Vol-CXIII : November 1, 2013

Dear Colleagues

Here are some for your perusal:

  1. One of the major challenges of our times is the double oppression that women from scheduled caste families face in India. Despite its growth trajectory, India continues to rank amongst the bottom heap on gender equality index. The young girls from these communities are now getting primary and secondary education, and they want to gain professional expertise. The gleam in their eyes was visible when many of them entered the modern campus of Global University in Haryana recently. Not only they made themselves comfortable in that novel imposing environment, they also began to think about ways they can get in such institutions.
  2. The local canton elections in Switzerland are always more exciting than its national parliamentary ones, given the strong history of grassroots democracy in the country. In recent elections to Geneva canton, a strong discourse began on giving preference to locals in economic opportunities in the canton. While it took some cosmopolitan Geneva residents by surprise, it clearly had traction amongst the locals who were now raising the ‘sons of soil’ slogan. In many Asian countries, these slogans of ‘bhumiputras’ (sons of soils) have long been a part of the national political settlements. There is thus some scope for sharing expertise from Asian countries like Malaysia, Indonesia and India?
  3. In a recent seminar on accessing philanthropic resources from privatisation of public assets, studies from several countries have shown that there is a huge potential in this regard. Twenty years ago, when German government privatised Volkswagen, it created a $3 bn foundation from a part of those proceeds to support philanthropic work in the country. More recently, a decade ago, when several banks in Italy were privatised, a foundation with $2.2 bn fund was created to support philanthropic donations. Given the tendencies in India, as public resources like minerals, forests, gas/oil and other assets are being privatised, it may well be a good idea to demand that a percentage of those proceeds are set aside in a fund for supporting civil society activities?
  4. Cyprus, a small Mediterranean island of less than a million people, is a country divided in two —Greek and Turkish. The conflict and division of the island is a direct result of British colonial rule. The island was used as a military base during the two world wars; the island gained freedom from UK in 1960, and found itself in two parts (much like India/Pakistan). Today, the borders between the two Cyprus continue to divide the families and communities. It is ridiculous to see a municipality and mayor’s office in the Greek side while the voters and residents of that municipality are on the Turkish side. Are there no lessons to be learnt?
  5. There is a certain air of uncertainty in many democracies around the world. Rulers and regimes are busy spying on their citizens. Recent media reports suggest that data about millions of users of google, yahoo and other service providers are being accessed by security agencies. Indian government is next only to American government in such acts of spying. A major concern about identity schemes like Adhaar in India is the absence of legal rights around privacy and consent of the citizens. Given the highly corrupt governance culture in the country, every piece of data can be sold for a price. It is already happening with credit cards, life insurance policies and bank loans; what next?

All the very best

Rajesh Tandon

 

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