Wednesday, August 30, 2017



This 15th Aug marked the 71st birthday of free India, when on the same day in 1947, Union Jack finally came down for the Indian tricolour to unfurl at the historic Red Fort. Yes, tiranga fluttered for all these past 70 years. This time round it was the newest President of India, RamNath Govind (Kovind) who spoke to the nation on the 14th night calling for a compassionate and an egalitarian India without any discrimination of gender or faith, with the well  being of the poor and underprivileged being of paramount    importance in the all round development of the country.
Addressing the nation from the rampart of Red Fort, Prime Minister Modi invoked the image of majestic India by 2022, by asking all Indians to march together with the dream of an India of grandeur and majesty by the 75th year of India’s independence. His 2014 speech was inspirational, followed by 2015 and 2016 which were more matter of fact. By 2017 he had probably realized that the promises he made were taking more time to be fulfilled. May be he thought, most Indians have not done what he expected. Hence this new vision of Majestic India, may spur Indians in the next 5 years to act. Prime Minister Modi is a word smith. Yes, he has tried many things, in this short span of 3 years. But then incubation takes time. By the latest call of Majestic India, some more productivity will surely be added. With the myriad problems country is facing Majestic India is a very long shot.
Month-in-Perspective has as usual took some of the issues of the month that went by. But there were quite a few remained that need to be mentioned all the same. Death of over 60 children in UP govt. hospital was one of the major happening of the month. As usual political blame games were unleashed. Making scapegoats of vulnerable persons is a time tested modus operendi. But it was clearly a poor reflection on the ability of Adityanath as Chief Minister to manage a huge state like UP with its hundreds of problems of all kinds. The judgement by Supreme Court on Triple Talaq is certainly path breaking for Muslim women. Hope the community wakes up to the reality by gracefully accepting the apex courts verdict. Sadly the CJI Khehar strangely took a questionable stand that being 1400 years old, the practice, although bad, should be allowed to carry on. It is unjust, so be it was his take. Another incendiary episode, involving the followers of cult leader Ram Rahim, who was convicted for rape, happened some 15 years ago. It was a clear case of government failure in Haryana, which did not act in time to stop the mayhem where close to 40 died. It was also, a poor reflection on the management skill of Chief Minister Khattar.
Yes, looking back over the 70th year of independent India, although we have not done badly in many parameters of development, there is still a vast section of Indians who have not experienced development. In Focus, we have tried to deal with the issues where lot needs to be done to alleviate the suffering of those in the margin. Independence Day meant nothing for them. Hope readers would find our account of the state of India serious enough to ponder. Kindly revert with your inputs. We do value them.   

J. Shriyan



JAMMU&KASHMIR: Jammu&Kashmir is in the news for all wrong reasons most of the time. This time it was the robbery in the J&K Bank branch in Arwani in Bijbehara, the home town of CM Mehbooba Mufti.
Bank robbery can take place anywhere depending upon the security, or the lack of it, the law and order situation prevailing in the area. Everywhere the robbers plan with a modus operendi which could be unique.
But in J&K robbers went for an easy way. The same way, the imam of Lal Masjid in Karachi did to escape from the mosque when it was surrounded by Pakistani police. He was in a burqua and police couldn’t and didn’t stop him. Same way these robbers used burqua to enter the bank premises. So, one thing is clear, burqua can be a security risk. Of course there may be many who may not agree, like this media member Deccan Herald titled their story in their yesterday’s edition “Masked militants loot Rs. 5 Lakh from J&K Bank”.
They, the DH, and there are many like them, who are in the business of reporting, not necessarily the whole truth. The question is why they had to ‘mask’ their reporting by not titling their report as “Militants in burqua loot Rs. 5 lakh from J&K Bank”?
Of course it is to the credit of another English daily THE HINDU who titled the same report as “Militants in burkhas rob bank”.

New Delhi: One Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, supposedly a lawyer so also a BJP spokesman and another gentlemen J.C Seth had reportedly knocked the door of apex court with a plea for framing a National Yoga policy with a view to make its practice compulsory for Std I to VIII in schools across the country.
Fortunately, the apex court, which at times hyper reacts with pronouncement almost akin to a policy, not only refrained to act but dismissed the plea outright. Justice Madan Lokur and Justice Deepak Gupta had observed while dismissing the plea “We are nobody to say what is to be taught in school. It is none of our business. How can we direct state”. They had clearly stated that it is not the business of Supreme Court to direct an elected government to do or not to do anything which is not contrary to constitutional provisions or any existing statutes.
But these jokers calling themselves party functionaries, who think they represent the ethos of this country do not seem to understand that our ethos even offer all its citizens, varieties of legally tenable choices. Yoga is not a part of school curriculum. It has its positives, both physical and mental. The world is recognizing its utility. UN has even declared a World Yoga Day. It has cut across the civilizational divide. Left to itself, Yoga will grow exponentially in coming years for its therapeutic dimension alone. Yoga does not need likes of Upadhyaya and Seth. However, these characters will do great harm for the growth of Yoga if they think that it has to be made into a policy so that it can be enforced. Yoga, as a part of life style has grown since the last couple of decades without these jokers. And it will continue to grow without them. Fortunately Supreme Court has not been harsh on them. Hope they go home and do some Yoga exercises which will make them calm and composed and not ruffle societal atmosphere by their over anxiety of being self styled promoters of Indian ethos.

The initiative to study the safety of bridges across the country has not come a day too early. Better late than never. A safety audit of these bridges, some 1.6 lakh, is reportedly complete, informs the Ministry of Road Transport. According to the report, over 100 bridges are in a dilapidated condition.
We are aware of the tragedy that struck in the Konkan last year. The collapse of the bridge on river Savitri, where two Maharshtra State Transport buses, full of passengers, were swept away in the swirling water, is too fresh to forget.
There have been bridge collapses in the past, but somehow the safety audit of bridges have remained as a non-priority for all governments. We have always been poor learners, because probably the tragedy has not affected us. Therefore the present initiative of the government at the centre needs to be appreciated. However what is important is the allocation of fund for the construction of replacement bridges in the place of those over 100 dilapidated bridges which are dangerous for use. This has to be treated on priority as the safety of these bridges concerns all sections of the society, more so for people who use state transport buses in the rural area.
While on the subject, it is pertinent to mention here that there are streams, which remain waterless or with less water and therefore crossable by foot, but during monsoon they are full and therefore not possible to cross. These walkways are used mostly by students going to schools and those who cannot take circuitous long ways to reach the other side. These streams are bridged by contraptions of timber, sticks, bamboos or even thick ropes. They are used by school going children of all ages with occasionel mishaps happening where a child slips and falls into the surging water only to be found days later as dead body. Stories of such tragedies are not infrequent. But all state governments have been deaf to the cries for help from these helpless children.
It is ironic after 70 years of independence, these issue are not being addressed with the seriousness it deserved.

The report “Modi made no mention of Nehru” did not make news, because it reflected the views of the speaker.
Speaking in the Lok Sabha on the occasion of 75th Anniversary of Quit India Movement, PM Modi remembered Mahatma Gandhi, Subhash Chandta Bose, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, J.P., Sukhdev, Bhagat Singh, Ram Monohar Lohia and Lal Bahudur Shastri, informs the print media. Of course the list of well known personalities who participated in the 1942 call is far longer. However, the obvious exclusion of Jawaharlal Nehru was the clear reflection of the dislike PM Modi had for Nehru.
Weeks earlier President Kovind had also remembered not to refer to the name of Nehru in his acceptance speech after taking the oath to the office of Presidency. At that time there were lots of criticism from opposition for this exclusion, since a constitutional functionary was not expected to be biased. This time round no opposition reacted nor media commented.
The fact of the matter is Jawaharlal Nehru was a towering personality of the pre-independent India, so also in post independent India. He, for sure, must have had personal drawbacks but, his commitment to the cause of India cannot be questioned.
For Prime Minister Narendra modi not to have mentioned his name has not made Nehru any smaller, but Modi has certainly not covered himself with glory. In fact he belittled himself. Modi could certainly have become greater by remembering Nehru. Modi had remembered Nehru in the past. These political niceties do help the larger picture.

Equity has never been a virtue among most Indians. There were two reports appearing almost together, in the media some weeks ago, and both contained information about payments for services rendered. One of the report had “MPC members to get `1.5 lakh per meet” as the title and “CEOs earn upto 1200 times of average staff”, was the title of the other report.
MPC is the acronym for the powerful Monetary Policy Committee of the government of India. It consists of 6 members, 3 from RBI and 3 from general public appointed by the central government. RBI team consists of Governor, Dy. Governor and Executive Director. Other 3 are eminently qualified experts from the academia, like IIM, Delhi School of Economics etc. They are appointed for a period of 4 years. As of now RBI governor gets a payment of  `2.5 lakh per month and his deputies `2.25 lakh per month, from the `90,000 and `80,000 respectively paid earlier per month. Surely those from academia too would be getting a good salary package. Question is, is it fair to pay a sum for a day’s meeting, which may involve some days of preparation, an amount almost equal to their whole moths pay? And there will be 4 to 6 meetings every year. This amount ` 1.5 lakh per meet excludes air travel, local transportation, accommodation in a 5 star hotel and other out of pocket expenses.
Coming to the other report, it was mind bogglingly numbing for its sheer scale of unfairness. According to the report, biggest blue chip companies are paying its top executives, salary package of upto 1200 times of their median employee remunerations. Of course, the analysis on payments of different companies did show different figures varying from 1263 times to 205 times, which is still very very high. These payments are made even if companies do not register increased profit, may be even decreased profit and even loss at times. So the practice of unfair standard in India is the done thing across the spectrum and no questions asked. General public are so used to these unfair practices, they accept such flagrant distinction without much of a demur.
I remember a seminar on inclusiveness in a National Institute of Technology- a deemed university institution- where they were discussing about maternity leave for husband called paternity leave, when one of their former director was heard telling about teacher’s salary in a school under its administration, some years ago, that it’s OK to pay them `750/- as monthly payment, when he himself was getting more than 100/150 times. We Indians are hypocrites; we have multiple standards for different set of people. You may be demanding and getting all kinds of benefits, including paternity leave but to your domestic help you would deny even a week-end break, forget about the low salary and 24 hours on call. This is Yeh Mera India.

Gujarat: On 29th July, a consignment of 1400kg of heroin was intercepted by Indian Coast Guard off the coast of Porbundar in Gujarat. Reportedly the consignment is worth more than `3000 crores. By any stretch of imagination 1400kg heroin haul was a huge success to the Narcotics Control Bureau.
But, it was purely a chance interruption that makes the whole scenario very worrying. Reportedly National Technical Research Organization (NIRO) picked up a ‘phone chatter’ in the Arabian Sea, and it was followed up by a ship and helicopter chase by the Coast Guard. In less than 24 hours Coast Guard zeroed on MV Henry, a Panama registered ship, some 400 nautical miles off Porbundar, and arrested the 11 crew of the ship, including its captain.
God forbid, the chance happening did not happen! Then this 1400kg of heroin would have found its way to the lanes and by-lanes of Indian cities to be consumed by millions of Indians, especially young college students. Hence the chances that such things have happened in the past and can happen in the future too is very much in the realm of the possibility. That is indeed a very grave matter. So where the authorities have slackened their vigil or those who are operating this shady business are smarter and better organized? These questions need to be probed to know the full impact of this unchecked trade in drugs.
It is another matter that the consignment was destined for Egypt but greedy Indian captain of the ship, Suprit Tiwari, diverted the ship mid sea, by switching off the ships satellite phone and damaging the Automatic Identification System of the ship. The fact was, this greedy Tiwari, was able to find a buyer, a drug dealer Vishal Yadav for a commission of a mere `50 crores.
These drug related transportation also has other national security ramifications. This ship MV Henry, is owned by an Iranian Sayeid Ali Morani based in Dubai. But the drug was loaded at sea-off the Gwadar port in Baluchistan, Pakistan and supposed to have left for some Egyptian port.
The serious worrying dimension is the Pakistani connection such drug dealings can bring with it. 26/11 Mumbai attack is too raw to be forgotten.
Thus, this haul of 1400kg drug has opened up a Pandora’s box of possibilities which authorities at all levels must sit up and take note. Hope it happens.
PUNJAB: Chandigarh date lined news informed about a farm labourer from Uttar Pradesh working in a farm in Derra Bassi in Punjab, had come home drunk, and wanted to have physical relation with his wife. That’s perfectly normal provided it is mutual. But his wife was not interested and when forced she pushed him away. Enraged husband picked-up his 2 year old boy child without the knowledge of his wife and reportedly takes him to the field and forces himself on that delicate small child. He sodomized the child and caused anal perforation. After his sickening horrendous act he dumps the child in the bushes leaving him profusely bleeding. Without proper and early medical intervention the child died soon thereafter.
Can we as humans from Indian subcontinent imagine the height of bestiality from a father to a 2 year old boy child!
Doesn’t matter at all that his name is Saleem and he tried to hoodwink the police with some cock & bull story?! Or that he is in police custody for murder and sodomy?
Has our socio-educational attempts in making humans out of men has so badly failed that not only we failed to protect a vulnerable 2 year old innocent child but allowed it to be sacrificed for a hyena among one of us who passed off as a father!?
Are we still good enough to be called civilized?! Woh, Poor Mother India!
It’s another matter, this man Saleem is already having 4 daughters and his wife is 7 month pregnant, that’s how she was disinterested in his advances! How at all can poverty go!

Haryana: Disgrace is the only word that can describe the silence of Shubh Chintaks and their Shubh chintan on the increasingly assertive characters of BJP protected goons masquerading as socio/political workers.
The case of an IAS officer’s daughter being stalked and attempt to kidnap her and the flagrant attempt at cover-up by statutory functionaries has exposed the BJPs double standard of Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas. If an elite can be treated this way, what could be the fate of ordinary mortals!
“Home Ministry has no business to interfere in the police investigation regarding a local case in Chandigarh” is a big joke coming from Kiran Rijju, the media savvy MOS, Home, especially when Chandigarh is a Union Territory.
At least likes of Kiran Bedi, Kirron Kher have condemned the shameful acts of this wayward man called Vikas Barala, state BJP President’s son. But where are those who go to the town giving certificates to all and sundry?
That Kiran Bedi, a former top police functionary has lambasted the Chandigarh police for clearly acting partisan is only the confirmation of the game the police was playing.
As we are approaching the 15th Aug, Independence Day celebration, what is the message Prime Minister Modi is going to give by his action or inaction on the entirely condemnable act of BJP delinquents has to be seen. Hope he lives upto his no-nonsense image by asking his protégé Khattar, the Haryana CM, to act tough and decisive.
It’s been heard that belatedly police have acted to arrest both the delinquent and his accomplice despite the quick bail granted earlier. It is an indication that PMO has spoken to trigger a quick response from the police. That’s a good sign. Hope the message goes across.    

BIHAR: Years ago, when the first NDA was being crafted George Fernandes, of the then Samata Party, was made the convener. Most of his erstwhile socialist comrades deserted him for having joined hands with the BJP, supposedly a communal party. He played a straight bat. ‘Yes I had to choose, between a less bad party and more bad party. I chose BJP because they are a less bad party than Congress which is more bad party.’
By hindsight, this may provide some explanation as to why Nitish Kumar, the CM of Bihar jettisoned the Mahaghatbandhan to only for ‘bandhan’ with BJP.
Without exception, everybody is accusing Nitish Kumar of being an opportunist. Isn’t politics, anywhere, full of opportunists? He broke away in 2013, from BJP due to Narendra Modi factor. For political survival he joined hands with RJD, and in 2015, the Mahaghatbandhan romped home, despite Modi wave. All thought Nitish Kumar had arrived. Unfortunately Biharis, in their wisdom gave RJD more seats. RJD is a family enterprise and the Lalu family is soaked in corruption and yet Biharis gave this family thumbs up.
The latest crisis of emerging scams, benami land deals, money laundering, involving Lalu family is clearly the factor that precipitated the rupture.
It is very easy to accuse Nitish Kumar of ditching the Mahaghatbandhan and going with the alleged Communal Party. But due to the serious allegation of corruption against Lalu’s sons, who were his ministers, other members of the Mahaghatbandhan should have asked Yadav siblings to resign. Even media did not attempt to cry hoarse at Lalus. Now the media is accusing Nitish of opportunism.
Mahaghatbandhan should have tried to save the situation by prevailing upon Lalu Prasad let his son go. Rahul Gandhi of Congress could have saved the government by pressuring Lalu to make his son go. He failed too. You want to have the cake and eat it too!
Of course, this Mahaghatbandhan had no inkling that Nitish will embrace BJP and save his CM gaddi. As usual BJP acted fast, and Congress was caught napping.
MADHYA PRADESH: So, Medha does not make any news anymore! Where is the conscience of the nation when the indefinite fast of the nation’s conscience keeper has entered 13th day?
Medha with her 11 other supporters are on hunger strike demanding proper rehabilitation and resettlement of Sardar Sarovar Project affected people.
Most of us are busy fighting for ourselves. Her entire life is dedicated to the cause of people in the margins of the development juggernaut.
Of course lots of people have criticized her for being ‘anti-development’. Unfortunately development has not been defined comprehensively to suite only some stake holders, those who can influence the course of happenings. Medha is representing those who cannot and does not have any influence, either political or social. Their votes do not change governments like Jats, Patels or Marathas.
Strangely even our sometime hyper active judiciary too is quite.
Is there no case for the Supreme Court to take a suo moto approach to take-up the cause of Narmada displaced persons!?
Medha and her supporters have been reportedly shifted to a hospital. God forbid, if nobody acts before disaster strikes! Can we stand up to the world to say why we failed Medha and her cause when she wanted us the most!?

MAHARASHTRA: The controversy surrounding Aazaan do not seem to die, probably for some valid reasons. After Sonu Nigam went public with his take, comes another singer Suchitra Krishnamurthi. Some weeks ago the female singer had tweeted “Come Home at 4.45 am most aggressive/ ear shattering call of aazaan” accusing it being “extreme imposed religiousity”. “I do not need public loudspeakers to remind me of my God or my duty”. “Nobody objects to aazaan or prayers during decent hours. But to be waking up entire neighbourhood at 5 am is not civilized”.
The points raised by her is legitimate and logical. One may agree or disagree with her contention. But look at this man Abu Azmi, a Samajawadi Party politician from Mumbai and he says “Those who sing and dance till early hours, drink at 2am at parties in hotels and sit with their arms on shoulders of strange men and talk, who have spoilt Indian culture have suddenly started criticizing”. This logic is cockeyed and cannot be taken seriously because it has not addressed the concern of the singer instead it was spewing venom.
The fact of the matter is, aazaan at early hours sometime even before 4.30 am is indeed disturbing to the sleep of the entire neighbourhood. Singer Suchitra did not mind aazaan during daytime. But excuse me what about masjids near schools! Aren’t these schools disturbed with loud speakers blaring right on to the school building. So even during day time, these loudspeakers are questionable. Besides, when 67 years old Mumbai based Mohd Ali alias Babu Bhai approached the Bombay High Court and got the order passed in Aug 2016, that laud speakers cannot be used between 10PM & 6AM and any violation shall be punished with both fine and imprisonment, was this Abu Asim Azmi sleeping?
And for people to sing, dance and drink at whatever hours, is entirely their personal business, as long as they do not become nuisance to the society around them. It is none of Azmi’s business. He talks about being in the company of strange men by people like Suchitra, at least they are better than those father-in-laws physically abusing their daughters –in-law. Certainly India do not need jokers like Abu Asim Azmi to tell Indians, what constitutes Indian culture. Of course problem is the prominence given by media by titling the report “Azaan remark: SP slams singer” without being even handed.

KARNATAKA:  “Good Resolution” said Robert Lynd, “is an April of virtue with no September following”. It looks perfect for a situation that Department of Women and Child Development (DWCD) of the government in Bengalooru, is in.
Child abuse has reportedly been rampant in the state capital of Karnataka for some time now, since couple of years. With too many private schools catering to the needs of growing population of Bengalooru, exposure of vulnerable children to abuse had grown considerable.
Disturbed at the growing attack on small children’s persona, Karnataka government had enacted the “Karnataka State child Protection Policy, 2016” in April the same year.
It was an initiative, hailed as first of its kind.
Now, it’s more than a year there has been no progress. The policy envisaged creating of trained senior officers, who would travel all over the state to train personnel at all levels in each district to ensure trickle down.
But after more than a year even the training module is not prepared, allegedly due to budget constraints. This blaming of the budget is a standard response, when caught for inaction. Nobody, either the political class or the bureaucracy are serious about such issues concerning children, because, neither they are a pressure group nor a vote bank. This has been the tragedy of this country. Unfortunate but true. This is Yeh Mera India.

Happenings in Infosys is none of our concern at I&C. Because, what is happening is not the issue that we are concerned with in anyway. But there is one dimension, we could probably poke our nose and hopefully come out unscathed. Corporate world is privy to the fact NR Narayana Murthy and his engineer friends founded Infosys. It grew rapidly to become No:2 IT Company after Tata Consulting Services (TCS) and maintained that position. However, in the ethical practices, especially in giving stock option to employees, without doubt NRNM is a model like none else in this country. He clearly believed in the principle, ‘Together we must grow and together we must survive’. He has set standard for all corporate leaders when he quit office of chairman on turning 60, making room for others to take over. He is very democratic.
And comes flamboyant Vishal Sikka, a rank outsider, as CEO/MD with huge pay packet. May be NRNM didn’t say then, but apparently he was upset with the pay package. No doubt revenue increased with an ambitious target of $20 billion by 2020, and share market responded positively. After all, market is sentiment driven. But NRNM is a person not particularly after market. He believed in corporate social responsibility of being compassionate to the staff and society without losing sight of investors’ interest. But never only revenue and market driven. This aspect of NRNM has been probably working up within and came out sharp when recently some lower level staff were given pink slip to go home because of lower profit. NRNM had come out openly to retain these staff by seniors taking the pay-cut. Here it is interesting to note that in 2015-16 Sikka got a salary pack of Rs. 48.73 crores, in comparison to Rs.25.66 crores that TCS boss Chandrashekaran drew and Wipro Executive VC T.K Kurian got Rs. 13.67 crores. Clearly NRNM was unhappy at this. After all Infosys was his baby. As of now Vishal Sikka is out office of MD/CEO and would be completely out of Infosys by March 2018. And reportedly Board of Directors have withdrawn the offer of position in the Infosys Board of NRNM. Thus the battle is out in open. Of course, what also irked NRNM is the non-transparency in the acquisition of Panaya for $200 million which despite insistence by NRNM, the present Board of Infosys refused to make public details of the deal. Clearly there is a dead rat.

KERALA: There was this ‘magnum opus’ of some 20 pages in THE WEEK of June 25 on Yoga titled as “That Elusive Search for bliss”. Surely, being a national news journal, it must have been read by thousands if not lakhs. One T. Koshi Cherian responded on email among others. Here is his letter published by THE WEEK, of 16th July, under the title “Yoga not Spiritual’. Quote “Yoga is an Indian form of aerobic exercise which keeps the body in good shape like any other aerobic exercise. It has nothing to do with spirituality, which is one’s personal recognition of the Almighty (That Elusive Search for bliss, June 25). No one can find spiritual solace by flexing and extending your muscles or holding your breath in half-clad body, wrapped partially in a piece of Dhoti tied along the gluteal cleft” Unquote.
Of course, two more letters too were published by THE WEEK. One opened with a sentence “I would like to praise the team at THE WEEK for having come out with such a well researched cover story on spirituality”. The other had “Your cover story on spirituality was mind blowing” as the opening sentence. Both these letters had no caption, obviously giving credence to the letter by T. Koshi Cherian.
As an Indian I was deeply incensed at this chicanery. So wrote to the editor at THE WEEK. Quote “Your letter writer T. Koshi Cherian in his letter (The Week:16th July) on ‘That Elusive Search for bliss’ has exposed his bias and pettiness, when he wrote ‘No one can find spiritual solace by flexing your muscles or holding breath in half clad body, wrapped partially in a piece of dhoti tied along the gluteal cleft’.
And you had decided to give it prominence by titling it ‘Yoga not spiritual’. This publication has also exposed the mindset of the person who selected to publish this letter.
While there are any number of books on Yoga, there are two books this letter writer must read- ‘The Hidden Teaching beyond Yoga’ by Dr. Paul Brunton from England, a senior journalist himself and ‘Yoga & Nature Cure’ by Dr. G. Francis Xavier, an Indian, both fortunately are not Hindu dogmatists. And ask Crystal L Park of University of Connecticut ‘I think because yoga is such a mind-body practice, people find themselves being more relaxed and more mindful. They start going back for those things. It’s clearly something people deeply resonate with,’ stated in a survey by the University (TIME, Aug, 29, 2016- page 10),
Please try not to vitiate public space by publishing dogmatic hatred.” Unquote.
I write to many papers and magazines, including the American TIME. Unfortunately I cannot use diplomatic language. I call ‘spade a spade’ which most editors do not like, and therefore do not publish. And the most unexpected happened. To my pleasant surprise THE WEEK of July 30 published my letter almost in toto. THE WEEK need to be congratulated for publishing a letter despite being critical of them, and here is the letter.
Reader T. Koshi Cherian said that no one can find spiritual solace by extending your muscles or holding your breath in half clad body, wrapped partially in a piece of dhoti tied along the gluteal cleft. (‘Letters’ July 16). And, you decided to give it prominence by titling it ‘Yoga not spiritual’. The publication of such a letter has exposed the mindset of the writer and also of the person who selected the letter.
While there are number of books on Yoga, there are two books Cherian must read: ‘The Hidden Teaching beyond Yoga’ by Paul Brunton and ‘Yoga & Nature Cure’ by G. Francis Xavier. Both are, fortunately, not Hindu dogmatists. Please don’t vitiate public space by publishing such letters.” J. Shriyan, Mangaluru, Karnataka.” Unquote.

What They Said

My very special friend,
Profound apologies for the delay. I have continuously been out of Bengalooru for many reasons and will be abroad for six weeks. I only saw your mail today. Enclosed is the cheque for Permanent Membership. I will write my feed back on I&C on my return.   Personal regards.,
Justice (Rtd.) M.F. Saldanha, Bengalooru

Sir, we are truly indebted to your very special salutation, and for the time taken to write to us. Your apparent appreciation has really bucked us up to rededicate ourselves towards a purposeful regimen. We hereby acknowlegde with thanks the receipt of the cheque for ` 10,000/- -EDITOR

I am a regular subscriber/reader of ISSUES&CONCERNS which is by itself a unique periodical for its coverage and quality print without much ad. While appreciating your sincere efforts & commitment for the awareness journalism and the will to carry forward the magazine to further heights I am enclosing a cheque for `10,000/- as a well wisher and admirer.      

-Jaya S Amin, Bengalooru

We deeply appreciate the time taken to write the letter of appreciation. So also your participation as a permanent member. The receipt of `10,000/- is hereby thankfully acknowledged.                                                 -Editor

Your Focus- "Will China Swallow Pakistan" I&C Aug is very relevant piece. However there is a wide variation in the capabilities of China and Pakistan. There is no economic, cultural, racial or any kind of parity between China and Pakistan. A country that survives on US aid and is run by corrupt political leaders can never survive and therefore Pakistan has become China’s puppet and plays the game by bending forward or backward as directed by opportunistic China to annoy India. 
The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project appears to be a master plan for Chinese penetration into Pakistan’s economy. It appears that CPEC will allow China to exploit the resources of Pakistan and investing billions of dollars on infrastructure projects to expand Beijing’s growth story.
China says our friendship is as high as the Himalayas and as deep as the sea. But one should note that China has one heart with two holes and always plays dual standard games. It is worth noting the statement of a Political Economist of Pakistan Mr. Akbar Zaidi which obliviously reflects that fact that China has started the process of swallowing Pakistan. 
-Prof. K. Shivashankar Bhat, GDC, Surathkal, Mangalooru.

Will China Swallow Pakistan?! It is reasonably well written. China keeps on changing history, changing its territorial maps, as it was always ruled by one dynasty or the other. It may not be a surprise, if one day it shows that Pak is an extended  part of Xingxiang province of China. 
It would have been desirable if the article had thrown little more light on Chinese contemporary hegamonistic attitude such as claiming South China sea, parts of Tibet, Bhutan, Aksai Chin, Arunachal pradesh, Mangolia, etc. In fact, wherever people of Mangole race live, China claims all those are or were part of China and hence it will not be a wrong assumtion that one day Pak might become a Chinese colony.                                                   
-Prof. P.N. Singh, former Director NITK, Surathkal, Via E-mail

Your Focus - I&C Aug (Will China Swallow Pakistan?), is a very bold exercise. Such a thought always existed in the public domain, but not many would have thought of expressing it openly in the media. Hat’s off to your courage of conviction. Keep it up.                    – S.M Suvarna, Malpe, Udupi 


India @70 Modinomics & Muddled Priorities

“Men may come and men may go, but I go on forever.” wrote Tennyson in his poem ‘The Brook’. Indeed for many Indians, it’s the same story- Independence day may come and Independence day may go, but for millions of Indians the joy of Independence Day celebration was clearly missing, the unremitting uncertainties of life goes on, as if interminably. As usual Prime Ministers have come to the historic Red Fort, unfurled the national flag, made speech, followed by army & air-force drill and displays of tabloid etc to tell the world, ‘we are militarily strong and multi cultures across India is thriving.’ And crowd goes home, happy at the visuals. This year was no different.
71st Independence Day of India came and gone into the national amnesia as just another day. Prime Minister Modi, in his 4th Independence Day speech didn’t add much lustre to buck up the national spirit, which was already damp with the news of some 60 deaths in a U.P government hospital, havoc by the flood in Assam, Bihar, Gujarat and West Bengal and other myriad issues bedeviling the citizenry and the nation. 
Of course he spoke of “New India, a great India, a majestic India by 2022”. “In order to build a prosperous India, we need a strong economy, balanced development and next generation infrastructure. Only then, we can realize the India of our dreams” he said among other things.
There is no leader, no citizen anywhere in the world, who does not want to see his country fully developed, “where all have pucca house with electricity and water.”
Winding up his hour long speech, PM Modi exhorted Indians “Let all of us march together with dream of building an India of grandeur and majesty as we want for the 75th year of independence after completing 70 years of independence in the next 5 years.”
It’s all very well to dream and dream big. In fact it is very good to dream. Only dreams galvanize a person to perform. But then in the context of a nation, especially a country like India, there are many ‘slips between cups and lips.’
In 2014, 15th Aug. PM Modi gave a clarion call for ‘SWATCH BHARATH ABHIYAN' (SBA). He succeeded in bringing the issue of cleanliness and hygiene into the national consciousness as never before. Three years have passed; kind of mind set our people have, apathetic bureaucracy and politicians without commitment, SBA has not been a spectacular success, as it was expected.
And comes this story, as late as 20th Aug 2017 “Time running out for Swatch Bharath” by no less a person than Vinod Rai, the former CAG of India. Recounting his train journey between Delhi & Dhanbad he writes, ‘scene of early morning shitting on tracks is still continuing despite our massive programme of construction of toilets and the ‘really huge’ (emphasis Rai) dumps of garbage along the railway track just outside the towns.’ And PM Narendra Modi wants to see Majestic India by 2022!
Despite stringent penal provisions against manual scavenging, it has continued in several parts of the country including metros where workmen -mostly dalits- have died inside the sewer manholes with no safety gadgets.
Sometime in early June 2017, NHRC issued notice to Centre and to U.P government over the plight of 30 women manual scavengers in Meerut as “worst examples of violation of right to life”, when “excreta slips from the basket on their hair and shoulder during rainy season”. That’s rather very stark. According to Prof. Anand Teltumbde, a grandson of Dr. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, "there are an estimated 800,000 people, mainly women, who are engaged in cleaning dry latrines using the most primitive methods." This is mind boggling.
Reportedly manual scavenging persists mainly because of the continued presence of unsanitary latrines- 2.6 million of them- which require cleaning by hand. State governments have not demolished these latrines despite there being a law in place to this effect. Central government is supposed to rehabilitate these scavengers under self employment schemes. But 2017-18 Union budget reduced allocation from the earlier `448 crores to `5 crores, which is rather clearly incongruous. Shouldn’t this come under Swatch Bharat Abhiyan, to which public is contributing a cess?!
Atrocities on SC/ST and Dalits have been going on without much interruption, despite rhetoric to the contrary. A print media editorial of 12th May 2017 said “Appalling conviction rate in SC/ST atrocities cases”. Aren’t the happenings last year, the attacks on dalits, in different of the country including Gujarat, fresh in our national memory?!
Human Development Index (HDI), recorded by UNDP, for India, is hovering around 130 for many years, among the 188 countries, among the low HDI group, but crony wealth in India is 3.4% of GDP! Crony capitalists are those who earn their riches to their proximity to the government. Isn’t it a reflection of our unstated policy of crying with the poor but siding with the rich!?
NITI Ayog chairman Arvind Panagariya before resigning had reportedly stated that “India’s GDP could rise to $8 trillion in 15 years, -from the less than $3 trillion at present- if the country registers a growth of 8% annually and come very close to eliminating abject poverty entirely.” As an economist surely Panagaria is fully aware, there is nothing as an automatic trickledown effect in the nation’s economic growth where rich continues to become richer and poor becomes poorer or stagnate at best.
‘By 2022, we will have a Majestic India!’ PM Modi had declared at Red Fort. But how it could be possible when 1/3 of class 8 students cannot read class 2 level text? And more than 50%, who completed 8th standard can’t read a simple English sentence or do simple division! We are talking of demographic dividend, when we are sitting on an unproductive/unemployable population explosion. We do not have a population policy, which can truly help in socio-economic planning. The so-called demographic dividend has not been utilized by India where jobs have been difficult to come by. Close to a million join the labour force every month, when the economy could provide some 100,000 jobs for the whole of 2015 as against the promise of creating 2 crore jobs every year. To fill the yawning gap came, Skill India, Make in India, Digital India and Mudra initiatives. No-doubt they were fresh but untested initiatives. There has been some progress. But to provide millions of job seekers to be employed in short run is simply impossible. China was wise enough to go for 1 child norm for 30 years and it helped cut the ballooning numbers by some 400 million, and improve the standard of living of their teeming millions greatly, with increased wages. Yes India is a democracy hence cannot force like China, but it’s possible to have a population policy of positive discrimination to encourage small family. This will have a multiplier effect. Compounding the complexity is the National Health Survey-4, -‘Indicators for Malnutrition in kids worsening- print media 03/08/2017’- which reportedly gives an extremely disappointing picture despite government schemes introduced to tackle malnutrition in kids. Reportedly, it’s pretty bad in Thane- Kalyan belt in Maharashtra and Fadnavis government is busy pushing for Bullet Train! Isn’t it a case of ‘barking up the wrong tree’! 
According to another report, NHRC has issued notice to Maharashtra government over the death of 740 students in residential schools located in tribal areas of Thane-Kalyan belt in the last 10 years, due to lack of basic health services and amenities. This is despite the oft repeated rhetoric on creating an inclusive society.
Newborns in India have a lesser chance of survival than babies born in Afghanistan and Somalia, according to the latest Global Burden of Disease (GBD) study published in the medical journalThe Lancet.
In the GBD rankings for Healthcare Access and Quality (HAQ), India has fallen 11 places, and now ranks 154, from the last year’s 143 out of 195 countries. Further, India’s healthcare index of 44.8 is the lowest among the sub-continental countries, as Sri Lanka (72.8), Bangladesh (51.7), Bhutan (52.7), and Nepal (50.8) all fared better. 
India’s downward slide in the rankings indicates that it has failed to achieve health care targets, especially those concerning neonatal disorders, maternal health, tuberculosis, and rheumatic heart disease. Last year, India was ranked 143 among 188 countries.
In the case of neonatal mortality, on a scale of 1 to 100, India scored 14 in the HAQ index, while Afghanistan scored 19/100 and Somalia, 21/100. Access to tuberculosis treatment in India was scored 26 out of 100, lower than Pakistan (29), Congo (30) and Djibouti (29). For diabetes, chronic kidney diseases, and congenital heart diseases, India scored 38, 20, and 45, respectively.
 “What we have found about health care access and quality is disturbing,” said Dr. Christopher Murray, senior author of the study. While adding “Having a strong economy does not guarantee good health care. Having great medical technology doesn’t either."
PM Modi wants women to take centre stage in economic and social activities in our march towards Super Power. Beti Bachao- Beti Padao slogan was advertised as a game changer. But India falls abysmally short in female literacy. Nepal clocked 92% as against India’s 48%.
Despite spirited statements and cogent arguments women’s lot has not greatly improved. “Rise in crime against women alarming” said an editorial of an English daily as late as 10th Aug 2017.
Agenda about “100 smart cities” too appears to be in too much hurry with too little planning. Wanting to replicate our cities on the lines of Singapore has a long history. Singapore is not India. We do not have a Lee Kuan Yew, the true architect of Singapore as Prime Minister for 31 years. Unlike Singapore, India is a messy democracy with vast majority of Indians being largely indisciplined with scarce regards for public dos and don’ts or respect for law & order.
According to a journalist, 'the real problem with smart cities in India are, traffic is hellish, public transport is rudimentary, public infrastructure is ramshackle, there doesn’t appear to be any civic planning to speak of, roads peter off into dirt tracks in new colonies; there are mounds of garbage everywhere, power and water shortage is ever present, law & order machinery leaves much to be desired.' But this is only a part picture. There are other dimensions too needing careful consideration, like management of emergencies, assistance in times of need, safety and security of women etc. 
According to the Annual Report on Global Wealth by Credit Suisse, India is one of the most unequal countries in the world where the richest 1% own 60% of its wealth, far ahead of US, where 1% own 37% of its wealth. The report also informs that 30% at the bottom do not have any wealth, while stating that 90% of Indians own only 10% of the country’s wealth. This is inequity at its worst. And what is the Modi government trying to do to address this bottomless scourge!? Correcting this will require leadership that is politically willing to take some bold steps in spending for the poor, investing more in health and education, offering social protection to the weak. That is the only way good economies can bring fruits of growth to all.
Shiksan Sevaks-754 of them- appointed in 2015 on a salary of Rs. 6000/- p.m, has not been made permanent even after 3 years at the same salary. No wonder they have no motivation to work harder. How can you expect our children to do better in schools, if we do not look after teachers fairly? May be teachers are no good, but the treatment of teachers by the government is no better! For years there have been initiatives by Wipro group chairman Azim Premji on improving the quality of teachers in government schools. Has the central government led by PM Modi taken him on board on issues of education? Instead there is a feverish pushing for bullet trains, by talking about “next generation infrastructure”. The question is, for whom is this next generation infrastructure needed! Azim Premji is a visionary corporate leader who gave away his 50% wealth for social cause. He was a fit person to be India’s 14th President, instead electoral compulsions brought RamNath Govind (Kovind).
Coming to Bullet Train, a High Speed Rail (HSR) or is it ‘next generation infrastructure!’ is certainly not a priority for India. They are hugely capital intensive projects. The Mumbai-Ahmadabad bullet train corridor, just 500kms is going to cater to a miniscule Guajarati crowd at a possible cost of some Rs. 80,000/- crores, when all India railways track length is in the region of 80,000kms. Can a country like India afford this elite experiment for only the haves of the society!
Demonetization came probably with good intentions. But it did slow down the economic growth, as millions of petty traders suffered and  their workers were left unpaid. Hence spending and circulation of money too suffered which has affected the growth indices. To some miniscule extent anti-national/anti-social activities like, Separatists in Kashmir, Maoists internally, black money generators etc have suffered. But Prime Minister should not mislead the gullible public by claiming that Rs. 3 lakh crore unaccounted money has come into the banking system due to demonetization. While it is true that, some such money has indeed come back to the formal system, RBI is still not ready with its conclusive figures and hence Rs. 3 lakh looks clearly a bogie.
The recent Economic Survey by Chief Economic Advisor Arvind Subrahmanian, presented to the parliament reportedly noted that “A number of indicators point to the deceleration of real activity since the first quarter of 2016-17 and a further deceleration since the third quarter”. So how are we going to realize our 2022 dream?
Mercifully, oil prices are half of what it was in 2014. Monsoon has not been bad. It could have been pretty bad for a poor country wanting to be a Super Power, if reverse was the case.
Yes, GST has come as One Nation One Tax. But 6 tax rates have made it look complicated. Of course, it’s still new, only coming months will tell the whole story, while it is true that truck drivers are having easier time without octroi check-naakas, which in turn will save fuel, time etc. But protest in Surat textile market has another story to tell, yet PM goes to town to tell how ordinary Indians are happy with GST. From where does he gets his feedback & update! Only God knows!
Actually, what the central government should have done on priority basis is tackling ballooning Non Performing Assets (NPA) of public sector banks. Allowing, Vijay Mallya to flee certainly was bad for the country, when small borrowers are publicly humiliated by banks for non-payment and banks employ all kinds of tricks to force them pay.  And look at the unrelenting agrarian crisis, where farmers are committing suicides to escape the debt trap of a lakh of rupees or less. Right now the NPA figure is close to over Rs. 8 lakh crores. All of it is not business losses. Good part of money borrowed has gone to the wayward living style of high-end borrowers, who have even siphoned off borrowed business finance into personal and family a/cs. And this story is not from yesterday, it happened for all these 7 decades under different political dispensations. So what has really changed for millions of ordinary Indians, for whom Independence days have come and gone like any other day!  


The oft forgotten Nocebo effect

Prof. B. M. Hegde,

“Finish last in your league and they call you idiot. Finish last in medical school and they call you doctor.”
 Abe Lemons

The placebo (I please) effect has been at least known to some lay people but very few, if any, know the effect the most powerful nocebo effect in human health and illness. While placebo effect can have such powerful healing capacity as shown both in elegant studies in medical and surgical situations were placebo has proven better than the drug or surgery (Sc. Transl. Med 2011; 3: 70 and J. Amer coll cardiol 2005;) there has been no study done on the far more dangerous nocebo effect on the patients’ life and illness. When I wrote in the BMJ on “In the company of specialists life becomes miserable on earth,” there was a spate of rapid responses to my above rapid response. In my response I had said: “In view of the new scientific wisdom on the Placebo effect in human illnesses, are we right in giving cancer patients a deterministic predictability prognosis about their future? Does that not further deplete their immune guard? Doctors have been predicting the unpredictable future (BMJ 1991; 303: 1565) of cancer sufferers. Why are we Nocebo cancer doctors? ...and many more imponderables in the cancer arena where ignorance abounds!
One doctor Herbert Nehrlich from Australia wrote a response which reads like this: “Professor Hegde strikes again.And he rarely misses the target. I remember the time, back in the Fatherland, when doctors were fibbers. Not only did they talk in Latin with an occasional Greek twist thrown in for difficult patients; they actually painted rosy pictures of the future for doomed patients. There were far too many experts in medicine in post-WW II Germany and most were taken seriously, which was probably due to the need for paternal guidance that was felt by nearly all survivors of a lost war. So, some preached that lying to a patient was a strict no, no. Others maintained that a patient's immunity card house would surely collapse if the truth were told. From the chaos sprang a new order: Always tell the truth. The consequences be damned.Hope cannot be taken away, my father used to say, and many were doing just that in a slipshod, hurried manner.When I saw my first wart fade within days after the application ofone drop of dandelion milk during a full moon I became a believer in the power of the Placebo. And how right Professor Hegde is when he points his finger (bone?) at the monster that is so alive and well, the Nocebo.We have a choice:We can tell a patient that their test results are very bad and to go home and get their affairs in order. And, even if not asked,to give them so many months to live as if we were handing out a prescription. Or, we can tell them that their illness is very, very serious BUT wewill, with their help throw everything that has ever shown results, anywhere in the world, at the problem. Faith in the doctor, like faith in general, is all about things hoped for. Take this hope away and you may be politically correct. But so are those physicians who believe in euthanasia." (BMJ 2011; 342:d20530) Herbert like thinkers are rare these days.
I wonder if there are people out there having more experience than I have about the gravity of the nocebo effect as my main job in the last quarter century has been to cater to patient’s fear of being given a deadly prognosis by their specialists in two areas, cardiology, my special interest and, cancer, the inevitable curse on mankind. This piece was stimulated after I came back from my neighbour’s house that just died from a fibro sarcoma of the vertebral canal area. The definite death warrant given by his cancer specialist almost killed him about a couple of years ago. He was told that he will not last more than three months at the most! After lots of hours of psychotherapy and symptomatic Ayurvedic treatment at a good centre the man lived with his people for a good two years pain free and doing most of what he wanted to do including his family’s cloth business. What worries me even now is how on earth did his learned cancer specialist realise that he will live only for three months? There is no way scientifically. Quantum physics shows the futility of future predictions as the future is yet to be born; human system does not follow the linear laws anyway. We are warned by physicists not to predict the unpredictable future of patients but, who listens? (BMJ 1991; 303: 1565)
In cardiology, thanks to the monetary fascism, we are deadly. The way our young catheter pushers predict the hapless victims’ future is something that has to be seen to be believed. They show the patient their gadget, the angiogram of the epicardial coronary vessels and tell the patient and his relatives that “this vessel is 100% blocked. If you do not have it angioplastied right away I cannot even guarantee that you will reach home alive!” I would be happy to angiogram the doctor himself and give him that kind of prognosis what would happen to him? The fear thus generated (nocebo effect) could really kill that patient. Cancer is equally bad if not worse. They are dead sure about the life span of each patient looking at their biopsy report as if the latter gives them a holistic picture of their disease. These nocebo specialists who abound in many other fields deliberately generate fear to catch their prey into their web-disease mongering. One could fool some people for sometime and many  people for a while but the truth will emerge sooner than later to tell you that you cannot fool all people for all times. Before that happens and patients leave us like rats leaving a sinking ship we better be warned. While money is your good friend make truth your better friend to be a healer first and businessman next.  Doctor has a great responsibility to his patients. Of course, medical ethics is long forgotten. The components of doctoring that are lost these days are common sense and logic.We better learn from history as otherwise we will be condemned to relive history.

“I mean some doctor told me I had six months to live and I went to his funeral.”
                            Keith Richards.

Medical frontier

3D Tissue to repair damaged heart

Guwahati: Scientists at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Guwahati have fabricated a 3D cardiac tissue patch using silk protein membranes seeded with heart muscle cells. The patch can potentially be used for regenerating damaged heart tissue.
“The 3D patch that we fabricated can be implanted at the site of damage to help the heart regain normal function. It can also be used for sealing holes in the heart,” says Biman Mandal from the Department of Biosciences and Bioengineering, IIT Guwahati, who led the research.
Cardiac tissue gets permanently damaged when oxygen supply is reduced or cut off during a heart attack. The damaged portion gets scarred and does not contract and relax, which over time leads to a change in the shape of the heart and reduced pumping capacity.
While currently available grafts fail to mimic the structure and the function of the native heart tissue as well as maintain high cell numbers, the patch developed by the IIT Guwahati researchers scores over these on many counts. The results were published in the Journal of Materials Chemistry B.
The team led by Prof. Mandal tested both mulberry (Bombyx mori) and non-mulberry (Antheraea assama) silk to fabricate the membrane. Silk proteins extracted from raw silk were used for fabricating the membrane by using a mould. The nano-groove structure on the mould was transferred to the silk membrane and this helped guide the heart muscle to grow in a linear fashion and parallel to each other thus mimicking the heart tissue structure. “We focused on developing a silk-based tissue engineered membrane which will allow the cardiac cells to grow while maintaining the structural anisotropy,” says Prof. Mandal.
Heart cell lines and cells taken from the heart tissue were used for seeding the silk membrane. The presence of certain cell-binding protein sequences (RGD motifs) and greater surface roughness of the non-mulberry silk, which is endemic to north-east India (locally called muga silk), facilitated better anchorage and cell binding. “The cells grew and proliferated, filling the membrane 7-10 days after it was seeded,” he says.
As heart tissue continuously contracts and relaxes, the engineered tissue should have good elasticity. “The muga silk exhibited good elasticity and mechanical strength comparable to native heart tissue as we used only 2% silk proteins to make the membrane,” says Shreya Mehrotra, Department of Biosciences and Bioengineering and first author of the paper. “When tested on mice, we found the muga silk was immunologically compatible and hence not rejected by the immune system,” she adds.
The single membranes with proliferating cells were then stacked one over the other to form a 3D patch. “In 5-6 days, the cells present on top of the membrane bound to the membrane above it leading to the layers sticking to each other,” Prof. Mandal says.
“Stacking the membranes to form a 3D patch overcomes the drawbacks of current scaffolds used for cardiac tissue engineering in terms of creating a high cell dense anisotropic patch, a foremost requirement for this tissue,” he stresses.
The silk in the patch supports the cells till the newly formed cardiac tissue integrates with the native heart tissue and degrades once the integration takes place. “This method is better than the conventional direct delivery of cardiac cells to repair the damaged portion of the heart as the cells get washed out from the injected site,” says Ms. Mehrotra.
The team will carry out animal studies in collaboration with AIIMS.



Anand Teltumbde

The Constitution of India, besides guaranteeing to all citizens basic civil and political rights and fundamental freedoms, has special provisions directed at the practice of caste discrimination over a range of situations, from access to public places to state employment to admission at all educational institutions. All forms of untouchability and forced labour stand abolished. There are also positive duties imposed on the state to redress imbalances due to past injustices against untouchables: reservations and 'beneficial discrimination', or simply affirmative action, come under these. Indeed, in its governance, the state is enjoined to 'promote with special care the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections of the people, and in particular of the Scheduled Castes (SCs) and the Scheduled Tribes (STs), and to protect them from social injustice and all forms of exploitation.' All this is however limited by Article 355, which states that the efficiency of the administration is not to be sacrificed in the implementation of these provisions.
To bolster these constitutional measures, India has passed several laws:
•The Protection of Civil Rights (Anti-Untouchability) Act, 1955, punishes offences that amount to the observance of untouchability.
•The Bonded Labour (Abolition) Act, 1976, aims at the release of bonded labourers (invariably dalits and adivasis, working in slave-like conditions in order to pay off a debt to a privileged caste employer) by cancelling any outstanding debt and prohibiting the creation of new bondage agreements.
•The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, known also as the PoA Act, recognizes eighteen crimes as atrocities if committed against a dalit or an adivasi; among these are: violence against women, dispossession of land, mischief by fire and destruction of property. Indian Penal Code (IPC) offences carrying a punishment of ten years imprisonment are punishable with imprisonment for life if committed against those the Act provides for. In 1995, Rules were framed under the Act to strengthen the investigation process and make provision for the payment of compensation.
•The Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act, 1993. A special law was considered necessary to deal with the most distressing discrimination based on work and descent. Officially, there are an estimated 800,000 people, mainly women, who are engaged in cleaning dry latrines using the most primitive methods. The law itself describes this as a 'dehumanizing practice' and is intended to make it obligatory to convert dry latrines into water-seal latrines. For the implementation of the Act, the National Commission for Safai Karamcharis, instituted in 1997 to review the implementation of the Act, found in its report of that year that manual scavengers are 'totally cut off from the mainstream of progress and are still subjected to the worst kind of oppression and indignities'. What is more pathetic is the fact that manual scavenging is still largely a hereditary occupation. Safai Karamcharis are no doubt the most oppressed and disadvantaged section of the population. There is unfortunate evidence that manual scavengers are considered untouchable by other untouchables.
On paper, this is certainly an impressive list of state measures, some of which have definitely impacted the practice of untouchability. However, this falls far short of what is required to deal with the magnitude of the problem. Caste-based discrimination continues to be pervasive and frequently manifests as an ugly atrocity. A recent study undertaken in this regard notes:
Like other institutions, caste and untouchability-based discrimination in the Indian society has undergone change. The practice of untouchability and resultant discrimination has reduced in the public sphere, like panchayat offices, schools, use of public roads, public transport, health and medical services, services of shops (for buying goods) and services rendered by the tailor, barber, eating places and tea shops in large villages and urban areas. But even here discrimination in various subtle forms prevail.
Coming nearly four decades after the Constitution was established, the PoA Act has been the most important measure with regard to atrocities on dalits. Unlike its predecessor, the 1955 Civil Rights Act, which only concerned itself with superficial humiliations such as verbal abuse, the PoA Act is a tacit acknowledgement by the state that caste relations are defined by violence, both incidental and systemic. The Act was promulgated with extremely radical and noble objectives:
Despite various measures to improve the socio-economic conditions of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, they remained vulnerable. They are denied a number of civil rights. They are subjected to various offences - indignities, humiliation and harassment. They have, in several brutal incidents, been deprived of their life and property. Serious crimes are committed against them for various historical, social and economic reasons. . . . When they assert their rights and resist practices of untouchability against them or demand statutory minimum wages or refuse to do any bonded and forced labour, the vested interests try to cow them down and terrorize them . . . Of late, there has been an increase in the disturbing trend of commission of certain atrocities like making the Scheduled Caste person eat inedible substances like human excreta and attacks on and mass killings of helpless Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes and rape of women belonging to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. Under the circumstances, the existing laws like the Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955, and the normal provisions of the Indian Penal Code have been found to be inadequate to check these crimes. A special legislation to check and deter crimes against them committed by non-Scheduled Cast; and non-Scheduled Tribes has, therefore, become necessary.
The PoA Act proved to be a pioneer in many ways. Providing severe punitive action not only to the perpetrators of atrocities but also to persons in the bureaucracy guilty of errors of omission and commission in abetting them, it gave dalits vital ammunition in the form of legal redress to violence. But, although it gained a quick reputation as an Act with teeth because of its stringent provisions, and appeared to be a powerful and precise weapon, in practice the Act has suffered from a near-complete failure in implementation.
The essential obstacles to implementation come at the level of the lowest rungs of the police and the bureaucracy that form the primary mode of interaction between the state and society in rural areas. Policemen have displayed a consistent unwillingness to register offences under the Act, a reluctance that stems from prejudice. There is also gross ignorance in the enforcement machinery as revealed by a 1999 study, which found nearly a quarter of government officials responsible for enforcing the Act unaware of its very existence. Even after overcoming these initial hurdles, the complainant faces much bigger obstacles during investigation at the lower tiers of the judicial system. As such, the results, right from the beginning, have been poor. In 1998, out of 147,000 PoA cases pending in the courts, only 31,011 had been brought to trial.
Even if cases do make it to trial, the Act suffers from abysmal rates of conviction. In 2010, a report prepared by the 'National Coalition for Strengthening PoA Act', taking stock of twenty years of this law, cited NCRB's 'Crime in India' data to prove that not much had changed. According to this report, of the 457,983 cases registered between 1997 and 2007 trial was completed on 317,492 cases, of which convictions were handed in 140,491 cases. The average conviction rate was a poor 30.3 percent. In the same period, the conviction rate for cases registered under the Indian Penal Code was over 42 percent.
This is a marked improvement on the data provided by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment (MSIE) report, where, of the total PoA cases filed in 2002, only 21.72 percent were disposed of, and of these, a mere 2.31 percent resulted in conviction. Table  provided the latest data on crimes registered under the PoA Act against SCs from 2004 and 2008.
Table shows that barring a minor decrease in the rate of murder, there has been a significant rise in recorded crimes against dalits from 2004 to 2008 under various categories. Overall, there has been a 25 percent rise in crime against dalits during this five year period. While judicial bias against dalits is rampant, as is frequently borne out in court verdicts, it is just one cause for the low conviction rate. Judicial delays have also significantly marred the Act’s effectiveness. The long lapse between the registry of a case and the actual trial often causes witnesses, usually poor and vulnerable to intimidation from aggressors, to turn hostile, thus weakening the case. The long wait also results in many plaintiffs losing interest. Read together with a strong tendency not to register crimes under this Act. This rising trend becomes quite alarming.
There is also no monitoring system in place to ensure the Act’s effective implementation. The ministry concerned produces sketchy annual reports that do not even appear to check the varacity of data. Then there are the National Commissions for SCs and STs (NCSC and NCST), which though not statutorily mandated, appears to monitor the implementation of the Act but cannot effectively do so because of their lack of resources and motivation. Designed to be powerless, they receive and investigate complaints under their powers as civil courts but cannot enforce their findings commissions, it may be said to their credit, have been documenting lacunae and making recommendations for action to the central government, but there is little heed paid, for the centre passes the blame to the states.
Much of the failure of the Act in meeting its objectives is attributed to prejudice in the implementing machinery, viz., the police, the prosecution and the judiciary. What is missed is the state’s fundamental lapse in not creating the structures stipulated in the Act which could curb many of these prejudices. The PoA Act rules of 1995 mandate each state government to constitute a panel of senior advocates from which a victim could choose his pleader, to nominate nodal PoA Act officers for each district at the level of Secretary to the State Government and to constitute special courts implementation structure are not in place in most states even today.
Although the Act mandated the creation of special courts precisely to circumvent the problem of judicial delay, very few states have actually complied. Existing sessions or district courts have been notified as special courts, while still being asked to process their usual case loads. Since many other Acts also require the creation of special courts, the sessions courts are often overloaded with a number of different kinds of 'priority' cases, ensuring that none of these receives the attention they are mandated to receive.
The provision of special courts was also meant to make the judicial process easily accessible to dalits and adivasis. Instead, with sessions courts doing double duty as special courts, a false impression has been created that an aggrieved dalit or adivasi can approach the court for justice directly without going through the familiar but hostile channel of the local police and the judiciary. The Act does not give powers to such courts for the direct admission of complaints for a designated special court cannot take cognizance of an offence without its being committed to it by a magistrate. A dalit's complaint must therefore go through the course established under India's Criminal Procedure Code, which has been a major hurdle for dalits in getting justice.
The PoA Act has addressed the dispensation of justice in a fairly detailed manner, but what it has failed to deal with is the problem of 'rehabilitation'. It makes mention of rehabilitation but has no specifics to address it with. The very premise of the Act is that victims of atrocities need special provisions unlike victims of other crimes. The victims of atrocities and their families need financial and other logistical support to make them economically self-reliant, without their having to seek wages or employment from the very people who abuse and oppress them. Also, it would be the duty of the state to immediately take over the educational needs of the children of such victims and provide for the cost of their food and maintenance. However, the Act does not extend any consideration to such aspects.