Sunday, April 19, 2009

Shed a tear for Shanno...

Shed a tear for Shanno’s smothered innocence. It is my fault, of course. I didn’t learn the alphabet. The teacher is right to punish me. But why this weakness? Why is the ground blurring? I must be strong. The sun is so hot today…
Shed a tear for Shanno’s pain. I stood in a contorted position, like a criminal in a self-righteous policeman’s cell. But maybe that’s the way of the world I’m going to grow in.
Shed a tear for Shanno’s perplexity, her confusion. Wasn’t this school the temple of learning, the route to a better life? This suffering, then, must be a trail to that route.
Shed a tear for Shanno’s aspirations. I too will, one day, through education and learning, cross over to the other side, the side of light, joy and fulfilment. The side they call ‘emerging India’. I too will lead my country, buy a car — and play all day. I will be Prime Minister.
Shed a tear for Shanno’s ignorance. She died without knowing she could protest.

Blog post on Cutting the Edge

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Why Savita will vote but I can’t

I am an Indian but bureaucratic procedures will not allow me to vote from my real constituency. She is a Bangladeshi but will elect a representative who will likely govern us. She is neither ‘Savita’ nor Indian but her paper-perfect Indian identity entitles her — and the 20 million illegal migrants in India — to vote.
You may have seen her, spoken to her, even hired her. They are all over the place in select ghettos across Delhi, Kolkata and Guwahati — their first destination when they jump the border. The influx of illegal immigrants from Bangladesh is a reality — their numbers are large and growing; their networks are strong, allowing them to turn invisible; their enterprise is organised as each migrant provides a base for the next.
Their getting an Indian citizenship through a maze of corruption and manipulation, is not merely a supra-political paper issue. In real and tangible terms, they hurt Indian labour by offering lower wages and replacing them. Quite like what the Indian outsourcing industry does to workers of the developed world. With one difference: they are illegal.
In different ways and through the stories of different Savitas or Sameers, all of us know this. As do the officials who, through a mesh of bribes, are their catalysts. The local leaders as well as the local mafias — to which they provide competition — know this. The state governments (the Nano-Singur episode is one recent example) are also well informed.
And the Centre, at the highest level, too. “He has no business to work here unless he has a work permit,” home minister P Chidambaram told a TV channel in a January 11 interview. “He is a Bangladeshi. I think we issue very large number of visas to Bangladeshis every month. There is no reason to issue so many visas. And there is very ineffective monitoring system (to check) whether the guy has gone back to Bangladesh or remained here.”
In the earlier NDA administration, George Fernades, speaking as defence minister in September 2003 had said: “My discussions with the Eastern Army Commander this week revealed that there are about 20 million Bangladeshi migrants in India, which are altering the demographic character of the north-eastern states.”
Whichever government takes charge after elections and whoever becomes home minister, defence minister and foreign minister, will have one more tool to fight this menace at the diplomatic and policy level: Kamal Sadiq’s fascinating first insights into the subject.
In Paper Citizens: How Illegal Immigrants Acquire Citizenship in Developing Countries, Sadiq convincingly and compellingly argues that it is not just developed countries like the US, Canada, UK, Germany or France that face an influx of illegal immigrants. Developing countries like India (from Bangladesh), Pakistan (from Afghanistan) and Malaysia (from Philippines) too are major destinations for illegal immigrants.

Blog post on Cutting the Edge

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Summit over, here are India’s G-20 gains

Gautam Chikermane, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, April 05, 2009

The royal receptions and grand speeches are fond memories now. With PM Manm-ohan Singh back home from the glitzy G20 meeting in London, it’s time for a reality check.

In the final analysis, the six pledges that the heads of G20 leaders signed on April 2, will mostly, not completely, work in India's favour. However, there’s a catch: these pledges are non-binding and hence some of them may just bring false hope.

The pledge to not repeat the “historic mistakes of protectionism” is likely to have the greatest short-term impact. The members have also pledged "to refrain from raising new barriers to investment or to trade in goods and services.” So, India could look forward to markets in, and funding from, developed countries, which had taken a hit following the downturn, to open their doors again.

Story in Hindustan Times

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Obama, PM off to a good start

Gautam Chikermane , Hindustan Times
London, April 02, 2009

"The US sees India as a global power." This is what US President Barack Obama told Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as they stepped into a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the G20 Summit.
"Our relationship with India is very important,” Obama told the TV crews. “India is a country, like the US, that’s full of energy.”
Turning to Singh, he said, “Mr Prime Minister, the rise of India is attributed to your wisdom. You unleashed the economic power of India as finance minister and now have been guiding the country for five years. Turning to Singh, he said, “Mr Prime Minister, the rise of India is attributed to your wisdom. You unleashed the economic power of India as finance minister and now have been guiding the country for five years. By the time this meeting gets over, I can call you a friend. I am grateful for the time I’ve had in London with you and I look forward to visiting India.”

Story in Hindustan Times

A new world order is born: Brown

Gautam Chikermane, Hindustan Times
London, April 02, 2009

Globalisation is not dead – yet. Leaders of the Group of 20 countries on Thursday agreed to a $1.1 trillion (Rs 55 lakh crore) deal to combat the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.
The G-20 leaders agreed that this sum will be made available to the world economy through the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other institutions. This will include $250 billion of the special IMF “currency” called Special Drawing Rights.
“This money will be available for lending to all IMF members,” British Prime Minister and summit host Gordon Brown said at a press conference after the summit.

Story in Hindustan Times

G20 leaders hope to revive global economy

Gautam Chikermane, Hindustan Times
London, April 02, 2009

Even as thousands protest the G20 (Group of 20) summit in London “for robbing the poor to benefit the rich”, on Thursday, the global community expects the 20 nations to come up with a plan to arrest and reverse the global downturn.
"G20 is not going to agree on every point,” said US President Barack Obama in a press conference with UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown on Wednesday. The G20 countries have an "obligation to lead", he said, and in the days ahead, they "will move forward with a sense of purpose".

Story in Hindustan Times

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

G20 D-Day tomorrow: a Summit that could have been

The London air outside is cold but refreshingly so. The road outside Crowne Plaza at St James near Buckingham Gate is empty but for a sudden buzzing cavalcade that seems to be carting G20 leaders who are busy with four things — meeting the US President Barack Obama, meeting UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown, meeting the Queen and possibly meeting one another.
And from what we see as bystanders and vicarious observers, the London Summit of G20 is headed towards being one that could have been. The intellectual and nationalist positions that were expected to soften as the April 2 deadline approached have got harder.
In a twittering analysis this is what I see:
The US-UK combine that’s been fishing for greater stimulus packages from the rest of the 17 (plus EU) countries’ heads have put their aggressive stance behind them, rather reluctantly but still, and are talking cooperation. That’s good.
But Japan has put its hat in the stimulus debate with its Prime Minister Taro Aso suggesting Germany and France don’t know what they’re talking about.
The French President Nicolas Sarkozy has dropped a position bombshell. “If things don’t advance in London, there will be an empty chair,” the Guardian reported him saying. “I’ll get up and leave.” To him, and most of Continental Europe, if the London Summit did not create new rules for capitalism it would be worthless, Sarkozy reportedly said at a cabinet meeting.
From the South in this North-South dialogue, Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio “Lula” da Silva, who last week blamed “white and blue eyed” people for the crisis, will meet Sarkozy, now his G20 rebel leader in arms, tomorrow. Together, they hope to raise support for increasing regulation and a harebrained idea of a global regulator.
In all this, India stands like its spiritual past: calm, composed, collected. It has also been able to win a small victory in this great battle: an entry into Financial Stability Forum, bringing protectionism to the forefront of G20 discussions and be seen as one of the important world’s saviours of the world over the next 24 months where along with China, it will be the only other significant economy to show growth.

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