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12 February 2016 Editorial


12 FEBRUARY 2016

After New Hampshire, Sanders in focus

In what is being hailed as a "victory for outsiders", Bernie Sanders, the underdog in the U.S. Democratic nomination race, stole a march on former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the first primary elections of the season, in New Hampshire, and controversial property billionaire Donald Trump captured the most Republican votes. Mr. Sanders, a Senator from Vermont, won 60.4 per cent of the primary vote in the State, leading Ms. Clinton by nearly 22 points. In doing so, he scooped up 15 delegates to her nine and almost instantly attracted a wave of donor funding to his campaign, to the tune of $6.4 million. Although New Hampshire is preponderantly white, the self-proclaimed "Democratic Socialist" won a thumping majority across a variety of demographic cohorts, except for those over 65 years of age and for households earning more than $200,000. While he may have benefited from New Hampshire sharing a border with Vermont, this early upset in Ms. Clinton's presumed-unassailable lead has thrust Mr. Sanders's campaign into fourth gear and energised his supporters across the U.S. Importantly, his victory has put the Democratic Party establishment, which until now has thrown its weight behind Ms. Clinton, on notice. Although the party's "super-delegates" are supporting Ms. Clinton over Mr. Sanders by a margin of 355-14, they may well switch their support to Mr. Sanders if he continues to snatch victories in other States.

Yet, by no means is it obvious that Mr. Sanders's call for a "revolution" will thus sway every State. At the national level Ms. Clinton outperforms Mr. Sanders in the support she enjoys with minorities by 71 to 20 per cent. She has vigorously courted the African-American demographic, with a recent visit to Flint, Michigan, to discuss its water-poisoning crisis; she has announced joint campaigns with the families of unarmed African-Americans who died in controversial encounters with law enforcement; and post-New Hampshire she will likely focus her campaign on systemic racism, criminal justice reform, voting rights and gun violence. Mr. Sanders, who will face his first big test with the African-American vote in the mixed demographics of South Carolina and is possibly aware of the weak link in his campaign strategy, met this week with civil rights leader Reverend Al Sharpton to amplify his message of support to this community. It is unclear what dividends such late manoeuvres could yield. The other critical factor is the rise and rise of Mr. Trump. Although he is the philosophical antithesis of Mr. Sanders, they share certain similarities: their attacks on dark pools of campaign finance dominating U.S. elections; their rejection, albeit for different reasons, of the notion of American exceptionalism; and their anti-establishment positions, including distrust of the mainstream media. If these two men float to the top through the primary races, that must reflect Americans' frustration with the jaded politics of Washington. But equally they must know that each man holds firm to a radically different vision for reshaping their country.

TERI's disgraceful appointment

It is a matter of disgrace that an eminent man who leaves his position under a cloud of serious charges of sexual harassment is able to return to an executive position in the same organisation without any compunction. The appointment of climate scientist R.K. Pachauri as executive vice-chairman of The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) in a position apparently created for him, is contrary to the spirit of Indian law that now accords great importance to the safety of women and the special enactment to deal with sexual harassment at the workplace. Dr. Pachauri went on leave in February 2015 from TERI and quit the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change. However, even after an Internal Complaints Committee found him guilty of misconduct on a complaint by a woman researcher, he returned to TERI last July on the strength of an interim order by an industrial tribunal staying the complaints panel's report. With a new Director-General taking over at TERI, Dr. Pachauri has been accommodated in a position from which he can wield power and influence over employees and researchers in an organisation that is partially funded by the government. His continuance in this organisation is untenable. It is apparent from the emergence of a second complaint and reports that his return has caused dismay among many women employees that the charge is not related to one incident or a rare lapse in behaviour, but a repeatedly displayed propensity. Second, his being around in the face of an ongoing criminal investigation against him is wholly inappropriate and against the spirit of the Sexual Harassment of Women at the Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013.

In many ways, TERI as an employer appears to have ignored its obligations under the Act. The complainant is not in the organisation anymore, indicating that conditions for her continuance were not facilitated by the management. It did not act immediately on the internal committee's report, as can be discerned from the fact that there was no follow-up disciplinary action. The jurisdiction of an industrial tribunal to stay the findings of an internal panel under the special law is a legal question that may be decided in ongoing proceedings before the Delhi High Court. As an organisation, TERI has a global profile as well as a considerable body of achievement behind it in the field of energy efficiency and climate science. Its Governing Council has eminent people of impeccable credentials. Not unexpectedly, Dr. Pachauri denies any wrongdoing and doggedly seeks to retain his position. However, it is incomprehensible why the organisation and the eminent people on its governing body should support him. In fact, it is the management of TERI that ought to be assisting the complainants in pursuing legal remedies. It should now act to ensure that Dr. Pachauri does not play a role in TERI any more. As for the 75-year-old scientist who headed an organisation that shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007, it is time for him to rest on his tainted laurels.


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