Wednesday, April 15, 2015

"Loot in the name of Cholera" published in

Loot in the name of Cholera: Sabareesh Gopala Pillai

This is a guest post by SABAREESH GOPALA PILLAI
The meaning of “health is wealth” is changing. Health — the lack of it in fact — is a gold mine today. India’s health industry is almost growing at twenty per cent year-on-year, and is estimated to reach probably about Rs 1.3 trillion by 2020. While many would attribute this to the increase in life expectancy, higher income levels, greater reach of health insurance and growing lifestyle-related diseases, the story is not so straight or simple.
Today, business opportunity lies in the creation of the demand, which in the case of healthcare, is the creation of ill-health. The health sector in the matrix of capitalism is quite unique in the sense that it is inherently vulnerable to the creation of demand by the very people who directly control the supply of the service. This vulnerability is evident in various dimensions.
Firstly, the measurement of the magnitude and intensity of demand — the diagnosis — is incomprehensible to most consumers and most importantly done by the same person who supplies the service. The service provider therefore, has overarching control over the service recipient. This can lead to extreme forms of fraud and exploitation that can even put the life of the service recipient at risk. For instance, the provision that families living below the poverty line could claim insurance up to Rs. 30,000 for treatment under the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana, a government-sponsored insurance scheme, was misused by private doctors to remove the uteruses of 16,765 women in eleven districts of Bihar and perform 1,800 hysterectomies were in Chhattisgarh.
Secondly and most importantly, healthcare is perhaps the only area where it is very easy to directly create a demand and sustain it perpetually. Health and ill-health are two states between which a reversible continuous reaction is always taking place. This may not happen in a related social infrastructure area like education. One cannot make a person illiterate after he attains a basic level of literacy. In healthcare, it would be in the natural interest of the service providers to maintain a perpetual state of ill-health in some form or the other. In fact, improving the general health and well-being of citizens especially at a preventive level can virtually lead to destruction of the health industry.
Furthermore, health is not a sector where the free will or choice of the consumer can spontaneously operate. In most cases, the requirement for service is urgent and taking well-thought decision after all relevant consultations is not practical. These factors, apart from the technical nature of the service, prevent the consumer from making an informed choice of service provider.
Measures to control the health industry have been countered with stiff resistance. The Indian Medical Association had been running a sustained campaign against the Clinical Establishment (Registration and Regulation) Act, 2010 passed by Parliament in August 2010 but is only in force in a few states. Medical associations are one of the most powerful pressure groups the world over in most societies and this is true in India as well. Emile Durkhiem, the French sociologist and philosopher, in his book “The Social Division of Labour” had shown even in the beginning of the 20th century how medical associations had restricted entry into the profession so as to control their supply and thus reap more profits.
The very placement of the health sector in the middle of a capitalist jungle has tampered with the fiduciary nature of the doctor-patient relationship and the only solution perhaps lies in uprooting the health sector from this capitalist jungle. That alone will make the transaction between the provider and the consumer non-commercial. The fear that diseases can even be created by the very people who are supposed to control them is neither new nor rare. Lynn Payer in her 1992 book Disease-Mongers: How Doctors, Drug Companies, and Insurers Are Making You Feel Sick elaborates that disease mongering is the practice of “trying to convince essentially well people that they are sick, or slightly sick people that they are very ill”. Ray Moynihan, Iona Heath, and David Henry have also called this strategy “the corporate construction of disease” in the British Medical Journal. In more extreme cases, it wouldn’t be a surprise if drug companies indulge even in the creation of diseases, which would bolster their commercial interests.
Doctors form just one of the links in a long chain of commercial vested interests from global pharmaceutical companies to local medical laboratories that loot the poor in do-or-die situations. The chain spreads into the non-medical sphere also, as illustrated by the proliferation of gold loan companies in and around medical colleges and hospitals in the state of Kerala, once regarded as a model state for public health. These companies (mostly non-banking financial companies) cash in on the patient’s urgent requirement of money and have a direct nexus with laboratories and other parts of the medical fraternity that recommend expensive tests. Since the queue in a government hospital would be too long and waiting would be risky, patients end up begging at the feet of these gold loan companies. Since everyone in Kerala keeps gold in some form or the other, it is the best resort in times of distress but the “blade” interest that is charged on it ultimately results in the gold being retained by the company. When they have enough and more of this hoarded gold, they start a jewellery shop or enter into an agreement with a jeweller. The jewellery sector ranks among the largest sources of advertisement revenue for the media in Kerala. This makes them a powerful pressure group capable of restricting damaging news and creating false needs that help in increasing their business interests. Prima facie, there is nothing illegal in this chain, which makes it even more dangerous
The counter argument against putting healthcare sector entirely in the social public sector would be that it may hinder innovation. But institutions like the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, which Peter Drucker described as the world’s best medical school, is a central government institution. In fact, doctors who graduate from Government medical colleges are considered to be far better than graduates from private medical colleges.
Kurt Vonnegut would have never thought of another interpretation of what he said some time ago, “We are healthy only to the extent that our ideas are humane”. The very idea to commercialise the health sector is inhumane and unjust. It literally violates the fundamental right to life enshrined in our Constitution since it deprives the citizen of access to affordable health facilities. It enlarges the gap between the rich and the poor, makes a particular section more privileged and others physically incapable, and has the potential to make an ordinary middle class person an undischarged insolvent in a single day. The intervention should be at the level of public policy that changes the very locus of the healthcare industry from the private sphere to the social platform and it would take real character and many a fight from the government to act against entrenched and powerful interests in this sector.

(Sabareesh Gopala Pillai is an Assistant Commissioner in the Indian Revenue Service currently posted at Ratnagiri, Maharashtra. Views expressed are purely personal)

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Recruiter's dilemma

                                             The recruiter’s dilemma
                                              (Published in

There was opposition from various quarters to some of the major changes to the Civil Services Examination announced in a recent Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) notification. Protests in Parliament were vocal and the Centre acted quickly to place the notification in abeyance. The Civil Services Examination (CSE) comprises of the below mentioned two successive stages:
 (i) Civil Services (Preliminary) Examinations (Objective Type) for the selection of candidates for Main Examination; and
(ii) Civil Services (Main) Examination (Written and Interview) for the selection of candidates for the various services and posts.

The Civil Services (Preliminary) Examinations also known as Civil Services Aptitude Test (CSAT) consists of two papers of Objective type (multiple choice questions) and carry a maximum of 400 marks. This examination is meant to serve as a screening test since the marks obtained in the Preliminary Examination by the candidates, who are declared qualified for admission to the Main Examination, are not counted for determining their final order of merit.
The Civil Services (Main) Examination consists of a written examination and an interview test. The written examination, till now before the above said notification, will consist of 9 papers of conventional essay type which can be written in any language listed in the 8th Schedule of the Constitution. The 9 papers included 2 papers of General Studies worth 300 marks each and common to everyone, 2 papers each of 2 optional subjects(again worth 300 marks each) which have to be picked from the list of subjects given by UPSC, a general essay paper worth 300 marks and 2 qualifying papers of English and a regional language to be chosen from the list that consists of Arabic, Assamese, Bodo, Bengali, Dogri, Chinese, English, French, German, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Konkani, Maithili, Malayalam, Manipuri, Marathi, Nepali, Oriya, Pali, Persian, Punjabi, Russian, Sanskrit, Santali, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu. The compulsory English and Regional language papers were merely qualifying in nature and its marks were not added up to decide the final rank of the candididates.

Candidates, who obtain such certain minimum mark in the written part of the Main Examination as may be fixed by the Commission at their discretion, are summoned by them for an interview for a Personality Test. The interview will carry 300 marks. Marks thus obtained by the candidates in the Main Examination (written part as well as interview) would determine their final ranking. Candidates will be allotted to the various Services keeping in view their ranks in the examination and the preferences expressed by them for the various Services and posts.

One of the most significant changes in the recent notification was the introduction of English as a compulsory paper worth 100 marks. Previously, English had merely been a qualifying paper without any weightage in terms of marks. The move has been seen as acceptance of the fact that basic minimum English proficiency is an essential skill to govern in a modern day bureaucracy. In Parliament however, emotionally charged slogans such as “Angrezi me kaam na hoga, Phir se desh ghulaam na hoga” (“There will be no work in English; the country will not be a slave again”) were raised.

Secondly, the notification introduced a new condition for candidates who want to choose their medium of examination in a regional language other than Hindi and for candidates opting for a regional literature subject as an optional paper. The condition was that  the candidate must have opted for that medium in his/her graduation to choose the medium in that regional language and  to choose a regional literature subject as an optional paper, he or she has to be a graduate from a recognized university/college with specialization, meaning honors, in that subject. This reform was in response to general tendency of candidates to flock together on regional literature papers since there is a perceived belief that since the evaluator would be a person representing the same state, the evaluation would be liberal and more to favorable to such candidates. Statistics seem to bolster this argument since an overwhelmingly large percentage of students choosing regional literature as their optional paper comes out successful every year in this competitive examination. Further, if the candidates choose their medium as a regional language for all papers, the concerned subject experts like a psychology professor, may not be comfortable in that regional language and this would set different standards for even candidates who are choosing the same optional subjects.  Furthermore, there was an ever increasing proliferation of coaching institutes which used to manufacture successful candidates after their month long courses in certain optional subjects such as Pali literature. This forced UPSC to take away Pali from the list of optional subjects in the above said notification. The number of optional papers which had to be chosen, which was two earlier, was also reduced to one. Thus here, the main objective for UPSC was to bring in a level playing field as far as possible for all candidates.

However, they also introduced another requirement that at least twenty-five candidates should have opted for that medium of instruction. This provision appears to be bizarre by all standards since it decides a candidate’s fate on the basis of how other people choose their medium of instruction.

The academic fraternity and rights organisations have argued that the new pattern “systematically discriminates against candidates who use Indian languages either as medium of examination or as a subject” and that “this decision is not just unjust and unfair, it goes against the spirit of democracy and swaraj that inform our republic.” On the other hand, some senior civil servants wholeheartedly welcomed the UPSC’s reforms, stating that it was necessary to recruit people who can structurally fit into a bureaucracy that has constant interaction with not only different parts of India but also the rest of the world. English is a great unifying force among people from different parts of the country and even abroad.The Common Aptitude Test conducted for admissions to the IIMs, where English is given about one-third weightage, was a commonly cited example. The bank P.O examination which recruits people to public sector banks includes English as a vital part in their examination structure. Future bureaucrats in many Central services will have to directly or indirectly engage with the outside community and communication in English would be a very vital skill.

However, it needs to be noted that Civil Services Examination not only includes the Indian Administrative Service, the Indian Police Service, and the Indian Foreign Service, but about twenty other Central services from Revenue to Railways. Some of them, like the Indian Foreign Service, would definitely require people who are good at English, but in others like the Indian Police Service, that would not be a necessary criterion. Separate examinations would probably be an innovative solution in the current context.

As the premier recruiting agency of the Government, the UPSC faces the fundamental dilemma of choosing between two direct beneficiaries of its policy decisions. On the one hand, the Commission should consider the changing needs of an old bureaucratic apparatus that is under pressure to change and perform differently in a globalizing world. On the other hand, the UPSC is not just a corporate manpower consultant for an efficacy crazy government but a constitutional body working under a democratic government.The genuine aspirations of the young adult population, speaking different languages and belonging to a wide and varied spectrum of society should also be considered. In the long run, even though one compulsion here would ultimately feed the other in a democracy, justice would not be done to a large section. There is also the risk of alignment of the social profile of the future bureaucrats in favor of the current elite. Perhaps we can hope that when our democracy becomes more advanced and the majority of our young adult population and not just the urban middle class, become equally proficient in the qualities acceptable to ideas of modern day global governance, the demand that such changes are essential in the Indian Civil Services, would come from the people itself.

Monday, April 4, 2011

The politics over the burqa- Feminism-

Don't celebrate the burqa, don't ban it either. Amplifying its importance is counter-productive

Make it irrelevant
Sabareesh Gopala Pillai

I recently heard a debate at the India Today Conclave in New Delhi on the question of whether the burqa can co-exist with the bikini. For a student of sociology, the alternate perspectives of feminist writers and activists like Germaine Greer and Fatima Bhutto made it quite interesting. These views however, seem to be exceptions.

Fatima Bhutto argued that it’s a woman’s choice to be veiled. It is neither forced on her, nor is it a symbol of oppression. She felt that it was more dangerously a symbol of resistance in many cases. “In Pakistan, more and more women are choosing to keep their heads covered because they want to follow their custom and tradition. They are making a political statement by wearing the hijab or the burqa.”

Bhutto is correct. It may be a symbol of resistance against imperialism and hegemony by the West in many cases, but hasn’t the burqa existed even before the alleged Western onslaught? She fails to notice the deep-set exploitation that exists under the garb of the burqa in her own country. Of course, if it is worn purely as a matter of individual choice, then it can be fully accepted and appreciated. Is there, however, any individual freedom where cultural pressure dominates choice? Choices may appear voluntary but indoctrination means that it is actually forced.

In this context, celebrating the use of the burqa may lead only to the institutionalisation of the exploitation against women in society. It may shield women psychologically against the influence of Western culture but will progressively increase the level of discrimination vis-à-vis men. More than a hundred years ago, a Bengali Muslim woman named Begum Rokeya Shakawat Hossain wrote a short story called Sultana’s Dream, which is probably the earliest piece of science fiction writing in India and among the first by a woman author anywhere in the world. In this book, the protagonist, Sultana, visits a magical country in her dreams, where gender roles are reversed. Men are domesticated, forced to observe purdah, and wear the veil while women are busy technologists, inventing new devices and travelling in flying cars.

Undoubtedly, Sultana’s ‘dream’ was the ‘projection’ of simmering resentment against the tendency in Indian society to discriminate against women in the public sphere and a response to practices that institutionalised discrimination through direct and indirect coercion - such as observing purdah and wearing the burqa. The larger question therefore is whether a legal ban on the burqa - as in France recently - is the best way to solve the problem.

Burqa on the beach: is hijab hegemony?
Image above and on article thumbnail from Bahadorjn's phtosotream on Flickr.
Creative Commons License

In fact, a legal ban against a symbol of religious identity can prove counter-productive. Especially in the context of the growing Islamophobia in the West, members of the community may construe it as disrespect or even a threat against their religion. This makes the community as a whole insecure and there will be a collective urge to assert their religious identity. If only 1,900 of the five million Muslims had worn the burqa before the ban, now there would be at least twice that number who want to wear it. The ban has actually amplified the symbolic importance of the burqa as religious clothing. Bhutto rightly remarked in this context that, "the more you isolate one group from the other, the easier it is to evict them from the society and the burqa just makes the association to a segregated section easier."

Moreover, the French government’s argument of justifying the ban in terms of upholding liberty appears hollow. Forcing someone not to wear the burqa is as much a curtailment of liberty as forcing someone to wear it. Even the rationalisation in terms of tradition, where there is strict separation between the state and the church, seems faulty. If the state does not indulge in the religious affairs of an individual, then why is there a state ban on a dress code that is followed predominantly as a matter of personal choice? There is no compulsion on anyone and the very fact that only a tiny minority of Muslims in France wear it shows that it is more of an informed choice.

This French model of enforcing bans on religious symbols portrays a fundamentalist textbook approach to secularism. Such representation of secularism is not only artificial but will be superficial and short-lived unless it is internalised by the members of all communities. Secularism is an emotion that needs to be felt and experienced by members of all communities in a society. Only such a union of communities will constitute a real secular society.

The best way to ensure gender equality and personal liberty at the same time is by making the burqa irrelevant. In fact, its relevance in France was limited to a minority, and progressively, its significance would have come down owing to the influence of a large majority who do not wear it. Informal modes of control are much more effective than forced regulation. The ban has, unfortunately, paved the way for a reassertion of the burqa as the symbol of female Muslim religious identity.

It needs to be noted that feminism of the kind expressed by writers like Bhutto arises only among a rising class of women who are better off than the most deprived sections of women in a society. It is relative deprivation that promotes strong activist tendencies among women at large, and this relative deprivation operates only when the particular group or the individual visualises that an alternative condition can exist and realises that she deserves to enjoy that condition. Such a visualisation is impossible when women at large observe a general feeling among themselves that they are lower in the hierarchy vis-à-vis men. This is the reason feminist movements are more active in Western societies than in countries like India and Pakistan, although the level of exploitation of women is much higher in Eastern societies. The burqa may be a symbol of resistance among women in Western countries but in most countries, including some of Western societies where it is an assertive symbol, it is more a tool for subjugation and discrimination.

All religions that have a pre-modern existence are fundamentally biased against the fairer sex. In Hinduism the bias is strongly entrenched in religious texts and in the widely prevalent patriarchal system that exists in society. Even in Christianity, the bias is glaring in aspects relating to priesthood, where nuns are not allowed to occupy the highest levels of the hierarchy in the Catholic Church. The dedication shown by nuns is unparalleled in the working of the Catholic Church. It is true, as Bhutto mentioned in her address, that the fundamentalism that is now used to characterise almost all citizens of Muslim-dominated countries originated from Christianity and not Islam.

The debate in the India Today Conclave concluded on the general agreement that the burqa and the bikini can co-exist. It was rightly noted that the burqa and the bikini do not represent two extremes, and that the usual stereotype that a bikini is progressive, democratic, and modern is completely untrue. Germaine Greer humorously opined, “The bikini actually forces women to have bodies of children, and women, who are naturally fat-bottomed animals, are forced to lose weight and then buy new breasts because they lose them as well."

Further, Greer, who is sometimes referred to as an anarchist, said the two should be allowed to exist with each other and they will eventually wither away as they lose their social relevance over time. However, the use of the bikini and the burqa cannot be generalised and interpreted universally. The cultural context in which it is worn and its overall effect on women should be the focus of interpretations. As long as the cultural milieu is biased against women, the burqa generally intensifies the bias. It is just an indicator of a larger malaise, rather than being a problem as such. However, in societies such as France, other socio-psychological processes also operate. Celebrating or condemning the burqa in multi-cultural settings will only amplify its importance and can ultimately be counter-productive.

Sabareesh Gopala Pillai is a Research Scholar with the University of Kerala

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Media and Corruption -EPW-
(Available free for a week, after which registration required)

Media and Corruption

Sabareesh Gopala Pillai
Vol XLVI No.13 March 26, 2011

The media, which is referred to as the fourth estate, is the central pillar of modern civil society – external and independent of the state. It is supposed to be the principal agent of public vigilance. Therefore, it is imperative that the media in a democracy remains free of commercial interests and autonomous vis-à-vis the state. But, unfortunately we witnessed prominent media personalities acting as ­intermediaries between the state and commercial interests, moulding public opinion through manipulation and control. More­over, the corporate media itself was involved in the cover-up which raises serious questions about its credibility. It was another form of “paid news” and it was only due to alternate media like blogs and twitter that these issues remained in the spotlight.
However, there is a larger process operating in the Indian media that is making it more corrupt and devoid of ethics and values. Media in India is becoming more “hyper-real”, in the sense that Jean Baudrillard used it to mean that there is no longer a “reality” that television allows us to see. ­Indian news television constructs a new ­reality which is different from the ground reality and this new reality is considered as ­ultimate and true by the people who view it. Duplicity becomes part of corporate ­media culture and hypocrisy is embedded in the character of the public personality.
Television constructs a new reality on the basis of which public opinion is formed. This becomes a direct threat to democracy because the public figure is no longer motivated to be genuinely responsive to the codes of ethics and justice but is more concerned about maintaining his “media image”. The political leader may not do constructive work but project an image through the media that he is working for the people. Justice may not be done but it just needs to be shown through the media that it is done. Politics and public life become a form of constructed symbolism and media becomes the carrier of these drafted symbols. Henceforth, the success or failure of a political leader, the capitalist and the media personality, lies not in maintaining ethics and integrity but in making sure that impropriety is not exposed in the public domain. The grand cover-up during “Radiagate” by the mainstream media was part of such an attempt, which was, thankfully, thwarted due to the responsible journalism of some prominent editors and the alternate media.
Before the liberalisation era in India, the bureaucratic apparatus was considered to be the villain of the piece, an abode of corruption and inefficiency. Capitalism is much more dangerous since it is based on the philosophy of dissatisfaction. Only when one is dissatisfied, there emerges the need for more consumption, which leads to further growth and revenues. A person becomes corrupt because of this under­lying state of dissatisfaction. Such corruption is more deep-rooted but it is camouflaged to appear just and fair. Corrupt media in a capitalist society is a fallout of the larger process of consumerism.
Sabareesh Gopala Pillai
University of Kerala

Monday, March 21, 2011

In defence of MPLAD Scheme -

In defense of MP-LAD Scheme

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee announced recently that the corpus available to Members of Parliament (“MPs”) under the Member of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (“the MPLAD Scheme”) would be increased to Rupees Five crores a year from the existing Rupees Two crore limit. The hike, effective from April 1, 2011, will result in an additional expenditure of Rupees 2,370 crores a year. This decision overruled the Planning Commission’s, which was not in favour of an increase in the corpus amount; even the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (“the CAG”) had described the MPLAD Scheme as one of the most irregular and corrupt practices in our democracy as the money is misused by MPs to receive patronage and achieve vested political interests. Various bodies, such as the Second Administrative Reforms Commission and the National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution, had also recommended the abolition of the MPLAD Scheme.

Professor Bhim Singh, the Chairman of the National Panthers Party has been relentless in his opposition to the MPLAD Scheme. A Division Bench of the Supreme Court of India headed by the then Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan had dismissed Professor Singh’s writ petition - where Senior Advocate K.K.Venugopal had argued for Professor Singh - challenging the MPLAD scheme as a fraud on the Constitution. Professor Singh described the recent hike of the corpus amount as “highway robbery” from the state exchequer by lawmakers and has decided to file a curative writ petition in the Supreme Court.

The legal and technical opposition to the MPLAD Scheme and the Member of Legislative Assembly Local Area Development Scheme arises from the perceived violation of two fundamental provisions of constitutionalism. First, it violates the principle of separation of powers between the legislature and the executive. Second, it is considered a direct interference with the ideology and spirit of federalism as it bypasses state and local bodies in executing schemes and projects.

The necessity, however, of such a scheme in a multi-party democracy like India needs to be understood. Firstly, the original intent of the scheme - as the then Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao described it - was to usher in development in constituencies of MPs elected from Opposition parties. It was the recognition of the reality that in an emerging parliamentary democracy like India, the ruling government usually implements schemes only in constituencies represented by the parties in power. There appears to be a general feeling among ruling parties that they can afford to neglect the needs of areas where they have been defeated. The MPLAD Scheme emerged as a practical solution to this problem of neglect and underdevelopment in areas ruled by the Opposition MPs. Secondly, it provides a pragmatic answer to the question of how an independent MP, not affiliated to any political party, can contribute directly to the welfare of his constituency. The success or failure of an MP (or a Member of Legislative Assembly) in an election largely tends to depend on how he directly nurtures his Constituency, and hence, he should be given due opportunity to do so.

Moreover, as the Supreme Court has rightly pointed out, the constitutional principles of federalism and separation of powers do not require rigid adherence. There are numerous provisions in the Constitution that showcase its unitary character such as a unified Judiciary, the procedure for creation or abolition of states (Article 3), and the provisions for declaration of an Emergency. The Indian Constitution has been described as unitary in spirit and federal in character. Even separation of powers is not followed rigidly and judicial activism stands as an example par excellence. When the judiciary finds that both the legislature and the executive are insensitive to the needs of the people, it intervenes. The MPLAD Scheme should be seen as the result of the government’s similar insensitivity to provide balanced regional development.

Furthermore, it would be incorrect to say that local bodies have been subordinated merely because the elected MPs too have the authority to recommend works of a developmental nature. Authority is given only to recommend works and it does not defy the ‘unity of command’ principle with respect to district administration. Nor does it, in any way, deprive the local bodies from providing ‘development’ to its citizens either. In fact, the MPLAD Scheme provides the much-needed advantages of ‘public choice’ without entering into the private domain. For instance, if the elected local body is not functioning properly and not fulfilling an immediate requirement of the community, such as building a waste treatment plant for an urban area, then people can persuade the MP to provide finance from the MPLAD Scheme and build a plant for them. This also has the possibility of eliminating monopoly in public service delivery, and therefore, will bring in the much needed efficiency and effectiveness in local governance.

However, accountability for MPLAD Scheme should be guaranteed. The fourth report of the Second Administrative Reforms Commission, titled “Ethics in Governance”, recommends the abolition of the MPLAD Scheme owing to the inability to maintain accountability. It is indeed true that in some areas it has become a source of corruption and a system of patronage. However, reported misuse of a scheme does not mean that the scheme itself needs to be abolished. Proper accountability for the use of public money has to be ensured through a system of checks and balances; separate institutional machinery can be put in place for this.

Indian democracy is still evolving and ‘universal’ principles such as separation of powers cannot be applied without taking the context and consequences of implementation of these principles into account. Upholding laws and principles should not be treated as an end in itself. They constitute the necessary means to provide justice and fairness in society. If they do not pave the way for provision of the expected ends, they will appear meaningless. The Constitution inherently provides a minimal degree of flexibility in the application of such principles, which has been appropriately interpreted by the Supreme Court in the MPLAD Scheme case.

Administrative Reforms Commissions' Chairman, Mr. Veerappa Moily, presenting its Fourth Report on 'Ethics in Governance' to the Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh, in New Delhi, on February 12, 2007. The Report recommends the abolition of the MPLAD Scheme owing to the inability to maintain accountability.
Image above and on article thumbnail from the Press Information Bureau.
The Report of the National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution is available here.

The Second Administrative Reforms Commission’s report, titled 'Ethics in Governance', is available here.

You can read the Supreme Court’s decision in Bhim Singh v. Union of India on here.

The Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation’s Guidelines on Member of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme is available here.

Sabareesh Gopala Pillai is a Research Scholar with the University of Kerala.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

"An honest man appointed by a dishonest government." Finally, a blessing in disguise.

My article on - The case of P.J.Thomas and the CVC controversy- Myths, misconceptions and the truth. Article published in available on the Front Page on 6-3-2011. Must read for a civil servant/ CS aspirant/ Student of public administration/public law.

An honest man appointed by a dishonest government
Sabareesh Gopala Pillai
The Supreme Court verdict quashing the appointment of Mr. P.J. Thomas as the Chief Vigilance Commissioner (“the CVC”) sets the right precedent that only a person of impeccable integrity, who does not carry a shadow of suspicion irrespective of his personal integrity, should occupy the chair of the CVC in India. Moreover, the High Powered Committee (“the HPC”) constituted to appoint people to such constitutionally ordained positions, should exercise their duties responsibly by considering all relevant material, and even though a consensus may not be necessary, the majority principle cannot be strictly applied to surpass the legality of the decision-making process.

The mainstream media, however, showed a tendency to portray Mr. Thomas as a tainted civil servant. This is flawed since the verdict does not mean that Mr. Thomas is guilty in any way. The Supreme Court wanted the office of the CVC to be beyond suspicion, and did not cast any aspersions on his personal integrity. The three-member Bench commented that they did not wish to make any observations on the pending Palmolein Import case, in which Mr. Thomas is an accused. It was, in fact, the illegality of the decision making process that compelled the Court to hold that his appointment did not exist in the eyes of law. It was the HPC that had failed to consider relevant material - there were no references to prior notes of the Department of Personnel and Training, which had observed that penalty proceedings may be initiated against Mr. Thomas in the Palmolein Import case. Rather than Mr. Thomas, it is the Government that is indicted here for arbitrariness.

Amidst the growing spectrum of scams, this is a direct blow to the Prime Minister who, as de-facto head of the HPC, not only failed to appoint the right candidate but also lowered the dignity of the office of the CVC and was reckless with the reputation of a civil servant. He cannot blame it on the compulsions of coalition politics this time.

The President Pratibha Devisingh Patil administering the oath to Mr. P.J. Thomas as the new Central Vigilance Commissioner, in New Delhi on September 7, 2010.
Image above and on article thumbnail from Press Information Bureau.

Mr. Thomas has an impeccable record of public service except for the fact that his signature happens to be on a file forced on him by his political bosses. An I.A.S. officer of the 1973 batch of the Kerala cadre, Mr. Thomas was listed as the eighth accused in the Palmolein Import case. This case relates to alleged corruption in the import of 1,500 tons of palm oil from Malaysia through a Singapore-based firm in 1992, when Mr. K. Karunakaran, the late Congress stalwart, was the Chief Minister. Mr. Karunakaran was listed as the first accused in the case, and the then Food Minister T.H. Mustafa, the second accused. The case, which is still pending in a Special Court in Thiruvananthapuram, had been registered after a Vigilance Department probe established the Comptroller and Auditor General’s preliminary finding that the state exchequer had suffered losses of around Rupees Two crores, as the deal had been cleared without an appropriate bidding process. Mr. Thomas was made an accused in the case as he held the office of Food Secretary at that time, and was also a Director of the State Civil Supplies Corporation, and was charged with criminal conspiracy. He had implemented a decision of the Karunakaran Cabinet that was then endorsed by his bureaucratic colleagues above and below him, to import 15,000 tons of palm oil at a rate of U.S. Dollars 405 per ton whereas the market price was U.S. Dollars 392.25 per ton.

This story of Mr. P.J. Thomas shows the limitations of civil service activism, especially for officials who occupy top positions, such as the Secretary, and need to sign documents on behalf of the Government but are not involved in the day-to-day operations of its agencies, such as the State Civil Supplies Corporation in this case.

His civil service colleagues have repeatedly asserted that he was an officer of ‘impeccable integrity and honesty’ and a ‘victim of political circumstances, and deeply flawed and motivated investigative processes’. A statement issued recently by the Kerala I.A.S. Officers Association, signed by Industries Secretary T. Balakrishnan, said Mr. Thomas was a victim of delayed judicial process. The fact that the present Left Democratic Front (“LDF”) Government promoted him as Chief Secretary, regardless that it was same establishment that had pursued the palmolein scam legally, has also been cited. Mr. Thomas was also an excellent Chief Electoral Officer, who worked under the then Chief Election Commissioner J.M. Lyngdoh, who was ironically a petitioner before the Supreme Court. Mr. Lyngdoh has since certified that Mr. Thomas is an excellent officer, and asserted that the verdict is an indictment of the Prime Minister and the Home Minister, and not Mr. Thomas. Further, Mr. Thomas was one of the few Managing Directors of the Kerala State Cashew Development Corporation Limited, considered to be one of the most corrupt companies in Kerala for a variety of reasons, who managed the organisation efficiently and with integrity.

The media has also reported that Mr. P.J. Thomas strongly resisted every attempt by the Government to make him tender his resignation after the appointment had been made. There was also intense pressure on him from sections of the media to do so. An upright officer, especially a CVC, should be guided only by the rule of law and not fear, favour, or the influence of anyone. Had he resigned earlier, such a historic verdict may not have been delivered; credit is due to him for not being influenced by the media, the Government, and even popular opinion.

Former Cabinet Secretary T.S.R. Subramanium has remarked that when there is a strong institutional mechanism to assess the service record of bureaucrats, systemic failure is almost impossible, and the chances of malice are high. Perhaps the government wrongly presumed that Mr. Thomas would be the ideal ‘yes man’. By not rendering his resignation at the first instance of scrutiny by the Supreme Court or at the behest of back channel efforts by the Government, he proved that he was no stooge to the dishonest Government. He walked the path of a true public servant, and sacrificed his reputation in the process. As an experienced civil servant, he must have predicted the verdict of the Supreme Court, but he refused to budge and wished only the supreme guardian of the Constitution to deliver a judgment - not on him, but on the appointment to an institution that is the primary watchdog of bureaucratic corruption. No government can now be casual or arbitrary with such appointments. An honest man appointed by a dishonest government turned out to be a blessing in disguise for the country.

Sabareesh Gopala Pillai is a Research Scholar with the University of Kerala.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

" Communal Kerala? "- My 2nd article in the series- ( ) (available in front page-lounge-without registration on Sunday,27thFeb ; after 27th register and search)

 Theories about a communally polarised society are gaining prominence in Kerala, especially amongst the Marxist intelligentsia..However in an EXCLUSIVE Interview with the author of this blog, noted historian and Former Chairman of ICHR,Dr.M.G.S.Narayanan dissects the issue and comments that communalism in Kerala is partly imported, partly constructed and partly an exaggeration by the psuedo-secularist Marxist combine. He is equally critical of the R.S.S at the pan Indian level, since they are also involved in the manipulation of history. History, it seems, is still written by the winners in post-modern India....
 Dr.K.N.Panikkar, Marxist historian.
MGS Narayanan, Former Chairman, ICHR.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

7 Khoon Maaf......( an adaptation of Ruskin Bond's "Suzanna's Seven Husbands"

[7 Khoon Maaf]------Vishal disappoints, but I dont think Priyanka and most of her men did .... Perhaps the 7th Khoon was the story itself; shocking to see that a director of his stature killed such a brilliant story.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Democracy, an afterthought...

 Being a person who truly respects the Indian constitution , I strongly believed and still continues to believe in the concept of democracy. But, just like the communist utopia people have been criticizing, I tend to feel that there will only be democratic utopia (maybe its the perfectionist craving in me). Unless people within a country are made homogenous in certain vital aspects and also enlightened with respect to certain characterestics of modernization, real democracy can be quite elusive...... However that alone may not be enough and  some would ask the question- Is true democracy possible?

For instance, Is Switzerland a true democracy? A country where direct democracy and rule of law is strictly practiced, but its economy runs on the black money earned through flouting domestic laws of different other countries. The U.S case is more obvious, with its support to the most authoritarian governments(Mubarak for instance) and even invading  countries for its energy needs(Iraq and the WMD conspiracy).....
Further, the short speech of Alexander Tylor comes to my mind......
At about the time the original 13 US states adopted their new constitution in
1787, Tyler, a Scottish history professor at the University of
Edinborough, had this to say about the fall of the Athenian Republic some
2,000 years prior:
"A democracy is always temporary in nature; it simply cannot exist as a
permanent form of government. A democracy will continue to exist up until
the time that voters discover that they can vote themselves generous gifts
from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for
the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with
the result that every democracy will finally collapse over loose fiscal
policy, (which is) always followed by a dictatorship."
"The average age of the world's greatest civilizations from the beginning of
history, has been about 200 years. During those 200 years, these nations
always progressed through the following sequence:
From bondage to spiritual faith;
From spiritual faith to great courage;
From courage to liberty;
From liberty to abundance;
From abundance to complacency;
From complacency to apathy;
From apathy to dependence;
From dependence back into bondage.
Are we part of this grand cycle of change; unlike what Fukuyama says that there would be 'no alternative to democracy and capitalism' and that this would signify the 'end of history'...
Perhaps in this way, History never ends. . . and Democracy remains just an idea like the communist utopia.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

"Post Mubarak- The stability-democracy dilemma" (My 'letter to the editor')

Hosni Mubarak-2009 file photo
"The situation in Egypt poses the larger dilemma of stability versus democracy. There are few democracies in the Arab world. Lebanon is perhaps an exception but even the Lebanese political system is a kind of sectarian democracy. Post-Mubarak Egypt may move towards temporary democracy but it would be at the cost of stability."
The Arab crisis is spreading from Pakistan to Palestine ; we dont need the tutelary democracies of the kind we have in Pakisthan. Such democracies will lead to development of multiple-power centres and radicalisation of Islam can be used as a tool, in such a situation , to garner popular support. Populism in an Islamic democracy can be a potential breeding ground for fundementalism.
Well, Larry Diamond, the noted theorist on democracy, has an interesting take on this.......

'Diamond argues that Arab states do not have democracies for a number of  reasons.  Firsttly , and perhaps most importantly it is due to oil revenue, that most Arab states do not tax it's citizens, thus eliminating the idea that the state is accountable to it's people--but the other way around.  Diamond notes that out of the top 23 countries that claim oil and gas as their top export revenue, precisely zero are democracies.  The U.S.  contributes to authoritarianism in the Arab world by donating billions of dollars to Arab states, thus eliminating the need to tax individuals.  Also, Diamond writes, authoritarian Arab states deflect citizen anger towards their own regimes and state ran media by allowing protest of the Israeli oppression of Palestinians, symbolically representing the Arab people as a whole. Will this pattern of authoritarianism change?  Diamond claims that only three factors could change the situation.  First, the region needs a respectable role model.  Second, the U.S. needs to use their influence and push for change.  Third, a massive and sustained decline in world oil prices. '
Courtesy: Journal of Democracy Volume 21, Number 1 January 2010

Monday, January 31, 2011

Problems of Dalits--(Google Book-"Social Issues")

"Identity and class"(EPW)-Economic & Political Weekly

*** (only subscribers)
"Identity and class"-- original unedited article
A treatise on internal debate within Marxism(it will amuse only those interested in academics-- purely for an academic purpose of studying Marxism as a theoretical formulation)

“Identity” and “class"

                                                                                           Sabareesh Gopala Pillai

(Sabareesh Gopala Pillai is a research scholar in Sociology with the University of Kerala)

              There has been a recent debate within the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI(M)) in Kerala, whether identity-based politics is part and parcel of communism or is communism entirely about class-based politics. The ideological leanings of a certain section of the intelligentsia towards post-modernism has probably prompted them to vouch for identity based politics within communism.  But the state secretary of the CPI(M), Pinarayi Vijayan immediately clarified that the ideological basis of the party is rooted in class struggle and there was no base for a demand for a broad-based discussion on identity politics.  He elaborated this position by pointing to the role of class struggle in eliminating social evils such as untouchability and ushering in social development in the state of Kerala.

              This official position of the state unit of the CPI(M) is in tune with the original Marxist theory, which considers development of “other” identities as symptoms of weakening of class solidarity.  Multiple identities will only intensify what Marx called “false class consciousness”, thereby weakening class solidarity and ultimately acting as a deterrent against revolutionary tendencies. Marx had rightly distinguished between a “class in itself” and a “class for itself”.  A “class in itself” is simply a group of people who share the same relation to the forces of production.  It is a class only in the objective sense and the social group will fully become a class only when it becomes a “class for itself”.  At this stage the members acquire class consciousnesses and class solidarity.  Class consciousness means that false class consciousness has been replaced by full awareness of the true situation of exploitation and dominance of the ruling class over the subject class.  Hence, at this stage a new class identity is formed as the members of the group find that they share common interests which are more important than other identities based on religion or other primordial ties.

              Identity politics will only ensure the continuation of a “class-in-itself” because class consciousness is diluted through the development of identity consciousness.  A dalit bourgousie may get support of the dalit proletariat class and this will aid him in exploiting the entire working class under him.  Similarly a woman bourgousie entrepreneur can bolster her position by building gender-based solidarity within her company and thereby dividing the working class on the basis of gender.  Thus identity-based politics can be used cleverly as a strategic tool by the capitalists for the illusory and partial “incorporation” of a section of the working class into the bourgousie domain, thereby weakening and ultimately exploiting the entire working class.


 Rather than considering the categories of “identity” and “class” as binary entities, it has to be understood that the concept of “identity” is subsumed under the concept of “class”.  This will in fact help in bringing together people belonging to different idenetities and ultimately result in a broad-based harmony and unity of the entire working class.  Class-based politics, if implemented properly, has the extraordinary ability to obliterate to a great extent the parochial divisions within the society based on caste, creed and race.  Moreover, this doesn’t mean that class based politics is silent about the social realities of race, caste and gender.  It strongly acts against all form of exploitation but the modus operandi is different.

              Discrimination against dalits is countered not by strengthening dalit identity but by integrating them into the wider sections of the society under the label of working class.  Similarly, gender-based identity politics will only intensify what sociologist Ulrich Beck calls the “battle between sexes” and weaken institutions such as the family.  This can create myriad problems for social harmony.  Radical feminists who stand for strong gender-based identities have called for the abolition of the family and mothering role while Marxist feminists have taken a more pragmatic viewpoint like calling for restructuring of the family, the end of domestic slavery and the introduction of some kind of collective method of carrying out child-rearing and household maintenance.  However, Marxist feminists believe that these solutions will be an obvious reality once a communist society based on true equality is established.

              Thus, class can be effectively used as an instrument for the hitherto non-existing integration of excluded sections in the society. The dalit, who is considered an outcaste in the Hindu social organization were not allowed to have any kind of identity in society. Class based organisation gives them the opportunity to acquire a new identity which is not exclusive to them alone. They will be able to identify with other groups in society and interaction between diverse groups will strengthen class solidarity.  While caste system in traditional India had maintained social equilibrium through hierarchy, exclusion and exploitation, class-based politics will help society in moving towards a stage of harmonious egalitarianism by weakening the erstwhile differences based on primordial identities.  Thus, class based politics has the potential of ushering in a caste-free India. Identity based politics can turn out to be extremely divisive and has the potential of threatening social equilibrium in the long run.  On the other hand, class can be used as an effective tool for integrating a plural society with multiple identities.

Dialectics of economic development in India(The Hindu Open Page)

(co-authored with Dr.G.C.Gopala Pillai.)

                                           The concept of 'dialectical ' change

Dialectics of economic development in India

A broad consensus has emerged among experts in India that the government's focus should be on the larger concept of economic development rather than on the narrow, quantitative concept of growth. This is also a vindication of the fact that “trickle down” and social responsibility cannot be taken as a natural process within the ambit of free market and the political system in the country should execute a well-designed programme for the redistribution of resources. The mammoth loan-waiver scheme, the seemingly successful MGNREGS and the huge spending on other social sector programmes are classic examples of the government actively involving itself in a planned process of redistribution.
The impetus has come from the democratic forces acting in the country. The first decade and a half of economic reforms had led to a situation of jobless growth and increasing disparities. The public at large reacted sharply to this lopsided, exclusive model of development and the government was forced to introduce various policies to ensure social justice. People gave the green signal to this renewed interest in social spending and the incumbent government was voted back to power in 2009.
It is to be noted that this new “inclusive model” of development does not reject the objective of achieving high economic growth. In fact, it considers economic growth as one of the most important parameters without compromising the wider goals of social justice and environmental protection. The sustainable development paradigm that is emerging in India is a result of a long drawn out process of dialectics. Analysing at the macro level, the Nehruvian concept of planned, centralised economic development changed into a developmental model based on economic growth during the post-1991 reform period and, finally, it has synthesised into a model that takes into account both growth and redistribution. The active participation of civil society, the media, NGOs and environmental activists in the developmental process has forced the government to take care of the environment as well.
At the micro level, the dialectical process of development in India is now heading towards another direction. It has been widely agreed among all sections of society that industrialisation is necessary, at least to a limited extent, in ushering in economic development. The larger question that is emerging now is whether it is necessary to deprive the resources of a small group of people in order to bring in development, which may be beneficial to the public at large in the long run. Is development a zero-sum game, at least in the short run? Singur and Nandigram are living examples of this debate.
The people have rejected the zero-sum thesis and the focus has suddenly shifted to rehabilitation. The Central government came up with a comprehensive Rehabilitation and Resettlement (R&R) Policy. But the success of industrialisation of rural India lies in the efficacy of implementing and operationalising this policy. Whether the emotional value an Indian attaches to his land can be compensated materially or not is altogether another debate by itself.
The industrialisation experience in the state of West Bengal can be a valuable case study model, especially in the context of the series of electoral defeats to the ruling party. It is said that the worst time for a government is when it has initiated some reforms and has gone half-way.
When eco-development starts to pick up, the aspirations of people go up and the process of relative deprivation operates strongly in the minds of the people. They feel that their situation could have been better, although their “real” situation has already improved. It is this feeling of relative deprivation that projects itself as protests and movements and finally would opt for a change in government, especially when a substitute is available. It is to be remembered that a static society that lives in sustained chronic poverty would never witness any protest because the people cannot visualise any alternative and hence there is no relative deprivation. It is apt to remember George Orwell's line, “people never had a housing problem until they were told about it.” Thus it takes real courage for an incumbent government to embark on a hitherto non-existing policy of industrialisation.
The macro-dynamics of the dialectics of development is at a stage today where a new anti-thesis is emerging to counter the huge social spending of the government. The corporate sector has demanded a drastic reduction in fiscal deficit and the recent budget aims at fiscal consolidation. At the micro-level, the focus should be on evolving innovative ways of rehabilitation, prompt compensation and timely implementation.

Gender----"Men of the world, reverse your role" (The Hindu Open Page)

Men of the world, reverse your role

Few people outside academic circles may have heard about Begum Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain. In 1905, she wrote a short story ‘Sultana's Dream', which is probably the first piece of science fiction writing in India and perhaps the first by a woman. Sultana, the protagonist, visits a dreamland where there is a total reversal of gender roles. Men are engaged in household drudgery and observe ‘purdah', while women are super-scientists flying ‘air-cars' and inventing the most sophisticated devices. Indeed, Sultana's dream was just a dream.
The reason for male domination is attributed to a host of reasons including biological aspects like hormones, chromosomes and even brain size. But biological differences have frequently been misused for justifying male domination and chauvinism. Gender is primarily concerned with the psychological, social and cultural differences between men and women. It is a social construct and the preponderance of patriarchy has a social basis. Women have been historically debilitated due to their responsibility of childbirth, which automatically got extended to child care and ultimately domestic work. Men, on the other hand, were the breadwinners for the entire family. This historical conditioning may have led to significant differences between the so-called typical male and female personalities. But purely social processes have played a significant role in the subjugation and exploitation of women. Women in India, regardless of their caste or class, have been discriminated against on different grounds. High caste women were subjected to severe forms of social exclusion (like sati) while low caste women were ruthlessly exploited.
Fortunately, technology has been a great liberator for women. It is said that the contraceptive pill and the ignition key of the car have revolutionised gender hierarchies. But in India we still find that women, inside the family, are largely subordinated. It is true that today women working outside the family is no taboo and there is a certain level of economic independence. But they are still expected to do all the household chores, famously described by one writer as ‘the second shift'. This multiple responsibility is both physically and mentally exhausting, especially in our competitive service economy where work pressures are increasing day by day.
Radical feminists in the West, reacting to this condition of women, called for the abolition of the family and the power relations that typify it. This is an unrealistic over-reaction that may prompt us to think whether they want freedom from exploitation or freedom from womanhood itself. A proactive approach based on equal division of labour within the family is the best way to deal with the situation.

Leading role

In order to initiate this social change, men should pay the leading role. They should volunteer themselves to do household errands. Emotional nucleation of the nuclear family will definitely aid in promoting this joint management of the household. ‘Sultana's Dream' talks about a “Ladyland free from sin and harm” where men are shut indoors. But rather than having a feeling of ‘he' vs. ‘she', it is the feeling of ‘us' which is more harmonious for both the family and society as a whole. It is high time men stood up and declared ‘I wanna be a good wife.'
(The writer's email:

Live-in relations(The Hindu Open Page)

Where there is love, do labels matter?
Two friends were walking along the pavement in Lutyens Delhi. Nisreen (NIS) is happily married for over a year now to Jacob, while Soudabi (SOU) is ‘living in' with her boyfriend, Saran. Here is a conversation between them.
NIS: Look dear, you are living in society and not in a cocoon. You need to respect certain practices and rules and marriage is a supremely important institution. Marriages are made in heaven, my girl, and later sanctified on earth.
SOU: You know that I don't believe in such stuff. These statements are purely made to glorify the social institution of marriage. In fact, what is marriage? It is a social ceremony after which the couple settles down and lives according to the diktats of society. Sorry, in our case, we live our lives. It seems the Supreme Court has given the green light to live-in marriages. I am least concerned, but I think it will perhaps protect others belonging to conservative families from harassment.
NIS: Oh! Why do you want to be a reactionary? It seems that you ‘live-in' to prove a point.
SOU: No, that's not true. We are not ‘living in' to project our ideology or political leanings. We just slipped into this relation and we are very comfortable. It suits us perfectly both in economic terms and emotionally. It helps us to manage our hectic schedules, lifestyles and budgets in Delhi. Moreover, I feel there is more of an inbuilt commitment in ‘live-in' relations. You don't take your husband or wife for granted. After marriage, there can be a tendency to neglect your spouse; since whatever you do, he or she is not going away from you.
NIS: Sou, you are just rationalising. There is no commitment in ‘live-in' relations. People ‘live-in' because there are afraid of making commitments. This commitment is divine. The entire West looks up to our ethos and values which structure the family in India. These ‘live-in' relations are ephemeral and in many cases the girl gets estranged and deserted. Hey, I am not talking about you, dear.
SOU: That's wrong; ‘live-in' actually liberates the woman. Do you know that 45 per cent of married woman in India are subjected to domestic violence? Divorce is difficult and a taboo in India and women eventually suffer. They are enslaved within the walls of the patriarchal family.
NIS: Look, I told you that you are being political. Remember, ideology is just partial truth. It blinds you of the practicalities of life, dear. How do you propose to have a child?
SOU: Nis, we didn't deliberately decide to ‘live-in' and continue it forever. We just slipped into it and when we want to step out, we will marry, perhaps. I know the practical difficulties of bringing up a child without getting married.
NIS: But don't end up just as couples like the hippies. I strongly believe that when you ‘live-in' you forget to live your lives.
SOU: Hey, do you think that I am not enjoying my life? Nisreen, this whole concept of ‘marriage' and ‘live-in' are just labels. Beneath the labels, there are relationships. It is the strength of these relations that matter than the labels.
NIS: Yes, maybe that's true. I just want you to be happy, dear, and never regret later.
SOU: I promise you that. Now, give me a hug, dear.

The Nature-nurture debate; alternate sexualities.(The Hindu-Open Page)

MILK,Harvey- An adaptation of the Stonewall riots at the Stonewall Inn, in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of New York City.

The Riots...

Alternate sexualities--HINDU

The Nature-nurture debate

Celebrations broke out in the streets of Delhi when the Delhi High Court ruled that Section 377 of the IPC which criminalises homosexuality is unconstitutional and thereby void as it violates Articles 14, 15, 19 and 21 of the Indian Constitution. The liberals hailed it as ‘true freedom’.
On the other hand, Islam and Christianity along with some Hindu organisations, vociferously opposed it as a threat to the institution of ‘family.’ The government which initially favoured the repeal of such a law did a volte-face and called for a ‘larger debate’. Societal consensus is the best way to bring about social reformation. No law superimposed from above would be able to reform a system, unless it gets the voluntary co-operation of the citizens on whom it is exercised. The most important point which made the court declare Section 377 as unconstitutional was that it considered ‘sexual orientation’ analogous to ‘sex’. Thus any discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation amounts to discrimination ‘only’ on the basis of sex, thereby blatantly violating provisions in the Indian Constitution.
Here, the most potent question that arises is, ‘what is the reason for having a particular sexual orientation?’ The issue now treads into an area which is part of an age old debate not only in social sciences but also in the biological sciences.
Focal point of debate
Is a homosexual, a homosexual by birth or does circumstances make him a homosexual? If it is the latter, then undoubtedly those circumstances have to be eliminated.
The general conclusion of any nature-nurture debate is that, both play a role and if that’s the case which is more important, the natural (genetic) factors or the environmental factors.
For instance, in the aspect of intelligence, heritability studies have shown that genetic factors are more deciding than environmental factors, although both play a role.
In the aspect of homosexuality if the reasons are genetic, people, with no will of their own, develop homosexual tendencies and if they are considered criminals then it amounts to grave injustice.
On the other hand if it is leaning towards the ‘nurture’ side (result of circumstances, the environment), then any kind of popular acceptance of homosexuality can have the ability to develop a following. It can even become a fashion statement, which can attract people, especially the youth. In such a case, in the long run it can even be a threat to the family.
Psychologists who favour this side of the argument say that one of the reasons for homosexuality can be continuous non-exposure to people of the opposite gender.
This is where the focal point of the debate should be.
A debate always keeps an issue alive; let the debate continue with this in view.
Images From the Stonewall Uprising’s Final Night and The Inn today..