Vol- CXVIII : April 1, 2014

Dear Colleagues

In some parts of the world, today is April Fool’s Day; any action is suspect on this occasion. Another set of below, however, are authentic:

  1. The ‘neck’ of north Bengal, near Siliguri, is known primarily as a region for trafficking of women; many civil society organisations have been working for years to address this phenomenon. However, that region is also abundant in flowers of all kinds. Low cost bamboo green-houses promoted by the local university have significantly improved the growth of floriculture industry. Perhaps economic development rooted in local expertise of cultivating flowers may make some impact on reducing trafficking of girls and women in this region?
  2. Formed in Canada as a support group to freedom movement in India, the Ghader (meaning protest) Party from Punjab was quite an important mobiliser of public opinion and funds. In Chandigarh last month, celebration of 100 years history of Ghader Party, and an exhibition of old document and photographs, brought out the occasionally forgotten history of that period. The supporters of Ghader Party spread to America, UK and other parts of Europe, in addition to various cities of Canada, to mobilise public opinion in support of the freedom movement in India.
  3. The current president of Korea is the daughter of the earlier President who had curtailed democratic freedoms in the 1970s. She has promised to promote democracy and human rights in Korea. A part of the struggle for democracy then in Korea was to separate the ‘cosy’ relationship between large corporations and political leadership. This aspect doesn’t seem to have changed much over generations. Similar patterns are emerging in many other rapidly growing societies, including India. Is real freedom and practice of democracy feasible without economic democracy? Can the power of ‘big money’ be subjected to democratic accountability?
  4. Once confined to remote, inaccessible hilly terrains inside the forests, the tribals of Odisha today are becoming part of the ‘mainstream’. The younger generation of tribals is wearing jeans/t-shirt, listening to Bollywood music on mobiles, eating noodles and ‘visiting’ nearby towns and cities. The tribal youth now seem to be part of the ‘middle class aspirations’ which they share with their urban counterparts. Since their starting points are different, efforts towards realization of such aspirations in their life-time may well be frustrating?
  5. Campaigning for parliamentary elections is in full swing in India these days. To persuade more than 800 million voters, most political parties have learnt to utilize social media to woo the new generation. The use of such media is not just confined to the new party AAP, or the new set of IT professionals contesting elections; it is also being used by such politicians and parties who have been champions of traditional Indian values (like girls should cover their bodies well and youth should show respect to the elderly). One interesting use of twitter is to ‘express’ discontent from the actions of their own party leadership; in mainstream media, a politician agrees with the decisions of his party to nominate various candidates for different constituencies. The same politician then expresses disagreements on twitter; complimentary use of social and traditional media?

Best regards

Rajesh Tandon