soniasarkar26

Manipur is seeing a resurgence of polo. Schools have been encouraging students to play polo and women have taken to the game. Polo clubs have been mushrooming in the state.

When the city downs its shutters, H. Kaoba, 35, gets ready for action. A bandh in Manipur’s capital, Imphal, may force most residents to stay indoors. But Kaoba heads for the fields, where, with a group of like-minded people, he plays a robust game of polo.

“During bandhs, when everyone else is home, we play polo,” says the farmer’s son.

Kaoba has been playing the game for the last 22 years. But he says there has been a sudden interest in the game in the strife-torn state in recent years. “It seems to have got a new lease of life.”

If youngsters across the country are donning their football T-shirts or white flannel for cricket, the Manipuri youngster is atop a pony, playing polo — which is believed to have originated centuries ago in Manipur. Known as Sagol Kangjei, it was a game played by princes and their companions. Today, it’s every Manipuri’s favourite sport.

Polo clubs have been mushrooming across the Imphal valley and in neighbouring Bishnupur and Thoubal. Around 20 clubs have opened in the last three years, taking the total number to 33.

“Even five years ago, there were only a few clubs,” says Girimohan Singh, former captain of the state team.

The game has picked up also because the state has been hosting global polo tournaments. Though the tournament was first held in 1991, it was discontinued for lack of funds. But it was revived in 2012, and polo enthusiasts are now waiting for the 2014 games, to be held in November.

The tournament, being held with corporate funding, features teams such as England’s Hurlingham polo club and others from France, Germany and Thailand. The organisers hope that UK’s Prince William will be present during the matches as the chief guest.

“We also want him to play an exhibition match with our local players where the game will be played in the traditional way with a team of seven players,” adds S. Budhhachandra Singh, president, Manipur Horse Riding and Polo Association (MHRPA), the body which organises several local matches and the international tournament.

The game, which is elsewhere played on horse with sticks and balls, has changed over time in Manipur. The teams don’t consist of seven members but of four members as everywhere else.

The only difference is that players sit on Manipuri ponies and not horses. These ponies, about 52 inches at the shoulder, are much loved beasts. There was a time when every house in Manipur had a pony, used for transport as well as to ward off enemies. The sturdy ponies now cost anything from Rs 50,000 to Rs 2 lakh.

Manipuris say that families have started keeping ponies at home. “And anyone who has a pony invariably learns to play polo,” MHRPA vice-president Rajkumar Dilip Singh says.

But the game is not restricted to affluent families. Schools, cutting across strata, have also been encouraging students to play polo. “Children start to learn the game at the age of 12 or 13. Schools want us to give them lessons in pony riding, and then polo,” Girimohan Singh, who is a member of the Nambul Mapal Polo club, adds.

“We encourage the children to keep the tradition alive. Polo was first invented in Manipur and the state should be known to the world for this,” he stresses.

Legend has it that the game was played in the court of King Ningthou Kangba in the 15th century. But it was in the 19th century, during the rule of King Nongda Lairen Pakhangba, that the game attracted attention — especially of the British. It gained in popularity as an assistant deputy commissioner of Cachar in Assam, Captain Robert Stewart, held a match with Manipuri kings and their team at Silchar. Stewart also set up India’s first polo club in Silchar.

In 1864, a British officer, Lt John Shearer, took a team of seven Manipuri players — called the Band of Brothers — to Calcutta for a match against a British team. The match ended in a draw, but the players returned to Manipur and started popularising the game there.

“Those were the days when everyone played polo — not just kings but ordinary people too,” Dilip Singh says.

The game remained popular till the 1950s. But with construction and the disappearance of grazing grounds for ponies, interest waned. In 1977, the MHRPA was set up by a handful of polo enthusiasts to revive the game. In 2005, the MHRPA started a pony breeding farm. It has 102 ponies which are hired by players who don’t own one.

Manipuri women have been playing the game, too. The state has five teams of women players, and there are separate tournaments for women participants.

Deventy Devi, a 28-year-old player, stresses that polo is a challenge for women in a patriarchal society. “It was hard to convince my parents that I too wanted to play polo because there was a pony at home. They were convinced only after I proved to be a better player than my brothers,” the Imphal Riding Club member says.

Manipuris have another reason to be interested in the game. Polo players often find jobs in the government. Sinam Bimol Singh, 38, is now a constable with the Manipur police — and believes that it’s polo that got him the job. “I learnt the game because I loved it. But I never thought it would help me get a job — and an identity,” he says. Bimol is one of the 30 players who have government jobs.

Some of the senior players feel that the game needs a professional touch. “If the government gives it a push, we will make Manipur visible on the global map. We want to give us a different identity through the game of polo,” says 54-year-old M. Manihar, who has been playing for the past 30 years.

For those who grew up in times of violence, polo is not just fun. “When we are mounted on a pony, we feel that the world is under control. There is no fear even if the state is under siege,” Kaoba says.

Polo’s past

Polo the game was played in the court of King Ningthou Kangba in the 15th century. But it attracted attention in 19th century, during the rule of King Nongda Lairen Pakhangba.

Polo is said to have become popular after an assistant deputy commissioner of Cachar in Assam, Captain Robert Stewart, held a match with Manipuri kings and their team at Silchar. Stewart also set up the first polo club in India in Silchar.

In 1864, A British officer, Lt John Shearer, took a team of seven Manipuri players — called the Band of Brothers — to Calcutta for a match against a British team. The match ended in a draw, but the players returned to Manipur and started popularising the game there.

A little village in Manipur has pinned its hope on the new Prime Minister. Sonia Sarkar tells us why

WAITING FOR PM: Children in front of the village school
When Bebe Jackson heard about Narendra Modi — then just a prime ministerial candidate — he was intrigued. The 28-year-old Manipuri knew little about him because he had been working in Ghana for several years. Back in India, Jackson quickly did a background search on the Internet — but not because Modi seemed set to rule India. Jackson’s interest was triggered by the fact that his village was also called Modi.

“I started reading about him because I wanted to know if he had any connections with our village,” Jackson says. “I must say I was disappointed to discover that there was none.”

Village Modi in Manipur’s Chandel district is five kilometres from Chandel town. The village — inhabited by the Anal people of the Naga tribe — is surrounded by hills. A narrow lane, covered with pebbles, runs through the village, with single-storey wood houses on its two sides. The lane curves up to the village church, which is where the villagers meet to discuss social and political issues.

These days, Modi is the topic of discussion. The village of 253 Christians has been in a state of excitement ever since the 2014 elections were announced.

L. Hringam, who runs a grocery shop
“We are extremely happy that our village shares its name with the Prime Minister. Now we hope that the fate of our village will change,” says L. Hringam, 68. “We want him to visit us. We too want to see ‘achhe din’ (good days).”

Modi’s election slogan of better times is reiterated by the people of Modi, who have lived without basic facilities such as water and electricity all their lives. “The Chapki river is the source of drinking water and we use the same water for cleaning,” says 64-year-old R.T. Thintra, who runs the only grocery store of the village with her husband, Hringam.

The river itself is a cause of worry. The previous United Progressive Alliance government had proposed the construction of a dam for the Chapkimultipurpose hydroelectric project. “But our village will be submerged if this dam is constructed,” says P.S. Raylee, who joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) recently. “In fact, we would want Prime Minister Modi to stop this project. He should do something to save the village which bears his name,” he says.

Some of the villagers have been following Modi’s rise to power since he became the chief minister of Gujarat for the fourth time in 2012. “We used to joke that this man was making us proud by doing such good work in Gujarat,” says village chief K.L. John.

Modi’s name was heard more often as local BJP leaders started campaigning for the elections this spring. The thrill peaked when the party organised its first election rally in the state in Chandel. “The BJP never took so much interest in our district or our village before. But it was different in this election — they wanted to reach out to everyone,” John says.

Twenty men from the village attended a rally that Modi addressed in Imphal. Modi spoke of unemployment and corruption and promised to develop the state. Vastly impressed by his speech, 130 people of Modi voted for BJP, John says.

“For the first time, this village voted for the BJP,” says W.S. Kanral Anal, president of the Chandel Naga People’s Organisation. But Gangmumei Kamei, the BJP candidate of outer Manipur — the Lok Sabha Constituency of all hill districts including Chandel — lost the election to the sitting MP, Thangso Baite of the Congress.

Villagers on the steps of the Modi Baptist Church
The villagers now hope to make the most of their village name. Folklore has it that the village was set up in 1893 by a man called Pashel Modi, who also belonged to the Anal tribe. Village elders say that Modi and his wife, Nula Pethem, came in search of a new place when his own village became too crowded.

“Once he discovered this place, he named it after himself,” Thintra says.

This village has been a part of world history too. Elders in the village believe that some people spied for the Imperial Japanese Army in World War II, during the battle of Imphal.

Hringam’s grandfather was one of them. “My grandfather used to keep an eye on the British soldiers who hid in our village,” he says.

In 1946, an old bomb shell burst, killing seven villagers. “We also discovered a bunker in the village,” he adds.

But all that is history. Modi, the village, wants to move on. And that’s because it’s caught in a time warp.

Villagers mostly survive on the rice that they grow. Barely 10 families in the village have their own land; the others work in the paddy fields as daily wagers.

The villagers complain of unemployment, and about the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, which promises to give 100 days of work in a year. The people say they barely get 40 days of work and are mostly underpaid.

The young ones have been moving out of the village in search of jobs. Some have joined the Manipur police force or the army. Raylee, a graduate from Chandel’s United College, worked in a call centre in Delhi for a year, but came back to “do something” for his village.

At a tea stall
He and a few other men pooled in money to repair the rain ravaged state highway. Nobody from the government paid any heed to it, so the villagers say they decided to do it themselves.

“It took us more than a month to repair the road. But the village gets cut off from the rest of the world if this highway is not functional,” Raylee says.

PM Modi would like their sense of enterprise. In the late 60s, when the village didn’t have a school, the villagers set up their own primary school by hiring three teachers from nearby areas. But though the school got government recognition in 1971, the village children have to walk to Chandel town for secondary and higher secondary education.

Local teachers believe their students will have a brighter future if the village catches the attention of Modi. “Just as Modi scripted his own destiny — from being a tea seller to becoming PM — our children too can do that if he gives them what they deserve, which is good education,” teacher Totorani Khumlo says.

But will Modi visit the village? Some point out that local BJP leaders visited the village only once after the election results were announced. They promised water and electricity but have not been seen since then.

But then lack of development is the story of many villages across India. Even Modi’s neighbouring Lamphoupasna village, also inhabited by Anal tribals, is underdeveloped. “We feel a little jealous because we too voted for the BJP. If he gives a special package to Modi, we too should get a share,” demands Nita Khumlo, who is an assistant teacher at a school in Chandel town.

Village Modi, however, continues to pin its hopes on its namesake. “We want Modi to turn this into a model village,” Raylee says. “Then the name of the village will be justified.”

(Published in The Telegraph, July 6, 2014

Has the jholawallah, the social activist whose hallmark often was a beard — or a handloom sari — and a bag, faded out? Sonia Sarkar and Moumita Chaudhurilooked for him and her here and there — and found it tough to catch a glimpse of that once iconic individual

  • PIC: Rashbehari Das

    Model: SHAMAUN AHMED

Giridhar Poddar has seen it all. The waiter at the Indian Coffee House in Calcutta remembers the time when an adda meant a revolution. Men and women would gather around their cups of tea — mostly black, with a squeeze of lime — and change the world. “They do have addas now, but they are just pure addas — only conversation,” he says.

A large whiteboard at the reception underlines all that Poddar misses. The board — titled Voice of Kolkata — is almost blank, but for a reference to an exhibition in the city and a few lines scribbled by an obscure poet. “People no longer raise a storm in their teacups. Nobody has the time anymore,” manager Jahid Hussain points out.

There was a time when a place like a coffee house was the watering hole for radicals, liberals, activists and armchair revolutionists. But the jholawallah is hard to find these days. The term, used generically and somewhat derogatorily for the activist in the Eighties, referred to a class that was easily identifiable — the men wore scraggly beards and khadi kurtas; the women had unkempt hair and wore cotton saris. And they all carried jholas — cloth bags that somehow symbolised their missions.

But the times have changed. A new National Democratic Alliance government has been installed at the Centre which has little in common with the activists. The old United Progressive Alliance government — which had given a platform to a wide spectrum of activists in its National Advisory Council (NAC) — has been deposed. And the NAC has downed its shutters.

The arc lights are on the activist as well. A report by the Intelligence Bureau (IB) has listed non-government organisations (NGOs) and social activists associated with various peoples’ movements as those stalling developmental work in the country.

“This is not a conducive environment for social activists to function,” says Anil Chaudhary, a peace and NGO activist associated with the Indian Social Action Forum (INSAF), a platform for some 700 movements and NGOs.

Many believe that the jholawallah — already marginalised by a host of global and domestic developments — is on his way out.

But who is the jholawallah in the first place? Academics agree that the term refers to a large section of Left liberals who are usually not part of a political party. You see them at rallies, at seminars and conferences, at world fora and in villages. Their causes differ — and some jump from cause to cause. But the issues are varied — from protecting villagers against big dams and spreading literacy to people’s right to information and against nuclear projects.

“Of course, the word jholawallah is now obsolete. Nowadays hardly anybody walks around with a beard and a jhola,” says theatre personality Bibhas Chakraborty. “But generally, jholawallahs are educated and erudite people giving unsolicited advice.”

Most agree that the presence of jholawallahs is felt most during times of crisis. The end of the Naxalite movement in Calcutta, the growth of the JP movement and the start of the Emergency were some such flashpoints. Small groups formed over the years, taking up issues such as the rights of women and of tribals and Dalits, and for the environment. In recent times, the activists have been rallying together under an anti-nuclear banner. Not surprisingly, many of the groups mentioned in the IB report are against nuclear energy.

“If communities feel threatened, they will give birth to activists who will give voice to their concerns,” reasons former NAC member and Right to Information activist Aruna Roy. “As a society we need to listen to those voices.”

But the movements have also lost steam over the years, and jholawallahs their place in the sun. Observers say that a host of developments across the world has together pushed the activist to the margins. The Vietnam War gave birth to a whole new generation of Left-winged activists. But subsequent events such as the disintegration of the Soviet Union, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the firing on students in Tiananmen Square in China — shrunk the radical’s world.

“The role of an activist is a very difficult one in a globalised, liberalised economy and in the age of sponsorships,” says Mohammed Selim, a Communist Party of India (Marxist) member of Parliament. “But though they may be invisible at the moment, they have not been vanquished.”

Calcutta, of course, has seen the rise of a “civil society” movement — the participation of artistes, academics and others in rallies that started with the firing at Nandigarm and more or less ended with the fall of the Left Front government in 2011. “But it is true that jholawallahs are a rare sight these days,” agrees actor Badshah Moitra. “They are not as ubiquitous as they were 15 years ago in coffee houses and tea stalls.”

Indeed, you can hardly see the jholawallah in many parts of the country today. Take Bangalore’s Koshy’s, where, the locals joke, many court cases were argued and newspaper articles written over steaming coffee and chilled beer. Started during the days of the Raj and located just off M.G. Road, Koshy’s for decades served the city’s intelligentsia.

“While some people discussed glasnost and perestroika on one table, you’d find another table occupied by a writer penning a novel,” a spokesman for the restaurant says. “But the city’s young don’t hang around at Koshy’s as much as they did a decade ago,” he says.

In fact, that, many hold, is the crux of the problem — the fact that the young are not as enamoured of the jhola as their parents were. The trendy Caf� Coffee Day (CCD), Barista and Starbucks outlets are where the young would rather be. If there is one Koshy’s in Bangalore, CCD has 250 outlets. When Tata Starbucks opened its outlet in Bangalore last year, youngsters waited for an hour to get a table.

“The youth of today believes more in aspirational politics than confrontation,” points out Anirban Ganguly, director of the BJP-affiliated think tank Shyama Prasad Mookherjee Research Foundation in Delhi. “They believe in a different lexicon.”

But some believe the young do have a role to play in movements. “Our work will not be stalled. We are committed to the cause,” says Medha Patkar, whose anti-big dam movement attracted the young in large numbers. “All pro-people agencies, from civil rights activists to journalists to the judiciary, should come forth to fight against the government. The challenge is to stay together,” adds Teesta Setalvad, who runs the NGO, Citizens for Justice and Peace.

Some argue that the jholawallah is not extinct but has taken on different forms. The BJP, for instance, has its share of supporters who may carry laptop backpacks instead of jholas, but have a mission as well. “Modi would not have become Prime Minister without the support of an army of Right-wing activists in the corporate sector, the media, the economics profession, the Hindutva movement and the public at large,” social activist Jean Dr�ze, a former NAC member, stresses.

Political and social observers also point out that the platform for the jholawallah has changed. Anil Chaudhary recalls that there was a time when demonstrators gathered at Delhi’s Boat Club — or India Gate — for all kinds of protests. The protestors have now been shoved to a corner near Jantar Mantar, so as not to obstruct traffic.

But many contend today’s platform for protest is neither Calcutta’s Maidan nor Jantar Mantar. It’s the Internet.

“Now dissent has become digital. Protests have taken a cyber form,” points out sociologist G.K. Karanth.

Indeed, many small movements have spread their message through and congregated on the Internet — from stone-throwing schoolboys in Kashmir to the thousands that came together to protest against the gang rape and death of a young woman in Delhi in 2012. Many of the gay parades across India have been put into motion on the Internet. The Pink Chaddi campaign — against conservatives who frowned at women going to pubs — found supporters on social networking sites. In other parts of the world, too, urban movements — such as the Occupy Wall Street Movement — have been garnering support, thanks to the Internet.

There are movements on the ground, too, but, as Karanth points out, they have to be sufficiently large or grand to attract people. Anna Hazare, for instance, brought the jholawallahs and the Prada-wallahs together. But the latter outnumber the former.

So is the score, for the present, Jholas 0 and Pradas 1? The supporters of the jhola are livid. “I have strong reservations about the very word jholawallah and such labelling of people. They have contributed to our society and stood by the interests of the poor and faced stiff opposition and even physical resistance from governments in their crusades,” says theatre director and actor Kaushik Sen, who was part of the “Paribartan” wave in favour of Mamata Banerjee three years ago. “But that has not eroded their resolve and grit.”

As for the detractors, they are busy coining jhola jokes. So what is the jholawallah song? I’m a jholi good fellow.

Severe six

Aruna Roy

Heads the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan and led the Right to Information movement

Medha Patkar

Founder member of the Narmada Bachao Andolan

Jean Drèze

Works on hunger, famine, child health and education. He drafted the first version of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme of the UPA government

Vandana Shiva

Environmental activist. Founded Navadanya, a national green movement on organic farming and fair trade

Teesta Setalvad

Secretary of Citizens for Justice and Peace which fights against communalism

Arundhati Roy

Essay writer and human rights activist. A member of the anti-globalisation movement

 

Tete a TeteTete a Tete

Yogendra Yadav is gearing up for the Haryana Assembly elections. As he criss-crosses the state, the AAP leader tells Sonia Sarkar that the Bharatiya Janata Party’s electoral campaign was brilliant and that he wants to learn from it

Some say the bubble’s burst, but Yogendra Yadav will have none of that. He has hit the road and is travelling across Haryana to talk to workers of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which emerged with a bang last year and now appears to have dwindled into a whimper. Yadav, the soft-spoken face of the party, is gearing up for the polls in Haryana, slated to be held later this year.

Clearly, AAP — Arvind Kejriwal’s political alternative — is putting its house in order. “We have to focus on our sangathan (organisation), sampark (connect with people) and sambad (communication) before the Assembly elections,” Yadav says, talking about the party’s new programme, Mission Vistaar. “We are discussing the lessons that we have learnt from the Lok Sabha elections.”

AAP’s rise and fall took place almost at the same velocity. It rose to its peak by winning 28 of the 70 seats in the Delhi elections in 2013, and almost turned to dust a few months later, winning only four of the 400 seats it contested in the Lok Sabha elections held this summer.

Among those who lost — a grand list that also includes party leader Arvind Kejriwal — was Yadav, whose 80,000 votes from Gurgaon put him in the fourth place.

“In the course of campaign, I knew I was No. 3. I didn’t know I would come down to No. 4. That was a disappointment,” he says.

Yadav, occasionally wearing the party’s trademark boat-shaped cap and otherwise fiddling with it, is on his way from Panipat to Ambala, where he has a meeting with party leaders. Our conversation continues as he stops at a roadside dhaba for a cup of tea, which he has with the paranthas and aloo sabzi that his sister has packed for him.

He plans to travel to all 21 districts of Haryana to understand how to make a fresh start before the state polls. “We are trying to reach the last person in every district,” he says.

The Lok Sabha poll results came as a shock to AAP leaders, who had thought they’d perform a lot better than they did. Party chief Kejriwal, in fact, had claimed that it would win 100 seats. “That was his political judgement. Before the Delhi elections, he’d said we’d get 47 seats, but we got 28,” Yadav says.

“Getting 100 seats or so was an unrealistic hope. I have a technical background. I didn’t say a word on the number of seats because I knew we were going for a single digit win,” the psephologist adds.

But he also believes that if the euphoria that was created after the Delhi victory had continued till the end of the general elections, the party could have ended up with 100 seats. “Dilli chunaao ke baad hamari aadat kharab ho gayi thi (we got spoiled after the Delhi elections). That time, our feet were not on the ground. That sort of quick success brings you to power sooner than you deserve. But the people punished us for quitting Delhi,” he admits, referring to AAP’s decision to exit power after ruling for 49 days. The excuse was the failure to pass the Jan Lokpal Bill — an anti-graft platform that the AAP rode to power on.

The buzz in political circles is that it was Yadav who advised Kejriwal to step down.

“I shared the view that if we could not pass the Jan Lokpal Bill in Delhi we had no moral right to remain in the government. But I wanted this decision to be taken in consultation with the people, which did not happen,” Yadav rues.

The differences of opinion within the AAP are out in the open. People have been walking out of the party ever since the poll debacle. Yadav, too, resigned from the political affairs committee last month. In a letter to his colleagues, he referred to the lack of organisational building, absence of mechanism for consulting volunteers and policy deficit as among the many drawbacks in the party.

“This is not the first time that I have raised these questions. This time the public got to know about my concerns because the letter was leaked. Though it is a cause of embarrassment that it is out in the public, I am not ashamed of what I said,” adds Yadav, whose resignation was not accepted by Kejriwal.

In his letter, he said Kejriwal behaved like a party “supremo” and not a leader. It’s not a subject that he wants to elaborate on, but says, “I write more carefully than I speak, so I would rather that my written words be trusted.”

But Kejriwal, he adds, has an “extraordinary ability” to pick a single relevant fact from a heap of irrelevancies. “He has a superhuman capacity to remain focused. He has the gift of bringing people together.”

Yadav and Kejriwal have known each other from the time Kerjiwal ran a non- government organisation called Parivartan to press for the implementation of the Right to Information Act. Yadav had held public hearings on the then newly-appointed Central Information Commission on behalf of Parivartan.

But it was Anna Hazare’s drive against corruption in 2011 that brought the two together, though Yadav had his doubts about the movement.

“I thought it was a very positive movement but didn’t like it the way they were carrying it forward. I told Kejriwal that if he wanted to do satyagraha, he had to read Gandhi. I thought he would never get back to me because not many people like criticism. But he did, and asked me to be a part of the movement. And I joined them.”

Yadav — with his well-modulated voice and felicity with words — was soon one of the leaders of the party that was formed in late 2012. It helped that he spoke both Hindi and English fluently. “I learnt my Hindi from textbooks and Doordarshan. So my Hindi does not bear any regional influences,” says Yadav, dressed in a blue cotton kurta with white pyjamas.

Originally from Saharanwas, near Rewari in Haryana, Yadav, now 50, grew up in Rajasthan’s Sri Ganganagar, where his father was a lecturer in economics.

Yadav says that his father was seven when he saw his own father, a hostel warden in a Haryana school, being killed in a communal riot in Hissar in 1936. “The rioters wanted the Muslim children in the hostel,” he says. “My grandfather told the rioters he would rather have his head chopped. So they chopped off his head. My father saw it all happening,” Yadav narrates.

It was this incident — and the Hindu-Muslim killings during Partition — that made his secular father name him Salim. AAP workers brought the name up during Yadav’s electoral campaign in Haryana, leading to a barrage of scornful tweets and comments on social media sites, describing it as a gimmick aimed at the Muslim vote.

But though the name is used by some friends and family, most people know him as Yogendra. Yadav explains that he asked his parents to change his name because his Muslim name led to taunts in school when he was a small boy. “So I was rechristened Yogendra,” he says.

Unfortunately, he adds, the communal divide that his father witnessed as a child continues to haunt India. “The new generation of India wants to move forward. They don’t want to be in the shadow of 1984 or 2002 but politics will not allow them to do so. It wants to drag them back,” he says.

His own political leanings were given shape when he was studying in Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University by socialist leader Kishan Patnaik, who headed a political body called Samata Sangathan.

“My initiation into public life, in fact my understanding of politics, dates back to that period. But party politics of the visible kind is a new thing in my life,” he says.

Yadav, who taught politics at Punjab University for eight years, joined the New Delhi-based think tank Centre for the Study of Developing Studies in 1993. Under the United Progressive Alliance government, he was a member of the National Advisory Council, from which he resigned, and the University Grants Commission, from which he was removed last year.

A political observer for many years and an able number cruncher, the Phanishwar Nath Renu fan now finds himself knee-deep in politics, leaving him with little time for reading or writing (“that’s a deep regret”), or for his family — wife Madhulika Banerjee, who teaches political science in Delhi University, daughter Sufi, 15, and son, Sahej, 10.

“The first thing I do every morning is check the newspapers to see if there is a stupid story about AAP,” he says.

He also wants to learn some lessons from the Bharatiya Janata Party’s electoral triumph. “It was a brilliant campaign executed to near perfection. If you get two seats in Parliament, you should not lose hope, you should continue to work,” he says, referring to the BJP’s 1984 electoral defeat which left it with just two members of Parliament. “One needs to be consistent for a long time to be able to achieve anything,” he says.

Yadav is doing that, as AAP gets ready to rewrite its own story.

 

● June 2014: A 19-year-old Dalit girl was allegedly raped and murdered in Badhauna village in Uttar Pradesh.

● May 2014: Two teenage Dalit girls were allegedly gang raped by men and then hanged from a tree in Uttar Pradesh’s Badaun district.

● January 2014: A 13-year-old Dalit girl was allegedly molested by a 55-year-old Gujjar in Dumada village of Ajmer. When a police complaint was filed, the family of the teenager was forced to flee the village under constant pressure from Gujjars.

These are just some of the instances which show that atrocities against Dalit women are on the rise. According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) report, there were 1,346 cases of rape of Dalit women in 2009; the number rose to 1,557 in 2011 and 1,576 in 2012.

“Members of dominant castes are known to use sexual violence against Dalit women as a political tool for punishment, humiliation and assertion of power,” says Divya Iyer, senior researcher, social rights watch group, Amnesty International India.

But it is not just sexual assault. There are cases of other forms of torture of Dalits too. For example, in May this year, over 50 Dalits in Tiruchirapalli in Tamil Nadu complained that they were harassed by the police over their participation in an annual festival of a church in Periyavarseeli village. Similarly, in September last year, a Dalit government employee in Ahmedabad committed suicide in his office toilet after he was allegedly humiliated by his senior and harassed by his colleagues for many months.

A look at some figures tells the story. There were 32,712 registered cases of atrocities against Dalits in 2010 which rose to 33,719 in 2011 according to the NCRB. It is estimated that a crime is committed against a Dalit person every 18 minutes. Dalit Media Watch, a group that reports on crimes against India’s lowest caste, has reported that two Dalits are assaulted, murdered and have their homes torched every hour.

Though the rights of Dalits are protected under the provisions of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, experts point out that there are too many drawbacks in the law to make it into a forceful deterrent to those who victimise them.

They say that victims confront hurdles at every stage of the legal process — from the registration of a case to its investigation to filing a chargesheet and right up to the trial.

“Certain forms of atrocities, though well-documented, are not covered by the act. Plus, there are procedural hurdles such as non-registration of cases. There are delays in trial and the conviction rate is low too. There are also delays in providing relief and rehabilitation to victims,” says Mehul Dabhi of the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights, a forum committed to the elimination of discrimination based on caste.

Experts also say that the implementation of the law has always been a problem. “Under the act, special courts are supposed to tackle Dalit cases. But this is not happening as these courts take up other cases too,” says Rahul Singh, a Delhi-based Dalit rights lawyer.

The law also stipulates that the investigation of a case be done by a police officer not below the rank of deputy superintendent of police. However, this too is rarely followed. “Often, the accused go scot free because no investigation was done by an officer of this rank. Mostly, investigations are carried out by lower rank officers, which are not accepted by the court,” Singh adds.

Taking note of these flaws, several amendments to the law have been proposed by Dalit rights groups. An ordinance was also brought into effect by the previous UPA government in March this year to amend the law.

The ordinance has added a list of new offences to the act, including such atrocities as the tonsuring of head, moustache, or similar acts which are derogatory to the dignity of Dalits and Adivasis; garlanding with chappals; denying access to irrigation facilities or forest rights; forcing them to dispose or carry human or animal carcasses, or to dig graves; imposing social or economic boycott; preventing Dalit and Adivasi candidates filing nomination to contest elections; hurting the modesty of Dalit or Adivasi woman by removing her garments, and forcing a Dalit to leave his or her house or village.

“At present, only those offences listed in the Indian Penal Code (IPC) that attract punishment of 10 years or more and are committed on Dalits or Adivasis are accepted as offences falling under the Atrocities Act. A number of commonly committed offences (hurt, grievous hurt, intimidation, kidnapping, etc.) are excluded from the law. Therefore, a schedule of a list of IPC offences has been provided in the amended act,” Dabhi states.

The ordinance also specifies that the special courts established exclusively for the trial of Dalit cases should have the power to directly take cognizance of offences under this act and the trial shall, as far as possible, be completed within a period of two months from the date of filing of the chargesheet.

There is also an addition of a chapter on the “Rights of Victims and Witnesses”. Though the law does recognise a few rights, “many other essential rights have been included so as to ensure that the state makes arrangements for the protection of victims, their dependents and witnesses against any kind of intimidation, coercion or inducement or violence or threats of violence,” Singh says.

But Dalit rights activists such as Chaman Lal feel that the law should also include a proper sensitisation programme. “There should be a sensitisation programme on Dalit rights at schools which could be carried out in tandem with the ministry of human resources development. It is important to change the mindset,” says Lal, professor, Centre for Comparative Literature, Central University of Punjab, Bathinda.

For the moment, Dalits are looking to the implementation of the ordinance, which has been tabled in the current session of Parliament. If passed, the Dalits would have a reason to rejoice.

The Telegraph, June 11, 2014 

Tweet@sonia_26

 

Caste Away

Will the RSS continue to lead the BJP? Or will Prime Minister Narendra Modi keep it at bay? Sonia Sarkar seeks some answers.

 

A portrait of M.S. Golwalkar is displayed prominently in the exhibition hall of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) headquarters in Nagpur. Made of threads, it has a three-dimensional effect — the RSS strongman’s image can be seen from either side. The portrait is not signed — and visitors usually ask for the name of the artist.

“But that’s how the RSS works,” says Nagpur pracharak Ram Narayan. “RSS pracharaks don’t take credit for their work because they do it for the organisation.”

 

Indeed, for long years, the RSS, the parental body of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has — silently, like the artist behind the Golwalkar portrait — led the path that it expects BJP leaders to follow.But Narendra Damodardas Modi is a whole new ball game.

In RSS quarters, Modi’s smooth rise to power — he led the BJP to an unprecedented win in the 2014 elections — is discussed in whispers. And the question being asked is: will the RSS continue to lead the BJP?

“The RSS doesn’t believe in personality cults, but Modi does. He has forgotten all that he learnt during his Sangh days about taking people on board,” a senior leader at the RSS headquarters grumbles.

In fact, the RSS has always been aware that Modi works like a law unto himself. A political observer recalls the time when Golwalkar was the RSS chief and Modi, then a young pracharak, decided to keep a beard like the RSS boss. The Sangh disapproved of this, holding that only Golwalkar could do so. But Modi went right ahead — paying no attention to the RSS strictures.

 

Right now, however, all seems well on the RSS-Modi front. Modi met RSS leaders in Delhi soon after his victory. He acknowledged the effort of RSS workers during the election campaign in his maiden speech in the central hall of Parliament. He announced a year-long celebration to mark the centenary of RSS leader Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya. Top RSS leaders were present when Modi was sworn in as Prime Minister.

 

But RSS insiders say that despite the bonhomie, tensions remain. Some in the RSS are worried that Modi is not going to allow the Sangh to have a major say in governance. “It’s not that Modi is anti-RSS,” a senior BJP member explains. “But he doesn’t want to be dictated to.”

 

The RSS has been known to dictate. In the last BJP-led central government, the Sangh’s imprint was clear, especially in the human resource development (HRD) ministry. But Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee could also keep the RSS at arm’s length.

The RSS, for instance, did not want Brajesh Mishra, whose father was a Congress leader, as the national security adviser. It didn’t succeed — instead K.S. Sudarshan, the then sarsanghachalak, was asked to stay away from Delhi. A more pragmatic Madan Das Devi functioned as the go-between.

 

Will Modi succeed in keeping a gap between the RSS and the BJP? “He will give the impression that he has been consulting the RSS. But these will only be for public consumption. He’ll do what thinks he is right,” a senior RSS leader in Nagpur says.

 

Modi, as a former Sangh pracharak, knows how the system works. He joined the RSS as a balswayamsevak, a junior cadet, at the age of eight and became a full-time pracharak in 1970. The RSS assigned Modi to the BJP in 1985. Three years later, he was elected organising secretary of the BJP’s Gujarat unit, marking his formal entry into mainstream politics.

 

Modi quickly went up the rungs. As national secretary, he was credited with the BJP’s victory in Gujarat in 1998. Soon he had replaced chief minister Keshubhai Patel in the state.

 

But differences with the RSS sharpened when Modi became the chief minister. For instance, he gave little space to the RSS’s frontal organisations. Vidyabharati, an RSS education outfit which opposed Modi’s policy of introducing English at the primary school level, was not granted government land. Workers of other groups — the Viswa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Bajrang Dal — were arrested when they took to the streets. A housing scheme started by VHP leader Pravin Togadia’s brother, Dineshbhai, was stalled. RSS supporters also say that Modi did not allow anybody to campaign in the local corporation, taluka and panchayat elections. Modi’s “no repeat” (of elected politicians) helped him weed out all RSS supporters from local self-government all over Gujarat. Modi allegedly cut the RSS to size and divided it.

RSS’ frontal organisation Bharatiya Kisan Sangh (BKS) was forced to vacate its state-level office in Gandhinagar. Under Modi’s leadership, a large number of temples were razed and the police beat up VHP activists in Gujarat. VHP activists were lathicharged and even complaints were lodged against them when they vandalised an art gallery exhibiting MF Hussain’s paintings.

 

Also, the co-ordination committee between the RSS members and ministers that was created during Keshubhai Patel’s chief ministership, Modi disbanded it when he came to power. Patel helped in the appointment of scores of RSS supporters in boards and corporations of the government and RSS-backed organisations and unions were fully involved in government. Patel also nominated Bajrang Dal presidents as home guard commanders. Under Modi’s rule, RSS alleges that cow slaughter increased manifold. He handed over vast areas of grazing land to industrialists.

RSS leaders such as Manmohan Vaidya and Madhubhai Kulkarni were shunted out of Gujarat. Modi stopped talking to  Vaidya. He was sent off to Chennai and replaced by Praveenbhai Otia, who proved more trouble-free. At mega events of the government, he barely invited Vaidya and other RSS leaders.

 

But, Gujarat watchers point out, Modi also had a channel open for “friendly” talks with RSS leaders Suresh Joshi, Ram Madhav and Suresh Soni. Despite the ups and downs, the RSS knew that Modi was the best choice for the BJP for the general elections. The tipping point was in May 2012 at the Mumbai national executive. Modi refused to attend the meet in the presence of his old bete noire Sanjay Joshi — whom Gadkari had put in charge of UP for the 2012 elections. The Modi-Joshi rivalry went back to the days when both played for control of the BJP turf in Gujarat. Joshi triumphed once — Modi was sent packing to Delhi till he returned to Gandhinagar as chief minister in 2001. Not surprisingly, Modi waited for his chance to strike. And he did so before the Mumbai meet. The RSS, which regarded Joshi as its own, asked him to leave — and it was then that Modi showed up. Since then Joshi has been kept out of the BJP.

 

In September 2012, three months before the Gujarat polls, Modi was summoned to the RSS headquarters by RSS chief Mohanrao Bhagwat and told to go ahead and give his best to the Gujarat polls. He was also assured that he would lead the 2014 elections. The RSS leaders knew that Modi had the unstinted support of its cadres.

“The top leadership couldn’t have said no to Modi’s candidature for the prime ministership because the cadre would have revolted,” says Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay, the author of Narendra Modi: The Man, The Times.

 

Once it was decided that Modi was the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, the RSS workers came on to the field to help in the campaign. “All Sangh parivar frontal organisations worked for him. Now it’s payback time for Modi — or that’s what the RSS wants,” Mukhopadhyay believes. “But will the RSS be able to control this tiger?”

 

The RSS’s policy of swadeshi will be its leitmotif — but may face opposition from the new government. The RSS doesn’t want foreign investment in retail, which the BJP government may want to open its doors to (though in a recent interview Ram Madhav stressed that the RSS was not an “economic fundamentalist”). The RSS may want the BJP to go slow on labour reform. And its frontal groups may want movement on the Ram Mandir front.

“Modi says the construction of Ram Mandir in Ayodhya will not solve all our problems because he prefers to fill empty stomachs first. Hindutva was not an issue in this elections but the aspiration of 125 crore people was. For the RSS, Ram Mandir continues to be an issue,” says RSS man Virag Pachpore.

 

When it comes to HRD, the RSS hopes to bring in change. “We want the government to revise the school curriculum. We want specific chapters on Hindu rulers such as Maharana Pratap and Shivaji,” Nagpur-based Ramesh Shiledar, an old RSS hand, stresses.

In Delhi, RSS men are more circumspect. “If Modi has to deliver, he has to stick to the BJP manifesto,” says Prafulla Ketkar, editor of the RSS mouthpiece Organiser. “As Prime Minister, Modi will abide by the Constitution of India; he will not be guided by the RSS,” adds R. Balachandran, national convener of the BJP intellectual cell.

 

Some, however, believe that the RSS is not going to give up what was once a superior position without a fight. Earlier this week, there were reports that home minister Rajnath Singh had had a talk with RSS chief Mohan Rao Bhagwat over the fate of Article 370 which gives special status to Kashmir. But on Twitter, RSS spokesperson Madhav denied the meeting focused on this issue.

 

“We will never interfere in the functioning of the government. But we will articulate our views,” he says.

 

The RSS, political observers hold, is in a catch-22 situation. “It feels emotionally thrilled that someone who is its own is the Prime Minister. But it also knows that Modi will not allow the RSS to call the shots,” a BJP leader says.

It’s not hard to detect bitterness among some senior leaders in the RSS headquarters. “What does RSS lose even if Modi has dumped it? It doesn’t have any expectation either. We are better off without the BJP and Modi,” Nagpur-based RSS ideologue R.H. Tupkary stresses. “It takes more than 25 years to cultivate leadership in the BJP and only the RSS can make leaders,” he adds.

Meanwhile, a new set of leaders is being groomed at the annual training centre in Nagpur’s Hedgewar Smarak Smruti. Some 700 men in khaki shorts are learning how to wield lathis and batons. This is going to be followed by a discussion on a Hindu nation and the qualities of a swayamsevak. Clearly, for the RSS, the work carries on. –

 

 

( A shorter version of the story has been published in The Telegraph, June 1,2014: http://www.telegraphindia.com/1140601/jsp/7days/18467318.jsp)

The knives are out in the Congress Party — and fingers are being pointed at Rahul Gandhi’s lieutenant Madhusudan Mistry, and party president Sonia Gandhi’s aide in the National Advisory Council (NAC), Aruna Roy. Sonia Sarkarand Smitha Verma look at the rumpus

Success, as the wise man said, has many fathers; failure is an orphan. The Congress party’s electoral debacle is a case in point. Nobody wants to take the blame for its worst ever performance in a general election, but quite a few are ready to point fingers at others. Milind Deora has blamed advisors of Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi for the defeat; former sports minister Jitendra Singh has accused Deora of not speaking out when he was a minister. And quite a few stalwarts have blamed outgoing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

The knives, indeed, are out.

But nobody, perhaps, is being blamed as much as Gandhi’s trusted lieutenant Madhusudan Mistry, and party president Sonia Gandhi’s vocal aide in the controversial National Advisory Council (NAC), Aruna Roy. Mistry failed miserably as the man in charge of Uttar Pradesh. And though Roy resigned from the NAC last year, many see her support for programmes such as the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Assurance (MGNREGA) scheme as one of the reasons for the Congress’s downfall.

So who is Madhusudan Mistry?

In the Congress, the voice against Mistry is getting shriller by the day. The former Sabarkantha MP, who lost to Narendra Modi from Vadodara, has been described as the “poor man’s Amit Shah”. Mistry did everything that Modi’s aide did — travel across UP, work on his laptop for long hours and weigh would-be candidates.

“But if Shah did everything right, Mistry did everything wrong,” a party watcher says. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its ally won 73 seats out of 80 in UP, the Congress won two.

Mistry, 69, doesn’t want to talk about all this. He is at home, recovering from sunstroke and diarrhoea. “We will speak (of the defeat) within the party. We will resolve our problems,” says Mistry, who is meeting Gujarat party workers on May 31.

The Rajya Sabha MP impressed Rahul Gandhi with his performance in Parliament. “He had cent per cent attendance. He is also extremely good at composing drafts and has a good grasp of social issues. Rahul liked these qualities and made him a part of his core team,” an observer says.

His entry into the Congress, however, was through former Gujarat chief minister Shankarsinh Vaghela. Mistry, who ran a non-government organisation called Developing Initiatives for Social and Human Action (DISHA) in Sabarkantha focusing on tribal rights, was addressing a tribal rally when Vaghela, who was then in the BJP, spotted him.

Later, when Vaghela left the BJP to set up the Rashtriya Janata Party, he made Mistry its president. When Vaghela joined the Congress in 1998, so did Mistry. He fought and won from Sabarkantha in 2002, reclaimed it in 2004 but lost the seat in 2009 by 17,000 votes.

Some Congressmen whisper that he has connections with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). On Twitter, Mistry has denied this. Some accuse him of converting tribals into Christians, which again Mistry has denied. At a public meeting, he took out a string with beads around his neck to show that he was a Hindu.

The father of four lives in a two-storey house in Vadodara. Mistry is proud to be a jholachhap and maintains a simple lifestyle. “He is so simple that he eats sitting on the floor. Looking at him, nobody can gauge how big he is politically,” an aide says.

A Gujarati OBC, he was brought up by his grandmother, a vegetable seller. He worked as a mason when he was in school, and then as an office peon, a clerk and a colour mixer. After doing a course on moulding from the Indian Technical Institute, he won a scholarship to Ruskin College, affiliated to Oxford University, for a diploma in development studies. After working for Oxfam, he started DISHA.

But the problem, the Congress watcher says, is that he likes to cash in on his “self-made image” which irks others. “And he harps on the fact that he has no old connections with the party, which many members have. Gandhi appreciates this, but the veteran party members don’t.”

Mistry was put in charge of the 2011 Kerala state Assembly elections, which the Congress-led front won. In 2013, he looked after the Karnataka elections, which again the Congress won. But some argue that Kerala anyway has a strong Congress presence, and Karnataka was going through an anti-BJP wave.

His failure in UP has elbowed out his successes. A party member says that one of the reasons behind the failure is his inability to handle people. “He doesn’t like people crowding his office. He doesn’t entertain calls at odd hours. He doesn’t even chat with party workers over chai and samosa.”

A small section, however, speaks up for him. Other Congressmen, it says, are irked by his rise in the party and closeness to Gandhi. “He is also very straight forward. His intentions are good but he can’t perform,” a Congress MLA says.

Mistry replaced Narendra Rawat, who had won the primary held in Vadodara. “Mistry told everyone in Gujarat that it was his lifetime wish to fight against Modi,” a Congress leader says. Modi defeated him by over 5,70,000 votes.

And then there was Roy.

This time last year, in one of the thickly-carpeted rooms of the NAC office in a sprawling bungalow in Lutyens’s Delhi, a resignation letter was discussed in hushed tones. Just before the advisory board convened its 30th meeting, NAC chairperson Gandhi was handed over the letter. And Aruna Roy, social activist and anti-corruption crusader, walked out of the organisation for the second time since its inception in 2004, saying that she did not wish to be considered for another term.

Earlier this month, it held its last meeting.

Roy’s detractors believe that she contributed to the Congress defeat. MGNREGA, spearheaded by Roy among others, offered 100 days of guaranteed wage-employment in a year to a rural household. And it led to an estimated two per cent rise in inflation — which rattled the middle class.

Not everybody is convinced of this. “How can you blame the NAC or Roy for the downfall? If anything, their advice was heeded in the UPA’s first term and not in the second one,” argues social activist and Roy aide Nikhil Dey.

Roy, 67, became a part of the Gandhi coterie when she was inducted into the 12-member body comprising former civil servants, activists and academics. It was often called a parallel or kitchen cabinet run by Sonia Gandhi.

“The NAC wielded extra-constitutional power, superseding the Cabinet, contributing to the perception that the Prime Minister wasn’t really in charge,” says Nitin Pai, who runs the think tank Takshashila Institution in Bangalore.

Roy and Sonia, says a former NAC member, shared a comfortable working relationship. “The chairperson always listened patiently to her and gave her inputs much credence.” But Roy quit the NAC in 2006, accusing the government of moving away from its common minimum programme. She returned to the NAC in 2010. “She and (academic) Jean Dreze were forever threatening to resign when things didn’t go their way,” a detractor says.

Gandhi, who relied on Roy, was “hurt” when she resigned last year, the former member says. “The chairperson wrote a nice parting letter to Roy highlighting her contribution but was greatly disappointed when Roy went to the media about her displeasure with the NAC,” he says.

Even as a section of economists rails against Roy, the Ramon Magsaysay Award winner is looked upon well in the social sector for her crusade against corruption. A Tamilian, she joined the IAS in 1968 but quit the bureaucracy in 1974 to follow in her husband Sanjit “Bunker” Roy’s path of social work. In 1983, she set up the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathana (MKSS) in Rajasthan for empowering farmers. From there she started a movement for the public’s right to scrutinise official records that laid the foundation for the Right to Information Act.

In 2011, Roy — whom political analyst Swapan Dasgupta describes as the “Queen Bee of India’s jholawalas” in one of his columns — figured in Time magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people. But her background as a former IAS officer and the fact that she knew almost every senior bureaucrat riled a section in the Congress. Some say she particularly ruffled feathers when she referred to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh by his first name at meetings.

MGNREGA has its share of vocal critics, too. They believe it’s a waste of money as people are paid for little or no work. “It wasn’t implemented well and it failed to create rural assets,” says economist Narendra Jadhav, member, Planning Commission, and former NAC member.

“There was often disagreement within the NAC. You had to come up with really good arguments to counter Roy because she held a strong viewpoint,” says Ashis Mondal, an NAC member in its second term.

Roy, back with MKSS, rubbishes the allegations. She doesn’t want to talk about her relationship with Sonia but is scathing about MGNREGA opponents. “There is a rich farmer-industrialist-contractor lobby opposing it. They are backed by economists who want no expenditure to be incurred on the development of the poor,” Roy adds.

The alumna of Delhi University is preparing for her next role. She is keeping a close watch on what the new government does with MGNREGA and warns of a backlash if it is disbanded.

But that’s for the new government to work on. For the Congress, the defeat marks the end — and start — of an era. After the blame game, work may start.

  • *Till 1.1.2013

Career Graph

  • Under fire: Madhusudan Mistry (top) and Aruna Roy

 Rajya Sabha MP Madhusudan Mistryis said to be close to Rahul Gandhi. The former MP from Sabarkantha lost to Narendra Modi from Vadodara.

 Was in charge of UP for the Congress. Earlier, he’d been in charge of the 2011 Kerala state Assembly elections, and of the Karnataka elections in 2013.

 Entered the Congress through former Gujarat chief minister Shankarsinh Vaghela.

 Lives in a two-storey house in Vadodara and maintains a simple lifestyle.

 Brought up by his grandmother, a vegetable seller. Worked as a mason when in school, and as an office peon, a clerk and a colour mixer. Won a scholarship to Ruskin College, affiliated to Oxford University, for a diploma in development studies. After working for Oxfam, he started an NGO.

 Former NAC member Aruna Roy is being blamed for MGNREGA, which offered 100 days of guaranteed wage-employment in a year to a rural household. Critics hold that the jobs programme helped fuel inflation.

 The Ramon Magsaysay Award winner joined the IAS but quit to join her husband “Bunker” Roy in social work in Rajasthan.

 Figured in Time magazine’s 2011 list of the world’s 100 most influential people.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.