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NGOs

Print edition : Jul 16, 2010 T+T-

THE involvement of NGOs in developmental activity is an issue that deserves a debate (Give NGOs a chance, July 2). What were once known as voluntary agencies are now non-governmental organisations. This transformation is deeper than a mere change of name. It is associated with another important transformation that of the government going from being service provider to a mere facilitator. Both changes are linked to the ideology of neoliberalism and the withdrawal of the state from public service and development. The inefficiency of the public sector and the bureaucracy are always used as the reason for the withdrawal of the state. Corruption is woven into the system. But the government still has a definite role to play in society. The public service provided by the government is owned by all, at least in theory. Politicians, however corrupt, have to face society at least once in five years. But what about the NGOs? To whom are they responsible? How valid is their claim of representing people's interests? The term public-private partnership is used as a facade for privatisation. The government makes the investment and the private sector reaps the benefits. If NGOs, who are neither part of the democratic process, nor responsible to anybody, are allowed into to public sphere, it would be a disservice to the nation.

Bhopal

THE Cover Story on the Bhopal verdict clearly explained how Bhoposhima happened (July 2). The outrage that is being expressed now should have been articulated in February 1989 when the Supreme Court passed the judicial settlement orders. It is deplorable that it has taken more than 25 years for the nation and the government to wake up to the immense suffering of the victims caused by inadequate compensation, insufficient rehabilitation, unsatisfactory medical treatment, non-removal of the toxic waste, and so on.

IT is shocking that after taking over 25 years to deliver a verdict on the Bhopal gas disaster case, the judicial system only handed down a light punishment, which is not acceptable because it is not commensurate with the magnitude of the crime.

Since India is going to procure uranium, fuels and nuclear technology from the U.S. and elsewhere, it is important that necessary amendments are made to Section 304(A) of the Code of Criminal Procedure. The people of India will not forgive their politicians if they fail to learn lessons from this case.

OVER 25 years have passed and not much has been done to ensure justice for the victims of Bhopal, but politicians are already fighting among themselves about who helped Warren Anderson out of the country. The novel Animal ' s People by Indra Sinha is based on the Bhopal disaster and depicts how the victims suffered and were neglected.

THE verdict added insult to injury. Coming after 25 years, it makes a mockery of our judicial system. What was more shocking was the ease with which the accused got bail. One fervently hopes that Union Carbide will not have the last laugh.

THE common man never gets justice from politicians and moneyed people. It is a hard fact of Indian democracy that in spite of a hue and cry and lots of media attention, politicians are seldom punished for any offence, minor or serious, and the truth never comes out.

IT is really shocking to learn that the prime accused in the world's worst industrial catastrophe have got off scot-free. The victims' nightmarish years have gone largely unnoticed and all their efforts to get justice have been in vain. It appears that the Indian judicial system also lost its vision in the catastrophe.

JUSTICE is only for powerful people. The U.S. got $20 billion in compensation from BP soon after the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. In Bhopal, the victims are still struggling for justice.

FROM Himanshu Ranjan Sharma's interview, one gets the impression that India is on a very weak wicket as far as getting compensation from UCC is concerned. According to him, over the decades, UCC has been propagating falsehoods in the U.S. about the disaster.

India should make a concerted effort to undo the wrong impressions in the U.S. and make UCC and Anderson pay the price.

Israel

ISRAEL'S attack on the aid flotilla bound for Gaza and the killing of people, including a 19-year-old, was inhuman and should be condemned in the strongest terms (Massacre at sea, July 2). Humanitarian aid for Gaza should come under the banner of the U.N. It is not surprising that those who are clamouring for an independent and impartial probe into the attack are silent on subject of the unjust embargo imposed on the people of Gaza.

Census 2011

OBJECTIONS to a caste census on practical grounds are clearly misplaced as the National Commission for Backward Classes already has a list of Socially and Educationally Backward Classes and this can be supplemented with the list of all caste communities in each State compiled by the Anthropological Survey of India under its People of India project (Case for B.C. count, July 2).

This is not to deny that the listing of castes at the district level will pose some challenges. But these will not be any different in terms of either scale or complexity from problems encountered with other census categories, notably occupation, language and physical disability. And it must be said that social unity is more endangered by the existence of caste in society than by any exercise aimed at its enumeration.

The way to transcend caste is not to close one's eyes to it, but to look at it closely, identify it and neutralise its relationship with disadvantage and discrimination, and to discover how caste relates to other social divisions such as gender and class. This is what necessitates a caste-based census.

IN a recent landmark judgment on my public interest petition (W.P. No. 10090/2010) a Division Bench of the Madras High Court comprising Acting Chief Justice Elipe Dharmarao and Justice T. Sivagnanam directed the Union government to conduct a caste-based enumeration across the nation in Census 2011. The government has to implement the court's order or file a special leave petition before the Supreme Court.

Beggars

I CAN find no words to condemn the insensitive act of driving away beggars, vendors, and street-singers from the National Capital Region before the Commonwealth Games (War on beggars, July 2). The government has failed to banish poverty but intends to make it invisible to foreigners. Poverty cannot be swept under the carpet. It is visible everywhere and is the result of the lopsided economic policies of the government.

It may be recalled that during the Emergency, the Sanjay Gandhi brigade bulldozed many slums in Delhi to make the city beautiful. Even Satyajit Ray was condemned for marketing poverty through his widely acclaimed film Pather Panchali.

UPA-II

THERE are many reasons for the lackadaisical performance of the first year of the second term of the United Progressive Alliance government (Adrift and listless, June 18). It maybe the mindset that there is no alternative to the UPA or the lack of assertiveness and control by the Congress leadership on its Ministers and those of its allies. The writing on the wall is clear. Deliver or disintegrate.

On the positive side, the government's emphasis on developing the agriculture sector and backward regions in its maiden Budget of UPA-II is the only reiteration of its solidarity with the a am a d mi, but cannot be ignored.

THE people in South Block seem to be running out of ideas with respect to West Asia (Unipolar dilemmas, June 18). Maybe they are worried about annoying the U.S. The government should not forget that the U.S. cannot be trusted, even though Barack Obama may be a good man.

People's protest

IT was painful to read about the struggles of tribal people of Niyamgiri hills (Battle for survival, June 18). It is their right to resist the mining company's projects.

Football

IT is a pity that India, a nation of over a billion people and an economic power in the making, could not send 11 football players to South Africa, where players from smaller countries in Africa and Latin America and from impoverished North Korea are vying for the prestigious FIFA World Cup and are captivating spectators with their performances (Cup that cheers?, June 18).

CORRECTION

Nandanar was one of the 63 Saivaite saints, not Saivaite saint-poets as mentioned in the article "Rally for justice" (July 2) and also in the caption on page 108. The error made at the editing stage is regretted.

In the article "Legal perspectives" (July 2), the last sentence should read as follows: "Secondly, the framers denied devices of direct democracy to the people because these were not practical in a huge and diverse country like India and not because they considered the people immature."

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