On July 1, 2003, the UN Convention on the Rights of Migrant Workers went into effect. (www.unhchr.ch/html/menu3/b/m_mwctoc.htm)
Like many international conventions, this one is treated with contempt by many rich countries that have no intention of following it, because they like to keep their foreign workers powerless and vulnerable.
The way to make this convention more effective is through organizing and collective bargaining of the migrant labor workforce at an international level where it cannot be easily undermined by any one country or its industries.
Then we could have a scenario where a company, industry, or country that abused its foreign workers would have to face some economic consequences.
Also, we should try to use collective economic clout to win things like a work visa being granted to an individual, rather than to an employer, which would give a worker the freedom to change employers and thus overcome exploitation; as well as basic rights for both documented and illegal aliens, so that new laws (such as the Patriot Act) will not be able to strip these rights away from foreign workers so easily.
Arul Francis, Clayton, CA
I picked up a copy of your magazine at an Indian restaurant, and was dismayed to see the anti-American tone of some of your contributors, particularly Sarita Sarvate (“Where are the Women?” IC July 2003).
The invasion of Iraq was not based on a desire for their oil, or even a fear of weapons of mass destruction, though those items may have played minor roles in the U.S. decision to invade. Basically, we invaded because Islamic fanatics in the Middle East have been murdering our people for years, bombing our embassies, our battleship the Cole, and 3,000 of our people on Sept. 11, 2001.
We are sick of these hateful fanatics, who have also murdered many Indian citizens in Kashmir. It was necessary to make a strong statement to the Middle Eastern terrorists, which is: if you murder Americans, you will be held accountable. Since democratic countries like the U.S. and India do not generally start wars or attack other nations without extreme provocation, it is in our best interests to democratize the Middle East, whether they want it or not. Your anti-American writer Jagjit Singh (Letters, IC July 2003) got one thing right: we didn’t invade the Iraqi despotism for altruistic reasons. We did it for our own long-term survival and to reduce the number of American deaths in the future.
Gary Waltrip, Hollister, CA
SUGGESTIONS FOR NEW CONTENT
It is indeed gratifying to note the success that India Currents has enjoyed over the years by focusing on a comprehensive calendar of Indian events. Its maturity to include all other related areas is laudable. India Currents is one of those magazines that people born in U.S. of immigrant Indian parents look forward to reading. There is much more to be done if the community with ties to India has to add to the quality of life in U.S. I would suggest the following categories to be included in your new focus:
Integrated Personality: articles on the development of body, mind, and intellect and spiritual growth would be timely.
Cultural Awareness: not only of our ancestors but also the country in which we find ourselves.
Patriotism: roles, responsibilities in the country we live in. Featured articles on how some of our children are contributing in this area would be of immense benefit as role models for future generations.
Global Awareness: sensitivity to human beings and to the nature of which we are a part.
Thanks for the good work you have done thus far. I hope your efforts will continue to blossom and grow.
Pushpa Sreeharsha, via e-mail
Thank you for rekindling our fond memories of a similar great experience visiting Palitana (“Higher Knowledge: the spectacular Jain temples of Palitana,” IC July 2003). My husband and I visited Baroda, where my brother-in-law lives, and to celebrate the new year 2003, we scheduled a three-day trip to Bhavnagar and Palitana. The beauty of the state of Gujarat enroute to Bhavnagar, the grandeur of the Bhav Sinhji Palace Hotel where we stopped for lunch, and the immense peace and quiet on our climb to the beautiful Jain shrines completely belies the image of Gujarat portrayed post-Godhra. The beauty of the architecture, the views, the silent meditation and prayers offered by thousands of pilgrims were truly the best way we have ever welcomed the new year!
If only we could transcend beyond the boundaries of religion, gender, color; if only we could all be more accepting of other beliefs and cultures; if only we could learn to join hands with one another regardless of religion, gender, color, caste to take pride in, preserve and cherish not only the historical monuments such as this beautiful shrine, but also the natural beauty surrounding the temple.
Padmini Ranganathan, via the Internet
People First, a trust dedicated to instituting good governance, has conceptualized the need of a new institution in contemporary nation states—sovereign rights commissions with authority to direct referendums, except on issues fundamental to democracy or the integrity of the nation. Superior to the royal priest of bygone days, more like Gandhi, such commissions will function as the non-corruptible conscience keeper of the state based on the values of the society as a whole. They will correct faulty institutions to ensure that effective power truly vests with the people at the local level, and prevent the state from exploiting its own people or commit aggression on others. They will also impose effective curbs on business to prevent wasteful consumption of resources.
According to Hindu scriptures, the dharma of the state is to allow every local entity to govern itself and demand no more than one-sixth of local revenues for higher-level functions and coordination. Symbolized in Ram Raj, the rule of the epic monarch Ram, Gandhi called it “Gram Swaraj.” Such democracy is similar to the Swiss democracy, and superior to that in the U.S. It nurtures an egalitarian economic system in which all have equal social, environmental, economic, and political rights and opportunities. It’s capitalism with a human face.
In 1995, Justice M.N. Venkatachaliah, a revered former chief justice of India, praised the concept of sovereign rights commissions as providing a legitimate, non-violent process for transforming our society. In 1997, P.A. Sangma, then speaker of the Lok Sabha, circulated our document in the parliament. People First has now launched a nationwide campaign for such an institution to facilitate instituting true democracy through a referendum held along with the national elections in India in 2004.
Once such commissions are instituted, the abused common people in rich and poor nations can lead the emergence of a sustainable world order of self-reliant local governments. The undersigned is in San Jose, CA till mid-August and can be contacted at (408) 266-1666 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
S.K. Sharma, Managing Trustee,
People First, www.peoplefirstindia.org