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amyeberg in cmc08abroad

We went to the Habitat Centre Tuesday night to hear a presentation about the Right to Information Act. It's basically the same thing as the US Freedom of Information Act, but in a country where bribery of government officials alone costs Rs. 21 million per year ($456,251, and their economy is smaller than ours), it's a big deal. People at the meeting use RTI to find out why, say, road construction in their neighborhood was allotted twice as much money as needed but it's still only half done. The discussion was a little hard to follow because it switched between Hindi and English, I think maybe because the audience was relatively old. The best part, though, was hearing one elderly gentleman use "chaps," "fellows," "jokers," and "bum chums" to describe bureaucrats, and "poppycock" and "waffle" for their nonsense. On the way home, my rickshaw driver used his horn 21 times in my neighborhood alone (yes I counted), but he complimented me on my Hindi so I guess it's ok.
One of the big issues in Delhi these days has been sealing. There are lots of shops, businesses, and so on in residential neighborhoods, in violation of zoning laws, but the government has always been lax on enforcing those rules. Now the Commonwealth Games are in Delhi in 2010 (there are banners all over the place reading "1500 DAYS"), and one of Delhi's goals is to clean up these technically illegal businesses before other countries get here. One of these is our very own language school, so we don't have class this Thursday, and maybe for a while. Ooh darn. But it's a big deal for many people, because it happened quite suddenly, and people's whole businesses are ruined now. Today, when I was coming home from school, there were two truckfuls of men and boys with megaphones yelling in Hindi, and the trucks were covered with banners with sayings like "Hitler and Delhi Government: Which Is Worse?" And when I went to M-Block today to get milk, all the stores (which are legal, since it's a market) were closed, because the owners were on strike. There were riots in the northeastern part of the city, and three people died, but that area is far away from us and across the river from the Stephens kids, so don't worry. According to the newspaper, 5 lakh (a lakh is 10,000) businesses will be sealed, and 25 lakh people depend on those businesses, so it really is an issue. The riots forced the Delhi government to rethink its position, so I think it's working on discussions with the Supreme Court now.
In Indian Political Thought, we had our first tutorial (ever. Remember, this is the teacher who canceled class for a week and a half because she had a cold) on Wednesday. The teacher spent most of the class telling the girls about the differences between primary and secondary sources, citation, and thesis statements. She doesn't want colors or fancy fonts on papers. Since these are first-year girls, I guess they just don't know how to write essays: all they've had to do throughout school is take yearly exams.



October 2006

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