Tiranga Bangle – ‘healing’ with a tinge of patriotism , ok what about traitors #WTFnews #Jindal


Hindu  BUREAU

NEW DELHI, JAN. 25:

 

Are you tired of everyday stress? Sick of acidity problems? Your woes may end soon, if steel tycoon Naveen Jindal is to be believed. On Friday, Shashi Tharoor launched ‘Tiranga Bangle’, an initiative by Naveen Jindal’s Flag Foundation of India.

The Foundation was set up in January 2002 after Jindal won a seven-year-long court battle that enabled Indians to display the national flag with honour and pride at their homes, offices etc.

The Tiranga Bangle is made of copper and designed with tri-vortex technology from South Africa. Tri-vortex is a sound frequency-based technology used to treat materials and products that can be used for health benefits. The bangle claims to provide ‘natural, environment-friendly and non-chemical-based healing’.

Anton Ungerer, the person behind the tri-vortex technology, said the bangle is treated in a tri-vortex chamber for 24 hours or more. “This technology uses subtle energy vibrations and will spark a revolution in India,” he added.

Tharoor said, “I wear the national flag everyday, thanks to the court case Naveen fought. This bangle initiative by him is good for health and also advertises his loyalty for the tricolour” and congratulated the foundation for coming up with such a “therapeutic idea”.

The bangle, it was claimed, worked wonders for people suffering from arthritis, gout, carpal tunnel syndrome or other pain-related ailments.

Jindal said he was glad that such distinctive technology was being used in India and was confident that it would help people lead a healthier lifestyle.

navadha.p@thehindu.co.in

 

Surviving in a world of men- #Gender #Discrimination


BY KALPANA SHARMA, The Hindu

Women have to develop a thick skin and hit back if they are to play an effective role in Indian politics.

Winter is in the air, and so are elections. And with them, the season of loose talk and personal attacks. Narendra Modi leads the brigade with his one-liners; his verbal arrows become particularly sharp when aimed at women. His constant attacks on Sonia Gandhi are now so old hat that one can ignore them. But what of his sudden lashing out at Sunanda Tharoor, wife of Congress MP Shashi Tharoor? Some other men from his party have joined in. Does this mean this is open season to attack women, even if they are associated with male politicians?

Modi’s jibes at Sunanda Tharoor were in such poor taste that they do not even merit a discussion. But what is worth discussing today, in the light of the forthcoming Assembly elections in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh, and a general election in the not-too-distant future, is the status of women in Indian politics.

Again, much has already been discussed about the powerful and visible women in Indian politics. Each has had a different, and specific, trajectory to the top. The factors that got her there cannot be replicated. But apart from this handful, what is happening to millions of other women who are in politics at various levels?

Ever since the 73rd and 74th Amendments to the Constitution were passed, guaranteeing one-third reservation (now 50 per cent) to women in panchayats and nagarpalikas, millions of women have been exposed to politics. Not all of them have flourished. Many remain mere tokens of their husbands. Despite their numbers, many do not attend meetings, do not have the courage to speak at meetings, and even if they do, what they say is not heeded.

But for every one woman who is a front for a man, there is at least another who has begun to understand what governance is all about. And at least half of these women should have been able to influence the process of governance at this lowest tier. That alone would add up to thousands of women spread across this country.

What happens to these women after they have had a taste of power, realising that they can be heard, that they can make a difference in their villages or towns? Do they subside once their terms are over and go back to the traditional roles ascribed to them, of being daughter, wife or mother? Or do they dream of moving up to a higher tier, perhaps to the State Assembly?

Stuck in a limbo

There is little data to establish whether women who have served several terms in panchayats, and who have been active participants, get picked up by local political parties to contest elections for the State Assemblies. If such a natural trickle-up process had begun to take place, we would have seen an increase in the representation of women in State Assemblies. Nothing of the kind has happened.

Meantime, as we know, the Women’s Reservation Bill remains stuck, having passed the Rajya Sabha last year, but moving nowhere since then. And with all the rhetoric about giving women a place in politics, there is little to show that major political parties are making any effort to recruit more women to their party ranks.

One could also ask whether the women who are in the political parties – and many of them have become visible faces on television talk shows – have any say in crucial matters in the party. Are they in the working committees, executive committees, election committees or politburos? Are their voices heard where it could actually affect the direction of the political party? If not, they remain mere telegenic faces for their parties at a time when the media has become such an important player.

So if the reality is that, barring a few exceptional women, an effective role for women in Indian politics still remains restricted, why are some men so worried that they would launch personal attacks against women who are not even in politics?

Modi’s misogyny is well known. But one has to ask whether his latest diatribe is a precursor to more such personalised attacks on women in public life. You might say that just as men have to learn to withstand such attacks, women must too. They too have to develop a thick skin. They too have to learn when to hit back and when to hold back. They have to reckon that politics is not just a full-time job – one that allows for no concessions to other commitments – but that it is a dirty game.

This is the reality that probably makes many women hesitate about taking the first step into State level or national politics. It is not as if politics at the panchayat or nagarpalika level is bereft of sexism. In fact, women mukhiyas and sarpanches have also had to face considerable violence in many States. It is possible that they realise that moving up the political ladder brings with it more of this. Yet these women are a valuable resource with their experience in grassroots politics. What a pity that entrenched misogyny and indifference to giving women a fair chance has resulted in us wasting this resource.

sharma.kalpana@yahoo.com

#India-I reject #censorship: Dr Shashi Tharoor @ Pitch #FOE #FOS


Shashi Tharoor, Union Minister & Member of Indian Parliament

Shashi Tharoor, Union Minister & Member of Indian Parliament

Dr Shashi Tharoor, Minister of State, Ministry of Human Resource Development & Member of Indian Parliament, delivered the Keynote Address, “Role of Digital & Social Media in Connecting with Young India” at the Pitch Youth Marketing Summit, held in New Delhi recently. Dr Tharoor talked about his experiences on Twitter and how social media is shaping the current political scenario in India and worldwide. Here is Dr Tharoor’s complete Keynote Address:

Talking about social media today in India, I think it’s important to start off with some global basics. The first is of course is that the freedom of expression is fundamental. That’s my belief and commitment as a writer and as a politician, and as somebody who uses all media, social and otherwise — social and anti-social!

Freedom of expression is the mortar that binds together the bricks of our freedom and it’s also the open window embedded in those bricks. We need freedom of expression to guarantee all of our other acts. In this country we are all entitled to receive and send information thorough electronic networks, to share information, whether through the newspaper, the TV screen or online websites and to do so without censorship and restriction. This is fundamental to the kind of world which we all live in.

As a writer and a politician, I am conscious how fortunate we are to live in a country that guarantees us that right. Writers in some developing countries have to contend with the argument that development and freedom of expression are incompatible – that the media, for instance, must serve the ends of development as defined by the government, or operate only within the boundaries of what the social and religious authorities define as permissible.  The developing world is full of writers, artists and journalists who have to function in societies which do not grant them this freedom.  For them freedom of expression is the oxygen of their own survival, and that of their society, but they are stifled.  In countries where truth is what the government or the religious establishment says is true, freedom of expression is essential to depict alternative truths which the society needs to accommodate in order to survive.

And yet it is all too often absent, because in many countries, there are those who question the value of freedom of speech in their societies; those who argue that it threatens stability and endangers progress; those who still consider freedom of speech a Western import, an imposition from abroad and not the indigenous expression of every people’s demand for freedom. What has always struck me about this argument is that it is never made by the people, but by governments; never by the powerless but by the powerful; never by the voiceless, but by those whose voices are all that can be heard.  Let us put this argument once and for all to the only test that matters: the choice of every people, to know more or know less, to be heard or be silenced, to stand up or kneel down. Only freedom of expression will allow the world’s oppressed and underprivileged a way out of the darkness that shrouds their voices, and their hopes.  The Internet has been giving them this choice as never before.

But then beyond that, and beyond the way in which social media reflects our freedom of expression, we have to go into how the information society of the 21st century provides citizens with full information to allow democratic participation at all levels in determining their own future.

Technology has become the biggest asset for those who seek to promote and protect freedom of expression around the world. The exciting thing about social media is that the new digital technology offers great possibilities for enhancing traditional media and combining them with new media.

The Internet has been made possible by advances in technology that have also transformed the traditional media. Traditional media, and especially radio and television, remain the sole form of access to the information society for much of the world’s population, including the very poor and the illiterate. The poorest, and the illiterate, have not yet been able to use social media and the internet. But even the rest of us rely on traditional media, we can’t wish them away. There is increasing convergence between television and the internet and soon we can try and see how we can marry modern technologies to actually make serious progress in the world.

Today, however, our focus is on social media. Look at the extraordinary transformation that is happening. Just a day after he was sworn in as our President, Pranab Mukherjee announced that he would be opening a Facebook account to receive and respond to the queries from the public. In fact, his fellow Bengali, Mamata Banerjee, has beaten him to it, with a popular and widely read website that the media mines daily for new stories about her views. Just three years ago, when I first went on social media, it was fashionable for Indian politicians to sneer at the use of social media. Today our own President made it clear that these are essential tools for clear, accountable and credible political leadership. The governments of the world or the big institutions of power have become more vulnerable today because of the fact that the new media technology has exposed them to the uncontrolled impact of instant news. And so the fact is that when we speak about the social media, we can’t get away from understanding the impact of new technology on the way the world is working.

Technology is such that everybody has a mobile phone in her or his pocket and you can do far more than when you could have first acquired a mobile phone. Now, you can take pictures, you can take videos, you can transmit them and go on the internet. Something like 5 billion people worldwide, including 84% of Americans, more than 70% of Chinese and at least 60% of Indians, today use mobile phones. You can all get your messages out more rapidly. The strength of this is that you can enable ordinary people to issue and disseminate even raw footage or compellingly authentic images before the mainstream media or the government can actually do so. So you can open up a social media space even not being a professional media person.

Read more here http://pitchonnet.com/blog/2012/10/30/i-reject-censorship-dr-shashi-tharoor-pitch-youth-marketing-summit/

 

Resizing the State- What if the Indian state is actually not big enough?


By MILAN VAISHNAV | October 1, 2012
MAHESH KUMAR A / AP PHOTO
Although India can conduct elections for more than 750 million people, the state’s ability to deliver services remains lacking.

IT IS SOMETHING OF AN UNDERSTATEMENT to say that the state of the Indian state is unwell. In recent years, India’s governance institutions have acquitted themselves poorly. By now, the list of scams involving government’s abuse of its discretionary authority rolls off the tongue with relative ease: Commonwealth Games, Adarsh Housing Society, 2G, Coalgate.

These, of course, are merely the scandals that have captured widespread media and popular attention. There is a seemingly endless roster of B-list scams that have enjoyed their own 15 minutes of fame: Jharkhand chief minister Madhu Koda amassing illicit wealth equal to one-fifth of his state’s budget; YS Rajasekhara Reddy’s “pay-for-play” method to recruit backers for family businesses in Andhra Pradesh; or the massive rural health mission fraud in Uttar Pradesh under Mayawati. And this is just a short list from a sample of notable chief ministers.

In light of such spectacular corruption, it comes as no surprise that commentators have written extensively—and unflatteringly—about the failings of the Indian state. But despite our inclination to focus on the short-term failures of the Indian state, this is both an endemic issue and an existential one. Much as we feel the need to blame the state, and to devise ways of restraining its power in order to minimise these abuses, we need to acknowledge an inconvenient truth: while the Indian state may be the problem, it is also a principal element of the solution.

In this sense, the Indian state suffers from an acute identity crisis: it is in places where it should not be, while it is nowhere to be found in places where it should. On the one hand, it angers and outrages us by ham-handedly censoring SMS messages and Twitter accounts in the wake of rumours of ethnic strife. It presides over a system of land acquisition that virtually guarantees transactions will produce sleaze and dishonesty. At the same time, as the recent power crisis illustrates all too well, the state often abdicates its authority over inherently governmental functions.

Given this duality, the current “reform” debate seems lopsided. With few exceptions, it is largely focused on restraining the state. Implementing a Goods and Service Tax (GST); injecting greater competition into the energy sector to address Coal India’s virtual monopoly; opening up civil aviation to greater foreign direct investment—all are worthy goals. Yet they are all fundamentally motivated by a desire to get the state out of the way.

While the state undoubtedly needs to cede authority over certain realms, it needs to expand its authority in others. The call to reinvest in state capacity is not novel: since Independence, there have been concerns about the decidedly mixed ability of the Indian state to carry out its writ. Elite, highly functional institutions like the Election Commission and the Reserve Bank have long coexisted with muddling, dysfunctional ones. As the economist Lant Pritchett has argued, India is not a failing state but a “flailing” one: it can conduct elections for over 750 million voters, but it can’t stop millions from going hungry every year by properly distributing surplus food stocks.

State capacity, however, is an ill-defined term. In its simplest form, it is the ability of the state to effectively design and implement public policies. But the concept can be further broken down into at least two constituent parts: incentives and competence. Economists have by and large prioritised the former, arguing that getting incentives right is paramount, if the government is to do right by the people. And on this score, India doesn’t perform well. It is common knowledge that many bureaucrats in India face little incentive to perform honourably and in the public interest—or even to do their jobsat all.

But even if India’s leaders are able to set the right incentives for government rank and file, there remains the question of competence. Are officials well trained? Do they have the right skills? And there is an even more fundamental challenge than skills and training: across almost all dimensions, India’s public sector institutions are grossly undermanned. In many parts of the country, the state lacks presence. In a way, this mirrors the debate raging across capitals of the industrialised world—from Athens to Washington—about “rightsizing” the state. There is one key difference, however, in the Indian context: we are not talking about modifying the state but—in many corners of the country—building it from the ground up for the first time.

Presence, of course, requires adequate personnel. As Shashi Tharoor has pointed out in these pages (‘In the Ministry of Eternal Affairs’, July 2012), India’s diplomatic corps is roughly the size of Singapore’s. During the most recent US-India Strategic Dialogue, The Times of India reported that while the India desk at the US State Department has 18 staffers, its counterpart in the Ministry of External Affairs has just three.

Although this runs counter to the images most of us conjure up when we think about India’s bureaucracy, the problem with the Indian state is not that it is too big; it is that it is not big enough. For all the talk about India as a “patronage democracy” par excellence, it has one of the lowest rates of per capita public sector employment of any G20 country.Indeed, public sector employment—across all levels of government—which nearly doubled between 1971 and 1991, hit its peak at 19.5 million workers in 1995; since then, the number has declined, to around 17.9 million in 2010.

There can and should be a debate about what the scope of the Indian state should be, but at a very minimum, most sensible people can agree that any state must be able to do at least four things: raise revenues, adjudicate disputes, uphold law and order, and provide public goods. Across these four crucial dimensions, the Indian state is woefully inadequate. Consider each in turn.

There has been a robust debate in recent months about the future of tax policy. This has been brought to the fore both by questions about GST implementation and controversies over the introduction of the new GAAR (General Anti-Avoidance Rules) regulations. But what this debate misses entirely is the fact that India’s federal tax authorities have long suffered from a lack of manpower to enforce collection even under existing statute. Indeed, in response to a question from a parliamentary standing committee, the Income Tax department disclosed that it was seeking authorisation for 20,000 additional personnel.

The state’s ability to adjudicate disputes provides an equally dim picture. Last year, the Supreme Court reported that one-third of seats in the state courts and one-fifth of seats on the district and subordinate courts remain vacant. The court estimates that there are 32 million pending cases working their way through the clogged Indian justice system. The backlog is so severe that a state high court judge famously stated that it would take India until the year 2330 to clear it—assuming no new cases are filed in the interim.

Even in the allegedly revered realm of national security, there is a pattern of endemic weakness, as academic Devesh Kapur has noted. The Indian Army is facing a serious shortage of officers—more than 12,000 in 2011 after recruiting fewer than 1,500 in 2010. Despite major internal security concerns like continuing Maoist violence, the Intelligence Bureau has more than 9,000 vacant posts.

Finally, despite major new government social sector programmes, the state’s ability to deliver basic public goods is seriously lacking. Public health is a case in point. According to a 2011 study in The Lancet, India’s stock of allopathic doctors, nurses and midwives is roughly half the World Health Organization’s benchmark of 23 workers per 10,000 population, even factoring in the sizeable private health system. Suffice it to say, government hospitals and health centres operate with serious staff shortfalls. The picture is even more depressing when one considers quality as well as quantity: initial research findings by Sudhir Anand and Victoria Fan suggest that only 43 percent of India’s allopathic doctors have a medical qualification. As many as 73 out of 593 districts lack even a single nurse with a medical qualification.

As the healthcare situation makes clear, building up the public sector’s human capital base involves more than getting people in place—it is about getting the right people in place. Here, the talent pool for public service faces severe limitations.

Consider what the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) itself has reported. Among the seven examinations the UPSC has given between 2009 and 2010, only one—for the Forest Service—was able to recommend enough applicants to fill sanctioned vacant positions. This is particularly alarming given the astonishing number of applicants per post: no examination had fewer than 13 times as many applicants as available positions while several had a ratio greater than 200 to one.

The roots of this tightness in the labour market for public sector employment are deep and multifaceted. They are in no small measure related to the well-documented weaknesses in India’s higher education system, not to mention the continued opposition from various public sector entities to the idea of lateral entry into public service.

Of course, incentives do matter at the end of day. Unfortunately, how to properly align public officials’ incentives so that they serve the public and not themselves is still an area where trial and error prevails. But researchers have mined India in recent years in order to test creative ways of improving incentives that might enhance government accountability. For instance, the economists Karthik Muralidharan and Venkatesh Sundararaman have demonstrated in a wide-ranging experiment in Andhra Pradesh that paying public school teachers on the basis of performance significantly raised student test scores in just two years. The economist Abhijit Banerjee and colleagues have shown that implementing a freeze on police transfers in Rajasthan has not only improved police effectiveness but also the satisfaction of the public and crime victims. Institutions of “horizontal accountability” like Lokayuktas and legislation like the various “Right to Service” bills which have been implemented in several states also have the potential to encourage better behaviour among public officials.

As a steady stream of damning Comptroller and Auditor General reports continues to trickle in, the impulse to condemn the Indian state will be intense—and perhaps even justified: its myriad shortcomings make a mockery of the notion that India desires to be a major player on the international stage, with a seat on the United Nations Security Council. But bashing the state is shortsighted (even if it does provide some momentary satisfaction). Investing in building and strengthening state institutions must be part of the current reform agenda. It is undoubtedly true that getting institutions right means much more than simply getting people in place. But as that renowned social scientist Woody Allen famously remarked, “Ninety percent of life is just showing up.”