Politics

The Global Dynamics of conflict 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 piddly little ‘brigades & senas’

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.


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.


 

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 several parents 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 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.

 

 


 

Beyond Odd and Even

The odd even rule has politicized the atmosphere and this is good. It will also be the cause of much idiocy ensuing in the coming days that will be utilised by the political class and the bureaucracy. A squabble is not an argument, much as we may confuse between the two. The media will as usual resort to the former and make it sound like the latter

It is currently in vogue to state that odd even rule results in traffic reduction and not reduction in air pollution. It is not possible to immediately decipher a liner mathematical relationship between traffic reduction, emission reduction and air pollution. But it would be strange to assume that a significantly lesser combustion of fossil fuels will not result in lesser air pollution. But it’s best not to get too involved in this debate till clearer data can be sieved out from motivated data.

In any case, odd/ even is a short term measure and will stop after a week because it causes inconvenience to the public, particularly those who do not come from multiple car owning families or own a single car. While excessive cars are to blame for some of the air pollution problem one must be careful not to make the car owner the only culprit as car ownership is completely legal. Moral lectures will not stop car usage.

A long standing problem in India is the habit of the bureaucracy to not act upon existing laws, and slowly nudge the political class and the citizen into making new laws or going to court respectively.

I draw your attention to some clear and brazen violations of the rule of law which are commonplace and have contributed enormously to the current situation. The existing laws should be enforced to significantly help reduce air pollution. If they are not enforced the officer in charge should be severely punished.

Parking- Car parking is possibly the most subsidized of all commodities as it comes minus the cost of stocking. It is more expensive to stock potatoes as compared to cars. Three times the space for parking a car is provided to a car owner as compared to a hawker, totally free of cost. This includes free lighting and municipal cleaning of the area.

Despite the high powered committee of the MoUD suggesting differential parking to make car usage expensive nothing has been done. Car parking on tarmac is illegal on several roads, yet no fine is levied. Illegal parking and hawking generate thousands of crores of illicit revenues collected by mafia with the connivance of officers in the Municipal Corporation of Delhi.

Free parking is a clear and present danger to any policy of enhanced public transport. Free car parking adds to traffic jams, choked drains and road accidents.

Building material & Construction & Demolition(C&D) Waste (malba) – The city of Delhi generates more than 3000 TPD of C&D waste per day. The Supreme Court and the NGT have specifically asked for heavy fines (Rs 50,000/-) on the open stocking, trade and transportation of building material and C&D waste, but still this is visible all over the city, stocked on roadside, on footpaths, next to municipal garbage dumps and blocking traffic but hardly anyone has been fined. At URJA we see regular complaints made by citizens to the Municipal commissioner, Deputy Commissioner and area SDMs but nothing is done. The officers collect their part and a hapless citizenry starts looking for new elements to blame.

Burning of local waste- The Govt refuses to enforce minimum wages for security guards and make it mandatory for security agencies to provide protective gear, gloves, overcoats, jackets etc. This is one of the reasons why a poor and overworked security guard lights up twigs and leaves. The Delhi Police has clear rules on private security agencies. They completely ignore the rules and bypass the law. Some misguided but well meaning element have as usual made emotional appeals to provide blankets to security guards. This is foolish. A crisp and ready security guard is unlikely while wielding a blanket. As usual the real responsibility is evaded by officers in the labor department and the Delhi Police while guarding agencies exploit poverty at will.

No effort has been made by the Municipal corporations to compost fallen leaves & kitchen waste. This can be easily done within corners in all municipal parks. While removal and cleaning is shown it does not really take place. The staff burns it. Nobody responsible is punished.

Footpaths- Studies have shown that a significant portion of vehicle usage over short distance is avoidable if safe footpaths exist. The law states that car parking on footpaths is illegal (to Rule 15 of the Rules of the Road Regulations 1989). Complaints to the Police are of no use. They cannot tow away vehicles due to shortage of space but they can fine the owners. Hundred of complaints have been made to the traffic police but nothing gets done. A massive amount of air pollution is generated within a local area if people take to cars instead of walking to the market half a mile away. There are clear instructions in the recent Supreme Court judgment to repair and make good all footpaths but the PWD is doing nothing about that. The Officers in The Govt just do not do it.

The Lobby – Lobbies exist we all know that. It is convenient to complain about corporate lobbies and giant multinationals while saying nothing about crores wasted on so called cleaning of rivers, lack of provision of clean drinking water by successive governments and a collapsing sewage system. The brazen connivance of the officers of all governments is ignored by the public and we find it easy to see corporate conspiracies as we rave & rant for new regulations while the ones that can still help are being flouted.

To ensure that the laws are followed we will have to divert our attention from the political theater and instead demand it from the right people.

The corporates are not obliged to serve our interests. It’s also not about the BJP & AAP politicos; they are obliged to play politics for their very survival.

The most protected species, the officialdom is statutorily bound and obliged to uphold the rule of law. Turn your attention towards him. That is where each and every demand should go. In hard copy with original signatures!

March 2016


 

Intellectuals minus intellect

A section of eminent litterateurs, activists and NGO have now clearly decided to throw in their lot with the congress party. Some of them have done considerable work in the past, and the party in power almost entirely since independence, has provided patronage to several well known activists.

Writers are returning their awards and some well-known RTI activists too have decided to stay away from the prime minister’s address on the 10th anniversary of the RTI act of 2005 because they feel that all those who should have been invited were not.

Writers are passionate people and cannot be blamed for selective outrage. Rationality and passion do not usually go hand in had

No Government department welcomes RTI inquiries. It is not in the nature of anybody to open themselves to reveal their motivations or be held accountable. It is not as if RTI queries were easily responded to during the last UPA Government. Having filed many RTI applications myself I know that dodging on answering to RTI applications happened then, as much as it continues now. The officers maintain that unbroken continuity in deniability.

Right to information and transparency in Government is a worldwide challenge. The extent varies.

However it is unwise for NGO and activists who feel obliged and loyal to the congress party to blatantly align themselves. This demonstrates an allegiance to a political party more than fighting for a principle independent from politics.

It is possible that the congress party is unable to speak openly on many things directly as it might annoy their constituency and are therefore using activists as cannon fodder. All political parties do this, and it is for civil society activists to be careful. It is not the duty of a civil society activist to feel loyal to political masters. It is self destructive.

Religious fundamentalists and fringe elements feed on each other. NGOs and activists must not fall into a similar trap.

Therefore, it is strategically bad for these writers and activists to throw in their lot politically as this will not enable them but will disable them from carrying out their opposition to faulty policies. It will hinder them from influencing a systemic change in institutional mechanisms which is much needed in a diverse society such as ours.

Lack of patronage, and , that they are no longer a part of the usual consultative mechanism, workshops and seminars of the earlier government brings frustration for some NGO and activists and venting and outrage follow.

These Tantrums however are unlikely to cut much ice with the BJP. They have a massive NGO Base of sangh parivar organisations seeking govt patronage

Political alignment with the congress is unlikely to find much support in Delhi from the AAP either. Aging writers are not really a part of the thought leadership that impresses the AAP voter and Arvind Kejriwal is unlikely to have forgotten the back stabbing and competition from the NAC members in those heady days of the Anna and IAC agitation.

The support from a section of the media may be alluring for now but like all other stories will pass as the public gets bored and TRPs dip.

So this sulk and politicking will be of little value.

If at all the writers and activists were upholders of avowed principles they have managed to demonstrate exactly the opposite and unless they are minded to join active politics this could lead to them becoming less relevant.

Robust civil society, in a democracy should be ready to work with and fight elected governments at the same time. It is not an easy task.

Aligning politically is akin to shooting yourself in the foot even before starting the fight.


Bureaucracy and the pied piper of Hamlyn

The widespread agitation by the Patels in the state of Gujarat has left many people wondering. The idea that a community famous for owning motels worldwide requires reservation in their homeland is incredulous.

The unending saga of what appears to be an overwhelming demand for reservations by communities in India is seen as quite incredible. Especially by communities who otherwise do not suffer from the terrible, brutal discrimination that deprives them of access to resources simply on the basis of their caste. A section of society and the intelligentsia is seen to remind us that it was originally intended that reservations would last 10 years and 67 years after independence it is time to reconsider them.

On the other hand the question of political will, delivery of justice, quality of governance and merit comes up every now and then. The recent attack on the SDM in Delhi trying to clear illegal occupation of public land, attacks on traffic policemen and the common reluctance of Govt officers to take any action against those violating laws related to public space, public order, illegal construction, environment and traffic clearly shows an inability to deliver even though the officers serve Governments with very large mandates in the country and in the capital. Several instances where the politics of caste and religion overrides executive action, derails the rule of law and abets unfair distribution of national resources come to light very often.

In my view these two seemingly unconnected issues have an underlying commonality, different from what has been noticed hitherto, and which needs to be examined and addressed

Beginning with reservations for the Scheduled castes and tribes the ambit of this method of affirmative action has been expanded since independence to include many other backward classes. Several committees have indicated that the share of the SC/SC/OBC and minorities in education, access to services, and in economic growth is disproportionately low as compared to the upper caste Hindus. Most committees have their work centered around Government/public sector Jobs, universities and higher education( Mandal commission report,  Mahmood-Ur-Rahman Committee report 2013,  report of Post Sachar Evaluation Committee headed by Amitabh Kundu and National commission for Backward Classes report on creamy layer etc)

These experts appear to correlate that the percentage in total population of a particular backward caste or minority community, with its presence in Govt/Public service, is an index that should be considered for measurement of empowerment and socio political equality. Socially too, a government job is considered as the key to growth for any class/caste/religion that considers itself backward as compared to caste Hindus. This is incredible, given that upper caste Hindus, who for years had monopolized the civil services, did not quite make it an exemplar of efficiency, honesty and spirited public service.

The Government job is, in public perception, a lifelong opportunity for absolute job security, perks, power to harass & instill fear, make money on the side and retire finally with a pension. A Government job may be an opportunity to do significant work but it is widely believed to be the best insurance against inefficiency. The preference of a vast majority of the young to aspire without being entrepreneurs indicates a preference to be in the Government instead of relying on it.

Cornering a Govt. Job drives a large percentage of the population desperately. So deeply and passionately felt is this ultimate quest and its attendant perks that a section of people believe in an equalization principle built on the equal opportunity to take bribes.

Given all this, Civil/Government services in their current form are too alluring for any demand to end or even reduce reservations to politically succeed. What has also become surprisingly evident is that the current state of the bureaucracy is not capable of delivering on the promises made by any political party.

It was hoped that for the time being, a cessation of coalition politics will make it possible for governments to deliver quickly on the ground. The vast mandates given by the people to BJP at the centre and the AAP in Delhi have failed to deliver on the very basics of policing, traffic management, sanitation, water and power, grievance redressal, justice and other verticals that constitute the most elementary constituents of good governance.

It is my view therefore, that No purpose is served in reconsidering reservations but it makes sense to reconsider civilian Government jobs & the Bureaucracy.

Recent news reports suggest that the Government at the centre is considering retiring errant or inefficient bureaucrats close to the end of their careers.

Now the idea of providing very high job security to Govt servants has its basis in providing protection to officers in performing their duties without fear, in a free and fair manner. This is true for almost all bureaucracies in the world.

However, In India, the permanent government job has made it impossible for the ordinary citizen or taxpayer to have an incompetent, corrupt and vindictive bureaucrat punished, and the hapless consumer of public service is forced to wring his hands in despair and be not only servile to a government servant but also bribe him at the same time. The near impossibility of removing government officers has forced politicians to work around the fixture that is the civil services, instead of driving it to deliver on the promises made to their constituents. The situation is such that the representative and the official cover up for each other’s incapability to deliver.

Real and genuine political competition is, as a result, sacrificed at the altar of bureaucratic inertia.

There is absolutely no reason why an elected politician will not try and ensure that his constituents get what he promised them. He would be happy to deliver and win the next election. However he just cannot deliver as slothful officers just keep delaying matters or acting at times only when where there is money to be made on contracts. The very idea of local area development funds (LAD) provided to elected M.P, M.L.A and Councillors to compensate for the lack of development work, which should have been done by municipal bodies in the first place, is emblematic of bureaucratic cussedness and sloth.

Lack of merit because of reservations in the civil service is not the problem. The impossibly high job security creates reservation for the incompetent and the slothful while committed officers (regardless of caste/class/religion) lose their spirit.

Successive Governments have been unimaginative. Resurrecting section 56J of the Fundamental rules and using it more actively in compulsorily retiring bureaucrats (after 50 years of age) as a means of making the bureaucracy perform better is flawed in principle.

A system cannot be made efficient by removing its oldest members. It can be made efficient by punishing inefficiency and rewarding capability, of the youngest in the ranks.

Restructuring Government services is a difficult task.  A stable bureaucracy is very important in maintaining balance and continuity in a highly politicized, religious, superstitious and emotional population.

Consider this; the performance management division (http://performance.gov.in/) in the cabinet secretariat, Govt. of India has already put in place the Performance Monitoring & evaluation System and the Results Framework Document or the RFD. The Department in its own words ‘takes a comprehensive view of the Departmental performance by measuring all relevant aspects of expected departmental deliverables: financial, physical, quantitative, qualitative, static efficiency (short run) and dynamic ‘. Its Vision Statement:’ A results driven government machinery that delivers what it promises’.

Clearly the evaluation tools to do all this exists within the government. It should not be difficult therefore to take the next step in re structuring government jobs as follows:

I suggest that the first 15 years of Government jobs should be such that the officer can be removed for inefficiency and for not measuring up to performance standards established by the Government itself. This will require a change in existing service rules.

In this time officers have a choice of being dynamic, active, and innovative to deliver results, be fired from their jobs or leave for better jobs. In the absence of absolute job security, only those who are in it for the right reasons will remain. At this level a vast amount of government work requires efficiency in delivery. This is also the level at which inefficient government officers cause the greatest harm and inconvenience to the public.

The fear that politicians will just keep on firing efficient bureaucrats if they do not toe the line is misplaced. In any case it is not very difficult to build reasonable safeguards as compared to the absolute security currently provided.

Job security steps in after 15 years when an officer has built credibility around his capabilities and is poised to take over strategic positions and be himself in charge of retaining or removing junior officer. At this level, strategic planning and policy making capability, is expected of officers

A vast number of people will get an equal opportunity to perform and the ends of Affirmative action will also be met. Reservations can continue and this churning and high rate of turnover of young officers can actually work to the advantage of all.

If we do not make this change, the bureaucracy, like the pied piper of Hamlyn, will drown us all.

Ashutosh Dikshit October 2015

 


 

 

Politics vs Process

The Mohalla Sabha introduced by the AAP government in the name of ‘swaraaj’ panders to the basic instinct for durbar in our politicians. Organising a public jamboree, publicly reprimanding officers, playing the ‘benefactor’ has all the trappings of a medieval court.

The idea should be to ensure that the elements of democracy and government processes are fine tuned, corrected and made more effective. To bypass the system and replace it by an ‘off with his head’ and/or ‘hereby sanctioned’ kind of onsite resolution is not Swaraj. It will not bring suraaj either

If at all, this system has to be put in place, there is no need for any elected representative (MP, MLA, MC) and wasting of money on elections. The bureaucracy and officers from different departments can call for such meetings and ask the ‘people’ directly and take a majority vote. If the MLA did not know what the area and its people wanted then why was he elected? And if he knew what people wanted and still requires a mohalla sabha then there is something seriously wrong.

This may be a fine political cadre building exercise, and nobody can question that in a democracy. However, we disagree with the Mohalla sabha, as a method to bring about sustainable changes in the manner in which civic services, infrastructure and security will be delivered efficiently and effectively to people in a densely populated urban ecosystem.

Our worry is that this seemingly progressive, democratic sounding plan will turn into a tamasha where the local toughs and apparatchiks will hijack what should really be a streamlined, efficient and process driven system meant to deliver on the needs of the neighbourhood.


 

 

Much Ado About Nothing

An absolutely objective political analysis of politics is impossible. The analyst himself gets in the way. This writer included

The current by- polls too have drawn the ‘perennially embarrassed Hindu’ and the ‘permanently outraged secularist’ into beating themselves about ‘Hindutva’ or gloating ‘I told you so’ respectively

However politics works quite differently. It must be stated that the circumstances under which political events unravelled up until the 2014 General election are not replicated currently and therefore the context is important

A few pointers:

Narendra Modi’s election was not about a Hindu transformation into ‘Hindutva’. It was about a consolidation of caste vote to defeat the congress and its allies. People were bored of the UPA and did not see their larger interests being helped by the Congress old guard, the dynasty, Rahul, Akhilesh and Stalin.This general election was not about Hindutva

Hindu political groupings are ‘caste’ based for all practical political purposes and not religious. The so called Hindu consolidation was temporary.

However to assume that this phenomenon has ended forever and people have given a ‘resounding slap’ to such instincts is misguided. The Ram Mandir movement saw a similar consolidation(That was Hindutva) and the same may happen again for a different set of reasons. It would be wise to grow up and keep drinking coffee.

I argue that this by-election would have not have been won by the BJP anyway.

People who voted Narendra Modi for P.M are not all Hindu zealot-nationalists with a trishul just as people who vote congress are not all atheists or venal and corrupt brokers with black money stashed away. It would be silly to make such assumptions even as both descriptions may be true in some cases

The word secular, divisive and polarization have quite another meaning in India as compared to the rest of the world as these are BJP specific epithets which have little connection with what the oxford English dictionary intends for its readers.

I am ignoring secularism as enough has been said over it but politics by its very nature is divisive and it polarizes people in elections. Worldwide

Nobody checks all the boxes while voting. They choose one over the other. Politics is meant to divide people over their choices.

There are several impulses on which people vote. In general people make ‘sense’ out of the total inputs made available to them over a period of time against a backdrop of their existing prejudice or inclinations.

If Assembly elections were to be held in Delhi, the INC may not have much of a chance. But in Municipal elections several of their councilors will win. Why? Because locally people will vote basis established networks, which down the line promise regularizing or ignoring illegal construction, encroachment on public property, special benefits for different religious places and other ‘personal contact’ issues. Quicker access to licensing and other civic services, contracts and influence pedaling will come into play. Local Civil construction and development will play a role. The ‘rural’ voter in Delhi has a large say where ‘Lal dora’ considerations have their own dynamics. Many Posh residential complexes abut urban villages. So does the poorvanchal factor, the auto driver and the slum dweller. Alcohol plays a role too.

Corruption etc will no longer be that important and that’ wave’ for Delhi is over. This will, however, not mean that people are going to give a ‘resounding slap’ to Kejriwal’s Political ideas. It does not work like that.

Opposition gloating does not end every phenomenon

In Bihar the ‘sagacious voter’ has voted for a Lalu and Nitish combine simply to protect himself from being punished for voting the BJP and to avail local administrative benefits.  To read that he has become more ‘demanding’, ‘less divisive’ and ‘impatient’ for change would be naïve. Somebody impatient for change does not bring back Lalu.

A seasoned political party like the congress does not hesitate in resurrecting ‘Nehru’ as an icon, to lure ‘impatient’ voters? Never underrate the congress.  They have been there, done that. Things do not change much in reality and they know it. People are not impatient for change. People want more under the same circumstances.

73 out of 80 seats were won by the BJP in national elections in U.P. To extrapolate this victory into predicting assembly or municipal election results would be hasty and simplistic. This is why public posturing apart no hard core politician really believes it.  The defeat of the BJP in U.P has nothing to do with the population suddenly becoming ‘secular’ as some motivated analysts are gloating. It has possibly to do with the fact that Yogi Adityanath was never much of any significance outside his constituency. He never really mattered and it was the media that made him heard in the Metros but that’s about it. The local voter does not mess with the Samajwadi Party especially if the BSP and Mayawati are not in an aggressive mood to provide protection. The voter knows that the Central govt cannot do magic in 100 days. Nobody can.

In Gujarat the chances for Congress could possibly see an increase in the future as ‘Gujarati Asmita’ will not be seen as exclusively coterminous with Narendra Modi  who will be seen as  more of “ Bhartiya Asmita”.  His foreign policy initiatives point in that direction. He will steer clear of the secular-communal debate.

What makes us ‘city slickers’ discuss politics in the big city is not what makes the belly of the city & the country’s heartland tick!

A large number of analysts carry ‘civil society ‘instincts through which they judge elections but on the ground politics is almost always about self interest. Voter included.

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