Maintaining that the probe into the multi-crore scam during the tenure of former Telecom Minister A. Raja was complete, the agency opposed the plea of Janata Party president Subramanium Swamy.
Mr. Swamy sought the probe alleging that Mr. Chidambaram, the then Finance Minister, was party to conspiracy with Mr. Raja in deciding the price for spectrum.
At the outset, both the CBI and the Centre questioned the maintainability of Mr. Swamy’s plea saying he has filed a similar application in the trial court and the issue has to be decided by the Special CBI Court.
The CBI said that Supreme Court cannot give such an order and it is for the trial court to take a decision on the issue.
“Questions of any further investigation or addition of accused in the case have to be decided by the trial court and not by this court,” senior advocate K.K. Venugopal, appearing for the CBI, submitted before a bench of Justices G.S. Singhvi and A.K. Ganguly.
“Investigation is complete in 2G scam (during the tenure of Mr. Raja) and framing of charges is to be decided by the trial court. If the trial court finds that there is any wrong doer then it can add the person in the list of accused,” he said questioning the jurisdiction of the apex court to entertain Mr. Swamy’s plea.
While science and technology often get the lion’s share of State funding and attention, social sciences that help make policy are not given their due. Academics ponder over the need to shift priorities.
While the nation’s premier universities and institutes are under constant scrutiny for not promoting quality research in basic sciences, the state of research in social sciences and humanities in India is simply abysmal.
Research in social sciences, which involves the need to understand the society we live in, pose some of the fundamental questions about ourselves and people we live with and also understand the minority view point, is important for two reasons. It helps enhance the understanding and appreciation of the society and ultimately help policy-makers, including government, civil society and private players, in forming crucial decisions on policy and governance.
Unfortunately, the awareness about importance of promoting research in social sciences and humanities, has reduced considerably and so has the funding by the governments. According to the report submitted by the government of India in which the functioning of the Indian Council for Social Science Research (ICSSR) was reviewed, the social science research in India remains extremely underfunded in comparison to research in science and technology.
During the period from 2005-06 to 2009-10, the total grant to ICSSR was just about 2.3 per cent of the total grant to Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and about 11 per cent of the total grant to Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).
Out of the total expenditure on research by the University Grants Commission, less than 12 per cent was allocated to research in social and basic sciences in 2009-10. Funding will naturally follow if the interest and priorities shift to social sciences.
The committee report also mentions that institutes based in the south articulate a collective feeling that disbursal of ICSSR funds is far too centred in and around Delhi and northern India. Researchers lament the difficulty with which they procure funds for research, and the little they receive is often confined to economics. S. Gunasekaran, a retired professor of Sociology, Pondicherry University, says that funds were hard to come by when he was researching. “ICSSR most often ignored proposals and most often the funding came from the UGC. There are other independent bodies too that can be approached for funding. But it is important that the selection process in India be made more rigorous to improve the quality of the work and innovative research topics be pursued,” he says.
Academics say that both the Central and State governments are increasingly ignoring basic sciences, which is considered a dangerous trend. The need to realise the importance of research in these subjects, experts say, is both for the sake of research itself, that is to ask some basic questions that interests the researchers and secondly for applying knowledge to solve issues.
“While many a time research seeks to help individuals argue, reason and develop individually, it is also applicable. Applying cost benefit analysis in a construction project for instance, helps understand how much necessary the construction is and also is its social, economic and environmental impact,” says Sudhir Chella Rajan, head, Department of Humanities, IIT-Madras.
“In colleges the scope for research is limited as they are mandated more towards teaching. In universities the awareness and need exists. Here again allocation of resources goes more towards routine needs and in sciences, thanks to availability of project funding and the scope for research is relatively better,” says B.P. Sanjay, vice-chancellor, Central University, Tiruvarur.
“For social sciences, faculty will have to be trained to dip into policy studies pertaining to social sector areas. The need for improvement is more at the level of explicit funding. Imbalance is in the nature of research and definitely science research is capital and resource-intensive whereas social science is conceptual and field-related,” says Prof. Sanjay.
Prof. Rajan emphasises the need to integrate researchers working independently in research institutes to guide and train youngsters to take up teaching in social sciences.
A section of the academics thinks that no significant mention can be made about research and its impact on policy in India at present or in the past. Based on the need, social sciences require modest and essential funding. Still, funding is a serious concern among researchers.
In a way, the lift she gave an old woman and her grandson proved serendipitous for M. Kannipriya. The grandmother spoke about the financial burden of raising a child whose parents had succumbed to HIV. That got Priya, who was working with R. Meenakshi’s Society For Positive Mothers Development, thinking. She decided to do something about educating children orphaned by HIV. She started Viyam in 2008 with help from a few friends. Today, the foundation funds 10 children.
Also doing his bit for education is A.G. Karunakaran, president and CEO of MulticoreWare, Inc. in Silicon Valley. His first raised funds for the local temple festival at age 11. In 2005, he chipped in with funds and time to help improve the academic levels of the students at Families for Children (FFC), an orphanage in Podanur, Coimbatore — today, two students study engineering and eight others are in an arts college.
Venki Venkatesh, director of engineering at Atrenta, Inc, and one of the founders of India Literacy Project (ILP), dreams about seeing a 100 per cent literate India in his lifetime. ILP, started in 1990, was inspired by Pameshwara Rao of Bhagavathula Charitable Trust. Initially, ILP supported a number of small literacy programmes. Today, it pursues about 100 literacy projects. Also, in association with the Karuna Trust near Bangalore, it has transformed the lives of nearly 30,000 people.
There was no proper road in Banjarpalya, near Bangalore where Baskar S., co-founder Amagi Media Labs lived. Because of this, the children in the village school lost out on lunch supplied by ISKCON’s Akshaya Patra programme. He helped build a road. The kids ate, their health improved. So did attendance. A happy coincidence, for Baskar is “afraid of the deep divide in education where a rich kid and a poor kid with the same competency don’t get the same exposure to excel”.
Serving the underpriveleged
These individuals join the ranks of people across the globe that derive joy in doing things for the underprivileged. Their inspirations are different, but the unifying factor is the heartfelt need to give back to society. Happily enough, their tribe is increasing. Slowly, family, friends and acquaintances are joining the loop, creating a community that volunteers its time and resources.
But, why is volunteering so important in today’s age and time when people hardly have time for themselves? Baskar feels it is his duty to volunteer. “There is a sense of responsibility in doing this, and I’m fortunate I’m in a position where I can do it,” says the tech entrepreneur. “My wife and I have committed to not pass on our wealth to our children, and I’m hoping we keep our promise over the years.”
For Karunakaran it was a visit to a slum in Mexico along with a church group, his son and some friends, that moved him. They had volunteered to build two homes and a library. “The tears of joy in the eyes of the families who received keys to their home, was worth it all,” he reminisces. “In a place like FFC where the kids are given food and shelter, but there’s no one to follow up on their education, volunteers and tutors can make a significant difference. That’s why we started a tuition programme,” he says.
Another organisation that runs on volunteer strength is Eureka SuperKidz, an AID INDIA Education initiative. Started by Balaji Sampath, its Village Education Centres help underprivileged children in Tamil Nadu — this year’s target is 75,000 kids in 1,000 villages.
Making it work
How easy is it for the volunteers to strike a balance between their undoubtedly hectic schedule and their passion? The trick, says Karunakaran, is to demarcate it as personal and professional. “The volunteering aspect is clearly a personal effort. Try to involve your family; that way, you get an opportunity to spend time with them also.”
Says Baskar, “The easiest is to provide money; the hardest is time and work from my end, which I have done quite inadequately.” Kannipriya, who has a young son herself, says that by serving other children, she answers a bigger calling.
It is the reason why Venki believes in squirreling away a minute here and a minute there to ensure his soul is satiated. “There is always time in the evenings, weekends and holidays. There are also pockets of time that can be utilised during mechanical chores. Being organised and managing time helps. But the most important thing is having a will.”
And there seems to be plenty of that. Forget people, individuals are volunteering to take care of animals too. Nigel Otter’s India Project For Animals And Nature (IPAN) in Masinagudi, the Nilgiris, sees a steady flow of veterinarians from Finland, Europe, the U.K. and the U.S. who bring the latest technology to this remote outpost. “It’s advantage all. Thanks to volunteering, they get to see things they’ve only read about. And, the animals benefit from cutting-edge treatment,” says Nigel.
But, what’s the greatest advantage of volunteering? Says Venki: “We all volunteer to ‘give’ but we invariably ‘get’ more. You meet great people, learn to look at life in the right perspective. And, knowing you’ve made a difference, however small, in others’ lives is a reward unparalleled.”
Do your bit
Hunger strikes were a popular tool for suffragettes in the early 20th century, but the first woman to undertake one was Marion Wallace Dunlop. A member of the Women’s Social and Political Union, Dunlop was charged with willful damage for throwing rocks through the windows of 10 Downing Street and sent to prison in July 1909. Inside, she went on a hunger strike that ran for 91 hours — just shy of four full days — before she was released because of failing health. As a result of her actions, the British government introduced a force-feeding policy.
The modern-day pioneer of civil disobedience, Mahatma Gandhi went on several hunger strikes in his life. In the fall of 1924, he underwent a three-week fast in an attempt to reconcile warring factions of Hindus and Muslims that had grown apart since he’d been in prison. In 1932, when the Indian government established separate electorates for “untouchables,” Gandhi underwent a six-day hunger strike that led to better and more equal arrangements. He also performed a three-week hunger strike for purification in spring 1933.
Chavez was a towering figure in the farm labor movement. In 1965, Filipino American farm laborers in Delano, California, initiated a strike for better wages, and Chavez supported them and soon led grape pickers on a march to the state capitol. The strike would run for five years. In 1968, Chavez underwent a 25-day hunger strike to drive the point home, and his actions helped turn the tide of the legislative battle in favor of the workers. In 1989, Chavez participated in another hunger strike, this one lasting 36 days, which he called his “Fast for Life” and used to protest the use of dangerous pesticides on farms.
A volunteer with the IRA, Bobby Sands became famous for leading a hunger strike in the Maze prison in 1981. In March of that year, Sands began the strike (the culmination of years of protests) with a simple refusal of food. He also decided that other prisoners should perform hunger strikes at staggered intervals to draw out the strike and create maximum impact. The strike revolved around a series of demands, notably the prisoners’ desire to wear their own clothes and be free to associate with other prisoners and receive visitors and post. Sands’s strike last 66 days before he died; he was 27 years old. His death sparked riots, and more than 100,000 lined his funeral route.
NEW DELHI: Over 35% of all women and 40% of married women experienced physical or sexual forms of violence and the figures were higher in rural areas, the Lok Sabha was informed on Friday.
“The National Family Health Survey III (2005-06) data shows that in the 15-49 age group, 35.4% of all women and 40% of married women experienced physical or sexual violence,” Women and Child Development Minister Krishna Tirath said during Question Hour.
The minister said 6.7% experienced both physical and sexual forms of domestic violence.
Tirath said the data suggests that both physical and sexual forms of domestic violence against women are higher in rural areas as compared to the urban areas.
Domestic violence defined under Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 covers physical, sexual, verbal, emotional and economic abuse. As per the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data, a total of 5,788 cases were registered under the Act in 2007, 5,643 cases in 2008 and 7,802 in 2009, the women and child development minister said.
She claimed that Protection Officers (POs) had been appointed in every state except Jammu and Kashmir (where the Act is not applicable) and her ministry held regular meetings with state governments to ensure that this system was functioning efficiently.
The Domestic Violence Act, 2005 is implemented by states and Union territories.
“Under the Act, state governments are required to appoint Protection Officers in each district as they may consider necessary,” the women and child development minister said.
Maharashtra has the highest number of 3,910 Protection Officers followed by Rajasthan (574), Madhya Pradesh (368) and Himachal Pradesh (366), the minister said.