Monday, June 22, 2015

मैं क्या जानूँ रोज़ा है, या मेरा रोज़ा टूट गया / मुनव्वर राना

समझौतों की भीड़-भाड़ में, सबसे रिश्ता टूट गया
इतने घुटने टेके हमने, आख़िर घुटना टूट गया

देख शिकारी तेरे कारण, एक परिन्दा टूट गया,
पत्थर का तो कुछ नहीं बिगड़ा, लेकिन शीशा टूट गया

घर का बोझ उठाने वाले, बचपन की तक़दीर न पूछ
बच्चा घर से काम पे निकला, और खिलौना टूट गया

किसको फ़ुर्सत इस दुनिया में, ग़म की कहानी पढ़ने की
सूनी कलाई देख के लेकिन, चूड़ी वाला टूट गया

ये मंज़र भी देखे हमने, इस दुनिया के मेले में
टूटा-फूटा नाच रहा है, अच्छा ख़ासा टूट गया

पेट की ख़ातिर फ़ुटपाथों पर बेच रहा हूँ तस्वीरें
मैं क्या जानूँ रोज़ा है, या मेरा रोज़ा टूट गया

मुनव्वर राना

A repeat of Emergency?

L K Advani's comments on the chances of the country having to re-live the nightmare of Indira Gandhi's rule of 1975-77 have been viewed in the immediate political context, sparking speculation on whether they were intended as a comment on the prime minister. Mr Advani has clarified that such was not his intent, although he has made some other barbed comments that are more obviously a comment on Narendra Modi. But who Mr Advani's target may or may not be is merely the stuff of everyday politics; what is important is the substance of his comment, and the systemic question of whether the hijacking of the Constitution that happened during 1975-77 is possible in contemporary India.

In important ways, a repeat of that nightmare of 40 years ago - brought to life most recently by Coomi Kapoor's book on that period - is unlikely for the simple reason that one person and one party do not dominate the political landscape the way and the did in the 1970s. She had a two-thirds majority in Parliament and control of almost all state governments. Today, the has a bare majority in the and none in the Rajya Sabha. A two-thirds majority for a ruling combine in the is unlikely in most scenarios for the future. No one party can, therefore, ram through controversial legislation, let alone any amendment to the Constitution.

Second, no one party controls all state governments; the two leading national parties and a variety of state parties do that. Therefore, arresting all and sundry and gagging the media is not possible in the manner done in June 1975 (since police is a state subject). A putative dictator could, of course, dismiss all inconvenient state governments, but the Supreme Court has struck down such arbitrary action in the past. Meanwhile, the birth of the internet and the popularity of social media make complete clampdown on information flow next to impossible - without which a dictatorship would find it hard to control events. Finally, the Supreme Court had been packed in the - three judges were superseded to select a pliant chief justice. A repeat exercise is inconceivable when formal processes are being set in place for the selection of judges. None of this makes a repeat Emergency impossible; what it does is more or less rule it out for the foreseeable future.

Other institutional safeguards may be less than effective, like the and the Press Council. The mainstream press has made its compromises for a variety of reasons, but the secondary press (especially in the digital space) is a growing force. Civil society is stronger, too. The greatest weakness, though, lies in the culture of sycophancy that has spread in one-person or one-family dominant political parties, including at state level. Party bosses acting as though they are above the law is, therefore, not the rare event one would want it to be.

The question to ask, though, is whether you need an Emergency to impinge on human rights and civil liberties. The country may not have one-person or one-party rule, but the essence of a democracy has been getting diluted. Those with criminal histories are routinely nominated by the leading parties and elected to legislatures; can you really expect them to be great upholders of the law? Muslim representation in the Lok Sabha is at a multi-decade low, so its representativeness has suffered. The room for dissenting voices has shrunk, given the expanded definition of what is considered unacceptable in the worlds of the arts and literature. Corruption is not unknown in the lower courts. A journalist who took on a minister was burnt to death the other day. Non-governmental organisations are being squeezed on funding, and the home ministry has actually sought to take away the broadcasting rights of a large media organisation - fortunately, the attorney general has said this would be illegal. Women's freedoms are under attack from traditionalist male forces. The police force remains unreformed. There are many ways in which the institutional protection of civil liberties and fundamental freedoms can be buttressed. It is a task that awaits attention.

Swachh Bharat Abhiyan: Analysis

Swachh Bharat Abhiyan or the Clean India Mission as the name suggests aims to ensure holistic cleanliness in the country by the year 2019. However, the thrust of the mission is on ensuring access to toilets and proper sanitation to all the people. While launched with great fanfare, the mission has been facing challenges of implementation -
1. The focus of the sanitation component is completely infrastructure based i.e., on building toilets. It does not involve the community or plan in a holistic manner for ensuring 'ease of usage' to ensure continued use.
2. While promoting the mission, maximum publicity has been on cleanliness. Hence, an opportunity to publicise the more important sanitation component was lost.
3. While the vision is to have holistic cleanliness, the different components of the mission are being executed by different departments and ministries across the three levels of government. This coupled with the large scale corporate participation makes co-ordination a major challenge.
In order to tackle the problems faced, following steps can be taken -
1. While the expertise of the government lies in ensuring scale (or quantity), the NGOs and private sector partners can ensure quality. Hence, the programme must leverage the strengths of both sectors.
2. A decentralised approach must be followed based on the subsidiarity principle to ensure sustainable change.
3. Focus must be on changing behaviour and mindsets instead of creating infrastructure.
There have been many schemes, programmes and mission focusing on cleanliness and sanitation. To ensure that this mission be the last of any such scheme, the government must ensure that the focus remains on changing mindsets rather than creating infrastructure. Only then will be be able to achieve a 'Swach Bharat.'