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Mainstream, VOL LVIII No 38, New Delhi, September 5, 2020

Letter to the Readers - Mainstream’s Lockdown Edition No. 24 | Sept 5

Friday 4 September 2020

India is in the throes of major economic crisis: According to official data released by the National Statistics Office (NSO) on August 31, India’s gross domestic product (GDP) contracted 23.9 per cent in the April-June quarter of 2020-21 from that in the same quarter last financial year. The Chief Economist of the World Bank has further confirmed this while releasing its own graph on G20 nations showing the Indian Economy’s performance at -25.6 in Quarter 2 of 2020 — the worst among all G20 countries. But the prominent Indian economist, Prof Arun Kumar, is suggesting that figures on the state of decline of the Indian economy could be much higher — as these mostly reflect the organised sector data and do not include the situation in the informal sector. The sharp decline is due to shut down of economic activity during the lockdowns. One in four Indians is now unemployed. Only the big businesses will survive and a pretty large number of small and medium-sized companies may simply windup. Since April, over 121 million people are estimated to have lost jobs in India. Such a huge decline in the purchasing power of such large numbers will have long term implications, millions of people being pushed into poverty, misery. The government must massively expand public investments, build infrastructure and generate jobs for an economic turnaround.

The India-China Tensions are flaring up after a confrontation on the Ladakh border on the night of August 29 and 30th. Before this, there were violent clashes in June in the Galwan Valley in Ladakh with attempts by Beijing to change the status quo in certain areas in eastern Ladakh. Various sources say that some 1000 square kilometres of Indian territory has been occupied by the Chinese military. There have been claims that talks at various levels have been on but there has been no sign of rollback in the Chinese troop positions. The government has still not come out with clear information on what has happened in June. On June 12, the Prime Minister had responded by making a claim that no intrusion had happened on Indian Territory, but since then there has been a greater deployment of the Indian armed forces in Ladakh and the government is signalling a risky economic cut-off with China through trade and investment sanctions. The Chinese Government has responded to the latest incident of late August as an act of provocation by the Indian Army. It is being reported that the Indian armed forces have begun deployment all the way from Ladakh to Arunachal. On September 3, the Chief of Defence Staff Gen Bipin Rawat spoke at the US-India Strategic Partnership Forum, saying "India’s policy of engagement, if not backed by credible military power and regional influence, would imply acknowledging China’s pre-eminence" (https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/indian-armed-forces-capable-of-dealing-with-china-general-bipin-rawat-2290041). One more signal of India speaking loudly in the US Camp.

India must make all attempts at peaceful ties. But the TV networks are all gung-ho in a warlike build up. There is no right time to make war, but to proceed in that direction at the time of a massive global pandemic is totally outlandish. Let us hope good sense prevails and diplomacy is given precedence over military action.

The Monsoon session of Parliament starts on September 14, but no MP can ask any question as the ’Question Hour’ has been cancelled. It is the democratic right for elected representatives to ask questions of the government. What is happening is unprecedented. The Parliament has not met for more than 5 months, only 18 days have been scheduled for the Monsoon Session. How can Parliament have a Monsoon Session for such a short duration?

Human rights groups across India have in the past week been holding protests over human rights violations and police misconduct.

On August 29 scores of people, part of the Moharram procession in Srinagar, suffered pellet injuries as the security forces fired on the procession. This is a dangerous instance of police targeting a religious procession. All must be done to investigate wrongdoings by police and to provide treatment to the injured. The constitutionally guaranteed right to freedom of religion must be respected.

Human rights groups have been expressing concern following multiple media reports regarding the questionable nature of police investigation underway on the February 2020 riots in Northeast Delhi. News reports have pointed out that charge sheets filed are based on confession statements many of which have not been recorded in the presence of a magistrate. Many of these statements seem fabricated and are identical with identical language and words. (https://scroll.in/article/967881/delhi-polices-grand-riots-conspiracy-where-is-the-evidence). The police must not tarnish its reputation and instead conduct a fair investigation in accordance with the law.

We are pleased to note that the Allahabad High Court has ordered the release of Dr Kafeel Khan who was accused of giving an inflammatory speech at Aligarh Muslim University on December 12 and was booked under the National Security Act (NSA) in Feb 2020. The court ruling clearly says that his speech did not promote hatred or violence; instead It gave a call for unity among citizens. We hope that all who were responsible for his wrongful arrest over the past eight months will be taken to task. Many rules have been tossed out of the window in Uttar Pradesh under the Chief Ministership of Yogi Adityanath. Dr Kafeel Khan has been an eyesore for Aditaynath ever since the days of the Gorakhpur hospital tragedy in 2017 where many children lost their lives for lack of oxygen supply. A doctor had then stood up and supplied oxygen cylinders to children’s families, through his own funds. That was Dr Kafeel Khan! Instead of being rewarded, he was then suspended and arrested on some pretext. Dr Khan continues to pay a price for being on the wrong side of the Chief Minister. Misuse of anti-terror legislation against critics must stop and people wrongfully charged should be liable for compensation by the state.

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Finally, all the 100 volumes of the Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru covering the period 1903-1964 are now online. Readers of Mainstream and all who are interested in Indian History should consult these at: http://nehruselectedworks.com/

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Russia: Who Is Responsible For The Use of Military Grade Chemical Substance to Poison An Opposition Leader?

The media is reporting that the Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who is currently in Coma and being treated in a German Hospital in Berlin has been found to have been poisoned with a nerve agent — “a substance from the group of cholinesterase inhibitors” Cholinesterase inhibitors are a broad group of chemical agents. “The substance in Navalny’s organism is undoubtedly from the Novichok family,” German Government spokesperson Steffen Seibert has said in a statement. It is important to note that nerve agents were first developed in Germany in the lead-up to World War II. They’re banned under the Chemical Weapons Convention. The Novichok Nerve Agent was developed during the Soviet Union days, the Russian authorities must investigate this grave incident of poisoning.

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September 5, 2020, marks the 3rd anniversary of the assassination of the journalist Gauri Lankesh; We urge our readers to remember the dangers that we face today as a society from extremists of the Far-right. We dedicate this issue of Mainstream weekly to the memory of Gauri Lankesh and to Dr Narendra Dhabolkar, MM Kalburgi and Com. Govind Pansare who had also been assassinated in a similar fashion.

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Tributes:

Prof Ramashray Roy, the noted psephologist and political scientist passed away on August 12. He had been associated with the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies since 1963 and later served as the Director of the Indian Council for Social Science Research, New Delhi.

Dr Padmavati, who was India’s first woman cardiologist, and who became a leading figure in the field, passed away on August 29 at the age of 103. Born in 1917 in Burma, she trained in cardiology at the Rangoon Medical College. She was at the Lady Lady Hardinge Medical College in New Delhi in the early 1950s; later she served as the Principal and Director of Maulana Azad Medical College and was founder Director of the National Heart Institute.

KS Bajpai, India’s former Ambassador to the US, to China and to Pakistan, passed away on August 30, 2020. He and his elder brother U.S. Bajpai also a diplomat, had a considerable formative influence over India’s foreign policy hands in the past four decades.

Former President Pranab Mukherjee passed away on August 31, in New Delhi. He had a long political career of over fifty years. He had a lifelong association with the Congress Party. He had been a member of parliament since 1969 and first became a minister for Industrial development in the 1973 government of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. As a senior figure in the Congress, he held prominent ministerial positions in practically all Congress-led governments.

David Graeber the well-known anthropologist, from the London School of Economics, passed away on September 3. He was an anarchist and author of several books Debt: The First 5000 Years (2011), Utopia Rules (2015). He played active role in the Occupy Wall Street movement of 2011. Graeber was also known for his activism and support to the Kurdish Women’s Struggle in Rojava, an autonomous region in Syria. He was born in New York to politically active parents, Kenneth Graeber, who was part of the International Brigades in the Spanish Civil War, and Ruth (Rubinstein) Graeber, born in Poland, a garment worker and a member of International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union.

We pay our tributes to all of the above.

September 5, The Editor

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