Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Public Reason, Indian Style

In a democracy, public opinion is the ultimate God, or so it is said. Even authoritarian regimes, at some point, fear its wrath. 2011 was the year, not of individual heroes, but of public opinion: public opinion railing against authority, oligarchy and corruption. But it was also a year in which public opinion, or so we are told, was transformed by the medium it used. Authoritarian governments found it hard to control flows of information and opinion. But the proliferation of new media — from TV to Twitter — also raised profound questions about the ways in which public opinion was going to be formed. Was the proliferation of new media forms genuine empowerment or did it rest on its own set of exclusions? Was it easier or harder for ordinary people to be heard? Where more people were expressing their opinion, did one have to shout harder to be heard? Would older forms of contribution to public reason survive? Could the old-fashioned, essay-style column, with complexity and nuance (and full disclosure, I have a vested interest in defending that genre), survive the Age of 140 Characters? Was the sound bite going to replace the sound thought? In short, what is the future of democratic discourse?

It is said, rightly, that in a democracy, nothing has special authority: not God, not History, not Reason. In fact, the radical promise of democracy is just that as Kant put it, “Reason has no dictatorial authority; its verdict is always simply the agreement of free citizens.” But how are these agreements going to be produced? Every democracy has worried about this. We don’t know how to institutionalise a conception of public reason in which all individuals can participate as free and equal individuals. But 2011 was an object lesson in the ways in which discourse operated in a democracy. Indian democracy is a feat of improvisation, and nothing reflects this more so than the character of our public argument. Here are some randomly collected lessons from 2011.

There are two dangers in a democracy. The first is what Aeschylus warned about: Freedom will be interpreted to mean, “Say whatever just came to your lips.” The second danger is freedom will be interpreted to mean, “Say just what you think others want to hear.” Both the excess of the first and the restraint of the second pose dangers to genuine public reason. In most parties, spokesman succumbs to the first temptation, government to the second.

Public Opinion can make the horse come to the water, it cannot make it drink.

The most valuable trait in politics is not rhetorical power. It is silence. Those who speak the least shall be prime minister the longest.

So long as the Anna movement used the power of music and maun vrat, they had a chance. The minute they took to the megaphone they blew it.

Arguments are made for cutting others, not for advancing understanding.

Representation is Reality — till the Representation changes.

For every argument, there is an available statistic.

In economic discourse, the most important part of any claim is “other things being equal”. This is the part we are also most likely to forget.

On important policy issues like the Food Security Bill, politicians can heed complex evidence: until the NAC weighs in.

Those who speak in the name of the poor will never let the poor speak.

Those who invoke the “people” really mean to say, “It is my way or no way.”

Those who work for the public good work away quietly. Those who cannot, demand new laws.

Our discussions are very principled. On each subject we invoke plenty of principles — except the one relevant to the subject.

The camera almost always lies. Or rather, the truth it represents is a function of the magnification angles of the camera.

The allure of a camera may be even more corrupting than the allure of money. The thought that millions are watching them, brings the worst out of most people.

If you want facts don’t look at news stories. There you will get opinion. But in an opinion column you might actually get an occasional fact.

A news channel will have more opinion than news. The more important a news channel thinks it is the higher will be its ratio of opinion to news.

India has immense diversity of opinion. Except that it is the same diversity over and over again.

“Search for consensus” means: “I don’t want to be held responsible for making a decision.”

There is no immortality except through being recognised by the press. Alas, that is also short-lived.

The professional standards of every profession have fallen, other than one’s own.

There is more space for book launches than book reviews.

The difference between Hindi and English media is exaggerated. The English media pays homage to the vernacular by ethnic chic. The Hindi media pays homage to English by translating content.

The power of Twitter is like the medium itself: confined and short-lived.

Media is more likely to want war than the people.

In a contest between fear and hope, fear always triumphs.

The “A” word will remain prohibited in the media, if used in a critical context. Guess what it is? Hint: Something to do with people who own a hideous house.

Only Indians can take the epithet “Argumentative Indian” as a compliment. Argumentative means someone who goes on arguing for the sake of it even after the issue has been settled.

There are many more lessons to be learnt. But it is all of this that makes our democracy so wonderful and vibrant. It is, in Plato’s resonant description of democracy, “a many coloured cloak decorated in all hues; this regime is decorated with all dispositions.” You have to admire a democracy where Rajya Sabha debates can get high TRP ratings. God forbid, we don’t want to tamper with this edifice. 2011 was the year of public mobilisation. Will 2012 be the year of public reason?
(By Pratap Bhanu Mehta)

Monday, 2 April 2012


Chairman Dr. K.K. Paul, 2 male and 2 female members.
(Afternoon Session, 3rd to be called in)
Buzzer; the Orderly opens the door for me.
I ask “May I come in Sir”. Somebody  said “come in”.
During entering I saw that the Chairman is going through my summery sheet.
 I enter; went near my chair and wished the board; the members were not interested in wishes.
Asked to sit down by Chairman.
Chairman: Dr. K.K. Paul. A very smart and goodlooking gentleman.
CM: What is your Name?
Me: Sir.....Name
CM: And Date of Birth
Me: Sir.....DOB
CM: And Roll number
Me: Sir.....Roll no.
CM: So you are from Law; tell me the difference between Due Process of Law and Procedure established by Law?
Me: Sir, Procedure Established by Law is any procedure which may be established by a duly enacted legislation or made by the administration while Due process of Law involves the principles of natural justice. Here the Law itself have to be just and can be questioned in the Courts.
CM: When this Due Process did enter our constitution?
Me: Sir, In Menaka Gandhi's case in 1978.
CM: Tell me what happened in the Menka Gandhi case?
Me: Sir, the passport of Menaka Gandhi was impounded by the airport authorities and proper hearing was not given to her. The Supreme Court held that the principles of natural jutice have not been followed and struck down the decision of the authorities.
CM: In How many ways the constitution of India can be amended?
Me: In 3 ways sir; First is by simple majority in the Parliament whereby boundries of States can be changed under Article 3,4 and few other provisions too; the second is by a special majority of two third of members voting along with an absolute majority of the total number of members and third is by special majority plus absolute majority plus ratification by half of the States.
CM: What was held in Golaknath case?
Me: It was held that Fundamental Rights comprising Chapter-3 of the Constitution are transcendental and cannot be amended futher a new doctrine of prospective overruling was laid down.
CM: That is fine but something more was there?
Me: Sir, it was held that Article 368 only prescribes the Procedure to amend the Constitution and not the powers.
CM: Yes this was the most important thing. Ok, What was the ratio of Judges of Golaknath case?
Me: Sir, 6:5 judges. (Chairman tried to recall)
CM: What happened after Golaknath?
Me: Sir, the Parliament brought the 24th and 25th amendment. The 24th amendment inserted that Art. 368 includes the power to amend the constitution and a clause was also added which I do not exactly remember.
CM: Then what happened?
Me: These amendments were challenged in the Keshwanand Bharti case where it was held that the Parliament can amend the constitution but it cannot alter the basic structure of the constitution.
CM: And Minerva Mills case?
Me: In this case the basic structure doctrine was confirmed sir.
CM: Tell me what was the matter?
Me: Sir, the 42nd amendment gave primacy to all Directive principles that is Chapter-4 over Chapter-3 that is Fundamental Rights. This was held to be violative of basic structure of the constitution.
CM: You have a hobby Calendar reform, What is it?
Me: Sir, actually we use 2 calendars; the first is the Gregorian Calendar which starts from 1st January and the second is our religious calendar. Our religious Calendar is faulty sir; the Calender reform committee presided by Dr. Meghnada Saha in 1955 suggested reforms which have not been carried out till date and the result is that….(Chairman interrupted)
CM: How do we correct Gregorian Calendar? There is leap year also?
Me: Yes sir; every 4th year is a leap year but every 100th year is not but every 1000th year is again a leap year…..(again interrupted)
CM: Indian Calendar also has; one extra month. That corrects the Calendar?
Me: Yes sir intercalary month is there. (Decided to leave the matter here and not to be argumentative)
CM: What have you done for this hobby of yours?
Me: Sir I am a member of a Calendar Reform Committee with like-minded people and I have also made representations to various Government departments.
CM: There is election of President. How is President elected?
Me: (Mistook it to be US presidential elections). Sir I don’t know the exact procedure sir; but primarily elections are there on State to State basis and the candidate win states and get votes of all delegates from…(Interrupted)
CM: No, no. We have our Presidential elections in June or July?
Me: I am sorry for my mistake, sir. In our Presidential elections a collegium of all MP’s of both houses amd all MLA’s of State Assembly is formed. The total number of votes of an MLA is calculated by a formula….
CM: What is the formula for counting electoral votes?
Me: Sorry sir, I don’t remember the formula, exactly.
CM: Then?
Me: Sir equal number of votes are given to MP’s. Then final election is carried out by Proportional Voting system by a system of single transferable…(interrupted)
CM: What is this Proportional Voting system?
Me: Sir, here the candidates can give vote in priority. Firstly the first priority votes are counted and if a candidate dosent gets 51%..sir, more than 50% then second and then third priority votes are counted.
CM: There was an election where the second and third priority votes were actually counted. Do you know that?
Me: Sir, I think it was the election in which Chief Justice Subba Rao participated.
CM: No Subba Rao lost out rightly to Dr. Zakir Hussain?
Me: Sorry sir; I am not sure then.
CM: You have been associated with a business firm. What is it?
Me: Sir it’s a food processing unit engaged in Pulse Milling and producing Soya Nuggets.
CM: After doing business for so many  years; why do you want to come for civil services?
Me: Sir I had Civil Services in mind from my school time sir; but due to illness of my father who has a stroke and after that vascular dementia, epilepsy etc. I had to join business in 12th standard sir; I even had to leave studies at that time sir; but now sir when my younger brother is incharge of business and I don’t have family responsibilities and I have come here sir.
Transferred to M1 (Male Member).
M1:  What is domain name?
Me: Sir it’s a name given to a website sir for identification. We surf a website by its name which is the domain name itself.
M1: Why do lawyers wear Black Coat?
Me: Sir it’s a British tradition sir. I don’t know more than that.
M1: It is said that Lawyers must wear white coat. Why it is said so and do you agree?
Me: I don’t have any idea in this regard sir.
M1: What is the difference between Rule of Law and Rule by Law?
Me: Sir rule by law is a situation were we try to govern as per the rule laid down by the legislature or administration but rule of law is a British Dicean concept which implies equality before law and equal access to law. The difference is like procedure established by Law and due process of law only.
M1: Have you heard about Justice Krishna Iyer?
Me: Yes sir, he was a great Judge and people friendly too sir.
M1: In which Court he was there?
Me: Sir, Supreme Court and earlier Kerela High Court.
M1: What are the methods of dispute resolution (Again my Hobby)?
Me: Sir there is formal adjudication and alternate dispute resolution system which comprises Arbitration, Conciliation, Mediation…..(interrupted)
M1: Explain the difference between Arbitration and Adjudication?
Me: Sir Arbitration is done under the Arbitration and Conciliation Act 1996; its an informal process sir where the parties themselves can decide on arbitrators, procedure etc. while formal adjudication is done by the formal courts using Civil and Criminal procedural laws.
M1: In Arbitration can you wear white coat?
Me: Sure sir, and I will say coats of all colour for the purpose sir. (Smile)
M1: (Smile) Do you know IP?
Me: Sir it stand for Intellectual Property.
M1: What are different types of Intellectual Property?
Me: Sir we have Patents, Copyright, Trademark, Geographical Indicator and one for Integrated chips too sir, which I don’t remember.
M1: Pick up the Pencil. (Probably to have a view of rings I was wearing).
Me: Picked.
M1: Tell me the number of IP associated with the Pencil?
Me: Sir Trademark is surely there; and if the pencil is manufactured by a special process than patent may also be there.
M1: I am having a Pen. Tell me the number of IP associated with this Pen? (It was uniball pen)
Me: Sir the same two sir; Trademark and Patent.
M1: See this tip of the pen is patented.
CM: Process Patent and Product Patent.
Me: Yes sir.
Transferred to M2. (Female member with extremely charming personality)
M2: What is Street Food (my hobby)?
Me: Mam, its food sold by street vendors and small restaurants.
M2: How can this hobby help you in Service?
Me: Mam, in recent times we are seeing processed food as vital for food security of the people; in my home state Jharkhand we have a Mukhyamantri Daal Bhaat Yojana for delievering processed food, mam, which I will be able to implement with this hobby, mam. Further maam the knowledge of food-processing will be helpful to me at various stages and schemes.
M2: You can also organize street food fairs and handle Tourism sector enterprises.
Me: Yes. That will help surely mam.
M2: You have been in Business for so many years. How will your Business experience help you in service?
Me: Mam I have completed projects on time and that I can do in future also for the Government, infact we completed our Cold storage in 7-8 months (I had been a director in Cold Storage a Pvt. Ltd. Company)….
M2: That is very good; delayed projects are the biggest problem
Me: (cont)…further mam I have knowledge of food processing sector which is vital for the country; I also have interest in food technology mam which will be helpful…(was running out of words here because Mam was too motherly)
M2: Your experience of Management will also help. You have spent so many years in management.
Me: (Relieved) Surely mam.
M2: Do you like Gol-Gappa?
Me: Yes Mam.
Transferred to M3. Male Member. (A bit strict, decided to be hard as the lady earlier was soft).
M3: You have international relations as one of your subjects. There is dispute between Turkey and Greece…?
Me: (In between) Yes sir, Cyprus.
M3: Yes Cyprus is there and many more; and the dispute is one reason that Turkey is not being admitted to EU? Can you tell?
Me: Sir I am aware that Cyprus is a dispute; I also know that Turkey has problems with EU entry but sir I am not aware about the history and details of dispute between Turkey and Greece.
M3: Don’t you think Hygine issues involved with street food?
Me: Sir there are hygiene issues involved with street food but sir the food is cooked in oil sir; above 100 degrees so there is very less chance of bacteria being present further they mostly prepare fresh food everyday while in restraints……(interrupted)
M3: Then why do you take street food
Me: Sir, the body allows and I enjoy sir. That’s the reason sir.
M3: You take street food anywhere or you have some choices?
Me: Sir I make choices.
M3: How do make the choice?
Me: Sir, whenever I go somewhere I enquire about that place that where I will get best street food. When I first came to Delhi I enquired and was told about Chandani Chowk……(was not allowed to complete)
M3: You have Dispute Resolution as your hobby. What kind of disputes you resolve?
(M2, lady from behind; “It is a very good hobby; it will help you as a DM; a DM has to resolve various disputes”)
Me: Sir I have a realization that most of the people we dislike or have dispute with are infact our closest people sir. If we make a list of people we hate or dislike we will find that most of the people in the list will be our close people. This realization helps in dispute resolution sir.
M3: Have you ever been in external disputes, outside your circle of influence?
Me: Yes sir, in 3-4 disputes I have helped exploited people to have access to justice.
M3: Your extracurricular activities are Artificial Limbs, Blood Donation camps etc. How do you do them?
Me: Sir I am a member in few organizations sir; and we collectively undertake these activities.
M3: Have you ever donated blood your-self?
Me: No, sir. We organize blood donation camps sir but I personally haven’t donated blood.
(Don’t know whether this answer was right; few friends suggested that I must have said a lie that is Yes).
Transferred to M4. (Female Member. A bit serious.)
M4: What is Jaipur Foot?
Me: Mam its an organization based in Jaipur which is known for its work in the field of artificial limbs.
M4: Explain the technology of Artificial Limbs?
Me: Mam, we use HDPE pipes as the body of the leg; Plaster of Paris foot is prepared and fitted in the pipe mam and the base which we use that is the toe part is the Jaipur Foot itself.
M4: What is special in Jaipur Foot technology?
Me: Mam its cheap. An artificial limb costs only 1000-1500 rupees.
M4: There is something special with Jaipur Foot?
Me: (A bit nervous realizing that Mam is trying to grill me). Sorry Mam we use Jaipur Foot base but I am not aware mam.
M4: How they tie the limbs?
Me: Mam leather or polyutherene belts are used but I am not very sure of the exact technology mam. (Mam wanted to know about sockets and joints which I did not know).
M4: Heard about Kalam?
Me: Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam mam..(to confirm).. Yes.
M4: What were his achievements?
Me: He was President of India mam. He is known as the missile man,
M4: What special did he do?
Me: Mam he was the head of the Integrated Missile Guided Program and for his scientific achievements he was awarded Bharat Ratna in 1997.
M4: Why was he popular?
Me: Mam he was fond of Children and a very simple person famous for these things.
M4: He has written some books?
Me: Yes mam, Wings of Fire and Vision 2020.
M4: Have you read them?
Me: No mam, I purchased Vision 2020 but I have not read it mam.
M4: There has been a new-book by Dr, Kalam? Are you aware?
Me: No Mam.
M4: Its 3 Billion
Me: Thank you mam.
M4: What is the difference between invention and innovation?
Me: Mam, Invention is making something completely new, out-of-box idea mam but innovation is improving upon an existing thing mam; modifying it.
M4: What innovations have you done in your industry?
Me: In our Pulse Milling industry there is need to sprinkle oil on whole Pulses and keep it in Tank for 48 hours so that the husk loosens. We are using a technology where we don’t mix oil mam and do without it.
Then How many hours you keep pulses in tank?
Me: mam, we process pulses directly; we give only 6-8 hours as time is required to cool; the pulses go through an emery roll mam and are heated up…..(interrupted), (I also fumbled a bit in this answer)
M4: What have you done for Quality Control and betterment?
Me: Mam, after the Mains exam I have installed a Colour Sortex Machine. Colour Sortex is a revolution in grain milling which separates grains as per colour. We should have a Government program for its promotion mam.
Finally transferred back to the Chairman. The Mighty Paul sir.
CM: In Bihar/Jharkhand there is a disease called Kala-Azar? (Home State- Jharkhand)
Me:  Yes sir,  Kala-Azar
CM: Tell in details about the disease?
Me: Sir it’s a disease in rural area sir, but I don’t know the details about it sir.
CM: Difference between Epidemic and Pandemic?
Me: (Thinking for 3-4 seconds) Sorry sir, I am not sure.
CM: There is problem of flood in Bihar. Even without rain there will be flood. (Sarcastically). What is the reason?
Me: Sir we had the problem of flood in Bengal and Jharkhand too…(interrupted)
CM: In Jharkhand I am not sure but in Bengal Surely.
Me:..yes sir, we have controlled the flood there with multi-purpose projects and specially DVC sir. In the case of Bihar there is uncontrolled water coming from Nepal sir and we have not been able to build projects in Nepal. We have a Kosi project sir but work is moving very slowly on that sir.
CM: What is the solution?
Me: Sir we have to take Nepal in confidence and sir only after that…..(Interrupted)
CM: You talked of Nepal; Why we have difficulty dealing with them?
Me: Sir there is trust deficit in Nepal sir; between the parties themselves and between India and few parties of Nepal; sir, with Sri Lanka and Maldives we have the privilege of having good relations with all parties but we don’t have the same privilege in Nepal and Bangladesh sir; so if we move with some parties immediately there will be anti-India rhetoric by some others; but the present PM, Baburam Bhattrai seems to be India friendly sir.
CM: What is the problem there?
Me: Sir in 2005 all the parties united against the King sir but they have not been able to agree after that. There are deep divisions in Nepal and they have not been able to complete the constitution sir.
CM: What is the biggest dispute?
Me: Sir its about induction of Maoist cadres in the Nepalese Army sir.
CM:  What should we do with Nepal?
Me: Sir we should try to open with all parties and seek a reconciliation to complete the Constitution. Then we should facilitate the transition of Nepal to a functioning democracy. Once Nepal becomes a functioning democracy; it will help sir.
CM: OK. Thank you.
I get up. Wish “Thank You to you all”. The Board is again not interested in wishes. I exit.
(The Chairman was staring; throughout my way to the exit).
I came out; the candidate next to me was sitting outside and gave me a Thumbs Up. I also returned and went to the Central Hall to collect the belongings and then came out.
It was 20-25 minutes interview. I was third to be interviewed and out by 3.35 PM.

About the mighty Paul sir: Paul sir is extremely smart and good-looking person. He is pakka police wala. He can dig everything out of you. In short he is extremely smart person. Very dangerous. You can’t bluff him and get away. Yet he was cordial and smiling too. Though his smiles were few and not very large. He asks questions one by one and will try to confuse you. He will ask in small steps and will ask…then….then. My advice to others: don’t say a lie before him. He will catch in no time. Answer only when you are confident; don’t beat around the bush. Paul is will show very few emotions and will not smile. But that is good too in a manner that you will be careful.
About M1: He was probably a generalist; probably an ex-bureaucrat. He asked general questions from all of us as transpired from talks the next day during medical.
About M2: She was probably a professor in literature as we came to know later. She was extremely helpful and did also tried to answer M3 on my behalf in 2-3 questions which I didn’t pay much attention to.
About M3: He was probably another ex-bureaucrat. No special analysis for him.
About M4: She was probably a professor from engineering background as she asked technical questions from all of us.
Myself: I tried to be cool, calm and humble which I was able to. The interview went in a consistent pace and there were no ups and downs. Very few cross-questions were there but supplementary questions were asked many times. As it transpired there were lit of mind-games being played and the board tried to balance each other and used all techniques. I answered slowly and took few pauses of 1-2 seconds in between. Overall I think it was a good interview but as it was Paul Sir I don’t expect the marks to be too high.
THANKS for Bearing. Please do comment. Thank You!