Spelling out the government’s view on what has been termed as ‘political’ engagement with the separatists. Opposition political parties at the Centre and in the State have emphasised a political solution rather than the administrative measures being undertaken. None of them have spelled out as to what their idea of a political dialogue could be. The same applies to media persons. Each one of them must propose a clear enunciation of what they propose. All-Party or Single Party dialogue with the separatists has been continuing on and off for decades. This time around consideration has to be given to the fact that the separatists have been infiltrated by jihadi elements from across the border; possibly marginalising the separatists of yore and calling the tune.
The underlying causes of the agitations are generally known to all. These are lack of employment opportunities and poverty in spite of massive grants to the Valley over the years. Evidently, the monies made available to successive state governments have not reached the people. It is common knowledge that these have been siphoned off and enriched the rulers and their henchmen. Who is to blame for this state of affairs? Evidently the political dispensations that have been in power, the foremost being the National Conference. Notwithstanding the ongoing fulminations by their leaders the blame for the economic decline in the state rests largely with them.
Whenever the situation gets out of control segments of the Kashmiri separatists and political parties demand implementation of the Kashmir Accord, Delhi Agreement and other agreements dating back primarily to the 1950s. The demands for ‘Azadi’ and greater autonomy stem from these accords. After over 60 years these accords while not being declared ‘null and void’ by any Indian government to date need to be reconsidered based on the circumstances obtaining then and now. For example, when the agreements were signed Kashmiriyat was acknowledged by one-and-all as the identity of the state. Syncretism flourished and became a model to be adopted across the troubled nation traumatised by the recent partition and the large-scale killings and displacements in the sundered subcontinent. The Prime Minister of the time being himself from Kashmir was particularly influenced by the syncretism that obtained in the state and used it as a basis for his policies of communal harmonisation throughout India. They had a beneficial impact on all sections of Indian society of the time.
At about the same time so much was happening in and around India at the end of World War II. To the north, China had militarily seized Tibet and obliged the young Dalai Lama to enter into the 17-Point Accord with Beijing. It was never implemented. After over 60 years it lies in tatters. Meanwhile, both Pakistan and China have demographically swamped the areas that had been occupied by them in Tibet, Xinjiang, Gilgit and Skardu and POK, drastically altering population and denominational ratios, often with extreme violence and harshness. In fact a joke going around in the UK states that there are more Mirpuris in the UK than in Mirpur. How Pakistan and China continue to deal with unrest in the provinces with no holds barred is too well known to require elaboration.
When elements in the Valley demand azadi they must spell out what exactly they mean by it. ‘Azadi’ from what(?) should be the main issue to be considered. In most developing societies in the world ‘freedom or azadi’ generally means freedom from hunger, freedom from want, rapid movement towards MDGs (Millennium Development Goals). Countries in the subcontinent are nowhere near meeting these goals. The Kashmiris shouting for azadi would have seen the azadi that obtains in and around them with erstwhile compatriots to the West and Tibet and Xinjiang. The Indian government in spite of six decades having elapsed has not even gotten the law that prohibits non-state subjects from holding property in J&K modified, something which no other country would have countenanced for so long.
Most importantly, and above all, Kashmiriyat that obtained in the 1950s when the agreements were signed is all but dead. The Hindu Pandits still languish in miserable conditions away from their homes, fearful for their lives were they to attempt to move back. Kashmiriyat has been replaced by the dreaded Islamist ideology that is sweeping across the entire Muslim world and even in countries where Muslims have emigrated to in large numbers. Amazingly, and whatever anyone might say, compared to other countries where the jihadis and jehad have taken root, these have still not been able to strike roots in India. In the Valley strong action by the state and the centre in concert has to remain the order of the day as jihadis from across the state are profiting from the unrest to boost their strength through infiltration, as well as through local recruitment. Concomitantly, reasonable demands from elements that are suffering at the hands of the separatists should be discussed and implemented at the earliest.
Powerful jihadi tanzeems like the Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jamat-ud-Dawa and others raised, nurtured and equipped primarily to create trouble in Kashmir and India are enormously strengthened within the Vale due to the present agitation. None of these were present even in Pakistan during the 1950s when the accords were signed. While the government of India will have to look afresh at the options available to it and act fast to stem the unrest in the Valley the separatists and jihadi supporters in the Valley should also realise that collectively they are destroying the future generation of young people in the Valley by inducing very young children to thow stones on security forces.
The parents of children less than 14-years old have also abdicated their responsibility. The consequences for all concerned could be far-reaching. The people of the Valley, governments at the State and Centre as well as the Army and paramilitaries must realise that the ISIS in Iraq and Syria is harvesting young children of both sexes for suicide missions and infiltration, calling them ‘Cubs of the Caliphate’. Similarly Boko Haram in Nigeria. So far children in the Valley have been mobilised only for stone throwing and the occasional grenade throwing. If firm and immediate action is not taken to nip mobilisation of children in the bud the consequences could turn out to be very grim for Kashmiris in the Valley in the first instance and later beyond Kashmir.
The bottom line for all concerned is that there is no way that any government in India can compromise with the security of any part of J&K and India.
Choas At Railway Crossings
The concerned government authorities should have been alive by now to the total chaos that results on several National Highways and lesser highways at Railway Level Crossings. This has nothing to do with the railway authorities or the personnel manning the crossings. It has to do with the inordinate chaos that takes place on the road on both sides while vehicles wait for the gate to reopen. What is being narrated in the ensuing paragraphs is the experience of practically all road users whether they are travelling on the finest 6-lane highways that have been created or the roads with lesser width and carriage-way. Example is given of level crossings. The same applies to most types of bottlenecks that exist or are temporarily created.
Every time the booms at the level crossing come down vehicles start lining up on both sides. On highways and roads with high traffic density it does not take more than two minutes for the line to reach back up to about 2 kms. At that stage a car or vehicle with a VIP - real or self-assigned - breaks away to form a second line on the right. This is the signal for two lines to form within the next two minutes. Soon enough impatient drivers start forming the third line, now comprising trucks buses and all sorts of transport including farm tractors. In exactly 8-9 minutes 5 or six lines are formed right up to the edge of the road. A similar exercise takes place on the other side,i.e., hypothetically there is no space to move forward on either side because of the complete packing of the road on both sides.
Where the road is on level ground the system clears itself in about 5-6 minutes, some time in 10 minutes. Where the road is on an elevation should even one vehicle get stuck in the melee, with incessant blowing of power horns, the blockage can last between 30 to 60 minutes and some time up to 4-6 hours. Many people have personally experienced this unnecessary blockage on several occasions, more accurately on practically every long journey by road - the blockage finally being cleared by the arrival of police. Meanwhile, due to lack of coordination and information about why the blockage has taken place motorists, thelas, trucks, tractors keep building up at the back adding another hour or two to the restoration of free movement.
The phenomenon is not limited to national highways and commerce arteries. It is happening even in cities. One can witness it at traffic lights at various crossings in Delhi during rush hour and in Gurgaon much too often. The cause for these traffic jams of short or long durations is almost invariably lack of patience, indiscipline and lack of heavy deterrent fines.
What Can be Done About it
The first suggestion is for the railway authorities at the level crossings, although they have nothing to do with the chaos that develops on both sides. Wherever it does not exist, railways should extend a central verge or road divider for up to 2-3 kms on either side of the level crossing gates/booms. Mobile police patrols on national highways finding any vehicle on the wrong side, i.e., side from where the traffic from the opposite direction has to flow should impound the vehicle for minumum 12 hours plus levy a heavy fine. The punishment will help curb impatience plus burn a hole in the pocket. At peak periods extra manpower should be positioned to ensure road discipline. Even a single policeman from the nearest police post or motorcycle police patrol would suffice. Once road users realise that they will not be able to get away with lack of road discipline the situation should improve. The extra railway personnel or policemen or mobile patrol need not be always at the same place. Frequently changing places will induce certain caution on wayward road users.
For the State authorities and NHAI knowledge of what happens on highways leading to delays should have automatically led to elementary regulatory mechanisms. Even a token presence from time to time has a commendable salutary effect. Monitoring becomes essential for free and continuous flow of traffic on national and state arteries. Breakdowns due to causes that can be easily remedied should never be allowed to take place. Monitoring will also ensure that when chaos has resulted at a certain location police stations 10,20 and 30 kms away are automatically warned to halt the flow at their locations and monitor progress before allowing forward movement. In the absence of these procedures delays of 10 to 16 hours have been experienced from time to time.
What the PMO, Ministry of Shipping and Roads (especially Ministers Gadkari and Suresh Prabhu) should understand is that infrastructure improvement is oriented towards faster movement of goods and persons, i.e., if there is no free flow 30 days in the month, improving of road infrastructure does not by itself bring in the desired returns either to the government or the entrepreneurs - big or small. In summer perishable goods have to be thrown after long delays or their value reduced by more than half when they land up at 'mandis' causing avoidable financial loss to the farmer, retailer and the customer. Delays affecting manufactured goods not reaching the containers or ships to be loaded in time is a nightmare situation for manufacturers. Government planners, especially those dealing with infrastructure and 'Make in India' must realise that in most ASEAN countries time taken for a container from factory to ship has been reduced to about 10 days. Slippages, unless due to natural calamities are simply not allowed or condoned. In India no one can plan. On practically every journey motorists come across trucking jams that lead to unnecessary delays all round. The causes for these are known to everyone. Even those manufacturers who have set up factories nearer the ports can never be sure of goods reaching the destination in time due to the blockages mentioned above, in addition to their other headaches. The loss to the exchequer due to long delays at bottlenecks, artificial, temporary or due to natural causes add a phenomenal amount to the energy bill of the country as well as to environmental pollution in cities. Committees being set up to streamline infrastructure should invariably consider laying down guidelines for the problems mentioned above to be tackled speedily as most of them are self-induced. A reckonable improvement in the national finances could take place within the financial year as well as reduction in pollution.
It is amazing that elementary remedies have often to be ordered by the National Green Tribunal rather than undertaken speedily by the concerned ministries and departments, including the police who could be acting far more efficiently and purposefully. Their manpower accretion has to be concurrently planned.
Executive Director, Eco Monitors Society
THE UNDERLYING REALITY OF US- PAKISTAN RELATIONS
The piece below is a continuation of an earlier article published in The Statesman (March 21-22, 2013) under the title The War in Afghanistan was Lost in Pakistan. Newspapers in India are again fuming at Secretary of State Kerry's clean chit to LeT and other tanzeems in Pakistan ; the certification being a pre-requisite for the disbursement of the next tranche of US aid to Pakistan amounting to 1.5 billion US dollars. In diplomatic circles in India it has to be clearly understood that regardless of White House inclinations, US policy towards Pakistan is not going to change radically. The same goes when the next incumbent steps into the White House. At several fora in India and abroad the author has repeatedly opined that the US needs Pakistan more than the other way around. In fact, Pakistan's deep state has the US by its throat, in a manner of speaking. Recall that during the Afghan operations when Pakistan was their frontline state against the Russians in Afghanistan , William Casey the Head of CIA was inclined to spend more time in Peshawar than in Washington . The same was true for his number two Robert Gates, till recently the Defence Secretary. What is more, during those halcyon days of US-Pak relations, ISI operatives and top military officers from Pakistan had free run of Langley , the CIA headquarters, at the highest levels. That deep penetration of Langley and other institutions run by the CIA and the US Defence Department, including those established under NATO aegis in Europe, as also the insights gleaned as to CIA global operations has served the Pakistan Mil-ISI combine very well. It will continue to do so. Moreover, over the last 40 years, besides facilitating the opening to China for the Kissinger-Nixon duo, the ISI had been subcontracted for doing much of the dirty work for the CIA in the subcontinent, Afghanistan and beyond. In that way the CIA was immune to Congressional oversight. In some areas it still continues.
Looking at the present situation in India ’s neighbourhood in the West, Pakistan has fast emerged as the foremost player in Afghanistan with a capacity to call the shots. Whereas India ’s developmental efforts and soft power in Afghanistan have been much appreciated, it has to be remembered that when realpolitic enters the arena decisions are made on hard power. Soft power bereft of hard power can go thus far and no further. Possibly, that is one of the reasons for Russian overtures to Pakistan . Today when it comes to crunch issues the country has the solid backing of Saudi Arabia , China and the US and its allies. This situation is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future. It would be prudent for India to adjust its policy to this hard reality.
Published in The Statesman, New Delhi, 11 January 2015, P. 7.
The write up below was circulated after the series of attacks a few years ago across Europe when the Danish cartoons that gave offense were first published. I have it from a French diplomat that when it was circulated it dampened down the anger manifested by the offended community. It would be worth circulating the italicised portion again, even publishing it..
SHIFTING PARADIGM OF RESURGENT EXTREMISM:
NEW RESOLUTION MODES
(Talk delivered at the Technical University , Eindhoven on 25 April 2006)
"The difference in outlook emerges from the furore over the Danish cartoons. Even after several world leaders, including Presidents Bush and Putin had condemned the publishing of the controversial cartoons the Muslim clergy-inspired mob fury continued unabated in many countries. One of the reasons was that they had smelled blood. They realized that Denmark was wilting and many in Europe were frightened of a heightened backlash. Were that not the case mass hysteria on a global scale across the Muslim world could not have been sustained for so long. The righteousness of the anger professed was also questionable, if not untenable.
"It may be recalled that just a few years ago a far worse sacrilege was carried out in the Muslim world. On a scale of 0 to 9 if the offense given by the Danish cartoons is put at 4 or 5 the destruction of the Bamian Buddhas tips the scale well beyond the maximum 9 on any comparative basis - not that outrages can be compared or quantified. Yet no Budhhist asked for the head of the perpetrators, nor was any Muslim property burned anywhere in the world. No Muslim was harmed. What is more, no Muslim even felt afraid of a backlash from any quarter.
The announcement that the Bamian Budhhas would be destroyed was made several days before the threat was carried out. Pakistan , where the riots were spreading faster than elsewhere, had the capacity to intervene decisively to prevent the most abominable desecration that the world has witnessed in modern times. It did not intervene. Nor did Saudi Arabia or the OIC. The ulema in India put the highest price on the cartoonists' heads. Their protests spread to other cities in India . None of these worthies asked for the head of the Taliban leadership of the time. There was not a single riot after the destruction of the Bamian Buddhas.
The Muslim world should have realised that the anguish and gloom caused to the Buddhists in every corner of the globe, including the Koreas , Japan , China , Mongolia and several other countries would have been infinitely more deep than that caused by the offensive cartoons. There are many denominations whose followers across the world number in the hundreds of millions or more than a billion. They feel sacrileges, slights and threats to kill (the infidels) as keenly as do Muslims. If they do not react in the fashion of the Muslims it is because they might have actually moved up civilisation's ladder. Their religions teach them that every life, regardless of whether it is that of a believer or non-believer, is sacred. The Buddhists who must have been knocked senseless by the sheer magnitude of their loss internalised their suffering and prayed for forgiveness to the perpetrators. There is a lesson in this for Muslims if they would still like to call Islam a religion of peace. Meanwhile the world cannot allow itself to be boxed in by a regressive interpretation of the theology of a single denomination just because it has demonstrated a capacity to activate mass hysteria supra-nationally for a well thought out long-term geopolitical quest".
RESUMING SOVEREIGNTY IN THE NORTHEAST
China is leaving no stone unturned to complete its maritime and land silk routes in record time so that it leaves its biggest challenger in SE Asia and later in Central Asia still struggling with failed promises, tardy decision-making, delivery deficit and last, but not least, comparatively shoddy construction. Any number of examples can be listed over the past decade, earlier as well. However, things seem to be changing for the better for two main reasons: First, the advent of the new PM with resultant across-the-board improvement in decision-making in most aspects of governance; secondly as reported in many national dailies Trilateral Highway gets Modi push (The Indian Express, November 13, 2014., Page 3). It goes on to give details of the multi-modal transport corridors being fast-tracked and centrally monitored by the concerned ministries.
As per the MEA spokesperson these could end up as game-changers.By themselves, these fast-tracked projects, even if they do come to fruition in record time, say by 2018, two-year behind schedule, may not suffice until connectivity within the northeast is also fast-tracked, and, what is more, guaranteed against delay and disruption. As things stand there is no guarantee that the pattern of frequent connectivity disruptions that have bedeviled development in the northeast can be removed unless the government at the Centre resumes sovereignty in the northeast. Although at no stage did sovereignty stand revoked as such, not exercising it to the fullest in as far as it relates to connectivity can be deemed to be tantamount to abdication of sovereign responsibility.
By its very charter the Union Government is obligated to guarantee free movement of people and goods to every part of the country, no matter how remote – be it through rail, road, air, postal or telecommunications. While natural disasters, whenever they occur, can be deemed to be force majeure delays, and disruptions cannot always be controlled by the government, no excuse for disruption can be made when these are orchestrated by political parties, disaffected groups, insurgents or for any other similar reason. The cutting off of road connectivity to Manipur for long periods is a case in point, although not the only instance of the government abdicating its sovereign responsibility. Other examples from recent memory relate to road communication disruption to the northeast for several weeks by uncontrolled elements in Bihar after the railway recruitment fiasco a few years ago. Elements in Jammu have resorted to disruptions of a similar nature. And in the case of the Jat reservation agitation the Courts had to step in to direct the government to step in and remove the rail roko agitators. All such man-made disruptions cause untold misery to the poorest strata of society, the daily wage earners, and heavy losses to the exchequer when movement of goods and essential commodities is stalled. The excuse normally offered by the government has been that ‘law and order’ is a state subject. In the case of the northeast the tragedy is doubly compounded because no business persons would like to invest in green field projects, when movement of goods to and fro can be delayed for long periods of time.
For the economy to improve and the country’s international commitments to be met the new government must announce full resumption and exercise of pan-India connectivity. The following methodology can be enunciated and acted upon:
- Starting with the northeast the Union government must make it abundantly clear that both in the case of force majeure as well as disruptions caused by political or insurgent-type activity it will allow the concerned state government to take all steps necessary to restore connectivity in the shortest possible time. Should the government feel that the response of the state government did not measure up to the emergent situation thus obtaining, it will suo motu take all measures to restore connectivity. In all such cases, especially in the northeast, the army would remain at call and in a state of readiness to restore connectivity at the earliest.
- Similar instructions will be issued to state governments for strikes that disrupt connectivity on national communication networks. Once again, should the state government show reluctance, tardiness or inability to act, the Centre would suo motu take steps to restore connectivity.
Needless to say that speedy infrastructure development becomes the basis for reviving the economic activity in the country. However, ease of movement and removal of bottlenecks would become equally important for benefiting from the improved infrastructure. For the northeast it literally becomes a lifeline for future development internally; and for India to take up the challenge of ACT EAST connectivity.
New Delhi , 17 November 2014
*The author is Executive Director, ECO MONITORS Society
The Statesman (November 20, 2014, Page 9), "Resuming Sovereignty in the North- East.
The Accidental Prime Minister- Implications for National Security
Not surprisingly Sanjay Baru’s book has created enormous stir. While the PMO and Congress circles close to the dynasty have criticised the book as travesty and ranting of a person denied a second term after the resounding Congress victory in 2009, most others have been surprised, horrified and alarmed at the revelations. Therefore, it becomes essential to take measure of the veracity of what has been written. Regardless of opinions expressed on the contents of the book or the motives for writing the same as also the timing of the release, it can be safely stated that up to this point Dr. Sanjay Baru was held in high esteem by his peers in the profession and the public that read his articles. There may have been differences of opinion on the numerous pieces written by him, few would be able to recall criticism directed at the persona of Dr. Baru. Hence, the charges of gross misrepresentation or being influenced by extraneous factors or disappointment can easily be set aside. Similarly, the harshest criticism has largely been made by interested parties out to protect the reputation of the Prime Minister and Mrs. Sonia Gandhi as also persons who feel upset or slighted by what has been written about them. For the informed public at large, across the political divide, the serious charges made about the manner in which government was being run with a pliant Prime Minister who just carried out instructions from above ring true. What is more, people had long suspected that the government was being run by the dynasty for the dynasty. The national interest, whenever it clashed with the dynasty’s interest was ignored, even subverted. At the end of the day the charge made by Sanjay Baru of near-total dynastic control on all important appointments in practically every sphere of governance has extremely serious ramifications for national security.
The signs that the national interest was being sacrificed by an unaccountable extra-constitutional entity wielding immense power, whose foreign background, antecedents, travels and interactions – both within India and abroad - have never been fully investigated or allowed to be revealed was suspected by many in political, and media circles and certainly by all those in close proximity to the power hierarchy in the capital, not to mention foreign circles. The prime minister’s acquiescence to diktats from 10 Janpath are recorded in Baru’s book; what has not been recorded is the utter helplessness and lack of spine shown by the man when he was bypassed by ministers and bureaucrats, including in the PMO, carrying out instructions of Mrs. Gandhi without even keeping him informed. Close friends of the PM whom he confided in often have revealed his anguish at some of the incidents where he was kept totally in the dark. One of these, according to sources close to the PM relates to the de-freezing of Quatrochi’s account in the UK . The matter was sub judice. Yet it is most unlikely that the Law or Home ministries would have kept record of the directions for its execution.
Such serious misconduct should have alarmed the entire cabinet and the senior civil servants in the government. Apparently no one protested in the charmed circle of ministers appointed by Soniaji. One of the biggest anti-national acts was carried out by the lady right at the beginning of UPA I when she selected Shivraj Patil to be the Home Minister of India at a time when the country was exposed to serious threats from terrorism, both home grown and from across the border(s); a good parliamentarian who was clearly out of his depth as home minister. He had been placed there with a one-point agenda: to clear all cases against Quattrochi. He delivered admirably and finally when his deficiencies could not be condoned any longer after 26/11 he was relieved among strong public clamour and replaced by Mr. Chidambram, a far abler person for the job. On occasions when the media criticized Mr. Patil he was on record as saying that he was satisfied that the authority that had placed him in the home minister’s chair was pleased with his performance. Evidently that is all he cared about. Madam was pleased. He had delivered. It began and ended there. How did it matter what the nation felt. The Law Ministry played its part equally admirably. Both the law and the home ministers, when the pressure to replace them could not be opposed any longer were dispatched as governors, rewarded for outstanding devotion to duty – not to the nation; to the lady at 10 Janpath. Not a whimper from the PM or his cabinet colleagues. Examples from other ministries and agencies – many now in the public domain or part of PILs before the Court – abound. In a few years they will all come tumbling out. Actually what happened in the UPA decades when Sonia G wielded unchallenged power was a throw back to an earlier era. She was privy to the fact that during Rajiv Gandhi’s regime Quatrochi wielded enormous power. He could walk into almost any ministry without let or hindrance and influence decisions. He was a law unto himself. Sonia Gandhi evidently watched the master influence peddler with awe and admiration. She did not know that she would have her day. It came sooner than she expected.
Denials about classified files being shown in 10 Janpath are not likely to convince the people of India . There would be many in the government who would be willing to swear to the goings-on on affidavit were they to be summoned by the courts should a new government or the courts decide on a SIT to investigate the comprehensive destruction of parliamentary democracy as embodied and embedded in the PM and the Council of Ministers according to the Constitution. Several pronouncements and actions from 10 Janpath bespeak a good grasp of classified matters. There can hardly be any doubt that the list of holders of illegal monies stashed abroad was made know to her and through her to the charmed 10 Janpath circle. A RTI query was passed around between the cabinet secretary and the MEA without eliciting any worthwhile response. Questions are bound to arise as to whether such information was used to keep the wrong-doers in check or whether they were made to part with some of the wealth – to whom?
A yet more grave matter is the goings-on within 10 Janpath and the guests who stayed there, mostly family and friends from abroad as there would be no one left in the Nehru or Feroze Gandhi families who would be welcome to stay. Such secrecy should be unacceptable where ultimate authority is wielded by an extra-constitutional authority or family not bound by any oath of secrecy. It is well on the cards that nationally important matters would have been discussed in family circles within the hallowed precincts. By the same token sudden visits abroad at critical junctures by Mrs. Gandhi and on occasions accompanied by her children (quite apart from the US visits for treatment) were surrounded by such a veil of secrecy that they defy any reasonable explanation. Links to the events that could have threatened the dynasty’s interests can be gleaned. Followed through logically they lead into a frightening dark alley.
Whatever the secrecy within the country there are foreign agencies that kept track of the places visited and much else. Indian embassies were seldom kept in the picture. In fact, after the Bofors exposures ambassadors of India to sensitive countries in Europe were reportedly selected keeping in mind the loyalty factor and the need to ensure that the embassies did not make requests for embarrassing details. After the revelations of the book should one make the assumption that something similar could be happening even now after the Augusta-Westland case came to light?
Tragically for India and its security, people have to raise these questions to demand of their political masters as to how the country could have sunk so low. Why only blame Sonia Gandhi and her close circle that enjoyed unimaginable benefits, power and presumably amassed untold wealth. Almost the entire political class occupying the sprawling Lutyens Delhi bungalows for years and decades on end did not wish to upset the applecart. The same goes for crony capitalism and large portion of the media heads that were very much alive to what was happening. The ultimate tragedy is that leaving aside the weak prime minister how does one explain that none of the Congress ministers in the cabinet put their foot down or quit when all along they were privy to the country’s interest being sold down the river by what was and remains a foreigner-led dispensation. Many of the ministers were luminaries in their own rights with outstanding practices bringing in enormous wealth. Can one even approach the President of India in this regard? Even he delivered. The DTAT with Switzerland had the key clause to which no satisfactory answer was given by anybody in the government as to why the agreement would be prospectively operative after April 1, 2012 and all cases prior to that would stand closed and not available for scrutiny or words to that effect. Even the Swiss ambassador’s interview of the time to the press reveals a lot.
To conclude the decline in India since the UPA governance decade under the aegis of Sonia Gandhi is so steep and so palpable that hardly anyone in India or outside the country doubts it. During UPA II the mandate for the Congress Party led by Dr. Manmohan Singh and SG was so impressive that it could have been used to pull up India in every sphere of governance internally and project it to the front ranks of the comity of nations externally had the interest of the country been foremost in the reckoning of the dynasty. It was undeniably not. The current state of the nation impels concerned Indians to look deeper into the reasons for the national decline. The foremost reason that stares one in the face and which not many people dared to openly question up to now while the dynasty wielded untrammeled power and used it with ruthless determination is that subliminally sacrificing the national interest to perpetuate itself has become part of the DNA of the dynasty as it nears its end-point. The book is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. It is to be hoped that a successor government would order an impartial investigation into the manner of governance in the UPA decades with a view to ensure that the security and sanctity of the nation is never again compromised in this manner.
The item below appeared in The Statesman this morning (New Delhi, Thursday 17 April 2014 - Page 09).
Convenor, MRGG, Author Revitalising Indian Democracy.
Dynastic Shenanigans.... The Statesman (10 February 2014)
The dynasty is following a scorched-earth policy. There is still scope for limiting the damage that is likely to be attempted in the coming days before the Election Commission embargo sets in. Whether the Prime Minister or the cabinet will muster the courage to finally put their foot down is difficult to say. Clearly the time has come for the President of India to exercise his constitutional mandate and step in to limit the damage ~ VINOD SAIGHAL.
Pronouncements by the ruling party’s prime minister-in-waiting have been flying thick and fast, bestowing benefits to all and sundry from an exchequer that stands critically depleted. An example is the decision by the government after intervention of Mr. Rahul Gandhi (as per news reports) that the number of gas cylinders available at the subsidized rate should be increased from 9 to 12. There could hardly be any doubt that the concerned ministry knowing the parlous situation of the economy would have been opposed to it, as would have been the finance minister and the Prime Minister even if they chose to remain silent. After all, the extra-constitutional authority with no accountability has been running the government and for that matter the country by fiats from time to time. The question of non-conformity has almost never arisen for the simple reason that all the important ministerial appointments have been made by the UPA chairperson. They run their ministries at her sufferance. The Prime Minister falls into the same category. Even the crucial positions within the PMO are decided in the same manner.
In the remaining period till elections are announced many more sops irrespective of whether the economy can withstand further shocks are likely to be announced. In the case of the increase in subsidized gas cylinders at a cost to the exchequer of Rs 5000 crore, the Reserve Bank Governor felt impelled to come out with an uncharacteristic negative comment against the government’s decision. It is not likely to have an effect on the cavalier dynastic shenanigans.
Increasingly they seem to have abandoned the armed forces, thereby endangering national security due to critical shortages and the wellbeing of troops on the frontier facing severe winter conditions. A news item had appeared in the papers to the effect that heating oil for the troops in J&K would be reduced. Earlier while the comparatively niggardly amount required for one-rank-one-pay for the armed forces was denied, the MPLAD sum for the elected representatives was increased to Rs 5 crore. Enough has already been written as to how this fund is used or misused. That it could be a source of enrichment for many legislators can be gleaned from their affidavits filed for election. For most of them there appears to be an across-the-board increase in their wealth when compared with previous affidavits.
Not long back an announcement was made, possibly at the behest of the dynasty, that civil servants and their families could now go abroad for treatment. Provision was also made for taking along an attendant. Evidently the step was taken to keep the civil servants well-disposed towards the ruling dispensation knowing full well that notwithstanding their other attributes civil servants are not unintelligent people. The handout if implemented might not induce them to vote in their favour. That was never the aim; which was that when inquiries into the misdeeds of the people at the apex of governance take place, as they are likely to sooner or later, the highly placed babus do not give evidence against them. Several other examples can be given of wasteful expenditure that no self-respecting government or democracy would have tolerated.
Surprisingly hardly anybody in authority seriously questioned the extra-constitutional manner in which decisions that have pushed the country into a negative spiral in practically every sphere of governance were taken. The Prime Minister, whatever his personal views, clearly opted out. So did the rest of the council of ministers and senior government functionaries; even the judiciary. The democratic decline and the body blow being delivered to the constitutional responsibilities of the government were allowed to go unchallenged for all these years. There are those who feel that in the ultimate analysis the blame could also be apportioned on the President, one of the most astute and gifted political figures to have been elevated to the highest office. Constitutional subversion and irregularities stare everyone in the face, not excluding the so-called independent media, currently having its moment of glory in the sun.
Was it not evident to all concerned that as per the Constitution important decisions are to be taken by the Prime Minister and his Council of Ministers? When a thorough examination of how the UPA government has been run is carried out it is bound to emerge that many important decisions were taken by the extra-constitutional authority over the head of the government. Directions given from above were simply carried out without demur. Leave alone the UPA partners even the ministers were not kept in the picture in several cases where decisions of the government were set aside or literally flung aside. Whether well-orchestrated or simply the good-cop-bad-cop style of functioning of the dynastic scion, decisions of the government can only be overturned after the collegium that is the Council of Ministers is constituted or re-constituted and its deliberations recorded.
An independent investigation could also bring out that highly classified information that should never have left the closely guarded precincts of the government had been communicated to the extra-constitutional authority and by extension the close dynastic advisers as well. The black money case before the Supreme Court, were it to be carried through to its logical conclusion, could yet spring many horrifying surprises.
By now the writing on the wall would be clear to the dynasty and its close supporters. All the trends indicate a severe decline for the Congress. Clearly many of the sops and largesse for the ensuing weeks are not going to affect the electoral chances of the dynasty or the party significantly. Yet the shenanigans and impulsive decisions of the dynasty and its scion are likely to continue. What could be the reason for it? Unless the national interest has ceased to matter to the dynasty ~ and all economic indicators leave no doubt about the economic folly of some of these decisions ~ the strategy becomes eminently clear. The dynasty is following a scorched-earth policy. The planning just might be to leave the economy for a successor government in such a precarious condition that any meaningful attempts to bring in desired policy changes would flounder on the rock of a semi-bankrupt exchequer. The new government, whatever its hue, would not be in a position to deliver on their election manifesto. Thereby the hope is nurtured that another general election would soon follow.
There is still scope for limiting the damage that is likely to be attempted in the coming days before the Election Commission embargo sets in. Whether the Prime Minister or the cabinet will muster the courage to finally put their foot down is difficult to say. Clearly the time has come for the President of India to exercise his constitutional mandate and step in to limit the damage.
The Pernicious Secularism Agenda
The majority of Indians regardless of their denominational leanings would agree that what happened in Gujarat post-Godhra was a blot on the state whichever way one looks at it. In spite of several commissions of inquiry and investigations carried out the link to the Gujarat Chief Minister was never established. Whether he should get the benefit of the doubt or whether he could have acted more aggressively to stop the carnage will remain an unanswered question and should continue to weigh on his conscience; having said that, there have been bigger carnages in the past. For example, the killing of Sikhs in Delhi and elsewhere in much larger numbers after the assassination of Indira Gandhi was an unsurpassed abomination that happened at the national level. What is more, without doubt it was directly initiated and orchestrated by Congress leaders. In the orgy of violence that followed central government agencies present in the capital could easily have stamped it out within the first few hours had anyone in authority given the call to do so. This did not happen. Since the young Prime Minister himself seemed to have blessed it with his infamous statement nobody in authority lifted a finger to call a halt to the madness. Many senior Congress leaders of the time were personally accused of fuelling the frenzy of killing that lasted over several days.
The point being highlighted is different. Not one Congress leader starting from the PM was ever accused of being non secular at that time or to this day. Yet, from the moment news of the killing in Gujarat became known practically everyone in the Congress and the media aligned to the party accused Narendra Modi of being non secular. What is forgotten is that many BJP leaders including Shri Vajpayee were dumb struck at what had taken place; as were the large majority of Hindus. If any proof were required as to which set of people are truly secular; in the elections held shortly after the outrage in Gujarat in the state of Himachal Pradesh where the overwhelming majority of the population professes the Hindu faith the voters of the Himalayan state equally upset at what had transpired in Gujarat rejected the BJP and voted the Congress to power.
It is indeed sad that since the UPA came to power a decade ago the country has been increasingly polarized into the secular - non secular divide. As the country moves towards the next general election this pernicious secularism agenda will remain the order of the day. It is being pushed on to the public consciousness almost on a daily basis at the behest of the UPA apex. Evidently, among other reasons that need not be gone into here the electoral reason to do so becomes compelling for the dynasty that is on the back foot on practically every aspect relating to the country’s governance: decision-making paralysis, breakdown of law and order, security and well being of the people. Since corruption directly under the patronage of the highest in the land having assumed proportions that have hollowed out India and nearly turned it into a basket case can simply not be explained away by any false propaganda, the tried and tested secular agenda will be kept in the forefront till the next general election and beyond. And should the dynasty be worsted, as increasingly looks to be the case, explanations for the rout will again be laid at the door of this pernicious theme. Therefore as political compulsion, nay political survival the polarization will be deepened and perpetuated.
It is high time that the people of India saw through the pernicious game that primarily suits the dynasty and its closest advisers. The very brazenness of putting this agenda on the mast, practically at par with the national flag should have been nailed by most thinking Indians by now. How on earth could anybody, other than a foreigner, have dared to attempt to divide India along these lines when the only religious tradition in the world that from time immemorial has extolled syncretism took birth in India ’s sacred soil? Is there any Indian who has not heard of Vasudaiva Kutambakam. This is perhaps the only ideology and philosophy that since millennia has embraced pluralism to its bosom. Every religion has been welcomed with open arms in the country and flourished here. To the contrary the two major religious denominations that conquered the world in the preceding millennia and in several cases butchered their way to expansion and world dominance never professed syncretism of the type imbibed in all the Vedic dispensations that took birth on the soil of India.
The quality of secularism being practiced by current rulers in Delhi was highlighted by the recent bomb blasts in Bodh Gaya. Along with relatively tepid condemnation a case was being made out almost justifying the blasts that these were the direct result of the killing of the Rohingyas in Myanmar . How does that justify the attempted destruction in India of Budhhism’s most sacred place? Has the same analogy been applied by these apologists to similar crimes elsewhere. It may come as a surprise to these leading votaries of secularism on Indian soil that to date – at least in the UPA-led decade - only Hindus have been branded as being non secular. No non- Hindu leader, even when preaching hatred from the most renowned pulpits in the land has been branded as being non secular. The irony is evidently lost on the leaders who persist in persevering with the divide. The greatest curse that the ruling dispensation could have visited upon the country in which it has prospered beyond its wildest expectation is to divide it along secular and non secular lines. Possibly as a parting kick, because after this obnoxious exercise the chances of this dispensation ever again wielding such enormous power have faded, even become non-existent, irrespective of whether the non secular Narendra Modi makes it to Delhi or not?
Convener MRGG (Movement for Restoration of Good Government)
NEED TO RELOOK AT INDIA 'S DEVELOPMENT MODEL
An article in the Financial Times, Asia edition dated March 5, 2013 with title 'CANCER'VILLAGE MICROBLOG CAMPAIGN PUTS POLLUTION CENTRE STAGE FOR CHINA'S NEW LEADER’paints a frightening picture of the horrendous ecological decline in China with many deleterious effects resulting from frenzied development, too rapid modernisation and hasty infrastructure development. Not much thought seems to have been given to the ecological consequences of the decisions taken; generally without adequate safeguards and due diligence, often disregarding the warnings of experts within the country and those beyond its frontiers. Example has been cited of a village Huangjiawa, and its surroundings. The area now has one of the highest rates of stomach cancer in the world; wells that sustained the village for centuries have been poisoned. There are other examples in the article of similar tragedies unfolding throughout the land. Tibet has been called the Roof of the World. It sustains the climate of the region and is the source of many rivers on which nearly 2.5 billion people depend. From the Indus in the west, across south and south-east Asia to the Yellow River in the east, increasing devastation is being caused since the Chinese occupation of Tibet over 60 years ago. Much of the damage done is irreversible. The air, soil and ground water pollution has reached critical levels in large parts of China .
The tragedy cited in the FT article is being repeated in India and many other countries that are aping the Chinese pattern of rapid development that entails destruction of virgin tracts and mining in pristine areas without adequate safeguards to prevent leeching of the toxins in the ground water and adjoining waterways. Similar pathways to so-called 'Vikas' or development are being bandied about by politicians for immediate gains without a thought for the havoc being wrought. They are blissfully unaware, or simply don’t care about the price that would have to be paid by future generations for their greed, thoughtlessness and folly. It is time that ordinary people around the country and civil society join hands to put an end to the development model that so far has benefited mainly the political class and big business. There are exceptions, but they are few and far between. Evidently, there is no time to lose. Higher annual GDP growth figures of 7, 8 and 9 at the cost of destruction of the few remaining pristine tracts in the country, where mining leases are being sanctioned left, right and center, often disregarding the injunctions of the courts, green tribunals and even the Ministry of Environment and Forests at the behest of the PMO and other interested parties will soon enough reduce India to the same degree of ecological devastation that has overtaken Tibet and China.
26th March 2013
Dear General Khanduri,
This morning I read in the newspapers that on your visits to the Char Dham sites you had given directions for encroachments to be removed as well as for keeping a firm check on unplanned growth in the future. This is indeed welcome. On my lecture tours around the country I have came across so many of our sacred sites being despoiled by land-grabbers, political bahubalis, encroachments, unimaginative (development) planning by government bodies, official apathy, unregulated waste disposal, pollution of the water bodies and waterways, unhygienic food at dhabas, overcrowding, blaring film music and the like.
In spite of thousand years of foreign rule, our religious sites right up to independence were still havens of peace and tranquility and were largely surrounded by forest belts. You might like to issue follow up instructions for a ten-year plan for site restoration, removal of all encroachments and ugly structures, improved sewage disposal, proper toilet facilities, cleanliness and creation of peace, tranquility and quietude around each site; Construction, where inescapable, to come up at least three to five kms away from the holy sites. In future, shuttle electric cars or bus services could be positioned by the local authorities for conveying pilgrims to the site and back to designated resting places. Chemicals and pesticides should be totally banned and organic farming to be introduced, wherever planting is possible. It has to be remembered that each visitor leaves behind one kg of personal waste per day by way of urine and excreta. When the number of pilgrims was less this waste could have been managed. It is no longer the case. Tens of lakhs of pilgrims will deposit over a million kg of urine & excreta, in addition to non-biodegradable waste. These will flow into our sacred waterways at or near the source. Organizations in Bangalore and Auroville near Pondicherry have came out with very effective on site schemes for waste disposal of this type.
Some years ago on a visit to Guwahati I had seen similar encroachments and unplanned construction on the hill where the famous Kamakhya temple is located. I had brought it to the notice of the governor who apparently was already alive to what was happening. I again spent an evening in the Raj Bhavan a few weeks ago and asked the governor whether he had been able to check the menace at the temple hill. He assured me that some steps towards amelioration were in the pipeline. Nothing worthwhile happened. Uttarakhand has many holy sites. You might like to consider creating a cell directly under the Chief Minister to keep a constant watch on all deleterious activities at the holy sites that attract lakhs of pilgrims every year. There is simply no time to lose, otherwise our timeless heritage will be further degraded or destroyed because we did not muster up the will to protect these ancient treasures.
In an earlier letter dated 7 September 2007, soon after you took over as the Chief Minister, we had recommended a twenty year plan for creation of mixed dense forests in all areas of the state where large-scale felling had led to soil erosion and destroyed the ecological balance.
Maj. Gen. B.C. Khanduri, AVSM
Government of Uttarakhand,
Raj Bhavan Annexe,
Dehradun – 248003.
Political churning in the BJP comes soon after the semi-political churning that has taken place very recently in the cricketing world. Without again going over that messy affair one can proceed straight to an outcome that augurs well for the future of cricket in India . Reference is being made to national level teams representing India in the international arena. Observers of the Indian team competing in the ODI World Cup taking place in the UK are pleasantly surprised at their élan and self-confidence. Regardless of the final outcome they looked winners from the word go; onlookers, TV commentators and cricket lovers are unanimous in their view that the team comprising fresh talent has a great future.
How did this dramatic change come about? One of the decisive factors besides the exposure of corruption is that the older lot of players, many of them iconic figures well past their prime were either shown the door or pushed out by public opinion.
Something similar has taken place in the BJP. The dissonance, infighting and deep churning have been described in the media, by the Congress, former allies and even within the BJP as divisive and harmful for the future prospects of the party. These hasty judgments on the part of friend and foe alike might turn out to be premature. What took place in Goa would have occurred sooner or later in any case. It was unavoidable. The old order that had been unable to take advantage of the dismal state of affairs and governance failure of the Congress Party had to be given the boot. So precipitous has been the decline in the Congress in the last five years that a sagacious BJP top order should by now have come out smelling of roses. Not only has that not happened, not many people in the country up till now thought that the BJP will emerge as the clear winner in the forthcoming 2014 elections.
The churning that has taken place in the BJP has not come a day too soon. It is to be hoped that the new dispensation at the helm will follow up the self-cleansing process in the states where the BJP performance leaves much to be desired, Delhi being a case in point. Young, fresh, untainted faces need to be given a chance. The older, under-performing, defeated leaders must bow out gracefully or be shown the door while there is still time to consolidate before the Delhi state assembly election.
Democracy in the country would greatly benefit were other parties to now follow the example of the BJP churning at the top. It could lead to much-needed spring cleaning down the lower order as well. Entrenched dynasties manifesting signs of dynastic warlord-ism must either make way for greater inner party democracy or face terminal decline and even worse at the hands of the energized young electorate that will no longer be satisfied with more of the same.
Convener MRGG (Movement for Restoration of Good Government) and author Revitalizing Indian Democracy
New Delhi , July 13, 2013
It is amazing that while a potentially strategic vulnerability is being created with each passing day on the DBO front in Ladakh and possibly elsewhere as well the Foreign Minister of India in his wisdom chooses to call it a minor blip, an acne that will soon disappear. Disappear it will not and by the time the Foreign Minister returns from Beijing an element of irreversibility and potential future untenability of positions in Siachen could conceivably have been created. It would hardly be an exaggeration to say that every hour that a well-thought out military response by top commanders on the ground is delayed the situation becomes more and more difficult. In the process the government through its vacillation is leaving everybody confused. Leaving senior military commanders tasked with the defence of Ladakh or for that matter any other sector bereft of initiative is an invitation to disaster; minute-to-minute micro-management from the top not being the answer. That the present incursion does not fall into the category of routine Chinese incursions is clear to all military commanders and defence analysts. It is a given that Chinese incursions have been increasing, sometime on a daily basis, in direct proportion to the government's response of playing them down or denying that they have taken place. Lack of condemnation and allowing even minimal freedom of action to military commanders only emboldens the other side who have taken the full measure of the government and its functioning. It is nobody's contention that an asymetrically enfeebled army should not exercise extreme caution; the army commanders being more than aware of their vulnerbility due to gaps in infrastructure and the delay in critical military acquisitions that should have been in place by now or even the lack of a riposte capability that should have been in place ages ago.
" Simply put, in its broadest sense, fundamentalism can be described for the purposes of this discussion as any system or group that seeks to impose its own values and beliefs on other people through coercion or violence. Any system or regime that demands absolute conformity in thought, conduct, mode of dress and the like and that which continues to enforce its tenets through violence or the whip to the exclusion of all other beliefs, values or modes of conduct is fundamentally abhorrent to human dignity and progress".
THE WAY FORWARD FOR INDIA
Beautifully put! How many of our existing parties can claim to have such an elegant manifesto or the sincerity of purpose to implement it ?
The salient points of the speech made by Maj. Gen. (retd.) Vinod Saighal at the public gathering at Jantar Mantar, Parliament Street, New Delhi on 2nd February 2013 are reproduced below. The gathering at which practically the entire Kashag and the Sikyong were present on the final day of the Tibetan Peoples Solidarity Campaign comprised between 2000-3000 Tibetans and their supporters
After the greetings to the dignitaries on the stage and words of support for the struggle of the Tibetan people the speaker examined what he referred to as the trend lines of the last 50 years. Starting with China , the repression, brutality and genocide in Tibet , he said, has only increased in spite of the decadal leadership changes that have taken place after the Deng Xiaoping era.
During the same period the maximum effort of H.H the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Diaspora was oriented towards America and the West; understandably so, as the Western Nations were in the ascendant, while India and most of the Asian Nations were relatively poor and still finding their feet after freedom from colonial rule. For the same reason young Tibetan people made a beeline to the West.
No doubt the near-total orientation towards the West paid off to the extent that His Holiness’s following increased exponentially and Tibet support groups proliferated in most Western countries. Chinese repression in Tibet was roundly condemned and resolutions passed in the legislative assemblies of many countries.
Notwithstanding the above, the fact remains, that 40, 30 and 20 years ago when the West was very strong and China relatively weak in comparison, the former were not able to compel China to change their repressive policies in Tibet . As is well known the meetings between the Chinese and the Dalai Lama’s representatives were an exercise in prevarication and futility.
Coming to India , the country although way behind China is in a much stronger position than it was in the earlier decades. Today China ’s foreign currency reserves are over $3 trillion, whereas for India these have been hovering around $3 billion since long. Had India been governed better and had not allowed its wealth to be siphoned away, its reserves would certainly have crossed the $1tn mark. In which case it would have been militarily far stronger and able to look China in the eye.
Global projections put China and India as the leading global economies in the coming decades; along with it the centre of gravity and global wealth are markedly shifting to Asia . Sooner rather than later, India will play a much bigger role, both within the region and in the international arena. This is a given. There are hardly any doubters, except within the country on account of weak and ineffective governance.
Looking ahead, Mr. Lee Kwan Yew, the elder statesman of Singapore in an interview with the Western publication several years ago had famously stated that a strong India was necessary for the stability of Asia, especially South East Asia and East Asia. The reason being that in the absence of a balance provided by India , smaller countries were perforce constrained in independent policy formulation as they had of necessity to be mindful of Chinese sensibilities.
In the mind of the speaker there was no doubt that India , despite its present difficulties was well on the way to providing what he referred to as a “dynamic equilibrium” in the region and beyond. In better case scenarios, India could well be in a position by 2020-2025 to unequivocally demand of the Chinese government that it not only stops its repression in Tibet, but moves substantially towards providing autonomy as laid out in the Middle Way proposition put forward by the Dalai Lama.
Looking around the world India will perhaps be the only country in a position to take up Tibet ’s case with China from a position of strength. When that happens, change for the better will take place in Tibet .
Concluding, the speaker suggested to the Sikyong, the members of the Kashag present and the audience that the trend lines spelled out clearly indicated that India would be the prime mover for the resolution of the seemingly intractable Tibetan question. Hence, their efforts and that of the Tibetan Diaspora should now be reoriented much more towards India . Migration of young Tibetan people to the West should become a thing of the past. In fact reverse migration could take place as is the case with many NRIs who had prospered in the West, now seeking to return to India .
Finally the speaker expressed the hope that on the 80th birthday of the Dalai Lama the Government of India would invite His Holiness, being one of the great spiritual leaders of the age, to be the Chief Guest at the Republic day parade.
New Delhi , February 2, 2013
JUSTIFYING RAPE ON SPECIOUS GROUNDS
Now that the entire spectrum of harassment of women from what is termed in India as eve-teasing to rape, acid attacks and other forms of repression is being examined, it is worth visiting an issue that has not been part of the debate so far. What is being referred to is the term ‘loose women’, ‘women of loose morals’, ‘women of easy virtue’ and the like. In many cases of rape, when the case came to trial in the USA , UK , India and elsewhere as well, the defence often tried to prove that the woman raped had a history of wanton behaviour. Amazingly, in several cases the judges allowed the defence lawyer to continue with this line of reasoning to show that his client accused of rape was not to blame, or not entirely to blame. There have been instances where such tactics led to the dismissal of the case against the rapist or leniency in sentencing. In India , the police have frequently refused to register FIRs where the accused has been able to tarnish the reputation of the woman. What is more, not infrequently they themselves come to a similar conclusion and not register the FIR. While in the higher judiciary the concerned judges would not be influenced by such specious pleas the story is different in some of the lower courts.
The present turmoil offers an ideal opportunity to completely eliminate pleas of the defence based on reasoning that attempts to tarnish the woman’s reputation and thereby escape the severity of the law. For that matter even if a woman is a prostitute she has full right to her body and to the decision as to which person she should sell her body.
Surprisingly, none of the women’s organizations have forcefully taken up this issue. What is more, if thought through, the prosecution can start turning the tables on the accused. It is not merely male chauvinism; society itself in practically all countries has been condoning wayward behaviour by their men folk. Families, especially mothers justify such behaviour on the part of their sons when they use phrases that have gained currency over a period of time. For example: “he has been sowing his wild oats and now he is ready to settle down”; compulsive philanderers are habitually referred to as ‘gay blades’ and so on.
Seeing that the whole issue is being comprehensively reviewed the Justice Verma Committee must lay down firm guidelines that the police as well as the lower courts must not allow such female-demeaning line of argument to be pursued.
Convenor, Movement for Restoration of Good Government (MRGG)
New Delhi, 10 January 2013.
CROSSING THE LIMITS OF ECOLOGICAL HEEDLESSNESS
BY Vinod Saighal
The most important threats for humanity and all life forms on the planet are undoubtedly global warming and climate change. There are hardly any international bodies, countries or NGOs in this domain that are not seized of it. The number of international, regional and local meetings that take place on the issue are legion. One of the most urgent problems remains the increasing levels of CO2 in the atmosphere. Many mitigation techniques from carbon sequestration to carbon credits among others are being considered to reduce carbon levels. That being the case it must be one of the most amazing conundrums that one of the simplest pathways to ameliorate the situation at little or no cost is ignored by world bodies and governments and by the numerous conferences taking place on the subject around the world.
Simply stated, it is the heedless method of exploitation of natural resources and the accompanying isplacement of local communities that invariably takes place, mainly in the developing world and the pristine forest regions (where local communities have been living as pastoral societies engaged in gathering forest produce, using methods that they have practiced for centuries), leading to shrinking habitats still rich in biodiversity. Most of these communities are to be found in developing countries in Africa, Latin America and Southeast and South Asia. They are that part of humanity whose carbon footprint even in the 21st century is extremely low, some time almost non-existent. This realization has either not dawned on decision-makers or governments and vested interests simply turn a blind eye to it. Numerous examples can be given from around the world. A few of them fresh in the public mind will suffice.
In Myanmar, the new government has decided to stop the construction of a mega-dam being built by China on the Myitsone River in upper Myanmar. The Chinese government having already sunk in a fair amount of money into the preliminary works is furious. It is to be hoped that the Government of Myanmar will stick to its decision and what is more halt the planned construction of mega-dams elsewhere on the Myitsone and Irrawady rivers. Had the construction not been stopped what would have been the outcome. The Myanmar government would have earned money from electricity, 90 percent of which would have been sold to China. The hidden costs of these gargantuan projects hardly get publicized. It has been estimated that approximately one hundred thousand people would have been displaced. These people have already suffered due to clear felling of a sizeable forest area, as has been the case for the mega-dams built earlier. Some of the displaced forest dwellers and pastoral societies living in the area might have found work as laborers under Chinese construction bosses.
The large majority would have been sent to other sites and put in shanty towns for perpetual ghetto-ised xistence. The second example is from the tribal societies known as ‘adivasis’ in the eastern state of Odisha in India. Large-scale mining activities have taken place or are in the pipeline in areas where the adivasis live as they have lived undisturbed for hundreds, if not thousands of years. Mining is also planned by mining leviathans in a pristine tract called the Nyamgiri Hills sacred to the adivasis from time immemorial. The damage already done by the bauxite mines has resulted in heavy pollution of the area: disease inducing toxins in the water bodies, where even the animals (although seldom recorded) that come to drink suffer as much as the humans.
Protestors are routinely beaten up by the police and several killed. Compensation is offered. It has been mostly rejected by the adivasis who would not like their centuries-old traditions that hardly leave any carbon footprint to be disturbed. Selected leaders of the protest movements are likely to be made to fall in line by hefty bribes - standing operating procedure worldwide. Even the compensation to the adivasis will be increased. Again at what cost to the environment and the natural guardians of the environment, the forest dwellers whose lands are expropriated. Only two examples have been given. They are representative of the tribulations of the indigenous communities displaced by governments allied to global mining lobbies bent upon destroying pristine tracts around the world; where so-called modernization is being forced upon hapless people who have been the guardians of the undisturbed forest habitats so critical for habitability of the planet for future generations of humans and the flora and fauna that has managed to survive.
A word on the fate that awaits displaced communities forcibly removed from their land and way of life. They are resettled in ghetto-like shanty towns or even concrete blocks. Either way the disoriented elders spend their time bemoaning their loss while the youngsters drift into drugs, drunkenness, prostitution and the other ills of modernity into which they have been forced. Lacking survival skills for the new life that they are equired to lead many of them drift into cities into a life of crime or destitution in the hovels known as ‘bastis’ (in India) and ‘favellas’ (in Latin America) where they end up. The lands that they have left behind are ravaged.
Animal and bird life soon disappears due to the extreme pollution of the water bodies and the toxins that leach into the soil. Even in their marginalized condition their carbon footprint automatically rises in the city.
Unsustainable economic development has not been reined in, despite all the climate change conferences. Capitalism capitalises on human greed. That’s why it is called capitalism. China and India will not forgo development, as they still have a long way to go before ameliorating poverty, leave alone eradicating it. The economic bottom-line of the largely unfettered corporate world must include an environmental bottom-line that will translate into ecological sustainability, if the planet is to survive. In his concluding remarks from a presentation at Basel before the 19th IPPNW Conference, (International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War) in August 2010 the author stated: “The large economies pushing toward very high growth do not seem to be concerned about future generations. The tragedy is compounded by the rest of the world that is undergoing recession pangs pushing for greater consumption by China and India. In short, nobody seems to be concerned about the future of our children or the coming generations. We are heading toward planetary destruction here and now. China and India still want GDP increase in double digits when most of this growth is predicated on higher energy consumption levels based largely on abundant coal reserves, the burning of which is most conducive for global warming and climate change. In fact, the consequences of double digit or very high GDP growth in the case of countries with large populations are such that this high digit growth can be termed as obscene. China, overtaking the world’s largest car producer, saw its passenger car vehicle sales zoom 47.5 percent, from 5.7 million units in 2008 to 8.4 million units in 2009, in just one year. India registered 24.5 percent jump in passenger car vehicle sales from 1.5 million units in 2009 to about 1.9 million units in 2010 in the domestic market.
Should this trend, egged on by the rest of the world for greater consumption to underpin the global economy continue for just 10 more years these two countries, without even counting USA, Brazil, South Africa and Nigeria would be able to incinerate the planet by their scorching pace of growth, with attendant environmental destruction on a scale not witnessed earlier on the planet, well before the next nuclear related mishap. It is time to take stock. Time is not running out for critical decisions that should have been in place by now; it has already run out. The human race is now running on borrowed time”. Unquote.
(Excerpt from Revitalising Indian Democracy by Vinod Saighal. Gyan Books Pvt. Ltd, New Delhi, 2012.
TOILET FACILITIES FOR WOMEN ALONG NATIONAL AND STATE HIGHWAYS
18 October, 2012
Over the last few years I have been writing to you on several issues directly, both in my capacity as Convener MRGG (Movement for Restoration of Good Government) and in my personal capacity since the time I came to know you consequent to your inaugurating my book “Dealing with Global Terrorism: The Way Forward” at the India Habitat Centre some time in 2003. Today I am writing on the plight of women while undertaking journeys by road, whatever the mode of transport. Every few hours when the ‘call of nature’ comes, men folk have no problem; they simply go to any tree or wall or just stand on the roadside and merrily urinate away. The women have no such option. When we were young there was sufficient vegetation cover - medium and low canopy vegetation - along practically all roads. These provided cover for women. This is no longer the case. Very briefly my request to you is to send a directive to the concerned ministries to make provisions of clean toilets for women at given distances. In the first instance it should be mandatory for all oil companies that have set up or licensed petrol pumps along highways to construct clean toilets for women, failing which they would be heavily fined or even lose their license. Additionally, the ministry dealing with national highways should be directed to make similar provisions at laid down distances.
Hon’ble Dr. Manmohan Singh
Prime Minister’s Office; South Block
New Delhi –110011