Posts tagged ‘Gujarat’

05/10/2016

Why are millions of Indians marching in silence? – BBC News

It is a unique protest: the silent marchers have no leaders; and they include the peasant and the professional. Women lead many of the marches; and politicians are not allowed to seize them. It is a sound of silence, says a commentator, that India can ill afford to ignore.

The protesters belong to the Maratha caste, one of India’s proudest – the warrior king Shivaji was one of them. Mostly farmers, they comprise more than a third of one of the population of Maharashtra, a relatively prosperous state, which is home, on one hand to Bollywood, thriving factories and farms and on the other, malnourished children and neglected tribespeople living in abject poverty.

Huge protests

The rape of a teenage Maratha girl allegedly by three low caste Dalit men triggered the silent marches in July. Then the protests expanded to include a demand for quotas in college seats and government jobs and a review of a 27-year-old federal law that protects Dalits and tribespeople from caste-related atrocities.

What is India’s caste system?

Why India’s farm communities are angryAfter more than 20 such rallies, the silent marchers – who call themselves the Maratha Revolutionary Silent Rallies – are expected to gather in the western Indian state capital, Mumbai, at the end of October. More than 10 million people are expected to participate in what could turn out to be one of largest protests in India in recent memory.

The upper-caste, largely land-owning Marathas have a handful of grumbles.

For one, they have turned their ire on the Dalits and tribespeople, alleging that the law to protect them has become a pretext to target the upper caste community, and lodge false cases against them. (The victims also get state compensation for as many as 47 offences against them.)

Image copyright VAISHALI GALIM

But this may not be an entirely truthful claim. Although dalits and tribespeople – India’s wretched of the earth – comprise 19% of Maharashtra’s population, but only 1% of the police complaints were filed by them last year, according to one report. Also the federal law was applicable in less than 40% of the complaints.

Social unrest

Clearly this disingenuous grievance masks a longer-standing demand: caste quotas in government jobs and seats in educational institutions. India’s Supreme Court has put a 50% cap on caste quotas, a limit that has already been reached in Maharashtra. Any concessions to the Marathas will mean that they will have to be officially labelled backward or less-privileged and the quotas will have to come at the expense of those for the less privileged castes. This could potentially trigger off bloody caste wars in the state.

The silent marchers of Maharashtra point to a host of structural infirmities afflicting India, which, if not resolved in time, could stoke widespread social unrest.

Growing inequity and decades of flagrant cronyism has meant that power and wealth continue to belong to a few.

The majority of colleges, cooperative banks and sugar factories in Maharashtra, for example, are owned by a clutch of politicians. According to one estimate, 3,000 families own more than 70% of all the farms in the state. The majority of the state’s 18 chief ministers have been Marathas. Half of its lawmakers belong to the community as well.

Image copyright MANSI THAPLIYAL Maratha farmers have taken their lives after they failed to repay debts

But caste and class don’t often coalesce in India, and the Marathas, like other upper caste communities have mixed fortunes: they are the educated elite and the rich farmers, but they are also the struggling small and landless farmers and farm workers. More than a third of Marathas are landless, according to one estimate.

It is the “lower and middle-rung Marathas who feel isolated, neglected, marginalised in the job market and denied opportunities in higher education,” in a fast-changing country, as commentator Kumar Ketkar points out in this perceptive essay on the ongoing protests.

The silent marches also shine a spotlight on its looming farm crisis as farmer incomes plummet due to expensive feedstuff, fertiliser, labour and erratic crop prices.

Frustration

Plot sizes have also shrunk, making farming unrewarding. Most of India’s farms are rain fed, and irregular weather changes are playing havoc with crops as rivers are drying up, and drought is common. Farmers are often left to fend for themselves and have no skills for jobs in India’s services-based economy. Aspiration is turning into frustration.

The Maratha protests also point to how India is veering towards what sociologist Andre Beteille called a “populist democracy” where social and political life are influenced by group identities and loyalties. “Problems arise when the loyalties of kinship and community are allowed to distort and override the demands of constitutional government,” wrote Professor Beteille.

Image copyright MANSI THAPLIYAL Farming is becoming an unrewarding profession

Many believe India’s quotas for seats and jobs are in a sordid mess of its own making.

It is indisputable that affirmative action is essential for communities like dalits and tribespeople who have been historically wronged. But extending it to other castes recklessly can distort matters.

How much burden of quotas can a state bear without being weakened irreparably? India needs jobs – and fast – and skills training if it has to avoid the social unrest that could blight a developing nation. Otherwise, the marchers of Maharashtra may not remain silent for long.

Source: Why are millions of Indians marching in silence? – BBC News

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19/08/2016

Cowboys and Indians | The Economist

CLOSE your eyes and you could be in a farmyard: a docile heifer slurps a grassy lunch off your hand, mooing appreciatively. Now open your eyes to the relentless bustle of a huge city: the cow is tied to a lamp-post, cars swerve to avoid it and its keeper demands a few rupees for providing it with the snack.

Across Mumbai, an estimated 4,000 such cow-handlers, most of them women, offer passing Hindus a convenient way to please the gods. In a country where three-quarters of citizens hold cows to be sacred, they form part of an unusual bovine economy mixing business, politics and religion.India is home to some 200m cows and more than 100m water buffaloes. The distinction is crucial. India now rivals Brazil and Australia as the world’s biggest exporter of beef, earning around $4 billion a year. But the “beef” is nearly all buffalo; most of India’s 29 states now ban or restrict the slaughter of cows. With such strictures multiplying under the government of Narendra Modi, a Hindu nationalist, entrepreneurs have sought new ways to profit.

One promising line of business has been to become a gau rakshak, or cow protector. Some of these run charitably funded retirement homes for ageing cows, including rural, ranch-style facilities advertised on television. Other rakshaks have proven more concerned with punishing anyone suspected of harming cows or trading in their meat. Such vigilantes have gained notoriety in recent years as attacks on meat-eating Muslims or on lower-caste Hindus working in the leather trade have led to several deaths. A mob assaulted a group of Dalits (the castes formerly known as untouchables) last month in Mr Modi’s home state of Gujarat, thinking they had killed a cow. In fact they were skinning a carcass they had bought legitimately; Dalits traditionally dispose of dead cows.

More commonly, India’s less scrupulous cowboys simply demand protection money from people who handle cattle. An investigation by the Indian Express, a newspaper, found that cattle breeders in the northern state of Punjab were forced to pay some 200 rupees ($3) a cow to ensure that trucks transporting livestock could proceed unmolested. Under pressure from the rakshaks, the state government had also made it harder to get permits to transport cattle.

Earlier this month Mr Modi broke a long silence on the issue. Risking the ire of his Hindu-nationalist base, the prime minister blasted “fake” gau rakshaks for giving a good cause a bad name. If they really cared about cows, he said, they should stop attacking other people and instead stop cows that munch on rubbish from ingesting plastic, a leading cause of death.

In any case, vigilantism and the beef trade generate minuscule incomes compared with India’s $60 billion dairy industry. The country’s cows and buffaloes produce a fifth of all the world’s milk. As Indian incomes rise and consumers opt for costlier packaged brands, sales of dairy products are rising by 15% a year. But although a milk cow can generate anywhere from 400 to 1,100 rupees a day, this still leaves the question of what to do with male animals, as well as old and unproductive females.

Not all can be taken in by organised shelters. This makes the urban cow-petting business a useful retirement strategy. A good patch (outside a temple, say) can generate around 500 rupees a day from passers-by. Feed costs just 20 rupees a day, says Raju Gaaywala, a third-generation cow attendant whose surname, not coincidentally, translates as cow-handler.

He inherited his patch in Mulund, a northern suburb of Mumbai, when his father passed away in 1998. His latest cow, Lakshmi, cost him 4,000 rupees around three years ago and generates around 40 times that every year, enough to send his three children to English-language schools and, he hopes, to set them up in a different form of entrepreneurship.

The handlers fear their days may be limited. A nationwide cleanliness drive has targeted urban cow-handlers, who are in theory liable for fines of 10,000 rupees. In practice the resurgent Hindu sentiment under Mr Modi should help leave the cattle on the streets. It may kick up other opportunities, too. Shankar Lal, an ideological ally of the prime minister’s, in an interview with the Indian Express extolled the many health merits of cow dung. Spreading a bit on the back of a smartphone, as he does every week, apparently protects against harmful radiation. Usefully for Indian farmers, only local cows can be used, not Western breeds such as Holsteins or Jerseys, he warns: “Their dung and milk are nothing but poison.”

Source: Cowboys and Indians | The Economist

03/06/2016

India May Have Won the Battle With Food Inflation Before the First Drop of Monsoon Rain – India Real Time – WSJ

Around this time every year, farmers and economists look to India’s skies, hoping for the arrival of the monsoon rains.

Late and less rain hurts crops and triggers inflation, goes the traditional worry, so every day of delay or deficit in downpours threatens to derail the country’s fragile growth.

The problem with this annual, rational worry, however, is that it’s just, plain wrong.

Good and bad monsoons in recent years have had limited effect on growth or even on food inflation, according to a report this week from Nomura. What is much more important in determining how fast food prices rise, the report says, is the minimum support prices New Delhi sets for certain crucial commodities.

So instead of looking to the skies, central bankers and other inflation fighters should be looking to New Delhi.

This year the monsoon is predicted to be above normal but much more importantly, the weather over the capital is looking promising. On Thursday, India’s weather department upheld its monsoon forecast and said it expects rainfall to be 106% of the long-term average.

On Wednesday the government announced the minimum support prices for the most basic Indian staples–dal and rice—and capped the increases at less than 10%. In some years when the government looked to help farmers it has ratcheted up the prices more than 15%, triggering inflation.

Source: India May Have Won the Battle With Food Inflation Before the First Drop of Monsoon Rain – India Real Time – WSJ

18/03/2016

We’re not gonna take it | The Economist

DELHI found itself under siege last month. Young men blocked roads and canals that feed people and water into the city. They looted, set fires and dragged women out of cars to rape them. The protesters, from a relatively privileged group of land-owning peasants called Jats, were agitating to be included in India’s list of “other backward classes”, which guarantees university places and government jobs.

Faced with dry taps, Narendra Modi’s government was eventually forced to concede to the demand.

This is the fury to which Somini Sengupta refers in the subtitle of her sharply observed study of India’s young, “The End of Karma: Hope and Fury Among India’s Young”. The median age in India is 27. Every month between 2011 and 2030, nearly 1m Indians will turn 18. Those coming of age this month were born well after the country started opening up its markets in 1991; they have spent their formative years in a world of optimism and rapid economic growth. But Ms Sengupta calls India “a democracy that makes promises it has no intention of keeping”. Advertisement

By 2030 the majority of Indians will be of working age. This could be what economists call a “demographic dividend”, creating a high worker-to-dependent ratio—or it could be a time bomb. India is producing nowhere near enough jobs for the tens of millions of young people joining the workforce every year.

The argument running through Ms Sengupta’s book, made of seven richly detailed portraits of young Indians, is both simple and beguiling. For centuries Indians born into wretched circumstances have accepted their lot as karma—punishment for misdeeds in past lives. This belief explains the persistence of the caste system, and the remarkable fact that a country that is home to one in three of the world’s poor has not come apart at the seams. But young people no longer accept karma, argues Ms Sengupta. Ideas of aspiration and free will have entered the Indian consciousness. Young Indians today demand the right to shape their own futures. If fury is in ample supply, so is hope.

Yet at every step the young are thwarted. It starts in the womb. A traditional preference for boys means that India has one of the most skewed sex ratios in the world: 1.13 boys for every girl, second only to China. (The ratio in America is 1.05.) One in three children under five is underweight. Nearly two-thirds of food meant for early-childhood feeding programmes is pilfered. A rare bright spot is education: in 2013, 96% of primary-school-age children were enrolled. But here, too, India fails its young. By the age of ten, only 60% of students can complete work at the level of a five-year-old. More than half cannot subtract.

Source: We’re not gonna take it | The Economist

26/03/2015

Ford aims to triple exports from India with $1 bln plant | Reuters

Ford Motor Co(F.N) has invested $1 billion in a new plant in western India which will help the automaker triple exports from the country, chief executive Mark Fields told reporters on Thursday.

A Ford logo is seen during preparations for the 2014 LA Auto Show in Los Angeles, California November 18, 2014. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson/Files

Ford plans to make India an export hub for compact cars such as the EcoSport, a sub-four meter sports utility vehicle, and the newly launched compact sedan, Ford Figo Aspire, the first car to be produced at the new facility.

The new manufacturing facility in Gujarat will nearly double the company’s installed production capacity in the country to 610,000 engines and 440,000 vehicles a year, Fields said at the launch of the new facility.

via Ford aims to triple exports from India with $1 bln plant | Reuters.

12/01/2015

India’s industrial output likely recovers as Modi pushes reforms | Reuters

Indian industrial output probably made a tepid recovery late last year due to weak demand at home and abroad, underscoring the challenges faced in 2015 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi as woos global investors this week.

Employees work on an assembly line of Hero Motocorp during a media tour to the newly opened plant in Neemrana, in the desert Indian state of Rajasthan, October 20, 2014. REUTERS/Anindito Mukherjee

To accelerate the recovery in Asia’s third largest economy from its longest slowdown since the 1980s, Modi has pushed through a raft of economic reforms, mostly by executive orders.

But global headwinds, lukewarm domestic demand and unused industrial capacity mean capital investment has not picked up and the economy remains way below potential.

Retail inflation – still a major issue for Asia’s third largest economy though it fell to an all time low in November – probably rose sharply in December fueled by higher food prices.

via India’s industrial output likely recovers as Modi pushes reforms | Reuters.

18/12/2014

India Power Lines to Get $1.2 Billion German Revamp With KfW – Businessweek

German state-owned bank KfW Group will spend 1 billion euros ($1.2 billion) to refurbish India’s electricity network for carrying more renewable energy from sources such as solar and wind.

KfW agreed to loan Power Grid Corp of India Ltd. 500 million euros to build new power lines and signed deals with India’s government for two loans totaling 125 million euros for grid projects in Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu, it said today in an e-mailed statement. The deals are part of a support package of 1 billion euros, it said.

“Demand for power in India is rising unremittingly,” said Norbert Kloppenburg, a KfW board member. “The expansion of transmission is the task of the moment because of the great potential of renewable energies.”

via India Power Lines to Get $1.2 Billion German Revamp With KfW – Businessweek.

07/11/2014

India vs. China: The Battle for Global Manufacturing – Businessweek

With its chronic blackouts, crumbling roads, and other infrastructure woes, India should have no appeal for John Ginascol. A vice president at Abbott Laboratories (ABT), Ginascol is responsible for ensuring that the company’s food-products factories run smoothly worldwide. He can’t afford surprises when it comes to electricity, water, and other essentials. “People like me,” he says, “dream of having existing, good, reliable infrastructure.”

Yet Abbott has just opened its first plant in India, and Ginascol says there haven’t been any nightmares so far. In October the company began production at a $75 million factory in an industrial park in the western state of Gujarat. The factory is producing Similac baby formula and nutritional supplement PediaSure, which Abbott plans to sell to the growing Indian middle class. The plant will employ about 400 workers by the time it’s fully up and running next year. As for India’s infrastructure, Ginascol has no complaints. The officials in charge of the park “were able to deliver very good, very reliable power, water, natural gas, and roads,” he says. “Fundamentally, the infrastructure was in place.”

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is hoping other executives will be similarly impressed with the ease of manufacturing in his country. Before Modi took charge in New Delhi, he headed the state government in Gujarat, and during his 13 years in power there he made the state an industrial leader. Manufacturing accounts for 28 percent of Gujarat’s economy, compared with 13 percent for the country as a whole, and a touch less than the 30 percent figure for manufacturing titan China.

via India vs. China: The Battle for Global Manufacturing – Businessweek.

28/10/2014

Banyan: The enablers | The Economist

NOT since Indira Gandhi has a prime minister of India been as dominant as Narendra Modi. His clout comes from the big electoral victory in May of his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) after a remarkably personalised campaign; from a hyperactive prime minister’s office that makes Mr Modi look presidential; and from an opposition Congress party in tatters. But even the mightiest cannot rule alone, and Mr Modi relies on two old allies, both crucial. One, Amit Shah, engineers the electoral victories that give Mr Modi his authority. The other, Arun Jaitley, must take that authority and out of it craft policies and decisions that will launch the economic recovery which Mr Modi has promised and by which he will be judged. These two men are Mr Modi’s enablers.

Now the BJP’s president, Mr Shah is a master of the dark political arts—indeed, his hooded eyes give him the air of a pantomime villain. He has served Mr Modi for nearly three decades. The pair collaborated in the state of Gujarat, where Mr Modi won three elections and ruled for a dozen years. Mr Shah had charge of ten state ministries, including home affairs.

Long an outsider in the urbane circles of Delhi’s national-level politics, Mr Shah is uncomfortable in English and rarely gives interviews. When he makes an exception, as he did after state-assembly elections this month in which the BJP seized control of Maharashtra and Haryana, he mostly uses the time to extol his boss. Of himself, he says merely: “Sometimes you get more credit than you deserve.” Mr Shah is too modest. He ran both state campaigns, just as he crafted the BJP general-election success in India’s most populous state, Uttar Pradesh (UP). That victory was at the heart of Mr Modi’s national triumph in May.

Mr Modi stirs voters, but the alchemy of Mr Shah, who turned 50 this week, is to convert popularity into power. In UP the BJP’s share of the vote was 42%, compared with Congress’s 7.5%. That translated into 71 out of 80 of the national seats from the vast state, a golden return. Imbalances between vote share and seats are normal in first-past-the-post electoral systems, but achieving victory in India takes more skill and stamina than elsewhere. Mr Shah makes minute analyses of millions-strong constituencies, imposing candidates and recruiting volunteers early, often from the Hindu-nationalist RSS organisation, where he and Mr Modi were once leaders. He tailors messages according to the audience. He has, variously, presented Mr Modi as a bringer of good economic times, a Hindu strongman and a figure of humble caste. Mr Shah has turned Hindus against Muslims (notoriously, he told Hindu Jats in UP to take electoral “revenge” following communal riots in late 2013). But he has also taken advantage of Shia Muslim antipathy towards Sunnis (in Lucknow, UP’s capital). Mr Modi’s campaigning certainly helps. He led 38 rallies in the recent state elections. Congress’s Rahul Gandhi showed up for only ten.

via Banyan: The enablers | The Economist.

20/09/2014

Modi Uses Another International Visit to Raise His Local Profile – India Real Time – WSJ

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping this week once again showed that Mr. Modi is a master of media management.

The summit of the heads of the world’s two most-populous countries produced mixed results. A lot of agreements were signed, but the $100 billion in Chinese investment pledges that some local media had predicted did not materialize. And just as the leaders were shaking hands, there was an embarrassing faceoff between Chinese and Indian troops along the countries’ disputed boundary.

That didn’t stop India’s prime minister from again using photo opportunities and body language to broadcast his confidence, an impression that is likely to remain long after local media stop discussing the border tension and whether China had promised enough money.

Indians watching the visit wouldn’t have missed some of the symbolism. Mr. Xi flew into Mr. Modi’s home state, on the Indian prime minister’s birthday. Mr. Xi wore an  Indian vest that Mr. Modi gave him. Video of the two showed Mr. Modi walking in front of Mr. Xi at one event and swinging on a swing with him. At one point it even looked like Mr. Xi was carrying an umbrella for Mr. Modi.

Reuters Xi Jinping looked like he was carrying an umbrella for Narendra Modi during a recent visit to Gujarat.

The Indian prime minister has used the same charisma in photo ops during other international summits, most recently in Japan where he gave Prime Minister Shinzo Abe a big bear hug and later performed a solo on traditional Japanese drums.

All of this has been beamed into Indian homes and marks a major change from the demeanor of the country’s previous prime minister, Manmohan Singh, who was soft- spoken and slow-moving.

Mr. Modi’s multimedia skills are one of the things that made him prime minister.  Whether it is his controversial selfies, the sight of hundreds of supporters wearing Modi masks, campaign speeches delivered through hologram, his stylish outfits or his willingness to put on almost any kind of regional headwear, Mr. Modi knows how to make an impression.

via Modi Uses Another International Visit to Raise His Local Profile – India Real Time – WSJ.

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