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Indian Press (06 Sep 2017 NewAgeIslam.Com)

RIP Gauri Lankesh, the journalist-activist who had the courage to speak her mind openly: New Age Islam's Selection, 06 September 2017

New Age Islam Edit Bureau

Sep 06, 2017

An honour killing

By Amrita Dutta

Spirited resistance to a sturdy foundation

By Swapan Dasgupta

Don’t expect China to change its ways soon

By Asian Age

Swadeshi, socialism: 2 ‘mindsets’ keep India down

By Asian Age

Invisible hands do dirty work

By Mrinal Pande

Back on track: on India and China's united front at BRICS

By The Hindu

Nirmala Sitharaman: Should feminists be happy?

By Lalita Nijhawan

Compiled 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

Sep 06, 2017

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 life.

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 things.



An honour killing

By Amrita Dutta

September 6, 2017 12:29 am

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 coal-blackened landscape.

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 solar plexus.

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.

The year-round 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

 By Swapan Dasgupta

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 of challenges.

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

By Asian Age

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 down

By Asian Age

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.

Socialism, swadeshi, 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.

Meanwhile, swadeshi 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

By Mrinal Pande

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.

Recordings of 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 The Hindu

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 conception.

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.


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


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