June 22, 2011

Women's Reservation, An Illusion !

To all the people who were hopeful that we will have a constitutional provision to improve the position of women in our democracy, things are looking a bit gloomy for now. When the Women's reservation bill was passed in the Rajya Sabha amid trans-party cooperation, Sonia Gandhi, Sushma Swaraj and Brinda Karat coming together to get justice for womanhood, there was light at the end of the tunnel. Women have never had such dominating presence in the echelons of power with a President, Opposition Leader, the Guiding force behind the ruling party and more from the weaker sex. With maverick politicians like Mulayam Singh and Laloo Prasad out in the open protesting the bill in its original form and recommending watering down amendments, the bill looks a distant dream.

The history of women's reservation dates back to the Panchayati Raj Act of 1992 which provides for 33% reservation in local self governance. Then the Deva Gowda Govt in 1996 proposed women’s reservation in a similar form, which was followed by another ambitious attempt by IK Gujaral which was all stalled at its birth. The women’s reservation bill proposes to provide reservation of 33 % in the parliament, state legislature and local bodies. The reserved seats for women will be rotated in every two terms and the SC/ST reservation will mandate 33 % reservation for women within its fold. The proposal is only for a pilot period of 15 years.

Why do we need women’s reservation? The arguments for and against are various but one aspect that can be quiet compelling is our relative performance with regard to gender empowerment. You will be surprised to here that women in India is far behind their equals in Pakistan and Bangladesh and is ahead of only countries like Yemen and Saudi Arabia. We consider ourselves modern when the representation of women in the parliament, in higher education, in the corporate sector is abysmal. The number of women who die during pregnancy and girls who do not complete schooling is alarming.

So is reservation a panacea to all the ills that the women in the country is suffering from, not likely but it could be a good start. Better representation will pave way for more sensible law making, more empowerment and more development to the country. But there are inherent flaws in the current proposal which is ambiguous in terms of reservation for women from backward classes; it will lead to proxy candidates in the form of politician’s kith and kin contesting. The proposal to rotate seats after two terms will not let to develop a relationship between the candidate and the constituency. The fate of the pilot period could be similar to the 10 year threshold kept for SC/ST reservation which continues even today.

Another alternative to the cumbersome Women’s reservation bill is to bring changes in the people representation act making it compulsory of political parties to field 33% percentage of its candidate, women to maintain the party’s registration. There has to be some amendments to the structure of the houses as the current strength of 545 members in the parliament is based on the 1971 population which is actually half of the current population. More representation will let us yield more people which will to certain extend thwart the opposition put forward by the dissidents. The opposition is mainly arising out of fear of loosing sitting seats and lack of future opportunities to contest.

Let’s further look at the case of Pakistan, they have reserved 60 seats for women in the 360-member National Assembly and 17 in the 100-member Senate with a view to empower women. According to a report, 42 percent of private member bills, 27 percent of questions and 24 percent of resolutions in parliament came from women parliamentarians. If this can happen in the socially medieval (as perceived by most of us) so what’s stopping us from taking the plunge.

Like someone said if all the countries in the world were ruled by women, we wouldn't have any war, just a bunch of countries who don't speak to each other. It might lead to an end of the boisterous cacophony and all the drama prevalent in our parliament.


June 16, 2011

A Crisis of Democracy

"Pity the nation whose statesman is a fox, whose philosopher is a juggler, and whose art is the art of patching and mimicking.

Pity the nation that welcomes its new ruler with trumpetings, and farewells him with hootings, only to welcome another ruler with trumpetings again.

Pity the nation whose sages are dumb with years and whose strong men are yet in the cradle.

Pity the nation divided into fragments, each fragment deeming itself a nation."

— Khalil Gibran

Looking at the events unfolding we are either lucky to be witnesses to a revolution initiated by the civil society to rout out corruption from the society or spectators to the breakdown of established norms of democracy. Its true its high time we have to clean up our society or atleast do damage control to what ails us. The advent of corruption in the society and amount of money stashed away is baffling, but the question is, is this how we deal with it.

What is a civil society here ? A group of responsible citizens taking initiatives to guide and pressurise our democratically elected to implement regulations for effectively controlling the evils that ails our society. But who is this civil society, iam not doubtful about the credentials of these individual in their area of expertise, be it rural upliftment, policing, adjudication or yogic expressions. But what gives these people the right to talk on behalf of a billion souls, were they elected, nominated, decided by lottery or divinely assigned these duties. Iam aware of the history of earlier attempts to implement an ombudsman model Lokpal machinery emulating Scandinavian nations. How government after government presented watered down versions towards the end of their term to eyewash the society and claiming their helplessness with this regard blaming the opposition and parliament at large.

Iam neither supportive of this government, which resembles a confluence of parties neither with a clearly cut out agenda or the ability to implement effective policies. UPA 1 was a different story, it was instrumental in bringing out the fabled MNREGA, RTI acts. If you look at what UPA 2 has done in last two years, you will be reminded more about its scandalous corruption cases, Manmohan Sings helplessness and the NAC's ineffectiveness in promoting the food security bill or the communal violence bill, dilly-dallying between the PMO and Team Sonia. It was two years of rule when the judiciary has encroached into the ambit of the legislature, when judges have washed their hands of earlier allegations.

If we let the cicil society to guide policy making tomorrow we will have to expect more colourful characters entering Jantar Mantar ( The showroom of democracy ) and demanding for absurd regulations. Satyagraha has been commercialised with Air-conditioned tents and packaged drinking water, desecrating the precincts of places like Rajghat. Where are we heading when crores are spend on organising protests questioning black money, these peolple have to answer the source and justify its spending before they are made guardians of the society. And the past history of some of them and measures like thrashing to deaddict from alcoholism is questionable. When a member of the so called civil society calls for capital punishment for economic offences and proposes to assemble armed cadre to fight corruption, we have to be alarmed. Are we heading towards anarchy ?

What if tomorrow a mullah or sadhu or the khap , with a massive following demands for abolition western apparels and english speaking , what if someone demands for banning Facebook or something else, should we be pressurised to their tactics. We need responsible parliamentarians, in-depth analysis and smart policy making to fight social evils. Lets create fool proof financial systems, identity and banking services for the billion plus, give exemplary punishments to the defaulters. Its true this is not happening, but this recourse is not its alternative.

Let the government be truly reprsentaitive of the majority ( not the existing 10-15 %) let there be a change in this first past the post electoral system to more inclusive methods. Lets have a provision to abstain from not selecting the presented candidates ( negative voting), tomorrow political parties will be careful in selecting candidates to put forward to you. Lets reduce taxes and charges on land transaction, give tax concessions to people to bring back the hidden money. The money pumped back will create more investments and improve the infrastructure and trickle down to the masses. Let asset disclosure be mandatory and regular, filing returns be made a national exercise. Lets effectively shift election funding into the public domain, corporate and private financing will be controlled. We do have along way to go lets not be misguided by anyone.


New Milestone in Corruption

Milestone is a very positive term, used when man landed on moon, when the genome code was unraveled. But when the concept of corruption is being revamped with such radical corrections, i couldn’t find a better word. We have truly emerged in all the global indicators of progress including corruption .

The biggest scam as far as i know was the Madoff Ponzi Scheme which proved him guilty of misappropriation of 17 Billion $.If the current accusation of 1.7 Lakh Crores in lost revenue( Approx 38 Billion $) is to be believed then we would have overshoot the current record by double. This is something the Chinese would take some time to beat. We are becoming unbeatable in the infamous segment of Corruption, Population Explosion, Poverty etc.

The basic aspect of Indian Jurisprudence is to consider the accused as not guilty until proven otherwise. So we have to give the benefit of the doubt to The Telecom Minister. The Minister states that the telecom licenses for 2G and 3G has been given at a lower price to increase penetration of telecom services and make the service affordable to everyone. But the confusing aspect is on why guidelines as provided by the department of telecom were not followed.

The crux of the issue can be summed up as follows ( Copied from NDTV, Verbatim)

  • 2G licenses issued in the year 2008 at 2001 Prices
  • Telecom Minister insisted on “First come first served “ policy
  • 9 companies were given licenses for nearly 10,800 Crore
  • Some firms sold partial stakes for much higher rates
  • CAG: Govt lost between 1.4 to 1.76 lakh crore
  • CAG: Raja ignored advice of Law, Finance Ministries

In the nitty gritties of coalition politics it becomes very difficult to implement and adapt fool proof review mechanism. DMK which is a major ally of UPA 2 with a grand contribution of 18 MP’s, it is diffiult to displease them. The Status of the minister as a Dalit also adds to the problem, since he claims the whole issue as a dalit targeted act. And the party’s official stand which vindicates the minister from any wrong doing makes it a harder task for the Congress led coalition to act. It won’t be as easy as the way it dealt with Mr. Chavan and Kalmadi.

The coming days will unravel the complexities involved, will the minister be sacked, will there be an investigation which brings out the truth etc. The larger implication out here is not on the future of the minister’s career, but the widespread social apathy and the lackadaisical attitude existing among the people. I recently overheard a young lady calling her father a fool, as he did not take bribes. The new generation aspiring for a public sector career is considering corruption as a means to correct the public-private pay scale difference. Its like a fringe benefit that makes the job more lucrative. If you don’t have ideals in your youth, the future is looking much bleaker than ever.

Corruption has become institutionalized and a normal characteristic like hunger, fear, courage etc. I think the government can give us some reprieve by listing standard rates and charges (under the table) for all relevant activities. At least this could stop the additional charges ( over and above the current) levied by some opportunistic officers.

So where do we go from here, deeper, slimier, dirtier or do we see an end to this, only time will tell. But one thing i can guarantee, the scams will get bigger, the people will get more indifferent and the already disturbing polarity will increase.


Post Script

When i wrote this, The minister had not resigned, so when i woke up today and found him to have resigned and to be replaced by another member of DMK. Same wine in a different bottle or labeling. SO lets see what happens now.

The Messiah The Message, The Cronies and Their Conspiracy !!

The topic is too complicated to write on, but its too tempting not to write too. The whole world is talking about him, the messenger with the message, the initiator of the first world war on cyberspace. The implications of Julian Assange's leak on foreign diplomacy is still unfurling, with Russia even recommending him for a Nobel Prize hehee He is the boy who called the emperor naked and facing the consequences for it. From Extradition threats to hit squad intimidation, from being labelled as the Information Terrorist to a fatwa from the western intelligenzia.

For a change US has to heed to the policies of China in terms of internet control, the same leaders who preached about Online liberty and how Internet should be left on its own is eating its own words. The trend is very disturbing, US forcing Amazon, Paypal, Mastercard etc to act as per its wills can give us a sample picture of the future free world. The good thing is that there is an entire army of cyber guerrillas taking revenge on the Messenger, they have already disrupted Mastercard, Swiss Govt portal etc. The modus operandi is very discreet, they even have them denoted as Anonymous, leaves no trace and leaves the victim perplexed.

The greater question in this whole episode is the future of internet freedom and the liberty of investigative journalism. How what we write, what we read and what we see can be subjected to propagandists scalpels. If things go like this very soon US and China will come into a mutual agreement to rout out the crusaders. On a lighter note the whole episode has a bond movie imitating life aspect to it. Global powers fighting for sensitive material hacked by an International spy storing it in nuclear proof bunkers, add to it a trans national chase, disgruntled bond babes filing rape cases hehe. So much like a movie with more humor added to it, calling Putin and Mededev as Batman and Robin and more hehehe

On the national front the Media is on a bad foot, renowned TV presenters and journalists accused of being agents of a vicious corporate lobbyist. The whole Nina Radia tape leak was a shocker, bringing to light variants of highly esteemed public figures. I read the whole episode with disbelief and a pinch of pain, because it has questioned my faith in these people. It was evident earlier too, but the level of involvement between the media corporates and the politicians in rigging cabinet posts, setting agendas for news content and tilting opinion of us the public was in a bad taste. Whatever reasons they can give on the pretext of cultivating contacts or nuisances of investigative journalism, it is unacceptable. When we listen to their version of the news we expect it to be independent, unbiased and above all not to be selling us a pre-packed junk meal.

On the other hand a personal conversation will never have the finesse of a media statement or a planned debate, A tapped conversation of any of us can be construed in a particular tone to demean a persons image. I want to believe the same in case of Mr. Tata. i have too much respect on his integrity to doubt his intent. Hope in the nd everything turns out well.


I know the post is a bit long, but couldn't control my fury and interest on these news.

I will be disappearing from the social networking scene as the year ends. I know it is a good news for all the people suffering from the indignation of reading my posts. But let me assure you the hiatus will not be too long. Hoping to write a farewell before the month ends. Thanks to all my readers for their evaluations, criticism, comments and above all the experience of social networking

No Resolution But some Re-solutions !!

Its the time of the year when we usually make up the resolutions, that we expect to fullfill in the coming year. Its the time when we look at last years promises aand its shortfalls and end up expecting a better year to come I have decided to differ this year,not that i have no resolutions left , its just that this year deserves better. Not promises for time to come, not repentance for a year gone or expectations for the future.

The arm chair reformer and social observer in me has decided to go a mile ahead. I have decided to chart out some possible solutions/recommendations for some of the problems perturbing me for sometime. I know many of you will close this page if you know what is to come, pondering about the relevance of this content. Iam not trying to be a disgruntled idealist who is venting out his frustrations on the apathy in the society. What Iam going to share is basic things, some of which are already in practice but needs some changes. So these are inspired solutions which can be easily implemented. I cannot promise it can change a lot but it will be a good step forward.

This information is already available and accessible to the general public but rarely scrutinized or published dude to the kind of muck it will expose. I had the chance to run through an annual report posted by Mr. Shashi Tharoor for one year of his role as an MP to Thiruvanthauram ( The original diplomatic prodigy, apparently the report he wrote on Indian foreign policy for his post graduation in his early 20's was used as study material for the Indian IFS officers for last three decades, pure genius) The report was very comprehensive, every initiative taken, every penny spend in the last one year. It also had a special mention that he spend his entire allocation (a rarity). Such reports should be made mandatory, should be published debated and discussed. What gets measured gets improved. It will help us to identify our shortfalls and provide solutions. It is a simple proposition, no rocket science, just an RTI made mandatory and evaluated.

Mandatory Annual Report for Member of Parliaments and other Houes of representative

Call Back- This is system where an elected representative can be withdrawn if his performance is not up to the mark or meet minimum standards. This is being practiced in matured democracies like Switzerland (Direct Democracy). In order to avoid frivolous and vexatious initiatives, a minimum representation of 40-50 % of the electoral of the constituency should express their opinion through a referendum. This will make our representatives more accountable and responsible, rather than waste their time on unnecessary activities. The parties will yield better candidates in the future too.

Mandatory Asset Disclosure Annually

Since the majority of corruption is visible from the pubic sector, all citizens enlisting in government employment should disclose their assets and also all tangible assets belonging to spouses, close relative etc. This should be a compulsory procedure and and repeated every year, any windfall gains or additional incomes should be updated. A watered down version is already in practice but should be made mandatory and fool proof. The people who cheat the system are not from outer space a fool proof system can ensure transparency. I wouldn't deny the aspect of Binami transactions, but to a large extend it will become difficult to hide.

Have some more suggestions in my mind, but due to time, constraints and considering the festivities around, dont want to bore you a lot. So till then let me bid adieu. Hope to write a sequel to it if the response is good.

OK on a more Jovial Note, Resolutions for 2011

I hope run a Marathon (Yes A full Marathon)

I plan to read more and more and more

Hopefully talk lesser ( silence is truly golden)

Write more (hopefully better)

Thats too much for now