Women Vs. We Men in India !!!

“We attain the real freedom only when a lonely woman can walk freely anywhere in our country during midnightMohandas Karamchand Gandhi.

The Father of the Nation must have said this in the 40’s not with animals or aliens in mind.  He clearly alluded to the lurking threat from ‘we men’ to the women community.  Sadly, going by this definition, we as a country might have achieved political freedom, the economic freedom may be just in sight but the “Real freedom” may be light years away. The recent ghastly incident which took place in our country’s capital, Delhi beat the daylights out of me as most of my fellow citizens.  It will be naïve to assume that Delhi is an exception as a city in India and other cities are quite safe.

There is a heated debate today in India on ways to stop this – ranging from Speedy justice, Capital punishment for the accused, fast trial courts for women related crimes,…,..  The lady victim/fighter or whatever one wants to call her has to live through the trauma almost every day of her life. Even if she wants to forget, the society will keep reminding her of the same.  So by hanging the culprit and taking his life, you are giving him the freedom which the victim does not have.  According to me, he must live and live to repent his shameful act every day/ every hour / every minute / every second for the rest of his life.  At the same time the punishment must be delivered in such a way that makes other men think 1000 times before they unzip before an unwilling woman in a moving bus or elsewhere.

That could be

  • Fast track courts exclusively for women related crimes with women as judges
  • The victims compliant corroborated with circumstantial evidence to be treated as final evidence and the accused charged
  • Laws amended to make “Castration” as the punishment for Rape against women
  • Judgment to be delivered within 1 week of any such incident
  • Punishment executed within 1 week from judgement

As a liberal, I’m in general against capital punishment and other such primitive punishments and agree with the view that these kind of aboriginal retributions have no place in a civilised society. However I’ve come to the conclusion that laws and punishments must be in tune with the civility and morality index of the country.  A country where a woman is raped every 2 hours (as I hear) cannot certainly be in the august group of Civilised nations.

Let us hold those grandiose pretensions for a while till as a country we learn to behave and demonstrate civility in general.

  • It’s time to think less about economic recession and worry about morality recession.
  • We face sleepless nights about currency depreciation but don’t bat our eyelid seeing the depreciation of values in front of us.
  • While being delighted watching the bullish trends in the stock market, let’s get concerned about dousing the raging bullish attitude of ‘we men’ towards women.
  • Time to have targets for Gross Discipline instead of just for GDP growth.

May be it’s time to deliver justice the primordial way which may eventually act as the much-needed deterrent for such heinous acts.  Somebody passed me this link from a Tamil movie – though this is a bit crude and violent way of delivering justice, I’m certain a variant of this form of punishment may prove to be the final deterrent for crime towards women!

While this could be a short-term solution, we must pause to pose the larger question. What is with Indian men that make them treat women with contempt, as an object of desire, as an item, ..,…?  As part of the oppressing gender in India today, I cringe with smallness.

To me, it looks like that’s the way we have been brought up in the society.  Till the time I started travelling out of our country in my 20’s I didn’t realise the “Women Vs. We Men” battle being staged in our country day in day out.  I would like to enumerate some of the scenes most of us I’m certain will be witness to :

  • The office elevator reaches the ground floor with men and women in it. As soon as the door opens, the men just rush out without having the basic courtesy of waiting for the women to step out first
  • At the same elevator, as the women try to get out, you will find men charging in to get into the lift – as if the lift is a local train.  In Mumbai where I live now, I see this “Suburban train” approach (which is basically barging in before people get out or without giving space for others before the train leaves) in everything. Even if it’s boarding a plane, getting into a theatre, driving a car on the road,..,..
  • In the airport coach at the departure or arrival gate – you will find very few iPhone/Blackberry wielding alpha males yielding their seats to females even if they are with infants or of the elderly type.
  • The driver of the car keeps honking as a pedestrian who happens to be a woman tries to cross the road and makes sure she halts so that he can breeze away. The short stint I lived in Dubai taught me that as a driver the 1st priority is for the pedestrian.
  • A group of office colleagues (male and female) get out of the company bus and walk together towards the office door to make an entry. Seldom will you find the male members allowing the ladies first and awaiting their turn later.

You may feel that I’ve spiced up some of the incidents for better effect, but actually not. These are what you get to see in the ‘Maximum(bai)’ city every other day! So I was not at all surprised when Mumbai was voted as a ‘Rudest City’ in a worldwide survey of 35 cities by Readers Digest.  That it was Mumbai was just incidental. It could well apply for most of the big cities of India.  I’m not claiming that Readers Digest is the ultimate authority in judging morality or civility, just thought not out of context to quote that to drive home my point.

As a long-term solution, the need of the hour is to coach our children on the basic courtesies in general and towards women in particular and not to view them as just an object of desire. We owe this to our nation. So, tomorrow when I leave my house with my family in the car, let me start by opening the door for the 2 ladies at home!

Enough

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BAN THE “FDI” – WHOLESALE I Say!!!

FDiHearing the cacophony of noises in India’s ‘temple of democracy’ last week on FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) in multibrand retail, one couldn’t help conclude that FDI is back again to haunt us. I am referring to the “Famous Desi Insecurity” among the ‘pujaris’ of the parliament temple.  In the annals of Independent India, this FDI has a long history and raises its head with alarming frequency!

  • 1988:  The topic for a group discussion in a B-School where I went for admission was “Is computerization a boon or bane for modern India?”  Today it looks like such an obvious topic to have any discussion about or have any debate at all – with computing being omnipresent on the ground, on the move and even in the Cloud! However, those days the case for computers had not been wrested. Trade Unions in many establishments across the country were up in arms against computerization which was supposed to leave millions jobless. The “INTEL” inside a PC will leak our country’s secrets and is a threat to our sovereignty was even one of the naïve apprehensions, I remember.  3 decades hence, as I create this piece in my laptop, if I attempt to explain what actually the consequence of computerization is, I will be only accused of stating the obvious.
  • 1991: The year in which liberalization and reforms were undertaken by the Government when the country was in the brink of an economic collapse. The Naysayers that time accused the Govt. of
    • walking into the trap laid by the IMF,
    • attempting to kill the domestic industry by de-licensing, by cutting import duty, by bringing goods under an “Open General license regime”,…,,…

         Nothing of that sort happened and on the contrary, India graduated from a   much contended ‘Hindu rate of Growth’ of 3 % on an average in the previous 2 decades to average ‘Indian rate of Growth of 7.5% in the next 2 decades.  We became part of the famous BRIC story that was being built globally.

  • 2001 : All around the country there was a symphony of voices about the threat of domestic manufacturing industry getting wiped out in several sectors including many small scale industries like Locks, Toys,. The government was about to remove the Quantitative Restrictions for imports across many sectors as per WTO.   The Quantitative Restrictions were hitherto acting as a protection to the flurry of imported goods except in “Burma Bazaars”.  The local manufacturing of FMCG (Fast moving consumer goods) will face a slow and steady death as the Indian consumer will be bombarded with imported “Charlies” and “Camays” – was the war cry.  10 years hence, has the local mfg. industry been wiped out?  Has the imported Camay overtaken the local Cinthol? The answer is Yes and No.  In small-scale sectors like lock manufacturing,.. due to no investments in technology, the units have been facing a serious lock out. (Eg: Lock mfrs. in Aligarh). The Chinese locks today protect most households. However in sectors where mfrs. have looked at ‘opening up’ as an opportunity rather than a threat, have upgraded their works, have got into strategic collaborations, got in investments and have eventually flourished.  Camay is produced in India now by a Contract mfr. for P&G. 

VAT introduction in India in 2005, Opening up of the Insurance sector to FDI in 2006, the Indo-US civil nuclear treaty in 2008 and now the opposition to allow FDI in multi brand retail. 

I can go on and on on the list of issues where our politicians pontificated doom and created kerfuffle.

In all these, the common thread is the Insecurity among the politicians about our own country and the lack of self-confidence or the “Can-do” spirit which today’s youth in the street display day in and day out. In spite of the fact that in all the above instances the Indian enterprise has repeatedly demonstrated that “India today” is not the one to cowed down by outside influences but is one that looks at all possibilities to collaborate and prosper.

I for one am delighted to see the opposition to FDI in retail and finally government of the day pushing it through by Hook or Crook I mean Mayawati or Mulayam!!! Going by past history and instances whenever our politicians oppose something vociferously and foretell that doomsday is here – we know what will happen.  So I believe, thanks to FDI in multibrand retail,

  • Kiranas are not going to get wiped out so soon
  • Farmers are not going to be exploited
  • Millions of Indians are not going to lose jobs

Or for that matter

  • “Will not make our children sales boys and girls”

as being apprehended.

For, advent of computers in the 80s in India didn’t leave millions of Indians jobless but created a fledgling US$100bn IT Industry that creates an estimated 230,000 jobs or round about annually thereby employing 11 million people directly and indirectly. So like computerization, retail could be a game changer. However whether this FDI policy of the Government will be a Game changer? That will keep it for my next post.

So let’s not stop the FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) in retail but ban the FDI (Famous Desi Insecurity) – wholesale which seems to have engulfed many of our politicians!!!

Postscript: The joke used to be that in the 70’s if some Govt. babu was seen wearing a denim, he was suspected to be a CIA implant and R&AW was let after him!!!

DATV 24*7 !!!

Devil’s Advocate is a program in one of the English News channels where, as the name typifies the anchor grills the guest and plays the role of a Devil’s advocate.  I’m told that the role of the original Devil’s Advocate ceased to exist since 1983 when the Pope reformed the process of “Canonization” adopted by the Church. However in our lives we are not so lucky. We live today in a spell of the Devil’s Advocate 24*7 in different avatars in the form of our great news anchors.  Hence am tempted to cluster the news channels as “DATV 24*7” (Devil’s Advocate TV)!!!

In last count, India had may be more than 140 news channels in which the Hindi ones are about 35 and the Queen’s language ones are about 20 and the rest are of the regional languages. And my no brainer guess is that certainly India must be the topper in the world in terms of number of news channels! It looks like launching a news channel has far less entry barriers in comparison to starting up a business in India considering the proliferation.

From the time of the Geetanjali Iyers’, ‘Minus’, Sunit Tandons of the Doordarshan days we have indeed come a long way. From fixed dose of 30 mins. news to 24*7 news diarrhea.  From ‘news readers’ to more fashionable ‘news anchors’. From pleasing personalities who doubled up as news readers to larger than life personalities.   Today the brief for the news anchor is very clear.   My guess is that during their job induction the baptism by fire (sorry, the overdose of Biblical references in this post is purely incidental) may well go like this:

  • While anchoring a news edition, you are God and you must become the Devil’s advocate when dealing with your guests which by definition means – become someone who, given a certain argument, takes a position he or she does not necessarily agree with, for the sake of argument. In taking such position, the individual taking on the Devil’s advocate role seeks to engage others in an argumentative discussion process ( Courtesy – Wikipedia )
  • Never allow the guest to complete what he / she wants to say.  Interrupting is your birthright. 
  • Viewers watch the news edition because of you and not because of the guests. So you HAVE to win every argument with your guests.
  • Since while hiring we have checked out that you have been a talented debater in your school/college times, you must bring those skills to the fore here.
  • Whatever may be the issue of discussion – if the guest is from BJP – you should ask them about Gujarat and to the guest from Congress – about the fallacies of dynastic politics. ( remember the previous mandate – this will help you win every argument )
  • If you are anchoring the English news edition, make sure your Hindi is bad.  If your Hindi is as good then you have no place in the English news room. To a Hindi heartland politician guest your question should be like: Aap ko lagta nahin hai, yeh conjecture hai???” or “Aap kyun maante hain yeh reform public ko beneficial nahi hoga???”
  • Being calm, cool and grounded cannot be a layer of your personality. Need to be hysterical most of the time. ( You are dealing with politicians who are masters in creating mass hysteria)
  • You are the news anchor. So you don’t have to be consistent in what you say and what you mean.  So if India wins the world cup – India is the uncrowned king of ODIs and the question that day should be – “When will India be the No. 1 test ranked team?” After all Test cricket is the real thing.  And the day India becomes the No.1 test team the question should be – “In the absence of Test World cup, is the ranking system credible…”  In short your questioning must be as they say in Tamil – “Kundaka – Mandaka” ( Sorry I couldn’t get the right English word for this one!)
  • And finally, when you interview film stars/ Bollywood tribe as part of their film promotions, you have to be a God’s advocate and be as sheepish as possible.

Like any other field, news business (yes it is) has become a competitive business and is determined by “The Racket Points” (known more popularly as TRPs).  And in India with that multitude of channels it is one hell of a competitive business. Hence it is not surprising that news channels have modeled themselves after “Bollywood” which by and large has held its own for decades now and has managed to weather many a technological storms which have come by its way.  And as put aptly in one dirty picture – it’s all about Entertainment, Entertainment and Entertainment!!!

  • So if one watches a news edition, the 1st few minutes (2 to be precise) are spent on reeling out the main headlines of the day and that’s it. The rest of the hour is spent on debates mostly pointless.  And that successful formula of Bollywood is essentially telling a story with drama, weave emotions around it and keeping it as entertaining as possible by throwing in a few song & dance sequences, action sequences,.. Copy that into a news edition today – the anchor brings in the drama with his/her style, the debates conjure up the emotion and hysteria and the film stars in the garb of promoting their movies add to the entertainment quotient if the debates didn’t measure up.
  • And anything which casually happens is actually “Breaking News” (For example, recently when the TV channels were ‘breaking the news” of Bal Thackeray’s last procession during the whole Sunday – Raj Thackeray “suddenly deciding to stop walking and getting into his car and speeding away” was “Breaking News”!!! I’m sure the Breaking News tamasha inspires a 1000 “Peepli lives” day in and day out.
  • It’s not surprising that when Hillary Clinton is on a visit to India, we could see her “Exclusive” interviews in almost all English news channels!!!
  • And in this method of madness there is no exception.  If you flip through the English news channels today in a sequence – it will be like watching a motion picture in sequence. Only the anchor will be different. The topic of discussion will be the same. The guests who come to debate will be the same. (You guessed it right – Ravi Shankar Prasad from BJP, Abhishek Singhvi from Congress ,..,..) The style of discussion will be the same and the end result will be predictable.
  • The fact that most of the Indian News anchors cut their teeth in one “New Delhi TV” school has not helped.
  • Political parties don’t want to debate issues in Parliament because it makes for boring visuals. Debating in TV studios make for better entertainment you see!!!

In their off anchoring times, most anchors admit to donning the tough cop role basically to put the politicians on a mat by asking all the tough questions on issues of the day so that the viewers can then make their own judgement. But they end up being a Devil’s advocate – and that too poor ones at that because in the original instance when a Devil’s Advocate was deployed the verdict was out (“Canonized” or not) but here the temerity of the politicians just continues and the show just goes on!!!