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A human rights based approach to disasters

A human rights based approach to disasters
anita cheria and edwin
[1]
‘It rains on the rich and the poor alike, but more on the poor since the rich have umbrellas’.
Extended a little, it provides a snapshot of the differential effect of disasters. While disasters may or may not affect everyone equally, disaster response is unequal, being a factor of affluence. Both the directly affected and the relief workers respond within the social frameworks that are based on stratification, bias and prejudice.

This note looks at the necessity for a human rights based approach [HRBA] to disasters, and some pointers on what such an approach would look like. It is to introduce the concepts for discussion. It looks at certain principles of what an HRBA would have, and then the areas of special attention. The HRBA is, as its name suggests, an approach, but it does have measurable outputs and increased efficiency. Its applicability is cross-cutting and inter-sectoral.

This note draws from the fact-finding report of Annie Namala of the National Campaign for Dalit Human Rights [NCDHR] for the section on Caste, Children in Disasters After the cameras have gone: A report for Plan UK November 2002 [Edited by Amer Jabry] for Children and the Gender and Disaster Network for the gender aspects. We thank them, as also the innumerable others who shared with us their experience of the 2004 December Tsunami relief, Kashmir and Latur earthquakes, and the Orissa Super Cyclone.

1 Why an HRBA to disasters?
A disaster is an event or a process that is beyond the capacity of the entity to cope. Disasters can be natural, such as a flood, tsunami or earthquake, or manmade such as a war, riot or genocide. It requires external support to surmount. Disasters do not change basic human behaviour, only intensifies the inherent, ingrained characteristics. Thus the truism that they bring out the best and the worst of human behaviour. It is precisely due to this reason that HRBA is all the more necessary during disasters: because disasters do not affect everyone equally, and the traditionally disadvantaged face more violations of their rights.

Avoidable starvation, preventable illness and predictable disaster are political events due to corporate globalization and neoliberal politics in the rich countries, and the rich in all countries, where almost all disaster industry agencies, including bingos live. There would be no tsunami disaster in Tamilnadu, and certainly not in this scale, if the government of Tamilnadu did not eye the coastal land for at least the past two decades and embark on a process of hostility and deliberate neglect.

A HRBA is to ensure that the response is not biased, the relief is not exclusionary, the rehabilitation is inclusive and the reconstruction is equitable. A rights and solidarity based approach has multiple advantages. It is based on clearly identified and articulated values, codified under internationally accepted law and voluntarily accepted by states. It recognises the agency of the poor and supports them in change at the pace they determine. It provides space for action of the poor themselves, space for solidarity of the non-poor, clear duties and responsibilities for the state, and non-negotiable minimum standards and deliverables in social, economic, cultural, civil and political rights.

1.1 An optional extra?
Human rights is often seen as an optional extra. However, the core concern of human rights is to ensure a ‘right to life with dignity for all at all times’. There is a need for a reality check on attitudes towards the needy.

Even during disasters, people are acutely conscious of their dignity. The constant refrain—from the earthquake in Gujarat to the south Asian Tsunami—was that ‘we are not beggars’. The mountains of affluent middle-class ‘donated’ clothing discarded by the victims on the streets of the affected towns and villages confirm that assertion. Even in the midst of despair, they did not want second-hand clothing. They were disaster affected, but they were not beggars. They did not want charity, but they wanted support to become self-sufficient again. They stoutly rejected sympathy and ‘handouts’. There are of course deeper structural reasons but this desire for dignity alone is reason enough to make HRBA important.

HRBA addresses both the dynamic, ever changing process of poverty, while simultaneously addressing the vexed issue of intersectionality—multiple forms of vulnerability and discrimination that are more debilitating. This ensures that the entire gamut of poverty creation is addressed, but the more vulnerable who suffer more deprivation gets more priority though the needs of all are addressed.

1.2 Vulnerability and response: State infrastructure
The government’s response is hampered by the very design of its infrastructure. States have infrastructure—both physical and mental—to take from the poor and give to the rich. This is an intrinsic characteristic of institutional systems: they take from others and give to their constituency. Trade unions have systems to get and deliver benefits, goods and services to their members—often organised labour. Civil society organisations [CSOs], in contrast, have the infrastructure to take from the rich and give to the poor. The state infrastructure is based on force or the implicit threat of use of force, while CSO infrastructure is based on voluntary compliance. Despite such difference in infrastructure, constituencies and character, the state and CSOs need to work together. Relief and reconstruction is hardly likely to be voluntary, tension-free or ‘neutral’ and so requires government backing. CSOs can only monitor that it reaches the last mile. Even here, actual end user ownership can be insured only by organisations of the affected. Since these are ‘contested institutions’ in a stratified society, their impartiality is often in question.

That the state always consists of the dominant is a given. What is expected of the state is only that it be an honest broker. Impartiality of the state is seldom expected by experienced social activists. But no matter how bad the state, CSOs cannot match its reach or resources. Ensuring the state fulfils its duties becomes a survival need.

1.3 Vulnerability: The structural implications
There are certain sections of people who are more adversely affected by disasters. They are the excluded of any society—whether intentional or unintentional—and is only a continuation of the ‘peacetime’ exclusion. It is important to recognise that these same groups of people are more vulnerable to human rights violations than others during and after a disaster. Those vulnerable both during the disaster and in its aftermath are the poor, mostly minority, residents.

However, poverty is human-created. Despite the knowledge of the impending storm ‘Katrina’, government authorities in USA did not evacuate the city's poorest residents. Those staying in luxury hotels were able to buy their way out. The difference between life and death was the difference of being able to pay a few dollars for their bus ticket out of New Orleans. In case of deaths by accidents, the governments routinely pay out different compensations to those travelling by road, rail or air. A human rights approach is required to minimise these disparities at least for the basic survival needs.

2 Effects
To reiterate, disasters do not affect everyone equally. While manmade disasters target specific individuals and groups—and therefore are designed to have asymmetric effects—the difference in impact is as stark even during ‘natural’ disasters. This is because the poor and disadvantaged live and are located in the most vulnerable geo-political areas, with the most fragile life-support and coping systems. They do not have the strategic depth to absorb the impact of disasters. Their whole life alternates between a permanent crisis and disasters.

The vulnerable groups are dependent on the dominant for their livelihoods. So they are often made to ‘wait for their turn’ till the dominant get their lives back on even kneel. This ‘waiting’ is all the more difficult since their buffers are much less than the affluent. The powerful prevent the aid from reaching the vulnerable sometimes by physical force and intimidation, but oftentimes by simply cornering the benefits since the dominant are often the conduits through which the affected are identified and the aid is distributed.

All of society’s vulnerable groups bear a disproportionate burden of disaster. This is in addition to the effects on others. Where there are multiple vulnerabilities—such as a Dalit girl who faces discrimination due to age, sex and caste—discrimination is multiplied that many times. Though in this note we look only at two vulnerable sections, the children and Dalits, there are many such vulnerable groups that can be identified:
• The poor.
• Senior citizens.
• Women.
• Children.
• The differently-abled.
• The minorities: ethnic, linguistic, religious, sexual, … ‘the other’.
• The sick and injured, whether hospitalised or not.
• … and all the traditionally powerless.

2.1 Children
The tragedy of children is not only that they are the most vulnerable in a disaster, but of their exploitation in the aftermath. They are the most photographed and least listened to members of society in relief and reconstruction. Though most of the resources for rehabilitation are raised on the strength of these images that tug at the heartstrings, they are excluded in all aspects of reconstruction. Though some do ask ‘what is the child’s best interests’ it is seldom answered by children. The answer is frequently given by adults.

Children often are kidnapped and trafficked into sex work, begging or crime by organised crime. They are often given in adoption or institutional care, uprooting them from their communities and culture, increasing stress levels and trauma, by well meaning but misinformed persons.

2.2 Caste
Social response
Even a disaster of the magnitude of the South Asian 2004 tsunami could make the affected come together. The fisher-folk refused to be put together with the ‘untouchable’ Dalits. The Dalits were forced into different shelters. They were discriminated against during relief also. For instance in Karaikal, one of the tsunami affected villages in Tamilnadu in South India, the fisher-folk received 60 kilograms of rice while the landless agricultural labourers—mainly Dalits—received only 5 kilograms. This is bizarre since both have lost their livelihoods: the fisher-folk lost their boats and nets and thus the ability to fish while the Dalits lost their ability to get work on lands since the land became saline with the ingress of the sea. Even the government segregated the relief camps. So strong is the hold of the caste system that even in their distress, others refused to inter-dine or share relief camps with Dalits.

The religio-cultural internalisation of caste displayed its devastating consequences when the fisher-folk, who consider themselves as a Backward Class, routinely denied aid for the Dalits who were equally affected in some pockets. They maintained that the fisher folk, and only the fisher folk, were affected so all aid should be to them and them alone. While this appropriation of aid and monopolising sympathy can be justified based on some convoluted logic, what is totally unjustified and immoral was the absolute refusal of the fisher folk to even share accommodation with the Dalits even for a day! They were afraid that their contact with the Dalits would pollute them. It is a sobering fact that even a humanitarian crisis of such enormous proportions could not weed out the inhuman caste discrimination and bring about solidarity.

State response
Ironically, Dalits were imported from other areas to bury the dead.[2] At about 3.30am on 27 December 2004, the government woke up about 700 sleeping Dalit sanitary workers from Tiruchi, Palani, Pollachi and Madurai and transported them in lorries to Nagapattinam to unearth and bury the dead bodies. They were not given gloves, masks or gumboots that were supplied even to passers by, had no toilets to wash, were not supplied soaps and had to make do with a makeshift bath under whatever wayside tap or nearby tank they could fine. There were no arrangements for their food and they were forced to request food from the relief supplies, which was given as ‘charity’ to them. They had to wait for their food, while the cooked food was being served to other relief workers—simply because common dining is still not on the government agenda even after 50 years of abolishing untouchability in the Constitution in continuation of discriminatory caste practice.

2.3 Religion
Religion and practice
In times of personal tragedy, religion often provides comfort and support. One would expect that religion would be a source of comfort in the times of natural calamities and disasters. Unfortunately it is not so. It is in these times that the institutional religions—all of them—display their expansionist and parochial behaviour. The December 2004 tsunami is perhaps the best example of the unethical behaviour of institutionalised religion in stark contrast to the awe-inspiring behaviour of affected individuals and those who felt empathy towards them.

During emergencies, and times of great change, people look to the known and the simplistic for comfort. At these times they are vulnerable, and faith is easy to manipulate. It is important that all right thinking citizens work to keep faith based groups out of disaster relief and community reconstruction since that is when the affected people are at their most vulnerable, and liable to be misused. A few were motivated by their religion to compassion and empathy. Their efforts were drawn from the bedrock of their faith, and encompassed all those who were affected, regardless of any distinction—caste, sex, religion, or any other. But they were in a minority. It also demonstrates the best face of secular India: where faith is a personal affair, from which we draw our strength but does not become a political construct.

While there were stray cases of people opening up places of worship to shelter entire communities irrespective of religious belief, institutional religion showed its worst side in the aftermath. Almost all religions of the world, without exception, blamed the tsunami—and all subsequent disasters including the Kashmir earthquake—on divine wrath. That in itself would not be diabolical if not for the fact that they said that it was god’s punishment for the debauchery of the other religions.

Others took the circuitous route of condemnation and orthodoxy. One of the most benign was the group of Orthodox Jewish Rabbis who came to South East Asia to ensure that none of their co-religionists met their makers without the proper rituals to speed them on their way. So they completed the arduous task of identifying the Jews among the victims and then administering the last rites.

Of gods and godmen
A Bangalore based new age guru who teaches the rich breathing techniques promptly wrote an article about how there should be research on why only Hindu temples were spared, while all other buildings were destroyed. Was there some special science—‘Vedic’ science perhaps?—that was known in the days of yore, but was now forgotten? He suggested research in that direction. It is perhaps a laughable suggestion, but even in this he was not original or unique. This was a mass delusion of fundamentalist Christian and Muslim priests, who made the same claims as well.

There was an unseemly scramble to identify and bury ‘our dead’ between the ‘volunteers’ of different religious groups. One religious group in particular laid claim to bodies, and then waited till persons from a particular caste could arrive to carry it off. During the delay they shooed off all others, despite the bodies starting to putrefy. There were turf wars during this early stage itself.

Priests and nuns stored relief material in one village. When they found out that there were no members of their religion there, they told the people of the village that they should either convert or let them take the relief materials to another village which had their co-religionists. This naturally made the people there furious. Fortunately saner counsel prevailed before the situation turned nasty. With discretion being the better part of valour, the misguided religious zealots quickly left.

Science and technology for superstition
It is in cyberspace that the venom of religion is most frequently—and unabashedly—expressed. This is but natural given the anonymity of the medium, and the poor educational level of its users. The users are often immature, expensively schooled, with enormous technological power in their hands. The gloating when adherents of the ‘other’ religions died is but a minor sideshow. Aid was mobilised, and denied, using the electronic media. While institutional religion constantly preaches the bygone utopia to its adherents, it has warmly embraced technology to propagate its medieval worldview.

3 Responses: Everybody loves a good disaster
Disaster response is to ensure that that dignity and security are restored to all people in the affected areas, especially the most vulnerable. Disasters are sudden. They are sometimes unexpected and unpredictable. In contrast, the rehabilitation process is long enough to ensure inclusion and equity. The components of the process are well known, and the response can be designed for ensuring the dignity of all.

The response of the Great Indian Middle Class was wholehearted after the December 2004 Tsunami. Contributions just poured in… and some Indian companies pledged more aid than the ‘richest nation in the world and sole super-power’. Then came the floods in Mumbai, Chennai, north Karnataka, Bangalore and the Kashmir earthquake. All but the last are manmade disasters. The response of the citizens to subsequent disasters has been less than heart-warming. Some talk of the ‘aid fatigue’. Reality is different.

There is competing charity where there are different parties in power. The central government does not want to route the money through the state government—preferring the bank route instead. This mutual suspicion is due to the well-founded fear that relief will be used for political purposes. There is little accountability and accounting for the money that has come in so far. In Keralam at least, the ‘official’ contribution has been more than Rupees one million—some say ten times that—per affected family. Yet, almost a year down the line, the families are still living in temporary tin sheds.

3.1 From disaster to destitution: The timeline
There are distinct phases in the reaction that leads the vulnerable to destitution. It is the criminals who act in the first hours. The bodily jewellery and cash are systematically looted in the first few hours, as also the portable high use or high resale value items such as TV sets. This is very distinct from the survival scrounging and scavenging that sometimes takes survivors to the only remaining places where food and other essentials are hoarded: the supermarkets abandoned by their rich owners who flee the disaster zone.

Within the first few days, and certainly within the first week, the land of the weaker sections is encroached upon. Dalit lands were routinely encroached on both during the Latur earthquake and the 2004 Tsunami. The Tamilnadu government has for long wanted the coastal areas to give to their party-men in the infamous ‘East Coast Road’. Little wonder then that fisher-folk refused to move out for ‘rehabilitation’. However, displacement took place almost immediately after the tsunami. Land relations were redrawn. The government, with the unwitting support of some do-gooders, ‘resettled’ the survivors inland. Wherever the dominant castes coveted the land of the Dalits, the Dalits were forcibly evicted. In some cases the Dalit lands were made into burial grounds of others.

A well-intentioned state initiative pledged money in the name of the orphaned girl children. This was to have devastating unintended consequences. Within six months there was a spate of ‘Tsunami Marriages’ since the girl orphans were given compensation money that the close relatives coveted. Young teenage girls, sometimes even pre-teens, were married off to middle aged men. Even parents used their compensation money to ‘settle’ their minor daughters. The girl orphans and widows were specially vulnerable since they would be thrown out of the houses after all the compensation money from all sources were received.

3.2 The social response
Disaster tourism is widespread especially by the international jet-set or its local equivalent. While the local bigwigs come in within a couple of days, the national and international ones—both private and government—come in within a week. Ostensibly to help in relief, they are more a hindrance, creating avoidable traffic jams and come with their own vicarious hidden agendas. The ‘camps’ set up by foreign agencies have led to the inevitable disaster tourism with those from the head office ‘visiting’ often to review ‘the rehabilitation process’. They create additional pressure on the already stressed support infrastructure.

Organised crime makes its presence felt within a week. Trafficking for sex-work and paedophilia are most widespread, though loot is also reported. In manmade disasters too, this pattern holds good.

The middle class often responds with a sense of charity. However, the middle class ‘practical approach’ has a healthy sense of self-preservation. First and foremost, disasters are occasions for the not so subtle attempts to dispose off the old clothes, unwanted linen and woollens. The Gujarat earthquake saw people reject old clothes, and saying quite openly on TV that they were victims of a disaster and needed relief but that they were not beggars. The mountains of clothes shown in graphic detail on TV by the roadside after the tsunami confirms that a significant section of the clothes ‘donated’ were those that would in any case be discarded.

The business class sees this as a opportunity—right from reconstruction material, contracts, and in the production of relief material. Profiteering is only the extreme expression of this inherent mindset. In either case, it is an excellent opportunity to get rid of sub-standard, unusable old-stock.

Solidarity contribution is much less, though it is much more needed. But solidarity response, which can address their needs best, depends on prior contact, or willingness to work with those who are already there. For instance, though under-linen are a desperate need, people are unlikely to take them from do-gooder strangers. But few are willing to work through others who can fulfil these kinds of needs. Fewer are willing to acknowledge the agency of the affected people.

4 Standards for relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction
4.1 First steps
1. Do no harm.
2. Stop, look and listen before taking action.
3. Don’t act in isolation.
4. Think beyond the immediate crisis to the long-term.
5. Bear in mind the expertise of local organizations.
6. Find out how your prospective collaborators operate.
7. Be accountable to those you are trying to help.
8. Make best use of locally available resources: personnel, knowledge, expertise…
9. Communicate your work widely, and use it as an educational tool.

4.2 General standards
Some of the rights guaranteed to the disaster affected:
• Right to security and life.
• Family reunification.
• Medical services.
• Essential food and potable water.
• Basic shelter and housing.
• Education.
• Appropriate clothing.
• Essential medical services and sanitation.

It is the duty of the government to ensure that the affected can return to their homes with dignity and security. Humanitarian assistance must be distributed without discrimination. The most vulnerable, and those with the most need, should receive assistance first.

There are international standards for each of these.[3] For instance, the international standard is that each affected person has the right to 20 litres of potable water per day, within 500 meters from their home, and waiting only 15 minutes to get it. For toilets there needs to be both security and privacy. It has to be accessible to the women, children and the differently-abled, far enough to afford them privacy, near enough to afford them security.

4.3 Programme considerations
Emergency response, despite its temporary nature are investments in long term development.[4] They cannot be phased out at will. The implementation of short-term emergency projects must comprise long-term strategies including the necessary shifts in the roles and responsibilities of the institutions and eventual time bound handover to the state and community. Support should not reinforce a sense of dependency on outside aid.

The Social Equity Audit [SEA] identifies the vulnerable groups and their multiple levels of vulnerability. It is a still evolving tool developed as a combination of the Sphere Standards and a participatory, human rights approach.
• Identify the vulnerable groups early, before the disaster when possible. SEA and response becomes invaluable for this.
• Programmes for vulnerable sections should always have top priority in natural disasters, armed conflict and complex humanitarian emergency situations.
• Remember that you can help best if you already have relationships with the affected. If not, try to work with those who do. This is the best way to maximise impact, and do no harm.
• Create ‘safe spaces’ and ‘peace zones’ where the vulnerable sections are ensured
o Adequate food.
o Safe water.
o Clothing.
o Shelter.
o Sanitation.
o Health care.
• Protect from danger, violence, abuse and sexual and economic exploitation both during relief and rehabilitation.
• Monitor for symptoms of psychological trauma and intervene when they occur.
• Find reliable caretakers for unaccompanied children and differently-abled. [Their guides and caretakers would also be disoriented, and their support infrastructure may be disfunctional].
• Involve the vulnerable in their own recovery. Allow them as much as responsibility as they can shoulder. Entrust as many tasks to them that they can reasonably accomplish. The tasks should be light enough so that they can do without risk of failure, at the same time strenuous enough to distract them from brooding. It should bring back ‘normalcy’.
• The local youth should be mobilised. Their knowledge and familiarity with the area will speed up relief. External volunteers would take time to be familiarised, and should be brought in only if the local youth are unable to meet the demands.
• This is an opportunity to create democratic communities. However, you should already have a good idea of local social organisation before you attempt this. Disempowering local traditional power structures leaves the communities vulnerable to much larger global processes over which they have less control.

4.4 HRBA: The value added
Because the HRBA operates from a ‘worms eye view’ it is sometimes called the ‘reversal’ process. What would you like others to do for you if you were most powerless among the disaster affected? If you were at the receiving end, what would your preference be? This reversal is the touchstone of the approach. Though there will certainly be mistakes done, an approach of humility and caring will ensure that they are understood as genuine mistakes.

A HRBA ensures that relief and rehabilitation is:
• Inclusive: It focuses on the most vulnerable and addresses the intersectionality of discrimination. Action is based on this vulnerability assessment. This ensures that ‘no one is left behind’.
• Safeguards the rights of the affected. Support is extended as a right, rather than a handout.
• Enjoins duties on the state and those less affected.
• Give affected people progressively greater responsibilities so that they can retake control over their life and livelihoods.
• Uses their knowledge, wisdom and expertise. This brings them to normalcy faster, since they feel ‘useful’ and brings back a ‘schedule’ and ‘structure’ to their day.
HRBA brings the promise of more effective, more sustainable, more rational and more genuine development processes.[5]
• They enhance accountability by identifying specific duties and duty–bearers in the development process. Development moves from charity to obligation, making it easier to monitor progress.
• They promote higher levels of empowerment, ownership, and free, meaningful and active participation, by putting beneficiaries in charge of development. Local ownership and participation are fundamental to sustainable improvements.
• Greater normative clarity and detail provided by the international instruments and the authoritative interpretations of treaty bodies and human rights mechanisms, which list and define the content of development.
• Easier consensus, as development objectives, indicators and plans can be based on the agreed and universal standards of the international human rights instruments.
• A more complete and rational development framework, with development sectors mirroring the enumerated rights of the human rights framework. The more comprehensive human rights framework provides guidance on all areas of human development, including health, education, housing, personal security, justice administration and political participation.
• Integrated safeguards against unintentional harm by development projects.
• More effective and complete analysis: Traditional poverty analyses based their judgments on income and economic indicators alone. A human rights analysis reveals additional concerns of the poor themselves, including the phenomena of powerlessness and social exclusion. A more thorough analysis yields better responses and better results.
• A more authoritative basis for advocacy and for claims on resources, with international legal obligations and national commitments empowering development advocates.
• They are much more cost effective. The government has the most resources.

The rights–based approach helps secure a part of this to the most vulnerable. The quantum of the funds thus diverted is much more than what any external intervention can provide to the people as charity. It uses the existing—but unused—capacity and infrastructure of the state. This is perhaps one of the best–kept secrets of the rights–based approach.

A rights–based approach is much more effective and gives better return on investment even in the medium term. HRBA ensures that the people get everything that any charity based welfare or service delivery approach can give them. In addition, it demystifies the state and other institutions so that the poor do not continue as objects of charity but become creators of their destiny. It stresses the fact that the state and other institutions are to serve and enhance the well–being of the people and not the other way round.

Here the process is crucial because a charity based service delivery approach is very disempowering and creates dependency. HRBA results in an ‘empowerment’ process, which will get them the same goods with the help of external facilitators the first time around. But the process will enhance their skills and experience so that they can at least continue getting these goods. In essence, a rights–based approach is a ‘development plus’ approach.

HRBA removes people from poverty and enables them to stand on their own feet. It frees them from the burden of gratitude brought on by a welfare or charity based approach. Instead, it enables them to claim solidarity and support as a right. It simultaneously instils in them the duty to help others. This component of human dignity is the true added value of HRBA.

5 A year of learning
A year down the line, there are some at the loose ends of relief and rehabilitation. The communal and religious fundamentalists have used this opportunity to gain respect for themselves by aligning with social activists.

It has been a year of brutal learning, the foremost of which is that you cannot help someone you don’t know. We must channel our aid through those who are already there. People and institutions in stratified societies do not change just because of a disaster. Relief must be followed by rehabilitation and reconstruction quickly, in a planned transition. The rehabilitation and reconstruction must conform to the cultural needs of the affected, and be within their capacity to maintain. A human rights approach to disaster relief and rehabilitation is necessary. It is the only way to safeguard the dignity of those affected, and enable them to stand on their own in the shortest possible time.

For those who felt that Sainath was cynical when he wrote ‘Everybody loves a good drought’… welcome to the real world. It is not only droughts. Everybody loves a good drought, earthquake, tsunami, flood… or for that matter any good disaster. HRBA is to ensure that it is not at the cost of the poorest of the poor, the most destitute, the most powerless and the most vulnerable—in other words, not at the cost of the powerless. Life with dignity, for all at all times: even in disasters, relief and rehabilitation.
—oO(end of document)Oo—

1 e: openoffizz@gmail.com
2 Report of the fact-finding mission of NCDHR by Annie Namalla.
3 For comprehensive international standards in each of these see The Sphere Handbook: The Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Disaster Response downloadable from http://www.sphereproject.org/handbook/index.htm
4 Edited and adapted from Children in Disasters After the cameras have gone: A report for Plan UK November 2002 Edited by Amer Jabry.
5 UNHCHR Mary Robinson, opening statement to the General Assembly Special Session on Social Development, Geneva, June 2000.

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A vegetarian look at the caste system

A vegetarian look at the caste system

A vegetarian look at the caste system

One of the most vicious symbols in the propaganda against the Dalits is the myth of ‘vegetarianism’ being ‘non–violent’ and, as a ‘logical’ outcome, proportional to ritual purity. It is supported by the pseudo–scientific establishment with many reasons—most, if not all, of them false—and naturally so since most of these scientists are products of Brahmanism, and science is a handmaiden of the powerful. Not all science is scientific.

Pure vegetarian myths

Those who are herbivorous are considered to be more ritually pure than others. The hierarchy of ritual purity is determined by the purity of one’s ‘vegetarianism.’ This ‘purity’ is flaunted by defining others as ‘non–’ suggesting that ritual purity and violence is the standard to be worked towards.

 

The most ritually pure are those who ingest only milk and milk produce or only fruits. The less pure are those who eat flora grown above the ground. Third come those who have food grown below the ground. Fourth come those who eat small animals such as rabbits, chicken and goats. Finally come the least pure, those who eat beef, often from a dead cow. Dalits belong to the last category, and need to do this as a ritual task of Hinduism.

Vegetarianism is more healthy

Not true. The people in the countries with the longest life expectancy are overwhelmingly omnivores. Supposedly herbivorous India has one of the lowest life expectancies—comparable with sub–Saharan Africa, which is omnivorous. Herbivorous diets, health and longevity are not inter–related.

Vegetarianism feeds more people

Not true. India, which claims to be herbivorous, has the largest number of poor in the world. The fact is that most Indians are omnivores. India has enough food to feed all its people. Adequate food for all is a matter of distribution and egalitarian, democratic societies—of relations of production rather than a factor of production. Hunger is related to power rather than production.

Vegetarianism is non–violent

Not true. Plants are living beings. If we should not eat the ‘poor voiceless animals’ then how much more voiceless and helpless are the plants? Animals at least can run and scream. Plants can do neither. Their contribution to the regeneration of oxygen and environmental health is priceless. The myth of vegetarianism not killing has been convincingly disproved by modern science proving that plants live, and modern technology that can measure the emotions and response to stimuli of flora.

Ritual purity

Let us apply this to the hierarchy of ritual purity.

The most ritually pure

In modern terminology, these people are guilty of foeticide. Seeds, whether of plants or of humans, are potential life. Embryos more so. Milk is the most refined form of blood. Those who drink milk—whether directly, or as butter, ghee [clarified butter], curds, in tea or coffee, in milk chocolate or biscuits...—deprive the calves of their mother’s milk. Transfer this characteristic to human beings. If a man prevents a child from drinking its mother’s milk, but takes it from the mother for himself for coffee or tea, what would his position in society be? Is that not what the milk drinkers do? Is it not child abuse, and breaking the sacred bond between mother and child, and of life itself? Is it not infanticide? And the fact is human beings are the only ones to drink the milk of another species! Not even 'terminally ill' animals do so, unless forced by humans. We have not included people who eat sprouts. That is equivalent to eating animal foetuses or babies. Yet these people have the highest ritual purity!

Those who eat flora grown above the ground

Many of course, do not have an all milk or all fruit diet. They supplement it with flora grown above the ground. But the pain inflicted on the plants is equivalent to torture. Let us take the case of eating greens. Modern technology tells us that the pain that a plant has when its leaves are broken off is equivalent to breaking the fingers of a human being. Many such fingers are broken for one meal of one ritually pure person, of the second grade. Let us not forget that these plants are captive, to have their hands broken off every single day of their lives. They suffer terrible torture, but are not allowed to die. How ‘non–violent’ is this?

 

With our present technology we know the comparable pain: it is equivalent to cutting off pieces of an animal for our food—without anaesthesia. Picture this non–violent treatment of flora on to fauna, and the violence becomes evident: cutting off a kilogram of flesh per day from a living cow, without anaesthesia or after–care. Just because the trauma is not visible, it does not mean it is not there—it is the same technique we use to blind ourselves to the violence on the oppressed.

Those who eat food grown below the ground.

Still Brahmin, and ritually pure, some consume flora such as groundnuts, potatoes and carrots. These people are less ritually pure than the above two categories. The difference here is that they do not torture the plant. The killing is swift. But many plant lives are still needed for their every meal.

Those who eat small animals such as rabbits, chicken, sheep and goats

Ritual pollution starts here. But these are people who kill only one life for one meal of five to 20 people. This is the first time that we come to an inverse ratio of lives killed or maimed, to life sustained.

Those who eat beef, often that of a dead cow

Dalits belong to this category, and need to do this as a ritual task. This category of people take at most one life for a meal of about 500 or more people. People in this category are polluted. Some Dalits eat the meat of a dead cow. This means no life for one meal of 500 people. Yet this most non–violent diet is supposedly the cause for Dalits becoming untouchable, unseeable and unhearable though Manusmriti, 5:131 itself says

The meat of an animal killed by dogs or killed by carnivores or by aliens such as ‘fierce untouchables’ is unpolluted.

The ‘scriptures’ themselves are ambiguous—and tied up in knots. The Manusmriti contradicts itself twice in less than 25 verses, in the same chapter.

Manusmriti 5:32. Someone who eats meat, after honouring the gods and ancestors, when he has bought it, or killed it himself, or has been given it by someone else, does nothing bad.

Manusmriti 5:48. You can never get meat without violence to creatures with the breath of life, and the killing of creatures with the breath of life does not get you to heaven; therefore you should not eat meat.

Manusmriti 5:56. There is nothing wrong in eating meat, nor in drinking wine, nor in sexual union, for this is how living beings engage in life, but disengagement brings great fruit.

The monkey argument

For some time the argument was that humans were meant to be herbivores since the intestine was long like a deer’s or a cow’s. That pseudo–scientific argument vanished when it was pointed out that the comparison should be with monkeys—who are cannibalistic! Why don’t these same people use the argument for polygamy or group marriages? After all monkeys and deer and cows—in fact most animals—are known for that. So that is the ‘rule’ of ‘nature.’ Animals do not have bride burning, nor sati, nor widow abuse... why not use examples to liberate instead of for control and subjugation? People take positions first and then use science and other ‘neutral’ academic tools to justify them.

 

Dalits do not seek to make carnivores of all beings. Yet the ‘vegetarians,’ true to their ingrained violence, are not satisfied in foisting a dehumanising identity on Dalits but are bent on forcing their diet on the Dalits and others as well. Is it to ensure their steady supply of milk? Why is it that those who campaign for animal rights never express even solidarity with those working for human rights, specially for the abolition of untouchability? Why is it that the ranks of animal rights activists have a disproportionate number of conservatives and reactionaries? Is it co–incidence or is it, like ‘merit,’ another label to further oppress Dalits? Tigers, after all, are carnivores! We all love and protect wildlife—don’t we elect the same bunch to parliament and legislature every time? Non–Dalits and non–Adivasis have superficial concern for animals since the animals will always be totally dependent. Not a shred of this concern is for fellow humans because of the potential for equality.

 

The point is not to make a case for a new ideology with Dalits becoming ritually pure and Brahmins becoming the untouchable. For survival, we drink our mother’s blood for nine months, and then her milk for many more—totally disregarding the status of her health. For survival, we need to eat food. When eating is for living, it is fully justified. The unfortunate and unnecessary aspect is ascribing purity and ahimsa, non–violence, to it. What is criminal is ascribing violence and pollution to it inversely, and perversely.

 

Those who know their religious mythology—sorry scriptures!—well enough will jump to assert that there are some verses or ‘slokas’ that do take precisely this position.

Manusmriti 10:104. A man who eats the food of anyone, no matter who, when he is on the brink of losing his life is not smeared with evil, just as the sky is not smeared with mud.

Sorry about the gender bias! Presumably women are also included. Manusmriti 10:105—8 then goes on to give examples of justified cannibalism, including eating one’s own son, dogs and beef.

 

But then, why is untouchability scripturally sanctioned and religiously practiced? It reinforces our basic point that religion and morals are elastic. In the public sphere, they are for oppression rather than liberation. With the present level of knowledge available to use, the rational diet is different. The need, the cost of regeneration and carrying capacity should be the principle of consumption. All other justifications are superfluous, unnecessary and bigoted.

 

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Bombay's bombs, Manmohan's Madness, Medha's Methods and a Silly Supreme Court

On the day that the Prime Minister of India officially requested the Supreme Court of India to permit governments to break the law, tell lies and get away with it, the Bombay Bombs shook the nation. It is a brute reminder that if nations do not understand the language of human rights, it will be forced to understand the pain of the people by violent resistance. The targeting of non-combatants is wrong, by any standards. Those who force dissidence into such acts are to be held equally responsible.

Let us go back a little bit. Just a week back, the Supreme Court of India—no less—admitted a petition that alleged, among others, that the Narmada Bachao Andolan was anti-national. That the Supreme Court has been a biased player in the Narmada saga, which has displaced hundreds of thousands is obvious to all neutral observers after its imprisonment of Arundathi Roy. What takes the cake is that they now want to slap cases on India's premier non-violent movement! After fighting for over 20 years, despite many provocations, the Narmada Bachao Andolan has not chosen the path of violence.

At a recent meeting in Bangalore, the students were appalled to learn of the torturous route to justice. They even asked Medha whether non-violence was the answer in todays world. They pointed to the success of the Maoists in Nepal in 10 years, while the NBA has been campaigning for double that. Medha was at pains to explain to the students that violence is not an option. The Supreme Court, which has a 100 years worth of case backlog, could do better things with the tax payers money than admit such petitions against the NBA.

Now to Manmohan's madness. That the ex-World Bank employee who nominally heads this government is an economic genius is also well known. Who else but a genius can takeover an oil-pool surplus of 12,000 crores and turn it into a deficit of 8,000 crores by giving subsidy to luxury cars? Who else needs to go disaster touring to multiple places of farmers suicides to know the 'reality'. For a normal human being, reading the report of the district collector would be sufficient. Not so for our genius prime minister. And what has he learnt? Enough to tell the Supreme Court to permit displacing more people, when his government cannot even rehabilitate those already displaced. When the government cannot even prevent farmers from committing suicides due to the policies he initiated as finance minister.

In between his bouts of disaster tourism, the Congress government has time to stroke the communal fires too. Just when it seems to be all quiet on the communal front, they rake up the Babri Mosque issue again, by wanting to bullet proof the illegal temple. Perhaps they hope that raising communal feelings would consolidate the secular vote behind it--just as the consolidation of the communal vote would be to the BJP. Perhaps they feel it would divert the attention of the people from the increasing lawlessness and the impact of the economic policies on the common citizen: the spiralling prices of essentials being only one indicator of the macro-economy gone horribly wrong. They are mistaken on both counts. It is the Left parties that will benefit, perhaps even become the coalescing point for a third front--just as about a quarter of the country's 609 districts is under Maoist rule.

Another indictment of the present government is in its cosying up to the United States. Never before in our history has there been defections at such senior levels of the intelligence services to the US... not even during the 'cold war'. Yet now, when we have a de facto 'friendship' treaty, defections are becoming common. After the Indian Air Force convincingly demonstrated its superiority against the US Air Force's F16s, the government is now seriously thinking of buying American Weapons, including the outdated F16s! It is common knowledge that the American Military has requested more money for modernisation--citing its 'defeat' at the war-games in India. After the American embargo on providing spares for their equipment, the government has placed orders with Boeing for Air India—virtually bailing out the company from closure—putting national security at risk. The sensitive North East—which even Indians need permits to enter—was recently thrown open to the American Military for war games.

Yet, despite the arduous promotion of the 'feel-good' factor, this is a government that thrives on death. Why else do they ensure that the people have no option but to rebel, and rebel violently? Is it because it makes more 'economic sense' to purchase more guns and weapons than school books? Because it is more 'profitable' to build prisons than schools? Why is the government deliberately closing doors of democratic dissent and redress? If Medha is a 'terrorist' then what do we call those who bombed the Mumbai trains? Why does the government put non-violent protesters in jail under draconian anti-terror laws, but offer amnesty and rehabilitation packages to 'militants'?

All these point to a betrayal of the people of the nation, if not treason in high places. And to hell with the Supreme Court. If the law is an ass, then the Supreme Court has proved itself to be the Supreme Ass [with apologies to the ass].

Edwin
Loyalty to the nation, always. Loyalty to the government only when it deserves it.
ps. I am aware that to call the Supreme Court an ass is Contempt of Court, and I could get away with calling an ass a Supreme Court Judge. But then that would be an criminal offence of mental torture and cruelty to the ass.

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Creating sustainable communities

Creating sustainable communities
anita cheria and edwin

Sustainability is not a permanent condition. Creating sustainable communities out of the presently marginalised and excluded is not an easy task. But it is possible. Sustainability of a community is its survival with security and self–respect. It is the power to access and control the resource base. The fundamental requirement for a sustainable community is that the locus of power lies within it. It means that social, political and economic power, in the long run, has to be a part of the in–built capacity of the people. This capacity has to have the resilience to adapt to change and stay on top of the evolving situation in a world in permanent transition. The initial provocation, leadership or support may be external, but this should not be for long. In the long term there is a contradiction between sustainability and dependence.

There are many components to the sustainability of an intervention. All are important. But the absence of one, or even a few, does not mean that a particular intervention is not sustainable —only that it is vulnerable to that extent. Extra strength in one area can help cover up weakness in another. The analogy for the relationship of the components of sustainability is not links in a chain—break one and you break it all—but strands of a rope. The more strands in a rope and the tighter they are woven, the stronger it is. The more elements present, the more sustainable the process.

The 'R's of sustainability
Literacy has three 'R's. Building sustainable communities, being a slightly more difficult process, needs four. The community will go through a relief—resist—reconstruct—rectify process. It will go through progressive needs of survival, sustenance, self–esteem and finally to assertion of rights. This is not a linear process.

Relief
First, if the community is on the edge of survival, the people may have to be brought from survival to sustenance through a welfare program, but this should have a strong component of awareness of the political situation.

Resist
Once the community fills up the charity space of 'relief' provided to it by society, there can be a backlash. Once this backlash is overcome, then the community can go along a road to political empowerment—which includes participation in formal governance, or else it is like making a 'successful sale' without getting paid. It should take back control over its resource base— including the right to be human—that is illegally and immorally denied to it.

Reconstruct
Now the focus on the development organisation and the community shifts to building platforms of strength, so that the community does not revert back to the pre–intervention days. The resource base should be strengthened so that the basic rights of all can be fulfilled. This includes a natural resource base with enough unpolluted land, water and air to support the community. Education, so that literacy levels improve—and the skills needed to be productive in the global economy are gained. Health, both preventive and curative. Housing... in effect everything that the middle classes take for granted. When these reach sustainable levels, the development organisation can move on to information provision, since the community will have become politically and economically sustainable by then.

Rectify
Oppressed communities also oppress those within them. The community needs an intense process of internal rectification so that the justice demanded from the outside world is made present within it—be it in terms of age, religion, gender, caste or class. Gender equity is at the very top of any internal rectification process as the first and primary objective. This is closely followed by the annihilation of caste and class divisions.

Internal rectification should be rigorous enough to enable each individual to identify totally with the group. It should not be possible for any external group to be able to fulfil any need of an individual or sub–group better than the community. This process should be a conscious, and continuous, effort. Internal rectification is, in itself, very powerful process. It increases the 'pull' factor of a group tremendously. Any issue or crisis can bring people together. Internal rectification is important for staying together in the long run.

A continuous process...
Are the processes to create sustainable communities replicable and permanent? Of course not. This is a question one repeatedly encounters when explaining different models. Putting the same question in a different way, another group might ask, rather rhetorically, whether the model will be compatible with the local ethos and conditions in another area. Those who made significant impact are clear that their interventions are not replicable.

Is it that there is no fool proof method that can be followed, and each development intervention must develop with individual experiences? Or that though lessons can be learnt from others, none can be duplicated as the 'successful type?' History, as Henry Kissinger tells us, is not a cookbook of pretested recipes. It teaches by analogy, not by maxims. It can illuminate the consequences of actions in comparable situations, yet each generation must discover for itself what situations are in fact comparable.

Replicability of models is not an issue for communities, though it is for NGOs and donors. Most of the best practices have evolved by breaking and [re]making the 'rules.' The common thread is that sustainable communities can be created only by a process of empowerment that leads to a capture of power. The more power captured, the more sustainable a community.

How long will the community institutions built by these organisations last after the withdrawal of the development organisation? That is to miss the point. The achievement of interventions that have made a substantial difference in the quality of life of the communities has been to make the process of empowerment irreversible. The community will not go back to the pre–intervention days.

Sustainability is not static, nor a permanent condition. What is sustainable at one point in time or in one place need not be so in another. It requires constant praxis—action and reflection. Dynamic processes cannot have static responses. Sustainability does not mean cutting off from everyone and everything else to become completely independent. Rather it means interdependence based on complementary skills, and on mutual respect. This comes about only when each community has a certain amount of social, economic and political power.

Social mobilisation for action to initiate an empowerment process, and carry it forward to its logical end is needed to create sustainable communities for those excluded in present relationships. Stopping at the welfare stage, or being comfortable in charity, actually hurts the process, and keeps people in dependency. Creating sustainable communities is not a spectator sport. It is not for the faint–hearted—those frightened of wielding power, or facing its consequences. It is a long distance race. Those without stamina should not get in.

[The concepts discussed are elaborated in our book Life goes on.., and A Human Rights Approach to Development.]
—oO(end of document)Oo—

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Dalits: From exclusion to assertion

There are over 260 million people in the world who are voiceless victims of caste discrimination who continue to suffer from extreme forms of segregation, violence, and exploitation because of their ‘low caste’ or outcaste status or other forms of discrimination based on work and descent. About 66% of them are from India.

Communities adversely affected by caste or caste–based systems include the Dalits of Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Buraku of Japan, Osu of Nigeria, and Rodiya of Sri Lanka. Others with caste or caste–like systems include Senegal, Mauritania, Madagascar, Mali, Guinea and regions with significant Indian Diaspora such as Eastern and Southern Africa, North America, the Caribbean, the United Kingdom, Malaysia and the United States.
In many cases caste systems exist side by side with otherwise democratic structures. In countries such as India and Nigeria, governments have enacted progressive legislation to combat atrocities against ‘lower’ caste communities. But discriminatory treatment remains endemic, and discriminatory societal norms continue to be reinforced with impunity by government and private structures and practices, frequently through violent means, with the connivance and complicity of the State.

As India’s then Prime Minister P V Narasimha Rao said in his address at the inaugural of the meeting of chief ministers at New Delhi on 4 October 1991: Attempts by the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes to … improve their lot and claim what is rightfully theirs, are often the principal cause of the atrocities that are perpetrated on them. There is a lack of sensitivity on the part of the police and the district administration … The law enforcers themselves, in many cases, fail to act promptly or collude with the other side. Government figures on the atrocities confirm that fifteen years down the line, the atrocities have increased.
Though there were many attempts to better the lot of the ‘untouchables’ most had only a local impact, and were based on a charity and welfare approach. While some may accept the benefits of a caste system, there is absolute consensus on the need to eliminate caste discrimination. However, in the competition to be higher on the caste scale, myths are invented to degrade others. Even Shivaji’s descendents had the ignominy of being considered Shudras once they were out of power!

Social reformers from Periyar to Sri Narayana Guru to Mahatma Phule opposed the caste system lock stock and barrel. Gandhi’s approach was more moralistic, depending on the goodwill of the oppressor castes rather than a right of the ‘Depressed Classes’. Though extremely sympathetic to the cause of the ‘Harijans’—he repeatedly expressed his desire to be reborn as one—he still felt that the caste system was right. It took the political and intellectual skills of B R Ambedkar to provide the pan Indian framework for Dalit liberation, in part because he wrote in English, to the consternation of Brahminism which until then had virtual monopoly over the discourse. Educated in the western tradition, he applied the rigorous academic analysis to the Hindu scriptures—much as the modernists did to the Bible in Europe—and provided a countervailing ideological framework for Dalit assertion. Though published by the Government of Maharashtra itself, his ‘Riddles in Hinduism’ [Collected Works, Volume 4] was made ‘out of print’ when hostile governments were in power. This iconic—almost demi-godlike—pan Indian recognition has provided the centre around which Dalit assertion has coalesced.

The Indian state and intelligentsia have been liberal. It was ensured that a Dalit would be the President at the 50th anniversary of Independence—equivalent to having a Black as the President of the US, which has not happened in their 220 year history. The ‘architect of the Indian constitution’ was Dr Ambedkar. It is also true that he was the first to burn it—an accurate reflection of the contradiction between our ideals and reality. This contradiction is illustrated in the Mandal Commission report—which all parties promised to implement in their manifestoes—and the reaction to the announcement of its implementation. The Mandal Commission recommended sweeping affirmative action measures to empower the weaker sections. Large parts of Indian society reacted negatively to this. Faced with this threat, Indian society closed ranks against the Dalits. Curiously, the recommendations were for reservations for the other backward classes, the OBCs not for Dalits! The SC/ST Atrocities [Prevention] Act, Protection of Civil Rights Act and several others to protect the human rights of weaker sections have a dismal record of conviction, let alone in their stated objective of prevention.

The claims of those pointing to the numerous affirmative action provisions are disputed by none less than the President K R Narayanan of India who noted on 26 January 2000: Untouchability has been abolished by the law but the shades of it remain in the ingrained attitude nurtured by the caste system. Though the provisions of reservation in educational institutions and public services flow from our constitution, these provisions remain unfulfilled through bureaucratic and administrative deformation or by narrow interpretations of these special provisions.

The practice has been to articulate lofty ideals, but ensure that the practice of these ideals does not happen in one’s neighbourhood—the ‘nimby’ syndrome: not in my backyard. The captains of Indian industry—not known for efficiency in the best of times—stoutly oppose any affirmative action in the private sector and want everything to be on ‘merit’. Ironically, two days after the public opposition—on the editorial page of a national daily—the same stalwart of Indian industry appointed his son the director of his company. How ‘merit’ and ‘seniority’ applied there is a mystery. Significantly, neither he nor large parts of society, saw the irony of it all.

With some mobility due to the global dynamics, increasing access to education, and job reservation in the public sector, some Dalits have refused to be degraded or be the waste absorbers of the nation. The social reaction has been to find more brutal ways of countering mobility and assertion. Mass gang-rapes of Dalit women in whole villages, burning entire families, total destruction of Dalit property in cycles of 12 to 15 years, denial of modern services, destruction of traditional livelihoods and new forms of discrimination are being invented to keep the Dalits under subjugation. Water, electricity, roads, schools and community halls—not to speak of the location of government offices and services—all reach the Dalit part of the village or city last. Even when the services do reach, the controls are kept with the dominant castes, so that they can control the Dalits. The electrical switches and water pipes being in the dominant caste part of the town or village is but one example. Dalits are specially targeted for conversion, and used as cannon fodder by all sides in communal riots. Segregated eating exists even in the mid-day meals given to students in government schools. Dalit children are forced to sweep the school and do domestic work in the homes of teachers—something that dominant caste children are not asked to do.

Relief was denied to Dalits during the recent Tsunami. For instance, in Karaikal the fisherfolk received 60 kgs of rice while the landless agricultural labourers—mainly Dalits—received only 5 kgs. This is bizarre since both have lost their livelihoods: the fisherfolk lost their boats and nets and thus the ability to fish while the Dalits lost their ability to get work on lands since the land became saline with the ingress of the sea. Even the government segregated the relief camps. So strong is the hold of the caste system that even in their distress, others refused to inter-dine or share relief camps with Dalits. Ironically, Dalits were imported from other areas to bury the dead.

Discrimination continues even on conversion to other ‘egalitarian’ religions like Christianity, Sikhism and Islam. When the Dalit Christians protested discrimination within the church—where they make up the majority but are minority of priests and even less Bishops—the church promptly diverted their attention by coopting the struggle and sought to paper over the internal contradiction by demanding reservations in government jobs for Dalit Christians. The present Dalit position is that they are neither Hindus nor Christians or anything else but Dalits. There is some movement towards Neo-Buddhism as a political expression of protest. Temple entry used to be high on the agenda but the emphasis now is more on ‘separate, but equal’ spaces both for worship, socialisation and livelihood. Even when Chandrababu Naidu tried out temple entry with government backing in Andhra Pradesh, it left the Dalits vulnerable to the certain backlash, which was not long in coming. Many did not even respond to the Chief Minister’s call, fed up with the tokenism, constant discrimination and struggle.

With the nascent Dalit middle class finding its voice, they have been able to link globally. There have been recent victories in the UN, which has appointed a special rapporteur and asserted that caste discrimination is a form of racial discrimination—over-ruling the Indian government. Their votes have become consolidated across the nation, and even those who swear by class and religion are forced to take notice of the caste arithmetic in their electoral calculations. Just how organised this section is politically can be gauged by this simple fact: with 50% of the population and votes, women have been struggling through consecutive governments for 33% of seats in parliament. With less than half that, de facto reservation for Dalits even in ministries is unquestioned. The contradiction is visible here too: Dalits are routinely prevented from voting, and contesting in the seats reserved for them. In some panchayats, they are prevented from filing their papers, or forced to resign immediately, or when force does not work slaughtered—as in Melavalavu.

At the same time, internal contradictions within the ‘Dalit’ identity have come to the fore. The well known Mala–Madiga conflict, where the better off claim all the benefits, is but one of the results of the stratification and sanskritisation among the Dalits themselves. The internal contradictions are not just between the castes that make up the ‘Dalits’—and who practice untouchability amongst themselves too—but also among men and women. The contradictions of larger society have found their way into the Dalit communities also. Though the Dalit women have stood shoulder to shoulder with their men, they are sometimes invisible and called ‘Dalits among Dalits’. In the words of the black women’s movement of USA, ‘all Blacks are men, all women are white’. The situation is no different in India. The Dalit women are invisible to both the Dalit movement and the women’s movements. It is no mean achievement that the list of 1000 women nominated for the Nobel peace prize has Ruth Manorama—the leader of the National Alliance of Women’s organisations, NAWO, and National Federation of Dalit Women, NFDW.

Indians blame all problems on the ‘foreign hand’. Unfortunately, this one is totally home grown. The Gandhian approach of ‘atonement’ has not even taken off. The Ambedkarite approach of assertion and ‘political power is the key’ has worked far better. The global shift to a sovereignty and human rights based framework makes obsolete anything less.

There has been some progress. However, much more needs to be done… and miles to go before we awake into ‘that heaven of freedom’.

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Everybody loves a good disaster

When P Sainath wrote the book ‘everybody loves a good drought’ he did not have the experience of a tsunami behind him. The response of the Great Indian Middle Class was wholehearted after the December 2004 Tsunami. Contributions just poured in… and some Indian companies pledged more aid than the ‘richest nation in the world and sole super-power’. Then came the Mumbai floods, the north Karnataka floods, the Kashmir earthquake and now the Bangalore floods. The response of the citizens to subsequent disasters has been less than heart-warming. Some talk of the ‘aid fatigue’. Reality is different.

What the citizens are tired of is not giving, but of the misuse of aid and disasters. First and foremost, disasters are occasions for the not so subtle attempts to dispose off the old clothes. The prior Gujarat earthquake saw people reject old clothes, and saying quite openly on TV that they were victims of a disaster and needed relief but that they were not beggars. The mountains of clothes shown in graphic detail on TV by the roadside after the tsunami confirms that a significant section of the clothes ‘donated’ were those that would in any case be discarded.

The amount of money that has come in has so far not been accounted for. In Kerala at least, the ‘official’ contribution has been more than Rs one crore per affected family. Yet, almost a year down the line, the families are still living in temporary tin sheds. Of the unofficial money, there is no limit. NGO salaries have skyrocketed, with even those fresh out of college getting Rs 20,000 to 30,000 per month, if not more. The ‘camps’ set up by foreign agencies have led to the inevitable disaster tourism with those from the head office ‘visiting’ often to review ‘the rehabilitation process’.

The Tamilnadu government has for long wanted the coastal areas to give to their party-men in the infamous ‘East Coast Road’. Little wonder then that fisher-folk refuse to move out for ‘rehabilitation’. The central government does not want to route the money through the state government—preferring the bank route instead. This mutual suspicion is due to the well founded fear that relief will be used for political purposes.

Even a disaster of this magnitude could not make the affected come together. The fisher-folk refused to be put together with the ‘untouchable’ Dalits. The Dalits were forced into different shelters. They were discriminated against during relief also. For instance, in Karaikal the fisher-folk received 60 kgs of rice while the landless agricultural labourers—mainly Dalits—received only 5 kgs. This is bizarre since both have lost their livelihoods: the fisher-folk lost their boats and nets and thus the ability to fish while the Dalits lost their ability to get work on lands since the land became saline with the ingress of the sea. Even the government segregated the relief camps. So strong is the hold of the caste system that even in their distress, others refused to inter-dine or share relief camps with Dalits. Ironically, Dalits were imported from other areas to bury the dead.

In the present earthquake, and during the tsunami, children were taken away for sex-work. Fortunately, the Government of Tamilnadu intervened and banned all ‘adoptions’. However, displacement took place almost immediately. Land relations were redrawn. Wherever the dominant castes coveted the land of the Dalits, the Dalits were forcibly evicted. In some cases the Dalit lands were made into burial grounds of others. The girl orphans and widows were specially vulnerable since they would be thrown out of the houses after all the compensation money from all sources were received.

For the NGOs and their institutional donors, it was literally a windfall. Contributions to iNGOs were at record highs. Many got more donations in the first three months after the tsunami than they got in the entire preceding twenty years. Donors who wanted to move to North India—since the poverty indices were worse there and the South was considered better off—resolved to continue funding NGOs in South India. This gave a huge relief to NGOs who otherwise would have to drastically scale down their operations, if not shutdown altogether, if the donors withdrew funding. This second lease of life will last for three to five years at least.

Aid has been used by fundamentalist groups for conversion and furthering their agendas. New age gurus formed religion based networks of their front NGOs to ‘project’ their work—and get more funding. A new age mutt promised Rs 1 billion [100 crores] each in relief both in Kerala and in Tamilnadu—a blatant case of money laundering if nothing else. Religious leaders, including a Bangalore based teacher of new age breathing, wrote articles and preached to the faithful how only the places of worship of their religion were not touched, thereby proving that their god was the true god.

Almost a year down the line, there are some at the loose ends of relief and rehabilitation. The fundamentalists have used this opportunity to gain respect for themselves by aligning with social activists. In one curious instance, there was a TV channel promoted by a fundamentalist group that was a ‘partner’ in a ‘disaster film festival’ that showed anti-communal films!

It has been a year of brutal learning, the foremost of which is that you cannot help someone you don’t know. We must channel our aid through those who are already there. A human rights approach to disaster relief and rehabilitation is a must.

For those who felt that Sainath was cynical when he wrote ‘Everybody loves a good drought’… welcome to the real world. The only complaint is that Sainath’s vision was not broad enough. It is not only droughts. Everybody loves any good disaster.

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Four ways how Congress can win in 2014.... and one reason why they won't

Four reasons how Congress can win in 2014.... and one why they won't
The vote share of the Congress has been going down since 1980, and it is only assassinations that gave it a periodic emotional bump. Even the 2004 elections saw an inconclusive result till the first round was over in UP and the BJP projected a national role for a bloodstained apparatchik (albeit a rebellious one). A terrified minority community voted Congress (Indira) enmass, helping it cross the magic threshold.

Till date the Congress benefitted from the TINA--there is no alternative--factor. Earlier Times have changed. There are alternatives. Congress (Indira) is based on feudalism, accommodation of all strains (and stains) and obeisance to The Family. There are many mini or lesser dynasties hiding in the sari folds of the Big F. For those who want a feudal party with inner party democracy there is always a BJP-but only within the constraints of a virulent brand of ritual Hinduism. Those who wanted a democratic party based on merit that would focus on governance still had no choice.
The demographics of this country has changed. A majority of this time voters are post reforms meaning born after 1991. By density of population and nature of work, almost half of India is urban. Coupled with the penetration of mass media, the aspirational levels are changing. The minimum standards expected of all services--government and private--are what were the maximum two years ago, and is moving upwards rapidly.
Disruptive politics--of the Mamta Banerjee and Arvind Kejriwal variety--show that the people of India are fed up with the democratic theatre played out by the established parties and the shadow boxing they do. The people are not fooled any longer. When they have a secular, corruption free alternative, they embrace it with both hands. The key to understanding this shift is demographic: young, urban, secular and democratic.

1. Young: The young have a strong sense of idealism--and are in a tearing hurry. Go by rule of law (aka practice what you preach). Get out the corrupt. Simplify the law. The protests are not asking for looking at specific cases or 'fast track courts'. They are asking for the system to work, that all cases be tried expeditiously without fear or favour. This systemic change cannot be done in a 'tearing' hurry as the heir apparent seems to think (and demonstrated in action at an election rally and in words at a press conference) but is a constructive change from bottom up--police reforms, transferring funds to panchayats, giving 50% tickets to women, actually implementing RTI and empowering citizens.... The young smell out a bullshitter a mile away.

2. Urban: Upgrade public services. With above 90% of India's workforce still in the unorganised sector, any half-way successful person will be paying above 40% as tax (30% income tax and 12.36% as service tax). If the government takes away half their income, they expect to get that kind of service. The best way to do that is to use public services. AAP has tapped a potent nerve, now go the whole hog. Ensure that all government employees and peoples representatives use only public services--transport, health and education--and watch the quality of the services improve. And while you are at it, transfer the requisite funds directly to the panchayats. Let them take care of their own infrastructure needs.

3. Secular: The time of competitive communalism is over. Sure protect minority rights, but also ensure that the freedom of expression is upheld. Never negotiate with the lunatic fringe, and never ever let them control the discourse. The hooliganism displayed in preventing the exhibition of the Ahmediya's in the national capital should be met with firmness not benign state connivance. Enact a law that makes it clear that personal law of every religion must match or exceed the standards set by secular law, if not secular law applies. All Indian citizens should be able to claim the protection of Indian secular law at all times in their life. That is the minimum protection that the Indian Nation accords to its citizens. Religions that discriminate based on community, or sex or gender must be firmly shown their place. Religion is private. Keep it that way--off public spaces.

4. Democratic: Shun dynasitic politics. The half hearted attempt to be ahead of the curve and have reforms a la the King of Bhutan has come to naught. Have party membership lists and party elections. Instead of balancing interests based on 'political instincts' have the party elections as proportional representation and respect the formal outcome. If this is done properly, it could help in reducing factionalism and at the same time select candidates for all posts--right up to the ward and panchayat representatives. Shunt out dynasties--both the major and the minor. Despite all its positives, no self-respecting leader can join this party knowing that the top job will always be out of reach. To ensure some privileges to the top job--which for the last 10 years had to be de facto rather than de jure--the constitution was twisted horribly out of shape. The institutional damage done will take decades to heal, and even so repeat cannot be ruled out due to precedent (unless the supine judiciary steps in). Forget the no frisking rule for all--not just Robert Vadra!--and let all MPs, MLAs and officials be treated as ordinary citizens. Remember that you are representatives not rulers.

5. The Congress (Indira) cannot do any of the above. So they will lose, not only this election but subsequent elections too. They are history.

We note with amusement that the USA obsessed Indian press tries to call the Congress (Indira) 'India's GOP' on the lines of the Republican party being called GOP (Grand Old Party). The fact is that feudalism--of the secular and religious variety--are dying. So it's not GOP but RIP.

Human Rights and Capital Punishment: Time to join civilisation

Human Rights and Capital Punishment: Time to join civilisation
Anita Cheria
While human rights defenders have long campaigned for the abolition of the death penalty in India, it is President Abdul Kalam who has brought it to the centre stage with his request to the government to review all pending cases due to the capital punishment being so obviously applied with a bias against the economically and socially weaker sections: meaning the poor and the ‘lower’ castes.

India is one of 78 countries including the US, China, Iran and Vietnam which have not banned the death penalty. 86 countries and territories have abolished the death penalty for all crimes, and a total of 121 countries have abolished the death penalty in law or practice. Over 40 countries have abolished the death penalty for all crimes since 1990.

10 December 2005, the international Human Rights Day, is observed as Anti-Capital Punishment Day in India. There are several arguments against the capital punishment. Some are systemic, some procedural and some are ideological. Mahatma Gandhi provides the best logic: what is not permissible for an individual [in this case to kill] is not permissible for a group.

Criminal justice has to discharge three functions: deter, reform and punish. Capital punishment does not give the criminal any chance for reform. Punishment has two components: one to restore as close as possible, status quo ante, and to fulfil the need for revenge of the victim [often disguised as ‘justice’]. While other crimes can restore status quo ante, in this one, the victim who was murdered cannot be brought back to life by ‘punishing’ the criminal by capital punishment. So it is not ‘restitution’ in any sense of the term, but only codified revenge, and a futile one at that. Most civilised societies accept that this form of ‘justice’ is only thinly veiled revenge. Of the three, deterrence is the aspect most hotly debated. But studies prove that capital punishment is not really a deterrent. Except for a slight surge—if at all—for a short while after abolition, countries that have abolished death penalty actually have less crime than otherwise. In the case of ‘hardcore’ criminals, the certainty of capital punishment makes them even more reckless with the twisted logic of no redemption: anyway I will be killed, so I might as well be killed for a hundred murders rather than one.

On the flip side, there are many reasons why there should not be a death penalty. The first and foremost is that when mistakes are made—and they are made very often—there is no way in which it can be reversed. Death is final. USA has executed about 1000 people in the last 30 years. 115 have been released because they were found innocent—after being found ‘guilty beyond reasonable doubt’ several times over by courts from the local to the state level, and the review boards recommending no pardon! Advances in technology—such as DNA testing—found that these men could not have committed the crimes they were convicted of. Crime syndicates routinely bribe or blackmail innocents into confessions, and then coach them on the details of the crime so that their confession is ‘authentic’. Political parties do the same in India and elsewhere.

In India, the death penalty is handed out only in the ‘rarest of rare’ cases. Even so, it has several flaws. For one, it is unevenly applied on the weaker sections. The ‘urge to punish’ is always a reflection on social bias. The ‘untidy’ ‘uncouth’ and ‘unkempt’ child—often dark—is more likely to be punished, and more severely, than a neat ‘fair’ one. The same applies for all punishments—right up to capital punishment. If you are poor and ‘low’ caste, you are more likely to be hanged than if you kill and stuff the body into an oven and belong to a national political party.

The second flaw is that the law itself gives capital punishments only to the ‘lower class crimes’. Causing death, even fully knowing the consequences, by ‘white collar crimes’ such as adulteration of food or medicine does not attract the death penalty. Causing death by denying basic needs is not even considered a social crime, but rather an economic virtue and is promoted as ‘structural reform’ by governments.

The third flaw is that the ‘rarest of the rare’ is still an evolving concept. Many religions prescribe the death penalty for apostates. In India the ‘rarest of the rare’ was a Dalit learning how to read and write. Now it is conspiracy to murder. An important part of jurisprudence is that the criminal always gets the benefit of the progress of understanding. Capital punishment negates this concept.

There are proposals to extend capital punishment to many more crimes. That is an escapist attitude that seeks magic bullets without engaging with the process that leads to increased violence or question its structural origins. Does that ‘rarest of the rare’ actually work to deter, reform or punish in the case of suicide bombers, who actually welcome death with open arms? Extending capital punishment to cover more and more sundry crimes is not the answer.

What we require is a social consciousness where murder, for whatever reason, is outlawed. If killing is justified for ‘the rarest of the rare’ then citizens will claim the right and freedom to judge what is ‘rarest of rare’ in their opinion, and then claim the logical right to follow through on their judgement—meaning execute. It is only when the normative value base of society shifts to making all killing unlawful, and all violence abhorrent, that the ‘rarest of the rare’ will disappear. The right to life is sacred at all times for all people. Most people want to know the ‘alternative’. There is already an alternative in law that fulfils all the three conditions of deter, reform and punish: life imprisonment.

The modern jurisprudence for capital punishment originates from Europe—which has given it up. It thrives mainly in the US, which has more people in their jails than on their farms. India has a rich history of rehabilitating criminals, of whom Valmiki is but one. We would not have a Ramayana if Valmiki lived in modern India. He would’ve been declared a ‘terrorist’ or a naxalite, given no chance for reform and executed. We need to build on such traditions of enlightened tolerance, rather than following the regressive practices of others. It is high time that India joins the civilised world in outlawing capital punishment.

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Human Rights and Citizenship: Denial and Restoration

Human Rights and Citizenship: denial and restoration
anita cheria and edwin

Citizenship assumes that human rights are fulfilled, and that the other discretionary or ‘specific’ rights that a citizenship confers on a person can be addressed. While all humans—whether criminals, refugees or citizens—have certain rights by virtue of being human, citizenship rights are conferred only on ‘citizens’. In this paper we will look at citizenship rights, who gets them and the long struggle to restore these rights to all ‘citizens’.
In this paper, we first define the concepts: the difference between human rights and citizenship rights. The differences and similarities, specially the overlapping areas, are delineated. We then look at the experiences of citizenship of women, sexuality minorities, Dalits and the Tharu. Finally, we look at the challenges in restoration of citizenship: the roots of the conflict, the shifting goal posts, strata and strategy, the question of violence, relief and rehabilitation, unequal and unfair expectations and standards and global citizenship.

1 Human rights and citizenship
All humans have certain rights. They possess these by virtue of being humans. These rights cannot be taken away at anytime—even with the ‘prior informed consent’ of the individual. Even an invading army has to ensure these rights of the ‘conquered’ people. This includes 20 litres of water per day, adequate sanitation, and security. Even criminals need to be ensured these rights.
The rights of citizenship must be seen within the context that all rights are indivisible and interdependent. Citizenship rights however, are only for ‘citizens’. They cannot be claimed by, for instance, refugees. There are three distinguishing factors of citizenship from human rights. The key citizenship rights are the rights to:
• Participate in government
• Dissent.
• Self-regulation and correction.
The core of human rights is ‘dignity for all at all times’, while for citizenship it is an acknowledgement of ‘agency’—of the ability to ‘act’, of ‘personhood’ or ‘adulthood’.

2 Citizenship: Key Characteristics
2.1 Participate in government
Only citizens have the right to elect and be elected. While even refugees can claim good governance as their right, it is only citizens who can claim participation in government as a right. The choice of government and representatives is intrinsic to participation. This means that in monarchies there are less citizens than in democracies. The more egalitarian the society, the more likely that there will be more citizens. With increasing cost of participation in elections, even democracies are restricting participation to only the wealthy.
The right to information movement is one of the most prominent global movements for citizenship. The Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan, MKSS, of Rajasthan in North West India was able to force the government to share information with the people. The right to information has now become the right of all Indian citizens. Taking back the state from the government is the core of citizenship movements. It flows from the human right to ‘informed consent’.

2.2 Dissent
All nations have sections that are excluded from the benefits of progress, or are discriminated against. Women, minorities and indigenous peoples come readily to mind. They need to be brought into full citizenship in rights and duties by creating appropriate systems, structures, investment and opportunities.
There will always be those who are ‘different’. The enforcement of standardisation is sometimes subtle, sometimes crude but at all times carries immense psychosocial costs. It is perhaps no accident that USA has more people in prisons than in its farms. All human progress is when people dare to be different. This standardisation is to clone ‘others’ into copies of those who are considered citizens.
This could be in the language [with one ‘national’ language] or religion officially, and can include other facets [such as caste] unofficially. Dress codes are enforced [such as a tax on beards] on those who are nationals, but not on citizens. Bhutan even makes the dress code mandatory for nationality.
It is in the expression of people’s right to dissent and express dissent that citizenship is really measured. The way in which dissent is addressed is an indicator of whether one is a citizen or a national. States and institutions—including organised religion, transnational corporations and social systems—often suppress dissent, labelling it as trouble-making, insubordination, security threat, insurgency and so on if it is from a national. Dissent from citizens is heard and addressed.

2.3 Self-regulation and correction
An important indicator to assess if one is treated as a ‘citizen’ is the right to self-regulation and correction in contrast to punishment. States punish nationals. However, all citizens are allowed self-regulation. Bureaucrats have immunity from prosecution for acts done in ‘good faith’. Similarly, the middle class mainly comprises of citizens. The legal fallout is that crimes by the middle class—even if resulting in death with knowledge beforehand—is considered to be ‘white collar’ crime, and awarded less punishment than for other crimes. Even if a suit does get to court, and the citizens are found guilty, the judge would often admonish these citizen-criminals and exhort them to better behaviour since they are ‘respected pillars of society’. Never mind that they embezzled 10 or even a 1000 times their contribution to their local sports club, and have just been pronounced criminals by the same court!
When the rights of a citizen are violated, the state takes immediate exemplary action. Lethargy vanishes. The most obvious case is the difference in the event of relief and rehabilitation.

3 Experiences in citizenship
3.1 Citizenship and women
The fact that women are only nationals and not citizens is obvious to most. The Vatican is probably unique in that it is the only sovereign state that does not even have one female national, let alone citizens. Most religions do not give citizenship rights to women.
Though the modern normative value base of society makes discrimination in law difficult, many countries bar women from both voting and standing for elections. Though women form about half the population of the world, nowhere are they in equal positions of responsibility and authority. Even democracies such as India balk at full participation for women. By sins of omission and commission the state pleads helplessness in removing barriers for women, and by not creating an enabling environment. It is only in the case of political representation for women that the Indian parliament awaits a consensus. In contrast, to fulfil US/UN dictates on terror laws, a joint session of parliament was called to pass the anti-terror law because the government was not sure of passing it in the lower house. This clearly indicates that women are only nationals and not citizens when it comes to political representation.
The most important consequence of not having this right is that the ability to create a gendered, egalitarian society and polity is ceded. For instance, this translates into formal law—as opposed to the traditional, which in any case is biased against all non-males—that denies women equal share in ancestral property. It is only recently that women have the right to property, and an abridged one at that, in India.
Many Islamic countries follow the Sharia. The interpretation of the Sharia by all-male institutions however values a woman less than a man, both for inheritance and evidence. While dowry is prohibited, the Jamaat—the body that gives verdicts—is full of men who have accepted dowry. Thus there is no condemnation of, or ‘fatwas’ against, men who take dowry—which is clearly against the tenets of Islam. The fatwas are instead pronounced against women without even hearing them, deliberately keeping the women away by holding the Jamaat sittings in all-male mosques so that women cannot attend.
The initiative of Sharifa Khanum to have an all-women Jamaat, in a mosque built by women is to recapture this space. At the sittings of the Jamaat, both the men and women involved take part in the debate, mediations or negotiations. ‘This is so unlike what happens in the other chauvinistic all-male, one-sided Jamaats. The women can never present their side. Decisions are taken based on the man’s version alone and talaq is pronounced without hearing what the woman has to say in her defence,’ points out Sharifa.

3.2 Citizenship and sexuality minorities
Sexuality minorities are not only invisible, but they are often not even considered ‘normal’ human beings. Social ordering seldom gives them any place. Despite two avatars of Vishnu being explicitly changing over to the feminine, the Indian horror at anything other than the missionary position is legendary. Though widely prevalent, society goes through the moralistic notions. The two gay teenagers who were recently executed in Iran had only one defence: they did not know it was wrong because everybody was doing it.
Most countries acknowledge only two sexes, though this is changing in some. In international conferences, reference is made specifically to two sexes, implicitly acknowledging that there are others, and that these other sexes are being excluded. Sexuality minorities are denied not only their biological rights, but also their citizenship rights. In the past, the denial of gay and lesbian rights could be justified in the name of the need for survival [and so justify the denial of human rights]. But in a world with surplus population, the biological survival argument has lost all relevance, even assuming it was needed at some time in the past.
The gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transsexuals are denied property rights as a norm. They do not have the right to marry. This denies them many other rights. While the right to adopt can be denied on moralistic grounds, this denies them even housing loans that any married heterosexual couple have access to depending on their credit history. Sexuality becomes an important factor of creditworthiness. Though non-heterosexual couples have not been proved to be more abusive to children than heterosexuals, there is stigma attached to them. It is the fear of heterosexuals that non-heterosexual families would adopt ‘their babies’ that leads to this denial of marriage.
The state acceptance of only two sexes leads to others having to choose a sexual identity that is not theirs for certification at the time of school admissions, graduation, passports and marriage. This does not signify acceptance. If they are found not to be male or female, then they are penalised. At the time of registration of property, they are specially vulnerable. They are often disinherited, and if not, denied property solely due to their not being born male or female. Those who undergo transgender surgery are still vulnerable.
The sexuality minorities live in the fear of discovery. In the case of transsexuals, they are denied any means of livelihood other than sex-work and begging, both of which are illegal according to Indian law. Though the Indian Supreme Court has ruled that the fundamental right to life includes the right to a livelihood, this is denied to the sexuality minorities.

3.3 Citizenship and Dalits
There are over 260 million people in the world who are voiceless victims of caste discrimination who continue to suffer from extreme forms of segregation, violence, and exploitation because of their ‘low caste’ or outcaste status or other forms of discrimination based on work and descent. About 66% of them are from India.
Communities adversely affected by caste or caste–based systems include the Dalits of Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Buraku of Japan, Osu of Nigeria, and Rodiya of Sri Lanka. Others with caste or caste–like systems include Senegal, Mauritania, Madagascar, Mali, Guinea and regions with significant Indian Diaspora such as Eastern and Southern Africa, North America, the Caribbean, the United Kingdom, Malaysia and the United States of America.
In many cases caste systems exist side by side with otherwise democratic structures. In countries such as India and Nigeria, governments have enacted progressive legislation to combat atrocities against ‘lower’ caste communities. But discriminatory treatment remains endemic, and discriminatory societal norms continue to be reinforced with impunity by government and private structures and practices, frequently through violent means, with the connivance and complicity of the State.
As India’s then Prime Minister P V Narasimha Rao said: Attempts by the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes to … improve their lot and claim what is rightfully theirs, are often the principal cause of the atrocities that are perpetrated on them. There is a lack of sensitivity on the part of the police and the district administration … The law enforcers themselves, in many cases, fail to act promptly or collude with the other side. Government figures on the atrocities confirm that fifteen years down the line, the atrocities have increased.
Though there were many attempts to better the lot of the ‘untouchables’ most had only a local impact, and were based on a charity and welfare approach. While some opine that there are some benefits in the caste system, there is absolute consensus on the need to eliminate caste discrimination. However, in the competition to be higher on the caste scale, myths are invented to degrade others. Even Shivaji’s descendents had the ignominy of being considered Shudras once they were out of power!
Social reformers from Periyar to Sri Narayana Guru to Mahatma Phule opposed the caste system lock, stock and barrel. Gandhi’s approach was more moralistic, depending on the goodwill of the oppressor castes rather than a right of the ‘Depressed Classes’. Though extremely sympathetic to the cause of the ‘Harijans’—he repeatedly expressed his desire to be reborn as one—he still felt that the caste system was right. It took the political and intellectual skills of B R Ambedkar to provide the pan Indian framework for Dalit liberation, in part because he wrote in English, to the consternation of Brahminism which until then had virtual monopoly over the discourse. Educated in the western tradition, he applied the rigorous academic analysis to the Hindu scriptures—much as the modernists did to the Bible in Europe—and provided a countervailing ideological framework for Dalit assertion. Though published by the Government of Maharashtra itself, his ‘Riddles in Hinduism’ was made ‘out of print’ when hostile governments were in power. This iconic—almost demigodlike—pan Indian recognition has provided the centre around which Dalit assertion has coalesced.
The Indian state and intelligentsia have been liberal. It was ensured that a Dalit would be the President at the 50th anniversary of Independence—equivalent to having a Black as the President of the US, which has not happened in their 220 year history. The ‘architect of the Indian constitution’ was Dr Ambedkar. It is also true that he was the first to burn it—an accurate reflection of the contradiction between ideals and reality. This contradiction is illustrated in the Mandal Commission report—which all parties promised to implement in their manifestoes—and the reaction to the announcement of its implementation. The Mandal Commission recommended sweeping affirmative action measures to empower the weaker sections. Large parts of Indian society reacted negatively to this. Faced with this threat, Indian society closed ranks against the Dalits. Curiously, the recommendations were for reservations for the other backward classes, the OBCs not for Dalits! The SC/ST Atrocities [Prevention] Act, Protection of Civil Rights Act and several others to protect the human rights of weaker sections have a dismal record of conviction, let alone in their stated objective of prevention.
The claims of those pointing to the numerous affirmative action provisions are disputed by none less than President K R Narayanan of India who noted: Untouchability has been abolished by the law but the shades of it remain in the ingrained attitude nurtured by the caste system. Though the provisions of reservation in educational institutions and public services flow from our constitution, these provisions remain unfulfilled through bureaucratic and administrative deformation or by narrow interpretations of these special provisions.
The practice has been to articulate lofty ideals, but ensure that the practice of these ideals does not happen in one’s neighbourhood—the ‘nimby’ syndrome: not in my backyard. The captains of Indian industry—not known for efficiency in the best of times—stoutly oppose any affirmative action in the private sector and want everything to be on ‘merit’. Ironically, two days after the public opposition—on the editorial page of a national daily—the same stalwart of Indian industry appointed his son the director of his company. How ‘merit’ and ‘seniority’ applied there is a mystery. Significantly, neither he nor large parts of society, saw the irony of it all.
With some mobility due to the global dynamics, increasing access to education, and job reservation in the public sector, some Dalits have refused to be degraded or be the waste absorbers of the nation. The social reaction has been to find more brutal ways of countering mobility and assertion. Mass gang-rapes of Dalit women in whole villages, burning entire families, total destruction of Dalit property in cycles of 12 to 15 years, denial of modern services, destruction of traditional livelihoods and new forms of discrimination are being invented to keep the Dalits under subjugation.
Water, electricity, roads, schools and community halls—not to speak of the location of government offices and services—all reach the Dalit part of the village or city last. Even when the services do reach, the control switches are kept with the dominant castes, so that they can control the Dalits. The electrical switches and water pipes being in the dominant caste part of the town or village is but one example. Dalits are specially targeted for conversion, and used as cannon fodder by all sides in communal riots. Segregated eating exists even in the mid-day meals given to students in government schools. Dalit children are forced to sweep the school and do domestic work in the homes of teachers—something that dominant caste children are not asked to do.
In the 2004 South Asian tsunami relief, the Dalits got less than 10% of what the non-Dalits got. Even the government segregated the relief camps. So strong is the hold of the caste system that even in their distress, others refused to inter-dine or share relief camps with Dalits. Ironically, Dalits were imported from other areas to bury the dead.
Discrimination continues even on conversion to other ‘egalitarian’ religions like Christianity, Sikhism and Islam. When the Dalit Christians protested discrimination within the church—where they make up the majority but are minority of priests and even less Bishops—the church promptly diverted their attention by coopting the struggle and sought to paper over the internal contradiction by demanding reservations in government jobs for Dalit Christians. The present Dalit position is that they are neither Hindus nor Christians or anything else but Dalits. There is some movement towards Neo-Buddhism as a political expression of protest. Temple entry used to be high on the agenda but the emphasis now is more on ‘separate, but equal’ spaces both for worship, socialisation and livelihood. Even when Chandrababu Naidu tried out temple entry with government backing in Andhra Pradesh, it left the Dalits vulnerable to the certain backlash, which was not long in coming. Many did not even respond to the Chief Minister’s call, fed up with the tokenism, constant discrimination and struggle.
With the nascent Dalit middle class finding its voice, they have been able to link globally. There have been recent victories in the UN, which has appointed a special rapporteur and asserted that caste discrimination is a form of racial discrimination—over-ruling the Indian government. Their votes have become consolidated across the nation, and even those who swear by class and religion are forced to take notice of the caste arithmetic in their electoral calculations. Just how organised this section is politically can be gauged by this simple fact: with 50% of the population and votes, women have been struggling through consecutive governments for 33% of seats in parliament. With less than half that, de facto reservation for Dalits even in ministries is unquestioned. The contradiction is visible here too: Dalits are routinely prevented from voting, and contesting in the seats reserved for them. In some panchayats, they are prevented from filing their papers, or forced to resign immediately, or when force does not work slaughtered—as in Melavalavu.
At the same time, internal contradictions within the ‘Dalit’ identity have come to the fore. The well known Mala–Madiga conflict, where the better off claim all the benefits, is but one of the results of the stratification and sanskritisation among the Dalits themselves. The internal contradictions are not just between the castes that make up the ‘Dalits’—and who practice untouchability amongst themselves too—but also among men and women. The contradictions of larger society have found their way into the Dalit communities also. Though the Dalit women have stood shoulder to shoulder with their men, they are sometimes invisible and called ‘Dalits among Dalits’. In the words of the black women’s movement of USA, ‘all Blacks are men, all women are white’. The situation is no different in India. The Dalit women are invisible to both the Dalit movement and the women’s movements. It is no mean achievement that the list of 1000 women nominated for the Nobel peace prize has Ruth Manorama—the leader of the National Alliance of Women’s organisations, NAWO, and National Federation of Dalit Women, NFDW.
Indians blame all problems on the ‘foreign hand’. Unfortunately, this one is totally home grown. The Gandhian approach of ‘atonement’ has not even taken off. The Ambedkarite approach of assertion and ‘political power is the key’ has worked far better. The global shift to a sovereignty and human rights based framework makes obsolete anything less.

3.4 Citizenship and the Tharu
The 1.6 million Tharu are the fourth most populous community of Nepal, and are about 6.5% of its people. They are an accurate portrait of what happens when nationals are not considered citizens. The same process is repeated in India regarding the indigenous people, Sri Lanka re the Tamils, in the Chittagong Hill Tracts in Bangladesh… and virtually all over the world in what is called ‘ethnic swarming’ and a ‘slow strangulation process’.
There has been a slow, long drawn out process of dispossession that led to the situation of bondage for the With the ‘unification’ of Nepal in the 1760s, the kings of Nepal extended their domain over Naya Muluk, meaning ‘new country’. The Tharu land was part of this ‘new country’, which was considered terra nullius by the rulers.
Though the Tharu already inhabited the land, the king bestowed the land upon royals, courtiers and other royal staff. With the emergence of the Ranas, land was appropriated even faster. Migrants from India and the hills were brought in to make the land more ‘productive’ further displacing the indigenous people.
3.4.1 The slow strangulation process
The Kamaiya system of bonded labour did not consume the Tharu and their lands in one go. It did so gradually, in different stages.
• Up to 1860: Terra nullius
In this phase, the people were literally ‘non-persons’. They were lost, and gained, with the territory. The land, with the non-persons, was lost to the British in 1816, and regained from them in 1861.
• 1860 to 1930: Immigrants
In this stage, the land was gifted to the royal retainers. Half the Naya Muluk, which included the entire Bardiya district, was gifted as Birta—land from which he could collect tax—to Jung Bahadur Rana.
• 1930 to 1960: Settlers
During the two decades from 1930, there was a prominent increase in Rana landlords. When the land was surveyed in 1946-47, the landlords illegally claimed a majority of the land, and almost all the prime land. They left less than 20 percent to the tillers. They used the survey to legalise their claim to more land.
• Post 1960: Kamaiya lords
After 1960, the dispossession was much more stark. The number of migrants increased. They no longer went back in summer to their ‘home’. Home for the migrants also became Tharuwan.
• 2000: Liberation
The Kamaiya were declared free on 17 July 2000 by a government proclamation. There has been a process of rehabilitation afterwards.
Two supposedly good welfare measures alienated the Tharu from their land—the census and the abolition of Birta, the private collection of tax from land gifted to the royal retainers by the king. The innocent Tharu did not get the land registered in their name, so the land legally became the property of those who claimed it for the sake of record. With the abolishment of Birta, they had to pay taxes in cash. Unused to the cash economy, they had to sell their land.
The initial practice was relatively more equitable, with the Kamaiya getting some land for their own use. They could use the produce of this land at their discretion, though they could work on this land only after working on the land of the Kamaiya lord. This land was later reduced, as indicated by term ‘bali bigha’. Bali bigha is only half the normal bigha, strongly suggesting that the Kamaiya started off with one bigha of land, which was then reduced to half a bigha for his own use.
In a further reduction, the ‘bigha’ was changed into giving 12 sacks of rice in about 1973. When the Kamaiya protested and struck work, their leader Josi Ram was singled out for revenge. Twenty–five Kamaiya lords surrounded him and charged him with being responsible for the lost production. They then garlanded him with shoes in front of the whole village—a practice that is prevalent in Nepal to humiliate someone publicly. Unable to bear the humiliation, he was forced to leave the village. Deprived of leadership and bereft of support, the remaining Kamaiya resumed work. It was only after a quarter of a century—with much more external support and links—that they would systematically resist and, of course, they would win.
3.4.2 The lessons
Two important facets stand out in the narrative: the inertia of the state in protecting the Tharu, and the alacrity with which they promoted the elite ethnic swamping of Tharuwan. The different ways in which the state sees its citizens and nationals are illuminating.
Though there were sufficient legal provisions to liberate the Tharu from bonded labour, the Supreme Court abdicated its responsibility, even when a writ was filed before it in a case of wanting not to see the injustice, saying that the state was doing enough to address the issue [but would the court have taken the same benign stance if a Brahmin was kept bonded by a Tharu?].
The government just set up study after study after study to get to know of the problem. Though government studies concluded that ‘the Kamaiya system [agriculture bonded labour] is one of the remaining forms of slavery in existence’ it concluded that the Kamaiya should pay off their debts from their own money!
The same report recommended that the ‘government should campaign to liberate bonded labour, and the landlord or Zamindar who do such pious jobs should be recognised and respected socially and morally’… in other words, when the citizen merely consents to cease being a criminal, the state should bestow a special award of recognition.
Even by government reports, the landlords had land in excess of the land ceiling. The government could confiscate the excess land and distribute it to the ex-Kamaiya. The government did not do that. It went one step further. It confiscated the land in excess of 5 katta from the ex-Kamaiya Tharu! Of course, confiscating the land of the landlords over the legal maximum of 25 bigha was unthinkable. This is despite the government itself having documented that the landlords had an average of 85.36 bigha, with a high of 118.47 bigha in Bardiya with the names of each landlord.
The ‘rehabilitation package’ was—and is—even more absurd. In the initial stages, most ex-Kamaiya were given just one or two katta of land. But this, as the government itself knew in 1999, was woefully insufficient: Two katta of land is not sufficient for even two months of survival.
Even the land for their own use when they were Kamaiya—the bali bigha—was ten katta. And that was demonstrably insufficient for their sustenance, drawing them deeper into debt. Giving less than viable landholdings is delayed distribution to the landlords, since this land will have to be sold for the very survival of the ex-Kamaiya.
There was less than 6% difference in the number of Kamaiya identified. The government used the difference to delay distribution. Even with the NGO’s figure of 11,119 households, the total requirement of land to settle all the identified houseless and landless ex-Kamaiya with ten katta of land per family was just 5,560 bigha. The Cotton Development Board [CDB] had 5,000 bigha of land that had never been used for cotton production. One of the ideas presented by an NGO working in Bardiya was to authorize the resettlement in CDB area, since less than half of CDB’s land would be enough to resettle all the ex-Kamaiya of Bardiya district with ten katta of land per household. In a case of sheer cussedness, the bureaucracy killed it with silence.

4 Restoring Citizenship: Some issues and challenges
4.1 Roots of conflict
While all nationals want to be citizens—which most states claim they are—the reality is different. Citizenship rights are granted only to ‘nationals’, but not all ‘nationals’ are ‘citizens’. There are many other qualifications for becoming a citizen. The reality is that citizenship, apart from being a legal and territorial identifier, is an engendered, religious, ethnic, racial and linguistic construct. It is more a socio-cultural paradigm than merely legal.
In the process of exclusion, religion is the most emotive. By definition, religion is based on ‘faith’ and therefore cannot be subjected to rational scientific discourse. This leads to permanently privileged ‘gatekeepers’—such as the Brahmins in Hinduism—and the permanently disadvantaged, such as the Dalits, and women in all religions. But language is the most visible since everyday routine social interaction in the public sphere makes language a vital public good. The dominant often impose their language on the others, saying that the other languages are in some way inferior, leading to the statement that ‘a language is a dialect with an army’. Language is a good indicator of ‘belonging’ and ‘citizenship’—from the privileged positions occupied by those whose ‘mother tongue’ is also the ‘national language’ to the more subtle forms as in the accent that gives away the class or the territorial origin.
In some countries, such as Nepal, it is explicit in law. Citizenship has to be formally obtained. In others it is de facto. The conflict between the ‘nationals’ and the government arises over the very definition of the nation. Governments have often defined the nation as its territory. People have always defined the nation as an extended family. It is in this framework that the exclusion and inclusion of people from ‘citizenship’ should be seen. Citizens have privileges, while the nationals have duties. Citizens pay tax, and have the right to expect and demand government services. Nationals pay rent, and therefore must be content with the state letting them live.
The government tends to make rules that discriminate between those who are citizens, and those who are only ‘nationals’ or the nominal citizens. The citizens are shielded from their action by what is called the ‘good intent’ clause. A category of citizens is the government bureaucracy. If a government servant does anything, they are absolved from any blame if they did it with good intentions. However, for the nationals, ‘ignorance of the law is no excuse’! The human rights principle of non-discrimination must apply.
4.2 Structural dimensions
To make the poor become part of any nation’s idea of ‘we, the people’, institutions of the state must fulfil the need of the poor to defend themselves against the outside and to protect the individual from majoritarian tyranny. These are the systems and structures that will enable the poor to enjoy and enhance the fruits of their labour, and insure equitable distribution.
But this distinction between ‘citizens’ and ‘nationals’ translates into systems and procedures with bias. States have infrastructure—both physical and mental—to take from the poor and give to the rich. This is an intrinsic characteristic of institutional systems: they take from others and give to their constituency. Trade unions have systems to get and deliver benefits, goods and services to their members—often organised labour. When some are considered citizens, the state has systems to take from others and given to its ‘citizens’. Conservative states take from the poor and give the rich: there are taxes for the poor, and tax breaks for the industry. NGOs, in contrast, have the infrastructure to take from the rich and give to the poor. This is seen best in times of emergency: it is the NGOs who can really help the poor, reach out to them and be with them in their times of need. The government systems are in disarray.
In ‘normal’ times too, the state takes from the nationals to give the citizens in a slow strangulation process.
4.3 Shifting goal posts
Restoring citizenship is a difficult task due to shifting goal posts. The dominant often claim that their laws are ‘fair’. But ‘fair’ does not mean just as in justice. It is as racist as the English language, which equates white with good, and black with evil. While pretending to be just, these laws and the equality before the law is only for the citizens. When the nationals ask for non-discriminatory application of laws, the laws are changed, stripping away any pretence of neutrality, impartiality, even-handedness and ‘equality before the law’.
• The Indian independence struggle started off with ‘One King, One Law’. The British—till then proponents of equality—disagreed.
• The US revolution started off with ‘No taxation without representation’. The British again disagreed.
• When the portions of the Nepalese Constitution on minimum wage was broadcast—as a paid advertisement, no less—the slave owners got it banned from the airwaves.
• The World Bank had Operational Directive 4.20 regarding indigenous peoples… but the moment the Narmada Bachao Andolan used it, they changed it, severely diluting and changing it to ‘best practice’. This meant that it was no longer mandatory, but only a recommendation.
• When the indigenous people of Keralam in Southern India asked for the enforcement of the law, the normally fractious state legislature voted—with just one dissenting vote—to legalise the encroachment… and called the indigenous people terrorists.
It is this realisation of being permanent rent payers that causes resentment and resistance.
4.4 Strata and strategy
Nationals often launch resistance movements just to retain status quo—no matter how unjust this status quo is. Seldom do they launch movements for ‘citizenship’, which they believe is beyond their capacity.
Depending on where the community is placed on the ladder of access and control over resources—survival, sustenance, security or self–esteem—the state permits different forms of dissent and choice.
Social strata Resource level Sustainability level Change mode Change process
Absolute poor Survival A day or less Mass struggle Relief
Lower class Sustenance The present Campaigns Resistance
Middle class Security One generation Advocacy Reconstruction
Upper class Self–esteem Two or more generations Lobbying Rectification
The state is less responsive to the calls for change from those lower down the rungs. For instance, a letter from a person in the dominant hierarchy gets much more of a result than anything less than armed resistance from those at the bottom. Therefore, the only option for those at survival levels is a mass struggle—though even here there is emphasis on ‘peaceful and democratic’ struggles.
Those at the sustenance levels [the lower class] can have campaigns. Those with security do advocacy, and those at the self–esteem levels do lobbying. For those at survival levels, they are even physically removed from the corridors of power so the question of being in the lobbies for ‘lobbying’ does not arise.
4.5 The question of violence
Given the contemporary political environment where every assertion of human rights is labelled ‘terrorist’, it becomes important to address the question of the source and use of violence. Unequal status quo is maintained through violence. Most of this violence remains unseen since it is built into the normative base of society, and thus is ‘background noise’—shut out by habit—until brought to consciousness by its increase to intolerable limits or conscious focus and sensitising.
Most often, systemic violence is so normative, it becomes visible only when the oppressed resist. Then they—the oppressed—are blamed for the violence. For instance, women claiming equal rights to property are blamed for upsetting tradition. However, the oppressed resort to resistance only when death is preferable to acquiescence.
In the particular context of Nepal, this must be kept in mind, especially since many ex-Kamaiya are accused of being Communist Party of Nepal [Maoist] supporters. Not redressing the injustice, continuing wilful blindness to their plight, decades of apathy—all point to the complicity of the state in pushing and even encouraging them to direct action. It is the establishment that bears the onus of pushing them into extreme forms of hopelessness, protest and survival.
In an incredible feat of mental agility, but a move well known to human rights defenders, rooting out slavery was considered a threat to national security and termed anti-national, while the slave owners—law breakers, if not criminals themselves—were considered pillars of the nation and of national stability. When lawbreakers become the pillars of the nation, anarchy and revolution are not far behind.
A typical case of ‘violence’ and direct action in Dang brings out these issues.
S Chaudhary was a married woman. She was just 19. She lived as Kamlahari in the house of Shovakar Dangi in Dikpur VDC-1 from the time she was 14. Her parents had taken a sauki [loan] of Rupees 18,760 and some grain. She and her brother worked for the Kamaiya lord for five years without wages.
When she was raped for the fourth time on 14 March 2001 by ex-Kamaiya lord Shovakar Dangi, her parents complained to the VDC and other concerned authorities. There was no response.
At a mass meeting of ex-Kamaiya and KMAPS held on 20 March 2001, they shared their frustration. The ex-Kamaiya of Dang captured Shovakar Dangi the very next day, blackened his face and delivered him to the Tulsipur Police Station.
True to form, the police, instead of taking action against Shovakar Dangi, booked cases against the 51 ex-Kamaiya and Shram Lal Chaudhary, the coordinator of KMAPS in Dang, who dared to arrest Shovakar Dangi.
The case of the indigenous people of Keralam is no different. Despite winning every court case for restoration of their land for 30 years, the state refused to implement court orders. The state even tried to change the law to legalise encroachment. When the indigenous people finally went to restore their land, the police accused them of violence. In the melee, one police officer was killed. Shaking off its almost half-a-century of lethargy, the state Immediately swung into action to arrest and harass them.
… or in Brazil where the government shot and killed 14 martyrs of Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra, MST, the movement of landless people in Brazil, when they were trying to enforce the land ceiling laws that the government was unwilling to enforce.
Unless the state and society change their behaviour, labelling those who assert their rights as ‘terrorists’ will not help. Every citizen has rights. States that pretend they cannot understand the language of rights are forced to understand it by the language of resistance.

4.6 Relief and Rehabilitation
During the earthquake relief in Gujarat, relief was systematically denied to Dalit and Muslim villages. The Muslim victims of the riots got Rupees 10,000 while the Hindus got Rupees 200,000.
Relief was denied to Dalits during the recent Tsunami. For instance, in Karaikal the fisher-folk received 60 kgs of rice while the landless agricultural labourers—mainly Dalits—received only 5 kgs. This is bizarre since both have lost their livelihoods: the fisher-folk lost their boats and nets and thus the ability to fish while the Dalits lost their ability to get work on lands since the land became saline with the ingress of the sea.
Rehabilitation of citizens focus on the standards for the life with dignity. For the nationals, it is based on the present standard of living of a victim that was whittled down to unsustainable levels in which they can barely survive. The focus of rehabilitation standards should be the community. Such a focus will ensure that their cultural sensitivities are factored in, that their future needs are met, that their skill sets are respected. If rehabilitation is for the ‘bonded labourers’ then the yardstick would be ‘anything better than bondage’ is good, and rehabilitation standards would be a relief camp.
In the case of the Kamaiya, ‘anything better than bondage’ has resulted in giving them just five katta of land at best. When they were Kamaiya they got Bali Bigha which was 10 katta of land. Even with that they were starving. In government ‘rehabilitation’ they were given 5 katta. Ironic, that ‘rehabilitation’ is even worse than slavery.

4.7 Higher standards
The nationals are always held to higher standards than the citizens. As a feminist once said ‘women have to be twice as good as men to be thought of as half as efficient. Fortunately, that’s not difficult’.
• When the women want seats in parliament, the men want guarantees that the women will not be corrupt [in which case, why should the men who are corrupt be elected?], will actually be effective [given that India has one of the lowest re-election rates for MPs, how many men can claim to be?], are actually representative of all women [!]…
• When the Dalits want reservation in the private sector, the business bodies tell the government to let the private sector run only on merit, and that government should not interfere. But the same industry wants tax breaks, favourable policies, free land to be acquired for them by the government [meaning use the police and bureaucrats paid for by the citizens taxes to acquire land for them]. The head of India’s largest business house is a college dropout… yet Dalit PhDs do not get even clerical jobs.
• When the indigenous people want their land to be restored to them, the argument is that they will drink it away. So the government gives them only occupation or possession certificates and not ownership certificates. But they forget that more non indigenous people drink their fortunes away.

4.8 … and Global citizens
There are now ‘global citizens’ and the ‘international community’. This concept of ‘citizenship’ as ‘one-of-us’ and demonising of ‘the other’ leads to the unintentional irony of this statement: ‘I think all foreigners should stop interfering in the internal affairs of Iraq,’ which would be interpreted as a call for the exit of the American and British foreign troops from Iraq. But Paul Wolfowitz meant something else when he was the US Assistant Secretary of War. By ‘foreign’ he meant Arabs and Muslims from neighbouring towns and villages, not White, Anglo-Saxon, Protestants from a continent away.
Prior to the invasion of Iraq on false pretences, 500,000 infants died because sanctions deprived them of medicine and food. Asked by the press, Madelene Albright, then US secretary of state, whether she thought the price was not too high for stopping Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship, she said it was difficult but the price (death of 500,000 children) was worth it… yet the US says that terrorists kill innocents…
The US and UK took it upon themselves to invade Iraq in order to remove an allegedly authoritarian government. The result of the invasion is that many more people have been killed and injured than Saddam was ever accused of. Worse still, the powers which are supposed to save the Iraqi people have broken international laws on human rights, by detaining Iraqis and others and torturing them at Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and elsewhere … yet the US and Britain ‘liberated’ Iraq.
The list is long… the fact is there are multiple standards. If you are a ‘citizen’—of a country or of the world—then what is expected from you is little, while you can expect the best from others. The others may be nationals, refugees or even lesser humans.

5 In conclusion
The challenge is to make all ‘nationals’ into ‘citizens’. As the President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran pointed out, there cannot be two kinds of citizenship in the world. The global movements to restore citizenship work on the premise that human rights are inherent, indivisible, interdependent and inalienable. In a globalised world, global citizenship becomes a necessity. We cannot be rent payers in this world. The globalisation process has created a new class of global citizens, who use the rest of the world defining and redefining the rules, vocabulary and thought. ‘Globalisation’—the free movement—of capital, markets and business is sought to be made the natural order of things, while the globalisation of human beings, relationships and solidarity is prohibited.
Since human rights are interdependent and indivisible, while working for human rights, it is also important to work for ‘citizenship rights’. These rights mean not only at the nation-state level, but also for global citizenship, though grassroots action is a prerequisite. Multiple action, at multiple levels, in different forums and spaces, by multiple actors becomes a necessity.
‘Citizenship’ flows through the projection of power. Creation of power in an inclusive, democratic, internally just process—often called an empowerment process—is the need of the hour for claiming this citizenship. There has been some progress. However, much more needs to be done… and miles to go to awake into ‘that heaven of freedom’.
—oO(end of document)Oo— ----ooo0-----

End Notes
[1] Muslim women get own Jamaat, want mosque http://www.indianexpress.com/full_story.php?content_id=77958 . The mosque is yet to come up, though she has got the land. STEPS, works in Parambu village in Pudukottai district in the South Indian state of Tamilnadu.
[2] Address at the inaugural of the meeting of chief ministers, New Delhi, 4 October 1991.
[3] Ambedkar Bhim Rao, Collected Works, Volume 4, Government of Maharasthra.
[4] Address to the nation, Republic Day, 26 January 2000.
[5] For details on how it works in South India, see Cheria Anita Why Does Nagarhole Burn? and Cheria Anita, Bijoy CR, Narayanan K and Edwin A Search for Justice: A citizens report on the Adivasi report in South India.
[6] In English: Empty land.
[7] Dhakal Suresh, Rai Janak, Chemjong Dambar, Maharjan Dhruba, Pradhan Pranita, Maharjan Jagat and Chaudhary Shreeram, Issues and Experiences: Kamaiya system, Kanara Andolan and Tharus in Bardiya, SPACE, September 2000, p34.
[8] The Kamaiya system had adult Tharu males, who were called ‘Kamaiya’—meaning hard worker—working for the landlord.
[9] 1 Katta= 3,645 square feet; 1 Bali Bigha = 10 Katta; 1 Bigha = 20 Katta; 3 Bigha = 2 Hectares [approx].
[10] Robertson Adam and Mishra Shisham, Forced to Plough: Bonded Labour in Nepal’s Agricultural Economy, Anti-Slavery International and INSEC, 1997, p68.
[11] Shrestha Krishna Prasad, Shrestha Nabin Lal, Summary report on the socio-economic status of Kamaiya, Ministry of Land Reforms and Management, Government of Nepal, November 1999, p38. This brief report is a must read for facts and figures. The tables give a clinical—and therefore more chilling—picture of the nature, extent and impact of the system. It answers the question: What did the government know, and when did they know it?
[12] Shrestha K P, Shrestha N L, p26—28.
[13] The land, as one commentator put it, that was watered by the sweat and blood of the Kamaiya for generations.
[14] Shrestha K P, Shrestha N L, p26—28.
[15] Shrestha K P, Shrestha N Ll, p26.
[16] Devkota Bharat Mani, A status report on the situation of the Kamaiyas in far- and mid-west Tarai, Update on the Kamaiya situation: August 2001.
[17] Female Kamaiya working for the landlord.
[18] Kamaiya Mukti Andolan Parichalan Samiti [Kamaiya Liberation Movement Mobilization Committee]
[19] Kandangwa Nanda Kumar and Thapa Narabikram, Freed Kamaiya Status Report, ActionAid Nepal 2001, p8 and Annual Report 2000, ActionAid Nepal 2001, p7.
[20] Paul D. Wolfowitz, quoted in The New York Times, 22 July 2003.
[21] Mahathir Mohamad, People with blood-soaked hands, speech.
[22] Mahathir Mohamad, People with blood-soaked hands, speech.
[23] UN General Assembly on 19 September 2005. ‘We have a right to pursue peaceful nuclear energy. The US is attempting to divide the world into light and dark countries… everyday they are threatening other nations with nuclear weapons, and they are never inspected’.
[24] We have elaborated the ‘rights and solidarity empowerment process’ in our books A human rights based approach to development: A resource book and Life goes on...; Sustainability of community development programs and the withdrawal of NGO support: an enquiry into expectations and implications
—oO(end of footnotes)Oo—

Forums: 

Human rights and policemen

Debates on human rights invariably pit human rights defenders against the police. This is unfortunate, and a result of many misconceptions. The police have even been termed, by a high court no less, as ‘criminals in uniform’. However, it is more accurate to term the police as ‘human rights defenders in uniform’ and the human rights activists as the civilian human rights defenders. They both share a common interest in the rule of law.

Every day we send out thousands of policemen to defend and protect our human rights, armed only with the law and a body armour of their thin khaki uniform. The point of departure is when some police—a minor fraction of the force—break the law on purpose, and the human rights defenders point it out. The police close ranks and try to defend the indefensible—‘he is one of us’. The common arguments are loss of morale, and the trying conditions of work. However, all Indians are ‘one of us’. Because we have inherited a colonial state, the state functionaries try to protect the state from the nation—the people. The objective of gaining independence was to ensure that the state would protect our rights, and not the interests of the British. It has taken a while for this realisation to dawn on the state. However, it is important to recognise the important function that the police play, and the role of human rights defenders in society.
The primary purpose of the state is to protect, promote and preserve the human rights of all its citizens. This primary duty, and the position of the state as the primary duty bearer is recognised in all human rights instruments and in international human rights law. Even if we narrow down ‘human rights’ to just civil and political rights, rather than the economic social and cultural rights such as the right to food and education, the primacy of the state has been established beyond debate.

Given this context, the police are among the most important defenders of human rights. The paramilitary are, or should be, called out only on occasion. The police are the sole agency of the state empowered to use force on a daily basis. This speaks volumes about the trust we repose on them, and the great responsibility they have to use it with discretion. Since the police are drawn from society, unfortunately, just as we have ‘bad apples’ in society, there are ‘bad apples’ in the police too. Throughout history, it is the lower middle-class that has provided the bulk of the constabulary. They are poorly educated, and seldom have a liberal outlook. Given that they are seldom trained in the philosophy of law, latest trends in criminology, crime and punishment—let alone given the tools for modern enforcement—they are doing a wonderful job of defending human rights.

Dealing with criminals, they treat everyone as criminals—like a nursery school teacher getting so used to talking slowly to the students that she talks even to parents in a similar way. Even armies rotate soldiers during war. The police are so understaffed that they are virtually on call right through the day. This is clearly unacceptable. They deal with criminals too much of the time, and then are asked to turn around and be the smiling, humane, friendly neighbourhood uncle in a second.

The pressures on the police sometimes make them take short-cuts—such as extra-judicial killings. This goes against the basic tenets of the rule of law. The law keeps the victim, the accused, the investigative agency [the police] and the judiciary separate so that the accused is treated fairly. The victim or relatives cannot be the judge. The police in investigation cannot be the judge either, since they also become emotionally attached to one side or the other. Therefore an independent judge is appointed. The police feel that the accused are let off too often and therefore kill people in lock-ups and in ‘encounters’. Taking the law into their own hands is bad for the police, as it is for all citizens. The answer is to reform the law, and to give the police better tools and better working conditions.

Of all sections of society, it is the human rights activists who call for a stronger state, with more accountability and transparency to the citizens it is supposed to protect. It is the human rights activists who are strenuous in their demand for the application of the spirit and letter of the law in all circumstances—because they realise, just as the police do—that the law is meant to protect. It is often the only protection that the weak have. Despite the frustration of the police—and the misuse of the judiciary by organised crime—human rights defenders would uphold the law while working for political, legal and judicial reform.

Human rights defenders often talk about the human rights violations of the police themselves—the long hours of duty, ‘punishment transfers’ for upholding the law in the face of political interference, hierarchy of respect, and downright corruption due to political compulsions. This discourse never gets into the public eye due to the seemingly hostile public positions of the two sides. It is a serious misunderstanding of roles that have, for too long, pitted the police and human rights defenders against each other. It is important to recognise and build on the synergies of the police and the human rights defenders, so that there can be a recognition of human rights defenders in and out of uniform in place of the criminals in and out of uniform as a high court has commented. A ‘culture of human rights’ that ‘respects, promotes and protects’ the human rights of all at all times needs such a partnership.

Forums: 

Human rights, gender and displacement

displacement and rehabilitation institutions and practice

Human rights, gender and displacement

Anita Cheria and Edwin[i]

The issue of gender equality is a fundamental issue that one needs to deal with.

James D Wolfensohn, President, The World Bank Group, 28 January 2002

The issue for us is empowerment. The issue for us is inclusion. The issue for us is to ensure that poor people reach their potential.

James D Wolfensohn, President, The World Bank Group, 7 May 2002

What is not permissible for an individual is not permissible for a group of individuals or a nation.

—M K Gandhi

The bottomline

Disproportionately high numbers of Adivasis and Dalits are displaced in the name of development—ironically for ‘production’ or ‘conservation.’ Often the same community is displaced more than once in a lifetime. The bias against the Adivasi and Dalit communities has been long and widespread, both within and outside India. It has taken different forms as different institutions of the state and those outside it—non-state actors such as religious institutions and businesses—have taken control over their societies and their resources.

Society has ensured that their history is delegitimised and their present, always under threat- physically, socially, culturally and economically. The state has reinforced this marginalization by declaring all Adivasi lands as forests and thus ‘national wealth.’ Similarly, it does not recognize the common lands in villages as that belonging to Dalits. Common ownership, use and nurturing of resources characteristic of these communities is neither recognized nor encouraged. These are consistently denied, and then in a perverse logic, they are indoctrinated to believe that they are impoverished because they ‘have nothing.’

The present set of projects—of development or conservation—have displacement as an integral part to make them viable, cost effective—and are possible only because they involve a large number of Adivasis and Dalits. This paper draws patterns and lessons from ongoing and continuing processes. As recently as February 2003 the Adivasi in Wayanad in north Keralam were killed in February 2003 when they went to reclaim their land—land that the state did not restore to them for over a decade after favourable verdicts, but land that the state protects for the encroachers. This is after about three decades of judicial struggle, despite having even the high court verdict in their favour. Even in April 2003, in Chakwada village in Rajasthan the Dalits still cannot take water from the common pond—despite police protection and international attention. The entire Dalit community has been fined Rs 51,000 because one boy dared to access the pond. The list is endless from all parts of the country.

This note lists some contemporary human rights standards, the context in which the discussion on engendering displacement and rehabilitation can take place. A sample of the displacement and relocation institutions’ [DRIs] understanding of their role and responsibilities follows. It then looks at issues related to tribal women, which DRI ‘development’ projects should consider and the means of doing it. It does not provide an exhaustive list. It looks at the process and underlying values that need to be translated into context specific systems, procedures and instruments to ensure that the core issues are addressed.

Demonstrated good practice by the state in terms of legal and executive policies and implementation should be a precondition for funding rather than an implementation, or post project, promise. When DRIs fund a project, it enables the state to disengage itself from its people—since the money is coming from elsewhere—and abdicate its accountability to the nation. If it is not accountable even to global human rights standards, then DRIs funding is a recipe for a lawless state—as amply proved in the half–century of DRIs existence. Holding states to internationally accepted human rights standards should be a non–negotiable condition for DRIs support—material, financial or human resource.

Once the minimum human rights standards for citizens is set up, the collective intelligence, expertise and skills should be used to find innovative means of implementation and not to find excuses. Only a very strong commitment and determination by agencies involved in both recognizing and accepting the biases and practises within the system can effectively address the issue of safeguarding and enhancing the rights of women within marginalized societies, in this case Adivasis and Dalits. Only when the British banned child labour in their country did their birth rate come down. Only when the cost of exclusion and displacement becomes prohibitive will development become truly inclusive, with benefits reaching those making the sacrifice.

Human rights: the evolution of minimum standards

For much of human history, there was an implicit belief in the ‘neutrality,’ ‘benevolence’ or ‘goodness’ of the state. It was felt that ‘laws’ were inherently good, and the state would not descend to violence against its own people. This is a rather naïve assumption. It took the Second World War to set things in perspective. The killing of the six million Jews by the government of Germany was bad enough. What really horrified the world was that it was all legal and done according to the law by ‘normal’ citizens. Soon after the war, the comity of nations came together in 1945 to form the United Nations to ‘promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom.’ Member States undertook to promote ‘higher standards of living, full employment and conditions of economic and social progress and development’ and ‘universal respect for, and observance of, human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion.’

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights [UDHR], fleshes out the general notion of human rights contained in the Charter and lays the foundation for the Organization’s subsequent human rights standard–setting work. In just 30 short articles, UDHR sets out the world’s minimum standards for the treatment of all human beings.

Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,

Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law,

Article 2 makes clear what this law is—and what distinguishes it from the understanding of law as it was then.

Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non–self–governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.

Subsequent articles address the immediate horrors seen, and consolidate the gains of the human rights movement.

[Article 3] Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person; [4] No slavery or servitude;[5] No torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; [6] the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law; [15] nationality; [16] the right to marry and to found a family... equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.

These were not absolute rights before. They were legally taken away from Jews in all of Germany and German occupied territories. Unfortunately, entire sections of society are legally and socially denied these rights even today—sometimes over 60% of the populations in some countries. Women [about 50% of the population] do not have the right to property, or the choice of spouse. Their identity is subsumed into their father’s or their husbands. Indigenous people often do not even have the right to an identity. The disabled, the gays and lesbians… put together, 60% could even be an underestimate.

States consistently argue that human rights standards do not apply for their citizens due to some ‘special circumstance’ or ‘exception’. It also claims that the effects on certain sections is ‘unintentional’ or ‘collateral damage.’ The Declaration on the Right to Development Article 8 makes it clear that there must be equality of opportunity for all in access to basic resources, education, health services, food, housing, employment and fair distribution of income. It does not make a distinction whether discrimination is deliberate or unintentional. If the result of a process or event is unequal access, it is considered discriminatory.

Over the years, a whole network of human rights instruments and mechanisms were developed to ensure the primacy of human rights and to confront human rights violations wherever they occur. International Human Rights standards were developed to protect people’s human rights against violations by individuals, groups or nations.

Declarations adopted by the international community are not legally binding, but have the legitimacy of accepted human rights standards such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights [1948], the Declaration on the Right to Development [1986] and the Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance [1992]. Many countries have incorporated the provisions of these declarations into their laws and constitutions. International covenants and conventions have the force of law for the States that ratify them.

The importance of human rights

Nations around the globe have many different forms of political systems spanning the entire range of human ingenuity. However, despite the differences in the administrative and political systems, the basic rights of individuals and communities—the social, economic and cultural [SEC] rights—need to be ensured. The fulfilment of SEC rights is the minimum common standard for livelihood, no matter what the form of government. The SEC rights are elaborated in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights [ICESCR].

The state and its instruments have for long ignored the lessons of history, and reaped the consequences. Some countries try to brazen it out. Nepal say’s ‘Nepalese are a poor but happy people.’ India prides itself as a ‘rich country with poor people.’ The fact remains that wherever there is a ‘rich area’—whether in a rich country or a poor country—a substantial population remain trapped in the vicious cycle of riches–repression–revolt. The rich try to corner more and more of the ‘national’ wealth, and the poor resist. When people resist, the state tries doublespeak, evasion, sophistry … and ultimately force and the people revolt. This, incidentally, is not a new phenomenon, but one recognised in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The preamble of UDHR states quite unambiguously that:

Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law, …

This cycle of riches—repression—revolt, the cynical loot of the poor, is the reason why there is such distrust of the state and its minions.

Displacement: the human rights standards

The UN Commission on Human Rights resolution 1993/77, entitled ‘Forced evictions,’ adopted on 10 March 1993, states in part: ‘The Commission on Human Rights . . . affirms that the practice of forced evictions constitutes a gross violation of human rights, in particular the right to adequate housing.’ The right to housing is ensured in ICESCR 11.1, ICERD 5.e.iii; CEDAW 14.2.h, CRC 27.3, UDHR 25.1. Displacement disproportionately affects the already poor to benefit the already rich.

At the very minimum, the DRIs should meet international standards set out in the following human rights instruments of the United Nations.

·         Universal Declaration of Human Rights [UDHR].

·         Permanent Sovereignty over Natural Resources [PSNR].

·         International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights [ICESCR].

·         International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights [ICCPR].

·         Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women [CEDAW].

·         Convention on the Rights of the Child [CRC].

·         The unanimous UN resolution on Forced Evictions, by the Sub–Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities [RFE], on 26 August 1991.

·         UN Commission on Human Rights resolution 1993/77, entitled ‘Forced evictions,’ adopted on 10 March 1993.

DRIs often quibble about what the project affected have or had. The human rights non–negotiable is to ensure a fair [not minimum] standard of living: 200 litres of water and 4000 calories per day, clean air… as per WHO standards, and infrastructure to sustain these standards. They must be the first beneficiaries of the project. These human rights standards must then be translated into simple terms, conditions and government orders that can be followed by the government staff at all levels, especially the law enforcing agencies like the police and the forest department.

Integrating gender and child rights

CEDAW provides good guidelines on what must be addressed to ensure that there is no discrimination against women. But it is difficult to ensure the rights of women and children when the communities themselves do not have rights. Women are not homogenous. The situation of the rich and poor among them vary. The social conditions, the discrimination based on the colour of the skin, of age combine to form a complex reality. These intersections of different forms of exclusion need to be factored into any ‘engendering’ process. The issues facing women of discriminated communities need to be—and perhaps can only be—addressed as a subset of addressing issues facing the entire discriminated community. However, this is a vital dimension, specially of children.

From the stand point of mental health, the hazards of change are actually not as great on those who are immediately involved as they are for their children. It is not among the first generation from simple levels of life to complex levels, that we find principal disturbances which accompany technical change.

Rather it is in the lives of their children [Violating ICESCR 12.1, 12.2a.], reared in conditions within which no stable patterns have been developed, by parents who, while they may be able to weather the storm themselves be drawing on a different childhood experience, have no charts to give their children. Juvenile delinquency, alcoholism, drug addiction, empty, defeated, meaningless lives, lives which are a series of drifting rudderless activities, adoption of oversimplified political programmes which promise relief from their feelings of inadequacy and lack of direction—these are the prices which are paid not so much by the first as by the disturbed members of the second generation.

....Assuring mental health to the second generation, the children of the uprooted who have not yet themselves taken root, requires more than the observation of sound psychological principles...it requires new social inventions, most of which have not even been glimpsed in the outline.[ii]

The most important threats faced by the women relate to her sexuality, and to her reproductive roles. The agents of the state—primarily the armed forces and forest department officials—routinely sexually abuse them. Misusing the desire for security and the differences in culture, the issue of ‘unwed mothers’ has reached disturbing proportions in some areas. The impact of tourism and government staff in introducing new diseases to their areas is often underreported. These include sexually transmitted diseases of all hues, the most fatal being HIV/AIDS.

In rehabilitation, the entire community comes into conflict with the communities that are already present in the area [the ‘host’ community]. The women bear the brunt of this too, for their work—collecting firewood, water, fodder—unlike the men’s, cannot be put off to another day. The women need to take care of the children and, as part of their nurturing functions, take care of all those unwell. In times of change, the trauma is on all—yet women themselves have no time for their own needs.

The present non–negotiable

DRIs need to take into account the new reality. They do have periodic consultations and even try to evolve policy by putting its policy documents on the web. However, for any policy or programme to have legitimacy, it must have two basic components, both demonstrated:

·         Respect for human rights.

It should meet the standards set out by the universal declaration of human rights [UDHR] and the basic covenants [ICCPR, ICESCR, ICERD]. It needs to take into account the advances in human rights such as CRC, CEDAW, ICERD, the declaration on involuntary displacement and discrimination.

·         Good governance.

It is not enough if the project respects human rights. It should be transparent, accountable, and inclusive to those affected by it. People now want to be informed decision makers. Though they may have little interest, or even welcome the project wholeheartedly, they would still like to give their informed consent.

The ‘added cost’ of this inclusion is much less than what delays due to resistance and cost of mitigation of adverse effects would otherwise be. Not taking this into account led to the rather avoidable situation of a prime minister—protected by elite commandos with the latest weapons—having to ‘cancel’ this inaugural function in the Koel Karo region because of ‘security concerns’ from tribals armed with stone age weapons at best.

Institutions of displacement: the major constraints

The state has been the primary actor in displacement. Due to this, there is an inherent mistrust of the state. Even the terminology used is different. What is termed by the state and the elite as ‘development’ is termed as displacement by the not–so–fortunate. This ranges across the spectrum whether it be projects such as big dams—with Narmada being the prime example—or even ‘minor work’ such as roads, and other policies that create internal refuges such as lack of rural investment. This silent displacement is so widespread that international agencies no longer make a distinction on internal and external refugees for humanitarian relief and aid purposes.

In the name of ‘development’, DRIs carry out displacement. International finance agencies such as the World Bank and the IMF head this list. These institutions of displacement have, or had, rather progressive policies. However, they were constrained on two grounds. One is that they were working through the institutions of the state—which is in constant conflict with the weaker sections of society. Another is that the better part of their intelligence went into subverting their own standards.

Working through the state

The World Bank does not lend money to the ‘beneficiaries’ but to host governments—who are often in conflict with the ‘beneficiaries.’ The bank’s instruments are the state—with token ‘NGO’ participation—and its bottom–line is profit. Working with the people, the poorest of the poor Adivasi women, needs to be without any assumptions that the state, multinationals or NGOs are supportive of them. This means a major investment. The world has moved far ahead of the basic assumptions of DRIs. It is no longer state centric. The minimum expected standards are different.

DRIs are constrained by the fact that they work through the Indian state. In the period after independence, it was generally accepted that there would need to be some sacrifice by some people for sometime for ‘national interest.’ Half a century has brought increasing disillusionment with that premise. The same set of people have been forced to make the sacrifice again and again without proportionate gain for too long. For instance electricity is exported from the tribal areas, yet the tribal villages themselves are the last to get benefit from electrification. This development-displacement pattern has eroded the legitimacy of the state. It is no longer sufficient for the state to proclaim that the project is in national interest for its acceptance. Now there are no sacrosanct authorities—government, big business, feudal lords, banks or parents. Everyone is answerable.

That the state is hostile to the Adivasi is no longer in dispute. The state is in constant conflict with these communities, and totally ignorant of the evolving human rights standards. Due to the cycle of impunity, couldn’t care less that they aren’t.

The Adivasi lands are in various degrees of exclusion, and development policies continually hammer their life and livelihood systems. Even when a well–meaning department of the state tries to help the Adivasi—for instance put in a hand pump in their village—another department [usually the forest department] comes along to say that it is ‘not permitted.’ Numerous violations in Adivasi villages bear testimony to this. For instance, there is this list submitted to the World Bank inspection panel by the adivasi of Nagarhole in Karnataka, India.[iii]

 

… a clear instance of violation of Nagarhole people's human rights and their traditional rights to land and resources, and unwillingness on the part of the Forest Department/the Karnataka state government to recognize the tribal protective measures as envisaged in the constitution etc. The violations happen some times in the name. of forest laws and many a times as an act of outright violation of tribal peoples' right to life. So the forest department is hell-bent on evicting the tribal people from the N.P. area. The following illustrations elucidate this

1.          In Golur tribal hadi (M.D.Kote) people were harassed and physically beaten up by the forest department officials and the police for taking up agricultural activities in July 1998.

2.          Some of the good intentioned research students visiting these tribal people in their hadies were also harassed and abused by forest department officials as violating the forest laws.

3.          In Chandanakere (Viraipet taluk) the Yarava tribals who were forcefully evicted from inside the National Park area (Shantipura) are forbidden from entering into the forest to visit their burial grounds and sacred graves in the name of development project. 36 families are squeezed into mere 13 houses built by the department in 1985-87. They are land-locked without an approach path or road. They are cut off from the forest by a trench and an electric fencing in the name of eco-development project. They are facing severe threat to their existence. There by the non-tribals who are encroaching on their land and not allowing them to use thoroughfares.

4.          In Gonigadde, the tribal residents are harassed and abused by the forest department. People for keeping live animals like Goats, chickens and pet dogs as recently as an year back. Animals were forcefully removed and a Police case was lodged against them. The road to Gonigadde hadi is chain-gated and the key is kept by the local forest which is not comfortably available to the people. Neither it was not given nor the road was not opened for transporting paddy grass for thatching the house-roofs.

The people are not allowed to go to the forest to collect the wild grass, to collect honey etc.
In Gonigadde, in the very middle of the hadi there is a Honey Tree which is sacred and traditionally important for the hadi people. The people are forbidden from collecting honey from their tree in the name of ecodevelopment project.

People are not allowed to build houses here and 2 to 3 families are squeezed into one single hut. In Gonigadde people are forbidden from cultivating their fields and monoculture forest saplings like eucalyptus and bamboo are planted on their paddy fields. Gonigadde is a tribal Jamma center and people who were forced out from here earlier are forbidden from visiting the temples here.

Even after repeated requests for reconstructing an electric line which had got damaged and dismantled and abandoned in the name of forest laws, is not at all repaired.

5.          In Murkal as recently as a month back on July 28, two innocent tribal people were dragged out of their house from their sleep at 5 am, in the night, beaten up and under false cases sent for the jails. These people are harassed to make them oblige to move out of their home forest simply under the threat of the forest officials. The tribal people here are afraid to move out.

6.          In Murakal in spite of the local tribal people’s opposition, the Forest Department obdurately went ahead with the construction of resorts. It was earlier declared illegal by the state high court and recently the Central government too has declared it illegal and has urged the state govt. to take action against the erring officials.

7.          In Kolangere, a year back the tribal people tried to cultivate some piece of land in their original place Eeramanehadlu. But they had to face atrocities from the RFO and his staff. Here the people are forbidden from building house and in some houses then to their families are squeezed in one house.

8.          In Nanichi Gaddehadi two years back the local RFO trampled down planted paddy fields and beat up tribals and lodged Use, cases against them.

9.          In Karekandi, Junglehadi,and Ayarhosahall tribal hadies, many people are harassed and beaten up for cultivating and false cases are registered against them. The roads leading to these hadies are trenched forcefully in spite of the protests.

10.       In Tattekere, besides all the restrictions on entering into the forest are forbidden from budding house. Those evicted people are (45 families) squeezed into a small, marshy area of less than 2 acres.

11.       In Kodange, the forest department people wanted to fence out the tribal people who live in the inside fringe of the National Park. But the people resisted this act and the department had to fence along the de-line. But in spite of the request by the people, the department didn't allow a path out for the people's movement.

12.       Recently, one of the tribal forest watches J. K. Ramu, was murdered while on duty by a gang of timber smugglers. The higher up officials in the department were so callous towards this murder and are consciously avoiding serious investigation into the mafia gang behind the act. The department has failed to pay any compensation do far. This negligence and the failure of the department to pay any compensation is also a part of its harassment strategy to move out the tribal people,

13.       In Nagarhole, the tribal people are harassed for going into the forest for collecting firewood, wild grass, honey, small game hunting and they have to move out always under threat from the forest officials. Another particular instance of violation is for bidding of supply of tiles from the BDO's office by the local ULA himself

14.       In Bellenahosalli, Hunsur while putting trenches to demark a decline the officially of the forest department encroached upon tribal lands granted to them by the revenue department. All the hadies and the families staying inside the park are forbidden from availing any of the development programmes from the government. The department has sent strict order to development programme's implementing agencies not to undertake any such activities like roads, drinking water, house construction etc. because they want to shift the tribal people out. This is the method of slow strangulation to force the people out of the National Park. There are also many a cases of violations in Nagarhole while people went for cultivation, put fencing for protection as in 1996 June.

A more comprehensive listing of the constant low intensity conflict and slow strangulation is difficult. Even Prime Minister Narashimha Rao admitted at the meeting of Chief Ministers, 4 October 1991:

Attempts by the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes to break away from this syndrome of deprivation and improve their lot and claim what is rightfully theirs are often the principal cause of the atrocities on them… there is a lack of sensitivity on the part of the police and the district administration...The law enforcers themselves, in many cases, fail to act promptly or collude with the other side.

Misuse of knowledge and position

The World Bank operational directives are much more in line with global human rights standards than the Indian legal framework. If the bank wants to be trusted, then this intelligence must be used to find ways to ensure human rights, be on the side of the weakest, to improve the quality of their life, and critical evaluation of projects. The ODs must be implemented in the spirit in which they were written. The usual excuse of ‘lack of time’ in the project cycle, specially project preparation, to genuinely consider community needs, does not help. Unfortunately, this intelligence is used to subvert rather than fulfil.

To illustrate: The ODs regarding projects affecting indigenous people are clear. The project should be with the informed consent of the people, they should be able to manage the project after completion, and their life should be of at least of equal quality after that. In the India eco–development project, every one of these were violated. World Bank inspection panel report confirms this:

‘ xi. The Panel finds that certain key premises underlying the design phase of the Project at the Nagarahole site are flawed, as a result of which there is a significant potential for serious harm.’

True to form, no follow up action was taken. Instead, attempts were made to belittle the adivasi representations saying they were ‘undated’ as if that would in anyway lessen the violation of human rights.

Institutional arrangements for mitigation

Institutional limitations

DRIs cannot be a part of the life of the affected women permanently. The interaction is limited to certain brief moments of the project period which itself is of too short duration to transfer the life skills required in a new environment. The project period is suited for institutional convenience rather than for the development of the community. The high turnover of bank and implementing agency staff makes shorter project periods to be the preferred. The bank does not have institutional presence in project areas, and works through contractors. Therefore its ‘value added’ is only in monitoring and facilitating knowledge transfer, apart from being a moneylender.

The cultures are different for the state, bank and the project affected. For communication between the three, there needs to be a period where each learns to communicate to the other, or wait for the others to learn to communicate with it. Since the prime movers in this relationship are the bank and the state, the initiative must come from these two. There is no substitute for actually going to the field and listening to the women—not even working through NGOs based on the voluntary ethos.

DRI understanding

The crucial part of the response will depend on the answer to the following question: Do the DRIs not know? Then inform their policy. Do the DRIs know and still not do? Then the response will be quite different—then force them to address the issue. Factor in that the DRIs are far away spatially and otherwise from the affected populations, and cannot be sued—whether it is the World Bank or any other. Therefore, to ensure DRI compliance, non–judicial processes must form part of the bouquet of responses.

Let us look at how DRIs understand the issue, as articulated by the president of the World Bank in a few of the speeches in 2002. He articulates a few honourable thoughts on attitude and policy. They are good examples of identifying issues and proposing solutions.

We have to get over the notion that the poor themselves are the object of charity. The poor themselves are, in fact, the strength of the solution. The issue for us is empowerment. The issue for us is inclusion. The issue for us is to ensure that poor people reach their potential.

The whole approach of our institution today is to try and deal within the framework that I’ve given you with the empowerment of poor people… It is to humanize our efforts. Within that framework, before we get into any programs, there are a number of things which are critical to ensure at the government level: strengthening capacity of government, training, having a legal and judicial system that works, that protects rights, human rights and property rights; a financial system that is clean; and fighting corruption.[iv]

Poor people do not want charity. People in poverty want a chance. People in poverty, the 1.2 billion under a dollar a day, and the nearly 3 billion under $2 a day, in my personal experience, are the best people you meet when you travel. They have a will. They want to be proud. They want an opportunity, and if you give them half a chance, and give them the responsibility, they do well.

The new paradigm of development is to turn poor people from the object of charity to become the asset on which you build. We have to do that if we are going to have leverage in what we’re doing, if we’re going to have scale, and if we’re going to have continuity in what we’re doing. These are not weakened people. They’re not persons with disabilities that happen to be poor. There’s much that can be done to improve the conditions in education and health and in terms of opportunity.

The first thing I think that all of us need to understand, as we come to the programs that the nations are putting together, is that we are partners with the people that live in poverty. I think that’s crucial for us as we think of this development paradigm. …

We must give support in terms of capacity building…. The issue of capacity building is really crucial.[v]

We have to start with education. It’s not just for us, it’s for our kids. One of the first things you can do to deal with the question of poverty around the world is to train your children.

These are people that want a chance. These are people that want enfranchisement. They want the opportunity. They want to live in peace. They want to know that the police are more reliable than the criminals. If they’re women, they want to know that they're not going to get beaten and that they, too, have a chance in a society where, frankly, the women do most of the work. … gender equality is a fundamental issue that one needs to deal with.[vi]

Policy

In a world shifting from a state–led to a market–driven global village, the DRIs are in an unique position to set global standards—having mandates from the governments and the market as a financial institution. By listening to the affected people, and genuinely including them in development, the DRIs can be pioneers.

Respect for human rights is the best policy—just as honesty. It is seldom—even in projects where they are the focus—that the uplift of the community on their own terms is a non–negotiable. The ‘beneficiary’ thus become hostile or apathetic—both forms of resistance. For successful and just project implementation,

·         Be demonstrably on the side of the weakest even among the project affected. They should set the priorities, scope and pace of change.

·         Appraise the people of the project objectives and impact. Then let them come up with their plans. Adjust the macro–plan to include the people’s plans.

·         Maximise diversity to include everyone. The uniformity in the macro–plan needs to be matched by extreme diversity in the micro–plans.

·         The DRIs often operates in areas where they have no institutional presence, depending on its contractors to provide institutional and implementation support. These contractors oftentimes claim to be the representatives of the people’s interest. It is best that the DRIs have direct dialogue with the affected people themselves. Where there are no people’s institutions create or promote them till they can interact knowledgably with the DRIs. Absence of relevant institutions makes for unacceptable risk in planning and failure due to alienation.

Practice

The DRIs have two types of projects: displacement [infrastructure] and investment in the community such as health and education. In both it is the patriarchal state that decides what is good for the tribal. Despite policies and good intentions, the affected themselves are seldom involved. When ‘involved’ it is a lapse into tokenism. Women seldom have space even within this tokenism. There are few women headed tribal organisations, NGOs or government servants.

·         The DRIs should support community development plans, not infrastructure projects—meaning keep the community as the focus. The infrastructure should be only the secondary aspect. Keep the well being of the individual and the community as the focus.

·         In the process of project identification, clearly state the criteria for rejection specially when projects affect tribal communities and women in particular. The criteria for acceptance must be as clear.

·         To provide a gender sensitive programme would require life with dignity for the rest of the community. Unless that is ensured, gender sensitivity cannot be implemented.

·         Relocating the entire community without consideration for even short–term impact is all that is possible within the present framework.

Gender and development

·         Get the gender data before the project starts. Make the data as disaggregated as possible: sex, age and community must be the minimum acceptable.

·         During the pilot phase, find out the gender roles. Ensure that the project will make it easier for the women to fulfil these gender roles, and build institutions to make gender roles more equitable.

·         ‘Women’ in indigenous communities are as young as pre–teens. Ensure that they are counted as adults for the purposes of sharing adult benefits.

·         Address strategic needs in the long term. Build it into the programme design and process at the outset.

·         In times of change, the pressure on women increases. The programmes need to address this increase in stress levels explicitly. Since the tribal get the worst packages for rehabilitation, the tribal women suffer the most.

·         Since the tribal do not have a culture of private property, and community access to common property is the norm, their resources at the family or individual levels are highly under–reported. The cost–benefit analysis should account for adequate resource base.

Gender and social assessment

·         Where tribal women are the focus, sustainable interventions need to be rooted within the environment, should take into account resource mapping, activities and control over time and space.

·         Take into account factors both within the community, which are gender specific and those from the rest, which may be caste and class based. Two other major interests are business and the state. Tourism is a major industry that affects tribal women.

·         Life and medical insurance, grain banks, and other such social security nets and buffers need to be built into the project cost whether or not the DRIs would cover those. If the DRIs do not cover those components, then the implementing agency should mobilise the necessary resources for them prior to plan sanction, in keeping with ICESCR 11 and 12.

Gender and social safeguards

·         Women’s participation at all levels, including in project identification, rejection, stakeholder analysis, social assessment and analysis, household surveys, focus group discussions, participation in implementation, monitoring and evaluation and deciding methodologies for all the above stages would be critical in making the project gender sensitive.

·         The DRIs must ensure that there are about 60—80% women in all decision–making at all levels. In this representation of women, women from affected communities need to be represented as much as possible—and certainly not less than 50%. This might seem to be utopian, but it is necessary if gender equality is a pragmatic objective rather than a populist slogan. Given that the system itself is patriarchal, even with such a proportion of representation, it could still be gender insensitive.

The project objectives and components

Project objectives

The projects of the DRIs, especially those that affect the tribal, need to be community development projects first. The affected community must have the first and major share of the benefits of the project. All other components and benefits should be secondary.

The tribals have a skill set that is effective in a specific geographic location. Take them out of it, and they become dependant. The psycho–social effects of displacement are now well studied. What is not as clear is how to mitigate and perhaps eradicate these ill effects. Without this mitigation, the DRIs will face increasing opposition to its projects.

The projects that the DRIs finance should be long term in that they need to provide the bridge for the people to move from one culture to another with dignity. It needs to provide them a skill set appropriate for the new geographic and socio–cultural environment and provide support till they can stand on their own, in tune with UDHR 23 and 24.

Unless the DRIs are committed to this, there should be no displacement. If they do not meet contemporary standards of human rights and governance, they will be delegitimised. It is important that all projects need to be holistic, integrated community projects—though the DRIs themselves need not be funding the entire component—and meet contemporary human rights standards.

Cost benefit audits

Tangible, measurable benefits within the reward horizon of the community and the individual are necessary to retain interest. Each stage of the project should have demonstrable benefit to the tribals, and different sections among them such as women, children, elderly and disabled, at each stage to meet the standards set by UDHR 25; ICESCR 11.1, 11.2a, 11.2b. Monitor these benefits. Monitor the quantum of money, material and resources that actually reach the women. The fear expressed in DFE that

… forced evictions and homelessness intensify social conflict and inequality and almost invariably affect the poorest, most socially, economically, ecologically and politically disadvantaged and vulnerable sectors of society, while promoting the interests of more powerful social groups…

is all too true. The DRIs can avoid this by ensuring that the displaced get the first benefits of their displacement to fulfil standards agreed to in ICESCR 12.

The women themselves can audit and monitor these in near real–time by using the individual and group diaries of the internal learning system [ILS][vii]. These pictorial records enable illiterate women to do comparative analysis of group functioning and progress towards project goals. The profiles thus developed could form part of the baseline.

Build institutions of the project affected

The World Bank admits that the globalisation and structural adjustment policies have hurt the poor.[viii] The reality is that all change will always hurt the poor. Therefore, building institutions that can control or manage change becomes important. There will be a long lead–time in building these institutions. This lead–time needs to be built into the project. Only after these institutions are built can the benefits reach the tribal women. Otherwise others—non–tribals or tribal men—will hijack benefits.

Tribals don’t know how to dialogue or interact with the DRIs. Tribal women less so. The need to dialogue is for both sides, but it is the responsibility of the DRIs to ensure that it happens. The process by which the tribal women become able to interact with the DRIs is a long one, but necessary. All communities have communication mechanisms that allow for opinion come from the individual to the collective consciousness. These need to be strengthened. In addition, these institutions will need to have separate and common space for men and women. The common space is likely to be dominated by men. So the space organised for the women should be able to veto the decisions of the ‘common’ forum—though the same women will be in the ‘common’ forum and in the ‘women’s’ forum. We would suggest similar forums for children. These forums would need to be community wise. For instance, though the Kuruba and the Paniya live in the same area, there would need to be both Kuruba and Paniya forums, and within these forums there would need to be separate forums for women and children.

This must be done by the DRIs, prior to engagement. This phase of ‘social mobilisation’ needs to precede every project. Social mobilisation as a prerequisite for poverty eradication has been accepted by all SAARC governments in the SAARC poverty commission report, and ‘empowerment’ by none other than the president of the World Bank. Only when these institutions are strong and able to interact with the DRIs on relatively better terms, the second condition—good governance—can be fulfilled. It is in the interest of the DRIs to build institutions that are internally just and representative. If that is not done, then it is likely that there will be resistance somewhere down the project timeline. Once the trust is lost, then regaining it will be a Herculean task—and sometimes impossible.

Addressing inequality

The individual and community first address survival needs. Then they move on to self–esteem. They have an understanding of the risks they can take. Once they increase their resource base, they also increase their capacity to risk. But why should the community be put through the risk and trauma of change if their standard of living will not appreciably increase? The women anyway bear the brunt of change. If this change will not bring them a better future, why should they be put through this stress?

The World Bank states that gender inequality is a barrier to poverty alleviation. All inequality is a barrier to poverty eradication. Institutions, most often the state itself, preserve inequalities. When this inequality is addressed, then the entire institutions of society—formal and non–formal—become active opponents of the change process. Can the DRIs face such reaction? Do they really want to take on the state?

The ability of the community and its supporters to identify and address ‘issues’ is one of the key prerequisites for addressing poverty. These ‘issues’ are ones that are seemingly logical, and deeply rooted in custom and tradition. But in the new relations of production and distribution, new social ordering, relationships and values, they keep the community chained to its past and hinder its progress. What is an issue in one social construct becomes a non–issue in another and could become even oppressive. Can the project provide the mobility to disengage from the oppressive to move on to the more liberative? In the economic, it is the old feudal economy to the emerging market. This can be leveraged into making social relations more democratic. Links with the democratic institutions in nascent civil society can be utilised to enforce democratic values.

The way forward

Can the DRIs deliver?

Yes, and no. Certainly not by themselves. But they can be made to deliver. DRIs know what has to be done, but they do not want to do it. At the time of inception, the World Bank was certainly at the forefront of human consciousness regarding human development. Till recently, it could even claim that its operational directives were in harmony with the international bill of rights and other human rights standards. Not anymore.

DRIs have a rather narrow view of what constitutes displacement and work to fulfil the narrowest legal obligations, within the narrowest interpretation of the letter of the law. It deliberately does not look at the continuing historical processes but only at the project in isolation—despite the fact that the project, or non–bank funded components of it, are continuing the historical process of exclusion.

Just listing of these human rights instruments show how far the DRIs are from meeting these standards. The habit of reverting to the narrowest possible interpretation of the letter of the law is self–evident.

The World Bank recently undertook a rather elaborate [for itself] review of its operational directives [OD] to change them into operational policy [OP] and bank procedures [BP].

The Bank’s policy on Indigenous Peoples is currently being converted from OD 4.20 to OP/BP 4.10. The policy is being converted from an OD format which combines policy, procedures and good practice information into an OP/BP format that clearly distinguishes between policy and procedures.

On its website the bank states the purpose of the review:

Conversion / Revision of Safeguard Policies: The Bank’s safeguard policies were drafted between the early to late 1980s. Practice on safeguard issues has evolved considerably since then, and needs to be reflected in updated policy statements. The conversions/revisions do not alter the objectives and principles of the policies. They:

·           Clarify ambiguities in the existing policy statements

·           Codify current practice based on evolving standards

·           Reflect recommendations of evaluations carried out by the Bank’s independent Operations Evaluation Department (OED)

There is no dilution nor tightening of safeguard policy standards as a result of the ongoing conversions of safeguard policies.

Despite all its claims of bringing its practices to meet evolving standards, on the same web–page the bank admits:

The draft OP/BP merely clarifies a long–standing interpretation of Management under the existing OD4.30—that the Bank’s policy on involuntary resettlement covers only direct impacts resulting from Bank–assisted projects and caused by land takings or restrictions of access to protected areas. The Bank’s policy on Involuntary Resettlement has never covered all adverse socio–economic impacts of Bank projects—only those directly caused by land taking and restriction of access to legally designated parks and protected areas.

In other words, it does not ‘codify current practice based on evolving standards.’ They do not even meet human rights standards set more than half a century ago.

Ensuring compliance

The World Bank president uses all the right words… empowerment, inclusion, poor want/need a chance, education, capacity building. These are sometimes practiced in stray cases, and then highlighted. But those are more accidents that could not be prevented. Where it matters—specially in macro–projects which affect thousands—the bank is clearly in the wrong. Showcasing isolated accidents of good behaviour are certainly not the remedy to systemic large–scale violations of human rights.

For DRIs compliance with international standards, one method is to get in as many first, second or even third generation project affected women into positions of power within the DRIs. Since the need is immediate, there is no option but to have grassroots mobilisation and civil society solidarity. The DRIs have to be forced into compliance much as any other institution or entity has to be: by ensuring that the pain of the periphery reaches the centre. Through history, that has been the only method. Experience with the DRIs shows it to be valid even today. Just as there will always be ‘something missing’ when men plan for women, there will always be the same gap when the affected women do not control their own development.

Despite all the rhetoric of the World Bank—and the PR offensive of its president—one must not forget that fundamental differences exist. The DRIs consider the economic model as ‘a given.’ Consultations are only permitted to tinker around the edges of a model exacerbating poverty. While ‘social’ issues are discussed in the context of the bank’s Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers [PRSP] with some participation, the ‘macro’ issues are discussed in the context of Poverty Reduction and Growth Facilities [PRGF] with no participation. These differences in approach are neither accidental nor innocent.

The DRIs have the instruments and frameworks. They need the political will. But political will is created only by a countervailing political power. A power sufficient to hurt. As the American president Roosevelt said—talk softly, but carry a big stick. Any attempt at engendering resettlement and rehabilitation policies and programmes must first create the big stick for the affected women. Ironically, that requires the very empowerment process Mr James D. Wolfensohn is so enthusiastic about, but his colleagues in the displacement industry so carefully subvert.

The reality is much more sobering.

As the UDHR says, whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world… [and] disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind…

—oO(end of document)Oo—

 

The relevant documents

Universal declaration of human rights

Article 3

Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

Article 13

1. Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.

Article 16

3. The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.

Article 17

1. Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others.

2. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.

Article 22

Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national effort and international co–operation and in accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality.

Article 23

1. Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.

2. Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.

3. Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.

Article 24

Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.

Article 25

1. Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well–being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.

2. Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance.

Article 26

1. Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.

2. Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.

3. Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.

Article 27

1. Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.

2. Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.

Article 29

1. Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible.

2. In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.

3. These rights and freedoms may in no case be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

ICESCR was adopted and opened for signature, ratification and accession by General Assembly
resolution 2200A (XXI) of 16 December 1966 and its entry into force is 3 January 1976, in accordance with article 27.

Article 1

1. All peoples have the right of self–determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.

2. All peoples may, for their own ends, freely dispose of their natural wealth and resources without prejudice to any obligations arising out of international economic co–operation, based upon the principle of mutual benefit, and international law. In no case may a people be deprived of its own means of subsistence.

3. The States Parties to the present Covenant, including those having responsibility for the administration of Non–Self–Governing and Trust Territories, shall promote the realization of the right of self–determination, and shall respect that right, in conformity with the provisions of the Charter of the United Nations.

Article 2

1. Each State Party to the present Covenant undertakes to take steps, individually and through international assistance and co–operation, especially economic and technical, to the maximum of its available resources, with a view to achieving progressively the full realization of the rights recognized in the present Covenant by all appropriate means, including particularly the adoption of legislative measures.

Article 5

1. Nothing in the present Covenant may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights or freedoms recognized herein, or at their limitation to a greater extent than is provided for in the present Covenant.

Article 11 

1. The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living for himself and his family, including adequate food, clothing and housing, and to the continuous improvement of living conditions. The States Parties will take appropriate steps to ensure the realization of this right, recognizing to this effect the essential importance of international co–operation based on free consent.

2. The States Parties to the present Covenant, recognizing the fundamental right of everyone to be free from hunger, shall take, individually and through international co–operation, the measures, including specific programmes, which are needed:

a. To improve methods of production, conservation and distribution of food by making full use of technical and scientific knowledge, by disseminating knowledge of the principles of nutrition and by developing or reforming agrarian systems in such a way as to achieve the most efficient development and utilization of natural resources;

b. Taking into account the problems of both food–importing and food–exporting countries, to ensure an equitable distribution of world food supplies in relation to need

Article 12

1. The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.

2. The steps to be taken by the States Parties to the present Covenant to achieve the full realization of this right shall include those necessary for:

a. The provision for the reduction of the stillbirth–rate and of infant mortality and for the healthy development of the child;

b. The improvement of all aspects of environmental and industrial hygiene;

c. The prevention, treatment and control of epidemic, endemic, occupational and other diseases;

d. The creation of conditions which would assure to all medical service and medical attention in the event of sickness.

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

Article 1

1. All peoples have the right of self–determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.

2. All peoples may, for their own ends, freely dispose of their natural wealth and resources without prejudice to any obligations arising out of international economic co–operation, based upon the principle of mutual benefit, and international law. In no case may a people be deprived of its own means of subsistence.

Resolution on Permanent Sovereignty over Natural Resources

UN General Assembly resolution 1803 (XVII) adopted on 14 December 1962.

1. The right of peoples and nations to permanent sovereignty over their natural wealth and resources must be exercised in the interest of their national development and of the well–being of the people of the State concerned.

2. The exploration, development and disposition of such resources, as well as the import of the foreign capital required for these purposes, should be in conformity with the rules and conditions which the peoples and nations freely consider to be necessary or desirable with regard to the authorization, restriction or prohibition of such activities.

3. In cases where authorization is granted, the capital imported and the earnings on that capital shall be governed by the terms thereof, by the national legislation in force, and by international law. The profits derived must be shared in the proportions freely agreed upon, in each case, between the investors and the recipient State, due care being taken to ensure that there is no impairment, for any reason, of that State’s sovereignty over its natural wealth and resources.

4. Nationalization, expropriation or requisitioning shall be based on grounds or reasons of public utility, security or the national interest which are recognized as overriding purely individual or private interests, both domestic and foreign. In such cases the owner shall be paid appropriate compensation, in accordance with the rules in force in the State taking such measures in the exercise of its sovereignty and in accordance with international law. In any case where the question of compensation gives rise to a controversy, the national jurisdiction of the State taking such measures shall be exhausted. However, upon agreement by sovereign States and other parties concerned, settlement of the dispute should be made through arbitration or international adjudication.

5. The free and beneficial exercise of the sovereignty of peoples and nations over their natural resources must be furthered by the mutual respect of States based on their sovereign equality.

6. International co–operation for the economic development of developing countries, whether in the form of public or private capital investments, exchange of goods and services, technical assistance, or exchange of scientific information, shall be such as to further their independent national development and shall be based upon respect for their sovereignty over their natural wealth and resources.

7. Violation of the rights of peoples and nations to sovereignty over their natural wealth and resources is contrary to the spirit and principles of the Charter of the United Nations and hinders the development of international co–operation and the maintenance of peace.

Resolution on Forced Evictions

All policies dealing with displacement need to consider the unanimous UN resolution on Forced Evictions by the Sub–Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities on 26 August 1991.

… Governments often seek to disguise the violence that may be associated with forced evictions by using terms such as ‘cleaning the urban environment’, ‘urban renewal,’ ‘overcrowding’ and ‘progress and development,’

Disturbed that forced evictions and homelessness intensify social conflict and inequality and almost invariably affect the poorest, most socially, economically, ecologically and politically disadvantaged and vulnerable sectors of society, while promoting the interests of more powerful social groups,

Disturbed also that discrimination based on race, ethnic origin, nationality, gender, and social, economic and other status is often the actual motive behind forced evictions,

Conscious that misguided development polices can result in mass forced evictions,

Aware that forced evictions can be carried out, sanctioned, demanded, proposed, initiated or tolerated by a number of actors, including, but not limited to, occupation authorities, national governments, local governments, developers, planners, landlords, property speculators and bilateral and international financial institutions and aid agencies,

Emphasizing that the ultimate responsibility for preventing evictions rests with the governments,

Concerned that eviction policies are frequently premeditated, well planned actions, often supported by legislation, …

1. Draws the attention of the Commission on Human Rights to:

b. The fact that the practice of forced eviction constitutes a gross violation of human rights, in particular the right to adequate housing;

c. The need for immediate measures to be undertaken at all levels aimed at eliminating the practice of forced eviction;

2. Recommends that the Commission on Human Rights encourage the governments to undertake policy and legislative measures aimed at curtailing the practice of forced eviction, including the conferral of legal security of tenure to those currently threatened with forced eviction, based upon effective consultation and negotiation with affected persons or groups;

3. Emphasizes the importance of the provision of immediate, appropriate and sufficient compensation and/or alternative accommodation, consistent with the wishes and needs of persons and communities forcibly or arbitrarily evicted, following mutually satisfactory negotiations with the affected person(s) or groups(s)

—oO(end of document annexes)Oo—

 



[i] Anita Cheria and Edwin; OpenSpace, India office @ openspace. org. in

[ii] Verrier Elwin; Verrier Elwin, Philanthropologist, Selected Writings; Nari Rustumji (Ed.); OUP, 1989 p 259–60.

[iii] Letter of J.L Subramani, Nagarahole Budakattu Janara Hakku Stapana Samiti, to Mr. Jim MacNeill, World Bank Inspection Panel dated 2 September 1993. For more details of the ecodevelopment project see our book: A search for justice: the Adivasi experience in south India.

[iv] Remarks at the Conference on Humanizing the Global Economy, Sponsored By The Bishops’ conferences of Canada, Latin America and The United States, Globalization, Equity, and Faith by James D. Wolfensohn, President, The World Bank Group, Washington D.C., 28 January 2002.

[v] Global Development Initiative Conference, Comprehensive Strategies for Poverty Reduction—The Challenge of the 21st Century by James D. Wolfensohn at The Carter Center, Atlanta, Georgia, 21 February 2002.

[vi] Banking, Finance and International Development—Areas for Cooperation in Poverty Reduction, 14th International Frankfurt Banking Evening, James D. Wolfensohn, Frankfurt, Germany, 7 May 2002.

[vii] Developed by Dr Helzi Noponen, with the assistance of SEWA, Ford Foundation and FWWB. HNoponen@aol.com.

[viii] William Easterly 'The effect of IMF and World Bank programmes on poverty'.

Forums: 

Ilunga: Social cost of female foeticide

In a survey of the world’s most untranslatable words, the worlds best translators and linguists came up with the word: ilunga. Since the tribals are close to nature, this word appropriately comes from Tshiluba, a Bantu language spoken in South Eastern Congo and Zaire. It means a person who will forgive everything once, tolerate it the second, but never the third time. The Indian census figures 2001 are the second wake up call.

The Indian male to female ratio is plummeting. The national average is 927 girls for 1000 boys in the 0 to 6 age group. In the richest parts of India it is even less. Punjab has just 793, and Haryana has 820 Chandigarh 845 and the national capital Delhi has 865. Others with ratios below 900 are Gujarat [878] and Himachal Pradesh [897]. This means that along with ‘progress’—technological and otherwise—India is moving backwards in social equity, and into a future of intense conflict. The first 11 places ranging from Assam [964] to Sikkim [986] are all tribal majority states. Andhra Pradesh ties for the eleventh place. At present there are two states with a positive ratio: Keralam and Pondicherry. In the 0-6 age group they come in at 14 and 17 respectively.

Conditioned by the prevailing market ideology and thinking, we tend to think in terms of supply and demand. According to this line of thought, fewer girls will lead to more demand for brides, bring down the dowry—or even bring in bride price—and generally make society value girls some years down the line. However, the human being does not always act according to the market, and price does not translate into value, much less good behaviour. The experience of China is illustrative. With the strict one child per family norm, Chinese couples with their notorious preference for boys, used modern technology for sex selection. Female foetuses were ruthlessly aborted. This has resulted in a major imbalance. The result of the practice was that there are fewer girls. Chinese custom is to pay bride price. So the boys paid high bride prices to get brides.

The consumer culture does not stop with acquisition. It demands ‘quality of service’ to match the price paid, specially if it is ‘premium products’. The girls were normal human beings with all human frailties. However, the boys wanted super humans, having paid premium rates. Nothing that the girls did would satisfy them. They thought that they got ‘exclusive goods’ not partners, every bit as human as them. Domestic violence soared. Disappointments were rampant.

The other cost paid is in increase of violence. The use of technology for sex determination and then selective abortion itself is violence. However, large-scale violence of the overt kind—such as crime waves—is a phenomenon waiting in the not too distant future. Simple mathematical projections into the future let us know its contours.

There are 157,863,145 Indians below the age of six. Of them 81,911,041 are boys and 75,952,104 are girls. This gives a ratio of 927 girls for 100 boys in that age group. For the sake of simplicity, we will assume evenness across the nation, and that this will remain the same for the next ten years. The most aggressive periods of a man’s life are between 15—35. During this time, marriage provides the balancing factor to ‘settle down’. This is also the prime military age.

If these figures are projected over this timeframe, in 30 years we will have almost 18 million boys in the 15 to 35 age group, with little chance to marry. About six million of this—those in the present 0-6 age group—will be in the 30 to 36 age group, increasingly despairing of ever marrying. Even assuming that some will take to sanyas in the true Indian tradition, the huge numbers of those who don’t will be a fertile ground for violence and aggression.

There will certainly be an increase in rape and domestic violence. But the danger goes far beyond the individual, and not limited to the confines of the home however abhorrent even that is. It will have repercussions reaching to the core of social organisation. The present organised sexual slavery and trafficking in women will increase manifold, and become more vicious. There will be increased forced prostitution through kidnaps, because of the ‘demand’.

The ‘reserve pool’ from which crime—whether organised or political, such as communal riots—can draw from will be multiplied manifold. We will literally have an army of the willing, able and ready to indulge in violence. With crime rates soaring, spending on security—both state and private—will need to match it. The rich will retreat behind walls of concrete and security rings of dispensable lesser folk.

When confronted with such violence, nations normally export it. India will find itself in more wars. Warlike individuals will attain positions of power and be called ‘strong’. Employment will be in more warlike industries such as ‘security’ and ‘defence contractors’—i.e. half will become criminals, and we will have to employ the other half to protect us! Police, military and paramilitary expenses will climb, taking away resources from productive investment. The violence against the unborn, the violence against the defenceless, will rebound on us all. It is a law of nature. It is for our own good and survival that we need to lessen the violence in our society, and turn it into a more nurturing and caring one. Nature may yet be the mother of all ilungas.

Forums: 

India: A Revolution from below

India: A Revolution from below
Anita Cheria and Edwin
This elections will have a crucial difference: the third generation of Indians will vote. Assuming that Indians have children at the age of 18—and many do before that—we needed 54 years [18 x 3] after independence for this to happen. With this ‘grandchildren of the revolution’ voting, it marks an important milestone and coming of age of the silent revolution that is overtaking India. This is a revolution of the consciousness and changes the way India looks at itself and the rest of the world.

This has far reaching consequences—just as the advent of the retirement of the first post independence generation in the late 1970s and the early 1980s, with its huge pension funds and disposable income, marked the coming of age of the Indian middle class as the consumer class. It is no coincidence that the consumer revolution took place then.

If we have 18 as the generational age, then those born before 1965 are Generation 1, those between 1965 and 1983 Generation 2, and those up to 2001 are Generation 3. The mindset of each is very different. The pre-independence generation—Generation 0—have either retired or are rapidly reaching retirement. Those in decision making positions, at the moment—newspaper editors among them—belong to Generation 1. For them, there still exists an Indian National Congress, a one hundred year old party. For Generation 3, there exists only a Congress(I)—and many don’t even know what the (I) stands for, and couldn’t care less—and that is just as old as them. And they are actually, factually correct. Even conceding that the Congress(I) is the inheritor of the INC legacy, to carry the analogy a little further, though one agrees that the descendants can inherit the mantle of the ancestors, one does not say that the son is as old as the father!

Even a decade ago, newspapers, indicative of the thinking of the older generation psyche, used to talk of the Opposition parties and the Congress—subtly reinforcing the notion that the Congress(I) is the natural ruling party. We regularly heard of opposition ruled states—surely a contradiction in terms! But it was ‘understood’ to mean non Congress(I). The Congress was seen as the ‘natural ruling party’.

But for Generation 3, it is not so. From 1983—in 23 years—they have seen just 12 Congress(I) years. They have seen a total of 10 prime ministers, only 4 of them from the Congress(I). Contrast this with the just 2 years of non-Congress rule till 1983! Each political party is weighed on its own merits. For them, the halo of the Independence struggle does not rest with any of the political parties, and their sense of nationhood is not so insecure as those of the Independence generation—Generation 1. For Generation 3, Indian nationhood is a ‘given,’ a take-it-for-granted state of affairs. Remember when politicians routinely asked for all ‘patriotic’ Indians to vote for their party? And when opposition parties were all anti- national? Voting for a particular party is no longer a test of one’s patriotism.

On the economic front the changes are equally drastic. Living through the socialism of the license raj there is naturally no emotional attachment towards any ism other than what ‘works.’ [And to the dismay of the elders not to idealism either!] In that sense they all belong to Dewey’s school of philosophy. The intense preoccupation with egalitarianism or ideology, as those who have shared a common test of fire—such as the independence struggle or a war—is no longer present. Instead, though there is much idealism, as the youth have always had, it is tempered firmly with realism. The feet of this generation are firmly planted on the ground. The lack of ideological fanaticism is pronounced in many different ways. This generation was born at the time of the cold war, true. But more than ideological conflict, it saw the utter cynicism of all ideology. The Russian—Soviet Union’s, if you will—imperialism in Afghanistan, a prostrate United States just after Vietnam, support of the west to the so-called genocidal Pol Pot, a Tinnamien Square in China... all these have left this generation with a profound disinterest towards ideology, and a mature skepticism about all ideological conflicts. They know that once a deed is done, no matter how selfish, some ideological fig leaf can be found to justify it. This is not growing up without being idealistic, nor is it a lost childhood. This generation is idealistic but is also just a shade more pragmatic, and just a shade more honest—with itself and the world.

This healthy irreverence with regard to customs, traditions and the nation itself are signs of a growing self-confidence. Only a self-confident person can laugh at oneself. In international relations this self-confidence means that they are not in the thrall of the ‘only super power in the world.’ They would like to go and learn—and make money—there. But it is not the promised land. They can also see it for what it is—the world’s largest debtor and the largest military dinosaur. Iraq did happen, but then so does Bosnia, where it is impotent, and even in Iraq it had to pass around the bowl afterwards—75% of the American Iraq war was paid for by its ‘allies’. It sees the ‘super-power’ addicted not to war, but to Vietnam—Somalia, and now Iraq.

This generation does not have any misplaced sense of nationalism. Instinctively they know that when there is a call for patriotism, it is only for the benefit of a few. Quite heretical to the older generation, but cannot be wished away. Take the enthusiasm with which they have embraced the foreign onslaught in the consumer market. The criteria is the quality of the product, not where it is made—though the place of manufacture also plays a deciding role in the perceived quality of the product. Just because a product has the ‘made in India’ label, one does not buy shoddy goods. This generation calls halt to the subsidy and ‘reservation’ given to the Indian business class for the past five decades in the name of patriotism and self-reliance.

These are not forecasts. If we look at Generation 2—they are just getting into decision making position—these attitudinal changes are already visible. The extent to which the electorate changes non-working governments, the amount of plurality—despite communal and fascist hysteria—with the union government with one party, the states having another and the panchayats still another, all these are proof enough. Some political parties realize this too: the BJP campaigns on emotional issues, but delivers on bread-and-butter ‘good governance’ issues. Though it has not delivered on its USPs—article 370, the temple or the common civil code—that is not considered, though their delivery on issues of good governance—infrastructure for one—is their key asset. Equality—both for citizens and for coalition partners—is a non-negotiable: TINA simply does not work anymore. The lionising of the ‘uncharismatic’ Chandrababu or Krishna by the media—though their impact in the rural areas was not as good—was no accident since techno-managerial, quick fix, media savvy solutions are what Generations 2 and 3 can understand.

This generation dominates technology rather than be overwhelmed by it. They are perfectly at home with computers, cellular phones, space travel, ‘love marriages,’ free love, as well as ragas, Indian customs and arranged marriages. It is no accident that the kurta and jeans is their fashion, along with the t-shirt. What they are saying is that they can take the best of all cultures without being swept off their feet by any of them. Multi-channel television—with instant news and visuals from all parts of the globe, no matter how remote—are routine. These are all the ‘givens’ for this generation. It is not that they have ceased to wonder, but they do not wonder about the same things as the older generation.

This generation thinks nothing of spending Rupees one thousand for pair of shoes—and many have more than a pair—and having a car before they are out of the teens. This is not restricted only to the elite but also to sections of the middle middle-class. They think nothing of demanding—and getting—six and seven figure incomes.

Since it is the cutting edge of technology, most of the changes are seen in the information technology industry first. The average time that a professional stays in one company is two years. And there is no difficulty in getting another job. Rather than being a job hunter, the professional becomes the hunted, and a quite pricey one at that. Companies vie with one another to entice and retain the best professionals. Income hikes of one hundred per cent per annum are not unknown. The professional accepts this gracefully as birthright. No more standing in front of the ‘boss’ for a festival allowance. This generation gives work everything they have and also live life as one big festival.

They do not want to own everything that they use. Not in the sense that the elders do. Just as their elders did not want to ‘own’ the bus that they traveled in, this generation does not need to own their cars, washing machines or even their houses. Hire purchase and debit purchase—often called credit purchase in a typically charming Orwellian fashion—anathema to the older generation is a way of life with them. A home in every resort? No problem. Timeshare is the answer. Ever heard of a holiday paid for in instalments before?

As in all societies in transition, it is perhaps the women who have travelled most. Working outside the home? A career? Driving a two or four wheeler? or being a pilot, business manager...? The changes there are much more fundamental. Much more liberated, and not only in their choice of clothes or profession, they now can choose either to stay at home or go out for work. They do not have to assert their right to the career by working outside the home. They take time off for babies—sometimes years—and are gratefully accepted back into the work force. The winning of beauty contests, or posing in their birthday suits are only indications of self-confidence.

Unthinkable—even immoral and unethical—to the old, these are commonplace to the new. What are the implications of this revolutionary change? Does society have the space for the potent revolutionary forces that are sweeping the nation into not only the twenty first century but also the third millennium? One cannot get away from them, for they are everywhere. This mindset will only increase. When the present political leaders succumb to foreign pressure, do they realize utter disbelief that this generation has? Do they realize the explosion that is just waiting to happen? For this generation, superpowers are just other countries. The increasing confidence is seen in demanding the best—and getting it. Evidence of this can be seen from the no longer deferent Indian tourist to the increasing flexing of Indian economic muscle to keep even the US on tenterhooks: notice how they play off Airbus versus Boeing with élan—and will perhaps add a punitive clause for all purchases from the US in the event of ‘sanctions’ in future. The wish-list of the excluded and the resultant anger when denied is just waiting to explode in a generation that is not attuned to waiting patiently and saving forever before their dream comes true. The new generation has infiltrated the system, and are forcing the system to make space for them. The revolution is here. And in each election, their share of the vote will only increase.

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Interrogating Culture: For life or for death? Anita Cheria and Edwin

The debate about which is better—nature or nurture—has been an ongoing debate for millennia. Whatever the result, the fact is that ‘nature’ is a given. Humankind has never been at peace with nature—the environment that has been inherited. Therefore, the species has always attempted to change the external world through dominance or through retreating into a mythical world. To cope with the vagrancies of nature—over which there is little control such as birth, death and suffering—humans invent elaborate myths, ritual and pseudo-reality sometimes camouflaged as ‘heaven’, ‘golden ages’ and other utopias of the unremembered past.

The roots of a culture…
‘Culture’ is that part of the environment created by humans. The building blocks of this ‘culture’ are memes. Every meme is a unit of cultural information, such as a cultural practice or idea, that is transmitted verbally or by repeated action from one mind to another. Meme is to culture what bits—binary digits 0 and 1—are for computers. Though seemingly simple, the entire superstructure is built from them.

The most powerful meme across all cultures is the ‘mother’ and then child. This results in all religions having the cult of the ‘mother and child’. In modern communication, another power meme—fear—is used along with these two power memes. Advertisements invariably invoke these images—of mother, child and fear—to sell goods of little utility to people with little discernment.

Socialising the paradigm
Terrified of everything beyond his control, man built a superstructure based on domination, exploitation and control of nature. The feminine was identified with nature, and the female became the chosen carrier of this dominant (patriarchal) superstructure of ideas expressed in religion, ideology and social ordering, structures and institutions. She was to be the socialising agent to transmit this ideology till such time that the ‘ordered’ system (order and system being the sine qua non of the male ‘rational and scientific’ and therefore ‘controllable’ universe) of ‘formal schooling could finish the job.

We have forgotten the basic purpose of schooling: to impart education to make life better. We now equate schooling with education, and certification of our writing skills as the only yardstick for knowledge and wisdom. This modern fallacy of certified institutional knowledge being the only source of wisdom is as equally devastating as the olden method of equating age and wisdom. The old practice of shaving one’s head to show wisdom [as in a bald head, a signifier of age] now gives way to the new practice of forging certificates. No matter how skilled the practitioner, there is more respect accorded to the certified theorist.

The malaise in our schooling goes much deeper than the mere forging of certification—of the written or shaved variety. It is, at the very least, structural. It makes the person believe that knowledge can be acquired only on classrooms, with the token ‘study tour’ and ‘practicals’ thrown in. But the true roots of the malaise go much deeper. The present system of schooling was invented in the industrial age to create an army of clerks for book-keeping. It was a worthy successor to the monasteries which trained men to copy religious texts from long extinct languages. Little wonder then that the paradigm of death permeates schooling.

Measuring the paradigm
It is important to know that our way of life, our education and our measurement systems all come from the industrial world. This has several implications on our cultural, since it determines the way that we think. Industrial society measured not the happiness but the ‘efficiency of production’. This led to absurdities that still haunt us. We measure, and our sense of wellbeing depends on the results of this flawed measurement.

We forget that the tools developed by industrial society are essentially to measure the ‘dead value’. One of the devastating consequences of applying it to life is that a live tree has no value. A dead tree can be bought and sold for its timber. A healthy population has no value. But an unhealthy one would buy a lot of medicines and therefore increase the GDP. A harmonious society would be bad for the economy, since there would be no war, therefore no armaments… no production so a low GDP and little or no ‘growth’. It also leads to absurdities of having car loans at 7% or less [often 0% or negative if inflation is factored in], and agricultural loans at a ‘concessional rate’ of 9% when it is guaranteed by the government!

This paradigm of death results in a serious backlash against life itself. Irrespective of geography, highly literate societies have fewer children. This is not because of women’s liberation as is frequently taught, but because of the internalising of the paradigm of death. If it were really so, graduates from Malaysia to Russia wouldn’t need incentives to marry and have children. The higher the number of years of schooling, the less the love of life and children. Post graduates have less children than graduates, and doctorates less than both. It is little wonder that the most cruel atrocities against children come not from the unlettered but from the expensively schooled and highly civilised sections of society. To no ones surprise, most of the cases of child abuse are perpetrated by ‘white collar workers’ and PhDs.

The disease industry
Today we measure well-being by the country's GDP and the stock market. But the stock market can be made to go up only by unhealthy populations. One of the best ways of making a country's GDP go up is to poison the water supply. It would contribute to the economy by

  1. The purchase of the poison.
  2. The treatment of the poisoned people by the disease industry (the hospitals, doctors and the drug companies).
  3. Burial of the dead.
  4. Cleaning of the water supply.

It is not coincidence that the same conglomerates manufacture fertilizers and pesticides (poison) and medicines! On the other hand, a healthy population, living in harmony with itself literally hurts the economy. Healthy economies need unhealthy populations. Harmony literally harms money. The massive 'profits' that come to the US due to its military industrial complex. Killing is big business. As of now, there are more than two bullets for every person living on this earth, not to mention enough nuclear weapons to destroy the planet many times over.

The state of our health is determined by economic factors, but the very classification of ‘health’ is determined by market forces. These market forces classify certain bodily functions and natural states as ‘unhealthy’ and needing hospitalisation. In one absurd case, one indicator of a country’s progress is the number of births in a hospital! The implication of more births in a hospital is actually that more women are unhealthy. Giving birth is a natural body function of a woman, and healthy women do not need ‘medical attention’. By declaring it a ‘medical condition’ and then tracking it as a ‘development indicator’ entire populations are brainwashed into an appropriation of knowledge and external determination of what is ‘healthy’ and what is not. A generation ago, we had the infamous campaign that resulted in children not getting mothers’ milk. A costly campaign was needed to take back traditional practice and reclaim the traditional wisdom. In its extreme form, this focus on the disease and never-mind the side effects is the American way of collateral damage: kill half a million Iraqi children to save Iraq, or saving Vietnam by killing entire villages of Vietnamese men, women and children!

The actual consequence of having births in institutions is that the knowledge of giving birth is not embedded within the family or community, but taken away to an institution and made ‘ex situ’. Even if the doctors are from the community, their tools are such that they cannot be individually owned or operated. In heart surgeries for instance, an entire team needs to work in concert with specialist instruments. But the solution to heart disease—as the doctors themselves admit in their moments of lucidity—is not in surgery or in treating the disease, but in healthy food, healthy habits and a healthy lifestyle—all of which are not ‘money spinners’ and therefore fall outside the purview of the present ‘medical industry’. Not surprisingly, ‘workouts’ are prescribed that require costly gyms and equipments, since that can be measured.

The best exercise is walking… but since no certified experts are required for it, those who maintain good health through it are considered backward—such as the Adivasi. The Adivasi may not know what is COD or BOD—and even less on how to manipulate the standards and measurements to benefit big business—but they are able to know that the water is polluted when they see sick and dead fish. The expensively schooled scientist, sponsored by capitalists goes into denial or sophistry often saying that the Chemical/ Biological Oxygen Demand is well within ‘acceptable limits’. The difference in world views is exemplified by the fundamental characteristics of the key inventions of the agrarian era and the industrial era: the lamp and the electric bulb. Though the electric bulbs can turn night into day, but it is only the humble candle and lamp that can light another.

A language of voyeurism
Language is a good indicator of how we think, and how we define the physical, and psychosocial universe around us. Languages of peoples in tropical lands seldom have words for snow, but the Eskimo have more than a dozen words for it. Similarly, warlike peoples, feudal societies have no words for democracy and consensual decision-making or polity. When we look at how work has taken over our life, it becomes interesting. The world agriculture has 'culture' within it. Then we talk about 'industrial culture'—where the culture is an external world. Outside of work, the work that claims the best part of the working day and the most productive part of a person’s life.

As we move towards the tertiary sector—that of services—one no longer even talks of culture: it becomes the service industry, and people are not machines but cogs in a machine. We no longer determine the time of work, but the work determines our relationships and our very life. There cannot be health breaks since that will ‘disrupt the assembly line’. Samantha becomes Sam and Krishnakumar become Chris at the BPO, greeting people ‘good afternoon’ when it is 2am in the morning local time. They leave home before their children get up, and return after their children go to bed. Family 'functions' are the only time when they are together, in a ritually controlled atmosphere. Work has become life. It is only the time when we can negotiate with work that we can give to our families. This is rather ironic, since we say that we are doing it 'all for our children', but then deprive the children of what they need most: us, their parents.

Technology not only controls our work-life, but increasingly our whole life. Since we expect ‘precision’ tools, we expect precision in our relationships and language, intolerant of diversity and ‘mistakes’, expecting one shot painless remedies for everything from relationships to growing up. Sports has become an industry, and ‘amateurism’ a bad word… and television has made voyeurs of us all. We have even become spectators of life itself, postponing enjoying life to a future golden age when we will retire and have financial security.

In this rush, we spend more and more time at work, reserving just a few token ritual moments for our loved ones. The present culture takes away meaningful interaction with life, only to replace it with ritual tokenism and glorification. Children travel to different continents to work… and then send an e-card for mothers day. At every point the promise is that more time would be freed up to spend with the family… but it is technology that dominates our life rather than life dominating technology. We are literally ‘observers’ of life, rather than living life.

Towards a paradigm of life
Given the increasing complexity of modern life, it is necessary that we specialise. However, it is equally necessary to ensure that all human endeavour is to promote human wellbeing and at no time should it compromise the human dignity of anyone. The present paradigm sees knowledge creation and use as ‘outsiders’, which in its extreme form is voyeurism. What is required is a new paradigm where we measure not in terms of money, but use common sense to have different indicators of human wellbeing. This would show that expenses on disease actually take away from GDP and not enhance it as is the common perception. We would need a paradigm of life, rather than a paradigm measuring death; a paradigm that affirms that life is to live, not to prepare to live; and certainly not to promote the wellbeing of the market at the cost of human dignity and wellbeing.

At one stage in the evolution of the human race, it was perhaps necessary to postpone consumption to create a surplus for greater security. But that time is long gone. We do have sufficient surplus. It is time to move away from a paradigm of dominance, control and exploitation to a paradigm that can ensure equity, justice and peace. We need to set priorities in life, and then live life according to our values. The power of memes—now called neuro-linguistic programming—should be harnessed to ensure this movement towards a life affirming paradigm.

A culture of life…
Work is important, as is science, precision, excellence and money. But all these are to support life. What gives meaning to life is the quality time that we can spend with our family, and make a better quality of life for everyone. All our time cannot, and should not, be spent on creating a mythical ‘perfect future’. It is in the pursuit of such a future that we create cultures that promise heaven after we die, like the golden age in the distant past. We need to slow down, take control over our life, and live according to our priorities.

We are in control of our life to the extent we control our time. If we can honestly say that we spend the best time with our family and friends—not the time ‘left over’ from ‘work’ and all others, not late evenings when we are tired—then we have progressed. To the extent we are not in control, and others have the first call on our time, we are that much slaves of the system: whether win or lose in the rat race, we are still the rat!

We have moved from a belief of our rewards being in the ‘next life’—the ‘karma’ theory or the pie in the sky when you die—to acknowledging ‘golden years’ after retirement. But life cannot be after retirement only. We need to move from permanently ‘preparing’, ‘planning’ or ‘saving’ for ‘life’ towards a culture of life: where life is lived every moment. Culture is always evolving. We need to build it, meme by meme, to promote a life with dignity for all at all times. That is the paradigm, the culture, of life.

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Nepal: In India’s interest

For Indians, Nepal remains a favoured ‘holiday and honeymoon destination’. It comes into our radar as ‘the world’s only Hindu kingdom’. Visitors come away with experience of a gentle and happy people, pristine beauty, the majestic Himalayas and the stunning temples with intricate artistry in wood and stone. It is cheaper, by almost half, to travel from Bangalore to Kathmandu than from Bangalore to New Delhi. It does not require Indians to have passports. It accepts the Indian Rupee in all transactions. In the popular mind there is still a lot of respect and warmth for India—and Bangalore, the land of Sai Baba.

With the Communist Party of Nepal [Maoist] reportedly in control of 68 of Nepal's 75 districts, the police force withdrawn from almost the entire countryside and only about 100 out of 1,135 police stations functioning, India needs to rethink its relationship and perception of Nepal. It is demonstration enough that war should not be left to generals. Instead of addressing the root causes, or reading the signs of revolution, a dangerous escalation has taken place. We need to acknowledge that Asia’s last revolution from the barrel of the gun is taking place.

With a per capita income of just US$220, Nepal is termed one of the poorest countries in the world. That is a misconception. Nepal is rich in natural resources. In terms of water resources it is one of the richest with about 200 billion cubic metres of water flowing though its rivers every year. It has the capacity to produce electricity equivalent to that of Mexico, the USA and Canada combined. Yet, unequal treaties force Nepal to sell much of its water to India at give–away prices. Meanwhile, 40% of the rural population in Nepal lack regular supplies of potable water. Only about 10 percent of the country has access to hydro–electric power.

With predictions of water wars looming, Nepal has to be factored in even more into India’s defence and strategic planning. Otherwise, India will find itself outflanked and facing a Nepal of ‘water Sheiks’—just as the west found to their dismay regarding petroleum in 1973 regarding the ‘oil Sheiks’. The WTO negotiations presage a time when water will be sold to the highest bidder, with global corporations willing to buy and sell the water at commercial rates, and willing to invest their money in infrastructure for the purpose.

India has for long treated Nepal as its ‘backyard’ and within its ‘hemisphere of influence’. It has been generally disdainful of the Nepalese. India cultivated the Nepali elite, bribing them when possible, coercing them when necessary. Several unequal treaties were foisted on the Nepalese. Indians have ensured monopoly businesses there. This has resulted in a lot of resentment against India at the ground level in Nepal.

The 1990 restoration of democracy has seen the expectations of the Nepalese rise. There is a new class coming up that sees Nepal not as a protectorate of India, but as an equal. They now know that they can be the buffer between China and India, a conduit for trade, and their strategic value. They are still angry at being blockaded during the boundary dispute. Token ‘assistance’ such as the 22 friendship bridges are no substitute for friendship based on equality.
Today the Indian state is on the wrong side of history. While the monarchy and the elite were firmly on our side—bought or coerced—our tactics worked. The last two years have seen a sea change on the ground. The Maoists now control about 80% of the countryside. In February 2003 they assassinated the chief of security in broad daylight right in Kathmandu. During the March 2004 blockade, they could cut–off all towns from the countryside for close to a month. Military aircraft had to be pressed into service used to ferry people between the towns and Kathmandu. In August 2004, they even blockaded Kathmandu for a week.

The rather short-sighted response to the Kathmandu blockade has been to send a convoy with supplies to Kathmandu—with air cover. This is a needless escalation. The Maoists called off the blockade soon after. They were certainly surprised, but gave the government a month to address their demands. But commonsense argues that it is a tactical withdrawal. It was a development that they did not expect. When they do return it will be with anti-aircraft weapons.

The government staff dare not enter the villages. But for the cities and district headquarters, virtually the entire countryside is under the jurisdiction of the Maoists, who do not allow government officials to go to the villages. Consequently, the active role of the government, and those who collaborate with it, are restricted to the district headquarters. The Maoists placed restrictions on all agencies collaborating with the US accusing them of supporting or spying for the government and working against their movement. They were not allowed to work in the villages. Staff of US agencies were not even allowed out of the district headquarters. All other agencies had to take permission from the Maoists.

India now has the policy of weakening the Maoists. We keep the pot boiling to keep the king—with his slight tilt towards Beijing—in check. This is a short sighted policy. Giving military aid to the hated royal army—together with Britain and the US ‘advisors’ a la Vietnam—will only turn the people against us. The king is a much reviled figure in Nepal, being suspected of complicity in regicide. With 80% of the people of Nepal in agriculture, and 40% in poverty, Nepal still reports that its rural development budget could not be spent. To top it all, the palace then appropriated 50% of the unspent amount to buy three luxury cars! The story of how the Maoists, a motley group of people with just two outdated rifles in 1996, can control a majority of the country in less than five years speaks volumes of their popularity.

The true friends of India are not the yes–men but the patriots. Just as genuine followers of a religion have respect and reverence for all religions, it is the patriotic Nepalese working for the best interests of their nation who will be an asset for India. Having allies who have sold out their country does not help in the long–run as the US has found to its cost in South Vietnam, Marcos in the Philippines, the Shah in Iran…

The republican movement in Nepal, promoted by the Maoists, is one such movement that calls for India’s engagement. They want a strong Nepal. They want a renegotiation of the unjust treaties. This renegotiation will help right historical wrongs, and will help the Nepalese see India as a country promoting justice. If possible, India should be the gentle nudge that promotes democracy in Nepal. The key demand of the Maoists is a constituent assembly, which is certainly a demand that India as a democracy can appreciate. It certainly cannot be equated with a ‘terrorist’ demand. At the very least, India should not take an anti–people stand and work against the Maoist movement—which is the only political formation that will keep the US out. India does not need another US client state on our borders.

A clear policy of either engagement or neutrality is best. A constructive engagement will ensure that India has a strong neighbour on our borders. The last thing we need is another failed state like Afghanistan or what Pakistan came frighteningly close to being. Or to have Nepal bypass us, as Bangladesh has done by building a road to China via Myanmar. Despite the rather niggardly treatment, the Nepalese have been very generous towards India. We must not dissipate that goodwill. Weak nations and weak individuals need support, and are a drain on the collective. Strong nations and individuals contribute to the upkeep of others and the health of the collective. Unjust ‘friendship’ treaties will be renegotiated, but a stronger friend will emerge. A strong Nepal is essential for a peaceful south Asia and a stable world. It is also in India’s interest.
-oO(end of document)Oo-

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Om, Rama bhaktan, Rama mandiram

Om, Rama bhaktan, Rama mandiram

1. The significance of Om in Hinduism
Om, sometimes spelt AUM, is considered a sacred sound in vedic Hinduism. It consists of three sounds—Ah, O and Ma—and one silent syllable. Together with the right posture and harmonious synchronous breath, it is a long vibrant exhalation with the merging of all the three sounds as Om.

The sound ‘A’ helps relax the body hip downwards, ‘O’ for the middle body, and ‘M’ for the neck upwards. In that form, it is used in a variety of modes. It is used in worship in short verses called slokas. These slokas are also used in yoga. Om and its constituent syllables are used individually and together in yogic practice and chanting.

2. The sound as a symbol
This multiple usage has made Om itself to be venerated as the ‘perfect sound’ and thus the symbol of the supreme power, or god, itself. The nameless, ‘not-this not-that’ Supreme Being is captured in this divine sound.

3. The symbol of whom?
The symbol of Om in devanagiri script is like a ‘3’ with a tail, and a dot on top. With a little bit of imagination, one can see a sitting Hanuman bowing and paying obeisance, with this hands folded. It even has a tail, and what could be Hanuman carrying a mountain. The tail figures in two of the most prominent stories regarding Hanuman, and the mountain in the third. In addition, the ‘3’ part of Om is often how the mouth of Hanuman is pictured.
Om thus becomes in a microcosm almost the auto-biography of Hanuman himself.

4. The perfect sound for the perfect messenger
In the Tamil interpretation of the Ramayanam, when Hanuman returns from Sri Lanka after meeting Sita, his words were ‘Saw Sita’. This economy and precision in the use of words surely ranks him as the perfect messenger. This accurate, brief and clear message leaves no room for any ambiguity. He dispels any fear in Raman’s mind by conveying the core message first, saving Raman from even an excess fraction of time of anxiety.

The perfect sound thus is the appropriate motif for this perfect messenger. It can hardly be such a perfect fit for anyone else.

5. The tale of the matter: Making a monkey of god
There are two stories of Hanuman which involve the tail. In one he becomes a monkey for god, and in the next he makes a monkey of god.

In the first, he burnt down Lanka when he went there to look for Sita. In the second, the story goes that once the righteous King Yayati enraged Vishwamitran the quick to anger guru of Raman. Vishwamitran demanded that Raman bring the head of that king and place it before his feet. Being the demand of his guru, Raman had to agree.

On learning that Vishwamitran had approached Rama, the king rushed to Anjana Devi. She called her son Hanuman, and told him to protect the king. Hanuman made his tail grow, and protected the king in its coils.

Raman looked high and low, and finally located the king. The king remained safe within the tail of Hanuman. Raman was perplexed because the arrows he shot left the king untouched. Then he saw Hanuman. He asked Hanuman why the arrows were not harming him (Hanuman) let alone reaching the king. Hanuman opened his chest inside which Raman saw both Raman and Sita. It is with both Raman and Sita in his heart that Hanuman could make a monkey of Raman. It is only one who is so intimate and so integral to another who can make a monkey of them—and make them like it, just like the grandparents, no matter how strict with their children, would like their grandchild to be.

Of course, Raman did get the king to prostrate before his guru Vishwamitran, ensuring literally that the head of the king was at the feet of his guru as promised. In this episode Hanuman helps Raman not to commit a sin similar to the killing of Vali. The devotee ironically, actually helps god!

6. Secularism according to Bajrang Bali
The story narrated above shows a much stronger commitment to secularism—and protecting the life of a person, doing one’s duty. Protecting those in need is the overriding duty. The incident takes the concept of secularism one step higher. The Christian concept, as elaborated by Christ, is to close the doors and windows and pray so that only god knows our spiritual inclination. The Bajrang concept is to be spiritual so that even god doesn’t know it!

7. The temple of the perfect Rama Bhaktan
This story is very relevant to solve one of contemporary India’s most vexing issues—the demolition of Babri Mosque.
The communal climate of the country has been vitiated, perhaps for a long time, due to the sanghi lust for power, communal politics and polarisation for the creation of a vote bank. The mode followed was to start a cross country mobilisation campaign on the emotive issue of building a temple for Raman on the site of a mosque in Ayodhya. It is common knowledge that none of the leaders of the mobilisation to build the Rama temple were devotees of Raman or Rama temple pilgrims before the start of their political campaign. Where then was the Raman in their hearts?
What did the ultimate Rama Bhaktan do? Where did he build the Rama Mandiram? This story provides us a direction. The temple he built was in his heart, not on this earth. True Rama Bhaktans do the same.

(Thoughts during ‘OM meditation’ at Prashanti Kutiram, SVAYSA, Jigini, Bangalore. The guru was good, but the mind wandered… and this is where it went. There are many versions of these stories quoted above. The richness is in the diversity and non-standardisation.)

Religion in disasters

In times of personal tragedy, religion often provides comfort and support. One would expect that religion would be a source of comfort in the times of natural calamities and disasters. Unfortunately it is not so. It is in these times that the institutional religions—all of them—display their expansionist and parochial behaviour. The December 2004 tsunami is perhaps the best example of the unethical behaviour of institutionalised religion in stark contrast to the awe-inspiring behaviour of affected individuals and those who felt empathy towards them.

While there were stray cases of people opening up places of worship to shelter entire communities irrespective of religious belief, institutional religion showed its worst side in the aftermath. Almost all religions of the world, without exception, blamed the tsunami—and all subsequent disasters including the present earthquake—on divine wrath. That in itself would not be diabolical if not for the fact that they said that it was god’s punishment for the debauchery of the other religions.

Others took the circuitous route of condemnation and orthodoxy. One of the most benign was the group of Orthodox Jewish Rabbis who came to South East Asia to ensure that none of their co-religionists met their makers without the proper rituals to speed them on their way. So they completed the arduous task of identifying the Jews among the victims and then administering the last rites. A Bangalore based new age guru who teaches the breathing techniques promptly wrote an article about how there should be research on why only Hindu temples were spared, while all other buildings were destroyed. Was there some special science—‘Vedic’ science perhaps?—that was known in the days of yore, but was now forgotten? He suggested research in that direction. It is perhaps a laughable suggestion, but even in this he was not original. This was a mass delusion of fundamentalist Christian and Muslim priests, who made the same claims as well.

The religio-cultural internalisation of caste displayed its devastating consequences too. The fisher-folk, who consider themselves as a Backward Class, routinely denied aid for the Dalits who were equally affected in some pockets. They maintained that the fisher folk, and only the fisher folk, were affected, so all aid should be to them and them alone. While this appropriation of aid and monopolising sympathy can be justified based on some convoluted logic, what is totally unjustified and immoral was the absolute refusal of the fisher folk to even share accommodation with the Dalits even for a day! They were afraid that their contact with the Dalits would pollute them. It is a sobering fact that even a humanitarian crisis of such enormous proportions could not weed out the inhuman caste discrimination and bring about solidarity.

For instance, in Karaikal the fisher folk received 60 kgs of rice while the landless agricultural labourers—mainly Dalits—received only 5 kgs. This is bizarre since both have lost their livelihoods: the fisher folk lost their boats and nets and thus the ability to fish while the Dalits lost their ability to get work on lands since the land became saline with the ingress of the sea. Even the government was forced to have segregated relief camps. So strong is the hold of the caste system that even in their distress, others refused to inter-dine or share relief camps with Dalits. Ironically, Dalits were imported from other areas to bury the dead.

There was an unseemly scramble to identify and bury ‘our dead’ between the ‘volunteers’ of different religious groups. One religious group in particular laid claim to bodies, and then waited till persons from a particular caste could arrive to carry it off. During the delay they shooed off all others, despite the bodies starting to putrefy. There were turf wars during this early stage itself.

Priests and nuns from one religion stored relief material in one village. When they found out that there were no members of their religion there, they told the people of the village that they should either convert or let them take the relief materials to another village which had their co-religionists. This naturally made the people there furious. Fortunately saner counsel prevailed before the situation turned nasty. With discretion being the better part of valour, the misguided religious zealots quickly left.

It is in cyberspace that the venom of religion is most frequently—and unabashedly—expressed. This is but natural given the anonymity of the medium, and the poor educational level of its users. The users are often immature, expensively schooled, with enormous technological power in their hands. The gloating when adherents of the ‘other’ religions died is but a minor sideshow. Aid was mobilised, and denied, using the electronic media. While institutional religion constantly preaches the bygone utopia to its adherents, it has warmly embraced technology to propagate its medieval world view.

A few were motivated by their religion to compassion and empathy. Their efforts were drawn from the bedrock of their faith, and encompassed all those who were affected, regardless of any distinction—caste, sex, religion, or any other. But they were in a minority. It also demonstrates the best face of secular India: where faith is a personal affair, from which we draw our strength but does not become a political construct. It is when religion becomes a political construct that it spills over into the public sphere as identity politics resulting in discrimination and demonising the ‘Other’. During emergencies, and times of great change, people look to the known and the simplistic for comfort. At these times they are vulnerable, and faith is easy to manipulate. It is important that all right thinking citizens work to keep faith based groups out of disaster relief and community reconstruction since that is when the affected people are at their most vulnerable, and liable to be misused.

At all times, particularly during emergencies, we must respect religion so much as to keep it out of as many things as possible.

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Schooling in a paradigm of death

Schooling in a paradigm of death

The only people who were forewarned of the tsunami and managed to escape it were the unschooled Adivasi of the Andamans. Their traditional wisdom, passed down through generations, told them what the signs to look out were [abnormal receding of the sea] and what to do when they saw those signs [run to the high ground]. With all the modern technology at his disposal, homo intelligentious did not have that much common sense. Used to dismissing practices and beliefs of the unschooled as myth and superstition, we seem to have lost out on the basic purpose of schooling: to impart education to make life better. We now equate schooling with education, and certification of our writing skills as the only yardstick for knowledge and wisdom. This modern fallacy of certified institutional knowledge being the only source of wisdom is as equally devastating as the olden method of equating age and wisdom. The old practice of shaving one’s head to show wisdom [as in a bald head, a signifier of age] now gives way to the new practice of forging certificates. No matter how skilled the practitioner, there is more respect accorded to the certified theorist.

The malaise in our schooling goes much deeper than the mere forging of certification—of the written or shaved variety. It is, at the very least, structural. It makes the person believe that knowledge can be acquired only on classrooms, with the token ‘study tour’ and ‘practicals’ thrown in. They lose the capacity to learn outside the classroom, and without a physical teacher present. Learning from daily experiences, much less learning from life itself, becomes difficult. Many report a ‘de-schooling’ process before they rediscover the skill.

But the true roots of the malaise go much deeper. The present system of schooling was invented in the industrial age to create an army of clerks for book-keeping. It was a worthy successor to the monasteries which trained men to copy religious texts from long extinct languages. Little wonder then that the paradigm of death permeates schooling. Industrial society measured not the happiness but the ‘efficiency of production’. This led to absurdities that still haunt us. We measure, and our sense of wellbeing depends on the results of this flawed measurement.

We forget that the tools developed by industrial society are essentially to measure the ‘dead value’. One of the devastating consequences of applying it to life is that a live tree has no value. A dead tree can be bought and sold for its timber. A healthy population has no value. But an unhealthy one would buy a lot of medicines and therefore increase the GDP. A harmonious society would be bad for the economy, since there would be no war, and therefore no armaments… and no production and so a low GDP and little or no ‘growth’. It also leads to absurdities of having car loans at 7% or less [often 0% or negative if inflation is factored in], and agricultural loans at a ‘concessional rate’ of 9% when it is guaranteed by the government!

This paradigm of death results in a serious backlash against life itself. Highly literate societies have fewer children. This is not because of women’s liberation as is frequently taught, but because of the internalising of the paradigm of death. If it were really so, graduates from Malaysia to Russia wouldn’t need incentives to marry and have children. The higher the number of years of schooling, the less the love of life and children. Post graduates have less children than graduates, and doctorates less than both. It is little wonder that the most cruel atrocities against children come not from the unlettered but from the expensively schooled and highly civilised sections of society. To no ones surprise, most of the cases of child abuse are perpetrated by ‘white collar workers’ and PhDs.

It is a well known scientific fact that ex-situ conservation—conservation outside the ‘home’ environment—is useless since species are continuously evolving. Yet these same scientists promote huge isolated conservation areas in ‘protected areas’ as ‘carbon sinks’ as if they can be isolated from the consequences of devastation caused to the environment elsewhere such as acid rain. Just as ex-situ conservation does not work, neither does ex-situ learning. How many of us remember the calculus that we did in school? Learning is through doing, and knowledge is gained through continuous use. The eight year old Soliga child can identify all the plant species in the surrounding forest. How many of our Masters of Botany can do so? Is it really a coincidence that the state with the highest literacy has the highest rate of suicide?

The state of our health is determined by economic factors, but the very classification of ‘health’ is determined by market forces. These market forces classify certain bodily functions and natural states as ‘unhealthy’ and needing hospitalisation. In one absurd case, one indicator of a country’s progress is the number of births in a hospital! The implication of more births in a hospital is actually that more women are unhealthy. Giving birth is a natural body function of a woman, and healthy women do not need ‘medical attention’. By declaring it a ‘medical condition’ and then tracking it as a ‘development indicator’ entire populations are brainwashed into an appropriation of knowledge and external determination of what is ‘healthy’ and what is not. A generation ago, we had the infamous campaign that resulted in children not getting mothers’ milk. A costly campaign had to be run to take back traditional practice and reclaim the traditional wisdom. In its extreme form, this focus on the disease and never-mind the side effects is the American way of collateral damage: kill half a million Iraqi children to save Iraq, or saving Vietnam by killing entire villages of Vietnamese men, women and children!

The actual consequence of having births in institutions is that the knowledge of giving birth is not embedded within the family or community, but taken away to an institution and made ‘ex situ’. Even if the doctors are from the community, their tools are such that they cannot be individually owned or operated. In heart surgeries for instance, an entire team needs to work in concert with specialist instruments. But the solution to heart disease—as the doctors themselves admit in their moments of lucidity—is not in surgery or in treating the disease, but in healthy food, healthy habits and a healthy lifestyle—all of which are not ‘money spinners’ and therefore fall outside the purview of the present ‘medical industry’. Not surprisingly, ‘workouts’ are prescribed that require costly gyms and equipments, since that can be measured. The best exercise is walking… but since no certified experts are required for it, those who maintain good health through it are considered backward—such as the adivasi. The Adivasi may not know what is COD or BOD—and even less on how to manipulate the standards and measurements to benefit big business—but they are able to know that the water is polluted when they see sick and dead fish. The expensively schooled scientist, sponsored by capitalists goes into denial or sophistry often saying that the Chemical/ Biological Oxygen Demand is well within ‘acceptable limits’. The difference in world views is exemplified by the fundamental characteristics of the key inventions of the agrarian era and the industrial era: the lamp and the electric bulb. Though the electric bulbs can turn night into day, but it is only the humble candle and lamp that can light another.

Given the increasing complexity of modern life, it is necessary that we specialise. However, it is equally necessary to ensure that all human endeavour is to promote human wellbeing and at no time should it compromise the human dignity of anyone. The present paradigm sees knowledge creation and use as ‘outsiders’, which in its extreme form is voyeurism. What is required is a new paradigm where we measure not in terms of money, but use common sense to have different indicators of human wellbeing. This would show that expenses on disease actually take away from GDP and not enhance it as is the common perception. We would need a paradigm of life, rather than a paradigm measuring death; a paradigm that affirms that life is to live, not to prepare to live; and certainly not to promote the wellbeing of the market at the cost of human dignity and wellbeing.

–o—oO— (end of document) —Oo—o–

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Sexual abuse: When the fence eats the grass

Two curious events took place unnoticed in Bangalore amid the torrential rain. The students of a premier law school finally forced the management to bar a professor from teaching. In the other, the staff of an NGO working for human rights resigned en masse. The common reason in both cases: sexual abuse. What makes these incidents stand out is that these two institutions—academia and NGOs—are now seen as the back-up to the government system of human rights protection.

Institutions of society are to protect its members. With the progress in understanding human rights, we have now come to a clearer understanding of this protective role of institutions. We now know that institutions must take care of all during emergencies, and take care of the weakest even during ‘normal’ times. We know that the duties regarding human rights—respect, promote and protect—apply not only to the government, but to all institutions and individuals in society including businesses and non-formal institutions. Two other key understandings have taken place in the recent past. One, that it is not possible for the government to always perform this task—and therefore civil society organisations made of vigilant citizens need to take up the slack. Laws now routinely mention the indispensable role of NGOs in protecting and promoting human rights. The second key understanding is that, however vigilant these organisations are, it needs a society based on a ‘culture of human rights’ to actually protect these rights on a daily, minute-to-minute basis—leading to an emphasis on schools and institutions of learning imparting human rights education.

Unfortunately, even before the ink is dry on these central laws, there have been reports of widespread sexual abuse within the NGO sector and in reputable institutions of higher learning. Students of a premier law school in Bangalore had to threaten strike to get a professor to back off from sexual abuse. It took the combined strength of past and present students together with the past and present faculty to get the management to do so. The management initially refused to take action, emboldening the professor to threaten the students with low marks. Only threat of public exposure, together with irrefutable evidence of late night calls to cell phones of female students could get the management to act. When teachers in nationally reputed law schools can get management support in the face of serious allegations of sexual abuse, what is the point in talking about ‘impunity’ being the chief cause of sexual abuse?

Sexual abuse within NGOs has taken on such serious dimensions that there is even a name for it in NGO circles—the NESA syndrome, meaning Never Ending Sexual Abuse. When there are convictions of child rights defenders for paedophilia where does one draw the line? The NGO sector too closes ranks, with the excuse that the person has done much for the promotion of human rights! In others there is identity politics: the abuser is a Dalit, or the person has done much for Dalit rights, and the accuser is a Brahmin. The same language of ‘greater common good’ and ‘previous historic contribution’ is used to justify the abusive behaviour, leading to a cycle of impunity and greater, more frequent, abuse. NGOs vociferous against human rights abuse elsewhere, suddenly become complicit by their silence, inaction and even outright obstruction.

Human beings are frail, and will commit mistakes. What is inexcusable is that those in positions of authority—the management, the registrar, the governing boards—justify their behaviour and let perpetuators get away with it. NGOs do not believe in ‘punishment’—which is why there is a campaign against death penalty, and for prison reform. But that does not mean leaving a person in a position of authority, where he can continue to sexually abuse subordinates or students. The perpetrators do have a right to life with dignity, just like their victims. But it does not mean impunity. At the very least, it means a transparent and just procedure to remove the perpetrator from all positions where there can be repetitions of unacceptable behaviour. It does mean ‘naming and shaming’.

There is a legitimate strategic need to ‘go after the big fish’. It is true that those lower down the hierarchy are targeted. But the cases mentioned are not of those ‘low down’ in the hierarchy. One is a professor. Another a state convenor of an anti child-labour network. Yet another is the executive director of an offshoot of an international famine relief network. These are positions answerable only to the board of governors. The culture of impunity, as all forms of moral degradation, decadence and corruption, starts from the top. Perhaps NGOs should ponder over this: when NGO workers were asked to categorise themselves in the high-risk, medium-risk or low-risk category for HIV/AIDS based on their sexual behaviour, they all placed themselves in the high-risk category—right along with truck drivers and sex-workers. If NGOs and academia are to be taken seriously in the defence of human rights, then they must first set their house in order. They need to hold themselves to higher standards of behaviour, however difficult it is. Once trust is lost, it is near impossible to regain it.

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The L K Advani Tragedy: Ad–vani, Bad–vani, Sad–vani

The L K Advani Tragedy: Ad–vani, Bad–vani, Sad–vani

The desperate fight of a man for his soul is not a pleasant sight. To see a person with the brilliance and political acumen of LKAdvani in that situation in the twilight of his career is tragic. Ironically, it comes almost 30 years to the day when emergency was declared—and he proved that he would not bend. It was his finest hour. In his memorable words, during the Emergency the Indian press crawled when it was asked to bend. How did a man of such promise get relegated to the sidelines--'benched' in football parlance?

The importance of being Advani
Lal Krishna Advani is, arguably, India’s most successful, self–made politician. Nehru had the independence movement, and was widely seen as Gandhi’s chosen. Indira Gandhi got a leg up due to the widely held perception that she was Gandhi’s daughter, and the dynasty. So also Rajiv Gandhi. VPSingh and PVNarasimha Rao were due to circumstances. GLNanda and LBSastri were stop–gap. Even Vajpayee rode on the success of L K Advani. The other worthies do not merit mention. Much like Jawahar Lal Nehru, Advani is most comfortable with the Centre, and VPSingh at the Centre–Left.

Advani had to succeed when there was no great movement or national crisis—he had to create one. Though an ardent exponent of the flavour of the season, LKAdvani was not a particularly religious person—just like Jinnah. By the time his ‘rath’ was stopped, he had ensured irreversible momentum for hindutva. By the time he was ideologically countered (‘In the Ramayan, it was Ravana who came in the Chariot, Lord Ram walked’ by Devi Lal), he had captured the imagination of large sections of the nation.

The break with his idealism came when he saw himself in a party with just two seats in parliament. Riding a tiger he could not get off, variously calling it a ‘national movement’—but one that excluded vast sections, and a silent majority—and an assertion of ‘cultural nationalism’ he took a turn to the political right, and onto infamy. Tragically and, to be fair in hindsight, Advani could have just waited for a few years and the entire political space would have opened up.

The Communal Congress
The Congress has always occupied the centre–right part of the Indian political spectrum—variously called soft–hindutva, pseudo–secular, proto–fascist—even from the days of Gandhi. Going by what it has done, its communal record—except for the time of the much maligned Nehru—is clearly one of competitive appeasement: the Shah Bano law, permitting the foundation for the Ram temple and now changing the status quo there by putting up a bullet proof structure, banning Satanic Verses, Last Temptation of Christ and other assorted books and films.

The fascist bent of the Congress was most clearly demonstrated in the declaration of internal emergency by Indira Gandhi, assertion that it could be re–imposed by Rajiv Gandhi, the infamous press bills—even to the present day—and the notorious Terrorists and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act [TADA].… all clear indications of its ‘Centre Right’ positioning. On top of this are the the clearly neo–Liberal economic policies, nuclear weapons and militaristic policies, coupled with cynical tokenism in social justice.

The Congress was already in terminal decline and disintegrating in 1984. But for the tragic assassination of Mrs Indira Gandhi, they would’ve been progressively marginalised. Their vote share was steadily decreasing right from the heady 1972 snap poll called by Mrs Indira Gandhi after the euphoric win of the Indo–Pak war that lead to the creation of Bangladesh. Though astute political observers correctly analysed this implosion of the Congress, and predicted that the political centre was being thrown wide open, Advani misjudged his political space and future. Just as Jinnah.

The Blue Shift
It was in Bangalore Jail where he was incarcerated during the Emergency that Advani read Mein Kampf, and decided to put Nazi ideology into practice. Choosing the Muslims in place of Hitler’s Jews as the ‘other’, and the Ramjanmabhoomi in place of Hitler’s Goebbelsian ‘big–lie’ and ‘Hindu Self–Respect’ instead of Hitler’s German humiliation in World War I, Advani made his move. Apart from riding the hindutva tiger, he had the tactical savvy to step aside for Vajpayee—who was more acceptable to the broader electorate since he was not perceived to be ‘directly’ involved in the demolition of Babri Mosque. Studying Mein Kampf, he did not study history well enough. Hitler went out in a blaze of ignominy, and the ‘Thousand Year Reich’ with him. Hitler could’ve chosen a path of constructive engagement, to channel the obvious hurt of the Germans. Instead he chose the negative path.

The shift to the regressive right was a reaction to the capture of the liberal–left position by VPSingh, ignorant of the opening cosmopolitan centre. That the left–of–centre and the centre space is available is amply demonstrated by the increasing victory of the Left political parties. Ironically, given the conservative and neo–liberal position occupied by both the Congress and the BJP, the parliamentary Left almost look Centrist, not to mention Centre–Left.

Now that he has made his point, he wants to get off the tiger. Once he got power he even said that it is governance that matters, not ideology. Unfortunately, once events are set in motion, the idea often becomes larger than the ideologue in direct proportion to his success. But, as is clear from the reaction to his ‘Jinnah is secular’ statement, not much of his writ runs anymore among those whose heads he filled with the romance of violence and in whose heads he placed the explosive ideology of hate.

India waiting…
With the over 50% population under the age of 30, India is an youthful nation: full of idealism, and the impatience of youth. Traditionally, such a demographic profile leads to militaristic leaders, who offer simplistic solutions. With India on the threshold of becoming a global superpower, it awaits a leader who can lead it on a positive agenda of inclusion and social equity—of caring and sharing—that will utilise this idealism, impatience, energy and enthusiasm of the youth.

Unfortunately, L K Advani has missed the golden opportunity. He now has to wait out on the sidelines. And India still awaits a truly left–of–centre political formation.
___________________
anita and edwin
In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends—Martin Luther King Jr.

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The Tao of Olympics

Though the Olympics was to be a celebration of sport for sports sake, it has degenerated into an all out show of jingoism and crass commercialism. During the cold war days, it was the continuation of war by other means. India, a civilisation that should know better, has succumbed to this mania. Every India—Pakistan encounter is loaded with political connotation, and is a continuation of hostility. Gone are the days when hockey was played for love. A terrorist expert now wants to shoot the players into a gold medal. Others want to ‘train them young’. Plans are afoot, as they are after every dismal show. It is no longer ‘sports’manship but ‘show’manship.

‘To be a good sport’ used to be an accolade. We have already forgotten that the revived Olympics was meant to be for ‘amateurs’—those who played for love. Where is this ‘love’ now, when competition rules, winning at any cost—including abuse of the body—is the only criterion, and top officials of every country are complicit? Sports medicine research has degenerated to expensive ways of finding masking agents so that banned substances are not detected in tests, and sports medicine is administering these masking agents to willingly ignorant athletes. ‘Willingly ignorant’ since sports ‘ethics’ lies in ‘plausible denial’.

The present competitive environment makes mockery of ‘it matters not whether you won or lost, but how you played the game’. After commercialising our labour, we have commercialised our sports, and put a price to our festivals, healthcare, culture, patriotism—all up for grabs to the highest bidder, at the lowest common denominator—and sold our very souls in the process. The Olympics is Big Business. Right from the construction contractors, to the drug industry, to travel and tourism, sports goods to increasing media interests—none of which the ‘common’ citizen can afford, all dance together.

If all human endeavours are to be competitive, where will the space be for recreation? If a child just expresses an interest in passing, parents who can afford to push extra coaches and schedules on the hapless youngster, to the dismay and envy of parents who cannot—and the regret of the child. The budding interest in a pastime is transformed into a rigorous preparatory regime of a potential money spinning career. One consequence is that activity and action are confused with fulfilment, and therefore a loss of ability to be content or uplifted just sitting and looking at the sunset. Enjoyment then requires constant movement, activity—and the more expensive the better.

If the pursuit of pleasure and recreation requires multinational sponsorship, where are we heading? Cricket used to mirror a philosophy of life: where there were winners and losers sometimes, but most times there would be draws, because life does not always have winners and losers, but is a ‘draw’. The bastardised version, though making good television programming, demands that one side lose. The rules of many games have been changed to make them more suitable for television programming, and for faster play. But neither life nor sport should be determined by television programming needs.

We are yet to understand even the contours of the psychological consequences of this unbridled competition. What happens when one is crowned the king or queen of the world in the teens, and then lives up to 75 or 80? How do they adjust to being the ‘shadow of their former selves’ from the age of 20 to 80? What about those who repeatedly ‘lose’—despite being the best in their country, and among the 10 best in the world? Or Anju’s dejection, despite a personal best, despite setting a national record? The smiles are broadest on the face of the teams placed first and third. Because the second has lost the last game, and the third has won theirs. Is the cost worth it, when the sports ‘industry’ eats up the young, and then discards them so heartlessly?

Human endeavour should be to celebrate life, enjoying every step of the way. Creating winners and losers does not add value to life. Creating a competitive environment that intrudes into every sphere of our life is detrimental to the quality of life, culture and civilisation. Let the immature fight for the spoils of war. Let us play because we love to, not because we are paid to. And certainly not become proxy warriors or pawns in the game of geopolitics or business interests. Everything in life need not be for sale. Every sport does not need to create winners and losers.

Just as the line between work and play is blurring, the line between player and spectator is hardening. By all means get medals, but after a mass movement where play is for the sake of playing. Not for excellence. Not for the glory of the nation. Not for the glory of advertisers and sponsors. Support sports, but not for the tax deductions. Medals should be an ‘optional extra’ at best, with primary satisfaction from just playing and enjoying the game, sometimes to the best of our ability, always for the fun of it.

Many have been forced to work for sheer survival. Let at least recreation be for pleasure. Peace and satisfaction come from within, from the serene security of knowing that we celebrated life, rather than striving for the fleeting and fickle external acknowledgement. Enjoy playing. Enjoy the game. That is the true victory. That is Tao. Medals can wait.

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The lords of poverty

Salaries of one or two lakhs or more per month are not rare in India. But when such salaries are in the ‘voluntary sector’—the NGOs—it becomes a matter for concern. In the last couple of years, three charities advertised for personnel for their Indian operations. All the positions pay more than Rupees 1 million per annum, and one an astounding Rupees 2.5 million! Unfortunately, it is not as rare as it should be, and is becoming more common. Surely, this is not the kind of millionaires that we want to create. This is not the ‘voluntarism’ that the land of Gandhi needs.

The Indian recipients of such largesse claim that they get ‘only’ in the range of British Pounds 2000-3500 per month, which is the equivalent of a British schoolteacher. However, to comprehend the real magnitude of this scam, other comparisons will be in order. The salary is equivalent to the top information technology professionals in the country. It is more than double the salary of the Indian prime minister and president combined…. And yes, there are the same perks that go with the job… free housing, unlimited telephone bills, foreign travel… On joining these charities, executives can expect a 300 to 600% jump in their incomes. Ninety percent of all Indians do not have taxable income—meaning they earn less than Rupees 200,000 per annum, inclusive of all exemptions.

What makes it scandalous is that the annual grants made by these agencies to the individual grassroots NGOs are sometimes smaller than the monthly income of its chief executives. Some of the annual grants made by these ‘charities’ to NGOs is smaller than the telephone bills of their executives. Annual grants to many NGOs are in the range of Rupees 2-300,000. For this, the poor NGOs have to write a proposal, answer endless queries, have a mid-term evaluation and a final evaluation. In contrast, the ‘charity administrator’ is unaccountable. Whether the project fails or succeeds, there is only an upward career path of ever widening distance from the grassroots. Most of the work actually done is outsourced—either to struggling grassroots organisations, or to activist consultants. The only highly paid consultants are the ex-charity administrators, who come from the same nationally dominant caste and class. While it is self-help for the poor village women, it is 100% subsidy for the charity worker.

As we delve deeper, it gets even more scandalous. The small ‘contractor NGOs’ cannot even pay minimum wages to their staff. They hide behind accounting and legal technicalities such as ‘part-time staff’, ‘volunteers’, and ‘employed by the community’. This is clearly creative accounting. Creative accounting helps hide the enormous pay and perks too. That is covered up by putting it under different heads, and then doing an analysis based on percentages. The NGO world now tracks the 100 largest economies of the world, and reports with glee that 52 are corporations. If a similar analysis is done for the ‘voluntary’ sector, we would find that, of the 100 largest budget lines in their national offices, over 60 would be salaries of administrators. When the administrator gets over Rupees 200,000 per month, when the driver in the charity gets over Rupees 20,000 per month, the lowly field worker gets—hold your breath—Rupees 150 to Rupees 500.

This ‘corporatisation’ of NGOs is not even efficient. The Indian democracy had a Dalit president after 50 years. That has not happened in a charity yet. There are numerous Dalit and Adivasi IAS officers. There are less Dalit and Adivasi regional managers in charities. Their composition is almost exclusively dominant caste and class. If these charities cannot make space within themselves for the socially marginalised, with what legitimacy do they advocate, and even seek to enforce, notions of social justice? Indian society certainly has a better record of accomplishment than them.

The deafening silence of the NGOs in the face of the Foreign Contribution Control and Management Bill [FCMC], which is a threat to their functioning and autonomy, needs to be seen in this light. It is worthwhile to remember that Indian NGOs have traditionally come together to fight for their rights. The first national network of Indian NGOs was formed to fight against the government imposition of the ‘code of conduct’. Those who led the NGOs then are either retired, or have multi-million Rupee operations now. Most have been silenced because they have been compromised. The voluntary ethos has become extinct in many NGOs, whose offices, salaries and perks are often indistinguishable from the corporate world. The influx of large sums of money has led to the extinction of the rough cotton khadhi kurta clad activist, who is replaced with the jet-setting laptop toting corporate NGO executive with little empathy with people and processes, though mouthing appropriate language and vocabulary but practicing management efficiency and business ethics. This is the very anti-thesis of voluntarism.

The corporate world too has caught on the scam. They now set up their own ‘foundations’ and then claim tax exemption for it. The wife and kin of the promoters, often unemployable elsewhere, are given fat pay cheques from these ‘NGOs’. Even when working elsewhere, this becomes a ‘second income’ which can be sometimes a six-figure amount. Practices such as these are little better than money laundering. With such close identification with the corporate world, the government must treat them not as ‘voluntary’ organisations, but as private service providers. True they do provide an important service, but they are not ‘voluntary’. They do not deserve the tax exemptions under Section 80G, 10A or 12A of the Income Tax Act. These exemptions need to be immediately withdrawn. But then, there are many truly ‘voluntary’ organisations, working unsung at the grassroots in the slums, villages and jungles. They need to have the exemptions.

With the withdrawal of the state and ‘downsizing’ due to the compulsions of the market led globalisation, WTO and World Bank, the government is unable to fulfil its traditional roles. It has ceded many of these roles to market forces and the goodwill of the capitalists. From the commanding heights of the mixed economy, when it decided the thrust areas, made the investment, created infrastructure and provided jobs, the role of the government is now reduced to deciding how cheaply it can sell of profit making companies to the private sector, and measures its success by how many of its employees it has laid off. It then desperately relies on NGOs to take care of its social welfare role, since that is the only way to mitigate social chaos and violence. Even the government pays NGO workers less than Rupees 500 a month in government supported programmes. At this stage, what the government requires is active partnership with truly ‘voluntary’ agencies. In such cases, what is required is commitment—a commodity that money cannot buy.

One thing the government could do is to exempt only those organisations whose staff, including those on deputation and ‘consultants’ draw less than Rs 200,000 per annum. If the NGO pays any of its staff or its consultants more than Rs 200,000 per annum, it should lose its ‘charity’ status. Contrary wise, it should also lose its charity status if it does not pay all its staff—whether called ‘part-time’ or ‘volunteers’ or any other—the statutorily mandated minimum wages, and statutory benefits. It would help get the Indian ‘voluntary’ sector back to its roots and voluntary ethos. Commitment, simplicity and sacrifice—none of which money can buy—are the core of voluntarism. We do not need lords of poverty.

–o—oO(end of document)Oo—o–

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Traffic management and decongestion

Traffic management and decongestion
anita cheria and edwin

Like heart attacks, traffic congestions are a lifestyle problem. When arteries get clogged we get heart attacks. When roads get clogged we get gridlocks. Drastic surgery—such as one-ways and flyovers [analogous to bypass surgeries]—help in the short term.

We need to ask the fundamental question: has the commercial and residential space within the city increased so much for the traffic to increase? If yes, then who gave the permission without considering the impact on the infrastructure? They must be held accountable. Planning decongestion is a onetime affair. Creating one ways, modifying zonal restrictions and tinkering are like heart surgery—useful only once. What the city needs is a change in lifestyle, a new approach to planning and design. Tinkering will not help.

More long term solutions demand a change in lifestyle, in this case a changed attitude towards city planning. The days of lethargic planning for a pensioners paradise are over. Fortunately, city planning is a science, whose principles can be applied. The first principle is that those involved in the management of a city plan together. This means the police, the BWSSB, the BDA, the power and utilities companies should sit and have a common vision. When BDA builds a futuristic bus bay—perhaps one of its kind—opposite Cantonment station, and the police promptly turn the road into a one way in the opposite direction, it is clearly a waste of resources.

Including those with vision in planning is another important step. The days when the state was the leader in growth are over. Now growth is privately led. Of the 100 largest economies of the world, 52 are private companies. The growth of Bangalore is currently driven by the software industry. The turnover of some software giants rival the state government’s budget. Getting the captains of industry to forecast their needs for the next decade or two is an important part of planning. The political class need to have a vision of where they want the city to be in the same time. If it is to become a knowledge hub, then facilities and infrastructure for futuristic knowledge based industries such as bio-tech, nano-tech, and meme-tech must be part of the plan as also power, water and waste management and disposal. Despite being a hub for IT, and being promoted as a health tourist destination, Bangalore has no master plan for the disposal of IT or biomedical waste.

Once the facilities for ‘growth drivers’ are in place [as part of the vision] then comes support services. This includes space for schools and higher education that the knowledge workers would prefer for their children, recreation, and residences. These need to be close enough to be walking distance from each other. This brings us to the next principle: concentration and decentralisation. Concentrate the growth drivers in a place [like the electronic city] but ensure that the support services are decentralised enough so that the commuting is eliminated as far as possible.
Newer layouts, both government and private, need to be fully self-contained. They need to be designed for the new citizen—meaning broader roads, water harvesting—with a timeframe for putting in infrastructure. For instance, cutting roads for water and power connections should not be permitted two years after the layout is formed. This will not only husband resources, but will prevent land speculation.

The civic authorities need to be held more accountable. While demolishing buildings for violation of plans must not be permitted, an absolute ban on parking vehicles on the roads will certainly do the trick. Another path is to get the engineer to certify each floor as it comes up. Each building, no matter how big or small, commercial, residential, educational, religious or recreational, should be able to house all the vehicles of its customers/residents. In existing areas, where the violations have already taken place, the parking fee can be made competitive. Then the incentive for violations goes down. When it becomes apparent that violation does not lead to profits—for where will customers be without parking—then conversion of basements into shops will cease. With parking space becoming more expensive, there will be more pressure—and commercial sense—for parking lots. Conversion of houses into software offices—as has happened in Indira Nagar and Koramangala—or ‘play homes’ or letting out multiple portions of the house on rent, will stop if all parking has to be inside the premises.

Traffic management for free flow needs to be based on minimum restrictions, and maximum penalty for violations. Even in arterial roads such as MG road, buses routinely turn right from the extreme left lane. The lanes are marked so broadly that lane discipline becomes a joke. Synchronising traffic lights so that a car moving at the speed limit does not get caught in another one if going straight down the road is a normal practice in metros, even in India. But in Bangalore this is not done even on MG road, or in the ring roads or—the worst offender—in the Hosur road. Synchronised signals ‘reward’ the conscientious driver, and ensures the smooth flow of traffic. More foul-ups are caused by stop-start traffic than by a steady flow—no matter how slow or fast.

Decongesting traffic can be done by six simple, but inter-related steps.
1. Improve the public transport, both in terms of quality and frequency of service. This will keep most private transport off the road.
2. On designated days [Sundays in some countries] have the transport free. The cost can be offset by a slightly higher tax on business, since most people will use the day for shopping.
3. Remove all parking on roads, specially one ways.
4. Have strict speed limits, and follow them. For instance, arterial roads could have 35 kmph, and residential areas 20 kmph. For those who wail about 35 kmph, remember that a steady flow at 35 kmph will get you to your destination faster than today’s limit.
5. Have designated lanes for slow moving traffic. Have good footpaths. At present we have a pedestrian subway in front of the race course, but none in front of a hospital or on MG road.
6. Ensure that the civic authorities and elected representatives travel by public transport.
In fact the last alone will suffice. In the coming elections, let us elect only those who will travel only by public transport. When the mere walk of a chief minister can do wonders for the upkeep of a road, the entire breed of politicians and administrators using the same facilities as the rest of us day in and day out is the surest way to traffic decongestion and world class public transport.

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Unintended consequences: Destroying our institutions

The uproar about 'office of profit' and subsequent resignations based on sudden awakening of conscience, raises a smokescreen hiding much more insidious subversion of institutions.

When the Indian Electorate voted against the World Bank inspired economics of the previous government, little did they know that they were voting to power two World Bank staff as the Prime Minister [ex-officio Chairman] and Vice-Chairman of the Planning Commission.

The Indian system of governance has been fundamentally changed since the last elections. This subversion has been quietly done, without fanfare. The Planning Commission has changed its Terms of Reference [TOR] without going to the cabinet or parliament. Since the TOR was made by the cabinet, the correct legal procedure is to get the cabinet to change it. But legal niceties has not stopped the vice-chairman-perhaps reflecting a habit that is picked up from the World Bank. What is it that they have changed? The Planning Commission has its TOR drawn from the Directive Principles of the Constitution-in particular 38 and 39-that make it the duty of the state to strive for equitable distribution of wealth. Being aware that the planning system, and the government of the day, are not following the constitutional duty of securing an economically just system, but rather were going all out to subvert the constitutional goals, the Planning Commission has dropped those embarrassing references.

Changing the mandate of the Planning Commission by administrative fiat is only one symptom of a much deeper malaise. Much more insidious has been the change in the very nature of the parliamentary system. Our democracy is based on the premise that there would be cabinets and ministers who would be elected, and accountable to the people through the parliament. They would be subject to the checks and balances within the parliamentary system.

That premise has totally broken down in the present arrangement where we have a 'super cabinet' in the form of the 'National Advisory Council', the NAC. This defeats the very purpose of the parliamentary system. The system makes space for the fact that the vote getter-the communicator-need not be a good administrator. The vote getter would be a leader who would build coalitions, and get a mandate around a grand 'vision'.

The traditional role was that the prime minister would be the 'politician'-balancing the different interests, and keeping national interest supreme-and the bureaucracy would do the administration and day-to-day implementation with the ministers giving the broad policy direction. Now we have the quintessential administrator become the prime minister-and the politician left without a role in the constitutional scheme of things. This has resulted in extra-constitutional authority, and weakening of the system.

Perhaps we should not be so surprised. It is the Congress that has systematically destroyed institutions in India. Right from the judiciary to the press during the emergency-remember LKAdvani's quote 'when the press was asked to bend, it crawled'?-it has taken the less honourable road. Morality was given the go by, and 'even-handed appeasement' was seen in both the reversal of the Shah Bano judgement and the permission for the Shila Nyas. The most blatant betrayal of the mandate came when the present prime minister was the finance minister: Elected on a manifesto that promised to roll back prices within 100 days-with a detailed timeline-they promptly increased the prices, sometimes by as much as 50%!, within days of coming to power.

With the Common Minimum Programme supposedly the agenda of the coalition, the mindless pursuit of market is now the goal of the government-the very agenda they campaigned against. Again, we should not be surprised. It is not every country that has both the Prime Minister, [who is also the Chairman of the Planning Commission] and the Vice-Chairman of the Planning Commission, being ex-World Bank staff. Changing TORs mid-way is par for the course there. The promised Employment Guarantee Act had to be shelved, the reservations for women. and some even have the gall to assert that the poll verdict was not against the previous government's economic policies! The syndrome goes beyond the simple 'revolution while in opposition, status quo when in power' explanation and betrays a crass utilitarian mindset.

While there is little that the citizen can do regarding the 'vanishing manifestoes' and 'common minimum programmes' till the next elections, the parliament can surely ask the Planning Commission to revert to its original TOR. And for those still in doubt whether the institutions are safe, the best test is to reverse roles: what would be the response if the next election sees a new NAC being formed-this time with the heads of RSS, Bajrang Dal and the VHP? The present government has just given them that mandate and legitimacy. Somebody once said that a courtesan had power without responsibility. Perhaps that is more true for the rulers of India today.

Reference note:
Indian Constitution
Part IV Directive Principles of State Policy
Article 38 State to secure a social order for the promotion of welfare of the people
(1) The State shall strive to promote the welfare of the people by securing and protecting as effectively as it may a social order in which justice, social, economic and political, shall inform all the institutions of the national life.
(2) The State shall, in particular, strive to minimise the inequalities in income, and endeavour to eliminate inequalities in status, facilities and opportunities, not only amongst individuals but also amongst groups of people residing in different areas or engaged in different vocations.
Article 39 Certain principles of policy to be followed by the State
The State shall, in particular, direct its policy towards securing -
(a) that the citizen, men and women equally, have the right to an adequate means of livelihood;
(b) that the ownership and control of the material resources of the community are so distributed as best to subserve the common good;
(c) that the operation of the economic system does not result in the concentration of wealth and means of production to the common detriment;
(d) that there is equal pay for equal work for both men and women;
(e) that the health and strength of workers, men and women, and the tender age of children are not abused and that citizens are not forced by economic necessity to enter avocations unsuited to their age or strength;
(f) that children are given opportunities and facilities to develop in a healthy manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity and that childhood and youth are protected against exploitation and against moral and material abandonment.

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Witness protection programmes: A critique

Witness protection programmes: A critique
Anita and Edwin

The Government of India has announced its intention to have a comprehensive Witness Protection Programme [WPP], and is in the advanced stages of getting a law passed for the purpose.

The specifics are fine, or at least most of them are. But it does not take into account the social context of the law. This is the greatest flaw in the policy [policy comes first, then law, then enforcement]. The policy as it is, is a copout for the politicians from actually taking care of the security of the community.

WPP becomes a necessity when there is a large section of society that believes that the
a. 'Crime' is right, though illegal, and therefore is hostile to the person who turns against the community [in school it used to be called sneaking! These 'witnesses' are considered spies. The same protection given to spies will need to be given to them too.].
b. Alternate system—organised crime—is more powerful in enforcement. [So if someone testifies, then organised crime is able to punish them with impunity. The state must therefore take them away from such a society].

Normally a community believes in justice, and the person who is on the side of justice is protected by the community [though they may not like him!]. In the case of a WPP, we are admitting that a large section believes that the 'crime' itself is justice, or that the crime is a normative in that particular society, bringing in devastating consequences to those who go against the normative of society.

It becomes obvious therefore that the conditions for the creation of such large social conglomerations and territories must be addressed first. What causes the 'critical mass' of social structures and people to organise outside the 'formal' system? What causes their efficiency to be more 'feared' that the 'formal'?

The fault here lies with the political class that has continuously undermined the faith of the common people on the police [which in any case was minimal, given its colonial origins]. When such faith is undermined, then alternate systems develop, where the 'formal' or 'white' system becomes the enemy. The lasting solution is to restore the faith of the people in the 'formal' system.

Many police commissions have set out how this is possible. [Depoliticising the police being the first step!]. Rebuilding trust is the best form of witness protection, where the community itself becomes anti-crime. Otherwise large-scale [post-Godhra] or retail [Jessica Lal] impunity will be the result.

The WPP also depends on the trust that those who want to testify have on the police, the impartiality of the system, the ability to protect them, its efficiency in securing justice, and waiving prosecution against the witness [who is often someway connected with the crime]. Tweeking small parts of the system will not help in bringing down the crime rate [With all its power, neither did TADA or POTA].

There has been some mention about the right to information, the right to privacy, and the right to face the accuser in court [and also the exceptions]. The fact is that with the advancement of technology, a determined search can easily uncover a witness.

In the case of civilians who demand justice too, it is the enforcement machinery that turns against them. When some citizens of Bangalore complained that their residential area was being turned into a commercial zone in violation of zoning regulations, it is the government that demolished their houses [and only the houses of the petitioners!] for building plan violations. What is to prevent the police to turn against those who give witness in a case like Godhra for instance? So what about automatic immunity... given the high degree of mistrust?

The ability of punitive measures if the police betray the trust to be a deterrent is questionable, given the poor record of the Indian ‘justice’ system. If the betrayal of trust leads to the murder of a witness, it should be considered as the rarest of the rare, and invite life imprisonment. Private petitions should be permitted in these cases, including the request for life imprisonment. [we are for life, not for death penalty, even in cases of misuse of authority leading to death. There are no 'rarest of rare'.].

As it stands, the WPP is a legal band-aid, where drastic surgery is required. What we need is an enabling environment which empowers the citizens to manage their own security. There are many recommendations of many commissions—from administrative to judicial and from police to human rights activists—that address these issues in detail. The policy should be on security and community role in creating a law abiding culture. The role of the police is in enhancing community security as distinct from criminalising people [and also as distinct from the role of the army]. The role of the state lies in providing institutional protection to law abiding citizens. The central role in creating a law abiding society lies with individual citizens, and the community. The role of the state is supportive. When the state usurps this legitimate role of the citizens—and indeed makes it illegal for citizens to perform this function—then we quickly land up on this slippery slope.

The present WPP fosters an illusion of action when there is none, deliberately confusing activity with action, and social change with legislation. It is alright for children to ride a rocking horse and believe that they are chasing bank robbers. Adults must know that just because it moves, it doesn’t get anyone anywhere. Therein lies the difference.

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