Category Archives: Society

Poor but enterprising… hip hip hurray to piracy

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Following came as an email attachment, sent to me by my friend, writer Sucharita Datta-Asane. I don’t know if it was really written by Shekhar Kapoor, I have no reason to doubt it either. But, I post it here, because this is entirely probable as an incident and, I also see the underlying point about piracy and the corporates’ shameless hunger. I for one stand by the ingenuity behind most piracy. This is also ethical hacking. Hack, Hack and Hack… hip hip hurray to piracy.
Why India Works – written by film director Shekhar Kapoor.
A greater ‘hole in the wall’ you cannot imagine. A small fading sign on the top saying “Cellphoon reapars” barely visible through the street vendors crowding the Juhu Market in Mumbai. On my way to buy a new Blackberry, my innate sense of adventure made me stop my car and investigate. A shop not more than 6 feet by 6 feet. Grimy and uncleaned.
‘Can you fix a Blackberry ?”
‘Of course, show me”
”How old are you” ‘Sixteen’
Bullshit. He was no more than 10. Not handing my precious blackberry to a 10 year old in unwashed and torn T shirt and pyjamas! At least if I buy a new one, they would extract the data for me. Something I have been meaning to do for a year now.
‘What’s wrong with it?”
‘Well, the roller track ball does not respond. It’s kind of stuck and I cannot operate it”
He grabs it from my hand and looks at it
“You should wash your hands. Many customers have same problem. Roller ball get greasy and dirty, then no working’
Look who was telling me to wash my hands. He probably has not bathed for 10 days, I leaned out to snatch my useless blackberry back..
” You come back in one hour and I fix it’.
I am not leaving all my precious data in this unwashed kid’s hands for an hour. No way.
“Who will fix it?”
‘Big brother’
‘How big is ‘big brother?’
‘big …. Umm ..thirty’
Then suddenly big brother walks in. 30 ??? He is no more than 19.
‘What problem?’ He says grabbing the phone from my greasy hand into his greasier hand. Obviously not trained in etiquette by an upmarket retail store manager.
‘Normal blackberry problem. I replace with original part now. You must wash your hand before you use this’. What is this about me washing my hands suddenly??
19 year old big brother rummages through a dubious drawer full of junk and fishes out a spare roller ball packed in cheap cellophane wrapper. Original part? I doubt it.  But by now I am in the lap of the real India and there is no escape as he fishes out a couple of screwdrivers and sets about opening my Blackberry.
“How long will this take?”
”Six minutes”
This I have to see. After spending the whole morning trying to find a Blackberry service centre and getting vague answers about sending the phone in for an assessment that might take a week, I settle down next to his grubby cramped work space. At least I am going to be able to watch all my stored data vanish into virtual space. People crowd around to see what’s happening. I am not breathing easy anyway. I tell myself this is an adventure and literally have to stop myself grabbing my precious Blackberry back and making a quick escape. But in exactly six minutes this kid handed my Blackberry back. He had changed the part and cleaned and serviced the whole phone. Taken it apart, and put it together. As I turned the phone on there was a horrific 2 minutes where the phone would not come on. I looked at him with such hostility that he stepped back.
‘you have more than thousand phone numbers ?”
‘yes’.
‘backed up?’
‘no’
‘Must back up. I do it for you. Never open phone before backing up’
‘You tell me that now?’
But then the phone came on and my data was still there. Everyone watching laughed and clapped. This was becoming a show. A six minute show. I asked him how much.
‘500 rupees’ He ventured uncertainly. People around watched in glee expecting a negotiation.
That’s $10 dollars as against the Rs 30,000 ($ 600) I was about to spend on a new Blackberry or a couple of weeks without my phone. I looked suitably shocked at his ‘high price’ but calmly paid him. Much to the disappointment of the expectant crowd
‘do you have an I-Phone ? Even the new ‘4D one ?
‘no, why”
‘I break the code for you and load any ‘app’ or film you want. I give you 10 film on your memory stick on this one, and change every week for small fee’
I went home having discovered the true entrepreneurship that lies at what we call the ‘bottom of the pyramid’. Some may call it piracy, which of course it is, but what can you say about two uneducated and untrained brothers aged 10 and 19 that set up a ‘hole in the wall’ shop and can fix any technology that the greatest technologists in the world can throw at them. I smiled at the future of our country. If only we could learn to harness this potential.
‘Please wash your hands before use’ were his last words to me. Now I am feeling seriously unclean.

February 14 – Free Speech Day

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Vikram Seth, speech at the Kolkata Book Fair on Kolkata, Kobi, Constitution and Kolom:

I will now go to the fourth ‘ko’ or Kolom. I have touched upon the word in law and literature. But especially when one thinks of Tagore, one also thinks of the word as a graphic form, a form of art. I am very happy that Sunil Gangopadhyay and I—as part of this inauguration—were asked to write the word ‘kolom’ in black paint on those white boards there. As you can see, Sunil Da has written it in Bengali and I have written it in English and Urdu. It is interesting that three of the world’s great civilisations, the Hindu, the Islamic and the Judaeo-Christian, are thus incorporated on those boards, just as they are part of our common discourse. This is the richness of our country; we cannot allow it to be filtered and thinned. This is the strength of our country; we cannot allow it to be contorted or distorted.

Let me end with the two opening lines of a poem by Tagore that I have known—in his own English translation—since I was eleven years old. It was one of our school prayers and it expresses his aspirations for India.

‘Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high; Where knowledge is free.’

Let me repeat that: ‘Where knowledge is free.’

Those who try to cloud our minds with fear are the enemies of both knowledge and freedom.

We cannot let our republic, our beloved republic, our constitutional republic, our free and free-speaking republic, be hijacked by fear. It happened once in the Emergency. It must never happen again.

We cannot let them close our mouths and eyes and ears.

We cannot let them break the pen or ration the ink.

Kolome kali jeno na shokaye.

May the kolom flourish.

 

More here.

Being like America

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Should one wish to be like ‘America’:

So what does it mean for India to ‘be like America’ – semiotically charged as the phrase is? Should we ‘be like America’? Are there positive lessons to be learnt, portents and cautions that need be judiciously considered, institutions, ideas and processes that may be adopted? Or is it to be an unfalteringly foot-stomping ahead on to being a ‘superpower’?

The boundaries between nation building, feeding consumers, nurturing oligarchs, creating wealth and prosperity, are all increasingly blurred. Again, what are the social costs of being a superpower? What are the social safeguards? Is this desire, feeding off class driven consumerist desires, aspirations, mobility and politics, this ‘idea of India’ fetishistically overcontoured?

Guha, in the aforementioned Granta piece, argues that America is “at once deeply democratic and instinctively imperialist”.

In ‘being like America’ does India desire the former or the latter? As the state actively undermines democratic institutions and its profiteering friends/cronies become increasingly predatory, one wonders if posing such a question is moot?

More here

Prasanna, Gandhianism, DESI, Charaka

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Prasanna is an IITian who turned to theatre and built a strong leftist theatre movement, SAMUDAYA, in Karnataka. He is critical of modernity and has been working on finding ways of sidestepping modernity and also making it work practically. He has founded a movement of self-employed women called Charaka, has written two books on the subject and has delivered speeches on the issue. I feel strongly with him. A detailed description of Prasanna’s Charaka was provided by Sugata Srinivasraju in this Outlook. Here is a part of it:

image from: The Hindu

In the serene environment of the Western Ghats, the quiet and unassuming dynamism of this place is only comparable to an ‘anthill’. I am referring of course to Charaka, a women’s co-operative society in Bhimanakone village in Sagar taluk of Shimoga district in Karnataka. Charaka produces naturally dyed cotton handloom garments, which are sold under the ‘Desi’ brandname across the state. The co-operative employs nearly 200 women and has a decent turnover of a crore of rupees. If one were to combine the turnover of ‘Desi’ stores then the turnover is 20 million rupees. The projections are that they are growing at a fabulous rate of 30 per cent a year. Each woman employed at Charaka takes home an average of Rs. 3000 a month. The value of this money that a woman earns with clean technology and clean air here is much higher than what her counterpart in the city earns at an export-oriented garment factory. (Garment factories, incidentally, are said to be bigger employers than the IT industry in Bangalore).

Charaka is not just metaphorically an ‘anthill’, a metaphor that visiting Hindi novelist Geetanjalisri assigned to the place, but it quite literally appears to be so. If you look up from the road below, it is a red-soil hillock that is aesthetically terraced to house the different units of garment production. The petite women, working industriously like ants, talk sharp; their faces are bright and their bodies toned by the rigours of walking at least 12 km a day between their homes and the ‘anthill.’

Charaka is a self-sufficient co-operative in the sense that once the raw-yarn is purchased, everything else happens in-house. The yarn is coloured with natural dyes at a separate unit. Local knowledge goes into producing blues, browns, blacks, greens, reds and yellows. Then, it is woven into long lengths of cloth with the help of sixty plus looms that women have installed at their homes around the ‘anthill’. These women are independent of the 200 employees mentioned above. They are part of the Charaka community, but are self-employed. The weaving techniques are taught and patterns decided locally. There is also a block-printing unit. The garment designing and tailoring units are housed on the ‘anthill.’ There is also a tapestry unit that makes ‘rajois’ (blankets). There is another bag-making unit and also one that uses the local ‘hase’ folk painting to produce curious stationary. The paintings that varyingly have a mandala and stereogram-effect is also tried out on glass, but the locals paint them on their walls. Not to forget at the ‘anthill’ is the prayer hall; the banyan tree platform for cultural performances; library and a canteen that serves local delicacies. To market the stuff produced here, there are the ‘Desi’ retail units. In all, they produce about 159 products.

During my first visit to Charaka, I had stayed at the house of a girl called Veena, who belongs to the toddy-tapping community. She was one of those who had set up a loom in her house and had just then started counting her hundreds and was depositing it with her grandmother. She was very shy and spoke just a couple of sentences during my two-day stay at her place. The silences of my designated host were filled up by her talkative uncles and aunts. I got to taste the tangiest pickles and wild chicken masalas at this quiet girl’s place. This adventurous rural homestay programme had pushed me to unlearn a lot of my urban graces.

But this time around, the moment I landed at Charaka, Veena spoke nineteen to a dozen. She made splendid conversation unmindful of the world. Her confidence was more than evident. One of the first questions she asked me was if my cell number had changed. She herself carried a mobile phone. She had apparently tried my number a few times. She told me about a cousin who had moved to Bangalore. Her attire was no longer that of a village-lass; there was the sparkle of a girl who frequents the town fair. The ear-rings were a giveaway. She had a bank account now and had learnt to ride a bicycle. Since I could not escape her persistence, I visited her home and found that things in some ways now revolved around her. The uncles and aunts were there, but they seemed to respect her space and allow her some domination. Economic independence has clearly done wonders and made me wonder what’s next for her.

At a time when government policy is focused on urban renewal and villages are stripped of their socio-cultural references to be spoken off as rural markets, Charaka is a strange success story. In fact, the idealisitic-perfection of the place is scary at times. It hopes to reverse the migration of both men and money from villages to cities. Renowned theatre person Prasanna, who is the brain-behind this entire effort says: “The village sells its labour and does not get a remunerative return, which it did when there was the system of barter. Money flows out of the village and not into it. This process has to be reversed first.” Prasanna, a former IITian, does understand the process of reversal well. Three decades ago, he quit technology to take up theatre and now, in the last 13 years, he has shunned the city to set up a women’s co-operative.

There is one question that seems to haunt Prasanna at this point of time. Now that the women earn a decent livelihood, how does one get them to remain loyal to the idea of a self-sustained village community? In Prasanna’s own words: “With the economic stream steady, how does one get them to earn socio-cultural revenue?” Somewhere inside him, perhaps there is a fear that Bheemanakone village and Charaka would become a museum of rural utopia. What would he do if the girls set their sights at the city with their newly earned confidence? What if all their money goes to buying jewellery? What if they aspire to ride pillion on bikes? What if they want to change their cellphone models frequently? What if their good looks attract a software engineer in Bangalore? How long can a Prasanna hold a Veena back in the village?

Prasanna is a famed writer too. Here is an extract from an interview from The Hindu.

Whether it was his decision to forego an opportunity of doing his Ph.D. from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, for his love for theatre, or founding a radical theatre movement for masses and workers — “Samudaya” during the 1970s — or initiating a rural women’s handloom collective called “Charaka” in Heggodu village in Karnataka, Prasanna has always lived life on the edge.

“When I went to IIT, I felt like a fish out of water. I came back to Bangalore and came in contact with B.V. Karanth (a giant of contemporary Indian theatre) and P. Lankesh (Kannada writer and journalist). I have no family background in theatre. Theatre was a conscious choice for me, that is why I never quit it,” he says.

“During my years at NSD (1972-75), I had become political and anti-establishment. During the Emergency, I went back to Karnataka and started ‘Samudaya’ with like minded thinkers and activists. We did a lot of street theatre, lots of plays of protest. It started as a theatre group in Bangalore and we then went to villages and attacked the authoritarian rule through our work,” Prasanna reminisces.

His “political thinking”, he believes, landed him in trouble in 1984 during the first festival of India in London. “I directed one of the productions ‘Tughlaq’ for the festival. But because of my political thinking, the higher ups decided not to send it abroad because it could be ‘politically wrong’. There were protests from all over the country against this decision. Some advised me to come forth and present my case but I was adamant I wouldn’t make any clarifications to anyone.”

Prasanna, who has perhaps done the maximum number of productions with NSD and its Repertory Company, also had a two-year stint with Independent Television Company in the Capital that he quit within two years as it kept him away from theatre. That was the time when the man who gave us theatre productions like “Ek Lok Katha”, “Shakuntalam”, “Gandhi”, “Fujiyama”, decided to shift base to Heggodu.

“I have been staying in that village since then. It is here that my activism came back in a different form, a more positive-looking activism. Apart from spending my time writing, I started ‘Charaka’, a multipurpose industrial cooperative society. Without my realising, it began a women’s movement,” he says with a smile.

About eight years ago, Prasanna — peeved with the ‘ignorance’ of regional theatre in the country — organised a movement “Abhivyakati Abhiyan” to demand that regional theatre be accorded the status of national theatre. He even went on a “satyagraha” to drive home the point.

“The movement achieved some success as the Union Government has announced setting up of five National School of Dramas in five States in the 11th Five Year Plan. At least some beginning has been made. Of course, we are still lobbying for starting a ‘Theatre-in-Education’ programme in all government schools across the country,” he says.

Interestingly, like a lot of his colleagues, Prasanna has never been attracted to other glitzier media like television and cinema. “I have done television but I have an ideological resistance to it. It is an output medium, while in theatre and culture, it is the input that is important. Cinema and television completely grab you. In theatre you can pursue other activities as well like the way I did,” he maintains.

Prasanna who is a visiting faculty member at his alma mater, and teaches at many other institutions is now trying to “reduce the running around.” “I want to consolidate my writing. I insist on writing in Kannada because you are true to yourself only if you write in your language. I have been requesting these institutions to give me short-term courses to teach, so that I can concentrate more on my writings. I have decided that I will live in the village and come to the city as and when it wants me for a production or something else.”

An introductory piece on Charaka in Deccan Herald:

Charaka, which is engaged in producing naturally dyed cotton handloom garments, markets its products under the brand name ‘Desi.’ It is generally assumed that heavy subsidies are pumped into the maintenance of khadi units. Charaka, the production unit and the Desi chain of retail stores have registered a combined annual turnover of Rs 60 million and the grant they avail from the government as part of the rural development initiative is less than five per cent of the turnover. The success story of Charaka can qualify to be a case study for business schools also.

Charaka has a workforce of over 350 now. The workers are their own pay masters here and earn handsomely. Annual bonus, subsidised food, health insurance and loans are the other benefits which workers enjoy here.

Kavi-Kavya’s activities

Residents of Bhimanakone have shown that Grama Swaraj, women’s empowerment, sustainable and eco-friendly development are not mere concepts to preach but can also be practised. Literature lovers of the village established Kavi-Kavya, a forum to promote cultural activities in 1994. A training programme was organised for anganawadi workers in the villages of the district by Kavi-Kavya on the use of locally available resources.

It was an opportunity for members of Kavi-Kavya to understand the rural life of Malnad region. During interaction with villagers, they realised that people in Malnad were heavily dependent on agriculture. As population increased, immense pressure was exerted on the eco-system. Forests were cleared and converted into cultivable land in many places.

Weaving centre

Kavi-Kavya members realised that the pristine forest of Malnad region can be saved by enabling them to participate in ecologically-friendly productive activities. With this objective, Kavi-Kavya members set up a weaving centre on an experimental basis at Bhimanakone.

Kavi-Kavya Trust handed over the entire infrastructure to 30 women workers, who eventually organised themselves to form the Charaka Society.

The activity of marketing garments produced by Charaka was unorganised initially. Kavi-Kavya members set up their stall at literary meets held in various parts of the state where khadi products were exhibited and sold. The members were humble and honest enough to admit that the product was not 100 per cent perfect. But people bought their products to identify themselves with the transformation that was taking place in Bhimanakone.

Kavi-Kavya members later formed a trust called DESI-Developing Ecologically Sustainable Industry (which also means indigenous in Kannada) to ensure an organised and streamlined market for the products of Charaka which by the time were becoming popular. The products were marketed under the brand name ‘Desi.’

Desi now has nine retail outlets at various urban centres of the state. What makes the experiment at Bhimanakone interesting is that both Charaka and DESI don’t have puritan view towards Gandhian ideology. They have realised that Gandhian ideologies need to be experimented with some modifications to achieve success in the present day. To make khadi garments acceptable to the new generation, they sought advise from professional designers.

The organisation even opted for a professional marketing arrangement. Eminent designers, chartered accountants, theatre activists, writers, film makers and marketing professionals are part of team DESI now.

The production practices at Charaka are consistent with Gandhian beliefs. Most of the production is manual here and machines are used wherever necessary. Mahatma Gandhi who was critical of machine-based production however was fascinated with the sewing machine as he believed that “as long as the machine does not curtail human labour and human dignity, it is good.”

Theatre activist Prasanna, who was instrumental in the establishment of Charaka, said the organisation functions in a democratic fashion. “The president of the organisation too has to weave clothes. Even computer professionals spend some time on the hand looms. Caste system restricted occupational mobility and at Charaka we want to overcome it,” he observed.

Charaka has plans to promote production of natural dye in the region. Malnad is rich with raw materials like gur, areca and soapnut used to prepare natural dye. Farmers can supplement income from land through natural dye preparation units. One such unit has come up in the land of Umapathi Gowdru at Atawadi village near Sagar with the assistance of Nabard.

Prasanna said that clothes prepared from natural dye enjoy good value in the market. Charaka also has plans to set up a training centre for rural artisans.
In fact, many educated youths who want a change from the monotony of city life are eager to associate themselves with Charaka now.

Take the instance of Chaitra, who was working for a reputed BPO company. She has now joined Charaka. She stays in Bhimanakone and has been assigned the responsibility of documenting the activities here. Fashion designer Sandesh gave up a lucrative career in the Gulf to work with Charaka. Charaka and DESI have not only arrested the exodus of rural people towards urban centres but have also reversed the trend.

Gender bias and other non-census

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Nivedita Menon in “Run from Big Media”

Quipped my brother Dilip in response to the following mail from my sister Pramada:

So the bell rings this afternoon. desperate clanging. i open the door and there is a man with forms in his hand and a general irritated demeanor. figured that this was the census man. he comes in and settles down. starts by wanting to know who the head of the household is. i say there is no one. he insists. i continue to say no one.

Census of India 2011 mascot

He proceeds to explain that if the parents live in the house, then they are the head of the household, if married then the husband is. I proceed to ask for definition and say that all three of us who live in the house are head of the household since we all earn and take decisions. he promises to erase what he has written since he was sure my mother was head of household.

He seemed to find my gender a bit dubious so questioned my mother if i was a boy or a girl and then repeatedly said “ladki” to me. having established that i indeed was a woman, he wanted to know date of birth, which was not difficult, but place of birth he found extremely challenging. he could not get his spellings right, or did not know districts or states in the country so tattamangalam in palghat district in kerala was as baffling as mysore in karnataka. calcutta was easy to deal with and he said calcutta was in calcutta!!! mother tongue caused him more angst because he had to write malayalam and again the spelling eluded him.

In a casual manner he asked – sabke haath pair to theek hain? ( is everybody’s hands and legs okay?). i realised that this was the question on disability. i said yes that’s all fine but i cannot see without my glasses. that did not count.

Education, marital status were easy-peasy and then the tricky question of employment. he just could not understand what i did and what did i mean when i said i was a consultant and what were NGOs and did i work with these afore mentioned NGOs in haryana. and could i not give him just one name so that he could put it down.

Sujata’s employment was even more difficult for him. counselor on chemical and substance abuse – in hindi its deadly, sharab aur nasheeli padarthon kay sevan karne walon ko in cheezon se mukt karane ki kaam karti hai! asked caste and we said that we did not know since we were urbanised and had to confess that it sounded foolish even to my ears.

The enumerator is a teacher in a school in haryana somewhere but as far as we were concerned, we were aliens who occupied some strange space. a place where he hoped he  or his family would not have to tread. a household where three women rule, where a woman aged 46 says that she is unmarried and is not ashamed, does not for work everyday and i suspect he had not heard of the words human rights – in any language! what do you think he teaches , if he is not sure of the states in the country! mysore was difficult, can you imagine if it was daporijo or mokukchung?

What is the point of being counted thus. he is baffled by the names of villages, states, languages, does not realise that disability is of many forms, that men can look like women and women can look like men…. his world is being torn asunder in this process…were they trained at all and what do you think will actually emerge from this huge effort to have an idea of who lives in this country?

Dismantling Machines

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Prasanna is a highly accomplished theatre person; among the founders of the theatre movement ‘Samudaya’ in Karnataka. His experiments with Gandhianism at Charaka is amazing and a ray of hope. He has written a couple of books on sustainable life-style in Kannada. A recent one is called ‘Dismantling Machines’. Here is a Youtube speech (in Kannada) he gave in a seminar in Dharwad.

 

Routledge Journals – Online Article Access

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Routledge has announced free access to 65 journal articles about the ‘financial crisis’.

Politics in Hard Times

A turbulent year for the world economy has resulted in pressure for nations, individuals and the international system.

To aid research in this field, Routledge have compiled 65 free articles under 8 themes:

* Causes of the Financial Crisis
* Financial Crisis Impact and Management
* Regional Focus on the Financial Crisis
* Learning from the Financial Crisis
* The Financial Crisis as a Crisis of Capitalism
* Opportunities Emerging from the Financial Crisis
* Globalization
* Security and Defence in Hard Times

A selection of the best research on politics and the political economy can now be found in one place.

Access this for free at:

http://www.tandf.co.uk/journals/access/politics-in-hardtimes.pdf

or click here

Arousing Compassion in Brahmins

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DEVANOOR MAHADEVA

I vividly remember an interview that Alanahalli Krishna did with Kuvempu many years ago.

Alanahalli asked Kuvempu: “Do you really believe that the Madhwa philosophy is a mean one?”

Kuvempu replied: “Mean? Most mean.”

Alanahalli had a hearty laugh over that, and the waves of that laughter still reverberate in my ear.

Kuvempu’s impatience with the Madhwa philosophy can be understood in the context of his broad humanist position. The “Nithya muktha, nithya samsaari, nithya naraki” (“One who is forever free, forever involved in worldly affairs and forever goes through the torments of hell”) philosophy of Madhwacharya holds that the human being and the world do not change.

It renders society static, devoid of dynamism, and makes a philosophy of hellish hierarchies.

Vishvesha Teertha is born in this context and is the head of a mut that propagates this philosophy. He seems to be trying to move out of the inertia, struggling to break the confines of the philosophy. It strikes me as the struggle of a little sparrow caught in a net and desperately fluttering its wings.

There are times that I feel that he ought to be with us, not out there. But when I ask myself if his struggle is truly from the heart and born out of a deep religiosity, I cannot confidently answer in the affirmative.

We begin to wonder if Vishvesha Teertha’s padayatra is a matter of religious faith or religious politicking when we juxtapose him with the vachanakaras who said “Keelingallade hayanu kareyadu”, implying that there is no redemption without defeating the ego, and moved closer to the lower castes with this deeply felt faith.

When asked if a man from the Kuruba community would ever be made the head of his mutt, Vishwesha Teertha lost patience and retorted: “You ask this only to Brahmins. Would you ask the same question to a Christian or a Buddhist institution?”

In fact, any man belonging to the Christian or Buddhist faith can ask his religious institution why he cannot head it. Those religions allow it. But is such a thing possible in a Hindu caste-religion? Did a Kanaka Dasa, who stood outside the door of the temple, not belong to your religion? Or is each caste a religion by itself?

What then is dharma or religion? It is, in fact, the hierarchy of higher and lower castes and practices associated with it. This is why we do not think it is petty when Vishwesha Teertha is not allowed to perform puja in Tirupati.

This is also why we fail to see the hypocrisy of a man who will command people not to convert to other religions without a hint of moral dilemma, but will never declare: “Do not covert to other faiths, I am willing to make you the head of my mutt.”

We are never struck by the cruelty of a system that has accepted exclusion as a tradition.

Vishwesha Theertha is all set to give “Vaishnava deekshe” (initiation) to Dalits. There are already several Dalit cult traditions which have long ago been initiated into the Vaishnava tradition. They follow the purificatory rituals of “madi” and treat their shankha-jagates (conch and cymbals) with reverence and do not allow others to enter places where they are kept. They look for brides and grooms within their own small community.

This has led to greater divisions rather than any coming together.

The seer’s padayatra might increase the population of such dasas among dalits, more people might blow conches and strike cymbals. People who have done this have never moved from their position as untouchables.

When such is the case, the Pejavar seer would do well to re-think his plans of giving “Vaishnava deekshe”.

Instead, giving “thrija” (third birth) deekshe to the twice-born Brahmins might be good for the unity, balance and health of our society. The present dwija initiation is intellect-centric. The Gayatri mantra that is central to dwija deekshe speaks of awakening the intellect.

Intellectual activities could also lead to deceptions, discriminations and a sense of superiority and inferiority. What the Indian society today needs urgently is an awakening of a sense of compassion and camaraderie. I request the seer to give this (the thrija deekshe), especially to the Brahmins, to awaken empathy.

My request should not be mistaken for arrogance. (I am sure U.R. Anantha Murthy would ask me to give him “thrija deekshe” if he were to hear of this new concept!)

India has given birth to many things. In fact we are masters in the business of giving births. We are people who have made rowdies of gods to keep the hierarchies of the four varnas, and the discriminations that come with it, intact. I am asking the Pejavar seer to inspire yet another birth and awakening.

We are, after all, a nation that believes in births and re-births.

Let me add to this logic with another theory: Those who practiced untouchability in their previous births are born untouchables in this birth, in order to experience it first hand. Those who practice it now will be born untouchables in the next birth. If there is any truth in re-births, this could as well be happening.

The Indian mind which has killed itself thinking up logical arguments to justify hierarchies, might as well indulge this logical argument for once to bring about unity.

I am getting tired and weary, but there is no end to this. I am living from time immemorial in the hope of finding love and equality. My dream is that the Pejavara seer’s padayatra would inspire at least a few young dwijas to turn trijas, marry outside their castes, and inspire the birth of a new humanity.

I hope my dream comes true.

Courtesy: http://churumuri.wordpress.com/

Image courtesy: Vartha Bharati

Corruption in Supreme Court ??

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Mr. Shanti Bhushan’s affidavit in the supreme court in relation to the  contempt case against Mr. Prashant Bhushan wrt to the latter’s opinion that several recent CJIs were corrupt. Text taken from Outloook.

To

The Hon’ble Chief Justice &
His Companion Justices of the Supreme Court of India
The humble application of the Petitioners above named.

Most respectfully showeth:

  1. That the applicant is filing the present application for his impleadment as Respondent No. 3 in the aforementioned contempt petition as the applicant is making a categorical statement in the present application that eight of the last sixteen Chief Justices of India were definitely corrupt and also providing the names of those eight definitely corrupt Chief Justices in a sealed cover as an annexure along with the present application.
  2. The Applicant is a practicing advocate who was enrolled on 8th July 1948. He has appeared in each and every High Court in the country. He is well acquainted with the manner in which the Indian judiciary has been functioning and how its character has been changing over the years.
  3. That the applicant has been a part of the campaign for judicial accountability since its inception in the year 1990.
  4. That there was a time when it was almost impossible even to think that a judge of a High court or the Supreme Court could be corrupt. Things have changed drastically during the last 2 or 3 decades during which corruption has been growing in the Indian judiciary. So much so that even a sitting Chief Justice of India had to openly admit that 20% of the judges could be corrupt. Very recently in March 2010 a sitting Chief Justice of a high court openly made a statement. The statement of the sitting chief justice was published by the Times of India in its issue of 6th march 2010 with the headlines “In our judiciary, anybody can be bought, says Gujarat chief justice”. A copy of the news paper report is being annexed hereto as Annexure A.
  5. That the applicant believes that the reported statement may not be correctly reflecting the perception of the Gujarat Chief Justice, since he should be knowing as the applicant does that there are and have always been plenty of totally honest judges, but they are also becoming the victim of this public perception since no institution of governance in the country is taking any effective steps about dealing with corruption in the judiciary.
  6. That India became a republic in 1950, when the people became sovereign. They got the right to constitute their institutions, the executive, the legislature and the judiciary, to serve them, who would be accountable to them.
  7. That before 1950, corruption was almost non existent in the High Courts. The Federal Court had in 1949 got Justice Shiv Prasad Sinha removed from the Allahabad High Court, merely on the finding that he had passed 2 judicial orders on extra judicial considerations.
  8. That it however appears that thereafter the judiciary has adopted the policy of sweeping all allegations of judicial corruption under the carpet in the belief that such allegations might tarnish the image of the judiciary. It does not realize that this policy has played a big role in increasing judicial corruption.
  9. That the Constitution prescribed removal by impeachment as the only way of removing judges who commit misconduct since it was believed at the time of the framing of the Constitution that misconduct by judges of the higher judiciary would be very rare. However those expectations have been belied as is apparent from the surfacing of a series of judicial scandals in the recent past. The case of Justice V. Ramaswami and subsequent attempts to impeach other judges have shown that this is an impractical and difficult process to deal with corrupt judges. The practical effect of this has been to instill a feeling of impunity among judges who feel that they cannot be touched even if they misconduct.
  10. That corruption by judges is a cognizable offence. The Code of Criminal Procedure requires that whenever an FIR is filed with respect to a cognizable offence, it is the statutory duty of the police to investigate the offence. The police has to collect evidence against the accused and charge-sheet him in a competent court. He would then be tried and punished by being sent to jail. The Supreme Court has however by violating this statutory provision in the CrPC given a direction in its Constitution bench judgement in the Veeraswamy case of 1991 that no FIR would be registered against any judge without the permission of the Chief Justice of India. In not a single case has any such permission ever been granted for the registration of an FIR against any judge after that judgement.
  11. That the result of this direction has been that a total immunity has been given to corrupt judges against their prosecution. No wonder that judicial corruption has increased by leaps and bounds.
  12. That an honest judiciary enjoying public confidence is an imperative for the functioning of a democracy, and it is the duty of every right thinking person to strive to achieve this end.
  13. That unless the level of corruption in the judiciary is exposed and brought in the public domain, the institutions of governance cannot be activated to take effective measures to eliminate this evil.
  14. That it is the common perception that whenever such efforts are made by anyone, the judiciary tries to target him by the use of the power of contempt. It is the reputation of the judge which is his shield against any malicious and false allegations against him. He doesn’t need the power of contempt to protect his reputation and credibility.
  15. That the applicant strongly believes that a responsible citizen should be prepared to undergo any amount of suffering in the pursuit of the noble cause of fighting for a clean judiciary.
  16. That there are 2 statements of Respondent no. 1 published in Tehelka by Respondent no. 2 which are alleged to constitute contempt of court. In the 1st statement, Respondent no. 1 has expressed that in his view, out of the last 16 or 17 chief justices of India, half have been corrupt.
  17. The applicant states that in his view too this statement is absolutely correct. At the time of the publication of this report in Tehelka, the last 16 Chief Justices of India were the following:1. Justice Rangnath Mishra,
    2. Justice K.N. Singh,
    3. Justice M.H. Kania,
    4. Justice L.M. Sharma,
    5. Justice M.N. Venkatchalliah,
    6. Justice A.M. Ahemadi,
    7. Justice J.S. Verma,
    8. Justice M.M. Punchhi,
    9. Justice A.S. Anand,
    10. Justice S.P. Bharucha,
    11. Justice B.N. Kripal,
    12. Justice G.B. Patnaik,
    13. Justice Rajendra Babu,
    14. Justice R. C. Lahoti,
    15. Justice V.N. Khare,
    16. Justice Y.K Sabharwal

    Out of these, in the applicant’s opinion, eight were definitely corrupt, six were definitely honest and about the remaining two, a definite opinion cannot be expressed whether they were honest or corrupt. The signed lists identifying these eight, six and two Chief Justices of India are being enclosed in a sealed cover which is being annexed hereto as Annexure B.

  18. That in fact two former chief justices of India had personally told the applicant while they were in office that their immediate predecessor and immediate successor were corrupt judges. The names of these four Chief Justices of India are included in the list of the 8 corrupt Chief Justices of India.
  19. That since the applicant is publicly stating that out of the last sixteen Chief Justices of India, eight of them were definitely corrupt, the applicant also needs to be added as a respondent to this contempt petition so that he is also suitably punished for this contempt. The applicant would consider it a great honour to spend time in jail for making an effort to get for the people of India an honest and clean judiciary.
  20. That the applicant also submits that since the questions arising in this case affects the judiciary as a whole, the petition needs to be decided by the entire court and not merely by three judges handpicked by a Chief Justice.

PRAYERS

In view of the above, it is most respectfully prayed that this Hon’ble Court may be pleased to:

  1. allow the present application and implead the Applicant as a contemnor in the aforementioned contempt petition as Respondent no. 3; and
  2. pass any other or further order/s as this Hon’ble Court may deem fit and proper in the facts and circumstances of the case.

(Shanti Bhushan)

Applicant-in-Person
New Delhi

Caste and Class of Marathi Literature???

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DEAR ALL,
PLEASE FIND HERE A LETTER ISSUED BY GIRIJA KEER, ONE OF THE CONTESTANTS FOR 84TH ALL INDIA MARATHI LITERARY MEET. THIS IS ONE OF THE LITERARY MEETS OF THE UPPER CASTE ELITES IN MAHARASHTRA. THESE ELITES HARDLY HAVE ANY CONCERN FOR THE CULTURE OF THE OPPRESSED SECTIONS OF THE SOCIETY. THIS MEET IS ORGANISED BY THE ALL INDIA MARATHI SAHITYA MAHAMANDAL, WHICH IS ONE OF THE MOST UNDEMOCRATIC BODIES OF THE CULTURAL ELITES IN MAHARASHTRA. THIS LITERARY MEET IS HEAVILY FUNDED BY THE STATE.
GIRIJA KEER EXPRESSED SOME INSULTING REMARKS ON THE LITERATE / ILLITERATE BAHUJANS OF MAHARASHTRA. SOME PEOPLE RAISED OBJECTIN TO THESE REMARKS. KEER HAS RELEASED A PRESS NOTE IN WHICH SHE HAS EXPRESSED HER VENOMOUS VIEWS IN THE FORM OF CLARIFICATION.
KEER HAS OPENLY AND UNSHAMEFULLY EXPRESSED HER HATRED FOR THE PEOPLE WHO ARE LIVING (IN FACT WHO ARE FORCED TO LIVE) IN THE SLUMS.  ONLY 790 PERSONS OUT OF OVER 100 MILLION PEOPLE OF MAHARASHTRA HAVE BEEN IDENTIFIED AS THE MEMBERS OF THE MAHAMANDAL. THIS MICROSCOPIC ELITE ONLY ELECTS THE PRESIDENT OF THE MEET. THE DEMAND THAT THESE BODIES, SINCE THEY HAVE BEEN FUNDED BY THE STATE, SHOUD BE DEMOCRATISED HAS BEEN OVERDUE FOR LONG. WHILE CRITICISING THIS DEMAND, SHE HAS BEEN QUITE ARROGANT AND HAS SAID,” THE QUESTION THAT HAS BEEN RAISED IS – WHY ONLY 790 PERSONS OUT OF 10 CRORE HAVE RIGHT TO VOTE?….MY ANSWER TO THIS QUESTION IS – “SHOULD WE ALLOW 10 CRORE PEOPLE TO VOTE? SHOULD THOSE SLUMDWELLERS, WHO ARE NOT SO REFINED AND WHO HAVE NO TASTE FOR LITERATURE, BE ALLOWOED TO CAST(E) VOTE?” SHE HAS FURTHER ADDED THAT THE ILLITERATE SHOULD NOT HAVE RIGHT TO VOTE. THIS MEANS THAT ONLY THE LITERATE HAVE CONSCIENCE AND, CONSEQUENTLY, RIGHT TO VOTE.
GIRIJA KEER HAS ALSO MENTIONED THE SOCIAL WORK THAT SHE HAS DONE FOR THE PEOPLE AT THE GRASSROOT LEVEL. THE UPPER CASTES HAVE ALWAYS FORSTERED THE PARTON-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP IN THE SOCIEY WHEREBY THE OPPRESSED SECTION WILL ALWAYS LIVE AT THE MERCY OF THE OPPRESSORS. HER WORK IS NO WAY DIFFERENT THAN THIS.
MANY DALIT WRITERS HAVE NOW BECOME ASPIRANTS FOR THIS PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION. MANY OF THEM HAVE ALREADY BEEN DEFEATED OF HUMILIATED BY THE UPPER-CASTE VOTERS AND LITERARY GOONS AND GUNDAS. SUCH ASPIRANTS WILL EITHER NOT CONDEMN GIRIJA KEER’S REMARKS OR DO SO ONLY TO WIN SYMPATHY TO WIN THE RACE. ONE SUCH WRITER IS CONTESTING THIS ELECTION NOW.
I FEEL THAT GIRIJA KEER’S OFFENSIVE REMARKS SHOULD BE CONDEMNED COLLECTIVELY. THIS IS NOT AN ASSAULT ON THE SLUMDWELLERS ONLY; THIS ALSO IS VIOLATION OF THE CONSTITUTION OF INDIA. SHE HAS UNDERMINED THE VERY BASIC POTENTIAL OF EVERY PERSON, IRRESPECTIVE OF LITERACY, TO HAVE CULTURAL OR LITERARY TASTE. IN FACT, SHE HAS EXPRESSED HER CONTEMPT FOR THE WHOLE TRADITION OF SAINT TUKARAM, CHOKHAMELA, ANNA BHAU SATHE AND HOST OF THOSE WRITERS COMING FROM LOWER CASTES AND WHO DID NOT HAVE FORMAL EDUCATION. SUCH DISGUSTING REMARKS SHOULD BE CONDEMNED COLLECTIVELY.

– DILIP CHAVAN

Realpolitik over Real Politics

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That uneasy feeling has been around for some time. That the proletariat is not focus for CPM any longer. The Party now says yes. My, my, my. When will the party also begin to notice the rest of the rust? Say, that there has been no real theorising suitable for the times in which the meaning of labor itself is so bewilderingly new. Too much realpolitik seems to have led the Party away from real politics!!

Undergoing a rectification exercise to root out “alien class influences” from within its fold, the CPM has concluded that there is “erosion in the primacy” of its working class outlook — reflected also in the fact that 70 per cent of its leaders are from the middle class and other sections — and that electoral alliances with “bourgeois parties” are proving to be a source of “corrosive” influence.

It notes that while 75 per cent of the party’s membership comes from the working class, poor peasants and agricultural workers, in the leading committees only around 30 per cent belong to these classes. “70 per cent come from the middle classes and other sections. This provides the basis for alien class influences,” it says.

“There is erosion in the primacy of the working class outlook of the party. This stems from a reformist outlook, parliamentarism and tendency to adjust to bourgeois values. There are instances of leaders decrying working class struggles and strikes. There is weakening of the links with the masses at different levels of the party.”

Full report in Indian Express

Capital Guru

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A rather old letter but not dated. Reproduced from churumuri this letter was written by Bhamy V Shenoy, a consumer activist from Mysore. What this letter reveals is how the so called spiritual leaders are actually into a commerce without products.

“I am back from Ravi Shankar’s Sangam 2008 within a few hours of its inauguration. It was supposed to be an “all-India NGO summit for protection of environment and access to social justice.” In reality, this was one of the cleverest hoaxes perpetrated in the name of a spiritual movement using the facade of NGOs.

“We should keep away from this “spiritual” person. His is a commercial ashram doling out psychological products specially for some foreigners and middle-class women who have studied in English medium schools. Many are working there as volunteers. It was impressive to see how so many could be motivated to give their services free of cost to produce profit for an institution. This requires genius of the highest order.

“I even met a professor from IIT Bombay who is a volunteer there. When I expressed my disappointment with the whole show, she was very “sympathetic” and assured me that she too felt the same way at first, and later thanks to “guruji” she could see the light.

“Uniformly every volunteer to whom I complained about the NGOs being taken for a ride, responded in the same manner as though all of them were robots programmed by some unknown force. The whole campus is filled with security people. Going from one place to another place was like going from one section of a jail to another where every gate is protected by a security guard.

“After charging Rs 5,000 as a delegation fee, Art Of Living was providing us a room to be shared with two others, and with no towels, soap, drinking water, etc. The food was sub-standard. We were expected to wash dishes after eating.

“We did not go there as his disciples. I do not think delegates were taking part to learn about self-help as his disciples may be expected to do. I refused to wash dishes which was not liked by some. This is not because I dislike it. I have done it often. But I did not pay Rs 5,000 to do that. Moreover on the website, I was offered better lodging and food facilities.

“What a wonderful way of advertising his product by charging us!

“Companies pay money to advertise their products, but here Ravi Shankar collects money from us and introduces us to his product.

“There were satsanghs, “free” introductory yoga classes, visit to his first abode, etc. I am sure some NGOs would have decided to buy his products and will act as his emissaries. Of course, there will be a few like me who will attempt to do just the opposite. There were spies in the ashram observing people like me. It was obvious and at one time I was even frightened.

“During an evening satsangh, there were some planted questions put to Ravi Shankar. Still, his responses were pedestrian at best. One of the questions was about the new burning topic of global warming and climate change and what he (Ravi Shankar) thought about them.

“At first, he ridiculed those who are worried about such things and proceeded to give the example of the Y2K phenomenon. Ravi Shankar dwelt on how foolishly people worried about Y2K, about places exploding, about the world coming to an end, etc and how nothing of the kind took place. He was suggesting that Y2K was not a problem and so also global warming. Little did he take into consideration the elaborate precautions taken by the world to prepare for Y2K and how India became the world capital for IT and outsourcing as a result.

“What a pity such an ignoramus is considered as a “guruji” even by the firebrand Vandana Shiva.

“Someone asked the question about the unrest and violence in Kashmir and his response was to pat the questioner and to state that youth should get involved.

“After spending less than 24 hours, I decided to leave the place. The cult-like environment was suffocating. Some other delegates from Mangalore with whom I have been conversing also decided to leave after the inauguration. One of the speakers Ananth Nadkarni, vice president, Tata council for community initiatives, too decided to leave early. Another speaker who was to talk on HIV left even before the end of the first day.

“But for Vandana Shiva, none of the advertised experts and well-known speakers (R.K. Pachauri, Ashok Khsola, et al) were present. Is it possible that their names were prominently placed to sell the Sangam?

“We were told that about 500 delegates had registered and there were three silver sponsors. They must have raised at least Rs 30 lakh and the incremental cost would be no more than Rs. 3 lakh. This is an excellent and clever way of making huge profits. Business colleges should use this as a case study. We should admire the entrepreneurial capabilities of Ravi Shankar. It needs genius.

“Despite being a keynote speaker, Vandana Shiva spoke for just few minutes and that too in a rambling manner. She took the opportunity to bash Tata’s small car, the Nano. Her so-called keynote speech was dull and did not dwell on the main subject. A high school student could have delivered a better speech with greater insight.

“A High Court judge also gave an uninspiring talk making no substantive points except offering “pranams” to “guruji“. What a joke!

“I attended the first workshop and it was also equally boring. Speakers were more interested in offering pranams than dwelling on the subject.

“I do not think we can collaborate with this group. When they were pressing us to register all the time, and not giving us any suggestions on how we could collaborate, I knew this was a commercial establishment and not a spiritual centre as is advertised. Perhaps we should write an article on how NGOs should guard against such frauds in the future.

“I am sure during your meeting with Ravi Shankar and his people, you would have come to the same conclusion. Let us now revert back to the poverty issue and stop any idea of collaborating with Ravi Shankar.

“I am planning to demand the return of payment since facts were misrepresented to me while registering. I am exploring the possibility of filing a case in the consumers’ forum. When our NGO, Mysore Grahakara Parishat, is encouraging others to file cases, I need to follow that example.”