Maggi noodles ban imperils the livelihood of lakhs – Offstumped

Maggi noodles vendor in Ahmedabad

Offstumped“In a nation where there is no semblance of food safety in the unorganized food retail sector for the government and the media to go after a packaged foods corporate that holds itself to account through quality checks is reflective of an anti-enterprise mindset. … When the dust settles on this Maggi alarmism, it is the roadside vendor who sold Maggi, the street corner kirana store that stocked Maggi, and the entire supply chain of shopkeepers and distributors who will pay the economic price with their livelihoods for this collective folly of cynical politicians and opportunistic media houses.” – Offstumped

Maggi NoodlesHow many have reported falling sick after eating Maggi noodles?

How many complaints of ill-health attributed to eating Maggi noodles?

Questions to which there is no credible answers for in all of this frenzy over food safety and Maggi noodles we have forgotten if there was an imminent threat to public health or is this one of many routine quibbles over nutrition value of junk foods?

If the present controversy over Maggi has just made you aware that the two-minute noodles isn’t ‘the healthy food’ you thought it to be then perhaps you were more to blame than the Brand. Like any other fast food, packaged food or snack – the McDonald’s burger, KFC or Coca Cola – instant noodles was of course going to be of questionable nutritional value but what is with this HashTag alarmism and 24×7 news frenzy?

Did Maggi noodles suddenly turn unhealthy overnight ?

It all started 15 months ago in March 2014 in UP, when a district food officer collected samples of Maggi noodles from a retailer in Barabanki, which was then found to contain monosodium glutamate (MSG) and lead more than its permissible limit. On appeal from Nestle – Maggi’s parent company, the sample was sent to Central Food Laboratory, Kolkata in July 2014. After 10 months, in April 2015, the Kolkata test results confirmed the presence of MSG, as well as lead in high quantity. Why would it take a year to confirm the findings?

Since then Maggi is facing tests in various parts of the country – Delhi government banned Maggi [on June 3rd] for 15 days and has decided to initiate a case against Nestle; Karnataka, Haryana, Punjab, Tamil Nadu have ordered tests; Gujarat and Maharashtra are awaiting test results; West Bengal’s Food Department has called a high-level meeting.

What is MSG and if it is harmful at all

Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) is one of the most abundant naturally occurring amino acids found in tomatoes, Parmesan cheese, mushrooms and many other vegetables and fruits. It is a flavour enhancer, which is either added artificially or is found in other ingredients of the products. According to reports, MSG stimulates the nervous system and makes food appear tastier. It is widely used in ‘Indian Chinese’ food.

An NDTV report quoted Indian dietitians and nutritionists as saying that there was no scientific evidence to establish adverse health effects of MSG. Prominent nutritionist Hena Nafis said:

“Recent reports of MSG having adverse effects such as headache, flushing and excessive sweating – which are typically associated with Chinese Restaurant Syndrome (CRS) – have not been clinically established.”

US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers the addition of MSG to foods to be “generally recognized as safe”.

However, Maggi masalas were found to have monosodium glutamate without proper label declaration which is an offence under the category of misbranding. The Maggi packet says, “No added MSG”.

How harmful is lead

Lead, which was found to be more than its permissible limit, can cause can cause serious damages to internal organs including liver and intestine, said Vijay Bahadur, assistant commissioner (food safety), FSDA Uttar Pradesh.

Girish Shahane in his article ‘Maggi Controversy: Millions of Indians face danger of lead poisoning ‒ from Ayurveda’ calls the Maggi row scaremongering and another instance of bureaucratic over-reach, by highlighting that more than 20 per cent of our Ayurvedic medicines contain heavy metals including lead in amounts much more than what has been found in Maggi.

“Why go after trace quantities of lead in noodles when our air and water are poisonous, and noise levels orders of magnitude above the recommended maximum? How many food stalls, or even restaurants, in India would remain open if they had to adhere to prescribed hygiene standards? And how many have been shut down by the food safety chaps?”

Nestle Nestle in its defence

Nestle India claimed it has got samples tested in an external laboratory as well as in-house and that the product was found “safe to eat”.

Nestle is replying to people’s questions and concerns on its website. On the question of misbranding and presence of MSG, Nestle said:

“We do not add MSG to our Maggi noodles sold in India and this is stated on the concerned product. However, we use hydrolysed groundnut protein, onion powder and wheat flour to make Maggi noodles sold in India, which all contain glutamate. We believe that the authorities’ tests may have detected glutamate, which occurs naturally in many foods.”

On withdrawal of products which had lead more than permissible limit:

“We understand that consumers are concerned by reports that the authorities in India have found elevated levels of lead in a sample pack of Maggi masala noodles. The sample came from a batch that had an expiry date of November 2014 and is therefore no longer in the market.” 

That Kerala government still runs retail stores is the bigger outrage

Kerala State Civil Supplies Corporation, also known as Supplyco, has around 1400 outlets throughout the state. The government has decided to temporarily stop distribution of Maggi noodles from its retail outlets.

Today when everyone – from consumers to the private companies – is arguing for economic freedom and limited government, why is Kerala government still running retail stores? The leaky public distribution system is an example of government’s failure as a retailer. Government’s involvement in distribution and selling is wastage of government’s limited resources which should otherwise have been focused on better governance and creating conducive atmosphere for business.

Also, the state-run retail business decision on Maggi has been wrongly interpreted as a government ban. 20,000 bakeries in the state have also decided not to sell any brand of noodles until the government takes a decision on this matter.

Arvind Kejriwal eating Maggi noodles!It adds fuel to Kejriwal’s anti-industry rhetoric

Even when the test results on Maggi were still awaited in Delhi, the Kejriwal government had already decided to initiate a case against the Indian arm of Swiss multinational giant forgetting perhaps this famous visual now doing the rounds on Twitter:

This Maggi controversy gives fodder to Kejriwal’s hypocritical anti-industry stand, which was exposed in his krantikari interview to Aaj Tak. His style of populist politics forces him to pretend like someone who is against big industries.

Why drag in the brand ambassadors?

A Bihar court has ordered that a FIR be registered against Maggi brand ambassadors Amitabh Bachchan, Madhuri Dixit and Preity Zinta and arrest them. While Bachchan said he no more endorses the brand, Dixit recently met Nestle officials in this regard and said the company has assured her about the quality of the product.

TOI quoted Anirban Das Blah, celebrity agent, who handles the work of big celebrities including Deepika Padukone, Farhan Akhtar, Shahid Kapoor and Ranbir Kapoor, as saying, “If such things happen, our contract states that the celeb is as much a victim as a consumer. Besides, we’re not investigating agencies. If celebs are being held for false promises, what about our politicians? The buck should stop with ministers and bureaucrats who give permission to sell such products.”

Times of India GroupMedia frenzy

Though creating awareness is the fundamentals of journalism, creating frenzy is overreach and uncalled for.

Why is Times Group going after Nestle? Is this a new business model to manufacture outrage to feed the news cycle? Times group, which makes money off brand ads, is now feeding public alarmism with it’s over the top outrage.

This government alarmism feeds into media frenzy, damaging a brand and an enterprise’s reputation.

What raises further doubts about the design of isolated targeting of Maggi is that so far there is not a single reported case of sickness due to consumption of Maggi. Nobody has been hospitalized or complained of damage to health on account of consumption of Maggi.

It is irresponsible to fuel a media frenzy against a food product in this manner implying an imminent threat to public health when none exists and none has been proven. This kind of irresponsible activism will have a devastating effect on the entire ecosystem that is financially dependent on Maggi.

It is high time we demolished this negative stereotype of a greedy enterprise when in fact an enterprise assumes financial risk, creates jobs not just within its four walls but across layers of society. This is not to absolve the ham-handed manner in which Nestle responded to this crisis of confidence in its flagship brand. But in a nation where there is no semblance of food safety in the unorganized food retail sector for the government and the media to go after a packaged foods corporate that holds itself to account through quality checks is reflective of an anti-enterprise mindset.

When the dust settles on this Maggi alarmism, it is the roadside vendor who sold Maggi, the street corner kirana store that stocked Maggi, and the entire supply chain of shopkeepers and distributors who will pay the economic price with their livelihoods for this collective folly of cynical politicians and opportunistic media houses. – Niticentral, 3 June 2015

A Maggi Noodles Auto-da-fe!

The Joe D’Cruz Case – R. Ramasubramanian & Aravindan Neelakandan

Joe D'Cruz

“You see … there is a socialist bourgeoisie here. It is a neo-Nehruvian creation. They want to picture and paint the human sufferings in the best possible colors and make a high-flying living out of it. They have to show themselves as fighters … five-star literati for the poor. They hate it when someone from the ordinary people, the real marginalized sections of the society, comes up and tells people to move on … to become prosperous, to claim their rightful and honorable place in the society. If the poor no longer remain poor, how can these high-class people make a living?” – Joe D’Cruz to Aravindan Neelakandan 

NewsR. Ramasubramanian’s report on why acclaimed author Joe D’Cruz is under attack

Joe D’Cruz, a Tamil novelist and a strong supporter of Prime Minister Narendra Modi—which makes him a minority among the Tamil intelligentsia—has been taken to court for his 2009 Sahitya Adademi award-winning novel Korkai.

The reason? The complainant Alagara Bharathavar, who is the leader of a fishermen’s association, alleges that D’Cruz has portrayed an objectionable picture of promiscuity among the fisherwomen of Tuticorin and the entire seashore area of the region.

But unlike the cases of Perumal Murugan and Puliyur Murugesan, both of whom were threatened and intimidated, leading Murugan to announce his “death” as a writer, there has been little support for D’Cruz from fellow-writers. His political position has isolated him.

The case against D’Cruz

The complainant has also said  that the novel had portrayed Christianity, fishermen, priests, and nuns in such a bad light that anyone who is not extremely familiar with the area will believe the contents of the novel to be true. The private criminal and civil defamation case has been filed by  Bharathavar, general secretary of the Meenavar Viduthalai Iyakkam (Fishermen Liberation Movement) in the court of Judicial Magistrate II, Tuticorin district, in Tamil Nadu.

The magistrate has admitted the petition and issued a summons to Joe D’Cruz to appear before his court on June 12. However, D’Cruz is not shying away from the confrontation. Born into a community of fishermen, he is a writer with strong convictions. Ironically, he expressed this not in the usual context of Tamil literature, but in the form of declaring his support to Modi in the run up to the 2014 Lok Sabha elections – a political position that clearly defies the thinking in literary circles in the state.

The backlash for his position

In a Facebook post, D’Cruz had praised Modi openly, saying that he was confident of the BJP leader ringing in fundamental changes and ushering great development into the country. One outcome: Navayana, the Delhi-based publisher, and V. Geetha, the translator of his Tamil novel Aazhi Sool Ulagu (Ocean-Ringed World)—which won a Tamil Nadu state government award in 2005—decided not to publish the translation. However, D’Cruz asserts that a translation of the novel will now be brought out by Oxford University Press.

As for the defamation case, D’Cruz is standing his ground firmly. “The complainant has included Aazhi Sool Ulagu along with Korkai,” he told Scroll.in over the phone.  “He has selectively cited certain paragraphs to suggest that the novels speak against fishermen community. This is completely wrong.”

The writer argues that those steeped in old customs are not able to tolerate the truth being told—having realised that their affluent lifestyles cannot be sustained forever, they have started attacking him in different ways. “I got threats from some groups even while I was going to receive the Sahitya Akademi award in New Delhi,” he said. “There were calls warning me that I would be eliminated on my way to Delhi. Now they have chosen to go to court. I will fight this legally and my legal team will devise a strategy to counter this assault.”

The writer believes that his novels have in fact drawn the attention of the world to the untold sufferings and longings of his community.  “Novels are different from articles,” he said. “A novel is a gazette of the times about we talk and live in.  Those who oppose the novels are seeing themselves reflected in the cruel characters. But even these protests are healthy, because this shall create a positive effect towards the betterment of the community.”

Scant support from writers

However, D’Cruz is disappointed, if not angry, by the response of civil society in general and of writers in particular. The support that the writers’ community in the state extended to Murugan and Murugesan when they faced intimidation and ostracisation appears to be missing. “I am not bothered,” he said. “But look at the double standards. I fought for Perumal Murugan and condemned the threats. But where are those so-called progressive writers today?”

Is D’Cruz’s avowed support for Modi the reason for the lack of protests against the defamation case filed against him? Even if that is the case, the writer is unwilling to change his political stance. An employee of a shipping company in Chennai, D’Cruz visited Gujarat 28 times when Modi was the chief minister. He says that he was impressed by Modi’s work in Gujarat, which is why he extended his support to him. “The results will not be known in just a year’s time,” he argued, weighing Modi’s performance as prime minister. “I am ready to wait.”  – Scroll.in, 8 June 2015

S. Aravindan NeelakandanAravindan Neelakandan’s interview with award-winning writer Joe D’Cruz

• AN : If I am right you have always been threatened with violence and an undeclared but effective excommunication. Right? 

• JD : When Aazhi Soozh Ulaku (my first novel) came, the first letter that came to me was from a venerable old man from a non-descript coastal village. Even as an unofficial excommunication was getting implemented silently, this venerable old man wrote: ‘May your mother be blessed for bringing out this grand literary narrative of our people’. Another letter came from Rameswaram – a coastal fisherman had requested me to come there and see their lives. Such people supported me. They invited me. They shared their problems in broken voices and soiled papers. But (those in) seats of power who were exploiting the innocence of the coastal communities went to great extent against me, from unofficial excommunication to petitioning my company higher officials. But the power of the common people and the trust and love that they gave me sustained me. So the threats never bothered me. (Getting emotional) 

So at that moment I decided to dedicate my life to the cause of our coastal people … I vowed it on my Aatha (mother/goddess). The only time I went to my village was when my father died. It was for his funeral. Till then I refrained from going there because I did not want to be the cause of a rift in the village. But when I came to the village I realized one thing. Even in the village where the vested interests thought they had stranglehold, the people loved me. The love and affection I have is not limited to the boundaries of my village but(extend) to the entire coastline of Mother India. I see all the diverse coastal communities along the entire Indian peninsula as pearls of different colours garlanded at the feet of Mother India. 

• AN : I remember youths from coastal community coming to protect you after they came to know of an attack being planned against you. Can you elaborate? 

• JD : About two years back (when the) Valampuri John award was given to me, the same elements which cry against me wanted to stop the function. At that time I started getting threatening calls. They spread the word that I would be knifed. I again decided not to come for the award function, not because I was afraid. But I know how these vested interest would use the emotions of some innocent youth of the coastal region and the boy may end up with his life shattered. So I decided not to come. But the organisers, when they came to know of this, they made all necessary arrangements that no untoward incident would happen. When a community lovingly protects you and when you are selflessly working for the people, then these threats do not affect you. 

• AN : But unlike left-wing writers you never made fame out of these threats which were far more real than any the so-called progressive writers faced. Why? 

• JD : From Kannian Poonkuntanar (Sangham Tamil poet) to Paulo Coelho, there is a consistent theme. When you follow what your inner voice tells you, when you walk the path of your highest calling, nothing can harm you and the entire universe will be at your service. This is a principle I have experienced in my own life. There are people who have to get fame through real and perceived threats. But I do not need either fame or name. I seek to live for my people. I love them. I write so that they can live happily, honourably, and with prosperity. So I do not have time to go publicity hunting with these threats. Perhaps that may be the reason. Even otherwise I choose not to get fame through the threats to my life. I love even those who make such threats. They too are my people. 

• AN : Your support to Modi brought you abuse and threats, can you elaborate on those days? 

• JD : When my novels came and when I got Sahitya Academy (award) some friends, who happen to be comrades, arranged felicitations and all. I attended them. I considered them as my readers and friends. I demanded no ideological allegiance from them. But when I opened my mind about support to Modi everything changed. They attacked me. A potential publisher who had promised to translate my novel, with whose translator I have worked for years spending my time and energy, went back on their word, after listing the translation in their catalogue. 

People would arrange some meeting and then suddenly it would be cancelled. Well … I underwent ostracization all of a sudden. But I told such ‘friends’ one thing. You being my reader or my friend does not mean I have to be a prisoner in your ideological home. If you think I cannot voice my opinion freely just because you give your appreciation to me then please remember one thing: A writer needs appreciation. But he needs freedom more than the appreciation. Between appreciation and freedom he will choose freedom. 

• AN : Do you think there is hypocrisy in the so-called freedom of expression crusaders when they remain tactfully silent when you are attacked … the recent one being only the latest in a series of attacks that you have been facing silently for the last two years? 

• JD : There is definitely a double-tumbler system here. There is no doubt about it. But it does not surprise me. You see … there is a socialist bourgeoisie here. It is a neo-Nehruvian creation. They want to picture and paint the human sufferings in the best possible colors and make a high-flying living out of it. They have to show themselves as fighters … five-star literati for the poor. They hate it when someone from the ordinary people, the real marginalized sections of the society, comes up and tells people to move on … to become prosperous, to claim their rightful and honorable place in the society. If the poor no longer remain poor, how can these high-class people make a living? 

The pornographers of poverty seek a pleasure out of the poverty of our people and make that a virtue. To me, on the other hand, literature speaks the soul of the people and catalyzes them to expand like the oceanic circle. So naturally these people will not come for my cause. Nor do I expect them to come. If RSS says it will wind up today, who do you think will be affected the most? It is these atrocity-literature mongers who make a living out of the urban myths of persecution. They even started inventing Hindutva in my novels once I supported Modi. 

• AN : What about the charge that you have offended Christian faith…

• JD : Let me make one thing very very clear. I am a practicing Catholic Christian. My voice is not against Christianity or Catholic religion. My voice is against the vested interests in the organized religion which are exploiting the common people. They say Catholic Church gave us education … yes, it is true … but where are the community leaders, and entrepreneurs and educationists who should have come from this vibrant community? They also gave us herd mentality and we need to break from that … which is not against the spirit of Jesus but in tune with what he taught. 

Another problem is my emphasis on our own spiritual traditions which are far older … like the mother goddess worship which is very much in our blood. 

I am today the voice of my people as the guardian of the coast of Mother India … as the owners and creators of this age-old civilization … from Ramayana to Mahabharatha to every Purana my people have a role in it, they are not an imported people. They have their roots in this culture and in this spiritual tradition. The fact that I am a Catholic cannot deny this heritage of our people. I hence speak their voice … the voice of our ancestors speaks through me. 

And how can that offend any religion? 

• AN : Evaluate Modi’s performance in one year.

• JD : When I voiced my support for Modi I did this for three reasons: One: I have experienced the change Modi brought to resource-scarce, earth-quake ravaged Gujarat. He made Gujarat an important maritime hub. So I know this man can do miracles because he cares for the people. Two: He comes from the lower rungs of the society. He knows what is poverty. In this I share an affinity with him. So he knows it is wrong to insult and exploit the poor as much it is wrong to glorify or romanticize poverty. So he will work for the common Indian. Thirdly: He has been the chief minister who wanted to improve his state. So he knows how the centre-state relation is an important factor in the development process. So only such a person who knows what it is to be a chief minister aspiring for the welfare of his state, when he becomes the prime minister can help the states to develop. 

… And I should say I do see a sea change in this one year. There is no corruption. There is a mindset change. 

When I hear cheap criticism of this man’s foreign tours I really feel offended. To be in constant travel is no joke and he is not doing that for pleasure but for the nation. He travels to strengthen relations where they exist. He travels to forge relations where they do not. He for the first time uses the Indian communities abroad to create networks. He is creating a network of economic cooperation and strategic partnership. This is a grand experiment he is doing. We should have done this long back and thank God for a Prime Minister who is at last sowing the seeds for a prosperous future India. And we cannot judge the fruits of what he sows now itself. Yet we can say here is a person who works hard for us—for you and me and our children—not taking even a single day holiday. 

Things may still be not fast enough as we desire them to be. But I have my hopes for the future of our nation pinned on the chaiwala. – Swarajya, 10 June 2015

Truth must be upheld, Mr Ribeiro – Hilda Raja

Julio Ribeiro

Lady Professor Icon“I am 78 and thought it is time to speak out. The ordinary people like me are happy and content. We feel no persecution or discrimination and are not on the hit list. Even if we are, truth cannot be hidden. In fact it was the Church which had crucified TRUTH and continues to do so.” – Dr Mrs Hilda Raja

I read Mr Julio Ribeiro’s ‘I feel I am on a hit list’ (Indian Express dated 16th March). I did not react immediately because I wanted to let it sink and see if there was any foundation in what he stated. To me who am 78, the whole accusation of his seems to have no foundation. As of Julio Ribeiro, my ancestry also can be traced to Hinduism. While he agrees on this, the question arises why we are Christians today. How did it happen? What kind of inducement-allurement and what strategy of proselytization were used in those days for my ancestors to become Christians? Unlike Julio Ribeiro, I do not feel threatened. Neither do I fear that I am on a hit list. I feel very much an Indian no matter who says what. The point to note is that the Catholic Church to which Julio Ribeiro and I belong has a parampara of a persecution mania. This is because we have inherited and are born through persecution. Not by the Hindus but by the Dutch, the Portuguese, the French and the English. This is precisely why though Julio Ribeiro acquiescence that his DNA if tested, it will not differ markedly from Mohan Bhagwat’s. The same can be said of our Hindu ancestors. Then what happened down the line.

We must agree that there was persecution, forced conversion by the conquerors. It was a question of torture and death to which the Hindu ancestors were subjected to. This is not fairy tales but recorded history when thousands of temples were destroyed, houses were ransacked and people were brutalized. Those who indulged in these human rights violations were treated as saints by the Vatican and raised to sainthood. But now we raise a hue and cry against ‘Ghar Vapsi’. What was good for one is not good for another. It is not though these were in the hoary past. Even today most of the NGOs do indulge in this proselytization. I wish the government of India ban all foreign funds. If China could develop without such NGOs and the foreign funds why should India not?

Hitler's Pope Pius XIII must bring the Vatican’s mind set in this context because it is relevant. When it comes to conversion it will go the extra mile. Look at what it indulged in during the regime of Pius XII. He did not hesitate to join hands with Hitler who attacked Yugoslavia. Hitler partitioned the country into the Catholic Croatia and the Orthodox Serbia. Then followed a massive ethnic cleansing. The aryanisation process which separated the Jews, Serbs as undesirables. These were deported to concentration camps. Children were not spared. The ethnic cleansing was done by the open support of the clergy—priests and nuns supervised and Vatican followed the ‘omerta’ and looked the other way. Special death Aloysius Stepinaccamps were set up for children. Several commandants and officers at these death camps were Catholic priests. Franciscan monks supervised the mass executions. This ethnic cleansing thus had the blessings of Vatican. There were monetary gains for the Vatican from the Holocaust in Croatia. In the certificate of conversion which was sold for a few hundred of dinars the Vatican netted millions. Vatican was well-informed and yet the Pope maintained silence. In fact not a single member of the clergy was held accountable—though the commandants of the death camps were priests. When after the war, Archbishop Stepinak was arrested for war crimes by the Yugoslav government, Puis XII excommunicated everyone who had taken part in the trial. Later the Archbishop was presented as the champion of religious freedom! It is interesting that in 1998 Pope John Paul II travelled to the Republic of Croatia to announce the beatification of Archbishop Stepinak.

It must be noted that the Vatican abetted and colluded with Mussolini and Hitler in all their brutality. It stood to gain both in terms of power and money. Yet we often hear the word ‘fascist’ being thrown against the BJP and the saffron brigade. This is part of the Christian parampara of the Catholic Church to which Julio Ribeiro and I belong to. Yet we are scandalized by the ‘Ghar Vapsi’. What about the Inquisitions held in India in Goa. With so much of baggage how can we point a finger to others, to the saffron groups and then pretend that we are being victimized and discriminated? All rapes are abominable and need to be condemned in the strongest terms. But why only the rape of the nun, be it in Orissa and now in W. Bengal, be internationalized? Why and how can the Vatican interfere and want to send a delegation?

Burning at the stake by the InquisitionIn a population of nearly one and a quarter billion human rights violations and inhuman acts are bound to happen. These need to be severely put down not politicized. It is the NGOs which create a kind of phobia. Foreign funds flow and towards this they organize dharnas and rallies. Any violation and discrimination is being attributed to the Modi’s government. But then these things had not suddenly surfaced. There is a long gestation period of discrimination, of injecting a fear psychosis. The politicians have communalized the communities.

India is known for its secularism—and it is not because the Constitution made it secular. Even before the Constitution the Hindus welcomed all religions. Butchery and compulsion and forced conversion were introduced and followed by the Dutch, Portuguese, the French and the English. Earlier the basic tenet followed by the inhabitants of this great country was Sanatana Dharma. Even today that is the guide and the dictum.

I am 78 and thought it is time to speak out. The ordinary people like me are happy and content. We feel no persecution or discrimination and are not on the hit list. Even if we are, truth cannot be hidden. In fact it was the Church which had crucified TRUTH and continues to do so. Perhaps there may be aberrations to this. It must not be forgotten that Julio Ribeiro was hounded by a minority community for the alleged human rights violations in Punjab. It was not the Hindus who were behind it. So may be JR has some deep-seated fear within him. But then to generalize this personal fear into the whole fabric of the Indian populace is too far-fetched.

TruthI want to appeal to the government of Modi to ban the foreign funds flow into this country. We should be able to manage with what we have. Why take a begging bowl to other countries and disrupt the peace within. If other countries can manage so can we. I would like to mention about the good works done and which are being done by nuns. But then they have enormous assets. When the foreign invaders left this country they turned over all their land and houses to the Churches. As if these are their grandfathers’ possessions! By all legal rights these should have been turned over to the government of India. So the Churches had at their disposal land and finances to start with. There is no accountability. Look at the minority education institutions which run on their own rules and regulations. Why did the Constitution founders submit to such a request and enshrine it in the Constitution? Is that not discrimination? I have studied from LKG to PG in minority institutions. Later I was a faculty in one of the elite colleges in Chennai. I know how they function. The least said about them the better. Yes, good work they do there is no denying, but it has a price. Money flows into Vatican. There is wealth beyond measure in these Church-allied institutions and in churches. So when mammon triumphs where is TRUTH. The same lenses must be used to scrutinize Mother Teresa’s work in India. – Dr Mrs Hilda Raja, 21 March 2015

» Dr Mrs Hilda Raja was a Professor of Social Sciences at Stella Maris College, Chennai. After retirement she has been a consultant on various government and international development projects. She lives with her son in Vadodara, Gujarat.

Christian missionaries meet Modi’s estranged wife Jashodaben – OpIndia Staff

Jasodaben with Christian missionaries

India Crossed-Out

Peter … invited Jashodaben to join their mission. The report further states that Jashodaben showed her willingness about joining the team. She appreciated the invite and said that she would like to work for the mission. – OpIndia Staff

According to a report published in Amar Ujala, a team of Christian missionaries recently visited Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s estranged wife Jashodaben. Brother Peter Paul, who was one of the visitors, said, “I have heard about her prayers and her loneliness. Her soul-touching story affected me. I heard through newspaper that she is in Mumbai.  I searched for her whereabouts and went to meet her with my colleagues.”

“I have worked with Mother Teresa for 10 years. I saw a glimpse of Mother Teresa in Jashodaben”, Paul emphasized. He also added that Jashodaben has same positive aura as Mother Teresa had around her.

Peter and his team have also invited Jashodaben to join their mission. The report further states that Jashodaben showed her willingness about joining the team. She appreciated the invite and said that she would like to work for the mission. However, she also added that the final decision will be taken by her family. Peter stressed that he is not advertising religious conversions, but he wants Jashodaben to help lots of destitute and helpless Hindus by teaching Geeta and Ramayan to them. He believes that it will also help Jashodaben to get liberation from the lifestyle she is living.

It is interesting to note that while Hindu groups are maligning their names by getting involved in redundant regressive proceedings like Ghar Wapasi or Valentine’s Day diktats, Christian missionaries are smartly spreading their messages by helping people to liberate through social activities and self-enlightenment. If Hindu reformer groups keep prioritizing trivial issues over important issues like women upliftment, they will surely be sidelined by all the communities over a period of time. – Opindia, 6 February 2015

Modi builds alliance to thwart China – Tufail Ahmad

Tufail Ahmad“Asia’s people have enjoyed peace for a long period. A new alliance will ensure that they continue to enjoy peace. Alliances serve wider purposes: they aid peoples of member-states to think positively about each other; they enable the public to grasp their place in the world and understand where they are headed for; they create new power for member-states and engender economic prosperity. Vitally, they prevent wars.” – Tufail Ahmad

Narendra Modi + Shinzo AbePrime minister Narendra Modi’s five-day visit to Japan from August 30 will boost ties in trade, defence and civil nuclear cooperation, but it is also consequential for the rapidly shifting balance of power in Asia. Across several centuries, history has opened its arms only for a few nations—Italy, Spain, France, Britain and the US—to stride the global centre-stage. Modi’s visit, before a seminal trip to Washington, comes as major powers are open to India assuming a role concomitant to its growing status. In history’s path, India is placed well to acquire new power.

Altering Asia’s balance of power is China’s rise, which is spawning two conflicting trends. First, Beijing’s bilateral trade with several countries has risen rapidly. With the US, it rose to $559 billion in 2013 from $5 billion in 1981. With India, it grew nine times from 2004 to $65 billion. With South Korea, it rose 36-fold from 1992 to $229 billion. With Vietnam, it was $50 billion, up from $27 billion in 2010. With Australia, it doubled to $151 billion from 2008. With Japan, it was $345 billion, rising from $184 billion in 2005. With Indonesia, it grew 16 times to $66 billion in 2012.

Second, this growing trade is not engendering pleasant ties between Beijing and its neighbours. Chinese military is poking many countries—on land, in space, on seas. Here is an ordinary person’s guide to international relations: in a village, those who acquire new wealth do not behave as they used to; with new resources comes power; with new power comes muscle-flexing. In 2007, China demonstrated its military capabilities in space by exploding a satellite; the US blew up a satellite to demonstrate it can respond. Recently, a Chinese jet performed acrobatics, demonstrating China’s muscle-flexing, within metres of a US anti-submarine plane.

Chinese ships are causing tensions with Vietnam, the Philippines and Japan. Based on ancient maps, China claims new territories. It seized the Scarborough Shoal from the Philippines and has prevented the Philippine ships from reaching the Second Thomas Shoal.

A conflict is emerging with Indonesia over the Natuna Islands. In May, China sent its oil rig into Vietnam’s lawful economic zone and eyes a military facility on the Johnson South Reef it wrested from Vietnam. With Japan, China is stoking maritime conflicts; it is taunting the US military often.

Indian and Chinese SoldiersChina’s behaviour with a comprehensively peaceful India is no different. Its military incursions into Ladakh occur frequently. China is building intelligence and military links through ports in Pakistan, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Bangladesh and Myanmar. It is encircling India as part of a “string-of-pearls” strategy in the Indian Ocean. It built railways through Tibet near Sikkim—to transfer military logistics to India’s border. It is strengthening military rulers in Thailand and Myanmar, though the latter is open to accommodating India’s interests.

“Everybody has a plan till they get punched in the mouth,” American boxer Mike Tyson is quoted as saying by British military historian Lawrence Freedman in his book, Strategy.

Freedman defines strategy as “the art of creating power” for nations not powerful. “Having a strategy suggests an ability to look up from the short term and the trivial to view the long term and the essential, to address causes rather than symptoms,” says Freedman, noting that a strategy is meant “for expressing attempts to think about actions in advance, in the light of our goals and our capabilities”. Fortunately, geopolitics is not a boxing ring in which only two players can enter, nor is it a fight in which only one player must win.

India and many countries are being forced to secure their interests. Japan’s prime minister Shinzo Abe reinterpreted his country’s constitution, allowing Japanese troops to aid allies. Tokyo gave six vessels to Vietnam to boost its maritime patrol. External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj visited Vietnam this week to bolster ties; president Pranab Mukherjee will visit next. She visited Myanmar recently for a multilateral meet; Modi is due in November. The US and Australia are encouraging a broader role for India, with Washington naming the region as Indo-Pacific. Also, India has held multilateral military exercises with Singapore, Japan, Australia and the US—potential allies.

Some thinkers have urged India to evolve “middle power” coalitions in the Indo-Pacific without involving China and the US. This was exactly the “non-alignment” policy that India pursued for half a century, spawning India’s overall economic decay. “Middle power” coalitions without military and diplomatic backbone cannot moderate China’s behaviour, and could become another SAARC or ASEAN. As an emerging power, India needs to build a capable alliance, a combination of NATO and UN. The fall of the Berlin Wall unshackled the Indian mind from the subjugation of non-alignment. India must not shrink back into it.

Narendra Modi with Bhutans king and queenBuilding alliances is not to rush into a military fight, much like producing nuclear weapons is not to use them on first opportunity but to deter a menacing enemy. Asia’s people have enjoyed peace for a long period. A new alliance will ensure that they continue to enjoy peace. Alliances serve wider purposes: they aid peoples of member-states to think positively about each other; they enable the public to grasp their place in the world and understand where they are headed for; they create new power for member-states and engender economic prosperity. Vitally, they prevent wars. Evolving an alliance is not to fight China; it is stitching an umbrella of peace, hoping it doesn’t rain.

“We can look in the eye of the world because we are a democracy,” Modi said in January. An open society like India cannot instinctively trust closed systems like China. India must act from strength. It must bolster economic ties with China and engage democracies in its neighbourhood. Among non-democracies, it can engage Myanmar in concert with the US and it isn’t bargaining hard with Washington to contain Pakistan. Sadly, India’s strength is undermined, not by China, but by people who engineer riots, indulge in rapes and torment India in other ways. – The New Indian Express, 28 August 2014

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

Narendra Modi with Japanese Emperor Akihito

 “Today I went to the Maharaja of Japan. I have given (a Bhagvad Gita) to him. Because I don’t think that I have anything more to give and the world also does not have anything more to get than this.” – Narendra Modi

Narendra Modi & Saichiro Misumi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi meets 99-year-old Saichiro Misumi, Netaji’s oldest living associate in Japan, in Tokyo, on September 02, 2014.

 

Article 370: Facts you should know – Pravin Singh

Kashmir: Article 370

Supreme Court of India in New DelhiThe Supreme Court on Tuesday (August 19) issued a notice to Centre on a plea challenging the provisions of Article 370, which provides special status to Jammu and Kashmir. The plea was filed by a Delhi-based NGO, asking why a law passed by the J&K Assembly “deprives people from other parts of the country from acquiring immovable assets or seek employment in the state.”

Revocation of Article 370 which contains provision for Jammu and Kashmir has been in demand for long time. The Article was added temporarily and was to be removed within a time- period but till date nothing has happened.

What is Article 370?

  • According to the Constitution of India, Article 370 is a law that grants special autonomous status to Jammu and Kashmir.
  • The article is drafted in Part XXI of the Constitution (in Amendment section) which relates to Temporary, Transitional and Special Provisions.
  • The original draft explained “the Government of the State means the person for the time being recognised by the President as the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir acting on the advice of the Council of Ministers for the time being in office under the Maharaja’s Proclamation dated the fifth day of March, 1948.”
  • On November 15, 1952, it was changed to “the Government of the State means the person for the time being recognised by the President on the recommendation of the Legislative Assembly of the State as the Sadr-i-Riyasat (now Governor) of Jammu and Kashmir, acting on the advice of the Council of Ministers of the State for the time being in office.”

The special status to Jammu & Kashmir

  • Unlike other State legislative Assemblies, J&K legislature has a six-year term.
  • Jammu & Kashmir has two flags; a separate State flag along with the National Flag.
  • Insulting of national symbols is not cognizable offence in Jammu & Kashmir.
  • Most of the laws except defence, foreign affairs, finance and communication, passed by Indian Parliament need to be approved by the State Government before they are made applicable in the State.
  • The citizens of J&K are governed by State-specific laws which come under the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir, instead of those for the rest of India.
  • Under Article 370 the Indian Parliament cannot increase or reduce the borders of the State.
  • The Supreme Court has no jurisdiction in the State of Jammu & Kashmir.
  • The residents of J&K enjoy dual citizenship, but they could loose the J&K citizenship if they marry residents of other States.
  • If a woman marries a man in other Indian States, she loses her citizenship. Whereas if any woman marries a Pakistani, she will be entitled to have a citizenship of Jammu & Kashmir.
  • The Article also gives Pakistan’s citizens entitlement to Indian citizenship, if he marries a Kashmiri girl.
  • Majority of Indian laws including RTE, RTI and agencies like CBI, CAG are not applicable in J&K.
  • No outsider can purchase land in the State.
  • The Centre has no power to declare financial emergency under Article 360 in the State.
  • It can declare emergency in the state only in case of war or external aggression.

History of Article 370

  • Dr B.R. Ambedkar, who drafted Indian Constitution, had refused to draft Article 370.
  • In 1949, the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru had directed Kashmiri leader Sheikh Abdullah to consult Ambedkar in preparation of suitable draft.
  • Article 370 was then drafted by Gopalaswami Ayyangar, former Diwan to Maharajah Hari Singh of Jammu and Kashmir.

Article 370 and related controversy

  • J&K Chief Minister Omar Abdullah had earlier warned that any attempt to reopen the debate on Article 370 would force the State to revisit its terms of accession to the Indian Union.
  • In its election manifesto ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, the BJP had said it is in favour of abrogating Article 370, but said the issue will be discussed thoroughly before a decision is made.
  • During electioneering, Narendra Modi had suggested that it should be probed whether Article 370 has indeed benefited the people of Jammu & Kashmir. OneIndia, 19 August 2014

Kashmir Separatists

Points to ponder from the Independence Day speech – Narendra Modi

Narendra Modi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi made his first Independence Day speech on 15 August 2014. Below are the salient points of his address. – Editor

• I come to you not as a Pradhan Mantri, but as a Pradhan Sevak. I pay respects to all previous Governments, Prime Ministers. This country stands on the foundation of unity and cooperation.

• I am from outside Delhi. But I assure you there is ample capacity in the people occupying the Government machinery – from the highest office to the lowest. I want to awaken the power that sleeps within our machinery.

• The nation’s founders dreamed a dream. It is our task to fulfil that dream. All Indians should have that dream. People ask “mera kya” and “mujhe kya”. We must escape this mentality. Not everything is for us. We must awaken the feeling of national good.

• We hear of rapes and we are ashamed. We keep tabs on our daughters. But do we ever keep tabs on our sons? Every rapist is someone’s son. The law will do its job. But as people, we have our own tasks cut out for us too. Parents must ask their sons about the paths they choose. The shoulder that supports the gun can also support the plough.

• In Nepal, there was a time when the youth were walking the path of violence. Today, they stand by their Constitution. If Nepal can do it, can India’s youth not?

• We have suffered communal tensions for centuries. Even after independence, we continue. But for how long? There has been ample violence and ample mistrust. We have only succeeded in hurting our motherland. These things get in the way of progress. Promise yourself ten years of peace and then see what heights we can touch.

• With scientific advancement, we think progress. But today the sex ratio in India is 1000-940 (male-female). Where is this lack of balance coming from? I appeal to doctors, do not kill daughters in hopes of filling your tijori. Do not sacrifice the lives of daughters for sons. I have seen families with as many as five sons where the parents are taken care of by a selfless daughter.

• Commonwealth games saw our players winning medals. Of these winners, 29 are girls.

• If we keep our eyes on our goal, we can get rid of all social ills. Good governance and development is the path ahead.

• Government employees say they are in ‘service’. Private employees say they have ‘jobs’. I ask Government employees: Has the word ‘service’ lost its meaning?

• If 125 crore Indians take one step each, the nation will move ahead 125 crore steps.

• Why do our farmers commit suicide? Fathers leave families behind and kill themselves because they can’t feed them.

• We announce the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana. We will give the poorest person in the country as bank account. He will have his own debit card. He will have 1 lakh rupees insurance.

• Skill development is the need of the hour. We look for skilled drivers and plumbers but they aren’t available. Youths should get skills that can go into the making of a great nation. So that they can go to any corner of the world and have people acknowledge their worth.

• The world has changed. India can’t fulfil its destiny by staying away from the changed world.

• I call upon all Indians everywhere to focus on manufacturing sector and the import-export sector. India must put all its efforts into becoming better, but I invite the world to us as well: “Come! Make in India!”

• “Come! Make in India!” Sell anywhere in the world, but make in India. Chemical, automobile, paper & plastic, satellites, cell phones – make it all in India!

• To Indian youth, I say our dream should be “Made in India!”

• Serving the nation has to be more than just sacrificing your life like freedom fighter Bhagat Singh. The farmer does equally great service as the soldier.

• India’s youth, to them I say. Do not compromise. When manufacturing, your goal should be: Zero defect; zero effect (on environment).

• People used to think of us as a nation of snake charmers. Now we are seen as a nation of IT wizards. So we dream of a Digital India. If our villages are connected with broadband connectivity. Imagine what it can do for education and for healthcare. Can we move towards mobile governance? This is what I mean by Digital India.

• We import foreign electronics in large amounts. It is our second greatest import after oil and natural gases.

• E-governance to me means Effective Governance. If we focus on it, Digital India can stand on equal footing with the world.

• Cleanliness is of great importance. For how long will we continue to live in dirt. The first task we focused on was cleanliness. If 125 crore Indians decide they will spread cleanliness, India will be clean.

• Mahatma Gandhi’s anniversary is coming. What will be our gift to him? Can we promise that we will clean India by 2019? This task can only be fulfilled with the people’s participation.

• It is a shame that our women do not have access to toilets. This leads to illness and disease. August 15 is the time for big announcements. I do not know what I will be called for making these announcements. But I come from a poor family. I know what it feels like to be poor.

• Starting today, we wish to start the mission to have toilets in every school. With MPLAD funds, I appeal that in the next one year, toilets be built in every school in India.

• I announce a scheme in the name of the Parliament. Sansad Gram Yojana. Choose any village, set parameters. Then make one village the ideal village – the adarsh gram. Members of Parliament should aim to have three villages built to Adarsh standards by 2019. After that, five ideal villages every five years should be created.

• When the Planning Commission was created, it was created with the needs of the time in mind. The body has contributed to this in its best capacity as well. State Governments are coming into more strong roles and I think this is a good thing. Strengthening the federal structure is what will take India forward. States and the Centre in teams will create the new shape of the Planning Commission. With this in mind, the Planning Commission will have a new incarnation. It will have a new shape.

• Today is Sri Aurobindo’s birth anniversary as well. He had said that India will play the role of the world’s teacher. He and Swami Vivekananda had a vision of India becoming a teacher for the world. I want that vision to come true.

• We fought the war for freedom. We were together and unarmed. Did we not win? Can we not defeat poverty the same way? Our neighbouring countries also have the same problems. Fighting and killing each other does not take us anywhere. The one who saves is greater than the one who kills. In Bhutan and Nepal, I saw this feeling reflected.

• I am not the Pradhan Mantri. I am the Pradhan Sevak. I promise my colleagues in the Government. If you work 12 hours, I will work 13 hours. If you work 13 hours, I will work 15 hours. – Niti Central, 15 August 2014

 India Independence Day Google Doodle 2014

 

Rape, toilet speech for the greater national change – S. Bhatt

Sheela Bhatt“While touching the issue of rape-related crimes, Modi said: ‘I want to ask parents, when daughters turn 11 or 14, they keep a tab on their movements. Have these parents ever asked their sons where they have been going, who they have been meeting? Rapists are somebody’s sons as well! Parents must take the responsibility to ensure that their sons don’t go the wrong direction.'” – Sheela Bhatt

Quintessentially Modi, said Bharatiya Janata Party’s spokesperson and writer M J Akbar after Prime Minister Narendra Modi concluded his speech from the ramparts of the Red Fort on India’s 68 Independence Day.

Prime Minister Modi wore the hat of a social reformer on Friday.

His speech had the soul of a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh pracharak. For them, the power of New Delhi is all about shaping Indian families and building national character.

Sporting a bright red bandhni-designed safa along with simple kurta-chudidar helped him play out his “Hindu-nationalist” identity. His social ideas too had a thread of “cultural nationalism” of the RSS style running through it.

Standing firm on the dais without a bullet-proof glass barrier, alongside the national flag, Modi displayed with full vigour his typical macho body language, his government’s priorities in the social sector and his own resolve to govern the country.

He talked less about politics and more about basics.

His language was assertive but not aggressive.

Even if it was a bit ceremonial, he graciously acknowledged his predecessors.

The prime minister reminded people that he is an outsider. And, true to his outsider spirit, he talked about toilets.

Modi’s speech has to be applauded for bringing toilets, gender imbalance and cleanliness into the national discourse.

He gave himself a things-to-do deadline for building toilets in all schools across India within a year.

One wished he added the adjective, ‘functioning’ before toilets. Thousands of schools in India does have toilets but they either do not have running water or are not being maintained.

This is almost an impossible task. So let us see with immense interest how Modi follows his promised dream.

Also, his announcement of creating bank accounts for the poor and giving them Rs 1 lakh insurance is loaded with many possibilities and impossibilities.

From a sheer business point of view, Modi is talking about some potential insurance business of Rs 23,000 crore!

Officially, there are around 23 crore poor in India. Minimum, one would say.

Giving each of them Rs 1 lakh worth insurance, along with opening their bank accounts, is awesome but seemingly impossible idea to fulfil within the time limit Modi has set.

Precisely for that reason, Modi has created a flutter.

Let the administrative details of his Independence Day ideas come out. Will he give business to the private insurance companies or the government-controlled Life Insurance Corporation?

Knowing fully well that he was not playing elite, restricted and fitting-to-the-solemn-occasion speech, Modi said he does not know whether people will appreciate him talking about dirt and toilets from the ramparts of the Red Fort. But since he came from a poor family, he expressed his concerns for such issues.

The most redeeming feature of his speech was his penchant for cleanliness.

He said that by 2019, ensuring cleanliness will be the most fitting tribute to Mahatma Gandhi on his 150th birth anniversary.

The prime minister’s speech constantly gave the feel that change is in air.

It was high time an Indian Prime Minister went back to basics and talked about how shameful it is that the country’s womenfolk have to wait for darkness to go out in the open to defecate.

Modi asked, “Can’t we build toilets for the security of our women?”

While touching the issue of rape-related crimes, Modi said: “I want to ask parents, when daughters turn 11 or 14, they keep a tab on their movements. Have these parents ever asked their sons where they have been going, who they have been meeting? Rapists are somebody’s sons as well! Parents must take the responsibility to ensure that their sons don’t go the wrong direction.”

His idea of announcing a scheme named after Parliament called Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojana is a challenging one too.

Modi said that by 2016, MPs should have at least turned one village into a model village. By the end of five years, Modi wants each MP should have converted at least five villages into model villages.

Through the scheme, which will be kicked off from October 11 — the auspicious day of Karva Chauth, Modi is talking about creating some 3500-plus ideal villages by 2019.

During the course of his speech, Modi, in a cold-blooded manner, dismantled the Planning Commission, ending the Nehruvian style instrument of national deliberations on planned growth.

Asserting that the country has changed, the prime minister said that since the needs had changed, it was time to build a new institution instead of renovating the old relic.

Modi also talked about skill development and tried to inspire a “Make in India” mission.

He, however, smartly avoided political traps.

His government was elected by people who were angry on issue of corruption, price rise and insecurity due to internal and external vulnerabilities.

Modi didn’t touch issue of corruption, high cost of living and Pakistan-backed terrorism or even the issue of black money stashed abroad.

He diverted the national attention to social issues rather than hardcore economic or security-related issues.

Modi’s speech, as expected, was perfectly-delivered. But it was short of hard issues that could give the nation new direction or clear hint of fundamental changes that are likely to come though governance particularly.

Modi, though, has time on his side.

If his government machinery starts building toilets on a war-footing and if some 780-plus MPs start building the ideal model villages in nooks and corners of India, Modi will deserve applause on August 15, 2015. – Rediff, 15 August 2014

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