Saturday, June 28, 2014

Watchdog or Lapdog : How media ‘covers’ Modi

- Subhash Gatade

On completion of 30 days in office, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that he had no luxury of 'honeymoon' period. Any neutral observer would tend to disagree and can easily throw light on the great hiatus between Mr Modi’s claim and actual situation on the ground. 

Instances galore which demonstrate how media has been kind to him and how it has skillfully tried to avoid raising anything discomforting to his well cultivated image of a ‘doer’. Neither his appointment of N K Mishra as his principal secretary by promulgating an ordinance amending the Telecom Regulatory Authority Act 1997 – which was enacted by the earlier Vajpayee led NDA government itself– to enable this former chairperson of the regulatory body to take up employment with the government, nor his government’s ‘crude’ and ‘small minded approach’ to put down a candidate’s nomination as a judge of the Supreme Court came under its wider scrutiny. As rightly noted by many analysts the campaign of innuendoes by CBI and Intelligence Bureau against Gopal Subramanium has indeed left a bad taste and has definitely dented the image of the government.

Thanks to social media especially Twitter that the world at large came to know how PM Modi addressed Bhutan as ‘Nepal’ and later Ladakh in his maiden tour outside India and his speech to the National assembly there when members of the assembly as well as other dignitaries were listening with rapt attention. Not very many media outlets even reported this incident and thus saved him from many embarrassing moments.

Image courtesy: India Against Paid Media
Imagine (ex PM) Manmohan Singh’s trip to some neighbouring country and he committing similar ‘faux pas’ like calling Sri Lanka Pakistan or ‘rectifying’ himself by calling it Kashmir on the floor of their house, realising bit late his slip of tongue? Media would not have looked at this gaffe with sympathy but would have definitely chided him for his slip of tongue.

While Modi’s mention of Bhutan as Nepal etc. can definitely be termed as slip of tongue unlike his earlier campaign speeches showing his scant disregard for facts or his ignorance of history then. One still remembers how he then talked of ‘Nehru not even attending Patel's funeral’- despite proof to the contrary or his claims at Patna rally wherein he is reported to have said that ‘Alexander had come to Bihar and was defeated by Biharis' - despite the obvious fact that Alexander never crossed the Ganges - or placing Taxila in Bihar although it is in Pakistan. 

Remember the treatment meted out to the verdict in the Akshardham terror attack case which incidentally came on the day when Modi emerged victor in the recent Lok Sabha elections. The Supreme Court of the country had nothing but harsh words for the manner in which innocents were lodged in jail on fabricated charges for around twelve years for no fault of theirs and the decision taken by the concerned authority ‘without applying mind’ to give a sanction to try them under the draconian POTA act. Modi, PM of the country happened to be CM of Gujarat then also handled the home ministry then. Forget demanding prosecution of guilty police officers who connived with their seniors to concoct the case – for getting some medal – forget asking for compensation to these innocents, the media – barring few exceptions - had by and large remained silent. 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Massive Strike by Hot-Roller Steel Workers Unfolding at Wazirpur, Delhi

A massive indefinite strike is unfolding in Wazirpur Industrial area, Delhi. The strike entered 6th day on 11th June. The workers organised as Garam Rolla Mazdoor Ekta Samiti (Hot-Roller Workers Unity Committee) have been on strike since June 6.

 These are the workers of Hot-Roller steel plants in the Wazirpur Industrial Estate who work in 12-hours shifts under inhuman conditions and with complete absence of  any labour standards and laws of this country. Apart from long working hours, below minimum wages, these workers work around hot furnaces of 1,000 degrees Celsius without any safety gears. Almost every worker have suffered various kinds of industrial accidents, many have lost fingers and toes and almost every worker has varying degrees of burn injuries.

Workers have been demanding minimum wages, job cards that would certify them as bonafide workers and Employees’ State Insurance (ESI). This is third time that these workers have struck. In 2012 after a long struggle workers got a weekly off day. In 2013 summer after a successful strike they forced the factory owners to increase their wage by Rs. 1550. Their demand for ESI was also accepted but was never implemented by the factory owners.

 In the ongoing indefinite strike action, the workers are demanding the implementation of Minimum wage (currently for 12 hours workers are paid Rs. 6000-8500 which is far below the stipulated minimum wages), eight hour work shift, double wage rate for overtime labour, appointment letter, identity card, wage slip to all the workers, ESI, Provident Fund, payment of bonus as labour laws, safety measure at workplace etc. All these demand are actual rights that have been achieved by the struggle of working class all over the world. 

Today the strike entered its 6th day and all the other ancillary units are soon going to be shut due to the strike in the Hot-Rolling plants since all other plants are dependent on the supply from the Hot-Roller plants. More workers from the ancillary plants are expected to join the strike as it unfolds. The striking workers assemble every morning at 9 Am at Raja Park, Wazirpur and continue their protest meeting up to 2 PM. 

Day 1 of the Strike (6th June, 2014)

On the 5th day (10th June) of the strike the workers took out a rally which passed through the narrow dusty lanes of the industrial areas picketing factories which were still running, they also urged the workers of Cold-Roller plants and other ancillary plants to join the strike. The rally culminated into a public meeting at Raja Park where over 1500 workers took a  collective pledge not to withdraw the strike until all the demands are not met and to make every possible efforts to enlarge the strike.
A worker summed up the mood of  the strike when he said, "if we can melt the iron with our hammer, we can also defeat these owners"!

A world for the workers! A future for the world!

Below are some images from the ongoing strike:

Thursday, June 5, 2014

[Statement] Condemn the Killing of Shaikh Mohsin by Hindu Rashtra Sena in Pune! Resist Communal Fascism!

Statement by concerned IT professionals from Pune

We, the undersigned express our deep shock at the gruesome incident of hate crime reported in the city of Pune earlier this week. A 28 year old IT professional Shaikh Mohsin Sadiq was thrashed to death by a group of people suspected to be connected with a radical Hindu outfit called Hindu Rashtra Sena.

Mohsin was reportedly returning home after offering namaz at a mosque on Monday night when he found himself caught by the mob. As is the case in every hate crime, a skull cap on head and beard were enough for the killers to pounce on him with deadly intentions. The city was witnessing bandh and violent street protests by Shiv Sena, BJP and other radical Hindu organizations in the wake of Facebook post(s) with allegedly derogatory references to Shivaji and former Shiva Sena Chief Bal Thackeray. The assailants were apparently involved in similar protests when they spotted Mohsin on Monday night in Bankar colony in Hadapsar area of Pune.

One cannot help seeing this incident vis-à-vis forthcoming assembly elections in Maharashtra. As a run-up to the elections which are due in a few months, an attempt to polarize the masses on communal lines with the sheer intention of electoral gains, as we have seen elsewhere, seems to be on the cards. We appeal to the state government to thwart any such attempts with alacrity while ensuring safety to every citizen; we also appeal to the people of Maharashtra to not fall prey to such hideous designs and uphold the progressive tradition of the state that has seen peaceful co-existence of various sects, religions and cultural groups with no place for hatred.

While offering our deepest condolences to the bereaved family members and friends of Mohsin, we extend our heartfelt solidarity to each and every member of minorities/disadvantaged communities in struggle to preserve the values of democracy, secularism and justice.


Neeraj Kholiya, Dhanesh Birajdar, Bharatbhooshan Tiwari, Nitin Agarwal, Vinod Pillai, Kamesh, Gokul Panigrahi, Rajat Johari, Ujjwal Barapatre, Kshitij Patil, Sanind Shaikh, Akbar Ali, Prince Shelley, Mohamed Shazad, Shaikh Asfaque Hossain.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Demonstration held against State Crackdown on Bhagana Rape Survivors and other Protesting Villagers at Jantar Mantar

Condemned the police brutality against Bhagana Kand Sangharsh Samiti! 
Uphold the struggle for right to protest!

On 23 March four Dalit girls of Bhagana village in Hisar, Haryana were abducted and gang raped by five young men of the dominant caste - Jats - recently included in the Central list of Other Backward Classes or OBCs. Two days later, on 25 March the girls were found in an unconscious state at the railway station in Bathinda, Punjab. They were then taken back home by their respective families. After several attempts in Haryana at bringing the guilty to justice, where their voices were ignored by the state administration they were forced to move the struggle to the capital city. For more than a month they have been sitting on a dharna at Jantar Mantar under the banner of Bhagana Kand Sangharsh Samiti. This case of Dalit atrocity in Haryana has, however, failed to become national news in the sold out corporate media. 

They, along with other left and progressive groups and members of civil society, have all the right to protest against atrocities on Dalits and other marginal groups. However, that is not how the State wishes to see it.

After Delhi Police demolished tents at the dharna site
As if the trauma of abduction and gang rape was not enough, police brutality against the very rape survivors in the wee hours of the morning of 4 June added fuel to the fire. At about 5 am, 6-700 police personnel arrived at the dharna site at Jantar Mantar, forcefully evicted the protesters, uprooted their tents and took away their minimal belongings. The police informed protesters that they had orders ‘upar se’ (‘from above’) to vacate the dharna site immediately. When protesters refused, they were given time till 12 noon to vacate the place. Meanwhile, as this news spread amongst Left and progressive groups in the city, they began gathering at the dharna site and held a protest demonstration in front of the Parliament Street police station. The station in-charge, in a response that smacks of an arrogance so typical of police forces, attempted to get away with an explanation for the police brutality of that morning by saying that it was the NDMC that told the police to vacate Jantar Mantar so that they could clean the place! 

We all know that this is not the first time when the State machinery has attacked people’s right to protest and nor will it be the last. The need of the hour is to unite and gather against this in the coming days. Though, under pressure from the spontaneous demonstration against this action, while the police has assured the protesters that they would not remove anyone from the dharna site now, there is no reason to have any faith in this assurance. 

In this light, a planning meeting has been called tomorrow, 5 June at 6 PM at the dharna site at Jantar Mantar to chart out the plan of action for the future. 

Do join us in large numbers.

Below are few photographs of today's protest:

Monday, June 2, 2014

A Level Playing Field? Global Sport in the Neoliberal Age

- Mike Marqusee

One of the hallmarks of the neo-liberal age has been the exponential expansion of commercial spectator sport – in its economic value, political role and cultural presence. All of which will be thrown into high relief during the coming World Cup.

In recent years, the industry has grown in all regions above the local GDP rate, and is estimated to have generated $135 billion in direct revenues in 2013. These revenues derive from four elements: gate receipts, corporate sponsorship, media rights and merchandising. Revenues from sponsorship and media rights have grown fastest and together now make up over half of total revenue. But whereas in North America and Europe, gate receipts remain the single biggest source of revenue, in the BRIC counties and in Asia as a whole sponsorship is now the biggest money-spinner, accounting in China for 48% of total sports revenues. Meanwhile, though merchandising is marginal in most of the world, it is significant in north America, where it accounts for 25% of revenues.

Despite its growth, the sports industry, narrowly defined, is still dwarfed by the pharmaceutical ($1.1 trillion a year) and automotive ($1.8 trillion) sectors. But direct revenues tell only a part of the story. Sport is interwoven with other industries: footwear, sportswear, soft drinks, advertising, among others. It’s a central driver in media industries – print, broadcast and digital. And it’s critical to the gambling industry, legal and illegal, with betting on sports estimated to be worth between $700bn and $1tn a year.

Sport has become a fertile zone of capitalist intersection and mutual aggrandisement. It should therefore not be surprising that it has also become a major carrier of neo-liberal ideology, used to promote a competitive individualism in which the pursuit of victory and success is presented as the purest form of personal self-expression. Nike is the obvious example, with its injunctions to “just do it” and “risk everything” and its strategic linkage to sports superstars. What is celebrated is a “triumph of the will” – in which adverse circumstances are made to bow to individual desire. It’s a version of what has been described as “magical voluntarism”, identified by Mark Fisher as a key component of today’s dominant ideology.

It needs to be said that this ethos of egocentric assertion is by no means inherent in sport, which is not about ‘the law of the jungle’ or a ‘war of all against all’. On the contrary, it’s a competitive activity built on a cooperative basis, requiring mutual agreement among competitors and between competitors and spectators. And it is intensely regulated; in fact, without the regulation, the sport vanishes. Team sports, of course, set a premium on interdependence and a willingness to sacrifice individual priorities for the good of the collective. But even the most successful individual competitors are what they are only because they enjoy a network of personal and social support. No one can ever “just do it” on their own.

One of the favourite metaphors of advocates of capitalist globalisation is borrowed directly from sports. They hunger for a world-wide “level playing field” in which competition flourishes freely and fairly. However, as in so many spheres, the impact of neo-liberal globalisation on sport itself has been to create an increasingly uneven playing field, marked by widening inequalities.

As the major male sports swallow an ever increasing share of sports revenues and investment, other sports are pushed to the margin. In south Asia, cricket is so dominant that it has rendered hockey, at which India and Pakistan excelled for decades, nearly invisible. While women’s sports have enjoyed increased revenues in absolute terms, the growth of male sports means that women still receive only 0.5% of corporate sports sponsorship.