Remember ME - You Me and Dementia

Friday, February 29, 2008

A case of legal eligibility versus social ineligibility

It's the lunch break at the government school in Bibipur village in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.

As soon as the bell goes off, hundreds of children run out into the ground to eat and to play.

Dozens of them swarm like bees in front of the kitchen where their meal is being prepared.

According to government rules, all children in state-run schools should be given a free midday meal.

An hour later, the children have gone back into their classes, hungry.

"We got the food supplies late today, that's why it's taking us longer," explains their teacher, Anirudh Singh.


The midday meal scheme at this school has been in the news in the recent months for all the wrong reasons.

In December, a dalit (low-caste Hindu or so-called untouchable) woman was appointed to work in the school as a cook.

Phool Kumari fitted the bill perfectly, as the job was reserved for a dalit and a widow.

But when Phool Kumari began cooking, many children refused to eat lunch.

"There were lots of complaints about her cooking. The children said her food was burnt, it was tasteless. We tried to explain to the children, we told them that she will improve. But we had to give up, we couldn't force them to eat," says Singh.

Less than a week after the students' protest began, Phool Kumari was sacked.

An angry and bitter Phool Kumari says the criticism against her cooking is unfair.

In Indian villages, girls begin cooking as soon as they turn 11 or 12. Phool Kumari is nearly 50 and she says it's absurd to suggest that she can't cook.

Reports from the village suggested it was not simply a matter of taste – most students who boycotted Phool Kumari's cooking were from the higher castes, who have for centuries shunned the dalits.


And Phool Kumari belongs to that group of nearly 240 million Indians who have been traditionally kept out of the Hindu caste system.

Mostly considered unworthy of touch by the higher castes, some even consider their shadow to be polluting.

And caste barriers may not be that evident in the cities today but they are an everyday reality in rural India.

Officially, the school authorities and the children deny that caste was a consideration in boycotting Phool Kumari's food.

At Singh's prompting, some dalit children said they too boycotted Phool Kumari's cooking.

"She was very unhygienic. She burnt the rice and the lentils had no salt. And she served rice with her bare hands," says 13-year-old Nirmala Gautam.

But many of the children tell me they have little interaction or connection with the dalit households in the village.

On the periphery of Bibipur is the Harijan basti (or the dalit colony) where Phool Kumari lives.

"Only the lower caste children ate my food. The higher-caste children said they would not eat the food I had cooked. They said that to my face."

She says the children had been coached by the school teachers, who belong to the Rajput or the warrior caste, considered fairly high up in the caste hierarchy.


Many of her dalit neighbours corroborate her statement. "My daughters Subhashni and Roshni study in the same school. They said their teacher Anirudh Singh had told them not to eat the food cooked by Phool Kumari. He told them that if they ate, they would be beaten up," says Prem Kumari, a neighbour of Phool Kumari.

"My daughters ate on days Singh was absent, but they would not eat when he was there," she says.

Singh denies all the charges. In his defence, he says Phool Kumari has been replaced by another dalit woman, Bitola.

I spend half a day at the school, watching the midday meal being prepared by the school's main cook, Kalavati.

Bitola helps clean the rice, brings in water for cooking. But at no time does she enter the kitchen. Neither does she serve the food.

Phool Kumari says she has been threatened by the members of the upper castes. "They said they would gag me and kill me if I went back to school," she says.

Once the story broke, hordes of media and officials descended on Bibipur.

In January, India's Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment Meira Kumar shot off a letter to the state government expressing concern.

'Poor performance'

The matter assumed extra sensitivity since the state government is headed by Chief Minister Mayawati who herself is a dalit.

But after an inquiry, the state administration upheld the decision to sack Phool Kumari.

Says senior government official Sailesh Krishna, "Phool Kumari was removed on the basis of her performance, caste was not an issue here."

At the Harijan basti, Phool Kumari and her neighbours are livid at the explanation.

"To stay in power Mayawati is wooing the upper-castes. She doesn't care about us. She wants our vote, but she's not bothered about us," says Phool Kumari.

"But I'm going to carry on fighting. Even if they kill me, I won't give up," she says.

That Mayawati government is not standing up for dalit rights may seem odd but Phool Kumari and her neighbours insist the issue is dictated by political considerations.

Although high-caste, the school management, including teacher Anirudh Singh, support the chief minister's Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP).

The head of the village council Ram Babu Chaurasia – who backed Phool Kumari for the job – is a supporter of the opposition Samajwadi Party.

Singh accuses Chaurasia of playing politics to sully the name of the school.

Chaurasia denies the charge, he says Phool Kumari's dismissal is a result of caste conflict.

While the two sides continue to engage in a verbal punch-up, Phool Kumari remains trapped in the middle. A dalit, a woman and a widow, she is at the receiving end. As always.

By Geeta Pandey


Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.


Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment is implementing a plan scheme namely ‘An Integrated Programme for Older Persons’ under which financial assistance upto 90 per cent of the project cost is provided to NGOs for establishing and maintaining Old Age Homes, Day Care Centres, Mobile Medicare Units and to provide non-institutional services to older persons.

In addition, the government is also offering various other facilities/benefits like old age pension, higher threshold limit of exemption under Income Tax, higher rates of interest on saving schemes of senior citizens; exclusive Health Insurance Schemes through Public Sector Insurance Companies for senior citizens; travel concessions, etc. Further, the Government has recently enacted the maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007 for providing need-based maintenance and better healthcare facilities to the senior citizens, setting up of old age homes in every district of the country and for institutionalization of the mechanism for protection of life and property of the senior citizens.

This information was given by the Minister of State for Social Justice and Empowerment, Smt. Subbulakshmi Jagadeesan in a written reply to a question in Lok Sabha on 298th Feb 2008.


Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

Impact of Microfinance Programs on Children: A Report

This study attempts to track changes in child well-being within microfinance programs.

This study examines the indicators that have been used by child-focused non-governmental organizations (NGOs), microfinance practitioners and social performance researchers to assess processes that address children’s concerns in operations, and the impact of microfinance on children.

The paper states that:

The general consensus on the efficacy of microfinance in increasing household well-being has resulted in the assumption of a causal link between enhanced household security and child wellbeing.

As a result of this link, there have been limited efforts to systematically track changes in child wellbeing within microfinance programs.

The interviewees (international NGOs, microfinance practitioners and microfinance networks in the Washington, DC metropolitan area), provided information on the child welfare indicators they are currently tracking. This generated a number of indicators that NGOs and microfinance institutions (MFIs) currently use to track children’s health, wellbeing and human development in association with the receipt of financial services.

The study findings include:

The majority of indicators were in the education category, followed by health, protection and nutrition indicators;

There are several gaps in the indicators relating to poverty measures, health, leisure time, development and use of microfinance products for children and gender.

The paper concludes by recommending the following indicators that would provide a more complete picture of child health and wellbeing:

Better access to health care;

Increased food security through access to a healthier diet;

Increased access to education;

Reduced vulnerability;


To read complete report visit:

Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

Abuse On Women- Whose Fault?

An Open Letter to Shri S.R. Nayak Chairperson, State Human Rights Commission, Karnataka and Chief Justice Cyriac Joseph of Karnataka High Court.

Ninth February 2009 is a significant date for women of Karnataka… significant in a negative sense as both of you, who are public luminaries, and in positions that are crucial to ensuring gender justice and upholding the human rights of women, chose to express at different public fora, opinions that blamed women for the violence they face in our cities.

We are deeply shocked that decades of work of organisations like ours across the country to bring violence against women that was hidden as personal in to the public realm has been totally trivialized by such opinions expressed by both of you. This casual dismissal is a callous denial of the sacrifices of countless women of all classes who dared to name the violence and raise voices against violations in the name of culture, social norms and religious practice at the cost of their lives, livelihoods and reputations. It is a shame that at this point of time when women are slowly opening up spaces in the public arena for their participation and when the public arena itself is slowly adapting itself to the presence of women, you as public figures are closing up these spaces by expressing opinions that perhaps even your own forefathers did not possess!

Opinions that you have expressed can not go unchallenged; opinions that only help towards closing already petty minds apart from public spaces for women. And a closed mind only gathers bias and more prejudice. Towards opening minds like yours to new wisdoms and insights obtained through hard and difficult negotiations with reality that perhaps you are unaware of, we who are groups and organisations working with women, would like to remind you Sirs of your respective statements and push you towards thinking a little more deeply of the implications of what you have so carelessly and callously spoken.

Shri S R Nayak, State Human Rights Commission Chairperson speaking on "Human Rights and Lawyers' Role" at a programme organized by the Vakeelara Sangha, said (as reported in Indian Express dated 9th Feb 2008), "…. yes men are bad … but who asked them (the women) to venture out in the night... the women should not have gone out in the night and when they do, there is no point complaining that men touched them and hit them. Youth are destroying our culture for momentary satisfaction…"

Dear Chairperson we are not aware of any law – social, ethical or legal that prohibits women from public spaces in the night… are the night hours reserved for men in this country? What is it in the public mind as amply illustrated by you sir, that refuses to see the injustice of putting the onus on the women to be safe from men and not find any anomaly in the behaviour of the men who attack women when they find they can get away with it?

Why when you are able to understand so well the baser instincts of some men to attack and abuse women, are you unable to understand women's need to expand their lives to live without fear either of men or of the dark?

It might shock you Mr Chairperson to know that the level of abuse and violation of women in homes and in family which are assumed to be "safe" spaces for women are not so safe after all. In Bangalore city alone, on a daily average three to four married women are killed or are driven to kill themselves within the so called safe confines of their homes only because they were unable to bring in sufficient dowry…..or because the salt in food was less …or because the woman refused to serve food or because she answered him back or because they happened to wear flowers in their hair …. for many such trivial reasons. We wonder whether you would you hold these women responsible for being in the home and "allowing" themselves to die?

Regarding your comment on the youth destroying our culture for their momentary satisfaction, we wonder, Sir, if you have ever wondered what has driven the youth of this country to put lucre above all else; whose economic policies have driven them to run after material and immediate satisfaction rather than building and enhancing the ethical and moral fibre of this country?

Culture, Mr Chairperson we are sure you will agree, is not only about language, dress, food or rituals… it is also about how one generation facilitates and works to help the next generation to live in harmony and in peace. Do you ever wonder whether we are doing this for our coming generation in our mad rush to "develop" and become a Singapore or an America in the shortest possible period?

And now from issues of violence against women that somehow they themselves are the cause of and the inexplicable degeneration of cultures let us come to the more curious issue of womanly modesty the lack of which poses a threat to men's loyalty to the lord. Honourable Chief Justice Cyriac Joseph, at another public event in which you were giving a speech on the topic "Supreme Court on Section 13 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955" (as reported in The Hindu dated 9th February 2008), very kindly urged women to dress "modestly" for the "safety and security of the people." You went on to elaborate your stand by coyly confessing that "Nowadays, women wear such kind of dresses even in temples and churches that when we go to places of worship, instead of meditating on God, we end up meditating on the person before us."

Let us try to understand you a little more deeply. Are you actually suggesting that if what they wear, where they are, how they look and what they say in a public space provokes men to be abusive and violent, then women be banished from all such spaces only so that men can be safe from becoming perpetrators of crimes against women?

We wait to hear your clarification.

In the meantime Honourable Chief Justice, we are sure that in the course of your long and illustrious career you would have come across cases of the rape of children who are just five or six year old and in some cases even less. Sometimes by strangers, most times by neighbours and relatives and sometimes even by fathers. You must have also heard a few years ago of the horrifying rape of a mentally challenged girl in full public view in a local train in Bombay. As a matter of curiosity we would like know whether you think that children and physically and mentally challenged girls have provoked their violators by dressing immodestly?

So much for the cases of rape and sexual assault that are reported and draw a lot of public indignation. What about the thousands of rape of poor and dalit women, whose lack of clothing has little to do with their lack of modesty; women who do not dare voice their attacks against such atrocities lest they are subject to more brutal attacks. Like the women in Gujarat who were victims of orchestrated gang rapes even when they were fully clothed in burkhas. Or the nuns who fell prey to sexual violence by fundamentalist goons in Madhya Pradesh and who were more than modestly attired in their habits.

Honourable Chief Justice are you aware that the shocking reality of the increasing numbers of acid attacks on women in Karnataka……most caused only because they said "no" to an obsessed man? We wonder if you really think that they were provoking their attackers by saying "no"?

And now finally with regard to your wonderfully humorous comment about men's discriminatory sartorial tastes that you also seem to subscribe to where you say that often times in a place of worship you end up meditating on the person in front of you instead of meditating on God….. We would suspect that more than being a comment on the revealing nature of the attire that we assume the woman in front of you was wearing, your comment reveals more of the frailty of your own faith that you could get so easily distracted!

Dear Chairperson and Honourable Justice we hope that this letter from many of us who found your comments more than a little objectionable will push you to introspect and recover your sadly diminished public stature by apologising for making such puerile statements in public.

As men of public office you can not continue to justify this inhuman onus you place on women to protect themselves against not only men's carnal but often criminal sexual instincts that have little or nothing to do with the clothes that women may or may not wear. As the purveyors of justice and human rights need we remind you that it is your duty to go beyond stated opinions to the unstated politics of power that underlie such sexual attacks in order to ensure that justice is done to the victim and not to the perpetrator of the crime

Or would you prefer to sit in your own ivory towers of power and prove to the world that justice is truly gender blind?

By Stree Mukti


Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Antibiotics overused in dementia patients

A woman dying of Alzheimer’s has a fever. Should she be given antibiotics?

Many people would say yes. But a provocative new study suggests that antibiotics are overused in people dying of dementia diseases and should be considered more carefully because of the growing problem of drug-resistant superbugs.

The study raises ethical questions about when it’s acceptable to withhold perhaps futile treatment and let people die, and whether public health issues should ever be considered.

“Advanced dementia is a terminal illness,” said study co-author Dr. Susan Mitchell, a senior scientist with the Harvard-affiliated Hebrew Senior Life Institute for Aging Research in Boston. “If we substituted ’end-stage cancer’ for ’advanced dementia,’ I don’t think people would have any problem understanding this.”

Many experts, including the Alzheimer’s Association, consider Alzheimer’s and other dementias to be fatal brain diseases. Patients die of infections such as pneumonia and other complications, but the underlying cause is damage to brain cells.

In the study, more than 200 people with advanced dementia from Boston-area nursing homes were followed for 18 months or until their deaths. Almost half died during that time. All the patients failed to recognize loved ones, had stopped speaking, were unable to walk or feed themselves and were incontinent.

“They were at what anyone would consider the very final stage,” Mitchell said.

Researchers reviewed medical records to see what kind of care they were given and found that 42 percent received antibiotics — many intravenously — within two weeks of their deaths. The closer they were to death, the more likely they were to receive antibiotics.

The study appears in Monday’s Archives of Internal Medicine.

Antibiotic overuse contributes to the rise of superbugs, so experts have been calling on doctors to curb the liberal prescribing of antibiotics in many types of patients, including children with earaches and adults with sore throats.

Nursing homes often harbor drug-resistant bacteria, prior studies have shown, and residents can spread dangerous infections when they are admitted to hospitals.

Doctors only see patients once a month
Dr. Daniel Brauner, a geriatrician and ethicist at the University of Chicago Medical Center who was not involved in the study, said cautious use of antibiotics in nursing homes would require doctors to more closely monitor residents.

“But the standard of care (in nursing homes) is for doctors to see residents once a month, or once every two months,” Brauner said. “I’m sure a lot of these antibiotics were prescribed over the telephone.”

Doctors should discuss antibiotics with family, just as they would discuss placing a feeding tube, Mitchell said. None of the residents in the study who received antibiotics had living wills spelling out their wishes on antibiotic treatment, she said.

If the family’s goal is to keep their loved one comfortable, rather than to prolong life, alternatives such as oxygen and Tylenol can help, she said.


Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

Global Fairness

Climate negotiations in Bali moved the world just a bit back from the brink

The international climate negotiations that took place in Bali, Indonesia, in December brought us to a new and more difficult level in the climate game that we’ll be playing for the rest of our lives.

We knew going into Bali that if the old routine continued we’d be in trouble. The skeptics had been discredited; the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) had delivered clear and unequivocal warnings; Al Gore and the IPCC had won the Nobel Prize. So it’s with great relief that I can say that although Bali wasn’t the breakthrough that we need, the game has indeed changed. The critical next two years of negotiations have begun in earnest.

The most important change was the new stance taken by the countries of the global South, the Group of 77, or G77.

Their earlier focus had been on unity. But unity has allowed the G77’s most retrograde members (the Saudis come to mind) to override the interests of weaker parties (like the Alliance of Small Island States). That’s why it’s so important that China, South Africa, and Brazil stepped forward from self-defeating unity to signal a new willingness to make binding commitments to limit emissions.

This was a real breakthrough, not least because the attached condition—measurable, reportable, and verifiable assistance from the industrialized to the developing countries—was widely understood as being both just and inevitable.

And that takes us to the second major development at Bali. The once radical idea that rich countries have responsibilities to the poor has now emerged as a near-consensus position. Today, to be serious, you have to admit that wealthy countries became wealthy by following a fossil-fuel intensive development path that led directly to today’s climate crisis. And if we truly expect today’s developing countries to take a different path, we’ll have to provide the means by which those countries can leapfrog over fossil-fuel dependence and directly into an efficiency- and renewables-based economy.

There’s a huge challenge here. Just as rich-world politics are finally acknowledging the need for sharp domestic emissions reductions, the international community is moving ahead to an even more difficult truth. The rich cannot simply act within their own borders. They are also responsible for financing parallel reductions and the large-scale efforts to adapt to now inevitable climate change impacts in the developing world.

What does this mean in practice? Technology transfer, for one thing, and this time it has to mean the best of the new technologies, not the worst of the old. And large-scale funding for adaptation and poverty alleviation, because without it there’s little chance of finding the global solidarity that we’ll need to manage the transition. And a whole lot more.

Fortunately, Bali saw the long-overdue encounter between the climate movement and the global justice movement finally take place in earnest, and neither movement will ever be the same. Even mainline climate activists talk often now about equity, even though they fear its implications, which, frankly, they’re right to do: Climate justice has the potential to raise the stakes dangerously high, so high that both our politicians and our populations could easily balk. Which is all the more reason to marvel, for today few people within the climate movement can imagine a future without justice.

Nor will the greens be the only ones transformed by this encounter. The global justice movement, which has largely built its climate politics around opposition to carbon offsets and market mechanisms, is now coming to see that such opposition is not enough. If false solutions are a terrible danger, so too is the illusion that by exposing that danger we have done all we need to do.

Our One Chance to Get it Right

To be sure, there are serious shortcomings in the final Bali Action Plan. It did not lay out national obligations for emissions reductions, nor even a global target. But the truth is that Bali was never going to lay out the details, or even a comprehensive framework. And it did manage to open the way forward.

When we get down to cases, we’ll have no choice but to face the details of an extremely daunting reality. The climate threat demands emergency action. The truth here is more than incon-venient: it’s shocking and even terrifying. We’re going to have to get this right, and soon.

There’ll be no way to do this without both trust and technology, globally and on a grand scale. Which means we’ll need breakthroughs in international financing to provide the means by which poor countries can continue to develop without pushing us all over the edge into catastrophe. And such breakthroughs will depend upon negotiating “burden sharing” agreements that take proper account of not only the North/South divide, but also the rich/poor divide within both northern and southern countries.

And, as if this wasn’t enough, we’ll also need to bring the rules and priorities of the WTO, World Bank, IMF, and others quickly into line with the imperatives of the climate regime.

All of which is to say that we’ll need to put justice at the center of the climate agenda, right along with environmental adequacy in the face of an astonishingly severe threat. For without justice there will not be cooperation or solidarity. And without global solidarity, we will fail.

By Thom Athanasiou


Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

To Hang Or Not To Hang?

Its an ill wind that blows nobody good. It is indeed a disquieting sign of the socalled terroristic world we live in that 58 countries are planning to move UN to resume capital punishment : -

As per news reports in UK a recent poll of 95000 people conducted by a popular national newspaper a staggering 99% said they want to see the return of capital punishment : - This is most unusual because it was the UK which took an initiative to abolish capital punishment in the fifties.

In India death penalty is awarded in the rarest of the rare cases. As a protagonish of the abolition of capital punishment I would like to reproduce my comments in my article “To Hang or Not To Hang” published in The Illustrated Weekly of India, dated. 18.02.1979 which I venture to think are still relevant originally published about three decades back because judicial perspective or the lack of it has not changed over the course of three decades.

To Hang or Not To Hang?

Opinion is divided in the world over the abolition of the death penalty. In some countries this extreme punishment has been done away with, in others it exists only in the statute book, while in many it is still imposed. The author highlights the pros and cons of this controversial subject.

Four young students, all under 25, were sentenced to death recently by the additional sessions judge in the Pune murder case on a charge of entering into a criminal conspiracy and committing ten murders in cold blood.

This case once again brings into focus the question of the abolition of the death penalty. The additional sessions judge, Mr. W.N. Bapat, has in view of the cold-blooded and heinous character of the murders categorically ruled out morbid pity or any redeeming factor on account of the adolescence of the accused.

There is certainly a hint of judicial ambivalence here because the judge cannot help referring to the “clamour” in the modern world for the abolition of the death penalty. But the judgement leaves one in no doubt that the judge is clear in his mind that the extreme penalty has a definite place in the statute book and that it should continue to be so.

“Criminological Quackery”

But sometimes-judicial ambivalence and helplessness pleaded in the face of the provisions of the Indian Penal Code and Criminal Procedure Code assume a curious contrariness. One can take, for example, a judgement delivered by Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer of the Supreme Court of India.

Justice Iyer recently attended the plenary session of the World Conference on Abolition of Death Penalty held at Stockholm under the auspices of Amnesty International where he called strongly “to liquidate life taking lex talionis” as it was utterly incongruous with all that is precious in human culture.

He said: “Terror to meet terror. Non sequitur is the scientific answer… Can two murders be equal to no murder? Homicide is heinous, so is hanging. Can two wrongs make one right save by a perverted moral?” Justice Iyer went on to condemn the death penalty as “a criminological quackery and jurisprudential philistinism”.

With all this great disgust and condemnation of capital punishment, Justice Iyer declined to diminish death penalty on a convicted murderer when he was called upon to exercise his judgement in Joseph vs Goa Damman Diu. He observed as follows to clear the confusion in the public mind about the power of the judiciary to overrule the Penal Code.

“A death sentence with all its dreadful scenario of swinging desperately out of the last breath of mortal life is an excruciating hour for the judges called upon to lend signature to this macabre stroke of the executioner’s rope. Even so, judges must enforce laws, whatever they be and decide according to the best of their lights, but the laws are not always just and the lights not always luminous. Nor, again, are judicial methods always adequate to secure justice, we are bound by the Penal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code, by the very oath of our office.”

One can understand and even appreciate the delicate judicial dilemma Justice Iyer finds himself in, but one in constrained to say that it is nevertheless an instance of abject surrender to the prevailing judicial dogma with respect to the death penalty. One simply fails to understand why a judge who categorically denunciates the death penalty should “draw his inspiration from consecrated principles, by not yielding to spasmodic sentiments and vague unregulated benevolence” because he has to exercise “a discretion informed by tradition, methodized by analogy, disciplined by system and subordinated to the primordial necessity of order in the social life” in the words of Justice Cardozo.

Binding Precedents

As a justification Justice Iyer states in his judgement: “The guidelines laid down by this court in its precedents which bind us, tell us that if the offence has been perpetrated with attendant aggravating circumstances, if the perpetrator discloses an extremely depraved state of mind and diabolical trickery in committing the homicide, accompanied by brutal dealing with the cadaver, a court can hardly help in the present state of the death penalty when discretion has been exercised by the trial court and it is difficult to fault that court on any ground, statutory or precedential, an appellate review and even referral action become too narrow to demolish the discretionary exercise of power by the inferior court.”

The question of judicial discretion and its exercise in capital cases was given detailed consideration in Jagmohan Singh vs State of UP. In his judgement Justice Palekar of the five judge Supreme Court Bench (1973) said that the appellate counsel’s arguments against the death penalty were practically similar to those which were advanced in the US Supreme Court in the case of Furman vs State of Georgia decided on June 29,1972.

By a vote of 5 to 4, the American Supreme Court held in this case that the carrying out of the death penalty in one case of a Georgia murder conviction, one of a Georgia rape conviction, none of a Texas rape conviction would constitute cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment.

The English Bill of Rights, enacted on December 16, 1689, stated that “excessive bail ought not to be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted”. These are the very words chosen for the Eighth Amendment of the American Constitution.

But Justice Palekar did not feel that the American decision has any relevance to India. He said: “We have grave doubts about the expediency of transplanting Western experience in our country, Social conditions are different and so also the general intellectual level.”

Thus Justice Palekar went on to confirm the Law Commission of India’s Thirty-fifth Report on Capital Punishment (1967) in its conclusion that “Having regard, how ever, to the conditions in India, to the variety of social upbringing of its inhabitants, to the disparity in the level of morality and education in the country, to the vastness of its area, to the diversity of its area, to the diversity of its population, and to the paramount need for maintaining law and order in the country at the present juncture, India cannot risk the experiment of abolition of capital punishment.”

Justice Palekar also distinguished between the position of the capital sentence with respect to capital cases before and after the amendment of Section 367 (5) of the Criminal Procedure Code. Prior to Amending Act 26 of Amending Act 26 of 1955, this section read as follows: “If the accused is convicted of an offence punishable with death and the court sentences him to any punishment other than death, the court shall, in its judgement, state the reason why the sentence of death was not passed.”

Judge Has Discretion

By the amendment this provision is deleted and, as the Code at present stands, punishment for murder is one of the two namely, death or imprisonment for life. Neither Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code nor any other Provision in the Criminal Procedure Code says in what cases the Capital punishment is to be imposed and in what others the lesser punishment.

However, the Judge noted that the policy of our criminal law as regards crimes including the crime of murder is to fix the maximum penalty- the same being intended for the worst cases, leaving a very wide discretion in the matter of punishment to the judge. Hence he thought that the exercise of judicial discretion on well-recognized principles is, in the final analysis, the safest possible safeguard for the accused, and that it will be impossible to say there would be at all any discrimination, since facts and circumstances of the case can hardly be the same as those of another.

Significantly, this judgement did not at all refer to the abolition of the death penalty in England, first experimentally in 1965 and than finally in 1970 and only selectively quoted from the Furman vs Georgia decision. In this case, in his judgement, Justice Douglas declared:

“It would seem incontestable that the death penalty inflicted on one defendant is unusual” if it discriminates against him by reason of his race, religion, wealth, social position or class, or if it is imposed under a procedure that gives room for the play of such prejudices… In ancient Hindu Law a Brahman was exempt from capital punishment and under that law punishment increased in severity as social status diminished.”

Making clear the unequal operation of the law on death penalty with regard to the Negroes, Justice Douglas observed: “A law that stated that anyone making more than 50,000 dollars would be exempt from the death penalty would plainly fall, as would a law that in terms said that blacks, those who never went beyond the fifth grade in school, those who made less than 3,000 dollars a year or those who were unpopular or unstable should be the only people executed. A law which in the overall view reaches that result in practice has no more sanctity than a law which in terms provides the same.”

While the enlightened juristic opinion in Western countries is fearlessly thinking in these terms, we in India, priding ourselves on our ancient values, civilization and culture (!), continue with scandalously iniquitous punitive practices.

What is remarkable is that the Law Commission of India was blind to the evidence in Western countries that the rate of murder and other serious crimes is rising by leaps and bounds despite rising prosperity, and that there is no correlation between poverty, illiteracy and crime on the one hand, and affluence on the other. Crime follows its on laws, it has no class creed or colour.

As noted by Sir Leon Radzionowicz, an international expert on criminology, and Joan King in their recent book, The Growth of Crime: The International Experience (1977) “when it comes to the kind of chronic peasant poverty that is almost he rule for vast numbers of mankind” we find a different picture because they are found to be usually the most honest. “It was the poor in the cities, living cheek by jowl with great wealth, who were under the greatest provocation and temptation to crime.”

The USA, which has reached the most spectacular heights of affluence, offers a glaring contradiction of the Indian Law Commission’s correlation between illiteracy, low intellectual level and morality. There is more crime and it is more violent. There are as many murders in Manhattan each year as in the whole of England and Wales.

Crime Rate Growing

From this evidence Sir Leon Redzinowicz concludes that incidence of crime has been going up in all parts of the world whatever the stage of development and among all segments of society. “No national characteristic, no political regime, no system of law, police, Justice, punishment, treatment or even terror, has rendered a country exempt from crime.”

In this context it would be useful to consider the propriety of the death penalty for dangerous and cold-blooded murderers. In the Pune murder case judgement the additional sessions judge rightly says that the accused “never saw meadows but only graves, never saw any stars but only mud”. Nor can there be any doubt that the murders were cold-blooded, deliberate and gruesome in the extreme and should be condemned as such.

But, if the accused failed to see the stars and meadows, I wonder if there can be any excuse for the criminal justice system also not seeing stars and meadows.

If we are really prepared to go to the depth of the matter, be patient enough about the judicial process as it is actually operating in capital cases, we will not fail to see that it is nothing but a ritualized and sophisticated form of the ancient Cain and Abel blood- feud. Alex Comfort has shown in his Authority and Delinquency in the Modern State how this primitive residue operates in the execution of criminals.

He notes, for example, how there was a practice in England persisting until the last century of disguising the condemned man as an animal by wrapping him up in cow-hide and making it an occasion for public festivity. Even the Medicine Hat, which the modern judge places upon his head to pronounce the sentence of death, has a long and distinguished anthropological history.

Public Execution Repulsive

But criminal laws and modes of execution have gone through a process of evolution. Public execution is no longer palatable to the modern civilized mind and so it is carried out in the seclusion of the prison cell. The Indian Law Commission on Capital Punishment came to the solemn conclusion that “an execution in public would be repulsive, and that is a sufficient argument against its introduction in the country. It a public execution is repulsive to the refined juristic sensibilities of our judicial administrators, one has a remote hope that our criminal justice system is evolving in the right direction.

Death punishment is on the retreat in the modern world. More than seventy countries have abolished it. The countries that have found it unnecessary are vary varied: large and small, industrial and agricultural of all races and continents. As one witness said to the British Royal Commission on Capital Punishment in 1953, he was puzzled why it should e supposed that Englishmen are so peculiarly brutal by nature that they need some special deterrent from murder. Now England has abolished it, but we in India seem to be labouring under the same misconception.

There is no evidence to show that presence or absence of the death penalty has any special effect on the incidence of violent crimes.

To come hearer home, in pre Independence days there was no execution for four decades in the old State of Hyderabad because the Nizam commuted every sentence. In the states of Cochin and Travancore capital punishment was not in existence of crime in those years was no higher there than in the rest of India.

The judicial reasoning in the Pune murder case is simple: cold-blooded murders have been committed: there is no room for pity and no redeeming factor either. Hence no leniency and only the death penalty will meet the ends of justice. This conforms to Lord Denning’s theory of punitive retribution. As he said before the Royal Commission:

“The Punishment inflicted for grave crimes should adequately reflect the revulsion felt by the great majority of citizens for them. There are some murders which in the percent sate of public opinion demand the most emphatic denunciation of all namely, the death penalty.”

The feelings of vengeance have primitive unconscious roots. As Arthur Koestler noted: “The desire for vengeance has deep, unconscious roots and is roused when we feel strong indignation or revulsion- whether the reasoning mind approves or not. Even abolitionists may sometimes not be proof against vindictive impulses. This does not mean that such impulses should be legally sanctioned by society, just as we do not sanction promiscuous impulses.”

Judges and the police tend to have a ritual faith in the efficacy of the death penalty. This is evident from the operation of the bloody code during the 19th century in England. It was unique in the world inasmuch as it listed between 230 and 32 offences punishable by death from stealing of turnips, writing threatening letters, to cutting down trees, picking pockets, shoplifting, etc. the exact number of offences was not known even to legal authorities!

The philosophy of such punishment was summed up in the formula of an 18th century judge who told the defendant that “you are to be hanged not because you have stolen a sheep but in order that others may not steal sheep”.

Is It Really A Deterrent?

“A punishment to be just,” said a pioneer Italian abolitionist of the 18th century, “should have only that degree of severity that I necessary to deter others.” Blackstone said that it was not lawful to deter at any rate and by any means.

How far is the death penalty a deterrent? Is it really a deterrent to dangerous criminals? Evidence suggests that it is not a deterrent to murderers who commit suicide one third of all murders do. It is not a deterrent to the insane and mentally deranged, nor to those who kill in a quarrel, drunkenness or sudden passion ad provocation. This type accounts for 80 to 90 per cent of all murders. It is not a deterrent to the one who believes he will never be found out.

Thus only the professional class of criminal is left who can be said to be kept in control or deterred by the threat of death and nothing short of death. But those who favour abolition of the death penalty and those who oppose it agree that murder is not a crime of the criminal classes; it is a crime of amateurs, of first offenders, not of professionals.

As regards the rural urban ratio of violent crimes it was found that criminality was concentrated in the extremes of rural and urban areas and that the crimes committed in rural areas were generally emotional whereas those committed in urban areas were preplanned. The study also found that crime is mainly an urban affair and the highest number of offences occur among the young and in the middle-income groups. This confirms Sir Leon Redzinowicz’s findings and sets at nought the Law Commission’s opinion.

More pertinent still are the findings of the American National Commission’s Report on violent crime. It says that violent crime, its perpetrator and its victims are found most often I urban areas characterized by low income, physical deterioration, dependency, racial and ethnic concentrations, broken homes, working mothers, low levels of education and vocational skills, high unemployment, high proportion of single males, over crowded and substandard housing, high rates of tuberculosis and infant mortality, low rates of home ownership and single family dwellings, mixed land use and high population density. All these combined together create an interrelated complex of powerful criminogenic forces.

As regards violent and dangerous criminals, in a study of the case histories of more than 400 violent prisoners in a large penitentiary in Boston done by Vernon H. Mark, Director Neurourgical Services, Boston City Hospital, and Frank R. Ervin, Director, Stanley Cobb Laboratories for Psychiatric Research, it was found that these violent people usually had four characteristic symptoms which were, however, not always present at the same time:

Characteristics of Criminals

1. A history of physical assault, especially wife and child beating; (2) the symptoms of pathological intoxication that is drinking even a small amount o alcohol triggers acts of senseless brutality. (There is some evidence that in the pathological intoxication the act of drinking, rather than alcohol itself, is the stimulus for brutality.) Individuals who become violent after taking even a small amount of liquor by mouth may be injected intravenously with enough alcohol to produce clinical drunkenness without any signs of violent behaviour. (3) A history of impulsive sexual behaviour, at times including sexual assaults; (4) a history (in those who drove cars) of many traffic violations and serious automobile accidents. The authors term this set of symptoms together as the “dyscontrol syndrome”. (Violence and the Brain).

There is a theory of social hygiene which says that people who commit bestial murders should be destroyed not as a punishment but because we are better off without them. Why should they be maintained at state expense with the risk moreover that they might escape and commit another crime? Even members of the medical profession sometimes say that if a criminal has no moral sense and is a psychopath he should be regarded as human refuse, dangerous to society, deserving to be hanged.

Sir Earnest Gowers, Chairman, Royal Commission on Capital Punishment, fears that the above argument has disturbing implications. “If it is right to eliminate useless and dangerous members of the community, why should the accident of having committed a capital offence determine who should be selected. These are only a tiny proportion and not necessarily the most dangerous…. It can lead to Nazism.”

Those favouring the death penalty say that it should be retained for exceptional offenders such as Landru or Eichmann on the ground that it should be used for social monsters or for crimes against humanity. The Pune multiple murders obviously fall in this category: society would be acting in self-defence when it removes such persons as dangerous beasts.

Social Monsters

But, according to Albert Camus, in resorting to this philosophy of elimination of social monsters we would be approaching some of the worst ideas of totalitarianism or the selective racism, which the Hitler regime propounded.

But, even apart from these dangerous criminals or social monsters who, after all form a microscopic minority of the murderers, the strongest argument against capital punishment is that, like the rest of the legal system, it is manifestly unequal in its operation against the rich and the poor. It would be instructive to refer here to the opinion of the warden of the Sing Sing Prison of New York:

“Not only does capital punishment fail in its justification but no punishment could be invented with so many inherent defects. It is an unequal punishment in the way it is applied to the rich and poor. The defendant of wealth and position never goes to the electric chair or to the gallows. Juries do not intentionally favour the rich, the law is theoretically impartial but the defendant with ample means is able to have his case presented with every favourable aspect while the poor defendant often has a lawyer assigned by the court.”

That, in a nutshell, is the argument for the abolition of capital punishment in India. Finally, to quote from a recent reply to me from Prof Sir Leon Radzinowicz, Director, Institute of Criminology, Cambridge University.

“…I do not know the situation in India sufficiently well to express a definite opinion on the issue which you raise, but from what I know about the subject and the varying conditions in many parts of the world, I do not see that conclusive evidence has been produced to justify capital punishment in India.”

By Bal Patil


Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008


Inaugurating the National Yoga Week – 2008 organized by the Morarji Desai National Institute of Yoga (MDNIY), the Indian Union Minister for Health & Family Welfare, Dr. Anbumani Ramadoss said the treatments in the modern medical hospitals are becoming expensive affairs for general public and so Yoga is gradually making a new niche in the healthcare sector. It is a traditional system of Indian medicine and has the vast potential of prevention and therapeutic dimensions. Smt. Anita Das, Secretary, AYUSH, Dr. R.K. Srivastava, DGHS and other senior officials from the Ministry of Health were present at the function organized in technical collaboration with DGHS and WHO

The following is the summary of the Health Minister’s speech:

Yoga is a holistic system of health care and has a legacy of in-depth prospective of spiritual, social and medicinal values, especially in the era of Liberalization, Privatization and Globalization (LPG), where every one wants peace, harmony and satisfaction from the untidy and hyperactive social milieu. With the advancement of modernization, busy and hectic schedule of the social life, the significance of Yoga have greatly increased and gradually becoming a blissful way of life.

In spite of being a discipline of spiritual advancement in the ancient days, Yoga has fittingly unleashed its horizon all over the world, particularly in the western hemisphere like USA, Canada, England, Germany, France and many other nations of the world. At the same time, it is conveying profound thought and getting worldwide popularity for its physical, physiological and psychological healing responses. However, this is not the end; the community of Scientists, Yoga researchers, Educationists, and Therapists has started churning the very possible use and zest of Yoga in every field and walk of life. This enthusiasm will facilitate a new paradigm of Yoga for overall development of human beings. A large number of researches and studies are going on in various medical institutions and research centers both at the national and international level on Yoga so that the importance of this unique form of treatment can be visualized at a larger level.

Yoga has the capability of developing self-realization with in-depth potential of spiritual and ethical values. In the age of urbanizations and globalization, the various components of Yoga are gaining momentum and becoming popular field of medicine to treat the several health problems and malaises of the present day. Even in a number of places, it is given preferences to the modern medicine because of larger faith and beliefs of the people. It is also playing a pivotal role in the management of diseases that is generally declared incurable by the physicians.

Yoga converts distress to de-stress and disease to ease. Yoga practices help in alleviating distress and thus producing therapeutic benefits. It has also the potential to strengthen the inner vigor. It is a proven system of techniques used to create health of mind and body by well-controlled experiments. It has become imperative to gain maximum from our ancestral medical practices like Yoga so that maximum advantage can be harnessed where modern medical sciences have limited to offer.

The Morarji Desai National Institute of Yoga is engaged in multifarious and multidimensional activities and programmes related to Yoga. The Institute is putting its best efforts to bring the system of Yoga in the mainstream of health care delivery system. The Institute has also taken a new initiative of starting Yoga Therapy and Research Centres in Government and Tertiary Hospitals of Modern medicine. Its contribution in Yoga demonstration and participation in AROGYA melas organized by the Ministry is much more appreciated by all. It has initiated to publish a quarterly journal – YOGA VIJNANA. I hope these unique moves will gather momentum to the propagation of Yoga and create more avenues for the public to use Yoga for their health problems. I appreciate the sincere efforts of the MDNIY for the promotion and propagation of Yoga by keeping the traditional values intact.

The National Yoga Week is a Mass Awareness Programme for Health, Happiness and Harmony through Yoga. It is a good initiative from the Institute where eminent Yoga experts, professionals and experts of allied sciences will share their enriched knowledge for stimulating and inspiring holistic approach for the betterment of the society. A need was being felt for a forum where active and dynamic researchers of this area can meet periodically to report new experiments and theoretical developments to examine hypothesis, explain physical phenomenon, and discuss common problems faced by people working in this domain. I hope the deliberations in this National Yoga Week would lead us to explore possible collaborations at multilateral fronts for systematic development of Yoga in all its aspects at the regional and global levels.

On the same wavelength, the various Yoga Institutions and Departments in different parts of the country should take an initiative to organize National Yoga Week event simultaneously on the said theme/events at least for a day or two to preserve the very purpose and sanctity of this event so as to make it a truly national event in the days to come.


Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

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Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

India And China:In The Age Of Globalization

India and China are two of the world’s most ancient civilizations. For centuries they shared advanced ideas, inventions, religious and philosophical traditions. But their economies and societies stagnated during the colonial period. In the post-colonial era mutual relations suffered a setback due to political and boundary disputes. In contemporary times they have reemerged as leading techno-economic nations. It is high time for them to move beyond conflicts and start cooperating politically, economically, and technologically for mutual benefits.

Recent developments and exchanges indicate that the ball is already rolling in that direction. Globalization for common good requires coming together rather than falling apart, sharing resources and assets rather than wasting them in endless conflicts. In the context of currently shifting global political and economic power, no two nations are better equipped than India and China to show the world how the common concerns of humanity can be addressed through mutual respect, friendship, healthy competition, and sharing of resources.


India and China are two of the world’s most ancient surviving civilizations. The Chinese built the 4000-mile Great Wall some 2000 years ago, about the time of the birth of Jesus Christ. As an awesome marvel of engineering, most of the wall still stands intact, the only man-made object visible from the outer space. They invented bureaucracy even earlier, thousands of years before Max Weber brought it eloquently to the attention of the western world (Gerth and Mills, 1958). There is not a single country anywhere that bureaucracies do not govern, manage or mismanage, corrupt and plunder, redeem or reform. The Terracotta Army built by Emperor Qin in the 3rd century BC is in almost perfect state of preservation to this day. Some of the greatest inventions that we live by even today came from China, including the gun powder – the most infamous of them all, the paper, paper money, printing, viaducts, dams, clocks, the compass, astronomical observatories, and countless other inventions (Needham, 1954).

As for India, R. K. Narayan, the famous Indian novelist tells the interesting story of his meeting with British philosopher and iconoclast, Sir Bertrand Russell. While extolling the contributions of ancient Chinese thinkers, Russell said to Narayan, “but you Indians created nothing.” Narayan vigorously protested this insulting remark. But Sir Russell kept on repeating, “You Indians created nothing, nothing, nothing.” Exasperated, Narayan got up and was about to walk out when Russell drew him near, looked him in the eye and said, “You Indians gave us the zero, which stands as the greatest contribution to the development of mathematics, and consequently, that of modern science.” Thereupon they embraced each other with delightful twinkle in their eyes.

Indian contributions to algebra, textile, chemistry, medicine, metallurgy, and astronomy in the Ancient and Medieval periods are legion. Sophisticated agricultural practices, architecture, and sewage systems were developed by the engineers in the Indus Valley The wisdom of the Buddha flowed from India to China, while Confucius’ precepts of compassion, humility, and right conduct by merciful rulers influenced the behavior of emperor Ashoka in the 3rdSatya amar jayte (Truth alone shall triumph). civilizations of Harrappa and Mohanjadaro (Rahman, 1984; Habib, 1988). century B.C. who inscribed on his commemorative pillars.

India and China, along with the rest of the non-western world, lost their edge somewhere during the 16th and 17th centuries when the center of scientific and technological activity shifted to Europe, and later to North America for a set of complex cultural, political, and economic reasons (Needham, 1986). Contacts between these two great civilizations almost ceased during the colonial period because the new rulers of the world did not encourage such contacts. When the contacts were revived in more recent times between a democratic IndiaChina, they turned into conflict and hostility over rival territorial claims in the Himalayan region, the Chinese annexation of Tibet, and the Exile of Dalai Lama into (Dharamsala) India . and a totalitarian

Recent Development History

India became a free country through peaceful transition of sovereignty from Britain in 1947. China had a proletarian revolution in 1949 led by Mao Zedong. Both democratic India and Communist China embarked upon ambitious science, technology, and economic development programs through centralized planning. Both emphasized self-reliance through local initiatives, restricting the flow of foreign capital and technology for nearly three decades. During this time, the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) controlled its economy and protected it from outside influences far more than did India. For at least 10-15 years since the revolution in 1949, the only source of foreign capital and technology for China was its ideological partner, the Soviet Union. That relationship began to crack in 1962 because of the USSR’s reluctance to transfer nuclear technology to the Peoples Republic. China continued its isolation and suffered serious stagnation for 20 or so more years, until after Mao’s death in 1976 (Ahmad, 1991)

During this period India also strictly regulated its economy, allowing only partial and highly restricted entry of foreign capital and technology. The Indian economy began to open its door a bit more widely by the middle of the 1980s, at about the same time as did China. By this time, the global economy had already taken hold of the national economies in North America, Europe, and the Pacific Rim. Post-Independence era regulations proved a mixed blessing for India. It missed 20 years of the information technology revolution that was sweeping the world and driving the global economy – remember how the IBM and Coca-Cola were kicked out of India in the middle of 1970s. The private sector stagnated under those regulations. The protected government sector thrived despite its magnificent mismanagement. India’s industrial development suffered. While these negative trends were the legacy of regulations, government policy of self-reliance helped built robust networks of techno-economic institutions and individuals that were ready to march forward when the global economy did finally reach India. Through regulations India was also able to protect its local industries and markets from unbridled speculation and exploitation by multinational corporations (Ahmad, 1998). Let me return to China for a minute.

Deng Xiaoping took command of China in 1979, three years after Mao’s death. With a massive shift of public policy, Deng opened the Chinese economy to foreign capital, technology, and competition. The scene that I witnessed in China when I went there for the first time in 1980 was a totally different scene than what is going on there today. Despite the open door policy, economic modernization remained laggard during the entire decade of the 1980s. Things began to change rapidly in the next decade. Since then, the Chinese economy has been growing at about 9-10% per year, surpassing any other country for a sustained growth at such a high rate. In terms of GDP per capita, modern China is the world’s 4th largest economy, and is likely to overtake Japan within the next 5-10 years. It is one of the world’s largest exporters of consumer items through retailers like Wal-Mart, Carrefour, Target, and Tesco. Even garlic in the United States is being imported from China. The American Wal-Mart is probably the biggest buyer of consumer goods made in China. “It bought $19 billion worth of Chinese goods in 2004, amounting to some 15% of China’s total exports to America in that year. (The Economist, September 23rd, 2006, p. 43)

Since 2000, China’s contribution to global GDP growth (in purchasing-power-parity terms) has been bigger than America’s, and more than half as big again as the combined contribution of India, Brazil and Russia, the three next largest emerging economies. China’s massive build-up of American Treasury bonds affects American interest rates and thus Americans’ willingness to spend. Its low-priced manufactures give western consumers more buying power. Its thirst for energy has helped push oil prices to record highs. Its entry to the World Trade Organization in 2001 has speeded up the opening of the world’s biggest market. (“A Survey of China,” The Economist, March 25th, 2006, p. 3)

India has finally left behind its “Hindu growth rate” of 3% to hit an annual growth rate of 8+%. Its technological capability is strong. It is the most preferred destination of IT outsourcing, now moving away from being the world’s call center to being a vital feeder to the global knowledge industry. India’s economic base is vast – 4th largest in the world in terms of purchasing power parity and 12th largest in terms of per capita GDP. It is projected to become one of the five largest economies in the world by 2050 along with China and Brazil. Its markets are huge, with the current consumer class estimated to be around 350 million, about the size of the entire European Community (Bhagwati, 2004).

The combined economies of India and China are already bigger than that of the EU countries put together. At the present rate of growth, the consumer class in the two countries will reach about a billion people within the next decade. But per capita incomes remain low and income disparities are wide in both countries in international comparisons. These developments have far-reaching implications for the two countries themselves and the world at large in the 21st century (Engardio, 2007).

Science, Technology, and Economy in India and China: Conflict, Competition, and/or Cooperation:

The West is becoming alarmist about what is happening in the world’s two most populous nations. In the United States, JapanChina bashing. China’s military machine is one of the most formidable in the world. But it is the Chinese economy that scares both the Indians and the Americans. Many Americans see both India and China stealing American jobs – China stealing manufacturing jobs (textile, shoes, furniture, hand tools, consumer electronics, Christmas ornaments, etc.); while India taking away IT jobs. Some in America have gone to the extent of suggesting that China is about to take over the United States’ economy by next year; as it was used to be said abut Japan in the 1980s and the 1990s. Of course, there is some truth in these morbid fears as Americans look back to the disappearance of their steel and consumer electronics industries through competition with Japan. And now here comes China, closely followed by India. Not to be left behind in IT outsourcing, China is rapidly developing its English and software development skills to compete with India in the American high-tech industry. Listen to what Tony Blair, the ex-British Prime Minister said in a major policy speech in Oxford, England:

But the international competition is intense and getting more so. Chinese R&D has been rising by 20% a year over the past five years. South Korean R&D has increased ten-fold since 1971. Indian R&D is even more astonishing - it has trebled in a decade. Indian engineers are flooding into the world's markets - 350,000 a year, forecast to 1.4m a year by 2015…. It is a warning to us that we have to remain world-leaders and that knowledge also needs to be transferred from the academy to the marketplace. (Speech at the Royal Society in Oxford, Nov. 3, 2006)

There is intense competition globally for R&D dollars. Technology and industry leaders understand that research and innovation are absolutely necessary for maintaining competitive advantage in their core competencies. Finding and hiring qualified scientists and engineers in the western countries is difficult and prohibitively expensive. “The truth is, China and India are increasingly attractive places for companies to do research and development.” (“Can Anyone Steer this Economy,” Cover Story, Business Week, Nov. 20, 2006, p. 62) India has an edge over China in attracting R&D investments due to the availability of more well-trained, English speaking scientists and engineers than in China. A high-tech company can hire an engineer in India at one-fourth the cost for a similar hire in North America, for example. Such investments will be growing rapidly in the coming years in both India and China, perhaps more so in India than in China.

Population in the western countries, excluding the USA, is declining. It is already below replacement levels in Russia and the Scandinavian countries. The current demographic balance between the West and the rest favors the latter: West = 1 billion; rest = 5.5 billion. It will continue to move in this direction. The same is true for the S&T human resources balance of power. Per capita production of scientists and engineers in the West (particularly the US) is still well ahead of the world average; but the total annual production in China and India surpass the US in about 4 to 1 ratio: US = 84,898; India = 103,000; China = 292,569 (India-China combined total = 395,569).

The American magazine Business Week organized its 10th annual CEO Forum in Beijing in early November (1-3) 2006. More than 700 global executives and government officials from many countries participated. Much of the discussion focused on competitiveness in ChinaIndia and the competition between them for world resources and markets. Is China with its command economy or India as world’s largest and most boisterous democracy better poised to utilize foreign domestic investment for sustained social and economic development, was one of the hotly debated topics. The experience so far suggests that without much public debate or dissension about its national plans and priorities, China has done much better than India in that respect. From the Indian point of view, the issue is that the values of individual freedoms, self reliance, and social development must not be sacrificed at the altar of economic development. These are indeed fine values to uphold in a democratic society, but the Indian policy planners need to look hard and fast how much they have or have not achieved by way of all-round social and economic progress and what needs to be done to correct the remaining gaps and imbalances. and

The fact is both of these Asian giants have their own strengths and weaknesses, their own unique cultural traditions and political histories. They both are only half way home and a long way to go, as the saying goes, toward becoming advanced industrial societies. They have serious social and environmental problems to encounter – problems of poverty and disparity, the problem of rapidly deteriorating environments due to rapid industrialization, and a host of other problems like rural-urban disparity, and inadequate education, housing, health-care, and employment for their large populations. These are the areas where they can cooperate and learn from each other while they compete for world markets and resources. The CEO Forum in Beijing spent considerable time on the issue of global competition and rivalry between the two Asian superstars.

With the likes of China Mobile (with 300 million subscribers and a $177 billion market capitalization), telecom gear maker Huawei Technologies, and India’s Tata Steel on the prowl for acquisitions overseas, China and India are “reshaping the global economy.” Can these giants get along? Their rivalry is bound to intensify as India moves more into low-wage manufacturing, a Chinese specialty. Both must create 15 million new jobs every year just to keep their young people employed. (“The Dragon’s Way or the Tiger’s?” Business Week, Nov. 20, 2006, p. 55)

Increasing energy use in India and China due to industrialization and rising automobile ownership is also a source of worldwide concern as is the intense competition between them for global energy resources. The issue is how to satisfy their voracious appetite for oil. With 17% of the world’s population, only 0.8% oil reserves, and an economy growing at breakneck speed, China is naturally frantic about meeting its energy needs through imports. It is actively courting African leaders and investing in African development and oil exploration. During a recent (Nov. 3-5, 06) summit of top African leaders in Beijing, the latter were lavishly treated by the Chinese President, Hue JinTao. Despite some setbacks, the Chinese push for African raw materials and markets has been quite successful:

Chinese companies have been sucking up oil from Sudan, cutting down timber in Guinea and mining copper and zinc from the Congo. Beijing recently bought a major stake in South Africa’s Standard Bank to fund infrastructure projects throughout the continent. And the Chinese are far outpacing their Western rivals……Last year’s trade between Africa and China topped $50 billion. By 2010 it’s expected to reach $100 billion. (Newsweek, December 3, 2007, p. 46)

The huge Chinese oil conglomerate, CNOOC, is actively seeking to buy oil companies overseas, including a failed bid to buy American UNOCAL. It has since invested in oil interests in Russia and the Middle East. India is faced with a similar energy crunch having only meager oil resources of its own. It is competing with China for oil in world markets. But that is also an area where the two countries can effectively cooperate. Discussions on these lines have already taken place between CNOOC and India’s Oil and Natural Gas Commission. India’s ex-energy Minister Iyar came up with an interesting idea while discussing cooperative energy exploration and acquisition strategy with his Chinese counterpart sometime ago. He suggested that there should be a Consortium of Oil Importing Countries to negotiate the supply and price of crude oil for the benefit of heavy developing country oil importers. Such cooperative strategies have been mooted from time to time in other areas as well but their implementation remains problematic, perhaps due to unresolved boundary issues and suspicions about their geopolitical intentions.

The history of border disputes between India and China going back to the war of 1962 is well-known. That dispute is yet to be resolved and continues to be a source of friction and mistrust between them. The friction is exacerbated by China’s military and nuclear cooperation with archrival Pakistan. In its economic expansionist mode, China does want to increase its investment in India but feels resistance by the Indian government. It claims double standards by India in the matter of economic cooperation. For examples, the Indian government requires four bureaucratic levels of approval for Chinese FDI instead of only the Reserve Bank of India clearance for others. Prospective Chinese workers in Indian enterprises face similar bureaucratic hassles. One of the cases in point was visa problems faced by 1,800 engineers from the Chinese Petroleum hired by Reliance India to lay a gas pipeline sometimes ago. I wonder why Reliance could not find Indian engineers to do the job; and whether the visas were finally issued.

Despite these problems, cooperative science, technology, and trade have been steadily increasing between the two countries. Late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi of India signed an Indo-China inter-governmental science and technology agreement during his visit to Beijing in 1988. This led to a Joint S&T Committee to initiate broad-based cooperative programs. Specific joint projects are mooted at inter-agency levels in such diverse fields as meteorology, ocean science and technology, space science and technology, and biotechnology. As recently as September 2006, India’s Minister for Science and Technology, Kapil Sibal and his Chinese counterpart signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to further cement S&T cooperation between the two countries as part of the India-China Friendship Year 2006.

India-China trade is currently running at $20 billion from only $1.8 billion in 1989-90. A substantial share of India’s mobile-phone market is run by Hutchison Telecommunications of China. Huawei Technologies has a software center in Bangalore that employs 1,150 Indian and 50 Chinese engineers. I understand that most of the Diwali lanterns for 2006 celebrations came from China. The Chinese computer giant Lenovo has recently established its global marketing hub in Bangalore to be run and managed by Indians. China imports iron ore and other minerals from India. From the Indian side, an estimated 150 companies are currently doing business in China, although India claims these business ventures are with other foreign firms operating in China, not with the Chinese companies. (The Economist, October 28th, 2006, pp. 50-51; and Nov. 18th, 2006, pp.43-44) The trend, nonetheless, is definitely pointing in the direction of increasing bilateral trade and technology agreements.

Concluding Remarks

This brief discussion of India and China in the context of globalization suggests several things. Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen, reports his teacher Joan Robinson at Cambridge University once telling him, “The frustrating thing about India is that whatever you can rightly say about it, the opposite is also true.” Interestingly enough, you can say exactly the same thing about China. It combines capitalism with communism, poverty and disparity with fast economic growth, impressive industrial development with neglect of its environment, and a massive rural-urban divide. These contradictions exist in India as well, with the exception of the first one. But they are due largely to long-standing historical and social factors, not exclusively to globalization, as some tend to suggest.

Theoretically, globalization is about worldwide systemic interdependence, integration, mobilization, and redistribution of global resources that should lead to partial if not complete economic parity and equilibrium among the system members in due course of time. Generally speaking, all modern economies today are global in character. As Robert Reich (1991) said in his well-known book, The Work of Nations, there are no truly national economies any more. India and China are no exceptions. Economic globalization is driving and shaping national politics, economies, histories, social structures, environments, and international relations, and connecting them through interdependent networks as never before. A global power shift is indeed occurring that is still unseen and unrecognized by many among us. There are two major implications of this power shift. Ideology and politics are becoming the handmaidens of global economic forces, rather than the other way round, as the case used to be. The other development is unraveling of erstwhile hegemonies. The United States of America and Europe are no longer in the drivers’ seats. The balance of power is shifting from West to East, from North to South (Meredith, 2007). The recent demographic, economic, and political developments in China, India, Russia, Latin America, and the Middle East (barring some temporary setbacks here and there) all point in that direction (see endnotes). This shifting landscape strongly suggests that this century is poised to be an Asian century. And India and China, along with the Pacific Rim countries and Russia with her enormous natural resources, will be its biggest winners – unless the trend is reversed by unimaginative political and economic leadership in these countries, which is unlikely.

As mentioned above, perhaps the strongest factor causing this power shift is the worldwide distribution of qualified manpower that overwhelmingly favors both China and India. For example, there is intense competition globally for R&D dollars. China and India are increasingly attractive places for multinational corporations to conduct their R&D operations. India has an edge over China in R&D capacity due to the availability of more well-trained, English speaking scientists and engineers than in China. With increasing difficulty to recruit qualified scientists and engineers at affordable prices in the West, or at any price, for that matter, joint R&D projects involving Indian, Chinese, and third country scientists should soon be emerging within India, China, and some other more developed developing countries in such fields as biotechnology, alternative energy systems, pharmaceuticals, healthcare, environmental technologies, and perhaps even in space explorations. A recent report from Control Engineering, a free-lance think-tank, observes:

The vast majority of U.S. manufacturers are experiencing a serious shortage of qualified employees, which in turn is causing significant impact on business and the ability of the country as a whole to compete in a global economy. This is the key finding of the "2005 Skills Gap Survey"…. by the National Association of Manufacturers…. The problem for U.S.India, China, and Russia, are graduating millions more students each year…than the United States. These…individuals are actively participating in the development of innovative new products without regard for historical barriers, such as geography— thanks to technologies such as broadband, inexpensive Internet-ready laptops, and collaborative tools. With such international talent readily available and significant shortages existing at home, it is clear that the future of U.S. manufacturers is that this challenge is not universal. Countries with rich educational heritages, such as manufacturing may now be at stake, the report suggests. Details behind the talent shortage reveal a stark reality. More than 80% of respondents indicated that they are experiencing a shortage of qualified workers overall—with 13% reporting severe shortages.

The surfeit of qualified manpower out of China and India is yet to be fully and gainfully employed in the global production of knowledge, goods, and public services. In addition to being the knowledge factory for the world, these large numbers, if tapped properly, can be a source of enormous mutual benefit to the two countries themselves in their quest for excellence and a rightful place in the community of nations.

In 2002 (precisely 40 years after the{1962}war, the then Chinese premier, Zhu Rongji, visited India and told his hosts: “You are the first in software, and we are the first in hardware. When we put these two together, we can become the world’s number one” (The Economist, The World in 2005, p. 49)

This forecast may not be too far off to come true.

By Dr. Aqueil Ahmad


Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

Challenge Grant to End Violence against Women: Sign on to the campaign

UN Foundation to donate $1 for every signature to UNIFEM online campaign

The United Nations Foundation announced its support for the “Say NO to Violence against Women” campaign. The Foundation will donate $1 for each of the first 100,000 signatures to the online campaign that is run by the UN Development Fund for Women, UNIFEM. The contributions will go to the UNIFEM-managed UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women.

“Recent UN research has demonstrated the shameful scope of violence against women around the world, where one in three women are subject to some form of coercion or abuse in their lifetimes,” said Timothy E. Wirth, President of the United Nations Foundation. “To turn the tide on violence, the international community must work together to stand up for the human rights of women and that’s what UNIFEM’s ‘Say NO’ campaign does. It allows people everywhere to go on record and stand up for a world free of violence against women.”

“Thanks to this fantastic challenge grant, every signature will bolster our cause to make ending violence against women worldwide a top priority,” said UNIFEM Goodwill Ambassador Nicole Kidman who champions the campaign. “What’s more, it will help provide critical resources for local initiatives that are supported through the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women — whether it is working to prevent human trafficking, assisting survivors of domestic violence or helping implement laws against rape.”

People can sign on to the campaign at

“The more people join, the stronger the message that there is an ever-growing movement of people who are demanding decisive action to put a stop to what is probably the most pervasive human rights violation,” added acting UNIFEM Executive Director Joanne Sandler. “This generous donation will provide an additional strong incentive for people to sign up to the campaign.”

The “Say No to Violence against Women” campaign was launched November 26, 2007. To date more than 18,000 people worldwide have signed the call that urges an end to violence against women and encourages support to the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women. This Trust Fund, managed by UNIFEM for the UN system, supports innovative initiatives by governments and non-governmental organizations to end violence against women. Since its establishment in 1996, it has helped fund some 250 initiatives in 120 countries.

“Each day, each hour, each minute, a woman in the world is a victim of violence,” said Wirth. “Taking this simple step, signing on to the campaign, sends the message that enough is enough and the cycle of violence must stop now.”

For more information about the campaign visit or


Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

The cost of conservation

Thousands of tribal families lived in the 56 hamlets within the Nagarhole National Park in Karnataka. Denied access to forest resources, many have moved out without adequate compensation, while the rest continue to battle a State that seems to deny their existence. Will the new Forest Rights Act change anything for them?

We have lived in these forests for generations. We don’t depend on the flora and fauna just for our livelihood; it is a way of life for us. We are now being asked to move out in the name of conservation and development. They (the government) think that we need mainstreaming and are forcing their agenda on us. No one has bothered to ask us what we want. We are not ready to give up the forests entirely. It is true that we need education for our children and access to hospitals, but all this we want here, where we live, not in some alien land,” says J K Kaala of Madarakolli hamlet, located within the Rajiv Gandhi National Park (erstwhile Nagarhole National Park) spread across the Coorg and Mysore districts of Karnataka.

This is the predominant voice of the adivasis living in 56 hamlets within the national park.

The Rajiv Gandhi National Park covers 643.30 sq km and is part of the 5,500 sq km Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve. It was first declared a sanctuary in 1955. The Nagarhole National Park was constituted in its present form in 1983. At that point of time, over 9,000 tribal families residing in the forests became inhabitants of the national park. Apart from that, over 23,000 adivasis lived on the fringes of the park and they all depended on the forest for their survival.

The adivasi community here consists primarily of five tribes -- the Betta Kurubas (experts in making bamboo-based utensils and artefacts), the Jenu Kurubas (honey-gatherers), the Soligas (who subsisted on agriculture), the Yeravas (fishing), and the Paniyas who also practised agriculture.

According to the Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972, when a forest area is declared a reserve (now, a sanctuary or national park) the inhabitants have a right to compensation. But in most cases, indigenous people were asked to move out of the forests without adequate compensation; sometimes they were forcibly moved in the name of ‘wildlife protection’.

Most of the people who were moved out ended up working in estates in and around forest areas. Twenty-six-year-old B K Kaala is one such person. His family was moved from Maranakolli hamlet, along with 19 others, around 20 years ago. Today, his entire family including his aged mother works in the estates for a paltry sum. “We used to do a little bit of farming and that was enough for us. Now we get just Rs 60 a day and that too not throughout the year. So it is a struggle. And one never feels at home in the one-room tenements on the estates. We don’t have our kith to call upon in times of need either,” he says.

Even families that were moved out and were given compensation have, over time, returned to the forests as they found it difficult to sustain themselves. A few years ago, with funding from a forest and ecology development programme, the forest department relocated nearly 280 families outside Nagarhole to a village called Nagapura just outside the national park. Each family was promised compensation worth Rs 600,000. The families were given houses and a monthly ration of rice and ragi. The programme ran smoothly for over a year, but once the funds were over the community was left to fend for itself. The land given to them was not conducive to agriculture and there was no other way of earning a living. Slowly, members of the community moved back into the forests or took up menial jobs in the surrounding estates.

Families that were left behind or refused to move don’t have a comfortable life either. In Kodange, over 36 families live under constant threat of elephant attacks. In the past one year, seven houses have been destroyed. They have built temporary platforms on treetops and have to move there with children and the elderly at dusk. The platform is only big enough to seat a family of four to six. Families often spend the night sitting on these platforms. The inhabitants reject the forest department’s solution of digging a trench around the habitation. J K Radha, a resident of Kodange, says: “We have lived here for generations and have never had such an elephant menace. But now there is so little forest left that elephants raid anything and everything, including rice and salt.”

The forest department has placed restrictions on the tribals’ movements too; they have no rights over the forests. J B Ramesh of Madarakolli says: “We are not allowed to practise agriculture even though we do not use machines or pesticides and do not fell trees randomly. We cannot dig wells for water, or even have festivals with music and dance. We are told all this disturbs the ecology. We can’t even bury the dead without permission from the forest department.”

Adding insult to this injury is the fact that the forest department has itself allowed private parties to set up estates in the middle of the forests. In 1994, the state government made way for the Taj Group to build a three-star resort inside the Rajiv Gandhi National Park, very much in violation of the Forest Conservation Act and the Wild Life Protection Act. The adivasis resisted the move; there were widespread protests and agitations. They then filed a writ petition in the Karnataka High Court, which ruled in favour of the activists and termed the assignment of forest land to the Taj Group illegal. The Taj Group appealed in the Supreme Court but lost the case again and had to withdraw from the forests. This victory gave the adivasis a much-needed morale boost and they have since collectively fought for their rights.

Apart from the threat of displacement, communities here face problems of lack of access to basic services such as health and education. In all, for a population of over 23,000 in the forest areas, there are just four Primary Health Centres (PHCs). And these are at least 6 km from the nearest adivasi settlement. People have to walk around 2 km to take a bus to the nearest PHC. J K Lakshmi of Bommadu hamlet says: “We are not allowed to use traditional medicines that are easily available in the forests. But there are no hospitals close by.”

The Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR) in the region is close to the state average of 195, says a doctor (who did not want to be named) from the local PHC. He says there is a great hesitation among the women to come to the hospital for labour. The women claim it is the apathy of the doctors and lack of medicines that keeps them away from hospitals. The most common problem among children and women is malnutrition, the doctor says.

Access to schools is another huge issue in the region. Though there are five residential (ashram) schools with classes up to the seventh standard, and anganwadis set up in the region, attendance is extremely poor, say the teachers. M K Poovamma, headmistress of the Bommadu ashram school says: “We have great difficulty in maintaining the attendance of these students. We need to constantly monitor them and sometimes have to go to their houses and bring them (to school).” This, the adivasis say, is because the curriculum has very little connection with the world they come from. J T Kalinga, a Jenu Kuruba himself, says: “The children are taught nothing about our culture, language, music or about the flora and fauna of the forests. The schools teach them things that makes little sense to them. Soon children lose interest.” There are also three high schools in the region, but none close to the settlements.

Coordinators of Child Relief and You (CRY) which works with the community in the region say: “The sub-standard quality of care at institutions such as the ashram schools, ST hostels and other residential schools has a long-lasting impact on the children. The dropout rate among children, number of child labourers, and number of children failing in the SSLC exams are alarmingly high among the adivasi communities.”

To address the issue the adivasis have decided to set up schools with curricula that do not exclude their traditional learning systems. They have also opened two tent schools in Madarakolli and Kodange with the help of an NGO and the education department, respectively. These schools have over 25 students each and act as bridge schools for dropouts too.

Indigenous people in the region have realised over a period of time that though there are provisions for them in the law to claim rights and compensation, the main obstacle is lack of records of their existence. They have no records to show that the houses they are living in, whether inside the forests or outside, belong to them.

To remedy this, the tribal communities came together and formed an association called the Adivasi Moolabhuta Hakkugala Sangha (AHMS) in 2005-06 which has been trying to document their lifestyle and proof of residence across the region. Members of the association have, on a number of occasions, fought collectively for their rights. Their biggest agitation was in June 2007, when the forest department confiscated a load of ginger that N Manja had grown and was carrying to market to sell. Manja was detained for taking produce out of the forests illegally. The adivasis picketed the office of the forest department and blocked the entrance to the national park for almost three months until the department relented and the ginger was returned to Manja.

On January 2, 2007, adivasis protested against the forest department’s denial of permission for electric poles to be put up in the settlements. J K Thimma, who was instrumental in ousting the Taj Group, says: “They draw electric lines across the forests for their own quarters, plantations and the bungalows of rich people. But when it comes to our settlements, they cite the law. We are not going to keep quiet about this. We have every right to demand electricity.” The AHMS has decided to intensify its agitation if its demands are not met.

Wildlife ecologist M D Madhusudan justifies this anger. He says: “They (the adivasis) have every right to be angry. We are looking to move them out of what they consider to be their homes without even proper compensation. Conservation does not come cheap. We need to pay the price for it. Conservation effort needs public support; if we alienate the people closest to the forests we can achieve very little.” He also says that the law does have a provision for compensation but that in almost 80% of cases compensation is not given.

In 2005, a Forest Rights Act aimed at giving ownership rights over forest land to tribals was tabled in Parliament. There was a huge uproar against it across the country. Conservationists called it “legalising encroachment” and said the Act would ensure the destruction of what was left of the forests. Corporates interested in acquiring land for large industries were also opposed to it as the legal status of adivasis would make it harder to evict them. As a result, the Act went into cold storage for nearly two years. It was finally passed on January 1, 2008.

Still, there are too many loopholes in the Act. It says that tribal populations and other traditional forest-dwellers living in and depending on forests for their livelihood for three generations -- 75 years prior to December 2005 -- will get rights over forest land for use in a sustainable manner. But there are hardly any records of proof of residence in favour of indigenous communities; this could prove to be the biggest hurdle in realising the actual intent of the Act.

The adivasis too are not very hopeful of reaping the benefits of the new Act. J T Kalinga says: “We have very little hope that any law will make our lives easier. The State has constantly denied our existence and, in the process, denied our right to a life of dignity. All rules have been bent in favour of outsiders. But we are not going to give in easily. We will fight for our rights. We do not want our children to live in misery. We want them to be proud of who they are, and to have a great life ahead of them. We will do all that we can to ensure that.”


Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.