Vol-CXV : January 1, 2014

Dear Colleagues

Wish you all a peaceful and healthy 2014. Here is a new version of Random Reflections:

  1. China’s new national leadership has announced a number of social and economic reforms. One of the interesting aspects of these reforms is a public recognition of non-governmental organisations in China’s future development. Called ‘social organisations’, these non-government agencies are now being encouraged by Chinese policy-makers to get actively involved in the socio-economic development of the disabled, the elderly and the sick. Though presently being viewed as service delivery organisations, these non-governmental spaces hold enormous potential for future development of a vibrant civil society in China?
  2. Restricting new immigrants to UK has been a major policy platform of the conservative government. Yet, the vast majority of medical practitioners in the country’s health system are from either South Asia or Poland. Similar is the demographics in academia and media; a growing number of successful academics and journalists are immigrants. The government’s policy towards immigration suffers from deep ambivalence. On the one hand, restricting immigration is popular with voters of the majority community. On the other hand, new immigrants bring new capacities, innovations and hard work. This phenomenon is not limited to UK; this policy ambivalence is more widespread in various countries of the north as well as the south.
  3. Within greater Mumbai is the island of Manoribel where one can walk on the pristine coastline next to your hotel room. A regular steamer service takes commuters, vendors, tourists and lovers to the island, and back. One can also carry a motorcycle on the steamer, with valet service thrown in for a small price. Finding private space for young and the old alike in large metropolitan centres like Mumbai is not easy. Small homes are full of people; streets, buses, trains and parks are over-crowded as well. How do inhabitants be with themselves, their loved ones and their soul-mates in such urban agglomerations?
  4. During assembly elections in Bihar seven years ago, conversations with rickshaw-pullers seemed to indicate that ‘good governance’ had somehow caught the fancy of voters in Bihar. The incumbent Chief Minister gained popular support on that theme of ‘good governance’. The same theme has now come to haunt him; absence of ‘good governance’ is now being used to question his legitimacy. A glaring example of absence of ‘good governance’ in Bihar these days is that all the 19 portfolios of ministers of BJP in his ministry (before they left the government) continue to be under his control. This is an era of ‘superman’ Chief Minister!
  5. The formation of government in Delhi by a new people’s party (AAP) last week is the most recent manifestation of growing frustration of citizens with traditional political parties and extortionist political culture. Most leaders of the new government have been active in civil society for more than a decade; many have demonstrated their social commitment to a wide variety of causes and struggles by engaging with them. The seven Ministers of the new government of Delhi are our ‘people in the neighbourhood’; they belong to our local society; they are like us. It is this wave of ‘unusual’ politics that presents the best hope in the new year. Participatory governance can indeed be scaled-up!

Best regards

Rajesh Tandon