Thursday, March 11, 2010

Oligarchies ..the Bane Lynches us badly !

You can't miss them. They occupy prime time news space. The datelines range from Osmania University in Hyderabad to Lal Chowk in Srinagar and West Midnapur in West Bengal to Mumbai in Maharashtra. Or Noida near Delhi where burglars drive away with ATMs. Like pock marks they threaten to mar the glow of the India Story. It would be easy to mistake them as stray incidents.

They are not. The rise of language chauvinism in Mumbai and the reaction triggered in Patna symbolise the cause and the consequence of a State frequently absent. Worse, of a State unable to translate words into action and outlays into outcome, where development is not the goal but an accidental byproduct. Why is it so tough for a nuclear power to hunt Naxals like Kishenji? Why do the poorest states boast of the worst record in implementing the country's biggest poverty alleviation programme, NREGA?Very simply, for decades the political class has buried the crisis of governance under the rhetoric on non-issues.

Discontent is a natural corollary of democracy and extremism the outcome of denied empowerment. India is often described as a democracy of the poor. It is a truism. What is not so evident is that the poor people elect governments that seem to work only for a curious oligarchy of a myopic elite. Resources become available for the Commonwealth Games but not for Bharat stuck in a rut. That Palakkad became the first district to be fully electrified-- after six decades of Independence--is a telling factoid.

The crux of the problem is an embedded and historical bias in favour of the entrenched. This is most visible in the syntax of development discourse. Last year, the total revenue foregone in exemptions to industry was over Rs 4,20,000 crore, or 70 per cent of collectible revenue. But the debate is about subsidies, which incidentally were barely a fourth of exemptions. Witness the rush to decontrol petroleum prices, apparently to save PSUs while there is no attempt to free them from political bondage. Public-private partnerships are manipulated to nationalise costs and privatise profits. Banks are happy to clear inter-city high-value cheques in a day but make small depositors wait a week.

There is a plethora of new regulations and regulators, but be it telecom number portability or home loan rates, consumers are not the focus of policy. Food price inflation is a tax on the poor but there is no attempt to fix the problem of a corroded public distribution system.

The inequity in the system is fuelling the implosion and it cannot be redressed by the practice of voodoo economics. Peace is a desirable goal. Peace can be negotiated at home and abroad but sustaining it calls for good governance and the restoration of equity. Not by perpetuating oligarchies

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

General to Ladies Compartment

Folks , This week this year saw some unprecedented changes being engineered by some determined citizens ( read as Leaders ) of the nations who were keen on changing the destiny of the nation and move a few steps closer to creating equality for both men and women of this proud nation. Else where in the field of business , a few outstanding women towered head over shoulders of corporate titans by scaling the ladders, over coming issues, social resistances and other social barriers.

NOT only in India but across the globe..Indian Women are up there with the very best ..The list includes some luminaries like Indira Nooyie, Padmashre Warrior and many others

In sports too the dynamic hyderabadi trio Sania and Saina along with the other Koneru Hampi ...and Karnam Malleshwari kept the flames of inspiration alive ever since the legendary like of PT Usha and Shiny Abraham left hot track for other ladies to follow..

The field of IT has also flattened the walls of differences as it is a norm to see as many women at work as you see boys at the sprawling glassy green campuses of IT Majors.

Like the bit from Sararika dwells in " Ascendancy after the martyrdom of their better known relatives " Indira G, Sonia G , Maneka G , Jayalalitha there are a few sparse exemplars like Mayawati,Mamatha Banerjee,Sushma Swaraj,Vasundara Raje,Shiela Dixit ,Uma Bharati etc who made the select band of fire brand politicians by winning popular vote from the masses by contesting in general category general elections against men.

Tower they all did in creating avenues of inspiration and trail blazing blazing to the erstwhile weaker sex ..but

But then to envision 33 % of the Indian Parliament with the colors of Indian women from across the different states who will I am sure a variety of emotions like empathy , sensibility, apathy , to key matters like Child Development,Equality of Women in all spheres of the society, Education, Healthcare, Agriculture, Animal Husbandry, Cottage Industries , Science and Technology etc etc viable with committed governance is a sure sign of progress inclusive of our best half..the Ladies of this Great Nation.

Kudos to Sonia, Brinda, Sushma and the other many stalwart who conceived this possibility and those that will see this becoming a reality after it eventually gets debated in parliament and pass in lok sabha.

While I was researching the web to frame my thoughts and firm up my perceptions and notions , I did not have to read reams before I came across a fine piece of print pens by one of my favorites and an uber articulate urban womans voice. Sagarika Ghose. Appended below is a her thoughts and sharp writing for my readers on and think hard ..but then when it comes to voting with a clear head as next time "It would be the best woman who may end up winning more than men"...

High gender justice rhetoric followed by anti-climactic bathos. That seems to be the story of the Women’s Reservation Bill that was passed in the Rajya Sabha yesterday. It’s the longest running saas-bahu soap opera in Indian politics. Thrice introduced, thrice aborted for the last 14 years, governments have tried to move the Bill. Every time the Bill has been moved, it has been vociferously opposed by the ‘social justice’ lobby of Lalu Yadav and Mulayam Singh Yadav and, with monotonous regularity sent back to cold storage.

The Bill, reserving one-third seats in Lok Sabha and assemblies, strikes at the heart of gender relations in India. Patriarchal societies cosset and oppress their women in equal measure. In the violent high stakes game of Indian politics, women are tolerable as supportive wives and daughters who step out shyly to become a substitute for dead husbands or brothers, but intolerable when they stake a claim to robustly represent their own constituency. In fact, all over South Asia, there exists the syndrome that social scientist Ali Mazrui calls, ‘female accession to male martyrdom’, or the ‘Indira, Benazir, Sheikh Hasina’ syndrome by which females hold office not as female individuals, but as proxies of the powerful departed male. If, on the other hand, women rise on their own, or creditably claw their way up from the grassroots like Mamata, Uma and Maya, they must cultivate a certain strategic and spectacular insanity that strikes terror and fear in their supporters, a terror that silences all prejudice against femininity. The devi/demoness stereotype, sadly, bedevils most women in Indian public life.

Thus there is every reason to support a legislation that promises special measures to bring women into public life. The odds are so high and the political culture so hostile that if women are to participate meaningfully — and in large numbers — in politics, then certainly some legislative shock treatment is needed. The question is if this Bill — Constitution (108th Amendment) Bill, 2008 — is the right legislation to secure meaningful participation of women in large numbers in our present day politics. The jury is still out on that one.

The cacophony in Parliament, the shrill polarised exchange of charges of ‘elite women’ and ‘par kati women’ on the one side and ‘anti-women Yadavs’ and ‘regressive Hindi belt netas’ on the other throughout the life of this Bill have meant that the opportunity for real debate on the Bill has been lost and the public has not had the opportunity to understand and engage with the Bill. No government since the inception of the Bill has made any serious attempt to create a wide-ranging debate or to assess public responses to a legislation that has the potential to transform Indian politics and create tectonic shifts in society.

While we may ridicule Lalu and Mulayam’s objections to the Bill, yet their demand for ‘quota within quota’ may simply be a demand to force the government to spell out exactly what it will achieve through this Bill and what kind of arguments the government is able to bring in favour of the Bill.

As analysts have pointed out, the Bill contains many structural flaws. First, there will be compulsory unseating of two-third of the members every election. Second, there will be no incentive for MPs to nurse constituencies. Third, there is the undeniable fact that family politics will be further enhanced as a male who suddenly loses his seat to a reserved constituency will be tempted to simply put up a female relative as a proxy. Thus the floodgates of bahu-betis may open.
Women who contest from reserved seats will also not be able to nurture their constituencies as they will lose them in the next election and be forever seen as non-serious and ornamental figures who have been foisted on the people. Fifth, women will be consigned to the ‘ladies compartment’ of politics, busily fighting each other in their own female ghetto without getting the opportunity to test their skills against mainstream politicians. Women, the world over, hanker for equality of opportunity, not certainty of success. If the opportunity to fight is equal then let the best woman or man win. But if the reward is a given, then is the battle worth it?

Gender is the focus of elaborate hypocrisy in our country. On the one hand, we worship at the politically correct altar of gender justice. On the other hand, equality of women and acceptance of female individuality is frowned on and subverted at every stage. Gender is the subject of endless elite seminars, yet the fact is among the competing inequalities of India, the infirmities of caste and class bear down much more brutally on women than their gender.

Upper class privileged women seeking victimhood on the basis of gender is perhaps an injustice to the millions of men who suffer far worse privations because they are lower caste and poor. Thus the idea that women are a monolithic victimised caste that need special protection through quotas is totally immature and misguided. Reading through this version of the women’s quota Bill, it doesn’t seem as if it will succeed in its mission of empowering women.
Sagarika Ghose is Senior Editor, CNN-IBN
Sagarika Ghose
March 09, 2010


I believe that the Womens Bill Reservations is much like our Railways Status of Reservation against Cancellation or Waiting List. To me the tatkal passport to equality and dominance would be the sustained catalyst of educations and eradication of inhuman banes like of female foeticide ! Jai Hoi !