Thursday, September 30, 2010

The day I exercised my RIGHT as a CITIZEN :)

25th September, 2010, for me - is a memorable day. Though most of it was screwed big time (couldn't finish story idea).
Okay...the reason I'm "hyping" (like the media hype for TRP's, but that's not the case here) it up so much is because I filed an RTI. (Ohh...wait! not one RTI, but 4). Not just filed an RTI, but had to go through a lot before submitting the application at Karnataka Information Commission (KIC) Office (M.S. Building).

My day began with the auto driver coming 45 minutes late (Can't help it, "Indian" timings). He claimed he was having breakfast (For an hour? DUH!). Okay after a lot of cribbing, my friend and I took a bus to MAJESTIC (K.G Bus stand). The bus we got into, was moving at a pace of 1 metre per minute (TRAFFIC!) which was a result of previous day's rain (which apparently, flooded the city - but sadly, not at Kumbalgudu). It was humid, people in the bus looked frustrated, some restless people just got down the bus and walked past many vehicles to catch another bus some 200 metres away. Roads with pot holes (Possible story idea - killed!), traffic congestion, pollution, high emissions (All possible story ideas - Acc to our Vice Dean - "Possibly, but look for something new") and stink of overflowing drains, stench of garbage (*looks away* - enough of such stories!).

Finally after a lot of struggle, we reached MAJESTIC bus stand after 1 hour 45 minutes.Our first plan for the day was, to go to KIC and file "an" RTI (Right to Information Act). We got to KIC office and asked them if we could submit the RTI forms (I took a print out of the form). One guy, didn't know English nor Hindi , then we were sent to another employee, who told us to fill the form, they had. I filled one, then ran to the office, then asked for four more forms. (*feels happy*) As it was my first chance, I thought I could utilize this opportunity fully and file 3 more. And, I did. Information I wanted was on IMR(Infant Mortality Rate) and MMR (Maternal Mortality Rate) in Bangalore, for the past five years. And I have decided not to reveal the rest, because they are my story ideas (Can't make them public now ...lolz).

I went into the office, smiling. (Assuming, I can finally submit the forms ). But, it wasn't over. I was asked to give an I.P.O (Postal Order) of Rs.10. (But, the form said "Pay Rs.10 in the form of cash or through I.P.O). I did not know it was complusory to give an I.P.O (Lesson 1). My friend and I asked people where Post office was and rushed to the one in the premises of M.S. Building. Huh! We asked for I.P.O and they said they closed the account. (Ohh...Why did they close an account? Because, it was 1.40 p.m and the office is open till 1 p.m. only on SATURDAYS - Lesson 2) We begged them to open an account or enter it into Monday's account. (But, that fellow seemed unyielding)  To add to our misery or may be the other way round, he told us that the Head office (G.P.O) is open till 3 p.m. We rushed to head office. Actually walked. May be the fastest I've ever walked (Looked like I could win a race).

Ohh...Before this we took an auto and we told the driver to take us to GPO. that fellow dropped us in between because it was one way (Some Crap!) We got down, didn't pay him money. (how can I forget? ...My friend was bankrupt and I had a fresh Rs.500 note without change- Beat that!) We looked at guavas on the way, but, decided to get back to them after a while. Finally, bought 15 I.P.O's and got to know how they look (Lesson 3) and got back to office, thinking this is DONE! But, I didn't know there was something in store for us.

I was asked to get photocopies of the forms and the I.P.O. Figured out the nearest "XeroX' shop, got them photocopied and rushed back expecting the officer to ask us to do something else too. Gave him the photocopies, he put a KIC stamp on it. Gave them back to us, and kept the originals with him.  "Done, Thank you" was what he said. We then understood that FINALLY we filed RTI's, inquired about the time period for the response (which is 30 days) and found out the possibilities of not receiving information within 30 days.

We got out of the office. Obviously smiling. The reason behind our smiles was that we learnt how to file an RTI which took almost 3 hours. And, then we parted ways and I went to KSCB (Karnataka Slum Clearance Board), but did not get information and was asked to go to Viajayanagar BDA. Travelled all the way to vijayananagr. Walked for 1.5 kms to find the office, finally found it. And then, from there I was aked to go to Domlur Revenue Office. by the time I got to Domlur, it was 6 p.m and Yes, luck never favours. Office closed.
Wow! Great day. Celebrate! Bullshit. Disappointed, I took a bus to Rajarajeshwari Nagar, went to Gopalan Aracade, McDonalds as usual became my saviour. (Happens always!) And, reached hostel at 9 p.m.
It was one HELL of a day! Gosh!! 

But, YES, I was proud to exercise my RIGHT as a CITIZEN by filing an RTI :)

P.S. Demanding information is your RIGHT. Utilize the RTI, know it, use it and become a responsible citizen. Don't be a passive citizen. And, to know more about the act, Click Here. Here's the links to state information commissions - Link:

Monday, September 20, 2010

"Vital important, yet neglected" - Ramchandra Guha

This post is about how the whole concept of development made me think and I still am thinking. In the process, we were invited by the Alumni association of IISc, Bangalore, to attend a talk on "the Tragedy of Indian Adivasis" by Ramchandra Guha. A historian, a columnist and the one who wrote " India After Gandhi: History of world's largest democracy".
I was so excited to meet this man (*grins*), who is regarded as a "democrat" in the world's largest democracy and the TIME magazine called him "Indian democracy's preeminent chronicler".

                                                            Ramchandra Guha

He began the talk by giving a gist of how Jaipal Singh, a former Indian Hockey player, became the representative of Adivasis and questioned, the then President of India, Rajendra Prasad, about the rights of Adivasis in India. (They are the Adivasis of Peninsular India. Note: Adivasis also were dominant in the N.E of India and have a different past, but, here the discussion is about the Adivasis of Peninsular India).

Most importantly, he brought out the distinction between the Dalits and Tribals or Adivasis. (Most of us, including me, assume/assumed Dalits to be tribals and vice versa. But, both belong to different categories, which is later explained in detail, how and why).
He also mentioned that dalits see B.R.Ambedkar as their national leader but, adivasis do not have anyone like that.
The adivasis are a much lower category of people in our society. They form 8% of the Indian population and are among 40% of those displaced in the country. Adivasis are neglected in the society and, dalits and muslims are regarded as pan-Indian communities. The statistics provided by Mr.Guha were as follows:
Literacy rate of Adivasis - 24%
Literacy rate of Dalits - 31%
School drop rate among Adivasis - 31%

Main reasons for the isolation of Adivasis were:
They lived in the forests.
Their votes do not matter (but, dalits' votes do)

                                                               During the lecture

This exclusion of adivasis by government and people, is the cause for adivasis to become part of naxalite movement. More than 200 of 500 districts are naxal affected.

He categorized the tragedies of Indian Adivasis into nine segments, they are:
  1. Adivasis sit on the most important resources (forests, water, food)
  2. They were neglected in the National movement (the freedom movement involved Dalits but not tribals)
  3. Demographic situation (Minorty)
  4. They did not have any national leader to represent the community
  5. Skills they possess are related to land and forests (which makes it difficult for them to live, if they are displaced, becoming ecological refugees)
  6. They do not get real benefits by affirmative action like reservations.
  7. Apathy of public officials.
  8. They are used by naxalites as tools to fight against the government.
Religious context of Adivasis:
Adivasis do not belong to any religion.
Mr.Guha divided them into three categories - namely:
  1. The RSS work on the pretext of forcing the adivasis to worship Hindu gods and presume them to be hindus.
  2. Chirsitan missionaries work on converting them saying "there is no lord in the forests except for theirs"
  3. And, the Maoists - use them as tools or instigate them against the government to join the arms struggle.
                                                           Interacting with students

He pointed out at the state's failure to deal with naxal issues. Also, the idea of naxals to make Dandakaranya forest as their central zone (main area) as the hills and forests are well suited for guerrilla warfare.
Mr.Guha also highlighted the role of media in this context. The media concentrates on Dalits due to the presence of political leaders like Mayawati of Bahujan Samaj Party, who is a dalit. "Media wants to stay protected due to security issues and has to come out of it to tackle such issues", he said.  He also said " when dalits and adivasis are included in the constitution, Why different rights for Dalits and why less preference and rights for Adivasis?" (Which none of us might not have thought of)

The whole discussion was meant to make us critically think on how the adivasis are neglected, exploited and used by various communities for their gains.

According to Guha, development mean "economic efficiency, social inclusion and environmental sustainability". Another definition given by him was, "Minimisation of suffering and maximisation of welfare".
"Maximisation of welfare" - Karl Marx and "Minimisation of suffering" - Mahatma Gandhi. (P.S. - See the statements made by them and observe the contrast in ideologies).

P.S:   Nanadan Nilekani -  Chairman, UIDAI, was also present at the talk

Note: My next post is on development!!! wait for it..... :):):)

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Draconian Laws and the Debate around them

The acts like POTA (Prevention of Terrorism Act), AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Powers Act) and MCOCA (Maharashtra Control of Organized Crime Act) are considered unconstitutional and draconian which violate human rights.

AFSPA gives the armed forces wide powers to shoot, arrest and search, all in the name of "aiding civil power". AFSPA violates Article 21 – Right to life. Under the Code, the armed forces have no grounds on which to justify their broad powers in the North East.

MCOCA is limited to Maharashtra. It came into force to effectively control the “organized” crimes as unlawful elements disseminating terrorism in the society can be checked and it will go a long way in minimizing the teeing of fear in the society. (Source:

The reasons why these laws are opposed are: First, the section that makes confessions of the accused before a police officer admissible as evidence in the court of law but not before police under IPC. The second is the harsh provision regarding bail. In the tightrope between security and justice, these laws allow the police or forces to become lazy. Instead of being patient and doing rigorous investigative work that will put away actual perpetrators, they just catch anybody they like. The State is not enjoined to be careful. The Police and Armed forces when operating under laws like TADA, POTA, MCOCA or AFSPA take action with the certainty that they are immune from the reach of the law, making them more casual, violent and atrocious. (The Indian State’s Killing Squads)
For example:
1. In the case of Indrajit Adua. (AFSPA)
2. Mahendra Jagadish Agarwal (Misuse of MCOCA)
3. Binayak Sen’s Arrest
4. Vaiko’s arrest under POTA
5. Manipur unrest.
6. Gang rape of 11 tribal women allegedly by special party police personnel.
7. The brutal rape, torture and murder of Thangjam Manorama of Manipur

Under these special acts, people are also denied equality before the law, apart from right to life.
Also, women have been victims of rape, molestation, torture by the CRPF jawans. In Andhra Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Kharkhand, West Bengal and other states the armed forces accused civilians as naxalites and carried on fake encounters.
Apart from the civilians, people who have opposed these laws include Binayak Sen, T.G. Vijay, A.Y.Babu, Lalit Mehta, Mahashweta Devi and Irom Sharmila (8 years in prison and force-fed through a tube). The only way out is to repeal the AFSPA, POTA and MCOCA in order to remove the Military, Police, BSF, CRPF and Home guards from playing a civil role in the region. Complete transparency should be established so that a public accountability is rendered possible. These laws have not only violated the basic human rights of the citizens but have failed to solve the problems of terrorism. Such laws increase the cycle of hatred and violence. Not only activists but state entities as well are concerned about human rights violation by the state. The only true way to fight terrorism must be to work closely with the community, rather than illegally detain people on the basis of their religion, status, or political affiliations.


P.S. (This was an assignment for our POLITICAL reporting class given by my favourite Professor Mr. Dakshin Murthy) :):):):):)

I know it is too long and I have quoted sources of Websites, you can check them out for more information.

The Indian National Congress (INC) began as a “movement” than a party. In 1889, a committee for INC was formed by A.O. Hume, Dadabhai Naoroji, Surebdranath Bannerjee and William Wedderburn. In 1892, Naorji was elected to the British House of Commons to represent India. In 1907, party split into extremists and moderates. In the meantime, Jawaharlal Nehru, Gandhi, Sardar.V. Patel, B.R. Ambedkar C.R. Das, Motilal Nehru, Bose and other leaders became prominent and eventually started the struggle for India’s Independence. Apart from Gandhi, Nehru was a noted leader who became the first prime minister of an Independent India on 15 Aug. 1947.

Since 1947, India was shadowed by Congress’s dominion due to its non-discriminating ideology and steered the country on a socialist path. Jawaharlal Nehru introduced the Five-year plan. After the death of Nehru in 1964, internal conflicts within Congress began which led to Indira Gandhi taking her father’s place in Congress.
In 1967, Congress had a united opposition from Samyukht Vidhayak Dal and, youngsters in the party questioned Congress which led to a split in Congress. Congress (R) was led by Indira Gandhi and Congress (O) by Kamraj. Thus, formation of Congress(R) paved the path to family politics and eventually led to the disintegration of Congress. In 1969, Indira Gandhi nationalized 14 commercial banks in order to increase the role of government in banking system. This was a welcome change that would increase the country’s economy and GDP.

In 1971, the polls were swept by Indira Gandhi by a whopping 352 votes i.e. 44% of the total no. of votes and the party members hailed her as a savior. The 1971 elections paved the way to individualism in the Congress party through Indira Gandhi. Another major part of India was vivisected in 1971, which was Bangaladesh. She was alleged for fraudulently using government machinery in 1971 elections due to which the Allahabad High Court invalidated her election to the Lok Sabha and declared it as null and void. The credit for the formation of Bangaldesh by dividing eastern part of Bengal was given to Indira Gandhi. Also, she felt the uprising of charismatic Jayaprakash Narayan as a threat to her political power and status. She felt the threat to her throne and declared emergency in 1975. Democratic process in the country was suspended. It is said that Sanjay Gandhi and his political patron, Bansi Lal were prepared to deal with the course of action. ( Source : ).

In 1977, Indira Gandhi called for elections and lost to Janata Party after which she realized her power being limited. She relied much on her son, Sanjay’s decisions. In 1980, his tragic death shocked her as she was sure of him being her political heir. But, she eventually won the 1980 election with a majority of about 300 seats. During this period her political decisions were marked by an increasingly arbitrary and authoritarian exercise of power. She stoked the fires of Sikh Extremism in Punjab and cultivated the aura of Hindu virtue in Kashmir. This paved the way to political anarchy and her brutal suppression of Bhindranwale's criminal insurgency in Punjab; she disregarded the counsel of her more seasoned advisers and plunged into a constitutional coup in Kashmir.(Source:

After her tragic death (Assassination) in 1984, her son, Rajiv Gandhi, who was reluctant to enter politics was persuaded by the Congress party members to take her place. Thus, Rajiv Gandhi was the third heir from the Nehru-Gandhi family to become the Prime Minister of India and head the Congress party. By this time, INC became a monopoly and there was no democracy in the party. The main aim of Rajiv Gandhi was to eradicate corruption and reinvent Congress party. In the meantime, Rajiv was found trapped in the 64-crore Bofors Scamp controversy where he tried to defend himself in the Parliament.

In the 1989 elections, Bofors created havoc in the country and thus, Congress lost elections. United Front government under the Prime Ministership of Chandrashekar came into power which did not last long and collapsed in 1991. In the meantime, in order to do damage control to his image, Rajiv Gandhi went to the Supreme Court to neutralize Shah Bano’s case in order to win Muslim Votes. On the other hand, he allowed the Vishwa Hindu Parishad to break the lock perform Shilanyas (a religious ceremony) at the Babri Masjid site. This plan was carved to win Hindu votes. But, in 1991, Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated at Sriperambudur by LTTE in connection to the Indian forces he sent to Sri Lanka.

In 1991, P.V. Narasimha Rao was one of the few non-Gandhi family politician to become the Prime minister of India. Under his prime ministership, he brought economic reforms to India and open economy was adopted by welcoming LPG (Liberalisation, Privatisation and Globalisation). But in 1992, Babri Masjid was demolished which tarnished P.V.Narasimha Rao’s image. In 1996, Congress lost elections as most Muslims were against it due to the demolition of the Babri Masjid.

The Janata Dal government came into power in 1996 for a short period till 1998 and then BJP won the elections and Atal Bihari Vajpayee became the PM of India for 13 months. During this time, Sonia Gandhi was elected the president of Congress party when replacing the late Sitaram Kesri. Her entry into Congress brought back Nehru-Gandhi dynasty to power. She is the fifth-member of the Nehru-Gandhi family to become the president of Congress. She is has been in office for 12 years now and is the longest serving President of the Congress party. She is presently the political nerve-center of Congress and possesses the entire UPA government under her control. She defended the UPA government against NDA for six years. Advani called the Congress a dynastic party. (Source :
In 1999, she won became an MP from Amethi and later in 2004 for UP's Rai Bareli, Sonia Gandhi officially took charge of the 125-year-old Congress party as its president in 1998. (Source :

In 2004, UPA won the elections and Sonia Gandhi was chosen by the party members to be the Prime Minister of India. But, BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) raised the issue of her origin as a result of which she recommended Manmoham Singh as a worthy candidate to be the Prime Minister of India. In the same 2004 elections, Rahul Gandhi was elected to Lok Sabha as MP from his father’s constituency, Amethi. In the meantime, Priyanka Vadra also had created a ground for her to foray into the Indian political scenario. Thus, Rahul and Priyanka too became a part of Congress.

Similarly, in 2009 elections to UPA II came into power with Manmohan Singh continuing his second term as the PM. Sonia Gandhi is set to be re-elected as the Congress Chief for the fourth time. Apart from them, even Varun Gandhi, son of Maneka Gandhi has become a member of BJP, Congress’s main opposition party at Centre. Though he does not belong to Congress, his surname and his ‘hate speech’ brought him into the limelight.

Rahul Gandhi was elected as an MP in 2009 elections from Amethi and is presently regarded as one among the young politicians who holds a significant position in Congress and heads the Youth Congress wing. He continues to be a principal campaigner of congress.

Over the last 18 years, on a rough estimate about 450 Central and State Government programmes, projects and national and state level institutions involving public expenditure of hundreds of thousands of crores of rupees have been named after these three individuals. This trend is even more apparent in the states, which have vied with each other to name programmes and schemes after these three members of the Nehru-Gandhi Family whenever the Congress Party was in power. (Source : )

A perusal of these programmes and schemes shows a systematic attempt by the Congress Party to name every government programme concerning every citizen – man ,woman, child; every possible circumstance in the life of every citizen – child bearing, child rearing, education of children, food, education of youth, employment, marriage, unemployment, destitution, handicap; and every possible challenge flowing out of lack of infrastructure – drinking water, electricity and housing after just three members of this political family who are icons of the Congress Party.

The plan is to ensure maximum recall of Brand Congress among voters at every stage in life. The Congress Party has taken its obsession with this family to such an extent that even calf-rearing schemes are named after them. Shockingly, even Brand IIM had been tinkered with. While all institutes of management started by the Centre go under the IIM brand, the Congress Party has mischievously named the IIM is Shillong as the Rajiv Gandhi Indian Institute of Management.

Such is the obsession of Congress governments with this family that they name India’s biggest Open University after Indira Gandhi and name fellowships granted there after Rajiv Gandhi. Similarly, the centre for advanced scientific research in Bangalore is named after Nehru and the science talent fellowships awarded are named after Rajiv Gandhi.

While there are many examples of this kind in the states as well, the most glaring example, which raises a question in regard to free and fair election, is the blatant advertisement of the Congress Party. For Ex: Rajiv Arogyasri Padhakam in Andhra Pradesh. (Source :

Thus, the whole report clearly shows how Nehru-Gandhi family held the Congress party in their grip, despite the presence of many other potential leaders in the party, who were quelled by the brand “Nehru-Gandhi”. Apart from few losses in elections, the Nehru-Gandhi family still stands at the helm of Congress, even today. This clearly reflects how Congress would easily disintegrate without the Nehru-Gandhi family as many party members chose to look up to family politics and not question them fearing the loss of their own position in the Congress party. And, the Sonia-mania still continues to scare party members, even today.