Nirmala Sitharaman

Devils dog women on streets: India hangs its head in shame

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

To the images of the charred remains of a young woman, raped and murdered, countless Indians woke up this morning with a sense of having failed their nation, and no less their popular prime minister Narendra Modi.

Dr Priyanka Reddy was out on her work as a vet in the outskirts of Hyderabad when her motorbike went bust and she fell prey to evil eyes of men around her with no route of escape left for her modesty and life. All of India’s gains on women in recent years, personally for me, were put to flames.

Four years ago, Modi had launched a scheme for girls, appropriately in northern state of Haryana which suffers from a skewed gender ratio and where women must largely look after home and hearth and little else.  “The prime minister of this country has come to you like a beggar, begging for the lives of our daughters,” Modi had implored.

India and its wonder women

Flip through the newspages of last six years and you would have countless tales of Indian women world champions, two of them—Saina Nehwal and Sania Mirza—from the very city of Hyderabad which today hangs its head in shame. You would find women who scaled Mt. Everest on one leg; the youngest ever to swim to record in icy Antarctic waters; grandmasters in chess; squash unbeatables;  reigning amateur world boxing champion for six years; authors who are internationally acclaimed; women scientists who are today the backbone of India’s space research programme, the envy of the world.

The same pages have stories of horrendous rapes and experts pontificating on lesser numbers, lesser jobs, lesser education, less convictions, open defecation, female feticide etc as reasons for such violations.  You have television debates, possibly a candlelight marches with sombre faces on Capital’s brightest thoroughfares, with the best expressions saved for news cameras which, given the luck, could place you in morning’s edition.  None of them seek or reflect to a basic question which Modi asks his citizens: “How could you possibly ask for an educated daughter-in-law when you snatch books from the hands of your own young daughters?”

Best examples of such a belief are apparently lost on a society where women are not only seen as an object of sex but also one for power and dominance.  Modi’s cabinet has six women ministers, women as capable as Ms Nirmala Sitharaman who could be a defence minister one day and a finance minister the next. The present Indian parliament has 78 women MPs, the highest-ever since independence.  An inspirational movie crafted on Indian women wrestlers had the world swooning, like in China where it logged US $191 million on box office. Yet tales of savagery and barbarism against the fairer sex abound in India.

The evidence is out there, every living minute of your daily existence. You ride a bus and see women being groped with abandon, wolf whistles accompanying your daughter long after they have turned the corner, lewd remarks in cafes etc. The sanctity to such obnoxious behaviour could come from men in the highest echelon of the society: Like a former Defence Minister who cautioned young girls against revealing dresses for “boys, after all are boys.”

A tale of two Indias living side by side

Today, there are two Indias living side by side. One has the horrid face of centuries where women are mere extension of a man’s needs, managing kids and kitchen only, and dare they think about selves. Other India has women reaching out to the skies, as strong in mind and body as men, egged by their progressive families and lauded in the neighbourhood.

Then there are some like me who fall in between. Father of two educated but unmarried daughters, I once damned my luck with the words: “Man, I feel raped.” My two lovelies gave me a look I would never forget. They felt belittled and humiliated—and made sure I did too.

An average Indian family has always preferred baby-boys to girls. For a long time, policy-makers ignored this mindset. Such an India needs open debate, a sustained dialogue so as the two Indias could live in harmony and safely. Skewed gender ratio leaves the society with more men and fewer women, a recipe for violence and domestic instability. 

India could probably learn from China which culturally has a similar preference for baby-boys yet the other extreme is rare. Punishment is a suitable deterrent. India perhaps needs to look at its laws and the speed at which justice is arrived at for the offenders.  

(This is was first published in rt.com).

No Hindi-must in New Education Policy: But try telling it to DMK

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

Nobody is imposing Hindi anywhere. Two Union Ministers, both of Tamil origin—Nirmala Sitharaman and Subrhmanyam Jaishankar—have clarified so in their mother tongue. No less than Krishnaswamy Kasturirangan, the force behind the draft of the New Education Policy (NEP), has rubbished such an interpretation. It’s time all the political parties in Tamil Nadu, and in Bengal,  let go on the hysteria. The Hindu and Indian Express too can stop rolling in the filth.

All hell broke loose when reports came in last week that the NEP has proposed making Hindi mandatory along with English and the regional language of choice in schools across India. All parties in Tamil Nadu, including DMK, the Congress, the Left, Kamal Hasaan’s Makkal Needhi Malyyam, MDMK and AIADMK, bristled with aggression and promised to hit the streets. In Kolkata, they actually did with the Bangla Pokkho civil society group shouting slogans against the “unfair imposition of Hindi” skipping over potholes on terrible city roads. For good effect, they also burnt the pages of the NEP draft policy.

The Centre has been swift in clarifying on its no-imposition-of-Hindi stand.  As NEP committee chairperson Kasturirangan—literally the horse’s mouth—says, “the policy envisages that every stage learns one language from another state.” In other words, you could be in Tamil Nadu and learn Tamil, English and any other regional language of your choice.

The reasons for a new NEP policy are sound. The last one occurred a quarter of a century ago. Much has changed in between. The social, political, economic, cultural reality is different from those times. Migration within India has increased manifold in millions. Language cannot be allowed to remain moribund. For a person living south in Chennai and seeking employment in Mumbai and Delhi, a basic understanding of Marathi or Hindi could only help.  Say, he is seeking a job in advertising or film industry in Mumbai. Won’t Marathi or Hindi be a bigger help to him? Won’t it help him in his social and economic mobility? And vice-versa?

The bigger paybacks are no less important. Language is communication and understanding only betters if two people could do it without resorting to Google translate. A communicating India is a growing India. Many classics and literary forces, as good as any produced in human history, have a limited bandwidth because one language, only a few kilometers apart from another, is Greek to its listeners. To understand the breadth of this logic remember that India has 780 languages. No less than 22 languages are listed in the eighth schedule of the Constitution.

But raising the spectre of a powerful Centre imposing Hindi suits regional chauvinists and their vote-banks. DMK in Tamil Nadu, and its allies, reaped a rich harvest on this seed in the 2019 General Elections. As many as 37 out of 38 seats went to this grouping.  It’s the separate “Dravidian” identity from the “Aryans” of North which launched dozens of careers in down South; overflowing their coffers and unleashing unbridled reservations in the Southern states. In Tamil Nadu, for instance, the reservation is up to a whopping 69% in favour of backward communities. The fiat runs across all spheres be it jobs or medical studies.

Hindi must not be imposed on rest of India and it won’t be. Howsoever the case in its favour remain strong: Almost 52 crore or 44 per cent of India speaks Hindi; nearly 62 crore speakers worldwide which makes it third most spoken language behind the Mandarin and English.  India is a land of hundreds of languages, customs and cultures and it is the diversity which makes it unique. A universal umbrella would be a great assault on the federal character of its republic.

So the anxiety in Tamil Nadu or in Bengal is nothing but rumour-mongering with Lutyens Media being a willing accomplice.  How come no other state or its politicians have a problem with the draft of NEP? Why hide the fact that it’s just a draft and the New Education Policy would solely be guided by the feedback it gets from the rest of the country? Why speak the language of anarchy when the intent is one of unity?

(P.S: Studies though say that Tamilians who can speak Hindi are 50 per cent up in 10 years across Tamil Nadu. The current preference for CBSE, ICSE schools has led to students preferring Hindi as optional language even in Tamil Nadu. The popularity of Bollywood movies could be another reason).

What I won’t do if I was a Rahul Gandhi

It’s only for their own good that Indian National Congress stop shouting hollow the “corruption” charge against Narendra Modi and his ministers in the garb of Rafale. Such charges may get an echo from your very own drummer boys and girls in media but is self-defeating. Mercenaries can do a lot of things but don’t appeal to logic. First, you dream a self-image; then pay the pen-pushers to give words to it; and then read and believe it. How stupid could you get?

Only, if they were to ask average readers, three questions would be thrown back at them: (1) Who made the charge (2) Why’s the charge; (3) What’s the follow-up?

So (a) Congress and opposition has made the charge; (b) the charge is of inflated bills for Rafale jets; and (c) err…no follow-up!!!

No follow-up? You mean no cases filed against corrupt ministers? No CBI, ED, Income Tax inquiries? No request for midnight anticipatory bails?

You see what I am leading to? Just imagine the picture: Rahul Gandhi in a residential colony of Delhi, say Safdarjung, asking a housewife on Rafale and being shot back at with these three questions. How do you think he would reply???

Let’s say Gandhi is carrying the clippings from Lutyens Media, The (pants on) Fire, Hugpost, TheScowl, ThePint, TheSquint as his file of defence. He dramatically pulls them out and says: yeh dekho, yeh dekho aur yeh bhi dheko!!! All can’t be wrong!

Oh, so it’s going to the chambers of our very own defence minister? But then she’s only be around 10 months? Why 10 months, even in the entire four-plus years of NDA, we haven’t heard of any corruption charge against any Central minister? Be it Union, minister of state or Independents in the Centre. No mid-night bail dramas, no-anticipatory reliefs. And you mean we have a corrupt government in the Centre?

How do you think Rahul Gandhi would reply? When names such as Sushma Swaraj, Rajnath Singh, Nitin Gadkari, Piyush Goyal, Smriti Irani, Ravishankar Prasad, Prakash Javedkar, Jayant Sinha, Kirren Rijju, Nirmala Sitharaman, Manohar Parikkar, Rajyavardhan Rathore, Suresh Prabhu or Manoj Sinha are taken aloud in his face? How do you think he would react to this question: “Mr Gandhi, none of the above in the eyes of neutral citizens of this country are seen as corrupt. Not even by the media you quote. On the contrary, we know you and your mother are on a bail; your brother-in-law’s company is fighting 18 fraud cases; your pre-eminent minister Chidambaram and his son are anticipating arrests, etc. What makes you think we believe you?”

That’s the whole point: Corruption and this Modi government don’t connect. Insinuations are not charges. Claims are no evidence. Shouting is no logic. Especially when said by a voice which must end with a hug or a wink. A person who flies abroad while his party is bloodied on a political turf; a “young” leader whose’ voice on social media don’t seem to be his very own.

Let’s bring another relevant issue to the debate. Just google “Modi Arrogant.” You would have many of the above suspects voicing in unison: YES. That he is a dictator. He has reduced everybody to rubber-stump in the Cabinet etc.

Tell me frankly, do men like Gadkari, Rajnath, Goyal or Prasad look like errand-boys to you? Sushma, Nirmal and Smriti house-attendants? Rijju, Rathore, Parrikkar or Prabhus lawn-makers? Haven’t they carved out respect in the eyes of the people due to their hard work and integrity? Haven’t they survived because they are competent and not because they fear “Dictator Modi.”

Congress and its’ echo-chamber today is completely divorced from reality. Such antics are only good to fool yourself. That’s like you are spot-running, going nowhere. If I was Rahul Gandhi, I would take a sabbatical, withdraw from this heat of the battle, go on a personal, physical “Discovery of India.” Know real men, know real India, know real issues. That’s what the original Gandhi did. That’s what our present so-far-dummy Gandhi must do.

 

Modi finds his nerves tested by US on Iran

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

United States wants India to cut down its oil imports from Iran which stands as its third biggest supplier after Iraq and Saudi Arabia. President Donald Trump has followed his pre-election promise with withdrawal from the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan for Action (JCPOA) which had enabled China, Russia, France, Germany UK, European Union and the US itself to dilute the economic sanctions against Tehran. Now the sanctions are back in place with the deadline of November 6, 2018 and the world is in turmoil, no less India.

The Trump administration has chosen a new way to browbeat the countries which don’t fall in line. Last August, it introduced CAATSA (Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act) to scare those away from trade relations with “hostile” countries such as Russia, North Korea and Iran. International banks and companies which defy the sanctions would bear the brunt. Less oil imports from Iran would hike up the prices and import bills, not just of India but of many around the world. It would hit both inflation and Indian rupee. Since US dominates the re-insurance and payment gateways, bypassing them is difficult.

India’s dilemma is apparent. Before 2005, it paid $12-14 billion annually to oil bills by Iran. But signing the 2005 Indo-US Nuclear Civil Deal, gave New Delhi’s leash in US hands. India voted against Iran in the IAEA General Conference in September the very year; dithered on the Iran-Pakistan-India Pipeline and sounded the death knell of Turkmenistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline project. By 2014, India had reduced the Iranian oil imports to $4 billion annually.

The US treasury methodically shut down the banking options for India who then began paying Turkey by cash which then converted it to gold bars and sent it across to Tehran. India was in no position to pay oil bills in US dollars. India did try the balancing act: while Reserve Bank of India (RBI) ceased dealing with Tehran-based Asian Clearing Union in 2010, it came to an understanding with Iran to pay half of its bill in Indian rupees in 2012.

But once the JCPOA came into being, India-Iran trade relations grew back to 2012 days. India also decided to pay out $6.5 billion it owed to Iran, held up due to sanctions. Modi government renewed the stalled Chahbahar port project. Its’ ministers made a beeline to Tehran with promises of oil and infrastructural projects. Iran obliged on its part by granting Oil and Natural Gas Commission (ONGC) the gas fields of Farzad B for exploration. The air of optimism only grew better when Iranian president Hassan Rouhani visited New Delhi this February with his oil minister Bijan Zanganeh. India pledged it would double its oil imports from Iran in 2018-2019. Iran, on its part, promised to cut down the freight by $1 per barrel. India pledged to increase import by 500,000 barrels a day.

But now comes the fresh US imposition. Even though foreign minister Sushma Swaraj has reiterated India would only abide by the mandates sanctioned by the United Nations (UN), it’s easier said than done. India and US have a booming trade of $140 billion which could take a grave hit, as well as around $31 billion of bilateral trade surplus advantage India has. Chahbahar port project, which could save millions in trade and increase Afghanistan’s tilt towards India, stands to lose steam. Besides, it just would give a bigger fillip to China to snug closer to Iran, shutting the doors on India.

India would be encouraged by the stand of UK, France, Germany who have expressed “regret and concern over Trump’s disruptive action. The Modi government meanwhile has started to flex its own muscles: in reaction to US postponing the 2+2 dialogue, India has declined US’ offer to host Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. India also seems steadfast in increasing its military deals with Russia which faces similar offensive sanctions from United States.

The one fall-out of all this, including trade barriers ratcheted up by both US and India, is Modi government swinging back appreciably into the China-Russia zone. India has this strategic advantage where countries are looking to wow India rather than the other way around. However, India-US relations for the moment are several notches down than they have ever been since Trump came to power.