Tag Archives: BJP

Karnataka- Again our MLAs cede moral space to Elites and Intellectuals

The process of government formation in Karnataka recently became a major controversy. The role of the Governor, political parties and the court came into much discussion

In the melee a political situation was hijacked by the elites who started to moralize about elected politicians. It’s a trap unfortunately which our political leadership succumbs to time and again. I believe that the positions taken by our intellectuals, thought leaders and journalists reflected their own bias instead of a genuine interest in democracy. There was the usual lampooning of political parties and the comfort in calling all politicians corrupt. The conflict was positioned as one set of politicians on the prowl on a buying spree and another set being saved by being abducted and hidden away to prevent them from being sold. The narrative was one of Venal Vs Venal warlords competing to save democracy. As a sideshow another set of warring journalists and ‘intellectuals’, enslaved by their fixed positions took to their respective sides and attacked each other in this puerile show.

What should be solved through democracy is sought to be saved by institutions, and when it suits them, political high commands strategise to rely on courts on a matter which is really not for courts to solve. The process of Government formation was positioned in this case as one of corrupt MLAs, shorn of any morality or ideology, & being  up for sale. This is insulting to our democracy and it is surprising how legislators would allow such an impression be perpetuated about them. That it was a part of submissions in court that legislators will be bought, and further that legislators themselves allowed themselves to be confined to a hotel/resort in this period is truly disappointing. The position taken was elite politicking more than people’s politics. We are a democracy that routinely shows our politicians in a bad light. This is not good. It takes a lot of courage to get into electoral politics, far more than politics by other means.

We will now have a Government made up of people no one will look up to. Even though each MLA won in his own constituency he would be seen as having united in Government by being restrained from taking bribes. The opposition MLA who also won will be seen as a sullen loser.

It is sad that this will be the impression about them, especially because it will be an incorrect one. A Government so formed will be full of contradictions and will not serve the interests of the State.This weakens democracy and people’s power. This empowers elites and the bureaucracy.

While I do not Know Karnataka politics, I do know that Governments cannot just be formed by buying off legislators. If that were so, the party with the deepest pockets would simply buy off the parliament. If money or inducement/ coercion was so simple then between funds and CBI or ED etc any bill could be made to pass in parliament

Elected leaders have to face people on a daily basis, they also have to face their families, friends, peer groups, and they have to look at their long term political prospects before they take a decision. Even the most turncoat politician is sensitive to his constituency as well as his beliefs. This is not to say that money does not play a role at all in decision making but that money is not the sole consideration. Often money is not the consideration at all

For a stable government in a fractured mandate the solution is not courts interfering to save democracy but legislators resorting to more democracy. What has happened in Karnataka positions elected MLAs in a shameful position and it should not be repeated. It reinforces the belief that the politician who rises from the ground and elected by common people is an immoral person. While the perpetuation of this image suits the elite, it is fallacious and should not be reinforced.

For a stable government, where a pre poll alliance does not exist & requisite majority does not exist for the largest party would it be more democratic if we tried the following?

The Governor will in most cases tend to favour the dispensation that afforded him his position. The counter to that are not courts, but the newly elected legislators themselves. I propose that in such cases a 3 month period should be given and let all political parties resort to   politics. It will be hard to keep many MLA in resorts for that long in isolation. The newly elected MLA will have to get back to their constituency and will Willy nilly get a feedback from voters. In the current scenario, the short period allows them to act only as party representatives subject to party ‘whip’ and not consider how voters feel about their newly considered alignment. But given three months they will come under questioning from their voters and the media. In this time they will start to let their high command know what the pulse on the ground is. One should not forget that the rival candidate who lost the election will also rake up the issue among people. It will not be that easy to just ‘buy’ someone off by creating an unnecessary emergency.

I do not want to quibble on the time period. It may be 45 days or 2 months but the intent is not to hurry the process but to give it sufficient time. All in all, public opinion will pressurize the elected MLAs to take decisions more carefully. In this time all democratic negotiating happens with the political friends and rivals, peer groups, political NGOs and parleying with the media. It is mostly democratic deal making, negotiating, convincing and arguing. That’s part and parcel of our culture.

It is a settled matter that if the largest party is not in a position to form the Government, then the leader of the post poll alliance be called to form the Government. That is fair and should usually be the course taken. However in the Karnataka the leader of JDS, a party with the smallest mandate and one which only won regionally was prompted to head the state. This is perverse. Had it been a Congress CM with JDS support the matter would have been different as the Congress party had the highest vote share. It therefore becomes all the more important that legislators were given a long enough period to navigate through public opinion and negotiate accordingly. The Governor should in such cases exercise his discretion by giving elected more time rather than less.

That is democracy. Three months is not that a long time when a 5 year stable Govt has to be established and it is likely that a lasting government would emerge through this process than a hastily cobbled one.

 

*The Sarkaria Commission recommended that a Chief Minister, unless he is the leader of a party which has absolute majority in the Assembly, should seek a vote of confidence in the Assembly within 30 days of taking over. This is only a recommendation and not a constitutional binding.

Also read – Oligarchy of the Unelected-  https://ashutoshdixitblog.wordpress.com/2016/03/31/oligarchy-of-the-unelected/

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URJA Editorial December 2017-Water Management Reforms—A Crying Need

The issue of water tariff and tariff of utilities raises some questions that must be addressed.  Usually whenever tariff is raised, public opinion is forced to coalesce around rates with political sides taken thoughtlessly and with activists on either side jumping in to buttress a position already taken.

The original idea of a 10% increase annually was flawed and opposed by URJA as it was positioned around the generalized belief that prices should inevitably go up and that is somehow the way of the world. This position if at all justifiable should have been complemented with increased efficiency, conservation, better technology and better sewage treatment also as deliverables.

Taking the first for granted, to raise tariff, and completely ignoring the second makes for monopolistic opportunism and end up in bureaucratic ineptitude and wastage of public funds. Subsidizing through tax revenue to keep tariff low (both in water & Electricity) is nothing but inefficiency. Any Government can do that but it does not augur well for long development. It also signifies a lack of long term political vision from our political leaders who succumb to short term populism for votes without a plan in place to sensibly lead the people to a better understanding on resource management for future times

The freebie centered, povertarian politics in India does not consider an efficiency oriented delivery of major utilities. This is the reason why water and sewage infrastructure in Delhi remains archaic and centered around politics rather than on efficiency

The failure of the Government in ensuring significant development, commensurate with the problem, in Rain water harvesting among Delhi’s colonies and institutions is a telling example. As late as June 2017 the NGT was directing that the Government ensure RWH in All schools.  We are far away from any significant Grey and black water recycling as well as protecting the Yamuna from being flooded by millions of tones of sewage and pollutants daily. Though some Municipal corporations have declared their area open defecation free it is not possible to ascertain how much extra untreated sewage (which was earlier leaching into the ground) will now be dumped into the river.

What cannot be explained is the slow or near absent rate of modernizing the water infrastructure, sewage & replacement of old and crumbling pipes. Equally disappointing is the lack of Government initiative in promoting innovative water recycling for communities and a host of other technologically intelligent and possible community initiatives that will bring residents together to truly enjoy water conservation, recycling and usage, instead of seeing it as a difficulty alone

The record of Delhi Government on water does not show up in a good light. The Government has failed to

  • Ensure Behavioral change in water consumption through regular law enforcement
  • Deliver water directly to overhead tanks and restrain the use of online boosters
  • Penalize wastage and overflow from tanks by surprise checks and on spot fines
  • Aggressively enforce RWH & replenish adequate ground water levels
  • Prevent vote banks from openly thieving/looting water from pipes and regulating the same to provide water supply to impoverished areas under metering
  • Carry out a massive citywide survey to bring all persons drawing water under Government record
  • Have a record on Septic Tanks in unauthorised clusters.

An explainable rise in tariff is simple and does not require much intelligence except ordinary street savvy cleverness. A big leap in thinking on how we will manage water efficiently for the burgeoning population and need of Delhi requires an intelligent big think that the city leadership must bring into its imagination

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URJA Editorial- June 2017

Heedless Politicking is disenfranchising the citizen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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URJA Editorial-April 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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RWA should be cautious on the Manifestos of Political Parties for MCD 2017

RWA should be cautious on the Manifestos of Political Parties for MCD 2017

Once again Political parties are out with their manifesto and each section of society offered one thing on the other is examining them with mixed hope and cynicism. Some of these promises simply would not be actioned off as there are no laws to support them.

RWA have on various occasions demanded more accountability from the Officers of the Corporation as well as an increased share of RWA participation in local area decision making. Equally every manifesto before elections, makes it a point to placate the RWA in some way through adding one or two points directed to them.

Let us have a look at some of the points raised by the Major parties(in alphabetical order)

The AAP manifesto promises that payments to contractors will be made after verification by RWA. Such promises have been made before

The AAP says it will consult and take approval of RWA regularly on how councillor funds are to be spent. However, AAP has not done the same with their MLAs. Broadly most elected representatives seek public opinion quietly on what most people want. Seeking popularity is for them the natural thing to do. Getting approval is however, a clever usage of words. Further, This contention would be believable and made sense had they been doing the same with their own MLAs. The other contention that payment would be made after approval of RWA may sound exciting but is unlikely to pass muster. A move like this requires statutory backing, the absence of which will make it a nonstarter.

The BJP has said that monthly meetings with Municipal councillors, Officials & RWA will be held. Beyond that the manifesto offers little and the Councillors meet with RWA regularly Anyway. The BJP had set up ward committees in the erstwhile undivided MCD much to the chagrin of their own Councillors. Subsequently all they have made, is empty promises on RWA participation. Were they to restart the Resident ward committee(RWC) it would be worth congratulating, but from all accounts the centralized nature of BJP’s Governance model seems to militate against this expectation.

The INC has a more detailed Manifesto as compared to other parties. They promise a return of Bhagidari and empowerment of RWA in collecting revenue from parking. While the original Bhagidari was propelled through the then CMs office, this would be a reduced initiative in comparison given the limits imposed on the Municipal corporation.

The Car parking initiative can be path breaking of course, and can be possible through PPP schemes or revenue sharing.

No manifesto mentions anything of the accountability of the officers in the MCD nor does it mention any compensation to the tax payer on deficiency of civic services.

It would not be out of place to mention that URJA has written twice to the Election commission of India on the issue of Political Party Candidate being held to account for promises made in their manifesto and the Hon’ble Supreme court to has made observations on the same.

All said, URJA suggests, that the RWA and their different federations proceed with caution on taking the self-congratulatory path early in the day

That said, URJA will make it a point, to pursue with, whichever party wins, on the promises made to the people of Delhi.

 

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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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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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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.

 

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Governance in Delhi requires an urban lexicon

The other day I was struck by a news item about a Member of Parliament in Delhi suggesting that Resident Welfare Association (RWA) can work with him through a RWA ‘chaupal’

Why use the word chaupal, which means a meeting place in a village. Delhi is not a village.  It’s not the M.P in question alone, other urban organisations too opt for such expressions; often using words like panchayat for meetings or gatherings which are purely urban community affairs. Take the word mohalla sabha – which has come to be the phrase being used for meetings held by MLAs in their constituencies, it suffers from similar deficiencies owing to the impression they create.

Examine the verbiage in an FIR used by the Police. The Persian words, Moharrir, insdaad jarayam, deeda danishta, aarinda, translated as the following: records in charge, prevention of crime, knowingly, reporting person respectively, make an FIR seem like a parchment from a medieval Iranian alley. Surprisingly, the Police training school still instructs the common beat constable in these words. There is no other way he could have acquired this vocabulary. I tried to find Persian – English translations for the 130 odd words the police use in their FIRs only to find the mystery deepen.  I have learnt that a lawyer has now filed a PIL questioning the use of such words in the high court of Delhi.

A FIR (First Information report) should be intelligible, relevant and contextual for the citizen. We are a country of diverse languages and it is very important that the language used for basic urban governance, assists in the complete understanding of a situation rather than impede.

The other terms to junk are Camp, and Junta durbar

It is unthinkable that the Capital of one of the largest economies in the world organizes property tax camps or police grievance camps. The idea that a Government department needs to compensate for its lack of accessibility by categorizing the citizen as a refugee or a prisoner of war or some variant of a destitute is inappropriate in what is meant to be a genuine outreach programme. Using the word durbar for handling public grievances in a republic is avoidable

Once again it is not something the department does deliberately. It is a colonial term that we continue to use. These terms inadvertently reinforce how the leadership and the Government view the voter. Worse, this communication ensues, back and forth thereby solidifying an idea that is both unworkable and unwelcome in a modern city

Delhi is burgeoning with migrants who have left their villages because the politics there dissuades modernization. This city is brimming with a young population that is not looking for a chaupal or panchayat. It wants to be a part of something different from what a mohalla signifies and it certainly does not want the urban marketplace to look like a village haat. It wants a responsive police which registers her complaint in an intelligible format.

Delhi may be classified as urban but it is not urbane. Delhi is a megalopolis and there is a need to evoke a sense of urban usage of space, time and mobility which is recognizably different from a village or small town.

We require a fresh prototype for dealing with the load on civic infrastructure. The use of an urban dictionary for identifying public spaces, mobility, architecture, and social communication can be a beginning. There is a need to contemporize and consciously work towards change, rather than expect a purely organic evolution which will not serve the ends of modern governance.

Cities, unlike villages, have to develop models that can allow strangers to go about their business depending upon systems that do not require a friend. Rural verbiage seeks to suggest an altogether different construct that is unviable for a sustainable city.

Generation after generation we are only acting out of what has become a habit in our cities, to somehow romanticize urban governance by using simplistic rural terms.

I absolutely support the idea of RWA interacting with the elected representatives. As a matter of fact the erstwhile undivided Municipal Corporation of Delhi had initiated a scheme called Resident ward committee (R.W.C). The scheme failed precisely because of the rural mindset of the Municipal councilors who see themselves as feudal gram pradhans and the Municipal ward as a village.

Delhi has many villages which influence its politics. The demographics have changed with migrants renting houses and population within urban villages and unauthorized colonies has grown manifold. Delhi’s politics has been & will continue to be deeply influenced by this voter. It is therefore even more important that communication related to governance depicts modernity & equality by helping to foster an atmosphere that promotes thinking for the future. Rural terminology, I’m afraid, will not help at all.

This is all the more important because, the idea that Delhi can be a collection of chaupals, mohallas, panchayats locally, but collectively metamorphose into a modern city, is romantic but irrational.

If urban dwellers were so taken up by rural imagery they would migrate to a village.

I am not speaking about exclusively using Hindi or English or Urdu; I know that language can be easily politicized and a gullible public totally misled into questioning the motives of policy makers instead of questioning the urban disarray the citizen lives in. It would be intelligent that urban civic vocabulary relies on common parlance.

It is not my view that these chaupals or panchayats, mohalla sabha, or haats should be given English names, or the Persian names turned into pure Hindi or Sanskrit.  I would suggest nomenclature that reflects an urban character to effectively communicate what is relevant and useful insofar as government schemes and public work is concerned. Private projects can be named after sub Saharan Africa or Luxembourg

As an example the mohalla sabhas in Delhi could preferably have been called   nagrik sabha. The first evokes a sense of medieval insularity the latter perhaps signifies something more urban. Instead of RWA Chaupal it could be a RWA Baithak or RWA Committee or RWA Samiti

I am not making the point that that only changing the language helps. However, in the development and expression of ideas, language and imagery play a vital role. It is of strategic importance for us to draft new words through which we can communicate effectively among ourselves towards building a modern city.

Ashutosh Dikshit- August 2015

 

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