Sociological realities of rural India!
Please don’t play caste politics! In the name of OBC quotas!

INDIA-POLITICS-BJP-COUNCILThese are old hats. The politics of OBC castes. Right now, the Modi government has come out with a much more narrow mindset than what was prevalent in the Mandal report days.

Now, castes are dissolving owing to several new socio-economic changes in the rural areas. Even in such an advanced state like TN, where the original sin of caste-based quotas came into prominence, the talks now turned to more liberal or call it more populist politics. The poor and the weak, the SCs and STs have gone over to the populist politics. They voted solidly for the Dravidian parties without thinking about issues in terms of castes.

So, please this time, we request the Centre not to stoke the caste flames by creating sub quotas within the dominant castes like the Yadavs and the farmer’s community!

How many of us, the leaders and thinkers and businessmen and others living in the urban areas think of farmers as producers of food and wealth?

Or, do we always see the famers in terms of their numbers, in terms of their castes, caste groups, backward or forward, SC, ST and vote-banks?
You have to see the political and election issues in terms of the castes and sub-castes only. So, this is, in our opinion, the significance and  relevance of the Modi-Sha duo’s new OBC politics and a revival of the old wounds for the new situations. More so, in terms of how the two major dominant caste leaders, the Yadav knight, Mulayam Singh Yadav and the redoubtable Lalu Prasad Yadav!

Narendra Modi- led union cabinet has suddenly setting up a commission to examine  whether sub-quotas within the existing Mandal led quota in government services, including education quotas would pay electorally? In the coming next Lok Sabha elections!

It is evident that the while issue arise out of the anxiety of the government whether in the next elections the UP and Bihar-centric Yadav dominance in politics, more in particular, the two unbending leaders, namely, Mulayam Singh Yadav and Lalu Prasad Yadav domination can be broken and subdued by creating sub quotas for the so-called marginalised castes in the central list?

What else is there to speculate beyond this narrow mindset?
Is this one more attempt to further intensify the existing caste oppression in the existing Hindu society’s traditional hold on the mindset of the Indian people, with all their existing superstitions and caste and other ritual prejudices. Political parties too keen only playing caste and electoral politics!

You have to see the many coincidences and other unstated moves and speeches and the actors in evolved in this game. Also, raising the creamy layer ceiling to Rs.8 lakh! Even this new emphasis on creamy layer, allows the castes to stay on, almost forever. This is not liberalism nor enlightenment. Let us look ahead, outside the country, at the world and learn to learn with the international trends.
These are very narrow mindset’s considerations, we feel.

Of course there is much that we need to do if we want to open up the villagers’ mindsets. For this we have to try measures like raising the democratic rights of the villagers, the powers of the panchayat authority and allowing the villagers too jointly to do things under the various Pradhan Mantri schemes.

Including doing many community works like digging and deepening the community tanks that were once the sure security for droughts in India. We just now read that India has an abundant village water tanks in TN alone something like 16,000 PWD tanks, the TN government for instance has allotted Rs.100 crores to rejuvenate the tanks.

But then who would actually take steps, given the large scale corruption in administration. The sociological realities in the rural hinterland are such that none in the villages these days, either the old or the younger generation is willing to join any community effort to change things. Take the PM’s sanitation programme.

We, in our own village couldn’t succeed to abolish the misuse of the latrines. No one uses the government ones!

The panchayat raj authorities too couldn’t do more even at our own enlightened efforts, if we can say so. The point here is that no serious attempt to eradicate castes and corruption in election politics. So, we see in the current buzz about OBC reforms is only an eye-wash and any attempt to further subdivide the castes would only encourage much more smaller and more number of new caste parties!
Caste is a highly complex subject.

Better you reform the election-related issues like more stringent election-funding laws. Also the EC much be reformed so that it can further consolidate the powers to strictly monitor how funds are collected and also accumulated and therefore there is no incentive for the political parties to become more internally accountable. See the major parties today.

Do they want to conduct internal elections? More dynasts would become more attached to the parties where more number of heirs is a sure way of continuing the dynastic politics. So too at the grassroots level.

You have to also account for the existing inequities and inequalities in the traditional privileges for the landowning classes and other intermediary and landless classes. Can anyone leader raise his or her hand and say the inequities and inequalities can be abolished in a day?
No, no, no!

Actually the urbanisation process is doing that task much more economically and more rationally. The educated rural youth don’t want to stick to the traditional occupations of their own forefathers.
This is effecting a new rational equalisation of opportunities and creates new social status group. Also, the trend to migration to the US shores has also played or still playing a role in bringing a new sense of belonging in the depleted current rural li8fe scene.

The more likely recurring drought conditions would also further expedite the land consolidating process and more and more small land holders to abandon farming altogether and migrate to the nearby urban areas.

So, what we say here is that Mr.Modi and his colleagues must start thinking about politics in a more open-minded manner. More liberalisation of the political structure, be it parties or policies that would encourage the villages to get more powers, be it panchayats or elections to the state Assemblies that would encourage villagers to come forward to have a say in the selection of the candidates also not based on castes but on the public recognition of the candidates for elections based on their public record of service.

Sociological realities would prevail as long as the democratic politics is seen only through the narrow prism of the exisiting corrupt political system.

How the Indian polity is evolving?
How the ground-realities are evaded?

cm-sir-greek4Yes, there is also a historical cycle to this phenomenon of holding on to power, from ancient Greece to modern day Indian democratic realities!

The Greece we visited recently as a family tour, we mean the journey to the ancient classical Greece of the 5th century BC when the Greek democratic ideal reached its peak under the ancient general and statesman Pericles had its ups and downs.

Of course we all admire the ancient Greek ideal of democracy but then it had its other side, rule by tyrants, rule by the oligarchs and also the rule by the 500, the rule by the 30, all the demos and also when the Greece country had its unparallel thinkers, artists, sportsmen and orators and educators called the sophists and many other brilliant citizens. How can we come out of Greece without recalling the mind soaring Parthenon acropolis temple, built in all white special marble and the names who created such a world wonder and also the sculptors, sportsmen who gave the world the Olympic Games etc.

It is altogether a very inspiring story when we walked on the very spoiled, the very path traversed by Socrates, Plato and Aristotle.
It is a different story right now, today when we see the decline of modern Greece and the one right now saved by three successive bailouts by the European Union!

Now, why this preliminary?

Simply because in India, we all seem to acknowledge and also feel certain pride in saying that India, after centuries of slavery under successive foreign occupiers, have become the world’s greatest democracy with 1.3 billion demos!

Yes, that is something about which every Indian must feel proud.
So, our emphasis on certain basic features and certain values of democracy. How fair, how reasonable and how ethical are our political institutions that make up our democracy?

Here, we like to share with our countrymen some serious reservations.
Yes, the fundamentals, like the Constitution, are strong and almost well-founded. But there are certain grave issues too.

There is an unsaid conspiracy of sorts among the elite in the country.
We seem to have a very poor opinion of ourselves when it comes to practise what we preach. There is a ruling party with certain ideologies, however imperefct. But we don’t seem to believe in a robust Opposition Party or parties.

See the plight of the Congress. It is now almost limping, so to say.
It is bogged down in dynasty. Rahul Gandhi is simply unfit, many say, why even the Congress insiders, the seniors say for themselves! We have interacted with some of the seniors. We can even name them or quote them. Yet, they seem to secretly entertain the fear they might lose their privileges like living in Delhi and getting the small crumbs of like other perks, both monetary and also some network connections.
Why the seniors must hang on with jobs in the party, very minor assignments like leading some delegations etc.

They occupy prime real estate in Delhi and they enjoy vulgar satisfaction of leading a political life!

And Rahul enters this murky world and also proves himself in the public eye what he is capable of. Young men and women must enter politics, fine. But there is some criticism that you must prove your talents for leading a large party like the Congress.

So, to stick to a dynasty and claim to nurture democracy seems gross error. As for other Opposition parties, here too there is some confusion. Nitish Kumar, the Bihar CM, is another contradiction.
What is his articulation of any alternative political path? How can you destroy Opposition unity and in Bihar you still cling on to the mandate that was given for a different combination. Corruption? OH, a very boring and dull topic.

The only contribution of Modi regime so far is to keep a studied silence on corruption. May be, the PM has his own sound reasons not to mention corruption as a high priority. The real losers are the poor!
So, the Indian democracy is seriously flawed and the times we live through are also very unpalatable.

The Election Commission, the Supreme Court wants to pursue the politicians who have accumulated assets in dubious manner to be investigated. Who doesn’t know that the EC is toothless and the political class doesn’t want to give powers to the EC, reform the EC to make it truly a watchdog of the clean political space.

Also, there is a great deal of arbitrariness in governance. Many of the sensitive institutions, from human rights to anti-corruption bodies that are not functional. Corporate power is another issue. If you are a Socialist in the old fashioned way, believe in controlling economic inequality in the economy and society, you would really be a critic of Capitalism. The BJP heavyweights don’t open their mouths in this area. Neither they seem be worried about ethics in governance, so corruption is spreading like wild fire!

So, democracy in India while taking roots there are also certain dangers. History has many facets. We don’t know how much history agitates the BJP think-tanks.

You can’t just live for a five year term politics only, right? You have to have a vision, to use a very tired phrase!

A nation, a people, an ideology must have a historic context. Let thinking sections, the elite, not the Delhi-based cynical retoured bureaucracy, the ones who don’t have any stake other than living there till the end can take such a view. Not the ones who have some serious idealism and commitment to great ideas!

Let Indians of the younger generation dream at least!

Give more freedoms to farmers!
That is the way to increase investments and agri production!
Indian agriculture is now orphaned!  For lack of patronage and awareness!

farmersCorporate support is almost nil and the government is no less negligent. Why we say this at this juncture?

For the obvious reason that even otherwise, there is a traditional bias against agriculture and the issues associated with the sector.
You become better informed about the issues in the current state of agriculture. The sector is almost burning with frustration, helplessness and by the apathy of the government.

We, Indians, rate ourselves very high when it comes to government jobs. We, the educated sections, consider still government jobs are heaven-born and heaven-given! Any government job is so. From the village level revenue collectors, up in the hierarchy to the district collector. Yes, during the British days, the revenue clerk was highly rated. The district collector was beyond the reach of even the high-born Indian families. Do you know that the first Indian ICS, one Satyendranath Tagore, from the Tagore family became the ICS officer but was never elevated beyond the district and he ended up as the Satara(or Kolhapur?) collector only? Only the white man was good enough for the job! Now, do you realise that there is a sort of disquiet among the IAS officers, in some states, there is disquiet even among the IPS officers?

The reasons are many. First probity in public life is a scarce thing and so too other factors that discourages, rather than encourages the youngsters once considered the heaven-born occupations. Why this preliminary?

For the simple reason things are much more worse today. It is easier to become an MLA or an MP or much better even a minister! Once you get political power the temptations to misuse are irresistable. So, the corruption issue crops up and no one seems to realise whether you are worth your salt and worth listening to.

In such an environment and when you want to draw attention to the agriculture sector the thought or doubt comes whether you are qualified to talk on a subject like agriculture.

Even after 70 years of Independence, you don’t seem to have got a grip over the vital sector like agriculture. Dr.M.S.Swaminathan says that 50% of our working population are farmers. As he rightly says the Seventh Pay Commission pay is given to the government servants and insulated from inflation while the poor farmers are subjected to the wild swings in prices and punished!

But then at the same time, we see agriculture issues and topics are still debated in highly artificial jargon which most of the farmers might not understand. Issues like Ever Green Revolution, even MSP and the procurement and other policies that are routinely dished out. It looks even this is the current buzz of the government, as repeated by the PM on the Independence Day, of doubling the farmers ‘income in five years! Is it well-thought out policy, or just one more slogan?
How the government hopes to do this, no one bothers to ask or bother to explain.

We also don’t seem to know even who the agriculture minister is today, for he never speaks or appears in public or tours the states!
Anyway, here we are in the journal labouring for years and years. No one bigwig, not speak of others, in the public life or corporate world comes forward to call us or express any opinion, let alone any appreciation, to give advertisements from the corporate funds.
Yes, we did ask one or two, one from a person who sat on Sonia Gandhi’s National Advisory Council (!)Who flatly said no!

Where are our high profile corporate heavyweights? The ones who also speak a lot on public platforms and yet who seem only interested to seeking instant publicity!

Where are the corporate social responsibil9, CSR, funds going to?
Education or medical education? Or, public health covers?

See the hospitals in Gorakhpur or in the advanced state of TN, in Ambur where two persons died for there were no government doctors present! The much more damaging sight was to see a small girl’s body was lifted on a two wheeler for lack of ambulance service! There are so many, much more serious issues for farmers! Dr.Swaminathan doesn’t say so but we say: every average Indian farmer today is either a debtor or a litigant!

Farmers commit suicide out of shame to live a honest life! Shame for being unable to pay back loans kills them. So, too other harassment is the daily living struggles. How many know that the farmers are tied to many antiquated laws, land reform laws passed in the initial years of zamindari abolition and other laws like land ceiling ad tenancy protection and other rural-related laws were passed long time ago.
Today there is labour shortage, ironically in agri sector, do you know?
There is a fast urban migration, many had abandoned farming. So too the younger generation has been migrating. What impact this trend would have on agriculture? Anyone with an answer?

We have to strengthen agri trade and agri exports! Time has come to integrate with the WTO decisions for the developing countries.
Now, we have had economic reforms but not in agri sector! Why? Because no one has an answer!

Now, market forces are in full play and yet agri sector is tied up with some of the antiquated laws that constrains and controls farmers from continuing with farming as a business proposition.

In the private sector environment who would invest in agriculture, for crops or for new generation agro industries, if you don’t allow the farmers to own some viable farm size?

Yes, agri sector is more complicated than what the government servants sitting in the government offices or engaged using public funds!
The point is that farmers don’t live in a liberal rural society.
Our justice administration is as antiquated as any other. No civil cases end any day soon. The life span of the average farmer is not even better than the life span of the court cases!

So, you have a mouthful of issues to talk about. That is for another day, it looks like!

Media comments are noteworthy!

narendra-modi-speech-twitterThey say fine to the PM’s long term vision. But the short-term is challenging. Two highlights of the PM’s speech were GST and demonetisation. Fine, fine. But then are there only two critical issues for sustained economic growth?

We believe that the government economist writers or input givers there are more challenging questions. What we have achieved so far, in three years. Sustained growth or hesitant growth?

Now for the other sectors, there is not only no clear road map, for education, health and social security etc. There is also no clear road map for other more critical challenges. How to combat corruption that has seeped into the system so seamlessly!

Only an institutional mechanism, LokPal, Lok Ayukta can solve or tackle the issues in a systematic manner. Also, the very many anti-corruption agencies?’

Are they free from blatant political interference? Let the public opinion pronounce on it. You see the recent very many raids by the CBI are seen to be targeted only on the Opposition leaders or the ones who might strengthen the Opposition unity.

This, the PM, must remove this misconception or the real motives behind the series of the raids. No, this won’t do for a mature democracy, the largest democracy in the world.

There is no point in playing with words as for the events like Quit India etc. Also, the RSS activities in Kerala are worrisome.

Please arrest the violence, the record of communal violence and those lost the lives are every blatant. Between January and May this year, points out the editorial in The Deccan Herald, 296 communal incidents! Data released by the Home Ministry in Parliament, these communal incidents cost 44 people dead and 900 others injured. Too much or too little?

So, there are reasons to worry why the PM didn’t say anything as to what the government would be doing. There are many other horrors, like the Gorakhpur children deaths, also in TN too there are reports from government doctors neglect at the Ambur government hospital, in Vellore district, because of doctors absent!

To add to the story is the TN government’s pleas to restore exemption from NEET exams. So, the Central Government and the top court were to be commended for not giving to political blackmail.

There are also issues of judicial independence and also judicial delays. What the common people think of the government’s achievements?
The media must be free to report and criticise. “I, me, myself” doesn’t make for a government. There is the media freedom and also the media fear!

Agriculture is a dear area where farmers’ have risen in protest, in Jaipur, Haryaya, Gujarat and in TN and also elsewhere. The land owning, middle level farming and dominant community, Jats, Patidars and TN farmers badly need freedoms to do their professions, buy, sell and invest and cultivate and start new agro-industrial ventures must be given the freedoms that keep up their social status in terms of the social hierarchy.

You can’t change the rural social transformation in a day. So, go slow but go in a realistic manner. The quota demand from Maharashtra gives an indication where the wind is blowing.

Be realistic and become socially tuned for a peaceful transition from a feudal economy to a largely urbanised agriculture sector. So too the many concessions and freedoms in the panchayat raj. Computerisation of land records and also the services of the lowest revenue officials can reduce corruption that in endemic in the system today.

So, modesty and self-effaced talk might convince more than any forced propaganda stick!

That is what India needs at the moment!  Internationally comparable standards!
In general education and medical education too!
See the appalling public health, in Gorakhpur and even in other states!
Swine flu threat is also spreading! Education is a public cause, not a private profit!
Indian character needs introspection! We are talkers, not doers!

How truthful we are to ourselves?

Screen-shot-2014-04-17-at-1Fresh from a visit from Greece, classical Greece I am full of memories of the past! Know thyself!

So, what I write here have some echos too!   As a nation, we have to learn to speak truth and also honestly! We seem to imagine there is only one god and others are lesser gods!

You see, the education sector in India is now at the cross-roads. On the one hand is the left-over issues in terms of policies. When the UPA government left government in 2014, many of the polici8es for the school education like RTI, education of the girl child and such progressive issues were in place. Only in higher education nothing much was happening.

Now, after three years of Modi government what is the new education agenda. Only some weak attempts to saffronise the agenda. One or two voices introduce some RSS agendas like reducing history to some unproven claims like a Hindutva views. Nothing in the way of what the world trends in learning and competing with the outside world. The middle class and also the awakened lower classes have sought only private schools and such high-fee charging fancy curriculum etc.

Even the latest issue like NEET in TN proves that not everyone opts for exempting the school leavers from an all India entrance test. Now with the latest Gorakhpur horror of children dying pathetically and also right in TN in the Ambuir government hospital two persons died for absence of doctors, who would dare to ask politically for an exemption of students undergoing a competent level of qualification.

We need high quality education. For what it is worth it is the private sector that gives competition to the government schooling.

As for higher education, it is in a mess. Right now in India!
The education minister is not seen talking to experts or notable educators. There is a trust deficit, sorry to say like that, in the present government’s commitment to very high quality international level higher education in the Indian universities.

So, what to do?

It is time the Central government really takes some serious note of this trust deficit. There is no way other than go with the international trends. The first requirement is to recognise the ground realities.

Unfortunately, today everything, from small detail to bigger issues, we seem to wait for the Prime Minister first to talk!

There is no feedback from experts and independent intellectuals even for such a sensitive topic like education.

We need now many specific demands. Supply of talents, skills in sectors like IT and why even in other areas like sciences and technologies.
There is the higher research. In various fields!

So, we request the government, the PM in particular to take a more objective view of the realities and call for the best talents, from Nobel winners to ones serving in foreign universities, ones who have expressed concern in these areas and make a high-power committee to revamp the education system.
Ideas matter. Ideologies really matter and so too our particular approach top specific areas of education.

Chairman34All we can do in the brief space here is to reiterate our concerns, both short-term as well as long-term in what use such ideas and ideologies matter.  We need a wholesome education.

As the motto of this journal is, education is a public cause, not a private profit. Seen in this perspective we need ungradation of our education vision. Let us not just teach for exams but teach and inculcate a sense of wholesome pursuits. Education, as cultural awareness, our history, and social changes, a more equitous and equal society.

Class room teaching, outdoor activities, sports and arts and culture all go into a wholesome education, right?

Upgrade some of the older universities, central universities like Santiniketan and even the traditional universities and open new departments in keeping India’s international standing and our aspirations for a world role. Peace, reconciliation, a functioning UN and other international agencies where India and Indians would play major roles.

What more and a bigger role a country like India, placed in the current context of so many conflicts can aspire for?