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Indian Press (07 Sep 2017 NewAgeIslam.Com)


Assault on freedom: Convict Gauri Lankesh’s killers quickly to reverse tide of intolerance and hate: New Age Islam’s Selection, 07 September 2017


New Age Islam Edit Bureau

September 7, 2017

No war for now

By Amulya Ganguli

Obama Slams Trump For ‘Cruel’ Action Against Immigrants

By Daily Pioneer

Weaning Myanmar out of China’s grip

By Free Press Journal

China set to play double-faced game

By Kamlendra Kanwar

US: Dreams turned nightmare

By Asian Age

Don’t ‘normalise’ preventable catastrophes and disasters

By Asian Age

In defence of the individual

By Apoorvanand

Truth, without fear or favour

By Rajmohan Gandhi

Mountains of garbage: India's neglected waste management crisis

By The Hindu

Reset relations: China must avoid Thucydides Trap with India and uphold mutual cooperation

The Hindu

How to do autonomy: To foster excellence in Indian universities, here are a few essential steps

Times of India

Structural change needed for community development

By Reena Mehta

Compiled by New Age Islam Edit Bureau

URL: http://newageislam.com/indian-press/new-age-islam-edit-bureau/assault-on-freedom--convict-gauri-lankesh’s-killers-quickly-to-reverse-tide-of-intolerance-and-hate--new-age-islam’s-selection,-07-september-2017/d/112454

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Assault on freedom: Convict Gauri Lankesh’s killers quickly to reverse tide of intolerance and hate

Times of India

September 7, 2017

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.

blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/toi-editorials/assault-on-freedom-convict-gauri-lankeshs-killers-quickly-to-reverse-tide-of-intolerance-and-hate/

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No war for now

By Amulya Ganguli

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 negligible.

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 Doklam standoff.

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 warmongers.

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.

thestatesman.com/opinion/no-war-now-1502488612.html

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Obama Slams Trump For ‘Cruel’ Action Against Immigrants

Daily Pioneer

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 families.

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 treated.”

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.

dailypioneer.com/world/obama-slams-trump-for-cruel-action-against-immigrants.html

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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 Bangladesh.

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 oppression.

freepressjournal.in/analysis/weaning-myanmar-out-of-chinas-grip/1132809

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China set to play double-faced game

By Kamlendra Kanwar

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 it.

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 CPEC.

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 towards India.

A major challenge lies ahead for Indian strategists –anticipating and understanding complex Chinese strategies and dealing with them with Indian interest being paramount.

freepressjournal.in/analysis/kamlendra-kanwar-china-set-to-play-double-faced-game/1132790

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US: Dreams turned nightmare

Asian Age

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.

asianage.com/opinion/edit/070917/us-dreams-turned-nightmare.html

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Don’t ‘normalise’ preventable catastrophes and disasters

Asian Age

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 accountability.

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.

asianage.com/opinion/oped/070917/dont-normalise-preventable-catastrophes-and-disasters.html

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In defence of the individual

By Apoorvanand

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 another poem.

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 forces.

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 function properly.

indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/in-defence-of-the-individual-autonomy-religion-nation-4831995/

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Truth, without fear or favour

By Rajmohan Gandhi

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 September 31:

“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.

indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/truth-without-fear-or-favour-gauri-lankesh-bengaluru-lankesh-patrike-gauri-lankesh-killed-hindutve-narendra-modi-journalist-4831978/

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Mountains of garbage: India's neglected waste management crisis

The Hindu

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 from trash.

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 mountains.

thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/mountains-of-garbage/article19631664.ece

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Reset relations: China must avoid Thucydides Trap with India and uphold mutual cooperation

The Hindu

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.

blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/toi-editorials/reset-relations-china-must-avoid-thucydides-trap-with-india-and-uphold-mutual-cooperation/

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How to do autonomy: To foster excellence in Indian universities, here are a few essential steps

Times of India

September 7, 2017, 2:00 AM IST

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 different HEIs.

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 properly.

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 needs.

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.

blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/toi-edit-page/how-to-do-autonomy-to-foster-excellence-in-indian-universities-here-are-a-few-essential-steps/

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Structural change needed for community development

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 community activity.

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.

thestatesman.com/opinion/structural-change-needed-community-development-1502488615.html

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