#India – Narendra Modi Slide Show to woo Muslims


MODI1

Shaheen Khan Naqshbandi

So Modi Ji is now wooing Muslims. Hmm. Interesting!

At a function yesterday, Modi Ji agreed to see a PowerPoint Presentation
about Muslims of Gujarat. I cannot help but wonder whether the PowerPoint
Presentation had the following Slides:

1)…a slide where, during the riots, he said, “Hinduoon ko apni badaas
nikaalne do”.

2)…a slide where he was in Police Control Room listening to everything and
doing nothing to stop the riots.

3)…a slide where ‘Safed Daadhi’ gave the approval to Vanzara to kill
scores of innocent Muslims like Ishrat Jahan in cold-blood.

4)…a slide where he ridiculed young Muslim boys as being future ‘garage
mechanics’.

5)…a slide where he called Muslims with the prefix “Mian” in contempt.

6)…a slide where no Muslim candidate was given ticket in the Assembly
elections.

7)…a slide where he refused to put on the Muslim cap, while he puts on
headgears of all other ethnicities and communities in his functions.
… a slide where tens of thousands of Muslims have still not been
rehabilitated even after 10 years of riots.

9)…a slide where ghettos where Muslim were forced to live after riots are
ignored by municipality.

10)…a slide where Modi fought a case in High Court against granting
scholorship to poor Muslim students.

11)…a slide where Maya Kodnani was promoted to Minister of State for Women
& Child Development AFTER she sucessfully conspired to kill 97 Muslims, MOST
of who were Women & Children

………

The SlideShow without these slides is simply incomplete in order to depict
the LOVE & RESPECT that Modi Ji has for Muslims.

 

#India – Why Narendra Modi behaves like larger-than-life Rambo


This Pic is by Amir Rizvi

This Pic is by Amir Rizvi

Economic Times, Kigshuk Nag, 28 Jun, 2013
Narendra Modi hasn’t formally studied economics or sociology, but he sure has intimate knowledge about the theory of expectations.

In essence, the theory suggests that a person will decide to act in a way that will lead to the fulfilment of what he expects to happen.

So, Modi knows that if electors can be convinced to believe that he will win in 2014, they will actually vote for him. Thus, his whole effort now is to convince theelector that he alone will be the victor.

Though given to talking big for a long time – lately earning him the epithet of feku – this is the real reason for Modi for projecting himself as a Rambo who rescued 15,000 Gujarati pilgrims from Uttarakhand in a day.

The logic works like this: if a particular elector believes that electors in general are convinced that Modi is a Rambo, he will expect them to vote for the Gujarat chief minister and make him the winner.

This, in turn, will induce this particular voter to be in tune with the general mood and plump for Modi (unless he has specific reservations).

Expand this particular voter to the universe of all voters and it is easy to figure out how a general expectation that Modi will win can lead to his actual victory.

Of course, the reverse is also true. A general belief that he cannot win will induce non-committed voters to cast their franchise for someone else. Modi is also using the expectation theory when he warns CBI officers that the government could change in the near future. Read this as, proceed gingerly in the Ishrat Jahan case and do not cross me because tomorrow I willbe your boss.

As a matter of strategy, Modi is also using the theory of expectations along with the public mood in the country that is for “change”. The mood for change first became clear from the massive support garnered by Anna Hazare in 2010-11. Hazare’s enormous popularity was because people saw him as the change agent. But this was short-lived because people soon realised that Hazare could not deliver on the change that they wanted. Actually, the people also do not know the “change” that they seek.

Modi is cognisant of this and is offering himself as the change agent.

The task of Modi’s spin doctors will be to build more attributes for the man, so that they tend to align with the change that the people want. Some changes that people want are fairly clear: they want an honest, transparent regime.

That such a revolution cannot take place in India through our defective electoral system – where loads of moolah is needed – may be known to analysts but not to the common man.

Thus, Modi’s men will project him as clear-as-a-crystal leader who delivers on his promises without fear and prejudice. At the same time, they will de-emphasise some of the attributes that have stuck to Modi.

The most obvious of them is his being anti-minority. To counter this, BJP proposes to produce a vision document for minorities.

Slowly, Modi is also being seen as a handmaiden of big business. As evidence of this, last week, a huge crowd of farmers rode into Ahmedabad in trucks, tractors and trailers protesting the Modi government move to forcibly acquire 50,887 hectares of farm land for a special investment region. Expect Modi nowto become pro-farmer.

Modi’s biggest apprehension, however, is that the 2014 elections becoming a referendum on him. This is in spite of Modi revelling in being perpetually in public gaze and nothing can be a bigger ego-booster than a national election exclusively focused on him. A poll where Modi is pitted against Rahul Gandhi or Manmohan Singh is less difficult for him to manage considering the Congress’ two-term anti-incumbency effect.

But a battle that becomes a choice, want Modi or don’t want him, can become an almost insurmountable obstacle for Modi to cross.

This is because many who prefer Modi to Rahul will pause and evaluate carefully whether they want Modi at all. Many who will give the thumbs down to Rahul will not approve of Modi in isolation because they know he is a feku, projecting a larger-than-life image of himself.

The writer is resident editor, Hyderabad, The Times of India

 

#India- Neither Ready nor Steady for #Aadhaar #UID #DBT #mustread


TRANSITION  FAILURE

Jun 30, 2013 |DowntoErath

Author(s): Jitendra @jitendrachoube1 Aparna Pallavi @AparnaPallavi1 Akshay Deshmane @DeshmaneAkshay Alok Gupta @alok227 M Suchitra

 Down to Earth- Cover Story

With an eye on the 2014 general election, the UPA government is expanding its ambitious Direct Benefit Transfer programme that promises welfare as cash in bank accounts. But without any groundwork it is only creating more trouble for beneficiaries

image

election 2014Come July 1, the UPA government will roll out the second phase of its ambitious programme, Direct Benefit Transfer or DBT. The programme aims to transfer welfare benefits, such as scholarship, pension and subsidies, directly to the bank accounts of the beneficiaries. When the government kicked off the first phase in 43 districts in January this year, it hyped DBT as a “game changer” in the way it provides benefits to the people.

The controversy-hit UPA sees the programme as its trump card for the 2014 general election. It plans to expand DBT to 78 districts, covering almost a fifth of the country.

At the core of the scheme are bank accounts that have to be “seeded”—paired in lay lexicon—with a biometric-based Aadhaar card that assigns a unique identification number. As Down To Earth reporters travel to five states under DBT they report that thousands of beneficiaries are left out of the DBT coverage at every step of opening the Aadhaar-paired account

‘WHAT’S ACCOUNT SEEDING?’

JHARKHANDWhen it comes to percolation of benefits through the UPA government’s ambitious direct benefit transfer (DBT) programme, Jharkhand fares the worst among states that Down To Earth visited. The programme remains a nonstarter in all the four districts in the state where it was rolled out in the first phase. And it is not difficult to figure out why.

Senior officials of the districts open up the discussion on DBT with a fundamental question: “What is seeding of bank account?” To the uninitiated, it means integrating one’s bank account with his or her unique identity (UID), or Aadhaar number. This helps the government access the details of the beneficiary and transfer welfare benefits as cash to his or her bank account. Thus, it is the single most important procedure to roll out DBT.

This ignorance among government officials is indicative of the state’s progress in implementing the ambitious programme of the UPA government. Seraikella-Kharsawan, the first district in the state under DBT since January, has more than 46,500 beneficiaries of different schemes. Only 500 are receiving the benefits.

In state capital Ranchi, District Information Officer Deepak Kumar claims 53,671 people are benefitting from 11 schemes under DBT. But the figure does not remain this impressive when Kumar divulges that the government has so far disbursed only Rs 16,454. This means each beneficiary has received Rs 3.20. This is a serious mismatch.

Confusion over numbers also reigns in Hazaribagh. At a recent review meeting of DBT, state chief secretary lauded Hazaribagh for the maximum Aadhaar coverage in the state. District UID officer Neetu Bharti says her department has issued Aadhaar cards to 9,000 people in Hazaribagh and all of them have seeded the card number with their bank accounts. But she admits that only 2,023 are receiving benefits.

According to the status report of the National Payments Corporation of India, the gateway for payment under DBT, released in March this year, cash benefits have returned from the bank accounts of 10-15 per cent beneficiaries even though the accounts were integrated with Aadhaar.

Lack of expertise or vested interest?

Till date, the UPA government has brought 25 Centrally funded schemes under DBT. But in Jharkhand, most schemes under DBT are state government sponsored. The Hazaribagh district administration claims to have brought 14 Central schemes under DBT, but 80 per cent of the beneficiaries are those enrolled for the state-sponsored scholarship and pension schemes. The Seraikella-Kharsawan district administration is yet to bring any Central scheme under the programme.

Khauri Pradhan Devi of Dugdha gram panchayat in Seraikella-Kharsawan is one of the 10 people who are receiving benefits through DBT. Another 440 are waitingKhauri Pradhan Devi of Dugdha gram panchayat in Seraikella-Kharsawan is one of the 10 people who are receiving benefits through DBT. Another 440 are waitingAnalysts say such biased implementation could be politically motivated. The district is the Assembly constituency of Chief Minister Arjun Munda who belongs to the Bharatiya Janata Party in the opposition at the Centre.

The district authorities fail to give a clear answer for the tardy implementation of DBT. Sangram Besra, deputy development commissioner of Seraikella-Kharsawan, blames it on poor Aadhaar coverage. “Kuchai and Rajnagar blocks of the district that have seen Maoist violence in the past have not been even visited by UID teams. This is when there are 357 UID enrolment centres across the state,” says Besra. “I have no qualms in revealing that the 16,162 people enrolled for UID in the district, belong to urban and semi urban areas, not rural areas.” Until Aadhaar cards are made, Besra plans to use the database of workers under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) to disburse benefits.

Recently at a press conference in Ranchi, Nandan Nilekani, chairperson of the UID Authority of India, claimed that 20 million of a total 32.4 million people in the state have been enrolled for Aadhaar card. He also said every day about 69,000 people in Jharkhand are enrolling in Aadhaar. This means, within a year every resident of Jharkhand will have an Aadhaar card. But Nilekani evaded one crucial number, which is how many Aadhaar cards have been delivered to people and especially to those living in the hinterlands.

In Seraikella-Kharsawan’s Dugdha gram panchayat all the 450 tribals have enrolled in Aadhaar. Only 10 of them have received the card and are receiving old age pension through DBT. The rest are waiting for the card. And they are not the only ones. People in Maharashtra are also facing this problem.

Counted, discounted

MAHARASHTRA*Only Post-Matric scholarship beneficiaries from Scheduled Castes and Other Backward ClassesOn record, Wardha, Maharashtra’s pilot district for DBT, has the highest percentage of Aadhaar registrations for any district in the country. According to the Unique Identification Authority of India, 1.08 million Aadhaar cards (84.6 per cent) have been generated against a population of 1.3 million. Some 360,000 beneficiaries have linked their bank accounts with Aadhaar and the district administration has disbursed Rs 2.07 crore to these accounts.

The district administration now showcases an award it received in January from management consulting firm Skoch Development Foundation for successful transfer of funds under Janani Suraksha Yojana to mothers’ bank accounts through DBT (see ‘Suraksha compromised’). But the situation is not as hunky-dory as it appears.

Despite high number of enrolments and generation of Aadhaar IDs, cards are yet to reach many in the district. Worse, the administration has no clue about the number of missing cards and the reason they are missing.

Consider Seloo tehsil. With 88 per cent cards generated, the tehsil tops in Aadhaar coverage in the district. But in Seloo’s Yelakeli gram panchayat, nearly 50 per cent of the population of 6,000 do not have Aadhaar cards. “Only 15 per cent of them had failed to enrol in Aadhaar. The rest are waiting for the cards despite enrolment for some six months now,” says sarpanch Bandu Gawhale. “In April we sent a plea to the district collector to organise an Aadhaar camp in Yelakeli, but we are yet to hear from him,” Gawhale says.

The situation is baffling in neighbouring Paonar village where people have not received Aadhaar cards even after two years. The large number of missing Aadhaar cards means equal deprivation of entitlements covered under DBT. Since January, nine Central schemes, including Janani Suraksha Yojana, education scholarships and pension for the old and widows, are under the DBT regime in Wardha.

A poster in Wardha giving information on the linkage of cooking gas subsidy with Aadhaar from June 1A poster in Wardha giving information on the linkage of cooking gas subsidy with Aadhaar from June 1 (Photo: Aparna Pallavi)

In Yelakeli, 70-year-old Kaushalyabai Shete has stopped receiving old age pension since January after she failed to produce her Aadhaar card. In nearby Babhulgaon village, 17-year-old Sonali Hajare informs that six students, including her, did not receive scholarship for want of the card.

A sense of panic grips people as the district has begun disbursing important subsidies like those for cooking gas through DBT from June 1. Plans to disburse MGNREGA wages and fertiliser subsidy through Aadhaar-enabled bank accounts are also in the pipeline. These schemes target a larger mass of people. As the kharif season approaches, the greatest anxiety is regarding fertiliser subsidies.

“I could not enrol when the Aadhaar camp was organised in my village. I was visiting my relatives,” says 68-year-old Moreshwar Lonkar from Yelakeli. “Now the camp is over. The sowing season is very close and we will have to pay double the price for fertiliser, which we can ill afford,” says he.

District collector N Nawin Sona admits that the Aadhaar enrolment drive did not turn out as it should have been. The district started with 35 UID machines and is now left with only 17. “With most of the works done here, the machines have been moved to other districts,” says Sona.

Social activists and panchayat members give a different reason for the poor Aadhaar coverage. They say camps were held without proper awareness among people about the programme and without any coordination with panchayats. “The UID team shut camps and left when they pleased, regardless of whether all people in the village had been enrolled or not,” says Aruna Bahadure, panchayat member of Yelakeli.

Card or no card, one thing that worries everyone is whether the subsidies that are proposed to be DBT-linked will really be credited to the bank account, and in time. “Once the linkage is made, the price of fertilisers will double,” says Pilaram Champatrao Raut, a farmer from Ghorad village, one of the showcase villages of the district administration for DBT implementation. If subsidy reaches late, farmers will be in deep trouble, says farmer Ambadas Chambhare. “It will not make fertilisers any cheaper. What is wrong with the subsidy system?” he asks.

Input dealers are equally apprehensive. “Once the subsidised supply stops we will have to make a higher investment to procure stocks,” says Pankaj Kamdi, a dealer from Seloo. “We will not be able to give farmers the informal loan because of high risks. It will impact farmer’s economy as well as our business,” he adds.

Sona says his administration is

making all efforts to ensure that subsidies are credited to the beneficiary’s account within 24 hours. However, at this moment, assurances are cold comfort. The poor of Wardha have their fingers crossed.

“How can a government, which is not able to transfer welfare benefits even after months, credit subsidies within 24 hours?” asks Pushpa Behade of Ghorad. Behade, a farm hand, has not received widow pension since January, although she has an Aadhaar card and a bank account. It appears Behade’s Aadhaar number has not been integrated with her bank account. This lack of knowledge has left thousands of beneficiaries like Behade bereft of their dues, particularly in Rajasthan.

Suraksha compromised

imageNo bank account meant no benefit for Deepali Thakre (Photo: Aparna Pallavi)The Wardha district administration has been much lauded for its prompt implementation of Janani Suraksha Yojana through DBT. It was one of the first schemes to be brought under DBT in Wardha. The administration held camps to enrol pregnant women all over the district and roped in anganwadi workers and auxiliary nurse midwives to open their bank accounts. Anupam Hivlekar, medical officer of Wardha Civil Hospital, says there were initial hitches in transferring the benefits due to lack of Aadhaar cards. But that has been sorted out. “We now have the district collector’s instruction to pay all beneficiaries regardless of Aadhaar. Women who do not have bank accounts are being paid through account payee cheques,” says Hivlekar.

But everyone appears to have missed out the fact that a disturbingly large number of women do not have bank accounts, a must for encashing account payee cheques. The civil hospital’s own figures show 1,718 of the 1,873 beneficiaries were paid through account payee cheques till May 23. The cheques have a validity of three months. Bearer cheque option has been stopped since DBT was introduced.

Even the cash-on-bedside through micro-ATM option works only for account holders. The civil hospital’s report mentions that beneficiaries paid through cheques could not cash them in the absence of bank accounts, but provides no numbers. There is no explanation why such a situation has arisen. When Down To Earth shared the report with district collector N Nawin Sona and Mohan Mahshankar, general manager of Bank of India, lead bank for DBT in Wardha, they expressed bewilderment. Sona said there may have been laxity in implementation, and that he would ask hospitals to refer all cases where cheques have been issued to the bank for action.

Cycle of despair

RAJASTHANUdaipur, Ajmer and Alwar of Rajasthan are among the first 20 districts in the country to roll out DBT in January. Five months on, many beneficiaries say they prefer the earlier system of payment through cash or bearer cheques. Their aversion is not unreasonable. Barely 23 per cent of the beneficiaries in these districts have received government benefits in their accounts since DBT was introduced. Of the rest, most have been left out of DBT as their accounts are not seeded with Aadhaar. As of April, 24,000 of the 33,000 beneficiaries in Udaipur were not receiving benefits due to this reason.

Those who have Aadhaar-enabled bank accounts also face problems, mostly due to technical glitches at the bank. M P Dungarwal, manager of the Malwa Ka Choura branch of Punjab National Bank, that has been assigned to facilitate DBT, told Down To Earth that increasing workload without a robust technical backup is hindering the roll-out. Before DBT, the bank had 4,500 accounts. Now there are 15,000. All these accounts must be seeded with Aadhaar and linked to the electronic payment system. But the branch suffers from poor internet connectivity that cripples the programme, says Dungarwal. Incomplete information on the Aadhaar card is another problem. Many names do not have surnames. It is difficult to process such incomplete identity information from banking point of view, he adds.

People’s woes do not end here. The account opened for DBT does not accept cheques that the beneficiary receives under government schemes yet to be brought under the DBT regime.

Dharamchand Grecia, a banking correspondent of Punjab National Bank for Kyari panchayat in Udaipur, says he has helped people open some 200 DBT accounts. “But they have limited features and people end up opening another bank account by shelling out Rs 1,000 to encash government cheques.”

In February, Naveli Bai of Piparmal village in Udaipur received a cheque of Rs 1,400 under Janani Suraksha Yojana, which offers incentive for institutional delivery. “The cheque will lapse next month if I fail to open another account by then,” she says. Naveli already has an Aadhaar-enabled bank account.

Maternity benefit programmes are losing appeal since DBT was rolled out in Rajasthan. Consider Indira Gandhi Matritva Sahyog Yojana. The scheme promises Rs 4,000 to a pregnant woman after she attains a certain nutrition status and receives vaccinations before and after delivery. Documents available at the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) office of Jhadol block in Udaipur show only 10 of the 35 pregnant women registered under the scheme have availed the incentive since January 2013. Maya Parmar, supervisor of Mahila Bal Vikas Kendra under Jhadol ICDS, says, “We have been asked to provide benefits to only those who have Aadhaar cards. But very few have the card.” Most do not have the required documents like voter identity cards and other residential proofs to get themselves enrolled in Aadhaar. It is difficult for expecting mothers to stand in the long queue for enrolment, she adds.

Middlemen continue to rule the roost

imageBhagwan Choudhury from Kotasim block buys diesel for lighting his house after government stopped providing kerosene through PDS as an experiment to disburse subsidies through DBT (Photo: Jitendra)Kotasim block in Alwar district hosts India’s first experiment to directly transfer cash subsidy instead of distributing kerosene through the public distribution system (PDS). This is supposed to be an experiment that will craft the government’s future plan to disburse subsidies through direct benefit transfer (DBT).

Started in December 2011, the experiment suffers from the same glitches that DBT faces in other areas. Ram Avtaar Yadav, a 60-year-old, partially blind resident of Kanherka village, has a regular question to any stranger he thinks is a government official: “Why have I not received kerosene subsidy in my account?” For the past seven months Yadav has been buying kerosene from open market as the government has stopped supplying it through PDS. Since the cost of kerosene is more than that of diesel, many people like Yadav have started using diesel for lighting their houses.

Says Mukesh Sharma, manager of Rajasthan Rural Bank, “Earlier, PDS dealers acted as middlemen. They kept ration cards of beneficiaries with them and filled them as per their wish. The system exists even now, though in a different way.” Sharma, whose bank is facilitating DBT in Kotasim, elaborates: instead of ration card, beneficiaries submit a bank account number at the fair price shop while buying kerosene. The shop owner must share the account number with the bank along with the bill so that the beneficiary receives the subsidy in his account. But shop owners often write their account numbers or that of their kins on the bill. Sharma suggests that the government should rope in gram sevaks (village development officer) and patwaris (village accountants) to check this practice.

Metro malaise

Aadhaar card a dream in Mumbai

imageApplicant Yash Rathod may have to wait for months for Aadhaar cardThe urban poor is worse off than his rural counterpart when it comes to getting benefits through DBT. Mumbai’s poor have redefined DBT to Delayed Benefits Transfer, and twisted UPA’s slogan aapka paisa, aapke haath (your money in your hands) into aapka paisa, Aadhaar bharose (your money depends on Aadhaar). They have a reason. Most of them have stopped benefitting from government schemes since the launch of DBT. Mumbai City and Mumbai Suburban fare the lowest when it comes to distributing Aadhaar cards to the target sections. The worst affected are students belonging to Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled Tribes and other backward sections who receive scholarships. It provides for the course fees and a nominal grant for students’ expenses.

Pratik Jadhav, a student of South Mumbai’s Siddharth College, says he did not receive the Post-Matric scholarship for SCs this year as he does not have an Aadhaar card. “My father had to take loans for paying the fee,” he says. At Shindewadi municipal school, Kiran Rathod was taken aback when the school authorities told her that her children would not receive Pre-Matric scholarship this year. The scheme supports education of children whose parents are engaged in occupations such as manual scavenging and tanning. When asked why the children were deprived of the benefits, an official from the Social Justice and Special Assistance Department says, inadequate Central grants for scholarship schemes is always a problem. Unavailability of Aadhaar cards is making it worse. Since the introduction of DBT, only 2,471 of the 10,920 SC students and 1,459 of the 8,796 Other Backward Class students have received the annual scholarship. Of the 8,405 beneficiaries from manual scavenging and tanning professions, the administration could reach only 689. Though the Rathods have applied for Aadhaar cards, officials say it would take them four to five months to issue the cards.

What is complicating the scenario is the state’s changing decision. “Soon after launching DBT, the government made Aadhaar card mandatory for all schemes. However, when questions were raised in the Assembly about the inconvenience to people, the government relaxed it in last week of March. Now it has again made it mandatory.

Only tall claims

delhiThe Delhi government claims 95 per cent success in providing an Aadhaar number to citizens. But its achievement does not seem to be trickling down to the poor of the national capital.

According to Dharampal, divisional commissioner of Delhi and nodal officer of DBT for the state, Delhi has brought nine Central schemes under DBT. Though 22,000 beneficiaries have Aadhaar cards and their UID numbers seeded with bank accounts, only 9,000 are receiving benefits. Dharampal says the state-sponsored Annshree Yojana is doing well in comparison to the Central schemes under DBT. All the 45,000 identified beneficiaries of Annshree Yojana are receiving benefits. Their number would increase to 100,000 in next couple of months, he claims. Ground realities paint a different picture.

All 50 Bengali Muslim families living in Shahbad Dairy slum in North Delhi earn their bread by ragpicking on the streets. They are eligible for Annshree, under which a BPL family without a ration card receives Rs 600 a month for food. Almost all of them have enrolled themselves in Aadhaar and have seeded their UID number with their bank accounts.

imageMurshid Bibi is a chance beneficiary of Annshree in Shahbad Dairy slum (Photo: Jitendra)Yet they are running from pillar to post to avail the benefits. So far, only seven families have received the benefits. One of them is Murshid Bibi’s family.

In April, Bibi’s account was credited with Rs 7,199. But her relatives Hadisa Bibi and Tojila Bibi are yet to receive the benefit. In January, they had spent Rs 1,000 each for opening new accounts after bank officials told them that their old accounts cannot be integrated with Aadhaar. But their hopes have turned into frustration.

Gas gamble

ANDHRA PRADESH*Only scholarship and pension beneficiariesAndhra Pradesh is arguably the only state that was prepared to roll out DBT. It ran a two-year campaign to enroll people under Aadhaar and also experimented with models to implement DBT. In the first phase, the state selected five districts where it had already implemented a state-initiated cash transfer programme for scholarship and pension schemes. According to M V S Rami Reddy, deputy director general of UIDAI, Andhra Pradesh, about 75 million of the 85 million population in the state have been enrolled in the programme as of May 15. More than 58 million cards have been generated. The five first-phase districts have a population of 27.5 million, of which 90 per cent have been enrolled in Aadhaar. Reddy says the postal department is now grappling with the problem of delivering the huge volume of cards.

The state launched Aadhaar-linked scholarship in Hyderabad, Chittoor and East Godavari on May 1 on a pilot basis. And it was a cake walk. The state was already making scholarship payments through bank accounts and had streamlined the process. “We do not see a distinct value-addition in Aadhaar linkage in terms of disbursement, because we had cleaned the data system and almost eliminated duplicates and bogus holders,” says P V Ramesh, principal secretary, finance, and nodal officer for implementing DBT. However, Ramesh says, Aadhaar is certainly one more check. Every year the state government disburses Rs 5,000 crore as scholarship to 2.7 million students. Even before DBT was launched, 80-85 per cent of scholarship holders had seeded their Aadhaar numbers with bank accounts. In East Godavari, the seeding percentage is 90 per cent, says Ramesh.

Yerra Ravi of Rangareddy says he first needs cash to buy gas cylinderYerra Ravi of Rangareddy says he first needs cash to buy gas cylinder (Photo: M Suchitra)Housalla Bhujappa, a security guard in Malkapur village in Rangareddy district, whose two daughters receive scholarships, says there will not be much difference if scholarship is linked to Aadhaar since it is already being disbursed through banks. Pension is the other programme that was brought under DBT on May 1. It was rightly launched in Chittoor district as a pilot project. In Chittoor, post-office linked disbursement of pension through women’s self-help groups (SHGs) was already in place. SHG members are given hand-held devices linked with the bank or post office accounts. The pensioners go to the SHGs and give their thumb impression and get the money. After introduction of DBT all they had to do was link their Aadhaar numbers with the bank accounts.

The state’s real test began on June 1 when it brought subsidies for cooking gas under DBT. It has to cater to 4.6 million cooking gas consumers in the five DBT districts. Though 80 per cent of them are enrolled in Aadhaar, the challenge lies in linking their Aadhaar numbers with bank accounts as well as with the database of gas agencies. As of May, 55 per cent of the consumers had got their Aadhaar numbers seeded with gas companies but only 25 per cent with their bank accounts. Sensing a big trouble the government has extended the the deadline till August.

People are rushing to get their Aadhaar numbers integrated with gas agencies and bank accounts. But they are apprehensive about the new scheme, under which one has to buy cooking gas at unsubsidised rate and the Rs 435 subsidy will be credited to their accounts later. “No one knows how many days the government will take to credit the subsidy in our accounts,” says N D N Kishore, a stationery shop owner in Hyderabad. M Sathyanarayana, an internet cafe owner in the city, prefers the earlier system of getting subsidised cylinders. Both Kishore and Sathyanarayana point out that there is a possibility of the subsidy being capped and prices of cooking gas going up.

Neither ready nor steady

Challenges ahead are immense

image(Photo: Soumik Mukherjee)UPA’s political leadership has focused all its attention on DBT. The ruling alliance is only a few months away from the general election and its two other big-ticket initiatives—the Right to Food Bill and the Land Acquisition Bill—are uncertain. But the first phase of DBT is unfolding more like a nightmare than a sweet political dream. At the core of the mess are poor banking coverage and lack of foolproof planning before launching the ambitious programme.

DBT aims at reducing the administrative cost of delivering benefits and weeding out siphoning off of benefits (see ‘Kind to cash’, Down To Earth, February 1-15, 2011). It does so by pairing the unique identity number in the Aadhaar card with the bank account of a person. This enables the government to identify the right beneficiary and to send monetised benefits directly to his or her account. The International Monetary Fund has estimated the impact DBT can have in India, and according to it, the combination of cash transfer and the Aadhaar system of identification will reduce wrongful diversion of benefits in welfare programmes by 15 per cent. This can save the government Rs 56,859 crore in 2013-14 which is more than half the rural development budget.

Using the Planning Commission’s data on DBT, Down To Earth (DTE) calculated the current status of the programme’s actual reach in the 43 districts covered in the first phase. The findings are a harsh verdict on its progress. In the past four months, of the estimated 1.6 million beneficiaries of some 25 schemes, only 4 per cent have been able to get benefits in their accounts (see ‘Not so direct’ ). The benefits include mostly old age pension and cash incentives for institutional delivery. In fact, in the five states DTE travelled to not all schemes have been implemented under DBT. This is despite the fact that states like Jharkhand, Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh have almost two years of experience in direct benefit transfer.

imageIllustration: Anirban Bora

There are three key reasons for this dismal performance which are also fundamental to a cash transfer programme. They are: low coverage of formal banking system; Aadhaar enrollment not keeping pace with the rolling out of the programme; and significantly low level of pairing of beneficiaries’ accounts with their Aadhaar numbers.

Currently, there is one bank branch for every 12,100 people, making India one of the least covered countries. DBT increases the demand for coverage by several times. The government either has to set up new branches or increase the existing branches’ capacity. Going by the state of banking in rural areas, one rural branch has the capacity to open up not more than 15 accounts in a day. But DBT experience in various states shows that a branch has to manage 70-90 accounts a day. In October 2011, the government made it compulsory for banks to open branches in all habitations with a population of 5,000 or more. There were 3,925 such habitations to be covered. By April 2013, nearly 15 per cent habitations were yet to have a bank. Then, there are not enough ATMs for people to access their money easily. According to RBI’S estimate, the country needs at least 34,668 on-site ATMs but only 1,097 ATMs could be opened till April. This has affected DBT’s outreach because absence of ATMs means the already overburdened banks have to handle the withdrawal transactions as well.

Opening an account under DBT is a little different. For this people require enrolment with Aadhaar. This presents the next obstacle. Only half of the beneficiaries have enrolled with Aadhaar till date and one-third have opened the account. Importantly, there is hardly any visible effort to pair the accounts with the Aadhaar numbers, thus, leaving out 96 per cent of the beneficiaries.

The recently launched cooking gas subsidy transfer also faces this problem, with added intensity. An LPG consumer has to pair his Aadhaar number with not only the bank account but also the service provider. Soon after bringing LPG under DBT, the government celebrated a million transactions by June end. But there are widespread complaints also. Only 20 per cent of the consumers had paired their numbers with accounts, while about 58 per cent paired with service providers. This is despite the fact that the 20 districts where LPG was brought under DBT have more than 90 per cent Aadhaar coverage. Sujata Chaturvedi, deputy director general of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), says, “Some states started late, so they lagged. We want to keep pace but problems like lack of machines, staff and awareness among people came to the fore.” She warns, “The process of seeding of account would be another uphill task.”

On April 29, the Planning Commission convened a meeting to take stock of DBT’s progress. Collectors of all the 121 districts to be covered under the programme from July 1 and other key players attended the meeting. Sources inform that to the shock of Finance Minister P Chidambaram, the banks and district officials blamed each other for the shortcomings, reflecting a sorry state of affairs. Notable was the absence of any representative from the DBT gateway, National Payment Corporation of India (NPCI), which came under severe criticism at the meeting.

It seems nobody wants to take responsibility (see ‘Initial hiccups…’). The Union Ministry of Rural Development (MoRD) blames the banks for not expanding their reach. The ministry is implementing a pilot programme of direct cash transfer of wages under the rural employment guarantee programme in five states. It is using the national electronic fund transfer system, the usual money transfer one does electronically using individual account. Since its launch in October 2012 it has transferred Rs 389 crore till the end of May this year. “The value addition under DBT will be when the money is paid at the doorstep. It is only possible if banks recruit business correspondents in every panchayat with micro-ATM,” suggests Rajesh Bhushan, joint secretary of MoRD. But banks informally blame the Aadhaar system and the high administrative cost of the programme that is not adequately compensated. DTE reached out to many banks but none of them agreed to speak on the subject.

Banks also refuse to take responsibility for the identity generated under the Aadhaar number. All banks are supposed to keep a record of their customers’ identity under RBI’s “know your customer” rules. UIDAI has refused to take the responsibility, saying its job is only to create the identification number.

The troubles do not end there. “Many accounts seeded with Aadhaar numbers still do not get direct payment,” points out Vaibhav Galeria, district collector of Ajmer. “There is lack of coordination among different agencies, largely between banks and NPCI.” A P Hota, managing director and CEO of NPCI, blames banks for the glitches. Responding to DTE queries, Hota denies any technical problem at the gateway. “For felicitating DBT, NPCI maintains the Aadhaar Mapper (software that keeps all the subscribers’ data). This Mapper is updated remotely by banks by logging into the NPCI system. If banks do not update the Mapper, the transactions are likely to be returned unprocessed. Therefore, it is necessary that banks update the Mapper on a day-to-day basis.”

The problems are set to multiply as the government rolls out the second phase of DBT with 78 more districts from July 1. In June, it launched transfer of subsidy for cooking gas. In October, the rural employment guarantee programme will be brought under DBT. From 1.6 million beneficiaries at present the programme will cover close to 25 million beneficiaries by July. With coverage of MGNREGA, the number of beneficiaries will jump to 34 million. That the government is nervous is visible. Since April, there have been hectic attempts to salvage the situation, with the Prime Minister’s Office taking direct charge of DBT monitoring.

However, there are pertinent lessons for the government to make the future transfers smooth. The experiences of transferring pension in Andhra Pradesh and transferring wage under the rural employment programme in Rajasthan are instructive. In both the cases, the government embarked on a preparatory stage. This resulted in innovation. In Andhra Pradesh, the pension receivers go to the local self-help group and give thumb impression to a hand-held device for verification to get pension right there. This device is linked to the person’s account in post office or the local bank. In Jharkhand, government simply used the electronic transfer system to give wages. There are merits in these experiments in terms of simplifying the system. But these experiments may not be leakage-proof. Teething problems like delay in benefit transfer and absence of value addition in DBT also need to be addressed innovatively.

But the question that still needs to be asked and answered is whether the country is prepared for this roll-out? If not, will this election initiative backfire on the ruling UPA? Clearly, god is in the details, and the details are missing.

DBT: Initial hiccups or a mistake in haste?

Rajesh BhushanDifferent schemes Have different challenges

Rajesh Bhushan,
Joint Secretary,
Ministry of Rural Development

Till date, the 25 schemes rolled out under DBT are Centrally funded. So it has been easy to send money directly to the beneficiaries’ accounts. But implementing those pension schemes that have state budgets as well is going to be tough. The finance ministry is the key body for such schemes, but it is unable to send money directly to the beneficiary’s account because of varying structures of schemes across states. I believe the scheme will be effective if payment is made at the doorstep. And this can be made possible by recruiting millions of business correspondents of banks in every panchayat with Micro-ATM

Sujata ChaturvediAadhaar Should Have Been Implemented Years Ago

Sujata Chaturvedi,
Deputy Director General,
UIDAI

The idea of providing unique identity number should have been implemented 25 years ago. We have registered nearly 300 million people under Aadhaar. It is the duty of the state government to organise camps to enrol its people. Sometimes seasonal problems like floods and festivals slow the enrolment process. I agree that the process of seeding of Aadhaar numbers with bank accounts would be another uphill task

A P HotaBlame Banks For The Glitches And Non-Cooperation

A P Hota,
Managing Director,
National Payment Corporation of India (gateway for payment under DBT)

There is no technical problem at the National Payment Corporation of India (NPCI). For facilitating DBT, NPCI maintains the Aadhaar Mapper. Banks update this Mapper remotely by logging into the NPCI system. If the banks do not do so, the transactions are likely to be returned unprocessed. Therefore, it is necessary that banks update the Mapper on a day-to-day basis

Nidhi KhareSeeding Of Accounts Taking Time

Nidhi Khare,
Advisor (DBT),
Planning Commission of India

There is a delay in enrolments under Aadhaar and seeding of accounts. It is a time-consuming exercise. But the fact is there is a growing acceptance of cash incentives offered through DBT

Nikhil DeyDon’t replace goods and Services with cash

Nikhil Dey,
Activist,
Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan

We are not against the idea of Aadhaar-related cash transfer. Our main concern is replacement of goods and services with cash. Government’s own data shows that DBT has failed to benefit the poor. Pension scheme is good option for cash transfer. Janani Surksha Yojana is successful without technology

Montek Singh AhluwaliaThings Will Be Good

Montek Singh Ahluwalia
Deputy Chairperson,
Planning Commission of India

I agree that there is lack of coordination among different agencies. Even the prime minister is working on it. The glitches and delays are all transitional issues. It will definitely be sorted out in the coming months

Jitendra reported from Rajasthan and Delhi; Aparna Pallavi and Akshay Deshmane from Maharashtra; Alok Gupta from Jharkhand and M Suchitra from Andhra Pradesh

 

A Conversation With: Journalist Naveen Soorinje


By ROHINI MOHAN
Naveen Soorinje.Courtesy of Daya KukkajeNaveen Soorinje.

On July 28, 2012, Naveen Soorinje, a journalist with the Kannada television network Kasturi Newz 24 in Mangalore, Karnataka, covered an attack by a mob from the right-wing group Hindu Jagarana Vedike on a group of boys and girls having a birthday party at a suburban resort. A cameraman, Seetharam, who goes by one name, filmed the brutal assault, which lasted half an hour.

Widely known as “the homestay attack,” it was only one of a rising number of incidents of sectarian moral policing in the developing and modernizing city of Mangalore. But when Mr. Soorinje and Mr. Seetharam were arrested in November, along with 43 others, and charged with conspiracy, rioting and unlawful assembly, the case inspired an intense campaign for media freedom and Mr. Soorinje’s release from jail. Mr. Soorinje was freed on bail on March 23, and the charges against him and Mr. Seetharam were finally dropped on Friday.

In an interview with India Ink, Mr. Soorinje spoke about what he learned during his time in jail and the dangers he sees in extremist groups and in the complicit police in Mangalore.

 

Q.

Since your arrest in November 2012, you maintained that you only recorded the attack and were not a participant. What led to charges being dropped now?

A.

Civil society groups and journalists appealed to the Karnataka chief minister’s office for charges to be dropped. They had approached the earlier B.J.P. [Bharatiya Janata Party] regime, but that was the government that in a way put me in jail, so we didn’t expect them to release me. It was only after the new C.M. from the Congress Party took charge that he signed the petition to drop charges against me. Of course, when the Congress was the opposition party earlier, they didn’t do anything then.

Q.

How were your five months in Mangalore jail?

A.

This might sound odd, but it was good that I saw the inside of a jail. As a journalist, my view of crime stopped at the arrest, police and trial. The life of imprisonment was a blind spot. I found that the increase in communal tensions in Mangalore has led to even the jail being segregated. In the A block, are the Muslims and Dalits, largely convicted or accused of terrorism, smuggling or theft. The B block is the Hindu block, with thugs from right-wing groups — people who attacked girls for talking to boys, or for drinking. I’m Hindu, but since the attackers I filmed and thereby got arrested were in B, the cops thought I’d be safer with the Muslims and Dalits.

I stayed in different wards every few weeks, chatting with whoever was willing to talk. It was eye-opening, the abysmal conditions, the twisted interrogations, the stories of so many innocents or one-time petty criminals that languish in prison for ages while their trials go on for decades.

Q.

Have threats and intimidation against journalists grown in the past few years in Mangalore?

A.

Yes, it has been a crucial part of the communal groups’ intention to intimidate society. After the pub attack of January 2009 — I was a print reporter then — [the Hindu extremist group] Sri Ram Sena upped its violent projects. Hindu boys and Muslims girls can’t eat ice-cream together, can’t sit together in a bus. The attacks on college kids were all over.

I’m lucky to have a secular, fair editor. I’d reported on all this with a group of like-minded reporters. We shared tip-offs, created maximum coverage. We were disgusted with the random attacks on women and even more ashamed by most media that focused on the so-called moral degradations — girls’ drinking and smoking and going with boys — than the assaults by these communal thugs.

We got life threats. People came around my house, screamed on the phone. They burned the press of the local paper I worked at, set fire to the editors’ chair. My editor was arrested; I was chased a few times. The head of Sri Ram Sena, in a press conference, said that it is not enough to kill one fellow. Openly, he said,” We should take out one more journalist, then Mangalore will be fixed.”

Q.

What have the police done to stop this?

A.

These lumpen elements have free rein because of two things: people’s discomfort with modernity and westernization, and police complicity. In the homestay attack, when the police turned up, they conversed with the attackers for over half an hour. One victim tried to escape, but the police caught him and brought him back. In custody, the police allowed the attackers to beat him.

Why did they detain the victims? The Mangalore police do this — take the scared, assaulted kids to the station, call their parents, and then give them advice. “Don’t send your girls with boys, don’t let Muslims and Hindus interact in college, why is your child drinking, don’t you know Indian culture?” This is moral policing, what else? Beat, and then give unsolicited advice to the wrong person.

Q.

The police blamed you for not informing them about the attack even when you were tipped off earlier by a source.

A.

That is untrue. I repeatedly called the inspector of the local police station, Ravish Nayak, from my official number. Nayak did not pick up. The attacks had begun by then, and there was mayhem; the poor girls were screaming. I asked my friend Rajesh Rao of channel TV-9 to call the police. He also called Nayak, again in vain.

My cameraman and I were the first people there, and we tried to record everything. Other journalists came in minutes. We all shot, but we couldn’t stop the drunk, crazy goons attacking the young boys and girls.

It was a birthday party. When I got there after a local source tipped me off — not one of the attackers, as my phone call record shows — a girl was sitting on the porch, and two boys were playing games on their mobile phone. There was no rave party, as the goons alleged.

Q.

You were also accused by the police of abetting the attack because you didn’t stop it.

A.

This is an old dilemma in journalism: do you stop the action or do you report it? But here, I had no dilemma. I was screaming and requesting, “Don’t hit the girls.” The camera has caught my voice, but the attackers were unwilling to listen. They were like a pack of lions. I couldn’t physically stop them. No one could. [Read a translated version of Mr. Soorinje’s full account of the attack here.]

It is common today in India for mobs to call the local media informing them of a planned raid or attack. This is their way of getting publicity. Just 20 days before this homestay attack, a girl was molested publicly by a gang in Guwahati, Assam. In that, the cameraman was egging the attackers on, instructing them. So it may seem like I was in the same situation, but I was not.

Q.

How do the people of Mangalore react to this? Have the sectarian groups influenced their actions?

A.

Mangalore is both modern and conventional. That friction is being exploited. People live their lives as they please, but in private. In public spaces like buses, colleges, restaurants, there is a lurking fear.

The homestay incident was in July 2012. After that, there have been 10 other assaults. None have been investigated, and visual evidence is limited. Moreover, some tabloids — why, even big dailies — mangle the issue. If the Bajrang Dal [a Hindu fundamentalist group] has slapped a girl who was smoking, the headline will say “Smoking girl slapped.” It’s a combination of right-wing ideology and power driving the police, goons and some of the media.

Q.

You are still with Kasturi TV, and still in Mangalore. Has this experience changed the way you report or live now?

A.

There is an angle of caste that I’ve begun to understand. For example, all the boys and girls attacked in the homestay are Muslims or from backward castes. The accused goons are also from backward or lower castes, barely educated until third or fourth grade. All the leaders — of Sri Ram Sena and of the Vedike — are high caste, sitting happily in Bangalore, never arrested, only giving wildly inflammatory speeches on Hindutva to their minions without any consequence. I’ve realized that accountability must go further than the immediate actors.

I used to always try and do balanced reports — you know, quote both sides. But now I want to expose the attackers even more strongly. There is nothing to redeem them.

Rohini Mohan is a journalist based in Bangalore. She is working on a book about the civil war in Sri Lanka.

[This interview has been lightly edited and condensed.]

http://india.blogs.nytimes.com/

 

#India -No jeans, mobile phones for Brahmin girls: BJP MP #Vaw #moralpolicing #WTFnews


We are under attack from Western culture, our culture doesn’t teach us to wear jeans,’ BJP MP Raghunanandan Sharma tells Rediff.com‘s A Ganesh Nadar.

Bharatiya Janata Party MP Raghunandan Sharma has come up with the following suggestions to check crimes against women: Girls should not be allowed to use mobile phones before marriage and women should not wear jeans.

Sharma — a member of the Rajya Sabha and vice-president of the BJP’s Madhya PradeshImages ] unit -expressed his views at a meeting of Brahmins in Ratlam district on Sunday.

The BJP MP termed mobile phone usage by students, particularly young girls, as a big menace and the genesis of other evils.

Sharma lambasted girls wearing jeans, saying it was the attire of American cowboys and in no way gelled with Indian culture.

Sharma, who was born a year before Independence, told Rediff.com on Tuesday, “I don’t know what the problem with you journalists is. I was at my samaj meeting. It was a meeting of my society of Brahmins.”

“I am a representative of the Brahmins and I am their leader. I was trying to suggest ways to improve my society. The advice was only for Brahmins, not for the country.”

“I was speaking not as a MP or a BJP leader, I was speaking as a Brahmin to other Brahmins. I have my ideas of improving my society, what is your problem?”

“We are under attack from Western culture, our culture doesn’t teach us to wear jeans,” Sharma added.

“I have every right to tell my society of Brahmins how to dress, not to use mobile phones and whatever I think is good for my society.”

“Nowhere did I suggest that I am trying to change the country, change my party’s views or change my state’s views. This was advice only for my people and meant only for them

 

“ Narendra Modi’s claims are full of untruths”


SUJAY MEHDUDIA, The Hindu, June 12, 2013

Anand Sharma. File photo

The HinduAnand Sharma. File photo

The Gujarat Chief Minister was not a leader who would unite the Indian polity, but a divisive leader and a fountainhead of communalism, Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma says.

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi is an arrogant man who has mastered the art of using untruths and half truths to his advantage and making sensational claims, Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma said on Tuesday. Mr. Modi was not a leader who would unite the Indian polity, but a divisive leader and a fountainhead of communalism, he told The Hindu here.

Mr. Sharma said the recent developments in the BJP were its internal problem. If anyone believed the Congress was worried, it was totally misplaced. “I think those who actually need to worry are the senior leaders within his party and the constituents of the NDA. He has been given a position by a divided party which is in disarray and rudderless.’’

Mr. Modi was a leader who beat his own trumpet. His sycophants too were busy beating drums, unmindful of the reality around them. “It is shocking that Mr. Modi could resort to such lies and mislead the people with claims that fall flat on their face when put to scrutiny. His claims on developments in Gujarat are full of untruths. What I am giving are official figures and not something manufactured as Mr. Modi does all the time.”

Gujarat was way behind Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh or even West Bengal in access to safe drinking water. Gujarat led the national average with a 25.66 per cent school drop out rate, well above States like West Bengal, Himachal Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tripura and Sikkim. In literacy, Gujarat was way behind States like Maharashtra, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Delhi and Manipur. The percentage of people living below the poverty line stood at 31.8 per cent in Gujarat as compared to 29.9 per cent in Andhra Pradesh, 24.1 per cent in Haryana and 19.7 per cent in Kerala. Infant morality rate was 44 per cent in Gujarat compared to 30 per cent in Delhi, 13 per cent in Kerala, 28 per cent in Maharashtra, 14 per cent in Manipur and 24 per cent in Tamil Nadu. What kind of development model was this, he asked.

Mr. Sharma said he was astonished when Mr. Modi talked about the State attracting the highest foreign direct investment (FDI). He gave out highly inflated figures every time. The Reserve Bank of India statistics from March 2000 to March 2013 painted a very different picture.

From May 1999 to April 2004, when NDA was in power, the country attracted $25 billion in FDI. During May 2004 to April 2013 of UPA rule, the country attracted $265 billion. According to figures given by RBI regional offices for the period April 2000 to March 2013, Mumbai emerged on top with $63 billion. Delhi got $36 billion plus, Chennai $11.08 billion and Bangalore around $10 billion. Gujarat got $8.6 billion in 13 years, he said.

 

Why We Protested Against Narendra Modi


 Narandra Modi's Vibrant Gujarat Story: Propaganda vs Fact #mustread

By P. K. Vijayan & Karen Gabriel

09 June, 2013
Countercurrents.org

The past few days have witnessed the grand spectacle of Narendra Modi emerging as the front-runner for the post of Prime Minister, from the Bharatiya Janata Party. Our growing sense of dismay and foreboding at this spectacle has however, led to some annoyance, the essential refrain of which is, ‘Why not Modi? Why are you so hostile to him? Look at what he’s achieved in Gujarat – maybe it’s time he was given a chance to do the same for India….’ We were immediately reminded of how we were met with the same response when Modi came to Delhi University on 6 February 2013, and we protested.

At the time, he had visited Sri Ram College of Commerce (SRCC) in the University, ostensibly to deliver a lecture on ‘vikas’ (progress) and ‘development’. We, along with many others, stood outside SRCC throughout his talk, protesting peacefully but vehemently against him. The Delhi Police repeatedly lathi-charged us, used water-cannoning, and (in open collusion with ABVP activists) indulged in extremely communal and sexually violent abuse and molestation of the female protestors. Nine of the protestors (including one of us) were gratuitously charged under various sections of the IPC and the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act, 1984, with rioting armed with deadly weapons, obstructing public servants, assaulting public servants, damaging property, etc. That matter is pending investigation with the office of the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi.

Why did this happen? Because we protested against Narendra Modi. At that time too, several colleagues, students and sundry well-wishers expressed bafflement: while they were sympathetic to us for what had happened with the police, they couldn’t understand why we were protesting in the first place. After all, Modi was just coming to deliver a lecture on development, and, as they saw it, he too surely had the right to freedom of speech. What, they asked, was the harm in listening to him? The subtle, implicit accusation was, we had it coming – and on two counts: one, because we ‘hypocritically’ violated our own principles by seeking to deny Modi his freedom of speech; and two, because we protested his airing his views on ‘development’. Let’s deal with the second count first.

Presumably, we would have been forgiven if we had been protesting against Modi for making say, an explicitly communal speech, or defending the carnage of 2002. Not for one moment did it cross our interlocutors’ minds that Modi speaking on ‘development’ was, in fact the implicit defence of that carnage. Here was a man projected in several quarters, not least in the business community that SRCC is so strongly connected to, as the future Prime Minister of India. This ‘lecture’ was his first major public event since this projection began: did they seriously expect that he would come to make incendiary communal speeches, just when he is being projected as Prime Ministerial material now? Obviously not!

But does that mean that the Modi of Gujarat 2002 has vanished, because he won’t talk that way – or even talk about it? Has the man responsible for the deaths of Muslims on a scale tantamount to genocide suddenly been absolved of that sin because he now speaks only of ‘vikas’? And ‘vikas’ for whom? Blatantly corrupt corporates and business houses? There are reports that the Gujarat government has lost thousands of crores of rupees in land sold to industrial houses like the Tatas, Essar and the Adani Group way below its market cost. According to the Planning Commission’s Suresh Tendulkar Committee, Gujarat has the fastest growing poverty rate in the country. There is ample evidence to show that, on major indices of human development, taken individually and together, like literacy, life expectancy, infant mortality, etc., states like Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu have done far better than Gujarat – but there is no call to promote these states as models of development. 44.6% of children under five in Gujarat suffer from malnutrition; the maternal mortality rate stands at 172/lakh, which is extremely high; sex ratios are far below the national average; the poverty rate in tribal areas is as high as 57% – one can go on rattling off the figures, but the point is clear: ‘development’ in Gujarat is neither particularly phenomenal, nor has it touched the masses.

No, the reason why Gujarat is being promoted is because Modi has wooed and welcomed big business investment on an unprecedented scale in Gujarat. This means big funding for his party as well: the BJP will be suitably and generously rewarded by the Tatas and Ambanis who are being fawned on so assiduously by Modi. Combine this with his well-known ability to rabble rouse through war-mongering, hate-speech and general communal machismo, and you have a lethal new political soft pornography. It continuously suggests, without making any explicit connections, that Modi’s communal machismo is what is needed for genuine ‘vikas’. It weaves a general discourse of ‘development’ as rampant privatization, through which big business brings malls full of consumer goods, high-tech cities with gated colonies and huge inflows of foreign direct investments. Just as soft porn offers an endless supply of sameness disguised as variety, but incites desire for this nonetheless by perpetually presenting it as exclusive, yet tantalizingly available – so too, this model of development generates a powerful illusion of choice and promotes it as exclusive, privileged, available only through investment in the new economy. And Gujarat 2002 flickers through it as the subliminal hardcore pornography of this discourse – gutted houses, dismembered bodies, raped and murdered women, slashed wombs spilling chopped foetuses, terror-filled faces screaming for mercy.

These images of the full fury of state power unleashed provide an important, implicit and tacit guarantee to big business: that as long as Modi is in control, and in their pockets, they need fear no unrest from the masses they will oppress and exploit, because Modi’s state has shown that it is more than capable of acting without any restraint whatsoever – legal, ethical, moral or constitutional. The message is clear, and from all evidence, thrilling to large sections of the middle classes: if you want to enjoy the luxuries of ‘development’, as tailored by wholesale privatization, somewhat paradoxically, you need a state that shows itself to be strong enough to push that through – violently, vehemently, viciously. Economic might is made possible, and accompanied, by brute force, and the thrilling, ego-boosting, endless middle class desire for that might is fully fulfilled in Modi’s display of force. This is what marks Modi’s promotion of the same economic model practiced by the Congress, as different: the latter is perhaps as communal as the BJP, but it still hesitates to communalize these same economic policies as openly as Modi’s Gujarat did. Which also means that if the Modi model gains ground, the Congress will not hesitate to adopt it – effectively intensifying both the communalist and neo-liberalist tendencies that are already seeping through our socio-polity.

This is what we were protesting against. Modi on ‘development’ is not separate – and must not be separated – from Modi on Muslims/Christians/communists. Modi on ‘development’ is as dangerous and poisonous as Modi on the need for genocide. Promoting Modi in Delhi University was an audacious initiative, aimed at testing his acceptability in a space like the university that is, by definition, supposed to be a progressive, democratic, secular space. We now know better. The university not only gave SRCC consent to invite Modi, but also permitted the deployment of a huge police force on campus, armed not just with lathis and the occasional side-arm (as would have been the case in the not-too distant past), but astoundingly, with assault rifles, a water cannon and even a few machine guns! The university administration was clearly not only signalling acceptability to Modi, they were rolling out the red carpet of the bruised and beaten bodies of protestors for him. And if the university can be successfully sold the idea that Modi is selling ‘development’, and therefore will be allowed to address the university community, even if protest has to be openly and brutally crushed for that, then the rot has set in far more than we had gauged.

Which brings us back to the first allegation – that we are denying Modi the right to free speech, which we ourselves insist on so vehemently. The ingenuousness of this argument is matched only by its convenience. Modi is the last person who needs someone rushing to his defence, to exercise free speech or anything else. Let us for the moment forget that he has never himself been a defender of this right. Let us remember instead some other things we forget when we make such an argument. We forget that freedom of speech is no abstract, absolute freedom but has restrictions on it that are also constitutionally pressed. We forget that the right to protest against Modi is as much a matter of freedom of speech; Modi’s right in this regard is neither superior to, nor more valid than ours. We forget that freedom of speech is not just a legal provision but is above all a political provision. We forget that, as a political provision, freedom of speech must necessarily be understood and exercised in the political context in which it is invoked. (If this was not the case, and if freedom of speech was an absolute right, all forms of hate speech, obscenity and other inflammatory discourse could happily take recourse to this and spew venom with impunity.) In this case, the context is crystal clear: Modi the Hindutva leader was selling ‘development’ as his political ride, from a communal-fascist Chief Ministership to a communal-fascist Prime-Ministership. We protested against Modi’s coming, therefore, on principled political grounds, without hate-speech or obscenity – but that is what we were rewarded with by the police and Modi supporters.

It is true that in this particular instance, Modi’s lecture on ‘development’ was unlikely to attract any of the constitutional restrictions on free speech. But, as we have already argued, the political context is vital in understanding the limitations of free speech. Which is why, in a context in which Modi is being openly promoted as the next Prime Ministerial candidate from the BJP, Modi on ‘development’ is as sinister as the openly communal Modi. ‘Development’ is the Trojan horse that Modi (and the BJP) is hiding inside, to ride to Prime-Ministership This is what we were protesting against. And in the heart of Delhi University, we found a quick, small replay of what happened in Gujarat in 2002: the police joined hands with the supporters of Modi to wreak vengeance against the protestors. This is the sign of the India that will unfold under Modi, and this is what we were protesting against. What is at stake is the idea of India itself, and if that is an idea worth protesting about, then many more of us should be protesting against Narendra Modi.

Dr. Karen Gabriel, Assoc. Prof., Dept. of English, St.Stephen’s College, Delhi University. Dr. Karen Gabriel has been writing extensively on cinema, nationalism, gender, and sexuality. She has been actively engaging especially with questions of state violence, repression, democratic rights, etc.

Dr. P. K. Vijayan, Asst. Prof., Dept. of English, Hindu College, Delhi University. He has written on masculinity and nationalism, and has been actively involved in addressing the policy change in higher education initiated with Delhi University. They have co-authored several pieces on various issues.

 

BMC – Keep Off Privatising Education #mustread


Vol – XLVIII No. 23, June 08, 2013 | Anand Teltumbde,EPW

Today it is the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s decision to privatise its schools, tomorrow it may be the resolution of all the other municipalities of the country.

I am grateful to Simantini Dhuru and Prachi Salve for sharing data which they obtained under the Right to Information Act, as also the Mumbai Shikshan Kampanikaran Virodhi Abhiyan, which is fi ghting against the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s decision to privatise its schools.

Neo-liberal policies have not delivered on any of their promises. Indeed, they have aggravated India’s age-old problems of inequality, unemployment, caste and communalism, to name a few. Yet, the ruling classes hold them up as a proven panacea. A key neo-liberal policy thrust is the release of services, traditionally provided by the state, to private capital. The state, in turn, uses its might against those who feel the heat of this transformation. The public utilities and infrastructure are now largely in private hands, and the state has turned its attention to education, the most critical instrument in the social transformation of any society. The process has been underway in higher education and now the rulers have begun to deva­state school education, particularly for the downtrodden strata. A decision taken at the beginning of this year by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to hand over its schools to private parties, this within the framework of the much-flaunted public-private partnership (PPP) model, is a case in point.

Auctioning the BMC Schools

BMC, the richest municipal corporation in India, provides free education to nearly 4,00,000 children enrolled in around 1,174 schools with 11,500 teachers imparting education in eight mediums. Besides, BMC runs 18 schools for the mentally challenged and 55 Mumbai Public Schools offering education in English medium. The BMC spends around 8% to 9% of its income on education; its planned spend this year is Rs 2,342 crore, 65% more than the previous year. Its expense per student at Rs 36,750 for its schools is among the highest in the country. The number of students attending BMC schools has been falling over the years. It fell from 4,20,440 in 2007-08 to 3,85,657 in 2011-12. It is the poorest of the very poor who send their children to BMC schools. Even the
so-called class IV employees, for example, sweepers and helpers working in BMC schools, do not send their children to these schools. Mumbai, the so-called “Urbs Prima of India”, the first city of India, accounting for more than 33% of the nation’s tax collection and the highest per capita income of Rs 65,361 in the country, more than twice the country’s average of Rs 29,382, has more than four million people earning less than Rs 20 a day. It is these people mainly belonging to the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes (SCs/STs), Other Backward Classes, Muslims and Christians who send their children to BMC schools.

On 23 January this year, the BMC, without consulting the parents of these children or the teachers in these schools, the major stakeholders, decided to auction its schools to private bidders under the euphemism of PPP, admittedly based on studies by the World Bank and Depart­ment for International Development (DFID). This is the first time in the country that a constitutional entity has decided to renounce its constitutional obligation and hand over its schools to private parties. Nonetheless, it had a nice sounding objective of giving an opportunity to poor children to get higher quality education with the support of organisations that had a record of “excellent work” in the educational field, charitable trusts and private companies.

The schools are to be auctioned to well-established corporate houses that would enter into memoranda of understanding (MoUs) with entities that have been recognised for their work in the “technical or educational field”. The process would be managed under the existing MoU bet­ween the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and BMC for conducting the “School Enhancement Programme” (initiated by UNICEF and McKinsey & Company since 2009, and having non-governmental organisations (NGOs) such as Akanksha, Aseema and Nandi Foundation on board). Neither the BMC provided any reasons for its failure to impart quality education nor did it provide any justification for its assumption that the private partner, with dubious credentials, will accomplish what it could not despite being experienced for more than 125 years. It has not even taken contrary evidence available through its own experience of the running of one of its schools by an NGO into account. For instance, a school run by Akanksha, important enough to be on the Board of the School Enhancement Programme, in the Cotton Green area of Mumbai, was found to have only one qualified teacher to teach the classes from one to eight. It basically drew its teachers from its Teach India Project, under which employees of companies took a sabbatical of a kind to teach in schools.

Private Profits at Public Cost

The PPP as a concept is not new but as a model serving the object of privatisation without public resistance it is to be attri­buted to the genius of neo-liberals. It only requires the state to rehearse its concern for the development of the down­trodden and plead lack of resources and failure to attain productive efficiency. The main selling proposition beyond the paucity
of resources is that the private sector
is intrinsically efficient. PPP has been pop­ular with rulers all over the world as it facilitates the transfer of huge public resources to private hands with contractual sieves that leak significant benefits to them. PPP has become a default vehicle for most infrastructural projects in recent years. In India, the PPP first appeared in the election manifesto of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)/National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in 1999. The NDA government had formed a committee in the office of Prime Minister Atal Bihari ­Vajpayee to apply the PPP model in various fields. Later, this committee was transfer­red to the Planning Commission. In 2004, when the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) came to power, the same committee continued to function and submitted its report to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. In September 2007, Manmohan Singh, while presiding over a meeting of the Planning Com­mission, declared that initiatives at all levels of education shall be through PPP. Since then, in the Eleventh and Twelfth Five-Year Plans, there has been a rush of corporate houses, NGOs and religious organisations to grab public assets in the educational system.

The charity of the state in favour of private players includes grant of lands either free or at hugely subsidised rates, grants for building infrastructure, subsidised provision of electricity, water and bus service, exemption in income tax, payments of fees of students belonging to the SC/ST category, huge opportunities for outsourcing, etc. There is no evidence yet of any expertise being marshalled by the private players to whom huge public assets are devolved. The value of the BMC’s 11,500 schools, for instance, could easily run into thousands of crores of rupees.

Private education has been around in the country for years but whatever islands of quality education that exist have all been in the public sector. The overwhelming presence of private institutions could not produce a single institution to match the Indian Institutes of Technology, the Indian Institutes of Management, the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, the Jawaharlal Nehru University or the University of Delhi. In the neo-liberal din, it is not even admitted that until the early 1970s, quality education was associated with only government institutions. It is only with the advent of increasing competition in politics that the academic autonomy of the schools was breached and they became subservient to the political bosses. These very BMC schools were famed for quality education and have produced scores of illustrious people. J B G Tilak of the National University of Educational Planning and Administration, New Delhi, after analysing the plan for setting up 2,500 model schools in the PPP mode under the Eleventh Plan, has rightly concluded that notwithstanding the claim that PPP is not privatisation and the promotion of the profit motive, the plan will surely promote the opposite – privatisation and a high degree of commercialisation, albeit with a difference, namely, with the utilisation of public funds (The Hindu, 24 May 2010).

No Tradable Service

The neo-liberal juggernaut has reduced what were once public services into trad­able commodities. It sees education as a tradable service to transform raw youth into wage labour as a feedstock for its ­capitalist machine. But pedagogy is too hallowed to be treated as such. Universally, education is regarded as an instrument of social change. Our founding fathers saw education as an equaliser and sought to include it among the fundamental rights in the Constitution. Unfortunately they could not do so and education remained confined to the area of Directive Principles (not legally binding on the state). Nonetheless, they had stipulated a time limit of 10 years to accomplish education for all children up to the age of 14. Our rulers however disregarded it until they were shaken up by the Supreme Court judgment in the Unnikrishnan case in 1993 treating education as a part of the fundamental right to life vide Article 21. But the so-called right to education they passed in 2009 is only trickery; it violates the spirit of the Constitution by excluding the most vulnerable children between 0 and 6 years and legitimises the multi­layered educational system. Rather, in view of the alarming degree of malnutrition of pregnant women, the state should be obligated to provide healthcare so that no child is born with an inborn handicap.

The first Education Commission (1964-66), the Kothari Commission, had obser­ved that realisation of the country’s aspirations involves changes in the knowledge, skills, interests and values of the people as a whole. This is basic to every programme of social and economic betterment of which India stands in need. It made a profound observation: “If this change on a grand scale is to be achieved without violent revolution (and even then it would still be necessary), there is one instrument, and one instrument only that can be used, Education.” It envisaged free and compulsory education through a common neighbourhood school system for all children following in the spirit of the Constitution. Even if this simple dictum had been heeded by the rulers, many of India’s evils would have been overcome. I will argue that if the state had ensured that no child is born with the handicap of malnutrition and every child received the same education, there would not have been the need for reservation and thereby the constitutional castes.

Today it is BMC; tomorrow it will be the entire country. We must say a firm no to the privatisation of education.

 

#India – Politics of ecology , Bhagirathi river in Uttarakhand


Frontline

 

The Centre’s notification of a 100-km stretch along the  as an eco-sensitive zone evokes a strong reaction from the Congress government in the State as well as from the BJP, besides sparking protest demonstrations. By PURNIMA S. TRIPATHI

THE Congress government in Uttarakhand is caught in a political cleft stick over the eco-sensitive zone (ESZ) along the river Bhagirathi. The Centre declared the 100-kilometre stretch along the river, from Gaumukh to Uttarkashi, an ESZ last year and the final gazette notification was published recently. The Uttarakhand government is doomed if it supports the notification and doomed if it does not, because the local people, with the support of the main opposition party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), have risen in revolt against the decision. Dharnas and demonstrations are being held in Uttarkashi, and the State Congress is worried that if it does not speak out against the decision of the Congress-led government at the Centre, it will have to face the people’s ire. Hence, the government has been forced to take the politically untenable position of demanding that the notification issued by the Centre be rescinded.

Following protests by environmentalists, including an indefinite fast by Professor G.D. Agrawal, on the pitiable condition of the Ganga as a result of widespread damming and tunnelling for various hydropower projects (which was extensively covered by Frontline), the Centre decided to constitute the National Ganga River Basin Authority and declared the 100-km from Gaumukh to Uttarkashi an ESZ, in what was then a landmark decision considering the massive damage that was being inflicted on the fragile ecology of the area .

The decision meant that certain strict do’s and don’ts had to be followed. For example, activities that are strictly prohibited include hydro-electricity projects other than micro and mini ones (100kV to 2 MW), extraction of river water for industrial projects, commercial mining of minerals and stone quarrying, commercial felling of trees, commercial use of firewood, setting up polluting industries and discharging untreated sewage and industrial effluents into the river. Plastic carry bags and hazardous waste processing units are also banned inside the zone.

Activities that are to be regulated with checks and balances include defence installations and other infrastructure relating to national security, pine plantations, introduction of exotic species, establishment of hotels and resorts, erection of electric cables, tree felling, water extraction for sale, and signboards and hoardings. The guidelines apply to an area of 4,179.59 sq km, including the 100-km watershed stretch from Gaumukh to Uttarkashi, covering 88 villages. All development activities in the area will be according to the zonal master plan, to be prepared by the State within two years, and compliance to this master plan will be ensured by a monitoring committee which will have a person of known integrity and administrative capability as its head and 10 other members, including a representative of the Ministry of Environment and Forests, besides representatives from non-governmental organisations, the town planning department, the Pollution Control Board and Forest and Irrigation Department and environment and ecology experts.

The draft notification was placed in the public domain in July 2011, but the final gazette notification was published only now. The State government has protested against the notification, saying that its objections to certain provisions in the draft have been overlooked by the Centre. Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna met the Prime Minister on May 6, along with the Member of Parliament from Haridwar and Union Minister Harish Rawat, the MPs Satpal Maharaj and Pradeep Tamta, Uttarakhand Tourism Minister Amrita Rawat, the MLA from Gangotri Vijaypal Singh Sajwan, and Chief Secretary Subhash Kumar. Bahuguna also met the Minister of State for Environment and Forests, Jayanthi Natarajan, and requested her to take positive action.

The Chief Minister, who presented a strongly worded, three-page letter to the Prime Minister, told him that despite his having written to the Minister of State for Environment and Forests in December last year, the Centre had gone ahead and issued the notification without following due procedure and without consulting the State government. He pointed out that while in the draft only an area of 40 sq km was to have been affected by the notification, the final notification increased this to 4,179.59 sq km, which was unfortunate. Besides, he said, the draft had put a ban on hydropower projects of 25 MW and above, but the final notification banned all hydel projects, which would rob the State of significant sources of revenue in the future. “… projects with a capacity of 1,743 MW, which are in various stages of development, cannot be executed anymore, apart from the already incurred expenditure of Rs.1,061 crore going waste…. Such a sensitive decision has been taken by the MoEF without consultations at the field level,” he wrote.

 

 

The Chief Minister also pointed out that the strict guidelines for tourism-related activities, the restriction on the number of pilgrims to char dham yatra, and the ban on the construction of roads would anger the local people and pilgrims and compromise national security in the strategically located border State. He told the Prime Minister that the State already had a plethora of regulatory mechanisms to deal with the issues, so there was no need for additional administrative hurdles in the way of development. He also said that besides causing unrest among the people, the final notification had legal loopholes as statutory provisions had not been followed while enhancing the area affected by 100 times. “Keeping the huge public resentment and also the legal lacunae, I request you to kindly rescind the notification of the eco-sensitive zone in its present form with immediate effect,” he wrote in the letter to the Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister reportedly told the delegation that an inter-ministerial committee would go into the points raised by it. But a senior State government official told Frontlinethat it was highly unlikely that the Centre would heed the State’s demand to rescind the notification. “May be minor adjustments could be made as a face-saving device, but cancellation, as demanded by the Chief Minister, is ruled out,” said the official, admitting that the fears raised were mostly hypothetical in nature. A senior MoEF official also ruled out the possibility of rescinding the notification, saying that at best some “corrections” could be carried out.

Political compulsions

Environmental activists, including members of Ganga Ahavaan, an NGO, who have been at the forefront of demanding such a measure to save the Ganga from unscrupulous building and mining, including mining by the sand mafia, say the Chief Minister has been politically compelled to act since the BJP had made it an issue. “They are afraid that they will have to face the people’s anger if they don’t protest,” says Hemant Dhyani, a Ganga Ahavaan activist from Uttarkashi. Significantly, the contractors’ and builders’ lobby, which has also been demanding the cancellation of the notification, is alleged to have masterminded a number of attacks on Ganga Ahavaan activists.

 

 

According to Nitin Pandey, an environmental activist from Dehradun, the claims of those opposed to the notification are nothing but a pile of falsehoods and lies. “The truth is that if anyone is harmed by this 41-page document, then it is the construction lobby, the mining mafia, the timber mafia and the rich people who want to build big hotels in the area. There is absolutely nothing in the notification which harms the common man in any way. On the contrary, the notification strengthens the hands of the common citizen, much to the chagrin of the moneyed exploiters of Uttarakhand, whose exploitation of Uttarakhand’s natural resources will now be curtailed,” he writes in his blog. According to him, there has been a sustained, motivated and totally baseless campaign against the notification, carried out with the intent of scaring the common people and leading them to believe that their lives will be ruined by this notification. “On the contrary, the truth is that the lives of the residents of all the villages and towns in the area will be made more secure, safe and immune from exploitation by moneyed people. It contains nothing other than common sense issues which our State government should have implemented on its own, without waiting for the notification. Why our leaders give out factually incorrect statements is anyone’s guess,” he writes.

Mallika Bhanot and Gita Khillani of Ganga Ahavaan agree. “The objection [to ESZ] is totally baseless, politically motivated and instigated by the contractors’ lobby. We are trying to make people see better sense but we are facing a lot of hostility in this. We are trying to convince the people that development should be in sync with the particular flavour of the area, and the ESZ, in that sense, was for their larger good,” they say.

The BJP, meanwhile, has declared, predictably, that it will continue its agitation on the issue. In fact, former BJP Chief Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank also wrote to the Prime Minister, when the draft notification was issued, raising serious objections. He had told this correspondent then that being a border State which had over 60 per cent of its area under forest cover, it needed a different set of guidelines for development. “We need to keep our peculiar characteristics in mind because we too have to undertake development projects and provide employment to people. The guidelines for us should be different from other States which are in the plains,” he had said. Nishank, in fact, has been advocating that the Himalyan States should be formed as a separate group, with separate guidelines for developmental activities. The Assembly elections saw the exit of the BJP and the arrival of a Congress government, which too is hamstrung by the same political compulsions and hence finds itself speaking in the same language as the erstwhile BJP government.

The discomfiture of the Chief Minister was evident in the fact that he avoided giving an interview to Frontline on the issue. His office said his letter to the Prime Minister, being self-explanatory, should suffice.

Politics indeed makes strange bedfellows, in this case, the two sworn enemies, the BJP and the Congress. Politics has also forced the Congress-led State government to confront a Congress-led Centre.

 

#India- Political Parties afraid of #RTI


 

Let’s ask the political parties what makes them fear public scrutiny
Shailesh Gandhi

15-06-2013, Issue 24 Volume 10

Illustration: Vikram NongmaithemIllustration: Vikram Nongmaithem

The recent decision of the Central Information Commission (CIC) to bring political parties within the ambit of the Right to Information () Act is a welcome step. And there’s nothing surprising in the way the political parties have reacted to it. After all, no one in a position of power wants to be transparent. It’s almost a human tendency. In this case, the political class clearly does not know what the  is. In fact, a common user of the knows it better than them. The negative reactions of the political class stem from the typical mindset of “why should I?”

Three key questions must in turn be asked of the political parties. Firstly, are they not financed by government funds? If they are not, the CIC’s judgment is flawed. But if they are, then they must come under the RTI. The RTI Act clearly says any non-government organisation that is substantially financed by government funds is a public authority — and that includes political parties. In this judgment, the bench has clearly cited instances of the massive tax exemptions they get, the huge subsidies on the government land allotted to them and so on.

Secondly, are they are not receiving funds in crores? Isn’t that substantial? They cannot refute that it is and so they are public authorities as defined by law. If they still object, they must explain why they should not be subject to RTI.

Thirdly, do the political parties believe transparency will do them good? If they don’t, then we must ask them what harm it would do.

If you are a public authority, you come under the RTI. but the Act also provides exemptions to protect you from disclosure of certain types of information. based on these exemptions, various public authorities have now functioned for over seven years without any major damage to the institutions.

The parties ask, how can people dictate how they choose candidates. The answer is, they cannot. The information that parties do not have on record, is not information and hence does not have to be provided. but citizens have the right to ask if there is a process and what are the criteria laid down. beyond that, this law doesn’t in any way allow the citizen to “dictate” any terms. besides, the humble Indian citizen cannot dictate to the powerful, but can hope to speak the truth to power, and make them truthful.

Parties also argue that they are already monitored by the Election commission. come election time, they go and beg for votes. Are they saying they don’t want ordinary citizens to monitor them? That they are not answerable to individual citizens, and find the idea abhorrent? Let them answer that and we will know where we stand. Some political parties even declared themselves as private organisations. Do they really think they are businesses?

I think the political parties don’t really know where they might get hit. The  scam got exposed because of RTI. It’s an unknown animal, and so political parties believe it’s best to avoid it. Some of their illegal acts, their arbitrariness, may come out, hence the fear.

If you become transparent, you become better. Transparency is a tool for self-improvement and in the long-term interest of the political parties. Today, we have a trust deficit that may lessen if they become transparent. Tomorrow, if the  says they will do it, the congress will also fall in line, provided there is a national clamour.

If they choose to take the CIC order to court, it will be unfortunate and cause an indefinite delay, in case the court stays the order. One of the respondents, the Association for Democratic reforms, a civil society group, has already filed a caveat in the Delhi High Court, asking to be heard before any political party gets a stay against the CIC order.

The rhetoric on news channels has been mostly along the lines of “shouldn’t the citizens know?” That’s a side comment, but not a valid legal argument. An organisation doesn’t become a public authority on the grounds that “a citizen must know”. we have a strong case as the parties are substantially funded by the government, and are therefore public authorities as defined in the RTI Act.

As a believer in transparency, I think a ‘No RTI, No Vote’ campaign is a great idea. If we can build up a nationwide clamour for it, there is some hope that this order will be effectively implemented. That will be an extremely important step for democracy.

(As told to )

letters@tehelka.com

(Published in Tehelka Magaz