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The (Jan) Lok Pal fiasco August 25, 2011

Posted by southasiamasala in : India, Noor, Habeeb , comments closed

Habeeb Noor

Politics isn’t just the sorry story that many of have us have become used to reading about in newspapers. According to the popular discourse, the successive failures to deliver good governance, access to services, and an enhanced life, has bred anger, contempt and scorn for those representatives locked away in the ivory towers of the state and national assemblies. Ironically, the simplistic view contained within this discourse masks the complexity of the governance issues involved, and herein lies the nub of the problem in terms of the current Lok Pal bill debate.

It is in the context of this crumbling pile of false promises, especially the recent spate of corruption scams, that Anna Hazare’s phoenix like rise has gained prominence. He demands the passage of the Jan Lok Pal bill, which will create an all powerful ombudsman, bereft of all control. It is not likely that this magic bill will end all corruption – the disease eating away the Indian State. While no one can argue in favor of corruption, logic should also rein in thoughts on knee jerk, demagogue solutions.

Not a Gandhian struggle: Mahatma Gandhi on his salt march, 1931.

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India’s water dilemma January 18, 2011

Posted by southasiamasala in : India, Noor, Habeeb , comments closed

Habeeb Noor

This article first appeared in the Charitiarian, Third Edition, June 2010.

One problem arising out of India fast-paced process of urbanization is the lack of sufficient, clean water for all. India is highly vulnerable to the inefficiencies in the water sector. A report by the McKinsey Global Institute highlights just this problem and raises the red flags on India’s blind approach to managing its growth.

Experts warn that the world’s population will face severe water shortages within the next twenty years. India’s water problem, however, is already manifesting itself in its cities and villages, where faucets run dry much too often during the year. The country is still heavily dependent on the monsoons to replenish its supply of water and the intermittent disruption of this cycle often proves costly for farmers, manufacturers and end users alike. Already under pressure, this poses a heavier burden on India’s ailing water infrastructure.

This is no doubt that the specific issue of water scarcity, which is compounded by urbanization, is a complex issue, as the nature of the problem varies from state to state and city to city. So in that sense, it is prudent to ask if water scarcity – a problem central to daily life in India – is purely a resource issue, or a political management problem? In many cases it amounts to both.

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India betwixt 1528 and 2010 October 3, 2010

Posted by southasiamasala in : India, Noor, Habeeb , comments closed

Habeeb Noor

Last week India was dealing with a historic storm emerging from Ayodhya. For a moment, while 2010 and beyond beckoned, India sidestepped to circa 1992. The streets fell silent and shutters were downed as the country paused for the verdict on a disputed site that housed the Babri Masjid, in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh, between Hindus and Muslims.

The Allahabad High Court’s verdict pronounced that one third of the land will be handed over to the people who had filed a suit representing Ram Lala Virajman, while the rest of the land will be controlled by a Hindu sect, Nirmohi Akhara, and the Muslims, represented by the Sunni Waqf Board. Hindus’ claim that the site where the Babri Masjid once stood (built during the rule of Mughal Emperor Babar in 1528), which was destroyed in 1992 by Hindu mobs, is the birthplace of the Hindu God, Ram. In a country where religion has created deep fault lines in society, the demolition of the Babri Masjid cut straight through the heart of secular India.

Critically, however, the judgment was initially received as a pronouncement peppered with reconciliation, a compromise formula that sought to appease all stakeholders in the dispute. As one delved deeper into the issue, many argue that the verdict pandered to majoritarian sentiment.

The verdict on the title suit in the Babri Masjid-Ramjanmabhoomi case came out in the form of three separate judgments by Justice Dharam Veer Sharma, Justice Sudhir Agarwal and Justice S.U. Khan; all three judges accepted that there had been Hindu religious structures at the site where the mosque once stood. However, Justice Khan’s judgment clarifies that ‘no temple was demolished’ to build a mosque, while Justice Agarwal stated that a Hindu religious structure was demolished to build a mosque. Justice Sharma took on a more drastic reading of the case to essay that ‘the disputed site was the birth place of Lord Ram,’ and that the entire land belongs to the Hindu’s. On one hand, Justice Sharma and Justice Agarwal consolidated their judgments to declare that the disputed site was indeed the birth place of Lord Ram; at another level, Justice Agarwal and Justice Khan concluded to the partitioning of the disputed land since it had been utilized by both Hindu’s and Muslims for centuries. (more…)