Crude Delight: Oil on a slippery road – Virendra Parekh

Virendra Parekh“India stands to gain a lot from the falling prices of commodities led by oil. Cheaper imports will help it reduce its trade and current account deficit, stabilize the rupee, help control inflation and lighten the subsidy burden on government finances. It will enable the government to carry out the much-needed structural reforms to revive growth and improve competitiveness.” – Virendra Parekh

Oil pricesThe oil price is in free fall, down 25 per cent since June and 9 per cent so far in October. The fall is driven by a supply glut from almost all players, as well as weakening demand from key economies such as Europe and China. Current indications are that this is not a short time blip. Oil prices are likely to stay around present levels, if not drift lower, in the next few years.
 
This is good news for India, as also for many other oil importing Asian countries. The extended bull run that had hurt India by widening its current account and fiscal deficits, besides raising subsidies and weakening the rupee is now reversed.
 
Ali Al-NaimiThe current downtrend in oil is remarkable for many reasons. Prices are falling even when a number of oil producing countries are at war, or battling internal strife. Earlier, if even one oil producer was in trouble prices would harden immediately. Also, Saudi Arabia, the world’s traditional swing producer, has done nothing to defend the floor price of $100 a barrel for Brent crude, which had not been breached since July 2012. That is why expectations are that prices might fall further, driven by a combination of ample supply and weak demand outlook.
 
Oil market has suffered a big supply shock in recent months. In fact, the world’s output of oil has been rising strongly since April last year. According to International Energy Agency, OPEC pumped more oil than it had in 13 months in September, while non-OPEC producers added 2.1 million barrels a day during the month, or more than 2 per cent of global daily demand.
 
The biggest recent change has come from within the oil exporters’ cartel. Saudi Arabia shocked the rest of OPEC by cutting forward prices for Asian delivery and by increasing oil output slightly in September (by 107,000 barrels), at a time when other exporters wanted it to cut back. Libya’s production—hit by civil war— had crashed to just 200,000 b/d in April. Surprisingly, by the end of September Libya’s output was back up to 900,000 b/d and seen heading towards its pre-war level of 1.5m b/d. Equally surprisingly, Iraq’s output is rising, too. The dreaded terrorist outfit Islamic State also extracts and sells some oil from wells under its control. The upshot is that OPEC production started to grow again in September after almost two years of decline, compounding the impact of growing non-OPEC supplies.
 
The growth in supply from non-OPEC countries, America in particular, has been even higher. Thanks partly to increases in shale oil output, the United States pumped 8.8m b/d in September, 13 per cent more than in September 2013, 56 per cent above the level of 2011 and not far short of Saudi Arabia. Russia pumped 10.6m b/d in September, not far from the highest monthly figure since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
 
Non-OPEC production is expected to remain robust in coming years, led by the continuing shale oil boom in North America. The US has already become the world’s largest producer of petroleum-based liquids—including oil and natural gas liquids. The IEA said earlier this year the U.S. had overtaken Saudi Arabia and Russia, though it still lags behind both countries in production of crude oil alone. Total liquids production in the U.S. is expected to rise above 12 million barrels a day next month and stay above that threshold until the end of 2015. That is a rise of nearly 20 per cent from last year’s average of about 10.2 million barrels a day.
 
From a long term perspective, the rising output of shale oil in the US is likely to change the dynamics of the oil market and the international politics centred on it. The US looks set to regain its role as a swing producer by the end of the decade.
 
Oil field in TexasUntil the early 1970s, America was the world’s largest oil producer and the Texas Railroad Commission stabilised world prices by dictating how much the state’s producers could pump. That power was lost by March 1972 as the rising consumption and declining production eroded the state’s spare capacity. American production declined steadily from a peak of 9.6m barrels a day in 1970 to under 5m in 2008.
 
FrackingAround that time, independent producers began adapting the new technologies of hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) and horizontal drilling, first used to tap shale gas, to oil. Total American production has since risen to 7.4m barrels a day. The fossil fuel boom has reduced America’s vulnerability to oil price swings in two ways. First, America’s petroleum deficit has narrowed to 1.7 per cent of GDP while Europe’s has widened to nearly 4 per cent, making the dollar and the US economy less sensitive to oil prices. Secondly, as production rises and import shrinks, more of the cash that leaves consumers’ pockets will return to American rather than foreign producers.
 
The Energy Information Administration, a federal monitoring agency in US, reckons that America’s oil production will return to its 1970 record by 2019. The International Energy Agency is more bullish. In its reckoning, by 2020 America will have displaced Saudi Arabia as the world’s biggest producer, pumping 11.6m barrels a day.
 
Voices are already being heard in the US for lifting the ban on export of crude oil imposed in 1975. If the ban is lifted, it will benefit not only American oil producers, but others also. A global oil market that fully included America would be more stable, more diversified and less dependent on OPEC or Russia.
 
This highly comfortable oil supply scenario is taking shape at a time when demand is projected to remain weak.
 
Early in October, IMF revised global growth for this year down to 3.3 per cent, a deceleration of 0.4 per cent from its forecast made as recently as April. The IMF sees the US growing at 2.2 per cent in 2014, the same rate as in the previous year and a substantial upward revision of 0.5 percentage point from its July forecast. Yet, it cut world growth in 2014 to 3.3 per cent and that in 2015 to 3.8 per cent due to the drag expected from the euro area (growing 0.8 per cent in 2014 and 1.3 per cent in 2015) and Japan which is now expected to grow 0.9 per cent in 2014 and 0.8 per cent in 2015.
 
The developments since then have only compounded the gloom. Germany, Europe’s largest economy shows signs of tipping over into recession. British inflation slowed sharply in September and eurozone factory output slumped in August, while the Spanish underlying inflation rate fell into negative territory for the first time in more than four years.
 
The real disappointment is China. China’s consumption of steel and power has been declining for some months and the sale of houses and start of new homes has dropped 10 per cent in the current year. In fact, the creeping downturn in China’s property market is likely to reduce its growth rate from more than seven per cent to five-six per cent and has the potential to derail the fragile global recovery.
 
All this and given the number of times IMF forecasters have got it wrong (the latest World Economic Outlook (WEO) has a separate section on this) it is very likely that even the lowered forecasts of global growth may not come true.
 
Bombay High Oil FieldThe slowing economic growth in Asia and a sputtering European economy have naturally weighed on demand for oil. The Paris-based International Energy Agency, in its closely watched monthly oil-market report released in mid-October, cut its forecast for global demand growth by about 22 per cent. It now forecasts demand will climb a meager 700,000 barrels a day this year, about 200,000 barrels a day lower than previously forecast. Global oil demand is just over 92 million barrels a day. Oil lost $4 the day IEA report was released.
 
The bearish outlook on oil as also on other commodities is reinforced by a strong dollar. The US Federal Reserve is getting ready to increase rates. The Bank of England is on the same path. The European Central Bank is already pumping more and more money into the financial system to lift inflation, though with limited success so far. This has led to ascendancy of dollar, as global funds have put money back in the US in anticipation of interest rate hike. Commodities are priced in the US currency. So, as the greenback gains in value, fewer dollars should be required to buy them. This relationship does not always hold, but at the moment it does.
 
Since consumption is weak, much of the extra output is currently going into rebuilding oil stocks in rich countries. But that cannot go on indefinitely. As the hoarding slows, prices are likely to weaken again, unless world demand picks up or oil production is cut. Neither seems imminent.
 
Ordinarily, faced with a weak demand and sliding prices, oil exporters’ cartel OPEC would step forward to halt the decline by cutting oil production. This time around, however, OPEC is ridden with a deep split among its members who do not seem willing to rein in output to help bolster prices. Instead, OPEC members have been reducing prices in an effort to boost, or defend, their own global market share. A call by Venezuela—one of the cartel’s members most sensitive to falling oil prices—for an emergency meeting has so far been ignored by other members.
 
Saudi Arabia, as noted earlier, has acted on its own. It has cut its prices to Asian and European buyers, essentially undercutting other OPEC members. It also ramped up output by 100,000 barrels a day in September, to 9.7 million barrels a day. The question is: why?
 
One theory is that the Saudis want to discourage investment in non-OPEC supply, to support higher prices in the long run. A simpler explanation is that the Saudis are trying to browbeat other OPEC members into acting like members of a cartel. In recent years, the kingdom has been forced to act largely alone to steady the market. Letting prices fall should turn up the pressure on slackers such as Venezuela and Iran, which need far higher crude prices than Saudi Arabia to pay their bills, ahead of OPEC’s next meeting in November. But Kuwait’s oil minister remarked recently, “I don’t think there is a chance today that [OPEC countries] would reduce their production.”

Whatever the explanation, the Saudi brinkmanship is hardly a sign of strength. It suggests instead of driving the markets, the once-mighty cartel is now being driven by markets itself. 

So clearly, there is downward pressure on oil. But how far can the price fall? Analysts say there is a natural floor for oil prices: the price which U.S. shale producers need to keep their wells flowing profitably. If prices fall below that so-called break-even price, producers could rein in output. The lost supply could then bolster prices.

Fatih BirolMost analysts, however, say that the floor is yet to be reached. According to IEA, only about 4 percent of U.S. shale oil production needs prices above $80 for drillers to break even. Producers are getting more oil per dollar spent drilling, driving costs down. “There’s not one single drop of oil which cannot be produced for commercial reasons with today’s price,” the IEA’s chief economist, Fatih Birol, said in an interview.
 
India stands to gain a lot from the falling prices of commodities led by oil. Cheaper imports will help it reduce its trade and current account deficit, stabilize the rupee, help control inflation and lighten the subsidy burden on government finances. It will enable the government to carry out the much-needed structural reforms to revive growth and improve competitiveness.   

On the flip side, the weakness of Europe and the slowing of China mean that India’s export markets will struggle. China managed to grow rapidly over the last decade on the back of a booming world economy. India will need to be extra competitive, for it will need to win export orders during a global slowdown. In order to make that happen, structural reform will have to be deep and painful – taking advantage of the respite offered by cheaper commodity prices. Policy makers in New Delhi cannot afford to waste the opportunity provided to them.

» Virendra Parekh is the Executive Editor of Corporate India and lives in Mumbai.

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“Modi will recover black money from abroad,” says Gurumurthy – Shobha Warrier

S. Gurumurthy

Swaminathan GurumurthyShobha Warrier, convener, Swadeshi Jagran Manch, launched his investigation into black money in 1986.

He was a member of the task force created by Bharatiya Janata Party leader L. K. Advani just before the 2009 election. The BJP had promised then and before the 2014 election that it would bring back the black money stashed away in various banks outside India if it were voted to power.

HSBC Bank, Geneva, SwitzerlandWhen the Narendra Modi government informed the Supreme Court that it could not disclose certain details about black money because of the double LGT Group Logotaxation avoidance agreement India had with certain countries, it angered lawyer Ram Jethmalani, on whose plea the Supreme Court had constituted a Special Investigating Team on black money. Jethmalani accused the Modi government of toeing the United Progressive Alliance line.

In this exclusive interview Gurumurthy explains his expectations of the Modi government on the black money issue. – Shobha Warrier

In 2009 when we met before the parliamentary elections, you had just submitted the task force report on black money to Mr Advani. Did you continue with your investigation even after the BJP lost the elections?

• Let me first talk about the initial hurdles in pursuing black money. There was an opinion among many leaders that there was no black money at all. [Former Union minister] Jairam Ramesh openly said it was complete nonsense. First the Congress said there was no black money, then they said there was no black money of this kind. Such opinion was shared even among some in the National Democratic Alliance.

Leaders from the BJP too?

• Yes, there were some BJP leaders. They genuinely felt there was no black money. That is also because some of them could not understand that black money was not kept as currency. So the initial difficulty that had to be crossed after submitting the task force report, was making people agree that there was black money.Sonia-G world's fourth richest politician ! When Advani started talking about it strongly during the elections, it became a public issue. Unless something becomes a public issue, it will never be an issue at all. Because of the elections, it got enough publicity.

Pictet & Cie Bank, Zurich, SwitzerlandWhen it became an issue, even [Congress President] Sonia Gandhi had to come out with a statement that they would bring black money from abroad. Then [then prime minister] Manmohan Singh had to repeat it.

Thus, it became an issue common to the political system. Till then, it was resisted. This was the biggest public hurdle that had to be overcome.

Today, no political party can say that black money is not an issue; it has become a national issue. Who drives it, who is more sincere, who has more commitment, is a different issue.

Was it not a global issue by then?

• At the 2010 G-20 meeting, France and Germany took it up and said that casino capitalism was the product of the Anglo-Saxon economic model. It was the first time in the history of the world that a virtually racial term was used to describe economic behaviour.

They said this model fostered tax havens as respected, accepted and legitimate. France and Germany said, unless you take on the tax havens and the secret banking system, they would walk out of G-20. So America had to cave in.

Unless you understand the functioning of the global financial system and the role of secret money in it, you will never be able to understand the forces that prevent the campaign and exposure of black money.

The global GDP is about $72 trillion and the high net worth individuals’ wealth is $54 trillion out of which $20 trillion is called offshore money. Offshore money is nothing but secret money.

We must understand that this does not mean cash alone; it is in the form of shares, real estate, bonds, yacht, ships, companies, gold, platinum. So this $20 trillion also is in the form of government bonds especially in America.

Much of this $20 trillion black money is from Asia and Africa. This is what drives the American stock market. And 55 per cent of American families are hooked to the stock market and nearly 60 per cent of retirement benefits and pension funds are invested in the stock market. It was less than 10 per cent in 1980 and gradually all the monies shifted from the bank to the stock market.

This connection of black money with the American stock market was what France and Germany resisted. They wanted the secrecy to be broken open.

International Black MoneyThat was how what we have been trying to do got global recognition. The black money issue can ever be tackled at home. After 2010, the world began to view it as a menace, but only as tax evaded money. But it is not only tax evaded money but it is money taken out of the country.

So the difference between black money in India and the black money out of India is, in India, it is tax evaded money and Indian money outside India is not only tax evaded money, but money which has been taken out of India’s capital resources needed for India.

So it is not only tax evasion, but treason too.

Do you think all political parties are involved in this, and that is why they do not want to pursue this with enthusiasm?

• Not only politicians, but bureaucrats, businessmen, some even in the judiciary are also corrupt. Then there is also drug money, gold smuggling etc. Politicians, who have been in power for too long, can be involved.

Most politicians are locally corrupt and they keep the money here itself. There was a politician in Jharkhand who said, when questioned about corruption, “Did I put the money in a Swiss bank? I only invested here.” He implicitly claimed to be a nationalist in corruption.

The Global Financial Integrity organisation came out with a calculation that between 1948 and 2008, $500 billion [about 30 lakh crore] has gone out of India. And between 2003 and 2011, $350 billion [about 21 lakh crore] has gone out of India. Most of it had gone out of India after India liberalised the economy.

Are you connecting black money with liberalisation?

• I am not saying the economy should not be liberalised. But there is a connection. It allows people to have more opportunities to spirit away money. There is no safeguard.

The Foreign Exchange Regulation Act is not there. The money laundering law, not in effective form, came too late. The threat of arrest is not there.

What I want to say is, it is now certain that funds have gone out of India and what has gone out of India is not a very small amount, but very large.

Also, it is not a one nation’s problem, but a global issue. It means we can form global partnership and pursue this money.

Is it possible for countries to take black money back?

• By legal action, money siphoned off by Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines has been recovered. African dictators’ money has been recovered. It is possible to recover. But I don’t think our income tax department and Enforcement Directorate can do it because it consists of people who have colluded with these things.

The only possibility is that our intelligence agencies must be used for this purpose.

First, you must get clues, vital leads, names of the account holders and bank names. Only then you can start legal action.

When you were with the task force, could you get all these details, like the names of people and banks?

• We could get information, but only in respect of businessmen and not those of corrupt politicians.

Narendra ModiIn my view, this government must act and it has the opportunity to act. They have got to put together a set of very committed people with passion who will go about with this task.

I am sure Narendra Modi is quite keen about it. I have absolutely no doubt on that aspect.

At present, he has too many things to handle and I am sure he must be thinking about how to handle this. The matter is also with the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court had constituted a SIT on black money on Ram Jethmalani’s plea. He accuses the Modi government of protecting the culprits. He said the Modi government is following the UPA path when it refused to divulge the names to the Supreme Court citing the treaty….

• There are two sets of names. In Liechtenstein Bank accounts, the German government announced that anybody could take the information, but the Government of India asked them to give it under the direct taxation avoidance agreement under which it is a secret. That’s why the Supreme Court asked why did they obtain it under a secret clause what is available in the open?

Ram JethmalaniBut the most important thing is the HSBC account particulars which we got from France. France got it from records stolen by a disgruntled employee in the HSBC bank in Switzerland. But the bank is in the Swiss jurisdiction. We got reportedly about 600 Indian names from France under the double taxation avoidance agreement.

The government view is that under terms of the bilateral the details can be disclosed it only after prosecution is launched. This is the claim of the government saying this is the international practice.

The other view is, with which I agree, is that in public court proceedings, the government can disclose the names. The government seems to say that the Supreme Court cannot over-rule the DTAA. But my view is no over-ruling is needed because the DTAA itself says that it can be disclosed in public court proceedings.

My view is when the court says the government has to disclose, it must disclose.

Yes, there are two views in this. Obviously, the bureaucrats will take a view which is very defensive and conservative. The more serious thing is they have filed an application saying the original order the Supreme Court had passed must be modified.

The original judgement says the government should not enter into any agreement with any country which says the information must be kept confidential and it is prohibiting the government from entering into inter-government agreement with the US for automatic and mutual sharing of financial information which is due in December

According to me, the government is wrong in filing this application because the DTAA with America specifically says you can disclose this information in public court proceedings. In my view, signing the inter-governmental agreement with America will not violate the Supreme Court judgment.

The perception among people is that the Modi government is not very enthusiastic about the black money issue and going slow like the UPA….

• I won’t take that view. Action to recover black money abroad will be in any way a slow process. It needs the world’s cooperation. The government has to create an atmosphere in which the world sees that the Indian government is keen on fast action.

Till the UPA was in power, the world had had a feeling that India was not keen to recover black money. This has to be reversed.

The first thing the government can do today is to expeditiously file prosecutions against people who have concealed the money in HSBC and disclose their names.

Recovering black money is a very strategic issue as the Indian government has to make alliances with many countries for which we took no efforts at all so far. This government can take these efforts because it has high level of influence with most of the countries. The credibility of this government is high.

Do you have confidence in this government that it would pursue the issue honestly?

• A hundred percent. This is going to be a very important agenda for Modi. He has made his intention clear to me many times before and after coming to power.

Modi may want to pursue it, but what about the others?

• There is no one in the government who can think otherwise if the most powerful person, the PM, wants action to recover black money.

In my view, Modi is the person who will do it. Others will fall in line, even if they genuinely doubt whether there is so much money.

• Finance Minister Arun Jaitley hinted that the name of a certain UPA minister is there. Is the issue only about UPA ministers and the Congress party? Is it not much bigger and deeper than that?

• He was talking about the 600 names in the HSBC list; he was not talking about the entire gamut of black money. He was actually answering the Congress which was taunting the NDA government for not acting on black money.

It was a political statement and that was needed because the Congress was trying to take advantage of the secrecy. That is why Jaitley said, be careful, you are likely to be embarrassed.

Do you think the Modi government will pursue the matter as seriously if there are names of politicians from the BJP?

• As yet, there is not even a suspicion of anybody from the BJP in it. So this is a hypothetical question. Even if somebody from the NDA is involved, public opinion and judicial opinion will force the disclosure.

L. K. AdvaniThe media must pursue it relentlessly. The problem is that some powerful sections of the media in India are also corrupt. If public opinion is generated, it will have its effect.

In spite of most media underplaying the black money issue and toeing the Congress, it has become an issue because it was made into an election issue by Advani. The credit for making it a huge public issue must go to Advani.

I am confident that the government will pursue the matter seriously. If not, people like us will not keep quiet. It is not to see the issue goes unattended that I have spent 30 years of my life on this. There are many people like me within and outside the system.

Have you got any startling revelations while pursuing the issue?

• There are many leads, but to give startling revelations, you need facts.

Without facts, you will be making allegations. I do not make allegations without facts. We can only go to a certain extent and after that, we have no powers to probe them. – Rediff, 27 October 2014

Supreme Court demands foreign account holder names

Legalism and Government Stand in Black Money Case – S. Gurumurthy – The New Indian Express – 30 October 2014

S. Gurumurthy“The government has concealed nothing from the SIT or the court. But the court rapped the government despite the government’s affidavit day before saying it has given all the names months ago. Neither the court nor the media is going to take back the strong comments. The damage is done. But morally, the Modi Government has won.” – S. Gurumurthy

Mukul RohatgiThe way the Supreme Court slammed the government on October 28 for not disclosing the names of black money holders given by the French government is like the classic case of both eating 100 onions and taking 100 lashes when the option was given to a person to do either of the two.

The short story of this paradox is this. The Supreme Court, moved by a public interest petition filed by Ram Jethmalani in 2009, delivered its judgment in July 2011, directing the government to appoint a Special Investigation Team (SIT). It was to be headed by two former Judges of the Supreme Court and consisted of the enforcement and intelligence agencies to probe the issue and recovery of huge black money suspected to be stashed away by Indians abroad.

The estimate of the rogue money, according to Global Financial Integrity (GFI), was $500 billion till 2008 and still counting. The UPA government, which had received information from Germany about black money account holders in Liechtenstein Bank and from France about such account holders in HSBC Bank in Geneva, was dodging the court’s insistence to disclose the details. It was taking refuge in some provisions of the Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA) under which it said it had received the information. This forced the court to direct and get the government to disclose the Liechtenstein Bank details to the SIT. But before the court could direct the government to give details of HSBC account holders, the government filed a review petition asking the court to take back the judgment. After that the matter went into hibernation till it came back alive when the new government took over. The very first act of  Modi Government was to appoint the SIT – which the UPA was stalling – to which all investigations of black money stood transferred under the court’s orders. When everything seemed to be going well, the Finance Ministry filed an application on October 15, asking the court to vary its judgment of July 2011 since the government was advised that the direction of the court to disclose names overriding the DTAA was impeding the government’s efforts to secure an Inter Governmental Agreement (IGA) with the US for exchange of banking information. The IGA had the same provisions regarding disclosure as the DTAA with the US and most other nations.

The government said that since court orders seemed to prevent the government from signing the IGA with restrictions on disclosure, the judgment needed to be recast. Many, particularly Ram Jethmalani and others, who had worked on the black money issue for years, saw in this effort the same stonewalling which the UPA Government was doing to block the black money probe. The government’s October application lacked a sense of timing and ran contrary to the sentiments of its supporters on black money recovery agenda. Hell broke loose. Critics and friends alike began drawing parallels between the UPA and the NDA regimes, and sceptics began to feel that one was not different from the other. The ill-conceived and ill-timed application made everyone feel that this government too wanted to protect the black money holders.

But the facts were the other way round, as the clarification affidavit filed by the Finance Ministry on October 27 revealed. The affidavit unfolded how the government had not only been transparent with the SIT appointed by the court but also had been following its directions. The affidavit asserted that a complete list of cases where information had been obtained from the German and French governments, with the status of the action taken by the government was submitted by the Central Board of Direct Taxes on June 27. It added that the CBDT officials also met and briefed the SIT on the status of the cases, background of the information received, non-sharing of information by Swiss authorities, and constraints faced by the government and alternative methods of securing account details.

Arun JaitleyShockingly, his disclosure of how transparent the government had been and how it had parted with the details to the SIT was not mentioned when the Finance Minister briefed the media two days later on October 17, when already its critics and some friends had begun saying that the present government was no different from the UPA.

The Finance Minister’s briefing took the position that the DTAA prohibited the disclosure of information received under its provisions till the prosecution proceedings were started. This was precisely the argument of the UPA, which the Supreme Court in its judgment of July 2009 had overruled. This coupled with not mentioning that the government had already parted with the details to the SIT proved to be a disaster. In the huge negative publicity, the further affidavit of the government, which claimed that the list of names had been given to the SIT was not noticed at all.

In this situation came the application filed by the government asking for modification of the July 2011 judgment. The Attorney General did not sense the mood of the court and the nation, of course, and set out on legalism to justify the application, which the AG himself had personally approved. The fact that the government had already given the details was lost in the din. The court ordered the government to give the details in a sealed envelope to the court on October 29.

Did the AG tell the court that the details are already with the SIT? Even if he had, it was lost in the legalistic arguments on how justified the application for modification was. The result was bad imaging of the government in the court and in the public domain. Result, the government, which had already disclosed the details to the SIT, got a drubbing for not disclosing it – precisely like eating 100 onions and taking 100 lashes instead of either.

But even the AG’s legalism seems to be wrong. The hard fact is that the DTAA with France does not prohibit disclosure of information on the account holders in HSBC received from France in public court proceedings. The DTAA with France disciplines the disclosure of information received by India under it thus: One, the information shall have the same confidentiality as under India’s domestic law, that is the Income Tax Act and the Right To Information Act read together.

Two, if originally the information was secret in the hands of France (the sender) it shall be kept secret by India (the receiver). Apply the two norms now. First, the Income Tax and the RTI law permit disclosure and so no secrecy attaches to the HSBC details under the Indian law.

Next, the French got stolen information about bank account holders in HSBC in Switzerland. It is therefore not a secret in sender France’s hands. It is secret only in Switzerland. So under both the norms disclosure of HSBC information cannot be denied. And there is an overriding third norm.

The DTAA with France permits disclosure in public court proceedings in addition to disclosure in tax proceedings. It means when a court – the highest court in this case – directs the disclosure the government is empowered to disclose under the DTAA. Move further. The DTAA with the US is on identical terms as with France and the proposed IGA with the US is identical to the DTAA with the US on the disclosure of information. Consequently, the application of the government to the Supreme Court that the judgment prohibits disclosure of information is clearly misconceived, if not unnecessary. It is all confusion compounded at every stage.

How then should the government move forward now? The government should consult the SIT appointed by the Supreme Court whenever it has any doubt on how to go forward. It is the SIT that should ask the court for directions. The Supreme Court has already made it clear: the SIT will handle the investigation on black money. Will the government heed?

Narendra ModiPost Script: After all the strong words from the Supreme Court, which ordered the government forthwith to give to it the list of black money holders and critics saying that this government is no different from its predecessor, the SIT chief quietly confirmed last evening(on Tuesday) that the list handed to the court yesterday morning(on Tuesday) was the same as the list given to the SIT by the government four months ago, on June 27, 2014! Means what? The government has concealed nothing from the SIT or the court. But the court rapped the government despite the government’s affidavit day before saying it has given all the names months ago. Neither the court nor the media is going to take back the strong comments. The damage is done. But morally, the Modi Government has won. – The New Indian Express, 30 October 2014

Hindutva and Nationhood – Tufail Ahmad

Tufail Ahmad“Indian philosophy nurtures an inward-looking nation. On all international issues, Indian diplomats refrain from taking positions. The philosophical questions raised in this article can also be raised about prime minister Narendra Modi’s speech at the UN authored by diplomats, though Modi’s other speeches in which he takes personal interests do propel India forward. India must grasp a notion of power before claiming the UN Security Council seat.” – Tufail Ahmad

Mohan BhagwatOn Vijaya Dashami, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh chief Mohan Bhagwat delivered a speech to mark the founding of the RSS in 1925. The RSS’s role in inculcating ideas of nationhood in the minds of youth for nearly nine decades has been consequential at least in the intellectual domain at the popular level. Bhagwat’s October 3 speech should, therefore, be examined for the assumptions and relevance of ideas he put forth before Indian youth. Ideas influence us as social beings when we listen to or visually imbibe them, whether or not we want to follow them.

Bhagwat noted the RSS’s role in building “a virtuous, strong and organised society”, urged “reconstruction of this great nation” and spoke of India’s rising status: “The entire world is today waiting for this eternal nation to stand up in its own form.” However, the speech leads to questions of ideas and assumptions that suck India into isolationism, teach moral relativism that precludes among Indians a conception of what is good and what must be opposed, and propel a world view that drowns the Indian mind into excessive spirituality that is not grounded, which means that Indian youth are good at writing software but are unable to invent hardware.

One, Bhagwat celebrated Indians who travelled “from Mexico to Siberia” and “without attempting to conquer any empire or without destroying way of life of any society, prayer systems or national identity” shared Indian ethos. It means India’s intellectual thought is caught in relativism in which Indians nurse a value-neutral world view. It also means: Indians going to work in Saudi Arabia will accept its burqa-based value system that subjugates women. The issue is not burqa, but the Indian inability to choose and reject. Bhagwat defined Hindutva as an “unbroken current of national thinking” that “assimilates and accepts all of them with full respect”. Think over: “full respect”.

Ex-President Abdul KalamTwo, Bhagwat’s uncritical celebration of “without attempting to conquer” is an intellectual challenge that Indians must reject quickly. It is the reason foreigners invaded India while Indians rarely went beyond borders, barring exceptions. In 2005, Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam reflected: “In 3000 years of our history, people from all over the world have come and invaded us, captured our lands, conquered our minds. From Alexander onwards, the Greeks, the Turks, the Mughals, the Portuguese, the British, the French, the Dutch, all of them came and looted us…. Yet we have not done this to any other nation. We have not conquered anyone.” Add here: Kargil and 26/11. Indians must embrace Kalam’s concern, reject Bhagwat’s indifference.

Three, Bhagwat criticised the Western powers who “want to expand their own empires in the name of establishing peace” and compel other countries to remain “helpless in the name of non-proliferation of (nuclear) weapons”. How history unfolds depends on three inter-dependent factors: process in which everything flows from the past; turning points such as wars after which we leave something irreversibly behind; leaders who proactively shape history. Foreigners cannot create empires if a people are intellectually capable and willing to militarily fight. The West’s rise derives from rational thought, a weakness of Indians too preoccupied with spirituality.

The ThinkerBhagwat spoke in a received language, of the international Left; he blamed the West’s “oil interests” as cause of war, but wars have never taken place for oil. Indians must ask what the RSS leadership thinks about the use of nuclear weapons and India’s nuclear programme—also because Bhagwat dismissed the non-proliferation movement as mere Western politics.

Four, he blamed the Western countries for the rise of jihadists like the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, noting that their “selfish interests … is responsible for a new incarnation of terror”. For Indian youth, two questions arise: is selfishness wrong in itself or is it something that fuels individual drive; secondly, is a reductionist view of history’s progress valid in which only the West charts its path, or wouldn’t others do the same if the West didn’t exist? Think about Islamists’ unprovoked invasions of Europe and India.

Five, Indian philosophy nurtures an inward-looking nation. On all international issues, Indian diplomats refrain from taking positions. The philosophical questions raised in this article can also be raised about prime minister Narendra Modi’s speech at the UN authored by diplomats, though Modi’s other speeches in which he takes personal interests do propel India forward. India must grasp a notion of power before claiming the UN Security Council seat. Bhagwat said India has been “the top leader of the world for centuries”. Think if this is a valid statement.

Six, the RSS leader rightly lauded the success of Indian scientists in sending Mangalyaan into the orbit of Mars but this is the result not of the original Indian intellectual thought that he advocated but of Western material sciences. Reproducing wheat is no contribution to human knowledge; the original thinker invented how to grow wheat. Perhaps, Bhagwat spoke from a higher intellectual plane, but his was not a statesman’s speech to propel India into the orbit of great powers in the international state system.

Deendayal UpadhyayaPositively, Bhagwat spoke about the concept of “integral humanism”, advocating an ecologically sustainable lifestyle. Hearteningly, he stepped into the real world when democracy spoke through him. To illustrate, he extolled the election of the Modi government and recognised India’s place in the world: “We have also made the world realise that the common citizen of Bharat takes part in the process of future-building of the nation through execution of her/his democratic responsibilities.” Earlier, Modi was clearer: “We can look in the eye of the world because we are a democracy.”

Insofar as Bhagwat was articulating a conception of India based on Hindutva, it appears Hindutva is intellectually incapable of engineering India’s rise in modern times. Indian youth must shun intellectual streams rooted in Ashoka’s renunciation of war and learn from Kautilya who conceived the Mauryan Empire’s rise. India’s thought leaders, or those who buy Fair & Lovely face cream, cannot continue to blame our inferiority complex on foreign invasions, even if correct. – The New Indian Express, 28 October 2014

» Tufail Ahmad is director of South Asia Studies Project at the Middle East Media Research Institute, Washington DC. Email: tufailelif@yahoo.co.uk

Canada in total denial on terror attack – Madhav Nalapat

Parliament Hilll following a shooting incident in Ottawa, October 22, 2014.

Prof M.D. Nalapat“Terrorists do not simply come out of nowhere, but are nurtured by support groups having the same purpose. However, try telling this to Canada’s Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, whose men are insistent that the shooter in the 23 October incident was another of those singletons, coming as if from nowhere. In fact, the terrorist would have had a support network, which identified him, indoctrinated him and motivated him into carrying out his act.” – Prof Madhav Nalapat

Taj Mahal HotelAfter the 26/11 attackers came ashore in Mumbai and caused havoc for three days in the city, damaging India’s reputation as a country skilled in counter-terrorism, the Manmohan Singh government at first declined to name the ISI as being behind the outrage, and claimed that there was no local involvement in the attacks. This was in the face of information that the Chabad House had been reconnoitred by local associates of the Al Qaeda groups patronised by the Pakistan army, and that an informer had even managed to worm his way into the confidence of the young Jewish couple, Rivka and Gavriel Holzberg, who were murdered by the 26/11 killers. As Amartya Sen has constantly reminded the world, ours is a talkative society, and had the government listened to voices other than the “usual sources” relied upon by intelligence agencies, they may have come across traces of the way in which a very few inhabitants of the city were visiting Chabad House, ostensibly to discuss the finer points of inter-faith dialogue with the idealistic young couple staying in the centre with their child, Moshe, who fortunately escaped the murderers of his parents in a miracle made possible by his Indian nanny. No effort was made by the local police to investigate those who visited Chabad House or to check the internet surfing and meeting habits of such individuals to determine whether they could have been informers for the 26/11 killers. Any local connection would have reflected poorly on the city police; hence that agency was diligent in placing the entire blame on the Pakistani teams, who had come ashore that day, an official view which still persists.

Stephen HarperThe “Lone Wolf” theory of terror attacks has been in vogue across the globe, but in all except a very small number of cases, this is about as credible as Pervez Musharraf‘s assertion that Abdul Qadeer Khan ran a nuke bazaar on his own, without the involvement of the Pakistan army and other sections of that country’s establishment. It is another matter that the US continues to protect Islamabad, by not making public information on the A.Q. Khan network that is in its possession, or indeed any except the barest details of the trove of materiel found in Osama bin Laden’s hideout in Abbottabad. Terrorists do not simply come out of nowhere, but are nurtured by support groups having the same purpose. However, try telling this to Canada’s Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, whose men are insistent that the shooter in the 23 October incident was another of those singletons, coming as if from nowhere. In fact, the terrorist would have had a support network, which identified him, indoctrinated him and motivated him into carrying out his act. That another so-called “Lone Wolf” killed a military officer a short while earlier by running over him seems to have been ignored as a clue pointing to a wider conspiracy. Television channels claim that each such deed is sans any orders from recognised terror organisations, but in saying so, they forget that key organisations have publicly called for sympathisers to carry out such terror attacks. In all probability, the still-concealed support network of the Canadian shooter may be the recipient not simply of appreciation but of much more as a consequence of their motivating another psychotic young person into committing a terrorist act, and each group or individual in contact with the shooter needs to be monitored for sudden inflows or suspicious calls, if the domestic and international support group which nurtured this killer is to be exposed rather than denied.

Jihadi with AK 47 and KoranWhen ISIS declared its “caliphate”, this columnist wrote that the intention was to acquire (a wholly undeserved) legitimacy across the globe, particularly within the GCC, so that malcontents would join up and thereby (in their minds) redeem themselves or finally be part of a titanic endeavour. Such was the psychology which drew millions of Germans — not otherwise known for their lack of rationality — into signing up with Hitler, who promised the same level of hate and brutality which ISIS does. This is 1923 in the evolution of ISIS, and the world needs to avoid another occupation of the Rhineland, the stage when the Nazis became too strong to defeat without prodigious effort. The killer of 23 October is a strand in the cords which form ISIS, and to isolate this virus and destroy it, every possible strand needs to be located and dealt with, rather than allow the world to pretend, Stephen Harper style, that mass murderers within a cult (whether the Nazis or ISIS) do what they do independent of others. – The Sunday Guardian,  26 October 2014

» Prof M. D. Nalapat is Vice-Chair, Manipal Advanced Research Group, UNESCO Peace Chair & Professor of Geopolitics, Manipal University, Karnataka State, India.

The closet Stephen Harper hid in during attack on Canadian Parliament

In this photo provided by Conservative MP Nina Grewal, members of Parliament barricade themselves in a meeting room on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Canada, Wednesday, Oct. 22, 2014, after shots were fired in the building. A gunman with a scarf over his face shot to death a Canadian soldier standing guard at the nation's war memorial Wednesday, then stormed Parliament in a hail of gunfire before he was killed by the usually ceremonial sergeant-at-arms, authorities and witnesses said. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Nina Grewal)

Islamist terrorist kills Canadian soldier

Indira Gandhi: A victim of her own cleverness – Virendra Parekh

Virendra Parekh“Mrs. Gandhi has been presented by her admirers as a world-class statesman, a staunch nationalist and an iron woman. She was nothing of the sort. The Simla Pact with Pakistan (1972) should put paid to such claims. Indira Gandhi was an average politician whose core competence lay in cheap manipulation and petty politicking.” – Virendra Parekh

Indira Gandhi & Sanjay GandhiThirty years after her brutal assassination on 31 October 1984, Indira Gandhi remains a polarizing figure. While she elicits effusive praise from sections of Hindu nationalists, she is also condemned by some leading lights of the secularatti for her authoritarian tendencies.

How do you evaluate a public figure who has admirers and detractors on both sides of the political fault line? By the same criteria as you would apply to any other: their motivation and the actual impact and effect of their ideas and actions on the country. On either count, Mrs. Gandhi scores poorly.

During her reign, India exploded its first nuclear device and achieved a decisive military victory over Pakistan, leading to the dismemberment of our troublesome neighbor. However, her own contribution to either of these achievements was small, while her handling of their fallout left much to be desired.

On the other hand, Indira Gandhi’s outlook on politics, her economic policies and their consequences continue to exercise a powerful negative influence on our polity and economy. She shared Jawaharlal Nehru’s preference for dynastic rule, distaste for Hinduism, distrust of private enterprise and a deep faith in the gullibility of ordinary people. During her reign dynastic politics became deeply entrenched, economic growth and entrepreneurship were stifled under the dead weight of socialism, Hindu became a dirty word while corruption ceased to be so, Marxist activists were allowed to falsify Indian history on a massive scale and Bangladeshi infiltrators found backers at the highest levels in the government.

Indira Gandhi sheared our politics of whatever had remained of the pre-independence idealism. Politics always involved pursuit of power; Mrs. Gandhi ensured that it became nothing more than that. Power for self, family and party (in that order) was the supreme objective. End justified the means. For her, nothing was good or bad, right or wrong; necessity made it so. Corruption had always been with us, but Indira Gandhi gave it acceptability if not respectability. Indira believed, not wholly without reason, that perception mattered more than reality in politics; she remained focused on image rather than performance. Hired mob was her stock response to most of the serious challenges so as to show that ‘masses’ were on her side—be it Congress split in 1969 or Allahabad High Court judgment unseating her as the Member of Parliament. Truth was what suited her at the moment. In 1977, she dismissed emergency excesses as lies propagated by malicious enemies who had ganged up to stab her in the back. In 1980, she accused the Janata Party government of carrying out forcible sterilizations!

Indira Gandhi was charismatic and courageous. When desired, she could be daring, dashing and decisive to the point of ruthlessness. People applauded her when she trounced her adversaries in petty political one-upmanship. She won large political mandates from a people who thought she would win similar victories for them over the problems afflicting the country. However, all her good qualities and strengths were meant for herself, not the country. Everything she said and did was calculated to benefit her and her party. Contrast it with Sardar Patel or Netaji Bose and the point will become crystal clear.

Indira Gandhi & Zulfikar Ali BhuttoThe highest watermark in her career was India’s victory in the 1971 war with Pakistan that led to the creation of Bangaladesh. Here, the field operations were handled by service chiefs and were successful to the extent they were given a free hand. Indira Gandhi was given the easiest test in statesmanship at Shimla and she failed miserably. Displaying amazing naivety, she surrendered large tracts of Pakistani territory captured by the Indian army in the western sector and released 90,000 prisoners of war in return for empty promises of good behavior and friendship from a fickle man like Z. A. Bhutto, a sworn self-declared enemy of India. Forget what a Chanakya or Vedavyas would say about it; forget what Sardar Patel would have extracted from Pakistan in such a situation. Just consider what Bhutto himself would have settled for if he were in Indira’s position.

Mrs. Gandhi has been presented by her admirers as a world-class statesman, a staunch nationalist and an iron woman. She was nothing of the sort. The Simla Pact with Pakistan (1972) should put paid to such claims. Indira Gandhi was an average politician whose core competence lay in cheap manipulation and petty politicking.

As a political leader, Mrs. Gandhi viewed every issue, every development or trend through the prism of personal power or partisan politics. Maharashtra chief minister Abdul Rehman Antulay convinced her that Arun Shourie’s sensational exposure of his cement scandal was only nominally directed against him. The real target, he conveyed to her, was she. From that point onwards, Antulay’s defence was taken up by Indira’s loyalists until he had to be dropped when the court framed charges against him.

Since, in her reckoning, she was the central issue, anyone who raised any issue himself became a problem to be dealt with. For her, the issue was not corruption in public life, but the agitation launched by Jayaprakash Narayan against it. The issue was not the sense of alienation harboured by a large section of the Sikhs, but the agitation launched by Akalis. Sustained and large-scale infiltration of Bangladeshi Muslims was not the problem, it was the agitation launched by Assamese students that needed her attention. Since the messenger was the problem and not the message, she focused on managing the messenger. How to tarnish and isolate Jay Prakash Narayan, how to sideline the Akalis, how to wear down the Assamese students so as to take wind out of their agitations became her preoccupation. That approach ruled out any solution to any problem.

In late 1970s, Indira Gandhi spawned Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale to embarrass Akalis. Soon, he became too big for his boots. As Sikh terrorists went on rampage, as they routinely killed dozens of people in Punjab almost every day for years, many people advised Mrs. Gandhi to deal strongly with Bhindranwale before it was too late. But her priorities were different. First, the Akalsis must not be able to claim any credit. Secondly, as in the case of Bangladesh war, she wanted to solve the problem at a time and in a manner that would yield rich political dividends in the next Lok Sabha elections. So she delayed action until a few months before the elections. Indira Gandhi & Jarnail Singh BhindranwaleOperation Blue Star in June 1984 succeeded in cleansing the Golden Temple of unholy elements, but only at much higher loss of life than if the action had been taken earlier, serious damage to the holy shrine and even more serious damage to the Sikh psyche. Her life was consumed by fires lit by that action. She became a victim of her own cleverness.

Mrs. Gandhi’s economic policies were an extension of her political style. Her understanding of economic matters was perfunctory. She gave up on growth quite early and concluded that nothing much could be done to enlarge the national pie. Disillusionment with socialist policies was some decades away and Indira Gandhi found that socialist rhetoric of distributive justice (vaguely promising masses something in return for nothing) was more popular than freedom, enterprise, hard work and growth. “We spoke of socialism because it went down well with people,” she told a journalist. In a country ridden with low growth, abysmal poverty and high joblessness, she created a culture of subsidies, entitlements and reservations which continues to distract us even today.

In the name of equitable distribution of wealth and prevention of concentration of economic power, she nationalized banks, general insurance and coal mines, enacted laws that suffocated growth and enterprise and placed the whole economy at the disposal of politicians and bureaucrats for plunder. The licence-permit raj initiated by Nehru in mid-1950s was perfected by Indira Gandhi into a great establishment that was weak, corrupt and inefficient but all-pervasive and oppressive nevertheless.

Three of her economic policies hobble us to this day. Bank nationalisation undoubtedly accelerated the spread of bank branches in India, but also led to the rise of a bureaucratic/departmental culture and anti-consumer unions in banks. It curtailed the unhealthy nexus between industrial houses and some erstwhile private banks, only to replace it with a new and unhealthy kind of nexus between politicians, bankers and industrialists. Political interference with the functioning of banks manifested in loan melas and politically directed lending sapped professionalism, vitality and even viability of banks. The current prominence of public sector banks in India today cannot be justified on the grounds of economic efficiency and financial prudence. Yet it persists. The new vested interests, coupled with residual political ideology, have successfully stymied all efforts since the late 1990s to reduce government ownership below 51 per cent.

The policy of small-scale industry (SSI) reservations shut out medium and large Indian firms from precisely those labour-intensive, manufactured products (garments, shoes, toys, sporting goods, small electrical appliances, etc) in which the East Asian tiger economies achieved their manufacturing-exports-led growth in the decades after 1970. It seriously stunted the rise of an internationally competitive, labour-using manufacturing sector in India.

Warning sign in New DelhiFinally, Indira Gandhi tightened labour laws to make it almost impossible for an industrial enterprise with more than 100 employees to either retrench its workforce or even close down without government permission, which was rarely given. This was a massive discouragement to fresh employment in the organized sector. In 2010 organised manufacturing accounted for less than 1.5 per cent of the nation’s workforce! In essence, such restrictive laws bought job security for a tiny fraction of the working class at the cost of condemning over 90 per cent of workers to casual/informal employment, with low earnings and negligible job security.

By negating India’s comparative advantage in labour-intensive manufacturing, these laws helped ensure that India’s manufacturing sector stagnated at around 15-16 per cent of GDP, compared to over 30 per cent in China. But for labour laws and SSI reservation policy the problem of unemployment would not have been so acute. They prevented the rise of a large and growing class of factory workers in India, in strong contrast to East Asian nations where this category formed the core of a rising middle class. Today, labour-intensive manufacturing is migrating to Vietnam, Cambodia and Bangladesh — but not India, where the employment crisis continues to build.

Mohandas Gandhi became Mahatma by enabling people to rise above their petty selfishness and make sacrifices for a higher goal. Indira Gandhi appealed to baser instinct of people by promising redistribution of wealth. The former created a galaxy of great leaders with varied talents. Indira Gandhi drove out every leader of any substance from the Congress, reducing a great nationalist movement to a family fiefdom. That is hardly the mark of a great leader.

» Virendra Parekh is the Executive Editor of Corporate India and lives in Mumbai.

Indira Gandhi meeting President Lyndon B. Johnson in the Oval Office on 28 March 1966

PM Modi’s visit to Sabarimala will hopefully end the woes of the shrine – Rajeev Srinivasan

Ayyappan Temple at Sabarimala

Rajeev Srinivasan“The PM’s visit to Sabarimala should create an awareness of the problems faced, and perhaps it will lead to the dissolution of the Devaswom Board, just as that other white elephant, the Planning Commission was disbanded. That would be not a day too soon. Kerala’s temples deserve the right to manage themselves without busybodies from government interfering in them.” – Rajeev Srinivasan

Swami AyyappanThe hill abode of Sri Ayyappan in the Western Ghats has become one of the most-visited temples in India, and it is in the list of places where the most places converge in the world (Source: The Economist, 2013). Unfortunately, it is also a testament to the incompetence and uncaring attitude of the Indian state, because pilgrims suffer greatly if they wish to visit.

Therefore I am delighted that Prime Minister Narendra Modi may visit the shrine this year, according to G. Ananthakrishnan (“Sabarimala on PM radar”) in The Telegraph, as it may force the authorities to improve the critically deficient infrastructure that they could easily upgrade, but won’t. It is also a metaphor for what appears to be active official hostility to Hindu pilgrims.

Pilgrims wait to climb the 18 steps at SabarimalaI know because I just went to Sabarimala for Deepavali. I have done the pilgrimage five or six times over many years, and can testify first-hand as to how it has deteriorated over time. My very first pilgrimage was when I was 17, and at that time there were no permanent settlements on the summit of the hill, where the shrine is. People only went there during the season (November to January) and for a few days at the beginning of every Malayalam month.

The main difference is the number of pilgrims visiting, which has grown exponentially, as it is an attractive, albeit difficult, trip, and the worship of Ayyappa has grown dramatically in the southern states. Then, I walked alone up the hill through rough paths, and I encountered only a handful of people who were going down the hill. When I went to the summit, I could pray for as long as I wanted in front of the deity’s tiny abode.

A few days ago, there were thousands of pilgrims at the summit, and I encountered hundreds returning down the arduous climb. During the season the numbers swell to hundreds of thousands of black-clad visitors, as the total number over the truncated period comes to over 30 million (which is the entire population of Kerala, to give some perspective).

Unfortunately, this tsunami of pilgrims has overwhelmed the carrying capacity of the area, and it makes the strenuous climb far more difficult than it needs to be. For, from the Pamba River staging area where vehicles park, it is a vertiginous climb up a few thousand feet through dense tropical forest to the small plateau where the shrine is. It is hard on the feet (we climbed barefoot up the granite and concrete path), on the heart (every year a few people have cardiac arrest), and on your system in general (there are only a dozen or so toilets on this path).

Once you get up to the plateau, things don’t get any better. Often, in peak-season, you have to wait for up to 10-12 hours in line in concrete sheds with corrugated-iron sheeting as roofs, which gets stiflingly hot on sunny days. Accommodation availability is utterly minimal: many sleep in these very sheds. Toilets, bathrooms, a clean place to sleep, decent food to eat, medical care—all are scarce.

The amount of plastic trash around the place is startling: bottles, bags. There are feral pigs – yes, wild pigs with mean-looking fangs – rooting in the food waste and human waste, and they add their droppings to the mess of mud and paper and flowers and plastic.

And there have been several stampedes in the past, which obviously is a problem of poor organisation and crowd management. (Tirupati, with an equally large number of pilgrims, has figured out crowd control; there is no reason why this cannot be attempted in Sabarimala too.)

This is no way to run a holy place. Nor any way to treat poor pilgrims who come from far away. I once met a barefoot pilgrim who was a Sri Lankan-origin investment banker in London, but many are ordinary folks from villages in interior Karnataka or Andhra Pradesh. They come, black-clad and bearded after 41 days of penance, carrying on their heads the twin coconuts filled with ghee that they will use for ablutions. These are the believers, that vast and invisible substratum of India that Dharampal once mentioned: they follow ancient practices of pilgrimage to holy spots, ignoring the cities and other distractions. This is eternal India, sanatana dharma.

Hiuen Tsang / XuanzangYou get a glimpse of this true India when you finally reach the sanctum with your aching and weary body, your only thoughts those about Ayyappa. Strangely, when you try to get your micro-second glimpse of the presiding deity before you are shoved forward by the press of those behind you, you tend to forget all the hassles. Because it is a point of singular power, and it has been so for millennia: historian Lokesh Chandra notes that it was once a temple to both Shiva and the Avalokiteswara Padmapani (the Bodhisattva of Compassion) simultaneously, as described by the Buddhist monk Hiuen Tsang (Xuanzang) who visited some 1,400 years ago and considered it already an ancient temple. (See my old article on its history here.)

The criminal neglect of the temple is mostly due to state hostility and partly to sheer incompetence. Kerala alternatively has Communist-led and Congress-led governments, which for practical purposes means a Communist/Muslim coalition or a Christian/Muslim coalition. The Hindu vote is fragmented and divided, to the extent that the BJP is yet to have a single MP from the state, although O. Rajagopal almost unseated Shashi Tharoor in Trivandrum last May. Modi appeals to the OBC Ezhavas (the mainstay of the Communists) and to the SC Pulayas; and this may lead to some electoral realignments, and that is surely part of his calculations.

There is a monstrous entity called the ‘Devaswom Board’ that controls all Hindu temples (and note please: only Hindu temples, as Christian and Muslim places of worship are entirely free of control or even audit or tax. I read a ruling by an Income Tax appellate court that Hinduism is a way of life, not a religion, and therefore Hindu temples are not tax-exempt!)

In fact, in an allegedly secular state, there should be separation of ‘church’ and ‘state’, that is, the government should not interfere in religion. That is true for Christians and Muslims: the State leaves them alone to do whatever they want with their churches and mosques. But in the case of Hindus, the government expropriates whatever Hindu temples have. The Devaswom Board is a violation of the constitutional principles of equality before the law and freedom of religion.

This is the principal reason Hindu temples are in trouble in Kerala, as the Devaswom Board, with atheists and Communists often as board members, acts as a mechanism to commingle the revenues of temples with government revenue. In other words, the Devaswom Board, and thus the Kerala government, steal the money that pilgrims donate to Sabarimala (and other large temples like Guruvayur). No more than 5 percent of this is spent on upkeep and maintenance and infrastructure development in the big temples; the rest is swallowed by the state treasury.

Many of the smaller temples under Devaswom control are closing because there is no money spent on them at all (I read a report quoting the Travancore Manual that were some 10,000 temples in Travancore a hundred years ago; while today there are fewer than 1,500). This verges on extinction.

Temples are torn down for ‘development’. For instance, the 1,800 year-old Parthasarathy Temple in Aranmula is slated for severe downgrading for an unnecessary airport project there which is basically a land-grab. Dozens of temples were torn down to create Cochin’s airport. In the 1950s, a planter tried to burn down the Sabarimala shrine to grab the forest land around it. All this is simply abominable.

Narendra Modi greets Ganga DeviA visit by the Prime Minister should shine the spotlight on this unsavory aspect of what is quite simply apartheid against Hindus. In addition, he will see first-hand how his idea of a Swachh Bharat has a long way to go: unlike most temples in Kerala, where the abundance of water, and related habits, ensure cleanliness, poor Sabarimala is the epitome of unsanitary conditions.

The PM’s visit should create an awareness of the problems faced, and perhaps it will lead to the dissolution of the Devaswom Board, just as that other white elephant, the Planning Commission was disbanded. That would be not a day too soon. Kerala’s temples deserve the right to manage themselves without busybodies from government interfering in them.

If the PM were to visit during the season, the difficulty in ensuring security will mean disruption for pilgrims, especially if he were to make the full trek up and down the hill, which, he, as a physically fit individual, should be able to do, unlike all other PMs so far. Still, that would be a small price to pay for the possible improvements it might bring. – FirstPost, 24 October 2014

Cross crossed-out!Socio-political history of Sabarimala – Ashok Chowgule

There is a socio-political history that needs to be mentioned about Sabrimala, which would indicate the civilisational importance of the temple. From Wikipedia, we can read: “In 1950, a fire broke out which destroyed the entire temple and it had to be reconstructed. According to the official enquiry report submitted by the Deputy Inspector General of Police, K. Kesava Menon, some Christian fundamentalists committed the arson.”

This was preceded by attempts of the Christian churches to grab properties on the way to the hill, erect crosses and shrines. The objective was to block the path to the temple and so prevent worship at the site. The local RSS units (at the time this was the only mass based Hindu organisation working at the grassroot level—VHP, of which I am a senior office bearer, was formed in 1964 by the RSS) had to mount a protest against this effort, some of which had to be done in a violent way. This was successful, and yet another pilgrimage shrine was kept free for the Hindus to be able to worship in the future.

What Wikipedia does not mention is that the vandals were instigated by the Christian churches, and DIG Kesava Menon has given names of various people involved. None of them were prosecuted.

Rajeev Srinivasan, the author of the above article, does mention the vandalism when he says: “In the 1950s, a planter tried to burn down the Sabarimala shrine to grab the forest land around it.” I recognise he did not dwell on it, so that the attention to the main point, relating to the present, is not diluted.

» Rajeev Srinivasan is a popular columnist from Tiruvananthapuram. His daytime job is that of a consultant in the software industry. He blogs at Shadow Warrior here.

Pilgrims at Sabarimala

See also

Shut down abattoirs, ban beef exports from India – GHHF

Feeding a cow at the front gate.

Narendra Modi“The cow is the past and future. She nourishes the health of all living entities, and she is the root of prosperity. The piety one achieves by feeding a cow in never destroyed.” — Gavopanishad

Global Hindu Heritage Foundation (GHHF) strongly recommends that the Prime Minister of India, the Honorable Narendra Modi, take immediate steps to:

  1. Eliminate subsidy to export beef to other countries;
  2. Close down all legal and illegal slaughterhouses;
  3. Implement that the “directive principle of state policy” prohibiting the slaughterhouses;
  4. Teach every Indian about the glory, value and history of “Gautama” and
  5. Declare Cow as a “Sacred Animal of the Nation.”

Kamadhenu & CalfIt is unfortunate that in a country like India where cow has been respected and honoured by all the sages; all the Gods and Goddesses; all the scriptures such as Vedas, Upanishad, Mahabharata, Ramayana and Puranas; kings over so many centuries; some of the Mughal rulers; British rulers and many political leaders during the Independence movement, that it is today slaughtered for commerce. For innumerable years, India has a great tradition of revering and worshipping cow as a source of milk as well as provider of panchagavyas such as milk, cow dung, ghee, urine and yogurt that enhances the health, wealth, agricultural productivity and sediments in the earth.

Since Vedic times, cow is considered sacred, treated as mother and hailed as harbinger of auspiciousness.  She is a symbol of wealth, health, prosperity, blessing, peace of mind, purity, purification, and success in life. She is identified as akamadhenu—wish-fulfilling.  She is revered, honored, respected as mother—an unselfish giver of bounty without expecting anything from her children just like a mother. All the scriptures such as Vedas, Upanishads, Puranas, Mahabharata, Manusmriti, and others extol the virtues of the cow. All the Gods reside in her and killing her is considered the most heinous crime. It is often said “jivantu avadghnyah ta me vishasya dushanih” meaning that let cows live without slaughter for their whole life—they remove poison and toxins. Many sages, many Hindu temples and numerous ashrams maintained gaushalas (cow shelters) for centuries recognizing the numerous benefits that accrue from the cows.

1 – BJP and cow slaughter

The BJP manifesto that was released in April was emphatic in stating that it will protect the cow that is considered sacred for millennia in India and to Hindus especially. “In view of the contribution of cow and its progeny to agriculture, socio-economic and cultural life of our country, the department of animal husbandry will be suitably strengthened and empowered for the protection of cow and its progeny,” the BJP manifesto stated.

During the election time in April 2014, the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi claimed that those owning slaughterhouses and exporting cow meat are being given subsidies and tax breaks. He felt that the country wants a green and white revolution, but the government in Delhi is only interested in a pink revolution: “When animals are slaughtered, the colour of their flesh is pink”.

In an August 2012, Narendra Modi wrote on his website: “Our future generation is not getting sufficient milk and this Government wants to kill cows that provide us ‘ladder for life’. I’m sure that you will contribute your might in stopping such insane act.”

Narendra Modi, the chief minister of Gujarat in 2012, while speaking at the 4th Annual General Meeting of the Jain International Trade Organization, said, “The UPA government allows subsidy to open slaughterhouses, whereas cotton farmers are levied duty for exporting cotton.”  Modi reiterated the charge that the Centre was promoting beef exports by providing subsidies even while levying duty on cotton exports.

“The union government does not want another green revolution and white revolution, but wants to promote pink revolution,”. Modi said that it is possible to bring change within the system if motives are noble, intentions are clear and policies are coherent.

Maneka Gandhi, Union Minister for Women and Child Welfare, speaking at the International Conference on India for Animals, said that “India is the largest exporter of meat in the world. India kills more animals than China. Milch animals are being slaughtered and illegally traded to Bangladesh and the Middle East.”

BJP Vice President, Satpal Malik, who drafted the farm policy for the manifesto stated,  “If elected, we will crack down on beef exports and we will also review the subsidy the government gives for beef or buffalo meat exports.” He further stated that the federal government pays 50-75 per cent of the cost of construction of slaughterhouses.

Ramesh Shinde, the national spokesperson of Hindu Janajagruti Samiti said in August 2014, “The preservation and protection of cows is impossible without banning of cow slaughter. We are unable to understand why such straight forward stand is not being taken by the government and instead new slaughter houses are being permitted.”

State of Rajasthan has already passed a ban on the slaughter of the cows. The ruling BJP wants to review and toughen up the existing laws governing cow smuggling for slaughter and plans to give up to 3.5 billion rupees ($57 million) every year to nonprofits and government agencies running cattle smallholdings for feed and upkeep.

2 – Ban beef exports from India 

Since the election, the present government has not taken any concrete action against beef export, cow slaughter or on subsidy to export beef to foreign countries. A number of beef exporting industries are feeling confident that they will be able to meet the surging demand for beef from other countries. Congress government until the elections aggressively adopted a policy to promote beef exports, and rearing of male buffalos for that purpose. According to US Department of Agriculture, Indian export of beef soared 1.5 million tonnes from previous year amounting to 31 per cent. They are expecting that the beef export will increase to 1.9 million this year if the trend continues. Lack of any action or any plans to deal with the beef export and cow slaughter has disappointed many supporters of BJP and Narendra Modi.  Is it likely that India will be the largest beef exporter under the BJP government?

Maneka Gandhi has been advocating the ban for beef export “We are the largest beef exporters in the world and also killing them for leather production. We are actually killing more animals than China. It is appalling India is illegally exporting beef to Bangladesh and that country claims it is exporting about 160,000 tonnes of beef. But as a matter of fact they (Bangladesh) do not own a single cow,” she said.

The Petitionsite.com petition requesting people to sign “Stop Indian Beef Exports,” is organized by B. Judith who argues that “97 percent of India’s population are vegetarian and most are Hindu, a religion that regards all life with respect and the cow especially so. Given this, the fact that India’s beef export industry is booming is bound to raise questions. Letting intensive beef farming continue, however, seems to be against every moral issue the government claims to stand for.… Last year, India exported 1.8 tonnes of beef, according to the Times of India, and looks set to become the world’s biggest exporter. Intensive beef farming devastates the environment, causes suffering to the animals and is incredibly offensive to India’s main religion.  Tell the federal government to end beef exports now.”

R. K. Krishnakumar of The Economic Times writes, in June 2014, that for years beef has become an important foreign exchange earner for India next only to basmati rice, with 31% increase in quantity and 52% rise in value terms during 2013-14. India was ranked second largest beef exporter in the world with 20% market share after Brazil by the department of agriculture of the United States (USDA) in its recent report.  “As per the figures of Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA), the beef exports totalled 14,49,759 tonne worth Rs 26,458 crore last year. The country exports mostly to South East Asian and Middle East countries. In the previous year, the growth in quantity and value was 12% and 27% respectively.”

In 2013, Naresh Dayal of International Organization for Animal Protection (OIPA) of United Nations in India has demanded from the government to reconsider meat export policy.  In fact he documented that beef exports have gone up 44% in four years. According to data compiled by the animal husbandry departments of all states, meat from registered slaughterhouses increased from 5.57 lakh tonnes in 2008 to 8.05 lakh tonnes in 2011. Export earnings from bovine (beef & cattle) meat is expected to touch Rs 18,000 crore in 2012-2013.

Based on the available statistics of the US Department of Agriculture, Kadyan said India became the largest beef exporter edging out Australia and New Zealand in May 2012. Uttar Pradesh is the top buffalo meat-producing state with 3 lakh tonnes in 2011. At least 70% of the buffalo meat is exported.

Cow Needs ProtectionHindu organizations demand action

Prakash Sharma, the national spokesman of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) stated in July, “India should basically be a milk-selling country, not meat-exporting.”

“The government had said (during the election campaign) that meat exports will be gradually banned and we hope they are.”  He further observed that “Cows have a special place in our hearts, we are against any kind of slaughter—‘these murder houses’—we should not be killing any animal in India.”

The managing director of Sukrut Nirman Charitable Trust, Kanakarai Savadia in July 2013 urged the central government to reconsider meat export policy in the country. “There is rampant abuse of animals in transport and slaughter of meat whether for domestic consumption or export.” It appears that there are about 4000 thousand registered slaughter houses and more than 25,000 unregistered slaughterhouses subjecting the cows to cruelty. Furthermore, animals are overloaded in vehicles that transport them to different abattoirs in different states. So much cruelty is involved in the transport of the cows as they are dumped one above the other and many animals are squeezed into the trucks with no consideration for their welfare. They are tied up in such a way they cannot move and one can witness the blood oozing out of them. In some case these animals are dead by the time they reach the slaughterhouses. These people follow no guidelines and safety measures during the transportation. No water and no food is provided during the transportation which may take several days to reach the destination. They do not pay any attention to the condition of animals.

In June 2014 in Goa, the Go Raksha Dal, Govansh Raksha Abhiyan,  Hindu Janajagruti, Animal Rescue Squad, Gouudnayan Foundation, and many other Hindu organizations urged the central government to stop cow-slaughter as soon as possible. They issued an ultimatum to the Government to close down all the slaughter houses in the country by December 31. The National Cattle Commission under the chairmanship of Justice Lodha and the Animal Welfare Board of India—a statutory body set up by an Act of Parliament—both have recommended that the export of meat from India should be stopped.

On October 3, 2014 BJP Haryana chief Ram Bilas Sharma has promised to treat cow slaughter as a crime equivalent to murder. If elected, he said at the manifesto release function, the existing law would be amended to raise the punishment for cow slaughter from five years imprisonment to life term with a fine up to Rs. 5000.

Mayankeshwar Singh, National Convener of the Cow Development Cell of India’s ruling party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), declares that, “We will build ‘cow hostels’ in cities, ‘cow pension’ will keep farmers from selling old animals to slaughterhouses, a ‘cow protection force’ will be mobilized to rescue cows.”

3 – Eliminate subsidies to beef export and slaughterhouses

During the election campaign, Narendra Modi said that subsidies were given to slaughterhouses, but not to those who tend cows.

In 2012, Savadia said in spite of all the violations the slaughterhouses are committing, “subsidies are offered by the central and state governments for construction and up gradation of slaughterhouses and the prevailing meat trade in the country.”

He said the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) is providing 25% to 60% subsidy on transport of meat, pre-cooling facilities, cold storage, brand publicity, quality control, packaging development, brand publicity, etc.

Sanjeeb Mukherjee and Virendra Singh Rawa observed in Business Standard, April 15, 2014, “The Centre provides a transport subsidy of Rs. 70 a kg for buffalo meat exports. It also gives grants of 50 per cent for general areas and 75 per cent for hill areas up to Rs. 15 crore for setting up and modernizing abattoirs. Between 2006-07 and 2011-12, the Centre’s total subsidy for setting up abattoirs was Rs. 240 crore; another Rs. 300 crore went into buffalo rearing. India became the world’s biggest buffalo meat exporter in 2012, ahead of Brazil.” 

Mayankeshwar Singh, National Convener of Cow Development Cell of BJP stated in April 2014, “We will build ‘cow hostels’ in cities, ‘cow pension’ will keep farmers from selling old animals to slaughterhouses, a ‘cow protection force’ will be mobilized to rescue cows.”

“Our dream is to also build a ‘cow university’ to teach the usefulness of the indigenous cow,” he said. In Karnataka, BJP even came up with slogans to substantiate their position on the slaughter of vow:  “Modi ko Narendra Modimatdan, gai ko jeevadan (Vote for Modi, give life to the cow), BJP ka sandesh, bachegi gai, bachega desh (BJP’s message, the cow will be saved, the country will be saved).” Singh stated that the BJP is committed to the conservation, protection and promotion of cow.

Subsidize cows and cow products

Build gaushalas across the nation; use all temple lands to build gaushalas; donate cows to the farmers to raise them with assistance; promote the panchagavyas (milk, ghee, curd, cow dung and urine) for the health, wealth and harmony in the cosmos; conduct research on the merits of panchagavyas; export the panchagavyas to foreign countries; and also show the merits of vegetarian food.

4 – Hindu scriptures

It is time for the people of Bharath to re-examine their policy toward cow slaughter, assess their experience of eating the panchagavyas, examine the contribution of cow in our lives, study the scriptures such as Vedas, Upanishads, Puranas, Ramayana, Mahabharata and others to learn the virtues of cow, and make every effort to teach the next generation about the richness of Gautama, and fashion yourself to introduce this subject in the educational curriculum.

Cow is referred 723 times in Rig Veda, 87 times in Yajur Veda, 170 times in Sama Veda, 331 times in Atharvana Veda. A total of 1331 times are mentioned in these four Vedas. Similarly,  aghnya is referred to 20 times in Rig Veda, 5 times in Yajur Veda, 2 times in Sama Veda and 33 times in Atharvana Veda. Dhenu is referred to 76 times in Rig Veda, 22 times in Yajur Veda, 25 times in Sama Veda, 43 times in Atharvana Veda. The meaning of dhenu is trupti – meaning contentment and satisfaction.

Rig Veda

“She is like the mother of the cosmic forces, the daughter of the cosmic matter, the sister of cosmic energy, the centre of the ambrosia. I address to men of wisdom – kill not her, the sinless inviolate cow.”

“May cows come and bring us good fortune; let them stay in our cowsheds and be content in our company. May many coloured cows bring here prolific milk for offerings to the resplendent Lord at many dawns?”

Atharvana Sukta or 

“The cow is the mother of Rudras; she is a daughter of the Vasus; she is the sister of Surya. She is a storehouse of ghee that is like the celestial nectar.”  It further states that cow’s milk helps overcome debility and regain lost physical and mental health. It promotes intelligence and improves health. It even goes to the extent that if someone destroys our cows, horses or people, kill him with a bullet of lead (Atharvana Sukta 1.16).

Yajur Veda

Ghrtam duhaanaamaditim janaayaagne maa himsiheeh. Do not kill cows and bulls who always deserve to be protected (Yajurveda 13.49).

 Antakaaya goghaatam. Destroy those who kill cows (Yajur Veda 30.18).

The aghnya cows and bulls bring you prosperity (Yajur Veda 12.73).

A verse in Yajur Veda abjures all violence: “Protect and rear the animals: do not hit the cow; do not hit the goats; nor the sheep; nor any other creature; nor two-legged animals; nor the one-legged; one should not injure any living being.”

Mahabharata

In Anusashana Parva, Bhishma, Vyasa, and Vasishta glorified the cows in no uncertain terms.

Vasishta observed: “Cows are sacred. They are the foremost of all things in the world. They are verily the refuge of the universe. They are the mothers of the very deities. They are verily incomparable. Cows are the mothers of the universe. There is no gift more sacred than the gift of cows. There is no gift that produces more blessed merit.”

Veda Vyasa said: “Cows are the refuge of all creatures. Cows are the embodiment of merit. Cows are sacred and blessed and are sanctifiers of all.  One should never, in even one’s heart, do an injury to cows. One should, indeed, always confer happiness on them.”

Bhishma mentioned: “Cows are the mothers of the universe. The human infant is fed breast milk by its human mother for under three years. After weaning, the cow acts as the surrogate mother providing milk for the rest of the human life – through childhood, adult age and old age. Cow is verily the mother of the world. One would be filled with repugnance at the ungrateful idea of killing mother, whether surrogate mother or otherwise.”

Kautilya stated in Arthasashtra:  “Cattle such as calf, a bull, or a milch cow shall not be slaughtered. He who slaughters or tortures them to death shall be fined 50 panas.” He further specified that, “Whoever hurts or causes another to hurt, or steals, or causes another to steal a cow, shall be slain.”

Gandhi believed in protecting the cow from being slaughtered.  “Cow protection is the gift of Hinduism to the world. And Hinduism will live so long as there are Hindus to protect the cow. … Hindus will be judged not by their tilaks, not by the correct chanting of mantras, not by their pilgrimages, not by their most punctilious observances of caste rules, but their ability to protect the cow.” (Young Indian, 6-10-1921, p. 36)

“Mother cow is in many ways better than the mother who gave us birth. Our mother gives us milk for a couple of years and then expects us to serve her when we grow up. Mother cow expects from us nothing but grass and grain. Our mother often falls ill and expects service from us. Mother cow rarely falls ill. Here is an unbroken record of service which does not end with her death. Our mother, when she dies, means expenses of burial or cremation. Mother cow is as useful dead as when she is alive. We can make use of every part of her body – her flesh, her bones, her intestines, her horns and her skin. Well, I say this not to disparage the mother who gives us birth, but in order to show you the substantial reasons for my worshipping the cow.” (Hind Swaraj, 15-9-1940, p. 281)

Bal Gangadar Tilak considered cow so sacred, he openly said: “Kill me but spare the cow.”

5 – Implement Directive Principle Article 48

It is unfortunate that India has become the largest exporter of beef to other countries ignoring the sacredness of the cows, allowing students to conduct a beef-eating festival on the university campuses without permission,  tolerating the slaughter houses for political purposes, failing to take appropriate action against the minorities and other religious groups who are deliberately hurting the sentiments of Hindus, and intentionally failing to take action in implementing constitutional requirements found in Article 48 of the Constitution: “The State shall endeavour to organize agriculture and animal husbandry on modern and scientific lines and shall, in particular, take steps for preserving and improving the breeds, and prohibiting the slaughter of cows and calves and other milch and draught cattle.” 

Knowing the constitutional mandate, and knowing the intentions of minorities and other religions to malign the Hindus, Indian government and Hindu politicians since Independence in 1947 have undermined the rich cultural heritage of Hindus that existed for centuries and allowing illegal slaughterhouses to spring up in large numbers. According to some estimates India has ten times the number of illegal slaughterhouses than the approved ones. For example, as per available data there are 51 legal slaughterhouses in Orissa compared to 2073 unlicensed ones.  Somewhat similar trend is observed all across India except in rare cases. It is time for the Directive Principle of State Policy to see the light of the day in the new administration.

6 – Declare the cow as the national sacred animal

Cow should be declared as national animal. Her qualities are unmatched, her docile nature is unparalleled, her demeanour is beyond imagination, her gentleness is superb, her enduring of tolerance is unsurpassed, her nature of ahimsa is unrivalled, her image itself evokes divinity, her dignity is enchanting, her non-aggressive nature is a lesson for humanity, and her obedient nature is unmatched. Cow gives more to the sustenance of humanity and contributes to the functioning of the whole cosmos. She is ever giving, ever generous, ever bountiful, ever useful and ever happy with so little intake and expectation. She gives more to the humanity than what she takes. She is respected, honoured, worshipped, decorated, admired, nurtured, and praised.

Hindus believe cow as sacred and holy and all her products are useful for health, wealth, peace of mind, and balance of cosmos. Research has well documented the benefits of urine, cow dung, butter, ghee and curds. Cow urine is even patented for six health related diseases (http://www.technology-patent.com/nl5.html). Many research studies are being conducted to show that cow urine is capable of treating diabetes, blood pressure, asthma, psoriasis, eczema, heart attack, blockage in arteries, fits, cancer, AIDS, piles, prostrate, arthritis, migraine, thyroid, ulcer, acidity, constipation, gynecological problems, ear and nose problems and several other diseases.

Cow urine is considered good for health and many medicines are made using the urine.  Ramesh Gupta observed that “we can manufacture eye drops, medicines for stomach ailments, toothpaste, bathing soaps, herbal powdered medicine, among other things, from cow urine.” He further says,   “Only two things are pure in this universe, in this world. One is the water from the Holy Ganges River and the other is urine from mother holy cow.”

Mahatma Gandhi‘s admiration for cow is well documented: “Mother cow is in many ways better than the mother who gave us birth. Our mother gives us milk for a couple of years and then expects us to serve her when we grow up. Mother cow expects from us nothing but grass and grain. Our mother often falls ill and expects service from us. Mother cow rarely falls ill.”

With faith, trust, hope, exuberance, conviction and high expectation, we request Narendra Modi to do away with this inhuman operation dealing with Gautama.  We appeal to the administration to ban the slaughter of the cows; remove all vestiges of subsidies to the beef exports; discontinue any grants or support given to the modernization or to the construction of new abattoirs; build gaushalas on temple lands, by recovering temple lands from the government and encroachers, so the cows can freely roam; provide incentives to the farmers who will adopt a cow; revive the historical significance of cow through the Vedas, Upanishad, Ramayana, Mahabharata, Puranas and many scriptures; transmit the treasure of information about Gautama to the future generations, revise the educational system to teach the next generation about Gautama; and declare cow as a national sacred animal.

As Dr. Subramanian Swamy stated, “A new fervor for a cow renaissance is necessary. It is constitutional (for India) and we should defend it with all our might.”

Do it for Bharath, do it for the humanity, do it for ahimsa, and do it for our consciousness. – GHHF, 13 October 2014

India Beef Export

Kapil Sibal & Promilaa Sibal

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