Skip to content

1

As I write this post, Indian Digital rights activists are watching in horror as "ethical hacker" Ankit Fadia has been declared the brand ambassador of Digital India. As Twitter goes nuts trying to show how big a "blunder" this is, perhaps it is time to realize that it is not a blunder. It is a deliberate stupidification of India with deliberate installations of mirrors of Modi's will rather than independent intellectuals.

Deliberate incompetence is the hallmark of appointments by Modi sarkar and they happen too often to be considered mistakes. From Smriti Irani, who faked her own education credentials handling National Education to Ankit Fadia, a self proclaimed ethical hacker no professional respects is only the tip of the iceberg that had started showing up right from Modi's election campaign.

Kirron Kher, contesting from Chandigarh in the Lok Sabha Elections had candidly admitted in an interview to the Indian Express, "I am not a politician. I do not see myself as politician. I see myself as somebody who is working for my city and fought (elections) to get one more seat to (Narendra) Modi ji. That is how see myself. I did not ask for the ticket. It was given to me and now I am here." Contesting against a 4 time MP Pawan Bansal of the Congress and Gul Panag of the Aam Aadmi Party, the candidature of Kirron Kher had been met with black flags by BJP workers themselves in Chandigarh. She won.

From Modi's holograms being projected nationwide to sidelining of senior leaders, Modi is clearly a man not interested in the contributions of others, even as he accepts their necessity. The Supreme Court rapped the Women and Child Ministry for the delay in filling vacancies in the National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights, but the reason turned out to be the PMO not clearing their appointments.

But if we see the appointments being made, there is little reason for cheer. Amartya Sen resigned in protest citing unprecedented interference in academics from the government. I do not see him as a leftist, but I am aware the supporters of the present government do. Yet we now have students of the FTII protesting as well. Surely the case cannot be that Modi lacks supporters among excellent actors that he settled for Gajendra Chauhan to avoid dealing with a "secular" (as his current whine in foreign countries goes)?

In a scathing piece on the rise of "anti-intellectualism" under the present government, Rishi Majumder identifies the common thread behind persistent absurd appointments as "The lack of a strong, distinct, individual vision for what they want to achieve with their charges." even as they are good managers. I see it as the appointees being conduits for a vision dictated from sources out of public scrutiny. Mirrors, mirrors everywhere, readily reflecting someone's will.

But there is more. It is a deliberate flaunting of unchecked stupidification in an obscene carnage of an intellectual India. The word "intellectual" itself has been turned into a slur by the supporters of this regime. The message is clear. "We do not want your fancy theories. We want the freedom to define scholarship however we wish." The trend is far reaching and flaunted at the most trivial of opportunities. Of all the journalists in the world, Modi chose Fareed Zakaria to give his first interview. Till then, Farid Zakaria's biggest attention puller was when his articles got pulled down for plagiarism.

Smriti Irani got rewarded for her loyalty and robust defense of Modi.  Fine. But it is not just that. What she was entrusted with was something she had been discredited for. It is not about less qualified politicians. Faking qualifications on an election affidavit is an act that declares that her qualifications felt inadequate to her own eyes. She could have been rewarded in many other ways, but she now she handles the nation's education. Something she has been established as inadequate about.

It is not merely loyalty. Modi's supporters include several senior journalists as well, but would someone like say, Kanchan Gupta accept being told what he could ask and what he couldn't? In addition to showing critics that they cannot stop him, no matter what he does, Modi's choices of people are also a statement of what behavior among supporters will get rewarded. Modi does not want independent thinking even among his supporters. Kanchan Gupta and Subramanian Swamy - two of the most independent thinking right wing thinkers are conspicuously free of responsibility, even as jokes circulate about Advani in the margadarshak mandal. The three countries Ajit Doval (who had been caught with Chota Rajan'sgangster) took an interest in, bombed in terms of foreign policy. As we speak, freaking "Hindu" Nepal has people outraging against India. It does not seem to matter to anyone. Baba Ramdev is selling churans to cure dengue and collaborating with the Defense Research and Development Organization - toward what purpose is anyone's guess.

Modi himself seems to take absurd speech to greater heights when he talks of Ganesha's head being an evidence of plastic surgery being practiced in ancient India. Not even transplants, mind you. Plastic surgery. While speaking of a super elite hospital helping improve healthcare for the masses in India, like the 32-rupees people would be lining up to pay over a thousand rupees to even be seen as an outpatient in this miracle hospital. Let there be no doubt that not even an effort to sound rational was made.

At a time when Modi has the biggest organized support among all public figures on the internet, at a time when he launches an average of two websites a month, at a time when a large part of his election victory was due to towering ethical and unethical efforts online, it is absurd to imagine that he does not have anyone to be a better brand ambassador for Digital India than Ankit Fadia - who is not respected by anyone other than abject ignorant newbies to coding. As far as appointing for incompetence goes, Ankit Fadia would rank as his second most spectacular appointment (the first being Smriti Irani, of course), because for anyone who has even passable knowledge of the subjects Ankit Fadia writes about, his name has become synonymous with plagiarism. A superstar script kiddie with dubious claims to fame. But he has the one thing Rishi Majumder had identified as a prerequisite. There is no evidence of Ankit Fadia even wanting to learn as long as he can sell his books and meaningless certificates.

Modi sarkar does not care that it reflects idolizing of incompetence on issues crucial to the nation. It does not need to care about public opinion for another 3.5 years. In a world where policies useful to cronies must be pushed unhindered, intelligent people slow things down with their questions. Even when they support. Unthinking and efficient people doing as told is what makes selling the country out from under people's feet possible. Meticulously following the government's stand, and unperturbed, supporting the government's opposite stand as well, when criticism forces a U-Turn.

 

The message to supporters is even clearer than it is to critics. I want your support, not your brain. If you want your reward, this is your key.

 

5

Ever since Aam Aadmi Party's stunning win in Delhi Assembly elections, there is a rash of analysis and advice for Modi government (which has mostly fallen on deaf ears, and no surprise there - they know their support base).

I have several opinions around this issue that differ from the common consensus, so sharing them.

Development or Hindutva?

Several people are looking at BJP's stunning defeat in the Delhi Assembly elections as a rejection of their communal agenda by people. This couldn't be further from the truth. As Yashwant Sinha rightfully pointed out in his piece in the Economic Times, BJP's vote share hasn't really dropped all that drastically. The last time Delhi saw a BJP government was in 1993. In 1998, BJP got dislodged by the Sheila Dixit led Congress Party governments right up to the previous election where AAP formed a minority government. BJP's vote share for Assembly Elections has not really changed much.

[tweetthis twitter_handles="@Vidyut, @_AamJanata"]BJP has lost Delhi with a higher vote share than it had when it got the most seats in 2013[/tweetthis]

BJP got 34.02% votes in 1998, 35.22 in 2003, and 36.34 in 2008 - all three of which it lost to the Congress. The splitting of the decaying Congress vote between Congress and AAP in 2013 saw it get the most seats in the 2013 elections with just 33.07% of the votes - actually lower than all the intervening years when it lost. They didn't have the numbers to form a majority government, but they did get the most votes.

This, to me indicates that around slightly more than a third of the voters - give or take - are with BJP no matter what - regardless of how it plays out in the results. This number has sustained through several losses - it is now the fifth time BJP has failed to form a government in Delhi. I would see this as an ideological base to a large extent - which it has retained. And the numbers pretty much show that as long as one viable alternative exists, whether Congress or AAP - BJP remains out of power in Delhi.

So what is it about the "Mandate for Development"?

That is the part BJP supporters omit. When Modi was campaigning for the Lok Sabha Elections promoting development, the BJP vote share was NOT around a third and approached closer to half at 46%. In this election, it went back to normal. In other words, if anyone believed the development propaganda, they have stopped believing it now.

This was inevitable, because it was the throwaway mandate by design. What is telling about this mandate is that even if we ignore the Lok Sabha vote share, what is immediately evident is that BJP failed to gain votes from the complete decimation of a party that ruled Delhi for 15 years - it actually lost votes even if not a large percentage. Congress votes simply went over to AAP while even BJP share dropped slightly as though AAP stepped into the vacuum left by Congress seamlessly while adding other voters as well. In other words, no one other than loyalists seem to have remained with BJP in Delhi. AAP, which didn't exist two years ago got a vote share of 54% - an actual majority of votes as well (even if not as representative of remaining 46%).If this doesn't scream irrelevance to the realities and changes happening in Delhi, I don't know what does.

Why can't BJP just start focusing on development again?

They are focusing on development. They never stopped. Only after elections, the development focus has been made clearer as the development of the large corporate mandate - which has been the hidden third mandate no one spoke about all through. The victory was a result of all three mandates. The Hindutva wing provided ground support and volunteers through unaccountable funding, while radicalizing the masses to consolidate the Hindu votes. The crony capitalist mandate provided the finances as well as control of media to extend the reach of campaign propaganda, as well as attack opponents and cover up things that would not bring popularity to BJP. The development mandate provided the votes that took Modi's government beyond the "Delhi standard" vote share.

The last was the domain of most of Modi's speeches and one never intended for delivery - which is how all the U-Turns started popping up as soon as the government came to power. Given that the corporate world and the unwashed masses have always been at odds, it was absolutely impossible that the Modi government could deliver on both development as well as crony capitalism.

While positions of power and social impunity went to the ideological mandate, Hindutva (appointments, social "reforms" like gharwapsi or text book alterations); profits and economic impunity went to the corporate mandate (sabotaging of land rights, environmental protections, and much, much more - this is HUGE MONEY). Delivering to the common man at large was never the intent - this was a consolidation of power and control, not service task. Some things may be done that don't inconvenience either of the other two "real" backers. They will be publicized to the hilt to create a perception of vast service to people, but there is only so much you can tell people they are experiencing prosperity if they aren't. We saw that this elections.

But what about secularism?

What about it? It is lip service. Communal control over country is what the Hindutva brigade got for its investment in the Modi government. Secularism is not compatible with it. Would Modi like to be communal? I don't think so. Modi is a narcissist. He is rather besotted with his image as a progressive leader, which is opposite of regressive. Which is how, in spite of altering textbooks to more Hindutva friendly versions or pretending not to notice the rise of the fan clubs for Nathuram Godse, he continues to use Congress leaders when trying to impress people. It is the best he can do. To pretend he does not see the rise of communalism and give them the impunity of his silence.

Not that he has much choice, because if he endorses secularism, his Hindutva supporters (almost his entire vote bank at this stage) will simply ignore him. Not even the lowliest troll shows an iota of respect for Modi when he calls for religious tolerance.

So, I disagree with a lot of columnists when they recommend things that Modi should do to regain his popularity. Modi cannot regain his popularity by speaking of development, since he hasn't delivered it. Modi cannot regain his popularity by endorsing secularism because his core vote bank will not allow it. The disillusioned voters who get swung on hope, have swung AAP's way this time. All Modi will end up doing if he tries to get secular is piss off his supporters. All Modi will end up doing if he actually tries to deliver on promises is piss off profiteers who are in no mood to share.

His best bets are to keep his head low and siphon off as much profit to his sponsors and power to his mentors as he can. It is going to be very difficult to pull off a second con this close to the first.

Every predator is someone else's prey

However, Modi is going to need to find new ways to hook voters. The AAP victory has made a mockery of his claims of development - a fact no other state going for elections will forget. When Nitish Kumar praised Trinamool Congress, BJP supporters were quick to sneer at an anti-BJP front, but both Uddhav Thackeray and Sharad Pawar too have taken pot shots at Modi in recent days. Incidentally, this would be the same Sharad Pawar of the Nationalist Corrupt Party that Modi gushed over on Valentine's Day as the one to support him when the UPA was in power.

This is going to be a problem. Because Modi will be a laughing stock if he tries to rule forever with ordinances. At the same time, without winning in states, he is going to find it very difficult to get any bills through the Rajya Sabha.

If a runaway victory for AAP creates a potential democracy crisis in Delhi Government, it is countered by the control exerted by a hostile center government.

Similarly a runaway victory for the BJP government is held in check by the "anti-BJP" fronts mushrooming. The Delhi Elections may have dazzled everything else out of the spotlight, but the AAP government was endorsed by the extremely unlikely pair of CPI as well as TMC in Delhi - who both asked their followers to vote for AAP. Nitish Kumar as well. At least three other political leaders of other parties have voiced skepticism over targeting of AAP via AVAM just days before the elections. Bihar sees another unlikely pair willing to cooperate to defeat BJP with Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad Yadav burying their legendary hostility to defeat the BJP. Aditya Thackeray welcomed the rise of AAP in Maharashtra (more a taunt to BJP than any real wish to embrace AAP values or compete on such a premise at all).

Given such a climate, BJP appears to have few choices beyond counting on its Hindutva loyalists to deliver miracles and the corporate mandate to do PR as well as damage control while they use every dirty trick in the book to discredit opponents. I am amazed they haven't yet applied their phenomenal strategy skills to splitting opponent votes between two strong opponents rather than this harder way of discrediting or dummy candidates and such, but I am delighted they haven't. In any case, I don't imagine any change of methods is on the cards for BJP at this stage.

Thus, any pleas to Modi to deliver development or embrace secularism, in my view are highly unlikely to materialize - no matter how many columnists think they are a good idea.

News media quoted Anna Hazare criticizing the Modi government on not fulfilling its promises re black money and Lokpal Bill. Here is a quote from January 29th, 2015 - Indian Express:

“Before he became the PM, Modi had promised to deposit Rs 15 lakh in every Indian’s account by bringing back black money. It has been eight months but none has got even Rs 15. Modi has refused to utter a word on black money and Lokpal appointment. There’s a huge difference between what Modi says and what he does,” he said, adding that he would soon launch a protest in Delhi against the central government.

Two days later, this ad is on the front page of the Indian Express (New Delhi edition). What appears to be a BJP campaign advertisement targeting Kejriwal also shows a photograph of Anna Hazare with a garland in the background. In India, a garlanded photograph has a specific symbolism - death. Photographs of living people are not garlanded as per Hindu belief.

Delhi, 30 January, 2015 Indian Express Frontpage
Delhi, 30 January, 2015 Indian Express Frontpage

Given that Anna Hazare has little to do with Arvind Kejriwal or his political party "Aam Aadmi Party", there appears to be no reason for Anna Hazare to be in the image - alive or dead. Nor does the text of the advertisement indicate any relevance.

BJP advertisement showing a garlanded photo of Anna Hazare
BJP advertisement showing a garlanded photo of Anna Hazare

Which leaves the mind troubled given the symbolism of the garland on the photo, and the position of the photo behind Arvind Kejriwal. It appears to be yet another of our government's menacing (but politically not incorrect) messages.

 

Update: Anna Hazare has said that he will complain to the Election Commission and file an FIR against BJP for the advertisement that shows a garland on his photograph. Here are screenshots from Total TV and AajTak. I will add links to videos as they become available.

Anna Hazare will complain against BJP to the Election Commission
Anna Hazare will complain against BJP to the Election Commission
Anna Hazare will file an FIR against BJP for cartoon showing a garland on his photo
Anna Hazare will file an FIR against BJP for cartoon showing a garland on his photo

 

Anna will complain to election commission about BJP
Anna will complain to election commission about BJP

1

With the number of reversals of pre-election stands this government is doing, it is hardly a surprise that the Modi led government has earned the nickname of "U-Turn sarkar" and is a thriving meme. Here are the top 10 U-Turns of Modi sarkar as posted by Navendu Singh

 Foreign Direct Investment - FDI

How to deal with Pakistan?

Article 370 of the Constitution

Bringing Robert Vadra to justice for alleged crimes

Rail Fare Hike

Black Money

Aadhaar Card

Indo China War Report

Swiss Bank Account holders

Victims of the Anti-Sikh riots of 1984

And with that we come to a close of today's top ten list. Hope you enjoyed the show and good bye till we meet again.

3

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?