Friday, February 26, 2010

GM CROPS in India: Are we being betrayed by our own Judases?

Bashing GM crops may land you in jail !!!

The Biotechnology Regulatory Authority Bill ( BRAB)of 2009 is going to be tabled in the current session of the parliament!

The provisions of the bill are absolutely scary.

Whoever, without any evidence or scientific record misleads the public about the safety of the organisms and products….shall be punished with imprisonment for a term that shall be not less than six months but which may extend to one year and with fine which may extend to two lakhs rupees or with both.

Are we going back to those shameful Dark Age in human history when it was considered right to sentence Galileo to capital punishment unless he recanted? Or is a new Dark Age descending on us, where human life is controlled by Monsantos who have “Pawarful” politicians as their lobbyists willlling to sell an entire nation to satiate the greed of the multinational companies?

That’s not all.

Article27(1) seeks to keep the information related to the research, approval and science of the GM products out of the purview of the Right to Information Act.

If this is not a violation of the fundamental rights in a democracy, what is? Are the desi GM lobbyists totally devoid of any integrity, commitment to the people of India and farsightedness? Have they no qualms about setting afoot a process that will put the very survival of this countryinto the hands of a few global giants?

Moreover, the three member experts of the biotechnology department can overrule the position taken by any state in relation to GM technology.

So it is outside the powers of any state government to refuse the introduction of these dubious seeds into their state. The “PAWARFUL” lobbies see enlightened states like Kerala and the enlightened farmers of states like Karnataka as obstructions in their devious scheme of selling out the country for thirty silver coins!

The draft bill also states that the BRAI will set up its appellate tribunal which will have jurisdiction to hear arguments on the issues concerning biotechnology. In case of any disputes, petitioners can only approach the Supreme Court.

Thank you BRAI for your little mercies. WE, the citizens of India, are grateful to you for the thoughtful concession - of not holding the threat of imprisonment and fine over us if we approach the apex court for our fundamental rights..


The issue with GM products are 1. the research regarding the health hazards has been inconclusive to date and 2. they are terminator seeds which will put the Indian farmers, and in turn the whole nation at the mercy of multinational s companies who manufacture and sell these seeds. This is the neocolonialism which may be defined as the Giant corporates' surreptitious efforts to enslave Third World countries on account of the greatest lure of capitalism that these regions offer : the market. Perhaps, it is not fully right to define this market as confined to the Third World. These corporates capitalize on the great divide that is dividing not just the Third World, but all nations across of the world, viz, the class divide. India too now has Supermarkets provisioned with “ORGANIC FOOD’ section with its prohibitive prices and the normal unlabelled food section for the ordinary plebeians which forms the outlet for food with a high level of toxicity .


For a brief run down on the GM seed issue from the net:

December 2, 1998: Indian Government Summarizes Threat Posed by Terminator Seeds

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Several weeks after banning terminator seeds in India (see Before October 10, 1998), Shri Sompal, the country’s minister of agriculture summarizes the threat posed by the technology in a public statement: “This is lethal and poses a global threat to farmers, biodiversity, and food and ecological security. The use of this technology would threaten the farmers’ rights to save the seed for their harvest. Because of the lethal nature of the product, the public has been asked to be wary of the introduction of genetically modified foods in many parts wherever this technique is being tried to be introduced. The farmer will be dependent upon terminator seed and will have to buy the same seed again and again. The company producing the seed can charge any price from the farmers. The farmer will not be in a position to use seeds saved from the previous crops. It will threaten the farmers’ expertise in seed selection and traditional conservation-cum-improved ways of carrying forward the seeds. The technology would have serious implications on the crop biodiversity. It may lead to gradual extinction of traditional varieties. Crop related wild

varieties, important for natural evolution for crop species would be affected by cross-contamination. This concern would be of special relevance to India, since the country abounds in land races and wild relatives of crop plants.” [REDIFF, 12/1/199

2005: Indian Planters of Bt Cotton Incur Higher Costs than Growers of non-Bt Cotton

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A report by the Indian government finds that Bt cotton grown in India in 2005 experienced a higher incidence of pest and disease and produced lower yields than non-Bt cotton. The report recommends that Bt cotton be planted only in irrigated fields that have fertile soil. Another study, conducted by a number of civil society organizations, finds that farmers who grew Bt cotton in Andhra Pradesh collectively incurred $80 million dollars more in farming costs than non-Bt cotton growers. [CENTRE FOR SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE, 3/29/2006]

January 1, 2006-August 26, 2006: Thousands of Indian Farmers Commit Suicide

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Between January and August 2006, an estimated 1,920 Bt cotton farmers in Vidarbha, Maharashtra (India) commit suicide because of rising debts. And between June and August, the suicide rate reaches one suicide every eight hours. The higher cultivation costs associated with genetically modified Bt cotton (see, e.g., 2005 ) has made it more difficult for farmers to pay back their loans. Roughly 2.8 million of the 3.2 million cotton farmers in the Maharashtra province are currently in default. More than 50 percent of the farmers who commit suicide are between the ages of 20 and 45. [DNA INDIA, 8/26/2006] The epidemic of farmer suicides began in 1994 when India liberalized its economy and devalued the rupee. [DNA INDIA, 8/26/2006]

Category Tags: Farmers' rights, Indi

February 2006-March 2006: Sheep Die after Grazing on Bt Cotton Plants

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In the Warangal district of Andhra Pradesh, India, more than 70 Indian shepherds report that 25 percent of their herds died within 5-7 days of continuous grazing on the leaves and pods of harvested Bt cotton plants. The shepherds noticed that the sheep became dull or depressed two to three days after grazing on the plants. They developed “reddish and erosive” lesions in the mouth, became bloated, had episodes of blackish diarrhea, and sometimes had red-colored urine. Post-mordem examinations of the animals revealed the presence of black patches in the small intestines, enlarged bile ducts, discolored livers, and the accumulation of pericardial fluid. Investigators suspect that the deaths were likely due to the Bt toxin in the leaves and pods of the Bt cotton plants.


In view of these, how can any government keep the updates on the research and policies regarding these deadly products from the people who elected them to power to protect their interests? Doesn’t this highhanded attitude amount to a serious breach of trust?

Science is all about experimentation and conclusions. The latter might change with new facts and discoveries emerging from the former. To enlighten the people about the scientific theories, methodology of research and conclusions regarding the products that are introduced into the country, is the sacred duty of the government. The right to take informed decisions about the food they eat, whether it is toxic or not, is the inalienable right of the people. NO GOVERNMENT CAN THROW US INTO JAIL FOR EXERCISING THAT RIGHT.

The government which even remotely considers formulating such draconic measures should be thrown out of power.

Hoping and praying that BRAI won’t throw me in the can someday for this piece.

I remain anxiously yours


The 11th Commandment

I pamper my right leg, cos it was the victim of a surgery. My left leg grinned and bore this partisan attitude for three years. But, like the saying goes, the smallest worm will turn being trod upon. A week back, the left leg did the true Left act. It struck work. Enough was enough, it seemed to say. It protested – at the knee.

I was left with no choice but to concede to its immediate demands. I fed it with Ibubrufen, massaged it with kottanchukkadhi in the morning, Volini in the evening; then adorned it with a knee cap - the best and the prettiest one in the market. And to make up for the ill treatment of two years, I honoured it with a gold coloured tripod walking stick with a smart black handle.

And of course a week of complete rest and relaxation – a week as free as I could possibly make it from the unenviable task of load bearing, rather bearing this load.

A week done and the left leg seemed to be in a mood to withdraw the protest. But I continued to treat it gingerly. Can’t afford to antagonize it. The local bandh culture can be catching.

In the meanwhile, I’d been putting off an interview with a prospective employer on account of my striking leg. Yesterday, I called him up and told him I’ll be there at 10 am. Then I told Sunny about the interview.

He was horrified. ”You are making a mistake if you think that leg of yours is going to be happy with a week’s vacation. You better extend it for another week”

“No way”, I said. “I know my leg better. See”, I said bending it and straightening it to show how perfectly pliant my knee was.

“Ok, if you must go, I’ll come with you”, said Sunny.

“No way”, I said indignantly. “I’m perfectly capable of taking care of me and my leg”.

He looked undecided for a moment, and then asked, anxiously “You sure?”


“OK then”, he said looking worried. “At least take the walking stick”

“What?” I exclaimed shocked. “I’m wearing my new Biba Anarkali salwar suit. Catch me going around with a walking stick to spoil the impact. You want the whole world to think that I’m handicapped or something?”

He was silent after that.

And I went, Biba and all. I was dropped off at the gate of the institution. I walked down the paved path, marveling at how I keep bouncing back after each setback at the health front. Am not sure if I whispered my usual “thank you, God” after this thought.

I reached the veranda.

There was only a low step leading to the veranda from the paved compound. Old habits die hard, and as had been my habit for the past three years, I placed my left leg on the step and put my whole weight on to it while I hoisted my torso up in the act of placing my right leg on the veranda.

The left leg, true to its name, protested. And violently. I heard a double click in my knee followed by a shooting blinding pain that left me gasping.

A uniformed lady was swabbing the granite floor. She saw me, dropped her swab and ran to me help, calling out to another uniformed lady down the veranda. With one on each side, I was helped to the nearest chair.

So much for the impact of my new, anarkali Biba Salwar suit!

As I sat there waiting for the receptionist to be informed of my arrival, I found myself wondering why “Obey thy husband’ was not one of the commandments. Probably, because it would then be not Ten Commandment but Eleven Commandments. Perhaps the former sounds better though the latter would have made the Decalogue a more comprehensive set of precepts.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The agony of glamour

Waiting in the lobby of an eye clinic in Mumbai, I saw a couple of young ladies look around, as though searching for someone. One of them saw me, and walked towards be briskly, with a broad smile as if she knew me all her life. Needless to say, I was confused, and sure that she had mistaken me for someone else. She sat down next to me and said, not exactly for me alone to hear, “Hello aunteeeey”

Hello, I said, with that aloofness that we reserve for this variety of our species, for, by then I had realized that she was marketing something and prowling around that clinic looking for a prey. She had THAT smile. You know the smile that doesn’t reach the eyes which, in turn, betray a certain anxiety laced with craftiness.

She sat down beside me, looked at my face with a beatific expression and said “Aunty, you must have been an extremely beautiful lady when you were young”.

I was thoroughly embarrassed ‘cos no one had ever told me that when I was young. But then I remembered that people used to remark that my mother must have been very beautiful when she was young, though the dark haired younger mother I remembered was not half as beautiful as the platinum blonde fair skinned picture of dignity she presented in her immaculate white chatta and mundu, in her seventies. But what little confidence I got from this fleeting thought vanished when I saw my husband who was sitting next to me trying hard to suppress a smile.

My expression must have frozen ‘cos I saw a little worry creep into that girl’s eyes. It made her louder and more effusive. “Don’t you want to look that beautiful again, aunteeeeey?” was her next question. I looked furtively at my husband whose head was twisted at an alarmingly dangerous angle – you know like you see in those spooky vampire films where the head sometimes takes a three sixty turn. I wanted to hit this girl on her head. Instead, I said stiffly. “Am quiet happy as I am” with what I thought and hoped would be a gracious tone.

Then came the next salvo. “Aaaunty (a little shrill, falling intonation), you must have looked like Rakhee in your good old days”. Oh God! I threw a quick glance around to see if anyone was listening. I had already noticed that my husband’s head was fixed at a one eighty degrees and I could see only the back of his distinguished head. A few women of my age group sitting across were openly laughing.

I decided to be rude. “Listen”, I told her. “I’ve come to get my eyes checked. Please, I’m not interested”

“But aunteeeeeee”, the tenacious young leech crooned. “You know how Hema Malini looks at this age? You think it is natural? No, aunty, no no. It’s botox”

“No botox for me”, I said curtly.

“Oh come on aunty, you just listen to me and you can be beautiful once again. There are a lot of misconceptions about botox”, she said pulling out a brochure from her back pack.

Thankfully, my name was announced by the doctor’s receptionist and I fled.

What brought this incident to my mind was a news item that appeared prominently in the Yahoo home page. Angelina Jolie, the media suspects, has done a procedure to tighten her throat muscles! There are two tell tale raw marks behind the ears which should confirm that she has done the ribbon lift, the latest plastic surgery craze in Hollywood, costing 4000 pounds. Poor lady, how much of effort, planning and strategy she must have had to put into it to have this done away from the gaze of the public and paparazzi. It must be terrible, this torture of always being in the glare of publicity, particularly when your profession demands that you make those occasional visits to the plastic surgeon to maintain the youthful looks. And after that to have prying cameras trying to get a shot of those surgery marks behind the ears!

My friend goes to a gymn where she runs into some top Bollywood beauties and machos. She told me something which made me feel sorry for them. They were so thin – and without the designer clothes or designer no clothes, and the genius of a camera man to project them in a glamourous light, they looked almost abnormal with huge heads, she said. No trainer or machine can reduce the size of the human head, and so the head remains the same normal size while the body struggles to achieve the size zero. My friend was wondering what the size zero Kareena Kapoor would look like if these ladies are still a long way off that target.

Guess it’s no easy job, being an actress. The torture they have to put themselves through to remain in the race! Or do they enjoy it? They must, or they wouldn’t put themselves through the rigours of achieving 5’5’ height with a 48 Kg weight proportion. I wonder if they realize what it feels like to be in a profession which affords you the luxury of being able to say “No” to botox.

Sour grapes, said my cousin, when I shared this thought with her.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Party Spoiler

Recently, I was invited to a dinner which gave me considerable digestive problem on account of the presence of a person who was not exactly the type I would invite to an occasion where genteel people gather. He had strong opinion on every issue . And he was in his elements when he spoke of the religious profession. I’ve known him to be a convent basher never missing a chance to speak of nuns in a very abusive language. Not being a confrontationist, I’ve always avoided any argument on this issue. This time too, I sat through his tirade like every body else did. None of us was a match to his rhetorical powers which could convince one that between the lion and the lamb, the lamb is the predator.

Between the last time I saw him and last week, something world shaking had happened. The Book “Amen’ had come out, and this man shook and shivered like an angry prophet before an audience which apparently, was getting embarrassed by the vehemence with which obscenities flowed from his lips drawn back in an ugly sneer. He reminded me of the hyena, that gluttonous, scavenger predator with its phenomenal digestive power which gorges on not only every part of every smaller animal which can’t stand up it, but also on carrion. It would be a disservice to that king of the animal kingdom to use the lion metaphor, for our protagonist did not have the dignity with which the king of the forest executed his role as the predator that Goddess Nature has endowed on him.

Our man who had been waiting for a chance to launch his invective that could now be peppered with AMEN,got it when someone mentioned the dress code in the college his daughter went to. Our man started. One or two who tried to counter him were snubbed into silence. Others who tried to change the subject failed in their effort. Our man as unstoppable. He pounced on the nuns, tore them to pieces, snapping his head back to rip chunks of flesh off the carcass, shaking his head like we see the hyenas do in the discovery channel, licking the blood covered cadaverous mouth drawn back viciously in a frighteningly unholy glee.

The host was getting embarrassed. He looked helplessly around for someone who cold shoot this “donkey leopard” as hyena is called in Malayalam. The book AMEN had put a vulgar tool into the hands of this person who could hate so intensely. The rhetoric was causing a lot of distress among the guests who had come to spend a relaxed dinner after a hard day’s work.

And then a chit of a girl – a twelfth standard girl – stepped in. She lived in the same apartment as our protagonist.

“Uncle”, she cut in when he stopped to catch his breath, “can I ask you something?”

“Go ahead and ask all you want”, said the “uncle’, apparently disappointed that the question did not come from someone who was older and was known to be a champions of the convent culture.

“Uncle, if you hate the nuns so much, why did you send all your four daughters to convent schools? And why did you come to my father a few months back asking him to get admission for your son’s daughter in the ________ Convent?”

The man was stumped. His jaw dropped, with blood still dripping off his mouth. The guests exploded into a delighted laughter, with some of them challenging him with a come come, answer her. Someone even slapped the young girl on her back approvingly.

Never have I taken so much delight in seeing the discomfiture of a fellow human being.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Terror in Pune and Terror by Shiv Sena

One of the channels made a very pertinent observation about the blast in Pune. It appears there was heavy deployment of police near the Jewish Chabad House and Osho ashram till two days ago, but it had to be withdrawn from the vicinity because of the law and order problem let loose by the Shiv Sena on the My Name is Khan business. The police maintained its beefed up security in the Ashram and the Chabad House but withdrew from the vicinity in order to contain the “spontaneous” violence that the Shiv Sainks were indulging in elsewhere in the city. This left the German Bakery a soft target.

What, in effect, has happened is, the administration was forced to ignore terror attack from external forces despite intelligence reports, in order to deal with the internal terror attack from the Shiv Sena. Niether, unfortunately, could be ignored.

Tragic, isn’t it? Why are the Shiv Sainiks allowed to let loose anarchy in the country over inconsequential issues? Sad to think that in a democratic dispensation it took so much of arm twisting from the public, right thinking activists, celebrities and the Center to persuade the state government to deal firmly with the Shiv Sena threat. It’s a shame on our democracy that these leaders who create communal tensions and law and order problems on ridiculous issues are treated like demi gods. Sky is not going to fall if these self-seeking leaders who go about in the garb of custodians of the country’s welfare but who actually initiate divisive politics are put behind bars and dealt with appropriately. No one is above law. But the powers that be grovel before them in abject fear, which is disgusting.

The violence and disruption of law and order orchestrated by the Shiv Sen can be held partly responsible for the security lapse in Pune. The law abiding citizens of India should join hands and act against the menace of those poitical parties which disrupt normal life by making issues of non issues, and drain the seciruty resources of the country, and distract the country from its war on terror.

The threat the country faces from the fringe elements like the Shiv Sena and its splinter group can be dealt with only by the people of India becoming proactive.There is no political will to do it.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Forward Ho!

When my heart is overwhelmed

Lead me to the rock

That is higher than I

That is higher than I

Somebody asked me the other day “Does Time really heal?”

One does not need to be a very perceptive person to detect the skepticism inherent in that query.

“Most certainly it does”, I told him. “Civilization would not go forward if not for that property that Time has – as a healing agent”

After this short exchange, I spent some time ruminating on this question and arrived at the following conclusions.

Time heals. Time can heal, but it needs our cooperation. We have to feel the need to be healed. We should allow Time to perform its natural function.

If we nurse a grudge, we nurse the wound. We allow it to fester; then time is helpless – as we see in the case of those who are consumed by resentment and anger with the past. They try to correct the mistakes of the past in the foolish hope they can undo them. Past is a reality which cannot be altered. It is best left to historical memory. That’s where it belongs. The implication is, learn lessons from the past but relegate it to the inert memory zone which we can view with a philosophical and stoic detachment, and from where its only function is to help us make informed decisions for the moment.

Ayodhya issue is a classic example. As a people, we don’t want to forget an invasion which was an inevitable part of making of human history. We want to keep the wound open. It is politically expedient to do it. When Time, despite our efforts, inevitably begins to form scabs over the wound as the first stage of the healing process, an election comes around, and we realize it is time to reopen the wound. And we scrape off the scab and allow water and blood to flow.

True, there are certain wounds that should never have been made. But then, that’s what life is all about. Things happen which are seen in proper perspective only in hindsight. We MUST learn to forget and forgive what cannot be changed – that past which cannot be altered. It has already happened. It is not within our power to put the clock back. If we ‘nurse the wound’, keep it alive, it will fester and ultimately poison the system. That applies to a nation or an ethnic group or an individual.

We must move on. Getting trapped in the past will affect the quality of our future. The future is all-dependent on the present – on the moment. We must learn to live in the moment. Celebrate the moment. We must sing and dance because we can, this moment, breathe and walk, eat and sleep. That’s enough. This attitude will take care of our future.

Civilizations evolve through frictions. So too the individual. Life without friction is static – not an ideal ground for evolution. Evolution is the law of nature. Remember the story of the talents. The rich man gave talents (Money) to three people. Two invested it and it multiplied. The third buried it so it wont be lost, and returned it – the same amount- to the master when he came a few years later and asked for accounts. He remained the same. He hadn't evolved. And the punishment for his stagnation was serious. It was eternal fire!

We humans are created to evolve. In our own little individual life or as a community (nation, ethnic group or whatever), we must evolve. There is no evolution without friction and what it entails – wounds, pain. Allow ourselves to wallow in pain, we stagnate. WE must train our minds to view life from a higher plane. Then things fall in place. We see our role in the greater scheme of things. The individual, the nation, human kind – we are caught up in this great drama of evolution.

Only the fittest survive.

And we can be the fittest if we can rise above ourselves. After all, that's what evolution is all about.