Thursday, 20 February 2014

The loaded dice

The analogy between efforts of the factions against and for passage of the RPWD Bill 2014 on the one hand, and Yudhishtira and Sakuni playing dice on the other, is not entirely out of place.

One side is trying to preserve at least what they have, and the other is trying to deprive the others of what they already have.

One side has almost been denied any access to publicising their cause; while the press constantly strives to convey the impression that only the second faction exists.

In a show of fair and equal debate, NDTV has a show with six people on show, more or less equally divided numerically between the two groups, but the loaded die has been cast: the compere opens the discussion by inviting the opinion of the leader of the pro-bill faction  and he is given free rein to air his views, while you can see some representatives of the other group straining at the leash, wanting to contest statements being made by the `leader'. When he is through, the compere solicits the opinion of a speaker of the other camp, and just as this lady lawyer is going through her list of reasons for opposing the bill, the leader who has already been allowed to say his piece uninterrupted butts in with his objections contrary to accepted protocol in a debate. One of the anti-bill panelists is never invited to say anything, and is heard only when he has to shout out his opinion in one of the free-for-all shouting matches that later ensues; and the last panelist to be invited to speak is a mother of a child suffering one form of disability that the latest draft of the Bill has included in its definition of a `Person with Disablity' - the implication being that not passing this bill will break this mother's heart. While one wouldn't want to break one heart (by denying her son the virtual and exaggerated benefits of this inclusion), what about the large number of people diagnosed with some form of mental illness being disallowed the right to make legally binding decisions on their own behalf?

The newspapers have been equally biased in their coverage of this bill: they only cite `the leader' as he states his side via a series of half-truths and disinformation.

One only hears what `the leader' has to say, ad nauseum. He says this bill will be a game-changer and that `only the blind groups are opposed to the bill'. Will a hearing impaired person not oppose the fact that `sign language' is never explicitly recognised in the bill as a language? 

Little or no press coverage is given to the fact that the law university NALSAR has come out openly to denounce this bill as a seriously flawed bill. Lawrence Liang of the Law School in Bangalore and Amba Salelkar are two other lawyers who have been lucky enough to find some paper to publish their similar denunciations. I am yet to see a single legal opinion favouring this bill. Is there a lawyer in the other camp? I wonder!

I am sorry to have kept harping on this bill for many consecutive posts; the reason for today's post is that there is a real likelihood of this bill being part of a bundle of 5 bills that the ruling partry has been threatening to pass today, and I am hurriedly posting this in the hope that some legislator might amuse himself by looking at fb during the frequent adjournments of the Rajya Sabha, and see this! Clutching at straws? No choice really.

Oh! a final point in common: good versus bad!

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