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The 1947 singularity

Monitor News Bureau

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In the debates on India’s contemporary history, the meaning and significance of 1947 and of the framing of the Constitution have always been contested. Did the Constitution mark a moment of discontinuity with the colonial past, and a desire to transform Indian political and social structures? Or was it simply a transfer of political power and a change of rulers, leaving underlying institutional arrangements intact? Supporters of the second view marshal a formidable array of arguments to support their case that the Constitution was simply a continuation of what existed before, with a few cosmetic changes. They point out that two-thirds of the Constitution replicates the 1935 Government of India Act, that key enablers of colonial executive dominance such as the ordinance-making power and Emergency powers were carried over, and that the Constitution expressly endorsed existing colonial laws. This interpretation has sometimes been validated as well by the Supreme Court, which once pointed out that the Constitution “did not seek to destroy the past institutions; it raised an edifice on what existed.”

Central to this argument is the issue of suffrage. It is argued that in the thirty years before Independence, there had been a slow and incremental development of representative institutions in India. Waymarked by the 1919 and 1935 Government of India Acts, which established a limited franchise and allowed for the functioning of provincial legislative assemblies, the argument — again, in the words of the Supreme Court — is that the “new governmental set-up was [only] the final step in the process of evolution towards self-government.”

 

 

This is not merely an academic debate. As the civil liberties lawyer K.G. Kannabiran pointed out, “Our political struggle retained with total composure the entire colonial legal system which had been effectively used against the freedom struggle”. Indeed, elements of this system have been upheld and endorsed by the courts, some quite recently. These include the laws of sedition, blasphemy and criminal defamation, Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, and far-reaching Emergency powers. All these provisions are based on similar logic: the colonial imperative of reducing citizens to subjects and placing their liberties at the mercy of centralised and unaccountable power.

 

It is in this context that the publication of a new book — How India Became Democratic: Citizenship and the Making of the Universal Franchise — assumes great importance. Written by the Israeli scholar Ornit Shani, it is the story of the first general election of independent India. The preparations for this election were conducted in tandem with the deliberations of the Constituent Assembly and the framing of the Constitution. They involved massive tasks such as the preparation of electoral rolls for an entire nation and the setting up of an electoral machinery, all against the background of a violent Partition and mass displacement of people.

 

How India Became Democratic traces the mechanics of this process, which was truly epic in its scale, scope and imagination, and resurrects the histories of the bureaucrats and civil servants, the unsung heroes, who made it possible. Beyond that, however, it makes a crucial point: notwithstanding the existence of voting and the presence of representative institutions in pre-Independence India, the imagination and implementation of universal suffrage was not in any sense a “continuation”, or simply an “incremental development” of what existed before. Rather, it was revolutionary in the true sense of the word, a re-imagination of the social contract and the basic principles that underlay it.

In at least four distinct ways, universal suffrage in independent India marked a decisive break from its colonial past. First, arithmetically: the franchise granted by the British regime in the 1919 and 1935 Government of India Acts was highly restricted, and at the highest (in 1935) no more than 10% of Indians could vote. Second, structurally: voting in British India took place under the regime of separate electorates, divided along class and economic lines. Third, the character of the electorate: voting entitlements were based on property and formal literacy-based qualifications, which reproduced existing social and economic hierarchies, and excluded the very people whose interests were most in need of “representation”. Indeed, women’s entitlement to vote was often linked to the status of their husbands. And fourth, voting was a gift of the colonial government, which could be granted or taken away at its will. Suffrage was a privilege accorded to a few Indians, and not a right that all Indians had to decide who would govern them.

 

Consequently, in expanding the electorate from 10% to almost 100%; in abolishing separate electorates for a conception of universal citizenship; and above all, in decisively rejecting arguments that individuals who were formally “illiterate” were incapable of exercising the franchise, the Indian Constitution – and the first general election – were truly transformative in character. How India Became Democratic argues persuasively that in transforming voting from a privilege that was accorded to a select few to a right that could be enforced by all, independent India transformed the status of its people from subjects to citizens, in important and far-reaching ways. In the realm of the political, it was a transformation from hierarchy and subordination to radical equality.

 

This insight should make us think more deeply about the Constitution’s transformative character. As Kannabiran wrote, “a Constitution framed after a liberation struggle… is like poetry, emotion recollected in tranquility.” Would it be a fair reading of this poem to assume that in the one, narrow sphere of elections and voting, it meant to transform subjects into citizens, but in all other political and social spheres, it intended to retain hierarchy and subordination? Would this be in tune with the freedom struggle itself, whose aspirations went much beyond the simple demand of periodic elections? Could it not, instead, be argued that universal suffrage was the most visible and tangible instance of the constitutional aspiration to democratise the Indian polity and society in its most comprehensive sense: that is, to democratise the relationship between the individual and the state even after elections, by constraining the amount of centralised power that the state could accumulate (even when it claimed to be acting in the best interests of citizens), and to democratise the relationships of power and dominance within other non-state institutions, such as the workplace and the family? Could it not be said, in language developed by South African constitutional scholars, that the Constitution intended to take us from a “culture of authority” to a “culture of justification” – that is, a culture in which every exercise of power and authority must be justified to those who are subject to it, even when it is said to be for their own good?

There are recent signs that the courts have begun to understand this. In early 2017, in a very significant judgment involving the executive’s ordinance-making powers, the Supreme Court expressly departed from colonial precedents on the subject, and placed important limits upon the scope of presidential ordinances. Later in the year, when the court was hearing the dispute between the elected Delhi government and the Lieutenant-Governor (another colonial holdover), more than one counsel framed the issue in terms of the constitutional commitment to progressively deepening democracy. And indeed, many of the pending and upcoming cases in the Supreme Court’s docket involve questions of how much power the state can wield over individuals, what rights individuals have to decide for themselves how they will define their relationship with the state, and above all, how the constitutional “culture of justification” holds the state accountable for the uses and abuses of such power.

 

In hearing and deciding these cases, the court has an opportunity to affirm the words of one of its greatest civil rights judges, Justice Vivian Bose, who recognised the deeply transformative character of the Constitution when he said: “Is not the sanctity of the individual recognised and emphasised again and again? Is not our Constitution in violent contrast to those of states where the state is everything and the individual but a slave or a serf to serve the will of those who for the time being wield almost absolute power?” How India Became Democratic helps us to understand that the answer to both those questions is an unambiguous “yes.”

(The Hindu)

 

 


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Opinion

Shaheen Bagh Order

Monitor News Bureau

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By Ajaz Ashraf

In this era of utter disdain for dissent, it was remarkable of the Supreme Court to recognise the right of citizens to protest in its order to constitute a three-member committee to negotiate with the protesters at Shaheen Bagh to relocate to another site. This was the reason why the Supreme Court’s order was widely welcomed.

But there is now a belated realisation about a catch inherent in the Supreme Court’s order. The catch springs from the Supreme Court’s order defining the end-goal of the committee—it has the task of persuading the protesters of Shaheen Bagh to evacuate the road where they have been sitting for more than 60 days.

 

There are no ifs and buts here. The committee cannot offer any guarantee to Shaheen Bagh that its demand for reversal of the new policy on determining citizenship will be withdrawn or even re-looked. This has been Shaheen Bagh’s precondition for evacuating the road they have occupied.

The order, in a way, traps the protesters of Shaheen Bagh in their own rhetoric.  For two months now, they have spoken of the constitutional principle prohibiting the Indian state from discriminating against a group of citizens on the ground of religion, among others. They have railed against religion-based citizenship. They have, as have citizens elsewhere in the country, read out the Preamble of the Constitution, in a show of affirming their faith in it.

Can they now refuse to spurn the committee’s bidding, at the behest of the Supreme Court, to shift to another site of protest? After all, the same Constitution, to which they have sung paeans, binds all citizens to adhere to the orders and verdicts of the Supreme Court, which is charged with the responsibility of testing the constitutionality of any legislative enactment. Their refusal to shift will invite the charge of hypocrisy.

In appointing the committee to negotiate with the Shaheen Bagh protesters, the Supreme Court has taken upon itself an executive role, as lawyer Kaleeswaram Raj has rightly argued. It is the executive’s responsibility to negotiate with a group of citizens to redress their grievances and wean them away from the path of protest and confrontation.

Shaheen Bagh, for over two months, has been saying it will not call off its protest until the discriminatory Citizenship Amendment Act is withdrawn, the exercise to update the National Population Register is, at least, suspended, and guarantees given not to prepare the National Register of Indian Citizens.

Let alone allay Shaheen Bagh’s fear, the Union government has sought to heighten it, as was palpable in the Bharatiya Janata Party’s campaign during the Delhi Assembly elections. For instance, Home Minister Amit Shah, the very person who should have overseen any negotiations with Shaheen Bagh, demonised the protesters. His subordinates even sought to instigate violence against them. 

On the face of it, the Supreme Court’s decision to step into the vacuum created by the government’s adamant refusal to negotiate with Shaheen Bagh is of some relief. Yet it is not—the apex court cannot meet the demands of Shaheen Bagh regarding the CAA-NPR-NRIC triad. That is in the realm of the executive, although the Supreme Court can invoke Art 142 of the Constitution to pass any order for “doing complete justice.”

There are multiple ironies inherent in the Supreme Court stepping into the vacuum created by the Union government.

For instance, the protesters at Shaheen Bagh would have packed up and left had the Supreme Court stayed the CAA, in late January, when it heard about 140 petitions challenging its constitutional validity. This had been the plea of senior lawyers Abhishek Singhvi, who pointed out that the Uttar Pradesh government had initiated the implementation of the CAA even without the rules for it being framed.

Singhvi told the three-member bench, headed by Chief Justice of India SA Bobde, “Without any rules being framed, 40 lakh people have been marked doubtful [citizens]. Their right to vote will be lost… Kindly stay the process… This will prevent a lot of chaos and insecurity.” The Supreme Court did not.

The Supreme Court, generally, does not stay laws as it follows the doctrine of presumption of constitutionality, which means the judiciary presumes that the executive has adhered to the Constitution in enacting a law or passing an order.

Yet the Supreme Court set aside this doctrine to stay the VP Singh government’s decision to implement, in 1990, the Mandal report, which had recommended 27% reservation for the Other Backward Classes. Then the streets in north India had bristled with elite-caste protesters, some of whom, tragically, immolated themselves. The Supreme Court’s stay of the Mandal decision saw the streets slip into quietude.

Yet the presumption of constitutionality was adhered to when the Modi government introduced, in 1990, a 10% reservation for the Economically Weaker Section. Nor was the Maharashtra government’s decision, taken in 2018, to grant quota to the Marathas. About these orders, K Chandru, a former judge of the Madras High Court, was scathingly critical.

In an interview to this writer, Chandru said, “…once students are admitted to educational institutions and jobs are filled up under the Maratha quota, what will happen to people who are already on the gaddi [government posts and seats in educational institutions] if the Supreme Court’s final decision is against the two government orders?”

Might not a question be asked: what will happen to those whose Indian nationality is marked doubtful and also denied the protective shield of the CAA, which seeks to grant and expedite citizenship for those who migrated, because of religious persecution, from Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Afghanistan?

This is not an unfounded fear. The Aadhaar authorities recently served a notice on a Muslim resident, in Hyderabad, to present documents to prove his citizenship against an allegation that he had secured the Aadhaar card by submitting false documents, and that he was an illegal immigrant.

To the list of ironies, add the Supreme Court’s judgement on the central government’s acquisition of land in Ayodhya, after the Babri masjid was demolished, on 6 December 1992, and in its place a makeshift temple came up there. The Supreme Court ruled that the prevailing status quo must be observed, in effect rewarding those who had demolished the mosque.

The irony of that judgement continues to echo today. The government has drafted into the trust, constituted to oversee the construction of the Ram temple, Nritya Gopal Das and Champat Rai Bansal, both accused in the Babri masjid demolition case, which continues to languish in a trail court.

There is no denying that the protest at Shaheen Bagh has caused traffic snarls and brought hardship to commuters in Delhi, which has prompted the Supreme Court to appoint the committee to reconcile the right to protest with the necessity of maintaining public order. They must therefore shift to another site and allow the road to be opened for the smooth flow of traffic.

Yet the Supreme Court was not particularly moved by the hardship caused by the lock-down in Kashmir, undertaken in the wake of the government reading down Art 370. It did not show alacrity in ending the disruption of the routine life in Kashmir. Seven months after the reading down of Art 370, the internet there continues to work in fits and starts, hundreds remain in jail, and a clutch of political leaders have been detained under the draconian Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act.

One of the Muslim protesters at Shaheen Bagh drew an analogy to justify the agitation to Sanjay Hegde and Sadhna Ramachandran, the two lawyers who are members of the committee. She said Delhiites endured traffic snarls during the years the metro line was being constructed. They did it to have a better future. In much the same manner, Shaheen Bagh wants to protect its future.

You can say that she understands the catch inherent in the Supreme Court’s order, but not the irony marking the august institution’s attitude towards protests, nor the lack of empathy of many to her cause, because of which she and many remain on the road of tumult.

(The author is a freelance journalist and a frequent contributor to this newspaper. The views are personal.)

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Opinion

IMPACT OF POVERTY ON EDUCATION

Monitor News Bureau

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By Suhaib Lateef

The word ‘Poverty’ tends to conjure up a variety of images,a variety of ideas and opinions in all of us, some based on stereotypes, some based on media and television and some based on our own life experiences and with different kinds of negative perspectives. The effects of poverty are more than just missing a meal. Families struggle with chronic food insecurity, hunger, and malnutrition. When families don’t have the food, their health and livelihood suffers,the long course of poverty takes a toll on them,in a vicious cycle that affects one generation after another.Poverty effects all of the population in one or the other way and we all are caught in it like the prisoners in the jails.The condition becomes worthy and ill, the life in dissatisfaction shows dominance. Poverty is not having enough material possessions or income for a person’s needs. Poverty may include social, economic, and political elements as well.

United Nations as neatly defined Poverty as,the inability of having choices and opportunities, a violation of human dignity. It means lack of basic capacity to participate effectively in society. It means not having enough to feed and clothe a family, not having a school or clinic to go to, not having the land on which to grow one’s food or a job to earn one’s living, not having access to credit. It means insecurity, powerlessness and exclusion of individuals, households and communities. It means susceptibility to violence, and it often implies living in marginal or fragile environments, without access to clean water or sanitation.

 

The poverty, most of all affects the children, affects the students through different modes of their education and mental course of health.

>Impacts on Education.

Its main impact is seen on the students, upon the education. The student from a poorer background gets highly affected, both with disappointment and irresponsible treatment everywhere. Humiliation, exploitation, indignity, inequality, a feary environment they get at every place whether college or secondary school level .The financially worse situation takes a toll on a good student.

One of the biggest lessons we are taught as children is that we need to stay in school. Having an education is the first step to finding a job, earning money and to make life successful and happy. Without an education, many are left jobless and stuck living in poverty for the rest of their lives, that degrades our level and a good student gets off the mark. It is a fact that statistics show that for children who live below the poverty line, the chances of having school success is much lower than their other peers .Coming on poverty, Children living in poverty often get exposed to more stress, more intense & longer lasting stress that negatively impact attention, lowers fitness and focus, cognition, intelligence quotient(IQ) and social skills. Children living in poverty also tend to hear less reciprocal conversations, are engaged in conversation with less complex vocabulary and less sentence structure, and are read to less frequently than their peers not living in poverty.

This can lead to severe mental conditions that impact a student’s motivation and desire to do well in school.

A study by the ”Crittenton Women’s Union” says that, ‘When a person lives in poverty, the limbic system is constantly sending fear and stress messages to the prefrontal cortex, which overloads its ability to solve problems, to solve mathematical science, set goals, to deal with extreme situations and complete tasks in the most efficient ways’. These students will continue to be behind. The low-income children are many a times more likely to drop out when they reach high school. In fact all possible consequences of poverty have an impact on children. Poor infrastructures, unemployment, lack of basic services and income reflect on their lack of education, malnutrition, violence at home and outside, child labour, diseases of all kinds, transmitted by the family or through the environment. Indeed, poverty had long lasting and much regressive impacts on education.

The impact of poverty on a child’s academic achievement is significant and starts early,” says Jonah Edelman, PhD, co-founder and chief executive officer of Stand for Children, a non-profit education advocacy organization. “Young children growing up in poverty face challenges with cognitive and literary ability and [often] begin school both academically and socioeconomically behind their peers from higher-income backgrounds.”

These students do not possess even good foundation of education ability and college, for the most part, isn’t on their agenda. For those who do manage to go to college, they are on an average, ill-prepared for the journey. Their poor academic preparation handicaps them the entire way, as do poor time management and study skills

One cannot dismiss the financial pressures facing these students as well, Even for those who receive full Pell Grants and some institutional aid, that rarely provides enough to cover their needs, and their families typically do not have the wherewithal to help.

>Impacts on mental health.

Not only education, every sphere of life gets affected by the poverty discourse. Poverty is the main cause and consequence of poor ill health. It is obvious, poverty is linked with negative conditions such as substandard housing, homelessness, inadequate nutrition facilities and food insecurity, inadequate child care or lack of access to health care and under resourced schools which adversely shows its impact on our children. Poverty in adulthood is linked to depressive and serious disorders, anxiety disorders, psychological distress, and suicide. Poverty affects mental health through an array of social and biological mechanisms acting at multiple levels, including individuals, families and friends. Growing up growing up in poverty often exposes children to greater levels of stress, which can lead to psychological problems later in life, Researchers at Cornell University reported that ”kids who grow up poor are more likely to have reduced short-term spatial memory.”

Reforms to check it.

There is nothing inevitable about poverty. We just need to build the political will to enact the policies that will increase economic security, expand opportunities, and grow the middle class.

First, Government authorities must focus on it chiefly. There should be adequate Government policies to check it out, to formulate programs to support the low income families. Create more and more jobs for generally economical weaker sections. Raise the minimum wages for labour class and economically worse families. Credit for childless workers. Provide paid leave and paid sick days for them. To help them in high quality child care and in their early education. Expand Medical aid for them.

Government should extend loans and other scholarship schemes for poor students and raise and register them with reservations.

School fees or college fees for poverty hit people should be low, so that they can continue with their studies and contribute towards Nation.

We should form NGO’s to gather them and convince them for every possible help to take and make them.

We should plan for their best career success, in order to accelerate their

Graph of economy.

Government and public libraries and mental counselling sessions and such a synonymous projects should be launched for them to raise their moral boost.

At last I would request everyone to check, to find out in their Mohalla’s, Town’s, in their regions if any such student exists, please help them, please ensure them with complete facilities nutritionally, economically and educationally,

(The writer is a student of SSM college of Engineering and Technology and can be mailed at:  [email protected])

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Opinion

Manage Yourself First!

Monitor News Bureau

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 By Dr Shahid Amin Trali

The ‘National Management Day’ is celebrated all over India on the 21st of February each year, to mark the anniversary of establishment of the All India Management Association in New Delhi. The day is celebrated to recognize the importance of management profession in all spheres of human endeavor. Management is applied everywhere be it at individual level, family, friends and relationships, religion and business etc. Managing is necessary whenever one needs to get things done. Good management makes the life easy, better and comfortable.

Business management professionals are involved in formulation of plans, strategies, policies and procedures that guide the organizations both on a daily and a long term basis. They are also responsible for the coordination of financial, human and material resources to achieve the objectives of the organization. The rich skills that management professionals possess include better decision-making abilities, analytical and critical thinking, a creative approach to problem solving, an understanding of organizational behavior and structure, persuasive written and oral communication, the ability to research, interpret and use business and financial data, understand customer behavior, ability to manage time effectively, manage projects and resources, understanding of the dynamism of the business environment and be proactive etc.

 

There is a need for capable managers to take the nations on the routes of development. Management as a profession has found much advancement over the years. In this highly competitive scenario the demand for managers has not only increased but there are also high expectations from the managers. A manager has to meet the expectations by satisfying the customers as well as the stakeholders. The universities and colleges have to take bigger initiatives to produce quality and effective managers. The management teachers and students should regularly visit the industries in order to interact with the managers and try for some useful and meaningful research projects which are appropriate for students. It will potentially save time and unnecessary efforts of students and spoiling their energy on irrelevant topics and projects. Teachers will also develop better understanding and will improve their knowledge and experiences. The need of the time is that industry and the institutes should work in coordination with each other. It’s through this way we can bring out the best of the hidden talent of our students and enrich their caliber and credentials. The outcome will be rise of the best and the promising mangers for the future.

We need to constantly grow as a manager. It’s also a critical job to manage ourselves. One can never prove a good manager if one is not able to first manage his/her own self. In order to manage any organization better we must first learn to manage ourselves. Management is something we keep learning day by day. We may pick it up as we move ahead and progress. It’s very serious that the management teachings across the globe, mostly teach the skills for managing others–communication and teamwork. But if we are not managing ourselves effectively we can’t handle others.

As a manager we must be prepared to work hard. We can’t expect efficiency from our team if we aren’t willing to put in the effort by ourselves. To be effective we also need to be ruthless with our time. We must find ways to avoid procrastination which is a great hurdle towards the progress in life.  Experts suggest us to know when we can work best, and using that knowledge to our advantage is a key to working effectively and efficiently.  We must structure our day around that time and most important make it a habit.  Managers also need to be healthy and our health should come first if we want to live a long life. Don’t forget that mental health is just as important as our physical one.  We must start to recognize when we can’t control or change something and accept and adapt to the situation.  There is no doubt that honesty is the best policy. It is far better to stay calm than telling a lie. It’s simple that we don’t need to lie. It is always better to be known for being blunt than being a liar.

Today the environment is volatile and companies are increasingly facing a lot of crisis. But then there is a need of employees who are proactive and productive.  We must strongly keep in mind that no one in today’s organizations will like us to be on the fence. We need to be someone in an organization who is known for taking the leap. We must take all the facts and process them and then have the courage to make the decisions.

Passion is an important booster in our life. We must always enjoy our work and not lose our passion. Whatever we do must give us a sense of comfort and passion to do more and more.  We must learn to identify the times when we have to be serious. But for the large part of time though, we should try to find a humor in it. One must understand this truth that life is short so let us enjoy every bit of it. 

In nearly every dimension of business success, it’s the good manager that makes the difference. We must recognize and reward excellence. Good management is founded upon an individual’s ability to develop talent in an organization.  We must understand that even the slightest sign of appreciation can go a long way in strengthening loyalty, trust, and a sense of community in the workplace. We need to care about our employees as real people. There must be a great attempt to create a spirit and sense of ownership with the employees. We must appreciate the ideas and reward our best performers. Innovation will keep our employees engaged, and the business relevant in a time of great change in the workforce. Today it is enough to be a competent leader. We must strive to be a great leader, and we can only become one if we first learn to manage ourselves. I wish everyone a Happy National Management Day…..

(Author is Assistant Professor, School of Management, ITM University Gwalior, Youth Ambassador, International Youth Society and a Regular Columnist for Kashmir Monitor. He can be reached at- [email protected])

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