Wednesday November 22, 2017
Home Opinion How Arvind Ke...

How Arvind Kejriwal’s fight against crony capitalism is similar to Pablo Iglesias new communist movement in Spain

0
155

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal addressing  the special session of Delhi assembly on (IANS)
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal addressing the special session of Delhi assembly on (IANS)

By Saeed Naqvi

The new poster boy of European politics could well be a pony tailed Pablo Iglesias, in a dark blue denim shirt, 40, leader of Spain’s new communist movement, Podemos, which threatens to end the two-decade-old rule of the right-wing Peoples Party (PP). Playing second fiddle to PP in Spain were the socialists. As phenomena, is there a similarity between Iglesias and Arvind Kejriwal of the Aam Aadmi Party?

Regional and mayoral elections last Sunday had Prime Minister, Mariana Rajoy, reeling against the ropes. Not only will Podemos now decisively have its candidates as mayors of the two biggest cities, Madrid and Barcelona, but it will be influential in most regions.

In their sixth year since the global economic crisis, Spain’s neighbourhoods (virtually like Residents Welfare Associations in India) protested against housing evictions, unemployment, austerity, above all, unspeakable corruption. Podemos which means “we can”, provided the ideological linkages across the regions. Where is such a linkage in India? AAP can, at best, be a model regional force depending on how it performs despite the sniping.

Syriza in Greece, Podemos in Spain, Nicola Sturgeon in Scotland, AAP in Delhi, are all part of a global trend.

Electorates in most countries, afflicted by the economic downturn since 2008, are feeling suffocated in the strait jackets of two party systems that have been imposed on them. These systems may have evolved over time but they are now being reinforced by powerful vested interests who have developed links of profit with the two parties.

This exactly is the situation in India too. Narendra Modi’s extraordinary success in May 2014 can be attributed to two major facts. The world’s biggest, most expensive media campaign, which lasted a full year, ever since Modi’s candidature was announced in Goa.

This campaign harvested the disgust against the triumvirate of Sonia, Rahul and Manmohan Singh. Yes, the Gujarat model was repeatedly, mentioned but it was nobody’s case that the Indian electorate had fallen in love with Narendra Modi. Whatever chance there may have been for a pro Modi scent in the air was neutralized by Sakshi Maharaj, Yogi Adityanath and the Sadhvi who divided the world neatly between Rama’s devotees and those she declared were bastards.

Consequently, the record mandate with which the Delhi electorate returned AAP, within 10 months of Modi being sworn in, rattled Modi and his cohorts.

Big Business had allowed the media it controls to pay attention to Arvind Kejriwal prior to the elections. If he won, they would still have the BJP and the Congress to play the balancing game with it. But the scale of AAP victory reduced BJP and Congress to ciphers in Delhi.

The electorate had transformed Kejriwal into a Gulliver and his colleagues into Lilliputians.

It was a piquant situation. Even as the multinationals, Indian corporate, Sangh Parivar, the middle class on the make, planned a binge for the next five years, the party was spoilt by the Delhi vote. Kejriwal’s visage had to be tarred.

A triumphant party, with control of South and North blocks, indeed the nation, stood trounced in its capital city.

The media, reasonable about Kejriwal before the elections, unfurled its fangs. First, Prashant Bhushan, Yogendra Yadav were boosted on page one of newspapers, on prime time shows, for two full weeks without a break.

Then cameras focused for a week on a man who climbed a tree and allegedly hanged himself. In a burst of investigative journalism, the media found an AAP minister with fake degrees. The allegation was never proved.

True, the union government has four more years to tire out the AAP government. But has the tipping point not been reached when the negative publicity heaped on Kejriwal begins to cast him as the David standing upto the centre’s Goliath?

In Spain the media likewise gave space to Podemos at the outset. But now that Podemos threatens to upturn the capitalist applecart by his victory, Iglesias himself expects the media to turn upon him.

Being Spanish has helped Iglesias and the Spanish left in general in a very special way.

“For us Latin America has been a fundamental reference point – we have worked in Bolivia, Ecuador and Venezuela.”

Iglesias said all this to Tariq Ali on www.telesurtv.net, increasingly a medium of choice as more and more serious viewers drift away from the mainstream, something AAP must learn in double quick time.

For want of space, I have not expanded on President Joko Widodo in Indonesia and President-elect Andrzej Duda who are not communists at all (in fact Duda is anti-Marxist) but represent the global trend to smash two party systems corrupted by crony capitalism. (IANS)

Next Story

Cleaning of Ganga is not impossible, but it is very difficult.

The holy river is also one of the most polluted river

0
67
Ganga in Haridwar
A pile of garbage lies on the riverbank along the Ganges riverfront known as "Har ki Pauri," the most sacred spot in the Hindu holy town of Haridwar where devotees throng. VOA

– Saket Suman

About five years ago, when Financial Times journalist and author Victor Mallet began living in Delhi, he was shocked to discover that the Yamuna — “this beautiful river of Indian legend and art” — was chocked with untreated sewage and industrial waste after it had passed through the city on its way to Mathura, Agra and on to join the Ganga at Allahabad He wondered “how a river so sacred to so many Indians could also be so polluted and neglected” and then set out to record the plight of the Ganga.

His exhaustive journey led him to various key locations on the river, including its source at Gaumukh and Sagar Island and the Sunderbans at its mouth in the Bay of Bengal. This culminated in the publication of “River of Life, River of Death” (Oxford University Press/Rs 550/316 pages).

“My conclusion is that it is not impossible (to clean the Ganga) — but it is very difficult. Narendra Modi is the latest of several Indian prime ministers to announce plans to rescue the Ganga — in fact, I would say he has been the most fervent — but like his predecessors, he has struggled to implement these plans despite the availability of funds from India itself and from international donors such as the World Bank and Japan.

“Clearly, the Ganga has enormous problems of physical pollution from sewage, industrial toxins and pesticide run-off. Too much of the water is diverted for irrigation in the dry season, which can leave parts of the river without water before the monsoon. But with political will and public support — I don’t think anyone in India objects to saving the river — it can be done,” Mallet told IANS in an email interview from Hong Kong.

The important thing, he maintained, is to change mindsets and he noted in this context that it is quite common among devout Hindus to say: “Ma Ganga is so spiritually pure that nothing we throw in the river will sully her or make a difference.”

The author said that sensible holy men and environmentalists who care for the Ganga term this as nonsense — and the reason it’s not true is that the Ganga’s very spiritual power arises from its physical properties as a life-giver, as a provider of water and fertility.

“That’s why rivers have always been worshipped in ancient times, including in England. So if you destroy the river’s life-giving qualities through pollution, you destroy the source of her spiritual importance,” he added.

In the book, he also states that it is not impossible to clean the Ganges, “as river clean-ups in Europe and America have shown”.

Elaborating on this, he said: “When I was a child living in London, my mother always told me not to fall in the Thames because the river was so filthy that if I fell in I would have to go to hospital and have my stomach pumped! Yet today the Thames is clean — muddy, but virtually free of industrial pollution and untreated sewage — because successive governments and water and sanitation companies have stopped the pollution.

“The same is true of the Rhine in continental Europe and the Chicago river in the United States. The great thing about rivers is that you don’t have to scrub them clean — you just have to stop polluting them and the natural flow of the river does the rest.”

Mallet maintained that the record on the Ganga has so far been disappointing in terms of implementation, but hoped that there will be a change now that there is a new minister in charge.

“If you clean the Ganga by improving sanitation, you not only save the goddess, you also create thousands of jobs in infrastructure development, and save the lives of thousands of children who die each year because of bad water, poor hygiene and stomach bugs. Likewise, if India curbs its greenhouse gases — and this seems to be happening anyway because alternative energy such as solar power is now very competitive on price — then that will also help it to reduce the kind of air pollution that has recently been afflicting Delhi and the whole of North India,” he maintained.

Mallet went on to add that he learnt a lot about the mythology and the history of the river — and the history of India — in the course of his research for the book.

“In a way, India is so rich in civilisations and stories that you can never say you have completed your work as a researcher and writer. You can at least make a start, and also explain the contemporary political, social, religious and environmental issues that affect the river and the country as a whole,” Mallet said. (IANS)

Next Story

Is Delhi’s air going to take the structure of ‘London’s Smog’?

Breathing in Delhi is equal to smoking 40 cigarets.

0
37
Smog in Delhi
In recent time, there is a huge increase in the smog in around Delhi. Wikimedia commons

New Delhi, Nov 15 On a cold December morning some 65 years ago, a seemingly dense fog engulfed the City of London. People went about their business as usual as it was a common occurrence at that time. It didn’t take long, however, for Londoners to realise that this was no regular fog but a toxic combination of smoke and fog — smog.

That Great Smog of 1952 — often called “The Big Smoke” — killed an estimated 12,000 people and had long-term ill-effects on the health of the city’s residents.

Last week, AIIMS Director Randeep Guleria compared the alarming pollution scenario in Delhi with London’s 1952 crisis. Environment experts agree that if serious steps are not taken, Delhi may soon face a similar kind of “air pollution disaster” which London did 65 years ago.

The Big Smoke did not happen in London all of a sudden. There were signs — alarming signs — as even before the 1952 crisis, the British capital experienced smog events several times in the past which they called “pea soupers”. Those were similar to what Delhi may be experiencing today.

Just as in Delhi today, the smog engulfed London, reducing visibility and causing discomfort to children and the elderly and to those suffering from respiratory diseases. The number of patients reporting to hospitals with respiratory ailments used to increase at that time of the year.

But it took the air pollution disaster of 1952 for the British government to acknowledge the magnitude of the crisis and take a slew of measures to undo the damage — including passage of the Clean Air Act 1956 and shift from coal-based fuel to alternative fuels.

While some experts wonder if Delhi is also waiting for a disaster like The Big Smoke to take stringent measures to improve the city’s air quality, others feel the disaster is already upon us and would have long-term health impacts on Delhi’s residents.

Eminent environment expert C.R. Babu said what we face in Delhi today is much more serious than the London smog.

“In London, smog killed because people faced breathing problems. But the toxins in Delhi’s air could lead to long-term problems and chronic health disorders, and not just short-term health issues,” Babu told IANS.

“Vehicular exhausts have large amounts of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons which are toxic in nature and are also carcinogenic,” he added.

Babu warned that the situation would become much worse if the government didn’t act fast. “Just like the London incident was called an ‘air pollution disaster’, what we have today is a similar disaster in Delhi. But in Delhi’s case, people will suffer for longer periods.”

“It is time for the government to think deeply about long-term planning for preventing such air pollution disasters,” he added.

According to AIIMS Director Guleria, the alarming pollution level in the city has already led to an at least 20 per cent increase in the number of persons complaining of cardiac and respiratory problems.

He also warned that about 30,000 persons may lose their lives in the National Capital Region alone due to the current pollution levels, numbers which, he said, he had extrapolated from the number of hospital admissions.

Vivek Chattopadhyay, Programme Manager at the Centre for Science and Enviromment, said it could be a watershed moment for Delhi and should not be taken lightly.

“Ultimately, we are dealing with a health crisis, not just visibility problems,” Chattopadhyay told IANS. “There are huge health costs and, as per estimates, air pollution is costing India around three per cent of the GDP in terms of health costs.”

Chattopadhyay said that the recurring smog incidents of Delhi are major warning signals and just as was the case of London before the big disaster, the powers that be in Delhi may also be unaware of the magnitude of the problem.

“The problem is that our health system won’t be able to tell how many are affected. We need a comprehensive data recording system. Hard statistics are needed about the number of cases of respiratory problems, cardiac arrests and strokes that are reported in the hospitals,” he said.

As for precautionary measures, he said there was a need to introduce clean fuel for everything and a parity of laws across NCR and not just in Delhi.

“Delhi in isolation cannot remain clean. It is high time that the government woke up and an inter-state meeting was held to collectively solve the problem. It has become a recurring thing and there is a need to change the way we work. The time for action is now,” he said.

R. Suresh, Fellow and Area Convenor at TERI (The Energy and Resource Institute), pointed out that Delhi’s response to the crisis has so far been reactive, not pre-emptive, which needed to change.

“While weather is not in our control, what we can control are ground-level emissions. What we have witnessed so far is that we face a crisis every year and then the government reacts. We need a long-term solution,” Suresh told IANS.

“We know that November-December is the peak time for air pollution. So our precautionary measures should happen before November. Why wait for Diwali to ban crackers? For next year, measures should be taken now.”

While Suresh said that the main problem was stubble burning in the neighbouring states as well as construction and road dust, Babu maintained that the exhaust from automobiles are more dangerous.

“You have to regulate automobiles — stringent measures are needed. For example, Singapore has decided to stop registration of all new vehicles. Why can’t we do that in Delhi? Almost every household has a vehicle today. More than the need, it has just become a symbol of social status,” he said. (IANS)

Next Story

Manoj Bajpayee is an amazing actor and a team player on set: Sidharth Malhotra

Sidharth Malhotra on Thursday treated his fans to a question and answer session over Twitter.

0
41
Actor Sidharth Malhotra
Actor Sidharth Malhotra. Wikimedia Commons

November 7, 2017: Actor Sidharth Malhotra, who will be seen sharing screen space with Manoj Bajpayee in “Aiyaary”, says the National Award winning actor is amazing and a team player.

Sidharth Malhotra on Thursday treated his fans to a question and answer session over Twitter.

A user asked the “Student Of The Year” actor about his experience working with Manoj in “Aiyaary”.

Sidharth replied: “He’s an amazing actor and a team player on set.”

“Aiyaary”, set in Delhi, London and Kashmir, revolves around two strong-minded Army officers having completely different views, yet right in their own ways. It is a real-life story based on the relationship between a mentor and a protege.

Presented by Plan C and Jayantilal Gada (Pen), the project is produced by Shital Bhatia, Dhaval Jayantilal Gada, Motion Picture Capital.

When asked about the development of the film, Sidharth replied: “Awesome. Excited to show it in a few months.”

Sidharth, 32, also described his “Brothers” co-star Akshay Kumar as his “brother from another mother.”(IANS)