Sunday, 4 November 2018

Poverty, human rights & dignity

Poverty is not an original state, nor are the poor the victims of their own faults and weaknesses. Nor is it due to shortcomings in personality or morality, or failures in family or upbringing. Poverty is about exclusion, physical and economic insecurity, fear of the future, a constant sense of vulnerability. Poverty is created by societies and governments. Poverty is experienced as individuals, family and communities. Poverty is embedded in complex of policies, interactions and relationships.
  • Poverty is self-sustaining. In the modern economy, once a person or group is caught in its trap, it is hard to escape the cycle of poverty. It destroys self-confidence and the capacity to organize collective action and response. 
  • Economic globalisation, which include the privatisation of state resources and functions, and the introduction of charges even for the most basic needs reinforce the cycle of poverty by cutting off possibilities of social mobility. 
  • A powerful economic and political class emerges on the back of this poverty, with no interest in social reform, creating further obstacles to equitable distribution of resources. In this way poverty leads to social exclusion.
  • Poverty negates the realisation or enjoyment of human rights. The purpose of human rights, a life in dignity, is rendered impossible by poverty. The daily struggles of the poor constantly humiliate them. 
  • There is no real possibility of poor people enjoying rights, whether civil and political or social, economic and cultural, without resources such as education, physical security, health, employment, property, participation, and due process - all of which poverty negates. In poverty there can be no control over one’s life chances or even everyday life.
  • Existence in hovels without the basic amenities of life allows no time or ability for self-reflection, essential for identity, self- realisation, or making moral judgments. Poverty generates habits of subservience and docility that denies the premise of the equality and dignity of all persons. 
  • Poverty also forces persons into slavery and bondage, and stories of parents selling children into slavery out of desperation are now common place in states like India, Bangladesh, and Nigeria - and many other parts of the world. 
  • A poor man cannot support his family and tends to draw away from it, burdening the wife with additional responsibilities to sustain the family.
  • Poverty creates or reinforces divisions within the family, in which the male members get priority over scarce family resources. In this way poverty subverts decent and fulfilling family life. 
  • Family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society which is entitled to protection by society and the state.
  • Poverty not only deprives and demeans the poor but also affects the affluent and society. It sharpens inequalities and leads to crime, law and order, as the poor resort to various forms of self-help to eke out a living, including thefts and robberies. Security becomes an obsession for the middle classes, turning their suburbs into fortresses. The slums that grow out of poverty breed diseases and environmental degradation that can scarcely be contained within the confines of the slums. 
  • In the modern age poverty poses a major threat to social consensus and political stability. Poverty erodes the moral fibre and the moral cohesion of a society. It destroys the self-confidence of the people caught in the cycle of poverty, and leads to the waste of resources. 
  • Ideology is used to justify the limits on the role of the state in providing social welfare. Disparities of opportunities and incomes have increased in recent years. The poor can make themselves heard only by irregular demonstrations, to limited effect. 
  • We need fundamental social and economic reforms to ensure all its residents a decent life in dignity which is so eminently within reach, based on its wealth and resources.


Dignity is defined as the quality or state of being worthy, honored, or esteemed. Dignity is as essential to human life as water, food, and oxygen. The stubborn retention of it, even in the face of extreme physical hardship, can hold a man’s soul in his body long past the point at which the body should have surrendered it. Without dignity, identity is erased. In its absence, men are defined not by themselves, but by their captors and the circumstances in which they are forced to live. Apartheid was a clear case of direct attacks on individuals’ dignity and this was not limited to a few individuals but on multiple generations of native South Africans. How an individual reacts when his or her dignity is violated. The most common reaction is to keep reliving the torment through flashes and nightmares and eventually convincing oneself that the only way out is to seek revenge. Loss of dignity is a gradual loss of individuality.
  • The saddest thing in the world is not poverty per se; it's loss of dignity.
  • Those at the bottom of the economic ladder lack dignity, and it is the job of the rest of the world to help give it to them.
  • Some of the poorest people are the most dignified. And some of the richest lack dignity. If I fail to treat someone with dignity, it is me, not them, who is undignified.
  • Extreme poverty is undignified – sometimes communities or individuals do find themselves helpless and in need of crisis or ongoing assistance. Whether in city or countryside, very poor people tend to work for a better life.
  • Former president of Haiti Jean-Bertrand Aristide has pleaded “help rebuild the country, moving from misery to poverty with dignity".
  • Amartya Sen (and others) defined development as freedom rather than just economic or social progress, and the concept of dignity takes us a step further along that road.
  • It is said that if you can’t measure it you can’t manage it. While most poverty measures are disputed, dignity is perhaps the one thing that humans across the globe, in myriad different contexts, most instinctively recognize and long for.
  • Dying with dignity is the greatest shift in morality in this generation. If a person is diagnosed with a terrible terminal illness, or is in intolerable pain, why force that person to suffer? There is a big difference between suicide, euthanasia, and dying with dignity. Suicide is self-inflicted. Euthanasia is ending life without consent. Dying with dignity is neither suicide nor euthanasia; it is respect for the individual. An adult who, for very good reasons, consents to die should have that right. Frostbite would not be a good reason. 
  • Each person has a sense of worth or value, sense of the price of his personality, his dignity. Personality, dignity, is the center of attention in people’s relationships. Demeaning of dignity is almost the only reason for conflict. Those who lost it are humiliated.
  • The genuine price of a man is the truth about him. Everything that increases a man’s dignity is goodness, everything that decreases it – evil. 
  • Internal freedom is freedom from fear of being judged, of being charged a low price, and freedom from doubts about dignity. The only fear an internally free man has is fear of going against his conscience. Society knows freedom when its people know dignity.

Friday, 2 November 2018

We are the IAS

These are the assumptions an IAS officer lives with, and the reality there:

  • We are in this service to serve.
    The truth is, we scarcely behave as servants.
  • We handle vast sums of money and human resources;
    we do not possess any expertise for this task. We are not trained accordingly.
  • We have a very high opinion of ourselves and our “intelligence” and “experience”, and think people respect us for what we are.
    In reality, people genuflect before us due to the power we wield to either do benefit or damage.
  • Over the years we have developed the tendency to distribute largesse, whether in kind or in ideas.
    In reality, we do not own what we distribute.
  • We are paid to manage things efficiently and create systems.
    In actuality, we thrive on mismanagement and chaos because that gives us the power to choose some over others.
  • We are supposedly the steel frame.
    In reality, we have no long-term vision. We take adhoc decisions, looking to what the authority above us wants.
  • We exploit the system for preferential treatment — for ourselves and people known to us.
    We are hypocritical enough to say we do it to “help” people.
  • We know if we create systems where everyone has easy access to services, we shall become superfluous.
    So we let things be.
  • We love to expand and enhance our sphere of work.
    We do not bother to place systems to bring in the needed efficiency.
  • Worst of all, we are the most pompous, officious and ill-bred set of people.
    And we have the nerve to say we work for the people of this country.
  • In reality we have no stakes in this country — our children often study abroad and we have created a niche cocoon of the luxuries this system can give us.
    We have no empathy with the larger populace, though we are always careful to make the right noises.
  • If there were any justice, we would have long been extinct.
    But we are too powerful to let ourselves be annihilated.

We are the IAS.

Why Modi built Sardar Patel statue?


The Statue of Unity, depicting Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, is being championed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, but there is far more to the story of this expensive project. It was Dy PM Sardar Patel  who banned RSS in the aftermath of Gandhi's assasination said "the RSS was not involved... his assassination was welcomed by those of the RSS ...". Golwalkar repeatedly pleaded with Patel, but Patel remained firm. He lifted the ban only after the RSS pledged to stay away from politics, not be secretive and abjure violence and professed "loyalty to the Constitution of India and the National Flag". After removal of ban, RSS hoisted the flag at their headquarters on 26th January 1950. 
  • The hope is that this monument to Patel will attract lakhs of tourists, but there is far more going on with this strange and expensive statue.
  • The statue was a bold assertion of Gujarati nationalism as it was to give Narendra Modi a political lineage to distinguish him from the parent RSS, which sat out the freedom movement. 
  • Why he didn’t build a statue of Guru Golwalkar or Deen Dayal Upadhyaya or V.D. Savarkar. Or even Subhash Chandra Bose, speaks volumes about his designs to snatch Patel's legacy from Congress.
  • Patel is a historic Indian figure - crucial to the Indian independence movement and political organisation of postcolonial India. This on its own, though, does not exactly warrant building the ‘world’s tallest statue’ in his honor. Rather, it is the contemporary politics of Modi’s nationalist project and its model of development that explains Patel’s extraordinary memorialization. 
  • During his term as Jawaharlal Nehru’s Deputy Prime Minister, Patel negotiated - through diplomatic tact underpinned by the threat of force - the incorporation of the 562 princely states of colonial India into the Union of India. This earned him a reputation as the “Iron man of India” and as the unifier of India.
  • Today, the assertion of Indian unity has political meaning beyond the incorporation of the princely states into modern India. Within the Hindutva view of India, unity must be centred around Hinduism and India as a distinctly Hindu civilization.
  • Modi’s statue project seeks to emphasise moving away from secular leaders like Jawaharlal Nehru. Patel’s reputation as an ‘Iron man’ and his willingness to use force to unify India is a counter to Nehru’s nonviolent foreign policy.
  • The statue is connected to Modi and the BJP’s promise for development and investment. In Modi’s time Gujarat was known for authoritarian leadership, communal tensions, and largely jobless, GDP growth.
  • Many believe that BJP has become aware of lack of faces among in the ranks in the list of freedom fighters and that the statue might be a gimmick ahead of elections.
There were so many iconic personalities of independence struggle but the reason why Modi selected Patel for 'Statue' is due to his Hindutva inclinations despite banning and RSS and professing secularism is due to his hatred towards Nehru and Congress and that Gujarati Patel would have become first PM in the absence of Nehru. What he ignores is Patel and Nehru - admiration they had for each other. Patel, in his reply to Nehru on August 3, 1947, wrote "Many thanks for your letter on the first instance. Our attachment and affection for each other and our comradeship for an unbroken period of nearly 30 years admit of no formalities. My services will be at your disposal. I hope for the rest of my life, you will have unquestioned loyalty and devotion from me in the cause for which no man in India has sacrificed as much as you have. Our combination is unbreakable and therein lies our strength. I thank you for the sentiments expressed in your letter." No matter what ever Modi does, Patel remains Congressman and his legacy belongs to Congress. Never to RSS who were hand in hand with British during pre-independence days.