New on my other blogs

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Solar scam reveals decadent polity and sociery
A Dalit poet writing in English, based in Kerala
Foreword to Media Tides on Kerala Coast
Teacher seeks V.S. Achuthanandan's intervention to end harassment by partymen


27 August, 2007

Arrears piling up in Central Information Commission

The malaise afflicting the judicial system appears to be catching up with the mechanism created under the Right to Information Act too. Within 15 months of its coming into force, arrears of cases have started piling up in the office of the Central Information Commission.

The Act came into force in October 2005. According to information available at the CIC’s website, at the beginning of April 2006, CIC had before it 489 cases. During the month 248 more received and 97 were disposed, leaving arrears of 640. With disposals falling below receipts month after month, the arrears rose steadily and stood at 2,361 in January 2007.

The judiciary has been grappling with the problem of mounting arrears for years. As many as 33,635 cases were pending before the Supreme Court and 3,424,518 before the High Courts at the beginning of 2006.

Social Watch India has cited these figures in the Citizens’ Report on Governance and Development 2007. The report, published by Sage Publications India Private Limited, New Delhi, is priced Rs. 595.

25 August, 2007

Let the people speak

The Indo-US nuclear deal has divided the nation sharply. While the deal was being negotiated, various sections had voiced misgivings. Most political parties took predictable positions. The scientific establishment feared that the government might accept conditions that put their work in jeopardy. Although observers at this end thought the United States was taking too tough a stand, various sections there, too, were voicing dissent. At one stage, it looked as though the talks had run aground. Then, all of sudden, the US softened its position and the 123 agreement materialized.

The agreement has attracted criticism from political quarters in both the US and India. The Indian Left’s reservations were known for a long time. It reiterated its position from time to time, but at no time did it attempt to impose its views on the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government, which is sustained in office by its support. Although the smaller Left parties have been arguing for some time that the time has come to withdraw the blanket support to the UPA regime, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) appeared to be in no mood to rock the boat – until it asked the government to put the nuclear deal on hold on pain of serious consequences.

The Constitution does not require the government to seek Parliament’s approval before or after entering into an agreement with any foreign country. Those who favor the agreement claim that it is in the nation’s interest. Those who are opposed to say it is not in the nation’s interest. The CPI (M), taking into account the fact that the Bharatiya Janata Party is also opposed to the agreement, says it does not have the support of a majority of the members of Parliament. Every party speaks in the name of the people, but is any one of them entitled to speak on their behalf?

The Prime Minister’s Congress party received just 26.55% of the votes polled in the last parliamentary elections. The BJP’s vote share was 22.16%, the CPI (M)’s 5.66% and the CPI’s 1.41%.

Since nuclear policy was not a live issue in the last elections, it is not possible to conclude whether the people of India are for or against the deal on the basis of either the strength of the various parties in the Lok Sabha or the votes they polled last time.

If critics of the agreement have the courage of conviction they must be ready to go to the people. Let the people speak

15 August, 2007

INDIA: Sixty years of transformation from colony into dysfunctional state

The following is the text of a statement on India, issued by the Asian Human Rights Commission on the eve of the country's 60th Independence Day

Sixty years before India took a quantum leap in its history from being a colony to that of an independent nation. Soon it was a declared to be a democratic, socialist republic. Wheels of administration started turning in a different direction where administration meant no more exploitation, but managing a country and directing its people to a better destiny.

The oiling and greasing of these wheels were handled by people who had some or even little experience in maintaining a system to cater the interests of the people. Yet the administration did not buckle and the people trusted in it. Six decades since then the administrative machinery in India appears to have lost its direction and the confidence it once enjoyed and expected from the people.

The state of affairs in India as of today concerning its civil administration and the other pillars of democracy is similar to the psyche of a raging mob. There is no control or discipline whatsoever. Wherever and to whatever the mob turned its attention to destruction is the certain and immediate result. When such destruction, in the Indian context, is state sponsored, the damages are irreparable.

The union government of India while is busy of custom tailoring a government that could hold power for the rest of its term and probably to return to power for yet another term, their counterparts in the states are engaged in similar exercises within their jurisdictions. For this every cards available are being used. Caste, religion and money are constantly used for gerrymandering administrative decisions. The police, prosecution and judiciary are misused to keep the protesting voices at bay.

The three pillars of democracy - the judiciary, executive and legislature in India as of today paints the picture of complete disfunctionalism. The judiciary in India which was considered once as an independent voice is no more considered so. The judiciary which once played a decisive role reining the powers of the government whenever the government tried to depart from the democratic process, has now lost the trust of the people.

A court system that had responded by appreciating public interest litigations have now stooped down to a stage where the courts itself are asking the public to settle disputes outside the court. The courts in India have compromised its legitimacy and values of impartiality for mere survival. This compromise is now being forced upon the people by the courts themselves being advocates of out of court settlement by way of alternate dispute resolution for almost everything currently under the judicial realm.

More and more the ordinary people shy away from approaching the courts in India. This is because of the inordinate delay in deciding cases and also due to lack of transparency in the courts’ own actions. There is also a demonstrable change in the attitude of the judiciary towards people’s cause.

The court that once said the state has a duty to provide adequate housing to the people in the Bombay Municipal Corporation case has taken u-turn by justifying forced evictions in its recent judgments. While the courts have a change in attitude towards addressing the ordinary people’s concern about state neglect, the courts itself are victims of neglect by the state. Thousands of cases are pending decision before the various courts in India due to pure lack of proper infrastructure.

The executive also have demonstrated through their lack of action and brute intervention that they are no more people centric. A direct result of a failing executive machinery is the alarming number of starvation deaths in India. India as of today does not face a food crisis. However thousands in India die from acute starvation and malnutrition. One tenth of the country’s population goes to bed hearing the cries of their children for food. Starvation and malnutrition is a direct result of executive malfunction. Deaths from starvation are gruesome examples of how a failed executive forces death upon the people it is supposed to serve.

Yet another limb of the executive, the police and other law enforcement agencies are used by the state not as a segment of the service sector, but as an agency to impart fear upon the people. The extra judicial killings by the armed forces in Manipur and the clampdown of human rights work in states like Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Gujarat are examples. As of today engaging in human rights work in any of these states, including the Northeastern states is as good as declaring war with the state. Human rights activists are seen not as a support mechanism for the people but as anti-state activists. The continuing detention of Dr. Binayek Sen in Chhattisgarh state is just one example.

Corruption in public life has not hit such high levels at any point of time in India. The elected representatives that allege that they represent people’s consensus in fact now represent corporate, religious or other partisan interests. Given the affinity of various political party leaders in India to fundamentalist religious interests, India can hardly be referred to as a secular country. Volatile and provocative statements made by political party leaders raising unwarranted suspicion upon minority communities and the legislative process they have initiated whenever they had an opportunity is a scary example for this.

What cost has India paid in mismanaging affairs to this extent? Probably there are more Indians living in India now under fear than prior to 1947. India has lost many times more lives after independence than in its fight for independence. As of today, India is a country of contradictions.

While the middle class and the neo-rich community tries to fortify their riches and their holds in places of authority, a major portion of the country’s population suffer from acute poverty and starvation. With its abundance of resources and possibilities India need not be what it is now.

Beyond the landscapes of crowded cities and special economic zones the rural India as of today suffers from the pitfalls of a dysfunctional state. Sixty years since independence, India has reduced itself to a country that is continuously failing in addressing the needs of its people - a transformation from a colony to a dysfunctional state.
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About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984

01 August, 2007

Mahdani acquitted after more than nine years in prison

After Abdul Naser Mahdani spent nine years and four months in jail as an undertrial prisoner in the Coimbatore bomb blast case, a Coimbatore court has acquitted him of all charges.

A fiery orator, Mahdani, who is Chairman of the People’s Democratic Party of Kerala, was the victim of a conspiracy by political opponents.

Mahdani, whose fledgling party mounted a formidable challenge to the Indian Union Muslim League, was arrested by the Kerala police on March 31, 1998, in connection with a case registered against him a few years earlier. He was not sent up for trial in that case. Instead, he was handed over to the Tamil Nadu police for trial in the Coimbatore blast case. The Left Democratic Front, which was in power at that State, is believed to have acted against him to placate the Muslim League with a view to weaning it away from the opposition United Democratic Front.

The blast case was a sequel to explosions which killed 58 persons in Coimbatore on the day L. K. Advani, then Union Home Minister, landed there. The bomb blasts were apparently in retaliation for a combined assault by the police and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh workers a few days earlier, in which 17 Muslims were killed.

The Bharatiya Janata Party, which was in power at the Centre, and J. Jayalalithaa’s All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, which was in power in Tamil Nadu, used the blast case and Mahdani’s alleged involvement in it for their own purposes.

Mahdani, who had lost a leg in a bomb attack by RSS men in Kerala, was denied bail and parole throughout the period of investigation and trial, which went on at a slow pace. On July 31 the judge started delivering the judgment. By noon he had given his verdict on 65 of the accused. Mahdani was the only one among them who was acquitted.

Please see “Mahdani case: a human rights perspective” and “A man on the Malayalee conscience