Kerala Police Harassment

TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN

Following is a report of an incident that occurred on Nov. 3, 2017 at the check-post on the Tripunithura mini-bypass road. Even though the conclusions are based on one incident, the issues are systemic in nature that it must be prevalent through out Kerala Police.

The problem started with the practice of stopping moving traffic and demanding breath test by blowing into a device. I object to it as I consider it unhygienic, since it can facilitate the spread of germs, viruses or worse. Usually when I object, they let me proceed without the breath test. But on Nov. 3rd they insisted. Since I did not yield, they became argumentative, rude and started using abusive language. There were about 8 police officers.

Since I continued my refusal to blow into the device, they demanded my driver’s license, vehicle registration and insurance. I produced the driver’s license, copy of vehicle registration, and previous insurance. I didn’t have copy of current insurance with me. They impounded the vehicle and said it will be released when I produce current insurance document.

I requested a receipt for the vehicle so that I can go and fetch the insurance papers. No one in the police station would give me a receipt for leaving the vehicle at the station, and wanted me to wait for the Sub-inspector responsible. The waiting took about an hour, and the Sub-inspector told me that he will not give a receipt.

I left vehicle at the station, came back with the insurance document and took possession of the vehicle without further aggravation.

Here are my observations about the incident:

  1. The breath-test is being used as an instrument for harassment and creating inconvenience.
  2. Since Kerala government actively sells and promotes alcohol consumption and depends on it as a key source of tax revenue, even to pretend that breath-tests are in public interest would be laughable. And the police have no business conducting unhygienic practices on the public.

  3. Based on some of their argumentative statements, it seems the traffic patrol team does not even have rudimentary understanding of “rule of law” concepts.
  4. Use of rude and abusive language seems to be their regular behavior pattern.
  5. The patrol team had a tendency to gang-up, with different team members making up facts and relaying to others so that they have a distorted view of the situation.
  6. Impounding a vehicle for non-availability of a document is abuse of power.
  7. Not able to fulfill the request for receipt for impounded vehicle indicate that the Kerala Police procedures are archaic, without established uniform rules.
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Waste management

TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN

Lately, lot of attention is being devoted to clean India. However, the various programs suffer from a serious flaw. Not enough is being done to build cohesive systems for waste management. Instead, the emphasis seems to be on awareness campaigns.

Garbage, waste and pollution are an intrinsic part of a modern economy. Consequently, systems to manage waste being continuously generated by the economy need to be matched with counter-balancing systems. A systemic approach is required for tangible results — ad hoc and piecemeal solutions will not work –  For more details, please see “Waste and garbage are intrinsic part of consumer economy“.

For example, the Kochi Corporation has been toying with a waste management program for a long time. There seems an obsession with waste-to-energy idea, while garbage problems going from bad to worse. In the humid and wet Kerala situation, any waste-to-energy is a non-starter.

What is required is integrated systems for managing and disposing waste, including bio- compost, recycling and incineration. In addition, the primary responsibility for waste disposal need to rest with local governments — not with individuals. Individual actions can only be supplementary because the scope of the problem is beyond what can be achieved at a personal level. Producing real results — not publicity — require systematic effort at the government level, since clean environment is a public good.

This is the approach used by countries that have implemented successful waste management and clean environment programs. A waste management framework was developed after studying successful waste management programs implemented by Nepal, Japan and Sweden. It is available online: “A framework for clean environment“.

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Kerala is no model of development

By MA Oommen – Kerala’s social attainments, sometimes referred to as a ‘model’, brought to scholarly attention by the UN study Poverty, Unemployment and Development Policy (1975), has occupied a prominent place in development literature. It is only a post facto generalization of a historically evolved transformative experience in delivering broad-based healthcare (low infant mortality, high life expectancy, high female-male ratio etc), universal elementary education and social justice to a society once deeply divided by caste and class inequities of the worst order.

That this was achieved unsupported by high growth or industrialization has baffled the received wisdom in economics.

Kerala society is deeply fragmented on the basis of rent-seeking coalitions such as caste associations, liquor contractors, PWD contractors, quarry contractors and the like broaching opportunistic alliance with some political party or other for mutual gains. Hartals, a staple of Kerala’s everyday life, are no longer an instrument of people’s protest. It is difficult to endorse the claims of Patrick Heller (1999) and others who consider Kerala a radical social democracy. more> https://goo.gl/1pXGB9

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Modi’s move to dismantle bureaucracy, the demonic relic of the Raj, deserves a standing ovation

By Amit Kapoor – I personally believe that, despite having elected leaders, the country is under absolute control and in the clutches of the bureaucracy and bureaucratic processes.

The present-day bureaucracy reflects the age-old analysis propounded by Socrates that the strong (bureaucrats) have the advantage. Here we need to ask the question: What is the job of a civil servant? Is it to enable or control?

What I see is that processes in the country have been built to perpetuate control at all possible levels, and the bureaucrats have have ended up being the de facto rulers of the land. The advantage that the bureaucracy has is accentuated by information asymmetry that gets perpetuated through masquerading control via processes that slow things down and thereby enhance corruption.

Bureaucrats are representatives of the state and not the state in themselves. They behave as if they are the state with their arrogance and know-all attitude. These are the people who I see as the biggest folly of our democracy that none of us have thought of setting right. They have been waging war against the people of this nation by enslaving their will, destroying and stalling the pace of change and setting the the country back. more> https://goo.gl/s7PAq0

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Use the mandate

PM Modi’s political capital should be leveraged to reform Indias product markets
(indiatimes.com)Times of India – India is a country of young people and around a million of them enter the job market every month. Unless enough jobs can be found for them, the ‘new’ India will end up looking very much like the old.

In terms of employment potential, organized retail offers enormous opportunities. Instead of opening up FDI in retail in a piecemeal manner, the best way ahead is to repeal all restrictions on investment. At one stroke, it will end lobbying and the search for loopholes in the law.

India’s economy is over-regulated. Instead of safeguarding consumer interests, the focus of regulation is on creating unnecessary obstacles to business.

Dismantling this perverse structure requires government to take on powerful vested interests. In this context, recent elections assume salience as Modi has the political capital now to bring about structural changes in India’s regulatory architecture. more> https://goo.gl/dh1xIA

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Three reasons why a cashless society would be a disaster

By Amit Varma – I am a great admirer of Mahatma Gandhi, but the man had some strange views.

“Hospitals are institutions for propagating sin,” he wrote. “To study European medicine is to deepen our slavery.” He railed against the railways, saying “it is beyond dispute that they propagate evil.” He argued against lawyers, despite being one himself, saying they had “impoverished the country.”

But here’s a thing to note: despite these personal views, he never once suggested that railways, hospitals and lawyers should be banned.

There is a notion being spread these days that is as absurd as the ideas above: it is the notion that there is something wrong with using cash, and that we should head towards being a cashless society. This is nonsense. A cashless society would be a disaster for India. Here’s why.

One, a fully cashless society would mean the end of privacy. India has no privacy laws, and data protection is also a big worry — every week we hear stories of some big hacking or the other.

Two, a fully cashless society could mean the end of dissent. They could make any opponent a pauper with one keystroke, freezing your bank account while they investigate alleged misdeeds.

Three, a fully cashless society endangers freedom. Cash is empowerment. In a misogynist country like India, cashlessness would hit women the hardest.

It is a myth that an advanced society must necessarily be cashless. In Germany, a country which knows the perils of authoritarianism, more than 80% of transactions are in cash, as citizens safeguard their privacy and freedom.

Even in the US, 45% of transactions are in cash. Note that Germany and the US actually have the banking and technological infrastructure to enable cashlessness. In India, 600 million people have no bank account, and less than 20% of all Indians have a smartphone. Internet penetration is iffy, as is power. (By ‘power’, I mean electricity, not the government’s control over you.)

Trying to make India cashless is akin to putting a bullock cart in an F1 race, and whipping the driver because he’s too slow. more> https://goo.gl/jKGruY

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Corrupt climate

Black money is only a symptom of the disease of dishonesty
By Jug Suraiya – The real menace is not black money; it is what causes the creation of black money, which is corruption. How do you combat corruption?

Perhaps, our dishonesty is not gene-based but is the result of a social and cultural context in which we see our successive governments as nothing but an extension of colonial rule, thanks to the lordly distance that our netas and our babus put between themselves and us.

We inherited our political system and our bureaucracy from the British, and in exercising its power over aam admi the sarkar is often seen as being as disempowering as any foreign ruler. In which case, subverting the government by corruption might be seen as an extension of the freedom struggle.

To free ourselves from black money we need first to free ourselves from a neo-colonial mindset. A mindset which makes adversaries of the rulers and the ruled, the government and its citizens. more> https://goo.gl/wE7XFx

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Ban Bandhs

Parties have a right to protest but bandhs will only pile misery for the common man
Times of India – Political parties certainly have the right to demonstrate and protest peacefully. But this shouldn’t come at the cost of disrupting lives of common people. Parties enforcing bandhs should know that they have no right to come in the way of people who are pursuing their livelihood.

Though the effect of Monday’s (Nov 28) bandh was severe in Kerala and Tripura, parts of Odisha and Bihar, local traders in other states kept their shops open in defiance. The stoppage of a few trains in Bihar is deplorable. Such incidents result in a harrowing time for commuters.

In 1998, the Supreme Court had upheld a Kerala high court ruling banning political bandhs. But the tradition of calling for bandhs continues. If people feel strongly about an issue, they will participate willingly enough in protests. No coercion is required for this.

Bandhs do little except trample upon fundamental rights of citizens. more> https://goo.gl/A4StHb

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Economic development assistance is debt trap

The Times of India feature, “A ‘Risky’ State of Affairs,” (Oct. 18, 2016) describes the dismal state of development projects in Kerala.

The report says, “A comparison of the World Bank’s rating for its projects in Kerala and other southern Indian states show that risk factor is ‘substantial’ for two categories in Kerala – ‘Political and Governance’ and ‘Institutional Capacity for Implementation and Sustainability.’

“What is worrying is the ‘substantial’ SORT (Systematic Operations Risk Rating Tool) rating for two aspects of the on-going World Bank part-funded Kerala State Transport Project – 2 (KSTP-2), a five-year project which began in July 2013. The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (World Bank) is funding $216 million of the total expected cost of $445 million.

“World Bank officials might downplay the substantial risk rating as the Kerala Government is their client and the bank couldn’t survive alienating its clients.” a policy maker commented on conditions of anonymity.

“According to the document, these aspects pose governance challenges to the current project: political interference in project implementation, poor quality of works, delayed payments to contractors, delayed decision-making, repeated termination and rebidding of contracts, poor sustainability arrangements for roads and lack of mechanisms for adequate citizen feedback and public disclosure.

“There is a substantial likelihood that weak institutional capacity for implementing and sustaining the operation or operational engagement may adversely impact the project development outcome. The implementing agencies have limited experience with bank and other multilateral development partner operations. The implementing agencies have some in-house capacity, but external consultants play an important role in the design and day-to-day operation implementation. Staff turnover is substantial and they have limited access to relevant training. There are significant gaps in the agencies’ monitoring and evaluation of arrangements, and the lines of accountability are somewhat unclear.”

“How many of bureaucrats have the expertise to see these projects thought?” asks D Narayana, director, Gulati Institute of Finance Taxation. “First thing they need is this expertise and then commitment.”

Even in the World Bank’s restrained language, the problems facing development projects in Kerala are clear: institutional capability deficits, lack of expertise among bureaucrats, lack of management skills, lack of dedication, and corruption.

It is not difficult to trace the causes of these problems. The problem starts with education. Kerala Government has full control of the quality of the education in the state – and the goal is to ensure uniform mediocrity. For example, recently there is a new initiative to offer WiFi in schools. However, such cosmetic efforts will not result in the skills needed for a vibrant economy. Studies have found that computers, smartphones and internet can be an inhibitor for learning. Fundamental education reforms are essential for effective functioning of the state economy. For instance, OECD recommends, “Governments should develop smart innovation strategies for education with the right policy mix to give meaning and purpose to innovation, including creating an innovation-friendly culture.”

Kerala Government and its agencies need change of mindset to bring real benefits from development projects. Here is an outline of a typical process for a development project.

  1. Target an agency to get loan from.
  2. Find a consultant who can prepare a proposal that will be accepted by the funding agency.
  3. Once the loan is approved, find another consultant to manage the project.
  4. Hire other consultants to implement the project.
    (In practice, there may be additional creative steps.)

The result of this process is that the supervising agency does not have the skills, know-how or expertise needed to supervise the project successfully — a problem identified in the World Bank report. In addition, the process inhibits the supervising agencies from acquiring essential expertise and know-how for effective project implementation (institutional capacity).

Kerala Government has so far received development loans from World bank, ADB, governments of Japan, France, Germany and others. Some of them are in the early stages. Projects that are due for completion share the fate of the World Bank KSTP-2 project or worse.

The situation with these development loans is all the more deplorable because there is no need for these loans in the first place. Kerala has huge amount of bank deposits and gold holdings to finance these projects and more. The problem is people (depositors) don’t trust the Kerala Government with their money. Instead, Kerala Government goes to these development agencies for loans to squander away, without accountability — as the World Bank has identified.

The economic development agencies — World Bank, ADB (Asian Development Bank [2]), governments of Japan [2], France [2], Germany [2] — are doing a disservice to the people of Kerala by giving loans to Kerala Government and its agencies by helping politicians and bureaucrats escape accountability.

What Kerala needs is assistance with institutional capability and capacity building. The priority for the economic development agencies need to be helping with institutional capacity building, not loans. Otherwise, they are just helping Kerala Government get deeper into the debt trap it is in.

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Loud and unclear

When it comes to a shouting match no one’s a match for us Indians
By Jug Suraiya – Instead of employing logic to bring those who disagree with us to see our point of view we employ lung power, firm in the conviction that he – or she – who can shout the loudest will have the final say – or rather, the final scream – on any given subject.

From whom have we picked up this habit of doing chilla-chilli at each other whenever we encounter a divergence of views?

Who are our role models in substituting freedom of speech with freedom of screech?

Our loudmouth netas who interpret ‘acche din’ to mean creating a deafening din on any given issue or non-issue within or outside Parliament? Possibly. more> https://goo.gl/De4Wxc

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