Archive for Debates

It’s risky simply to be a woman at all!


Kavita Krishnan argues that in the wake of the recent Uber taxi rape in the capital, blaming the survivor of an act of violence has become another brick in the wall of ‘protective’ boundaries that imprison women rather than open up safe spaces

As it usually happens after a much-publicized rape case, there is a flood of attempts to rationalize ‘victim blaming’ i.e. suggesting that the victim also bears some responsibility for the assault since she took unnecessary risks. I am seeing a lot of this commonsensical rationalization of victim blaming as ‘precautions’ on my twitter timeline.

A Congress leader on TV the other day baldly said that the woman herself should not have been drunk and sleepy in the cab. And this self same logic – garden-variety victim blaming – has been repeated in more sophisticated ways by many, including by some who call themselves feminists.

The list of precautions that can, supposedly, keep us safe from rape, are pretty long, endlessly long, in fact.

We should not be drunk in cabs, or fall asleep in cabs. (This implies, of course, that we women should not party at all, or should not drink at parties – since driving while drunk is a risk we all know can kill us and others).

Feminists are being accused of preaching recklessness to women, thereby rendering them vulnerable in a world which is deeply violent and unsafe. The NCW Chairperson, in a similar vein, said recently, that autonomy or ‘aggression’ on part of women in India could render them unsafe and at risk. Sheila Dixit had called the journalist Soumya Vishwanathan (who was murdered) ‘adventurous’ for being out late at night.

Well, what else? It’s risky to go to school, of course, since teachers might molest you there. It’s risky to enter a lift with your boss, since he might molest you. It’s risky to meet an ex-Supreme Court judge in his hotel room for work, since he might molest you. It’s risky to be drunk at a party at a friend’s or colleague’s place and spend the night there instead of taking a cab home, since one might get raped by the friend or colleague.

It’s risky to be a bar dancer or a sex worker – since your work is inherently ‘risky’ and so you can’t expect or demand safety.

It’s risky simply to be a woman at all, anywhere at all, be it at home or at work or on the streets….

The tragic thing is, ALL women, barring none, take precautions, weigh risks, are ‘careful’. Most rape survivors agonise over what they could have done differently to avoid that horror. What is disturbing, though, is the smug way in which rape victims are being lectured about ‘precautions’. Precautions, no matter how many we take, can never keep us entirely safe. And no matter how many precautions you took, if you’re raped, there will always be people to tell you a long list of things YOU could have done differently so as NOT to have been raped.

Remember, this common-sensical concern for safety is what is voiced when women are told by their parents not to choose who they befriend, sleep with, love and marry. “We’ll make the decision for you since you might make a mistake” is what is said. If one’s ‘love’ marriage breaks down, parents sometimes say, “This would not have happened if you had listened to us and not married this guy in the first place.”

What I say is, you can either live your parents’ mistakes, or your own. And surely, one’s own mistakes are infinitely more productive, teaching us, if nothing else, to take responsibility.

Many of the rationalisers of good old-fashioned victim blaming are saying ‘men take precautions too, we teach our boys safety norms too’ and so on.

However, ‘adventurous’ when used for men, is a positive word, has always been. A man I know is very protective of his wife and won’t let her travel anywhere, even in their own city, without a rigorous set of precautions and limits set by him. The same man takes a yearly holiday, all alone, wandering in wild mountainous terrain. Lone travel is a badge of honour for a man.

Drunken men are objects of affectionate celebration in movies. People I love very much have always been concerned about my safety when I travel, which is a lot. Loved ones often tell me, with fear in their heart, not to take an auto from a railway station at 4 am, not to take a walk up a mountainside in Dharmashala, not to travel in an unreserved compartment, not to react or argue if ogled at or molested, not to rush to the rescue if I see someone being beaten up by a mob on the street. I understand, even sympathise with their fears. I feel such fears myself for those I love. But I cannot – cannot – afford to be ruled by those fears. If I did, mine would be a life devoid of the experiences that make me, me.

A life stripped of risk, rigorously regimented by fear, is hardly a ‘life’ in any sense of the term… Not to mention that much of that fear is not just a fear of physical violence, but a fear of loss of respectability, a loss of ‘character’. The latter is a fear men seldom have to feel – it is women’s preserve, and lurks unsaid behind the ‘safety’ regimentation imposed on us by parents, spouses, boyfriends, aunts…

Think about it. Had my parents done what ‘sensible people’ advised them to, I would not have been sent far from home to college. While at college in Mumbai, I would never have taken the risk of walking on curfew restricted, deserted streets with a woman friend, watching the effects of communal violence first hand. I would never have traveled in unreserved compartments – where I have, on occasion, been pawed by army men and felt great fear, but on countless other occasions, experienced the generosity and humanity of random strangers. I would never have attended political meetings during Lok Sabha elections in the city of Banaras, where ‘sensible’ friends had advised me not to go for fear of violence breaking out. I would never have participated in political protests which resulted in me being arrested and jailed.

So, now, when loved ones advise precautions, I listen, lovingly. But I refuse to be ruled by THEIR perception of risk and their fears and curfews set by them. I gauge risk myself, weigh them, and take calculated risks while taking responsibility for MY OWN actions.

Taking responsibility for the risks we take, does not mean that then the State, the police and so on are let off the hook. It does NOT mean accepting responsibility for being raped. (I say this because there are many who will say that though they’re not justifying the rapist’s actions, the woman, rather than the State, bears a share of responsibility.)

The State has a responsibility to imagining and putting in place infrastructure and systems that minimize risks and expand women’s freedoms. Safe, accountable public transport systems are crucial among these. And in case an assault does happen, prompt and accountable police response is as crucial. The State cannot hold women – or in fact any citizens – responsible for ‘their own safety’. It’s simple – it’s the Government’s job to ensure that women should have access to roads, metros, buses, taxis, rickshaws, and toilets – all services that should be safe and accountable.

Of course women could be raped at home too. But that does not mean that we fail to hold a taxi company or a school responsible for ignoring prior complaints against someone and failing to vet their drivers or teachers! And above all, we cannot fail to hold the Govt responsible for failing to regulate taxi services and schools to ensure basic safety norms!

The question we have to be asking Governments is: “What are your plans to ensure that every woman has access to safe, affordable transport with last mile connectivity, 24/7?” Asking women ‘Why were you drunk/asleep/out late at night/dressed skimpily etc etc” is simply a very effective way to avoid making the State accountable.

I am uneasy with women-driven taxis or karate classes and so on being propagated as a solution. Sure, we need women, lots of women, to invade every masculine fortress, and this includes transport of all kinds. I rejoice in women driving cabs’ and buses and tractors. But I do not want the State and various smug busybodies telling women who are raped in a cab, “Why didn’t you take a woman-driven cab? You were careless and so you got raped.”

I know from personal experience that learning martial arts well enough to use it the way you see in films, is not possible for most people! I don’t want women who get molested being told, ‘”It’s your fault, why were you so wimpy that you didn’t learn martial arts?”

I’ll end with a long quote from Why Loiter that puts it all better than I ever could:
“We would like the right to choose to be able to go out at anytime of the day or night or to choose to stay in. In some ways benevolent paternal protection is simple—it lays down the boundaries and all one has to do is skilfully negotiate them. Losing this protection, however conditional, will mean that one is compelled to take decisions and make choices whose outcomes we might have little control over. However, freedom from protection will also mean freedom, not from the male gaze or the threat of physical assault, but from having to consistently manufacture respectability in order to be worthy of protection. The right to risk is unconditional. The right to risk knows no temporality, no codes of conduct and needs no symbolic markers to define ones worthiness. The right to risk chooses freedom over restrictions and seeks freedom from restrictions.

We acknowledge explicitly that with freedom comes responsibility. The demand for the unconditional right to take risks in lieu of protection places the responsibility squarely on women. Our desire then is to replace the un-chosen risk to reputation and the unwanted risk of loss of respectability with a chosen risk of engaging city spaces on our own terms. Yes, there is street harassment, and yes, there is violence against both women and men. The fear of violence in public space is legitimate and cannot be merely wished away. At no point are we ignoring or even minimizing the violence, both sexual and non-sexual, that might potentially take place in the public and lead to physical as well as psychological trauma. Even as we ask for women’s right to engage risk in public space, we do not disregard the responsibility of the state and its mechanisms of law and order in dealing with public violence. Instead, we suggest that they deal very firmly with the aggressors of that violence and not tie up the victims of violence in endless blame games, inane dress codes, and relentless moral policing. The woman who seeks the simple pleasure of a walk by the seaside at night is in no way responsible for an attack against her.

In another world, this would not be a risk, but given that it is a risk in Mumbai, and in several other Indian cities, the least one can expect is unequivocal justice if one is assaulted. The least one can expect is that the assailant be punished without collateral emotional damage to the victim. The least one can expect is to not be held responsible for that violence. The least one can expect is an acknowledgement of one’s right to walk on the beach, stroll on the waterfront, laze in the park without question.

At the same time, however, we also need to recognize another kind of risk: that of loss of opportunity to engage city spaces and the loss of the experience of public spaces should women choose not to access public space more than minimally. By choosing not to access public space without purpose, women not only accept the gendered boundaries of public space, but actually reinforce them. This renders women forever outsiders to public space; always commuters, never possessors of public space.

The right to risk is not merely abstract. From the perspective of the city, it must be mirrored in the provision of infrastructure. While the decision to take certain risks must be chosen, risks must not be thrust upon women by inadequate or miserly planning.

Infrastructure is central to access. The state and the city’s role in the provision of infrastructure like public transport, public toilets and good lighting are integral to the success of the larger claim to public space. Public space, then, does not mean empty space devoid of infrastructure and facilities, but a space that is thoughtfully designed with the intention of maximizing access. Not just functional spaces like train compartments, bus stops and toilets, but also spaces of pleasure like parks and seaside promenades are significant to creating accessible cities. For it is in these spaces that the joy of being in and belonging to the city is shared and communicated.

While we must lobby for an infrastructure that will make it possible for us take risks as citizens, at the same time, the demand for infrastructure that reduces risks should not provide the grounds to indict those who choose to take other kinds of risks not dependent on infrastructure. The presence of well-lit streets in the city should not mean that women found in dark corners should be deemed unrespectable or blamed if they are attacked.

Choosing to take risks in public space undermines a sexist structure where women’s virtue is prized over their desires or agency. Choosing risks foregrounds pleasure, making what is clearly a feminist claim to the city.”

Extract from Why Loiter? Women and Risk on Mumbai Streets by Shilpa Phadke, Sameera Khan and Shilpa Ranade, New Delhi: Penguin, 2011

Kavita Krishnan is the secretary of the All India Progressive Women’s Association (AIPWA)

A risky freedom


Namrata Acharya writes about the plight of inmates of the rehabilitation home for girl children in Purba Medinipore, West Bengal

Eighteen, the official age of attaining adulthood, is often a reason to celebrate. It is the age of freedom, aspirations and verve to challenge the conventional.

Ruksana (name changed) turned eighteen a few months ago, but in captivity. She yells and repeats: “For three years you have been telling me I will be free. When will your tomorrow come?”

Ruksana was rescued by Police from perilous circumstances at a roadside eatery in Kolkata about three years ago. She was then directed by a court to stay at Snehaneer, a rehabilitation home for girl children in Purba Medinipore. While Ruksana has been in the orphanage, Police and the local child welfare committee (CWC) have been conducting inquiries about Ruksana’s home, which she said was in Bangladesh. The case turned into a repatriation issue, and Ruksana could not be released.The CWC and Police got in touch with the Bangladesh government for the custody of Ruksana. However, with her family remaining untraceable, the inquiry ended without any conclusion. If Ruksana is released, she would be treated as an illegal immigrant. If she is not, she will be deprived of her right to freedom.

In the meantime, Ruksana retracted from her earlier statement and informed the Police that she was from Kolkata. “With Ruksana retracting her earlier statement, the case has become further complicated. Unless the court orders, we cannot release her. There is no clear law governing such cases,” says the warden of Snehaneer. Meanwhile, Ruksana awaits freedom, sans a crime.

Reshma (name changed), was detained by Police from a red-light area a few days ago. According to Reshma, she was above 18, but the Police insisted she declare her age to the court as 17. If Reshma is 18 she can be convicted for a criminal offence. If she is 17, she comes under the purview of laws governing juvenile crime.

According to The Immoral Traffic (Suppression) Act (SITA Act), 1956, prostitutes can practice their trade privately but cannot legally solicit customers in public. Further, in 2013, the Indian Parliament too changed the definition of exploitation to remove prostitution from the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill 2013. Thus, prostitution is not counted as a criminal offence under the Bill.

Unaware of the complex laws, Reshma insists she is 18. “The Police asked me to say that I was 17, but I am 18. I am married and my husband had left me at a hotel, when Police picked me for no crime,” says Reshma.

So far, Reshma’s husband has never come to meet her at the orphanage. “We believe that Reshma’s husband has totally abandoned her, put her in a prostitution racket and married again,” says an employee of Snehaneer.

The story of Sabeena and others

Locked in a secluded room at Snehaneer, sixteen girls share a space lined with wooden beds, without mattresses. There are no fans, even as the humid temperature rises up to 45 degree Celsius in the months of April and May. Fans are not installed in the rooms for authorities fear the girls might commit suicide, while mattresses are not given as they might get soiled.

Yet, that is the best that Shehaneer can provide. If the girls were not here, they would have been probably lying homeless in streets, vulnerable yet unwanted. The girls are mentally challenged, and almost all above 18, living a life of confinement of the worst form.

Snehaneer is meant for rehabilitation of mentally challenged girl children, but the home shelters a number of victims of trafficking, juvenile law-breakers, including girls rescued from prostitution, abandoned babies found in garbage bins and other children rescued by the local child welfare committee (CWC). In some of the cases district courts have entrusted the orphanage with the custody of the children .
According to the provisions of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act 2000 in India, state governments are required to establish a CWC in every district. Each CWC comprises a chairperson and four members, with powers same as a metropolitan magistrate or a judicial magistrate of the first class. A child can be brought before the committee by a police officer, or any other individual. The CWC usually sends the child to a children’s home. Snehaneer is one of the four such government-listed homes in the district of Purba Medinipore. It is said, it is one of the better maintained among the four in the district.

The rooms for girls other than those mentally challenged are better off, for behind the locked doors and staircases are dormitories with few fans and beds with worn-out mattresses. On a positive side, the girls are imparted with regular school education, and vocational education in some cases. However, in a few cases, particularly in early marriage cases, in absence of proper birth certificates, the girls are not allowed to attend school.

Two among the recent entrants in the home includes an infant found in a garbage bin by Police. The child has been suffering from cerebral palsy, which requires specialized treatment, which Snehaneer is unable to provide.

For nearly 40 girls, there are only three toilets in the hostel. There is one general physician for the entire home. There are no psychiatric or clinical psychologists for mentally challenged girls or pediatricians for the babies.

Every month the government provides Rs 700 for each of the girls at Snehaneer.

“For us the biggest problem is where will the girls go after the age of 18,” says the warden of the hostel. That’s indeed a matter of concern. If the girls are detained after 18, that’s the violation of their basic human right, the right to freedom. If they are left to go, they have nowhere to go.

The story of Reshma, Ruksana and Sabeena is no different from other women and children, trapped in the rehabilitation homes across India. For them, 18 could be the age of beginning of vulnerability, homelessness and hardships of adulthood.

Feminist fictions for teens

feminist fictions

By Team FI

This is a list we made based on suggestions sent by several members of the feministsindia e-group. This is not a comprehensive list but a good one to start by if you are looking to introduce young adults to characters, situations and issues they would not meet in popular culture fiction and non-fiction books. If you wish to add titles, provide corrections and comments, please use the comment space.

Contemporary Writing- Indian
Suniti Namjoshi – The Fabulous Feminist and Suki (a dialogue with her cat); Published by Zubaan

Anita Roy and Samina Mishra (editors)- 101 Indian Children’s Books We Love (Young Zubaan) Rs 195; Published by Zubaan

Vandana Singh – Younguncle Comes to Town and Younguncle in the Himalayas; Published by Zubaan

Payal Dhar: The Shadow of Eternity, The Key of Chaos, The Timeless Land, a trilogy – fantasy, science fiction ; Published by Zubaan

Aditi Rao and Chatura Rao: Growing Up in Pandupur (slightly younger girls); Published by Zubaan

Subhadra Sengupta: Star Struck and The Foxy Four; Published by Zubaan

Kate Darnton: The Misfits; Published by Zubaan

Sowmya Rajendran, Niveditha Subramaniam, pictures: Niveditha Subramaniam: Mayil Will Not Be Quiet and other Mayil books; Published by Tulika

Samhita Arni – graphic novel Sita’s Ramayana – illustrations by Moyna Chitrakar; Published by Tara Books

Salman Rushdie – Haroun and the Sea of Stories

Classics – Indian
RK Narayan’s Swami and Friends

Contemporary Writing – Non-India
Refaat Alareer (editor): Gaza Writes Back: Short Stories from Young Writers in Gaza, Palestine

Ira Ebbotsons – Land of the river sea, Star of Kazan etc

EL Konigsberg – From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler and other books

Liv Ullman’s autobiography – Changing

Megan Stine – Who was Marie Curie?

Roberta Edwards – Who is Jane Goodall?

Leslea Newman and Diana Souza – Heather Has Two Mommies: 20th Anniversary Edition- Alyson Books, 2009

Meredith Maran – How Would You Feel If Your Dad Was Gay?- Alyson Books, 2000

Peter Parnell – And Tango Makes Three- Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing, 2005

Robert Skutch – Who’s in a Family?- Tricycle Press, 1997

Classics – Non-Indian

Katherine Paterson – Bridge to Terabithia

E Nesbit – The Railway Children, Five Children and It.

Anne Frank’s Diary

Louisa Alcott – all books

Lucy Maud Montgomery – Anne of Green Gables Series

Contemporary Writing – Indian
Anita Roy (ed) 21 Under Forty (21 stories by women under 40); Published by Zubaan

Annie Zaidi and Smriti Ravindra: The Good Indian Girl; Published by Zubaan

Anita Roy (ed) Flying High: Amazing Women and their Success Stories; Published by Zubaan

Lakshmi Holmstrom – The Inner Courtyard – stories by Indian women; Published by South Asia Books

Arundhati Roy – God of Small Things; Published by Random House

Anita Desai – Village by the Sea; Published by Heinemann

Gogu Shyamala – Father May Be an Elephant and Mother Only a Small Basket, But…; Published by Navayana

Anjali Deshpande – Impeachment; Published by Hachette India

Amrita Das (art); Gita Wolf & Susheela Varadarajan (text, from the Hindi original by Amrita Das): Hope is Girl Selling Fruit; Published by Tara Books

Ranjit Lal: Smitten (about incest); Published by Zubaan

The Blue Book; Published by Zubaan with TARSHI

The Yellow Book (both of these are about sexuality, knowing your bodies etc); Published by Zubaan with TARSHI

Begum Rokheya Sakhawat Hossain; Illustrated by Durga Bai – Sultana’s Dream; Published by Tara Books

Urmila Pawar – The Weave of my Life; Published by Columbia University Press; Motherwit Published by Zubaan

Sampat Pal – Warrior in a Pink Sari; Published by Zubaan

Sunanda Sikdar – A Life Long Ago, translated from Bengali by Anchita Ghatak; Published by Penguin Books

Classics – Indian
Ismat Chughtai – The Quilt: Stories; Published by Penguin

Malati Bedekar aka Vibhavari Shirurkar – Kharemaster; Published by Stree

Contemporary Writing – Non-India
Marjane Satrapi – Persepolis

Emma Donoghue – The Room

Tamora Pierce – Song of the Lioness and Protector of the Small series – speculative fiction

Philip Pullman – Sarah Lockhart series, The Golden Compass series (speculative fiction)

Spy Princess: The Life of Noor Inayat Khan

Isaac Asimov – All books – Speculative Fiction

Madeleine L’Engle – A Wrinkle In Time – Speculative Fiction

Eric Marcus – What If Someone I Know Is Gay?: Answers to Questions About What It Means to Be Gay and Lesbian- Simon Pulse, 2007

Ellen Bass and Kate Kaufman – Free Your Mind: The Book for Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Youth and Their Allies- Harper Perennial, 1996

Kelly Huegel – GLBTQ: The Survival Guide for Queer and Questioning Teens- Free Spirit Publishing, 2003

Classics – Non-Indian
JD Salinger – Catcher in the Rye

Harper Lee – To Kill a Mockingbird

Jane Austen – all books

Books reviews for kids, by kids:
A Mighty Girl’s book section features over 2,000 girl-empowering books starring stellar Mighty Girl characters:
Zubaan books:
Tara Books:
Tulika Books:
Navayana Publications:

India of my dream


Activist Kavita Krishnan visualizes the India of her dream, one that she shares with those who struggle to transform the country

We revolutionaries, who seek to transform society, spend a lot of time re-imagining the world we live in. That does not mean we live in a fool’s paradise. It means that we dream dreams that can be achieved.

We don’t wish on a star. Our wishes, we know, won’t be granted by any gods. The beauty of our dreams lies in the fact that they’re made up of human imagination and human will, and can be shaped and brought to life by human will.

When our imaginations are cramped, our realities too are likely to be the same. When an idea comes to life in our imagination, it is the first step towards bringing it to life in our real world.

We aren’t solitary dreamers. We don’t dream our dreams isolated from others. Our dreams are not a private indulgence or a private solace. These dreams are born in the collective minds of fellow fighters. We dream together, as we fight struggles together. And when others are able to see and share our dreams, the dreams acquire a life beyond our own personal lives. And imagining dreams take courage. The system survives, not only by jailing or killing revolutionaries – but by killing our dreams. ‘Sabse khatarnak hota hai sapnon ka mar jana,’ said Paash (Most dangerous of all is the death of our dreams.)
Today, I will attempt to share some of those many dreams with you, the reader.

In my imagination, I see an India where a woman can roam free – free of the labels of‘wife’, ‘mother’, ‘daughter’, ‘beautiful’, ‘ugly’, ‘goddess’, ‘slut’… Where every child she bears is legitimate, and none seeks to know or prove who the father is. Where every woman is valued irrespective of her ability of choice to bear a child

An India where caring, nurturing, bringing up children, is not assigned as ‘women’s work’. Instead, all around us we are able to see men and women, who change diapers, bathe, feed and clothe children, and feel that mingled feeling of love and pain that being a parent involves.

An India where the birth of a baby is celebrated without worrying about the sex of the child. An India where girls who play sports are not humiliated and accused of being ‘male’, and boys who dance or cook are not taunted for being ‘effeminate.’ An India where brothers no longer feel entitled to hold sisters in ‘bandhan’ in the name of ‘raksha’ – and sisters no longer feel obliged to give brothers a right to control their lives. An India where the love of brothers and sisters is expressed as solidarity with each others’ dreams, as respect and support for each others’ decisions.

An India where it is unknown for the women to have to worry about ‘what people will think’ – about her clothes, the colour of her skin, who she chooses to love, and what she chooses to do with her life.

An India where love – between people of any community or any sex – will not be a crime.

An India where the ugly hierarchy of castes is a forgotten thing of the past. Where the history of the struggles of the oppressed is recognized and celebrated, and the history of oppression is remembered – so as never to repeat it

An India where men do not fear women, citizens do not fear ‘foreigners’. An India that does not fear the fullest freedom of the Dalits, the adivasis, the people of Kashmir or Manipur or Nagaland. An India that is a free union of free people. Where ‘unity’ does not have to mean a regime of fear, or subservience achieved at gun point. An India that does not fear its neighbours – and that does not induce fear in its neighbours. An India that can be trusted to speak up against injustice anywhere in the world.

An India which will recognize the truth: that all value is created by the labour of workers. When workers – the mehnatkash – can ‘demand their rightful share from the world – not a field or a country, but the whole world.’ When we can put behind us the nightmare-India where a tiny few enjoy Antilla-like palaces and the vast majority has no homes; and awaken to a new India where every person can be sure of a home to call their own. Where education and health care of the best quality can be availed by every Indian as a right, rather than being a commodity to be bought by the rich.

An India where ‘justice’ won’t mean a hangman’s noose. Rather, where justice will mean that we as Indian people will have the courage and conscience to face and admit the truths about the violence done in our name, in our country’s name. Where the truth about the rapes and murders of Manorama, Neelofer and Asiya, the rapes of Kunan Poshpora, the mass graves of Kashmir, the little adivasi children killed by paramilitary forces during harvest festivals in Bastar, the cries of pain and humiliation arising from the torture chambers that are called ‘police lock-ups’ all over the country, can be acknowledged by all Indians. Where ‘national pride’ or ‘national security’ will not be equated with tolerance of these crimes against humanity. And where the acceptance of the truth can be foundation of dignity and democracy for India.

An India where ‘work’ does not mean back-breaking, mind-numbing toil that still leaves stomachs hungry. Where a ‘job’ does not come wedded to ‘joblessness.’ An India where people matter, not profits

An India where animals and humans do not need to fear each other and are not thrown into conflict with each other by a short-sighted and greedy economy. An India where the ‘environment’ – land, water, forests, air, flora and fauna – are not seen as ‘commodities’ to be ‘owned’ and ‘exploited’, but as a world we inherit and are duty-bound to enrich and pass on to future generations rather than allow a few greedy men to devour.

Our revolutionary dreams cannot be bounded by the confines of a country. Naturally, those dreams are dreamed for the entire world, not India alone. We dream of a world free of oppression, free of ownership. A world where the many thousands of peoples live in unity, where domination, occupation and war are things of the past. Where work is not inspired by the fear of hunger, where a ‘living’ does not have to be ‘earned’; where instead, human being work and play to express their humanity.

As I said before, there is no copyright on the dreams of revolutionaries. Where do the dreams of Bhagat Singh end and ours begin, after all? That is why, when I try to give my dreams the shape of words, I often find the words of poets and dreamers past come to my lips. So I’ll end with the immortal words from John Lennon’s anthem Imagine –

“You may say I’m a dreamer, But I’m not the only one, I hope someday you’ll join us, And the world will be one.”

Kavita Krishnan is the secretary of the All India Progressive Women’s Association (AIPWA). This is the English translation of the article she wrote for Outlook Magazine’s Hindi publication

Independence Day speech: Modi’s art of doublespeak


Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s political record in Gujarat and at the Centre exposes the emptiness of his Independence Day’s speech. Presenting a detailed rebuttal of the Modi rhetoric

By Rohit Prajapati

In his first address as the Prime Minister on India’s Independence Day, Narendra Modi declared: “I am present amidst you not as the Prime Minister, but as the Prime Servant.” This was one of many clever uses of populist rhetoric to appeal to the heart of his audience on 15 August 2014. While it may be the duty of the PM to represent the aspirations of all the people of India, Modi’s actions and those of his government’s demonstrate that in reality, he is committed to serving only the capitalist class for the sake of the GDP.

The contradictions between Mr. Modi’s political record and his speech were numerous. In an instance of blatant flattery for political ends, Modi stated, “My dear countrymen, this nation has neither been built by political leaders nor by rulers nor by governments. This nation has been built by our farmers, our workers, our mothers and sisters, our youth.”

This recognition of the importance of farmers and common people stands in stark contrast to the Modi Government’s recent moves, which are anti-small-marginal-farmers, anti-working class and anti-people in general. Instead of going for more deserving amendments in ‘The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013’, the Modi Government is planning to dilute the act to get rid of almost all major progressive provisions by way of amendments to allow for more land-grabbing. The Modi Government has begun the process to amend present labour laws to make them more investment-friendly so that industries have free reign as promised in the election.

The Modi Government is internationally famous for espousing a business climate for the profit and prosperity of mega industries – the government’s patrons – and not for ordinary people. Modi was clear in his Election Manifesto: “Take all steps: like removing red-tapism involved in approvals, to make it easy to do business, invest in logistics infrastructure, ensure power supply and undertake labour reforms, besides other steps to create a conducive environment for investors.”

It is thus all the more ironic when Mr. Modi rhetorically asked, “Brothers and sisters, can someone please tell me as to whether he or she has ever introspected in the evening after a full day’s work as to whether his or her acts have helped the poor of the country or not, whether his or her actions have resulted in safeguarding the interest of the country or not, whether the actions have been directed in country’s welfare or not? Whether it should not be the motto of one and a quarter billion countrymen that every step in life should be in the country’s interests?” His loyalty to building an “environment for investment” leaves people in the lurch. This is a question, which Modi, instead of posing to the nation, should first ask himself and his party cohorts.

The Modi Government is busy in building up the environment for the profit and prosperity of its patrons and not for ordinary people. Government’s almost all actions are “honestly” in this direction. For Modi the word ‘Environment’ means “Environment for Investment”

Mr. Modi astutely observed, “Brothers and sisters, when we hear about the incidents of rape, we hang our heads in shame. People come out with different arguments, someone indulges in psycho analysis, but brothers and sisters, today from this platform, I want to ask those parents, I want to ask every parent that you have a daughter of 10 or 12 years age, you are always on the alert, every now and then you keep on asking where are you going, when would you come back, inform immediately after you reach. Parents ask their daughters hundreds of questions, but have any parents ever dared to ask their son as to where he is going, why he is going out, who his friends are. After all, a rapist is also somebody’s son. He also has parents. As parents, have we ever asked our son as to what he is doing and where he is going? If every parent decides to impose as many restrictions on the sons as have been imposed on our daughters, try to do this with your sons, try to ask such questions of them.”

But an appeal to the people to combat rape-culture from the inside – as autonomous feminist groups and other movements have been doing since years – is not sufficient action on the part of PM of India. Modi must go beyond tokenism and sloganism to earn credibility on this issue. He must show political will and allocate sufficient resources, by way of budget and staff, to implement “The Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act, 1994, The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005, The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO) 2012, The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act 2013, The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013.” etc. Although as Chief Minister of Gujarat, Modi failed to provide the necessary political support and resources to seriously implement laws that protect women from these injustices, I hope that the people will hold him to putting his money and action where his mouth is on this issue in his new national position of power.

In yet another bizarrely ironic statement, Modi said “Brothers and sisters, for one reason or the other, we have had communal tensions for ages. This led to the division of the country. Even after Independence, we have had to face the poison of casteism and communalism. How long these evils will continue? Whom does it benefit?”

Nobody should know the beneficiaries of communal tensions better than Mr. Modi. His role as the architect of communal divide garnered him immense political capital: first bolstering him to the position of chairman of the central campaign committee of BJP, then the PM Candidate of BJP, then the PM Candidate of NDA, and ultimately the PM of the country. His political career peaked only after carnage 2002 in Gujarat.

Modi said “Therefore, I appeal to all those people that whether it is the poison of casteism, communalism, regionalism, discrimination on social and economic basis, all these are obstacles in our way forward. Let’s resolve for once in our hearts, let’s put a moratorium on all such activities for ten years, we shall march ahead to a society which will be free from all such tensions.” This is welcome advice, from a most unexpected source: we hope that his party leaders & members and members of the all affiliates organisation of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and BJP’s electoral allies were listening.

I have a question for Modi: why only for 10 years? What happens when his 10 years moratorium on communal violence is over and you are asking whom (all those people) to implement this? Mr. Modi, can you eradicate the caste system without challenging the Hindu religion?

Modi appeal again when he stated, “Have we ever thought what the sex ratio in the country is like? 940 girls are born against per thousand boys. Who is causing this imbalance in the society? Certainly not God. I request the doctors not to kill the girl growing in the womb of a mother just to line their own pockets. I advise mothers and sisters not to sacrifice daughters in the hope of son.”

I wish to remind Mr.Modi that he has not even attempted to implement, ‘The Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act, 1994, in Gujarat and only used government money for the rhetoric of “Beti Bachao” while promoting the ideology behind dowry through the schemes like “Mangal Sutra” and “Kunwarbai Nu Mameru”*. Mr. Modi, the negative sex ratio is just a symptom of a major decease called patriarchy and you have to challenge the patriarchy with short term and long term programmes .

Mr. Modi said ‘Therefore, an account holder under ‘Pradhanmantri Jan-Dhan Yojana‘ will be given a debit card. An insurance of One Lakh Rupees will be guaranteed with that debit card for each poor family, so that such families are covered with the insurance of One Lakh Rupees in case of any crisis in their lives.”

Mr. Modi, people want the “Right to Work” for fair and living wages, along with all the social securities. And if the government is unable to provide the work, the government should pay an “Unemployment Dole.” With their earning, people may have a chance to open the bank account and can also opt for insurance as additional social security with government further assistance for that. The Government should not withdraw from its social responsibly like education, health care, housing, food, etc.

Modi says “If we have to promote the development of our country then our mission has to be ‘skill development’ and ‘skilled India’. Millions and Millions of Indian youth should go for acquisition of skills and there should be a network across the country for this and not the archaic systems.” Mr. Modi should understand that present and the past Government has deskilled the people at large through almost complete privatisation, commercialisation and commodification of education has in practice given a voluntary retirement from the education to the children of the ordinary people. Now a day the policies of the past and present governments mean knowledge and education for the students of IIT, NIT and so-called, well-known universities & colleges and so-called skill development for ITI & dropout students.

Modi said “The economics of the world have changed and, therefore, we will have to act accordingly.” Mr. Modi, be bold and admit that you are a proponent of liberalisation, privatisation, globalisation, FDI, less and less government and out sourcing of all major policy decisions to private and multinational companies; “Swadeshi” is just a political slogan when the nation’s masses are tuned into the television. The Modi Government is moving ahead with the economic reforms by taking firm decisions in the cabinet like raising of FDI limit in defence and insurance sector from 26 percent to 49 percent, and fully 100 percent in the railway. The Modi Government has started making changes in environment clearance policy to make it simpler for industries to get environment clearance, so that mere submission of the paperwork is sufficient for clearance regardless of the environmental merit.

Modi said “Therefore I want to appeal all the people world over, from the ramparts of the Red Fort, “Come, make in India”, “Come, manufacture in India”. Sell in any country of the world but manufacture here.” Obviously, first world and giant corporate will be sceptical of this appeal, but what about all other small countries and their indigenous industries? Are we interested as a nation to tell other small countries that they become our economic colonies and they should only import from us and not export from their country to our country?

Tourism has brought alienation of local communities through gross violation of human rights. Yet Modi said “Brothers and sisters, we want to promote tourism. Tourism provides employment to the poorest of the poor. Gram seller earns something, auto-rickshaw driver earns something, pakoda seller earns something and tea seller also earns something. When there is talk of tea seller, I feel a sense of belongingness. Tourism provide employment to the poorest of the poor.” In reality tourism had lead to forced land acquisition, large scale displacement, loss of dignity and traditional source of livelihood, lack of accessibility to public spaces are quite visible. These costs of tourism are not the concern for Mr. Modi, however – “filthiness” is a barrier.

Modi said “But there is a big obstacle in promoting tourism and in our national character and that is – the filthiness all around us. Whether after independence, after so many years of independence, when we stand at the threshold of one and half decade of 21st century, we still want to live in filthiness? The first work I started here after formation of Government is of cleanliness.” Mr. Modi’s main worry is tourism industries and not the people of India.

Modi said “Cleanliness is very big work. Whether our country can not be clean? If one hundred and twenty five crores countrymen decide that they will never spread filthiness, which power in the world has ability to spread filthiness in our cities and villages? Can’t we resolve this much?” Modi Government should know basic facts revealed in the ‘Report of the Task Force on Waste to Energy’ dated 12 May 2014 by Planning Commission of India. This report states that “As per CPCB report 2012 – 13 municipal areas in the country generate 1, 33,760 metric tonnes per day of MSW, of which only 91,152 TPD waste is collected and 25,884 TPD treated. The MSW, therefore, dumped in low lying urban areas is a whopping 1,07,876 TPD, which needs 2,12,752 cubic meter space every day and 776 hectare of precious land per year.

Mr. Modi, things are not as simple as you say. This waste generation figure covers only 31.15% population of India. Considering the waste generation figures of all of India, these figures will be even more daunting. The Planning Commission (which Modi wishes to abolish) of India’s report further states “A study, of the status of implementation of the MSW Rules 2000 by the mandated deadline by the States, was carried out in class 1 cities of the country. It revealed that in 128 cities except for street sweeping and transportation, compliance was less than 50% and in respect of disposal compliance was a dismal 1.4 %.” What about the government’s major roll in policy making for the reduction of waste and implementation of ‘The Municipal Solid Wastes (Management and Handling) Rules 2000’? Your tract record in the implementation of these rules in the Gujarat is worst.

The consistent follow up by the pollution-affected people, people’s organisations and NGOs regarding the increasing pollution levels in the industrial areas of India forced the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and the State Pollution Control Board in 1989 to initiate the process of indexing the critically polluted areas. At that time 24 industrial areas, including Vapi, Ankleshwar, Ludhiana, were declared ‘critically polluted’.

In 2009 the CPCB and IIT-Delhi, in consistence with the demands of the people’s organisation’s working on environmental issues decided to use a new method of ‘indexing the pollution levels’ of these areas, which is now known as the ‘Comprehensive Environmental Pollution Index’ (CEPI). The CEPI includes air, water, land pollution and health risks to the people living in the area. However, our demand has been to include the health of the workers, productivity of land and quality of food / agriculture produce in the index since the presence of high levels of chemicals and heavy metals in food produce has severe health implications. This is affecting not only people living around the industrial area but anyone consuming it – hence not restricting the impact to the particular industrial area.

In December 2009 the CEPI of 88 polluted industrial clusters was measured; it was then that the CPCB and the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) of Government of India were forced to declare 43 of those as ‘critically polluted clusters’ and another 32 industrial areas as ‘severely polluted clusters’. Following this study the MoEF on 13 January 2010 was forced to issue a moratorium (prohibition on opening new industries and/or increasing the production capacity of the existing industries) on the 43 critically polluted areas.

As the very first step after assuming power as the PM, Instead of improving the environment of these 88 industrial clusters and taking the remedial measure in these area for clean up after moving to the Capital, the Modi Government instead lifted the moratorium of industrial cluster like Ghaziabad (UP), Indore (M.P.), Jharsuguda (Orissa), Ludhiana (Punjab), Panipat (Haryana), Patancheru – Bollaram (A.P.), Singrauli (UP & MP) and Vapi (Gujarat) as a first order of business on 10 June 2014. Mr. Modi, Vapi’s track record demands more ‘stringent action’ against the polluting industries of Vapi & concerned officers of Gujarat Pollution Control Board and definitely not lifting of moratorium from Vapi.

Modi said “However, today I am going to announce a scheme on behalf of the Member of Parliament- ‘Sansad Aadarsh Gram Yojana’. We shall fix some parameters. I urge upon the Members of Parliament to select any one of the villages having population of three to five thousand in your constituency. The parameters will be according to the time, space and situation of that locality. It will include the conditions of health, cleanliness, atmosphere, greenery, cordiality etc. On the basis of those parameters, each of our MPs should make one village of his or her constituency a Model Village by 2016.”

Mr. Modi, we want you to first spell out what do you mean by ‘Aadarsh Gram’ because your policies and action program in Gujarat when you were the chief minister of Gujarat for ‘Aadarsh Gram’ were neither acceptable nor ideal to local people. Why Mr. Modi, do you not want the local Panchayat to work for their village?

Let me remind Mr. Modi about the struggle which is going on against proposed nuclear power plant with the slogan “Not here, not anywhere; not in any country in the world” – with these slogans the farmers and other villagers affected by the proposed 6000 MW nuclear power plant at village Mithi Virdi in Bhavnagar, Gujarat are protesting.

Orchards of mangoes, chikoos, coconut trees, lush greenery, sea and ships passing by, describe aptly the Mithi Virdi – Jaspara area in the Talaja block of Bhavnagar district. This lush green area is the irrigated region of Shetrunji dam. Situated on the Saurashtra sea coast, one would assume that the land is barren and un-inhabited, but a visit here belies all these assumptions.

The proposal for a 6000 MW nuclear power plant spread over 777 hectares on this green lush land is planned. Presently on this 777 hectare of land spread in Jaspara, Mithi Virdi, Khadarpar, and Mandva stand more than 50,000 fruit trees. Also, bajra cotton, groundnut, onions and other crops are sown year round due to irrigation facilities. This area is therefore aptly called Bhavnagar’s vegetable basket.

Recently on 13 August 2014 the villagers took a pledge that “We, today, on August 13, 2014, take the pledge, To ensure clean air, potable water, fertile lands, nutritious, uncontaminated food and secure life for the future generations. We will do all that is possible to save and protect the land, agriculture, agricultural products and seeds. We will stop all industries and nuclear power plants that pose risk to our food, health and environment. We will protest against the genetically modified crops and the resulting contamination of the natural seeds through them. We will continue our consistent struggle against the so-called development policy that contaminate agriculture, land and water while seeking GDP growth. We will strive to save the society from all companies – national and multinationals – that seeks profits at any cost. We will strive to ensure the deserving amendments to The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013. We register our opposition and resolve to fight against the present government’s move to dilute this act to make it anti-farmer to ensure pro industrial growth.” These villagers want to make their villages as Aadarsh Village. Will Mr. Modi allow them to do so?

We saw, however, in Gujarat that following the will of the villagers was not a priority for Modi. Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd. needs 81 hectares of forest land in addition to the other land for the nuclear power plant. To facilitate this the Taluka Development Officer (TDO) of Gujarat State sent a letter dated July 15, 2013 to Sarpanch of Jaspara directing him to pass a resolution on the lines of the copy that he had sent, so as to have the village body’s stamp of approval for the state government transfer of forest land to the NPCIL. In this letter the TDO instead of seeking the opinion of Gramsabha as per the law for the land transfer, illegally and unconstitutionally orders the Sarpanch to pass the ready-made resolution.

The Gramsabha of Jaspara unanimously condemned and rejected such an unconstitutional letter of TDO. The Gramsabha unanimously resolved not to hand over the forest land for non-forest use to be handed over the NPCIL. Will Mr. Modi respect the decision of the Gramsabha?

Modi said “Thereafter, we have a feeling that it would be better to construct a new house altogether and therefore within a short period, we will replace the planning commission with a new institution having a new design and structure, a new body, a new soul, a new thinking, a new direction, a new faith towards forging a new direction to lead the country based on creative thinking, public-private partnership, optimum utilization of resources, utilization of youth power of the nation, to promote the aspirations of state governments seeking development, to empower the state governments and to empower the federal structure. Very shortly, we are about to move in a direction when this institute would be functioning in place of Planning Commission.” We do have a problem with present planning commission of India, but in the name of “public-private partnership” Modi Government is planning to outsource the planning to private interests. We had seen Mr. Modi use to take all major policy decisions and use to announce in the Vibrant Gujarat Summit when he was Chief Minister of Gujarat.

In sum, Modi gave a “populist” speech in which he doled out advice to the people, yet hardly acknowledged his and his government’s responsibility in policy decisions to resolve these problems. On the issue of development, one only needs to look to his record in Gujarat to understand the emptiness of his “pro-poor”, “pro-farmer”, “pro women” rhetoric.

*‘Kunwarbai Nu Mameru’ is a scheme by the Social Justice and Empowerment Department of the Government of Gujarat for families below the poverty line. Scheme provides, at the time of marriage, Rs. 2000/- to parents and Narmada bonds worth Rs. 3000/- to girls belonging to SC, ST and Socially and Educationally Backward castes. ‘Mameru’ is a variant of the practice of dowry

I will not call for death

Gaza -war

I will not call for death is a poem written by Naila Farouky. Farouky is an Egyptian film maker and Producer. She is also the CEO of the Arab Foundations Forum, a platform for philanthropic organisations that work for the Arab region. Farouky has, in various forums, highlighted human rights concerns and upheavals in the Arab World, and commented on the crisis in Afghanistan, Palestine and Egypt

I will not call for death.

I will not dare to speak the words that call for the death of the “other”

I will not seek to avenge through death, the sister, the mother, the father or brother

I will not cry “If you kill us, then we are right to kill!” and then question, in anguish, “where has our humanity gone?”

I will not call for death.

You ask me to justify how I can stand for my enemy; I will reply only to say “I know no enemy”

I know war and pain
Fear and injustice
I know blood and tears
Corruption and failed armistice

I see bodies, bloodied and strewn about
I see them; I know and I hear you – out loud
I see mothers wailing for the loss of their children
I see children grasping the air in search of the comforting arms of their slain mothers
I see fathers burying their babes in white cloths
I see wandering children with the look of despair in their eyes at sights they will never forget

I hear of sirens unheeded
For to heed them means you have some place to hide
I hear tales of the warnings that come in the night
The warnings that parents must decide to ignore
For to obey them must mean you have somewhere to go

I will not call for death.

“But they want you to die; they demand it, can’t you see?”
“You’re a traitor, a coward, how can this be?”
I see it, I know, do you think me so blind?
I hear it, I fear it, but where do I hide?

As the world sits in wait, to watch and to plead
Those I cherish and love have no choice but to bleed
Our humanity challenged, I offer you this:
You will find it within you, this is where it exists
It is not to be found in the barrel of a gun
Or a bomb, or a funeral, a surah or a psalm
It is in your heart and your head and your womb
In your words and your dreams and the threads that you loom
In your hopes for your children and that they shall not hate
For those hopes and those dreams are their future and fate

So abandon the sirens, the bombs and your might
Hold your hands to the heavens and scream in the night
Beg for mercy, for respite, for heart and for will
But do not fall so low as to go for the kill

And repeat to yourself, for as long as it takes
I will not call for death, no matter how much it aches

I will not.

What is in store for women in the Union Budget 2014-15?

India- budget - women

Union budget 2014-15 offers up old and new schemes but fails to address macro-economic and social causes of exploitation and subordination of women

By Vibhuti Patel

The Union Budget 2014-15 will largely benefit the middle class, and offer comfort to middle and upper class women as consumers. Poor women will be crushed by the macro-economic policies that will fuel inflation, land alienation and higher fees for education and health facilities. This time even women’s groups have not raised their voice against gender non-inclusive aspects of the Union Budget.

After the terms Gender Budgeting and Gender Mainstreaming were officially introduced in 2004 by the UPA government, many State Governments like Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Orissa, Kerala, Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Tripura, Nagaland, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand have adopted Gender Budgeting. Gender Budget Cells were designed to serve as focal points for coordinating gender budgeting initiatives within their Ministries and across departments.

Fifty six Ministries/Department have confirmed setting up of a cell/nominating a nodal person. This could materialize because the previous government’s Ministry of Women and Child Development, in collaboration with UN Women, had developed a Manual and Handbook for Gender Budget Cells for Central Ministries and Departments. The current Union Budget of 2014-15 has seen the Gender Budget Cells play a major role in budgetary allocations.

What is gender budgeting?
Gender Budgeting does not relate to a separate budget for women but involves comparative analysis and construction of general budgets from a gender perspective. It helps governments to decide how policies need to be made, adjusted and reprioritized. It is a tool for effective policy implementation where one can check if gender commitments are translated into financial commitments.

The Gender Budget Initiative is a policy framework, methodology and set of tools to assist governments to integrate a gender perspective into the budget as the main national plan of public expenditure. It also aims to facilitate attention to gender analysis in review of macroeconomic performance, ministerial budget preparations, parliamentary debate and mainstream media coverage. The Budget impacts women’s lives in several ways. It directly promotes women’s development through allocation of budgetary funds for women’s programmes or reduces opportunities for empowerment of women through budgetary cuts.

The Union Budget 2014-15 has retained all schemes for empowerment of women and girls of the last decade under the Women & Child Development with Rs 18691 crores allocated for Integrated Child Development Services, Rs. 715 crores for National Mission for Empowerment of Women (NMEW) and Rs. 400 crores for Integrated Child Protection Scheme. A new scheme was also launched– ‘Beti bachao Beti padhao’ with Rs 100 crore.

The schemes can be classified into 4 categories:

1: Protective Services:
These include allocations on women’s homes and care institutions, rehabilitation schemes for victims of atrocities, pensions for widows and destitute women, which are aimed at mitigating the consequences of women’s social and economic subordination, rather than addressing the root causes of this subordination.
For example Sabla, Swadhar-scheme for women in Difficult Circumstances, Ujjawala Comprehensive Scheme for Prevention of Trafficking and, Rescue, Rehabilitation and Re-Integration of Victims of Trafficking for Commercial Sexual Exploitation, Scheme of Short Stay Homes for Women and Girls, Scheme for welfare of Working Children in need of Care and Protection.

2: Social Services:
These include schemes for education and health of women, support services like crèche and hostels and also water supply, sanitation, and schemes on fuel and fodder, which contribute significantly to women’s empowerment, either directly by building their capacities and ensuring their material well-being, or indirectly through reducing domestic drudgery.

For example, the Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS), Indira Gandhi Matritva Sahyog Yojana (IGMSY), General Grant-in-aid (GIA) Scheme for Assistance to Voluntary Organisations in the field of Women and Child Development, General Grant-in-Aid Scheme in the field of Women and Child Development, Family Counseling Centre Scheme, Rajiv Gandhi National Creche Scheme For the Children of Working Mothers, Nutrition Education and Training though Community Food & Nutrition Extension Units(CFNEUS), Kishori Shakti Yojana (KSY), Nutrition Programme for Adolescent Girls (NPAG)

A sum of Rs.100 crores is provided for “Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao Yojana”, a focused scheme to generate awareness and improve the efficiency of welfare services for women. This is the first year of the scheme, if funds of Rs. 100 crore are utilized by the state, we can pressure the government to allocate more funds.

New small savings scheme: A special small savings instrument to cater to the requirements of education and marriage of the girl child is to be introduced. This would be in line with schemes like Kisan Vikas Patra or National Savings Certificate.

The budget promises drinking water and sanitation. Government would strive to provide toilets and drinking water in all the girls’ schools in the first phase.

The budget also promises that school curriculum will include gender mainstreaming. Gender Mainstreaming is the process of assessing the implications for women and men of any planned action, including legislation, policies or programmes, in all areas and at all levels. It is a strategy for making women’s as well as men’s concerns and experiences an integral dimension of the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of policies and programmes in all political, economic and societal spheres so that women and men benefit equally and inequality is not perpetuated. The ultimate goal is to achieve gender equality.

3: Economic services:
These include schemes for training and skill development, and provision for credit, infrastructure, marketing etc. which are critical to women’s economic independence and autonomy. For example, the STEP Support for Training and Empowerment of Girls, General Grant-in-Aid Scheme for innovative projects, working women’s hostels.

The Union Budget 2014-15 has promised easy loan terms where the government will offer concessional loans to women in rural India at 4% in some districts and 7% in others for women self help groups under a scheme called Ajeevika.

4: Regulatory services:
These include institutional mechanisms for women’s empowerment, such as State Commissions for Women, Women’s Cells in Police Stations, awareness generation programmes, which provide institutional spaces and opportunities for women’s empowerment.

For example International Women’s Day – Stree Shakti Puraskar, Childline Services, Grant-in-Aid for Research, Publication and Monitoring.

An outlay of Rs. 50 crores has been allocated in the current budget for pilot testing a scheme on “Safety for Women on Public Road Transport”. The Union Budget 2014-15 also allocates a sum of Rs. 150 crores on a scheme to increase the safety of women in large cities. Budgetary provision is also made from Nirbhaya Fund for “Crisis Management Centres” in all the districts of NCT of Delhi in government and private hospitals.

After the nationwide outcry following on the brutal gang rape of a young physiotherapist in Delhi in December, 2012, safety of women gained prime importance in public discourse. As a result, the previous government was forced to announce a Nirbhaya (the name by which the rape victim was referred to) Fund of Rs. 1000 crores in The Union Budget 2013-14.

However the past record of this outlay is abysmally poor. Official admission of 500% rise in reporting of rape cases has not galvanized governance structures to ensure speedy justice to the victims of sexual violence. The Nirbhaya fund is not used for preventive measures such as construction of night shelters for women, Information desks for women at railway/bus stations and help-lines connected nation-wide, one-stop crisis centers in the public hospitals and half way homes for elderly women along with pension (Rs. 1000 from central and Rs. 1000 from state government per single woman) safe public toilets for women, safe public transport, safety on roads, bus stations, railway platforms and trains.

Nor does it address public education campaigns about new laws such as Amendments in the Indian Evidence Act, Prevention of Sexual Harassment at Workplace Act, 2013, and Protection of Children from Sexual Offense Act, 2012.

Women in Science and Technology
Budgetary allocation of Rs.53 crores under ‘Disha Programme for Women in Science’ to increase the representation of women and girls in science and technology fields through conferences, training programmes, networking platforms and to enhance its activities with regard to education, training and empowerment of women.

Women entrepreneurs however had expected an offer of soft loans and subsidies with financial institutions providing more working capital assistance. They felt that the budget should look at policies that will make micro credit systems and enterprise credit systems available to women entrepreneurs at all levels and help organise training programmes to develop professional competencies in technical, managerial, leadership, marketing, financial, production process and other skills.

Tax Relief
The Union budget 2014-15 does not offer any relief to women tax payers. On the contrary, the Finance Minister’s budget announcement had nothing specific for women.

The middle class will be happy with the increase in personal income tax limit from 2 lakhs to 2.5 lakhs. Senior citizens’ Income tax exemption limit has now been raised from 2.5 lakhs to Rs 3 lakh. The Investment limit under Section 80C has also been hiked to Rs 1.5 lakh from the current Rs 1 lakh, while the FM increased housing loan interest rate deduction limit to Rs 2 Lakh and the PPF (Public Provident Fund) deposit ceiling is raised to Rs 1.5 lakh per annum from the existing Rs 1 lakh.

Right to Pee:

A great improvement in women’s lives can be made by the provision of easily accessible, safe and clean toilet facilities. Massive allocation from budget on sanitation must be earmarked for toilets in public places for women and girls in Indian cities as they travel long distance for work and education. Working women need functioning toilets at railway stations and bus stations. Women homemakers have to attend social functions, visit market places, take children to gardens and hospitals. Women from both, slums and non-slum background need public toilets. Similarly in rural areas women need toilet facilities, so they don’t have to use the fields in the cover of darkness.

In general, the union budget needs a clearer commitment to the female workers as only financial clarity and commitment will bring responsive outcomes.

I came falling down…


Vadodara based human rights activist, Rohit Prajapati takes a satirical look at the ‘changes’ wrought in the country with Narendra Modi at the helm





By Rohit Prajapati

In Gujarat the Government had ‘changed’ long ago, now in Delhi too the Government has now ‘changed’.

As soon as the New Government came in power in Delhi, the aroma of “Acche Din Good Days” wafted in every corner of the country.

As soon as the New Government came in power in Delhi, IB was tasked to report people’s issues; and IB submitted its first report too.

As soon as the New Government came in power in Delhi, within x days more than 80% of Illegal Money from foreign shores was deposited in Government Treasury.

As soon as the New Government came in power in Delhi, within y days more than 100% of Illegal Money from Local Shores was deposited in Government Treasury.

As soon as the New Government came in power in Delhi, within xy days with Illegal Money deposited in Government Treasury, inflation was wiped out completely.

As soon as the New Government came in power in Delhi, bribes and payoffs completely vanished from official corridors.

As soon as the New Government came in power in Delhi, prices of cooking gas came down by 50%.

As soon as the New Government came in power in Delhi, unlimited supply of cooking gas bottles began.

As soon as the New Government came in power in Delhi, foremost milk prices came down.

As soon as the New Government came in power in Delhi, within few days petrol and diesel prices too came under control.

As soon as the New Government came in power in Delhi, power prices came down by 50%.

As soon as the New Government came in power in Delhi, instead of watchmen police sub inspectors now stand guard in residential neighborhoods.

As soon as the new government came in power in Delhi, police force actually became friends of people.

As soon as the New Government came in power in Delhi, police arrives on spot and registered complaint in response to calls on toll free police phone number 0420.

As soon as the New Government came in power in Delhi, all the lumpen elements and mafia went into hiding.

As soon as the New Government came in power in Delhi, schools and colleges stopped taking donations.

As soon as the New Government came in power in Delhi, private tuition classes closed down shutters.

As soon as the New Government came in power in Delhi, children started enjoying burden free education.

As soon as the new government came in power in Delhi, government schools and hospitals started working efficiently.

As soon as the New Government came in power in Delhi, any public work is completed barely within 1-3-13-17-31 days.

As soon as the New Government came in power in Delhi, unemployment became a past relic.

As soon as the New Government came in power in Delhi, everybody got both work and living wages.

As soon as the New Government came in power in Delhi, the wage increase outstripped the price rise.

As soon as the New Government came in power in Delhi, the contaminated ground water is rendered pure and clean.

As soon as the New Government came in power in Delhi, the contaminated rivers are rendered pure and clean.

As soon as the New Government came in power in Delhi, all the workers’ issues are resolved.

As soon as the New Government came in power in Delhi, sex ratio in the country started improving.

As soon as the New Government came in power in Delhi, rapists are quickly punished and rape incidents reduced.

As soon as the New Government came in power in Delhi, untouchability was completely eradicated.

As soon as the New Government came in power in Delhi, tribals became vanvasi.

As soon as the New Government came in power in Delhi, in fair price shops good quality grains and essentials are available.

As soon as the New Government came in power in Delhi, all government schemes are executed efficiently.

As soon as the New Government came in power in Delhi, people no longer needed to visit government offices to get their work done.

As soon as the New Government came in power in Delhi, farmers started getting power for 25 hours.

As soon as the New Government came in power in Delhi, it was happiness and gaiety all over.

As soon as the New Government came in power in Delhi….

Dhadamm….`Ouch, it hurts…’

‘What happened?’

I fell down as I turned in sleep.

16 June 2014

Modi-fied intellectuals of the great Indian soil

Hindu- right- India

By Laltu

I am feeling disturbed by an article titled ‘How Modi defeated liberals like me’ by Prof Shiv Visvanathan, published in ‘The Hindu’. I have jotted down a few thoughts in response to his article. I will often refer to the author as Shiv with apologies to those who mind it.

Shiv is a prominent personality of our times. I am aware that I do not have the scholarship in social sciences that he possesses. I am trying to articulate some serious problems I find in his article.

The article begins with a reference to the pooja performed by Narendra Modi at the Kashi Viswanath temple followed by an aarti performed along the Ganga river. Shiv observes, ‘As the event was relayed on TV, people messaged requesting that the event be shown in full, without commentary. Others claimed that this was the first time such a ritual was shown openly.’ It is quite true that it was the first time Modi’s performance at the Ganga was shown openly. But does anyone seriously think that such rituals are not shown openly on public media in this country?

Leaders performing religious rituals in public is not even a matter of debate. From Rajendra Prasad’s pujas to Sonia Gandhi’s visits to religious places, it is a common knowledge that religion, whether for private or public use, is an overwhelming presence in the lives of political personalities in India

Why is it that Prof Visvanathan makes such an issue of it then? One gets a glimpse of the possible reasons in the next sentence claiming that with Mr. Modi around, the message claimed “We don’t need to be ashamed of our religion. This could not have happened earlier.”

Who is ashamed of which religion? Was Modi merely practising a religious ritual? If so, a good question to ask is how many times before that day did he come to the Dashashwamedh ghat to do this act; after all, he is 63+ years old, a person with a lot of power and easy mobility, certainly it would have occurred to him some time earlier too that there is a necessary act to be performed according to his religion.

No, it was not a religious act. One could argue that every religious act is a political act. In this case it was a purely political act devoid of any religiosity. The message was not what Prof Visvanathan reads, the message is, “Behold, the Hindu dictator cometh.” The word ‘Hindu’ here is not a religious term (to begin with there is no religion called the Hindu religion).

Ironically, in another article published in The Hindu a little more than a month ago, Shiv had written, ‘Varanasi breaks the Bharat-India, Muslim-Hindu divide that Mr. Modi seeks to enforce.’ Read that again, ‘ the Bharat-India, Muslim-Hindu divide that Mr. Modi seeks to enforce’. After Modi winning, he is saying ‘We don’t need to be ashamed of our religion’. Interesting.

In the second para, the article hits the Bull’s eye in quoting a friend, “You English speaking secularists have been utterly coercive, making the majority feel ashamed of what was natural.” That there is something pathological in the Englishwallahs in this country is felt by many of us. I pointed out a few aspects of this in a recent article titled ‘फासीवादी उभार का भाषाई पहलू‘ published in Jansatta. In a poem titled ‘टोनी मॉरिसन इंग्लिशवालों के खिलाफ लिखती है’, published in the literary journal ‘बनास जन’, I expressed the irony differently. While the scholarship in my opinions does not even come close to that of the author I am reacting to, nonetheless I, another desi bugger around, have my take on it. The ‘natural’ as understood by Prof Visvanathan is very different from how I understand it.

Then Shiv moves on to describe the paranoia of leftists about ‘ positing a period of McCarthyism in India’. He may be quite right if we remind ourselves that only 31% of the voters have given BJP ‘the majority’. This is not like an entire Nation has succumbed to authoritarianism. Not even a third of it.

Given that not everyone comes to vote, perhaps not even a fifth of it. Indeed there is no need to be paranoid. But are we not aware of what happened when the last time BJP was in power with even less support than today? Is it unfair that some of us are getting paranoid remembering how the books were rewritten? Today we are ‘some Leftists’, what were we before Modi won, when we shared with Shiv the fear from ‘the Muslim-Hindu divide that Mr. Modi seeks to enforce’? An interesting chapter in the NCERT History text book is written by my friend Prof Anil Sethi, on multiple narratives about partition of India in 1947. It is a widely lauded work – is it wrong to fear that this chapter is likely to be removed because it attempts to show the South Asians across the borders as equal vicitims of the hatred that flared?

As he says, indeed ‘both Right and Left have appealed to the state to determine what was correct history’. Is he suggesting that the books being downloaded are written as the Left’s version of the correct history? Interesting.

His statement ‘With the advent of the Right, there is now a feeling that history will become another revolving door regime where the official and statist masquerade as the truth’, is again right on the Bull’s eye. But then he attempts to give his own explanation of ‘why Left liberals failed to understand this election’ by suggesting that there are anxieties that the middle class suffers from and that is what Mr. Modi understood ‘more acutely than the intellectuals’. Consider this juxtaposed to his 50 days before the victory dictum ‘… Muslim-Hindu divide that Mr. Modi seeks to enforce’. No issues with the words, except that we need to explore the nature of ‘anxieties’.

Shiv seemed to share the understanding of these anxieties with the ‘Left’ earlier. Not now. Today, the Left is a ‘club, snobbish about secularism, treating religion not as a way of life but as a superstition’. This is like going back to debates from 50 years ago – ‘Marx called it the opium of the masses’ versus ‘no, he said it was the agony of the oppressed’. The least I can say is that for the first time I am thoroughly disappointed at such simplistic verbosity from a master that I have held in high esteem for long.

And after this, OMG, he blasts the Left for being the demon ‘that tried to inject the idea of the scientific temper into the constitutions as if it would create immunity against religious fears and superstitions.

Very interestingly, near the end of the article, Shiv calls Dalai Lama his ‘favourite scientist’. Obviously, there is a contradiction. Or perhaps, ‘the scientist’ is one free of the evil called ‘the scientific temper’ which in his words, overemphasises secularism, creates ‘an empty domain, a coercive milieu where ordinary people practising religion were seen as lesser orders of being’. It will be childish to claim that the idea of science does not come with a package of value judgments and power relations, but the suggestion that science creates that domain and the coercion referred to by Shiv, more than other social institutions like the stratifications based on caste, gender, etc., which are intricately related to and are reinforced by the institution of religion, is again very disappointing.

Then Shiv continues his tirade against secularism, a word lost in the quagmire of the intellectual khichdi of the great Indian soil. It is an ‘invidious weapon’. Shiv tells us ‘The regime used to placate minorities electorally, violating the majoritarian sense of fairness’. Pray, what are the placations? Oh yes, there is the old Shah Bano case, then we have the personal law, article 370 for Kashmiris, but presumably those are not the issues that Shiv is pointing out (though, these are the ones that Sangh parivar wants its supporters to be angry about), he is talking about the electoral placations.

Now, even Shiv would agree that much of the Hindutva thought has to do with Brahmanical hegemony, to quote a ‘Left’ idiom, and if so what about the caste based reservations violating the sense of fairness of – no, not a majority, but a dominant minority!

Electoral politics compels candidates to seek support by hook or by crook. There is a large scale corruption in the whole process. Money, liquor, drugs, violence, everything goes. Then there is casteism and communalism. The question is what are the bottomlines that must not be crossed. The Sangh ideology has successfully penetrated large sections of OBCs and Dalits, specially in North India, with what – by giving them a false majoritarian identity and then instilling in them the anger against the violation of their sense of fairness about relations between the so-called religious communities, the Hindus and the Muslims. Pray, is it wrong to care for the minorities?

What are the principles in this regard in our great tradition, some features of which Shiv elaborates in his article? If it is not wrong to worry about minorities, and keeping in mind facts on the miserable condition of minorities as detailed for instance, by the Sachhar committee, then why is a great scholar so perturbed that some parties claim to be caring for the minorities? Interesting. In any case, is it not irresponsible to add to the rant of electoral placations without mentioning the details?

Instead of contributing to false notions like minorities are given undue privileges, we should be concerned that the minorities in this country are insecure and it is what makes them vulnerable to exploitation, electorally or otherwise. We should be concerned that the minorities still live with a low quality of life and poor educational standards and the progressive voices from within them have no power.

Shiv’s interpretation that ‘The majority felt coerced by secular correctness which they saw either as empty or meaningless’ is one way of looking at it. The other is that the existential angst that continued suffering from poverty and exploitation causes in any human being, makes most of us vulnerable to the idea of a modern Nation-state linked with a majoritarian way of life that necessarily looks for an enemy within, Jews in Germany, Hindus in Bangaldesh or Pakistan and Muslims in India.

It is this insecurity that Modi and the Sangh were able to consolidate. It has nothing to do with ‘the cosmic way religion impregnated the everydayness of their lives’.

No, the majority has no such fear of coercion by the ‘secular correctness’, they are hardly even touched by it. On the contrary, the basic human urge of love and altruism is constantly challenged by the bigotry all around cultivated by the Sangh Parivar and their cohorts

Then Shiv gets back to what his scholarship is known for – the rediscovery of our religions and our sciences. But is it sufficient to say that ‘ Indian religions were perpetually dialogic’ forgetting that in practice, they also reinforced with brutality the institutions that dehumanised large sections of society? While there are many good things about the dialogue of medical systems in our tradition, can we forget why the ‘Guptasharmas’ had to be ‘gupta’ (secret)? Indeed we are not like some of the European countries, where religion is just a small part of one’s life, but that does not mean that the religion that we live with is all spiritual and uplifting.

Any one waking up in the morning anywhere in India can see this, and hear this, from the loud blast, by the poor quality audio loudspeakers installed on varieties of places of worship, that destroys the morning serenity.

It can be safely asserted that religion has mostly an oppressive presence in our lives, specially in the lives of the marginalised. That the ‘Left’ in this country has hardly been a champion of the separation of church and state is well-known; any one can dig up the numerous news items on CPIM ministers inaugurating Puja mandaps in West Bengal. What are we talking about? The bogey of ‘Left’ that exists only in the rhetoric of academic campuses? My God, from Shiv’s article, one would think that we just got rid of the Stalin era from India!

Shiv’s emphasis on ‘ Christianity that was continuously at odds with science’ is presumably meant to remind us that secularism is a western idea. True, but is the idea of a modern Nation-state identified with Hindutva an Indian idea? Was Hitler, the source of inspiration for the Sanghis, an Indian?

It is true that some of us find it difficult to accept that practising scientists often mix their religious beliefs with there professional life activities. But to suggest that this has any impact on the larger societal dynamics is absurd. To start with, there are hardly any atheists among Indian scientists and by and large all scientific bodies are extremely conservative. Go to any National conference and see how much time the scientists spend talking about Modi and the Gujarat development.

I thought I write poetry, but I do not understand what Shiv means by ‘There is a sense of snobbery and poetry’! And the illiteracy he mentions that ‘religion, especially Christianity shaped the cosmologies of science’ is not quite fitting. More than anyone else, he knows that the prevalence of flow of knowledge, that eventually became science, across cultures, was quite common and much wider in the last two millennia than the extent scholars believed it to be in the last century.

Besides, if he is insisting on minding the distinction between Christianity and our religions, which anyway were not much different form pagan religions elsewhere in the world, then why should we worry about Indian scientists’ being unaware of how Christianity shaped the cosmologies of science!

Shiv’s attempt to portray secularism as the demon that the poor middle-classes were waiting to be overthrown, is utter nonsense. What kind of lie is this that ‘ The activism of Hindutva groups was treated as sinister but the fundamentalism of other religions was often treated as benign and as a minoritarian privilege.’? The words speak of a sinister design.

The fact is that there is a Narendra Modi in each of us. There is a communal orientation of our minds, that is vulnerable to exploitation

Modi and the Sanghis were able to consolidate this with most of the 31% of voters – the rest of the work was done by the ten thousand crores of capital poured in to buy the media. With as overwhelming a majority in population, that the political entity called ‘Hindu’ has in India, it is only natural that Hindutva will be more noticed here, just like the fundamentalism in Islam is more noticed by liberals in Pakistan and Bangldesh or Iran.

It is very interesting that Shiv refers to the incidents of Ganesha statues drinking milk. I was at that time the convener of a science forum in Chandigarh. Responding to a lot of pressure from friends, I sent a letter to the press (it was published as a letter to the editor in ‘The Tribune’). It had three itemised statements. I pointed out that the idea of a religious idol drinking milk is in not a subject of scientific investigation. For whatever we do following a scientific method will not be acceptable in the domain of faith. We requested those indulging in feeding milk to Lord Ganesha that they should try not to waste milk and remember that their faith will be noticed even if they use a spoon of milk with some water. We asked people to be concerned about children and patients in hospitals who need milk. Notice how different it was from the cynic reaction that Shiv points out in his article. Here I am, a believer in science and secularism. Interesting.

It is sad that today intellectuals like Shiv are equating opposing Modi with science and modernity. In a way, they are doing a great service to science. After all, much of what Modi used to say before 2002 will not be erased. His reference to Muslims inevitably used to be in derogatory and often threatening terms – ‘Ham paanch hamaare pachees’ was a rant we do not forget. After he became the chief minister, he was careful, but not without a loose end every once in a while. There is enough evidence available, that surely Shiv cannot be oblivious of. If science gives us the courage to resist such bigotry, good for us and good for science.

Laltu (Harjinder Singh) is Professor, Center for Computational Natural Science and Bioinformatics, International Institute of Information Technology, Hyderabad. He blogs regularly as