The corrupt Indian

So Anna Hazare and Team Anna are back with their fight against corruption in India and to ensure the implementation of the Lokpal Bill. There are mixed reports in the media about the success of this round of agitation, as none of the expected fasting, sloganeering, jail bharos, allegations, counter allegations, etc., etc, has really taken off. It the reports are to be believed then it appears that the movement has lost momentum as well as direction this time around.

I feel that part of the reason for the Anna juggernaut not sustaining is due to their simplistic understanding of corruption. Today, corruption is no longer only about those who take bribes; it is also about those who give bribes. Corruption is not only financial; it is moral, ethical, ecological, societal, ideological, creative… It is not only the politicians and the bureaucracy who are corrupt; society itself has become corrupt.

Corruption no longer has a simple definition; today, it is highly contextualised, complex, layered and subjective. What one person perceives as corruption can be another person’s “legitimate” way of securing his/her future! Take the case of a person who bribes his or her way to a lucrative posting within the organisation he/she works for. This is done with the understanding that the returns are worth the bribe paid. Think Customs, the Mumbai Octroi, the RTO… and you’ll know what I mean.

Corruption is so endemic and blatant that we have taken it for granted in a matter-of-fact way. Regrettably, the discourse on corruption in India rarely reflects its subjective understanding or its diversity or its depth or its endemic nature. Mostly, we get to read dry and technical analyses full of academic jargon, tables and figures and how India is being bled dry economically. Most of the articles are dramatic exposes intended to shock and titillate, but which ignore the deeper malaise that grips our society. Though some of these articles go into the reasons behind the corruption, very rarely does it take a mirror to the society we inhabit and present the different faces of the corrupt Indian.

I am surprised at the blinkers that we have on as we only have to look around us to see the many faces and avatars of the corrupt Indian :-(

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Celebrating diversity, understanding disability

Lior Liebling

So you have your Bar Mitzvah coming up, Lior?”

“Yeah.”

So what happens with the Bar Mitzvah?”

“With the Bar Mitzvah, I’ll grow up.”

“So, what will you do then? Drive a car?”

“No, drink beer.”

In the darkened screening room, the audience chuckles as the 12-year-old Lior Liebling delivers the last line with a naughty smile and a twinkle in his eye. Lior, which means “my light” in Hebrew, is the protagonist of an award-winning film by Illana Trachman, Praying with Lior. This documentary film is about Lior, a special child, a child with Down’s Syndrome, and a child who loves davening (traditional Jewish prayer) and singing, and who every one thinks has a special relationship with God. His faith and belief in Hashem (Hebrew for God) is simple: when asked if God has a smell, a taste or a form, Lior says, “No, no, no. God is God.”

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Rights vs. Rights: My first guest post

Zephyr is one blogger that I admire tremendously, I have never come away from her blog without getting some insight into an issue, a topic and even myself. So when she asked me to write a guest post for her, I was flattered. So flattered that I said yes. And then when I realised what I had said yes to, I panicked. How could I write as well as her? What could I write? Then the nail chewing began. Then excuses about a heavy workload were conveyed. Then request for additional time to write the post was submitted. 

Now, Zephyr is not known as the Cybernag without reason. She has perfected the art of nagging and after a month or so of gentle nagging, I was finally able to say yes again and not panic. I worked on a draft of a topic that I thought would be suitable for Zephyr’s blog and sent it off to her yesterday with a request for her to proofread (I am a very bad proofreader of my work) the article and for feedback. 

The positive feedback was conveyed yesterday evening and I am very excited now. The post, titled “Whose Right is it anyway” was published a short while back and suddenly I am a guest author ! Click on the screenshot below to read the full post.

Thank you so much Zephyr for publishing my post and for your … er… nagging :-D

The social movements calendar 2012

The Social Movements Calendar (SMC) is back !

The 2012 edition of the SMC is dedicated to the “saga of labour struggles from colonisation to globalisation”, and is yet another effort to document peoples’ struggles in the last few decades in the country and provide a one stop source for references on social movements on this theme. Originally conceptualised by the late Smitu Kothari and published by Intercultural Resources India, the 2012 SMC Calendar is the fourth edition.

The cover page of the Social Movements Calendar 2012. Source: http://icrindia.wordpress.com

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Being a “Banu” in Bombay

Here’s introducing the Guest Post Series on “My Favourite Things”, which will have contributions by those sharing my interests, and writing about issues that I am passionate about. These guest posts will not necessarily be by fellow bloggers; they could be by anyone who has interesting experiences to share.

The first guest post on here is by Ashabanu, who writes about the prejudice and bias she has faced because of her name. Prejudice and bias in the supposedly liberal city of Bombay (or Mumbai, if you please).

“B…a…n…u”. This is the second part of my name, Ashabanu.

I never thought that part of my name will seek so much of attention in the city of Bombay (or Mumbai if you please), when I stepped into the city about 8 years back. This name of mine has never intrigued anyone in the small town I hail from, near Chennai, or in any of the places I have worked or studied in Tamil Nadu. However, it has puzzled almost everyone in Bombay. From the day I landed in Bombay, I have had to keep explaining the “Banu” part to people.

On my very first day at work in Bombay, a colleague asked me, “Oh…You are the Banu? Sorry I did not realise that, as we were expecting someone with a burkha.

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RTE: Right to Education, Elitism or Exclusion?

Maha delay in notifying RTE Rules: State’s Slowness Has Ensured That Destitute Kids Won’t Get Admission In Pvt Schools This Year.

This was the headline of an article in the Times of India of June 13, 2011, the day all the State Board schools in Maharashtra re-opened. According to the article, along with  15 other states and union territories of India, Maharashtra had yet to notify the norms of the Right of children to free and compulsory Education Act (RTE), 2009. The RTE Act, which came into operation on April 1, 2010, has the same legal status as other rights enshrined in the Indian Constitution. Two of the defining rules of the Act say that (i) every child from 6 to 14 years of age has the right to free and compulsory education in a neighbourhood school, and that (ii) private schools must take in 25% of their class strength from “weaker sections and disadvantaged groups”, who will be sponsored by the government.

The RTE is a much discussed Act with its share of supporters and critics; one can find many critiques of the Act—you can read an excellent one by Parth Shah here and this blog that is entirely devoted to the RTE. Most of the critiques that I have come across discuss the lack of clarity (particularly with regard to the economics involved) in the rules of the Act as well as its implementation. In an article in Mint Lounge on how an English-medium education is a way out of life in the slums for many, Aakar Patel weaves in how the RTE Act could be used to achieve this goal. He also discusses as well as the possible hurdles in achieving it—hurdles that are not just economic, but social, i.e. those related to caste, class, etc.

In my opinion, the RTE Act is noble and idealistic in intent, but completely un-implementable in letter and spirit. Like Aakar Patel, I too believe that the reasons are not economic, but social due to the class-ridden and casteist nature of our society—a society that very clearly propagates differentiation of an “us” and “them” at every level. I draw from my experience to support this opinion. Let me elaborate.

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