By Richard Howitt MEP
Richard Howitt, Labour Member of the European Parliament for the East of England
“Killing people to show people that killing people is wrong.”
It should be the very definition of insanity but it is, in fact, a criminal punishment that remains on statute books around the world.
But it gets worse, because the death penalty is used in Saudi Arabia for adultery, in North Korea for theft and in numerous countries, from Pakistan to Indonesia, as a punishment for drugs offences.
This is despite the fact that use of the death penalty for anything less than “serious offences” is illegal under international law.
By Vanya Vaidehi Bhargav
Modi appeals to the middle-class
In a country as vast and diverse as India, it is difficult to analyse the various reasons why people are supporting Narendra Modi. Nevertheless, this article is an attempt to do so. The following observations are not based on detailed surveys ‘in the field’, but on conversations and debates with persons who can be seen as partially representing Modi’s urban, middle-class support base.
By Marc Morgan
If one picks up one of the latest editions of The Economist newspaper (May 3rd – 9th 2014), a well-respected and influential publication in the business, economics and politics spheres, one would not be surprised of its content. But one should be worried about the increasing intellectual hostility the publication displays. On the front cover of this edition, leashed and perched over a globe of the world stands a bald eagle, the national symbol of the United States of America. It has its gaze fixed on the East, as it watches it burn. The headline reads ‘What would America fight for?’, which is the title of the edition’s lead story. In it, the editors appear disillusioned with the superpower’s present lack of war appetite.
This state of affairs is one that is meant to haunt all of us (where ‘us’ refers to America’s allies, thus ‘us’ in the West). America is portrayed as failing on its duties, they being the protection of the West’s (now ever more depleting) global hegemony. This is because ‘the most basic issue of a superpower’ is its ‘willingness to fight’. Of course, in passing, it must be mentioned that one must digest The Economist’s analysis with kilos of salt, which is never good for one’s health. Through its self-serving journalistic lens, the particular view of the world that it portrays is an increasing threat to equality, true liberty and meaningful democracy. Not to mention peace.
By Sam Tomlin
I have always squirmed when hearing talk of a ‘Christian country’, and it was no exception when David Cameron wheeled the concept out once again the other day. There is a lot of conjecture around why he did it, including potentially to placate the majority of evangelicals after legalising same sex marriage, but I wanted to use this short article to outline some of the reasons Christians like myself are very uneasy and even outright critical of attempts to align our faith with our nation. While this issue is perhaps more pronounced in the USA, there are important political and (Christian) theo-political reasons we should avoid talk of Britain as a ‘Christian nation:
1) It is questionable whether a human-made entity such as a nation can be described in such anthropomorphic terminology. Being a ‘Christian’ implies having some form of relationship with God. While it is possible for a nation to have Christians in it I question whether a nation can be Christian itself, especially when a large minority (41% at the last census) do not associate themselves with Christianity.
2) Some argue that clearly we’re a Christian nation because we have holidays around Christian festivals and we have a monarch who is the head of a church. I would suggest the ‘Christian’ element within these has essentially been watered down so much they have become what many call ‘culturally Christian’, which I’d argue is a pale imitation of Christianity. Read More
By Sundar Senthilnathan and Sudeep Surendra
A well-designed transport system
India is no longer the place where one can romanticize sleepy villages. It is urbanizing at rapid pace. Out of a billion plus people, 377 million are living in more than 7,000 towns and cities. Over the next fifteen years, more than 200 million people could be added to the urban population. The number of million plus cities in India increased to 53 in 2011 from just 35 in 2001. 40% of the total urban populace reside in these 53 million plus cities. There is nothing unnatural about this spectacular growth as economic growth and urbanization go hand in hand. Despite Indian cities disproportionately contributing to GDP, the quality of life however is getting worse by the day. Roads, public transport, traffic regulation, housing, waste management, water distribution network, sewerage systems, health and educations services, and law and order – all in a state of seemingly irretrievable mess. In the 2013 liveability rankings by the Economist Intelligence Unit, Mumbai ranks 116 out of 140 cities. It fares just a notch better than violence prone Karachi and Damascus.
Resolving liveability problems require a systemic governance overhaul. At present, there are way too many city agencies that exist alongside Indian city governments. Planning and infrastructure provision for instance is under the control of bureaucratic bodies quite ironically called development authorities. The city governments have hardly any say in it. In most of Indian cities, water supply, sewerage and transport are not under the city government but under agencies that are accountable only to the state government. Many city governments are responsible only for street lights, parks, approach roads and storm water drains. This existing system is against the spirit of the 74th Constitutional amendment passed in the year 1992 that mandated establishing directly elected city councils. They were to be given the necessary powers to carry out functions from city planning to poverty alleviation. These city councils were set up as mandated, but were not given adequate powers to govern themselves. Many of them do not have control even over their own budget. The continuing deterioration of quality of life in cities is a function of impotence and inefficiency of city governments. Read More
“Look at Bangladesh today / Buildings once filled with workers are now filled with graves / Six cents an hour’s not a suitable wage”
Learn from history and present times
Help to solve the mystery of how societies survive
If you’ve never seen a gun, you’re a lucky one
And think about your life in the context of the world
Because so many grow up in a place we can’t imagine
A hard life to live, can’t get ahead like Anne Boleyn
Strivers and shirkers: the rhetoric we’ve heard for ages
Simply doesn’t capture the complexities of work and wages
If hard work always led to successes
So many African women would live lives like princesses
If innovation were truly decorated
So many Indian women would be emancipated
But it’s just not as simple as they want us to believe
Our reality depends on power’s distribution
Equally, yes, we have free will; yes, we have choice
But options seem narrow when you’ve lost hope and voice
There’s so much to do, but there’s so little time
Another day goes by, more starving people die
But I feel encouraged, my view isn’t negative
It’s better round the corner, at least that’s our prerogative
To make it a reality, change mentality
And say it really proudly: we can stop the brutality!
We’re overdue a bit of peace, I’d say
And to this, I hope that we will contribute one day
By Babak Moussavi
The tense, uncertain days that followed the British general election in May 2010 seem like a while ago now. The Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government, quite a novelty at first, has become so entrenched in our minds that the previous Labour administration seems to represent a different zeitgeist entirely, where the word ‘austerity’ was not even part of the political lexicon. Gordon Brown seems like ancient history, despite remaining as an MP.
One common refrain on the part of the leaders of the Coalition, in particular the Chancellor, George Osborne, is that the policies enacted have been necessary and inevitable. Indeed, the TINA argument – “there is no alternative” – is the foundation to the government’s ‘deficit-cutting’ programme. This is highly disingenuous.
But with time, it is not just the policies of the coalition, but the coalition itself that has been made to seem inevitable. With hindsight, it has been made to seem as though the only governing coalition possible was between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats, given that this combination was the only grouping that could command a majority in the House of Commons, let alone ‘rescue’ Britain.