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9

It is sad that this explanation is necessary, but with AAP vounteers cannibalizing the credibility of their own women leaders to somehow prove them not required in the cabinet, this post becomes necessary.

To a bunch of people conditioned to respond to any issue of identity with assumptions of special favors and handouts, it may come as a surprise that when you speak of the top of an organization (which a government is), it is more about responsible team selection than favors.

A diverse city needs diverse perspectives to understand thoroughly. There is a HUMAN aspect, not just "competence" at churning out and implementing ideas. A person who has an experience of being a religious minority is more likely to spot potential problems that could impact religious minorities because life has given them that lens. A person who is from a caste that has known being treated as inferior is likely to have more practical suggestions to empowerment than someone who has not suffered disempowerment and approaches it as a conceptual problem - albeit with phenomenal "merit".

[tweetthis twitter_handles="@vidyut, @_aamjanata"]Differing perspectives on a team are an asset, not a handout or reservation.[/tweetthis]

Similarly a woman is likely to have instinctive feel if something would or would not suit a woman's realities than a man. It is no coincidence that all those jokes about men not understanding their wives and all the complaints of insensitivity from men happen. Men and women see the world with different perspectives. What can seem normal to a man can be a problem to women and vice versa. Not having a woman on board opens up potential for costly mistakes too, since humans doing the delivering don't matter so much as efficiency in delivering.

Does this mean that you can cover the whole diversity of Delhi with six people? Of course not. But is it necessary to at least attempt to cover large chunks broadly? Damn right it is. If a chunk of 46% is not represented, the decision making body is POORER QUALITY because the risk of their decisions being potentially not efficient goes up.

Also the arguments that women would prefer to be chosen for merit rather than gender - or vice versa - that women should not be chosen for gender are both irrelevant.

Should a single woman have preference over a man because of her gender? No. Should a team with no women on it go out of its way to choose one? Yes. Is it insulting to that woman to be chosen because of her gender? I don't think so.

[tweetthis twitter_handles="@vidyut, @_aamjanata"]When men will "deliver" promises on women's rights and women are "incompetent" what does it mean?[/tweetthis]

If I were part of a team that had to send six participants to do a physical task - the nature of which we didn't know. And the leader chose participants for various qualities like say.... speed, strength, heavy weight, light weight, tall and short. I may be a superb strategist or I may not be as "efficient" as others on the team or I would never want to get a job for my short height - but if I bring in a quality the team needs, should I do it? Damn right. It is responsibility. It would be absurd to call this a handout.

The cabinet is a team setting out to rule Delhi. No one has an idea of what competencies the team was chosen for, so I would not comment. But if 46% of the "challenge conditions" will think in a certain manner people on my team don't, would I choose someone who thought like them? Damn right I would. It would be a competence, not handout. Not tokenism, not symbolism. It would be the right thing to do, because when facing unknown challenges, that person would have familiarity with something the others don't. Would it matter whether that person wanted to be selected for her being a woman? If I were a leader? No. It would be her responsibility to put her ego aside and be there because she was a woman and the team needed a woman because 46% of the target citizens were women.

This isn't a handout. This is responsible team choosing. If the cabinet is indeed chosen for merit, then the parameters are incorrectly set if they leave such a large target group unrepresented. Apart from this being unfair to the women of Delhi, it makes for a poorer quality cabinet.

'Look at "XYZ woman politician" women shouldn't be on cabinet'

It is not just absurd logic (there are bad male politicians too. Keep the cabinet empty) it is extremely insulting to the women MLAs as well as AAP by implying that AAP women are no better than those you hold in contempt. It basically exposes your misogyny - to put it mildly - apart from making you sound insane.

Can you cover every minority? Why not Sikh, Christian, OBCs, tribals and my dabbawala?

Ideally, you would have all represented, but it may not be possible in such a small cabinet. You could exaggerate it to ridiculous levels, but if you are aiming to understand instead of just trivialize an issue as important as this, it is possible to understand. The attempt must be to have perspectives that can at least understand some of the disadvantage, if not completely. Any minority person is more likely to understand issues of religious sensitivity. Any lower caste person is likely to be aware of hierarchies better than someone who has never been seen as socially inferior for fact of birth. Similarly, there are a thousand different ways women think, but a woman is still more likely to understand them than a man. Failing a woman, a member of the LGBT community could be included (if the women really were so terrible and you hid it during the campaign) - another example of not "reserving for women" but still achieving a perspective on gender bias related disadvantages.

One counter question for you. How are you certain that the six cabinet members selected are not handouts? Are handouts given only to women?

 

9

There was a interactive panel discussion in Mumbai WTC on the 29th of January 2015 organized by World Trade Centre (WTC) and All India Association of Industries (AIAI) in collaboration with the Indo-France Chamber of Commerce and Industries (IFCCI). It was to discuss ‘Smart Cities in India: Reality in the Making’.

Dignitaries on the stage included Mr. Sanjay Sethi (IAS) (Additional Metropolitan Commissioner-I, MMRDA), Ms. Laura Prasad (Secretary General, IFCCI), Dr. Laveesh Bhandari (Founder and Chief Economist, Indicus Analytics Pvt. Ltd.), Mr. Vijay Kalantri (President, AIAI and Vice Chairman, MVIRDC WTC), Mr. Shankar Aggarwal (IAS, Secretary, Ministry of Urban Development Government of India), Mr. Dilip Shekdar (Chief Architect, Naya Raipur Development Authority), Mr. Ravi Kant Malhan (Director, Head Business Development:  Smart Cities and Special Projects, Schneider Electric India), Capt. Somesh Batra (Vice Chairman, MVIRDC WTC) and  Mr. Abhishek Lodha (Managing Director, Lodha Group).

A journalist, Shruti Ravindran who had attended it, tweeted a photo of a shocking quote from a brochure 'Smart Cities in India: Reality in the Making' released during this event.

Smart cities that exclude the poor
Smart cities that exclude the poor

 

The quote in the above photo says:

...There are only two ways to keep people out of any space - prices and policing. In other words, the prices will automatically be higher in such cities - the notion that they will be low cost is flawed. Even if possible from a cost provision perspective, they cannot be low cost from a demand supply perspective.

Even with high prices, the conventional laws in India will not enable us to exclude millions of poor Indians from enjoying the privileges of such great infrastructure. Hence the police will need to physically exclude people from such cities, and they will need a different set of laws from those operating in the rest of India for them to be able to do so. Creating special enclaves is the only method of doing so. And therefore GIFT is an SEZ and so will each of these 100 smart cities have to be.

(excerpt from an article by Laveesh Bhandari, Founder and Chief Economist at Indicus Analytics Pvt Ltd)

So let me get this right. The government will be used to empty land to build smart cities in the name of developing the country. It will be called "inclusive development". And the smart cities built on this land will be for the rich - by design. And we are talking of a hundred cities, displacing god knows how many people. The police of the land will be used "on the tax payer's money" (as these hotshots like to call it) to keep the poor out of these cities using laws OTHER THAN INDIAN LAWS.

Am I the only one being reminded of Arundhati Roy's infamous quote that earned her the anger of the oh-so-innocent middle classes? Here it is, if you don't remember. And she said this in 2007.

We have a growing middle class, being reared on a diet of radical consumerism and aggressive greed. Unlike industrializing western countries which had colonies from which to plunder resources and generate slave labour to feed this process, we have to colonize ourselves, our own nether parts. We’ve begun to eat our own limbs. The greed that is being generated (and marketed as a value interchangeable with nationalism) can only be sated by grabbing land, water and resources from the vulnerable. What we’re witnessing is the most successful secessionist struggle ever waged in Independent India. The secession of the middle and upper classes from the rest of the country.

~ Arundhati Roy

This could be considered the impractical fantasy of rich men (albeit very rich men and sponsors of the ruling party behind this government), but the brochure also carries an introductory message from Shankar Aggarwal, IAS, Union Ministry of Urban Development, GOVERNMENT OF INDIA, not to mention him being personally present there and meeting journalists on the sidelines to announce the Framework for 100 smart cities to be ready by February.

Framework for 100 smart cities to be ready by February says Aggarwal - Moneylife
Framework for 100 smart cities to be ready by February says Aggarwal - Moneylife

Here are some relevant excerpts from the brochure including the message from Shankar Aggarwal, the program schedule of the event, including names of speakers, the profile of the author Dr. Laveesh Bhandari, the article itself, and another article on GIFT, which is referenced in this article as a model. Excerpts from Smart Cities in India: Reality in the Making

Given the opaque manner in which this government operates, as well as dramatic undermining of protections of local interests and environment through ordinances, such views should be a cause of alarm for citizens, if the much heralded development is going to actually be displacement on a massive scale, disenfranchisement of local populations and their explicit exclusion from the "growth story" while the rich use the country's power to get land for their shangri-las, use the country's resources "24/7" (can this ever be promised to those who will be displaced to create these "enclaves"?) and use the country's police force to protect what will essentially be elite facilities barred to the common masses through special laws created to protect the elite.

I imagine, the elites will also only be paying for their actual residences and the cost of creating these havens for them will also have to be borne by the country.

Is this development or colonization of India by the rich? The Gujarat model is all set to exploit India as well. All we need are new signboards, "Poor citizens and dogs not allowed"

2

In the previous article, I have outlined some dynamics of power. Those are universal. They help us understand the JanLokpal agitation and how it is unfolding. Whether you call this troubleshooting, or you call it a strategy map depends on which side of the fence you are.

These observations are of the dynamics - they have no intent other than to describe the flows of power on an overall scale.

If you have not read the post about the dynamics of power, this article may not make sense to you at all, unless you have skills of understanding power dynamics. So I suggest that you read it.

Without further ado... here is the narrative of the movement in terms of power.

Conditions

The conditions at the time of the emergence of the JanLokpal andolan were ripe for the existing powerful enitity to be challenged. If you look at the examples of reasons why a change is seeked, you will see that all those and more were present in the situation. People were frustrated and angry and wanted to challenge the power of the government. But they also lacked power individually. That was a lot of motivation without outlet.

The birth

Some individuals with initiative made a determined, well organized attempt to challenge the power of the government by coming together as IAC and strategizing meticulously in order to have enough power to cause a shift in the power structure of the country. (this is a staple of all civil uprisings)

The growth

While IAC made sustained, determined and highly efficiently designed efforts to grow in power, the vast number of people frustrated with the government found a stronger entity to support to achieve a larger goal.

Mistakes by the government

  • In acknowledging the IAC, the government gave it power - this was inevitable because the magnitude of the IAC challenge made communication a must. This is also an advantage of hunger strikes - by forcing a time limit for a response before stakes became unacceptably high, the government essentially ran out of time to regain its power.
  • By attacking the IAC before addressing any of the conditions toward a better advantage, the government gave it power by magnifying the conflict. The more attention it caught, the more support it got, because this simply wasn't the government's pitch and it failed to recognize that.
  • In response to the challenge, the government counted solely on its institutional power prevailing and became rigid to defend it. It did not take several opportunities where small concessions in institutional power would bring them significant situational power, choosing to attempt to disempower the opponent rather than risk any loss of power in a bid for increasing power.
  • It made several attempts with red herrings which got exposed and further disempowered the government.
  • It failed to understand what was happening and use the interval between protests to create more favorable ground.
  • It over estimated its institutional power and made no effort to develop situational advantages.
  • It squandered the advantage of institutional power for using it for creating red herrings, which was correctly recognized by citizens as an attack on their interests and rejected, resulting in disempowering of the government in relation with IAC

The challenge and victory

The IAC successfully consolidated all the power received from the people and informally institutionalized it as the "civil society". This added tremendous endurance to their challenge.

The sheer number of people coming together made IAC powerful enough to challenge the government and force it to compromise for survival. This is a victory. That battle was won at this point with the creation of the Joint Committee.

The resistance and counter challenge

While the government lost the battle in terms of operational power, it has institutional power which requires no energy to sustain. This power is drawn from the support of every person in the country through elections leading to its formation. No matter how many people rise up in challenge, very little dissent is required against them to overpower them because they cannot exceed the population of the country.

It has an advantage of being able to out endure challenges far more easily than one without that. The IAC with its excellent organization came very close to out powering that as well, and it would have in an out and out battle, but the government naturally used the advantage it had by drawing out the battle at very little cost to itself. It also made several and sustained efforts to undermine the power of the IAC which worked well.

I insert here a comment: It is not ill intent toward the country which causes this resistance. Any power challenged will resist. It is the nature of power. No matter how big or small.

Mistakes by IAC

After the initial victory, the IAC made several critical mistakes.

  • Their biggest one was shifting their power from the entity it had institutionalized it under to individuals. A system is far more difficult to overpower than individuals.
  • This backfired, because the red herring attacks by the government started hitting the power of the movement itself because the people had been turned into symbols. Make no mistake, the government has made personal attacks as distraction mechanisms all through. They had no impact on the movement till the people started becoming symbols of the movement.
  • Possibly this was done as a protection to the leaders of the movement who were under severe and sustained personal attacks. However, it divided the power being received and made it far less stable. Massive support became less visible.
  • You also notice this in the fact that among people around you, you will find very few who have changed their minds about the JanLokpal. What has changed is the ability to consolidate support.
  • Another reason, not related with the nature of power, but became a big disadvantage is supporting people runs instinctively counter to an objective of creating an independent authority not influenced by people. Therefore, the conversations of the IAC became increasingly tangled in futle, unconvincing explanations and attention was lost from supporting the primary objective to defending individuals, intentions, logic, credibility, etc based on subjective arguments... this dispersed available power over such a large area that it is becoming rapidly unsustainable.

I would like to note here that supporters of the IAC call the attacks against their leadership as the evil designs of the government, but I see it is an unethical but prevalent practice in our country and indeed in the world. The IAC has also made personal attacks on members of the government.

Would not like to comment on immediate situation because it is still fluid, but here are tips for both the IAC and government.

For IAC to win

It needs to move back as fast as possible to institutionalizing its power and leaving defense of personal attacks to individuals - no matter who.

It needs to stop adding agendas that disperse and over reach its power like election campaigns and other things. Opening more fronts of attack may seem like a temporary victory, but the government has no problem with that at all, while sustaining it will be an active effort for IAC - that way lies exhaustion. Better consolidate all power first to achieve JanLokpal before moving on to other obectives.

Citizens are smart enough to vote for whoever they choose - they most certainly know about the corrupt congress, etc and have an active interest in selecting non-corrupt people. That is a large investment of effort to achieve something that would happen anyway.

For the government to win

An institutional power is not effective against citizens at large for a very long time. It is important to get situational power by getting support and "buy ins" by the people. (no, this isn't about bribing, but convincing). A good way would be to take up a pressing concern and make an absolutely open and unhesitating stand to fix it.

Changing the nature of attacks to more ethical ones in terms of debating the utility of the JanLokpal or whatever, but moving off from personal attacks will create a massive moral advantage. It will mean learning a whole new way of counter argument.

 

I would like to say here, any victory is likely to be temporary. A more lasting solution would be in reaching mature compromises, but the chances for that seem low on both sides currently.

Yeah, that's about it. What I see in this situation without pushing my own agendas (which I have done plenty of already 😀 )

Thank you for reading.

2

Some observations that I have seen with power and people in any group.

  1. Attention is power. If you forget this, you can't understand the rest of this page.
  2. Everybody wants power. Including those who say "I don't care". It is an instinct, not a multiple choice question. Without this, you wouldn't have a survival instinct, you wouldn't have any logic left to your actions. Whether you actually have power, or how you choose to get it, or how do you define having power to yourself may vary.
  3. There is a hierarchy of power in any group. No matter if it is leaderless. No matter if it is a country with a visible leader, or a couple who respects each other, or a group of friends of similar profile. There is no such thing as two people with equal power.
  4. Power is a fluid thing. It keeps shifting from person to person. In a hierarchy that is clearly defined, or institutionalized, it shifts less easily, less noticeably. In informal situations where there is no conscious understanding of  a leader, it shifts rapidly.
  5. Two kinds of power wars happen. The first is to gain power, by challenging someone more powerful, the other is to retain power, to suppress someone who might become more powerful. In essence they are the same, only depends on where you stand. They are happening all the time. You can't escape this, because the survival instinct demands that you do all you can to remain powerful or grow in power. Denying instinct is futile. It will still manifest unnoticed by the denier, but increasingly obvious to observers.
  6. Because a person in power gets challenged by those who want power, we all have an automatic hesitation to be noticed as powerful. We may not understand the reluctance, but we do voice it tentatively, when we make modesty a virtue, or refuse to lead for fear of attack.
  7. Resisting a bid for power itself transfers some power to the bid. Attention is power. Attention of one in power is more potent than attention of one who is not.
  8. There are several power hierarchies in operation simultaneously. They are contextual. You may have power over your boss in some aspect of work because of your expertise, but your boss has power over you as well when it comes to your job or authority over it.

Some ways in which existing hierarchies are supported

There are also several ways in which a hierarchy is supported by people because it works to their advantage. Seen in more permanent ways in an institutionalized situation, it also happens spontaneously. Some ways are:

  1. Accepting the power commanded in the moment by willingly being attentive. This happens as a natural part of communication. Most people do it. Those who resist this are generally avoided unless necessary.
  2. Allowing someone the leadership of the group based on expertise, trust or disinterest in subject.
  3. Rallying behind someone to add power to that person in order to achieve a larger goal of interest to you.

Some ways in which power is granted:

  1. Formally - by conferring authority
  2. Agreeing or accepting
  3. Recommending

Some ways in which power is challenged:

  1. Dissent
  2. Direct challenge
  3. Interruption and redirection of attention.

Some reasons why change in power is desired:

  1. Desire to influence happenings in a different or more advantageous way
  2. Loss of trust in one in power
  3. The one in power harming those with less power.

I don't think these have been listed out quite like that by anyone. There are endless ways and reasons. The examples are more to help you learn to recognize, so that you can spot it happening in the wild, so to say.

They are based on my observations of groups. They can be verified by observing groups, but not everyone has the skills to diagnose interactions, so for the purposes of this article, I ask you to trust these as valid till you can think these out or verify for yourself. Generally speaking, anyone capable of reading this does have enough life experience to analyze the statements for validity given some time to think, remember instances and deliberate.

This understanding of power will form the basis of a few articles on subjects ranging from abuse to child rights to politics. Will list them here as I write them. If the article was written as clearly as I see these flows, you'll probably write the articles in the comments on your own 😀

8

While domestic abuse is distressingly common, it is equally normal for the victim to receive little or no assistance in dealing with an abusive partner or member of the family. Sadly, the "mind your own business" mentality continues to triumph against all logic. It does not seem to strike people that if marriage is not supposed to include abuse, abusive behavior between married people cannot be considered the "relationship". Absurd social assumptions of privacy continue to inadvertently strengthen abuse and stack odds against the victim and allow situations to escalate to levels where the only thing remains is for the chain to break at the weakest link - whether it is a person or a relationship.

But it need not be so. It is possible for socially committed people to influence situations so that abusive people cannot leverage their silence as a consensus against the victim. It is even possible without much risk or effort. What remains is to do it.

How can domestic abuse be prevented by bystanders?

A lot is possible. I'm listing out a few ideas that can be attempted according to the situation, how well you know the victim, and how strongly you feel about the matter.

Voice what is happening

You may not object, but make it clear that you notice what is happening. Abuse thrives in the shadows. For example, one person overruling or suppressing another in a group can easily be acknowledged with something as simple as "five of us want this, 3 want that, and XYZ seemed to want this till ABC stopped her.". In essence, you are doing nothing about the actions of the abuser other than stating them. However, an unfair action being stated reflects badly on the actor and discourages further similar actions out of a wish to not be seen as an unfair person. This is among the safest choices, as you are not required to know any backgrounds of actions beyond what you see, and if it isn't abuse, but has an alternative explanation, you do not end up making any accusations.

Make your disengagement clear

Abuse typically interprets silence of third parties to taste. Your lack of disagreement can be presented as your agreement with the abuser's view even if completely false. It is important to categorically make disagreement clear. While most people hesitate to make a scene, abuse going unchallenged gives it power because it creates the illusion of social sanction. You may not necessarily confront the abuser, but you can easily say something like "I see no harm why s/he shouldn't join us." By providing an alternative perspective, you break the image that "everyone" thinks like that. More so, you never know when others in the group also don't like but remain quiet, and it provides them with a graceful reminder to make their distance known too.

Make a stand

Make your stand clear. You don't have to support the victim, in fact, it is better that you don't in that moment. What you can do is make it clear that the abuser's behavior is unacceptable. "Please don't speak with your wife/husband/child like that in my presence". In this, it is important that you do not side with the victim who could be targeted in retaliation in your absence for things you said. Your confrontation should strictly be between the abuser and you, even if the subject is the victim. This may mean not involving information confided by the victim in particular - which may be seen by the abuser as an attack by the victim to influence you against them.

Use authority

Understand this. If you are in a position of authority and you don't challenge abuse, you are sanctioning it in the environment. It is absolutely reasonable to use your role and authority to set norms of behavior. "No hitting. No intimidation." "I have asked her for her opinion. If I wanted yours, I'd ask you." Straight, non-negotiable forbidding of inappropriate behavior when you have the authority to do so.

Offer support

Make it known to the victim that s/he can reach out for help. Cliched as it sounds, offer money if you can. Offer a safe home if you can. This cannot be stressed enough. Money and accommodation are the biggest reasons victims dare not leave abusive relationships. A stash of money comes in Handy for a quick taxi out when shit hits fan. Offer contacts. Discretely collect and share information on inexpensive accommodation if you offering is not possible or otherwise unsuitable. Offer it quietly and in an easy to remember/access manner. Repeat offer periodically, so that it remains in mind as a constant resource that can be trusted not to vanish. You may not be able to offer an option to get out of the abusive environment, but there may be other things that could help. Ask. Ask if there is anything.

Provide socialization

The biggest symptom of abuse is a person who withdraws, avoids social contact, feels awkward about answering questions about self and has poor self image. Having company helps. Helps provide a diversity of conversations rather than only abusive ones dominating the victim's interactions, which is how abusive situations narrow and create a perception of isolation and inferiority. Socialization also reduces opportunities of abuse as well as increases the threat of discovery and social disapproval.

Check up

Keen an eye, ask friends to occasionally check up on the person. If warranted, provide the victim a simple code that will mean she needs rescued. Something that is not blatant to others. DON'T take it lightly, ever. One of the things that helped me finally decide to risk moving out on my own with a disabled child in tow was something as seemingly unrelated as a day of internet outage resulting in phone calls asking if I was all right since I had vanished online.

Rescues

Unless you feel capable of taking charge of the victim's well being or offering a substantial part of the assistance needed in recovering, do not do solo rescues. Get police along. The rescue is the beginning. then comes the challenge - of rebuilding life. More difficult to get that assistance after being rescued. Much easier if the police are involved all through. A victim is also less likely to be intimidated into covering up in the presence of the police asking questions of the abuser.

Speak with social workers

They have options, ideas and assistance that could help the person much more effectively. They also have the manpower and diverse competencies to keep an eye, intervene or provide support as needed.

When to call cops rather than be sorry later?

You see unexplained injuries, acute depression to the point of aloofness, inexplicable changes of behaviour that are out of character for the person, hearing loud/angry voices or sounds of objects being thrown/banged/hit/etc, if you have a safety code that gets triggered... if you feel uneasy about the well being of someone in a known abusive situation.

Very likely that it will be a false alarm. Do it anyway. For one, you never know what you prevented by interrupting on time. For another, as someone outside the abuser's control with the power to call cops and get the abuser in serious trouble, you act as a shield. The abuser cannot prevent you from acting in any manner you wish, including reporting possible domestic abuse/crime. It becomes essential that any cops arriving find no trouble. It is as much a deterrent as a response.

If enough people do these simple things, society would be much safer.