Read The Hindu Notes of 24th September 2018 for UPSC Civil Service Examination, State Civil Service Examination and other competitive Examination

The Hindu Notes for 24th September 2018

A pan-India Dalit assertion

The story of the Bhim Army of western U.P. is a lens to understand the Dalit challenge to the Hindu Right

In a move that took many by surprise, the Uttar Pradesh government recently released Chandrasekhar Azad, the founder of the Bhim Army Bharat Ekta Mission, from jail. It was unexpected for many reasons. For starters, he had been arrested last year following clashes between Dalits and Thakurs in Saharanpur in western U.P. In November 2017, when the Allahabad High Court granted him bail, it observed that the charges against him seemed “politically motivated”.

Why now?

  • Notwithstanding the bail order, the U.P. government had invoked the National Security Act (NSA) to arrest him again.
  • It kept him in jail — without trial and without any charge sheet being filed — for more than 15 months. He was not due for release until November 2. So why did the Yogi Adityanath government suddenly change its mind and release him two months early?
  • The official explanation is that the decision was taken in response to a request from Mr. Azad’s mother. But that doesn’t explain why her request remained unheeded for so many months.
  • It is likely that the real reasons involve a combination of two factors.
    1. First, the petition filed in the Supreme Court challenging his detention. Dalit groups have claimed that the petition was up for hearing soon, and that the government wanted to avoid a reprimand from the apex court, as it would have given the Opposition a fresh opening to paint the BJP as ‘anti-Dalit’.
    2. The other reason is that the Dalits in U.P. have been getting increasingly restive over Mr. Azad’s continued incarceration. The campaign for his release was becoming a tool for uniting Dalits across the country.
  • A national-level mobilisation of Dalits for the release of an Ambedkarite leader jailed by a BJP government would not only bust the claims of the Bharatiya Janata Party-Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh of upholding B.R. Ambedkar’s legacy but also put Dalit leaders within the Sangh Parivar under immense pressure, as it indeed already has. Besides, Dalit unity and political awareness were precisely what Mr. Azad had been working towards, and continuing to keep him in jail made no sense if the very fact of his detention was catalysing the achievement of these objectives.
  • In other words, to borrow a metaphor from chess, the Bhim Army chief’s early release was what one might call a ‘forced move’. It not only represents a moral victory for the Dalit community but is also part of a larger pattern of Dalit assertion that is gathering steam across the country. It is a phenomenon that the ruling dispensation views as a threat, but it is a threat to which it has no coherent response. Its inability to come up with one is not accidental. It is unable to do so because this threat is a manifestation of the contradiction at the heart of their political project, the creation of a Hindu Rashtra.
  • Different from before

  • The singular contradiction that is steadily unravelling the Hindutva project even as it seems to be making progress is the same element that is fuelling Dalit assertion in India today: caste society. Ironically, it was the demon of caste that necessitated the ideology of Hindutva in the first place. It is an ideology that seeks to bury this demon by propping up another in its place: the demon of hatred towards the Other. While the default Other of Hindutva is the Muslim, the communal demon is broad-minded enough to consider other minorities as well on a need-to-hate basis.
  • Rendering the fault lines of caste invisible in a fog of communal paranoia has only one objective: the creation of a nation of Hindus. This brings us to the second contradiction in the Hindutva project: a nation, by definition, is a community of (notional) equals. But a community whose nationhood is predicated solely on the religious and cultural identity of being Hindu can never be a community of equals, for as Ambedkar elucidates with breathtaking clarity in Annihilation of Caste, Hindu religious belief and cultural practice are marked by the graded inequality of caste at their very core.
  • This is the kernel of Ambedkarite insight that the Bhim Army has been planting in young Dalit minds through its hundreds of tuition centres in western U.P. Much like its founder, who used to be a member of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the Bhim Army’s ranks are filled with people who have dallied with the Hindu Right. Their disillusionment with the Sangh Parivar was almost always triggered by the refusal of their saffron brothers to back them in inter-caste clashes. This proved to be a moment of truth that set in sharp relief the moral and other kinds of support that they had received when their antagonists happened to be a religious minority instead of upper-caste Hindus. In other words, their experience in the Parivar had primed them into ideal subjects ready to imbibe what the Bhim Army had to say.
  • The Bhim Army, emblematic of the current phase of Dalit assertion, is different from earlier mobilisations in one important respect — its recognition that social unity is more important than political unity. So much so that loyalty to the Dalit community precedes every other affiliation, including that to political parties.
  • If the current wave of Dalit assertion, which seems to have taken to heart Ambedkar’s slogan of “Educate, Agitate, Organise”, were to succeed in its project of invoking Dalit pride as a common factor to knit the thousands of Dalit-Bahujan sub-castes across the country into a singular political community, it could mark the beginning of the end for the Hindu Right, whose ‘foot-soldiers’, in many cases of targeted communal violence, have historically been Dalits. The very condition of possibility for a Hindu Rashtra requires that Scheduled Caste communities remain invested in the social identity proffered by their respective sub-castes while continuing to identify politically as Hindus. Activists or outfits focussed on educating Dalits and propagating an Ambedkarite self-respect are naturally inimical to this project.
  • It is, therefore, not surprising that the ruling dispensation is panicking at the spread of a Dalit political consciousness. And panic is not the best frame of mind in which to initiate counter-measures. So, first came a judicial manoeuvre to dilute the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act — a move that backfired. It backfired so badly that the Union Cabinet scrambled to quickly pass an amendment nullifying the Supreme Court judgment.
  • Next was the arrest of five social activists for their alleged involvement with the Bhima-Koregaon event on January 1, 2018, an annual programme whose very objective is to celebrate Dalit pride. The term used by the police to describe the detainees, “urban naxals”, is already gaining currency among Dalits as the state’s vindictive label for people who fight for Dalit empowerment.
  • Clues in nomenclature

  • And most recently, the Central government, citing a High Court order, issued an advisory asking the media to stop using the word ‘Dalit’ altogether and stick to the term ‘Scheduled Caste’. While it remains unclear why a self-proclaimed ‘pro-Dalit’ regime would want to eliminate the very term from usage, the move has managed to further alienate Dalits from the BJP.
  • Interestingly, the first thing Mr. Azad said after being released is that he would work hard to ensure the BJP’s defeat in the 2019 Lok Sabha election. He also squelched any speculation that he might serve as a counter-weight to Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati, by swearing loyalty to her. What remains to be seen is whether this rare convergence of Dalit political assertion and social unity acquires a fully pan-Indian character, and how it plays out in the electoral arena.
  • The primary anchor of a health-care road map

    The key to success is to integrate prevention, detection and treatment

    Universal health coverage is getting prioritised as a part of political reform with the launch of two pillars of the Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PMJAY): Ayushman Bharat (AB), where 1.5 lakh health sub-centres are being converted into health and wellness centres; and the National Health Protection Mission (NHPM), which aims to provide health cover of ₹5 lakh per family, per annum, reaching out to 500 million people.

  • The “best health care at the lowest possible cost” should be: inclusive; make health-care providers accountable for cost and quality; achieve a reduction in disease burden, and eliminate catastrophic health expenditures for the consumer. All of this is not happening overnight simply because an audacious, nation-wide health-care programme is on the anvil. It could come about, however, if accompanied by the nuts and bolts of good governance that will support solutions and systems to achieve these objectives.
  • Align entitlement to income

    In the matter of inclusion, over 15 years ago, the Vajpayee government commissioned the Institute of Health Systems (IHS), Hyderabad to develop a ‘family welfare linked health insurance policy’.

  • In 2003, the Director of the IHS Hyderabad delivered a broad-based Family Health Protection Plan (FHPP), open to all individuals.
  • The fact is that any discourse on universal health care in India gets stymied by the sheer size and ambivalence of the numbers involved. This 2003 solution of the Vajpayee-era recommended, inter alia, that good governance lies in aligning the income lines for health and housing. In other words, de-link entitlement to health care from the poverty line.
  • In that event, the income lines for housing (updated from time to time), could be simultaneously applicable for health entitlement. The government could then proceed, as per capacity, to scale the health premium subsidy in line with housing categories — economically weaker sections (entitled to 75-90%), lower income (entitled to 50%), and middle income groups (entitled to 20%).
  • Build in accountability

  • The NHPM is pushing for hospitalisation at secondary- and tertiary-level private hospitals, while disregarding the need for eligible households to first access primary care, prior to becoming ‘a case for acute care’.
  • We are in danger of placing the cart (higher-level care) before the horse (primary care). Without the stepping stone of primary health care, direct hospitalisation is a high-cost solution.
  • Last month, the Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare, J.P. Nadda, said that while the PMJAY would help improve availability, accessibility, and affordability for the needy 40% of the population, the Prime Minister was looking for one additional requirement — that the PMJAY must continue to maintain credibility.
  • This leads me to a caveat. Public sector health capacities are constrained at all levels. Forward movement is feasible only through partnerships and coalitions with private sector providers. These partnerships are credible only if made accountable. The National Health Policy 2017 proposed “strategic purchasing” of services from secondary and tertiary hospitals for a fee. Clearly, we need to contract-in services of those health-care providers (public and private) who are assessed as competent to provide all care for all the medical conditions specified; who will accept and abide by standard treatment protocols and guidelines notified, as this will rule out potential for induced care/unnecessary treatment; and who will accept the AB-NHPM financial compensation package (with fixed fees per episode, and not per visit).
  • The credo for participating private providers should be “mission, not margin”. Health-care providers (public/private) should be accredited without any upper limit on the number of service providers in a given district. The annual premium for each beneficiary would be paid to those service providers, for up to one year only (renewable), as selected by beneficiaries. The resultant competition would enhance quality and keep costs in check. Upgrading district hospitals to government medical colleges and teaching hospitals will enhance capacities at the district level. Service providers will become accountable for cost and quality if they are bound to the nuts and bolts of good governance outlined above.
  • Transform primary care

  • Third, elimination of catastrophic health expenditures for the consumer can come about only if there is sustained effort to modernise and transform the primary care space. Bring together all relevant inter-sectoral action linking health and development so as to universalise the availability of clean drinking water, sanitation, garbage disposal, waste management, food security, nutrition and vector control. The Swachh Bharat programme must be incorporated in the PMJAY. These steps put together will reduce the disease burden.
  • At the 1.5 lakh ‘health and wellness clinics’ (earlier, health sub-centres), register households to provide them access to district-specific, evidence-based, integrated packages of community, primary preventive and promotive health care. A public education media campaign could highlight the merits of personal hygiene and healthy living. Kerala and Tamil Nadu have demonstrated that high-performing, primary health-care systems do address a majority of community/individual health needs. The health and wellness clinics must connect with early detection and treatment. The cornerstone of the Vajpayee-era FHPP was the primary medical clinic providing ambulatory primary care, out-patient consultation, clinical examination, curative services, and referrals. Robust delivery of preventive, clinical and diagnostic health-care services will result in early detection of cancers, diabetes and chronic conditions, mostly needing long-term treatment and home care. This will further minimise the demand for hospitalisation. Investment in primary care would very quickly reduce the overall cost of health care for the state and for the consumer.
  • Technology and innovation are further reducing costs. AI-powered mobile applications will soon provide high-quality, low-cost, patient-centric, smart wellness solutions. The scaleable and inter-operable IT platform being readied for the Ayushman Bharat is encouraging.
  • As we integrate prevention, detection and treatment of ill-health, the PMJAY will win hearts if people receive a well-governed ‘Health for All’ scheme.
  • Saving Cauvery’s cradle

    Protecting the Kodagu watershed is essential to ensure the water security of three States

    We require water for everything: drinking, growing crops, producing electricity and industrial production. With the world population projected to grow to about 10 billion by 2050, according to the United Nations, and with climate change discernible, both the quantity and quality of freshwater will become critical, affecting health, food security, and economic well-being. A 2015 UN report, Water for a Sustainable World, pointed out that the gap between the availability of water and our need for water is only going to increase.

    Projects in the river basin

  • The growing demand on freshwater resources demonstrates the need for sustainable management of water. In this context, projects that are being contemplated, such as the laying of multiple railway tracks in the critical Cauvery river basin in Kodagu district, Karnataka, are not only economically unviable but also ecologically damaging. Mega projects pose a clear threat to the long-term water security of the three States that depend on the Cauvery (Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu), and exacerbate the threat posed by seasonal droughts and floods.
  • The Cauvery basin drains an area of about 81,000 sq. km. Originating in Talakaveri, Kodagu, the river irrigates agricultural fields, generates electricity, and provides drinking water to downstream communities across south India. The Cauvery and its tributaries contribute the bulk of water to the Krishna Raja Sagara dam near Mysuru, the primary water source for Bengaluru. However, increasing development pressure from the transportation and construction sectors poses a severe threat to the forests, riverbeds, wildlife and agricultural lands. This March, for the first time in decades, towns such as Virajpet in Kodagu faced a severe shortage of drinking water. The continuing loss of forest cover and illegal sand mining from river beds endanger water and food security for all the downstream communities in the Cauvery basin.
  • The three proposed railway plans have major implications. One, all the tracks will cut through large swaths of agricultural farms and fields as well as Protected and Reserve Forests that are spread across Kodagu and Mangaluru districts of Karnataka, and Wayanad and Kannur districts of Kerala. Along this sparsely populated area, transportation needs can be met by simply improving existing roads at a fraction of the monetary and ecological cost of the proposed railways. In fact, in its feasibility report of the Mysuru-Thalassery line, the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation stated that the project would not be beneficial to the State. In response to protests by the people of Kodagu in February, the plan to build the Mysuru-Thalassery line was scrapped in March. However, if history is any guide, plans to build the tracks will reemerge in time.
  • Two, they will affect the Western Ghats, one of the most biodiverse regions on earth. Kodagu has about 45% forest cover and about 30% agroforestry systems (coffee plantations and paddy fields). Between 2013 and 2015, a high-tension power line linking Mysuru and Kozhikode resulted in the loss of about 50,000 trees in Kodagu alone. If the proposed railway lines are constructed, they would conservatively result in tree loss that is 10 times more than this. Forests help capture rainfall, reduce run-off and soil erosion, recharge groundwater aquifers, mitigate flooding, support local communities, and provide refuge for native flora and fauna. Raised railway tracks will also impede wildlife and could result in the deaths of endangered animals such as elephants. Most importantly, a forest-depleted Kodagu basin will have reduced capacity to capture and store rainwater. Even without the railway tracks, a satellite-based report titled India State of Forests 2017 noted that Kodagu lost 102 sq. km. of tree cover in just two years.
  • Variable monsoon

  • The Kodagu basin receives heavy rainfall, mainly during the southwest monsoon (June-September), that feeds the Cauvery. However, studies by the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology and others, published in the journal Nature, have found evidence for increasingly variable monsoon rainfall. Thus, we can expect to experience more extreme floods as well as droughts in the future. These are scenarios that make preserving forest cover more vital in order to mitigate the collateral effects of these extreme events.
  • During this year’s southwest monsoon season, Kodagu received twice as much annual rainfall as usual and with greater intensity. This resulted in landslides and floods. A recent study of nearly 5,000 landslides around the world, published in Earth and Space Science News (Eos), has revealed that activities like construction, illegal mining and hill cutting are increasingly responsible for the uptick in fatal landslides, particularly in Asia. It will be hard to claim that the uncontrolled development and forest clearance in the steep slopes of the Western Ghats in recent years has not been a factor in the tragedy that just unfolded in Kodagu, and in the coastal districts of Kerala. With 100-year storms likely to become more frequent as the climate becomes warmer, business as usual is sure to increasingly endanger lives and property.
  • Erratic monsoon rains can cause flooding, droughts, water and food security. Preserving existing forests in the watershed provides an effective ‘insurance policy’ for reducing the effect of floods and droughts while recharging groundwater across the Cauvery river basin. Nature has reported that diminished access to water resources increases the risk of social unrest, political instability, intensified refugee flows and armed conflicts, even within borders. The variable nature of monsoons makes India one of the most vulnerable regions to water-related disasters associated with climate change and extreme weather events. According to a BBC report, Bengaluru is likely to run out of drinking water in the next decade. Economists should estimate the monetary and human cost of cities like Bengaluru becoming dry, and implement policies focused on achieving and maintaining sustainable water resources.
  • We are at the start of the UN Decade for Water, which emphasises water security for all. Everyone lives in a watershed, yet water remains a remote concept for those who consume it the most — people, industries and farmers. There are no substitutes for water as the very basis for life. Protecting the Cauvery’s source is essential for the sustained well-being of the entire basin and of the three States that the river nourishes. In fact, good water governance of the nation’s watersheds will be key to its sustainable future. We can begin by saving Cauvery’s cradle.