The Prime Minister’s chutzpah

The Prime Minister’s chutzpah

By

Faraz Ahmad

One quality Prime Minister Narendra Modi has to be admired for, by one and all, is his Chutzpah. His felicity and straight face with which he manages to say things and even convince a vast majority of people, denying facts staring him in the face.

Actually one thing that his long years of training at the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has taught him well is Audacity, with a capital A. Facts be damned in the face of conviction. And he has yet again demonstrated this in his long letter to the people of India on completing one year of his second term in office.

At a time when the Supreme Court has reacted to the plight of lakhs and crores of India’s poor workers, street vendors and such other daily wage earners, pauperised for last three months, starved with no roof over their head, walking, cycling back or packing like sardines into small tempos and trucks, risking death due to penury and accidents, reported daily in the media, the Prime Minister dismissed it thus, “In a crisis of this magnitude (Corona pandemic), it can certainly not be claimed that no one suffered any inconvenience or discomfort. Our labourers, migrant workers, artisans and craftsmen in small scale industries, hawkers and such fellow countrymen have undergone tremendous suffering. However, we have taken care that the inconveniences we are facing do not run into disasters…This is one of the important reasons for India being safer and in a better state than many other countries. This is a long battle but we have started traversing the path to victory…” So this starvation and pauperisation of 70-80 per cent of our population is no disaster for our Prime Minister? Nowhere in the world, not even the poorest of them in our neighbourhood, we find sights of poor men walking long miles with their sundry belongings on their heads, little children in their arms or being dragged along and every day many of them fall by the way side trying to complete this harrowing journey weighed down by hunger and fatigue or simply run down in road accidents. But this in our Prime Minister’s eyes is a “path to victory!”

The Prime Minister has the gumption to declare victory in defeating COVID-19 pandemic when the cases are rising exponentially right under his nose in the national capital Delhi, growing from a few hundreds a day to now over 1000 a day with 30 deaths reported just the day of his tall claim. And we are not talking of his home state Gujarat whose treatment of COVID-19 has been so disastrous and ill equipped that the Gujarat High Court had to take note of it and upbraid the state administration.

As for Arveena, who died of hunger and thirst in the Shramik Express on her way to Darbhanga with no food or water supplied to the passengers, or Mohan Lal Sharma whose body rotted in the railway compartment for four days, again due to the negligence of Indian Railways and lack of any food or water provided in the train, or the Shramik Express trains losing their way first time in the history of Indian Railways, the Prime Minister merely made a passing reference to their “tremendous suffering.” That too after the heart-breaking video of Arveena’s one-year old infant, unaware of his mother’s death pulling her shroud on the railway platform, went viral. And what have the numerous BJP governments done for the poor worker? They have virtually scrapped all labour laws which provided our workers some degree of legal protection in wages, safety and working hours and the Prime Minister has enthusiastically affixed his stamp of approval on this decision. No doubt no Prime Minister in the past 73 years, showed such “Concern and Compassion” for India’s working population!

But his real achievement is in shredding the Constitution, be it on the Right to Life and Liberty or the Right to Freedom of Expression or political activity, or playing with the Preamble of the Constitution by passing the patently communal Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019. To date the people of Jammu and Kashmir are under a siege. There are more security forces stationed in the valley than the population of the valley. Modi has proudly mentioned freeing Indian women of triple talaq. But M. Phil scholar Safoora Zargar, in Modi’s views committed such a heinous crime, by participating in or leading peacefully anti-CAA demonstration, that this six months pregnant young girl in her early 20s  has to be kept in jail since mid-April.

And the Supreme Court’s directive of releasing most under trials during COVID-19 has failed to persuade Modi’s police to release Sudha Bhardwaj detained since 2018 or Vara Vara Rao or Anand Teltumbde and Gautam Navlakha, arrested later on the same trumped up charge of having instigated the violence in Bhima Koregaon in 2017. The moment the BJP government went out of power in Maharashtra, the Centre immediately transferred the case to the Central body, the National Investigative Agency (NIA) meant only to probe terror cases, lest the new Maharashtra government may withdraw the fraud cases and release them. But those who attacked the Dalits are roaming free to date. Same is true for Delhi pogrom as well even the court has said that the entire Delhi Police performance is one-sided. Naturally when Kapil Mishra, Parvesh Verma and Anurag Thakur strut around arrogantly while the peaceful anti-CAA women demonstrators are being jailed, the Prime Minister has to be really audacious to mention his achievements in last one year.

eom

Fikr Modi ko bahut hai, magar Reforms ke saath!

Fikr Modi ko bahut hai, magar Reforms ke saath!

By

Faraz Ahmad

Last week 16 workers of a steel manufacturing firm situated in Jalna’s Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC) complex were mowed down by a goods train on the rail track near Aurangabad because the poor workers, carrying just rotis and salt, were so exhausted after trudging 36 kilometers on foot in their attempt to go back home in Madhya Pradesh that they fell asleep on the tracks and failed to hear the horn and other sound of the approaching train at night. The Railways responded to the report by declaring that they were trespassing on rail tracks and therefore instead of any compensation due to their next of kin, those left alive among them were liable to be prosecuted and fined.

Two days later, 19 people were travelling in a mini tempo truck to their village near Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh from Bhiwandi. The driver had his wife and two little children sitting beside him in front while the 19 occupants fellow workers were packed in that little vehicle like sardines. But they had no resources left to sustain themselves back in their work place and therefore had no choice but to return home. Some distance further on the Mumbai Nashik highway the tempo was hit by a white Maruti Swift car. It overturned and the driver, who a TV news channel reporter had spoken to in the morning, died on the spot, leaving behind this crushed tempo, wife two little children and 19 fellow passengers, stranded forlorn and helpless in some unknown place.

About the same time Rajan Yadav a young auto rickshaw driver from Mumbai set out on his auto rickshaw with his wife, two children and a nephew to his hometown near Lucknow, UP with the last few pennies in his pocket. After plying auto rickshaws on hire for several years he had saved some money and obtained loan to purchase a new auto rickshaw just six months back. But with lockdown and autos off road he was left with no option but to head home. Wait for getting a train ticket prolonged each day for last 12 days, even after getting medically examined and testing corona negative and the last few rupees also vanished while the inability to pay rent for his tenement adding to his misery, forcing him to set out on his auto for Lucknow. 200 kilometers from Lucknow in Khaga a truck hit his auto from behind, killing his wife and daughter on the spot and crushing his auto beyond recognition. Every day desperate workers, unable to secure train seats for lack of resources or simply space, are trudging back home, thousands of miles and are being killed in road accidents. yet they seem to have no choice.

This is the level of desperation of the poor worker today who has no money, no food, no roof over his head and is heading back to the refuge of his home, however decrepit it might be. The Government claims to have started Shramik Express trains, of course by charging Rs 50 over the normal fare, which most of them do not have So they can only walk or hitch hike back or pedal all the way, or seek whatever form of transport they can afford to their homes, thousands of kilometres away somewhere in Bihar, UP, West Bengal, Assam or Jharkhand. By now so many of them have fallen to death out of fatigue and hunger because even walking barefoot or with broken slippers to Rajasthan or Madhya Pradesh under the blazing Sun is torturous. But they are doing it because first the number of trains are inadequate to transport crores of workers away from their homes stranded in all four corners of the country. If the Government cared for them, if the huge sums collected in PMCARES fund had been spent graciously on these people who had first right to this fund, if the Railways which contributed Rs 150 crore to PMCARES fund would have spent a small fraction of this amount on running free trains for the migrants, these workers would not have been so desperate. It will take severaol more months for transporting back all the workers waiting or walking to return home. And before they succeed in trudging back, for all you know a fresh lockdown may be  imposed considering the fact that the number of cases have been rising exponentially since the announcement of even this partial relaxation. Many states like Bihar are pressing the Centre for continuing this indefinitely to prevent the sudden flood of workers returning home.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced earlier this week a chimera of Rs 20 lakh crore package, without of course spelling out details. He said in his address to the nation, “In the last few days we have seen the suffering of our workers, migrant labour, street vendors and daily wagers and farmers. This package will be aimed at them. It will be aimed at the honest tax payer, at our industry that makes its capital work.” But how would this announcement help the poor man walking back home on rail tracks thousands of kilometres away? Will he survive from hunger and fatigue that long? Should he break his tiring journey and wait for the package to arrive at some distant date if at all? How will it help the autorickshaw drivers who lost their lives and their spouses and children? If the Prime Minister was so concerned couldn’t he announce immediate manifold increase in Shramik Express free of charge if he were really concerned about the migrant workers, the labour class and street vendor, heading back home with no work in the big cities? He claims be a chaiwala, risen from a poor family of tea sellers. His indifference to the plight of the poor after more than 50 days of isolation and deprivation does not betray any signs of empathy for the poor and downtrodden.

In all other countries the governments are looking after their people’s basic needs and spending Government funds to ensure at least food and shelter for those whose employment is affected by the lockdown. Here we have our granaries overflowing but our Food and Civil Supplies minister Ram Vilas Paswan, who fashioned himself once upon a time as the messiah of Dalits and the poor, has remained unmoved.

But what the workers are facing today may pale into insignificance if we view what is in store for them in the coming days—the complete trashing of labour laws which our working class earned through hard struggle over decades. The BJP ruled states led by UP, MP and Gujarat have already issued Ordinances to abolish significant labour laws. The Prime Minister spoke of reforms in the offing. A few BJP ruled states have already started implementing some of these reforms ostensibly to attract foreign investors to relocate from China to their respective states.

What are these? Factories Act, 1948 which makes the employing industry to ensure safety of the workmen in the workplace and promote health and welfare of workers has been abolished in UP, MP and Gujarat and Karnataka is on the way to implementing these too. Now if an accident takes place like the one that took place in the LG unit in Kakinada, Andhra Pradesh and workers die or get injured the employer shall in way be liable to any action or even pay compensation to such a worker.

–The Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act, 1970: This law was enacted by the workers through a long struggle of the trade unions to put some obligations on the employer of unorganised worker. It addresses mainly the contractors of labour and their main employer, making it obligatory upon them first to register the labour employed by them and then to pay minimum wages, fixed by the Labour Commissioner of the district to these workers, provide basic facilities like toilets, rest rooms and canteens if 100 or more workers are employed at a site. This was enacted keeping in mind large construction sites where the main company sub contracted work of employing temporary labour to a contractor or a set of contractors. Even earlier it was mostly on paper. Now the contractor will be free not to pay even minimum wages. As for other facilities these have been largely non existent even earlier, who will raise these now?

–The Shops and Establishment Act, entitles a worker even if he is working in a shop or small establishment, like say a publishing establishment, a law firm or a chartered accountant’s office to regulated working hours; payment of wages; weekly offs, leave and holiday facilities, specified terms of work. This also goes now.

Also goes with these reforms the Minimum Wages Act, 1948 and Payment of Wages Act, 1936 which obliges the employer to pay the minimum wages for the specified working hours to its workmen as decided by the local district administration from time to time. With the abolition or suspension of this law the employer is free to pay whatever he may decide with no legal restriction on him. Additionally these governments have also amended the maximum working hours from the existing eight beyond which the worker is entitled to overtime wages, at double the rate, to now 12 hours and no extra time wages. Imagine the penury stricken starving worker approaching an employer for work and is forced to work for 12 hours at a stretch. Isn’t it the height of cruelty to our working class? But some BJP governments have already enforced it and the Prime Ministers in his speech seems to have gladly endorsed it. Does Modi or his BJP party show any signs of concern for the poor? The answer is No.

Eom

 

Celebrating successful defeat of COVID-19:

Celebrating successful defeat of COVID-19:

Showering petals on pauperised workers walking back home and distraught doctors

By

Faraz Ahmad

 

After a month and half the Government of India finally on April 29 announced the decision to allow migrant workers stuck without work and wages in different parts of the country to go back home. But to date the Centre, which imposed a nationwide lockdown for legitimate reasons though, causing in the process untold misery and unwarranted tremendous hardship to the entire working class, comprising over 90 per cent of India’s population, has not uttered a word on who will pay for the return of the pauperised migrant worker, left with no money, no food, no shelter in India’s towns and metropolises, lakhs of them in Delhi itself, and equal number the NCR Gurgaon and Faridabad, waiting anxiously for a train to take them back to far off Jharkhand, Odisha, Bihar, eastern UP, Assam and almost any part of our vast country.

Meanwhile this government which spent crores in ferrying stranded Indians abroad who brought with them the corona virus, is again dispatching more aeroplanes to bring back those still left behind abroad, with the Government naturally picking up the tab.

On Sunday May 3 the Indian Air Force conducted a fly past in different parts of the country showering flowers below, describing it as a gesture of honour and salute of the Indian warriors to the Corona warriors, spending crores of rupees. Ironically as for the corona warriors, the Resident doctors of All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) and other prominent hospitals in the national capital actually combating the corona virus, are agitating for getting adequately safe and standardised kits to  save them from contracting the disease, what with more and more medics, nurses  and other health care staff testing positive with each passing day. Similarly the nurses of Delhi government’s biggest hospital, the Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Narayan (LNJP) Hospital too were up in arms last week protesting the callousness of the administration to their plight. The doctors of the most important municipal hospital in Delhi Hindu Rao have faced worse fate being stigmatised as thieves by the administration for getting kits from outside, in the absence of the hospital providing them proper PPE.

Union Health Secretary Padmini Singh instead of empathising with them issued an order seeking explanation from doctors and health care staff how so many of them are falling prey to this virus. That caused the doctors to issue a rejoinder impressing upon her the actual situation on the ground and how either no kits are provided or those given are substandard, exposing them to the infection. among other factors, ignored by the Government.

This is to underscore the plight of the actual Corona warriors for whom presumably this Government persuaded the IAF to fly around the country and shower petals to boost their morale. Ironically a video is doing the rounds of a family of workers walking down the road with their little belongings and small children in tow and the helicopter showering petals upon them.

After much dilly dallying and reluctance the Railways finally started Shramik Express trains from different parts of the country to direct destinations across the country. But put up stiff conditions for allowing the workers to travel on these trains. First, to get tested negative by the concerned authorities and carry the necessary certificate with them and then buy the train ticket online through the nodal officer where the worker has to pay a standard fees plus another Rs 50 for enjoying the privilege of being allowed to go back home. This, to a people who have had no work, no roof over their heads and whatever little savings they had has all been spent in sustaining them these 40 days of isolation in make shift detention centres run by the state governments where they were interned, if they did not succeed in escaping along with their family. Of those who defied that 40 days’ curfew and succeeded in sneaking out to walk back home, innumerable of them died of hunger and fatigue in their gruelling journey of sometimes over a thousand of miles on foot or bicycle or even a hand pushed cart.

When reports started coming in that these pauperised workers were now being asked to shell out the last penny in their pocket and beg borrow or steal to buy a ticket home, Opposition leaders started questioning the Government. In Tamil Nadu CPI-M MP Su. Venkatesan questioned the morality of this Government in seeking an extra Rs 50 over the normal train fare to their destination. Simultaneously Karnataka Congress leader D K Shivakumar offered the Karnataka government a sum of Rs one crore to prevent it from taxing the poor migrant workers for his ticket home.

In the mean time Congress president Sonia Gandhi asked all her party units throughout the country to rush to the aid of workers and pay for their tickets instead of taxing them with this additional burden. Suddenly the Modi government became wise to the fact that Sonia Gandhi and her party may walk away with laurels and immediately the Railway ministry claimed that they were only asking the states to share the burden when they were willing to afford 85 per cent of the cost. There is really no evidence to believe this latest claim of the Railway ministry under one of Modi’s current most trusted lieutenant, Railway minister Piyush Goyal. Also one time strident Modi critic turned bhakt Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar who till the other day, was refusing to allow a single migrant from his state to return home, has suddenly woken up and expressed his willingness to share the burden. But that is after rival RJD chief Tejashwai Yadav made a similar offer to foot the bill to ferry migrant workers back to Bihar.

However there is still no word from Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal on this. Last we heard he was ready to bring back students from Kota. But about sending back migrant workers from UP, Bihar, Jharkhand and Odisha, not a word so far. In the absence of which the workers who can afford are rushing to buy tickets to go back home even when some of their employers are now sounding them about opening their work places.

The model state of the BJP, Gujarat is witnessing street level agitations every day with workers in Surat, Ahmedabad and other towns out on the streets, clashing with the police seeking to be sent back home. So far 21,500 have been sent back home and each one of them has paid his own fare. Many, many more are still stuck, hungry and angry. Yet the Modi government says Sonia Gandhi had no business to offer to pay their fares and thus expose Modi government’s lack of concern and heartlessness towards the pauperised worker.

Eom

 

 

Muslim social profiling amidst Lockdown

Muslim social profiling amidst Lockdown

By

Faraz Ahmad

In these times there is enough happening all around– starvation and destitution of thousands and lakhs of working class people all over the country, both from organised sector but many, many more from unorganised sector, while we sit ensconced in our gated colonies ostensibly to save ourselves from corona virus,  to despair any sensitive soul.

The poor working people, of any religion or caste who used to earn their living respectably through the sweat of their brow are now reduced to beg and fight each other for two, three chapatis, a bowl of watery dal or half a plate of khichdi for a family of five or six people with little children included. It would make any decent human being witnessing this, cry. Despite all the tall claims being made by Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal and UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath and other BJP ruled states, every day there are videos and reports in print media how the so-called  food distribution is hugely inadequate for those who have been detained in the makeshift centres, what to talk of those lying in the open in spaces along the Yamuna and elsewhere. As for the Prime Minister, someone put out an interesting observation in social media: “Daan bhi Janata kare; rozgar bhi Janata ka kharab; khane ke packet bhi janta hi bante, ghar mein Janata hi band rahe; aur cornoa ki jung Modiji lad rahe hain? (the people are enjoined to donate generously; they have lost their source of income; they are distributing food packets; they are also enjoined to stay indoors due to lockdown; but it is Modiji who is fighting the Corona virus”). Actually he is, by creating an illegitimate funding in the name of Cornoa by the name of PMCARES keeping it beyond the purview of the Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG) unlike the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund. And a deduction is being made from the salaries and even pensions of government employees and pensioners, describing it voluntary when it is actually coercive and mandatory going by the notification issued by the Revenue Department of Union Finance ministry which stated, “It has been decided to appeal to all officers and staff to contribute their one day’s salary every month till March 2021 to the Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situation (PM-CARES) Fund to aid the Government efforts to fight the corona virus pandemic,” the circular read.

Back to the issue of Muslim profiling, only the most wicked and criminal mind can go around publicly flaunting social profiling of Muslims, like a doctor running a cancer hospital by the name of Valentis in Meerut barely 61 kilometres from the national capital who put out a quarter-page advertisement in the April 17 edition of the most widely circulated Hindi newspaper of northern India, Dainik Jagran.

It stated, “Several Muslim patients are not following the guidelines (like using masks etc) and they are misbehaving with hospital staff. For hospital staff and patients’ security, the hospital administration requests all new Muslim patients that they, and one designated caregiver, get tested for corona virus and visit the hospital only if their reports are negative,” adding that the “Rules do not apply to Muslim doctors, para medical staff, Judges, police officers, Shias and Muslims who are not living in densely populated areas.”

The hospital also appealed to “the well-off Hindu/Jain families, who are mostly misers” to contribute to the PM Cares fund. The next day the hospital issued a clarification in the same Hindi daily, “We have come to know that some people connected to Hindu and Jain communities have been hurt by the information and request published by the Valentis Hospital. It is known to everyone that the Hindu and Jain communities have always been the front runners in social work and charity A wrong message was published by mistake. We deny that and regret and apologize for the same….We never intended to hurt anyone’s feelings. If we have hurt anyone’s feelings we are sorry for the same.”

As for the notice of not allowing the above mentioned Muslims, there was no denial nor any effort to amend that notice by Dr Amit Jain, the owner of Valentis Hospital. After a hue and cry over this, the chief medical officer of Meerut said he has sent a notice to the Hospital and SSP Meerut said he had ordered registration of an FIR against the hospital management. But it will be naïve to imagine this government will take any action against the hospital owner. After all he has appealed to the people to donate generously to the PM-CARES fund. Besides when the Gujarat government run Civil Hospital in Ahmedabad has openly segregated Hindu and Muslim COVID-19 patients on orders of the state government according to its Medical Superintendent Dr Gunvant Rathod, why single out Dr Amit Jain.

Moreover these are merely symptoms of how deep the communal virus has infected our body politic, with vegetable and fruit vendors in dire state in these hard times, trying to make both ends meet, being prevented from entering gated colonies, how Muslim chowkidars are being singled out by families in posh colonies for carrying cornoa virus, without a test or basis. They were already facing state repression for holding peaceful non violent protests against the unconstitutional CAA-NPR-NRC threat looming large on their heads like a Damocles sword by our Home Minister Amit Shah. Eventually these unarmed women sitting on dharnas across the country were forcibly removed through the joint exercise of the Hindutva brigade and the Police, resulting in massive loss of life and property to the Muslims in particular in North East Delhi end of February. Before some voluntary organisations could properly aid their rehabilitation, the complete Lockdown due to Corona started, again affecting the displaced citizens of Delhi as much as the migrant labour. In any case those who bore the brunt of that holocaust were mostly from the working population of Muslims.

The Indian government reacts sharply when international bodies point out the open discrimination and victimisation of the Muslim population under the present regime.  For instance it took umbrage last week when the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) made adverse comments on religious “stigmatisation” of minorities in India. The Commission had named India, Pakistan and Kampuchea for “failure to protect vulnerable religious communities” and “increased stigmatisation.” But when the 57-member Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC’s) Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission (IPHRC) has issued a statement calling upon the Government of India to take steps to protect Muslim minorities who are being “negatively profiled” facing “discrimination and violence amidst the COVID-19 crisis and described it as “growing Islamophobia” in India, the Government of India which wants to be in the good books of certain important OIC leaders like Saudi Arabia and UAE, has avoided reacting to this statement.

Now that the Arab princesses have taken note of and gone public questioning the cheek of businessmen and women earning their livelihood from those lands while circulating hate messages against Muslims, there is suddenly some noticeable cease fire at least by those who are living in the Gulf islands or Saudi Arabia,whose princesses have reacted sharply to Muslim baiting.

Analysts and commentators like Apoorvanand and Harsh Mander have for long been raising their voice against such negative profiling of Muslims. Objective reporters and editors, though just a handful in these times, have pointed out how only Tablighi Jamaat is mentioned even by leaders like Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal as if neither the rest of foreigners who arrived in India and escaped quarantine, nor this government’s inability to check them at the airport entry had any role to play in the spread of Corona virus in India, nor for that matter gatherings of other religions and social parties attended by prominent BJP leaders. But as long as this Government overtly or covertly backs this social profiling, it will carry on unhindered. Once in a while if those who matter react, the best option is to ignore, while snub those who dare question the actions of this Government. OIC or USCIRF may make some feeble noise once in a while but will that really influence the thinking and actions of this Government? I doubt.

Eom

 

Muslim baiting to distract people from deprivation and starvation

 

Muslim baiting to distract people from deprivation and starvation

By

Faraz Ahmad

Soon after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced on April 14 extension of nationwide lockdown for another eighteen days, protest demonstrations by India’s working class, confined for more than three weeks in makeshift tents or hovels by lockdown enforcing agencies, broke out in several cities and have continued sporadically one city or another every day .

Lakhs of working class people across the country, both from organised sector and many, many more from informal unorgansied sector forming the bulk of this class,  rendered paupers by this lockdown, counting days and hours to their death, due to starvation and deprivation, with no money and no food, lying on roads far away from their distant homes, are restless. Sundry spontaneous agitations in several cities in recent days, even in Delhi, like the burning of three tents housing migrant labour near Kashmiri Gate on April 11, days before they expected the lockdown to end or at least relaxed, manifest their sheer helplessness and frustration.

Yesterday an Assamese worker reached his home walking, hitch hiking 2400 kilometres on an empty stomach from Vapi. On April 18 a 12 year old girl from a village in Bijapur, Chhatisgarh died walking all the way back from a chilli farm in Telangana after walking 100 kilometres with other farm workers. She had gone out to work for the first time in her lifetime at that early age forced by the penury of her parents but after lockdown she and those accompanying her had no work, no money and no place to stay but to trudge back home on foot. She was barely 11 kilometres from home when fatigue and starvation killed her.

But the Prime Minister even at the end of the first lockdown, while enforcing a fresh one for another roughly three weeks, didn’t to the cries of these hapless, he and his chief executioner Union Home Minister Amit Shah, together with their kept media channels, also realise the necessity of diverting attention of these people from their misery. So the best option is to revert to their patent anti dote against any people’s movement, polarising Hindus and Muslims.

For the initial three weeks we were wondering where the country’s Home Minister had suddenly disappeared in this hour of crisis. But no, he was not hiding in his home fearing COVID-19 infection. He is a man of tremendous perseverance and resolve. Realising how the poor truck drivers lying on the roads with their trucks but no food and no money for close to a month, would be on the edge, how a poor man would be desperately collecting milk spilled on the road in Agra by a passing milk van, into his vessel with bare hands while four hungry dogs would also be lapping it up few steps ahead, would be at their tether’s end. Such people could react and so the Home Minister had to plan some move which should distract people’s attention from their immediate problem of penury and starvation. Before the working class people, Hindus, Muslims, Sikh, Christians, Tamils, Telugu, Malayalee, Bengalee, Bihari, Maharashtrians and Kashmiris were to find a common cause on account of their shared trauma and stand up unitedly against this insensitive regime, failed so far to move a little finger to ameliorate their suffering, creating a serious problem for our dear Prime Minister and Home Minister., they had to devise an anti dote. That is why it was essential to make our working class focus on an object of hate, to blame all our tribulations on. And what better than the easy target, the Musalman!

The Tablighi Jamaat a set of conservative orthodox Muslims who comprise not even a microscopic minority of Sunni Muslim population in India, or elsewhere in other parts of the Muslim world, held their convention on March 10-13 attended by some 4000 members including hundreds of foreigners from Indonesia, Malaysia and elsewhere at the Jamaat Markaz in Nizamuddin West. There is no reason to defend the Markaz for holding this convention in these times causing spread of Corona virus, but one has also to remember that  Indonesian, Malaysian and other foreigners who attended this meet, were given visas and clearance to come to India much after China had locked down Wuhan and health experts all over the world had started sending warning signals about its worldwide spread. At the airport again there was evidently no attempt to screen them for COVID-19 symptoms and quarantine any among them found with positive symptoms. Instead as late as March 13 the Health ministry dismissed the threat of Corona stating that “corona virus is not an emergency and people need not panic.”

Yet the targeting of Tablighi Jamaat had its desired effect in so far as Muslims vendors were obstructed from entering gated colonies in Delhi, shopkeepers refused to sell goods to Muslim women even if they alight from cars, Muslim men assaulted and masjids were stoned in some parts of the country, what with BJP leaders adding fuel to fire. But how long could this Jamaat gnome survive? specially when the world media took notice of the design behind the Tablighi Jamaat campaign on TV channels as a cover to target Muslims and international bodies like the UNO and WHO took note of the vilification of a single community in India. Simultaneously the crisis of deprivation of the working people of India is becoming graver by the day as the lockdown is extended all over the country till May 3.

That is when we learn of Amit Shah’s activity and of his ministry questioning why and wherefore the Delhi Police has relented in this Corona infested situation on carrying on its arrest spree in the North East Delhi the epicentre of anti-Muslim pogrom starting from the afternoon of February 23 and suddenly halting on the night of February 25 soon as US president Donald Trump boarded his aircraft to fly back home.

If there were any doubt who were the object of Shah’s malice, it was made clear by news reports in leading English dailies which stated that more than 800 persons have been arrested in North East Delhi ‘riots’ after the Home ministry directions two weeks ago to the Delhi Police not to slow down the action ignoring the Police plea that with depleted force due to its preoccupation with handling the Corona cases and enforcing lockdown, it had no option but to deploy its force differently. So far the Crime Branch alone arrested 182 while the local police detained another 620. If there was any confusion whom the Police was pursuing on Home ministry directions, these reports elaborated that among the arrested were two persons from Sambal in UP who reportedly sheltered the murderers of Ankit Sharma the young IB officer, killed during that violence. Simultaneously reports also mentioned that as for the killing of Faizan, 24 who was seen in a video lying on the ground while cops stood and watched him being lynched and forced to sing the national anthem, the Police maintained that it was still probing who perpetrated the crime and that the Delhi Police cannot be blamed for this because it said its men were not on duty on that particular spot.

Further if any more proof of the bias in this investigation, renewed under instructions from the MHA was needed, it mentioned that a young pregnant woman research scholar from Jamia Millia Islamia who was the media coordinator of the Jamia Coordination Committee agitation against the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 (CAA), named Safoora Zargar has been arrested from Jafrabad for organising the anti-CAA demonstration which the Police claimed, provoked the pro-CAA demonstration leading to riots and violence. No mention of any arrests of the so-called pro-CAA agitators nor to date of any action against former Delhi MLA Kapil Mishra who publicly instigated mobs against Muslims in that area. But no fault of Mishra, even here the victims are to be blamed for inviting violence upon themselves.

Meanwhile any reportage of wilful defiance of the lockdown by the Hindutva brigade and of all the people by UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath, has to be dealt with an iron hand. Adityanath has all along been busy scoring brownie points with the Sangh parivar on who could target Muslims, leftists, liberals and any dissenters better, he or Modi or Amit Shah. So he summoned to Ayodhya through his police force, The Wire Editor Sidharth Vardarajan for having written how while targeting Muslims for defying the lockdown, the UP chief minister himself was defying it along with others in Ayodhya, even though Wire was not the only one who reported this except that The Wire put it in perspective of Muslims being targeted by the same Yogi about the same time using Jamaat and Markaz as the pretext, while he himself attended a sizable religious gathering in Ayodhya, making a mockery of a national COVID-19 lockdown. In the final analysis, the Amit Shah-Yogi-Modi administration is hoping such polarising tactics would make the penury stricken working class forget their suffering to beat the thhalis and blow the anti-Muslim trumpet with the Sangh parivar. Let’s see how far they succeed and for how long.

eom

 

 

 

The poor may die of fatigue, starvation and despair before Corona targets them

The poor may die of fatigue, starvation and despair before Corona targets them

By

Faraz Ahmad

My maid and driver are living on the border of Delhi-Faridabad, just adjoining Badarpur border. Last they could turn up for work in my colony was Saturday, March 21. It’s March 27 today. They have no food, no milk for children and no aid coming from anywhere to tide over this crisis and the Haryana Police won’t let them out. Once the Prime Minister announced a nationwide ‘Janata Curfew’ for Sunday March 22, naturally they stayed home and had no way of coming to work. And before that ended the NCR governments announced general lockdown till March 31. Then two days later the Prime Minister came again on national news networks to extend this lockdown in the entire country for 21 days from March 25.

Late news (no newspapers are coming anymore to our homes and almost all, I said almost, the AIR and TV channels are mere unreliable loudspeakers of Modi and his government and therefore are not worth wasting one’s time and spleen on), came in of Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announcing some measly measures which would hardly suffice to tackle the humungous problem of poverty penury, despair and loneliness created by the onslaught of Corona virus, COVID-19.

One lockdown announcement after another has come with no pre warning or grace period for the poor to fend for himself before he is ordered to sit at home, even when he has no home as is the case with a huge number of migrant work force all over India.

Meanwhile the police in Haryana, and Uttar Pradesh and even in Delhi is focused more on punishing men, women or children seen walking around or riding bicycles, motorcycles, scooters and other two wheelers, not car owners so much, putting fear into the hearts of the poor who dare venture out to buy their daily needs of milk, food and other items of immediate and necessary urgent use, including soaps to contend with Corona. Why I mentioned my maid and driver, is because they have about five six children between them and at least two, three old and infirm apart from equal number of able-bodied members living in that one building and since Sunday they have not been allowed to go out to fetch milk either. We offered to transfer their salaries in advance to their bank accounts, but their accounts are only in South Delhi because they work here, but they dismissed the offer as futile since they are not permitted to venture out to an ATM to draw money. Besides what will they do with the money if they cannot go out to make their purchases. And for all the tall claims of aid coming from the Government not a single item of use has been delivered to any of them at home. And they are at home, not on the street, unlike poor migrant workers who are trudging back for hundreds of kilometres to reach home.

Contrast this with the video circulating from Punjab where the policemen are seen buying vegetables from local cart pullers and rations from the small grocer and delivering at the doorstep of each jhuggi of a slum colony.

While the Prime Minister was on Radio/TV pronouncing 21 days nationwide lockdown, without announcing a single succour for the poor most affected by such a lockdown, Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan declared about the same time in a press conference, “nobody should go hungry in our state” in response to the reports that families all over the country are being “pushed towards starvation.” He entrusted the local government bodies to set up community kitchens to provide cooked food to the needy adding that measures have been put in place wherein people can directly call up the government department concerned and ask for assistance. The district administration will monitor food assistance programme while the local bodies will identify the needy and look into the logistics of food preparation and distribution, he said. Local bodies have been asked to identify cooks and enumerate ward-level volunteers for home delivery of cooked food. Considering the plight of patients stuck in hospitals across the state, the CM said government hospital canteens will provide them and their families food.

Even during the initial days of the outbreak, when people were encouraged to remain indoors, Kerala was the first state to announce free ration for the poor. Vijayan reassured the people that the Food Corporation of India (FCI) has enough stocks of food grains to last about eight months.

The contingency measures include additional 35 kilo free rice to every Below Poverty Line (BPL) family in Kerala while others 15 kilos of free rice. Besides the government will distribute provision kits including rice, wheat, sugar, salt, edible oil, pulses and spices to those under home quarantine, irrespective of their income status. That’s when the Government is concerned about the plight of the people who elected it to office.

Our Prime Minister and his heartless party BJP MLAs who go around directing the police to shoot at sight anyone found defying this curfew, may hate the Communists but at least they can take a lesson or two in generosity and community service from the Sikh community as a whole. They were there to feed the Shaheen Bagh protestors against CAA/NPR/NRC; they rallied immediately to help out those affected by the North-East Delhi pogrom of Muslims by BJP brigade and now for Cororna they are out to take food to anyone seeking their help. This is apart from the free langar which each Gurudwara runs 365 days a year all over the country and even abroad.

No one objects to the lockdown, and surely it is necessary, even if you bulldoze away the women of Shaheen Bagh, but if that is not accompanied by the palliatives of looking after their need by the Government, how would this lockdown succeed? If migrant workers are stranded on roads, railway stations and bus stands, and have to walk all the way from Delhi to Aligarh or Meerut or from Unnao to Lucknow to Barabanki to reach home, it merely reminds one of the plight of the poor in John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath.

A lady doctor currently involved with fighting COVID-19 posted on social media her disapproval and disdain for the farcical clapping and banging of utensils on Sunday evening at the Prime Minister’s instance, reminding that instead if the Government was really concerned about the plight of the health workers it should be ensuring the availability of the protection kits for the doctors, nurses and the rest of the health staff providing assistance to the doctors and nurses, ventilators and masks for the patients. As soon as some doctors claimed curing successfully some COVID-19 patients from the anti-malaria drug chloroquine, easily available and inexpensive too, went out of the market thanks to people hoarding it. Obviously our doctor community is frustratingly witnessing first hand no effort by the Government or the society to take any urgent measures to make the work of the doctors and the rest of health staff easy. One immediate need was to prevent the people with seasonal or congenital problems visiting hospitals and clinics. This could be ensured by simply closing the OPDs in all hospitals so that only those with emergency needs rush to the doctor. The doctors are crying for that but so far except for the AIIMS which is an autonomous institution, so far no orders have come from the Government in Delhi or the Centre, for among the big hospitals Safdarjung and Ram Manohar Lohia hospitals are run by the Centre while the rest led by LNJP are under the administrative control of the Delhi government, to close down OPDs, the basic necessity at this crucial hour.

Eom

 

‘Et tu Brutus?’

‘Et tu Brutus?’

By

Faraz Ahmad

‘Et tu Brutus?’ said a dying Julius Caesar in William Shakespeare’s memorable play, to his betraying confidant Marcus Brutus, who joined Caesar’s assassins in stabbing to death his dear friend betraying his trust and confidence.

That’s perhaps what Justice J Chelameswar might be saying privately to himself at former Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi accepting the nomination to the Rajya Sabha by the BJP-led government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah within four months of retiring as CJI through a controversial and tumultuous period in the history of the Supreme Court of India. On record Justice Chelameswar avoided any scathing criticism of the development when media confronted him about his former Guwahati High Court and then Supreme Court fellow judge being rewarded thus by the Modi-Shah government.

Justice Gogoi was one of the four honourable senior most judges of the Supreme Court who did the unprecedented thing of holding a press conference at the residence of Justice Chelameswar in January, 2018 expressing distress over the functioning of the court under the then presiding officer chief justice Dipak Mishra. They even raised a question  mark on the impartiality of the apex court in dealing with the issue of fellow judge from Bombay High Justice B H Loya who while trying Amit Shah for alleged murder of Sohrabuddin Sheikh, died in mysterious circumstances.

It was remarkable and apparently courageous act on the part of Justice Gogoi, then due for promotion as Chief Justice of India at Justice Mishra’s retirement to stand up thus. But defying the expectations based on past record of vindictiveness of Modi-Shah regime, Justice Gogoi was happily promoted without a hitch, unlike say Justice Akil Kureishi whose promotion was held back by the same regime to prevent his elevation as a Supreme Court judge and was transferred out to Arunachal Pradesh or more recently Justice S Muralidhar, who was transferred out at midnight to Chandigarh for ordering filing of FIRs against BJP leaders Kapil Mishra, Anurag Thakur, Parvesh Verma for delivering hate speeches and inciting people to violence resulting in three day long arson, mayhem, murder and violence last month in North east Delhi largely against the poor Muslim population there, in collusion with the Police force.

But Ranjan Gogoi was treated differently by this Government and promoted without a hitch making many of us wonder even then whether this regime had undergone a change of heart. But that was then. This reward is naturally an outcome of his acts of commission and omission as Chief Justice of India and therefore one of the other four Supreme Court judges in that press conference Justice Madan B Lokur expressed surprise over the alacrity with which this Government chose to reward Justice Gogoi in these words, “There has been speculation for some time now about what honorific would Justice Gogoi get. So in that sense the nomination is not surprising, but what is surprising is that it came so soon. This redefines the independence, impartiality and integrity of the judiciary. Has the last bastion fallen?”

To Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar Brutus was a trusted friend and a confidant, even while he was conspiring all along with the lean and hungry looking wiry Cassius to betray Caesar’s and also Romans’ confidence.  Remember how the Romans chased and killed Cicero the poet mistaking him as the Senator Cicero who was one of fellow conspirators, upon learning of the murder of their dear Julius Caesar by his fellow senators. Justice Gogoi too betrayed the confidence of not just those three other senior judges who sat with him that wintry January, 2018 afternoon to cast aspersions on the functioning of their apex court under Justice Dipak Mishra but also many dissidents and critics of this Government who held high hopes over a member of that quartet elevating to the Chief Justice position succeeding Justice Mishra

Justice Gogoi presided over an apex court which sat on the petition of the then CBI chief Alok Verma’s against being ejected out forcibly from his chair in a post-midnight drama, refused to heed to the open hearing on Rafale fighter plane deal scam, refused to take cognizance of the trampling of the Constitution concerning the state of Jammu and Kashmir in regard to the abrogation of Article 370, the unprecedented act of reducing the state of J&K to two union territories and putting almost the entire state in a state of curfew for over six months now with no concern for human rights of fellow Indians.

He is the originator of the Assam imbroglio resulting in 19 lakh people, mostly women and  old and inform from Assam being declared non-citizens and currently many of them rotting and languishing in Detention Centres. He supervised that exercise which is now getting worse and more harrowing for the poor victims under a BJP government in Assam. But most of all while holding that the demolition of Babri Masjid was an act of violent barbarism and naturally therefore blatantly illegal, yet gifting the same land and more to the very same persons for constructing the Ram Janambhoomi temple, much sought after by successive BJP regimes and Hindutva brigade.

Yes there was reason for Modi-Shah duo to reward Justice Gogoi. BJP has a history of looking after its loyals. It took no time in rewarding the then Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) T N Chaturvedi for raising a finger of doubt and suspicion over the purchase of Howitzer guns from Bofors of Sweden by the Congress government led by Rajiv Gandhi, calling it a scam. Chaturvedi was immediately on retirement, made an active member of the Rajya Sabha and later the Governor of Karnataka by NDA-I. NDA-II followed the same tradition in rewarding their comrade of the UPA times CAG Vinod Rai with an eminent position in the Board of Cricket Control of India (BCCI) for fixing the charge of corruption on a presumptive calculation over the sale of 2G spectrum by the erstwhile UPA government. Or former Chief Justice of India Justice P Sathasivam who was made the Governor of Kerala soon after retirement from office. But Justice Gogoi has done one better on Sathasivam in the sense that while it took close to five months to reward Sathasivam, it took less than four months to reward Justice Gogoi.

The last time a former chief justice of India was thus rewarded was when Justice Ranganath Mishra was made a member of Rajya Sabha by the P V Narasimha Rao regime. But there again Rao as India’s Home Minister presided over the 1984 anti-Sikh pogrom in Delhi and rest of India and the Mishra commission set up by the then Congress government in 1985 successfully did an eye wash losing the trust and confidence of the people specially the poor Sikh victims of that pogrom. That too was could only be explained as a reward for betraying the cause of law and justice.

Eom