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Some Important Highlights

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What Stands Out in the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) Data:

  • Crime data for 2017 was released in October 2019 by NCRB. Two categories, in particular, stand out:
  • For the first time, data under SC/ST Atrocities Act (exclusively, without invoking any other sections of IPC) has been published. About 55% of crimes against Dalits under the Atrocities Act and 52% of the crimes against tribals under the same Act are constituted of ‘Intentionally Insult or Intimidate with Intent to Humiliate’ (Tiwary, 2019).
  • Another interesting category was corruption. Under this, while cases of ‘trap’ (exposing lower level officials red-handedly taking a bribe) have risen by almost 100% in 2017 over 2016, the cases involving ‘criminal misconduct’ (in which bribes are hardly in cash) have fallen sharply by 70% over 2016. Overall, there has been a 20% decline in corruption cases in 2017 over 2016 (Tiwary, 2019).

Thus, the lower level corruption of local bureaucracy has become a rising threat, even as the government has been successful in purging higher level corruption. The process of reining in the bureaucrats is still going on.

At a review meeting in October, PM Modi castigated the bureaucrats saying that, “Apne mere paanch saal barbad kiye hai, main apko agle paanch saal barbad nahin karne doonga” (Gupta, 2019).

Sri Lanka Presidential Elections:

  • Presidential elections in Sri Lanka have given a decisive victory to Gotabaya Rajapaksa (political party: Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna), with a 52% vote share. He was up against Sajith Premdasa (political party: United National Party). While Gotabaya winning on a conservative plank won with the help of a massive Sinhala Buddhist majority vote in his favour, Premdasa got major votes from Tamil and Muslim minorities concentrated in the northern and eastern parts of Sri Lanka.
  • The Easter terror attacks on Sri Lanka this year decisively changed the national atmosphere. Gotabaya’s major plank was campaigning on providing national security. He was also able to criticize the dismal record of the previous liberal-secular oriented government – a government which was bowing down under Western pressure, not only immersing itself in guilt over the Lankan civil war, but also completely downgrading or dismantling all security infrastructure and intelligence cells that had been put in place by the earlier Rajapaksa regime.
  • Gotabaya is known not only as the younger brother of the former Sri Lankan President, Mahinda Rajapaksa, but also as the man who was directly in charge of wiping out the LTTE from Sri Lanka. Being the defence secretary during the period of the civil war, Gotabaya directly commanded ruthless operations, secret executions and various encounters and abductions that had unleashed a reign of terror among the separatists.
  • Understandably, for this image, he did not get any minority votes at all, including the Muslim ones.
  • As far as relations with India are concerned, it must be noted that over the last 3 years, a lot of misunderstandings have been straightened out between India and the Rajapaksa clan. In 2015, when Mahinda Rajapaksa had lost the elections, he directly blamed India (taking RAW’s name) for interfering in the elections. India was, at the time, agitated with the mushrooming Chinese infrastructure projects in Lanka (such as the Hambantota port) and India viewed the Rajapaksas as being close to China.
  • However, India has also come a long way since 2015. For one, the India-China relationship has, through stages, acquired such an unparalleled level of understanding, depth and maturity that all outer rhetoric – even the occasional exchange of barbs – has become inconsequential. Therefore, the China factor is not likely to play out in India-Lanka relations as it used to.
  • The second aspect here is that, over the last 2-3 years, parallel to improvement in India-China relations, even the Gotabaya camp has nurtured strong ties with India, while sitting in the Opposition, and India has reciprocated. After winning the elections, India will be the first country Gotabaya will visit in late November. After winning, Gotabaya also gave a statement saying that while China is Lanka’s ‘trade partner’, India is like a ‘close relative’.
  • These developments show that India-China-Lanka relations are set to proceed more smoothly. There is also the common enemy in the form of terrorism, which has become a priority for Lanka after the Easter attacks and for which it is already seeking to strengthen security cooperation with India. In addition, the links between India’s RSS and the Buddhist outfit, Bodu Bala Sena are also strong.
  • The only slightly uncomfortable development was India’s reminder to Lanka, soon after election results, to work on the ‘reconciliation’ process viz. the reconciliation and justice for Tamils after the civil war. It is one thing for western countries to make a pariah out of Lanka (their sudden interest about Tamil human rights has got to do with their selfish obsession with teaching Rajapaksas’ a lesson for becoming close to China), but India should not blindly ape the West. Lecturing on human rights at a time when there is a strong government in Lanka, which shares ideological affinity with India’s ruling party, may divert the two sides from other important issues. Appearing to play the interfering big brother without any aim in sight is not very appealing. And this is precisely what the Tamil question entails.

The Bolivian Crisis:

  • The ongoing crisis in Bolivia – a country with more than 75% Catholics, but divided along race lines between whites and indigenes – has been taking on a complicated form.
  • On October 20, elections were held in which Evo Morales, the incumbent President – also, the first indigenous leader – belonging to the Left-wing Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) party, won.
  • However, the international Western media, the Organization of American States (OAS) and countries like the US and Canada, decried the elections as a fraud perpetrated by Mr. Morales.
  • Morales was forced to step down and has taken refuge in Mexico.
  • While the typical Western assertions against Morales are that he was becoming an authoritarian dictator, the picture is complicated, both, by the series of events that make his ouster resemble a foreign-mediated coup as well as the fact that despite concentration of power, he continued to enjoy some level of popularity.
  • The main charge of the West was that the counting of results was interrupted – an assertion which is not true, as the official counting went on uninterrupted, while only the counting of results by a private firm came to a halt after it had declared nearly 83% of the results. Yet, another charge was that preliminary results were going against Morales and a turnaround came only later – a charge complicated by the fact that Morales enjoys widespread support in rural areas, whose counting is done later.
  • Despite the fact that Morales heeded these charges and made the mistake of inviting an international audit of elections – an audit, mediated by the Western bloc, whose results should have been obvious – and even called for fresh elections, he was “advised” by the army to step down.
  • He escaped in the nick of time, as within a few hours, his palace was ransacked and his supporters and party members arrested.
  • The reason this coup has evoked mixed reactions is that, while he had begun to consolidate power since 2016, he still enjoyed popular support. After assuming office in 2005, he was able to reduce poverty, inequality and bring about palpable changes. This perhaps, is reflected in the show of a widespread disconteut among people resulting in violence and death of a good number of people following Morales’ exit to Mexico.
  • However, these changes were never complete. He never got along with the United States – a country which has a legacy of coups in Latin America – and global corporations always managed to exercise corrupt influence in the resource-rich Bolivian apparatus. Once the commodities boom of the 2000s decade was over, discontent began to set in, even as Morales tried to become permanent by doing away with Presidential term limits.
  • None of what Morales may have done compares with the way in which bigger dictators have managed to hold onto power in much worse national conditions – but with the support of powerful countries.
  • The protests that erupted against Morales after elections were, interestingly, led by urban whites. Their mainstay slogan was not based on democracy or dictatorship, but was “Bolivia belongs to Christ”, even as all indigenous flags and symbols were violently torn off.
  • Therefore, while the immediate pretext for the Bolivia coup may have been ‘democracy’ – a weak reason, since Morales was still a popular leader, albeit with authoritarian inclinations – the real reason is the interference by the West, afraid of losing influence, which further played on exacerbating the racial divides within Bolivia.
  • The Bolivian example soundly shows us once again what an illusion democracy is. If one were to define democracy, based on the recent example, the only definition that comes to mind is that of a system where organized selfish competing interests – both internal and foreign – jostle to get their pound of flesh out of a country.

 

Bibliography

Gupta, S. (2019, November 5). Hindustan Times. Retrieved from

https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/modi-attempts-long-awaited-overhaul-in-bureaucracy/story-EWO2IHX6wTSpUNpIfDx6NL.html

Tiwary, D. (2019, October 23). The Indian Express. Retrieved from

NCRB data: Insults made up 50% of crimes against Dalits, ‘traps’ of corrupt officials spiked

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