April 27, 2006

Quotas - an idea whose time has gone

Youth power - resisting injustice

Voice of sanity and sense
Kapil Sibal

Making others cry -
Arjun Singh

Mr. Arjun Singh, a life-long practitioner of fake secularism has been lately seeing himself in the role of the self-styled messiah of the minorities and OBCs.

In his desperate attempt to remain in the limelight in the face of an ebbing and lackluster political career and with fear of being consigned to oblivion by his own party, he is trying to play base politics that may well result in ensuring that the country is never rid of caste and religion based thinking and in dividing up the 'generation next' of the country.

In pushing for reservations for OBCs in higher education that will have far reaching repercussions on the country in the years to come, he is trying to fool the people by claiming that the government is duty bound to do so in terms of the mandate of the 93rd Amendment to the Constitution. This is a patently mala fide misrepresentation and a bogus argument. The 93rd Amendment simply makes an enabling provision that allows the Government to make special provisions for socially or economically backward classes of citizens related to admission to educational institutions. To buttress his argument, he is making much of the fact that the amendment was supported by all political parties. Even if that were so, the amendment DOES NOT PLACE ANY COMPULSION on the Government that it must impose the quota raj that is being proposed. For that matter, the amendment does not even say that the special provisions that the government is enabled to make must be in the form of reservations and quotas. (Read the actual Amendment Act).

It must be realised that it is the young generation of this country that is going to build its future. The V.P. Singhs and Arjuns Singhs who try to push for such reservations for petty career gains or politics of the vote bank are not going to be around to be accountable for their acts when the adverse impacts of such divisive policies become evident.

It is indeed heartening to note that the young generation has rightly come out to oppose the proposed reservations policy. From the interviews in the visual media with many of the young students, it is clear that there is strong logic, clarity and the courage of convictions behind their opposition. On the other hand, some of the advocates of such reservations have been seen and heard proposing palpably unintelligent and even laughable arguments. For example, one of the justifications proposed by a lady professor of a university in Delhi on a discussion on TV was to the effect that in any case there were thousands of applicants even with merit whereas the seats were not enough. Ipso facto, reservations would not matter, she seemed to imply. Another advocate for the quota said that there were students who had studied in schools where there was only one teacher. Therefore, such students needed reservations. Can any government that takes decisions influencd by such arguments be considered fit to govern in 21st Century India?

It is unfortunate that students who wanted to meet Arjun Singh and seek his explanations were stopped and manhandled. Arjun Singh, the politician that he is, shed glycerine tears saying "I was pained...that the students were not allowed to see me". Not allowed by whom?? Realising the mood the students, when he did meet them, he deftly took refuge under the Election Commission query to the Government on his earlier announcement and also sought to deflect his own responsibility by saying that he would speak to the Prime Minister!! At the same time, it is reasonably certain that wheels would have been already set in motion to identify the leaders of the struggle and divide or isolate them in ways that the politicians know best. If nothing else, Arjun Singh is a past master in handling opposition and dissent. He knows very well how to take the wind out of opposition and the same fate may await the well intentioned but politically naive students.

On the other hand, Kapil Sibal, who understands the Constitution as well as anyone else, who is the Science & Technology Minister and understands his own reponsibilities, publicly gave words to his thoughts that he does not favour any actions "that would dilute the levels of excellence". The country needs more such politicians who do not simply go by the caste and religion based vote bank games that the old school politicians have been practicing and continue to practice. The people also need to show the door to those politicians whose time has gone, and keep them from doing more harm to the social fabric of the country.

More power to those who speak their mind against divisive policies and more power to the young generation to maintain clarity of their objectives and bring their present struggle to a conclusion that will strengthen the country in the future, not weaken it.


April 14, 2006

Narmada Bachao "Andolan" sucks in Aamir Khan

Sardar Sarovar Dam - Symbolising the aspirations of the nation

V.P.Singh and Soz -offering cold water?
Aamir - advisable to stick to "thanda cola"?

It is really a pity that Aamir Khan, generally considered to be a sensible person, got carried away by the false propoganda of the Narmada Bachao Andolan and by being present at their dharna at Delhi, tried to add glamor to an effort to mislead the public and browbeat the Government.

Medha Patkar and her cronies have been assiduously following the Goebbelian principle of telling lies long enough to make people accept it as truth. Unfortunately for the country and its people, they have succeeded in their efforts in making people believe that their 'struggle' is justified.

As Aamir Khan spoke, it was clear that he was not fully aware of the background of issues and had unwittingly walked into controversy by lending his voice to support the cause of the NBA.

For those like him who are not fully aware of how much water has flown under the bridge (or over the dam) in this matter, there are voluminous newsreports and other material available which also show the tactics adopted and half-truths that have been spread by Medha Patkar and her colleagues over a period.

For the uninitiated, an admirable analytical viewpoint on the subject can be read here and a perspecive specifically on Relief & Rehabilitation aspects can be read here.

The Narmada Bachao Andolan has been trying its best to raise their issues repeatedly before the Highest Court in the land, i.e. The Supreme Court.

In its Judgement given in October 2000, the Surpeme Court did not accept various contentiones of NBA and gave several directions to ensure that justice was done to the displaced people and at the same time that the project was completed expeditiously.

Even subsequent to that, various interlocutary applications were made by various affected persons. In one Order dated 9.9.02, the Supreme Court stated:

"Grievance Redressal Authority having been put in place, there is no reason for this Court to interfere.

As far as the dispute raised in this petition is concerned, that is over and final with the earlier decision of this Court. In case an oustee or a person affected by the Project has any grievance, it is open to him to approach the Grievance Redressal Authority.

It is also contended that land for land has not been given. If there is any person so aggrieved or has justifiable grievance, it is open to that person to approach the Grievance Redressal Authority, failing which this Court.

It is made clear that full assistance will be rendered by the Narmada Control Authority as well as the State Governments to the Grievance Redressal Authority in the discharge of their respective functions.

This writ petition is disposed of in the aforesaid terms."

It will be noticed that the Supreme Court had unequivocally stated that it was open to a person to approach the Grievance Redressal Authority, failing which the Supreme Court.

In another Order dated 16.4.04, the Supreme Court stated, inter alia, that:

"I.A.Nos.10 & 11. The prayer in these applications is to direct the respondents not to proceed with further construction of Narmada Dam by raising its height to 110 meters till all affected people are rehabilitated. The main grievance of the applicants is the subject-matter of two I.As.(I.A.Nos.4 & 7).

Having heard learned counsel for the parties at considerable length, we are of the view that for the present, no case has been made out to stop the ongoing construction raising the height of the dam. At the same time, it is necessary to note that the matter relating to rehabilitation of outstees is required to be examined by all concerned and implemented in terms of the award made by the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal, orders and directions issued by this Court from time to time, the orders and directions of Narmada Control Authority and that of Grievance Redressal Authrorities of the state concerned. Further, it has been brought to our notice by the learned counsel appearing for the applicants that the land in village Matanya, Tehsil Mahaeshwar and some of the other villages being proper cultivable land can be obtained/acquired by the State Governments and given to the oustees as a rehabilitation measure. The applicants may give concrete suggestions in this respect to the respondent-State of Madhya Pradesh. On receipt of such suggestions, the matter shall be expeditiously examined by the State Government. In case, the applicants/oustees are still not satisfied with the decision of the State Government, it would be open to them to approach the Grievance Redressal Authority. The said Authority shall also examine the grievance of the oustees as expeditiously as possible as the matter pertaining to rehabilitation of the oustees cannot be taken up or treated lightly. It may also be noticed that a positive approach has been adopted by the oustees that what they are concerned with is the proper rehabilitation and not the stoppage of the construction of the dam and they have approached this Court seeking stay of construction as they were not satisfied about the proper offer having been made to all affected parties for their rehabilitation and other related aspects of rehabilitation.

For the present having noticed aforesaid issues, we express no opinion."

Another detailed Judgement giving certain directions was also delivered on 15.3.05.

Realising that they were not succeeding in getting the Hon. Court to give Orders to their own liking, the NBA and Medha Patkar have started resorting to pressure tactics and have drawn in the news-hungry television media and publicity-hungry personalities to use them for their own ends. In doing this, they are amply demonstrating their lack of faith in the Judiciary if it does not show inclination to pass orders to suit their own agenda.

The Union Government, which has proved to be weak-kneed and worthless at times in tackling difficult issues, has apparently succumbed to the pressure tactics of Medha Patkar and others and has agreed to "review" the decision to raise the height of the dam.

It is high time the people stop supporting such uselsss 'struggles' when the development and progress of the country are thwarted. It is pertinent to note that the Narmada projects link the economic development of four states in the country viz. Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajashtan and Madhya Pradesh with a total population of 264.20 million people.

But it is not a question of just these 25% of the country's population. The issue is whether a handful of objectors with their own unclear motivations can stop the progress of the country itself. What they are trying to do is to change the countours of a project that has come so far in the process of implementation during the course of which it has gone through every conceivable test including critical scrutiny of the highest judicial authority. If such agitations, by people who may be misguided or who may have their own motives, are allowed to succeed, it would lead to disastrous consequences not only for the present Narmada projects but also for any future development projects.

As for Aamir Khan, it is hoped that he would see through the game to suck him into needless controversy and, instead of sticking his neck out for the same, stick to his bollywood activities unless he feels that he has no future there.