Monday, February 17, 2020

Parasite: deciphering the real con

Rahul Vaidya

‘I tried to express a sentiment specific to Korean culture, but all the responses from different audiences were pretty much the same. Essentially, we all live in the same country, called capitalism’. – 

Director Bong Joon Ho on his Oscar winning film ‘Parasite’

The criticism of Oscars as celebration of predominantly white, male and extremely cloistered notions ‘what constitutes good art’ has been growing over the years. And despite the furor over #oscarssowhite and #metoo as well as issues of gender pay gaps etc., the attempts by Hollywood and western art world to address the questions of race and gender have been few and far between. Given the long list of nominations for films either celebrating the lost glory of the West (Once upon a time in Hollywood, Ford vs. Ferrari) or melancholy nostalgia of a world long lost or under siege and beyond repair (The Irishman, 1917); little seemed to have changed.

But then something historic happened at Oscars this year. Director Bong Joon Ho’s Korean film ‘Parasite’ not just won the Best International Film as was expected; but also ended up with Best Picture, Best Director, Best original screenplay awards. Its win as Best Picture is quite historic in that no ‘foreign film’ had ever won Best Picture award so far. First Cannes, Golden Globes and then Oscars have all provided their canonical approval for ‘Parasite’. As much as it is novel for an international (and non-European at that) film to achieve such laurels, it is also quite extraordinary for a film that is entirely about class and class struggle to achieve the mainstream critical approval. What is it that sets ‘Parasite’ apart in terms of its politics as well as aesthetics and also ensures such wide approval of audience and critics alike worldwide? I would like to put forth few points in this regard.

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Structural Tailbacks of Indian Agriculture and Exclusionary PM-KISAN Scheme: an Analysis

Santosh Verma
The NDA government brought a new scheme the Prime Minister Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-KISAN) that became operational from 1st December 2018. It aimed to provide small and marginal farmers (SMFs) financial assistance to procure various inputs to ‘ensure proper crop health and appropriate yields’. It also aimed to protect these farmers from middlemen and moneylenders. SMFs were defined as the farmer families who collectively own cultivable land upto 2 hectares. According to the Agricultural Census (2015), the small and marginal holdings if taken together constituted around 13.78 crores (1378 lakhs) that is 86.08 percent of the total holdings in 2015-16.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Camaraderie in the Time of Saffron: We are Shaheen Bagh

Arpita Biswas
For the past one month, India has been witnessing relentless protest demonstrations against the anti-secular Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). Historic spaces in cities – from Jantar Mantar of Delhi to Indira Park of Hyderabad, from Azad Maidan of Bombay to Shahid Minar of Calcutta – have been reclaimed by protesters coming from various walks of life, but most notably, students. Amidst these, there is this neighbourhood in South-East Delhi that has risen to prominence by (re)defining resistance as everyone’s right and duty in its truest sense. It is, as we all know by now, our Shaheen Bagh. Started in the immediate aftermath of State-led police violence against students of Jamia Milia Islamia University, the site has now experienced 28 days of valiant sit-in protests by its Muslim women, a majority of whom had only engaged with chores in the confines of their homes until date. They say it is their doubtless understanding of the “kala kanoon” of CAA as a savage attack on the Constitution of this country that has led them take to the streets today. Accompanying them on a daily basis are their children, the menfolk from the locality and students of Jamia, and from time to time, students from other universities, some social workers and activists. And, with their movement shooting to national consciousness, others from all parts of Delhi as well as many from elsewhere have started coming to Shaheen Bagh, slowly turning it into a microcosm of the diversity that your and my India is. 

Thursday, December 26, 2019

CAA-NRC: Hindutva’s sinister plot

Ashmita Sharma and Saqib Khan
The Parliamentary debate on the passing of the recent Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) showed that the current BJP government does not have enough statistics on immigrants from neighbouring countries or the number of persecuted people seeking citizenship in India. There was no perceptible movement on the demand of granting citizenship to such people either. Then what possibly explains the urgency behind this Act? This article argues that first, it was the result of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam, and second, it is the long term agenda of Hindu Rashtra by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)/Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). It has its linkages with European fascism and Zionist movement of Israel. While NRC updation has its roots in the Assam Movement and subsequent Assam Accord, its experience in the state has given us a glimpse as to what would entail in the wake of pan-India NRC. The CAA completely ignores the concerns of the northeast states and does little to address the complex issues of migration and citizenship. With the CAA-NRC combine, a deeper problem of citizenship would follow wherein not only Muslims but also large sections of the country’s population would face the burden of proving their citizenship and risk disruption in their lives and statelessness.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

On ‘Strategic Sale’ of the PSUs

Surajit Das
The honourable finance minister has reportedly said that the Air-India, Bharat Petroleum, North-Eastern Electric Power Corporation Limited (NEEPCO), Tehri Hydro Development Corporation India Limited (THDCIL) etc. will be sold within March 2020. In fact, the governments take pride now-a-days in disinvestment of the public sector units (PSUs) rather than feeling proud in increasing the public investment particularly in infrastructure and in other strategic sectors. These are being called ‘strategic sales’ in order to generate larger non-debt capital receipts (NDCRs). What is the ‘strategy’? The ‘strategy’ is nothing but to keep the fiscal deficit to GDP ratio within bounds in a situation of lower tax-revenue.