BBC News – Is affirmative action in India becoming a gimmick?

India’s affirmative action programme is one of most comprehensive in the world.

Soutik Biswas, India correspondent

New Delhi – India, 10 January 2019. It is built into the country’s 68-year-old constitution, and reserves seats in parliament and state assemblies for the country’s most socially disadvantaged groups, as well as government jobs and places in educational institutions.

“Reservations” or quotas have been given to the caste-based groups, mainly Dalits (previously known as “untouchables”) and tribes-people, to rectify historical wrongs perpetrated by the country’s harsh and toxic Hindu caste hierarchy.

There’s ample evidence to prove that these quotas have helped to empower and uplift the socially deprived.

The programme is also controversial. Identity and caste-based groups clamour for fresh quotas as formal jobs and quality education remain chronically scarce.

This has forced the Supreme Court to cap reservations at 50% of the total jobs and seats. No wonder affirmative action has become a tool for politicians to win quick votes.

Earlier this week, fresh evidence of this surfaced when Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s BJP-led government proposed that 10% of government jobs and seats in educational institutions should be reserved for economically-backward upper caste citizens, those who earn less than 800,000 rupees ($11,500) annually and own less than five acres of land.

Since all parties are complicit in mining caste to dole out patronage, few MPs resisted this move. A bill to amend the constitution to allow for the new quotas was passed by the lower house in a record 48 hours. The upper house passed it late on Wednesday.

The timing of the move is evidently suspect.

The BJP is facing crucial general elections in a few months. The shock defeat of the ruling party in three major states recently has energised, and united, the often fractious opposition ahead of the summer elections.
Mr Modi, a charismatic campaigner and his party’s prime vote-getter, no longer looks unbeatable. Formal jobs have dried up, and farmers across the country are struggling because of poor crop prices.

“This is an eleventh-hour ploy to shape a pre-election economic narrative,” says Milan Vaishnav, a senior fellow and director of the South Asia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

It is difficult to argue otherwise. India’s economy may be reasonably buoyant, but the rising tide is no longer lifting all boats. Put simply, there aren’t enough jobs.

To make matters worse, the country lost 11 million jobs last year, according to a startling report by the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy. People in both cities and villages have been hit.

Two-thirds of Indians live in villages, where the majority of the job losses have taken place. Even people belonging to politically influential, upper caste groups have fallen upon hard times.

Wooing back voters

Mr Modi’s party hopes that this quota announcement will help it woo back the upper castes, traditionally the party’s faithful base, who are now economically struggling because of a lack of jobs and a sluggish business environment.

But, as Pratap Bhanu Mehta, vice-chancellor at Ashoka University, says, announcing a quota to tackle what is essentially a dire jobs crisis is “cynical politics, cynical policy”.

Many believe it is cynical because it will be difficult for Mr Modi’s government to honour this promise. For one thing, there isn’t enough time to enforce it before the elections, which must be held by May.

Secondly, this move may still run into legal challenges, and the top court may yet strike it down. Thirdly, it could trigger another wave of affirmative action demands from other groups like minorities and women.

Most importantly, there aren’t enough government jobs to honour the quota. There were 17 million jobs in the government in 2012, down from 19 million in 1991.https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-46806089

“The fact is that an increasing number of people in India are clamouring for a consistently shrinking number of government jobs. More people want a slice, but the pie is getting smaller each year. This may be good politics, but it also reflects a sense of desperation about India’s jobless growth trajectory,” says Mr Vaishnav.

The summer elections will prove whether it’s good politics. After all, as political scientist D Shyam Babu says, Indian voters are astute. “They are very suspicious of pre-election promises of this kind”.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-46806089

Sikh24.com – Guru Gobind Singh Ji’s birthday celebrated with extreme devotion and fervor at Sri Harmandr Sahib

Sikh24 Editors

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 13 January 2019. The 352nd birthday of the tenth Sikh master Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji was celebrated today with an extreme devotion and fervor at the holiest Sikh shrine Sri Harmandr Sahib.

Thousands of devotees from all over the world paid obeisance and took a holy dip in the sacred ‘sarovar’ of Sri Harmandr Sahib to receive the blessings of Guru Sahib.

A special manifestation of sacred Sikh artifacts was organized by the SGPC inside the sanctum sanctorum Sri Harmandr Sahib and Gurdwara Baba Atal Rai Ji (situated in Sri Harmandr Sahib Complex). Devotees thronging into the central Sikh shrine blessed their souls by having a glimpse of these sacred Sikh artifacts.

Beside it, the SGPC also organized a religious program to celebrate this sacred day at Diwan Hall of Gurdwara Sri Manji Sahib. Sri Akhand Path Sahib, which was laid on January 11, was culminated following which the head ‘granthi’ of Sri Harmandr Sahib Giani Balwinder Singh read the sacred ‘Hukamnama’ (order of the almighty Lord).

Renowned Raagis, Dhadis, Kavishars, Poets and Preachers addressed the religious discourse to the program attendees on this occasion.

Like every year, students of various schools performed Kirtan near the supreme Sikh throne Sri Akal Takht Sahib to express their devotion for Guru Sahib.

https://www.sikh24.com/2019/01/13/guru-gobind-singh-jis-birthday-celebrated-with-extreme-devotion-and-fervor-at-sri-harmandir-sahib/#.XD4DLs17nIU

Parkstraat – Javastraat – Scheveningseweg

Parkstraat, Javastraat
26 December 2018


Mauritskade – Buses instead of trams


Alexanderplein – buses instead of trams

Scheveningseweg
26 December 2018


No Trams


Scheveningseweg


Vredespaleis – Peace Palace
International Court of Justice


Vredespaleis – Peace Palace

To see all my pictures:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/12445197@N05/

More Netherlands pictures to be published
Harjinder Singh
Man in Blue

Dawn – Sikhs celebrate Guru Gobind’s birth anniversary

Peshawar – Khyber Pakhtunkhwa – Pakistan, 14 January 2019. The 352nd birth anniversary of Guru Gobind Singh was celebrated here on Sunday amid tight security and people from various minority groups participated in the event.

The celebrations in connection with the birth anniversary had commenced on Friday and concluded in Gurdwara Bhai Joga Singh at Mohallah Jogan Shah Qissa Khwani, Peshawar, on Sunday.

According to a statement, the three-day event was organised by the Waqf, Religious and Minority Affairs Department, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, to show harmony and celebrate inclusiveness.

Waqf secretary says budget allocated for religious festivals of minorities

On the first day, a procession was held which was marked by rendering of hymns by Sikh community, including men and women. Over 5,000 Sikh devotees from across Khyber Pakhtunkhwa took part in the procession and then other rituals followed by Langar.

Adequate measures were put in place by the police department to ensure full security for smooth celebration of the event.

The chief guests included MPAs Ravi Kumar and Wazirzada and Sikh community leader Ranjeet Singh besides some government officials. The major attraction of the procession was the display of ‘Gatka,’ a famous Sikh martial art and other sword exercises.

On this occasion, MPA Ravi Kumar paid tribute to the slain Soran Singh and said that his services as adviser to the chief minister and his personal efforts for the communities would always be remembered.

He also said that such events would build understanding of traditions and beliefs of minorities and people here had shown a sign of interfaith harmony. In response to the demand of Sikh community, he said that Shamshan Ghat would soon be set up.

In this regard, MPA Wazirzada said that celebration of minorities’ events would help spread love and peace. He maintained that the minorities were allowed to practice their religion freely.

Waqf department secretary Hidayat Jan stated that they had allocated budget for religious festivals of minorities of KP. Guru Gobind Singh was the 10th Sikh Guru, a spiritual master and philosopher.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1457384/sikhs-celebrate-guru-gobinds-birth-anniversary

The Hindu – Gujarat riots: Supreme Court to hear Zakia Jafri’s plea after 4 weeks

New Delhi – India, 15 January 2019. The Supreme Court on January 15 said it would hear after four weeks a plea by Zakia Jafri challenging the clean chit by the Special Investigation Team (SIT) to then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi in connection with the 2002 Godhra riots.

Zakia, the wife of Ehsan Jafri, an ex-MP who was killed in one of the worst incidents during the riots, has challenged the Gujarat High Court’s October 5, 2017, order rejecting her plea against the SIT’s decision.

The matter came up for hearing before a bench of Justices A M Khanwilkar and Ajay Rastogi, and the counsel appearing for the petitioner said they have circulated a letter seeking an adjournment of the hearing.

“You are asking for four weeks and we are giving you four weeks. List the matter after four weeks,” the bench said.

https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/sc-to-hear-after-4-weeks-zakia-jafris-plea-against-clean-chit-to-modi-in-guj-riots/article25998649.ece