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Tag Archives | Kerala government

Nadaan Parindey, ghar aaja

Kerala, Gujarat and Punjab show that states can play an important role in diaspora relations.

States are increasingly reaching out to their diaspora

States are increasingly reaching out to their diaspora

States are maneuvering around foreign policy considerations by reaching out to Non Resident Indians (NRIs). Foreign Policy is considered the domain of the Union Government however, some state government have proved adept at working around this by focusing on selected areas of outreach. One of the primary ways that states play a role in foreign policy is by reaching out to diaspora. As NRIs are an important source of remittances to the states, the states benefit from solving the issues faced by NRIs. States are also better poised to engage with diaspora as they have direct links with them and can devote more resources than the Union to deal with issues. One of the ways in some which states have done this is by forming a public sector undertaking which can work with relatively more freedom than the state administration itself.

More and more states have begun to institutionalise NRI relations through specific departments, divisions or boards. The states with the most developed institutional structures are Kerala, Punjab and Gujarat. These three states that stand out are not surprising given that they have huge diaspora spread out in different parts of the world. The states have tailormade their policies according to the interests of the diaspora which allows them flexibility and innovation.

Institutions dealing with diaspora relations in Kerala

The State Government of Kerala has expressly looked at institutionalizing administrative processes with respect to the interest of non-resident Keralites (NRKS) through a department called Non-Resident Keralites’ Affairs Department (NORKA). However the real work is done by a PSU established under the Department called NORKA ROOTS. Kerala which receives the highest remittances in the country has been working on making its diaspora employable from arranging pre-departure orientations, easy authentication of certificates, skills upgradation programme, financial assistance, rehabilitation projects for returnees, job portal, travel assistance etc.

Institutions dealing with diaspora relations in Gujarat

On the other hand Gujarat has set up an NRI division under the General Affairs Division which merely allocates funds and decides the composition of the Non-Resident Gujarati Foundation (A Government of Gujarat Undertaking). The NRGF looks at how NRIs can play a vital role within the state and has set up district committees for NRIs in every district to deal with any problems, to provide financial aid to the Gujarat Samaj, create a database of NRGs etc.

Institutions dealing with diaspora relations in Punjab

The NRI Affairs Department in Punjab has an intensive mandate from coordinating with the Home Ministry, liaising with NGOs, providing grants and waivers for NRI investment, focusing on twinning of cities such as Derby with Kapurthala and Jalandhar with the Borough of Hounslow, cultural exchanges etc. Punjab has gone a step further and allowed NRIs to vote in state elections (though they have to return to India to cast their votes).

There are some common strands across the policies of these three states such as the outreach to diaspora, creation of databases, grievance addressal and encouraging investment. The state governments of Kerala and Punjab have set up NRI cells under the respective police (though for Punjab, this has been upgraded into an NRI wing with cells in every district). While Gujarat has not set up similar institutions, it has set up an NRI cell under the State Women’s Commission to deal with complaints related to harassment of women abroad. While the grievances of the NRIs generally fall under the Home Ministry, the states have ensured their own jurisdiction by making BRI grievances a law and order issue pertinent to the state.

All the three states have also focused on issue identity cards to NRIs. The issue of cards such as Non-resident Keralite, Non-Resident Gujarati and Non-Resident Punjabi pushes for the sub-national identity which has generally subsumed under the larger Indian visa. This also reinforces the regional identity of the NRI and gives them a stake in the domestic affairs of the state.

States working in diaspora relations is a crucial and overlooked part of foreign policy. Increasingly, states have started looking to their diaspora for several reasons. Even states with relatively smaller diaspora such as Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh have started engaging with diaspora so that they can be important stakeholders of the state. The role played by states in diaspora relations is an important one because it eases some of the burden that the Union bears in dealing with all these problems. It also acts as a bridging mechanism between NRIs and the Central Government. Other states in India should also consider similar mechanisms (or those more contextualized to its needs) so that they can tap into the advantages of their residents in a globalised world.

This post is the first of a series of blogposts on ‘States in Foreign Policy’.

Hamsini Hariharan is a Research Scholar with the Takshashila Institution and tweets at @HamsiniH

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Total prohibition of alcohol as a state policy always ends in disaster

Enforcing prohibition citing moral and health reasons has more downsides than benefits and invariably ends in disaster where the state has to reverse its decision

By Guru Aiyar (@guruaiyar)

State enforced prohibition of alcohol can never succeed. Total prohibition is an unmitigated failure. In the current season of electioneering in various states across India, there seems to be a mad race between the political parties to list prohibition as one of their election promises. Take the case of Tamil Nadu which is heading for assembly polls next month. Without exception, all the political parties have committed to prohibition—be it Jayalalithaa of AIADMK, Karunanidhi of DMK or S. Ramadoss of PMK. Of all the leaders, only Jayalalithaa has spoken about graded prohibition.  Vaiko did a dramatic act by asking his aged mother to force shutdown of liquor shops in his native village of Kalingapatti in Tirunalveli in August 2015.

The Kerala government, headed by the Chief Minister Oommen Chandy enforced a ban on alcohol in 2014 except five star hotels. This ban was upheld by the Supreme Court in December 2015.  The CM has promised that he will move towards total prohibition for ten years irrespective of election outcome. Kerala too is having assembly elections in May. Bihar has commenced a two-step plan, with a ban on country liquor effective from April 1, following days later with a prohibition on Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL). This was one of the election promises of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar when he went for Mahagathbandhan (MGB) in November 2015. The reasons that prohibition fails are not hard to fathom. The argument is counter intuitive. One of the best examples where total prohibition failed is the United States of America.

United States enforced prohibition across its 48 states after a lot of deliberation in 1917.  It was repealed after 16 years. The evidence gathered between the period 1920-33 was overwhelming. It was during this period that the true horrors of alcohol were discovered. Alcohol remained available during prohibition. The only difference was that it went underground—black market. People who wanted to drink would invariably find a way to black market where they paid exorbitant prices. The use of methyl alcohol for preparation instead of ethyl alcohol (because methyl alcohol is cheaper) lead to blindness or even death. Mafias thrived on bootlegging businesses. Remember the movie The Untouchables where Robert De Niro plays the dreaded gangster Al Capone. Such was Capone’s clout due to his spurious liquor business that when the long arm of the law finally caught him, he was charged mainly for tax evasion. During this period, use of other drugs also increased. Marijuana, a drug previously used little in the US became popular. Consumption of coffee rose. Ultimately, there was unanimity of political opinion in 1933 to repeal prohibition. So much so that today when one talks of prohibition in the US, he is not taken seriously at all.

In India, political parties resort to the populism of prohibition mainly deriving their legitimacy from the Directive Principles of State Policy. A sense of pseudo morality pervades across the political spectrum on the issue of alcohol consumption.  Advocates of prohibition cite reasons such as alcoholism, indebtedness and intimate partner violence (IPV). But banning alcohol is never an effective check against its use. The case of Maharashtra is classic. Prohibition, which was enforced in the then state of Bombay in 1949 was lifted in 1972. Bootlegging thrived and organised crime in the form of Bombay underworld took over alcohol distribution. There were striking parallels to the US in 1920s era of prohibition. It was doomed to fail in Maharashtra because the neighbouring states did not have prohibition and alcohol could always be smuggled.

In addition, prohibition robs the state of an important source of revenue. In 2015-16, nearly 25 percent of Tamil Nadu government revenue amounting to almost Rs 30,000 crore came from liquor sales. In Maharashtra, the comparative figure stands at Rs. 18,000 crore. These help successive governments to sustain the social welfare schemes. In Tamil Nadu, the government has used the revenues from alcohol sales to distribute consumer goods to the poor, supply free rice to Below Poverty Line (BPL) card holders and the noon meal scheme. Finding alternative sources of revenue is a humungous task in the present times of fiscal consolidation. Anyway, the fact stands out that prohibition has never transformed a society.

Guru Aiyar is a Research Scholar with Takshashila Institution and tweets @guruaiyar

Featured Image:Lame-No alcohol by Karl Baron, licensed from creativecommons.org

 

 

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The question of gender justice in religious places of worship

The prohibition of entry to women in Sabarimala shrine is being contested by lawyers in the Supreme Court which will open a pandora’s box for other faiths too

 

The Supreme Court on 11th January, has asked the government of Kerala that why women cannot be given entry to the Sabarimala temple. Gautam Bhatia, a Delhi based lawyer has offered interesting insights into the case. The SC is hearing a 10 year old petition filed by Indian Young Lawyers’ Association (IYLA). The case is coming up for hearing again on 18th January. Women between the ages of 10 and 50 have been traditionally denied entry in the temple on the grounds that they are ‘impure’. This has been a custom going back 1500 years. The Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) which administers the temple is responsible for enforcing this custom.

The challenge to enforcing the custom by the board brings judiciary to interpret the laws pertaining to rights guaranteed by the constitution to individuals.  Article 25 (1) guarantees to all persons the right to freely profess, practise, and propagate their religion. Article 26 (b) grants to religious denominations the right to manage their own affairs in the matter of religion. However, Article 25 (2) allows state intervention in religious practice, if it is for the purpose of “social welfare or reform or the throwing open of Hindu religious institutions of a public character to all classes and sections of Hindus”.

The temple board has argued that the custom is essential to the practise of the religion.  If the board fails to prove that prohibiting women is an essential religious practice, then it cannot claim immunity under Article 26 (b). Women worshippers can also argue that prohibiting them from access violates their right to worship under Article 25(1). This takes us to the question of interpreting the law from the aspect of ‘state-shrine’ relationship.  Article 25(1) is enforceable against the state and not individuals, or corporate bodies. If the board can argue that it is corporate body, Article 25 (1) cannot be applied.

If this be so, then IYLA can argue that it is the duty of the state to guarantee a woman’s right to worship. The women devotees may ask the court to direct the state to take all necessary steps to guarantee their access and safety to the shrine.  Interestingly, judgement in this case will open up issues pertaining to other religions also. There is a case pending in Bombay High Court, filed by Muslim women asking for the recognition of their right to enter the inner sanctum for worship at the Haji Ali shrine in Mumbai. The question of gender justice in religious institutions is the charter of state which is responsible to enforce the constitution. Being a secular state, the governments have not interfered in the matters of individual religions which are administered by their respective religious bodies. The ramification of judgement in this case will be then to find a solution which will advance the constitutional guarantee of equality, non-discrimination and freedom of religion.

 

Guru Aiyar is a research scholar with Takshashila Institution and tweets at @guruaiyar.

Featured Image credit: Law.gov–opening up primary legal materials, licensed under creative commons.

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