vol-LXXXII : March 4, 2011

Dear Colleagues

Here is another round of for your perusal:

1.  This is the season for awards; politicians, businessmen, cinestars, sportspersons are the ‘usual suspects’ for these recognitions; and now social ‘do-gooders’ have been added. It is the new trend where various award-givers end up ‘showcasing’ themselves and their ‘goods’ than those of the awardees. In case of social actors (NGO types), there is no recognition that funding for serious and sustained social transformation efforts has been squeezed out. So, looking ahead twenty years, there be less social change effort and more awards in the country?

2.  The extremist activity in north-east India has been going on for decades; now, ULFA from Assam wants to talk peace with the government. In order to set the stage for peace now, they have said ‘sorry’ for killing Sanjoy Ghosh. Should that be enough to pardon or condone their misdemeanors? What terrible trauma Sanjoy’s family and friends have gone through all these years? How will the ‘peace-loving’ extremists ‘repay’ that suffering? Political cause cannot justify killings; and peace-making can’t be founded on mere ‘sorry’. What kind of message are we giving to dissenters of all hues? You can kill for your cause, and say ‘sorry’ later? This is dangerous invitation to violent means of dissent in democracy.

3.  The European Union headquarters are in Brussels, the capital of Belgium. Now, EU represents the political trajectory of European unification in political, economic, trade, security, education and many other matters. It is ironical that the host country of EU headquarters–Belgium– now is moving towards separatism between the flemish and french speaking communities. The Belgian government is now run by two ministers of each subject–home, security, finance, health, education, etc etc; one minister for Flemish and French each? By that count, EU should have as many commissioners of each subject as member states; is that ‘new wave’ governance?

4.  I spent several sittings in local courts in Delhi lately, in connection with a theft in my house ten years ago. I was mighty impressed with the new building and facilities; the judge was a young woman from a tribal community; she was efficient, punctual and forthright. Among those assisting her in her crowded courts were a policeman and three other staff. They were all courteous and efficient. The most inefficient and clumsy lot were the lawyers and public prosecutor. She handled more than sixty cases each day of 6 working hours. The problem with dispensing justice in India today is the archaic and out-dated procedures and systems; once again, judicial reforms are being held hostage by vested interests in the system.

5. I had the privilege to listen to Nandan Nilekani recently on the Unique ID project of Government of India; his explanation of its rationale and operations was very convincing. However, what bothers me is the politically correct positioning that getting an ID for each citizen is not compulsory. This allows for several escape routes in future, as only 800 million Indians would be allotted such IDs in the next 3-4 years and would have their biometric data stored in a central database. What about the remaining 500 million? Who will these be? Why should each Indian not have a single unique ID, and all newborns are automatically roped into the system? Given the huge investment and effort being made now, it will be a pity if 20 years later another gap in establishing identity of millions of Indians will need attention.

Thanking you
Rajesh Tandon