Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Dear Esteemed Prime Minister and the esteemed Planning Commission

October 6, 2007
Dear Esteemed Prime Minister and the esteemed Planning Commission:
On behalf of the Orissa Society of the Americas (OSA), the main organization of Oriyas in
North America, we would like to bring to your attention the following urgent issues related
to Orissa's growth and progress and the 11th Plan.
But first we would like to convey our heartfelt thanks for your recent higher education
initiatives which you outlined in the last Independence Day speech; in particular, the
announcement regarding 8 new IITs, 7 new IIMs, and 30 new central Universities with 16
of them going to states that do not have any central university. We sincerely hope that in
picking the locations for these institutions you will keep in mind that although 60 years
have passed since independence, none of the current 7 IITs, 6 IIMs or 23 central
universities were established in Orissa, the 11th largest state of India in terms of
population, the 9th largest in terms of area, and one of the most impoverished states of
India. Yet, Orissa is trying hard and is among the current leading states in trying to
industrialize and it needs your well-deserved support.
We request your attention on four related issues with respect to the 11th Plan and Orissa's
attempt to modernize and bring long-overdue prosperity to its people, nay to the nation, as
a whole.
1. Greenfield IIT in Orissa: As a rapidly industrializing state, we request that one of the
proposed 8 new IITs be established in Orissa. As per a recent Indian Express op-ed
(http://www.indianexpress.com/story/218431.html), Orissa is the top state in India in terms
of projects under implementation in June 2007 (as present in the CMIE Capex database)
with a value of Rs. 242918 crores. When calculated in per-capita terms Orissa is second
behind Haryana. Quoting that article, “Orissa is also a major gainer, particularly over the
last five years. It went from rank 8 to rank 2 over the last five years. While the Indian
average for projects under implementation on a per capita basis grew by 93 per cent,
Orissa gained by 381 per cent over the last five years to reach Rs 61,811 of investment per
capita.” These projects under implementation in Orissa, ranging from ports, steel plants,
and power plants are all related to technology.
The proposed 8 new IITs will take the total number of IITs to 15, and it would be grossly
unfair to Orissa, if after all the pre-work, representations, and arguments made by our Chief
Minister and our Members of Parliament from Orissa (Please see
http://www.orissalinks.com/?p=152 , http://www.orissalinks.com/?p=184), and all the
appeals, requests and protests already made by the people of Orissa (please see
􀂃 Ph: 301-972-8059 􀂃 www.orissasociety.org
http://iitorissa.org for chronicles of the people's effort and the associated media coverage
on this), Orissa, the 11th largest state of India in terms of population and the 9th largest in
terms of area, is still excluded from establishment of an IIT on its soil.
2. Central University in KBK: In regards to your address on August 15th where you said
that 16 of the 30 new central universities will be in states that do not have any, Orissa has
been asking for a Central University in KBK (Kalahandi-Bolangir-Koraput) region. Thus
we presume that one of these 16 central universities will be in the KBK region of Orissa.
However, since KBK is a vast area, and is the most backward district cluster of India, we
request that this central university in KBK have certain specific features. In particular:
(a) The central university in KBK should be multi-campus, multi-focus (each campus
having a separate but complementary focus on one area, e.g. Engineering, Medical
sciences, or Agriculture etc. ), with campuses in all the District Head Quarter towns in
KBK+ districts, i.e., the eight KBK districts and the adjacent Gajapati and Kandhamal
(b) This university, to be established in the most backward district clusters of India, should
be treated at par with the central universities in the North East in all respects (such as: it
must have special quotas for tribal citizens and KBK+ residents; it must have the
components that will be in the central universities in the north east.)
3. Second Central University in Orissa: Your address to the planning commission on
September 14th also mentioned that the remaining 30-16= 14 central universities will be
decided on the basis of competition, with respect to location and other incentives from the
State Governments. Since India already has 23 central universities (unfortunately none of
these are located in Orissa) and the new 30 ones will take the total to 53, and Orissa is the
11th largest state of India in terms of population and 9th largest in terms of area, and
among the most backward states of India, we request that Orissa be granted a second
central university. We propose that the second central university in Orissa be an
upgradation of the 150 year old Ravenshaw College, now a University. Some of the
arguments in favor of Ravenshaw University are as follows:
a. Ravenshaw is a unitary university; like most world class universities such as those in
the United States, and like most of the existing central universities in India (such as JNU,
BHU etc.), Ravenshaw does not have any affiliated colleges.
b. Ravenshaw is one of the oldest higher education institutions of India with a glorious
past. Its alumni are almost the who's who of Orissa.
􀂃 Ph: 301-972-8059 􀂃 www.orissasociety.org
c. Ravenshaw's location at the heart the millennium city of Cuttack and also in the middle
of the Bhubaneswar-Cuttack metropolitan area makes it easy to access, and the presence of
top-notch educational and research institutions near it gives Ravenshaw yet stronger
potential of becoming a world-class knowledge hub, i.e. a world class central university. (
In your address to the planning commission you had mentioned this criteria about the "eco
d. Ravenshaw is already working on plans for its expansion in directions consistent with
the goals of a world class university outlined by the PM.
4. Rail Connectivity to KBK and other backward areas of Orissa: As you are very well
aware these areas are the most backward and poor areas of India; they have a very high
tribal population; and are also infested with extremists. One of the important steps in
uplifting these areas is making them well connected to the rest of India. That is where Rail
connectivity comes to picture. As one of the earlier planning commissions has noted in
http://planningcommission.nic.in/plans/stateplan/sdr_orissa/sdr_orich2.doc :
“Railways have always played an important role in economic development and rapid
social transformation in all parts of the globe. It is one of the key economic
infrastructures. However, it is most unfortunate that in a poor and backward state like
Orissa, development of rail networks has received much less attention of the Central
Government in the post-independence period. There are as many as seven districts like
Boudh, Kandhamal, Deogarh, Nayagarh, Kendrapara, Malkangiri and Nabarangpur out
of the 30 districts of the state, which do not have any railway line passing through them.
In the year 1998-99, the density of railway route length per 1000 sq. km of area in Orissa
was only 15.03 km as against 42.66 km in West Bengal and 19.11 km. at all-India level.”
The Railway ministry has grand plans for the 11th Plan period that includes two freight
corridors, high speed rail, and metro rail in several areas and it has a budget of Rs 251,000
crores. While none of these high flying plans (2 freight corridors, high speed rail segments
and metro rails) are in Orissa, we are not in a position to rue over that; rather we request
that while the rest of India marches forward with 2 freight corridors, high speed rail
segments and metro rails during the 11th Plan, KBK and other adivasi areas of Orissa
and India be not left behind. The particular lines we are referring to are:
(a) Khurda – Balangir, (b) Gunupur--Theruvali, (c) Lanjigarh Rd – Bhawanipatna –
Junagarh – Nabarangpur- Jeypore – Malkangiri – Bhadrachalam Rd (Andhra Pradesh)
(d) Talcher – Bimlagarh … etc.
􀂃 Ph: 301-972-8059 􀂃 www.orissasociety.org
We understand that Railways is already considering lines related to connectivity to ports
and mineral transportation such as Talcher-Sukinda Rd and Bhadrakh-Dhamara; we are
also mindful that better access to KBK area may potentially be used for undue exploitation
of the KBK region, but we will all remain vigilant. Nevertheless, following the previous
planning commission's observations, to uplift KBK and the other backward areas of
Orissa and India out of the morass they are in, we fervently appeal and request you that
rail connectivity to these areas are completed during the 11th Plan.
To you, Mr. Prime Minister, an economist and planner of development at the highest
level, we do not have to point out that Rail connectivity is a core issue of development for
backward areas like KBK. Without Rail connectivity, KBK will remain, well, as is. Yes,
KBK will remain its backward self for decades to come, unless rail connectivity is
promptly ensured, to spur economic activity through better freight and faster passenger
Finally, we request that the Railway ministry establish a production unit in the KBK area
of Orissa near by the various proposed steel and aluminium plants. (Currently the major
production units are in Kapurthala - Punjab, Perambur - Tamil Nadu, Varanasi - Uttar
Pradesh, Chittaranjan - West Bengal, Patiala - Punjab and Bangalore - Karnataka; and new
ones have been announced in RaeBareli - UP, Saran district of Bihar, Chhapra - Bihar and
Alappuzha district of Kerala.)
We appreciate your time and consideration.
Pratap Das
Asutosh Dutta
Priyadarsan Patra
Sandip K. Dasverma

Rare tribe in Orissa battles mining company Vedanta

WITH a broad smile on his face and a narrow-bladed axe hanging from his shoulder, the tribesman steps from the verdant jungles of eastern India to offer us 'welcome'. In keeping with the traditions of the Dongria Kondh people who inhabit the Niyamgiri Hills in the Indian state of Orissa, we outsiders are given gifts without solicitation or hesitation. The man offers freely from what little he has, ordering his wife to stoop so that he can take handfuls of freshly harvested oranges from a pannier balanced on her head. The fruit is green, but after a six-mile walk through the humid forest, the bitter flesh provides the perfect refreshment.

As we stand spitting pith and pips into the undergrowth, our unexpected benefactor is introduced as 'Kalya'. According to the most recent census of Indian tribes, Kalya is one of 7,952 surviving members of the Dongria - literally 'hill people' - themselves a dwindling sub-section of the Kondh peoples, who have inhabited the forests of eastern India for several thousand years. We are en route to a Dongria village where we will stay the night. Kalya points the way up a well-trodden path that winds beneath the thick forest canopy. Our journey, he says, is nearly at an end. The village of Gorta is less than a mile away, in the next clearing, after crossing a small stream.

Armed with these jungle directions we walk on, deeper into the Niyamgiri Hills. After four hours of walking, the afternoon is just starting to fade into evening. The rays of a softening sun fall on distant hillsides where dots of red and blue can be seen tending the hill gardens that the Dongria carve from the jungle in ragged squares. In season, they produce copious quantities of oranges and bananas, ginger and turmeric, sweet papaya and the massive, pendulous jackfruit. The trees pop and whistle with the call of unseen birds and from up in the hills comes the distant sound of beating drums. It seems incredible to think that in a few short years this world could be lost for ever.

A thousand miles away in the Indian capital, New Delhi, men in black cloaks and stiff white collars are arguing over the future of Kalya and his tribe. While we suck oranges, the lawyers in India's Supreme Court petition the bench, the murmur of their voices floating upwards into the great dome above their heads. Ceiling fans suspended on metal poles beat lethargically in the hot air. The case has been going on for three years, but decision time is fast approaching. The arguments for both sides are stark and, despite the years of debate, apparently without compromise. At stake is the future of the Dongria Kondh and the Niyamgiri Hills.

On one side sits the government of India, the state government of Orissa and the Indian subsidiary of Vedanta Resources Plc, a FTSE-100 British mining corporation. They are applying for permission to dig up the Niyamgiris - rich in bauxite, the base mineral used in the manufacture of aluminium - at the rate of three million tons a year and then pour them into a �400 million alumina refinery, which has already been constructed at the foot of the hills. This important work, Vedanta and its supporters in the Indian government argue, is vital for the development of the new Indian nation and will bring jobs and infrastructure to some of the poorest people on the planet.

Opposing them is a coalition of environmentalists, social anthropologists, left-wing politicians and - perhaps uniquely - the court's own 'centrally empowered' fact-finding committee. Digging up the Niyamgiris will be a social and environmental catastrophe, they say, destroying rivers and streams on which tens of thousands of people depend to irrigate their crops, polluting rivers with the toxic 'red mud' that is a by-product of aluminium manufacture and - most importantly, according to the anthropologists - wiping out the Dongria Kondh, who worship the sacred hills named after their god, Niyamraja.

The cause of the Dongria protesters is not without hope. Twenty years ago a similar alliance of tribal people, Dalits (formerly Untouchables) and Hindu activists succeeded in blocking plans to mine bauxite from the Gandhamardan mountain range in Orissa on environmental and religious grounds. Today only a derelict compound built for workers stands as a reminder of that victory, which was won after hundreds of protesters had endured police beatings as local women laid their children on the ground to stop the advance of the heavy mining plant. But today's protesters are fighting for their mountain in a more modern India - a country hungry for raw materials and ever mindful of creating a favourable investment climate for foreign investors and multinationals. Back in those lush hills, in the village of Gortha, the court's dry deliberations seem a world away. Just before we enter the clutch of mud-and-thatch houses, we pause at a small 'pooja' (prayer) stand constructed from four upright sticks and lined with a bed of leaves. A few grains of rice and a dead pigeon squab are evidence of a recent sacrifice to the village deity. Until the British arrived in the early 19th century and forced them to give up the practice, the Dongria used human sacrifices to propitiate their gods. Today the buffalo is the largest animal to go under the sacrificial knife.

The village, a single line of houses surrounded by a low wattle fence, is preparing for nightfall. Without electricity life revolves around the rising and setting of the sun. A fire is being lit, and from the hillside comes a swaying line of brown cows, whose arrival is heralded by the clonking wooden bells hanging from their necks. They ignore the few chickens scratching around in the dust and the goat kids that skitter among their plodding hooves. The village is plagued by grumpy jungle mutts who, when not copulating, seem to growl at everything that passes - human or animal, friend or foe.

After the cows, as the last ambient light of dusk fades behind the hills, comes Dodi, the village headman, accompanied by three other male villagers. They are all drunk; glassy-eyed and swaying gently on their feet. The Hindu festival for the goddess Durga is a few days away and the men have been out to a nearby village for a warm-up celebration, drinking sago-palm 'toddy' - a forest-brewed wine that has kept the Dongria pleasantly drunk for centuries. Drinking is part of the ritual of life. The sago palm takes 15 years to mature and in Dongria lore its sweet, white sap is compared to breast-milk. The first sap, or 'sindi', is likened to a pubertal girl, on the threshold of womanhood.

Drink has always been part of the Dongria culture, but is taken only after the hard work needed to live off the fruits of the forest is done. As Dodi shuffles away to sleep off his binge, another villager is preparing to leave for his fruit garden high up on the hillside. He will spend 10 days there protecting precious crops from elephants, wild boars and light-fingered monkeys, warning them off with tribal songs and the banging of drums. After he leaves, a scrawny cockerel is killed for supper. The feathers are burnt off in the fire before the women get to work drawing and dicing the bird. Stewed for an hour, and served with rice on leaf 'plates', the meat is still shoe-leather tough.

For all the temptations to romanticise Dongria life, it is a hard existence, lived - to Western eyes at least - without comfort. By UN standards, many of the children are undernourished, and less than five per cent of adults can read or write. The work of collecting wood and water, growing fruits and grazing animals takes all the hours of the day. Money comes from selling goods at market a six-hour walk away. Few can afford medicine. Among the villagers we meet a six-year-old boy, Dasuru, whose neck is scarred with the lesions of glandular tuberculosis. He is listless and weaves his head gently to and fro. His father says he took him to a doctor in the nearby town but the treatment didn't really work. It cost too much. We sleep on the earthen floor of Dodi's house, the air still thick with wood smoke from the cooking fire. Before he returns to his slumbers, Dodi announces that when the sun rises, we will hunt.

The dawn breaks with the chattering of women in the village compound. They are off to market with baskets of fresh produce and bundles of firewood. All day a steady line of colourfully clad women can be seen walking to market with neatly tied faggots on their heads. Piece by piece, the ancient forest is being carted to market to fuel the cooking fires of India's swelling populations. The men, left behind with their hangovers, disappear into the forest and return with an unripe papaya whose white flesh has the density of balsa wood. Stewed with spices, however, the fruit makes a surprisingly good breakfast. The tribesmen eat bowls of cold millet porridge, part of the staple diet which sustains them on the long walks around the hills.

At the first glimpse of guns - crude country-made weapons with percussion-cap firing mechanisms - the five or six village dogs forget their differences and form a cohesive pack. They trot alongside the party as we climb into the jungle on narrow trails. The trees are thick with butterflies of all imaginable colours - copper and blue, yellow and black, crimson and violet. We walk fast until Dodi stops to examine some boar tracks visible in the soft mud of a stream. After a few minutes he gloomily pronounces them to be yesterday's and we move on, higher into the hills. The Dongria know their jungle as intimately as an Englishman knows his house. The greenery all around is classified as parts of the human body. According to a Dongria creation myth the forest grew out of the body of a demon killed by a Dongria king called Biridanga. The big, thick-trunked trees are the bones of his legs, the grass his body hair, the scrubby bushes his pubic hair, the creeper-vines that festoon the trees, his intestines.

We walk for several hours but fail to find our quarry. Dodi isn't fussy; a monkey, a boar, a samba deer, anything will do. By midday we reach the top of the hillside and settle on a promontory to rest.

From his vantage point, Dodi points to a nearby ridgeline a few miles away. Over that hill, he says, is 'the factory' - the alumina refinery that wants to take away their sylvan existence. The Supreme Court's formal go-ahead for the bauxite blasting to begin is expected soon. In the tranquillity of his surroundings, it is easy to understand how Dodi sounds so disconnected from the implications of that decision. 'We have heard about the factory and how if they start mining it will dry up our streams and leave us with nothing to take to market to earn money,' he says. 'There is talk of a protest meeting in the state capital [of Orissa, Bhubaneshwar] but I haven't decided yet whether we should go.'

In many respects it is a miracle that the Dongria Kondh have survived relatively unchanged by the modern world. India's population has doubled in the past 30 years - from 550 million to 1.1 billion people - and will grow to almost 1.5 billion by 2050. As the country develops, competition for resources is intense. The Orissa state government has signed more than �10 billion of mining agreements in the past two years and is planning more. The Dongria are due to be the next casualties of the headlong rush for industrial development. As Naveen Patnaik, the chief minister of Orissa state, told his legislature, 'No one - I repeat no one - will be allowed to stand in the way of Orissa's industrial development and the people's progress.'

The opponents of the mining spree ask who exactly stands to 'progress' by schemes like the one to dig up the Niyamgiri Hills. Certainly not the Dongria who, according to anthropologists such as Felix Padel, who studied the tribe for his Oxford doctoral thesis, face 'cultural genocide' from the mine. 'The Dongria are hill people, resettling them on the plains is a form of ethnicide. They live in the hills, they worship the hills, they survive off the hills,' he says. 'The Niyamgiri Hills are not simply where the Dongria live, but the very essence of who they are. To resettle them is to destroy them.'

A resettled Dongria village - Sakata - on the edge of the forest would appear to support that gloomy prediction. A few years back, the people were given 'pukka' concrete houses and land to grow crops but have since done nothing with the government's gift. Almost all the men of the village are dead from taking too much of the potent local liquor, which is far stronger than the sago-wine of their tradition. 'With the connection to the forest gone,' a local social worker says, 'the men of the village simply earned enough as day labourers to drink themselves to death.'

For Dr Padel the mining of the Niyamgiri Hills is as economically exploitative as anything done by the East India Company. The mine, he says, will impoverish the already poor, extracting vast wealth for the convenience of the developed world and enriching mostly Vedanta's shareholders - the company's share price has quintupled from �4 to �20 since 2003 - and a cabal of local politicians. For the Dongria, he says, it will bring disaster. Much of the aluminium extracted from the hills will go for export, to make everything from missiles (the arms industry is one of the major users of aluminium) to Coca-Cola cans and cars - essential items in a world in which the Dongria have no stake and little understanding.

And the view that this is ethically and morally insupportable is apparently not confined to anti-globalisation activists and left-wing academics. Last November the government of Norway withdrew all investments in Vedanta after its Ethical Council concluded the company 'has caused serious damage to people and to the environment as a result of its economic activities'.

For its part, Vedanta and its Indian subsidiary Sterlite Industries has pledged to give five per cent of the mine's profits for welfare schemes to help the locals. It sounds impressive, but the history of such pledges, activists say, shows that most of the money will be dissipated through corrupt local bureaucracy, bringing scant benefit to the displaced.

Doitary Kadraka, a Dongria elder, has seen many changes in his 55 years, but says he is not prepared to give up his people and hills just yet. 'The deep forest is already mostly lost; there used to be different types of animals - big bears and tigers - but they are no longer seen. Big snakes are also gone, but the people are still there,' he says. But aren't those people living in poverty? If the mining consortium were to offer them proper houses, electricity, schools, health centres and running water - even motorbikes or cars - would that not be a fair exchange for their sacred mountain?

The old man laughs sadly at the implied logic behind the question. 'Vedanta can give us a helicopter each and we won't give up our hills,' he says. 'We can't go. The hills are who we are.' And when the bulldozers and the mining engineers move in with their blasting caps, what then? Kadraka doesn't hesitate. 'We'll fight,' he says. 'What choice do we have? If we give up the hills we'll die anyway.'

It is time for us to leave. Dodi points to some grooves in the soft bauxite rock, the same rock that the British geologist Cyril Fox identified for its aluminium potential in the 1920s. This was the place, Dodi says, where his ancestors once sat and sharpened their arrows. In those days there was enough game to go round. Now the Dongria hunters use guns, but the superior technology has left their forest increasingly bare of animals. When Dodi was a boy 25 years ago the village hunts never returned empty-handed, but today he trudges back down the hill without any game. The only 'prey' is several handfuls of creamy-skinned oyster mushrooms plucked from the trunk of a tree by Dodi's men, who scale the branches using the thick vines that descend from the jungle canopy.

Back in the village Dodi accepts a few rupees for part of his mushroom haul, a parting exchange of gifts before we walk the five hours back to 'civilisation'. The fungus is deliciously nutty, fried with coriander and garlic at the offices of a Dongria support group run by a local social worker, Bijaya Kumar Baboo, who has worked with the tribes of Orissa since the rice famines in the 1980s.

He is pessimistic about the fight to come, gloomily accepting the inevitability that the Supreme Court will eventually rule in favour of big business and big government. 'The Dongria cannot survive this mine. Their language, their living is different from the people down on the plains,' he says. 'They will just disappear, die out. This is not development. It is destruction, like a kite which swoops down on the village, steals the chickens and then is gone.'

To Bijaya's eyes the decision to mine the Niyamgiris is both unjust and short-sighted. There are, he insists, alternatives. 'Orissa is an astonishingly productive area for fruits and rare medicinal herbs. We could supply the world's entire need for Ayurvedic medicines. If industry switched its focus to this area, how many people could benefit?' But after 25 years in the field, Bijaya is realistic enough to know the quick money on offer from mining is too great a temptation for the politicians to ignore.

'This mine will last for 25 years and it will destroy a world which has been around for many, many centuries. I cannot see the sense in that. The Dongria people have lived on so little for so long without destroying their world. And yet we are destroying our world at an unsustainable rate. Before the Dongria cease to exist, shouldn't we be asking if we have anything to learn from them?'


Friday, April 18, 2008

Imagine - by John Lennon

Imagine there's no heaven -
It's easy if you try.
No hell below us,
Above us only sky.

Imagine all the people Living for today.

Imagine there's no countries -
It isn't hard to do.
Nothing to kill or die for,
And no religion too.

Imagine all the people Living life in peace

The Jews Have an Historic Right to Palestine By Aref Alwan

Special Dispatch Series - No. 1897 April 15, 2008 No. 1897 Iraqi Author 'Aref 'Alwan: The Jews Have an Historic Right to Palestine
In an article posted December 7, 2007, on the leftist website www.ahewar.org, [1] 'Aref 'Alwan, an Iraqi author and playwright who resides in London and is the author of 12 novels, [2] states that the Jews have an historic right to Palestine because their presence there preceded the Arab conquest and has continued to this day.
In the article, titled "Do the Jews Have Any Less Right to Palestine than the Arabs?" 'Alwan called on the Arab world to acknowledge the Jews' right to Palestine, because justice demanded it and also because doing so would end the violence and the killing of Arabs, as well as intra-Arab strife. He added that such a move would also open up new avenues for the Arab world that would be more consistent with the values and needs of modern society.
'Alwan writes that the Arab League is to blame for the refusal to recognize the 1947 U.N. partition plan, for starting a war to prevent its implementation, and for the results of that war, which the Arabs call the Nakba (disaster). He points an accusing finger at the Arab regimes, the Arab League, and the educated circles in the Arab world, saying that they had all used the term "nakba" to direct popular consciousness toward a cultural tradition that neither accepts the other side nor recognizes its rights - thereby promoting bigotry, violence and extremism. He also claims that there have been attempts to rewrite Palestinian history, in order to deny any connection between it and the Jewish people.
'Alwan contends that the "Nakba mentality" among Arabs has boomeranged, giving rise to tyrannical rulers, extremist clerics, and religious zealots of every description. In his view, the Arab world will never shed the stigma of terrorism in the West unless it abandons this concept and all that it entails.
To boost his claim that the Jews have an historic right to Palestine, 'Alwan provides an overview of Jewish history in the land of Israel. He questions the validity of the Islamic traditions underpinning the Arab claim to Palestine, Jerusalem, and the TempleMount, and presents evidence that religions that preceded Islam had conducted rituals on the TempleMount.
As an example of the traditional Arab mentality that does not accept the other or recognize his rights, 'Alwan discusses the Arabs' abuse of the Kurds in Iraq and of the Christians in Egypt and Lebanon.
The following are excerpts from the article:
The Nakba: A Great Lie
"When the Salafi mob in Gaza tied the hands and feet of a senior Palestinian official and hurled him, alive, from the 14th floor, I asked myself: What political or religious precepts must have been inculcated into the minds of these young people to make them treat a human life with such shocking cruelty?
"Earlier, I had watched on TV as the bodies of two Israeli soldiers were thrown from the second floor [of a building] in a Palestinian city. Whether or not it was the same Salafi mob behind that incident, [one asks oneself]: What language, [or rather,] what historic linguistic distortion could have erased from the human heart [all] moral sensibilities when dealing with a living and helpless human being?
"Arabs who are averse to such inhuman behavior must help me expose and eliminate the enormous lie that has for 60 years justified, extolled, and supported brutality. [Such behavior] is no longer limited to the expression of unconscious [impulses] by individuals, but constitutes a broad cultural phenomenon, which began in Lebanon, [spread to] Iraq and Palestine, and then [spread] - slowly but surely - to other Arab states as well.
"This enormous lie is what the Arabs called the Nakba - that is, the establishment of two states in Palestine: the state of Israel, which the Jews agreed to accept, and the state of Palestine, which the Arabs rejected.
"In our times, when science, with its accurate instruments, can predict climatic changes that will lead to drought or the movement of tectonic plates that causes earthquakes, it is inconceivable that a modern man can, without making a laughingstock of himself, attribute the destruction of cities ancient or modern to the wrath of Allah. Nevertheless, today, 80% of Arabs claim this to be the case. They are neither embarrassed nor afraid of being laughed at.
"This high percentage includes not only the illiterates who densely populate rural areas, villages, and small and large cities, but also students, teachers, lecturers, graduates of institutions of higher education, scientists, technology experts, physicians, graduates of religious universities such as Al-Azhar, historians, and politicians who have held or are currently holding public office.
"It is those numerous educated elites who have forced the Arab mentality into a narrow, restrictive, and deficient cultural mold, spewing violence, terrorism, and zealotry, and prohibiting innovative thought... All this was done to instill a false sense of oppression in the hearts of the Arabs, and to destroy them with the infectious disease of despair and confusion.
"[This attitude] is rooted in the 1947 Arab League resolution stating that Palestine is a 'stolen' land and that none but a Muslim Arab is entitled to benefit from it as an autonomous [political entity], even if another's historic roots there predate those of the Muslims or the Arabs."

The Nakba Boomerang
"[The upshot] of this confusion in [Arab] mentality is that the lie has boomeranged on the Arabs. [Thus] appeared [on the scene] Saddam Hussein, Hafez Al-Assad, Bashar Al-Assad, Osama bin Laden, Ayman Al-Zawahiri, Abu Mus'ab Al-Zarqawi, Hassan Nasrallah, Nabih Berri, Khaled Mash'al, Isma'il Haniya, and Mahmoud Al-Zahar, whose young [thugs] threw the senior Palestinian official from the 14th floor. Finally, from the foot of the eastern mountains bordering the Middle East came Ahmadinejad, who is committed to preparing the way for the anarchy and destruction that accompanies the advent of the long-awaited Mahdi, who will resolve the Palestinian problem.
"Today, owing to the ideological distortions that have afflicted the Arab popular consciousness since the so-called Nakba, and [also owing] to the lies that have accumulated around this notion, [the label of] 'terrorism' has become attached to Arabs, wherever they are.
"Despite the great political and cultural efforts by large and important Arab states such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and some Gulf states to restore Arab ties with the rest of the world, and to curb the culture of terrorism in Arab societies, they have all failed. This is because these attempts to rectify [the situation], from both within and without [the Arab countries], both stemmed from and were a logical extension of the concept of the Nakba.
"This proves that the Arabs have no hope of extricating themselves from the cultural and political challenge of terrorism unless they come up with [new] and different [fundamental] premises, and with an outlook completely free of the fetters of the religious ritual that they have devised in modern times and called the Nakba.
"Although Palestinian senior officials, leaders, educated circles, and public figures, whose patriotism is beyond doubt, have come to terms with the existence of the State of Israel, the aforementioned 80% of Arabs... do not accept this view, and consider it religious apostasy. Leaders of the [Arab] states in the region, and party leaders, inflame sentiment, entrancing them with the drumbeat of extremism.
"With the strident chorus of its secretaries, the Arab League ensures that every car crash in Gaza or the West Bank is interpreted as an Israeli conspiracy against the Arab future. This is because the Arab League... was established as a pan-Arab entity whose main function was to write reports and studies rife with distortions of fact so as to quell the conscience of any Arab who dared think independently and expunge [the concept of] the Nakba from his consciousness. [It has done] this instead of devising creative strategies for cultural and economic development, so as to improve the deteriorating standard of living in the Arab societies."

The Nakba is Rooted in a Culture that Does Not Recognize the Right of the Other
"Why did the partition resolution, which gave a state in Palestine to the Jews and one to the Arabs next to it, become the Nakba - [the star] that rises and sets daily over the Arab lands without emitting even the tiniest ray of light to illuminate the path for their peoples?
"Did the Jews have any less right to Palestine than the Arabs? What historic criteria can be used to determine the precedence of one [nation's] right over that of the other?
"Refusing to recognize the right of the other so as to usurp his rights was a governing principle of the Islamic conquests from the time of 'Omar bin Al-Khattab; during that historical period it was the norm. [But] at the turn of the [20th] century, this principle was abandoned and prohibited, because it sparked wars and [violent] conflict. The international community passed laws restricting the principle of non-acceptance of the other, in the founding principles of the League of Nations in 1919. Subsequently, with the U.N.'s establishment, these laws were developed [further], with appendices and commentary, to adapt them to the current historical era and to express the commonly accepted values of national sovereignty and peoples' right to self-determination.
"But because of their sentimental yearning for the past and zealous adherence to [old] criteria, the Arabs purged their hearts of any inclination to adjust to the spirit of the age. They thus became captives of the principle of non-acceptance of the other and of denying the other [the right] to live, [among] other rights.
"As a result, damage was done to the rights and interests of non-Arab nations and ethnic groups in the Arab lands - among them the Kurds, the Copts, and the Jews. [Thus,] the Arabs still treat the numerous minorities that came under their dominion 1,400 years ago in accordance with the laws from the era of Arab conquest.
"Despite the consequences of denying the other the right to exist, not to mention other rights - that is, [despite] the oppression, conflicts, wars, and instability [resulting from this]... the Arabs have steadfastly clung to their clearly chauvinist position. All problems in the region arising from minorities' increasing awareness of their rights have been dealt with by the Arabs in accordance with [the principle of non-acceptance]... [even] after the emergence of international institutions giving these rights legal validity, in keeping with the mentality and rationale of our time."

Refusing to Accept the Other: The Kurds in Iraq; the Christians in Egypt and Lebanon
The Kurds
"The denial of the Kurds' national rights by the Iraqi government, and the Arab League's support for it, has brought on wars lasting 50 years - that is, three-quarters of the life span of the state that arose in Iraq...
"After fabricating arguments to justify the [1921] combining of the Basra region with the Baghdad region in order to establish a new state in Iraq, British colonialist interests demanded that a large area historically populated by Kurds be added to the new state. [This was done] to satisfy the aspirations of King Faisal bin Al-Hussein [bin Ali Al-Hashemi], who had been proposed as head of state in return for protecting British interests in the region.
"In his persistent refusal to grant the Kurds their rights, from 1988 through 1989 Saddam Hussein murdered approximately 180,000 Kurds, in an organized [genocidal] campaign he called 'Al-Anfal.' He then used mustard gas against one [Kurdish] city (Halabja), killing its residents (5,000 people). The Arab conscience silently acquiesced to this human slaughterhouse, while Arab League secretary-general (Shadhli Al-Qalibi) called the international press coverage of these events 'a colonialist conspiracy against the Arabs and the Iraqi regime.'
"Syrian Kurds are considered second-class citizens, and are banned from using their language or [practicing] their culture in public."

The Christians in Egypt and Lebanon
"The ethnic oppression of the Kurds [in Iraq] was echoed by sectarian extremism against the Copts [in Egypt]. In both cases, the Arabs used the principle of denying the existence of the other so as to strip him of his rights.
"The Copts, who [initially] assimilated Arabs into their society, but who have over time themselves assimilated into Arab society, discover time and again that this assimilated state is but a surface shell, which quickly cracks whenever they demand equality... As a result, Egypt, as a state, is gripped by constant social tensions that keep rising to the surface and threatening to undermine its stability...
"Sectarian extremism in Egypt took the form of an organized party with the 1928 emergence of the Muslim Brotherhood, with the aim of splitting Egyptian society into two mutually hostile and conflicting parts. This was in line with the Arab religious and political principle of denying legitimacy to all non-Muslims or non-Arabs, [a principle practiced] since the Muslim armies reached Egypt in 639 [CE]...
"In Lebanon, the presence of armed Palestinian militias - which was in accordance with the decision of the Arab states - encouraged the formation of Lebanese militias, both Sunni and Shi'ite. Chanting slogans proclaiming Palestinian liberation, they frightened Christians by appearing armed in streets swarming with Lebanese [citizens] and tourists.
"This eventually led to a confrontation with Christian militias, which had also armed themselves out of fear of the pan-Arab slogans and fear for the [preservation of] the rights of the Christian sects.
"Lebanon was engulfed by an ugly 15-year civil war, that ended only after Syria, which had played an ignominious role as instigator [of the hostilities], attained full protectorate status over Lebanese affairs and the Lebanese people - [and this] took on the nature of colonialist hegemony...
"After the Lebanese were liberated from this [Syrian] control, in 2005 the clouds of civil war - albeit of a different kind - reappeared on the Lebanese horizon. The Arab League is making no effort to prevent the eruption [of this civil war] for two main reasons. First, the Syrian regime still supports ethnic tension, in order to regain control of Lebanon; and second, the current majority government, which opposes the renewed Syrian influence, is predominantly Christian...
"We had hoped that the Arab national conscience would recover from the illness afflicting it since the time of the Nakba, and that it would adopt [views] which, if not ahead of their time, would at least be appropriate to our time. But a group of journalists, writers, and several Arab historians guided by the principle of non-acceptance of the other has twisted the facts and concocted a false and gloomy history of the region - thereby trampling these dreams to the ground."

Jews Have a Rich and Ancient History in Palestine
"The Arabs see the Palestinian problem as exceedingly complicated, while it actually appears so only to them - [that is], from the point of view of the Arabs' emotional attitudes and their national and religious philosophy. The Arabs have amassed false claims regarding their exclusive right to the Palestinian land, [and] these are based on phony arguments and on several axioms taken from written and oral sources - most of which they [themselves] created after the Islamic, and which they forbade anyone, Arab or foreigner, from questioning.
"When the Arabs agreed to U.N. arbitration... to resolve the Palestinian problem, it transpired that their axioms clearly contradicted reliable historical documents [that] this new international organization [had in its possession]. As a result, they wasted decades stubbornly defending the validity of their documents, which do not correspond to the officially accepted version of the region's history - which is based on concrete and solid evidence [such as] archaeological findings in the land of Palestine, the holy books of the three monotheistic religions, accounts by Roman, Greek, and Jewish historians... and modern historical research..."

Jewish and Christian Ritual Sites in Jerusalem Predate Muslim Sites
"[A look at] the story of Al-Aqsa is now in order - a site considered holy by Muslim Arabs, who call it 'Al-Haram al-Qudsi al-Sharif' [The Noble Sanctuary] and [believe that] it was set aside for them by Allah since the time of Adam.
"[This site] contains several places of worship, including the Dome of the Rock, built by the [Umayyad Caliph] 'Abd Al-Malik bin Marwan in the seventh century CE - that is, 72 years after the Muslim conquests. This religious public gathering place was erected over a prominent [foundation] stone at the peak of 'Mount Moriah.' [Mount Moriah] contains three ancient Jewish public worship sites, as well as [some] Christian sites... The octagonal structure of the Dome of the Rock Mosque was constructed on the site of an ancient Byzantine church, adjoining Solomon's Temple, destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD.
"Since the majority of Muslims claim that the Temple Mount is an Islamic site to which no one else is entitled, they do not acknowledge the presence of Jewish and Christian places of worship predating the Dome of the Rock within its walls...
"The Arabs take great pride in their tolerance of and benign treatment of the Jews and Christians who lived under the Muslim rule since the Muslim conquests. This account is part of the distortions underpinning the edifice of the Arabs' religious and national culture. [Arab] writers and historians keep eulogizing this epoch... while the truth is the opposite of what they claim. [Indeed,] the Pact of 'Omar [compelled] the Jews and the Christians to choose between either abandoning their religion and embracing Islam, or paying the [poll] tax in return for being permitted to reside... and receive protection of life and property in their homeland. [The Pact of 'Omar] allowed them to practice their religion, build new houses of worship, and repair the old ones [only] with the permission of a Muslim ruler, and subject to numerous conditions.
"In subsequent historical periods, the Muslims imposed [additional restrictions] on the members of [these] two religions: They forbade them to raise their voices during prayer; [they forced them] to conduct their prayers and religious ceremonies in closed areas so as not [to disturb] passersby; they forbade them to carry weapons, ride saddled horses, or build houses taller than those of the Muslims. [Christians and Jews] were required to show respect for the Muslims, e.g. by giving up their seat to a Muslim if he wanted it. They were banned from holding government posts or from working in 'sensitive' public places.
"The Koranic verses cursing the Jews and casting doubt on [the veracity of] their Holy Book [the Torah] promulgated a desire among Arabs to set themselves above the Jews who lived in their midst, humiliating and persecuting them even without pretext. In time, this treatment made large numbers of Jews abandon their cities and their land and emigrate... while those who stayed [in Palestine] until the 19th century remained marginalized, living among the Arabs like criminals in a foreign land...
"The Arabs claim that the 'Wailing Wall' has been their property since the Prophet Muhammad tied his horse Al-Buraq to one of its supports when Allah transported him by night from the Holy Mosque in Mecca to pray at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem... Although this night-journey story seems dubious, Arab historiography after the advent of Islam contains such oddities as giving a horse the prerogative of making a wall weighing more than 2,000 tons into Muslim property. This is only one of thousands of examples of tales concocted by zealots, with which they swept away the Arab imagination.
"...When the U.N. resolution on the partition of Palestine was issued on November 29, 1947... the Arabs refused to recognize it. They thereby rejected the state set out by the resolution as the right of the Palestinians and the Arabs, with the aim of establishing legal and historical equity. The Arabs called this resolution the Nakba, while their new states, formed several years before the State of Israel, launched the first war against Israel, in which regular military operations were combined with local attacks by gangs comprising Palestinians and Arabs from Arab regions near and far. [That war] ended in [the Arabs'] defeat. Persisting in their error, the Arabs established refugee camps for the Palestinians who had fled during and after the war...
"Chairman Mahmoud 'Abbas... was the first Palestinian leader to acknowledge that the Christian church in Gaza plundered by Hamas gangs had stood there 'before [we] came to Gaza.' By this he meant 'we the Palestinians' - particularly the current Gaza residents, [the descendants of] Bedouins from the Sinai and the Arabian Peninsula and of others, of unknown origin. [These people were] attracted by the wealth of the new Islamic state that extended from Persia to Southern Ethiopia, and came after the Muslim conquests and set themselves up over the local population - Christians, Jews, Phoenicians, Byzantines, and the remnants of the Sumerians...

Arabs Must Recognize the Jews' Right to Palestine
"In order to prevent more bloodshed among the innocent [population]... and in order to keep the deteriorating situation in Lebanon, Iraq, Gaza, and the West Bank from making [these regions into] a quagmire that will spread to engulf all Arab states and societies, the Arabs must reassess the question of the Nakba and come up with a new, courageous vision for the region and for the future of its residents.
"[This vision] must involve public recognition of the Jews' legitimate right to their state - which is based on historical fact - instead of [recognition] of the writings filled with anger and demagogy produced and formed into an ideology by the confused [Arab] consciousness - a consciousness built upon lies, myths, and distortions stemming from the principle of non-acceptance of the other.
"The most important factor in strengthening such a new vision is [the adoption of] a principle [requiring] official condemnation of all individuals, groups, companies, religious and political parties, and totalitarian regimes that built their glory and hollow leaderships upon the notion of the Nakba, and which are always ready to absorb other false claims and fabrications.
"This must be done, so that a modern Arab face is turned to the world - [a face reflecting] ethical values that will not allow any Arab, under any pretext, to oppress his son or his brother who differs from him in religion, ethnicity, or ideology."

[1] www.ahewar.org (formerly www.rezgar.com ), December 7, 2007.
[2] 'Aref 'Alwan is the first Arab author to publish his novels on the Internet. His doing so was the subject of his January 20, 2005 interview in the London daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Oh! What a lovely waiver by P. Sainath..

The UPA government's waiver of farm loans that was announced in the Union budget is no solution to even the immediate crisis let alone long-term agrarian problems. Nothing in this budget will raise farm incomes, writes P Sainath.
It was around the distress in regions like Vidarbha and Anantapur that the present 'farm loan waiver' was conceived. Growing knowledge of that distress, breaking through even the filters of a media unmoved by the crisis in the countryside, made the waiver both thinkable and acceptable. Odd then, that in its present form, it excludes the very regions whose pain brought it into existence.
Millions do indeed get relief from what is a positive step. (Though not quite as 'unprecedented' as some believe). Even the colonial raj went in for loan waivers or 'karza maafi' more than once. And those waivers addressed private moneylender debt. (There were no nationalised banks in those days.) That's something the present waiver does not touch - even though usury accounts for the overwhelming share of farm loans. In Vidarbha, money owed to private lenders would account for between two-thirds and three-fourths of all debt. In short, we haven't begun to resolve the debt crisis of these and millions of other farmers.
Unproductive holdings
The failure to touch moneylender debt is just the first problem. In Vidarbha, the average landholding size is 7.5 acres or 3.03 hectares. Way above the two-hectare cut-off mark for the bank loan waiver. Up to 50 per cent of Vidarbha's farmers are above this limit. Not because they are big landlords. They tend to have larger holdings as their land is unproductive and unirrigated. Poor adivasis in Yavatmal, for instance, often own over ten acres but get very little from their land. In Anantapur in Andhra Pradesh, too, many farmers will be left out by size or other norms. By contrast the farmers of Western Maharashtra, the Union Agriculture Minister's stronghold, will benefit greatly. Their holdings are smaller, well-irrigated and more productive.
For those with over two hectares, there is the old deal of "one-time settlement" of their bank loans. In this case, if they repay 75 per cent of the loan, they will be given a rebate of 25 per cent. Only very large farmers will gain from this. If the rest, drowning in debt, could pay 75 per cent of their dues, they wouldn't be committing suicide. They would pay hundred per cent.
Then, of those farmers falling within the two-hectare limit, only a small group have access to bank credit. So the gainers in this crisis-hit region will be a small percentage of the total number of farmers. It doesn't end there, though. The few who do qualify, gain much less than farmers in, say, Western Maharashtra. The average crop loan in sugarcane territory is Rs. 13,000 per acre. Apart from which farmers there get up to Rs. 18,000 per acre for drip irrigation. In Vidarbha's cotton regions, they get loans of just Rs. 4,400 per acre. So the scale of the write-off will be far greater for the relatively better off farmers. In political terms, this benefits Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar's base. At the same time, it undermines the farm base of the Congress in Vidarbha. Indeed, the average loan for the grape growers (outside of Vidarbha) is Rs. 80,000 per acre.
The cut-off date of March 31, 2007 works against even the small group of Vidarbha farmers who do benefit. Loans in the cotton regions are taken between April and June. In the cane growing regions, they are taken between January and March. This means the Vidarbha farmer has one less year of loans waived than the others.
Since no distinction has been made between dryland farmers and others, anomalies abound. West Bengal and even the non-crisis regions of Kerala have large numbers of farmers below the two-hectare limit. With agriculture in bad shape, don't grudge them the windfall the waiver brings. But it is odd the same does not happen for farmers in dryland regions who need it most. What's more, the farmers of Bengal and Kerala have far more access to bank credit than those in Vidarbha do.
The State government itself reckons that Rs. 9,310 crore of the waiver comes to Maharashtra. That is, almost a sixth of the total. Of this, a fraction goes to Vidarbha, the rest being collared by better off farmers. And what of other dryland farmers across the nation? Those in, say, Rayalaseema or Bundelkhand? What do they get?
Is the waiver 'unprecedented'? Each year, nationalised banks write off thousands of crores of rupees as bad debt. Mostly money owed by small numbers of rich businessmen. And theirs is not a 'one-time waiver.' It is a write-off that recurs every year
Between 2000-04, banks wrote off over Rs. 44,000 crores. Mostly, this favoured a tiny number of wealthy people. One 'beneficiary' was a Ketan Parekh group company that saw Rs. 60 crore knocked off. (The Indian Express, May 12, 2005). However, those 'waivers' are done quietly. In 2004, last year of the NDA, such write-offs went up by 16 per cent. Such 'waivers' have not slowed down since 2004.
Staggering giveaway
And all this is apart from the annual Rs. 40,000 crore 'giveaway' to the rich, mainly corporate India. That has been the average in the budget every single year for over a decade. Then there are the straight handouts. No one knows how many thousands of crores are lost by handing out spectrum the way it's being done. But we know it's a staggering amount. Tot up the 'tax holidays,' exemptions and the rest of it and you're looking at sums that make the 'unprecedented' one-time farm loan waiver look like loose change.
But let us look, for instance, at the millions of farmers owning less than one hectare - the largest group. Some 7.2 million of them have accounts in scheduled commercial banks. And the total outstandings against these accounts is Rs. 20,499 crores. (Reserve Bank of India: Handbook of Statistics on the Indian Economy 2006-07.) As Devidas Tuljapurkar of the All-India Bank Employees Association points out, that's about the same amount the nationalised banking sector writes off each year as bad debt. Mainly for industry. Those farmers with between one and two hectares hold 5.9 million accounts and owe Rs. 20,758 crores. That is: these 13 million account holders owe less than the Rs. 44,000 crore written off by the banks during just the NDA period for a tiny number of rich people.
The waiver does bring great relief to large numbers of farmers. But it is no solution to even the immediate crisis let alone long-term agrarian problems. Nothing in this budget will raise farm incomes. Which means farmers will be back in debt within two years. Their incomes have long been much lower on average than those in other sectors. And they fall further behind each year. Worse, fresh credit will not come cheap. Pleas for 'low-interest or no-interest loans' have been ignored. There is no mention of a price stabilisation fund to shield farmers from the volatility of corporate-rigged global prices. Besides, the idea of a five-year repayment cycle has not been touched. And the highly unjust crop insurance rules that dog regions like Anantapur remain unchanged.
However, there is still a long way to go in the budget session. So these problems can be set right if the government is sincere about helping those worst-hit by the crisis. It could work all these measures into the final document and also adjust the terms for dryland regions.
One funny outcome of the budget is that the media are now talking about farmers. Of course, the 'analysis' of what is 'pro-farmer' comes from the elite. From CEOs, stockbrokers, business editors, corporate lobbyists and touts in three-piece suits. On budget eve one anchor posed a question to his panel in words to this effect: "Will it be a pro-poor, aam aadmi budget or will Mr. Chidambaram use the opportunity to do something good [for the country] in terms of reforms."
When the budget rolled out, one anchor said: "And now for the budget bad news. India Inc.'s plea for a cut in corporate tax rates went unheeded." Isn't that cute? If a budget is pro-poor, it cannot be good for the country. If it does not give the corporate world more goodies, it is bad. And of course, the elite panellists mostly rued this "gigantic giveaway."
While gasping at the size of the "write-off" it's worth asking why the loan waiver comes up now. Why not in 2005, when the demand was already being made? Or in 2006 when the Prime Minister visited Vidarbha and was shaken by the widespread distress. Mr. Pawar has outsmarted his rivals. Had the step been taken then, the credit would have gone entirely to the Congress. No prizes for guessing who opposed it then (when it would have cost much less).
For three years, while the misery and suicides mounted in Vidarbha, there was not even the admission that a loan waiver was possible. Indeed, it was shot down by those now taking out full page ads claiming credit for it. As they complain in Vidarbha, this is not about karza maafi. It is about seeking voter maafi (voters' forgiveness) in election year. ¨’
P Sainath
11 Mar 2008
P. Sainath is the 2007 winner of the Ramon Magsaysay award for Journalism, Literature, and Creative Communication Arts. He is one of the two recipients of the A.H. Boerma Award, 2001, granted for his contributions in changing the nature of the development debate on food, hunger and rural development in the Indian media.

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Arise Awake Stop not till the goal is reached. - Swami Vivekananda Swami ji is my inspiration, not as a monk but as a social reformer and for his universal-ism.