தலையங்கம் - 07-07-2021

கடந்த சில மாதங்களாகத் தேங்கிக்கிடந்த மின்பராமரிப்புப் பணிகளைப் பத்து நாட்கள் அவகாசத்தில் செய்து முடித்திருப்பதோடு, மண்டல வாரியாகத் தொடர்ந்து ஆய்வுக் கூட்டங்களை நடத்திவரும் தமிழக மின்சாரத் துறை அமைச்சரின் நடவடிக்கைகள் வரவேற்கத்தக்கவை. கடந்த இரண்டு மாதங்களில் நிலவிய அறிவிக்கப்படாத மின்வெட்டானது, மக்களிடம் வருத்தத்தை உருவாக்கியிருந்த நிலையில், இந்தப் பராமரிப்புப் பணிகள் அதற்கு முடிவுகட்டும் வகையில் அமைந்துள்ளன. கடந்த ஆட்சியில் துணை மின்நிலையங்களைத் தனியாரிடம் ஒப்படைக்கும் திட்டமொன்று பரிசோதிக்கப்பட்ட நிலையில், தற்போதைய அரசு அத்திட்டத்தை ரத்துசெய்து, புதிய பணியாளர்களை நியமித்திருப்பதும் பாராட்டுக்குரியது.

மின்உற்பத்திக்கும் மின்பயன்பாட்டுக்கும் இடையிலான வேறுபாடுகளின் காரணமாக ரூ.900 கோடி வரையில் இழப்பு ஏற்படுவதாகவும், அதைச் சரிசெய்ய மின்கணக்கீட்டுக்கு ஸ்மார்ட் மீட்டர்களைப் பொருத்தவிருப்பதாகவும் மின்சாரத் துறை அமைச்சர் தெரிவித்திருக்கிறார். வீடு, தொழில், வணிகம் ஆகியவற்றில் மின்பயன்பாடு கணக்கில் கொள்ளப்படுவதையும் விவசாயத்தில் அது தவிர்க்கப்படுவதையும் அவர் சுட்டிக்காட்டியிருப்பது கவனத்திற்குரியது. இது ஏழை விவசாயிகளுக்கு மின்மோட்டார் வாங்க மானியம் வழங்குவதாகத் திமுக தனது தேர்தல் அறிக்கையில் தெரிவித்ததற்கு மாறான அணுகுமுறையோ என்ற கேள்வியும் எழுகிறது. கடந்த ஆட்சியில் மின்வாரியத்துக்கு ஏற்பட்ட ரூ.1.59 லட்சம் இழப்பின் காரணமாக ஆண்டுக்கு ரூ.15 ஆயிரம் கோடி வரையில் தமிழ்நாடு மின்வாரியம் வட்டி செலுத்த வேண்டியிருப்பதையும் அவர் குறிப்பிட்டுள்ளார். மின்வாரியத்துக்கு வட்டிக்குக் கடன் வழங்கும் நிதி நிறுவனங்களில் முதலீடு செய்வதைப் பாதுகாப்பானதாகவும் லாபகரமானதாகவும் நிதி ஆலோசகர்கள் பரிந்துரைக்கின்றனர் என்பதையும் கணக்கில்கொண்டால், இது நீண்ட நெடுங்காலமாகச் சரிசெய்யப்படாமல் இருக்கும் பிரச்சினை என்பதைப் புரிந்துகொள்ளலாம்.

--Source: hindutamil.in

 மேற்கு ஆசியாவில் ஒன்றன்பின் ஒன்றாகப் பல மாற்றங்கள் நடைபெற்று வருகின்றன. "ஆபிரஹாம் ஒப்பந்தம்' அடித்தளமிட்டுக் கொடுத்த பாதையில் இஸ்ரேலும், ஐக்கிய அரபு அமீரகமும் அடுத்த கட்ட நகர்வை மேற்கொண்டிருக்கின்றன. அதனால் கடந்த 70 ஆண்டுகளாக கலவர பூமியாக இருந்துவரும் மேற்கு ஆசியாவில், அணிமாற்றத்துக்கான அறிகுறிகள் தென்படுகின்றன.
 இஸ்ரேலின் வெளியுறவுத் துறை அமைச்சர் யாயிர் லாபிட், இரண்டு நாள் பயணமாக ஐக்கிய அரபு அமீரகம் சென்று திரும்பியிருக்கிறார். இஸ்ரேலின் தூதரகங்கள் அபுதாபியிலும், துபையிலும் நிறுவப்பட்டிருக்கின்றன.
 2020 ஆகஸ்டில் அமெரிக்காவின் மத்தியஸ்தத்தில் இஸ்ரேலும், ஐக்கிய அரபு அமீரகமும் ஆபிரஹாம் ஒப்பந்தத்தில் கையொப்பமிட்டன. 1979-இல் எகிப்தும், 1994-இல் ஜோர்டானும் இஸ்ரேலுடனான உறவை ஏற்படுத்திக் கொண்டதற்குப் பிறகு, 2020 செப்டம்பர் 15-ஆம் தேதி வாஷிங்டனிலுள்ள வெள்ளை மாளிகையில் முன்னாள் அமெரிக்க அதிபர் டொனால்ட் டிரம்ப்பின் முன்னிலையில் அமீரகத்தின் வெளியுறவுத் துறை அமைச்சர், பஹ்ரைனின் வெளியுறவுத் துறை அமைச்சர், இஸ்ரேலின் முன்னாள் பிரதமர் பெஞ்சமின் நெதன்யாகு ஆகியோர் கையொப்பமிட்டு உருவாக்கிய ஆபிரஹாம் சமாதான ஒப்பந்தம் இப்போது அடுத்த கட்டத்துக்கு எடுத்துச் செல்லப்பட்டிருக்கிறது.
 வளைகுடா நாடுகளுக்கு விஜயம் செய்யும் முதலாவது இஸ்ரேல் அமைச்சர் லாபிட்டாகத்தான் இருக்கும். 15 நாள் காசாவில் நீண்டு நின்ற இஸ்ரேல் - பாலஸ்தீன மோதலுக்கும், நெதன்யாகு அரசு அகன்று நாஃப்டாலி பென்னட்டின் தலைமையிலான புதிய அரசு இஸ்ரேலில் பதவி ஏற்றதற்குப் பிறகும் நடந்திருக்கும் முக்கியமான அரசியல் நிகழ்வு லாபிட்டின் விஜயம்.
 "அண்டை நாடுகளுடன் இணக்கமான உறவு ஏற்படுத்திக்கொள்ள இஸ்ரேல் விழைகிறது. அதைப் புரிந்து கொண்டு பேச்சுவார்த்தைக்கு மேற்காசியப் பகுதியில் உள்ள எல்லா நாடுகளையும் அழைக்கிறோம்' - அபுதாபியில் தூதரகம் திறக்கப்பட்டதைத் தொடர்ந்து, இஸ்ரேலின் வெளியுறவுத் துறை அமைச்சர் யாயிர் லாபிட் வெளியிட்ட செய்தி இது. ஐக்கிய அரபு அமீரகம் மட்டுமல்லாமல், பஹ்ரைனும் இப்போது இஸ்ரேலுடன் முழுமையான ராஜாங்க உறவை ஸ்தாபித்திருக்கிறது என்பதையும் இங்கே குறிப்பிட வேண்டும்.
 சவூதி அரேபியாவின் ஆதரவும், பின்துணையும் இல்லாமல் ஐக்கிய அரபு அமீரகத்துடன் இஸ்ரேலால் உறவு ஏற்படுத்தியிருக்க முடியாது. சவூதி விஜயத்தைத் தொடர்ந்து தனது அமீரக விஜயத்தை லாபிட் அமைத்துக் கொண்டதை கவனத்தில் கொள்ள வேண்டும். இஸ்ரேலின் ராஜதந்திரம் இதில் வெளிப்படுகிறது.
 வளைகுடா நாடுகள் இஸ்ரேலுடன் நல்லுறவைப் பேணுவதற்கு அவர்களது பாதுகாப்பும், அந்த நாடுகள் எதிர்கொள்ளும் பிரச்னைகளும் முக்கியமான காரணங்கள். ரியாதில் ஹூதி புரட்சியாளர்களைக் குறிவைத்து ஈரான் ஏவுகணைத் தாக்குதல்கள் நடத்துகின்றது. ஐக்கிய அரபு அமீரகத்தின் அபு மூசா உள்ளிட்ட தீவுகளை கைப்பற்ற ஈரான் முற்பட்டிருக்கிறது. அதனால் பொது எதிரியான ஈரானை எதிர்கொள்வதற்கு இஸ்ரேலுடன் நெருக்கமான உறவை ஏற்படுத்திக்கொள்ள வேண்டிய கட்டாயம் சவூதி அரேபியாவுக்கும் ஐக்கிய அரபு அமீரகத்துக்கும் ஏற்பட்டிருக்கிறது.
 ஆபிரஹாம் ஒப்பந்தத்தை முதன்முதலில் வரவேற்ற யேமனும், விரைவிலேயே அமீரகத்தின் பாதையில் இஸ்ரேலுடன் உறவு ஏற்படுத்திக்கொள்ளும் என்று எதிர்பார்க்கலாம். ஏற்கெனவே சூடானும், மொராக்கோவும் இஸ்ரேலிய நட்புறவுக்குப் பச்சைக்கொடி காட்டிவிட்டன.
 இதனால் மட்டுமே மேற்கு ஆசியாவில் முற்றிலுமான அமைதி ஏற்பட்டுவிடாது. ஈரானுடனும் துருக்கியுடனுமான இஸ்ரேலின் மோதல்களும், பாலஸ்தீனப் பிரச்னையும் தீர்க்கப்படாத வரை மேற்கு ஆசிய அமைதி என்பது கானல் நீராகத்தான் இருக்கும்.
 ஒருபுறம் வளைகுடா நாடுகளுடனான நட்புறவு மேம்பட்டு வரும் நிலையில், இஸ்ரேலுக்கும் ஈரானுக்கும் இடையேயான உறவு மோசமாகி வருகிறது. யேமன் கடலில் தங்களது நீர்முழ்கிக் கப்பலை இஸ்ரேல் மூழ்கடித்தது என்கிற குற்றச்சாட்டை ஈரான் சமீபத்தில் எழுப்பியிருக்கிறது. இப்ராஹிம் ரைசியின் தலைமையில் அமைய இருக்கும் புதிய ஈரான் அரசு, அமெரிக்காவுடனான அணுசக்தி பேச்சுவார்த்தையை மீண்டும் தொடங்க இருப்பது வளைகுடா நாடுகளையும், இஸ்ரேலையும் சலனப்படுத்தியிருக்கிறது.
 வளைகுடாவிலுள்ள எல்லா நாடுகளும் சவூதி அரேபியா, ஐக்கிய அரபு அமீரகம் போல இஸ்ரேலை ஏற்றுக்கொள்ளத் தயாராக இல்லை. சுதந்திரமான பாலஸ்தீனம் உருவாகாத வரையில் இஸ்ரேலுடன் எந்தவிதமான உறவுக்கும் தயாராக இல்லை என்று குவைத், கத்தார், அல்ஜீரியா உள்ளிட்ட நாடுகள் வெளிப்படையாக அறிவித்திருக்கின்றன.
 மேற்கு கரையில் காணப்படும் மோதல் நிறுத்தப்பட வேண்டும் என்பது மட்டுமல்லாமல், ஆபிரஹாம் ஒப்பந்தத்தில் பாலஸ்தீன பிரச்னை குறித்து வேறு எதுவும் குறிப்பிடப்படாததையும் சுட்டிக்காட்டி அந்த நாடுகள் விமர்சிக்கின்றன. யாயிர் லாபிட்டின் ஐக்கிய அரபு அமீரக அரசுமுறைப் பயணத்தில் பாலஸ்தீனப் பிரச்னை விவாதிக்கப்படவே இல்லை என்பதிலிருந்து வருங்காலத்திலும் அந்த நாடுகளுடைய இஸ்ரேலுடனான உறவில் அது எந்தவித மாற்றத்தையும் ஏற்படுத்தாது என்பது தெளிவாகிறது.
 வளைகுடா நாடுகளுக்கும் இஸ்ரேலுக்கும் இடையேயான நட்புறவு என்பது, அங்கே வேலை பார்க்கும் 70 லட்சத்துக்கும் அதிகமான இந்தியர்களுக்குப் பல புதிய வாய்ப்புகளை உருவாக்கித் தரக்கூடும். வர்த்தக ரீதியில் இந்தியாவுக்கும் அந்த நட்புறவால் ஆதாயம் ஏற்படலாம். அந்த வகையில் நமக்கு நன்மை, வேறென்ன..?

--Source: dinamani.com

Between vaccine wars, heated debates over the Goods and Services Tax (GST), personnel battles like the fracas over West Bengal’s Chief Secretary, and the pushback against controversial regulations in Lakshadweep, is India ready for a new federal bargain?

Emboldened by victories in the recent State Assembly elections, the idea of a third ‘federal’ front is once again gaining political cache as was evident in the Sharad Pawar organised Opposition meet. The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, since taking office, has begun to craft an ideological narrative on State rights, by re-introducing the term Union into the public discourse and pushing back against increased fiscal centralisation. Is this renewed emphasis on federalism, a genuine opportunity for forging a new politics?

Federalism in India has always had political relevance, but except for the States Reorganisation Act, federalism has rarely been an axis of political mobilisation. This was true even in the days of coalition politics when State politics mattered to national electoral outcomes. Fiscal and administrative centralisation persisted despite nearly two decades of coalition governments. Ironically, rather than deepen federalism, the contingencies of electoral politics have created significant impediments to creating a political consensus for genuine federalism. When confronted with entrenched centralisation of the present regime, the challenge is, ironically, even greater.

Nationalism on strong wicket

First, the rhetoric of nationalism has greater political purchase. Ideologically, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has had relatively little patience with federalism as a device to accommodate India’s multiple linguistic, religious, and ethnic identities. Post-2014, the BJP has couched its discomfiture with federalism in the grammar of development and nationalism, which has mass electoral appeal. To accelerate progress, India must become ‘one nation, one market’, ‘one nation, one ration card’, ‘one nation, one grid’. In this framing, federalism as a principle necessary for negotiating diverse political contexts and identity claims risks being equated with regionalism and a narrow parochialism that is anti-development and anti-national.

Thus, a politics for deepening federalism will need to overcome a nationalist rhetoric that pits federalism against nationalism and development. This is a hard ask, especially because most regional parties have failed to uphold principles of decentralisation in their own backyard.

Second, and relatedly, despite a rhetorical commitment to federalism, the politics of federalism has remained contingent rather than principled. As Pratap Bhanu Mehta has pointed out over the decades, federal principles have been bent in all kinds of ways to co-produce a political culture of flexible federalism — “federalism for me, but not for thee”.

Federalism in this rendition is reduced to a game of political upmanship and remains restricted to a partisan tussle rather than a regions’ genuine demand for accommodation. Especially, when claimants of greater federalism often maintain silence on unilateral decisions that affect other States.

Take for instance, the downgrading of a full- fledged State in Jammu and Kashmir into a Union Territory in 2019, or more recently, the notification of the NCT of Delhi (Amendment) Act, 2021. This blatant undermining of State’s rights hardly witnessed protest by parties that were not directly affected by these. Upholding federalism requires political maturity and a commitment to the federal principle. This is lacking in our politics.

Divide among States

Third, the increased economic and governance divergence between States. Economic growth trajectories since liberalisation have been characterised by growing spatial divergence. Across all key indicators, southern (and western) States have outperformed much of northern and eastern India resulting in a greater divergence rather than expected convergence with growth. This has created a context where collective action amongst States becomes difficult as poorer regions of India contribute far less to the economy but require greater fiscal resources to overcome their economic fragilities. Glimpses of these emerging tensions were visible in the debates around the 15th Finance Commission (FC) when the Government of India mandated the commission to use the 2011 Census rather than the established practice of using the 1971 Census to determine revenue share across States.

This, Southern states feared, risked penalising States that had successfully controlled population growth by reducing their share in the overall resource pool. The 15th Finance Commission, through its recommendations, deftly avoided a political crisis but the growing divergence between richer and poorer States, remains an important source of tension in inter-State relations that can become a real impediment to collective action amongst States. With the impending delimitation exercise due in 2026, these tensions will only increase.

These challenges notwithstanding, the BJP’s impatience with federalism affords an opportunity for regional parties to craft a new federal bargain. At one level, the BJP’s homogenising ideological project risks creating new forms of cultural alienation and associated regional tensions as occurred during the Citizenship (Amendment) Act protests in Assam. There is a very real possibility of the emergence of new forms of regional sub- nationalism, glimpses of which were visible during the recent Assembly elections particularly in West Bengal.

Fiscal management

Moreover, the realities of India’s macro-fiscal position risk increasing the fragility of State finances. Weak fiscal management has brought the Union government on the brink of what economist Rathin Roy has called a silent fiscal crisis. The Union’s response has been to squeeze revenue from States by increasing cesses. Itsinsistence on giving GST compensation to States as loans (after long delays) and increasing State shares in central schemes. The pandemic-induced economic crisis has only exaggerated this.

Against this backdrop, if harnessed well, both sub-nationalist sentiments and the need to reclaim fiscal federalism create a political moment for a principled politics of federalism. However, there are risks along the way. As Suhas Palshikar has argued, the politics of regional identity is isolationist by its very nature. An effort at collective political action for federalism based on identity concerns will have to overcome this risk. On the fiscal side, richer States must find a way of sharing the burden with the poorer States. States will have to show political maturity to make necessary compromises if they are to negotiate existing tensions and win the collective battle with the Union. An inter-State platform that brings States together in a routine dialogue on matters of fiscal federalism could be the starting point for building trust and a common agenda. The seeds of this were planted in the debates over the 15th Finance Commission and the GST.

Finally, beyond principles, a renewed politics of federalism is also an electoral necessity. No coalition has succeeded, in the long term, without a glue that binds it. Forging a political consensus on federalism can be that glue. But this would require immense patience and maturity from regional parties. Are they up to the task?

Yamini Aiyar and Rahul Verma are with the Centre for Policy Research (CPR), New Delhi. The views expressed are personal

On June 24, 1821, Simón Bolívar, the great Liberator, led his forces against the Spanish Army at the Battle of Carabobo. Five days later, Bolívar entered Caracas in triumph. The Spanish had not yet been defeated across South America, but the Spanish monarchy no longer had the will to fight back. The rest of the battles — including the Battle of Pinchincha on May 24, 1822 — merely finished up what Carabobo had established, namely that South America’s many republics wanted to be sovereign. Bolívar’s comrades assembled in Cúcuta to write a new constitution and to elect him as the president. But Bolívar would not rest. He mounted his horse, went southwards to ensure that the sovereignty of South America would be permanent.

The story of Bolívar and Carabobo is deeply felt among Venezuelans of all classes. When I asked Venezuela’s Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza about the meaning of this battle, he dug deep into the history books to explain that the Carabobo “was more than a battle. It was a geopolitical campaign”. After Bolívar’s armies defeated the Spanish on those battlefields west of Caracas, the new States that emerged from Gran Colombia (Colombia and Venezuela) down to Bolivia (1825) produced a dynamic sense of their own sovereignty. Carabobo was “an important step towards the whole independence of South America”.

A decade ago, I remember hearing Hugo Chávez on Carabobo, his voice emotional, his sense of the possibilities opened up by Bolívar total. No wonder that Chávez named the process opened up by his election in 1998 as the Bolivarian Revolution and that he named the regional process, the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA). Venezuela has also celebrated the battle with a Bicentennial Congress of the Peoples of the World. The theme is not the independence of South America alone. It is sovereignty for the world.

The woes of States

Two hundred years after Carabobo, the South American States struggle to be independent. Venezuela itself remains locked in a dangerous conflict with the United States, whose government continues to tighten the sanctions regime that inflicts harm against the Venezuelan people. Recently, the U.S. government’s secondary sanctions pushed UBS to refuse to complete transactions by the Venezuelan government to the COVAX alliance so as to ensure delivery of vaccines for COVID-19. Increasingly, U.S. sanctions block the ability of Venezuela to conduct normal commercial relations with other countries. The U.S. has been able to exercise this overwhelming power over Venezuela — and several other countries under unilateral U.S. sanctions — because of U.S. dominance over trade and investment, international financial systems, and global information flows.

Monroe Doctrine

Just when Bolívar’s armies defeated the Spanish, the U.S. President James Monroe on December 2, 1823, crafted the Monroe Doctrine. This policy suggested that now that European powers had lost their grip on the Americas, the United States of America will be the guarantor of continental stability. At that time, the U.S. did not have the technological or military means to subordinate all of the hemisphere. In 1898, when the U.S. intervened to remove the last vestiges of Spanish colonialism in Cuba and Puerto Rico, it took over both islands. Subsequently, U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt in his corollary to Monroe’s doctrine in 1904 said that the U.S. would exercise its influence over the Americas. Military invasions from Nicaragua to Panama (1989) and coups from Guatemala (1954) to Bolivia (2019) brought Monroe’s speech into the world.

The U.S. stand

It meant little that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said in 2013, “The era of the Monroe Doctrine is over.” This statement came four years after the U.S.-backed coup in Honduras, and also before the U.S. coup in Bolivia. Mr. Kerry made that remark while he served under President Barack Obama and Vice-President Joe Biden. Mr. Biden, now U.S. President, has no intention of renouncing the Monroe Doctrine. His Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, has interfered in the legal processes in Bolivia, put in place a former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) agent, Lisa Kenna, as Ambassador to Peru, and deepened U.S. sanctions against Venezuela. For these men, there is no evidence of a policy shift.

In February 2021, UN Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of unilateral coercive measures, Alena Douhan, wrote that due to the U.S. unilateral sanctions, the Venezuelan government revenue shrank by 99% and the country is living on 1% of its pre-sanctions income. Venezuela, she wrote, “faces a lack of necessary machinery, spare parts, electricity, water, fuel, gas, food, and medicine”. Over the past six years, 2.5 million Venezuelans have slipped into food insecurity, while electricity generation levels have fallen to 20%. Venezuelan assets frozen in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Portuguese banks amount to U.S.$6 billion.

But Venezuelans remain defiant. “We stand firm,” says Mr. Arreaza, who has just returned to Caracas from Moscow. Monroe is another name for unipolarity. Despite the residual power of the U.S., Monroe is of the past. Carabobo, for the Venezuelans, signals multipolarity. It is, they believe, the way forward.

Vijay Prashad is the Director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research, Chief Correspondent for Globetrotter, and Chief Editor of LeftWord Books

July 07, 2021 00:00 IST
Upda

Recently, a High Court suggested that homeless persons with health conditions be branded with a permanent tattoo, when vaccinated against COVID-19, since tracking a ‘floating population’ may be cumbersome. Earlier judgments have also suggested ‘round ups’ of such persons to facilitate pathways into care. These are possibly well-intentioned directives, but what follows is that bewildered persons are huddled in a vehicle and admitted into shelters or mental hospitals that are usually crowded, yet lonely. What does this tell us about the way homelessness and mental illness are regarded in ‘polite’ society?

A responsive care system

Persons with mental health conditions need a responsive care system that inspires hope and participation without which their lives are empty. In many countries, persons with severe mental health conditions live in shackles in their homes, in overcrowded hospitals, and even in prison. On the other hand, many persons with mental health issues live and even die alone on the streets.

Three losses dominate the mental health systems narrative: dignity, agency and personhood. Far-sighted changes in policy and laws have often not taken root and many laws fail to meet international human rights standards. Many also do not account for cultural, social and political contexts resulting in moral rhetoric that doesn’t change the scenario of inadequate care. Society’s responses are often based on conditioning and perceptions, often verging on visceral forms of prejudice. This results in an “othering” of persons who seem different from dominant groups. Hence, even well-intentioned judgments could set off unintended negative, even grave, consequences. There is also the social legacy of the asylum, and of psychiatry and mental illness itself, that guides our imagination in how care is organised.

Historian Sarah Ann Pinto, in her account of the lunatic asylums in colonial Bombay, wrote that “doctors interpreted a patient’s refusal to wear clothing as a sign of morbidity, and clothing became a way of civilising the savage — the violent Indian man and the promiscuous Indian woman”. Individual preference and indigenous culture were substituted with what the coloniser thought was appropriate. Similarly, medieval London boasted of a hospital for the care of persons with mental illness, St. Mary of Bethlehem, which soon turned into a ‘bedlam’, a poorhouse and a site of shocking atrocities.

We must understand mental health conditions for what they are and for how they are associated with disadvantage. These situations are linked, but not always so. Therefore, not all distress can be medicalised. It is against this complex background of distress arising out of medical conditions and from inequitable social systems, of good intentions and calamitous consequences, that we welcome the Guidance on Community Mental Health Services recently launched by the World Health Organization. The Guidance, which includes three models from India, addresses the issue from ‘the same side’ as the mental health service user and focuses on the co-production of knowledge and on good practices built around the key themes of crisis services, peer support, supported living, community outreach, hospital-based services and comprehensive mental health service networks. Drawn from 22 countries, these models balance care and support with rights and participation.

Afiya House in the U.S. is driven by peers and offers respite to persons who have significant emotional or mental distress. People can stay for up to seven nights when they are connected to networks that support recovery. Services are non-coercive and persons can opt to stay or leave based on discussions with peer supporters. Tupu Ake, a New Zealand-based recovery house service, welcomes ‘guests’ from various ethnicities. Atmiyata in Gujarat employs a stepped-care approach using community-based volunteers who identify persons in distress, offer counselling support and enable access to social care benefits. Evaluation of the service indicates better general health, better quality of life and social functioning. Naya Daur in West Bengal works with local networks and volunteers who support homeless persons through their outreach programme and enable access to food, clothing, counselling, shelter and housing. Home Again, a programme of The Banyan in Tamil Nadu, facilitates residence options in regular neighbourhoods while also offering graded levels of supportive services for persons with severe disabilities. It emphasises socio-cultural participation, ‘neurodiversity’ and normalisation of mental health conditions. Peer leaders provide wisdom from their lived experience to support others in distress.

The practice of open dialogue, a therapeutic practice that originated in Finland, runs through many programmes in the Guidance. This practice, conducted in homes or in service settings, combines individual and systemic family therapy with a focus on the centrality of relationships and promotion of connectedness through family and support networks. This approach trains the therapist in de-escalation of distress and breaks power differentials that allow for free expression.

Aimed at providing newer perspectives to governments and policymakers, approaches in the new WHO Guidance are designed to make community inclusion and dialogic practice a way of life. With emphasis on social care components such as work force participation, pensions and housing, increased investments in health and social care seem imperative.

A network of services

Recently, the Supreme Court and the Madras High Court have advised vaccinations for those in mental health care homes and for those homeless and living with a mental illness. While those in institutions should access this support at the earliest, for those homeless and who opt not to enter mental health establishments en masse from where exit pathways may be laborious, there are two paths. In the first, drives will be conducted and persons with mental illness will be housed in overcrowded institutions, with scant regard for agency or for social determinants of ill health. The other would aim to provide a network of services ranging from soup kitchens at vantage points to mobile mental health and social care clinics, non- intimidating guest homes at village panchayats with access to toilets and the comfort of a welcoming team, and well-being kiosks that offer a basic income and/or facilitate livelihoods. Small emergency care and recovery centres for those who need crisis support instead of larger hospitals, and long-term inclusive living options in an environment that values diversity and celebrates social mixing, will reframe the archaic narrative of how mental health care is to be provided.

With a strong health system, Tamil Nadu is well placed to demonstrate through pilots, and an exclusive policy for homeless persons with mental illness, that political intent, good governance and creative thinking can solve complex problems and cater to the needs of the ultra-vulnerable.

Meanwhile, a mental health service user whom we met interpreted her tattoo as ‘we are all one’. If we can learn to ‘be on the same side’ as the mental health service user, it seems possible that we can learn to respect human diversity.

Vandana Gopikumar is Co-Founder, The Banyan and The Banyan Academy; Keshav Desiraju serves on the board of The Banyan Academy and was Union Health Secretary, Government of India

Aviation websites are abuzz with reports of a rapid upgradation of aviation infrastructure in Tibet. While the expansion of the road and railway network there has been subject to much debate, it is the speed of upgradation of airfields, construction of hardened aircraft shelters, new runways, aprons, underground storage and tunnelling into mountainsides, all visible in high-resolution satellite photos, that should have alarm bells ringing in New Delhi. This needs an analysis for two reasons. First, is there any link between these constructions and the procrastination by China in the talks for reducing tensions in Eastern Ladakh? What is the tactical aim of the Chinese with these upgradations? Second, how would these changes affect the balance of air power between the Indian Air Force (IAF) and People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) in the medium to long term?

On a weak wicket in the air

While the larger strategic aim of the Chinese in upping the ante by violating decades-old understandings in 2020 is still a matter of debate, what Beijing discovered to its discomfiture was that India did not yield any ground, and actually occupied vantage points in the south Pangong Tso area to balance out some sectoral disadvantages. This firmness was backed by deterrent IAF firepower and it was clear to the Chinese that they were on a weak wicket in the air due to three reasons. First, the IAF’s high strike potential, with its aircraft having the advantage of a string of airfields all along the foothills of the Himalayas; that they are at low altitudes permit a full armament load to be carried. Second, Chinese airfields in Tibet were few, widely spaced out and hence not mutually supportive; there were gaps in the air defence structure too that the IAF would utilise to interdict targets in the rear. Third, most Tibetan airfields are at altitudes above 10,000 ft, severely restricting the payload of PLAAF aircraft. Additional infrastructure was required to make up these deficiencies since the positive asymmetry of IAF would be detrimental to China’s plans to gain any territorial advantage; ‘time’ had to be made an ally in this endeavour.

The balancing out of IAF’s asymmetry was only possible through a rapid upgradation of airfield and air defence infrastructure — this would need two years at least. The Chinese plan has been cleverly implemented through what can only be called a tactical pause, obtained via talks that were commenced but have meandered since. A ‘breakthrough’ in the eyeball-to-eyeball posture came in February when a simultaneous withdrawal in certain areas was agreed on, including a pulling back of Indian troops from their vantage points in areas south of Pangong Tso. With the threat to the PLA Moldo garrison removed, the Chinese re-adopted their procrastination position in subsequent talks regarding restoring status quo ante in Depsang/Daulat Beg Oldi and Hot Springs, which are of vital interest to India. This is the classic buying-time-through-talks technique and is still ongoing. In the tactical pause won surreptitiously, the Chinese have gone on the upgradation drive to nullify the disadvantages that Chinese airpower has vis-à-vis India; gaps in their air defence scheme are being plugged through the new infrastructure and positioning of new air defence radars and missile systems that would afford them a layered air defence setting and affect the balance of power in the medium to long term.

Trying to turn the tables

The IAF is equipped and trained for offensive action. In all the previous conflicts the IAF conducted aggressive strikes, besides providing active close support to ground forces. The odd exception was the 1962 India- China conflict where the IAF’s substantial strike potential was nullified by a political decision to not use it. The equipment accretion profile is a pointer to the offensive role as seen by the acquisition of Jaguars, Mirage-2000, Sukhois and now the Rafale. Seen from the prism of air power doctrine, this points to India’s strategy of deterrence by punishment: ‘don’t mess with us as we have the means and power to hurt you’. By strengthening their air defence architecture, the Chinese are trying to turn the tables and deter India through a strategy of denial, i.e., to dissuade the IAF by signalling that it would be costly in terms of aircraft and aircrew losses. For this turnaround to take effect would take China about two years. If China succeeds in its endeavour, India may lose the trump card of positive air power asymmetry that it now holds.

What should India do? The air defence upgradation drive is surely being monitored, but that is not enough. If status quo ante on ground is not obtained soon, it may be too late a year or two from now. The façade of talks should be acknowledged for its devious aim. India’s posture and demands at the talks (which one supposes has an IAF representative too) must reflect its understanding of China’s game plan. There is no other way out.

Manmohan Bahadur is a retired Air Vice Marshal

The vacancies in the Central government and the States in recent years have had a deleterious effect on governance. For months on end, top slots in important government agencies remain vacant. Delays in promotions and appointments not only affect the organisations but also tend to demoralise the officials who await promotions after vacancies arise.

Posts waiting to be filled

The post of the Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission was kept vacant until June this year even though the previous Chairman, H. L. Dattu, retired in December 2020. The post of the Director of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) too was kept vacant until the recent appointment of Subodh Kumar Jaiswal. The post had been vacant since February after Rishi Kumar Shukla retired.

The Chief Election Commissioner (CEC), Sunil Arora, retired on April 12 amidst an aggressive election campaign and polling in West Bengal and four other States this year leaving just two members in the Commission. One of them became CEC by virtue of his seniority in the Election Commission. In case of a disagreement on any issue between the two of them, a solution would have become difficult. The Centre appointed Anup Chandra Pandey as the new Election Commissioner in June. Meanwhile, the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) has filed a public interest litigation in the Supreme Court demanding the appointment of Election Commissioners by a committee, as is done in the case of appointment of the Director of the CBI, and not by the Centre as is the case now. ADR has referred to the 255th Report of Law Commission that had recommended that Election Commissioners be appointed by a high-powered committee. Though the high-powered committee headed by the Prime Minister has two members – the Chief Justice of India and the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha – the Opposition leader has little say in the selection process. If the Prime Minister decides on a candidate and the CJI consents, the Opposition leader’s dissenting note carries no weight. There is a need, therefore, to expand the high-powered committee to include at least two more members of eminence with proven integrity for the selection process – preferably a retired police officer and a Chief Minister of a State governed by a party other than that of the party of the Prime Minister.

After Hrushikesh Senapaty’s retirement in November last, the National Council of Educational Research and Training, which is largely responsible for chalking out the education policy of the country, is headless. Of the 40 Central universities across the country, nearly half are without regular Vice-Chancellors.

Rakesh Asthana assumed additional charge of the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) from December 2019. After his appointment as Director-General (DG) of the Border Security Force in August last, he continues to hold charge of the NCB as DG. Kuldiep Singh, DG of the Central Reserve Police Force, now also heads the National Investigation Agency after the previous incumbent, Y.C. Modi, retired on May 31 last.

Impact of vacancies

Similar vacancies or examples of officers holding additional charge exist in other ministries, commissions and departments, but the government appears to turn a blind eye to the malefic effect it has on governance. Vacancies for such long periods tend to paralyse the backbone of these organisations. Appointments to higher echelons can be announced well in time. Delays in important appointments send a wrong signal to the nation. If the government can announce its chiefs and vice chiefs months in advance, there is no reason why this cannot be done in all other ministries and departments. A time frame needs to be worked out to announce top appointments at least a month in advance. Political considerations need to be pushed to the back seat for a clean and honest administration.

M.P. Nathanael is Inspector General of Police (Retd), CRPF

It was a death his well-wishers feared would happen and one he had anticipated. Father Stan Swamy, an 84-year-old Jesuit priest, known for his service and activism in the cause of Adivasis, died nine months into his unjust imprisonment on tenuous charges. A death that was simply allowed to happen despite being foretold by his deteriorating health in prison will weigh on the country’s collective conscience for long. His age and frailty drew no sympathy from either the prosecuting agency or the trial court, which clung to the state narrative of there being grounds to believe that he was part of a Maoist plot to overthrow the government. Despite being a fit case for bail, he was denied bail, mainly due to the statutory bar on bail under the anti-terrorism law invoked against him. The best the diffident judiciary could do for him was a spell of hospitalisation, even as the octogenarian pleaded that he be given interim bail to be with his friends or allowed to die in prison. The Bombay High Court did issue notice on his bail petition, observing that he was entitled to bail, but his end came in a hospital even before the matter could be taken up for final disposal. Much of the blame and accountability for his death should be on the NIA, which perversely opposed his release, and the court which could have granted interim bail weeks earlier.

It was fairly obvious that his prison stay, especially during the pandemic, was detrimental to his well-being. A good two months elapsed between the High Court seeking the NIA’s response to his bail plea on medical grounds and his death. The same court had intervened to grant interim bail to Varavara Rao, another elderly co-accused, holding that bail can be granted “purely on the grounds of sickness, advanced age, infirmity and health conditions”, especially if incarceration amounted to endangering life. It is systemic and institutional failure that another undertrial placed in similar circumstances did not get the benefit of this humane approach. A pattern of institutional oppression can be seen in the events, from the denial of a sipper in jail to his death while in custody. Two larger issues here are the questionable legality of the bail- denying feature of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and the validity of the Bhima-Koregaon case itself. It is time the higher judiciary examined these; especially the attempt to link a simple case arising out of violence a day after the Elgar Parishad, a commemorative event held in Pune, and an alleged Maoist plot involving lawyers, activists and human rights defenders. To make matters worse, credible reports that some of the electronic evidence gathered in this case could have been planted remotely by malware were never investigated. The call for accountability for Fr. Swamy’s death rings painfully true.

The recent discovery of hundreds of graves in Canada has put the spotlight back on its dark past, when indigenous people faced systemic discrimination and violence. In June, the Cowessess First Nation, an indigenous organisation, found 751 unmarked graves at the site of a former residential school in Saskatchewan. This came a month after another indigenous organisation discovered the remains of 215 children at a closed residential school in British Columbia. Canada’s residential school system was a telling example of how indigenous people were treated. Between 1882 and 1996, an estimated 150,000 children were sent to residential schools, that were funded by the federal government and run mostly by the Catholic Church. Most of these students were forcefully taken away from their families. And thousands never returned. In 1883, Canada’s first Prime Minister, Sir John A. Macdonald, defended in Parliament the system of residential schools, saying indigenous students should be kept away from their parents, “who are savages”. The children were not allowed to speak their languages or practise their culture. Many were abused. An estimated 4,000 children died, mainly due to TB, malnutrition and other illnesses resulting from the squalid conditions in the schools. Despite these horrors, the residential school system continued for over a century.

In 2008, Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued a formal apology. The Government also set up a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to document the history and the lasting impact of the school system on the indigenous communities. In 2015, the commission called the violence against the indigenous students a “cultural genocide”. It has made 94 “calls to action” to different levels of the government and communities that included independent investigations and steps to protect Aboriginal rights and culture. It also asked the Catholic Church to apologise and take steps toward reconciliation. The Vatican is yet to formally apologise for the schools. Justin Trudeau, who came to power in 2015, had promised that addressing the grievances of the indigenous communities was a core agenda. But six years later, indigenous organisations say the authorities are half-hearted. The back-to-back discoveries of unmarked graves strengthen indigenous organisations’ claims that the actual number of the dead is way above the estimates of the commission. Mr. Trudeau has expressed “guilt” over the abuses. But that is not enough. His government should assist indigenous organisations to find unmarked graves. He should order investigations into the residential schools with graves to get to the bottom of the matter. Mr. Trudeau should also accelerate steps to implement all the recommendations of the Reconciliation Commission to ensure reparations are done to the country’s indigenous community.

Hubli, July 6: English is not likely to continue as a compulsory subject for degree courses in universities in Mysore State. This change in the present pattern is likely to be brought about consequent on the introduction of the two-year pre-university course throughout the State. According to the P.U.C. syllabus, students are required to take any two languages not necessarily English. The possibility of universities making suitable modifications in the pattern of education for degree courses was indicated here yesterday by Prof. D. Javare Gowda, Vice- Chancellor of Mysore University and Chairman of the specially-constituted Pre- University Board which manages Pre-University classes throughout the State from this year. The one-year P.U.C. hitherto run by the Universities in the State is now being run by the Board. When his attention was drawn to the confusion created by the anomaly in Pre-University syllabus where English was not compulsory, and that of the syllabus for degree courses of the Universities where English was compulsory, Prof. Javare Gowda stated that as all the Vice- Chancellors were members of the Pre-University Board and hence party to the decision regarding the syllabus, they had now got to suitably change the syllabus for the degree course to provide for admissions of students who pass the P.U.C. without offering English.