With 8 to 10 hours of intermittent sunshine and weather as warm as Sri Lanka, over the past ten days, nobody in their right senses is wanting to visit A&E (Accident &More
February ended as a month of discontent for the public after the government raised power tariffs for a second time on February 15. It was said to be the last of 15 conditions to be met for the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) Extended Fund Facility (EFF) of $2.9 billion. But the uncertainties over the EFF are not over as the IMF is yet to receive assurance from China as India and the Paris Club have done. China has offered only a two-year moratorium on its debts.
Opposition SJB MP and economist Dr Harsha De Silva, while strongly condemning the raising of power tariffs for a second time, said Sri Lanka could technically still receive IMF support. He said it can be done through Lending into Official Arrears Policy (LOAP) with support from the US, if 50% of debtors have agreed to restructure their facilities. He suggested that if loans from the China Development Bank can be moved under commercial loans instead of bilateral loans, this could be achieved.
President Ranil Wickremesinghe speaking at various forums has focused on economic recovery. While addressing a Rotary gathering on February 18, he emphasised the importance of economic recovery and improving citizens quality of life. He said democracy depends on the maintenance of public order which requires law and order. Following the country’s economic recovery, next year it would be able to decide on the future it wants, with the use of the ballot (italics added), clearly indicating he was against the LG election.
Addressing Tax Forum 2023 on February 21, he strongly defended the current tax policy, as a rescue operation and not a normal tax policy. If the policy is disrupted, Sri Lanka will not be able to join the IMF programme and lose the opportunity to do business with foreign countries.
The President is applying his masterly skills at obfuscation to handle questions on the long overdue LG elections. The election scheduled for March 9 stands postponed as the Election Commission had been facing a number of structural and financial issues to conduct the elections. The air has been thick for the last two months with questions on LG elections from all sides, ranging from semi literate politicians, sensationalising paparazzi, sanctimonious but erudite civil society leaders and sermonising do-gooders who shun responsibility.
The President’s speech on the LG election issue in parliament on February 23 is an eloquent example of obfuscation. He said “There is no election to be postponed. I have so far not got into this debate on elections as I kept out of it on the grounds that I will not get involved in politics. However, today, we hear the Election Commission will inform Courts that the election cannot be held since an affidavit has been submitted. I will speak on it, as otherwise it will be unfair on the part of the Treasury Secretary. The Commission has been informed by the Treasury Secretary that they are unable to provide necessary funds to conduct the elections. That is not true. It was I who first informed the Election Commission in December that due to the economic situation, it was not possible to hold the elections.
President Wickremesinghe appears to be a votary of 50s British humourist Stephen Potter who authored Lifemanship series of books. In that era of self-help manuals of the Dale Carnegie variety, Potter focused on books with less exalted goals of survival issues like: “winning without actually cheating (Gamesmanship), “creative intimidation (One-Upmanship)”, and “making the other man feel that something has gone wrong however slightly” (“Lifemanship”). The President seems to be using all the ploys of Potter to confuse the nation reeling under unmanageable price rise of daily necessities. Obfuscation is the erudite man’s quibbling in action. Oxford Languages explains it as “the action of making something obscure, unclear or unintelligible, when confronted with sharp questions they resort to obfuscation.”
Successful politicians develop their skills at the art of obfuscation to difficult questions from the paparazzi, awkward questions from the informed audience and perhaps, to handle embarrassing moments with their girlfriends. If there is an award for obfuscation in politics, President Wickremesinghe will win a platinum award. Perhaps, he can’t be faulted for it because probably that came, when he earned the President’s chair without a popular mandate after a severe drubbing in the general elections.
But time may be running out for such gamesmanship, if we go by the mood of the people in the thousands who had gathered in protest in Colombo on February 26. The National People’s Power (NPP) led by the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) held a massive protest against the postponement of the LG elections by the government in Colombo. NPP and JVP leaders including MP Anura Kumar Dissanayake and NPP MP Vijitha Herath had joined the protest. Prior to the protest, magistrate courts concerned had issued orders preventing the protests. Orders were also issued against 26 persons including Dissanayake from marching towards Galle Face Green and the Presidential Secretariat. When the protestors gathered in strength and wanted to march towards Colombo Fort area they were stopped by the police. Meanwhile, reinforcements of police in riot gear and army personnel joined the police.
Police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse the restive crowd which were shouting anti-Wickremesinghe slogans. In the melee that followed more than 20 persons were hospitalised. One of the NPP candidates for LG election who was hospitalised succumbed to his injuries. Police action in crushing the public protest has been condemned by civil society and even political parties not supporting the NPP-JVP combine.
Meanwhile 15 unions of the Ceylon Electricity Board employees are already protesting against the structural changes and tariff revisions. Trade unions of several sectors are scheduled to go on strike on March 1 against the recently introduced tax policy. Meanwhile, President Wickremesinghe has signed a gazette notification declaring several services related to ports, airports and passenger transport services as essential services.
Clearly the President faces Hobson’s choice.
Tailpiece: Resurrection of Prabhakaran on February 13, 2023, Tamil nationalist movement leader Pazha Nedumaran resurrected the ghost of Velupillai Prabhakaran, the LTTE leader who was slain on May 19, 2009 towards the end of the Eelam War. The aging former Congress leader from Tamil Nādu claimed Prabhakaran was still alive and would appear in public shortly. He said the LTTE leader was “hale and robust” and urged the Tamil people to rally behind him. The news failed to animate anyone.
Canada, a rich and underpopulated country with huge land space and considerable mineral deposits, has adopted a liberal migrant policy for the last several years. It is debatable whether such an approach is influenced by the fact that Canada is underpopulated or its commitment to welcoming migrants and refugees as a humane policy.
It is uncertain as to whether such a policy approach by the Canadian government will do well for Canada in the long run. The question is whether it would cause serious internal problems, by resulting in demographic imbalance and cultural dissimilarities amongst the natives and migrants/refugees entering Canada from different countries with divergent backgrounds.
Germany has welcomed refugees in a big way from strife-torn countries. Availing Germany’s liberal approach, a large number of refugees particularly from Islamic countries have entered Germany and are unlikely to go back. Such influx of refugees has been allowed by earlier German government as a humanistic approach towards refugees but has already caused serious local issues in Germany. Several Germans are protesting against such influx of refugees, most of whom have no particular skill or reasonable level of education and with different habits and priorities in personal life.
There are other countries in Europe such as Belgium, France, Britain where also migrants/refugees from African and Asian countries have entered, causing local issues. Australia is yet another country with similar problems. USA is also not an exception to such conditions.
Some migrants turned into separatists
This approach of the above countries have created problems for other countries like India and Sri Lanka since some separatists targeting India or Sri Lanka have also joined the group of people entering the above countries in the guise of migrants/refugees.
Sri Lanka suffered from serious internal strife resulting in a civil war launched by LTTE separatists, who found a safe haven in countries like Canada, Britain, France and others. Now, India is facing problems due to the Khalistan separatists based in countries like Canada, demanding a separate Khalistan region from India.
Khalistan separatists tolerated:
These Khalistan separatists virtually act and behave like terrorists and are not concealing their readiness to use violent methods to achieve their ends. While they are firmly footed in Canada, they have also in recent times gained foothold in other countries like Britain, and Australia.
What is unfortunate is that the countries like Canada have allowed these separatists to get a foothold, in spite of the fact that it is well known that they have separatist objectives in other countries, which would inevitably destabilize the targeted countries of the separatists, with adverse impact on their sovereignty and territorial integrity.
in the name of their commitment to free speech, individual liberty and democratic procedures, these democratic countries like Canada which are accommodating the separatists, virtually remain silent about the activities of the Khalistan separatists, They do not seem to realise that the activities of the Khalistan separatist groups are similar to the double-edged sword that has two sharp edges on both the sides. While the targeted countries of the separatists suffer due to their activities, the countries accommodating these separatists will also be seriously impacted and this is already evident from several recent developments.
Khalistan separatists have attacked several Hindu temples in Canada and Australia and they have not been caught and punished for their dastardly acts by Government of Canada and Government of Australia so far.
Due to the activities of the Khalistan separatists, the law and order scenario in countries like Canada, Australia have been disrupted to some extent and is likely that the disruption would become more severe beyond tolerable level in the coming period if their accommodative attitude towards separatists would continue.
Recently, some Khalistan separatists have created huge law and order problem in Punjab state in India, where they attacked a police station with swords and arms, demanding the release of an arrested person. Unfortunately, the Punjab government panicked and released the arrested person, which inevitably have boosted the morale and confidence level of Khalistan terrorists.
Punjab government has said that these Khalistan terrorists who attacked the police station enjoy money support from overseas countries, where they have gained a foothold, obviously implying Canada.
Need for introspection:
For a moment, the leadership in the Government of Canada, the Government of Australia and other countries should introspect as to how they would feel bad and concerned if a similar separatist movement against them would be encouraged or tolerated in some other countries, where these separatists would gain a place.
It is high time that in the name of liberty and freedom, governments in Canada, Australia, Britain and other democratic countries should not confuse themselves, thinking that they would be right in accommodating separatists from other countries and providing them liberty and rights for free speech and unrestricted activities to cause disruptions in other countries.
If these democratic countries were to do so, it can be definitely said that they would become the cause for destabilizing other countries and creating pockets of tension in the world and disrupting global peace and harmony.
The Chinese leadership has placed the new development pattern high on the country’s policy agenda, according to which the domestic market is taken as the country’s economic mainstay with domestic and foreign markets complementing each other.
Accelerating the establishment of a new development pattern is a strategic decision for the country’s long-term development and security.
Only by doing so can China consolidate the foundation for its economy and enhance the security and stability of its development. China’s capability to deal with predictable and unpredictable storms and high winds can also be strengthened in the fostering of a new development pattern.
As the world’s most populous country, China enjoys a massive domestic market, on the basis of which a virtuous circle of goods production, circulation, distribution and consumption should be enhanced. That lays a solid foundation for China’s high-quality development.
Over the past Spring Festival holiday, the first since China optimized its COVID response, the country witnessed a booming domestic market and expanding consumption in various sectors such as tourism, box office, retail and catering.
About 308 million domestic tourism trips were made during the seven-day holiday, up by 23.1 percent year on year. The holiday box office generated a whopping revenue of 6.76 billion yuan (about 970 million U.S. dollars), the second highest in history for the same period.
Demand drives supply and supply creates demand. Efforts should be made to coordinate the expansion of domestic demand and the deepening of supply-side structural reform, so as to create a higher-level dynamic balance and achieve a virtuous cycle in the national economy.
Electric vehicle (EV) brands have sprung up across the nation, providing a number of new options for Chinese consumers. China’s production and sales of new-energy vehicles reached 7.05 million and 6.88 million, respectively, in 2022, both registering growth of over 90 percent year on year, according to the China Machinery Industry Federation.
Consumption is a constant driver of the economy. The promising signs mentioned above have ensured a good momentum for China’s economic growth. To further tap into the potential of the domestic market, the country’s vast rural areas, home to hundreds of millions of residents, cannot be neglected.
The coordinated development of urban and rural areas, as well as of different regions, should be advanced. On the one hand, China’s rural areas shoulder the responsibility of producing enough food to feed its population. On the other hand, rural vitalization will unleash a strong consumption power for China’s post-pandemic growth.
Along with the rising income of rural residents, China’s rural consumption is expected to accelerate upgrading, and 2 trillion yuan in new consumption demand is expected to be created annually, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Affairs Tang Renjian said.
Emphasizing the domestic market doesn’t mean the international market is no longer important. The various comparative advantages, division of labor, and supply and industrial chain cooperation have made the global economy operate in a more efficient way.
China has benefited greatly from its reform and opening-up over a period of 40-plus years, in terms of exporting and attracting foreign investment. China is determined to continue the policy and improve mechanisms regarding intellectual property rights protection, market access and fair competition, so as to nurture a more favorable environment for all types of market entities.
The rebound of the Chinese economy has attracted new interest among international investors. The foreign direct investment into the Chinese mainland, in actual use, expanded 14.5 percent year on year to 127.69 billion yuan in January, according to the Ministry of Commerce.
The year 2023 will mark the 10th anniversary of the proposal of the Belt and Road Initiative, a prominent achievement of China’s opening-up and international cooperation in recent years. China has signed over 200 cooperation agreements with 151 countries and 32 international organizations so far. China’s active participation in global trade and economy not only boosts the country’s development, but also contributes to global economic growth.
Both men and women are children of God and obviously, God has created men and women to compliment each other. The fact is that men need women and women need men and why should men think that they are superior to women in any way.
In all religions including Islam, nowhere it has been said that women should be subjected to any particular restriction by men.
While practices of denying liberty to women by men were there all over the world in earlier days, most religions and most countries have changed such approach over the years and reformed themselves. Unfortunately, this is yet to happen adequately in a few Islamic countries.
Holy Quran in several observations and guidelines have stressed the importance of women’s role and insisted how women should be respected and their liberty should be ensured.
Due to inadequate understanding of the essential sayings of Holy Quran and consequent misinterpretation, some Islamic countries , particularly Iran and Afghanistan have imposed extreme restrictions on women even today. Leadership of such countries are certainly acting against the tenets of Holy Quran.
Today, dress restriction for women is prevalent in several Islamic countries and muslim women are not allowed to pray in mosque where men offer prayers. The practice of muslim man marrying several women is prevalent in several Islamic countries. Even in secular countries like India , this practice is followed to some extent . In such countries, if muslim women were to defy defy such stressful conditions and insist on their liberty to live as per their choice like the other women in developed countries , they could be harassed by muslim men in some cases . Such liberty craving muslim women would be accused of violating the practices of Islam , which is not true.
The recent protest by muslim women in Iran refusing to wear Hijab was put down with force by the Iranian government. It appears that such protesting muslim women have now been forced to go silent by the authorities.
In the case of Afghanistan, the Taliban government is insisting that women should not go for higher education and even insist that women should not go to the male doctor for medical treatment whatever may be the severity of the illness. Are not all these practices obnoxious? While in Afghanistan too there are some protests by muslim women against such restrictions, it appears that the protests of the muslim women have been silenced now by the strong arm of the government.
The question is whether they would be any relief for such muslim women at all in these countries at any time in future.
Unfortunately, so far, only lip sympathy have been shown by rest of the world for these suffering muslim women. As usual , world body United Nations Organisation has passed some non binding condemnation about the harassment of muslim women in some countries and some women associations across the world have passed resolutions condemning the harassment of muslim women. These steps have not resulted in any tangible and real benefits to the suffering muslim women in some Islamic countries. In other words, the world opinion is virtually impotent and the views expressed are nothing more than mere scrap of paper on which they are printed.
This is a very unfortunate situation today, where the leadership of the government in countries , where women are put to such harassment, do not care for world opinion. In this process , the fair name of the Islam religion in getting internationally tarnished.
To defend the liberty of the muslim women, war is not an option against such countries under the control of merciless people with extreme views on the principles of Islam.
At least, sort of strong international economic sanctions can be imposed on such countries to make the government behave. This has not been done in any meaningful way.
The muslim men across the world who understand that Islam advocates respect for womenhood and not harassment of women and who value the reputation of Islam as a progressive religion , should voice their protest strongly against the harassment of muslim women in Afghanistan and Iran. . The silence of such progressive muslim men is evident and their protest is conspicuous by absence. It is high time that the world wide movement to restore the dignity of muslim women should be launched by progressive muslim men, that will have full support of the civilized world and would enjoy the grateful gratitude of harassed muslim women.
A few years ago, a minor medical problem took me to the Hospital Alemán-Nicaragüense in Nicaragua’s capital, Managua. While I was being treated, I asked the doctor, a kindly older man, if the hospital had been built in association with a German missionary organisation, given its name (in Spanish, alemán means ‘German’). No, he said: this hospital used to be called the Carlos Marx Hospital, and it was built in collaboration with the German Democratic Republic (DDR), or East Germany, in the 1980s. The DDR worked with Nicaragua’s Sandinista government to build the hospital in the working-class area of Xolotlán, where three hundred thousand people lived without access to health care. A massive solidarity campaign in the DDR helped raise funds for the project, and East German medical professionals travelled to Xolotlán to set up a camp of provisional medical tents before beginning construction. The brick-and-mortar hospital opened on 23 July 1985.
When the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) took power in 1979, the revolutionaries inherited a country where infant mortality rates had skyrocketed to 82 per thousand live births (which would be the highest rate in the world today) and where health care was a privilege restricted to a small minority of the population. Besides, by the time the FSLN rode into Managua, whatever health care apparatus had been built by the regime of the Somoza family during their 43-year rule had been shattered: the 1972 earthquake destroyed 70% of the city’s buildings, including the military and Baptist hospitals and most of its health care facilities. The Carlos Marx Hospital was an act of immense solidarity by the socialists, built in Managua on the ruins of a society brutalised by the country’s oligarchy and by their enablers in Washington (as US President Franklin D. Roosevelt said in 1939 of the dictator at the time, ‘Somoza may be a son of a bitch, but he’s our son of a bitch’). Socialist internationalism, from the DDR’s assistance to the efforts of Cuban medical personnel, along with the development of the Sandinista health campaigns, markedly improved the lives of Nicaraguans.
I was reminded of the Carlos Marx Hospital by the newest edition in our series Studies on the DDR, jointly produced by Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research and the Internationale Forschungsstelle DDR (IFDDR) and entitled ‘Socialism Is the Best Prophylaxis’: The German Democratic Republic’s Health Care System. The information about the Carlos Marx Hospital comes from a brief section in the study on the DDR’s international medical solidarity, which also included, among many other examples, building a hospital in Vietnam during the US war on that country and training thousands of doctors from across the Third World in the DDR. But the study is not focused on medical solidarity, which was a part of the DDR’s wider socialist internationalism that will be taken up in a later edition in the series.
The study is about the DDR’s attempt to create a humane and just health care system in a country devastated by World War II, with few resources available (and a population one-third the size of West Germany’s). The title of the study, ‘Socialism Is the Best Prophylaxis’, comes from a statement made by Dr. Maxim Zetkin (1883–1965), the son of the communist and international women’s rights activist Clara Zetkin (1857–1933). Zetkin’s words became a widely propagated slogan in the DDR and the leitmotif for the public health care system that the DDR sought to build with and for its population, emphasising that health care must be preventative, or prophylactic, and not reactive, or merely concerned with treating illness and injury after they occur. Truly preventative care did not reduce health to medical treatment but focused on the general well-being of the population by continuously improving living and working conditions. The DDR recognised that health must be understood as a social responsibility and a priority in all policies, from workplace safety to women’s universal access to reproductive care, nutrition and check-ups in kindergarten and school, and the need to guarantee holidays for the working class. But Zetkin’s quote also highlights how preventive care can only be realised by a system that eliminates the profit motive, which inevitably results in the exploitation of care workers, inflated prices, patents on life-saving medication, and artificial scarcity.
The DDR created a network of medical institutions that worked to improve diet and lifestyle as well as to identify and treat ailments early on rather than wait for them to develop into more severe illnesses. All of this had to be built in a heavily sanctioned country where the physical infrastructure had been destroyed by the war and where many doctors fled to the West (largely because roughly 45 percent of German physicians had been Nazi Party members, and they knew that they would be treated leniently in the West while they would likely be prosecuted in the DDR and in the Soviet Union).
The DDR’s commitment to comprehensive health care was based on the idea of social medicine (Sozialhygiene), developed by the founder of modern pathology Rudolf Virchow (1821–1902) to examine the socio-political determinants of health, and on the Soviet Semashko ‘single payer’ health care system, developed by Nikolai Semashko, People’s Commissar for Health in the Soviet Union from 1918 to 1930.
Among the key aspects of the DDR’s health care system detailed in our study are polyclinics and the community nurse system. When a person in the DDR felt sick, that person would go to a polyclinic, which would be located within their neighbourhood or workplace. Any person could walk into the polyclinic, inform the staff of their ailment, and see a doctor, who would, in turn, direct them to one of the clinic’s many specialist departments (such as internal medicine, oral medicine, gynaecology, surgery, paediatrics, and general medicine). Medical professionals were publicly employed and remunerated and could thus focus on healing the patient rather than on prescribing unnecessary tests and medicines simply to overbill insurance companies or the patients. The different medical professionals and specialists who worked in a single polyclinic consulted each other to find the best course of treatment. Furthermore, on average, 18 to 19 doctors worked in each clinic, allowing for extended hours of operations.
The DDR was not the only place to build a health care system based on this kind of socialist polyclinic format: two years ago, Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research published dossier no. 25 on the polyclinics run by communists in the Telugu-speaking regions of India, entitled People’s Polyclinics: The Initiative of the Telugu Communist Movement. The most vital aspect of these polyclinics for our time is that no money was exchanged for care (which is particularly notable in India, where there are extraordinarily high out-of-pocket expenses for health care).
One paragraph in our study stopped me in my tracks:
In order to extend preventive care to rural areas and scattered villages, rural outpatient centres were built and staffed with up to three doctors, with the number of these facilities rising from 250 in 1953 to 433 by 1989. In many towns, physicians worked in public medical practices or temporarily staffed field offices to provide residents with consultation hours and home visits, while mobile dental clinics visited remote villages to provide all children with preventive care. In addition, the profession of the community nurse was developed in the early 1950s to alleviate the initial shortage of doctors in the countryside, with the number of community nurses expanding from 3,571 in 1953 to 5,585 by 1989. This extensive rural infrastructure helped to provide less densely populated regions with medical services comparable to what was available in urban areas.
In 2015, the International Labour Organisation published a report that found that 56 per cent of rural population worldwide lacks health coverage, with the highest deficit found in Africa, followed by Latin America and Asia. Meanwhile, in the DDR – which lasted a mere forty-one years, from 1949 to 1990 – the socialist project built a rural health care system that linked every resident to the polyclinics in nearby towns through the Gemeindeschwester (community nurse) system. The nurse would get to know every one of the residents in the village, give preliminary diagnoses, and either offer treatments or await the weekly visit of a doctor to each village. When the DDR was dismantled and absorbed into unified Germany in 1990, the community nurse system was disbanded, all 5,585 community nurses were laid off, and rural health care in the country collapsed.
We hope you will join us in an online panel discussion on February 28 to discuss how socialist systems of the past and present have transformed health care to serve the needs of the people rather than profit.
Northwest of Managua, in the city of León, lived the poet Alfonso Cortés (1893–1969), who had been declared ‘mad’ at the age of 34 and chained in his bedroom. Another of Nicaragua’s great poets, Ernesto Cardenal (1925–2020), grew up not far from the home of Cortés. As a child, Cardenal said he used to walk by the Cortés home from the Christian Brothers School and once he saw the ‘poeta loco’ in his chains. A lack of health care condemned Cortés to this humiliation. On one occasion, on his way to see a doctor in Managua, Cortés was driven past a thousand-year-old Genízaro tree in Nagarote, a tree to whom the ‘poeta loco’ wrote a beautiful poem of hope:
I love you, old tree, because at all hours,
you generate mysteries and destinies
in the voice of the afternoon winds
or the birds at dawn.
You who the public plaza decorate,
thinking thoughts more divine
than those of man, indicating the paths
with your proud and sonorous branches.
Genízaro, your old scars
where, like an in an old book, it is written
what time does in its constant falling;
But your leaves are fresh and happy
and you make your treetop tremble into infinity
while humankind goes forward.
“The United States will provide Ukraine with a new $500 million infusion of aid to help the government in Kyiv continue paying salaries, pensions and providing services, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said Thursday. Yellen detailed the assistance following her meeting Wednesday with Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal and Finance Minister Sergiy Marchenko, saying it was necessary to help their government continue to function…
‘The needs of Ukraine are urgent, and we plan to deploy this direct aid to Ukraine as soon as possible to be used on most urgent needs,’ Yellen said. NDTV.com
“In March, 32 states will begin cutting food stamp benefits for more than 30 million Americans, leading toward what some are referring to as a “hunger cliff.” This will mean that poor households will lose about $82 a month in SNAP [also known as food stamps] benefits, even as food prices continue to soar from inflation. (The other 18 states had already ended their emergency food assistance programs.)…The number of infants in Mississippi being treated for congenital syphilis has jumped by more than 900% over the last five years. In 2021, the state was given a federal grant of $18.4 million to hire public health care workers. It spent only $3.6 million.” Jeffrey St. Clair, Roaming Charges, Counterpunch
If you complain about the billions of dollars going to prop up Ukraine’s corrupt and dictatorial government (pay their pensions, for example) you are branded a “Putin Apologist” by both democrats (particularly) and republicans alike. What gives?
Many Americans are critical of Biden’s scheming on Ukraine because they never got to have a vote in this multibillion dollar transfer of wealth and machinery to one of the most corrupt nation’s in the world. If ever there were a case for a national referendum in the USA, it would have been over this issue. Biden came to the podium one day about a year ago and essentially said, “The USA is sanctioning everything Russian and propping up our newest puppet, Zelensky. If you don’t like it, lump it.”
Republicans hate the thought of the hungry (children, too) and homeless in America getting any sort of handout from the US federal government, but they support handouts to a half-baked racist country called Ukraine which is happily ripping off US taxpayers with the blessing of America’s most virulent Russia haters like Anthony Blinken and Victoria Nuland, who are akin to sharks during a feeding frenzy when discussing anything Russian.
Guess what? Roughly 24 percent of US enlisted personnel are “food insecure” and encouraged by the Pentagon to apply for SNAP benefits through the United States Department of Agriculture. “This summer , DoD released a roadmap, Strengthening Food Security in the Force, which reveals that a shocking 24 percent of active duty service members experience some level of food insecurity, and it acknowledges the connections between hunger and mission readiness, troop retention and recruitment. It should be noted that this survey was done before the recent spike in inflation, so it is likely that this estimate is low.” American Enterprise Institute
That 24 percent figure doesn’t account for the million plus US veterans who depend on those SNAP “hand outs” to get by. The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities reported that,“SNAP Helps 1.2 Million Low-Income Veterans, Including Thousands in Every State.”
Oh, and hose hungry active duty enlisted personnel are the ones who are going to go and fight the Russians in Europe, if Biden and Zelensky get their way.
And get this: We learn from the Watson Institute at Brown University the costs to care for veterans of post 9-11 wars are in the trillions. “Between 2001 and 2050, the total costs of caring for veterans of the post-9/11 wars are estimated to reach between $2.2 and $2.5 trillion. This includes the amount already paid in disability and related benefits and medical care, as well as the projected future cost of lifetime disability benefits and healthcare for those who have served in the military during these wars.”
How can we afford to give billions to Ukraine in the face of problems like these, not to mention antagonizing China in the Process?
War is coming for us all because of us all, it seems.
Lunatics in Charge of USA: Look Around!
I am wondering if “Corn Pop” Biden would have authorized an F-22 to shoot down Lawn Chair Larry. One of Biden’s rationales for ordering shoot-downs was that the 2023 balloons were in airspace reserved for commercial aircraft (I wonder too what kind of medal those F-22 pilots were awarded). Anyway, according to Wikipedia, “ On July 2, 1982, Larry Walters made a 45-minute flight in a homemade aerostat made of an ordinary patio chair and 45 helium-filled weather balloons. The aircraft rose to an altitude of about 16,000 feet (4,900 m), drifted from the point of liftoff in San Pedro, California, and entered controlled airspace near Long Beach Airport. During the landing, the aircraft became entangled in power lines, but Walters was able to climb down safely.”
Zelensky is sure to appear at the Oscar Ceremony in March. Everyone will stand and applaud this man who is nothing but a wartime tyrant. How could he not be ruthless in this role? And his ruthlessness is on display in the manner in which he sacrifices his soldiers in battles they can’t possibly win, or in the elimination of all things Russian in Ukraine. He and his wife live the good life, sheltered and protected by his military only because he is the perfect pitchman. I can’t help but think of Jerry Lewis and his telethon each time I see Zelensky, tin cup in hand.
Don’t be surprised to see Zelensky throw out the ceremonial first pitch this coming American Major League Baseball season.
Others say that critics of Zelensky are little more than “Useful Idiots” of Putin. But to those critics Zelensky represents a waste of money, billions spent—or lost in the shadows— that could be used in the United States for SNAP, to improve rail safety, or even build a high speed rail that the US currently does not have, but China does. Better still, those billions could be used on healthcare improvements sorely needed in the USA.
Instead, we are once again aching for war. In fact, we’ve already got it by proxy. General Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is fond of saying that the Russians have failed in Ukraine. Maybe so, but he has got losses in Iraq and Afghanistan on his record, nothing to be proud about. And yet Milley and all the other generals who punched tickets during those wars are not held accountable. They and the policymakers they obeyed brought no credit to their service, only a $2.5 trillion dollar VA bill.
This Ukraine war was never about that country’s independence, freedom, or the future of mankind. You can pull up all the maps you like showing NATO expansion and speeches from the West claiming that Russia wants a grand empire like the old Soviet Union. All these speeches are complete nonsense.
Putin was sucker punched by the USA/West. The American people took an uppercut from Biden who pretended to be a liberal and devote Catholic. He is neither.
US leaders don’t care about the people of Palestine, Ohio, who will ultimately be polluted to death by chemicals from a recent train derailment in an accident that may well have been mitigated if Biden had enforced regulations on brake safety, as St. Clair reported in Roaming Charges at Counterpunch.
They just don’t care.
“The welfare of the people in particular has always been the alibi of tyrants and it provides the further advantage of giving the servants of tyranny a good conscience.” Albert Camus
Facing severe economic crisis and near bankruptcy conditions and high inflation, citizens of Pakistan must be undergoing stressful time now. Apart from such severe economic crisis brought about due to combination of reasons and obviously several wrong decisions of the past, the frequent terrorist attacks in Pakistan and Islamic extremism taking deep root in the country has created an unenviable situation.
Prime Minister of Pakistan and chief of army staff have themselves expressed their distress about such financial mess facing the country and obviously feel humiliated, as they have to plead for loan from other countries and also appeal for deferment of repayment schedule. Above all, the officials of International Monetary Fund are adding insult to injury by imposing conditions that should be adopted by Pakistan to avail financial support from IMF, even as those from IMF know that some of the conditions that they impose would add hardship to people.
All said and done, the question uppermost in the mind of Pakistan citizens and well-wishers of Pakistan around the world is where would Pakistan go from here. The anxious question asked is whether Pakistan would be able to come out of such turmoil at any time soon.
A careful analysis of the strength and potentials of Pakistan would only highlight the fact that Pakistan can come out of the present desperate situation, if the leadership in the government, chief of army staff and enlightened people of Pakistan can reformulate the priorities and chalk out a time bound action plan in a pragmatic way.
Certainly, other countries would respond to Pakistan’s need in variety of ways, if Pakistan government and people would convey the impression in a convincing way about such pragmatic policy and no nonsense approach and with hatred and enmity for none.
Pakistan has reasonably strong agricultural base and mineral resources, that can stand Pakistan in good stead in future, if only Pakistan government develop them adequately well.
Need for friendly relations with India:
The first proactive approach for Pakistan should be to restore peaceful, friendly relation with India, which is possible. Indian Prime Minister Modi is fully focused on developing India industrially and economically and a war with Pakistan would be his last option. India and Pakistan are spending excessive resources in building their military warfare due to mutual suspicion. This helps neither India nor Pakistan.
Obviously, some people in Pakistan are obsessed with the Kashmir issue and generation of citizens have grown in Pakistan thinking that Kashmir should be part of Pakistan at any cost. This is totally a counterproductive approach, failing to view the issue with proper and dispassionate perspective, keeping the thought process in both the countries in view.
Whatever that have happened in the past, a certain portion of Kashmir is now with Pakistan and rest is under the control of India. Let it remain in the same way and let both the countries decide accordingly.
With a strong and forward-looking leader like Mr.Modi in charge in India, this is possible. Pakistan government has to explain to the people about the inevitable need to solve Kashmir issue peacefully in one way or the other.
With cooperation with India, Pakistan can profitably gain by fostering trade relationship with India in a variety of ways that will benefit both countries.
Need to emulate other Islamic countries
Pakistan should learn from other Islamic countries like UAE, Qatar, Egypt and maintain healthy respect for other religions like Hinduism and Christianity, even as Pakistan remains as a deeply devoted Islamic nation.
A strong public opinion has to be built in Pakistan against Islamic extremism in Pakistan by soliciting support from well-intentioned and noble Islamic scholars who understand the spirit of Islam which is amity and equity and not animosity and violence.
Pakistan is a democratic country and deeply religious one. There are liberal Pakistan based journalists, who are known to have courage of conviction and progressive views based on ground realities.
The media can play a very big role in restoring the glory of Pakistan by moulding public opinion and thought process in a positive manner and even reforming the politicians by constructive criticism and providing corrective recommendations.
People to people relationship of India and Pakistan:
The first step towards enabling Pakistan to bounce back is to build cordial relationship with India by amicably settling the Kashmir issue, strongly putting down the terrorist elements from creating problems in Kashmir that is now under India’s control.
The recent visit of Mr. Javed Akhtar, a well-known lyricist and poet from India to Pakistan and his interaction with the Pakistani citizens give great hope about the future relationship with both the countries. One of the observations during interaction was made by a Pakistan citizen that almost amounted to saying that Pakistanis love Indians and bear no ill will. The Indian lyricist responded that Indians cannot be blamed for suspicions about Pakistan since 26 / 11 attack in Mumbai was carried out by terrorists from Pakistan killing innocent people. For this response, there was no protest in Pakistan.
Mr. C. Rajagopalachari, one of the greatest thinkers of India said several decades back that the best way of building good relationship with India and Pakistan is to encourage and facilitate citizens from both these countries to visit each other and build cordial relationship between the people. Present is the right time for this approach.
Views expressed are the author’s own
For a Sri Lanka politician, for that matter any politician, what matters most is outcomes and delivery rather than process and ideology. But, to be successful, process must be married with energy, ideas, and political will of the Central Government.
The electorate will of course, give or willingly bestow time, most often, the benefit of the doubt, but no responsible Central Government can carry on regardless, without structural reforms, if it wants to survive.
We have seen this clearly in what is happening, or rather what has happened in the uprising of the people or the “aragalaya movement” that took to the streets in March 2022.
Can raising standards of living be indefinitely postponed?
Political theorists admonish that the performance of a truly national government cannot be separated from structural reforms if a Central Government has to survive. It looks that political reforms may be ‘flunked’ once again, as it has happened several times in the past 75 years, this time largely as a result of the Debt crisis.
Reports have emerged that the Government will be delaying an announcement on reforms, in fact, Local Elections until later after securing the IMF assistance package. (Déjà vu?)
Reports suggest that the President‘s favoured plan for funding reform – perhaps, a cap on military spending – faces two key objections from the Services. That the country can least afford, that it will cost too much in security concerns and that it may disproportionately benefit the enemies of the nation? Of course, the security of our nation comes first, but how long can the ordinary man on the street wait, when prices of essential goods and services, electricity tariffs are raised previously by 75% and soon by another 66% on the request of the IMF to secure the approval of its Extended Fund Facility (EFF). How long can we go on a begging bowl? Is it not time to cut unnecessary and extended expenses on anything and everything, that is now found when we are not on a war footing, to save our people from hardship for years on end?
Do these objections stack up?
First, let’s briefly remind ourselves how we got here. We got to the position we are in because of our vanity, and our wonton carelessness after 30 years of war. Can we really and economically afford a bloated service force the same as during a war? At the same time can we ignore the way how to secure our nation in peacetime?
Protection against any uprising in the future should not be ignored. How affordable is cutting the military’s budget? But, simultaneously, affordability shouldn’t be the only factor determining reform. Can the nation afford this cost of reform now and in the future?
Fundamentally, reform of the military services is to make it “fit for purpose for the 21st century,” which should be one part of the new system of security. Making this happen will require additional government time, planning and investment. But, reform of the military services is not unaffordable?
The Government can afford to provide a fairer and more generous society to live within its means and solve the debt crisis if we begin to live within our means. This is what is necessary, not further loans from the IMF to pay our existing loans.
The arguments are clearer and more logical. The question is the Government’s political will?
On February 10, 2023, two Army personnel were killed in an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) explosion in the Kohlu area (Kohlu District) of Balochistan. Based on credible intelligence, a sanitisation operation was initiated by Security Forces (SFs) when an IED explosion resulted in the death of two soldiers.
On February 5, 2023, six Army personnel were killed and an unspecified number of others sustained injuries, when Balochistan Liberation Front (BLF) cadres attacked Brigadier Shahid Nadeem’s convey with an IED, on the Quetta-Sibi National Highway in the Sirajabad area of the Bolan District. BLF ‘spokesman’ Gwahram Baloch claimed responsibility.
On February 5, 2023, one SF trooper, identified as Tanveer, was killed and another eight were injured in a suicide blast in the Gulistan Road area of Quetta, the provincial capital of Balochistan. The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility for the attack.
On February 3, 2023, four Pakistan Coast Guard (PCG) personnel were killed and another five were injured when Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) cadres attacked a patrolling team with a remote-controlled bomb and firing with automatic weapons, in the Jeemuri area of Gwadar District. BLA ‘spokesman’ Azad Baloch claimed responsibility for the attack.
According to partial data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), Balochistan has recorded 36 Security Force (SF) personnel fatalities in 22 terrorism-related incidents so far, in the current year (data till February 19, 2023). During the corresponding period of 2022, the province had recorded 33 SF fatalities in 14 terrorism-related incidents. Through 2022, 202 SF fatalities were recorded in the province, a rise of 92.38 per cent over year 2021, at 105 SF fatalities. In terms of SF fatalities, the 2022 tally was the highest, at 202, since the SATP database started documenting fatalities in Pakistan. The preceding high in the province was 177 in 2012, at a time when terrorism was rampaging across Pakistan.
The overall fatalities in Balochistan in 2022 totalled 406 (88 civilians, 202 SF personnel and 116 terrorists) in 160 incidents of killing, as against 308 such fatalities (111 civilians, 107 SF personnel, and 90 terrorists) in 111 such incidents in 2021, registering an increase of 31.82 per cent.
Incidents of killing increased from 111 in 2021 to 160 in 2022. Incidents of killing had dropped from 148 in 2016 to 82 in 2017, 69 in 2018, 48 in 2019 and 76 in 2020. Similarly, major incidents (each involving three or more fatalities) increased from 40 in 2021 to 52 in 2022, and the resultant fatalities from 200 to 271. The number of explosions and resultant fatalities increased from 66 and 92, respectively, in 2021, to 94 and 100, respectively, in 2022. The number of suicide attacks remained the same, two each in 2021 and 2022.The two suicide attacks in 2022 were:
November 30: A Policeman and a child were killed, while 24 others, including 20 Policemen, were injured in a suicide blast targeting a Police truck in the Baleli area of Quetta. The blast targeted a Police team preparing to escort polio vaccinators. TTP claimed responsibility for the attack.
March 8: A suicide bomb explosion at the Jail Road of Sibbi town (Sibbi District) killed seven SF personnel and wounded another 28. The explosion occurred as President Arif Alvi was in the city, which was holding the Sibbi Mella (Fair), a well-known annual festival. Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility for the attack.
Even as all parameters of violence indicate that the overall security situation in Balochistan has deteriorated significantly in 2022, enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killing of ethnic Baloch by the security apparatus have been rampant. The annual report released on January 12, 2023, by Paank, the human rights organization of the Baloch National Movement (BNM), recorded that the Pakistan Army forcibly disappeared 629 persons, extra-judicially killed 195, and tortured 187. The report declared that year 2022 was full of human tragedy in Balochistan, with mass punishment, forced disappearances, murders, massacres and violence.
According to the report, in January 2022, 92 forced disappearances, 15 murders were recorded, and one person was tortured by the Army in Balochistan. 95 enforced disappearances, 42 murders and 5 cases of torture were reported in February. In March, 62 people were forcibly ‘disappeared’, 19 were killed and six were tortured. 50 enforced disappearances, 39 murders and 18 cases of torture were reported in April. 61 enforced disappearances, five murders and 22 cases of torture were reported in May. In June, 26 people forcibly disappeared, and 11 people were murdered. In July, 46 people forcibly disappeared, 16 were killed, and 28 were tortured. 55 forced disappearances, five murders and 37 cases of torture were reported in August. In September, 30 forced disappearances, two murders were recorded, and 19 people were tortured. In October, 38 people were forcibly ‘disappeared’, 15 were killed, and 18 were tortured. In November, 36 people were forcibly ‘disappeared’, 23 were killed, and 14 were tortured. 38 enforced disappearances and two murders were recorded, and 19 people were tortured, in December 2022.
On January 30, 2023, under the Universal Periodic Review process at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva, member states called on Pakistan to stop enforced disappearances and other human rights abuses, and demanded protection for the people.
The escalating attacks on SFs in Balochistan are substantially a consequence of the continuing frustration among Baloch nationalist groups over the systematic extermination of ethnic Baloch through enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings by Pakistani security agencies, in addition to the persistent neglect of the basic needs of the population.
The systematic campaign of extermination by Pakistani security agencies is being countered by the Baloch insurgent groups through the escalating attacks on SFs. Reprisal attacks by the major Baloch insurgent groups such as the Baloch National Army (BNA), Baloch Liberation Army (BLA), Balochistan Liberation Front (BLF), Balochistan Liberation Tigers (BLT) and United Baloch Army (UBA) resulted in the escalating casualties among SF personnel in 2022.
A strengthening of the Baloch insurgent groups is indicated by the February 2, 2022, simultaneous attacks by BLA cadres on the Panjgur and Nuskhi Army camps in Balochistan, which resulted in 19 fatalities (15 terrorists and four SF personnel). Indeed, while Pakistan Government sources claimed only four SF fatalities, Radio Zrumbesh, quoting BLA ‘spokesman’ Jeehand Baloch, claimed that 45 SF personnel were killed in the attack, when a ‘martyred’ fidayeen (suicide attacker) rammed his explosive-laden vehicle into the main gate of the Frontier Corps headquarters at Nushki, clearing the way for other fidayeen to enter.
After the February 2 attacks, the then Federal Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid, citing intelligence reports, told the media on February 3,
‘Baloch militants are not capable of launching major attacks in Nuskhi and Panjgur. TTP (Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan) has the capability, experience and latest NATO weapons to launch such attacks. There’s some understanding between the TTP and Baloch militants. They have their hideouts in Afghanistan.
The speculation on a TTP-Baloch militant alliance appeared to receive some confirmation when TTP ‘spokesperson’ Mohammad Khurasani congratulated the Baloch insurgent groups for their attacks in Nuskhi and Panjgur. He stated, “The Pakistani Army is carrying out the massacre in Balochistan. We are against the massacre of Balochistan as well as in Waziristan by the Pakistani Army. Our enemy is common.”
Since the February 2, 2022, twin attacks, emboldened Baloch groups have mounted repeated strikes on SFs, including some high-profile operations:
August 1, 2022: Six Army personnel, including Lieutenant General Sarfraz Ali, Corps Commander, XII Corps, were killed in an Army helicopter crash. The helicopter went missing in the Lasbela District of Balochistan in the night of August 1, and the wreckage was found near the Moosa Goth area on August 2. Baloch Raji Ajoi Sanger (BRAS) ‘spokesperson’ Baloch Khan, in a statement to the media, claimed the helicopter had been shot down.
July 15, 2022: BLA cadres shot dead the head of the Counter Terrorism Department (CTD), Eid Muhammad Hassani aka Eido, near Naurozabad Road in Kharan town (Kharan District). BLA ‘spokesman’ Azad Baloch claimed responsibility for the attack, declaring that Eid Muhammad had worked as Station House Officer (SHO) in the Kharan Police Department for many years before joining CTD, and was being used as a pawn by the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). At the behest of the ISI, he used to monitor the movement of Baloch cadres and to barricade the area. Apart from this, he had extra-judicially handed over Baloch youth to secret agencies on fabricated charges or without any grounds.
July 13: Army Lieutenant Colonel Laiq Baig Mirza, who was abducted along with his cousin Umer Javed by BLA cadres near the Warchoom area of Ziarat District, was killed, while five BLA cadres were later killed during an exchange of fire near the Mangi Dam area of same District. BLA ‘spokesperson’ Jeehand Baloch claimed responsibility for the incident, stating that Lieutenant Colonel Mirza was ‘arrested’ in an intelligence-based operation by BLA’s special force, the Special Tactical Operations Squad (STOS). Mirza was a prime target and he was being tracked for days by BLA’s intelligence units. Mirza was ‘arrested’ as an officer of the ‘occupying forces’, and for his direct involvement in the Baloch genocide and grave human rights violations, including enforced disappearances of women and children, among other crimes.
Frustration among Baloch insurgent groups over the enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings by Pakistan security agencies in Balochistan resounded in other Provinces as well:
On February 16, 2023, a blast inside the Quetta-bound Jaffar Express train killed two passengers and injured six others when the train was passing from Chichawatni railway station in Sahiwal District of Punjab. Baloch Nationalist Army (BNA), through its media cell Baask Media, claimed responsibility for the attack.
April 26, 2022: Five persons including three Chinese nationals, their Pakistani driver and a security guard, were killed when a women suicide bomber blew herself up near a van transporting Chinese nationals from a Karachi University (KU) hostel to the Confucius institute in Karachi, the provincial capital of Sindh. BLA claimed responsibility for the attack. The female suicide bomber, Shaari Baloch aka Bramsh, belongs to BLA’s Majeed Brigade, a suicide bomber squad. She was the first Baloch woman suicide bomber.
January 20, 2022: Three persons were killed and over 33 were injured in a bomb explosion near Pan Mandi in the New Anarkali Bazar area of Lahore, the provincial capital of Punjab. Baloch Nationalist Army (BNA) claimed responsibility for the attack.
State atrocities on Baloch people and the Government’s skewed developmental priorities, focused on exploiting Balochistan’s natural resources without significant benefits for the local population, have also provoked attacks on non-locals in Balochistan. Baloch insurgents targeted ‘outsiders’, especially Punjabis, as they were considered either as agents of the security forces, or were engaged in China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects to exploit their natural resources of the province. According to partial data compiled by SATP, a total of 243 ‘outsiders’ have been killed in Balochistan since August 26, 2006, (data till December 31, 2022). Of these, 187 were Punjabis. Other ‘outsiders’ were also part of the ethnic ‘collateral damage’. Out of 56 non-Punjabi ‘outsiders’, 37 were Sindhis, while the ethnic identity of the remaining 19 remains unconfirmed. The most recent attack was on January 18, 2023, when BLA cadres killed a non-Baloch person on the charges of being an Army agent at Absar in Turbat, the administrative centre of Kech District. BLA ‘spokesman’ Jeehand Baloch claimed responsibility for the killing, disclosing that the intelligence wing of BLA had gathered information that the non-resident, Babo Khan aka Allah Rakhia, was working as an informant for the Pakistani military in Turbat and adjoining areas.
Though there have been no major attacks on China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects, a series of protests have started against Chinese interests in the province under the banner of the Haq Do Tehreek (Give our Rights Movement) led by Maulana Hidayat ur Rehman, who is also the general secretary of Jamaat-e-Islami in Balochistan. The protesters started a sit-in in Gwadar on October 27, 2022, demanded an end to illegal trawling, a major issue for the people of the port city, for whom fishing is one of the very few sources of income. The Government had licensed Chinese trawlers to fish in the waters off the coast, and locals, with their small boats, were unable to compete with their better equipped Chinese competitors.
As the sit-in continues, tens of thousands of protesters, including women and children, blocked an expressway leading to the Gwadar Port, as the Government failed to meet their deadline to act on their demands. On December 10, thousands of women rallied in Gwadar in support of Rehman and the Haq do Tehreek. As tension continued to build, Rehman issued a warning to Chinese nationals working in Gwadar Port to leave, vowing to completely stop work on all CPEC projects in Gwadar. Things turned violent on December 27, a day after negotiations between the Government and movement leaders failed. The Police clashed with protesters in which one Policeman killed while hundreds of protester and many Policemen injured. A number of protesters were taken into custody. After evading the Police for about two weeks, Haq Do Tehreek leader Maulana Hidayat ur Rehman was arrested on January 13, 2023, from the court where he had arrived to surrender, along with two other activists, Nasibullah Nusherwani and Hassan Murad.
On February 12, 2023, instead of addressing the legitimate grievances of the protesters, the Federal Minister of Interior Rana Sanaullah announced that ‘fool proof security’ would be provided to Chinese nationals in Gwadar Port. Sanaullah visited Gwadar, reviewed security arrangements for the Chinese, and declared: “All locals and foreign nationals would be provided fool proof security.”
Balochistan’s long history of discontent due to a denial of basic rights and services, economic exploitation and brutal repression implies that the security situation in the province will remain volatile in the foreseeable future.
In the last nine years after Mr. Narendra Modi assumed office as Prime Minister of India, there is no doubt that India has achieved significant progress and has made rapid strides in multiple directions. Several infrastructure projects, welfare programmes, proactive policies towards industrial development and number of reform measures have been implemented. However, one area where there is not much of difference is in the level of corruption at different levels all over India.
While Mr.Modi has ensured that top administration in central government is nearly transparent without corrupt dealings, this is not so in the case of lower level of administration and in several states in the country.
Cross section of people living in various parts of India in different age groups, educational level and economic strata are of the view that the most serious problem confronting India today is the widespread corruption in government departments and public life. Not only several politicians, bureaucrats, but government employees at various levels are also indulging in corruption, widespread corruption is prevalent in private educational institutions, private hospitals, real estates and even in places of worship and other areas from bottom level to top level. Of course, occasionally , it is also seen that there are honest and incorruptible people in government departments and public and private sector organisations. They are few and far between. The non-corrupt person today is considered as an exception rather than a rule.
It is extremely distressing to note that many people have started thinking that corruption is the order of the day, whether in private or public sector activities. As a matter of fact, corruption has become cyclical , in that one person who takes bribe at one place also gives bribe at another place to get things done.
In spite of such conditions, Prime Minister Modi remains as the most popular leader in the country enjoying public confidence, as people believe that he is a man of great personal integrity and if anyone in India can root out corruption in India today , this cause can be achieved by only Prime Minister Modi.
On more than one occasion, Mr. Modi has said or give an impression by his decisions that the best way of rooting out corruption in India is by making changes in the system of transaction and administration. He has been stressing on the importance of massive and large scale digitalization as the best method of promoting transparency and rooting out corruption.
Mr. Modi has taken some steps in this regard by opening zero bank account for millions of poor people in India and ensuring that welfare fund for the poor people including agricultural farmers would be provided by bank transaction, so that middle men would be avoided and syphoning of the fund would be eliminated. This is good as far as it goes ,but certainly many other stronger steps are needed.
It is well known that most of the corrupt dealing takes place in the form of cash transaction. Therefore, high level of digitalization and minimum amount of currency in circulation is the strategy and pre condition that is required to root out corruption.
While the level of digitalization in the country has been steadily increasing, unfortunately the currency circulation has also increased to high level.
The currency circulation in value terms has soared from ₹17.74 lakh crore on November 4, 2016, to ₹32.42 lakh crore on December 23, 2022. Currency in circulation, which was ₹18.04-lakh crore in end-March 2018, jumped to ₹31.34-lakh crore in end-March 2022 and further to ₹32.42-lakh crore as on December 23, 2022.
With huge currency in circulation, many raids carried out by investigating agencies like enforcement directorate, Income tax authorities have seen huge bundle of currency notes worth several crore of rupees kept in the raided premises. Obviously, this bundle of currencies are the black money and corrupt money accumulated by evading taxes and indulging in corrupt dealings.
While campaign for honesty in public and private life by various sources have been taking place for long time in the country, this has not seen any reduction in the level of corruption in India. The repeated catching of corrupt persons by vigilance department have also not yielded much benefits ,as they are only the tip of iceberg.
The only way is to reduce rapidly the circulation of currency note in the country, which inevitably would lead to greater level of digitalization and transparency in transactions and bring down the currency led corruption. The recent rapid increase in currency circulation by Reserve Bank of India is a mistake with serious adverse consequences.
This situation has to be retrieved by steadily decreasing the level of high value currency notes in circulation.