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Perhaps the way the Modi government intends to deliver good governance is to do about turns on many things they used to criticize. Here are the highlights.

How important is education exactly?

Smriti Irani, a never elected, never graduate politician is heading HRD. Which in itself isn't such an awful thing, given that lack of a degree may actually be better than learning the crap graduates often come out with, but the Minister handling education lying about education on election affidavit is a casual insult of the system BJP could have easily avoided after all their tall talks on importance of education and how UPA2 had fucked up.

To save the Ganga or not to save the Ganga?

Swami Nigamananda died under mysterious circumstances fighting the (then BJP) state government crony sand mafia to protect the Ganga. Swami Gyan Swaroop Sanand in Haridwar, who was Guru Das Agrawal, former professor of environmental engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur before becoming an ascetic has been fighting a long war to save the Ganga from ecological destruction due to hydroelectric projects and went up against the notoriously pro-large project BJP government itself several times. So did Uma Bharati, actually. There are 650 dams proposed and Uma Bharati, when she was out of the BJP had opposed them. The BJP has put Uma Bharati in charge of water resources. Yet the BJP policy remains pro hydro electric projects, and just yesterday cleared the Polavaram project on the second day of government itself with a special ordinance, which it had earlier fought tooth and nail to make a national project. So which side of BJP is to be believed? The Uma Bharati, who after all of BJP's penchant for hydel projects is now handling Water Resources and Ganga clean up or the cabinet at large that remains firm on its old track?

CAG reports must not be used as a weapon to target political opponents

After abundant attacks on the UPA2 government using CAG reports, Modi decides that CAG reports must not be used as a weapon to target political opponents. One wonders why. Is Modi saying that CAG reports are not reliable information? Or that if CAG reports find misgovernance or bad practices, they must not be criticized?

"I personally believe that CAG reports must not be used for political gains but utilised to find solutions. I introduced such a system here and asked my men to go to the roots of problems (mentioned in CAG reports),"

Is Modi going to explain how non-BJP entities can use CAG criticism of a BJP government to find solutions other than attacking and forcing accountability? Or is Modi saying that people should cover up government failures in their own capacity?

Or is it more about devaluing CAG reports as valid criticism because CAG rapped his Gujarat government for 17,000 crore losses? BJP certainly had no hesitations using CAG reports to corner the Congress before the elections.

Talks with those who behead Indian soldiers

Modi talks to please his voters and acts to please his sponsors and there is no confusion here. After a career of criticizing UPA for any action even remotely conversational with Pakistan government, Modi suddenly has woken up to the idea of India-Pakistan peace. As recently as his pre-election interviews, he was clear that there could be no talk with Pakistan if terror continues. The chicken biryani quote will be remembered long. Then you have "Hemraj's wife kept wailing, but this government could not get her head back." said Modi about the UPA2 government in January. This time, Hemraj's wife objected vociferously to his invitation to Nawaz Sharif, and how did he act any different from the UPA2 government? Modi called Nawaz Sharif "Man of Peace" when two soldiers were killed and two injured in a cross border ambush at the LoC exactly a week before his meeting with Nawaz Sharif. His super-patriotic bhakts will ignore these double standards, because they have been conditioned to believe whatever Modi does to be the right thing to do, so this isn't any argument with them, their nation is Modi, and they are "Nationalists". For the rest, it may be worth considering that Adani wants to build a power plant in power surplus Gujarat to export power to Pakistan. Anyway, 24 hours after Modi meeting Nawaz Sharif, his stronghold of Punjab passed an anti-Modi resolution condemning him for accusing them of terror activities anyway.

Rajnath Singh on Modi's cabinet

Less than a month ago Rajnath Singh was saying he would not be on "Modi-led NDA alliance government" as he preferred to remain BJP president and had responsibilities. He is on the cabinet handling ministry of home affairs.

And this is just day 3.

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Asaram bapu and his fanatical followers are a snapshot of how irrelevant moral behavior is to worship. In the recent past, Asaram Bapu has made headlines for holding the victim of a brutal rape jointly responsible for being raped. He has celebrated a mass holi wasting water in the middle of the worst drought Maharashtra saw in decades. And he was accused of raping a minor daughter of a devotee and threatening her to be silent.

This is hardly a new phenomenon. Asaram Bapu has always has disturbing whispers of illegal dealings from land grabs to tantric rituals. Rising into the religion business after one selling alcohol, he had a formidable reputation of power. Famous politicians and stars have been associated with him. Disturbing reports of threats from his followers (who apparently double up as his henchmen) abound.

So why is it that this person continues to be considered a saint in this country? How is it that in a religious community with an overabundance of Gods, where no two homes have completely similar practices or spiritual leaders, politicians end up so overwhelmingly flocked around the same few messiahs? As I write this post, another God man's dream has sent the Archaeological Survey of India on a wild goose dig for thousands of tons of gold with the blessings of the state.

[Tweet "Why is India so gullible to any conman who claims to know God better than others?"] Why is it that we fail to question God men when their actions are demonish? How is it that we don't question when peddlers of morality break laws and grab land? And how is it that we do not take exception to a "Gurugita" religious book written by a self-acclaimed Godman who speaks of giving your body, senses, life, money, family, kin and even wife to your Guru?

The common man is a blinkered beast of burden, set on a looping track by whoever claims to be superior. Religions in particular are full of endless advice. Eat this, don't eat this, follow these timings for whatever, wear such, don't act such.... and the advice is not only obeyed, it is spread by word of mouth to more unwary blinkered beasts, who will see it as the words of a holy man and act on them.

And yet, there are countless holy men, working tirelessly to better the lives of the people, to nurture our planet and to enrich mankind. They are also Godmen, but they are too humble to advertise their Godmanship in your face and tell you what to do. They die unlamented like the respected Swami Nigamananda, who died fasting to save the Ganga from pollution at the hands of those who were supported by money and power and thought nothing of raping the sacred river.

Unless we value ourselves enough to understand that our respect must be deserved - even by Godmen, we will remain falling prey to fraudsters strutting their fakery and exploiting our brain for their glory (and profit), while those truly reflecting ideals needed more in the world lie discarded for lack of bling.

I am atheist, but I respect a sadhu with the courage to stand up to the sand mafia to protect a river. I am continually perplexed by how far the religion of my birth continues to fall with these pop gurus popping up and teaching values to lead us to ruin.

[Tweet "Unless we value ourselves enough to understand that our respect must be deserved - even by Godmen, we will remain falling prey to fraudsters strutting their fakery"]

Worse, the unquestioning adoration is a direct factor in the escalating influence of such fraudsters. We even have a police officer, in jail for fake encounters suffering silence for years, but the straw that broke his back was apparently a rapist Godman being arrested for rape. The state abandoned him to facing his crimes, but he is outraged that the Godman has to face his crimes too. Apparently the idea that perhaps a Godman should not do crimes did not occur to anyone in the process.

This reminds me of Gandhi's treatment of women around him. The "Mahatma" had a very public sexual life or the lack of it. His vow of celibacy did not consult his wife. Testing that vow with temptation did not consider his wife as "tempting". He slept naked with young girls to test his own celibacy in whatever way, without any consideration for the impact of such actions on the girls, who had not taken vows of celibacy, had they? Yet, he is the Mahatma and God forbid anyone question his character. Whatever else was good or bad about Gandhi (and I agree there was plenty to admire too), it is pathetic that thee wasn't enough objection to what was clearly exploitative behavior. [Tweet "What does it say about India that Gandhi's extremely public perversions were never a deterrent to his stardom?"]

There is hardly a dearth of Godmen engaging in sexual explotation. Nor is it limited to any single religion. It appears that morality flies out of the window when the victim does not have the power to be a threat. The example of Mahatma Gandhi was simply to demonstrate how child sexual abuse can go completely uncriticized if the spiritual guide claims a big enough halo.

Coming back to Asaram, the dirt just keeps piling on Asaram Bapu, with an MMS being recovered from his henchman, hsi son Narayan being a fugitive, changing phones to evade arrest, more complainants coming out of the woodwork now that there is hope for the wrongs to be brought to justice.

The government that prides itself on relegating religious violence to the past, was apparently hesitant to bring him to the state for fear of unrest. On one hand they claim innocence, on the other they unleash the nuisance value of followers.

All I can hope for is that he is hounded down and brought whimpering to the courts and made such a clear example of, that the next time people see a Godman behave in a manner that is not "godly", they do not for a minute hesitate to denounce it. This isn't religion, this isn't holy guidance. Morality cannot be upheld by allowing injustice. Regardless of who the perpetrator is.

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An article by Tavleen Singh in the Indian Express is accurately named Environmental fraud, though it is rare for such transparency of intent to be declared upfront. I do appreciate the legitimate opportunity to pun "Environmental Fraud by Tavleen Singh" when introducing the article. Considering that the article is an umbrella attack on the legitimacy of environmentalists and an endorsement of policies known harmful to the environment, it is very shabby of Indian Express to not state the conflict of interest in this supposed "truth" being stated.

While I do not hold it against her and will address her arguments directly, I think it is important here to state that Tavleen Singh happens to be the partner of one of the promoters of Lavasa (his name is not required here, since the article is not about him). Lavasa township has come to much grief (and financial losses) due to legal action by environmentalists that had enough substance for the judiciary to put a halt to work on the site for a year. Thus, people with a vested interest in Lavasa having a dislike of environmentalists cannot be called unprejudiced or unmotivated. Additionally, Sharad Pawar, our agriculture minister, whose interests in GM seeds are identical to those this article promotes happens to the Godfather of said Lavasa project. While this in itself may or may not be intellectually incestuous, NOT being transparent about a connection makes one wonder if this is a case of "You scratch my back, I scratch yours and let us be discreet and pretend that it is all very neutral and deserved."

All quotes by Tavleen Singh from article linked above.

"Real environmentalists" / "serious environmentalists"

Reminds me of the "true Hindus" and "true Muslims". As if the rest are made of thermacol. The idea that her disagreement makes environmentalists real or fake is absurd. She is not required to like or agree with all of them for them to be real. Their actions make them environmentalists.

"one of our noisiest lady environmentalists actually declare in Davos that Indian farmers were rich until international seed companies like Monsanto arrived"

This is presumably Vandana Shiva, though the article does not name her. I have no idea what she said in Davos, but I believe that Indian farmers were better off before the seed corporations for several reasons:

  • Patented seeds mean that farmers cannot save their seeds to sow the next year's crop, leading to a direct annual expense for seeds, which also happen to be costlier. This in turn puts them at serious risk of bad debt - a leading cause of farmer suicides.
  • GM crops require more water. I am not inventing this. Monsanto says this. India is rapidly becoming water scarce with industries taking up a vast share of the water and irrigation being overallocated and iffy at best. Not that either manufacturing or agriculture have added jobs since 1995... Unless of course they are Sharad Pawar's pets doing sugarcane and getting a whopping 60% of available water for 6% of the crop.
  • Input costs for fertilizers and pesticides are higher for GM crops.
  • Most farmers in India are small and marginal farmers and cannot afford to plant waste strips of non-GM crops to try to avoid the "expected" resistance to pests that is the selling point of Bt seeds. The idea of these strips is to grow pests like the bollworm (for example) that have no resistance to Bt so that they can breed with Bt resistant pests from the "superstar" seeds and keep them killable. The crop on this land is wasted by design.
  • The resultant race of more GM, more fertilizers and more pesticides has resulted in diseases among humans and animals, which add to the burden of medical expenses compounded by low access.
  • The actual claims of productivity are severely contested per crop and with authoritative, independent research and are beyond the scope of this article to go into detail. It isn't without any evidence that developed countries are limiting or banning use of GM seeds. A simple google search will bring forth an avalanche if anyone is really interested.
  • Productivity itself has been seen to drop with lame excuses from Monsanto that may be good PR, but do nothing to actually change the production. Including in a "perfect" state like Gujarat, which supposedly reports great profits from GM. Monsanto blamed the farmers. Done.
  • Finally, do you know that Indian farmers have set world records for crop yields using organic farming that have left results from GM in the dust? The same traditional methods and bio fertilizers that had been systematically decimated by the British?

Enough said.

"Any farmer could have told this lady that the international seed companies are a welcome change from state-owned companies which have often sold them junk. But farmers have no voice on television and the lady fraud has a very loud one."

Leaving aside the personal comments about the lady environmentalist who sounds suspiciously like Vandana Shiva, Tavleen Singh is clearly ignorant about the 37th All Party Parliamentary Standing Committee on cultivation of Genetically Modified Food Crops - Prospects and Effects, which clearly states that the farmers explicityl detailed problems they faced because of GM crops and demanded a ban. Additionally, ALL MEMBERS of the All Party Parliamentary Standing Committee - across political parties - unanimously endorsed banning cultivation of GM crops in India. The report condemns the paid media report in Times of India promoting Monsanto with falsified information about prosperity of farmers. The members of the Committee physically went to those villages and saw that there was no such thing. How much more voice do you expect? Or is the gold standard of voice about performances in a corporate controlled media? Would Indian Express give space to an angry farmer trashing Monsanto, when their awards of excellence in journalism are sponsored by Mahyco?

I called up a few people who were present during the visit when outlandish tales of outright manipulating the committee came to my ears and can confirm that the government of Maharashtra made great efforts to prevent the All Party Parliamentary Standing Committee from speaking with farmers and tried to con them into meeting a few planted "farmers" - some of whom were input dealers - in a cosy circuit house. Farmers persisted and the Committee visited the villages reported to be prospering and chasing away money lenders and saw fields left barren. In front of the committee, farmers shouted down and chased away not money lenders, but representatives of Monsanto.

"There have been natural disasters in the Himalayas since the beginning of time. If this one was 'manmade' as they claim, then it was because the political leaders who have governed Uttarakhand have been careless about making contingency plans for natural disasters."

and

"Our two most sacred rivers have become sewers despite thousands of crores of rupees having been spent on 'cleaning' them. And yet, the only noise we hear from environmentalists is when a new dam is built. Have they noticed that it was the dams on the Ganga that stopped the whole of Uttarakhand from being washed away?"

and etc (this is getting boring).

First, I'd like to ask Tavleen Singh why she is writing an article about environmentalists instead of "seculars" and "NGOs" - after all, aren't all right wingers supposed to talk about that only?

If my question is absurd, so is the idea that all environmentalists are working on the same thing, namely hydel projects. There are people fighting dams and for more reasons than only the environment. There are people working to get rivers cleaned. Others fight to protect forests, marine life, fight drought, promote water renewal, whatever. Environment isn't one piddly subject that everyone is doing the same thing and from only one angle. Swami Nigamananda died when he fasted unto death in what is rumored to be a murder by political and mafia forces. He wasn't fighting dams, but the sand mafia and pollution. There are all kinds of people. Vijay Panjwani often updates from his legal activism to get judicial pressure for clean ups. To the best of my knowledge, no one has prevented her from taking up a concern she feels strongly about. If it is un-sewering the Ganga and not protecting roads from dog poop, so be it.

The blame for the tragedy has been consistently attributed to irresponsible construction work of which dams were a part. The greatest blame has been on the roads, actually due to the use of dynamite in cutting them creating fractures in the structure of the mountain. Hydel projects don't drop rom the sky. They need development of roads, as well as dam construction. They need construction materials which leads to further exploitation of the river banks. Dams already silt up the upstream while starving the downstream of silt leading to eroded banks and disturbed ecology.

Here is what happens to a construction made of reinforced concrete when subjected to reckless construction activity. Nowhere in the Himalaya, this is, but Katraj tunnel near Pune - a place that has little to do with floods and landslides. This news is not a month old yet.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8tUxN9nHco4

The page on Wikipedia about the environmental impact of dams is well referenced so I'm using this space for one last important piece of disinformation:

"Have they noticed that alternative sources of energy like solar, wind and bio-fuels have mostly failed?"

Failed?

Work on hydel power in India started in 1897, nuclear power started in 1948, renewable energy started in 1983.

India gets 57% of its electricity from coal, 19% from hydro electric power, 12% from renewable, 9% from natural gas and 3.75% from nuclear power.

The oldest dam in India is from the second century. That is older than several of the religions in this country. The first hydro electric power plant in India was in the year 1897 or fifty years before Independence. We currently produce approximately 39GW. We started chasing nuclear power when we were 11 months old. Several parts of current India were not India then. 4780MW to date and we call it the pride of the country and have gone into the international dog house for it. In contrast, our renewable energy production started in the 1980s and already accounts for 28GW or 12% of our electricity production, which Wikipedia assures me is more than the total production of electricity in Austria. In three decades.

India is rapidly growing in solar energy and fastest growing in the world in wind power. What failure?

The fundamental difference here is a difference in what Tavleen Singh sees as a good thing and what I see as a good thing. Projects she thinks are good for the country include Vedanta's bauxite mines and Lavasa and what not. I am not so sure we should be growing to suit the fastest runners. In my view, large projects have delivered comparatively little in comparison with robust grassroots efforts. I am also of the opinions that the super rich have done more to destroy economies and free enterprise than build them. I also think it is dangerous disinformation to club all large projects as one regardless of whether they are government or private. Masses cannot hold private enterprise accountable.

We are both entitled to our opinions. My expectation from media however is transparency and accuracy of information. People can decide for themselves if the information is correct.

Update: I forgot to address Tavleen's point about the Tehri dam that supposedly protected Haridwar. Tavleen Singh might be delighted to know that the Alaknanda blew through the Vishnuprayag Hydro electric project and the water that had backed up behind it wiped out Lambagarh market when it exploded out of the dam. Additionally, dams on Mandakini River such as Phata-Buyong HEP and Singoli-Bhatwari HEP badly damaged. Small dams on Madhaymaheshwer and Kali river are also badly damaged. It is worth considering a moment what the Tehri dam could have done to Haridwar if it too had given way. Perhaps water simply overflowing banks wouldn't be as bad.

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