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Archives for : April2017

निजता का ‘आधार’ कमजोर है

संभव है भारत में ऐसे ‌द‌िन आएं क‌ि नाम के बजाय आधार पहचान बन जाए

PHOTOGRAPHY BY अनूप सलकड़े

अपनी जिंदगी को ‘खुली किताब’ कहने वाले अब वास्तविक रूप से इस मुहावरे के मायने समझ रहे हैं। यह दौर वास्तव में खुली किताब का दौर है। कोई भी कहीं भी पूरी तरह खुल सकता है। किसी की भी जानकारी कहीं भी सार्वजनिक हो सकती है। अब किसी की भी निजता मात्र एक ‘क्लिक’ दूर है। भारतीय नागरिक की निजता 12 अंकों में सिमट गई है। अगर यह नंबर किसी की जानकारी में है तो नाम, उम्र, पता, माता-पिता का नाम छोडि़ए, वह यह पता लगाने में सक्षम है कि किसी व्यक्ति ने कितना इनकम टैक्‍स रिटर्न फाइल किया, कब कहां यात्रा की और यहां तक कि कब और किस से पैसे का लेन-देन किया। यह संभव है उस आधार कार्ड के जरिए जिसे सरकार ने परोक्ष रूप से अनिवार्य कर दिया है। सरकार ने अपनी कई कल्याणकारी  और गैर कल्याणकारी योजनाओं के साथ आधार को जोड़ दिया है। सरकार कहती रही है कि आधार एक पहचान पत्र मात्र है और भारतीयों को एक ऐसे पहचान पत्र की जरूरत है जो सभी जगह मान्य हो। जबकि राशन कार्ड, मतदाता परिचय पत्र, पैन कार्ड, पासपोर्ट आदि पहचान पत्र के रूप में पहले आसानी से इस्तेमाल किए जाते रहे हैं। अब इस नए ‘पहचान पत्र’ को धीरे-धीरे जरूरी दस्तावेज बनाया जा रहा है, कई जगह बनाया जा चुका है।

हाल ही में आधार को लेकर सुप्रीम कोर्ट ने कहा है कि कल्याणकारी योजनाओं में आधार कार्ड को अनिवार्य नहीं किया जा सकता है। हालांकि इस पर अभी अदालत का अंतिम फैसला नहीं आया है। अदालत ने यह भी कहा कि आधार कार्ड के संबंध में संविधान पीठ पहले ही आदेश जारी कर चुकी है कि कल्याणकारी योजनाओं में आधार कार्ड को अनिवार्य नहीं किया जा सकता है। बावजूद इसके सरकार सार्वजनिक योजनाओं को आधार से लिंक करने का काम जोर-शोर से कर रही है। आधार को कल्याणकारी योजनाओं से जोड़ने के साथ निजता बड़ा मसला है जिस पर बात होती है। हाल ही में जब क्रिकेटर महेंद्र सिंह धोनी की जानकारी सार्वजनिक हो गई तो इस मुद्दे ने फिर जोर पकड़ा। आधार कार्ड जारी करने वाली संस्था यूनिक आइडेंटिफिकेशन अथॉरिटी ऑफ इंडिया (यूआईडीएआई) ने उस कंपनी को 10 साल के लिए प्रतिबंधित कर दिया है। वह कंपनी अब यूआईडीआईए के लिए 10 साल काम नहीं कर सकेगी। लेकिन उस कंपनी पर कोई आपराधिक मामला दर्ज किया जाएगा? इस मामले में सजा का क्या प्रावधान है या फिर जो डेटा उसके पास पहले से मौजूद है उसका क्या होगा जैसे प्रश्न अनुत्तरित हैं। अभी तक डेटा इकट्ठा करने वाली कंपनी पर आपराधिक मामला दर्ज करने का कोई प्रावधान नहीं है।

हालांकि सन 2009 में जब आधार की नींव रखी गई थी तब इसका दर्जा पहचान पत्र का ही था। लेकिन अब सरकार आधार को कई योजनाओं, विभिन्न सेवाओं जैसे- यात्रा टिकट बुक कराने, पैन कार्ड या पासपोर्ट बनवाने, इलाज के लिए ऑनलाइन पंजीकरण कराने में अनिवार्य कर रही है। इससे हर नागरिक (यदि सरकार चाहे तो) 24 घंटे सरकार की निगरानी में तो है ही उसकी निजी जानकारी भी उनके पास है जिसका गलत इस्तेमाल होने की आशंका से इनकार नहीं किया जा सकता। इससे व्यक्ति की निजता खतरे में है। इस पर सरकार भी अब तक कोई ठोस आश्वासन नहीं दे पाई है। अर्थशास्त्री रीतिका खेड़ा कहती हैं, ‘सरकार ने आधार कार्ड को ऐसे बताया जैसे इससे पहले भारतीयों के पास अपनी पहचान स्थापित करने का कोई और विकल्प था ही नहीं। यूआईडीआईए का कहना था कि भारतीयों के पास पहचान पत्र नहीं है। लेकिन ऐसा नहीं है। हमने पीईईपी सर्वेक्षण में पाया कि ग्रामीण क्षेत्रों में भी राशन कार्ड, मतदाता परिचय पत्र या राष्ट्रीय ग्रामीण रोजगार गारंटी योजना का कार्ड था। सरकार का दावा है कि पहचान पत्र के अभाव में लोगों को सरकारी योजनाओं का लाभ नहीं मिल पाता था। लेकिन सच्चाई यह है कि छत्तीसगढ़ में बिना आधार कार्ड के सार्वजनिक वितरण प्रणाली को अच्छे से स्थापित किया गया है। रीतिका कहती हैं, ‘सरकार का कहना है कि इससे भ्रष्टाचार रुकेगा। राशन की चोरी रुकेगी। पेंशन सही व्यक्ति तक पहुंचेगी। लेकिन सरकार ने उस व्यक्ति पर कार्रवाई का कोई इंतजाम नहीं किया है जो राशन बांटता है। यदि दुकानदार या डीलर ही नियत मात्रा से कम अनाज तौले, धौंस देकर कम मात्रा दे तो क्या होगा। सरकारी दुकानों से राशन लेने वाले पहले रजिस्टर पर अंगूठा लगाते थे अब आधार की मशीन पर अंगूठा लगाते हैं। व्यवस्था वही है बस तरीका बदल गया है। जबकि सरकार को हर व्यक्ति को पूरा हक दिलाने के लिए कदम उठाने चाहिए।’ आधार सुनवाई के मसले पर वह कहती हैं, ‘अदालत कई बार कह चुकी है कि वह इस मसले को तत्काल देखेगी। लेकिन सुनवाई लगातार टाली जा रही है। अदालत के पास सिखों पर बनने वाले चुटकुलों और राष्ट्रीय गान के मसले पर सुनवाई करने के लिए जज हैं और यहां लोगों की निजता दांव पर है।’ जब भी आधार कार्ड की बात होती है सरकार कल्याणकारी योजनाओं की आड़ ले लेती है। पिछले साल शुरू हुई प्रधानमंत्री उज्ज्वला योजना के लिए भी अब आधार को अनिवार्य कर दिया गया है। इससे पता चलता है कि सरकार लाभ उस व्यक्ति को ही देना चाहती है जिसके पास आधार हो। कुछ और सवाल भी अनुत्तरित हैं। आयकर रिटर्न के लिए आधार को अनिवार्य किया गया है मगर भारत में काम करने वाले विदेशियों के पास आधार नहीं होता। वे अपना आयकर रिटर्न कैसे दाखिल करेंगे क्योंकि आईटीआर तो उन्हें भी भरना होता है।

सरकार के पास आधार के बचाव को लेकर अपने तर्क हैं। यूआईडीएआई से जुड़े एक अधिकारी बताते हैं कि आधार आने से भ्रष्टाचार पर लगाम लगी है। सरकारी स्कूलों में हर छात्र के एवज में अध्यापकों को कुछ राशि दी जाती है। स्टेशनरी और मिड डे मील का भी बजट छात्रों की संख्या पर निर्भर है। ऐसे में कई सरकारी स्कूलों में छात्रों की वास्तविक संख्या ज्यादा दिखा कर अनुदान लिया जाता था। जब छात्रों को आधार संख्या से जोड़ दिया गया तो स्कूलों की अनुदान राशि अपने आप घट गई। इससे सरकार को राजस्व में फायदा हुआ। यह पैसा टैक्स देने वाले भारतीय नागरिकों का ही है। आधार में दी जा रही निजी जानकारी और इसके सार्वजनिक हो जाने या देश से बाहर चले जाने पर जवाब के बदले उनका सवाल होता है, अभी तक ऐसा हुआ तो नहीं। इससे सवाल उठता है कि क्या सरकार ऐसा होने का इंतजार कर रही है। जहां तक ड्राइविंग लाइसेंस का मसला है, सबसे अच्छा तरीका यह हो कि सभी आरटीओ दफ्तरों को कंप्यूटराइज कर एक-दूसरे से जोड़ दिया जाए।

सिटिजंस फोरम फॉर सिविल लिबर्टीज के सदस्य गोपाल कृष्ण कहते हैं, ‘डेटा लीक हो रहा है इसके दस्तावेजी प्रमाण भी हैं। आरटीआई से ऐसी कंपनियों के नाम और कागजात निकाले गए हैं जो बताते हैं कि आधार कार्ड बनाने के लिए विदेशी कंपनी के साथ करार पर हस्ताक्षर हुए हैं। इनके प्राइवेसी डेटा सेक्‍श्‍न में साफ-साफ लिखा हुआ है कि कंपनी बायोमेट्रिक डेटा को इकट्ठा करने, इस्तेमाल, हस्तांतरण और अन्य उपयोग कर सकती है। इसी के सेक्‍शन 15 (3) में लिखा है कि यह डेटा एल वन सोल्यूशन (अन्य कंपनियां भी) सात साल से ज्यादा अपने पास नहीं रख सकती हैं। यह केवल निजता से जुड़े मसले से ज्यादा देश की सुरक्षा से जुड़ा मसला है। किसी कंपनी के पास इतने साल आपके देश के नागरिक की जानकारी है तो भविष्य में वह यदि सेना अधिकारी बनता है, वैज्ञानिक बनता है, देश का कोई और अहम पद संभालता है तो विदेशी कंपनी के पास उसकी पूरी जानकारी पहले से उपलब्‍ध होगी।’ रीतिका खेड़ा कहती हैं, ‘सरकार ने बहुत चतुराई से डेटा को दो भागों में बांट दिया है। एक निजी जानकारी जैसे उंगलियों के निशान, पुतलियों की छवि, दूसरी निजी जानकारी जैसे नाम, पता आदि। नाम, पता आदि को डेमोग्राफिक एक्ट के तहत सार्वजनिक करने की अनुमति है। इसी से पता चलता है कि सरकार ताक-झांक करने के लिए एक सूराख अपने पास रखना चाहती है।

 

गोपाल कृष्ण

डिजिटल उपनिवेशवाद का साम्राज्य

गोपाल कृष्ण

सत्रहवें मुख्य चुनाव आयुक्त एसवाई कुरैशी ने 4 अप्रैल 2012 को तत्कालीन गृह सचिव राजकुमार सिंह (वर्तमान में भाजपा सांसद) को मतदाता पहचान कार्ड को विशिष्ट पहचान संख्या/आधार से जोड़ने के संबंध में पत्र लिखा था। सुप्रीम कोर्ट के आदेश के आलोक में आयोग ने अपने आदेश को संशोधित कर स्पष्ट कर दिया कि विशिष्ट पहचान संख्या/आधार और मतदाता पहचान कार्ड को साथ नहीं जोड़ा जाएगा। चुनाव आयोग की वेबसाइट पर ईवीएम पर उठे सवालों के जवाब में आयोग सूचित करता है कि ईवीएम के ‘प्रत्येक कंट्रोल यूनिट में एक विशिष्ट आईडी नंबर होता है।’ यदि ईवीएम का विशिष्ट आईडी नंबर, विशिष्ट आधार और मतदाता पहचान कार्ड जुड़ जाते हैं तो मतदाता की गोपनीयता और गुप्त मतदान के सिद्धांत, लोकतांत्रिक मूल अधिकार लुप्त हो जाएंगे।

कोर्ट के आदेश के संदर्भ में चुनाव आयोग ने 13 अगस्त, 2015 को अपने 27 फरवरी, 2015 के आदेश में संशोधन कर यह स्पष्ट किया कि मतदाता पहचान पत्र के लिए बायोमेट्रिक यूआईडी/आधार संख्या जरूरी नहीं है। आयोग ने अपने आदेश में लिखा है कि आधार नंबर के एकत्रीकरण, भरण और उसे आयोग के डेटाबेस में डालने की क्रिया तत्काल प्रभाव से बंद करनी होगी और आगे से कोई भी आधार आंकड़ा किसी भी संस्थान या डेटा हब से एकत्र नहीं किया जाएगा। सरकार की बायोमेट्रिक्‍स समिति की रिपोर्ट ‘बॉयोमेट्रिक्‍स डिजाइन स्टैंडर्ड फॉर यूआईडी एप्लिकेशंस’ की अनुशंसा में कहा गया है कि ‘बायोमेट्रिक्‍स आंकड़े राष्ट्रीय संपत्ति हैं और उन्हें अपने मूल विशिष्ट लक्षण में संरक्षित रखना चाहिए।’ हर रोज अमेरिकी सरकार के 24 विभाग 191 देशो में 71,000 लोगों की मदद से 169 दूतावासों के 276 सुरक्षित महलों से आज के सूचना संचार आधारित साम्राज्य का कारोबार चलाते हैं। जनगणना से लेकर जनता की निजी संवेदनशील सूचनाएं, उंगलियों के निशान, आंखों की पुतलियों की छवि, आवाज के नमूने, डीएनए, मोबाइल, इंटरनेट और साइबर क्लाउड पर स्थित आंकड़ों तक की जानकारी को एकत्र और सूचीबद्ध करके सबको असुरक्षित कर रहे हैं। सूचना प्रौद्योगिकी से संबंधित संसदीय समिति ने अमेरिकी नेशनल सिक्योरिटी एजेंसी द्वारा किए जा रहे खुफिया हस्तक्षेप और विकीलीक्स और एडवर्ड स्नोडेेन के खुलासे और साइबर क्लाउड तकनीक और वैधानिक खतरों के संबध में इलेक्ट्रॉनिक और सूचना प्रौद्योगिकी विभाग के तत्कालीन सचिव जे सत्यनारायण (वर्तमान में चेयरमैन, भारतीय विशिष्ट पहचान प्राधिकरण, भारत सरकार) से पूछा था।

हैरत की बात ये सामने आई कि सचिव को विदेशी सरकारों और कंपनियों द्वारा सरकारी लोगों और देशवासियों के अधि-आंकड़ा (मेटा डाटा) एकत्र किए जाने से कोई परेशानी नहीं थी। इस संदर्भ में अधि आंकड़ा के एकत्रीकरण का अर्थ है कि संदेश के आगमन बिंदु, प्रस्थान बिंदु, संदेश की मंजिल और संदेश मार्ग के बारे में जानकारी को किसी खुफिया संस्था द्वारा प्राप्त करना। इन्होंने समिति को बताया कि भारत सरकार ने अमेरिकी सरकार से स्पष्ट जिक्र किया है कि भारतीय दृष्टि से संदेश सामग्री पर आक्रमण बर्दाश्त नहीं किया जाएगा। जब दुनिया के सबसे ताकतवर राष्ट्रपति ने यह धमकी भरा दावा किया कि उनके पास ‘सबसे लंबे समय तक की मेमोरी’ है तब यह स्पष्ट हुआ कि उनका दावा उनकी डिजिटल कंपनियों के मेमोरी बैंक पर आधारित है। ये कंपनियां अपने देश के हित में काम करने के लिए अमेरिकी पेट्रियाट एक्ट (देशभक्ति कानून), 2001 के कारण बाध्य हैं। आधार से जुड़े बायोमेट्रिक आंकड़े राष्ट्रीय धन हैं, जिसे विदेशी कंपनियों-सैगम मार्फी (फ्रांस), एक्सेंचर (अमेरिका) आदि के जरिए विदेशी सरकारों को सात साल के लिए मुहैया कराया जा रहा है।

(लेखक सिटीजंस फोरम फॉर सिविल लिबर्टीज के सदस्य हैं और वित्त की संसदीय स्थायी समिति के समक्ष पेश हुए थे

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For A New Rendezvous With Dr Ambedkar – Focus on Last Decade of his Life

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..Everybody would agree that it is a challenging task to encapsulate a great wo/man’s vision in a few words- who as a public figure has impacted not only her/his generation but future generations, initiated or channelised debates in the society, led struggles, mobilised people, wrote thousands of pages and left a legacy for all of us to carry forward. …

To save time one can focus more on the last decade of his life – the most tumultuous period in his as well as the newly independent nation’s life – to know the important concerns which bothered his mind and how he envisioned the future trajectory of the movement he led and how he tried to chart a roadmap for the nascent nation with due support/cooperation and at times resistance from leading stalwarts of his time…

These are no ordinary times to discuss Dalit vision* or rather reach a consensus around what could be called Dalit Vision.You have on the one hand the upheaval witnessed in the country especially among educated young dalits and broader democratic sections symbolised by the institutional murder of Rohith Vemula and the mass movement which it has generated and at the other end of the spectrum renowned Dalit leaders paying obeisance before rabid reactionary forces. You have on the one hand slogans of Jai Bhim and Lal Salaam being raised in unison on campuses across the country and on the other the process of mythologising Dr Ambedkar and marginalising ‘his’ meaning being underway nonetheless.

Today as we embark on the task of understanding/analysing/debating Dalit Vision we have before us its multiple readings. A new radical reading of it visible in the experiences of the Ambedkar-Periyar Study Circle at IIT Madras or Ambedkar Students Association at HCU or at the other end of the spectrum people who venerate globalisation as the panacea of Dalit’s ills or tell us that with advance of capitalism castes will vanish away are also there to proclaim that they are the true legatee of this vision.

In fact a possibility does exist that the emancipatory thrust in this worldview is slowly being marginalised on the altar of pragmatic politics or around our immediate concerns of daily life. As an aside it is important to remember that Dr Ambedkar did have apprehensions about it and had cautioned his followers to this effect. It is one of the most poignant moments of his life that in a public meeting held in Agra in Feb 1956 – where there was a large gathering of newly educated youth from oppressed communities – he literally became emotional (in fact the late Prof Tulsi Ram has written that he literally cried) when he realised that they were not bothered about society or other depressed sections.

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How does one proceed then to define/debate/discuss Dalit Vision in the present context, which is ‘beyond rhetoric, decorative politicos and Brahminical hegemony’?

One way is to ‘collect’ all those ‘visions’ or readings and find some commonality from them. Definitely an impossible task ! What commonality could be derived from a ‘vision’ whose one manifestation supports status quoist politics and the other opposes it.

Perhaps the best option available is to not to look at its present day exponents or its various manifestations available but its best exponent ever and see how he envisioned things, how he analysed ‘his’ present or how he forecasted ‘future’, what sort of cautions he shared with his comrades to be taken note of and taking him as our pole star look at ‘our’ present, and define Dalit Vision for our times.

This revisiting would also serve another purpose.

We have been witness to a new brand of converts supposedly to Ambedkar’s worldview who have started claiming him more aggressively these days surpassing even his loyal followers. Our search would also help demonstrate how the forefathers of these new converts derided him when he was alive and even after his death and how he opposed their politics tooth and nail and cautioned his followers about it.

Today when they are competing with each other to lay claim over his legacy let us not forget that one of their ideologues had even penned a few hundred page monograph ‘Worshipping False Gods’ in mid-nineties – which spew venom against Dr Ambedkar (http://www.outlookindia.com/magazine/story/falsifying-the-truth/203929) – an act for which he was suitably rewarded by them when they held reins of power at the centre for the first time, an act for which one is yet to see any apology or self-criticism from them.

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Everybody would agree that it is challenging task to encapsulate a great wo/man’s vision in a few words- who as a public figure has impacted not only her/his generation but future generations, initiated or channelised debates in the society, led struggles, mobilised people, wrote thousands of pages and left a legacy for all of us to carry forward ? And within a short timespan available before us it is next to impossible to look at Ambedkar’s complete journey or rather quest to usher into – what Prof Gopal Guru writes – ‘enlightened, inclusive India’ from a ‘bahishkrut’ India.

To save time one can focus more on the last decade of his life – the most tumultuous period in his as well as the newly independent nation’s life – to know the important concerns which bothered his mind and how he envisioned the future trajectory of the movement he led and how he tried to chart a roadmap for the nascent nation with due support/cooperation and at times resistance from leading stalwarts of his time.

It is true that such a focus would obviously rob us of an opportunity to look at the historic MahadSatyagrah – which we in Marathi call as ‘Mahad Kranti’ (1927) an important milestone in his political life, neither we will be able to look at the historic rally he organised against KhotPratha- a feudal practice – alongwith Communists, or his growing disillusionment with Hinduism witnessed after the unsuccessful Satyagrah for temple entry at ‘KalaramMandir, Nashik’ which continued for five years, the way he formed Independent Labour Party or how he told his followers (in his speech to Dalit Rail Workers) that they have to fight the twin enemies of ‘Capitalism’ and ‘Brahminism’ etc and many other milestones of his life.

4.

First of all what was his vision for independent India or how he looked at a future roadmap for India. Yes, he has been rightly called the Chief architect of the Constitution and it was his intervention/presence – definitely with due support from Nehru and others – that he could include important pro-people or pro-dispriviledged provisions into it but we cannot be under any illusion that it was only ‘his vision’ which triumphed ultimately. The making of constitution itself was marked by pressures and counterpressures – from believers of radical change to the status quoists – and what came out can at best could be called a compromise document between various contending forces, ideas. Dr Ambedkar’s separation between beginning of political democracy in India with the advent of one man one vote regime and the long hiatus he viewed for ushering into social democracy- regime of one man one value while dedicating constitution to the nation was in fact a reminder of the fact that the struggle is still not over.

At another place he similarly underlined the limitations of such a constitutional exercise in a backward society like ours

‘Indians today are governed by two ideologies. Their political ideal set in the preamble of the constitution affirms a life of liberty, equality and fraternity whereas their social ideal embedded in their religion denies it to them’

(As an aside let me mention here that I continue to have my reservations about Dr Ambedkar’s participation in the making of constitution. What would have been the course of history if he would have decided to remain outside and fought for inclusion of pro-people provisions? While one can marvel at the strategic move by Gandhi who insisted for his inclusion – despite his lifelong struggle against Congress – but why Dr Ambedkar felt compelled to take up the work.Of course, that is for another time to sort out. )

And if we are keen to know his ‘vision’ about a future India then it can be discerned in the less discussed monograph ‘States and Minorities : What are Their Rights and How to Secure them in the Constitution of Free India’ which was basically a ‘[m]emorandum on the Safeguards for the Scheduled Castes for being submitted to the Constituent Assembly on behalf of the Scheduled Castes Federation’ he led. (http://www.ambedkar.org/ambcd/10A.%20Statesand%20Minorities%20Preface.htm) The said monograph by the political organisation he led then does not limit itself to ‘safeguards’ but also talks of danger of majoritarianism, incompatibility of Hinduism with any change, and also suggests model of economic development which he himself describes as ‘state socialism’

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It would be quite enlightening for many of us how in the same monograph he envisaged that ‘state shall not recognise any religion as state religion’ and ‘guarantee to every citizen liberty of conscience’ but coming to the aspect of protection against economic exploitation declared that ‘key industries shall be owned and run by the state’ and even basic industries ‘shall be owned by the state and run by the state’. He was of the opinion that ‘agriculture shall be state industry ‘where – state shall divide the land acquired into farms of standard size, and farm shall be cultivated as a collective farm, in accordance with rules and directions by the government and ‘tenants shall share among themselves in the manner prescribed the produce of the farm left after the payment of charges properly leviable on the farm’

He further explains this clause in the following words:

‘The main purpose behind the clause is to put an obligation on the State to plan the economic life of the people on lines which would lead to highest point of productivity without closing every avenue to private enterprise, and also provide for the equitable distribution of wealth. The plan set out in the clause proposes State ownership in agriculture with a collectivised method of cultivation and a modified form of State Socialism in the field of industry.’..’State Socialism is essential for the rapid industrialisation of India. Private enterprise cannot do it and if it did it would produce those inequalities of wealth which private capitalism has produced in Europe and which should be a warning to Indians. Consolidation of Holdings and Tenancy legislation are worse than useless.’

Interestingly he does not propose that the idea of state socialism should be left to legislatures but by ‘law of the constitution.’

The plan has two special features. One is that it proposes State Socialism in important fields of economic life. The second special feature of the plan is that it does not leave the establishment of State Socialism to the will of the Legislature. It establishes State Socialism by the Law of the Constitution and thus makes it unalterable by any act of the Legislature and the Executive.’

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( Photo : Drafting Committee Members of the Indian Constitution)

In the same monograph he clearly differentiates between ‘Untouchables’ and ‘Hindus’.

Gone were the days when he felt that Hinduism would reform itself from within and also it had been more than a decade that he had declared at Yeola conference that he ‘may be born a Hindu but he will not die a Hindu’.

He is unequivocal about the ‘Hindu population which is hostile to them (untouchables)’ and emphasises that it is ‘not ashamed of committing any inequity or atrocity against them’. He is also not hopeful about their situation under Swaraj

what can Swaraj mean to the Untouchables ? It can only mean one thing, namely, that while today it is only the administration that is in the hands of the Hindus, under Swaraj the Legislature and Executive will also be in the hands of the Hindus, it goes without saying that such a Swaraj would aggravate the sufferings of the Untouchables. For, in addition to an hostile administration, there will be an indifferent Legislature and a callous Executive. The result will be that the administration unbridled in venom and in harshness, uncontrolled by the Legislature and the Executive, may pursue its policy of inequity towards the Untouchables without any curb. To put it differently, under Swaraj the Untouchables will have no way of escape from the destiny of degradation which Hindus and Hinduism have fixed for them…

He was very much aware about the dangers of majoritarianism implicit in the way Indian nationalism has developed which according to him

[h]as developed a new doctrine which may be called the Divine Right of the Majority to rule the minorities according to the wishes of the majority. Any claim for the sharing of power by the minority is called communalism while the monopolizing of the whole power by the majority is called Nationalism.

And to protect the rights of the minorities (remember he does not restrict himself with religious minorities here but also includes the ‘scheduled castes’ in his definition) he proposes a form of executive which could serve following purposes

(i) To prevent the majority from forming a Government without giving any opportunity to the minorities to have a say in the matter.

(ii) To prevent the majority from having exclusive control over-administration and thereby make the tyranny of the minority by the majority possible.

(iii) To prevent the inclusion by the Majority Party in the Executive representatives of the minorities who have no confidence of the minorities.

(iv) To provide a stable Executive necessary for good and efficient administration.

In fact, his fears vis-a-vis the majoriatarian impulses were evident in the political manifesto of the Scheduled Castes Federation itself— the political outfit which was set up by him in 1942 which rejected the RSS and Hindu Mahasabha as “reactionary” organizations.

“The Scheduled Castes Federation will not have any alliance with any reactionary party such as the Hindu Mahasabha or the RSS,”

(See Vol 10 of Dr BhimraoRamjiAmbedkarCharitragranth, a Marathi book by ChangdevBhavanraoKhairmode, or refer to http://www.hardnewsmedia.com/2016/04/appropriating-ambedkar#sthash.b53dwFL4.dpuf)

And anyone who has looked at the making of Indian constitution would tell us why he considered them ‘reactionary’ parties. History is witness to the fact that they opposed its making and suggested in their organs that instead of a new constitution, the newly independent nation should adopt Manusmriti. A laughable suggestion right now but was seriously raised by its proponents.

“The worst [thing] about the new Constitution of Bharat, is that there is nothing Bharatiya about it… [T]here is no trace of ancient Bharatiya constitutional laws, institutions, nomenclature and phraseology in it”…“no mention of the unique constitutional developments in ancient Bharat. Manu’s laws were written long before Lycurgus of Sparta or Solon of Persia. To this day his laws as enunciated in the Manusmriti excite the admiration of the world and elicit spontaneous obedience and conformity [among Hindus in India]. But to our constitutional pundits that means nothing”.

(Excerpts of Editorial on Constitution, Organiser’ November 30, 1949, whose final draft had just been presented to the Constituent Assembly by Ambedkar.

In his monograph ‘Pakistan or Partition of India’ he reiterates his fears vis-a-vis the possible majoritarian turn at the hands of those who vouched for ‘Hindu Raj’

“If Hindu Raj does become a fact, it will no doubt, be the greatest calamity for this country. No matter what the Hindus say, Hinduism is a menace to liberty, equality and fraternity. On that account it is incompatible with democracy. Hindu Raj must be prevented at any cost.”

– Ambedkar, Pakistan or Partition of India, p. 358

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( Photo : Ambedkar with Periyar, 1954 Rangoon, when they met at a Buddhist Confernece, http://www.frontline.in)

Much on the lines of lack of debate/discussion around ‘States and Minorities’ another important intervention during that period led by him has also received little attention. It was related to the struggle for Hindu Code Bill and happened to be the first attempt in independent India to reform Hindu personal laws to give greater rights to Hindu women. Attempt was to put a stamp on monogamy and also ensure separation rights to Women and also grant them rights in property. We know very well that it was a key reason that Ambedkar resigned from the Cabinet led by Nehru because he felt that despite lot of attempts not much headway could be made in granting these rights. In his resignation letter he underlined the importance he attached to the bill

“To leave inequality between class and class, between sex and sex, which is the soul of Hindu Society untouched and to go on passing legislation relating to economic problems is to make a farce of our Constitution and to build a palace on a dung heap. This is the significance I attached to the Hindu Code.” – (See more at: http://www.hardnewsmedia.com/2016/04/appropriating-ambedkar#sthash.b53dwFL4.dpuf)

It is now history how the Hindutva Right and the Conservative Sections within the Congress coupled with the Saffron robed Swamis and Sadhus had joined hands to oppose the enactment of Hindu Code Bill. In fact, this motley combination of reactionary, status quoist forces did not limit itself to issuing statements it opposed the bill on the streets and led large scale mobilisation at pan India level against the bill. There were occasions when they even tried to storm Dr Ambedkar’s residence in Delhi.

The main argument peddled against Ambedkar was that the bill was an attack on ‘Hindu Religion and Culture’ One can get an idea of the resistance to the bill listening to the intervention by AcharyaKriplani on the floor of the house. While supporting the bill he said

“I am afraid I do not see the point in Hindu religion being in danger, Hindu religion is not in danger when Hindus are thieves, rogues, black marketeers and bribe-takers. Hindu religion is not endangered by people who want to reform a particular law . May be, they are over zealous, but it is better to be over zealous in things idealistic than be corrupt in material things. “

.. AcharyaKripalani on the floor of the house while discussing Hindu Code Bill, (24 Dec 1949, Economic Weekly)

An excerpt from RamchandraGuha’s book gives an idea about the resistance to the bill.

“The anti-Hindu code bill committee held hundreds of meetings throughout India, where sundry swamis denounced the proposed legislation. The participants in this movement presented themselves as religious warriors (dharmaveer) fighting a religious war (dharmayudh). The RashtriyaSwayamsewakSangh threw its weight behind the agitation. On the 11th of December, 1949, the RSS organised a public meeting at the Ramlila grounds in Delhi, where speaker after speaker condemned the bill. One called it ‘an atom bomb on Hindu society’… The next day a group of RSS workers marched on the assembly buildings, shouting ‘Down with Hindu code bill’… The protesters burnt effigies of the prime minister and Dr Ambedkar, and then vandalised the car of Sheikh Abdullah.” (‘India after Gandhi’, Guha ; See more at: http://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/bhagwats-ambedkar/#sthash.6ZNPVwHq.dpuf)

Shyama Prasad Mookerjee, founder of BJP’s predecessor, the Bharatiya Jan Sangh, had said the Bill would “shatter the magnificent structure of Hindu culture.”

In fact, like Mahatma Phule – whom he called the ‘Greatest Shudra’ and included him in the triumvirate of Buddha, Kabir whom he considered to be his teachers – the concern for women’s emancipation always existed in movement led by Ambedkar.

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( Photo : Conversion to Buddhism at Nagpur, courtesy :https://lordbuddhatv.wordpress.com)

I will accept and follow the teachings of Buddha. I will keep my people away from the different opinions of Hinyan and Mahayan, two religious orders. Our BouddhaDhamma is a new BouddhaDhamma, Navayan.

—Dr.BabasahebAmbedkar,Press interview on 13 October 1956 at Sham Hotel, Nagpur

An important development in the last decade of his life was his decision to embrace Buddhism with lakhs of followers. Apart from his deep fascination for Buddhism from younger days, his conversion to Buddhism had also to do with his contention that the ‘untouchables’ were in fact former Buddhists. He elaborates it in his book ‘The Untouchables: A Thesis on the Origin of Untouchability(1948). ( For details : https://kafila.org/2016/04/26/jayadeva-uyangoda-on-ambedkars-legacy/) Thus it could be also said to be return to ‘their’ original religion than a conversion. Interestingly one finds deep commonality between Dr Ambedkar and JyotheeThass, the great Tamil-Buddhist Scholar, who also maintained that ‘Untouchables’ were early Buddhists.

His ‘conversion’ to Buddhism was also renouncement of Hinduism which according to him had

‘[p]roved detrimental to progress and prosperity of my predecssors and which has regarded human beings as unequal and despicable’ ( See Pledge 19)

If one refers to the 22 pledges he administered to the followers on the occasion then one can broadly categorise them into four -complete rejection of Hindu gods (e.g. I will not accept Brahma,Vishnu and Mahesh as God and will not worship them) and their worship and the related rituals (I will not perform shraddhaPaksh or Pind Dana(Rituals to respect the dead), acceptance of the principles and teachings of Buddhism, declaration that ‘all human beings are equal’ and ‘no faith in divine incarnation’.

An important aspect of this ‘return’ or ‘conversion’ is the fact that it was also a reinterpretation of Buddhism which he described as Navayan – a new vehicle. Apart from a big monograph ‘Buddha and His Dhamma’ where he tries to revisit Buddha one can get a glimpse of his reading of Buddha and his teachings from the speech he delivered in Kathmandu, merely a fortnight before his death which was posthumously published as ‘Buddha Or Karl Marx.’ (http://www.ambedkar.org/ambcd/20.Buddha%20or%20Karl%20Marx.htm)

Summarising ‘The Creed of Buddhism’ he while underlining necessity of ‘religion for a free society’ says many things which would be rather unacceptable to a scholar or follower of religion where he seems to reject the ‘necessity of God’ as well as Shastrasand rituals . Like he says ‘Religion must relate to facts of life and not to theories and speculations about God, or Soul or Heaven or Earth’ ‘It is wrong to make God the centre of Religion.’, It is wrong to make salvation of the soul as the centre of Religion, It is wrong to make animal sacrifices to be the centre of religion; real Religion lives in the heart of man and not in the Shastras ; Man and morality must be the centre of religion. If not, Religion is a cruel superstition; It is not enough for Morality to be the ideal of life. Since there is no God it must become the law of life.’

Ambedkar differentiates himself from popular definitions of religion first by criticising the way religion(s) have tried to explain origin and end of world around and says that its ‘function is to to reconstruct the world and to make it happy’. And he further explores source of unhappiness and does not talk about ‘sins’ or ‘otherworldly affairs’ but says that ‘unhappiness in the world is due to conflict of interest and the only way to solve it is to follow the AshtangaMarga’ Further elaborating on ‘Creed of Buddhism’ he says that ‘private ownership of property brings power to one class and sorrow to another’ and ‘it is necessary for the good of Society that this sorrow be removed by removing its cause’ While religions the world over have remained the basis of ‘othering’ – which in extreme cases have resulted in big genocides also – Buddhism as perceived by Ambedkar ‘ All human beings are equal’ ‘Worth and not birth is the measure of man’.

While supporting ‘War for truth and justice’ and also emphasising that ‘Victor has duties towards the Vanquished’ in the last portion of his summary of creed of Buddhism’, he not only challenges monopoly of the few over learning (Every one has a right to learn. Learning is as necessary for man to live as food is) , he also discusses that ‘ Everything is subject to the law of causation’ and ‘nothing is final,; Nothing is infallible. Nothing is binding forever. Everything is subject to inquiry and examination’ ‘Nothing is permanent or sanatan. Everything is subject to change. Being is always becoming.’

9.

This speech – as the title shows – also throws light on his views about Marxism. Of course it is not for the first time that he had expressed his views on the theme. In his famous booklet ‘Annihilation of Caste’ he had already made it clear that while he appreciates goal of Marxism but is repelled by its Indian Practioners.

In this speech also he declares that ‘Buddha is not away from Marx’ if ‘for misery one reads exploitation’,

For him non-violence is not an issue of principle. ‘The Buddha was against violence. But he was also in favour of justice and where justice required he permitted the use of force. ‘ Ambedkar further writes that

‘Violence cannot be altogether dispensed with. Even in non-communist countries a murderer is hanged. Does not hanging amount to violence? Non-communist countries go to war with non-communist countries. Millions of people are killed. Is this no violence? If a murderer can be killed, because he has killed a citizen, if a soldier can be killed in war because he belongs to a hostile nation why cannot a property owner be killed if his ownership leads to misery for the rest of humanity? There is no reason to make an exception in favour of the property owner, why one should regard private property as sacrosanct.’

He also underlines that even ‘Buddha established Communism so far as the Sangh was concerned’

The Russians are proud of their Communism. But they forget that the wonder of all wonders is that the Buddha established Communism so far as the Sangh was concerned without dictatorship. It may be that it was a communism on a very small scale but it was communism without dictatorship a miracle which Lenin failed to do.

Of course he underlines that

‘The Buddha’s method was different. His method was to change the mind of man: to alter his disposition: so that whatever man does, he does it voluntarily without the use of force or compulsion.

Perhaps the last para in his speech he makes concluding remarks in this debate and seems to validate [what friend AnandTeltumbde calls] ‘his decision as confirming to Marxism, minus violence and dictatorship in the latter.’ (http://www.countercurrents.org/teltumbde160812.htm)

..It has been claimed that the Communist Dictatorship in Russia has wonderful achievements to its credit. There can be no denial of it. That is why I say that a Russian Dictatorship would be good for all backward countries. But this is no argument for permanent Dictatorship. …

We welcome the Russian Revolution because it aims to produce equality. But it cannot be too much emphasised that in producing equality society cannot afford to sacrifice fraternity or liberty. Equality will be of no value without fraternity or liberty. It seems that the three can coexist only if one follows the way of the Buddha. Communism can give one but not all.

10.

As I said in the beginning these are no ordinary times to discuss Dalit vision. We have before us an India where (to quote Prof AchinVanaik)

‘..[t]he centre of gravity has shifted perhaps decisively to the right, in three crucial spheres : economy, secularism and democracy.’

It is an India where the political dispensation at the centre is busy furthering the exclusivist/majoritarian worldview of HindutvaSupremacism coupled with the neoliberal agenda under the glib talk of development and concerted attack has been unleashed on (what Ambedkar defined as ) minorities of various kinds and other deprived sections.

What can be said to be the contours of Dalit Vision for our times then.

It will have to be necessarily for ensuring that’state shall not recognise any religion as state religion’ and ‘guarantee to every citizen liberty of conscience’, it has to be against ‘majoritarianism of every kind’ and specifically -to prevent majority from forming a Government without giving any opportunity to the minorities to have a say in the matter.- for women’s emancipation,, for State ownership in agriculture with a collectivised method of cultivation and a modified form of State Socialism in the field of industry, against inequalities of wealth which private capitalism produces, it will have to be necessarily for annihilation of caste as ‘The existence of the Caste System is a standing denial of the existence of ideals of society and therefore of democracy.’(Speech on the ‘Voice of America’ radio (20 th May 1956) It will be for reason and rationality and scientific temper and not for dumbing down of minds.

It does not need reminding that it will not be based on sanitisation or vulgarisation of Dr Ambedkar in any form as it is being experimented these days. While his appropriation by the Hindutva Right has been widely commented upon and exposed as their attempts to carve out a ‘suitable’ Ambedkar for their project based on exclusion and hatred, much needs to be done to expose his projection as a free market economist. (http://www.countercurrents.org/teltumbde110911.htm) Scholarly sounding pieces have appeared based on selective quotes from his vast corpus of writings to project him as a ‘Free Market Economist” [ http://blog.mises.org/16519/ambedkar-the-forgotten-free-market-economist/ ] or Capitalism is being valorised supposedly for annihilation of caste (Chandrabhan Prasad and MilindKamble, Manifesto to end caste : Push Capitalism and industrialisation to eradicate this pernicious system, Times of India, 23 rd January 2013). It is being argued by noted columnists and upcoming industrialists from the oppressed communities that

Capital is the surest means to fight caste. In dalit’s hands, capital becomes an anti-caste weapon; little wonder that the traditional caste code prohibits dalits from accumulating wealth. Dalit capitalism is the answer to that regime of discrimination. The manifesto demands promotion of dalit capitalism through a variety of means-procurement, credit options and partnerships.

An important point is Dalit Vision will have to be wary of ‘Hero worship’ or laying ‘liberties at the feet of a great man’ as it can culminate in ‘subverting of institutions’ in a Democracy as Ambedkar has warned us. In fact he had this to say while dedicating Constitution to the nation.

“This caution is far more necessary in the case of India than in the case of any other country. For in India, Bhakti or what may be called the path of devotion or hero-worship, plays a part in its politics unequalled in magnitude by the part it plays in the politics of any other country in the world. Bhakti in religion may be a road to the salvation of the soul. But in politics, Bhakti or hero-worship is a sure road to degradation and to eventual dictatorship.”

Everybody can see that this caution has contemporary import. It was only few months back that a responsible minister of the ruling dispensation told us that honourable PM was “God’s gift to India’

While Bhakts can rejoice about this unique gift to India every sensible person would agree that if this trend is allowed to continue then it is a ‘sure road to degradation and eventual dictatorship.’

(Draft of Presentation made at a Discussion on ‘ Dalit Vision : Beyond Rhetoric, decorative politicos, Brahminical hegemony and Maharashtra’ 1 st May 2016, organised by India International Centre, Maharashtra SanskritikaniRannanitiAdhyaynSamiti and Working Group on Alternative Strategies. A revised version of the writeup has appeared in IICquarterly)

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Maharashtra – Suppressing the Symptoms or Treating the Malady

 

Maharashtra, which recently witnessed several attacks on front line doctors, has comparatively very low levels of per capita public health spending, shortfalls in health facilities, and major shortages of specialist public doctors. Dialogue mechanisms should be developed based on community monitoring, while existing legal provisions for grievance redressal need implementation. Doctor–patient communication must improve, and the serious ailments afflicting public health services in Maharashtra must be addressed to move beyond superficial solutions.

The author gratefully acknowledges inputs from Sanjay Nagral, Ravi Duggal and members of the SATHI team while writing this article.

Maharashtra has witnessed a spate of attacks by attendants of patients on front line doctors in public hospitals across the state in March 2017. This precipitated a major strike by over 4,000 resident doctors, which was supported by the 40,000-strong Indian Medical Association (IMA) in the state. The Bombay High Court intervened based on a public interest litigation that had been filed against the strike, and ordered the resident doctors to resume work. With the government having given an assurance that 1,100 additional security guards will be appointed in public hospitals across the state, the strike was withdrawn after nearly five days of turmoil.

What was notable in this process was that all major parties involved—the doctors’ associations, the government, and the court—treated these attacks purely as a security issue. The chief justice of the high court termed the attacks as “madness,” perhaps implying that there could be no understandable rationale for people to be moved to such violent action. It appeared as if the growing popular dissatisfaction with the availability and quality of services being provided in major public hospitals across Maharashtra had nothing to do with the violence that had erupted in certain public hospitals of the state. This seemed like a situation where a cauldron of water had been allowed to simmer on a flame, and yet when the pot boiled over, this was sought to be controlled by putting a lid on the vessel, rather than by putting out the fire.

Not Just about Law and Order

All would agree that such attacks on front line doctors, who are often overworked and provide health services in difficult conditions, are completely inappropriate and unjustified. However, the question is, how can such situations be definitively prevented? Is the appointment of a few security guards in each hospital department the complete solution to this problem? (The state has around 130 larger public hospitals, not counting municipal hospitals; 1,100 additional guards would mean an average of about eight more guards per hospital.) Or are there deeper health system issues that must also be addressed? The Jan Arogya Abhiyan, a state-level coalition of civil society organisations working in the health sector, organised a press conference in Mumbai on 22 March 2017 during the strike period, with the participation of health activists and certain organisers of junior doctors and nurses (Iyer 2017). Here, the need to prevent violence, with a focus on addressing such underlying health system issues was strongly underscored, summarised by the slogan: “Don’t target the doctors, target the system.”

An accompanying concern is that when doctors go on strike, the Essential Services Maintenance Act, 1968 is invoked with the argument that unlike, say, factory workers, doctors are not allowed to strike since they perform an essential public service. The chief justice is reported to have mentioned during the hearing that “if doctors go on strike like factory men, then they are unfit to be doctors.” Besides the implied slur on factory workers, there is a deeper question that arises here. When doctors are on strike, healthcare is declared an “essential service,” but does the state accord the same level of priority to these “essential” health services while allocating resources and human power?

Public Health Expenditure

Despite being a state with relatively high per capita income (fifth highest among major Indian states), Maharashtra, spending ₹831 per capita, figures towards the bottom when states are ranked by per capita public health expenditure (Figure 1, p 14).

It can be seen that per capita health spending in Maharashtra is below the national average (₹963), and is barely around half of the amounts for Rajasthan (₹1,584) and Kerala (₹1,650), which have lower per capita incomes as compared to Maharashtra. Neighbouring Goa is in a separate league in this regard (₹4,874), and even though it is a much smaller and richer state, its per capita public health spending is six times higher than Maharashtra’s, giving some idea of the desirable levels of expenditure required to ensure adequate health services.

What is equally a matter of serious concern is that public health expenditure by Maharashtra has been declining as a proportion of the gross state domestic product (GSDP), declining from 1% in 1985–86 to 0.49% in 2017–18, and placing Maharashtra behind most states in the country. Even during the current financial year, allocations for public health and medical education have been cut down by 4.4% compared to the revised budget estimates for 2016–17.1 Do these pathetic levels of public health spending reflect the high priority that must be accorded to this so-called essential service?

Shortfall of Services

Public health services in Maharashtra were relatively performing well until the mid-1980s. However, given the subsequent crunch on financial resources, as well as declining political priority and the privatisation of healthcare, it is not surprising that there are now serious shortfalls in providing health services at various levels, forming the backdrop to rising public dissatisfaction. As per the most recent official data available (MoHFW 2015: Table 11), there is a shortfall of 22% in the number of sub-centres, 18% in the number of primary health centres, and 35% in the number of community health centres (rural hospitals). Compared to 550 rural hospitals that are required to serve the population (estimated at 2011 levels), only 360 are in place, which naturally would force a greater number of patients to seek care in higher level hospitals, placing significant strain on them.

Further, there are serious shortages of specialist doctors in the public hospitals that are functioning. Compared to 1,440 specialist doctors required in rural hospitals across the state, only 578 are in position, indicating a shortfall of nearly 60% in this critical cadre of doctors who are essential for treating complicated and emergency conditions (MoHFW 2015: Table 28). It is, perhaps, but expected that out of the 360 rural hospitals in Maharashtra, only 127 (35%) currently meet Indian Public Health Standards (MoHFW 2015: Table 37B). Shortages of medical staff plague district hospitals also, which have a 24% shortfall of doctors (MoHFW 2015: Table 69). It should be noted that massive, unregulated proliferation of the private medical sector has contributed to this situation, since even specialist doctors graduating from public medical colleges are pulled away by the magnet of private hospitals. With 50 medical colleges, Maharashtra leads the country just behind Karnataka. Yet, after churning out so many doctors, if over half of the required posts for specialist doctors remain vacant year after year, should this not be regarded as a larger policy failure?

What is even more serious is that certain district-level hospitals (such as in Akola, Latur and Nanded) are running with hardly any specialist doctors, while almost all posts of Class 1 specialist doctors are vacant in the medical college-associated hospitals in these districts. In many district hospitals, even the appointed senior doctors are often reported as “missing in action” since they are busy in their private practices. It is an open secret that in many district hospitals, after the morning outpatient department hours, specialists are unavailable, leaving the running of the hospital to junior doctors. It is in such settings that services for critical patients might not be available in a timely manner, leading to the front line doctors being exposed to socially explosive situations.

Guidance and Redressal

Another important factor that contributes to the breakdown of communication and trust in the context of public hospitals is the lack of effective patient guidance and redressal systems. Patients and relatives from rural areas, who travel long distances to the district hospital located in an unfamiliar setting, require systematic information and support, which are often lacking. When complaints do arise, which is inevitable, effective mechanisms need to be in place to deal with these as promptly as possible, while ensuring accountability of the service providers.

Here, the experience of Community Based Monitoring and Planning (CBMP) of Health Services, a process being implemented since 2007 as a component of the National Health Mission in 30 blocks across 14 districts of Maharashtra,2 provides a number of positive examples about how such dialogue and grievance redressal could be developed as part of accountability mechanisms. In each CBMP block, facilitators and coordinators belonging to nodal civil society organisations have been given the responsibility for promoting community action, and frequently receive calls from patients requiring support in rural and sub-district hospitals. These activists, who are aware of healthcare provisions, dialogue with the relevant health officials and doctors to ensure that required services are made available, while also guiding the patient in negotiating the health facility. Since major grievances are also periodically discussed in multi-stakeholder monitoring and planning committees at block and district levels, and during annual jan samvads (public dialogues), this process ensures that health providers are held accountable, while attempts are made to address health service-related structural issues through local problem-solving and decentralised planning.

It may be relevant to explore how similar dialogue, accountability and grievance redressal mechanisms might be developed in the context of larger public health facilities like district and medical college hospitals, which seem to be the epicentre of the recent violent incidents in Maharashtra, reflecting the complete breakdown of trust and communication between people and healthcare providers. Provision for help desks in larger hospitals run by local civil society groups, and widely publicised and accessible grievance redressal forums could be steps in this direction. Such mechanisms would, of course, not be substitutes for much-needed health budget, humanpower and service-related improvements, but could complement these to ensure that mandated services become more accessible, and conflicts are minimised through dialogue for problem-solving in various situations.

Prevention of Violence

In this context, some of the legal dimensions also deserve attention. Resident doctors (who fall in a grey zone, somewhere between students, workers and professionals) are not paid a salary, but rather get a stipend that is not indexed to inflation. Hence, the Maharashtra Association of Resident Doctors (MARD) goes on strike almost every year, demanding a rise in the stipend for resident doctors, and after some negotiations with the government, generally based on certain raise in stipends, the strike is withdrawn after a few days. What is relevant here is that, during these strikes by junior doctors, besides the perennial demand for increase in stipends, the demand for protection against attacks has also emerged since 2006. It is notable that such attacks have been growing in the case of private hospitals also, with serious dissatisfaction relating to medical care among patients and relatives, even though the causes for dissatisfaction in public and private hospitals are likely to be qualitatively different.

Given this background, on demand from the IMA Maharashtra State, the Maharashtra government enacted the Maharashtra Medicare Service Persons and Medicare Service Institutions (Prevention of Violence and Damage or Loss to Property) Act in 2010.3 According to this act, violence against doctors, medical staff and medical establishments is a non-bailable offence, which can attract imprisonment of up to three years, and a fine of up to ₹50,000. Further, in case of damage to property, any offender would have to pay as compensation twice the amount of loss caused to the property.

Though sound in principle, in practice it seems that these legal forms of protection have not worked very well. In fact, the need for stringent implementation of this act was repeatedly invoked during the recent doctors’ strike. Yet, it is a moot question as to whether a mob of angry relatives and attendants of a patient, who acutely perceive some serious grievance in a hospital, perhaps following the death of a near one, would reflect on the provisions of such an act and then quietly go home, without their grievance (real or otherwise) being addressed. Here, we might get a clue as to the reasons for the ineffectiveness of this act until now, from the final functional clause in the act itself. This clause seems to have been inserted as an afterthought, and is not generally mentioned by public votaries for the act belonging to medical associations. As per available information, this section has effectively not been implemented in the last seven years since the act came into force. Implicitly admitting that patients might have some genuine grievances in hospitals, which need to be addressed through participatory mechanisms, Section 7 of the said act states:

(1) The State Government shall, by notification in the Official Gazette, establish the Authority for the area as may be specified in such notification, to hear grievances of victims of medical negligence or mismanagement and to aid and advise such victims for taking recourse to an appropriate forum for suitable relief.

(2) The Authority shall consist of experts one each from the field of medical, law, consumer movement and health management. (emphasis added)

We are led to speculate as to why this section of the statute has never been publicised by the government and has not been implemented so far. What might have been the impact, if over the last seven years this clause had been implemented with full sincerity and political will in public and private hospitals across the state? With the creation of multistakeholder authorities in every area to guide people with complaints, with prompt guidance available to address grievances, could some of the attacks by disgruntled elements have been averted? Could a significant number of people’s genuine grievances related to hospitals been resolved? While such questions cannot be answered definitively, there is no doubt that until now this law seems to have been interpreted selectively even by the government, and a crucial provision to support patients and healthcare users has been ignored. Instead of bridging it, the gap between hospitals and people has been allowed to further widen, with tragic consequences that we are witnessing today.

Doctor–Patient Relationship

Another aspect that emerges, besides unavailability of required care and adverse health outcomes in some cases, is the frequent lack of empathetic and sensitive communication by doctors. There is no doubt that junior doctors are often overworked, stretched for time, and have multiple responsibilities to handle. But, especially in critical cases, rude or callous behaviour by doctors can become the last straw that might break the bounds of patience of a group attending to the patient, who may have even witnessed the death of a family member. Perhaps, fewer armed guards might suffice if doctors are regularly oriented in communication skills and management of crisis situations in a sensitive manner. Once again, this would not substitute the need for adequate health system resources, structural improvements and upgradation of healthcare services, but definitely needs to be kept in mind as a supplementary measure of some importance.

Finally, at a social level, there seems to be a general decline in levels of tolerance and a greater tendency to indulge in group violence, which is manifesting in many forms. It is ironic that with the dismantling of the welfare state through neo-liberal policies, one of the most visible symbols of welfare, namely, public hospitals, are emerging as targets. There is no doubt that the wide spectrum of social organisations, movements and political parties in Maharashtra must, on the one hand, strongly appeal to people to desist from attacking doctors and healthcare staff and, on the other hand, start actively demanding and working for health system improvements and changes.

To conclude, these unfortunate attacks on doctors are not just a law and order problem, rather they should be treated as “wake up calls,” symptoms of a deep health system malaise, embedded in an increasingly troubled social milieu. Government and society must squarely recognise and address the serious ailment afflicting public health services in Maharashtra today. The provision of security guards can, at best, partially suppress the symptoms. For a definitive cure, we must tackle the roots of this systemic problem.

Notes

1 Maharashtra state budget figures for 2016–17 and 2017–18 available at https://beams.mahakosh.gov.in.

2 See, http://www.cbmpmaharashtra.org/.

3 See, http://www.lawsofindia.org/pdf/maharashtra/2010/2010MH11.pdf.

References

Iyer, Malathi (2017): “Health Budget Cuts Leading to Violence against Doctors, Say Experts,” Times of India, 23 March, http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/mumbai/health-budget-cuts-leading-to-violence-against-doctors-say-experts/articleshow/57788212.cms.

MoHFW (2015): “Rural Health Statistics, 2014–15,” Statistics Division, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, New Delhi.

— (2016): “Health Sector Financing by Centre and States/UTs in India (2013–14 to 2015–16),” National Health Accounts Cell, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India New Delhi.

  • See more at: http://www.epw.in/journal/2017/15/commentary/suppressing-symptoms-or-treating-malady.html#sthash.7oCIHiT1.dpuf

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Are farmers ‘collateral damage’ of India’s economic growth?

 

Are farmers ‘collateral damage’ of India’s economic growth?


People living in villages, who are migrating in large numbers to cities, could be victims of our economic development or perhaps the dismal income growth of farm households is semi-deliberate to keep labour costs low… Are our rural brothers victims or collateral damage of economic development, of a deliberate though unstated strategy, asks Sanjiv Phansalkar.

Sanjiv Phansalkar, VillageSquare

Till about 1990 since Independence, our country followed what may be broadly termed an import-substitution strategy for economic growth. This meant high import duties and rigid non-tariff barriers on imports and encouragement to domestic manufacture through a slew of policy measures. This was further buffered by a policy aimed avoiding concentration of economic power as well as at regional diversification of industry. While on one hand, this gave rise to a large number of very small capacity, unviable and inefficient industrial units, it also built an industrial base as also created much larger employment that was well unionized and paid well.

Since the first wave of liberalization in the nineties, things have changed a great deal. The urban middle class has grown massively by then. Post-liberalization and with much reduced import duties, they became a high consuming class. It became almost irrelevant if industry grew by substituting imports for these demanding mass of consumers with money or by actual exports. They had to become equally efficient in either case. In fact, the face of the industry and the character of the dominant classes in it changed from those who specialized in merely managing government regulations — and its officers — to those who could survive global competition due to their inherent technical and production competitiveness.

Farming’s share in economy

The observable reality at the same time is this. Nearly two-thirds of the workforce is engaged in agriculture but produces barely a seventh of the gross domestic product (GDP). This puts the per capita contribution to GDP of the farm household to about a tenth of its urban counterpart. The disparities in living standards perhaps are less stark, though quite bad. Measured in terms of monthly per capita expenditure, a rural household in Bihar spends at best 30% of what an urban household in Maharashtra does.

The result has been an increasing trend of seasonal migration of rural people, from places like rural Bihar to places like urban Maharashtra. Estimates of the number of seasonal migrants vary widely from about 30 million to 120 million, but perhaps the latter number is closer to reality. For instance, the construction sector, which practically runs on the back of migrant labourers, alone employs 40 million people. And then there is a very wide range of so-called informal sector activities, not the least being services to the rich urban middle classes, which employ a vast number of migrants from rural areas and employ them for a pittance. A security guard in Pune earns Rs 7,500 per month for a 12 hour per day shift and is given in addition perhaps a bit of food for breakfast.

Migration of breadwinners

An important question is why are people coming to such jobs? Why are the breadwinners of rural India migrating? Are they being pushed out due to hopeless conditions in rural areas? Or they could live there reasonably well if they wished but they find superior opportunities in cities? Perhaps the reality needs a little nuanced understanding. The best case situation is the say of people in rural Kerala or rural Punjab. They earn reasonably well and have pretty decent conditions when comparators are other rural households. Yet they migrate, to the Gulf in the case of Kerala and to all over the world in case of Punjab. That surely is a case of comfortably off people migrating to tap better opportunities.

But what about people who are living in flood plains of Bihar or drought-prone regions of Rajasthan? Even with the best technology and interventions possible, income from a typical operational holding of a hectare or so would not exceed Rs 50,000 in Udaipur. That makes the per capita income of that region less than Rs 12,000 per year-a sixth of India’s per capita GDP now. This household then is forced to send its breadwinner out.

These masses of migrants who are forced to leave villages simply because there is neither any income opportunity nor any hope left there should be important to all of us. Are they reduced to this state of helplessness due to just collateral damage of the trajectory of economic development we have taken? Or has it been a deliberate if unstated strategy? One may recall that the export-led growth models of the seventies, which countries like Japan, Korea, and Taiwan followed, had these elements — keep food prices high and rural wages low, which will force people to come to urban areas and fight for work even for a pittance.

Reserve army of cheap labor

It meant that you had a reserve army of labor and you could compete in the global market on the back of low labor costs. To complement this, you aggressively push your exports by proactive marketing and state interventions in currency markets etc. China is still following this model, though perhaps with a better-trained labor force.

Has India followed this model since the nineties? Of course, the pro-poor governments with their support base from the self-declared protectors of the poor parties could never say it openly. India sure has sweatshops of all kinds. We are proud of the most prosperous sweat shops that are run in air-conditioned glitzy glass and cement buildings which nurture the hip-hop techies. Since the poor rural brethren cannot enter these, they work in the less conducive settings of dust, noise, and heat in the extreme congestion of the urban hovels in Surat or Delhi.

To be sure, we do have the semblance of equity on paper in the form of cheap food and the rural jobs guarantee scheme. But if you dare, then please see the reality on the ground in places like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and the North East to realize that these policies just do not work. People do not get work when they want. They do not get paid full amounts they deserve. They simply do not get the payment in time. And foodstuffs never reach their ration shops. Thousands of helpless people facing starvation are simply pushed out of their villages to go work in far off places merely to survive. Is the implementation failure of these pro-poor policies merely an accident or a part of the conspiracy of the elite to obtain reserve army of cheap labor?

Hence the question — are our rural brothers victims of collateral damage of the economic development process or of a deliberate though unstated strategy?

http://www.ecologise.in/

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Andhra Pradesh – What Women Workers Go Through at MNREGS Site #Vaw

-Subhashini Ali
On February 3, 2006, the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (later re-named the Mahatma Gandhi Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme or MNREGS), was inaugurated with much fanfare in the perennially drought-affected district of Anantapur in Andhra Pradesh by then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who was accompanied by Congress President Sonia Gandhi and many others. Dr. Singh described the event as a “landmark in our history in removing poverty from the face of the nation.” The district was chosen because of its high incidence of drought-induced out-migration of hundreds of thousands of poor, rural families, mostly belonging to the SC and ST communities to Bangalore, Hyderabad, Mumbai and Guntur, where they worked as construction workers, rag pickers and farm labour for chilli harvesting. Dr. Singh expressed the hope that the Act would bring “smiles on the faces of the poor.”

Much has changed in the country and its politics in the last 11 years. A two-day visit to the district organized by the local unit of the CPI(M) and organizations associated with the Left made it heartbreakingly clear that the harshness of the lives of the rural poor had only increased. Smiles are still not to be seen on their faces.

The MNREGS was devised to tackle the issues of rural unemployment, lack of infrastructure and out-migration. The Act was carefully formulated so that all rural families could avail of its formulations with many safeguards to ensure that they would be paid on time and receive benefits like accident compensation, crèches for nursing mothers, drinking water on work-sites, etc. The CPI(M), in particular, played a major role in drafting its provisions and also in pushing the legislation through. It also ensured that its state governments in Tripura and Kerala have implemented the scheme in innovative and transparent ways that have transformed millions of lives. Andhra Pradesh too, a decade ago, had a good record in this regard.

What we saw in two days in Anantapur, however, was a grim reminder of the many tragedies that are part of the daily lives of the rural poor, the complete insensitivity of governments to their plight being the most important of these.
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Workers on the first site had been working for five weeks but had received no wages at all
There are over seven lakh job cards in the district but, even according to the government, no more than two lakh people have been given work this year (as of April 13).The average number of days worked has also come down from 75 in a year to 65 last year. More than 40 crores of unpaid wages is owed to the workers, the poorest of the poor who suffer from chronic malnutrition and various kinds of ill health.

On the first day of our visit, at a dharna of MNREGS workers and other poor people before the Anantapur Collectorate, I met Lakshmi Devi of Suryapalli village, about 45 years old, who has been an NREGS worker for three years. She said that her work was participating in digging a pit for rainwater storage. She said that in addition to digging, she also had to carry the soil dug out in a basket on her head to about three meters away from the pit. She had to make about 30 such trips and because of the intense heat (it was 44 degrees that day), she and the others at her site could work for only about 3-4 hours. This is because they have to walk for 2.5 hours from their village to the site and then walk back again. She said that she has been working for ten weeks continuously, but has received payment for only five. The payment is between Rs. 110 and Rs. 170 per day.

When we met the District Administration, they told us that the minimum wages have been increased from Rs. 220 per day for Rs. 258 very recently. Despite this, Lakshmi Devi’s wages are only a few rupees more than what MNREGS workers were supposed to be paid in 2006, when the scheme was started i.e. Rs. 100 a day. (In Kerala, MNREGS workers earn nearly Rs. 300 a day.) The soil that Lakshmi and others in the district dig and carry away is extremely rocky and dry. It is difficult to dig and very heavy. According to MNREGS manuals, this kind of work is eligible for the highest rates, but this fact seems to be unknown both to the District Administration and to poor, illiterate people like Lakshmi.

The next day, we visited three work-sites adjacent to each other, and one village in Guntakal Taluk of the district. Pits for rainwater storage were being dug on each site and there were between 10 to 16 people working on each. About half of them were women. All of them belonged to a nearby village, Ayyavaripalli. It was a half-hour walk from the village to the site and work started early, at 6 am, and went on till noon. One can only imagine at what time the women had to wake up in order to finish all their household chores before walking to work.
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Mastan Amma’s son migrated 2 years ago and has not come back since. He once sent Rs. 2,000.
All the workers on the first site had been working for five weeks but had received no wages at all. I lifted the mud and stone-filled basket – it weighed more than 30 kgs. To place it on one’s head and then throw the contents at a distance of about five metres, and to do this about 50 times without the prospect of being paid for back-breaking labour – must be more excruciating than we can imagine. The workers said that they had worked the previous year for six weeks and one week’s wages were still due. We were informed that women earned Rs. 120 a day and the men Rs. 130.

At the second site, women said that they expected to be paid Rs. 80 – Rs. 90 a day. They had been told that the wages would now be deposited in a bank, but they did not know (nor did the men working with them) which bank and which branch. One of the men said that they had spent two days trying to find out, but were unsuccessful. In the previous year, they said that they got 150 days’ work and were paid Rs. 100 – Rs. 120 a day for it and the entire amount was deposited in the Post Office, which was a better system. (Even the man in charge of the scheme here did not know which bank was being used.)

At Mallepalli village, we could comprehend something of the various, crushing ways in which drought impacts the lives of rural families. Unlike in other parts of the country, even small farmers have been forced to opt for MNREGS work. Lalappa, a former Sarpanch, told us that he owns two acres of land. He borrowed money from a local money-lender at 24% interest to sink three bore-wells, but none of them could provide water. He then sold the wells’ engines to pay the interest, but the principal remains unchanged. He has been forced to take up MNREGS work. He has worked for four weeks already but has not been paid. Apart from hunger, an ever-increasing burden of debt is crushing him. In a district which has a high incidence of suicides by debt-ridden farmers, this could have harrowing consequences.

This year, more than 50 people have already joined others who have migrated from the village. Many have left behind very old and sick parents like Masatan Amma, whose eyes are now dry of both tears and hope. It is more than two years since her son left home for work. He has not visited even once and has only sent her Rs. 2,000.

When we asked the villagers if migrants would prefer to stay home if they could get MNREGS work and its meager wages regularly, they all said, “Yes. If we get enough to eat here why should we go far away, risking everything?”

(Subhashini Ali is former MP, former Member of the National Commission for Women and Vice President of the All India Democratic Women’s Association.)

http://www.ndtv.com/opinion/at-mnregs-site-in-andhra-what-women-workers-go-through-1681582

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Married too young or have more than 2 kids? Don’t hope for a govt job in Assam

The draft of Assam’s new population policy proposes that minimum age for marriage must be made compulsory to get government facilities and couple with more than two kids will not be eligible to apply for state government jobs. The policy is viewed as an attempt to control family sizes of Bengali-speaking Muslim immigrants.

Utpal Parashar
Hindustan Times, Guwahati
Assam

According to 2011 census, Assam has a population of more than 31 million and the state witnessed the highest increase in Muslim population from 30.9% in 2001 to 34.2% in a decade.(PTI File Photo)

People marrying before attaining the legal age for matrimony and couples having more than two children will not be eligible for Assam government jobs — strict sanctions that the state plans in its new population policy.

The country has a two-child norm, which is rarely followed strictly. Child marriage is banned in India and violation of the legal age — 21 for men, and 18 for women — attracts punishment whenever such incidents are caught.

“As part of legislative measures, the policy proposes that the minimum age for marriage must be made compulsory to receive government facilities such as jobs and services,” said state health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, unveiling details of the policy’s draft on Sunday.

The policy, which is part of the ruling BJP’s vision document for the state, is viewed as the party’s attempt to control family sizes of Bengali-speaking Muslim immigrants.

Most of these people, suspected to have emigrated illegally from Bangladesh, have large families and are mainly settled in “chars” or shifting sandbars of the Brahmaputra.

Illegal immigration from Bangladesh is an emotive subject in Assam, which went through a long and bloody anti-foreigner public protest in the 1970s and 1980s. Embers from that fire flare up even today.

The 2011 census says Assam, which has a population of more than 31 million, witnessed the highest increase in Muslim population from 30.9% in 2001 to 34.2% in a decade. Hindus comprise 61.47% of the population but nine districts are Muslim majority.

The 2001 census put Assam’s population at 26,655,528 — of this, 17,296,455 were Hindus and 8,240,611 Muslims. A decade later, Hindus numbered 19,180,759 while the Muslim population rose to 10,679,345.

According to a 2012-2013 annual health survey, many districts in Assam have recorded high incidents of child marriage, with Dhubri bordering Bangladesh recording more than 15%.

A growing number of scholars believe underage weddings are common in poor households, who cannot or aren’t aware of family planning and this trigger multiple pregnancies. They say strict controls are needed to prevent population growth spiraling out of control.

The Assam government’s draft policy seeks to increase the punishment for child marriages from imprisonment for two years to four years in jail.

Public feedback will be sought before the draft is adopted as a resolution in the state assembly and made into laws.

People will be asked if parents of more than two children or anybody marrying before the legal age should be barred from becoming members of urban and rural civic agencies.

The policy says there will be incentives for those who stick to the two-child norm, and discouragements such as no maternal leave for women having a third kid.

“Many laws, those in the concurrent list, will need the President’s approval. It is a huge task as we will need to bring about seven new laws and amend service rules of all departments,” Sarma said.

He called the policy revision necessary for social reforms, and clarified that the courts would decide if the proposed sanctions infringed human rights.

The minister said courts have to decide if it was humane for parents to have more than two children when they can’t provide their basic needs.

“We are not in a rush. We will go through the entire process and want it to be in place before the term of our government expires in 2021,” Sarma said.

He dismissed allegations that the draft may have been released before the state’s pachayat polls with the motive to gain political mileage.

Assam will become the second state in the country after Rajasthan to have rules separate from the national population policy of 2000.

http://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/no-assam-govt-jobs-for-those-marrying-before-legal-age-couples-having-more-than-two-kids/story-NW0SkQPpFkDFHhbdV6mOvO.html

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