Is Arvind Kejriwal doing anything?

India: 250 million strikers?

It doesn't exist. Not a new mysterious disease in South India either. Something cannot be right there, dear media

The left daily newspaper young world and the tabloid picture currently have something in common: They spread nonsense when they report on "250 million people on strike in India".

The young world has been doing this for years. The principle is the same every time: before a general strike, the Indian trade unions announce that 200 or 250 million people will participate and that is then sold as a fact.

"How about Delhi", I asked an activist in the Indian capital on January 8th, 2020, when allegedly 200 million Indians were on strike again: "Nothing." And in Mumbai: "A couple of smaller rallies, nothing else," replied Natalie Mayroth's colleague daily newspaper. I myself was in Kolkata, West Bengal. There was a little more going on here, but it was nothing for an Indian stronghold either. Mamata Banerjee, chief minister of West Bengal and opponent of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, did not respond to the call to strike.

An "unfounded exaggeration"

Actually, a basic knowledge of India should tell you that something cannot be right when more than 200 million people in a country have allegedly been on strike for better working conditions for years and take to the streets to enforce the demands of the smallholders, but 90 percent of the working population operate in the informal sector.

How does it work in a country with such a strong union that neoliberal Hindu nationalists are elected to power for the second time in a row, who continue to restrict workers' rights and increase daily working hours to twelve hours? Meanwhile, newspapers like that report Morning mail of 250 million strikers. Internet sites recommend this to their readers: A heavily exaggerated number is spread more and more.

This time Aurel Eschmann from the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation in New Germany pointed out the "250 million nonsense". It is not a matter of course that a daily newspaper provides its (left-leaning) readers with content that is difficult to digest:

A mass strike took place, but those 250 million people involved are an unfounded exaggeration. The umbrella unions had put this number into circulation long before the strike; it has little to do with actual mobilization. The left among the Indian media know about these dynamics and therefore no longer adopt such figures.

Aurel Eschmann, New Germany

Eschmann, who is therefore exposed to criticism from left circles, also had an explanation ready in his factual and profound article about the reason for such exaggerated news:

So was it basically nothing? Or is it a kind of major world historical event? Both "news situations" show how Eurocentric the Western view of the state with the second largest population in the world still is.

Aurel Eschmann, New Germany

Yes, tens of thousands of farmers have been standing at the gates of Delhi since November 27, demonstrating against the Modi government's new agricultural law, which was waved by parliament in September. But the main demands of the farmers are the same as for years: The implementation of the Swaminathan Report.

When Modi wants to do the farmers a favor

Between 2004 and 2006, the Indian government commissioned five studies to examine farmers' problems. But the proposed solutions - among other things, finally granting the farmers access to public loans or access to sufficient clean water - have not yet been implemented.

As early as 2018 there were peasant protests all over India, which culminated in the great march on Delhi in December. Even then, economist Jaya Mehta told Telepolis:

I fully agree with the farmers in implementing the proposals of the Swaminathan Report. But: 240 million Indians (50 percent of the working population) live directly or indirectly from agriculture on an area of ​​94 million hectares. However, seven percent of the farmers are large landowners, they own almost half of the agricultural land. These large farmers, who can borrow money from the public banks, would primarily benefit from a loan waiver.

Most smallholders would go away empty-handed because they can only get credit in the informal financial sector. In the current system, the large landowners and agricultural corporations would also benefit from higher prices for agricultural products. 65 percent of people who work in agriculture do not harvest enough from their small fields to support themselves. So higher prices would burden them too.

Jaya Mehta, get up in Indian

In the same way, only large farmers and corporations such as the Mumbai-based oil and textile company Reliance would now benefit from being able to negotiate the prices themselves, the demonstrating farmers in Delhi are currently arguing, whom Modi claims to unite with the new agricultural law Wanted to do a favor.

Tens of thousands would be a lot

In December 2018 in Delhi, Julia Schäfer and I were the only international correspondents for WDR who were interested in the local farmers' protests. It's nice to see that many media are currently reporting on the protests in our country too - now that Modi's new law has put the child even deeper in the well.

At that time, Schäfer and I had the usual problem with demonstrations, the participants of which could rightly be proud of what they had put together in the headwind of the neoliberal government: "You, I don't see 100,000 demonstrators here," said the colleague me. I didn't see them either. Delhi has a population of almost 20 million. 200 million live in the neighboring state of Uttar Pradesh alone. But when it came up, 50,000 to 60,000 people took part in the march.

Anyone who knows the living conditions of the majority of Indians knows that the 50,000 then and the tens of thousands in Delhi are many now. As a rule, only ideologues or populists take to the streets in India. Religious festivals naturally overshadow everything. Except for the "communist" ruled Kerala, which does best in most social indicis because the rulers have recognized that a high gross national product is not everything.

Solidarity against a policy of exclusion

And there are more positive things: The various civil protest movements in India are now networking and supporting each other. From the students who oppose the privatization of the education sector to the protesters who take to the streets against Modi's New Citizenship Act (CAA). Even sports greats like Vijender Singh, the first Olympic medalist in boxing, and others have returned their state awards in solidarity with the farmers.

Delhi's Prime Minister Arvind Kejriwal said he was placed under house arrest by the police after he visited the protesting farmers. The police, who are under the central government in Delhi, have denied this.

To this end, Hindus, Dalits, Muslims and Sikhs are currently demonstrating side by side in Delhi and thus setting an example against the exclusion policy of the Hindu nationalist central government and its think tank: The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), which was founded in 1925 on Mussolini and his "brown shirts".

The mysterious disease

Many German media then plunged from the farmer protests into news that was more salable: More than 450 people in South India suffer "mysterious illness". Almost all the major media headlines the latest headlines in this way or similar in order to irritate their Corona-damaged readers even more. As it turned out by now, of course, it wasn't a mysterious disease.

According to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, traces of lead and nickel were found in the blood of many of the aforementioned sufferers in the city of Eleuru, Andhra Pradesh. The trigger for the poisoning has not yet been found: groundwater, milk and food in the region are being examined again. Not at all surprising, after all, a lot in India has been poisoned by the growth mania.

Vegetables sometimes contain lead, arsenic and other chemicals or antibiotics. But it can also be antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Chicken is served with lead or antibiotics, if it's not rotten dog and cat meat from the dump.

Many rivers consist primarily of industrial and household sewage. The air in major Indian cities is so polluted that you would have to smoke up to 45 cigarettes a day to do the same to your lungs in Germany.

Simply having a cup of tea and waiting a bit is hardly possible in a Twitter junkie news machine and I am not criticizing that: I feel sorry for most full-time journalists. Not all of them want to engage in better-paid economic lobbying and call it journalism.

Upside Down World: Of Aid And Public Enemies

In India, too, social progress consists of patient, hard work: for years activists like the Bengali Sushovan Dhar have been going into the villages and trying to make it clear to the people that they have rights - from farmers to women who pay starvation wages Bivis, cigarettes, roll. In weeks of preparation, the Sushovans also organize demonstrations in the capital, Kolkata, where the villagers can express their concerns.

Two years ago I was able to be there as almost 1,000 women from Bengali villages were able to raise their voices for the first time on the streets of Kolkata. In their most beautiful saris, but shy at first because they couldn't believe that the streets were blocked off for them. Again and again spurred on by Dhar and other activists: "That is your right," they later shouted like football ultras.

Colin Gonsalves, winner of the 2017 Alternative Nobel Prize, also needed a lot of patience before he and his colleagues succeeded in having the right to food enshrined in India's law.

Likewise Wilfred d'Costa, the chairman of the NGO umbrella organization Indian Social Action Forum. He and his colleagues fought for nine years, not with bombs, but with the law. Then the Supreme Court ruled that they and other small NGOs were allowed to accept donations from abroad - the Modi government has been and has been doing this for a long time and best. In addition, 95 percent of the 2018 election donations went to Modis-BJP, 50 percent of which were from unknown sources.

Wrong world: Ironically, the Hindu national Modi government accuses people of turning mature citizens into "enemies of the state" with their offers of help. A government that primarily offers religion and nationalism. A government that also has the highest unemployment rate in 45 years, while the stock market values ​​of pro-government corporations such as the Adani Group and Reliance skyrocket even in the Corona year.

"Revolutions" cannot be posted or tweeted until the grassroots are ready. And that will take some time in India too. Most of the ordinary Indians in the villages only know corrupt officials and politicians. They can only laugh at sentences like "Democracy means that power comes from the people". Even the education of the upper middle class in India can be traced back to attending private schools, which have one primary goal: to impart knowledge with which boys and girls can later get a well-paid job.

Political and social education also predominantly replaces religion in the upper class. So it is not surprising that it is the upper middle class that still supports a Hindu national populist like Narendra Modi.

But a stay abroad can work wonders: In the US elections, one could actually have expected that the Indians in the United States would vote for Trump. After all, they also celebrated Trump and Modi at joint appearances in the USA and India. But polls showed that 72 percent of Indians in the US were planning to vote for Joe Biden. Main reason: Trump is intolerant of minorities.

Intolerance towards minorities can affect the makers of the young world should not be accused of drawing attention to social problems in a cheeky and humorous way. As long as you don't need a fairy world to endure the realities in which 250 million Indians are engaged in revolution, it is definitely worth reading.

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