Monday, October 02, 2006

From 'Baap' To 'Baapu'

'Gandhigiri' has swept the entire nation of its feet. From a 7-year child a to a 70-year-old man, everyone has been gripped by Gandhigiri mania generated by the recent movie "Lage Raho Munna Bhai". This is a very classical example of morals, values and ethos however old, still being relevant in the contemporary society. Few things never lose its shine; non-violence and Gandhiji are just those 'few things'.

Non-violence is regarded as a weapon, which is irrelevant in the contemporary volatile society, where clashes of various degrees and between various institutions is common. Clash between individuals, between societies, "ideologies', and even more importantly clash of civilizations has become so rampant that the term "non-violence" was erased from everyone's mind.

'Might is Right' is regarded as more beneficial today. Individuals and institutions for their personal needs have misused political power, police power and even student power. The tool, which was to be used for the good of society, is now misused for ones own need.

A person who does not wield power is considered to be weak. Sadly the number of such weak persons, who are weak physically, sociologically, intellectually, educationally and most important economically, is very large.

The concept of Gandhigiri has always been there, with us. When I was a 3rd grader my parents would tell me that I should not use abuses or be violent, even if I was being harassed. That too was Gandhigiri. As I grew older I observed that silence was interpreted as a weakness, and hence, I gradually became more inclined towards 'Dadagiri'. Human instincts are such, that one naturally raises his voice if he's hurt. Gandhigiri also preaches the same; "Raise your voice, not your hand".

News channels have been flooded with instances of Gandhigiri. In UP much like the Movie, a retired person undressed himself in front of the whole Secretariat staffs, after the 'babu' demanded bribe in return for his post retirement pensions. In another part of the country, the local citizens presented the SDM of the town with 200 kgs of flower and "get well" wishes after he refused to cancel a liquor shop's license. It's a different thing that the SDM sent all those 'Munnabhais' to prison. Perhaps the SDM hadn't seen Munnabhai yet and, moreover life is not a movie.

The most encouraging of all the post Munnabhai development has been the attitude of the youngsters. They are experiencing a change in heart, literally. The number of college goers visiting and borrowing books on Gandhi from the library has increased. Now one can see more Gandhi T-shirts on the street, Khadi jeans are becoming more popular than the denim jeans, SMS's wishing "Gandhi Jayanti' have been flooding my mobile, the word "baapu" have substituted the word "baap". Someone has rightly said "Movies have the power to bring revolutionary changes ", and India is witnessing one such change.

The changing trends suggest and show that today's youngsters are as same as those who took part in the independence struggle, or who participated in the anti-emergency rallies. They might have been influenced by globalization, westernization, Beatlization or even Pink Floydization, but when it comes to their root they still believe in 'Indianization'. What is required is a medium, which can get the message through to them, and what better than a Movie, and that too a one in which Sanjay Dutt is the professor.

One good thing has so many good things within it. Munnabhai is a meaningful movie. It is a movie, made with the purpose to provide 3 hrs of entertainment to the moviegoers, but it's doing much more than this and along with the fun it is reminding us few 'lessons', which we had forgotten. Moviemakers are not under any obligation to teach us morals and meaning of life, but Munnabhai is doing exactly.

Nonviolence is as relevant as it was 59 years ago. It will always be there, not only because people need it, but also because violence is a luxury, which is available to few. Hope that the message given in "Lagey Raho Munna Bhai" will change few hearts, if not many.

(Published in HT and Chronicle)

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Politicizing a terrorist hanging

The way political parties cutting across party lines are asking for clemency for Mohd.Afzal, the mastermind behind the attack on Indian parliament attack is pathetic to say the least.

This shows the mindset of the leaders of this country, who on one hand talk about being tough on terror and on the other ask for pardoning a terrorist, just because he is a Kashmiri.

Appeasement of minority if followed so drastically will cause harm to the country’s unity and integrity to such an extent that these politicians couldn’t even imagine. One cannot politicize each and every issue, but sadly this is what these leaders have been doing.

The PDP, the NC, the APHC, the Left and even the Congress have been vocal in asking for showing of leniency to Afzal. Violent protest has become a daily part of Srinagar even since the Supreme Court announced and confirmed the death sentence.

Linking the peace process with Afzal can never be justified, and this is what is being tried by these ‘people’s representatives’. The argument that Afzal being a Kashmiri, hanging him will have serious repercussions against the peace process is absurd. A terrorist cannot hold the peace process to ransom, and if he does then there is something seriously wrong with the whole process. How can someone ask for pardoning a person who tried his best to destroy the entire political structure of the country? Does he deserve sympathy just because he belongs to a particular state (Jammu & Jammu )? Would these parties reacted the same way if the terrorist had been from some other state and not of the minority community? These are some questions that need to be answered by the people who are asking for clemency for Afzal.

The local parties who talk about Kashmiriyat have, from inception tried to project Jammu & Kashmir as a separate part of India, so as to strengthen their demand for autonomy. Political gimmicks like these is not anything new in relation to the Himalayan State. They need to understand that Jammu & Kashmir is an integral part of India, and their far-fetched dream of an autonomous J&K can never be true. Their demand is based on an illusion that one day Kashmir will be given autonomy, but one cannot achieve anything substantive if he’s following an illusion. A Kashmiri cannot be governed by a different set of law just because he belongs to Jammu & Kashmir.

According to All Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC), hanging Afzal will turn him into a martyr! One must be out of his mind to term Afzal a martyr. And if he is on his way to become a martyr, then surely Nathuram Godse, Kehar Singh were all martyrs. They all had their independent notion of ‘Right and Wrong’ and for that they killed the people whom they thought should be killed. Kehar singh killed Indira Gandhi, because he thought Mrs. Gandhi had committed a crime against the whole Sikh community. Is he a martyr? Is Godse a martyr? Or for that matter the people involved behind the assassination of Rajeev Gandhi a bunch of martyrs?

In Palestine, anyone who dies fighting against Israel is a martyr. Is this what the parties like APHC trying to portray? Are they asking the International community to view J&K as an International problem? A conflict between two states?

The history, issues and the ground realities in Palestine are very different from J&K. Jammu & Kashmir is a problem that is a result of Pakistan’s evil plans, much like what they tried in Punjab. In North we have Kashmir, in South and Central India we have the naxalites and in the North-Eastern states we have the ULFA separatists. One can call it by any name, Militancy, Terrorism or Naxalism. The truth is that terrorists are terrorist, anywhere and everywhere; they do what they are best at doing; spreading terror. One cannot term them as freedom fighter. Are not terrorist active in Balochistan? Or they should also be termed as freedom fighters?

Afzal is not being hanged without being heard, the due process of law has been followed in his case, and the three tiers of judiciary have confirmed his sentence. If anyone deserves the capital punishment, its Afzal, because what he did was truly a rarest of rare case. Had he succeeded, then this country’s security would have been jeopardized, internally and externally.

This case doesn’t deserve any clemency and certainly it doesn’t deserve the political highlight that it has been getting.

( HT published this article and after that i received no less that 40 emails from various quarters including some from the seperatists group operating in Kashmir.)

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Love Lives

She asked him whether he can promise her that he will take her on a candlelight dinner, on the coming full moon which was coinciding with her birthday, just the two of them sailing in a boat. He said, "Yes".

Though, he was scared, but then also Joshua was convinced that he would be able to do what he had promised. Perhaps his belief in love convinced him, perhaps.

The day arrived; it was the birthday of her beloved, the day when Joshua was expected to fulfill the promise. He waited for the night to arrive, the moon to rise and sparkle, and then he brought her, his love.

The small boat was waiting, inviting the lovers. The phobia of water, of drowning which was a part of Joshua's life had surprisingly vanished. Presence of love had perhaps overcome the fear, love is more mightier than any fear; believe in love.

He started to row. Helped by the soft breeze, soon they were in the middle of the lake, just the two of them.

The calm, silent blue water had silently accepted the intrusion of the small intruder. The breeze that was blowing was slow and soft, singing a love couplet for the two.

When in love, people become careless, worldly affairs become of no importance, the feelings that arise from deep within the heart, engulfs your mind, hear and soul. So neither of them were surprised when they discovered that the pizzas, the pastas that was a part of their candlelight dinner was not there.

Joshua, was happy, for there will much more time to look into each others eyes, more time to spend while holding each others hand, and just that extra time to bid the final goodbye, the last farewell.

As if with magic, Joshua took out a bottle of champagne, it was as old as their love and as pure. She was astonished, but he was not. After its content was emptied, it was allowed to drift in the waiting arms of the lake.

Their was no need of speaking, for words would have betrayed what they wanted to say, and even if they spoke words would have failed to express their feelings and emotions which only can be comprehended by those who have experienced it. Joshua then spoke, the expressions on his face were that of calmness, as if he had been waiting for a moment and that moment was finally about to arrive. He only wanted to live this moment, and he desired the moment to last forever.

Softly he said " Why were u leaving me behind?" for he knew that she only had few days to keep her eyes open to breath, to feel any emotion, for after those few days, all these things would cease to exist, for she herself would cease to exist, she was dying, her heart had failed her.

Emotions got the better of him, and after a while he spoke, the dilemma, the pain, visible in his eyes. "My dear, my love sometimes you and many times I, must have thought of living happily, spend the remaining life with each other, hand in hand, but fate was not on our side, and like true lovers we shouldn't try to go against our destiny, and it has been decided that we will slowly embrace death, welcome it with open arms, for the champagne we just drank will not allow us to live for more than the moments we need".

She just kept staring, as if to say that she was now happier, more content, and they slowly embraced. They fell into each other's arm, and they waited.

The boat drifted, the moonlit sky turned black, the moon was covered by a patch of clouds and it rained. They died, their love didn’t.

( Wrote this in 2001)

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Students and Youths-Losing their way

Politics they say is an art which like every other art is learnt after coming into existence, mytho-logically Abhimanyu was an exception who learnt this art when he was still in his mother’s womb.

Every national party like the Congress, the BJP has a youth wing which grooms the future national leaders. Indian Youth Congress (IYC), the youth party of Congress is often regarded as the doorway to enter the mainstream Congress party. Same goes for the Akhil Bharti Vidyarthee Parishad (ABVP), the student wing of BJP.

ABVP was news recently in, albeit for reasons which it won’t cherish much. A recent incident in Ujjain in which a professor was beaten to death allegedly by the members of the ABVP has caught the entire nation’s headlines.

The ABVP, is said to be the youth front of BJP, so I guess for the BJP a youth is allowed to exercise the rush of adrenaline, lose his cool and manhandle a professor, just because the teacher postponed the student elections. It’s true that with youth, vices like anger, sentiments are associated and to somewhat extent they are acceptable too, but is it acceptable in the present case? The Madhya Pradesh CM ,Shivraj Singh Chouhan, who himself rose from a being an ordinary member of ABVP to the present position of CM termed the incident as an unfortunate one, and went on to say that it was an incident which shouldn’t have occurred. Yes, It was unfortunate and one that shouldn’t have happened, but it became more shameful when the ruling BJP tried to shield the accused just because they were members of ABVP.

The kind of abusive languages used by the ABVP activists on the professors in presence of police was not heard or seen in the past. Leaders like, Bihar deputy chief minister, Sushil Kumar Modi, former union information and broadcasting minister,Ravishankar Prasad and Arun Jaitely, all are products of the ABVP, but they must not have treated their teachers like the modern ABVP leaders did at Ujjain. Their party is in power in Madhya Pradesh and it appears that this very power has gone into the heads of the Parishad leaders.

The recent week has seen a many a student movement or more aptly student ‘protest’. There was the Ujjain incident, then the students of MCM DAV Girls College, Chandigarh went on a strike after one of their colleague was slapped after she broke the rule of not using mobile in the college campus, then the students of Charan Singh university Meerut went on a rampage, burning vehicles, blocking roads after gross irregularities relating to evaluation of answer sheets was discovered in their university.

India has a glorious history of student raising their voices whenever they felt that something wrong was being committed against them and against the society. After Indira Gandhi imposed the emergency, the students under the leadership of JP Narayan proved a to be more than a handful and it would not be an exaggeration to say that it was the student movement which forced Mrs. Gandhi to take back the emergency. Similarly in the early 90’s the whole of the youth came out on the roads when the then PM VP singh tried to implement the reservation policy. The same reason again inspired the whole generation of youths and students to again use their force collectively in 2006. Youth has only one thing that gives them the authority, the recognizition and to some extent the reason to fear them; their “collectivity”, their knack of being united whenever the situation demands.

During the Freedom movement too the students actively participated in the movement for independence. This was very clearly evident in 1905, when students protested against Lord Curzon’s decision of the partition of Bengal. Young revolutionaries like Khudiram bose, Chandrashekhar Azad, Bhagat Singh etc. caught the imaginations of millions of students and youths all over the country. At that time the cause for which the students protested was for the independence of India.

The youth is seen as an essential tool for the politicians, which act as the “foot soldier” if we can term it that way. They are entrusted with the job of spreading the party’s ideology, that is, if they have anything which can be even vaguely termed as an ‘Ideology'.

Earlier the politically affiliated youth parties undertook social welfare activities like mass literacy campaign fight against untouchability, spreading of primary education etc.Similarly in 1962, the Youth Congress played a great role on the patriotic front against the Chinese aggression. Later they also undertook activities such as tree plantation, anti-dowry campaign, anti-hoarding, anti-smuggling campaigns. Campaigns on family planning and anti-dowry campaigns were also undertaken during this period.

Its not that these problems don’t exist today, they do. The only thing is that since these issues don’t command the media attention that the students crave for, the students don’t think it’s profitable or beneficial politically to indulge in these kinds of activities. After all beating a professor, staging a ‘chakkajam’ or burning vehicles makes them more visible in the eyes of their leaders and mentors.

A single individual collectively makes up the youth force of India. They should realize that they in themselves encompass a power which cannot be emulated. A power which if applies itself in a restraint manner and for the right purpose can change not just the whole of India but the whole world.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Is BJP falling apart ?

With Atal and Advani on the brink of retirement, a power struggle has started in between the leaders who think that its now their turn to take charge.

Politics can be a cruel game. Those who were not aware would be now after seeing the condition of Ms Uma Bharti. She had everything what we thought was required for a politician to succeed, the support of the general mass, a clean and honest image, but then also she will be counted as one of the many leaders who promised much but could not deliver.

Uma Bharti is regarded as the leader of the lakhs of hardcore Hindus, those who strongly supported Hinduvta, and those for whom the construction of Ram Mandir was a sentimental issue.

Ayodhya has always been a very important issue of the BJP's election manifesto, an issue which it only racks up at the time of election, and later dumps it after the objective of awakening the sentiments of the Hindus is fulfilled. Bharti should be credited for not being a hypocrite or an opportunist by not dumping the issue, one which brought her party to power. At least she is not a typical Indian politician.

She was the one who was accredited for routing the Congress government from Madhya Pradesh, a task which many thought was very difficult, if not impossible.

Uma's turbulent time started when she resigned from her chief ministership over the issue of the foreign citizenship of Sonia Gandhi. The party tried to match the sacrifice of Sonia Gandhi with the sacrifice of Uma relinquishing the CM's chair. The party thought that this would be an appropriate time to project the firebrand lady as a face of BJP, one who sacrificed her CM's chair for national pride. The lady resigned, with a hope that at the appropriate time her rightful place will be returned to her. She was disappointed and Babu Lal Gaur was made the CM.

She was constantly sidelined in the party after she quit the Madhya Pradesh chief ministership, which left her frustrated at the treatment being meted out to her. Then came the famous press conference in which Bharti had a one on one with the LK Advani, as a result of which she was suspended from the party, only to be taken back latter due to pressure from the RSS people.

The nomination of Shivraj Singh Chauhan as the new CM broke the camel's back and the Sadhvi was forced to come out with all what she had built up in the recent years. She revolted and even she must not have been surprised in the context of the Indian politics to see many of those leaders who were considered to be loyal to her, left her and distanced themselves from her.

She has acted very wisely by taking a pad yatra from Bhopal to Ayodhya, a yatra which will remind the people that she is the real BJP, remind the BJP that she still is the old sadhvi. By doing this she will be hoping of steering the sentiments of the general population and thus prove that she is a leader of the people.

If one closely follows the BJP, one will at a point come to the conclusion that the party is falling apart. With Atal and Advani on the brink of retirement, a power struggle has started in between the leaders who think that its now their turn to take charge. The party does have many "politicians" but not many "leaders" to boast of, those who can be shouldered the responsibility of steering the BJP out of trouble. Pramod Mahajan, Arun Jaitley, Rajnath Singh or Sushma Swaraj have their limitations, and they cannot be expected to slip in to the shoes of Atal or Advani. Advani losing the grip has given the opportunity to these people to dictate the functioning of the party.

It's very hard to imagine that this was the same party which was functioning at its prime in the early 2000 and a party that conceived India shining. The "party with a difference" is grappling with the problem of "differences" coming up between its own family. Its main ally in Maharastra, the Shiv Sena is on the path to commit hara-kiri, the scene of Rajasthan is also not good with dissidents making life difficult for the Vasundhra Raje government, and to top it all; Madhya Pradesh. It seems that the problem has just started for the people in saffron.

It will be quite right to say that the BJP has done itself more harm then good while acting under the garb of discipline while suspending her. BJP now faces the danger of its two faced politics of pleasing the Indian and enjoying the Hindu secular votes being exposed.

By curbing the popular leaders they are limiting the base of the BJP among the general mass. Now let's just hope that we don't see Narendra Modi being forced to embark on a similar yatra.

Bharti went to jail for the cause which was dear to the party, sacrificing her chair, but she could not realize there is no sentiment in politics, there is no value in politics. Pity, the young woman who made hundreds of BJP workers to occupy air-conditioned cars and bungalows is now literally on the streets leading to Ayodhya, a place which was once dear to her party president LK Advani too.


Gujarat: Godhra issue and BJP

Caste and religion cannot fulfill the basic needs leave alone developing a state.

As soon as the findings of Justice UC Banerjee committee were made public, BJP was quick to deny the findings of the reports and term it as 'absurd'. It would have a different story altogether had the report indicated that the train was burnt by the people of minority community, for that is what the largest Hinduvta party of this country has been proclaiming all these years. Communalism has always been one issue which the BJP has never failed to evoke, be it the Babri Masjid, be it the attack on Akshardham or be it the Godhra incident.

The BJP after the Sabarmati train was attacked declared that the persons behind the attack were Muslims. Perhaps they didn't realize that what repercussion this statement would cause.

This small statement was enough to destroy the life of thousands of people, it created hatred in the minds of innocent children who had seen their fathers and mothers being killed and raped. It didn't help that the state at that time was being ruled by a man who according to himself was a "Hindu" to the core. A Hindu who would kill a fellow human being on slightest provocation. True that this whole incident might have brought political gains for BJP, and for Atal Behari Vajpayee but was it worth it? The two people who could have stopped the carnage, the PM and the CM, couldn't do much because it was their own party workers who were supervising the whole series of Godhra aftermath. Vajpayee, who till then had a spotless political career, would perhaps never forgive himself for being an accessory to such a heinous crime.

The Godhra incident and its terrible consequences destroyed the image of India and led us to realize that even after so many years of evolution, evil still exists inside us, an evil that feeds on our artificial religious sentiments.

Even now one fails to understand what the BJP is trying to gain. On the one hand it states that it's on the path to transforming itself into a secular party, and on the other it rakes up issues which are solely aimed at gaining Hindu vote bank.

The BJP is pinning its hope on the court verdict which is yet to come on the Godhra issue; they only know that what they have in store if the judiciary also endorses the finding of the committee.

What the BJP and company, including other parties like Bahujan Samaj Party don't realize is that the era of caste, class and communal politics is dying a slow death, and whichever political institution practices these agendas will soon find losing whatever it has achieved in yesteryears. The most glaring example of this is the recent Bihar assembly election. Political pundits were of the view that Bihar along with UP is one region of India, where the caste and class plays a very vital role in deciding who's going to rule the state. The Lalu Yadav led RJD confirmed this view when they successfully won the previous two assembly elections, but what they didn't realize was that however deep roots are, if you neglect the structure you are bound to fall. Though the people of Bihar took their time but when they decided that enough was enough they showed Lalu the door.

Even a common illiterate villager realizes that caste and religion cannot fulfill his basic needs leave alone developing a state, and if the political parties think that they can ride on religious or caste sentiments to win votes, they should think again.

The Left parties should be appreciated for changing themselves and moulding themselves with changing time. They are a good example of how a political party, howsoever rigid should be ready to change its role, with change in time. Now, they are following a flexible approach and are wonderfully playing the dual role of keeping the government in check and thereby also following the objective of welfare of the general mass. They do not follow "charlatan-politics". What they think is wrong they protest against it, this was visible the way they ostracized Bush.

Development has always been a core issue of any election, it's only that sometimes it has been overshadowed by some more "important issues", but that is bound to change and political parties should sensitize themselves to the changing scenario. Why even the Congress ruled state of Chhattisgarh and MP were toppled, the simple reason being that the mass didn't believe that development was done in their state.

The coming elections would not be fought on issues of religion, caste or class, more important issues like water, electricity, road, and education would determine who would emerge as the winner.

This kind of political development is very good for democracy in the long run.In the rapidly changing world scenario, only that country would survive and go to the next level, which would break free the shackles of communal, caste and class. There are more important issues which need to be addressed, and it's now upon these parties to realize, and usher a new beginning. The future of Indian politics looks secure in the hands of young leaders like Rahul Gandhi, Varun Gandhi, Naveen Jindal etc who are aware of what is required for this country to develop. Only time will tell whether the new young face of Indian politics is able to deliver the promised new era or not.


“It Stings"

"Sting operation" - a comparatively recent phenomenon to the Indian audience, but one that has nonetheless caught the imagination. Politicians, police and other government employees are also very interested, though for all together different reasons and in different ways.

A ‘sting operation’ is a complicated confidence game designed to catch a person, normally sadly committing a crime, by means of deception. In any sting operation "deception" is at the core and is used to gain the target’s trust and confidence.

The Indian version of a sting operation was first publicly demonstrated by, a news portal now publishing a newspaper in the same name. Tehelka is credited with carrying out 3 major sting operations. The most recent was Operation 'Duryodhana', carried out to expose irresponsible members of parliament demanding and accepting money for raising questions in parliament. This resulted in the suspension of 11 MPs from various parties.

The most infamous sting which has struck in the public mind is the operation carried out by that caught many senior politicians, including the then BJP president Bangaru Laxman, accepting bribes in return for helping an armaments company secure a contract with the Indian army. Many army officials were also caught on camera promising the fictitious arms dealer the contract in return for money, liquor and in some cases call girls.

Another major Tehelka sting operation exposed the bookies and cricketer's nexus. The operation showed many players free from any guilt, talking and deciding about fixing matches in return for monetary favour.

After a series of 'Tehelkas' the Indian media woke up to this new method of making news, and soon we had many such 'Tehelkas'. Popular news channels were among the most devout students - Star news, Zee news and of course India TV (who some say should change its name to "Sting TV") have all run successful operations.

Unfortunately the popular media gave more importance to quantity rather than quality. So even a "Baba" practiced in ancient herb lore and claiming to be able to cure impotency was projected as a person practicing castration. The whole of UP’s Health Ministry was said to be protecting the Baba. The channel claimed that it had exposed a Baba-health ministry nexus. Similarly a police traffic constable became a national villain when one of the channels caught him asking for Rs. 50 bribe from a bus driver. The whole police system and even the home minister suddenly found themselves in line of fire. Viewers were asked to call and register and rant their voice against this "horrible" incident that the channel was able to record.

India TV became the national 'hero' when it aired how a bollywood actor defined in full view the term "Casting couch". Though voices of protest were heard against the actor, one viewer called up and touched on a more relevant issue; is the media morally right to enter into someone's bedroom?

Important questions need to be answered. To what extent can the media sting? Can it go to any length? Is there a need to draw a line somewhere? Rather than correctly expose wrong doing are fictious conspiracies being sought out and private life wrongfully invaded? These constant sting operations have now become a daily thing, and perhaps even passé?

India is yet to codify effective laws governing media sting operations. After Duryodhana, members of Lok Sabha demanded that a law should be formulated to work as a guideline for any future media stings. Some members wanted that there should be a provision of punishment if the media transgress its boundaries.

Abscam (sometimes ABSCAM) is regarded as the first modern sting operation undertook by any organization. It was an FBI operation, initially targeted at trafficking in stolen property and later widened into a public corruption investigation. It ultimately led to the conviction of a United States Senator, six members of the House of Representatives, the Mayor of New Jersey and members of the Philadelphia City Council. After the sting operation Congress in US expressed its concern and created numerous guidelines like the Civiletti Guidelines (1980-1981), The Smith Guidelines (1983), The Thornburgh Guidelines (1989) and more recently The Reno Guidelines (2001). These guidelines were formulated to serve as a tool to define the extent to which public bodies and the media could go.

The press is seen as the fourth estate of a democracy. It is expected to play the role of watchdog, not just entertainer. The press justifies sting operations on the grounds of having a moral duty to bring out the truth. On the other hand critics argue that the press transgresses its boundaries when it uses hidden cameras to record artificial situations and the offer of hard to resist temptations to entrap an unsuspecting person.

Anirudh Bahl, the man behind Tehelka considers the use of a hidden camera as intrusive and says that it should only be utilized where the public interest quotient is high. According to him it should be left with the media to define what constitutes 'public interest'.

Another important issue in the Indian context is that in India 'entrapment' is undefined, unlike many other countries. In India we don't have a case law which defines 'entrapment'. The law is silent and the media can see a grey area that, according to them, provides an opportunity to conduct such operations.

One should also not forget the risk of the media losing credibility and trust. MPs, politicians and journalists have gone on record to say that sting operations will surely sow mistrust, potentially creating a wall between the media and other sections of society hampering the ultimate mission of publishing said truths and stimulating debate.

It's up to the media to decide that how much liberty it can exercise and where it should stop. The issue in question is not perhaps to sting or not to sting, but rather how to best serve the overall public interest?

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Mandal II strikes back

The thunder of reservation is back on the Indian horizon, courtesy Arjun Singh. By providing 27 percent reservation in premier educational institutes like the IIMs and the IITs, Congress has once again tried to rejuvenate the caste and class politics in India.

Nearly 15 years ago the then PM VP Singh tried to do the same thing what the Congress is doing now, to please the OBCs and the SCs/STs by providing them reservation. VP Singh failed and so will the Congress, or any other political party which tries to play the caste politics. But then again rational decisions in Indian political context has always been very hard to find.

The IIMs and the IITs are what they are because of their academic superiority, because of their course structure, which sorry to say is not for mediocre minds. They are just not any other private and governmental educational institute, where the sole motto is the pass a student and give him a degree. By including reservation based seats in these institutions, the level of academic excellence for which they are known will surely come down.

Reservation as an affirmative tool was to be in operation for the first forty years of India's independence, this was what Ambedkar had envisaged, but unfortunately the political mass have now understood the flip side which the policy of reservation can provide in increasing their vote bank and now they are finding it very hard to do away with it.

It's not that reservation doesn't exist in educational institutes. Most of the Law schools, IITs and IIMs have reserved a fair percentage of seat for the OBCs and the SC/STs but has that helped? An OBC student may get admission into a premier institute just due to the reservation, which would have not been possible had the quota system not existed, but would he be able to cope up with the educational pressure?

Numbers prove that most of the OBCs and the SC/STs are forced to drop out because they simply can't cope up with the academic burden that is forced on them. So that substantiates the argument that why to force someone on a journey which he won't be able to complete.

By way of providing reservations, the government has provided the third way to enter into good institutes; the first two are hard work and talent. Either you put in your efforts or you pray that you belong to the reserved class. Due to the quota system even brilliant students belonging to the OBCs and STs/SCs are not able to do justice with their talent and efforts. After all one cannot say by just looking at the face that what has played a major role; the reservation or the hard-work?

Who's to share the blame? The blame is on the political parties and to some extent on the people belonging to the reserved classes. Bitter truth is that the reserved class enjoys the reservation, it's natural; even the general section of the society would have preferred reservation. But the thing is that now the OBCs, the SCs and the STs should stand up and say that they don't need reservation. Let the best man win.

If fifty years of reservation policy has not been able to achieve anything then have we to wait another fifty years? Let the reservation be based on the economic divide, on income. Are not a poor Brahmin or a Kshatriya or a dalit entitled to the same education and same reservation. The basis should be the annual income and not the birth.

So long as the class and caste divide is in the books and in the law, it will be present in the society and in the minds. Ironically the whole concept of reservation was conceived to remove this very class and caste divide.

Ancient texts and laws do talk about system of dwija or the twice born who were considered to be higher in the hierarchical ladder. Dwijas were "dwijas" because it was inscribed in the system, the law recognized it. The sense of thinking works on what the brain hears, sees and reads. A new born baby doesn't know what a dalit is till he is made to understand the meaning in subsequent years.

India has many other serious problems which need attention, and surely caste and class doesn't figure in it. One week ago there was no such frenzy on the reservation system, but then in his world who likes to live peacefully? Attention craving, personal gain and identity crisis have prompted many an incident in the past which the world could have done without. The recent HRD ministry's action is one such instance.

One's curiosity regarding the reasons which provoked Goswami's immolation and immortal action now perhaps stands answered.

Ruckus in Parliament

The whole country functions through the parliament, and parliamentarians are under a moral and professional duty to represent the mass in a way which is expected from them.

Those who were present in parliament on Thursday must be truly saying that now they have seen everything. During the zero hour a JD(U) member raised the case of dalit woman being gang-raped in a rural part of Bihar, and stated the accused belonged to the RJD. This led to all hell breaking loose and the whole issue took an ugly turn when the RJD and JD(U) members started accusing each other of being criminals, and soon verbal abuses were being hurled.

Soon the House was adjourned and when confronted by media persons outside, Sadhu Yadav was at his daring best. When told that he has a warrant pending against him, he openly dared anyone to catch him. A warrant was recently issued in his name in a poll related violence, but according to him since that offence occurred during the election period hence the warrant lost its relevance as soon as the election got over. Perhaps Yadav was trying to interpret law in a way which suited him best. More surprisingly the Bihar police for the past two months have been searching for the "elusive" leader Sadhu Yadav and they recently filed an application in the Patna high court asking for permission to declare Sadhu Yadav as missing. Imagine declaring a person who has been attending the parliament daily as missing.

It's sad to see the already stagnated Indian politics deteriorating more and more. The person in charge of the parliament, Somnath Chatterjee walks away from the House dejected after his pleas of maintaining decorum are ignored. That is one way to tackle a situation. The other way the honourable Speaker could have acted was to dismiss the errant members and order a re-election.

This would have been a deterrent which would have stopped any such future misadventures from any members. The railway minister of this country, Lalu Yadav lived to his reputation of being a "rural leader" and a true Bihari, one who doesn't fear anyone and one who will do whatever he wishes no matter what the situation, whatever the place. I guess he is right when he says that he has not been elected to the parliament to listen to abuses, but that holds true for any member.

Members of the Legislative assemblies of states like UP, West Bengal and Bihar already have witnessed how it feels inside a wrestling ring, but for many members of parliament this was surely a new experience and it raised many questions and equal number of fears. One member of the opposition innocently raised the question that whether he should keep a bodyguard whenever he comes inside the parliament. To allay the fear I should say that either the Hon. member should keep a bodyguard or he should change his party or in extreme case he should contemplate of not attending the parliament until the matter calms down.

Parliament is a place where the representatives of people put question, and expect an answer to their queries. This practice is in serious danger of becoming a think of past if the members are stopped from asking and voicing their opinion. Politicians should remember to keep aside the policy of "might is right" outside once they enter the parliament.

Parliament is regarded as the temple of democracy as laws made here are meant to run the country. The whole country functions through the parliament, and parliamentarians are under a moral and professional duty to represent the mass in a way which is expected from them. But today's incident has surely bought down not only the prestige of the House but also of the entire country and its people.


Work your way to the top

By providing 27 per cent reservation to the OBCs in premier educational institutes like the IIMs and the IITs, the Congress has once again tried to rejuvenate caste and class politics. Nearly 15 years ago, then Prime Minister VP Singh attempted to do what the Congress is doing now: Appease members of the OBCs, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes by providing them reserved seats in educational institutes and jobs.

Mr VP Singh failed to realise his objective and so will the Congress, or for that matter any other political party which plays caste politics. But then a rational decision in Indian politics has always been very hard to find.

IIMs and IITs are what they are because of their academic superiority and probably for their tough course structure. It would not be an exaggeration to say that they are certainly not meant for average and mediocre minds. Needless to say, reservation of seats in these institutions will affect the standard of academic excellence for which they have always been known.

It is not that reservation has not existed so far in educational institutes, but it has done little good to the historically wronged people. Over the years, many students belonging to the reserved categories dropped out because they simply could not cope with the academic burden.

For nearly 60 years, reservation policy has not been able to serve its purpose. Let reservation be based on economic condition of candidates. Is not a poor Brahmin, Kshatriya or a Dalit entitled to the same education and reservation? Any reservation, therefore, should be based on income and not birth.

So long as the class and caste divide is present in books and law, reservation will remain a Government policy and will engage minds in endless debates on its merit. Ironically, the concept of reservation was conceived to remove this very class and caste divide.

Ancient texts do talk of dwijas or the twice born who enjoyed high status in social hierarchy. Dwijas could, by means of education, qualify as upper caste. The law recognised such ascension. A newborn does not know what a Dalit is. He is made to understand the meaning as he grows up in subsequent years. India has many other problems that need to be addressed; surely caste and class consciousness must not figure in that list.


Compulsry registration of marriage- a welcome step

The recent Supreme Court verdict making registration of marriages essential is a significant step towards women's welfare. The legal status granted to all marriages will save married women the trouble of running from pillar to post to prove their marital status. Such a law already existed in some parts of the country, including Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra, but the absence of a Central legislation was being felt which thankfully will be framed after this judgement.

A lot would have been different had this judgment come earlier. It would have helped those women in getting justice who were deserted by their husbands. As it happens with all legislations, the decision to frame such a law has also evolved gradually. Way back in 1970s, the district administration of Bastar ordered the police to surround the township neighbouring the iron ore project of Bailadila to conduct a mass wedding ceremony at gunpoint of non-tribal engineers who were keeping tribal girls as concubines.

The situation was no different in Gujarat where a system prevailed in which a man and a woman entered into a friendship agreement, a legitimate contract before a magistrate. It had a social and legal sanction and was popularly known as "maitri karar". Later this practice was converted into a "service agreement", according to which the man would keep the woman of his choice in his house as a helper or a maid servant. Not surprisingly, this contract, too, had a legal and social legitimacy. It is well known that this practice was followed by many Ministers and senior bureaucrats.

The recent judgement on registration of marriages is being seen by Hindu fundamentalist as an attack on Hindu sentiments and an instrument to Westernise society. On the other hand, their Muslim counterparts are neither against nor for the judgement because according to them, the practice of registering marriages already exists in their community. The only difference is that Muslim marriages are registered by the local maulvi. The point they perhaps seem to be missing is that this decision of the court will make Islamic divorce laws, which are liberal, more difficult to enforce.

The benefits of marriage registration are endless. It would help in the "prevention of child marriages, deter men from deserting women after marriage, discourage parents and guardians from selling their daughters in the garb of marriage, check bigamy/polygamy, help women exercise their matrimonial rights and enable widows to claim inheritance."

Maintenance of official records of marriages would facilitate quick disposal of litigation between two parties. A number of cases filed by deserted wives, victims of bigamous relationships and hapless widows who were robbed of their share in property because they did not have proof of their marriage, are pending in different courts. Surprisingly, the issue of introduction of legislation for compulsory registration of marriages was under consideration for more than 15 years. If this judgement is properly enforced, it will also help to prevent child marriages from taking place among the economically and socially backward communities.

The question is: Will this judgement only add to the huge backlog in the courts? Or will it really empower women and make them equal partners in marriage? Cases in the coming years concerning marital discord hold the answer to this question.


Rights of children

The controversy that the 104th Constitutional Amendment Bill generated nearly obscured another significant Bill: The Commission for Protection of Child Rights Bill, 2005, which was passed in Parliament. It proposes to set up a National Commission for Protection of Child Rights both at the national level and Commissions at the State level.

We already have international laws and treaties like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights that recognises children are entitled to special care and assistance. These principles are further reiterated by the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) which declares special measures of protection and assistance to all children without any discrimination for reasons of parentage or other conditions.
"Besides, the Constitution of India also seeks to protect the child against various forms of exploitation. It mandates that "no child below the age of fourteen years shall be employed to work in any factory or mine or engaged in any other hazardous employment." The Constitution prohibits traffic in human beings and forced labour and prescribes that any contravention of this shall be an offence punishable in accordance with law.

In pursuing its objective of prohibiting child labour Parliament has enacted the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act 1986, providing for a uniform definition of "child" as a person who has not completed 14 years of age. While employment of children in hazardous occupations is banned, employment in non-hazardous occupations should be regulated.

This is probably because the problem of child labour is the outcome of poverty and illiteracy, and unless these causes are eradicated, it would be unrealistic to forbid child labour altogether. Despite these constitutional and statutory safeguards, child labour in hazardous industries is still prevalent in many parts of the country.
However, the Commission for Protection of Child Rights Bill, 2005, is seen as an important instrument as it provides for setting up of a separate statutory body, whose purpose will be to work for the furtherance of child right, specially the street children. The Commission will be basically dealing with child health, education, childcare, juvenile justice, welfare of children with disabilities, elimination of child labour, development in the child psychology and laws relating to children.

What needs special attention is the power entrusted with the child commission is of a wide nature, similar to that of the National Human Rights Commission. It can inspect any juvenile custodial home or any other place of residence or institution meant for children for the purpose of treatment, reformation or protection and take up with these authorities for remedial action.

Further, it can also inquire into complaints and take suo-motu notice of matters relating to deprivation of child's rights, non-implementation of laws for protection and development of children, non-compliance of policy decisions, guidelines or to provide relief to such children, or take up the issues arising out of such matters with the appropriate authorities.

Equally important is the spread awareness of children's rights among various sections of the society. The legislature, by way of bringing the Commission for Protection of Child Rights Bill, 2005, has performed its duty of welfare state, but it remains to be seen whether the setting up of Commission would be able to provide succour to the children.


Secularism & slaughter

Well-known anthropologist Verrier Elwin once wrote, "The humble cow stood between the tribes in the Northeast and Hinduism," adding that he would not have known the cow would become such an important issue.

The Supreme Court's order upholding the 1994 policy of the Gujarat Government banning cow slaughter on October 26, could not have a been better timed. The seven-judge bench led by Chief Justice RC Lahoti maintained that the ban was in the public interest.

However, banning the slaughter of cows will also violate two Fundamental Rights enshrined in the Constitution: The freedom to live at the place of one's choice (Article 21) and the right to carry on any occupation, trade or business (Article 19(1)(g)).

Thus, this prohibition, if we go by a strict interpretation of the Constitution, indulges in satisfying the interest of a particular section in India's multi-cultural, multi-religious society which is against the principle of secularism.
Cow slaughter should not be seen only through a legal perspective, as it involves religious, political as well as economic implications. Political parties have been searching for a way to balance the interest of those who worship cows and those who consume them.

Therefore, the recent decision of the court has put them in dilemma on whether to support the ban or to go against it. If they are for a ban then it will surely dent their Muslim as well as Christian vote-bank. And if they show their unwillingness for the ban, then they would hurt the sentiments of millions of Hindus.

Barring a few Hindu organisations like the VHP and the Bajrang Dal - and to some extent the BJP - no other political party supports the ban, at least not vocally.
Seen from an economic perspective, the proposed ban will severely hit the leather industry, which employs some 2.5 million people across the country. Annually it earns $1.8 billion from exports. There are nearly 4,000 tanneries that employ over 2.5 million people, nearly a third of them women.

According to data available, while 60 per cent of the raw hide for the leather industry comes from slaughtered animals, 30 per cent coem from 'fallen animals' and 10 per cent from imports. The demand for Indian leather in the international market is also quite high. Besides, beef in our country costs less than half the price of lamb or chicken. It is the preferred source of first-class protein for the poor, who constitute a majority of India's population.

An important reason, which has created a schism between those who support the ban and those who don't, is a flawed belief that cow slaughter was started in India by foreign invaders (read Muslims) during the Middle Ages.

Scholars believe that the demand for a ban on cow slaughter began as late as 19th century, which was then a popular tool of mass political mobilisation. However, historical as well as contemporary accounts reveal that animal sacrifice, including slaughter of cows, was a prescribed ritual in many Indian traditions. To what extent these were followed will not be known.

The principle of secularism has its own share of problems, and since it is part of the Constitution, one cannot shy away from the many predicaments which are bound to arise. The need is to carefully draft a policy which provides for an organised, humane method of transporting and slaughtering the animals.

Banning is no panacea

Following the killing of 24 CRPF personals in the landmine blast, the Chhattisgarh government has brought an ordinance to ban the naxal outfits operating in the state. By doing so Chhattisgarh became the second state after Andhra Pradesh to ban naxal outfits in the country.

A critical question which needs to be addressed is whether banning the right step in the right direction? An eye for an aye and a tooth for a tooth is an easy game, a game in which no one wins. By imposing the ban the state has made the naxal problem a much bigger issue, it has ruined any chance of resolving the age old problem through talks. Prohibiting naxalsim would further aggravate the problem; growing resentment will force them to adopt more desperate measures, which in no way would solve the problem. They have been banned in the past too, but what was the result? Did it solve the problem?

Naxals unlike the Islamic terrorist don’t follow or fight for the purpose of any particular religion. It is totally different from the present Kashmir problem or the former Punjab trouble. It should not be looked as terrorist problem, but as a socio economic problem.

Naxalites are composed primarily of youths, and through them they carry out their operations and activities. Isn’t it important to look into the issue that why the youths, particularly the tribals join naxalites outfit? After all the life of a naxal is not a bed of rose.

The youths seeing no hope of improving socio economic condition are delineated from the mainstream society. They are disenchanted and share a feeling of discontent against the society, a society which is nothing but the creation of the state. A society which has offered them nothing and took many things.

No employment, increasing poverty, government machinery which has failed, failed to deliver even the basic amenities; and machinery in which everything comes for a cost, laws which prohibit them from using their own resources, all these factors have contributed towards changing the mind and transforming a common youth to feared naxalites.

It is a false genereal impression that the illiterate mind of the rural-tribal youth is easily susceptible towards adopting a lifestyle of a naxalites. All naxalites are not illiterate. It has been observed that many of the members of the “Dalam” (a group of naxalites operating in a particular area), are very ably educated, some even have completed their graduation. The core members of the Dalam have been found to highly qualified. Why blame them instead of blaming a system which doesn’t give the opportunity to utilize the education that they have been imparted?

Naxals like any Indian citizen are part of the same country in which we live. They are not foreigners but they too have evolved from the same civilization from which we have evolved. So why view them differently?

The roots of this problem are in the bleak socio-economic conditions of our country, especially the deep rural areas which have been neglected, and have seen either no or very little developmental activity. Development of not only the naxal infested area but the other interior remote part of the country should be given its due attention. Perhaps then only this age old problem will gradually disappear as it once appeared. Till this happens the slogan “Lal Salam” will continue to inspire fear even in the strongest of the hearts.

There is no shortage of Security personnel’s, innocent villagers, and disoriented youth in this huge country, but letting them die for a cause which is not justified, either ethically, morally, politically or economically is not acceptable.


Impart quality education

The Union Government has made up its mind of bringing the Private Professional Educational Institutions (Regulation of Admission and Fixation of Fee), Bill 2005. Its main objective is to curtail the autonomy currently enjoyed by these private and professional institutes. The ministry of Human Resource Development (HRD) has stirred up a debate by drafting the said bill.

The Bill broadly deals with such issues as regulating the admission and fixing the fee, which primarily lies with the institution itself. Further, it is of the view that a retired Vice-Chancellor, who will be assisted by two experts, should head the decision-making authority. Therefore, the question of fixing the fees and regulating the admission would be in the hands of the aforesaid body.

Apprehensions are being raised that the Bill would arrest the growth and development of private institutes. By tying their hands the proposed law will lead to decrease the quality output. But it should be remembered that the reputed institutes have not made their names solely on the basis of the fees that they charge, but due to the quality education they impart. Parents if given the option between "less fees-inferior education" and "high fees-quality education", would in most cases prefer the latter.

Resources are needed to excel and impart quality education. This is the reason why exorbitant fees are charged. The Constitution of India is not silent on these aspects. However, going by the Constitution, the courts have maintained that excellence in education and permissible increase in fees, both need to be maintained.

Articles 29 and 30 of the Constitution deals with educational rights. The Gujarat High Court in Sidhrajbhai Sabbaj and others vs State of Gujarat (1963) has upheld that regulations are needed to see to it that quality in the form of teachers are not compromised. Also, it gave the view that the infrastructure of an educational institution must follow some minimum level of quality.

In a landmark judgment in Frank Anthony Public Employee Association vs Union of India (1986), the Supreme Court held that the statutory measures regulating terms and conditions of the quality of teachers and employees, which is needed for the purpose of excelling, are not infringement of fundamental rights. The point made in the judgment was that there are enough safeguards to see to it that common people are not exploited on the pretext of giving high quality education.

State level institutions are governed by their respective local laws, which regulate their functioning. So the crucial question is: Why the need of bringing another legislation, whose main aim is to curb the activities of the already curbed private/professional institutes.

When the question of quality education comes, it is not rare to see that more and more of Indian students going abroad for getting education in institutions which are not of a very high repute, but at least provides a minimum level of quality education. Even a poor farmer expects his child to study in reputed college/university. The fee aspect, after all, becomes secondary. Regulations are abounding to control the education system in our country. However, interfering in the core matters of the education institution would rob them of their autonomy.

We are rejoicing over the increasing literacy rate but have we ever observed that how much the word "literate" is limited in our country. For the State the word 'literate' is confined to signing one's name. Is this what education is all about?


56 years after......

The Sovereign, Socialist, Secular Democratic Republic of India is once again celebrating the Republic Day. The Constitution had promised social, economic and political justice to the people who make the Republic. The Constitution also assured equality of status and opportunity.

Despite over 100 amendments in the Indian Constitution, it appears we have failed in fulfilling the assurances and promises made through our Constitution. The liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship guaranteed through the Constitution had come under strains several times, be it the imposition of Emergency in 1975 or the December 6, 1992 demolition of Babri structure or stary incidents of attacks on the religious places in different parts of the country, Meenakshipuram conversions or Bhoj temple controversies.

The vast majority of the citizens are still below poverty line making mockery of the assurance of economic justice to the people. The tribals of Orissa, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh are still fighting for the compensation of the land and property acquired 50 years back for the different steel plants. Benefits of Plans have not reached them. In Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh, farmers are committing suicide as they are in heavy debt and poor crops crippling the agro economy. Still, thousands of villages are still without power though numerous rural electrification programmes are on. The Prime Minister rural road construction scheme has not touched populated villages in many blocks.

Social justice assured in the Indian Constitution is visible only through the reservation of jobs. Stories appear in the newspapers and electronic media on the discrimination on grounds of caste and creed in the villages. The reservations made in the panchayati raj system have helped create a new class of rural rulers of socially deprived groups. But, these groups also constitute the agriculturally rich people in the rural areas.

Equality of status and opportunities are missing. Though, telecommunications and road communications are reaching the villages, still the benefits are concentrated among a few selected landlords, businessmen and traders. Crores of educated youths are unemployed and how the employment guarantee schemes would bring them benefits, remains to be seen. The manifesto and programmes -common minimum programme or common agenda of governance remains on paper.

The voting age was reduced by Rajiv Gandhi creating a big force of young voters. At Hyderabad plenary of the Cognress, Rahul Gandhi declared' leadership can not be created, but has to be built brick by brick". Rahul or Varun Gandhis are the leaders by birth, they are neither created nor built bricks by bricks. This is the basic problem. If the young leadership is diverting elsewhere, it is because of the leadership crisis. If the youth in 12 states of the country is diverting towards Left Maoisim or in North East, it is because of this leadership crisis. These kind of frustrated youth, taking to militancy to bring in social and economic justice, are more dangerous than external enemies to India.

The planners and politicians will have to look into the profile of the youths who are engaged in "brick by brick" leadership to ensure the honest functioning of the Republic of India.


We the people

The Indian constitution states ‘We The People Of India’. It doesn’t differentiate between an Oriya, a Maharashtrians or a Bihari. Though that cant be said about the Indian politicians.

It’s nothing less than unfortunate that political parties in India and specially the BJP can go to any extent to increase their vote bank. This was visible when Pramod Mahajan stated that Maharashtrians would not tolerate the 'dadagiri' (bullying behavior) of Bihari students and warned them to maintain low profile or face consequences.

Previously also the Shiv Sena had assaulted Bihari candidates who had come to Mumbai to give competitive exams. India as a country does not belong to any particular community or class. Everyone has a right to work and earn his livelihood anywhere in the country, the constitution envisages it. The reason behind this is to strengthen the unity and integrity of India.

The constitution of India expressly states that every citizen of Indian has the right to move to any part of the country freely. Article 15 of the constitution prohibits discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth. Whereas Article 19 (1) (d) and 19 (1) (e), says that all citizen shall have the right to move freely throughout the territory of India and to reside and settle in any part of the territory of India.

Every state in India is dependents on the other either directly or indirectly. Be it electricity, water sharing or food. The simple reason being that each state in itself is not self dependent. Some region of the country abounds in food crops, some in electricity and some in timber. The constitution has nowhere said that a particular state or a city would be restricted for the outsiders.

Perhaps with time Pramod Mahajan and the Shiv Sena have gained more authority than the constitution.Shiv sena in 2003 launched the `Me Mumbaikar' campaign shouting on top of its voice that Mumbai belongs to Mumbaikars and no outsiders would be allowed to earn their livelihood or compete in state exams. The people who say that no outside people should be allowed in to Mumbai should ask themselves a question that is Mumbai just made up of the Maharashtrians or does it includes other people from all over the country and would Mumbai continue to function as its functioning now if all national aid is stopped, or all the other non Maharashtrians leave Mumbai?

They argue that these non-mumbaikars are putting pressure on the already over burdened resources of the city and that these migrants are also instrumental in increasing the slum population. But those people who are arriving in Mumbai or for that matter to any other metropolitan city are they doing this by their free will? The answer is ‘No’. No one likes leaving his homeland and working in some other place that too when you have to live in slums. Those poor migrants who have migrated have done so because they have no other options. Poverty, unemployment force them to do so, they are not attracted by the glitters of that place.

Feeling of statehood should not be given priority over nation hood, a state is a state if and only if the nation exists. If from tomorrow UP declares that UP is for the “Uttar Pradeshi”, next day the Punjabis , and then Delhi and so on, then each state will in itself become a country which just for the namesake would be a part of India.This intra regional conflict that the leaders politicize if not stopped will soon turn into a danger which will threaten the nation’s integrity.

These pseudo-politicians should be made aware of the repercussions their statement can generate, not for their state but for the country.exists.

Tribal renaissance

By seeing through the hypocrisy of industrial houses that want to acquire their land by fair means or foul and the government’s pathetic rehabilitation package meted out in the name of industrialisation, tribals of Orissa and Chhattisgarh have demonstrated that they cannot be ignored any longer, writes Abhinandan Mishra.
The recent revolt by Kalinganagar tribals against poor compensation for the land acquired for establishment of a steel plant is the upshot of a renaissance taking root in the tribal belt of the country.
After the Kalinganagar uprising against industrialisation, tribals of Rourkela and Bastar have also started a revolt against the poor package meted out to them by government and industrial houses.
The renaissance among tribals of Orissa and Chhattisgarh appears to be spontaneous as political parties and politicians and even leaders of non-governmental organisations surfaced at a later stage ~ after the killing of 13 tribals and the chopping off of the hands of five tribals. There was no Medha Patkar or Anna Hazare to champion their cause.
The plan of a big industrial house(Tatas) to establish a Rs 10,000- crore steel plant at Lohariguda in Bastar is also facing tough tribal resistance.The industrial house proposes to acquire land in 10 villages which would uproot at least 250 families.They have been assured of a house site of 3,000 sqft for each family, water and road connectivity and compensation between Rs 50,000 and Rs 1 lakh per acre as compensation.
Jobs have been promised to one person per family by the industrial house which has told the government it would invest two per cent of the profit on the area’s development.The public sector National Mineral Development Corporation (NMDC) had also planned to set up a steel plant at Nagarnar, twenty kilometres from the Jagdalpur divisional headquarters. The foundation stone for the project was laid four years back and the land of the tribals was acquired by the corporation for the project. Tribals have been dispossessed of their cultivable land by the corporation which had promised “peripheral development” of Nagarnar.In the last four years, there has been no development. Contrary to the NMDC’s promise, neither have schools nor hospitals come up in the area.Tribals of Nagarnar are also opposed to the proposed steel plant now.
Another private sector company (Essar) had entered into a memorandum of understanding with the Chhattisgarh government for setting up a steel plant at Bastar.
Tribals of the area have declared they would not give their land for the steel plant. One more private sector company had signed an MoU for another steel plant in Bastar four years back. After resistance from land holders, the group backed out. Tribals are holding their jan adalats (people’s courts) at different places, including Belar, Nagarnar and Lohariguda and passing resolutions such as, “We will not give our valuable land, whatever may be the price”.
The tribals feel betrayed by the non-implementation of the commitments made by the government and the industrial houses in the past.“We would not like to be cheated again,” said Laikan Vaghel. “The government had made a commitment to give Rs 5 lakh a year to the nagar panchayat of Nagarnar, but not a single paisa has reached us so far,” he said, adding, “We want to reclaim our land”. The tribals have genuine reasons to complain. In the process of land acquisition, the mandatory consent of the gram sabha is not taken. This happened in the case of Nagarnar. During investigations, panchayat employees confirmed that the pages from the register of the gram panchayat’s special sabha of Kasturi had been “removed”.
“I do not know who tore off the pages missing in the proceeding register,” Lakhan Singh, panchayat employee of Kasturi panchayat told the divisional commissioner(now the post is abolished), while giving details about irregularities in the acquisition of land for the Nagarnar steel plant.
Rahuraj Devangan, panchayat employee of Bamhani panchayat, said while elaborating on the proceedings of the gram sabha held for land acquisition: “I did not write the proceedings. Seven pages are missing from the register. I do not know how these pages disappeared and who removed them.” There are similar statements made by employees of the panchayats in several villages where vital pages from the registers were missing.
The pages were removed as they carried objections from the tribals and an impression was given outside that the villagers had consented to the land acquisition. Tribals of the area are illiterate and the lowest-grade employees of the Panchayati Raj bodies who maintain office records of the panchayats come under the influence of agents of industrial houses to manipulate documents to suggest the entire “gram sabha” had given its approval for construction of the plant and land acquisition. Tribals had filed affidavits to claim they had been obliged to accept cheques even though they had not consented to land acquisition.
The tribals appeared to have taken lessons from past mistakes committed by their elders and seem to have realised that their ignorance should not be taken for granted in the name of industrialisation by the government or big industrial houses.

Chhattisgarh: Tribes on verge of extinction

Some tribes, particularly, Abuj Madias and Baigas are cut off from rest of the world as the areas inhabited by them have no infrastructure like roads, bridges etc, points out Abhinandan Mishra.

The centrally government aided schemes for the development of primitive tribes- Baigas, Pahari Korbas, Abuj Madias and Birhors in Chhattisgarh have failed to uplift the condition of the tribals staying in the jungles and hills of the state. The Centre had sanctioned Rs 100 crores three years back for their development and the state had separate development authorities for the primitive tribes' development with their headquarters at Bastar, Kawardha, Bilaspur and Jashpur, but the agencies failed in improving the lot of the aboriginal tribes, admit the officials.

A few weeks back, the district administration of Jashpur had uncovered a racket of defalcation of crores of rupees meant for the development of Pahari Korba who were served recovery notices from the nationalized banks for the loan which they had never taken. The primitive tribes are so backward that they are not even enrolled as voters in most parts.

The primitive tribals have been given concession in the family planning which is not imposed on them due to their fast declining population. The doctors and quacks have been warned against family planning on the primitive tribes as their number is not even 50,000 taken together all the primitive communities from Bastar to Surguja. The literacy rate among the Pahari Korbas staying near villages of Korba town is 2 per cent and for the Abuj Madias and Baigas, the Ramakrishna Mission have started "ashram pattern" schools near their villages. Among the Baigas of Kawardha and Bilaspur it is nil.

The then prime minister, Rajiv Gandhi and Ms Sonia Gandhi had made an over night stay at Gugul, one of the villages inhabited by primitive Kamar tribals, but even after 20 years of the PM's stay, there is no change in the life of the villagers.

Some of the primitive tribes, particularly, Abuj Madias and Baigas are still cut off from rest of the world as the areas inhabited by them have no infrastructure like roads, bridges, dispensaries and markets.

They have not even joined the political activities and many of them have not even voted in the elections-from panchayats to the parliament. A couple of Pahari Korbas had voted in the last elections near a booth at Korba. The government intends to preserve their traditional culture and in the pockets of Abuj Mad, outsider's entry is still restricted. The area of Abuj Mad was not surveyed as yet and for the first time, the state has entered into an agreement with the ISRO for aerial survey with ground support as the entire area is Naxalite infested and they have their training centres too.

In certain pockets, food items are sent in advance for four months of monsoon as the villages have no pucca roads. Most of the Baigas are illegal settlers on the protected forest areas. The National Remote Sensing Agency-(NRSA), ISRO's unit at Hyderabad will start an aerial survey of the 6,000 sq metres area of Abuj amad, inhabited by 12,000 primitive tribes of Abuj Madis soon. This will be first survey of the area which remained cut off from all governmental activities so far. According to the agreement, 237 inhabited villages in Narayanpur, Dantewara and Bijapur (covering Abuj Mad) will be covered under the aerial survey to be done by two modified Super King aircraft which would get ground security support from the police.

The Abuj Mad area is literally under the control of the Naxalites of Bastar. The IG of police of Bastar has assured full protection to the technical staff of the NRSA, Hyderabad during the survey.

The NRSA has sought clearance from the three units of the defence- Navy, IAF and the Army for the aerial survey. The agency will get clearance from the union home ministry before starting the year-long survey. The ministry of railways will also have to give clearance for the survey though there are no railways installations in the area.

In each of the sorties, the defence ministry staff would accompany the agency team during the survey. All photographs taken from the height of 15,000 feet would be examined by the defence ministry before allowing it to be handed over to the state government. The defence ministry staff would examine the photos with their negatives and would have all authority to delete them as there are some defense installations in the Bastar.

The one-year long aerial survey would cost the state and the Centre Rs 5.50 crores. The ISRO would take Rs 1.50 crores as photography charges.

The photographs taken from the height of 15000 feet would give a clear picture of the trees, cattle-wealth, human population, their constructions, rivers etc in the area. The object of ten metres would be visible in the photographs taken from the aircraft with computer controlled navigation system. The Abuj Madias are scattered in the 237 villages of the region and they practice shifting cultivation. There is no road communication in the area.

The government will start physical verification of the findings made by the air for two years and this would help in extending the government schemes to the primitive tribes.

The exercise of aerial survey was used by the American defence ministry in Iraq, according to the NRSA scientists who claimed recently they completed the aerial survey of the entire islands dominated Maldives, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. Abuj mad remained neglected so far.

While the NRSA will help know the details of Abuj Madias, the state government has prevented family planning among another primitive tribes-Baigas staying in Kawardha and parts of Bilaspur .The primitive Baiga tribes are on the verge of extinction and thanks to the efforts of family promotion schemes launched by the Government of India, the population has reached 29303 from 20,002 in ten years. Baigas still stay in the jungles and on the hills, still semi-naked and dependent on the minor forest produce.

The central government launched a special assistance programme for the Baigas in 134 villages of the district where 2712 families are staying. The centre has created a special Baiga development authority headed by one of the tribal leaders who is himself illiterate and is the titular head of the authority. The Rs 1.25 crores scheme is aimed at creating health facilities for them and opening food godowns, giving them tools and animals for farming.

The state government and the society is promoting live-in relationships among the primitive tribals too. Live- in- relationship (Pethu in local dialect)) is getting popular among the tribals of Bastar region as it has got social sanctions. Children borne out of these live -in relationships are recognized in the society and the couples marry even after the birth of children who attend the marriage of their parents. According to the sociologists engaged in tribal researches, 80 per cent of the couple have live in relationships.

At one such mass marriage of primitive tribals, 22 year old Van Kumar formally married his live in partner Rachnawati at Nagarnar village in presence of a priest and friends. The two had their two year old daughter Dhanwanti as witness to the marriage ceremony. They went to the local Shiva temple before joining the "mandal" in the local weekly market place.

Van Kumar admitted they were staying together for the last three years and both of them are from the same village-Kutabadan, 20 kms from the divisional headquarters of Jagdalpur. The boy said he had paid Rs 800 to the parents of the girl when he took her away from a local market. Acceptance of the "Mahala" was the approval of the live in relationship by her parents.
The tribals community has fixed Rs 2500 as Mahala (dowry to be paid to the girls parents by the boy). They can stay together for years before formalizing their marriage. Phool Singh Bogde and Padmawati, another young couple also married in the same fashion. Live in relations have got social and legal sanction too. This is common in entire Bastar. The "Udhalka vivah" (marriage after kidnapping) is common among the tribals here.

The system is more popular in Bijapur, Farasgaon, and Narayanpur blocks among the Gond and Mariya tribes.

Under the system, any youth can hold the arms of the girl in a public place, mostly in weekly haats or Madiyas, the festivals. If the girl does not protest, she agrees for the relationship. The boy takes the girl to his home and informs the society about the Udhalika vivah. Next day, he goes to the girls parents and gives the amount of Mahala (dowry). This may include money, liquor, goats, bulls or boars.

The Gonds, Mariya, Bhatra, Dorla and Maharla tribals prefer this system. However, the problem arises when there is no match of sub-castes among the tribal boy and girls. Bonjha Ram, father of the Lohaniguda janpad panchayat was arrested by the police as his son Satyanarayan (a Madia tribal) kidnapped a Murya tribal girl in the weekly haat. The Sub divisional magistrate took cognizance of the complaint and the boy and his father were arrested as the tribals do not encourage inter-sub-caste relationship.

The Pethu or Udhalikya marriages are improved versions of the "Ghotul" system, which is still common among the primitive tribals staying in Abuj mad area of Bastar. In the Ghotuls, which are make shift pre-honeymoon camps, young boys and girls stay together under the same roof for a fortnight and get training in post marriage social customs. In the western part of Kondagaon and Narayanpur tehsils, even now, the Ghotul system is prevalent. By evening, girls called Behla (in local dialect) invite their boy friends described as Sirdhar (in local dialect) in the beautifully decorated huts with carvings and spend their night together for a fortnight to know each other before they go for formal relationship.
The centrally government aided mid-day meal scheme and Antodaya scheme are also absent in the areas dominated by the primitive tribes. According to a report of the National scheduled tribes' commission, the administration did not provide Antyodaya cards to Pahari Korbas as per directions of the Supreme Court.
The commission made surprise checks in many villages of Surguja having many Pahari Korba families, and found several schools where mid-day meals were not being provided regularly. Over 200 complains about absence of several food schemes and land rights of the primitive tribes were received at Pandripani (Surguja) these were registered with the Additional Collector. The advisor to the Commission played a proactive role and personally collected more complaints from the Pahari Korbas.
The Pandripani episode raised the larger issue of non-compliance of states with the Supreme Court order to issue Antyodaya cards to all primitive tribes.
According to the report of the commission, Koriya district highlighted the dysfunctional state of the integrated child development scheme among the primitive tribes in the district. The Commission took the state government to task on this and this prompted the complete overhauling of the ICDS system in Manendragarh block of the district.
The union government had sanctioned Rs 100 crores for the development of primitive tribes like Pahari Korbas, Baigas, Abuj Madias, Birhors, Patalkot and Kamar because of their fast dwindling population. The centre has asked the state to provide at least 100 days employment to a member of these families in a year, besides providing seeds and other facilities for farming.


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