japan that India will prioritise trade over other differences, whether big or small,” he said.

These priorities will be reflected in External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj's foreign trips as well. Swaraj, fresh from her tour to Bhutan, accompanying Modi, is expected to leave for a meeting with Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on June 26, carrying forward the Look East dynamic of Modi's foreign policy. Already, the Bhutan visit of Modi is being interpreted as a message to China not to snatch away India's partners in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation.

Saran said the September session of the UN General Assembly, which Modi was likely to attend, would give his team another major opportunity in perfecting its trade diplomacy. In Washington, DC, the United States India Political Action Committee, the organisation that facilitated the pre-election US visit of Rajnath Singh and National Security Adviser Ajit Doval, is doing unofficial groundwork for Modi's visit. “We are excited about the defence IT sector as a new area, as India plans new investment zones in defence production,” said Sanjay Puri of USINPAC.

An immediate challenge for Modi will be in breaking ice with Italy, which is taking advantage of the football season by selling T-shirts with the names of the Italian marines charged for killing two Indian fishermen off the Kerala coast. “The European Parliament will be headed by Italy from September and there is a possibility that tough Italy-India ties might hurt India-EU ties,” said a European ambassador.

The Modi-Swaraj-Doval team has begun with an intense plan of action. But, given the uncertainties in the world of diplomacy, it may also need some luck to succeed.

The gambit

Modi's tenure has begun with a bang:

* Neighbouring heads of state at the swearing-in ceremony
* First foreign visit to Bhutan, emphasising its significance
* Back-channel talks on with Pakistan
* Hosted Chinese foreign minister and Russian deputy PM
* Talks scheduled with Bangladesh PM
* Interactions being worked on with leaders of the US and Japan
* Renewed focus on trade diplomacy

-Source: The Week, India-
Print Version

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There is some debate on whether Hindi should be used officially as a government language, that is meeting resistance from anti-Hindi quarters who see it as marginalizing the non-Hindi population of India. On the other hand, there are those who think that English marginalizes most people of India, since effective communicators in English are a minuscule part of the population. Both views have merit and the government will certainly need to communicate in one or more languages, none of which will be acceptable to the entire population, given India's regional and economic diversity.

On a related note, it is rather distressing to see that there is little focus on the development of the regional languages of India. Today, quality education is increasingly available solely in English. Students who study in regional languages are forced to adapt to English to pursue higher studies and employment.

Whether government communication happens in Hindi isn't as important to the larger picture, as the development of education in regional languages. Most of the time, the citizens of India are rarely paying attention to official channels of communication by the government, and their needs of understanding government communication are adequately met by media in every language of their choice.

However, day to day opportunities for improving conditions are another story altogether.

One evening, around the campfire at the Indian Homeschooling Conference, a homeschooling parent, who is a foreigner married to an Indian described property disputes they were having with villagers where they had built their home. They were on the side of the right, and the court ruled in their favor, but after the entire case being heard in Marathi, the judge pronounced the judgement in English. "I wanted to scream," she said. "Speak in Marathi, so that this crowd of twenty people understand what exactly is being said! Tell them that we have not broken laws and are harming no one, so that the threat of hostility to our family ends!"

This is one among many ways in which how a country operating in a language most people don't understand clearly leaves behind citizens while it chases the ideal existence.

Today, we speak of India as a wannabe world power. We speak of our economy and market and democracy and more, yet our standards of living compare unfavorably with some of the worst developed third world countries. We have a large population that is a burden to progress instead of asset, because most of the time, people don't really know what is "officially" going on, though everyone is a master of "everyone knows", bribes to get stuff done, and plain old jugaad.

While the processes of the country operate in a language most people don't understand, access to them will remain limited to the few who speak the language (or actively find other ways of interfacing). While access to knowledge remains restricted to languages other than the mother tongue of citizens, the instinctive absorption of information, trivia and a hundred other forms of knowledge that come from exposure beyond training in an alien language will remain elusive.

It isn't just languages, but languages are gateways to culture. As traditions die out, and large scale displacement accompanies development, is it not important to sit up and take note of the hundreds of Indian dialects already vanished and prevent more from going the same route? With disappearing languages are disappearing histories, disappearing bodies of knowledge. Will a focus on revival of languages aid access to indigenous knowledge that has evolved in the circumstances it will be applied in? It cannot be possible that a continuous civilization spanning thousands of years brought only religious knowledge to the world that is worthy of keeping.

[Inserted update] Harini Calamur points out in her edit in DNA: The Eligibility of Language:

The 2013 survey of Ethnologue, a website that catalogues the languages of the world, declared that there were 7,016 languages and dialects. In the case of India, Ethnologue has this entry “The number of individual languages listed for India is 461. Of these, 447 are living and 14 are extinct. Of the living languages, 63 are institutional, 130 are developing, 187 are vigorous, 54 are in trouble, and 13 are dying.” 

India seems to have got into a rut of seeing its citizens as a liability. Yet, the density of the population itself proclaims that India is a place where life can and does thrive. How is it possible that centuries of practices that allowed life to thrive are seen as so unimportant as to not merit efforts to keep alive and evolve further? How is it that our focus of language and learning is so externalized, that we are desperately applying solutions that evolved in another place to use us to build the empires of others and ignoring that which made India fertile and prosperous enough to be an attraction through the centuries?

If we look at developed countries today, they all operate in languages citizens know. Be it English speaking countries or France, Germany, China, Japan... They have their traditions, they have their unique practices and indigenous knowledge. They have entire sections of the internet buzzing with active users, advanced knowledge translated effortlessly because their languages were considered important enough to make knowledge available in. Citizens do not need interpreters to seek knowledge for themselves. Compare the French or Spanish versions of Wikipedia with Hindi or Marathi. Compare the quantity and quality of education in each language. See regional WordPress users timidly using minimal installs, while Indian software coders write fancy themes and plugins in English alone.

But open content volunteers are still making an effort to extend the knowledge to more and more people, while governments remain content to operate in English. It is intellectual inequality that appears to train some people for jobs, and others for joblessness. Where are the excellent educators in regional languages? Where are the efforts to raise the intellectual potential in regional languages? What would happen if there were ministries for languages at the state and center tasked with ensuring flow of information to all citizens in languages they understand?

And not just regional languages, but languages of different abilities as well! Where has Doordarshan's news for the deaf gone? Why are there no braille newspaper versions sponsored by government funds if necessary? Why can't newspapers be forced to supply braille editions - subscription only, if necessary - and news channels forced to broadcast at least news highlights, if not more in sign language?

Access to knowledge grows people. Access to knowledge in languages people understand grows more people.

Imagine a country with the size of India and the size of its population able to seek and grow knowledge in the language they are at ease with. Wouldn't our intellectual capital grow? Wouldn't more people engage with development more effortlessly? What would happen if agricultural colleges provided translations of important knowledge in the mother tongue of farmers? If economic theories were available in every citizen's mother tongue? Forget all that, we don't even have laws accessible in regional languages easily. Laws citizens are expected to obey - without having access to read them to know what they say. How would lawlessness decrease, if the word of the law never reached the ears of the common man in a language he understands?

In my view, more important than nitpicking about what language the government uses, it is important that excellent and advanced education be made available in regional languages. It is important that the government takes an interest in world knowledge being made available to Indians in regional languages by forming various task forces that translate it. Teams contributing translations to public sites like Wikipedia, special knowledge banks of important works in other languages and more.

Language isn't merely a symbol of unity or supremacy, it is the breathing thread that weaves citizens together. Important weaves must be woven with threads that connect people.

So, the real question isn't whether the government should tweet and update Facebook in English, Hindi or both, the real question is why official government documents are not available in ALL the regional languages of India.

A shocking report by Joseph Trento in the National Security News Service outlines the actions of the US in allowing Japan access to some of its most secret nuclear weapons facility to transfer tens of billions of dollars worth nuclear research to Japan in the 80s breaking several nuclear non-proliferation treaties intended to prevent exactly such transfers.

While the US had been aware of Japan's nuclear programme since the 1960s, this development has allowed Japan to amass 70 tons of weapons grade plutonium. To get an idea of how much that is? It is more than the sum of the capacity of China, India and Pakistan together.

The report is definitely worth a read and the documents provided testify to the authenticity of information, however, it is important to realize that Japan's reprocessing of fuel or getting the tech for it from US is not exactly a secret.

More posts to follow.

The original report may be found here. It is accompanied by documents that back up its facts referenced. However, a word of caution. The interpretation of the report may be alarmist.

NOTE:

Another thing to note is that while the report seems to say that the US gave Japan billions of dollars of research, it conflates plutonium reprocessing with giving Japan n-weapons information, a term usually used to refer to weapon design information. This report makes it clear as well that this only means having plutonium to fuel the bombs, but there is no indication of any actual nuclear weapons systems. The report should mainly be seen as the process of transfer of information in violation of non-proliferation pacts rather than fears of a bomb.