Democracy for Sale
Some were arrested for protesting. Some were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Katya Novikova was detained while attempting to cross the street in central Minsk. She was dragged by her neck and thrown into an unmarked police vehicle, then held for two nights in an overcrowded cell.

She told openDemocracy she was refused medical assistance and saw prisoners beaten by officers.

Thousands have been arrested in Belarus during protests over rigged elections, with President Alexander Lukashenka–'Europe's last dictator'–leading a brutal crackdown to silence dissent.

So far, they've failed. Yet the opposition remains a fragile coalition: Yury Glushakov reports on the tensions between the various groups jostling for the future of Belarudeep reporting on the vested interests.

Meanwhile in Britain, a powerful elite continues to profit from COVID-19. A joint investigation by openDemocracy and The Guardian this week revealed how the UK government has spent £56m on COVID-19 consultants. Most contracts were awarded without competition–raising fresh anger about the "COVID cronyism" of Boris Johnson's government.

From lucrative PR deals for Tory allies, to dodgy deals for Tory-backing property developers, open-Democracy has been at the vanguard of reporting on this  fast-emerging political scandal.

But it doesn't stop there. As our Investigations Editor Peter Geoghegan's new book 'Democracy for Sale' lays bare, a toxic combination of "rightwing ideology, dark money and weaponisation of social media" is undermining faith in politics and in democracy itself.

Drawing on openDemocracy's forensic investigative journalism over the last three years, Peter's book shows us "a broken political system that is ripe for exploitation again. And again. And again."
Mary Fitzgerald,
Editor-in-chief, openDemocracy

Childhood in Hard Times
During this COVID-19 pandemic, this structure of children has been changed and it is under more adults' domination. They are blocked within their home and their social world has become narrow and limited. They encounter hard times with a blockage of capable of a wide range of thoughts, plans, moral views, emotions, and, as well, actions directed to furthering their own goals. Their daily lives have been overburdenedduring this crisis. They have no scope to come out from adults' limitation. They have to face parental conflict and family strife from close distance. Sometimes, they face the problem of domestic violence. They have forgotten to share their joys and sorrows with their peers and no chance of ventilation of their mental state.

 School is the second home of the children, while children's education suffers from lack of resources and strategies. The role of school is as moral technology for children's education. School is an agency of nourishment and modification of children's behaviour. It teaches to adoptingand integrating ideas of thinking and feeling of a moral person. It importantly shapes the lives of children. Children learn to judge their intellectual merits as individuals which do not only ensure a qualification for work; it is a quality to lead the national progress. But inadequate opportunities remind the pragmatic relativism. Non-uniform economic growth and development direct that parents or state is not always in a position to meet educational cost. So, whether children should go to school or to work falling within this imitation.

Strategies and systems for children's education have been further changed due to this crisis. Now virtual or online education has been prioritized. Education system becomes symbolic. There is no chance of face to face interaction with teachers and peers. Then, how it can be effective as moral development and behaviour modification? Role of school as moral technology has been derided. This new emergent system might be enough for obtaining qualification for work. But it may never be a system of quality development. Further, it is facilitating their dependence on virtual worlds. Evidently, it would accelerate their tendency to use the internet and social media to fulfill their childhood curiosity. It would make them internet savvy. They would gradually turn their heads from the real world. Childhood is in hard times because they are non-liberated, while various movements or steps are adopted for a liberal childhood (child protection and child rights)throughout the times, before the pandemic. Would this situation not be impacted in their future and the future of a nation's progress?
Harasankar Adhikari, Kolkata

G N Saibaba
15th October 2020
A S Vasantha Kumari
Wife of Dr. G.N. Saibaba
B-100, Hill View Apartments
Vasanth Vihar, New Delhi,
Mobile No. 8826036200

Additional Director General (Prisons)
Pune, Maharashtra.

Sub: Request to allow books and letters to Dr G N Saibaba and prevent him from going on to hunger strike in the Nagpur Central Jail, Nagpur-Regarding.

Respected Sir,
My husband Dr G N Saibaba who is a 90% disabled person is presently in Nagpur Central Jail as a convicted Prisoner. Prof. Saibaba is an academician and intellectual and was jailed under UAPA on inappropriate charges.
I have been informed that he is facing hardships and harassment in Nagpur Central Jail due to the inhuman behaviour and unfair restrictions laid down by authorities. He has taken a decision to go on hunger strike from 21st October 2020 until his following demands are resolved:
1.   The books supplied by the family members and advocates shall be handed over to him without much delay. All these books supplied to him are in English, some of them are poetry books and some of them are either novels or literature-based books that are not banned under the law of the land. These are books available in the market, with open access, and should be provided to him according to the Jail laws. Some books given by the family have not been provided to Prof Saibaba for a long time, and are rotting in the godown.
2.   Letters written by the family members are being stopped and held by the authorities for a long time and are not supplied to him.
3.   As a policy the jail authorities stopped the purchase of newspapers by him in the Jail due to the Pandemic Covid-19. So, some newspaper clippings and printouts sent by post are not given to him and are being held by the authorities along with the handwritten or typed personal letters addressed to him.
4.   Sometimes all the medicines given by his advocates are not being given to him. He has multiple health problems and needs to take prescribed medicines every day to save his life. This can endanger is already fragile health.
5.   The number of telephone calls to talk to family members and advocates during this COVID-19 pandemic are restricted to one or two per month. Please allow to make four calls i.e. at least one telephone call per week to family members in addition to his advocates whenever required. It is necessary to make calls with advocates to discuss legal matters.

Under his present health conditions and the prevailing COVID-19 spread, this hunger strike will put Prof. Saibaba's life in danger. I request your kind self to take necessary action in this regard and see that he will not go on a hunger strike and give him the basic rights he has as a prisoner, providing him with the books and medicine.
Thanking you
Yours faithfully,

S. Vasantha Kumari)

Copy to :
Nagpur Jail, Nagpur

Vol. 53, No. 20, Nov 15 - 21, 2020