Sunday, October 23, 2016

Open letter by progressive Muslims in India

Shared afrer getting this from a trusted source, though a web link would have helped:



We, ordinary citizens, artists, intellectuals, writers, poets from the Muslim community, want to emphasis that the Muslim community in India is diverse, plural and heterogeneous. No single organization or group of people/organisations can claim to speak on behalf of the whole community. Muslims and people of Muslim descent living in India follow different customs and celebrate a large number of festivals some common to all and some different from each other depending on the local cultural practices of the region where they reside. They speak different languages and engage at multiple levels of the thought process.


We the undersigned Muslims and people of Muslim descent want to unequivocally state the following:

1. We are against the instant arbitrary triple talaq as practiced in India and we support the demand of the Muslim women to abolish it. 
2. The present regime and their earlier avatars have used Uniform Civil Code as a stick to frighten and demonize the Muslim community and polarize opinion by projecting that the Muslims of this country are backward, anti-women and not open to any progressive laws. Uniform Civil Code has been always been projected by such regimes and right wing politics as a Hindu v/s Muslim tool. The fact of the matter is that many of the personal laws irrespective of which religion they belong to are archaic and anti-women.
3. We do not have any faith in the sudden found 'love for women' and 'gender justice' as articulated by Venkiah Naidu recently. Since the new regime has come to power we have seen heavy budget cuts on schemes for women, we have heard horrendous statements about women which have gone unopposed by the members of the regime, and we have witnessed growing violence against women as well as dilution of gender just laws such as the Domestic Violence Act (section 498A).
4. We do not believe that in a country with over 4500 communities and over 400 spoken languages uniformity or tweaking of present unequal laws can ensure equality for men and women.
5. We believe that social change is a slow process for which conditions on the ground need to be created where people have basic needs of housing, employment, food and good education. There is a need to first bring in progressive, gender just enabling laws which can be accessed by people from all religions. We have a Special Marriage Act under which people from any community or across religious communities and castes can marry each other. People have a choice to opt for Special Marriage act ( which is also being diluted by various right wing state governments by adding caveats to it) , similarly JJ Act has now provisions for people of any religion to adopt a child whether their personal laws allow it or not. More such laws which give equal rights to women in property and matters of marriage, divorce, inheritance, custody of children etc should be brought in.
6. We also strongly disapprove of the highly objectionable affidavit filed in the Supreme Court by the All India Muslim Personal Law Board regarding the triple talaq matter.
7. We believe that to suppress the progressive demands for equality, led by various Muslim women's organizations, the most conservative sections of the Muslim community are creating a Shah Bano campaign like situation so that they can keep the women subjugated and strengthen the patriarchal stronghold on the Muslim women.
8. We appeal to all liberal, progressive sections of the Muslims as well as all other citizens to support the struggle of the Muslim women for reform and to expose the nefarious designs of both the present regime as well as of the patriarchal conservative Muslims who are colliding with the retrogressive forces to take the attention away from the most important issues and the failures of the present government on all fronts.

Endorsed by:
Abadan Khan (Dr.), Academician
Abbas Shamael Rizvi, Filmmaker
Abdul Daiyan, Social Activist,Bihar
Abdul Hamid Paramanik, Social Activist
Abdul Mannan (Prof.), Academician, Assam
Abdul Muhib Mazumder, Former Advocate General, Assam and AP
Abdul Salam (Prof.), President, Justice and Equity Demand Committee, Assam
Abdul Salam, Social Activist, Assam
Abdur Rahman Sikder, Lawyer, Gauhati High Court., Assam
Aftab Fazil, Mission Sir Syed
Ahij Uddin Seikh (Dr.), Educationist, Assam
Ahmad Cameron (Dr.), Canada
Ahmar Raza, Scientist
Ali Javed (Prof.), Academician
Anowar Hussain, Social Activist, Assam
Areeb Rizvi, Researcher
Arshad Ajmal, Social Activist, Bihar
Asad Ashraf, Journalist
AsadHaider Zaidi, Co-Founder #ShoulderToShoulder Movement
Asma Faheem (Prof.), Academician
Ayesha Kidwai (Prof.), Academician
Azima, Gujarat
Bismillah Diwan, Social Activist
Dilawar Saiyad, Lawyer
Ehtasham Khan, Journalist
Faraz Ahmad, journalist
Farhat Salim, researcher
Farhin Mirja, Young Activist,Gujarat
Farrukh Saiyyeda Waris (Dr.), Academician, Mumbai
Farzana, Mahila Patch work Professional, Gujarat
Gauhar Raza, scientist, poet, filmmaker
Ghazanfar Abbas, Journalist
Haji Altaf Hussain, Social Worker, Gujarat
HajraDarji, Social Activist, , Gujarat
Hanif Mastaque Ahmed (Prof.), Academician
Hisham Mohammed technologist
Huma Nizami, Academician
Iftikhar Alarm, retired professor, Aligarh
Imad Ul Riyaz, development professional
Iqbal Ahmad, Journalist
Irfan Engineer, social activist, Mumbai
Jaffer Latief Najjar, Researcher, Mumbai
Junaid Dar, journalist, All J &k Students Union
Juned Khan, Educator & Social Activist
Kamrjahan Shekh, Social Activist, Gujarat
Kaneez Fatma, Academician
Karima Pathan, Social Activist, Kutch , Gujarat
Kashif Ahmed Faraz, Social Activist, Youth Awakening Movement
Kausarali Saiyad, Social Activist, Hamari Awaz Ahmedabad
Keramat Ali Seikh, Prominent Writer, Assam
Maimoona Mollah, Women Rights Activist
Mariam Fozia Rehman, Lawyer
Matiurehman, Academician
Md Zakir Hussain, Journalist
Mehvash Haider, Medical Doctor
Mohd Altamash, Student Activist
Mohd Arshad, Media professional
Mohd Shahid (Prof.), Academician
Monis Shamsi, Educator, Social Entrepreneur & Activist
Naaz Raza, Social Activist
Nadeem Hasnain (Prof.), Academician
Nafisa Barot, Social Activist, Ahmedabad, Gujarat
Nagma Shaikh, Women Rights Activist, Karnataka
Najema Shekh, Social Activist
Najma Rehmani, academician, Delhi
Nasiruddin, Journalist, Lucknow
Nasmeen Shekh, Social Activist
Nasreen Fazalbhoy, Academician, Mumbai
Naved Azam, Lawyer
Nizamuddin Khan, Social Activist
Noor Zaheer, writer, activist
Noorjahan Diwan, Women Rights Activist , Gujarat
Noorjanah Ansari, Women Rights Activist, Niswa, Ahmedabad
Nusrat, Social Worker
Ovais Sultan Khan, Social Activist
Parvin Shekh, Social Activist, Banaskantha
Qamar Fatima, Social Worker
Rashida Ansari, Social Activist Ahmedabad
Raza Haider, Social Activist
Rehana Pathan, Junagadha
Rehana Shekh, Dist. Surendrnagar
Rejina Khatun (Prof.), Women Rights Activist
Riyaz Parmar, Social Activist, Rajkot Collective
S Irfan Habib (Prof.), Academician
S.Q. Masood, Social Activist, Hyderabad
Sadia Sohail, Development Professional
Sahba Farooqui, Women Rights Activist
Sahir Raza, Filmmaker, Mumbai
Sajad Sheikh ,Lawyer, J & K
Sakil Shekh, Social Activist
Sania Hashmi, Filmmaker
Sarifa Chhipa, Social Activist
Sayed Shaad, Journalist
Seema Cheepa, Social Activist , Ahmedabad
Shabnam Hashmi, Social Activist
Shahin Ansari, Ahmedabad
Shakil Kapa, Youth Activist
Shamsul Islam, Author & Dramatist
Shareef Mohammad Khilji, Engineer
Sheba George, Social Activist
Sheeba Aslam Fehmi, Islamic Feminist & Writer
Shehla Hashmi, Potter, theatre
Shehnaz Rathod, Social Activist
Sohail Hashmi, Journalist & Filmmaker
Sophia Khan, Director Safar, Ahmedabad, Gujarat
Sultan Ali Ahmed (Dr.), Educationist
Syed Amir Abbas Rizvi, Communication Designer , Mumbai
Syed Tanveer Nasreen (Prof), Academician, Kolkata
Syeda Hameed(Dr.), Muslim Women Forum
Tanveer Hussain Khan , political activist, J & K
Tariq Adeeb, Lawyer
Uzma Mollah, Mediaperson
Vahida Nainar, Women Rights Activist, Mumbai
Yaquta Contractor, Prof Executive
Yasmin Qureshi, Himmatnagar
Zameer Abbas, professional
Zamser Ali, President, BTAD Citizen Rights Forum, Assam
Zoya Hasan, professor, academician
Zulekha Jabin, Social Activist

City maps with old and new ward boundaries overlay and elected reps info

The two municipal corporations of my home city (Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad, MH) have redrawn their ward boundaries for the upcoming municipal elections in 2017 and published them on site for comments from public. While there have been big declarations at both places about using google maps, GIS technology etc, these have mostly on working side. On the output end we still have the same old PDF or image exports. In Pimpri-Chinchwad we got maps with an added satellite-view photo layer.

I felt it's very important to be able to super-impose the existing and proposed boundaries, on a zoomable web map, and so set about creating the same, first for Pune and then upon request from friends for Pimpri-Chinchwad as well. I have earlier shared a guide on digitizing static maps. I followed the same for one map and another process in QGIS for another map which was more co-inciding with previous boundaries.

While doing this, I thought why not include in some more information, and following that track I made something that people here are saying is very useful: at any point on the map you can find out exactly who the current elected representatives or that place are, with photos. I already had this data tabulated for Pune; used some shell scripting, text editing and spreadsheet work to extract the same for Pimpri-Chinchwad. See screenshots at end.

Here are the links:

Github Gists of the traced new (2017 proposed) boundaries, with source and other relevant information:

Maps created on Carto that overlay both current and proposed boundaries:

One drawback: users can't switch the background tile layer to satellite view. And I don't want to put satellite view as default as it makes things messy. But otherwise, carto made it possible for me to create these in a short time. The only "coding" needed was custom HTML I'm using for showing the ward info. Doing the same in leaflet is possible but would have taken me longer; I'm not a full-fledged programmer. So I'll recommend carto for non-coder mappers.

So.. why am I sharing this with you? Because a) I'm showing off, b) It would be great if someone can make use of this and actually write back precise objections and suggestions to the municipal corporations, c) I want to take this forward! and d) Can we crowd-fund work like this? Contribute!

I'm looking for leads on photos and details of Maharashtra's MLAs, and want to share these very-doable-in-short-time techniques with anyone who wants to do something like this for their city/state. Please write back if you have some info I can use or are interested in doing this at your end.

Screenshots of the maps prepared:



Another project that this relates to that's also ripe for replicating in other cities : Nagar Sevak Report Card :

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Is Modi Sarkar, BJP as pro-GMO as Congress?

Honest question: If Modi is our PM and he's all pro-organic, pro-desi, anti-GMO etc, then WHY has this become necessary? (see poster below) If he's not a pro-corporate GMO-pusher but the people around him are and if these simple ground realities aren't getting through to him and he's not getting rid of the scums selling the country out, then isn't this the same case as it was with Manmohan Singh after which the country concluded they're better off without such a leadership? What difference remains between BJP and Congress if their behaviour regarding something as crucial as GMOs is nearly identical? Heck, it was actually a lot less secretive and clandestine during congress's time. Was there really any difference to even begin with, or was the 'desi' difference all just a charade for grabbing votes?  

#sochahai #duopoly #blackmoneyfunding

Related links, excerpts and comments (these will also be shared in my omnibus Interesting Links post at month-end but I think it's important to include them here for giving the reader a larger context of what's really going on):
Government looks to press ahead with GM mustard (13 Oct'16)
>> serious lying going on here. "Consultations at the highest levels in government have concluded that the GM crop has benefits" >> what conclusion? What "highest levels"? Are they implying that the PM's office has concluded this? Even the safety data has not been released. SC-appointed member of GEAC, Pushpa Bhargava has openly stated criticism that allowing commercial use would be disastrous as multinational organisations would take over Indian agriculture. Was this consultation dropped? Where is the conclusion?
... "Though there might be some delay as the government re-engages anti-GM opinion, the direction seems to be in favour of commercial release. "
>> so TOI states that Modi Sarkar, BJP is pro-GMO. Can we please be clear about this, confirm it once and for all and make our next electoral decisions accordingly?
Sangh Parivar groups fighting GM mustard run into a new opponent – Sangh Parivar groups
A few organisations linked to the RSS are pushing acceptance of genetically modified mustard as it comes up for regulatory approval.
... The strategy is simple: get an impressive number of scientists specialising in genetic modification, among them a clutch of former ICAR heavyweights, to talk about the benefits of the technology and the urgent need for India to adopt it. Also, rope in the top companies selling GM seeds, such as Mahyco (it is partly owned by global agribiotech giant Monsanto), to talk about the food security concerns in India and the need to improve the economic condition of the country's impoverished farmers.
... Playing a pivotal role in putting it all together is an unlikely figure – Ashok Chowgule, executive director of Chowgule & Company, a large Goa-based industrial group with interests in iron ore mineral, shipbuilding, industrial explosives among others. Although agriculture is far removed from his business interests, Chowgule is passionate about GM technology as "the way forward" for agriculture. In his newfound zeal, the corporate executive has been a godsend to the pro-GM groups.
... In an interview with this writer, Chowgule says the objective of the Pune symposium was to find out "how we can together, project the right picture to the people at large. And try and wean away the people from the emotionalised campaign of the anti-GMO activists". He accuses them of being not only "anti-science but they conduct themselves in an unethical way by projecting the technology as causing harm". He singles out Vandana Shiva, champion of sustainable agriculture, and Greenpeace for knowingly spreading falsehoods about the dangers of GM technology. Even though "they have been exposed", they have been able to "intellectually terrorise the government authorities all over the world into doing their bidding", says Chowgule.
... It is significant that Gujarat, unlike neighbouring states, has not allowed field trials of GM food crops.
... The controversial GM mustard is a hybrid variety called DMH 11 and it was tested in Rajasthan and Punjab. In a research project funded by the National Dairy Development Board, the supposedly high-yielding variety was developed by Delhi University genetics professor Deepak Pental at the Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants.
... Cloak of secrecy : Since the Modi government came to power, the regulatory process on GM has been brought under a tighter cloak of secrecy. Even innocuous information such as the agenda of GEAC meetings is no longer publicly available, much less what is being approved and how it was done.
... that repeated efforts including RTI requests have remained unanswered since 2006. In the latest RTI query, biosafety information was denied to ASHA on the grounds that "it was under process" although under a Supreme Court order all biosafety reports, the biology of the crop and related literature have to be placed in the public domain.
Officially shy, but Narendra Modi govt weighs GM options
>> got this on email. Imp note by sharer: Envi Min Prakash Javdekar is pro GM n he is supporting Sharad Pawar for GM sugarcane in the name of drought. Surprisingly they do not want to advertise about traditional organic farming technics, some of which use just 10 % water for sugarcane and with zero chemical gives more tonnage and more sugar per 100 KG of sugarcane.
Gujarat farmers' body, 3 APMCs join chorus against GM mustard
GM trials: Sharad Pawar tells PM Modi to scrap rule Jairam brought
Ramesh, then environment minister, had made it mandatory for developers of GM varieties to obtain a no-objection certificate (NOC) from the concerned state government before going ahead with field trial.
>> note from sharer: This industry man gets active only on useless things like this, of course. No time to look at issues like farm suicides but lots of time to send off industry-penned letters.
When will you speak on GM crops, Mr Modi?
>> this one's a pro-GMO one, but raises the same v.imp question : why can't our PM do a Mann-ki-Baat on GMOs? Why not take a stand? Is it because he's in a situation where he's going to loose supporters one way and funders the other? Is there a conflict of interest between nation's interests and funders' interests?
Many States skip meet on GM crops
... They also allege that results of tests on GM mustard weren't fully open to public scrutiny and the clearance violates recommendations of a Supreme Court-constituted expert committee on how GM crops ought to be tested. The Supreme Court is yet to pass an order on these issues.
>> so with the matter still pending in court, Central govt is still pushing GMOs ahead.
Farmer Unions, Scientists, and Consumers write to Modi urging him to Stop GM Mustard as GM regulators close public feedback time, without putting out data in public domain - Press Release by Coalition For A GM Free India
Over 700 comments received on GM Mustard: Environment Ministry
GM Mustard: No deadline extension for feedback on biosafety
Not simply a vision thing (about GMOs)
... Building promises is very similar to building facts, notes Cynthia Selin who studies the intersection of science, technology and society. It is the promise and vision of the future that then becomes key in generating a constellation that provides social and political legitimacy on the one hand, and much-needed financial resources on the other. Bt cotton, Bt brinjal and many technologies of the future exist through the expectations they generate and mobilise about the future. The act of developing a technology, therefore, is as much work inside the laboratory as it should be of engaging with the state and society and with their various concerns and questions. This will not be possible if the public is seen as ignorant or ill-informed, and the activist reactionary or an agent of vested interests. The contestation is, in fact, over the vision of S&T, of society and, for that matter, of the future itself.
.. In the case of GM mustard, work was done at Delhi University using public money provided by the government. And yet it needed the Central Information Commissioner to say that biosafety data around GM organisms should be available in the public domain.
... What explains, for instance, this deficit of trust in the public and in democratic mechanisms set up by the very institutions that provide the resources and the legitimacy for these new technologies? Is it an anxiety about failure of the technologist or of the technology itself? Or is it about the stakes involved in the socio-technical-economic system that has been mobilised to create the legitimacy in the first place? Does it say something about the potential failure of an imaginary technology that is based exclusively on the promise of the future? Can the narrative be one of hope and promise alone with no space for doubt or the possibility of any failure at all?
... TV 2035 (India's Technology Vision 2035) sees people opposed to certain technologies like nuclear and big dams as a barrier to their dreams. These then need to be addressed through better governance and not better technological design because "bottlenecks lie in policy and not technology".
Monsanto stops release of new Bt cotton tech
>> from Aug 2016. Relevant? Bayer has bought Monsanto, now they'll release it.

Side thing that came out in this article:
... On a visit to Kashmir, a conciliatory Home Minister Rajnath Singh offered to engage with anyone who was interested in finding a solution to the crisis there. "I will be staying at the Nehru Guest House. Those who believe in Kashmiriyat, Insaniyat and Jamhooriyat are welcome," he tweeted in an effort to reach out to all. It was as much an invocation of the political and the democratic promise as it was of the technological promise of modern communications. The irony only came forth when he was asked how this message of the Home Minister would reach the people when the government itself had blocked Internet services.
>> whoa, smack down! He did not ensure to spread the message out in printed flyers, posters etc.. just tweeted it while an internet blackout was going on in Kashmir. Which means the tweet wasn't for Kashmiris, it was to impress the twitterrati and the media to convey an image of dialogue-friendliness.
RSS outfit faces 'anti-national' barb over genetically modified crop event
>> fact-check here : "discredited" Seralini has won a court case proving his discrediting was illegal. He's been re-credited. HT missed mentioning that.
Is Modi preparing to defy RSS outfit on GM mustard rollout?
... At a meeting held in August, Modi had called upon three cabinet ministers and four top bureaucrats to carry out a thorough and speedy assessment of GM mustard. Agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh, environment minister Anil Dave, science and technology minister Harsh Vardhan and the secretaries of these ministries had attended the meeting, two sources have told HT.
Modi watched a presentation by the biotechnology department on GM mustard and then got a lowdown from Prof Deepak Pental – the lead scientist behind the project. Analysts view this as a sign that Modi favours GM technology as a policy option in agriculture.
... In its 2014 election manifesto, the BJP had said GM crops would not be allowed without a study of its "long-term" effects.
... "GM is not acceptable," Ashwini Mahajan, leader of the RSS-affiliated Swadeshi Jagran Manch, told HT. "We provided proof to the Prime Minister that GM mustard is neither indigenous nor capable of providing high yields. It will ultimately benefit multinationals like Bayer."
Don't give go ahead to GM mustard, farmers and activists tell MP govt
Cross spice - Gene-modified, herbicide-tolerant mustard could be marketed from October
... Organic farmers fear a loss of demand once the new crop is introduced. "We told the minister that there is an imminent threat to our status as organic farmers, right to free choice, seed autonomy and biodiversity," said Neelam, a woman farmer from Jhajjar, Haryana. "GM mustard will destroy not just organic farming, but also purity of centuries-old traditional mustard varieties forever."
... Kavitha Kuruganti, convener of Alliance for Sustainable & Holistic Agriculture, said members of the GEAC had conflict of interest. In addition to Sesikeran's case, she named Dr C.R. Babu, pro vice chancellor of Delhi University. She said Babu and Deepak Pental, developer of DHM-11, were "from the same university and were good friends".
Government stares at Bt brinjal moment before taking call on GM mustard
No commercial release of GM mustard for now (8 Oct '16)
... The Supreme Court on Friday stayed the commercial release of genetically modified (GM) mustard crop in India and asked the central government to first take suggestion and views of the public on the controversial subject. A bench of Chief Justice TS Thakur and Justice AM Khanwilkar told the Centre not to commercially release GM mustard till October 17, when it will hear the issue in detail. Additional solicitor general Tushar Mehta agreed with the bench's direction.

An email from ASHA (Alliance for Sustainable & Holistic Agriculture):
Our reaction to media coverage on 7 "farmer organisations" urging the Prime Minister to rollout the commercialisation of GM mustard:

* More than 57 major farmer unions have already come out against the approval of GM mustard. These include Bhartiya Kisan Union, Bhartiya Kisan Sangh, All India Kisan Sabha, Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangh and others. Kisan Ekta has recently passed a detailed resolution on this matter in their last convention. Further, as per the National Policy for Farmers, beekeepers and women agricultural workers also are Farmers. More than 5 lakh beekeepers in India, through the Confederation of Beekeeping Industry of India have come out against the approval of GM mustard. Women agricultural workers associated with Mahila Kisan Adhikaar Manch are opposing GM mustard. Thousands of organic farmers around India are opposing GM mustard and through their outfit called Organic Farming Association of India have appealed to the Agriculture Minister to stop GM mustard.

* Some organisations that are part of this umbrella network called Rashtriya Progressive Kisan Association have a dubious background as regards their primary interests, whether they exist to support farm livelihoods or to promote corporate interests.

* One of the organisations appears to have been a front organisation for the agro-chemical industry in promoting chemicals in the past and this in itself could be read as an indication of the real intent of GM crop developers and the agri-chemical industry, of promoting the use of pesticides in the form of herbicides.

* It is strange that these organizations are asking specifically for GM-based hybrids in the name of farmers because there is no proof that GM-based hybrids are higher-yielding than CMS-based hybrids. These organizations should ask for proof for how GM-based hybrids are better, since GM mustard has not been tested against any other hybrids.

* While yield is not the only thing that determines farmers' net profitability, even on the yield front, to ask specifically for GM hybrids appears that these organisations are a front for someone else, given that the higher yields that they are looking for, after can be obtained through other hybrids as well as other means.

* It is important to note that the production and productivity can be addressed by addressing anti-farmer trade policies that are pricing out Indian farmers and not incentivising them towards oilseeds cultivation.

* In risky technologies which involve multiple stakeholders including consumers, beekeepers, honey exporters, ayurveda practitioners etc., the decision cannot be left to only one stakeholder to decide. This is the reason why regulation and policy in favour of sustainability and safety is needed in the first instance. 

International news:
Pope Francis Slams Biotech Industry and GMOs in World Food Day Letter
>> Holy Cow, the Pope is Anti-GMO and our "desi" PM isn't
>> a response to recent few Nobel Laureates' pro-GMO statement

An article in response to a recent Nobel laureates' pro-GMO statement

Title : TWN Biosafety Info: The Real Reasons for the Failure of Golden Rice
Date : 2016-10-14



Dear Friends and Colleagues

The Real Reasons for the Failure of Golden Rice

Two scientists have unpacked the reasons behind the failure of Golden Rice (GR), genetically engineered to be rich in Vitamin A:

1.      There is still no functioning Vitamin A rice despite millions of dollars and wide institutional support given for 20 years of research. The first Golden Rice, GR1, was unsuccessful and GR2 is a patented pro-vitamin A GM rice developed by biotech giant, Syngenta, still in the field trial stage at the International Rice Research Institute a decade later.

2.      There is lack of recognition of the real reasons for failure to deliver, namely, that GR is not performing agronomically. Furthermore, it is far from being medically documented as actually relieving symptoms of Vitamin A deficiency.

3.      GR is based on a reductionist (disembedded) approach. Hunger and malnutrition with its complex, 'place-based' causes cannot be battled by a uniform, de-contextualized and placeless one-vitamin-at-a-time approach which is what GR is.

4.      There is no roll-out plan for GR to ensure that it can be made consistently available to its target groups and there are serious unresolved patent and ownership issues.

5.      GR epitomizes the pervasive, colonial, Western attitude of supremacy over and disrespect for indigenous knowledge and peoples. It assumes that the peasant farmers are ignorant people without the relevant knowledge entitling them to make informed decisions based on their own values and visions for their future.

With best wishes

Third World Network
131 Jalan Macalister
10400 Penang
Email: twn[at]
To subscribe to other TWN information services:



by Angelika Hilbeck and Hans Herren

The recent Nobel laureates' letter accusing Greenpeace of a "crime against humanity" for opposing genetically modified (GMO) golden rice reveals a deep division not only between civil societies and some science circles but also within the science community – a division in the visions for our common future and which path to take for our joint development. A division we see growing and escalating. A strong indication of this division is that among the Nobel laureate signatories, there seems to be hardly anybody with a solid scientific track record in agriculture, food production, development, or the socio-ecological and political causes of poverty and hunger. Others with notable competence – at least in the economic and social domains of development, poverty, and hunger – are not among the signatories. Signs of escalation also include the emotional, accusing language in the letter and the ample use of scientifically unsubstantiated claims. What is missing in the letter and among the supporters and developers of GMOs is the recognition and scientific analysis of some tough facts.

Fact no. 1: Still no functioning vitamin A rice despite unlimited resources

No functioning vitamin A rice has been produced in over 20 years of research. This is despite full support at every level: financial, institutional, political, and corporate. By 'functioning', we mean farmer's rice varieties that reliably and stably express sufficient amounts of beta-carotene (pro-vitamin A, the precursor of Vitamin A) over many generations of seed saving. These seeds must continuously express beta-carotene at a level that has been documented to be efficiently convertible to Vitamin A in mammals and, most importantly, can (statistically) significantly relieve the symptoms of Vitamin A deficiency in hungry people. None of this is scientifically trivial but that's what has been promised.

The first golden rice, GR1, was unsuccessful and is long gone. Golden rice 2 (GR2) is a patented pro-vitamin A GM rice developed from scratch by the multinational biotech firm Syngenta and still in the field trial stage at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) at least one decade after its creation.

The vast majority of scientists in the world will never see such comprehensively generous support for their research – yet they still deliver, and must deliver if they ever want to renew funding for their research. This is more than can be said for the golden rice project.

Fact no. 2: Lack of recognition of real reasons for failure to deliver

A quick evidence check is sufficient to reveal the simple reason why golden rice is not in farmer's fields: it is still not ready because it is not performing agronomically. Furthermore, it is far from being medically documented to relieve symptoms of Vitamin A deficiency. Neither Greenpeace nor the destruction of a test plot in the Philippines by local activists can be held responsible for this lack of scientific achievement.

Fact no. 3: Questionable conceptual underpinning

Leaving aside its scientific aspects, the very concept of golden rice – and all other similar conceptual approaches as solutions to malnourishment – remain doomed from the start as similar approaches have failed repeatedly. The problem lies in the underlying reductionist (disembedded) approach. Combating hunger and malnutrition one vitamin and mineral at a time is a failed ideology, no matter which vitamin or mineral one starts with and which kind of delivery system one chooses. Malnourished people do not suffer from single-vitamin-deficiencies added up. They suffer from hunger, as in 'lack of food'. This is compounded by poverty and a myriad of contributing factors working simultaneously together. That means they lack regular access to real foods containing the necessary variety of ALL essential nutrients, which, in conjunction, make up a healthy diet.

These contributing factors differ according to culture, place and time. There exists a huge amount of research and analyses to read for anybody who cares about the real causes of hunger and the real solutions (we list some old and new references at the end – or just check out the United Nations World Food Program website. For the golden rice project, we recommend for starters, the recent analysis by Stone and Glover who locate its failure in its 'disembeddedness' and 'placelessness'.

Consequently, hunger and malnutrition with its complex, 'place-based' causes cannot be battled by a uniform, de-contextualized and placeless one-vitamin-at-a-time approach which is what GMO golden rice has to offer.

This reductionistic approach to hunger is matched by similar reductionism in the genetic engineering world where organisms are viewed as the sum of their genes and proteins. Genes are added one at a time as blueprint construction instructions for lego-like products and many more projects of this kind are underway, e.g. vitamin A banana and cassava, or iron-fortified cassava, or whatever lies within their technical reach. Stone and Glover describe this as "a preoccupation with the molecular scale" that "favors a form of reductionist thinking that conceives of traits of interest as being governed primarily by genetics rather than through interactions with the environment or management" (Stone and Glover 2016).

Supplying vitamin A or any other nutrient in isolation only works for a transitional period of time, curing a symptom at best, while work progresses on the underlying place-based causes of hunger – lack of access to food, money, education and secure living conditions. Under those circumstances, as in parts of the Philippines, cheap vitamin A pills do the job much better, in a more targeted, controlled, and effective way than any patented GM crop could ever do.

Fact no. 4: A missing roll-out plan

But even if the golden rice researchers do eventually manage to get some GM pro-Vitamin A rice varieties to perform agronomically, there seems to be no roll-out plan to ensure that it gets to those who need it. Those reasons have nothing to do with regulations and everything to do with logistics, institutions and finances.

Will the golden rice developers truck their harvest into the urban slums and remote rural areas of Asia or Africa, or at least the Philippines, every day? Will they bring with them also the fat that malnourished people need to eat along with the rice to ensure they absorb the beta-carotene and convert it to vitamin A? And if they can do that, why aren't they bringing existing foods into those areas already? Why wait until a patented GM food is ready for delivery? There is no shortage of vitamin-rich foods on this planet and beta-carotene is one of the commonest molecules in nature.

Frequently, vitamin A-rich food exists in abundance and rots in storage or under trees not that far away from the places where people suffer from malnutrition. An alternative already in the field is, for example, a non-GMO orange sweet potato, a root crop compatible with improved crop rotations whose developers have been awarded the 2016 World Food Prize. Without a massive and expensive roll-out plan, golden rice will not even leave the field station of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), which is overseeing the golden rice project.

Epic endeavor

If their plan is to cross the pro-vitamin A trait into the rice varieties that farmers grow in hunger-stricken areas, they face an uphill logistic, financial, scientific and institutional battle. How will they get the transgenic trait reliably expressed in all of these varieties at the necessary concentrations over many generations of rice plantings and seed recycling? Who will pay for this epic endeavour?

If they decide instead to only put the pro-vitamin A trait into a handful of, say, IRRI rice varieties (which we believe is the most likely plan – if there is a plan in the first place), many will fail because they will not perform in different local conditions and they typically require fertilizers and pesticides. If the plan is to switch farmers to growing a handful of patented biofortified varieties all over Asia and Africa, how will this be implemented? Who will deliver the seeds and accompanying chemicals to farmers – year after year, everywhere where it's needed, for free? And is this a sustainable solution?

And what will happen to the thousands of existing ecologically and culturally well adapted varieties? The genetic diversity of crops and animals is our life-support system.

Furthermore, have they asked the rice producers and consumers of Asia and Africa if they want many of their rice varieties to be yellow forever – even in times when the food shortages and nutrition deficiencies are over?

Unresolved patent and ownership issues

According to the website, a resource-poor farmer will be allowed to grow golden rice without license fees as long as his/her income is less than $10,000 per year. But, in practice, who decides which farmers are eligible? Who decides which income limit is appropriate in what country or region, and who enforces it on what authority and criteria? What about those farmers whose incomes exceed $10,000 per year? Who will decide when to collect fees, from whom, and for how long? How will the finances be arranged between Syngenta, which owns GR2, the seed multipliers and distributors, and the government? And if all this can be settled with Syngenta – how about the next-in-line patented, biofortified GM crops? In case of dispute, will there be free access to lawyers for the resource-poor farmers?

In their weekly column Schaffer and Ray (2016) reported about a meeting with an employee of the US State Department and discussing the benefits of GM crops for farmers and consumers in the Global South and whether or not farmers would have to pay a technology fee and purchase, for example, the golden rice seed each year. The State Department representative stated that the companies that own the patents would be willing to make the golden rice (or virus-resistant cassava) available at no cost provided that the countries adopted US patent regimes to protect other GM crops. From a policy perspective, such a 'humanitarian' license agreement would thereby present a highly profitable transaction, a means to 'encourage' developing countries that often do not even have patent laws of their own to accept the US patent regime and so ensure the profits of US companies and patent holders in perpetuity. In corporate agriculture it seems, nothing is really for free.

These are just a few of the tough questions that have never been addressed or even acknowledged by promoters of golden rice or any other such projects. Shooting genes into nuclei and getting a few varieties to express a transgene is the easy part – although even that has proved elusive so far for GR2.

Fact 5: Colonial mindset

Blaming Greenpeace for the failure of not only golden rice but other patented products of genetic engineering has been an irrational (or maybe calculated) obsession of some proponents and developers since the discussion began decades ago. Yet, it also reveals more subtle issues. Farmers and indigenous people are outraged when gene technology proponents accuse them of being instructed or manipulated by big Western NGOs like Greenpeace. They say that promoters of golden rice and other techno-solutions offered by developed countries rarely ask for or listen to their views and, thereby, reveal their lack of respect and comprehension.

This attitude towards peasant farmers and indigenous peoples is typical of the still prevailing colonial, Western mindset – hidden or open. It assumes that the peasant farmers are ignorant people without the relevant knowledge entitling them to make informed decisions based on their own values and visions for their future. Sadly, the letter signed by Nobel laureates appears to be a continuation of this way of thinking. It reveals an attitude of supremacy over, and disrespect for, traditional and indigenous knowledge and peoples who want to have a say in their lives and communities and which path to take to 'development'.

Take-home message: Hungry (and poor) people deserve better. And Nobel laureates can do better!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

idiocy as a fundamental right

Shared by a friend on fb:

Anirban Bhattacharya nails it :
The assholery of it all. This government's efforts at the BRICS Summit to isolate Pakistan as a state sponsoring terrorism have failed spectacularly. China has alluded to the "root causes" (a.k.a. Kashmir), Russia has refused to condemn Pakistan directly, and the Brazilians and South Africans have politely shrugged and looked away, embarrassingly puncturing the gas-filled [censored] on display. With John Kerry's ambivalent statements and the EU choosing to be neutral (and bothered only about Pakistani atrocities in Balochistan), India's much-touted claims of a foreign policy offensives that have apparently made us more respected in the eyes of the world are appearing shallower by the day. In the neighborhood itself, Bangladesh is welcoming Chinese investments, Sri Lanka is building mega-ports with Beijing's support and Nepal is treating us coldly in the wake of ridiculous blockade. Clearly, all the jet-setting, back-slapping and selfie-taking haven't moved the shrewd world politicians to see things India's way and we are tragically short of friends in the world stage.
And without getting into the unpatriotic questions of whether the "surgical strikes" happened or not, the fact in 5-6 brutal terrorist attacks have taken place in the Valley AFTER the strikes prove that beyond providing the government material for election posters, they achieved very little by themselves. If the objective was to send a message to Pakistan (as we are repeatedly being told), I fear we have had a cross-connection.
So how do we make the public forget all the failures (not just in foreign affairs but across the board, from child nutrition to healthcare to controlling inflation to bringing back 'black money' to installing toilets) and keep them opiated on the irrelevant? Attack cinema and cricket of course! As if by stopping exchanges of sports and arts will somehow make the hawks in Rawalpindi and Islamabad change their game-plan. As if by throwing out Fawad Khan, we will teach Masood Azhar a lesson!
I wonder when did idiocy become a fundamental right of so many Indians? I understand that for most supporters of any party, political ideology is more important than the nation (contrary to the claims that nation is above politics), but just how blind and gullible can we be to not see this pathetic attempt at obfuscation for what it is?
This is not about peace, or solidarity with the army, or India's future. This is political opportunism at its basest, most vile and those who see merit in this kind of [censored] should be ashamed of themselves and their upbringing.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Nationalism is like your underwear

Nationalism is like your underwear.

Everyone has it, though there may be differences in sizes, shapes and shades.

It's great to feel proud of it, but note that only the really childish ones would find any value in continuously showing it off to everyone, or going around questioning people if they've worn theirs or not.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

quote on Love and Power

When the Power of Love overcomes the Love of Power, the World will know Peace

--in a friend's email signature

Friday, October 14, 2016


35 : the age when women realize that the only people in their life that are worthy of being their life partner are the friends they had made into brothers some years ago.

Sexist? Maybe. True? Embarrassingly.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Examining media bias : Press conference in Delhi : video vs article
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal's Press Conference, video uploaded 9 Oct 2016

An article on the same press conference:
There is no LG vs CM, Jung in tussle with Delhiites: Kejriwal - Hindu, 9 Oct 2016

>> 20-minute homework for readers : Watch the video fully (18 mins), and then read the article in full (it's very small so will just take a minute). The journalist was reporting on the same thing you just watched. Do you think s/he might have left out anything important? 

Like.. say, how people's salaries are getting blocked, or the fact mentioned (and worthy of proper fact-check) that hon'ble LG earlier had always received a copy of every decision being made but had never conveyed any difference of opinion back then, but now after the HC verdict declaring him as final authority, has suddenly announced that everything needs to be reviewed and can be cancelled retrospectively : a move which endangers vast amounts of public investment, public services, salaries paid to people, compensations paid to farmers? What about the concern shared that the ministers cannot work with officers if they can be suddenly transferred/dismissed the next day without any prior notice by the LG, without any discussion or consultation whatsoever with people's elected representatives, and that this has been happening increasingly in Delhi, including the dismissal of the officer in charge of Mohalla Clinics?

Any mention of these little details? Are they really so trivial? Is it ok to report that this press conference happened but not mention what it actually was about? Is it an example of good journalism to abstract out all the details and report only the rhetorical parts?

Are this and other media organizations doing the right thing by not providing any link to primary source, like a video feed (which is publicly available on youtube, no technical effort required on your part in sharing!), and not providing any transcript of the press conference that they attend? In print they may not have enough space (can use short URLs!), but how about in online articles where there are no technical constraints and which they can edit and add the links to later? 

Are the mainsteam TV news channels doing a good job by talking about this press conference and hundreds like this, showing muted clips to prove that they "were there", with their own voice-overs playing on top, but omitting out the full actual press conference and its audio? If they can spend upwards of an hour repeating the same one-liners and sharing their own opinions on this event, do you think they could spare 18 minutes or even just 5 to replay the actual video feed, as they usually do for most of BJP's or Congress's public addresses? Do you see them giving this same treatment to announcements by other political parties? 

After cutting out all primary sources and becoming the middle man in the job of conveying what is announced at press conferences to the larger public, would you say that the mainstream media of India has been doing their job well?


Pertaining to this particular news, how come there hasn't been any press conference by the LG on this decision, how come no question-answer with the LG, now that he IS the supreme unelected authority governing over and responsible for the lives of the people of Delhi as per High Court verdict? Is anybody asking whether the LG will in fact reclaim money from compensated farmers, or cancel salary increases of teachers, or will he really proceed with demolishing Mohalla Clinics or new classrooms constructed? Is any mainstream media organization going to try holding the LG accountable for the decisions he makes? Is anyone bothering to ask the LG how his decisions are in the best interests of the people of Delhi (aka, is he doing his job or not)?

If Delhi's CM expresses opposition to any of this (in keeping with his mandate as the elected representative of the citizens of Delhi), won't our corporate-owned mainstream media just repeat their "AK slams LG", "AK attacks PM" etc screaming all over again and then conclude that "Delhi's CM is incapable of working with the Centre, is always in blaming mode only" ? What proof will the media, or you, need to accept that a complaint can also be valid and that the act of complaining in itself is not a sign of evil or incompetence?

Would the Sheila Dixit or prior governments of Delhi have stayed even one day in office under such working conditions? Would any other political party in this country not have sat on the road and started a dharna over such a wipe-out of their autonomy? But if AAP ever does what any other party would have done, wouldn't we again label them as dharna kings, dharnebaaz etc? Haven't we been brainwashed by the media to reactively do this without looking at the issue at hand? What are your "different expectations of AAP" : they they should quietly roll over and die? That they should abandon their duty as the democratically elected representatives of the people of Delhi in order to fulfill a media-dictated illusion of propriety that no one would never expect of anybody else?

Wasn't the original dharna controversy by Arvind Kejriwal also in protest against the LG-controlled Delhi Police's blank refusal for taking any remedial steps after a series of gangrapes and dowry killings had rocked Delhi? Have any of the journalists who so gleefully attacked and derided that dharna, ever bothered looking into what happened to the victims of those heinous crimes, did their kin get any justice at all? 

Or have they investigated the fact that gangrapes, dowry killings, harassments leading to murder of women have since continued unabated in Delhi, even over 2 years into BJP central rule, and it remains the rape capital of India, co-incidentally being the biggest city where the police force reports to an unelected central govt LG and not to the elected representatives? Who should be held responsible for this problem that seriously affects every woman, grandmother and girl who lives in Delhi and because of which large companies with female employees are wary of doing business there? Again, is the act of complaining evil in itself, or is even greater evil being unleashed by those who vehemently attack the complainer and doing so give free pass to the wrongdoings that were being complained about?

Monday, October 10, 2016

Pune new ward/panel boundaries for 2017 election

I have digitally traced the new PMC boundaries (proposed for 2017 elections). Please check out this interactive map (also embedded at the end of this post) where you can see both the new and present ward boundaries in a more clear way.


Sunday, October 9, 2016

Open letter: Why India is still building hundreds of coal plants it doesn’t need

Forwarding an open letter to PM shared in an energy related network. Not sure about risks/benefits of naming right now (specially when a lot of violent types are prowling around, who will react to anything and can't really be reasoned with), so anonymizing it. Also, the message is far more important. I hope someone makes an online petition of this soon.

The Honourable Prime Minister
Govt. of India, New Delhi

Dear Sir,

Many sections of our society are happy to know that India has officially ratified the Paris agreement on Climate Change. Our congratulations to the entire Cabinet of ministers under your leadership.

It is even more heartening to know from UN's climate body that Paris climate deal will enter into force in the next30 days, after being ratified by 72 countries accounting for more than 56 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. While this is a great step in the right direction, the global scientific community has been insisting that a lot more and much more urgent actions are required by the global community to arrest the running away impacts of Climate Change.
May I request your attention to one negative aspect of India's developmental paradigm?  The power sector seems to be undertaking more of negative actions as compared to positive actions w.r.t Climate Change mitigation. As the news report below indicates the continued efforts to build coal power plants in the country cannot be in the interest of the communities.  At a time when very many commissioned coal power plants are idling (and associated with huge losses to our economy), it cannot be considered as prudent from any perspective to build so many more of them, as the report has highlighted, endangering our flora, fauna, and the general environment.

Climate Change: Why India is still building hundreds of coal plants it doesn't need
While our authorities may have a disagreement with some of the statistics/information provided in the above report, there is no denying the fact that our electricity generation planning and the associated activities need to be vastly more rational, keeping the environmental and social issues at our focus.

Instead of investing so much of our meager resources into building so many coal power plants, most of which are likely to become stranded assets or poor performing assets, it would be necessary to invest such resources in improving the overall efficiency of the power sector, containing the energy demand, conserving our natural resources, and
n the
widespread usage of appropriate renewable energy resources.

Many reports in this regard have been in the public domain for many years by now, but the concerned authorities seem to continue to ignore them.

May I also request that instructions be issued to the concerned ministers and officials to consider a paradigm shift in the way we view the demand/supply of energy/electricity through a holistic view of the overall welfare of our communities, and make use of the vast benefits of effective public consultation in formulating a people friendly and environmentally sustainable energy policy for the nation?


Tracing the government order behind pulses price rise?

This has been doing the rounds in some unofficial circles since a few
months now. But I'm not able to find more details. Attached a poster I
found on fb/twitter, and some of its text copied from another article:

M/s Adani had formed a Joint venture with Wilmar company of singapore
last year for marketing of food products in india. Adani Wilmar Ltd,
is the producer of fortune brand food products in India. The JV
company aimed to collect agri produces on large scale from farmers in
major pulses producing states.

They could not do it as there was a cap on mass collection and storage
of food items. Last April, Adani could manage to get that cap on three
pulses Arhar, Moong and Urad removed thru a government order.

>> The whole things remains debatable and in all these posts there's a lot of hot air being exchanged between pro and anti commenters. But I think the air can be cleared, and even an actual solution found, by just tracing down the actual Government Order being mentioned. Towards that, I presently can't find anything in web searches.

I have seen enough documentation covering international market prices
of the pulses in question : they are much cheaper; comparable to the
prices at which they're being bought from Indian farmers. So the
"international prices are high" argument is moot.

So can you help?

We need the exact details of this alleged government order. Serial
numbers etc, Date of issue, Department, Credentials of officials or
minsters who passed it, where it happened, etc.

Then, "a cap on mass collection and storage of food items." >> What is
the legislation behind this? Can we have exact details of this too?
Central or State level, when passed, what is the full text of the law,
and anything related?

It would be great to put the personification aside and instead see
this systemically. Monopolization of essential commodities is a
recurrent thing in many countries, and is one of the most tangible
outcomes of nexus between political parties running on funds with
undisclosed sources (aka black money) and corporate heavyweights who
are best placed (ie, have large volumes of surplus money to gamble in
something as risky as an election) to be supplying that funding. If
it's pulses here, it's water or something else in another country.

It is anti-monopoly laws in place that prevent the monopolization. And
if a government order has indeed been passed, ie, not a bill that's
signed on by elected representatives but a top-down executive action,
that in effects repeals the laws of the land that were put in place to
prevent monopolization.. if this has happened without the elected
representatives authorizing it, then its legitimacy needs to be looked

In the event that we find there is no such order passed or that there
is no such law existing and the claims were unfounded, then the other
fact-point needs to be checked : is it true or not, that the company
in question owns most or all of the commodity that has seen extreme
price rise? If that is true, then this creates valid grounds for civil
society as well as opposition political parties to take up a cause of
having an anti-monopoly law in essential commodities passed and
breaking up the monopoly. Let's not forget that the RTI was passed
thanks to untiring advocacy and pressure by civil society and wasn't a
"blessing" from the Congress that they claim in their propaganda.

So either way there's plenty of room for action here.

Links to articles that you can find in web searches that talk about this:

Interesting links for September 2016

Interesting links for September 2016

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Friday, October 7, 2016

A rebuttal for the "We are all GMOs" statement

[For a particular whatsapp conv] First, please stop posting more arguments after you have said "i rest my case". If you have truly rested your case, then accept whatever disproving of your statements happens next and don't try covering it up with additional arguments. If you want to put in something more, then first apologize and explicitly take back the "rest my case" statement which is nowadays thrown about for emotional effect.

Now, kindly notice that even what all I'm saying here is only an offering, coming from where I'm standing, and nothing is fixed in stone. It's simply put forward for your kind consideration.

The statement "you and I are all GMOs" is equivalent to saying "Pepsi and Coke are all natural fruit juices". It's the same technical folly. They are not; and we are not GMOs. We are naturally reproduced beings with NATURALLY derived genetic variations, structured through bio-physical limitations within the same species family, not ARTIFICIALLY done through bombarding embryos with foreign DNA coming from completely different species trees like fish & bacteria. All breeding of plants, dogs, etc done in the world still comes under NATURALLY derived genetic variations; we cannot inter-breed cats and dogs or dogs and plants together, because we step back and let nature take its course after bringing the chosen sperm and eggs together. If some strange interbreeding does happen, then nature decides whether the offspring is healthy enough to survive and propagate or not. A woman cannot be impregnated by a plant's pollen. If that happened regularly, then you could be justified in asserting that we are all GMOs.

At an emotional level, claiming that GMOs are the same as all other kinds of breeding, procreation and hybridization comes from the mindset of believing that humans are now evolved enough to take over the powers of God / Nature (a persistent fetish among scientists) and so whatever tinkering humans do (like GMOs) must be considered the same as what Nature does. It's a very anthropocentric philosophy, full of patriarchal ego, directly originating from Christian orthodox belief of Dominion of Man (google it!), and having zero scientific or empirical truth in it. 

Our embryos weren't shot with fish and bacteria genes to make us. We are not carrying terminator genes that will render our grandkids sterile. We don't have Monsanto's trademark embedded into our DNA. We are not intellectual property of corporations. We have lasted thousands of generations and have balanced with the rest of this planet; GMOs die off quickly and need to be artificially reproduced and artificially protected with pesticides and fertilizers - they can't even survive on their own for very long. And worst of all : they have serious incompatibilities with our body's bio-chemistry and our gut (symbiotic) bacteria, which is why GMOs are causing health problems.

Human technologies have simply not evolved enough to replace Nature - the GMO foods in the market are defective products made by inferior technology whose only USP is that it can be patented while Nature cannot.

The statement "we are all GMOs" is GM companies' propaganda; can be traced back to their PR documents and they have been caught paying professors to say it. It is superstition; isn't backed by an iota of scientific evidence. It is the equivalent of saying "Pepsi and Coke are all natural fruit juices". We all start off with believing in the wrong things. We need to unlearn along the way, and staying invested in these propaganda one-liners doesn't help us.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

October 1st, Irom Sharmila in Delhi Press Conference at 11 -1 PM at IWPC, Citizens Felicitation at 4 PM, Indian Social Institute, Lodhi Road, New Delhi

Just to put things into context : I resolutely believe that Irom Sharmila is a true Patriot of India. Rather than join secessionist forces, rather than wanting the north-east to break away from India, she simply worked to reverse a grievious mistake by Indian govt, and adopted nonviolent, constitutional and ethical means of protest. (Yes, fasting in protest is as constitutional for Irom as it was for Gandhi or Anna Hazare. Deal with it.) And upon ending the fast, instead of joining rebel factions or Maoists or secessionists she has fully embraced Indian Democratic Structure and is contesting elections with the agenda of correcting the same grievious mistake. Wake up violence-mongerers on both sides and lazy-ass commenters (signature line: "why didn't she...", "she should have..." yada yada without even bothering to put themselves in the same shoes), and take a look at what a real patriot looks like.

#StandWithSharmila# Repeal AFSPA
The Iron Woman Arrives in Delhi !

Women of the World Join Irom Sharmila in
Appealing to the President of India

11am – 1 pm, Saturday, 1st Oct 2016, IWPC, Raisina Road, New Delhi

PUBLIC MEETING: Irom Sharmila ko Salaam!
Felicitation of the long resistance against AFSPA

4-6pm, Saturday, 1st Oct 2016, Indian Social Institute, Lodhi Road, New Delhi

The Armed Forces Special Powers Act is a draconian, undemocratic and repressive law in India that gives the armed forces an open licence for violence against civilians in Manipur, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Mizoram, Tripura, Meghalaya and Kashmir. It has provided impunity for thousands of illegal arrests, staged encounters, custodial deaths and disappearances. It has been the cover for rapes, sexual assaults and cold-blooded killings of women wherever it has been enforced. 

There is a long history of struggles against the AFSPA by ordinary people in all the areas where the Act has been imposed, with women spearheading many of these struggles. Prominent among them has been Irom Sharmila, a poet and human rights defender from Manipur who went on a historic fast for almost 16 years to protest AFSPA and demand its repeal! Even as she ended her fast on 11 August 2016, Sharmila asks: How can the world's largest democracy uphold a law that violates every tenet of democracy? And she calls for all of us to stand up with her, against AFSPA.

At 11 am on 1st October, Irom Sharmila will address the press and appeal to the President of India to use his powers as the custodian of the Constitution of India to repeal this shameful law.

Later in the day at 4 pm at ISI, Lodhi Road, New Delhi, Irom Sharmila will be felicitated for the mighty resistance she has mounted against the AFSPA at a public meeting by activists who have also consistently called for the repeal of draconian laws like the AFSPA.


For more information on the press event, contact: Kalyani Menon Sen 9910306382

For more information on the public meeting, contact: Sanjeev 9958797409

Some resources on Sociocracy

Some resources on Sociocracy

Websites: (Sociocracy 3.0)


72-minutes Sociocracy Basics Course by James Priest (15 videos, 3~8 mins each)

A brief introduction to classic Sociocracy (32 mins) by sociocracy3.0

Dynamic Governance (Sociocracy) (28 mins) - John Buck, interviewed by Jim Rough

Beyond Democracy : parts 1 to 8 (2~6 mins each) by Ted Millich

Locator system for state transport buses

I've been traveling by MSRTC (Maharashtra State transport) a lot in
the past couple of months, and am seeing some opportunities for better
systems there.

Explaining the problem:

I'm focusing on one universal problem faced by commuters: waiting
period for a bus that can range from a few minutes to hours, during
which the commuter has to be alert the entire time and keep their eyes
peeled and check each and every bus that enters the stand. More than
anything else I feel this strenuous waiting time takes a high toll :
when you don't know if you might have to wait upto 3 or 4 hours also
and you can neither take rest nor do anything productive in that time.

When we ask at the enquiry desk, the only two details we get are : a)
what time the bus was "supposed" to have come; b) whether the bus has
already come and gone or not.

Compared to transit in the city, two major differences emerge :

a) The waiting period in the city is in range of minutes to
occasionally an hour which is much lesser than in rural. For people
who travel by ST daily this can amount to significant part of
productive day time lost in just waiting for the bus.

b) In city, there are still alternatives available. You can take other
buses to take you halfway and then do an auto or call a cab or
something. In rural areas, there is no alternative to the ST bus, and
there might not be any valid connection from half-way points or no
infrastructure there. If your bus got cancelled (which you'll find out
only a very long time later) you might have to halt at that place for
the night; and that place might not have suitable lodging, or might
get very unsafe after dark esp for ladies traveling alone.

Which means a service outage or inordinate delay can cause loss of
education, work or business for the day, to missing out on an
important event like a wedding or a booked train journey or a
workshop.. you name it, we miss it. There is simply too high
dependency, and too high negative consequences for an ST service to be
taken as lackadaisically as it seems right now.

Looking at the fact that an ST service serves significantly larger
area and population than city bus service, and that we have probably
under 30 total ST services in this country, I think this deserves some

Moving to the solution part:

Before GPS devices came on phones, google maps app even in Java-based
phones provided location-finding service based on which cell tower we
were hooked on to. Accuracy would be in 100s of meters, and one could
get this approx location very quickly. I understood at the time that
google's map app would send to its server the unique identifier code
of the tower, and the google server would return a latitude, longitude
and range. This would then be rendered on the phone as a large blue
circle and we would reliably be somewhere in it. The circle's radius
would vary from 100 meters in city areas to even a km or more in rural
areas. For the purpose of figuring out generally where you were in
terms of part-of-city or town or village, at the kms scale, it works.
Even now this works on my android phone when it's not trying to force
me to turn on my wifi or gps. If the phone goes out of range, then
last known location is available and reliable enough for some minutes
till it comes back in range again a few kms ahead. I understand that
mobile service providers also have this data (which phone number is
operating under which tower) and even the police routinely summons
this data to trace criminals, missing persons etc.

For state transport bus system, we don't need GPS-device accuracy of
bus location; just this tower-based location finding method could

Consider this real-life scenario: We're waiting at Mangaon bus stand
to catch a bus to Mandangad. The connecting bus is a Mumbai-Dapoli
bus. It is scheduled to come at 3pm but there is no way to tell when
it will come because of possible traffic, weather etc. On earlier days
it has come as late as 6pm also; and there have been times in the past
when the bus was cancelled for some reason.
If a system can just show the approximate location of this bus :
around which town it presently is, then we can safely predict by when
it will come. If we can see that it is at least 2 hours away, then the
passenger can without any tension go and take rest, eat, finish other
work for 2 hours instead of continuously waiting at the bus stand
checking every bus that comes in. At a busy ST stand like Mangaon,
there's a bus coming practically every minute. That's 120 bus boards
that the passenger won't have to strain to read; won't have to walk up
to to ask the driver/conductor in case the board isn't readable, if
he/she can get to know that their bus is 2 hours away.

How one might go about delivering this:

There is of course the option of installing a device carrying a sim
card in every bus, but I would suggest something much simpler and more
sustainable in the long run. Most bus drivers and conductors are
carrying a mobile phone of their own. Their phone number (both number
and a cheap phone could be given to them by ST service as work number)
could be pegged in the system to be going along so-and-so route. Given
the long ST routes, one conductor / driver likely goes on just one or
two routes in a day, and many are working on fixed routes and
schedules for a long time period, unlike city bus systems where
there's a lot of dynamic allocation happening. So this shouldn't be
too difficult. We could practically peg one mobile number to every
trip and not have to bother editing the data for months on end.

Then, just like how the police can access a phone's approx location
data from service provider, with government sanction even the ST
service can have a similar special arrangement to receive the location
of the designated mobile number and relay it on a website, which can
be accessed by a passenger via browser or even SMS-based service. I'll
advise that the ST service or mobile service provider just publish the
data in a public API / live feed and let the free market create
delivery services around it to serve commuters. Even paid SMS service
is something commuters would happily pay for to avoid waiting hours at
the bus stand.

So we can achieve this without even having to purchase / make /
install any specialized device; without even needing a smartphone with
special apps. It only needs some setting up work at a central level,
and can be operated from existing central command center of the ST
service. Maximum on-ground work could be towards ensuring the phone
stays on, which translates to providing charger connection in the bus.
That shouldn't be too difficult given that all buses do have
electrical connections for lighting.
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