Monday, January 26, 2015

IPC 498-A

Indian Courts had been using IPC 498-A to safeguard the women from facing the cruelty faced by them at their matrimonial home.
9 out of 10 of the cases are always related to dowry, wherein the woman is continuously threatened for want of more money and property which if remains unfulfilled, the married woman is tortured, threatened, abused- both physically and verbally and harassed.
Several cases show that the married woman takes advantage of the section. Many women rights’ groups justify the abuse of this section as being a common feature with all other laws and that also the ratio of false cases to that of true ones as being very low. But this still does not change the truth.
The abuse of this section is rapidly increasing and the women often well- educated know that this section is both cognizable and non-bailable and impromptu works on the complaint of the woman and placing the man behind bars.
Justice must protect the weaker and ensure that the wronged is given a chance to claim back his/her due. When women accuse their husbands under S.498A IPC by making the offence non-bailable and cognizable, if the man is innocent he does not get a chance quickly to get justice.
Misuse of the provision a new legal terrorism can be unleashed. The provision is intended to be used a shield and not an assassin’s weapon.
Therefore, the lawmakers must suggest some way of making this section non-biased to any individual such that the guilty is punished and the person wronged is given justice.

The draft National Health Policy 2015 needs to pay more attention to the basics of healthcare.

Over 63 million persons in India face poverty every year due to healthcare costs alone with the share of out-of-pocket (OOP) expenditure on healthcare as a proportion of total household monthly per capita expenditure being 6.9% in rural areas and 5.5% in urban areas in 2011-12. In view of this, the central government’s draft National Health Policy (NHP) 2015, which is in the public domain and open to suggestions and comments until 28 February, is particularly significant. The draft NHP intends to make health a fundamental right and therefore its denial a justiciable matter. It hopes that this will “give a push for more public health expenditure as well as for the recognition of health as a basic human right”.
Undoubtedly, this is a welcome proposal but the right to education, which was declared a fundamental right in 2009, comes immediately to mind. The parallels with healthcare are many: the quality of education in government schools and the quality of services in public hospitals and primary health centres; the insistence, as a result, of even poor parents on their children attending private schools, however badly run; the beeline to private hospitals even by poor patients; and the small and large glitches in the implementation of the law. The lesson is obvious: what looks excellent on paper becomes a different proposition when it has to be put into practice.
The draft policy proposes increasing the expenditure on healthcare from its present level of 1.04% to 2.5% of grossdomestic product (GDP) in the next five years. This increase is, however, way below the requirement but what is not convincing is the explanation for keeping it at 2.5%: the healthcare system’s low absorption capacity and inefficient utilisation of funding. Incidentally, the government got a lot of flak for the temporary cut of 20% in the 2014-15 healthcare budget. The draft policy hopes to create a health cess (similar to the education cess) on liquor and tobacco products. One will definitely need to examine whether such a cess will be even close to adequate. Nevertheless, the draft policy promises that there will be universal access to free drugs and diagnostics in hospitals even as it notes the fact that the national health programmes leave out 75% of the non-communicable diseases and not all communicable diseases are covered either.
However, it does seek to broaden the definition of primary healthcare to accommodate reproductive and child health as well as some non-communicable diseases. The draft also seeks to involve panchayati raj institutions in a big way and lists seven “priority” areas to get the community and media to participate. Among these are the Swasth Nagrik Abhiyan (of which the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan is a part), the Nasha Mukti Abhiyan (anti-tobacco and alcohol measures), Yatri Suraksha (prevention of accidents) and Nirbhaya Nari (against gender violence, sex determination tests, etc).
According to the draft policy, the private sector provides nearly 80% of outpatient care and 60% of inpatient care. However, while noting the many concessions by the government to build a “positive economic climate for the healthcare industry” and hoping to “intervene and to actively shape the growth of this sector for ensuring that it is aligned to its overall health policy goals”, the draft does not go anywhere near spelling out the forms of intervention, whether institutional or regulatory. Whether it is the National Accreditation Board for Hospitals and Healthcare Providers or the Clinical Establishments (Registration and Regulation) Act of 2010, the response of the private players has been far from enthusiastic.
The draft has just one paragraph on mental health noting that it needs urgent attention since the gap between service availability and needs is widest here with 43 facilities in the nation and 0.47 psychologists per million people. It includes the Mental Health Bill (there are a few others too) among those that need to be reviewed. Considering the state of the mentally ill in this country, this section needed to be much more comprehensive and well thought out.
Ultimately, the devil is in the detail. India’s public health services need so much more basic infrastructure, medical and paramedical personnel, ironing out of the implementation wrinkles in the health insurance schemes like the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana, promoting computer-enabled systems to reach out to patients (like Tamil Nadu has done), straightening out of the corruption-ridden system of procurement and distribution of drugs, these among a long litany of requirements. The private sector needs a massive dose of regulation and monitoring in almost all aspects, from pricing to crooked third-party administrators to patient-care standards. At the government level, there has to be a deep commitment to make health-for-all a deliverable right, starting with plugging the leaks and poor utilisation of funds under various schemes. All this must come before the claim to make the right to health a justiciable right.

Role and Functions of NITI Aayog / M Govinda Rao

1 Demise of the Planning Commission
There have been wide-ranging discussions on the role and remit of the new institution to replace the Planning Commission ever since the prime minister in his 2014 Independence Day address declared that the Planning Commission would be replaced by a new institution. In the cabinet resolution passed on 7 January, the government has come out with the broad contours of the new institution, National Institution for Transforming India (NITI). The remit and functioning of NITI Aayog will become clearer as it evolves over time. This note analyses the possible role it can take and the challenges it is likely to face in carrying out remit assigned to it.
Not many will shed tears on the abolition of the Planning Commission. In fact, the previous prime minister himself had called for redefining its role to suit changing realities. The planning exercise that was followed had hardly any relevance for the market economy. It did very little to plan and implement even public sector investments for infrastructure and its role in promoting public-private partnership was mostly seen as obstructive. The whole exercise of giving approvals to state plans smacked of dispensing patronage. The proliferation of various centrally-sponsored schemes (CSS) with “one size fits all” design and conditionality contributed to severe distortions in public spending. Often, the Planning Commission came up with discretionary transfers to states to meet non-plan revenue deficits negating the norms set by the Finance Commissions. The presence of a member of the Planning Commission as a part-time member of the Finance Commission did very little to correct this anomaly.
There were two contradictions between the Indian development strategy and the institutional framework constraining economic environment over the years. The first is the contradiction between the planning framework and the role of the market. The initial years after Independence required a planning frame to allocate the low levels of savings to invest in much needed infrastructure and priority sectors to overcome severe infrastructure deficits and the lack of competitiveness of the economy. However, the framework failed to adapt to the transition after the liberalising reforms were initiated. With fiscal constraints becoming more and more binding and political economy factors crowding out infrastructure spending with subsidies and transfers, the planning exercise lost much of its relevance.
The second contradiction was between the centralised command over resource allocation and the developmental role of the states in a federal polity. The end of single party rule and the emergence of coalition governments and regional parties as members of the central coalition brought to the fore the contradiction between centralised planning in a federal framework. The response of the central government was to further centralise even by intruding into the legislative domains of the states by various means including the proliferation of CSS. The consequence of the above was that the two important sources of economic dynamism, the private sector and the states, had to function in a constrained environment.
The architecture, engineering and management aspects of the new institution, NITI Aayog, will have to be crafted carefully, if it has to serve as an institution to impart dynamism to the developmental process in a harmonious manner. First, economic liberalisation has created a vibrant private sector and the new institution should assist in policymaking to enable private entrepreneurs to unleash their animal spirits and not to constrain them. Second, horizontal and vertical competition in a multilevel fiscal system can be an important source of economic dynamism so long as a certain measure of “competitive equality” and “cost-benefit appropriability” are ensured and predatory competition is prevented. “Laboratory federalism” can be a source of innovations, imitations and learning and facilitating this is important. Third, coordination costs are higher when there are coalition governments and the parties in power in the states are different from that of the centre. There is an urgent need for an institution to promote healthy intergovernmental competition while preventing the “race to the bottom”. All these underline the need for an institution to promote “Coasean bargains” in the spirit of cooperative federalism and ensure resolution of issues when such bargains fail.
2 NITI Aayog: Role and Remit
The cabinet resolution lists 13 different tasks to it which may be grouped under four major heads, namely: (i) fostering cooperative federalism by providing structured support to states on a continuous basis; (ii) formulation of a strategic vision and long-term policies and programme framework both for the macroeconomy and for different sectors; (iii) acting as a knowledge and innovation hub and providing research inputs by undertaking and accessing globally available research; and (iv) providing a platform for interdepartmental coordination. Each of these functions is discussed here in some detail.
(i) Cooperative Federalism: Platform for Interface between the Centre and States: The most important responsibility of NITI Aayog relates to promoting “…cooperative federalism through structured support initiatives and mechanisms with the States on a continuous basis”. The Seventh Schedule to the Constitution demarcates the legislative domains and functional responsibilities of the union and states in terms of union, state and concurrent subjects. However, there is considerable overlap in the functions requiring coordination between the union and the states and among the states inter se. Carrying out stable and sustainable developmental agenda requires fostering the spirit of cooperation and cementing the federal structure.
The areas of coordination needed are many and some of them may be listed here. First, there is considerable overlap in carrying out legislative and executive functions in concurrent subjects. Recent years have shown the need for cooperation in areas such as energy and environment, education and poverty alleviation where the need for coordinated action and speedy decisions are critical for pursuing the developmental agenda. Second the union government may have to intervene in the national interest even if they are in the State List or Concurrent List. There may be some public services in the State List, which, for reasons of nationwide externalities or for redistribution require coordinated action to ensure minimum standards throughout the country. The examples include healthcare, urban development and poverty alleviation. In these cases, the state governments are the partners in achieving a common goal. Third, In the case of union subjects too, the states may be involved in implementation as agencies due to their proximity to the people. In addition, NITI can facilitate exchange of information and experiences and promote heathy intergovernmental competition through monitoring and regulation.
The most important issue which the NITI Aayog will have to deal with is the rationalisation of CSS as there is considerable resentment by the states on them. In 2011, there were over 147 schemes which have since been consolidated into 66, but a close examination shows that these have been retained as sub-schemes even in the new arrangement. The “one-size fits all” design of the schemes do not take account of varying local conditions and institutions, The large counterpart/matching fund requirements distort priorities of the states, conditionalities in availing the grants make them restrictive and the final distribution of transfers is very different from the original design. Finally, when the schemes are discontinued, they leave large committed liabilities on the states.
There is certainly a case for having specific purpose transfers for ensuring minimum standards of services which are considered to be of national importance. Given the collaborative nature of such schemes, they should be designed and implemented in the spirit of cooperative federalism. The schemes should be holistic with scope for flexibility in implementation depending on the varying local conditions and they should be limited in number (not more than 10). They should have considerable scope for flexibility in implementation. The new institution could provide a platform for designing the schemes, implementation systems, monitoring and evaluating them in a collaborative framework.
In order to enable NITI Aayog to play a constructive role in fostering cooperation, it is necessary to place the Inter-State Council, properly empowered under Article 263 of the Constitution, in the Aayog. This institution should be the nodal agency for negotiation, discussion, bargaining and resolution of all major issues. It should have the required expertise on intergovernmental relations, fiscal federalism and constitutional law.
(ii) Strategic Planning: One of the major tasks assigned to NIti Aayog is strategic planning at both macro and sectoral levels. Perspective planning helps to make projections on the macro variables and keep the policy perspective in view. The strategy and policies required to improve the standard of living of the projected population and improve human development to empower the people to productively engage them in economic activities over a long-term horizon are important. These should be constantly revisited to ensure their relevance.
The cabinet resolution also speaks about planning at the grass-roots level which implies that the exercise of medium-term planning could be continued, but in a different manner. It could be indicative planning to provide satisfactory levels of social and physical infrastructure for meeting the growing needs of the economy, with the roles of public and private sectors clearly defined. Grass-roots planning entails building up of the plan right from the village level based on the resource envelop, with each higher level aggregating the plans and adding the investment requirements for the category. In other words, the planning should be built right from the village, block and district levels and these should be harmonised with planning at the state level. Similarly, national planning should be the consolidation of state-level plans along with the planning infrastructure and service requirements for the country as a whole worked out at the union level. NITI can provide a framework for preparing the plans to the states and the latter, in turn, to the lower levels of government. It should also have a unit to advise and guide if any state is in need of such assistance.
(iii) Innovation and Knowledge Hub: Closely aligned to strategic planning is the role of NITI Aayog as a think tank facilitating partnerships between the stakeholders. Formulation of strategic vision and policies and programmes aligned to it as well as initiating and monitoring them requires state of the art research, technology upgradation and capacity building. As a major think tank of the government working on various developmental policies, it should not only have basic research capabilities but also should access and outsource research on relevant subjects globally. It should have a strong data bank consolidating data and information on economic, demographic, geographic and social variables relevant for research and policy. Among other functions, the institution should also provide a platform for experience sharing among the states.
(iv)Coordination: The fourth important task of the Aayog is to ensure inter-governmental and interdepartmental coordination. The disastrous consequences of lack of coordination between the infrastructure, including environmental, ministries on economic growth were clearly evident in the last years of the previous government.
3 Conclusions
The cabinet resolution lays down only the broad framework for the Aayog. The effectiveness of the NITI Aayog in transforming India will depend upon the clarity in the functions assigned, the status and power given and the quality of the people who will steer the institution. In fact, the first Aayog will have a tremendous responsibility of carving out a niche for itself, setting the pace and steering the transformation.
Thus, the effectiveness of NITI will depend on how it charts out a course for itself. Despite the claims of a marked departure from the past, the institution has to function in the prevailing milieu and deal with the burden of legacy. The important question is whether the Aayog will have influence when it does not have the power to give grants and when it does not have the powers to make plan allocations to different ministries and departments.
The abolition of the Planning Commission paves the way for restoring the role of the Finance Commission to assess the total requirements of the states in the revenue account without making a distinction between plan and non-plan spending. However, the Finance Commission does not have a comparative advantage in recommending specific purpose transfers unless it is made a permanent body. Of course, the constitutional provision does not require it to be a temporary body – Article 280 simply states that the commission should be appointed every five years or earlier; the appointed commission can continue until the new commission is appointed. However, so long as the Finance Commission continues to be a temporary body, the NITI Aayog will have a role in designing and implementing these programmes.
The legacy issues do not end merely with the abolition of the Planning Commission. There are parallel institutions in the states and it is important to transform them to meet the new requirements. Similarly, the Constitution requires the establishment of district planning committees and metropolitan planning committees. Their role in the new environment needs to be specified. Although the cabinet resolution states that NITI Aayog will facilitate grass-roots planning, how exactly this will be carried forward needs to be seen.
The success of the institution in achieving interministerial, interdepartmental coordination will depend on the trust and cooperation it receives from them and the harmony with which the Aayog and various ministries work. There could be tensions between the technocrats in the Aayog and various ministers on the one hand, and between the technocrats and bureaucrats on the other. There is also the danger of bureaucratisation of the Aayog. Similarly, success in fostering cooperative federalism will depend on the trust of and cooperation from the states. In particular, the first Aayog will have a tremendous task of shaping the character and charting a course to make it an important institution in Indian federal polity to transform India.
M Govinda Rao ( was a Member of the Fourteenth Finance Commission; he was earlier Director of the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy.

From the Planning Commission to the NITI Aayog

The idea of “national planning” had been in the air long before independence. Indeed, the Planning Commission established in the Nehru era was the descendant of the National Planning Committee that Subhas Chandra Bose had set up at the suggestion of Meghnad Saha when he was the president of the Congress, with economist K T Shah at its head.
One of K T Shah’s outstanding intellectual contributions had been an estimate, together with K J Khambatta, of the annual “drain” of surplus from “British India” to the home country (a figure later used by Paul Baran in his classic work, The Political Economy of Growth), which gives an inkling of Shah’s world-view. The idea of planning, in short, was closely linked to overcoming colonial exploitation and to redeeming the pledge of the anti-colonial struggle to the people of India (expressed inter alia through the Karachi Congress Resolution of 1931).
Legacy of Anti-Colonial Struggle
It is a travesty, therefore, to see the Planning Commission as a relic of the “Soviet era”, a sort of ideological baggage borrowed from the Soviet Union that has outlasted the Soviet Union. Only a person unaware of and unconnected with the anti-colonial struggle can make such a claim. Though the Soviet achievements of the time may have inspired the particular course that “planning” took after its inception, the process itself was embedded in the formation of the post-colonial state; it was a necessary legacy of the anti-colonial struggle. It is not surprising that such “planning” came into vogue not just in India but in a whole range of countries that were newly liberated from colonialism.
The Planning Commission was meant to oversee a break of the economy from the inherited pattern of colonial division of labour, which had entailed the export of a range of raw materials, including agricultural materials in raw or processed form (cotton and jute textiles), and the import of a range of manufactured goods from the metropolis. Since the cultivable land-mass was limited and could not be augmented because the state pursued a policy of “sound finance”, which excluded any significant investment in land-augmenting practices (such as irrigation or yield-raising “research and development” in publicly-funded institutions), pushing out more exports of the existing kind necessarily meant jeopardising food security, a fact evident from the massive (over 25%) decline in per capita foodgrain availability in “British India” in the last half-century of colonial rule.
Not only were the country’s natural resources to be brought back under national control (which was the economic essence of decolonisation, and necessary for mobilising all available means for the nation’s development, without any “drain” on account of the dominance of foreign capital), and the production pattern altered from what had been dictated by the colonial division of labour, but the benefits of all these measures were to accrue to the people at large by ensuring that wealth and income inequalities were kept in check. The point here is not whether planning actually achieved these objectives (it obviously did not); the point is that this was the perception which informed planning and it was in keeping with the promise of the anti-colonial struggle.
Extinction – the Result of Neo-liberalism
The fact that neo-liberalism entails a break with this perception, the fact that the neo-liberal state is qualitatively different from the postcolonial dirigiste state (even when both promote capitalism in different ways), underlies the extinction of the old Planning Commission. Its extinction is not linked per se to the collapse of the Soviet Union (though it is obviously not unrelated to the change in the international scenario following this collapse); it is linked directly to the abandonment by the Indian state of any anti-colonial, or more generally any anti-imperialist, agenda, and to its embrace of international capital with which the domestic corporate-financial oligarchy is closely integrated.
It is not just the policy direction of the neo-liberal state that precludes a “planning” body of the type that the Nehruvian era had envisioned; the very structure of a neo-liberal state, where the Ministry of Finance is elevated to a domineering status above all other official organs and is in turn peopled by employees of the World Bank, the IMF (International Monetary Fund) and other institutions of finance capital, who are thereby basically put in charge of the economy, has little room for any such autonomous Planning Commission.
The Manmohan Singh government, committed to neo-liberalism but wary of being accused of deviating from its Nehruvian ancestry, sought an amusing way out of this impasse: it retained a Planning Commission, but “neo-liberalised” its key personnel. Narendra Modi has gone one step further and has dismantled it altogether, making India join, quite openly, the ranks of several other third world countries, where, basically, global financial bureaucrats get entrusted with the task of running the economy. The transition from the Planning Commission to theNiti (National Institution for Transforming India) Aayog thus reflects a transition from a state professing anti-imperialism to a neo-liberal state.
Niti Aayog and Centralisation of Power
All this, though important, is too well known to merit much discussion. What does need discussion, since it has received little recognition as yet, is the tremendous centralisation of economic power that the transition toNiti Aayog entails. The old Planning Commission had two serious failings. The first, an obvious one, was that in an economy in which the means of production were largely privately owned, there were no effective mechanisms for the “realisation” of the plans formulated by it. And it was not even the case that plans could be “realised” only in the public sector but not in the private sector; the “non-realisation” of plans in the private sector also entailed in a “resource-constrained system” (whose being resource-constrained was in fact the sign of a “good” plan, since it meant the absence of any “slack”) the “non-realisation” of plans in the public sector.
Various instruments were tried, such as a licensing policy, to make the private sector conform to the overall plan. But these, as is well known from a host of official committees, were ineffective, which also resulted in a significant trend towards centralisation of capital, and hence an increase in wealth and income inequalities. This fact had so alarmed Jawaharlal Nehru that he had set up in the late 1950s the Mahalanobis Committee on inequalities. In short, planning in India was hamstrung from the beginning, by being at best what Amiya Bagchi has called “partial planning”.1
There was however a second flaw of the plan process. The Planning Commission, though it was meant to effect “nationaleconomic planning”, was a central government entity with no representation from the states. It thus went against the spirit of federalism, and gave expression to that strand of thinking within the Constituent Assembly which saw the centralgovernment as the continuation of the British imperium. While neo-liberal economists have gone to town over the “constricting of private initiative” that planning in India involved (though the private sector itself had asked in its 1944 Bombay Plan for substantial public investment, to be financed not by taxing capitalists but through deficit financing and to be handed over to capitalists after the teething troubles were over), not much is ever heard about the constricting of state government initiatives under Indian planning, notwithstanding Ashok Mitra’s strenuous efforts.2 And the crucial point here is this: the constraints on state governments will be tightened rather than loosened in the Niti Aayog era.
To be sure, only the outline of theNiti Aayog is available till now, but the indications are already quite clear. There are, as is well known, three main channels through which funds get devolved from the centre to the states: through the Finance Commission, through the Planning Commission and through discretionary transfers. Barring the Finance Commission which is a onstitutional body, the other two channels basically express the discretion of the central government; and even in the case of the Finance Commission, since the centre appoints its members and ultimately fixes its terms of reference, the central writ is all powerful, a fact that had caused Amaresh Bagchi to submit a dissenting note to the Eleventh Finance Commission when it laid down “conditionalities” (in keeping with the neo-liberal predilections of the centre) for making available to states even such resources as were constitutionally their due.
Likewise the proliferation of “centrally-sponsored schemes” handed down to the states where they have to contribute a certain share, which is itself arbitrarily fixed by the centre, has further taken away the freedom of state governments to make their own state plans.
Further Control over States
Even so, however, the three bodies, the Finance Commission, the Planning Commission, and the Ministry of Finance, can be ranked in that order in terms of the looseness of the restrictions they impose on the transfers effected through them from the centre to the states. The disappearance of the Planning Commission, which would mean that what used to be plan transfers would now be doled out through the finance ministry, would entail both a possible reduction in the total magnitude of transfers, and a definite increase in the centre’s control over states’ plans.
There is a second reason for believing this to be so, and that has to do with the abolition of the National Development Council (NDC), where the state chief ministers were represented. This, though not a constitutional body, had a commanding presence, where the states, deriving strength from one another, made a definite impact. Since its decisions, which included the ultimate approval of plans, were taken through a consensus, the centre was often forced to yield on certain matters (though this did not prevent it from flouting the unanimous views of chief ministers on some occasions, such as the funding of the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan). The elimination of the NDC is a major blow to the power of the states. While the governing council where chief ministers are to be represented is likely to be a purely formal body concerned with the “governance” of theNiti Aayog, rather than with basic development issues, the meetings of the regional councils are likely to be occasions where the states supplicate to the centre for this or that favour. The regional consultations that are supposed to replace NDC meetings are more likely to be occasions where the states supplicate to the centre for this or that favour, rather than serious challenges to central schemes and programmes.
I should make one point clear here. It may be argued that theNiti Aayog will entail neither a reduction in the amount of resources available to the states, nor any increase in the centre’s control over state plans, since it will be open to the states to tie up with capitalists, both domestic and foreign, to work out investment projects of any description and any amount. But that is precisely what I mean by an increase in central control over state plans. The centre’s forcing states to go in for public-private partnerships (which the Manmohan Singh government had tried to do unsuccessfully), the centre’s forcing states to vie with one another to attract private capital to their territories, the centre’s imposition of the neo-liberal model on all states by ensuring that resources available to each state, which the concerned state government can spend on a plan of its own choice rather than on a plan in keeping with what the centre considers “development”, are minuscule: all this is precisely what I mean by the centralisation of economic powers. TheNiti Aayog era will mean that states will not be allowed to go their own ways, not even to the extent that the Planning Commission era had allowed. Centralisation will be the mechanism for imposing neo-liberalism on the country at large.
This may appear odd at first sight. The dominant capitalist powers imposing neo-liberalism on the world have in the past been accused of breaking up large countries, Yugoslavia being a prime example. Should not India, by analogy, be the sort of country that they would be interested in breaking up rather than centralising? The answer is “no”, because in India neo-liberalism has made greater inroads into the central government than into the state governments. Its sweep over the country as a whole therefore requires centralisation. The fiscal crisis of state governments engineered deliberately by the centre through its Shylock-like usurious interest rate loans in the 1990s was an effort in this direction. TheNiti Aayog will continue that effort.

Prabhat Patnaik ( is Professor Emeritus, Centre for Economic Studies and Planning, School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.

The Dead We Did Not Mourn

Why does the world ignore the killings in Nigeria by Boko Haram?
Some deaths are mourned by thousands, even millions; others go unmourned, unnoticed. This is the tragedy of our modern times. So even as more than a million people turned out on the streets of Paris in January to mourn the deaths of the 17 people killed during and after the attack on the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, the death of around 2,000 people at the hands of the Boko Haram in northern Nigeria went virtually unnoticed by the rest of the world.
Why, we need to ask, do we not get as stirred up with the relentless killings witnessed by people living in the three north-eastern provinces of Nigeria – Borno, Yobe andAdamawa – as we do by other deaths, such as the ones in Paris? Is it because Africa remains, in the consciousness of many, still the “dark” continent, and largely under-reported in the world media? Or is it, as a cynical commentator pointed out, that in Nigeria it is Muslims who are killing their fellowMuslims and therefore there is nothing to trigger outrage in the non-Muslim world? Whatever the reasons, it is time we woke up and took note of what is happening in Nigeria and attempt to understand the genesis of the crisis a part of the country faces.
To begin with, we have to understand Boko Haram, how it rose and grew and what it hopes to achieve. The group’s official name is Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati Wal-Jihad, which means, “People committed to the propagation of the Prophet’s teachings and jihad”. Headquartered in the north-eastern city of Maiduguri in Borno province, the group was founded in 2002 by Mohammed Yusuf who focused on the poverty and deprivations faced by the largely Muslim population in the area. Despite its oil wealth, Nigeria is one of the poorest countries in Africa and also highly unequal. Levels of poverty range from 75% in the north to 27% in the south.Lagos, the capital, is in the south where policy is made. Maiduguri is in the north, where the poor live. As Nigerian analyst Chris Ngwodo put it, “The group (Boko Haram) itself is an effect not a cause; it is a symptom of decades of failed government and elite delinquency finally ripening into social chaos.”
Ethnic violence in a country with 350 ethnic groups speaking 250 languages, and almost equally divided between Christians and Muslims, is nothing new. Yet, while some of these differences have been negotiated in the past, the challenge thrown up by Boko Haram appears to have gone beyond that. Part of the blame for the escalation must lie with the way the Nigeriangovernment dealt with its leader Mohammed Yusuf and his public execution in 2009. That event pushed the group into greater militancy and led it to expand its activities to neighbouring Niger, Cameroon and Chad. Yet, Boko Haram defies a neat definition. Is it an Islamist terror group with wider connections with other such groups? Or is it a secessionist group using violence to achieve its end of setting up an Islamic state in the northern part of Nigeria?
Since 2009, international human rights groups estimate that around 13,000 people have been killed by Boko Haram and almost 1.5 million people displaced by the violence. The world community did note some of its more egregious crimes, such as the kidnapping of over 200 schoolgirls last year. Nothing is known about them except Boko Haram’s claim that they had been married off to their fighters. Despite the worldwide campaign to have them freed, nothing of the kind has happened. Since then, the killings and kidnappings have continued, the latest being the massacre of an estimated 2,000 people in Baga, an area under Boko Haram control that was attacked by the Chadian army. The Nigerian government insists that only 150 people died. This is one part of the problem. Areas controlled by Boko Haram are virtually no-go areas for the press. The international media depends on the local press and the government for information and what comes through is usually partial and not always reliable. We also have no knowledge of the atrocities perpetrated by the Nigerian army in the name of fighting Boko Haram.
Although the US government has declared Boko Haram a terrorist group, its links with other Islamist groups have yet to be established. What is known is that many people living in northern and eastern Nigeria, even if they do not support Boko Haram, do hold a grudge against the leadership ofNigeria’s Christian President Goodluck Jonathan. Instead of accepting that the North and the East’s social and economic grievances need addressing, the Nigerian government prefers a military solution to the challenge posed by Boko Haram. As in similar situations around the world, this strategy could be counterproductive, triggering even greater violence, the price for which will continue to be paid by the ordinary people in that region, who have been at the receiving end of not just this form of terror but the continuing horror of living in unrelenting poverty.

Policy of Containment

Policy of Containment was a United States policy to prevent the spread of communism abroad.
After reaching an agreement at Yalta, USSR, established governments which owe allegiance to Russian in Poland, Hungary, Rumania, Bulgaria, and Czechoslovakia. The USA countered these moves by Truman Doctrine, and Marshall Plan.
Congress helped Truman with $400 million for aid to Greece and Turkey. With this aid, both Greece and Turkey successfully resisted Communism.
Tensions that produced the Cold War were the result of a set of misconceptions on both sides. USA, had persuaded by wartime government propaganda to admire the Russians as stalwarts anti-fascists, were naively disillusioned when they discovered that their erstwhile allies were in face not democrats. They feared Russians were hatching on weakness of Western Europe. However, scholars were convinced that soviets were not willing to undertake any such campaign, primarily because they were economically and military incapable of doing so.
President Truman's by his "Containment Speech," he influenced the American government to break free from Isolationism and stop the threat of spreading communism in Europe.
Korean War of 1952 and H-bomb fear made both US and USSR forming political and strategic pacts, viz NATO, SEATO and Warsaw Pact. Cold War in 1952-62s reached its peak resulting Cuban missile crisis.
Even though there was no physical fighting between America and Russia there was always a fear of either Russia or America shall launch their nuclear war heads on each other.
Thus, the policy of Containment influenced the Cold War in a negative way by increasing the tensions primarily between the US and Russia.

Machiavellian moves / Jitendra

On December 21, 2014, the Rajasthan government passed an ordinance which barred illiterate candidates from contesting panchayat elections. Earlier that month, on December 8, it had passed another ordinance that made it compulsory for people contesting panchayat elections to have a toilet in their house.
On the face of it, the laws appear progressive. But experts say that they are just a mechanism used by state governments to keep institutions of local self governance in check. The trend is not new and Rajasthan is not the only state in the country to have passed such laws. On November 9, 2014, Gujarat made voting compulsory in municipal and panchayat elections. The law goes against an earlier provision of the same government which called for electing local representatives by consensus, instead of polls. Under the provision, titled Samras, a village gets Rs 10 lakh if panchayat members are chosen through consensus.
The beginning of such laws can be traced to the late 1990s when several states barred people having more than two children from contesting municipal and panchayat elections. The rule was conceptualised as a measure to check population. Whether it helped or not is yet to be assessed, but many studies have indicated that marginalised classes—women, dalits and minorities—have been targeted by such provisions. A study by Delhi-based non-profit Hunger Project showed that till 2007, about 900 women in Madhya Pradesh and 800 in Chhattisgarh had been disqualified for violating the two-child norm.
“We have documented hundreds of cases where elected women, dalits, and people belonging to the minorities were made to resign. Cases of forced abortion, abandonment of children, divorce, forging of birth certificates also became rampant due to such laws,” says Shaheena Parveen of Hunger Project. “The 73rd amendment of the Constitution ensured reservation of 50 per cent seats for women at the local level, but such provisions have come under attack by draconian laws made by states,” she adds.
Parveen is working in Bihar on issues
related to women empowerment. There are cases that substantiate her point. In 2011, Rehana Khatoon, 35, was removed as ward councillor in Patna’s Phulwari Sharif municipality after the birth of her fourth child. “I had three daughters when I was elected ward councillor,” says Rehana. “Desiring a boy, my husband compelled me to have another baby. Later, the state election commission removed me from the post,” she says.
“In another case in Gaya district, a dalit woman representative was removed in 2010 through a conspiracy by opposite parties. They forged documents to show that the woman had had her third child after she got elected. But this was not the case,” says Parveen.
In 2005, the Union Ministry of Panachayti Raj issued an advisory to Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Haryana to do away with the two-child policy. But only Himachal Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh have done so. In 2007, Bihar too introduced the policy in urban local bodies, with the promise to include such provision in panchayats.
Right to remove
Right to remove is another provision which has faced severe opposition. The rule, which is in force in all the states of the country, empowers bureaucrats to remove elected representatives on criminal or corruption charges, says S C Behar, former chief secretary of Madhya Pradesh.
In the absence of clear guidelines, the rule is often used by bureaucrats, at the behest of their political bosses, to target leaders belonging to opposition parties. “There are no defined regulations to implement this law,” says Amitabh Singh, a Bhopal-based social worker who studied the impact of the provision. “Bureaucrats make arbitrary rules and officials of sub-divisional magistrate rank are empowered to remove elected representatives,” he says.
In 2010, while hearing the case of Sharda Kailash Mittal, who was removed from the post of councillor in Madhya Pradesh’s Muraina district on charges of corruption, the Supreme Court termed the removal illegal. “The judgement pointed out that such laws are an insult to local democracy,” says Singh.
“During the British period, the government had the right to dissolve elected bodies. This provision reminds one of that era,” says Behar. After the 73rd Amendment in 1993, states cannot keep local bodies in a dissolved state for more than six months, but the removal provision has raised new questions, Behar adds. “Empowering bureaucrats to remove elected representatives belittles the democratic process. Empowering gram sabhas to remove its representatives would have been a better move,” says Ved Bhardwaj of Hunger Project. Madhya Pradesh has a similar provision in its panchayat rules under which people can be allowed to recall their representatives to local bodies. But the provision has not been implemented.
Power game
Yogesh Kumar of Bhopal-based non-profit Samarthan says such laws are aimed at keeping local governance weak. “The Centre does not want strong states and the states do not want strong local bodies,” says Kumar. “We call it a politics of exclusion,” says Subhas Mendhapurkar, a Himachal Pradesh-based social activist working on local governance issues. “The class which wields power imposes its wishes to exclude those who are weak.”
Experts also argue against the educational and compulsory voting provisions. The literacy criterion is another way of telling women and tribal people not to contest, says Renuka Pamecha of Jaipur-based non-profit Vividha. Nandana Reddy, convener of Karnataka-based Gram Panchayat Hakkathay Andolan goes a step further and says the rule is unconstitutional. “Literacy certificate is not the sole criterion of being intelligent, nor does it guarantee incorruptibility,” she says. Similarly, the compulsory voting provision of the Gujarat government has not found much support. “The decision is not going to stand the test of law,” says T R Raghunadan, former joint secretary in the Union Ministry of Rural Development. “It is constitutionally unacceptable. If I have the right to vote, then I also have the right to not vote,” he says.
B K Sinha, who is working for strengthening local governance in Bihar, offers the clinching argument: “Why doesn’t the government implement such provisions for MLAs and MPs?



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