The Tribune - Spectrum

Sunday, March 12, 2000

The Constitution long before the review
by H.Y. Sharada Prasad
Latter-day critic is critiqued
by M.L. Raina
Bhopal gas disaster: 16 bleak years on
by Ashu Pasricha
Detention is denial of dignity
by Gurdarshan Singh Dhillon
Forests and tribals: not an idyllic link
by Surinder S. Jodhka

The Constitution long before the review
by H.Y. Sharada Prasad

WHO is the author of our Constituion? To that, many people would say: "What a question! Every one knows it is Dr Ambedkar."

But Ambedkar himself shied away from claiming that title for two reasons. One, as he often pointed out, he was only giving expression to a consensus that had been reached after many compromises in the Drafting Committee of the Constituent Assembly. Two, he could not hide the fact that in many areas the Constitution fell far short of what he would have liked.

But there is one man who literally wrote our Constitution. His name, little known, is Prem Behari Narain Raizada (Saxena), son of Brij Behari Narain Raizada of Delhi, although the family originally came from Rampur. The Constituent Assembly, which met on December 9, 1946, concluded its labours and adopted the Constitution on November 6, 1949. The entire document was then written out in his own hand by Prem Behari in a flowing italic style in the best calligraphic tradition of our country.

This original version was then signed by all the members of the Constituent Assembly in January 1950. The Constitution itself came into force on the 26th of that month. Photolithographed copies of it were then made at the office of the Survey of India in Dehra Dun.

I had seen a couple of them displayed in exhibitions and had marvelled at the quality of the craftsmanship, particularly because of the art work lavished on it by one of our most eminent painters, Nandalal Bose. Each page had a frame and at the beginning of each part of the Constitution, Nandalal Bose had depicted some scene from our national experience. In doing so he gave us a gallery of some of the greatest figures of our history.

And now I have become the proud possessor of a copy of this beautiful volume because the government had the welcome idea of reprinting it to mark the 50th anniversary of the Republic. Once again the work was entrusted to the Survey of India, which has done a splendid job of it.

The articles and clauses of the Constitution are available in various editions for the use of lawyers and legislators. But Nandalal Bose’s outstanding art work can be seen only by those who have access to this collectors’ item. It ought to be better known. To the best of my knowledge only the page which gives the Preamble which begins with the words "We the people of India...." has been reproduced and displayed in public offices. It would be a good idea if all the illustrations were brought out in the form of a separate publication, for they show an eminent artist contemplating our heritage from the Mohenjo Daro period to our own days.

The Vedic period is represented by a scene of gurukula and the epic period by a visual of Rama, Sita and Lakshmana returning homeward and another of Krishna propounding the Gita to Arjuna on the battlefield. Then there are depictions of the lives of the Buddha and Mahavira, followed by scenes from the courts of Ashoka and Vikramaditya. Other great figures of our history who are represented are Akbar, Shivaji, Guru Gobind Singh, Tipu Sultan, and Lakshmibai.

The freedom movement is delineated by line drawings of Mahatma Gandhi’s Dandi march and his tour of Noakhali as the great peacemaker, and of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose saluting the Mahatma from abroad and asking for his blessings in the war of India’s liberation.

There are also beautiful renderings of our landscape and some of the masterpieces of our art. Even the decorations used for the borders exemplify in the Santiniketan style.

This is not a book I would turn to if I had to look up what the Constitution has said on any particular subject. For one thing, it does not contain an index. Nor does it have the amendments which have been adopted in the last half century. It is too large (16 inches by 12) and too heavy (3.75 kg) even to keep in one’s lap. But merely to look at the signatures of our founding fathers which are given at the end in the very colours of the various inks they had used arouses nostalgic memories.

There are 11 pages of these signatures which begin immediately below the list of languages in the Eighth Schedule. The first to sign appears to have been Jawaharlal Nehru. For some unexplained reason the first page has a preponderance of Constitution-makers from the South — B. Patthabhi Sitaramayya, N. Gopalaswami (without Ayyangar), O.P. Ramaswamy Reddy, Alladi Krishnaswami Iyer, Ammu Swaminathan, T. Prakasam, K. Santhanam, K. Venkata Rao, then an illegible name, then G. Durgabai, M. Thrumala Rau, M. Anantasayanam Iyengar and N. Sanjiva Reddy. The names of Abul Kalam Azad, Vallabhbhai Patel and B.R. Ambedkar appear in the first column of the next page along with those of Baldev Singh, Amrit Kaur, Jagjivan Ram, John Matthai, Syama Prasad Mookerjee, Jairamdas Daulatram, K.C. Neogy, P. Subbarayan and C. Subramaniam. The very last signature is that of Feroze Gandhi. The president of the Constituent Assembly seems to have affixed his signatures after all the other members had signed. Nobody seems to have thought of leaving a special place for him, and so he has signed his name in the space next to the list of languages.

He has also signed in two languages, first in Devanagari and then in the Roman script. Most others have signed in English, the outstanding exceptions being Abul Kalam Azad in Urdu and Purushottam Das Tandon in Devanagari.

While almost all have managed to sign within the limited space provided, four or five have been unable to do so and their signatures extend well into the border. Particularly notable is the flourish of the signature of Dr Sachchidananda Sinha, the grand old man of Bihar who had the privilege of being the temporary chairman of the Assembly before Rajen Babu was elected to that position.

One signature which is not there in the Constitution is that of Mahatma Gandhi. He was no longer alive when the Constitution was adopted. But he was very much there when the Constituent Assembly met. One can say that without him there would have been no Constituent Assembly. Those who argue that all that the Assembly did was to rehash the Government of India Act of 1935 miss one important point — namely, that the Constitution is not just a charter of political freedoms but embodies something of the vision of social change that Mahatma Gandhi preached and practised.

It has sometimes been remarked that the Constituent Assembly did not provide organised representation for several segments of our population such as the Muslims, Hindu communal groups and the working classes. But this could be said of the founding fathers of the United States as well since the franchise there was then so notoriously narrow and did not provide representation for women, blacks and many sections of the propertyless.

It has also been remarked that Gandhi himself was not much of a democrat because he ruled the Congress in a very authoritarian way. But the miracle of Gandhi is that though born in a Dewan’s family, through his experiments with truth he evolved into the voice and symbol of the poorest of the poor. He shed raiment after raiment and became truly the shirtless one. Gandhi’s concern for the poor ran like a thread through the debates of the Constitution makers.

As for the Constituent Assembly itself, it is true that is was a creature of the British rulers’ statement of May 16, 1946. But as Jawaharlal Nehru, the main advocate for years of the idea of a Constituent Assembly drawing up free India’s scheme of governance, remarked in an editorial in the National Herald on July 16, 1946.: "It is certainly to some extent a creation of the British Power. But even more so it is a creation of circumstances which none can ignore. Taking birth out of the womb of the circumstances it will grow of itself and function as it chooses. Who is going to put an end to it or dissolve it? Lawyers and constitutionalists may ponder over these problems but there is something beyond the lawyer’s textbooks and precedent in these happening, and vital forces are at play..."

Elsewhere Jawaharlal Nehru declared that the Constituent Assembly would not be bound down by any conditions: "The Constituent Assembly as such is not bound by any conditions. The members of the Assembly can change anything and everything by mutual agreement...So far as we are concerned we shall act as a sovereign body. We are going to the Constituent Assembly in a constructive spirit, and not to create trouble or to wreck it. As long as we feel that the Constituent Assembly is drawing the charter of India’s freedom, we shall work in it."

When the Constituent Assembly met, the British had not yet quit India. In the very first few days it was apparent that it functioned exactly in the sovereign manner that Nehru had indicated when he said that everything would be guided by our own interpretation and everything would be examined in the context of Indian Independence.

In the end, the Constituent Assembly produced a document which, in the words of Dr Sunil Khilnani, "became a programmatic manifesto, setting out elaborate prescriptions for the shape of the future society...The Constitution did not see itself as merely expressing the already existing hopes and fears of the society; rather, it took the view that preferences had to be created and nurtured, that law should reform rather than merely express the morality and customs of society."

H.Y. Sharada Prasad is a former adviser to the Prime Minister of India. This review article appeared in The Asian Age, New Delhi.

The illustrations are from another commemorative volume brought out by Taxman, New Delhi.Top


Latter-day critic is critiqued
Write View
by M.L. Raina

Why Read the Classics? by Italo Calvino and translated from Italian by Martin McLaughlin. Pantheon Books, New York. Pages x+278. $ 26.

Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human by Harold Bloom. Riverhead Books, New York. Pages xx+745. $ 35.

CRITICISM is the oddest and most parasitic of activities. Dr Johnson denounced it in his periodical The Idler and worried about those less gifted than himself setting up shop and trading in the critical equivalent of prejudice, pettiness and malice. "He whom nature has made weak, and idleness keeps ignorant may yet support his vanity by the name of critic." A statement eminently applicable to much academic criticism today.

Johnson’s archetypal critic, Dick Minim, apprenticed to a brewer, "proses on about Shakespeare’s faults". The Dick Minims of the academe, also apprenticed to a heady concoction of theory and prejudice, similarly prose on about the canon and its "vice-like grip on the reader". In his 1779 play, "The Critic", Sheridan’s hero Mr Puff uses his puffery to peddle whichever side of the critical debate he happens to be on. Today’s descendants of the irrelevant Minim and the unregenerate Puff would lose "the very spring of thought and action", to quote Hazlitt in "On the Pleasures of Hating", if they did not hate the universally accepted classics of literature. Indeed, Bloom sees today’s academic critics thriving on "plain resentment".

Calvino and Bloom provide the much-needed reminder that the cannon is not dead and that classics such as Shakespeare and the ones Calvino so lovingly writes about are perennial sources of insight and instruction, as are the great epics of our own culture with their intricate tapestry of narrative layering calling for rare attentiveness and open-mindedness.

A novelist of uncommon perception, Italo Calvino is also a discerning critic. Just as his novels are models of economy and concentration both in conception and execution, so also his criticism of literature is marked by a relaxed sense of pleasure derived in short and tasteful doses. His critical comments are meditations on what he thinks are the books that have survived through the centuries and become classics. In critical collections such as "The Uses of Literature" and "Six Memos for the Next Millennium", he displays and intellectual playfulness that is far removed from the grim formality of academic criticism.

As he says in "Uses of Literature", "Literature is like an ear that can hear things beyond the understanding of politics, an eye that can see beyond the colour-spectrum of politics". In the present collection, possibly the last posthumous one, he just evesdrops on his writers and looks under their verbal surface to both hear the voice of the solitary individualism of the writers and to discover through close looking the unique quality of their work. There is no attempt to coerce meanings or to distort them through debunking partisanship. All that he aims at and masterfully succeeds in conveying is the peculiar salience of the works in question. Their power to draw us outside ourselves in order to see patterns of vision and craftsmanship that constitute their claim to greatness.

The title essay (as well as some others in the present volume were published before in "Uses") lays down criteria that define a classic. Though he lists several, the more important are durability, re-readability, innovativeness and unmatched stylistic daring. As Calvino puts it, "a classic is one which constantly generates a pulviscular cloud of critical discourse about it, but which always shakes the particles off".

On this basis, you make the book your own, discovering new things every time you re-read, reading into and beyond it, as Bloom does with Shakespeare’s plays. The element of surprise that accompanies successive re-readings makes you aware of the different tonalities that generate different trains of thought and perception.

In other words, every time you read a classic, you read a new book no matter how often you have already read it. In spite of the droopy academic hatchet-men chafing under their collars, age hardly withers or custom stales the kaleidoscopic variety of a classic.

Calvino is a voluptuary of literature, but a chaste one. Not for him the eroticised play of Barthes’ jouissance. He savours his authors with a caressing concern for their inviolate individuality. In Ovid he sees many "constants" rather than simply the compulsions of male and female desire. In Homer’s "Odyssey" he discovers several stories and not just the main one of Ulysses’s departure from or return to his wife Penelope. In Ariosto’s poem, he spots the "emblem for the society of present or future readers". In Pliny he traces the difference between the poet and the philosopher and regards "Natural History" as both an etymological marvel and a poetic work whose scientific content draws upon the poet’s sense of "beauty and harmony".

In the Italian novelist Gadda, Calvino feels the outbursts of phobias and misanthrophy behind the hard carapace of courtesy and good manners. My own recent reading of this novelist does not, however, support the above reactions, and I am sorry not to see Elsa Morante, a powerful voice in modern Italian writing, in Calvino’s pantheon of Italian classics.

Though Calvino ranges through a wide swathe of writers from Dickens, Tolstoy, Stendhal, James, Conrad and many others, it is to the Italian writers that he pays his deserved fealty. Dante is the paradigmatic poet just as Gadda is the novelist who draws Calvino’s warmest affection and attention. Ovid and other classical writers in his language attract his best critical sympathies in a way that recalls Leavis’s inwardness with the English tradition, but without the latter’s vitroil and censoriousness.

"Why read the Classics" is a leisurely ramble through the enduring works of literature. It disturbs us mildly in that it makes us rethink our settled reactions to them. But it compensates us with its unusual finds and trawls of wisdom, like the plants and other fauna Calvino discovers for the first time in Pliny.

Shakespeare does not figure in Calvino’s book under review but he has written feelingly about him in "Six Memos" where he describes the Bard’s penchant for "weightless gravity" as also his "particular and existential inflection that makes it possible for his characters to distance themselves from their drama". Harold Bloom’s involvement is as a defender of the Bard against the depredations of post-modernists, new historicists, cultural critics, feminists and other flaming bands of iconoclasts.

Claiming in an earlier book "The Western Canon", that literary criticism is an "elitist phenomenon" as against cultural criticism — a "dismal social science" — he proceeds in the present book not only to rescue Shakespeare from ideological criticism of all hues, but, more to the purpose, to establish the Bard’s centrality in humanising us by inventing us as whole beings. Bloom is a messianic critic seeing in Shakespeare the essence of western culture. Avoiding Calvino’s gentlemanly engagements with literature, the proselytiser in him would nonetheless support the Italian’s concern for the classical heritage in which the Bard figures conspicuously.

Bloom disarms his interlocutors by daring them to answer the question: why must Shakespeare be the cognate one, who else is there? "Shakespear’s eminence was located in a variety of persons. No one, before or since Shakespeare, made so many separate selves," he claims. This is not the boast of a xenophobe holding out for his country’s most prominent literary icon. Nor does it connote an exaggerated sense of national prestige which the Bard embodies both in himelf and in the fact that he has become the most profitable cultural export. This is a claim put forth as a result of decades of teaching the plays and thinking about them inside and outside the classroom. Not surprisingly, though Bloom is a hard-driving quintessential academic, this book is a lucid exposition of the plays presented without the least concession to academic prudery.

Though universalism is not a fashionable word in the current critical lexicon, particularly with the post-modernists, it is on that basis alone that Bloom offers Shakespeare a pride of place in world literature. The very ubiquity of Shakespeare’s presence, "here, there, everywhere" testifies to his acceptance by the world and, I think in that sense, his universalism is more a phenomenon than a value. Not simply through performances on stage and film but, more interestingly, through parody and burlesque we have internalised him and made him coterminous with our sentient being. Bloom calls this absorption by us "invention of the human", which I understand as a capacity on the part of Shakespeare to project in his characters what is distinctive in humanity without any external trappings.

For Bloom the Bard embodies paradoxes which account for the protean quality of his character-creation. Speaking of Hamlet, he says, "Over-familiar yet always unknown, the enigma of Hamlet is the greater enigma of Shakespeare himself, a vision that is everything and nothing, a person who was (according to Borges) everyone and no one, an art so infinite that it contains us..." by suggesting the paradoxical nature of the Shakespearean plays, Bloom forestalls the possibility of reading them through the tinted glasses of ideology or any other predetermined programme. Ironically, it was Marx who felt the paradoxes in both Greek drama and Shakespeare and remained a blinker-free admirer of the playwright.

In Shakespeare, as in Jane Austen, the real world is resolutely intransigent and incapable of achieving completeness that it seemed to point to. There is in both a tough-minded realism which allows both to navigate through this world with a clearsighted acceptance of the problematic and the defective. Bloom sees this quality in Shakespeare as a response to the multiplicity of character and circumstance and credits Shakespeare with the superior faculty of embedding this multiplicity in the many dimensions of character — as he implies in his references to Lear and Hamlet.

"Hamlet ceases to represent himself and becomes something other than a single self...a universal figure and not a picnic of selves." Similarly, Lear, Macbeth, Timon (to a lesser degree) and Falstaff (that total embodiment of the sins and sincerities of which human beings are capable) become more than themselves.

Shakespeare, as Bloom concedes and as Calvino would say of all classics, achieves "secular transcendence" — a mode of being themselves and yet representative of a larger humanity. The two critics help us proceed in the direction of that keen insight. Though both books are in the nature of personal responses to great writers, they yet possess a copious comprehension which enables them to take in the judgments of other critics, so that the personal does not become merely personalised.

To modify one of the French Lords in "All is Well that Ends Well", the two between them confirm our belief in "the web of life" being a "mixed yarn" which the classic artists not only weave but also unweave for us with all its irreducible intricacy.Top


Bhopal gas disaster: 16 bleak years on
by Ashu Pasricha

Environment and Health in Developing Countries edited by Manas Chatterji, Mohan Munasinghe and Rabin Ganguli. A.P.H. Publishing, New Delhi. Pages 422. Rs. 1000.

CONSIDER a nightmarish vision of the future for an environmentally careless world: resources are so scarce that the people can barely eke out a living: congestion is so intense that it is difficult to find an undisturbed place to sleep: water is either undrinkable or inaccessible: waste collection has virtually ceased, and severe air pollution marks the putrid smell of decaying waste.

As a prediction of a future catastrophe this may seem unnecessarily scary but it could easily be a contemporary account of environment conditions in a particularly disadvantaged urban neighbourhood. In short, what many futurists would view as an environmental disaster is already a reality for many poor urban households.

In this futurist nightmare, environmental degradation is the underlying reason for poverty and ill-health. A combination of environmental damage has undermined human health and material welfare.

In the contemporary urban reality, poverty is the more fundamental cause of misery. This is not to say that urban squalor arises simply because the residents cannot afford better conditions. These are typically more subtle economic, political and, yes, environmental factors at work. But while it may be simple to blame poverty for the environmental degradation and ill-health in slums and shanty towns, it would also be simply wrong to say that their poverty is the result of environmental degration.

All this and a lot more is the central theme of the book, "Environment and Health in Developing Countries" under review. It contains selected papers presented at an international meeting on environment and health held at the Institute of Management, Calcutta, in which many organisation like the World Bank, WHO and several UN agencies took part.

These papers examine the various aspects of the health and environmental linkage. Articles dealing with general topics and having a worldwide scope are grouped together in the beginning, followed by country-specific case studies from the international arena. Next several Indian case studies are set out and finally there is a cluster of papers on the Bhopal Union Carbide gas disaster.

In addressing the health-poverty nexus in contemporary urban centres, the relevant environmental problems are quite different from the most commonly debated issues in international arena such as global warming, acid rain, the depletion of the ozone layer and biodiversity. There is some doubt whether a conventional environmental perspective is even appropriate.

Now a new concept encompassing social environment is also being applied. This allows one to incorporate problems like violence within the health-poverty nexus and explore more fully the complex health problems which the urban poor so often face.

The World Development Report reflects an important aspect of environmental distress. The more serious household and community-level environmental problems such as inadequate water and sanitation facilities and indoor air pollution are more prevalent in cities and neighbourhoods of poor countries. Many urban problems such as air pollution are more severe in industrialised mega cities with weak pollution control programmes, most often located in middle income countries. And when it comes to problems such as global warming or depletion of the ozone layer, it is typically the wealthy countries which are the major villains.

Accompanying a shift in the scale and immediacy of environmental problems is a shift from issues of health to those of sustainability. While the threat of intense environmental damage in and around homes affects primarily the health of the inhabitants, the threat of the broader environmental burdens is more likely to undermine human welfare over a period of time.

Some papers suggest a broad integrated approach in which the net benefits of economic activities are maximised, subject to maintaining the productive assets and providing a social safety net to meet the basic needs of the poor.

Some analysts support a strong sustainability rule which require separate preservation of each category of critical asset (for example, manufactured, natural, socio-cultural and human capital), assuming that they are compliments rather than substitutes.

Other researchers have argued in favour of weak sustainability which seeks to maintain the aggregate value of the real stock of assets assuming a high degree of substitutability among various types.

At the same time, the underlying bases of economic valuation, optimisation and efficient use of resources may not be easily applied to ecological objectives like protecting biodiversity or to social goals such as promoting public participation and empowerment, thereby focusing on the relevance of non-economic indicators of social and environmental status, as well as on techniques like multi-criteria analysis to facilitate trade-offs among a variety of such non-commensurable objectives. Further, uncertainty about the future will require the use of methods based on decision analysis.

In the section on case studies in India two articles are on plague and dengue fever in Surat. The first describes the results based on a study of the clinical profile of a cluster of pneumonitis patients between July and September, 1994, in Surat. The study finds that the disease predominantly affected young males who had significant exposure to contaminated water.

While the second focused on the dengue epidemic in Surat in the post-monsoon period in 1988. The study revealed that the majority of dengue haemorrhagic fever (DHF) cases occurred in children between three and nine years of age and were more common in girls.

Several papers have discussed the Bhopal disaster following the gas leak from the Union Carbide plant in December, 1984, in which thousands of people were killed and hundreds of thousand were injured. The medical system was overwhelmed in the acute phase of the disaster. In the course of a few days approximately 180,000 out-patients and 1100 in-patients crowded a 1000-bed hospital where many died even before receiving health facilities.

Even today despite huge expenditure on medical relief, most medical facilities remain appallingly inadequate and patient needs are unmet. In addition, the expenditure on environmental and economic rehabilitation had also fallen below the necessary levels.

In essence, the study had noted many shortfalls in the documentation of death and disability claims of victims.

Obtaining the documents required huge bribes, making the system open to much abuse, further aggravating the problems of the hapless victims.

The average compensation that had been paid out has been less than the minimum range indicated by the Supreme Court. Processing of claims had been slow and lacked transparency. The government’s insistence on documentation (in its attempt to prevent bogus claims), had exposed the system’s inability to reject claims on the basis of documents obtained through bribery, and a systematic denial of justice to the poor.

The studies have also found that the Bhopal Gas Leak Act of 1985 did not clearly give directions for dividing the compensation money between individuals and institutions. In addition the legislation did not consider the social and economic dimensions of the need.

Due to border-line financial conditions of many, the disaster has resulted in severe financial hardship and had a large economic and social impact that has not been fully appreciated. Seeing all this, one is tempted to speculate what would have been the fate of Union Carbide, the government and other agencies involved if the disaster had occurred in the USA.

In fine, the book contains well researched articles on the deteriorating environmental conditions and the impact on health in the developing countries. World environment is taken note of in a broader context, including economic, social and political factors, in addition to the physical environment. Top


Detention is denial of dignity
by Gurdarshan Singh Dhillon

Human Rights in Pre-trial Detention by Chandra Mohan Upadhyay A.P.H. Publishing, New Delhi. Pages 212. Rs. 500.

IN view of the increasing number of cases of torture and death in police custody, the issue of human rights of detainees has assumed great importance in recent years. Chandra Mohan Upadhyay has sought to expose the grave violation of human rights in pre-trial detention cases in India. So far, no serious academic study has been taken up in this area. The book under review aims at providing a coherent picture of international and national standards relating to pre-trial detentions. It presents a critical review of the provisions of the Constitution and important criminal legislation.

The author begins with a discussion on the concept of human rights and its implications for crime prevention and criminal justice. The dignity of a human being is of fundamental importance. It is a basic human right from which other rights during pre-trial detention follow. Along with the human freedoms laid down in the Constitution and the national law, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights provide the necessary basis for human rights in the period of pre-trial detention.

Discussion on the evolution of human right standards during pre-trial detention is followed by a discussion of international standards under the sub-heads of presumption of innocence, protection from arbitrary arrest, notification of the grounds of arrest, detainee’s appearance before a judicial or other authority, access to counsel and the length of pre-trial detention.

The author makes a brilliant survey of international human right laws which call upon states to use pre-trial detention as a means of last resort and abolish the practice of extra-legal, arbitrary and summary execution and unacknowledged detention and enforced disappearance. While striking a balance between the requirements of criminal justice and crime prevention, the international human right laws grant to the accused persons the right to a fair trial, to the presumption of innocence and to appeal against conviction. The law underlines the need to have effective supervision of places of detention by impartial authorities in order to ensure humane treatment.

The author then proceeds to examine the national standards in the area of pre-trial detention. He observes that the conditions in which pre-trial detainees are held are often the worst in the national prison system. A survey of national legal system includes an appraisal of the Indian Penal Code. Criminal Procedure Code, Evidence Act and the Indian Constitution and rulings and directions of the Supreme Court.

Non-implementation and non-observance of the existing standards in most of the jails in the country is most appalling. The need to educate the police and prison authorities on the human rights of prisoners is emphasised. To remedy the situation it is suggested that a new all- India jail manual should be prepared to serve as a model for the entire country. The government has been urged to initiate coordinated action at national and international levels for the humanisation of criminal justice and effective implementation of human rights standards pertaining to pre-trial detention.

One full chapter is devoted to a review a national standards relating to the administration of juvenile justice as embodied in the Juvenile Justice Act 1986. The Act has not been implemented in its true spirit. As a result, conditions in juvenile homes are appalling and the task of reformation and rehabilitation of the juveniles remains a distant dream. The author pleads that steps should be taken to provide free legal aid to juvenile offenders at the state expense.

The author gives useful suggestions to make the police accountable to people and make its functioning transparent. He lauds the role of the National Human Rights Commission, whereas the state-level human rights commissions have been criticised for not providing speedy and effective redressal of complaints of human rights violations.

The scope of the book could have been widened by making a survey of the militancy-affected states like Punjab, Kashmir, Assam, etc. Violence witnessed in these states has been very largely due to the cumulative effect of the unbridled authority given to the police and security forces to ride rough shod over the rebels and indulge in illegalities and brutalities which result in fake encounters, arbitrary arrests, disappearances, inhuman torture and custodial deaths.

An in-depth study of the causes of militancy in these states has revealed that often it has been the obnoxious behaviour of the security forces that proved counterproductive and pushed so many youngmen into militancy. Hundreds of detainees are still languishing in the jails of Punjab without trial for the past so many years. There are no grounds for their detention for such a long period. A book on human rights must take cognisance of this.

On the whole, the book, is of immense value to human rights activists, academicians, policy-makers and all those who deal with criminal justice.Top


Forests and tribals: not an idyllic link
by Surinder S. Jodhka

A new Moral Economy for India’s Forests? Discourses of Community and Participation edited by Roger Jeffery and Nandini Sundar. Sage Publications, New Delhi. Pages 305. Rs 265.

EMERGENCE of "new" social movements during the eighties is a significant development in Indian society and politics in many different ways. "New" mobilisation by women, farmers, tribals, dalits and ethnic groups has not only articulated new sets of demands, but also questioned the very idea of state- centric paradigm of development. Apart from being a programme of social change, development has been an important source of legitimacy for the post-colonial states of the Third World. These "new" mobilisations have pointed to the negative impact which the policies and programmes of development are producing for those on the margin of Indian society.

It is against this background that a new thinking has started emerging on development in India. Concepts like "civil society", "community" and "participation" have come to be invoked to make "development" meaningful and pro-people. It was also around this time that the role of non-governmental organisations as mediating agencies between the state and the people began to be emphasised in India.

The programmes of joint forest management (JFM) formally initiated during the late eighties are one concrete case where the concepts of "community" and "participation" have been put into practice. It was an effort at creating "a new moral economy for the subordinate groups in Indian forests". It involves recognising "the moral legitimacy of the claims of the local people to access to forests", the claims which had until recently been denied to them.

This edited volume by Roger Jeffery and Nandini Sundar brings together papers which critically examine the various aspects of the new discourses on "community" and "participation" in the context of the programmes of the join forest management. The running theme of different papers in the volume is that these new concepts or discourses, though appear to provide a more democratic perspective on things like development and conservation, are not without problems.

The concept of community, for example, has had a long and rather problematic status in the history of social sciences. Communities are commonly understood as collectivities of "small, homogenous, territorially bound, ascriptive units in which people enjoy face-to-face interactions". They are supposed to characterise the social organisation of pre-modern and traditional societies. In the classical evolutionary theories of social change, societies get differentiated and hierarchised with the process of industrialisation and modernisation.

However, closer empirical researches carried out by anthropologists have shown that the actual structures of "pre-modern" or "traditional" societies were far from being homogenous. "Communities, including tribal ones, were often hierarchical and conflict-ridden rather than homogenous". Furthermore, individuals were caught in overlapping circles of relationships which go beyond the boundaries of any single community. "Communities did not come readymade and available to be mobilised for different causes"; they were often a matter of construction and mobilisation.

Apart from the introductory chapter, this point has also been made in a number of other papers in the volume. Anil Agrawal traces the history of the term "community" in western social science and critically examines its contemporary uses. He identifies two different senses in which the term is understood. In the first, community is supposed to imply a "shared understanding and action orientation" and in its second usage, community is understood "as a form of social organisation".

This distinction, according to Agrawal, is crucial, particularly when the term is being invoked in the new conservation policies. The proposals to involve community in conservation generally approached it in the latter sense — that is, as a social organisation — while crucial for conservation would be its first meaning — that is, shared understandings and action orientation. However, one does not always follow from the other.

Sumit Guha too questions the simplistic notion of tribal communities as being "always integrated with ecology" and in "total harmony with the forest". On the basis of his research, he argues that "far from being congealed by some unreflective ethos", the tribal communities are "sensitive to the distribution of power, to scarcity and to the pulls of markets".

K. Shivakumar also criticises the new initiatives to involve communities in forest management for not acknowledging the fact that even the tribalness of certain scheduled tribes is only a recent phenomenon, an outcome of the policies of the colonial state.

On the basis of her study of the Great Himalayan National Park, Amita Baviskar points to the fact that villages in the park area were internally differentiated. They were not averse to participating in commercial economy and were increasingly doing so. However, when it came to demanding their "traditional subsistence rights", villagers often projected themselves as if they were undifferentiated communities.

What is true of community is also true of "participation". Who, in the name of community, "participated"? Villagers were rarely consulted while the agenda were being framed or the priorities of a given programme were being decided. The views of the villagers or the tribals on forests and their conservation find no place in official thinking on joint management.

Savyasachi, in his paper on the Kuianka tribe of Orissa, explores their views on the forest in the larger context of development. Contrary to the forest bureaucracy’s fixation with the destructive character of shifting cultivation, Savyasachi found the Kuiankas being careful judges of the place of shifting cultivation within the larger universe of forests, on the one hand, and the market, on the other hand. However, he contends, the Kuianka worldview and understanding of forests had no place in the schemes like JFM.

In another paper, Shilpa Vasavada, Abha Mishra and Crispin Bates provide a fascinating account of the new "committee culture" that has been officially introduced at the village level in the name "people’s participation" in forest management and other development projects. Committees meant different things to different people. For government officials, the formation of village level committees was a way of making their presence felt in village affairs. For the villagers, on the other hand, these multiple committees were a mechanism of getting more and more benefits from the government in the form of employment and ensuring village development.

In her paper on women’s representation and roles in "gender" policy in joint forest management, Catherine Locke argues that currently there is no adequate conceptual or operational basis for gender planning in JFM. Though the need for women’s participation was emphasised, they were treated as an undifferentiated and homogenous category, ignoring caste and community differences among them, a point also made by Mariette Correa in another paper on JFM in Uttara Kannada. Women’s participation was seen to be useful only for the "special" knowledge and values about forests they were believed to have. Such an approach depoliticised the question of gender.

Locke argues that "women’s knowledge and values about the environment were not essentialist links between women and the environment but were social institutions that have been created and were constantly recreated or eroded by dynamic social relations". She also suggests ways to institutionalise gender sensitivity in JFM policy practice which would strengthen women’s bargaining strength.

N.C. Saxena and Madhu Sarin in their paper provide an assessment of the Western Ghats forestry and environmental project in Karnataka. In another paper, Bhaskar Vira looks at the "community-bureaucracy interface" in the process of implementing joint forest management. He pleads for micro-level ethnographic studies of the actual implementation of the programme and the interaction between village communities and the local bureaucrats at the field level.

On the whole, the different papers in the book provide an extremely useful and critical understanding of the new initiatives that have gained currency in contemporary debates on development in India and abroad.