Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Ritual of Recommendation

The Man of Recommendation: Dr. Mahmud-ur-Rahman in Malegaon

If communalism is BJP’s base, appeasement is a Congress tradition. If BJP has been hostile towards Muslims, Congress has been indifferent. If BJP pours its venom of communalism openly, Congress keeps that venom afloat and takes out when there is any need for political display. To an Indian Muslim, BJP is an open enemy while Congress has been an unfaithful friend.

Is there any difference between an enemy and an unfaithful friend?

In the eighties and nineties, BJP became visible from negligible because of its anti-Muslim politics and the so called “old wound” on Indian civilization: Babri Masjid. For Congress, Babri Masjid was a game of hide-and-seek. It flirted with the Hindus as well as the Muslims. If Rajiv Gandhi did not understand the seriousness of Masjid-Mandir politics, Narsimha Rao was well aware of its consequences yet he believed in the official art of winking! That fateful day, he did not wink, he was in fact sleeping!

If Hindu fanatics of RSS, Bajranj Dal and BJP brought down Babri Masjid, secular men of Congress gave us Liberhan commission; the country’s longest running inquiry commission yet to submit its report after 16 years! If BJP demolished Babri Masjid in a day, Congress indecision has taken 16 years. If BJP has physically desecrated the Muslim heritage, Congress has mentally raped Indian Muslims for 16 years.

Is there any difference between an enemy and an unfaithful friend?

Post-Babri demolition, Congress continued its policy of hide-and-seek. It is altogether a different matter that Congress does not know the trick to hide and the sense to seek. It is a party whose fate is always in a state of permanent confusion. When at the Centre, it keeps dangling between right and left. Pendulum politics has been eating up its electoral share. When will Congress learn to be in the centre?

BJP, on the other hand, has always been a right-wing party but like Congress it too does not enjoy consistency and political permanence. When it comes to power, it quietly changes its colour from saffron to green. Green is not the colour of Islam it is a colour of peace. BJP advocates peaceful negotiation of Babri Masjid-Ram Mandir dispute. It undresses its violent robes and dons the dress of masses. Can an Indian survive for 16 years on a one-meal-called Ayodhya? BJP knows that Ayodhya can’t feed India’s farmers so it’s better to talk about governance. Good governance is better than Lord Ram!

Good governance is good but trumpeting good governance is bad! BJP learned this political lesson when it slipped on India shining campaign.

Congress which benefited from BJP’s debacle thought it obligatory to reward its Muslim vote-bank. It was indeed an honourable intention. Congress, India’s oldest party, is yet to learn how to reward loyalty. One should pay royalty to reward loyalty! Alas, Congress continued its old and grand tradition of going into stone-age. It stuck to its old tools of appeasement: Committee and Commission; the 2cs which have become the destiny of Indian Muslims.

It’s like using telex in an age of internet!

First it was the Sachar committee report. Then came the mute Ministry of Minority Affairs. It is a crawling ministry whose only function is to distribute fallen crumbs after the cream has been licked by the upper crust. BJP behaved like a barking dog. The Indian Muslim was caught in this crossfire and felt guilty of being ‘appeasement.’ Fallen crumbs don’t fill a community’s stomach.
Congress was so pleased with its crumb-distributing ceremony at the Centre that it decided to set up one such state ministry in Maharashtra!

Sachar committee was not enough! On May 11, Vilasrao Deshmukh announced formation of a six-member research committee to analyse social, educational and economic conditions of Muslims in Maharashtra. Dr. Mahmud-ur-Rahman, a former Vice-Chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University, is the chairman of the committee which will submit its provisional report on June 30.
When this columnist asked the chairman (who was in Malegaon recently) why do we need a separate committee when Sachar Committee has already done the job assigned to this committee, he said, “Sachar has only diagnosed the disease. We will offer prescription in the form of policy and schemes.”

Will the findings and recommendations of this committee have a binding on the state government? The answer is obviously no. If the Congress-NCP alliance is really sincere in uplifting Muslims, they should follow the example of Shahu Maharaja of Akola, the father of social reform. He did a lot to uplift lower castes way back in the first quarter of 19th Century. And he did not need any committee to do that. He only believed in one word: legislation.

The day average Muslims realize the fundamental difference between recommendation and legislation, Congress will never ever come back to power again.
So is there any difference between an enemy and an unfaithful friend?

Looming Crisis of Powerlooms

Powerloom: When clatter and clang came to a standstill

As powerloom weavers of Maharashtra observed state-wide bandh (on June 16) called by Indian Powerloom Federation and Maharashtra Powerloom Federation over escalating yarn prices and dwindling prices of grey-cloth, a question must be posed: who must be blamed for this textile crisis which is threatening the 19 lakh strong powerloom industry for the past two months?

Should we blame the local trader who very often resorts to black marketing and hoarding in order to artificially raise the yarn prices? Or should the blame be passed on to the spinning mill owners who are well aware of the art of market manipulation?The above two questions very often determine the fate of the weavers but this time the real reason behind the ongoing recession lay somewhere else. The crisis is wrapped in two words: cotton export.

According to Cotton Advisory Board (a government body under the Central Textile Ministry) the cotton export for the year 2007-2008 is 8.5 million bales, (one cotton bale consists of 170 kgs) out of which 60% has gone to China alone!

India's cotton-based textile industry had been doing extremely well during the year 2003 to 2007, due to the adequate availability of good quality home grown cotton. But during the year 2007-08, apart from various other factors like sudden appreciation of rupee against US dollar, escalation in bank interest rate, slump in the local and export markets, the abnormal cotton price has totally paralysed the performance of the textile industry and in this scenario, even the top ticket mills are incurring huge losses.

If Shri J.Thulasidharan, Deputy Chairman of SIMA (The Southern India Mills' Association) is to be believed government of India did not take necessary steps to control the unabated export of the cotton. He has gone on record to say that many multi national cotton traders, unlike previous year, have entered into the Indian market and dominated the cotton purchases from the beginning of this season. He has warned that if the present trend continues, the spinning mills would be closed soon.

The one cotton candy (which consists of 356 kgs) is normally priced at Rs. 19,000 but this year because of scarcity of the cotton it is being sold at Rs. 25,000 per candy, an increase of more than 35%.

Even CITI (Confederation of Indian Textiles Industry) chairman PD Patodia has warned that "unchecked cotton exports is not healthy for domestic firms. The government has to give heed to industry's concern."

The textiles industry has already asked to put a curb on cotton exports in order to keep a check on prices but the government is in no mood to listen. In an interview given to Reuters on May 8, Union Textile Minister Shankar Singh Vaghela was ecstatic about cotton production. "If the monsoons are good", he said, "We may see production of 35 million bales in 2008-2009." He did not speak a single word about escalating cotton export, which is having a disastrous impact on the powerloom weavers across the country. Interestingly, it is not the farmers who are making money out of the cotton exports but the intermediaries.

Steep cotton prices directly affect yarn prices. And a steep yarn price means an increase in the cost of production of grey-clothes.

Before 2003, when the excise was imposed on powerloom industry, weavers did not know the terminology of loss. With the implementation of free quote trade from January 1, 2005, plain shuttle powerloom products are facing a stiff competition.

In such a scenario, what the powerloom weavers of Maharashtra should do? Blaming the local trader or baniya will not serve the purpose. Market does not always dance to a Baniya or Marwari's tunes; it functions on an economic term called market forces. Our government needs an effective regulation to curb the undue cotton export to the foreign countries. Government must ensure that the cotton is supplied in the domestic market first. Foreign players, offering lucrative prices, must wait in a queue.It is only by altering the government's policy towards the cotton export; weavers can overcome the present crisis of the power loom industry. Are they ready to compel the government to change its policy?

Sunday, June 01, 2008

The Irony of IPL

Too Pawar-ful to handle: Shane Warne and Sharad Pawar at IPL Final

Nobody would have though that Yusuf Pathan, the son of a muezzin, would make Rajasthan Royals truly royal with his bat and ball. If his father made his bread by his sonorous voice, Yusuf made his butter by his bat and ball. Yusuf, like his younger brother Irfan, is a shining example of a torrential transformation of a young Indian Muslim. The blood brothers have redefined the concept of economic empowerment for a community whose majority is yet to grapple with the comprehensive meaning of the terminology. The two brothers who grew up playing cricket inside a mosque and a nearby ground wouldn't have dreamt to come so far. If international cricket gave Irfan an opportunity, IPL transformed his brother's shaky cricket career into a stable one. An impoverished family has become stable because of the cricket. IPL has further pushed it into an economic exaltation.

I find it strange why Rajasthan Royals, champions of the first T20 IPL tournament, were billed as underdogs. The underdogs – a coinage of some contemptuous commentators – have proved to be super-dogs. Is there any criterion in cricket to affix the label of underdogs? It was because of the psychology of superiority that our men of mike didn't term Mumbai Indians or Bangalore Royal Challengers as underdogs. After all they are owned by the high and mighty of the corporate world. Cricket is a funny game. Even a Nostradamus can't predict a team's fallout.

The good thing about IPL is that it was the triumph of humility over arrogance. Rajasthan Royals, IPL's cheapest franchisee, was an extremely courteous team. Their win signifies victory of courtesy over callousness. Men of bang were reduced to a whimper: Sachin Tendulkar, Shoab Akhtar, Rahul Dravid; the list is long.

The first IPL tournament was an exercise of "ego-driven carnage" where corporate cats (half of them directly or indirectly related to BCCI) bid to buy cream players. It is altogether a different matter that they couldn't milk enough cream out of them. Corporate greed stings. It has stung liquor baron Vijay Mallya who still believes that money can buy you everything. You can buy men with money but not their talent. That brings us to some interesting questions: Should cricket players be treated as a commodity? Or should they offer themselves for a price, that too in an auction? Is commodification of cricket quite similar to prostitution? Did IPL contaminate the purity of a game called cricket? Although I am not a purist but these harsh questions deserve honest answers.

IPL pioneered the concept of hired cheerleading in the Indian cricket. Whether cheerleaders need a cover drive or an extra cover is a different debate but one thing is certain: we ordinary Indians don't know how to cheer! Since cheering was assigned to surgical babes of Russia and elsewhere, we Indians were left with one thing: cricketing voyeurism! When was the last time, spectators witnessed a surge in their testosterone levels?

In an age of globalization, cricket is shedding nationalistic inhibitions. IPL blurred borders. The wall of race, religion and colour came down crumbling: When did you see Sourav Ganguly hugging Shoab Akhtar? Can an IPL improve Indo-Pak relations? If the answer is yes, we should play more T20 matches.

The irony of IPL lies with the iron man of Maharashtra: Sharad Pawar. A strange sense of nostalgia engulfed me as I watched Sharad Pawar distributing medals and prizes. His was a truly remarkable gesture of honouring men who deserved it. The iron man happens to be India's agriculture minister as well. Had he rewarded India's farmers, things would have been different. All he did was to dish out a dole of loan-waiver. The loan-waiver means nothing to a farmer who wouldn't have repaid it anyway. Thousands of farmers have committed suicide in Vidarbh region in Maharashtra. Sharad Pawar should have remembered them at his finest moment of 'cricketainment' career. The game of cricket can never take place without a farmer's cotton. The "stench" of money in IPL can make one nauseating. May be IPL should donate some for the have-nots. A question for Sharad Pawar: Can't IPL have a farmers' fund?

In the first half of twentieth Century Cricket was part and parcel of the British colonization. In the twenty first Century, Indians are colonizing fellow Indians.