Saturday, June 21, 2008

Is the Indian State anti-people?

Neerja Chowdhury in an edit page article titled ‘The decline of democracy’ published in the New Indian Express dated June 16, 2008 refers to two observations of a German student visiting India .

The first observation, ‘Delhi is not India’ ,though often repeated as to become cliché, is but a truth. In most countries, the national capital holds in a gist, the character and characteristics of the whole. But, in India, a foreign visitor who sees Delhi first and thinks it as India is in for a shock when he travels to other regions. So amazing and unbelievable is India’s diversity on all counts.

The second and more important observation made by our German visitor, says Neerja, is that while there is much hype of we being the world’s largest democracy, there is little evidence of democratic functioning in many parts of the country ------- be it in the police, local authorities, political parties and even families. Neerja cites numerous happenings in the week prior to her article as proof.

Excepting the fact that elections in India are conducted, by and large, in a free and fair manner, the ordinary Indian has been at the receiving end in the hands of the state apparatus. Large sections of Indian officialdom still consider it their birthright to lord over their subjects and put them to trouble and misery. The state is unresponsive and unyielding. Dr. B.R. Ambedkar bemoaned this in his writings when he stated that individual rights and personal freedom were alien concepts in India’s civilisational history. The Emergency of 1975 is a fine example.

The observation of the German student, confirmed by our experience, indicates that sixty years of being a Republic has not led to any attitudinal shift in the rulers over the ruled. Their mentality is fossilized in the colonial era with little prospects of change.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

'Survival Mode'

This blog has been dormant for quite some time. My inspiration or creativity had died down. The feeling was nagging me that whatever I write may be imperfect, stupid or simply fail to reach up to the standard of my previous entries. I was in the dark on ways to escape from this dead-end till I read of a similar situation faced by my friend Katie in Like for her, blogging ,became for me 'just another thing that cluttered my already - lengthy to do list'. And from her blog I have learnt the way to bypass the overpowering feeling of being blocked or exhausted. Let me start writing again. Thanks a lot, Katie!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Justice J.M.L.Sinha - A Tribute

Justice Jag Mohan Lal Sinha, former Judge of the Allahabad High Court, died on Thursday at the age of 87. Many may not even have heard that name or might vaguely recollect it. But Justice Sinha goes down in history as one of the few judges who with a single judgement radically and dramatically altered the course of a nation or a people’s destiny. His judgement, delivered on June 12,1975, in the Rae Bareilly election case, where he declared as void the election of the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi to Parliament on the ground that she indulged in corrupt electoral practices, set off a train of events, political and social, beginning with the Emergency , the reverberations of which continue even today in the lives of generations born much later. Justice Sinha remains in my mind as a hero. So do two other people associated with that case, Raj Narain, the Socialist Party opponent of Indira Gandhi who filed the election petition and the redoubtable Shanti Bhushan, the lawyer appearing for the petitioner.
Yahoo contains an interesting report of Justice Sinha’s demise and I am providing the link :
One more point must be stated. The rise of India’s opposition parties to political power after more than 30 years of unbroken Congress rule, in the Union and in many States, owes a lot to Justice Sinha’s judgement. Justice Sinha never attempted to cash in on this, something he could have easily done. He preferred life incognito after retirement. No further evidence is needed for his personal integrity and judicial urprightness.

N.B: In this context I should also pay my tributes to another fearless judge of those troubled times, Justice H.R.Khanna of the Supreme Court, who wrote the dissenting judgement in the preventive detention case which arose during the Emergency and was superseded for Chief Justiceship of the Supreme Court by Mrs. Indira Gandhi. He died hardly two months ago. The ‘New York Times; hailed Justice Khanna’s judgement in an editorial soon after it was delivered.

Monday, January 28, 2008

faceless Facebook?

The Goddess of Justice is blindfolded. This symbolizes Justice as strictly impersonal, unmoved by individual preferences. Facebook, the social networking site, is faceless when it comes to deciding on the fates of its users. Any user is free to report any other user and such reports are eagerly accepted at face value. The user against whom a report is made sees his account disabled forthwith. Any further inquiry with Facebook only elicits the mechanical response that Terms of Use agreed upon has been violated and the decision is final. No information is given on the nature of the complaint or the specific violation alleged as committed by the user. It is a harsh judgement, without trial, instantly dispensed, similar to that among Bedouin tribes. The guilty find themselves deprived of their contacts , the graffiti they draw, the pictures and messages they post, and the mails they receive with no access whatsoever. A trauma, barbaric in social terms, is inflicted on the hapless Facebook user. And the helpless individual user is left with no means to challenge Facebook. One patiently waits for a David who will match this Goliath. And going by the plenty of messages posted on the web alleging harshness, arbitrariness and unfair treatment from Facebook , I am sure the day is not far off when a David’s stone will fell this Goliath.

Disabled users of Facebook should’nt silently sit through the tyranny unleashed on them. They should network, share thoughts, discuss among themselves, and devise creative and innovative ways to face this injustice and expose the undemocratic and high-handed methods of Facebook. How about mounting a legal challenge to Facebook’s arbitrariness in US or European courts?

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Michael O Leavitt

Michael O Leavitt, the US Secretary of Health, was in India to see for himself recent advancements in health care and the product facilities being developed. In an interview with ‘The Hindu’ he made two points worth pondering over.

Referring to the unsustainably high costs of health care in US ( in India too health care costs in the private sector is no different) he called for developing techniques to measure their quality and value. People should have access to information which enables them to compare the quality of health care they receive against its costs. In health care as in every other sector, says Mr.Leavitt, if people have information about the cost and quality, they will make choices that will drive the quality up and the costs down. A market based on value will emerge.

The second point he makes is on validating treatments and formulations from alternative and complementary systems of medicine. He says that the US National Institutes of Health have a centre that focuses on them. How different from India where there is very little interaction between modern medicine and the traditional systems, both of which occupy separate spheres and where the experts in each field encounter each other as adversaries in a battle!. Mr. Leavitt says that US policy is to take traditional systems of healing, understand it better, apply good science to it and apply it or use it. Mr. Leavitt mentions of the considerable time he spend in China looking at their traditional systems of medicine and his meeting with Mr.Chim, renowned in treating leukaemia , who successfully introduced arsenic in its treatment based on traditional practices.

The thrust on providing full information to users of health care and the positive approach to traditional systems of medicine being practiced the world over for centuries is proof that a change in approach, qualitative in nature, is taking place in health care in USA. The pace of change may be slow, yet the shift in emphasis is a welcome development. The United States should take the lead in integrating traditional healing practices with modern systems of medicine so that we gain the best of both. India's health administrators(and there's a surfeit of them) too should make sensible use of these suggestions of Mr.Leavitt.