Vol-XCIX : August 1, 2012

Dear Colleagues 

I am writing to you from the experience of delayed and weak monsoons, and major ‘power –outs’ (affecting nearly 800 million people) in an ‘emerged’ India. For your perusal, another set of random reflections:

1. In a recent conference on understanding civil society in Europe, southern European discourse seemed to be suggesting a more assertive role for social economy and local cooperatives, supported by and through civil society. The arguments seemed to make a strong case for such a major shift in the context of extreme economic crisis facing many southern European countries. A similar crisis is facing America and other ‘emerging’ economies like India; yet, public discourse for evolving more durable solutions in these countries doesn’tfocus upon strategies to strengthen social economy, informal sector, local cooperatives and civil society. Perhaps time has come to ‘re-learn’ from the Greek and Roman empires new ways of strengthening‘economic democracy’?

2. In this era of globalization, out-sourcing and private enterprise, it appears that the virus of corruption is affecting the dynamism of economic development in India. Several instances of major corruption in Indian private sector operations of global economic activities have come to light, of late. Regulation of quality of drugs exported by Indian pharmaceutical companies is under major scrutiny in Europe and Africa (a case of public-private partnership in corruption). The entire top management of Indian operations of Reebok has been swindling several hundred million dollars’ worth of goods infake showrooms, in connivance with the auditors. The HSBC bank has just agreed to pay nearly half a billion dollars in penalty to US government for ‘facilitating’ illegal money laundering, where financial processes were outsourced in India(several of those Indian staff are in custody). The lack of integrity in Indian private sector is beginning to match that in the Indian government?

3. The youth, specially unemployed and disenchanted, are creating anew form of political pressure in several European countries; theyare enabling the emergence of new political parties. The standard slogans and symbols of traditional political parties are being rejected in countries like Greece, Germany and Italy; new symbols focus on liberty, ecology, community; and these parties have new labels like Syroza, Pirates, etc. Now, the countries that have largest numbers of dis-enfranchised youth (China and India) do not seem to throw up such new political parties whose leadership is less than forty years of age. Why is it that old style parties continue to ‘monopolise’ the political space in such countries?

4. The Japanese citizens are on the move in recent weeks; there have been major street demonstrations in Tokyo and other cities, involving hundreds of thousands of citizens. The focus is against nuclear energy. Once again, the people of Japan find their political leaders not responding to their wishes in deciding the future course ofJapanese society. Across the sea, hundreds of citizen protests are occurring in China, though not adequately reported in the domesticor international media. Protests against authoritarianism of ‘President’ Putin in Russia are invoking severe retaliation from the Russian government, which has recently passed a law to restrict domestic organisations from receiving any type of foreign collaboration. Are these political leaders naïve enough to believe that ‘governance without consent’ is really sustainable in the long run?

5. The Secretary-General of United Nations has yesterday constituteda ‘high level’ panel for making ‘bold and practical’ recommendations by next year on post 2015 development agenda for the global community. The members of the panel primarily represent the states, governments and their interests. After two decades since Rio Conference, and immediately a month after the Rio+20, the voices of citizens, environmentalists, youth, indigenous communities, workers and women—as stakeholders—are missing in this panel. After three decades of advocacy and public critique, the UN’s top leadership has learnt nothing about making the UN’s ownership more in the hands of global citizens, such that “we the people..” can truly feel that UN’s mandates are in the interests of citizens of the world, not merely the governments and their political classes?

Thanking you

Rajesh Tandon