King-maker vs King!
It refers to tussle between Bihar Chief Minister Jitanram Manjhi and his earlier political mentor Nitish Kumar having been instrumental in crowning on the post. Such a tussle is not new in Indian politics where persons having been crowned to high posts anticipating them to behave like rubber-stamps became trouble-makers for the king-makers. Example is Indira Gandhi crowned as Prime Minister for the first time by the then party-bosses (syndicate) of undivided Congress revolted against the 'syndicate' resulting a total overhaul of Indian politics.
Time has come when king-makers should be replaced by democratically elected legislature-members. Prime Minister/Chief Minister, Speaker and Deputy Speaker should be simultaneously elected by secret and compulsory votes of all members of Lok Sabha through Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) on nominations signed by at least 34-percent members. Losing person in such an election may be declared Leader of Opposition. Members not participating in election-process may lose voting rights in Lok Sabha/state-assembly though retaining membership. Such elected ones may only be removed by a no-confidence motion passed in the same manner but with compulsion to name alternate leader in the same motion. System will effectively take care of rivalry within political parties, apart from menace of hung legislatures and costly mid-term elections.
Madhu Agrawal, Delhi
"Modi gave India self-pride: Uma Bharti" is the caption to a news report. Has the woman never heard "Sarey jahan se achchha Hindostan hamara", Iqbal's "tarana-e-Hind" first published in 1904? Many Indians are in fact acutely embarrassed by the antics of the man who has made the country the world's laughing stock.
Mukul Dube, Delhi
The state Government Employees are in dire financial straits. Thousands of letters are reported to have been sent to the Chief Minister of West Bengal, requesting her to expedite the payment of DA to the State Employees. 49% DA has been withheld by the State Government. The State Government instead has granted a meagre amount of 7% DA. On the other hand lavish amount of money has been siphoned off to numerous mushrooming clubs in and around city for organising soirees and illuminating parks for days on end. This type of lopsided expenditure of public money is responsible for the depletion of the state coffer. The difference between the Central and State Governments in respect of DA is becoming wider and wider. The State Government DA should be on a par with that of the Central Government.
D K Chakravarti, Kolkata
‘Science for Sale’
When Speaker Newt Gingrich greeted Dr David Lewis in his office overlooking the National Mall, he looked at Dr Lewis and said: "You know you're going to be fired for this, don't you?" "I know," Dr Lewis replied, "I just hope to stay out of prison." Gingrich had just read Dr Lewis's commentary in Nature titled "EPA Science: Casualty of Election Politics." Three years later, and thirty years after Dr Lewis began working at EPA, he was back in Washington to receive a Science Achievement Award from Administrator Carol Browner for his second article in Nature. By then, EPA had transferred Dr Lewis to the University of Georgia to await termination—the Agency's only scientist to ever be lead author on papers published in Nature and Lancet. The government hires scientists to support its policies; industry hires them to support its business; and universities hire them to bring in grants that are handed out to support government policies and industry practices. Organizations dealing with scientific integrity are designed only to weed out those who commit fraud behind the backs of the institutions where they work. The greatest threat of all is the purposeful corruption of the scientific enterprise by the institutions themselves. The science they create is often only an illusion, designed to deceive; and the scientists they destroy to protect that illusion are often the best. This book Science for Sale : How the US Government Uses Powerful Corporations and Leading Universities to Support Government Policies, Silence Top Scientists, Jeopardize Our Health, and Protect Corporate Profits is about both beginning with Dr Lewis's experience, and ending with the story of Dr Andrew Wakefield.
This has been happening in India too. One example is the sidelining / silencing of Dr Pushp Bhargava in his opposition to genetic modification for food crops and products. Of course, silencing of activists (who may or may not be scientists) was done by the previous UPA governments and is being intensified by the present BJP government.
Reforming Labour Laws
20 November 2014, Ludhiana (Punjab, India). The Textile Hosiery Kamgar Union and Karkhana Mazdoor Union protestsed at D C Office against the Modi's government’s anti-worker reforms in labour laws. Sharply criticizing these so called labour reforms the labour organization demanded the cancellation of the government's pure anti-worker policy. A memorandum regarding this was sent to Indian Government through D C, Ludhiana.
The speakers at the protest demonstration said that the workers had struggled hard to gain these legal labour rights. The country's labour laws are already very weak and are even hardly implemented. Only 7% of workers are under labour laws. But these weak and almost ineffective labour laws are now being abolished. The unionised workers get some rights, by pressurizing the owners and the government. But the national and international investors find in the Indian labour laws a stumbling block in their path of investment. That is why the government has been considering for quite some time to abolish these laws. Actually the Modi Government is continuing the same agenda of previous Congress Government with more vigour.
The factory Act, 1948 which is being implemented in the factories where there are 10 or more workers (where electricity is used) and 20 or more workers (where electricity is not used), now it is proposed to raise the condition to 20 and 40 workers respectively. With these reforms, the factory owners will be able to refuse the rights of workers more easily. Secondly, such steps will keep free most of the small-scaled factory owners from the factory laws and they will be legally free from their responsibility towards workers.
As per the existing law 10% or 100 labourers in any factory can assemble together to register as union but now this percentage has been increased to 30. The proposal of implementing the Contract Labour Act, 1972 in factories with 50 or more workers rather than in 20 or more workers has also been approved. The implementation of these reforms would mean a legal right to dreadful exploitation of workers without any restriction. Along with this, there is an proposal to the constitutional provision of legal investigation of any form of an industrial dispute. The owners will be able to shut the factories anytime after the implementation of these reforms. For this they are not bound to take permission from Government or Court. In fact the time for taking any industrial dispute to court has been limited to 3 years. Prior, there was no time limit related to this. The restriction on night duty by women is even being loosened. The reforms are being made to institutionalize the trainee labourers rather than permanent workers. Along with this the limit of over-time is increased from 50 to 100 hours in a month. Already the range of over-time is 50 to 120 hours per month. It's not hard to understand what conditions will be created after the implementation of these reforms.
President, Karkhana Mazdoor Union,
I had a rare privilege of working with Professor Rajni Kothari in the Department of Political Science in the University of Delhi for about half a decade in the late 1970s and early 1980s. As a new Reader in the Department, I was overawed by his towering Intelectual presence. Yet he had a way of putting any one in his contact at ease by his unassuming but somewhat serious demeanour partly lightened by a wry smile. One day in the Department's staff room outside the Head's office in the Arts Faculty Building where he was seated on the sofa, I dared to present to him my just published book Split in a Predominant Party: The Indian National Congress in 1969 (1981) with the inscribed note ' To Professor Rajni Kothari for my love at first reading.' He looked up at me standing by the side and said with a chuckle: 'MP, you are right; I still get letters addressed to Miss Rajni Kothari'.
He taught the main Indian politics MA course and chose to be in charge of the new (coursework followed by a thesis) M Phil, rather than the old (thesis only) PhD programme, probably because it offered a better opportunity to initiate the young political scientists into research with a more comprehensive training regimen. Since I taught Research Methodology, the more innovative compulsory centrepiece course in the programme, I voluntarily took upon myself the work of organising the joint weekly mid-term seminars led by Prof Kothari, pooling all optional courses of various substantive specialisations. All students presented their draft term papers for comments by all participants with Prof Kothari moderating and offering his own comments. I myself benefited from his encyclopaedic insights and understanding reminiscent of Aristotle and the Renaissance intellectuals. Since he seldom sat in his Departmental chamber after his lectures or seminars, I had, in course of organising his M Phil Seminars, the pleasure of going occasionally to meet him in his chamber in the not too far Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS, of which he was the founder Director in the early 1960s and from where he had specially come to Delhi University as a Professor on special offer in 1977). In going there, I had the added bonus of accessing the rich CSDS Library and running into the Senior Fellows there like D L Sheth, Asish Nandy, Ramashray Roy, B V Singh, and others.
One morning when I reached the Department, the office assistant, Shri Nandlal, told me that Prof Kothari had resigned from the Delhi University. It was a bolt from the blue. I could not keep my usual composure and started crying like a child. I felt ashamed of myself (luckily there was no one other than Nandlal around), as I felt guilty about my absence from his cremation the other day at the Lodi Estate Crematorium.
Prof Kothari became nationally and internationally recognised for his three initial interpretations of the characteristically national and universal features of the Indian party system, what he called the 'Congress System,' published in the Economic & Political Weekly and the Asian Survey between 1960 and 1974, and his magnum opus Politics in India published simultaneously in India and the USA in 1970. The academic ideologue of the Congress system soon turned critical of it by the time of the gathering storm of the Gujarat Movement led by Morarji Desai and the Bihar Movement that spread across North India down to Karnataka under the leadership of Jayaprakash Narayan against creeping authoritarianism and corruption within it during the turbulent 1970s. The Politics and the People (two volumes) and State Against Democracy represent the new twists and turn in his thought and interpretation. By the 1980s through the 1990s his writings and activities represent three new directions, namely, quest for global equity and justice, sustainable development, and non-party political processes in NGO as well as social movement modes in the post-Gandhian explorations and experimentations. All along, his prolific writings and Memoirs leave behind a glorious trail of academic excellence as well as genuine social and political activism in public interest.
Mahendra Prasad Singh, New Delhi
Past & Present
A report on page 10 of the "Indian Express" of 7 February 2015, conveniently presents in one place what Barack Obama said about religious intolerance and the responses to it of two of India's present cabinet ministers. Obama said, first, that India would not succeed if it was "splintered along the lines of religious faith" and then spoke of "acts of intolerance that would have shocked Gandhiji".
The reference to M K Gandhi makes it clear that he was speaking of things that are happening now, or at least of things that have happened after Gandhi's death. Arun Jaitley sought to counter this by saying that "India has a huge cultural history of tolerance", clearly forgetting the violence directed, in the times of Kautilya and Patanjali, by Brahmanism at Buddhists and Jains and that between Saivites and Vaisnavites until relatively recently.
As if this load of bull was not enough, Rajnath Singh solemnly told listeners in Uttarakhand that "in Indian culture ...there has never been discrimination on the basis of caste, community, religion or sect". This man, nominally Home Minister, thus washes away the work of, among others, Bhimrao Ambedkar and the Sachar Committee, and he makes nonsense of the protective discrimination in the Constitution.
Obama speaks of the present but Jaitley and Singh pull a mythical past out of their Hindutva box. This is like saying that the present governmental neglect of health is justified by the grafting, in pre-historic times, of the heads of elephants on the bodies of men.
Mukul Dube, New Delhi
In one place a labouring woman is not permitted to breast feed her baby, who dies. In another place, thousands of gallons of milk are poured on a divinity of stone or metal. There is money to construct monstrous statues of dead people but no money to keep the living well fed and in good health. Who gains from these hollow symbols of fake grandeur?
Mukul Dube, New Delhi
The victory of AAP in Delhi is asking certain important questions in Modern democracy. The modern day political establishment and its relation to democracy—elections and voter—and what is the role of a citizen voter? New age political parties have certain similarities. Look at Syriza (Greece), Podsmo (Spain), Five Star Movement of Italy. Populism along with deepening democracy. The core element of these parties is to try to address the day to day living realities of the people and the political system. Mostly, the top-down political parties are failing to address these questions in a fair manner. And Ernesto Laclau has been the political thinker of the era in such a way. And all those democratic thinkers and their traditions have been reinventing through the grassroots level, participatory, deliberative, radical democratic forms across the world for quite some time. The fluid and flexible associations and movements are joining together to create a space in the political system. The 21st century voter is so active and volatile.
C K Viswanath, Kerala
Vol. 47, No. 35, Mar 8 - 14, 2015