Reality Check India

President signs AIIMS amendment bill

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on November 30, 2007

Dr Venugopal’s remarkable career at AIIMS is about to end shortly.  President Pratibha Patil signed the bill into law today. It is remarkable that such legislative effort has been spent into punishing the AIIMS director. This is at most a minor issue worthy of very little of precious “Parliament time”.

Maybe like “dream budget” , the word “autonomy” itself is not to be taken too seriously.

Sir, is that when we say that we must protect its autonomy, we do not mean that AIIMS can be ‘autonomous from social justice’. …  …(Interruptions)… There is no such thing as ‘autonomy from social justice’. …(Interruptions)… There is no such thing as autonomy from the constitutional provisions, autonomy from affirmative action, and there is no such thing as autonomy from the needs of the deprived sections, and, therefore, …(Interruptions)...

Brinda Karat in the RS

Ms Karat :

You do not want AIIMS / IISc / IIT “autonomous from social justice”, yet you want social justice itself to be autonomous of any data or inspection.

For the poor patients waiting for treatment at AIIMS and the doctors working there : We only want to say “Wahrheit Macht Frei

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No survey says the UPA government !

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on November 28, 2007

This is not surprising,

Anxious not to offend the well-entrenched “backwards”, the Cabinet Committtee on Political Affairs (CCPA) has decided against commissioning a survey to weed out the ‘OBC elites’ from among the quota beneficiaries.

Source :  TOI

This is shocking,

Government, however, has been sensitive of treading on the powerful OBC toes, especially because the majority of backwards does not seem to have grown resentful of the privileged minority in their midst.

Emphasis added. 

Source : TOI

Unless the really backward do not demonstrate via action resentment against some other groups, there is no need to monitor anything. 

Perhaps they really mean this :

Our vote banks are secure, calm, and are not bombing each other. Only two groups are affected : those who are excluded from these benefits and those who are too backward to avail of it.  Why unnecessarily create trouble by doing pesky things like monitoring and studying the effects of 80+ year old policies ?

No ST status for you, no data for anyone !

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on November 27, 2007

So, everyone has heard about the clashes in Assam.  Why are groups of people so angry ? Worse still, why are they fighting each other. What happened to the good old days of fighting the government ?

The reason : Tribals who were brought to Assam from central India decades ago have been demanding ST status for a long time now. The local tribes oppose this because they fear losing their “portion” of the pie. As if that were not enough, Muslims who constitute 30% of Assam have been demanding OBC status for a long time. Emotions are simmering.

magicwand.jpg

In this instance, Mr Shivraj Patil says  –

Quoting from observations of the Registrar General of India and the Backward Class Commission, Patil said, “The local committee and RGI have said back in 1965 that they can only be granted Backward status and not ST status as many of these tribes have lost their tribal characteristics in their present surroundings.”

Source : IBNLIVE

 Another report :

Patil said, “By turning violent, these tribals have lost their tribal bearings.” He also said these tribals do not have ST status even in their own states.

Source : Zeenews

Mr Shivraj Patil backed by the Congress Party gets to wave a magic wand and instantly people are denied a honest evaluation of their claim to a share of the social justice pie.  By indulging in violence, can a group lose claim to tribal status ? What does “home state” mean anymore ? These people have been in Assam for many decades (some even more than a hundred years).  

What happens now ?

The politicians have demonstrated in the Lok Sabha (with the notable exception of Mr Tathaghat Satpathy) that annoying things like data and monitoring of entitlement programs are not to be discussed. They impede the magical properties of the wand. With data,  you have to wave it ten times for it to work its magic. Without data, a simple wave is all it takes.

The courts too seem to be shy of insisting on data or monitoring. That leaves only jostling, pushing and shoving, and large scale violence as viable options to those who have the means. We need to remember that the really backward stonebreaker or night soil carrier does not have the framework needed to mobilize. So, to hell with them. No data for you. You have our finance minister’s life stories instead. You may also have a couple of leftist NGO types showing up at your huts for video footage.

Is that all ? No, Inter state relations get strained. We already hear that organizations in  Jharkhand have called for a bandh to protest the killings in Assam. So we have All Adivasis Students Union Vs All Jharkhand Students Union.

The solution

Snatch the magic wand from these political forces before the country is laid to waste. If the ST status is permanent and not dependent on current backwardness, leave it alone. That is a separate problem for another day. Make sure the protesting tea workers as well as the muslims of Assam are getting a reasonable share of the OBC quota in that state. 

For the 118th time : Data please !

Links :

Barbarindians (see the shocking picture in his post)

Nitin

— 

Various political entrepreneurs are waving sticks in the hope it turns into a magic wand. Old Frontline article containing a background of these groups. Even the Andamans are showing symptoms. Ramadoss holds a rally in Delhi asking for early implementation of the OBC quota.

Indian politics and floodlights

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on November 25, 2007

The streets of Kolkata are burning, the nuclear deal is in a limbo, Muslims in West Bengal and Assam are getting restless, serial blasts go off in UP targeting advocates – but guess what  occupied the Lok Sabha for over three hours recently ?

NEW DELHI: The Bill to fix the tenure of the directors of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) and the Post-Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER), Chandigarh, was passed by the Lok Sabha on Thursday in the absence of the entire Opposition, which walked out in protest.

Source : Hindu

Now, I do not care about the so called “fight” between Dr Ramadoss and Dr Venugopal. It can never be a fight because our politicians can send Venugopal packing at any time. They can amend the constitution if they wish for that purpose.

I am interested in why this issue (which is minor) produced such an intense debate in a full house. This reminds one of the late night cabinet meetings attended in full during the introduction of the quota bill. No national issue has captured the politicians attention as much as the future of their “magic wand”.  A poor night soil carrier cannot count on his or her actual pathetic socio-economic condition to deliver justice, he needs to fall at the feet of politicians with the “magic wand”. The media will take care not to raise questions that challenge the roots. For example : Are the night soil carriers getting their share of ‘social justice’? Is milk being squirted in their direction from the udders of the socialist state ?

The politicians do not realize that data is like light. Sure you can build a dark room, but some naughty slivers will still sneak in. Muslims in Bengal are just finding out how they have been taken for a ride by the communists. You have to be incredibly naive to attribute the recent violence entirely to  Nandigram or Taslima Nasreen. The embers are burning – these are just rally points. Is the Sachar report on WB a mere sliver of light that has the potential to take down the mighty communists ?

When I predicted exactly this sequence of events over 6 months back, I was branded a racist and a violent individual by certain “intellectuals”.

If you dont produce data  .. remember this, the truly backward will be easy pickings for left extremists. It is not the absence of a social justice initiative that drives a poor kid in Bastar into the Maoist fold. It is the feeling that even if the Indian social justice works exactly as designed, there is nothing in it for him.  He has reached a dead end with the Indian state.

Bring floodlights into the room. Light it up. Snatch the “magic wand” from the politicians and deliver it into the hands of data. Show the nation that citizens are divided along lines drawn by actual backwardness and not by political convenience.

Public goods in open competition may yield unequal distribution, resources under social justice cannot. That is the whole point.

Rumblings in Bengal

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on November 21, 2007

Central Kolkata was shut down today amid large scale violence. The All India Minority Forum supporters fought pitched battles with the police. Columns of the army are moving in to restore normalcy.

“I have never seen such a thing in my lifetime. There is total lawlessness,” said Amal Das, waiting in an ambulance with his ailing father.  

I readily admit I have a one-track mind when it comes to Indian politics. I simply cannot ignore the extreme distortion brought about by the ‘magic wand’ wielded by our politicians.

There is no force strong enough to overcome the promise of exclusive and selective benefits. In India, this has taken the form of a total hijack of the social justice system.   

I continue to hold that if data and tight monitoring of the quota system is surrendered to the whim of politicians – violence and show of strength will replace social justice. This will not lead to any real equilibrium.  Even mighty forces like the CPM will bite the dust. It will be quick and painless, but relief will be temporary.

Bengal is first on the list. As mentioned in this blog, Bengal is a spectacular anomaly when it comes to the quota system – especially its Muslim population.

Nandigram and Taslima Nasreen are just the sideshows.

Real political news

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on November 20, 2007

What is happening on 22nd November ?

On November 22, the first week of the winter session of the legislative assembly, BJP leader 50-year-old Syeed Pasha Patel Pasha will hold a rally with the support of one lakh Muslims demanding the implementation of Sachar recomendations in Nagpur. He is the only Muslim MLC from Maharashtra BJP.

Source : HT

How this plays out will have a major socio-political impact ?

Issues like farmers suicides, effectiveness of NREGA, woes of the Mumbai city, Sri Krishna report on the Bombay riots,  lack of progress in the Mumbai trains blast case, corruption, bankruptcy of co-operatives, multi-hour daily power outages – all put together pale in comparison to this seeming non-descript gathering by Mr Pasha of the BJP. Mr Pasha Patel (BJP) is the political entrepreneur of the season.

Why is this so ? Why do seemingly small but exclusive benefits appeal more than giant public good projects ? For example : The Muslim and Christian quota in TN would just create about 70-80 doctors from each community. Yet, this is a landmark event compared to multi thousand crore rural schemes. This could mean the difference between survival and death of entire political movements.

I am a great fan of the American economist  Mancur Olsen (via these two books  Logic of Collective Action  , Rise and Decline of Nations ) I have mentioned his works many times in this blog.

Recently, I came across the works of Russell Hardin. I am fascinated by his writings – which mostly address this issue. Read his take on the “Free riders problem“.  In a sense, Indians of all kinds suffer from this problem. 

Coming back to Olsen, he notes that : Only a separate and ‘selective’ incentive will stimulate a rational individual in a latent group to act in a group-oriented way. He also conceived of political entrepreneurs for large groups as engaged entirely in the enterprise of producing selective incentives.

Could anything explain the Indian situation better ?

Postscript

Mr Patel Pasha, we applaud your efforts to implement Sachar in your state of Maharashtra.  Could you also explain the Muslim literacy rate figures in the same Sachar report. Muslims in Maharashtra have a literacy rate of 78.1% compared to SC/ST 64.3% and the Average 76.9%

You would probably shoot back : If TN, KA, KE, and AP (Sachar reports Muslim TN literacy of 82.9% vs 62% SC/ST and 72% Hindus) can have a muslim quota why not MH?)

You would be absolutely correct of course. No one can respond to that one.

Rahul, the future of the Congress

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on November 19, 2007

Back from a vacation. Regular blogging will now resume.

We hear that the newly crowned General Secretary of the Congress party, Mr Rahul Gandhi wants to restore the old glory days of the party.

 

First, Reality Check welcomes the appointment of Rahul Gandhi as the General Secretary of the AICC.  I would much rather have any future Congress government directly led by either Rahul or Sonia (or Priyanka or Robert Vadra or their relatives). The rest of the partymen like Dr Singh, Abishek Singhvi, Pranab Mukherjee, P Chidambaram represent a peculiar type of creature (exhibiting characteristics ranging from a farm animal to a highly loyal and intelligent pet).

However, he is either incredibly naive or extremely forthright when he says :

Asserting that the only identity of Indians as far as he was concerned is their nationality — and not their religion or caste — he said if there was anything that divided India it was opportunity. Of the view that it was access to opportunity which determined the fate of an individual and thereby divided the country into haves and have-nots, the newly appointed general secretary said pro-poor policies should not be seen as charity.

Source : The Hindu

Dear Rahul, you are right on target of course. Why did you not speak up in the Lok Sabha when your HRD Minister Arjun Singh uncleji, and your southern allies were pushing for dividing the country along caste and religious lines ? Lines that they decide where to draw and a line that is not dependent on any actual data. Why did you not support Youth For Equality, who only wanted a full socio-educational-economic analysis of beneficiaries ? In contrast to your father, you did not speak up when it mattered. Do you remember the one person (in a full house of 545) who spoke up about the dangers of dividing the country along caste and religious lines ? This little known MP (Mr Tatagatha Satpathy of the BJD Orissa) knew the dangers of divisive politics.

You have to keep your peace now.

I am afraid the electoral scene is messed up for you. How on earth are you going to get a Yadav to vote for you instead of Laloo, a Vanniyar to vote for you instead of a Ramadoss ? Muslims and Christians or TN are deeply indebted to the DMK for blessing them with a religious quota, same for Muslims of AP.  Repeat this story with the Kurmis, Jats, Lingayats, Ezhavas, Muslims of Kerala, Gujjars.  The number of people who truly vote on issues / ideology has become miniscule in this country. There are a few educated jean-wearing youth, but they have access to the internet these days and they are surely not going to buy the aam-aadmi talk at face value. So that leaves you with ….. ?

You cannot hope to win divided public votes any more, like your grandma used to in the good old days. You can only hope to strike deals with their leaders. Power still tastes good, but you now need an antacid to go with it ?

This is not about opportunity, or about poverty, or about social justice. 

Did no one tell you about the number one national secret ?

Tamil blood politics

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on November 6, 2007

There is a storm brewing in a sambhar cup,

LTTE third in command Brig Tamilchelvan was killed four days back by the SLAF.  Many are saddened ( I must admit I was too). Before him, the world had never seen a smiling face, only scowls in the banned terrorist organization. This is quite a big deal for those who hoped to build communication channels into the outfit. Compared to the others like Pirabharan, Pottu Amman, and even his mentor Anton Balasingham – Tamilchelvan seemed to be someone who had his emotions under control and was ready to explore alternatives.

Shortly afterwards, the TN CM Karunanidhi pens a poem for him.  Jaya and the local TN Congress are up in arms. Not suprisingly, Sonia and the national Congress agreed to look the other side.

The issue then took a predictable turn from there. Karunanidhi went on to add :

“The person who was killed in Sri Lanka was a Tamil. And the blood that runs in me is Tamil too. So, I extended my condolence,” he added.

This is an obvious hit at Jaya because he was responding to her. She then hastened to defend her Tamilness; obviously called into question because of her caste + place of birth. This is the centrepiece (Aaniver in Tamil)  of domestic TN politics. 

“I know what he meant when he made that remark. He has apparently referred to my birth in Mysore. Though I was born in Mysore, I was born in a Tamil family and Tamil blood is flowing in my veins.”

“My mother tongue is Tamil. When we accept those born in Sri Lanka as Tamils, we should also accept those born in Mysore, which is a part of India, as Tamils,” she said in a statement here.

Source : TOI

Questioning domicile of  groups is a dangerous road to travel down. Even if we indulge the supporters of theories like ‘Aryan Invasion’ – we still have to answer many questions. For starters : How do we know which castes were Aryan and which were not ? This is not as cut and dry as Bumiputeras in Malaysia or White settlers in Australia.

About the LTTE itself

In the long past, I used to engage in endless debates with my Canada/US based SL friends on this issue. I will keep this one short.

The limitations of Tamil blood support must be clear to all.

Despite all the theatrics, the dravidian parties will not send any fighters.  This is a reality that the LTTE must never lose sight of.  Just to drive this point home, if Mohammed Hafeez of the Lashkar-e-Toiba conducts a recruitment drive in Pakistan for deployment in Kashmir, hundreds will sign up.  If the DMK were to organize a camp (as unlikely as it may be) – no one will show up.  This is where it stops.

In fact, the current Indian government (propped up by the DMK/PMK)  is sending all kinds of weapons including navy vessels to the SLA which are effectively neutralizing the critical eastern shore of the island.   

How then does the LTTE manage to still hold on ? They even have an “airforce”.  This lack of external patronage and spatial isolation is what makes the LTTE many times more potent than any Jihadi outfit. All insurgents in India (ULFA, Kashmir, Maoists) have international patrons and overland supply lines. In contrast, the LTTE operates in a small island supplied via boats. Even SL army commanders and Indian security experts like B.Raman have expressed admiration for the fighting capabilities of the LTTE (especially the now estranged Karuna). This is also their undoing, because they do not balance their military strategy with political realism. The Sri Lankans will keep pushing them closer to the edge, not necessarily because they are braver – but because they have the resources available to a state actor.

The “Tamil blood” lyrics you hear now from TN is not an expression of support to the LTTE.  Sending reinforcements or preventing military transfers to the SLA would be an expression of support. It is just the same old caste based sloganeering. It might have had some relevance in the 50’s – but not today when the state assembly has only 2 brahmins out of 236 (including Jaya and comedian SVe Shekar).

Poems never hurt anyone. So let us not make a big deal out of this one.

Emergency in South Asia

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on November 5, 2007

asia_south.jpg

What is happening to our neighbourhood ?

For all its faults, at least India is not as messed up as its neighbours. Is it really ? Due to our size we can absorb local disturbances of a scale that would have otherwise been an emergency had these areas independent administration.

Coming to the Pakistani emergency.

I hope the Indian government has storyboarded this situation. From here, things can play out in a variety of ways. Some of these include suicidal actions that are to India’s great detriment.

The Acorn blog has been covering Pakistan related issues for a long time.

Nitin wonders what India should do in this post.

Or that India’s support for Pakistan’s territorial integrity will be reciprocated by the Pakistan Army. These may well turn out to be the case, but it’s necessary to be sure. Just as it would be imprudent to translate Schadenfreude into actions that might further destabilise Pakistan, it would be imprudent for India to engage in actions that would prove gratuitous in hindsight.

Could there be a window of opportunity for offensive action aimed to preempt the wrong material from falling into the wrong hands ?

Update:

Just hearing news on TV that several envoys are asking Musharraf to exit Pakistan immediately. This could be a rumour, but it is a scary rumour.

OBC Quota – Judgement reserved

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on November 2, 2007

 

After a marathon 25-day hearing, the Supreme Court reserved its judgement on the OBC quota case.

Reporting in the media was disappointingly sparse for such a landmark case. The outcome of this case will determine the future of Laloo, Karunanidhi,  Ramadoss, Nitish, Deve Gowda, and countless other political forces that depend on the way the quota system works.

The petitioners summary

The impugned Act was unconstitutional for the reason that a wholly arbitrary power was delegated to the Centre without any guideline laid down for identifying the socially and educationally backward classes under Article 15 (5), and no machinery was provided for this purpose. Historical discrimination of certain classes was not by itself a factor for determining the beneficiaries under the 27 per cent OBC quota law, the petitioners argued.

The governments summary

In its response, the Centre said it could not be disputed that large sections were socially and educationally backward. Though the estimated OBC population was 52 per cent, the quota was restricted to 27 per cent in view of the 50 per cent cap on reservation fixed by the apex court. Further, it was not possible to exclude the creamy layer.

“The policy of reservation flows from the mandate of equality and till the time the constitutional objective of ‘real equality’ is achieved, there is a constitutional mandate on the state to have special provisions in the nature of reservation for the uplift of backward classes.”

Source : Hindu

This is completely along expected lines. The petitioners try to get the centre to come down to discuss the modalities of the quota, but the centre wants to talk about the concept of the quota. The main thrust of the petitioners is not the concept of the OBC quota itself, but the way it works on the ground (the identification of beneficiaries, the exclusion of creamy layer,the mechanisms of data collection and review). The concept of OBC quota is constitutionally valid, but only if it implementation is too.

Ram Jethmalani’s legal points

The legal blog “Law and Other Things” is providing some welcome coverage of the case.  (I do not comment there because it is a moderated blog).  There are a lot of legal fine points raised in that blog, and I do appreciate the importance of those. However, ‘legal points’ even if they are raised by the ‘king of legal points’ Mr Jethmalani should not allow the core issue to be lost in an ocean of words. I am ignoring the completely over the top submission of Mr Jethmalani that “Upper castes are to be blamed for corruption“. This is just a distraction.

Take the core issue of Art 16 (2)

(2) No. citizen shall, on grounds only of religion race, caste, sex, descent, place of birth, residence or any of them, be ineligible for, or discriminated against in respect of any employment or office under the State.

The key word here is “only”. This is rightly pointed out by Mr Venkatesan when he refers to the case of B.Venkatramana Vs State of Madras 1951.

Let us explore this a bit.

1. Lets remove the religion, race, sex.. etc from the sentence to help us focus.  What remains is this : “A citizen cannot be discriminated based only on caste in any employment or office under the state”.

2. This reduces to the following :

a)  a citizen can be discriminated based on caste + “something else”

3. Lets move along this path.

a) What are all the allowed possibilities for that “something else” ?

b) Can it be “caste” + “baldness” ? “caste” + “financial status” ? “caste” + “political affiliation” ? “caste” + “state” + “district” ? “caste” + “victims of Mughal rule” ? “caste” + “victims of denial of vedic knowledge” ? or “caste” + “anything the politicians want” ? “caste” + “victims of Aryan invasion” ?  and so forth.

4. The popular opinion is that the constitution only allows “caste” + “social and educational backwardness”. The exception of course is the SCs and STs where the constitution explicitly allows benefits based on caste (for SCs) or geography only (for most STs).

5. In Venkatramana, the court upheld the quotas for backward hindus  + dalits – but not non-brahmin hindus. The take-away from this judgement is that caste + “backwardness” is acceptable, but caste + “anything else” is not. 

In Venkatramana, the commonsense assumption is that the group “backward hindus” are distinct from “non-brahmin hindus” in the sense that if measured they would exhibit a lower level of advancement than the non-brahmin hindus.  Venkatramana does not make the case for measurement weaker, it makes it stronger.

The knee jerk, media driven viewpoint is that the petitioners are “anti-quota”. This is far from the truth. The petitioners are in favour of the OBC quota only if the system is rescued from the clutches of politicians and delivered into the hands of a data driven mechanism.

Previous coverage on this blog:

Champakam (First Amendment), Indira Sawhney -I , Kerala (Indira Sawhney II)Illogical to ask for data ? , Why cant 42% get 27%, If Lakshaweep can have only 1% unreserved, why cant TN have 4-12% unreserved castes ?