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The police, the university administration and state ministers—all government bodies—are responsible for drawing the Ravana rekhas of patriarchy in BHU (Crossing the Ravana Rekha, Oct 23). It is a reflection of the deep-seated misogyny prevailing in the DNA of our public institutions. And this is the situation inside a university space which is thought of as being more progressive than other spaces. The irony is that even though educational institutions are seen as spaces which will rid us of gender bias, it is these spaces which are curtailing the basic rights of women. Let’s talk about the skewed state of gender ratio. Data shows that both Dalits and Adivasis, seemingly ‘non-educated’ and ‘backward’ communities, have better gender ratios whereas the non-scheduled caste, non-tribal populations in the same areas are much worse off. What happened in BHU and also in other universities is a clear message by the authorities to women who challenge the stereotyped notions of gender roles and envisioned a better future for themselves through education. In these times, Beti bachao, beti padhao (save the girl child and educate her) is a laughable catchphrase indeed!
Rakesh Agrawal, Dehradun
Your cover story exposes the unending atrocities women in India suffer at homes and even on so-called ‘progressive’ university campuses. The inherent patriarchal system of society, feeling insecure and flustered in the face of women attempting to speak for themselves, is now reacting in violent ways to suppress them. The BHU incident is a clear example of this violence. Men in India may land on the Moon but an educated woman who speaks her mind is still an eyesore for them.
P.A. Jacob, Muscat
The police’s conduct in BHU was disgraceful. But such actions have now become par for the course in the country. Thanks to weak and politicised university administrations—JNU, HCU, Jadavpur University, and now BHU, policemen now have a free hand to act against students who are perceived to have overstepped the limits set by the authorities. And politicians have found the perfect catchphrase to shift blame for all responsibility in the case of such incidents—that any unrest which results in police brutality is the work of “anti-national elements”. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s efforts to make the ‘Beti bachao beti padhao’ campaign a success took a beating in his own parliamentary constituency—Varanasi—at the hands of the local administration. When Uttar Pradesh went to polls, the buzzword was women’s safety. Issuing lathi-charge orders against the girl students of BHU, who were peacefully protesting against the alleged molestation of a fellow student, is an abuse of power that is unpardonable and speaks volumes about the insensitivity and tone-deafness of the UP police. By doing so, the UP police have only dented their image further.
Padmini Raghavendra, Mettuguda
The whole BHU issue was ineptly handled by the university administration and the UP police alike with partisanship to enlist loyalty to the ruling party. As happened in Hyderabad Central University more than a year back, the police entered the campus and inflicted violence on peacefully protesting students. That it happened in and around the women’s hostel in BHU without any women police present is horrible. The BHU V-C’s reactions on the issue show that he has no problem with such acts of police brutality. It is important that university vice-chancellors are selected from among those who have excelled academically and not those who are affiliated to parties or ideologies.
Vimal Kumar, Hyderabad
Reports on atrocities against women appear on a daily basis in newspapers in Kerala (Pluck Egos, Not just Tea Oct 23). Domestic violence, though, is a relatively unreported but common issue because of the ‘private’ nature of this offence. Drinking, which is eulogised by the men of the state, has destroyed the lives of many women in rural Kerala and women workers in tea estates as well as in offices are discriminated against and harassed. Of late, the sizeable nurse population of the state has become a victim of economic exploitation because they had demanded a raise in salaries. The decision of owners of private hospitals not to follow the guidelines of the government in fixing the minimum wages of nurses has compelled them to organise even hunger strikes.
M.K. Somanatha Panicker, Alappuzha
For women, our universities are prisons and the police is a barbaric institution.
Anil S., Pune
This is with reference to the article on Rahul Gandhi’s jibes at the BJP in his election campaign in Gujarat (RaGa Road To Gujarat Navsurgence, Oct 23). The ‘grand old party’ of India is in a ‘do or die’ situation, and can scarcely afford to let itself be thrashed electorally yet another time like in Uttar Pradesh election earlier this year. Since 2014, it has only been a downward slide for the party, which has almost been struggling to fight for relevance! Yet Rahul Gandhi’s various exertions more recently give the impression that the Congress is not yet out of reckoning—his speech at the University of California, Berkeley, his connection with potential voters in Gujarat and his Navsarjan yatra, all prove that he means business this time and is not a part-time politician any longer. Like the BJP highlighted corruption in the UPA-II during the 2014 poll campaign, the Congress now has sufficient ammunition to challenge BJP rule. Many things under the BJP administration can now be criticised—snail-like progress in industry and trade, joblessness the slowing down of the economy, the reverse effects of demonetisation, a poorly implemented GST and the alleged 16,000 times rise in profit in the firm of Amit Shah’s son since the BJP came to power. Gujarat may have been a long-standing BJP bastion, but things can change course rather quickly now. Yet, Shankersinh Vaghela’s exit may not mean a big loss for the Congress, because the party gained nothing from his presence. It’s simply that many in the party like him left a sinking ship to join the BJP. What will be left behind is a brigade of loyal Congressmen, with which the Congress can breach the BJP’s formidable defences in Gujarat, now that they are bolstered by the support of the young Patidar and Dalit leaders.
M.Y. Shariff, Chennai
Rahul’s recent anti-BJP jousting, garnished with witty sound bytes that attracted large crowds, reassures many about the survival of not only the Congress, but also the health of Indian democracy. But I think it’s no match for the BJP’s personality-centric focus on the cult of Modi. This is an irony, for people have to be made to see what Modi is—an expert in hoaxes, dual politics and broken promises. Under him, primary health and education have taken a back seat and the saffron style of development is dominating. Furthermore, his regime is systematically devaluing civil liberties and transparency by sidelining the RTI Act and delaying the Lokpal. The NDA leaders sing praises of the Constitution and parrot the virtues of a healthy democracy and yet violate its sacred tenets while pandering to the demands of majoritarianism. Regional parties are fiefdoms of local kings and queens, myopically undemocratic. But the Congress, the only national party which is an alternative to the BJP’s poisonous presence, must first admit its own blunders like repudiating the SC judgment in the Shah Bano case, opening the temple doors at Ayodhya and failing to weed out people tainted with corruption charges. Only then can the Congress be ready for another bout of power at the Centre.
M.N. Bhartiya, Goa
Apropos ‘Congress Rev-up” (October 23). Without effective opposition there is no democracy, and it is now becoming more vibrant. When a man is overcharged with power, pelf and prestige, he inevitably develops faith in God. This explains Modi’s numerous visits to shrines, apart from slyly flaunting the Hindu card. He is entitled to bolster his faith, but the people are not impressed. They want personal ease of living, whereas Modi is making life difficult. Riding upon the backs of the masses with a carrot dangling before them to deliver an El Dorado post-2019 is a political prank. The masses who vote for a party and make the prime minister get no opportunity to voice their opinion in the media, but that’s what matters. The crucial need is to ensure fair elections, preferably by ballot paper.
J.N. Bhartiya, Hyderabad
I write in response to Outlook’s cover story on the deplorable state of Indian Railways, which has recently been magnified by a spate of that Indian staple—horrible train disasters (Signal Is Green For The Guilty, Oct 16). The recent train mishaps are terrible, but it’s the stampede at Mumbai’s Elphinstone station that I can’t get over. It’s no secret that we as a society have little civic sense, and it further deteriorates when it’s time to board buses and trains. Indians lose all sense of decency when it comes to public transport—look how they plunge and tear at each other just to get a vacant seat. At the general populace’s mercy are disabled people, senior citizens, pregnant women, children and anyone else for that matter. With good sense, patience and civility, the Mumbai stampede could have been avoided. As the tragedy unfolded, some observers, instead of helping in some way, were busy clicking pictures and taking videos of this ‘spectacle’. How low have we stooped !
Kamal Anil Kapadia, Mumbai
Kerala society has made a historic stride by recruiting Dalit priests in a set of temples administered by the government’s devaswom board (Fresh Trickle Of Teertham, Oct 23). The state has had great social reformists like Narayana Guru and Sahodaran Ayyappan who fought against casteism all their lives. The neighbouring Tamil Nadu too has had strong Dalit movements, but it has still not succeeding in doing what the devaswom board in Kerala has done despite a 2006 government order that allowed any trained Hindu to be a temple pujari.
C. Chandrasekaran, On Email
Your columnist B.R.P. Bhaskar wasn’t entirely right in his history of non-Brahmins in south Indian temples. Several famous temples of Tamil Nadu had non-Brahmins as archakas not just during the Sangam era, but as late as the 1500s when priesthood was snatched away from them during the reign of Naicker from Andhra. The hill shrine of Palani is one instance of this.
Natarajan R, On Email
Devotees throng temples to experience God. The priest’s caste or creed are of no consideration. Yadhu Krishna P.R. is an uttama Brahmanan having studied Vedanta and been trained in temple rituals. I am looking forward to that day I will pray at the temple where he is the pujari and receive the holy prasadam from the youngster.
Col C.V. Venugopalan (retd), Palakkad
While it’s heart-warming that a Dalit has found his way into the sanctum sanctorum of a Kerala temple, not all utterances from the head of the body administering it sound positive. Travancore Devaswom Board president Prayar Gopalakrishnan sings a regressive tune when it comes to the question of women entering the famed hill-shrine of Sabarimala under it. “If women are allowed in Sabarimala, we can’t ensure their security,” he has reportedly said. He is also known to have said that women are not allowed into the temple because “we wouldn’t like to convert it into a sex tourism spot like Thailand.” In one stroke, he has insulted various kinds of sensibilities!
K.P. Rajan, Mumbai
In Tamil Nadu, bigamy is pretty much institutionalised, and particularly common in the districts of Krishnagiri and Salem (Many Quarters of the Patriarch, Oct 23). The social sanction for two wives is abundant in the mythology of the region. Lord Muruga, for instance, had two wives. In the undivided Andhra Pradesh too, bigamy is widespread among the powerful and is even considered a status symbol.
J.S. Acharya, Hyderabad
This refers to the interview with Kalki Koechlin (‘Deepika and Priyanka are exceptions, otherwise gender balance in terms of pay is skewed’, October 23). Last year, Amitabh Bacchan said that he had been paid far less for a film than the film’s female protagonist had been. Even decades ago, Mala Sinha was reportedly being paid more than many of the leading men of the era. If such cases are aberrations, and female actors indeed receive less remuneration in general, this can only be ascribed to the nature of the market. The vast majority of commercially successful Bollywood masala films are hero-centric, and their success is dependent on the hero. That is why many female leads are still treated as mere sex symbols or mute showpieces, while a heroine carrying a film on her shoulders is a rare phenomenon. Bollywood has simply catered to the demand and produced films in which not much is expected of the female lead, who thus receives lower compensation for their work.
Mahesh Kapasi, New Delhi
Apropos Depressing Window to Middle Class (Oct 23), the government must take note of this rise in unemployment, and of the criticism that has begun to come from its own backyard, and critically examine its own economic policies. Former finance minister Yashwant Sinha lashing out at the NDA for the plummeting of economic growth is timely and cannot be ignored, and others such as Subramanian Swamy and even RSS ideologue Gurumurthy have expressed concern over this issue and the Centre’s approach to it. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley must take this criticism in his stride and work out what needs to be done, instead of attempting to counter it by painting a rosy picture of the current situation. It is time for the prime minister to start working towards achieving a turnaround in the economy in the coming months by taking all concerned into his confidence instead of relying on the finance minister’s statements and statistics, which do not reflect real GDP due to inflation (which has been rising together with unemployment—stagflation). His failure to do so thus far has created fear and restlessness in the minds of ordinary people, especially traders and the youth, about what the future has in store for them.
K.R. Srinivasan, Secunderabad
The BJP rose to power with the support of the middle class by promising that two crore jobs would be created every year. On the contrary, 1.5 million jobs were lost during January-April 2017. Thanks to demonetisation and GST, there have been considerable job losses in the informal sector and a sharp decline in job growth in the formal sector. While Modi exhorts job seekers to become job creators even as self-employment comprises only about 15 per cent of total employment in the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries. Weighed down with high taxes, inflation and high fuel prices, more than 90 per cent of the taxpayers in India, who are salaried employees belonging to the middle class, have every reason to feel they have been betrayed by the BJP.
Kangayam R. Narasimhan, Chennai
The start-up or Make in India movement can succeed only if Prime Minister Narendra Modi monitors government officers for accountability. It is essential that employees in the Income Tax department, nationalised banks and so on are able to discharge their duties efficiently and without succumbing to corruption. The PM and his team must take suitable action against those who fail to discharge their duties within a reasonable time.
M. Kumar, New Delhi
Today’s graduates are indeed caught between the devil and the deep blue sea—unemployability, due to studying useless syllabuses, on the one hand, and the threat of automation-induced redundancy, on the other. While automation spells efficiency and cost-cutting to many a business, it also portends the bleak dehumanised mechanical age we are heading for. Software companies are tackling the problem through re-training. Also, now that labour unions have been allowed to operate in the IT industry in some states such as Tamil Nadu, they have to play a constructive role in redressing these issues.
C.V. Krishna Manoj, Hyderabad
Jobs are directly related to the health of the economy, of course. Recently, apart from the Opposition, leading economists of the country and the public at large, even those from within the BJP have been criticising the one-man-led party for losing control over the economy by issuing myopic diktats like demonetisation and the GST reforms. Contrary to what the government says, commodities are now priced at an all-time high and common people are struggling to eke out a living The thing about jobs is not just about getting employment but those jobs have to be progressively sustainable by growth being proportional to the rise in the costs of living.
Rahul Mishra, New Delhi
This refers to your article on Mamata Banerjee’s political strategies in Bengal (The High Way, Yes, But Not Her Way! Oct 30). Mamata, that ferocious politician, is certainly keeping a close watch on the BJP’s strategy in her fortress. She is not someone who should be underestimated, having founded the Trinamool Congress in 1998 and having led it to become a national party—indeed, the fourth-largest party in the Lok Sabha—in such a short span of years. ‘Didi’ capitalised on her fight against the then ruling government for allowing Ratan Tata to set up his Nano Car project on poor people’s land at Singur, and also became the guardian angel for a majority of Bengalis. However, her reputation suffered due to the involvement of her colleagues in scandals such as the Narada sting operation scam, the dubious chit fund companies case, the Saradha Group financial scandal and the Rose Valley financial scandal. She was attacked on social media for her controversial observation, “Earlier if men and women would hold hands, they would get caught by parents and be reprimanded, but now everything is so open. It’s like an open market with open options.” Despite such issues, it cannot be denied that Mamata Benarjee has a tough mind and the determination to vault over seemingly insurmountable odds.
Telangana Seetharam Basaani, Hanamkonda
This is with reference to your book review Development at extreme close up (Oct 23). The learned Jean Dreze has sparkling ideas. He does not hesitate to point his finger at a loophole and is not hesitant to appreciate what is right. It is unfortunate that in today’s India, men like him have no place, since politics and economics are driven by divisive forces based on religion. However, such men do India proud by questioning the authority and helping the rest understand their compatriots and people at large.
Rabindra Nath Roy, On E-Mail
This refers to your editorial comment Asthma and Mutton Fry (October 23). The court has banned the sale of crackers due to environmental and not religious concerns. It is wrong to try giving this a communal colour. Religion has been and will be a theatre of trauma. And politicians of all hues love drama. One pulp fiction writer also asked why rituals of the festivals of other religions are not banned. He should remember that when somebody brings some concern before the court, the court does not look at the colour of the shirt he wears, but only merit of the case.
V.N.K.Murti Pattambi, Pattambi
This refers to A Prayer Sent Out Loudly (Oct 16). Like the erstwhile UPA government at the Centre, the Mamata Banerjee government in West Bengal is perceived to be pro-Muslim. This bias and appeasement, while being useless for Muslims, will only consolidate the Hindu vote against her party.
Rajiv Chopra, Jammu
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