Sunday, June 16, 2024

Assault on the poorest


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I was shocked to read in The Shillong Times (May 23, 2024) about members of the Hynniewtrep Youth Council dismantling homes of poor working people at Lum Survey. Not only lawless, this kind of violence, which shows a total dearth of basic kindness and compassion — an inability to rise above the tribal identity to embrace humanity as a whole — can only boomerang back to harm Khasi society. If nothing else, Christianity and westernization should have imbued civil society in Meghalaya with altruistic social norms and a thirst for social justice. When will the people of the Northeast and Indians as a whole disregard identities to become kinder to those who are poor, dispossessed, and hurting?
I could not imagine being in the shoes of those whose homes were destroyed with such impunity and shamelessness.
Yours etc.,
Deepa Majumdar,
Via email

India ignores Amartya Sen’s wise counsel
There is a saying in Bengali, “geyo jogi bhikh paena.” It means that a wise person does not get recognition in his own country. This is applicable to Noble laureate Amartya Sen. When other countries achieved good results after following his road map, the authorities in his own country prefer to turn a deaf ear to his suggestions. They need to listen to his advice and give priority to human development, social harmony, and justice.
He devised methods of measuring poverty. This provided much needed data for improving economic conditions for the poor. His findings influenced policy makers all over the world to give attention to the lost income of the poor and on a stable price for food. He said that social reforms like improvements in education and public health must precede economic reform.
Human Development
In spite of getting lucrative offers from many countries, he remains a citizen of India. His main concerns have always been India and its people. But our political leaders did not pay heed to his suggestions of giving priority to human development. As a result, India is heading towards more inequality. A recent paper authored by the French economist, Thomas Piketty and others observed, “The Billionaire Raj headed by India’s modern bourgeoisie is now more unequal than the British Raj headed by the colonialist forces.” Yet the authorities have been giving their total attention to GDP growth, ignoring dismal performance in human development.
Heads of the inequality coin show that India has 271 billionaires, which is the third highest in the world (The 2024 Hurun Global Rich List). Tails of the same coin reveal the struggle of the common people to get health care and education for their children in our country, which ranks 134th in the global human development index behind Bhutan (125) and Bangladesh (129). When will the political leaders listen to Amartya Sen and start the journey for inclusive welfare for all the people of our country?
Social Harmony
Manipur has been reeling from the disharmony between communities. It is time to understand the idea of India, which is what Maha Upanishad said, “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” (the world is one family). While emphasising India’s plural legacy, Amartya Sen highlighted that India’s two great emperors – Asoka and Akbar – were both non-Hindus. He also reminded us about exemplary secular humanist Dara Shikoh.
He said, “The introduction of European scholars to Hindu scriptures, in particular the Upanishads, was to a great extent based on the Persian translation of the Upanishads done by Dara Shikoh. He was not a great scholar himself but he did work hard with the help of Hindu pundits to learn Sanskrit and he translated parts of the Upanishads into Persian. It was this translation that William Jones read which attracted him to India and to the study of the Hindu religion.”
Justice and the UAPA
Citing data from the National Crime Records Bureau, the People’s Union of Civil Liberties in its draft report pointed out that out of 8,371 persons arrested under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) between 2015 and 2020, only 235 were convicted. The high rate of acquittal (97.2%) showed that prosecution under the UAPA did not have merit in the majority of cases.
In this situation, what Amartya Sen said on the UAPA must be considered, “Under British rule, Indians were often arrested and imprisoned without trial, and some were kept in prison for a long time. As a young man, I had hoped that as India became independent, this unjust system, in use in colonial India, would stop. This has not, alas, happened, and the unsupportable practice of arresting and keeping accused human beings in prison without trying them has continued in free and democratic India.”
Yours etc.,
Sujit De,

Why curb our freedom?
Never before has any government imposed Section 144 on vote counting day. The MDA Government has truly exceeded its brief. Why should government apprehend trouble? What is the NPP candidates in both Shillong and Tura win? Who knows about secret ballots unless this government has a way of knowing that it is losing both seats. These are extraordinary measures that are undemocratic and mimic the Modi regime’s clampdown on our freedoms. Once the votes are cast we have to accept the results and leaders of political parties have to be able to control their own followers. Or is it that the NPP knows that if it loses both or one seat its own cadres could create trouble? More so if their arch enemy the VPP happens to win the Shillong seat. There are so many probable reasons best known to the government. Till date we have not heard of any states imposing Section 144 on election counting day. What does the Government know that we don’t know? And why is the MDA Government which is on the backfoot on many other issues now so pro-active? Will the Government answer?
Yours etc.,
Rishotbaskhem Lyngdoh,
Via email


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