On 3rd Cover : Crooks, Conmen, & Counter-insurgents: Padma Awards in the Time of Nuke Deal & Greenhunt

The recipients of the country's highest civilian honours announced on Republic Day this year included one NRI crook with several criminal cases pending against him, and one leader of a private militia in Kashmir notorious for torture and killings.

The Padma Bhushan to these two, while proving to be an embarrassment to the Government, is actually symbolic of the Indian State's priorities at this juncture. Both reflect on the character of the Ministry of Home Affairs.

Sant Singh Chatwal is an NRI hotelier with several cases of fraud pending in courts, complaints of criminal intimidation with the NHRC and a CBI investigation which was hastily closed, against the advice of the top investigators. His son's wedding was attended by no less than Bill and Hillary Clinton and Manmohan Singh and Gurcharan Kaur.

What did he do to deserve the Padma award?

The Ministry of Home Affairs, defending the award in the face of questions about the aborted CBI enquiry, gave him a clean chit, and explained that he (Chatwal) had “been an active member of the NRI community in the US in securing support for the nuclear deal among members of the US Congress.”

Ghulam Mohammad Mir, another recipient of the Padma award, is notorious as Muma Kanna, surrendered militant who used to run a private counter-insurgent militia. His name was synonymous with brutal terror and torture in the service of the State terror, and he also stands accused of illegally occupying land and timber smuggling.

It is no accident that the UPA Government, in times of Nuke Deal and Greenhunt, should choose to reward a crook who is basically a 'fixer' for Indo-US relations in general, and a man associated with what, in other words, was a Kashmiri version of Salwa Judum complete with torture, killings, land grab and smuggling. However, these awards also reveal the unsavoury underbelly marked by fraudsters and torturers of Indo-US relations and of counter-insurgency.

Congress Govt. Prepares for Commonwealth Games:

Barricading the Poor, Banning Beggars

Embarrassed by slums and poverty? No problem just hide the poor from view!
Towards the Commonwealth Games to be held later this year, the Congress Government in Delhi is busy trying to 'cleanse' Delhi of beggars, slums and anything else that might prove embarrassing eyesores in the eyes of an international audience.

Reportedly, the Government is planning to hide the slums behind strategically planted bamboo fences. It has also started cracking down on beggars 'mobile courts' are being set up to 'try' the poor on the streets, and anyone found 'guilty' of begging is incarcerated in 'shelters' (prisons by a sweeter name) or 'exported' to the supposed 'home state' of the 'offenders.'

The plan to screen the slums from public view in order to preserve a polite pretence that India's capital is “poverty-free” recalls to mind what Friedrich Engels observed in 1845 about the industrial city of Manchester:

“And the finest part of the arrangement is this, that the members of this money aristocracy can take the shortest road through the middle of all the labouring districts to their places of business without ever seeing that they are in the midst of the grimy misery that lurks to the right and the left... the thoroughfares... out of the city are lined, on both sides, with an almost unbroken series of shops…(that) suffice to conceal from the eyes of the wealthy men and women of strong stomachs and weak nerves the misery and grime which form the complement of their wealth. … I have never seen so systematic a shutting out of the working-class from the thoroughfares, so tender a concealment of everything which might affront the eye and the nerves of the bourgeoisie, as in Manchester.” (Condition of the Working Class in England)
Recently, the Delhi High Court, responding to a petition filed by the PUDR based on its fact-finding report on the condition of workers on Commonwealth Games sites (see Liberation August 2009), acknowledged that labour laws were being blatantly violated, leading to exploitation of Games workers and even death of many workers.

The selfsame Government that is responsible for poverty is now indicting the poor for the crime of being poor! The poor are being to told now to return to their “home states” but does anyone why they were forced to migrate in the first place?! Is it not because liberalization has denied them jobs; and because SEZs and big projects have evicted them from the land?

The poorest of the poor expend blood, sweat and severely under-paid and exploited toil to build a 'world-class' metropolis and the Congress Government then proceeds to hide the selfsame poor and their slums from view. In Sheila Dixit's view, it is the poor who are the source of shame but in fact, it is this attempt to insult the poor and workers in the name of Delhi's 'pride' that is shameful.

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