# India

## An Impending Catastrophe

The latest IPCC report confirms what many of us have believed for awhile: Even 1.5° warming will be hard on India and anything higher will be catastrophic. I just don’t see how we are going to stop that from happening. The west is developing systems that will help it respond to the climate crisis – and in my opinion, much of it will be shirking its responsibility for the crisis and militarizing climate response so that they can keep people who are trying to escape calamities out of their borders.

There isn’t much I can do about that right now, so I am going to be silent on that issue. However, where I believe we can do something is in imagining, implementing and scaling an Indian response to this emergency. We are ramping up a consumption driven fossil fuel economy just when it’s unsustainable and unjust everywhere and simply suicidal for us.

Historically, we are a forest and farm civilization, with reverence towards the non-human world and kindness towards all its creatures. That's one of our great achievements. Yet, here we are ripping open the earth for what, ten more packets of kurkure? This madness has brought us within a stroke of midnight with Pralaya around the corner.

If that's not a wake up call, I don't know what is.

## Back to the Future

I bet Anil Ambani didn't get the Rafale deal because he submitted his tender in triplicate. Nevertheless, while the Rafale story is – inevitably – about corruption, I want to point out an even more dangerous trend towards monumental development.

Consider the high speed rail (HSR) deal. We have known for a while that the current prime minister has had a long and fruitful relationship with Japan. One might even go so far as saying that the deal was handed over to Japan because they wanted to prevent corruption in the wake of this deal.

As a result, Indian railway train drivers will be trained in Japanese and will have to learn Japanese as a prerequisite for being a driver on these HSR lines.

That's not the only problem. The line will be built in standard guage (because that's how the Japanese run their Shinkansen lines), which means that these HSR trains are incompatible with the existing broad guage system.

Which means that new and expensive infrastructure such as platforms and junctions will have to built for multiple gauges and therefore fewer of those will be built. Which, in turn, will make it hard to make HSR stations hubs for people who might want to travel from their smaller town to a bigger city with an HSR compatible station.

Then there's the final and most important question of cost: this HSR line is being built at about \$30,000,000 (thirty million!) per kilometre – \$15 billion for a 508 km line from Ahmedabad to Mumbai. Meanwhile, Indian railways builds its new electrified lines at \\$123,000 per km, i.e., about 240 times cheape

I don't think it's corruption. It's because our idea of development is about monumental dreams, of creating Singapores and Shanghais and Spaceships. A future which has to privatised because public sector enterprises like the Railways (or HAL in the case of Rafale) can't be trusted with this new ambition.

Even that would be understandable if it was a future facing dream. Instead it's a dream from the New York world fair of 1964 being passed off as 21st century Mera Bharat Mahaan. Back to the Future indeed.

## Hard Laddoo Politics and the Viagra of History

Most people I know have a whatsapp story to tell of that deranged uncle or classmate who simultaneously believes that Hinduism is the religion of peace and nonviolence and that Muslims and other interlopers have to dealt with severely, i.e., anywhere between abjection and annihilation.

It seems we are soft laddoos who need to become hard laddoos ASAP, but good news is at hand; if press reports are to be believed we are recovering our wilted hardon after thousands of years of softness. Jai ho. Of course, that hardness comes with 56 inch chests, virulent patriarchy and unconcern for anyone whose lot in life is worse than yours.

Let's say 10% of the population (an underestimate) has swallowed this viagra of history. Surely the richest 1% is overrepresented in the list of viagra poppers. They own all the tv stations and run all the corporations, so their class interests and their psychological biases reinforce each other.

The only things they don't own yet is the state and civil society – I mean they own most of it, but there are still some institutions that continue to protect the subsistence farmer and the migrant labourer.

Which is why the subversion of democracy is of paramount importance. Which is why you need to create a surveillance state and invent new categories of treason. Note how both of these are advanced in the name of development.

The easy answer is to label these developments as fascism. I don't think so – what we are seeing is an entirely new phenomenon of concentrated control in the age of rapid flows of capital and information.

It needs a new name. Meanwhile, Hail Viagra!

I can imagine an alternate universe where Indians are like Swedes, stopping at red lights even when there's no one else at the traffic light, keeping passwords to oneself like a bag of Frito-Lays instead of sharing them with family and friends.

Unfortunately, we get paid a measly Rs 30 a pop to keep that password secret. Fortunately, 30*N is bigger than any number that god might imagine, so we have been busy sharing that password with anyone who's willing to sit in front of a computer while another person scans their vitals in front of you.

Plus, why blame the poor kirana aadhar operator when the masters of aadhar universe think designing a hyper-secure system for a billion plus people is like selling Y2K patches to cost-cutting Amriki companies.