Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Beginning of the End

Manual scavenging persists, but community and political mobilisation of workers has initiated change.

Only those who are in denial are surprised by the continued existence in India of casteism and inhuman practices associated with stigmatisation, despite institutions of the state decreeing their abolition. But progress has been made in fits and starts, and agency – in the form of community and political mobilisation – has played a role in their slow removal. The horrific practice of manual scavenging – the worst form of untouchability and casteism under which certain communities are forced to carry human waste, and clean dry latrines and sewers – is one where the agency of community and political mobilisation has begun to have an impact.

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An EPW editorial

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Little Hope in North Korea

A dynastic succession is set to ensure a continuity in repression.

In a display of grandeur exhibited to impress the world, the normally reclusive state of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea – better known as North Korea – feted visiting journalists and its citizens with a massive “celebration” on 9 and 10 October in Pyongyang. The occasion ostensibly was to celebrate the 65th anniversary of the establishment of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK). But the gala event, featuring the North Korean staple of elaborate gymnastics and pyrotechnics, was held to provide the citizenry with a glimpse of the new “vice-chairman” of the military commission of the WPK, Kim Jong-Un, who also happens to be the youngest son of the ruling “dear leader” Kim Jong-Il, who himself had taken over from his father Kim Il-Sung (anointed as “eternal president” of the country after his death in 1994). The much publicised presence of the hitherto reclusive and unknown Kim Jong-Un is widely seen as a signal for his eventually succeeding the ailing Kim Jong-Il, who has ruled North Korea as the supreme leader of the central military commission for nearly two decades now.

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