Too early to Talk

Too early to talk

Every now and then an article appears by columnists on describing the ongoing conflict between left and right in the social sector as well as in universities and other democratic institutions

Some articles are a passionate expression of feelings with an advice for a sane dialogue between different ideologies and beliefs.

The writers seem to have little direct knowledge of how vicious battles are fought between power hungry contenders & to negotiate between such clashing sides. All they are doing is using these events to vent their ‘feelings’.

A colder& less emotionally involved look is therefore important:

The events we are witnessing are not a battle for freedom of expression & tolerance.

The ongoing conflict is a battle for controlling the structures of power. On one side are people, inside forts, determined to retain their hold, and on the outside, are those who want to wrest control. Expecting a discussion is naive This is a fight between two factions, fueled by greed for power, money, and the trappings it brings. It is not a battle of ideas . Ideas are only being employed as weapons.

Political party cadre traditionally have had access to the spoils of war. Which is why it is the cadre which is at the forefront of all such battles. There are those, who are less obvious in their politics,  but are closely networked and plugged in to the power hierarchy. They too will fight albeit surreptitiously.

‘The idea of India’ is not at stake. At stake is; control over the Bureaucracy, Police,Military, Institutions of learning, Corporate houses, State &International Funding etc, through which money, influence, power, and pleasures are acquired.

This conflict will get more bloody minded, down and dirty and ‘anything goes’ will be employed righteously by both sides. 

At this point of time, lectures on being ‘nice and talk it out’ will not help. This battle will rage for some time. It is only after some of the spoils are re-distributed, will the two sides begin to see any sense in having a conversation. That’s not happening anytime soon.

To those who are in politics and are a part of the political cadre, just go for it! There are returns.

But those who are not, don’t froth too much and don’t mess up your heads over this battle. Most of all, don’t become cannon fodder.

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The Political gamble of demonitisation

I really do not know for sure, how much or in what way, demonetization will affect the economy or black money in the long run. But I do think that The Government of India will not back off from this move. On the contrary it will get even more aggressive on it and other such steps. It will just tweak some operational stuff to ease short term pain.

The National English TV media is not a very good indicator. Political parties, in poll bound states, are careful about how they attack the Government’s move. It is the political units with no stake in the forthcoming elections that are making the most noise. The congress in Punjab has avoided this issue and deftly continued its focus on SYL.

I suspect that the virulence of the opposition attack can also be seen as proportional to their discomfort with the political advantage the BJP can garner from this move. AAP will be particularly negatively affected as its vote bank is not caste or religion based and this move of the Centre may appeal to poorer sections of society that are angry at being left out of the benefits of economic growth. Worse, AAP woke up somewhat after congress workers started assisting people in long queues with water and tea etc.  Maken was quicker than Kejriwal in seeing that ‘on street’ advantage. There are murmurs that the poorer residents of the city are ‘not that angry’.

In a few days the people will forget the discomfort that they are currently going through and will remember this as a decisive move by Narendra Modi, against black money held by the rich. It is a big bold gamble NaMo has taken but a lot will depend on the BJP’s state units in the coming elections.

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Union of India Vs Aedes Aegypti & Ors

Today’s newspapers carried pictures of friendly politicians beaming into cameras with their colleagues from opposition parties. Jointly they will fight the scourge they claimed. Sorry to burst your bubble friends, but all politicians jointly trying to fight the armies of Aedes mosquito is akin to a group of sulking colleagues holding hands and shouting slogans in front of a battle tank.

For almost a decade the Government of NCT of Delhi has tried to contain this menace but failed. For almost the same time the politicians have promised that they will do all they can and promised to do it. They too have failed.

It can be believed, given the benefit of doubt, that the Delhi Administration is genuinely interested in fixing this problem. It can also be confirmed that they will fail. They do not have the army required to fight this menace

The Garbage situation in the city though unconnected with the Aedes mosquito is in a similar phase. The Government does not have the wherewithal, expertise or the gumption to fix it. At best the three Municipalities can pull out a global tender and ask a big concessionaire to carry away the waste. That too will fail. Despite it being the Prime Minister’s initiative, despite the Municipal solid Waste rules being notified, despite everybody paying lip service to swachhta and despite the big ads not a single municipal ward out of the total 272 in Delhi has been able to segregate and compost its waste. Big talk, zilch delivery

It is no longer a question of the Government’s intent or of that inexplicable expression ‘political will’ it simply means that the Government and the Political leadership are incapable of dealing with these crises even if they want to. They just don’t know how to.

The problems are so widespread that they require an unprecedented and extensive mobilization of local communities, school children, teachers, doctors and NGOs at the ‘every colony and block’ level to achieve any significant result.

The RWAs of Delhi, which form the key elements of last mile governance, have repeatedly asked the Government and Municipal corporations to deal directly with the RWA at the ground level with support to mobilize volunteers, local activists, experts & doctors at the local community level. All requests have fallen on deaf ears. The Bureaucracy hides behind ‘busy in meeting ’and ‘gate passes’ kind of distancing and the politician just does not know what to do. All he is certain of is; that no empowerment should happen further down the food chain.

The residents are miffed that all sorts of taxes and cess are collected from them, all sorts of central funds are allocated but not a single penny seems to be coming down to the last mile for fixing health and sanitation challenges of the most basic kind

The Government, at the centre and state (regardless of political party) will have to work with the RWA of Delhi to even begin to make a dent. Without the RWA the Government does not stand a chance. Not at least with waste and mosquitoes.

15th Sept 2016

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ज़रुरत में गधे को बाप बनाना

“zaroorat mein gadhe ko baap banana”( ज़रुरत में गधे को बाप बनाना)

This is a peculiar Indian Idiom. I have researched much but not found a similar saying in other parts of the world. I have come across literature where ‘making a donkey out of your father’ is practiced by some rascals , but ‘Making a donkey your father’ is like taking it to another level altogether, and is nowhere to be found except in India

I have been reflecting much upon this. I have been thinking, if this is what we have been doing for very long in the past, that has gotten us where we are. I mean the total collapse of urban infrastructure, traffic,health services and the environment. And this is not about politicians so nobody need get all pompous, petulant and upset. I am like talking generally about society.

Now giving Maan Sammaan (मान सम्मान) is a part of our culture, we touch feet, we supplicate, we venerate and we do chamchagiri(चमचागिरी), but I suspect that the long term effect of several people doing all this, by making Several Donkeys their Fathers, is now taking its toll.

We need a new strategy (or would it be a new narrative?) where donkeys are required to be positioned differently in our lives.

 

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The changing dynamics of global conflicts and Kashmiri youth

There is much debate on Kashmir, post the killing of the Kashmiri Youth Burhan Wani by the security forces. As each one in India takes stated positions and remains locked there we forget that the worldwide dynamics is different and extends beyond just the regular bhakt and liberal kind of spats that Indians indulge in on twitter and Fb.
One has to view the power dynamics in a globally connected world differently and beyond JNU –ABVP limited student politics. Kashmir is only a minor sub- construct, albeit closer.

Islamic militants, Taliban, ISIS, Al Qaeda etc, Communists, left intellectuals & Academics, are now a network within and cutting across pre-existing organised states and militaries. There are shades of course, but broadly this is the network that is pitted against the status quo of Elected Democratic Governments, Economies and Military in the West and in Asia. This network is in some cases highly organised and connected and in other cases loosely linked but broadly they are in the business of disrupting the current structures of organised state power (or take advantage of it if they can). They have sympathizers in the media and politics who are on the safer side of this combine with hard core Islamic militants comprising the other far end.

The internet and rapid connectivity allows this network to operate within states with militant cells and intellectual justifiers.

Conventional politics and state armed forces cannot easily take on this combine because it is everywhere in different forms. Except in China & Israel which will brutally shut them down, this ‘network’ operates in Islamic countries through religious groups and has the capacity to strike violently within, and does the same through militant sleeper cells in Non Islamic democracies in Europe, Africa and Asia as well. The Left offers justification for their actions as a legitimate act of counter violence to past wrongs

There are some Hindu and Christian militia in India and in U.S perhaps but they are toddlers in comparison, and neither have the weaponry, the explosive guerrilla warfare capacity of Islamic militants nor do they have the Left’s depth of reasoning and intellectual capacity to secure intellectual legitimacy for their  little ‘brigades & senas’. The Hindu right is troublesome indeed and has the potential to be a violent mob but it is led by petty ‘goondaas‘ who can be straightened in a local thana under an unfriendly political dispensation. They do not have the strategic depth of Islamic militancy nor support from the ‘intellectual class’

Which side is right or justified? The democratically elected ‘State’ or the’ Non State’ with its sense of being disenfranchised is irrelevant. What is relevant is that the conventional dynamics of conflict has changed and it will be interesting to watch in the future where this disruption leads.

Insofar as Kashmir is concerned it will remain in the place it is. No mainstream political party in India will offer self determination to Kashmir. Left leaning groups will escalate or reduce their criticism of the Government of India depending solely on the politics of which dispensation is in power and on China’s position on Indo Pak relations.

In Pakistan too, no party or their Army will change their stance and will keep on demanding Kashmiri territory for themselves while maintaining support to militancy and terrorist attacks in India which they can and do at will.

Kashmir will remain a theatre of conflict for some years, boiling at times and simmering at some.

For the kashmiri youth, there is little hope. Their violence will be romanticized by vested interests in India and In Pakistan. They will likely fail to see much viable interest other than an ordinary job, hatred for India and a sort of fairy tale attachment to Pakistan and the Arab world. Some with ambition will migrate out of the valley to India, the Emirates or to the west, for the rest there is not much.

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Smart Politics Vs Smart Administration for Delhi

The Chief Minister of Delhi has come out with the State of Delhi Bill, 2016. This 18-page document places the Police, the Municipalities and the DDA under the Government of the State of Delhi. The Chief Minister promises a sea change in Delhi through its application. Similar demands have been made by other Chief Ministers of Delhi in the past

There are also demands that Delhi is best served by reverting to its Union territory status and placed under the charge of the Lt. Governor, who will represent the overwhelming power of the Government of India. There will be no significant elected representatives and the LG will be free to act through his officers.

On the other hand, there is a belief that Delhi (Barring the NDMC area & The Cantonment) being placed fully under a state Government of elected representatives in charge of PWD, Police, MCD, water & other services will be more effective. This would be like Governments in, U.P, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, and Tamil Nadu, Punjab etc.

Besides this there are believers that status quo be maintained.

In the meantime, no one in Delhi is clear which officer or department is responsible for preventing encroachments on roads, illegal construction, broken footpaths, vending zones, & solid waste management in colonies.  People are unclear as to who to complain to if sewers mix with storm water drains, the Police does not lodge FIRs, Ambulances do not reach in time, Stray dogs bite children, or what to do if trees are creeping into residences, monkeys take their clothes and people defecate on their boundary wall.

Our entire discourse and debate is centered on politics.  People enjoy these mudslinging debates even as they themselves suffer and the city of Delhi reaches a tipping point from where no return would be possible.

 In this piece I argue that we have sufficient democratic representation, participation & accountability in politics but have an underdeveloped administrative system which is obsolete, unaccountable and inefficient. It will not be able to deliver the promises made by any Government

Democratic State and Administration

India and its states are governed and administrated by a permanent bureaucracy, police, and tax, military and judicial administration that a political party temporarily presides upon. It has to be understood that a Democracy, a Dictatorship, a Theocracy or a Communist country can all be different ways in which people are collectively organised as a ‘State’ but it’s ‘administration’ is an altogether different matter

 Delhi has a democratically elected State government which presides upon some administrative functions; it has a democratically elected Municipality; And a democratically elected Political party at the Centre which presides upon the Police and parts of the state’s administration through the Lt. Governor

Delhi’s problem however, stem from the absence of a responsive, honest and efficient administration, not less democracy in its political structure.

Delhi’s citizen needs to know the Government department responsible for each service and wants to know which officer is to be held responsible for dereliction of duty and the compensation to the citizen for deficiency in services. The city does not care if the Police or MCD is under the charge of the LG or the CM as long as they do their job in an efficient, responsible and honest manner.

Why have Governments failed to deliver on promises; Explaining administration & Multiplicity of Authorities

India and Delhi is administered through its Bureaucracy, Police and Judicial administration which was originally established by the British colonial Rulers to serve the ends of an imperial colonising power. This colonial construct of the bureaucracy continues to this day. Citizens approach officers with servility, sycophancy and salaam. This is openly visible in any office.

There will be several different departments that are required to undertake tasks and deliver on the Political mandate of the ruling party  or address the needs of Citizens. The State therefore will operate through multiple authorities.

The problem however is not the ‘multiplicity of authority’ but the ‘opacity’, ‘un-accountability’ and ‘obsolescence’ with which each authority functions.

And that The members of civil service serve at the pleasure of the President of India and Article 311 of the constitution protects them in such a manner that their removal from services is very difficult. The Government of India Act 1935 profoundly affected the constitution in terms of the civil Services which were virtually maintained as a continuation of the British colonial administration. The underpinnings of the bureaucracy remain remains anonymity, permanency and constitutional protection.

Each department can escape its responsibility since

  1. The duties assigned to each officer and each department is not known to the public and cannot be known at all even if it wanted. Anonymity is built into the scheme of things as it were.
  2. The responsibilities are divided over many officers and departments so no one in particular is responsible. This allows the officials to put the citizen in a ‘back and forth’ trap where he will go from one department to the other and back to the same or into a ‘circular trap’ where he will be sent off to one department after the other. Since there is no punishment for delay or misleading the citizen, this can go on till he is forced to compromise and submit to this system. A complaint against the officer is of little use as the system is designed to protect each other. The chance of a grievance being rectified is very low. Moving the court does not help much as the judicial administration is archaic and slow.

What has to be understood very clearly without any confusion is that it is the Department in the Government that is meant to address your problems and it is the officers serving there on salaries and perks that are expected to perform these duties to deliver the service to you.

Instead Indians have been falsely made to believe that it is your elected representative who is responsible. This is delusional, and causes voters to repeatedly direct their anger at the elected representative while the real culprit goes stock free and continues to get his paycheck, perks and will get a pension too. Every election we change our representative to rule over the same inefficient mechanism.

Your elected representatives face the same problem so why have elected leaders and the parliament not changed the bureaucracy?

The Nature of bureaucracy demands a degree of permanency of jobs or tenured positions for Government officials. This is a worldwide phenomenon and with good reason and intent. However other countries have managed to modernise and reform the bureaucracy  such that its efficiency has improved as compared to India which retains its colonial and feudal ruling ethos. As a result any political party, once it comes to power, uses the same bureaucratic instruments to ride roughshod over and manipulate the people as the preceding one did.

The courts too belong to the same archaic system and have not helped in clearing the air.

Take for instance this Judgment of the Hon’ble High court of Delhi in -MANUSHI SANGATHAN, DELHI Petitioner, versus GOVT OF DELHI & ORS. Respondents CM APPL.9308/2015 in W.P. (C) 4572/2007

The matter pertains to the municipal corporation being asked to remove encroachments and their plea that the Municipality was not responsible for clearing encroachments

……….‘The application seeks modification of the order of 30th April, 2015 by which certain encroachments in the main Chandni Chowk carriage way were directed to be removed in a time bound manner. North Delhi Municipal Corporation relies upon orders of the Principal Secretary (Urban Development) of the GNCTD dated 10.01.2012 and 24.02.2012 to say that the title in the roads now vests with the GNCTD. In terms of Section 298 of the Delhi Municipal Corporation Act, the title in all public streets and roads vests with the concerned Municipal Corporation. In the circumstances, the relief claimed cannot be granted. However, all authorities including the GNCTD are directed to cooperate in the execution of order dated 30th April, 2015. A compliance report shall be filed within two months…………”

 The Hon’ble Court, after clarifying, that it is indeed the municipality that is the owner of all roads and streets proceeds to direct all departments to cooperate. This leaves things unclear. It is not clarified if a particular department is meant to carry out clear orders or not meant to carry them out. How will the person responsible be identified in the midst of this collective responsibility of half a dozen departments assigned the same job? How will cooperation be measured? Who will be penalized on failure? No wonder that illegal encroachments remain unchecked in Delhi. The honorable courts have lectured much & passed many judgments but have not penalized any Government department or officer for illegal occupation of public spaces by unscrupulous elements.

Politics has reached its peak levels and can deliver nothing more to take us to the next level of efficient Governance

 The current CM of Delhi will not be in a better position than the CM of U.P, Bihar or West Bengal. Whether or not Delhi has full statehood does not make any difference

We are facing an administrative crisis; what should be done?

We have been busy focusing on democratic processes without paying adequate attention to administrative mechanisms. We have enjoyed changing politicians, got youth to vote and taken voting percentages to some of the highest in the world. We are replacing one driver after another for a damaged car in the hope of reaching our destination. Representative democracy has limits to the purpose it can serve in governance. Enhancing representation and participation alone will serve no purpose if the administrative arms are rickety & in a perennial state of uncertainty about their role. We remain burdened with a predominantly unreformed Bureaucracy of Administrators, Police, UDCs, LDCs, Constables and peons. The Administrative mechanism is archaic. That is the problem and not statehood or UT.

It is in turning our attention away from puerile politics and focusing it on the bureaucracy will we strengthen the administration.

Civil society groups & particularly the Resident Welfare Associations(RWA) must take note of this. As critical elements of Last Mile Governance the RWA should escalate the demand for the implementation of bureaucratic and police reforms. Civil society groups concerned with public policy and governance, and the RWA should:

  1. Demand the implementation of the accepted recommendations of the Administrative reforms commission- Reference  ARC 12th report on Citizen Centric Governance*
  2. Demand the implementation of the Supreme courts directives on Police reforms*
  3. Demand that the Results Framework document of the PMD, Cabinet Secretariat (RFD) be modified and extended to all government departments in Delhi and amend it to ensure that it is not manipulated by officers such to shrug off responsibility for their actions. In its current form the RFD is not worthwhile.
  4. Demand that the Lt. Governor and the Chief Minister of Delhi Publicly clarify the role of each government department in Delhi and identify to the public the officer punishable for dereliction of duty.

Refrences & further reading

*THE SEVEN DIRECTIVES FOR POLICE REFORMS-IN A NUTSHELL

Directive One: Constitute a State Security Commission (SSC) to: (i) Ensure that the state government does not exercise unwarranted influence or pressure on the police (ii) Lay down broad policy guideline and (iii) Evaluate the performance of the state police

 Directive Two: Ensure that the DGP is appointed through merit based transparent process and secure a minimum tenure of two years

Directive Three: Ensure that other police officers on operational duties (including Superintendents of Police in-charge of a district and Station House Officers in-charge of a police station) are also provided a minimum tenure of two years

Directive Four: Separate the investigation and law and order functions of the police

Directive Five: Set up a Police Establishment Board (PEB) to decide transfers, postings, promotions and other service related matters of police officers of and below the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police and make recommendations on postings and transfers above the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police

Directive Six: Set up a Police Complaints Authority (PCA) at state level to inquire into public complaints against police officers of and above the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police in cases of serious misconduct, including custodial death, grievous hurt, or rape in police custody and at district levels to inquire into public complaints against the police personnel below the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police in cases of serious misconduct

Directive Seven: Set up a National Security Commission (NSC) at the union level to prepare a panel for selection and placement of Chiefs of the Central Police Organisations (CPO) with a minimum tenure of two years.

(Extract CHRI- http://www.humanrightsinitiative.org)

 http://www.businesstoday.in/magazine/cover-story/prajapati-trivedi-on-need-of-economic-business-reforms/story/213481.html

STATE OF POLICING AND LAW & ORDER IN Delhi- Praja.org

http://www.performance.gov.in/?q=rfd-menu

http://bprd.nic.in/writereaddata/linkimages/1424233217-delhi-police.pdf

http://www.delhi.gov.in/wps/wcm/connect/DoIT_AR/administrative+reforms/home/circulars+and+orders/miscellaneous+circulars/reports+issued+by+second+administrative+reforms+commissioner

http://arc.gov.in/arc_12th_report/arc_12th_Report.pdf- Citizen Centric Administration

http://arc.gov.in/15threport.pdf

U.S Bureaucracy- http://www.nber.org/chapters/c8632.pdf

 

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Oligarchy of the unelected

Why are politicians unable to stop people from carelessly breeding dengue causing mosquitoes year after year at home, why are politicians unable to get people to segregate waste, Why can they not even begin to solve the parking mess, why are politicians unable to get toilets made and maintained, why are politicians so ineffective as leaders who can challenge the writ of the Khap Panchayats

Why have politicians failed to build consensus in communities to reduce dowry deaths, why have politicians failed to do much on gender equity, sexual harassment at work till pushed into a corner by courts?  Why is this task being only done by activists? Why are politicians scared to take the rights of the LGBT community into parliament? Why do politicians think they will fail this test of humanity?

Now consider the following illustrations

  • The matter concerning Art of Living and its use of the Yamuna river bank has seen silence from politicians except the odd pot shot taken. Only activists are arguing on what is of paramount interest to millions. One would think it should rightly be elected leaders doing this job
  • Look at Gay rights- No politicians. Look at marital rape- The arguments are offered by activists and Babas

Are Politicians simply indifferent to and unconcerned about issues that bother us? Or are they simply without moral authority? Are they incapable of thinking and arguing for what is right?

Is there anything such as politician’s moral influence? They take pot shots but they do not argue. I have not seen politicians take bold stand on any important issue of justice or public health. Scared of crossing stated party positions, scared of aggressive media interrogation and being challenged by activists, they abdicate their responsibility as leaders who are rightly placed to bring about socio-political change

There is a serious absence of political contribution to public discourse, and if not addressed by politicians themselves, will only reduce them further with dangerous consequences for democracy

This budget session of 2016, after long, gave many an opportunity to hear debates in the Parliament. Arguments, repartee, acerbic humour and challenging facts and fiction renewed faith in the parliament which is meant to argue and debate, so that, regardless of our political persuasion we have access to conflicting arguments. The arguments articulated by peoples’ representatives are significant. They reflect a certain reality and therefore, a reality check.

We are a democracy and our work is meant to be carried forward by a government made of elected representatives of the people. Parliamentary democracy works on the principle that the elected representative is better positioned to empathize with the needs of the public that elects them. This is why the idea of a minimum educational qualification for elected representatives has been met with resistance, and rightly so.

It is disheartening to see elected representatives from two major political parties becoming OEMs* for unelected activists and ideologues from the RSS and the left.  Both opposing ideologies (the left & the right) have become kind of ‘hatchet men’ for political parties to carry out their work in the media and public space. In this process activists have been positioned as champions of what is good for people and politicians are positioned as legislators out to exploit people.

The politician, despite being the peoples’ representatives has been perceived, as one ill-placed, to have any moral authority. The reasons for this are too varied for this piece. This moral authority becomes the sole preserve of the activist and it is believed that were it not for the activist the politician will sell off the country. This idea has taken such deep roots that, depending on your own ideology, activists whether on the right, or the left, have become the keepers of the Nation’s better instincts.

This disdain for those elected does not augur well for democracy. A convincing argument must also be tested at the altar of votesThe idea that ‘just because it gets votes does not make it right’, may be true, but if the intent of democracy is to ensure that  ‘what is right gets votes’, it can only emerge through the moral authority of political leaders and not through self-righteous indignation of the unelected.

It is only if electoral politics evolves through argument, victory and defeat in polls, the true work of democracy will be accomplished.  A politician’s job is difficult and his constituency should see him as their leader who should openly defend his own position, or the constituency’s’ interests, rather than sub- contracting ideologues to do that work. An elected position requires a clear willingness to engage variously in consensus building, power-sharing and accommodative arrangements within a diverse section of interests in the constituency. While it is also possible that political expediency can require that systemic change be deferred, or forgotten to further the needs of a re-election among a diverse & also a very easily divisible people.

This does not mean that a politician cannot assist or be supportive of progressive causes. Indeed the job of carrying together a large number of people to support change should come through a politician with moral authority in our country.

If political leadership and moral leadership are completely mutually exclusive then we are in for trouble

Elected representatives are the key players in building consensus as well as opposition in the task of taking forward the country through this push and slide. It is only through them that people can see the meaning of good Governments elected on the basis of valued principles. If not, the political leadership will continue to be seen as cynical and immoral & not much will change on the ground towards social transformation.

For principles of justice, equality, and equal opportunity to be truly meaningful, they must pass the test of votes. Justice, humanity, equal rights, clean air and water, saving our forests and rivers have to become popular enough to affect elections. Politicians have to be the ones to carry people along in this task in a democracy. Politicians privately admit to their inability to articulate a moral position but they are more often unable to lead their voters which has allowed an oligarchy of the unelected to fill the role, which in a democracy is meant for our elected representatives.

Politicians must recover lost ground. There is still time. They must seize all opportunity including the next parliamentary session to reinforce their ability to speak for progress for their voters, for what may be unpopular but is right.

Ashutosh Dikshit March 2016

*A company that markets a product manufactured by others under its own brand name.

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Photo of an injured woman- the freedom of confusion

There is this article going around on social media, with the picture of a woman airline staffer, an injured and obviously traumatized victim of a terrorist suicide bomb attack in Brussels. The correctness of putting up the photograph and questions of whether it is right or wrong are doing the rounds, with each click showing her picture and with people offering several views.

Never mind the hapless victim.

This question would not have arisen if this picture was of a mother breast feeding her child or tribal women in their natural attire. I am sure, this question has not arisen because a woman is injured but people are confused if a picture of her exposed in public, needs to be ‘talked about.

The writer in the article laments “yet we wear that responsibility lightly, clicking and sharing promiscuously’. This writer is also confused.

My point to the confused– And this includes the random ‘clickers’ on social media, who are sharing their confusion or commenting on such posts thereby knowingly or unknowingly spreading them.

If you are so confused, f*****d up and far from home in your head, do not put that picture up or share it, while you rely on the ‘freedom of confusion’. Wait till you get some clarity.

And if you are sure that it is correct, then have the balls to say so, and be thereby open to legal action that the victim may choose to take against you for your ‘freedom of expression’.

 

 

 

 

 

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Facebook’s River

The air in Delhi is the most toxic in the world. Yamuna in Delhi is in a terrible state. Activists are going blue in the face. Intense rage and sarcasm is being expressed in the media.  Vehement criticism, assertions and opinions galore are daily fare.

Governments of all political persuasions have been promising a clean-up. The laws are in place, courts have passed hundreds of favourable judgments, and Funds to the tune of thousands of crores have been allocated.

On social media there is largely very little thinking, as people share links to opinions of those who echo their own instincts. There is no need felt to think slowly and carefully. A position is taken based on an existing mind-set, ego vested in it and defending it for the next week becomes critical.

Since air pollution in Delhi is severely damaging our own children and disabling all of us in one way or the other, and we are all drinking filtered poisoned water, it stands to reason that we should enquire why the result is Zero. Why is nothing done?

To answer this first consider the following words. They are jumbled and you have to arrange them in the order of priority in your life.

New Car, new bike, basic housing, additional property, international vacation, clean air, tuitions for children, board exams, settling score with neighbours, caste based reservations for Government jobs, Donald trump, Kanhaiyya, JNU, football fields, best university for children, mutual fund, Sewage treatment for Delhi, investment, Success in chosen field of work, religious festivals, mata ki chowki, Malls, international vacations, living clean rivers, SUV, salary increase, career plan, personal fame and glory, health.

Now organise all these as honestly as possible into your list of preoccupations. And it will make clear where clean air and a living river fits into the City’s priorities.

River and air pollution are problems we just can’t seem to fix.

A severe imposition of the rule of law has been suggested: this is impossible given the political, human rights and humanitarian crisis that will erupt. It is never going to happen either for Delhi’s air or for Yamuna. Therefore, citizens and activists will gripe over tokens and symbols on social media and television. But it will not change. The Government will simply not invest in sewage treatment beyond a point as it has more pressing desires of its voters to fulfill. Equally it will not recover footpaths for the fear of annoying Hawkers and Voters who park their cars illegally.

If you examine the Chipko movement and the Niyamgiri hills movement, the missing element in campaigns that struggle for a pollution free Yamuna and Delhi can be noticed. Though not an all encompassing theory it may shed some light on what we are facing.

In the first, the people closest to the problem had a direct and vested interest in saving their trees for their own immediate and imminent emotional socio economic needs.  There was a sense of actual ownership not academic, or in principle ownership. They felt a connection, an attachment to their earth and nature as something deeply and profoundly connected to their life and livelihood. It was not only an academic proposition.

Similarly in the Niyamgiri agitation, even as NGO and activists spearheaded the movement it was the local tribals who were deeply connected to the soil and hills in economic, social and spiritual ways. Even though the courts buttressed the locals’ point of view it were the locals themselves who stood up against the might of giant corporations

The Movement against the limestone mafia which was destroying the Doon Valley and Mussorie hills, way back in the eighties was a slightly different phenomenon as it was more urban. Nevertheless there were activists, court judgements and a significant number of people who wanted their hills back to their pristine beauty and wanted all the degradation to stop. To counter the vested interest of limestone quarrying there were a large number of people against it. The courts ordered, the state accepted and this led to the creation of 127 Infantry Battalion of the Territorial Army (TA) as an Ecological Task Force affiliated to the Garhwal Rifles. It has soldiers selected from the ex-servicemen of the Garhwal and Kumaon hills based who are deeply vested in the local ecology.

Contrast that with the Yamuna; the people of the city and the dwellers on the banks have an exactly opposite vested interest. It serves their life and livelihood to pollute the river. There is an entire politics and economics of waste, of illegal housing, illegal sewers, and construction waste. If the much loved NGTs orders on construction dust were implemented and fines afforded the Delhi’s environment lovers angry on FB, would be up in arms as renovation for their pretty interiors or the builder flat they just decided to own will become really difficult. Illegal dyeing and plating industry abounds and provides livelihood to thousands. It also contaminates vegetables grown there with cadmium, arsenic, mercury etc.

Consider air pollution. Delhi’s roads are covered with cars parked on either side. The NGT has deemed that this contributor to traffic jams creates air pollution and is illegal with heavy fines to be paid. Nobody dare charge, nobody pays that fine or removes their car. But that does not stop anybody from pontificating on the demerits of air pollution and demanding NGT orders to be implemented upon someone else. There is utter hypocrisy.

 When river activists and crusaders for clean air try and gather local people, or city folk, they can hardly get enough people to substantiate a large scale movement against water and air pollution. Several villagers living on flood plains want to sell their land to builders. Lakhs of migrants and urban poor live in shanties in the area. Their income comes from small occupations that contribute to the river’s pollution. Millions of gallons of untreated sewage is dumped into the Yamuna every day. How many Delhi city voters have ever even bothered to question their elected representatives of this?

Thousands of city dwellers who are suddenly expressing their love for the environment throw plastic and bags full of puja remnants into the river daily. Hundreds of Visarjans take place and chhat puja brings lakhs on to the banks every year.

The ‘O’ Zone of the DDA is made up of settlements in Mithapur& Jaitpur etc in the Badarpur constituency. These are Areas which house lakhs of people.  As per DDA’s claims, the settlement partly covers the flood plains (this is disputed by residents). While the DDA has accepted some demands of the area residents the matter is now stuck in courts. Several demolitions of jhuggis have taken place on the Yamuna Pushta, an action which is cruel as the poor living there have no place to go since a distinct financial advantage is acquired by functionaries in all governments by keeping the possibility of illegal construction alive.

The point being made is this: When a large number of citizens are involved in environmental degradation it will require a substantially large if not equal number of citizens to oppose it to make a difference.

 There is something non- serious about the bourgeois outrage on the social media. Politicians instinctively know this and can discern real concerns from the unreal ones. It is evident from the attitude of all political players that they are not at all shamefaced by any of this failure on river and air. That it does not bring ignominy to the government at any level, is evident to say the least.

The atmosphere of Delhi and the life of its river depend on the people of Delhi and what they really feel about it deeply and intimately, not intellectually alone. More than just activism is required.


 

There is more material should the reader care to go into the depth of this matter. Those interested can begin with:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chipko_movement

http://www.importantindia.com/11686/history-of-chipko-movement/

 

http://www.teriin.org/index.php?option=com_ongoing&task=about_project&pcode=2008EE06

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/delhi/UP-Delhi-asked-to-help-DMRC-remove-flood-plain-debris/articleshow/24833213.cms

http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Delhi/ddas-proposal-to-redraw-yamuna-floodplain-criticised/article5031574.ece

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Think through Kashmir

The question of Kashmir is settled insofar as the position of all Governments of India since 1947 are concerned. It is an integral part of India and the unfinished task of reclaiming POK is incomplete. Whether or not this reclamation happens and/or the Loc becomes the De facto border, and whether or not India’s military might & economic muscle can ensure that nobody walks away with state territory, one must examine the matter of self determination for the people of Kashmir and its implications. It should be examined how much the fructification of a demand of one state affects the rest of the country and the interests of a billion people who will be affected. Indeed the geopolitical consequences in the entire region of South Asia and the Middle East need to be kept in mind.

This or any other Government may or may not allow or let pass the calls for self determination in JNU but no Government can avoid examining and assessing the implications of such Secession on the rest of India. No Government should avoid that in their calculations or they would be incapable of a calibrated response. As such it is the responsibility of the Government of India to be careful with movements which can escalate into dangerous situations.

It is equally necessary that an examination of this issue not be bracketed as being generated through ‘Nationalism’ since it will affect the lives of millions of people whether or not they subscribe to that concept.

This is important as recent developments demonstrate the ability of the Government to employ jingoistic and violent ruling party workers to bully and intimidate; and the capacity of the opposition to be bloody- minded & capable of enlisting the assistance of militant, violent, far left & insurgent groups to usurp power.  Added to this, a deeply politicized and commercial media is of little help in debating critical issues.

Despite its romanticized echo in JNU, it should not be ignored that, the demand for secession of Kashmir is promoted, aided and abetted by Pakistan as a religious duty backed by military adventures on Indian soil and terrorist killings of Indians. It is considered by Pakistan as an unfinished agenda of Partition on the basis of a Muslim Majority in Kashmir. The raiding of Kashmir in October 1947 by Pakistan was not to create a free Kashmir but to forcibly take it. A part of the valley was taken by Pakistan which also gave a part of it to China. Indeed all secessionist movements of any consequence in India have been motivated, aided & abetted by Pakistan & China. Both bordering countries have fought wars with India and remain inimical to Indian interests.

The idea being propounded, that the demand for Kashmir’s freedom has nothing to do with Islam, and is only a political & class struggle is incorrect in my view.  It is positioned in that manner by the exigencies of Marxist thought to serve the ideologies’ interests. Left- activism will resist accepting religious motives to be ascribed to this movement in Kashmir. If the truth of religious motivation is accepted Marxists will then have to denounce the ethnic cleansing and communal killing of Kashmiri pundits. This is anathema for the communists as it will annoy their militant supporters. ‘Islamic Jihad’ and ‘Maoists’ are seen by Marxists as their ‘armed wing’ and are therefore routinely provided intellectual and moral justification by the left intelligentsia.

Most of us are liberals but some of us are not left liberals. Even as many left- liberals take full advantage of India’s open markets, corporate growth and western education in India and abroad, for their children and indeed for themselves, they are quick to participate intellectually in promoting the left’s communist manifesto which seeks to destroy the very economic and social infrastructure from which both liberal typologies derive their well being. On the other hand many liberals respond to the Kashmir issue as one related to machismo and the bellicose nationalism of the Right wing and see any discussion on the subject a threat to the existence of India. They ignore the importance of the left which promotes the expression of anger of many of the diverse and the dispossessed and gives them the right and space to challenge the existing order.

I am not a ‘left liberal’ but I notice  the obvious  lines of divide within people of a liberal disposition on this matter and I am hoping that left Liberals can at this point comprehend the fact that the Sovereign Government of India, though influenced by the ruling party is not the ruling party. It is their Government too.

Of late the ‘intellectual’ & ‘Freedom of speech’ support for Kashmir’s Secession from India is being supported by children, college students and older citizens, without, in my view,  giving the matter adequate thought and succumbing to the ‘flavour of the day’ rather than thinking it through.

It is not the purpose of this article to debate the strategic importance of Kashmir for India. Instead the social importance of Kashmir for India is sought to be highlighted here which I hope will be considered by all Liberals.

The scars of partition can be opened easily. It is not just the old who carry them. They are encrypted in a collective consciousness of both Hindus and Muslims and responsible for much alienation and strife between two Major religions in India

The secession of Kashmir will not be seen as a class struggle and the resolution of a political problem by a vast majority. A Kashmir that accedes to Pakistan or becomes a free nation will most likely be an Islamic state. Even though Indian Muslims outside Kashmir are not really active participants in this demand for secession, in effect, it will be seen as, as another partition of India led by a joint Pakistani and Muslim effort.

The ripples from such secession will have violent social consequences. It will create unprecedented anger & violence tearing at the fabric of Indian society which no liberal will be able to fix. This will be catastrophic as Hindus and Muslims, despite several cases of communal violence do manage live in relative peace.

Hindu Muslim relationship in India will change irrevocably or to say the least, for a very long time, and all liberals who loathe the idea of a Majoritarian Hindu India would have strengthened the case for a Hindu Nation. It will only help extremist right wing forces.

This cataclysmic event will not only help the communist manifesto of usurping the state and strengthen violent Maoists militancy and Islamic Jihad against India but would have a very deleterious effect on India Pakistan relationship for a very long time. It will, I daresay, have a negative impact on Pakistani society as well since it will embolden the religious fundamentalists and militants in Pakistan and in the Middle East. The expectations of Kashmiris will be high as they come in conflict for state benefits against the aggressive Punjabis in Pakistan. It is not clear how a decrepit military state like Pakistan will serve the ends of a Kashmir which is used to huge financial support from the central Governments of both India and Pakistan. While the impact may be far reaching geo politically as well, it is not the purpose of this article to extrapolate the consequences of the freedom of Kashmir to envisage its effect on the regions under threat from ISIS and Al Qaida in other regions of the world.

This is not to say that all or some of the consequences listed above will indeed occur. But all Governments and society at large should consider them as openly as possible.

It does not mean that borders across the world will remain fixed in perpetuam as history has seen many borders change. It also does not mean that Kashmiris’ seeking freedom need to worry about a law and order problem erupting in India after they are ‘free’.  But it does mean that, those who choose to live in India, should examine the social implications of the’ right to self determination’ in Kashmir.