Monday December 11, 2017
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Patel quota demand: A genuine need or a political game? 

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By Vishakha Mathur

With the agitation at its peak and violence rising every day, one begets the question on what all this is about and if in fact, it is worth the trouble. The same community, which stood against the government of Solanki in 1985, protesting the then quota-system, is now asking for an OBC status for itself, so that it gets more benefits in a country where millions of people are not able to acquire even two square meals a day.

hardik-patel-thumb

The Patels today have become a cause of major agitation creating ripples for the government in Gujarat and the one at the Centre. This whimsical move by the Patels is leading us to a debate on the validity of the quota-system and its relevance in today’s time.

Decoding the reservations

Reservations, in India, are considered to be an affirmative action by the government, towards classes, castes or communities that have suffered discrimination in the past and do not have access to adequate opportunities for development. Since these communities have experienced a history of disadvantages, the developmental progress couldn’t have reached them without making special provisions.

With this view, the Mandal Commission was formed in 1979 to set the benchmark for a community to qualify as a “Backward” and be included in the OBC list to receive the benefits given by the government. The commission came up with a total of 3,743 communities to be included in this list based on three parameters: economic, social and educational.

Recognizing  a class as backward on the basis of the work they did, constituted the social parameter.

The castes/classes with 25% of the population living in kuccha houses, 50% having access to drinking water within 12kms of their house and average family assets below 25% were considered based on the economic parameters.

The educational parameter consisted of measuring the dropout rates. The communities/castes having 25% of dropouts for age group 5-15 years and same percentage of matriculates and same percent of people within the age group never having attended school are considered through this parameter.

Are the Patels really “Backward”?

Now with these parameters in hand, it is very easy to judge whether the Patels deserve the quota or not.

The Patels are one of the leading communities who have firmly established their presence abroad in nations like the UK where Patel is the 24th most common surname and US where “Patel” is ranked 124th among the top 500 surnames according to the 2000 census.

With this information in mind, one can understand that the Patels aren’t as poor as other communities such as Kulhaiya which is a community in northern part of Bihar with an illiteracy rate as high as 73% in some districts like Kishangarh.

Being historically landowners, they were one of the very few communities that benefitted from the British rule. As a result of this, their wealth has increased manifolds and the community hasn’t sunken into depravity- as the revolting Patidars are trying to portray. Keeping this in mind, it is time for the Patels to revaluate themselves against the standing conditions of the communities that are a part of the OBC list.

Patels have forgotten the reason behind affirmative action. It is not to give advantages to the average one, rather it is to give advantages to the disadvantaged ones. Patels have never suffered through the tedious times that other backward castes have been through. Therefore, their need for inclusion into OBC category is far-fetched.

Smoke without fire?

Nothing builds out of air, and I believe, so does this protest. The reasons as to why this community is completely acting up might be unclear, but it is sufficient to say that at least something is going wrong in the state; for a community like Patels, who have time and again supported Modi and his government, is now protesting against them for their rights despite having a good share in the state government.

It is being argued that the Patels might not be getting their fair share of advantages, which is why they are now standing up against the government. Going deep into this argument, it might appeal to some that this has been a phenomenon since quite some years, but the Patels couldn’t find appropriate grounds to rise and demand their rights earlier when Mr. Modi was in power. But now, seeing that the government relies heavily on their support, they believe that it is now rather easy to get whatever they want.

This entire reason would indicate that the so called “Gujarat model” has not been as successful as it is being projected as. This community may not have benefited from the model due to their reduced share of the business opportunities, as they have been subjected to ill-effects of fragmented land-holdings.

Despite all this, the Patel agitation demanding an OBC status for themselves does not seem appropriate, because if the Patels get this status then almost all communities and castes can demand the same, defeating the entire purpose of affirmative action. Instead of this violent protest, a peaceful dialogue with the government might help them in getting what they really want.

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US Restricts Visas for Cambodians ‘Undermining Democracy’

As a response to anti-democratic actions, Trump administration restrict VISA for Cambodians

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Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen attends a ceremony at the Angkor Wat temple to pray for peace and stability in Cambodia, Dec. 3, 2017.

The Trump administration announced Wednesday it will restrict visas for Cambodians “undermining democracy” in the Southeast Asian nation following the dissolution of the main opposition party and a crackdown on independent media.

The State Department said it was a direct response to “anti-democratic actions” by the Cambodian government but did not disclose which individuals would be affected. It said visa records are confidential under U.S. law.

Spokeswoman Heather Nauert called on the Cambodian government to reinstate the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, which was dissolved by Supreme Court order last month, and free its leader Kem Sokha, imprisoned since September. She also urged Cambodia to allow civil society and media to operate freely.

Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has held power for more than three decades, has sought to neutralize political opponents and silence critics ahead of national elections next year. Kem Sokha has been charged with trying to topple the government with U.S. support, which Washington has said is a baseless accusation.

Supporters of Kem Sokha, leader of the Cambodia National Rescue Party, stand outside the Appeal Court during a bail hearing for the jailed opposition leader in Phnom Penh, Cambodia Sept. 26, 2017.

Nauert said Cambodia’s actions run counter to the Paris Peace Agreements of 1991. The United States and 18 other governments signed the accords, which ushered in democracy after the genocidal rule of the Khmer Rouge regime in the late 1970s, then occupation by Vietnam and civil war.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will restrict entry into the United States of “those individuals involved in undermining democracy in Cambodia,” Nauert said in a statement, adding that in certain circumstances, family members of those individuals will also be subject to visa restrictions. The department cited a provision of U.S. immigration law under which individuals can be denied entry if the secretary determines it would have “adverse foreign policy consequences.”

The White House has already terminated U.S. support of Cambodia’s national election committee, saying last month that the July 2018 vote “will not be legitimate, free or fair.”

“We will continue to monitor the situation and take additional steps as necessary, while maintaining our close and enduring ties with the people of Cambodia,” Nauert said.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson delivers remarks during a press availability at NATO in Brussels, Belgium, Dec. 6, 2017.

​Monovithya Kem, an opposition spokeswoman currently in the U.S., welcomed the visa restrictions and called for targeted financial sanctions on senior officials in Hun Sen’s government. Kem, who is the daughter of Kem Sokha, urged the U.S., Japan, Australia and the European Union to coordinate responses to the “crisis” in Cambodia and help win her father’s freedom.

Like many prominent opposition figures, Kem has fled Cambodia as she fears arrest.

Hun Sen has been in office since 1985 and has held a tight grip on power since ousting a co-prime minister in a bloody 1997 coup.

In recent months, the government has intensified restrictions on civil society groups and independent media outlets. In September, it shut down the English-language Cambodia Daily. Authorities have shuttered radio stations that aired programming from U.S.-funded Radio Free Asia and Voice of America, whose reports they allege are biased.

The government also expelled the U.S. National Democratic Institute, which helped train political parties and election monitors, accusing it of colluding with its opponents.

Hun Sen has moved Cambodia closer to China in recent years and become increasingly critical of Washington. However, he’s been complimentary of President Donald Trump.

Speaking at Asian leaders’ summit attended by Trump last month, Hun Sen praised the U.S. leader for non-interference in affairs of other nations, but complained the U.S. Embassy in Cambodia was not adhering to the policy. (VOA)

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Confirmed: Kamal Haasan will Launch Mobile app on his 63rd Birthday, November 7

Actor Kamal Haasan confirms the launch of a mobile software app on November 7. Look what more he has to say.

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Actor Kamal Haasan
Actor Kamal Haasan. wikimedia commons

CHENNAI: Confirming his political plunge, actor Kamal Haasan on Sunday said the first step will be the launch of a mobile software app on November 7 – his 63rd birthday – that will enable him to be in touch with the fans and as well as enable book-keeping.

At a function to mark the 39th anniversary of his fan/welfare club, he said his political plunge by starting a political party is confirmed.

Kamal Haasan said the political party launch will happen in a calm manner and the launch of the mobile app is the first step on November 7.

He said his fans would contribute funds for the political party and the mobile app will facilitate keeping proper accounts of funds collected.

According to him, there is no shame in stretching out one’s hands for the welfare of the people and if only the rich pay their taxes properly, the country would be on the right path.

Kamal said November 7 is a day not to cut a cake and celebrate but a day to cut canals, obliquely referring to the flooding of several localities in the city due to recent rains.

The actor added natural disasters do not differentiate between rich and poor and all should be ready to take preventive measures then acting after the loss of dear ones.

According to him, suppression has become part of politics and it is not important how many people are threatening you, but what is important is what you are going to do.

Kamal Haasan said he is ready to take a beating but he is not a “mridangam” (a percussion instrument) to get hit again and again.(IANS)

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Rahul Gandhi Points at PM Modi to Vacate the Seat over Gas price Hike

Rahul Gandhi's twitter attack on PM Modi: Vacant your seat over the gas price hike.

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Rahul Gandhi's verbal attack on PM Modi
Rahul Gandhi's verbal attack on PM Modi wikimedia commons

NEW DELHI: Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi on Sunday attacked the Narendra Modi-led central government after the prices of cooking gas was again hiked, asking him to “vacate the ‘Sinhasan’ (post of the Prime Minister)”.

“Mehangi gas, mehanga rashan. Band karo khokala bhashan. Dam bandho kam do. Warna khali karo sinhasan (Expensive gas, expensive ration. Stop making hollow promises. Fix the rates and give employment or else vacate the post),” Rahul Gandhi tweeted attaching a news report of the hike.

Gandhi was referring to the price hike announced by the state-run oil firms on Wednesday.

The prices of the LPG cylinder’s went up by Rs 4.50, while the non-subsidised rates were hiked by a steeper Rs 93 per cylinder.(IANS)