Tag Archives: policy

From questionable social subsidies to unquestioned corporate welfare

An unusually punctual gathering on the dais greeted me at Rotary Club. Thankfully, this was a gathering of unimportant people both on and off the dais; none of those species of “Very Important People” often sporting Anna-like caps were invited to the gathering and things started on time. P Sainath was supposed to be speaking on “Rural India after two decades of liberalisation” and the gathering included a fair mix of people across age groups, occupations and stereotypes, yet so unrepresentative of rural India. A lot of those ‘civil society’ types that Sainath loves to decry and dissociate from were there too. Continue reading

The truth that dare not speak its name: corruption in health services

Corruption and hypocrisy ought not to be inevitable products of democracy, as they undoubtedly are today

-Mahatma Gandhi

A neglected statue and a neglected message

Some things are better assumed and neglected, than acknowledged and attended to. In public health research, these often find a passing mention in “Discussion” section where findings are explained, and worse still, may be as a “contextual” element. Prime among this is corruption. Corruption in health services is nothing new. Perhaps merely a sub-set of the general corruption prevalent in administration of public services, the corruption in health is much more than merely a “contextual” element to be taken into consideration in planning and implementing health programmes. Nor is it merely a feature that may explain some of the poor health outcomes that we often find. Continue reading

Justice not so blind in Chhatisgarh

It is a shameful day in the history of Indian judiciary, when a doctor who stood as a voice for the poor, oppressed and marginalised is polished off in the most unceremonious way to a life in the prison. What is on trial is indeed justice itself in this case. Over the last few years, my feelings went from indifference (here was a doctor and an acclaimed activist; not so easy to foist cases on him, I (foolishly) thought), to shock, dismay and exasperation. I wonder what it is about such cases that holds back many people like me who are inspired by the work of Binayak. What prevents me from protesting loudly against such travesty of human rights? What prevents young civil activists from challenging democratic institutions? After all, it is the trust in these institutions that keeps us all together in spite of differences in opinions. And today, that trust was broken, a court in Chhattisgarh went to the frontiers of common sense and civil justice and romanced with foolishness in rewarding Binayak Sen with a life in jail for a life of service. Shame to you Justice Verma. Shame to you….

We cannot stay silent. Do your bit – raise your voice, write letters, support campaigns and make the ones in high places aware that they cannot sit quiet. Sign the online pettition or write to the president, as these people did. Write in your local languages and local press and spread the message.

A recent photo of Binayak Sen: Courtesy NDTV

Reproduced below is the statement of Jana Arogya Andolana from Karnataka.

We, the Jana Arogya Andolana Karnataka (JAAK), the Karnataka chapter of the People’s Health Movement, which is a coalition of Karnataka State level networks, organizations and persons actively working for health rights in the State, express our outrage at the verdict of the Raipur district and sessions court judgement declaring Dr Binayak Sen guilty of criminal conspiracy of sedition. Dr Sen has an illustrious record of over 25 years of selfless public service in areas of health and human rights. He has been the General Secretary of the Chhattisgarh People’s Union for Civil Liberties and Vice-President of the National PUCL and has contributed to the democratic movement in the country. He has been closely associated with the Jan Swasthya Abhiyan, the Indian chapter of the People’s Health Movement.In recognition of his work, the Christian Medical College, Vellore conferred on him the Paul Harrison Award in 2004, which is the highest award given to an alumnus for distinguished service in rural areas. He continues to be an inspiration to successive generations of students and faculty. Many of his articles based on his work have been internationally appreciated. His indictment under the draconian and undemocratic Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act, 2006, and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 and the sentence of life imprisonment is utterly condemnable. Not only has the farcical nature of the trial been reported in the media, the charges against Dr Sen, of engaging in anti-national activities, have been widely held as baseless.This judgment is an unacceptable attempt to intimidate and vilify those who advocate for the rights of the poor and the marginalized, and reveals the indiscriminate use of state machinery to stifle democratic dissent.

JAAK believes that a great derailment of justice has been done, not only to Dr Sen but also to the democratic fabric of this country. We consider this as a typical case where the judiciary has betrayed the cause of the poor and the marginalized of this country. JAAK salutes Dr. Sen’s work, and also demands that the unjust and erroneous judgement be reviewed immediately.

Get it right, the copyright

The Government playing Blindman's Bluff with its citizens instead of being inclusive!

Responding to a call posted on the Rajya Sabha Website where now and then, standing committees mulling over our collective future as a nation act responsibly by inviting comments, I sent off the following comments on the proposed amendment to the Indian Copyright Act, 1957. All in all an opportunity which has only been half, if improperly used by the Government. In any case, in hope that all comments are given their due, I have shared mine within the deadline of May 31st, 2010 (So, run and send yours too; there are two more days).

Thanks to a tweet from Sunil Abraham of Centre for Internet and Society.
It is a laudable effort of the Government to bring the existing legislation up to date with international consensus and frameworks. Kindly note the following comments.

1) We endorse the reading of “fair use” to apply to private and personal use legalising any use of copyrighted material for private or personal use such as making backups of material for personal use, which in some country contexts (like the DMCA of USA) has not been read as fair use.

2) While it is commendable that the Act removes the need to pay royalty/seek permission for conversion of copyrighted text to Braille, the spirit of inclusivity is lost as most people with visual impairment have moved on to e-readers and audiobooks. We strongly recommend that the amendment be widened to be applied for all types of devices/technologies that are geared towards making a particular text available for visually impaired. Such a wide application of the amendment would make India indeed a pioneer in inclusive legislation.

3) We appreciate the move to give content creators more rights over their creation and this move to shift some power from industry to individuals who create content is commendable.

4) While the efforts to provide copyrights as a right to assert authority over intellectual or other kinds of original work is an important role for legislation, we believe legislation should also make space for frameworks which explicitly try to improve and open up opportunities for collaboration. Various such frameworks are in use worldwide today, one well known among them being the Creative Commons system. Original work ‘copyrighted’ under this system encourages the spirit of sharing while still allowing the creator to retain ‘intellectual rights’ over his/her work.

For more, please see http://creativecommons.org/education?utm_source=ccorg&utm_medium=ccedu

Leading institutions and governments are now in the process of adopting and endorsing the Creative Commons system. We request that the Committee consider the option of providing a legal space to such licensing within a legislative framework.

Ping is my birthright and I shall have it…

I have a dream….

If Martin Luther King were born in the forests of BR Hills in Southern Karnataka during the nineties, apart from perhaps running into Veerappan, he could’nt have expected more adventure. Nonetheless, I am sure he would still have had a dream.

His dream would have to do much more with owning a television and watching an action film. It may have been about having a bulb at home and a tap with water. It may have been about seeing the insides of a car or wearing colourful clothes. These are some dreams that a ML King look-alike, Ketha has in BR Hills.

Ketha from Gombegallu

Ketha from Gombegallu

Ketha is a Soliga tribal boy far removed from the realities that some of us take for granted. He does not have a facebook profile and the only tweets he hears are that of a a bird which shares his name, the Kethanakki, named after a tribal god’s coming that this bird announces promptly. He lives in a small hamlet within a wildlife sanctuary.

His life is a part of several debates in which he has no voice. There is for example the school of thought on development that wonders why indigenous tribal people are being ‘developed’. What about erosion of their culture? Another argues passionately that the fruits of development (Facebook and twitter included!) cannot be denied to them. The State refers to him as marginalised and has scheduled him.He is one of the 400-odd tribes in India constituting 8 per cent of our population.

Another group of people strongly believe that he and his kind living in protected areas are in fact the obstacle to the conservation of our forests. Wherever, man and wildlife have tried co-existance, some say has ended in a diasaster. Inviolate areas for wildlife are touted as a prerequisite for any conservation strategy. Others weave a more utopian reality for Ketha, suggesting that conservation of wildlife and human livelihoods can go together. Others nuance it further saying that this has definitely happened in some areas. Ketha, of course is blissfully unaware of such realities.

Where would he read these debates? In the textbooks….

Hardly….In the textbooks, Ketha finds references to events, he cannot understand even….such as September 9/11 terror attacks on the US. While, this chapter in the 9th Standard English textbook of Karnataka State Board makes a good effort at trying to convey to Ketha what a watershed these attacks were for global politics, it perhaps misses the boat on connecting with him on issues closer home such as tigers, tribal people or traditional knowledge.

What about the internet? Hardly. Ketha has no access to the internet. Having a local NGO run a school itself is such a privilege for him, when compared to his other tribal brothers in other areas.Perhaps, on the internet, Ketha could have participated in these debates that adorn journals and blogs.

Ketha and Pareto come to my mind as I read the recent guarantee of broadband internet access to every Finn as a fundemental right. I still remember joking about how I am waiting for the day when the Indian State will guarantee 2 Mbps per citizen with unlimited download as a fundemental right. Less than a year from my joke, a country that Ketha has never perhaps heard of, has guaranteed it. Recently, when Michael Moore made that wonderful ‘reality show’ called Sicko, he apparently removed scenes shot about the Norwegian health care system, because, nobody would believe it!

Anyways, my point is that there is today within Ketha’s lifetime, a country where broadband internet access has been granted as a fundemental right, while in Ketha’s country, we are still wondering how to give him and his kind a good primary education.

<object style=”height: 344px; width: 425px”><param name=”movie” value=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k4L6-0WRfSA&feature=player_detailpage”><param name=”allowFullScreen” value=”true”><param name=”allowScriptAccess” value=”always”><embed src=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k4L6-0WRfSA&feature=player_detailpage” type=”application/x-shockwave-flash” allowfullscreen=”true” allowScriptAccess=”always” width=”425″ height=”344″></object>