Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Bangladesh

 

You may sell your soul for money: As long as you are not a retard

 

And you ask me why I say Arabs are retards…
BTW those are the same people the rest of the world sold their soul to for money…

That includes Americans, Europeans, and Lebanese…

A snippet of an article about Dubai from the Independent:</p><br />
<p>There are three different Dubais, all swirling around each other. There are the expats, there are the Emiratis, headed by Sheikh Mohammed; and then there is the foreign underclass who built the city, and are trapped here. They are hidden in plain view. You see them everywhere, in dirt-caked blue uniforms, being shouted at by their superiors, like a chain gang – but you are trained not to look. It is like a mantra: the Sheikh built the city. The Sheikh built the city. Workers? What workers?<br /><br />
Every evening, the hundreds of thousands of young men who build Dubai are bussed from their sites to a vast concrete wasteland an hour out of town, where they are quarantined away. Until a few years ago they were shuttled back and forth on cattle trucks, but the expats complained this was unsightly, so now they are shunted on small metal buses that function like greenhouses in the desert heat. They sweat like sponges being slowly wrung out.<br /><br />
Sonapur is a rubble-strewn patchwork of miles and miles of identical concrete buildings. Some 300,000 men live piled up here, in a place whose name in Hindi means "City of Gold". In the first camp I stop at – riven with the smell of sewage and sweat – the men huddle around, eager to tell someone, anyone, what is happening to them.<br /><br />
Sahinal Monir, a slim 24-year-old from the deltas of Bangladesh. "To get you here, they tell you Dubai is heaven. Then you get here and realise it is hell," he says. Four years ago, an employment agent arrived in Sahinal's village in Southern Bangladesh. He told the men of the village that there was a place where they could earn 40,000 takka a month (£400) just for working nine-to-five on construction projects. It was a place where they would be given great accommodation, great food, and treated well. All they had to do was pay an up-front fee of 220,000 takka (£2,300) for the work visa – a fee they'd pay off in the first six months, easy. So Sahinal sold his family land, and took out a loan from the local lender, to head to this paradise.<br /><br />
As soon as he arrived at Dubai airport, his passport was taken from him by his construction company. He has not seen it since. He was told brusquely that from now on he would be working 14-hour days in the desert heat – where western tourists are advised not to stay outside for even five minutes in summer, when it hits 55 degrees – for 500 dirhams a month (£90), less than a quarter of the wage he was promised. If you don't like it, the company told him, go home. "But how can I go home? You have my passport, and I have no money for the ticket," he said. "Well, then you'd better get to work," they replied.<br /><br />
Sahinal was in a panic. His family back home – his son, daughter, wife and parents – were waiting for money, excited that their boy had finally made it. But he was going to have to work for more than two years just to pay for the cost of getting here – and all to earn less than he did in Bangladesh.<br /><br />
He shows me his room. It is a tiny, poky, concrete cell with triple-decker bunk-beds, where he lives with 11 other men. All his belongings are piled onto his bunk: three shirts, a spare pair of trousers, and a cellphone. The room stinks, because the lavatories in the corner of the camp – holes in the ground – are backed up with excrement and clouds of black flies. There is no air conditioning or fans, so the heat is "unbearable. You cannot sleep. All you do is sweat and scratch all night." At the height of summer, people sleep on the floor, on the roof, anywhere where they can pray for a moment of breeze.<br /><br />
The water delivered to the camp in huge white containers isn't properly desalinated: it tastes of salt. "It makes us sick, but we have nothing else to drink," he says.<br /><br />
The work is "the worst in the world," he says. "You have to carry 50kg bricks and blocks of cement in the worst heat imaginable ... This heat – it is like nothing else. You sweat so much you can't pee, not for days or weeks. It's like all the liquid comes out through your skin and you stink. You become dizzy and sick but you aren't allowed to stop, except for an hour in the afternoon. You know if you drop anything or slip, you could die. If you take time off sick, your wages are docked, and you are trapped here even longer."<br /><br />
He is currently working on the 67th floor of a shiny new tower, where he builds upwards, into the sky, into the heat. He doesn't know its name. In his four years here, he has never seen the Dubai of tourist-fame, except as he constructs it floor-by-floor.<br /><br />
Is he angry? He is quiet for a long time. "Here, nobody shows their anger. You can't. You get put in jail for a long time, then deported." Last year, some workers went on strike after they were not given their wages for four months. The Dubai police surrounded their camps with razor-wire and water-cannons and blasted them out and back to work.<br /><br />
The "ringleaders" were imprisoned. I try a different question: does Sohinal regret coming? All the men look down, awkwardly. "How can we think about that? We are trapped. If we start to think about regrets..." He lets the sentence trail off. Eventually, another worker breaks the silence by adding: "I miss my country, my family and my land. We can grow food in Bangladesh. Here, nothing grows. Just oil and buildings."<br /><br />
Since the recession hit, they say, the electricity has been cut off in dozens of the camps, and the men have not been paid for months. Their companies have disappeared with their passports and their pay. "We have been robbed of everything. Even if somehow we get back to Bangladesh, the loan sharks will demand we repay our loans immediately, and when we can't, we'll be sent to prison."<br /><br />
This is all supposed to be illegal. Employers are meant to pay on time, never take your passport, give you breaks in the heat – but I met nobody who said it happens. Not one. These men are conned into coming and trapped into staying, with the complicity of the Dubai authorities.<br /><br />
Sahinal could well die out here. A British man who used to work on construction projects told me: "There's a huge number of suicides in the camps and on the construction sites, but they're not reported. They're described as 'accidents'." Even then, their families aren't free: they simply inherit the debts. A Human Rights Watch study found there is a "cover-up of the true extent" of deaths from heat exhaustion, overwork and suicide, but the Indian consulate registered 971 deaths of their nationals in 2005 alone. After this figure was leaked, the consulates were told to stop counting.<br /><br />
At night, in the dusk, I sit in the camp with Sohinal and his friends as they scrape together what they have left to buy a cheap bottle of spirits. They down it in one ferocious gulp. "It helps you to feel numb", Sohinal says through a stinging throat. In the distance, the glistening Dubai skyline he built stands, oblivious.

A snippet of an article about Dubai from the Independent:

There are three different Dubais, all swirling around each other.

There are the expats, there are the Emiratis, headed by Sheikh Mohammed; and then there is the foreign underclass who built the city, and are trapped here.

They are hidden in plain view. You see them everywhere, in dirt-caked blue uniforms, being shouted at by their superiors, like a chain gang – but you are trained not to look.

It is like a mantra: the Sheikh built the city. The Sheikh built the city. Workers? What workers?

Every evening, the hundreds of thousands of young men who build Dubai are bussed from their sites to a vast concrete wasteland an hour out of town, where they are quarantined away.

Until a few years ago they were shuttled back and forth on cattle trucks, but the expats complained this was unsightly, so now they are shunted on small metal buses that function like greenhouses in the desert heat. They sweat like sponges being slowly wrung out.

Sonapur is a rubble-strewn patchwork of miles and miles of identical concrete buildings. Some 300,000 men live piled up here, in a place whose name in Hindi means “City of Gold“.

In the first camp I stop at – riven with the smell of sewage and sweat – the men huddle around, eager to tell someone, anyone, what is happening to them.

Sahinal Monir, a slim 24-year-old from the deltas of Bangladesh. “To get you here, they tell you Dubai is heaven. Then you get here and realise it is hell,” he says.

Four years ago, an employment agent arrived in Sahinal’s village in Southern Bangladesh. He told the men of the village that there was a place where they could earn 40,000 takka a month (£400) just for working nine-to-five on construction projects.

It was a place where they would be given great accommodation, great food, and treated well.

All they had to do was pay an up-front fee of 220,000 takka (£2,300) for the work visa – a fee they’d pay off in the first six months, easy. So Sahinal sold his family land, and took out a loan from the local lender, to head to this paradise.

As soon as he arrived at Dubai airport, his passport was taken from him by his construction company. He has not seen it since. He was told brusquely that from now on he would be working 14-hour days in the desert heat – where western tourists are advised not to stay outside for even five minutes in summer, when it hits 55 degrees – for 500 dirhams a month (£90), less than a quarter of the wage he was promised.

If you don’t like it, the company told him, go home. “But how can I go home? You have my passport, and I have no money for the ticket,” he said. “Well, then you’d better get to work,” they replied.

Sahinal was in a panic. His family back home – his son, daughter, wife and parents – were waiting for money, excited that their boy had finally made it. But he was going to have to work for more than two years just to pay for the cost of getting here – and all to earn less than he did in Bangladesh.

He shows me his room. It is a tiny, poky, concrete cell with triple-decker bunk-beds, where he lives with 11 other men. All his belongings are piled onto his bunk: three shirts, a spare pair of trousers, and a cellphone. The room stinks, because the lavatories in the corner of the camp – holes in the ground – are backed up with excrement and clouds of black flies. There is no air conditioning or fans, so the heat is “unbearable. You cannot sleep.

All you do is sweat and scratch all night.” At the height of summer, people sleep on the floor, on the roof, anywhere where they can pray for a moment of breeze.

The water delivered to the camp in huge white containers isn’t properly desalinated: it tastes of salt. “It makes us sick, but we have nothing else to drink,” he says.

The work is “the worst in the world,” he says. “You have to carry 50kg bricks and blocks of cement in the worst heat imaginable … This heat – it is like nothing else. You sweat so much you can’t pee, not for days or weeks. It’s like all the liquid comes out through your skin and you stink. You become dizzy and sick but you aren’t allowed to stop, except for an hour in the afternoon.

You know if you drop anything or slip, you could die.

If you take time off sick, your wages are docked, and you are trapped here even longer.”
He is currently working on the 67th floor of a shiny new tower, where he builds upwards, into the sky, into the heat. He doesn’t know its name.

In his four years here, he has never seen the Dubai of tourist-fame, except as he constructs it floor-by-floor.
Is he angry? He is quiet for a long time. “Here, nobody shows their anger. You can’t. You get put in jail for a long time, then deported.”

Last year, some workers went on strike after they were not given their wages for four months. The Dubai police surrounded their camps with razor-wire and water-cannons and blasted them out and back to work.
The “ringleaders” were imprisoned.

I try a different question: does Sohinal regret coming? All the men look down, awkwardly. “How can we think about that? We are trapped. If we start to think about regrets…” He lets the sentence trail off. Eventually, another worker breaks the silence by adding: “I miss my country, my family and my land. We can grow food in Bangladesh. Here, nothing grows. Just oil and buildings.”

Since the recession hit, they say, the electricity has been cut off in dozens of the camps, and the men have not been paid for months. Their companies have disappeared with their passports and their pay. “We have been robbed of everything. Even if somehow we get back to Bangladesh, the loan sharks will demand we repay our loans immediately, and when we can’t, we’ll be sent to prison.”

This is all supposed to be illegal.

Employers are meant to pay on time, never take your passport, give you breaks in the heat – but I met nobody who said it happens. Not one. These men are conned into coming and trapped into staying, with the complicity of the Dubai authorities.
Sahinal could well die out here.

A British man who used to work on construction projects told me: “There’s a huge number of suicides in the camps and on the construction sites, but they’re not reported. They’re described as ‘accidents’.”

Even then, their families aren’t free: they simply inherit the debts.

A Human Rights Watch study found there is a “cover-up of the true extent” of deaths from heat exhaustion, overwork and suicide, but the Indian consulate registered 971 deaths of their nationals in 2005 alone.

After this figure was leaked, the consulates were told to stop counting.
At night, in the dusk, I sit in the camp with Sohinal and his friends as they scrape together what they have left to buy a cheap bottle of spirits. They down it in one ferocious gulp.

“It helps you to feel numb”, Sohinal says through a stinging throat. In the distance, the glistening Dubai skyline he built stands, oblivious.

Is Labor Day celebrations ringing hollow in your country?

Labor Day was first celebrated in the USA and was led by women workers. The Soviet Union made this celebration a world event (for workers), which forced the USA to shift the day to November?

Even current Russia reverted to communist zeal during this year celebration.

The celebration was crushed in Turkey.

The women in Bangladesh led the celebration in an angry demonstration demanding better and safer clothing factories (last year, over 2,000 girls died under the rubble).

Hong Kong workers were demanding reduction in the proposed tax increase.

And what the Lebanese were demanding? Everything, even respect for the Syrian workers in Lebanon and domestic maids.

Samya KullabJustin Salhani published in the Daily Star this May 01, 2014

Lebanon Labor Day celebrations ring hollow

BEIRUT: Tailor Nabil Qassem makes 35-40 shirts a week, each one costing $50. The need to find his monthly rent of $1,000 will bring him into work on Labor Day, a national holiday falling on May 1 that is meant to honor workers.

Qassem, 40, has worked in his Hamra shop for the past four years. Before that he worked in someone else’s store.

Workers carry wood for burning ahead of Labor Day in Zahrani, Wednesday, April 30, 2014. (The Daily Star/Mohammed Zaatari)
Workers carry wood for burning ahead of Labor Day in Zahrani, Wednesday, April 30, 2014. (The Daily Star/Mohammed Zaatari)

Unlike the small businesses and informal sector workers who spoke to The Daily Star, Qassem maintains the importance of the holiday in principle, though he doesn’t plan to take the day off and celebrate.

For him, Labor Day “is just one of those holidays like Mother’s Day. … We have to make a living.”

Many private sector workers blamed the precarious security situation for their inability to make ends meet in the past six months. Their plight has highlighted the absence of a comprehensive social assistance plan from the government, especially for workers in the informal sector, who often live on unpredictable wages month to month.

“We are in a very bad situation,” says electrician Ghassan Bedran.

“In the last 6-7 months, business has been reduced 50%.

Bedran’s shop in Mar Mikhael, Beirut, brought in $10,000 per month last year. Now, it barely earns $4,000. “And they want higher wages,” he says, glancing at his handful of employees.

“If we give them higher salaries, we will have to close our doors.”

Bolstering the strength of unions to lobby for worker’s rights, such as the General Labor Confederation, would not make a difference either, the disillusioned Bedran says.

“All unions are political. They use workers and laborers for their own interests.”

Despite widespread disenchantment, gains for labor rights are looming on the horizon, especially in the area of social protection, according to the International Labor Organization.

Pension reform has long been a contentious issue, and last year – before the Cabinet was demoted to caretaker status – it was within reach for private sector workers, with a draft law devised by the government, the ILO and the World Bank.

Lebanon is one of the few [countries] that does not have a pension scheme for private sector workers in place,” said Ursula Kulke of the ILO.

Currently, Lebanon operates an end-of-service indemnity program under which retirees receive a one-off payment amounting to one month for each year worked.

The amount was deemed insufficient to cover monthly living expenses and family support upon death. The draft scheme, stalled after the government changeover, would transform lump-sum payments into a monthly pension, guaranteeing individuals social security for the remainder of their lives.

“We hope we can continue discussions with the minister of labor and other responsible people in the Cabinet so we can proceed and so that hopefully in the near future there can be a pension scheme that provides regular benefits and income replacement to retirees,” Kulke said.

Nevertheless, Kulke said there was a pressing need to secure those who are not covered by the National Social Security Fund. Though private sector employees are insured under the NSSF, those working for the informal sector have no insurance apart from ad hoc payments and government cash transfers.

“What we would like to see is the real establishment of a social protection floor for these people so they can enjoy minimum income security,” said Kulke.

“The government is trying to do much already, but it’s become a big challenge with the Syrian refugees.”

Former Labor Minister Charbel Nahas said politicians could better protect informal sector workers “by implementing laws and improving those laws.”

“Labor law and social security laws are not applied,” he told The Daily Star, citing the example of Spinney’s, a supermarket chain accused of penalizing their employees for trying to unionize, among other alleged infractions.

Spinney’s CEO Michael Wright took Nahhas to court last year after the former minister addressed the issue in the media and likened Wright to a “terrorist.”

Nahhas added that the creation of unions in the public sector and restoring the union movement was important to keep power out of politicians’ hands.

Meanwhile, in the bustling district of Burj Hammoud, jeweler Raffy Bablanian worries about how to keep his family business afloat.

It’s not just the loss of revenues due to the security situation that worries him.

“I learned how to make jewelry from my father 45 years ago, and I thought I would do the same for my son, but he doesn’t want to do this job,” he says despondently. Business is never okay these days, but Bablanian has found ways to manage.

To find someone in the family to carry on with the jewelry-making tradition in the age of “computers and iPads” is another challenge altogether, he says, adding: “You can’t fix lack of inspiration with a wage hike.”

 A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on May 01, 2014, on page 4.

Read more: http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Lebanon-News/2014/May-01/255006-labor-day-celebrations-ring-hollow.ashx#ixzz30U5poUe7
(The Daily Star :: Lebanon News :: http://www.dailystar.com.lb

10 things you might not know about India. What exactly did you think you know about India?

For many people writing about India, the common cliches of Delhi belly, lengthy traffic jams, bureaucracy, corruption and yoga retreats are the subjects that fill the column inches.

I posted a couple of years an article showing that poor Bangladesh is outperforming mighty India in the UN human development indicators (infant mortality, primary education, health care…) https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2011/04/02/development-is-in-human-rights-indicators-comparing-india-and-bangladesh/

Rajini Vaidyanathan posted on BBC News this June 5, 2013:

Here are 10 other observations.

Clockwise from left: Overweight man, man with limes in his moustache, baby girl, men on plastic chairs

1. Hardly anyone pays income tax

Only 3% of Indians pay income tax, in a population of 1.2bn. One explanation for this is that agriculture is exempt and two-thirds of Indians live in rural areas. A large chunk of the economy is also informal, unorganized labor, for which it’s harder to collect taxes. Many argue that some of the country’s financial problems would be solved in one fell swoop, if this massive tax hole could be filled.

What can be done about India’s tax black hole?

2. The rise of the ‘wedding detective’

A friend of mine told me that, before his arranged marriage, he had a hunch his prospective in-laws had hired a private detective to check whether he’d had a girlfriend in the past. The answer was that he had, but the snoop (thankfully for my friend) failed to find out, and the wedding went ahead.

The growth in companies offering the service is huge, with 15,000 operating. “It’s not spying,” says one woman who’d used the service to check out a prospective bridegroom for her sister. “He told us he was from a good family, but we needed to ensure he was telling the truth.”

3. Read all about it:  India’s print industry is booming

Boy reading a newspaper

While Western countries are mourning the demise of the newspaper, India’s print industry is in fact booming. A growing literacy rate, relatively low internet use, and the large number of languages in the country, mean more people want to pick up their daily rag. It’s also very cheap to buy a newspaper, which is widening newspaper readership among all social classes.

Another reason why smaller, community newspapers are also on the rise, is because with a growing economy, more people are taking out classified ads, which helps to fund publications. What’s also remarkable is the market in second-hand newspapers and magazines. You can sell your magazines to a man at a roadside stall, who will buy them off you and sell them again – there are people who are more than happy to read a year old copy of the Economist, if it’s more affordable than the current issue.

4. Horn noise = pneumatic drill

Horn, OK, sign

Painted on the back of almost all lorries and trucks are the words “Horn OK, please“.

Honking is encouraged in India for drivers who are coming up behind another vehicle. The problem is that they’re not used sparingly.

One rickshaw driver told me he honked his horn at least 150 times a day, a fairly conservative estimate, given that in heavy traffic they can be sounded at least once every 30 seconds. The average rickshaw horn produces a sound of around 93 decibels (close to that of a pneumatic drill), with the general sound of traffic equivalent to a jumbo jet taking off. A deafening sound, quite literally.

5. It’s a young country

Young people in India are using music as a way to express self-confidence

India is a young nation. More than half of its 1.2 billion people is aged below 25, and two-thirds below 35. Many young Indians are feeling a sense of self confidence about their nation, no longer looking to the West.

Mumbai has a hipster scene to rival Brooklyn’s and home grown musical talent is flourishing, with many more shunning traditional professions and taking up a career in the arts. A music festival circuit has gigs held in fields and deserts, while major cities such as Bangalore, Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai are becoming hubs for live concerts.

6. Everywhere you go, you see plastic chairs

Plastic chairs of India
Plastic chairs of India
plastic
Plastic chairs of India
Plastic chairs of India

7. They’re piling on the pounds

“Oh you’ve put on weight,” said my bank manager with a smile on her face. Initially aghast, I eventually got used to the fact that gaining a few pounds is considered a compliment, a sign that you’re looking healthy. What surprised me was that India is now on the brink of an obesity epidemic, (not just with humans but animals too).

Stop at any service station and you’ll see queues of Indians gorging on McDonalds or other processed foods. It’s always been usual to see the older Indian man sporting a fat tummy (known lovingly as a paunch), and while large swathes of India still battle malnourishment, with millions starving every day, there is a general widening of waists in the cities.

8. The scourge of spit

“We cannot believe that people don’t spit. It (spitting) is an inherent character of our people. ” Justice PB Majmudar High Court judge, Mumbai

Mumbai has introduced a spit inspector to fine those who share their saliva in public. Many people spit after they’ve had paan (a mix of betel nut and areca, and sometimes tobacco – which is chewed but not swallowed). This produces a reddish stain which can be seen on the side of many white walls.

It’s common to see “do not spit” signs in taxis, on the back of rickshaws and on the front of buildings. But there’s concern the falling phlegm is responsible for the spread of tuberculosis. There’s even an anti spit campaign in the country.

9. Roadside ear cleaners

Close-up: India’s unusual street-side services

Anyone who has been to India, even for a few days, will be well acquainted with the street-side economy which is a dominant part of life the country. The inventiveness and resourcefulness of people in the country is like no other – there are people who will sell or serve you in all kinds of ways.

Broken an umbrella? There’s a man who’ll fix it. Need your shoes re-heeled? There’s a man who will come to your house to do it. How about a haircut from a kerbside cutter? Then there’s the serious stuff – the roadside bone setters, who will repair fractures, plus the ear cleaners and the corn and bunion removal men. What’s remarkable is how these centuries old traditions are still going strong.

Some fear these traditions are under threat, with future generations choosing to pursue an education and a different path rather than follow the family business, and because some authorities are trying to move them off the pavements.

10. Don’t wear new clothes on a Saturday

An Indian man gets his new car blessed before it is driven

India might be home to some of the world’s best scientists and engineers, but a lot of that rational thinking can go straight out of the window when it comes to observing ancient superstitions. Different people observe different things, such as – don’t wear new clothes on a Saturday, don’t clean the house at night for fear of scaring the Goddess Lakshmi away…

 It’s bad luck to give or accept anything with your left hand. For so many in India – rich and poor – observing these customs is still part of today’s society. Brand new cars have a floral garland hanging on the bonnet because it’s considered good luck to get your new vehicle blessed before you drive it.

Chilli and limes hang in cars or above front doors to ward off evil. A lot of planes don’t have a row 13, to avoid any association with the unlucky number.

A few Indianisms

Prepone – To bring an event or meeting forward

Revert – to get back to someone

Only – added to the end of sentences

Out of station – Out of town

You’ve pulled down – You’ve lost weight

I’ll do the needful – I’ll do what’s required

They expired – They died

I’m going to office – articles routinely dropped

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What have you noticed about life in India? A selection of comments will be published

In Pursuit of happiness? How to go about learning and practicing Happiness?

Robert Costanza, Professor of Sustainability and the Director for the Institute for Sustainable Solutions (ISS) at Portland State University, published this account:

“I recently returned from a trip to Bhutan, a small Himalayan country. The enlightened former king had declared that the goal of his country’s policy was “Gross National Happiness” (GNH) rather than “Gross Domestic Product” (GDP).

GDP is the total market value of all final goods and services produced in a country in a given period. But GDP was never intended as a measure of well-being or progress. It only measures national income or activity, and it includes only those goods and services traded for money. It also adds everything together, without differentiating between desirable, well-being-enhancing economic activity and undesirable, well-being-reducing activity.

For example, an oil spill increases GDP because someone has to clean it up, but it obviously detracts from well-being. More crime, more sickness, more war, more pollution, more fires, storms and pestilence are all potentially positives for GDP because they can cause an increase in economic activity.

I say “former king” for two reasons. The first reason is because he passed the crown on to his son. The second is because neither he nor his heir now govern as absolute monarchs. In what must be the first time in recorded history, the king had to convince his subjects (in the face of real opposition) that democracy was a better way.

After a very interesting and unique transition, Bhutan is now a constitutional monarchy – much like the United Kingdom – where the king has mainly ceremonial duties.

The new Prime Minister, Lyonchoen Jigme Y Thinley, and the elected government have set up a “Gross National Happiness Commission” (GNHC) to implement the process of both measuring GNH and ensuring that the country’s policies are aimed at improving it. They have undertaken surveys of GNH and developed a GNH policy screen. National policies include the goal to become the first country to produce only organic food, and to be a net carbon dioxide sink in perpetuity.

Why are the Bhutanese not getting on the bandwagon that GDP growth is the solution to all problems? They recognise that, while traditional economic growth has in the past been a major means to improving social well-being, it is now causing at least as many problems as it solves. GDP growth strategy is no longer sustainable: It is pushing us beyond the planet’s environmentally safe operating space. It is also not always desirable because it only contributes to improved well-being up to a point.

We need a new approach to economic progress that takes into account the hidden costs of traditional growth, on jobs, on families, on society, on nature, and ultimately on our happiness and quality of life and its sustainability.

GDP  takes no account of how the national income is distributed among people, ignoring the fact that a dollar’s worth of income produces more well-being for a poor person than a rich one.

Alternative measures of progress, like the Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI), adjust for these problems with GDP to arrive at a better approximation of “national well-being”. Results show that while the US GDP has steadily increased since 1950 (with the occasional recession), GPI peaked around 1975 and has been relatively flat or declining ever since.

So what do the Bhutanese mean by GNH? Bhutan recently completed a survey of 8,000 of its citizens, asking them over 200 questions about various aspects of their lives and how satisfied they are with them. It is what social scientists call an assessment of “subjective well-being”, or SWB – an area of research that is getting increasing attention in many quarters of science and policy as part of the emerging “science of happiness”.

In the US, for example, SWB surveys show flat or dropping scores over the last several decades, consistent with the flattening GPI estimates.

But the GNHC and others in Bhutan recognise that there are other, more objective elements that are also important in assessing their country’s overall well-being. Our team was brought in to help incorporate “natural capital” and the ecosystem services it provides into their national accounting framework.

Ecosystem services are the often un-accounted for benefits that people derive from nature – clean air, water, and soil, a stable climate, recreational and spiritual opportunities to connect with nature, and many more. We estimated in a previous study that, on a global basis, these services were worth in aggregate more than all of global GNP combined.

But these services do not yet adequately appear in any country’s national accounts.  Bhutan sees itself as a leader in rectifying this situation. We held a workshop there last March with over 40 representatives from several government agencies, universities and others to assess how best to do this.

We plan to hold a series of follow-up workshops involving students and faculty from the US working with the Bhutanese to help them become a model of sustainable well-being and to help us do the same.

We all have a lot to learn from Bhutan. They are a small county not yet addicted to economic growth in the conventional sense. They can step back and ask the really important questions: What is happiness? How do we best pursue it? How does one person’s happiness depend on everyone else’s? How important is nature to our happiness and its sustainability? How much and what types of material consumption do we really need to be happy?

The founders of the United States also asked themselves many of these same questions. They set up a country devoted to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. Bhutan is helping us to better understand the interdependence of all life on earth, the responsibilities that come with individual liberty, and the meaning and measure of happiness.

These are issues we will all have to collaboratively grapple with and better understand if we hope to create a world where humanity can flourish, and be happy within the finite boundaries of the amazing planet we inhabit.” End of quote

I loved the two decisions of focusing on producing organic food, and insuring a net carbon dioxide sink in perpetuity.  These two decisions, if applied consistently, can become cornerstone behavioral change to improving quality of health.

Bhutan is situated upstream of rivers thus, it should be able to provide clear water.  For example, if Bhutan was situated beneath a river polluted by a “developed” State such as China or India, then Bhutan would have hard time securing the necessary funds for the perpetual clean up job.  Bhutan is also in a high-mountain region, thus securing clear air quality must be less costly than in coastal regions.  The main question remains: If States have no such natural conditions as Bhutan, how could they achieve  “Gross National Happiness” (GNH), if they decide to implement their programs?  Shouldn’t the UN reserve a special fund for poor States that decided to implement such programs for clean potable water, and cleaner air quality?

My first question is: “Where does Bhutan rank on the UN Human Development Indicators (HDI)? For example, infantile mortality, early birth mortality, education literacy…?” In a previous article, I mentioned that poor Bangladesh (half India GNP per person) is better ranked than India on HDI (see note).  Clean water, clean air, and organic food production can reduce drastically health problems, but work habits, archaic customs, and social structure (religiously enslaving sections of the citizens to serving the higher classes) need to be revised in order to increasing Human Development Indicators. Analyzing Bhutan social conditions may give indications for the success of this beautiful program.

My second question is: “What rules may a citizen learn to apply in order to “materialize a state of happiness?”  In a previous article, I mentioned that learning to “Process one idea at a time, then resolve one problem at a time” is the golden pragmatic technique to learning “How  to become happy in life”.  If we learn how to be happy, we surely can then learn how to be successful in our community:  A state of happiness is highly contagious.

Note: https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2011/04/02/development-is-in-human-rights-indicators-comparing-india-and-bangladesh/

Population explosion? Will demographic reach a steady-state level? Part 1

Amazing, Thomas Robert Malthus wrote in 1798 his “Essay on the principle of population”.  He stated: “I think that I can frankly posit two postulates:

First, food is necessary for the existence of mankind; and

Second, the reciprocal passion between the sexes is necessary and will remain as it is today. I say that the multiplication power of people increases geometrically, far greater than the arithmetic increase of food supply.  The unbalance of these two multiplication powers have to be equalized to maintain nature law.”

Many deduced that Malthus was proposing eugenics (killing) policies in order for the food production and supply to be sufficient among the surviving people.

For example, the French Proudhon replied in 1848: “Malthus is the one extra man crowding earth.  The real problem is in the principle of ownership system (particularly real estates) that propagates unjust power for one class over others

Karl Marx also was unhappy with Malthus proposal; he wrote:

“Malthus is the enemy of the working classes. Malthus is the insolent sycophant of the ruling classes; he is guilty of committing sins against science and defamatory remarks against the human race.  Malthus abstract population law may applies to plant and animal species.  With historic human intervention, the problem is no longer over population, but the equitable distribution of wealth.”

These interesting heated debates were fine until earth mankind population reached 3 billion in the 30’s and kept climbing to reach 7 billion in 2011.

A few demographic scientists claim that earth population will stabilize at the number of 9 billion by 2050 and slowly progress to 10 billion in 2150.

Seven billion people is already one too many and a heavy burden, not simply to feed, and feed properly, but on the quality of life mankind is learning to acquire as rights on many levels.

Should a single vegetative individual of the rich classes be expected to live an extra decade at the expense of millions in poorer countries? Due to famine, malnutrition, curable diseases, massive exploitations and mono-agricultural production for the multinationals…

Should only boys be selected to live as it is regularly performed in India and China? Early abortion of girls…

Currently, you have all these people predicting that technologies applied in food production can feed the currently over 7 billion people and will provide for the 9 billion expected in the next three decades.

True, earth is crowded with 7 billion, but in fact, only two billion are living adequately, while 5 billion are barely surviving, and proportionally eating far less than any other animal species.

The surviving 5 billion people are reduced to subsiding on a couple low quality energy ingredients for their daily intake.

True, food production can increase to feed the 7 billion, but why only cows and “clean energy” substitutes are preventing the 5 billion to eat adequately?

In effect, Malthus nature law is effectively being applied:  The barely surviving 5 billion people are pressured to believe in religious dogma of accepting their precarious “fate” as nature or divine selection among eligible classes to govern and rule.

Occasionally, people revolted and violently to these stupid dogma and changed political structure for fairer distribution of food or wealth. In general, the power-to-be managed to quell these “self-righteous” uprising that were against divine prescriptions!

Things are changing:  Belief systems are changing.

People are very aware of the indignities heaped upon them by elite programs and policies, and are confident of their potentials as equal in intelligence, and in human rights and opportunities.

Food shortages, high food prices, and lack of jobs opportunities are catalysts in these current revolts in the Arab World States, but the main cause is the greater awareness, in this quick transmission of information, that dignity as equal has been trampled, and that grievous injustices have been applied on the common people.

The common people comprehend that the UN “human development indicators” means:  It is not acceptable that many classes within a society witness high rate of maternal mortality in giving birth, high rate of infantile mortality, high rate of juvenile (less than 5 year-old) mortality, high rate of adolescent (less than 20 of age) mortality, high rate of inability to read and write…

It is unacceptable that India with double the yearly income of Bangladesh witness a lesser performance than Bangladesh in Human Development Indicators:  It is unacceptable that India maintain the social and political structure of the “untouchable” classes as ordered by the Hindu religious clerics.

Every new born among the 7 billion has the odd of 7 to 10 to be raised in a poor country with very low rates in human development indicators.

China and India are vast continent-size States, in the magnitude of the billion in population, and with the fastest and steadiest economic growth rates.  Comparisons stop here, before it degenerates to the ridiculous. China is the first economic country in all kinds of production and exports; India maybe the leading among the economically emerging nations such as Brazil, South Africa, South Korea, Indonesia, Australia,Turkey, Iran…However, in human development indicators, India has to look up to other developing States for comparison.  India is worse than one of the poorest countries such as Bangladesh in human development indicators. You may refer to my article https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2011/04/02/development-is-in-human-rights-indicators-comparing-india-and-bangladesh/ For example:

Life expectancy in China is 74 compared to 64 in India.

Rate of infantile mortality in China is 17 per 1,000 persons compared to 50 in India.

Rate of infantile-juvenile mortality, or children below age of 5,  is 19 per 1,000 individuals in China compared to 66 in India.

Adult literacy in China is 94% compared to 65% in India.

Average formal schooling in China is 7.5 years compared to 4.5 in India.

Girls between 15 to 24 of age are literate 99% in China compared to 80% in India.

Communist China managed to keep up policies for reducing inequalities among the citizens, economic, health, and social development while India could not even dismantle the caste divide due to religious ideology within Hinduism and among the other religious sects.

Although China GNP quadrupled in the last two decades, the inequalities among citizens grew drastically, and the pollution of rivers and environment has shot exponentially.  Indeed, China is becoming as polluting as the US.  It is good that the last parliamentary session in China decided to decrease growth to only 7% instead of 10% in order to tending to the growing demands of the citizens for equitable, and better development of human indicators in health, safety in workplaces, raw mineral mines, and redistribution of opportunities to all provinces.

Poor Bangladesh out-pacing India: What is “Human development indicators”?

How many of you have heard of Bangladesh?

Bangladesh, named Eastern Pakistan, was split from Pakistan in early 1970 after the war between India and Pakistan.

In the 70’s and early 80’s, Bangladesh was the worst State in the list of the poorest States in the world.  Bangladesh was frequently front page news, particularly in period of monsoon.

Ten of thousands of Bangladesh citizens, living by the seashores and on river tributaries, were found washed out in the ocean and on the seashore.  What’s going on in Bangladesh?

Are the horrors of tsunamis displacing the daily calamities befalling in Bangladesh or somethings good is developing in Bangladesh?

Sure enough, Bangladesh is a flat country on the East India ocean and crossed by mighty rivers.

If you look at a detailed map, you discover that Bangladesh is a vast delta of river tributaries and swamps, deep for hundreds of miles within the country, crisscrossing the country.  You may imagine a giant archaic Noah boat, leaking from everywhere and no dry land around for miles.

The per capita income for the average citizen in Bangladesh is half of India ($1550 versus $3250), but the human development indicators in Bangladesh are better.  For example,

The infantile-juvenile mortality rate of people below 5 year-old is 52 per 1,000 versus 66 in India.

Life expectancy is 67 years compared to 64 in India.

The proportion of children suffering from famine is 41% compared to 44% in India.

Years of formal schooling is 5 compared to 4 in India.

Female in Bangladesh are far more literate than in India and are more integrated in the economy and society.

Public health in Bangladesh is much better than India.

In India, health security is taken care by private physicians who have limited qualifications, and increases in the numbers of charlatans and impostors. Many provinces in India lack public health institutions and facilities.

Consequently, although India GNP has been growing at 7% for many years, and its budget increasing 4 folds in two decades, India’s expenses on public formal schooling, basic public health and security, and indicators relevant to human development were comparatively of no match to Bangladesh public relevant spending.   Youth in poor Bangladesh must be feeling happier than those in India.

As side notes, Bangladesh is mostly of  Moslems.

Yet, India has more Moslems than Bangladesh, but Hinduism is the vast majority with archaic caste religious system that rob the lower classes and the “untouchables” from ever hoping to accede to better life conditions.

Can you believe it?  In many provinces in India, the lowest caste class “citizens” are asked to empty the shit pots of the upper classes, while many families of the “untouchables” have their own current water toilets.

Bangladesh was attached to Pakistan by the British colonial power, as Eastern Pakistan, in 1948.  India separated the two parts of Pakistan after its war with Pakistan around 1973!   Thus, East Pakistan got its independence in 1974 as Bangladesh, after an unbalanced war between India and Western Pakistan.

The name of the game is no longer the World Bank criteria for economic development, but essentially the UN human development indicators.  What a State does with its wealth to enhance quality of life to its citizens is what counts.

Note 1:  Statistics and the topic were extracted from an article written by Amartya Sen, Indian Nobel laureate in economics, in the French weekly, Courrier International.

Amartya Sen has published “Rethinking inequality”, “Identity and violence, 2010”, and “The idea of Justice, 2010”

Note 2: This May 2013, 1015 people perished under the rubble of buildings hosting cheap women and child labor for manufacturing garment to multinationals like Gap… Apparently, the government has closed down a dozen of such building meant for habitation, and not for parking a multitude of heavy machines

Maid living in the Mistress house?

There are many States that allow private agencies to import foreign maids to serve in private families.  The maid lives in the house with the family and work from 6 am to midnight, always standing and serving, and cleaning until the last member of the family is gone to bed.

The maid in Lebanon cost $150 a month and the entire yearly amount is paid to the agency upfront when the commissioned maid arrives in Lebanon “legally”?  Most of the time, the contract of the hired foreign maid is for two years.

Maids arriving to Lebanon are mostly from Ethiopia, Madagascar, Sri Lanka, Philippines, and from other African States.  Workers at gas stations are mainly from Egypt.  Construction workers are from Syria.  Sanitation workers are from Bangladesh.  You have the impression that every foreign State has a specialty work to do in Lebanon.

Lately, a semi-official report from Madagascar’s Minister of Public and Social Affairs, Nadine Ramorson, denounced in the weekly “Jeune Afrique” the ill treatments of the maids in Lebanon and that many returned home dead or badly injured.  The number of maids from Madagascar climbed from one thousand in 2006 to over 7,000 in 2010.

Before the civil war in Lebanon that started in 1975, maids were hired from Syria.  The child maid’s father would show up once a year to cash in his dues and leave without even sitting and talking to his child daughter of less than 13 of age.

When a kid, I never asked the maid to fetch me a glass of water or for any personal needs; it is shameful to see parents considering as legitimate and right for their kids to be ordering maids around for simple tasks they can and should be doing on their own.

I can testify that the Lebanese, in general, are racist with respect to the poorer classes.  It is worse, when this domestic or worker is from a foreign land.  A black colored worker is called Black or coal.  The higher the number of maids the higher the status of a family.  I can see families bringing more than one maids to events and ceremonies in order to wash dishes, take care of every whims of kids, and serve on tables.

There were periods when Lebanese were respectful to older members and had a sense of shame working others overtime.  Social life is going bad.  You may pay a visit to our prisons to witness the carelessness we handle human rights and human dignity.

Many foreign maids are incarcerated for months without any due process, simply because they could not pay to renew their work permit or purchase a ticket home.  Many maids had committed suicides and we never hear of these cases or the follow-up investigations, if any.

Fact is, we the Lebanese are living in a big prison, with no way out if you have not the money to getting out.  Maybe 5% of the Lebanese are well off (mainly the public servants and families of deputies) but the rest of us are living under $150 per month, with a standard of living higher than Paris and London.

It is no enigma if most Lebanese are servile to their sectarian leaders who were the culprit of this civil war that lasted more than 13 years:  They want to survive and seek political and employment supports.

It is no enigma of this growing racist tendencies when the leaders of the civil wars returned as ministers and deputy after the civil war and have been totally absolved of their genocides by a Parliament of their own.

We have no dignity left to start demonstrations and revolts.  If it were not for Hezbollah’s steadfastness then, Lebanon would have been a State from the past, a non-entity….

I published in my autobiography the following passage:

“At the time it was the custom for well-off family to hire girl child helpers from Syria around Safita.  My family was no exception. The father of any of these children between 10 to 12 years old would visit once a year to collect his money and leave.  Over the span of 6 years, we had 3 child helpers. The first one was named Salimeh and she was my age of 12 but was much taller, robust and all muscles; I recall that I used to box her buttocks, hard as rock.  She was not pretty but she loved us dearly and we got used to liking her cheerful attitude.

The next one was even younger and she used to get lost every time she had to accompany my younger sister Raymonde from school.  Once she lost her way and Raymonde was already at home and she saw Raymonde on the balcony and she hollered to my sister “come down to go home”.

The third helper was short, hard working and pretty and she was in love with me and I was at the age when I could not stand romance and drooping eyes.  I was glad when her father took her away but she was in cry and would not leave.  Mother was hard on the helpers and she made them wake up very early and work all day long for over 13 hours, but mother was meticulous that they keep clean, eating of our own food and wearing decent clothes.  It was hard for me to accept the conditions of these helpers once I became conscious of their alienation, away from their homes for over two years sometimes.”

The late author, Mai Ghoussoub described the life of one these kid helpers in her book “Farewell Beirut” and how she turned out to be a ferocious and fearless fighter during the civil war; most importantly, she never tried to get any revenge on her “masters”, even though the eldest son had raped her and she was confined never to leave the apartment; the girl was just utterly happy to feel free.”

Cursed Cities: Karss (April 14, 2009)

 

There are geographical locations and regions that are cursed historically

This essay is not about cities that experienced frequent disasters by natural calamities. For example, we have cities that had vanished because built near active volcanoes such as Pompeii in Italy, others because of being located on seismic faults such as Beirut and lately the Abruzzi region in Italy, and others succumbing to tidal waves and hurricanes such as Bangladesh, Indonesia, the USA Gulf regions, and Rangoon… and where people perish by the hundred of thousands every year and keep rebuilding in the same devastated areas. 

This article is about cities located on major trade routes and suffered recurring genocides because of human greed for domination and power.  I will focus on the city of Karss in Turkey on the eastern side of the Anatolia Plateau (Anadol). 

Karss is built by the river Karss and a must cross location on the route from Georgia, Tabriz (Iran), the Caucasus and Tiflis. I urge my readers to recollect other cursed cities through history.

Eastern Anatolia and the Caucasus form one homogeneous geographic area in economy, culture, and social communication and trades. The Armenians on both sides preferred to pay allegiance to Christian Russia and wished that Russia would grant them administrative autonomy in the Caucasus. The Moslems on both sides paid allegiance to the Moslem Ottoman Empire.

The triangle of the current States of Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan were the scenes of major battle fields and invasions through history and is still a hot area till now.

The Nobel Literature Prize winner Orhan Pamuk published “Snow” that described the calamities suffered by the inhabitants of the Karss region.  The Armenian people lived in that region for a thousand years and then many waves of immigrants and refugees from persecutions flocked to it.  The Karss region hosted people from the Empires of Persia, Byzantium and then Moguls, Georgians, Kurds, and Cherkessk. In the 17th century, the Karss region was predominantly of Moslems and then Armenians were second in numbers.

The Russian Empire vied for this region since the 18th century. In 1827, Russia entered Karss and chased out over 27,000 Moslems and transferred 45,000 Armenians to this city from Iran and the Anatolian Plateau. The city of Yerevan (Capital of the current State of Armenia) that was mostly of Iranians was transformed demographically in 1827.  In every Russian invasion to the Karss region, the Russian troops could rely on the Armenian population for auxiliary regiments, logistics, and intelligence services. As the Russian troops vacated the region in 1829, over 90,000 Armenians fled with the Russians fearing well deserved persecutions.

During the Crimea War, that confronted Russia against the combined alliance of Britain, France, and the Ottoman, the Russians put siege on Karss in 1855 for many months and all the Ottoman army within the city was massacred.  The Paris treaty of 1855 forced the Russians to vacate the Karss region. The Ottoman troops retaliated heavily on the Armenians.

In 1859, the Cherkessk, lead by their leader Shamel, revolted against the Russians and were defeated; many Christian Russian Orthodox were transferred to Karss to replace the Moslem Cherkessk.  The same eviction process befell three quarter of the Moslems of Abkhazia in 1867.  Thus, in less than 30 years, the Russian Empire changed the demographics of the Caucasus from mostly Moslems to mostly Christians. Over 1, 200,000 Moslems were forced to transfer to other regions; 800,000 of the Moslems settled in the Ottoman Empire. 

In 1877, the Russians amassed troops on the border with Karss; Sultan Abdel Hamid pre-empted the invasion by massacring the Armenians on ground that they will inevitably aid the Russians. After 93 days of war, the Russians entered Karss and a pogrom on the Moslems proceeded for many days. The treaty of San Estephanos relinquished the region to the Russian Empire. The Russians built a new city south of the city of Karess where the Emperor Alexander III met with his concubines and hunted. In the next 43 years, the Armenians harassed the Moslems of this region and thousand had to flee. In retaliation, Sultan Abdel Hamid formed in 1891 a special regiment of Kurdish cavalry with the purpose of harassing the Armenians of the Karss region and the pogrom around Lake Van raised an outcry in Europe.

During the First World War, the Armenians again aided the Russians and formed semi-regular armies to fight the Ottoman Empire.  Consequently, in 1915, the Ottoman Empire launched the genocide plan against the Armenians and thousands died of famine during the long march out of Turkey; the Armenians settled in Constantinople (Istanbul) and Adana shared in the mass persecution; only the Armenians in the Caucasus, within Russia, were spared.  The British occupied the Karss region in 1919 and gave some authority to the Armenians who gathered arms from the Moslems and gave them to the Armenians and another round of harassment and massacres took place.

The Turkish General Mustafa Kemal re-occupied the Karss region in 1920 after defeating the Armenian army: the Bolsheviks were then allied to the new Turkish Republic. The Russians transferred the Armenians from the region of Patum to Yerevan.

In 1927, all the properties of the Armenians in Karss were confiscated. The Armenians were robbed of a homeland because Turkey ceased Cyprus to Britain in exchange of guaranteeing the Karss region to Turkey.  Mustafa Kemal (Ataturk) also negotiated a political deal with France to relinquish the Syrian region of Alexandrite to Turkey, setting the premises for future regional feuds.

Nowadays, there are no Armenians in Karss; the imposing buildings of Tsarist Russia are government Administrative offices; a vast villa of 40 rooms is transformed into hospital, and a Jewish museum. An entire century of struggles, massacres, harassment, genocides, and useless hate to their neighbors in order to gain self-autonomy rewarded the Armenians nothing. 

They had to wait for the break down of the Soviet Union to enjoy the Armenian State that is totally dependent in its economy on the neighboring States.  Kosovo, Kashmir, Jerusalem, Gaza, and Palestine are current examples of lost opportunities for stability and peace.


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

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