United Nations – Four speeches and a Fight

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Background

On 24th of October 1945 and as a replacement to the ineffective League on Nations, United Nations (UN) was established in New York, United States. At its founding, the UN had 51 member states; there are now 193.

Since its formation UN has resolved many issues, probably created a few. But nevertheless, it has always provided a platform to its member states to share their concerns, suggestions and achievements with the rest of the world.

4 + 1 UN moments

Everyone has their own favorites. Here’s my list of 4 crazy speeches and 1 fist fight, that took place inside the UN.

1. Chavez knows how the devil smells

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Year: 2006

Quote: “The devil came here yesterday, and it smells of sulfur still.”

The Venezuelan President, Hugo Chavez, who always enjoyed the spotlight that the UN General Assembly provided, once compared the US President, George W. Bush, to Satan.

2. Ahmadinejad hates the Zionists

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Year: 2008

Quote: “The dignity, integrity and rights of the American and European people are being played with by a small but deceitful number of people called Zionists.”

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad primarily used the UN as a platform to preach Shiite religious teachings and release his pent-up frustration against the Western powers, especially his arch-enemy Israel. In this speech he accused “the Zionist entity” of an array of crimes including causing the South Ossetia war.

3. Qaddafi finally speaks, and there is no stopping.

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Year: 2009

Quote: “It should not be called a security council, it should be called a terror council.”

After 40 years in power, the Libyan Leader Qaddafi spoke in the United Nations for the very first, and he made up for all the lost time. He spoke for 100 minutes, during which he made sure to put forward all his grievances, accused the United States for developing swine flu, and compared the UN Security Council to Al-Qaeda, among other things.

4.  The Turks were literally throwing their weight around.

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Year: 2011

The Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan demanded to go inside the assembly hall when the Palestinian President Abbas was about to declare request for statehood. The Turkish security tried to go through the wrong exit door, and there was a fist fight between the UN security personnel and Turkish.

5. Pakistan’s peacekeeping efforts.

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Year: 2016

Quote: “Pakistan’s unwavering commitment to the UN is well established. We have played a pioneering and consistent role in UN Peacekeeping.”

Ahead of Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s speech, two US lawmakers introduced legislation in the US Congress aimed at designating Pakistan as a state sponsor of terrorism.

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References:

Clearing Bills Promptly

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Bengaluru (Bangalore), India. Monday the 1st of August 2016. Exactly one week before the Goods and Services Tax (GST) bill was passed in the Lok Sabha (House of the People or the lower house of Parliament); my friend Amit Jain was having his breakfast at a restaurant. Being a vegetarian and a hardcore fan of South Indian food, his breakfast mostly consists of idli-vada.

“Saar! Why is it so difficult to get a bill passed in the parliament?” Narendra, a waiter at the restaurant, enquired.

Amit had absolutely no clue, but in his defence he do not watch Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha (Council of States is the upper house of the Parliament of India) TV channels. Additionally, even his bill was pending for more than a week. As a rule, all the bills had to be cleared by Sunday and no one gets a credit for more than a week. So what could he tell him? He got nothing; He wasn’t carrying even a single rupee – not that it would have made any difference.

Somehow Amit had a feeling that this was merely a polite way of asking him to clear his dues. To make matters worse his memory isn’t that bad and the restaurant owner, Babu, snatching the watch of a customer who failed to clear his dues flashed in his head. Now, Amit wasn’t wearing a watch and the shorts and t-shirt he was wearing were old and slightly damaged. And yes, he wasn’t wearing undies. It was too early in the morning to wear one, and the very reason why we stopped going together on my bike for breakfast.

In short, even if Babu took everything Amit was wearing; his dues still won’t be cleared. Additionally this restaurant is about one hundred and fifty meters from his accommodation, which is not much of a distance. But walking nude on a street with a reasonably good population of malnourished street dogs, the very thought of it made a cold shiver run down Amit’s spine as his eyes widened with horror.

Amit wanted to forget the incident, but the images of the episode kept on flashing in his head, in high-definition format, for the next few days. But with the passage of time all memories start fading, and so happened with this one.

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But there is one that I still do not understand “Why is it so difficult to get a bill passed in the parliament?” Maybe it is the word ‘bill’ that gives the impression that we have to pay something. Although some bills do generate revenue, and the revenue thus generated is used for paying salaries, infrastructure development and things like that. Not that anyone is questioning the integrity of our parliamentarians,  but probably the best way to get a bill passed in the parliament would be to call it as a ‘pay-order’, at least the ones that generate revenue.

As about Amit, when he came out of his trance, he heard Narendra saying “Saar!” Next to him was the restaurant owner, Babu, he asked him “Should I put this bill also into your account?” Amit merely nodded his head, all the while expecting a series of spectacular events to unfold right before my eyes. Instead, Narendra and Babu gave him a smile and walked away. Not wanting to take any chances, Amit finished his breakfast quickly. On his way out he told Babu that he will clear his dues on the way to office. Which he did, and from that day onwards Amit started clearing bills promptly.

Images: Wikimedia Commons

To protect the voter: Totaliser machines to be used

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The totaliser, and it’s benefits

In 2008 the Election Commission (EC) approached the ministry of law with the proposal to use ‘Totaliser’ machines for the counting of votes. According to EC, the votes polled at 14 polling stations would be calculated together and announced together, instead of announcing results of each polling station individually. The logic behind is, this would make it impossible to know the voting trends of each polling station. This possibly might save the voters of a particular polling station from post-election harassment, negligence and victimization.

In the assembly elections in Bengal earlier this year, there were reports of families in East Midnapore who did not vote due to the fear of post-poll reprisal. It is in places and situations like these, where the use of totaliser would benefit the voter and thus encourage more people to exercise their democratic right.

Are EVMs history?

The Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) aren’t going anywhere, they are there to stay. According to the initiative, a cluster of EVMs will be connected to the totaliser machine to mask the voting pattern of an individual booth.

The history of government approval

The proposal of EC use of totaliser was referred to the parliamentary committee in 2009, but no action was taken. In 2014, the EC again approached the ministry of law on this issue. In January 2016, the Supreme Court recorded that the government has sought the view of the ministry of law on this issue. A few days back, and in a big electoral reform, the government has decided to discontinue the practice of revealing booth wise results with each constituency. Instead totaliser machines would be installed for elections and they will mask the voting pattern, in individual booth.

Will the totaliser be beneficial?

While the intention behind EC’s suggestion and the government’s acceptance to use totaliser might be good, but will it be of any use?

In May 2016, the BJP held protests in Noida and Ghaziabad against the UP government for allegedly creating an artificial power crisis in the two NCR districts after the ruling Samajwadi Party lost from both the seats in the Lok Sabha polls. Many such similar incidents have taken place where the people were made to suffer for using their democratic right in a way that did not please their democratically elected government.

The other challenge for the totaliser machine would be the municipal elections. How exactly would it be beneficial there? Since the results need to be declared for each ward, based on which the ward representative gets elected. Additionally, the number of votes that each ward member contestant received needs to be declared also. This data can always be used by any political party to ascertain where exactly does their voter base exist.

Conclusion

In a progressive society while new ideas should always be welcome, stress should be on the value add that the new idea might bring into the existing system. Implementing something new just for the sake of bringing change in the existing system would not only cost the poor Indian population dearly, but would not give the desired results.  Additionally there is no dearth of projects where this money could be diverted, like constructing and repairing schools for children, job creation, infrastructure development and even educating the ministers as to when and where they should take selfies – they obviously know the how part very well.