The article originally appeared on India Today.
Here it is bit modified.

In an act of self-aggrandizement, an editorial in China’s official publication People’s Daily has termed western democracy a grand illusion. Comparing situation in China with political chaos prevailing in the US with election of Donald Trump as the president and declaring China’s political system unique for lifting millions of Chinese out of poverty, the editorial has slammed western democracy saying it is always just one step away from tragedy.

The editorial questions the US model of democracy and writes that ‘China’s official argument is that the US elevates itself as a model of democracy in order to spread its interpretation of democracy to other countries in an attempt to make the world in its own image.’

It says the 2016 US presidential election has shown the perils of western democracy ‘revealing the dark side of so-called democracy in the US.’ Taking its agenda to show western democracies in poor light further, citing some studies in the way it suits its agenda, the editorial says that “the modern history of western democracy is one of decline and fall and most democracies failed and there is a growing dissatisfaction with western democracy itself, not just in America but around the world.”

Whereas the world knows how ruthless is the one-party autocratic rule of China. China is known as a country that massacred its own students in the Tiananmen Square incident for demanding political reforms. China is a county that crushes every voice of dissent including even artists and Nobel laureates. China’s human rights record is awfully horrible. Free and fair elections are undisputed hallmark of democracies, something that China has never seen under its communist rule.

Though the editorial rightly points to the ensuing political chaos in the US with Donald Trump’s controversial policy movements like replacing national health insurance policy unveiled by Barack Obama with his controversial health insurance plan that will leave millions of Americans out of its ambit or his controversial travel ban plan targeting Muslims or his decision to withdraw the US from the Paris Climate Deal, it forgets China’s own poor track record while painting an established model of democracy in a negative hue.

The editorial doesn’t mention Chinese crackdown on Uyghur Muslims of its Xinjiang province for demanding freedom to practice their religion. Ramadan is prohibited for them and so calling their children with religious Muslim names. The editorial doesn’t mention how China throws its millions of poor out of its megacities to build a world class Beijing or Shanghai. The editorial doesn’t mention that How Hong Kongers are vehemently opposing Chinese efforts to introduce mainland education system in the island city that was a British colony with British law and western education system. Though Hong Kong was transferred to Chinese control in 1997, the British-Chinese agreement says that China cannot interfere to impose its socialist system in Hong Kong for 50 years.

While talking of growing dissatisfaction with western democracies, the editorial very conveniently forgets to mention that how Donald Trump is seeing lowest approval ratings within few months of his inaugural because of controversies surrounding him, that how France elected an unknown Emmanuel Macron over far-right Marine Le Pen to preserve its democratic spirit, that how Britain rejected PM Theresa May’s inward looking policies by taking away her government’s majority in the recently held elections. A democratic spirit grows stronger with equal participation of people in its trial and error process that challenges throw, something that was never given to Chinese people.

Democracies are built on these founding principles, political and religious freedom, rule of law and legal equality, building blocks of a democratic society totally unheard of in one-party rule autocratic China. Chinese people have no political and religious freedom. Legal equality and rule of law is on mercy of Chinese power elite. It serves as long as they keep on squeezing their life within the strict norms laid out by the Chinese Communist Party. The editorial’s argument, “whether the shoes fit or not, only the wearer knows”, quoting Chinese president Xi Jinping, reflects the unilateral world view of Chinese power elite.



The article originally appeared on India Today.

United States President Donald Trump today appeared to confirm a Washington Post report that he is being investigated for firing former FBI director James Comey.

The Post, this week, reported that Robert Mueller, who is overseeing the FBI’s probe into Russia’s meddling in last year’s US presidential election and possible links with the Trump campaign, has expanded his inquiry to probe whether Trump obstructed justice by firing James Comey as FBI chief.

In his tweet today, Trump seemingly confirmed the report and reiterated his charge linking his presidential campaign with Russia is nothing but a political witch-hunt.

Trump said he was being investigated by the man who, in the first place, told him to fire James Comey. Trump’s tweet could be targeting Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed former FBI director Robert Mueller as special counsel to oversee the probe into Russia’s intervention into the last year’s presidential polls.

Rosenstein had written to Trump recommending Comey’s firing.

In an attempt to sound upbeat and to downplay the new developments in a controversy that has now reached the Oval Office, Trump also said that “despite the phony witch Hunt going on in America, the economic & jobs numbers are great.”

Even yesterday, Trump had termed the alleged links between Russia and his campaign as a phony story.

Notably, James Comey, who was fired by Trump last month, publicly testified this month that Trump had told him to ease off on his former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who was under the FBI investigation for his Russian links.

Comey said he believed Trump’s advice to be a direction and thus felt uncomfortable by it. Terming Comey’s allegations untrue, Trump later said he was willing to testify under oath but Mueller’s reported investigation into the president’s actions means that Trump will have to live with the ghost of another probe reaching to the White House.

Trump had expressed the same outrage when Mueller, a former FBI director from 2001 to 2013, was appointed last month by the US Department of Justice to probe Russian meddling.

While accusing the Clinton campaign and the Obama administration of indulging in illegal acts, Trump had said that “there was never a special counsel appointed to oversee the acts of his Democrat predecessors”.

He had likened the appointment of the special counsel with the “single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history”. “With all of the illegal acts that took place in the Clinton campaign and the Obama administration, there was never a special counsel appointed”, Trump had tweeted.



The article originally appeared on India Today.

Mohammad Shafi Armar, an ISIS operative and recruiter of Indian origin, has been declared global terrorist by the US State Department.

“Mohammad Shafi Armar is a leader and head recruiter in India for the Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) and Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) group, ISIS. He has cultivated a group of dozens of ISIS sympathizers who are involved in terrorist activities across India, such as plotting attacks, procuring weapons, and identifying locations for terrorist training camps,” the US State Department release said.

Shafi Armar is from Bhatkal, Karnataka. He is considered close to ISIS chief Abu Bakar Al-Baghdadi and has recruited at least 30 Indians to join the ISIS and is said to be in touch with over 700.

He became ISIS’ main recruiter for India after his elder brother Sultan Abdul Kadir Armar, who was heading ISIS in India, was killed in March 2015. Their names cropped up during interrogation of Yasin Bhatkal who was arrested from Nepal border in 2013.

Intelligence sources say he was planning to establish ISIS units in each Indian state and had started Junud AlKhalifa-e-Hind as ISIS’ India wing for this purpose.

According to intelligence sources, before joining ISIS, Shafi Armar was member of banned outfit Indian Mujahideen and had fled to Pakistan in 2009 along with top leadership of the group.

There were reports last year that Shafi Armar was killed in US air strike but he was later confirmed alive. Shafi Armar has made Syria his base and uses social media platforms like Facebook and WhatsApp to contract and recruit potential ISIS terrorists.



The article originally appeared on India Today.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has compared fired FBI chief James Comey’s act of leaking information to media to that of a human rights activist. “Comey’s leak of information to the media was more in line with an activist than an intelligence chief,” USA Today* quoted him saying. Putin said this while holding his annual ‘Direct Line’ Q&A call-in session yesterday.

Comparing James Comey to Edward Snowden, a sarcastic Putin said Russia was ready to grant asylum to Comey in case he is prosecuted for those leaks, “It sounds very strange when the head of the security services writes down a conversation with the commander-in-chief and then leaks it to the media through his friend. How, in that case, does he differ from Edward Snowden?,” The Guardian** wrote quoting him. Edward Snowden, who is facing espionage charges in the US, is a whistleblower and former CIA contractor who leaked US intelligence documents of mass surveillance and was given political asylum by Russia.

Putin added that since Comey’s acts are more like an activist than an intelligence chief, if the latter feels pressured in the US or if he is prosecuted, Russia would be happy to grant him political asylum.

In his testimony, former FBI chief James Comey had said that he intentionally leaked memo on his conversation with Trump to build pressure to appoint special counsel in the case. Comey’s strategy worked after the US Department of Justice appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller special counsel to probe Russian meddling into the last year’s US presidential election.



After terming appointment of Robert Mueller as Special Counsel to probe Russian meddling into the last year’s US election a political witch-hunt, US President Donald Trump has turned his ire once again at the former FBI director and his opponents for the ‘obstruction of justice’ investigation. While terming the attempts to link his team with Russian meddling phony, he blamed his opponents for building the case for ‘obstruction of justice’ on similar hollow grounds and repeated again that the whole case against him is the ‘single greatest witch hunt in the American political history’.

The Washington Post reported last night that Mueller had expanded his scope of investigation on Russian meddling to take into account a possible obstruction of justice by Donald Trump after former FBI director James Comey, who was fired by Trump last month, publicly testified that Trump had told him to let his former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who was under the FBI investigation for his Russian links, go. Comey said that he had taken Trump’s advice as a direction and felt uncomfortable by it. Terming Comey’s allegations untrue, Trump later said he was willing to testify under oath but Mueller’s investigation says Trump will have to live with ghost of another probe reaching to the White House after the Russian meddling investigation.

This is not the first time that Trump has questioned Robert Mueller. He felt the same sense of political witch-hunt when Mueller was appointed last month. Accusing the Clinton campaign and the Obama administration of indulging in illegal acts, Trump had said, “There was never a special counsel appointed to oversee the acts of his Democrat predecessors”. He has likened the appointment of the Special Counsel with the “single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history”. “With all of the illegal acts that took place in the Clinton campaign and the Obama administration, there was never a special counsel appointed”, Trump had tweeted.

Mueller headed the FBI from 2001 to 2013, a period that witnessed a Republican President in George Bush and a Democrat President in Barack Obama. Mueller has earned the reputation of being a hard taskmaster and an honest, tough and resolute person. He is known as someone who doesn’t toe the line and instead stands for principles as he did when he had threatened to resign if the then US President George Bush went ahead with his domestic surveillance plans without approval of the US Department of Justice.



The article originally appeared on India Today.
Here it is bit modified and extended.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM), the United Nations’ migration agency, has said in its latest release* that the number of migrants and refugees that entered Europe by sea routes has seen a drastic reduction this year. Data compiled till June 11 says 73,189 migrants and refugees entered Europe by sea in 2017 whereas the corresponding figure for January-June 11 was 211434, almost three times.

Deepening anti-migrant and refugee sentiments in the wake of terror attacks in many European countries and the US can be attributed to this drastic reduction second year in a row.

Britain has seen three terror attacks in last four months, in March, May and June in which dozens of people lost their lives. There have been two major terror attacks in France and one in Sweden in 2017.

The series of terror attacks in Europe that began with Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris in January 2015 has continued unabated in France, Britain, Germany, Belgium and other European countries. Same is the story of the US where San Bernardino attack in 2015 left 14 dead, Orlando nightclub terror attack in 2016 left 49 dead and other bombings, stabbing and vehicle attacks left many injured. And the sad truth is migrants and refugees and their dependents have been found involved in most of them.

Something that is reflecting in the drastically reduced number of refugees and migrants. 2015 was a crisis year when over a million refugees from civil war ravaged countries like Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and Nigeria. According to the European Union (EU) claims, 2015 saw 1,321,560 asylum claims.

The rush of migrants and refugees in 2015, said to the biggest wave of human crisis since the Second World War, created a pressure on many European countries, especially the smaller and economically weaker ones. Though the hostile signs were visible quite early with countries like Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Czech Republic showing strong reservations, the European Commission settled down with a plan to distribute and relocate refugees among the European countries and set September 2017 as deadline keeping in line with the European spirit. But, so far, only 21000 asylum seekers have been relocated even if the EU is threatening legal action against the erring countries.

But coupled with terror incidents being attributed to migrants and refugees and thus a rising hostility, 2016 saw a steep decline with 364000 people seeking asylum in Europe in 2016. Many European countries erected fences to prevent migrants. The Balkan route was closed down. The EU made a deal with Turkey to monitor and block the Aegean Sea route, the main route taken by asylum seekers to reach Europe via Greece. Turkey that happened to be the gateway for Syrian migrants to entry in Europe sealed its border with Syria. Brexit in the UK in 2016 saw emergence of Theresa May, who is blamed by her rivals to have ‘poisonous propaganda about immigrants’.

2017, it seems going to bring it further down. The first six months of the year has just over 70000 asylum seekers in Europe by sea route and by this rate, we can say the number is not going to be more than 150000 and can even be substantially lower than this, given the surge of recent terror attacks in Europe by Islamic militants.

Emergence of right wing and far right in many European countries and governments hostile to migrants and refugees have further exacerbated the crisis. France’s far right politician Marine Le Pen has emerged as the main political opposition in the country with 34 per cent vote where far right was almost non-existent in France some years ago. She is a strong critic of immigration. Germany’s right wing termed asylum seekers ‘compost’. British PM Theresa May is also not interested in refugees welfare. And to cap all of them, US President Donald Trump is a strong anti-immigration voice and has been trying hard to stop migrants and refugees entering from the US. And he is a vocal supporter of Theresa May and Marine Le Pen.



When it can’t produce any effective outcome for their so-called, misplaced cause of spreading Jihad other than those localized aftermaths that only strengthen the resolve to fight back! Because terrorists want their fiefdoms.

It is sad but true that almost of the Muslim world is ruled by autocrats, despots and monarchs. There are very few democracies like Malaysia and Indonesia that can be said to have consistent pattern of democracy in recent times otherwise it is like Pakistan that, though claims to be a democracy, is ruled by its military.

The so-called regimes and rulers want to keep their constituencies intact, so as to exercise their power, even if their constituents (people) want to run away.

That is exactly the mindset of the terror warlords. And with terror groups like Al Qaeda, Taliban and Islamic State going transnational, the terrorist chieftains of these outfits have started dreaming about territories controlled by them where they can run amok. Though it cannot be compared to the rise of the Arab nation states where it was clans and tribes initially, which even used to fight among themselves and the global oil politics gave their rule legitimacy, the terror groups, too, are free to envision a future for them, where, they too, will be treated like the nation states, if they, too, come to control an asset like oil.

In order to do so, they need territories and they need people. Controlling territories will give the terror outfits access to resources and controlling people will give them the much needed sense of being powerful and ultimately the leverage to get sanction in case geopolitical changes throw opportunities, like it has happened with many military rulers in the Muslim world or like it happened with Taliban in Afghanistan. The Islamic State just tried to do it. Emboldened and going transnational, these terror groups may well think of snatching regimes from existing monarchs, despots and autocrats.

For that they need to keep the fight within. They need to push those western countries out of their way. And they need to restrict people leaving the territories they are eyeing. In the prevailing geopolitical circumstances, when the US says it will limit its intervention in the global affairs, draws roadmaps to withdraw from Afghanistan and Iraq and refuses to send troops in Syria, the terror groups see an opportunity. They see prospects of an independent territory under their control as the Islamic State or Boko Haram think, without bothering much for global policing, or they go for active collusion with existing regimes like many Islamic terror groups including Al Qaeda, Taliban and the Haqqani Faction.

But the more worrying development is their success to limit the movement of people. The incessant terror attacks in many European countries and the revival of the anti-terror discourse in the public psyche in the US with recent attack have effectively blocked the people movement from terror and civil war ravaged Muslim countries to European countries and the US. The UN Migration Agency in its report released today said the number of migrants and refugees trying to enter Europe has drastically come down this year, to almost one-fourth of what it was in the first six months of 2016. European countries and the US are clamping down on migrants and refugees, driven by the hostile public sentiments after spate of terror attacks.



According to the 2014 World Urbanization Prospects, released by the Population Division of the Department of Social and Economic Affairs of the United Nations, India is going to add 404 million of people to its urban population by 2050, ahead of the projected additions by China (292 million) and Nigeria (212 million).

That is expected to add to the poverty problem of India, slowing down the rate of poverty reduction in urban areas of the country. The Global Food Policy report by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) in March said that the trend is bound to bring more poverty to urban agglomerations.

But it is a double-edge sword.

Why are people migrating to cities or urban agglomerations?

Because they are not able to find a sustainable livelihood back home, if they can call the place they come from as home.

The primary reason to move to cities is the additional source of income by finding jobs in the booming infrastructure sector in India. And small jobs that these big urban agglomerations support. Even if they will pay a heavy price. They will have to live on streets, in slums, with no quality of life. Education, health, shelter and amenities like piped water, electricity and roads will remain out of bounds for them. But they will, at least, be able to feed themselves and their families, that was not possible back there in their villages. Even if malnutrition becomes an urban problem with this rural exodus, it is, at least, saving lives.

They were poor back there, in villages. And they will remain poor even if they migrate to cities.

Because the sole aim of such migration is survival and not uplifting the scale of life.

So, if we see from a sociological perspective, it is a fruitful migration, as long as we keep on failing our agriculture that still supports some 45 crore Indians, if we go by an NSSO report which estimates the number of agricultural households in India at 9 crore. It is an established practice that for statistical calculations, we take the average size of an Indian family of five members. The number goes even further if we count the population dependent indirectly on agriculture.

Because the farming distress is very real. It, in fact, has been there for decades. Since 2001, over 2.30 lakh farmers have committed suicide, i.e., 2 farmers per hour, and these are as per the officials records of the government of India (NCRB figures). It is that during the years of crisis, i.e., drought and overproduction years, the problem becomes so intense that it starts spilling over on our conscience.

And it is always a chain reaction, an eco-system built on all of its constituents with faming at the core, be it rural markets, daily wage earners, transportation workers or even service professionals like lawyers and doctors, farming sustains the flow of money in the local eco-system by regulating the purse strings of majority of its stakeholders.

India has to grow and fine tune its process with this reality. It has to find solutions within the existing framework of its problems because it cannot generate millions of jobs, even in coming years, to support and sustain the chunk of population dependent on agriculture.



After questions are being raised over delay in the disbursal of the farm loan waiver, Yogi Adityanath, chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, has given instructions to the Finance Department of the state to take measures to effectively implement the crop loan waiver scheme. There are numerous report on how farmers of the state are still clueless about their loan waiver even after two months of its announcement by the UP CM. Farmers are making rounds of banks but banks haven’t got any order yet and as their previous loan amount is still due, they are not able to get new loans.

The directives issued by Yogi is also being seen as an attempt to avoid farmers unrest in Uttar Pradesh after raging farmers’ agitation in Mandsaur and other districts of Madhya Pradesh and farmers’ protests and clashes with administration in states like Maharashtra, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu. Protests in Madhya Pradesh have reached to its capital city Bhopal. And its flames further have reached to Punjab and Haryana where farmers held protests in support of the farmers of Madhya Pradesh. Chhattisgarh farmers are also going to start their protest movement.

According to the Twitter account of the UP CM office, Yogi Adityanath has directed the state officials that the loan waiver amount of the small and marginal farmers be made available to banks immediately after the state budget is passed. The Yogi government is finalizing its budget and it is expected to be presented by June end. Yogi’s predecessor Akhilesh Yadav had presented the state’s interim budget for April-August on December 21 last year as the state was going to polls in February-March.

Adityanath has directed his officials to issue certificates of loan waiver to the small and marginal farmers and has instructed his officials that they must visit the 86 lakh beneficiary farmers to handover the document personally. The outreach is being seen as an attempt by Adityanath so express his sensitivity towards the affected farmers.

He has also asked his officials to direct the banks to not issue notice to the farmers who are beneficiary of this loan waiver scheme till the state budget is passed. For effective implementation of the loan waiver scheme, he has directed the officials to form committees at the district level headed by the district collectors. One of the most important directives he has issued is of linking the beneficiary bank accounts to their Aadhar number. It will ensure transparency and quick flow of funds from the government to the farmers once the funds are made available.

Keeping its campaign promise, the Yogi Adityanath government had waived crops loans worth Rs 36359 crore its first cabinet meeting on April 4. The waiver intends to benefit 2.1 crore small and marginal farmers of the state with loan liability of up to Rs 1 lakh.

Spread of farmers’ agitation to many states, with many of them being BJP run, has sent state governments and the central government in a panic mode. Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan first announced a compensation of Rs 5 lakh for the farmers killed in Mandsaur firing, raised it to Rs 10 lakh and then finally to Rs 1 crore, all in a span of just few hours. He also sat on indefinite peace fast to appeal to the farmers. Central government led by Narendra Modi held an emergency meeting on farmers’ agitation and Maharashtra chief minister decided to waive of farmers’ loans in the state worth 30000 crore, a long standing demand even by the Shiv Sena, the BJP partner in the state government.

Because they realize that if the BJP loses the confident of the farmers, it is staring at an electoral loss in the upcoming elections including the 2019 Lok Sabha election. Farming community and its dependents who form over one-third of India’s population are an electoral force that no political party can dare to ignore. Politics over farm crisis and farm suicides tell us the electoral might of farmers even if they are cursed to live a life of misery with a paltry monthly household income of just Rs 6426 a month, the National Sample Survey Office’s report says.



The article originally appeared on India Today. 

Taking his criticism of US President Donald Trump’s stand on climate change to the next level, French President Emmanuel Macron has launched a website inviting US scientists and research scholars to live in France and do research there on climate change. Earlier this month, after the US exit from the Paris Climate Agreement, he had assured the US scientists that France was like a second homeland for them.

The website ‘Make Our Planet Great Again’ (, an apparent dig at Donald Trump’s favourite slogan ‘Make America Great Again (#MAGA), says it is an initiative of President of France Emmanuel Macron who launched it to invite American scientists to “come work in France after facing the climatic skepticism of the new government of the United States.”

Macron says “he wants to make our planet great again” and appeals to the scientists that “the planet needs their innovative skills” and asks “if they you IN to change (literally) our daily lives and make our planet great again?” While terming the US decision unfortunate, he says “it has only reinforced our determination. Don’t let it weaken yours. We are ONE planet and together, we can make a difference.”

On June 1, US President Donald Trump had pulled the US out of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, a global climate pact to deal with emission of greenhouse gases. 195 countries signed the agreement document in December 2015 and 147 countries have ratified it so far and the agreement came into effect on November 4, 2016. Trump has been a vocal critic of the Paris climate deal and he had promised to cancel the deal if he became the US President.

After Trump’s announcement, according to France 24*, while slamming Trump for making a historic mistake, Macron said the US scientists and entrepreneurs “disappointed” by Trump’s decision “will find in France a second homeland: I call on them, come and work here with us.”

It was unprecedented when he chose to address the world in English from Elysee Place, the official residence of the French president, after Trump’s no to Paris Accord. It was, in fact, a first for a French president, The Telegraph** said. Also, the press release sent to French journalists from the Elysee Palace on the website launch was in English, again “an unprecedented move by a French president”, the France 24 report said.

Macron, in fact, had released a video statement in English on Twitter on February 10, while he was campaigning for the French presidential polls, calling the US scientists and entrepreneurs working on climate change to relocate to France after Trump had decided to curtail the climate change research budget.

US withdrawing from the Paris Accord is certainly a bad news as the country is the second largest emitter of the greenhouse gases. China, the European Union and the US account for more than half of the global greenhouse gas emissions, an analysis from the World Resources Institute says. The US exit is bound to affect the norms and goals of the Paris Accord even if other large emitters including India, Russia, European Union and China have reiterated their commitment.