The hatred of journalism!

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) released today its 2018 World Press Freedom Index, which evaluates the level of press freedom in 180 countries. This year’s map reflects the dramatic growing animosity towards journalists.

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Hostility towards the media from political leaders is no longer limited to authoritarian countries such as Turkey (down two at 157th) and Egypt (161st). The hatred of journalism is now a dangerous threat to democracies as well.

More and more democratically-elected heads of state are increasing their verbal and physical violence against the press. This is the case in particular in the United States (45th, -2), the Czech Republic (34th, -11), Slovakia (27th, -10) or in Malta (65th, -18) where the journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia was murdered in the explosion of her car, simply for doing her job.

Faced with the trivialization and brutality of these attacks, it is urgent to take action to defend and preserve the freedom of information in the world.

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India’s Regional Policy: Still Meddle and Muddle

Mohan Guruswamy is Chairman and founder of Centre for Policy Alternatives, New Delhi, India. He has over three decades of experience in government, industry and academia. He can be contacted at mohanguru[at]gmail.com.

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Mohan Guruswamy

Much as we would like to exalt Jawaharlal Nehru as the founder of modern India’s foreign policy, like all other major countries our policy too derives its basis from one man, France’s Cardinal Richelieu who enshrined national interest as the only guiding principle to conduct affairs with other nations. The French have an elegant phrase for it. Raison d’état. Richelieu rejected the notion that policy should be based on values and sentimental considerations. He believed, as we all still do, that the state has permanent interests, the singular pursuit of which requires much intellectual and moral flexibility. He believed that the only challenge facing a policymaker is to decide what the national interest was and what it required? It was this singular pursuit that had Catholic France intervening in the Thirty Years War (1618-48) on the Protestant side to block the increasing power of the Pope. At Richelieu’s prompting, the philosopher, Jean de Silhon, defined the concept of reason of state as “a mean between what conscience permits and affairs require.”

How we see our national interest depends on how we see ourselves. Therein lies the rub. The rump Republic of India sees itself as the successor to the British Raj, which left these shores in 1947. For the two centuries that Britain was the paramount power in India, India’s national interests were synonymous with Britain’s. The paramount powers paramount interest, as far as India was concerned, was to keep the goose that laid the golden egg healthy and well. Lord Curzon of Kedleston who was Viceroy of India  (1898-1905) and later Britain’s Foreign Secretary (1919-24) is still regarded by many of our foreign policy elite as the man who outlined India’s grand strategic vision and its focus on fixing borders. It is argued by these that while the political context might have changed, geography has not. Physical geography may have not, but political geography has changed very much. Afghanistan is no longer the glacis on which the war for India will be fought. Neither are Tibet and Xinjiang buffers against northern threats. The threats are at the doorsteps now.

In the immediate period after 1947, India’s foreign policy was still conducted by the western educated elite who had imbibed their lessons in Cambridge and Oxford and believed they were legatees of the white man’s burden, including the defence of India. India’s immediate neighbors have for their own reasons still largely see India’s conduct towards them as the continuation of the British legacy. It didn’t help very much when the Oxbridge elite were followed by the St. Stephens elite who were also cast in about the same laat sahib mold.

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Consequently, our diplomats have tended to be overbearing with the smaller non-hostile neighbors, often treating them like errant schoolboys. This is the constant lament heard in the neighborhood, whether it is in Colombo or Kathmandu. Increasingly such voices are heard in Thimpu as well. With Bangladesh too, we have rapidly descended from being the liberator to neighborhood bully. The dominant Indian discourse of “the demographic aggression” by Bangla migrants has created a certain unhelpful mentality in both countries. What after all must a nation think when its larger neighbor thinks of it as an unending source of human vermin?

It is interesting that we don’t nurture a similar attitude towards Nepal, whose unabated and facilitated migration in India possibly exceeds that from Bangladesh. But there is a difference. The Bangla migrant is usually a Muslim while the Nepali migrant is always a Hindu. Unfortunately, many of our leaders still see Muslims as invaders, while not seeing India as a nation of immigrants and forgetting that the vast majority of South Asia’s Muslims are converts who sought escape from the inequities of the Hindu order.

To add to our woes, we still seem to be wearing those Curzonian blinkers that have bequeathed us the Great Game mentality with its focus on highways, railroads and sea-lanes and ports as military threats. South Block still doesn’t seem to have realized that modern military means and technology have made the theories of Mahan and Mackinder largely irrelevant. It is this infantilism that makes us see every Chinese investment in the cash-starved region as a threat to India’s hegemony when even our worst fears about Hambantota or Gwadar actually make them juicy and easy targets.

While excoriating Foreign Secretary Earl Russell in the House of Lords on February 4, 1864, Edward Stanley, Earl of Derby said: “The foreign policy of the Earl may be summed up in two short homely but expressive words – meddle and muddle.” But we are now no longer prepared to behave like Curzon either. The tension between that Curzonian tendency to meddle and the passive spirit of Nehru to muddle still persists. We see this manifested in New Delhi’s policy responses to the current situations in Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh or Maldives -with more muddle than meddle. The muddle in South Block is not due to the limited number of options. There is no L’embarrass des richesses, but a poverty of clarity.

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The most significant development of this century so far has been the rise of China as an economic powerhouse with its military not lagging far behind. Speaking to Singapore’s foreign minister Geo Yeo in July 2010, the then Chinese foreign minister Yang Jiechi responding to criticism about China’s assertiveness just said: “China is a big country and other countries are small countries, and that’s just a fact.” Indeed it is, and at this point in time, even India is much too small to be able to compete with it in its spree of chequebook diplomacy. Most of India’s regional neighbors are poor countries and if their adversity forces them not to look at Chinese gift horses in the teeth, then we must understand it. In other circumstances, we too might have done so too?

But our inherited Curzonian vision and now a little bit of American induced notion of containment is pushing India into a confrontationist posture with China. India will do well to remind itself that of the Quad that is being increasingly talked about, only India has a long and contentious land border with China. The other three Quad players are hooked up to China’s growth engine and are also most responsible for its rise – America with its trade profligacy, and Japan with its massive investments and transfer of technology. India must be wary of becoming their cats’ paw.

Delivering the valedictory to a recently concluded conference of South Asian scholars at the UNESCO Madanjeet Singh Institute of South Asian Regional Cooperation & Coordination, Pondicherry University, my advice to the fellow South Asians was that they would do well to take in all the Chinese financial assistance forthcoming and not be too worried about it. I recalled the dictum enunciated by Walter Wriston, the legendary Citibank Chairman who told my class at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, “countries don’t go under, they just roll over”. Indian corporations are experts at rolling over debts and that if the neighbors should need advice on how to do it they could just knock on our doors. Hence they should remember this song from the 1970 Manoj Kumar movie, Purab aur Paschim:

Koee jab tumhaaraa hriday tod de,
Tadapataa huaa jab koee chhod de,
Tab tum mere paas aanaa priye,
Meraa dar khulaa hai,

khulaa hee rahegaa, tumhaare liye.

Padmaavat and the other side of history

Abrar Ahmed Khan is a Bangalore-based commentator. He can be reached at abrarkhan351[at]gmail[dot]com.

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Abrar A Khan

 

 

Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmaavat is minting moolah. It’s got what cinema aficionados expected from it after all—vibrant visuals, OMG-inducing sets, Ranveer and Deepika together (well, not quite, but still), clever use of VFX, impressive screenplay, a “paisa-vasool” feeling at the end of the day…Bhansali played to his strengths yet again.

However, the movie, which is gaining a rapid reputation as being the veteran director’s “masterpiece”, hasn’t been received well by many. While members of the Karni Sena ran amok before the movie’s release, the Muslim community had also seen the writing on the wall, albeit in silence. The trailers did give a sense of what was coming—another of those attempts to use history (although doubts remain over Padmaavat being a slice of history at all) and demonise the Muslim identity. A disclaimer at the beginning about no intention of harming any community notwithstanding, Bhansali’s portrayal of Alauddin Khilji in this fictional potboiler does appear to reinforce a few dogmas about Muslims that members of the Sangh Parivar would have us believe—“foreign invaders”? Check. Barbaric? Check. Deceivers? Check. Oppressors of women? Check. Merciless meat eaters? Check. Bhansali did tick almost all of the boxes there.

Many have opined that Muslims have a right to feel offended by what Padmaavat does to them in the current socio-cultural scenario in India. The movie appears to be another of those attempts to cash in on things that “sell” these days (“love jihad”, Hindu nationalism, and other issues that a section of the media keeps harping on claiming that those are what helps it get the number of eyeballs it needs).

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The issue isn’t with Bhansali taking creative liberty. The issue’s got to do with the larger socio-political context of “othering” Muslims and relegating the Muslim identity in India. The Sangh Parivar does not shy away from admitting that it wants to rewrite Indian history and hence the attempts to saffronise school textbooks and play politics over Indian history. At times, you wonder if the days of giving cultures and people their due are behind us. When someone like Mughal emperor Akbar, a man who is known to have had immense respect for the Hindu culture and whose religious and administrative policies attracted praise from historians generation after generation, does not survive the bile attack from Yogi Adityanath, you know that all’s not well. Somewhere in this whole Hindu nationalism narrative, a subtle message of there being a problem with all things Muslim is being disseminated and the Muslim identity is being singled out.

A lot of the developments in the recent past appear to be telling us that a section of the media and entertainment industry is buying this vitriolic “nationalist” narrative. Bhansali’s previous movie “Bajirao Mastani” also appeared to ride the Hindu nationalism wave with the protagonist striving to oust the Mughals and establish a Hindu Rashtra. Akshay Kumar has managed to build himself a reputation for being a “nationalist” actor and the national award that the Modi government conferred on him did not actually come as a surprise. For most news channels, Pakistan bashing, triple talaq, and Tipu Sultan are more important than farmer suicides and the impact of GST and demonetisation on the common man. See things in the larger context and you can connect the dots. With “Padmaavat”, Bhansali appears to have jumped on the bandwagon and dished out a movie tailor-made for the reinforcement of the Sangh Parivar’s propaganda of “foreign” powers wreaking havoc in India and their exploitation of the “locals”.

The other side

It can be safely deduced that this whole hullaballoo about foreign invasions and attacks on Hindus and the Hindu culture has hypocrisy written all over it. For most people, especially those in the Sangh Parivar, history begins and ends with the advent of Muslims in India. What hardly ever comes to light is that all was not hunky-dory in pre-Muslim India. For instance, several tales lay buried in the saga of the growth (and decline) of Buddhism and Jainism in India, the very place they originated from (yes, long before “foreign” powers had set foot on Indian soil). Historians cite references of religious violence being carried out against Buddhists and Jains by Hindu rulers and how Buddhist and Jain places of worship were either destroyed or replaced with Hindu temples. There have been conflicts between Shaivite and Vaishnavite kings and places of worship have been attacked, desecrated and looted. A reading of Dr BR Ambedkar’s works on India’s past reveals several of the wrongs that were committed which not many would dare talk about in today’s times.

Padmaavat itself has some moments that make you go “aha!”. Deepika Padukone is a Buddhist to begin with (a Buddhist who hunts, wow!). A Hindu king marries her and in no time, she knows all about Rajput and Hindu pride and is a proud Rajput woman (“love jihad” anyone?). “Jauhar” (or Sati as we know it) is the ultimate victory of good over evil (whatever happened to triple talaq and women’s liberation).

True, the celluloid version of Padmaavat is Bhansali’s fictional ode to Malik Muhammad Jayasi’s epic poem. The plot makes for great drama and on-screen representation. But there’s enough food for thought for Bhansali to dramatise Chinese traveler Huen Tsang’s description of a Hindu queen’s influence on her husband who killed thousands of Buddhists in Madurai. There’s ample scope for drama in Kalhana’s Rajatarangini, which talks about the treacherous killing of Graha Varman Maukhari by Sasanka (who is notoriously known for destroying several stupas and uprooting the sacred Bodhi tree at Gaya). Will Bhansali, a period film expert, make movies on these themes? Probably not. The singling out of the Muslim identity and attempts to leave it battered are not likely to come down anytime soon. Don’t be surprised if Bhansali jumps on the bandwagon yet again.

As I write this, Padmaavat has raked in more than Rs. 500 crores at the box office and is not off the screens yet. It pays to join the anti-Muslim rhetoric in these “nationalistic” times after all (ka-ching!).

Budget 2018: More Sleight of Hand

Mohan Guruswamy is Chairman and founder of Centre for Policy Alternatives, New Delhi, India. He has over three decades of experience in government, industry and academia. He can be contacted at mohanguru[at]gmail.com.

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Mohan Guruswamy

 

The Union Budget 2018 was presented at a time when the Indian economy is facing the worst slowdown in at least half a decade (CSO). While macroeconomic shocks such as demonetization and the implementation of the goods and services tax (GST) are likely to have contributed to the slowdown, the root of the slowdown lies in the decline of investments in the country. The slowdown in investments has led to all round and widespread gloom and distress. The big question about this budget then was to see how it addresses issues arising out of this such a job contraction in the informal sector, a slowdown of manufacturing, increasing farmer, and lower-middle-class distress? 

In a budget, you take from some and give to others. So who gives and who takes is where we should be looking. The challenge of budget making is to take enough from the nearly 15% of the population or about 200 million making up 40 million families liable for direct taxes, without dissatisfying them too much. This should provide enough to blunt the edge of popular anger of the 60% who make little more than subsistence in terms of income. This covers about 700-750 million population or 150 families. It is these people have largely been bypassed by the huge growth gains made since 1998. That means the two NDA and two UPA terms.

Added to this the government has to promise to deliver all this with a most expensive public administration (10.4% of GDP), and an almost defunct delivery system. A majority of government employees – over 25 million – are the bedrock of the direct taxes paying cohort. So in effect, a major part of the direct taxes are realized by the government from those who work in it. In either case, we the people pay for them.

So you need to get much from others. This is where indirect taxes come in. Indirect taxes are derived from a far bigger base of population. For instance, even the lowest sections will buy match-boxes from which taxes are derived. As you go up the chain of manufactured goods the incidence of indirect taxes increase. This is where you run up against powerful lobbies. For instance, the polyester yarn manufacturers will look at askance at too many reliefs and benefits given to the cotton textiles sector. Balancing the budget is the easier part. Balancing aspirations is next to impossible.

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FinanceMinister Arun Jaitley (image from his FB page)

 

Thus, budgets haven’t really changed over the decades. An analysis of budget break-ups since 1999 shows that proportions of most heads just do not change, as GDP growth and hence tax revenues usually stay nearer where they have been before. Discretionary revenue expenditure can only go up when GDP growth really perks up as we saw between 2009-2012. From then it has been downhill in terms of growth.

Against this backdrop how are Modi and Jaitely faring? I must say quite heroically. Like boys on the burning deck. They are just distracting us with promises and hoping to stave off the inevitable – popular discontent. Take for instance the much-hyped National Health Protection scheme to cover 500 million people or 100 million families with the medical cover of up to Rs.5 lakhs. But what is the outlay for this? It is a measly Rs.30, 000 crores translating into a premium of about Rs.3000 per beneficiary family, whereas the prevailing premiums are at about Rs.4400 a year. Even here the government is being disingenuous. If this were in addition to what is allocated to the Rs.1.38 lakh crores to health, which was Rs.1.22 lakh crores in the previous year, there would be some little cause to cheer. No, instead it comes from the health budget, which in effect means that this year less money is being spent on public healthcare. So if government hospitals and clinics have fewer doctors and lesser medicines be happy with your health insurance and go to a private nursing home or corporate hospital and see how soon the cover evaporates. In effect, this is a direct benefit to private healthcare providers and insurance companies who will get a Rs.30,000 crores windfall.

A similar sleight of hand is indulged in increasing the standard deduction to Rs.40, 000 for salaried persons. The outlay for this is Rs.8000 crores. But the education cess goes up by 1%, which means an outgo of Rs.11, 000 crores. So who is out of pocket by Rs.3000 crores?

The government has announced that it will fund 8 crores new stove and cylinder on getting a gas connection. This is an existing scheme. But reports from gas agency dealers in several parts of the country, especially those in rural areas, have reported that an extremely low number of Ujjawala beneficiaries are returning for refills of their cylinders. Thus, the number of LPG connections may be rising rapidly, but LPG usage is not. The catch is that below poverty line families who exist on less than Rs 32 a day in rural areas and Rs 47 a day in urban areas is simply too poor afford the market rate of LPG.

There was much expectation of an agriculture-oriented budget. Nothing of that sort has been announced to suggest that. Institutional credit to the agriculture sector has gone up to Rs.11 lakh crores when it was Rs.10 lakh crores last year.

The Finance Minister spoke about “revitalizing Infrastructure and Systems in Education by 2022. Technology to be the biggest driver in improving quality of education. To increase digital intensity in education, it will move an infrastructure from the blackboard to digital board. By 2022, every block with more than 50 percent ST population will have Eklavya schools at par with Navodaya Vidyalayas”. Fine, but show me the money? He is clearly a man for the big picture who doesn’t get into such specifics.

Am I unhappy about the budget? Why should I be? The limit for senior citizens for investment in interest-bearing LIC schemes doubled to from Rs.7.5 lakhs Rs 15 lakhs.  But as Claude Pepper said: “ at my age, I don’t even buy green bananas!”

Padmavat: An Engaging Tale

Dr Gopa Nayak is a writer and an academician. She has a DPhil from the University of Oxford and her first Master’s degree is in Sociology from Delhi School of Economics, University of Delhi. She writes in both Odia and English and her poems have been included in anthologies of a poetry of women. She can be contacted at gopanayak[at]gmail.com.

The main engagement over this long weekend for me and many was, of course, Padmavat apart from the Republic Day Parade. The movie for me was significant as the portrayal of an event in history when Indian women threw themselves to the burning pyre to save their honour against a foreign invader. It reminded me of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre where countless Indians were gunned down in one evening with no way to escape. The scenes of Padmavat brought back similar images where red saree clad proud Rajput women had nowhere to escape but to the burning pyre. The fire appeared as a lesser enemy compared to the foreign ruler. At least the fire devoured their mortal being with dignity. That movie has portrayed the mass massacre of Indian women by a single foreign invader in the most dignified manner and it should be acclaimed for that.

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This movie has brought Rajput women’s tale of gallantry to the consciousness of Indian psyche. And if we flip the coin the atrocities that have been meted out to the bold and beautiful princess and the women in the palace who lost their lives in a single incident has been most gracefully presented. With my academically wired perception, I found feminism highlighted throughout the movie although it may not be the main theme running through the movie. A princess as a warrior and a beloved, a wife who could defy the orders of her ruler husband and put her wit to work- were some examples of Indian feminism at its best. It is, of course, another thing that many people did not find it interesting as there was no novelty in the portrayal. However, does it mean that what has been there should not be cherished?

This movie if not anything else is an eye-opener to the young Indians who are not aware of the historical nuances of foreign invasion on the plight of Indian women. Invasion of this glorious country by foreigners with shrewd strategies and brutal power led women took up the cudgel of saving their own dignity. In the movie, this bold and intelligent streak in Padmavat’s character is highlighted when she tried both wit and valour to defeat the enemy. However, in the end, she had to burn herself to escape atrocities.

Another thing that struck a chord with me was the death of Padmavat’s husband the brave Rajput ruler who would not compromise his values at any cost. Had he not been foolish enough to go and fight the battle alone he would not have been killed. These historical truths make you wonder if it is worth hanging onto one’s old-fashioned values of adhering to principles of trust and faith.

Khilji’s character acted out by Ranbeer Singh could get him accolades for the role as he has managed to play out the most heinous acts of masculine atrocity on screen perfectly. However, if we look around Indian youths act out the same strategy as Khilji even today. Rape a woman and kill her just like Khilji did on the eve of his wedding. The girl with whom he had sex and the witness of the act were both murdered mercilessly without a second thought. Could the stronger gender, if they believe to be so, take a message from this movie that what Khilji did was wrong. Could the old values of respecting women come back to the Indian consciousness again after watching the movie?

The movie with all the controversies has but asserted one truth that Indian women like women all over the world have been victims and men with lust had been responsible for their suffering. A movie as glamorous as Padmavat has painted that picture effectively and perhaps could go a long way in changing the world for women in a subtle way.   

 

 

जग दर्शन का मेला

प्रकाश के रे bargad.org के संपादक हैं.

डिजिटल तकनीक से हमारे जीवन के हर पहलू में लगातार बदलाव हो रहे हैं. इसके बिना आधुनिक जीवन-शैली की कल्पना कर पाना मुमकिन नहीं है. हमारे हाथ या जेब में जो स्मार्ट फोन है, वह हमारा बटुआ भी है, संपर्क का जरिया भी और मनोरंजन का उपकरण भी. इसी कड़ी में नया दखल है वैसे डिजिटल प्लेटफॉर्म का, जो सीधे हमारे मोबाइल में फिल्मों, सीरियलों और अन्य विजुअल कार्यक्रमों का प्रसारण कर रहे हैं. इन्हें ‘ओवर द टॉप’ यानी ओटीटी प्लेटफॉर्म कहा जाता है. कुछ समय पहले तक इंटरनेट के जरिये यूट्यूब जैसे गिनी-चुनी जगहों पर हम ऑडियो-विजुअल कंटेंट का मजा उठा सकते थे. लेकिन आज भारत में करीब 25 ऐसे प्लेटफॉर्म हैं जो क्रिकेट मैच से लेकर फिल्में और धारावाहिक दिखा रहे हैं. इनमें से अधिकांश ऐसे कार्यक्रम हैं जो सिर्फ इन्हीं प्लेटफॉर्म पर मौजूद हैं. एप्प के द्वारा मोबाइल फोन में मनोरंजन परोसनेवाली प्रमुख सेवाओं में नेटफ्लिक्स, हॉट स्टार, आमेजन प्राइम, जिओ प्ले, वूट, सोनी लिव, डिट्टो टीवी, इरोस नाउ, सन एनएक्सटी, ओजी टीवी, एप्पल टीवी आदि शामिल हैं. ये कंपनियां उपभिक्ताओं से निर्धारित मासिक या सालाना शुल्क लेकर सेवाएं देती हैं. यह शुल्क दो सौ से दो हजार रुपये के बीच हैं. अलीबाबा भी कुछ महीनों में अपना ओटीटी चैनल ला रहा है.  

ott-2भारत के डिजिटल बाजार की बढ़त की अपार संभावनाएं हैं और ओटीटी सेवाप्रदाता इसे बखूबी समझते हैं. यही कारण है कि वे इसमें लगातार निवेश कर रहे हैं. आम तौर पर टीवी धारावाहिक के एक एपिसोड पर 20 लाख के करीब खर्च आता है, पर ये कंपनियां अपने धारावाहिकों के एक एपिसोड पर करोड़-दो करोड़ खर्च करने को तैयार हैं. नेटफ्लिक्स ने मौलिक और लाइसेंसशुदा कार्यक्रमों के लिए ही छह अरब डॉलर का वैश्विक बजट तैयार किया है. कुछ रिपोर्टों के अनुसार इस कंपनी ने 20 अरब डॉलर का कर्ज लिया है ताकि भारत जैसे नये बाजारों में मजबूत मौजूदगी दर्ज करायी जा सके. आमेजन ने भारतीय बाजार के लिए दो हजार करोड़ का बजट बनाया है. हॉट स्टार का स्वामित्व रखनेवाली कंपनी स्टार इंडिया ने डिजिटल कंटेंट के लिए 12 सौ करोड़ से अधिक का निवेश करने की योजना बनायी है. आक्रामकता का अनुमान इसी बात से लगाया जा सकता है कि आइपीएल क्रिकेट मैचों के टीवी और डिजिटल प्रसारण के लिए स्टार इंडिया ने ढाई अरब डॉलर से अधिक का करार किया है.

फिल्मों और अन्य तरह के मनोरंजक कार्यक्रमों की खरीद के साथ ओटीटी प्लेटफॉर्म अपने लिए अलग से कार्यक्रम भी तैयार करा रहे हैं और फिल्म निर्माताओं एवं स्टूडियो से करार भी कर रहे हैं. चूंकि अभी भी इंटरनेट का बाजार भारत में मुख्य रूप से प्री-पेड है और सब्सक्राइबर संख्या में बढ़ोतरी के बावजूद ओटीटी कंपनियां मोबाइल सर्विस देनेवाली कंपनियों के साथ भी करार कर रही हैं ताकि उनके कंटेंट उपभोक्ताओं तक पहुंच सकें. ऐसा करते हुए मोबाइल कंपनियां भी अपने ओटीटी प्लेटफॉर्म को भी मजबूत बना रही हैं.

उपलब्ध आंकड़ों को देखें, तो बड़ी दिलचस्प तस्वीर उभरती है. अगस्त, 2016 से अगस्त, 2017 के बीच 16 ओटीटी सेवा प्रदाताओं के उपभोक्ताओं में 160 फीसदी से ज्यादा की बढ़ोतरी हुई थी. अब इसकी तुलना डीटीएच के आंकड़ों से करें. साल 2017 के अप्रैल और जून के बीच डीटीएच में वृद्धि महज 7.9 फीसदी रही थी, जबकि इसी अवधि में 2016 में यह दर 52 फीसदी थी. इससे साफ संकेत मिलता है कि डीटीएच की मांग कम हो रही है. टेलीविजन तकनीक में विकास इसका एक कारण हो सकता है. स्मार्ट टीवी को सीधे इंटरनेट से जोड़ा जा सकता है और नये टीवी मॉडलों को नेटकास्ट उपकरणों के जरिये इंटरनेट से जोड़ा जा सकता है. मतलब यह कि ओटीटी प्लेटफॉर्म की फिल्मों या कार्यक्रमों को हम मोबाइल फोन के साथ टीवी पर भी देख सकते हैं. इस लिहाज से ओटीटी का प्रसार डीटीएच बाजार के लिए नुकसानदेह साबित हो सकता है. जब आप नेट से समाचार, सूचनाएं और मनोरंजन पा सकते हैं, तो फिर छत पर डीटीएच की छतरी का क्या मतलब!ott-1

आकलन बताते हैं कि 2016 में ओटीटी बाजार 20.20 करोड़ डॉलर का था, जो 2017 में 27.20 करोड़ डॉलर का हो सकता है. कुछ दिनों में आंकड़े आने पर स्थिति साफ हो जायेगी. ओटीटी बाजार के बढ़त की संभावनाएं मोबाइल और नेट के प्रसार से जुड़ी हुई हैं. फिलहाल देश में 25 करोड़ स्मार्ट फोन हैं और 2020 तक इनकी संख्या 60 करोड़ तक पहुंच सकती है जिनमें से 85 फीसदी 4जी कनेक्शन के होंगे. डेटा उपभोग का मौजूदा हिसाब औसतन 8-9 जीबी प्रति माह हो गया है. मोबाइल बाजार की गलाकाट प्रतिस्पर्द्धा के चलते इंटरनेट डेटा की कीमतें सस्ती भी हो रही हैं और उनकी गति में भी लगातार बेहतरी हो रही है. यह भी दिलचस्प है कि मोबाइल डेटा का जो ट्रैफिक है, उसका 60 फीसदी हिस्सा वीडियो कंटेंट का है. माना जा रहा है कि 2016 से 2021 के बीच इसमें 63 फीसदी की वृद्धि होगी. जून, 2016 से जनवरी 2017 के बीच आंकड़े इंगित करते हैं कि इस दौरान सोशल मीडिया पर समय बिताने में 40 फीसदी की बढ़ोतरी हुई, जबकि इसी अवधि में वीडियो एप्प पर समय बिताने में 135 फीसदी की वृद्धि हुई.

इसमें कोई दो राय नहीं है कि ओटीटी का विस्तार तेजी से हो रहा है, पर आनेवाले समय में बाजार में कितनी कंपनियां बचेंगी, यह कहना मुश्किल है. बहुत अधिक निवेश और लगातार कंटेंट बनाने की होड़ उन कंपनियों के लिए फांस बन सकती है जिनके उपभोक्ता कम होंगे या उनमें लगातार निवेश की क्षमता कम होगी. यह हाल हम टेलीकॉम सेक्टर में देख चुके हैं. यह भी देखने की बात होगी कि सेंसरशिप न होने और मनोरंजन के फॉर्मुलों के कम दबाव का लाभ उठा कर ओटीटी प्लेटफॉर्म बेहतर मनोरंजन दे पाते हैं या नहीं.   

 
 

The Demand for Gondwana: India’s Adivasi Homeland

Mohan Guruswamy is Chairman and founder of Centre for Policy Alternatives, New Delhi, India. He has over three decades of experience in government, industry and academia. He can be contacted at mohanguru[at]gmail.com.

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Mohan Guruswamy

The scion of the former Gond kings of Chandagarh or Chandrapur now in Maharashtra, Birshah Atram was recently visiting the Gond homelands in the former composite Adilabad district to meet his kinsmen in the various garhi’s in the region. Birshah Atram is descended from a line that was established in Chandrapur in the 13th century by Kandakya Balal Sah. The Gond kings ruled till 1751 when the British annexed it after the Raja of Nagpur died childless. Birshah who holds two PhD’s in English and Ancient Indian History has for long been seeking a solution to the vexed Adivasi problem, that has also morphed into the Telugu led Naxalite rebellion that enables the Central and State governments to turn it into a law and order issue, by highlighting the grievances of the Adivasi people.

He believes that the Central Government needs to implement the constitutional provisions and promises made in the Constituent Assembly by recognizing Gondi language and self-rule for the Gond people by carving out a Gondwana state of the Gond homelands in Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.

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Women in a tribal (Gond adivasi) village, Umaria district, India. Picture taken during a meeting organised by Ekta Parishad about land rights, the main grievance of the Adivasi people. © Yann Forget / Wikimedia Commons

There is a vast and mostly forested region spanning almost the entire midriff of India from Orissa to Gujarat, lying between the westbound Narmada and eastbound Godavari, bounded by many mountain ranges like the Vindhya, Satpura, Mahadeo, Meykul, and Abujhmar, that was once the main home of the Adivasi.

The late Professor Nihar Ranjan Ray, one of our most distinguished historians, described the central Indian Adivasis as “the original autochthonous people of India” meaning that their presence in India pre-dated by far the Dravidians, the Aryans and whoever else settled in this country. The anthropologist Dr. Verrier Elwin states this more emphatically when he wrote: “These are the real swadeshi products of India, in whose presence all others are foreign. These are ancient people with moral rights and claims thousands of years old. They were here first and should come first in our regard.”

Unfortunately like indigenous people all over the world, the India’s Adivasis too have been savaged and ravaged by later people claiming to be more “civilized”. They still account for almost 8% of India’s population and are easily it’s most deprived and oppressed section. Though this is the home of many tribal groups, the largest tribal group, the Gonds, dominated the region. The earliest Gond kingdom appears to date from the 10th century and the Gond Rajas were able to maintain a relatively independent existence until the 18th century, although they were compelled to offer nominal allegiance to the Mughal Empire.

The great historian Sir Jadunath Sarkar records: “In the sixteenth and seventeenth century much of the modern Central Provinces (today’s MP) were under the sway of aboriginal Gond chiefs and was known under the name of Gondwana. A Mughal invasion and the sack of the capital had crippled the great Gond kingdom of Garh-Mandla in Akbar’s reign and later by Bundela encroachments from the north.

But in the middle of the seventeenth century another Gond kingdom with its capital at Deogarh, rose to greatness, and extended its sway over the districts of Betul, Chindwara, and Nagpur, and portions of Seoni, Bhandara and Balaghat. In the southern part of Gondwana stood the town of Chanda, the seat of the third Gond dynasty and hereditary foe and rival of the Raja of Deogarh.” But the glory of Deogarh departed when the Maratha ruler of Nagpur annexed Deogarh after the death of Chand Sultan.

Incidentally, the Gond ruler of Deogarh, Bakht Buland, founded the city of Nagpur. Jadunath Sarkar writes about him thus: “He lived to extend the area, power and prosperity of his kingdom very largely and to give the greatest trouble to Aurangzeb in the last years of his reign.” In fact the one big reason Aurangzeb could not deploy all his power against Shivaji was because the Gond kings were constantly at war with the Mughals and kept interdicting the lines from the Deccan to Agra. But of course the history of modern India is not generous to them.

During the British days this region constituted much of the Central Provinces of India later to become Madhya Pradesh. This is the main home of about sixteen million Gond people who are India’s largest single tribal grouping. The Gonds are now a culturally and linguistically heterogeneous people having attained much cultural uniformity with the dominant linguistic influences of their region. Thus, the Gonds of the eastern and northwestern Madhya Pradesh region that now includes the new state of Chhattisgarh speak Chhattisgarhi and western Hindi.

But the Gonds of Bastar, which is at the southeastern end of this vast region and a part of Chhattisgarh, are different in this respect. Though there are many tribal groups like the Halbas, Bhatras, Parjas and Dorlas, the Maria and Bison Horned Gonds are the most numerous. The language spoken by them, like that of the Koyas of AP is an intermediate Dravidian language closer to Telugu and Kannada.

The process of Hinduization combined with Hindi culture has reduced the egalitarian Koitur to the bottom of the social strata. Dr. Kalyan Kumar Chakravarthy, Director of the Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Manav Sangrahalaya, Bhopal has written eloquently and cogently on this in his concluding chapter “Extinction or Adaptation of the Gonds” in the book “Tribal Identity in India” also edited by him.

The real enemy of the Adivasi is the creeping Hinduization with all its attendant values and exclusionary practices, seems to me a good start to the process of saving its tribal society from extinction. All over the rest of India’s central highlands our policies by forcing the Adivasis to merge their identities with that of the encroaching culture have crushed them into a becoming a feeble and self-pitying underclass.

Clearly there are two distinct reasons for the present unrest in the Adivasi homelands of India. The first and probably the more important one is the struggle for identity against the creeping Hinduization or de-culturization of Adivasi society. Adivasi society was built on a foundation of equality. People were given respect and status according to their contribution to social needs but only while they were performing that particular function.

Such a value-system was sustainable as long as the Adivasi community was non-acquisitive and all the products of society were shared. Adivasi society has been under constant pressure as the money economy grew and made traditional forms of barter less difficult to sustain.

The Fifth and Sixth Schedules under Article 244 of the Indian Constitution in 1950 provided for self-governance in specified tribal majority areas. In 1999 the Government of India even issued a draft National Policy on Tribals to address the developmental needs of tribal people. Special emphasis was laid on education, forestry, healthcare, languages, resettlement and land rights.

The draft was meant to be circulated between MP’s, MLA’s and Civil Society groups. A Cabinet Committee on Tribal Affairs was meant to constantly review the policy. Little has happened since. The draft policy is still a draft, which means there is no policy.

Even before Independence on December 16 1946, welcoming the Objectives Resolution in the Constituent Assembly, the legendary Adivasi leader Jaipal Singh stated the tribal case and apprehensions explicitly. He said: “Sir, if there is any group of Indian people that has been shabbily treated it is my people. They have been disgracefully treated, neglected for the last 6,000 years. …The whole history of my people is one of continuous exploitation and dispossession by the non-aboriginals of India punctuated by rebellions and disorder, and yet I take Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru at his word. I take you all at your word that now we are going to start a new chapter, a new chapter of independent India where there is equality of opportunity, where no one would be neglected.” 

The Adivasi’s paid dearly for taking Jawaharlal Nehru and the Constituent Assembly at their word.