Fit the Bill

How you can contribute to your country’s well-being
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First Published: Fri, Nov 02 2012. 04 45 PM IST
Photo: Priyanka Parashar/Mint
Photo: Priyanka Parashar/Mint
Every year, our Diwali Giving issue revolves around a theme—education, the girl child, rural India and its problems—and highlights the work of various non-governmental organizations (NGOs). This year, we focus on citizens’ engagement with policy-related matters. There are many issues that are currently up for debate in Parliament, and we are focusing on seven Bills (with help from PRS Legislative Research, a not-for-profit group whose work is to make the legislative debate better informed) and two issues that we think need much more discussion and involvement because they will significantly shape our society 10 years from now. The drawbacks and positives of each Bill are vast, and we have highlighted only a few aspects of each. These debates are not conclusive, but we hope that each topic will encourage you to seek a more informed view and motivate you to work within a policy domain either by volunteering with the agencies mentioned or by donating to them so that their work continues. Let’s reach out now if we want to see a more participative India tomorrow.
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Whistle-blowers | A matter of confidentiality
This Bill seeks to protect public servants who expose irregularities in their workplace
For around 15 years, Ajay Bose has followed a family tradition of working for the Indian Railways—his parents did it before him, and his brother and sister work for the same mammoth governmental agency as well. He was till recently a booking clerk (he has shifted to another department now) with Central Railway, posted at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus in Mumbai. He has the comfort of a secure job and housing provided by employers.
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Street Vendors | The god of small sellers
Tabled in Parliament’s last session, this Bill could bring security to our urban poor
For this hawker of mouth fresheners, her world is a tiny portion of the pavement in Delhi’s Prabhu Market near central Delhi’s Sewa Nagar railway crossing. The property was passed down to 62-year-old Shanti from her husband, a vegetable vendor, who made it the site of his commerce in 1965. He died a decade ago. Shanti’s two sons are also dead. Her assets consist only of a straw basket partially filled with sachets of Pass Pass and Satmola.
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Land Rights | Landing trouble
The latest version of the Bill tends to confuse public purpose with corporate benefit
On a sunny October morning, 70-year-old Ban Singh of Kanjhawala village in north-west Delhi stands mournfully by his crop of paddy, shoulder-high and ripe for harvest. There’s nothing wrong with his land—with an average yield of 25 quintals per acre and two-three harvests a year, there could hardly be. Only, it’s been declared barren in official records as of 2005, says Singh.
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Manual Scavengers | The hands that clean you
A cause close to Mahatma Gandhi’s heart, this community is yet to be identified and uplifted
It is Valmiki Jayanti and schools across north India are shut. Yet Shyamwati, who belongs to the Balmiki community (a Dalit caste believed to be the descendants of sage Valmiki, who wrote the Ramayan), does not have the day off. She criss-crosses the cemented by-lanes in her village, Farrukhnagar in Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh, at a brisk pace with a round cane basket and a broom on her hip.
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Food security | Against the grain
A flawed piece of legislation that treats hunger as a symptom, instead of considering its systemic roots
Fifteen farmers from Nashik occupy the Mahim Nature Park in Mumbai on a Sunday. Customers pick out organic vegetables from plastic crates, and the farmers weigh and scribble prices on a small yellow card, which customers can use to pay collectively for the produce at the end of their shopping. Alongside is a small organic café. This is the Farmer’s Network, an initiative by organic food activist Kavita Mukhi, now in its fourth season.
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Custodial Violence | A history of violence
This bill is a crucial ethical and practical statement against the widespread use of torture in police custody
Golam Mujtaba, 19, isn’t answering his phone.
Mujtaba, a college student, is currently seeking justice for what happened to him in March on a trip home to his village, Uttarchar Majherdiar in West Bengal, not far from the border with Bangladesh. Out for a walk with friends, he was stopped by policemen asking for directions to the house of a suspected cattle smuggler. Unable to find the person they were looking for, the policemen forced Mujtaba and his friends to board the van, and beat them with lathis when they resisted.
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Anti-Corruption | One man, one bribe
Corruption is the burning issue of our time. Is the Lokpal Bill the medicine we need?
Ten years back, Gopal Kishan Gupta refused to pay a bribe. A simple act, but it had massive repercussions. Gupta’s small construction business almost went under. Threats began to come his way thick and fast, he says, from local criminals, politicians, government officials, even the police. Gupta, at first stunned by the bewildering swirl of events, was afraid to even step out of his house. Then slowly, he began to find within himself a boldness he did not know he had.
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Wildlife Protection | Nowhere to roam
India’s natural bounty is faced with a severe crisis. Can a stronger anti-poaching measure help?
The rhino was found lying on its side, bleeding profusely from a bullet wound, and a stump where its horn used to be. The guards of the Kaziranga National Park, Assam, had lost track of the animal during the floods that had submerged most of the nature reserve after September’s heavy monsoon rains. Before the waters had receded, poachers had butchered four more.
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Free Speech | Virtual empowerment
The freedom to express our views on the Internet is limited because the law questions and curbs cyber power
Is freedom of expression more restricted on the Internet than in the real world? The 2011 amendments to the Information Technology (IT) Act, 2000, mean just that. There are two levels of restriction on free speech on the Internet, one decided by the Constitution, and the other by the IT Act.
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First Published: Fri, Nov 02 2012. 04 45 PM IST
More Topics: Giving | Diwali | Bill | Land Rights | Whistle-blowers |
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