Category Archives: Governance

Emergency response needed for Air pollution as experts & Politicians debate

Once again the Specter of air pollution looms large upon us. Delhi is polluted throughout the year with the situation exacerbating in winters.

This is not Delhi’s problem alone as large swathes of land in the indo gangetic plains suffer this scourge
Over the last 2 years URJA and the Delhi Clean Air Forum has held several meetings and conferences with the best organisations and researchers in this field. Our zonal level meetings have conferred with religious leaders of all faiths and politicians from all parties, MLAs, Municipal councillors as well as school teachers.
With the disappointing response of top political leaders including the Environment Minister (BJP) and the immature conversation of Chief Ministers of Delhi (AAP) and Punjab (Cong) on social media it is evident that the air quality situation is not solving anytime soon


The only respite may be courtesy the weather Gods
Clearly the air pollution crisis is not going away some for some years in Delhi and we should therefore prepare our self for the long haul and a long siege while politicians squabble and experts pontificate.
At several meetings RWA and ground level activists we are coming around to the view that the state administration should increase preparedness for a constant emergency like response rather than look to the weather or Punjab or coal powered plants outside Delhi for solutions


The administration should have a rapid response in terms of sprinkling of water, authorised by local MLA and councillors who should be empowered to take this decision based on air monitoring in their area
The RWA should be entrusted mandatorily to report to the DC MCD zone and SDMs any waste burning or construction which does not follow norms and RWA should be penalized if they fail to do so. The RWA can also be penalized for illegal construction, dumping of malba etc. This will go a long way towards empowering them and justifying their intervention to the perpetrator


The air around us is finite and today large scale open air HEPA filtering machines are available to clear air in parks, hospital compounds and public places. There is no reason why the ordinary citizen should not be offered public filtration of air when he cannot afford in house filters
The State should tender for large procurement of face masks for all that are available at cheaper rates and provided by the state on no profit.


URJA is not demanding free services but is demanding the provision of emergency services to the taxpayer
Too much of discussion and argument on awareness, solutions etc has kept people occupied without respite
We need daily succor from this poisoned air. If the state has to provide giant filters, masks and empower MLAs and councillors, jointly with RWA to authorise sprinkling so be it. People are not prepared to die on account of the argumentative expert or politicians. Enough is enough

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Minimum Government, Maximum Governance in Urban India- Myth & Possibility

All governments, regardless of their political inclination will fail to deliver till they fix the administrative mechanisms that are meant to deliver on Government policies and plans. A rickety & flawed system will always beat a ‘Visionary’ or ‘well meaning’ (there have been more than one) and the Current PM is no exception. I had mentioned this in earlier blogs as well in an earlier blog. That the Prime Minister has turned out to be a great politician winning one electoral victory after the other is accompanied by what is a failure in Governance related to health, Security, Education, Municipal Management and of course Economics

The catchphrase Minimum Government, Maximum Governance sounded good but would have failed anyway.

India requires sustained, daily, repetitive ‘Maximum Administration and Maximum Governance’. The Prime Minister’s much repeated maxim is of no real use as Minimum Government and Minimum Governance is what we have lived with for years. The phrase ‘bhagwaan bharose’ is known to most Indians.

Look around you. Do feel the presence of the Government, Do you see public service utilities functioning, do you feel secure against lumpen elements, do you feel your grievances  are addressed in time, do you feel courts deliver justice quickly?

Do you feel help will come quickly if needed? Do you think you will get timely justice in courts?

If the answer to the above is No, then how will an absent Government be minimum and maximum at the same time?

We can of course trudge along like this as we have for the last 70 Years. But trudging along like this will not help much.

Prompt delivery of state services, public health, security and justice is not possible through a Minimum government in a diverse and a severely overpopulated country

Much of Minimum Governance is seen as keeping the inspector away.  There is excessive legislation, & rules and regulations which allow a small number of Government employees to exploit a vast population of powerless people. But the opposite of Inspector Raj is not abandonment Raj. A shortage of Courts and a lumbering Judicial Administration provide little succor to 1.30 Billion Indians at the receiving end of, socio economic disparity, bureaucratic apathy and a shortage of Public health services , education, prompt delivery of basic minimum civic amenities & security

Let us look at some figures

There is a shortage of 1400 IAS, & 900 IPS officers

There is a shortage of 5 Lakh Police Personnel

There is a shortage of 5 Lakh Doctors

2.8 Crore Cases are pending in District Courts even as a shortage of 5000 judicial officers

There is a collective shortage of 10 Lakh teachers in India

These are figures from the admissions made by the Government itself often in reply to questions in the parliament

The Number of MPs/MLAs & Municipal councillors as a percentage of the population is way less than what are required. For example U.K has one M.P to represent 93 Thousand people (in 2009) people while one M.P in India represents 20 Lakh people

These are all signs of Minimum Government & Minimum Governance. There is no maximum Government. It is a myth.

But the reason for this illusion is as follows; if you were to see 100 scattered people with sticks, and only 10 people with machine guns protected with battle gear and armored vehicles who would you notice more? The Government in India is not ‘Maximum’, but a small number of peons, clerks and officers protected by an Armed State have an overwhelming and unaccountable power over the people. And their transgressions are virtually un-punishable.

The Indian state is distant from the people, aloof and its officers maintain a barrier from coming into contact with society. This comes from a colonial tradition of the white sahib maintaining a distance from the natives. The State appears at the time of mass distress with doles and rescue operations or through state violence in times of mass upheavals.

The Indian State is not Hobbes’s Leviathan; it is an occasional bully and a careless protector

Which is why, we are faced with an utter crisis of governance.

Every Indian today seeks a reassurance from the Government on Security, equality before law, Justice Clean Environment, Health care and education. Yet the Government is trying to achieve all this through awareness programmes and appeal to the good sense of people. It just won’t work. There is no evidence for it.

India is diverse, with multitudes of poor people often separated by ethnicity, religion, caste, language, dialects and many more subdivisions which are not replicated in any other region of the world

A chaotic, emotional and often undisciplined people steeped in superstition and tradition is unlikely to self regulate themselves into a law abiding society. It simply will not happen.

We are a rapidly overpopulating nation. More than one Crore (10 Million) lives are added to the country through births alone. A meager Government cannot achieve Maximum Governance.

If indeed the Prime Minister wants to achieve Minimum Government, Maximum Governance, without increasing the size of the higher bureaucracy/ other Government employment, he will have to figure out

  1. How the Government will structure the role of non Government entities in such a manner that a decentralized model of urban local self governance can be created.
  2. How the Government’s General Financial Rules (GFRs) which are a compilation of rules and orders of Government of India to be observed by all Departments and Organisations under the Government and figure out how to involve Resident welfare Associations and other civil society Organisations in the urban governance.
  3. How to reduce direct taxation and promote municipal service providing through non Government entities.

Not everybody wants to participate regularly in the local Governance process. An overwhelming majority of people want to pay their taxes and go about their lives. A small minority, There about 100-150 active community members in any Municipal ward (60K Voters) who are keenly interested in participating in the affairs of their ward. The Government should consider tapping into this energy.

 

To understand this better, take a look at the New Urban Agenda formally adopted on 20th October 2016 at Quito in Ecuador

 

 

Guiding Principles

 

Actions

 

Leave no one behind, ensure urban equity and eradicate poverty

 

Providing equitable access for all, to physical and social infrastructure – Adequate housing and shelter at the center of the agenda – Public spaces as an enabler of socio-economic function of the city • Recognizing and leveraging culture, diversity and safety in cities • Enabling and strengthening participation and enhancing live ability and quality of life
Achieve sustainable and inclusive urban prosperity and opportunities for all

 

Enhancing agglomeration benefits of urbanization and avoiding land speculation, • Fair and equitable employment creation, productivity, competitiveness, diversification and • Innovation through a sustainable economic development
Foster ecological and resilient cities and human settlements

 

Driving sustainable patterns of consumption and production, • Protecting and valuing ecosystems and biodiversity, and • Adapting to and mitigating the impact of climate change while increasing urban systems resilience to physical, economic, and social shocks and stresses

 

 

At first glance, it would be apparent to the reader that the current Governance Mechanism cannot achieve even one of the aforementioned goals.

 

If at all the idea of Minimum Government and Maximum governance has to succeed the Government will have to re-design urban governance.

At this point the Government of India or State Governments are unwilling to change.  Though the 74th Constitutional amendment mandates it for Urban Governance and India is a part of UNCHS- Habitat 2000, and Now that India has been elected President of UN- Habitat, it is time for some quick moves towards ensuring Maximum governance. The Political System as well as the Bureaucracy has been impervious to change insofar as exercising adequate imagination to address the urban crisis. Time is short and the Political Class and the Bureaucracy will be left with declining options.

 

*The ideas on re- imagining urban communities for Good Governance will follow in another article

 

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URJA Editorial-यथा प्रजा, तथा राजा।

इस संस्करण में; आज की परिस्थिति में सार्वजनिक प्रशासन और स्थानीय राजनीती पर  सामाजिक व्यवहार का असर।

यह लेख हमारे समाज की एक बीमारी; विचारहीन तरफदारी, पर रौशनी डालेगा जो दिल्ली की बिगड़ी हुई शासन व्यवस्था का बहुत बड़ा कारण है.

बिना सोचे समझे, बुद्धि के प्रयोग के बिना कोई पक्ष ले लेना एक आदत सी  बन गयी है. सोशल मीडिया के आने से यह मनोवृत्ति और भी बढ़ती जा रही है. किसी भी मुद्दे को विचाराधीन करने से पहले ही बेबाक हो बयान दे देना या फिर पड़ोस में होने वाली हर अहम् बहस पर भाई-भतीजावाद करने लगना, नागरिकों के लिए अपने ही नुक्सान का कारण बनता जा रहा है. दुःख की बात तो यह भी है की हम इस बात पर ध्यान ही  नहीं दे रहे हैं की किस कदर यह सामाजिक परिस्थिति हमारा बेडा ग़र्क़ कर रही है

जब भी कूड़ा करकट, वायु प्रदूषण, गन्दगी, टूटी सड़क, जाम हुई नालियां या फिर सार्वजनिक भूमि पर अवैध अतिक्रमण की बात सामने आती है तो उसके पीछे बहुत हद तक इस प्रवृति का हाथ होता है

गौर फरमाइए, आपके इलाके में अगर नाली बंद हो जाये तो क्या सब निवासी एक ही आवाज़ में बोलेंगे? या फिर अगर सड़क टूटी हो तो क्या सब एक साथ होकर अपने पार्षद, विधायक और संसद के पास शिकायत ले कर जायेंगे ? हरगिज़ नहीं। साधारण से साधारण नागरिक भी, बिला वजह पार्टीवाद का हिस्सा बन जायेगा. अगर ऐसा नहीं होता तो आपके इलाके की सड़कें, नालिया, और ढलाव साफ़ होते , और सरकारी ज़मीन पर अवैध कब्ज़ा होते ही रोक दिया जाता।

हम अक्सर अपनी विफ़लता को राजनीती बोल, नेता के सर पर मढ़ देते हैं लेकिन ध्यान दीजिये, ये बीमारी तो हमने खुद पाली है , नेता का क्या दोष?

एक उद्धरण के माध्यम से इस मुसीबत पर प्रकाश डालता हूँ

अभी कुछ ही समय पहले दिल्ली के एक क्षेत्र में शराब की दुकान को लेकर कुछ ऐसा ही  हुआ. शुरुआत में ऐसा प्रस्ताव की शराब की दूकान रिहाइशी इलाके में खुलेगी, को लेकर वहां के लोगों ने विरोध करना शुरू किया. लोग सड़क पर उतर आये और जम  कर रोष प्रकट करते हुए बोले की वह अपने पड़ोस में शराब का ठेका नहीं खुलने देंगे

फिर क्या था, क्षेत्र के विपक्ष के नेता और निर्वाचित प्रतिनिधि भी मैदान  में उतर आये. बस यहां से खेल खराब होना शुरू हुआ और समाज की कमज़ोरी बाहर आ गयी. जहां नेताओं ने क्षेत्र के निवासियों पर एक छोड़ दूसरी या तीसरी पार्टी के मेंबर या अनुगामी होने का इलज़ाम लगाना शुरू किया , वहीँ लोगों में  ‘तरफदारी की बीमारी’ उत्पन्न हो गयी. कुछ लोग दुबक गए, कुछ अलग -अलग नेताओं के सामने बोलने में आनाकानी करने लगे, और कुछ चुप-चाप समझाने में लग गए की शराब की दूकान पास ही में हो, तो क्या बुरा है? विरोध अलग थलग हो गया.

सच तो यह है की वोट आप किसे भी दें, शराब आपके परिवार और बच्चों पर विपरीत असर डालेगी । शराब शरीर में घुस कर तरफदारी तो नहीं करेगी की फलां पार्टी के वोटर को कम चढ़ेगी और फलां पार्टी के वोटर को ज़्यादा। या फिर दुकानदार आपके बच्चे से ये तो नहीं पूंछेगा के ‘बेटा तुम्हारे पिता ने किसको वोट दिया क्योंकि उसके हिसाब से में तुम्हें शराब बेचूंगा या फिर नहीं बेचूंगा।’ जब शराब तरफदारी नहीं करेगी और शराब बेचने वाला नहीं करेगा तो लोग क्यों करने लग गए? क्यों इधर उधर भटक कर एक या फिर दूसरी साइड लेने लगे

ऐसा ही कुछ ट्रैफिक प्लानिंग में दक्षिण दिल्ली की एक अति धनवान कॉलोनी में भी हुआ. अब सब लोग ट्रैफिक में उलझे हैं लेकिन बिना सोचे समझे, ज़िद में, बिना दिमाग लगाए, राजनितिक साइड लेते हुए घर फूँक तमाशा देख रहे हैं

URJA में हम अक्सर देखते हैं की पुब्लिक और RWA अकसर इस तरह साइड लेने लगते हैं की टूटी सड़क, कूड़ा इत्यादि पर किसी भी तरह का कड़ा रुख अपनाया ही नहीं जा सकता। अफसर भी कुछ यूं सोचते हैं “की लड़ने दो इन लोगों को! और हम फ़ालतू में क्यों चक्कर में पड़ें?”

दिल्ली की बैड गवर्नेंस का यही एक बहुत बड़ा कारण है.

समझदारी तो इसमें है की कुछ ऐसे मुद्दे हैं, जैसे टूटी सड़कें, बर्बाद फुटपाथ, कूड़े के ढेर, सरकारी ज़मीन पर कब्ज़ा, सिक्योरिटी, बह निकलते हुए हुए सीवर, जिस पर हम, चाहे किसी भी पक्ष को वोट देते हों, उस के नेता से साफ़ साफ़ कह दें, की भाई यह नहीं चलेगा। हम किसी भी पार्टी से सरोकार रखते हों लेकिन दो टूक शब्दों में साफ़ साफ़ नेता से कह देना चाहिए कि ‘वोट की बात रही एक तरफ, लेकिन टूटी सड़क, गन्दगी, मच्छर काटने से बीमारी बर्दाश्त नहीं की जाएगी।

जनता से अनुरोध है की, समझदारी इसी में है की बिना सोचे समझे, बिना बुद्धि का प्रयोग करे, तरफदारी बंद कीजिये

आपके इलाके में वैसा शासन है, जैसा आप में से अधिकतम लोग चाहते हैं. जैसी करनी वैसी भरनी; हमारे पूर्वज व्यर्थ ही नहीं कह रहे थे।

आशुतोष दीक्षित

CEO

 

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URJA Editorial-Some Governance Basics

Every time the matter of garbage and bad governance comes up in our meetings, there is often the common comment that the

  • ‘Citizens are to blame also’ or that
  • ‘We have no ‘civic sense’,
  • ‘We must not ask of the Government but must also do it ourselves’

On the face of it statements such as these sound reasonable and create a sense of temporary guilt and shame in the mind of the citizen and taxpayer. This type of discussion in public meetings usually ends the discussion with people simply feeling helpless as if they are no good.

Over the years this thinking has been reinforced by the State Administration and the officers as it suits them to shift the moral blame on residents for their own administrative incompetence and corruption.

Recently in a posh area of south Delhi, no less than the Commissioner of SDMC, an I.A. S officer, made a ‘surprise visit’. A day before this ‘Surprise’ visit many encroachments were temporarily removed. During the course of his visit the Commissioner noted, that residents had thrown kabaad in their back lanes and covered their drains leaving them difficult to clean. The Commissioner pointed out that residents were responsible for the problem and should introspect, & the suitably embarrassed the RWA wrote a note chastising the members that they must themselves ‘introspect’ on this

The situation remains the same. The encroachments are back, the back lanes remain dirty

On similar complaints, the Municipal councillor landed up with a whole team, touting ‘swachh bharatabhiyan as motivator, joined by party colleagues and cleaning staff. The whole lot including the Councillor started sweeping.  Many Residents were all excited and started clapping. This was a major photo opportunity; the photo etc. was shared in whatsapp groups. At the end of all this tomfoolery, things remain the same

This is an example of how misled we are and how much it suits the officers and the politicians to perpetuate this thinking. It also shows that a combination of ignorance and laziness can keep even educated residents trapped in the same place.

This is important to understand, that ordinarily most people are law abiding but as a corrupt and lazy administration allows a few people to get away, more and more people take to breaking the law.

Please do not believe that residents in other countries are better human beings, but please believe that other countries punish law breakers and there Civic responsibility becomes reward able

Let us have a look by way of a table of what is happening and how we are misled into believing that are bad citizens, when in reality our officers a lazy and inefficient.

The distinction marked below can be applied to almost all areas of public administration

 

Wrong Way- Delhi will remain a Filthy city Right Way- Delhi will be a world Class city
SDMC Commissioner lecturing that Drains should not be covered The Commissioner ordering  immediate demolition/or penalties as per law and ordered an inquiry upon his officers for letting this happen
This not lack of Civic Sense This is illegal
SDMC Commissioner lecturing  that Kabaad should not be thrown in the back lanes

This not about lack of Civic Sense

 

The Commissioner ordering fines and penalizing the builders as well as residents for violating the law and relevant provisions of the DMC  act

This is about punishment for illegal activity

The Municipal councillor, no matter how excitable and sycophantic he is, is not meant to begin municipal work himself

 

The job of the councillor is to take civic problems to the corporation and get the Departments to act. He is not a Govt officer (even if he likes to think so) and does not have to perform Municipal roles designated for Municipal officers or staff
Councillor Sweeping back lanes are an aberration & example of very bad Governance should not be applauded by the public and there is nothing good about this activity to be shared on whatsapp. This public behaviour is harming the public

 

Public should have criticized him for failing to get the Government to work and not take the Voter for a ride by doing childish stunts. The public should have demanded that he ensure MCD action. This behaviour helps the public
This pattern of behaviour will result in remaining in garbage and filth, broken roads and encroachment. This is how our ‘Administration’ and misguided residents behaves and we remain a backward city

 

This is how Administration in USA, UK, France Tokyo, and Hong Kong would have behaved and that is why they are advanced Cities. This is how their officers behave and their residents demand for being taxpayers.
Officers will be paid for sitting in office and making money out of corruption &Indian taxpayer will be fooled continuously & will be blamed for not having civic sense. This wrong attitude shown above will ensure that Delhi will be a filthy city Delhi will be a clean city, The Tax payer would be rewarded and provided with services, the officers will have to work for their salary, & corruption will come down. Delhi will be a world class city

 

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Centrists must demand an amendment in the constitution

In the life of a nation, an idea must only be tested over a finite period of time; if the stated objectives are not met within this fixed time frame, then the idea must be modified and put to test again.

Strategic thinking requires making the necessary changes in our laws, in accordance with the needs of a changing society. That is the intelligent way to growth. Slavish adherence to one view, no matter how authoritative the source, is no different from religious mania.

In the year 1934, when our country was in the throes of the fight for independence, and our leaders strived towards making a new India, the idea of a constituent assemble for undivided India was proposed by the great humanist M.N Roy. Soon it became an official demand of the Indian National Congress and was accepted by the British on 8th august 1940.

Since independence, and the meeting of the constituent assembly of a divided India on 14th August 1947, several laws have been introduced time and again by the Indian parliament, and on several occasions the Judiciary has intervened to put an end to discriminatory laws. Similarly in laws relating to divorce and succession, the laws of the Hindus have been changed (and rightly so) as well as accepted by progressive sections of this society.

The Christian marriage act too was amended by the parliament in keeping with changing times and to end discriminatory practices, but when it comes to the sharia laws, any attempt to introduce a uniform civil code is perceived by the Muslim community as imposed majoritarianism.

The most politically significant Minority in India are the Muslims. Minorities like the Sikh and Christians are less in number & of lesser electoral significance to ideological factions that can exploit them and therefore: when it comes to Islam, the situation becomes completely different in such a manner, that in terms of a ‘minority’ the status of Muslims assumes a different significance altogether.

India has the 2nd largest Muslim population in the world (about 200 Million) which is a number sufficiently large to not be a minority in any real sense. With the visible and weaponised rise of Global political Islam, the social strife and conflict in European societies from massive Muslim migration, and in India, Jihadi politics and cross border association with terrorism in Kashmir, it is naïve to assume that the common man will buy into the complex arguments that are required to keep such ‘secular’ policies in place.

But what makes Muslims unable to keep pace with contemporary social change in India, despite being an inseparable part of the country’s history as well as being deeply embedded in some way in all things Indian?

In my view it is the Indian Constitution.

With the 42nd amendment of the constitution in 1976, the word “Secular”, too was added to the preamble of The Indian constitution. Let us now look at our modes of secularism.

This unusual, model of secularism, demands regressive social practices of the majority Hindus to be dismantled but protects and promotes regressive social practices of the minorities. It is a strange model arrived through negotiations between secular ‘Hindu’ thinkers and ‘Minority’ thinkers in the constituent assembly.

It is a model where Hindu temples can be controlled by the Government and their proceeds used for Secular purposes while minority institutions have no such obligations. It is a model of Secularism where religious institutions, schools and colleges run by the Minority community have privileges which are denied to the Majority religious community.

This concept of special privileges induces several other communities into asking for a minority status, the Jains being the last granted and Lingayats now demanding.

Rationally, a democracy cannot be conducted on the whims of a majority but logically it cannot also be conducted through ignoring the feelings of a majority. Equally it should not be conducted on the whims of a minority.

There may have been sound reasons, psychological, personal & political then, for the representatives in the constituent assembly, to have taken the positions they did and many of those decisions would have been prompted by the politics of those times.

The founding fathers of India, decided upon a model of secularism that was hitherto unknown to any great secular democracy of the world. I do not know of other great founding fathers that practiced loquacity, intellectual grandeur and pomposity with such ferocity.

Except in India, everywhere secularism (in secular countries), has meant equal rights and that personal laws, wherever they conflict with individual civil rights, be in line with the Country’s civil law.

Even though article 44 says, ‘The state shall endeavour to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India.’ In practice the other articles in the constitution make this a hollow proposition.

The recent Judgment of the Supreme Court on the matter of Instant triple Talaq only goes to show that in 2017 – 70 years after independence, in the largest Democracy of the world, the ancient right given to a man to unilaterally divorce his wife still remains. Instant Triple Talaq has been declared unconstitutional (by a margin of 3-2) but the unilateral right of a man to divorce his wife at will over a period of 3 months remains as a legally acceptable way of divorce.

The Indian Constitutional provisions that make it well nigh impossible for the parliament or the Judiciary to alter laws that were crafted for the Arab Society hundreds maybe a thousand years ago.

Dr. Ambedkar had pointed to this problem of capitulating in the face of Islamic pressure. His exact words to the constituent assembly were: “I personally do not understand why religion should be given this vast, expansive jurisdiction so as to cover the whole of life and to prevent the legislature from encroaching upon that field. After all, what are we having this liberty for?”

We are having this liberty in order to reform our social system, which is so full of inequities, so full of inequalities, discriminations and other things, which conflict with our fundamental rights.”

But the pressure was high from the Muslim members in the Constituent Assembly. Addressing the constituent assembly Maulana Hasrat Mohani had said: “I would like to say that any party, political or communal, has no right to interfere in the personal law of any group. More particularly I say this regarding Muslims. There are three fundamentals in their personal law, namely, religion, language, and culture which have not been ordained by human agency. Their personal law regarding divorce, marriage and inheritance has been derived from the Quran and its interpretation is recorded therein. If there is any one, who thinks that he can interfere in the personal law of the Muslims, then I would say to him that the result will be very harmful. Musalmans will never submit to any interference in their personal law and they will have to face an iron wall of Muslim determination to oppose them in every way.”

Dr. Ambedkar had in the same assembly, expressed his views thus:  “Coming to the question of saving personal law . . . if such a saving clause was introduced into the Constitution, it would disable the legislatures in India from enacting any social measure whatsoever. The religious conceptions in this country are so vast that they cover every aspect of life, from birth to death. There is nothing which is not religion and if personal law is to be saved, I am sure about it that in social matters we will come to a standstill. I do not think it is possible to accept a position of that sort.”

On the one hand it can be said that its nobody’s business what the minorities do with their personal laws, but when a very large population of a country remains steeped in archaic laws it affects the entire country, and the Left liberal aristocracy along with some political parties prefer to keep the Muslims backward – as an army – that they can use to apply political pressure for their own advancement.

The intelligentsia should have been in the forefront of an honest debate –  take for example the charge that that UCC will necessarily be a Majoritarian imposition – this is not only flawed but deliberately misleading – but the overweening, faux liberal intelligentsia along with Marxists has created a version of thinking, seemingly rational & high minded thought that even those who see through its corruption and politics are tricked into unwittingly examining everything through a prism that will eventually lead them to believe that the left liberal narrative alone is righteous, fair, secular & equitable and the rest is fascist, communal and regressive. This is because of the all pervasive leftist siege on institutions.

Let’s talk of some Hindu laws – the law relating to divorce in Hindus for instance – is not a Hindu concept. There was no concept of divorce in Hinduism. It is a civil law import into the Hindu marriage act which has been accepted as it should have been. Similarly Hindu laws related to succession were found discriminatory and struck down by courts. This too has found acceptance, and rightly so. That this has changed everything socially on the ground and in Hindu communities is certainly not the case. But the law does allow the aggrieved to have their rights restored. More needs to be done and the provisions in the Constitution allow the parliament and the Courts to do that.

All this talk of change in personal laws of Muslims as ‘majoritarianism,’ holds no water.

In Islam, Talaq is practiced as a unilateral right that is only a man’s. Any argument to the contrary, quoting the provisions of ‘Khula,’ is certainly disputable. In Khula (release) a woman does not have any unilateral right. The wife can seek dissolution, after seeking permission from her husband, which he can refuse. Khula also requires her to return the Mahr as well.

Khula being touted by left liberals as quid pro quo and equal empowerment for women in Muslim Personal law is misleading the public at large and is a disservice to Muslim women in particular.

The constitution of India cannot become secular by the mere insertion of that word in its preamble.

This is an issue of humanity and fairness that is being blocked because of the mistakes made 70 years back by the constituent assembly. It is a Constitutional Anomaly that must be righted.

In 1931, 90% of India was illiterate. It has today a high youth literacy rate. The population is chiefly under the age of 35, Votes in high percentages, and has access to information. It won’t buy into what appears shady to it.

Because of political exigencies, and the slothful nature of our systems, it is a difficult model to change fast enough, but change it must, to achieve equity; social and economic growth & liberty for at least those Muslim men & women who choose to live a secular life and for India to be free from this model that creates a false sense of entitlement and simmering resentment at the same time for both Hindus and Muslims.

Centrists must take this opportunity to wrest the motivated narratives of the extreme fringe of the right as well left and be truly liberal. The historic mistakes made regarding the positioning of Indian Secularism must be changed and the constitution amended suitably.

 

 

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URJA Editorial- July 2017

The Megalopolises of New York, London, Tokyo, Hong Kong, and others manage huge amounts of solid waste daily and effectively. In some cases the waste generation in these cities is much more than in Delhi.

Delhi fails in effective handling and disposal of all aspects of waste management. It fails in municipal solid waste management; it fails in C&D waste as well as electronic waste management.
A permanently staffed and educated state administration shows its lack of will & motivation to manage waste effectively, time and again

How it is, that Delhi is unable to manage its waste? Why such incapability in Delhi? How is it that other big cities of the world with high population density, multiple ethnicities, democratic discord, and large number of cars, people and limited boundaries have managed while Delhi administration is floundering?

Being totally unaccountable to the public the officialdom, safe & secure in their permanent jobs tends to ignore the task of daily administration. The attention in the media too is focused persistently on the odd statement of the elected representatives and the state functionary in the Government departments almost always gets away with impunity.

For years the citizens of Delhi were bombarded by that Government programme called ‘awareness campaigns’. From the safe environs of their offices the state administration ran programmes reminding people how littering and throwing garbage in public was bad. Even more programmes were run on lecturing about waste segregation. These programmes have had limited success and have passed their ‘use by’ date
‘Finding Sustainable Solutions’ is now the new mantra to keep the citizen guessing while filth collects around the Dhalaos and by lanes. After years of sustainable solutions being put out by various expert groups within and outside the government, after well known solutions that work everywhere have been proposed in India, and have been successfully implemented elsewhere, the State administration continues to rely on the excuse of looking for solutions to delay action on the ground.

This deliberate laziness, escapism and negligence on part of the Administration must be called out, pointed out and penalized. It is a pity that our judicial system has failed in providing compensation to the suffering tax payer. Without penalties imposed on officers for dereliction of duty, all residents get is to hear of yet another Committee being set up to deal with Civic Malfunctions . We go round and round in circles and the city residents suffer

The Media too has mostly kept its focus on the sensational and political aspects of waste and has ignored the abject bureaucratic apathy, and inefficiency on part of the state administration

Public spirited citizens must get this. They must raise their voice to protest this delaying tactic and escape route in the garb of awareness programmes and solution finding meetings being carried out by the administration.
There is much corruption in the business of waste and entrenched vested interests do not allow change easily. The pre existing economic model for waste has run its course and new economic models which are fairly well known must be made a part of the reform process

Citizens must turn their focus on the State administration and call its officers to account. Law enforcement on the public and making officers accountable for the failure to implement the SWM 2016 rules should be our demand. That would be the most effective awareness programme as well as the solution.

 Ashutosh Dikshit

CEO

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URJA Editorial- June 2017

Heedless Politicking is disenfranchising the citizen

In late 2012, some citizens in the Alaknanda, GK2, CR Park area of Delhi began to ask questions about DDA’s sanction of a Huge Mall in the middle of SFS flats. Un serviced by any major road and in the immediate vicinity of schools this project on community Centre land was clearly an ill-conceived project which would be detrimental to the quality of life and environment of the community

No sooner had the questions begun the citizens who had raised concerns began to be branded as belonging to this political party or the other. This attack came from sundry local level political activists and other vested interests associated with the politicians of the area. Since the group of citizens were professionals and had done their homework they were able to counter petty political attacks with facts and since they were a group of committed individuals they did not back down
However, standing up to political noise is not easy and not everybody has the mettle for it.

We often notice that in local area and municipal wards or assembly constituency any genuine concern or questions raised by a citizen is quickly branded as proxy questioning from one political party or the other. Apart from the general complaint on garbage and roads any question regarding policy, projects or quality of work produced by the authorities is quickly branded as political questioning.

The RWA, actively engaged in keeping an eye as well as assisting last mile too are concerned with this. Raising genuine concerns of the residents persistently often invites attacks from local political elements as well as some politicized residents.

This phenomenon is not new and worries the ordinary citizen about being falsely identified with a political party, thereby scaring him from raising genuine questions. This is problematic as it helps the corrupt and the inefficient within the system to get away with substandard work. Questioning a policy of the Municipal corporation, State Government or the Centre invites attack and accusations from the political party which heads the respective administration and results in abject failure of the policy when it reaches implementation stage. It breeds corruption as only a few people benefit from the contractor-official-politician nexus in projects that follow.

We all see the mindless, petty, and noisy announcements & protests daily by political parties. Opposition for the sake of opposing & creating a daily flutter for themselves and TRPs for channels is of little use for the citizen who finds herself in the same situation watching the daily antics of political activists and their cohorts.

Political parties do not always work in the interest of the people. They work in the Party’s interest by appropriating Government power through election by the people. Once in charge they resist any sort of questioning that may open them to questioning.

The Citizen as well as RWA executives, must not be browbeaten by the slants and petty pricking done by local political activists and their associates within the colonies.
This is not to say that the government must listen to every protest and objection. That would bring the administration to a stop.

The Citizen and the RWA should not be concerned much about motivated political activists accusing them. The citizen & RWA have a right to ask questions of the government and ask questions we will. An inquiry about the intention, policy, and quality of execution of public work is not an accusation. It is a question and Govts must answer the questions.

The RWA and citizens’ groups must repeatedly ask of their government. it is not only their right, it is also their duty

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URJA Editorial -May 2017

Monday the 5th June 2017, is world Environment day. On this day several government, public & private entities will hold events, ceremonies, campaign launches and media briefs to repeat the problems faced by Delhi as the most polluted city in the world. It will likely pass of as just another day of tokenism about the environment.

Delhi is enveloped by the foulest air on the planet, the river Yamuna is dangerously polluted with chemical and biological toxic agents, the rivers flood plains are ravaged, the city’s water bodies have dried or are overflowing with Debris and other such calamitous warnings are fairly regular in the media and from environmentalists.

Delhi has the highest GDP among all cities in India as well as the highest per capita Income in the country. The most polluted city in the country is economically doing well but the money earned by its residents and taxes earned by the Government are being wasted as Delhi has the highest number of cancer, heart disease, diabetes and asthma cases that are rising steadily with specially amongst infants, the elderly & pregnant women.

The scale of this problem is so huge that nothing less than the Central government needs to step in with urgency to deal with this emergency. The Centre has rightly notified the graded a response action plan wherein the Min. of Environment and Forest has notified that….’Whereas high level of air pollution in Delhi and National Capital Region of Delhi has been a matter of serious concern and requires urgent measures to address the issue, particularly with reference to episodic rises in pollution levels;…

However, even though the average AQI for the two years starting from January 2015 to December 2016 has fluctuated between Very Poor, Poor and Moderate categories of pollution the notification by the center is not being acted upon

URJA maintains that pollution is a governance issue and its rising levels indicate nothing but poor Governance. Garbage, choked drains, foul air and toxic river are markers of bad governance.

To get an understanding of the situation please read this excerpt from the latest Praja report on civic services in Delhi (@praja.org)

‘The total number of complaints in the last three years for ‘Sewerage’ related complaints were 17,284 but only two issues were raised by Councillors (2014, 2015 and 2016) and two by MLAs on it (2015 and 2016).’ & ‘during April 2015 to March 2016 the BJP has raised only one issue on environment/pollution, although the topic was mentioned in its manifesto. This is particularly worrisome as Delhi has been grappling with record-breaking air pollution in the recent past. ….’

If the representatives of the people are not raising the concerns and hazards faced by residents and are neither bringing up the failure of what was promised in their manifestos, then something is very seriously wrong!

The Deliberative wing of the Municipal Corporations & the Delhi Assembly is where the people elected by us are meant to ask questions and implement corrective measures.  If the chief concerns of the citizens are not even being raised there it shows an abject failure of representative democracy.

The Delhi Clean Air Forum in its second phase (DCAF2), set up by URJA last year, intends to address this issue.  Beginning with its first meeting in the India International Centre it extended the program outreach to Schools starting with a detailed presentation to the Students of Sanskriti School, Delhi.

Now the DCAF2 is likely to be attended by all major educational and religious institutes, MLA, MLC, Zonal sanitary in charge, environment & youth groups, key RWAs, MTAs and their important members and representative of Delhi Police.  Beside these, DCAF2 will also witness a large number corporates actively working with urban communities.

It must also be said that, the political class has also voiced its frustration with Delhi’s citizenry. That too must be put on record. The elected leaders feel helpless against the public indiscipline, habitual law breaking, littering, rampant public urination, spitting and encroachment on public lands/footpath etc. Even posh colonies of South Delhi have so called educated residents throwing household waste and garbage filled in poly bags into their back lanes. . Restaurants discharge untreated grease and kitchen waste into sewers in some top South Delhi markets placed within residential area and community centers. Construction & renovation leaves dust flying all around and Malba dumped in public places.

Privately URJA has been told by political representatives that, given many political parties and therefore a variety of political choices available with a large percentage of voters they simply cannot risk annoying even a small section of the citizens. This simply results in leaving residential areas to their own devices with no elected leader taking any decisive stand and only making pleasing promises.

This will not do! We urge the RWA, NGOs and citizen’s groups to declare that sullying our neighbourhood will simply not do and people indulging in such activity will be named and shamed or reported to authorities. On their part, the authorities must act decisively with the full force of the law to punish/penalize law breakers if any improvement in Delhi’s deplorable and critical state of affairs is to be expected.

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URJA Editorial-April 2017

This edition of the newsletter was delayed as we waited for the results of Municipal elections in Delhi

The BJP, through its strategy of shedding the baggage of bad governance by shedding its own sitting councillors, and inducting a fresh batch of candidates to contest, has paid off electorally. The AAP, which comes a distant second has clearly been subjected to public displeasure. The congress which tried very hard failed to get much public support as the public see it as a party of dated ideas and uninspiring leadership.

The question we ask in URJA is; Does this change anything at all?

The AAP is still in Power as the State Government in Delhi and the BJP is back in the Municipal Corporation which is no different from the situation prior to these elections

It has been called a referendum on the Chief Minister’s performance in Delhi. Does it mean, by the same yardstick that it is a referendum on the MCDs performance as well? Surely the latter cannot be true.

But was this a vote on Delhi’s festering issues at all? Perhaps not. It was a vote on choosing between the leadership style of the Prime Minister & That of Delhi’s Chief Minister. Since there is a stark difference in both leadership styles, it was only natural that the public would be sharply divided in making their choices.

What should be said at this point is that the people of Delhi are failing to see that merely replacing one elected by another will not change things.  Good governance in Delhi has little to do with democratic representation anymore. Delhi suffers from excessive politics. It is full of elected representatives, political players, party activists and several other political creatures who harm Governance more than they can help. Delhi requires a smart and accountable administration. Delhi has a Master Plan, the MPD 2021, it is a statutory document, which is meant to be used as a road map for the city’s development. Delhi’s RWAs should push for its implementation and question the different departments if they have failed in implementing the provisions of MPD20121. The National vector Borne disease control Programme(NVBDCP) has a policy for fighting Dengue & Chikungunya. Fogging is not really recommended for fighting this Scourge. The RWa Instead of running to their Councillors for the annual drama of fogging to mislead the people, should instead put pressure on the Lt. Governor and the Municipal health officers responsible for this.

Delhi’s problems are vast and the administrative mechanisms inadequate. The state administration is conservative and mired in red tape. However, Delhi has an advantage. Being the country’s capital it also has some of the topmost experts in the field of technology, waste management, urban planning, environment, policing & security, and other disciplines that Delhi so desperately needs inputs from. Delhi also as an interested citizenry which is politically aware and socially active

We urge the new Municipal leadership as well as the Municipal and state Bureaucracy to be open to building collaborative mechanisms with Resident Welfare Associations(RWA), expert groups and other citizens’ collectives to work together to Renew Delhi.

A young lot of corporators has come into the municipal corporation and we hope that the state leadership of the BJP will be able to direct their energies positively and not let them get jaded and cynical as has often been the case in the past.

 

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URJA Editorial March 2017

The Municipal elections are due soon. Once again, after 5 years the task of electing the 272 municipal councillors will take place. The councillors represent the public of Delhi to the Municipal corporation in local issues such as parks, garbage and solid municipal waste management, internal roads, StreetSide hawking, Primary health care & education, and parking as well as sanction of building plans

The Municipal Corporators form the bed rock of representative democracy in the city and it can be easily said that the status of a municipal ward is significantly impacted by the Municipal councillor. Over the years much has been said about corruption etc., yet at the local level corruption does not seem to matter much. Corruption is very much a daily part of life in India and citizens themselves are participants in it in varying degree thereby making it a less important issue as compared to getting the Municipal Officers to work.

The public is concerned with efficiency and delivery of services and how they can go about their lives and pay their taxes, educate their children, and earn a living without broken roads and footpaths, overflowing garbage, inadequate lighting, dirty parks, the annual scourge of dengue and chikungunya and other such local issues which no political party has been able to resolve and get the officers in the various departments to deliver.

There is no data available with the public that can verify to it if any promises made by all political parties were fulfilled even minimally. However, RWAs have long memories and remember the promises made by parties in their last manifesto.

URJA has written to the election commission more than once that;

‘To begin with, we urge you to consider adding a column where a candidate who contests an election more than once, files an affidavit with the commission declaring the extent to which the promises made by him through his party manifesto in the past were fulfilled and provide ‘sufficient’ and ‘verifiable’ data to the commission to buttress his claim.’

So far, the election commission has not acted on our request but we shall continue to push for this.

We also have data* through RTI which shows us clearly that the questions raised by Municipal councillors in the house were very often not about the local grievances recorded by the Municipal corporations

The RWAs must make it a point to be more aware of facts and data and should duly bring it up with the councillors as well as candidates

The practice of carrying forward LAD funds from one year to the next and adding cumulatively has been used to deprive citizens of tax payer’s money allocated for regular use. We hope the voter will question this practice

The sudden spate of internal road work, multi Gym and park development that is taking place close to elections begs the question. What were the officers in the Govt. departments doing for the whole year? Why were citizens and voters deprived of these facilities throughout the year? How is the coming monsoon going to different for mosquito breeding? How can we ensure Government officers do their job?

At this point, most RWA as well as citizens are left wondering; what are permanently commissioned officers in pensionable jobs doing in their offices?

 

* Source- Praja.org

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