War on female babies, actually. Dean Nelson in The Telegraph.
The initiative is an attempt to halt the growing gender imbalance in India where girls are considered a financial burden and families fear the cost of paying illegal but common dowries when they marry.
Campaigners believe upto eight million unborn girls were aborted in India in the last decade, while UN figures show that female infants are twice as likely to die in India before the age of five. The number of girls born per thousand boys has declined from 976 in 1961 to 914 in 2011, according to census statistics.
Current laws to prevent ’sex selection’ and female feticide, clinic doctors who perform the operations or the ultrasound tests to determine whether the sex of the foetus face punishments ranging from a 1000 Rupee fine (£12) to three years imprisonment.
But in the last ten years only 463 people have been prosecuted and the government’s Ministry for Women and Child Development wants to turn the focus on the family networks which put pressure on women to abort unborn girls.
A senior ministry official, who asked not to be named, said the government wants all those who pressurise a woman into having an abortion to bear the punishment.
“It is important to make families equally accountable. The families go to clinics performing sex selection tests, so logically they initiate the process of sex selection and female foeticide. We are seeking amendments in the present law to make families equally liable for the offence,” she said…
For centuries Indian women have been raised to believe that fairness is beauty, and this has given rise to a vast and ever-growing skin-whitening industry – which is now encouraging women to bleach far beyond their hands and face.
It all began with a YouTube video a friend sent me. You need to see this, she said, trying to contain her shock and laughter. And so I pressed play.
It was an advert. A couple sits on a sofa. The husband reads a paper ignoring his beautiful wife: her face, a picture of rejection.
What could this be selling? I wondered, as I watched.
Moments later, this scene of spurned love turned soapy when the leading lady was seen taking a shower.
But – she wasn’t using any ordinary shower gel. No, she was using a skin lightening wash, which, as the graphic which then popped up on screen informed the viewer, would lighten her genitals.
Gurcharan Das in the WSJ on India’s growing middle class and the nation’s growing intolerance of government corruption.
“India grows at night, when the government sleeps.”
…A series of corruption scandals has swept India over the past year. These include graft-ridden purchases for the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi, for which rolls of toilet paper were purchased for $80 each; the government’s sale to favored companies of licenses for the mobile-phone spectrum, at prices so low that they are estimated to have lost taxpayers somewhere between $10 billion and $40 billion; and the grabbing of expensive apartments in Mumbai by politicians, officials and generals on prime property that was meant for war widows.
Fighting this pervasive corruption has been Mr. Hazare, a villager in a white rural cap who evokes the figure of Mahatma Gandhi and has successfully emulated Gandhi’s protest tactics of hunger strikes and peaceful marches. Mr. Hazare launched his first hunger strike, a five-day fast, in April. As a result, the government agreed to draft a bill creating an anticorruption agency that would investigate complaints against officials, but the bill was weak, and Mr. Hazare rejected it.
His second hunger strike, which he staged last month in Delhi, drew tens of thousands of supporters and spurred the government to agree to discuss his own version of the bill—a considerable victory, since politicians of all parties have stonewalled the creation of an anticorruption agency for 40 years.
Many officials were taken by surprise by Mr. Hazare’s support from the middle class, which is almost a third of India’s population today, up from 8% in 1980. Since reforms in 1991, India has become the world’s second-fastest-growing economy, and the middle class is expected to become 50% by 2022.
For decades after WWII, India followed the Keynesian rule book. It’s economy stagnated. Things have changed.
…In her book “Bourgeois Dignity: Why Economics Can’t Explain the Modern World,” Deirdre McCloskey argues that the West rose not only because of economic factors but because the discourse about markets and innovation changed. People became encouraging of entrepreneurs. New perceptions and expectations emerged.
In the same way, the rise of India and China has brought dignity to their middle classes. Ordinary conversations over chai in India are now about markets and focus on the contrast between private success and public failure.
While the private sector provides cutting-edge services and products to the world, the roads outside are potholed, electricity is patchy and water supply erratic. The difference between the two worlds is accountability: In private life, if you don’t work, you don’t eat; in public life, jobs are effectively for life. Indians believe that they are rising despite the state and are often heard to say that “India grows at night, when the government sleeps.”
To hear Obama tell it, India and China are modern wonders of the world. But Indians beg to differ.
During his State of the Union address this week, President Obama urged Americans to reboot the country’s struggling economy through innovation, education, a streamlined government and a can-do spirit, citing impressive achievements in India and China.
But some in India say they’re living in a country that’s nowhere near as accomplished as the one outsiders might imagine after hearing Obama. Although it has a wellspring of talent propelling its growth, India is also grappling with persistent problems such as chronic poverty, cumbersome government bureaucracy and the difficulties of educating the masses in a country of 1.1 billion people.
“President Obama has been way too generous praising innovation in India, or China for that matter,” said Suhel Seth, managing partner of Counselage India, a New Delhi-based consultancy helping companies crack the Indian market. “India needs to shore up in all the areas the U.S. is talking about…. It’s risk-averse with a culture of copying. That’s why many of our finest minds work abroad.”
India has many outstanding minds and a reputation for producing world-class engineers. But a review this month of a three-year government program called INSPIRE, which offered scholarships to about 10,000 top science students, found that 85% of the scholarships went unused. The suspected reason: Students are increasingly bypassing science for business in search of a quick buck.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, an economist by training, this month criticized the grip that he said vested interests have on scientific innovation in India.
“Liberate Indian science from the shackles and deadweight of bureaucratism and in-house favoritism,” he said.
Tunku Varadarajan writes about the “tattered” relations with India in the Obama era.
As the president hits India this weekend, he will find it is still George W. Bush country. Tunku Varadarajan on an alliance that Obama has allowed to wither on the vine.
Barack Obama’s visit to India, starting Saturday, may offer him some small respite from the drubbing that has made this week the nadir of his political life; but if he’s looking (a la Elizabeth Gilbert/Julia Roberts) for some Eastern salve for his battered soul, he isn’t going to find it in Mumbai or New Delhi. Obama will encounter a hospitable people, of course: Indians are never unkind to their guests.
Why, they’re even stripping coconuts from trees that line a path he’s scheduled to walk down, lest a hard nut ping him on his un-turbanned head. But he will find little of the spontaneous warmth and genuine bonhomie that was lavished on George W. Bush when the latter visited India in 2006.
Two years after Bush’s departure from the White House, India is still Bush Country—a giant (if foreign) Red State, to use the American political taxonomy. By that I mean that the political establishment and much of the non-leftist intelligentsia still looks back with dewy-eyed fondness to the time when India’s relations with the United States flowered extravagantly under Bush.
It wasn’t just a matter of securing a mold-breaking nuclear deal with Washington; it was a case of India dealing, for the first time in the uneven history of its relations with the United States, with an American president who saw India as a partner-in-civilization. Bogged down in health care and bailouts at home, and in “Afpak” abroad, Obama has let the alliance with India wither on the vine. This has frustrated India deeply, especially as a perception came to grip New Delhi that some of Obama’s neglect was payback to India for its closeness to his predecessor. India pushed back hard and furiously at Obama’s early, tone-deaf attempt to foist Richard Holbrooke on the Indian subcontinent as some sort of “Kashmir czar,” and New Delhi has returned, to a noticeable extent, to the pre-Bush method of dealing with America: watch first, and closely; trust later, and sparingly.
When a good history of the George W. Bush years is finally written, his breakthrough with India may turn out to be the most important foreign policy initiative of his administration. The Indian Ocean hosts lanes for the oil from the Persian Gulf and an ever larger share of its trade, and India sits in the middle of it. It is also the geographical center of transnational Islamic terrorism. It is essential that the United States maintain a strong deterrent in the Indian Ocean, and that it preserve and enhance its ability to coerce whatever clown revue happens to be governing Pakistan at the moment. India is the key to both. That Barack Obama recognizes this is to his credit. It is quite possibly the most deft foreign policy move of his administration — admittedly, a low standard — and he deserves credit for it.
In their effort to provide maximum security in the run-up to his visit on Friday, they have removed coconuts which may fall on his head from trees.
All coconuts around the city’s Gandhi museum have now been cut down, an official told the BBC.
Every year in India people are injured or even killed by falling coconuts.
The creeping invasion by authoritarian regimes will engulf Asia by 2020 as democracies continue to retreat. India is unprepared and unwilling to safeguard the Asian democratic space.
The growing clout of totalitarian regimes coupled with non-State actors is set to shrink the democratic space in Asia. If the onslaught is not reversed by the end of the next decade, Islamic fundamentalist regimes, Communist dictatorships, military juntas and non-State actors will redraw the international boundaries and largely govern Asia.
The squeeze on the democratic space in India will increase once the American forces begin to exit Afghanistan in July 2011. Islamic fundamentalists with the assistance of the sympathetic Pakistan army will take over Afghanistan and Pakistan. This Taliban stronghold will operate on a ‘hub and spoke’ principle to expand influence and territory. To begin with, India will lose $1.5 billion (about Rs 6,900 crore) worth of investment in Afghanistan, as it is unwilling to defend it.
Islamic fundamentalism will sweep into Central Asia once the American wall holding the spread disappears from Afghanistan. Gradually, the resource rich area will come under the spell of the dark forces. Russia will feel threatened. Americans and the International Security Assistance Force are in many ways fighting Russia’s war.
Unlike New Delhi, Moscow is always willing to fight its way out!
Islamabad aims to create a caliphate with the help of the Islamic regimes running from Central Asia to West Asia and Southeast Asia. India stands in the way. Beijing desires to unravel India into multiple parts based on the pre-British model as it cannot digest the challenge to its supremacy offered in Asia by a liberal union of multi-religious and multi-ethnic States.
The simple truth is that Indian democratic values contradict and thereby pose a threat to the authoritarian philosophy of both, the Communists in Beijing, and the Islamic fundamentalists in Islamabad. Similarly, many regimes in Islamic West Asia feel uncomfortable with India’s ability to generate unprecedented soft power. Regression to medieval times helps keep these autocratic regimes in the saddle.
The all-pervading Indian soft power, therefore, poses a serious challenge. Hence, Pakistan is supported by the petro-dollars dished out on a Wahabbi checkbook to neutralise the threat posed by liberal India.
It is obvious that if the Indian model wins, autocratic regimes like China and Pakistan lose.
Supposedly the world hated America until Obama got elected. No so with India’s one billion plus people.
The Times of India reported on Bush’s recent lunch with India’s prime minister.
NEW DELHI: Prime ministerial lunches are rarely fun affairs. People sort of get on with it, and then get on with their lives. Not on Friday.
Early in the day, former US president George Bush, on a pleasure trip to India, announced cheerily, “I’m off to have lunch with my old pal.”
He sauntered across to the home of his pal, one Manmohan Singh, who famously abandoned his starchy mien to declare this nation’s “deep love” for Bush, then stood stoically through the vicious jokes hurled at him. But for all those present at the “friendly” lunch this afternoon, Bush clearly reciprocated in full measure. The food wasn’t to die for but the conversation, declared one guest, was adequate compensation.
Colleagues reported that Singh was rarely as “chirpy” as he was on Friday afternoon. The conversation was light and sparkling, there was a lot of laughter and banter. So when Singh talked about how much he appreciated the huge gesture of the nuclear deal, Bush quipped, “Yeah, it was a big deal and to get it we had to break a bit of china.”
Embarrassed but grateful laughter greeted this. His new venture of having his presidential library at the Southern Methodist University, in Dallas, Bush declared, was his main interest now. He is also writing a book, “but most of America doesn’t believe I can read”. The laughter now was a little more uncertain because it wasn’t clear whether the assemblage should be laughing at the ex-prez of the US, or tut-tut at the American people’s naivete.
At the outset, Bush disarmed all by thanking them for coming to see a “retired guy”.
This deal was Bush’s initiative, and one reason Indian-US relations reached new heights under Dubya. (1.1 billion people who don’t hate America.)
NEW DELHI | India agreed Monday to allow the United States to strictly monitor its adherence to non-proliferation rules, which eases restrictions on Indian purchases of sophisticated U.S. weapons.
New Delhi also designated two sites where U.S. companies will be able to build nuclear reactors, which the State Department said represent up to $10 billion in business for firms like General Electric Co. and Westinghouse Electric Co, a subsidiary of Japan’s Toshiba Corp.
Now, Hillary is trying to persuade India to buy into climate change voodoo and they’re having none of it.
India on Sunday night rebuffed an appeal by Hillary Clinton, US secretary of state, to embrace a low-carbon future in which the two countries would work together to devise new ways of consuming and producing energy.
Mrs Clinton, on a five-day visit to the country, said that low-carbon emissions would not jeopardise India’s high economic growth rates and its goal of lifting millions of people out of poverty. She offered a technological partnership to secure the fast growing nation’s energy supplies and help boost the livelihoods of its farmers.
“There is simply no case for the pressure that we, who have been among the lowest emissions per capita, face to actually reduce emissions,” Jairam Ramesh, India’s environment minister told Mrs Clinton. “And as if this pressure was not enough, we also face the threat of carbon tariffs on our exports to countries such as yours.”
In spite of the two countries’ battles in global trade talks and fears of India’s slipping down the US’s priority list, Mrs Clinton vowed that Washington would not do “anything” to stand in the way of the world’s largest democracy’s economic progress.
How white of her.
For all the hand wringing about America’s soiled reputation under Dubya, few note that he improved relations with India, a nation 1.1 billion people and an important economic/political partner.
…the one part of America’s foreign policy that Obama can be argued to have flubbed so far is its relations with India. Since taking office in January, he has paid India scant attention. India–which for the first time in its history is in a position to regard the U.S. as its closest big-power ally, thanks to the evangelical efforts of George W. Bush–has noted Obama’s froideur. It noted, too, that the one time the American president made an India-related public pronouncement, it was a critical (and fatuous) reference to India’s role in the outsourcing of employment. (On May 4, he criticized the U.S. tax code for–in his view–saying that “you should pay lower taxes if you create a job in Bangalore, India, than if you create one in Buffalo, N.Y.”)
There are two ways to read Barack Obama’s neglect of India. The first reading–one that gives him the benefit of the doubt that he’s not keen, by disposition, on India–is that he was maintaining a prudent distance from New Delhi as India went to the polls. The country has been in election mode ever since Obama took office, and it may have been the case that Obama was waiting until mid-May to see which Indian government he’d have to deal with. After all, what would be the point in investing diplomatic energy in ties with Manmohan Singh (the prime minister at the time of Obama’s inauguration) if the elections were to bring a different Indian prime minister to power–L.K. Advani, say.
Well, India has now completed its elections, and the results indicate that Manmohan Singh will, once more, be prime minister. The alliance headed by his Congress Party has swept to a stunning victory, and Obama should take note that much of the criticism handed out to the Congress Party by the opposition during the election campaign centered on Singh’s–and his party’s–closeness to America.
In so far as foreign policy matters to voters in Indian elections–and there are indications that it did matter this time, unlike in past elections–the results suggest that India’s alliance with the U.S. is viewed by Indian voters as a broadly good thing. This would confirm the truth of an observation made in an excellent Task Force Report, Advancing U.S. Relations With India–published by the Asia Society in January 2009 and directed by Alyssa Ayres–that “we have at last reached a place where Indians and Americans can see our shared future together.”
The second, darker reading of Obama’s coolness toward India rests on a sense that the president is punishing the Indian political establishment for its closeness to George W. Bush. Given the excellence of India’s relations with the Bush White House–and clear indications from John McCain that India could expect no change in relations if he were to win–it was hardly surprising that New Delhi viewed candidate Obama as the less attractive.
Yet if there is any pique at all in Obama’s approach to India, he needs to get over it fast. The alliance is too valuable to jeopardize. In Hillary Clinton, the president has a secretary of state with a real feel for India. And in James Steinberg, deputy secretary of state, he has a man brimming with ability to handle India policy. (See his speech on U.S.-India relations, made at the Brookings Institution on March 23.) Above all, in himself, Barack Obama has the panache and personality–and, let’s face it, the subaltern appeal of being a non-white president–to reach out to India more effectively than any American president before him.
Theodore Dalrymple writes of an earlier visit to India.:
One morning as I left the hotel, a middle-aged man with a black umbrella and a medium-clean dhoti said to me, ‘Come with me.’ His teeth were stained with betel, but I thought to myself, ‘Why not?’ and so I went with him. I don’t know whether he recognised in me a man with a taste for the unusual and the bizarre, but if so he was a man of sound judgement. As for me, I guessed that he was odd rather than bad, and I proved to be right as well.
Before long, we were winding our way through narrow alleys (I cannot think of a better word for them) through slums in which the shacks were made of every cast-off material, and I must have appeared like an apparition. The mud was not merely mixture of earth with water, but of every fluid known (alas) to man.
Our first port of call was a special crematorium, where Hindu rites were carried out. It was only for legs: and not just any legs, but those that were amputated by trains when the people riding on their roofs (as untold thousands, perhaps millions, did, every day) fell off and a passing train severed their lower limb or limbs. The crematorium never lacked for activity – I hardly like to call it work or business…
We did not linger long over the legs, however, but progressed on to the babies. As we continued to thread our way through the noisome alleys my informant told me, whether or not accurately from the purely doctrinal point of view I was no position to tell, that those that died before a certain age were not cremated but buried.
Doctrinally correct or not, we soon reached a small piece of ground in which babies were buried. My guide began to poke about in the soil with the tip of his umbrella, and soon came across the delicate skull of an infant.
‘You want for souvenir?’ he asked, with a total absence of sentimentality about human remains.
I declined, and our tour was over. Having completed my education (if that was what it was), he guided me back to the Taj and left me at the entrance. He did not ask for money but I gave him some that immediately, in a kind of balletically smooth movement, disappeared into a fold in his dhoti. I think that if I had not given him any he might not have protested, but simply put it down to fate. (more…)
If you think the left puts global warming concerns ahead of politics, think again.
At least in India, the leftwing is trying to derail a deal to bring nuclear power, which is cheap and generates no greenhouse gases, to India via an agreement negotiated by President Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
US President George W Bush has urged India’s Prime Minister Manmahan Singh to push ahead with a controversial deal on nuclear power between the two countries in the wake of a key confidence vote in New Delhi.
The issue has divided opinion as supporters argue it is the only way to keep pace with the energy demands of India’s fast-growing economy. But many remain deeply suspicious of a deal they fear will cede too much influence to America.
Opposition forced a vote-of-confidence, which the ruling party won handily.
The vote was triggered after the government’s left-wing allies withdrew their support for the nuclear deal struck with the US in 2005. The pact will give India, which has not signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, access to US nuclear technology and fuel for civilian use. In return, India’s civilian nuclear facilities would be opened to inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Those in favour of the deal argue it will help meet India’s escalating energy demands:
“Our economy has been growing at a rate of 8-9% over the last decade,” says Vishal Budda, an engineer from Delhi. “We simply need nuclear energy to keep the momentum running.”
Yet many Indians are suspicious of America’s interest as well as its intentions.
“This deal will just make us a junior partner of the U.S.,” says Vikram Mittal, President of the Haryana Student Federation of India. “America is trying to hijack our foreign and national policies. First it will be the nuclear deal, then it will be agricultural deals, then education- before we know it we will be another puppet of the U.S.”
Paranoia runs deep, eh? And, with all affection for India, and I have plenty, becoming junior partner would be a promotion. This is still the Third World.
India is under pressure from Washington to sign the accord before the U.S. presidential elections in November. Some think this pressure is an indication that America will be the real winners from this agreement.
“This deal will generate over 100 billion dollars worth of business for the U.S,” says Bhadra Kumar, a left-wing diplomat. “And it will also give them more power to maintain there dominance over the Muslim world if India is a close ally. But what do we get? Expensive power when our people are already going hungry.”
Many on the left suspect the deal has nothing to do with India’s energy needs.
Does the following remark not remind you of Pelosi, Schumer et al?
“Nuclear power provides only 3 per cent of India’s current energy and this will not change massively in the near future,” says Mohammed Thallath, student of International Relations. “We have an abundance of natural resources here as well as energy security through the supply of gas from Iran. No, this is all about money – it may generate business for India but more importantly it will generate massive kickbacks for the politicians.”
Because nuclear energy plays a small role today that’s a reason to not develop nuclear power for tomorrow? Whew.
India’s Tata Motors unveiled a $2500 people’s car, slated to go on sale this fall. Here’s the story of how it came to be.
At Tata’s Engineering Research Center, near the bucolic surroundings of the Tata Motors (TTM) factory in Pune, India, there are two cars on display. One is a complete prototype of the Nano, the $2,500 compact car Tata unveiled in January, which has all the essentials and safety features of India’s higher-priced automobiles along with a sticker price that will forever change the economics of low-cost cars. The other is a neat bisection, with the car’s innards clearly visible. “Every day we invite people to come and examine the car and ask: ‘How can we make more savings?’” says Tata Motors Chief Executive Ravi Kant.
That quest to build the world’s cheapest car hasn’t ended. The Nano should be available this fall, but the mission began back in 2003, when Ratan Tata, chairman of Tata Motors and the $50 billion Tata conglomerate, set a challenge to build a “people’s car.” Tata gave an engineering team, led by 32-year-old star engineer Girish Wagh, three requirements for the new vehicle: It should be low-cost, adhere to regulatory requirements, and achieve performance targets such as fuel efficiency and acceleration capacity. The design team initially came up with a vehicle which had bars instead of doors and plastic flaps to keep out the monsoon rains. It was closer to a quadricycle than a car, and the first prototype, Wagh admits candidly, “lacked punch.” Even a bigger engine, which boosted the power by nearly 20%, was still dismal. “It was an embarrassment,” says Wagh.
But the failure was also the catalyst for Tata’s decision to build a proper car, not an upgraded scooter on four wheels or anything flimsy or cheap-looking. “We didn’t want an apology for a car,” says Ravi Kant. “We were conscious of the fact that whether it was a $2,500 car or not, it ought not to have looked like a $2,500 car.”
This sounds like the Model T for the Third World, a revolutionary product.
Sidebar: the first “people’s car” was the Volkswagen – German for people’s car — sketched out by none other than Adolf Hitler.