Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The dark underbelly of India Inc

Read on...

At a time when India faces the biggest threat to its sovereignty from within, and I mean the rise of Maoism that we witness across the country, more than a hundred representatives of various people’s movements and social campaigns came together in a meeting held at Swaraj Vidyapeeth campus, Allahabad, on March 27-28. They discussed India’s present crisis in depth. It was unanimously decided that all people’s movements and social campaigns should come together to launch a nationwide people’s movement to face the present challenges.

I missed being at the two-day conclave. But reading the minutes of the meeting, I feel sad the powers that be refuse to see the real cause for the uprising. In fact, I have always said that the Indian political leadership (and to quite an extent that of the national media as well) is actually serving the commercial interest of big business. Somehow an impression is being given, and the urban middle class laps it up, that the people who have picked up guns are the new breed of terrorists, and that the bullet is the only answer.

It was at this conference that the well-known RTI activist Arvind Kejriwal made some observations, recalling a few incidents from the days when he was working in the Income Tax department. It gives us an insight into the ways of corporate swindle, that actually is at the base of the present crisis that we face.

"We raided more than 80 MNCs and caught all the foreign managers. They used to show lower salaries and evade taxes in India. Companies like Sony, Mitsubishi, etc., evaded crores of rupees in taxes. When we recorded their statement they said they did not know our laws. When we raided the Nippon airways executive, we recovered minutes of their meeting from his bag which has mentioned that when any Japanese official comes to India, he should not show his salary more than Rs. 10 lakh. When we raided the Denso India executive, he threatened us we are here to help your poor country, we control your Parliament and we can get any law passed. I didn’t believe it at that time. We will get all you transferred.

"Three days after the Japanese ambassador met the finance minister and told that we will withdraw all aid if these people are not transferred, and we were transferred. When UPA ministry was falling, then all MPs were saleable and I felt that there is no price of our vote. I felt that the US can buy them and Japan also.

When the Nuclear Liability Bill was introduced, it said that the total liability of any operator company will be 500 crore rupees only. When we see all things together, we are confronted with a horror story that our country is not independent. As long as we do not control our country, our Parliament will keep making 100 such laws in a day. So this is not democracy. We should strive for direct democracy. A law should not be passed unless it is approved by two-thirds of the gram sabhas. As long as gram sabhas or mohalla sabhas, i.e., primary-level local communities do not get the control, things will not change."

Yesterday, when I read another interview of Arvind Kejriwal in the Deccan Herald (April 25, 2010), it reminded me of the Allahabad declaration. In this interview, entitled: "Gram Sabha should be empowered," Arvind talks about the need to empower the gram sabhas, in the absence of which people are losing faith in the system of governance and might take up arms "or even join Maoists as it had happened in Lohandigoda in Chhatisgarh."

To know more, I read on. This is what Arvind says in response to a question:

If you don't empower people at the grass-root level, they will turn to naxalism. Like it happened in the villages of Lohandigoda in Chhatisgarh, where the Tata group had sought permission from the government to set up a Sponge iron plant. From the State Government level to the mukhiya, the proposal was cleared. But the local people were up in arms and were in no mood to give up their land or allow cutting of trees. So they submitted a 15-point charter of demands which included plantation of five saplings for each tree cut. But their demand was rejected out-right. Eventually, the entire 13 villages reportedly turned to naxalism.

What Arvind narrates is a true reflection of the flawed development model that is being thrust upon the people. I haven't seen any national TV channel even daring to make a mention of such destructive development that is pushed in the name of economic growth. It is therefore very important that the nation wakes up to the realities, and does not unleash a war against it own people who are victims of the 'process of development' that has been aggressively unleashed since June 1991.

The dark underbelly of Tata's and for that matter scores of Indian and foreign business concerns is at the root of the naxal uprising. We cannot muffle the voices of the people by setting up a school here or a health center there under Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), a concept that the UN promotes. The corporate social responsibility must begin where it actually sows the seeds of revolt. The need therefore is to empower Gram Sabhas, and to ensure that the decision of the village through the democratic process is final and binding. Even the Prime Minister should not have the right to over-rule the decisions of the Gram Sabhas.

Posted By Devinder Sharma to Ground Reality at 4/26/2010 09:40:00 AM

View these links that give the real scenario of a thriving industrial India at the cost of marginal poor!

# Industry thrives on massive subsidies - http://devinder-sharma.blogspot.com/2010/04/industry-thrives-on-masive-subsidies.html
# India's Shameful Paradox of Plenty - http://devinder-sharma.blogspot.com/2010/04/indias-shameful-paradox-of-plenty.html

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Barbaric Ways of Micro-finance by Devinder Sharma

Greetings My Right to Safe Food

Please read below the grim ground realities and crafty agendas of micro finance institutes(MFI's)brought consistently to light by Devinder Sharma. The garb of extending support to self help women or the rural poor is quite appalling. The outrage and debates ensued by the supporters of MFI's following exposure reflects the mental sterility of a society we live in driven by greed devoid of a conscience.

It is hard to digest for these profit mongers. When this news was shared some time back on my blog, the heated debates and reactions by some entrepreneurs and the new supporters of the safe food movement was quite something. Some were applying and acquiring jobs with the notion of helping the rural but when I pointed out the exploitation by the MFI's bearing sordid details, it was in question and overlooked!

If you do not believe me, please read the New York Times report "Banks Making Big Profits From Tiny Loans" only endorses what we have been saying. You can read the full report at: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/14/world/14microfinance.html?scp=1&sq=microcredit&st=cse

The whole motives behind MFI's has been dissected by Devinder Sharma "Banks make big money from poorest".

To quote Devinder "Sharks come in different sizes. 'Loan sharks' too are available in different shapes and sizes. But when the going gets tough, the smaller among the 'loan sharks' start crying foul. This is a usual phenomenon.

It is therefore amusing when Muhammad Yunus, who won a Nobel Peace prize in 2006, cries foul. The New York Times (April 14, 2010) quoted him saying: “We created microcredit to fight the loan sharks; we didn’t create microcredit to encourage new loan sharks,” According to NYT, Mr. Yunus was recently addressing a gathering of financial officials at the United Nations. “Microcredit should be seen as an opportunity to help people get out of poverty in a business way, but not as an opportunity to make money out of poor people.

Look who is talking?

The man who started Grameen Bank, which is a pioneering institution for organised money lending, and is making tonnes of money by exploiting the poor, is now howling".

It is not only banks elsewhere which make money from the poor. In India too, it is in many ways the poorest of the poor who sustain the banks. Read the details in this link http://devinder-sharma.blogspot.com/2010/04/banks-make-big-money-from-poorest.html

The Barbaric Ways of Micro-finance

The ugly face of micro-finance was never in question. But now even the dark underbelly is coming out in the open. I wonder how much more evidence is required to put a stop to this barbarian activity that goes on unchecked in the name of empowering the poorest of the poor.

Yes, most MFIs operate in an inhuman and barbaric way. In fact, as you have read in these columns the entire concept of micro-finance is based on exploitation.

As a Hyderabad dateline news report in The Hindu (April 19, 2010) states: "Some Collectors sent reports about the harassment of borrowers, intimidation, manhandling, abusing and outraging the modesty of women and extreme punishment like making defaulters stand in the hot sun, tying them to trees and making them run in open grounds."

What more evidence is required.

We call these poor 'beneficiaries'. They fit into the classic model of exploitation that the late C K Prahalad envisioned. They are the "fortune at the bottom of the pyramid" which Prahalad very cleverly camouflaged in the guise of 'eradicating poverty' but actually provided a recipe for making huge profits. There may be some sensible suggestions that he gave, but rest of it was simply on how to exploit the poor and make money. No wonder, the crooks in business and trade have always held him in high esteem.

These poor have been earlier victims in the hands of private money lenders and now the organised class of highly educated (often hailing from the prestigious management schools) money lenders. They have suffered silently for years, and are now being subjected to all kinds of physical and mental torture by the MFIs. They live in perpetual mental agony, always under pressure to repay (on a weekly basis) the heavy compound interest on petty loans.

What do you expect these poor people to do?

I will not be surprised if many of them eventually join the ranks of Maoists.

Here is the disturbing news report, under the seemingly less damaging headline: Andhra Pradesh -- State for de-recognition of MFIs. It says that the MFIs are accused of forcibly enrolling poor women in the rural areas. Some Collectors' reports cite intimidation, manhandling, and outraging modesty of women

Andhra Pradesh -- State for de-recognition of MFIs.

by Ravi Reddy

HYDERABAD: As the spectre of coercive recovery practices, lack of transparency and questionable acts of some micro finance institutions (MFIs) looms large once again after a gap of four years, the Andhra Pradesh government plans to approach the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) seeking their de-recognition.

Following reports of objectionable practices of MFIs in harassing borrowers in rural areas of in Khammam, Mahabubnagar, Warangal and several Coastal Andhra districts, the government has drafted a letter to the RBI seeking de-recognition of the erring MFIs, which will be despatched in a day or two.

The 40 MFIs operating in the State with total finance portfolio of Rs. 3,000 crore are accused of forcibly enrolling poor women in the rural areas even though a majority of them are already part of the carefully nurtured Self Help Groups (SHGs) under the banner of Indira Kranti Patham.

Principal Secretary, Rural Development, R. Subramanyam told The Hindu on Saturday that the MFIs were back to their old tricks forcing the government to act fast. “They (MFIs) are violating norms by enrolling SHG members and claiming them as their own. They are not disclosing the list of members and resorting to coercive recovery practices,” he said.

Some Collectors sent reports about the harassment of borrowers, intimidation, manhandling, abusing and outraging the modesty of women and extreme punishment like making defaulters stand in the hot sun, tying them to trees and making them run in open grounds.

The State had witnessed a similar situation in 2005-06, when borrowers, caught in the debt trap, ended their lives. This forced the YSR Government to appoint a one man committee headed by a senior IAS officer V.P.Jauhari. He had recommended the government to crack the whip on the MFIs for grossly violating the human rights of borrowers in the name of loan recovery and enactment of Money Lenders Act to rein in the MFIs.

Strange modus operandi

The modus operandi is to lure SHG members into taking loans ranging from Rs. 3,000 to Rs. 25,000 at 15 per cent flat interest rate, which results in an effective rate of 33 per cent per annum on a declining balance. There is no loan appraisal or analysis of the borrower's source of income and repayment capacity. Lending institutions are least bothered about pre-existing loans taken from banks, SHGs, other MFIs and unregistered moneylenders.

Mr. Subramanyam said the government had set up district-level task force headed by the Collector to look into each case of coercion. “Harassed borrowers can call up 24X7 Call Centre (number 155321) to report their woes,” he added. Apart from this, the government plans to identify at least three mandal level SHG federations and ten Village Organisations in each district for bulk loaning to provide relief to the poor women.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Alarming - Pesticides found in mother’s milk

Greetings from "My Right to Safe Food"

A few days ago News 24 TV channel had a 30 min prog on this startling news report from Ganganagar dist in Rajasthan that showed doctors saying that the level of pesticides in mothers milk has gone so high that children are falling sick. Please read below. When doctors advise mothers to stop feeding new born with their milk, the children recover. Doctors ascribe it to high pesticides content in mothers milk.

It is most imperative to BAN PESTICIDES first and not let the issue be side tracked. It is devastating to hear that mothers have been advised to stop breast feeding which is most critical to a child's growth and well being. Further advantage will be taken by MNC's like Nestle after having invaded our rural villages centuries ago to promote their baby food products as an alternative to breast feeding!
It is infuriating and disturbing to watch the plight of millions of new mothers educated or illiterate seeking pediatric help today. Only because they do not wish to breast feed their new born. Instead they get so carried away by the cleverly marketed baby products which only leads to the child's deteriorating immunities as infants are most susceptible and vulnerable to attacks.

Both doctors and mothers have to find healthy solutions but to be advised to stop breast feeding since mother's milk has gone toxic is not on and not the solution. Address the urgent issue at hand "BAN PESTICIDES".

It is the moral responsibility of doctors too to research viable healthy alternatives rather than provide quick fix solutions. It is damaging as it can be misinterpreted that mother's milk can be substituted only adding to the coffers of the manufacturers of processed baby foods.

Yesterday, I did share this news in my session with Intel. Like i said "A massive assault has unleashed in our food chain with no accountabilities on the part of policy makers, and worse still consumers remain the mute spectators.

Consumers( Mothers) have got to wake up to this startling fact, raise a hue and cry against Pesticides but not stop breast feeding!

In solidarity

Sangita Sharma

Pesticides found in mother’s milk

Now, it seems pesticides have contaminated even mother’s milk. Researchers from Rajasthan University have found an alarming presence of organochlorine pesticides in the blood and milk samples collected from lactating women in Anupgarh town in Rajasthan’s Ganganagar district. Anupgarh is known for extensive use of pesticides in farming.

Anupgarh, located near the Indo-Pak border, has Asia’s largest foodgrain industry. It has a population of 29,548 (2001 census). Faculty at Rajasthan University’s zoologydepartment, Inderpal Soni, told TOI that organochlorine pesticides are reported to be lipophilic (ability of a chemical compound to dissolve in fats) and their presence in human milk and blood has been documented in different parts of the world.
Soni said newborns exposed to pesticides are highly vulnerable as their stamina and ability to concentrate get affected. They may also suffer from memory loss. “It also causes poor growth with several other abnormalities,” she said.

“We collected and examined blood and milk samples of 50 lactating women, divided them into four groups on the basis of different living standards — area of residence, dietary habits, working conditions and addiction to tobacco,” she said. The level of total organochlorine pesticides in blood ranged from 3.319 to 6.253 mg/l while in milk samples, it ranged from 3.209 to 4.608 mg/l. She said that greater pesticide residue was found in the samples of women from rural areas compared to those in urban areas.

Another researcher said that synthetic organic pesticides have been of tremendous benefit to man but their excessive use has caused considerable harm. Like in this case, the contaminated milk is taking a toll on infants.Even after the shocking revelation in the research project, the sale of pesticide continues