In Kashmir, doctors are unreachable, patients anxious

It has been months since the Indian government shut down the internet and stopped mobiles phones in Kashmir. While officials cite statistics to maintain all is well in Kashmir, doctors, hospital staff, attendants of those in hospitals in Srinagar, Bandipora, Shopian, Pulwama say accessing health care has become harder. Critically ill patients cannot get timely care or emergency services. A podcast from Srinagar by Menaka Rao and me on Suno India here. Continue reading In Kashmir, doctors are unreachable, patients anxious

A story from Delhi’s industrial areas

Workers say they are unsure if this political system works for them, and no governments are directly able to respond to their issues. At 9 in the morning on Tuesday, instead of starting work at the assembly line, men stood in huddles outside several factories in Delhi’s Okhla industrial area. It was the first day of a two-day general strike called by 10 central trade unions, the largest industrial action planned just months before the Lok Sabha elections. In the last such action in September 2016, trade unions claimed 15 crore workers had taken part, including in industrial areas in … Continue reading A story from Delhi’s industrial areas

What we cannot say about bureaucracy

“.the situations created by violence — particularly structural violence, by which I means pervasive social inequality that are ultimately backed by the threat of physical harm — invariably tend to create the kids of willful blindness we normally associate with bureaucratic procedures. To put it crudely: it is not so much that bureaucratic procedures are inherently stupid, or even that they tend to produce behaviour that they themselves define as stupid — though they do do that — but rather, that they are invariably ways of managing social situations that are already stupid because they are founded on structural violence. … Continue reading What we cannot say about bureaucracy

On India’s biometrics ID Aadhaar debate

JAM in Jharkhand: ‘Apply lemon juice, flour, Boroplus on fingers and pass biometrics test’ Fact check: Will restricting Aadhaar now affect crores of welfare recipients? Supreme Court ruling on Aadhaar leaves both government and critics unsatisfied An audit of ration shops after the introduction of Aadhaar revealed that many genuine beneficiaries couldn’t collect food grain due to system glitches. Student battles for right to obtain voter card without having to enrol for Aadhaar How the government got the Supreme Court’s approval to link subsidy schemes with Aadhaar India’s Unique Identity Dilemma isn’t about those who enrol in Aadhaar, but those … Continue reading On India’s biometrics ID Aadhaar debate

Nepal blockade may have created an enduring problem on the border: Fuel smuggling

This post from Raxaul-Birgunj border when the Nepal blockade ended, in early February. A four-month blockade on the India-Nepal international border by Madhesi protestors left the Himalayan nation with lingering travails. The blockade, started in September and ended on February 4, and caused enormous shortages and price rises in most parts of Nepal. As imports were disrupted, fuel scarcity pushed people to take to illegal logging and deforestation, creating a real threat of floods. Particularly hit during the four-month period were hospitals and schools. Reconstruction efforts after the deadly April 2015 earthquake too came to a standstill as loaded trucks … Continue reading Nepal blockade may have created an enduring problem on the border: Fuel smuggling

Jharkhand polls: In Jharia, Nirsa, coal leaves a mark on polls

The Hindu Village residents, mine workers at Congress candidate Neeraj Singh’s election rally in Lodna near Jharia. photo by Manob Chowdhury At the tri-junction at Govindpur, Mahendra Mahto paused to look both sides before continuing pushing his cycle. Mahto, in his 20s, wearing a shirt and trousers and open-toed sandals, had six sacks weighing 40 kgs each of coal tied to both sides of the cycle. He began walking, pushing the 250-kg load five hours earlier at 6 am. At Govindpur, he joined six cyclewallahs who were waiting for everyone in their group to catch up. They sold the sacks … Continue reading Jharkhand polls: In Jharia, Nirsa, coal leaves a mark on polls

Tribals torn apart by religion

The Hindu Whether due to economic disparities or the stoking of enmities by different religious groups, the chasm between Sarna and Christian tribals has widened Two months before polling began in Jharkhand, Ajay Tirkey began dividing his day between campaigning for the Bharatiya Janata Party in Ranchi and attending to his real estate business. Mr. Tirkey, who heads the Central Sarna Committee(CSC), with lakhs of animistic Sarna tribals as members in urban parts of Ranchi, Gumla and Hazaribagh, believes that the BJP’s Narendra Modi will get the community what it has been demanding for decades: the distinction of being a … Continue reading Tribals torn apart by religion

Lok Sabha Palamu, Chatra: From jungles to the Parliament

The Hindu In Haidarnagar market in Palamu district in Jharkhand, an area with a significant presence of Maoists, the roads are lined with red flags with images of Hanuman stitched over them. At the crossroad in the market, Bhojpuri songs blare out of loudspeakers kept in a mini truck. These are also used to announce that Kameshwar Baitha, the sitting Member of Parliament from Palamu will be holding a nukkad sabha. In 2009, Mr. Baitha, a former Maoist commander, won the Lok Sabha elections from Palamu while serving a prison term in Bihar. He had commandeered the Koel-Sankh zone of … Continue reading Lok Sabha Palamu, Chatra: From jungles to the Parliament

Lok Sabha Giridih: AAP goes to villages

In January, while Arvind Kejriwal led a dramatic protest against the Home Ministry occupying a garden outside Rail Bhawan in New Delhi, far away in Giridih, on Bihar-Jharkhand border, protestors gathered at the centre of the old mining town. As their numbers increased to nearly a hundred, the Aam Admi Party supporters marched to Ambedkar Chowk and set fire to an effigy of Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde. Giridih does not feature on AAP’s website yet. But over 20,000 have enrolled here as members, among the highest in Jharkhand. Most of the campaigns are organized from the office of Career … Continue reading Lok Sabha Giridih: AAP goes to villages

Lok Sabha Khunti: Dayamani’s long fight for the forests, for equality

Dayamani Barla had made up her mind to fight elections soon after being released from jail. In the winter of 2012, the activist spent 69 days locked in a small cell in Birsa Munda jail in Ranchi. She was accused in a case relating to leading 400 Oraon tribal farmers in Nagri as they questioned why the campuses of elite institutes such as the IIM Ranchi, and a national law university be built on their fertile multi-crop farmland when there was ample barren land nearby. Nagri’s tribal women farmers carried fruits for Dayamani at every appearance she made at Ranchi … Continue reading Lok Sabha Khunti: Dayamani’s long fight for the forests, for equality

Lok Sabha Hazaribagh: The royal, the dynast, and the trade unionist

In 2009, former finance minister BJP’s Yashwant Sinha had won from Hazaribagh constituency in central Jharkhand reversing his defeat in the 2004 elections by CPI’s Bhuvneshwar Prasad Mehta, a coal workers’ union leader. This time, the BJP, a trenchant critic of the Congress’ dynastic politics, has given the ticket to Mr Sinha’s investment entrepreneur-turned-politician son Jayant Sinha. Among Sinha’s rivals is another dynast, a royal, the sitting MLA from Congress Saurabh Narayan Singh who is the grandson of the former king “Ramgarh Raja” Kamakhya Narain Singh, and CPI’s Mehta, now 74. Also among the candidates, is three time-BJP MLA Lok … Continue reading Lok Sabha Hazaribagh: The royal, the dynast, and the trade unionist

Why the land wars won’t end

Most of the acquisitions by the Central government and public sector companies in the country’s resource-rich State are under laws that bypass the new land Bill The UPA has claimed the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (LARR) Bill 2013 passed by both Houses will reduce forcible acquisition and help tackle Naxalism in mineral-rich areas. But with Coal Bearing Areas Acquisition and Development (CBA) Act 1957, Land Acquisition (Mines) Act 1885, and Damodar Valley Corporation (DVC) Act 1948, along with 10 other laws, exempt from the land Bill, the Central government has its own … Continue reading Why the land wars won’t end

Parha jatra, and politics

The parha jatra, a congregation of 5/7/12/21 villages which form a parha, has been celebrated in Oraon and Munda villages since long. But what was traditionally a religious congregation has also become a rallying point and an occasion for political leaders to assert clout. In 1967, Congress MLA Karamchand Bhagat supported and oganized the parha jatra in Bero for the first time. At the time, the police had imposed a curfew after six adivasis of the area were killed in police firing. Bhagat supported the village parhass efforts to organize the jatra to defy the curfew. Since Bhagat first supported … Continue reading Parha jatra, and politics

Caste and the Maoists

On March 29, in one of the worst setbacks the Maoists have suffered in Jharkhand in recent months, cadres of the Tritiya Prastuti Committee (TPC), a splinter group of the banned CPI (Maoist), killed 10 Maoists after a gun battle that lasted over 10 hours at Lakarmanda village, 17 km from Kunda, where the Maoists had stopped en route to Gaya. The TPC took 25 Maoists hostage for four days in the Sarengdah and Kunda panchayats in Chatra district and released them after sending off photos to the press of the captured Maoists. “We kept the hostages in a village … Continue reading Caste and the Maoists

Even when you take to the woods,

We are children of our age, it’s a political age. All day long, all through the night all affairs–yours, ours, theirs– are political affairs. Whether you like it or not, your genes have political past, your skin–a political cast, your eyes–a political slant. Whatever you say reverberates, whatever you don’t say speak for itself– so either way you’re talking politics. Even when you take to the woods, you’re taking political steps on political grounds. Apolitical poems are also political, and above us shines the moon no longer purely lunar. To be or not to be, that is the question. And … Continue reading Even when you take to the woods,

Why and how cash transfers may not work

Imagine you just received a heads-up. From January, your salary will be credited to a bank account your employer recently opened for you. But you do not know the details of this bank account and have no idea when you will find out. The news also is that from now on your parents can withdraw their monthly pensions by walking to the new ATM recently set up in front of their house. But every other time you or they try, the ATM says the PIN you have does not match. No one can tell with certainty when your new bank … Continue reading Why and how cash transfers may not work