Taking a tough stand against the corrupt corporates, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government has shelved the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed by Tata Power Delhi Distribution Limited (TPDDL) with Delhi Jal Board to launch 100 water dispensing units in JJ Clusters (slums in Delhi) and re-settlement colonies.
The sources from the state government stated that it has decided to put the agreement on hold “as it does not want to do business with a firm against which the government has initiated CAG audit,” reported a newspaper.
Earlier this year during President’s rule, Delhi Jal Board had come together with TPDDL to install reverse osmosis (RO) systems with water dispensing units in North and West Delhi. The mandate of the MoU was signed as a corporate social responsibility initiative. It aimed at providing safe and drinkable water through 100 RO plants with Any Time Water (ATW) dispensing systems in the next three years.
Selling clean water to residents in JJ clusters and re-settlement colonies does not match with the fundamentals of the Aam Aadmi Party’s vision of giving free water to meet their basic needs, said a senior official.
It is notable that the first AAP government in January 2014 had instructed for CAG audit of the finances of the three power companies: Tata Power Delhi Distribution Ltd., BSES Yamuna Power Ltd. and BSES Rajdhani Power Ltd.
Recently, AAP had announced to work as a team with the state government to amplify its effort to eradicate corruption. It has started to work on the blueprint and a broad strategy to tackle graft at every level.
Schools, colleges and universities worldwide have been closed since March 11, 2020 when COVID-19 was declared by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a global pandemic.
But for 69 lecturers of the University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT), the door was shut against them since May 11, 2018 – two years ago. Like the outbreak of COVID-19, there was no warning. These lecturers were ambushed with retrenchment letters in the middle of the semester while teaching students in class.
The dismissal letters gave them seven days to take their personal property and vacant the premises. They were caught off-guard with mortgages, loans, rent and bills to pay as well as families to feed. They were suddenly without a job and medical insurance.
The stay-at-home retrenchment order was triggered to these “surplus” lecturers who had become “redundant” in the university’s “restructuring exercise.” Was their forced quarantine justified? Let’s look at the facts and revelations, using my situation as a case study.
My teaching load was higher
In all its internal and external releases, University of Trinidad and Tobago has declared that lecturers’ teaching load (as opposed to work-load, which would have included research and service) was the main criterion used to select teaching staff for retrenchment.
UTT’s disclosure to my Freedom of Information (FOIA) application after I was dismissed states that I was carrying a teaching load of 70.8%, excluding Practicum. However, there were other Assistant Professors who had considerably lower teaching load percentages, but were not selected for retrenchment.
Some of them had scores as low as 15%, 28%, 35%, 38%, etc. In fact, of the 20 Assistant Professors who were retained, only two (2) or 10% had higher teaching load percentages than mine.
Although my teaching load percentage (70.8%) was higher than most of my former colleagues, who were retained, I should have earned yet a higher teaching score had it not been for an error and contradiction on the part of UTT.
University of Trinidad and Tobago’s disclosure to me after I was fired reveals that the PRACTICUM courses I taught were not counted as part of my teaching load. However, the same PRACTICUM Term 2 courses (PRAC 1002 and PRAC 2002) were counted for my colleagues, Additionally, a PRACTICUM Term 3 course (PRAC 2001) was counted for others but not for me.
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These errors and contradictions by UTT are important to note because the university has declared that lecturers’ teaching load was the main criterion used to select teaching staff for retrenchment.
These errors and contradictions in computing the teaching load scores for me constitute bias, inequality, unfairness and injustice in selecting me for retrenchment. These mistakes and paradoxes resulted in my dismissal which caused me grave humiliation, pain, suffering, stress, trauma and rejection as well as loss of income, status, dignity, pride and institutional affiliation.
Was this Programme really being phased out?
In many of its releases and correspondences, University of Trinidad and Tobago has stated that I and other lecturers were retrenched because the Secondary School Specialisation courses which they taught were being phased out as part of the university’s restructuring exercise.
At the dismissal meeting at the Centre for Education Programmes (CEP) at UTT, administrator Dr Judy Rocke also told the assembled lecturers that all Secondary School Specialisation courses were being phased out, resulting in us being “redundant” in the university’s “restructuring exercise.” The following facts reveal that this statement is not true.
These same courses were timetabled for a NEW cohort of students during the new semester which began in September 3, 2018. These Secondary School Specialisation courses are taught from Year 2. One of these courses which was not phased out for the new Year 2 student-intake was ANTH 2001- Caribbean Cultural Anthropology, which I taught. After my retrenchment, I was replaced by a lecturer who was not qualified to teach ANTH 2001.
Substitute lecturers not qualified
The Accreditation Council of Trinidad and Tobago (ACTT) made the following written disclosures to me, dated August 23, 2019. Its Executive Director, Dr Eduardo Ali, stated that my substitute lecturer was “not qualified to teach” ANTH 2001. Additionally, Dr Ali stated that another substitute lecturer teaching the course TVOC 2003: Job Task Analysis in Semester 1 during the Academic Year 2018-2019 at CEP was also “not qualified to teach the said course”.
I began my tenure at UTT as an Assistant Professor in January 2007 – longer than most of my former colleagues, who held Ph.D. degrees in CEP. My latest Performance Management and Appraisal Process (PMAP) appraisal score dated October 3, 2017 was 95 out of 100. This score was given, approved and endorsed by my immediate supervisor, Dr Judy Rocke, who paradoxically selected me for dismissal.
Myskills and qualifications are more diverse than those of most of my former teaching colleagues. My M.Phil. degree is in the Humanities (Literatures in English) and my Ph.D. is in the Social Sciences (Anthropology).
Dr. Mahabir is a former Organization of American States (OAS) Fellow and the recipient of a Government National Award for Education.
In reality, documentaries are not merely the projection of a story, it is more a story of a life, it’s a story of survival, it’s a story of a time in which people live, it’s a story of success and failure.
In India, the entertainment industry has lagged in providing realistic content which defines the actual aesthetic of a documentary, exclusively in political thrillers. It is a big deal in itself to inculcate real-life accounts and actual scenarios pertaining to an event that has brought a revolution, and undoubtedly, you can see that in Transparency: Pardarshita.
Transparency Webseries is a waypost in the world of political Thrillers in India which exclusively highlights the off-stage candours associated with the famous India Against Corruption Movement (popularly known as the Anna Andolan) and the evolution of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) whose genesis pertains to the famous movement.
Transparency is not an experiment, rather it is a tale of the experience and anguish of a common man, who is in search of accountability. This 6-episode documentary unravels how the AAP demolished its fundamental principles based on financialtransparency, decentralisationof power and internal vigilance upon which it laid its foundation just for the sake of getting in power.
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After coming to power, AAP not only dismantled its core principles but abandoned its idealism and slaughtered the trust of thousands of people who dreamt of a corruption-free India. AAP also collected public funds to contest elections but gradually when it uprooted~ it removed its donors’ list from the website. Thus, Pardarshita at the same time yearns for clean political funding and the failure of the new system.
It may be easy for you to connect your life with an ordinary film but here it is much easier for you to connect with Transparency as you may better understand the sentiments of a “common man” who inevitably dreams to eradicate corruption from the system.
Transparency doesn’t only take you to this corporeal world of Indian Politics, but it tells you to raise your voice against the corrupt practices along with believing in what exists as the “Truth”.
Documentary films are the only place where people can speak for themselves, and Transparency is one such pedestal.
It urges people to look at themselves, to look at what has been done wrong and through that really count for the future to come.. and precisely, this is what is the vision of the director, Dr. Munish Raizada, who has himself been part of this mass movement and the Aam Aadmi Party.
First of all, one must congratulate Munish Raizada for making Transparency: Pardarshita. Making a documentary film, let alone a six-part documentary series, on politics in India is not an easy task.
Raizada has made a documentary series on one of the biggest uprisings India has seen after the freedom movement and the Emergency, the Jan Lokpal andolan, also known as the India Against Corruption (IAC) movement. He tries to find answers to how the uprising was planned, how it gave rise to the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), and how the party that came to power in the national capital territory of Delhi with the promise of transparency slowly went off track.
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Transparency is a six-part documentary series written, directed and produced by Munish Raizada, who was himself a member of AAP at one time. In the documentary, he traces AAP’s journey from its inception to now. In this process, he meets old colleagues of party founder and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal as well as others who joined and then left the party.
The first episode, titled Dream Game, deals with how the Anna Hazare movement was organized by people like Kumar Vishwas, Kejriwal, Prashant Bhushan and some other activists. The episode is very informative and tells us how no movement takes place on the spur of the moment. It takes a lot of time, dedicated people and a lot of effort to create a successful movement like Anna Hazare’s Jan Lokpal Andolan.
The third episode focuses on how the IAC came to be formed and what it did. Both these episodes focus on how Arvind Kejriwal used the popularity of the movement as a launch pad for his own political career. Raizada interviews Kejriwal’s former friends and activists like Shazia Ilmi, Kapil Mishra and Kiran Bedi who testify that Kejriwal harboured political ambition from the start. It should be noted, however, that all of these former friends are now part of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, the foremost rival of AAP in Delhi.
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Raizada uses real footage from the Jan Lokpal movement and from AAP’s formation and victory in the Delhi assembly election of 2015. He juxtaposes visuals of the euphoria among Delhi’s citizens when AAP came to power for the first time with the current situation and tries to find out where things went wrong.
The most important episode of this documentary is number 4, which is titled The Mask. The episode is split into two parts, 4A and 4B. In this two-part episode, Raizada meets many long-standing associates of Kejriwal and tries to dissect his personality. The documentary claims that Kejriwal, who has a proven track record as an activist in the public domain, has a different personality for insiders of the Anna agitation and the Aam Aadmi Party.
Raizada also tries to find answers to many questions like why did AAP stop showing its list of donors on its website and why the party never implemented an internal Lokpal. However, Raizada expects the viewer to be familiar with the Indian political scenario and how things were in those days and that’s why the episode may not interest those who have not kept themselves up-to-date with politics in India. But then, someone who isn’t familiar with Indian politics may not invest six hours of his life in this documentary either.
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The length of the series is the biggest problem with this documentary. Almost six hours long, it is stuffed with too much information to process. By the time you reach the final episode, you are likely to have forgotten some important information from earlier episodes. Maybe if Raizada had focused his effort more sharply on the issue of transparency in AAP and dug out more information, it might have made greater impact.
Another problem is Raizada’s fixation with dramatization. As he mentioned in an interview with Cinestaan.com, he had initially planned a feature film on the subject but later dropped the idea. Perhaps he could not completely let go of the thought, however, because he uses elements from the typical commercial template, like a melodramatic background score, to hammer his message home. All it does is dilute the authenticity of the documentary.
Despite these flaws, Transparency: Pardarshita is a brave and praiseworthy effort.