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Freedom from hunger: privilege granted or acknowledged right? January 29, 2014

Posted by southasiamasala in : Guest authors, Pakistan, South Asia - General , comments closed

Aly Ercelan and Muhammad Ali Shah

“Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food.”

A recent publication of Rome-based UN agencies (FAO along with IFAD and WFP of the UN) aiming at global food security is worth a serious commentary for several reasons. One is the odious South Asian situation, which includes Pakistan, of socially imposed mass hunger and malnutrition, which affectsnot just women and men but also children. If there is a single issue that defines development, then it is the situation of children today and tomorrow (as UNICEF rightly underscores). Their under- and mal-nourishment leads to untimely death of hundreds of thousands before the age of five. Survivors face a cruel future in which both body and brain remain wasted and stunted. What then is the point of investing social resources in universal schooling? Avoiding hunger often leads to employment of children in distressingly hazardous conditions and at ruthlessly exploitative wages. Government commits funds for abolition of “worst forms of child labour” but what benefit can they have when their disbursement excludes full and productive employment of their parents?

A second reason is that the FAO retains an overwhelming influence upon sub-continental professional advisors as bureaucrats and consultants, even among those who are not obviously beholden to Washington. Thirdly, food security should be included in the post-2015 agenda for universal accountability of states and the international community to citizens. In fact, food security targets may well encompass necessary commitments in education and health.

This review summarises the FAO report – The State of Food Insecurity in the World  with an emphasis upon South Asian conditions. Its policy guidelines are to be examined critically in a follow up article, through a lens provided by another recent study – Alternatives & Resistance to Policies that Generate Hunger (by the Right to Food & Nutrition Watch.

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New book: Re-thinking India: Perceptions from Australia January 28, 2014

Posted by southasiamasala in : India, News , comments closed

Re-thinking India: Perceptions from Australia

Edited by Lance Brennan and Auriol Weigold

New Delhi: Readworthy Publications, 2013. (Australia-India Interdisciplinary Research Series –  4)

Dating from the early nineteenth century, the ties between India and Australia were initially in trade and then, as parts of the British Empire, together playing a significant role in both World Wars. Since Indian independence there has been a developing relationship, recently expressed in the IOR-ARC (Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation) where Australia succeeded India as Chair in 2013. Cooperation continues on initiatives from security and environmental issues, to energy and education. The breadth of interests covered by the collected essays reflects the diverse concerns of Australian academics with an interest in India. The essays range from discussions of India’s diplomatic relationships and energy strategy to analyses of communalism and the strength of village elites and on to considerations of the fundamentals of Hinduism.

The contributors come from equally wide backgrounds, reflecting the complexion of Australian academia: Giovanni Arca, Jayant Bhalchandra Bapat, Mohammad Harunur Rashid Bhuyan, Tathagata Chatterji, Ian Copland, Gigi Ifergan, Christopher Kremmer, P.R. Kumaraswamy, Peter Mayer, Sanjay Ranade, Rizwana Shamshad, R.F.I. Smith, Christopher Snedden, Sneha Subhedar, Marika Vicziany, Auriol Weigold. Many of the papers in this collection, including some by postgraduate students, were first given at the Asian Studies Association of Australia’s conference held in 2012 at the University of Western Sydney. Other scholars generously contributed work on their current research. (more…)

Delhi voters pick an unconventional winner January 22, 2014

Posted by southasiamasala in : Guest authors, India , comments closed

Purnendra Jain and Peter Mayer

Voters in Delhi have ushered in an unconventional leader of a new party, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP — the Common Man Party), to the top political position in the National Capital Territory. Delhi’s seventh chief minister, Arvind Kejriwal, may be a political novice but he is by no means an unknown figure. A graduate of the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology and a former senior official in India’s Income Tax Department, Kejriwal became known nationally in 2011 through his association with the anti-corruption movement led by Gandhian Anna Hazare. Mass demonstrations in Delhi against widespread corruption, and their coverage through national television, made Kejriwal one of the country’s most prominent faces.

Kejriwal was responsible for drafting an anti-corruption Jan Lokpal Bill and played a key role in implementing the Right to Information Act at the grassroots level. But at the end of 2012, Kejriwal parted company with Team Anna, as the latter did not support Kejriwal’s proposal to form a political party and contest elections. When the AAP was formed in November 2012, most commentators were pessimistic about its future. But one year on, Kejriwal surprised many after his party won 28 of 70 seats in the Legislative Assembly, thrashing the long-ruling Congress Party. It’s the first time in Delhi’s history that a party other than the Indian National Congress and the Bhartiya Janata Party has taken the helm. Delhi’s previous chief minister, Sheila Dikshit, belonged to the Congress Party, and after three five-year terms she became the longest-serving chief minister in Delhi and the longest-serving female chief minister in India. Of course, the emergence of political leaders from social movements is not a new phenomenon. In India, however, while many regional parties have emerged and their leaders served as chief ministers, most parties have been developed on the basis of caste, religion, language or regional issues. And none has managed to cultivate the same profile as Kejriwal.

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