Vol-CIX : July 1, 2013

Dear Colleagues

Here is another set of for your perusal:

1.  Recent reports about Delhi seem to suggest that it is the most mal-governed city-state in the world. The highest number of rape cases, highest number of car thefts, highest number of robberies and highest number of cases for production and sale of spurious foods and medicines has occurred in Delhi during 2012. Each of these figures for Delhi is higher than the other four metros in India put together! Delhi is the seat of an elected municipal corporation, state government and national government. If Delhi is so poorly governed, it speaks volumes of the lack of governance in the rest of the country.

2.  In many countries, the jurisdictions of local governments are not clearly defined statutorily. In Canada, for example, local municipalities derive their mandates from executive orders of provincial governments, which vary considerably across the country. Municipalities in British Columbia, for example, do not have the mandate to work on social justice and social inclusion. In comparison, the Constitution of India gives the mandate to local governments to work on economic development and social justice. Flexibility in mandates can work several ways – it can create space for new mandates to be included from time to time; it can also divert attention to only those mandates which are the priority of economically well-off citizens and communities in these jurisdictions.

3.  It is the time for admissions to colleges and universities in India. Some recent news items sum up the status of higher education in the country today… “Introduction of four-year undergraduate courses being resisted by teachers and students alike…. The minimum cut-off marks required for admission to some of the most popular undergraduate courses in Delhi University is 100% in high school…. Many more B-schools are closing down due to lack of students…. Thousands of students and their parents are camping in and commuting to Bangalore for counselling being conducted for admission to engineering courses…”. When will there be light at the end of this long tunnel?

4.  In the most advanced capitalist economy of the world – America – a new phenomenon is being systematically studied – the phenomenon of social isolation. In pursuit of self-centred, individualistic economic advancement, many American citizens of all ages have become socially dis-connected. As a result, there is very high incidence of emotional disorder, broken relationships, loss of intimacy and love, and a sense of anomie; a recent book “The Unwinding” has captured this phenomenon and its rather depressing consequences. Now, the rest of the world seems to be moving towards similar lifestyles; what are the scenarios that the youth in Asia are likely to experience?

5.  Every time there is a disaster – manmade or natural – in India, two phenomena seem to get reflected immediately. First, various governmental authorities from the district to national levels “goof up” rescue and relief operations and the military is called in to manage that effort. Second, a large number of official and private agencies start mobilizing donations and volunteers, ensuring such “charitable philanthropic” efforts get some publicity. It has been a fortnight since the Uttarakhand disaster and both these phenomena are noticeable in full view. Several hundred people are still to be rescued; several thousands are missing. Trucks with relief materials and volunteers are crowding the already crowded mountain roads near Rishikesh. Will governance of disasters ever be different in this country?

Best wishes, and sincerely

Rajesh Tandon