Digital Cabinet

Polevaulter Donkeyman's rants, raves musings and flame wars

Posts Tagged ‘india

Boycotting Republic Day? Why not?

with one comment

Over the past 3 weeks in India at large and in Delhi in particular, there have been many large protests to highlight the plight of women in India vis-a-vis the violence and rape perpetrated against them, The proximate cause of these protests was the gang rape in Delhi of a 23 year old women, who later succumbed to her extensive injuries. An in depth discussion of this rape is beyond the scope of this post which would focus on one small tangential aspect and the response of an academic thereof. Please consult Wikipedia for a reasonably extensive summary of the incident.

In the aftermath of the rape, a demand was raised in various corners to boycott India’s Republic Day, which is held on January 26 of every year.

The Republic Day holds a two fold significance for India:

  1. On January 26, 1930 the Indian National Congress, the main political group agitating for Indian independence from British colonial rule, meeting in Lahore (now in Pakistan), promulgated the declaration demanding Purna Swaraj or complete Independence from the UK. Following this January 26 was celebrated as Independence Day.[1]
  2. On 26 January 1950 the Constitution of India was adopted, declaring India to be a sovereign democratic republic. This date was chosen to commemorate the Purna Swaraj Declaration (see above).

The Republic Day Celebrations in Delhi mostly consist of a parade of the different regiments of Armed Forces and the paramilitary forces, trucks towing aircraft, missiles and howitzers, and tanks (not in this exact order), followed by tableaux exhibiting the culture of the different parts of India. The forces salute their commander-in-chief, namely the President. This is replicated in the capitals of the States with the Governor substituting for the President. While the day is meant to celebrate the adoption of the Constitution and refreshing one’s loyalty and fealty to it, it is mostly a celebration of the power of the State as manifested by the guns, rifles, tanks, howitzers, missiles and combat aircraft.

Given the significance of the date, there has been a backlash to the call for boycotting the Republic Day. Given that Kashmiri separatists and Maoist guerrillas have called for similar boycotts in the past, opponents of the boycott call have equated those advocating a boycott this year as ideological bed fellows of the separatists and guerrillas.

This argument is puerile. It is similar to saying that since ISCKON promotes vegetarianism and the Swaminarayan sect also promotes vegetarianism, their adherents are no different from Nazis. There can be many reasons for boycotting the Republic Day Celebrations. One reason may be to not identify with the Indian State and the Indian people. I will not go into the legitimacy or illegitimacy of this reason in this post. Another reason can be to not identify with the Indian State while still pledging one’s loyalty and fealty to the Constitution and one’s identity as a people. As explained above, the formal governmental celebrations are a celebration of the State and its lethal power. It is perfectly reasonable to reject the celebration of this power of the State which is powerless to prevent heinous crime. It is perfectly reasonable, instead, to swear an oath of loyalty to the preamble of the constitution

WE, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a SOVEREIGN SOCIALIST SECULAR DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC[2] and to secure to all its citizens:

JUSTICE, social, economic and political;

LIBERTY, of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship;

EQUALITY of status and of opportunity;

and to promote among them all

FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the Nation;


(emphasis mine)

As has been explained in numerous opeds to reduce rapes in India requires not just law and order reform, it requires a change in society, a change in thinking which gives women equal status as men, where little girls are treated the same as little boys, where every individual’s dignity is assured from birth and is honoured and protected by all.

Swearing an oath to uphold the constitution and its guarantees to all people is a more meaningful gesture (and if followed up a more meaningful action) compared to the routine genuflection to the might of the Indian State, a might which is powerless not just to prevent but to even account for the acts of violence and injustice its citizens (or, given the attitude of the State, its subjects).

However trust a historian[3] of Modern Political History to make a knee-jerk accusation that any boycott of the Republic Day celebrations is anti-national. No explanation of why the boycott is anti national or why the boycott strikes at the people rather than the State. One would expect him, being a professor and an intellectual, to engage with the substance of the argument and attempt to educate others, rather than make some inane pun. Such an attitude is not just a reflection on him but on his employer. I would not be surprised if Prof. Habib defends the principle of academic freedom. But the flip side of academic freedom is the duty to communicate ideas or facts, not evade questioning via clever wordplay. Not surprisingly I was subsequently blocked on twitter by the esteemed professor.[4]

Given that January 26,1950 was the day when the Constitution of India was adopted, the words of late Justice Hans Raj Khanna[5] are appropriate

If the Indian constitution is our heritage bequeathed to us by our founding fathers, no less are we, the people of India, the trustees and custodians of the values which pulsate within its provisions! A constitution is not a parchment of paper, it is a way of life and has to be lived up to. Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty and in the final analysis, its only keepers are the people. Imbecility of men, history teaches us, always invites the impudence of power.[6]

(emphasis mine)

One, final point. There could, conceivably, be objections that a boycott of the Republic Day is tantamount to disrespecting the sacrifices the Armed Forces have made for India’s security. However such objectors would have to explain how celebrating one day, according to the diktats of the State, amounts to honouring the soldiers who have served and sacrificed much for the nation. One can honour them on other days also e.g. the Army Day (January 15), Navy Day (December 4), Air Force Day (October 8) and Coast Guard Day (October 8). Moreover if one truly wishes to honour the sacrifice and service of the Armed Forces let them truly help the veterans (most of whom come from lower economic classes of society) and the widows and orphaned children of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice by giving them the love and support (both emotional and financial) they are entitled to, not just on one day but over the long term. After all, this is the same State, which while insisting that the Republic Day is a celebration of the sacrifice of the brave soldiers also pays the widow of a decorated army major an insulting Rs 80 (not even US $2) per month in 2010.[7]


[1] This is similar to July 4 which is celebrated as Independence Day in the US but is actually the date when the US Declaration of Independence was adopted by the Second Continental Congress. The American War of Independence formally ceased under the Treaty of Paris while the last hostilities ceased in 1781 with the fall of Yorktown

[2] Initially the preamble did not include the words socialist and secular when the constitution was initially adopted. They were added to the preamble by the Forty-second Amendment. Interestingly this amendment was enacted during The Emergency when the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi suspended elections, civil liberties and bestowed on herself the power to rule by decree. Not surprisingly I oppose the inclusion of both words; secular because it is superfluous given the protections under Articles 25-28 and socialist because socialism led to the economic stagnation of India for 45 years after independence. Moreover the very same amendment also introduced, for the first time, Fundamental Duties on the part of every citizen. Trust a State which abrogates the fundamental rights (including habeas corpus) of its citizens to also demand fundamental duties of them.

[3] According to the Times of India, he is the Maulana Abul Kalam Azad chair at Delhi’s National University of Educational Planning and Administration. However at the university’s website he is not listed amongst the faculty. Probably because the website is not up to date.

[4] I had also been previously blocked by Kanchan Gupta. That is a story I may tell some other time.

[5] Notably Justice Khanna was one of the dissenting judges in Additional District Magistrate of Jabalpur v. Shiv Kant Shukla which shamefully upheld the government’s decision to suspend habeas corpus. His dissent stated

The Constitution and the laws of India do not permit life and liberty to be at the mercy of the absolute power of the Executive . . . . What is at stake is the rule of law. The question is whether the law speaking through the authority of the court shall be absolutely silenced and rendered mute… detention without trial is an anathema to all those who love personal liberty.

[6] Khanna, H. R., Making of India’s Constitution. Eastern Book Co, Lucknow, 1981. ISBN 978-81-7012-108-4

[7] “The petitioner before us in the present case is a widow Pushpa Vanti, whose husband was an army major who had fought in three wars (in 1948, 1962 and 1965) and was decorated with fourteen medals. However, the petitioner is getting only Rs.80/- per month as pension, in these days when a kilogram of arhar dal costs that amount.” Pushpa Vanti vs Union Of India & Ors. (2010).

Written by Polevaulter Donkeyman

January 4, 2013 at 05:31

An Economic Case Against Immigration? Durka Dur

with 3 comments

Came across this article in @TRISH00L’s twitter feed

The author, Jaideep Prabhu (who also tweets as @orsoraggiante lays out an economic case against immigration to India of unskilled labour in response to an article by Nitin Pai in the Business Standard

Read the rest of this entry »

Mr. Gupta, have you met Mr. Gupta?

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Mr. Gupta, have you met Mr. Gupta?


  • Text on the right on green background is from Liberty is not libertinism by Kanchan Gupta, written on February 9, 2009. Text reproduced in the following table in the left-hand column.
  • Text on the left on white background is from Mini skirts, Jamaatis and their dark world by Kanchan Gupta, written on July 8, 2012. Text reproduced in the following table in the right-hand column.


Kanchan Gupta on[1] the Pink Chaddi Campaign Kanchan Gupta on[2] the dress code[3] called for by Jamaat
A … point that merits elaboration is the disdain which the charlatans who pose as emancipators of women … have for local community sensitivities, which are often casually referred to as local culture and tradition No less telling is the implicit worldview of the Jamaatis. The world they crave for is not splattered with colours and cultural diversity; it’s a joyless world where women are made to disappear …
There really is no need to fashion our lifestyle after Sex and the City. Recall … how faces were blackened of women who refused to don the burqa.
Just because … lip-locking …raises no eyebrows in the West does not mean the East must ape the mating game. Frivolities apart, there’s something darkly and deeply sinister about the Jamaat’s attempt to impose a dress code …
What is material and important is whether those around the individuals … are comfortable with it; if they feel discomfited or outraged, then their sensitivities must over-ride the presumed right to make a spectacle of yourself in public. … what is being sought is to titillate the imagination of the lowest common denominator of Kashmiri society, the rage boys of Islam … in the guise of protecting faith-based, culture-centric sensitivities.
By idolising deracinated men and women who have scant regard for moral values … we are promoting everything that is antithetical to our culture, our tradition. In the absence of that resistance[4], time will come when Jamaatis – whatever their organisational loyalty and affiliation – will demand that women be barred from wearing “mini skirts and other objectionable dresses” anywhere in the country as it hurts Muslim sensitivities


Alternative titles considered for this post:

  • That was then, this is now
  • Gupta vs. Gupta
  • On Miniskirts and Pink Chaddis

Note: I am, in no way, implying that Mr. Gupta supported the Sri Ram Sena. He in fact refers to them as “a bunch of goons masquerading as soldiers of Sri Ram Sena” and states that he does not defend “Pramod Muthalik’s hooliganism”. The question however remains: why give more importance to one community’s sensitivities compared to another community’s sensitivities? Of course, it could be that his opinions on the issue of personal liberty vis a vis community sensitivities have evolved. However I received no answer when I asked him that.

  1. PolvolterDnkymn
    @KanchanGupta Great post. Have you repudiated “What is material … is whether those around … are comfortable”
    Sun, Jul 08 2012 11:52:14



[1] Gupta, K., Liberty is not libertinism, Feb 9, 2009

[2] Gupta, K., Mini skirts, Jamaatis and their dark world, Jul 8, 2012

[3] “Some tourists, mostly foreigners, are seen wandering in mini skirts and other objectionable dresses which is quite against the local ethos and culture. We have simply requested foreign tourists moving around to respect Kashmiri culture.” — Jamaat spokesman Zahid Ali said (emphasis mine).

[4] … the political will and courage to call [the Jamaat’s] bluff and stand up to [the Jamaat’s] bullying …

FPTP is just as bad!

with 14 comments

  1. PolvolterDnkymn
    @sabhlok All the ills described in the linked article happen in India which uses First Past The Post

Sanjeev Sabhlok excerpts from an article in The Australian by Janet Albrechtsen[1] on why proportional representation (PR) is bad (for Australia). He uses this article as to why India should not adopt PR for elections. I counter that all the evils of PR as propounded by the article happen in India too which uses the first past the post (FPTP) voting system

Albrechtsen’s salient points are:

  1. PR ensures extremist (I read as non-major)[2] parties get representation
  2. No centrist party gets a majority and thus has to enter coalition government with the smaller extremist parties
  3. Thus these smaller extremist parties hold the balance of power
  4. Policies not desirable to the greater centre have to be adopted so as to placate the extremist party.
  5. Under PR, voters cannot know, when they vote, what the future governing coalition will look like
  6. It takes months of horse-trading and backroom deals to form a new government

Refutation of Sanjeev Sabhlok’s contention

Each of these above scenarios occur in India too which uses the FPTP system

Table 1. Tally of Seats won by INC and BJP 1989-2009
Lok Sabha[3] INC BJP Total/% of seats
Ninth (1989)[4] 195 89 Not calculated[5]
Tenth (1991) 252 121 373/68
Eleventh (1996) 140 163 303/56
Twelfth (1998) 142 183 325/60
Thirteenth (1999) 118 189 307/56
Fourteenth (2004) 159 147 306/56
Fifteenth (2009) 210 117 327/60

  1. Non-major centrist parties get elected to the Indian Parliament.
    • The major parties in India closest to the “centre” are the Indian National Congress (INC) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The last time the INC ever had a majority in the lower house of the Indian Parliament was in 1984.[6] The BJP has never achieved a majority on its own (it was formed in 1980)
    • Thus even with FPTP 40-45% of the seats go to the non-major parties
  2. Thus the smaller parties hold the balance of power
    • In 1999 the governing coalition was brought down by a minor partner[7]
    • But it is not the smaller parties only which are guilty. In 1991 and 1997, the INC which was supporting the coalition from outside withdrew support resulting in elections
  3. Smaller parties in India have also forced the government to adopt policies at variance with the major party.
    • The Indian government’s policy to allow foreign direct investment in the retail sector was derailed by the TrinaMool Congress (TMC) which has 20 (4%) of seats in the Lok Sabha and is a member of the current governing coalition.
    • The Indian government barely survived a confidence motion in the Lok Sabha after the Left Front[8] having 60 (11%) seats withdrew support over the Indo-US civilian nuclear agreement[9]
  4. It is laughable to say that under PR voters cannot know, at the time of voting, what the future governing coalition will look like. Such phenomenon occur in FPTP too.
    • In the UK general elections in 2010 no party had a majority resulting in a coalition between the Tories and the Lib Dems. At the time a tory voter or a lib-dem voter voted, s/he had no idea that there would be a future governing coalition (let alone what it would look like).[10]
      • Voters who voted for the Lib Dems, after the party pledged not to raise tuition fees, wouldn’t have known that the Lib Dems would vote for a tuition fee increase when in government as a coalition with the Tories.
      • Voters who voted for the Tories, believing its manifesto promise to be tougher on Europe, wouldn’t have known that the Tory PM Cameron would make a U-turn on his campaign promise to support a campaign by the European Parliament to reduce its monthly “travelling circus” to Strasbourg.
    • In India, due to the emergence of non-major parties on to the national scene, parties usually contest elections as part of larger coalitions, which one may think gives the voter an indication of what the future governing coalition would look like. However such coalitions are extraordinarily fluid and regularly lose and gain members.
      • The United Progressive Alliance (of which INC is the major member and which is now in power) has regularly lost members.
      • The National Democratic Alliance (of which BJP is the major member and which is now in opposition) has also regularly lost members.
      • In fact most of the smaller parties keep switching between the two major parties. Thus even in an FPTP system voters cannot know, when they vote, what the future governing coalition will look like.
  5. The last objection to PR is that it leads to months of horse-trading and backroom deals to form a new government. Such horse trading and backroom deals are nothing new in India.
    • Aaya Ram Gaya Ram politics in India have been going on for decades.
    • Horse trading in Uttar Pradesh has a long and (un)distinguished history.
    • In 1993 certain MPs of a small party were given “donations” of money to vote for the government and against a no-confidence motion (which the government survived).[11]

Thus given the above evidence I believe, unlike Sanjeev, that India does not need to be wary of proportional representation because any “ills” it has are already manifested in India with its FPTP system. Sanjeev’s position therefore stands refuted.

A Theoretical and Philosophical argument againt Albrechtsen

Turning to a more theoretical and philosophical discussion regarding PR and FPTP, I wonder why Albrechtsen is hostile to small parties. Is it because as a supporter of one of the major Australian parties (the Liberals) she is does not like the feeling of having to negotiate and compromise with other duly elected representatives? It seems to me that the article is arguing that the centre should be allowed to ignore the non-central opinions, that the 60-70% of the electorate has the power to ignore the remaining 30-40% which does not agree with them.

Turning to the issue of smaller parties preventing the adoption of good policies by the centrist parties, what is preventing the centrist parties to come together in support of the good policy and freezing out the smaller parties. e.g. in a 11 seat legislature let’s assume A has 5 seats, B has 4, and C and D have 1 each, with C and D being the non-centrist parties and A being in a coalition with C. If A is pushing a policy opposed by C with C threatening to leave the coalition why doesn’t A solicit support from B? If it is a reasonably centrist (and thus desirable according to Albrechtsen[12]) policy then I don’t see why B and A cannot negotiate some sort of acceptable compromise legislation. It is a failure of the major parties to come together to pass centrist policies and this failure is being disguised, by the likes of Albrechtsen, as the unreasonableness of the smaller parties.[13]

As for smaller parties forcing through undesirable policies, who is letting them? The major parties should be blamed for kowtowing to the smaller parties in their lust for power. If the policy is undesirable to the major party what is stopping it from telling the smaller party to take hike? The fear that it will lose a no-confidence motion? So is staying in power more important to the major party than opposition to bad policy? And instead of blaming the major parties Albrechtsen is blaming the small parties?

Australian Context

One point that should be made is that Albrechtsen wrote this piece in the Australian context. In Australia the upper house is elected by a PR system incorporating a single transferable vote with an “above the line” system. In this system a voter instead of individually ranking each candidate, ranks slates of candidates (each slate comprising of all the party candidates). Since the parties are in possession of these preferences they can then trade them with each other. While such trading agreements are published in advance, they are complicated enough such that it is difficult for the average voter to easily determine the fate of his or her preferences. In such a context parties get enormous power on how to direct the individual voter’s vote. Thus it makes the parties powerful and also it abrogates the link between the elected official and the voters and weakens accountability. I agree with Albrechtsen and Sanjeev that such a system which gives so much power to parties is bad for democracy.[14]

Personally I prefer the Instant Runoff Voting System. This allows voters to show their support for smaller parties without the risk of a major party losing because of a divided vote. Given that the Freedom Team of India (FTI) is a fringe party I am surprised Sanjeev[15] would not be in favour of a system which will allow people to vote for FTI without fears of a wasted vote.[16]

A Note on Language

The last important point I want to note is the language used by Albrechtsen. She uses the word “extremist” and “fringe” to denote the non-major parties. This a point worth noting. By labeling the non-major parties as extremist and fringe Albrechtsen is attempting to confine them to beyond the pale. However what is left unexplained is on what basis should the major parties be respected? Because they are supported by a majority of the public? The smaller parties are to be ignored because they are not supported by the majority? That logic is no different from one justifying the tyranny of the majority; so why constrain[17] the power of a government duly elected by a majority? But is being extremist wrong? In a polity dominated by major parties which do not believe in free trade[18] a position supporting free trade is by definition extremist. In a world where mainstream policy favours protectionism support for free trade is extremist. In a polity where the major parties do not believe in personal liberty[19] a position believing in personal liberty and autonomy is by definition extremist.

Extremism in the defence of liberty is no vice. Moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.[20]

A corollary to the above is the combination of Australia’s compulsory voting system with Albrechtsen’s view that fringe parties are not worthy of representation. It is akin to forcing people to go to the voting booth and then making them choose between alternatives which are both repulsive (one may be slightly less so than the other): “You must buy a car and it could be any colour you want as long as it’s vomit green or feces brown.”

By Albrechtsen’s (and by extension Sanjeev’s) logic parties such as Lok Satta and FTI that are fringe (and extremist given the pro-statist ideologies of both the INC and the BJP) do not deserve legislative representation.[21]

And the very last point. Majority government does not magically provide good policy and governance. A majority government is just as likely as a coalition to promulgate bad policy. It even finds it easier to ride rough-shod over individual freedom and liberty because there is no party in the legislature to challenge it. The only good government is a small government (whether minority or majority), constrained by a constitution with enough space for economic freedom and personal liberty to unleash the power of the free markets and free minds — the surest engine of human growth and progress.


[1] The Australian is the newspaper of the conservative establishment in Australia. Albrechtsen is a columnist for it. It is no surprise that the article is a paean to the establishment.

[2] This is a major point which I will come to later. As of now I will restrict myself to pointing out that the label of “extremism” is used to delegitimise the smaller parties.

[3] As of now its strength is 545 members

[4] The second largest party in that election was the Janata Dal which thereafter split repeatedly

[5] Because the INC and BJP were not the two largest parties

[6] 426 seats; The BJP had 2 seats.

[7] The minor partner was the AIADMK which had 18 MPs in a house of 545 (3%). It withdrew its support to the governing coalition because certain demands were not met e.g. dismissal of the then Tamil Nadu government run by AIADMK’s arch rival DMK

[8] A conglomeration of communist parties

[9] The said agreement is a most complicated agreement and on which I am not an expert. However it goes to original anti-PR point that small parties have a disproportionate influence on policy. My point has been that such disproportionate influence exists in FPTP too.

[10] One may object to this argument on the basis that it is not an apt analogy because in PR voters know that there would be a coalition, they only don’t know what it would look like and that this was not the case in the UK, since the voters expected their party to win (not the lib-dems surely?). However final polls before the start of voting show that no major party was close to getting a majority of the seats, thus raising the spectre of coalition.

[11] See also It’s official; political bribery is tax-free. Ask the taxman,

[12] Coalitions comprising of fringe parties produce “lower-quality policy and politics”. Supra note 1

[13] The issue of FDI on retail in India is the example of such failure by the major parties. As has been detailed above the TMC held the governing coalition hostage. The BJP could have supported the governing coalition as it had supported the policy when in power. Of course needless to say it dropped such a policy when in opposition.

[14] One rationale for why above the line voting was adopted is that since Australia enforces compulsory voting it behoves the administration to make voting as easy as possible. However above the line voting is an attempt to mitigate the impact of a bad policy viz. compulsory voting (based on the same rationale as conscription) by another bad policy such that the net result is even worse.

[15] He is a member and supporter of the FTI. His writings on FTI.

[16] Some may object that IRV denies the “one person one vote principle” but I disagree. While it may seem that the voters whose first preference candidate loses get to vote a second time for another candidate, nobody is preventing any voter from ranking any number of candidates. If a voter declines to choose any candidate apart from his/her first preference, it is no different from an eligible voter abstaining from an election in an FPTP system.

[17] Courtesy Sanjeev Sabhlok.

[18] Only 25 members of the US House of Representatives in the 108th Congress voted consistently in favour of free trade Free Trade, Free Markets: Rating the 108th Congress

[19] The House of Commons passed, by large majorities, the Health Act 2006 which banned smoking in pubs. A private member’s bill to exempt pubs from the 2006 ban was defeated in 2010

[20] This is a paraphrase. The actual quote is “I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice! And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue!

[21] I have purposefully referred to Sanjeev’s writings on the two major parties of India given that his endorsement of the Albrechtsen’s viewpoint would lead to their entrenchment in the Indian polity.

Why does the Government have to do all this?

with 3 comments

  1. venkatananth
    @shashitharoor Can you please help P Kunhimohammad and Joseph Abraham make it to Colombo for the Olympic qualifier? Rs. 30k for travel.
  2. I gather that the above tweets refer to the news story below:
  3. My question is (as asked in the headline): why should it be the government’s responsibility (and thus in its power) to send Indian athletes to the Olympic Games? And why do Indians believe that MPs should spend their time in such one-off highly targeted initiatives which, as far as I can see, do not have any tangible long lasting effect. MPs are elected to Parliament as representatives of the people to hold government to account when it fails to improve the general welfare of the people it is supposed to serve. Sending an athlete to an Olympic qualifier does not qualify as improving the general welfare of the people. 

    The frustrating thing about this is that people believe that the government is there to solve all problems. An athlete can’t get to a qualifier? Petition the government. Autorickshaws charging exorbitant rates? Petition the government for more regulation (subject of a later post). Animals dying of heat stroke in India? Petition the government to open animal shelters.

    The cost of sending P Kunhumohammed to the qualifiers in Colombo, Sri Lanka? Rs. 30,000. Not such a huge sum even by Indian (upper middle class) standards that 50 to 100 people cannot come together to contribute. The linked Indiatimes article had > 300 comments (last I checked). If each of them contributes Rs. 100 the required sum will be raised.

    This is a problem which does not require government intervention to solve. So why do people still think that the government should be involved? Maybe because 50 years of socialist rule, where the government did everything, where the sarkar is the mai-baap, civil society has atrophied to such an extent that people cannot conceive of solutions which do not require any government involvement. 

    And this is the biggest hurdle in India’s progress and growth, in the growth of India as a free-market liberal nation.

Written by Polevaulter Donkeyman

July 5, 2012 at 22:30

Defending Dhoble?

leave a comment »

  1. This was written in response to 
  2. A cliff notes version is:

    1. There are some archaic laws e.g. Immoral Traffic Prevention Act, 1956, Bombay Shops and Establishment Act, 1948 (by archaic one doesn’t necessarily mean that the objectives behind these Acts are anachronistic but that the provisions, language and modes of enforcement are). BSEA §33(3) states:

    No such woman shall be required or allowed to work in any establishment after 8.30 p.m.

    2. Vasant Dhoble, an Assistant Commissioner of Police (Social Service Branch) (basically the vice department, tasked with upholding laws governing public morals) zealously enforces laws and rules.

    3. According to daddy_san:

        a. Dhoble “was just doing his job.”
        b. “India needs … more people who just do their fucking job and do it well. Like ACP Dhoble.”
        c. Criticising Dhoble for his past misdemeanour is like playing the ball and not the man (I think by this daddy_san is implying that Dhoble be criticised for what he is doing wrong now, which is presumably nothing, and not for his past mistakes)
        d. It is the fault of the law and it is the law that must be changed.

  3. Certain actions Dhoble has taken recently:

    1. Closing down an eatery in Bombay because it stayed open past the deadline (as prescribed by the BSEA). While doing this Dhoble, armed with a hockey stick assaulted the manager.

  4. 2. Closed down a bar “Masala Curry” on the charges of it being a front for prostitution along with arresting the hosts, some men and women. 
  5. A little digression regarding the action on “Masala Curry”. Two women who were arrested sued Dhoble for wrongful detention and defamation (they were accused of prostitution). The HC declined to intervene on the grounds of maturity since the matter was being inquired to by a magistrate
  6. The magistrate meanwhile released the women from a reform home to their relatives but did not clear them of the prostitution charges. 
  7. The basis for suspicion of prostitution are:

    1. The women entered for free (what they have not heard about Ladies’ Night?)
    2. The women were not forthcoming about their family background and occupations (what did the magistrate expect? Women going to bars is still frowned upon by society, the women understandably wanted to protect their families from embarrassment)
    3. The party was not a “birthday party” as advertised
    4. There were no producers/directors at the party as claimed (the women claimed they were aspiring actresses who went to the party for networking purposes)

    The important point to note here is that there is no mention of any evidence of any transaction specifically motivated by sex. On such evidence people are accused of prostitution.

  8. Back from the digression.

    My problem with daddy_san’s article is as follows

  9. Daddy_san’s position is that Dhoble was just doing his and doing it well. Unfortunately his job is enforcing bad laws and instead of directing their ire at Dhoble, people would be better served by targeting archaic laws (such as closing times) and thus attacking him for his past deeds (I’ll address this later) is like playing the man and not playing the ball. 
  10. PolvolterDnkymn
    @daddy_san 1. “Play the ball” – Considering that you made an issue of the man’s character why complain when past misdeeds are dredged up?
  11. Daddy_san explicitly brings up character of Dhoble. He states that “India needs …more people who just do their fucking job and do it well. Like ACP Dhoble.” Nobody would disagree with the contention that India needs more people who do their job and do it well and I assume that he would also want people of good (not impeachable maybe) character. But does Dhoble do his job well? Does he have a good character?
  12. PolvolterDnkymn
    @daddy_san People around him have a habit of dying in suspicious circumstances, crucial files re: Dawood are lost, suspended for bribery
  13. 1. In March 1983, a man died under his custody. Dhoble was ultimately acquited by the Supreme Court of killing the man but the SC ordered a police inquiry into the death (the inquiry is still pending).

    2. He was arrested for bribery in 1989. He was suspended on June 8, 1989  and resumed duty on March 27, 1991. (Note: There was no criminal case, so unsure if he was cleared or if he was given a slap on the wrist)

    3. He was involved in the shooting of a peanut vendor, allegedly involved in the mafia, in a “fake encounter”. Matter still pending before the SC

    4. He lost 12 dossiers on the Dawood Ibrahim gang when he was in the Crime Intelligence Unit. He was let off with a warning.

    If Dhoble is is doing his job he is doing it pretty badly.

  14. The second issue I have with daddy_san is his contention that Dhoble should not be blamed because he is just doing his job which is enforcing laws, bad laws in this case. He seems to be making the point that there should be no discretion on the part of the enforcers of the law, because if they are given any discretion they would bend the law for their own benefit (If this interpretation is wrong, I am happy to be corrected). Atleast one commenter agreed with him.

    It’s not a cop’s duty to interpret the law and decide if it’s ass. … In fact, if we ask cops to bring in value judgments before enforcing a law, we’d be asking for another kind of moral policing.

  15. PolvolterDnkymn
    @daddy_san 2. Bad laws: Agreed. But laws aren’t written with 20/20 sight, in certain situations discretion is needed 2 enforce law equitably
  16. Let us review what Dhoble did. The video above shows that Dhoble assaulted an eatery manager while armed with a hockey stick. Yes the law required the eatery to be closed by a certain time. Under the law (an ass in this case) the eatery should have been closed down and the owner and manager punished for the violation. Did the law explicitly state that the manager must not be manhandled? No it didn’t. But that doesn’t mean that Dhoble should manhandle suspects without good reason. He should have exercised his discretion and shut the place down without assaulting people. In fact he could have even allowed the eatery to close down once all the patrons were done. How much more time would that have taken? 30 minutes more? Would allowing those 30 minutes cause a disaster of cataclysmic proportions? The eatery would still be punished for violating the regulations.

    Regarding the Masala curry case, discretion would have been useful. Dhoble did not know for sure that there was prostitution going on. He was given a tip which led to the raid. A raid conducted in a blaze of publicity. Knowing the tendencies of indian society the women would be considered as prostitutes by their neighbours,  whether they were really prostitutes or not, before any trial. Would discretion have been useful? Yes. What if the prostitution case fails?

  17. PolvolterDnkymn
    @daddy_san Dhoble has shown that he does not have any discretion or judgement. He is a robot enforcing the law.
  18. Some laws are written specifying the boundaries of legal behaviour. Does a slight overstepping of the boundary justify punishment? Taken speeding laws. The law prescribes a maximum speed of 100 km/hr. If a driver goes at 101 km/hr should s/he be punished? What if the driver was travelling at 100.5 km/hr? However clearly laws are written they cannot be written with perfect foresight. There is always space for discretion.

    Laws are also legislated at a discrete point in time when a particular set of circumstances are in existence. Nobody knows how the future evolves. Are those circumstances which existed when the law was passed still in existence? Circumstances change all the time and applying the law without any discretion could lead to unjust results. Take the example of the law prohibiting women from working in shops after 8:30 pm. The law was written in 1948 when the prevailing attitude towards women was radically different from what it is now (as a side note: I am sure there is an urban bias in this statement of mine, I have lived in urban areas all my life). Now that women are working independently to support themselves and their families how does a enforcing a law which restricts their employment be just? (As another aside this line of reasoning takes me very close to the living constitution model but I think that constitutions are a contract between the state and the citizens constraining the power of the state. If it must be construed in a way so as to increase that power in derogation to the rights of the citizens then it must be done explicitly via amendment rather than by unelected judges; but this is a discussion for a whole another day)

    My basic point is that there is an inherent uncertainty around a law and its enforcement and that this uncertainty should be construed to the benefit of the people, something like the rule of lenity. But Dhoble’s actions show that every uncertainty is construed so as to hurt the citizen. His interpretation is extraordinarily crabbed with no thought given to whether he could be mistaken or whether the required result could be obtained without thuggishness or embarrassment to the people targeted, people who may not necessarily be guilty and are in fact not guilty until proven so in a trial.

    In conclusion India does not need bad laws and India definitely does not need Dhobles.

  19. On a side note I would like to address the “Nuremberg defence” (Befehl ist Befehl) argument raised by some as a criticism of Dhoble.
  20. greatbong
    @daddy_san Not to invoke Goodwin’s Law, but this following orders was the No 1 rationale at Nuremberg. Didnt save their sorry necks though.
  21. greatbong
    @daddy_san In Germany, they didnt consider “concentration camps” as the ultimate taboo. Just as dragging innocent women as whores isnt
  22. greatbong
    @daddy_san If you havent seen “Judgment at Nuremberg” I urge you to do so. Your entire argument is refuted there.
  23. While I do get the thrust of @greatbong’s argument (after all it is similar to mine) where I part company with it is that the Nuremberg defence was denied because certain orders are so repugnant that it is the moral duty of one not to carry out the order. According to the Nuremberg Principle IV — “The fact that a person acted pursuant to order … does not relieve him from responsibility … provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him“.

    Sending people to their deaths in extermination camps is orders of magnitude more repugnant than enforcing a bad law governing shop closing times badly. The law may be bad but reasonable people may differ as to its badness and how repugnant it is but it does not rise to the level of murder (let alone genocide), though given Dhoble’s track record I am not so sure …

    Interestingly after WW I Germany’s Supreme Court Supreme Court allowed the Nuremberg defence (well technically defence of superior orders, since WWII hadn’t yet taken place) in the trial of Lt. Karl Neumann in the sinking of the hospital ship Dover Castle and in other war crimes trials. The allies were dissatisfied by this verdict which led them to remove the Nuremberg defence before the Nuremberg trials

Written by Polevaulter Donkeyman

June 27, 2012 at 03:58

Posted in Storify

Tagged with , , , ,

Should a democratically elected representative necessarily be fluent in the language of the people who have chosen her to represent them?

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I have been, for sometime, following the “classical liberal” blog “Sanjeev Sabhlok’s Revolutionary Blog”  by a former IAS officer who is now an Aussie civil servant. While most of the time he is quite reasonable and forceful in representing the classical liberal philosophy he sometimes lapses into nativism (regrettably). One such incident was his criticism of Sonia Gandhi for writing her Hindi speeches using the Roman script (which he extrapolated to her utter lack of any Indian language — though logically the proof offered has no bearing on whether she can understand and speak Hindi or not, she may understand and speak enough to get by though she may fail to write a Madhushala) According to Sanjeev this shows —

  1. EXTREME SHAME for India, that we couldn’t find ONE PERSON who knows an Indian language, to govern India. (capitalization his)
  2. This is the manifestation of a foreigner ruling independent India
  3. The entire Sikh religion being besmirched by some Sikh dude’s actions

As a libertarian (minarchist trying to get to grips with David Friedman’s anarcho-capitalism) I find his criticism offensive and contrary to classical liberal philosophy

  1. Sonia Gandhi may have been a foreigner when she married Rajiv Gandhi but she did affirmatively acquire Indian citizenship. She is no longer a foreigner. How is being tied to the citizenship of the state one was born in (or one’s parents’) for life (which lest one forgets is not a matter of choice) without being able to disclaim it or being unable to choose to be a citizen of another state be compatible with the basic tenet of classical liberalism viz. individual liberty?
  2. How is the action of one Sikh (I pass no judgement on what he did) besmirch the entire Sikh religion? Wikipedia tells me that there are 25.8 M sikhs in the world. Can one person have so much power?
  3. Under the Indian constitution India is a federal entity with powers divided between the federal govt and state (provincial) govts. The Union list enumerates areas of exclusive federal jurisdiction and the Concurrent list which lists areas where both the federal govt and the state govts can make laws. The Union list contains matters such banking, insurance, mining, saltmovies, opium, estate duty.
    • Given that the federal govt can affect the lives of every Indian (from J&K to Tamil Nadu and from Gujarat to Arunachal Pradesh), Sanjeev’s argument should be that if one wants to lead India and all Indians then one must be fluent in all Indian languages . Why should a Tamilian consent to being governed by a PM who does not know how to speak, read, write or otherwise communicate in Tamil? (As an aside I am not a Tamilian). Sanjeev replies that an Indian leader should know atleast one Indian language. He also asks whether  a square peg represent a billion round pegs? But he has no answer to the question that if said leader want to, say, lead Tamilians, should said leader know Tamil? By that logic Muslims can be represented only by a Muslim, Dalits, by a Dalit etc … (does that also mean that men can be represented by only men and women by only women?). Sanjeev, however chose not answer such inconvenient questions.
    • Note: the State list enumerates areas of (near) exclusive state jurisdiction (if this gives anybody the erroneous impression that Indian federalism is similar to US federalism, it is not; the federal govt in India is vastly more powerful vis-a-vis the state govts compared to the United States — in fact the powers of the state govts is enumerated and anything not under their jurisdiction is under the jurisdiction of the federal govt — an exact opposite to the Tenth Amendment to the US constitution)

4. Finally my most important point — Sonia Gandhi is a freely elected member from her constituency of Rae Bareilly. The people living in the constituency chose her to represent them. Why they chose her (she belongs to the Nehru-Gandhi family, she is Fair & Lovely etc) is not relevant. That they believe her to be the best representative for their interests is the only relevant metric.

5. If one wants to criticise Sonia, criticise her on her policies not whether she is fluent in Hindi (her fluency has no relevance to her policies)

Ultimately Sanjeev may personally feel ashamed that an Italian-born non-Hindi reading person is the leader of the governing party of a nation with a large number of Hindi speaking people. I don’t see why India should be ashamed.

And a point Bhagwad Jal Park made

 Coming to the British, if the British gave everyone equal rights, established democracy, treated everyone equally, and maintained proper law and order, why would you or anyone for that matter have a problem? What is the goal here? The goal is to live peacefully without oppression and with freedom and rule of law. The goal is not to have a person speaking a particular language at the top.

Hear! Hear! Ultimately government is there to serve the people not lead, govern, rule.  If the British can provide democracy, law and order and guarantee rights and equal treatment in a better fashion than any Indian speaking group then what is wrong with letting the British form the government? What would one say if the Afrikaners in South Africa tomorrow say that the only govt they would consider would be a white government? This is equivalent to insisting that only people fluent in “Indian” languages can form government in India. Ultimately what matters is whether the government can enable one’s enjoyment of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

And one final point — Nothing above should be construed as implying that Sanjeev is not a classical liberal. He and I have the same goals — small government and free markets. I do believe that sometimes he leads himself astray by focusing on irrelevancies. I have great respect for his writings even when I disagree with him and I encourage all to read his wonderful blog. He is a forceful exponent for liberty in the Indian context.

Written by Polevaulter Donkeyman

January 29, 2012 at 23:38