Vol-C : September 1, 2012

Dear Colleagues

Here is another set of for your perusal:

1.  The India Against Corruption (IAC) movement led by Anna Hazare stopped their protest fast last month and announced that they would soon float a political party which will comprise of people of integrity. They reached this conclusion as none of the existing parties were serious about bringing the Lokpal Bill, or fighting corruption. The decentralized and widespread nature of this campaign has already made millions of Indians aware about the need to struggle against corruption. The scale of corruption has been further revealed in the recent ‘coalgate’—use of public office for private gains. The fight against corruption in India has yet to reach the ‘tipping point’, since there is no mass revulsion and repulsion yet from the citizens at large. What will trigger that systemic change? Indian monsoon is reaching its end too!

2.  Much of the recent attention to crisis in Europe has focused upon governments and their populism; true as it may be, democracy does seem to sustain, and be sustained by, populism. Populist measures provide short-term gratification, at the cost of long-term sustainability. But, European and American banks and financial institutions are also in the game so deeply becomes obvious as many of them are being penalized billions of dollars for ‘violating’ laws and procedures. Citizens of Greece, Ireland, Spain, Italy, Portugal have been protesting as their salaries, pensions, benefits, social security and social welfare services are being cut down; but, the bankers and managers of financial institutions continue to ‘prosper’. Integrity, or rather lack of it, is not merely a problem in government and political system, but also afflicts the ‘performance-oriented’ private sector too?

3.  Mauritius hosted a conference of education ministers last week; various stake-holders were invited—teachers, youth, post-secondary educators and civil society. But, they met in separate venues, deliberating amongst themselves; multi-stakeholder dialogues are critical to advancing robust solutions? There was another category present—sponsors; nowadays, education essentially means learning English to ‘surf the net’. So, Microsoft, HP, and a host of English teaching ‘shops’ were present, prominent in their ‘stakes’; sponsors are stake-holders too? The conversations seemed at times to be more about doing business, than about advancing learning for all—whatever happened to the Right To Learn!

4.  Iran hosted the Non-Aligned Meeting just this past week; the relevance of the movement in today’s context begs the question—non-aligned from whom? For many, it may mean non-alignment vis-à-vis China today? The Indian Prime Minister was present with his entourage of bureaucrats and businessmen. He spoke about ‘reforming global governance institutions’ to ensure peace and justice. Profound as it sounds, he also underscored that no external influence should be allowed anywhere, so that people of Arab region can ‘build their own democracy’. At home, we allow residents of north-east to be intimidated by those outside the region; and those in Mumbai, want to ‘throw out’ Biharis. The Prime Minister forgot about India’s interventions in the creation of Bangladesh? It is unfortunate that Indian government’s stances on many issues internationally are in contradiction with its stated policies and practices domestically; why this disconnect?

5.  The voluntary sector in India is very agitated with the cancellation of FCRA registrations of nearly 4000 organisations. Several issues have been identified with respect to the underlying causes of the same—lack of filing annual returns, change of address, etc. However, two issues remain to be addressed in the larger socio-political context. First relates to the persistent media reporting focusing on negatives of the voluntary sector; blacklists gain regular coverage, so do protests and demonstrations; but, constructive, positive, collaborative activities of the voluntary sector do not make much news. This needs to be addressed if we want to deal with the societal perceptions of mistrust of the sector. The second relates to the postures of some activists and leaders themselves—a posture which places them ‘beyond regulation’; it is this attitude that is responsible for failing to inform authorities concerned about change of address. That the two are inter-related make matters worse for initiating change?

Thanking you

Rajesh Tandon