The Damini (actual name Jyoti) gang rape case in Delhi in December 2012 not only jolted the conscience of the whole India, it also became a global news. The whole incidence was characterized by perverted barbaric acts by the group of 6 men, lapses in police surveillance and related law enforcement (fake address submitted by the owner of the bus). In the days and weeks to follow, massive protests by the public were symbolic of anger against the inefficient governance, insensitive statements by political, social and religious leaders of all colors and hues. Very unfortunately, Damini ultimately succumbed to her injuries at a Singapore Hospital leaving behind a sense of guilt in all of us!
In a recent survey of G-20 nations, Canada has emerged to be the safest place for women to be in! And India is at the bottom of this list. USA stands at # 6.
Damini case raised intense debate in media over the status of women in our society. Is a woman safe in our country? The question is being raised as to why so many rape cases occur across India. One statistic data showed that every 40 minutes, a woman gets raped in our country. In the year 2011, there were about 25,000 cases of reported rapes all over India : Madhya Pradesh accounted for 14 % of all cases. Now you will agree that several of the cases are not even reported, hence the actual number might be much higher. And obviously, this data does not include the other forms of violence against women.
Why rapes happen?
In Indian (Hindu) society, we grow up worshiping goddesses like Parvati, Lakshmi, Durga. Our value system teaches us that women are to be treated with respect and humility. Yet, there is a disconnect. Significant disconnect, actually! The discrimination against women starts even in womb as exemplified by female feticide. We treat women as subservient to men: at birth, she is probably considered as the property of father, and after marriage, a property of husband. Similarly, dowry and domestic violence re other manifestations of this bias against women. A usual Indian man can not generally stomach the idea that women too can have an independent existence. In other words, the feudal mindset in Indian males gets ingrained right from childhood when he experiences this at his home (sisters, other women getting less preferential treatment than men) and in outside world.
The horrific rape-case has ignited a debate all over the country demanding tougher laws and more accountable police. The central Govt has announced Justice Verma commission to undertake the judicial review of laws dealing with rape and related violence. Voices are also being raised that rape cases should be dealt in fast track courts.
Combating the menace of women violence requires a multi-pronged approach. It goes without saying that a stricter and efficient criminal justice system will be a great deterrent, but the societal reforms are equally needed. The things must start from home: giving women its due! In other words, gender equality and gender -sensitivity! Also, schools can help provide a balanced dose of health and sex education. NGOs should play a role in injecting the social input in the society on the overall issue of women’s rights and place!
This is not a small news! Three days back (January 16) Haryana’s former Chief Minister and regional satrap Om Praksah Chautala was found guilty by a CBI court in the JBT teachers recruitment scam. He has been sent to Tihat Jail and the sentencing is awaited. Nothing can be more disgraceful for him and his family and supporters than the fact that Mr Chautala is spending nights in Tihat Jail while awaiting his sentencing. It is a big blow to his INLD party. His one son Ajay Singh Chautala is also lodged in jail along with him. Here is the link to the news.
The court orders tell a damning story about the misdeeds that he did in this scam. I quote from a news published in The Times of India:
“Profuse evidence is available on record to show that it was Om Prakash Chautala, who was managing the whole affairs. First he took out the JBT vacancies out of the purview of Staff Selection Commission, then he increased the interview marks from 12.5% to 20%. However, he could not materialize his intentions due to prevailing political situation where he was running a coalition government. As soon as the Indian National Lok Dal got full majority of its own in the elections held in February-March 2000, the opportunity to execute the conspiracy was available,” special CBI judge Vinod Kumar said.
The investigation had revealed that two officers in the education department were transferred intentionally. “When R P Chander ( IAS Office), the then director of primary education, moved the proposal to declare the results on April 24, 2000, he was transferred two days later. Thereafter, Rajni Shekri Sibal (IAS) was brought in as director of primary education. She was asked to change the award lists by Sher Singh Badshami, political advisor to chief minister inpresence of Vidya Dhar (officer on special duty to the CM) as well as in the presence of Ajay Singh Chautala (Chautala’s son) and they were all acting under the directions and wishes of Om Prakash Chautala. When Sibal recommended compilation of the result vide her note sheet dated June 20, 2000, she was also transferred on July 11, 2000 and accused Sanjiv Kumar was appointed in her place,” a CBI officer said.
Chautala – son of much revered late Tau Devi Lal- has always been looked upon as a notorious man. His party and actions by his party workers roughly equate to politics of confrontation, hooliganism and casteism. The Hindi expression of ‘lathmaar rajneeti’ aptly describes the methods his party has resorted to in the past. In the words of noted educationist and anti- Khap panchayat activist Mr Daulat Ram Chaudhry: “Chautalas are more crude, arrogant and aggressive once they are in power.” And many would agree with these sentiments. Chautalas -when in power- unabashedly sold govt jobs (rather than selecting by merit), showered favoritism and nepotism in recruitments and appointments.
The Problem Lies with the System:
Chautala is a manifestation of our system of politics and governance. The media and public gets a feeling of gratification when such criminal-minded politicians are caught. These become headlines. But unless we reform the system, many more Rajas, Kalmadis, Kandas, Chautalas, Sibu Sorens will keep popping up and would be replaced by their other politicians and babus with similar tendencies. The real succor will come when rather than chasing these individuals, we get a system in place that deters such scams and prevents corruption. After all, prevention is better than cure! Some of the current practices that lead to such outcome are:
1. Lack of transparency and accountability in the system. This encourages the politicians and bureaucrats to subvert the system.
2. Undue political interference in police and investigative system (eg, CB.
3. Slow and lethargic judiciary.
3. Lack of citizen oversight. It is ironic that India’s 250 million middle class is still indifferent to politics.
What is the panacea?
Unfortunatley, there are no short cuts. The system needs an over-haul. Unless we witness radical reforms in the fields of electoral practices (eg. negative voting), police (less political interference), judiciary (swifter justice) and civil services (performance-based promotions), things are unlikely to change. Focal reforms here and there will not be very effective. Also, the concept of de-centralization in governance as well as political practices should be promoted. Above all, citizens need to keep an oversight on their elected representatives. For citizens, this saying comes handy: “Freedom is never free and liberty is never guaranteed”! The liberty from corrupt and incompetent babus and politicians will come more readily if we keep a tab on them!
On November 26,2012, India witnessed the launch of a new political party- Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). In India’s multi-party democracy, there are hundreds of political parties, so what is the big deal about it! I would say that the launch of the Aam Aadmi party is really a big deal. It is a watershed phenomenon in Indian polity. With the fresh optimism around, let me give you some reasons as to why I joined this party and support my decision.
Launched with the aspiration to fulfill the common man’s dream of clean, accountable and just governance, Aam Aadmi Party has included some innovative and unique concepts in its core character right from the beginning, viz. Swaraj (de-centralization in administration), intra-party democracy (key elements being, selection of the candidates at the local level for elections and internal Lokpal for the party affairs). It is fair to say that the Aam Aadmi Party- borne out of the struggle for Jan Lokpal Bill- will shift the agenda of mainstream politics in our country. At the same time, it is worth noticing that while the current political culture in Indian evokes a sense of despondency, Aam Aadmi Party is attracting the idealist youth to it with a new vigor.
2. Loot and scams in the name of Governance: Rather than serving their people by providing clean and efficient governance, the elected representatives have become self-serving. Scams are happening at the pace never seen before! The impact of this moral debasement is palpable on all streams of administration, viz judiciary, police and civil administration.
– Under this concept, Arvind discusses how the principle of Swaraj will empower Gram Sabhas and Ward -Councils to make local governance more powerful and in the hands of people. Put in other words, Swaraj talks of the concept of “Direct Democracy”.
– In Economic de-centralization, the revenue collection – a part of that- should be allowed to be spent by the local governments (panchayats or municipalities). in other words, (some of the ) planning should happen at the local level , rather than being imposed from the Center and similarly, the local governments should have the discretion to spend the revenue for local development.
You may not agree with each and every suggestion that has been given by Kejriwal and team in the book “Swaraj”, but it goes beyond saying that the principle of Swaraj- that Gandhi ji also so dearly espoused- will go a long way in bringing the power back to people.
2. Intra-party Democracy: The way the parties have concentrated the power and influence in the hands of chosen few, even the very idea of joining a political party for a conscientious man is repulsive. Moreover, what meaningful a common man contribute through the political action (otherwise a very noble field) when you see that political parties have become dynastic and feudal in nature (think Sonia, Mulayam, Chautala, Mayawati, Mamta, etc). To fight this hazard, AAP has included 2 fundamental principles in its constitution:
a] Selection of the candidates for the elections by the local party-workers. Tickets for the election will not be distributed from the above (high-command culture).
b] Internal Lokpal: As the first step towards bringing accountability within the party cadre, AAP has appointed 3 Lokpals who would take up the complaints submitted by the party-workers against any party-man.
3. Transparency in party Funding: AAP has declared that it would keep its accounts open to public. This is a major decision in contrast to the nebulous accounting practices that almost all the other political parties are indulging in!
In addition to this, AAP is seriously working on pushing for electoral, judicial and administrative reforms. This is a fresh air when you see that the current political parties work hard to stymie reforms as much as possible.
Launched with an idealism, Aam Aadmi Party has the potential to change the political debate and discourse of the country. Will it succeed while the current political milieu in India is synonymous with the potent mixture of “Money-muscle- lung power”? Also, there is a saying that where the institutions of democracy are weak, demagogues thrive!
Already, the party is attracting the motivated youth with a new vigor. However, a new political movement can not grow and succeed unless the common man identifies himself or herself with the party. Equally critical is the strong support of educated, intellectual and established section of the society.
The dismal political scenario in the country has created a chance for us! Yes, the aspirations of the masses seem to have resulted in a crystallizing effect to create a political movement called Aam Aadmi Party. This is a chance for us to change the political culture and discourse of our country. A fresh breeze is around the corner. Smell the sweetness and be a part of this!
I will end my post with these 2 quotes:
“Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn’t mean politics won’t take an interest in you. ” Pericles
The biggest problem in this world is : The Intelligent People are full of doubts, while the stupid ones are full of confidence !
The world’s largest democracy – as India is – needs more teeth so as to be optimally effective. The most powerful player of the democracy – the voter- is helpless because the politicians of today have exploited the situation and whether you vote or not, they are going to rule over you. What we need today most are:
1.Criminals should not be able to gain entry into electoral politics. Thus the move to debar charge-sheeted persons to contest is a welcome move.
2.The provision for ‘negative voting‘ so that a ‘bad’ person could be precluded from getting elected.
3.Vote to ‘recall’: even though a complex exercise, voters should have access to this electoral weapon!
4. Initiative: Where public could initiate a proposal. If it reaches certain threshold, the legislation must be bound to take it up and enact the law,
4.Anti-defection law should be made much more stringent
5.Post-poll alliances should be governed by certain rules.
6. Election Funding by State: This will greatly help reduce the influence of money in elections and motivate well-meaning people to try electoral politics.
7. Election Commission should audit the accounts of political parties. This will help decrease the influence of black-money.
Similarly there could be many more reforms to sharpen our electoral system.
Today (November 19) is the birth anniversery of Indira Gandhi, the late Prime Minister of India.
I have a few observations to make on this occasion.
Indira Gandhi took a strong position and truly owns the credit for creation of Bangladesh. When uncontrolled migration of people from East Bangladesh started increasing, she took this as an opportunity to draw the global attention to this hazard for India. RAW was given free hand to infiltrate in East Bangladesh to turn the tide against Pakistan and when the time for military operations became ripe, she let the army do the rest.
Understandably the Indo-Pak war for in Eastern Pakistan (now Bangladesh) did not please the US. She did not fear the super-power at that time and created the course that was in favor of her own country (India). Even her open distaste for the then US President Nixon was truly daring and remarkable. Despite the convictions that the Secretary of State Henry Kissinger had, President Nixon just hated the lady as well as our country. However, Indira Gandhi was not to be put down too! The 1971 meeting between president Nixon and Indian PM Indira Gandhi was a “classical dialogue of the deaf” as Henry kissinger sensed.
But Indira’s legacy to India is unfortunately full of ills. Her regimen was a watershed in Indian politics where the preceding era was characterized by men of integrity serving the nation (at least they were not corrupt), like Nehru, Patel, Shastri and many more. She initiated the systematic indulgence of corruption in politics and governance and centralized power around her, belittling the concept of intra-party democracy. The country continues to suffer from these phenomena till today.
She took socialist economic model to a further height, thereby delaying the liberalization of economy (and the consequences are easy to understand). The nationalization of banks, increasing Inspector -License-Raj are her gifts to the nation, further increasing the state-control on markets, thereby hampering the growth. She was a deeply corrupt politician and was so insecure within Congress party that she ultimately led to her own party. The undemocratic elevation of Sanjay Gandhi was harbinger of family -politics on Indian political landscape. Punjab terrorism was her own creation, but I am happy to note that she crushed it with an iron hand when it went overboard. And who can forget the Emergency!
Note: Nov 19,1835 was coincidentally the birth day of LakshiBai, the Rani of Jhansi! I shall leave it to the readers to indulge in the pleasure of comparison!
1. Cut entitlements: That is, Government should decrease spending on Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security. In other words, cut down on welfare to an extent.
2. Freeze new Governmental regulations on businesses so that businesses can focus more on creating products.
3. Simplify Taxes and go for purchase-tax: The current income-tax based system has grown into a complex system resulting in a huge bureaucracy, proliferation of tax-professionals and needless to say, people have to devote a substantial amount of time to track their taxes and compliance. Miron urges that the current cumbersome system be abolished and replaced by a simple flat tax that everyone pays on consumtion (ie, when I buy an item from market).
By the way, Faitax organization has also been pushing for similar reform.
Here is the video: