Contemporary issues related to human development , regional and global.

Month: May, 2014


Open mail to Sri Kejriwal, C/o Tihar Jail, Delhi
Dated 27-05-2014

Dear Sri Kejriwal,

Corporate planners and their bosom friends in the media are celebrating Modi victory through TV shows, editorials, cartoons, news reports and news analyses. The Hindu published a cartoon lamenting on the helplessness of APP with you in Tihar Jail as Modi swears in as PM, and wrote an editorial commenting on your lack of ideology: ” AAP has its task cut out in proving to the country that it represents certain idea that will continue to remain relevant…”

It is for you and those who have flocked around you to explain this “certain idea” unambiguously. And, who are leading AAP, and who have helped it to win the four Loksabha seats and register the two percent vote share?

They, for sure, are not the aam admi, the real victims of corruption in our country: They are senior bureaucrats, retired bureaucrats, ex-servicemen, lawyers, auditors, financial experts, engineers, doctors and other high income professionals, men of letters, poets, artists, journalists, philosophers and other free wheeling intellectuals of India, noted for their selfishness and opportunist positions on every policy issue that affect the life and welfare of the aam admi. Often, even their perceptions on development are unpatriotic.

Mushrooming of super specialty hospitals in private corporate sector and simultaneous decline of primary health care units and other public health care institutions, and marginalization of indigenous systems of health care are the order of the day. This is seen as development by our elite classes, whereas developed nations, including USA, are moving away from market based solutions for health care. AAP and its intellectuals have hardly debated this issue in public.

All  sorts of specialty schools in private as well as public sector are mushrooming in our country, whereas in developed countries community managed neighborhood schools deliver compulsory primary education in languages spoken by lay people. AAP intellectuals are hardly heard debating on the basic policies on education and human resources development in our country.

Our elite classes, driven by narrow self interests, promote all sorts of educational institutions, private universities and teaching shops in the name of development. These are primarily addressed to job opportunities abroad. Best of our brains and talents are exported. Even the good old phrase of Brain Drain stand expunged from our development dictionary. Centers of higher learning in our country operate under the pulls and pressures of foreign job markets: How do you intend to correct this distortion?

Centers of higher learning, universities and research institutions in USA and other developed countries are, as a rule, owned and managed by governments and they mostly take up directed research in public interest. That is an example for us to emulate. But our own universities and research centers are getting increasingly funded by foreign institutions, public as well as private. Do you have a plan to regulate and restrict this wrong trend in national interest?

In our earlier development regime, there was an emphasis on self-reliance: restrictions on import of goods as well as technology were common. With liberalization, volume of imports of white goods, directly or via screw driver technology with very little value addition, has increased several fold. This has virtually killed our manufacturing base as well as industrial R&D. What sort of policy change, AAP has in mind for reversing this destructive trend?

On agriculture and agrobased industries, as well, reforms have brought in destruction. Despite the recent rapid growth of GDP, farmer suicides was on the increase. Indian farmers look helpless on the face of a massive technological revolution that is sweeping the world. What solutions or ideas you have for salvaging our farming communities?

Even after seven decades of national independence more than ninety percent of our work-force is engaged in the informal sector: Those who enjoy the benefits of formal employee-employer relationship or enjoy a minimum of social security support is less than ten percent of our workforce, compared to around 90 percent in the developed world. Despite the reportedly faster economic development during the last two decades this ratio has only deteriorated. What are your proposals for overcoming this fundamental backwardness?

Our constitution makers had seen the development and upkeep of basic infrastructure like transport, communication, energy, environment, technology, national security, and even culture as the joint responsibility of Central and State Governments. However, the role of state governments as well as those of Inter State Council, National Development Council, Planning Commission and other policy making bodies at the national level, has been drastically eroded thanks to the economic reforms. Central Government has virtually taken over the sole responsibility for infrastructure with the help of foreign and Indian monopoly capital, leading to the numerous scams of national shame. Capabilities of key public sector organizations have eroded in this process and governing capacities of state and local governments have further deteriorated. People are losing faith in our system of governance due to poor quality and shortages of infrastructure: Do you have a perspective for reversing the trend?

I have no ready solution for any of these issues and have raised them as a practicing engineering and management consultant and as a person in close touch with the TU movement in the country. As the Hindu editorial and cartoon pointed out “AAP has its task cut out in proving to the country that it represents certain idea”.

You have the courage and the tenacity to fight for public causes and that is why you traveled from Delhi to Varanasi and then back to Delhi for the Tihar jail. Wish you well; I send this mail for offering my cooperation in defining your ideas a little more closely.

K Vijyachandran
Columnist and Author of Perestroika Glasnost and Socialism: ISBN 9781482813531


K Vijayachandran

In the sixteenth Loksabha polls BJP could increase its vote share in UP to more than 42 percent, it was only17 percent in the previews polls. Even more, with a 42 percent vote shre it could win 71 out of 80 or nearly 90 percent of seats. True, in Gujarat, Rajastan, Uttarkhand, and Madhya Pradesh BJP has won 100 percent or close to 100 of seats but UP has the distinction of highest yield of seat per vote, despite the size and other complexities of the sate.

BJP’s best record in UP was 57 seats and that was in 1998, when it polled 36 percent of votes. And the vote share has been declining in subsequent Loksabha polls. In the last State Assembly elections its vote share had touched an all time low of 15 percent. The big story of how this trend was reversed with a little bit of corporate planning (and corporate resources!) as narrated by Amit Shaw, 49, a professional business planner and BJP boss of UP was reported in the Economic Times of 18th May.

BJP had not contested panchayat or cooperative elections in the state for nearly two decades and according to Shaw, BJP had little or no contact with influential people at the gram pradhan level. At the district level SP and BSP leaders were more popular than those of BJP. In fact, his party had to be built up from the bottom: To reach out maximum people in a short time, Shaw conducted programs in 13,000 college campuses to register volunteers. In fact, Rahul Gandhi had started such exercises on similar lines, inspired by modern management methods.

Shaw had assembled a 800 strong volunteer corps under him, largely from fresh recruits, and they were equipped with 450 GPS-installed Modi vans with campaign material and a 16 minute video. These squads were dispatched to the remote villages, or the so called dark zones in UP -areas that do not have access to any form of media. Local leaders had initially resisted these moves but they could be easily won over by the superior corporate culture.

“Shortly after taking charge, Shaw conducted day-long meetings in groups with the party’s MLA and MP candidates who had lost elections previously to know the reasons for their defeat .. for it was more important to know why they lost elections.” Shaw carried out extensive due diligence before finalizing names and was ruthless during ticket distribution. The criteria was simple: deny tickets to those who had contested and lost in the past, since lack of success was evidence of their unpopularity. Preference was given to local aspirants who were easily approachable.

For electioneering the eighty constituencies were divided into eight zones under which there were twenty two clusters each cluster having three to five constituencies. There was a strategy for the state as whole, then for the zones and clusters and finally for the specific constituency. Shaw and his team drafted a four-level corporate-style detailed plans for maximizing the number of seat-wins under the given socio-political environment and resources position.

Based on ‘social engineering or social equations’ largest chunk, 28 out of 80 tickets were given to OBCs, 19 to Bhrahmins and 17 to Thakurs. Tickets were also given to representatives of backward communities such as Nishad, Bind, and Khushwaha who don’t dominate a particular constituency, but are present in large numbers along the Ganges to help consolidate (caste based) votes across constituencies. There are no reports on any Muslim candidate being sponsored by BJP.

That was how BJP launched a well planned campaign against caste-based politics in the 16th Loksbha polls in UP. And, results were spectacular: BSP with its SC + Brahman base, despite polling nearly a fifth of the votes polled, did not get a single seat! SP of Yadavs and Muslims got only five seats, despite polling more than 20 percent of votes. Congress polled 7.5 percent votes and could return only Sonia and Rahul!

Varansi which witnessed a sort of public trial of the Election Commission of India, jointly by BJP leaders and the visual media, elected Narendra Modi as Prime Minister of India with a thumping majority of 3.7 Lakh, defeating Kejriwal who could poll only a little over two lakh votes. With Congress polling some 76,000 and CPI(M) less than three thousand, Varanasi has made a sort of history.

Plans for using Uttar Pradesh in order to leverage a Modi wave at all India level have proved to be a grand success. According to the Economic Times, each of the one lakh polling booths in UP was provided with a Bolero, capable of transporting ten people, as part of the strategic plan, developed and implemented by Shaw and his corporate colleagues. With all these hardware and software inputs, costing quite a billions of Rupeyah, Loksabha elections in UP have added a totally new dimension to Indian democracy.




K Vijayachnadran

I never wanted to write another blog on India’s sixteenth Loksabha Poll.
Media are the real winners and I am shocked; results were shocking even for BJP, it hardly has the political base to sustain the massive victory

In Kerala, politics is at standstill
LDF is silent, UDF is silent, AAP is silent.
Even BJP is silent and media is in no mood to celebrate.
But, there was the sweet smell of new politics blowing from somewhere.

AAP taking over the last Delhi polls was an accident.***
So was Modi’s sudden entry into Varansi to create the proverbial waves
But people saw no waves and media created them for depoliticizing the Indian poll.
It was a grand absurd drama of picking the PM from a pack of three:
Kejriwal, Rahul or Modi?

Demise of Rahul Congress has ended a chapter in the liberation of Indian peoples.
BJP has swept the North and the West and there is a clear North-South divide
Left was decimated once again by semi fascist terror in the East
North-East sings its own songs and it is time to re-compose Janaganamana.

***Few weeks before Indira murder, a research study on the potential fallouts of a sudden demise of India’s Prime Minister was presented in the White House for the benefit of US Presidency.



Sixteenth Loksbha Polls-Concluding

K Vijayachandran

Performance of ECI: Despite isolated Maoist killings, widespread violence and booth capture by AITC goons in more than 3000 polling stations of West Bengal, the 16th Loksabha polls were peaceful and orderly: ECI team need to be congratulated for this success. Fascist violence in West Bengal that affected the voting rights of some three million citizens, and efforts by the Left to register protests with ECI were seldom reported by the monopoly media; while they gave wide publicity for BJP protests on the ECI restrictions on a particular Mody rally in Varanasi. On this account, the media had even put the hapless ECI on a public trial: These unhealthy trends in Indian elections are dangerous and deplorable.

Road Shows feed election campaigns: With the sixteenth Loksabha poll, political demands and public rallies have disappeared from election campaigns. Road shows stage-managed by visual media have taken over. Visual images of an unbeatable Modi wave were created and presented to the voters along with the weak images of Rahul Gandhi of Congress and Kejrowal of AAP. There were absolutely no debates and discussions on policies and programs: The election process was reduced to choosing a PM from among the three roadshow heroes: The one with 58 inch chest was projected as the natural choice!

The farce called exit polls: Exit polls in the country have lost their credibility long back. Results of the six exit polls as summarized and published by Hindu is reproduced below. Exit poll projections like the surveys published during the poll campaign seem to be biased in favor of BJP and NDA on one hand, and against Congress and UPA as well as the Left and regional parties on the other. Standard deviations of the projected seat shares across the six polls are abnormally large, especially for the UPA. Modi effect seems to have considerably distorted the exit poll projections. Most likely result will be: 249 for NDA, 124 for UPA and 179 for Others including the regional parties, Left and APP.


Prospects for a Modi led Government: If Modi wins Varanasi or otherwise demonstrates the existence of real Modi wave, a BJP led Government under his Prime Minstership is a definite possibility. In such a case prospects for building a Mega NDA, as now projected in the media, seems to be bright. And, in case the Modi wave proves to be mere myth, this grandiose scheme will collapse and BJP will be under compulsion to purchase some two or three dozen MPs, wholesale or retail, to have a Modi led Government.

Dream platform for a Mega NDA: Newspapers now speculate on the platform for a Mega NDA, which includes (1) increased focus on Kashmir and center-state relations, (2) revamping National Development Council and the Inter State Council and (3) new type of Public Private Partnership etc (see Hindu of 14th May). This is meant for attracting a few more regional parties into the NDA fold. However such measures mean expanding the role of public sector and national planning in a big way, which will be resisted by Indian corporates, stock markets and global finance who have created the Modi wave.

New Central Government under BJP leadership: A BJP regime with or without Modi as Prime Minister will, in all possibility, continue the anti-people policies of Manmohan Singh with the help of a PMO of his own choice. Moving in the direction of more autonomy for the states, democratic decentralization of administration and creating a federal governing system that is in tune with the development are impossible under a BJP led regime. Possibly a far more authoritarian and corrupt Central Government will be the net result of the 16th Loksabha elections.


K Vijayachandran

[I wrote this untold story in December 2011, when a warlike situation was developing across Kerala-Tamilnadu border over the decades old Mullaperiyar dispute that got triggered some thirty-five years ago, during 1979 Monsoon season. It is being republished on the eve of the bandh called by the Kerala side to protest against the Supreme Court judgment of today (07-05-2014) over the issue]

There are over five thousand dams and reservoirs in our country: big and small, situated in various states, of different vintage, serving diverse objectives and built with all sorts of technologies. Central Water Commission (CWC) is a statutory authority that serves as the federal custodian of Indian dams and their safety. CWC does not have its state-level counterparts and its members are nominated by the Indian President.

India is a member of the International Convention On Large Dams (ICOLD) and CWC is in charge of our national membership. Design, construction and operation of Indian dams, thus, enjoy the safety umbrella provided by this professional network at the national and global level. Even the safety problems related to Mullaperiyar, despite its age, could seek solutions within this broader professional framework, national as well as international.

Our country is greatly respected by the international community, for its vast experience in the design, construction, operation and management of dams, and canal networks. With numerous tanks, dams, and millions of kilometers of man made as well as natural canals, crisscrossing the subcontinent, India is a world leader in traditional canal irrigation. The garland canal project of MN Dastur as well as the Ganga-Kaveri link proposed by KL Rao was examples for the grandiose dreams of Indian engineers during freedom struggles and after. Even Kerala had an extensive network of irrigation canals and waterways network: They turned mostly dysfunctional due to continued neglect and totally unplanned development of the region. Unlike Kerala, Tamilnadu has not only retained, but also improvised on their age old canal networks, by supplementing them with more efficient pipe systems with sprinkler and drip irrigation accessories. Grand Anicut and other dams and reservoirs on Kaveri, Vaigai and the associated irrigation networks are part of this centuries old Tamilnadu tradition.

Mullperiyar Dam was conceived and constructed in 1895 as an integral part of the Tamilnadu irrigation network that had evolved over several centuries. “It created a reservoir in a remote gorge of Periyar river situated 3,000 feet above the sea in dense and malarial jungle. From this reservoir, water flowed first through a deep cutting for about a mile and then through a tunnel, 5704 feet in length and later through another cutting on the other side of the watershed and into a natural ravine and so onto the Vaigai River which has been partly built up for a length of 86 miles, finally discharging 2000 cusecs of water for the arid rain shadow regions of Tamilnadu.” (ref. Wikipedia)

A large amount of manual labour was involved and worker mortality from malaria was high. It was claimed that had it not been for the medicinal effects of the native spirit called arrack, the dam might never have been finished. Close to 500 people died of diseases during the construction of this dam and were buried on-site in a cemetery just north of the dam. The dam construction involved the use of troops from the 1st and 4th battalions of the Madras Pioneers as well as Portuguese carpenters from Cochin, who were employed in the construction of the coffer-dams and other structures. A fairly large community of local people had struggled under the determined leadership of a British army officer for nine long years, to complete the dam and its associated structures.

The greatest challenge was the diversion of the river so that lower portions of the big dam ( 221,000 Cubic Meter) could be built. Temporary embankments and coffer-dams used to restrain the river waters were regularly swept away by floods and rains. Due to coffer dam failures, the British even stopped funding the project. Major Pennycuick, the British Officer in charge of the dam, raised funds by selling his wife’s jewelry to continue the work. In Madurai, his statue has been installed at the state PWD office and his photographs are found adorning walls in people’s homes and shops. In 2002, his great grandson was honored in Madurai, a function that was attended by thousands of people. According to the Wikipedia, the Periyar project, as it was then known, was widely considered well into the 20th Century as “one of the most extraordinary feats of engineering ever performed by man”. Even the present generations in the region have an emotional attachment to this century old structure.

Mullaperiyar Dam (MPD) is the only dam situated in one Indian state but owned and operated by another, for irrigating its farmlands. But, it has brought in economic benefits to Tamilnadu as well as Kerala, a fact often neglected or even suppressed by the Kerala side in the ongoing emotion charged debate. Apart from irrigating some 200,000 acres of Tamilnadu farmlands, MPD has brought to life the numerous tourism ventures of Thekkady, and also the world famous wildlife sanctuary around its reservoir, now forming part of the much larger National Park under the care of Central Government.

Economic gains of Kerala from these byproducts of MPD are commensurate with those of Tamilnadu, from irrigation and power generation on the other side of Sahyas. The wild life sanctuary is home for 62 different kinds of mammals, including several endangered species like the Silent Valley fame, the lion-tailed macaque. And, according to Kerala Forest Research Institute (KFRI), the 700 square kilometer of national park surrounding is a biodiversity hot-spot, attracting over a lakh of tourists and thousands of academics and foreign research workers every year.

It is a win-win situation for Kerala as well as Tamilnadu, and then the country as a whole: MPD and the surrounding forest areas need to be seen as a major national asset and not a simple instrument for irrigating a few lakh acres of farmland. But, vested interests have developed around this valuable water-body thanks to the prolonged low water levels maintained, ever since the court order of 1979. Submerged area under the reservoir was 8591 acres when the water level used to touch the design value of 155 feet.

With water level getting restricted to 136 feet, the submerged area has nearly halved, releasing around 4000 acres of dry land. Dr. D. Ghosh, an environmental expert appointed by GOK, had reported in 2007: “… at least six conglomerations with human settlements had come up in areas that were under water, prior to 1979. Public institutions and commercial establishments have also grown. Raising of water level (once again) would mean displacement of large number of families along with their economic activities.”

These illegal occupiers of reservoir land have a vested interest against water level going up once again. They had, naturally, sought protection from GOK and formed a Mullaperiyar Samara Samithy with religious leaders as patrons. This forum had started a relay hunger strike at the dam site, five years ago in December 2006, soon after the Supreme Court judgment. This hunger strike continues even today with the blessings of GOK and ministers and other political leaders, who frequently visit them.

This forum was running a chauvinistic campaign against Tamils for the past five years, with all sorts of horror stories planted in the internet to start with, and then spreading them through campaigns through the print and visual media. They have succeeded in creating a fear psychosis among the people living in the neighborhood and downstream of MPD. Water level of MPD, like in all other dams of the region, reaches its annual peak during first half of November. Agitation at MPD site as well as media campaigns were intensified during this period, which also witnessed the release of a Hollywood horror film, with the controversial title of Dam-999.

Neither the media nor the political leaders, in and outside of Kerala Government, who organized and supported this systematic campaign, with chauvinistic overtones, had found no merit in seeking genuine professional opinions. Services of half-experts and academic institutions were hired for getting doctored views, for confusing the public and for spreading horror stories on dam bursts. Genuine professional opinions were never sought or encouraged. Minister KM Mani himself has stated that, GOK does not require any expert advice on the need for building a new dam.

This columnist, who had pleaded for Kerala accepting with grace, the Supreme Court verdict of 2006 on its merit, was considered an untouchable in media debates. Even the views of a reputed senior Malayalee engineer like Dr. Thomas, the former Chairman of Central Water Commission who had studied MPD in every detail, under instructions from Supreme Court, were not sought by Kerala media and politicians. Only the Kochi edition of Deccan Chronicle had showed the courage to publish his expert opinions, along with those of the spokesperson of GOK. This sort of chauvinistic intolerance against truth finally bombed out, with GOK and its Advocate General disowning each other in the Kerala High Court.

The prolonged low level operations of MPD had its obvious impact on the irrigation canal network and farmlands of Tamilnadu as well. They had estimated a farm income loss of Rs. 40,000 Crore for the period 1980-2005. This may be a lot exaggerated but, there is no denying that, pegging the reservoir level at 136 feet has virtually transformed MPD into a diversion dam from its designed status as a storage dam. Live storage of MPD at 136 feet was only around three million cubic meters according to CWC statistics. This is only small fraction of the net storage possible at the reservoir level of 155 feet.

The forced operation as a diversion dam, for long periods, had drastically changed and distorted the distribution pattern through the canal grid. Ground water storage and consumption in the upper ayacuts, as in Theni district, had increased substantially, at the cost the ayacuts at the outreach districts like Ramanathapuram or Thirunelveli, where farmlands where sold out at distress prices, during the eighties, following the Supreme Court verdict of 1979. Kerala investors made use of this grand opportunity by launching all sorts of plantation projects and innovative farms in these areas; many of them were, as turned out later, were nothing but speculative misadventures.

It is for the future historians to attempt a detailed mapping of the social and economic impacts of the past three decades of Supreme Court intervention on MPD operations. However, the main contours of this transformation are clear from emotion charged war-like situation that has emerged. On one side, is a large number of poor peasants fighting for their livelihood, and supported by almost all political parties of Tamilnadu. On the other side, is the emotionally charged people, living close to MPD, who keep asking the question: Why should they risk a water-bomb for irrigating the farmlands of Tamils? Vested interests, which have a big stake in the continued low level operation of MPD had played a crucial role in building up this fear psychosis, and they were inadvertently supported by diverse streams of opportunist politics within Kerala.

Let me conclude this by quoting from my column published exactly four years ago: “May be the century old dam could be there, for all centuries to come, like the great wall of China, as a living memory of Tamil-Malayalee friendship and cooperation, and serving the people of the region on both sides of the mountain divide…..We are sure to find surprisingly pleasant solutions, if we are prepared to pool the expertise of our great country, and seek the best of technological and aesthetic solutions under the sun, not only for ascertaining and ensuring the safety of the dam, but also for ensuring enough water for our farmers on the other side of the divide. Let us stop petty politicking, seek broader solutions outside the narrow legal framework, and start asking some of the more basic questions: How much water for the farmers and when? And, who is afraid of raising the water level and why?”

(written on 28-12-2011)

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