Articles

SOFTER ISSUES - 2

LIVING WITH NATURE IN MODERN FORM - MISSION FOR THE TWENTYFIRST CENTURY

Softer Issues

Article - 55

We had addressed in the last article a few softer issues in some detail, such as the elements concerning democracy and its effect on governance. We had also mentioned several words which are commonly used like JUSTICE, EQUALITY etc... which have many imbedded softer issues; but we had not yet dealt with them in some detail. One item we had ended the last article was about Indians copying the systems from some elements of the western developed countries. We had dealt in detail the obsession with citation, ranking etc... especially in higher education.  We need to address in some detail, how such a copying of the west is impacting a few other vital sectors.

In the School Education there are many such examples. One glaring one is the Right to Education (RTE) Act; the political system and a number of vocal activists had identified the passing of the Act as almost the end point of their transferring the constitutional rights to equality in education to all Indian children. Several features in it such as passing all students upto the eighth standard without holding them in the same class for poor performance etc... have further diluted the effectiveness of delivering good education to the children born in the Bulky Base (BB).

The focus of giving special attention to the learning by first generation learners, and several million children who have various family and other socio-economic, constraints in learning, has been forgotten (such a focus was poor even before the RTE Act). Instead, after the Act, the overarching activities of the State governments have been to  identify the mechanical details of the class room size, quality of building, teacher-student ratios (irrespective whether they teach or not!), and identification of 25% poor students to get admitted etc... The only indicator of gross enrolment ratio (GER) overlooks the requirement of effective delivery of teaching; the drop outs, etc... In between lots of funds are spent on IT based education; which are major issues for the developed World which have uninterrupted electric power for almost all their citizens; very high internet penetration etc... So much of the funds are diverted for these buzz words:

  • Universal access of education as a RIGHT
  • Enabling equal access of quality education to all Indian children.
  • Inclusive education. 
  • Bridging Digital Divide etc...

But the delivery of good affordable education to the children in the Bulky Base is submerged under these famous words. We don’t know when the National Knowledge Network (NKN) is going to benefit youth and others by giving the Rust collar/Blue collar/Grey collar/While collar skills.

The elite and media are happy in reporting that only 15 to 20% Indian students with graduate degrees are employable!  They use the Western type survey, mostly limited the questionnaires to the elite employers of MNC’s and other big companies.

We should all learn to penetrate these buzz words/slogans and see the softer issues underlying the affordable relevant and good education and skills.  Words and Acts do not provide them.

The softer issues and realities behind

  • Equality in education
  • Inclusive education
  • World class quality education etc...

require deeper examination.

Language of instruction and/or inclusion of local languages as a compulsory subject, are other softer issues, mixed with high emotions.

One softer issue is that what is the status of Indian languages to deliver modern knowledge and skills to our children? Do we have enough good quality text books and their continual updates?

The issue of languages is raised politically as perhaps a reaction to the copying of West, which is done by the elite and political classes themselves!! “Run with the hares and run with hounds” appears to the approach of political parties. Let us look at the result of such a copying of the West on the Medical access for our citizens.

Health Care System, softer issues of copying the West – If one studies the Govt policies and actions as well as the media build up, over the past two decades since liberalization the term “quality medicare” has been made synonymous with the Corporate run hospitals. Government run systems are systematically shown in very poor light to be much worse than they actually are. Medical insurance companies are focusing on the treatment by these higher and private (giant) hospitals. Even many Government medical schemes include such private hospitals in their approved list, because they would like to ensure that the upper echelons of Govt servants, politicians (who are MP’s MLA’s, Ministers etc...) can avail of such “world class quality medicare”. Even during their jail period VIP’s are specially treated in such private hospital. The Government schemes also allow higher levels-of-the powers-that-be to go abroad for treatment, paid by Government with tax payers’ money.

As a sop to Indian Government sector hospitals, promises are made to build high quality AIIMS like hospitals in many States. The State governments compete “madly” to have one AIIMS located in their States.

While there are many positive features in the medicare systems of the developed world, it is also true that they have become very costly. With increasing protocalization of medical practice (that is, not allowing the clinical physician to make intuitive decision; the prescribed manuals are almost like industrial steps – with many medical tests, often repeated). There are also now attempts to develop algorithms to analyse such massive date to prescribe course of action.  
In addition, medical service is being treated like any other consumer service and the doctors/hospitals are subject to litigations. In USA, the insurance against such litigations as well as costly tests (again to protect the profession by citing “objective” data and due diligence in courts) have risen the costs of health care to levels so prohibitive for about 20 to 30% Americans, a country which has a GDP per capital about 15 times more than global average GDP per capita!

Indians bulk of whom form a huge part of the global poor, have very poor access even to an ordinary doctor. We have written about such access through Mobile Hospital in an earlier article and in other articles the on services sector. But such items do not catch the attention of the power that be as there is no big money in those schemes. They cannot be called “world class” through they will serve Indians very well as has been proven in Uttarakhand.

The real softer issue in medicare / health care policies/actions is that bulk of the investments in India in this sector are towards the upper end Western style private hospitals. Incidentally the costly biomedical equipment are about 100% imported. No Make in India there! The access costs for these hospitals are prohibitively high for most Indians. Those who can afford are Rich/Super Rich and some Upper Middle Class (UMC) Indians whose medical care costs are borne by their companies. Again policy attention is given to reduce taxes on insurance cover for treatment in such institutions. All these are orchestrated so well, as if all the “world class quality” health care is given to all Indians; in addition there are considerable media hypes that these hospitals will create health tourism industry and lots of jobs for India! As a small token, a few new AIIMS which are very capital intensive are also budgeted. While more government hospitals are welcome, the way they are run, nobody bothers Good doctors do not join. These hospitals languish with overly excessive crowds. Because over a period, this soft push of copying the West (albeit for use by a small  minority of Indians but presented with a public relations exercise as if it covers all Indians), has eliminated many simple General physicians and small affordable nursing homes out of existence.

Only thing, Indian health care system has done well is in vaccination/immunization programmes. But people require continual reference to doctors, when they feel ill.

We won’t be surprised if more and more laws will be passed to weed out “poor quality” health care; “the quacks”; etc... all in the “interest of” and “in the name of” protecting the health of poor Indians. Social media may be used to make a few anecdotal examples to pressurize governments to enforce such laws; to force medical stores not to give medicines without a qualified doctor’s prescription etc...

In between some “stringent” actions will be announced against the private sector hospitals to treat certain per centage of poor Indians (say 25% as in RTE Act) in their hospitals. Note that it is not 25% of all poor Indians who desire access to hospitals, but 25% of the capacity of the private hospitals. There will be legal bureaucratic wrangles  as to how much the private hospital can or will do: “we will give totally free consultancy of the top doctor; our equipment time will be free; but consumables the patients have to pay: even here we are ready to bear 50% of cost etc...”. Even a fraction of these will be well above what a poor Indian can pay. Add on to it the travel costs of the patients and relatives to such places; staying costs!

We have dealt with Education and Health care in some detail, in terms of softer issues of copying the West is because of the grave danger staring at us: Most Indians cannot have affordable access to health care in the near future. Even many middle class Indians (let alone those in the lower middle or Bulky Base) cannot to such costly hospitals. Functioning Government hospitals, (too few in number for the huge number of population) will collapse in operations due to the rush beyond what they can handle; they may face public anger, protest etc...

Therefore let us wake up and look at the softer issues behind the slogans of “World class quality health care” to all Indians! Let us give them at least some minimum affordable access now and near future! 

OTHER EXAMPLES

There are plenty of other examples of copying the West. They are pushed into the minds of Indians (even poor ones) through high pressure advertisements in all languages: from facial creams to packaged foods to many other consumer products. Well we can leave them alone now as market forces will take care. A young poor woman who cannot afford a costly facial cream would not buy it or find some alternates to satisfy herself. So let us not open many fronts. Also these products provide employment for Indians (from manufacturer to retail.)

But affordable health care access and education for all are crucial, as they affect all Indians in a critical way, also jeopardizing their future existence.  We request the readers to address these two sectors (Health care and education) very carefully for softer issues while copying the western models.

JUSTICE SYSTEM:

Most Indians look for the “final” JUSTICE in the Apex Courts.  Many believe that apex court judges are the real saviors from the corrupt politicians, bureaucrats and the business persons. The way media reports are done, that this or that court “turned” down government proposal or this or that Act, as if the courts (especially the apex ones) are the tables in which the “buck stops”; as if they are the ultimate bosses. The Indian Constitution is much more nuanced, following the British traditions. There is no superior body between the three wings of the State: the Legislative, the Executive and the Judiciary. Whether a legal provision enacted by the Legislative or implemented by the Executive is in accordance with the provisions of the constitution, is what the Apex Court decides. In the British tradition the legislative or executive may absorb the observations and ruling by the Judiciary, and modify their Acts or implementation accordingly. They have their right not to accept as well.

It is necessary for all the three wings, the political parties, the bureaucracy (the administration) and the media including elite public opinion makers not to disturb the delicate balance; not to encourage any of them to cross the Lakshman Rekhas, which are very delicately marked by our wise founding fathers of the Constitution. President of the Indian republic is not like the President of USA. He (she) is not a vetoing authority. His (her) inputs are much more subtle to all the three Wings. So is the role of the Prime Minister of the Indian Republic, who has much more powers vested in him (or her). But he (she) does it through the Cabinet, in which he (she) is the first among the equals. These subtleties are presently brushed away. Especially since the turn of the century when telecom revolution was picking up and during the late 1980’s and 1990’s when the TV Channel revolution (through Cable TV’s) was picking up, the media (electronic and print) have picked up the methods of populist (spicy) American media: They are in search of instant JUSTICE and a powerful MACHO LEADER. Icons are created, many persons “fall in the trap”, only to fall out of favor a few months or years later!

Unfortunately, one is pained to see that some members of the JUDICIARY also fall prey to such populism: “Green Judge” “Human Rights Judge” etc... Despite this, in the overall the Indian JUDICIARY has kept its balance. But are they overreaching is a softer issue, which the JUDICIARY and the legal community has to ponder, especially within the framework of the Indian Constitution.

Though the Indian Constitution specifically provides for  consideration by the Indian Legislative of the Acts/Legal Positions taken internationally (in the democratic nations), there is a growing tendency in the Indian Judiciary to accept the “international” provisions without due deliberations by the Indian Legislative. It is the duty of the Judiciary to raise these points to the Indian Legislative and Executive to take positions, before they adopt them.

Another totally different but important softer issue that we all need to be aware of is whether there is an “ultimate single truth” which the JUDICIARY can uncover.

If one looks at the judgments in the lower courts, special courts being turned over completely by the High Courts and later in the Apex courts, very differently, any rational persons has to come to a conclusion that “truth” uncovered by the courts is the result of many complex processes of law, very narrowly defined. The famous dialogue of Annadurai (beloved Anna for the Tamils), in one of his script for a Tamil movie

“Chattam eenbathor iruttarai
Athil vakeelin vaadam oru viLakku”   


“Law (Justice) is a dark room.  In it lawyer’s arguments is a lamp”  

Another (generally positive) fact is that the Judiciary is affected by the socio-economic millieu and the developments in the private and public lives of people. 

If one studies the rulings of the courts on labour relations, industrial disputes, or private lives of people like marriage or many such items, one could see almost revolutionary changes in the outlook of JUDICIARY over the past over six decades in India. In the 1950’s or 1960’s or even later, the court judgments will be in favour of the labour unions (what is now considered as the labour aristocracy) or actions public sector units, keeping up with “socialist” policy. Similarly in the private lives of people, monogamy and strict laws on marriage were the preferred as the Laws enacted by the British, which are a part of “constitutional provisions”. Divorce was made very difficult. Live-in relations would not be accepted at all.

By the turn of the century all these are different. Labour is more a contract, not a lifelong right. So are marriages and even live-in relations. In this transformation of the judiciary, copying of the current Western traditions (American and British) has played a great role.

With environmental activism and human right activists in the west, what was considered as “public good” has changed in the “eyes” of Indian JUDICIARY.  During the 1950’s, 1960’s, 1970’s and even during 1980’s, Govt could acquire any amount of land for establishing military (defence) establishments, government industries/institutions, or dams. Many persons who had been displaced would be “given” a compensation” as decided by Govt (Executive). It was difficult to win a case against Government action.

Now well into the 21st century, it is almost impossible. The JUDICIARY’s balancing of the “public good” versus “private rights” or “human rights” or “environmental good”, is very different. These perceptions are not often written into the books on law or in Indian constitutions. These are the “judgments” of what is closer to “truths” amidst conflicting requirements of the modern Indian society. These are also strongly influenced by what is closer to “truths” amidst conflicting requirements of the modern Indian society. These are also strongly influenced by what is happening in other “democratic” societies of Europe, US, Australia and others, mostly English speaking as our JUDICIARY, elite, media persons etc... strongly anglophile.

We have elaborated on a few of these points, mainly to high light that there is no ultimate JUDICIAL truth.

I have explored some of the facets what TRUTH is in several spheres of human activity: LAW, JUSTICE, SCIENCE, ARTS etc... in my book “In Pursuit of Happiness” published by Rajpal and Sons, New Delhi, (2006). It was result of my earlier intense study about Human Knowledge (as it is currently understood in the modern world) and Happiness for delivering R B Datar Memorial Lecture 2002 organised by the supreme Court Advocates – on – record Association (29th November 2002) at Speakers Hall, Constitution Club, Rafi Marg, New Delhi.  I had identified different knowledge bases and their relation to the Maslow needs:  “Search for truth in arts, science, religion, law, economics etc... is a creative process with special features of self-actualisation……”

I have described them in some detail for each area of knowledge. For the legal systems: “it is found that Legal systems definitely can play a role in the  safety part of the Maslow needs. Can they play a role in controlling evil elements of those who disturb the esteem?  In the civilized world one cannot resort to Dharmayuddha with swords. I like a metaphor that legal systems are the swords of the modern societies-they can be used to sublimate physical aggression into apparently non-violent forms………….can the legal and judicial systems help regulate the needs of esteem into socially useful channels ….”.

My study showed (shows) that bulk of the humanity is happy with meeting the lower levels of Maslow needs. Their need for self-esteem is limited to being respected and loved by the near and dear ones around them. But there are a small percentage of persons who would like their self-esteem extended far beyond: they are those who want power, fame, influence etc... but many of them may want to use their knowledge, access to knowledge etc... to control others.  More the people are under them, they feel better. In the current day parlance to have followers in Twitter in millions should satisfy some people. They even would like to compete in this as to who is top in the world.

But such a direction of self-esteem to control others can turn out to be dangerous to others in the society.

The basic principle of the modern judicial systems in democratic societies, is to ensure protection of ordinary persons from the “powerful” ones; be they politicians, rich persons, elites, etc... Does Indian judicial systems fulfill that basic principle?

It is a big question for which the answers will be mixed.

  • Ask many thousands of people who are engaged with courts in some way or another : for a property dispute; or being arrested by police, presented to the court to seek relief; or fighting with the employer (eg. Govt) to get compensation etc... their views on the performance of judiciary will be very dim. 
  • First and foremost, the courts are not easily accessible; one needs to engage a lawyer/advocate through whom one has to approach the Court; so many affidavits; signatures of Notary; etc.  the strange situation is that even many well educated persons  would not understand this language: legalese.  Also in the interest of access to people, local languages are used; many outsiders have to believe what the lawyer says; for the illiterate / semiliterate persons, the fact of its being written in their language gives little comfort (Also the final legal provisions in case of interpretations of law “in case of conflict, the English version of the law will prevail”.)

Thus a huge hiatus is built up between the courts and the people. Procedures are archaic: from getting of stamp paper to giving many such “submissions”. Another big barrier is that the person who gives “Surety” has to be a gazette officer or have property! Most Indians are thus excluded.

No wonder that many tribes had lost their rights to land since Independence through such legal processes! The compensation for displaced persons or accident victims etc... do not reach them for years. It is not just due to the “bureaucracy” as is commonly made out. The legal processes involved in proving the identity of the person(s) affected, surety for such affidavits etc... are long drawn processes. They are fertile lands for creating middle persons and touts.  All in the name of rule of law! This entire process of functioning of the  input-output systems for the lower courts, intermediate courts and apex courts need to be examined. Keeping on generating more and more documents etc. is not application of mind or the impartial delivery of justice. This softer issue of input-output processes to and from courts is a serious one, causing inordinate delays leading to “justice denied”.

  • The courts appear to act in a way that time stands still, the moment the case is admitted: The affected persons can wait eternally. Getting orders after a few years or decades even to clear one’s name of an alleged crime has terrible consequences on individuals, their families and even children (who lose their careers!)
  • Another tendency which is emerging more often now is to pronounce judgment on events which have occurred many years ago on points of technicalities of laws: the order on coal mine allocation is an example, whatever may be the merit in law. We are seeing a number of cases in Bangalore regarding illegality of housings, or commercial complexes etc. based on activist applications, which take several years to be heard etc. Lakes or forests are encroached or wrongly allotted by Government decades ago;  these properties exist on them; owners have “valid” government approvals (for decades) receipts of regular payment of various taxes, electricity bills etc... still these are ordered to be recovered. In such cases demolitions are done, even though after demotion lakes are unlikely to rejuvenate! Are they going to recreate the lakes? 
  • Big question is who is the real culprit? Who in government gave the approvals? How will a citizen know that a particular designated Government Office is wrongly allotting a land? When the procedure of getting a land totally “legally” and getting various certificates is a Himalayan effort, would a same person ask each Government official who signs/stamps as to whether the government approval is legal?
  • On the other hand those who are rich and powerful can engage a fleet of highly paid lawyers/advocates to argue the cases from one court to another. They can safely postpone most cases (which are even blatantly illegal)to years till they die after enjoying all the benefits of money and power.

A few cases of arrests (very small in number) of high visibility cases (from Delhi) or of a few politicians under media activism and court directions, does not disprove the fact most of the cases of the powerful and rich drag on through technicalities and often let free (often through fading away from public memory)

-    In a recent, A thought for today (1 May 2015) Times of India, it was given “The power of the lawyer is in the uncertainty of law”.
Another serious issue which is overlooked is the tendency of some courts to give directions on matters which are purely technical. Issues which involve complex interplay of technology, engineering, economics, business considerations etc... are handled with some single point agenda. One example is how Delhi was rushed into use of CNG in Delhi’s auto rickshaws, taxis etc... Did it solve Delhi’s problems? Now when there are shrill voices about “the dirtiest city of India”, Delhi, do people ask the question whatever happened to CNG? Is there any considered study that “guarantees” that banning of commercial taxis older than 10 years will solve Delhi’s problems. What about trucks, buses and diesel generators of the rich and powerful? Also atmosphere is not static. What are all the sources of pollution? In between there will be green activists wanting to enforce Euro 4 standards for all Indian automobiles. As we have pointed in an article on Standards, there are many geo-commercial forces at work. Euro 4 standard will make most of the current automobile manufacturers “obsolete”.  They have bought technology paying heavy price and have mastered some elements of it, to manufacture in India and even export some. The sure way to “kill them” is to ensure standards which will costlier for them! Also many middle class Indians have to forego the desire to have a car at a young age to go to work.

There are now slow but steady campaigns to introduce standards in Indian food and food supplement Industry to have European/USA standards. If enacted and enforced many small Industries will collapse. We pointed out this matter because some courts seem to be attracted to western standards and would like to give a ruling and direction to have them in India through specific rulings on products:  Cars more than 10 years is in such a category. Do any of them bother to see how most citizens of Delhi live: in slums, low cost housing colonies, and even in middle class houses, barring those areas where the rich and the powerful live. Their houses have much more pollution.

To invoke a slogan of “Right to fresh air” is a mockery about the Bulk of India which struggles to live. Most rural households use biomass burning for cooking; even in towns and cities.

It will in the interest of the people of India, if a balanced approach is taken: let us look at the evolutionary processes of economic growth. India cannot aspire to be like Sweden or Switzerland or Germany of today without understanding the processes they had gone through. Let such issues be approached with caution. Let our judicial systems accelerate their work on other areas of pressing need for bulk of Indians by dispensing speedier justice and let them have their dues paid without unnecessarily complex systems of judicial processes as pointed out about earlier.

It is essential to discuss the softer issues regarding the JUDICIARY system (not so much as the appointment of judges – which also has many soft and subtle issues!) to find simplified solutions to make millions of poor, lower middle class, even middle and upper middle class Indians to feel safe about our JUDICIAL system.

Presently most of them have given up on that though  they are struggling through various litigations and courts, as they have no other option. It is necessary for the judges, the lawyers, advocates, administrators and other influential persons to come down to the realities of ordinary Indians instead of trying to compete with the west by enacting the most “progressive laws” which may have meaning for them in their social-economic-evolutionary phase.

Otherwise we will find road rages, instant justices delivered by mobs of persons, khap panchayats of various forms, etc...  Worst still will be a growing tendency of people looking for safety to form their own small communal/group networks (based on caste, religion, language or geography, etc...) and enforce “law” as they deem fit to protect their groups from “injustices” done by others.

Yes, people will take law into their hands, if the LEGAL/JUDICIARY system does not lend them protecting hands in time.  In a democratic society and with increasing speed of communication systems, the judiciary/legal systems cannot claim to be impartial only through blind folding to ground realities of ordinary people.

What Nature can offer in the modern world, can be enjoyed by all, only when the survival instincts of people are risen well above their primordial state, to a highly civilised state through responsive legal, administrative judiciary and law-enforcing systems.

Unlike the earlier species which occupied the Earth and also unlike the early human beings, the human beings in the 21st century possess extremely high destructive capabilities, as we witness around the world, in developed countries and developing countries including India.

Hence we need to address these issues early and speedily.  The desire for safety, security and justice are one of inherent Maslow need for all human beings.