‘A conversation with a chai-wallah’ – Is development always a positive thing?

Manesar, 25, is a ‘chai-wallah’ (tea seller). He has spent the last ten years of his life riding the Taj express train between Agra and Delhi. He spends all of his time on the trains between the not-so-picturesque route, selling sandwiches on commission. The chai-wallahs’ wear a Government-issued uniform of red shirt-blue trousers, and wander up and down the train selling tea, coffee and snacks. Manesar earns twelve rupees for every hundred rupees-worth he sells. (70 rupees is about 1 pound.) He usually manages to earn a few hundred rupees every day, just enough to live in Agra, famed for The Taj Mahal, one of the Seven Wonders of the World. He was born and brought up in Agra and has watched it grow over the last decade or two. The roaring tourist trade which brings people toAgrahas never died down, and yet, the Government of India is only now making an effort to build up this sprawling city.

I got to meet Manesar while I was winding my way to the Taj Mahal, during a whistle-stop tour of North India. Being somewhat unaware of the maze you must survive to actually get a decent seat on an Indian train (for future reference – ‘WL’ means wait-listed) meant that I spent my journey standing in the gap between two carriages, next to the toilets, unwilling to sit on the floor because of the myriad of interesting, not to mention alarming, red and brown stains. This was worth it, partly because “train-surfing” (trying to balance standing in the space between two carriages) is the best way to pass the time on a somewhat boring journey, and partly because the chai-wallahs after looking at us curiously for a while, decided we were worth making friends with.

After the usual questions of ‘where are you from?’, ‘what do you do?’ and ‘are you married?’ (my answer of no always seems to leave people astounded – apparently I am  that old), we moved on to something much more serious. Manesar said he lovedAgra, it was his home, he wanted to continue to live there. Yet, he felt his options were severely limited.

What is the problem, I asked? He said: “Everything has become so expensive now. With the building of large apartment blocks and improvement of the infrastructure, big companies are starting to move in, and the prices are rising. What used to be affordable for me isn’t now.” So, what can he do about it? “I want to learn English so that I can move to Delhi and get a better job. Once I’ve learnt English, more people will want to employ me. Then, I can earn more money and save and will be able to marry and settle down and have a family.”*

This is a rite of passage for most Indians. Marrying and having a family is the norm – as a male, Manesar is automatically cast in the role of breadwinner, and his own family will want him to settle down. Learning English is considered a huge boon, and is said to open every door. But, does it really? Many of the jobs available in Indiatoday are considered menial work: domestic workers, rag pickers, street cleaners, labourers etc. They are not well paid, but they are enough to get by. Chalta hai. It’ll do. However, the aspirational ideals that are instilled within people who learn English often backfire in this society. The command of English really achieved in a fast-track six week course is not high enough to do office work, not high enough to get a well-paying job, and often leaves people struggling to get into the educated job market, straddling two classes, two worlds and often two locations.

The advent of cranes, tractors and concrete changing the face (physically and metaphorically) of these cities is not necessarily a positive thing. Jobs are created and for some people, life does improve – they move to a shinier apartment and a better job title. Their lifestyle changes from one of austerity to one of excess.

The problem lies with those of the lowest classes, who do the lowest wage jobs and are forced to stay in that position, slumped with their heads to the ground, spending their lives in servitude to those above. For them, development does not help. For them, job creation will only work if they are trained, taught new skills and given a command of English that actually facilitates work, without the arrogance that comes with it.

I asked Manesar whether he would consider a job as a domestic worker, even a driver or a gardener – someone who isn’t necessarily in “service”, but still gets reasonable pay. He refused outright: “No, I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to work in someone’s house.” He complained about the trains: “Sometimes they can be really late, and then you have to stay in a hotel inDelhi. You have to buy food from a restaurant which costs one to two hundred rupees. It becomes really difficult.” The throwaway amounts of money that we often take for granted are a night’s stay or a meal or really, a lifeline with which one finds freedom. And yet, Manesar seemed fairly happy with his job – unwilling or not ready to leave yet. Servants or the more “PC”, domestic workers are treated well, are usually given food and board above their monthly salary. Most employers will educate them or their kids. They are considered well-off in comparison to their families living in ruralIndia.

There is a whole cross-section of society in the same position as Manesar: they cannot jump from uneducated and poor to educated and rich; this dichotomy seems impossible to bridge. The success stories do exist, but what about the thousands of unknowns like Manesar? He has a job, he has a livelihood – it may not be what he wants, but he has one, and so he does not require help. But, where is the help for those people who want to earn a better living and improve the quality of their life?

Aren’t the founts of a capitalist society to do with aspirational rewards? Do we not strive to do better, be better, be the best with everything we do? Why is this option denied to those who are hungry for it? The development of cities may be done with the best intentions, but if it isn’t matched with the development of its people, then it renders billions of pounds in investment and aid moot.

*Please note that these quotes are rough translations from Hindi.


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Failing to realise the promise of 9/11

Robert Grenier wrote an insightful piece on the US’s initial reaction to 9/11 on Al-Jazeera English. He says:

“What the president failed to take into account was that with al-Qaeda, the struggle would never be just about terrorists or the willingness of states to confront them. Terrorists cannot long survive in societies which fundamentally reject them. If the US were actually to lead a global movement against terrorism, it would have to find a way to appeal to the many Muslims, including majorities in many countries, who then sympathised with al-Qaeda’s struggle, even as they rejected al-Qaeda’s tactics. It would have to find a way to respond to the young Pakistani Muslims in my own son’s grade school class, many of them from the most privileged families, whose reaction to 9/11 was to say “Now you know how it feels”.

“Those were the things I wished to say in that imaginary message to the White House. But prescribing policy is forbidden to intelligence officers, whose role is to inform policy, or to carry it out. And while those rules may have been bent beyond recognition in the case of Afghanistan, where a hitherto obscure field operative was actually asked to recommend policy to the White House, it was hardly an open invitation. As I knew in my heart at the time, the “other half” of the War on Terror was simply not to be.

For the US to assume genuine moral leadership of a War on Terror, it would have had to confront the conundrum at the heart of its policy, to try to reconcile the fact that some of its most prominent “allies” in the struggle against terror were themselves at base the prime instigators of global terrorism. For all that the Bush Administration would speak in later years of a “War of Ideas”, it brought nothing to the fight, other than the self-deluding notion that antipathy towards the US in the Muslim world was based on some colossal misunderstanding.”

For a retired CIA veteran to come to the heart of what has happened in the “war on terror” movement is astounding. The Bush administration, it seems, sentences a people to never-ending racism, hatred and indeed, terror in a different kind of way. The assumptions that people now make when they see a “bearded, brown person” are to do with the media-fed ideas on terror, which imagine that every Muslim is a fundamentalist, every Muslim woman is oppressed and every Muslim man a terrorist.

To reiterate something rarely said in the media, this is not true.

Islam has degrees of faith, much like any other religion. People follow them as much as they choose to. As we’ve seen with the Arab Spring, it was the US that often financed and facilitated dictators in the Middle East, because of their interests being close to their own. They choose to allow atrocities to happen, all for access to Middle Eastern oil.

Today’s media is focused on what is happening in Libya. “It is a revolution,” they say, “and we are helping them.” The British and the Americans are deeply vested in the shifting movement. Gaddafi is to face trial in Libya, and these countries get to say they helped unseat a dictator. Again. Whether Libya will go the same way as Egypt, when the general outcry was that “this wasn’t the revolution they wanted” but instead a Western-imposed democracy, remains to be seen. However, we have to hope that Orhan Pamuk’s brilliant quote, “Can the West endure any democracy achieved by enemies who in no way resemble them?” does not resound truthfully in our ears again.

The fighting today over Gadaffi’s last remaining stronghold continues, as does the scandal which links British and Libyan secret services, under his rule. It is a well known fact that torture is used in secret prisons around the world. The fact that Western powers condone it is not unsurprising, either. The fact that documents that prove the truth of this have been revealed, is surprising. Yet, it will not impact what is overtaking Libya today. The background behind this “war” is what matters; the US is intervening to unseat a dictator who they initially put in place, all in favour of getting to Libya’s well-stocked oil reserves.

The media focus matches this continual hypocrisy. Why are the atrocities that are being conducted in Syria as this is being written not brought to the frontline? The humanist approach that provides reasoning for the many wars going on around the world apparently does not apply to a country where people are being killed daily. Arab leaders are attempting to stop the bloodshed, yet the only action offered by Western powers is as it is currently being termed, “a war of words.”

I appreciate that Western powers cannot engage in every war, help (if that’s what you can call it) every human rights atrocity that takes place around the world, yet the nature of how they pick and choose who to help is clearly all to do with aid politics. Nothing is done for free, of course, and yet the decision to allow a country’s population to languish under bullets and torture seems far more cold-blooded than one would expect. Although sanctions are being put in place, will they really make enough of an impact on Syria’s economy to stop the bloodshed? The Syrian people seem unwilling to have Western intervention change the course of their revolution as it did in Egypt and Libya. The fact that violence spiked during the Red Cross visit seems representative of this. Although Cameron claims that the situation in Syria is different, the “moral imperative” approach still applies. The lack of intervention has only increased the crackdown in Syria. The solution it seems is for foreign help which does not include the West, something which seems alien to most interventionist wars, yet in this case seems to provide a solution to help the peoples of Syria, without losing the integrity of their revolution.

The rhetoric surrounding the “war on terror” continues, and yet, the terrors perpetrated by the apparent victims of this war are far more note-worthy. Coming up to the tenth anniversary of 9/11 would perhaps give the United States a moment to reflect, think back on the last ten years, and perhaps figure out what is slowly leading their country into economic decline and international disrepute.

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The hypocrisy of India’s anti-corruption movement

Being a staunch liberalist means that I was overjoyed when I watched the beginning of the current anti-corruption movement in India. The Lokpal Bill seemed a shining beacon of hope for the beginning of a new India. This apparent naïveté didn’t last long however.

The Anna Hazare movement is an apparent harking back to Gandhian principles, and his movement is carried out with absolute sincerity. Critiques of Hazare’s fast comment that he is blackmailing the Government. This may be so, but the Indian Government requires this kind of hard-line approach and the eyes of the international media to really stand up and take notice of its citizens. However, the assumption that ‘Team Anna’ speaks for all the people in India is a gross misjudgment.

The middle class, Hindu-centric followers which arrogantly believe they speak for all of India’s religions, factions and minorities (of which there are thousands) are hugely mistaken. The disgust for corruption which pervades the country does not necessarily translate to support for this specific Bill that Hazare is putting forth. As Tehelka points out, “Arvind Kejriwal, has never been known to be a supporter of Dalits or an admirer of Ambedkar. He did not even hesitate to declare that no reservation can be made for Dalits in the drafting committee for the Lokpal on the grounds that for formulating laws one needs specialisation.” The lack of inclusivity of the movement fails to take into account the varied nature of India’s citizens and the caste, class, locality (rural versus urban) problems that continue to be sustained today.

What of Anna Hazare’s followers? The media is speaking of the galvanization of the middle class – ‘the apathy of the middle class is over’- but is it really? How many people standing there in Ramlila Maidan had any idea of the difference this could, and may, make to our country? Pictures of the movement show groups of gormless teenagers surrounded by endless flashes, taking facebook ‘profile pictures’ to prove their political awareness. How many of them have ever bribed a police officer in the middle of the night for drunk driving? How many people have paid for their driving license to skip the endless queuing? How many have budgeted bribes into a proposed building project just to push it through faster? Kiran Bedi made an effort to explain the movement to the crowds, and perhaps that made an impact. The movement continues with the hope that the message really will sink in.

Corruption is, in so many ways, India’s biggest problem. It creates a ‘chalta hai’ (it’ll do) mindset which gives India it’s wonderful laid-back attitude, but unfortunately, leads people to believe that bribes are a normal part of daily existence. It is those people who take a step back, look at other countries and come to appreciate that the blatancy with which corruption occurs in India is perhaps somewhat ridiculous.

I know of no one (save perhaps those ministers, cops and politicians who reap the rewards of these bribes) who is against the movement. I only have a problem with the fact that it is being marketed as a “people’s” movement. The masses are not mobilising, the middle class is. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but how many people in villages living under the poverty line know why and what is happening, apparently on their behalf? Corruption is rooted so deeply in the government mechanism, in the Indian way of life that people find it difficult to imagine life without it. Part of the problem is that officials really do not receive a salary that they can actually live off of. The bribes become part of their calculated living costs. I don’t say this to excuse bribes, but to point out that there was once a reason for why corruption became so deep-rooted. The legacy of bureaucracy that the British left behind only helped to create the red tape behind which corruption became commonplace. It is time to finally life ourselves out of that tangled mess. I have heard from so many people: “I don’t agree with the bribe system, but what can I do? There’s no other way to get anything done in India.” Perhaps now, people will realise that there is another way.

The horror of the movement finally comes to light in a story in the Times of India yesterday, buried on page 15. A college student in Chennai lost his life for not taking part in an anti-corruption protest. “The student was chased into the Adyar River and allegedly left to drown by a group of fellow students.” The twisted mind that thinks it’s acceptable for someone to actually die for this movement worries me. Indian hearts are invested in this, but Gandhian principles of civil disobedience say nothing about innocent bystanders dying for the cause. The cold-blooded malice of the students who left him for death in a river is disgusting. Corruption may be a big problem; money laundering is rampant, as was demonstrated by the Commonwealth Games, but, an innocent life has been lost. And for what?

Anna Hazare’s non-violent movement should not be tarred with blood. It should remain true to the cause of purging corruption from the ranks of India’s higher officers without injuring an innocent audience. A democratic state should mean that people also have the right not to protest; Gandhi’s “Satyagraha” (holding firmly to truth) is pertinent to today’s anti-corruption movement but Hazare’s followers would do well to remember he also stood for “ahimsa” (non-violence).


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University staff asked to inform on ‘vulnerable’ Muslim students

University staff have recently been asked to inform on those Muslim students who are considered ‘vulnerable’ and appear depressed or isolated. This Guardian article tells us that guidelines are given to ascertain their position as ‘vulnerable’: “Documents handed to staff claim that students who seem depressed or who are estranged from their families, who bear political grievances, or who use extremist websites or have poor access to mainstream religious instruction could be at risk of radicalisation.”

The continued targeting of an innocent community is now reaching a worrying climax. This cold-blooded desire for information is bringing in an almost Stalin-esque shift in policy towards informing on your friends, neighbours, fellow students and maybe one day your family. Since when is it acceptable, in what is supposed to be a democratic state, to ask citizens to inform on each other?

If spying is normal, why not put cameras in every room? Put a filter on every Muslim student’s internet? Track their perusal of “extremist” websites? Better yet, let’s take a leaf out of News of the World’s phone hacking – oh wait, the government’s already doing that. My mistake.

Why not give every student with Islamic leanings a chip to embed in their arm to track their every movement? Let’s have them report to the nearest police station everyday like any other common criminal. They are Muslim, aren’t they?

Facetious anger aside, this is not legal. The government doesn’t seem to understand that deciding to single out the Muslim community, even more so than it already has, is only going to backfire on them. (BackFIRE, get it?)

Angering a community that already has a thousand reasons to hate you is not going to help the problem. Instead, maybe if they provided support for all students that are depressed, isolated or have no close family members, maybe those students would be able to create a support system for themselves.

James Haywood, president of Goldsmiths college students’ union, rightly said: “After the rise of hate groups such as the English Defence League, and the recent massacre in Norway, why are Prevent not also telling us to refer on students who have an irrational hatred of Islam?” Why not indeed? It is interesting that the terror act which was recently perpetrated in Norway was categorised by the media as the behaviour of a crazy man. If, instead, the massacre was carried out by a Muslim, would they still be considered so? Terrorism, it seems, is no longer the word used to describe those who commit a terror act.  It is confined to the space that ‘Islam’ occupies in the media hype around terrorism. It has become the justification for changing the very tenets that the UK was built on.

By specifically focusing on students, is the government putting forth the idea that those people who probably have the greatest immersion in British culture in their interaction with other students, are most at risk for the terrible disease that is ‘terrorism’?

With the rise of CCTV numbers, the increase in riot police numbers, the alarming idea that “spying” is normal, the UK seems to be slowly making its way over to a rightist state. Not centre-right, but entirely right-wing, xenophobic, fearful and skeptical of the rest of the world, especially those who come from these “third world” countries.  

I hate to make the classic comparison to 1984 and Big Brother, but does the government really think that its human rights violations can continue to go unnoticed? Everything done in the name of the War against Terror seems to be leading them to spy even more upon their own citizens. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights seems to be losing its influence on the laws of this country. This violates Articles 2, 7 and 18 but this seems to make no difference as long as the words ‘Muslim’, ‘extremist’, ‘terrorism’ are bandied about.

The UK is continuing this almost fascist trend, signified by their dismissal of the European Convention of Human Rights earlier this year in reference to the rights of sex offenders and their refusal to sign the Council of Europe’s pioneering treaty to protect women from violence.

Is a country that prides itself most on its democratic principles, its freedom of the press, its apparently equal treatment of every person regardless of the colour of their skin, their religion, their background, finally outwardly changing their tune?

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All’s well that Orwell?

George Orwell wrote Nineteen Eighty-Four in 1949, depicting a British society that is controlled closely by the government under 24-hour surveillance and is in a state of perpetual warfare. He coined the concepts of “newspeak”, where language has no nuances, “thoughtcrime”, where even certain thoughts are illegal, and “Big Brother” which has actually been popularised into a TV show. Most people who have read Nineteen Eighty-Four consider it dystopian fiction, a far cry from real world society, and an exaggerated metaphor to remind the world of totalitarianism. Its satirical look at British society is in Orwell’s own words a reminder “that totalitarianism, if not fought against, could triumph anywhere.”[1]

 The UK, along with the European Union, the United States, Australia and Canada, are considered paragons of democracy. They are the countries that make up the “Western World” that other countries aspire to and model themselves on. As citizens of one of these countries, we are free. In opposition to the world’s “free” countries, we have a new “Eastern bloc” which is considered to repress and restrict their populations. The freedom to express yourself is paramount and the internet has changed the way we do so. It has become possible to share our thoughts in an inordinate number of ways, receive commentary and still be able to defend them. The internet is a literal debating ground. But, is this enough?

 The wikileaks revealing the true nature of the war in Iraq seems to be proof enough of what has and always will be hidden to the general public. The release of “detainees” (not “inmates” or “prisoners”) from Guantanamo Bay doesn’t nullify the torture of “detainees” in those prison camps in the heart of Afghanistan that haven’t yet been discovered. Recent acts of repression in the UK post the NUS protest such as the closure of the Fitwatch website and an anti-police blog are without question a violation of basic human rights. The way that information is now shared means that it is difficult to keep track on everything posted on the internet; information is not always correctly sourced and often factually incorrect, however, the citizens of any free country still have a right to their say, on the internet or otherwise.

 This freedom of expression is however consistently undermined through our way of life in a country that captures every individual on CCTV as many as three hundred times a day. 10% (2.5m) of the world’s CCTV cameras are in the UK; this is as many as 1 for every 14 people. The lack of uniformity in the density of cameras around the UK clearly makes this statistic questionable, however, in a country which hosts 61 million, a mere 0.8% of the world’s population, this is still troubling. Although CCTV hasn’t yet extended to the private sphere, it seems this move is not far off. The advent of nanny and spy cameras, readily available, and made use of in reality TV (even those as seemingly harmless as What Not to Wear) seems to be a move in the wrong direction. Google maps’ “street view” is already causing concern in parts of the world, and the FCC is investigating Google for a breach of privacy. A pervasive, 360° camera allows people access to much of Europe, Northern America, Australia, New Zealand and Japan. Several countries have refused street view, constricting Google’s ability to show residents homes. The convenience of street view is not in question, however the breach of privacy that it perpetuates as normal is worrying. According to Article 8 of the European convention on Human Rights, a public body’s interference in private life must be explicitly explained and in the interests of the vast majority.

 A well-educated and informed public should not be comfortable with 24-hour surveillance. If the UK has spent £500m of the public’s money on CCTV cameras and fewer than 1 in 1000 cameras has helped prevent crime, their argument falls flat. We are patronisingly told: CCTV is merely “for your own good”, a fail-safe method of preventing crime and yet the difficulty for the public to gain access to CCTV footage and the lack of real statistics proving its effectiveness make it seem like a voyeuristic social exercise, designed to slowly leech away the freedom that makes the UK a democratic country. The lack of regulation imposed upon this footage is also troubling. Although new legislation has been recommended, it has yet to be formalised, meaning that those monitoring CCTV footage work largely unmonitored:  

 Authorities such as local councils are free to install CCTV systems in town centres and other public places (such as residential estates) without prior approval from central government or the permission of residents.

 Although new legislation is coming into being, the public should be aware of the current state of affairs allowing unchecked monitoring of vast expanses of the UK.

 This article does not deny the many countries around the world where human rights violations are rampant, where the public does not have a say and the phrase “Orwellian state” may be better suited. However, the technology and resources at the UK’s disposal means that the beginnings of a police state are not just a possibility, but a distinct reality. The references to Nineteen Eighty-Four are frequent in this context but are they finally justified?  61 years after Orwell’s conceptualisation of a British police state, mass surveillance is in place. Big Brother is now CCTV, the “Ministry of Love” Guantanamo Bay and the idea that this is “for your own good” has resulted in the materialisation of an Electronic Police State.

Original article available in The Zahir archives.

  1. The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell. Volume 4 – In Front of Your Nose 1945–1950. p.546 (Penguin)


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The Human Environment

Environmental rights are usually considered on a separate plane from mainstream human rights law. They don’t fit neatly into a single human rights category; global conversations relating the two fields now speak of the ‘greening’ of human rights law. The existing framework to examine the two fields together is patchy at best, inconsistent and ineffective at worst. But, what needs to be created is a method to merge environmental protection, economic development and guarantees of human rights.

 At a United Nations conference in 1973, the “Stockholm Declaration on the Human Environment” declared that ‘Man has the fundamental right to freedom, equality and adequate conditions of life, in an environment of a quality that permits a life of dignity and well-being…’ This statement opened up an uncertain and often ill-considered debate on the future of the ‘human environment’ and international environmental law. The term ‘human environment’ was coined at the conference as a way of examining this new pairing as a cohesive whole. The grandeur of these terms however has not lent itself to well-informed discussion on the future of the two.

There are very few governmental charters that state the environment as one of their key concerns. The vagaries of their occasional inclusion makes it difficult to discern what is and isn’t considered ‘an environment of a quality that permits a life of dignity and well-being.’ Most human rights treaties make little or no reference to environmental issues – the European Convention on Human rights included. Although many counties have since drafted legislation which looks at environmental law, the lack of specific markers that dictate what a satisfactory environment is makes it difficult to actually enforce. A 2009 UNEP report on the ‘New Future of Human Rights and Environment’ stresses the importance of finding a balance between the protection of the environment and the enjoyment of human rights, including the responsibilities of States involved inhuman rights law enforcement.

The importance of these issues however goes beyond theoretical problems of legislation. Under the barrier of unclear human environment law, governments have been able to exploit their citizens and flout basic human rights conventions.

Governments have a duty to their citizens when being confronted with environmental disasters, man-made or otherwise. The most well-publicised ‘natural’ disaster razed a city to the ground, turned its citizens into common ‘thugs’ and compelled its government to send armed troops to a drowning city: Hurricane Katrina. The theory that Katrina was actually a man-made disaster, one caused by insufficient maintenance of the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet allowing the storm surge to breach the city’s flood defences, is a popular one. The cause of the disaster however is not crucial. What is important is the government’s response: an article in the Washington Times states, “300 Iraq-hardened Arkansas National Guard members were inside New Orleans with shoot-to-kill orders.” The unnecessary overreaction to Hurricane Katrina signals a deep-rooted fear of a public which doesn’t have faith in its leaders and their ability to deal with a disaster situation. Dave Egger’s Zeitoun, which catalogues one man’s experience through Hurricane Katrina, tells us of the city’s dissolution into anarchy – the excuse which allowed the National Guard to set up a Guantanamo bay-like prison in the centre of the city to racially profile and arrest citizens on little or often no grounds.

Despite large amounts of international aid, natural disaster situations such as the Haiti earthquake, the Pakistan floods and to an extent, the very recent Japanese tsunami (but in this case, nuclear meltdown aside), often leave poorer citizens in temporary camps in need of vital assistance and protection. These are rarely in accordance with basic human rights conventions, and many are left lacking basic food, water and medical provisions, not to mention more than a canvas roof over their heads. The restriction of basic resources when a vulnerable public has little or no access is an obvious method of exerting control. Disaster relief has become increasingly militaristic, a worrying indicator of a change in attitude which recommends infantilising the public. The ability to adequately deal with natural disasters must come under environmental rights law, especially in areas such as New Orleans which are often hit by nature’s forces.

Even in routine circumstances, governments have become increasingly lax in providing for those communities whose way of life is slowly being destroyed by environmental degradation and whose livelihood is entirely dependent on the land around them. This is affecting communities in the remotest reaches of the world – many of whom are being damaged by a greedy desire for resources.

In Linking Human Rights and the Environment, Picoletti and Taillant state: “Just as human rights advocates have tended to place only civil and political rights onto their agendas, environmentalists have tended to focus primarily on natural resource preservation without addressing human impacts of environmental abuse.” What is clearly lacking is brought together in this book – a new way of not only linking human rights and the environment, but finding solutions to the myriad issues that they bring to the forefront. The ‘Human Environment’ deserves its own rights – clear-cut conventions which do not allow governments to exploit the vulnerable for their own purposes; international law enforcement bodies need to stop attempting to separate environmental issues that are tangled in with human rights law. New institutions such as the Centre for Human Rights and the Environment (CEDHA) are making a start. But, without the power of bodies such as the United Nations, and a clear-cut framework to tackle these issues, vulnerable sections of the ‘human environment’ continue to be damaged or destroyed.

 View the original post here.

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Hamare Haq

The title of this blog ‘Hamare Haq’ meaning ‘our rights’ comes from Hindi. The subtleties surrounding the word Haq are a myriad, yet it is suffice to understand that it is a strong, evocative word that talks about ‘right’ in the sincerest sense of a human right, rather than something hollow.

In the same way that women’s rights campaigns are often considered hyperbolic or over-sensitive, human rights campaigns are looked at with a sense of exasperation and apathetic derision. In other words, we do not want to know. This blog is an attempt at reminding people of the very famous Edmund Burke quote which features in almost every human rights related website or blog: ‘All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing’. The subtleties of this quotation are debated here, however its meaning and intent remain crucial. We stand by apathetically while people all over the world are tortured, raped, oppressed, suppressed, brainwashed, ignored, forgotten, and other verbs which I have probably missed out. Mainstream media appreciates the extreme depth of our apathy to these people and thus they choose not to report violations when it does not suit their interests. Some of the best reporting on human rights issues come through new media: blogs (both specifically dedicated to human rights and not) and twitter (especially currently whilst covering the Middle East protests). This blog will cover violations that occur in both the ‘developed’ and the ‘developing’ world. These markers are themselves troubling, however they are representative of how the world is perceived, usually in those countries considered ‘developed’.

Living in India gives me a unique opportunity to look at human rights and development issues first hand. I therefore endeavor to update this frequently, looking at human rights, development, cultural gaps and bridges and general current affairs.

Portions of this entry came from my original human rights blog on Nouse.co.uk

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