Tag Archives: India

Banning news items is not something democracies do – India’s wrong move

Democracies allow a great deal of freedom. It is the freedom to report on society — warts and all — that makes democratic societies better and stronger. Unfortunately, there are too many who think democratic countries cannot survive exposure of some of the worst warts.

So the BBC put together a documentary on the brutal 2012 gang rape of 23-year-old physiotherapy student Jyoti Singh. And the resulting screams from India showed that the Indian government was more concerned with perceived attacks on the image of India than in doing anything to protect women.

The rape shocked the world. It even got through to many in India who had been willing to turn a blind eye. Thousands turned out to call for new laws to protect women and to change the way society looks at rape. (India gang rape: six men charged with murder)

Not that anything really happened in the ensuing years.

The BBC documentary — India’s Daughter — included interviews with the one member of the gang who raped Singh. His comments further outraged the world:

  • A decent girl won’t roam around at nine o’clock at night.
  • A girl is far more responsible for rape than a boy.
  • When being raped, she shouldn’t fight back. She should just be silent and allow the rape

Rather than embrace the documentary and step up work to make life safer for women, the government decided that the film makes India look bad and banned it from the country. And then, to make sure no one outside India can see it, the government went to the British courts to get the ban extended to the entire BBC system.

In that latter effort, the government failed. The BBC aired the documentary earlier than announced. And that set the Indian government into a fit of complaints and actually launched an investigation into how the film maker was given access to the rapist in jail.

Fortunately for the future of India, some are upset with the banning action:

“[T]he reality is what the man spoke reflects the view of many men in India and why are we shying away from that? In glorifying India and (saying) we are perfect we are not confronting the issues that need to be confronted,” said businesswoman Anu Aga, a member of the chamber.

In the meantime, the film maker left India out of fear for her well being.

Documentary-maker Leslee Udwin, meanwhile, was reported by India’s NDTV channel to have decided to fly out of India due to fears she could be arrested.

The television channel also broadcast what it said was Udwin’s last interview before she left India. “I’m very frightened what’s going to happen next — I predict the whole world will point fingers at India now,” Udwin said. “It’s a tragedy — you’re shooting yourself in the foot.”

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Indian polling schedule

Just a quick follow up for those who have yet to grasp that the Indian election — with its 850 million voters — is a big thing, visit the website of the Election Commission of India to see the when, how and where of the voting.

Just FYI: This is offered because so few US media outlets have thought it worthwhile to report on this election. To use Vice President Biden’s phrase: “This really is a big fucking deal!”

India schedule

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Did John Oliver hit the mark on US coverage of the Indian election?

The online New York Times has a series of blog and news postings about news from around the world. Nida Najar from India posted a blistering (and well-deserved) attack on the US media’s lack of coverage of India’s election. And the attack was based on a bit done by former The Daily Show correspondent John Oliver: John Oliver on the American Media’s India Blind Spot

And sure enough, a quick Google Search of “Indian Election 2014″ does not yield one U.S. media outlet reporting on the election.

In a way this is not surprising. Oliver points to the McLaughlin Group as the only news show that discussed the election, only to have it being dismissed by the host as irrelevant because “it’s not even in our hemisphere.” (For once I found myself agreeing with Pat Buchanan: “It’s 800 million voters! More than 1 billion people!”)

For the political and economic well being of the United States, India matters. (I can be snarky: The importance if India is well beyond tech support. Where do you think you are calling when your computer crashes?)

India is the 11th most important trading partner with the United States, accounting for 1.7 percent of all US trade. That puts it in the same neighborhood as France, Brazil, Saudi Arabia and Taiwan.

Most of what the US sell to India are not raw materials or agricultural products but finished goods that require good jobs:

  • Misc. manufactured commodities
  • Transportation equipment
  • Chemicals
  • Computer and electronic products

So, yes, the US needs to be informed and aware of what is going on in India, if for no other reason, because our economic well being depends on it.

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Filed under India, International News Coverage, Story Ideas, Trade

India elections: Some dark clouds on the horizon for journalists

The Committee to Protect Journalists has a great piece on the threats to free press and journalism independence if the current front runner in the Indian elections wins.

Modi’s rise does not bode well for Indian press freedom

Modi, who is serving his fourth term as chief minister of Gujarat, has a history of silencing critical journalists in his home state. In 2006, his administration brought sedition charges against Manoj Shinde, an editor of the Gujarati-language daily Surat Saamna, for criticizing Modi’s handling of a flood, news accounts said. Sedition is punishable by death in India. (It is unclear if the case against Shinde was ever resolved). Two years later, CPJ documented sedition charges brought by Gujarat authorities against an editor and reporter at The Times of India and a photographer at Gujarat Samachar in connection with a series of investigative reports questioning the competency of a high-ranking police officer and his alleged connection to the leader of an organized crime group. The latter charges were eventually quashed in court.

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Anti-sedition law under attack in India and why Americans should care

Many thanks to CPJ for this report.

With new focus on sedition law, India poised at juncture

Although it is the world’s largest democracy, India has retained its colonial-era sedition law. But with a national debate ensuing after the arrest of 25-year-old political cartoonist Aseem Trivedi on the antiquated sedition charge and others, members of the Indian government have been forced to do some soul-searching.

Government ministers formally initiated a review of the law, news accounts reported on September 14. The law, which was introduced by the British in 1870 to guard against rebellion, states that anyone who “brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards the Government established by law in India” could face life in prison. The legislation falls under Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code.

Read rest of article.

Why is this important to Americans?

Bottom line is that the cartoonist in question attacked government leaders and institutions for corruption. And for pointing out the growing nature of corruption in India, the cartoonist was jailed.

Corruption directly affects jobs across national borders. Take the situation in India.

India has bought $12 billion in goods and services from the United States January-July of this year. (Exports to the United States from India are at $24 billion for a trade deficit.)

Here are the top-10 items the U.S. exports to India (2011 numbers):

America’s exports to India amounted to $17.7 billion or 1.4% of overall US exports.

  1. Chemical fertilizers … $3.1 billion
  2. Civilian aircraft … $1.7 billion
  3. Diamonds … $1.7 billion
  4. Telecommunications … $652.1 million
  5. Other petroleum products … $581 million
  6. Non-monetary gold … $500.5 million
  7. Organic chemicals … $487.6 million
  8. Other industrial machines … $443.2 million
  9. Other chemicals … $411.3 million
  10. Steelmaking materials … $372.3 million

Source: Worldsrichestcountries.com

To be true, India’s protectionist trade policies prevent more U.S. (and European and Chinese, etc) imports. But corruption is also a major issue.

India is ranked in the half of “More corrupt” countries according to Transparency International. (#95 out of 182 countries.) It shares a score of 3.1 with Tonga, Swaziland, Kiribati and Albania. That makes India “more corrupt” than Liberia and Panama.

The simple point is that less transparent/more corrupt countries make it difficult for companies to do business there. U.S. law forbids the payment of bribes under very tough penalties. Other countries are not so particular about bribery. (See the “Bribe Payers Index” from Transparency International.)

Reports about how other countries deal with individuals who attack corrupt practices is important to Americans. It gives them — and particularly American businesses — a better idea of what kind of government/social system they are dealing with.

American support those who fight corruption overseas is good for the American economy. American companies can compete well against firms from other countries in terms of quality and skills. Having to compete against corrupt government officials and institutions makes it difficult for honest companies to do business overseas and grow.

And let us remember that most of American international trade is done by small-medium enterprises. These same companies are the driving force for the domestic economy.

Bottom line:

  • Enhanced anti-corruption efforts around the world means opportunity for more jobs for Americans.
  • Anti-corruption activists in other countries often criticize government leaders and institutions.
  • Laws that provide for jail terms for government criticism weaken anti-corruption efforts.
  • Weaker anti-corruption activities around the world mean fewer American job opportunities.

Therefore, more publicity and support for people like cartoonist Aseem Trivedi helps fight corruption in India and could mean more jobs for American exporters.

It would be nice to see more reporting on this.

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Indian state seems to miss point of FOI/RTI

The whole purpose of freedom of information/right to information laws is to make government more transparent and less corrupt. So I hope some one can explain the thinking behind the government of the state of Uttar Pradesh in India.

The Uttar Pradesh cabinet voted July 31 to exclude Lokayukta, the anti-corruption agency, from the scope of the state’s Right to Information Act, according to a report from FOI/RTI watchdog freedominfo.org.

According to the Indian newspaper OUTLOOK:

The government believes that since The government believes that since Lokayukta is an investigating agency there is need to keep its secrecy intact, official sources said.

Any disclosure of on-going investigations could prove detrimental, they said adding the Lokayukta also has judicial powers.is an investigating agency there is need to keep its secrecy intact, official sources said.

Any disclosure of on-going investigations could prove detrimental, they said adding the Lokayukta also has judicial powers.

Freedom of information advocates in India say the move by the UP government not only violates the Indian RTI laws but also the United Nations Convention Against Corruption, which India signed last year.

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Predicting Indian monsoons can help Main Street USA

Scientists in the USA, Britain and India are working to “crack the code” of the summer monsoons in India.

The monsoons are necessary for crops in India. All told, 75% of the annual rainfall comes in the June-September period. These rains are needed to ensure good crops, especially the all-important rice crop.

According to an Al-Jazeera story, the reason for better understanding the monsoons is simple:

This would help India conserve depleting water resources and agricultural output would get a boost as farmers would be able to plan their crops better. Armed with more precise forecasts, state governments would be better prepared, in theory, for disasters such as the recent floods in Assam

Besides the international cooperation effort on the scientific side, there is also a direct connection to better agricultural planning in India and U.S. consumers.

When the monsoons are on time, India buys several million tons of fertilizer from the global suppliers. When the monsoons are not so great, those tons sit in warehouses as excess material.

The United States is another major buyer (and producer) of fertilizer.

Better predictions of the monsoons will allow Indian farmers and fertilizer importers to better determine how much fertilizer will be needed in any given planting season.

Depending on how much India buys often determines how the price moves in the global market. So when the U.S. buyers start talking about making purchases the price is often determined by how many tons India bought or are planning to buy.

Simple equations:

  • Good monsoon season in India=More fertilizer purchased
  • More tons of fertilizer purchased by India=Higher prices to the US (and other international) buyers
  • Higher fertilizer prices=Higher food prices.

See how easy that was to go from the monsoons to an American grocery store?

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