Islam Edit Bureau
Sep 06, 2017
By Amrita Dutta
resistance to a sturdy foundation
By Swapan Dasgupta
expect China to change its ways soon
By Asian Age
socialism: 2 ‘mindsets’ keep India down
hands do dirty work
By Mrinal Pande
track: on India and China's united front at BRICS
By The Hindu
Sitharaman: Should feminists be happy?
By Lalita Nijhawan
by New Age Islam Edit Bureau
URL: http://newageislam.com/indian-press/new-age-islam-edit-bureau/rip gauri-lankesh,-the-journalist-activist-who-had-the-courage-to-speak-her-mind-openly--new-age-islam-s-selection,-06-september-2017/d/112443
RIP Gauri Lankesh, the journalist-activist who
had the courage to speak her mind openly
By Hindustan Times
Gauri Lankesh, a
senior Kannada journalist known for her criticism of Hindu extremism, was shot
dead at her home on Tuesday evening.
You hear of
journalists being killed in Mexico city, Turkey, Ukraine and all the other far
away cities and countries. You sigh, and move on with life. But, when the
killers turn up a few kilometres from your house and shoot dead someone you
have known for years and admired for her spunk, the shock is paralysing. That
is the feeling uppermost in me on hearing the news of the murder of a dear
colleague Gauri Lankesh.
Memories of the times
spent with Gauri discussing stories over coffee, talking politics and general
gossip about this and that flit through the mind in a mad jumble spread across
35 years. Hard to believe that so much time has elapsed since I first met her
when I joined the then weekly newspaper Sunday Mid-Day in Bangalore. She was
there as well, as a trainee.
Gauri was a typical
reporter — sniffing out stories, reporting on events of all kinds and having
fun like most others. She shifted to Delhi for a while after her marriage and I
remember visiting her a couple of times at home for dinner and gup shup.
Over time, we did move
our own ways. Gauri returned to Bangalore in the ‘90s if my memory serves me
right. That was the turning point for her...she metamorphosed into a political
activist-journalist. Gauri emerged in a different form from what one had known
of her earlier. Post the Babri Masjid demolition in 1992, she made it to the
newspapers as a strong votary against communalism.
The Gauri one had
known all along was now taking the lead in condemning growing communal
polarisation. She was constantly in the media glare at the head of the Forum
for Communal Harmony (Karnataka Komu Souharda Vedike). In the middle of all
this, she got embroiled in a filial fight over her legendary journalist-father
Lankesh’s newspaper called “Lankesh Patrike”. The business split into two
newspapers, and she became the editor of one of them.
Karnataka has had a
minor strand of the Naxal movement. And, lo, Gauri was in the thick of this too
– arguing for justice to tribals and forest-dwellers in parts of the state.
She, along with her band of activists, was responsible for influencing a few
Naxal activists to give up their armed movement and return to open political
When one referred to
Gauri as spunky, there was good reason. She took on right-wing activists
belonging to the RSS, BJP and their various fringe organisations. There was no
doubt she had made a considerable number of enemies. There were times when she
became the target of verbal attacks from her political opponents. She was
roughed up a few times. But she never seemed to give up.
There were defamation
cases as well, filed by irate Sangh Parivar politicians. She was convicted too
recently, but that was par for the course for this journalist.
For someone like me
who knew her all these years, I must confess that we were not friends on
Facebook, nor on WhatsApp or any other social media. Yet, it was as if I did not
need all these to stay in touch with her. For, either she was writing columns
in various newspapers, or part of the news itself with her “in your face”
opposition to the Hindutva brigade or for her participation in some event or
the other in favour of communal harmony.
Gauri was among those
strongly condemning the murder of the noted writer MM Kalburgi. She probably
never imagined that one day she would fall in the exact same fashion — four
armed men shooting her point-blank at her residence, in Rajarajeshwari nagar, a
well-populated and busy middle-class locality.
One thing one can say
with certainty — in recent years there has been no other journalist in
Karnataka with the courage to speak her mind openly, publicly without mincing
words. Our most recent meeting was a few months ago during the release of
journalist Rana Ayub’s book on the Gujarat riots. After the event, Gauri told
me it was a long time since we had a coffee and that we should meet and talk
An honour killing
September 6, 2017
What happens when a
community turns against the writer who speaks for and about them?
In Salman Rushdie’s
Haroun and the Sea of Stories, Khattamshud, the enemy of imagination and the
ruler of the Land of Chup, tells us what he knows about stifling stories. “To
ruin a happy story, you must make it sad. To ruin an action drama, you must
make it move too slowly. To ruin a mystery, you must make the criminal’s
identity obvious even to the most stupid audience. To ruin a love story, you
must turn it into a tale of hate,” he says. In today’s India, where pockets of
Chup proliferate everywhere, we could add one more ingredient: To ruin a story,
you must turn it into a matter of honour.
The honour of Gounder
women was invoked in a campaign against Perumal Murugan’s novel, Mathorubhagan,
in Namakkal two years ago. Just recently, the Jharkhand government has banned
Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar’s The Adivasi Will Not Dance, a collection of stories
published in 2015, on the charge that it dishonours Santhal women. In doing so,
the government legitimised an old and vicious online campaign by a section of
people in Jharkhand — both tribal and non-tribal — which railed at Shekhar for
writing “porn”. The Santhal writer, who is also accused of misrepresenting his
own indigenous people, has also been suspended from his job as a government
doctor in Pakur.
The wise men and women
who sit in angry judgement over books have not been known to read before
reaching for the gun. Still, it might surprise you to know that the story for
which Shekhar was pilloried on Facebook — “Semen, Saliva, Sweat, Blood” — was
written for a 2012 anthology of erotic stories. It is not even a part of the
book that has been banned. It might surprise you further to know that six of
the 10 stories in The Adivasi Will Not Dance feature women protagonists, some
of them unforgettable characters.
One of the most
striking works of Indian fiction in English in recent times, The Adivasi Will
Not Dance is not an anthropological study of dancing noble savages. Shekhar
would rather tell the story of the inhabitants of a mineral-rich land, left
powerless by state and big capital. His characters are flesh-and-blood people,
following their desires and compulsions against the indifference of a
The Adivasi does not
lust, his critics seem to suggest in their prim horror at the sex in his
writing. Nor does the Adivasi woman make difficult choices, involving her body
and survival, it would seem from the cries of dishonour that rang in the state
assembly over a three-page story. “November is the Month of Migrations” is inspired
by the annual journey of many Santhals in search of work to the paddy fields of
Bardhaman in nearby Bengal. Its unsentimental account of the choice one such
migrant makes — sex for money and food — is as much a story as a punch in the
Shekhar’s women lust
and hunger, sometimes with terrible consequences for themselves. Life throws
everything at them: Illness and starvation, leering men and allegations of
witchcraft. But they survive, as rice-mill workers and prostitutes, as unpaid
maids and battered mothers.
celebration of literature and writers might make you think otherwise, but the
backlash against Shekhar and Murugan underlines the essential loneliness of the
writer, especially she who lives away from metropolitan literary salons and
networks. When I spoke briefly to Shekhar, on the day his effigy was burnt in
Pakur and before the government swung into action, he had just returned from
treating patients with dengue hemorrhagic fever in Sangrampur village, 5 km
away. “I am not afraid, and I cannot afford to be afraid,” he had said.
As a proponent of the
Ol-Chiki script, Shekhar, a follower of the Sarna religion, suggested he might
have angered that section of Santhals who write their language in the Roman
script, the legacy of a Norwegian Christian missionary. The BJP state
government, headed by a non-tribal chief minister, aims to champion the Adivasi
cause by endorsing the witch-hunt against Shekhar. It is, at the same time,
ramming through an anti-conversion bill that is being bitterly opposed by
Christian groups in the region. In this electoral calculus, the rights of a
lone writer are easy to discard.
What happens when a
community turns against the writer who speaks for and about them? That
abandonment is a special wrench when it comes to writers like Shekhar, who are
nourished by the deep roots they have struck in their land. And yet, the writer
owes his community nothing but the truth, as perceived by his imagination.
The campaign against
Shekhar, which sprouted and took on an ugly, beastly life on Facebook, also
shows how easily technology now allows the state and the community to intrude
into what was once a relationship between writer and reader. All someone has to
do is post a screenshot of a page that “offends him” to rally the mob in a
mission of hate. In a more autarkic time, it was possible to retreat into the
space opened up by a writer’s imagination, without having to deal with the
hectoring voice of the community. Reading, too, was an act of solitary renewal.
Last year, when P.
Murugan resurrected the writer Perumal Murugan after a Madras High Court order
dismissing a ban on his book, he spoke of the censor that now sits within,
testing every word he creates. But he also spoke of the silence and solitude
that he hoped would eventually replenish the wellspring of his fiction. “Please
do not ask me to speak. Let me be quiet. And write. I shall speak to you
through my written words.”
The question remains:
Will Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar be allowed to find a way out of his silence?
Spirited resistance to a sturdy foundation
Sep 05, 2017 07:23 am
Like lawyers, economists
also like to go by precedents. As such, it is not surprising that India’s
demonetisation exercise didn’t find favour with the more celebrate
practitioners of the discipline. No functioning economy—and a growing one at
that—had tried it before, and it seemed too audacious a move. In any case,
demonetisation hadn’t featured on the policy prescriptions of pundits. More to
the point, economists haven’t really figured out how the imponderables of
politics affect their policy prescriptions. In the face of such daunting
challenges, as Jagdish Bhagwati once wrote, “any elementary mistake in
economics can be turned into a profound truth by ingenuously making the right
assumptions to deduce what you want.” He added that “India suffered the tyranny
of anticipated consequences from the wrong premises.”
For social scientists
studying India, there is also one overriding consideration: the reality of the
Narendra Modi government. Try hard as they might—and they haven’t really tried
very hard—academia and media have found it impossible to digest the fact that
sustained opposition to the Modi government hasn’t either brought about a
regime change or led to dysfunctional governance—of the type witnessed in the
final two years of the UPA government. Last November’s demonetisation was
thought to be Modi’s big mistake—it was compared to Napoleon’s Russian
campaign—and it was felt that it was only a matter of time before public anger
toppled the government.
It didn’t happen. On
the contrary, the results in Uttar Pradesh showed that the Prime Minister’s
popularity continued to touch dizzying heights. The past fortnight has,
however, brought cheer to the unrelenting opponents of the government.
First, there was the
landmark judgment on the right to privacy by the Supreme Court. The judgment
set a broad framework and drew a Lakshman rekha around the intrusive powers of
the state. It set right the judiciary’s own mistakes committed during the
Emergency. The judgment may also have created the judicial precedents for the
scrapping of the archaic provisions on gay sex. What it did not do was to set
aside the UIDAI programme around the Aadhaar card that has plugged leakages in
welfare schemes and created deterrents against tax non-compliance. Yet, that is
how the judgment was sought to be projected.
Secondly, there was
the outcry over the violence surrounding the court judgment against the chief
of the Dera Suchcha Sauda, Ram Rahim. This led to nearly 30 deaths in an around
Panchkula plus huge damage to property by angry followers in both Haryana and
Punjab. Curiously, while the violence in Haryana was highlighted and led to
shrill demands for the sacking of Chief Minister M.L. Khattar, the disturbances
in Punjab were left unaddressed. There was considerable damage to railway
property in Malot and Bhatinda, telephone exchanges were vandalised in Barnala
and Talwandi Sabo, electricity generation units were attacked in Bhatinda and
Sangrur and countless petrol pumps were attacked and damaged in the Malwa
region. The violence, it would seem was widespread in the two states but its
epicentre was Panchkula.
However, the political
fallout of the Dera violence was focussed on attacking the BJP and, by
implication, the Prime Minister. The media even went to the extent of
distorting judicial observations to show that the basis of Modi’s politics is
the instigation of violence.
Finally, there was the
entire kerfuffle over the fall in the growth rate to 5.7 per cent and the
Reserve Bank report that nearly 99 per cent of the demonetised bank notes had
found their way into the banking system. These were taken as proof that
demonetisation had failed and that there was no recovery of black money.
The conclusions were
bewildering. There was a facile belief that all monies deposited into the
banking system had automatically become legitimate and that the tax authorities
were content to ask no questions. This projection was in direct conflict with
an earlier alarm that demonetisation had paved the way for tax terrorism.
Obviously both can’t be true but consistency is the inevitable casualty of a
news projection that was aimed at solely at showing that the media and the
pundits can never be wrong.
It is not that
demonetisation has been painless and that some black money hasn’t managed to
escape the net. Where the critics have wilfully erred is in not seeing the
larger social consequences of demonetisation: the big strides taken in rolling
back the black money epidemic and making India a relatively more tax compliant
nation. The suggestion that this would have happened even without
demonetisation is specious. Given the sheer brazenness with which the grey
economy operated, it needed a big hammer blow for some balance to be restored.
No doubt this has
caused some dislocation to the economy. Along with the production slowdown that
preceded GST, the hiccups in the unorganised and unregulated sectors were
responsible for the slowdown in the economy. Yet, what we are seeing is the
creation of a sturdy foundation for a modern economy. At the same time we are
also witnessing the spirited resistance of all those whose cosy and, more often
than not, corrupt, corners have been unsettled by a reformer who is not afraid
Modi could have taken
a less troubled route and gone in for the plodding approach to politics. Instead,
he chose the path of fundamental reforms that will change the way India
operates. Modi has disturbed a stodgy, do-nothing consensus. This is why he is
being opposed by a coalition of the rotten.
Don’t expect China to change its ways soon
Sep 6, 2017
New Delhi and Beijing
should get serious if they seek to grow a healthy bilateral relationship.
The September 3-5
Brics summit at Xiamen in China came at a specific moment for India - just days
after the end of the military standoff at Doklam. In fact, there is a strong
probability that China diplomatically agreed to the disengagement as it is the
current chair of Brics and the summit was being held on its soil. It couldn’t
have risked India’s absence, for that would have meant devaluation of the
conference, if not its cancellation - as was the case with Saarc in Islamabad
that India declined to attend. As such, President Xi Jinping went out of his
way to be charming with India. In his hour-long one-on-one meeting with Prime
Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday, the Chinese leader appeared statesmanlike.
He spoke of the need for the two neighbours to look ahead in their ties (right
after Doklam). In addition, Mr Xi didn’t hesitate to permit the inclusion of
the names of Lashkar-e-Tayyaba and Jaish-e-Mohammed, the two anti-India terror
outfits that operate out of Pakistan with the open support of the Pakistani
military, in the document emanating from Xiamen.At the Goa Brics summit last
year, China had prevented the mention of Pakistani terror outfits in the summit
document. Predictably, the Indian media has been encouraged by our top
officials to tom-tom the mention of Pakistani terrorist groups as a “win” for
India, facile as it may seem to experts. We really should be wary of such
self-congratulation.The mention that gladdens us in no way means Beijing will
now change its stance and agree to let Lashkar and Jaish and their leaders be
sanctioned by the UN in order to meet an Indian concern. The reference in the
Brics document to the terrorist outfits doesn’t cost China anything with
Pakistan. It must be kept in view that at the UN, the Chinese view is that
India hasn’t mustered the evidence against Jaish and its leader Masood Azhar.
Such a cynical view can be sustained easily.Two important institutions Brics
has created are the Shanghai-based New Bank and the Contingent Reserve
Arrangement - to meet adverse foreign currency fluctuations of members. But for
both institutions, these are early days. It is doubtful Brics can prosper as an
economic, financial and trade-enhancing grouping - either to correct
international economic governance or offer a counter-thrust - if the shadow
over the political relationship between India and China is not removed fairly
soon. Glib summit documents or tactical charm on Beijing’s part won’t do it.
Nor will Indian officials and media’s meaningless crowing about a “win”. New
Delhi and Beijing should get serious if they seek to grow a healthy bilateral
relationship. A good place to start is to settle the boundary, and for Beijing
to stop playing games in Pakistan’s company.
Swadeshi, socialism: 2 ‘mindsets’ keep India
Some years ago, the
venerable Keshub Mahindra, one of the proponents of the reviled Bombay Club,
revealed to me how gentleman industrialists of India Inc sat in Oberoi’s
Belvedre Club in August 1991 to discuss how to petition the government on the
rising heft of MNCs who would inundate India with their cheaper goods and kill
domestic industry. In the first flush of the unfettering of the command
economy, liberalisation was a dirty word for Indian industry. The underlying
anodyne fear over how MNCs would sweep them away with their financial
firepower, making them form a conglomeration of forces. They petitioned then
finance minister Manmohan Singh on November 10, 1993, saying while they
welcomed competition in the market, they urged the government to take steps “to
enable them [Indian businesses] to play their rightful role in the industrial
development of the country”. One of the sharp waiters serving this elite group
leaked the story to the media, which then went to town on how India Inc wanted
protectionist barriers set up in their battle with the firangs. It’s another
matter that Indian industry became more competitive and agile in the years
ahead, to not just survive but thrive.
insularity and inward-looking — synonyms which could be used interchangably.
How dare anyone equate swadeshi with socialism? After all, one is a dogma and
the other a boilerplate of economic nationalism. Bottomline, they all reflect a
mindset which is backward. Its orientation, origins and template going deep into
a concentric circle called narrow-mindedness. After all, India remains capital,
energy, infrastructure and power-deficit. Policy stasis of different kinds
continue to impede its progress. It has to open up, yet it has chosen not to.
It remains illiberal and suspicious of foreigners and foreign capital. For a
country which was invaded and ruled by foreigners till 1947, this is a
remarkable metamorphosis. Perhaps this rigidity stems from this “being ruled
and colonised” credo dominant over centuries in this country. That is why this
inherent reservation and scepticism, a lingering doubt that eats innards, like
an ulcer, it leaves you in discomfort.
So, batten down the
hatches roll out the mattresses and be defensive. For UPA, there was a default
mechanism which crept into their thinking after returning to power with 206
seats in 2009, the setting signalled a return to its socialist moorings. For
the BJP, a right-wing, muscular nationalism-practising party, the default
mechanism is swadeshi — be Indian, buy Indian — a clarion call first given by
Mahatma Gandhi against the British Raj. Neo-swadeshi rooted in age-old canons,
an extension of the Gandhi-inspired phenomenon which swept India. Economics
tells you that market forces determine and discover pricing. That is the only
way if the true potentiality of the axis of commerce needs to be exploited.
Instead of being progressive, what does India choose to do? It opts to hound
you with retrospective, retrograde and regressive taxes. This cuts across party
lines. It goes beyond the pale because at heart we are all Luddites. The latest
instance is an offshoot of the Doklam crisis — boycott Chinese products, goods
and imports; as articulated by the Swadeshi Jagaran Manch’s S. Gurumurthy and
the Rashtriya Swabhiman Andolan’s K. Govindacharya. India has imposed
anti-dumping duties on 93 products like chemicals, machinery, steel and other
metals, fibres, yarn, rubber, plastic, electrical items, electronics and
consumer goods imported from China. Another 40 cases relating to imports from
China have been initiated by the Directorate-General of Anti-Dumping and Allied
Duties (DGAD). Protectionist policies are good for they are probably wreaking
havoc on Indian-made products, but free market economics avers that let
competition be the only whetstone to decide who the winner is.
Sometime in August
2012, late attorney-general Goolam E. Vahanvati, India’s highest law officer,
opened a brand new front. He argued India can raise a demand on Hong Kong-based
Hutchison as it was liable to pay tax on the sale of its Indian assets to the
UK’s Vodafone Group in 2007 — India could legally send a notice to Hutchison,
which exited the country in 2007, after selling its operations to Vodafone for
over $11 billion. “Ultimately, the tax has to be paid by either of the two
companies, or both. The government doesn’t quite care, but legally a notice can
be served on Hutchison” — the argument went. The ghost returned last week.
In a bizarre move, the
income-tax department sought Rs 32,230 crores in tax, interest and penalty from
Hong Kong-based Hutchison for alleged capital gains on the $11 billion deal for
sale of its mobile business in India to the UK’s Vodafone Group in 2007. In a
regulatory filing to the Hong Kong stock exchange, CK Hutchison Holdings said
its unit Hutchison Telecommunications International had been served with a tax
demand of about Rs 7,900 crores, along with interest of Rs 16,430 crores and
penalty of Rs 7,900 crores. The company, of course has disputed this claim.
This is the first time that the I-T department has raised a tax demand on the
Hong Kong firm. So far, it insisted on tax payment from Vodafone. It may be
noted that the tax department had earlier offered companies locked in tax
disputes to settle the issues, but none of the top firms came forward. They
preferred to challenge the tax demand in international arbitration tribunals.
So if you can’t get Vodafone, which has taken you to arbitration, open a
spanking new front and target the other party to the transaction, but wake up
to that reality a decade later.
protagonists like Govindacharya, S. Gurumurthy and Baba Ramdev are ratcheting
up the pitch on the old bogey of economic nationalism. My view on economic
nationalism is become strong like the chaebol in South Korea or the zaibatsu in
Japan and manufacture world-class products. Produce them with the best cost
efficiencies and flood the world. That is an economic model India should
pursue, become a global hub of Indian-manufactured products and export them. It
could be an automobile or a two-wheeler or a handset.
Today we have Hero
Motocorp as a shining example of Indian manufacturing — on the Delhi-Jaipur
expressway it has three manufacturing plants and its assembly lines are
churning out 678,797 two-wheelers (in August alone, the highest-ever monthly
sales recorded). Another Indian iconic bike maker Royal Enfield sold 67,977
units in August 2017, compared to 55,721 units in August 2016. It’s going toe
to toe with Harley Davidson worldwide.
But wait, both are a
part of a competitive set which includes Honda, Hero’s erstwhile partner, and
their numbers for August are staggering. It sold 622,180 units last month,
creeping up on Hero and besting Bajaj Auto and TVS Motor. Now this is a
function of competitive and free market forces. Shuttering yourself will not
help. Nor will policy flips-flops like the ones on “luxury cars and SUVs” where
anomalies were detected — that prices actually went down after GST kicked in,
so levy a cess making it prohibitive to buy them (53 per cent). Then luxury
cars become a homologous unit where the Toyota Etios, Honda City, Maruti Ciaz
and similar vehicles are mistakenly seen as luxury cars due to their 4m-plus
length and over 1500cc engine capacity. There is no logic or rationale in such
a move. Economic activity moves on wheels, the more cars we sell, the deeper
will be the tax collections under GST. Don’t raise these old bogies now, for if
you want the world to perceive you as a genuine free market economy, the law of
supply and demand, rather than a Central government, should regulate production
and labour. Companies sell goods and services at the highest price consumers
are willing to pay, while workers demand the highest wages companies are
willing to pay. We are a far cry from that.
Invisible hands do dirty work
September 6, 2017
Caste biases have
instilled a disdain for all forms of manual work. From there, the dots can be
connected to the lack of quality and safety in public works and services.
A few years ago, while
visiting home in Uttarakhand, Shanti, whose family has had a long association
with mine, came visiting with her mentally-challenged son. “I am getting old,
the land is turning barren, so you must get my son a sarkari job with a
pension,” she rasped in her unvarnished local dialect. “He will be a good
chaprasi (peon) in any sarkari daftar,” she said.
But he will need some
qualifications, a school leaving diploma at least, I said.
“Nah. I took him to a
vocational school. But when I saw they teach only manual work I brought him
back. My son is a Brahmin and will not train and use tools sitting with sons of
carpenters and coppersmiths. Listen, get him in just any government office. He
will get to wear a sarkari uniform and sit on a stool outside his sahib’s room.
I promise you he will stand up and salute whenever the sahib comes.”
Before you chuckle,
dear readers, do realise that the illiterate Shanti, as a shrewd strategising
mother fighting to help her vulnerable child survive, has unwittingly diagnosed
the three main reasons for Indians’ deep hankering for sarkari jobs. These
involve maintaining a passive watch from a stool or a chair, keeping the boss
happy and a steady pension after retirement.
For 70 years, most of
India’s marital matches — and democratic governments — have been formed after
factoring in the cleverly divided and sub-divided caste lines. Since caste,
when well-protected, demands exclusion of manual labour from the lives of the
privileged, from Bihar to Tamil Nadu, manual work of the most degrading kind is
subcontracted by governments and private companies to unskilled but cheaply
available invisible hands through a vast network of contractors.
As global workplaces
increasingly fragment and turn hyper competitive and Donald Trump whittles down
outsourcing and H1B visas, India’s skilled ones (mostly from upper castes or
privileged families of a few upper class SC/STs) are increasingly opting for
public sector jobs and the less-skilled are being steadily pushed out, losing
the agency they once had as a large organised workforce. From among these
invisible and unorganised freelancers, desperately in need of cash, come all
those unprotected ones willing to stand for hours in farms, planting, weeding,
spraying toxic weed killers, carry bricks and mortar up rickety bamboo steps at
construction sites, dive into 18-feet deep pools of excreta to unclog drains,
collect and sort hospital garbage with ungloved hands, patch up our neglected
railroad tracks without any of their formal contractors and mandated
supervisors on site. All of them are expected to use the cheapest and most
basic tool — a pair of human hands.
We are not being anecdotal
here. Recent research has thrown up plenty of data on shining India. A
placement statistics study of IIT Mumbai reveals that 45 per cent of their
BTech students choose to migrate to finance and consulting related jobs. Only
about 22 per cent of them continued with engineering and technology-linked
jobs. Data also confirms how MBAs, doctors and commerce graduates who have
either failed to find lucrative jobs abroad or in the private sector will
prefer a government job rather than opt for start-ups. The Railways, like the
Public Works Department or the government-run educational and healthcare
bodies, today have whole queues of trained graduates waiting to join.
Since government jobs
have caste quotas, caste biases run deep in the system, including a Brahminical
disdain for all forms of manual work or physical contact with greasy tools and
machines. This guarantees a woeful neglect of acquiring necessary machines and
maintaining vital safety standards for the contractual labour called in to
perform their dirty jobs for daily wages. Delhi alone reported 10 deaths of
sewer cleaners in the past one month. All were working on a contract and all of
them died after inhaling toxic gases from manholes they were lowered into
without safety equipment or masks.
Then, there are the
invisible female cultivators. A study (NFHS3 and 4) reveals that over a quarter
of them (in the age group of 15-49) remain alarmingly underweight and over 54
per cent of them are anaemic. The reason? Overwork, work-related health hazards
and malnutrition. Then there is Gorakhpur, where 70 infants died within a week
in an ill-maintained government hospital. The cow-loving chief minister, when
he finally visited the city hospital, laid the blame squarely at the doors of
the people who will not keep the hospital premises clean and, of course,
mosquitoes. If media reports on the recent Khatauli train disaster are true, a
gross human negligence caused the disaster that killed 23 and injured some 200.
conversations among the old staff, revealing the reluctance of the
“over-qualified” young supervisors and junior engineers to go out in the field
and inspect the railway tracks as mandated and hired gangs working
unsupervised, have gone viral on media. A Niti Aayog report traces 61.1 per cent
of train accidents to staff failures.
Have you ever wondered
how India’s state, tweeting through a million members, even as it struggles
with vast problems in healthcare, education, railway track maintenance and
sanitation, has speedily demonetised currency, added lakhs of new taxpayers and
made Aadhaar linkages?
Back on track: on India and China's united
front at BRICS
By putting up a united
front at the BRICS summit, and proposing a revival of the Panchsheel principles
of peaceful cooperation, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi
Jinping have signalled they are trying to put the bitterness of the past few
months behind them. The tenor of the meetings between the two leaders was
particularly remarkable given that the long Doklam military stand-off was
resolved just a week ago. In fact, their agreement that Doklam-like situations
must not recur is an indication that India and China are looking for new
mechanisms to strengthen the border defence agreements that have held in the
past. It is also significant that both countries expressed similar views about
resisting economic protectionism of the kind that the Trump administration in
the U.S. has been espousing; the BRICS countries have together committed to an
“open and inclusive” multilateral trading system. Another area of welcome
consonance was the North Korean nuclear tests. All five countries, Brazil, Russia
and South Africa being the other three, condemned them unequivocally, while
advocating dialogue and not the use of force. The messaging that emanated from
both the Indian and Chinese delegations at Xiamen smoothed the interactions
between Mr. Modi and Mr. Xi, and allowed for a productive BRICS declaration
that belied fears that bilateral tensions would overtake multilateral concerns.
The government’s determination to hush any triumphalism over the Doklam outcome
certainly helped. China’s nod to the inclusion of the Lashkar-e-Taiba and the
Jaish-e-Mohammed among the terrorist groups threatening regional stability, and
its choosing not to speak of the contentious Belt and Road Initiative at the
summit suggested it was heeding India’s concerns.
With the BRICS meet
concluded, it is doubly important that Indian and Chinese officials re-engage
in a sustained manner to address all areas of discord which led to the charged
situation at Doklam. They must, for starters, review where the border defence
standard operating procedures failed. Second, the two countries must convene
the delayed meeting of the Special Representatives, and add the latest claims
and counter-claims over the Sikkim boundary and the India-China-Bhutan
tri-junction to the agenda for discussions. It is necessary to see that the
much-acclaimed BRICS language on terrorist groups like the LeT and JeM is
translated into actionable points as a show of good faith. Beijing will have an
early opportunity to do so in October when the issue of designating JeM chief
Masood Azhar as a global terrorist comes up at the UN Security Council and when
the UN’s Financial Action Task Force takes stock of Pakistan’s actions against
the LeT. It is imperative that the gains of the BRICS summit in terms of the
India-China bilateral atmospherics are optimised.
Nirmala Sitharaman: Should feminists be happy?
By Lalita Nijhawan
Recently India has
been witness to historic and landmark changes, the tide is turning when it
comes to women.
1. Maternity leave
duration has increased to surpass most developed nations
2. Triple Talaq has
been banned for 6 months during which the Central Government is expected to
pass a law banning Triple Talaq for good
3. The appointment of
Nirmala Sitharaman as the first fulltime female Defence Minister
Niramala Sitharaman is
India’s second female Defence Minister, before her Indira Gandhi held the same
portfolio and was the Prime Minsiter as well. But Nirmala Sitharaman is the
first fulltime female Defence Minister of India.
Indira Gandhi was the
Iron Lady of India, well known for her strong tactical methods of fighting
terrorism. Nationally, she had given the green light to extreme measures to
claimed terrorists that were murdered in a bloodbath at the Golden Temple –
Amritsar, in Operation Bluestar. She also took forward the nuclear program of
India started under the leadership of Nehru, she gave verbal authorization of
an underground nuclear test called “Smiling Buddha” in Rajasthan which caused
ire to then Pakistan Prime Minsiter Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. On an international
front, Operation Meghdoot was a success in the Siachen conflict. Not only that,
but under Indira Gandhi’s leadership West Pakistan was liberated from East
Pakistan, without Indira Gandhi’s support perhaps the creation of Bangladesh as
a separate country would not have been possible. Indira Gandhi was a swift
decision maker, tough, and unflinching in her use of strategized force against
any threat whether internal or external. To top it off, Indira Gandhi was a
woman and one of the strongest Defence Minsiter’s the nation has seen since its
Apparently the media
has forgotten our rich history of having a female leader who had proven much
more effective and tougher than most defence ministers, all of whom were men.
This forgetfulness has been keeping our newly appointed Defence Minister
NIrmala Sitharaman in the news, but for all the wrong reasons. The question
that everybody is asking – has she been appointed because she is a woman? Is
this entire situation staged and politically motivated? If Nirmala were a man
she wouldn’t be asked so many questions, most of which are based on her gender
and her effectiveness as a leader.
To the people who are
bringing up her gender as an issue I would like to state the obvious,
patriarchy is a deep rooted social evil in India. It is a complicated issue and
to have a role model, a woman in the role of Defence Minister which is highly
stigmatized as being a male dominated occupation, is called breaking the glass
ceiling. In this lifetime we are witness to glass ceiling in politics, and this
glass ceiling has been broken directly by the Prime Minister Office. Our BJP
government is traditionally believed to be an extremely patriarchal mindset,
and politics a field where people are appointed based on the pull that they
have. Nirmala Sitharaman has been able to bypass both categories, this is a
milestone in the success of women of our nation.
There are currently
two women in India who are extremely powerful: Sushma Swaraj the Foreign
Minister and Niramala Sitharaman in the CCS (Cabinet Committee of Security).
They consist of Narendra Modi’s CCS which has a total of five members including
himself, with Rajnath Singh as Home Minster and Arun Jaitley as Minister of
Finance. If one is observant than one will notice that the male counterparts in
the CCS (with the exception of the Prime Minister) are superseded by women who
have been provided much more powerful roles.
So why is Nirmala
Sitharaman a viable candidate as the Minister of Defence? Nirmala Sitharaman
has worked as a member of the National Commission for Women, is a Rajya Sabha
member, and was a Minister of State for Commerce. She had started her path as a
spokesperson for BJP in the election which saw Narendra Modi win with a
landslide. Since then she gained popularity in BJP and was discovered by Sushma
Swaraj in the NCW and has been known as a woman who gets work done immediately.
Sitaraman has emerged as the Minister of Defence directly noticed and appointed
by the Prime Minsiter Office due to her virtue of being a go-getter and a great
worker for the nation, tokenism has no role in this appointment. Of course
there will be a lot of learning to do, she might take a good 4 – 5 months of
learning (just like her predecessors) before being able to grasp the in’s and
outs of her profile, but she is smart enough, capable enough and dedicated
enough to do justice.
As is famously said in
India, you can tell the flavor of rice by taking one look at a grain. Recently,
our newly appointed Defence Minister was seen in China for a BRICS meeting and
she engaged in discussion on Doklam with her counterparts. Her official
commencement of duties is from the 6th of September, 2017 but she jumped
headlong into her role beforehand showing her commitment and understanding of
the great task before her.