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Mainstream, VOL LIX No 29, New Delhi, July 3, 2021

Letter to the Readers, Mainstream, July 3, 2021

Friday 2 July 2021

Letter to the Readers, Mainstream, July 3, 2021

In the past weeks and months, the opposition parties and independent social movement organisations have called upon the state to provide social and economic assistance to people who have been pushed into poverty and debt due to the loss of jobs caused by a major economic slowdown of the economy due to Covid-19. There have also been calls to assist the large numbers of people who have had to undergo medical treatment are reeling from huge bills still not cleared by medical insurance firms, and to provide ex gratia payment for people who succumbed to Covid-19. In all these cases, whether it is loss of livelihoods, loss of homes caused by distress migration, medical treatment, or deaths caused by the pandemic, the major difficulty is credible data to prove loss of jobs, financial distress, loss of homes, or that the deaths as having been caused due to Covid-19. Large numbers who work as migrants in our cities are not registered in a state or municipal database, they don’t have written work contracts, the death certificates of their near dear ones don’t always give the cause of death as Covid-19. We saw much media reportage on the number of dead that far exceeded the official death counts provided for by Covid-19. There is a major problem of the absence of credible data and missing paperwork. The middle class and the elites somehow manage to get their claims addressed but the poor without the right papers have nowhere to go. Much fresh thinking is needed to look into, what will it take to make the labouring poor more visible to systems of the state.

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China is celebrating with much fanfare the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), founded in July 1921 in Shanghai by a handful of intellectuals, under Moscow’s close watch. Since then, the pupil has surpassed the teacher. The Communist Party of the Soviet Union was not able to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the 1917 revolution. The CCP, in power for seventy-one years, is stronger than ever. No party has led so many people with for so long. In the space of forty years, China has become the world’s second-largest economy, widening the gap with India every day and rapidly approaching the United States. Going by conventional criteria, that measures national gains in terms of GDP numbers and military power China has done well, but not in terms of social and democratic rights. China remains an authoritarian one-party state with serious violations of human rights and restrictions on freedoms. The CCP refuses any questioning of its totalitarian control over society. The Party General Secretary Xi Jinping removed all term limits on duration to stay in power for China’s top brass in 2018 and has overseen the deepening of party control over public speech, the media, and academia, and expansion of high-tech surveillance of China’s citizens. Since 2018 the Party has discretionary powers via the creation of a new commission (Central Commission for inspection of the discipline in the party) which has facilitated the extrajudicial detention of thousands of civil servants in the country. Over the years there is more and more control over the administration of Hong Kong diminishing the considerable democratic space that prevailed. In the past year, a pro-democracy students movement in Hong-Kong has been totally muzzled. Apple Daily one of Hong Kong’s most popular newspapers, that stood for freedom of speech and backed the city’s pro-democracy movement was raided and shut down last week. Despite a huge machine to crush dissent and no free trade unions, worker’s unrest for greater rights in China is somehow alive, we hope that citizen’s voices for democratisation will grow over time.

July 3, 2021 – The Editors

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