distant justice

BANGALORE: People power is all set to take on a new avatar in Bangalore, and police officials will feel its impact. Mahithi Hakku Jagruthi Vedike, a group of RTI activists, will launch a service to assist citizens in their dealings with police.
This voluntary organization will help you register your police complaint and hold your hand through follow-up action. The Vedike was inspired by the success of Mumbai-based PLEAD (People for Legal and Emotional Assistance to the Deserving).
The Vedike team has about 21 retired persons from all walks of life in each police station limit. Of these, five will be in constant touch with the police station. They will take up a complainant's cause and the idea is to ensure that people get justice. Volunteers will keep an eye on corruption too.
Indur Chhugani formed PLEAD, which has over 160 volunteers. Chhugani told TOI: "We prefer retired officials as volunteers as they have time to spare, and experience too. Our success in Mumbai motivated us to open similar organizations in Bangalore and Kolkata. Many volunteers in Bangalore have come forward. In Mumbai, we were able to get a court order to demolish 137 police chowkis constructed illegally on the pavements. That was a landmark achievement," he explained.
a voluntary organization to help you register your complaint with the police and hold your hand through follow-up action!

urban, educated, empowered citizens need volunteers to help them deal with the police? that's how far the justice system in india has distanced itself from the people. consider these two scenarios: what are your chances of getting your complaint registered at the local police station, if 1) you are a dalit, let's say, living in, not mumbai or bangalore or kolkata, but a village far away from educated, knowledgeable people with time on their hands? or 2) a muslim peon living in a city like mumbai (a city, supposedly, so cosmopolitan that it is many cities), that calls, reverentially, an a#%^&le like bal thackeray 'balasaheb'?


anu said...

Such a complicated post! And its also about my city. May I slightly rearrange the scenarios ? (author nodded, really :-))

1) I am a Dalit living in Bangalore, with knowledgeable people with time on their hands. What are the chances of me getting a helping hand from them, my complaint going through the police station and getting justice?

2)A Muslim peon in 'Bangalore', a supposed cosmopolitan city, with neatly divided muslim and hindu neighborhoods peacefully co-existing. We do not wear our dislike on our sleeves, and we have no hoodlum leader spitting fire at one community. BUT we have swift acting police. No clashes, no riots, even during the Babri days. People still died, muslims, inside poor muslim areas, all killed in police firing. Now, will the peon get justice in this nice city?

We can complicate this further by substituting dalit woman and muslim woman seeking justice; fantastic images come to mind, both about the vedike and police helpfulness, in this scenario.

'Distance', not the measurable kind, between the powers-that-be and the dalit/muslim, will either bring them closer or keep them away from justice. A group of well intentioned retired people are not going to suddenly change the attitude towards dalits and muslims in cities. They may be effective for their own kind, as tagged in the post.

Basically, in or away from cities, with or without helping hands, further down the economic and social ladder one is, that much further justice is.

Of all the images this post brings to my mind, the most fascinating one is of the vedike itself; the visual of an elderly retiree, hand-holding the emotionally traumatized laptop toting, company ID garlanded techies and such, through police procedures for justice.........!! And that, in a city known to treat its elderly (retirees included) like this http://www.samachaar.in/Features/Old,_harassed_and_abused_-_story_of_the_Bangalore_elderly_60654/ .

kuffir said...


-'May I slightly rearrange the scenarios ?'

the two scenarios i talked about are random scenarios- i was hoping you'd get the point that they help indicate a broad spectrum of marginalized classes..

this post is a part of a continuous series of posts i've been doing on the subject of security, justice and other debates thrown up by the mumbai events. so the next post would develop further on what is said in this post..

no, it isn't about bangalore or mumbai- all indian large cities are very alike (that's my view and i'll probably write on that too, later).

i'm curious. nationalized banks do not lend money to a great majority of indian people (as i'd said in an earlier post, around 85% do not have bank accounts: you'd said earlier if the banks do not offer credit, we should focus on the alternative institutions that do.. so, when we speak of justice, what other alternative institutions can you think about?

thanks for your perceptive comment.

anu said...

>>i was hoping you'd get the point that they help indicate a broad spectrum of marginalized classes..

I did, didn't want anyone out there to imagine that a dalit in a city is somehow a little closer to justice, than if he was away from it.

Switching Mumbai with Bangalore was more for myself, to see if it makes a difference.
As my view slightly differs from yours about large cities, they are alike in a lot ways, but the way communal feelings are displayed and controlled does have different characteristics with implications, at least to me.

For example in Bangalore, the public are not blatant in showing their dislike/hatred about one or the other communities.

During my association with the city until 2003, that is, rarely had there been a display by public figures denouncing any one community. When leaders/persons with followers, mouth obscenities, lackeys take it as approved behavior and bring that behavior into everyday life. Which to me has more powerful long term effects, like reinforcing the negative image in children as they grow up hearing this kind of rhetoric in public spheres.

Then, there is history, we are only burdened at 'long distance' with the horrors of the partition experience, in Bangalore and other cities further south. In our collective memory against a common enemy -the British, Tipu is our local hero.

Politics are also different, riot elements are different, more importantly, muslims have a presence in the economy of Bangalore city, that is appreciated, from big to small businesses.

Now, do all these aspects translate into a quicker or rather facilitate access to justice for the poorest of them? Probably yes, as against in a city that in its recent memory has violence, and the hate rhetoric is out in the public.

All the same, the underlying tensions here take on very different forms of expression, subtle but still very effective in denying justice or giving the requisite dignified space to 'others' in cities. More sophisticated hence more dangerous than the breathing fire and brimstone and blood letting that happens elsewhere. When a wound is exposed, reaction in the form of introspection and cure seeking follows, but when systems keep wounds subterranean, so to speak, it is a difficult task to untangle the exact reasons that keeps justice amiss for the poor.

On the other hand, the dalits are not perceived positively either in popular memory or current existence. It is status quo; no heroes, no presence in the economy, no possible ladder of a few privileged from within community enabling a helping hand scenario.

All cities will be, more or less, the same for the poorest of the dalits. I guess.

And yes, I am keenly reading your series and seeing the topics unfold on this blog. Very timely!

About alternatives to banks, Kuffir, firstly, I have only a lay person's grasp of economics, and made that comment from personal observations in the context of how dalits manage finances.

It would appear, there is an acceptance that banks are not meant for them. And that its services are being denied to them, a moot point. Instead, had their own little systems of money circulation.

Small time money lenders played a prominent role, followed by pawn brokers and small groups of chit funds. These were the institutions (if one call them that). There seemed an acceptance that these controllers would cheat, it is taken as a way of life.

Protest is mostly nonexistent, imagine an individual who pawns his tape recorder to tide over a week's groceries, taking on these elements in the event of being cheated!

But without them (moneylenders, pawnbrokers etc) what would the dalits do? Where would they go? these institutions let the dalits exist but barely. Hence, recognizing these institutions and bringing them under some kind of regulation may improve the situation, as far as credit to the marginalized goes.

Maybe this would also turn out be as tough as getting the banks to lend to the poor. But worth looking into. Then there is also much written about micro credit, which I read, but have no personal observations if this works for dalits in all situations.

kuffir said...


moneylenders and banks do not exist in parallel, unconnected worlds. moneylenders,primarily, function exactly as banks do: they borrow money (or people deposit money with them) at low interest (just as banks do)and lend it at higher rates of interest. yes, they have their own capital, accumulated over the years, but that forms only a small part of their total capital (just as in the case of banks). but the basic diffrence between banks and and moneylenders is, simply put, the quantum of capital/credit each deals with- while banks control over 85-90%, say, capital/credit in india and lend to 10-15% of individuals (apart from governments, business corporations and so on), money lenders probably control 10% of available capital/credit and 85-90% of individuals and small businesses depend on them for credit. because the demand is so vast, and the supply so small, moneylenders would always lend at higher rates of interest than banks. if the supply increases, the rates of interest would be, proportionately, less usurious.

two: it's a common misconception that moneylenders operate in a regulatory vacuum. all state governments have laws governing the functioning of moneylenders/pawnbrokers/ chit funds. they prescribe registration procedures, reasonable rates of interest, forbid usury and harassment.

but the laws can't overcome the logic of limited supply and extensive demand.

lastly, it's not totally true that there is no protest against moneylenders- in every police station in india you'd meet people who have grievances.you also seem to miss the import of the naxal movement and several farmers' protests across the country.

anu said...

>>moneylenders and banks do not exist in parallel, unconnected worlds.

>>they prescribe registration procedures, reasonable rates of interest, forbid usury and harassment.

>>but the laws can't overcome the logic of limited supply and extensive demand.
True. essentially no scope for reforms (?)

>>protest against moneylenders- in every police station in india you'd meet people who have grievances.
Sure, I know quite a few of them (I'd said mostly). Probe a little bit, at the lowest level of money lending and consequently lowest level of poverty, if the complaint has reached the police station, it is usually, because dalit borrowers are being used as pawns in the inter moneylenders power play to control a particular area/clients.

>>you also seem to miss the import of the naxal movement and several farmers' protests across the country.

I'll learn by just listening in on a discussion about naxal protest , but will definitely learn and share in a discussion about farmers protest, in this context.

Best for 2009! :-)

kuffir said...


'True. essentially no scope for reforms (?)'

i left some things unsaid. don't know about reforms, but definitely do believe there is a lot of scope for nudging banks towards seeing reason: that the marginalized, as shown by the mfis, are capable of assured repayment.

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