Monday, December 24, 2007

What does the Congress do now after the Gujrat disaster ?

Well, the Gujrat elections have come and gone, and in the process delivered a mighty blow to the grand old decayed party of India, also known as the Congress party. From the start, the Congress (ans almost the entire media) has declared that the Gujrat election will be the one surprise that will hasten the end of the BJP; what with the development slogan being false, by trying to pit the caste factions against each other; by trying to scare the people about Modi being a person who can get people killed without any worry. They in fact have been lulled into setting themselves up for this shock, believing the media that the election is theirs for the taking, that the BJP defectors will cause immense losses to the BJP. In the end, there was the ultimate weapon of the dynasty with Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi entering the fray and seeking to make it a Modi vs. Sonia battle.
Well, this one was comprehensively beaten. Just like the UP elections, it is pretty clear that the dynasty are not capable of fetching votes for the Congress; they can only do it if they build up strong local leaders who can bring up an organization. And yet, it is impossible for the Congress to either agree that their dependence on the dynasty is a failed endeavor, or that having a state leader strong enough to win the state is impossible. The Congress High Command lives in the perpetual thought that only of each state has multiple leaders consistently fighting each other will none of them be in the position of challenging the central leadership. However, no one in the Congress will say this to the Madam:

With the elections having gone horribly wrong for Congress, questions are sure to be asked if the party leadership erred in allowing the contest to be framed as a Sonia versus Modi affair. The post-facto wisdom may appear correct because the humiliation has taken the sheen off the party’s mascot, exposing the limits of the dynasty’s charisma. But the risk was unavoidable considering the complete electoral irrelevance of party’s bigwigs as well as the fact that its leaders in Gujarat are not a factor outside their districts.
Screaming from under the Congress rubble in Gujarat and its bare leadership cupboard is the party’s abject dependence on an individual. As a party strategist, using the room for an honest assessment with the polls out of the way, said, "Never before had the Congress appeared so desperately dependent on her."

And of course it is now open season on the strategy. The media is all over the disasters in the Congress strategy, what with the direct attack on Modi, the reliance on BJP rebels, the pushing of a campaign to portray Modi's development efforts as false; and most of all, the Congress keeping on relying on the wrong set of advisors. Now if the Himachal election also throws the Congress out, it will be a disaster for the Congress, and will cause shake-out to the extent of the Congress president of that state; nothing can touch Sonia Gandhi.

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posted by Ashish Agarwal @ 4:26 AM    

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Supreme Court steps back

In recent years, there has been wide-spread criticism by politicians of the Supreme Court run judicial system, claiming that it has gone out of control, and that the judiciary was over-reaching into the realm of the legislature and executive. There have been a number of cases, such as the Bihar and Jharkhand assembly cases, the whole issue about the demolitions in Delhi, and the nursery admissions in Delhi, that have raised the hackles of the Government and politicians. There are many other such cases that have caused controversy, typically with the court acting on a number of measures that are more in the realm of policy making such as anti-ragging, environment, traffic, etc. A 2 member bench of the Supreme Court has recently come out against the activist nature of the court, and asked the court system to stay in check:

The bench said the apex court erred in disturbing the delicate balance between the three organs by interfering in the functions of assembly — Jagadambika Pal case pertaining to UP in 1998 and Jharkhand assembly case of 2005.
"In our opinion, these were matters pertaining exclusively to the executive or legislative domain. If there is a law, judges can certainly enforce it, but judges cannot create a law and seek to enforce it," the bench said. If the legislature or executive is not functioning properly, it is for the people to correct the defects by exercising their franchise properly in the next elections and voting for the candidates who would fulfil their expectations or by other lawful methods like peaceful demonstrations, it said.

No doubt there have been cases when the judiciary has over-reached, such as the cases where judges pick cases without anybody filing a case against them. It is also true that the world over, courts have been in the forefront of drastic change. In the US, it was the Supreme Court that started to throw away racial segregation in society and it is the courts that are seeking to resolve the complex minefield of individual rights vs. terrorist laws; in India, it is the courts that have stepped in and brought rights to people against the actions of the Government.
For a democracy, there is one fundamental weakness; this is know as the tyranny of the majority. It means that if there is a measure that appeals to the politicians but is otherwise inmical to law or the constitution, they can only be stopped by a system of checks and balances. In most countries, this is the system of the courts. It is the same in India. The Supreme Court judgment in the Bommai case and the Bihar case are judgments that are now used as the standard text for the actions of a Governor (who is now practically assumed to be the representative not of the central Government, but of the party ruling the central Government); it is the Supreme Court that has been fighting for cleaning of the country through the environmental bench (people forget that it was the Supreme Court that forced the implementation of CNG in Delhi over a kicking, screaming Sheila Dixit). The Supreme Court is the final decider of right and wrong, and it is necessary that this remain. And of course, it is the Constitution of India that is supreme, not the executive or parliament (these are creations of the Constitution). Executive inaction in India is legendary, and people are entitled to file for corrective action through the court mechanism. The grey area of policy making when the executive is clearly in the wrong needs to be worked out on a case by case basis, not as a sweeping condemnation as done by the 2 Supreme Court judges. This condemnation has the action of giving a boost to the decision of the executive to do what is politically correct, and not what is right.

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posted by Ashish Agarwal @ 7:39 AM    

Supreme Court goes strict over ragging

Indian colleges have known the scourge of ragging for a long time. Justified on the basis of getting closer interaction between seniors and juniors, it actually gives a license to the seniors in the college to mistreat the juniors. To be clear, there is no earthly reason why a junior in a college has to obey the words of a person who is 1-3 years older than him/her and do things which the junior does not like or appreciate. It may seem harmless and fun to ask the juniors to sing songs or to propose to one another, but it is actually much more than that. It leads to people asking juniors to follow their every orders, to get them to strip and to make them uncomfortable in other ways; and most of all, it gives a license to the bad section among the seniors to misbehave as much as they want. There are numerous examples every year of people getting humiliated, of seeking to end their life, or otherwise getting distressed over the scourge of ragging.
In view of this overall scenario, the Supreme Court, some time back, had ordered the absolute abolishment of ragging, and asked the various educational institutions to do what they can to make sure that ragging does not happen. Noble ideas, but there was a backlash from educational institutions, many of them refused to admit that any 'bad' ragging happened in their campus, others sought to minimise the cases or pretend that the incidents was harmful fun. Well, the Supreme Court has again repeated the order and has now directed educational institutions to adopt a 'zero tolerance' policy.

Concerned over the tardy implementation of its previous orders, Supreme Court on Monday directed educational institutions to adopt a "zero tolerance" policy to ragging and expel students found guilty of maltreating freshers.
Laying down expulsion of offenders in ragging cases as the minimum punishment, the court said this was needed to end the menace that could lead to extreme torture and harassment and even loss of life.

Just in case people doubt whether ragging can be serious, here are a couple of news stories to highlight the seriousness of the problem:

1. Lucknow University students
2. Hyderabad College
I don't think that there is any doubt that ragging still happens in our colleges. To classify it as fun is maybe just about okay when you are asked to introduce yourself, but very rarely does it stop at that; in fact, in hostels, ragging can be very serious. A young person, just out of school, attends a hostel and is met by people determined to make the person do what they want, and are not above using threats of force or peer pressure.

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posted by Ashish Agarwal @ 2:08 AM