Mind over matter in India; ‘North Korea leader’s uncle executed’; Ford to hire 11,000 in 2014; India industry contracts further





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1 Mind over matter in India (N Janardhan in Khaleej Times) The Common Man Party or Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) turned the Indian political system on its head recently with astounding results in the Delhi assembly elections. The party, conceived by a team led by Arvind Kejriwal entered politics to “change the current corrupt and self-serving system of politics forever”. The party has ensured that politics, from being considered as the last resort of a scoundrel,  is no longer a bad word or out of bounds for the have-nots. Most Indians never believed that political battles could be won just with determination — without money, muscle or manipulation. This victory of mind over matter is the biggest contribution to Indian democracy — promising clean and good governance is a bonus.

The AAP’s success should be contextualised with several recent movements against political-economic mismanagement — Tahrir Square in Egypt, Taksim Square in Turkey, Occupy Wall Street in the United States, and Israel’s Tent Movement, among others. These, along with the Anna Hazare-led movement in India, meant that it was not just Arab Spring, but ‘global spring’. The difference, however, is that when the political class ganged up to defeat the Anna movement, Kejriwal — in a moment of madness or as a master stroke — decided to launch the AAP.

Amid a growing economy and an aspirational India, a status-quoist political culture stuck out as a sore thumb. What the AAP did to this jaded system is not only offer an alternative party, but also a new discourse and politics. Just how different this party is can be gauged from my personal experience. Enthused by its electoral performance, I belatedly sought to make a financial contribution to the party, but here’s what the website donation page said: “Your party has achieved the donation target of Rs 200 million for Delhi elections. Please fill your details in the form below and we will contact you soon.”

Another sign of its uniqueness is its symbol — the broom. Despite the noble benefits and results of the broom and footwear, both are demeaned in Indian cultural interpretation. Now we had better think twice before using either to insult anyone! Finally, while the AAP’s freaky electoral debut is good news the proof of the pudding is always in the eating. While Indians must now make a wise political investment for a change, AAP (which also means the respectful ‘you’ in Hindi), please don’t disappoint ‘hum’ (us)!


2 ‘North Korea leader’s uncle executed’ (Tania Branigan in The Guardian) North Korea has executed Kim Jong-un’s uncle as a “traitor for all ages” who sought to grab power, state media has announced. Jang Song-thaek, previously one of the country’s most powerful men, was ousted last week in a spectacular purge. He was stripped of all posts and expelled from the Workers party for offences including factionalism, corruption and dissolute behaviour.

But many had thought his marriage to Kim’s aunt – the sister of late leader Kim Jong-il – might save his life until this morning’s announcement, which also holds him responsible for other failures in the North, including a disastrous attempt at currency reform in 2010. “From long ago, Jang had a dirty political ambition. He dared not raise his head when Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il were alive,” KCNA said, referring to Kim’s grandfather and father.

Adam Cathcart, an expert on North Korea, said accusations of factionalism and seeking power were “pro forma” in such cases, particularly when the penalty was so harsh. Kim has made sweeping changes to the hierarchy in North Korea, changing key military personnel repeatedly as well as removing civilian members. But Jang’s execution is unprecedented because family members are normally dealt with more leniently and quietly. It is unclear whether the position of his wife Kim Kyong Hui – who was also seen as something of a mentor for Kim following her brother’s death – has been affected. Two of his aides are believed to have been executed already and many analysts believe that more will follow.


3 Ford to hire 11,000 in 2014 (BBC) As part of its efforts to expand globally, Ford announced plans to hire 5,000 workers in the US and 6,000 workers in Asia in 2014. It represents an increase of close to 7% of Ford’s total workforce and the biggest hiring push the firm has made since 2000. The company has plans to open two new plants in Asia as well.

Ford has said it will release 23 new vehicles around the world next year, the most in its history. Ford’s president of the Americas, John Hinrichs, made the announcement at an event introducing a new research vehicle testing driverless technology. Among Ford’s new offerings in 2014 are a revamped Mustang sports car, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary next year, and a Lincoln MKC small utility.


4 India industry contracts further (Mukesh Jagota in The Wall Street Journal) The Indian economy showed further signs of stagflation as Asia’s fourth-largest economy announced a downturn in industrial production and rising inflation. India’s industrial output contracted for the first time in four months in October, dragged down by falling production in the country’s mining and manufacturing industries. The index of industrial production in October fell a steeper-than-expected 1.8% from the same month a year earlier, data from the statistics ministry showed.

Meanwhile, retail inflation, as measured by India’s consumer-price index, accelerated to a higher-than-expected 11.24% in November from 10.17% in October, according to separate government data issued Thursday. Stubbornly high inflation is widely viewed as one of the reasons that India’s ruling Congress party did so badly in state elections which concluded this week. The country’s leaders have long failed to make good on their promises to bring prices down. Inflation is particularly painful in India, where hundreds of millions of people live on less than $2 a day.

Despite the inflation fears, Indian executives and investors say the country needs lower interest rates to get the economy growing again. India’s gross domestic product expanded only 4.8% in the three months to September, its fourth quarter in a row stuck below 5.0%. Most economists expect growth for the fiscal year through March to remain at a decade low below 5%.

Economists say it is not just high lending rates that are hurting the economy. The slowdown and even inflation are coming from some long-standing problems such as inadequate power generation to keep factories running, barriers to coal mining and overburdened infrastructure such as ports and airports.




About joesnewspicks

This blog captures interesting news items from around the world for those strained by information overload and yet need to stay updated on global events of significance. The news items displayed are not in order of merit. (The blog takes a weekly off — normally on Sundays — and does not appear when I am on vacation or busy.) I am a journalist for nearly three decades.
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