OK, let ‘Dalit’ continue to be

OK, let ‘Dalit’ continue to be

The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting is only the messenger boy. The order to media to stop using ‘Dalit’ for people categorised as scheduled castes came from a high court. The British had coined ‘scheduled castes’ in 1935 to sum up a bunch of humankind born on the subcontinent and punished for breathing the same air the ‘higher humans’ inhaled.

The British summation actually highlighted the divisions percolating down to the lowest caste in the Hindu hierarchy. These are people, ironically, also branded ‘caste-less’. In short, the enlightened and liberal English, with the only thing fair about them their fair skin, were hardly of any help; but couldn’t have expected much from a nation of shopkeepers, anyway.

Do we have the right to call the Mahatma ‘divisive’? If Bapu was alive today, he would have been trolled endlessly for being just that. Gandhi sticks on in memory only because of his policy of ‘nonviolence’, a notion that stands defeated today. Anger is at the tip of every man’s nose these days and neither Jignesh Mevani nor a Brahmin loose will sit in peace and sort out fracas.

Gandhi’s ‘Harijan’ for the SC was patronising; who in Hades wanted to be Krishna’s people? Krishna reminded the Kshatriya his duty but left the Brahmin to his wiles, that was sentence enough for the ‘Harijan’. Gandhi’s ‘Harijan’ was not liberated. The term kept him tied to his lot in the Hindu hierarchy — a pretty pathetic lot, at that. Gandhi forgot that some people wanted emancipation in this life, not in the next.

Gandhi offered no solution. He was too focused on freeing India rather than in freeing a bunch of humanity from crap they were assigned to carry from birth. Getting thrown off a train should have taught a lesson, but that was racist. The closer to home reality of untouchables was given the miss. In the India of then, there were people whose very presence was seen as a curse, his shadow an insult. Blame it on the sun!

Coming to the here and now, who should have the right to name? The people who are being given a nomenclature themselves, a judge or a government? Clearly, those who are being saddled with a term, they have the first right to reject. And they have rejected every other term and chose ‘Dalit’. BR Ambedkar went for ‘broken man’ and ‘depressed classes’ for a time but those fell to ‘Dalit’ in the early 1970s.

The term Dalit, say many a Dalit, sums them up perfectly — a one-size-fits-all garb, neither cotton nor silk but chainmail! Fit accessory to the lance and the sword, the aggression that notes the so-called Scheduled Castes these days of the Mevani and Chandrashekhar — Bhima Koregaon! “Keep your SC to yourself, we will rather be Dalit,” is the overwhelming feeling and vote.

In a desert of divisions, Dalit is the big tent under which to strategise, to plan the annihilation of castes, not post a timeless schedule to group people in varied colours of defeat. ‘Dalit Pride’ sounds great, it lifts the spirit and if it gives ‘Hindutva’ the feeling that a new religion could be born, no big deal. Valmiki couldn’t have asked for more.

The “timing” of the court ruling and the government’s advisory has come in the wake of massive Dalit protests against the various atrocities committed on the Dalit and in the backdrop of the Supreme Court ruling “diluting” the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act.

In common parlance, ‘Dalit’ has gained ascendance. Now to say, to get fresh posters printed and new hoardings erected is a waste of money, time and effort, all of which are in short supply. Besides, the fight for equality in the eyes of man is centuries old and God is highly undependable, lacking the guts to show his face — his voice lost in the chant.

To sum up, ‘Dalit’ it will be and if the government has any objections, it can sue, go to court. Nothing much will be attained except court trouble. As for the media, who can stop journalists from picking a word from the dictionary — Oxford, Collins and Cambridge — and giving it its proper place in the sentence? The sentence is not to hang.

The writer is a freelance journalist. Views are personal.

Political Throwback! On April 2, 1984 Rakesh Sharma from space tells PM Indira Gandhi that India is ‘Saare jahan se achcha’; watch video

Political Throwback! On April 2, 1984 Rakesh Sharma from space tells PM Indira Gandhi that India is ‘Saare jahan se achcha’; watch video

The former PM of India Indira Gandhi is remembered for her heroic decisions which she took during her tenure as a Prime Minister. And under her government only India launched it’s first space mission with the help of Soviet Intercosmos space program on April 2, 1984. The trip was made Rakesh Sharma the first Indian in Space but the event is also remembered for a conversation from space that he had with then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

Sharma himself sent the entire country into a tizzy when, in reply to the prime minister’s query on how India looked from space, he quoted the poet Iqbal’s immortal lines, “Saare jahan se achcha.” (better than the whole world).’

He spent 7 days 21 hours and 40 minutes aboard the Salyut 7 orbital station. He carried with him portraits of Indira Gandhi, President Zail Singh, Defence Minister Venkataraman and some soil from Rajghat, where the mortal remains of Mahatma Gandhi are kept.


Sharma was accompanied on the mission by two Russian cosmonauts, and they had undergone 18 months of training for the journey. Their launch vehicle took off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in present-day Kazakhstan. In those eight days, the crew conducted more than 40 experiments connected with earth sciences, material sciences and bio medicine, including an earth observation programme focusing on India.

It has been more than three decades and no other Indian citizen has ever been to space. The Indian Space Research Organisation is making gradual progress with developing technologies that could take humans to space.

The BBC article on Sharma describes how Gandhi was pushing for an Indian in space before the 1984 general elections, and few months after the mission on October 31 Indira Gandhi was assassinated.

Kerala floods broke the religious barriers : people together are giving their best to help bring life back to normal

Kerala floods broke the religious barriers : people together are giving their best to help bring life back to normal

Trivandrum: Amidst the devastation due to floods in Kerala, instances of unity have come forward wherein people together are giving their best to help bring life back to normal.
One such example was seen at the Ayyappa Swamy Temple in Ernakulam’s Chendamangalam, where a group of people, from different communities, took the initiative to clean the devotional place, which was earlier submerged in water and was not in a state for devotees to enter.

Joseph, leader of the group told ANI that the team includes members from all communities and that they are working for humanity.

Image result for Kerala floods broke the religious barriers : people together are giving their best to help bring life back to normal

“We are going to all temples, churches and mosques around to clean them. We all have come together for the sake of humanity,” Joseph said.
Kerala was recently hit by the worst floods of nearly a century, which claimed lives of more than 400 people and caused damage to the tune of Rs. 20,000 crores.

However, the state is now coming back to normalcy as most of the schools and working places have opened. Teachers of the Chennamangalam Government Higher Secondary School told ANI that they have started calling parents of all the students and are requesting them to send their children to school. It is expected that by September 15 all schools will become functional properly.

Image result for Kerala floods broke the religious barriers : people together are giving their best to help bring life back to normal

While the time period between August and October is considered as the peak season for tourists in the state, this year Kerala is facing a big decline in the numbers, especially in popular places like Kochi, Alappuzha, Ernakulam and Idukki.

The Kerala Tourism Department has planned to rebuild the tourism sector in the state, said Nand Kumar KP, Joint Director, Department of Tourism, Earnakulam.

Besides the locals, people from across the country have come out in support of Kerala.

Addressing the Kerala legislative assembly on August 30, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan informed that Rs 738 crore has been deposited in the chief minister’s distress relief fund till August 28 for the rehabilitation of flood-affected people and reconstruction of damaged infrastructure.

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Meanwhile, students from a school in Latur’s Ahmadpur have handed over Rs 51,000 to Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis for Kerala flood relief. They had apparently collected the money by setting up a tea stall.


Fourth BIMSTEC Summit was concluded today at Nepal

Fourth BIMSTEC Summit was concluded today at Nepal

August 31, Raju Lama /

Fourth BIMSTEC Summit was concluded today at Nepal with 18 points declaration. Seven members states countries concluded BIMSTEC Summit with different agendas related with political, economical, social, cultural, infrastructure development, security and connectivity. Two days summit was concluded with the presence of head of state of seven countries India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Myanmar and Thailand. These countries agreed for further relationship between BIMSTEC countries people to people contact and infrastructure development. Nepal presided fourth Summit and submit key to Sri Lanka for 5th Summit. Head of State of BIMSTEC countries held their bilateral, trilateral and multilateral meetings inbetween them along with Summit. August 30 and 31 was two days to organise BIMSTEC Summit for Nepal. Next Summit will organising by Sri Lanka.


UP: Cops stop man from selling his child for pregnant wife’s treatment

UP: Cops stop man from selling his child for pregnant wife’s treatment

Kannauj: In a shocking incident, the Uttar Pradesh police stopped a man from selling his child for Rs 25,000 for his pregnant wife’s treatment.
Arvind Banjara, a resident of Barethi Darapur village in Kannauj, had admitted his seven-month pregnant wife Sukhdevi in District Hospital when she developed complications. Doctors apparently asked him to arrange blood for her treatment.

The couple has a four-year-old girl Roshni and one-year-old son Jaanu.

“In the district hospital, we were told to get blood for her. They told me that if she will not survive if blood is not arranged for her. I didn’t have money. So, I had no other option, but to sell my child,” Banjara told       ANI.

Data on childcare homes ‘frightening’, says SC

Data on childcare homes ‘frightening’, says SC

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday said it is “frightening” to read the data collected by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), according to which out of 2,874 children’s homes surveyed till now, only 54 have received “positive reviews”.
A bench of Justice Madan B. Lokur, Justice S. Abdul Nazeer and Justice Deepak Gupta also said that court is “helpless” since “if we do anything we will be accused of judicial activism”.

“What do we do? We are helpless… Apart from judicial activism, tell us what’s to be done,” asked the bench, while saying it has to face “criticism” for “judicial activism” if it makes any observation.

At the Independence Day celebration in the Supreme Court, Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had made certain statements about separation of powers between judiciary and the executive while maintaining that the governance should be left to the government and courts should not do it.

During the hearing, the bench asked advocate R. Bala Subramanian, appearing for the Centre, if he has seen the social audit report of NCPCR and whether it shocked him or not.

“Have you seen the report of NCPCR? It’s frightening. What are you doing about it?” asked the bench from Subramanium.

When the counsel told the court that the Centre has to rely on state government for data and there are six committees under Juvenile Justice Act to deal with offences related to children, the bench told him: “It’s very easy to blame someone else but difficult to take responsibility.”

The court had earlier proposed setting up national-level and state-level committees for better monitoring and oversight of these children’s homes.

But the Subramanian told the court that the existing mechanisms are adequate and that there is no need for one more committee and that strengthening of the existing institutions is required.

At this, Justice Lokur shot back saying: “Who will do that? Obviously we can’t do anything because if we do something, we will be accused of judicial activism.”

“If nothing is wrong or working, whose job is to make it right? They don’t want to do anything so what do we do? We are criticised for our activism,” Justice Lokur added.

Amicus curiae Aparna Bhat, assisting the court on issue relating to conditions on child care institutions in the country, asked him to “ignore the criticism”.
The bench then replied that it has been repeatedly being reminded about the “separation of powers recently”.

Taking the report of NCPCR on record, the bench asked why the social audit is not done by talking to children and remarked: “I don’t know what kind of social audit is this.”

As per the NCPCR latest data of child care institutes, out of 2874 children’s home studies till now, only 54 institutions have received positive reviews from all six committees.

Similarly, out of 185 shelter homes audited till now, only 19 institutions have all 14 records of a child that they are supposed to maintain.

With regard to Special Adoption Agencies, 203 have been audited and only eight have received positive reviews from the six committees, the data collected up to July 31, 2018 revealed.

The social audit by NCPCR will be completed by October, the report said.

The Joint Secretary of Women and Child Ministry, present in court, told the court that it could consider setting up of Central and state-level committee, as suggested by the bench.

The official said a letter has been issued to the Chief Secretaries of all the states and Union Territories to conduct inspection of all the childcare homes in states with the help of inspection committee and District Magistrate and the report will be submitted by September 15.

Thereafter, a meeting will be held on September 18 with all the states’ and Union Territories’ representatives.

The bench then sought the minutes of the meeting and posted the matter for hearing on September 20.

It also asked amicus to prepare the terms of reference for the proposed committee and asked all states to respond to it.

Earlier, the bench had said it wanted a committees be set up at the Central level and in each states and Union Territories. These can be headed by a retired apex court or high court judges to monitor the incidents that come to light such as the ones in Muzaffarpur in Bihar and Deoria in Uttar Pradesh.

The court is hearing a PIL filed on the basis of a 2007 newspaper report on sexual abuse of children in orphanages and childcare institutes.


Shut down Air India

Shut down Air India

Having botched the privatisation of the public carrier, Air India, the Government is now being called upon to bail it out yet again. Air India has asked for Rs 3,000 crores to tide over the latest financial crunch. Employees’ salaries, urgent bills, statutory commitments, etc, need to be met and AI has no money for these obligatory payments. But the finance ministry does not seem to be in a mood to oblige. And rightly so. How long can the taxpayers be expected to pay for the white elephant which refuses to improve its finances? It is true the UPA’s Praful Patel inflicted a huge financial and other damage on the airline, favouring certain private sector operators instead.

Yet, the Modi Government missed the opportunity to disinvest in this relic of the socialist age. With a number of private sector airlines freely competing, the need for a cost-heavy public carrier no longer existed. But false prestige prevented Modi from selling off this white elephant. And finally, when he did undertake to sell off AI, the half-hearted attempt failed. No private party would put up money if the Government was loath to shed controls. Vast assets of AI ought to be sold off to pay the urgent bills. An inordinately large work force cuts a huge hole in its finances, with more than 250 employees per aircraft against 50-60 in the private sector. The only option is to close down the airline and hive off its assets and to reduce its salary bill through a voluntary retirement scheme. There is no need to throw more good money after a failed and, shall we say, doomed project.

A futile debate on economic growth

A futile debate on economic growth

There is much to and fro between the ruling NDA and the opposition UPA over the GDP growth numbers. Both parties seem to claim a better management of the economy under them. A fresh debate was triggered by the revision of growth by a committee since the beginning of 2000 which reportedly was a fraction higher than previously estimated. The former finance minister P Chidambaram was quick to jump into the fray, patting himself on the back only to get a strong riposte from Finance Minister Arun Jaitely.

Whether the growth in the UPA years averaged 7.5 per cent or 7.6 per cent is of an academic interest, especially when the method of measuring it remains controversial. Indeed, GDP numbers of most countries, particularly China’s, are hugely suspect. As for India, GDP numbers barely reflect the true state of the economy. Given the size of the underground or parallel economy, the huge informal sector, largely unaccounted farm sector incomes, etc, it is hard to measure the true growth rate. Well-regarded economists believe the actual growth may be far higher than is reflected in the official numbers, though the sharp disparities tend to obscure the true picture. It is also true that the momentum for growth in the early 2000s was provided by the Vajpayee Government which undertook massive infrastructure works and opened up the telecom sector to private entrepreneurs.

The telecom sector has since become a huge growth generator, employing tens of thousands in the service industry and facilitating several other allied businesses. The UPA in its first couple of years gained from the momentum provided by the Vajpayee Government. This was reflected in the near double-digit growth in 2004-2005. Soon, the Manmohan Singh Government was derailed by the corruption scams and retrograde policies pushed by the allies. Though the UPA-II found itself paralysed by corruption scams, the big scams had occurred in the first term. The Modi Government inherited the huge problem of stressed assets of banks and overcapacity in certain sectors due to reckless lending by public institutions. The Government, however, was lucky in a benign crude oil market with the price of oil coming down from a high of well over $100 per barrel to $30-35 a barrel.

Modi, unlike Vajpayee, erred in not pushing for a major disinvestment programme or undertaking structural reforms. He applied himself to prevent theft of public funds and to set right government undertakings rather than privatising them. And he took a major risk in demonetisation, which shaved off at least 0.5 to one per cent of the GDP in 2008-09. The short point is that the record of both the Modi NDA and the UPA on the economy is not very remarkable. Both made huge mistakes. Yet, only some in the media and a few economists fuss over GDP numbers for these do not seem to make difference to the lives of a vast majority of the people. Decent growth sustained over a number of years alone can have a salutary trickle-down effect, improving lives of the poor and the underprivileged. Whether the UPA scored a fraction of a percentage more or less over the NDA’s growth rate is a wholly irrelevant exercise.

Rohingya mark ‘black day’ one year after Myanmar violence

Rohingya mark ‘black day’ one year after Myanmar violence

Cox’s Bazar (Bangladesh): Rohingya refugees today marked the anniversary of a deadly military crackdown in their Myanmar homeland that drove 700,000 of the persecuted minority into Bangladesh, stateless and confronting a grim future.

Raids by Rohingya militants on August 25 last year across Myanmar’s Rakhine state spurred an army crackdown which the United Nations has likened to “ethnic cleansing”. Waves of Rohingya fled by foot or boat to Bangladesh in an exodus unprecedented in speed and scale. Rohingya activists in Bangladesh’s refugee camps vowed to mark the “black day” with prayers, speeches and song. The latest influx has placed enormous pressure on Bangladesh’s impoverished Cox’s Bazar district, which quickly grew into the world’s largest refugee settlement. The squalid camps already hosted generations of Rohingya expelled from Rakhine and the latest arrivals pushed numbers close to one million.

Abdul Malek, a 27-year-old refugee who fled an attack on his village last year, said the plight of the Rohingya was far from over. “This one year is just the beginning of many more to follow,” he told AFP in a refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar. Buddhist-majority Myanmar says it is ready to take back those who fled. But it refuses to recognise the Rohingya as citizens, falsely labelling them “Bengali” illegal immigrants. A deal between Myanmar and Bangladesh to start sending them back has stalled. Fewer than 200 have been repatriated so far.

 Myanmar’s civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi this week said it was up to Bangladesh “to decide how quickly” repatriation can be done, while insisting the “terrorist threat” posed by Rohingya militants remains “real and present”. The Rohingya say they will not return without a guarantee of their safety, citizenship and compensation for homes and land torched. “We don’t want to (go) back without justice and without our rights and a proper guarantee that we won’t be driven out again,” 18-year-old Aman Ullah told AFP in Cox’s Bazar.

The Rohingya were stripped of their citizenship decades ago by Myanmar and have been hunted from the country in successive convulsions of violence. Access to healthcare and freedom of movement remains out of reach for the stateless people in Rakhine. And the Rohingya exodus from western Myanmar continues today, with refugees still trickling over the border throughout this year. The UN and international rights groups say conditions are not ready for them to go back. “It may be decades until they can safely return to Myanmar, if ever,” Medecins Sans Frontieres head of mission in Bangladesh, Pavlo Kolovos, said in a statement.

Calls have mounted for Myanmar’s military to be held responsible for the campaign, with security forces accused of torture, rape and murder. The US has sanctioned two army brigades and several commanders who oversaw the expulsion, in which thousands are estimated to have died. But Myanmar says it was simply defending itself and bristles at international calls for justice. Humanitarian agencies spearheading the relief effort in Bangladesh say just one third of the roughly USD 1 bn needed for the refugees until March has been raised.

A retrograde move

A retrograde move

Several years ago when the Sikh militancy was at its peak, a venerable editor in a popular newspaper began his column thus, “It is twelve o’clock in Punjab and unless something drastic is done to curb the madness…”or words to that effect. Even at that time, someone had filed a case against the editor and the newspaper for hurting the sentiments of the Sikhs, demanding severe punishment for them, but under the proposed changes in the IPC, the editor would have certainly stared at a long time in prison. Instead of junking such retrograde legal stipulations, considering what the Congress Government in Punjab now proposes to do, we might well be enacting our own version of the hated blasphemy law of Pakistan.

Instead of expanding the frontiers of individual freedom, we will be headed in the reverse direction if what the Amarinder Singh Government has proposed passes muster at the Centre. The move is to make sacrilege against the holy books of the major religions punishable with life imprisonment. In 2016, the Akali-BJP Government had passed a law aimed at those committing sacrilege against the Guru Granth Sahib. This had come in the wake of several incidents of tearing and burning of the holy books of the Sikhs in various parts of the State. The ISI was a suspect, which wanted to foment communal trouble. But the Bill then was approved by all parties in the Assembly. It returned by the President since it was a religion-specific. Now, the Amarinder Singh Government has proposed to cure the flaw, extending the protection to Sri Guru Granth Sahib, Srimad Bhadwad Gita, Holy Quran and Holy Bible. Anyone damaging these holy books will attract the proposed amendment to Section 295-AA of the IPC which seeks to criminalise “deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings”. The offence will be punishable by life imprisonment.

Aside from the very real threat of abuse of the proposed provision by unscrupulous elements, it will provide a handle to politicians and others in positions of power to harass and persecute their critics and even political rivals. Since the existing Section 295A already provides for a three-year jail sentence to anyone found to be committing sacrilege with the aim of causing public disorder and unrest, the proposed 295AA providing life imprisonment is excessive and open to gross abuse. Sacrilege is a loose, nay, vague term which means different things to different people, depending on their educational and cultural backgrounds. Its ever-present fear would constrict free speech and allow ruling politicians to threaten its invocation to silence critics. It will impose extreme sensitivity and restraint even in private in all matters relating to religion, its practice and traditions. The proposed move which panders to religious extremists must be abandoned forthwith.