Posts Tagged ‘Police’

Fears of social unrest ahead as India’s rise creates new underclass

January 5, 2008

Double-edged boom hits India’s poor

Fears of social unrest ahead as country’s rise creates new underclass
From Raymond Thibodeaux in New Delhi

EVEN AMID the chaotic swarm of Delhi’s traffic, with horns blaring and trucks and buses rumbling past, Omprekash Takur’s place of business remains a bastion of stillness and calm. Which is a good thing, as Takur’s speciality is open-razor shaves.

Takur has spent nearly 10 years at this barber shop, or what passes for a barber shop: a small stretch of pavement with a rusted chair, a plastic table for his shaving kit, two pairs of scissors, a comb and a square mirror hanging from a nail driven into the trunk of a tamarind tree, its leaves darkened by soot and dust kicked up by the traffic.

“My father taught me to do this when I was seven and I’ve been doing it ever since. My teachers would beat me for skipping classes, but I enjoyed making money from cutting hair,” said the slight, dark-skinned Takur, now 27, as he loaded a fresh blade into the razor.
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India’s city streets are filled with people like Takur – barbers, ear cleaners, cobblers and tailors, a rag-tag platoon of kerbside personal assistants for the country’s urban masses. But for many of them, India’s economic rise has chipped away at their client base as a growing number of Indians are better able to afford more upmarket versions of their services at newly sprouted shopping malls.

The huge wealth being generated by India’s booming economy has been slow to trickle down to the street level, where most of the country’s 400 million workers ply their trades. Typically, they are poorly educated and semi-skilled, and toil away in a shadowy, informal economy that falls under the radar of most government controls and protections.

As India’s rises, the gap between rich and poor appears to be widening. With a 6% inflation rate, the new India seems to be backfiring on the poor, who are hardest hit by increases in the cost of basic necessities such as food and shelter. This has stoked fears of a looming social turmoil in this country of 1.1 billion people, as a growing and increasingly restive underclass is left to fend for itself as India’s economic tide turns.

“These are our electricians, our plumbers, our housemaids and our drivers. They are the backbone of our economic success, and yet they live in slums,” said Ranjana Kumari, director for the Centre of Social Research in New Delhi, a non-governmental agency focused on India’s workplace.

“There is a serious flaw in the government policies that guide our economy. There needs to be more government initiative to care for these workers and give them a bigger share of the wealth.”

So far, India’s pro-growth government has been reluctant to burden businesses with costly regulations that would do just that. And many Indian companies have been unwilling to absorb them as formal employees, who would then be entitled to the few perks already required by law: health benefits, pension plans, holidays and severance pay.

As a result, about 93% of India’s workforce remains informal and unorganised.

“Ideally, we want to formalise our entire workforce, give them pensions and health benefits and so on, but that’s going to take a long time,” said Pronab Sen, the Indian government’s chief statistician. Part of the hold-up is that more and more rural Indians are abandoning their farms and moving to urban areas to seek better jobs as rickshaw drivers, street sweepers and barbers. These workers are hard to keep track of and much harder to organise.

“The informal sector is an extremely important transition between the rural areas and the cities. It allows the people to learn different trades that are more useful and better-paying,” Sen said.

In the shade of the tamarind tree, Takur dipped his shaving brush in hot water and lathered up another scruffy face, his third in the space of an hour. He said he usually rakes in at least £3 a day, three times the daily wage of most Indians. It’s enough to support his wife and his three sons, aged six, four and two.

Asked how India’s boom had benefited him, he said: “It hasn’t.” But a client, a rickshaw taxi driver waiting his turn in the barber’s chair, pointed out that Takur had doubled his prices since last year.

“Yes, that’s true, but that is not really a benefit to me,” said Takur, using his palm to wipe shaving cream off the razor. “My supplies are costing more, so I must pass that on to my customer.”

Sunday Herald

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Global Hindutva in support of Gujarat’s super hindu leader

December 3, 2007

A large number of Gujarati NRIs have landed in their native state to lend support to political parties they are backing in the upcoming assembly election, due on December 11 and 16.

Many are supporters of incumbent Narendra Modi, who feel the state has developed under the stewardship of the BJP leader. Opposing them are a considerable number of Congress
supporters, who say Modi has divided the state.

Although they cannot vote in the state assembly polls, the NRIs who have come from places like the UK and US are pumping in huge amounts of money in campaigning, besides trying to woo voters for the party of their choice.

”Though I can’t vote, still I would like to see to it that the right people are voted to power. Even if I can’t vote I would like to make sure that other 100 people at least go and vote. It’s very important,” says 42-year-old Rajen Patel from London, an ardent supporter of Modi.

Patel, who claims he campaigned for former US vice president Al Gore when he was in the presidential race, says about 100 like-minded NRIs in the UK have decided to come to Gujarat to support Modi as they believe he is ushering in growth and development.

”We would like to invest in Gujarat as things have improved a lot here. There is less of corruption now and action is taken on complaints made even over phones,” he says.

Rejecting the claims of development under Modi’s government are Congress supporters, who have also come together based on their political affiliation.

”What development are they talking about? Everything is a hogwash. No state can develop where people are divided. And that’s what BJP has done here,” says Deepak Amin, who has come all the way from Seattle (US) to support Congress.

”To be number one you have to be united first. When you talk about Hindu rastra, you ignore the rest of the people in the country. What about them?” Amin laments.

He says he is in touch with at least 15 other like-minded NRIs from various countries.

”We have held several rounds of meetings in Seattle, New York, New Jersey etc to discuss our agenda before coming to India. We will be reaching out to people to pass on our message,” Amin says.

He said his ‘group’ was opposed to the way BJP is bragging about development in Gujarat, adding ”It’s just like their ‘India Shining’ campaign”.

But the Modi camp would like to differ. ”There’s discipline, peace and harmony now unlike earlier,” says Patel.

On his group’s strategy, Patel says, ”We will place ourselves in different regions of the state. Like five-six people in Vadodara, 10 in Ahmedabad and four in Surat, while one of us will be travelling to meet people and help the party in the electoral process.”

He claims Modi has many fans in the UK and US who want to know what can they do to help their state.

India, Where paradoxes reign supreme

November 26, 2007

It has become a cliché to speak of India as a land of paradoxes. The old joke about our country is that anything you say about India, the opposite is also true. We like to think of ourselves as an ancient civilisation but we are also a young republic; our IT experts stride confidently into the 21st century but much of our population seems to live in each of the other 20 centuries. Quite often the opposites co-exist quite cheerfully.

One of my favourite images of India is from the last Kumbha mela, of a naked sadhu, with matted hair, ash-smeared forehead and scraggly beard, for all the world a picture of timeless other-worldliness, chatting away on a cellphone. I even suggested it to the publishers of my newest book of essays on India as a perfect cover image, but they assured me it was so well-known that it had become a cliché in itself.

And yet, clichés are clichés because they are true, and the paradoxes of India say something painfully real about our society.

How does one come to terms with a country whose population is still nearly 40% illiterate but which has educated the world’s second-largest pool of trained scientists and engineers, many of whom are making a flourishing living in Silicon Valley? How does one explain a land where peasant organisations and suspicious officials once attempted to close down Kentucky Fried Chicken as a threat to the nation, where a former prime minister bitterly criticised the sale of Pepsi-Cola since 250 million of our countrymen and women don’t have access to clean drinking water, and which yet invents more sophisticated software for the world’s computer manufacturers than any other country on the planet? A place where bullock carts are still an indispensable mode of transportation for millions, but whose rocket and satellite programmes are amongst the most advanced on earth?

The paradoxes go well beyond the nature of our entry into the 21st century. Our teeming cities overflow while two out of three Indians still scratch a living from the soil. We have been recognised, for all practical purposes, as a leading nuclear power, but 600 million Indians still have no access to electricity and there are daily power cuts even in the nation’s capital.

Ours is a culture which elevated non-violence to an effective moral principle, but whose freedom was born in blood and whose independence still soaks in it. We are the world’s leading manufacturers of generic medication for illnesses such as AIDS, but we have three million of our own citizens without access to AIDS medication, another two million with TB, and tens of millions with no health centre or clinic within 10 kilometres of their places of residence.

Bollywood makes four times as many movies as Hollywood, but 150 million Indians cannot see them, because they are blind. India holds the world record for the number of cellphones sold (8.5 million last month), but also for the number of farmer suicides (4000 in the Vidarbha district of Maharashtra alone last year).

This month, in mid-November, the prestigious Forbes magazine list of the world’s top billionaires made room for 10 new Indian names. The four richest Indians in the world are collectively worth a staggering $180 billion, greater than the GDP of a majority of member states of the United Nations. Indian papers have reported with undisguised glee that these four (Lakshmi Mittal, the two Ambani brothers, and DLF chief K P Singh) are worth more than the 40 richest Chinese combined.

We seem to find less space in our papers to note that though we have more dollar billionaires than in any country in Asia – even more than Japan, which has been richer longer – we also have 260 million people living below the poverty line. And it’s not the World Bank’s poverty line of $1 a day, but the Indian poverty line of Rs 360 a month, or 30 cents a day – in other words, a line that’s been drawn just this side of the funeral pyre.

Last month, the Bombay Stock Exchange’s Sensex crossed 20,000, just 20 months after it had first hit 10,000; but on the same day, some 25,000 landless people marched to Parliament, clamouring for land reform and justice. We have trained world-class scientists and engineers, but 400 million of our compatriots are illiterate, and we also have more children who have not seen the inside of a school than any other country in the world does.

We have a great demographic advantage in 540 million young people under 25 (which means we should have a dynamic, youthful and productive workforce for the next 40 years when the rest of the world, including China, is ageing) but we also have 60 million child labourers, and 72% of the children in our government schools drop out by the eighth standard. We celebrate India’s IT triumphs, but information technology has employed a grand total of 1 million people in the last five years, while 10 million are entering the workforce each year and we don’t have jobs for them.

Many of our urban youth rightly say with confidence that their future will be better than their parents’ past, but there are Maoist insurgencies violently disturbing the peace in 165 of India’s 602 districts, and these are largely made up of unemployed young men.

So yes, we are a land of paradoxes, and amongst those paradoxes is that so many of us speak about India as a great power of the 21st century when we are not yet able to feed, educate and employ our people. And yet, India is more than the sum of its contradictions. It may be a country rife with despair and disrepair, but it nonetheless moved a Mughal Emperor to declaim, ‘‘if on earth there be paradise of bliss, it is this, it is this, it is this…’’ We just have a lot more to do before it can be anything like paradise for the vast majority of our fellow citizens.

25 Nov 2007, 0000 hrs IST,Shashi Tharoor, Times of India

Muslims convicts in India is 19.1%, while the number of undertrials is 22.5%

August 17, 2007

Counter View: A Few Myths, Fewer Facts about Muslims

When Zakir Hussain was sentenced to death by hanging for his part in planting the bombs during the “Bombay Blasts” of 1993, he shouted, “If a Hindu does something, a commission is set up. But if a Muslim does something, he is hanged.” This was in reference to the destruction of the Babri Masjid and the riots that had followed in December 1992 and January 1993.

The Srikrishna Commission, constituted to determine the causes of the riots in which approximately 900 people, predominantly Muslim, were killed, had stated that, “One common link between the riots of December 1992 and January 1993 and bomb blasts of 12th March 1993 appear to be that the former appear to have been a causative factor for the latter. There does appear to be a cause and effect relationship between the two riots and the serial bomb blasts.”

The recommendations of the Commission have never been brought into force. This has led to a number of people speculating whether justice is done to Muslims in India, whether they are being punished disproportionately, that, “Soon India’s jails will be choc-a-block with Muslims.”

Indian Muslims in Jail

In such cases it is possibly best to check the facts. The prison statistics from the National Crimes Record Bureau indicate that the percentage of Muslims convicts in India is 19.1%, while the number of undertrials is 22.5%.

This is higher than the percentage of Muslims living in India, at 13.4% or thereabouts. It would be tempting to shout, “Aha! Proof of bias!” but a rigorous analysis would lead to a more nuanced view because of the geographic distribution of both prison population and Muslims. Over half of Indian Muslims live in the four states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal and Assam, which account for 21% of convicted prisoners and 42% of undertrials in Indian jails. In effect Indian Muslims live in geographic areas where more people are sent to jail, either as convicts or as undertrials.

A far more fascinating result is that the percentage of Muslims who are undertrials is slightly less than that of those convicted. In other words proportionately more Muslims are adjudged “innocent” than Hindus (whose undertrial to convict ratio is: 69.6% to 70.7% and even Christians (whose undertrial to convict ratio is 3.8% to 4.2%).

Indian Muslims and Crime

The question of bias could also be turned on its head, and it could be said that high proportionately of Muslims means more crime. The data does not support such a conclusion.

The two states where such high population of people are in jail, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, have a Muslim population of 18.5% and 16.5% respectively and contribute 6.7% and 5.4% of All-India crimes . West Bengal and Assam, in which the percentage of Muslims is at 25.2% and 30.9%, contribute only 3.6% and 2.3% of all-India crimes.

Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu all produce more than 8.5% of India’s crimes individually, making them the most crime-prone states in the country. In all of these high crime states Indian Muslims make up, at the most, 10.6% of the population, less than the Indian average.

The one state where Muslims constitute a majority of the population, at 67% in Jammu & Kashmir, which has been wracked by militancy and violence, contributes to only 1.1% of Indian crime, about the same as its population compared to all-India figures.

Indian Muslims as Citizens or as Muslims

Despite these statistics it would be idle to say that Indian Muslims do not, from time to time, face problems, as do most people that constitute a marginalised group in society. The recent Sachar Committee report by the Government of India cites very low levels of socio-economic indicators for Indian Muslims.

As a child I lived in the Oil & Natural Commission compound in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. It is a city that has faced many riots and we were the only Muslims in the compound. During times of tension when my father was working offshore on the oilrig, our manservant, Jumraati would assure my mother, “They’ll have to get through me first, behni”.

A decade or so later, my great-uncle, Major-General Afsir Karim, was asked to deploy troops in the same city to help the civilian administration keep the peace. In 2000, when he was with the National Security Advisory Board, he was questioned by a woman during a televised talk show about minorities. He interrupted her to say, “Ma’am, I am a citizen of India, and so are you. What minorities are you talking about?”

His response to state failure is strikingly different to that of the recently convicted Zakir Hussain. Whereas one tried to make sure that such failure did not recur, the other became a pawn used to kill innocents in a supposed act of “vengeance”. For me, between the words of a man of somebody who has put his life on the line many times in the defence of innocent civilians and those of somebody convicted of murdering them, there can only be one choice.

(Omair Ahmad works on issues of Security, Law & Strategic Affairs for PRS Legislative Research, an autonomous institute that provides research support for Indian Parliamentarians. He has previously worked for the British High Commission, New Delhi, and the Voice of America, Washington DC. His novel, “Encounters” on the radicalisation of two young men during the curfew days of the 90s was published in 2007.)

Omair Ahmad / IBNLive Specials; Thursday, August 16, 2007 www.ibnlive.com

316 million Indian workers get below $ 0.49 (Rs. 20) a day

August 12, 2007
  • 394.9 million workers (86 per cent of the working population) belong to the unorganized sector
  • 316 million workers live on less than Rs. 20, or $ 0.49, a day.
  • 88 per cent of the Scheduled Tribes and the Scheduled Castes, 80 per cent of the Other Backward Classes and 85 per cent of Muslims belong to this category of people living on less than Rs. 20 a day.
  • 90 per cent of agricultural labor households are landless or have less than one hectare of holding*
  • agriculture is getting feminized with 73 per cent women being associated with it compared to 52 per cent men.

NEW DELHI: An overwhelming 79 per cent of workers in the unorganised sector live with an income of less than Rs. 20 a day, according to the National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector (NCEUS).

A report on “Conditions of Work and Promotion of Livelihoods in Unorganised Sector,” released by the Commission here on Thursday, says over 394.9 million workers (86 per cent of the working population) belong to the unorganised sector and work under “utterly deplorable” conditions with “extremely few livelihood options.”
“Poor, vulnerable”

The report says that 88 per cent of the Scheduled Tribes and the Scheduled Castes, 80 per cent of the Other Backward Classes and 85 per cent of Muslims belong to the category of “poor and vulnerable,” who earn less than Rs. 20 a day.

In 2004-05, a total of 836 million (77 per cent) had an income below Rs. 20 a day.

Landless

Households of the small and marginal farmers account for 84 per cent and are forced to spend more than they earn and are under debt, while 90 per cent of agricultural labour households are landless or have less than one hectare of holding.

The conditions in the non-agricultural sectors are no better with 21 to 46 per cent of men and 57 to 83 per cent of women being employed as casual workers, who get less than minimum wages.

As per the survey, the latest trends indicate that agriculture is getting feminised with 73 per cent women being associated with it compared to 52 per cent men.

The NCEUS attributes the plight of the unorganised workers to a lack of comprehensive and appropriate legislation and the absence of targeted programmes.

Inadequate

Where laws exist, the Commission finds their implementation inadequate. Also, they are seldom focussed on unorganised workers.

Releasing the report, NCEUS Chairman Arjun Sengupta said the panel had recommended a Rs. 45,000-crore action plan for the overall improvement of the unorganised sector.

Aug 10, 2007, Hindu

LEFTYPROF

98% cases against Dalit atrocities go scot-free

July 6, 2007

Bangalore: The acquittal of all the accused in the Kambalapalli massacre in which seven Dalits were burnt to death is not an exception. The Karnataka State Commission for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes has found that the accused in 98 per cent of cases of atrocities against Dalits were allowed to go scot-free. The reason: witnesses do not turn up for fear of being attacked.

This was disclosed by commission Chairman Nehru C. Olekar at a press conference here on Tuesday after a meeting with representatives of various Dalit organisations. The commission sought their views on the condition of the people from the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in the jurisdiction of the Bangalore Zilla Panchayat.

Mr. Olekar said the commission would recommend to the Government to provide security to witnesses. However, around 10 per cent of complaints of atrocities were found to be false. There were around 500 cases of atrocities pending in each district.

Strangely, the commission had hardly come across cases of Dalits being ostracised. Three such cases had been reported in the State, including two in Kolar district.

He said 446 atrocity cases were reported in five years in Bangalore Rural district. The taluk-wise break up is: Channapatna – 32, Devanahalli – 44, Doddballapur – 22, Hoskote – 133, Kanakapura – 88, Magadi – 47, Nelamangala – 143 and Ramanagaram – 43.
Confirmation

Mr. Olekar said the commission had taken up the case of confirmation of the services of municipal cleaners (pourakarmikas) in the State with the Legislature Committee on Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. The working conditions of the municipal cleaners in the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (around 8,000) were so bad that they were paid just Rs. 1,200 a month, whereas their counterparts in the Gulbarga City Corporation were paid Rs. 4,900. He said the Government would be asked to stop hiring cleaners through contractors. Instead the workers should be paid directly by the civic body.
Regularisation

Another serious problem Dalits were facing in the State was the inordinate delay in the regularisation of unauthorised cultivation by them on government land. Each district had 2,000 to 3,000 such cases that had pending for years.

He said the Government would be asked to regularise such cultivation, barring those on forest land.

Mr. Olekar expressed displeasure over the absence of the Deputy Commissioner of Bangalore Rural district from the meeting. He would write to the Government to take action against the official, he said.

Some Dalit organisations had complained that beneficiaries were not getting subsidies, the Chairman said. The Government would be asked to build one hostel in each of the eight taluks in the district to accommodate post-matric students. The Government would also be asked to remove youths staying in hostels for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, who were not students.

The commission would ask the Government to conduct a Statewide survey on the academic performance of students staying in such hostels. This was to refute the criticism that they were enjoying government largesse without improving their academic performance.
Internal quota

Mr. Olekar supported the demand of organisations representing people from the Madiga, Bhovi and Korama communities for internal reservation to prevent a few influential sections among the Dalits from cornering all the benefits.

The Commission had so far visited 12 districts and would be visiting the other districts. It would give its report to the Government before August 20, he said.

July 04, 2007, The Hindu

967 Cases of Atrocities against Dalits in Gujarat

July 5, 2007

Dalits in Gujarat eclipsed under Modi: Meira

Claiming that the Dalits were “eclipsed” under the present dispensation in Gujarat, Union Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Meira Kumar on Monday criticised the Narendra Modi-led government for the “atrocities” meted out against Dalits and other backward sections of the society.

“The present government in Gujarat has a poor track record in tackling crimes against the backward sections of the society,” Kumar said addressing the day-long ‘jan-mitra shibir’ (conference of party workers) organised by the scheduled caste cell of Congress.

She claimed that Dalits were “eclipsed” in Gujarat at present.

“In the year 2005, there were a total of 967 cases of atrocities against Dalits in Gujarat where many were murdered, raped, burnt and seriously injured,” Kumar told the gathering of party workers who had assembled from different parts of the state.

“This year in just six months, there were a total of 412 cases of atrocities registered against backward classes including Dalits,” she said adding the figures she was quoting were sourced from the Social Justice department of Gujarat.

“In many of these cases FIRs are yet to be registered,” Kumar added

Press Trust of India, Gandhinagar, July 3, 2006

Muslims in the Indian army, only 2% ?

March 6, 2007

Muslims in Army : Hiding what`s well-known 

The reason for the Muslim under-representation in the Indian army, or the Sikh over-representation, is something that lies partly in history, and its public disclosure would harm nobody.

There’s something surreal about India’s debate on Muslim under-representation in the Indian army. If the defence minister says the army has done no head-count of its Muslims, how did the army give an exact Muslim figure of 29,093 last month? The figure is backed by a retired lieutenant-general who says the Muslims are 2 per cent.

Whatever the exact percentage, a huge Muslim under-representation in our army is a fact. So is a huge Sikh over-representation. See the contrast. Sikhs form 1.86 per cent of India’s population but number around 8 per cent in the Indian army. Muslims form 13 per cent of India’s population but are 2 per cent in the army. Why should this truth about Muslim under-representation be suppressed? Or that of Sikh over-representation? But an irrational love of secrecy causes Indian rulers to hide information whose public disclosure would harm nobody.

Just as Muslims are under-represented in the army, so are the Bengalis, Biharis, Oriyas, south Indians or Gujaratis. And just as Sikhs are over-represented, so are the Jats, Dogras, Garhwalis, Kumaonis, Gurkhas, Marathas, Pathans and Punjabis.

The reason for this disparity lies in history. The Indian army’s recruitment pattern was set 150 years ago by India’s 1857 uprising. Traumatised by the rebellion, the British army adopted a recruitment policy that punished the groups which rebelled and rewarded the ones that stayed loyal. Because Muslims of Awadh, Bihar and West Bengal led the uprising, the British army stopped hiring soldiers from these areas.

Also blacklisted from these places were high-caste Hindus whose regiments in Bengal had also mutinied. In contrast, the British raised the recruitment of castes that had stood by the British to put down the uprising. These castes were the Sikhs, the Jats, Dogras, Garhwalis, Kumaonis, Gurkhas, Marathas, Pathans, plus Punjabis, both Hindus and Muslims. Honoured as martial races, they received preferential treatment in army recruitment for the next 90 years. Like any institution, the Indian army’s a prisoner of the past.

Even today, it favours enlisting men from the martial races. Their over-representation in the Indian army is huge. Figures bear this out. Of 2.87 lakh jawans hired by the army in the last three years, a disproportionate 44,471 came from three “martial” states, Punjab, Haryana, and the mountain state of Uttaranchal. So these states which account for 5 per cent of India’s population provided 15 per cent of India’s army jawans.

In contrast, the fewest recruits came from “non-martial” West Bengal, Bihar and Gujarat. These three states account for 30 per cent of India’s population, but they provided only 14 per cent of army jawans in this three-year period. So the Indian army has not only a religion-based disparity in recruitment, but also one based on caste and region. A glimpse of this discrimination was provided by a press release issued by a defence office in Jammu five years ago. Seeking recruits for the Indian army, the press release said: “No vacancies for Muslims and tradesmen.” Meaning that martial Dogras were welcome to apply, but not Hindu business castes like the Baniyas and the Khatris.

About the Muslim under-representation in the Indian army, the reasons are three. One was Partition. Before Independence, Muslims were around 25 per cent of the Indian army and 25 per cent of undivided India. But when India broke up and Muslim soldiers were asked to choose between India and Pakistan, they joined Pakistan en masse. So Muslim numbers in the Indian army dropped so drastically that they were only 2 per cent in 1953, according to India’s then minister of state for defence. Jawaharlal Nehru himself expressed concern that “hardly any Muslims” were left in the army. And Muslim numbers never really picked up in the last 60 years for a well-known reason.

India’s military establishment hesitates to hire Muslims as soldiers because it suspects Muslim loyalty to India. This discrimination is a natural outcome of India and Pakistan’s bitter hostility over 60 years. In similar situations, the same thing happens all over the world. The Israeli army doesn’t trust its Arab soldiers in jobs related to defence security. The Buddhist Sinhalese army under-recruits its Hindu Tamils lest their sympathies lie with the Tamil Tigers. After 9/11, US army recruiters would probably screen a Muslim American volunteer more thoroughly than a Christian American. Thanks to our four wars with Pakistan, the same anti-Muslim animus works here in army recruitment.

Proof of it lies in an enormous mass of documentary and other evidence which expresses distrust of Muslims. Otherwise, why does India have separate regiments for the Sikhs, Jats, Dogras, Garhwalis, Kumaonis, Mahars, the Nagas, even the Gurkhas, but not a single Muslim regiment? This is tragic but it’s a truth which shouldn’t be suppressed. It should be acknowledged and dealt with.

Events have consequences. Muslim under-recruitment in the Indian army is a consequence of Partition. India and Pakistan’s hostility is seen in both countries in Hindu versus Muslim terms. So it’s natural for India’s Hindu army establishment to distrust a Muslim who wants to join as a soldier.

This prejudice itself discourages qualified Muslim youths from applying, which drives down Muslim numbers even more. Another reason for Muslim under-recruitment is the relatively poor education of Muslims. When they try to enlist as soldiers, they are simply out-competed by better-educated Sikh, Hindu, and Christian youths. So Muslim leaders are quite right that Muslim under-recruitment in the army deprives the community of a good, life-long source of employment. It’s a sad situation not so easy to correct.

In life, however, one man’s meat is another man’s poison. The under-representation of Muslims and other caste or regional groups benefits the over-represented ones. The composition of the Indian army is totally askew numbers-wise. West Bengal’s population is eight times that of Uttaranchal. But Uttaranchal provided almost the same number of army recruits as West Bengal last year. Compare a “martial” Punjab with a non-martial Gujarat. Punjab’s population is half that of Gujarat. But it provided four times as many people to the Indian army as Gujarat. The Indian army hired far more recruits in Rajasthan than in Tamil Nadu though Tamil Nadu’s population is higher. Essentially, the Indian army is dominated numbers-wise by Sikhs and Hindi-speaking Hindus of north India. The current status quo suits them perfectly.

Arvind Kala / New Delhi March 04, 2006, Business Standard

www.business-standard.com

Armed forces are not a Holy Cow

March 1, 2007

Armed forces are not a Holy Cow

It is extremely unfortunate that the government has dropped the move to collate data on the status of Muslims in the armed forces. This follows an uproar over the steps taken by the Prime Minister’s High-Level Committee — PMHC — on the social economic and educational status of the Muslim community headed by Justice Rajinder Sachar to approach the defence forces for such data.

The Bharatiya Janata Party sought the President’s intervention in his capacity as the Supreme Commander of the armed forces to stop this ‘misguided’ survey. Former army officers held dharnas against the ‘divisive’ move, which they believe, would weaken a robustly secular institution. And former defence minister George Fernandes termed the PMHC’s work a ‘seditious act’ aimed at ‘communalising’ the armed forces!

After this, much of the media simply renamed the PMHC the Sachar Committee. The Congress defensively pleaded that its survey would be ‘purely a data-gathering and fact-finding exercise.’ The Prime Minister’s Office quickly distanced itself from the committee. Chief of Army Staff General J J Singh said: ‘It is not the army’s philosophy to disseminate or maintain (community-wise) information’; ‘we are not concerned with the faith or language’ of the people employed or ‘where they come from.’ And the defence ministry, which had sought the relevant data from the armed services, assured them it won’t forward it to the PMHC.

In the heat of emotion, it was all but forgotten that in our Parliamentary system, the President is not the court of last resort. He is the defence services’ Supreme Commander in a figurative sense. He does not possess the executive authority to start or stop a survey. Since then, former Deputy Chief of Army Staff Lieutenant General R S Kadyan has approached the Supreme Court to ask that the survey be stayed. He argues the survey would help to ‘sow the seed of communalism in the defence forces.’

Numerous arguments were advanced by opponents of the move. These old that the very conduct of the survey would tarnish the armed forces’ image as a professional force; that words like caste, creed, religion and reservation are unheard of in regimental messes; that the army is one of the few reliably secular institutions in India, which is fully trusted by the religious minorities — unlike the police or paramilitary forces; it has an enviable record of protecting the lives of the minorities in communally charged situations.

Some of these arguments are undoubtedly valid. For instance, no one can seriously question the army’s secular credentials and its impartial role in protecting the life and property of the minorities when called upon to do so. The Indian Army represents a remarkable achievement. It is one of the few apolitical militaries in the Third World to function fully under civilian control.

And yet, the anti-survey arguments miss one essential paradox: namely, that the army does not fully reflect the rich diversity and plurality of Indian society. It suffers from under-representation of certain ethnic, religious and social groups, and from over-representation of some others, most notably the so-called “martial races” favoured under the colonial system of recruitment, including Sikhs, Gorkhas, Dogras, Jats, Rajputs, etc.

We are an apolitical and secular force: Army chief

Among the under-represented groups are people from the Northeast, Dalits, OBCs, and Muslims. We know from a note sent on January 9 by the army to the defence ministry that in 2004 it had only 29,093 Muslims among a total of 1.1 million personnel — a ratio of 2.6 percent, which compares poorly with the Muslims’ 13 percent share in the Indian population. Similarly, there have been complaints of under-representation from Dalit and Adivasi leaders and smaller linguistic groups.

To demand that their recruitment be increased is not to advance an anti-national, communal or divisive agenda, but to ask for diversity and balance. None other than then defence minister Jagjivan Ram raised the demand for greater Dalit recruitment in 1971.

Indeed, Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s greatest prime minister, who cannot even be remotely accused of a communal bias, noted in 1953 that ‘in our Defence Services, there are hardly any Muslims left. What concerns me most is that there is no effort being made to improve this situation, which is likely to grow worse unless checked.’ This concern was reiterated by Mahavir Tyagi, then minister of state for defence, who disclosed that ‘the percentage of Muslims in the armed forces, which was 32 percent at the time of Partition has come down to two. I have instructed that due regard should be paid to their recruitment.’

The PMHC was not being wayward in asking for information about the recruitment and status of Muslims in the army. It’s vital to collect ‘authentic information about the social, economic and educational status’ of Muslims in different government departments. Without such a data bank, we won’t know whether there is under-representation of different groups, what its extent is, and what its causes might be. Collating such information is also the best way of countering prejudices about ‘minority appeasement’.>

True, such information is relevant not just for Muslims; it is necessary for other groups too. But the PMHC’s brief pertains to Muslims. It was perfectly legitimate for it to solicit information about Muslims. This is in keeping with the National Common Minimum Programme of the UPA, which promised to promote the welfare of socially and economically backward sections among religious and linguistic minorities.

The issue of Muslim under-representation in the defence forces must be situated in context. As MIT-based scholar Omar Khalidi argues in his Khaki and the Ethnic Violence in India (Three Essays, New Delhi, 2003), the army embraced the discredited colonial ‘martial races’ theory which favoured certain ‘Fixed Classes’ like Gorkhas, Sikhs, Dogras and Rajputs in recruitment. Muslims were excluded from these, except for groups such as the Qaimkhani community of Rajasthan and UP, and units like the Grenadiers, Armoured Corps, Bombay Engineers Group and the J&K Light Infantry. It Is only in 1984, after the ‘revolt’ by some soldiers of the Sikh Regiment following Operation Bluestar, that the army adopted a better mix in what’s called the ‘All-India Class.’

Yet, the proportion of Muslims in the army remains under 3 percent. In the case of officers, this may be explained by educational backwardness among Muslims. But this cannot explain the community’s low representation among Other Ranks. We need to know whether this is because of a reluctance of Muslims to join the army, skewed distribution of recruitment, or because of unacknowledged barriers to entry, including prejudices.

General Kadyan’s petition is wrong to allege that if such information is collated, ‘it will create very illogical and unnecessary data which might create… in the mind of the minority communities… a feeling of their being less in number in the defence forces… giving them cause for… fear of the majority community.’ This presumption is fundamentally mistaken. There’s nothing ‘illogical’ about documenting the status of different communities in national institutions. The United States army, for instance, regularly compiles publicly available data on Muslims, Blacks, and other ethnic groups.

More generally, the armed forces cannot be an exception to the concept of citizenship in a multi-ethnic society. Nor can they demand to be shielded from scrutiny just because they perform a role in India’s defence. All citizens have a valid role to play in our national life. Real security derives not just from military defence, but other things including human security, justice, social cohesion and human rights. The armed forces are not a Holy Cow.

A data bank on the ethnic-religious composition of all our public institutions is a precondition for measures to promote the welfare of citizens, including affirmative action in favour of the underprivileged and under-recruited. It goes without saying that this should not take the form of quotas and job reservations. But that’s not an argument against diversifying recruitment or promoting equality of opportunity. There’s no reason why the government cannot unilaterally announce that it will endeavour to recruit more and more under-represented groups without embracing a quota system. A caring-and-sharing society must have adequate room for such measures.

Two other points are in order. In many countries, promotion of inclusive multi-cultural policies and diversity became possible only when they abandoned ostrich-like attitudes and confronted reality. For instance, the British police began an internal evaluation after the race riots of the early 1980s. An extensive survey was undertaken of the ethnic composition of the force and prevalence of race and ethnicity-related biases. This prepared the ground for diversity sensitisation programmes, retraining, and positive discrimination.

Second, there is disturbing evidence that certain Indian security and intelligence-related agencies simply don’t recruit Muslims. These include the Research & Analysis Wing, Intelligence Bureau and National Security Guard. This is totally unacceptable and unworthy of a plural society that aspires to a degree of equity. Even the CIA would be embarrassed if it were to exclude African-Americans. The PMHC should thoroughly probe such institutions. Exclusion, and attitudes that rationalise it in the name of ‘security’, are the surest recipe for alienation of our own citizens. We cannot afford this if we want a minimally decent and self-confident India.

Praful Bidwai, February 27, 2006, Rediff.COM

50,000 caste related cases against Dalits are still pending in Uttar Pradesh, India

February 8, 2007

 India fails to protect its lowest castes – panel

In Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, around 50,000 caste-related cases against Dalits are pending. But only four have been resolved by fast-track courts since 2002.

Dalits in rural areas were often discouraged by police from filing reports, Verma said, adding the actual number of attacks or incidents of discrimination in 2005 — the year for which figures were last compiled — were probably around 150,000.

Though India has reserved government jobs and college seats for Dalits and a Dalit is currently the chief justice of the Supreme Court, the community remains among the poorest and most socially and economically deprived.

In December, a hungry Dalit girl from the eastern state of Bihar had the fingers of her right hand chopped off by an upper-caste land owner for taking spinach leaves from his field.

In another case, all upper-caste passengers walked out of a bus in southern India when a Dalit got on, the commission said, according to a report it received last year.

“It is to be regretted that even after 57 years since untouchability was ‘abolished’…we are unable to implement successfully basic provisions (of laws protecting Dalits),” Vaghela said.

Kamil Zaheer, Reuters, Tue Feb 6,2007,