Despite the controversies of demonetization, the central government has again succeeded in deftly hijacking the minds of Indian citizens through a riveting speech made by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. The budget seemed to be especially important given third quarter statistics which are filled with drawbacks of the demonetization policy. Thus we had a budget speech completely focused on digitalization of a country where the ‘digital divide’ stubbornly persists. As the budget theme (Transform, Energize, and Clean) attempted to glorify existing conditions, there were unsurprisingly no transformations in the overall economic framework except the expected tax reduction. In the zeal for “energizing”, the budget had clean forgotten the needs of the informal sector including agricultural sector. Even though the government provocatively claimed that it had cleaned up black money, it revealed no data regarding the amount of black money actually mopped up from the market.
On New Year’s Eve, the Prime Minister in his much-anticipated speech amongst other commitments made a vague announcement of a “nation-wide” scheme for maternity entitlements for pregnant women.
But the PM has not spelled out any specifics – neither the timeframe;budget nor its universal coverage as obligated in the National Food Security Act (NFSA) since2013. Clause 4B of the law already promises all pregnant and lactating women maternity entitlements of atleastRs 6000 for each child. But for three years, the central government didn’t honour this legal obligation. Though better late than never, re-packaging this legal right as the PM’s New Year gift is disingenuous.
Further media reports, from December indicate that the Finance Ministry may hike the budget by a mere 20 percent (instead of the sevenfold increase necessary for universalisation) and that too restrict the benefit to only women Below the Poverty Line (BPL). This would be in complete violation of the NFSA.
But there seems to bearecurring trend to subvert the law. For the last three years, this government continued with the pilot Indira Gandhi MatritvaSahyogYojana (IGMSY) in just 53 districts of the country despite repeated demands by civil society activists and women from across the country. This year, Right to Food Campaign activists from across India even sent postcards to the PM to remind him of the state’s obligation.
In September 2015, even the Supreme Court issued notices to the Centre on the non-implementation of maternity entitlements under the NFSA.
While the government did initially enhance the IGMSY allocations from Rs 4000 to Rs. 6000 to be in tune with the NFSA, neither the coverage nor the budget was enhanced which languishes at Rs. 400 crores. Instead to ensure that all eligible women are covered as per the NFSA, Rs 16,000 crores is necessary. A real test of the Prime Minister’s announcement will be in the fine print of the allocations in next month’s budget.
Remember the FYUP debacle? Remember (as repeatedly written about on Kafila as elsewhere) that it was the latest in a long series of badly-conceived, mindlessly-borrowed and forcibly-implemented ‘educational reforms’ that practically crippled universities around the country? And remember a certain Rev. Valson Thampu, authoritarian, controversy-soaked Principal of St. Stephens College and eager soldier for the reforms? Well Thampu, now-retired, has thrown his weight against demonetisation these days in a set of articles on The Daily O. Now the thing is, almost everything Thampu finds objectionable about monetary reform, can be said about educational reform.
No, literally, every single thing.
So I simply took his post and replaced some key words, to produce a post about education. I know, I know, it’s not nice to do this, especially when you know, he speaketh the truth on demonetisation and all. But it is too wonderful an opportunity to pass up, to not use Thampu’s own eloquent words to say, yet again, what he has steadfastly refused to listen to in the past. Besides, as I say above, this is the laziest blog post I have ever had to write – that’s always an incentive.
His article in the original can be read here.
POLITICS HIGHER EDUCATION | 5-minute 7-minute read | 22-12-2016 23-12-2006 VALSON THAMPU SUNALINI KUMAR
I want to make one thing clear. There is a difference in between “short-term inconvenience” or pain or difficulty, however you want to call it, and a welfare shock.
Take a very simple empiric: 80% of families in India that are above the poverty line in one year but fall below it in another, do so because of one illness, to one family member, in one year. Let that sink in please: one, one, one. That’s it. (see Aniruddh Krishna’s excellent ‘One Illness Away‘ to read more). This is the reality of the vulnerability of what is so dismissively called the “cash economy.” You can replace illness with wedding or funeral and the story still holds. Welfare shocks, as they are called, break cycles of very tenuous security and small economic gains, pushing families back into cycles of debt and depleted savings. They do it because we don’t have enough public welfare protections to guard against small risks and life events – domestic savings are the only floor.
The thing about demonetisation done in this way, where no planning accounts for the “short-term” contraction of the cash economy in a place where 60-80% of workers work informally, half get paid in cash, and one in every five of them work in cash on daily/weekly wages (see RBI, NSS data, or the NCEUS report on the unorganised sector), then you aren’t pushing a “short-term inconvenience,” you risk causing a welfare shock.
The recent order by the I&B Ministery to NDTV India to suspend broadcast for 24 hours drew a range of reactions from outrage to bewilderment. The supporters of the ruling party were of course triumphant – Subhash Chandra of Zoo, er sorry Zee News was so excited he wrote a whole article on this. But even outside the partisan responses, many well-meaning self-declared neutral janta declared that national security is not a matter to be trifled with, and that it was right for the government to admonish NDTV. Wait, ADMONISH?! Never mind that the government’s allegation of NDTV having compromised national security simply doesn’t survive a fact-check. Here is how the largest section of (English-speaking, online) popular opinion sees it.
This token punishment was good and important to show that someone is there who is monitoring the media who always thinks behind the mask of freedom of expression that they can do anything in the world. So it is important that the Government of the Day makes its presence felt otherwise there will more chaos and issues like the UPA government where everyone was going around like headless chicken and no one is bothered or cared if a Govt of Man Mohan Singh existed or NO. Even small timers like the Delhi CM AK and his Guru Anna were threatening and taking morcha in Ram leela Maidan every second day and doing expose every third day putting the Govt. of India on the back foot and in defensive mode running for shelter. Now Arvind Kejriwala and his team is running for shelter as every day a Delhi MLA is shown the door of the JAIL and Anna Hazare has been locked in a shell in his hometown watching the sunrise and the sunset. This means business, It is important that Govt of the India should show it exist otherwise human mentality is that then everyone shows that everyone exist and everyone is the BOSS. Cannot allow to happen like this MESS. PM Modi please keep it up and keep the heat on this reckless media, on AK and his gang, on others who are trying to show unnecessary activism and also the Judiciary, keep all the appointments on hold and let them slog day and night. Show who is the BOSS ! Show who is the BOSS !
Yes, Modi ji, show who is the BOSS!
This is a guest post by KARTIK MAINI
The performative art of choice, like most habitations of discourse, is deeply political. To oppose the mythical creature of the Uniform Civil Code (UCC), as heralded by the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) and its parent votaries, is to find oneself in the august company of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMLB); both part, or so I must argue, of the same physics of power. Once again, if one does indeed trace the history of debating the suttee in what is now called the ‘colonial’ period, the spectre of representation (or lack of) haunts us: women are merely the grounds of debate, and the female body a site of contestation in the name of faith. As creatures of active agency, the figure of the woman disappears – not into a pristine nothingness, as Gayatri Spivak cautioned us, but into a violent shuttling of displaced figuration. It is, therefore, time to ask of ourselves the fundamentality of thought. What is the politics of rendering unintelligible the variegated nature of religious traditions and their pronouncements unto ‘uniformity,’ particularly so through the rationale of national integrity in a time when supposed dangers to the same are declared seditious? Is it not our collective responsibility to be virulently against the employment of the expressed and expressive agony of women to insidious political ends? What, finally, of those who lie at the interstices of ‘men,’ ‘women,’ and the compulsory heterosexual matrix?
Even in precluding Shayara Bano’s infamous claim on the immediate necessity of all, especially Muslims, to say ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai,’ the communal in the demand for the Uniform Civil Code is an effortless inscription. For one, the Hindu Code, which seeks the creation of uniform laws governing all Hindus, is itself not so – embedded in its semblance of pervasive homogeneity is heterogeneous pliability to the customs and traditions of different communities, as also the restriction in its uniform applicability to social groups that are now designated as the Scheduled Tribes. While Article 44 of the Indian Constitution exhorts the nation state to create a ‘uniform civil code’ for all, the Constituent Assembly had no perspectival clarity on what it would look like; B.R. Ambedkar elucidates that such a code ‘need not necessarily be mandatory.’ In fact, beyond the obvious ambiguity of Article 44, the glorious prospect of the Uniform Civil Code only finds silence, and in not being addressed in specificity, is subsequently regaled with the obstructions of political autonomy, detailed as they are in the articles and schedules on Kashmir, Nagaland, Mizoram, Assam, Tripura, and Meghalaya. In other words, the binary between the Uniform Civil Code and communalism, between Hindutva and the mythical uniformity that must now be forged against this ‘problem’ of diversity is a fundamentally false one – there is no independent discursive existence of the Uniform Civil Code, if the circular ruins of its debate are to tell us anything, besides its violent deployment against the personal laws of the Muslim community, Muslims in particular, and as it may now be said, against the idea of India in general. The indivisibility of the undivided Hindu family, tangential, if not absent, as it has been to the contention on the Uniform Civil Code, is a loud, almost resounding declaration of its essential purpose; to collapse unto its exercise the subjective agency of the patriarchal paradigm of ‘women’ collapses its very structure.
In a strongly worded missive, Noorjehan Safia Niaz of the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA) expounds, ‘We condemn the attempt to politicize the debate by mixing up of the abolition of triple talaq – the demand for whose abolition we strongly reiterate, with the move by the Law Commission seeking views from the public on the Uniform Civil Code. These are two separate issues, and should not be treated as similar.’ Of the many meanings that azaadi has now taken, this statement of the BMMA is instructive in the difficulty of politics: as Muslim women today stand at the altar of the supposedly emancipatory modern state, complete with its accompanying structures of governmentality, their courageous struggle against the maulana-headed jamaats has reached a befitting crescendo. ‘The court is our jamaat,’ they declare, in Jyoti Punwani’s eloquent piece. Truly, the progressive thrust of judgements as Shamim Ara v. State of U.P.(2002) has faltered in its promise of remedying the inscription of subordination in the Muslim personal law, and revolution, as we know it, is in the offing. It is not my case, or, for that matter, of progressive groups that are now in the line of fire for having ‘lost the plot,’ to stand against this calling, indeed, this making of history. But history is replete with its uncomfortable lessons. It tells us tales of progression hindered by violent appropriation, of causes obfuscated by the malevolent reasons of statecraft, and of representation that fails to present its subjects. To struggle against the patriarchy of laws, then, is a struggle of its own, and therein is the opposition to the Uniform Civil Code. Historians are forgiving. History, and we need not search too arduously, is not.
Yet, appreciating the struggle that asks of the state must not presuppose an unproblematic depiction of the state itself. Indeed, if the state legitimises, then it must also render illegitimate. Such has been the case of a people who are, in a very particular expression of otherness, called the queer. Even as the Indian state, in all its time of being a modern, independent republic, debates the realm of the personal, it is our collective ignominy that what is debated as the personal eludes the queer. It is a denial, not merely of recognition, but of personhood. As the queer have sought to enter state registers of legitimation, they have had to confront the always already heterosexual nature of kinship; the governmentality manifest in personal laws and cultural politics, a totalising pontification of the compulsory heterosexual matrix, the violent institution of marriage, and, invariably, of monogamy. To queer the question of personal laws, even of the infamous Uniform Civil Code, is thus to challenge their fundamental premise: the systematic, seamless reproduction of heterosexuality, patriarchal relations, and above all, of violence. Is not, then, the making of queerness a simultaneous unmaking of how we debate the personal?
[Kartik Maini is at St Stephen’s College, Delhi]