Law & Life in “Rageistan”!!!

“Nayee Dilli – Mar 22nd,2033  

In what was the “Rape Capital” of India – Nayee Dilli (once called New Delhi) feverish activity is going on in the Government circles to observe and celebrate the 20th year anniversary of passing of the ‘Criminal Law ( Amendment) Bill 2013 more commonly known as the “Anti Rape Law”.  Why not? As per statistics released by the Home Ministry on the eve of the anniversary, rape as an offence has been steadily on the decline since the day the Anti-Rape law saw the light of the day and is almost wiped out since last 5 years in India.  The silent winding up of quite a few women organisations supporting the cause of women safety in the last many years supports the statistic.  Units which we were in the business of mfg. ‘Pepper sprays’ and other handy weapons have been consistently reporting losses in the few years and reportedly now turning sick and since this activity was reserved for Small Scale Industries it is turning into a new head ache for the Government.    The Home Minister is slated to address an “Online” presser in a short while where even common public can ask questions (which are pre approved by the ministry). Not only Dilli, but across the once notorious rape Kendra’s of India, women now walked freely in the night, partied hard with ‘gay’ abandon, took up night shift jobs without fright and almost all countries lifted their travel advisories for women against travelling to India which has been in vogue since 2013.  In short one can conclude that India finally attained “Real freedom” as envisioned by Father of the Nation – Mahatma Gandhi”

Cut, Cut, Cut – Well, that was a fantasy ride into the future. Let’s get back to reality of today. After the furore in the country in the aftermath of an extremely reprehensible act which happened in Delhi in Dec 2012, the Indian Government moved fast to pass the Anti-Rape Law on the 22nd Mar 2013.  The new law includes new offences like acid attack, sexual harassment, voyeurism, stalking… in the Indian Penal code.  It has also changed the definition of rape (sexual assault now) and finally has declared life punishment as the maximum punishment for most of the rape related crimes.

Now the question which comes uppermost in my mind and I would like to hear the answer from the female fraternity is with the passing of this bill, do they feel safer in India than before?  This question arises because in India we have some greatly drafted laws but rendered useless at the end of the day due to poor implementation. “Tough laws combined with tough implementation” is the need of the hour.  It’s now 3 months since the ‘Delhi horror’ happened and as it slowly moves out of the collective memories of all of us, the case is still meandering in the courts. One would have thought that it was such an “Open and Shut” case that by now the punishment would have been awarded and the case closed.  Not surprising in a country where it has taken 20 full years to finally ‘sort of’ get a partial closure to the 1993 Mumbai bomb blasts case.  Recall the well scripted “Chalta Rahe” TVC for ‘Greenply’??? If not, do check this link. That sums it all.

Hence my fervent hope that the “Anti Rape Law” got debated and discussed adequately not only in terms of the provisions of the law but also the mechanism of implementation of the law itself. On both fronts it was a big disappointment. From all accounts, it was travesty of a debate with MPs exchanging views and passing frivolous oracular comments about wooing women as men’s most favourite, undeniable pastime and birthright!!! Only one-third of the MPs turned up at the Lok Sabha when the bill was debated – so much for lessons learnt and regret after the Nirbhaya incident!

First on the provisions of the law –

  • The maximum punishment was limited to life imprisonment while there was a mass public outcry for Capital punishment or Castration for the guilty.   While there are arguments for and against primordial punishments like Capital punishment or Castration in a civilised society, my point is – a society in which women have to live in fear is never a “Civilised society”. So we could turn to more civil punishments when we become a civilised one.  Till then we must have tough laws with tough punishments for heinous crimes which eventually act as deterrents. And rape is certainly one I believe.
  • Recently I was reading Vinod Mehta’s book “The Sanjay Story” an account (not a biography) on Sanjay Gandhi.  In that book, one chapter titled “Indiri Bachao” (Save your Penis) focusses on the Mass Sterilization programme which Sanjay Gandhi championed.  It seems initially when Sanjay ‘cut’ loose this programme it was a dud and was not taking off because men didn’t want to go under the knife. In India procreation was considered such a manly thing that men were reluctant to give up that “right”. Finally Sanjay Gandhi had to adopt all techniques under the sun from incentives like Radio sets, Rice, Cash, Jobs to ‘Force’ through the local police to achieve sterilization targets. My limited point is – taking away the right of a man to procreate through sterilization or castration whichever way you call it can be a big deterrent to a crime like Rape if that was the punishment believe you me.

Second on the implementation of the law –

  • No provisions / ideas for fast track courts for trials for rape cases
  • No thought of an exclusive all women court to try these cases
  • No new nothing!

We all know that the same we Indians behave adequately well when we step out of our shores. The difference I see is not the laws themselves but quick and tough execution of the laws and hence the fear of breaking the law.

In summary, we have another law which has just tinkered here and there with the existing provisions rather than a “Zero based” law.  Hence my fundamental question which I posed – Do women feel safer today ?

Preface: Please replace the word ‘G’ by ‘P’ in the word “Rageistan” in the title and read.   For, looking at the rape incidents of Indian women and foreign tourists of late, Incredible India may soon earn that title!!!

Also Read : My earlier post : Women Vs. We Men in India

Now Showing – “Board Exams”

For this time of the year, the temperature in the last few days in Mumbai has been few degrees higher than normal.  One tends to attribute the same to the usual suspect called “Global Warming”.  But I suspect that the higher temperature this time overall is due to the “Exam fever” every house hold is seemingly suffering from – these days!  In India this is the season for the SSC (10th) exam and the “life threatening” HSC (12th) exams now and my best wishes at the outset to all the students who are going through the rigmarole.  Absenteeism in companies is at a high as parents take leave in turns to be with their kids and provide moral support as they prepare for the ‘board’ exams.  Film makers who aspire to be in the 100 Crore club avoid release of their movies in this tense period.  In these highly competitive times, board exam times are becoming “testing” times for the parents, grandparents and the ilk.  

I’m not sure if this aura around ‘Board’ exam is only in India or it is a universal phenomenon. India made a 1st step towards easing the burden on students when Kapil Sibal, the then minister for HRD, made the board exam for 10th standard an optional affair from 2011. I’m not well-informed on how this optional thing works or doesn’t work.   However the tyranny of the board exam continues for 12th Std to this day.

I have vivid memories of my tryst with board exams which started with the 10th way back in 1983. In our predominantly Hindu – Brahmin school in Trichy (by name E.R.Higher Secondary School), the hall tickets were handed over after a puja at the temple. On the appointed day, all the students and respective teachers of the 10th class were taken to the temple for the Puja. My neighbour and friend who used to be in a Catholic school said that in their school, the hall tickets were handed over after a prayer at the church. So I concluded that all religions took board exams seriously and board exams by nature were secular!  By the time I came to 12th there was no need to take the walk to the temple for collecting the hall ticket. The school by then made strides and collected enough funds to build a small temple within the school premises itself.  To take care of the Saivite and Vaishnavite sensibilities or rather their academic aspirations, the temple was built with 2 presiding deities – Ganesh and Hanuman

In a neighbourhood Ganesh Temple the priest – an old pious man would give us specially worshipped ‘vibhudhi’ individually to each of us to be applied just before we open the question paper.  During exam time, he reminded us kids not to forget to collect the same before the exam begins and we did so religiously.  As quaint as it may seem, the lines to collect this ‘vibhudhi’ from him were quite long during board exam times with even non regulars to the temple queuing up.  That the old man was carrying out this practice without expecting any monetary consideration is in stark contrast to the materialistic world of today.

As soon as the 11th exams were over, the preparation for 12th started.  The idea was to start early and complete the portions by Dec. In preparation for the 12th board exam in April, the classes get over by Dec and the next 3 months one is at home to prepare for the final kill. I must admit here that though the board exam fever was running high, we were quite relaxed and taking it easy.  So much so that we didn’t resist watching the entire Benson & Hedges World Championship of Cricket” which took place in March 1985 in Australia.  Following the World Cup win in 1983, India continued its winning stretch in One Dayers beating Pakistan in the finals in this tournament.   Watching almost all the matches live on TV with mates that too at a friend’s place and rooting for India bring back unforgettable memories. Ravi Shastri became a (to borrow today’s vocab) “hash tag” overnight after being crowned as “Champion of Champions” in that tournament and ‘Audi’ got into the lexicon of the Indian youth.   Looking back I realize that this tournament provided for a much needed break in between our continuous study routine and acted as a stress buster.

While one starts getting into the trappings of the board exams – the refrain all around is “prepare well for this one last time, get good marks and you are set for life”!!!  But the truth is far from it. The competitive rat race of life continues post the board exams as well.  Only that you start getting used to it!!! The jury is still out on whether academic excellence matters at the end of the day and is the passport to success. As somebody said, academic excellence may well provide you the “Passport” but you still need the “Visa”!!!

It is nobody’s case that there is no need for an assessment in the form of an exam. It’s just that a complete focus on one final exam puts so much pressure and one bad day in office or rather the exam hall can put paid to an aspirant’s career hopes in today’s system. A movement to a continuous and regular assessment is the way forward.  Can our pragmatic and hardworking minister Shashi Tharoor ring in a change ???

On a Sunday as I am writing this post, my six year old daughter is quite engrossed in the movie “3 Idiots” for the “N+1”th time.  As the main protagonist Aamir Khan launches his diatribe on the present education system which gives so much weightage to marks and marks alone, I’m not sure if she realizes what’s in store for her. I hope by the time she is in her 10th, the so called ‘board’ exams have lived their lives and have been consigned to history.  The selfish thought being we as parents will be freed of the ‘board’ Exam fever!!!

Let me close this piece now as I have to rush my daughter to the dance class for well ………. an exam 🙂 🙂 🙂

Postscript: If people who are in Twitter are “Tweeples”, people who suffer from Exams are “Examples” 😦 😦 😦