OPED

I am somehow feeling very foolish about the on-going media frenzy and public debate about BCCI chief N Srinivasan’s much demanded resignation. The unborn resignation is somewhat like a truant and overdue child birth that pains the expectant woman and possesses the nervous attention of her husband. The foolish thing is that my physical and electronic neighbourhood looks like a billion blood-vessel-bursting husbands panicking over an overrated soon-to-be born resignation.

Talking about my close companions, my educated and professionally successful friends – it is important to indicate that they are intelligent and practical – have declared that they will not watch any Indian cricket under the auspices of BCCI until the BCCI rot gets stemmed, starting with the process’ biggest milestone - Srinivasan’s resignation.

‘Srinivasan’s Resignation’ could be a nice Shakespearean tragi-comedy with some of the bard’s wit and wisdom woven into the narrative, but presently it does not qualify to become even a ‘Bhejafry 3’ hence I refuse to be its excited audience. I will continue to watch every game of cricket that attracts me.

Let me present here some arguments to establish that the importance of Srinivasan’s resignation is bogus and it makes us forget more urgent things.

Our Obsession with Symbolism. We Indians love symbols – and our love is beyond logic. A railway accident on India’s century old creaking and unmaintained tracks must get the sacrifice of the railway minister who has been in office for merely a couple of years! After a certain brutal rape, one in many hundreds over years, protesters demand the resignation of the police commissioner. Do not mistake me to be dismissive of the lost lives or the sufferings of the victims of inhumanity. But do try to understand that a sick society that we have become can only produce a new railway minister and a new police commissioner who are as imperfect as those who resigned. People talk about surgical treatment of governing bodies and I fully agree that the faulty ones need to be surgically removed, but let us be gripped with removing the source, not only the manifestation of cancer. Symbolism only satisfies a momentary surge of sentiments.

The Raktabija Phenomenon. This leads from the symbolism argument. In Sanskrit, rakta stands for blood and bija for seed. Raktabija was a demon who had the ability of producing thousands of clones as soon as a drop of his blood, upon being wounded by an enemy, touched the ground. Thus his sinful excesses were endlessly perpetuated, much beyond the control of gods as any attempt to kill him would result in the drops of his blood producing many more Raktabijas. In the mythology of Indian cricket, BCCI is that Raktabija, out of control of its key stakeholders - the Indian cricket lovers, the Indian government and ICC. I include the Indian government here because BCCI’s cricketers wear the national cap. Srinivasan is just a clone of a system which is unregulated and all powerful. If we get rid of one Srinivasan, what we get is a Dalmiya. We either get a crony of this camp or that camp. By all means, do get rid of Srinivasan on the ground of conflict of interest as BCCI chief cum IPL team owner or for having an unindicted match fixer as son in law, but don’t be a sucker to believe that he will be replaced by a well-meaning leader. The BCCI environment has been designed to accept power brokers, not cricketing leaders, as its chief. If you want to rid the world of BCCI the demon, killing its clones like Srinivasan may not even be a temporary solution.

The Mahakali Paradigm. Finally the Raktabija was killed by the Goddess Mahakali. Since every drop of Raktabija’s blood was capable of producing his clone, someone had to change the paradigm of battling him with a sword. As the story goes, Mahakali raised him high in the air and tore him into two, drinking every spout, every drop of his blood until the last drop. (Sorry for the gory details!) Not a drop reached the ground and no clone was produced. We need to change the rules of BCCI’s game. I suggest the following schema for a new, potentially honest and efficient BCCI.

Corporate avatar : BCCI to be reformatted as a limited liability company under the Indian company law. It will therefore have articles and memorandum of association, with ethical development and regulation of cricket and well-being of cricketers and their audience as its main motto. It will be registered with the Registrar of Companies and accordingly its charter documents will be open to public scrutiny and capable of being changed for the better.

Public participation : BCCI to have equity shareholding like any other public company. No single shareholder to be allowed to hold more than 5% equity, just like it is for banks in most countries. The President of India to hold 5% shares and the rest to be sold – through an IPO - to general public investors and other sporting bodies resulting in a company with widely held public ownership. The company should be listed on the national stock exchanges. 

Tax-paying entity : BCCI, like any other corporate entity, shall be liable to income tax, service tax, VAT and so on. BCCI accounts to be audited and published every quarter the way it happens for all listed companies. Provisions relating to internal audit and statutory audit to apply under the company law.

Board of directors : The BCCI board could consist of a suitable number, say 9 directors. The President of India, acting through the Ministry of Sports, to nominate one director, the rest to be appointed by shareholder vote as in any other public company. At least 4 directors to be retired cricketers who played for India. In order to promote non- partisan and ethical development of the game of cricket, active politicians, persons defending lawsuits for financial fraud or criminal offence, employees of a state government or Central Government shall be disqualified from becoming board directors. (I might sound a bit like Arvind Kejriwal, so be it!) 

Corporate management : BCCI shall be managed by a regular corporate structure of a CEO reporting to the board, various function heads and staff supported by proper qualifications and experience.

Disclosures and transparency : Indian listed companies are governed by disclosure norms under extensive regulatory framework such as Securities and Exchange Board of India and its regulations, the National /Bombay Stock Exchange and their listing agreements, the Income Tax Act and rules, the Companies Act and so on. This framework is strong enough to materially improve BCCI’s workings from their current levels.

ICICI Bank and home loan company HDFC come to my mind as successful and mostly clean behemoths having started as government supported but private in nature institutions and BCCI could learn from them to replicate their clean management, nurturing of world class talent and profitable but ethical functioning.

I can imagine several arguments that can be raised against the framework I am suggesting. Such arguments are welcome. Such debates are much better than debating a resignation. All I want is to convince my friends that we indeed need to reinvent the BCCI - body, mind and spirit. We will all feel a lot less clownish if we can move from pulling down Srinivasan to razing down BCCI to rebuild it for the modern times. It has long outlived its life as a 1930s cosy club of princelings and petty officers with spare time.

Category :- English Bazaar Patrika / OPED

The continuing tragedy of the adivasis

RAMACHANDRA GUHA
28-05-2013

The killings of Mahendra Karma and his colleagues call not for retributive violence but for a deeper reflection on the discontent among the tribals of central India and their dispossession

In the summer of 2006, I had a long conversation with Mahendra Karma, the Chhattisgarh Congress leader who was killed in a terror attack by the Naxalites last week. I was not alone — with me were five other members of a citizens’ group studying the tragic fallout of the civil war in the State’s Dantewada district. This war pitted the Naxalites on the one side against a vigilante army promoted by Mr. Karma on the other. In a strange, not to say bizarre, example of bipartisan co-operation, the vigilantes (who went by the name of Salwa Judum) were supported by both Mr. Karma (then Leader of the Opposition in the State Assembly) and the BJP Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh, Raman Singh.

‘Liberated zone’

From the 1980s, Naxalites had been active in the region, asking for higher wages for tribals, harassing traders and forest contractors, and attacking policemen. In the first decade of this century their presence dramatically increased. Dantewada was now identified by Maoist ideologues as the most likely part of India where they could create a ‘liberated zone.’ Dozens of Telugu-speaking Naxalites crossed into Chhattisgarh, working assiduously to accomplish this aim.

The Naxalites are wedded to the cult of the gun. Their worship of violence is extreme. They are a grave threat to democracy and democratic values. How should the democratically elected State government of Chhattisgarh have tackled their challenge? It should have done so through a two-pronged strategy: (i) smart police work, identifying the areas where the Naxalites were active and isolating their leaders; (ii) sincerely implementing the constitutional provisions guaranteeing the land and tribal forest rights of the adivasis, and improving the delivery of health and education services to them.

The Chhattisgarh government did neither. On the one side, it granted a slew of leases to industrialists, over-riding the protests of gram panchayats and handing over large tracts of tribal land to mining companies. On the other side, it promoted a vigilante army, distributing guns to young men owing allegiance to Mahendra Karma or his associates. These goons then roamed the countryside, in search of Naxalites real or fictitious. In a series of shocking incidents, they burnt homes (sometimes entire villages), raped women, and looted granaries of those adivasis who refused to join them.

In response, the Naxalites escalated their activities. They killed Salwa Judum leaders, murdered real or alleged informers, and mounted a series of daring attacks on police and paramilitary units. The combined depredations of the Naxalites and Salwa Judum created a regime of terror and despair across the district. An estimated 150,000 adivasis fled their native villages. A large number sought refuge along the roads of the Dantewada district. Here they lived, in ramshackle tents, away from their lands, their cattle, their homes and their shrines. An equally large number fled into the neighbouring State of Andhra Pradesh, living likewise destitute and tragic lives.

It was to study this situation at first hand that our team visited Chhattisgarh in 2006. We travelled across the Dantewada district, speaking to vigilantes, Naxalites and, most of all, ordinary tribals. We met adivasis who had been persecuted by the Naxalites, and other adivasis who had been tormented by the Salwa Judum vigilantes. The situation of the community was poignantly captured by one tribal, who said: “Ek taraf Naxaliyon, doosri taraf Salwa Judum, aur hum beech mein, pis gayé” (placed between the Maoists and the vigilantes, we adivasis are being squeezed from both sides).

We also visited the State capital, Raipur, speaking to senior officials of the State government. They privately told us that Salwa Judum was a horrible mistake, but added that no politician was willing to admit this. Then we spent an hour in the company of the movement’s originator, Mahendra Karma. He told us that he was fighting a dharma yudh, a holy war. We asked whether the outcome of this war was worth it. We told him of what we had seen, of the homes burnt and the women abused by the men acting in his name and claiming that he was their leader. He answered that in a great movement small mistakes are sometimes made. (The exact words he used were: “Badé andolanon mein kabhi kabhi aisé choté apradh hoté hain.”)

I was immediately reminded of a politician in another country, George W. Bush. In his holy war, too, there was no thought to the collateral damage that innocent civilians would suffer. Admittedly, the jihadis that Bush was fighting were as bloodthirsty and amoral as the Naxalites. But did a democratic government have to reproduce this amorality and this bloodthirstiness? Should it not fight extremism by saner methods? The tortures, the renditions, the displacement of thousands upon thousands of civilians — in all these respects, Dantewada seemed to me to be a micro version of Iraq or Afghanistan.

Palpable indifference

From Raipur we went to Delhi, where we met the Prime Minister, the Home Minister, and the National Security Adviser. Their indifference to the unfolding tragedy was palpable. So, in 2007, we filed a Public Interest Litigation in the Supreme Court asking for the disbandment of Salwa Judum. Four years later, the Court issued an order chastising the Chhattisgarh government for creating “a miasmic environment of dehumanisation of youngsters of the deprived sections of the population, in which guns are given to them rather than books, to stand as guards, for the rapine, plunder and loot in our forests.” By arming poor and largely illiterate adivasis, the State government had, said the Supreme Court, installed “a regime of gross violation of human rights in a manner, and by adopting the same modes, as [have] done Maoist/Naxalite extremists.”

The strictures of the Supreme Court were disregarded by the State government, which recast Salwa Judum under another name and form, and by the Central government, which continued to put the interest of mining magnates above those of the suffering adivasis of the land.

The killings of Mahendra Karma and his colleagues are the latest casualties in a bloody war that began a decade ago in Dantewada. What will the State and Central governments now do? The knee-jerk reaction, doubtless encouraged by editorial writers and TV anchors in Delhi, will be to call for the Army, and perhaps the Air Force too, to launch an all-out war on the Naxalites, regardless of the consequences for civilians. One hopes wiser counsels will prevail. The times call not for further retributive violence, but for a deeper reflection on the discontent among, and dispossession of, the adivasis of central India, who are in all respects the most desperately disadvantaged of the Republic’s citizens, far worse off than Dalits even.

In the winter of 2006, after my experiences in Dantewada, I gave a public lecture in Bhubaneshwar. The State’s Chief Minister, Naveen Patnaik, was in the audience. I urged that the rash of mining leases being proposed by the State government on tribal land be stopped. As it happened, foreign and Indian mining companies were invited into the State, without any attempt to make adivasis stakeholders in these projects. The consequence is that Orissa, a State once completely free of Naxalites, has seen them acquiring considerable influence in several districts of the State.

The social scientist Ajay Dandekar, who has done extensive research on the subject, observes that the rise of extremist violence is a consequence of “the complete mismanagement of democracy and governance in the tribal areas.” The latest bout of violence, he says, should come as a wake-up call to those “who place still some hope in the rule of law and constitutional governance.”

I entirely concur with Dandekar when he writes that “if even now the policy makers are willing to take the issues of justice to the tribals head-on the extremists will definitely be dealt a bodyblow in the process and their own legitimacy would stand questioned.” A first step here would be for the top leadership of the present government to reach out directly to the adivasis. The Prime Minister and the Chairperson of the UPA should together tour through the strife-torn areas of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, and Orissa, promising the full implementation of the Forest Rights Act, a temporary ban on mining projects in Fifth Schedule Areas, and a revival of the powers of gram panchayats. That would be a far more effective strike against Naxalites than sending in fighter planes or massed battalions.

Courtesy : "The Hindu", 28 May 2013

Category :- English Bazaar Patrika / OPED