Archive for ‘Politics’

17/04/2014

Non Residents Are Stakeholders in India’s Future Too – India Real Time – WSJ

Conversations in Mumbai are usually about the elections these days – be it at roadside food stalls or in the boardrooms of India’s financial capital.

The stakes, after all, are high: following a period of robust growth, the country’s economy has slowed considerably in the past few years – largely because of (depending on who you talk to) the global crisis, policy paralysis, corruption and such. Inflation too is a massive concern.

The need of the hour, most agree, is a secular, stable and investment-friendly government that helps create prosperity for India’s multitude, and not just for a few seen close to the powerful.

That in essence is also the main topic of discussion some 2000kms to the west of the city – for non-resident Indians in Dubai, a fast growing regional financial hub.

Back in the 70s and 80s, hordes of Indians left the country in search of better opportunities – many of whom came to the oil-producing Middle East countries. The tech boom of the 90s provided them another global opening, though by then economic reforms at home were also taking effect – helping drive growth and creating more and better-paying jobs in the next decade.

Many Indians still look abroad for livelihood, but have increasingly channelled a big chunk of their earnings back home in search of returns. And why not? Even global investors are happily betting on the country’s future.

India topped the global list for remittances in 2013 – receiving some $70 billion, according to a World Bank report last week, underscoring its importance as an important source of foreign exchange. To be sure, remittances last year were “more than the $65 billion earned from the country’s flagship software services exports,” the World Bank noted.

That the country has been among the leading recipients of remittances over the past few years is not surprising, given that some 25 million Indians (variously classified) live abroad and, in several cases, continue to have strong familial ties back home.

The importance of Indians living overseas and their contribution to the country has been recognised on various platforms – such as the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, which has been held every year since 2003 to “mark the contribution of Overseas Indian community in the development of India,” according to the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs.

The ministry says these conventions facilitate the overseas Indian community to engage with the government and people for “mutually beneficial activities”. Simply put, Indians living overseas are increasingly participating more actively back home.

But they – the millions of NRIs – still can’t vote from foreign locations and choose a government of their liking in the country’s general elections.

via Non Residents Are Stakeholders in India’s Future Too – India Real Time – WSJ.

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16/04/2014

Promises and more promises: India’s parties pitch their visions | India Insight

Campaign season in India means it’s also promise season, and political parties aren’t short on pledges for what they would do if they come to power after election results come out in May. From the Tamil Nadu-based MDMK party’s pledge to rename the country “The United States of India” to the Odisha-based BJD‘s promise to “guarantee” development projects, there are plenty of promises floating around to help parties capture, retain or regain power.

There has been plenty of coverage of the manifestos from the biggest national parties, Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party, so here are some highlights from the others.

Lok Satta Party: This Andhra Pradesh-based party has promised to nationalise the sale of liquor and to limit the number of stores where people can buy it. Families of liquor “victims,“ meanwhile, would get pensions.

BJD: In power for more than 10 years, the Biju Janata Dal of Odisha has promised to guarantee primary infrastructure needs in the state. It will also make it mandatory for industry to provide shares in projects to people whose land they buy for their projects.

DMK: The former ally of the ruling Congress party will oppose reservation, the setting aside of government jobs for members of groups recognized by the government as disadvantaged, based on economic criteria. It would, however, support caste-based reservation in the private sector. It also proposes that only qualified Tamil people be appointed as India’s envoys to the nations where Tamils live in considerable numbers. The party has also included not “bashing” other parties in their pitch.

AIADMK: Tamil Nadu’s ruling party says it would stop the sale and privatisation of state-owned companies. To stabilise the rupee, the AIADMK says it would not encourage short-term capital flows and will support long-term foreign direct investment.

CPI-Marxist: This Leftist party favours the production of goods for mass consumption rather than “unsustainable” luxury goods. It also would enforce a code of conduct for all elected representatives against sexist language. CPI-M favours revising the India-U.S. nuclear deal and will seek removal of nuclear weapons from the U.S. military base in Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean.

TMC: West Bengal’s ruling party, the Trinamool Congress, has promised it will provide a stipend and medical insurance to artists and folk performers. It has also promised to form a court to try human rights violations.

TRS: With the new state of Telangana to be carved out of Andhra Pradesh, the Telangana Rashtra Samiti says it will give a special “Telangana increment” to government employees to celebrate the state’s formation later this year.

JD(U): The Janata Dal (United) manifesto has promised legislation for the safety and security of migrant workers in India. It wants a commission to study the socio-economic condition of poor upper caste people to draft welfare measures for them.

MDMK: An ally of the BJP in Tamil Nadu, MDMK promises to rename the country “United States of India” to put emphasis on the federal structure. It wants to lift the ban on the LTTE, the Tamil separatists in Sri Lanka.

AAP: The Aam Aadmi Party, or common man party, is interested in animal welfare as well as human. It wants to protect the dignity of animals used in industries “for food, clothing and entertainment.” To encourage young people to join politics, it favours allowing 21-year-olds to run for office (the current minimum age is 25). Apart from laws to deal with violence against women, it promises long-term public education programmes to end the culture of gender-based discrimination. It has some provisions to regulate media as well.

BSP: The Bahujan Samaj Party of Uttar Pradesh, which counts millions of Dalits among its supporters, did not release any election pitch. “We do not release manifestos as we believe more in doing real development work for the people rather than making hollow claims which are never realised,” party chief and former UP Chief Minister Mayawati declared at a rally.

via Promises and more promises: India’s parties pitch their visions | India Insight.

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11/04/2014

India’s election: Seasons of abundance | The Economist

LICK your lips: mangoes are coming into season in Andhra Pradesh, piled up on roadside fruit stalls. Hyderabadis claim theirs are the country’s sweetest. So too are the bribes paid by the state’s politicians to get people to vote. Since early March state police have seized more money from politicians aiming to buy votes—590m rupees ($10m)—than the rest of India combined. An excited local paper talks of “rampant cash movement”, reporting that police do not know where to store the bundles of notes, bags of gold and silver, cricket kits, saris and lorry-loads of booze.

Andhra Pradesh, India’s fifth most populous state, is due to hold an impressive series of polls in the next few weeks—municipal elections and then both state-assembly and national ones. Many politicians keep up old habits by paying voters, especially rural ones, to turn out. A villager can stand to pocket a handy 3,000 rupees per vote. Economists predict a mini-boom in consumer goods.

If this is the lamentable face of Indian politicking, the hopeful side is that, increasingly, skulduggery is being pursued. A worker with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Hyderabad says police looking for illicit cash stopped and searched her car five times in a single drive one day last week.

This may be because in Andhra Pradesh, unusually, politicians are not currently running the show. The state is under “president’s rule”, with bureaucrats in charge, ahead of its breaking into two on June 2nd. Then, a new state, Telangana, will emerge to become India’s 29th, covering much of the territory once ruled by the Nizams of Hyderabad, the fabulously wealthy Muslim dynasty whose reign India’s army ended in 1948. A rump coastal state gets to keep the name Andhra Pradesh. For a decade Hyderabad will serve as joint capital.

The split will have a bearing on the national election. In 2009 the ruling coalition, the United Progressive Alliance, led by Congress, returned to national office on the back of two whopping southern victories. Congress scooped 33 seats in Andhra Pradesh, more than in any other state. Its ally next door in Tamil Nadu, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), got 18 seats. Both now face heavy defeats. “The south’s biggest impact nationally will be negative, in not voting for Congress”, says K.C. Suri of Hyderabad University.

via India’s election: Seasons of abundance | The Economist.

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11/04/2014

Chinese civil society: Beneath the glacier | The Economist

AGAINST a powerful alliance of factory bosses and Communist Party chiefs, Zeng Feiyang cuts a frail figure. Mr Zeng, who is 39, works from a windowless office in Panyu, on the edge of the southern city of Guangzhou, where he runs a non-governmental organisation (NGO) called the Panyu Migrant Workers’ Service Centre. For more than a decade his organisation has battled against the odds to defend the rights of workers in the factories of Guangdong province. For his troubles, Mr Zeng has been evicted from various premises, had his water and electricity cut off, and been constantly harassed by local officials and their thugs. Then last autumn he received a call from one such official. “The man asked if I wanted to register the NGO,” he says. “I was very surprised.”

Over the past three years other activists at unregistered NGOs have received similar phone calls from the authorities about the sensitive issue of registration, an apparently mundane bit of administrative box-ticking which in fact represents real change. China has over 500,000 NGOs already registered with the state. The number comes with a big caveat. Many NGOs are quasi-official or mere shell entities attempting to get government money. Of those genuine groups that do seek to improve the common lot, nearly all carry out politically uncontentious activities. But perhaps 1.5m more are not registered, and some of these, like Mr Zeng’s, pursue activism in areas which officials have often found worrying.

These unregistered NGOs are growing in number and influence. They are a notable example of social forces bubbling up from below in a stubbornly top-down state. The organisations could be a way for the Communist Party to co-opt the energy and resources of civil society. They could also be a means by which that energy challenges the party’s power. And so their status has big implications. Guo Hong of the Sichuan Academy of Social Sciences in Chengdu calls the liberalisation of NGO registration laws “the partial realisation of freedom of association”. Just as economic liberalisation in the early 1980s had a profound material effect, so these latest moves could have a profound social one.

via Chinese civil society: Beneath the glacier | The Economist.

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11/04/2014

India Under Narendra Modi Could Be Japan’s Best Friend – Businessweek

The results of national elections in India, expected to be announced on May 12, could mean good news for Japan and not such good news for China. Narendra Modi, the leader of the Hindu nationalist opposition party, has long been a favorite of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who would like to foster military and economic ties with India. Modi, the front-runner in the contest to be India’s prime minister, and Abe also share an antagonism for China. Modi has criticized the government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for being too accommodating toward China and has pledged to take a tougher line on issues such as the border dispute between the two countries that has festered for decades.

A supporter of Narendra Modi dons a mask of the Hindu nationalist candidate

Abe has clashed with China in a dispute over the ownership of several islands in the East China Sea. When it comes to the Chinese, “the Japanese are extremely apprehensive,” says P.K. Ghosh, senior fellow at the Observer Research Foundation, a New Delhi think tank. “It doesn’t take a genius to say India can be the largest friend of the Japanese.”

Abe has long treated Modi as a kindred spirit. Even after the George W. Bush administration put Modi on a travel blacklist for his alleged role in the 2002 riots that killed about 1,100 people, mostly Muslims, in Gujarat state, Abe welcomed Modi to Japan. The Indian politician, who was exonerated by the Indian courts, visited in 2007 during Abe’s first term as prime minister and then again when Abe was opposition leader in 2012. “Japan has worked very hard to improve relations with India,” says retired Indian General Vinod Saighal, author of Revitalising Indian Democracy. With a Modi victory, he says, relations “will get a boost, certainly.”

via India Under Narendra Modi Could Be Japan’s Best Friend – Businessweek.

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11/04/2014

In China, Xi’s Anticorruption Drive Nabs Elite, Low Ranks Alike – Businessweek

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s anticorruption campaign has lasted longer, gone deeper, and struck higher than many analysts and academics had expected. Xi has been so zealous that since late last year retired Communist Party leaders including ex-President Jiang Zemin have cautioned him to take a more measured pace and not be too harsh, say Ding Xueliang, a professor of social science at the Hong Kong University of Science & Technology, and Willy Lam, an expert on elite politics at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Chinese President Xi Jinping in Berlin on March 28

Xi is cracking down on the army and the police at the same time, something no leader has done before, says Ding. Gu Junshan, a lieutenant general in charge of logistics for the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), has been charged with bribery, embezzlement, and abuse of power, the official Xinhua News Agency reported on March 31. He will be tried in military court.

China’s former top cop and security czar Zhou Yongkang is under investigation for corruption, say Ding and Lam. When asked at a March 2 press conference whether Zhou was under suspicion, a government spokesman avoided a direct answer, saying, “Anyone who violates the party’s discipline and the state law will be seriously investigated and punished, no matter who he is or how high ranking he is.” He added what seems to be a veiled confirmation: “I can only say so much so far. You know what I’m saying.”

More than 180,000 party officials were punished for corruption and abuse of power last year, according to the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, the party’s watchdog. While most were low-level officials—or “flies,” as Xi has put it—they also included senior party members—“tigers,” in Xi’s words. Thirty-one senior officials were investigated by the commission last year: Eight had their graft cases handed over to prosecutors. The remaining 23 are still being investigated.

via In China, Xi’s Anticorruption Drive Nabs Elite, Low Ranks Alike – Businessweek.

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11/04/2014

Young professionals in Bangalore favour Modi’s promise, shrug off riots | India Insight

As far as Vinod Hegde is concerned, Indian prime minister candidate Narendra Modi bears no responsibility for the 2002 Gujarat riots. More to the point, Hegde doesn’t care.

Hegde, a 26-year-old stockbroker in Bangalore, said that for people like him, the Gujarat chief minister is the only choice to lead India after countrywide parliamentary elections that began this week.

Allegations that Modi failed to stop or even allowed deadly riots in 2002 don’t sway his vote, Hegde said. And if the ruling Congress party’s candidate is Rahul Gandhi, the choice becomes even clearer.

“Even assuming Modi has been responsible for XYZ, we don’t see an alternative,” Hegde said. Referencing a Twitter post by music director Vishal Dadlani, he said, “If I had to choose between a moron and a murderer, I’d probably choose the murderer.”

Not everyone states their case for supporting Modi in such blunt terms, but interviews with young professionals in Bangalore, the information technology hub known as India’s Silicon Valley reveals a calculation in favour of Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) that omits the riots from the equation.

For many people in Bangalore’s highly educated workforce, Modi is a welcome alternative to what is seen as an ineffective and corruption-tainted Congress party. They are part of what some media organizations have called a “Modi wave” that opinion polls, however unreliable, say could bring the BJP to power and push out the Gandhi-Nehru family’s Congress party.

Many BJP supporters see Rahul Gandhi, the party’s leader and the Gandhi family’s heir apparent, as ill suited for the job of running a country that is trying to revive its slowing economic growth and to provide opportunities for prosperity to its burgeoning middle class. (A note for people unfamiliar with this round of Lok Sabha elections: Indians will vote for members of Parliament in their local constituencies, and the winning party’s leadership names its ministers when it forms a new government.)

via Young professionals in Bangalore favour Modi’s promise, shrug off riots | India Insight.

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10/04/2014

Chinese Communist Party banquets cut by half in 2013 under Xi’s austerity drive | South China Morning Post

A new study has revealed the impact of President Xi Jinping’s belt-tightening measures, with the number of official banquets falling by as much as 50 per cent last year.

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Zhang Zhongliang, director of the statistical education centre of the National Bureau of Statistics, showed that Xi’s year-long campaign not only cut down expenditures but also freed up time by “setting officials free” from such obligations.

Zhang read out some findings of the study on the effects of Xi’s eight-point austerity directive at the Beijing-based Communication University of China, the Southern Metropolis Daily reported on Thursday.

He said county-level officials, who typically spend the most time at banquets among all ranks of government, on average attended 12.2 official banquets per week last year, compared to 18.2 per week in 2012.

Zhang said county engagements dropped by one-third, while provincial and national-level officials saw the number of banquets drop by half.

This gave civil servants an average of 30 minutes more with their loved ones, Zhang said.

It was not reported whether the survey was based on reports from bureaus or monitoring by third parties.

At least six different sectors were directly affected by the crackdown on official parties, mainly the catering, tobacco and wine industries, the study said.

Zhang said the catering industry’s growth dropped to 3.8 per cent last year from 8.8 per cent the previous year. The total sales of luxury wines in the mainland market plunged 40 per cent in the same period.

Zhang said these measures partly contributed to a slowdown in the country’s economy but it was “a price that must be paid” to root out corruption.

Extravagance among party cadres drove up consumption in the short-term, but would distort supply and demand in the long run, he said.

via Communist Party banquets cut by half in 2013 under Xi’s austerity drive | South China Morning Post.

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10/04/2014

What Drives China’s Protest Boom? Labor Disputes and Land Grabs – Businessweek

What are the main reasons Chinese take to the streets, picket government offices, and besiege factory gates? A recent report by the Chinese Academy of Social Science provides some answers on why people protest, a question that keeps China’s party officials awake at night.

Workers gathering on a square before the government headquarters in Wenling, east China's Zhejiang province on Feb. 17

Most protests erupt over labor disputes and land grabs, according to the Annual Report on China’s Rule of Law No 12 (2014), also known as the Blue Book of Rule of Law. The analysis reviewed 871 “mass incidents”—protests involving more than 100 people—carried out by more than 2.2 million people from January 2000 through September of last year, as the official China Daily reported.

As China’s leaders push for faster urbanization, with plans to convert hundreds of millions more farmers into city dwellers, land disputes are a growing problem likely to get even bigger. “In land acquisitions and forced demolitions, for example, many officials often overlook public interest,” Shan Guangnai of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences told the official newspaper.

The majority of the protests involved fewer than 1,000 people. Still, almost one-third of the incidents included between 1,000 and 10,0000 people, and 10 megaprotests involved more than 10,000 people demonstrating en masse. Of the largest, half were protesting pollution issues. The two other main causes were traffic accidents and conflicts involving China’s many ethnic groups, which include Tibetans, Muslim Uighurs, and Mongolians.

Almost one-half of the protests were directed at government, with disputes due to problems with law enforcement, land acquisitions, and forced demolitions involving local officials, plus various other rights issues. The remainder of the demonstrations focused on conflicts with enterprises, landlords, schools, and village committees. The large majority of protests—about four-fifths—were organized rather than spontaneous, and 36 incidents resulted in a total of 79 deaths.

The report also showed that protests occur most often in more-developed regions, including eastern and southern China, with Guangdong province alone accounting for about 30 percent. And the number of incidents is rising each year.

via What Drives China’s Protest Boom? Labor Disputes and Land Grabs – Businessweek.

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09/04/2014

India’s Election Choice: Growth Economy or Welfare State – Businessweek

Indian elections aren’t known for their clarity. Messy, cacophonous affairs, they stretch across months and almost invariably result in fragmented verdicts. Political groupings are opportunistic, driven by personality rather than issues; competing party platforms are often indistinguishable.

A shopkeeper displays water sprinklers with portraits of Rahul Gandhi and Narendra Modi in Chennai, India<br /><br />
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<p>This year’s parliamentary elections—the nation’s 16th since independence, running from April 7 to May 12—are proving an exception. The distinctions between India’s leading parties are unusually sharp; the race is shaping up as a genuine battle of ideas, a real debate over the direction of the nation.</p>
<p>India’s two main parties are led by men who in many ways couldn’t be more different. <a class=Rahul Gandhi, the standard-bearer for the ruling Indian National Congress party, is the scion of a distinguished family that includes three former prime ministers. At 43, he’s also the candidate of youth. Narendra Modi, the leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is ahead in most polls, is 63, a self-made man, and an experienced administrator who has served for more than 12 years as the chief minister of the state of Gujarat. Gandhi espouses a brand of secular, inclusive politics; Modi is viewed with suspicion by many for a series of bloody communal riots that took place under his watch in Gujarat. (The Indian courts exonerated him of personal involvement.)

via India’s Election Choice: Growth Economy or Welfare State – Businessweek.

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