Indian News

Economics Journal: Don’t Scrap Reservation, Improve Education

Has access to higher education through affirmative action improved the lives of the poor and those from historically disadvantaged groups? And how has the reservation policy affected the achievements of those who don’t benefit from it? The controversy surrounding “Aarakshan,” meaning reservation, a new Bollywood film by Prakash Jha, has once again brought to the fore the unsettled and simmering issues around caste-based reservation in higher education. The matter is so politically charged that Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Andhra Pradesh banned the screening of the film, although the ban was later lifted in the latter two states.

The policy of reserving 22.5% of government jobs and university seats for members of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, known as Dalits and adivasis, respectively, goes back to the Indian Constitution. But far more controversial was the more recent mandating of an additional reservation of 27% of seats for people who fall into other disadvantaged groups, known as Other Backward Classes, bringing the total reservation up to almost 50%.  This additional reservation in higher education was finally mandated by the Supreme Court in 2008.

The principal rationale for caste-based reservation in India, akin to race-based affirmative action in the United States, is to create equality of opportunity for historically disadvantaged groups. A related argument is that the historical fact of long-standing social repression is in itself a morally compelling reason for the counter-balancing force of reservation.

As I’ve suggested recently, inequality of outcomes is crucially affected by inequality of access. So, in theory, the argument that reservation, by creating a level playing field, will in the longer run alleviate inequality and other social deprivations makes sense. However, this begs the question of whether the system does, in fact, deliver on these benefits for disadvantaged groups.

Critics of reservation, as cited in a recent paper, argue, amongst other things, that caste-based quotas stigmatize rather than uplift targeted groups, and they entrench rather than alleviate long-standing inequalities. As Mr. Jha himself notes, one often hears people ask, “Would you want to be treated by a doctor who got in to medical school through reservation?”

Caste-based reservation may also carry unintended negative side effects along other dimensions of historical disadvantage. A much cited study finds that caste-based reservationreduced the overall number of women gaining admission into engineering colleges, because women were under-represented amongst those applying in the reserved category.

Leaving these arguments aside, the crucial questions are the ones I started with: Does caste-based reservation lead to improved educational outcomes for students in both the reserved and open categories?

A recent study by economics professor Sheetal Sekhri of the University of Virginia uses data from Indian college admission tests and exit results to test statistically whether the introduction of reservation raises educational performance as compared to an alternative hypothetical scenario of a pure meritocracy, where students are admitted based only on their rankings in admission tests.

The results of the study are not encouraging.  A higher average “quality” of upper-caste students, defined by high performance on admission tests, has a negative impact on the academic performance of lower-caste students, the study says. Further, the performance of upper-caste students, as measured by exit tests, is also adversely affected by reservation, with the strongest effects on high-achieving upper-caste students.

Professor Sekhri interprets these results as suggesting that upper and lower caste students are in “competition” over scarce academic resources, such as access to faculty, support services, social networking, etc. and thus they tend to provide peer support only to their own caste members. Her striking conclusion is that a more integrated college environment, mandated by reservation, doesn’t achieve its intended goals of raising the educational performance of disadvantaged groups. And this discouraging finding is in line with other scholarly studies, such as by Anjani Kochar of the Stanford Center for International Development.

Reserving seats for the underprivileged has also created a private sector response by the relatively well off, who come mostly from the upper castes. Just take a look at the booming industry of “coaching classes,” which prepare students to take admissions tests for the prestigious Indian Institutes of Technology and Indian Institutes of Management.

Of course, reservations didn’t create coaching classes, which have been around for a long time as a response to the poor quality of the education system. But reservations certainly accentuated the growth of this industry by inducing upper caste students to compete for a smaller share of a fixed number of university seats.

An estimate by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry suggests that the coaching industry is worth a whopping $2.2 billion a year, with the typical student paying over $2000 for eight months of coaching, comprising as much as a third of a middle-class family’s budget. The cost of coaching is beyond the reach of many poor and lower middle income families, who are disproportionately represented by lower castes.

But scrapping reservation would be the wrong answer. Not only is it a legal, political and practical impossibility, the fact remains that true equality of opportunity still eludes many disadvantaged people in India. The challenge, therefore, is to make caste-based reservation work better, and that is as much about raising the quality of public education in India.  Where the well-to-do have the option of sending their kids to coaching classes, and the rich can send them abroad, the hopes of the disadvantaged for social and economic uplifting rest largely on the quality of public education.

 

Rupa Subramanya Dehejia writes Economics Journal for India Real Time. You may follow her on Twitter @RupaSubramanya.

India's politician of love

Below is an article from our Affirmative Action Media Monitoring Project. These articles represent a wide variety of views. These views do not necessarily represent the views of AAPF but instead are intended to provide you with an overview of the current affirmative action debate. May 14, 2011

By Ammu Kannampilly

CHENNAI, India — Kumar Sri Sri wants to bring a bit of love to India's parliament.

Even in a democracy known for its political diversity, the 35-year-old part-time make-up artist stands out as founder and leader of one of the country's unlikeliest political groups, the All India Lovers Party (ILP).

Motivated by the prejudices he had to overcome to marry his own wife, Kumar created the ILP in 2008 to support couples who wish to marry despite parental disapproval over differences in caste, religion, and social rank.

Those who stray outside the norm can end up estranged from their parents or, in the worst cases, as victims of "honour killings" carried out by outraged relatives to protect what they see as the family's reputation and pride.

The ILP's political platform demands affirmative action in the workplace, as well as free housing and childcare for couples living without family support.

Sitting in the party HQ, a small room papered with political posters in Chennai, the state capital of Tamil Nadu, he boasted how he had helped 25 couples get married in the last three years.

"My goal is that we must get at least 10 people from the party in the national parliament by 2014," said Kumar, who has an unashamed desire for lasting fame.

"Even after I die, my name should be known, for creating the All India Lovers Party," he told AFP.

Kumar first tried to make a splash as a movie star.

After dropping out of school in 1989, he headed to Chennai, home to India's massive Tamil film industry, where he struggled to break into a business where connections count for everything.

"When I left my village I had told everyone I will either come back as a big star, or I won't return," he said.

He worked as a waiter in a diner and a video store clerk before finally landing a job in the film studios, as a junior make-up artist.

It was at this time that he met his future wife, Mangadevi, a make-up assistant whose father was a tailor on the film sets.

Laughing, Mangadevi recalls how Kumar "would come by, talk to my father, and leave. Then one day he told me, 'I love you'."

The couple dated for nearly a decade while they worked and tried to win over Kumar's parents, who wanted their son to marry someone wealthy.

"My parents wanted a girl who would come with a hefty dowry, maybe 200,000 ($4,500) or 500,000 rupees ," he explained.

Unable to secure his parents' support, the couple eventually went ahead and got married without telling Kumar's family.

"It made me realise all the problems lovers face, because their families want them to marry according to caste and money," Kumar said.

"People laughed when I told them I wanted to create a party for lovers, but I know there are millions of lovers in this country who will vote for me."

The ILP has around 20 volunteers who help paste posters and hand out leaflets, and Kumar claims a 100,000-strong following, although his survey techniques are questionable.

"I know because they call and talk to me. I get at least 15-20 calls a day from people who want to support the party," he said.

His salary from his two jobs, as a make-up artist and a neighbourhood milkman, pays for the ILP's running costs.

The party logo is a heart pierced by Cupid's arrow and, just in case the meaning still isn't clear, the heart is filled with an image of the world's most famous monument to love, the Taj Mahal.

A few months after he launched the party, Kumar met Lakshmi, 23, and Srinivasan, 36 -- his first success story.

The Chennai-based couple fell in love while working in the same clothing shop, but Srinivasan's parents objected, citing the vast difference in their social backgrounds.

His father held a coveted government job, working for the railways, while her father was a poor labourer.

Seeing Kumar's posters around town, Lakshmi's father got in contact and asked him for help, after which Kumar arranged a meeting with both sets of parents.

"I told them, don't worry about money, they are both young and they can work hard and make money," he said.

The couple married in August 2008, with grudging consent from Srinivasan's parents.

"If we hadn't met Kumar Sri Sri and we weren't married now, I can't imagine how unhappy I would have been," Lakshmi said.

But not everyone is enamoured of Kumar's politics.

The conservative Hindu Makkal Katchi (HMK) party has campaigned against the ILP, objecting in particular to Kumar's support for Valentine's Day.

"It's against our tradition, it's against our culture, it's trying to spoil the family system of our nation," said HMK organising secretary Thomas Kannan.

"We want to nip it in the bud, these type of people," he said.

It is clearly going to be some time before Kumar's ambition flowers into political success.

When the ballots were counted Friday in Tamil Nadu's state election, Kumar had only managed a couple of hundred votes and lost his deposit in the Chennai constituency he contested.

But his enthusiasm was undimmed.

"No problem! It's my first election, there are many ahead of me.

"One thing I know for sure though is that without love there can be no success. Without love you can't do anything," he said.

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One more party for Dalits in Uttar Pradesh

Below is an article from our Affirmative Action Media Monitoring Project. These articles represent a wide variety of views. These views do not necessarily represent the views of AAPF but instead are intended to provide you with an overview of the current affirmative action debate. May 4, 2011

By Arpit Parashar

The political development of the last week have thrown a new, surprise candidate in the power equation of caste politics. Former bureaucrat Udit Raj, the man at the forefront of the campaign to push for OBC and SC/ST reservations in the private sector, has formed a new socio-political front called the Upekshit Dalit Mahapanchayat in Uttar Pradesh.

Though politicians have heard of Raj's efforts, most of them have not taken notice of the development. A senior BJP politician, speaking to the media “off the record” after a press conference, laughingly dismissed the “concept” of upekshit (marginalised) Dalits as imaginary.

However, one must not forget that the initial reaction of the mainstream parties to the formation of now-successful Dalit parties, like the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), was one of dismissal. The Congress often ridiculed the rise of Mayawati’s BSP two decades back. It seemed to tell the BSP, “Align with a mainstream party, or you will lose relevance.”

Ironically, in the case of Uttar Pradesh, the BSP has become the mainstream party and the Congress a marginal player.

The Mayawati brand of politics and the successful assertion movement led by the Kanshi Ram’s Backward and Minority Communities Employees’ Federation (BAMCEF) has translated into successful electoral campaigns and subsequent victories for the BSP over the years. She is presently serving her fourth term as the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, after having served three short terms between 1995 and 2003.

And, she won in Uttar Pradesh on her own by engineering a major social change last time around. She came to power without any support from the Congress, the BJP, or the Samajwadi Party in 2007.

Why then has Raj formed a front that will only weaken a successful movement of the country’s most underprivileged and oppressed castes? Observers believe that Raj’s movement is an attempt at addressing the problems that the Dalits face under Mayawati. They point out that power, as is always the case in Uttar Pradesh, benefitted a particular caste group.

“The question is not what Mayawati can do to [Dalits], but what we can do to us,” writer and journalist Chittibabu Padavala wrote about the meaning of Mayawati’s victory in 2007 in The Economic and Political Weekly.

The Dalits have definitely benefited, not just by their own assertion but with consistent efforts of the state government too. Caste atrocities have reduced, affirmative action has been taken and they are much better represented in the administrative and political structures now. But, looking deeper, one finds it is only the Jatavs, who are reaping benefits this time.

Raj says, “Only Jatavs!” And, why is it so? “Because Mayawati is a Jatav too,” says Raj.

Politicians and observers say that while power has changed hands and the traditional ruling castes are no longer the ones in power, the state has seen the emergence of a new feudal system with Jatavs as the dominant caste.

Jatavs make up nearly 57 percent of the Dalits in Uttar Pradesh, and eight to nine per cent of its total population, almost same as that of the Yadavs. The BSP broke the backbone of Samajwadi Party’s successful Yadav-Thakur voter base, using its stronghold among the Jatavs in 2007.

Jatavs are now emerging as an assertive caste in the state, especially with their numbers in the administration growing rapidly in the past decade. “A simple analysis of the data on recent appointments in the police and the administration shows a 30 to 35 per cent increase in the number of appointments of Jatavs,” a senior BSP minister told Tehelka on the condition of anonymity.

Many top postings are recommended from Lucknow. Many other happen almost by default when the candidate is Jatav. It is considered a safe bet to have a senior Jatav officer in any district administration.

The Jatavs have been politically conscious and involved since the time of Babu Jagjivan Ram of the Congress in the 1960s. Then when Kanshi Ram and Mayawati came together, Jatavs took the BAMCEF’s assertion movement forward. And they still do: they form a large chunk of the BSP cadre.

“This constant hammering of her caste’s identity has made them politically forward looking,” Raj says.

The other castes among the Dalits, on the other hand, are still underrepresented in the state government jobs, making up barely five to eight per cent of the force in the administration and the police in the state, that too only on lower posts. Off the record, senior officials in Uttar Pradesh say that most of the housing schemes for Dalits in the state have benefited Jatavs more than any other caste.

“Fruits of governance have gone to just one caste. There is no difference between this regime and the other regimes in the past. Rather, the discrimination is much more open under Mayawati’s rule,” Raj alleges.

The socioeconomic rise of the Jatavs has on the one hand made them confident, and they have stood up to the higher castes in the state, while on the other hand they have also fallen prey to the feudal practices alien to the Jatav society.

They are traditionally a more equal caste and not patriarchal. But, that has changed over the past decade and has often resulted in crimes against lower Dalit castes.

The number of rape cases involving Jatav men has seen a constant rise in western Uttar Pradesh, a phenomenon, senior police officials say, has not been noticed before. Jatavs are often caught in cases of atrocities against other lower Dalit castes as well as the higher castes.

In the Jewar village in Greater Noida near Delhi, where an international airport and India’s first F1 racing track will come up soon, a minor girl from the Valmiki community was raped by a Jatav man in 2008.

Her ordeal did not end there. She was married off to the man who raped her within a few days. The villagepanchayat consulted both the families in the presence of the police and elders made the decisions. The girl now has two children and is not allowed to even step outside the house.

This is not the only such case. There have been many similar cases across western Uttar Pradesh involving Jatavs, information on which is regularly fudged to keep the official counts down.

While Mayawati represents the political force that has consolidated the Dalit vote, Raj partly represents the Dalit movement outside of electoral political framework working towards a caste-less society. He has led campaigns across the country as head of various Dalit unity groups to open up the communities to conversion to other religions. Thousands of Dalits have embraced Buddhism, Islam and Christianity and snubbed the Hindutva forces, irking the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and similar groups repeatedly.

Raj has also challenged Mayawati many a time over the past decade to embrace Buddhism and put an end to the casteist politics altogether. “The objective is the revival of Buddhism to create a caste-less society, so that the decadent social structure can be changed,” he says.

But, Mayawati has consistently attacked him and leaders from all other lower Dalit castes in a derogatory way, he alleges. “Mayawati has been repeatedly pointing out who belongs to which caste. She called Ram Vilas Paswan a Dusadh, pointed out that Bangaru Laxman is a Valmiki, and called me a Khatik,” he said.

“And then in 2008 she announced that her successor will only be a chamar. She has discriminated within the party and openly too. But, you cannot, in India, in a democracy, say who will be your successor and treat the voter base like it is your kingdom. Why preach about the Bahujan samaj when you openly discriminate and say only a chamar will be the successor? Why not any Ambedkarite, irrespective of the caste?” he questions.

Raj formed the Indian Justice Party in 2003, after quitting a government job in 2001. He had ideas very different from that of the BSP. He wanted to push for an equal education system, job reservations for Dalits in the private sector and unite the voters on those lines.

But, now he says it is not the way to go forward. A sense of disillusionment over the four years of Mayawati’s present rule has changed his approach. “I have realised that ideology, development and even honesty do not play a very important role in Uttar Pradesh. Caste configurations and equations do,” he says.

The main agendas of his party have not attracted the communities or the voters. Hence, the new front with a different approach, he says.

Dalit leaders from other parties have joined him too. Ram Nihore Rakesh from the Congress convinced him to form the Upeskshit Dalit Mahapanchayat to fight the rights of castes lower in hierarchy, like Pasi, Dhobi, Kori and Khatik.

“These castes are not aware, educated and conscious of participation in the government and about their rights in governance,” Raj says.

He realises that the caste system cannot be rooted out so easily; it will exist; people in Uttar Pradesh will vote along caste lines.

He now plans to unite leaders representing the marginalised sections from all parties and bring them together. He also wants to collaborate with other parties representing marginalised groups, like the Peace Party, which represents the Muslims in the state.

Jats found the Rashtriya Lok Dal, Yadavs and Gurjjars found Mulayam Singh Yadav, Thakurs found Amar Singh and Jatavs found Mayawati. Maybe it is time for another ignored section of Uttar Pradesh to find representation in the state, where caste loyalties run deep.

Whether Udit Raj succeeds and his ideas translate into votes and electoral success in the 2012 assembly elections or not, he can still play a very important role in bringing debate to the Dalit discourse and push the political system a step closer towards the marginalised within the Dalits.

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Hindu group alleges bias in listing India on 'Watch List'

Below is an article from our Affirmative Action Media Monitoring Project. These articles represent a wide variety of views. These views do not necessarily represent the views of AAPF but instead are intended to provide you with an overview of the current affirmative action debate. April 29, 2011

The decision of the US Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) to place India in the 'Watch List' of countries along with Russia,Afghanistan and Cuba raises questions of bias and flawed methodology, a Washington-based eminent Hindu group said here.

"USCIRF's decision to club India in with a dozen or so of the worst violators of religious freedom in the world, while overlooking others, again raises questions of bias and flawed methodology," Prof Ramesh Rao of the Hindu American Foundation (HAF) alleged.

"The Commission's censure of India in 2011, despite that country's celebrated pluralism and absence of any significant recent religious discord -- despite provocative terror attacks -- seems based more on a disagreement over some states' effort to monitor coercive and forced conversions," Rao said.

The USCIRF decision, however, was not unanimous.

Commissioners Felice Gaer and William Shaw dissented, describing the listing of India on the watch list as "ill-advised and inappropriate".

HAF was the only organization invited to testify by USCIRF that demanded India's removal from the watch list, and its arguments were echoed by the two commissioners in their public dissent.

Besides Rao, the author of HAF's annual Hindu human rights report, Suhag Shukla, HAF's Managing Director and Legal Counsel testified before the USCIRF Commissioners in Washington last month arguing that India did not belong on the watch list due to its robust human rights mechanisms and independent judiciary that comprehensively probed incidents of inter-religious violence.

They insisted that the "predatory proselytizing" supported by many US churches vitiates inter-religious harmony in India as well as other countries and must be considered in any comprehensive analysis of international religious freedom, a media release said.

"We are disappointed that the compelling evidence we presented did not move the majority of commissioners away from their deeply flawed assumptions about India," Shukla said.

"But continuing to call out bias within quasi- government bodies, such as USCIRF, that lack Hindu, Buddhist, or Sikh representation and bringing to light the damaging role that predatory proselytization plays in inter-religious relations around the globe are guiding principles and imperative for HAF," Shukla said.

Shukla and Rao offered evidence of the Constitutional and legal accommodations provided to India's minorities, including the existence of separate personal and family laws for Muslims and Christians, governmental subsidies for the annual Haj pilgrimage for Muslims and the right of all religious communities, except Hindu, to independently control their respective places of worship free from government interference.

They also highlighted India's affirmative action policies and reservations in government and educational institutions, intended to afford economic and social advantages to religious minorities.

Posted on www.expressindia.com

B Muthuraman - We want the industry to adopt a code of governance

Below is an article from our Affirmative Action Media Monitoring Project. These articles represent a wide variety of views. These views do not necessarily represent the views of AAPF but instead are intended to provide you with an overview of the current affirmative action debate. April 27, 2011

By Ruchira Singh & Tarun Shukla

New Delhi: Indian industry faces a potential slowing in terms of investment, both domestic and foreign, and rising raw material prices, but these are not as serious as the growing perception among most people that “big business” is corrupt. India’s most powerful business lobby, the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), must fight this perception, and leading the charge is new president B. Muthuraman, a former managing director at Tata Steel Ltd (he is now the non-executive vice-chairman of the company. Muthuraman, who joined Tata Steel in 1966 as a graduate trainee, has already come up with a plan—a code of ethics for industry. In an interview, he spoke about this code, and how he thinks India can continue to grow rapidly.

What is this new code of conduct of ethics for the industry you plan to come up with?

I talked about two codes. One is the code of conduct for all companies in terms of governance. The other one is (a) code of affirmative action in terms of supporting the schedule castes, scheduled tribes...

What was the trigger for these?

Affirmative action is necessary... The trigger is (that, in) India if you want have to growth, it has to be inclusive growth, with all sections of society (included). We see a lot of social unrest, and the basic cause of all...that social unrest is the inequality of opportunities present, and we need to rectify this, a mistake of several thousand of years.

What’s your view on reservation of jobs for people from the scheduled castes and tribes in the private sector?

Things done voluntarily are a better way of achieving the result. Reservation is something which I don’t want anyone to get forced into. I want a situation where companies proactively engage themselves in doing things that make reservation unnecessary.

You have spoken of an amnesty scheme to cure tax evasion. This was implemented some years back, and there was a lot of political opposition to that. Do you think that if your idea is implemented by the government, it could bring back those feelings in people?

If you have an amnesty scheme, it must be the last one. People who don’t declare (income) and get found out must be punished. Only if there is a fear of punishment will it (an amnesty scheme) work well.

Corruption seems to have become a mass movement, with the common people coming out and voicing their disgust towards it. What does CII plan to do to tackle this problem?

CII has instituted a council —what is called the council for governance and transparent practices. And what we want to do is for industry to adopt a code of governance and practice this code.

What would this entail?

For example, many companies in India have an ethics counsellor. The chief ethics counsellor’s job is that he or she talks to the employees and there is a whistle-blowing policy which is encouraged in those companies. Some of these things are good practices. I would like see (all) companies...adopt these practices.

You have said that 8-8.5% economic growth is almost a given this fiscal, and if some 100 mega projects come up this could touch 10%?

Yes.

Which sectors would these projects be in?

They have to be largely in infrastructure, which will, in turn, aid other things to come.

Realistically speaking, how many of these do you expect to go through?

We have to select the projects alongside sitting with the government. Once this is agreed upon, we have to set up a control room to make sure that every quarter someone reviews (the projects) and problems are solved. We are in the process of discussing this with the government—(for forming) an industry-government body.

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Ambabai's inner circle

Below is an article from our Affirmative Action Media Monitoring Project. These articles represent a wide variety of views. These views do not necessarily represent the views of AAPF but instead are intended to provide you with an overview of the current affirmative action debate. April 17, 2011

By Anosh Malekar

The Anna Hazare blitzkrieg, which shook up the entire system, proved that India is changing fast. A similar tremor of change was felt at the heart of the Mahalaxmi Temple in Kolhapur on Saturday. In this case, the pride of the patriach, the ultimate male bastion fortified by centuries of rules loaded against the fairer sex, was finally breached.

The garbhagruha (sanctum sanctorum) of the important twelfth century temple in a city of half a million, nestled in the lush corner of south Maharashtra’s sugar belt, was witness to a change in the course of history, with one line shouted out by a trustee of the temple a few minutes past 10.30 am: “Let the women devotees in.”

The trustee requested the male devotees to empty the tiny space and make way for the women. What followed was a group of women, who walked up the silver-coated staircase leading to the innermost shrine of Ambabai with a quiet zest in their steps, even as the few priests inside watched, aghast.

The centuries-old barrier had been broken at last, even as the hardcore traditionalists, which most of the priests in the garbhagruha are, watched in dismay because to them the sanctity of the divine abode of Ambabai, one among the Shaktipeeths, had been defiled.

However, for the women devotees, this was nothing short of a glimpse of heaven. Gavlanbai Badhe, a 65-year-old from Ambajogai, could not believe her luck. “I did not know they were allowing women inside the garbhagruha. I could get so close to Ambabai. I must be really lucky,” she said, on being told that she was one of the first few women to be so close to the deity.

Priest Manoj Munishwar tried putting on a brave face. “Nobody ever objected to women entering the garbhagruha. But, according to the tradition and culture of this city, only women from the royal family are allowed to enter and touch Ambabai. The king is an avatar of Vishnu and, hence, his wife is considered Vishupatni or Laxmi. Not everybody can claim that status,” he told Mirror.

However, the air was clearly filled with a sense of freedom and relief, as many women devotees got the chance to make a wish come true, which till now they had thought they would have to take with them to the grave. Advocate Anuradha Kulkarni from Goregaon was overwhelmed. “Today I met my mother without any barrier between us,” she said, her eyes moist with joy. A diehard devotee of Ambabai, the 54-year-old would make it to the Mahalaxmi temple whenever her busy schedule as a lawyer and an amateur actor would permit.

“I have been here many times. Frankly I never expected to get so close to my mother in this lifetime. But yesterday when I saw on television that the government was going to let women inside the garbhagruha I rushed in to be among the first to catch a glimpse of the goddess,” she said. Kulkarni happened to be in Kolhapur after a tour of Karnataka. She told Mirror that she was now raring to come back with her husband for a “very special darshan,” may be later this year.

Shruti Bele, another devotee from Jalgaon, was so excited that she had entered the abode of Ambabai, she could hardly express herself. “Today I have earned a lifetime’s punya. That is how I feel deep down in my heart.”

Hemlata Mankar from Ahmednagar, who was with her extended family of sons, daughters-in-law and grandchildren, she had sought peace and prosperity for her family. “I am sure my whispers could be heard by Ambabai. I could get so close to her.”

While the city, a principality under the British, still swears by the progressive ideals of Chhatrapati Shahu Maharaj, who initiated the earliest affirmative action in the country in 1902, many of its residents are unhappy with the happenings of the past few days.

Eighty-year-old resident Sulabha Shikhare, who had walked a kilometre for her daily darshan, refused to enter the innermost shrine as a mark of protest. “What is this? They are breaking all traditions. Women are not supposed to touch Ambabai. The goddess will get angry and strike back with a vengeance,” she warned, loud enough for everyone present to hear.

Chetan Chaudhary, who is from a family of priests, said this was a political stunt. On Wednesday, Bharatiya Janata Party state women’s wing chief Neeta Kelkar stormed the sanctum sanctorum with a group of women activists, taking the priestly class by surprise. She had taken a cue from Maharashtra Navnirman Sena MLA Ram Kadam’s demand in the State Assembly that such discriminatory practices be done away with. Kadam and Kelkar were present on the temple’s premises to celebrate their victory in front of television cameras so that the world could see the change.

“Ambabai spares none. She will teach the guilty a lesson,” said S T Sarate, a former Army personnel and security chief of the temple, watching the drama from the sidelines. “The residents of Kolhapur are enraged. But we trust Ambabai to settle the score.” The few trustees present nodded in unison. One of them, Dhanaji Jadhav, said there was little the trust could do as the matter was sub-judice and the trust’s writ was limited to the outer premises of the temple.

In 2000, Narendra Dabholkar of the Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmulan Samiti (the anti-superstition brigade) had filed a case in the Supreme Court seeking the removal of restrictions on women’s entry inside the temple. While the members of the Mahalaxmi Temple trust have maintained that they are in favour of allowing entry to women, the temple pujaris have refused to bow down.

However, Saturday was a different day and the priests watched it unfold helplessly. “What can we do? It is for the government to decide,” Aniket Ashte, a young priest, said. The day after the BJP women’s wing forcibly entered the sanctum sanctorum, Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar intervened to throw open the doors of the temple to the fairer sex. On Friday, the Minister of State for Home Satej Patil, who hails from Kolhapur, rushed in to announce that women will be permitted inside the garbhagriha between 10 am to 11.30 am daily.

The trustees and the priests believe this is only a temporary measure to calm the frayed nerves of a few women activists and political opportunists. While the argument if the move is politically motivated or not will attract many, the priests of them temple raised a practical problem that will have politicians scratching their heads, especially women leaders.

“Do our politicians know that to maintain sanctity of the goddess it is essential for a devotee to be draped in a single piece of cloth that has to be without a stitch on it. Now, would a decent woman agree to enter a temple with only a saree draped around her and nothing else?” asks Narhar Ramchandra Joshi, a septuagenarian resident of the locality. He also pointed out that the garbhagriha was so tiny, 5 feet x 6 feet, that it would be difficult for women to maintain their dignity with so many men around.

Neeta Kelkar had no answer to that, but clarified that this was not a political stunt but a genuine fight for equal rights in the land of Shahu Maharaj. “Ram Kadam, though from a different political dispensation, is like a brother. And we have got together for a just cause,” she said. But the priests were sceptical. “They will be judged in Kolhapur by their deeds,” warned the priests.

While the debate on whether Ambabai will bring her wrath down on Kolhapur is unlikely to end any time soon, the truth is that our society has finally moved another step closer to creating a society that thrives on individuals, and not just women and men.

About the temple The Mahalaxmi, locally known as Ambabai, temple traces its history to 664 BC, during the Chalukya era and is dedicated to the worship of Shakti. The temple is believed to be constructed over the centuries and took its present form around the 12th century. The architecture of the temple is purely Chalukyan and not Dravidian, says the temple’s website.

One among the Shaktipeeths, the temple is a major attraction for devotees drawn from across the country, but especially from Karnataka and Maharashtra. It is believed that the darshan of Shri Balaji at Tirumala is incomplete without visiting the goddess Mahalaxmi at Kolhapur.

The temple attracts thousands of local and outside visitors daily. The trustees and priests claim the number crosses a lakh during Navratri and other important festival days.

Posted on www.ahmedabadmirror.com

Economist calls for better balance between defence, uplift

Below is an article from our Affirmative Action Media Monitoring Project. These articles represent a wide variety of views. These views do not necessarily represent the views of AAPF but instead are intended to provide you with an overview of the current affirmative action debate. April 9, 2011

By Rasheed Khalid

Economist Dr. Parvez Hasan has said that confrontation with India costs Pakistan dearly adding we should maintain a better balance between defence and development and between investment and consumption.

Dr. Hasan was speaking at launching of his ‘My life my country: memoirs of a Pakistani economist’ organised by the Institute of Strategic Studies in collaboration with Ferozsons Limited here on Friday.

Dr. Hasan said that Pakistan achieved many things like strong defence, nuclear deterrent, vibrant female presence at all levels of society and a free media and role of civil society cannot be ignored. But, he lamented, we have an existential threat from extremists who are misrepresenting and distorting our religion.

He said that strong motivation to write the book was the ‘qarz’ he felt his generation owed to the creation of Pakistan. He said that as a Punjabi boy in British India, he grew up with Hindus and Sikhs who, contrary to belief, are normal people like us.

He said that creation of Pakistan was the strongest affirmative action in the 20th century. He pointed out that well-to-do class mostly do not pay taxes and public education is a mess, population control was neglected, and balance between defence and development became seriously distorted with the disastrous 1965 war with India. We messed the export development and opportunities and it had been on a downward slide for a quite long.

Earlier, ISS Director Ashraf Jahangir Qazi said that a large amount of Pakistani population is living below the poverty line and gap between the poor and the rich is increasing alarmingly.

He said that Pakistan’s population today mainly comprises of youth, which due to lack of resources and stagnant economy are disqualified from the start. The education level is highly unimpressive and most of the youth is primary educated and cannot afford further education. Shahid Javed Burki, and Sakib Sherani also spoke on the occasion.

Posted onwww.thenews.com

Handle quota disputes with a clear mechanism

April 3, 2011 By Yogendra Yadav

Earlier it was the Gujjars, now it is the Jats. Before that it was the Mala-Madiga dispute in Andhra Pradesh. And one often hears about reservation for all Marathas in Maharashtra. The names keep changing, the pattern does not. Neither does our response.

The script is familiar. Caste groups like Jats and Marathas, land-owning communities with some numeric strength and political clout, lay claim to backwardness. Those below them in the social order, like the Gujjars in Rajasthan, resent this intrusion and want special protection to safeguard their benefits. Or those communities among the SC or OBC who have not benefited much from reservations want a sub-quota . Agitators take to the streets, often blocking roads and railways. Governments do not want to take a decision and resort to soft-pedaling , delay tactics and collusion, hoping that that the judiciary will step in to relieve them of the burden of decision-making .

The national media responds with impatience , as if it is being dragged into an alien land and a bygone era. Caste groups in question are discussed as if these are unknown tribes from Africa. Editorials deplore political motives behind such protests and call for strict action to ensure smooth traffic. There is a clamour for judicial intervention. Once some committee is formed, everyone forgets it like a bad dream, till the next crisis erupts.

We do not stop to ask the hard questions. Why does this crisis erupt so regularly? Why do these demands always turn into a street battle? Why is every solution so transient? What is the way forward?

These questions force us to face an unpleasant truth: the policies of social justice have reached a dead-end . For a country that has such a vast and influential programme of affirmative action, we are remarkably deficient in imaging mechanisms and designs of social justice schemes. We have a maze of institutions to handle it but simply do not have a system of processing competing claims to affirmative action. This is a country famous for its statistical system but has virtually no evidence for settling these claims. We do not know, for example, if the proportion of graduates and professional degree holders among Jats are more or less than other OBC communities in Haryana and UP.

There is no need to start from scratch in the search for a way forward. As often happens in India, the solution lies in the cupboards of a ministry. The report of an expert committee headed by professor N R Madhav Menon, "Equal Opportunity Commission: What, Why and How?" has been in the public domain for two years. (Accessible at http:// minorityaffairs.gov.in/newsite/reports/ eoc_wwh/eoc_wwh.pdf). The report suggests the formation of an equal opportunity commission (EOC) as a long-term mechanism for dealing with disputes concerning social justice. The proposed EOC would be a path-finding institution that would help evolve and evaluate mechanisms for affirmative action, using an evidence-based approach . It would gather data on the socio-economic and educational status of various social groups and communities. It would also monitor the social profile of higher educational institutions and select sectors of employment. The EOC would be open to any social group that perceives a denial of equal opportunities. It would cover public and private sectors. Unlike the existing commissions , the EOC will focus on advisory, advocacy and auditing rather than individual grievance redressal.

An EOC was on the Congress manifesto in 2009. It was mentioned in the president's address to Parliament. Yet the proposal is still doing the rounds of the corridors of power, caught up in the turf-wars that ministries and commissions play in New Delhi. If we had such an institution by now, the Gujjar dispute, the Jat agitation, the Mala-Madiga dispute and several others could have been resolved. Protests may still occur but there would be a clear mechanism and some solid evidence to resolve disputes.

The forthcoming caste census could help with some of the evidence needed for a clear affirmative action policy. But it can do so, only if the findings of the main census are linked to the caste census and we get demographic , educational and economic data for each caste. The preliminary figures of Census 2011 are out and we still do not know the exact nature of the caste census that is to take place later this year.

Perhaps we are waiting for another crisis . To borrow a Hindi proverb, we believe in digging a well after we notice a fire.

Posted on www.articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com

Balancing race

April 2, 2011 By Rajiv Gopie

At some point it was destined to happen, at some point somebody was sure to cause the spark that would singe the entire face of unity that was being peddled by the current Government. At some point the ugly spectre of race was bound to resurface.

The comments made by the gentleman are just the tip of what is an undercurrent that we in Trinidad and Tobago live with every day. Race is part of who we are. We are one land of many races and many people and race is something that we need to discuss and rectify, not sweep aside and hope for the best.

Race is not all we are but it is self-evident it can be seen and it still forms the basis on which many social and political activities are organised. Differences in race, however, should not be a problem. Racial traits are simply phenotypical and thus are not reflective of who a person is. Shame on anyone who may try to divide us, shame on anyone who sees only race, shame on these who see skin colour and not people.

Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat its mistakes. This is very true for us in T&T who have the great penchant for ignoring the past. Race issues are real issues. We have a history of antagonism between the major races in our country and no concrete steps have ever been taken to soothe these tensions.

With the arrival of the East Indians in T&T as indentured labourers the dynamics of existence changed for the resident former slaves. History has shown that tensions ran high between the groups with both being guilty of anger, hatred and prejudice. Both groups were also played against each other by the ruling British elite who saw no reason to foster good relations and were all too happy to let the antagonism continue.

There is no victim and no hero in the ancient tensions between the groups. Both were equally ignorant and prejudiced. With the founding of our own independent nation no steps were taken by our new leaders to ease this tension. In fact many leaders and unscrupulous persons over the years have sought to incite these tensions for their own personal gain. The major races have always been played against each other in a macro sense though on the ground neighbours get along quite well, struggling to make a living and facing the same problems, having the same joys, eating the same food and crying the same tears.

But history has shown that neighbour can turn against neighbour when those who are blind and full of nothing but ignorance and hate rally the masses to causes that serve no purpose but to keep a nation divided, just so that some can loot the coffers whilst the people fight.

It happened in India, it happened in Rwanda and in many other places. Places much like ours, with dominant races who were played against each other by the colonial powers. Places where neighbours once got along but soon hacked each other to pieces, places that were ripe with possibility then carried down a road of ruin. This must never be allowed to happen in our beautiful nation. The blood of no race or citizen should be spilled over the colour of one's skin or one's hair texture.

Historical and philosophical lessons aside, the comments made by the gentleman were, for the most, unsavoury and worthy of rebuke. The notion that things need to be made artificially balanced by some form of micro-management is not only a ludicrous idea but also worrying in many ways. The issue of affirmative action and reverse discrimination continues to be hotly debated and many people are undecided on whether or not it is moral to support any discrimination at all and to what extent do these policies bring about any real change.

Our complex society is a product of not only our culture and history but our aspirations. The goals of different sectors of society lead them to make decisions that have come to form the way our system is composed.

It is an issue that seems to be too politically incorrect to articulate but it is indeed reality that some groups tend towards being doctors rather than policemen, teachers rather than farmers, lawyers rather than masons and so forth. This is not to say there is not a distribution of races across the spectrum of professions but simply that there are higher concentrations of one race according to different factors. This is not something to be "fixed".

This particular phenomenon is also reflected in degree and subject choices in schools. Are we now going to make people choose a certain field of study or try to balance out the choices racially? It sounds very ridiculous when used in this sense but that is exactly what some people may be suggesting.

The lessons to take away from this debacle are the following: Firstly, racial tensions can be swept under the rug but they should be addressed and defused in meaningful and positive ways, to wipe out the old misconceptions, to erase the prejudices and highlight the similarities.

Secondly, we are still under the control of people who seem to have a very colonial way of thinking and we need to ensure that the citizenry is not divided by artificial issues, but continue to hold the powers that be accountable.

Finally, social engineering is a dangerous road and along with miracles it may bring monsters that may be born. "Here every creed and race, find an equal place."

Posted on www.trinidadexpress.com

Cricket the great balancing act

March 28, 2011 By Azad Essa

Think of cricket as you would Lady Justice: a blindfolded woman with a sword at her side, scales in hand, and an almost insatiable thirst for being the moral and material leveller of man.

Think of cricket as that nagging marriage: survival is based on partners seeking and successfully servicing the whims and petty needs of each other to maintain the grand mirage of compromise, partnership and long-term planning.

Think of cricket as a return to simplicity where fancy footwork up and down tall orders takes you nowhere without a still head.

It’s little wonder then, that people stumble on cricket on television and wonder not only what the hell is going on, but what commentators might mean by ‘stance’, ‘timing’ or ‘fine leg’.

Whichever way you choose to look at it, cricket, like life, though unfair in itself, levels the playing field.

In one form or another, fate, destiny, karma or sutra, short falls and quick fixes eventually catch up with even the most agile, a type of good riddance. Instead, it will always be discipline, technique and a balanced team that separates the sustainable winners from the one-hit wonders.

This is the game of cricket after all, and not a waffle express from your local Carrefour.

And now that we have reached the World Cup semi-finals, it is plain to see.

Cricketing algorithm

Barring the impressive but freakish performance of New Zealand, the presence of the three subcontinental powerhouses in the final four proves the cricketing algorithm; the most adaptable teams always advance through to the knockout phases of the competition.

Sure, South Africa would be aggrieved, having danced all the right moves in the first round only to lose a knock-out game once again .And while the “chokers” seems once more a very good fit, closer inspection reveals this might not be so.

South Africa tossed aside the minnows like Goliaths would of any unassuming Davids without biblical prowess, but they stumbled against a schizophrenic yet determined English outfit. The Proteas then chased India’s imposing total like fearless soldiers riding on pristine white appaloosas (affirmative action notwithstanding) but people forget that this was against a deflated bowling attack and a physically challenged fielding performance.

The Indians might be imposing favourites but no matter how many runs they score, they are an unimposing bowling and fielding outfit. The battlefield might as well have been Kruger National Park and the enemy, hapless, starving Zimbabweans. All in all, during the round-robin phase, the South Africans were tested twice; they squandered their chance on one occasion and on the other, they managed to just squeeze through.

It makes sense then for a knock out clash to have truly tested them. And they lost. Simple. Khalaas.

In fact, inspite of all the positive steps taken by the South African team at this tournament, including the liberal use of spin, this was a team uncharacterisically lacking genuine all-rounders down the order raising the question of team selection.

With Johan Botha coming in at number 7, pressure on the top five to make the runs every time was always asking for too much. Factor in as well, the case of a temperamental JP Duminy batting at the crucial number 5 position, a spot occupied by Misbah ul-Haq, Michael Hussey, Eoin Morgan and Yuvraj Singh in the other big teams, and the Proteas never did get their team balance right.

Duminy is good, but is he in the league of the finishers aforementioned and can he be relied upon if Hashim Amla or AB de Villiers failed? Or is he, as his critics point out,  only good at brutalising the minnows?

With Smith battling for form, and Fafs du Plessis still a minnow in the international game, the Proteas effectively played with four batsman. You cannot win a world Cup, no matter how effective Morne Morkel and Dale Steyn might be with the ball and now matter how many blonde highlights Imran Tahir might sport, with an undernourished batting line-up.

The same could also be said about the West Indies who pummelled the smaller teams to a pulp creating an illusion of discipline and performance. All it required for their end to be spelled near was a meeting with a quality side, which ultimately came in the form of an inspired Pakistan. The West Indies were also led by an itsy-bitsy captain, whose role seemed unclear and this indecision would eventually cos them, when, well, real, knock-out decisions had to be made.

In contrast, despite their intial well oiled performances, Australia's quiet exit signed off a forgettable tournament for the reigning champions and despite Ricky Ponting's last minute heroics, the Aussies were always going to battle against India's batting. The usually ruthless selection panel should have recognized that Ponting's time as captain was up, and that the team needed new direction. But considering that there is no obvious successor to Ponting, the Aussies obviously saw Ponting's leadership as crucial to the team's fortunes.

It is a pity then that Ponting had to endure the disappointment of a lacklustre campaign after winning the World Cup consecutively for Australia and only to find himself stepping down sheepishly as if the failure was all his fault.

Sure, Ponting rode the wave of an era built by Steve Waugh on the backs of Glenn McGrath, Shane Warne and Matthew Hayden. And yes, it is the time for strong leadership, and for a new legacy. But selectors ought to have recognised that before they sent him for the slaughter.

Euphoric zombies

Meanwhile, England, on the back of a long winter in Australia, injuries and mental illness, played like veterans of a cricketing cuckoo’s nest. Losing to Bangladesh and Ireland hardly seemed to faze the team as they went on to tie with India and beat South Africa. The team appeared so exhausted, they had all the looks of operating on a collective euphoric zombie mode. They really did make a compelling case for mass-euthanasia of all cricketers in England. Hopefully their overwrought demeanours caught the ECB’s attention. Sri Lanka, one feels, did them justice by shoving them out of their drunken stupor and spanking them back home.

This then leaves us with the final four.

New Zealand, the nagging, dry, grey, work horses might be considered lucky to have bagged a semi-final berth, but one gets the feeling they aren’t surprised.  The perennial semi-finalists, outdone perennially by bigger, sexier teams know this is probably their best chance yet. Sri Lanka might be overwhelming favourites, but like South Africa, their tail runs deep into the lower middle order and getting rid of the openers early would expose a vulnerable middle order that has done precious little in the tournament. It is hard to see New Zealand surviving the trio of Malinga, Muralitharan and Mendis, but disciplined bowling from New Zealand could prove the undoing of the Sri Lankans.

And in what is being touted the quasi-final of the tournament, India vs Pakistan should see Kalashnikovs put down on both sides of the border as sport’s biggest derby supersedes all other South Asian passions for just a day.  It is difficult to quantify the effect India-Pakistan encounters have on heart rates, but suffice to say, the dramatic political backdrop in which this game falls under ought to produce enough chemistry to ignite your television screen into a frenzy of high drama.

India’s all round performance against Australia, exemplified by a more organised bowling performance and a superb chase, turns them into the most feared of the final four. Tendulkar and Yuvraj continue to perform, and Sehwag is due to deliver. Pakistan’s batting is still brittle and Pakistani fans are all too aware of their team’s penchant to capitulate at one good spell of bowling or of course, a bookie’s request, or cheque. At the same time, their bowling, led by the unlikely Afridi, is energetic and Pakistan is one team capable of creating some magic.

If Lady Justice had a say, she’d point out the deserved winner.

She’d separate the try-hards from the believers and the workmen from the deceivers.

In reality though, sport has no real moral basis of balance. The scales aren’t built to level the playing fields and filter pretence. Sport is built by talent and advanced by the surge of adrenalin, aspiration and well, some temptation.

Despite its billing, a knock out game in cricket like other professional sport is still just a game played by humans governed by team selections. Poorly conceived batting orders and naïve field placements quite aside, these games might just be decided on who wakes up on the right side of the bed.

Lady Justice is, after all, blind.

Posted on www.blog.aljazeera.net

A Welcome Challenge

Below is an article from our Affirmative Action Media Monitoring Project. These articles represent a wide variety of views. These views do not necessarily represent the views of AAPF but instead are intended to provide you with an overview of the current affirmative action debate. March 17, 2011

By Najeeb Jung

The order of the National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions declaring the Jamia Millia Islamia a 'minority' institution has generated considerable comment. Since different viewpoints have been stated, the issue needs to be objectively evaluated, inclusive of the ideological arguments.

The Jamia Millia Islamia was formed in 1920, at the behest of Gandhi, as a counter to the increasing sense of alienation among a section of Muslims. A group of nationalist Muslim leaders including Maulana Mahmudul Hasan, Maulana Mohamed Ali, M A Ansari, Hakim Ajmal Khan and Abdul Majeed Khwaja brought in all their resources to form Jamia. Others like Zakir Hussain, Prof Mujeeb and Prof Abid Hussain were to follow and devote their lives to the cause of education, in particular of Muslims, who were way behind other communities.

Registered initially as a society, Jamia became a deemed university in 1962. All these years it retained its status as a minority institution. In 1988, it became a central university by which time it had established its major faculties and departments including engineering, education, history, social work, fine arts, natural sciences, and its famous mass communication school. At that time it had roughly 50% Muslim students. Today, 23 years after becoming a central university, it still has roughly the same number of Muslim students.

Therefore, it is firstly important to grasp that the ruling does not change anything: it formalises the status quo. In an educational context where Muslims are worryingly under-represented, Jamia has historically provided a path to secular higher education to thousands of young, underprivileged provincial Muslims who receive their school education in the traditional style, in maktabs and madrassas. It has also made singular contribution to the education of Muslim girls in whose case parents would be reluctant to send them elsewhere. Today, one of the glorious achievements of the university is that within its campus one frequently sees groups where girls in hijab mix easily with all others.

But then since Jamia is indeed having 50% or more Muslims, why declare it a minority institution? Two things stand out here. First, over the last 90 years Muslims have had a sense of ownership and a fierce attachment with Jamia. They believe it is an institution of higher learning set up by their forefathers, to further in essence the cause of Muslim education, and declaring it a minority institution makes them secure in this feeling. Two, with the introduction of reservations for OBCs, the level of reservations in the university would go beyond 50% and therefore over time Muslim numbers will decline.

However, despite this, there are reasonable arguments, focussing on the bad consequences that might follow from minority status. The most significant is that the minimum 50% reservation that minority status permits will be exceeded and this will lead to Jamia becoming a Muslim ghetto. It is further argued that once Jamia becomes a minority institution, its students will be shunned in the job market because their degrees, and diplomas, fairly or unfairly, will have been devalued by its reputation as a 'Muslim' institution.

Two points need to be made here. All minority institutions, including the Vellore Medical College and St Stephen's College, are governed by the same rules of admission. These institutions continue to be beacons of excellence despite the fact that they can theoretically take more than 50% of their students from the Christian community. Every educational institution regardless of whether it is a minority institution or not faces a choice: does it want to recruit the best students under the rules that govern it or will it misuse the rules for the sake of patronage, nepotism or communalism?

Jamia, being an older institution than most in north India, has faced this choice for nearly a hundred years, in good times and bad, and has consistently made the right decision. The fact that at all times in its history it retained Muslim student numbers to around 50% is indicative of this maturity. There is no reason to believe this will change now.

It is also important to understand that Jamia is a recipient of public money, it has a duty to demonstrate that this money is scrupulously spent and that with the changed circumstance comes far greater responsibility. It will, therefore, have to commit itself to unprecedented levels of transparency, submitting its admission processes to national testing. Open competition with published merit lists for minority and non-minority students will shine daylight on the processes by which students are admitted.

At the same time, it will demonstrate that a commitment to the welfare of an underprivileged community can be combined with a commitment to openness, fairness and excellence. Better still, if Jamia could frame rules that part of that 50% reserved for Muslims becomes available to Muslim women and the backward Muslim community, it would manage a trifecta: pluralism, social justice and gender equality.

While this is a huge affirmative action on the part of the government that the Muslim community must accept with grace and gratitude, i believe the government has put an onus on the Muslims to prove that they can look beyond common perceptions of ghettoisation, fundamentalism and so on and understand that imbedded in this initiative is the challenge to be tested at the altar of competence, professionalism and, above all, commitment to fierce nationalism and secularism that has been the bedrock of Jamia for the past 90 years.
Posted on www.articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com

A Welcome Challenge

Below is an article from our Affirmative Action Media Monitoring Project. These articles represent a wide variety of views. These views do not necessarily represent the views of AAPF but instead are intended to provide you with an overview of the current affirmative action debate. March 17, 2011

The order of the National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions declaring the Jamia Millia Islamia a 'minority' institution has generated considerable comment. Since different viewpoints have been stated, the issue needs to be objectively evaluated, inclusive of the ideological arguments.

The Jamia Millia Islamia was formed in 1920, at the behest of Gandhi, as a counter to the increasing sense of alienation among a section of Muslims. A group of nationalist Muslim leaders including Maulana Mahmudul Hasan, Maulana Mohamed Ali, M A Ansari, Hakim Ajmal Khan and Abdul Majeed Khwaja brought in all their resources to form Jamia. Others like Zakir Hussain, Prof Mujeeb and Prof Abid Hussain were to follow and devote their lives to the cause of education, in particular of Muslims, who were way behind other communities.

Registered initially as a society, Jamia became a deemed university in 1962. All these years it retained its status as a minority institution. In 1988, it became a central university by which time it had established its major faculties and departments including engineering, education, history, social work, fine arts, natural sciences, and its famous mass communication school. At that time it had roughly 50% Muslim students. Today, 23 years after becoming a central university, it still has roughly the same number of Muslim students.

Therefore, it is firstly important to grasp that the ruling does not change anything: it formalises the status quo. In an educational context where Muslims are worryingly under-represented, Jamia has historically provided a path to secular higher education to thousands of young, underprivileged provincial Muslims who receive their school education in the traditional style, in maktabs and madrassas. It has also made singular contribution to the education of Muslim girls in whose case parents would be reluctant to send them elsewhere. Today, one of the glorious achievements of the university is that within its campus one frequently sees groups where girls in hijab mix easily with all others.

But then since Jamia is indeed having 50% or more Muslims, why declare it a minority institution? Two things stand out here. First, over the last 90 years Muslims have had a sense of ownership and a fierce attachment with Jamia. They believe it is an institution of higher learning set up by their forefathers, to further in essence the cause of Muslim education, and declaring it a minority institution makes them secure in this feeling. Two, with the introduction of reservations for OBCs, the level of reservations in the university would go beyond 50% and therefore over time Muslim numbers will decline.

However, despite this, there are reasonable arguments, focussing on the bad consequences that might follow from minority status. The most significant is that the minimum 50% reservation that minority status permits will be exceeded and this will lead to Jamia becoming a Muslim ghetto. It is further argued that once Jamia becomes a minority institution, its students will be shunned in the job market because their degrees, and diplomas, fairly or unfairly, will have been devalued by its reputation as a 'Muslim' institution.

Two points need to be made here. All minority institutions, including the Vellore Medical College and St Stephen's College, are governed by the same rules of admission. These institutions continue to be beacons of excellence despite the fact that they can theoretically take more than 50% of their students from the Christian community. Every educational institution regardless of whether it is a minority institution or not faces a choice: does it want to recruit the best students under the rules that govern it or will it misuse the rules for the sake of patronage, nepotism or communalism?

Jamia, being an older institution than most in north India, has faced this choice for nearly a hundred years, in good times and bad, and has consistently made the right decision. The fact that at all times in its history it retained Muslim student numbers to around 50% is indicative of this maturity. There is no reason to believe this will change now.

It is also important to understand that Jamia is a recipient of public money, it has a duty to demonstrate that this money is scrupulously spent and that with the changed circumstance comes far greater responsibility. It will, therefore, have to commit itself to unprecedented levels of transparency, submitting its admission processes to national testing. Open competition with published merit lists for minority and non-minority students will shine daylight on the processes by which students are admitted.

At the same time, it will demonstrate that a commitment to the welfare of an underprivileged community can be combined with a commitment to openness, fairness and excellence. Better still, if Jamia could frame rules that part of that 50% reserved for Muslims becomes available to Muslim women and the backward Muslim community, it would manage a trifecta: pluralism, social justice and gender equality.

While this is a huge affirmative action on the part of the government that the Muslim community must accept with grace and gratitude, i believe the government has put an onus on the Muslims to prove that they can look beyond common perceptions of ghettoisation, fundamentalism and so on and understand that imbedded in this initiative is the challenge to be tested at the altar of competence, professionalism and, above all, commitment to fierce nationalism and secularism that has been the bedrock of Jamia for the past 90 years.

Posted on www.timesofindia.indiatimes.com

Coalition, the new fig leaf

Posted on February 24, 2011 By Shankkar Aiyar

Edmund Burke said “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing”. Apparently sometimes, says Manmohan Singh, good men can do nothing. Because “some compromises have to be made in managing a coalition government”. Or else “we should be ready for elections every six months”. The context of coalition must weigh heavily on the Prime Minister. The word coalition surfaced 17 times in his interaction with editors last week. It surfaces frequently — in a speech to the CWC, in response to the Rajya Sabha members and even in the interview to McKinsey Quarterly.

The articulation each time is persuasive. You are expected to accept the inefficiencies of coalition as fait accompli. Or else! Coalition and therefore inefficient governments it seems by design is a default option facing the nation. Given the arithmetic of parliament coalitions are a necessary, even virtuous alternative to chaos. Surely this cannot be the alibi for all the ills haunting India, the counter to the arraignment of the United Progressive Alliance.

Nothing proves a rule better than an exception. Before the 26/11 attacks India was easily the softest sucker state as terrorists bombed cities at will. Shivraj Patil’s reign at North Block was disastrous, four years of unblemished incompetence. Enter Palaniappan Chidambaram. Using his sharp tongue and intellect he whipped a somnolent ministry into action and inspired confidence in a billion people. Do we blame the disastrous handling of terror attacks till 26/11 on coalitions or the incompetence of Shivraj Patil? And what do we ascribe to the return in confidence but to the political will and leadership of P Chidambaram. It was a coalition between 2004 and 2008 and it has been a coalition since.

And yet the very same Chidambaram, who came out all guns blazing to tackle the internal threat of Maoist insurgency across 200 districts, finds himself shackled by his own party. As I write this column, the government of Orissa is going through the domestic version of the “Kandahar swap” to free the collector of Malkangiri.  So is the confusion in dealing with Maoism the consequence of “coalition compromises”? Or is it the result of woolly headed romanticism nurtured by a section of the Congressmen who see gun-toting thugs masquerading as innocent vigilantes.  Or is it — cynically speaking — the result of a misplaced calculus that estimates the strategy will yield a full majority in 2014. And who were the strongest opponents of the “reclaim India” strategy if they were not Congressmen!

Truth is in ministry after ministry, department after department there is listlessness, a sense of drift that has little to do with coalition politics and everything to do with lack of ideas, commitment and leadership on how to tackle the burning issues from food price inflation to promoting investment to enable job creation to raise incomes, consumption and growth. And mind you, this is the first government in the history of independent India with nine former chief ministers in the cabinet. And what do we have to show for all that experience?

Consider food price inflation now raging for five years. Everyone and their cousins have by now blamed Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar for food price inflation. But is he the lone villain? Isn’t inflation management the responsibility of CCPA and CCEA? And how many Congressmen are there on the CCEA?  Or take the much messed up public distribution system. In 2005, the Planning Commission informed the government that barely 27 paise of every rupee meant for the poor reaches the beneficiary. So what have we done about it? Chidambaram told an audience at Davos that nearly 50 per cent of the money allocated for roads does not get spent on roads. Is this a secret that the UPA cabinet was not aware of and could not act on?

Last month the government set up a GoM to deal with corruption. Among the ideas they discussed was the first chapter (Master Key to Good Governance) of the Second Administrative Reforms Commission. Good? The ARC has submitted 15 chapters — the first one — in June 2006 and its last in April 2009. What about other chapters of ARC II? It is being considered by another GoM.  Last week the cabinet committee on political affairs were forced to spend time, thanks to a PIL, on the recommendations of the Ranganath Mishra Commission on affirmative action for Muslims and Christians. Good? The recommendations were submitted in September 2007.

Yesterday India was informed that there is acute shortage of coal, the country will import over 150 tonnes of coal and rising coal prices which have shot up to $129 per tonne would push power generation cost by 70 paise per kwhr. So why is the country with one of the largest coal reserves facing this crisis? Because production of 660 million tonnes of coal is on hold trapped in the ideological debate between the high command, power, coal and environment ministry who are all Congressmen. Last week, Mukesh Ambani-led RIL divested 30 per cent of its stakes in gas fields to BP and lured $ 9.1 bn as FDI. What does RIL plan to do? It will invest in overseas fields. Is anyone wondering why large Indian corporates are not investing in India?  Fact is investors have had it with the whimsical “go”, “no go” GoM routine.  So who is to blame? Coalition compromises?

The attempt to blame coalition politics for the scam-a-day track record of UPA II would have been hilarious if it had not been so tragic for the polity. Let us assume that the 2G scam was the consequence of one man’s machinations and that the entire cabinet was innocent and blissfully unaware of his chicanery. What about the S-band scandal? In this country where test reports of howitzers are traded openly how in God’s secular name was a deal of this magnitude unknown to those who should have known! What about the other scams — CWG in Delhi or Adarsh in Mumbai?

A coalition is a crutch to come to power, for greater common good. It cannot be turned into an alibi for non-performance, for allowing thugs to hijack a regime and convert it into an extortion centre. In 1991 Manmohan Singh used the challenge of economic bankruptcy to unshackle India from licence raj. The outrage against the UPA is also an opportunity, to dismantle the licensed scam raj and deliver India from

political bankruptcy.

Posted on www.expressbuzz.com

India's latest headcount expected to reach 1.2 billion (News Feature)

Posted February 9, 2011 By Sunrita Sen

New Delhi - Millions of primary schoolteachers and other government employees started knocking at doors across India Wednesday in what the Census Department claims is the world's biggest headcount.

The massive exercise is carried out every 10 years, with this year's involving 2.7 million census takers.

According to the 2001 census India had a population of 1.02 billion. It is estimated to have grown to at least 1.2 billion.

The provisional results are due to be announced by the end of March by Registrar General and Census Commissioner C Chandramouli.

The census takers have to each knock on 124 to 300 doors over the next 20 days to cover the country's 240 million households. They will get paid 6,000 rupees (132 dollars) for the task.

Teachers are favoured as enumerators - the technical term for the head-counters - because they have the easiest access to households and get better responses when they ask personal questions, regarding for example age and sex.

For the first time India's census gives its transgender residents the option of 'other,' alongside the boxes for male and female.

The first phase of the 2011 census, counting the households, was done between April and September 2010. The current phase is the population count.

The third is a controversial caste census, which is opposed by several Indian political parties. While supporters say the caste data will help affirmative action programmes, critics says it would lead to divisive politics.

The caste census is being done for the first time since 1931 and is scheduled for between June and September 2011.

The figures involved in the population count are mindboggling. With a budget of 22 billion rupees, it is to cover all citizens in the country's 7,742 towns and cities, and 600,000 villages.

Chandramouli said the exercise is very cost-effective with the expenditure per person coming to just 18 rupees.

The enumerators will not just count people but collect information on their religion, languages spoken, occupation, education, standard of living, and other details.

The questions in the data sheets include the ownership of mobile phones, computers, access to drinking water and internet and whether a person has a bank account.

The data yielded by the census is compiled, collected, sorted and published - a process which has so far taken five or six years - and is used by administrators, policymakers, corporations, researchers and social scientists.

While the numbers become part of the public domain, the information relating to each individual is kept confidential. 'It is not even accessible to a court of law,' Chandramouli said.

Data on members of the migrant population will be collected at airports, railways stations, ports and bus terminals on the night of February 28.

A second round of counting is scheduled between March 1 and 5 to cross-check the data.

The omissions rate in the Indian census is usually around 1.7 per cent, though it did jump to 2.3 per cent in 2001, which census officials say was because it was digitized for the first time.

The count in some areas may face difficulties, with Maoist rebels controlling areas in West Bengal in the east of the country and in the central state of Chhattisgarh, the Business Standard newspaper reported citing government officials.

Some primitive tribes on the Andaman and Nicobar island chains are considered too hostile to be counted by going door-to-door. But the enumerators have a plan to draw them out into the open, where they can be counted from a safe distance.

In the Andamans' Sentinel Islands, for example, officials said they plan to throw coconuts and brightly coloured cloth into the sea and film the tribe members when they come to collect them at the shore, and later take the census from the recordings.

Efforts are on to reduce the omissions rate and to hasten the data crunching process by using advanced technology. 'We hope to process all the data within two years this time,' Chandramouli said.

The latest census data is also to be used to help the ongoing Unique Identification (UID) programme aimed at creating a biometrics-based system of identification cards for all Indians above the age of 15.

*Posted on www.monstersandcritics.com

IFJ calls for debate following conviction of columnist

Posted on February 1, 2011 The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is concerned by the January 28 conviction of Anish Trivedi, a one-time columnist for the Mumbai-based afternoon daily Mid-Day on charges of causing offence to communities disadvantaged by India's traditional caste hierarchy.

In a column published in 2006, Trivedi argued that the dismal performance of many of India's institutions of governance was a consequence of the policy of affirmative action, which assured disadvantaged communities representation in the staffing of all these institutions. He followed up this assessment with remarks on individuals belonging to these communities that aroused serious resentment.

Mumbai city police soon afterwards took up the prosecution of this matter on the basis of a complaint received from aggrieved private citizens.

On January 28, a trial court in Mumbai sentenced Trivedi to a six-month term of imprisonment and a fine of INR 25,000 (USD 535).

The IFJ is informed that Trivedi had, even before the formal institution of charges against him, apologised unconditionally in the columns of Mid-day, and retracted all the observations made.

"The IFJ recognises that affirmative action was introduced for the benefit of people and communities disadvantaged by historical circumstances, and is a part of the settled political consensus in India," IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park said.

"We are also supportive of the special legislation introduced by the Indian government to curb atrocities - in both word and deed - against these communities."

The IFJ however, is unsure about the wisdom of sentencing a columnist to a six-month term of imprisonment for remarks that he has apologised for. In normal circumstances, the right of reply granted unconditionally to any individual or community that may have reason to feel aggrieved by a published opinion, would be considered fair compensation. If that is deemed insufficient, then an apology by the author of the offending piece would be called for, accompanied by a full retraction of his opinion.

"These procedures appear to have been followed by Mid-day, despite which the columnist has earned a prison term", Ms Park said.

"The IFJ supports public debate in India on the norms that should be applied in matters involving the sensitivities of particular communities. Free speech cannot be construed as the right to cause offence. Yet there should be sufficient safeguards to allow for expressions of opinion that would contribute to the public dialogue on important issues of policy".

Trivedi has been granted bail by the Mumbai trial court, pending appeal.

*Posted on www.ifex.org

IFJ Calls for Debate after Conviction of Columnist in India

Posted on January 31, 2011 The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is concerned by the January 28 conviction of Anish Trivedi, a one-time columnist for the Mumbai-based afternoon daily Mid-Day on charges of causing offence to communities disadvantaged by India’s traditional caste hierarchy.

In a column published in 2006, Trivedi argued that the dismal performance of many of India’s institutions of governance was a consequence of the policy of affirmative action, which assured disadvantaged communities representation in the staffing of all these institutions. He followed up this assessment with remarks on individuals belonging to these communities that aroused serious resentment.

Mumbai city police soon afterwards took up the prosecution of this matter on the basis of a complaint received from aggrieved private citizens.

On January 28, a trial court in Mumbai sentenced Trivedi to a six-month term of imprisonment and a fine of INR 25,000 (USD 535).

The IFJ is informed that Trivedi had, even before the formal institution of charges against him, apologised unconditionally in the columns of Mid-day, and retracted all the observations made.

“The IFJ recognises that affirmative action was introduced for the benefit of people and communities disadvantaged by historical circumstances, and is a part of the settled political consensus in India,” IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park said.

“We are also supportive of the special legislation introduced by the Indian government to curb atrocities – in both word and deed – against these communities.”

The IFJ however, is unsure about the wisdom of sentencing a columnist to a six-month term of imprisonment for remarks that he has apologised for. In normal circumstances, the right of reply granted unconditionally to any individual or community that may have reason to feel aggrieved by a published opinion, would be considered fair compensation. If that is deemed insufficient, then an apology by the author of the offending piece would be called for, accompanied by a full retraction of his opinion.

“These procedures appear to have been followed by Mid-day, despite which the columnist has earned a prison term”, Ms Park said.

“The IFJ supports public debate in India on the norms that should be applied in matters involving the sensitivities of particular communities. Free speech cannot be construed as the right to cause offence. Yet there should be sufficient safeguards to allow for expressions of opinion that would contribute to the public dialogue on important issues of policy”.

Trivedi has been granted bail by the Mumbai trial court, pending appeal.

*Posted on www.scoop.co.nz

Ajmal against work permit to ‘illegal migrants’ in Assam

Posted January 18, 2011 By Anjuman Ara Begum

Guwahati: Badruddin Ajmal, Member of Parliament from Dhubri Lok Sabha constituency in Assam and President of Assam United Democratic Front, has opposed the idea of work permit to ‘illegal migrants’ in the state, saying job should be given to unemployed citizens of the country first.

Speaking on the political perspective of Muslims in Assam at a conference on “Muslims in Assam: Challenges and Opportunities” here on 17th January, perfume baron Ajmal said the idea of granting work permit to the ‘illegal immigrants’ is a BJP agenda and his party AUDF is against it.

“There are 20-25 lakh unemployed youths in our state and we need to provide work to them. Why should we employ citizens of other countries by providing them work permit? Bangladeshis must be detected and deported. Work permit is not the solution,” said Ajmal at the second day of 2-day conference organized by city-based Centre for Peace and Development at hotel Gateway Grandeur, Guwahati. The conference was attended by eminent scholars, activists and prominent citizens.

In his speech, Ajmal pointed out several factors detrimental for the development of the Muslims in Assam. He said, “A country cannot progress without the progress of this percentage of Muslims. Today Muslims in India are the second largest Muslim population in the world after Indonesia. Assam has about 30% Muslim population. Sachar Committee has recommended for affirmative action for the minority communities in India. In Assam, Muslim population remains sufferer on the issues of citizenship, displacement, erosion of river basins and many other issues.”

Citizenship is the biggest issue in the state. Bengali speaking Muslims have to pay a heavy price for that in the form of Nellie massacre. No enquiry and no compensation took place in that case. Recently similar incidents were repeated like the police firing in Barpeta and Rongia and the question of justice and compensation is again denied. Devastation by river Brahmaputra in the form of erosion of the river basin has displaced thousands mainly Muslim population. Misery of this displaced population is never accounted for but it remained a major issue for the Muslims living at the river basins. People are living in slums and as street dwellers. This is also a major issue. Many people are displaced due to natural calamities.

With facts and figures, he pointed out that discriminatory attitudes by the administration towards the Muslims in employment remained a major concern.

In 2010, 319 people were recruited in the state secretariat – only 6% of them were Muslim. Out of 25 DSPs (Deputy Superintendent of Police) recruited, only 2 were Muslims. Of 142 typists recruited, Muslims were only 11. In health sector, out of 33 surveillance officers recruited in Dhubri district, a Muslim majority district, but only 2 are Muslims. In Sivsagar district sericulture department out of 173 posts, the Muslim percentage is nil. He said that out of 90 minority concentrated districts in India, 13 districts are in Assam and 60% of Muslims in rural Assam is below poverty level. Muslim literacy rate in Assam is 48% and Muslim female literacy rate is only 38%.

In a brief interaction with the audience after his speech, Ajmal said that Muslim politicians of all parties from Assam have utterly failed to raise in the Parliament the challenges faced by the minority community in the state.

He also expressed unhappiness on the fact that till today there had not been any inquiry by the Government in the massacre at Nellie that took place in 1983. He expressed his concerns regarding the implementation of the Prime Minister’s schemes for welfare of the minorities under 15-Point Programme. He also said that the absence of strong Muslim political leaders proved disadvantageous for the upliftment of the community.

*Posted on www.twocircles.net

A corporate mission to accommodate difference

Posted on January 12, 2011 By Anindita Mitra

Difference. It’s a loaded word. Some people shy of it, some people welcome it, some go out of their way to seek it out. Then there are some who live with it.

While the 2011 census will reveal better statistics, it is estimated that there are over 70 million persons with disability in India and only a negligible percentage of that populace are gainfully employed. Surprisingly enough, it is the corporate world, never mind the popular imagery of regulation suits, conventional haircuts and even more conventional personas, that’s stepping up to the duty of including persons with disability in their workforce. They are also ensuring that the workplace is inclusive of and accessible to persons with disability.

Wipro, for instance, has a very pro-active policy on this. The initiative started years ago when it became apparent that a growing number of employees had pre-existing challenges or met with less fortunate circumstances.

“Two years ago, we established a framework to provide an environment of opportunities. We involved consultants and complied with the UN guidelines to provide for an accessible workplace. Simple changes like wheel-chair accessible ramps, widened restroom doors, handrails on both sides of staircases made a huge change. Our team of auditors surveyed the Wipro office buildings to see where and how changes could be made and for new buildings we developed a building code based on the UN guidelines,” says Isaac George, general manager and head of human resources for Wipro Infotech.

The work processes were also made more accessible by Wipro. As George goes on to explain, “we implemented the guidelines for web content accessibility and provided software for screen reading. We changed all employee applications so that they were accessible and brought in assistivetechnology aids as well.”

But what is most significant is that Wipro does not label. “We do not earmark a handful of jobs for persons with disability. That would be a kind of discrimination. We have a sensitisingprogramme that is mandatory for all employees to clear and our interviewers are trained on this as well. We have the job roles precisely described and it is up to a person to decide whether they want to take it up. Some of our differently-abled employees are in HR, in business development, in consulting, administration, training and software development. There are no boundaries set at Wipro.”

SAP Labs India too follows that philosophy. They feel that deliberate inclusion just to pay lip service to the idea of diversity is degrading. The emphasis is on providing equal opportunity and affirmative action to ensure accessibility. Ferose VR, managing director, SAP Labs India clarifies further on this: “As an equal opportunity employer, SAP Labs has a long-standing policy of nondiscrimination in all aspects of its dealings with people, as such we provide equal opportunity to persons with disability. SAP takes affirmative action to ensure that all of its employees enjoy equal access to opportunities and work in an atmosphere free from unlawful discrimination. Our facilities are user friendly and accessible to individuals with disabilities. We have wheel chairs and helpers on call, provide reserved parking, make lunch and beverages available to them at their desk and customise equipment and devices to suit their needs.”

SAP Labs has been committed to the cause of ensuring accessibility for all SAP products so as to ensure that they can be used just as effectively by differently-abled people. SAP Labs also allow for flexitime and Ferose specifies: “Our policies and procedures are customised depending on specific needs, and every employee has the option of part-time or modified work schedules.”

MPhasis is also making great strides. Apart from working with a stringent set of disability guidelines that extend to all work areas, including employee sensitising, recruitment, workplace and work processes accessibility. “We also partner with Enable India in Bangalore and other non-profits across India to be more inclusive. Our Project Communicate with Enable India trains youths with disabilities in the skills required by the IT industry,” says Minoo Bambani, head of corporate social responsibility at Mphasis.

Romesh Wadhwani, Chairman, CEO and founder of Symphony Technology Group, had launched the non-profit Wadhwani Foundation in 2000. It has an agenda of corporate placement for persons with disability. C Mahalingam, executive vice president and chief people officer, Symphony Services, says that some of Symphony’s differently-abled employees have been hired under the guidance of Dr Ajay Kela, president and CEO of Wadhwani Foundation. As

Dr Kela points out, given the social environment in India, it is difficult for a differently-abled person to pursue education and skill-based training. “It has to be made apparent to the corporates that a qualified person with a disability has more tenacity, can handle more challenges and has a tougher, can-do attitude. It makes sense to have such an employee on board,” he says. “Our goal, over the next five years is to train and place at least 1,00,000 skilled persons with disability in the corporate world. By then, we hope, corporates will recognise the business value proposition in such hirings and recruit on their own.”

Going by the current trend, it seems that it is perhaps not such an impossible dream.

*Posted on www.dnaindia.com

Backward sections lead MSME march in UP

Posted on January 12, 2011 By Virendra Singh Rawat

The Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) sector is contributing handsomely not only to the industrial growth of the country, but is also playing a vital role towards an egalitarian economy.

In Uttar Pradesh, home to 3.1 million MSMEs, both in the manufacturing and services sectors, an overwhelming percentage of units are owned by the so-called oppressed sections of the society.

Collectively, MSME sector contributes almost 60 per cent to the state’s industrial output and provides employment to over five million people. The state accounts for about 12 per cent of the MSME space in India.

According to the last 4th All-India Census of the sector conducted by the union MSME ministry, over 62 per cent of the MSME units in Uttar Pradesh were being run by entrepreneurs belonging to the scheduled caste (SC), scheduled tribe (ST) and other backward classes (OBC) categories.

In number terms, the total units run by those belonging to the three categories totaled to about two million. The rest of the units were run by ‘others’ and ‘societies’ according to the survey results.

On pan-India basis, about 51 per cent or 12.5 million MSME units were run by SC/ST/OBC category entrepreneurs, which clearly shows they have taken the lead in entrepreneurship vis-à-vis their counterparts in other states.

Rural enterprises account for over half of the MSME units in the state, which highlight the significance of the sector in ensuring equitable distribution of employment opportunities, resources and wealth.

In consolidated terms, Uttar Pradesh had over 3.1 million MSMEs, including 7,60,000 and 2.34 million units in the manufacturing and services sector, respectively.

Proprietorship accounted for over 95 per cent of the ownership pattern, while partnership, private company, public limited company and cooperatives account for less than one per cent each. However, the number of registered units pale in comparison to unregistered units account for 1,90,000 and 2.9 million units respectively.

Major MSME pockets in the state include Varanasi, Allahabad, Moradabad, Saharanpur, Lucknow, Kanpur, Agra, Ferozabad, Meerut, Bhadohi, Ghaziabad, Noida, Bareilly, Gorakhpur, Khurja, Aligarh and Mathura.

These are product specific hubs viz. Varanasi is famous for banarasi sari, Agra and Kanpur for leather, Bhadohi for carpets, Moradabad for brassware, Lucknow for chikan and Aligarh for locks.

Clearly, the sector is positive for the affirmative action-oriented New Economic Policy of the Mayawati government encompassing equal opportunities for the oppressed sections.

*Posted on www.business-standard.com

Dispensation Of Justice And Conceptualization Of The Ethics Of Equality To The Empowerment Of Women

January 6, 2011

by Dr. (Mrs.) Priyadarshni M. Gangte The lofty height of idealism on “Equality” as enshrined in the preamble to the constitution of India is a manifestation of anti climax of inequality which has been in the existence in the traditional Indian society. Equality being the cardinal value of the constitution of India as against the backgrounds of elaborates valued and clearly perceived inequalities to secure justice, social, economic, and political to all its citizen has to be premises.

Obviously the constitution uses the word equality, the concept of the same are varied. According to Aristotle justice is equality. He conceives equality as a measure between two extremes – an equidistance (H.A. Bedau (ed) : Justice and Equality, (1971) London; p.18). However, Rawls (John Rawls : A Theory of Justice, 1973, London; p.60) theory of justice consists of the following principles:

First : Each person is to have an equal right to the most extensive basic liberty compatible with a similar liberty for others, and Second : Social, economic inequalities are to be arranged so that they are both (a) reasonably expected to be everyone advantage, and (b) attached to position and offices open to all.

In this connection, it is pertinent to elaborate what is conceived by Marxist theory on Women’s Oppression and Emancipation : Engels was the first Marxist to make a significant analysis of the oppression women in The Origin Of The Family, Private Property And The State. He examined family structures in different societies in different eras. He traced a historical transition from matriarchal to patriarchal family forms and identified the monogamous family as intrinsic to capitalism. He showed that the family, monogamy and women’s oppression are not natural, and had nothing with evolution but were specifically intended to control the ownership of private property through the protection of heirs. He thus saw the family as the institutionalized subjugation of women by men for the purpose of entrenching and perpetuating the capitalist system. Overthrow of mother’s right on which earlier societies were based laid the foundations for women’s subjugation, private property, monogamous marriage and patrilineal inheritance. “The first class opposition that appears in history coincides the development of the antagonism between man and woman in monogamous marriage, and the same coincides with the female sex by the male” (Engels, 1972 : 129). Now, let us examine some of the constitutional provisions sanctioning affirmative action to uplift women.

(i) Art. 14 : The State shall not deny to any person equality before law on equal protection of laws within the territory of India. (ii) Art.15(i) : The state shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, races, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them.

(iii) Art.15(3): Nothing in this article prevent the state from making any special provision for women and children. (iv) Art. 16: Provides equality of opportunity for all citizens in matter relating to employment or appointment to any office of state. (v) Art. 39: Provides that women have the right to adequate means of livelihood and should be equal work with equal pay. (vi) Art. 51: It shall be duty of every citizen of India to promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood amongst all the people of India transcending religious, linguistic and regional or sectional diversities to renounce practices derogatory to the dignity of women. In implementation of the constitutional directives of equality of the sexes (Art. 39) and prohibition of discrimination against women (Art.15), Parliament in 1976 enacted the Equal Remuneous Act, 1976 prescribing for both sexes. Apart from this, clause (3) of Art 15 which permits special provision for women and children, has been widely resorted to and the courts have upheld the validity of special measures in legislation or executive orders favouring women. In particular, provisions in criminal law in favour of women, or in the procedural law discriminating in favour of women, have been upheld in Girdhar Vs State, A.I.R., 1953, M.B.: 147 (S.354, Indian Penal Code). Similarly, provisions providing for reservation of seats for women in local bodies or in educational institution are valid (P.M.Bakshi : The Constitution of India, 1995, Universal Book Traders, 80 Gokhale Market, Opp. Tishazari Courts, Delhi-54; p.22).

There is also improvement in law relating to rape case after Mathura rape case and also to abortion. In regard to maintenance, deserted women are questioned on the ground that it discriminates in favour of women and violates Art 15 and Art 15(2). It is said that a deserted husband should be awarded maintenance. As a result of various amendments in Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, 12 grounds of divorce are available of which two of the same meant to specifically to income. Hindu Succession Act 1956 envisages powers to women to inherit property. Again in order to curb the evil of dowry, the Dowry Prohibition Act 1984 was passed.

In few years, India has witnessed extensive and intensive developments in sphere of awareness of women towards their rights given in law. One contributing factor is education; of course, it helps a lot in the developmental process of women’s emancipation. The Union and State Governments have launched a few projects in the five years to improve the quality of lives of poor women in rural and urban areas and also the female children. The Mahila Samridhi Yojna (MSY) was launched by the Government in 1993, under the auspices of the Department of Women And Child Development, through the network of Post Office. Likewise the Rashtriya Mahila Kosh (RMK) plays a vital role, therefore, is national credit giving emphasis and concerns with the rural and urban women a joint venture by Non-Governmental Organisation and Self Help Groups. As an instance to cite towards the end of 1994, the Haryana State initiated a scheme to protect the girl child that Rs.2500/- (Rupees two thousand and five hundred) is invested in the name of a new born girl child, so when the child attains the age of 18, it will yield Rs.25,000. Besides, free education for girls in schools upto 10+2 level is also state government’s manifestation for upliftment of women.

Moreover, we have a programme for skill training and employment (STEP) for women initiated in 1985, based on integrated approach where inputs for skill and employment are combined with sensitization of women in the fields of health, education, family planning, non-formal education and awareness of legal rights (Mira Seth : Women And Development, Sage Publications, N. Delhi, Thousand Oaks London, 2001; p.83).

As a constitutional development, we have the Hindu Succession Act, 1956, of course, measures envisaged as to Right to Property by women though women’s position is not parable with that of men, is in fact a stepping stone to higher status. Hence the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 has also brought about radical changes in the pre-existing law and removed some gross inequalities. The Manipur Property Right, 2005, is also a landmark development in the history of Manipur in the legal perspective. However, its discourse to materialization is yet to be observed. Thus social change takes place gradually. Finally Hindu women can inherit property i.e. ancestral property. Now the Meitei women also enjoy both the ancestral as well as matrimonial properties. Women, of course, need to assert for themselves so also to fight for their rights tooth and nail (P.M. Gangte : Peace and Women, presented at the Workshop on Peace Education Among the Muslim Women, Organised by the Peace Education Centre, Manipur, Manipur University, Canchipur, Imphal at Lilong Haoreibi College on 20 Nov., 2007). Apart from this, television comedy producer-cum actor Jaspal Bhatia (Hindustan Times, 8th March, 2005) elegantly said in a seminar that majority of atrocities on women are committed by women. Instances are galore: the mother in-law on sister-in-law may in sometimes join in the torment of inflected domestic violence against a woman in her matrimonial home, and even act as accomplices in torture leading her to death. There are even cases where unmarried women have killed their own sister-in-law, contended Mukhul (Mukhul Mukherjee : Domestic Violence : The Crime Behind Closed Doors And The Role of Law Enforcement Agencies, 2001, Institute of Social Sciences, Delhi-70; p.4). Most of the women, including the educated women have looked upon the opposite sex always on to the superiority attitude inside and outside home. In this connection, it is pertinent to bring the comments made by the Malawi Mother known as Mama Joyce; “in India an educated lady cannot speak out against any male in front of whom is the fooliest” (Joyce Ng’ma, aged 53, Coordinator, Malawi Sub-Division, Africa of Global Staff U.R.I., Box 5038, Limbe, Malawi at the United Religions Initiatives, Global Assembly, held at Iskcon, Mayapur, West Bengal, India, on 30th Nov. to 5th Dec., 2008) while in the Group Discussion of Empowerment of Women to bring a Big Idea). However, if the individual educated man or woman realizes his or her own dignity, he or she would be willing to grant at least a part of what it is due to other.

However, the report of the committee on the status of Women candidly and altruistically brings out the aspect of reverse discrimination. Rejecting the suggestion for the reservation of jobs in favour of women, the committee noted the reservations when once granted are hard to withdraw later (Towards Equality : Reports of the Committee on the Status of Women, 304 (1974). Baxi has said that Indian constitution is based on patriarchal system is absolutely true because there was no woman while the constitution was drawn. (Upendra Baxi, the former Dean of Law Faculty, Delhi University and former Vice Chancellor of Delhi University, while delivering the Key Note address at the Seminar. Women Empowerment in India, organized by Delhi University, Delhi at Law Faculty on 15.4.1994).

Another landmark development to foster the upliftment of women is the 73rd Amendment in December, 1992, of the Constitution, provided for the reservation of 33% of seat reservation for women apart from those for the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes in Panchayats. Let us examine how this democratic institution has changed the political governance in the country in general so also in the state like Manipur in particular. The number of women whom the PRI (Panchayati Raj Institution) have brought into politics is governing be it in one village or a larger area such as a district is considerably different. The percentage of women at various levels of political activity has shifted dramatically, from 4-5 percent before the introduction of the Panchayati Raj to 25-40 percent since (Sujata D. Hazarika : Democracy and Leadership: The Gendered Voice in Politics, Vol.57, Number 3, September – December 2008, Indian Sociological Society, Delhi; p.362). The recruitment of woman in the army is one of the impacts of the 73rd amendment 1992 to the Constitution of India, so gender sensitiveness effort are on throughout the country in various stages in institution like police. Again the 74th Amendment (1993) to the Constitution of India has also provided for reservation of seats in local bodies of Municipalities for women, laying a strong foundation for their participation in decision making process. These democratic institutions have for the first time attempted to bring women into a system of governance upholding the principle of equality and justice.

The disconcerting aspect of the problem is that higher education and economic stability of young men in case of dowry and women in case of bride-price instead of serving to reduce the problem, aggravates it. The educated sections unashamedly contribute to it by demanding higher amounts or costly articles as dowries in the case of dowry. Available evidence suggests that the practice has spread to other religious groups like the Christians and Muslims (B. Shivaramayya : Inequality And Women, 1984, Eastern Book Company; p.66).

Moreover, manifestation of women empowerment, women have to aware of themselves, for they not fall into the ditch of problem i.e. letting themselves as the preys of male. Though, women empowerment emphasizes to avoid conflicts, with or without it, a girl, a wife, mother or grandmother or daughter-in-law or mother-in-law, might become a peace educator or activist i.e. the very idea of human society presupposes order, has been contended by Kuppuswamy (B. Kuppuswamy: Social change in India, 1979, Vikas Publishing House Pvt. Ltd. U/O.(India); p.15) i.e. social order and that refers to the existence of restraint the inhibition of impulse, or move specifically to the control in social life. Kipgen (Tongkhothang Kipgen, aged 65 years, Retd Director, Horticulture Department, Govt. of Manipur and General Secretary, Sadar Hills Chief Association, New Lambulane, Imphal, Manipur) has contended that mankind is yet to realize the fundamental aspect of attaining peace within himself and to the surrounding space he conquered. Thus espousing equality amongst his peers or non inhabitant especially to women is pre-requisite to actualize peace within himself and gain mutual respect and trust as a subsequent effect… ………… only than mankind will be able to fulfill his desire. However, according to the United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against women adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 20 December, 1993 : The term ‘violence against women’ means any act of gender based violence that results in or is likely in physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life. Gender based violence refers to violence directed toward woman because she is a woman or which affects a woman disproportionately.

Thus, the World Conference at Vienna had condemned gender based violence as well as all other forms of sexual harassment and exploitation. The conference concluded that, ‘the human rights of women and girls are unalienable, integral and indivisible part of universal Human Rights. The Vienna Declaration for the first time thus recognised that gender based violence against women in public and private life has human rights concerns.

However, in this prevailing atmosphere it is not only the women in Third World countries who are subjected to rapes and molestations, even countries like U.K., U.S.A. and others, the number of rape crimes are increasing day by day. In this regard, a new ICM opinion poll commissioned by Amnesty International published recently is expected to go deep into the root cause of increasing crime against women. According to the opinion poll, a quarter (23%) of people in Wales and South-Wales behave that a woman is partially or totally responsible for being raped if she has behaved in a flirtatious manner. The poll ‘Sexual Assault Research’ published as part of Amnesty Internationals ‘Stop Violence Against Women’ campaign shows that similar “blame culture” attitude exist over clothing, drinking perceived promiscuity personal safety and whether a woman has clearly said “no” to the man (Amnesty International: Women also to be blamed for rapes – The Imphal Free Press; 30-9-2006). Let the violence of such not been institutionalized, education must be used as a weapon to eradicate; and to change in attitude, behaviour and habit, henceforth women should not be landed in problems like crime against them involving by themselves. Domestic violence and its legal ethics are apparently shown in the discourses where Mukul (Mukul Mukherjee, Op. cit; p.23) has personally taken up. Section 498A was introduced into the Indian Penal Code in 1983, it treats domestic violence as a serious, cognizable non-bailable criminal office punishable with imprisonment for a term of three years or five. For the purpose of this Section, ‘cruelty’ means – any willful conduct which is of such a nature as is likely to drive the woman to commit suicide or to cause injury or danger to life and limb or health (whether mental or physical). Section 304 B was also added to the Indian Penal Code in 1986, making punishable violence leading to ‘dowry death’ that is murder or suicide of women related to dowry demands. At the same time, the Indian Evidence Act was also amended, shifting the burden of proof for such deaths on the accused which meant that unlike other cases, the husband and his family would be presumed guilty unless proved innocent (ibid) Section 113A of the India Evidence Act: Presumption as to abetment of suicide by a married woman; and Section 113B of the Indian Evidence Act : Presumption as to dowry death are some of the notable laws.

We have Mathura Rape Case – sexual assault, IPC- 376 is inserted by the amendment of 1983, 386A, 386D are also added. Section 386A – new office is created as sexual intercourse with judicially separated wife with out her consent; is considered as an offence punishable with 2(two) year imprisonment and five. Custodial Sexual Intercourse – IPC 376 B, 376C, and 376D deal with sexual intercourse committed by custodial authorities against women in their custody, punishment with custodial rape five years imprisonment. Moreover, we need to create proprietary entitlement for women, all matrimonial property should be registered in the joint names of husband and wife, perhaps, it is not done so, the wife should have the right to ask injunction until the matter is solved if the marriage breaks down. Besides, parents should not be prevented from denying daughter their rightful share of property. And the right of wife to matrimonial homes also be guaranteed.

In 2001 the Government of India introduced in Parliament the protection from Domestic Violence Bill which came into force in 2005. It envisages that any conduct of the respondent shall constitute domestic violence if, he (a) Habitually assaults or makes life of the aggrieved person miserable by cruelty of conduct even if such conduct does not amount of physical ill-treatment; or (b) Forces the aggrieved person to lead an immoral life; or (c) Otherwise injuries or harms the aggrieved person. Singh (M.P. Singh, Jurisprudential Foundations of Affirmative Action: Some Aspects of Equality and Social Justice, Delhi Law Review, 1983-84; p.42) contended Justice is generally divided into legal and social justice, legal justice concerns the punishment of wrong doing and the compensation of injury through the creation and enforcement of a public set of rules, whereas, social justice requires equitable or just distribution of the social goods and evils or burdens and benefits. While distinguishing social justice from legal justice Miller says : Social justice concerns the distribution of benefits and burden throughout a society, as it results from major social institution, property system, public organisation, etc. (D. Miller : Social Justice, 1976; p.22).

I would like to lay certain methods of empowerment through complement of rights or powers to be empowered : (i) by creating penal sanction against certain types of behaviour that violates the dignity or liberty of woman; (ii) by creating new propriety entitlement for women such as giving a share in the matrimonial property or assuring them a right to work on equal wages (Art. 42 – Equal pay for equal work); (iii) by providing preferential treatment to women or providing for compensatory discrimination in their favour by receiving jobs, or seats in local self government institution, and (iv) by facilitating the exercise of liberty or freedom by such person. Whatever said and done, mass education is essential for women empowerment. In Manipur social change is needed, the trend of present society, mindset of mass cannot be conscious, economic, social and political consciousness through education is certainly increased. Women solely cannot bring the same, it needs male’s support heart and soul. Besides Bhattacharya (P. Krishnaprasad (ed) : Women And Society, Student Struggle, Vol.31, Issue No.2. February 2002 SFI-II, Windsor Place, New Delhi 1; p.5) has contended that education for women in India today requires be no different from the education that we envisage for all citizens. The specific constraints that prevent women’s access to education and reduce the possibility of their completing it have to be counteracted, however, opportunities have to be provided to enable them to of those who have been traditionally excluded from. The syllabus and curriculum in schools have to register the presence of women in society and also to break feminine stereotypes through texts.

In Manipur context, women can be categorized into three groups- (i) educated and employed; (ii) educated and unemployed; and (iii) uneducated group i.e. illiterate. The last group comprises the largest number, come out openly fighting against the social issues. These social activists, became very vocal, can reach to the extremes of any social dimensions, however, they are not working and fighting for themselves but for others particularly the male gentry. These illiterate women participated in the field are not able even to read and understand properly what actually is written and the meaning thereof on the banner in the eventuality like, to remove AFSPA, of course, our society has a meager number of educated women intellectual, accustomed to stay back from such activity i.e. within the four walls of home. Obviously, women empowerment will be a distant dream, maintained by Chinglen Maisnam, Economics Department, Manipur University, (interviewed on 25.2.2009.)

It will be interesting to note and examine what Jean (Jean P. Sasson, Princess, 1992, Doubleday Transworld Publishers Ltd., Berks, U.K. ; p.163) has asserted :

Only we modern educated women could change the course of women’s lives. It was in our power within our wombs. I looked to my wedding date determined anticipation. I would be the first of Saudi women to reform her inner circle. It would my sons and daughters who would remodel Arabia into a country worthy of all its citizens, both male and female. Hence, Saudi women are of course, have changed to certain extent, now they have become education director and minister. Here Princess is a book depicting all the social problems faced by Saudi females. Princess Sultana (name changed) one of royal Fahd princess, collected her own diaries whatever she experienced since her childhood till she become a mother. The book points out the discriminations and the injustices faced by females in a very orthodox and conservative society in Saudi Arabia.

It is also necessary to strengthen women’s sense of common identity by articulating the elements of feminist consciousness and presenting it as the special quality of women leadership (Indian Sociological Society, ibid; p.361) e.g. the Meira Paibis of Manipur have played a very important role as peacemakers not just between families, clans, and tribes but underground insurgents and government of India.

However, in the tribal areas, we find two sets of democratic institutions at work a modern democratic and traditional systems. The traditional systems never recognised the rights of women as primary decision-makers in matters of community issue like inter-ethnic conflicts crisis management, social sanctions, etc. Thus, Sujata (Ibid) has maintained traditional institutions and customary laws prevalent among tribal people, though portray an egalitarian socio-economic structure, is discriminatory when it comes to women rights in traditional governance and customary law. Womenfolk in this society have yet a long way of struggle to go to achieve desired goal of upliftment and empowerment. Moreover, when we deeply look at the status of Meitei women we feel that though liberated and omnipotent the Meitei women still need social security and more human treatment at the hands of the male partners (P.M. Gangte : Customary Laws of Meitei And Mizo Societies, Akansha Publishing House, N.Delhi-2, 2008; p.337).

Irene (Irene Salam, Department of History, Manipur University, interviewed on 11.3.2009) maintained that with the advent of globalisation much awareness has been created on the subject of women’s empowerment. Although this exist only on theory than in practice, some progress has been made on the ground level for instance in the sphere of economy. Women have been providing with technical and vocational training in diverse which have enabled them to pursue a sustainable livelihood. By becoming income earner they have contributed to the family kitty and thereby ensure a rise in the standard of living. In the social sphere although always held a high position, they have now become a voceriferous in asserting their needs and status. In the relative sphere women have become more active and not contend to just serve and remained in the background but would also like to be represented in the role of preachers and theologians. This is specifically applicable to the tribal community in Manipur because in the Meitei community the Maibis occupy a premier position in the performance of ritual associated with indigenous religion. Awareness of rise although on the rise has not been translated into practice mainly because women feel afraid to approach the law courts where justice is often delayed.

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