Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Sivaraj Patil is a great let-down

If anything can potentially overshadow all what Manmohan Singh Government had done – the legislation and implementation of National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, Right to Information Act, Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, Civilian Nuclear Deal and its serious efforts to be all inclusive; constitution of Sachar Committee, farm loan waiver, reservation in the higher institutions of learning, legislative initiatives for 33 per cent women representation – that could be its clumsy handling of the law and order situation in the country which allowed a free-run for all sorts of trouble mongers.

When the Sonia Gandhi-led UPA came to power after handing a shock defeat to the BJP, hopes were high about the new dispensation cleaning up the political environment in the country. The six years of NDA regime saw absolute communalisation of our institutions, polity and thoughts. The national agenda was always centred around communal issues as if we had nothing else to discuss as a country, as a society. In the context of unexplained but frequent terror strikes and pogroms including what happened in Gujarat the very existence of India as a secular democratic country was always under threat.

Sonia Gandhi, who has shown uncharacteristic resolve, charisma and composure in cobbling up a national alliance, who outwitted the communal combine and stole the thunder by renouncing the prime minister post and who became the darling of the country’s liberal left-leaning intelligentsia, had even promised a regime which would put an end to the divisive politics the country had lived with for sometime.

The UPA regime had shown initial signs of promise by taking some unprecedented steps like the formation of National Advisory Commission and National Knowledge Commission which involved activists-leaders in the civil society in the national reconstruction process and efforts for a broad legal and legislative framework for combating communal violence. Some would even say that such efforts have achieved their partial success although way too behind their targets.

However, the handling of internal security in the last four years which was completely devoid of political cleverness, wisdom and sensitiveness to the ground realities has literally belied all expectations. The appointment and retention of Sivaraj Patil as the Home Minister can even be construed as an undoing of whatever good deeds Sonia has supposedly done.

This gentleman who lost election appeared out of touch during most of the time when a national calamity or insurgency cropped up. His response to the media during critical situations is lifeless, mechanical and bureaucratic. He is elusive and insulate from what is happening around. He is recluse and taciturn which makes him thoroughly unfit to be a top executive in a democratic establishment which is answerable to the masses.

His performance hitherto has been a tragedy of errors. He started with a false tsunami alarm – of an approaching sweeping national disaster – which turned out premature and exaggerated. For that false alarm fiasco, he was unkindly snubbed by his own cabinet colleague science and technology minister Kapil Sibal. The latest could be his changing clothes thrice on the Delhi bomb blast day.

From North-east insurgency to naxal menace, from Kashmir crisis to serial blasts, from Orissa killings to Karnataka attacks, all incidents point to a half-asleep home minister who is absent minded, unaware and unimaginative. It doesn’t mean to say that a much stronger home minister could have wiped off all the menaces. (His predecessor, mosque-demolisher Advani was more part of the problem than solution)

But it goes without saying the internal security administration under Sivaraj Patil terribly failed in foreseeing troubles and pre-empting them. For staying close to the core theme I am not straying into the thoroughly misguided anti-naxal devise, Salva Judum and the detention of Dr. Binayak Sen.

My focus is on three instances of mishandlings which can potentially surrender our polity to the designs of those extremists who are out to convert India into a communal cauldron. One is Amarnath Yathra controversy. Needless to say, Gulam Nabi Asad-led Congress government in Jammu Kashmir and their coalition partners PDP also played their part. Granting of land to Amarnath Shrine Board and its withdrawal had actually given impetus to extremist forces on both sides of the communal divide. The BJP as well as separatists smelt opportunity to push through their agendas.

The granting of land to Shrine Board inflamed the separatists’ theme of usurping of Kashmiri land from its original inhabitants and it appealed to the Kashmiri Muslims. Following the withdrawal of the ordinance, the BJP went to town with its pet theme – that the Hindu sentiments were undermined and the Congress-led anti-Hindu government had given in to the demands of Muslim extremists. The result was a boiling Kashmir, communal resentment all across the nation and a complete U-turn from the fragile peace process in Kashmir.

An intelligent administration is expected to foresee this crisis and forestall such impending dangers. Instead of going ahead with the implementation of a court order favouring the lease of land to the Amarnath Shrine Board, which can be called the genesis of the trouble, the administration could have sought some more time and could have tried to deal with this potential problem within the precincts of judicial system itself. It happened otherwise and the result was there for all to see; fuelling of mistrust and mutual hatred which serves the agenda of extremists on both sides.

The next is a government, particularly a home minister remaining clueless when series of bomb blasts happening in different places. We know for sure that every bomb blast is a god-send for one political party which is engaged in stereotyping and hatemongering. By not effectively tackling the terror menace the government is actually playing into the hands of the rightist forces.

The third is the well-plotted and engineered violence in Orissa and Karnataka against Christians which reminds us of the pattern of violence in Gujarat (thankfully, the recent ones did not assume that proportions). The false pretext for the one-sided attacks and its timing suggest that this is yet another attempt to divide the polity on communal lines in the run up to the elections which could eventually benefit the Sangh Parivar which feeds on majoritarian communalism.

As the election year approaches, given the communally sensitive Indian situation, the internal security administration should be able to monitor the furtive moves of trouble mongers.

Needless to say, air-headed Sivaraj Patil is a great let-down for all those who want a complete clamp down on shameless communalists.


Traveller said...

We are the culprits. We have put them in power, now we are reaping the wages.

And to all those listed so called gr8 achievements of UPA.... reservations,nuclear deal etc... are they really good for our country? lot need to be debated.

On National Rural employment act and its implimentation...this have undermined the middle class agricultural operations.... this added to the already severe short supply of agriculture labour.....when we face severe food scarcity! Needs a complete revamping for this to be a move in the right direction.

Patil is just one of the clowns.

reporter'sdiary said...

Traveller, I view reservation as an effective social engineering tool which can bring some degree of equality in a society which has been deeply segregated under the thousands of years of exploitative caste system. If we are today seeing an articulate backward class politics that is partly the result of 60 years of affirmative action. Yet, a lot has to be done, although various issues including cremelayer are to be addressed. Secondly, about civilian nuclear deal; the UPA regime has brought into the national agenda the theme of energy independence which is vital to our economic growth. I think civilian use of nuclear energy is good; especially in the context of fast depletion of fossil fuels which is in anyway contributing to the CO2 emissions.
Agreed, nuclear energy is not completely free from environmental threats. And finally the NREGA, while appreciating the critique of that mechanism, we must accept the twin benefit of NREGA of providing rural employment and productivity. The rural agricultural labourers have been the worst-hit by the agricultural crisis and rural infrastructure has long been in shambles. NREGA projects according to my first hand experience, focus on creating water harvesting ponds and preventing soil erosion which ultimately help improve agricultural productivity. And if NREGA involves some road construction work we can't just deny the fact that rural people are entitled for good roads. In Kerala, now NREGA projects extend to farm fields too. There are implementational issues like corruption and inefficiency, but I think we needn't be cynical about NREGA

Traveller said...

Sirji, I am from the most rural place of Kerala... called payattukadu, where we dont have even roads. Am not denying that rural people have the right to have good roads. Infact, Am one of them, from the constituancy of the CM of the state, but still have to travel kilometers altogether by walking/bullock cart/jeep/bike to reach home. The issue here is that agricultural labourers, who otherwise would have worked in the paddy field is now employed in making ditches and roads in affluent areas. Agricultural activities are classified as "private operations' and hence do not come under the plan. Employment creation is not happening, only transfer of employment is happening.

If reservation is an effective tool, 50 years of reservation would have uplifted the entire so called backward class. Why still continuing with it?

Do you believe every human being is equal? Is it not unjust to give reservation to one and deny it to another when everyone is proclaimed as equals?

reporter'sdiary said...

It is absolutely this demand for equality is the underlying principal behind the affirmative action. Our society has been grossly unequal as a result of caste discrimination for thousands of years. Here is a vast majority of sections which was denied opportunities for education and employment over hundreds of generations. The establishment of a democratic republic did not bring any social change in itself unless the questions of such social deprivations were addressed. Hence reservation. It did earn its benefits. If we see lot of people from the so called untouchable class occuppying positions of importance and thus adding glitter to our social mosaic it is because of this social engineering tool which we call reservations. Understand, when there is a hue and cry over a portion of jobs and admissions are reserved we tend to forget the fact that the knowledge and dignified professions were long been exclusively reserved for the creme of the society. The argument against affirmative action often falls into a demand for a meritocratic society which leads to the consolidation of elites. Education and employment to the deprived classes are the means of empoverment and it adds to the democratisation process. We shouldn't forget the fact that casteism had successfully blocked occupational mobility beyond one's cast identity. My view is that, may be controversial, the affirmative action has to be continued as long as the last dalit/tribal becomes equal to every one.

Scrawler said...

Exactly!the last sentence…Tribals and Dalits should benefit from reservation.But do you think that will happen in the near future?Yes,reservation should be aimed at improving the socio economic conditions of the deprieved sections.But,in our country, don’t you think..somewhere there is a hidden agenda in implementing reservation?if that’s not the case,why the political parties are hell-bent in extending reservation to creamy layer?(mind that,this creamy layers were excluded from reservations and other benefits at one point of time)..If this scenario of feeding the creamy layers continues,the rich continues to become richer and richest..and poor becomes poorer day by day!The income limit of creamy layers -2.5 lakshs per annum has been raised to 4.5 lakhs per annum..for what purpose?just to make sure that the vacant OBC seats should not be de-reserved to accommodate general category students?
Instead of providing reservations in elite institutions,why aren’t we thinking of taking fruitful steps for improving the primary education in backward areas?The present obscure scenario is going to remain constant,unless and until the authorities takes initiative to meliorate primary and secondary education in the backward areas.It is possible only by habituating steps such as implementing a satisfactory student teacher ratio,proper and equipped class rooms,adequate number of benches and desks,books,electricity and other basic amenities.Strong foundation is essential for any student to reach the elite institutes.Without any concrete and constructive efforts from the part of the government for a healthy primary education,how is it possible for a student to step into higher institutes?A reservation without any social or constructive purpose.Its ironical that the political parties and citizens conjointly calls it as a victory of social justice.

reporter'sdiary said...

If cremelayer of the deprived communities, who can compete with the so called general category candidates on an equal footing, is monpolising/hijacking reservation benefits it is a concern that needs to be addressed. No doubt about it. I have a different view point here. The cremelayer gets out of the reservation system, at least in some cases, by default. The one who reached an upper middle class income status from within the scheduled communities often send their children to private schools since they can afford to do that. These children in turn go to the open job market where no reservations are enforced. Then where is the question of cremelayer hijacking reservations system? During the height of acrimonious public debate on OBC reservation Outlook carried the life history of successful backward candidates in different walks of life who acknowledged the role of affirmative action in their life. But all of them unanimously said they won't demand reservation benefits for their kids, it may not be a general trend. As scrawler pointed out, the emphasis should, indisputably, on basic education. However, can we outrightly say that the premier institutions like IITs and IIMs should be entirely meritocratic, when we have to address this larger issue of social justice? Don't they need to be all inclusive?

Scrawler said...

First of all..the whole concept of Reservation has been misinterpreted by millions of people in our country including the ministers who implemented the system.Reservation is taken for granted in our society and most of them(particularly..who are eligible for reservations) take it as a concession!Remember there exists a thin line between reservation and concession.So sad that,the socially backward classes are unable to forsee the prospects of reservation.Perhaps,that’s why the in most of the cases reservation has resulted in a failure(barring few exceptions)The basic problem is..the term ‘reservation’ has been debated on a subjective basis..If we make an objective analysis,we could have achieved better results.Need for reservation..rather Object of reservation?Here again,the authorities fails to check the qualitative progress…and quantitative progress is over emphasized.The educated classes(including you,me,traveler) create a fuss over the issue of reservation.why so?this is because of our lack of knowledge on the whole issue.

As you said,reservation is necessary,but there should be some ‘reasonable’ limits..with some logic behind..rather there must be some criterion.Resevation should be extended only to ‘Deserved’ categories…with proper justification behind.

We have been witnessing reservation for the past 5 decades..but is there any improvement in the basic education?why the political parties keep muted on this issue?For name sake there may be schools in backward areas.But are they running properly?Do we have a proper system to check the functioning of the schools in backward areas?Have we ever tried to find out..why the students in backward area/schools are performing badly?It is not coz the students are below average..it is that, they don’t have proper facilities on learning front.Simply granting monthly stipend is not going to make them bright or going to solve the problem.Proper support system is required which includes-guidance,awareness at various levels.Here our authorities fail...that too miserably!

Scrawler said...

The write up is about sivaraj patil.But the discussions and comments are about Reservations"..Typical keralites!

reporter'sdiary said...

Yes...I too was thinking so...we argumentative keralites!

Sri said...

Quite an interesting discussion. I would like to put in my comments.

First of all, all the reservations which happens in our country is only vote bank politics.

Reservations are definitely necessary. If you go to an IIM or IIT, 80% of them are from the well-to-do families (which contribute to may be around just 30-35%) of the population.

If you say that a strong foundation is needed to get into an elite institution, I do not agree.Not all people who have graduated from these "elite" institutions have a strong foundation. Because a person with a strong foundation will use the knowledge he gains to do something useful for the society rather than joining his other counterparts in the IT firms inspite of being from an electrical , mechanical or civil background.

"Do we have a proper system to check the functioning of the schools in backward areas?"
For this I would like to say, we don't have a proper system to check the functioning of schools in urban areas as well. Most of the private schools do not have a play ground. If you are talking about the basic infrastructure facilities , the government schools in the cities are equally bad.