Reality Check India

Indian anti capital punishment activism

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on July 31, 2015

The probability that a criminal is caught depends on how much money the state is able to allocate to catch him.

From this flows the basic problem with imitating western arguments in criminology into a poor or developing country like India.  Indian liberals are tossing around “certainty” of catching a criminal nonchalantly as if this comes for free.  If you see the anti capital punishment literature in the United States they almost always compare themselves with other advanced, developed, OECD, countries.  It is not even clear that the following three components of criminology – catching a criminal, a fair judicial process, a mature system of incarceration – are all that accessible to a poor third world country.  Especially one like India where the rule of law is vitiated by extraneous considerations and identities.

Beneath the visible layer of law and police there exists strong societal currents with their own instincts and expectations.   The grand project has always been to collect these instincts, see if any common threads can be teased out into a code or rules, and invest the state with enforcing the replacement code. The replacement provided by the state is visible to us as a system of law and punishments represented by Khakis and Blacks that merely substitutes these instincts. There are compromises to be made by all groups while accepting this code. Biological instincts are among the most important.

A physically weak person whose child was murdered would want nothing more than death for his child’s killer. But without allies. he on his own steam may not be able to apprehend a murderer. The weaker person is therefore likely to consider attractive  the certainty of the state catching and jailing the perpetrator for one year. His basic instinct flowing from the Amygdala  (the part of the brain that guides emotion) is all the time screaming “..revenge you wimp!”. Invariably after the initial flood the Amydgala’s screaming is overwhelmed by chemicals flowing from the Cerebral Cortex  (the calculating part). The Cerebral Cortex probably goes “Look man, I know my friend the walnut sized Amydgala is the honorable response that befits a dad, a man, but look at you – you have no weapons, your limbs are weak, your allies are unreliable. Why not take the state’s deal – let them catch him and jail him for a year”.  The stronger guy may never encounter this biological tete-a-tete –  because he fancies with good reason that he has the resources to catch the killer  himself and exact retaliation. However, even the strongest guy is aware that entering into a feud is a very costly affair. These pulls and pushes guide and balance the law of retaliation  just below the surface of formal legal  processes.

This long digression was needed to show that behind violent crimes there exists real victims and families who deal with these raging chemical reactions in their heads on a daily basis.  Neither you nor I can understand what it feels like to be Rimpa Halder’s dad – nor the parents or children of modestly dressed folks whose naked limbs and torsos were stuck to buildings in the aftermath of bomb blasts.  The real evaluation of the Indian state is happening as we speak. Not just in CAG reports or by politicians but by millions of common folk.  People watching how other folks experience interacting with police and law.  The arguments these common people seek are not what international think tanks offer about ‘uncivilized Indians‘ but what folks who have the ability to put themselves in someone else s shoes are able to see.

Jaideep has an excellent article on Retribution , so I wont repeat his points here. Suffice to say that India is no different from anywhere else.  Every kid in Tamilnadu learns  in school about Kannagi who took revenge on the entire city of Madurai for an incorrect judgment from the Pandiyan king.  This does not automatically lead to an eye-for-eye doctrine of course, but the deep rooted instinct has to be recognized.

To wrap up – here are more practical questions that Indian activists and think tanks are evading. They interest me less than the meta issues involved, but just stating them here.

  • Mr Tharoor “proved” on a NDTV blog that capital punishment had no deterrent effect , quite a remarkable achievement considering scholars from across the world have struggled with it for ages. The argument goes : In  1990-2000 there were 10 executions but murder increased – but between 2000-2010 there was only one and murders decreased. Quite a stunning conclusion. These are complex multi variable issues that cant be naively analyzed like this. What if the deterrent effect kicks in only after a certain threshold?  Say 500.  What about the fact that encounter killings increased in that same period (2000-2010) that replaced the deterrent effect of formal execution?  What if fewer prosecutors push for capital punishment because of the costs involved?
  • The rarest-of-rare doctrine is actually a serviceable or workable sentencing guideline. It is clear that murders of passion, routine cases of which there are numerous of,  even cold blooded murders arising out of feud etc fall on the other side.  If you cant even service this guideline it is not sure what else can be done.  Any guidelines has to have enough headroom so as to accommodate enough individual cases into categories.  Tharoor says, criminals who commit crimes in heat of moment rarely pay attention to punishment schedules. On the other hand, cold calculating conspirators that carry out terrorist activity surely pay attention to the prevailing penal landscape. After all, they have to go out and recruit willing folks who carry out attacks on the ground. So it is not a true statement that criminals are never aware of these things. One can even argue that taking capital punishment off the table makes it easier for terrorists to recruit minions to carry out their diabolical plans.
  • Tharoor (CON) and Varun Gandhi (BJP)  castigate the judicial process itself for being biased.  I fail to see how this is a fair argument. Is it okay if a broken judicial process docks an innocent guy for 45 years in jail? These are tangential and shallow arguments. The clinching point they fail to mention is that capital punishment convicts receive a FAR more thorough hearing through the appellate process than life convicts ever will.
  • Lawyer activists never actually help out at the trial stage. Only when it comes to their neighborhood in the Supreme Court they go all out and denounce and cast aspersions on the trial court proceedings. They gain publicity for their rants through a willing media which these days are ready to take up anything anti-national. Why dont they put their money where their mouth is?  Go to the district magistrate courts – pick a criminal case – stay in a hotel and help fight the trial for free?
  • Copying western arguments on deterrence. In western countries with a high standard of living, there is a huge disincentive not to be in jail.  Outside you have wine, bars, beaches, the Rivera, jobs, a $50,000 per capita, clean air, public services –  inside you have an stainless steel mug.  In poor countries, the deterrence effect of jail is highly debatable.  Can anyone say that the squalor of a slum on the edges of a sewage river with uncertainty of income, food, petty rivalry, oppression is desirable compared to jail ? You are guaranteed food, safety, clean clothes, some work, exercise which so many can only dream of outside.

 

The thing that bothers me most about think tanks and liberals in India is that they completely skip inconvenient material. They decry the sentencing issues but keep quiet on the mercy process.   The real moral hazard is the following.

A and B are both sentenced to die after the culmination of a long judical process.

A is pardoned by politicians.

B is not.

 

This is a sure fire way to take the winds out of  the pro-DP crowd sails.   I am speechless personally and am force to concede all points.  Upon closer inspection, this argument is alarming.  What they are really saying is : We, the politicians, using the mercy process will hold the system hostage until you concede.

In effect they are using the arbitrary political process to vitiate the legal process and then use that very subterfuge to attack the judicial process itself as arbitrary !!!  A lot of everyday folk are busy with their own lives and are unable to see bogus justifications. For example : a lot of young right wingers repeat that Rajiv killers case was different because they had a 11 year delay on mercy petition. The question you should be asking is “Okay, why didnt Yakub also get a 11 year delay.”

I cried hoarse when Pratibha Patil and P. Chidambaram of the Congress Party commuted death sentences of most gruesome criminals.  This is a kind of sneaky  behaviour  that must be caught early on and politicians who ran these programs made to account for it.

 

 

end

 

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Hassan Surroor and DNA Editorial are wrong on minority educational institutions

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on July 18, 2015

The education wing of the RSS – Bharatiya Shikshan Mandal (BSM) recently announced that it would launch a judicial as well as legislative campaign to relook at the minority-majority sectarian split that lies at the root of the Indian education system both at the school and college level.  As per a very short media report :

“So, the definition of minority status should be reviewed for which there should either be a Supreme Court intervention or a constitutional amendment. We want to explore both the possibilities,” Kantikar added –
Source : IE
Pic courtesy Tribune - Parents jostling to scan lottery list.  (Indian Education Scene)

Pic courtesy Tribune – Parents jostling to scan lottery list. (Indian Education Scene)

Hasan Suroor is wrong in Firstpost

This is a high impact development that has received the expected burial in the main stream media – except two pieces. In Firstpost and another one in DNA.  Both of these pieces denounced the RSS moves – let us see if their arguments carry any merit. Hasan Suroor says :

Why the RSS is wrong on minority educational institutions ? Some of India’s most famous islands of academic excellence are minority institutions. St Stephen’s, Delhi; St Xavier’s Mumbai and Kolkata; Loyola College, and Madras Christian College, Chennai; St Joseph’s, Bengalaru; Christ College, Pune; St Francis College for Women, Hyderabad — just to name a few — are secretly sought after even by those who oppose them publicly for political reasons. But, the RSS, of course, can’t stand anything with a minority tag; Source Firstpost (emphasis mine)

Well, lets dimiss this style of argumentation for a second. There is no reason for anyone to ‘stand’ anything with any  tag.  The RSS can easily counter this by saying – “But, the Idea of India ecosystem led by Sonia Gandhi’s Congress Party, can’t stand anything with a Hindu tag”.  In fact, they would be more correct than Mr Suroor because the RSS are specifically calling out a discriminatory law while you are just waving hands.   So, let cull out all these wild ad-hominems and see if Mr Suroor is making any sense otherwise. Mr Suroor goes on to claim :

The trouble is that Mr Kantikar has got his facts all wrong. Either, he is genuinely ignorant and, if so, it doesn’t exactly reflect well on RSS credibility; or he is deliberately twisting well-established facts in other to mislead.

Well Mr Suroor isnt right on the facts either.  The contentious piece is this :

“The low percentage of minority students in minority institutions is handiwork of judiciary and government.  On top of the Supreme Court  ruling in St Stephen’s College case that no minority institution can admit more than 50 per cent of minority students, the government insists on imposing its SC/ST reservation policy (22.5 per cent) on minority institutions too. Added up, this means 72.5 per cent of the seats are automatically beyond the reach of minority students. So where is the scope for a higher minority intake in minority institutions?” asks Dr Tahir Mahmood, ex-chairman of the National Minorities Commission, and member Law Commission of India.

There is a basic maths error here – even if 22.5% (of the total) is  imposed on top of the 50% minority quota – only 50% would be out of reach of minorities and not 72.5%.   Even in institutions with an SC/ST quota it is imposed pro-rated on the 50% – therefore quota is 12.125%. We will come around to the real facts later in this article but lets turn our attention to the DNA Editorial opinion.

#realitycheckEdit  The RSS Bogey – the DNA Edit is incoherent

But rather than being influenced by ideologically motivated entities like the BSM, it is for the State to ensure that the minority status is not being misused. For example, it can stipulate that all minority aided institutions must follow the official reservation and recruitment policies. .. . An important question to be raised is the BSM’s motivations. In a country with shockingly poor learning outcomes, the BSM appears to be unhappy that more non-minority students are choosing to study in minority institutions. The BSM would have done better to campaign against schools denying admissions to EWS students under the RTI Act and the poor teaching standards in government schools. By choosing to rail against minority institutions, the Shiksha Mandal is missing the woods for the trees Source : DNA Editorial “The Minority Bogey”

I think the DNA Editorial team means to say  RTE and not RTI. Aside from the general sloppiness the edit is also incoherent. The whole piece is essentially a call to ignore the RSS and BSM because they are “Ideologically motivated entities”.  The editorial also calls for stipulation that minority institutions to follow reservation policy and recruitment. Ahem! This is exactly what the BJM is calling for!   This can only happen if the body of laws and regulations are reopened as RSS/BSM wants. There is no way to arbitrarily stipulate these new rules. The current legal position is not only a product of 50 years of communal activism in education but also of the policies of the UPA government over a decade.  That regime under the leadership of  Sonia Gandhi enacted the 93rd Amendment , established the NCMEI, and passed the Right to Education Act. All of them explicitly discriminate against Hindus. The closing of the edit is meaningless – you cant tell RSS what to do. They may also push for higher maths and science standards in govt school in addition to taking on this challenge.

Why the RSS and Bharatiya Shiksa Mandal (BSM) initiative must be welcomed

Now let me explain why the BSM initiative must be welcomed. The rest of this article lays out the spread of education laws and the sectarianism that has been baked in. Those who are just education consumers may be less than impressed but remember these are life-death issues for those who are trying to be suppliers.

The real facts about Minority quotas

For aided minority institutions

The rule established by St Stephens judgment  is 50% must be from the minority community.  Unfortunately the expected precision is lacking from most judgments in this area. The rule was that the state can regulate intake in minority-aided institutions no more than 50%.  This has come to mean in practice a 50-50 split with the minorities granted their own admission rules in the open category 50%. They are exempt from the OBC quota and it isnt entirely clear if they can be exempt from SC/ST quota too.  See the cases in Sindhi Educational Society v NCT Delhi (2010) SC and  Federation of Catholic Faithful  vs Tamilnadu (2014) Madras HC. We will get to this in a moment.  It is also important to note the distinction between aided schools vs aided colleges. Post #RTE the aided minority schools are exempt from the law in toto.

For unaided minority institutions

There was no set rule.  After the cases in the TMA Pai troika  the minority and Hindu run unaided institutions were on the same level (give or take a few). Post enactment of the 93rd Amendment and the RTE Act the ground has completely shifted from under the Hindu unaided schools. This is why the RSS/BSM move is of an urgent nature.  The entire gamut of top schools across the country  from St Columbas to Bishops to Campion to La Martiniere  fall under the unaided minority category. The essence of the argument is –  schools that have low minority student ratio are exempt from all burdens imposed only because the management happens to be clergymen or individual minority born persons.  This leads to the following absurd situation for example :

where Christian run School with 5% Christians is exempt but Hindu school with 5% Christians is met with full force of the burdens imposed by the law.

There have been efforts in Karnataka and Maharashtra to peg the minority student content anywhere from 25% to 75% – but they have not been fructified because the folks are unable to think with clarity and establish new principles or even to defend existing one. If I may speak for a moment on behalf of RSS/BSM – this is the hub of the issue. Parity.

Benefits of minority status in Indias education sector

First folks have to understand the astounding benefits that ‘minority’ status bestows on an educational institution. Here is a quick summary.

Note that this list varies in minor ways from state to state. Some go over and some under. The general benefits remain the same across all states.

1. Aided minority institutions are usually aided upto 95% of the salary of the staff. This comes out of all taxpayer money. This is where St Stephens case (1991) got it wrong.  The state is essentially subsidizing 50% christian quota by tax money which all Indians including Hindus, Christians, and Muslims pay.

2. Minority Aided schools or colleges do not have to follow the TEACHERS quota for SC/ST. They can promote a pure meritocracy (whatever that means) or innovate in this matter.  ( See Sindhi Society Case )

3. Minority Aided schools or colleges can hire Hindu faculty without any limit. Only the top management is permanently with the clergy.  For example : St Stephens has a large Hindu teaching body.

4. Minority Aided can apply own selection criteria for students. This was actually the real issue with St Stephens case (1991). They wanted to add a written test + interview on top of DU rules. The court allowed them that autonomy.  Today Stephens is able to break the grade inflation induced tie-breakers by conducting a written test and interview.  Hindu colleges  have to follow DU rules strictly.

5. Minority Unaided and Hindu Unaided pretty much has the same freedom after TMA Pai.  But as soon as CON swept into power in 2004 the first thing they did was demolish TMA Pai by passing the 93rd Amendment.  As it stands  the wording of Article 15(5) – introduced by the 93rd Amendment –  is very wide and practically transfers the entire (unspecified) social burden only on Hindu run schools and colleges. The language also redundantly and explicitly excludes minorities.

6. Minority aided can innovate promotion of their teaching cadre. They need not follow seniority rules, or go to the govt employment exchanges for new vacancy. They can advertise and recruit on their own.  Denied to Hindus

7. Minority aided college need not have a University nominee on board. Even one. In many cases, including St Stephens the Church of North India clergymen have total control of the affairs of the institute.  Similarly minority schools need not have a Govt Education Officer on board.  The ratio in   State of Kerala v Very Rev Mother Provincial (1970)  still holds the field. In that case, the impugned provisions were like this. Minority colleges were to have a governing board of 11 members – 6 from the college itself (thus a simple majority) and among the balance of 5 the principal and manager of the college. Thereby making up a majority of 8-3. The remaining three were to be University Nominee+ Teachers nominee + Govt appointee.  Even this hopeless minority oversight of these taxpayer aided colleges were rejected by the court.

8. Minority colleges (Aided by govt) are completely exempt from OBC quota. They are also exempt from the SC/ST quota post a 2014 judgment that interpreted the 93rd Amendment to be so. News report “Minority colleges out of quota purview”  and judgement in Federation of Catholic Faithful vs TN

9. Minority colleges in Mumbai also have a 15% management quota on top of the 51% set aside for minorities. They are free to fill this with anyone.

10. There is no need for Minority to be run by a religious trust – a single minority person can run a school and get all the exemptions. Deccan Education Society vs Karnataka.

11. The minority institutions can impart a totally secular education identical to that imparted by the HIndu school across the street.  This is actually the crux of the issue in a epic 9 Judge Bench in Ahmedabad St Xaviers vs State of Gujarat (1974) a 44 year old case. Among other things like exempting St Xaviers from University interference in selection the case delinked ‘preservation of culture’ (Art 29) from ‘right to establish and run’ (Art 30).  At this point, it isn’t exactly clear how the below absurdity does not follow.

Do institutions established by minorities that are engaged not in preservation of culture, but destruction of culture also avail of legal exemptions?  Conversely Can a Hindu establish a school that has a clergyman come in and conduct regular Catechism and then avail of minority benefits because obviously he is promoting preservation of culture that even Stephens and Xaviers do not insist on?

These are simple absurdities that would never get past the “Golden Rule of interpretation” that western societies  have evolved over time from the period of Modernity. Is this alien to Indians ?

12. Takeover of minority institutions.   Tamilnadu and other states have excluded minority institutions from takeover provisions, at best, they can appoint a minority member beloning to the same religion. [ Refer to News Report “State cannot takeover minority school management“]   Most folks may not have heard of  the All Bihar Christian Schools vs State of Bihar, a landmark case where the state took over non -minority schools. The rule today is : only if a minority school itself makes a representation to takeover that is possible.

13. Permission to expand class size and hiring.  A minority aided school in many states like TN can first expand to cater to demand and then apply for aid to pay for the new teaching/non-teaching staff capacity.

14. Selection of teachers.  No university, govt, civil society, or teachers union (body) representative can be imposed on the selection panel when hiring teachers in minority aided colleges.  In Hindu colleges in addition to faculty reservation and other rules regarding seniority based hiring, there is presence of govt,university,and teachers.

15. Private goods.  The Congress government with such scholars like Shashi Tharoor in the Humam Resources Department ministry introduced schemes like IDMI which were grants given to private minority institutions and denied to a similarly situated (and bearing all of the above legal burdens) Hindu school across the street. This may be an aberration and may not be repeated in the current MHRD, but lets not forget 2019 is not far off.

16. Establishment. A minority and Hindu have different processes – while a number of formalities may appear to be the same, minorities who face difficulty in obtaining a NOC (No Objection Certificate) in the states can approach the NCMEI and get that case heard by a minority only panel. The NCMEI also has the power to issue a minority certificate.  This is not a minor issue (no pun) as the NCMEI has issued thousands of such certificates post the 93rd Amendment. See my article “Bulkwarks erected against redefining minorities in India’s education system

Post #RTE the situation has dramatically changed.

Prior to the 93rd amendment ; even though the aided minorities were getting all of the above benefits denied to Hindus, the unaided institutions were on parity more or less. However, the Congress Govt aided by the Sonia Gandhi NAC, disrupted the status quo. Even though the public face of Congress is goofy the inner core appears to work strategically.  The Congress first passed the 93rd Amendment to the Constitution and then instituted the NCMEI. I have blogged about these TWIN initiatives of Congress extensively in “A Brief History of the 93rd Constitutional Amendment“.  Post RTE the Hindu institutions are under an open-ended liability under a statute capable of very wide interpretation.  There is no rationale to either the 25% quota nor to the stopping of quotas at Class 8. The NGO activists who spun off from the Congress party’s NAC  and founded the Aam Aadmi Party are now taking this further. They are now slotting various conducts of Hindu run schools into a criminal code. For instance, a screening procedure – which is an essential component of autonomy – would result in MINIMUM 5 year jailterm and a MAXIMUM 10 year. A school principal who decides who to admit is being punished like a rapist murderer.

To give you an idea of how skewed the 93rd Amendment is – I present this passage from the Sindhi Education Trust v NCT Delhi  (2010)  case

1. Article 15(5) of the Constitution excludes the minority educational institutions from the power of the State to make any provision by law for the advancement of any social or backward classes of the citizens or for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in relation to their admission to educational institutions including private educational institutions whether aided or unaided. This Article is capable of very wide interpretation and vests the State with power of wide magnitude to achieve the purpose stated in the Article. But, the framers of the Constitution have specifically excluded minority educational institutions from operation of this clause

Framers of the Constitution? Really?

Article 15(5) was introduced, not by Ambedkar or Patel – but  by Congress stalwart Arjun Singh aided by Sonia and likes of Kejriwal in the NAC.  Are these the framers of the constitution?  This is the real problem with an unchecked culture of amendments that mutilate the original document.  We confuse the ‘framers’ with the ‘mutilators’. In the end there is no spirit – the amendments are several times more voluminous than the original.

This sectarianism in education only in India ?

There is no country in the world with this skew. There is Ireland – but Catholics are a majority there and there is already a movement afoot to start a debate on that.  One can raise the issue of state funding Catholic schools in province of Ontario in Canada. Catholics are a minority in Ontario but majority in Quebec. This is a rich country with quality public schools and this special protection was negotiated by a 150 year old  treaty. There is already a debate in Canada to end this. United States has the cleanest separation – the state will not touch by way of taxpayer money any religiously controlled school or college. France has issue too but once again France is majority Catholic (nominally). Iran ironically, the country of Fali Narimans forefathers outlaws minorities from running schools.  UK faith based schools can be funded but they must be faith based not normal schools merely controlled by practitioners of a certain faith.  Face it ; this is a unique Indian invention. I fully understand that India does not need to copy the western societies and can blaze its own path, so I wont dwell on this further. It is however important to keep in mind that equality is the norm everywhere and India is the outlier.

Should minority body be the yardstick?

This may not be desirable but is better than the current definition.  Insisting on a minority student body at , say 80% places a natural check on the ability of these institutions to proliferate.  Once again, I remind readers that no one is against CHRISTIANS or MUSLIMS or JAINS operating schools under the SAME rules as Hindus. They are free to proliferate under a secular law. I had to sneak in this obvious sentence to avoid being accused of various atrocities.  The reason this rule wont work in the short run is the quantity of minorities must be high enough such that Hindus do not misuse this route and turn it into an absurdity.

For example if the minority quota is only 10%;  and the rule was minority body is the yardstick;  then a Hindu should also be able to start a school with 10% minority quota and gain the exemption.

Linguistic?

Suroor castigates the RSS for not railing against the linguistic minorities. I think he is wrong on that, from media reports it is clear the RSS wants to introduce a non-sectarian regime in education. That would automatically submit the linguistic minority to the same regime. On a side note, while linguistic minorities are equally abhorrent to equality in edu. If you believe in the logic that there are forbidden grounds for discrimination then linguistic minority is a lesser evil than religious or racial minorities.

The way forward.

I hope I have explained how despite the crass name calling from the Liberal and Idea of India camp – it is the Chaddiwallahs, that have modernity on their side in this particular case.

Now, what is the way forward.

To find a way forward there needs to be practical compromises keeping in mind principles of harm. Why should this be discussed at this time? First  everyone must admit that the RSS and aspiring Hindu education providers have clinching arguments from their side. The current situation is also not a tenable one because due to social media it is no longer possible to divert peoples attention or to prevent the debate from taking place entirely. Some intellectuals lament the absence of ‘constitutional method’ – here is RSS using a constitutional method and is being ignored completely or being attacked for wearing Chaddis. For constitutional methods to work India needs folks with genuine curiosity and honesty, those who can spot valid arguments and engage with them irrespective of who is making them.

— end

Mahabalipuram Entry Toll ; should this be illegal

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on July 14, 2015

The tourist town of Mahabalipuram (Mamallapuram) in Tamilnadu about 60 odd Kms south of Chennai has  the following rule.

  • All Cars/Vans entering the town pay 40 Rupees
  • All bikes pay 10 Rupees
  • This is not linked to any actual tourist visit – even transiting the town attracts this toll

There was a news item in todays Deccan Chronicle print edition that one Advocate Sudhan has approached the Madras High Court against this practice. Apparently he was approached by some youth who stopped his vehicle and demanded Rs 40  –  he protested and approached the Police station in Mahabalipuram. They dissuaded him and warned him some big shots were behind this and asked him to be careful. He then took the case to Madras High Court. I personally have faced this and have managed to control my rage. I am so happy that someone has tried to bell the cat. This issue may appear to be a trifling one but I think this case involves some very fundamental issues.

The basic question  is this

Can residents of a town, which is in endowed with some tourist attraction  impose a toll on all outsiders  ?

Yes. Why Yes?

No. Why No?

Is this question worth examining in detail ? Is it  simpler just to fork out the 40 bucks and not exert brain cells over this ? This is exactly what millions of people have been doing for years now. This issue is now before Chief Justice Kaul – let us see if we can examine this issue and extract any ground rules/principles. Before that the toll imposed must possess the following three characteristics.

First : The town is endowed with a tourist attraction that is immovable by nature.  For example – the town has a geographical feature, an archaeological or historical structure.  If the town has a less permanent attraction  ; like  Bars, Hotels, a Fair – then those are mobile. If the tolls are high those attractions can move.

Second: The tolls are collected by a local body. This is not just a bunch of thugs. They are youth hired by the local government to collect the tolls.

Third : The tolls are not specific to any specific goods or services. In Mahabalipuram – you have to pay a separate fee for parking, fees for each tourist monument. You may not visit any monument but you still have to pay the toll. It is basically an entry tax. There is a by-pass road nearby but that does not in any way mean you are prevented from transiting Mahabalipuram via the town.

Given the above three properties of the toll. The following arguments will certainly be advanced by its supporters.

Look punk we are local body govt who represent the town of Mahabalipuram. We are lucky to be endowed with archaeological structures and we have every right to monetize the tourist flood. This toll money will be used for various goods.

The argument sounds good but is actually hollow. The fault in this argument is not if they can monetize but how they monetize. The tourist flood spends tons of money in various shops selling trinket and food. This is how the majority of townfolk get the money. Also each service such as the parking lot charges separately. Those are  legitimate income streams. Imposing a tax on all Indians entering the town is not because it impinges on freedom of movement (Art 19(4). The fact that there are a) zero services in exchange for this money and b) that only paying the toll buys you the freedom of movement only proves there isnt any grounds for restricting this.

So my rules would be as follows.

  1. No entry tax for any town
  2. Tolls allowed only for roads that are specifically designated
  3. No local body has power to impose entry tax on anyone unless there is a law passed by the state legislature to that effect
  4. If there are other kinds of tolls they must be in exchange for a very specific service such as parking, paid toilets, etc

Another variant of this abhorrent practice seen in almost all temple towns in Tamilnadu goes like this. You go in a car and park anywhere near the temple – say 2-3 streets away –  some kid will run up to you and stick a token in your hand for 20-50 bucks.  There is no explicitly marked parking lot. Therefore this is just an tax on anyone who comes to the temple in a car.  The politics behind this are very simple. Local dominant groups trying to extract a tax from outsiders in the absence of weak legal framework.

Ask yourself – you agreed for 40 bucks. Will you agree for 100 bucks?  What if you had a car load of kids eager to visit ?  What if you were poorer ?

Hope this petition succeeds and all tolls levied by local bodies  that are in the nature of entry toll are declared illegal.

LOLWATCH 2 : Vyapam, more minority colleges in Delhi (Sikh)

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on July 6, 2015

Vyapam (MPPEB) Exam board deaths

In unison, all the media houses have abandoned the hugely entertaining Lalit Modi “saga” and rolled over the Vyapam scam. The focus is on the death of people involved with the scam. The latest ones being the death of a journalist with Aaj Tak and a Dean of Jabalpur medical college.  We’ve even seen journos take a vow to “report the hell out of it” and “vyapam every night” and so forth.

Vyapam is education corruption. In a third world country such as India, it is absolutely critical that institutions that serve as gates to the few opportunities are protected with a fierce resolve. The AIPMT exam leak, the AIIMS leak all fall into the category of crimes that undermine this institution.  What happens if exam and selection institutions are undermined? People lose their faith in the capabilities of the state itself and fall back to asking for community wise sharing of opportunities. Therefore, exam scams are a particularly vicious type of crime against the state that must be aggressively investigated and prosecuted. This is also a fit crime for exemplary punishment as we are looking for deterrence.

Therefore, the media spotlight on Vyapam is welcome. However the focus on the 48 deaths over 8-9 years missing the point. It is important to note that Vyaapam is not like 2G – the criminal act is not a single discrete one rather it is a systematic and widespread cheating on hundreds of exams. The media headlines in next few days will be along ” X linked to Vyapam dies”.  The keyword is “linked” – there are more than 2,000 in custody and thousands who have benefited from cheating and a few thousands more who are suspected of cheating. There would hardly be an educationalist, bureaucrat, or politician involved in recruitment who is NOT linked to the systematic cheating culture that is the Vyapam scam. Therefore the number of deaths , be it natural or murder, should be placed in the context of how many (Lakhs?) linked to the cheating. It is also a fact that the poison is oozing out in BJP ruled MP but is it out of the ken of possibility that the same cheating is not prevalent in UP, Bihar?

Quite tragic that the people of the state would indulge in cheating – but that is linked to whether criminals get caught. This is especially true of cheating at the funnel points , the gates in ones life. That doctors who cheated now perform surgeries and those that did not, lost out and are medical representatives peddling their drugs to these very cheats. This immorality is rooted in crime. It is time the might (whatever is left of it) of the state crack down and bring these quacks and their helpers who committed these high crimes to justice.

 

 

More colleges get minority tag in Delhi

However, four colleges under the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee — Guru Gobind Singh College of Commerce, SGTB Khalsa College, SGND Khalsa College and Mata Sundri College — have not released their third cut-off list

In a circular sent to the principals of these colleges, the committee has written, “In view of the order passed by the Delhi High Court… in upholding the minority status of the colleges, certain benefits will be available to us…You are, thus, directed not to declare and hold on to the third list for three days…”

Source : IE

Four college including Khalsa now have the coveted minority tag. This was after a Delhi High Court judgement upholding the granting of minority status by NCMEI. With this status these colleges do not have to follow the reservation system for SC/ST/OBC and can avail of a plethora of benefits such as autonomy in a number of areas like faculty recruitment. The SC category is optional and some of them might announce that as a compromise, but it is important to distinguish between voluntary behaviour and legal mandates. With this the colleges under the Gurudwara Committee join the exalted ranks of Stephens and Jesus & Mary as minority institutions.

I maintain the same rules for any community running education, only if you admit > 90% from your community can you avail of special benefits. These colleges will now admit 50% from open category, therefore turning them into secular colleges which should be under a uniform law regime. I cannot emphasize how central this issue is to the Indian political economy.

 

 

LOLWATCH: Intro, Caste census, Haryana EWS RTE, Jat quota..

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on July 4, 2015

LOLWATCH is a new experiment I am starting today.  Since my highly intellectual political and social punditry refuses to be confined to 140 characters most of my tweets turn into ‘tweet series’.  Everyone knows tweet series are like goat droppings, a poor substitute for bovine dump.  With LOLWATCH my reactions to various news items will be on one page with a single tweet pointing to the blog link where the treasure can be found.

 

Socio Economic Caste Census released

Provisional findings of the Socio Economic Caste Census (SECC), first reported by The Indian Express last week, recognise “multidimensional” aspects of poverty and will form the basis for determination of beneficiaries of government schemes in rural areas. Conducted between 2011 and 2013, it will facilitate identification of the poor and deprived in rural areas.

Source : IE

If you see what they’ve released it does not include any caste information at all. So this is like Vada-Paav without the Vada.

The caste census itself was commissioned in a highly reckless manner by the Congress Party and supported by BJP. Why is the Indian state so nervous about releasing the data which it spent thousands of crores collecting?  The social order promoted by Idea of India depends on ad-hoc power and benefit sharing. The system is stable only  if groups do not know exactly how much others have been getting. This media piece reflects the nervousness : “Caste data held back due to social upheaval fears”  the analysis gets it completely wrong.  The real issue is not finding out what the actual OBC percentage is in the population but whether a particular caste can be classified as OBC.

Cant pay for EWS kids : Haryana Govt

GURGAON: The Haryana government has conceded that the admission of thousands of EWS (economically weaker section) students in grades I to VIII in private unaided schools was put on hold as it entailed “hundreds of crores of rupees”.

The state government’s admission was contained in an affidavit submitted recently to the Punjab and Haryana high court. The admissions were put on hold by the state on May 1 in clear violation of a high court order issued on April 1 this year.

Source : TOI

Imprecise terminology is the hallmark of all RTE stories. Schools have no defence against non-payment because the matter is related to cross subsidy and Idea of India style judicial thinking.

The story goes like this. You are running a mid level school and your fees for paying students are 40,000 per year/student. The state only gives you Rs 11,000 because that is what they spend in govt schools.  A  westerner would stop right here and say – ‘are you crazy?’ This is nothing but confiscation. Our free market think tanks are comfortable with this. But lets carry on.

Therefore the balance Rs 29,000 is spread out to the other students in the form of cross subsidy. The Idea of India jurisprudence is marked by the absence of principles as court seeks to strike a balance and reconcile by playing around with amplitudes and percentages. One of the reasoning tools they use is induction. It goes like this. “You’ve already agreed to X, the matter in front of us is X+1. On what basis are you opposing that”. This is an extremely tricky situation to get out of.  You have agreed to bear a 29,000 burden – why not bear 11,000 more?

The answer is we need honesty and clarity in our think tanks. When laws like this come out they must be rebuked for what they are in no uncertain terms. Too much to ask?

 

Jat bodies to cut off supplies to Delhi on Sep 28. Threaten immolation or conversion

Jat bodies on Friday threatened to seal Haryana border along Delhi and cut off all supplies to the national capital if the Union government fails to implement reservation for the community before September 28.

A meeting has been called at Jat Dharamshala in Kurukshetra on July 12 to intensify their movement for inclusion in Other Backward Classes (OBC) quota, said Nafe Singh Nain, chief of Sarv Jat Khap Panchayat, at Narvana area here.
Source : Statesman

A debatable judgment excluding Jats from quota. Also telling how in Idea of India framework outside groups find it increasingly hard to get in as the inside group acquire power.

Will blog later, but the Jat Quota judgment got it opposite. Not only is relativity the correct yardstick to evaluate claims of backwardness – but it is the only possible yardstick. During the deliberations to study backwardness of Jats it was discovered that Kurmis and Ahirs were ahead of Jats on many parameters that involved state benefits. In my view that is all that is required. All a group has to do to gain inclusion is to show that there is atleast a single group that is ahead of them in representation and is included.   This also tells you about the dangers of Idea of India style ‘accommodation of groups’. Initially the accommodation is easy. You go from 0(inside):100(outside)  to 30:70; then 40:60. Since these accommodations directly reflect political power – as inside groups gain in numbers they will make it harder for outsiders to come in. So at 51:49  – they can effectively shut out anyone trying to gain OBC status. To me it is remarkable that Jats are having such a harrowing time availing quota while 73% of Tamilnadu have been casually classified as OBC without a murmur.