Friday, January 31, 2014


In Three Weeks We RISE!

Activists in 169 countries on six continents, including newest additions - Albania, Benin, Bolivia, Dominican Republic, Georgia, Guyana, Jamaica, Lesotho, Luxembourg, and Slovenia – are planning to RISE.
Is YOUR event on the map? If not, ADD IT NOW >
Want to FIND an event near you? Search HERE >
Activity in V-World is moving at lightning speed with news being added each day - from the synchronicity of a RISING activist from Kyrgyzstan meeting Eve at the Sundance film festival to One Billion Rising events being announced in Española, NM;  LondonSan Francisco and many more, to urgent petitions for justice from Peruthe CaribbeanGuatemalaLondon, the campaign is deepening and expanding.
“This is What Justice Looks Like” page is brimming with voices, videos, original art from across the globe exploring the theme of justice.
As we approach 14 February, let's continue to shine a spotlight on the darkness of injustice and make the connections between our visions of justice and the ultimate goal of eliminating all forms of violence against women and girls by RISING, RELEASING and DANCING in the light.
For more information, visit

Powered By Blackbaud

Thursday, January 30, 2014

January 30th: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

January 30th: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow
-Fr. Cedric Prakash sj*

Yesterday: on this day in 1948, Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of our nation was assassinated. As a nation, we were shocked: how could this dastardly act be done on anyone, and particularly to Gandhi who gave of his best to the country and its people? His assassin Nathuram Godse was an RSS man. The core ideology of the RSS has always been a fascist one; with no place for the minorities in their scheme of things or for the pluralism which reflects the character of the Indian nation. Rightly enough, the then Home Minister of India, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel held the RSS and its affiliate, the Hindu Mahasabha, responsible for the murder of Gandhi.  On February 4th, 1948, Patel had the courage to ban the RSS naming it as an anti-national organization because of its dangerous activities which fomented divisiveness, hate and violence in different parts of the country.

Today: sixty-six years later, the RSS (the many bans on it, having been lifted) and their affiliates, are well and alive.  They continue with impunity and immunity with their agenda of hate and violence.  To top it all, they have decided that their protégé Narendra Modi will be the Prime Ministerial candidate of the BJP for the forthcoming National Elections 2014. That Modi presided over the killing of his own citizens (in what is known as the Gujarat Carnage of 2002) is beyond a shade of doubt; that he embodies the RSS ideology to the core, is without debate. So apart from the many problems the country is plagued with at this moment, India has also to deal with a person who constantly lies and who has virtually destroyed freedom of religion, speech and expression, in his obsession to gain power.  And this, when he rules over the State which gave birth to Mahatma Gandhi!

Today: is ‘MARTYR’S DAY’ in India. We hang our heads down in shame when we remember the many other lives that have been lost all over the country because of hate and divisiveness - in Gujarat, in Orissa, in Bihar, in U.P, in Assam and in so many other parts of the country. It is also a day on which Catholics in the country observe a ‘DAY OF PEACE’. The message by Pope Francis for this celebration is entitled ‘Fraternity, the Foundation and Pathway to Peace’; an unequivocal challenge for all of us to ensure fraternity in order to build a just society and a solid and lasting peace.

Tomorrow: Mahatma Gandhi reminds us that an eye for an eye will make the whole world blind, so we need to have eyes and a heart for the future, a vision for a new tomorrow. Pope Francis in his Peace Day message reminds us that “the many situations of inequality, poverty and injustice, are signs not only of a profound lack of fraternity, but also of the absence of a culture of solidarity, New ideologies, characterized by rampant individualism, egocentrism and materialistic consumerism, weaken social bonds, fuelling that “throw away” mentality which leads to contempt for, and the abandonment of, the weakest and those considered “useless”.  In this way human coexistence increasingly tends to resemble a mere do ut des which is both pragmatic and selfish.” And above all “Fraternity needs to be discovered, loved, experienced, proclaimed and witnessed too. But only love bestowed as a gift from God, enables us to accept and fully experience fraternity”.

Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow: in more ways than one, January 30th is a day on which we need to look back, do a reality check on what is happening today and above all give ourselves a firm agenda of deep hope for a new tomorrow.

Let’s make a start now!
30th January, 2014

(* Fr. Cedric Prakash SJ is the Director of PRASHANT, the Ahmedabad based Jesuit Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace.)

Address: PRASHANT, Hill Nagar, Near Kamdhenu Hall, Drive-in Road, Ahmedabad - 380052
Phone: 79 27455913, 66522333 Fax:  79 27489018 Email:

Friday, January 24, 2014

Communication at the Service of an Authentic Culture of Encounter


Communication at the Service of an Authentic Culture of Encounter
[Sunday, 1 June 2014]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today we are living in a world which is growing ever “smaller” and where, as a result, it would seem to be easier for all of us to be neighbours.  Developments in travel and communications technology are bringing us closer together and making us more connected, even as globalization makes us increasingly interdependent.  Nonetheless, divisions, which are sometimes quite deep, continue to exist within our human family.  On the global level we see a scandalous gap between the opulence of the wealthy and the utter destitution of the poor.  Often we need only walk the streets of a city to see the contrast between people living on the street and the brilliant lights of the store windows.  We have become so accustomed to these things that they no longer unsettle us.  Our world suffers from many forms of exclusion, marginalization and poverty, to say nothing of conflicts born of a combination of economic, political, ideological, and, sadly, even religious motives.
In a world like this, media can help us to feel closer to one another, creating a sense of the unity of the human family which can in turn inspire solidarity and serious efforts to ensure a more dignified life for all.  Good communication helps us to grow closer, to know one another better, and ultimately, to grow in unity.  The walls which divide us can be broken down only if we are prepared to listen and learn from one another.  We need to resolve our differences through forms of dialogue which help us grow in understanding and mutual respect.  A culture of encounter demands that we be ready not only to give, but also to receive.  Media can help us greatly in this, especially nowadays, when the networks of human communication have made unprecedented advances.  The internet, in particular, offers immense possibilities for encounter and solidarity.  This is something truly good, a gift from God.
This is not to say that certain problems do not exist.  The speed with which information is communicated exceeds our capacity for reflection and judgement, and this does not make for more balanced and proper forms of self-expression.  The variety of opinions being aired can be seen as helpful, but it also enables people to barricade themselves behind sources of information which only confirm their own wishes and ideas, or political and economic interests.  The world of communications can help us either to expand our knowledge or to lose our bearings.  The desire for digital connectivity can have the effect of isolating us from our neighbours, from those closest to us.  We should not overlook the fact that those who for whatever reason lack access to social media run the risk of being left behind.
While these drawbacks are real, they do not justify rejecting social media; rather, they remind us that communication is ultimately a human rather than technological achievement.  What is it, then, that helps us, in the digital environment, to grow in humanity and mutual understanding?  We need, for example, to recover a certain sense of deliberateness and calm.  This calls for time and the ability to be silent and to listen.  We need also to be patient if we want to understand those who are different from us.  People only express themselves fully when they are not merely tolerated, but know that they are truly accepted.  If we are genuinely attentive in listening to others, we will learn to look at the world with different eyes and come to appreciate the richness of human experience as manifested in different cultures and traditions.  We will also learn to appreciate more fully the important values inspired by Christianity, such as the vision of the human person, the nature of marriage and the family, the proper distinction between the religious and political spheres, the principles of solidarity and subsidiarity, and many others.
How, then, can communication be at the service of an authentic culture of encounter?  What does it mean for us, as disciples of the Lord, to encounter others in the light of the Gospel?  In spite of our own limitations and sinfulness, how do we draw truly close to one another?  These questions are summed up in what a scribe – a communicator – once asked Jesus: “And who is my neighbour?” (Lk 10:29).  This question can help us to see communication in terms of “neighbourliness”.  We might paraphrase the question in this way: How can we be “neighbourly” in our use of the communications media and in the new environment created by digital technology?  I find an answer in the parable of the Good Samaritan, which is also a parable about communication.  Those who communicate, in effect, become neighbours.  The Good Samaritan not only draws nearer to the man he finds half dead on the side of the road; he takes responsibility for him.  Jesus shifts our understanding: it is not just about seeing the other as someone like myself, but of the ability to make myself like the other.  Communication is really about realizing that we are all human beings, children of God.  I like seeing this power of communication as “neighbourliness”.
Whenever communication is primarily aimed at promoting consumption or manipulating others, we are dealing with a form of violent aggression like that suffered by the man in the parable, who was beaten by robbers and left abandoned on the road.  The Levite and the priest do not regard him as a neighbour, but as a stranger to be kept at a distance.  In those days, it was rules of ritual purity which conditioned their response.  Nowadays there is a danger that certain media so condition our responses that we fail to see our real neighbour.
It is not enough to be passersby on the digital highways, simply “connected”; connections need to grow into true encounters.  We cannot live apart, closed in on ourselves.  We need to love and to be loved.  We need tenderness.  Media strategies do not ensure beauty, goodness and truth in communication.  The world of media also has to be concerned with humanity, it too is called to show tenderness.  The digital world can be an environment rich in humanity; a network not of wires but of people.  The impartiality of media is merely an appearance; only those who go out of themselves in their communication can become a true point of reference for others.  Personal engagement is the basis of the trustworthiness of a communicator.  Christian witness, thanks to the internet, can thereby reach the peripheries of human existence.
As I have frequently observed, if a choice has to be made between a bruised Church which goes out to the streets and a Church suffering from self-absorption, I certainly prefer the first.  Those “streets” are the world where people live and where they can be reached, both effectively and affectively.  The digital highway is one of them, a street teeming with people who are often hurting, men and women looking for salvation or hope.  By means of the internet, the Christian message can reach “to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).  Keeping the doors of our churches open also means keeping them open in the digital environment so that people, whatever their situation in life, can enter, and so that the Gospel can go out to reach everyone.  We are called to show that the Church is the home of all.  Are we capable of communicating the image of such a Church?  Communication is a means of expressing the missionary vocation of the entire Church; today the social networks are one way to experience this call to discover the beauty of faith, the beauty of encountering Christ.  In the area of communications too, we need a Church capable of bringing warmth and of stirring hearts. 
Effective Christian witness is not about bombarding people with religious messages, but about our willingness to be available to others “by patiently and respectfully engaging their questions and their doubts as they advance in their search for the truth and the meaning of human existence” (BENEDICT XVI, Message for the 47th World Communications Day, 2013).  We need but recall the story of the disciples on the way to Emmaus.  We have to be able to dialogue with the men and women of today, to understand their expectations, doubts and hopes, and to bring them the Gospel, Jesus Christ himself, God incarnate, who died and rose to free us from sin and death.  We are challenged to be people of depth, attentive to what is happening around us and spiritually alert.  To dialogue means to believe that the “other” has something worthwhile to say, and to entertain his or her point of view and perspective.  Engaging in dialogue does not mean renouncing our own ideas and traditions, but the claim that they alone are valid or absolute.
May the image of the Good Samaritan who tended to the wounds of the injured man by pouring oil and wine over them be our inspiration.  Let our communication be a balm which relieves pain and a fine wine which gladdens hearts.  May the light we bring to others not be the result of cosmetics or special effects, but rather of our being loving and merciful “neighbours” to those wounded and left on the side of the road.  Let us boldly become citizens of the digital world.  The Church needs to be concerned for, and present in, the world of communication, in order to dialogue with people today and to help them encounter Christ.  She needs to be a Church at the side of others, capable of accompanying everyone along the way.  The revolution taking place in communications media and in information technologies represents a great and thrilling challenge; may we respond to that challenge with fresh energy and imagination as we seek to share with others the beauty of God.
From the Vatican, 24 January 2014, the Memorial of Saint Francis de Sales.


© Copyright - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

Thursday, January 23, 2014


                                 CITIZENS’ RESPONSIBILITIES
                       THE GENERAL ELECTIONS 2014                                    (visit the website of the Election Commission of India:

It is the Right and the Duty of every citizen above the age of 18 years to exercise his / her vote.  Here are some pointers which may be helpful:

I.                   THE ELECTORAL ROLL:
Ø      if you are above 18 years (on January 1st) and a citizen of India, you must have your name on the Electoral Roll (ER)
Ø      it is a basic identity for an adult citizen of India
Ø      check immediately whether your name is on the ER (by visiting the ECI / your State CEO website / Taluka Office / Collector’s Office / the local branch Office of a national political party)
Ø      for inclusion of one’s name on the ER, you will have to fill Form 6
Ø      ask the concerned Officer on what date you should return to check whether your name is in the ER or not
Ø      for any objection or inclusion of name/s, you will have to fill Form 7
Ø      for correction of entries in the Electoral Rolls, you will have to fill Form 8
Ø      write your complaints to the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) of Gujarat / your State and to the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC)Delhi
Ø      always retain copies of your application / letters, signed by the receiving Officer, for further reference
Ø      ensure that you have the Elector’s Photo Identity Card (EPIC)
Ø      (remember having an EPIC does NOT mean that your name is on the ER)
Ø      help the poor, the vulnerable, the differently-abled to have their names on the ER

Ø      get involved in mainstream politics
Ø      encourage / support political parties which focus on governance and on issues related to transparency, human rights, justice and peace and the safeguarding of the Constitutional Rights of all.
Ø      check out the candidates, the parties wish to nominate for a particular seat
Ø      organize public debates / dialogues with them and assess their views / opinions / promises / track-record
Ø      study their Election Manifesto of the previous elections and based on this manifesto, see whether the ruling party / sitting candidate has fulfilled the promises made
Ø      assess their views on the poor and on the vulnerable groups like the tribals, dalits, women, children, minorities and also on critical subjects like water, education, food, security, ecology, employment, agriculture, health, displacement, nuclearization  and globalization

III.             ON VOTING DAY:
Ø      cast your vote fearlessly
Ø      encourage all others to freely cast their votes too
Ø      vote for a party / individual that is NOT corrupt, criminal, communal and / or casteist
Ø      if you notice any bogus voting, rigging or booth capturing, bring it to the notice of the police / Election Officers immediately and preferably in writing
Ø      make sure that the Electronic Voting  Machine (EVM) you use – works correctly
Ø      you have the right to exercise your franchise as “None of the Above” (NOTA) under Rule 49 – O

IV.              AFTER ELECTIONS:
Ø      find out the details of your elected representative (name, address, telephone / fax nos., email, etc)
Ø      arrange that organizations, villages / groups invite the person to share his / her views about the area for the next five years
Ø      ensure that you keep in touch with him / her constantly
Ø      remember that they have budgetary allocations for their constituency; find out for what programmes this money is being utilized
Ø      insist that your views / concerns are voiced in the assembly / parliament
Ø      ensure that they do NOT endorse any draconian or anti-people legislation
Ø      remind the representative that as a voter you have a right to ask for his / her resignation for non-performance

Ø      any concern / complaint in the context of the Electoral Rolls must be sent in writing (registered post / courier) immediately to: The Chief Electoral Officer (CEO), Election Commission, General Administration Department, Block No.7, Second Floor, Sachivalaya, Gandhinagar-382 010
[Tel.: (079) 23250316 / 23250318     Fax: (079) 23250317]
(check details for other States)
Ø      serious concerns like the disenfranchisement of a whole community / village must also be brought to the notice of : The Chief Election Commissioner of India, Nirvachan Sadan, Ashoka Road, New Delhi-110 001
[ECI control room: Tel.: (011) 23710000 / 23718888 & 23717391 to 98 / 23717141 to 43    Fax: (011) 23713412        email:]
Ø      the above may also be informed about any irregularities regarding the elections

Ø      read “A GUIDE FOR VOTERS” posted on the ECI website for detailed information
Ø      use “The Right to Information” – to obtain essential information of the political party / candidate / elected representative
Ø      contact PRASHANT if needed for further information / assistance

Issued by:

(Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace)
Near Kamdhenu Hall, Drive-in Road,
Ahmedabad-380 052, Gujarat
Tel.: (079) 66522333 / 27455913
Fax: (079) 27489018

(25th January 2014)
National Voters Day

(This is issued in public interest to promote and safeguard our Constitutional Rights and obligations. Kindly circulate this as widely as possible. Thanks!!)

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

"I ask you to ensure that humanity is served by wealth and not ruled by it."

Pope Francis' Message to World Economic Forum

"I ask you to ensure that humanity is served by wealth and not ruled by it."

To Professor Klaus Schwab
Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum

I am very grateful for your kind invitation to address the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum, which, as is customary, will be held at Davos-Klosters at the end of this month. Trusting that the meeting will provide an occasion for deeper reflection on the causes of the economic crisis affecting the world these past few years, I would like to offer some considerations in the hope that they might enrich the discussions of the Forum and make a useful contribution to its important work.

Ours is a time of notable changes and significant progress in different areas which have important consequences for the life of humanity. In fact, "we must praise the steps being taken to improve people's welfare in areas such as health care, education and communications" (Evangelii Gaudium, 52), in addition to many other areas of human activity, and we must recognize the fundamental role that modern business activity has had in bringing about these changes, by stimulating and developing the immense resources of human intelligence. Nonetheless, the successes which have been achieved, even if they have reduced poverty for a great number of people, often have led to a widespread social exclusion. Indeed, the majority of the men and women of our time still continue to experience daily insecurity, often with dramatic consequences.

In the context of your meeting , I wish to emphasize the importance that the various political and economic sectors have in promoting an inclusive approach which takes into consideration the dignity of every human person and the common good. I am referring to a concern that ought to shape every political and economic decision, but which at times seems to be little more than an afterthought. Those working in these sectors have a precise responsibility towards others, particularly those who are most frail, weak and vulnerable. It is intolerable that thousands of people continue to die every day from hunger, even though substantial quantities of food are available, and often simply wasted. Likewise, we cannot but be moved by the many refugees seeking minimally dignified living conditions, who not only fail to find hospitality, but often, tragically, perish in moving from place to place. I know that these words are forceful, even dramatic, but they seek both to affirm and to challenge the ability of this assembly to make a difference. In fact, those who have demonstrated their aptitude for being innovative and for improving the lives of many people by their ingenuity and professional expertise can further contribute by putting their skills at the service of those who are still living in dire poverty.

What is needed, then, is a renewed, profound and broadened sense of responsibility on the part of all.  "Business is - in fact - a vocation, and a noble vocation, provided that those engaged in it see themselves challenged by a greater meaning in life" (Evangelii Gaudium, 203). Such men and women are able to serve more effectively the common good and to make the goods of this world more accessible to all. Nevertheless, the growth of equality demands something more than economic growth, even though it presupposes it. It demands first of all "a transcendent vision of the person" (Benedict XVI, Caritas in Veritate, 11), because "without the perspective of eternal life, human progress in this world is denied breathing-space" (ibid.). It also calls for decisions, mechanisms and processes directed to a better distribution of wealth, the creation of sources of employment and an integral promotion of the poor which goes beyond a simple welfare mentality.

I am convinced that from such an openness to the transcendent a new political and business mentality can take shape, one capable of guiding all economic and financial activity within the horizon of an ethical approach which is truly humane. The international business community can count on many men and women of great personal honesty and integrity, whose work is inspired and guided by high ideals of fairness, generosity and concern for the authentic development of the human family. I urge you to draw upon these great human and moral resources and to take up this  challenge with determination and far-sightedness. Without ignoring, naturally, the specific scientific and professional requirements of every context, I ask you to ensure that humanity is served by wealth and not ruled by it.

Dear Mr Chairman and friends,

I hope that you may see in these brief words a sign of my pastoral concern and a constructive contribution to help your activities to be ever more noble and fruitful. I renew my best wishes for a successful meeting, as I invoke divine blessings on you and the. participants of the Forum, as well as on your families and all your work.
From the Vatican, 17 January 2014
- - - - - -     - - - - - - - -    - - - - - - -   - - - - -
PRASHANT   (A Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace)
Street Address : Hill Nagar, Near Kamdhenu Hall, Drive-in Road, Ahmedabad - 380052, Gujarat, India
Postal Address : P B 4050, Navrangpura PO, Ahmedabad - 380 009, Gujarat, India
Phone : 91  79   27455913,  66522333
Fax : 91  79  27489018

Monday, January 20, 2014

Amartya Sen at the Jaipur Literature Festival (Jan 17th 2014)

A Wish a Day for a Week
byAmartya Sen
Friday 17th January 2014, ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival, Diggi Palace
On being invited to the Jaipur Festival, I was naturally nervous about attempting an opening address to such an elite gathering. However, about ten days ago I saw in the newspapers, indeed in all of them, that India has entered triumphantly into the “elite club” of the world.  The Times of India’s headline said: GSLV-DV launch successful, India joins elite club”.  As an Indian citizen, I immediately lost all fear about not being able to get into the elite club.  However, I had a problem in not knowing what GSLV-DV is.  Or does. On probing I found that GSLV-DV is famous because it carries a GSAT-14 communication satellite. That seemed just what I needed. And so I decided to use the GSAT-14 communication satellite to communicate well beyond my station in life.
High above the clouds I came across a figure who looked very impressive, who explained that she was the Goddess of Medium Things. “ Gosh,” I said. ‘Medium you may be, but you look very impressive.” “You should see,” she replied, “ the goddess of LargeThings.” “You could please introduce me to her,” I said, “but are you sure that you are really a goddess?” “Yes I am,” she responded firmly, “I am – as I told you – Goddess of Medium Things.  But, you are right, I am very informal, and you can call me GMT – that is my pet name.” “Isn’t GMT some kind of time?” I asked her. “Yes,” she said, “ I can give you the correct time, also one of my specialties, but more importantly I can grant you a wish – in fact more that one wish- for your country.” “ How jolly,” I said, “May I have seven wishes – a wish a day for my country for a week? Please, let us get on with it!”
“Sure,” GMT said,” but why are you in such a hurry?” I explained, “ I am going to the Jaipur Literature Festival. You have heard of the famous Jaipur Literature Festival, my goddess?” “Yes,” GMT said, “but it is really so big now that it has been moved from my care to the care of the Goddess of Large Things. Still, I will try to help you. Make a medium-sized wish about literature.”
So I jumped in: “Classical education in language, literature, music and the arts are being seriously neglected in India.  Very few people study Sanskrit anymore. Nor do they study ancient Persian, or Latin, or Greek, or Arabic, or Hebrew, or Old Tamil. We need serious cultivation of classical studies for a balanced education. In India’s increasingly business-oriented society, there is generally far less room today for the humanities, and that is surely a problem, is it not, goddess?” “But,” said the goddess, “ Rabindranath Tagore in your village, Santiniketan, used to grumble that science education was being neglected. So how can you say the opposite?” “That was then, madam,” I said,” and this is now. Rabindranath was right in his day, but bright students now, everywhere in India, go for science and technology, and look down on humanities.”
“So,” asked the goddess, “you wish to have a greater role of humanities in Indian education?” “ Something like that,” I said.  “What a vague statement: ‘something like that!’, GMT said, ”you must have clearer ideas.” “ Clearer? Do you mean more precise, dear goddess?” I asked. “No,” said GMT, “you are making the common mistake of assuming that a clear statement needs to invoke precise magnitudes. A good statement of an inherently imprecise concern – and most important concerns in the world are imprecise – mustcapture that imprecision, and not replace it by a precise statement about something else. You should learn to speak in an articulate way about ideas that are inescapably imprecise ( as a man called Aristotle put it more that two millennia ago).  And that is one of the reasons why the humanities are important. A novel can point to a truth without pretending to capture it exactly in some imagined numbers and formulae. Okay then, now go on to your second wish.”
“Well,” I said, “may I go into politics?” GMT looked unsurprised and said, “ I think I can guess what you are going to ask, knowing your left-wing views – you are on the left in India, aren’t you?” “Nothing escapes you goddess, “ I replied, “ I am. But my big political wish is to have a strong and flourishing right-wing party that is secular and not communal.” “Why?” asked a slightly puzzled goddess. “There is a an important role,” I explained, “ for a clear-headed pro-market, pro-business party that does not depend on religious politics, and does not prioritize one religious community over all others.” GMT said, “Surely there was such a party in India, led by some very smart people, wasn’t there?” I said, “Yes, madam, there was – it was called the Swatantra Party, and among its leaders was MinooMasani, an extremely smart fellow indeed – but the party died. I wish it would be revived.” “Let me recollect,” GMT said, “this MinooMasani – was he really in favour of non-communal politics and did he believe in the brotherhood of all people, what the French revolutionaries call ‘fraternity’? I seem to recollect that he said some unflattering things about fraternity in one of his public speeches.” “Yes, goddess,” I told GMT, “he was staunchly secular and very much in favour of fraternity. But in a light-hearted remark in 1946, Masani said that he adored fraternity but given the misuses of the word after French Revolution, he did not use it. He went on to say in the Constituent Assembly of India on December 17th 1946, “When I introduce my brother, I call him my cousin.”
“Would that be your favorite party then?” asked the goddess. “No, absolutely not,” I said. But I would very much like such a party to be there, giving Indian voters the choice of supporting a secular, pro-business point of view – it would be very good for Indian politics.  The support that a right-wing pro-business point of view receives should not have to be parasitic on making an alliance with religious politics.”
“Okay,” said GMT,” but can you make your explanations short- we don’t have much time.  Let me remind you that you are speaking to me and not lecturing at the Jaipur Festival.  What’s your third wish?” “ I would like the parties of the left to be stronger, but also more clear-minded and much more concentrated on removing severe deprivations of the really poor and downtrodden people of India.” “ But what about the priority that is attached to their dedication to fighting against American imperialism?” GMT enquired – and then went on, “ Now that the Soviet Union is gone, the Chinese are beating the Americans in the market economy, the Latin Americans and the Vietnamese are racing ahead with their own economic and social progress, surely the Indian Left is the only remaining political group in the world on whom the mantle of fighting American imperialism has fallen.  And in giving priority to their dedicated pursuit of that philosophical priority, they have made various Parliamentary moves that have reduced the number of seats they themselves have in Parliament. It is not easy for me to make them politically stronger until they themselves think afresh”.
“I hope they will,” I said. “What the left really has to concentrate on is reversing the terrible state of the really poor people of India, rather than nursing an antiquated understanding of imperialism, or joining the other political parties in agitating for cheaper amenities for parts of the middle classes.” “Another lecture!” said GMT, “But I am a patient goddess, and ready to listen to your grumble about your own friends; so go on – what’s the fourth wish?”
“I would like the media to be more responsive to the needs of the poorest people, and less single-minded in their coverage of the world of glitzy entertainment and shining business opportunities. They are right to grumble about the way subsidies waste economic resources, but largely fail to denounce subsidies for the better off, in the way subsidies for the unemployed and the hungry are savaged in the press. Reading the papers or listening to media on fiscal irresponsibility of supporting employment schemes and food subsidies, you would scarcely guess that many times as much governmental money is spent on subsidizing electricity for those who are lucky enough to have power connection (a third of the Indian people have no connections at all), subsidizing diesel, cheapening fertilizers, offering low cost cooking gas (most Indians have no instruments into which these inputs would go) than on supporting food and employment schemes for the poor. The latest figures are the following: Subsidies on food 0.85 percent of GDP; employment guarantee scheme (NREGA) cost 0.29 percent of GDP. Compared with that the power subsidies, in various forms, for those who have electric connections amount altogether to more than one full percentage of the GDP, possibly closer to 2 percent, to which should be added 0.66 percent on fertilizer subsidy and 0.97 percent on petroleum subsidy (diesel, cooking gas, etc). So the much criticized food subsidy and employment guarantee for the poor and the unemployed cost about 1.14 percent of GDP, whereas the cost of subsidizing electricity, fuel and fertilizers for the relatively better off is minimally 2.63 percent, and possibly closer to 3.63 percent of GDP – more than three times what is allocated to feed the poor and provide employment to the unemployed.”
“Yet,” I continued, “reading the papers and hearing broadcasts you would tend to think that it is subsidy for the poor – food and employment – that strains India’s public resources, even though two to three times as much governmental funds are spent in subsidizing the better off. In fact, since the Government spends only a miserable 1.2 percent of the GDP on health care (unlike in China where the percentage is nearer 3 percent) the total government expenditure on health (in all forms), food subsidies and employment subsidy is much less than what the government spends on subsidizing the consumption of power, diesel, cooking gas, fertilizers, etc, for the relatively rich – and much more vocal – people.
It is sad that the most vibrant media in the world is so silent on the needs and predicaments of the poorest. A third of Indians have no electric connections. The media made such a fuss – quite rightly in its context – about 600 million people not having power on a day in July two years ago when there was a terrible administrative bungle about power supply, but neglected to report the fact that 200 million of those 600 million people never had any power at all – a perpetual black-out – because they were not even connected to electricity.”
“Enough, enough,” said the goddess, “go on.” “My fifth wish is easy to speak about,” I said, “since it concerns persistent deprivations I have been nagging about for decades: all children must have decent schools to go to; every person must have medical care beginning with preventative care; women should not have to lead more deprived lives than men; the country should not be full of undernourished children (not to mention the most undernourished in the world); every child has to be fully immunized (rather than a third of the children being left out); everyone should have a home with a toilet (rather than half the population having to defecate in the open, even as India supposedly joins the elite club of the world); and there should be generally good higher education and a sustainable environment.” GMT said, “You ask for a list of different things as parts of one wish. However, I will not be small-minded, since I am medium-hearted.
“But all that you have asked for should be very easy to achieve if your countrymen start making intelligent use of the resources that economic growth generates. And this will work both ways: The advancement of human abilities resulting from these supportive changes will, in turn, help to sustain high economic growth in long run, because nothing, ultimately, is more important for economic growth than having a healthy and educated labor force (ask the Chinese, Japanese, Koreans and other Asians and they will tell you). That is the biggest lesson of East Asian development that India has missed. “
“Since we agree on that, may I put in a wish, dear goddess,” I said,” which concerns a peculiar judicial decision in India, which has recently recriminalized homosexual personal behavior. The British rulers had made that a criminal offence in 1861, and made many people vulnerable to black-mail by the police and to penalization. That Article 377 of the Penal Code was overturned by the Delhi High Court as being contrary to personal rights guaranteed by the Indian constitution, but then the Indian Supreme Court – represented by exactly two judges – has reversed the reversal, and made a strictly private behavior, once again, a social crime. Can you reverse the reversal pf the reversal, dear Goddess?” “Let me see,” said the Goddess, “How I can persuade the Indian Supreme Court to think again – may be they will listen more to the voices of the Indian people than to the plea of a goddess above the clouds.”
“Let’s go on, “continued GMT. “Do you really want another wish?” “May I? I wish we in India will recognize our strength because of the nature of the country as well as the opportunities given by India’s democracy, which has been skillfully used recently by AamAdmi Party (even though they have a lot to learn about on what their programs should really be). We have a lot of corruption, but it has become  a major electoral issue, which, in a democracy, is the best way for a long run solution, which will require many administrative reforms. But there are many achievements already, and it is not the case that nothing happens here other than what the business community does, and the state, in particular, cannot achieve anything (as many people go on repeating) . India was the country of families until the empire ended, and we haven’t had a real famine since independence, thanks to public action, India was expected a few years ago to have the largest concentration of the AIDS epidemic, but the public attention and social engagement has removed that threat. Since polio eradication became a politically sensitive issue, things have happened and India is now polio-free. We had a super-cyclone in the fall coming from the Bay of Bengal, many times the size of Katrina in the USA, but the government moved a million people off the coast in a good time, and predicted disaster did not happen. Even though India’s record of social achievements is low, wherever they have tried hard to make a change – like in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Himachal Pradesh – education and health care have surged ahead and so have economic growth, so that these erstwhile poor states are now among India’s richest. We can do things if we put our mind to it.
“Take gender inequality”, I went on. “There is a lot of attention that is right now being given to the incidence of rape in India, which is an improvement. But some recognitions are missing still. The reported rate of rapes in India is low (it is 1.8 per hundred thousand in India compared with 27 per hundred thousand in the USA and 29 in UK). There is surely a huge underestimation here, particularly when the victims come from the poorer and less privileged classes. But even after raising the Indian number ten-fold, the rate of rape in India would still be lower than UK, USA and most countries in the world. The main problem is not the high incidence of rape in India, but the difficulty in getting the police to cooperate and help victims, and for the society to take greater interest in sexual assaults on vulnerable women, particularly from the poorer and less privileged classes and castes. Some steps are being taken right now to change this, including stopping sexual trafficking of girls from very poor families. But much more needs to be done, and indeed can be done if we try.”
“People are very worried – and rightly – that selective abortion of female fetuses is so common and makes the female-male ratio at birth much lower in India as a whole than in the range for European countries. But nearly half the Indian states – in fact all the states in south and the east in India (from Kerala and Tamil Nadu all the way to West Bengal and Assam) – have female-male ratios at birth that are well within European range, and it is the fact that all the states in North and West have much lower female-male ratios than in Europe that makes the Indian average come out to be so low. So there is much learn from within India itself. Can you help in this, GMT, in making Indians less defeatist?” I asked.
“I can’t do that”, said the goddess, “it has to be the Indians who change their defeatist mind-set.” “That’s a letdown,” I said with frustration. “Not at all,” remarked the goddess. “I am telling you that you can solve these problems yourself – you don’t need anybody’s help. You have to know what the problems are, and how they can be solved.”  “But, “I complained, “ even if it becomes clear what our problems are and how they can be solved, how can we share this knowledge, and make all Indians take an interest in our real problems?” “Well,” said GMT, “the social media can help, and – very importantly – you must read more books.”
“And,” GMT added, “the time has come for you to go to the Jaipur Festival – good reading! “ As the good goddess suddenly vanished beyond the clouds, I returned to my little GSAT-14, launched by the world famous GSLV-DV, to come straight to the festival. And I am grateful that you are all here. Thank You!”