Monday, March 30, 2009

A report card on UPA governance

It is election time once again in India...once in every five years (or sometimes even earlier) this festival of democracy is marked by the customary boisterous and cacophonic rantings and ramblings of our netas...the opposition accusses the government of not doing enough...the government picks up dirt on the charges, whipping up communal sentiments, Tammny hall politics at its best, caste appeasement and what not...

But wait a minute, in the midst of this mindless cacophony, did we miss out something? of course we did. We forgot to evaluate the performance of government. Or to phrase it more elegantly, what public policy changes did the government usher(or fail to usher) in the last five years? in India, public memory is short (in fact way too short) (one example: Lalu is no more the Fodder-tainted Bihar CM, now he adorns the hat of modern management guru responsible for Railways; transformation) So i thought it would be a good thing to recapitulate and list the successes and failures of UPA government's. (for brevity sake let us limit to top five in the list)

I really doubt many would share a similar sentiment. At least the following list would give an idea on what the public agenda was during the past five years.

  • NREGA: National Rural employment Guarantee act: this phenomenal piece of legalisation ensured credit access to millions of rural poor in India. It poverty alleviation objectives however remains to be tested. One biggest drawback of this lack of tangible assets creation in rural areas.
  • JNURRM: Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission: One more of the Gandhi family named schemes. an out lay of 50,00cr., its India's biggest attempt to inject funds into widely needed urban infrastructure. It covers only 60 major cities, and the total outlay is no where near what India needs.
  • Indo-US Civilian Nuclear Co-operation: after so much hue and cry this act was passed. The utility remains to be tested. expectations are high on this act.
  • Civil aviation boom and airport modernisation: Who would have thought of aam aadmi travelling in a aeroplane prior to Praful Patel's entry? The phenomenal growth in civil aviation is worthy of emulation. But unfortunately airport modernization is not catching up with it. Maybe a bit more impetus on airport modernation would have earned Prafulji an A+
  • Prudent macro-economic management. Chidambaram's policies kept up the pace of economic momentum. RBI's regulation prevented the gloabl meltdown from spoiling the Indian dream. kudos to Chidambaram and RBI . GDP growth was consitently above eight percent for the last five years. this is an feat which no FM in independent India can boast of.
    Top five failures on the next blog.

Friday, March 6, 2009

The Iron Lady of India

Our history text books is replete with references to the Sardar Vallabhai Patel as "the Iron man of India". But guess who could vie for the position for the Iron lady of India?

Its not Indira Gandhi or even Pratibha Devi Singh Patel. Unlike Vallabhai Patel, she is not venerated by the Government nor is she is celebrated in textbooks of our school curriculum.

Ok that enough of suspense. The title goes to Irom Sharmila. (its Irom not Iron and that is her name) So who is exactly is this Irom Sharmila ?To sum up in a brief paragraph. She hails from a middle class family. She belongs to the state of Manipur. She had a schooling upto standard twelve. But what made her the Iron Lady is the Gandhian spirit that she had unleashed against the state.

She is on a hunger strike since Nov of 2000. (you got right, for the past nine years she is on a hunger strike) against a alleged Army massacare at Malom, Manipur. But she is forcibily nasal fed to keep her alive. (lest the Government wish her to attain martydom.) For the most of this decade she is under arrest (under the provisions of Indian Penal Code for the cirme of attempting sucide.) Since the jail term is one year for the crime, she is promptly released at the end of her term, then jailed again for her persistence on continuing the hunger strike.

So this saga is continuing for the past ten years now. Her main demands is the repaeal of Armed Forces Special Powers Act , 1958(AFPSA). It is draconian and totalitarian act that gives a carte blanche powers to the Indian Army to conduct the affairs of teh state. Alomost all of the fundamental rights (like Right to peacefully assemble, Legal remedy etc.) were abrogated by this act, under the pretext of maintaining law and order. In fact even the Army can fire at any person and still enjoy immunity under the provisions of the law.

Public memory is short, but one powerful image in India's independent history is that of the nude protests by Manipuri women agains the Indian Army. A nation was shell shocked by the image that speaks volume of our indifference to North eastern affairs. we systematically tend to underplay the resentment of the North eastern people against the state. (state meaning India here). For a while the tiny state of Mainpur came into the mainstream prominence. After the period of cooling, the Manipur protest faded away from our radar.

India is a democracy. Of what use is a democracy and the grandoise rights/ liberties. when certain sections of our society is mercilessly reperessed for the past half century. Although mainting law and order is a parmaount duty of a state, but should be pursued to the cost so that even the general citizenry turn against the state?

Justice Jeevan Reddy report(formed after the protest episode) favored the repeal of AFPSA and incorporating some of the demeaning provisons into Unlwaful Activities- Prevention Act (1967)
It is equivalent of old wine in new bottle. The only tangible change on the ground is that kangla Fort, the traditional seat of Manipuri kings, was vacated by the Army and Assam Rifles.

Meanwhile the enquiry against the custodial death of Thanjim Manaorma (the killing which lead to the protests in the valley) has gone no where. The Assam Rifles jawans who raped and murdered here, have still not been brought to books.

Mahatma Gandhi ahimsa was able to work against the mighty British imperialism, but can Sharmila's non-violent struggles against a "democratic" India bring about any fruitful change is highly questionable. As per the latest news report, the PMO is still studying the recommendations of the Jeevan report which was submitted in 2006.

And for our Iron Lady, she is still continuing her marathon fast at Jawaharlal Nehru Hospital, Imphal. At the end of the day, nothing seems to have changed.