Monday, April 26, 2021

Fights, Causes and Protests: Righteous or Not?

We witness many types of fights and protest across the world and in India.  We see people fighting against Farm Bills, some fighting against CAA+NRC, some people participating in Black Liberation Movement protests, some in Hong Kong Protests, and so on.  We see people protesting for various causes.  When we witness these protests, sometimes we get this vague feeling that not every cause is the same.  Some causes, we believe are really worth fighting for, a righteous one, and some others, we somehow find it not to be righteous.  So, how do we decide what is a righteous fight and what is not?

There are 5 different types of fights.

1. Fight for oneself

These are the fights for one self and one's family. One’s interests, rights and privileges. Example: Someone fighting for water at home, for electricity at home, for one's job, for one's individual rights.

2. Fights for other person

These are the fights for justice to another person.  Example: People fighting for freeing a journalist, for rights of an artist or a painter, for justice for Jessica Lal.

3. Fight for one’s group identity

These are fights for one's group rights, for one's group justice.  A Dalit fighting for Dalit's rights and representations. Telangana people fighting for separate State.  Blacks participating in Civil Rights Movement. Indians fighting for freedom from British. Women fighting for better laws to protect women.  Muslims against CAA+NRC.  Indian Farmers fighting against Farm Bills.

4. Fight for other group identities and universal injustices

There are fights for rights and privileges of other group identities, and sometimes for universal justices, such as fight against death penalty. These are done in support, in solidarity of other group identities, or for achieving universal justice.  Example: Whites fighting for Black rights. Hindus participating in CAA+NRC protests.  Non-farmers protesting with Farmers against Farm Bills. Fight against death penalty.

5. Fights to deny other people of their rights and privileges. 

There are fights which people take up to deny rights and privileges of other group identities.  Example: Whites protesting against integration of Blacks into colleges in US.  Upper Caste protesting against Dalits from drinking water from the village well, or men asking for removal of women's seats in buses.  Samaikyandhra Movement to stop formation of Telangana State.  Anti-reservationists seeking removal of reservations for lower castes.

Amongst all the above the first 4 are righteous protest, in the increasing order of righteousness, from 1 to 4. Fighting for oneself though righteous is still selfish, compared to fighting for another individual.  Fighting for one’s group identity, though righteous is still a bit selfish, compared to fighting for rights of other identities.

Whereas the 5th type is egregious one, the ugly kind, on all counts, because it is a fight to deny others of their rights, their privileges and their opportunities, and it is universally agreed that it not a righteous fight. It is a despicable one.

There is a chance that some of the fights that originate as category 1-4 may spill over into type 5, and that’s when it starts to become problematic.  For example a fight for better climate may lead to coercive mandates on poorer countries where the poor get affected.  And that’s when it won’t be a righteous fight anymore.

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Did Reservations really help the SC and ST in India?


This question is posed by many, with the assumption that Reservations-based-on-caste is merely a tool in the hands of politicians to create vote banks, but that it does not really help the SC and ST populations in India. 

So, let’s a take a look at some of the results. 

The most important objective of the preferential treatment policy of reservations-based-on-caste has been to attain higher representation of the SC and ST (some of the lower castes in India), in education and employment. 

Why education and employment and not other fields, like sports and cinema?

That is because the biggest problem faced by the lower castes in India is that of socio-economic status, their inability to break the caste barrier to improve it.  This can be achieved only through a rigorous improvement in their representation in both education and employment, considered the vital and critical methods to improve one’s socio-economic status.   In this article, let’s focus on one aspect of education, the higher education, and another aspect of education, the overall literacy. 

Representation in Higher Education

In India,

The percentage of SC population is: 16.6% (the reservation for SC is 15%)

The percentage of ST population is 8.6% (the reservations for ST is 7.5%)

Because of reservations-based-on-caste, there has been a steady increase in enrolment of SC and ST to higher education since 1950s.

Percentage of SC representation in higher education in late 1970s was 7%, which increased to 7.8% by late 1990s, and increased from 12.2% in 2012 to 13.9% by 2016.

Percentage of ST representation in higher education in late 1970s was 1.6%, which increased to 2.7% by late 1990s, and increased from 4.5% in 2012 to 4.9% by 2016.

This is one of the greatest achievements of reservations-based-on-caste policy of India, to have increased the enrolment of SC and ST into higher education, slowly but substantially.

Of course, there is more work to be done.  To improve the enrolment of SC and ST population into school education, and to improve the enrolment of SC and ST into Masters and PhD education, and to improve infrastructure of schools, give more facilities and amenities, including books, toilets, awareness programs.

Population Growth of SC/ST

The proportion of SC/ST population in India has been steadily increasing.  This is true of communities or identities which have lower socio-economic status.  On a general note, lower socio-economic status groups have had shown bigger population growths, while the most privileged groups have shown a decrease in population growth.

In India,

SC Population was 14.7% in 1961, but has grown to 16.2% in 2001, and is now approximately 16.6%.

ST population was 6.9% in 1961, but has grown to 8.2% in 2001, and is now approximately 8.6%.

Literacy Rate of SC/ST

The literacy rate of SC and ST population has grown over the last 70 years, and thankfully to the current policies of affirmative action which include many welfare schemes, one of them being reservations-based-on-caste, it has grown faster than the general population, but in absolute numbers it is still below the national average. 

SC Literacy Rate was 10.27% in 1961, but has grown to 45.2% by 2001, and is now approximately 66% (Indian national average is 74%).

ST Literacy Rate was 8.53% in 1961, but has grown to 38.41% by 2001, and is now approximately 67% (Indian national average is 74%).

Conclusion

Reservations-based-on-caste and other welfare schemes have definitely improved the literacy rate of SC and ST population in India, but have also resulted in higher representation in higher education.  Though the proportions still fall short of their share in population, it shows the reservations-based-on-caste and other welfare schemes are yielding results.  All the more reason to make the current mechanisms effective, and not dilute them.

Friday, August 28, 2020

Sushant Singh, Rhea Chakraborty, Arnab Goswami

Started watching the breaking news on various channels regarding the case of Sushant’s Singh death.  At the outset, I am not comfortable with Arnab making a “demand” that Rhea should be arrested. 

Individual Justice, in the modern society, cannot be delivered by opinion poll or by wish of the majority. 

And Arnab is antithesis of how you want to raise your child.  He is a bully.

Sunday, August 09, 2020

Political Dynasties and Intra Party Democracy

What is the problem?

Most Indian political parties tend to become dynastic, they turn into a fiefdoms, usually run by one chieftain, who promotes his kith and kin, promotes nepotism, and does not practice democratic practices within the party, chooses MLA candidates who are subservient, whereby the MLA feels he/she is more accountable to the chieftain than to the people who elected him/her.

Why do most political parties in India tend to become political dynasties?

Many political parties in India, small regional parties and even large national parties, have turned into political dynasties.  This tendency is all pervasive.  The reason for this is that while India as a nation is democratic, the inner workings of a political party in India is not democratic.  The leader of the party is not elected, and if he/she is elected, those elections are mostly sham exercise.  The MLA candidates are handpicked by the chieftain, based on allegiance, loyalty, nepotism, caste equation, and many other attributes, AND NOT elected by the party members of that constituency.  

Without a regulation or a legal mandate, political parties in India are thus free not to practice intra-party democracy.  This is the fundamental problem. 

Only few political parties have been able to instil and practise a small degree of democracy within the party, examples being BJP and the Communist Party.  Most other parties in India, including national parties like Congress and most regional parties in India, have turned into dynasties.

What is the Solution?

Many political parties in various countries have either practiced intra-party democracy voluntarily (like in US), or have mandated it (Germany, Portugal).  Clearly Indian political parties have not practiced it voluntarily.  Therefore mandating it is the solution. 

Like how electoral reforms have been brought, or how RTI was brought about, through an Act of Parliament, political party intra-party democracy can be mandated through an Act of Parliament.  This could also be tied to legalized political party financing to further incentivize.

With that reform, a huge change can be brought into Indian political party functioning. 

What is Intra-Party Democracy?

Intra-party democracy has three essential attributes.

  1. Chief Minister candidate should be democratically elected by the elected legislative members.
  2. Elected legislated candidate should be democratically elected by the registered party members.
  3. Registered party members can be enrolled through free and fair process subject to scrutiny. 
These reforms will substantially put an end to fiefdoms and political dynasties in India.