OPINION

Monthly Archives: JUNE 2019


ONE NATION ONE ELECTION
Can India do with just one poll?
29.06.19 - VIPIN PUBBY
Can India do with just one poll?



Prime minister Narendra Modi’s declaration that his government would set up a committee to examine and give recommendations on one-nation-one-election proposal has led to a debate with Congress and some other major opposition parties opposing the proposal straight away. The issue needs to be debated and a consensus must be reached.

It is a proposal which, if implemented, would radically change the political system in the country and would require amendments to the constitution. The moot question is whether it is desirable for a country which prides itself for unity in diversity to go in for such a political system and whether the benefits would outweigh the losses to the democratic system of the country.
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If the government at the Centre falls for whatever reasons and there is no alternative? Shall it lead to Presidential rule in the country till the next elections are held?
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The idea by itself is not new. One of the earliest suggestions had actually come from the Election Commission which had suggested way back in 1983 that such a system be worked out. Subsequently the Law Commission headed by Justice B P Jeevan Reddy, had stated in Its report in 1999 that "we must go back to the situation where the elections to Lok Sabha and all the Legislative Assemblies are held at once”.

There are arguments both in favour and against the idea of holding simultaneous elections.

Those in favour of holding simultaneous elections for Lok Sabha and State Assemblies argue that it would drastically reduce the massive expenditure that is currently incurred for the conduct of separate elections. They also argue that frequent elections cause policy paralysis resulting from the imposition of the Model Code of Conduct during election time and that the normal governance gets affected as governments get into the election mode and put on hold developmental projects.

Those against the idea point to the complexities of such an exercise including the practicality of implementation. They think such a measure would help the party in power at the centre at the cost of the regional parties. The most important argument is : What would happen if the state governments fall or in cases where such governments are dismissed for failing to maintain law and order. Suppose it happens within one year of the election. Would it mean that the particular state would come under Central rule and would remain so for the next four years ? Even worse would be the scenario if the government at the Centre falls for whatever reasons and there is no alternative ? Shall it lead to Presidential rule in the country till the next elections are held ?

After all, out of the 17 Lok Sabhas since 1952, seven were dissolved ahead of schedule — in 1971, 1980, 1984, 1991, 1998, 1999 and 2004. There were only two Lok Sabha elections, in 1952 and 1957, when elections were held simultaneously for Lok Sabha and state Assemblies. In the recent 2019 elections, only four State Assemblies went for elections with the Lok Sabha elections. These were Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim.

Then there are also the constitutional provisions which need to be rectified. The Law Commission headed by Justice B S Chauhan held in 2018 that simultaneous elections could not be held within the existing framework of the Constitution. These could be held together "through appropriate amendments to the Constitution, the Representation of the People Act 1951, and the Rules of Procedure of Lok Sabha and state Assemblies”. This would entail that at least 50 per cent of the states would have to ratify the constitutional amendments. 

The Opposition parties, including the Congress, are likely to remain opposed to the proposal. Congress had described the proposal as "impractical” and "unworkable”. The Trinamool Congress has declared that it was "anti-democratic and unconstitutional”, while the left parties had also questioned the practical aspects of the proposal. The government, if it persists with its proposal, shall have to wait until it has the numbers in Rajya Sabha to carry through the necessary amendments.

It is, however, advisable that the government makes an in-depth study and tries to evolve a national consensus. It shall have to come out with a water tight case with no ambiguity on the provisions and it must allay the fears of different political parties and citizens.

One way out for the time being could be acceptance of the suggestion mooted by the Law Commission in its draft report last year that all elections due in a calendar year be conducted together. Till now the Election Commission has the powers to order elections where Assembly elections are due within six months. One step at a time would be a better idea.
 

 

 

(The author, a freelance journalist, is a former Resident Editor of Indian Express, Chandigarh, and reported on the political developments in Jammu and Kashmir, North-Eastern India, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab in his long, illustrious career.)

 

 

Disclaimer : PunjabToday.in and other platforms of the Punjab Today group strive to include views and opinions from across the entire spectrum, but by no means do we agree with everything we publish. Our efforts and editorial choices consistently underscore our authors' right to the freedom of speech. However, it should be clear to all readers that individual authors are responsible for the information, ideas or opinions in their articles, and very often, these do not reflect the views of PunjabToday.in or other platforms of the group. Punjab Today does not assume any responsibility or liability for the views of authors whose work appears here.

_______________________________________________________________

Most shared Punjab Today articles:
 

KYUN KE HUM HAIN HINDUSTANI

Three Women of 1984

 FROM 1984 TO BARGARI - Hurt & angry, we’ve tried rage, anger. Did we miss karuna?   

REVISITING 1984 – RIOT AROUND A POLE     

KARTARPUR SAHIB: A CLARION CALL FOR PEACE IN AN AGE OF CYNICISM

If it could happen to Arun Shourie, imagine what could they do to you?

Healers & Predators – The Doctor is In, & is very corrupt

Amarinder, Badals, AAP — Every party in Punjab is now an Akali Dal

Welcome to 1947. Happy Independence Day. Would you like to step out?

In Pakistan, a donkey pays for democracy – bleeding, its nostrils ripped apart

WOOING THE PANTH: Amarinder a little less Congressy, Akali Dal a little more saffron

"Captain Amarinder Singh ji” and "Rahul”: Reading Sign Language In A Relationship

The Comrade In Punjab - Lost, Irrelevant, Asleep, Even Bored!

WATERS ROYALTY - The Loot that Rajasthan Committed

AMARINDER GOVT's LOVE FOR FARMERS, AND MY DAD's FOR HIS SCOOTER

OF SUNNY KID & HORSE SENSE: The Punjab-Punjab Ties 
A SAFFRON JOURNEY VIA CANADA

TRUDEAU VISIT AND RIGHT-WING MEDIA MACHINE

OF NIRMAL SINGH'S EYES 

Mr. CHIEF MINISTER, PLEASE CALL OFF JANUARY 7 FUNCTION
BAD, BAD WOMAN! 

MR PRESIDENT, PLEASE TAKE BACK HIS GALLANTRY MEDAL

 

_______________________________________________________________


Punjab Today believes in serious, engaging, narrative journalism at a time when mainstream media houses seem to have given up on long-form writing and news television has blurred or altogether erased the lines between news and slapstick entertainment. We at Punjab Today believe that readers such as yourself appreciate cerebral journalism, and would like you to hold us against the best international industry standards. Brickbats are welcome even more than bouquets, though an occasional pat on the back is always encouraging. Good journalism can be a lifeline in these uncertain times worldwide. You can support us in myriad ways. To begin with, by spreading word about us and forwarding this reportage. Stay engaged.

— Team PT
 




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Punjab needs an Accountability Commission to stem systemic governance decay
26.06.19 - Bir Devinder Singh*
Punjab needs an Accountability Commission to stem systemic governance decay



WITH THE institution of Lok Pal becoming defunct and the State Vigilance Bureau reduced to serve the political interests of the man at the helm, the entire accountability architecture in Punjab lies in a shambles. The daily news about vigilance sleuths catching petty officials pocketing a few hundred or thousand rupees seems like a burlesque theatre of sorts.  

Given the realities of the body polity in Punjab, talking about ‘Accountability’ seems asking for the moon, and one needs to remind the readers that this is where basic change in politics starts, unless we have made a permanent peace pact with eternal loose governance.

Any move aimed at resurrection and ending the systemic institutional decay would have to start with the idea of constituting an all powerful autonomous ‘State Accountability Commission’ for Punjab.

Such an institution can be set up under the State act, headed by none less than a retired Chief Justice of the High court or a retired Judge of the Supreme Court. The said Commission should have the statutory powers to evaluate the work and efficiency of all the political appointees who invariably enjoy extravagant status and draw huge salaries and perks from the State exchequer, often for doing no productive work for the State and its people.    
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Punjab needs an administrative architecture for a periodical appraisal of the performance of all political appointees. It must start from the CMO. 
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For such a comprehensive review, the Ministers could also be brought under the purview of the Accountability Commission. After all, there have to be checks and balances in place in the Westminster system of Parliamentary Governance that India borrowed from Britain. 

This would be possible only if a graspable and measurable assignment of work and duties for each political appointee is defined in his or her letter of appointment. Statutory rules must be framed and codified, either through subordinate legislation or by way of Government’s notification, entailing a periodical appraisal of the performance of such political appointees. 

The State Accountability Commission should be empowered to pass mandatory orders to remove any of these appointees, if found wanting in the discharge of their duties or found superfluous or a burden on the state exchequer. The State Legislature should also empower the ‘Accountability Commission’ to even recover the entire quantum of public money with penalty, spent on such appointees from the State treasury, in case any one of them is found guilty of any misconduct or wrongdoing.

Such a legislative measure has become essential for the transformation of the unwieldy office of the Chief Minister Punjab. At present, there is a huge battery of white elephants, unnecessarily parked in the CMO, and intriguingly, most of them are at loggerheads with each other, creating a terrible mess in the CMO in the absence of supervisory control and accountability mechanism. 

The Chief Minister, as of now, has four freelance advisors in the CMO. Mr. T.S. Shergill is in the rank of cabinet minister and others are in the rank of Minister of State. The CMO is overcrowded with a clumsy assortment of Secretaries, Political Secretaries and OSDs, most with no legitimate or codified power or responsibilities, whatsoever. 

Moreover, it’s too well known that Chief Minister Capt. Amarinder Singh hardly attends his office in the Civil Secretariat at Chandigarh. The suffix OSD should be re-coined as OND (Officer on No Duty). Most amusingly, the Chief Minister’s office is yet to notify the time slot in the schedule of timings related to the CMO, thus failing to notify the general public as to when anyone can meet the Hon’ble Chief Minister for redressing any grievance.
 
Although India presumably views Pakistan as a failed State but the achievements of its National Accountability Bureau (NAB), which is dealing with some of the most corrupt top politicians, are highly commendable. It’s pertinent to mention here that Pakistan’s top politicians perceived to have indulged in mega corruption by misusing the State power while in office, are behind bars and facing trial before the accountability courts. They include Nawaz Sharif (former Prime Minister), Asif Ali Zardari (Former President) and their family members. Why can’t we put in place such a tough measure to deal with corruption and inefficiency in high places? Unfortunately, the fragile links in our system of jurisprudence have not only made the system notoriously slow but destined to fail in timely delivery, particularly when big-wigs are to be brought to justice and face trial.

I am of the considered view that such a sorry state of affairs could only happen in a failed State; and the most discernible symptoms of a failed state could be determined as the erosion of legitimate authority of the State to make collective decision, whereby the chain of command goes berserk. Besides, the inability of the Statecraft to provide public services to the last man standing in the queue is the final evidence. The obvious consequence of the wrecked chain of command was witnessed when the entire State’s might failed to rescue a two year old Fatehveer Singh out of the 150 ft deep borewell. That none has been held accountable for the trail of a botched up asymmetrical rescue operation despite public cries is something that should send us back to the drawing board to devise ways in which accountability of those at the helm could be fixed.

 
 

(*The author is a former Deputy Speaker of Punjab Vidhan Sabha, and a politician celebrated for his grasp on legislative affairs. The article is exclusive to Punjab Today.)

 
 

Disclaimer : PunjabToday.in and other platforms of the Punjab Today group strive to include views and opinions from across the entire spectrum, but by no means do we agree with everything we publish. Our efforts and editorial choices consistently underscore our authors' right to the freedom of speech. However, it should be clear to all readers that individual authors are responsible for the information, ideas or opinions in their articles, and very often, these do not reflect the views of PunjabToday.in or other platforms of the group. Punjab Today does not assume any responsibility or liability for the views of authors whose work appears here.

_______________________________________________________________

Most shared Punjab Today articles:
 

KYUN KE HUM HAIN HINDUSTANI

Three Women of 1984

 FROM 1984 TO BARGARI - Hurt & angry, we’ve tried rage, anger. Did we miss karuna?   

REVISITING 1984 – RIOT AROUND A POLE     

KARTARPUR SAHIB: A CLARION CALL FOR PEACE IN AN AGE OF CYNICISM

If it could happen to Arun Shourie, imagine what could they do to you?

Healers & Predators – The Doctor is In, & is very corrupt

Amarinder, Badals, AAP — Every party in Punjab is now an Akali Dal

Welcome to 1947. Happy Independence Day. Would you like to step out?

In Pakistan, a donkey pays for democracy – bleeding, its nostrils ripped apart

WOOING THE PANTH: Amarinder a little less Congressy, Akali Dal a little more saffron

"Captain Amarinder Singh ji” and "Rahul”: Reading Sign Language In A Relationship

The Comrade In Punjab - Lost, Irrelevant, Asleep, Even Bored!

WATERS ROYALTY - The Loot that Rajasthan Committed

AMARINDER GOVT's LOVE FOR FARMERS, AND MY DAD's FOR HIS SCOOTER

OF SUNNY KID & HORSE SENSE: The Punjab-Punjab Ties 
A SAFFRON JOURNEY VIA CANADA

TRUDEAU VISIT AND RIGHT-WING MEDIA MACHINE

OF NIRMAL SINGH'S EYES 

Mr. CHIEF MINISTER, PLEASE CALL OFF JANUARY 7 FUNCTION
BAD, BAD WOMAN! 

MR PRESIDENT, PLEASE TAKE BACK HIS GALLANTRY MEDAL

 

_______________________________________________________________


Punjab Today believes in serious, engaging, narrative journalism at a time when mainstream media houses seem to have given up on long-form writing and news television has blurred or altogether erased the lines between news and slapstick entertainment. We at Punjab Today believe that readers such as yourself appreciate cerebral journalism, and would like you to hold us against the best international industry standards. Brickbats are welcome even more than bouquets, though an occasional pat on the back is always encouraging. Good journalism can be a lifeline in these uncertain times worldwide. You can support us in myriad ways. To begin with, by spreading word about us and forwarding this reportage. Stay engaged.

— Team PT
 





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HEALERS OR PREDATORS?
In People Perception, When Gods Become Satans?
22.06.19 - VIPIN PUBBY
In People Perception, When Gods Become Satans?



IT TOOK SEVEN days for the West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee to do what she should have done on the first or second day of the incident in which a junior doctor was attacked by the relatives of a patient who died while being treated in a government hospital in Kolkata.

The adamant attitude of Mamata Banerjee, which is not peculiar only to this incident, caused pain and problems to lakhs of patients not only in her state but across the country following a  call given by the Indian Medical Association for a day-long strike. The situation was threatening to worsen but thankfully Mamata Banerjee was forced to give up her adamant stand and talk to the agitating doctors.

All she needed to have done was to visit the injured doctor and assured the medical community that she was concerned over the attack. Instead she went on a tangent and attempted to bring in communal and political angle to what is a smouldering problem of doctor-patient relationship.

It is well known, and experienced by lakhs of us, that the doctor is considered a God when he successfully treats and brings back patients from the verge of death. There are daily routine scenes in hospitals or clinics when people are seen thanking doctors. And yes there are scenes of anger and resentment if the patient does not get well. The emotionally charged relatives of such patients at times loose patience which results in assault on doctors.

Most often it is the lack of communication between the doctor and the relatives of patients either due to over worked doctors or the juniors finding little time to patiently converse with the relatives or due to a lack of training to deal with such situations.

It is, therefore, necessary that the doctors, particularly at the time of their induction to the field, that they are given training to handle relatives of patients at such emotional moments.

At the same the general public needs to be sensitised and even warned that any attack on doctors would attract swift and serious legal action. 
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It is true that while a vast majority of doctors undertake their duties with due diligence but commercialism has led to unethical practices in some of the private hospitals.
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In fact no less than 19 states have approved a law providing for action against those assaulting doctors on duty. The Prevention of Violence and Damage to Property Act for protection of medical service persons and Medicare service institutions provides for a jail term upto three years and a fine of upto Rs 50,000 for physical attack on doctors and medical staff.

Apparently it has not deterred general public from assaulting doctors when things go wrong. The long drawn out litigations and lack of evidence often leads to such cases linger in the courts or fail in the long run.

It is important that such notifications are prominently displayed in the premises or Hospitals and dispensaries. It is all the more important to bring the assaulters to book at the earliest through fast track route.

It is true that while a vast majority of doctors undertake their duties with due diligence and subscribe to the Hippocratic oath which includes a promise that they would treat patients to the best of their ability and preserve the privacy of their patients but commercialism has led to unethical practices in some of the private hospitals.
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Otherwise known to be well equipped and maintaining high standards of hygiene, some of the these hospitals are known to set targets for their doctors who, in turn, are forced to recommend surgeries and tests even where these are not required. 

This has led to dwindling public faith in these hospitals but with little alternatives. However nothing much can be done in the given circumstances. The situation of the government hospitals and dispensaries is pathetic. These is acute shortage of doctor and medical staff and attention to hygiene and cleanliness is totally missing. With the increasing number of patients, the situation is getting from bad to worse.

No wonder it has led to increasing incidents of people losing patience but then to target doctors is not the remedy. Action must be taken swiftly against those breaking the law.

What is required is an institutional mechanism to deal with the problems. It is not possible or to provide each doctor including those posted in remote areas, to provide security. However alternatives like easy accessibility to senior doctors or administrative officers to complain about junior doctors or seek redressal of grievances must be put in place.

People need to be sensitised. Doctors are not gods and there is only upto a limit that they can medically intervene. This dichotomy of doctors being blamed for things getting wrong needs to be addressed. No doctor worth his salt would let his patient die or suffer. There is also dire need for opening more medical colleges and add to the current strength of doctors. 

If incident like the one in West Bengal are not checked it could led to serious consequences. While the West Bengal Government has arrested almost all the accused in the assault it was important for it to have engaged with the doctors to avoid such incidents in the future.
 

 

 

(The author, a freelance journalist, is a former Resident Editor of Indian Express, Chandigarh, and reported on the political developments in Jammu and Kashmir, North-Eastern India, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab in his long, illustrious career.)

 

 

Disclaimer : PunjabToday.in and other platforms of the Punjab Today group strive to include views and opinions from across the entire spectrum, but by no means do we agree with everything we publish. Our efforts and editorial choices consistently underscore our authors' right to the freedom of speech. However, it should be clear to all readers that individual authors are responsible for the information, ideas or opinions in their articles, and very often, these do not reflect the views of PunjabToday.in or other platforms of the group. Punjab Today does not assume any responsibility or liability for the views of authors whose work appears here.

_______________________________________________________________

Most shared Punjab Today articles:
 

KYUN KE HUM HAIN HINDUSTANI

Three Women of 1984

 FROM 1984 TO BARGARI - Hurt & angry, we’ve tried rage, anger. Did we miss karuna?   

REVISITING 1984 – RIOT AROUND A POLE     

KARTARPUR SAHIB: A CLARION CALL FOR PEACE IN AN AGE OF CYNICISM

If it could happen to Arun Shourie, imagine what could they do to you?

Healers & Predators – The Doctor is In, & is very corrupt

Amarinder, Badals, AAP — Every party in Punjab is now an Akali Dal

Welcome to 1947. Happy Independence Day. Would you like to step out?

In Pakistan, a donkey pays for democracy – bleeding, its nostrils ripped apart

WOOING THE PANTH: Amarinder a little less Congressy, Akali Dal a little more saffron

"Captain Amarinder Singh ji” and "Rahul”: Reading Sign Language In A Relationship

The Comrade In Punjab - Lost, Irrelevant, Asleep, Even Bored!

WATERS ROYALTY - The Loot that Rajasthan Committed

AMARINDER GOVT's LOVE FOR FARMERS, AND MY DAD's FOR HIS SCOOTER

OF SUNNY KID & HORSE SENSE: The Punjab-Punjab Ties 
A SAFFRON JOURNEY VIA CANADA

TRUDEAU VISIT AND RIGHT-WING MEDIA MACHINE

OF NIRMAL SINGH'S EYES 

Mr. CHIEF MINISTER, PLEASE CALL OFF JANUARY 7 FUNCTION
BAD, BAD WOMAN! 

MR PRESIDENT, PLEASE TAKE BACK HIS GALLANTRY MEDAL

 

_______________________________________________________________


Punjab Today believes in serious, engaging, narrative journalism at a time when mainstream media houses seem to have given up on long-form writing and news television has blurred or altogether erased the lines between news and slapstick entertainment. We at Punjab Today believe that readers such as yourself appreciate cerebral journalism, and would like you to hold us against the best international industry standards. Brickbats are welcome even more than bouquets, though an occasional pat on the back is always encouraging. Good journalism can be a lifeline in these uncertain times worldwide. You can support us in myriad ways. To begin with, by spreading word about us and forwarding this reportage. Stay engaged.

— Team PT
 




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THE GLOVE COMPARTMENT
SPORTS & POLITICS: HAND IN GLOVE — MS Dhoni’s Olive Green Balidan Gloves and the Black Gloves of Smith & Carlos
12.06.19 - S Pal
SPORTS & POLITICS: HAND IN GLOVE — MS Dhoni’s Olive Green Balidan Gloves and the Black Gloves of Smith & Carlos



INDIA'S STAR cricketer MS Dhoni found a smart short-cut to become the country's chest-thumping nationalist hero by displaying on his wicketkeeping glove the emblem of the army's Paratrooper regiment during the match.

Media cameras paid special attention to the "Balidaan" logo, every nationalist and dyed-in-saffron television anchor hailed Dhoni's fauj-prem and recalled that this cricketer is also an honorary Lieutenant Colonel in the parachute regiment of the Territorial Army.

But the International Cricket Council (ICC) was not impressed, and told the BCCI to tell Dhoni to desist from such superlative fauj display on the cricket ground.  

All debates about the exact language of Rule x or subrule y apart, it needed only little common sense to surmise that on a future date, the Pakistani team might also start displaying emblems of the various formations of their country's army. Other countries too can then follow suit. Also, the displays will not remain limited to the respective country's army. Someone might want to display a sign related to some regressive cause in some country. How will you stop a player who might actually believe that all climate change talk is a fraud and display a slogan to say Al Gore is enemy of humanity?

But Dhoni and his ilk do not think that far. The here and now of the perception war is simple: portray yourself as a fauj-premi nationalist and there is a crowd outside ready to scoop you up as a role model for the country. Dhoni could not resist the temptation. The glove came in handy - pun only incidental.

Dhoni's fanboydom approach to army is simple to understand. Children brought up to hero worship authority figures usually admire aggressive authority-oozing uniforms. Not long back, Dhoni was the mastermind behind the team donning military caps. This time it was the commando dagger-military insignia on his gloves. No one can have an objection to Dhoni's obsession with the army, but the decision to use the sport of cricket to advertise his obsession as the ideal of the youth is not cricket. 

Dhoni is welcome to his armed forces fixation as to his long-haired Tarzan look, but he is not welcome to use grounds built with public money to further an agenda.

For years, Dhoni's PR team's strategy was to publicise him as a very private person. The public at large was told that he doesn’t take phone calls and avoids in-depth interviews. Of course, few people have the capacity to juxtapose it with the fact that he has a huge agency to manage his image. Soon, the PR team decided that this uni-expression recluse needed to be projected as a superstar and voluble desh-bhagat fauj-premi hero. So, Dhoni could not stop talking about his army connection and proclivity to tilt at the fatigues, or Balidaan badges.

The private person was suddenly too public about how he now owns olive greens and spends time with troops. He would underscore his love for troops 24 x 7, post pictures with guns, visit J&K in uniform, and then claim the right to display a badge that he never earned. 

The Balidaan emblem represents the elite Special Forces of the parachute regiment whose members pass gruelling tests, undergo arduous impossible-to-imagine-for-a-civilian training — both physical and psychological — to earn that badge.

Dhoni was just being a fan boy on the sidelines, the kind who think they are heroes because they just got clicked a selfie with the cut-out of their hero at a mela ground.

But there have been players in sports who donned gloves that posed far greater risk than what Dhoni faced. It is a pity that the national media of India, or the nationalist media of India, did not deem it fit to inform its readership that gloves have been used to make far more risky statements on the playing field than the adventure that Dhoni undertook.

Dhoni's was a conformist dare that only made puddles in the Indian street. When two black Olympic athletes raised their black-gloved fists at the Olympic medal ceremony, protesting during the "Star-Spangled Banner,” they shook the world beyond continents and oceans.

Dhoni endeared himself to the ruling establishment. The black American athletes faced massive hardship, lived under the shadow of the FBI agents, were shamed and pooh-poohed by the loud rightwing American media and public but did not flinch in advocating using the Olympic platform to express outrage about racial inequality in America.

Statement-making gloved on a sporting field can be no-risk Dhoni gloves, or life-threatening black gloves of Tommie Smith and John Carlos.

If you know about the Dhoni story, it is time to know the story of Tommie Smith and John Carlos. At the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, Smith smashed the world record with 19.83 seconds while Carlos was third. Peter Norman, an Australian, won silver. No one would run under 20 seconds in the Olympics again until Carl Lewis in 1984.

While approaching the victory stand, Smith and Carlos held their running shoes in their hands, sported black socks, clearly not the mandatory look for medal winners. All three wore large buttons that read, "Olympic Project for Human Rights.” 

When the American anthem, "The Star-Spangled Banner” sounded, Smith and Carlos raised their right and left arms, respectively, in the air. Each was wearing a single black glove, covering a clenched fist: the black power salute.

Tommie Smith, center, and John Carlos, right at the 1968 Summer Olympic Games in Mexico City. The Australian Peter Norman is at left. 
 
There was no social media in those days, but the image went viral. Till date, it is a photograph often seen in hostel rooms of young boys and girls, and wherever people love to hang their idols and ideals on the wall, or wear them on the sleeve.

Both Smith and Carlos had been angry for a long time. Both athletes came through tough routes to the San Jose State University, known as the track powerhouse.

The campus talk in those heady days was much about the ways in which America was divided. Black studies classes were being monitored. The Sociology instructor, Harry Edwards, was queering the pitch, engaging students and inspiring them to ask hard questions of their peers and of themselves.

Harry Edwards
 
Both Smith and Carlos were professional athletes but they would question how sports and television advertising were raking in the moolah while anti-poverty programmes were resource crunched. 

 Jim Brown, Muhammad Ali and Bill Russell 
 
The months and weeks leading up to the 1968 Olympics were tough. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in April that year. The air was rife with top black athletes taking a stand against racism. Among them were Bill Russell, Jim Brown and Muhammad Ali. Ali had apparently thrown his 1960 Rome Olympic medal into the Ohio River after a whites-only restaurant in his hometown, Louisville, refused to serve him. Black Americans were hardly given any TV time. Only time they got was when Blacks would make a mark on a sports field, so Smith and Carlos decided to use theirs.

They knew that if they won the 200-metre race, they would have to shake hands with Avery Brundage, the chairman of the International Olympic Committee. To avoid that, they got hold of a pair of black gloves each.

Avery Brundage 
 
Brundage, a white American, was a racist and too friendly with the anti-Semitists. At the 1936 Berlin Olympics, he was untroubled by Nazi salutes. He was a proponent of the America First movement and opposed the US' intervention in World War II. He was clueless about the ways in which the debate about race was engaging younger people.

France was still to recover from the student protests, Czechoslovakia was dealing with the Soviet tanks that had rolled into the country in August and cold war was at its peak. Mexican students were talking loudly about this thing called democracy. On October 2, just two weeks before Smith and Carlos were to run the 200-metre race, hundreds of students were killed at a rally in Mexico, but even violence of this scale did not derail the Olympics.

Vera Caslavska 
 
Americans loved democracy, but of a certain kind. When Czech gymnast, Vera Caslavska, turned her head away while the Soviet anthem played, they cheered her. But when Tommie Smith and John Carlos lodged their protest, they booed them.

Smith and Carlos were quickly shunted out of the Olympic Village and sent back packing, only to face serious backlash, including death threats.  

Media went hysterical. Instead of reminding America that it had forgotten how to take care of the poor, particularly the black urban poor, about black dignity, about Frederick Douglass' great essay -- "What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?” -- it started projecting both as anti-America.

Each age gets its own Arnab Goswami.

But what did the third athlete do? Peter Norman decided to stand tall and broaden the meaning of the moment. He was the one who had advised Smith and Carlos to each wear a single glove (Carlos had forgotten his pair). The three formed an arch of unity and humanity.

It was an arc that went far beyond Dhoni's fauj-prem. Dhoni paid no price for his Balidaan emblazoned glove. These three winners of the 1968 Olympics suffered in multiple ways for their role in forming that arch with just a pair of black gloves.

Norman was never allowed to return to the game and was repeatedly rebuffed. When he died in 2006, still unfairly neglected, Smith and Carlos flew down to Australia to stand up one more time, as his pallbearers.

When Dhoni went to receive his Padma Bhushan, he wore his army uniform with all its accompanying glitter, and marched towards the dais inside the intimidating grand Durbar Hall where Prime Minister Narendra Modi was in the audience. 

It was a risk free walk -- left-right-left-right, half-step turn, left-right-left-right - pinning of the medal - then repeat the return walk to your chair. Now imagine the walk of Tommie Smith and John Carlos. Shoes in hand, black socks getting the eyeballs, clinched fist in the air, heads cast down. Boos all around. That takes bravery. Perhaps what Peter Norman did was even braver. He did one more thing: that day, that week, upon his return to Australia and for the rest of his life, he refused to disavow his fellow winners. He didn't need the glove.

There was no media to tell Dhoni that his military uniform looked awkward and out-of-place in that Durbar Hall, that a blazer with a BCCI logo would have been apt. Imagine wearing NCC uniform to your law degree convocation!

Militarising machismo is unwarranted baiting. Ridiculous becomes nationalism. An act of courage a la what happened on that Victory Stand in Mexico City that day makes you a pariah.

By hailing Dhoni and his Balidaan glove, players like Milkha Singh, wrestler Sushil Kumar and former teammate of Dhoni, Sreesanth, were using it to climb the likeability ladder.

"Today, if Milkha Singh is renowned in the world and if India is known in the world, it is because of the army,” Milkha Singh wrote. Really? And here we thought it was because of great Indians, like you!

Public perception of Smith and Carlos began to change by the 1980s. Both became emissaries for the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles and were inducted into the United States Track and Field Hall of Fame. In 2005, a 23-foot statue depicting the Mexico City protest was unveiled at San Jose State, their alma mater.

Carlos, when asked "why?", put it so succinctly: "We had to be seen because we couldn’t be heard."

Dhoni, if he wanted to use the glove space better, should have used it to make public the voice of those who are not being heard. 

Today, Dhoni's desh prem is being acknowledged all around. Norman died without being acknowledged for his contributions to the sport. 

Years later, we acknowledge him for what he did for humanity. he ran a race for us, and won. Then he used the win for us.

Dhoni fell far short.

Carlos once famously said: "In 1968, we were on a program for humanity—we are still on the same program today.

What program is Dhoni pursuing?
 

Disclaimer : PunjabToday.in and other platforms of the Punjab Today group strive to include views and opinions from across the entire spectrum, but by no means do we agree with everything we publish. Our efforts and editorial choices consistently underscore our authors' right to the freedom of speech. However, it should be clear to all readers that individual authors are responsible for the information, ideas or opinions in their articles, and very often, these do not reflect the views of PunjabToday.in or other platforms of the group. Punjab Today does not assume any responsibility or liability for the views of authors whose work appears here.

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