Delhi

The dust motes float through the air, only visible when the rays of sunlight penetrate the room from a particular angle, and I trace them with my fingers. I choose not to go outside, in fear of doubling over and choking because of the sulphurous toxins we’ve come to believe is synonymous with ‘air’.
I can hear the incessant blaring of horns (now done just for fun or to let out aggression) through the closed windows and walls of my house. Silence seems like a long lost friend for those of us residing in the capital city of India; we are so used to the boisterous voices of twenty five million people all blurring together that if silence greets us, our first response would be to question what is wrong. Children’s voices ring through the house, shouting from the slum just beside our relatively posh locality – the slum that divides us by just a wall physically, but by much more mentally.
Most of us hate the icy chill winter brings, the smog that makes it difficult to breathe; we cling onto the dream of ‘summer’, forgetting what it really feels like in our haste to approach it. Then, before we know it, we’re sweltering in 47 degrees Celsius, forced to stay sheltered in our houses with all the air conditioners and fans on, terrified of collapsing and getting a heatstroke if we actually left the house. It is at times like these that we feel the worst for the hundreds of beggars on the street – beggars who end up dying, shaking with fever as the heat seeps into their bones.
I sit, still tracing the dust motes, as I think about the city that’s been deemed the most polluted in the world. My city. Even though we face climatic and environmental trauma and are deemed ‘undeveloped’ and ‘third world’, Delhi is a place of cultures. It can’t really be described until you’ve seen the roaring temperatures, haggled with the rikshaw drivers, or just sneaked into a bar because anyone below 25 years is ‘underage’. Of course, one must also take note of the painfully long traffic jams, the auto rickshaws always speeding on the wrong side of the road and the camels/horses/dogs/cats/cows casually strolling by while we have near-death accidents trying to swerve away from them (they say that if you can drive in Delhi, you can drive anywhere in the world).
Even though I’m not an Indian national, I’ve fallen in love with this odd, toxic and frightening city that I proudly call my home. Delhi is a part of me. It resides within me, and this, in my opinion, is blatantly obvious by my love for chaat and samosas and my tolerance for noise. In a more poetic way, it can be seen in every inch of my existence. It can be seen in my eyes, my tear tracks bearing an uncanny resemblance to the now near-dry Yamuna river; it can be seen in my palms, where my callouses do justice to the dusty green hills of the Aravalis; and it can be seen in the dip of my shoulders, seeming funnily enough like the haphazard, uncoordinated roads lining the city.
Delhi is more than what people think it is. They may deem it the “rape capital” of the world (I’m not going to deny it), or the most polluted city in the world (again, I’m sure my lungs are wrecked by simply breathing), but to us, Delhi will always be a powerful capital, twenty five million strong, filled with emotions.
Can you imagine? Twenty five million of us, all squeezed into a tiny spot on the world map, all united by our noise and our language and our emotions and above all, our ability to love.

Letters To The Majority #1

Dear Misogynistic Majority,
I’m not sure what to say to you. I’m not sure what to say to anyone as I read the news of Bangalore’s “mass molestation” this New Years Eve. You all know what I’m talking about.
There were approximately sixty THOUSAND people on the two busiest roads in the metropolis that day. Sixty thousand people and yet no one helped as woman after woman faced sexual assault. There were 6-7 men stuck to each woman like leeches. Sounds horrifying, doesn’t it?
It is YOUR mentality that is the root cause of horrors like this. 45 CCTV cameras caught the assaults. If anything, these numbers should shock you – just like they shocked the nation. Our nation cries from agony when we read of cases like Nirbhaya and Bangalore. Our women cry from agony on a daily basis because of the assault they face, physically and emotionally. Obviously, their cries go unheard, drowned out by jeering voices and whistles. It is not okay to leer or catcall. It is not okay to gently “brush” against someone. IT IS NOT OKAY TO BE A BYSTANDER, MAN OR WOMAN, LIKE MOST OF YOU WERE IN BANGALORE, WHILE HUNDREDS OF WOMEN GOT MOLESTED IN FRONT OF YOUR EYES.
What is wrong with you people? First you rape, then you proceed to make jokes on rape, and when we don’t laugh, what do you say? “So uptight, why can’t she take a joke?” What a good question. Well then, enlighten me. What exactly is the joke? What is oh-so-funny about rape that I should be doubled over in laughter?
Thought so. We live in a third-world country with the mentality of the Stone Age. Honestly. The misogyny prevalent in our country is seen even through our daily affairs. It is visible by the fact that of the sixty thousand people on those two roads, around a hundred were rapists and sexual offenders. It is seen when out of those hundred, only SIX people have been taken in due to ‘suspicion’ – not even arrested. The officers said they would investigate the Bangalore case “silently”. This is what is wrong with our country. Why be silent? Women – shout, fight for your rights and freedom, make a ruckus. Do not be silent. NEVER be silent when it comes to your body.
And you, misogynistic men – again, I honestly don’t know what to say to you except that you need to change. Everyone has internalised misogyny buried somewhere within them. Everyone struggles with overcoming it – and unsurprisingly, the rest of us do. It’s about time you start trying too. You are not better than us. You have no right to treat us like objects and then make jokes about our sufferings. You have no right.
If rapes and sexual assault cases like these continue in India, there will be a revolution very soon. I swear to you, we will revolt. We will not tolerate being treated like your garbage.
As for the Bangalore case, come on, keep spreading your mentality. Make sure this happens again..and again..and again…and goes unreported, just like the hundreds of rape cases that go unreported everyday. Try to make rape jokes again. Make sure the nation sees a more horrific version of the Bangalore case. I dare you.
We will not suffer for your sins anymore.
                                                                                                                                     Yours Sincerly,
                                                                                                                      A sixteen year old girl,
                                                                                             On behalf of the Feminist Minority.

Demonitisation: Bane or Boon?

There has been a perplexing amount of controversy about the recent demonitisation of 500 and 1000 rupee notes by Mr. Modi.  Demonitisation in India meant that 500 and 1000 rupee notes were no longer legal tender; and by doing this, the Government removed 86% of the money in circulation. Funnily enough, most people in the country seem to approve of this drastic (and rather unplanned) measure taken by the Prime Minister.

“Only those who have black money will disapprove of this plan!” chants the BJP as all the villagers appearing on the news swallow down their disapproval and talk, instead, about how it’s ‘manageable’.
The purpose of this act, of course, was good – it was meant to eradicate all the black money in the country in a single night. PM Modi announced the demonitisation at around 11P.M, a time when all banks had shut and exchanges couldn’t be made.
This one measure led to a vicious cycle.
1. Initially, there was a date of two weeks set for the exchange of notes. Now, a month later, the deadline is still under it’s “extension.” The Government was so unsure about what they were doing that there were new rules every 2 days – sometimes even twice a day.
2. Banks and ATMs ran out of money. Unable to get value for their money, poor people started committing suicide, and the lines outside banks stretched on for miles. Due to the cash crunch, there was no liquidity in the system. This led to decrease in the purchasing power of the people, which led to a fall in demand, which led to less production, which, in turn, resulted in lesser demand for labour. Hence, demonitisation adversely affected employment.
Moreover, the cash crunch led to people not having money for emergency medication, weddings and funerals.
3. The GDP growth fell from 7.5% to 6.5%, and is said to fall to 3.5%.
4. Rumour has it, all the big officials either got all their money out prior to the plan (due to a leak), or had all their assets in Swiss bank accounts. The main aim of this measure was to reduce corruption. However, this did not happen. Most of the black money remains unaffected. 14 lakh crores in old notes are back and only 75,000 crores are out of the system, contrasting with the Government’s estimation of 3 lakh crores of black money being out of the system. It is people’s white money that is being adversely affected. Moreover, corruption has not been curbed because it is the political parties that are the most corrupt. Political parties are allowed to receive upto 30,000 rupees per person and keep its origin ambiguous. Mayavati deposited 124 crores claiming that she got the money from  the ‘people’ – and of course, the ambiguity was not questioned.
5. Receipts and data was needed for the exchange of money – this, of course, was a good step to eradicate the black money.
6. The maximum amount of money each person could withdraw in a week was 4 thousand, and more than 2 lakhs couldn’t be deposited without being questioned.
7. The Government did not consult with RBI officials or experts on the matter – if they had, they would have realised how all of them were blatantly against this act. The ex-RBI Governor, Raghuram Rajan, did not agree with demonitisation and resigned under his own terms. Currently, the RBI Governor is a BJP man – which is ironical because the RBI is supposed to be a separate entity, not controlled by the government. Moreover, it is actually illegal to print 2000 rupee notes; there is a clause in the RBI that states that the maximum denomination can be a thousand ONLY. PM Modi did not bother to change (or probably even read) this clause.
8. The number of taxpayers have not increased because people have found a way around the system. For example, a person does not have to pay taxes on the selling of a product he has made a loss on. This is regarded as a ‘non-taxable’ account, and the poor face a similar situation – which has resulted in no real increase in the number of taxpayers.
9. Demonitisation has lead to the windfall of the Government. Suppose the RBI has issued 500 and 1000 rupee notes of 14 lakh crores. This money is “I owe you” money which is guaranteed to the people by the Government. If 4 lakh crores do not come back into circulation (like in demonitisation), it is a profit for the RBI, who can then give a dividend to the Government. The Government can then use the dividend on reduction of taxes, improved infrastructure and social services. This is the windfall of the Government.
10. Digital transactions have resulted in transparency of the system. In India, there is a different dialect every 100 kilometers. There will always be language barriers because each city has a state language and a local dialect. Along with these barriers, people living in the rural areas do not know how to operate smart phones, much less be educated about cyber security. “Digital India” has led to an increased risk of fraud.
11. According to the Government, foreign nationals and NRIs have until June 2017 to change their money. However, if you go to the RBI, you will see and endless queue of desperate foreign nationals (my aunt included) because the RBI is refusing to change the money of non-Indian passport holders. This is a big problem for the NRIs and foreigners visiting our country, whose hard earned white money has now been deemed worthless by the Government of India. As of now, foreigners, poor people and farmers are extremely sour about the Government and hasty decisions.
12. Rural India faced – and is still facing – the most problems. Most villages do not have banks. The people of these villages are forced to walk 10, 15, even 20 kilometres to travel to the nearest village equipped with a bank (they have to walk because they don’t have the notes to pay for car fare). Upon reaching said village, they are forced to stand in a never ending queue, in the scorching heat (with people getting heatstrokes by standing in line), only to find that the banks only have enough money to provide for one hour’s worth of demands. This leads to many people camping out on the road, hoping that they get a glimpse of valid currency the next morning.
13. Farmers work the whole year to grow their crops. Due to demonitisation, the last harvest (rabi season) suffered. People had no money, which led to the fall of vegetable prices. The farmers cost of production was probably more than their selling price, which led to massive losses. People tend to forget that India is still mainly a rural economy, and the farmers are the ones suffering the most.
The most appalling thing I find about this point is that the BJP completely avoids it. “The poor people are not facing any trouble, watch the news!” These ignorant statements lead the whole nation into a state of oblivion, while a majority of our country is starving and dying. I have seen people crying because they’ve stood in the same line for days,unable to get the money to buy medicines for their dying significant other at home. I’ve seen and heard absolutely heartbreaking stories.
For me, the plan of demonitisation could have been a brilliant one if it was simply executed in a better way, with more provisions for the poor. Obviously, it was an ingenious step towards attacking terrorism, with the terrorists owning hundreds of crores in hard cash, unable to exchange it with validity; more pros include the end to the fake currency racket, the decline in black money and the chance (finally) for fair and just elections – since a lot of black money was used in campaigning.
In conclusion, demonitisation had the potential to be a mindblowing scheme; but with the GPD growth crashing to 6.5% (with 86% of the currency value coming from 500 and 1000 denominations) and the hundreds of people suffering, I think that it is more of a bane than a boon.

Diplomatic Memorandum – King Salman

Talking in terms of King Salman, the absolute monarch of Saudi Arabia and speaking as an American, I believe that American values and interests are at stake in the Middle East today. For one, there’s democracy. Saudi Arabia is a monarchic state that doesn’t allow freedom of speech, women’s rights, and an array of other things. This monarchy causes the voice of the people to be drowned out by autocrats – furthermore, the unstable democracies in Iraq and Syria also post a threat to democratization. Both realist and liberals would side by this argument, because both believe in democracy. The second realist assumption states that state interactions are characterised by fear, mistrust, and self help because of animus dominandi and anarchy. Realists believe that humans, by nature, are driven to control others. I would like to bring to notice that an example can be made of the United States of America – by nature, this nation-state is driven to control others; consistently interfering in conflicts in the Middle East, using drone warfare, trying to control radicalisation in Syria, trying to increase intervention of countries in the Arabian Peninsula, and even trying to prevent the rise of China. The United States always seeks to control everything, and this can be directly linked to the second realist assumption.

Liberals, on the other hand, believe that cooperation is possible because of “democratic governance, international institutions and commerce.” They also believe that human nature has a better side; liberals thus believe that human rights and fundamental freedoms should be at the core of American policies.
Another value of America that is targeted in these conflicts is the freedom of religion. Sunni Muslims are being pushed down in Syria and Iraq. My own actor, King Salman, wants to extend his influence to those countries to lessen the Shiite influence. These countries are being radicalised and have no say in the matter – they’re all being pushed to either of the two forms of the same religion, being forced to conform into the radical society, and this could prove to be a big threat to the United States.
As Americans, there’s not much we can do, is there? If virtually everything we do in the Middle East supports dictatorship and/or stronger nations permanently ruling weaker ones against their will, what exactly are we fighting for? However, I have three strategies that the United States could possiblty implement:
1. Involving Saudi Arabia. Now, we know that Saudi Arabia is a key ally of the United States, so we cannot use sanctions or military power against them. What we can do is make sure S.A. is actively involved in resolving these conflicts. The United States should align with King Salman and use his support to counteract the terrorist groups both militarily and economically. Currently, Saudi Arabia is basically sitting outside the circle of conflict and formenting ideas that can cause trouble – overpowering the Shiite’s in Iraq, etc. – we must involve them deep enough that it becomes in their own self-interest to solve the conflict, hence preventing them from creating trouble.
2. Bring Saudi Arabia to realise that democratization in in their self interest. This can be done using diplomacy. Saudi Arabia wants to subdue the rising voice of their own minorities/people, to keep the ruling family in power. Using democracy and increasing the civil rights of their population could help them retain the loyalty of/ remain in control of their people. While the U.S. supports Saudi Arabia, it must support the opposition as well, to bring to S.A.’s notice that democratization is in their self-interest.
3. Transitioning to Democracy. The United States should focus on actively engaging with opposing actors like Iraq and Syria and getting them to agree to democratization and de-escalation. Peace, after all, is in everyone’s self-interest, and, according to realists, state interactions are defined by self help. Although democracy is a threat to many of these countries, we must think of a long-term transition while creating a non-chaotic environment. The ideal example of this would be the United Kingdom, a democratic state that still has a royal family.

Trans Pacific Partnership

Speaking as a proponent of the Trans Pacific Partnership, I believe it encourages cooperation and growth.

Firstly, critics argue that the TPP is the expansion of multinational corporations, seeking low paying jobs, stating that Americans won’t be the choice employees anymore. This is, quite simply, untrue; in fact, labour standards are said to be increasing with the agreement. The TPP isn’t only good for the rich, but for America in it’s entirety. Free trade has evidently helped the American working class, since American consumers are the ones benefiting the most from the Partnership; what with it reducing the tariffs to level the playing field between states. By reducing tariffs, certain imports would become cheaper as well, hence working to the advantage of American consumers. Also, the basic point of the TPP is to sell more American products, so I fail to understand why so many people think that the eleven countries dealing in this agreement gain more from it than the U.S. does.
Killing the TPP would, in no way, help to bring factory work back to America and other countries involved. Further, enacting the agreement would raise standards for several of China’s (who is not yet a member of the TPP but can request membership) key trading partners, which would pressure it to meet some of those standards and cease its attempts to game global trade and impede foreign multinational companies.

Although the TPP has increased labour standards, I agree with critics when they mention unemployment and citizens losing their jobs. However, in the words of Jeffrey Frankel, a liberal and a professor at Harvard, “There are obviously some people who will lose their jobs from it, just like from technology or any other form of growth or change.” Furthermore, the U.S.A has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the world. Other countries participating in the TPP have much higher unemployment rates, and it’s rather unfair to use that in an argument. Despite a few citizens facing unemployment, like I mentioned, the TPP works towards helping the working class. It supports higher paying jobs for the American citizens; it makes sure American farmers, ranchers, manufacturers and small businesses can compete – and win – in some of the fastest growing markets in the world. It includes very strong worker protections.

The Partnership also requires that member countries institute minimum wages, allow workers to form unions and adhere to the labour rights specified by the International Labor Organisation.

It eliminates restrictions that have blocked U.S. businesses from providing services overseas and puts in place rules to ensure that regulations in participating countries don’t discriminate against U.S. service suppliers. In President Obama’s words, “Outdated trade rules put our workers at a disadvantage. And TPP will change that.”

Secondly, as much as critics try to prove otherwise, the TPP does come with strict guidelines on environmental and labour standards. In fact, the agreement upgrades NAFTA, putting environmental protections at the core of the agreement and making those obligations fully enforceable through the same type of dispute settlement as other obligations.

“The TPP requires all members to combat wildlife trafficking, illegal logging, illegal fishing and overfishing, as well as prohibit some of the most harmful fishery subsidies and promote sustainable fisheries management practices. TPP also requires that the 12 countries promote long-term conservation of whales, dolphins, sharks, sea turtles and other marine species, as well as to protect and conserve iconic species like rhinos and elephants. And TPP cracks down on ozone-depleting substances as well as ship pollution of the oceans, all while promoting cooperative efforts to address energy efficiency.”

Thirdly, many people argue about all the ‘secrecy’ lining the agreement. According to Frankel, “When you’re negotiating, you can’t exactly say what the outcome is going to be. You can’t even say what you’re opening bid and fallback position is going to be or what your bottom line is; you can’t reveal those things in public. It’s just inconsistent with the nature of negotiations.” Furthermore, the entire agreement has been laid out (online) for the public now and there’s absolutely nothing ‘shady’ or dark about it. Do have a look.

Finally, participating economies of the Partnership want growth, an improved standard of living, income gains, gains from trades and efficiency benefits. The TPP aims at revitalising the economy without having to resort to any government spending. It is a source of economic as well as political growth. Political gains will be made by asserting American influence in the region, by the U.S. actually being an architect of the rules that will define the pattern of integration in the most dynamic region in the world.

Currently, TPP members represent about 40 percent of global GDP. Over the next two decades, it is forecast that nearly 50 percent of world growth will be generated in the Asia-Pacific region, yielding almost one billion new middle class consumers.

If you’ve heard Ian Golding’s TED Talk or read the textbook “Nye and Welch”, you’ll understand that globalisation means cooperation. Quoting Nye and Welch, “A truly globalised world market would mean free flows of goods, people and capital, and similar interest rates everywhere.” The Trans Pacific Partnership seeks to do exactly that; and all these reasons are why I believe that signing this agreement would be what’s best for the nation.