Tag Archives: government

Anna Hazare, Janlok Pal bill and the criticism

A lot has happened over the past few weeks and government has actually issued a notification and formed a lokpal drafting committee with 50% representation from the civil society.  But this has led to a lot of other events too.  This entire crusade started to be called as another freedom struggle; struggle to free the country from corruption.  However, in the midst of all this many raised several doubts and some even questioned Anna’s credibility by calling him a fake or someone with hidden agendas or someone who might be just a token face of an organisation which is behind all this. Wow!!! Sounds like the script of the Hindi political drama Rajneeti Part 2.

But let’s take the concerns one by one.  I have tried to list down all the possible questions and concerns that people raised and have tried to analyse them to the best of my sensibility. If you have any point to make please do feel free to leave a comment.

  • Many people especially media claimed that in the wake of Egypt’s Tahrir square, aam junta started to feel that we can also do an Egypt and that is why this event picked up so much momentum. I want to agree to this to some extent but I will mostly disagree. There could be many people in the crowd who were too agitated and adrenalin driven that they almost thought they would create an Egypt like situation. But when Anna started the crusade he made it very clear that the crusade is not against the government not does he intend to create any instability in the government. In fact politicians were not even entertained to come and express their solidarity.  

This movement gained so much momentum because it touched upon an open sore which effected poor and rich alike; corruption.  It was the first time that middle class and the youth who are generally considered apathetic towards the functioning of the country, participated in large numbers. The reason was, in the wake of so many scams where public money was being looted and no one being punished, there was a latent anger inside everyone and Anna could tap that. For the first time the middle class, who no politician cares for, felt important.

In a state where almost every investigation agency was almost powerless, where every politician became synonym with corruption, there came a man with impeccable integrity. Anna was the man behind forcing Maharashtra government to pass the RTI ordinance. Later, when the government wanted to amend the RTI act, Anna again started fasting to stop it from being amended. People believed in him and put their faith in him.  Agreed, that most of them did not even know or care what exactly was there or going to be there in the lokpal bill. But they were mostly expressing their solidarity. The public just wanted the goal (corruption free India) to be achieved and I don’t think really cared or thought about the means to achieve the goal. Anna looked like the man who could do this for them.

  • The crusade being anti-democratic and a blackmail: – Well, any protest is a blackmail of sorts. You want something in return to stop your protest. That is blackmail. It might be termed anti-democratic because the draft of the lokpal bill has given the lokpal  a lot of powers. It says that every public servant will be under its realm including the Supreme Court judge.  Many people are thinking that lokpal will become so powerful that it will be able to prosecute and punish anyone and thereby shake the very foundation of how India works.  What is the final bill which gets introduced is still needs to be seen.

 I however, do think that we need a powerful lokpal.  Simply because, though we do have anti-corruption bodies like the CVC, which is powerless and the CBI which is not independent, a lokpal will merge all these bodies into its realm making investigation fair and effective.  Whistle-blower and witness protection rights is also something that lokpal will deal with. The cases will move fast and if found guilty, the verdict will be quick. In a country like India, where justice is always delayed, we need a very strong lokpal and the participation of people in the lokpal is very important because, in a democracy the government is for the people, by the people. So if the public servant or the elected member is not doing his duties properly, the master meaning the public who voted them to power will have a role in the form of lokpal to question them. I think in any healthy democracy people’s participation should not be limited to just voting. Their participation should be more active.

 I don’t think lokpal is anti-democracy. I feel it could become one the pillars of democracy. However, the government version of lokpal and the public version of lokpal are very different. The main obstacle now is to reach a consensus to create a powerful lokpal and not a toothless tiger. What is presented in the monsoon session of the parliament is to be seen.  Let’s wait till then.

  • People don’t participate when there is a tribal movement or when there is a person like Irom Sharmilla fasting for almost 10 years against AFSPA:- What we keep forgetting here is, the reason why so many people came together was because we all have a common enemy i.e. corruption. When there is a tribal atrocities agitation or an agitation against human rights violation in Kashmir or the north east, we empathise with them but we generally do not go out of our way to even find out what is happening there. So many of us do not even know the names of the states and their capitals in the north-east. That’s the bitter truth. The reason is simple. Their plight does not affect us directly.

 Irom’s fasting against AFSPA did attract the Manmohan Singh government’s attention and she was told that the act will be reviewed but nothing has been done so far. It is going through the fate of the lokpal bill which was being brushed under the carpet for the last 42 years.  The government needed a jolt like what Anna could do to have them start acting on it. Irom also needs to give a jolt to the government for her issue to be addressed. In fact, AFSPA is a more complex issue because the government claims the need for it is to maintain peace and internal security of the country. Where internal security is an issue (as the government puts it) in that situation Irom has a tougher role to play to convince the aam junta to play by her side.

 Here is (from Wiki) why according to the Indian government AFSPA is important.

In 2004, in the wake of intense agitation that was launched by several civil society groups following the death of Thangjam Manorama, while in the custody of the Assam Rifles and the indefinite fast undertaken by Irom Sharmila, Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil visited Manipur and reviewed the situation with the concerned state authorities. In the same year, Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh assured activists that the central government would consider their demand sympathetically.

The central government accordingly set up a five-member committee under the Chairmanship of Justice B P Jeevan Reddy, former judge of the Supreme Court. The panel was given the mandate of “reviewing the provisions of AFSPA and advising the Government of India whether (a) to amend the provisions of the Act to bring them in consonance with the obligations of the government towards protection of human rights; or (b) to replace the Act by a more humane Act.”

The Reddy committee submitted its recommendations on June 6, 2005. However, the government failed to take any concrete action on the recommendations even after almost a year and a half. The then Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee had rejected the withdrawal or significant dilution of the Act on the grounds that “it is not possible for the armed forces to function” in “disturbed areas” without such powers.

The 147-page report recommends, “The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958, should be repealed.” During the course of its work, the committee members met several individuals, organisations, parties, institutions and NGOs, which resulted in the report stating that “the Act, for whatever reason, has become a symbol of oppression, an object of hate and an instrument of discrimination and high handedness.” The report clearly stated that “It is highly desirable and advisable to repeal the Act altogether, without of course, losing sight of the overwhelming desire of an overwhelming majority of the [North East] region that the Army should remain (though the Act should go).”

But activists say the Reddy panel despite its recommendation for the ‘repeal of the Act’ has nothing substantial for the people. The report recommends the incorporation of AFSPA in the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, which will be operable all over India.

 

United Nations view

When India presented its second periodic report to the United Nations Human Rights Committee in 1991, members of the UNHRC asked numerous questions about the validity of the AFSPA. They questioned the constitutionality of the AFSPA under Indian law and asked how it could be justified in light of Article 4 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, ICCPR. On 23 March 2009, UN Commissioner for Human Rights Navanethem Pillay asked India to repeal the AFSPA. She termed the law as “dated and colonial-era law that breach contemporary international human rights standards.”

The Attorney General of India responded that the AFSPA is a necessary measure to prevent the secession of the North Eastern states. He said that a response to this agitation for secession in the North East had to be done on a “war footing.” He argued that the Indian Constitution, in Article 355, made it the duty of the Central Government to protect the states from internal disturbance and that there is no duty under international law to allow secession.

 Non-governmental organizations’ analysis

The act has been criticized by Human Rights Watch as a “tool of state abuse, oppression and discrimination”.

The South Asian Human Rights Documentation Centre argues that the governments’ call for increased force is part of the problem.

“This reasoning exemplifies the vicious cycle which has been instituted in the North East due to the AFSPA. The use of the AFSPA pushes the demand for more autonomy, giving the people of the North East more reason to want to secede from a state which enacts such powers and the agitation which ensues continues to justify the use of the AFSPA from the point of view of the Indian Government.” – The South Asian Human Rights Documentation Centre

A report by the Institute for Defense Studies and Analysis points to multiple occurrences of violence by security forces against civilians in Manipur since the passage of the Act. The report states that residents believe that the provision for immunity of security forces urge them to act more brutally the article, however, goes on to say that repeal or withering away of the act will encourage insurgency.

In addition to this, there have been claims of disappearances by the police or the army in Kashmir by several human rights organizations.

Many human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and the Human Rights Watch (HRW) have condemned human rights abuses in Kashmir by Indians such as “extra-judicial executions”, “disappearances”, and torture; the “Armed Forces Special Powers Act”, which “provides impunity for human rights abuses and fuels cycles of violence. The Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) grants the military wide powers of arrest, the right to shoot to kill, and to occupy or destroy property in counterinsurgency operations. Indian officials claim that troops need such powers because the army is only deployed when national security is at serious risk from armed combatants. Such circumstances, they say, call for extraordinary measures.” Human rights organizations have also asked Indian government to repeal the Public Safety Act, since “a detainee may be held in administrative detention for a maximum of two years without a court order.”

United States leaked diplomatic cables

The Wikileaks diplomatic cables have recently disclosed that Indian government employees agree to acts of human rights violations on part of the Indian armed forces and various paramilitary forces deployed in the north east parts of India especially Manipur. The violations have been carried out under the cover of this very act. Governor S.S. Sidhu admitted to the American Consul General in Kolkata, Henry Jardine, that the Assam Rifles in particular are perpetrators of violations in Manipur which the very same cables described as a state that appeared more of a colony and less of an Indian state.

Earlier leaks had also stated that International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) had reported to the United States diplomats in Delhi about the grave human rights situation in Kashmir which included the use of electrocution, beatings and sexual humiliation against hundreds of detainees. Kashmir is currently administered under this very act.

 

 This above case is a very good example as to why such Anna like protest is required for the government to act. People who feel sad about why Irom’s case is not being heard but Anna’s 4 days fast was more effective sound like as if they are sad not because of the issues but because Anna did not have to set a personal fasting record to win a title. Disgusting!!!

Like I mentioned before, what Anna started was something we all could relate to and are victims of it.

  • There are some bloggers who go about saying we all are corrupt so corruption should stop at its root. Duh!!! Tell me something new. We all agree that most of us are corrupt. We grease palms when we jump signals, whenever we want to get our files noticed, when we want our work done. We also agree that to stop corruption we must not practice it too. I mean for God’ sake, Anna was not sitting there to give us moral education classes. He was there to compel the government to have civil society’s participation in the drafting committee. His job is not to start moral education classes. We all can use our judgments. We bribe people not because we love doing it. I mean c’mon, it’s our hard earned money why would I want to give it away to a corrupt person. We do it because, we want to get our work done and quickly. In India red tapism is rampant; files do not move or go missing for years if money is not paid. Letters are not answered, calls are not returned, no one is really interested in helping the aam junta or justify their salaries by coming to work or doing the job  they are getting paid for. In a situation like this, the aam junta prefers to bribe and gets his work done rather than run pillar to post. This is yet another reason why the lokpal bill is important, because it will also take cases against public servants and departments for not doing their job.

 

  • Lastly, there are many people speculating huge funds have been used, there could be some hidden agendas of the organization who are behind it. The people who are behind the lokpal are much respected people of the society and their credibility is more important for them than any hidden agenda. There could be funds which might have been used to get badges made, NGO’s which must have spent their money to get pamphlets printed and advertisements published etc. but what is wrong in that. If the cause is noble then I don’t see anything wrong. If at all there were funds being used. at least these were not public money being misused. Talking about hidden agendas, well, I suppose the writers are speculating activists or that “certain” organisation’s entry into politics. Even if that happens, I still do not see anything wrong. Where we have so many criminals as politicians if we get someone who is not a criminal and is sincere about his job as a politician then I am happy with so called “hidden agenda”

 

Our role does not end with an agitation. We need to be more active in the country’s politics. We need to be seen at the polling station and not just at agitation venues. We need to exercise our right to vote and not just our right to freedom of speech and expression. We must not vote politicians who are not worthy of it. We must rise above petty politics of caste, creed, community and language.

What we have achieved is a milestone. We need to wait for the draft to be introduced. We need to see what exactly is there in the final version and if it actually gets passed. Till then this noble cause must be supported by each and every Indian and as responsible citizens we must not believe in any bad press without checking the facts because for whatever petty gains there will be people who would be undermining and maligning the whole cause and the people behind it.

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The Missing Humane

Today I twittered, “Humans are the worst parasite on earth. Our track record proves it and all our wars are to prove who the bigger parasite is.”

My mom always says, “It takes a lot of good deed to be born as a human. To be born as a human is the best a wandering soul could get.” And she is not the only one. All Hindu preachers and believers, who believe in the cycle of birth, believe in this statement. But I sometimes wonder what is so great about being a human. We kill, we torture, we are sadists, and we are nothing but parasite. We are feeding on our planet and killing her but we don’t care. We not only kill animals but skin them alive for their skin and fur. We slit their throats and wait for them to bleed to death so that their meat is no longer forbidden by some religious doctrine and is fit for consumption. If you think you should abide by the religious doctrine then let me tell you this, religion is manmade and your conscience is god given. So who should you rather abide by? Will the earth come to an end if the animal is killed in a less torturous way which may be forbidden by some religious doctrine? Will I die of cancer if I don’t get to eat fresh, live fish which is still gasping for air on my plate? Will the human race die of severe cold if I don’t get to wear fur? Do I really need that snake skin boots or that alligator skin bag which has a hefty price tag but is the price enough for that animal’s life? I understand turning a vegetarian won’t help because to make room for agriculture we will have to cut down all the jungles. I feel the approach lies in striking a balance somewhere. We don’t need any leather or fur for our existence; we also don’t need a bull fight or animas in circus. And in situations where the animal must die why can’t we kill it by giving the least painful death.

Who ever made “zero” was a very intelligent person because he or she knew that everything is a vicious circle. We need industrialization so we need land to build industries, we show carrots to people whose land we grab for making those industries, in return the big corporate houses hold the government to ransom because they know how much the money and a global image means to the government, we keep the people unaware, ignorant and poor and also fearful of caste, community and religion so that they never get to see the true picture, so that they never can think outside their own petty issues, so that we can show carrots in the name of reservation and quota and come to power. We wage wars to fight terrorism when we are the proud parents of the monster, we use our army and motivate them in the name of love for country so that they blindly lay their lives to save their nations in Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel and so on when their own orphaned son or daughter has no place to go to have a life of their dreams. We have babies after babies, then we need more houses more land to grow food, so we cut the jungles, we mine the forests, the dry up the lakes, then we feel the heat of global warming, we see animals dyeing and attacking humans, we see water shortage and impact of it on agriculture, we see bad crops, natural disasters due to deforestation, over industrialization and greed, we see farmers in loans and farmer’s body hanging from a tree. We see scarcity of food and price rise. We also see food imports and country plunging in to debts followed by civil wars and the government toppling over. Then comes the rich man with his aid masquerading as a generous country only to rule and loot, terrorism follows, war is declared, country in military coup, weapons are brought, banks become richer, more people are killed, even more babies are born, more land is required, more jobs to be created, more demands to be met…and thus goes the cycle…

I am not religious but I believe in God. I don’t believe that humans are the greatest creation of God rather the biggest mistake by God which is why He lost interest in the world after creating humans. His biggest mistake was to power us with more of intellect and very less of conscience. Had it been the other the round things would have been lot better. Or maybe we are meant to destroy the world the only thing is that we don’t know it and if that is true then we are doing a pretty decent job at it why else then would so many animals and indigenous tribes go extinct.

Rule of Anarchy

I think I live in a jungle, no I am sure I live in a jungle village. I have run out of cooking gas and its been 25 days Bharat Gas has been efficiently inefficient in not delivering gas but delivering false promises; Gas delivery happening today at 11 a.m. which becomes 2 p.m. after 12 noon and then 6 p.m. by the time its 4 p.m. and after 6 p.m. it becomes delivery happening next day. Apparently Bharat Gas is known for their ever delaying delivery in Bangalore. However their website has all the big talks on customer satisfaction and customer being the king. The days of the monarchy being over; customer being the king backfires everywhere in Bangalore, be it plumber, who will tell you that he will come for sure, and he does come after 15 days of chasing when he realizes that the next day is a dry day and he would need more money to buy alcohol in black. Autowalahs are the shining example of customer service and performing their duties of taking us helpless commuters to our destination when it rains and IT city roads are water logged, when open drains become death traps; They simply look at you top to bottom and do a quick mental calculation which depends on how drenched you are and how far do you stay because that is exactly proportionate to the amount of fleecing that they can do.

 

Karnataka, I think, is the only state where you need a ration card to get a new connection for cooking gas. No election card, no passport (which you used to travel to USA when 9/11  happened), no nothing doing, only ration card. So what do you do if you were stupid enough to think that driver’s license, passport, voters card, pan card are all government authenticated valid documents and missed out on making a ration card? The answer is simple, you buy gas in black and the vendors will happily sell you cooking gas illegally because the state itself promotes dishonesty by tying up your hands since you don’t have a ration card. How does one get a ration card? Well I don’t know, I don’t even want to know because I anyway won’t be going to a ration shop, stand in a queue to buy my share of dust filled, husk filled, stone laden grains.

 

Why do I get a feeling that it is more useful if you are either a poor or a rich kid in this country, or may be a dalit because general category people from middle class families can’t arm twist the government nor do they get anything from the government’s kitty because the government won’t get anything from the educated middle class. They can’t brain wash us by giving us saree or free TV sets, nor can they earn heavy revenue from us because we won’t be starting a infrastructural project in their state. Yes all we do is pay our taxes on time which helps them get their salaries and buy new cars with great shock absorbers after all in Bangalore you need great shock absorbers and huge asses to take all the bumpy rides. I am sure I must have broken a few small bones already in 2 years becuase I don’t have a huge cushy ass, but repetitive torture of bumps, pot holes, open drains, no footpaths, lot of traffic has already numbed my senses to feel any more pain.

 

I have already given an ultimatum to my husband to get out of this village before I lose my mental balance and he finds me in some city mental hospital.

 

Here’s my wish list (which no one is interested in but still):- I want gas delivered on time and not wait for 20-25 days every month, I want good and intelligent customer service from my credit card company especially Citibank which goes berserk every month precisely 10 days before my due date fearing I might runaway to Afghanistan, I want good customer service from Airtel which can not provide a simple service like call conferencing, where agents don’t understand the difference between call details and call charges, I want quick resolution of petty problems like fixing water pipes which took an entire day of pestering, no 1000 bucks grocery bill where the grocery list contains potato, onion, mango, orange, bread and milk, I want better roads where I can walk without a life or accident insurance, I want footpaths and not drain covers in the guise of footpath, I want honest autowallas. Ah! Me and my huge expectations.

 

Note:- Hate comments though not welcome, will anyway get them on my blog because that’s what people do, join on-line fight clubs and not address real issues.

Pleasant Surprise and an unplesant experience

I was pleasantly surprised today when I went to SBI bank to enquire about account opening. I’ve got a new maid and thought it would be a good idea to have her account opened in a bank where she can keep her salary. Since Sanju is already an account holder in SBI we decided to go there and enquire. We went to the St. Mark’s road SBI branch and met the Branch head who greeted us very courteously and also offered us coffee. We were given a form with all the information. This came as a surprise to both of us as customer service is not something that the public sector is known for.

 

Our pleasant surprise was doubled when we went to a BSNL office on St. Mark’s road and were greeted by the courteuos staff.

 

That’s when I decided that I need to blog about the improving attitude of our government agencies. I also wanted to talk about the SBI phone banking service which is by far the best out of all the Citi bank, ICICI bank customer service.

Talking of ICICI bank reminds me of a recent bad experience that I had. One fine day I received an unsolicited call from an ICICI bank tele marketing office offering me balance transfer service. I agreed and told her that my address has changed so the draft needs to delivered at the right address. The agent told me that she would get back to me as typically it would take 48 days for a new address to get a draft from ICICI. After few minutes a supervisor calls me to confirm that the draft will be delivered to my new address. After 10 days of not receiving anything from the bank I called up the phone banking only to hear that the draft was sent to my old address and must be with the courier company. So I called up the courier company who confirmed that the draft went undelivered and has been sent to Mumbai. I called up the ICICI phone banking again for the cancellation of the draft. Instead of cancelling it the guy told me that the draft has been resent and when it will be undelivered again then only they will cancel it. Furious I write an e-mail to the ICICI customer service for a cancellation. In the meantime now the draft reaches me in their 2nd attempt and I e-mail them again for a non-cancellation since the draft has finally reached me and guess what?  I get an e-mail back saying that they have already cancelled it. So when I needed a draft they send it to a wrong address when I ask them to cancel it they re-send it and when I receive it they cancel it. I have decided to deduct the cheque bounce charges charged by SBI from the ICICI due. Anyway… that was a long story…

 

Also would want to thank the police force for the thankless job that they do without which the cities would be in total anarchy. As it happened one day when signals were not working and there was no traffic cop to manage the traffic which led to a jam of 2 and a half hours. Just imagine a day when the police goes on a strike.

 

Back to work now.