What Anna Hazare is saying may not be news anymore. And even as the scams are increasing every day, for those who are over-exposed there is a numbness that is creeping in. But, on the ground, an awareness is building, which was not there before
Anna Hazare was on television all day long on Wednesday, and what he as well as his supporters are saying, is not news anymore. Nor is the scale of corruption and scams—increasing by leaps and bounds every day—really all that surprising either. Truly, there is a numbness creeping in, and that's a simple truth.
But what is surprising is the way this government is trying its level best to make any sort of dissent or protest next to impossible. Tactics mastered in small towns and habitats far away from the public eye are being tried out-from the Ramdev episode to what they tried yesterday—much of which did not make it on the news.
On one side, the Civil Society protest meeting at Jantar Mantar was denied "permissions", on the grounds that Section 144 does not permit a gathering of more than five people. On the other side, a quick drive past the Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) offices, as well as the Race Course part of Race Course Road, where they race horses also, and in the same New Delhi District, Section 144 certainly did not seem to apply—it was business as usual, like at any other counter selling tickets, for example.
What was the real reason, then? One hint dropped was that last time around, easy access to Jantar Mantar because of the Delhi Metro was a reason for the success, and orders had come "from above" that this could not be permitted this time around. In addition, Jantar Mantar is surrounded by all the logistical back-ups required-food, access to medical facilities, close to the welcoming environs of Gurudwara BanglaSahib (a traditional safe haven) and more.
You have to understand the geographical location of Rajghat, to figure out how devious minds can work. It can be accessed only by road, and a few small traffic diversions can make it close to impossible for people travelling there by bus to reach the venue. We saw that also, as the whole of Ring Road was closed off to southbound traffic from Shantivana till the ITO Bridge crossing.
In addition, the place is remote as far as other back-ups are concerned. So not only would you have to walk, all the way from Old Delhi, but you also had no facilities in the area.
At the venue itself, it seems that no effort was spared to make things as uncomfortable as possible for the participants, squeezed into a small area on one side, leaving the larger part of the area reserved for the authorities to stand and listen too.
Despite that, there were a few thousand people present, and more on the streets outside, trying to get there. And to put things in perspective, the gathering was certainly eclectic, with people from all segments of society present. Correction: most segments.
Unlike in the past, with the Freedom Struggle with which this is compared, glaringly obvious by their absence this time around are those who claim to be impacted the most by corruption: the industrialists, their associations and what could pass of for modern-day royalty.
Drive past the offices of CII, ASSOCHAM, FICCI, and it is business as usual. Search for their latest activities online, fighting corruption is nowhere among the new horizons. Yes, it did appear as though markets and roads were not as crowded as usual; that was probably due to the continuous coverage of the Rajghat events throughout the day.
However, on the ground, matters are rapidly reaching some sort of boiling point, and not just with the people attending. More than a few rank and file from the recently much-maligned Delhi police appear to be more than aware of what is really going on and are making their views heard as well as felt.
Most of all, however, is the simple fact that some of us who have been over-exposed may be reaching a numbness or cynical stage. But, on the ground, there is an awareness across segments that was not there before. And that, truly, is something the already-informed among us are not able to understand, appreciate and digest. This is no longer some convenient Congress versus BJP game. This is more than that: people have twigged to the simple fact that bi-polar politics is about tweedle-dee-dee and tweedle-dee-dum, 12 of one and a dozen of the other.
And that is something which Anna Hazare, Arvind Kejriwal, Kiran Bedi and team have picked up on. At Rajghat, the Congress leaders were about as popular as the BJP leaders, and that is something not coming through strongly enough in mainstream reportage.
As I send this article, I am surprised to see and hear P Chidambaram competing with the closing moments of Anna Hazare's fast, just when Arvind Kejriwal was getting into full flow.
If anything else, the body language of our UPA government leaders, the ones who are not headed for Tihar that is, gets more and more worrisome every day. Here too, the whole approach smells of a patronising and condescending attitude towards the rest of us Indians, and the effect is the same as that of Iftikar (as cop) landing up in Hindi movies in the old days to take the villains away.
Of course, we know the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) is behind the good Baba, we didn't need the might of the State and the home ministry to tell us that; but more than that, who is behind the RSS?
The answer to that lies in another anecdote: 'Whose mother anywhere in India would cook a halwa of any sort without adding saffron to it?'
Anna Hazare's movement makes one thing very clear—the people of the country really don't see much difference in the saffron tinges of both the Congress and the BJP. And won't see them through rose-tinted glasses anymore, either. Anybody who promises, and delivers, fair development, gets to govern the country. Simple as that.
However, if you are going to sell the country, then goodbye. And it doesn't matter if you are like Iftikar, you now go with the bad guys; movies have changed.
The government’s move to defer the meeting to hike diesel and domestic LPG prices is expected to boost investor sentiments
The market in India is expected to open sideways, taking cues from its peers in Asia which were mostly down in early trade today. Besides, Wall Street continued its decline for the sixth day on Wednesday with the S&P 500 at its longest streak since February 2009. The SGX Nifty was 15.50 points lower at 5,517.50 compared to its previous close of 5,553.
The weekly food inflation data, to be announced around noon today, will provide further direction to the market as trade progresses.
The market snapped its two-day winning streak and ended on a weak note on Wednesday as global issues continued to take centre-stage. After trading sideways through the entire morning, index heavyweights like Hero Honda, ONGC, Hindalco, HDFC and Maruti Suzuki led the market lower in noon trade.
A weakening trend on the Asian bourses in the morning saw the Indian market open lower. The Sensex opened at 18,448, down 48 points from yesterday's close and the Nifty started 21 points lower at 5,535. The market touched its intra-day high in mid-morning trade, with the Sensex at 18,505 and the Nifty at 5,557. The indices were range-bound through the entire morning session after which a sell-off in index heavyweights dragged the indices into the red.
The weak opening on the European markets and US stock futures trading lower weighed on sentiments. The market fell to the day's low in the post-noon session, with the Sensex at 18,366 and the Nifty touching 5,515. The indices closed a tad above those levels, with the Sensex at 18,395, a loss of 101 points and the Nifty at 5,527, down 30 points.
The market has become very sensitive to price information and slightly heavy buying and selling. This is leading to random 100-200 point moves in the Sensex. Overall the market is trading in a narrow band, but this cannot continue for long. The low volatility and narrow range invariably leads to high volatility and a much larger move. Since the market is not able to move much higher and is not cheap, given the current headwinds, we should brace ourselves for a large downward move. For the uptrend to continue, the Nifty has to consistently close above 5,550 in sequence.
The US markets continued to end lower for the sixth day overnight on concerns about the slowdown in the economy and the soon approaching end to the fiscal stimulus initiated by the Federal Reserve. Also, the Beige Book said costlier food and energy prices and supply disruptions stemming from Japan’s earthquake were taking a toll on the world’s largest economy.
Jim Rogers, chief executive, Rogers Holdings told a television channel that the US is approaching a financial crisis worse than 2008. The well-known investor believes the government won’t shut down in August if agreement isn’t reached on raising the debt ceiling, but advocated sharp cuts in taxes and spending, especially military spending.
Among stocks, Visa dropped 3.9% and MasterCard declined 1.5% after the US Senate rejected a six-month delay of a Federal Reserve rule capping debit-card swipe fees set by the companies. Caterpillar led blue-chip stocks lower as it fell 1.8%, Alcoa fell 1.8% while Verizon Communications rose 1.5% after Oppenheimer & Co upgraded its investment rating on the stock. Exxon Mobil gained 1%, and Chevron rose 0.5% after the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries said members were unable to reach a consensus on boosting oil production, dashing hopes for an increase. Oil and oil stocks also got a boost from lower-than-expected US oil inventories.
The Dow declined 21.87 points (0.18%) to 12,048.94. The S&P 500 shed 5.38 points (0.42%) to 1,279.56 and the Nasdaq fell 26.18 points (0.97%) to 2,675.38.
Oil rose for a third day in New York after OPEC failed to reach an agreement on production targets. Crude for July delivery climbed $1.65 to $100.74 on Wednesday, the highest settlement since 31st May. Brent crude oil for July delivery gained $1.07, or 0.9% to $117.85 yesterday, the highest settlement since 4th May.
Markets in Asia were mostly down in early trade today following fresh comments from the US Federal Reserve that the economy is still slowing in some regions. The Japanese economy contracted at an annualized 3.5% rate in the three months ended 31st March, less than the 3.7% contraction reported last month. Chinese stocks listed in the US took a beating on Wednesday as the Interactive Brokers Group banned clients from borrowing money to take leveraged positions on 160 Chinese stocks due to numerous allegations of fraud.
The Shanghai Composite was 0.25% down, the Hang Seng declined 0.37%, the Jakarta Composite shed 0.07%, the Nikkei 225 fell 0.29% and the Seoul Composite lost 0.26%. On the other hand, the KLSE Composite rose 0.19%, the Straits Times gained 0.13% and the Taiwan Weighted added 0.01%.
Back home, the government is set to approve a new policy to boost manufacturing by reducing compliance cost for the industry and making the labour laws flexible. As per the draft, which is likely to get a nod from a high level committee chaired by prime minister Manmohan Singh, the government would take steps to make industrial land available by creation of land banks.