MAY DAY OR NO MAYDAY: RAHUL IS MAKING NEWS FOR GOOD REASONS THESE DAYS

“Today we pay tribute to the millions of workers whose hard work, sweat and tears have gone into building our nation. No country can aspire to greatness without ensuring that the people who build the nation are partners in its prosperity and success. That those who work in our factories, in our fields, at our construction sites, in our mines and in enterprises big and small across our country are assured dignity of labour and a decent quality of life. That their children too have opportunities to choose the life they want to live, and a chance to excel and prosper. Let us renew our resolve today to strive for an India in which every citizen rich or poor, farmer and labourer, irrespective of the circumstance of their birth can hold their head high and live and work with dignity and honour.”

Rahul Gandhi said this today, on May Day, on Labour’s Day, or on International Workers’ Day. And while saying so, he extended the revival plank of his party, the Indian National Congress, of being pro-poor and fighting for the cause of the farmer.

He is on an India tour these days, protesting the land bill ordinance. In his meetings and outreach programmes, he alleges the Narendra Modi’s government of being anti-poor and anti-farmer. He is alleging that the Narendra Modi’s government is pro-corporate interests and is working to usurp the rights and land of farmers and the poor of this country. He is saying that the ordinance route was taken as the government was not sure of its chances in the Parliament.

Yesterday, he was in Vidarbha, the place of Kalavati and Shashikala and countless others; the place where Rahul ate at Kalavati’s house in May 2008 (in Yavatmal’s Jalka village) and mentioned her later in his famous speech in the Indian Parliament during the trust-vote Manmohan Singh’s government.

He trekked 15 Kms of it. He is there to reach out to farmers and poor. Unseasonal rains have destroyed crops in around 2 lakh hectares, as the government data show. The real figure is expected to be higher, like the farmer suicides, over 1000 this year, in affected regions across 14 states. Some states like Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh have seen many farm suicides in these months.

And the National Democratic Alliance’s government has already re-promulgated a land ordinance that is vociferously opposed by the political opposition as well as some allied within the government.

A changed Rahul sees an opportunity here – of Congress’ revival – and of taking on Bhartiya Janata Party.

Yes, a changed Rahul Gandhi.

Post his latest sabbatical, Rahul looks politically active and more aggressive. And the BJP is taking it seriously, hitting back. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s response in the Indian Parliament yesterday can be seen this way. Firstpost quoted him saying – “Yeh sujh-bujh ki sarkar hai, isme koi galat fahmi nahi rahe (this is a government of solutions, there should be no misconception about this). Booted hona better hai. Booted out hona khatarnak hai (It is better to be booted. Getting booted out is very dangerous). Yesterday there was criticism (by Rahul) against the Prime Minister that he spends time abroad. At least we know where he is. Is India taller in the community of nations today than it was a few years ago or not? I was surprised when I read over the last few days that compared to the developed world, whether it was Iraq or it was Yemen or Nepal today, it is India which is now being considered as a global leader even in areas where we could not manage our own affairs earlier – disaster management. The Congress Party would realize when the Prime Minister of India goes abroad even for two days or three days, he performs a national duty. There is a difference between performing a national duty and disappearing for a jaunt. Therefore, you must realize the difference between the two. What is the kind of commitment to politics that you suddenly disappear for months together and then you come back and say that I will pick up an issue every day merely because it will make my presence felt.”

So, Rahul Gandhi, after his leave of absence, is more certain of his future than ever it seems. Probably, he has introspected and meditated about it.

Hope, the changed streak is there to stay – and words of his May Day speech, that are clearly backed by a pro-poor approach, should be backed by an intent that is natural.

And yes, he has to find the solution to the ‘Robert Vadra riddle’ and convince the countrymen about it. It should happen soon. There is indeed a mayday like situation there.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

NEPAL EARTHQUAKE: MEANWHILE, INDIAN FARMERS CONTINUE TO COMMIT SUICIDE

Debt-ridden farmer commits suicide in Kalaburagi
The Hindu-April 28, 2015

Two more farmers commit suicide over crop loss
Daily Mail, April 28, 2015

Cotton farmer commits suicide in TN
Business Standard, April 27, 2015

Another farmer commits suicide in Haryana
Chandigarh Tribune, April 27, 2015

Ninth Rajasthan Farmer to Commit Suicide in 1 Week
NDTV, April 26, 2015

Unable to pay loan, farmer hangs self outside DM office
Indian Express, April 26, 2015

Under debt, farmer commits suicide
Chandigarh Tribune, April 25, 2015

These are also some of the headlines since Saturday from India – a Saturday when Nepal’s devastating earthquake enveloped a part of Himalayan range, including many districts of Nepal, 39 overall and 11 severely damaged, and many parts of India and some parts of other neighbouring countries – China, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Bhutan.

It’s an unending human misery and Nepal will take long to come back to normalcy in spite of the overwhelming international aid including from India.

Farmer suicides in India are also an unending human misery and no foreign aid is coming to curb them.

Governments here, including the Union Government try to do all to the hide behind the data when it comes to farmer suicides.

Though Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh has revised the estimates to 189 lakh hectares from 94 lakh hectares, many states affected have not reported farmer suicides due to unseasonal rains and the subsequent crops loss or have reported he same in highly disproportionate ways. And even the Centre, though accepting, is not attributing almost of these distress deaths due to some agrarian crisis.

The Nepal earthquake comes to the rescue of governments we can say, especially one government – Arvind Kejriwal’s government in Delhi.

Arvind Kejriwal has found himself in a trap after a farmer allegedly committed suicide in his rally. Kejriwal had launched the rally to take over the mantle of farmers’ fight against the National Democratic Alliance government’s land acquisition ordinance. He was claiming to offer the maximum compensation to the farmers in the country who were victims of unseasonal rains.

But Gajender or Gajendra’s alleged suicide washed down his efforts. When Gajender made the move to climb the tree at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar, when he was trying to scale up and down the branches of the three, when he was waving his turban, the crowd below there, consisted mostly of the Aam Aadmi Party volunteers mainly, cheered him up.

When his alleged suicide, which was caught on many cameras, took place, Kejriwal promised he would visit the hospital after finishing the rally. He kept on speaking. The rally went on.

Meanwhile, Gajender was declared ‘brought dead’ by the doctors of Ram Manohar Lohia hospital in Delhi.

And Kejriwal and the AAP’s plans went to the awry after it.

After it, Kejriwal’s proposed visit never happened. He spoke on it, but only on third day, on April 24, defending and apologizing at the same time. His party’s spokespersons were speaking rubbish all this while. Sanjay Singh even visited Gajender’s village in Duasa district in Rajasthan.

Gajender’s village became a talking point. Every major political party, along with some senior politicians, saw it its duty to register its presence there. When Vasundhara Raje Scindia, Rajasthan’s chief minister, from the Bhartiya Janata Party, made a controversial statement about visiting Gajender’s villages, it created a political storm. She ultimately did not visit the village.

Gajender’s family too changed its stance after meeting Sanjay Singh. In words of Sanjay Singh, the family demanded ‘martyr status for the cause of farmers’ and jobs for dependent of Gajender, along with other demands.

In all, a political storm was brewing and farm suicides were at the forefront of every discourse in this country, something that seldom happens, even if tens of thousands of farmers commit suicide each year. Everyone was trying to squeeze in the maximum political mileage of this ‘Peepli Live’ sort of situation.

All this while, Gajender’s suicide and suicide note, both were under scanner. There were doubts based on the probe so far and it was told to us that Gajender did not intend to commit suicide and his suicide note was forged. Questions like who invited him from Rajasthan and his call details are part of investigation now. And the AAP was clearly on back foot.

Kejriwal was feeling uncomfortable with these questions. He was at the centre of every criticism and he had no answers but lame excuses. Also, the incident came after almost expulsion like situation of two senior-most AAP founder-members, Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan. The AAP is staring at a credibility crisis.

And then April 25 Nepal earthquake happened. The whole nation since then is talking about it. It got round the clock coverage till Monday. Even yesterday, it got the maximum amount of coverage.

And the AAP got the breather that it desperately needed.

April 25, 26, 27 and 28 – no one talked about Gajender.

But Gajender’s issue is not dead. As coverage from Nepal will return to normal, the AAP agenda will be back in political circles.

Kejriwal realizes it or not, we need to see that. Though he has softened his tone towards Delhi Police saying even Delhi Police officials present there could not think that Gajender was preparing to commit suicide, Gajender did die.

Farmers are dying daily in this country the headlines tell. Unseasonal rains have only added to the numbers. But they don’t pull attention, until someone like Gajender commits an intentional/unintentional suicide in India’s national capital in a rally called by its newest political party that is running the show in Delhi and is trying to take on the whole political class including the BJP in the centre.

Commonplace ironies of world’s largest democracy continue.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

FARMERS MAY CONTINUE TO COMMIT SUICIDE BUT POLITICIANS FEEL THEY ARE IN A SEPARATE CLASS

They range from 600 and go to over 850 – based on different reports. Telangana and Andhra Pradesh continue to hold the ignominy of maximum farm suicides in the country.

Telangana which was officially carved out of Andhra Pradesh on June 1 last year has inherited the issue from its parent state. And has been performing even worse after that.

Its first chief minister is busy in affairs of his family and the ministerial council. He has converted the entire state into his fiefdom it seems. Had it not been so, his MLA would not dare to say that ‘no farmer has committed the suicide in the state since KCR (K. Chadrashekar Rao) took over in June 2014’.

And such MLAs (and ministers) are duly rewarded by KCR.

The minister who said this is a so-called ‘progressive farmer’ and is headed to Israel for the International Agriculture Exhibition. He is part of the delegation of eight such ‘farmers’ who will go to Israel on the study tour and would implement the learning of the ‘place’ back home.

So, Telangana is looking to grab an opportunity that would get it rid of all negative publicity. Isn’t it?

But then negative publicities are galore. And they are not without reasons.

But then, they are politicians of the day, of the lot they come from, of the land called India.

Even all the media fury and political opposition’s arguments couldn’t bring the chief minister out to speak on it.

Probably none would be so appealing for him; probably it was not bothering him. After all, for such petty issues, like farmers committing suicides, government nepotism, administrative corruption, government sponsored junkets, etc., his deputy chief minister, ministers and MLAs are there.

After all, he is a person who warns media outfits to ‘bury alive’ if its members ‘insult the state’.

Farmers are dying in Telangana but it’s a non-issue for KCR and his ministers. Drought, unseasonal rains and the mechanism of compensation to farmers have created a mix that has exacerbated the plight of farmers.

But the politicians are enjoying their time-out, like these four along with four others are going to have in Israel.

And it’s symbolic of the overall political culture in India.

‘Politicians are a class above us’ they believe. And it was once again reiterated by the union government of India when its Minister of Civil Aviation, Ashok Gajapati Raju.

He ‘assured’ his fellow parliamentarians (of the political lot) that they will continue to avail the VVIP treatment at the airports.

Now airports are one of the most secure places and an MP can go like you and me to any airport in this country.

While writing so, we must keep in mind that very few of the overall Indians (the common men, the biggest but amorphous votebank) travel by the air and thus have the opportunity to see the airports.

Yet, our parliamentarians think they are above even the selected very few. After all, once in the hallowed halls of Indian policymaking, they feel themselves several notches above even the persons who avail the air travel facility in India (the world’s largest democracy, but with maximum number of poor). Once in the hallowed halls, they feel in a separate class altogether.

And the demand to continue the VVIP treatment at the airports is just one such of many reflections.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

MOUNTING FARM SUICIDES IN VIDARBHA – YET THE VOICES REMAIN AT PERIPHERY

Some media reports say the Maharashtra police have alerted its personnel to be ready to handle a possible water riots in the drought-hit regions of the state. Reportedly, the state is facing the worst drought in 60 years.

Headlines like ‘In drought-hit Maharashtra, young ‘brides’ have good resale value’, ‘Opposition geared up to grill government on mishandling of drought relief works, deteriorating finances’, ‘Maharashtra drought is man-made: Athavale’, ‘Maharashtra set to face worst drought ever’, ‘Maharashtra gets Rs 5.47 billion as drought relief’ are making in-roads in the newsrooms.

But given the response, it is clear that the voices continue to remain on the periphery.

Voices forced to remain at the periphery – it is indeed equally outrageous as the issue of continued farm suicides in India. Vidarbha of Maharashtra has had a history of crisis and it is one of the regions claiming high number of farmer suicides.

The Indian Parliament was informed by Mr. Sharad Pawar, the Agriculture Minister, on February 22, 2013 that during the period from April 2012 to January 2013, 228 Vidarbha farmers committed suicide due to ‘agrarian distress’. Though the minister went on to add that the state and the region had seen decline in suicide cases since 2006, the reported number of farmer suicides from the Vidarbha region since 2001, over 8400 cases, shadow it. These reported figures say the crisis is much deeper if we (and we must) take into account the unreported cases (or the cases which the administration has been successful in suppressing from being reported as farm suicides).

Farm suicides are a continued shame in and with them flows in tandem the meekness and insensitivity of the governments and the societies that include different categories of the pro- claimants.

A prime minister from Pakistan comes on a personal visit, or a US based institution cancels Narendra Modi’s keynote address or Vijender Singh, a boxer’s name figures in a drug-haul controversy, we all go in hyperbole (it doesn’t matter if with positive or negative intonations).

Everybody, who somehow, directly or indirectly, formulates or opinionates about policymaking (that affects the lives of the common men including the farmers, many of whom have committed suicides over the years), indulges in an intense chatter, that not even remotely asks for the weightage given.

See this. Mr. Pawar’s statement to the Parliament came on February 22. The present Vidarbha drought story goes many months back. But have we heard any intense activity on advocacy platforms (including the media) in the recent months that pressurises the governments and the other stakeholders involved to take war measures? NO!

Have we seen series of campaigns running across the cities and the regions to force the governments to do a policy-rethink on why the farm suicides still continue? NO!

Farmer suicides are the inhuman face of the Indian Democracy with many big states like Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh continue to claim over 60 per cent of the reported cases. There have been over a quarter-million farmer suicides in India since 1995. If any study can collate the figures since the Independence, we are bound to get more shocking and sickening set of data. What is happening in Vidarbha has been happening in India for decades, yet, no decisive (that should have been taken decades ago) action has been taken by the successive governments.

There are activists who are fighting hard. They regularly come up with campaigns and studies but their voices remain at the periphery. The absence of concern in media over the mounting cases of farm suicides in Vidarbha is just the repetition of the irresponsible social responsibility of the larger cross-section of the Indian media.

Except few names in media like P Sainath, The Hindu or NDTV, no one else bothers much about this man-made atrocity on human lives.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/