Selfish

Ranikhet express reached Haldwani an hour late. Bhudeb was not happy. He chose the slow coach for its arrival time, so that he could check in when it is still dark. “Who knows, who will see him now? This blessed land is so full of people!” Irritated, Bhudeb boarded the chauffered driven car for hotel and moved straight to his room. For important guests like Bhudeb, hotel did not bother scrutiny at the reception. All formalities were taken care of online, Bhudev walked into his room. Bhudeb also was a good spender and tipped well.

In his spacious suite, Bhudeb sat by the large french window over-looking the mountain. Tomorrow, he will be among the mountains with Suhani. Bhudeb had met Suhani a few years back. Bhudeb was sitting alone in breakfast table. Suhani came and asked if she could join him. Both hit of almost instantaenously. Similar outlook to life, similar sense of humor, similar taste in food and music. They took off for the hills to spend more intimate time. They persisted with the ritual year after year. Today, it is part of Bhudeb’s yearly calendar.

Bhudeb enjoyed his time alone with Suhani. They would watch sun hide behind clouds and reappear to kiss the snow clad mountian peaks. Together, they will inhale fresh air smelling of flower carpeted meadow. He would walk holding her hands like a young teenager and love to get soaked in monsoon rain. At least, once a year, Bhudev would not mind losing his balance and falling in the mud. All because of her company and how eagerly he will wait for her hand, extended to pull him up, and drag her in the mud to join him. He became a kid in her company. In the evening they would watch the moon comeup from behind mountains, enjoy the quiet evening with ciccadas playing background music.

Normally, Suhani arrives by noon in her own car. Today, she did not show up till six in the evening.

What is the problem? Did she have car trouble? Did she meet with any unforeseen accident? What will happen to their plan?”

Anxious thoughts flooded his mind. Eventually, anxiety replaced anger.

Women! Can they ever be reliable! Is it easy for Bhudeb to take break from busy schedule? Who is he doing all this for? Ofcourse for Suhani. How she reciprocates!”

At last, he could not bear it any longer. Bhudeb, dialled the personal number that Suhani had shared with him for emergencies. After several rings, a male voice pickeup the number.,

May I speak to Ms. Suhani please?”

After a bit of hesitation, the voice answered, “mother is no more. She breathed her last this afternoon. Are you a friend of hers? Please come to her fourth day ceremony.”

Bhudeb was stunned and speechless. He hung up the phone. Packed his bag and left for Delhi in a car.

Afterall, he is a family man. He cannot be touched by such mess. How will he face his wife and children? What is he going to tell them? God is great!”

This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative forIndian Bloggers by BlogAdda.

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Inclusion vs. Development : Battle of Narratives Part II

In the recently concluded debate on No Confidence Motion in Indian parliament, opposition leader Mr. Rahul Gandhi moved across the floor and dramatically embraced prime minister. Mr. Gandhi said despite so much abuse thrown at him, he still has it in him to love his opponent. One may criticise the move as childish. In my mind, the move was an astute move for two reasons. First, it grabbed media time while everyone discussed the hug. Second, it set the narrative of inclusivity for upcoming battle. And believe me, a picture conveys a message better than thousand words.

Despite government claim of serving people of India without fear, favour and prejudice, one cannot deny several high visibility cases of lynching of members of minority community have come to light in states ruled by BJP, the ruling party at the center. In many cases complicity of politicians and law enforcement agencies were apparent:

  • Akhlaq was killed under suspicion of storing beef in his refrigerator. He was killed by a group of people who happened to live in the same village. One of the accused died in jail. His body was draped in Indian tricolour. Not only murder of a middle aged man outrageous, wrapping tricolour around body of his killers was outrageous.
  • Pehlu Khan, a cattle trader, was beaten up. Pehlu Khan died in hospital. Men he named, as part of his dying declaration, were all released on bail. Prosecutor could not establish a case despite having a video evidence.
  • Mohammad Afrazul a daily wage laborer from West Bengal, was killed by Shambhu Negar. Shambhu burnt Afrazul’s body and had it filmed. Later on, from high security Jodhpur jail, Shambhu had access to mobile phone to upload WhatsApp message to his supporters.
  • Alimuddin Ansari, a meat trader, was lynched. Alimuddin died in hospital. What is disturbing that a suave central minister garlanded the convicted accused when they came out on bail.
  • Recently, Rakbar Khan was beaten up for transporting cows. He was brought dead in hospital. As it emerged, police men gave more importance to safely transporting cows to a shelter 17 km away, but did not take Rakbar Khan to hospital on priority which was just 6 km away. To top that, police men decided to have a cup of tea before they brought Rakbar Khan to police station and later to hospital.

Incidences mentioned above are some of the prominent ones, but not the only ones. There have been several such instances in different BJP ruled states against members of minority muslim community.

It is plausible that anti-Modi mainstream media had picked up issues that can embarrass ruling party and its leaders. But an image of a middle aged man being beaten up brutally cannot be wished away. Neither can it be ignored that police men that are expected to bring victim to hospital, preferred to protect cows over a human being. To top it all, a home minister tried to protect lynchers and passed the blame onto his force.

There is no denying that media has been silent when atrocity is committed on a member of majority community. For example in many instances when a BJP cadre is killed in opposition ruled West Bengal and Kerala, we have not seen much outrage in media. It has been reasoned that one cannot equate a hate killing with that of a political murder.

In a vast country like India with a billion strong population, the number of cases of lynching may not be very large, but these incidences have happened at regular interval. The sheer unpredictability of the situation makes the situation very uncertain. Question arises that are we slowly but steadily becoming a state where members of minority community have to live as a second class citizen? Will life an liberty of a member of minority community be decided by majority view point? Will a muslim be always told to go to Pakistan, if their lifestyle do not conform to liking of majority Hindu community? In our search for an assertive Hindu identity, are we in a spree to homogenise everything be it eating beef, practicing yoga or singing vandematram?

Biggest weakness of Modi government, according to me, is inability to put a stop to lynching of innocent muslims. Mr. Modi who is very active on twitter, has remained mostly silent, barring a few generic statements, on the topic of lynching, be it of a minority muslim or that of a majority hindu. Many have argued that silence of prime minister has emboldened those who participate in mob lynching, specially in BJP ruled states.

I think, this opposition parties will use this narrative of lack of inclusion of all sections of society into Indian mainstream as an election plank. I was listening to an interview of Prof. Amartya Sen on India Today TV. Prof Sen mentioned that India has taken a leap backward after 2014. Prof. Sen also said that he does not consider Modi to be his prime ministers. Embrace of Rahul Gandhi to Prime Minister Modi is most likely to send this message of love and inclusivity to the nation.

Resource

https://www.thequint.com/news/india/was-the-dadri-lynching-really-a-murder-based-on-a-personal-grudge

http://www.newindianexpress.com/nation/2017/apr/05/watch-man-beaten-up-by-cow-vigilantes-in-rajasthan-dies-three-arrested-1590163.html

https://scroll.in/article/861826/rajasthan-hate-murder-the-other-tragedy-in-afrazul-khans-murder-is-a-famine-of-compassion-outrage

https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/11-sentenced-to-life-for-lynching-meat-trader-in-jharkhand/article23311438.ece

https://www.firstpost.com/india/alwar-lynching-timeline-of-incident-shows-police-gau-rakshaks-may-have-known-of-rakbars-arrival-in-advance-4803071.html

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/indiahome/indianews/article-3943620/How-anti-Hindu-fashionable-India-s-middle-class.html

Inclusion vs. Development : Battle of Narratives Part I

Post 20thJuly, 2018 no confidence motion in parliament, it appears battlelines for 2019 general election have been drawn. Incumbent prime minister will defend his seat on the plank of development. Challenger/s will evoke lack of inclusiveness in Indian society, increase in incidence of communal polarisation, and need for a kinder, gentler society that takes care of its weakest.

As India develops economically, when people have jobs, as people get a roof over their head, as Indian society becomes prosperous, many problems of caste and religious violence, will be solved. Following philosophy of antodaya, BJP has tried to reach out to the last man at the base of social pyramid, without discriminating on the basis of religion, caste and creed.

Test of this idea will be known if prime minister Modi wins a second term. It will be known if people friendly schemes have reached actual beneficiaries or not :

  • zero balance bank account,
  • direct benefit transfer to account,
  • free gas cylinder to BPL families,
  • health insurance policy,
  • rural electrification,
  • housing scheme for poor;
  • easy loan to start business;
  • crop insurance policy;
  • minimum support price for farmers,
  • implemented one rank one pension for defence personnel, etc.

Government has pushed through a lot of other indirect development oriented schemes like boosting rail and road connectivity etc. Will such direct and indirect deliverables fetch ruling party vote, only time will say. Ruling party is aware that minority community will unlikely to vote for the party. Nevertheless, government has claimed that benefits have been distributed without discrimination along caste and religious lines.

Core vote base of ruling party, the business community and middle class, has been angry. Demonitisation and GST has affected many small and large business. Middle class is burdened with tax, much of which is directly taken out of their salary, and high fuel price. Ruling BJP, indeed, has taken a risk by consciously targeting the bottom of the Indian social pyramid. The underprivileged, the voiceless, the poorest of the poor. If the party can harness the vote of innumerable poor, deprived people living in the fringe of society, it can win 2019 and many elections beyond that.

Woman Unfriendly India

Recently, a perception based survey was published. Survey was conducted by Thompson Reuter Foundation and opinions of global experts were collated. According to the findings of survey, India is the most dangerous country for women. India was placed below war torn Syria and Afghanistan, conservative Iran and Saudi Arabia among others.

Predictably, the findings of survey has kicked up a lot storm. Many nationalist Indians have suggested that the timing and findings of the survey is a conspiracy to defame India. Others have dug up data to demonstrate how India is not the most dangerous country for women. There is no doubt given the population size, the number of actual cases of sexual assault may be high in India. Yet, when compared in percentage terms, India actually ranks 32nd, where 6% women actually reported sexual assault compared to 29% in number one ranked Cameroon.

It can be argued that in many cases of sexual assault either victim do not come forward, and in many cases authorities do not register a case if victim is from lower section of social strata. Nevertheless, data suggest that rate of reporting of sexual violence per million population, nearly doubled post 2012 brutal rape and subsequent death of a nursing student in Delhi.

It is important to keep in mind the Thompson Reuter survey is a perception based opinion. One of the most difficult thing to improve in life is how the next person perceives us. No among of statistics and hard data can erase my low opinion of the next person. There may be various reasons for such opinion. One may read in news paper, social media or from word of mouth. One may have a personal bad experience too.

A sense of insecurity may arise not only from incidence of actual rape, but from the perception that something might happen hangs at the background. Such a sense of insecurity arises from incidences of groping, gawking, use of sexually laced innuendo, and a general harassment a woman faces at office, in public transport or even at home? As someone said, an expat lady, she feels safe in India as long as she does not have to venture out in odd hours. She cannot do things after dark  in Delhi, that she takes for granted in France or in Chile. Honestly, how many Indians can say confidently that they do not worry about safety if a  woman has to go out at night, be it for a party or for work?

I am not a woman. So I cannot speak how a woman feels in India. From what I read in news papers and hear on TV news, it appears that women had been feeling unsafe for a long time in India. Safety of a woman cannot be enumerated in the form of a statistical number. Even a single incidence of sexual may be one too many. Because for the victim, the incidence is real.

Safety of women is a concern that should be beyond party and political lines. Women were not safer during UPA era, they are no better under NDA era.  Remember when the brutal gang rape of Nirbhaya, a.k.a Jyoti Singh happened, Delhi had a lady chief minister, speaker of Lok Sabha was a lady, lead of opposition in parliament was a lady, ruling congress party president also happened to be a lady. Still the brutal incident happened. I think irrespective of caste, creed, religion, all Indians must hang their heads in shame that half of Indian population feel insecure be at home or at workplace or at a recreational joint.

Resource 

India Most Dangerous Country For Women, US In 10 Worst: Survey …

https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/india-most-dangerous-country-for-women-with-sexual-violence-rife-poll-1873117

India is not the most  dangerous country for women, data shows …

https://www.livemint.com/Politics/7PF8NRqgyxoNs2AecfmxVL/India-is-not-the-most-dangerous-country-for-women-data-show.html

Why Farmers are in Distress

Often I read in newspaper and hear on TV that farmers are in distress. I hear farmers are committing suicide because of crop failure. Recently, farmers marched on foot for hundreds of kilometers from different parts of Maharashtra to Mumbai to put forward their demand. Many commentators believe farmer distress is going to play a decisive role in defeating BJP government in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and eventually in general election.

So why are farmers agitated and angry? I am not a farmer. I am far away from their problems and from ground reality. A cursory reading suggested the following reasons:

Profitability : Farming sector is not financially remunerative. So much so that farmers were seen dumping their produce, rather than sell to customers. Because, farmers claim they do not get right price. Whatever farmers produce, they sell it to middleman or wholesaler. It is the middleman that sells farm produce to retailers at high price and makes profit, depending upon demand. Many a time, middle men hoard farm produce to jack up price and create an artificial shortage. Obvious question is why farmers do not sell their produce directly to customers?

Minimum Support Price : Many farmers are asking for minimum support price be fixed for their produce. Recently, government has announced that a farmer will get 150% (1.5 times) more, for certain crops, than the money he has invested. Farmers investment is calculated using a formula : A2 + FL. Where A2 represents all paid out cost and FL represents value of family labor in the production of cost. Crops that will come under this scheme include cereals – paddy, jowar, bajra, ragi, maize, and pulses.

This minimum support price will cost government around 80000 crore rupees. Farmers still want a better formula for calculation of their investment amount and give fifty percent more than their investment.

Experts believe, minimum support price only covers a few food grains that government buys. Such a scheme will lure many farmers to engage in growing water intensive crops, which may impact ground water level. High basic price of food grains may affect export competitiveness of Indian farmers. Besides, by raising procurement price by law, would food items not become costlier, creating another problem for government?

Technique and Technology : Farming in India is done using outdated technology. Our farming is monsoon dependent. If there is drought, which happens more often than not, farmer sows seed but does not get any return. Many farmers used to commit suicide due to crop failure. Instead of flooding the field with water, can farmer not adopt less water intensive crop and less water intensive technique like a sprinkler or drip method of irrigation? Maharashtra government has taken initiative, in consultation with villagers, to encourage water harvesting. As a result, water scarcity that we heard a few years before, has not been reported this year.

Scientific Knowhow : Many a time a farmer is not aware of what to grow. Government should take initiative to advice farmers about what to sow, when to sow, if soil chemistry is proper for certain produce etc. Encourage water harvesting, use of technique and technology that uses less water, such that dependency on monsoon becomes less. If a majority of farmers from a region produce only a certain fruit or vegetable, and all of them get a bumper harvest, then price of produce automatically comes down. In that case, either each farmer should sow different product or a farmer should be able to store his produce for selling at a different point in time. Government must build such storage facilities. Food processing industry must come up in different parts of a state that will buy farmers produce.

Instead of helping farmers by solving basic problem, governments are busy giving loan waivers. Loan waiver makes the giver look good. Giver actually is paying someone elses money. Meanwhile, problem keeps coming back again and again.

Resource

1. Five ways to reduce farm distress in India | IFPRI

www.ifpri.org/blog/five-ways-reduce-farm-distress-india

2. Why are farmers distressed across India? – The Hindu

http://www.thehindu.com › News › National

3. India’s Agriculture Crisis- Business News – Business Today

https://www.businesstoday.in/opinion/…/india-agriculture-crisis…farmers…/258231.ht..

4. Modi Government Approves Hike in MSP for Khariff Crops

https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/economy/agriculture/modi-government-approves-hike-in-msp-for-kharif-crops/articleshow/64852476.cms

5. Looking Beyond Loan Write offs for Farmers

https://www.esamskriti.com/e/National-Affairs/Ideas–ad–Policy/Looking-beyond-loan-writeoffs-for-farmers-1.aspx