30 Nov 2007

India: Another anti-terrorism law?

Terrorism, the growing menace in India and internationally, has evoked serious countenances. After all, desperate times call for desperate measures. Since executive branches have to take permission of the legislative branches and have to act within the authorized perimeter of permitted activity (defined by law), growing instances of terrorism have led to increasing under-currents in the developmental and institutive processes functional in the legal designs and frameworks worldwide. Internationally when we already have the various war crimes tribunals (such as International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, etc.), still the world-felt need for improved mechanism for international crimes led to the institutionalization of the International Criminal Court. Though there have been issued about its legitimacy, jurisdiction, infringement on state sovereignty etc., yet the ICC is here to stay and has commenced its work.

Nationally, as well, there have been wide-spread developments. For example, UK enacted a series of Parliamentary laws to deal with the issue; namely the Terrorism Act, 2000; Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act, 2001;Prevention of Terrorism Act, 2005; Terrorism Act, 2006; etc., to deal with the grappling issue. Similar was the situation in the United States, a series of laws, with the most prominent amongst them being the USA PATRIOT Act, 2001 (i.e. Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act, 2001).

As for India, the
thing is not new. We have had seriously-civil-rights-prejudicing sedition laws for long, thanks to the colonial law. The hay days of Indian democracy have seen them implemented frequently, with the last most prominent invocation of them being in and around the 1975 national emergency. But we do have specialized terrorism laws as well. The first probably (though not technically) can be recalled as the infamous 'Maintenance of Internal Security Act, 1973' which was hugely invoked during the emergency period a couple of years later. The hype of the law was such that Lalu Prasad Yadav named one of his daughter as Misa Bharti (after the 'MISA Act').

This MISA Act was followed by more infamous Terrorism and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act, 1985 (or simply TADA), which was in fact the first specialized and
focused Indian legislation on terrorism. It was invoked heaving and indiscriminately against the Khalistan movement and during the 1990s Bombay blasts.

Thereafter we had a refined version of terrorism law, with a bit more rights to the accused, but an anti-terrorism law anyways: The Prevention of Terrorism Act, 2002 or POTA. The use of this enactment was not very prominent was still had a huge impact on the working psyche of the Indian police and armed forces, which employed the usage of this law to such a great extent that there was huge political furore over its misuse and thus leading to its repeal.

So, as of today, India does not a specialized anti-terrorism law. Any aftermaths? I do not think so. But still the Indian Parliament would like to have another stint with framing one. Good news or bad, that time will tell, depending upon the manner it is invoked and the use it is put to, but definitely, not a good precedent. Why do not we decide in principle to either have one or not to have one. Why do we keep on fondling with successive governments coming out with their own versions of such a law. It might even be better not to have one; there are sufficient powers vested under our ordinary criminal laws on the executive to deal with such situations.

The major advantages which an anti-terrorism law has on the ordinary criminal law of the land can be viewed as; giving more powers to executive to deal with situations; greater ability to armed forces to counter-act, with generally civil rights being suspended; higher conviction rates of the accused with less requirements of evidence and intent to be shown; etc.

But in any case, where would be head to with such a law and why? What are the major motivations for the government to go for a law which subverts and in some cases even over-rides the judicial process? I personally and frankly believe it is influenced by their distrust on the ability of the judicial process and the carving for more power.

If its the former, i.e. lack of trust on the judicial system, then why have one at all? Is it there for formality, to show the world that we have a civilized system with a committed judiciary and a developed jurisprudence but internally we find that its not worth it so we have special mechanisms in place to over-ride them at time and do what we think is the correct sense of justice such that it even does not require a trial.

If its the latter, it does not require any elaboration but is in fact an illustration of the human personality and diaspora; greed for power.

In any case, its not worthwhile to have one such law. It leads no where except for killing millions of innocent civilians, who are scarified in the name of preserving national integrity and well-being. And then there always are fall-outs from having a biased law, not to mention the irreparable harm it causes to the growth of judicial tolerability and legal certainly. Any body remembers the Habeas Corpus case in India, and the Regina v. R case in UK?

26 Nov 2007

Changing times with Reservation in India: Lessons from the past

There was once a time in India (probably identified by period preceding Independence) when being a Shudra was a curse to the life of the individual. Driven by equity and the desire to bring those who had been victims to these times of discrimination and suffering, the Constitution of India made provisions for Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe. Initially we provided an affirmative action programme whereby certain seats were allocated for these categories in schools, colleges, political institutions etc. This was considered to be a transitional arrangement, to last for ten years, whereafter there would be no second-grade citizens. However, as usual, the period was extended every ten years and now the things stand that it has been extended till 2026 whereafter the next review will take place.

On the other side of affairs, we also extended the form, nature and amplitude of benefits to these backwards classes (which also included, besides the SC/ST, 'other backwards classes'). We provided for reservation.

Indian legal and political history is replete with the violent reactions and bloodshed aftermath, coming from those who fell in the General Category. This was primarily due to the then Government (led by Mr. V.P. Singh of the Junta Party) with followed the decision to allocate quotas for the backward classes (or more specifically implementing the Mandal Commission recommendations). The most prominent example of this backlash was the suicide of Rajiv Goswami, who gave his life only because of the inequalities and inequities that were being introduced through this fractured and ill-thought policy decision. And this was in 1990.

Times have changed, but not much since then. Every now and then, there have been attempts to increase the scope of this reservation system in terms of both the magnitude and areas of application. The battle is now in courts and therefore being sub-judice, I would not comment on it. But there are few interesting observations to draw from it.

(1) The policy-led-decision of introducing reservation seems to be essentially in line with the 'divide and rule' policy of British in India. What reservation has done is to have made broadly two classes in India: those within the system and deriving benefits and those outside and considering themselves condemned. This has also led induced attempts of this inter-class influx both on the individual level and community level. For example, (at individual level) higher classes marrying with lower classes to derive the benefit of reservation and (at community level) entire community demanding to be declared as a backward class so that they could also be brought within the fore-fold of reservation.

(2) No doubt that it is being described as a political tool and measure of 'vote-bank-politics', but I believe things need to be seen differently. When we initially thought that we would digress ourselves from the push-up theory and instead adopt the pull-up theory but that objective has not fructified. We have provided for reservation in seats in colleges etc. but we have been unable to find the required number of candidates to fill up those seats and avail the benefit. Instead what we find is an ever increasing number of seats being reserved without this being translated into meaningful terms owing to the inability of the system to induce the backward classes to come forward and take the benefits of it.

(3) The social diaspora does not reflect in unequivocal terms the direction we need to adopt for future policy programmes. While there is intense demands for both; increasing the number of backward classes into the benefit availing segment, and diametrically on the other hand to end up with this system fully; the ins and outs of these are not sufficient to evolve a long-term objective to be pursued.

In these circumstances, the best answer according to me lies in 'Subsidiarity'. It just requires a re-designing of the system in a manner that the benefits of the system peculate to the lowest level, which cannot be done in a manner better than one wherein it starts from the lowest level itself. By making the lowest cadre competent to realize the benefits for moving up-stream and tread on the path to progress, one may as well find the existing system working and bringing out better results.

But then, again its a question of "political will" and "commitment" and cannot be achieved without determined outlook and valour.

25 Nov 2007

The Self-appointed Cultural Guardians of India and beyond

  • You celebrate Valentines day, be ready to face the wrath of a mob of Shiv-Saniks.
  • You intend to share your thoughts with your best friend of the opposite sex in a public part, be ready to face squabbling policemen happy to find another opportunity to extort money.
  • You intend to write on sex-related issues, be ready to get your house torn down by another mob.
  • You intend you be vocal on the freeman of human being and defining your own cultural surroundings, be ready to hear the comments of your neighbours and all, as if you have defamed the entire country and being.
Welcome to India and the land of self-appointed guardians of Indian culture.

What happens to be a relative issue, requiring self-determination and fellow-ship, is a societal issue, to be determined by a selected few. Its not just a few but a number of issues that come to haunt us. Why is Taslima being persecuted in India? Why does Shiv Sena have to call a riot on every Valentine's Day? Why does exchanging gifts on friendship day needs to be looked at with contempt and disgust? Why, why and why?

Why is it that the society has to determine what you have to do? What is it we are so fascinated with that we are so stuck with preserving? Why should be hear "protecting our culture" as the justification for all mob and privacy infuriating attempts of these self-appointed cultural guardians?

Who is Shiv Sena to say that we should not do x, y, z? Who gave the authority to them to declare the notions of Hindu culture and impose on them? Why, why and why?

We don't find the answers anywhere. Do we really want to be a free society, free country? Do human emotions and values really mean anything for us or are we born to sacrifice ourself for ever under the command of those, who really do not have the brains to distinguish between right and wrong and are only driven by materialistic desires?

Well, the time has come when the Indian citizens should consciously rebuke and out-spirit, instead of as always taking things for granted and believing that the system would some how find a way, if we have to advance, advance for the better.

Past does teach us but all that is past is not good. What values may have hold place at a particular time need not be the guide-posts for advancement and betterment today. We need to adopt with the changing times. We just can't keep cribbing about the changing times and being afraid of failures instead retread to past reminiscences and swear at others. We have to come out of our comfort zones and work to improve our surroundings. That is the only way to compete with the changing times.

But, seriously, it requires thinking with an open mind. And bragging that other cultures are bad and only ours' is the best is not the solution. We have to accept the fact that in this global world cultures will interact and a new culture will evolve. Being xenophobic or contemptuous will seriously not lead us anywhere. So look around, find what is good in others and try to become better, not just better citizens of your country but also better global citizens, who share, respect others' feelings, despite carrying and preserving own values. So next time don't hold in contempt or blasphemy a person you find not in tune with your cultural values but simply accept the fact that life is not just one vision, it can be many other perception, and learn to live with it.

[P.S. I came across an interesting piece which starts from the same premise but draws different conclusion. But worth reading]

22 Nov 2007

The Gloomy future of teaching profession in India

"The Indian academic profession has suffered from having been born under three unlucky stars. It was unable, because of the poverty of the country, an unfortunately chosen constitutional model and an uncongenial cultural tradition, to develop vitality as an intellectual community with a variety of overlapping, more specialised intellectual sub-communities.

Coming into existence in a society which was not a civil society, it could not develop a sense of affinity with the other sectors of the elites – alien and Indian –which ruled the Indian polity, economy and culture. And being more advanced in the scale on which it was carried on than the economic and social structure of the country, it could not function as an effective training stage for the central and lesser elites of the country.

These latter two misfortunes accentuated the first. The attrition of civility and superfluity in the performance of its function in the Indian economy has inhibited intellectual ardour and hampered the growth of academic intellectual traditions."

In my view, this analysis by Edward Shils is perhaps it is one of the very erudite summation of the reasons for the woeful position of the teaching profession in India. This problem is not unique but, similar to many other problems in India, a part and parcel of the the vicious circle of poverty, over-population and all. Keeping aside the historical reasons, the huge competition in the sector, lack of monetary incentives and the cultural attitude towards teaching being considered a noble but last option [heard anyone saying 'those who can't teach, preach'].

Research has shown that "there is evidence of inefficient incentive structures for teachers, with teacher characteristics that produce improved student achievement commanding only weakly higher pay, while other teacher traits that have few discernible learning benefits for the pupils having strong salary payoffs for the teachers." Then there are other reasons as well. But whatever may be the reasons, the country as a whole is suffering. Those who are bright don't need a teacher and those who are not-interested cannot be helped by a teacher. But what about those who are average and really need a committed individual to inspire in them the zeal to dream, think and grow.

A teacher is very important for the growth and development of the pupil. The personality of students is sharpened highly by the teacher they have, especially in their formative years. They learn, know and understand the meaning of respect and millions of other things in life, which they cannot be expected to realize all at home or work. We all need a playground and an instructor to find out what are potentials really are and the field we are best in or belong to or should aspire to me. And that is what a teacher is for.

Here I do not mean to offend or show dis-respect to all those teachers who have shown the golden path of "knowledge is empowerment" to me and that "there is not success without hardwork" and those who continue to inspire the zeal in me to keep myself directed to the chosen goal, but what I am essentially trying to say is that the number of such self-motivated, inspiring and selfless beings is dwindling rapidly and the system needs to be reworked if the future for tomorrow is to be ensured as being a good one.

Population upsurge in India: Heightening tensions

With 17.52% of the world population, India ranks the second in the world in terms of population it supports. But surprising, the population density is just 336 persons per square kilometer, which ranks India 23rd in the world. Still, that is a huge number to plan and provide for. With the population growth rate maintaining a steady tandem, these figures do not bring out the true situation. Apprehensions regarding food crisis, water shortage,malnutrition, governance, etc. have already been predicted by institutions and experts the world. With this, the other side of the world is facing population decline. Seems like Asians will out-flood the world with their inhabitants.

But seriously, what are we doing to deal with the problem. As a member of the National Commission on Population puts it, this is not a problem with a push button situation. As one may find, there are a number of working groups on the issue of population, but no one really seems to be concerned with the abysmal fact of such abruptly rising population. [To find the current Indian population, click here]

What policies have we in force? The slogan of "Hum do hamare do" seems to be age old and out of place. With democratic values in place and freedom of mind and enterprise, national perceptions can really not be imposed on anyone unless one choses them by choice. So where do we stand? We cannot borrow the policies which other countries follow for; we really cannot impose sanctions to implement a one-child policy; nor can be persecute people out of India; we also cannot support genocide by way of terrorism of otherwise (anyone reminded of Godhra?) Plus, these are extreme measures, the necessity of which has not yet arisen :)

It seems the only option is to give incentives to have less number of children and thus promote this idea of self-conscious and matured thinking in this looming crisis of tomorrow. The problem arises from the lack of awareness and approach to the issue, with most of the states lagging behind in treating this as an item of heightened policy importance. Disqualification of those having more children than a stipulated norm from public positions may well be something which has been held legal by the Supreme Court but again this has been infamed as a gender insensitive move and what not!!! Moreover, disqualification from public posts does not seem to be a huge measure to deal with the problem.

Definitely I am not an expert on population control or management and so I am not going to poke my nose in that area, but I just want my country to be great, rising and shining for ever [ :) ] and so I wish that problems like this are solved on a priority basis and so I care for them. Hope the policy makers will open their eyes and ears to it and give it a shot ...

21 Nov 2007

Cricketing Leagues in India: Excitement growing up...

cricket, more cricket, even more cricket and fast cricket. oh boy, oh boy, oh boy. The heart and soul of almost every Indian, cricket is one game which unites India from North to South, East to West. The game is played with such high stakes (well, emotional, financial, reputational and what not) that the outcome of almost every match (yes ofcourse only when India is playing) affects the entire nation. It might not be impacting stock-exchange very much, but it does have a huge role to play on the mental pshcye of Indians.

Even the Supreme Court of India has come to hold that broadcasting of a cricket match in India, where India is playing, is of public interest and has allowed the government to make serious inroads in private and intellectual property rights of the broadcasters (remember the 'Ten Sports' decision not to share feed with DD and the decision of the Government to force to Ten Sports to share the feed and then the legal drama that followed, which ended up at the residence of the Chief Justice of India with him doing the final mediating and coming with a solution???) . Well so much for the emotions and drama and bla bla bla...

Karry Packer's colourful vision of the game is about to graduate into another advanced and faster version of the game. With the T-20 cricket already having impressed the spectators and fans the world over and make them reconsider their fanship over the 50 over and 5 day version of the game, the battle of the rival cricket leagues in India will be watched with hightened curiosity all over the world, with other national cricket boards awaiting to take a strategic decision to launch similar versions of the game in their national game curriculums.

And what do we have at stakes in this battle? Perhaps huge economic and financial stakes? Or even emotional and reputational stakes? Or both??? With the authority of the cricket's richest and supposedely the most powerful national board having been challenged but a national company, entering into cricket arena for the first time but with new ideas, it would indeed be a nice treat to watch as to where the experience of BCCI carries them to this time in making the game interesting, and ofcourse how could be forget that, making more money...

The rival leagues have given out some of their game plans but the world is full of surprises and none of them could be said to have embattled each other until we all witness the actual leagues themselves. It would really be a challenge for the not only the boards, but also the players (most of whom are finding a second opportunity to prove themselves at the game, or continuing from where they retired), who would all be under extreme pressure, which originates from the tough circumstances the game would be played in, the limited overs league (which is like do-or-face-kicked-out every moment) and also the huge skates they would be playing for an against, given the fact that teams can be bought and sold in this form of the game.

Though the success of this version would depend on the level of excitement and participation that they can generate, it is for sure that these new versions are seriouslly putting to challange the legitimacy of the 50 over and 5-day version of the game, with fans now being interested in quick games and early (with having little time to spare these days) rather than having to follow up and be kept waiting for and entire day or even a week to know their outcomes.
Hope it all ends in making cricket even closer to the soul... :)

Justice delayed is justice denied?

1997: The turbulent year with Indian politics dwindling to find a leader. No one sure of where the political system would lead to...
And then we have June 13, 1997; a warm Friday with flurry of activities going on, in anticipation of a week-end. South Delhi, as usual buzzing with the crowd making way from AIIMS to Hauz Khas and people enjoying the 1971 at the Indo-Pak border in "Border", the highly sensitive movie which really struck a cord in the heart of every Indian. And then we have a fire, a huge one, engulfing the entire "Uphaar". Much has been said about it since, so much so that even wikipedia has an entry on that. But I want to mean something from it.
It has been more than a decade now. But the legal battle between the survivors of the victims and those at fault for the incident still lingers on. It has already seen two rounds of litigation with the case being presently decided on by the Additional Sessions Judge in Delhi.
The facts are not really of essence here. The essence is that the credibility of the system is at stake. But then one is reminded of the deadly gas-tragedy which took place in 1984 in Bhopal by the leaking of methyl isocynide (every law student knows that) from the plant of Union Carbide India. And what was tragic that the Government of India, submitted an affidavit (i.e. swearing on oath on behalf of the entire country) before a District Court of New York (from where Union Carbide hailed) that the Indian legal system was not competent enough to deal with the issue. [I am not really sure as to how many know that but that really happened.] And that Court ruthlessly disagreed with what the Government of India said on oath and threw out the case from its docket, stating that it would not take into account a matter which did not take place within its jurisdiction. Legally correct, but hurting the self pride of all Indians !!!
But that is not essentially I am taking to emphasize upon. The thrust is that the victims of the tragedy have not yet been compensated after more than two decades of a settlement having reached and Union Carbide paid the Indian government for its alleged acts of negligence and mass torts.

Justice looks grim in this system. You can commit a crime and then be swayed away from the clutches of the legal system for decades [for example the decision of the Bombay blasts of 1994 having come out in 2007 with the procedure of appeals, revisions, reviews etc. still to have their role in the procedure] till finally a day would come, when the witnesses would have vanished [any one remembers Satyendra Dubey, a government engineer who exposed corruption in the national highway building program and then was killed mysteriously???], the victims and their survivors paid, intruded or persecuted [to remind oneself of the various stages the Jessica Lal murder trial has witnessed] and no one really interested, except the press ofcourse, of the outcome of the case.

The Supreme Court itself has more than 45,000 cases pending before it. What to speak of High Courts and then the trial courts and tribunals etc. There is no point really guessing when the outcome of a case would be out. It could be years, decades, or even more. I am a lawyer myself and in this short stint that I have laid my hands of briefs, I have already handled many which were filed even before I was born. Can't help the poor litigants really. You feel for them for some time and then you gradually take it on as a hard reality of the system and take that for granted.

Lot has been said over the pendency of judicial appointments and the looming vacancies in the judicial system we carry, but that is no comfort to the litigant. Someone has to and something has to be really done, before 'justice delayed is justice denied' may become the norm than the exception that it really is...

20 Nov 2007

'Ram was 39 years old when he killed Ravana': Rediff

Today I read an article wherein Rediff quotes some expert to put the exact date of birth of Rama.

But then I feel betrayed by the Press. Where is it leading us to? This 24*7 culture has taken its toil on journalism. Really anything and everything, which is definitely a news, will be broadcast as ground-breaking national (or even international headlines).

For example, a date as to when Rama was born would be of use to whom? After no one is going to verify it and it does not make a difference to any one's life.

And why is life today to be necessarily decided on the basis of some thing we did not care about before the issue arose. Prior to this decision of Government to make a water route there, no one went and worshiped the so-called bridge. So even if it does not remain, why this hullabo ??? Whose cultural affinity is being destroyed? I understand there are cultural and religious affinities are talking about but why does this affinity arise all of a sudden and that too when there is a political issue surrounding it? It is just like making a mountain out of a moe-hill. The opposition wants some crapping issue to show that the Government is not in its senses (don't know who actually is in this grim political scenario where power and greed has not over-shadowed but killed democratic values and national sentiments).

By raising all this pandemonium, what are we trying to show ourselves? We argue just for sake of arguing (as Amartya Sen says) or do we actually know what we are speaking about? Come on people, rise to your senses. Think from your minds and not hearts. Probably then you might find an answer in yourselves than having to banish others for making you understand !!!

19 Nov 2007

Indians are the highest tax payers in Asia ???

I came across this article today which claimed that Indians are the highest tax payers in Asia. However what it did was to just compare the tax rates of the salaried class, compared with jurisdictions like UAE (which by itself is a tax haven, given the low tax rates there), Russia, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, etc.

It provoked in my to find out the reasons why...?

Just because of the fact that the personal income tax
rates in India are on the higher side, does that mean that we automatically become the highest tax payers? Like what happens to those tax planning measures that we get under the Act itself? What about the reduction in rates you get when you translate you income into [long term] capital gains? And finally, is the salaried class all that comprises India? What happens to the business income (which covers a substantial number of people given the fact that so medium and small-scale business enterprises are spread across the country), income from house property (covering those who make their living on the rent they get from the property they lease out), income from other sources etc., which comprise of a huge share of income and have deductions and tax-incentives inbuilt in them?

I think the proper way to find out the tax payers would have been to compare the 'Per-Capita Tax Collected' rather than just drawing conclusions from the basis of differences in tax rates.

For example, Pakistan imposes the similar rate of taxes on individuals' and corporations' incomes. Are both the highest tax payers in Asia. No. The answer is not that simple. For analyzing this, one needs to take into account the level of contribution individual tax-payers have in the national tax collection figures. What is the per capita payment of tax in the country and how is it really reflective of who actually fills in the national income tax coffers? i.e. is it the companies, individuals or foreign investors who bear the brunt of taxes???

Thus it seems that a mere reliance on the rates of tax to conclude as to who pays the highest tax would be absurd as that conclusion would be based in ignorance of the actual ground realties [ever heard of Section 80 and 80G and 80L etc. and the series of exemptions provided there ???] and the actual tax collection figures...

17 Nov 2007

My first poem ...

This is my first poem (though I am not sure I will write any more), which I have written for 'The Muse'. Tell me how it is ???

First time in London!!!

The clouds going by,
Still the sun blazing high,
Water driblets filling the sky,
I wonder where am I?

It is a different city,
Folding itself out like a mystery,
Overpowering my senses,
Affecting my responses!

Forced to think why,
I look for a reply.
Am I high,
Or the world bading bye?

Probably this is not a case,
Its just a passing phase,
I am not so insolent,
But it’s just the world being ignorant.

I shall rise from it,
Giving no one a dime,
The scores would be even.
And the peace shall be mine.

14 Nov 2007

Indian Nuclear Dilemma

Ok, that I have been asked to write on some flashy topics, one which would entice people to think and comment, I think its good to write on something comtemporary, something which really affects people. So I thought why not the proposed Nuclear Deal with the United States, which though is not really contemporary, but has been affecting the politics of India for quiet some time now and that too in a serious way.

So whats the deal for India? Lets put that in objective terms and discuss the legal implications first;
  • It started with the 'Henry J. Hyde United States and India Nuclear Cooperation Promotion Act of 2006' or simply the 'Hyde Act' being passed by the United States Congress (this Act explains the approach of the United States' nuclear program towards India and South Asia as well), which gave the power to the US President to enter into an agreement with India on the aspect of nuclear cooperation. This led to the 123 Agreement that India and United States signed.
  • As a lawyer will put it, it is an international treaty, which binds the parties to it in terms of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties (1963). Taking into account the fact that the United States is a monist and India is a dualist state, the ratification by the Congress of the Agreement makes it enforcible as the domestic law of the United States but for making the Agreement as enforcible as the domestic law of India, the Indian Parliament needs to enact a legislation making the Agreement enforcible in India. If both are done, the citizens of United States and India, respectively, can approach the courts for enforcement of the provisions of the Agreement.
  • But what if the United State Congress does not ratify or that the Indian Parliament does not enact a legislation to enforce it in India? What implications does it carry? Practically not much, as far as the terms of the Agreement go. The Agreement remains binding on the governments of both India and the United States and both the countries can approach the courts, if they so decide that way, on the failure of others to carry into effect the Agreement (see Article 15 of the 123 Agreement).
So the fact that Indian government has yet been unable to implement the provisions of the Agreement, given the stand-off at the Parliament, is not of any consequence, in so far as the nuances and obligations under the Agreement go.

Now let us analyze what this Agreement does? Why it is so heatedly being debated in India? Is it so badly worded against India or what the hell has gone wrong?
  • Article 2 states that "The Parties shall cooperate in the use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes in accordance with the provisions of this Agreement". Therefore whatever may be done by both the countries in this area, can be done only under the framework of the Agreement and not otherwise. [Principle of pacta sunt servanda, which requires an international treaty to be read in good faith and in the context of the treaty]
  • But then the same Article 2 provides that the parties remain free in terms of the various measures not agreed upon in the Agreement. It states, "4. The Parties affirm that the purpose of this Agreement is to provide for peaceful nuclear cooperation and not to affect the unsafeguarded nuclear activities of either Party. Accordingly, nothing in this Agreement shall be interpreted as affecting the rights of the Parties to use for their own purposes nuclear material, non-nuclear material, equipment, components, information or technology produced, acquired or developed by them independent of any nuclear material, non-nuclear material, equipment, components, information or technology transferred to them pursuant to this Agreement. This Agreement shall be implemented in a manner so as not to hinder or otherwise interfere with any other activities involving the use of nuclear material, non-nuclear material, equipment, components, information or technology and military nuclear facilities produced, acquired or developed by them independent of this Agreement for their own purposes."
  • Applying this same reasoning of pacta sunt servanda, it is clear that nuclear and other non-nuclear activities which are worked upon by the two countries are not dictated by either of the two countries. In order to examine the true implication of this provision, let us find out as to what is covered under the Agreement, so that the scope of activities left out from the coverage of the Agreement may be known. It;
    • gives India the entitlement to engage in nuclear trade with citizens of US and third countries (sic) via Article 4;
    • devises a mechanism for the transfer of nuclear material, non-nuclear material, equipments, components and related technology between the parties (Article 5);
    • authorises India to carry out nuclear fuel cycle activities (Article 6) i.e. engage in production of nuclear power;
    • allows storage and re-transfer of nuclear material by India (Article 7);
    • requires India to maintain physical protection of the fissionable material (Article 8);
    • ensure environmental protection (Article 11); et. al.
The key points, or rather the contentious ones seems to be the provisions which oblige India to;
  • use the material only for peaceful use, requiring it not to use for nuclear explosive device, for research on or development of any nuclear explosive device or for any military purposes (Article 9);
  • subject the materials etc. transferred by the United States to perpetual safeguards, as may be dictated by the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) under an agreement, which India is again obliged to enter (under Article 5.6 of the 123 Agreement) with the IAEA (which in itself is another Pandora's Box altogether);
    • So it seems that the nuclear materials, which are not transferred from the United States can be worked upon by India, without subjecting them to IAEA safeguard (therefore, the entire debate that even the private nuclear reactors would be subject to IAEA safeguard is really non est in terms of the Agreement);
    • India is liable only to keep an account of the nuclear material transferred by the United States and render it to IAEA. Therefore India is free to negotiate agreements with other countries, notably Russia and Australia which have shown interest to that regard, to keep the materials supplied by them away from IAEA safeguard, and that would be perfectly legitimate in terms of the 123 Agreement;
  • both the countries are free to terminate the Agreement by giving a one year's notice (sounds nice but how much really feasible, subject to intense debate); subject to this being done, the 123 Agreement will remain in force for 40 years (Article 16).
Now so what are our political parties cribbing about when;
  1. under the Agreement we are guaranteed the supply of nuclear material for 40 years,
  2. material which can solve India's growing demands for electricity in a way bigger than conceived,
  3. material which can bring India's reliance of fossil fuels on a minimal level, thus also reducing the pollution levels we are encountered with daily,
  4. strengthen our economy with improved infrastructure (it all starts from electricity really, which nuclear energy is the best option to provide), and
  5. attainable of goals unimaginable as of now, with the smooth and steady ride to development.
when this requires;
  1. compromising our sovereignty??? when in today's era sovereignty has already been compromised a lot with institutions like WTO (and EU in the Europe) really dictating terms to the member states;
  2. opening our civilian reactors to IAEA safeguards??? but what are we afraid of really: exposing ourselves to using sub-standards technology? I don't think thats a good argument. Today when we are looking forward to making our country a better place to live in, taking advice from an international body with 144 states membership, on how to conduct smart and efficient utilization of resources does not seem to be a bad idea.
  3. oh come on man, its US, un-trustworthy !!! Ya right. I don't think its a good time to think with our brains than our hearts. We all know that even the United States would not have engaged itself in this exercise of altering its foreign policy to such a great extent (since the unilateral ban imposed in 1998 when we tested our nuclear facilities for the second time) unless it finds it has got something in return for itself. It is getting a big trading partner, afterall. It wants an Asian giant to deal with the China-factor, which the US is very keen to counter. So the US does have some perspectives for entering into such a deal. But the point for us is that, if we are capable of becoming a huge economy (more than what we really are moving at the current pace), with a slight improvement in the resources we use, I don't really think that the move is unplaced.
Come on people, grow up. When there is no need of a political consensus and its all a self gain exercise (like the Office of Profits bill or over-turning the Supreme Court decision requiring the candidates to declare their assets and give other information at the time of contesting for elections such that the public could get the correct picture of their candidates), the members of our Hon'ble Parliament will always find themselves in consensus.
However whenever there is a national issue which requires the public to think big, and with future in mind (I don't want to open another Pandora's Box here but can't resist from mentioning 'reservation' issue here), they never seem to be on the same boat. Always cribbing (with a hidden motive that the other party will win the laurels if the thing goes through) and acting childish, fighting over non-starters really and in the end stalling the whole process (like this Nuclear deal) and making a I-lose-no-problem-you-lose-as-well situation restructure all the time.

I do not want to impose my views but really request all the responsible citizens of India to think and make attempt in placing the country in the right perspective as it they would want to portray it to the world, or atleast want it to be...

(By the way, for the really curious ones, as to why it is called 123 Agreement, this is because of the United States Atomic Energy Act of 1954, Section 123 of which providing for "Cooperation with Other Nations" makes a mechanism whereby the United States Government can have an agreement for 'nuclear cooperation' with another country. So any agreement which the United States enters into with another country on the aspect of nuclear cooperation, is called as the '123 Agreement')

13 Nov 2007

Diwali @ Manchaster: Perspectives

Nothing better than home. And its the same if you 'at home, away from home'.

So was I this Diwali weekend at Manchester (or actually Stockport) where I really found a home. A home which was there for me since birth, with a lot of Dad's friends settled around there and having a real great time at the community. Diwali party was like oh-la-la. With lots of fire-crackers and Diwali sweets, and the traditional jua, and what not !!!

But there was more. I got fatherly advice as well. At home-away-from-home for four days, I got them in loads. Some was verbal, some felt, known and understood. Having been here for more than two decades in UK, since the time Indians were considered second-grade citizens, they haven't lost their links with the culture and traditions they received from their home country. Plus, they are enhancing their ties to their motherland but engaging more and more in ways which lead to their interaction with India. However this is not all.

"No matter where you reach, be down to earth. Remember, a man is worth interacting not by how much money he has in store or how big his deeds are. Its worthwhile to be interacting with someone who treats all at the same level and does not get dissolved in the hype which this mortal world creates around him." Big words indeed, but carry an ever bigger meaning. Life is not easy as it sounds. Its easy to be yourself and care none for else but then there is a cost to be a human-being. Sacrifice, which is not an easy option to follow; its a virtue. It requires a lot of self-restraint, discipline and the sheer will-power to get through. But that does not translate into the fact that it is impossible to achieve.

But its not for giving sermons that I am here for. What I really want to share is that I got the advice from person(/s really) who had been in for more than two declares in UK and had the judgment to distinguish the better of the two systems, (UK and Indian) both culturally and otherwise. If it comes straight from the horses' mouth that retaining your values really serves, even in a potentially hostile environment, it must be so. In fact what I could perceive is that it acts as a bridge, in the path towards becoming 'global citizens', something which I had written about earlier as well.

Another think that I learned was that no matter how hard the circumstance must be, one must keep doing what one wants. The results would be fabulous. Its no doubt difficult to establish oneself in a new and unwelcoming environment but then whose who persevere do achieve what they desire.

I hope the words would have an ever-lasting impression on (atleast) my future course of actions!!!

8 Nov 2007

Reply to Abhinav

A dear and new-made friend of mine, Abhinav made interesting observations on my note on the sea of humanity. I try to reply to some of his observations. Before that I would, taking leave, paste what he wrote, to put things in the correct perspective.

This is what Abhinav wrote;
nteresting way to look at internationalization and diversification amongst major world centers. But I don't think various nationalities settle in London to "plague" or take revenge on the imperialists, but for several other simpler reasons. For some its a life away from a stronger communistic (strong society) country like the developing world, and for others its the big UK government which is attractive(for example in US ceral government is smaller so there is more individualism, while in UK if u r spirit is not individualistic, its easy to rely on the "social welfare". while for some it might be better prospects of a job, for others it might be just the charm of "living in London." the world race concept is nice but it is, i think, mainly motivated by globalization. With economics ruling all societies, a chinese would talk politely to an indian not because they r both sufferers of third world or any other emotional/historical basis, but merely because he might come across the indian as his next client, employee, business partner etc.. its all about money honey.

To this I would like to say that;
Well said Abhinav, another way of putting things I would say. Money may be a motivator but it is not the end. So even though in the short term it may the heart-and-soul of an individual and may drive him to move around, it does not remain to be the end-point for ever.
I am reminded here to refer to Meslow's need hierarchy theory (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maslow's_hierarchy_of_needs) which specifically addresses this theory. Money might accompany you till your esteem needs are satiated but once that point is over, and you begin to look for the inner self, both in you and others, then the quest is no longer money but realisation of the "true". This may be understood in different names like 'religion', 'God', or whatever you might term at, but its certainly not money. So I think the basis does not stand for ever.
To the second part of the place, I don't think there is anything specifically special about London. I took this example for various reason; firstly because I have been here for some time now, which I think makes be able to feel the pulse; secondly because its an important center of trade and business, so gives many a chance to make a fortune, as Abhinav rightly said; thirdly because London is a city which provides a basic groundwork for cultural mix to take place, begin peculiarly situated amongst conservative outlook and modern paradigm. Any other city might well be taken as an illustration. For that matter I think even New York or say Dublin or Dubai might well serve as a potent reminder of the fact that people are constantly engaged, for whatever reasons it may be (money or otherwise), in inter-changing and sharing of cultures. Cultures and practices which may hitherto been unknown or even obnoxious. The xenophobic temperament has lost itself somewhere and lost for good.
I leave it at that for I don't think I mean more than that. Its for others to interpret and analyze.

London: The sea of humanity

Well well well. The London School of Economics alone has a student population hailing from 156 countries, what to speak of London itself. One of the few cities which have witnessed the dark ages, renaissance and are still contemporary in this modern world, London is arguably a pivotal center of economic and political organization, shaping the present and the future of the world today.

And why shouldn't it be so? It carries with it people from all generations, backgrounds, cultures and traditions, bringing with them the virtues and vices from the world over. I call this 'the sea of humanity'.

No matter where you are; peering from the Holborn Station in Central London; being at the eastern end at Heathrow; the so-called Indian town Southall in the west; you will always wonder as to where do all these people come from??? Its a question better not answered for it leads to many other perplexing questions. And if you are and Englishman, then even to frowns and anger, from being perpetually turned into a minority, both ethnic and cultural, in your own backyard.

It seems it is the outcome of the 400 years of one way transmission, which the United Kingdom has been instrumental at, that it has come to be occupied by the so-called 'outsiders'. Having sown the seeds of the English culture and mannerisms across the globe, those who have had been recipients of these imparted lessons, have come to plague this country and particularly London in the last 50 years, and the numbers are continuously rising.

But don't forget here that the sea of humanity refers to much more. It symbolizes the epitome of a cultural bridge that people are constantly crossing. The inter-mingling of sorts, the march towards cross-culturalization, and giving the world a message of the future. It gives a peep into the times to come, a time when cultural, racial, ethnic, religious, geographical and national differences of the inhabitants would be so inter-merged that there will be just one race, the world race. No black, No white, No Asian, No African, No American and No ... . Just one class of people everywhere.

The march to it is already on. The European movement to consolidation, the US attempt to take together its North American counter-parts, the South American organization of sorts, the Asian culmination etc. though all having a common-point of trade interests in them, are potent indicators to where the march is marching towards. A harmonization at a continental level, which will undoubtedly lead to one at the world level.

So this sea of humanity has a message for us; forget the prejudices, join hands towards making the world a better place to be in. Lead the march to a civilization which has no essential traits but one, respect for mankind and tolerance for others. So let us march in our quest for "making this world a better place to live in".
Yesterday I was reading the London Paper (yes, the free tabloid one) where I found a column titled "The Columnist" the purpose of which is to invite people generally to write about anything on earth that they feel others should read and know about. The idea is win-win situation for both the writer and the newspaper; the writer is happy to find a place where the world can read his thoughts and the paper is overjoyed since the contents can be published for free.

I thought I could borrow the idea for this site. However since I am not a newspaper and therefore not a very prominent one, I would instead begin with writing for myself and thereon will invite friends and people I know to write for us all: Sharing knowledge for the mankind.

With this game plan I am beginning to write this blog.

(8th November, 2007)