The Elephant in the Room – Silence on Class Issues in Indian Politics : Sanjay Kumar

Guest Post by SANJAY KUMAR

Ramesh has been working as a daily wager in a Government of India office in Delhi for ten years. He is one of the army of peons, office assistants, security guards, gardeners, and cleaning staff which government offices, city municipalities, hospitals, schools and colleges of the metropolis employ regularly. He is a graduate, but gets the wage of an unskilled worker. He is among the fortunate ones who at least get government mandated minimum wage. Most private employers in the city violate the minimum wage act; either they pay less than the mandated amount, or make daily wagers work more than eight hours without any overtime.

Ramesh was pleasantly surprised this April when he noted a more than 30% increase in his wages. His daily wage that stood at Rs 360/ earlier was now Rs 513/. This was due to a Government of Delhi notification issued on 3rd March, 2017. The news was covered in the inner pages of some newspapers. Most TV news channels ignored it. Hence, it is not surprising that employees like Ramesh who are not associated with any organsiation of workers were not aware of this increase. Continue reading “The Elephant in the Room – Silence on Class Issues in Indian Politics : Sanjay Kumar”

Who will get the hot roti in the Delhi assembly elections?

My friend Guddi has a great story about a Gujjar wedding she attended recently in Ghaziabad. It was a typically chaotic event, marked accurately by the swirling crowds around the dinner stalls. If Gujjar weddings are chaotic and the dinner doubly so, the scene around the tandoor is triply compounded chaos. Barely concealed competition amongst overmuscled Gujjar men in overtight pants for that precious hot roti ensures that none but the most Hobbesian men remain, circling the tandoor like hungry wolves, periodically thrusting their plate forward like fencing champions and shouting obscenities at the harried servers. In such a heart-stopping scenario, a young server had as Guddi recounts, figured out the formula to keep everybody from killing each other (or him). As soon as the roti would be pulled out of the tandoor, seductively golden brown and sizzling, this man would hold it high up with his tongs so everybody could see, then in an elaborate dance-like ritual, touch each of the empty extended plates in front of him with the roti, and finally, in a mysterious but authoritative decision, place it respectfully on a randomly selected plate. Repeat with every single roti that emerged from the tandoor. A hushed silence followed by nervous laughter followed every such flourish.

Continue reading “Who will get the hot roti in the Delhi assembly elections?”

Aam Aadmi Mohalla Clinics Set to Shut Thanks to L-G and BJP Controlled Municipal Bodies: Jyoti Punwani

[The Superintendent of Tihar Jail, went a joke recently circulating on WhatsApp, had staked his claim for the Chief Ministership of Delhi, because he had the requisite number of MLAs! The mainstream (Big) media has had a field day, reporting with great ‘earnestness’, what even the ordinary person on the street can see is an orchestrated move to harass and discredit the AAP. A leading paper even did a status report on all the cases against AAP MLAs a couple of days ago, as if it was simply ‘reporting’ (with a straight face). Some day, hopefully we will be able to come out with a more detailed analysis of the ways in which sections of the big media have – even in the person/s of their most benign representatives and columnists – played footsie with the regime at the Centre. This dispensation and its utterly unprincipled and unethical ways are truly unprecedented and this phase of our history has emerged as the dirtiest chapter of parliamentary democracy in India. In the meantime, online news forums have kept the tradition of actual reportage and fairness alive. Here are some extracts from a report by JYOTI PUNWANI, courtesy The Hoot (linked below), on the mohalla clinics and the strange politics of the media that surrounds reportage around such measures undertaken by the Delhi government.]

The AAP’s mohalla clinic experiment drew the attention of The Washington Post. Its article (`What New Delhi’s free clinics can teach America’, March 11, 2016) was also carried by the Chicago Tribune. A University of Southern California delegation came to study mohalla clinics  in July.

But our print media didn’t think this important experiment was anything special. Not all covered it; of those that did, some didn’t carry the report in all their editions….

The Indian Express carried a long report in April, after the second batch of clinics opened, in its Delhi edition (“In rented rooms across Delhi, part 2 of ‘mohalla’ clinic project takes off’’).  Livemint hada detailed report last month, after more than 100 clinics had opened (`Mohalla clinic: AAP offers affordable healthcare model at doorstep’); and earlier this week, The Hindu evaluated their performance in its Delhi edition (`A thousand promises of prompt health care’).

Among news websites, Newslaundry did a lively report immediately after the first clinic opened (`Mohalla clinics come to town’). In January, Catch News did a report  (`#MohallaClinics: AAP has diagnosed Delhi’s health problem. Can it cure it?’), and a follow-up in April after the second batch opened (`AAP Mohalla clinics: rented homes turn clinics, private docs appointed’).

A two-part article appeared in Scroll.in in May (`The clinic at your doorstep: How the Delhi government is rethinking primary healthcare…) Indeed, news websites, rather than newspapers, seem to have given the new experiment the space it deserves.

Going through the reports on mohalla clinics, it became clear that the possible removal of some of them was only the latest move against them. A few days before the NDMC issued this order, the Lieutenant General (LG) of Delhi had got into the act. Consider the sequence of events:

On August 5, the Delhi High Court ruled that the LG was the administrative head of the capital. After the judgment, Deputy CM Manish Sisodia specially requested Najeeb Jung not to transfer the Health and Education secretaries as these two bureaucrats were essential for the AAP’s new initiatives in these sectors. Continue reading “Aam Aadmi Mohalla Clinics Set to Shut Thanks to L-G and BJP Controlled Municipal Bodies: Jyoti Punwani”

Odd/even – A Baby Step, But a Step Nonetheless: Kaushik Chatterji

Guest post by KAUSHIK CHATTERJI

One January evening a couple of Delhi winters ago, I was at my doctor’s. During the routine examination, he discovered that my blood pressure was rather high: 160/100 to be precise. I asked him what I should do; he said, “walk regularly, reduce salt intake and come back next week”. So I did. The reading remained the same, so I asked him again what I should do; again he said, “walk regularly, reduce salt intake and come back next week”. This went on for a few more weeks. Finally, after five or six weeks of consistently high readings, my doctor prescribed a medicine and added, “walk regularly, reduce salt intake and come back next week”.

Popping pills after an isolated high blood pressure reading is something no doctor worth his/her, er, salt would recommend. Instantaneous readings can vary wildly depending on a wide range of reasons – cold weather, a full bladder or the white coat. It is true of blood pressure; it is also true of air pollution. Its sources are many – from power plants to industries, from open burning of dried leaves to dust from construction sites, from vehicular emissions to road dust.

Continue reading “Odd/even – A Baby Step, But a Step Nonetheless: Kaushik Chatterji”

Sex Workers And Women’s Organisations Condemn DCW Chair Swati Maliwal’s Statement On Sex Work

[While in complete agreement with the statement posted below, I would like to add a personal note. I am a citizen of Delhi who believes that in its short stint in office so far, and despite every attempt by the central government to paralyze its functioning, the Aam Admi Party has taken decisive, creative and positive steps in several fields – education, health, and above all in its strong assertion that water is a natural resource that should not be treated as a commodity.

Nevertheless, it is unfortunately increasingly clear that on gender related issues, AAP’s functionaries exhibit the deepest conservatism – from Kejriwal’s speech on March 8th, which thanked his wife for keeping “his” home running, to Somnath Bharti on making Delhi safe enough for even “beautiful women” to be out at night, as if sexual violence is a tribute and compliment to the beauty of women, to Swati Maliwal’s aligning herself with the deeply conservative abolitionist position on sex work.

This conservatism is at odds not only with “elite activists”, as AAP may think, but with the views of the majority of ordinary people, who poured out into the streets after December 16th 2012, and sent scores of petitions to the Justice Verma Committee, expressing basically the belief in the rights of all women to public spaces at all times, and condemning victim blaming; sex workers are ordinary people too, and so are housewives, who even while they run homes with devotion and efficiency, are not unaware of the unfairness of the shared domestic space being considered to belong to the husband and “his” family. A March 8th message could have recognized women in their different roles, as housewives, domestic servants, CEOs, political activists. As a party that has learnt from other social movements, AAP needs to urgently start a conversation with women’s organizations of different kinds, including sex workers’ organizations.]

The statement follows:

The National Network of Sex Workers and women’s organisations in India strongly condemn the observations and statement of Delhi Commission for Women (DCW), Ms. Swati Maliwal calling sex work and prostitution akin to “rape” and calling for its “eradication”. We call on her to immediately withdraw her statement and tender an unconditional apology to the all women in sex work, whose dignity has been impacted by her observations.

The Honorable Supreme Court has recognized the need to ensure that sex workers are able to live a life of dignity. The Court set up a panel to discuss “Conditions conducive for sex workers to live with dignity in accordance with the provisions of Article 21 of the Constitution.” (Budhadev Karmaskar vs. Government of West Bengal).

 The Chairperson of DCW should do her homework before launching into a campaign that has not engaged with the ongoing debates and dialogues to recognize the rights of adult consenting workers to remain in sex work and ensure that their human rights and dignity are protected, such a short sighted and uninformed perspective demeans the office of a Commission set up to protect the rights and dignity of women. Continue reading “Sex Workers And Women’s Organisations Condemn DCW Chair Swati Maliwal’s Statement On Sex Work”

Delhi Police Blames AAP for Gajendra Suicide – Remember Constable Tomar’s Death?

Reports have it that Delhi Police has blamed the AAP for the death of Gajendra Singh at its rally recently – not surprisingly, as we had noted in our previous post on the suicide. We had suggested in that post there seemed to have been prior instructions to the Police from the Central government, under which it functions, not to act. And the reports today about Delhi Police reporting to their higher ups only confirm our suspicions.

Here is what one of the reports has to say:

In a letter to the Home Ministry, the Delhi Police has claimed that the mob including Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) workers incited Gajendra Singh to commit suicide at a party rally in Delhi. The letter also claims that untrained volunteers climbed the tree which led to Gajendra falling off.

The report states that AAP volunteers and leaders were clapping and raising slogans which incited him to engage in more dangerous acts. It also adds on to say that though police requested AAP volunteers to stop provoking him through clapping and solganeering, neither the volunteers nor the leaders present on the state acceded to the request info.

Another report in a channel known for its BJP connections, says:

As per the Delhi Police report, AAP leaders were making provocative speeches, and the crowd present at the rally venue instigated and provoked Gajendra to commit suicide. The report also alleged that AAP did not heed to the police’s request to change the rally’s venue to Ram Lila Maidan.

Continue reading “Delhi Police Blames AAP for Gajendra Suicide – Remember Constable Tomar’s Death?”

An inability to grieve

Sarcasm in the  moment of death? For this you need to be evil. For, the first human reaction to death is silence. Even in the case of a normal death. It suddenly reminds us of our own mortality. Impermanence of our existence. When death is not normal, when it is an accident, a suicide or a murder, it shocks us. Or, it should. A life cut short unnaturally creates a void in us. A sense of unfulfillment. And our gaze turns inwards. We tend to become reflective. Words do not come easily to you. On  most of the occasions they sound false, even obscene. Therefore, we console the grieving not though words but by touching them. It is not easy to make sense of death, in whichever form it strikes us. Continue reading “An inability to grieve”