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Classquake: What the global media missed in Nepal earthquake coverage May 8, 2015

Posted by nishankmotwani in : Guest authors, Nepal , comments closed

Andrew Nelson

As the world comes to terms with Nepal’s earthquake and media outlets start shifting their gaze elsewhere, it is worth analyzing how the global English media covered the disaster – and what they missed. This was a “classquake” as much as a natural disaster, a point missed amid the dramatic descriptions and heart-rending videos.

Initially, attention was focused on Nepal’s recognizable symbols,Kathmandu’s world heritage sites, and victims at the Mt. Everest base camp leaving several commentators on Twitter to criticize the media for its “orientalist gaze” and “disaster porn” while under-reporting where the devastation was more extensive: rural Nepal.

A man walks past collapsed buildings after an earthquake last week in Kathmandu, Nepal, May 3, 2015. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui      TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY      - RTX1BAO5

A man walks past collapsed buildings after an earthquake last week in Kathmandu, Nepal, May 3, 2015. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui

The media’s attention to Kathmandu valley and Everest was as much a product of orientalism, that is, the West’s patronizing or romanticized perceptions of “the East,” as it was a reflection of disconnect between the capital and the (non-mountaineering) hinterland. (more…)

Book review: Thieves of State – Why Corruption Threatens Global Security March 27, 2015

Posted by nishankmotwani in : Afghanistan, Guest authors , comments closed

Mark Beeson

Once in a while, a book comes along that forces you to rethink some basic assumptions. I had come to believe that corruption didn’t really matter that much because economic growth seemed to happen anyway.

In some circumstances, it seemed corruption might even have a functional purpose. China was the quintessential exemplar of this possibility. Having read Thieves of State – Why Corruption Threatens Global Security by Sarah Chayes, I can now see how complacent and ill-informed some of those assumptions actually were.

Under former president Hamid Karzai, Afghanistan was little more than a ‘vertically integrated criminal organisation’, according to a new book. EPA/Parwiz Sabawoon

Under former president Hamid Karzai, Afghanistan was little more than a ‘vertically integrated criminal organisation’, according to a new book. EPA/Parwiz Sabawoon

Thieves of State has two great merits over and above its important central thesis about why corruption threatens global security. First, much of the analysis is based on first-hand observations of the pernicious impact of corruption in pivotally important states such as Afghanistan.

Second, Chayes writes with a journalistic eye for detail that enlivens what might otherwise be a worthy but unread scholarly treatise. The book ought to be read and Chayes’ accessible prose ensures it will be.

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India’s mission to Mars: money well spent? February 6, 2014

Posted by southasiamasala in : Guest authors, India , comments closed

Eshan Motwani

In November 2013 India joined an exclusive club of nations to have launched a mission to Mars. Informally referred to as ‘Mangalyaan’ (Mars-craft), the launch represents an unparalleled scientific and technological achievement for India; one that has already drawn praise for its shoestring budget of $78m. Media coverage of the scientific and human efforts involved in managing this mission on an extremely small budget has often been accompanied with attention to India’s wide-scale poverty and social welfare issues. The intention of mentioning these distinct events and circumstances together has seemingly been to question the Indian rationale in launching an ambitious project in light of existing challenges.

The argument that the space program somehow diverts valuable resources away from public welfare projects is imbalanced. It is surprising that global (and some Indian) condemnation of the launch is so readily expressed without considering other activities that have severely drained public funding. The drain in resources from India’s space program is in fact trivial when compared to the effects of corruption and graft that plague India’s public welfare initiatives. Condemning the space program for redirecting attention away from social welfare problems ignores the potential commercial, scientific and long-term impacts of the successful launch.

Photo: Indian Space Research Organisation, Copyright 2008 ISRO

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Delhi voters pick an unconventional winner January 22, 2014

Posted by southasiamasala in : Guest authors, India , comments closed

Purnendra Jain and Peter Mayer

Voters in Delhi have ushered in an unconventional leader of a new party, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP — the Common Man Party), to the top political position in the National Capital Territory. Delhi’s seventh chief minister, Arvind Kejriwal, may be a political novice but he is by no means an unknown figure. A graduate of the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology and a former senior official in India’s Income Tax Department, Kejriwal became known nationally in 2011 through his association with the anti-corruption movement led by Gandhian Anna Hazare. Mass demonstrations in Delhi against widespread corruption, and their coverage through national television, made Kejriwal one of the country’s most prominent faces.

Kejriwal was responsible for drafting an anti-corruption Jan Lokpal Bill and played a key role in implementing the Right to Information Act at the grassroots level. But at the end of 2012, Kejriwal parted company with Team Anna, as the latter did not support Kejriwal’s proposal to form a political party and contest elections. When the AAP was formed in November 2012, most commentators were pessimistic about its future. But one year on, Kejriwal surprised many after his party won 28 of 70 seats in the Legislative Assembly, thrashing the long-ruling Congress Party. It’s the first time in Delhi’s history that a party other than the Indian National Congress and the Bhartiya Janata Party has taken the helm. Delhi’s previous chief minister, Sheila Dikshit, belonged to the Congress Party, and after three five-year terms she became the longest-serving chief minister in Delhi and the longest-serving female chief minister in India. Of course, the emergence of political leaders from social movements is not a new phenomenon. In India, however, while many regional parties have emerged and their leaders served as chief ministers, most parties have been developed on the basis of caste, religion, language or regional issues. And none has managed to cultivate the same profile as Kejriwal.

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Corruption and political correctness: a severe case of intellectual lazines February 3, 2013

Posted by southasiamasala in : Ashar, Meera, India , comments closed

Meera Ashar

Ashis Nandy has been called, rather, accused of being, many things—sociologist, historian, political theorist, public intellectual, philosopher, psychoanalyst, leftist, centrist, right wing, Dalit, Christian, Brahmanical, casteist (he describes himself, more poetically, as an intellectual street fighter and reason buster)—but ‘politically correct’ has never been one of them.

Ashis Nandy at the Jaipur Literary Festival

This time, Nandy’s political incorrectness has cost him more than before. As in the past, he has been attacked by politicians and the popular media for presenting his analysis of social phenomena—for doing his job well. (more…)

India: corruption affecting investment and economic growth December 13, 2012

Posted by southasiamasala in : Future Directions International, Guest authors, India , comments closed

Gustavo Mendiolaza

Transparency International released the results of its annual Corruption Perceptions Index on 5 December 2012. India was ranked 94 out of 174 countries in corruption, a claim highlighted by the scandals that have hit the Indian National Congress-led government this year.

Background

India, and the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government in particular, have felt increasing pressure over the levels of corruption. This year’s Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) illustrates that although the situation has improved since last year, an underlying culture of corruption still exists in India. Such endemic corruption may cause a decline in India’s attractiveness for foreign direct investment (FDI).

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SAM recommends … ‘Indian mining out of control’ June 15, 2012

Posted by sandygordon in : Gordon, Sandy, India, South Asia Masala Recommends , comments closed

Sandy Gordon

Items on corruption surrounding mining in India have featured prominently on this site. In that context, we are now drawing attention to an important new report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) on corruption in mining and its human consequences.

The HRW report chronicles instances of the Indian mining industry being ‘out of control’ – that is, virtually unsupervised by the state and federal authorities responsible for it. The human and environmental consequenses have been dramatic.

The HRW report also suggests some remedies: upgrade resources in the relevant environmental and forestry departments, which are woefully inadequate; remove responsibility from mining companies for funding and commissioning environmental impact statements (EISs), many of which have been fraudulent; and review past EIS reports, with prosecutions and cessation of mining where they are found to be fraudulent. For the full report, click here and follow the links.

South Asia in 2011: a year of strained relations January 17, 2012

Posted by southasiamasala in : Gordon, Sandy, South Asia - General , comments closed

Sandy Gordon

First published as  part of a special feature: 2011 in review and the year ahead, in East Asia Forum, 3 January 2012.

South Asia is a vast region encompassing eight nations (if we include Afghanistan) and over one-fifth of humanity. It is difficult to do it justice in this short summary of the year’s events.

Foremost among the region’s significant developments is the killing of Osama bin Laden in a US raid on 2 May. This is important not just for its effect on al-Qaeda, but because it made possible Washington’s claim that the US could now leave Afghanistan with its ‘mission accomplished’. By the end of 2014 there will be only a rump of about 20,000 NATO troops remaining.

At the same time, the raid also triggered a marked deterioration in the US-Pakistan relationship, already troubled by the Raymond Davis affair. The net result is that although the impetus on the US to leave Afghanistan has increased, the prospect of an orderly departure and satisfactory final outcome has declined.

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Sports, politics, prestige and power: the struggle over the new bill September 30, 2011

Posted by southasiamasala in : India, Stoddart, Brian , comments closed

Brian Stoddart

While Suresh Kalamadi and colleagues sit it out in Tihar jail, awaiting results of their post-Commonwealth Games charges, Sports Minister Ajay Maken is struggling to gain acceptance for his Bill that would reform India’s sports management and administration, one measure against many to counter both the suggestions of corruption and international criticism. This is no simple matter. An earlier attempt, before the full catastrophe of the Games emerged, was roundly defeated as several Government Ministers including Kalmadi and Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar (better known as the Chair of the International Cricket Council and former President of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI)).

One of the central issues this time round is that Maken – a Delhi man with a trades union background – wants all sports bodies in India to be subject to the Right To Information (RTI legislation). This is being fought bitterly by many if not most of the sports bodies, and principally by the now extremely cashed up BCCI. Automatically, that leads many to think that the opposition emerges from the need not to have all or certain information emerge to full public scrutiny. The push for the RTI angle comes obviously in the Games’ aftermath amidst the revelations of alleged kickbacks, preferential tendering, bogus tenders and invoices, tampered bids and all the rest, but why the ferocious attempts to prevent the measure.

A good deal of this comes from the complex and intertwined social, financial, business and political roles played by leading sports administrators, as the cricket case reveals.

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India’s internal security conundrum September 15, 2011

Posted by southasiamasala in : Guest authors, India , comments closed

Guest author: Ashutosh Misra

Blood has spilled on the streets again, right under the nose of India’s symbols of democracy and power – the Indian parliament, President House and the Supreme Court, all situated within few kilometres of the Delhi High Court where 11 people died and over 45 were injured in a suitcase bomb blast on 7 September. Harkat-ul-Jihadi Islami (HUJI), the Bangladesh-based outfit has taken has the responsibility as a mark of protest against the impending hanging of the 2001 parliament attack accused Afzal Guru. Initial investigations have shown traces of Indian Mujahideen  (IM) involvement as well and several arrests have been made in this connection in the last couple of days. This second major incident since the 13 July serial blasts in Mumbai and 25 May blast at the same spot outside the Delhi High Court has yet again put the spotlight on India’s intelligence agencies and police force, questioning whether India possesses the wherewithal to rein in these unrelenting attacks.

As the government struggles to recover from the battering it received from the Anna Hazare-led nationwide movement against corruption, India’s internal security situation remains delicately poised. City after city continues to be targeted brazenly by terrorist groups indicating that a decade after the watershed September 11 attacks India’s situation has remained unaltered. Ironically, in contrast to India’s global prospects, domestically the situation does not appear too promising. The country’s recent experiences in dealing with domestic challenges demonstrate a stark mismatch between its global potential and internal capabilities. In particular, two key threats deserve attention here which could impede India’s global rise and economic growth: home grown terrorism (HGT) and left-wing extremism (LWE), both described by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as the two most serious threats facing the country. (more…)