New Age Islam Edit
September 7, 2017
No war for now
By Amulya Ganguli
Obama Slams Trump
For ‘Cruel’ Action Against Immigrants
By Daily Pioneer
out of China’s grip
By Free Press Journal
China set to play
By Kamlendra Kanwar
US: Dreams turned
By Asian Age
preventable catastrophes and disasters
In defence of the
fear or favour
By Rajmohan Gandhi
garbage: India's neglected waste management crisis
By The Hindu
China must avoid Thucydides Trap with India and uphold mutual cooperation
How to do
autonomy: To foster excellence in Indian universities, here are a few essential
Times of India
needed for community development
By Reena Mehta
Compiled by New
Age Islam Edit Bureau
Assault on freedom:
Convict Gauri Lankesh’s killers quickly to reverse tide of intolerance and hate
In a vicious strike on freedom of the press, senior
journalist and editor Gauri Lankesh was shot dead outside her home in Bengaluru
this Tuesday. Lankesh was known for her left-wing views and trenchant criticism
of Hindutva. One doesn’t necessarily have to agree with those views, but one of
the compacts underlying independent India is that people should have the
freedom to articulate their views, and freedom of the press is an integral part
of this. To be able to work as a country that harbours extraordinary diversity,
freedom of opinion is the minimum we must agree on whatever our political
differences might be.
However many intellectuals holding comparable views to
Lankesh have been done to death in similar ways: MM Kalburgi in Karnataka, and
Narendra Dabholkar and Govind Pansare in neighbouring Maharashtra. This has to
be seen as part of a pattern, unless proved otherwise. India has slipped three
places in world press freedom rankings from last year and is currently just
three places above Pakistan. With jihadis running amok in Pakistan this is
surely unenviable company to keep. Concomitantly, hate and intolerance are
rising in India. Yesterday, for example, the Supreme Court had to issue
instructions to the Centre as well as states to crack down on cow vigilantes
who take the law into their own hands.
Former RBI governor Raghuram Rajan hit the bull’s eye
recently when he opined that India’s tradition of free speech and tolerance is
the greatest economic asset it has going forward in a global context that
increasingly prizes innovation, human capital and soft power. It would be more
than a tragedy if India loses this; it would be a massive existential risk that
places its future in jeopardy.
Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah has described the
murder of Lankesh as “an assassination of democracy”. While that outrage is
something the nation shares governments are required to do more: they must
bring the assassins to book using the law and order machinery which is their
charge. CCTV footage has been recovered which may offer clues to the killers;
the state government now needs to fast-track this case and quickly convict the
culprits. Moreover, to avoid damage to India’s reputation, senior BJP leaders
must whole-heartedly condemn the murder whether or not it is the handiwork of a
Hindutva fanatic. A statement from the prime minister himself would greatly
help in this regard.
September 7, 2017 | 3:57 am
China fought its last war in 1979 against Vietnam. But it
wasn’t an unqualified success because Hanoi gave back as good as it got.
India fought its last war in 1971 ~ Kargil in 1999 was no
more than a border skirmish ~ and it was quite a triumph since India succeeded
in cutting its adversary, Pakistan, into two. It needs to be said, however,
that both the 1979 and 1971 wars were not in the same league as the worldwide
conflicts of the mid-20th century which were fought in land, air and sea and
lasted for half a decade.
By that token, both China and India were spared the trauma
of a prolonged warfare in the recent past. This may be the reason why China
hasn’t hesitated in the matter of provoking a perceived enemy ever since it was
able to overcome the disastrous events in the aftermath of the Communist
takeover of the country when it experienced famine and an internal power
struggle exemplified in the cultural revolution and the flight and the death in
an air crash of Lin Biao, a challenger to the Great Helmsman, Mao Zedong.
Having emerged from those near-apocalyptic events to become
a powerful economic and military power, China is now seemingly bent on letting
the world know about its strength.
Not surprisingly, it has been targeting India if only
because the latter poses, more than any of China’s other neighbours, a
political threat by being a democracy in contrast to China’s one-party
dictatorship (which doesn’t earn it much international respect) and a nuclear
power whose military prowess, though not as formidable as China’s, is not
China has appeared keen, therefore, to test India’s resolve
by, first, doing away with the 2005 agreement not to disturb areas where there
are “settled populations” and, secondly, via incursions along various points along
the 4,057 km border between the two countries. Doklam in the trijunction of
India, Bhutan and China saw the latest of these intrusions. But it may well
turn out to be one of the last because China has realized that India has
decided to take it on frontally even at the risk of a war.
It is possible that 20 or 30 years earlier, China would not
have minded a short, sharp war as in 1962. Hence, perhaps, the repeated
references to that year in its bellicose semi-official communiques during the
The Chinese probably believed that India would take fright
at the possibility of being “vaporised”, as the Chinese media threatened. But
when this did not happen and India remained cool and unperturbed, Beijing
apparently lost the plot because it realized that a war is inadvisable in the
present era of trade.
Its dilemma was all the greater because it knew that even a
short, sharp war would undermine its vaunted Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in
the South Asia region and perhaps elsewhere as well because the conflict would
show up China’s reckless belligerence which would be out of sync with
commercial enterprises. It is evident that projects like the BRI and the
emphasis on trade as a result of globalization have had a dampening effect on
North Korea is an exception because of its closed economy.
But since nearly all the countries are now interlinked in myriad ways through
trade and commerce, none of them is eager for a major disruptive misadventure.
Neither is China.
All that it wants to do at present is seemingly to throw its
weight around so that the others will simply back off, whether in the South
China Sea or in South Asia. But for all its sabre-rattling, it is unlikely to
opt for war.
The fallout of this compulsive recourse to restraint on
China’s part is that India can breathe easy since even there are more
Doklamtype provocations, as the Indian army chief, Gen. Bipin Rawat, has
warned, the chances of a war are minimal.
At the same time, it will be unrealistic to expect that
China will opt for a harmonious settlement of the border question since it will
be difficult for it to pull back after having ratcheted up its demand like the
one for the virtual annexation of Arunachal Pradesh, which China calls southern
Tibet. Besides, war or no war, China is scared about being seen as a country
which has thrown in the towel.
A dictatorship simply cannot afford to be seen as being weak
lest it encourages its captive population to demand a greater say in
governance. Indeed, the present de-escalation of the crisis in Doklam is bad
news for President Xi Jinping on the eve of the party congress, for the
lowering of the tension with India and Bhutan has scuttled his plans for posing
as the new Mao.
This explains why China says that it is continuing to exercise
its “sovereign rights” in Doklam and may even restart the project of building
the road ~ if weather permits ! ~ which has been put on hold in the aftermath
of the entry of the Indian troops into the plateau.
Obama Slams Trump For
‘Cruel’ Action Against Immigrants
Faced with a major political backlash over his decision to
rescind the amnesty plan for 8,00,000 young illegal immigrants, with
predecessor Barack Obama denouncing it as a “cruel” move, President Donald
Trump has sought to assure that he would “revisit” the issue if the US Congress
fails to act within the stipulated six months.
“Congress now has 6 months to legalise DACA (something the
Obama Administration was unable to do). If they can’t, I will revisit this
issue!” Trump tweeted, hours after stoutly defending his action in the name of
safeguarding the jobs, wages and security of American workers and their
Meanwhile, late on Wednesday fifteen states and the District
of Columbia have filed a lawsuit in New York challenging President Donald
Trump’s plan to end a program protecting young immigrants from deportation. The
suit was first announced by Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson, who
called Trump’s act “a dark time for our country.”
Plaintiffs include New York, Massachusetts, Washi-ngton,
Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, New
Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Virginia.
A noted South Asian advocacy group has, meanwhile, estimated
the number of Indians affected by Trump’s action at over 20,000. While 5,500
Indians and Pakistanis have already received DACA permits, an additional 17,000
individuals from India are eligible for them, according to the group, called
South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT). Official figures have put the
number of Indians covered by DACA at about 7,800.
Trump’s assurance to “revisit” the issue came about even as
several leading Republicans joined the Democrats in slamming the decision that
promptly touched off protests in Washington and across the nation in support of
the “dreamers” — the young undocumented immigrants who were brought to America
as children by their parents.
The protests got a major fillip with former President Barack
Obama breaking his silence on the issue and putting out a strongly-worded
statement over rescinding his 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals
programme to let 8,00,000-odd young immigrants come out of the shadows and work
legally without the fear of deportation.
“To target these
young people is wrong, because they have done nothing wrong,” Obama noted in
his statement, adding: “It is self-defeating because they want to start new
businesses, staff our labs, serve in our military, and otherwise contribute to
the country we love. And it is cruel.”
Differentiating it with other immigration-related issues,
Obama said DACA dealt with “young people who grew up in America – kids who
study in our schools, young adults who are starting careers, patriots who
pledge allegiance to our flag.”
“These Dreamers are Americans in their hearts, in their
minds, in every single way but one: on paper. They were brought to this country
by their parents, sometimes even as infants. They may not know a country
besides ours. They may not even know a language besides English. They often
have no idea they’re undocumented until they apply for a job, or college, or a
driver’s license,” Obama commented.
Contesting the Trump administration’s contention that it had
no option but to act in the face of lawsuits threatened by a host of States,
Obama cast it as “a political decision”, adding: “We shouldn’t threaten the
future of this group of young people who are here through no fault of their
own, who pose no threat, who are not taking away anything from the rest of us.”
“Ultimately, this is about basic decency,” Obama commented,
noting: “This is about whether we are a people who kick hopeful young strivers
out of America, or whether we treat them the way we’d want our own kids to be
Trump did not elaborate on how he planned to “revisit” the
DACA issue if the Congress failed to legalise it or come up with a suitable
alternative. In his statement issued earlier on Tuesday, Trump promised to work
with both Republican and Democratic lawmakers on the issue. “As I’ve said
before, we will resolve the DACA issue with heart and compassion — but through
the lawful democratic process — while at the same time ensuring that any
immigration reform we adopt provides enduring benefits for the American
citizens we were elected to serve. We must also have heart and compassion for
unemployed, struggling, and forgotten Americans,” Trump said.
Weaning Myanmar out
of China’s grip
Free Press Journal
Sep 07, 2017 07:44 am
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s first official visit to
Myanmar close on the heels of his participation in the BRICS summit in China is
aimed at discussing trade issues but also to counter-balance growing Chinese
influence over Myanmar as borne out by the Chinese help in developing the
Kyaukhphu port and gas pipeline running through Myanmar to Kunming.
Additionally, on the agenda is the Rohingya issue wherein refugees from this
Muslim minority in Myanmar are fleeing to neighbouring countries like India and
While Modi was coming to grips with the problem of the
Rohingyas, India’s minister of state for home Kiren Rijiju said in New Delhi
that the process of identifying Rohingyas in India with the purpose of
deporting them back to Myanmar had started because they are illegal immigrants.
Rijiju had earlier said in Parliament on August 9 that 40,000 Rohingyas were to
be deported. Nearly 125,000 refugees belonging to the Rohingyas have fled
Myanmar for neighbouring Bangladesh over a period of 10 days and have relayed
testimony of indiscriminate executions, gunfire from helicopters and a
scorched-earth campaign against them in Myanmar.
The most recent spate of violence in Myanmar’s southwestern
Rakhine state broke out on August 25, when Rohingya militants attacked local
security forces, killing at least 12. The attack mirrored a similar one in
October that killed nine border police personnel and spurred almost 90,000
Rohingyas to flee to Bangladesh, which has been a refuge for the group for
decades, though increasingly reluctantly. The Myanmar military has acknowledged
killing at least 370 Rohingyas in what it calls “clearance operations.” The
government maintains that all those killed belonged to the Arakan Rohingya
Salvation Army (ARSA), a militant group that has been building up its ranks
since last year’s violence.
It is unclear how much local and international support ARSA
has, but videos of its training camps show only small numbers of shabbily
dressed and ill-equipped fighters. Myanmarese officials, including Nobel
Laureate Suu Kyi, argue that the Rohingya are migrants from Bangladesh who
should not be considered Myanmarese citizens despite historical evidence of
their presence in Myanmar. Myanmar government spokesman Zaw Htay seemed to
imply recently that he viewed all Rohingya men as militants. The Muslim
countries in South-East Asia are, on the other hand rallying around the
Rohingyas but are wary of admitting then as refugee immigrants.
It is indeed debatable whether it is right for India to
deport the Rohingyas. It is well on the cards that these people would be
butchered if they are forced to return. Should India not implore the Myanmar
government to treat them with compassion and while not deporting the ones who
have already come, put a bar on them to come in as illegal refugees with the
rider that they would be pushed back? Throwing them to the wolves without
adequate warning to the refugees may be too cruel a way of dealing with them
and would be contrary to India’s record of dealing with refugees fighting
Sep 07, 2017 07:36 am
Pakistan is increasingly being seen to be what it is—a
country that harbours and nurtures terror. It had a devil-may-care attitude
when the Americans were looking the other way while they paid lip service to
dealing with terror directed against India and Afghanistan, and China
consciously abetted in their terror policies to spite India.
However, the declaration issued by the BRICS summit in China
has woken the Pakistanis out of their stupor. The summit leaders who, besides
India, included Brazil, Russia, South Africa and China, would have suffered a
serious credibility loss if they had not included Pakistan- based terror
outfits in their list of terrorist organizations.
The summit host, China, realized, somewhat belatedly, that
it faced isolation in the comity of nations if it was seen opposing the
inclusion of Jaish e- Mohammed, Lashkar e-Taiba and the Haqqani Network among
perpetrators of terror. By persistently refusing to endorse JeM as a terror
perpetrator, and its chief Masood Azhar as an international terrorist, the
Chinese were losing ground internationally.
It is not as if Beijing has given up on Pakistan—far from
it. It will now play a double-faced game, continuing to support Islamabad with
material resources but wary of being identified as a prop for Pakistani terror.
It is still a mystery as to how the Chinese would deal with the
UN when the resolution on JeM and Masood Azhar comes up again. Whatever they
may do, they must realize that their credibility is seriously at stake and that
their position would seem particularly untenable in the light of the fact that
they signed the declaration at the BRICS summit.
So long as the Pakistan army continues to call the shots in
regard to Pakistan’s India policy, there can be little hope of reining in of
terror in that country. Time has shown that it is unrealistic to expect terror
against the Pakistan state to be contained when terror against India from
Pakistani soil is aided and abetted by the state. Double-standards on terror
would never work. The sooner Pakistan realizes this, the better it would be for
As it appears, the Americans under the Donald Trump
dispensation are more sincere in seeking to dismantle terror training camps in
Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and stopping the arming and exporting of terror to
India from across the border than predecessor regimes. While now more than ever,
they are obsessed with themselves, they see merit in containing China with
India’s active participation.
India must exploit that motivation of the US to the full to
protect Indian interests and to work out an umbrella deal with the Americans
for security imperatives just as the Japanese have done.
Let us face it–the Chinese government is a slippery customer
and in conjunction with the Pakistanis can be a formidable force to reckon
with. Its tie-up with Islamabad over the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor
(CPEC) is sinister and diabolical with the intention of controlling trade
movement in the high seas.
Donald Trump may be a buffoon for the Americans but for
India he could well be a godsend if he is convinced that a deal with the
Indians would be in enlightened US interest. The CPEC would harm American
interests by establishing Chinese hegemony over the seas and must be thwarted,
come what may.
The Chinese are looking upon the CPEC also as a springboard
to a tighter control over Pakistan. Having heaped huge debts over Pakistan,
they see a big opportunity to establish a stranglehold.
Beijing is indeed as petrified of a firm Indian axis with
the US and Japan as India is of a Chinese-Pak tie-up that extends beyond the
The rcent stand-off at the Doklam trijunction between China,
Bhutan and India was a way for China to browbeat this country and to get India
to bend over backwards. That this country stood its ground and played down the
confrontation was a tribute to its sagacity and strategic maturity.
It should be no surprise if the Chinese now change their
tactics and put up a show of engaging India in an embrace.
Wily as they are, they realize that a terrorist haven like
Pakistan can be a dicey friend in the long run. The killing of two Chinese
nationals in Pakistan has presented a reality check moment for China. An
article published by the Chinese government organ Global Times recently said,”
Pakistan is known for its poor security record, and has long been a hotbed of international
terrorism. This may pose a severe threat to China’s projects in the region.”
The two Chinese nationals were kidnapped in Pakistan’s Baluchistan province and
allegedly killed by the Islamic State (IS).
Apprehensive of the shape of things to come the article
said: “As an increasing number of Chinese enterprises are going global, the
likelihood that China falls victim to international terrorist forces is
correspondingly rising.” It expresses the Chinese dilemma succinctly when it
adds: “It is a tough task for Beijing to strike a balance between security and
the need to go global.
Considering that the CPEC runs through Pakistan-occupied
Kashmir and the Chinese would be using Pakistan’s Gwadar port in Baluchistan
where Baluchi rebels are active, China would increasingly see merit in cosying
up to India to contain the Baluchis to the extent it can. The stick has been
tried in Doklam so it may now be the turn of the carrot in Chinese policies
A major challenge lies ahead for Indian strategists
–anticipating and understanding complex Chinese strategies and dealing with
them with Indian interest being paramount.
The “Dreamers” include 8,000 Indians who may face
deportation if a sharply divided US Congress doesn’t legislate a way out in the
next six months.
In one stroke, the United States has made the future
imperfect for 800,000 young undocumented immigrants protected from deportation
by DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), a Barack Obama era amnesty
scheme giving them the right to stay, study or work in their adopted land. The
“Dreamers” include 8,000 Indians who may face deportation if a sharply divided
US Congress doesn’t legislate a way out in the next six months. But typical of
the mixed signals these days from Donald Trump’s America, the US President
tweeted the same day that he was urging Congress to “legalise DACA”. This after
ordering the evictions in the first place!
Having surrendered their biometrics and personal data to
join the amnesty five years ago, the illegal immigrants are now in a quandary:
the same data can be used to hound them if Congress goes with the Republican
plan to “protect” the interests of native-born Americans. All promises of
“walling off” the data will quickly be forgotten if Congress doesn’t save the
humanitarian policy of protecting immigrants. The sad part of another great
human tragedy engendered by nationalism and exclusive borders lies in people
having been allowed to dream - only to have that shattered by this nightmare of
protectionism. Critics and liberals are warning the government of the possible
damage to the US economy in weeding out members of a bright young generation,
while protests are breaking out. The politics of appeasing the majority too can
have painful consequences. It’s up to Congress now to give these youngsters a
fresh start in the land of opportunity.
Climate change has made disasters much more severe and
likely, and there is really no option but to take preventive measures.
How many children must die in places some of us may never
visit before we realise that too many have died? At last count, 290 babies,
mostly newborns, had died at the Baba Raghav Das (BRD) Medical College in
Gorakhpur in the month of August alone. Even in a war zone, these numbers would
spark outrage and action, says a friend, a medical doctor, who has traversed
the world on humanitarian work. Anger and outrage, there have been plenty.
Action? Of sorts. Investigations are on; a few people have been suspended.
What systemic changes are being put in place to ensure that
there is no repeat? Ah, that is the tricky one and that is where we run into
the default template of “alibi searching” and “scapegoating”, which comes into
play, and not just in Gorakhpur.
Everywhere, every time, faced with a catastrophe, the
standard response from those elected to govern us is the same — it has happened
before; it has happened elsewhere; it has happened when another chief minister,
another Prime Minister, another political party was at the helm of affairs. The
circular arguments begin and end with this formula.
Even if you have not been personally affected, it can be
utterly exhausting and disempowering to read about and watch heartrending
images from the sites of these catastrophes. Baby deaths in Gorakhpur year
after year, baby deaths in Jharkhand, Banswara, the list goes on and on.
Devastating floods in Mumbai bring back memories of the similar inundation in
2005 and the deaths and disease outbreaks that followed, even as floods drown
Gujarat, Bihar, Assam, Tripura, West Bengal. Buildings collapse in Delhi,
Mumbai, and elsewhere. A waste mountain 10 storeys tall collapses in Delhi,
killing two and injuring several.
When deaths, devastation and disease happen with a
monotonous regularity, they lose their sting. We all know, we have all read
about what needs to be done, but little has changed. We rage, we rationalise,
we gloss over or criticise the acts of omission and commission of the “guilty”,
according to our ideological moorings.
As the catalogue of catastrophes grow longer and the
suffering is beamed into our living rooms through television and the Internet,
you can expect a more vigorous display of the politics of compensations and a
search for scapegoats — a word which aptly has its origins in the Book of
Leviticus. In the story it tells, all the sins of Israel are put on the head of
a goat, which is then ritualistically driven out. Here too, those who are
driven out are almost as innocent as the goat.
This is how you “normalise” a catastrophe. Preventable
deaths, preventable building collapses, preventable devastation and train
derailments are the new normal. We show our spirit of jugaad and survive.But
survival is not living.
What will it take to change the scenario? Many things. But
in each of the disasters that I have listed, the possible mitigating mechanisms
and solutions have been known and discussed endlessly. Everyone who waded
through knee-deep dirty water in Mumbai, for example, knows what has to be done
— the capacity of the megacity’s drainage system has to be expanded, drains
have to be kept clean, Mumbai has to stop killing its rivers and mangrove
forests. Climate change has made disasters much more severe and likely, and
there is really no option but to take preventive measures.
But though we all know what needs to be done in each case,
it does not happen because the “communities” that are the most affected and
most vulnerable are not organised, do not demand to have their say and make accountability
a political issue.
Every time, there is a catastrophe or a massacre, as is
happening in the case of newborn deaths in many parts of the country,
platitudes and promises are trotted out. Compensation is announced and it is
back to normal.
But communities can have a say and make things happen.
During a recent visit to neighbouring Thailand, I happened to be speaking to Dr
Carl Middleton, who teaches development studies at Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn
University. Dr Middleton spoke about how Thailand was trying to operationalise
One important way is health impact assessment (HIA), which
has gained traction. Dr Middleton — who has co-authored a chapter on this in a
forthcoming book, Water Governance and Collective Action: Multi-scale
Challenges — says that since the late 1980s, Thai community movements and civil
society groups have managed to resist new large power plants, with high-profile
protests against projects like the Pak Mun hydropower dam and the Mae Moh
coal-fired power station. The civil society groups talk not only about the
environmental impact of development projects but also the health consequences
of changes in the physical and biological environment. It helps a lot that in
Thailand, since 2000, HIA has been legislated into the Constitution and there
is a National Health Act (2007). While it is not compulsory, a community-led
HIA can be requested under this law.
That is something to think about in India. We have mandatory
environmental impact assessments (EIA) but consequent critiques showing how
badly they are done, how public consultation about a new project is often
turned into a farce. A mandatory community-led EIA and HIA would act as checks
and balances on the official monitoring mechanisms, not just for new projects
but also for proper maintenance of everyday things like health centres,
hospitals, drains and garbage dumps as well as railway lines. Living in a
building that is about to collapse is injurious to health. For whatever reason,
why should anybody have to do that?
Those living in a Gorakhpur slum know that they or their
children are likely to get a host of infectious diseases because they live in
filthy surroundings that breed mosquitoes, nobody removes garbage or keeps the
hospital premises clean. Hospitals are ill-equipped and ill-managed. Their
babies die like flies. Who do they complain to? The municipal authorities say
they don’t have money; and the state government is too distant.
Community-led monitoring and impact assessments on health
and environment would be empowering tools.
But nothing will work unless, we, as individuals, make
common cause on issues that affect us, our children, demand such tools, use
them, and settle for nothing else but accountability.
That an individual can source divinity within herself was
unimaginable for religious institutions. But for the institution of the nation
state, the individual remains as suspect.
The recent order of the National Broadcasting Standards
Authority (NBSA) penalising a popular TV channel for misrepresenting the poet
Gauhar Raza in its news bulletins is significant in many ways. It restores to
Raza his dignity and integrity which the channel felt free to play with. But it
has larger implications for the question of individual liberty in a democracy
like India. It leads us to think about the role of institutions in ensuring
that an individual can hold her head high when pitted against the most sacred
deity of our times — the nation. This order is also important in times when an
individual with a public face is destined to be the representation that the
media decides to make of him.
The Shankar-Shad Mushaira, an iconic cultural event held
annually in Delhi featuring poets from Pakistan and India, was called a
mushaira of a gang of Afzal lovers. Raza was dubbed as a supporter of those who
seek to break the nation. His fault? He had dedicated one of his nazms, written
much earlier, to Rohit Vemula and had mentioned Kanhaiya Kumar while reciting
JNU academic Nivedita Menon was portrayed by the same
channel as a professor teaching anti-nationalism to her students. In its repeat
telecast focusing on Menon, the channel kept asking its viewers to decide for
themselves what to do with such professors. It was not difficult to sense the
violence it hid. Away from Delhi, Rajshri Ranawat of the Jai Narain Vyas Jodhpur
University was declared a collaborator of anti-nationals by newspapers in
Rajasthan for having dared to invite the “anti-national” Menon to a seminar.
Close to Delhi, Snehsata Manav of the Central University of Haryana,
Mahendragarh, was similarly denounced as an anti-national for having staged a
play, based on a short story by Mahasweta Devi, criticising the security
That an individual can source divinity within herself was
unimaginable for religious institutions. But for the institution of the nation
state, the individual remains suspect as well. It was thought that modernity
coupled with democracy would automatically establish the primacy of the
individual. That has not happened. The idea of the individual still remains
hazy. Not only does the idea need constant clarification and interpretation, it
also needs to be practised unceasingly and visibly. Who can do it? Who has the
resources to work on it?
Capitalism, according to Marx, robs a person of her
individuality. How can one assert her individuality when her abilities to hear,
see, taste, touch, see, speak, think, imagine or create remain at their
crudest? A majority of people are not allowed to evolve these faculties because
the resources essential for growth are denied to them. The idea of individuality
remains alien to them. Marx was critiquing the political economy. But we have
seen that the enslavement of the self also takes place in various other ways.
Put slightly simplistically, the nation state has become an agency of the
economy to subjugate the self. After religion, it is the nation at the altar of
which people are willing to sacrifice their selves.
But the call of individual autonomy remained powerful. It
means a person is not merely a serviceable entity, either for the economy or
for the nation state. She can choose to distance or withdraw from them, and
even try to create greater space for herself.
However, the idea of the autonomy of the self or the
individual is so difficult that even after 70 years of being a practising
democracy, the Supreme Court — in its verdict on privacy — had to remind not
only the state, but the people as well, that individuals are not the creatures
of the state. What the Court told us sounds strange to a lot of common people:
Nobody can tell me that I have to salute the tricolour or keep the national
anthem on my lips to claim legitimacy. My words, my colour, my tastes, my
affection cannot be dictated by an agency outside me.
For the Court to deliberate on it, the idea of individuality
had to be refined by education, literature, art, and science. Teachers, poets,
writers, artists, scientists have an enviable opportunity and luxury to
practice individuality which is simply not available to everybody. It is
natural that they are difficult to understand. It is therefore also easy to dub
them as enemies of the people. Their ideas appear threatening or keep
challenging people, asking them to break out of their lazy nationalist, or
socialist, shell to discover and fashion their selves.
It is also not difficult to see why in the last three years,
the idea of an autonomous individual has been mercilessly assaulted.
Constitution-makers had devised institutional mechanisms to assist individuals
against such assaults. An individual lives only when these institutional processes
Truth, without fear
Central government must lead the fight to protect what the
killings — of Kalburgi, Pansare, Dabholkar, now Gauri Lankesh — have violated:
The rights to life, belief and expression. The nation is watching.
Identifying and capturing the Gauri Lankesh killers,
including those who ordered her execution-style assassination, is the
responsibility of the Union government as well. Asking the Karnataka government
for a report on the killing does not begin to discharge that responsibility.
The eerie similarity of the killing with the unsolved murders of M.M. Kalburgi,
Govind Pansare and Narayan Dabholkar points to more than one state. In any
case, it is the central government that must lead the fight to protect what
these killings have violated: The rights to life, belief and expression. The
nation is watching.
The Indian state is more than parliament, legislatures and
ministries. Three recent events, occurring in rapid succession, encouraged the
belief that individual rights have defenders in parts of the state’s structure.
First the Election Commission, ignoring high-level pressure, applied precedents
and the law to decide the Ahmed Patel/Rajya Sabha question. Next, the Supreme
Court, with rare unanimity, gave a momentous judgment declaring privacy a
fundamental right. This was followed by the Reserve Bank releasing numbers that
seemed to prove demonetisation’s failure. It was an acknowledgment of the
public’s right to know the facts.
For the citizen, this sequence provided a much-needed
reminder that the Indian state is more than its legislative branch, even when
that branch obtains the support, willing or otherwise, of much of the fourth
estate: The media. We saw proof that the executive and the judiciary, which are
the second and third branches of state power, can come to the citizen’s defence.
Historically, the United States has relied greatly on checks and balances.
Senator John McCain, the Republican who ran for president against Barack Obama
in 2008, reinforced this tradition when he wrote in the Washington Post on
“We must respect [President Donald Trump’s] authority and
constitutional responsibilities. We must, where we can, cooperate with him. But
we are not his subordinates. We don’t answer to him. “We answer to the American
people. We must be diligent in discharging our responsibility to serve as a
check on his power. And we should value our identity as members of Congress
more than our partisan affiliation.” India’s judges, election commissioners,
Reserve Bank officers, tax officers, police officers and Prime Minister Narendra
Modi’s cabinet colleagues answer, likewise, to the Indian people, to the law
and the Constitution. They are not servants of a party or an individual.
Although independent India’s record on the primacy of law
over office-holders is mixed, we have some powerful examples. Two years after
freedom, in October 1949, when a prominent Constituent Assembly member and
future Lok Sabha speaker, Ananthasayanam Ayyangar, opposed the constitutional
provision that restricted the power of politicians to punish civil servants,
Sardar Patel, the home minister, stoutly defended the provision. Added the
Sardar:“Today my secretary can write a note opposed to my views. I have given
that freedom to all my secretaries. I have told them: ‘If you do not give your
honest opinion, then please you had better go.’” Patel went on to tell the MPs:
“Do not take a lathi and say, ‘We are a supreme parliament.’” (on 10.10. 49;
vol. 3, Patel Centenary Volumes, pp. 122-30) Encouraging officers to be frank
with ministers, the Sardar in the same breath asked MPs and ministers not to
think that the level on which they found themselves was higher than that of
judges, officers and citizens.Protocol certainly has its hierarchies. Offices
carry their authority. High office demands respect. But the separation of
powers, the rule of law, and the equal value of human beings are fundamental
principles of the Indian state, even if what we often run into in real life are
their opposites. Which makes it all the more important for us to welcome
occasions when officers and judges demonstrate loyalty to the Constitution and
respect for the fundamental rights of citizens. It is not easy for a civil
servant or judge to dismiss thoughts of consequences. While writing his famous
dissent during the Emergency, Justice Hans Raj Khanna knew he was closing his
path to the summit.
The frank opinion that Patel demanded was not easy to offer
in 1949 and is not easy to provide today. A civil servant takes a risk when he
or she points out a proposed step’s flaws. Frankness is not all that easy in
the private sector either, or in the NGO world, or even in family
conversations. Even in the noble years of the freedom movement frankness could
exact a price. Acharya Kripalani once related to me a conversation he had had
with Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya, when a young Kripalani was working as
secretary to the Pandit, who was older by 27 years. The great triple “M”’, who
among other things was a renowned orator in both Hindi and English, had just
delivered a speech in the imperial assembly. “How was my speech?” he asked
Kripalani. “A little too long,” Kripalani said. “Malaviyaji didn’t like my
reply,” Kripalani told me. In that instance, the price of frankness was small.
In other situations, lack of frankness causes deaths of
babies in a hospital, or the failure to catch culprits in acts of violence, the
escalation of a riot, or a boost to intolerance. Frankness, the truth without
fear or favour, is what many oaths of office require. What death sentences or
new laws may not accomplish can be realised through timely frankness inside
police stations, hospitals and government offices. Or when legislators and
ministers meet behind closed doors.
Mountains of garbage:
India's neglected waste management crisis
SEPTEMBER 07, 2017 00:02 IST
The collapse of a great wall of garbage in east Delhi’s
Ghazipur area, sweeping people and vehicles into a nearby canal, is a stark
reminder that India’s neglected waste management crisis can have deadly
consequences. More than a year after the notification of the much-delayed Solid
Waste Management Rules, cities and towns are in no position to comply with its
stipulations, beginning with the segregation of different kinds of waste at
source and their scientific processing. Neither are urban local governments
treating the 62 million tonnes of waste generated annually in the country as a
potential resource. They have left the task of value extraction mostly to the
informal system of garbage collectors and recyclers. Improving on the national
record of collecting only 80% of waste generated and being able to process just
28% of that quantum, requires behaviour modification among citizens and
institutions. But what is more important is that the municipal bodies put in
place an integrated system to transport and process what has been segregated at
source. The Swachh Bharat programme of the Centre has focused too narrowly on
individual action to keep streets clean, without concurrent pressure on State
and municipal authorities to move closer to scientific management by the
deadline of April 2018 set for most places, and arrest the spread of pollution
In the absence of stakeholders at the local body level,
recoverable resources embedded in discarded materials are lost due to dumping.
Organic refuse, which forms about 50% of all garbage, readily lends itself to
the generation of compost or production of methane for household use or power
generation. But it is a major opportunity lost. Organic waste that could help
green cities and feed small and affordable household biogas plants is simply
being thrown away. It is also ironic that while some countries such as Rwanda
and Kenya have introduced stiff penalties for the use of flimsy plastic bags,
India is doing little to prevent them from drifting into suburban garbage
mountains, rivers, lakes and the sea, and being ingested by cattle feeding on
dumped refuse. A new paradigm is needed, in which bulk waste generators take
the lead and city managers show demonstrable change in the way it is processed.
There has to be a shift away from large budgets for collection and transport by
private contractors, to the processing of segregated garbage. As the nodal body
for the implementation of the new rules, the Central Pollution Control Board
should put out periodic assessments of the preparedness of urban local bodies
in the run-up to the deadline. Without a rigorous approach, the national
problem of merely shifting city trash to the suburbs, out of sight of those who
generate it, will fester and choke the landscape. Considering that waste
volumes are officially estimated to grow to 165 million tonnes a year by 2030,
many more suburbs are bound to be threatened by collapsing or burning trash
September 7, 2017, 2:00 AM IST
The meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese
President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the Brics summit in Xiamen has seen a
pragmatic assessment of bilateral ties. Coming on the heels of the 73-day
Doklam standoff between the two countries, Modi and Xi resolved to prevent
recurrence of such incidents by maintaining strong contacts between their
militaries. Emphasising shelving of disputes and enhancing mutual trust, the
two sides recognised that peace in the border areas is vital for development of
bilateral ties. This is indeed welcome and shows that India and China as
neighbours do have the capacity to manage their differences.
However, in order to ensure that irritants along the border
don’t keep cropping up, it’s important to fast-track the settlement of the
boundary issue. Otherwise, the trajectory of India-China ties will follow the
one-step-forward-two-steps-back pattern. China says it would like to work with
India to uphold the five principles of peaceful coexistence. But mutual trust
is a two-way street. Just as Beijing wants New Delhi to be mindful of its
interests, it too should be sensitive to India’s interests. China constantly
cautions the US to avoid the Thucydides Trap – a situation where a rising power
causes fear in an established power, leading to conflict. The same caution
applies to China in its relationship with India.
On this score, the Brics Xiamen declaration condemning
Pakistan-based anti-India terror groups was a positive development. China
should reflect this position in bilateral dealings with India as well. At the
end of the day, Chinese business interests in India are huge. And with Chinese
exports facing stiff political resistance in many foreign countries, the Indian
market has become important for Beijing. Instead of getting stuck in pointless
zero-sum games, India and China should work together for mutual benefit to
usher in an Asian century.
How to do autonomy:
To foster excellence in Indian universities, here are a few essential steps
Indian higher educational institutions/ universities (HEIs)
have slipped further in global rankings, with none making it to the top 250
according to the latest such ranking. Autonomy of HEIs is now widely
acknowledged as a necessity for excellence and improvement, particularly for
those HEIs that engage in research as well as education.
In India, often the discussions are about autonomy as a
broad concept, without stating what specifically needs to be done to improve
autonomy. The EU has an autonomy scorecard for its member countries, with four
key dimensions: academic, organisational, financial and staffing. Let us take
up two of these here: organisational and financial autonomy.
Organisational autonomy starts with how autonomous HEIs are
in appointing their chief executive – ie the Director or the Vice Chancellor.
This is the most important aspect of organisational autonomy, as it impacts all
other organisational issues. In most Western countries, this selection is
generally done by the bodies of the university – the Board, Senate, a Board of
Trustees appointed search committee, etc (though the selection may sometimes be
subject to approval, which is usually a formality).
In India, the chief executive is selected by the government
or the ministry, though there is generally a selection committee to recommend a
set of names from which the final choice is made. If the final decision on the
head of the institution is left to the government, the same person(s) will be
doing the selection for all the HEIs of the state/ Centre.
Hence, it may be perceived by potential candidates that
being in the “good books” of the person(s) is important. This creates
distortions – from some good candidates not applying to some lobbying for
posts. This has created a general perception that factors other than merit
influence these decisions.
Suppose each HEI was to select its own chief executive
through a documented and transparent process that involves stakeholders from
the HEI, as is done in many countries. With selections/ appointments
distributed, there is no single authority that needs to be convinced, thereby
giving candidates multiple opportunities of assessment by committees of
Furthermore, in selection by a single authority, the
selected person is more indebted to that authority rather than the HEI for
selection. If the HEI was to select the chief executive using its stakeholders,
then the answerability of the chief executive is naturally to the HEI and its stakeholders.
This single change of having each HEI select its own head
through an approved and open process can bring about a great deal of autonomy
in our HEIs. Thankfully, the authorities seem to appreciate this and there are
signs that this is beginning to happen – one hears that in the IIM Bill, this
autonomy has been granted. Hopefully, as a next step, this change will be made
for institutions like IITs and reputed central universities.
The second main area is financial autonomy. As long as there
is financial dependence of HEIs on the government, autonomy will always be
compromised. Yet, public HEIs need support from the government, to provide
affordable education to citizens. So, how can one achieve autonomy while still
seeking public funds? A simple method, which many countries now use, is to base
the funding on some parameters by applying a formula.
Funding could depend, for example, on the total number of
students, faculty, R&D projects, consultancy, etc and the support level is
decided through a defined formula. Given that different HEIs have evolved in
different manner and may have different needs, the formula need not be same for
all types of HEIs.
For example, a business school may be given little or no
support for education, while an engineering institution may be provided limited
support per student for education, and a humanities oriented institution may be
provided a higher level of support per student.
Formula based funding makes the HEI independent of its
equations with the government of the day. The formula provides predictability
of funding, and the HEI can count on it and focus its energies on its academics
and more efficient use of this public funding. This enhances the autonomy of
the HEI while still retaining its public character.
While these measures can improve the autonomy of HEIs
substantially, there is also a need to ensure that HEIs, particularly those who
are taking public funds, are discharging their responsibilities to society
How does one ensure accountability? This is important as
without this, autonomy can lead to inward looking HEIs which are not responsive
to societal needs. The responsibility of an HEI is mostly around expanding its
educational opportunities, and to align its research towards national goals or
Both of these can be easily achieved through financial
models. For example if funding is tied to the number of students studying (as
is the case in Australia), then there is an incentive for the HEI to increase
its student strength. Similarly, research direction is often influenced by
providing research projects and grants in specific areas/ types of work – an
approach taken by most countries, including India.
There are other factors also that impact autonomy. This note
focused on two most important issues for autonomy: if just these can be done,
we will see an unleashing of trapped energy in some of the HEIs which can take
them to the path of excellence and high global ranking/ standing.
By Reena Mehta
September 7, 2017 | 4:26 am
For several years now community participation has been the
buzzword in the development sector. The community was always supposed to be at
the centre of all poverty-reduction activities but how many thought of
including it as a genuine partner in these activities. However, very soon
everybody was reminded of the community.
It started with the dictum of Professor Robert Chambers,
‘Ask them’. During the 1980s and 90s, community participation became popular in
all poverty alleviation programmes. The whole approach was based on the
assumption that communities themselves know better what their needs are, so
‘ask them’ and as given proper resources they are in a better position to
implement programmes and projects concerning them, so ‘involve them’.
Thus participation would lead to empowerment, which in turn
would lead to poverty reduction. Direct involvement of the community was
assumed to lead to efficiency and effectiveness of the projects and make them
much more sustainable. There are genuine examples where participation has led
to both empowerment and efficiency.
For example, the inclusion of women in management roles in
village water committees and associations is seen to represent a form of female
emancipation and also ensuring the sustainability of facilities.
Another assumption is that people know better than experts
what their needs are and who among them are not able to fulfill them.
One more argument which is given in favour of community
participation is that it can be an effective way of reducing the cost of
several anti-poverty interventions.
Local community may know better ways to lower costs than the
oursider. Also, communities may be in a better position to verify that activities
related to interventions take place.
However, if strong community participation was seen as a way
to alleviate poverty, it came with a sobering acknowledgement that there is
much to learn about the ways a community is engaged. Community participation is
based on the assumption that communities are homogeneous and are well-informed,
competent and capable.
However, in reality communities are not homogeneous or have
common interests; instead they compete for the benefits.
When NGO activists and social scientists talk of how ‘a
community’ lobbied local government, built a well or decided on a development
strategy, who are they talking about? Do they mean everyone in the community,
or just the majority, or just the richer ones, or just the men? Is the will of ‘the
community’ the same as the will of the community leadership?
In reality, participation is selective and tends to
concentrate on people who are not very poor because to the poor, participation
is a costly and time-consuming affair.
Therefore those who actually require interventions have
little or no time to participate (unless special efforts are made to make it
viable for them), as participation comes at the cost of their day’s labour
which they can hardly afford.
More so, there is always a danger of elite capture of any
Since many community organisations are not democratically
elected, the involvement of local leaders often represents the voice of a group
of self-appointed people. In the process the poor become even more marginalised.
Also, most of the time, the resources distributed are
scarce. Under such circumstances, the expectation that poor people should
cooperate in the distribution of these scarce resources is too much to ask for.
Such situations mostly promote competition rather than
cooperation among community members. Initially community participation created
very high expectations.
However, with time their experience with these expectations
and low outcomes has discouraged many members from participating further. In
reality there are many assumptions related to community which can either
promote or hinder participation.
There is need to recognise the fact that there is no ‘one
size fits all’ solution to community participation. Its outcomes always grow
out of specific situations and it cannot be replicated in another community.
For poverty alleviation, first we need to acknowledge that
there exist no ‘poor communities’ but communities where a majority but not all
of the people are poor. Poor are usually marginalised by their fellow community
members and their voices are ignored. Poverty reduction is more of a political
issue than a technical one.
It is very difficult to consider community as a homogeneous
entity. Collective action of the people is an exception, not rule.
Participation is not possible in an environment where resources are scarce and
benefits limited. Under such circumstances the poor see themselves as
competitors and instead of cooperation seek patronage.
Here comes the role of politicians who work as patrons.
Politicians seek clients among the poor to remain in power and instead of
taking up the cause of the poor they only do some symbolic service. Thus
despite all efforts of the last so many decades, the problem of poverty remains
very serious. What is required to be done to tackle poverty is to bring
structural change rather than symbolic services.
There is a need for redistribution of resources and this
distribution is always demand-driven rather than supply-driven. Thus the effort
should be to increase the assertive and empowered role of the poor. Those who
remain silent are always ignored. Thus real empowerment for poor is to increase
their bargaining power.